by Charlotte M. Yonge
FROM THE WARS
BLIGHT ON THE
CITY OF BRIDGES
GRISLY GRISELL, or THE LAIDLY LADY OF WHITBURN: A TALE
OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES
CHAPTER I—AN EXPLOSION
It was a great pity, so it was, this villanous saltpetre should be
digg'd out of the bowels of the harmless earth.
SHAKESPEARE King Henry IV., Part I.
A terrible shriek rang through the great Manor-house of Amesbury. It
was preceded by a loud explosion, and there was agony as well as terror
in the cry. Then followed more shrieks and screams, some of pain, some
of fright, others of anger and recrimination. Every one in the house
ran together to the spot whence the cries proceeded, namely, the lower
court, where the armourer and blacksmith had their workshops.
There was a group of children, the young people who were confided to
the great Earl Richard and Countess Alice of Salisbury for education
and training. Boys and girls were alike there, some of the latter
crying and sobbing, others mingling with the lads in the hot dispute as
to “who did it.”
By the time the gentle but stately Countess had reached the place,
all the grown-up persons of the establishment—knights, squires,
grooms, scullions, and females of every degree—had thronged round
them, but parted at her approach, though one of the knights said, “Nay,
Lady Countess, 'tis no sight for you. The poor little maid is dead, or
nigh upon it.”
“But who is it? What is it?” asked the Countess, still advancing.
A confused medley of voices replied, “The Lord of Whitburn's little
“And no marvel,” said a sturdy, begrimed figure, “if the malapert
young gentles be let to run all over the courts, and handle that with
which they have no concern, lads and wenches alike.”
“Nay, how can I stop it when my lady will not have the maidens kept
ever at their distaffs and needles in seemly fashion,” cried a small
but stout and self-assertive dame, known as “Mother of the Maidens,”
then starting, “Oh! my lady, I crave your pardon, I knew not you were
in this coil! And if the men-at-arms be let to have their perilous
goods strewn all over the place, no wonder at any mishap.”
“Do not wrangle about the cause,” said the Countess. “Who is hurt?
The crowd parted enough for her to make way to where a girl of about
ten was lying prostrate and bleeding with her head on a woman's lap.
“Poor maid,” was the cry, “poor maid! 'Tis all over with her. It
will go ill with young Leonard Copeland.”
“Worse with Hodge Smith for letting him touch his irons.”
“Nay, what call had Dick Jenner to lay his foul, burning gunpowder—
a device of Satan—in this yard? A mercy we are not all blown to the
The Countess, again ordering peace, reached the girl, whose moans
showed that she was still alive, and between the barber-surgeon and the
porter's wife she was lifted up, and carried to a bed, the Countess
Alice keeping close to her, though the “Mother of the Maidens,” who was
a somewhat helpless personage, hung back, declaring that the sight of
the wounds made her swoon. There were terrible wounds upon the face
and neck, which seemed to be almost bared of skin. The lady, who had
been bred to some knowledge of surgical skill, together with the
barber-surgeon, did their best to allay the agony with applications of
sweet oil. Perhaps if they had had more of what was then considered
skill, it might have been worse for her.
The Countess remained anxiously trying all that could allay the
suffering of the poor little semi-conscious patient, who kept moaning
for “nurse.” She was Grisell Dacre, the daughter of the Baron of
Whitburn, and had been placed, young as she was, in the household of
the Countess of Salisbury on her mother being made one of the ladies
attending on the young Queen Margaret of Anjou, lately married to King
Attendance on the patient had prevented the Countess from hearing the
history of the accident, but presently the clatter of horses' feet
showed that her lord was returning, and, committing the girl to her old
nurse, she went down to the hall to receive him.
The grave, grizzled warrior had taken his seat on his cross-legged,
round-backed chair, and a boy of some twelve years old stood before
him, in a sullen attitude, one foot over the other, and his shoulder
held fast by a squire, while the motley crowd of retainers stood
There was a move at the entrance of the lady, and her husband rose,
came forward, and as he gave her the courteous kiss of greeting,
demanded, “What is all this coil? Is the little wench dead?”
“Nay, but I fear me she cannot live,” was the answer.
“Will Dacre of Whitburn's maid? That's ill, poor child! How fell it
“That I know as little as you,” was the answer. “I have been seeing
to the poor little maid's hurts.”
Lord Salisbury placed her in the chair like his own. In point of
fact, she was Countess in her own right; he, Richard Nevil, had been
created Earl of Salisbury in her right on the death of her father, the
staunch warrior of Henry V. in the siege of Orleans.
“Speak out, Leonard Copeland,” said the Earl. “What hast thou done?”
The boy only growled, “I never meant to hurt the maid.”
“Speak to the point, sir,” said Lord Salisbury sternly; “give
yourself at least the grace of truth.”
Leonard grew more silent under the show of displeasure, and only hung
his head at the repeated calls to him to speak. The Earl turned to
those who were only too eager to accuse him.
“He took a bar of iron from the forge, so please you, my lord, and
put it to the barrel of powder.”
“Is this true, Leonard?” demanded the Earl again, amazed at the
frantic proceeding, and Leonard muttered “Aye,” vouchsafing no more,
and looking black as thunder at a fair, handsome boy who pressed to his
side and said, “Uncle,” doffing his cap, “so please you, my lord, the
barrels had just been brought in upon Hob Carter's wain, and Leonard
said they ought to have the Lord Earl's arms on them. So he took a bar
of hot iron from the forge to mark the saltire on them, and thereupon
there was this burst of smoke and flame, and the maid, who was leaning
over, prying into his doings, had the brunt thereof.”
“Thanks to the saints that no further harm was done,” ejaculated the
lady shuddering, while her lord proceeded—“It was not malice, but
malapert meddling, then. Master Leonard Copeland, thou must be
scourged to make thee keep thine hands off where they be not needed.
For the rest, thou must await what my Lord of Whitburn may require.
Take him away, John Ellerby, chastise him, and keep him in ward till we
see the issue.”
Leonard, with his head on high, marched out of the hall, not uttering
a word, but shaking his shoulder as if to get rid of the squire's
grasp, but only thereby causing himself to be gripped the faster.
Next, Lord Salisbury's severity fell upon Hob the carter and Hodge
the smith, for leaving such perilous wares unwatched in the
court-yard. Servants were not dismissed for carelessness in those
days, but soundly flogged, a punishment considered suitable to the
“blackguard” at any age, even under the mildest rule. The gunner,
being somewhat higher in position, and not in charge at the moment, was
not called to account, but the next question was, how the “Mother of
the Maids”—the gouvernante in charge of the numerous damsels who
formed the train of the Lady of Salisbury, and were under education and
training—could have permitted her maidens to stray into the regions
appropriated to the yeomen and archers, and others of the meiné, where
they certainly had no business.
It appeared that the good and portly lady had last seen the girls in
the gardens “a playing at the ball” with some of the pages, and that
there, on a sunny garden seat, slumber had prevented her from
discovering the absence of the younger part of the bevy. The demure
elder damsels deposed that, at the sound of wains coming into the
court, the boys had rushed off, and the younger girls had followed
them, whether with or without warning was not made clear. Poor little
Grisell's condition might have been considered a sufficient warning,
nevertheless the two companions in her misdemeanour were condemned to a
whipping, to enforce on them a lesson of maidenliness; and though the
Mother of the Maids could not partake of the flagellation, she remained
under her lord's and lady's grave displeasure, and probably would have
to submit to a severe penance from the priest for her carelessness.
Yet, as she observed, Mistress Grisell was a North Country maid, never
couthly or conformable, but like a boy, who would moreover always be
after Leonard Copeland, whether he would or no.
It was the more unfortunate, as Lord Salisbury lamented to his wife,
because the Copelands were devoted to the Somerset faction; and the
King had been labouring to reconcile them to the Dacres, and to bring
about a contract of marriage between these two unfortunate children,
but he feared that whatever he could do, there would only be additional
feud and bitterness, though it was clear that the mishap was
accidental. The Lord of Whitburn himself was in Ireland with the Duke
of York, while his lady was in attendance on the young Queen, and it
was judged right and seemly to despatch to her a courier with the
tidings of her daughter's disaster, although in point of fact, where a
house could number sons, damsels were not thought of great value,
except as the means of being allied with other houses. A message was
also sent to Sir William Copeland that his son had been the death of
the daughter of Whitburn; for poor little Grisell lay moaning in a
state of much fever and great suffering, so that the Lady Salisbury
could not look at her, nor hear her sighs and sobs without tears, and
the barber-surgeon, unaccustomed to the effects of gunpowder, had
little or no hope of her life.
Leonard Copeland's mood was sullen, not to say surly. He submitted
to the chastisement without a word or cry, for blows were the lot of
boys of all ranks, and were dealt out without much respect to justice;
and he also had to endure a sort of captivity, in a dismal little
circular room in a turret of the manorial house, with merely a narrow
loophole to look out from, and this was only accessible by climbing up
a steep broken slope of brick-work in the thickness of the wall.
Here, however, he was visited by his chief friend and comrade, Edmund
Plantagenet of York, who found him lying on the floor, building up
fragments of stone and mortar into the plan of a castle.
“How dost thou, Leonard?” he asked. “Did old Hal strike very hard?”
“I reck not,” growled Leonard.
“How long will my uncle keep thee here?” asked Edmund sympathisingly.
“Till my father comes, unless the foolish wench should go and die.
She brought it on me, the peevish girl. She is always after me when I
want her least.”
“Yea, is not she contracted to thee?”
“So they say; but at least this puts a stop to my being plagued with
her—do what they may to me. There's an end to it, if I hang for it.”
“They would never hang thee.”
“None knows what you traitor folk of Nevil would do to a loyal
house,” growled Leonard.
“Traitor, saidst thou,” cried Edmund, clenching his fists. “'Tis thy
base Somerset crew that be the traitors.”
“I'll brook no such word from thee,” burst forth Leonard, flying at
“Ha! ha!” laughed Edmund even as they grappled. “Who is the traitor
forsooth? Why, 'tis my father who should be King. 'Tis white-faced
Harry and his Beauforts—”
The words were cut short by a blow from Leonard, and the warder
presently found the two boys rolling on the floor together in hot
And meanwhile poor Grisell was trying to frame with her torn and
flayed cheeks and lips, “O lady, lady, visit it not on him! Let not
Leonard be punished. It was my fault for getting into his way when I
should have been in the garden. Dear Madge, canst thou speak for him?”
Madge was Edmund's sister, Margaret of York, who stood trembling and
crying by Grisell's bed.
CHAPTER II—THE BROKEN MATCH
The Earl of Salisbury, called Prudence.
Little Grisell Dacre did not die, though day after day she lay in a
suffering condition, tenderly watched over by the Countess Alice. Her
mother had been summoned from attendance on the Queen, but at first
there only was returned a message that if the maid was dead she should
be embalmed and sent north to be buried in the family vault, when her
father would be at all charges. Moreover, that the boy should be
called to account for his crime, his father being, as the Lady of
Whitburn caused to be written, an evil-minded minion and fosterer of
the house of Somerset, the very bane of the King and the enemies of the
noble Duke of York and Earl of Warwick.
The story will be clearer if it is understood that the Earl of
Salisbury was Richard Nevil, one of the large family of Nevil of Raby
Castle in Westmoreland, and had obtained his title by marriage with
Alice Montagu, heiress of that earldom. His youngest sister had
married Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, who being descended from
Lionel, Duke of Clarence, was considered to have a better right to the
throne than the house of Lancaster, though this had never been put
forward since the earlier years of Henry V.
Salisbury had several sons. The eldest had married Anne Beauchamp,
and was in her right Earl of Warwick, and had estates larger even than
those of his father. He had not, however, as yet come forward, and the
disputes at Court were running high between the friends of the Duke of
Somerset and those of the Duke of York.
The King and Queen both were known to prefer the house of Somerset,
who were the more nearly related to Henry, and the more inclined to
uphold royalty, while York was considered as the champion of the
people. The gentle King and the Beauforts wished for peace with
France; the nation, and with them York, thought this was giving up
honour, land, and plunder, and suspected the Queen, as a Frenchwoman,
of truckling to the enemy. Jack Cade's rising and the murder of the
Duke of Suffolk had been the outcome of this feeling. Indeed, Lord
Salisbury's messenger reported the Country about London to be in so
disturbed a state that it was no wonder that the Lady of Whitburn did
not make the journey. She was not, as the Countess suspected, a very
tender mother. Grisell's moans were far more frequently for her nurse
than for her, but after some space they ceased. The child became
capable of opening first one eye, then the other, and both barber and
lady perceived that she was really unscathed in any vital part, and was
on the way to recovery, though apparently with hopelessly injured
Leonard Copeland had already been released from restraint, and
allowed to resume his usual place among the Earl's pages; when the
warder announced that he saw two parties approaching from opposite
sides of the down, one as if from Salisbury, the other from the north;
and presently he reported that the former wore the family badge, a
white rosette, the latter none at all, whence it was perceived that the
latter were adherents of the Beauforts of Somerset, for though the
“Rose of Snow” had been already adopted by York, Somerset had in point
of fact not plucked the Red Rose in the Temple gardens, nor was it as
yet the badge of Lancaster.
Presently it was further reported that the Lady of Whitburn was in
the fore front of the party, and the Lord of Salisbury hastened to
receive her at the gates, his suite being rapidly put into some order.
She was a tall, rugged-faced North Country dame, not very smooth of
speech, and she returned his salute with somewhat rough courtesy,
demanding as she sprang off her horse with little aid, “Lives my wench
“Yes, madam, she lives, and the leech trusts that she will yet be
“Ah! Methought you would have sent to me if aught further had
befallen her. Be that as it may, no doubt you have given the malapert
boy his deserts.”
“I hope I have, madam,” began the Earl. “I kept him in close ward
while she was in peril of death, but—“ A fresh bugle blast
interrupted him, as there clattered through the resounding gate the
other troop, at sight of whom the Lady of Whitburn drew herself up,
redoubling her grim dignity, and turning it into indignation as a young
page rushed forward to meet the newcomers, with a cry of “Father! Lord
Father, come at last;” then composing himself, doffed his cap and held
the stirrup, then bent a knee for his father's blessing.
“You told me, Lord Earl, the mischievous, murderous fellow was in
safe hold,” said the lady, bending her dark brows.
“While the maid was in peril,” hastily answered Salisbury. “Pardon
me, madam, my Countess will attend you.”
The Countess's high rank and great power were impressive to the
Baroness of Whitburn, who bent in salutation, but almost her first
words were, “Madam, you at least will not let the murderous traitors of
Somerset and the Queen prevail over the loyal friends of York and the
“There is happily no murder in the case. Praise be to the saints,”
said Countess Alice, “your little maid—”
“Aye, that's what they said as to the poor good Duke Humfrey,”
returned the irate lady; “but that you, madam, the good-sister of the
noble York, should stand up for the enemies of him, and the friends of
France, is more than a plain North Country woman like me can
understand. And there—there, turning round upon the steep steps,
there is my Lord Earl hand and glove with that minion fellow of
Somerset, who was no doubt at the bottom of the plot! None would
believe it at Raby.”
“None at Raby would believe that my lord could be lacking in courtesy
to a guest,” returned Lady Salisbury with dignity, “nor that a North
Country dame could expect it of him. Those who are under his roof must
respect it by fitting demeanour towards one another.”
The Lady of Whitburn was quenched for the time, and the Countess
asked whether she did not wish to see her daughter, leading the way to
a chamber hung with tapestry, and with a great curtained bed nearly
filling it up, for the patient had been installed in one of the best
guest-chambers of the Castle. Lady Whitburn was surprised, but was too
proud to show herself gratified by what she thought was the due of the
dignity of the Dacres. An old woman in a hood sat by the bed, where
there was a heap of clothes, and a dark-haired little girl stood by the
window, whence she had been describing the arrivals in the Castle
“Here is your mother, my poor child,” began the Lady of Salisbury,
but there was no token of joy. Grisell gave a little gasp, and tried
to say “Lady Mother, pardon—” but the Lady of Whitburn, at sight of
the reddened half of the face which alone was as yet visible, gave a
cry, “She will be a fright! You evil little baggage, thus to get
yourself scarred and made hideous! Running where you ought not, I
warrant!” and she put out her hand as if to shake the patient, but the
Countess interposed, and her niece Margaret gave a little cry.
“Grisell is still very weak and feeble! She cannot bear much; we have
only just by Heaven's grace brought her round.”
“As well she were dead as like this,” cried this untender parent.
“Who is to find her a husband now? and as to a nunnery, where is one to
take her without a dower such as is hard to find, with two sons to be
fitly provided? I looked that in a household like this, better rule
should be kept.”
“None can mourn it more than myself and the Earl,” said the gentle
Countess; “but young folks can scarce be watched hour by hour.”
“The rod is all that is good for them, and I trusted to you to give
it them, madam,” said Lady Whitburn. “Now, the least that can be done
is to force yonder malapert lad and his father into keeping his
contract to her, since he has spoilt the market for any other.”
“Is he contracted to her?” asked the Countess.
“Not fully; but as you know yourself, lady, your lord, and the King,
and all the rest, thought to heal the breach between the houses by
planning a contract between their son and my daughter. He shall keep
it now, at his peril.”
Grisell was cowering among her pillows, and no one knew how much she
heard or understood. The Countess was glad to get Lady Whitburn out of
the room, but both she and her Earl had a very trying evening, in
trying to keep the peace between the two parents. Sir William Copeland
was devoted to the Somerset family, of whom he held his manor; and had
had a furious quarrel with the Baron of Whitburn, when both were
serving in France.
The gentle King had tried to bring about a reconciliation, and had
induced the two fathers to consent to a contract for the future
marriage of Leonard, Copeland's second son, to Grisell Dacre, then the
only child of the Lord of Whitburn. He had also obtained that the two
children should be bred up in the household of the Earl of Salisbury,
by way of letting them grow up together. On the same principle the
Lady of Whitburn had been made one of the attendants of Queen Margaret
—but neither arrangement had been more successful than most of those
of poor King Henry.
Grisell indeed considered Leonard as a sort of property of hers, but
she beset him in the manner that boys are apt to resent from younger
girls, and when he was thirteen, and she ten years old, there was very
little affection on his side. Moreover, the birth of two brothers had
rendered Grisell's hand a far less desirable prize in the eyes of the
To attend on the Court was penance to the North Country dame, used to
a hardy rough life in her sea-side tower, with absolute rule, and no
hand over her save her husband's; while the young and outspoken Queen,
bred up in the graceful, poetical Court of Aix or Nancy, looked on her
as no better than a barbarian, and if she did not show this openly,
reporters were not wanting to tell her that the Queen called her the
great northern hag, or that her rugged unwilling curtsey was said to
look as if she were stooping to draw water at a well. Her husband had
kept her in some restraint, but when be had gone to Ireland with the
Duke of York, offences seemed to multiply upon her. The last had been
that when she had tripped on her train, dropped the salver wherewith
she was serving the Queen, and broken out with a loud “Lawk a daisy!”
all the ladies, and Margaret herself, had gone into fits of
uncontrollable laughter, and the Queen had begged her to render her
exclamation into good French for her benefit.
“Madam,” she had exclaimed, “if a plain woman's plain English be not
good enough for you, she can have no call here!” And without further
ceremony she had flown out of the royal presence.
Margaret of Anjou, naturally offended, and never politic, had sent
her a message, that her attendance was no longer required. So here she
was going out of her way to make a casual inquiry, from the Court at
Winchester, whether that very unimportant article, her only daughter,
were dead or alive.
The Earl absolutely prohibited all conversation on affairs in debate
during the supper which was spread in the hall, with quite as much
state as, and even greater profusion and splendour, than was to be
found at Windsor, Winchester, or Westminster. All the high born sat on
the dais, raised on two steps with gorgeous tapestry behind, and a
canopy overhead; the Earl and Countess on chairs in the centre of the
long narrow table. Lady Whitburn sat beside the Earl, Sir William
Copeland by the Countess, watching with pleasure how deftly his son ran
about among the pages, carrying the trenchers of food, and the cups.
He entered on a conversation with the Countess, telling her of the
King's interest and delight in his beautiful freshly-founded Colleges
at Eton and Cambridge, how the King rode down whenever he could to see
the boys, listen to them at their tasks in the cloisters, watch them at
their sports in the playing fields, and join in their devotions in the
Chapel—a most holy example for them.
“Ay, for such as seek to be monks and shavelings,” broke in the North
Country voice sarcastically.
“There are others—sons of gentlemen and esquires—lodged in houses
around,” said Sir William, “who are not meant for cowl or for
“Yea, forsooth,” called Lady Whitburn across the Earl and the
Countess, “what for but to make them as feckless as the priests, unfit
to handle lance or sword!”
“So, lady, you think that the same hand cannot wield pen and lance,”
said the Earl.
“I should like to see one of your clerks on a Border foray,” laughed
the Dame of Dacre. “'Tis all a device of the Frenchwoman!”
“Verily?” said the Earl, in an interrogative tone.
“Ay, to take away the strength and might of Englishmen with this
clerkly lore, so that her folk may have the better of them in France;
and the poor, witless King gives in to her. And so while the Beauforts
rule the roast—”
Salisbury caught her up. “Ay, the roast. Will you partake of these
roast partridges, madam?”
They were brought round skewered on a long spit, held by a page for
the guest to help herself. Whether by her awkwardness or that of the
boy, it so chanced that the bird made a sudden leap from the
impalement, and deposited itself in the lap of Lady Whitburn's scarlet
kirtle! The fact was proclaimed by her loud rude cry, “A murrain on
thee, thou ne'er-do-weel lad,” together with a sounding box on the ear.
“'Tis thine own greed, who dost not—”
“Leonard, be still—know thy manners,” cried both at once the Earl
and Sir William, for, unfortunately, the offender was no other than
Leonard Copeland, and, contrary to all the laws of pagedom, he was too
angry not to argue the point. “'Twas no doing of mine! She knew not
how to cut the bird.”
Answering again was a far greater fault than the first, and his
father only treated it as his just desert when he was ordered off under
the squire in charge to be soundly scourged, all the more sharply for
his continuing to mutter, “It was her fault.”
And sore and furrowed as was his back, he continued to exclaim, when
his friend Edmund of York came to condole with him as usual in all his
scrapes, “'Tis she that should have been scourged for clumsiness! A
foul, uncouth Border dame! Well, one blessing at least is that now I
shall never be wedded to her daughter—let the wench live or die as
That was not by any means the opinion of the Lady of Whitburn, and no
sooner was the meal ended than, in the midst of the hall, the debate
began, the Lady declaring that in all honour Sir William Copeland was
bound to affiance his son instantly to her poor daughter, all the more
since the injuries he had inflicted to her face could never be done
away with. On the other hand, Sir William Copeland was naturally far
less likely to accept such a daughter-in-law, since her chances of
being an heiress had ceased, and he contended that he had never
absolutely accepted the contract, and that there had been no betrothal
of the children.
The Earl of Salisbury could not but think that a strictly honourable
man would have felt poor Grisell's disaster inflicted by his son's
hands all the more reason for holding to the former understanding; but
the loud clamours and rude language of Lady Whitburn were enough to set
any one in opposition to her, and moreover, the words he said in favour
of her side of the question appeared to Copeland merely spoken out of
the general enmity of the Nevils to the Beauforts and all their
Thus, all the evening Lady Whitburn raged, and appealed to the Earl,
whose support she thought cool and unfriendly, while Copeland stood
sullen and silent, but determined.
“My lord,” she said, “were you a true friend to York and Raby, you
would deal with this scowling fellow as we should on the Border.”
“We are not on the Border, madam,” quietly said Salisbury.
“But you are in your own Castle, and can force him to keep faith. No
contract, forsooth! I hate your mincing South Country forms of law.”
Then perhaps irritated by a little ironical smile which Salisbury could
not suppress. “Is this your castle, or is it not? Then bring him and
his lad to my poor wench's side, and see their troth plighted, or lay
him by the heels in the lowest cell in your dungeon. Then will you do
good service to the King and the Duke of York, whom you talk of loving
in your shilly-shally fashion.”
“Madam,” said the Earl, his grave tones coming in contrast to the
shrill notes of the angry woman, “I counsel you, in the south at least,
to have some respect to these same forms of law. I bid you a fair
good-night. The chamberlain will marshal you.”
CHAPTER III—THE MIRROR
“Of all the maids, the foulest maid
From Teviot unto Dee.
Ah!” sighing said that lady then,
“Can ne'er young Harden's be.”
SCOTT, The Reiver's Wedding.
“They are gone,” said Margaret of York, standing half dressed at the
deep-set window of the chamber where Grisell lay in state in her big
“Who are gone?” asked Grisell, turning as well as she could under the
great heraldically-embroidered covering.
“Leonard Copeland and his father. Did'st not hear the horses' tramp
in the court?”
“I thought it was only my lord's horses going to the water.”
“It was the Copelands going off without breaking their fast or taking
a stirrup cup, like discourteous rogues as they be,” said Margaret, in
no measured language.
“And are they gone? And wherefore?” asked Grisell.
“Wherefore? but for fear my noble uncle of Salisbury should hold them
to their contract. Sir William sat as surly as a bear just about to be
baited, while thy mother rated and raved at him like a very
sleuth-hound on the chase. And Leonard—what think'st thou he saith?
“That he would as soon wed the loathly lady as thee,” the cruel
Somerset villain as he is; and yet my brother Edmund is fain to love
him. So off they are gone, like recreant curs as they are, lest my
uncle should make them hear reason.”
“But Lady Madge, dear Lady Madge, am I so very loathly?” asked poor
“Mine aunt of Salisbury bade that none should tell thee,” responded
Margaret, in some confusion.
“Ah me! I must know sooner or later! My mother, she shrieked at
sight of me!”
“I would not have your mother,” said the outspoken daughter of “proud
Cis.” “My Lady Duchess mother is stern enough if we do not bridle our
heads, and if we make ourselves too friendly with the meiné, but she
never frets nor rates us, and does not heed so long as we do not demean
ourselves unlike our royal blood. She is no termagant like yours.”
It was not polite, but Grisell had not seen enough of her mother to
be very sensitive on her account. In fact, she was chiefly occupied
with what she had heard about her own appearance—a matter which had
not occurred to her before in all her suffering. She returned again to
entreat Margaret to tell her whether she was so foully ill-favoured
that no one could look at her, and the damsel of York, adhering to the
letter rather young than the spirit of the cautions which she had
received, pursed up her lips and reiterated that she had been commanded
not to mention the subject.
“Then,” entreated Grisell, “do—do, dear Madge—only bring me the
little hand mirror out of my Lady Countess's chamber.”
“I know not that I can or may.”
“Only for the space of one Ave,” reiterated Grisell.
“My lady aunt would never—”
“There—hark—there's the bell for mass. Thou canst run into her
chamber when she and the tirewomen are gone down.”
“But I must be there.”
“Thou canst catch them up after. They will only think thee a
slug-a-bed. Madge, dear Madge, prithee, I cannot rest without.
Weeping will be worse for me.”
She was crying, and caressing Margaret so vehemently that she gained
her point. Indeed the other girl was afraid of her sobs being heard,
and inquired into, and therefore promised to make the attempt, keeping
a watch out of sight till she had seen the Lady of Salisbury in her
padded head-gear of gold net, and long purple train, sweep down the
stair, followed by her tirewomen and maidens of every degree. Then
darting into the chamber, she bore away from a stage where lay the
articles of the toilette, a little silver-backed and handled Venetian
mirror, with beautiful tracery in silvered glass diminishing the very
small oval left for personal reflection and inspection. That, however,
was quite enough and too much for poor Grisell when Lady Margaret had
thrown it to her on her bed, and rushed down the stair so as to come in
the rear of the household just in time.
A glance at the mirror disclosed, not the fair rosy face, set in
light yellow curls, that Grisell had now and then peeped at in a bucket
of water or a polished breast-plate, but a piteous sight. One half, as
she expected, was hidden by bandages, but the other was fiery red,
except that from the corner of the eye to the ear there was a purple
scar; the upper lip was distorted, the hair, eyebrows, and lashes were
all gone! The poor child was found in an agony of sobbing when, after
the service, the old woman who acted as her nurse came stumping up in
her wooden clogs to set the chamber and bed in order for Lady
The dame was in hot haste to get home. Rumours were rife as to
Scottish invasions, and her tower was not too far south not to need to
be on its guard. Her plan was to pack Grisell on a small litter slung
to a sumpter mule, and she snorted a kind of defiant contempt when the
Countess, backed by the household barber-surgeon, declared the
proceeding barbarous and impossible. Indeed she had probably forgotten
that Grisell was far too tall to be made up into the bundle she
intended; but she then declared that the wench might ride pillion
behind old Diccon, and she would not be convinced till she was taken up
to the sick chamber. There the first sound that greeted them was a
choking agony of sobs and moans, while the tirewoman stood over the
bed, exclaiming, “Aye, no wonder; it serves thee right, thou evil
wench, filching my Lady Countess's mirror from her very chamber, when
it might have been broken for all thanks to thee. The Venice glass
that the merchant gave her! Thou art not so fair a sight, I trow, as
to be in haste to see thyself. At the bottom of all the scathe in the
Castle! We shall be well rid of thee.”
So loud was the objurgation of the tirewoman that she did not hear
the approach of her mistress, nor indeed the first words of the
Countess, “Hush, Maudlin, the poor child is not to be thus rated!
“See, my lady, what she has done to your ladyship's Venice glass,
which she never should have touched. She must have run to your chamber
while you were at mass. All false her feigning to be so sick and
“Ay,” replied Lady Whitburn, “she must up—don her clothes, and away
“Hush, I pray you, madam. How, how, Grisell, my poor child. Call
Master Miles, Maudlin! Give me that water.” The Countess was raising
the poor child in her arms, and against her bosom, for the shock of
that glance in the mirror, followed by the maid's harsh reproaches, and
fright at the arrival of the two ladies, had brought on a choking,
hysterical sort of convulsive fit, and the poor girl writhed and gasped
on Lady Salisbury's breast, while her mother exclaimed, “Heed her not,
Lady; it is all put on to hinder me from taking her home. If she could
go stealing to your room—”
“No, no,” broke out a weeping, frightened voice. “It was I, Lady
Aunt. You bade me never tell her how her poor face looked, and when
she begged and prayed me, I did not say, but I fetched the mirror. Oh!
oh! It has not been the death of her.”
“Nay, nay, by God's blessing! Take away the glass, Margaret. Go and
tell thy beads, child; thou hast done much scathe unwittingly! Ah,
Master Miles, come to the poor maid's aid. Canst do aught for her?”
“These humours must be drawn off, my lady,” said the barber-surgeon,
who advanced to the bed, and felt the pulse of the poor little
patient. “I must let her blood.”
Maudlin, whose charge she was, came to his help, and Countess Alice
still held her up, while, after the practice of those days, he bled the
already almost unconscious child, till she fainted and was laid down
again on her pillows, under the keeping of Maudlin, while the clanging
of the great bell called the family down to the meal which broke fast,
whether to be called breakfast or dinner.
It was plain that Grisell was in no state to be taken on a journey,
and her mother went grumbling down the stair at the unchancy bairn
always doing scathe.
Lord Salisbury, beside whom she sat, courteously, though perhaps
hardly willingly, invited her to remain till her daughter was ready to
“Nay, my Lord, I am beholden to you, but I may scarce do that. I be
sorely needed at Whitburn Tower. The knaves go all agee when both my
lord and myself have our backs turned, and my lad bairns—worth a
dozen of yon whining maid—should no longer be left to old Cuthbert
Ridley and Nurse. Now the Queen and Somerset have their way 'tis all
misrule, and who knows what the Scots may do?”
“There are Nevils and Dacres enough between Whitburn and the Border,”
observed the Earl gravely. However, the visitor was not such an
agreeable one as to make him anxious to press her stay beyond what
hospitality demanded, and his wife could not bear to think of giving
over her poor little patient to such usage as she would have met with
on the journey.
Lady Whitburn was overheard saying that those who had mauled the maid
might mend her, if they could; and accordingly she acquiesced, not too
graciously, when the Countess promised to tend the child like her own,
and send her by and by to Whitburn under a safe escort; and as
Middleham Castle lay on the way to Whitburn, it was likely that means
would be found of bringing or sending her.
This settled, Lady Whitburn was restless to depart, so as to reach a
hostel before night.
She donned her camlet cloak and hood, and looked once more in upon
Grisell, who after her loss of blood, had, on reviving, been made to
swallow a draught of which an infusion of poppy heads formed a great
part, so that she lay, breathing heavily, in a deep sleep, moaning now
and then. Her mother did not scruple to try to rouse her with calls of
“Grizzy! Look up, wench!” but could elicit nothing but a half turn on
the pillow, and a little louder moan, and Master Miles, who was still
watching, absolutely refused to let his patient be touched or shaken.
“Well a day!” said Lady Whitburn, softened for a moment, “what the
Saints will must be, I trow; but it is hard, and I shall let St.
Cuthbert of Durham know it, that after all the candles I have given
him, he should have let my poor maid be so mauled and marred, and then
forsaken by the rascal who did it, so that she will never be aught but
a dead weight on my two fair sons! The least he can do for me now is
to give me my revenge upon that lurdane runaway knight and his son.
But he hath no care for lassies. Mayhap St. Hilda may serve me
Wherewith the Lady of Whitburn tramped down stairs. It may be feared
that in the ignorance in which northern valleys were left she was very
little more enlightened in her ideas of what would please the Saints,
or what they could do for her, than were the old heathen of some
unknown antiquity who used to worship in the mysterious circles of
stones which lay on the downs of Amesbury.
There in the holy house at Almesbury
Weeping, none with her save a little maid.
TENNYSON, Idylls of the King.
The agitations of that day had made Grisell so much worse that her
mind hardly awoke again to anything but present suffering from fever,
and in consequence the aggravation of the wounds on her neck and
cheek. She used to moan now and then “Don't take me away!” or cower in
terror, “She is coming!” being her cry, or sometimes “So foul and
loathly.” She hung again between life and death, and most of those
around thought death would be far better for the poor child, but the
Countess and the Chaplain still held to the faith that she must be
reserved for some great purpose if she survived so much.
Great families with all their train used to move from one castle or
manor to another so soon as they had eaten up all the produce of one
place, and the time had come when the Nevils must perforce quit
Amesbury. Grisell was in no state for a long journey; she was
exceedingly weak, and as fast as one wound in her face and neck healed
another began to break out, so that often she could hardly eat, and
whether she would ever have the use of her left eye was doubtful.
Master Miles was at his wits' end, Maudlin was weary of waiting on
her, and so in truth was every one except the good Countess, and she
could not always be with the sufferer, nor could she carry such a
patient to London, whither her lord was summoned to support his
brother-in-law, the Duke of York, against the Duke of Somerset.
The only delay was caused by the having to receive the
newly-appointed Bishop, Richard Beauchamp, who had been translated from
his former see at Hereford on the murder of his predecessor, William
Ayscough, by some of Jack Cade's party.
In full splendour he came, with a train of chaplains and
cross-bearers, and the clergy of Salisbury sent a deputation to meet
him, and to arrange with him for his reception and installation. It
was then that the Countess heard that there was a nun at Wilton Abbey
so skilled in the treatment of wounds and sores that she was thought to
work miracles, being likewise a very holy woman.
The Earl and Countess would accompany the new bishop to be present at
his enthronement and the ensuing banquet, and the lady made this an
opportunity of riding to the convent on her way back, consulting the
Abbess, whom she had long known, and likewise seeing Sister Avice, and
requesting that her poor little guest might be received and treated
There was no chance of a refusal, for the great nobles were
sovereigns in their own domains; the Countess owned half Wiltshire, and
was much loved and honoured in all the religious houses for her
devotion and beneficence.
The nuns were only too happy to undertake to receive the demoiselle
Grisell Dacre of Whitburn, or any other whom my Lady Countess would
entrust to them, and the Abbess had no doubt that Sister Avice could
effect a cure.
Lady Salisbury dreaded that Grisell should lie awake all night
crying, so she said nothing till her whirlicote, as the carriage of
those days was called, was actually being prepared, and then she went
to the chamber where the poor child had spent five months, and where
she was now sitting dressed, but propped up on a sort of settle, and
with half her face still bandaged.
“My little maid, this is well,” said the Countess. “Come with me. I
am going to take thee to a kind and holy dame who will, I trust, with
the blessing of Heaven, be able to heal thee better than we have done.”
“Oh, lady, lady, do not send me away!” cried Grisell; “not from you
“My child, I must do so; I am going away myself, with my lord, and
Madge is to go back with her brother to her father the Duke. Thou
couldst not brook the journey, and I will take thee myself to the good
“A nun, a nunnery,” sighed Grisell. “Oh! I shall be mewed up there
and never come forth again! Do not, I pray, do not, good my lady, send
Perhaps my lady thought that to remain for life in a convent might be
the fate, and perhaps the happiest, of the poor blighted girl, but she
only told her that there was no reason she should not leave Wilton, as
she was not put there to take the vows, but only to be cured.
Long nursing had made Grisell unreasonable, and she cried as much as
she dared over the order; but no child ventured to make much resistance
to elders in those days, and especially not to the Countess, so
Grisell, a very poor little wasted being, was carried down, and only
delayed in the hall for an affectionate kiss from Margaret of York.
“And here is a keepsake, Grisell,” she said. “Mine own beauteous
pouncet box, with the forget-me-nots in turquoises round each little
“I will keep it for ever,” said Grisell, and they parted, but not as
girls part who hope to meet again, and can write letters constantly,
but with tearful eyes and clinging hands, as little like to meet again,
or even to hear more of one another.
The whirlicote was not much better than an ornamental waggon, and
Lady Salisbury, with the Mother of the Maids, did their best to lessen
the force of the jolts as by six stout horses it was dragged over the
chalk road over the downs, passing the wonderful stones of Amesbury—a
wider circle than even Stonehenge, though without the triliths, i.e. the stones laid one over the tops of the other two like a doorway.
Grisell heard some thing murmured about Merlin and Arthur and
Guinevere, but she did not heed, and she was quite worn out with
fatigue by the time they reached the descent into the long smooth
valley where Wilton Abbey stood, and the spire of the Cathedral could
be seen rising tall and beautiful.
The convent lay low, among meadows all shut in with fine elm trees,
and the cows belonging to the sisters were being driven home, their
bells tinkling. There was an outer court, within an arched gate kept
by a stout porter, and thus far came the whirlicote and the Countess's
attendants; but a lay porteress, in a cap and veil and black dress,
came out to receive her as the door of the carriage was opened, and
held out her arms to receive the muffled figure of the little visitor.
“Ah, poor maid,” she said, “but Sister Avice will soon heal her.”
At the deeply ornamented round archway of the inner gate to the
cloistered court stood the Lady Abbess, at the head of all her sisters,
drawn up in double line to receive the Countess, whom they took to
their refectory and to their chapel.
Of this, however, Grisell saw nothing, for she had been taken into
the arms of a tall nun in a black veil. At first she shuddered and
would have screamed if she had been a little stronger and less tired,
for illness and weakness had brought back the babyish horror of
anything black; but she felt soothed by the sweet voice and tender
words, “Poor little one! she is fore spent. She shall lie down on a
soft bed, and have some sweet milk anon.”
Still a deadly feeling of faintness came upon her before she had been
carried to the little bed which had been made ready for her. When she
opened her eyes, while a spoon was held to her lips, the first thing
she saw was the sweetest, calmest, most motherly of faces bent over
her, one arm round her, the other giving her the spoon of some
cordial. She looked up and even smiled, though it was a sad contorted
smile, which brought a tear into the good sister's eyes; but then she
fell asleep, and only half awoke when the Countess came up to see her
for the last time, and bade her farewell with a kiss on her forehead,
and a charge to Sister Avice to watch her well, and be tender with
her. Indeed no one could look at Sister Avice's gentle face and think
there was much need of the charge.
Sister Avice was one of the women who seem to be especially born for
the gentlest tasks of womanhood. She might have been an excellent wife
and mother, but from the very hour of her birth she had been vowed to
be a nun in gratitude on her mother's part for her father's safety at
Agincourt. She had been placed at Wilton when almost a baby, and had
never gone farther from it than on very rare occasions to the Cathedral
at Salisbury; but she had grown up with a wonderful instinct for
nursing and healing, and had a curious insight into the properties of
herbs, as well as a soft deft hand and touch, so that for some years
she had been sister infirmarer, and moreover the sick were often
brought to the gates for her counsel, treatment, or, as some believed,
even her healing touch.
When Grisell awoke she was alone in the long, large, low room, which
was really built over the Norman cloister. The walls were of pale
creamy stone, but at the end where she lay there were hangings of faded
tapestry. At one end there was a window, through the thick glass of
which could be dimly seen, as Grisell raised herself a little,
beautiful trees, and the splendid spire of the Cathedral rising, as she
dreamily thought, like a finger pointing upwards. Nearer were several
more narrow windows along the side of the room, and that beside her bed
had the lattice open, so that she saw a sloping green bank, with a
river at the foot; and there was a trim garden between. Opposite to
her there seemed to be another window with a curtain drawn across it,
through which came what perhaps had wakened her, a low, clear murmuring
tone, pausing and broken by the full, sweet, if rather shrill response
in women's voices. Beneath that window was a little altar, with a
crucifix and two candlesticks, a holy-water stoup by the side, and
there was above the little deep window a carving of the Blessed Virgin
with the Holy Child, on either side a niche, one with a figure of a nun
holding a taper, the other of a bishop with a book.
Grisell might have begun crying again at finding herself alone, but
the sweet chanting lulled her, and she lay back on her pillows, half
dozing but quite content, except that the wound on her neck felt stiff
and dry; and by and by when the chanting ceased, the kind nun, with a
lay sister, came back again carrying water and other appliances, at
sight of which Grisell shuddered, for Master Miles never touched her
without putting her to pain.
“Benedicite, my little maid, thou art awake,” said Sister
Avice. “I thought thou wouldst sleep till the vespers were ended. Now
let us dress these sad wounds of thine, and thou shalt sleep again.”
Grisell submitted, as she knew she must, but to her surprise Sister
Avice's touch was as soft and soothing as were her words, and the
ointment she applied was fragrant and delicious and did not burn or
She looked up gratefully, and murmured her thanks, and then the
evening meal was brought in, and she sat up to partake of it on the
seat of the window looking out on the Cathedral spire. It was a milk
posset far more nicely flavoured than what she had been used to at
Amesbury, where, in spite of the Countess's kindness, the master cook
had grown tired of any special service for the Dacre wench; and unless
Margaret of York secured fruit for her, she was apt to be regaled with
only the scraps that Maudlin managed to cater for her after the meals
After that, Sister Avice gently undressed her, took care that she
said her prayers, and sat by her till she fell asleep, herself telling
her that she should sleep beside her, and that she would hear the
voices of the sisters singing in the chapel their matins and lauds.
Grisell did hear them, as in a dream, but she had not slept so well
since her disaster as she slept on that night.
CHAPTER V—SISTER AVICE
Love, to her ear, was but a name
Combined with vanity and shame;
Her hopes, her fears, her joys, were all
Bounded within the cloister wall.
Sister Avice sat in the infirmary, diligently picking the leaves off
a large mass of wood-sorrel which had been brought to her by the
children around, to make therewith a conserve.
Grisell lay on her couch. She had been dressed, and had knelt at the
window, where the curtain was drawn back while mass was said by the
Chaplain, the nuns kneeling in their order and making their responses.
It was a low-browed chapel of Norman or even older days, with circular
arches and heavy round piers, and so dark that the gleam of the candles
was needed to light it.
Grisell watched, till tired with kneeling she went back to her couch,
slept a little, and then wondered to see Sister Avice still compounding
She moved wearily, and sighed for Madge to come in and tell her all
the news of Amesbury—who was riding at the ring, or who had shot the
best bolt, or who had had her work picked out as not neat or well
Sister Avice came and shook up her pillow, and gave her a dried plum
and a little milk, and began to talk to her.
“You will soon be better,” she said, “and then you will be able to
play in the garden.”
“Is there any playfellow for me?” asked Grisell.
“There is a little maid from Bemerton, who comes daily to learn her
hornbook and her sampler. Mayhap she will stay and play with you.”
“I had Madge at Amesbury; I shall love no one as well as Madge! See
what she gave me.”
Grisell displayed her pouncet box, which was duly admired, and then
she asked wearily whether she should always have to stay in the
“Oh no, not of need,” said the sister. “Many a maiden who has been
here for a time has gone out into the world, but some love this home
the best, as I have done.”
“Did yonder nun on the wall?” asked Grisell.
“Yea, truly. She was bred here, and never left it, though she was a
King's daughter. Edith was her name, and two days after Holy Cross day
we shall keep her feast. Shall I tell you her story?”
“Prithee, prithee!” exclaimed Grisell. “I love a tale dearly.”
Sister Avice told the legend, how St. Edith grew in love and
tenderness at Wilton, and how she loved the gliding river and the
flowers in the garden, and how all loved her, her young playmates
especially. She promised one who went away to be wedded that she would
be godmother to her first little daughter, but ere the daughter was
born the saintly Edith had died. The babe was carried to be christened
in the font at Winchester Cathedral, and by a great and holy man, no
other than Alphegius, who was then Bishop of Winchester, but was made
Archbishop of Canterbury, and died a holy martyr.
“Then,” said Sister Avice, “there was a great marvel, for among the
sponsors around the square black font there stood another figure in the
dress of our Mother Abbess, and as the Bishop spake and said, “Bear
this taper, in token that thy lamp shall be alight when the Bridegroom
cometh,” the form held the torch, shining bright, clear, and like no
candle or light on earth ever shone, and the face was the face of the
holy Edith. It is even said that she held the babe, but that I know
not, being a spirit without a body, but she spake the name, her own
name Edith. And when the holy rite was over, she had vanished away.”
“And that is she, with the lamp in her hand? Oh, I should have been
afraid!” cried Grisell.
“Not of the holy soul?” said the sister.
“Oh! I hope she will never come in here, by the little window into
the church,” cried Grisell trembling.
Indeed, for some time, in spite of all Sister Avice could say,
Grisell could not at night be free from the fear of a visit from St.
Edith, who, as she was told, slept her long sleep in the church below.
It may be feared that one chief reliance was on the fact that she could
not be holy enough for a vision of the Saint, but this was not so
valuable to her as the touch of Sister Avice's kind hand, or the very
knowing her present.
That story was the prelude to many more. Grisell wanted to hear it
over again, and then who was the Archbishop martyr, and who were the
Virgins in memory of whom the lamps were carried. Both these, and many
another history, parable, or legend were told her by Sister Avice,
training her soul, throughout the long recovery, which was still very
slow, but was becoming more confirmed every day. Grisell could use her
eye, turn her head, and the wounds closed healthily under the sister's
treatment without showing symptoms of breaking out afresh; and she grew
in strength likewise, first taking a walk in the trim garden and
orchard, and by and by being pronounced able to join the other girl
scholars of the convent. Only here was the first demur. Her looks did
not recover with her health. She remained with a much-seamed neck, and
a terrible scar across each cheek, on one side purple, and her eyebrows
were entirely gone.
She seemed to have forgotten the matter while she was entirely in the
infirmary, with no companion but Sister Avice, and occasionally a lay
sister, who came to help; but the first time she went down the turret
stair into the cloister—a beautiful succession of arches round a
green court—she met a novice and a girl about her own age; the elder
gave a little scream at the sight and ran away.
The other hung back. “Mary, come hither,” said Sister Avice. “This
is Grisell Dacre, who hath suffered so much. Wilt thou not come and
kiss and welcome her?”
Mary came forward rather reluctantly, but Grisell drew up her head
within, “Oh, if you had liefer not!” and turned her back on the girl.
Sister Avice followed as Grisell walked away as fast as her weakness
allowed, and found her sitting breathless at the third step on the
“Oh, no—go away—don't bring her. Every one will hate me,” sobbed
the poor child.
Avice could only gather her into her arms, though embraces were
against the strict rule of Benedictine nuns, and soothe and coax her to
believe that by one at least she was not hated.
“I had forgotten,” said Grisell. “I saw myself once at Amesbury! but
my face was not well then. Let me see again, sister! Where's a
“Ah! my child, we nuns are not allowed the use of worldly things like
mirrors; I never saw one in my life.”
“But oh, for pity's sake, tell me what like am I. Am I so loathly?”
“Nay, my dear maid, I love thee too well to think of aught save that
thou art mine own little one, given back to us by the will of Heaven.
Aye, and so will others think of thee, if thou art good and loving to
“Nay, nay, none will ever love me! All will hate and flee from me,
as from a basilisk or cockatrice, or the Loathly Worm of
Spindlesheugh,” sobbed Grisell.
“Then, my maid, thou must win them back by thy sweet words and kind
deeds. They are better than looks. And here too they shall soon think
only of what thou art, not of what thou look'st.”
“But know you, sister, how—how I should have been married to
Leonard Copeland, the very youth that did me this despite, and he is
fair and beauteous as a very angel, and I did love him so, and now he
and his father rid away from Amesbury, and left me because I am so foul
to see,” cried Grisell, between her sobs.
“If they could treat thee thus despiteously, he would surely not have
made thee a good husband,” reasoned the sister.
“But I shall never have a husband now,” wailed Grisell.
“Belike not,” said Sister Avice; “but, my sweetheart, there is better
peace and rest and cheer in such a home as this holy house, than in the
toils and labours of the world. When my sisters at Dunbridge and
Dinton come to see me they look old and careworn, and are full of tales
of the turmoil and trouble of husbands, and sons, and dues, and
tenants' fees, and villeins, and I know not what, that I often think
that even in this world's sense I am the best off. And far above and
beyond that,” she added, in a low voice, “the virgin hath a hope, a
Spouse beyond all human thought.”
Grisell did not understand the thought, and still wept bitterly.
“Must she be a nun all her life?” was all she thought of, and the shady
cloister seemed to her like a sort of prison. Sister Avice had to
soothe and comfort her, till her tears were all spent, as so often
before, and she had cried herself so ill that she had to be taken back
to her bed and lie down again. It was some days before she could be
coaxed out again to encounter any companions.
However, as time went on, health, and with it spirits and life, came
back to Grisell Dacre at Wilton, and she became accustomed to being
with the other inmates of the fine old convent, as they grew too much
used to her appearance to be startled or even to think about it. The
absence of mirrors prevented it from ever being brought before her, and
Sister Avice set herself to teach her how goodness, sweetness, and
kindness could endear any countenance, and indeed Grisell saw for
herself how much more loved was the old and very plain Mother Anne than
the very beautiful young Sister Isabel, who had been forced into the
convent by her tyrannical brother, and wore out her life in fretting
and rudeness to all who came in her way. She declared that the sight
of Grisell made her ill, and insisted that the veiled hood which all
the girls wore should be pulled forward whenever they came near one
another, and that Grisell's place should be out of her sight in chapel
Every one else, however, was very kind to the poor girl, Sister Avice
especially so, and Grisell soon forgot her disfigurement when she
ceased to suffer from it. She had begun to learn reading, writing, and
a little Latin, besides spinning, stitchery, and a few housewifely
arts, in the Countess of Salisbury's household, for every lady was
supposed to be educated in these arts, and great establishments were
schools for the damsels there bred up. It was the same with convent
life, and each nunnery had traditional works of its own, either in
embroidery, cookery, or medicine. Some secrets there were not imparted
beyond the professed nuns, and only to the more trustworthy of them, so
that each sisterhood might have its own especial glory in confections,
whether in portrait-worked vestments, in illuminations, in sweetmeats,
or in salves and unguents; but the pensioners were instructed in all
those common arts of bakery, needlework, notability, and surgery which
made the lady of a castle or manor so important, and within the last
century in the more fashionable abbeys Latin of a sort, French “of the
school of Stratford le Bowe,” and the like, were added. Thus Grisell
learnt as an apt scholar these arts, and took especial delight in
helping Sister Avice to compound her simples, and acquired a tender
hand with which to apply them.
Moreover, she learnt not only to say and sing her Breviary, but to
know the signification in English. There were translations of the
Lord's Prayer and Creed in the hands of all careful and thoughtful
people, even among the poor, if they had a good parish priest, or had
come under the influence of the better sort of friars. In convents
where discipline was kept up the meaning was carefully taught, and
there were English primers in the hands of all the devout, so that the
services could be intelligently followed even by those who did not
learn Latin, as did Grisell. Selections from Scripture history,
generally clothed in rhyme, and versified lives of the Saints, were
read aloud at meal-times in the refectory, and Grisell became so good a
reader that she was often chosen to chant out the sacred story, and her
sweet northern voice was much valued in the singing in the church. She
was quite at home there, and though too young to be admitted as a
novice, she wore a black dress and white hood like theirs, and the
annual gifts to the nunnery from the Countess of Salisbury were held to
entitle her to the residence there as a pensioner. She had fully
accepted the idea of spending her life there, sheltered from the world,
among the kind women whom she loved, and who had learnt to love her,
and in devotion to God, and works of mercy to the sick.
CHAPTER VI—THE PROCTOR
But if a mannes soul were in his purse,
For in his purse he should yfurnished be.
CHAUCER, Canterbury Pilgrims.
Five years had passed since Grisell had been received at Wilton, when
the Abbess died. She had been infirm and confined to her lodging for
many months, and Grisell had hardly seen her, but her death was to
change the whole tenor of the maiden's life.
The funeral ceremonies took place in full state. The Bishop himself
came to attend them, and likewise all the neighbouring clergy, and the
monks, friars, and nuns, overflowing the chapel, while peasants and
beggars for whom there was no room in the courts encamped outside the
walls, to receive the dole and pray for the soul of the right reverend
For nine days constant services were kept up, and the requiem mass
was daily said, the dirges daily sung, and the alms bestowed on the
crowd, who were by no means specially sorrowful or devout, but beguiled
the time by watching jongleurs and mountebanks performing beyond
There was the “Month's Mind” still to come, and then the chapter of
nuns intended to proceed to the election of their new Abbess,
unanimously agreeing that she should be their present Prioress, who had
held kindly rule over them through the slow to-decay of the late
Abbess. Before, however, this could be done a messenger arrived on a
mule bearing an inhibition to the sisters to proceed in the election.
His holiness Pope Calixtus had reserved to himself the next
appointment to this as well as to certain other wealthy abbeys.
The nuns in much distress appealed to the Bishop, but he could do
nothing for them. Such reservations had been constant in the
subservient days that followed King John's homage, and though the great
Edwards had struggled against them, and the yoke had been shaken off
during the Great Schism, no sooner had this been healed than the former
claims were revived, nay, redoubled, and the pious Henry VI. was not
the man to resist them. The sisters therefore waited in suspense,
daring only meekly to recommend their Prioress in a humble letter,
written by the Chaplain, and backed by a recommendation from Bishop
Beauchamp. Both alike were disregarded, as all had expected.
The new Abbess thus appointed was the Madre Matilda de Borgia, a
relation of Pope Calixtus, very noble, and of Spanish birth, as the
Commissioner assured the nuns; but they had never heard of her before,
and were not at all gratified. They had always elected their Abbess
before, and had quite made up their minds as to the choice of the
present Mother Prioress as Abbess, and of Sister Avice as Prioress.
However, they had only to submit. To appeal to the King or to their
Bishop would have been quite useless; they could only do as the Pope
commanded, and elect the Mother Matilda, consoling themselves with the
reflection that she was not likely to trouble herself about them, and
their old Prioress would govern them. And so she did so far as
regarded the discipline of the house, but what they had not so entirely
understood was the Mother de Borgia's desire to squeeze all she could
out of the revenues of the house.
Her Proctor arrived, a little pinched man in a black gown and square
cap, and desired to see the Mother Prioress and her steward, and to
overlook the income and expenditure of the convent; to know who had
duly paid her dowry to the nunnery, what were the rents, and the like.
The sisters had already raised a considerable gift in silver merks to
be sent through Lombard merchants to their new Abbess, and this
requisition was a fresh blow.
Presently the Proctor marked out Grisell Dacre, and asked on what
terms she was at the convent. It was explained that she had been
brought thither for her cure by the Lady of Salisbury, and had stayed
on, without fee or payment from her own home in the north, but the
ample donations of the Earl of Salisbury had been held as full
compensation, and it had been contemplated to send to the maiden's
family to obtain permission to enrol her as a sister after her
novitiate—which might soon begin, as she was fifteen years old.
The Proctor, however, was much displeased. The nuns had no right to
receive a pensioner without payment, far less to admit a novice as a
sister without a dowry.
Mistress Grisell must be returned instantly upon the hands either of
her own family or of the Countess of Salisbury, and certainly not
readmitted unless her dowry were paid. He scarcely consented to give
time for communication with the Countess, to consider how to dispose of
the poor child.
The Prioress sent messengers to Amesbury and to Christ Church, but
the Earl and Countess were not there, nor was it clear where they were
likely to be. Whitburn was too far off to send to in the time allowed
by the Proctor, and Grisell had heard nothing from her home all the
time she had been at Wilton. The only thing that the Prioress could
devise, was to request the Chaplain to seek her out at Salisbury a
trustworthy escort, pilgrim, merchant or other, with whom Grisell might
safely travel to London, and if the Earl and Countess were not there,
some responsible person of theirs, or of their son's, was sure to be
found, who would send the maiden on.
The Chaplain mounted his mule and rode over to Salisbury, whence he
returned, bringing with him news of a merchant's wife who was about to
go on pilgrimage to fulfil a vow at Walsingham, and would feel herself
honoured by acting as the convoy of the Lady Grisell Dacre as far at
least as London.
There was no further hope of delay or failure. Poor Grisell must be
cast out on the world—the Proctor even spoke of calling the Countess,
or her steward, to account for her maintenance during these five years.
There was weeping and wailing in the cloisters at the parting, and
Grisell clung to Sister Avice, mourning for her peaceful, holy life.
“Nay, my child, none can take from thee a holy life.”
“If I make a vow of virginity none can hinder me.”
“That was not what I meant. No maid has a right to take such a vow
on herself without consent of her father, nor is it binding otherwise.
No! but no one can take away from a Christian maid the power of
holiness. Bear that for ever in mind, sweetheart. Naught that can be
done by man or by devil to the body can hurt the soul that is fixed on
Christ and does not consent to evil.”
“The Saints forefend that ever—ever I should consent to evil.”
“It is the Blessed Spirit alone who can guard thy will, my child.
Will and soul not consenting nor being led astray thou art safe. Nay,
the lack of a fair-favoured face may be thy guard.”
“All will hate me. Alack! alack!”
“Not so. See, thou hast won love amongst us. Wherefore shouldst not
thou in like manner win love among thine own people?”
“My mother hates me already, and my father heeds me not.”
“Love them, child! Do them good offices! None can hinder thee from
“Can I love those who love not me?”
“Yea, little one. To serve and tend another brings the heart to
love. Even as thou seest a poor dog love the master who beats him, so
it is with us, only with the higher Christian love. Service and prayer
open the heart to love, hoping for nothing again, and full oft that
which was not hoped for is vouchsafed.”
That was the comfort with which Grisell had to start from her home of
peace, conducted by the Chaplain, and even the Prioress, who would
herself give her into the hands of the good Mistress Hall.
Very early they heard mass in the convent, and then rode along the
bank of the river, with the downs sloping down on the other side, and
the grand spire ever seeming as it were taller as they came nearer;
while the sound of the bells grew upon them, for there was then a
second tower beyond to hold the bells, whose reverberation would have
been dangerous to the spire, and most sweet was their chime, the sound
of which had indeed often reached Wilton in favourable winds; but it
sounded like a sad farewell to Grisell.
The Prioress thought she ought to begin her journey by kneeling in
the Cathedral, so they crossed the shaded close and entered by the west
door with the long vista of clustered columns and pointed arches before
Low sounds of mass being said at different altars met their ears, for
it was still early in the day. The Prioress passed the length of nave,
and went beyond the choir to the lady chapel, with its slender
supporting columns and exquisite arches, and there she, with Grisell by
her side, joined in earnest supplications for the child.
The Chaplain touched her as she rose, and made her aware that the
dame arrayed in a scarlet mantle and hood and dark riding-dress was
Silence was not observed in cathedrals or churches, especially in the
naves, except when any sacred rite was going on, and no sooner was the
mass finished and “Ite missa est” pronounced than the scarlet
cloak rose, and hastened into the south transept, where she waited for
the Chaplain, Prioress, and Grisell. No introduction seemed needed.
“The Holy Mother Prioress,” she began, bending her knee and kissing the
lady's hand. “Much honoured am I by the charge of this noble little
lady.” Grisell by the by was far taller than the plump little
goodwoman Hall, but that was no matter, and the Prioress had barely
space to get in a word of thanks before she went on: “I will keep her
and tend her as the apple of mine eye. She shall pray with me at all
the holy shrines for the good of her soul and mine. She shall be my
bedfellow wherever we halt, and sit next me, and be cherished as though
she were mine own daughter—ladybird as she is—till I can give her
into the hands of the good Lady Countess. Oh yes—you may trust Joan
Hall, dame reverend mother. She is no new traveller. I have been in
my time to all our shrines—to St. Thomas of Canterbury, to St.
Winifred's Well, aye, and, moreover, to St. James of Compostella, and
St. Martha of Provence, not to speak of lesser chantries and Saints.
Aye, and I crossed the sea to see the holy coat of Trèves, and St.
Ursula's eleven thousand skulls—and a gruesome sight they were. Nay,
if the Lady Countess be not in London it would cost me little to go on
to the north with her. There's St. Andrew of Ely, Hugh, great St. Hugh
and little St. Hugh, both of them at Lincoln, and there's St. Wilfred
of York, and St. John of Beverly, not to speak of St. Cuthbert of
Durham and of St. Hilda of Whitby, who might take it ill if I pray at
none of their altars, when I have been to so many of their brethren.
Oh, you may trust me, reverend mother; I'll never have the young lady,
bless her sweet face, out of my sight till I have safe bestowed her
with my Lady Countess, our good customer for all manner of hardware, or
else with her own kin.”
The good woman's stream of conversation lasted almost without drawing
breath all the way down the nave. It was a most good-humoured hearty
voice, and her plump figure and rosy face beamed with good nature,
while her bright black eyes had a lively glance.
The Chaplain had inquired about her, and found that she was one of
the good women to whom pilgrimage was an annual dissipation,
consecrated and meritorious as they fondly believed, and gratifying
their desire for change and variety. She was a kindly person of good
reputation, trustworthy, and kind to the poor, and stout John Hall, her
husband, could manage the business alone, and was thought not to regret
a little reprieve from her continual tongue.
She wanted the Prioress to do her the honour of breaking her fast
with her, but the good nun was in haste to return, after having once
seen her charge in safe hands, and excused herself, while Grisell,
blessed by the Chaplain, and hiding her tears under her veil, was led
away to the substantial smith's abode, where she was to take a first
meal before starting on her journey on the strong forest pony which the
Chaplain's care had provided for her.
CHAPTER VII—THE PILGRIM OF SALISBURY
She hadde passed many a strange shrine,
At Rome she had been and at Boleine,
At Galice, at St. James, and at Coleine,
She could moche of wandering by the way.
CHAUCER, Canterbury Pilgrims.
Grisell found herself brought into a hall where a stout oak table
occupied the centre, covered with home-spun napery, on which stood
trenchers, wooden bowls, pewter and a few silver cups, and several
large pitchers of ale, small beer, or milk. A pie and a large piece of
bacon, also a loaf of barley bread and a smaller wheaten one, were
Shelves all round the walls shone with pewter and copper dishes,
cups, kettles, and vessels and implements of all household varieties,
and ranged round the floor lay ploughshares, axes, and mattocks, all
polished up. The ring of hammers on the anvil was heard in the court
in the rear. The front of the hall was open for the most part, without
windows, but it could be closed at night.
Breakfast was never a regular meal, and the household had partaken of
it, so that there was no one in the hall excepting Master Hall, a
stout, brawny, grizzled man, with a good-humoured face, and his son,
more slim, but growing into his likeness, also a young notable-looking
daughter-in-law with a swaddled baby tucked under her arm.
They seated Grisell at the table, and implored her to eat. The
wheaten bread and the fowl were, it seemed, provided in her honour, and
she could not but take her little knife from the sheath in her girdle,
turn back her nun-like veil, and prepare to try to drive back her sobs,
and swallow the milk of almonds pressed on her.
“Eh!” cried the daughter-in-law in amaze. “She's only scarred after
“Well, what else should she be, bless her poor heart?” said Mrs. Hall
“Why, wasn't it thou thyself, good mother, that brought home word
that they had the pig-faced lady at Wilton there?”
“Bless thee, Agnes, thou should'st know better than to lend an ear to
all the idle tales thy poor old mother may hear at market or fair.”
“Then should we have enough to do,” muttered her husband.
“And as thou seest, 'tis a sweet little face, only cruelly marred by
the evil hap.”
Poor Grisell was crimson at finding all eyes on her, an ordeal she
had never undergone in the convent, and she hastily pulled forward her
“Nay now, my sweet young lady, take not the idle words in ill part,”
pleaded the good hostess. “We all know how to love thee, and what is a
smooth skin to a true heart? Take a bit more of the pasty, ladybird;
we'll have far to ride ere we get to Wherwell, where the good sisters
will give us a meal for young St. Edward's sake and thy Prioress's.
Aye—I turn out of my way for that; I never yet paid my devotion to
poor young King Edward, and he might take it in dudgeon, being a king,
and his shrine so near at hand.”
“Ha, ha!” laughed the smith; “trust my dame for being on the right
side of the account with the Saints. Well for me and Jack that we have
little Agnes here to mind the things on earth meanwhile. Nay, nay,
dame, I say nought to hinder thee; I know too well what it means when
spring comes, and thou beginn'st to moan and tell up the tale of the
shrines where thou hast not told thy beads.”
It was all in good humour, and Master Hall walked out to the city
gate to speed his gad-about or pious wife, whichever he might call her,
on her way, apparently quite content to let her go on her pilgrimages
for the summer quarter.
She rode a stout mule, and was attended by two sturdy varlets—quite
sufficient guards for pilgrims, who were not supposed to carry any
valuables. Grisell sadly rode her pony, keeping her veil well over her
face, yearning over the last view of the beloved spire, thinking of
Sister Avice ministering to her poor, and with a very definite fear of
her own reception in the world and dread of her welcome at home. Yet
there was a joy in being on horseback once more, for her who had ridden
moorland ponies as soon as she could walk.
Goodwife Hall talked on, with anecdotes of every hamlet that they
passed, and these were not very many. At each church they dismounted
and said their prayers, and if there were a hostel near, they let their
animals feed the while, and obtained some refreshment themselves.
England was not a very safe place for travellers just then, but the
cockle-shells sewn to the pilgrim's hat of the dame, and to that of one
of her attendants, and the tall staff and wallet each carried, were
passports of security. Nothing could be kinder than Mistress Hall was
to her charge, of whom she was really proud, and when they halted for
the night at the nunnery of Queen Elfrida at Wherwell, she took care to
explain that this was no burgess's daughter but the Lady Grisell Dacre
of Whitburn, trusted to her convoy, and thus obtained for her
quarters in the guest-chamber of the refectory instead of in the
general hospitium; but on the whole Grisell had rather not have been
exposed to the shock of being shown to strangers, even kindly ones, for
even if they did not exclaim, some one was sure to start and whisper.
After another halt for the night the travellers reached London, and
learned at the city gate that the Earl and Countess of Salisbury were
absent, but that their eldest son, the Earl of Warwick, was keeping
court at Warwick House.
Thither therefore Mistress Hall resolved to conduct Grisell. The way
lay through narrow streets with houses overhanging the roadway, but the
house itself was like a separate castle, walled round, enclosing a huge
space, and with a great arched porter's lodge, where various
men-at-arms lounged, all adorned on the arm of their red jackets with
the bear and ragged staff.
They were courteous, however, for the Earl Richard of Warwick
insisted on civility to all comers, and they respected the
scallop-shell on the dame's hat. They greeted her good-humouredly.
“Ha, good-day, good pilgrim wife. Art bound for St. Paul's? Here's
supper to the fore for all comers!”
“Thanks, sir porter, but this maid is of other mould; she is the Lady
Grisell Dacre, and is company for my lord and my lady.”
“Nay, her hood and veil look like company for the Abbess. Come this
way, dame, and we will find the steward to marshal her.”
Grisell had rather have been left to the guardianship of her kind old
friend, but she was obliged to follow. They dismounted in a fine court
with cloister-like buildings round it, and full of people of all kinds,
for no less than six hundred stout yeomen wore red coats and the bear
and ragged staff. Grisell would fain have clung to her guide, but she
was not allowed to do so. She was marshalled up stone steps into a
great hall, where tables were being laid, covered with white napery and
glittering with silver and pewter.
The seneschal marched before her all the length of the hall to where
there was a large fireplace with a burning log, summer though it was,
and shut off by handsome tapestried and carved screens sat a half
circle of ladies, with a young-looking lady in a velvet fur-trimmed
surcoat in their midst. A tall man with a keen, resolute face, in long
robes and gold belt and chain, stood by her leaning on her chair.
The seneschal announced, “Place, place for the Lady Grisell Dacre of
Whitburn,” and Grisell bent low, putting back as much of her veil as
she felt courtesy absolutely to require. The lady rose, the knight
held out his hand to raise the bending figure. He had that power of
recollection and recognition which is so great an element in
popularity. “The Lady Grisell Dacre,” he said. “She who met with so
sad a disaster when she was one of my lady mother's household?”
Grisell glowing all over signed acquiescence, and he went on,
“Welcome to my poor house, lady. Let me present you to my wife.”
The Countess of Warwick was a pale, somewhat inane lady. She was the
heiress of the Beauchamps and De Spensers in consequence of the recent
death of her brother, “the King of the Isle of Wight”—and through her
inheritance her husband had risen to his great power. She was delicate
and feeble, almost apathetic, and she followed her husband's lead, and
received her guest with fair courtesy; and Grisell ventured in a
trembling voice to explain that she had spent those years at Wilton,
but that the new Abbess's Proctor would not consent to her remaining
there any longer, not even long enough to send to her parents or to the
Countess of Salisbury.
“Poor maiden! Such are the ways of his Holiness where the King is
not man enough to stand in his way,” said Warwick. “So, fair maiden,
if you will honour my house for a few days, as my lady's guest, I will
send you north in more fitting guise than with this white-smith dame.”
“She hath been very good to me,” Grisell ventured to add to her
“She shall have good entertainment here,” said the Earl smiling. “No
doubt she hath already, as Sarum born. See that Goodwife Hall, the
white smith's wife, and her following have the best of harbouring,” he
added to his silver-chained steward.
“You are a Dacre of Whitburn,” he added to Grisell. “Your father has
not taken sides with Dacre of Gilsland and the Percies.” Then seeing
that Grisell knew nothing of all this, he laughed and said, “Little
convent birds, you know nought of our worldly strifes.”
In fact, Grisell had heard nothing from her home for the last five
years, which was the less marvel as neither her father nor her mother
could write if they had cared to do so. Nor did the convent know much
of the state of England, though prayers had been constantly said for
the King's recovery, and of late there had been thanksgivings for the
birth of the Prince of Wales; but it was as much as she did know that
just now the Duke of York was governing, for the poor King seemed as
senseless as a stone, and the Earl of Salisbury was his Chancellor.
Nevertheless Salisbury was absent in the north, and there was a quarrel
going on between the Nevils and the Percies which Warwick was going to
compose, and thus would be able to take Grisell so far in his company.
The great household was larger than even what she remembered at the
houses of the Countess of Salisbury before her accident, and, fresh
from the stillness of the convent as she was, the noises were amazing
to her when all sat down to supper. Tables were laid all along the
vast hall. She was placed at the upper one to her relief, beside an
old lady, Dame Gresford, whom she remembered to have seen at Montacute
Castle in her childhood, as one of the attendants on the Countess. She
was forced to put back her veil, and she saw some of the young knights
and squires staring at her, then nudging one another and laughing.
“Never mind them, sweetheart,” said Dame Gresford kindly; “they are
but unmannerly lurdanes, and the Lord Earl would make them know what is
befitting if his eye fell on them.”
The good lady must have had a hint from the authorities, for she kept
Grisell under her wing in the huge household, which was like a city in
itself. There was a knight who acted as steward, with innumerable
knights, squires, and pages under him, besides the six hundred red
jacketed yoemen, and servants of all degrees, in the immense court of
the buttery and kitchen, as indeed there had need to be, for six oxen
were daily cooked, with sheep and other meats in proportion, and any
friend or acquaintance of any one in this huge establishment might come
in, and not only eat and drink his fill, but carry off as much meat as
he could on the point of his dagger.
Goodwife Hall, as coming from Salisbury, stayed there in free
quarters, while she made the round of all the shrines in London, and
she was intensely gratified by the great Earl recollecting, or
appearing to recollect, her and inquiring after her husband, that
hearty burgess, whose pewter was so lasting, and he was sure was still
in use among his black guard.
When she saw Grisell on finally departing for St. Albans, she was
carrying her head a good deal higher on the strength of “my Lord Earl's
grace to her.” She hoped that her sweet Lady Grisell would remain
here, as the best hap she could have in the most noble, excellent, and
open-handed house in the world! Grisell's own wishes were not the
same, for the great household was very bewildering—a strange change
from her quietly-busy convent. The Countess was quiet enough, but dull
and sickly, and chiefly occupied by her ailments. She seemed to be
always thinking about leeches, wise friars, wonderful nuns, or even
wizards and cunning women, and was much concerned that her husband
absolutely forbade her consulting the witch of Spitalfields.
“Nay, dame,” said he, “an thou didst, the next thing we should hear
would be that thou hadst been sticking pins into King Harry's waxen
image and roasting him before the fire, and that nothing but roasting
thee in life and limb within a fire would bring him to life and
“They would never dare,” cried the lady.
“Who can tell what the Queen would dare if she gets her will!”
demanded the Earl. “Wouldst like to do penance with sheet and candle,
like Gloucester's wife?”
Such a possibility was enough to silence the Lady of Warwick on the
score of witches, and the only time she spoke to Grisell was to ask her
about Sister Avice and her cures. She set herself to persuade her
husband to let her go down to one of his mother's Wiltshire houses to
consult the nun, but Warwick had business in the north, nor would he
allow her to be separated from him, lest she might be detained as a
Dame Gresford continued to be Grisell's protector, and let the girl
sit and spin or embroider beside her, while the other ladies of the
house played at ball in the court, or watched the exercises of the
pages and squires. The dame's presence and authority prevented
Grisell's being beset with uncivil remarks, but she knew she was like a
toad among the butterflies, as she overheard some saucy youth calling
her, while a laugh answered him, and she longed for her convent.
CHAPTER VIII—OLD PLAYFELLOWS
Alone thou goest forth,
Thy face unto the north,
Moor and pleasance all around thee and beneath thee.
E. BARRETT BROWNING, A Valediction.
One great pleasure fell to Grisell's share, but only too brief. The
family of the Duke of York on their way to Baynard's Castle halted at
Warwick House, and the Duchess Cecily, tall, fair, and stately, sailed
into the hall, followed by three fair daughters, while Warwick, her
nephew, though nearly of the same age, advanced with his wife to meet
and receive her.
In the midst of the exchange of affectionate but formal greetings a
cry of joy was heard, “My Grisell! yes, it is my Grisell!” and
springing from the midst of her mother's suite, Margaret Plantagenet, a
tall, lovely, dark-haired girl, threw her arms round the thin slight
maiden with the scarred face, which excited the scorn and surprise of
her two sisters.
“Margaret! What means this?” demanded the Duchess severely.
“It is my Grisell Dacre, fair mother, my dear companion at my aunt of
Salisbury's manor,” said Margaret, trying to lead forward her shrinking
friend. “She who was so cruelly scathed.”
Grisell curtsied low, but still hung back, and Lord Warwick briefly
explained. “Daughter to Will Dacre of Whitburn, a staunch baron of the
north. My mother bestowed her at Wilton, whence the creature of the
Pope's intruding Abbess has taken upon him to expel her. So I am about
to take her to Middleham, where my mother may see to her further
“We have even now come from Middleham,” said the Duchess. “My Lord
Duke sent for me, but he looks to you, my lord, to compose the strife
between your father and the insolent Percies.”
The Duke was at Windsor with the poor insane King, and the Earl and
the Duchess plunged into a discussion of the latest news of the
northern counties and of the Court. The elder daughters were languidly
entertained by the Countess, but no one disturbed the interview of
Margaret and Grisell, who, hand in hand, had withdrawn into the
embrasure of a window, and there fondled each other, and exchanged
tidings of their young lives, and Margaret told of friends in the Nevil
All too soon the interview came to an end. The Duchess, after
partaking of a manchet, was ready to proceed to Baynard's Castle, and
the Lady Margaret was called for. Again, in spite of surprised, not to
say displeased looks, she embraced her dear old playfellow. “Don't go
into a convent, Grisell,” she entreated. “When I am wedded to some
great earl, you must come and be my lady, mine own, own dear friend.
Promise me! Your pledge, Grisell.”
There was no time for the pledge. Margaret was peremptorily
summoned. They would not meet again. The Duchess's intelligence had
quickened Warwick's departure, and the next day the first start
northwards was to be made.
It was a mighty cavalcade. The black guard, namely, the kitchen
ménage, with all their pots and pans, kettles and spits, were sent on a
day's march beforehand, then came the yeomen, the knights and squires,
followed by the more immediate attendants of the Earl and Countess and
their court. She travelled in a whirlicote, and there were others
provided for her elder ladies, the rest riding singly or on pillions
according to age or taste. Grisell did not like to part with her pony,
and Dame Gresford preferred a pillion to the bumps and jolts of the
waggon-like conveyances called chariots, so Grisell rode by her side,
the fresh spring breezes bringing back the sense of being really a
northern maid, and she threw back her veil whenever she was alone with
the attendants, who were used to her, though she drew it closely round
when she encountered town or village. There were resting-places on the
way. In great monasteries all were accommodated, being used to close
quarters; in castles there was room for the “Gentles,” who, if they
fared well, heeded little how they slept, and their attendants found
lairs in the kitchens or stables. In towns there was generally harbour
for the noble portion; indeed in some, Warwick had dwellings of his
own, or his father's, but these, at first, were at long distances
apart, such as would be ridden by horsemen alone, not encumbered with
ladies, and there were intermediate stages, where some of the party had
to be dispersed in hostels.
It was in one of these, at Dunstable, that Dame Gresford had taken
Grisell, and there were also sundry of the gentlemen of the escort. A
minstrel was esconced under the wide spread of the chimney, and began
to sound his harp and sing long ballads in recitative to the company.
Whether he did it in all innocence and ignorance, or one of the young
squires had mischievously prompted him, there was no knowing; Dame
Gresford suspected the latter, when he began the ballad of “Sir
Gawaine's Wedding.” She would have silenced it, but feared to draw
more attention on her charge, who had never heard the song, and did not
know what was coming, but listened with increasing eagerness as she
heard of King Arthur, and of the giant, and the secret that the King
could not guess, till as he rode—
He came to the green forest,
Underneath a green hollen tree,
There sat that lady in red scarlet
That unseemly was to see.
Some eyes were discourteously turned on the maiden, but she hardly
saw them, and at any rate her nose was not crooked, nor had her eyes
and mouth changed places, as in the case of the “Loathly Lady.” She
heard of the condition on which the lady revealed the secret, and how
King Arthur bound himself to bring a fair young knight to wed the
hideous being. Then when he revealed to his assembled knights—
Then some took up their hawks,
And some took up their hounds,
And some sware they would not marry her
For cities nor for towns.
Glances again went towards the scarred visage, but Grisell was
heedless of them, only listening how Sir Gawaine, Arthur's nephew, felt
that his uncle's oath must be kept, and offered himself as the
Then after the marriage, when he looked on the lady, instead of the
loathly hag he beheld a fair damsel! And he was told by her that he
might choose whether she should be foul at night and fair by day, or
fair each evening and frightful in the daylight hours. His choice at
first was that her beauty should be for him alone, in his home, but
when she objected that this would be hard on her, since she could thus
never show her face when other dames ride with their lords—
Then buke him gentle Gawayne,
Said, “Lady, that's but a shill;
Because thou art mine own lady
Thou shalt have all thy will.”
And his courtesy broke the spell of the stepdame, as the lady related
“She witched me, being a fair young lady,
To the green forest to dwell,
And there must I walk in woman's likeness,
Most like a fiend in hell.”
Thenceforth the enchantment was broken, and Sir Gawaine's bride was
fair to see.
Grisell had listened intently, absorbed in the narrative, so losing
personal thought and feeling that it was startling to her to perceive
that Dame Gresford was trying to hush a rude laugh, and one of the
young squires was saying, “Hush, hush! for very shame.”
Then she saw that they were applying the story to her, and the blood
rushed into her face, but the more courteous youth was trying to turn
away attention by calling on the harper for “The Beggar of Bethnal
Green,” or “Lord Thomas and Fair Annet,” or any merry ballad. So it
was borne in on Grisell that to these young gentlemen she was the lady
unseemly to see. Yet though a few hot tears flowed, indignant and
sorrowful, the sanguine spirit of youth revived. “Sister Avice had
told her how to be not loathly in the sight of those whom she could
teach to love her.”
There was one bound by a pledge! Ah, he would never fulfil it. If
he should, Grisell felt a resolute purpose within her that though she
could not be transformed, he should not see her loathly in his sight,
and in that hope she slept.
CHAPTER IX—THE KING-MAKER
O where is faith? O where is loyalty?
SHAKESPEARE, Henry VI., Part II.
Grisell was disappointed in her hopes of seeing her Countess of
Salisbury again, for as she rode into the Castle of York she heard the
Earl's hearty voice of greeting. “Ha, stout Will of Whitburn, well
met! What, from the north?”
The Earl stood talking with a tall brawny man, lean and strong, brown
and weather-beaten, in a frayed suit of buff leather stained to all
sorts of colours, in which rust predominated, and a face all brown and
red except for the grizzled eyebrows, hair, and stubbly beard. She had
not seen her father since she was five years old, and she would not
have known him.
“I am from the south now, my lord,” she heard his gruff voice say.
“I have been taking my lad to be bred up in the Duke of York's house,
for better nurture than can be had in my sea-side tower.”
“Quite right. Well done in you,” responded Warwick. “The Duke of
York is the man to hold by. We have an exchange for you, a daughter
for a son,” and he was leading the way towards Grisell, who had just
dismounted from her pony, and stood by it, trembling a little, and
bending for her father's blessing. It was not more than a crossing of
her, and he was talking all the time.
“Ha! how now! Methought my Lady of Salisbury had bestowed her in the
Abbey—how call you it?”
“Aye,” returned Warwick; “but since we have not had King or
Parliament with spirit to stand up to the Pope, he thrusts his claw in
everywhere, puts a strange Abbess into Wilton, and what must she do but
send down her Proctor to treat the poor nunnery as it were a sponge,
and spite of all my Lady Mother's bounties to the place, what lists he
do but turn out the poor maid for lack of a dowry, not so much as
giving time for a notice to be sent.”
“If we had such a rogue in the North Country we should know how to
serve him,” observed Sir William, and Warwick laughed as befitted a
Westmoreland Nevil, albeit he was used to more civilised ways.
“Scurvy usage,” he said, “but the Prioress had no choice save to put
her in such keeping as she could, and send her away to my Lady Mother,
or failing her to her home.”
“Soh! She must e'en jog off with me, though how it is to be with her
my lady may tell, not I, since every groat those villain yeomen and
fisher folk would raise, went to fit out young Rob, and there has not
been so much as a Border raid these four years and more. There are the
nuns at Gateshead, as hard as nails, will not hear of a maid without a
dower, and yonder mansworn fellow Copeland casts her off like an old
glove! Let us look at you, wench! Ha! Face is unsightly enough, but
thou wilt not be a badly-made woman. Take heart, what's thy name—
Grisell? May be there's luck for thee still, though it be hard of
coming to Whitburn,” he added, turning to Warwick. “There's this wench
scorched to a cinder, enough to fright one, and my other lad racked
from head to foot with pain and sores, so as it is a misery to hear the
poor child cry out, and even if he be reared, he will be good for
nought save a convent.”
Grisell would fain have heard more about this poor little brother,
but the ladies were entering the castle, and she had to follow them.
She saw no more of her father except from the far end of the table, but
orders were issued that she should be ready to accompany him on his
homeward way the next morning at six o'clock. Her brother Robert had
been sent in charge of some of the Duke of York's retainers, to join
his household as a page, though they had missed him on the route, and
the Lord of Whitburn was anxious to get home again, never being quite
sure what the Scots, or the Percies, or his kinsmen of Gilsland, might
attempt in his absence. “Though,” as he said, “my lady was as good as
a dozen men-at-arms, but somehow she had not been the same woman since
little Bernard had fallen sick.”
There was no one in the company with whom Grisell was very sorry to
part, for though Dame Gresford had been kind to her, it had been merely
the attending to the needs of a charge, not showing her any affection,
and she had shrunk from the eyes of so large a party.
When she came down early into the hall, her father's half-dozen
retainers were taking their morning meal at one end of a big board,
while a manchet of bread and a silver cup of ale was ready for each of
them at the other, and her father while swallowing his was in deep
conversation over northern politics with the courteous Earl, who had
come down to speed his guests. As she passed the retainers she heard,
“Here comes our Grisly Grisell,” and a smothered laugh, and in fact
“Grisly Grisell” continued to be her name among the free-spoken people
of the north. The Earl broke off, bowed to her, and saw that she was
provided, breaking into his conversation with the Baron, evidently much
to the impatience of the latter; and again the polite noble came down
to the door with her, and placed her on her palfrey, bidding her a kind
farewell ere she rode away with her father. It would be long before
she met with such courtesy again. Her father called to his side his
old, rugged-looking esquire Cuthbert Ridley, and began discussing with
him what Lord Warwick had said, both wholly absorbed in the subject,
and paying no attention to the girl who rode by the Baron's side, so
that it was well that her old infantine training in horsemanship had
come back to her.
She remembered Cuthbert Ridley, who had carried her about and petted
her long ago, and, to her surprise, looked no older than he had done in
those days when he had seemed to her infinitely aged. Indeed it was to
him, far more than to her father, that she owed any attention or care
taken of her on the journey. Her father was not unkind, but never
seemed to recollect that she needed any more care than his rough
followers, and once or twice he and all his people rode off headlong
over the fell at sight of a stag roused by one of their great
deer-hounds. Then Cuthbert Ridley kept beside her, and when the ground
became too rough for a New Forest pony and a hand unaccustomed to
northern ground, he drew up. She would probably—if not thrown and
injured—have been left behind to feel herself lost on the moors. She
minded the less his somewhat rude ejaculation, “Ho! Ho! South!
South! Forgot how to back a horse on rough ground. Eh? And what a
poor soft-paced beast! Only fit to ride on my lady's pilgrimage or in
a State procession.”
(He said Gang, but neither the Old English nor the northern dialect
could be understood by the writer or the reader, and must be taken for
“They are all gone!” responded Grisell, rather frightened.
“Never guessed you were not among them,” replied Ridley. “Why, my
lady would be among the foremost, in at the death belike, if she did
not cut the throat of the quarry.”
Grisell could well believe it, but used to gentle nuns, she shuddered
a little as she asked what they were to do next.
“Turn back to the track, and go softly on till my lord comes up with
us,” answered Ridley. “Or you might be fain to rest under a rock for a
The rest was far from unwelcome, and Grisell sat down on a mossy
stone while Ridley gathered bracken for her shelter, and presently even
brought her a branch or two of whortle-berries. She felt that she had
a friend, and was pleased when he began to talk of how he remembered
her long ago.
“Ah! I mind you, a little fat ball of a thing, when you were fetched
home from Herring Dick's house, how you used to run after the dogs like
a kitten after her tail, and used to crave to be put up on old Black
“I remember Black Durham! Had he not a white star on his forehead?”
“A white blaze sure enough.”
“Is he at the tower still? I did not see him in the plump of
“No, no, poor beast. He broke his leg four years ago come Martinmas,
in a rabbit-hole on Berwick Law, last raid that we made, and I tarried
to cut his throat with my dagger—though it went to my heart, for his
good old eyes looked at me like Christians, and my lord told me I was a
fool for my pains, for the Elliots were hard upon us, but I could not
leave him to be a mark for them, and I was up with the rest in time,
though I had to cut down the foremost lad.”
Certainly “home” would be very unlike the experience of Grisell's
Ridley gave her a piece of advice. “Do not be daunted at my lady;
her bark is ever worse than her bite, and what she will not bear with
is the seeming cowed before her. She is all the sharper with her
tongue now that her heart is sore for Master Bernard.”
“What ails my brother Bernard?” then asked Grisell anxiously.
“The saints may know, but no man does, unless it was that Crooked Nan
of Strait Glen overlooked the poor child,” returned the esquire. “Ever
since he fell into the red beck he hath done nought but peak and pine,
and be twisted with cramps and aches, with sores breaking out on him;
though there's a honeycomb-stone from Roker over his bed. My lord took
out all the retainers to lay hold on Crooked Nan, but she got scent of
it no doubt, for Jack of Burhill took his oath that he had seen a
muckle hare run up the glen that morn, and when we got there she was
not to be seen or heard of. We have heard of her in the Gilsland
ground, where they would all the sooner see a the young lad of Whitburn
crippled and a mere misery to see or hear.”
Grisell was quite as ready to believe in witchcraft as was the old
squire, and to tremble at their capacities for mischief. She asked
what nunneries were near, and was disappointed to find nothing within
easy reach. St. Cuthbert's diocese had not greatly favoured womankind,
and Whitby was far away.
By and by her father came back, the thundering tramp of the horses
being heard in time enough for her to spring up and be mounted again
before he came in sight, the yeomen carrying the antlers and best
portions of the deer.
“Left out, my wench,” he shouted. “We must mount you better. Ho!
Cuthbert, thou a squire of dames? Ha! Ha!”
“The maid could not be left to lose herself on the fells,” muttered
the squire, rather ashamed of his courtesy.
“She must get rid of nunnery breeding. We want no trim and dainty
lassies here,” growled her father. “Look you, Ridley, that horse of
Hob's—” and the rest was lost in a discussion on horseflesh.
Long rides, which almost exhausted Grisell, and halts in exceedingly
uncomfortable hostels, where she could hardly obtain tolerable
seclusion, brought her at last within reach of home. There was a tall
church tower and some wretched hovels round it. The Lord of Whitburn
halted, and blew his bugle with the peculiar note that signified his
own return, then all rode down to the old peel, the outline of which
Grisell saw with a sense of remembrance, against the gray sea-line,
with the little breaking, glancing waves, which she now knew herself to
have unconsciously wanted and missed for years past.
Whitburn Tower stood on the south side, on a steep cliff overlooking
the sea. The peel tower itself looked high and strong, but to Grisell,
accustomed to the widespread courts of the great castles and abbeys of
the south, the circuit of outbuildings seemed very narrow and cramped,
for truly there was need to have no more walls than could be helped for
the few defenders to guard.
All was open now, and under the arched gateway, with the portcullis
over her head, fitly framing her, stood the tall, gaunt figure of the
lady, grayer, thinner, more haggard than when Grisell had last seen
her, and beside her, leaning on a crutch, a white-faced boy, small and
stunted for six years old.
“Ha, dame! Ha, Bernard; how goes it?” shouted the Baron in his
gruff, hoarse voice.
“He willed to come down to greet you, though he cannot hold your
stirrup,” said the mother. “You are soon returned. Is all well with
“O aye, I found Thorslan of Danby and a plump of spears on the way to
the Duke of York at Windsor. They say he will need all his following
if the Beauforts put it about that the King has recovered as much wit
as ever he had. So I e'en sent Rob on with him, and came back so as to
be ready in case there's a call for me. Soh! Berney; on thy feet
again? That's well, my lad; but we'll have thee up the steps.”
He seemed quite to have forgotten the presence of Grisell, and it was
Cuthbert Ridley who helped her off her horse, but just then little
Bernard in his father's arms exclaimed
“Black nun woman!”
“By St. Cuthbert!” cried the Baron, “I mind me! Here, wench! I have
brought back the maid in her brother's stead.”
And as Grisell, in obedience to his call, threw back her veil,
Bernard screamed, “Ugsome wench, send her away!” threw his arms round
his father's neck and hid his face with a babyish gesture.
“Saints have mercy!” cried the mother, “thou hast not mended much
since I saw thee last. They that marred thee had best have kept thee.
Whatever shall we do with the maid?”
“Send her away, the loathly thing,” reiterated the boy, lifting up
his head from his father's shoulder for another glimpse, which produced
a puckering of the face in readiness for crying.
“Nay, nay, Bernard,” said Ridley, feeling for the poor girl and
speaking up for her when no one else would. “She is your sister, and
you must be a fond brother to her, for an ill-nurtured lad spoilt her
poor face when it was as fair as your own. Kiss your sister like a
good lad, and—
“No! no!” shouted Bernard. “Take her away. I hate her.” He began
to cry and kick.
“Get out of his sight as fast as may be,” commanded the mother,
alarmed by her sickly darling's paroxysm of passion.
Grisell, scarce knowing where to go, could only allow herself to be
led away by Ridley, who, seeing her tears, tried to comfort her in his
rough way. “'Tis the petted bairn's way, you see, mistress—and my
lady has no thought save for him. He will get over it soon enough when
he learns your gentle convent-bred conditions.”
Still the cry of “Grisly Grisell,” picked up as if by instinct or by
some echo from the rear of the escort, rang in her ears in the angry
fretful voice of the poor little creature towards whom her heart was
yearning. Even the two women-servants there were, no more looked at
her askance, as they took her to a seat in the hall, and consulted
where my lady would have her bestowed. She was wiping away bitter
tears as she heard her only friend Cuthbert settle the matter. “The
chamber within the solar is the place for the noble damsels.”
“That is full of old armour, and dried herrings, and stockfish.”
“Move them then! A fair greeting to give to my lord's daughter.”
There was some further muttering about a bed, and Grisell sprang up.
“Oh, hush! hush! I can sleep on a cloak; I have done so for many
nights. Only let me be no burthen. Show me where I can go to be an
anchoress, since they will not have me in a convent or anywhere,” and
bitterly she wept.
“Peace, peace, lady,” said the squire kindly. “I will deal with
these ill-tongued lasses. Shame on them! Go off, and make the chamber
ready, or I'll find a scourge for you. And as to my lady—she is
wrapped up in the sick bairn, but she has only to get used to you to be
“O what a hope in a mother,” thought poor Grisell. “O that I were at
Wilton or some nunnery, where my looks would be pardoned! Mother
Avice, dear mother, what wouldst thou say to me now!”
The peel tower had been the original building, and was still as it
were the citadel, but below had been built the very strong but narrow
castle court, containing the stables and the well, and likewise the
hall and kitchen—which were the dwelling and sleeping places of the
men of the household, excepting Cuthbert Ridley, who being of gentle
blood, would sit above the salt, and had his quarters with Rob when at
home in the tower. The solar was a room above the hall, where was the
great box-bed of the lord and lady, and a little bed for Bernard.
Entered through it, in a small turret, was a chamber designed for the
daughters and maids, and this was rightly appropriated by Ridley to the
Lady Grisell. The two women-servants—Bell and Madge—were wives to
the cook and the castle smith, so the place had been disused and made a
receptacle for drying fish, fruit, and the like. Thus the sudden call
for its use provoked a storm of murmurs in no gentle voices, and
Grisell shrank into a corner of the hall, only wishing she could efface
And as she looked out on the sea from her narrow window, it seemed to
her dismally gray, moaning, restless, and dreary.
CHAPTER X—COLD WELCOME
Seek not for others to love you,
But seek yourself to love them best,
And you shall find the secret true,
Of love and joy and rest.
To lack beauty was a much more serious misfortune in the Middle Ages
than at present. Of course it was probable that there might be a
contract of marriage made entirely irrespective of attractiveness, long
before the development of either of the principal parties concerned;
but even then the rude, open-spoken husband would consider himself
absolved from any attention to an ill-favoured wife, and the free
tongues of her surroundings would not be slack to make her aware of her
defects. The cloister was the refuge of the unmarried woman, if of
gentle birth as a nun, if of a lower grade as a lay-sister; but the
fifteenth century was an age neither of religion nor of chivalry.
Dowers were more thought of than devotion in convents as elsewhere.
Whitby being one of the oldest and grandest foundations was sure to be
inaccessible to a high-born but unportioned girl, and Grisell in her
sense of loneliness saw nothing before her but to become an anchoress,
that is to say, a female hermit, such as generally lived in strict
seclusion under shelter of the Church.
“There at least,” thought poor Grisell, “there would be none to sting
me to the heart with those jeering eyes of theirs. And I might feel in
time that God and His Saints loved me, and not long for my father and
mother, and oh! my poor little brother—yes, and Leonard Copeland, and
Sister Avice, and the rest. But would Sister Avice call this
devotion? Nay, would she not say that these cruel eyes and words are a
cross upon me, and I must bear them and love in spite—at least till I
be old enough to choose for myself?”
She was summoned to supper, and this increased the sense of
dreariness, for Bernard screamed that the grisly one should not come
near him, or he would not eat, and she had to take her meal of dried
fish and barley bread in the wide chimney corner, where there always
was a fire at every season of the year.
Her chamber, which Cuthbert Ridley's exertions had compelled the
women to prepare for her, was—as seen in the light of the long
evening—a desolate place, within a turret, opening from the solar, or
chamber of her parents and Bernard, the loophole window devoid of
glass, though a shutter could be closed in bad weather, the walls
circular and of rough, untouched, unconcealed stone, a pallet bed—the
only attempt at furniture, except one chest—and Grisell's own mails
tumbled down anyhow, and all pervaded by an ancient and fishy smell.
She felt too downhearted even to creep out and ask for a pitcher of
water. She took a long look over the gray, heaving sea, and tired as
she was, it was long before she could pray and cry herself to sleep,
and accustomed as she was to convent beds, this one appeared to be
stuffed with raw apples, and she awoke with aching bones.
Her request for a pitcher or pail of water was treated as southland
finery, for those who washed at all used the horse trough, but
fortunately for her Cuthbert Ridley heard the request. He had been
enough in the south in attendance on his master to know how young
damsels lived, and what treatment they met with, and he was soon rating
the women in no measured terms for the disrespect they had presumed to
show to the Lady Grisell, encouraged by the neglect of her parents
The Lord of Whitburn, appearing on the scene at the moment, backed up
his retainer, and made it plain that he intended his daughter to be
respected and obeyed, and the grumbling women had to submit. Nor did
he refuse to acknowledge, on Ridley's representation, that Grisell
ought to have an attendant of her own, and the lady of the castle,
coming down with Bernard clinging to her skirt with one hand, and
leaning on his crutch, consented. “If the maid was to be here, she
must be treated fitly, and Bell and Madge had enough to do without
So Cuthbert descended the steep path to the ravine where dwelt the
fisher folk, and came back with a girl barefooted, bareheaded, with
long, streaming, lint-white locks, and the scantiest of garments,
crying bitterly with fright, and almost struggling to go back. She was
the orphan remnant of a family drowned in the bay, and was a burthen on
her fisher kindred, who were rejoiced thus to dispose of her.
She sobbed the more at sight of the grisly lady, and almost screamed
when Grisell smiled and tried to take her by the hand. Ridley fairly
drove her upstairs, step by step, and then shut her in with his young
lady, when she sank on the floor and hid her face under all her
“Poor little thing,” thought Grisell; “it is like having a
fresh-caught sea-gull. She is as forlorn as I am, and more afraid!”
So she began to speak gently and coaxingly, begging the girl to look
up, and assuring her that she would not be hurt. Grisell had a very
soft and persuasive voice. Her chief misfortune as regarded her
appearance was that the muscles of one cheek had been so drawn that
though she smiled sweetly with one side of her face, the other was
contracted and went awry, so that when the kind tones had made the girl
look up for a moment, the next she cried, “O don't—don't! Holy Mary,
forbid the spell!”
“I have no spells, my poor maid; indeed I am only a poor girl, a
stranger here in my own home. Come, and do not fear me.”
“Madge said you had witches' marks on your face,” sobbed the child.
“Only the marks of gunpowder,” said Grisell. “Listen, I will tell
thee what befell me.”
Gunpowder seemed to be quite beyond all experience of Whitburn
nature, but the history of the catastrophe gained attention, and the
girl's terror abated, so that Grisell could ask her name, which was
Thora, and learning, too, that she had led a hard life since her granny
died, and her uncle's wife beat her, and made her carry heavy loads of
seaweed when it froze her hands, besides a hundred other troubles. As
to knowing any kind of feminine art, she was as ignorant as if the
rough and extremely dirty woollen garment she wore, belted round with a
strip of leather, had grown upon her, and though Grisell's own stock of
garments was not extensive, she was obliged, for very shame, to dress
this strange attendant in what she could best spare, as well as, in
spite of sobs and screams, to wash her face, hands, and feet, and it
was wonderful how great a difference this made in the wild creature by
the time the clang of the castle bell summoned all to the midday meal,
when as before, Bernard professed not to be able to look at his sister,
but when she had retreated he was seen spying at her through his
fingers, with great curiosity.
Afterwards she went up to her mother to beg for a few necessaries for
herself and for her maid, and to offer to do some spinning. She was
not very graciously answered; but she was allowed an old frayed
horse-cloth on which Thora might sleep, and for the rest she might see
what she could find under the stairs in the turret, or in the chest in
the hall window.
The broken, dilapidated fragments which seemed to Grisell mere
rubbish were treasures and wonders to Thora, and out of them she picked
enough to render her dreary chamber a very few degrees more habitable.
Thora would sleep there, and certainly their relations were reversed,
for carrying water was almost the only office she performed at first,
since Grisell had to dress her, and teach her to keep herself in a
tolerable state of neatness, and likewise how to spin, luring her with
the hope of spinning yarn for a new dress for herself. As to prayers,
her mind was a mere blank, though she said something that sounded like
a spell except that it began with “Pater.” She did not know who made
her, and entirely believed in Niord and Rana, the storm-gods of
Norseland. Yet she had always been to mass every Sunday morning. So
went all the family at the castle as a matter of course, but except
when the sacring-bell hushed them, the Baron freely discussed crops or
fish with the tenants, and the lady wrangled about dues of lambs, eggs,
and fish. Grisell's attention was a new thing, and the priest's
pronunciation was so defective to her ear that she could hardly follow.
That first week Grisell had plenty of occupation in settling her room
and training her uncouth maid, who proved a much more apt scholar than
she had expected, and became devoted to her like a little faithful dog.
No one else took much notice of either, except that at times Cuthbert
Ridley showed himself to be willing to stand up for her. Her father
was out a great deal, hunting or hawking or holding consultations with
neighbouring knights or the men of Sunderland. Her mother, with the
loudest and most peremptory of voices, ruled over the castle, ordered
the men on their guards and at the stables, and the cook, scullions,
and other servants, but without much good effect as household affairs
were concerned, for the meals were as far removed from the delicate,
dainty serving of the simplest fast-day meal at Wilton as from the
sumptuous plenty and variety of Warwick house, and Bernard often cried
and could not eat. She longed to make up for him one of the many
appetising possets well known at Wilton, but her mother and Ralf the
cook both scouted her first proposal. They wanted no south-bred
meddlers over their fire.
However, one evening when Bernard had been fretful and in pain, the
Baron had growled out that the child was cockered beyond all bearing,
and the mother had flown out at the unnatural father, and on his half
laughing at her doting ways, had actually rushed across with clenched
fist to box his ears; he had muttered that the pining brat and shrewish
dame made the house no place for him, and wandered out to the society
of his horses. Lady Whitburn, after exhaling her wrath in abuse of him
and all around, carried the child up to his bed. There he was moaning,
and she trying to soothe him, when, darkness having put a stop to
Grisell's spinning, she went to her chamber with Thora. In passing,
the moaning was still heard, and she even thought her mother was
crying. She ventured to approach and ask, “Fares he no better? If I
might rub that poor leg.”
But Bernard peevishly hid his face and whined, “Go away, Grisly,” and
her mother exclaimed, “Away with you, I have enough to vex me here
She could only retire as fast as possible, and her tears ran down her
face as in the long summer twilight she recited the evening offices,
the same in which Sister Avice was joining in Wilton chapel. Before
they were over she heard her father come up to bed, and in a harsh and
angered voice bid Bernard to be still. There was stillness for some
little time, but by and by the moaning and sobbing began again, and
there was a jangling between the gruff voice and the shrill one, now
thinner and weaker. Grisell felt that she must try again, and crept
out. “If I might rub him a little while, and you rest, Lady Mother.
He cannot see me now.”
She prevailed, or rather the poor mother's utter weariness and
dejection did, together with the father's growl, “Let her bring us
peace if she can.”
Lady Whitburn let her kneel down by the bed, and guided her hand to
the aching thigh.
“Soft! Soft! Good! Good!” muttered Bernard presently. “Go on!”
Grisell had acquired something of that strange almost magical touch
of Sister Avice, and Bernard lay still under her hand. Her mother, who
was quite worn out, moved to her own bed, and fell asleep, while the
snores of the Baron proclaimed him to have been long appeased. The
boy, too, presently was breathing softly, and Grisell's attitude
relaxed, as her prayers and her dreams mingled together, and by and by,
what she thought was the organ in Wilton chapel, and the light of St.
Edith's taper, proved to be the musical rush of the incoming tide, and
the golden sunrise over the sea, while all lay sound asleep around her,
and she ventured gently to withdraw into her own room.
That night was Grisell's victory, though Bernard still held aloof
from her all the ensuing day, when he was really the better and fresher
for his long sleep, but at bed-time, when as usual the pain came on, he
wailed for her to rub him, and as it was still daylight, and her father
had gone out in one of the boats to fish, she ventured on singing to
him, as she rubbed, to his great delight and still greater boon to her
yearning heart. Even by day, as she sat at work, the little fellow
limped up to her, and said, “Grisly, sing that again,” staring hard in
her face as she did so.
I do remember an apothecary,—
And hereabouts he dwells.
SHAKESPEARE, Romeo and Juliet.
Bernard's affection was as strong as his aversion had been. Poor
little boy, no one had been accustomed enough to sickly children, or
indeed to children at all, to know how to make him happy or even
comfortable, and his life had been sad and suffering ever since the
blight that had fallen on him, through either the evil eye of Nan the
witch, or through his fall into a freezing stream. His brother, a
great strong lad, had teased and bullied him; his father, though not
actually unkind except when wearied by his fretfulness, held him as a
miserable failure, scarcely worth rearing; his mother, though her pride
was in her elder son, and the only softness in her heart for the little
one, had been so rugged and violent a woman all the years of her life,
and had so despised all gentler habits of civilisation, that she really
did not know how to be tender to the child who was really her darling.
Her infants had been nursed in the cottages, and not returned to the
castle till they were old enough to rough it—indeed they were soon
sent off to be bred up elsewhere. Some failure in health, too, made it
harder for her to be patient with an ailing child, and her love was apt
to take the form of anger with his petulance or even with his
suffering, or else of fierce battles with her husband in his defence.
The comfort would have been in burning Crooked Nan, but that beldame
had disposed of herself out of reach, though Lady Whitburn still
cherished the hope of forcing the Gilsland Dacres or the Percies to
yield the woman up. Failing this, the boy had been shown to a
travelling friar, who had promised cure through the relics he carried
about; but Bernard had only screamed at him, and had been none the
And now the little fellow had got over the first shock, he found that
“Grisly,” as he still called her, but only as an affectionate
abbreviation, was the only person who could relieve his pain, or amuse
him, in the whole castle; and he was incessantly hanging on her. She
must put him to bed and sing lullabies to him, she must rub his limbs
when they ached with rheumatic pains; hers was the only hand which
might touch the sores that continually broke out, and he would sit for
long spaces on her lap, sometimes stroking down the scar and pitying it
with “Poor Grisly; when I am a man, I will throw down my glove, and
fight with that lad, and kill him.”
“O nay, nay, Bernard; he never meant to do me evil. He is a fair,
brave, good boy.”
“He scorned and ran away from you. He is mansworn and recreant,”
persisted Bernard. “Rob and I will make him say that you are the
fairest of ladies.”
“O nay, nay. That he could not.”
“But you are, you are—on this side—mine own Grisly,” cried
Bernard, whose experiences of fair ladies had not been extensive, and
who curled himself on her lap, giving unspeakable rest and joy to her
weary, yearning spirit, as she pressed him to her breast. “Now, a
story, a story,” he entreated, and she was rich in tales from Scripture
history and legends of the Saints, or she would sing her sweet monastic
hymns and chants, as he nestled in her lap.
The mother had fits of jealousy at the exclusive preference, and now
and then would rail at Grisell for cosseting the bairn and keeping him
a helpless baby; or at Bernard for leaving his mother for this
ill-favoured, useless sister, and would even snatch away the boy, and
declare that she wanted no one to deal with him save herself; but
Bernard had a will of his own, and screamed for his Grisly, throwing
himself about in such a manner that Lady Whitburn was forced to submit,
and quite to the alarm of her daughter, on one of these occasions she
actually burst into a flood of tears, sobbing loud and without
restraint. Indeed, though she hotly declared that she ailed nothing,
there was a lassitude about her that made it a relief to have the care
of Bernard taken off her hands; and the Baron's grumbling at disturbed
nights made the removal of Bernard's bed to his sister's room generally
Once, when Grisell was found to have taught both him and Thora the
English version of the Lord's Prayer and Creed, and moreover to be
telling him the story of the Gospel, there came, no one knew from
where, an accusation which made her father tramp up and say, “Mark you,
wench, I'll have no Lollards here.”
“Lollards, sir; I never saw a Lollard!” said Grisell trembling.
“Where, then, didst learn all this, making holy things common?”
“We all learnt it at Wilton, sir, from the reverend mothers and the
The Baron was fairly satisfied, and muttered that if the bairn was
fit only for a shaveling, it might be all right.
Poor child, would he ever be fit for that or any occupation of
manhood? However, Grisell had won permission to compound broths,
cakes, and possets for him, over the hall fire, for the cook and his
wife would not endure her approach to their domain, and with great
reluctance allowed her the materials. Bernard watched her operations
with intense delight and amusement, and tasted with a sense of triumph
and appetite, calling on his mother to taste likewise; and she, on
whose palate semi-raw or over-roasted joints had begun to pall, allowed
that the nuns had taught Grisell something.
And thus as time went on Grisell led no unhappy life. Every one
around was used to her scars, and took no notice of them, and there was
nothing to bring the thought before her, except now and then when a
fishwife's baby, brought to her for cure, would scream at her. She
never went beyond the castle except to mass, now and then to visit a
sick person, and to seek some of the herbs of which she had learnt the
use, and then she was always attended by Thora and Ridley, who made a
great favour of going.
Bernard had given her the greater part of his heart, and she soothed
his pain, made his hours happy, and taught him the knowledge she
brought from the convent. Her affections were with him, and though her
mother could scarcely be said to love her, she tolerated and depended
more and more on the daughter who alone could give her more help or
That was Grisell's second victory, when she was actually asked to
compound a warm, relishing, hot bowl for her father when be was caught
in a storm and came in drenched and weary.
She wanted to try on her little brother the effect of one of Sister
Avice's ointments, which she thought more likely to be efficacious than
melted mutton fat, mixed with pounded worms, scrapings from the church
bells, and boiled seaweed, but some of her ingredients were out of
reach, unless they were attainable at Sunderland, and she obtained
permission to ride thither under the escort of Cuthbert Ridley, and was
provided with a small purse—the proceeds of the Baron's dues out of
the fishermen's sales of herrings.
She was also to purchase a warm gown and mantle for her mother, and
enough of cloth to afford winter garments for Bernard; and a steady old
pack-horse carried the bundles of yarn to be exchanged for these
commodities, since the Whitburn household possessed no member dexterous
with the old disused loom, and the itinerant weavers did not come that
way—it was whispered because they were afraid of the fisher folk, and
got but sorry cheer from the lady.
The commissions were important, and Grisell enjoyed the two miles'
ride along the cliffs of Roker Bay, looking up at the curious caverns
in the rock, and seeking for the very strangely-formed stones supposed
to have magic power, which fell from the rock. In the distance beyond
the river to the southward, Ridley pointed to the tall square tower of
Monks Wearmouth Church dominating the great monastery around it, which
had once held the venerable Bede, though to both Ridley and Grisell he
was only a name of a patron saint.
The harbour formed by the mouth of the river Wear was a marvel to
Grisell, crowded as it was with low, squarely-rigged and gaily-coloured
vessels of Holland, Friesland, and Flanders, very new sights to one
best acquainted with Noah's ark or St. Peter's ship in illuminations.
“Sunderland is a noted place for shipbuilding,” said Ridley.
“Moreover, these come for wool, salt-fish, and our earth coal, and they
bring us fine cloth, linen, and stout armour. I am glad to see yonder
Flemish ensign. If luck goes well with us, I shall get a fresh pair of
gauntlets for my lord, straight from Gaunt, the place of gloves.”
“Gant for glove,” said Grisell.
“How? You speak French. Then you may aid me in chaffering, and I
will straight to the Fleming, with whom I may do better than with Hodge
of the Lamb. How now, here's a shower coming up fast!”
It was so indeed; a heavy cloud had risen quickly, and was already
bursting overhead. Ridley hurried on, along a thoroughfare across salt
marshes (nowdocks), but the speed was not enough to prevent their being
drenched by a torrent of rain and hail before they reached the
tall-timbered houses of Wearmouth.
“In good time!” cried Ridley; “here's the Poticary's sign! You had
best halt here at once.”
In front of a high-roofed house with a projecting upper story, hung a
sign bearing a green serpent on a red ground, over a stall, open to the
street, which the owner was sheltering with a deep canvas awning.
“Hola, Master Lambert Groats,” called Ridley. “Here's the young
demoiselle of Whitburn would have some dealings with you.”
Jumping off his horse, he helped Grisell to dismount just as a small,
keen-faced, elderly man in dark gown came forward, doffing his green
velvet cap, and hoping the young lady would take shelter in his poor
Grisell, glancing round the little booth, was aware of sundry
marvellous curiosities hanging round, such as a dried crocodile, the
shells of tortoises, of sea-urchins and crabs, all to her eyes most
strange and weird; but Master Lambert was begging her to hasten in at
once to his dwelling-room beyond, and let his wife dry her clothes, and
at once there came forward a plump, smooth, pleasant-looking personage,
greatly his junior, dressed in a tight gold-edged cap over her fair
hair, a dark skirt, black bodice, bright apron, and white sleeves,
curtseying low, but making signs to invite the newcomers to the fire on
the hearth. “My housewife is stone deaf,” explained their host, “and
she knows no tongue save her own, and the unspoken language of
courtesy, but she is rejoiced to welcome the demoiselle. Ah, she is
drenched! Ah, if she will honour my poor house!”
The wife curtsied low, and by hospitable signs prayed the demoiselle
to come to the fire, and take off her wet mantle. It was a very
comfortable room, with a wide chimney, and deep windows glazed with
thick circles of glass, the spaces between leaded around in diamond
panes, through which vine branches could dimly be seen flapping and
beating in the storm. A table stood under one with various glasses and
vessels of curious shapes, and a big book, and at the other was a
distaff, a work-basket, and other feminine gear. Shelves with pewter
dishes, and red, yellow, and striped crocks, surrounded the walls;
there was a savoury cauldron on the open fire. It was evidently
sitting-room and kitchen in one, with offices beyond, and Grisell was
at once installed in a fine carved chair by the fire—a more
comfortable seat than had ever fallen to her share.
“Look you here, mistress,” said Ridley; “you are in safe quarters
here, and I will leave you awhile, take the horses to the hostel, and
do mine errands across the river—'tis not fit for you—and come back
to you when the shower is over, and you can come and chaffer for your
From the two good hosts the welcome was decided, and Grisell was glad
to have time for consultation. An Apothecary of those days did not
rise to the dignity of a leech, but was more like the present owner of
a chemist's shop, though a chemist then meant something much more
abstruse, who studied occult sciences, such as alchemy and astrology.
In fact, Lambert Groot, which was his real name, though English lips
had made it Groats, belonged to one of the prosperous guilds of the
great merchant city of Bruges, but he had offended his family by his
determination to marry the deaf, and almost dumb, portionless orphan
daughter of an old friend and contemporary, and to save her from the
scorn and slights of his relatives—though she was quite as well-born
as themselves—he had migrated to England, where Wearmouth and
Sunderland had a brisk trade with the Low Countries. These cities
enjoyed the cultivation of the period, and this room, daintily clean
and fresh, seemed to Grisell more luxurious than any she had seen since
the Countess of Warwick's. A silver bowl of warm soup, extracted from
the pot au feu, was served to her by the Hausfrau, on a little
table, spread with a fine white cloth edged with embroidery, with an
earnest gesture begging her to partake, and a slender Venice glass of
wine was brought to her with a cake of wheaten bread. Much did Grisell
wish she could have transferred such refreshing fare to Bernard. She
ventured to ask “Master Poticary” whether he sold “Balsam of Egypt.”
He was interested at once, and asked whether it were for her own use.
“Nay, good master, you are thinking of my face; but that was a burn
long ago healed. It is for my poor little brother.”
Therewith Grisell and Master Groats entered on a discussions of
symptoms, drugs, ointments, and ingredients, in which she learnt a good
deal and perhaps disclosed more of Sister Avice's methods than Wilton
might have approved. In the midst the sun broke out gaily after the
shower, and disclosed, beyond the window, a garden where every leaf and
spray were glittering and glorious with their own diamond drops in the
sunshine. A garden of herbs was a needful part of an apothecary's
business, as he manufactured for himself all of the medicaments which
he did not import from foreign parts, but this had been laid out
between its high walls with all the care, taste, and precision of the
Netherlander, and Grisell exclaimed in perfect ecstasy: “Oh, the
garden, the garden! I have seen nothing so fair and sweet since I left
Master Lambert was delighted, and led her out. There is no
describing how refreshing was the sight to eyes after the bare, dry
walls of the castle, and the tossing sea which the maiden had not yet
learnt to love. Nor was the garden dull, though meant for use. There
was a well in the centre with roses trained over it, roses of the dark
old damask kind and the dainty musk, used to be distilled for the eyes,
some flowers lingering still; there was the brown dittany or
fraxinella, whose dried blossoms are phosphoric at night; delicate pink
centaury, good for ague; purple mallows, good for wounds; leopard's
bane with yellow blossoms; many and many more old and dear friends of
Grisell, redolent of Wilton cloister and Sister Avice; and she ran from
one to the other quite transported, and forgetful of all the dignities
of the young Lady of Whitburn, while Lambert was delighted, and hoped
she would come again when his lilies were in bloom.
So went the time till Ridley returned, and when the price was asked
of the packet of medicaments prepared for her, Lambert answered that
the value was fully balanced by what he had learnt from the lady.
This, however, did not suit the honour of the Dacres, and Grisell, as
well as her squire, who looked offended, insisted on leaving two gold
crowns in payment. The Vrow kissed her hand, putting into it the last
sprays of roses, which Grisell cherished in her bosom.
She was then conducted to a booth kept by a Dutchman, where she
obtained the warm winter garments that she needed for her mother and
brother, and likewise some linen, for the Lady of Whitburn had never
been housewife enough to keep up a sufficient supply for Bernard, and
Grisell was convinced that the cleanliness which the nuns had taught
her would mitigate his troubles. With Thora to wash for her she hoped
to institute a new order of things.
Much pleased with her achievements she rode home. She was met there
by more grumbling than satisfaction. Her father had expected more coin
to send to Robert, who, like other absent youths, called for supplies.
The yeoman who had gone with him returned, bearing a scrap of paper
with the words:-
“MINE HONOURED LORD AND FATHER—I pray you to send me Black
Lightning and xvj crowns by the hand of Ralf, and so the Saints have
you in their keeping.—Your dutiful sonne,
xvj crowns were a heavy sum in those days, and Lord Whitburn vowed
that he had never so called on his father except when he was knighted,
but those were the good old days when spoil was to be won in France.
What could Rob want of such a sum?
“Well-a-day, sir, the house of the Duke of York is no place to stint
in. The two young Earls of March and of Rutland, as they call them,
walk in red and blue and gold bravery, and chains of jewels, even like
king's sons, and none of the squires and pages can be behind them.”
“Black Lightning too, my best colt, when I deemed the lad fitted out
for years to come. I never sent home the like message to my father
under the last good King Henry, but purveyed myself of a horse on the
battlefield more than once. But those good old days are over, and lads
think more of velvet and broidery than of lances and swords. Forsooth,
their coats-of-arms are good to wear on silk robes instead of helm and
shield; and as to our maids, give them their rein, and they spend more
than all the rest on women's tawdry gear!”
Poor Grisell! when she had bought nothing ornamental, and nothing for
herself except a few needles.
However, in spite of murmurs, the xvj crowns were raised and sent
away with Black Lightning; and as time went on Grisell became more and
more a needful person. Bernard was stronger, and even rode out on a
pony, and the fame of his improvement brought other patients to the
Lady Grisell from the vassals, with whom she dealt as best she might,
successfully or the reverse, while her mother, as her health failed,
let fall more and more the reins of household rule.
CHAPTER XII—WORD FROM THE WARS
Above, below, the Rose of Snow,
Twined with her blushing face we spread.
News did not travel very fast to Whitburn, but one summer's day a
tall, gallant, fair-faced esquire, in full armour of the cumbrous plate
fashion, rode up to the gate, and blew the family note on his bugle.
“My son! my son Rob,” cried the lady, starting up from the cushions
with which Grisell had furnished her settle.
Robert it was, who came clanking in, met by his father at the gate,
by his mother at the door, and by Bernard on his crutch in the rear,
while Grisell, who had never seen this brother, hung back.
The youth bent his knee, but his outward courtesy did not conceal a
good deal of contempt for the rude northern habits. “How small and
dark the hall is! My lady, how old you have grown! What, Bernard,
still fit only for a shaven friar! Not shorn yet, eh? Ha! is that
Grisell? St. Cuthbert to wit! Copeland has made a hag of her!”
“'Tis a good maid none the less,” replied her father; the first
direct praise that she had ever had from him, and which made her heart
“She will ne'er get a husband, with such a visage as that,” observed
Robert, who did not seem to have learnt courtesy or forbearance yet on
his travels; but he was soon telling his father what concerned them far
more than the maiden's fate.
“Sir, I have come on the part of the Duke of York to summon you.
What, you have not heard? He needs, as speedily as may be, the arms of
every honest man. How many can you get together?”
“But what is it? How is it? Your Duke ruled the roast last time I
heard of him.”
“You know as little as my horse here in the north!” cried Rob.
“This I did hear last time there was a boat come in, that the Queen,
that mother of mischief, had tried to lay hands on our Lord of
Salisbury, and that he and your Duke of York had soundly beaten her and
the men of Cheshire.”
“Yea, at Blore Heath; and I thought to win my spurs on the Copeland
banner, but even as I was making my way to it and the recreant that
bore it, I was stricken across my steel cap and dazed.”
“I'll warrant it,” muttered his father.
“When I could look up again all was changed, the banner nowhere in
sight, but I kept my saddle, and cut down half a dozen rascaille after
“Ha!” half incredulously, for it was a mere boy who boasted. “That's
my brave lad! And what then? More hopes of the spurs, eh?”
“Then what does the Queen do, but seeing that no one would willingly
stir a lance against an old witless saint like King Harry, she gets a
host together, dragging the poor man hither and thither with her, at
Ludlow. Nay, we even heard the King was dead, and a mass was said for
the repose of his soul, but with the morning what should we see on the
other side of the river Teme but the royal standard, and who should be
under it but King Harry himself with his meek face and fair locks,
twirling his fingers after his wont. So the men would have it that
they had been gulled, and they fell away one after another, till there
was nothing for it but for the Duke and his sons, and my Lords of
Salisbury and Warwick and a few score more of us, to ride off as best
we might, with Sir Andrew Trollope and his men after us, as hard as
might be, so that we had to break up, and keep few together. I went
with the Duke of York and young Lord Edmund into Wales, and thence in a
bit of a fishing-boat across to Ireland. Ask me to fight in full field
with twice the numbers, but never ask me to put to sea again! There's
nothing like it for taking heart and soul out of a man!”
“I have crossed the sea often enow in the good old days, and known
nothing worse than a qualm or two.”
“That was to France,” said his son. “This Irish Sea is far wider and
far more tossing, I know for my own part. I'd have given a knight's
fee to any one who would have thrown me overboard. I felt like an
empty bag! But once there, they could not make enough of us. The Duke
had got their hearts before, and odd sort of hearts they are. I was
deaf with the wild kernes shouting round about in their gibberish—
such figures, too, as they are, with their blue cloaks, streaming hair,
and long glibbes (moustaches), and the Lords of the Pale, as they call
the English sort, are nigh about as wild and savage as the mere Irish.
It was as much as my Lord Duke could do to hinder two of them from
coming to blows in his presence; and you should have heard them howl at
one another. However, they are all with him, and a mighty force of
them mean to go back with him to England. My Lord of Warwick came from
Calais to hold counsel with him, and they have sworn to one another to
meet with all their forces, and require the removal of the King's evil
councillors; and my Lord Duke, with his own mouth, bade me go and
summon his trusty Will Dacre of Whitburn—so he spake, sir—to be
with him with all the spears and bowmen you can raise or call for among
the neighbours. And it is my belief, sir, that he means not to stop at
the councillors, but to put forth his rights. Hurrah for King Richard
of the White Rose!” ended Robert, throwing up his cap.
“Nay, now,” said his father. “I'd be loth to put down our gallant
King Harry's only son.”
“No one breathes a word against King Harry,” returned Robert, “no
more than against a carven saint in a church, and he is about as much
of a king as old stone King Edmund, or King Oswald, or whoever he is,
over the porch. He is welcome to reign as long as he likes or lives,
provided he lets our Duke govern for him, and rids the country of the
foreign woman and her brat, who is no more hers than I am, but a mere
babe of Westminster town carried into the palace when the poor King
Harry was beside himself.”
“Nay, now, Rob!” cried his mother.
“So 'tis said!” sturdily persisted Rob. “'Tis well known that the
King never looked at him the first time he was shown the little imp,
and next time, when he was not so distraught, he lifted up his hands
and said he wotted nought of the matter. Hap what hap, King Harry may
roam from Church to shrine, from Abbey to chantry, so long as he lists,
but none of us will brook to be ruled or misruled by the foreign woman
and the Beauforts in his name, nor reigned over by the French dame or
the beggar's brat, and the traitor coward Beaufort, but be under our
own noble Duke and the White Rose, the only badge that makes the
The boy was scarcely fifteen, but his political tone, as of one who
knew the world, made his father laugh and say, “Hark to the cockerel
crowing loud. Spurs forsooth!”
“The Lords Edward and Edmund are knighted,” grunted Rob, “and there's
but few years betwixt us.”
“But a good many earldoms and lands,” said the Baron. “Hadst spoken
of being out of pagedom, 'twere another thing.”
“You are coming, sir,” cried Rob, willing to put by the subject.
“You are coming to see how I can win honours.”
“Aye, aye,” said his father. “When Nevil calls, then must Dacre
come, though his old bones might well be at rest now. Salisbury and
Warwick taking to flight like attainted traitors to please the foreign
woman, saidst thou? Then it is the time men were in the saddle.”
“Well I knew you would say so, and so I told my lord,” exclaimed
“Thou didst, quotha? Without doubt the Duke was greatly reassured by
thy testimony,” said his father drily, while the mother, full of pride
and exultation in her goodly firstborn son, could not but exclaim,
“Daunt him not, my lord; he has done well thus to be sent home in
“I daunt him?” returned Lord Whitburn, in his teasing mood.
“By his own showing not a troop of Somerset's best horsemen could do
Therewith more amicably, father and son fell to calculations of
resources, which they kept up all through supper-time, and all the
evening, till the names of Hobs, Wills, Dicks, and the like rang like a
repeating echo in Grisell's ears. All through those long days of
summer the father and son were out incessantly, riding from one tenant
or neighbour to another, trying to raise men-at-arms and means to equip
them if raised. All the dues on the herring-boats and the two whalers,
on which Grisell had reckoned for the winter needs, were pledged to
Sunderland merchants for armour and weapons; the colts running wild on
the moors were hastily caught, and reduced to a kind of order by rough
breaking in. The women of the castle and others requisitioned from the
village toiled under the superintendence of the lady and Grisell at
preparing such provision and equipments as were portable, such as dried
fish, salted meat, and barley cakes, as well as linen, and there was a
good deal of tailoring of a rough sort at jerkins, buff coats, and
sword belts, not by any means the gentle work of embroidering pennons
or scarves notable in romance.
“Besides,” scoffed Robert, “who would wear Grisly Grisell's scarf!”
“I would,” manfully shouted Bernard; “I would cram it down the throat
of that recreant Copeland.”
“Oh! hush, hush, Bernard,” exclaimed Grisell, who was toiling with
aching fingers at the repairs of her father's greasy old buff coat.
“Such things are, as Robin well says, for noble demoiselles with fair
faces and leisure times like the Lady Margaret. And oh, Robin, you
have never told me of the Lady Margaret, my dear mate at Amesbury.”
“What should I know of your Lady Margarets and such gear,” growled
Robin, whose chivalry had not reached the point of caring for ladies.
“The Lady Margaret Plantagenet, the young Lady Margaret of York,”
“Oh! That's what you mean is it? There's a whole troop of wenches
at the high table in hall. They came after us with the Duchess as soon
as we were settled in Trim Castle, but they are kept as demure and mim
as may be in my lady's bower; and there's a pretty sharp eye kept on
them. Some of the young squires who are fools enough to hanker after a
few maids or look at the fairer ones get their noses wellnigh pinched
off by Proud Cis's Mother of the Maids.”
“Then it would not avail to send poor Grisell's greetings by you.”
“I should like to see myself delivering them! Besides, we shall meet
my lord in camp, with no cumbrance of woman gear.”
Lord Whitburn's own castle was somewhat of a perplexity to him, for
though his lady had once been quite sufficient captain for his scanty
garrison, she was in too uncertain health, and what was worse, too much
broken in spirit and courage, to be fit for the charge. He therefore
decided on leaving Cuthbert Ridley, who, in winter at least, was
scarcely as capable of roughing it as of old, to protect the castle,
with a few old or partly disabled men, who could man the walls to some
degree, therefore it was unlikely that there would be any attack.
So on a May morning the old, weather-beaten Dacre pennon with its
three crusading scallop-shells, was uplifted in the court, and round it
mustered about thirty men, of whom eighteen had been raised by the
baron, some being his own vassals, and others hired at Sunderland. The
rest were volunteers—gentlemen, their younger sons, and their
attendants—placing themselves under his leadership, either from
goodwill to York and Nevil, or from love of enterprise and hope of
CHAPTER XIII—A KNOT
I would mine heart had caught that wound
And slept beside him rather!
I think it were a better thing
Than murdered friend and marriage-ring
Forced on my life together.
E. B. BROWNING, The Romaunt of the Page.
Ladies were accustomed to live for weeks, months, nay, years, without
news of those whom they had sent to the wars, and to live their life
without them. The Lady of Whitburn did not expect to see her husband
or son again till the summer campaign was over, and she was not at all
uneasy about them, for the full armour of a gentleman had arrived at
such a pitch of perfection that it was exceedingly difficult to kill
him, and such was the weight, that his danger in being overthrown was
of never being able to get up, but lying there to be smothered, made
prisoner, or killed, by breaking into his armour. The knights could
not have moved at all under the weight if they had not been trained
from infancy, and had nearly reduced themselves to the condition of
It was no small surprise when, very late on a July evening, when,
though twilight still prevailed, all save the warder were in bed, and
he was asleep on his post, a bugle-horn rang out the master's note, at
first in the usual tones, then more loudly and impatiently. Hastening
out of bed to her loophole window, Grisell saw a party beneath the
walls, her father's scallop-shells dimly seen above them, and a little
in the rear, one who was evidently a prisoner.
The blasts grew fiercer, the warder and the castle were beginning to
be astir, and when Grisell hurried into the outer room, she found her
mother afoot and hastily dressing.
“My lord! my lord! it is his note,” she cried.
“Father come home!” shouted Bernard, just awake. “Grisly! Grisly!
help me don my clothes.”
Lady Whitburn trembled and shook with haste, and Grisell could not
help her very rapidly in the dark, with Bernard howling rather than
calling for help all the time; and before she, still less Grisell, was
fit for the public, her father's heavy step was on the stairs, and she
heard fragments of his words.
“All abed! We must have supper—ridden from Ayton since last
baiting. Aye, got a prisoner—young Copeland—old one slain—great
victory—Northampton. King taken—Buckingham and Egremont killed—
Rob well—proud as a pyet. Ho, Grisell,” as she appeared, “bestir
thyself. We be ready to eat a horse behind the saddle. Serve up as
fast as may be.”
Grisell durst not stop to ask whether she had heard the word Copeland
aright, and ran downstairs with a throbbing heart, just crossing the
hall, where she thought she saw a figure bowed down, with hands over
his face and elbows on his knees, but she could not pause, and went on
to the kitchen, where the peat fire was never allowed to expire, and it
was easy to stir it into heat. Whatever was cold she handed over to
the servants to appease the hunger of the arrivals, while she broiled
steaks, and heated the great perennial cauldron of broth with all the
expedition in her power, with the help of Thora and the grumbling cook,
when he appeared, angry at being disturbed.
Morning light was beginning to break before her toils were over for
the dozen hungry men pounced so suddenly in on her, and when she again
crossed the hall, most of them were lying on the straw-bestrewn floor
fast asleep. One she specially noticed, his long limbs stretched out
as he lay on his side, his head on his arm, as if he had fallen asleep
from extreme fatigue in spite of himself.
His light brown hair was short and curly, his cheeks fair and ruddy,
and all reminded her of Leonard Copeland as he had been those long
years ago before her accident. Save for that, she would have been long
ago his wife, she with her marred face the mate of that nobly fair
countenance. How strange to remember. How she would have loved him,
frank and often kind as she remembered him, though rough and impatient
of restraint. What was that which his fingers had held till sleep had
unclasped them? An ivory chessrook! Such was a favourite token of
ladies to their true loves. What did it mean? Might she pause to pray
a prayer over him as once hers—that all might be well with him, for
she knew that in this unhappy war important captives were not treated
as Frenchmen would have been as prisoners of war, but executed as
traitors to their King.
She paused over him till a low sound and the bright eyes of one of
the dogs warned her that all might in another moment be awake, and she
fled up the stair to the solar, where her parents were both fast
asleep, and across to her own room, where she threw herself on her bed,
dressed as she was, but could not sleep for the multitude of strange
thoughts that crowded over her in the increasing daylight.
By and by there was a stir, some words passed in the outer room, and
then her mother came in.
“Wake, Grisly. Busk and bonne for thy wedding-morning instantly.
Copeland is to keep his troth to thee at once. The Earl of Warwick
hath granted his life to thy father on that condition only.”
“Oh, mother, is he willing?” cried Grisell trembling.
“What skills that, child? His hand was pledged, and he must fulfil
his promise now that we have him.”
“Was it troth? I cannot remember it,” said Grisell.
“That matters not. Your father's plight is the same thing. His
father was slain in the battle, so 'tis between him and us. Put on thy
best clothes as fast as may be. Thou shalt have my wedding-veil and
miniver mantle. Speed, I say. My lord has to hasten away to join the
Earl on the way to London. He will see the knot tied beyond loosing at
To dress herself was all poor Grisell could do in her bewilderment.
Remonstrance was vain. The actual marriage without choice was not so
repugnant to all her feelings as to a modern maiden; it was the
ordinary destiny of womanhood, and she had been used in her childhood
to look on Leonard Copeland as her property; but to be forced on the
poor youth instantly on his father's death, and as an alternative to
execution, set all her maidenly feelings in revolt. Bernard was
sitting up in bed, crying out that he could not lose his Grisly. Her
mother was running backwards and forwards, bringing portions of her own
bridal gear, and directing Thora, who was combing out her young lady's
hair, which was long, of a beautiful brown, and was to be worn loose
and flowing, in the bridal fashion. Grisell longed to kneel and pray,
but her mother hurried her. “My lord must not be kept waiting, there
would be time enough for prayer in the church.” Then Bernard,
clamouring loudly, threw his arms round the thick old heavy silken gown
that had been put on her, and declared that he would not part with his
Grisly, and his mother tore him away by force, declaring that he need
not fear, Copeland would be in no hurry to take her away, and again
when she bent to kiss him he clung tight round her neck almost
strangling her, and rumpling her tresses.
Ridley had come up to say that my lord was calling for the young
lady, and it was he who took the boy off and held him in his arms, as
the mother, who seemed endued with new strength by the excitement,
threw a large white muffling veil over Grisell's head and shoulders,
and led or rather dragged her down to the hall.
The first sounds she there heard were, “Sir, I have given my faith to
the Lady Eleanor of Audley, whom I love.”
“What is that to me? 'Twas a precontract to my daughter.”
“Not made by me nor her.”
“By your parents, with myself. You went near to being her death
outright, marred her face for life, so that none other will wed her.
What say you? Not hurt by your own will? Who said it was? What
“Sir,” said Leonard, “it is true that by mishap, nay, if you will
have it so, by a child's inadvertence, I caused this evil chance to
befall your daughter, but I deny, and my father denies likewise, that
there was any troth plight between the maid and me. She will own the
same if you ask her. As I spake before, there was talk of the like
kind between you, sir, and my father, and it was the desire of the good
King that thus the families might be reconciled; but the contract went
no farther, as the holy King himself owned when I gave my faith to the
Lord Audley's daughter, and with it my heart.”
“Aye, we know that the Frenchwoman can make the poor fool of a King
believe and avouch anything she choose! This is not the point. No
more words, young man. Here stands my daughter; there is the rope.
Choose—wed or hang.”
Leonard stood one moment with a look of agonised perplexity over his
face. Then he said, “If I consent, am I at liberty, free at once to
“Aye,” said Whitburn. “So you fulfil your contract, the rest is
nought to me.”
“I am then at liberty? Free to carry my sword to my Queen and King?”
“You swear it, on the holy cross?”
Lord Whitburn held up the cross hilt of his sword before him, and
made oath on it that when once married to his daughter, Leonard
Copeland was no longer his prisoner.
Grisell through her veil read on the youthful face a look of grief
and renunciation; he was sacrificing his love to the needs of King and
country, and his words chimed in with her conviction.
“Sir, I am ready. If it were myself alone, I would die rather than
be false to my love, but my Queen needs good swords and faithful
hearts, and I may not fail her. I am ready!”
“It is well!” said Lord Whitburn. “Ho, you there! Bring the horses
to the door.”
Grisell, in all the strange suspense of that decision, had been
thinking of Sir Gawaine, whose lines rang in her head, but that look of
grief roused other feelings. Sir Gawaine had no other love to
“Sir! sir!” she cried, as her father turned to bid her mount the
pillion behind Ridley. “Can you not let him go free without? I always
looked to a cloister.”
“That is for you and he to settle, girl. Obey me now, or it will be
the worse for him and you.”
“One word I would say,” added the mother. “How far hath this matter
with the Audley maid gone? There is no troth plight, I trow?”
“No, by all that is holy, no. Would the lad not have pleaded it if
there had been? No more dilly-dallying. Up on the horse, Grisly, and
have done with it. We will show the young recreant how promises are
kept in Durham County.”
He dragged rather than led his daughter to the door, and lifted her
passively to the pillion seat behind Cuthbert Ridley. A fine horse,
Copeland's own, was waiting for him. He was allowed to ride freely,
but old Whitburn kept close beside him, so that escape would have been
impossible. He was in the armour in which he had fought, dimmed and
dust-stained, but still glancing in the morning sun, which glittered on
the sea, though a heavy western thunder-cloud, purple in the sun, was
rising in front of this strange bridal cavalcade.
It was overhead by the time the church was reached, and the heavy
rain that began to fall caused the priest to bid the whole party come
within for the part of the ceremony usually performed outside the west
It was very dark within. The windows were small and old, and filled
with dusky glass, and the arches were low browed. Grisell's mufflings
were thrown aside, and she stood as became a maiden bride, with all her
hair flowing over her shoulders and long tresses over her face, but
even without this, her features would hardly have been visible, as the
dense cloud rolled overhead; and indeed so tall and straight was her
figure that no one would have supposed her other than a fair young
spouse. She trembled a good deal, but was too much terrified and, as
it were, stunned for tears, and she durst not raise her drooping head
even to look at her bridegroom, though such light as came in shone upon
his fair hair and was reflected on his armour, and on one golden spur
that still he wore, the other no doubt lost in the fight.
All was done regularly. The Lord of Whitburn was determined that no
ceremony that could make the wedlock valid should be omitted. The
priest, a kind old man, but of peasant birth, and entirely subservient
to the Dacres, proceeded to ask each of the pair when they had been
assoiled, namely, absolved. Grisell, as he well knew, had been shriven
only last Friday; Leonard muttered, “Three days since, when I was
dubbed knight, ere the battle.”
“That suffices,” put in the Baron impatiently. “On with you, Sir
The thoroughly personal parts of the service were in English, and
Grisell could not but look up anxiously when the solemn charge was
given to mention whether there was any lawful “letting” to their
marriage. Her heart bounded as it were to her throat when Leonard made
But then what lay before him if he pleaded his promise!
It went on—those betrothal vows, dictated while the two cold hands
were linked, his with a kind of limp passiveness, hers, quaking,
especially as, in the old use of York, he took her “for laither for
fairer”—laith being equivalent to loathly—“till death us do part.”
And with failing heart, but still resolute heart, she faltered out her
vow to cleave to him “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in
sickness or health, and to be bonner (debonair or cheerful) and
boughsome (obedient) till that final parting.”
The troth was plighted, and the silver mark—poor Leonard's sole
available property at the moment—laid on the priest's book, as the
words were said, “with worldly cathel I thee endow,” and the ring, an
old one of her mother's, was held on Grisell's finger. It was done,
though, alas! the bridegroom could hardly say with truth, “with my body
I thee worship.”
Then followed the procession to the altar, the chilly hands barely
touching one another, and the mass was celebrated, when Latin did not
come home to the pair like English, though both fairly understood it.
Grisell's feeling was by this time concentrated in the one hope that
she should be dutiful to the poor, unwilling bridegroom, far more to be
pitied than herself, and that she should be guarded by God whatever
It was over. Signing of registers was not in those days, but there
was some delay, for the darkness was more dense than ever, the rush of
furious hail was heard without, a great blue flash of intense light
filled every corner of the church, the thunder pealed so sharply and
vehemently overhead that the small company looked at one another and at
the church, to ascertain that no stroke had fallen. Then the Lord of
Whitburn, first recovering himself, cried, “Come, sir knight, kiss your
bride. Ha! where is he? Sir Leonard—here. Who hath seen him? Not
vanished in yon flash! Eh?”
No, but the men without, cowering under the wall, deposed that Sir
Leonard Copeland had rushed out, shouted to them that he had fulfilled
the conditions and was a free man, taken his horse, and galloped away
through the storm.
CHAPTER XIV—THE LONELY BRIDE
Grace for the callant
If he marries our muckle-mouth Meg.
“The recreant! Shall we follow him?” was the cry of Lord Whitburn's
younger squire, Harry Featherstone, with his hand on his horse's neck,
in spite of the torrents of rain and the fresh flash that set the
“No! no!” roared the Baron. “I tell you no! He has fulfilled his
promise; I fulfil mine. He has his freedom. Let him go! For the
rest, we will find the way to make him good husband to you, my wench,”
and as Harry murmured something, “There's work enow in hand without
spending our horses' breath and our own in chasing after a runaway
groom. A brief space we will wait till the storm be over.”
Grisell shrank back to pray at a little side altar, telling her
beads, and repeating the Latin formula, but in her heart all the time
giving thanks that she was going back to Bernard and her mother, whose
needs had been pressing strongly on her, yet that she might do right by
this newly-espoused husband, whose downcast, dejected look had filled
her, not with indignation at the slight to her—she was far past that
—but with yearning compassion for one thus severed from his true love.
When the storm had subsided enough for these hardy northlanders to
ride home, and Grisell was again perched behind old Cuthbert Ridley, he
asked, “Well, my Dame of Copeland, dost peak and pine for thy runaway
“Nay, I had far rather be going home to my little Bernard than be
away with yonder stranger I ken not whither.”
“Thou art in the right, my wench. If the lad can break the marriage
by pleading precontract, you may lay your reckoning on it that so he
When they came home to the attempt at a marriage-feast which Lady
Whitburn had improvised, they found that this was much her opinion.
“He will get the knot untied,” she said. “So thick as the King and
his crew are with the Pope, it will cost him nothing, but we may, for
very shame, force a dowry out of his young knighthood to get the wench
into Whitby withal!”
“So he even proffered on his way,” said the Baron. “He is a fair and
knightly youth. 'Tis pity of him that he holds with the Frenchwoman.
Ha, Bernard, 'tis for thy good.”
For the boy was clinging tight to his sister, and declaring that his
Grisly should never leave him again, not for twenty vile runaway
Grisell returned to all her old habits, and there was no difference
in her position, excepting that she was scrupulously called Dame
Grisell Copeland. Her father was soon called away by the summons to
Parliament, sent forth in the name of King Henry, who was then in the
hands of the Earl of Warwick in London. The Sheriff's messenger who
brought him the summons plainly said that all the friends of York,
Salisbury, and Warwick were needed for a great change that would dash
the hopes of the Frenchwoman and her son.
He went with all his train, leaving the defence of the castle to
Ridley and the ladies, and assuring Grisell that she need not be
downhearted. He would yet bring her fine husband, Sir Leonard, to his
marrow bones before her.
Grisell had not much time to think of Sir Leonard, for as the summer
waned, both her mother and Bernard sickened with low fever. In the
lady's case it was intermittent, and she spent only the third day in
her bed, the others in crouching over the fire or hanging over the
child's bed, where he lay constantly tossing and fevered all night,
sometimes craving to be on his sister's lap, but too restless long to
lie there. Both manifestly became weaker, in spite of all Grisell's
simple treatment, and at last she wrung from the lady permission to
send Ridley to Wearmouth to try if it was possible to bring out Master
Lambert Groot to give his advice, or if not, to obtain medicaments and
counsel from him.
The good little man actually came, riding a mule. “Ay, ay,” quoth
Ridley, “I brought him, though he vowed at first it might never be, but
when he heard it concerned you, mistress—I mean Dame Grisell—he was
ready to come to your aid.”
Good little man, standing trim and neat in his burgher's dress and
little frill-like ruff, he looked quite out of place in the dark old
Lady Whitburn seemed to think him a sort of magician, though inferior
enough to be under her orders. “Ha! Is that your Poticary?” she
demanded, when Grisell brought him up to the solar. “Look at my bairn,
Master Dutchman; see to healing him,” she continued imperiously.
Lambert was too well used to incivility from nobles to heed her
manner, though in point of fact a Flemish noble was far more civilised
than this North Country dame. He looked anxiously at Bernard, who
moaned a little and turned his head away. “Nay, now, Bernard,”
entreated his sister; “look up at the good man, he that sent you the
sugar-balls. He is come to try to make you well.”
Bernard let her coax him to give his poor little wasted hand to the
leech, and looked with wonder in his heavy eyes at the stranger, who
felt his pulse, and asked to have him lifted up for better
examination. There was at first a dismal little whine at being touched
and moved, but when a pleasantly acid drop was put into his little
parched mouth, he smiled with brief content. His mother evidently
expected that both he and she herself would be relieved on the spot,
but the Apothecary durst not be hopeful, though he gave the child a
draught which he called a febrifuge, and which put him to sleep, and
bade the lady take another of the like if she wished for a good night's
He added, however, that the best remedy would be a pilgrimage to
Lindisfarne, which, be it observed, really meant absence from the foul,
close, feverish air of the castle, and all the evil odours of the
court. To the lady he thought it would really be healing, but he
doubted whether the poor little boy was not too far gone for such
revival; indeed, he made no secret that he believed the child was
stricken for death.
“Then what boots all your vaunted chirurgery!” cried the mother
passionately. “You outlandish cheat! you! What did you come here
for? You have not even let him blood!”
“Let him blood! good madame,” exclaimed Master Lambert. “In his
state, to take away his blood would be to kill him outright!”
“False fool and pretender,” cried Lady Whitburn; “as if all did not
ken that the first duty of a leech is to take away the infected humours
of the blood! Demented as I was to send for you. Had you been worth
but a pinch of salt, you would have shown me how to lay hands on Nan
the witch-wife, the cause of all the scathe to my poor bairn.”
Master Lambert could only protest that he laid no claim to the skill
of a witch-finder, whereupon the lady stormed at him as having come on
false pretences, and at her daughter for having brought him, and
finally fell into a paroxysm of violent weeping, during which Grisell
was thankful to convey her guest out of the chamber, and place him
under the care of Ridley, who would take care he had food and rest, and
safe convoy back to Wearmouth when his mule had been rested and baited.
“Oh, Master Lambert,” she said, “it grieves me that you should have
been thus treated.”
“Heed not that, sweet lady. It oft falls to our share to brook the
like, and I fear me that yours is a weary lot.”
“But my brother! my little brother!” she asked. “It is all out of my
mother's love for him.”
“Alack, lady, what can I say? The child is sickly, and little enough
is there of peace or joy in this world for such, be he high or low
born. Were it not better that the Saints should take him to their
keeping, while yet a sackless babe?”
Grisell wrung her hands together. “Ah! he hath been all my joy or
bliss through these years; but I will strive to say it is well, and
yield my will.”
The crying of the poor little sufferer for his Grisly called her back
before she could say or hear more. Her mother lay still utterly
exhausted on her bed, and hardly noticed her; but all that evening, and
all the ensuing night, Grisell held the boy, sometimes on her lap,
sometimes on the bed, while all the time his moans grew more and more
feeble, his words more indistinct. By and by, as she sat on the bed,
holding him on her breast, he dropped asleep, and perhaps, outwearied
as she was, she slept too. At any rate all was still, till she was
roused by a cry from Thora, “Holy St. Hilda! the bairn has passed!”
And indeed when Grisell started, the little head and hand that had
been clasped to her fell utterly prone, and there was a strange cold at
Her mother woke with a loud wail. “My bairn! My bairn!” snatching
him to her arms. “This is none other than your Dutchman's doings,
girl. Have him to the dungeon! Where are the stocks? Oh, my pretty
boy! He breathed, he is living. Give me the wine!” Then as there was
no opening of the pale lips, she fell into another tempest of tears,
during which Grisell rushed to the stair, where on the lowest step she
met Lambert and Ridley.
“Have him away! Have him away, Cuthbert,” she cried. “Out of the
castle instantly. My mother is distraught with grief; I know not what
she may do to him. O go! Not a word!”
They could but obey, riding away in the early morning, and leaving
the castle to its sorrow.
So, tenderly and sadly was little Bernard carried to the vault in the
church, while Grisell knelt as his chief mourner, for her mother, after
her burst of passion subsided, lay still and listless, hardly noticing
anything, as if there had fallen on her some stroke that affected her
brain. Tidings of the Baron were slow to come, and though Grisell sent
a letter by a wandering friar to York, with information of the child's
death and the mother's illness, it was very doubtful when or whether
they would ever reach him.
CHAPTER XV—WAKEFIELD BRIDGE
I come to tell you things since then befallen.
After the bloody fray at Wakefield fought,
Where your brave father breathed his latest gasp.
SHAKESPEARE, King Henry VI., Part III.
Christmas went by sadly in Whitburn Tower, but the succeeding weeks
were to be sadder still. It was on a long dark evening that a
commotion was heard at the gate, and Lady Whitburn, who had been
sitting by the smouldering fire in her chamber, seemed suddenly
startled into life.
“Tidings,” she cried. “News of my lord and son. Bring them,
Grisell, bring them up.”
Grisell obeyed, and hurried down to the hall. All the household, men
and maids, were gathered round some one freshly come in, and the first
sound she heard was, “Alack! Alack, my lady!”
“How—what—how—” she asked breathlessly, just recognising Harry
Featherstone, pale, dusty, blood-stained.
“It is evil news, dear lady,” said old Ridley, turning towards her
with outstretched hands, and tears flowing down his cheeks. “My
knight. Oh! my knight! And I was not by!”
“Slain?” almost under her breath, asked Grisell.
“Even so! At Wakefield Bridge,” began Featherstone, but at that
instant, walking stiff, upright, and rigid, like a figure moved by
mechanism, Lady Whitburn was among them.
“My lord,” she said, still as if her voice belonged to some one
else. “Slain? And thou, recreant, here to tell the tale!”
“Madam, he fell before I had time to strike.” She seemed to hear no
word, but again demanded, “My son.”
He hesitated a moment, but she fiercely reiterated.
“My son! Speak out, thou coward loon.”
“Madam, Robert was cut down by the Lord Clifford beside the Earl of
Rutland. 'Tis a lost field! I barely 'scaped with a dozen men. I
came but to bear the tidings, and see whether you needed an arm to hold
out the castle for young Bernard. Or I would be on my way to my own
folk on the Border, for the Queen's men will anon be everywhere, since
the Duke is slain!”
“The Duke! The Duke of York!” was the cry, as if a tower were down.
“What would you. We were caught by Somerset like deer in a
buck-stall. Here! Give me a cup of ale, I can scarce speak for
He sank upon the settle as one quite worn out. The ale was brought
by some one, and he drank a long draught, while, at a sign from Ridley,
one of the serving-men began to draw off his heavy boots and greaves,
covered with frosted mud, snow, and blood, all melting together, but
all the time he talked, and the hearers remained stunned and listening
to what had hardly yet penetrated their understanding. Lady Whitburn
had collapsed into her own chair, and was as still as the rest.
He spoke incoherently, and Ridley now and then asked a question, but
his fragmentary narrative may be thus expanded.
All had, in Yorkist opinion, gone well in London. Henry was in the
power of the White Rose, and had actually consented that Richard of
York should be his next heir, but in the meantime Queen Margaret had
been striving her utmost to raise the Welsh and the Border lords on
behalf of her son. She had obtained aid from Scotland, and the
Percies, the Dacres of Gilsland, and many more, had followed her
standard. The Duke of York and Earl of Salisbury set forth to repress
what they called a riot, probably unaware of the numbers who were daily
joining the Queen. With them went Lord Whitburn, hoping thence to
return home, and his son Robert, still a squire of the Duke's
They reached York's castle of Sendal, and there merrily kept
Christmas, but on St. Thomas of Canterbury's Day they heard that the
foe were close at hand, many thousands strong, and on the morrow Queen
Margaret, with her boy beside her, and the Duke of Somerset, came
before the gate and called on the Duke to surrender the castle, and his
own vaunting claims with it, or else come out and fight.
Sir Davy Hall entreated the Duke to remain in the castle till his son
Edward, Earl of March, could bring reinforcements up from Wales, but
York held it to be dishonourable to shut himself up on account of a
scolding woman, and the prudence of the Earl of Salisbury was at fault,
since both presumed on the easy victories they had hitherto gained.
Therefore they sallied out towards Wakefield Bridge, to confront the
main body of Margaret's army, ignorant or careless that she had two
wings in reserve. These closed in on them, and their fate was certain.
“My lord fell in the melée among the first,” said Featherstone. “I
was down beside him, trying to lift him up, when a big Scot came with
his bill and struck at my head, and I knew no more till I found my
master lying stark dead and stripped of all his armour. My sword was
gone, but I got off save for this cut” (and he pushed back his hair)
“and a horse's kick or two, for the whole battle had gone over me, and
I heard the shouting far away. As my lord lay past help, methought I
had best shift myself ere more rascaille came to strip the slain. And
as luck or my good Saint would have it, as I stumbled among the corpses
I heard a whinnying, and saw mine own horse, Brown Weardale, running
masterless. Glad enough was he, poor brute, to have my hand on his
“The bridge was choked with fighting men, so I was about to put him
to the river, when whom should I see on the bridge but young Master
Robin, and with him young Lord Edmund of Rutland. There, on the other
side, holding parley with them, was the knight Mistress Grisell wedded,
and though he wore the White Rose, he gave his hand to them, and was
letting them go by in safety. I was calling to Master Rob to let me
pass as one of his own, when thundering on came the grim Lord Clifford,
roaring like the wind in Roker caves. I heard him howl at young
Copeland for a traitor, letting go the accursed spoilers of York.
Copeland tried to speak, but Clifford dashed him aside against the
wall, and, ah! woe's me, lady, when Master Robin threw himself between,
the fellow—a murrain on his name—ran the fair youth through the
neck with his sword, and swept him off into the river. Then he caught
hold of Lord Edmund, crying out, “Thy father slew mine, and so do I
thee,” and dashed out his brains with his mace. For me, I rode along
farther, swam my horse over the river in the twilight, with much ado to
keep clear of the dead horses and poor slaughtered comrades that
cumbered the stream, and what was even worse, some not yet dead, borne
along and crying out. A woful day it was to all who loved the kindly
Duke of York, or this same poor house! As luck would have it, I fell
in with Jock of Redesdale and a few more honest fellows, who had
'scaped. We found none but friends when we were well past the river.
They succoured us at the first abbey we came to. The rest have sped to
their homes, and here am I.”
Such was the tenor of Featherstone's doleful history of that
blood-thirsty Lancastrian victory. All had hung in dire suspense on
his words, and not till they were ended did Grisell become conscious
that her mother was sitting like a stone, with fixed, glassy eyes and
dropped lip, in the high-backed chair, quite senseless, and breathing
They took her up and carried her upstairs, as one who had received
her death stroke as surely as had her husband and son on the slopes
between Sendal and Wakefield.
Grisell and Thora did their utmost, but without reviving her, and
they watched by her, hardly conscious of anything else, as they tried
their simple, ineffective remedies one after another, with no thought
or possibility of sending for further help, since the roads would be
impassable in the long January night, and besides, the Lancastrians
might make them doubly perilous. Moreover, this dumb paralysis was
accepted as past cure, and needing not the doctor but the priest.
Before the first streak of dawn on that tardy, northern morning,
Ridley's ponderous step came up the stair, into the feeble light of the
rush candle which the watchers tried to shelter from the draughts.
The sad question and answer of “No change” passed, and then Ridley,
his gruff voice unnecessarily hushed, said, “Featherstone would speak
with you, lady. He would know whether it be your pleasure to keep him
in your service to hold out the Tower, or whether he is free to
“Mine!” said Grisell bewildered.
“Yea!” exclaimed Ridley. “You are Lady of Whitburn!”
“Ah! It is true,” exclaimed Grisell, clasping her hands. “Woe is me
that it should be so! And oh! Cuthbert! my husband, if he lives, is a
Queen's man! What can I do?”
“If it were of any boot I would say hold out the Tower. He deserves
no better after the scurvy way he treated you,” said Cuthbert grimly.
“He may be dead, too, though Harry fears he was but stunned.”
“But oh!” cried Grisell, as if she saw one gleam of light, “did not I
hear something of his trying to save my brother and Lord Edmund?”
“You had best come down and hear,” said Ridley. “Featherstone cannot
go till he has spoken with you, and he ought to depart betimes, lest
the Gilsland folk and all the rest of them be ravening on their way
Grisell looked at her mother, who lay in the same state, entirely
past her reach. The hard, stern woman, who had seemed to have no
affection to bestow on her daughter, had been entirely broken down and
crushed by the loss of her sons and husband.
Probably neither had realised that by forcing Grisell on young
Copeland they might be giving their Tower to their enemy.
She went down to the hall, where Harry Featherstone, whose night had
done him more good than hers had, came to meet her, looking much
freshened, and with a bandage over his forehead. He bent low before
her, and offered her his services, but, as he told her, he and Ridley
had been talking it over, and they thought it vain to try to hold out
the Tower, even if any stout men did straggle back from the battle, for
the country round was chiefly Lancastrian, and it would be scarcely
possible to get provisions, or to be relieved. Moreover, the Gilsland
branch of the family, who would be the male heirs, were on the side of
the King and Queen, and might drive her out if she resisted. Thus
there seemed no occasion for the squire to remain, and he hoped to
reach his own family, and save himself from the risk of being captured.
“No, sir, we do not need you,” said Grisell. “If Sir Leonard
Copeland lives and claims this Tower, there is no choice save to yield
it to him. I would not delay you in seeking your own safety, but only
thank you for your true service to my lord and father.”
She held out her hand, which Featherstone kissed on his knee.
His horse was terribly jaded, and he thought he could make his way
more safely on foot than in the panoply of an esquire, for in this war,
the poorer sort were hardly touched; the attacks were chiefly made on
nobles and gentlemen. So he prepared to set forth, but Grisell
obtained from him what she had scarcely understood the night before,
the entire history of the fall of her father and brother, and how
gallantly Leonard Copeland had tried to withstand Clifford's rage.
“He did his best for them,” she said, as if it were her one drop of
hope and comfort.
Ridley very decidedly hoped that Clifford's blow had freed her from
her reluctant husband; and mayhap the marriage would give her claims on
the Copeland property. But Grisell somehow could not join in the
wish. She could only remember the merry boy at Amesbury and the fair
face she had seen sleeping in the hall, and she dwelt on Featherstone's
assurance that no wound had pierced the knight, and that he would
probably be little the worse for his fall against the parapet of the
bridge. Use her as he might, she could not wish him dead, though it
was a worthy death in defence of his old playfellow and of her own
CHAPTER XVI—A NEW MASTER
In the dark chambère, if the bride was fair,
Ye wis, I could not see.
. . . .
And the bride rose from her knee
And kissed the smile of her mother dead.
E. B. BROWNING, The Romaunt of the Page.
The Lady of Whitburn lingered from day to day, sometimes showing
signs of consciousness, and of knowing her daughter, but never really
reviving. At the end of a fortnight she seemed for one day somewhat
better, but that night she had a fresh attack, and was so evidently
dying that the priest, Sir Lucas, was sent for to bring her the last
Sacrament. The passing bell rang out from the church, and the old man,
with his little server before him, came up the stair, and was received
by Grisell, Thora, and one or two other servants on their knees.
Ridley was not there. For even then, while the priest was crossing
the hall, a party of spearmen, with a young knight at their head, rode
to the gate and demanded entrance.
The frightened porter hurried to call Master Ridley, who, instead of
escorting the priest with the Host to his dying lady, had to go to the
gate, where he recognised Sir Leonard Copeland, far from dead, in very
different guise from that in which he had been brought to the castle
before. He looked, however, awed, as he said, bending his head—
“Is it sooth, Master Ridley? Is death beforehand with me?”
“My old lady is in extremis, sir,” replied Ridley. “Poor
soul, she hath never spoken since she heard of my lord's death and his
“The younger lad? Lives here?” demanded Copeland. “Is it as I have
“Aye, sir. The child passed away on the Eve of St. Luke. I have my
lady's orders,” he added reluctantly, “to open the castle to you, as of
“It is well,” returned Sir Leonard. Then, turning round to the
twenty men who followed him, he said, “Men-at-arms, as you saw and
heard, there is death here. Draw up here in silence. This good
esquire will see that you have food and fodder for the horses. Kemp,
Hardcastle,” to his squires, “see that all is done with honour and
respect as to the lady of the castle and mine. Aught unseemly shall be
Wherewith he dismounted, and entered the narrow little court, looking
about him with a keen, critical, soldierly eye, but speaking with low,
“I may not tarry,” he said to Ridley, “but this place, since it falls
to me and mine, must be held for the King and Queen.”
“My lady bows to your will, sir,” returned Ridley.
Copeland continued to survey the walls and very antiquated defences,
observing that there could have been few alarms there. This lasted
till the rites in the sick-room were ended, and the priest came forth.
“Sir,” he said to Copeland, “you will pardon the young lady. Her
mother is in articulo mortis, and she cannot leave her.”
“I would not disturb her,” said Leonard. “The Saints forbid that I
should vex her. I come but as in duty bound to damn this Tower on
behalf of King Harry, Queen Margaret, and the Prince of Wales against
all traitors. I will not tarry here longer than to put it into hands
who will hold it for them and for me. How say you, Sir Squire?” he
added, turning to Ridley, not discourteously.
“We ever did hold for King Harry, sir,” returned the old esquire.
“Yea, but against his true friends, York and Warwick. One is cut
off, ay, and his aider and defender, Salisbury, who should rather have
stood by his King, has suffered a traitor's end at Pomfret.”
“My Lord of Salisbury! Ah! that will grieve my poor young lady,”
“He was a kind lord, save for his treason to the King,” said
Leonard. “We of his household long ago were happy enough, though
strangely divided now. For the rest, till that young wolf cub, Edward
of March, and his mischief-stirring cousin of Warwick be put down, this
place must be held against them and theirs—whosoever bears the White
Rose. Wilt do so, Master Seneschal?”
“I hold for my lady. That is all I know,” said Ridley, “and she
holds herself bound to you, sir.”
“Faithful. Ay? You will be her guardian, I see; but I must leave
half a score of fellows for the defence, and will charge them that they
show all respect and honour to the lady, and leave to you, as
seneschal, all the household, and of all save the wardship of the
Tower, calling on you first to make oath of faith to me, and to do
nought to the prejudice of King Henry, the Queen, or Prince, nor to
favour the friends of York or Warwick.”
“I am willing, sir,” returned Ridley, who cared a great deal more for
the house of Whitburn than for either party, whose cause he by no means
understood, perhaps no more than they had hitherto done themselves. As
long as he was left to protect his lady it was all he asked, and more
than he expected, and the courtesy, not to say delicacy, of the young
knight greatly impressed both him and the priest, though he suspected
that it was a relief to Sir Leonard not to be obliged to see his bride
of a few months.
The selected garrison were called in. Ridley would rather have seen
them more of the North Country yeoman type than of the regular
weather-beaten men-at-arms whom wars always bred up; but their officer
was a slender, dainty-looking, pale young squire, with his arm in a
sling, named Pierce Hardcastle, selected apparently because his wound
rendered rest desirable. Sir Leonard reiterated his charge that all
honour and respect was to be paid to the Lady of Whitburn, and that she
was free to come and go as she chose, and to be obeyed in every
respect, save in what regarded the defence of the Tower. He himself
was going on to Monks Wearmouth, where he had a kinsman among the
With an effort, just as he remounted his horse, he said to Ridley,
“Commend me to the lady. Tell her that I am grieved for her sorrow and
to be compelled to trouble her at such a time; but 'tis for my Queen's
service, and when this troublous times be ended, she shall hear more
from me.” Turning to the priest he added, “I have no coin to spare,
but let all be done that is needed for the souls of the departed lord
and lady, and I will be answerable.”
Nothing could be more courteous, but as he rode off priest and squire
looked at one another, and Ridley said, “He will untie your knot, Sir
“He takes kindly to castle and lands,” was the answer, with a smile;
“they may make the lady to be swallowed.”
“I trow 'tis for his cause's sake,” replied Ridley. “Mark you, he
never once said 'My lady,' nor 'My wife.'“
“May the sweet lady come safely out of it any way,” sighed the
priest. “She would fain give herself and her lands to the Church.”
“May be 'tis the best that is like to befall her,” said Ridley; “but
if that young featherpate only had the wit to guess it, he would find
that he might seek Christendom over for a better wife.”
They were interrupted by a servant, who came hurrying down to say
that my lady was even now departing, and to call Sir Lucas to the
All was over a few moments after he reached the apartment, and
Grisell was left alone in her desolation. The only real, deep, mutual
love had been between her and poor little Bernard; her elder brother
she had barely seen; her father had been indifferent, chiefly regarding
her as a damaged piece of property, a burthen to the estate; her mother
had been a hard, masculine, untender woman, only softened in her latter
days by the dependence of ill health and her passion for her sickly
youngest; but on her Grisell had experienced Sister Avice's lesson that
ministry to others begets and fosters love.
And now she was alone in her house, last of her household, her work
for her mother over, a wife, but loathed and deserted except so far as
that the tie had sanctioned the occupation of her home by a hostile
garrison. Her spirit sank within her, and she bitterly felt the
impoverishment of the always scanty means, which deprived her of the
power of laying out sums of money on those rites which were universally
deemed needful for the repose of souls snatched away in battle. It was
a mercenary age among the clergy, and besides, it was the depth of a
northern winter, and the funeral rites of the Lady of Whitburn would
have been poor and maimed indeed if a whole band of black Benedictine
monks had not arrived from Wearmouth, saying they had been despatched
at special request and charge of Sir Leonard Copeland.
CHAPTER XVII—STRANGE GUESTS
The needle, having nought to do,
Was pleased to let the magnet wheedle,
Till closer still the tempter drew,
And off at length eloped the needle.
The nine days of mourning were spent in entire seclusion by Grisell,
who went through every round of devotions prescribed or recommended by
the Church, and felt relief and rest in them. She shrank when Ridley
on the tenth day begged her no longer to seclude herself in the solar,
but to come down to the hall and take her place as Lady of the Castle,
otherwise he said he could not answer for the conduct of Copeland's
“Master Hardcastle desires it too,” he said. “He is a good lad
enough, but I doubt me whether his hand is strong enough over those
fellows! You need not look for aught save courtesy from him! Come
down, lady, or you will never have your rights.”
“Ah, Cuthbert, what are my rights?”
“To be mistress of your own castle,” returned Ridley, “and that you
will never be unless you take the upper hand. Here are all our
household eating with these rogues of Copeland's, and who is to keep
rule if the lady comes not?”
“Alack, and how am I to do so?”
However, the consideration brought her to appear at the very early
dinner, the first meal of the day, which followed on the return from
mass. Pierce Hardcastle met her shyly. He was a tall slender
stripling, looking weak and ill, and he bowed very low as he said,
“Greet you well, lady,” and looked up for a moment as if in fear of
what he might encounter. Grisell indeed was worn down with long
watching and grief, and looked haggard and drawn so as to enhance all
her scars and distortion of feature into more uncomeliness than her
wont. She saw him shudder a little, but his lame arm and wan looks
interested her kind heart. “I fear me you are still feeling your
wound, sir,” she said, in the sweet voice which was evidently a
surprise to him.
“It is my plea for having been a slug-a-bed this morning,” he
They sat down at the table. Grisell between Ridley and Hardcastle,
the servants and men-at-arms beyond. Porridge and broth and very small
ale were the fare, and salted meat would be for supper, and as Grisell
knew but too well already, her own retainers were grumbling at the
voracious appetites of the men-at-arms as much as did their unwilling
guests at the plainness and niggardliness of the supply.
Thora had begged for a further allowance of beer for them, or even to
broach a cask of wine. “For,” said she, “they are none such fiends as
we thought, if one knows how to take them courteously.”
“There is no need that you should have any dealings with them,
Thora,” said her lady, with some displeasure; “Master Ridley sees to
Thora tossed up her head a little and muttered something about not
being mewed out of sight and speech of all men. And when she attended
her lady to the hall there certainly were glances between her and a
slim young archer.
The lady's presence was certainly a restraint on the rude
men-at-arms, though two or three of them seemed to her rough,
reckless-looking men. After the meal all her kindly instincts were
aroused to ask what she could do for the young squire, and he willingly
put himself into her hands, for his hurt had become much more painful
within the last day or two, as indeed it proved to be festering, and in
great need of treatment.
Before the day was over the two had made friends, and Grisell had
found him to be a gentle, scholarly youth, whom the defence of the
Queen had snatched from his studies into the battlefield. He told her
a great deal about the good King, and his encouragement of his beloved
scholars at Eton, and he spoke of Queen Margaret with an enthusiasm new
to Grisell, who had only heard her reviled as the Frenchwoman. Pierce
could speak with the greatest admiration, too, of his own knight, Sir
Leonard, whom he viewed as the pink of chivalry, assuring Lady
Copeland, as he called her, that she need never doubt for a moment of
his true honour and courtesy. Grisell longed to know, but modest pride
forbade her to ask, whether he knew how matters stood with her rival,
Lady Eleanor Audley. Ridley, however, had no such feeling, and he
reported to Grisell what he had discovered.
Young Hardcastle had only once seen the lady, and had thought her
very beautiful, as she looked from a balcony when King Henry was riding
to his Parliament. Leonard Copeland, then a squire, was standing
beside her, and it had been currently reported that he was to be her
He had returned from his captivity after the battle of Northampton
exceedingly downcast, but striving vehemently in the cause of
Lancaster, and Hardcastle had heard that the question had been
discussed whether the forced marriage had been valid, or could be
dissolved; but since the bodies of Lord Whitburn and his son had been
found on the ground at Wakefield, this had ceased, and it was believed
that Queen Margaret had commanded Sir Leonard, on his allegiance, to go
and take possession of Whitburn and its vassals in her cause.
But Pierce Hardcastle had come to Ridley's opinion, that did his
knight but shut his eyes, the Lady Grisell was as good a mate as man
could wish both in word and deed.
“I would fain,” said he, “have the Lady Eleanor to look at, but this
lady to dress my hurts, ay, and talk with me. Never met I woman who
was so good company! She might almost be a scholar at Oxford for her
However much solace the lady might find in the courtesy of Master
Hardcastle, she was not pleased to find that her hand-maiden Thora
exchanged glances with the young men-at-arms; and in a few days Ridley
spoke to Grisell, and assured her that mischief would ensue if the
silly wench were not checked in her habit of loitering and chattering
whenever she could escape from her lady's presence in the solar, which
Grisell used as her bower, only descending to the hall at meal-times.
Grisell accordingly rebuked her the next time she delayed
unreasonably over a message, but the girl pouted and muttered something
about young Ralph Hart helping her with the heavy pitcher up the stair.
“It is unseemly for a maiden to linger and get help from strange
soldiers,” said Grisell.
“No more unseemly than for the dame to be ever holding converse with
their captain,” retorted the North Country hand-maiden, free of speech
and with a toss of the head.
“Whist, Thora! or you must take a buffet,” said Grisell, clenching a
fist unused to striking, and trying to regard chastisement as a duty.
“You know full well that my only speech with Master Hardcastle is as
Thora laughed. “Ay, lady; I ken well what the men say. How that
poor youth is spell-bound, and that you are casting your glamour over
him as of old over my poor old lady and little Master Bernard.”
“For shame, Thora, to bring me such tales!” and Grisell's hand
actually descended on her maiden's face, but so slight was the force
that it only caused a contemptuous laugh, which so angered the young
mistress as to give her energy to strike again with all her might.
“And you'd beat me,” observed her victim, roused to anger. “You are
so ill favoured yourself that you cannot bear a man to look on a fair
“What insolence is this?” cried Grisell, utterly amazed. “Go into
the turret room, spin out this hank, and stay there till I call you to
supper. Say your Ave, and recollect what beseems a modest maiden.”
She spoke with authority, which Thora durst not resist, and withdrew
still pouting and grumbling.
Grisell was indeed young herself and inexperienced, and knew not that
her wrath with the girl might be perilous to herself, while sympathy
might have evoked wholesome confidence.
For the maiden, just developing into northern comeliness, was
attractive enough to win the admiration of soldiers in garrison with
nothing to do, and on her side their notice, their rough compliments,
and even their jests, were delightful compared with the dulness of her
mistress's mourning chamber, and court enough was paid to her
completely to turn her head. If there were love and gratitude lurking
in the bottom of her heart towards the lady who had made a fair and
skilful maiden out of the wild fisher girl, all was smothered in the
first strong impulse of love for this young Ralph Hart, the first to
awaken the woman out of the child.
The obstacles which Grisell, like other prudent mistresses in all
times, placed in the course of this true love, did but serve to
alienate the girl and place her in opposition. The creature had grown
up as wild and untamed as one of the seals on the shore, and though she
had had a little training and teaching of late years, it was entirely
powerless when once the passion was evoked in her by the new
intercourse and rough compliments of the young archer, and she was for
the time at his beck and call, regarding her lady as her tyrant and
enemy. It was the old story of many a household.
The lady has gone to her secret bower,
The bower that was guarded by word and by spell.
SCOTT, The Lay of the Last Minstrel.
“Master Squire,” said the principal man-at-arms of the garrison to
Pierce Hardcastle, “is it known to you what this laidly dame's
“I know her for a dame worthy of all honour and esteem,” returned the
esquire, turning hastily round in wrath. He much disliked this man, a
regular mercenary of the free lance description, a fellow of French or
Alsatian birth, of middle age, much strength, and on account of a great
gash and sideways twist of his snub nose always known as Tordu, and
strongly suspected that he had been sent as a sort of spy or check on
Sir Leonard Copeland and on himself. The man replied with a growl:
“Ah ha! Sans doubt she makes her niggard fare seem dainty cakes to
those under her art.”
In fact the evident pleasure young Hardcastle took in the Lady
Castellane's society, the great improvement in his wound under her
treatment, and the manner in which the serfs around came to ask her aid
in their maladies, had excited the suspicion of the men-at-arms. They
were older men, hardened and roughened, inclined to despise his youth,
and to resent the orderly discipline of the household, which under
Ridley went on as before, and the murmurs of Thora led to inquiries,
answered after the exaggerated fashion of gossip.
There were outcries about provisions and wine or ale, and shouts
demanding more, and when Pierce declared that he would not have the
lady insulted, there was a hoarse loud laugh. He was about to order
Tordu as ringleader into custody, but Ridley said to him aside, “Best
not, sir; his fellows will not lay a finger on him, and if we did so,
there would be a brawl, and we might come by the worst.”
So Pierce could only say, with all the force he could, “Bear in mind
that Sir Leonard Copeland is lord here, and all miscourtesy to his lady
is an offence to himself, which will be visited with his wrath.”
The sneering laugh came again, and Tordu made answer, “Ay, ay, sir;
she has bewitched you, and we'll soon have him and you free.”
Pierce was angered into flying at the man with his sword, but the
other men came between, and Ridley held him back.
“You are still a maimed man, sir. To be foiled would be worse than
to let it pass.”
“There, fellow, I'll spare you, so you ask pardon of me and the
Perhaps they thought they had gone too far, for there was a sulky
growl that might pass for an apology, and Ridley's counsel was decided
that Pierce had better not pursue the matter.
What had been said, however, alarmed him, and set him on the watch,
and the next evening, when Hardcastle was walking along the cliffs
beyond the castle, the lad who acted as his page came to him, with
round, wondering eyes, “Sir,” said he, after a little hesitation, “is
it sooth that the lady spake a spell over your arm?”
“Not to my knowledge,” said Pierce smiling.
“It might be without your knowledge,” said the boy. “They say it
healed as no chirurgeon could have healed it, and by magic arts.”
“Ha! the lubbard oafs. You know better than to believe them, Dick.”
“Nay, sir, but 'tis her bower-woman and Madge, the cook's wife. Both
aver that the lady hath bewitched whoever comes in her way ever since
she crossed the door. She hath wrought strange things with her father,
mother, and brothers. They say she bound them to her; that the little
one could not brook to have her out of sight; yet she worked on him so
that he was crooked and shrivelled. Yet he wept and cried to have her
ever with him, while he peaked and pined and dwindled away. And her
mother, who was once a fine, stately, masterful dame, pined to mere
skin and bone, and lay in lethargy; and now she is winding her charms
on you, sir!”
Pierce made an exclamation of loathing and contempt. Dick lowered
his voice to a whisper of awe.
“Nay, sir, but Le Tordu and Ned of the Bludgeon purpose to ride over
to Shields to the wise, and they will deal with her when he has found
the witch's mark.”
“The lady!” cried Hardcastle in horror. “You see her what she is! A
holy woman if ever there was one! At mass each morning.”
“Ay, but the wench Thora told Ralph that 'tis prayers backward she
says there. Thora has oft heard her at night, and 'twas no Ave nor
Credo as they say them here.”
Pierce burst out laughing. “I should think not. They speak
gibberish, and she, for I have heard her in Church, speaks words with a
meaning, as her priest and nuns taught her.”
“But her face, sir. There's the Evil One's mark. One side says nay
to the other.”
“The Evil One! Nay, Dick, he is none other than Sir Leonard
himself. 'Twas he that all unwittingly, when a boy, fired a barrel of
powder close to her and marred her countenance. You are not fool and
ass enough to give credence to these tales.”
“I said not that I did, sir,” replied the page; “but it is what the
men-at-arms swear to, having drawn it from the serving-maid.”
“The adder,” muttered Pierce.
“Moreover,” continued the boy, “they have found out that there is a
wise man witch-finder at Shields. They mean to be revenged for the
scanty fare and mean providings; and they deem it will be a merry jest
in this weary hold, and that Sir Leonard will be too glad to be quit of
his gruesome dame to call them to account.”
It was fearful news, for Pierce well knew his own incompetence to
restrain these strong and violent men. He did not know where his
knight was to be found, and, if he had known, it was only too likely
that these terrible intentions might be carried out before any
messenger could reach him. Indeed, the belief in sorcery was
universal, and no rank was exempt from the danger of the accusation.
Thora's treachery was specially perilous. All that the young man could
do was to seek counsel with Cuthbert Ridley, and even this he was
obliged to do in the stable, bidding Dick keep watch outside. Ridley
too had heard a spiteful whisper or two, but it had seemed too
preposterous for him to attend to it. “You are young, Hardcastle,” he
said, with a smile, “or you would know that there is nothing a grumbler
will not say, nor how far men's tongues lie from their hands.”
“Nay, but if their hands did begin to act, how should we save
the lady? There's nothing Tordu would not do. Could we get her away
to some nunnery?”
“There is no nunnery nearer at hand than Gateshead, and there the
Prioress is a Musgrove, no friend to my lord. She might give her up,
on such a charge, for holy Church is no guardian in them. My poor
bairn! That ingrate Thora too! I would fain wring her neck! Yet here
are our fisher folk, who love her for her bounty.”
“Would they hide her?” asked Pierce.
“That serving-wench—would I had drowned her ere bringing her here—
might turn them, and, were she tracked, I ken not who might not be
scared or tortured into giving her up!”
Here Dick looked in. “Tordu is crossing the yard,” he said.
They both became immediately absorbed in studying the condition of
Featherstone's horse, which had never wholly recovered the flight from
After a time Ridley was able to steal away, and visit Grisell in her
apartment. She came to meet him, and he read alarm, incredulous alarm,
in her face. She put her hands in his. “Is it sooth?” she said, in a
strange, awe-stricken voice.
“You have heard, then, my wench?”
“Thora speaks in a strange tone, as though evil were brewing against
me. But you, and Master Hardcastle, and Sir Lucas, and the rest would
never let them touch me?”
“They should only do so through my heart's blood, dear child; but
mine would be soon shed, and Hardcastle is a weakly lad, whom those
fellows believe to be bewitched. We must find some other way!”
“Sir Leonard would save me if he knew. Alas! the good Earl of
Salisbury is dead.”
“'Tis true. If we could hide you till we be rid of these men. But
where?” and he made a despairing gesture.
Grisell stood stunned and dazed as the horrible prospect rose before
her of being seized by these lawless men, tortured by the savage hands
of the witch-finder, subjected to a cruel death, by fire, or at best by
water. She pressed her hands together, feeling utterly desolate, and
prayed her prayer to the God of the fatherless to save her or brace her
Presently Cuthbert exclaimed, “Would Master Groats, the Poticary,
shelter you till this is over-past? His wife is deaf and must perforce
“He would! I verily believe he would,” exclaimed Grisell; “and no
suspicion would light on him. How soon can I go to him, and how?”
“If it may be, this very night,” said Ridley. “I missed two of the
rogues, and who knows whither they may have gone?”
“Will there be time?” said the poor girl, looking round in terror.
“Certes. The nearest witch-finder is at Shields, and they cannot get
there and back under two days. Have you jewels, lady? And hark you,
trust not to Thora. She is the worst traitor of all. Ask me no more,
but be ready to come down when you hear a whistle.”
That Thora could be a traitress and turn against her—the girl whom
she had taught, trained, and civilised—was too much to believe. She
would almost, in spite of cautions, have asked her if it were possible,
and tried to explain the true character of the services that were so
cruelly misinterpreted; but as she descended the dark winding stair to
supper, she heard the following colloquy:
“You will not deal hardly with her, good Ralph, dear Ralph?”
“That thou shalt see, maid! On thy life, not a word to her.”
“Nay, but she is a white witch! she does no evil.”
“What! Going back on what thou saidst of her brother and her
mother. Take thou heed, or they will take order with thee.”
“Thou wilt take care of me, good Ralph. Oh! I have done it for
“Never fear, little one; only shut thy pretty little mouth;” and
there was a sound of kissing.
“What will they do to her?” in a lower voice.
“Thou wilt see! Sink or swim thou knowst. Ha! ha! She will have
enough of the draught that is so free to us.”
Grisell, trembling and horror-stricken, could only lean against the
wall hoping that her beating heart did not sound loud enough to betray
her, till a call from the hall put an end to the terrible whispers.
She hurried upwards lest Thora should come up and perceive how near
she had been, then descended and took her seat at supper, trying to
converse with Pierce as usual, but noting with terror the absence of
the two soldiers.
How her evasion was to be effected she knew not. The castle keys
were never delivered to her, but always to Hardcastle, and she saw him
take them; but she received from Ridley a look and sign which meant
that she was to be ready, and when she left the hall she made up a
bundle of needments, and in it her precious books and all the jewels
she had inherited. That Thora did not follow her was a boon.
CHAPTER XIX—A MARCH HARE
Yonder is a man in sight—
Yonder is a house—but where?
No. she must not enter there.
To the caves, and to the brooks,
To the clouds of heaven she looks.
WORDSWORTH, Feast of Brougham Castle.
Long, long did Grisell kneel in an agony of prayer and terror, as she
seemed already to feel savage hands putting her to the ordeal.
The castle had long been quiet and dark, so far as she knew, when
there was a faint sound and a low whistle. She sprang to the door and
held Ridley's hand.
“Now is the time,” he said, under his breath; “the squire waits.
That treacherous little baggage is safe locked into the cellar, whither
I lured her to find some malvoisie for the rascaille crew. Come.”
He was without his boots, and silently led the way along the narrow
passage to the postern door, where stood young Hardcastle with the
keys. He let them out and crossed the court with them to the little
door leading to a steep descent of the cliffs by a narrow path. Not
till the sands were reached did any of the three dare to speak, and
then Grisell held out her hands in thanks and farewell.
“May I not guard you on your way, lady?” said Pierce.
“Best not, sir,” returned Ridley; “best not know whither she is
gone. I shall be back again before I am missed or your rogues are
“When Sir Leonard knows of their devices, lady,” said Pierce, “then
will Ridley tell him where to find you and bring you back in all
Grisell could only sigh, and try to speak her thanks to the young
man, who kissed her hand, and stood watching her and Ridley as the
waning moon lighted them over the glistening sands, till they sought
the friendly shadows of the cliffs. And thus Grisell Dacre parted from
the home of her fathers.
“Cuthbert,” she said, “should you see Sir Leonard, let him know that
if—if he would be free from any bond to me I will aid in breaking it,
and ask only dowry enough to obtain entrance to a convent, while he
weds the lady he loves.”
Ridley interrupted her with imprecations on the knight, and
exhortations to her to hold her own, and not abandon her rights. “If
he keep the lands, he should keep the wife,” was his cry.
“His word and heart—” began Grisell.
“Folly, my wench. No question but she is bestowed on some one else.
You do not want to be quit of him and be mewed in a nunnery.”
“I only crave to hide my head and not be the bane of his life.”
“Pshaw! You have seen for yourself. Once get over the first glance
and you are worth the fairest dame that ever was jousted for in the
lists. Send him at least a message as though it were not your will to
cast him off.”
“If you will have it so, then,” said Grisell, “tell him that if it be
his desire, I will strive to make him a true, loyal, and loving wife.”
The last words came with a sob, and Ridley gave a little inward
chuckle, as of one who suspected that the duties of the good and loving
wife would not be unwillingly undertaken.
Castle-bred ladies were not much given to long walks, and though the
distance was only two miles, it was a good deal for Grisell, and she
plodded on wearily, to the sound of the lap of the sea and the cries of
the gulls. The caverns of the rock looked very black and gloomy, and
she clung to Ridley, almost expecting something to spring out on her;
but all was still, and the pale eastward light began to be seen over
the sea before they turned away from it to ascend to the scattered
houses of the little rising town.
The bells of the convent had begun to ring for lauds, but it was only
twilight when they reached the wall of Lambert's garden of herbs, where
there was a little door that yielded to Ridley's push. The house was
still closed, and hoar frost lay on the leaves, but Grisell proposed to
hide herself in the little shed which served the purpose of tool-house
and summer-house till she could make her entrance. She felt sure of a
welcome, and almost constrained Cuthbert to leave her, so as to return
to the Tower early enough to avert suspicion—an easier matter as the
men-at-arms were given to sleeping as late as they could. He would
make an errand to the Apothecary's as soon as he could, so as to bring
There sat Grisell, looking out on the brightening sky, while the
blackbirds and thrushes were bursting into song, and sweet odours
rising from the spring buds of the aromatic plants around, and a
morning bell rang from the great monastery church. With that she saw
the house door open, and Master Lambert in a fur cap and gown turned up
with lambs'-wool come out into the garden, basket in hand, and chirp to
the birds to come down and be fed.
It was pretty to see how the mavis and the merle, the sparrow,
chaffinch, robin, and tit fluttered round, and Grisell waited a moment
to watch them before she stepped forth and said, “Ah! Master Groot,
here is another poor bird to implore your bounty.”
“Lady Grisell,” he cried, with a start.
“Ah! not that name,” she said; “not a word. O Master Lambert, I came
by night; none have seen me, none but good Cuthbert Ridley ken where I
am. There can be no peril to you or yours if you will give shelter for
a little while to a poor maid.”
“Dear lady, we will do all we can,” returned Lambert. “Fear not.
How pale you are. You have walked all night! Come and rest. None
will follow. You are sore spent! Clemence shall bring you a warm
drink! Condescend, dear lady,” and he made her lean on his arm, and
brought her into his large living room, and placed her in the
comfortable cross-legged chair with straps and cushions as a back,
while he went into some back settlement to inform his wife of her
visitor; and presently they brought her warm water, with some
refreshing perfume, in a brass basin, and he knelt on one knee to hold
it to her, while she bathed her face and hands with a sponge—a rare
luxury. She started at every sound, but Lambert assured her that she
was safe, as no one ever came beyond the booth. His Clemence had no
gossips, and the garden could not be overlooked. While some broth was
heated for her she began to explain her peril, but he exclaimed,
“Methinks I know, lady, if it was thereanent that a great strapping
Hollander fellow from your Tower came to ask me for a charm against
gramarie, with hints that 'twas in high places. 'Twas enough to make
one laugh to see the big lubber try to whisper hints, and shiver and
shake, as he showed me a knot in his matted locks and asked if it were
not the enemy's tying. I told him 'twas tied by the enemy indeed, the
deadly sin of sloth, and that a stout Dutchman ought to be ashamed of
himself for carrying such a head within or without. But I scarce
bethought me the impudent Schelm could have thought of you, lady.”
“Hush again. Forget the word! They are gone to Shields in search of
the witch-finder, to pinch me, and probe me, and drown me, or burn me,”
cried Grisell, clasping her hands. “Oh! take me somewhere if you
cannot safely hide me; I would not bring trouble on you!”
“You need not fear,” he answered. “None will enter here but by my
goodwill, and I will bar the garden door lest any idle lad should pry
in; but they come not here. The tortoise who crawls about in the
summer fills them with too much terror for them to venture, and is
better than any watch-dog. Now, let me touch your pulse. Ah! I would
prescribe lying down on the bed and resting for the day.”
She complied, and Clemence took her to the upper floor, where it was
the pride of the Flemish housewife to keep a guest-chamber, absolutely
neat, though very little furnished, and indeed seldom or never used;
but she solicitously stroked the big bed, and signed to Grisell to lie
down in the midst of pillows of down, above and below, taking off her
hood, mantle, and shoes, and smoothing her down with nods and sweet
smiles, so that she fell sound asleep.
When she awoke the sun was at the meridian, and she came down to the
noontide meal. Master Groot was looking much entertained.
Wearmouth, he said, was in a commotion. The great Dutch Whitburn
man-at-arms had come in full of the wonderful story. Not only had the
grisly lady vanished, but a cross-bow man had shot an enormous hare on
the moor, a creature with one ear torn off, and a seam on its face, and
Masters Hardcastle and Ridley altogether favoured the belief that it
was the sorceress herself without time to change her shape. Did
Mynheer Groot hold with them?
For though Dutch and Flemings were not wholly friendly at home, yet
in a strange country they held together, and remembered that they were
both Netherlanders, and Hannekin would fain know what thought the wise
“Depend on it, there was no time for a change,” gravely said Groot.
“Have not Nostradamus, Albertus Magnus, and Rogerus Bacon” (he was
heaping names together as he saw Hannekin's big gray eyes grow rounder
and rounder) “all averred that the great Diabolus can give his minions
power to change themselves at will into hares, cats, or toads to
transport themselves to the Sabbath on Walpurgs' night?”
“You deem it in sooth,” said the Dutchman, “for know you that the
parish priest swears, and so do the more part of the villein fisher
folk, that there's no sorcery in the matter, but that she is a true and
holy maid, with no powers save what the Saints had given her, and that
her cures were by skill. Yet such was scarce like to a mere Jungvrow.”
It went sorely against Master Lambert's feelings, as well as somewhat
against his conscience, to encourage the notion of the death of his
guest as a hare, though it ensured her safety and prevented a search.
He replied that her skill certainly was uncommon in a Jungvrow, beyond
nature, no doubt, and if they were unholy, it was well that the
arblaster had made a riddance of her.
“By the same token,” added Hannekin, “the elf lock came out of my
hair this very morn, I having, as you bade me, combed it each morn with
the horse's currycomb.”
Proof positive, as Lambert was glad to allow him to believe. And the
next day all Sunderland and the two Wearmouths believed that the dead
hare had shrieked in a human voice on being thrown on a fire, and had
actually shown the hands and feet of a woman before it was consumed.
It was all the safer for Grisell as long as she was not recognised,
and of this there was little danger. She was scarcely known in
Wearmouth, and could go to mass at the Abbey Church in a deep black
hood and veil. Master Lambert sometimes received pilgrims from his own
country on their way to English shrines, and she could easily pass for
one of these if her presence were perceived, but except to mass in very
early morning, she never went beyond the garden, where the spring
beauty was enjoyment to her in the midst of her loneliness and entire
doubt as to her future.
It was a grand old church, too, with low-browed arches, reminding her
of the dear old chapel of Wilton, and with a lofty though undecorated
square tower, entered by an archway adorned with curious twisted snakes
with long beaks, stretching over and under one another.
The low heavy columns, the round circles, and the small windows,
casting a very dim religious light, gave Grisell a sense of being in
the atmosphere of that best beloved place, Wilton Abbey. She longed
after Sister Avice's wisdom and tenderness, and wondered whether her
lands would purchase from her knight, power to return thither with
dower enough to satisfy the demands of the Proctor. It was a hope that
seemed like an inlet of light in her loneliness, when no one was
faithful save Cuthbert Ridley, and she felt cut to the heart above all
by Thora's defection and cruel accusations, not knowing that half was
owning to the intoxication of love, and the other half to a gossiping
CHAPTER XX—A BLIGHT ON THE WHITE ROSE
Witness Aire's unhappy water
Where the ruthless Clifford fell,
And when Wharfe ran red with slaughter
On the day of Towton's field.
Gathering in its guilty flood
The carnage and the ill spilt blood
That forty thousand lives could yield.
SOUTHEY, Funeral Song of Princess Charlotte.
Grisell from the first took her part in the Apothecary's household.
Occupation was a boon to her, and she not only spun and made lace with
Clemence, but showed her new patterns learned in old days at Wilton;
and still more did she enjoy assisting the master of the house in
making his compounds, learning new nostrums herself, and imparting
others to him, showing a delicacy of finger which the old Fleming could
not emulate. In the fabrication of perfumes for the pouncet box, and
sweetmeats prepared with honey and sugar, she proved to have a dainty
hand, so that Lambert, who would not touch her jewels, declared that
she was fully earning her maintenance by the assistance that she gave
They were not molested by the war, which was decidedly a war of
battles, not of sieges, but they heard far more of tidings than were
wont to reach Whitburn Tower. They knew of the advance of Edward to
London; and the terrible battle of Towton begun, was fought out while
the snow fell far from bloodless, on Palm Sunday; and while the choir
boys had been singing their Gloria, laus et honor in the
gallery over the church door, shivering a little at the untimely blast,
there had been grim and awful work, when for miles around the Wharfe
and Aire the snow lay mixed with blood. That the Yorkists had gained
was known, and that the Queen and Prince had fled; but nothing was
heard of the fate of individuals, and Master Lambert was much occupied
with tidings from Bruges, whence information came, in a messenger sent
by a notary that his uncle, an old miser, whose harsh displeasure at
his marriage had driven him forth, was just dead, leaving him heir to a
fairly prosperous business and a house in the city.
To return thither was of course Lambert's intention as soon as he
could dispose of his English property. He entreated Grisell to
accompany him and Clemence, assuming her that at the chief city of so
great a prince as Duke Philip of Burgundy, she would have a better hope
of hearing tidings of her husband than in a remote town like
Sunderland; and that if she still wished to dispose of her jewels she
would have a far better chance of so doing. He was arguing the point
with her, when there was a voice in the stall outside which made
Grisell start, and Lambert, going out, brought in Cuthbert Ridley,
staggering under the weight of his best suit of armour, and with a
bundle and bag under his mantle.
Grisell sprang up eagerly to meet him, but as she put her hands into
his he looked sorrowfully at her, and she asked under her breath, “Ah!
“No tidings of the recreant,” growled Ridley, “but ill tidings for
both of you. The Dacres of Gilsland are on us, claiming your castle
and lands as male heirs to your father.”
“Do they know that I live?” asked Grisell, “or”—unable to control a
little laugh—“do they deem that I was slain in the shape of a hare?”
“Or better than that,” put in Lambert; “they have it now in the
wharves that the corpse of the hare took the shape and hands of a woman
when in the hall.”
“I ken not, the long-tongued rogues,” said Ridley; “but if my young
lady were standing living and life-like before them as, thank St.
Hilda, I see her now, they would claim it all the more as male heirs,
and this new King Edward has granted old Sir John seisin, being that
she is the wife of one of King Henry's men!”
“Are they there? How did you escape?”
“I got timely notice,” said Cuthbert. “Twenty strong halted over the
night at Yeoman Kester's farm on Heather Gill—a fellow that would do
anything for me since we fought side by side on the day of the
Herrings. So he sends out his two grandsons to tell me what they were
after, while they were drinking his good ale to health of their King
Edward. So forewarned, forearmed. We have left them empty walls, get
in as they can or may—unless that traitor Tordu chooses to stay and
make terms with them.”
“Master Hardcastle! Would he fly? Surely not!” asked Grisell.
“Master Hardcastle, with Dutch Hannekin and some of the better sort,
went off long since to join their knight's banner, and the Saints know
how the poor young lad sped in all the bloody work they have had. For
my part, I felt not bound to hold out the castle against my old lord's
side, when there was no saving it for you, so I put what belonged to me
together, and took poor old Roan, and my young lady's pony, and made my
way hither, no one letting me. I doubt me much, lady, that there is
little hope of winning back your lands, whatever side may be uppermost,
yet there be true hearts among our villeins, who say they will never
pay dues to any save their lord's daughter.”
“Then I am landless and homeless,” sighed Grisell.
“The greater cause that you should make your home with us, lady,”
returned Lambert Groot; and he went on to lay before Ridley the state
of the case, and his own plans. House and business, possibly a seat in
the city council, were waiting for him at Bruges, and the vessel from
Ostend which had continually brought him supplies for his traffic was
daily expected. He intended, so soon as she had made up her cargo of
wool, to return in her to his native country, and he was urgent that
the Lady Grisell should go with him, representing that all the changes
of fortune in the convulsed kingdom of England were sure to be quickly
known there, and that she was as near the centre of action in Flanders
as in Durham, besides that she would be out of reach of any enemies who
might disbelieve the hare transformation.
After learning the fate of her castle, Grisell much inclined to the
proposal which kept her with those whom she had learnt to trust and
love, and she knew that she need be no burthen to them, since she had
profitable skill in their own craft, and besides she had her jewels.
Ridley, moreover, gave her hopes of a certain portion of her dues on
the herring-boats and the wool.
“Will not you come with the lady, sir?” asked Lambert.
“Oh, come!” cried Grisell.
“Nay, a squire of dames hath scarce been heard of in a Poticar's
shop,” said Ridley, and there was an irresistible laugh at the rugged
old gentleman so terming himself; but as Lambert and Grisell were both
about to speak he went on, “I can serve her better elsewhere. I am
going first to my home at Willimoteswick. I have not seen it these
forty year, and whether my brother or my nephew make me welcome or no,
I shall have seen the old moors and mosses. Then methought I would
come hither, or to some of the towns about, and see how it fares with
the old Tower and the folk; and if they be as good as their word, and
keep their dues for my lady, I could gather them, and take or bring
them to her, with any other matter which might concern her nearly.”
This was thoroughly approved by Grisell's little council, and Lambert
undertook to make known to the good esquire the best means of
communication, whether in person, or by the transmission of payments,
since all the eastern ports of England had connections with Dutch and
Flemish traffic, which made the payment of monies possible.
Grisell meantime was asking for Thora. Her uncle, Ridley said, had
come up, laid hands on her, and soundly scourged her for her foul
practices. He had dragged her home, and when Ralph Hart had come after
her, had threatened him with a quarter-staff, called out a mob of
fishermen, and finally had brought him to Sir Lucas, who married them
willy-nilly. He was the runaway son of a currier in York, and had
taken her en croupe, and ridden off to his parents at the sign
of the Hart, to bespeak their favour.
Grisell grieved deeply over Thora's ingratitude to her, and the two
elder men foreboded no favourable reception for the pair, and hoped
that Thora would sup sorrow.
Ridley spent the night at the sign of tire Green Serpent, and before
he set out for Willimoteswick, he confided to Master Groot a bag
containing a silver cup or two, and a variety of coins, mostly French.
They were, he said, spoils of his wars under King Harry the Fifth and
the two Lord Salisburys, which he had never had occasion to spend, and
he desired that they might be laid out on the Lady Grisell in case of
need, leaving her to think they were the dues from her faithful
tenantry. To the Hausvrow Clemence it was a great grief to leave the
peaceful home of her married life, and go among kindred who had shown
their scorn in neglect and cold looks; but she kept a cheerful face for
her husband, and only shed tears over the budding roses and other
plants she had to leave; and she made her guest understand how great a
comfort and solace was her company.
CHAPTER XXI—THE WOUNDED KNIGHT
Belted Will Howard is marching here,
And hot Lord Dacre with many a spear
SCOTT, The Lay of the Last Minstrel.
“Master Groot, a word with you.” A lay brother in the coarse, dark
robe of St. Benedict was standing in the booth of the Green Serpent.
Groot knew him for Brother Christopher of Monks Wearmouth, and
touched his brow in recognition.
“Have you here any balsam fit for a plaguey shot with an arquebuss,
the like of which our poor peaceful house never looked to harbour?”
“For whom is it needed, good brother?”
“Best not ask,” said Brother Christopher, who was, however, an
inveterate gossip, and went on in reply to Lambert's question as to the
place of the wound. “In the shoulder is the worst, the bullet wound
where the Brother Infirmarer has poured in hot oil. St. Bede! How the
poor knight howled, though he tried to stop it, and brought it down to
moaning. His leg is broken beside, but we could deal with that. His
horse went down with him, you see, when he was overtaken and shot down
by the Gilsland folk.”
“The Gilsland folk!”
“Even so, poor lad; and he was only on his way to see after his own,
or his wife's, since all the Whitburn sons are at an end, and the Tower
gone to the spindle side. They say, too, that the damsel he wedded
perforce was given to magic, and fled in form of a hare. But be that
as it will, young Copeland—St. Bede, pardon me! What have I let
“Reck not of that, brother. The tale is all over the town. How of
“As I said even now, he was on his way to the Tower, when the Dacres
—Will and Harry—fell on him, and left him for dead; but by the
Saints' good providence, his squire and groom put him on a horse, and
brought him to our Abbey at night, knowing that he is kin to our
Sub-Prior. And there he lies, whether for life or death only Heaven
knows, but for death it will be if only King Edward gets a scent of
him; so hold your peace, Master Groats, as to who it be, as you live,
or as you would not have his blood on you.”
Master Groats promised silence, and gave numerous directions as to
the application of his medicaments, and Brother Kit took his leave,
reiterating assurances that Sir Leonard's life depended on his secrecy.
Whatever was said in the booth was plainly audible in the inner
room. Grisell and Clemence were packing linen, and the little shutter
of the wooden partition was open. Thus Lambert found Grisell standing
with clasped hands, and a face of intense attention and suspense.
“You have heard, lady,” he said.
“Oh, yea, yea! Alas, poor Leonard!” she cried.
“The Saints grant him recovery.”
“Methought you would be glad to hear you were like to be free from
such a yoke. Were you rid of him, you, of a Yorkist house, might win
back your lands, above all, since, as you once told me, you were a
playmate of the King's sister.”
“Ah! dear master, speak not so! Think of him! treacherously wounded,
and lying moaning. That gruesome oil! Oh! my poor Leonard!” and she
burst into tears. “So fair, and comely, and young, thus stricken
“Bah!” exclaimed Lambert. “Such are women! One would think she
loved him, who flouted her!”
“I cannot brook the thought of his lying there in sore pain and
dolour, he who has had so sad a life, baulked of his true love.”
Master Lambert could only hold up his hands at the perversity of
womankind, and declare to his Clemence that he verily believed that had
the knight been a true and devoted Tristram himself, ever at her feet,
the lady could not have been so sore troubled.
The next day brought Brother Kit back with an earnest request from
the Infirmarer and the Sub-Prior that “Master Groats” would come to the
monastery, and give them the benefit of his advice on the wounds and
the fever which was setting in, since gun-shot wounds were beyond the
scope of the monastic surgery.
To refuse would not have been possible, even without the earnest
entreaty of Grisell; and Lambert, who had that medical instinct which
no training can supply, went on his way with the lay brother.
He came back after many hours, sorely perturbed by the request that
had been made to him. Sir Leonard, he said, was indeed sick nigh unto
death, grievously hurt, and distraught by the fever, or it might be by
the blow on his head in the fall with his horse, which seemed to have
kicked him; but there was no reason that with good guidance and rest he
should not recover. But, on the other hand, King Edward was known to
be on his progress to Durham, and he was understood to be especially
virulent against Sir Leonard Copeland, under the impression that the
young knight had assisted in Clifford's slaughter of his brother Edmund
of Rutland. It was true that a monastery was a sanctuary, but if all
that was reported of Edward Plantagenet were true, he might, if he
tracked Copeland to the Abbey, insist on his being yielded up, or might
make Abbot and monks suffer severely for the protection given to his
enemy; and there was much fear that the Dacres might be on the scent.
The Abbot and Father Copeland were anxious to be able to answer that
Sir Leonard was not within their precincts, and, having heard that
Master Groats was about to sail for Flanders, the Sub-Prior made the
entreaty that his nephew might thus be conveyed to the Low Countries,
where the fugitives of each party in turn found a refuge. Father
Copeland promised to be at charges, and, in truth, the scheme was the
best hope for Leonard's chances of life. Master Groot had hesitated,
seeing various difficulties in the way of such a charge, and being by
no means disposed towards Lady Grisell's unwilling husband, as such,
though in a professional capacity he was interested in his treatment of
his patient, and was likewise touched by the good mien of the fine,
handsome, straight-limbed young man, who was lying unconscious on his
pallet in a narrow cell.
He had replied that he would answer the next day, when he had
consulted his wife and the ship-master, whose consent was needful; and
there was of course another, whom he did not mention.
As he told all the colour rose in Grisell's face, rosy on one side,
purple, alas, on the other. “O master, good master, you will, you
“Is it your pleasure, then, mistress? I should have held that the
kindness to you would be to rid you of him.”
“No, no, no! You are mocking me! You know too well what I think!
Is not this my best hope of making him know me, and becoming his true
A sob cut her short, but she cried, “I will be at all the pains and
all the cost, if only you will consent, dear Master Lambert, good
“Ah, would I knew what is well for her!” said Lambert, turning to his
wife, and making rapid signs with face and fingers in their mutual
language, but Grisell burst in—
“Good for her,” cried she. “Can it be good for a wife to leave her
husband to be slain by the cruel men of York and Warwick, him who
strove to save the young Lord Edmund? Master, you will suffer no such
foul wrong. O master, if you did, I would stay behind, in some poor
hovel on the shore, where none would track him, and tend him there. I
will! I vow it to St. Mary.”
“Hush, hush, lady! Cease this strange passion. You could not be
more moved if he were the tenderest spouse who ever breathed.”
“But you will have pity, sir. You will aid us. You will save us.
Give him the chance for life.”
“What say you, housewife?” said Groot, turning to the silent
Clemence, whom his signs and their looks had made to perceive the point
at issue. Her reply was to seize Grisell's two hands, kiss them
fervently, clasp both together, and utter in her deaf voice two Flemish
words, “Goot Vrow.” Grisell eagerly embraced her in tears.
“We have still to see what Skipper Vrowst says. He may not choose to
meddle with English outlaws.”
“If you cannot win him to take my knight, he will not take me,” said
There was no more to be said except something about the waywardness
of the affections of women and dogs; but Master Groot was not
ill-pleased at the bottom that both the females of the household took
part against him, and they had a merry supper that night, amid the
chests in which their domestic apparatus and stock-in-trade were
packed, with the dried lizard, who passed for a crocodile, sitting on
the settle as if he were one of the company. Grisell's spirits rose
with an undefined hope that, like Sir Gawaine's bride, or her own
namesake, Griselda the patient, she should at last win her lord's love;
and, deprived as she was of all her own relatives, there arose strongly
within her the affection that ten long years ago had made her haunt the
footsteps of the boy at Amesbury Manor.
Groot was made to promise to say not a word of her presence in his
family. He was out all day, while Clemence worked hard at her
démenagement, and only with scruples accepted the assistance of her
guest, who was glad to work away her anxiety in the folding of curtains
and stuffing of mails.
At last Lambert returned, having been backwards and forwards many
times between the Vrow Gudule and the Abbey, for Skipper Vrowst
drove a hard bargain, and made the most of the inconvenience and danger
of getting into ill odour with the authorities; and, however anxious
Father Copeland might be to save his nephew, Abbot and bursar demurred
at gratifying extortion, above all when the King might at any time be
squeezing them for contributions hard to come by.
However, it had been finally fixed that a boat should put in to the
Abbey steps to receive the fleeces of the sheep-shearing of the home
grange, and that, rolled in one of these fleeces, the wounded knight
should be brought on board the Vrow Gudule, where Groot and the
women would await him, their freight being already embarked, and all
ready to weigh anchor.
The chief danger was in a King's officer coming on board to weigh the
fleeces, and obtaining the toll on them. But Sunderland either had no
King, or had two just at that time, and Father Copeland handed Master
Groot a sum which might bribe one or both; while it was to the interest
of the captain to make off without being overhauled by either.
CHAPTER XXII—THE CITY OF BRIDGES
So for long hours sat Enid by her lord,
There in the naked hall, propping his head,
And chafing his pale hands, and calling to him.
And at the last he waken'd from his swoon.
The transit was happily effected, and closely hidden in wool, Leonard
Copeland was lifted out the boat, more than half unconscious, and
afterwards transferred to the vessel, and placed in wrappings as softly
and securely as Grisell and Clemence could arrange before King Edward's
men came to exact their poundage on the freight, but happily did not
concern themselves about the sick man.
He might almost be congratulated on his semi-insensibility, for
though he suffered, he would not retain the recollection of his
suffering, and the voyage was very miserable to every one, though the
weather was far from unfavourable, as the captain declared. Grisell
indeed was so entirely taken up with ministering to her knight that she
seemed impervious to sickness or discomfort. It was a great relief to
enter on the smooth waters of the great canal from Ostend, and Lambert
stood on the deck recognising old landmarks, and pointing them out with
the joy of homecoming to Clemence, who perhaps felt less delight, since
the joys of her life had only begun when she turned her back on her
Nor did her face light up as his did while he pointed out to Grisell
the beauteous belfry, rising on high above the many-peaked gables,
though she did smile when a long-billed, long-legged stork flapped his
wings overhead, and her husband signed that it was in greeting. The
greeting that delighted him she could not hear, the sweet chimes from
that same tower, which floated down the stream, when he doffed his cap,
crossed himself, and clasped his hands in devout thanksgiving.
It was a wonderful scene of bustle; where vessels of all kinds
thronged together were drawn up to the wharf, the beautiful tall
painted ships of Venice and Genoa pre-eminent among the stoutly-built
Netherlanders and the English traders. Shouts in all languages were
heard, and Grisell looked round in wonder and bewilderment as to how
the helpless and precious charge on the deck was ever to be safely
Lambert, however, was truly at home and equal to the occasion. He
secured some of the men who came round the vessel in barges clamouring
for employment, and—Grisell scarce knew how—Leonard on his bed was
lifted down, and laid in the bottom of the barge. The big bundles and
cases were committed to the care of another barge, to follow close
after theirs, and on they went under, one after another, the numerous
high-peaked bridges to which Bruges owes its name, while tall
sharp-gabled houses, walls, or sometimes pleasant green gardens,
bounded the margins, with a narrow foot-way between. The houses had
often pavement leading by stone steps to the river, and stone steps up
to the door, which was under the deep projecting eaves running along
the front of the house—a stoop, as the Low Countries called it. At
one of these—not one of the largest or handsomest, but far superior
to the old home at Sunderland—hung the large handsome painted and
gilded sign of the same serpent which Grisell had learnt to know so
well, and here the barge hove to, while two servants, the man in a
brown belted jerkin, the old woman in a narrow, tight, white hood, came
out on the steps with outstretched hands.
“Mein Herr, my dear Master Lambert. Oh, joy! Greet thee well.
Thanks to our Lady that I have lived to see this day,” was the old
“Greet thee well, dear old Mother Abra. Greet thee, trusty Anton.
You had my message? Have you a bed and chamber ready for this
Such was Lambert's hasty though still cordial greeting, as he gave
his hand to the man-servant, his cheek to his old nurse, who was mother
to Anton. Clemence in her gentle dumb show shared the welcome, and
directed as Leonard was carried up an outside stone stair to a
guest-chamber, and deposited in a stately bed with fresh, cool,
lace-bordered, lavender-scented sheets, and Grisell put between his
lips a spoonful of the cordial with which Lambert had supplied her.
More distinctly than before he murmured, “Thanks, sweet Eleanor.”
The move in the open air had partly revived him, partly made him
feverish, and he continued to murmur complacently his thanks to Eleanor
for tending her “wounded knight,” little knowing whom he wounded by his
On one point this decided Grisell. She looked up at Lambert, and
when he used her title of “Lady,” in begging her to leave old Mother
Abra in charge and to come down to supper, she made a gesture of
silence, and as she came down the broad stair—a refinement scarce
known in England—she entreated him to let her be Grisell still.
“Unless he accept me as his wife I will never bear his name,” she
“Nay, madame, you are Lady of Whitburn by right.”
“By right, may be, but not in fact, nor could I be known as mine own
self without cumbering him with my claims. No, let me alone to be
Grisell as ever before, an English orphan, bower-woman to Vrow Clemence
if she will have me.”
Clemence would not consent to treat her as bower-woman, and it was
agreed that she should remain as one of the many orphans made by the
civil war in England, without precise definition of her rank, and be
only called by her Christian name. She was astonished at the status of
Master Groot, the size and furniture of the house, and the servants who
awaited him; all so unlike his little English establishment, for the
refinements and even luxuries were not only far beyond those of
Whitburn, but almost beyond all that she had seen even in the
households of the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick. He had indeed been
bred to all this, for the burghers of Bruges were some of the most
prosperous of all the rich citizens of Flanders in the golden days of
the Dukes of Burgundy; and he had left it all for the sake of his
Clemence, but without forfeiting his place in his Guild, or his right
to his inheritance.
He was, however, far from being a rich man, on a level with the great
merchants, though he had succeeded to a modest, not unprosperous trade
in spices, drugs, condiments and other delicacies.
He fetched a skilful Jewish physician to visit Sir Leonard Copeland,
but there was no great difference in the young man's condition for many
days. Grisell nursed him indefatigably, sitting by him so as to hear
the sweet bells chime again and again, and the storks clatter on the
roofs at sunrise.
Still, whenever her hand brought him some relief, or she held drink
to his lips, his words and thanks were for Eleanor, and more and more
did the sense sink down upon her like lead that she must give him up to
Yes, it was like lead, for, as she watched his face on the pillow her
love went out to him. It might have done so even had he been
disfigured like herself; but his was a beautiful countenance of noble
outlines, and she felt a certain pride in it as hers, while she longed
to see it light up with reason, and glow once more with health. Then
she thought she could rejoice, even if there were no look of love for
The eyes did turn towards her again with the mind looking out of
them, and he knew her for the nurse on whom he depended for comfort and
relief. He thanked her courteously, so that she felt a thrill of
pleasure every time. He even learnt her name of Grisell, and once he
asked whether she were not English, to which she replied simply that
she was, and on a further question she said that she had been at
Sunderland with Master Groot, and that she had lost her home in the
course of the wars.
There for some time it rested—rested at least with the knight. But
with the lady there was far from rest, for every hour she was watching
for some favourable token which might draw them nearer, and give
opportunity for making herself known. Nearer they certainly drew, for
he often smiled at her. He liked her to wait on him, and to beguile
the weariness of his recovery by singing to him, telling some of her
store of tales, or reading to him, for books were more plentiful at
Bruges than at Sunderland, and there were even whispers of a wonderful
mode of multiplying them far more quickly than by the scrivener's hand.
How her heart beat every time she thus ministered to him, or heard
his voice call to her, but it was all, as she could plainly see, just
as he would have spoken to Clemence, if she could have heard him, and
he evidently thought her likewise of burgher quality, and much of the
same age as the Vrow Groot. Indeed, the long toil and wear of the past
months had made her thin and haggard, and the traces of her disaster
were all the more apparent, so that no one would have guessed her years
to be eighteen.
She had taken her wedding-ring from her finger, and wore it on a
chain, within her kirtle, so as to excite no inquiry. But many a
night, ere she lay down, she looked at it, and even kissed it, as she
asked herself whether her knight would ever bid her wear it. Until he
did so her finger should never again be encircled by it.
Meantime she scarcely ever went beyond the nearest church and the
garden, which amply compensated Clemence for that which she had left at
Sunderland. Indeed, that had been as close an imitation of this one as
Lambert could contrive in a colder climate with smaller means. Here
was a fountain trellised over by a framework rich in roses and our
lady's bower; here were pinks, gilly-flowers, pansies, lavender, and
the new snowball shrub recently produced at Gueldres, and a little bush
shown with great pride by Anton, the snow-white rose grown in King
Réne's garden of Provence.
These served as borders to the green walks dividing the beds of
useful vegetables and fruits and aromatic herbs which the Groots had
long been in the habit of collecting from all parts and experimenting
on. Much did Lambert rejoice to find himself among the familiar plants
he had often needed and could not procure in England, and for some of
which he had a real individual love. The big improved distillery and
all the jars and bottles of his youth were a joy to him, almost as much
as the old friends who accepted him again after a long “wander year.”
Clemence had her place too, but she shrank from the society she could
not share, and while most of the burghers' wives spent the summer
evening sitting spinning or knitting on the steps of the stoop,
conversing with their gossips, she preferred to take her distaff or
needle among the roses, sometimes tending them, sometimes beguiling
Grisell to come and take the air in company with her, for they
understood one another's mute language; and when Lambert Groot was with
his old friends they sufficed for one another—so far as Grisell's
anxious heart could find solace, and perhaps in none so much as the
gentle matron who could caress but could not talk.
CHAPTER XXIII—THE CANKERED OAK GALL
That Walter was no fool, though that him list
To change his wif, for it was for the best;
For she is fairer, so they demen all,
Than his Griselde, and more tendre of age.
CHAUCER, The Clerke's Tale.
It was on an early autumn evening when the belfry stood out beautiful
against the sunset sky, and the storks with their young fledglings were
wheeling homewards to their nest on the roof, that Leonard was lying on
the deep oriel window of the guest-chamber, and Grisell sat opposite to
him with a lace pillow on her lap, weaving after the pattern of Wilton
for a Church vestment.
“The storks fly home,” he said. “I marvel whether we have still a
home in England, or ever shall have one!”
“I heard tell that the new King of France is friendly to the Queen
and her son,” said Grisell.
“He is near of kin to them, but he must keep terms with this old Duke
who sheltered him so long. Still, when he is firm fixed on his throne
he may yet bring home our brave young Prince and set the blessed King
on his throne once more.”
“Ah! You love the King.”
“I revere him as a saint, and feel as though I drew my sword in a
holy cause when I fight for him,” said Leonard, raising himself with
“And the Queen?”
“Queen Margaret! Ah! by my troth she is a dame who makes swords fly
out of their scabbards by her brave stirring words and her noble mien.
Her bright eyes and undaunted courage fire each man's heart in her
cause till there is nothing he would not do or dare, ay, or give up for
her, and those she loves better than herself, her husband, and her
“You have done so,” faltered Grisell.
“Ah! have I not? Mistress, I would that you bore any other name.
You mind me of the bane and grief of my life.”
“Verily?” uttered Grisell with some difficulty.
“Yea! Tell me, mistress, have I ever, when my brains were astray,
uttered any name?”
“By times, even so!” she confessed.
“I thought so! I deemed at times that she was here! I have never
told you of the deed that marred my life.”
“Nay,” she said, letting her bobbins fall though she drooped her
head, not daring to look him in the face.
“I was a mere lad, a page in the Earl of Salisbury's house. A good
man was he, but the jealousies and hatreds of the nobles had begun long
ago, and the good King hoped, as he ever hoped, to compose them. So he
brought about a compact between my father and the Dacre of Whitburn for
a marriage between their children, and caused us both to be bred up in
the Lady of Salisbury's household, meaning, I trow, that we should
enter into solemn contract when we were of less tender age; but there
never was betrothal; and before any fit time for it had come, I had the
mishap to have the maid close to me—she was ever besetting and
running after me—when by some prank, unhappily of mine, a barrel of
gunpowder blew up and wellnigh tore her to pieces. My father came, and
her mother, an unnurtured, uncouth woman, who would have forced me to
wed her on the spot, but my father would not hear of it, more
especially as there were then two male heirs, so that I should not have
gained her grim old Tower and bare moorlands. All held that I was not
bound to her; the Queen herself owned it, and that whatever the damsel
might be, the mother was a mere northern she-bear, whose child none
would wish to wed, and of the White Rose besides. So the King had me
to his school at Eton, and then I was a squire of my Lord of Somerset,
and there I saw my fairest Eleanor Audley. The Queen and the Duke of
Somerset—rest his soul—would have had us wedded. On the love day,
when all walked together to St. Paul's, and the King hoped all was
peace, we spoke our vows to one another in the garden of Westminster.
She gave me this rook, I gave her the jewel of my cap; I read her true
love in her eyes, like our limpid northern brooks. Oh! she was fair,
fairer than yonder star in the sunset, but her father, the Lord Audley,
was absent, and we could go no farther; and therewith came the Queen's
summons to her liegemen to come and arrest Salisbury at Bloreheath.
There never was rest again, as you know. My father was slain at
Northampton, I yielded me to young Falconberg; but I found the Yorkists
had set headsmen to work as though we had been traitors, and I was
begging for a priest to hear my shrift, when who should come into the
foul, wretched barn where we lay awaiting the rope, but old Dacre of
Whitburn. He had craved me from the Duke of York, it seems, and gained
my life on what condition he did not tell me, but he bound my feet
beneath my horse, and thus bore me out of the camp for all the first
day. Then, I own he let me ride as became a knight, on my word of
honour not to escape; but much did I marvel whether it were revenge or
ransom that he wanted; and as to ransom, all our gold had all been
riding on horseback with my poor father. What he had devised I knew
not nor guessed till late at night we were at his rat-hole of a Tower,
where I looked for a taste of the dungeons; but no such thing. The
choice that the old robber—”
Grisell could not repress a dissentient murmur of indignation.
“Ah, well, you are from Sunderland, and may know better of him. But
any way the choice he left me was the halter that dangled from the roof
and his grisly daughter!”
“Did you see her?” Grisell contrived to ask.
“I thank the Saints, no. To hear of her was enow. They say she has
a face like a cankered oak gall or a rotten apple lying cracked on the
ground among the wasps. Mayhap though you have seen her.”
Grisell could truly say, in a half-choked voice, “Never since she was
a child,” for no mirror had come in her way since she was at Warwick
House. She was upborne by the thought that it would be a relief to him
not to see anything like a rotten apple. He went on—
“My first answer and first thought was rather death—and of my word
to my Eleanor. Ah! you marvel to see me here now. I felt as though
nothing would make me a recreant to her. Her sweet smile and shining
eyes rose up before me, and half the night I dreamt of them, and knew
that I would rather die than be given to another and be false to them.
Ah! but you will deem me a recreant. With the waking hours I thought
of my King and Queen. My elder brother died with Lord Shrewsbury in
Gascony, and after me the next heir is a devoted Yorkist who would turn
my castle, the key of Cleveland, against the Queen. I knew the defeat
would make faithful swords more than ever needful to her, and that it
was my bounden duty, if it were possible, to save my life, my sword,
and my lands for her. Mistress, you are a good woman. Did I act as a
“You offered up yourself,” said Grisell, looking up.
“So it was! I gave my consent, on condition that I should be free at
once. We were wedded in the gloom—ere sunrise—a thunderstorm
coming up, which so darkened the church that if she had been a peerless
beauty, fair as Cressid herself, I could not have seen her, and even
had she been beauty itself, nought can to me be such as my Eleanor. So
I was free to gallop off through the storm for Wearmouth when the rite
was over, and none pursued me, for old Whitburn was a man of his word.
Mine uncle held the marriage as nought, but next I made for the Queen
at Durham, and, if aught could comfort my spirit, it was her thanks,
and assurances that it would cost nothing but the dispensation of the
Pope to set me free. So said Dr. Morton, her chaplain, one of the most
learned men in England. I told him all, and he declared that no
wedlock was valid without the heartfelt consent of each party.”
“Said he so?” Poor Grisell could not repress the inquiry.
“Yea, and that though no actual troth had passed between me and Lord
Audley's daughter, yet that the vows we had of our own free will
exchanged would be quite enough to annul my forced marriage.”
“You think it evil in me, the more that it was I who had defaced that
countenance. I thought of that! I would have endowed her with all I
had if she would set me free. I trusted yet so to do, when, for my
misfortune as well as hers, the day of Wakefield cut off her father and
brother, and a groom was taken who was on his way to Sendal with
tidings of the other brother's death. Then, what do the Queen and Sir
Pierre de Brezé but command me to ride off instantly to claim Whitburn
Tower! In vain did I refuse; in vain did I plead that if I were about
to renounce the lady it were unknightly to seize on her inheritance.
They would not hear me. They said it would serve as a door to England,
and that it must be secured for the King, or the Dacres would hold it
for York. They bade me on my allegiance, and commanded me to take it
in King Henry's name, as though it were a mere stranger's castle, and
gave me a crew of hired men-at-arms, as I verily believe to watch over
what I did. But ere I started I made a vow in Dr. Morton's hands, to
take it only for the King, and so soon as the troubles be ended to
restore it to the lady, when our marriage is dissolved. As it fell
out, I never saw the lady. Her mother lay a-dying, and there was no
summoning her. I bade them show her all due honour, hoisted my pennon,
rode on to my uncle at Wearmouth, and thence to mine own lands, whence
I joined the Queen on her way to London. As you well know, all was
over with our cause at Towton Moor; and it was on my way northward
after the deadly fight that half a dozen of the men-at-arms brought me
tidings, not only that the Gilsland Dacres had, as had been feared,
claimed the castle, but that this same so-called lady of mine had been
shown to deal in sorcery and magic. They sent for a wise man from
Shields, but she found by her arts what they were doing, fled, and was
slain by an arquebuss in the form of a hare!
“Do you believe it was herself in sooth?” asked Grisell.
“Ah! you are bred by Master Lambert, who, like his kind, hath little
faith in sorcery, but verily, old women do change into hares. All have
“She was scarce old,” Grisell trusted herself to say.
“That skills not. They said she made strange cures by no rules of
art. Ay, and said her prayers backward, and had unknown books.”
“Did your squire tell this, or was it only the men?”
“My squire! Poor Pierce, I never saw him. He was made captive by a
White Rose party, so far as I could hear, and St. Peter knows where he
may be. But look you, the lady, for all her foul looks, had cast her
spell over him, and held him as bound and entranced as by a true love,
so that he was ready to defend her beauty—her beauty! look you!—
against all the world in the lists. He was neither to have nor to hold
if any man durst utter a word against her! And it was the same with
her tirewoman and her own old squire.”
“Then, sir, you deem that in slaying the hare, the arquebusier rid
you of your witch wife?” There was a little bitterness, even scorn, in
“I say not so, mistress. I know men-at-arms too well to credit all
they say, and I was on my way to inquire into the matter and learn the
truth when these same Dacres fell on me; and that I lie here is due to
you and good Master Lambert. Many a woman whose face is ill favoured
has learnt to keep up her power by unhallowed arts, and if it be so
with her whom in my boyish prank I have marred, Heaven forgive her and
me. If I can ever return I shall strive to trace her life or death,
without which mayhap I could scarce win my true bride.”
Grisell could bear no more of this crushing of her hopes. She crept
away murmuring something about the vesper bell at the convent chapel
near, for it was there that she could best kneel, while thoughts and
strength and resolution came to her.
The one thing clear to her was that Sir Leonard did not view her, or
rather the creature at Whitburn Tower, as his wife, but as a hag,
mayhap a sorceress from whom he desired to be released, and that his
love to Eleanor Audley was as strong as ever.
Should she make herself known and set him free? Nay, but then what
would become of him? He still needed her care, which he accepted as
that of a nurse, and while he believed himself to be living on the
means supplied by his uncle at Wearmouth to the Apothecary, this had
soon been exhausted, and Grisell had partly supplied what was wanting
from Ridley's bag, partly from what the old squire had sent her as the
fishermen's dues; and she was perceiving how to supplement this, or
replace it by her own skill, by her assistance to Lambert in his
concoctions, and likewise by her lace-work, which was of a device
learnt at Wilton and not known at Bruges. There was something
strangely delightful to her in thus supporting Leonard even though he
knew it not, and she determined to persist in her present course till
there was some change. Suppose he heard of Eleanor's marriage to some
one else! Then? But, ah, the cracked apple face. She must find a
glass, or even a pail of water, and judge! Or the Lancastrian fortunes
might revive, he might go home in triumph, and then would she give him
her ring and her renunciation, and either earn enough to obtain
entrance to a convent or perhaps be accepted for the sake of her
Any way the prospect was dreary, and the affection which grew upon
her as Leonard recovered only made it sadder. To reveal herself would
only be misery to him, and in his present state of mind would deprive
him of all he needed, since he would never be base enough to let her
toil for him and then cast her off.
She thought it best, or rather she yearned so much for counsel, that
at night, over the fire in the stove, she told what Leonard had said,
to which her host listened with the fatherly sympathy that had grown up
towards her. He was quite determined against her making herself
known. The accusation of sorcery really alarmed him. He said that to
be known as the fugitive heiress of Whitburn who had bewitched the
young squire and many more might bring both her and himself into
imminent danger; and there were Lancastrian exiles who might take up
the report. Her only safety was in being known, to the few who did
meet her, as the convent-bred maiden whose home had been destroyed, and
who was content to gain a livelihood as the assistant whom his wife's
infirmity made needful. As to Sir Leonard, the knight's own grace and
gratitude had endeared him, as well as the professional pleasure of
curing him, and for the lady's sake he should still be made welcome.
So matters subsided. No one knew Grisell's story except Master
Lambert and her Father Confessor, and whether he really knew it,
through the medium of her imperfect French, might be doubted. Even
Clemence, though of course aware of her identity, did not know all the
details, since no one who could communicate with her had thought it
well to distress her with the witchcraft story.
Few came beyond the open booth, which served as shop, though
sometimes there would be admitted to walk in the garden and converse
with Master Groot, a young Englishman who wanted his counsel on giving
permanence and clearness to the ink he was using in that new art of
printing which he was trying to perfect, but which there were some who
averred to be a work of the Evil One, imparted to the magician Dr.
CHAPTER XXIV—GRISELL'S PATIENCE
When silent were both voice and chords,
The strain seemed doubly dear,
Yet sad as sweet,—for English words
Had fallen upon the ear.
WORDSWORTH, Incident at Bruges.
Meanwhile Leonard was recovering and vexing himself as to his future
course, inclining chiefly to making his way back to Wearmouth to
ascertain how matters were going in England.
One afternoon, however, as he sat close to thine window, while
Grisell sang to him one of her sweet old ballads, a face, attracted by
the English words and voice, was turned up to him. He exclaimed, “By
St. Mary, Philip Scrope,” and starting up, began to feel for the stick
which he still needed.
A voice was almost at the same moment heard from the outer shop
inquiring in halting French, “Did I see the face of the Beau Sire
By the time Leonard had hobbled to the door into the booth, a tall
perfectly-equipped man-at-arms, in velvet bonnet with the Burgundian
Cross, bright cuirass, rich crimson surcoat, and handsome sword belt,
had advanced, and the two embraced as old friends did embrace in the
middle ages, especially when each had believed the other dead.
“I deemed thee dead at Towton!”
“Methought you were slain in the north! You have not come off
“Nay, but I had a narrow escape. My honest fellows took me to my
uncle at Wearmouth, and he shipped me off with the good folk here, and
cares for my maintenance. How didst thou 'scape?”
“Half a dozen of us—Will Percy and a few more—made off from the
woful field under cover of night, and got to the sea-shore, to a
village—I know not the name—and laid hands on a fisher's smack,
which Jock of Hull was seaman enough to steer with the aid of the lad
on board, as far as Friesland, and thence we made our way as best we
could to Utrecht, where we had the luck to fall in with one of the
Duke's captains, who was glad enough to meet with a few stout fellows
to make up his company of men-at-arms.”
“Oh! Methought it was the Cross of Burgundy. How art thou so well
“We have all been pranked out to guard our Duke to the King of
France's sacring at Rheims. I promise thee the jewels and gold blazed
as we never saw the like—and as to the rascaille Scots archers, every
one of them was arrayed so as the sight was enough to drive an honest
Borderer crazy. Half their own kingdom's worth was on their beggarly
backs. But do what they might, our Duke surpassed them all with his
largesses and splendour.”
“Your Duke!” grumbled Leonard.
“Aye, mine for the nonce, and a right open-handed lord is he. Better
be under him than under the shrivelled skinflint of France, who wore
his fine robes as though they galled him. Come and take service here
when thou art whole of thine hurt, Leonard.”
“I thought thy Duke was disinclined to Lancaster.”
“He may be to the Queen and the poor King, whom the Saints guard, but
he likes English hearts and thews in his pay well enough.”
“Thou knowst I am a knight, worse luck.”
“Heed not for thy knighthood. The Duke of Exeter and my Lord of
Oxford have put their honours in their pouch and are serving him. Thy
lame leg is a worse hindrance than the gold spur on it, but I trow that
The comrades talked on, over the fate of English friends and homes,
and the hopelessness of their cause. It was agreed in this, and in
many subsequent visits from Scrope, that so soon as Leonard should have
shaken off his lameness he should begin service under one of the Duke's
captains. A man-at-arms in the splendid suite of the Burgundian Dukes
was generally of good birth, and was attended by two grooms and a page
when in the field; his pay was fairly sufficient, and his accoutrements
and arms were required to be such as to do honour to his employer. It
was the refuge sooner or later of many a Lancastrian, and Leonard, who
doubted of the regularity of his uncle's supplies, decided that he
could do no better for himself while waiting for better times for his
Queen, though Master Lambert told him that he need not distress
himself, there were ample means for him still.
Grisell spun and sewed for his outfit, with a strange sad pleasure in
working for him, and she was absolutely proud of him when he stood
before her, perfectly recovered, with the glow of health on his cheek
and a light in his eye, his length of limb arrayed in his own armour,
furbished and mended, his bright helmet alone new and of her own
providing (out of her mother's pearl necklace), his surcoat and silken
scarf all her own embroidering. As he truly said, he made a much finer
appearance than he had done on the morn of his melancholy knighthood,
in the poverty-stricken army of King Henry at Northampton.
“Thanks,” he said, with a courteous bow, “to his good friends and
hosts, who had a wonderful power over the purse.” He added special
thanks to “Mistress Grisell for her deft stitchery,” and she responded
with downcast face, and a low courtesy, while her heart throbbed high.
Such a cavalier was sure of enlistment, and Leonard came to take
leave of his host, and announced that he had been sent off with his
friend to garrison Neufchâtel, where the castle, being a border one,
was always carefully watched over.
His friends at Bruges rejoiced in his absence, since it prevented his
knowledge of the arrival of his beloved Queen Margaret and her son at
Sluys, with only seven attendants, denuded of almost everything, having
lost her last castles, and sometimes having had to exist on a single
herring a day.
Perhaps Leonard would have laid his single sword at her feet if he
had known of her presence, but tidings travelled slowly, and before
they ever reached Neufchâtel the Duke had bestowed on her wherewithal
to continue her journey to her father's Court at Bar.
However, he did not move. Indeed be did not hear of the Queen's
journey to Scotland and fresh attempt till all had been again lost at
Hedgeley Moor and Hexham. He was so good and efficient a man-at-arms
that he rose in promotion, and attracted the notice of the Count of
Charolais, the eldest son of the Duke, who made him one of his own
bodyguard. His time was chiefly spent in escorting the Count from one
castle or city to another, but whenever Charles the Bold was at Bruges,
Leonard came to the sign of the Green Serpent not only for lodging, nor
only to take up the money that Lambert had in charge for him, but as to
a home where he was sure of a welcome, and of kindly woman's care of
his wardrobe, and where he grew more and more to look to the sympathy
and understanding of his English and Burgundian interests alike, which
he found in the maiden who sat by the hearth.
From time to time old Ridley came to see her. He was clad in a
pilgrim's gown and broad hat, and looked much older. He had had free
quarters at Willimoteswick, but the wild young Borderers had not suited
his old age well, except one clerkly youth, who reminded him of little
Bernard, and who, later, was the patron of his nephew, the famous
Nicolas. He had thus set out on pilgrimage, as the best means of
visiting his dear lady. The first time he came, under his robe he
carried a girdle, where was sewn up a small supply from Father Copeland
for his nephew, and another sum, very meagre, but collected from the
faithful retainers of Whitburn for their lady. He meant to visit the
Three Kings at Cologne, and then to go on to St. Gall, and to the
various nearer shrines in France, but to return again to see Grisell;
and from time to time he showed his honest face, more and more
weather-beaten, though a pilgrim was never in want; but Grisell
delighted in preparing new gowns, clean linen, and fresh hats for him.
Public events passed while she still lived and worked in the
Apothecary's house at Bruges. There were wars in which Sir Leonard
Copeland had his share, not very perilous to a knight in full armour,
but falling very heavily on poor citizens. Bruges, however, was at
peace and exceedingly prosperous, with its fifty-two guilds of
citizens, and wonderful trade and wealth. The bells seemed to be
always chiming from its many beautiful steeples, and there was one
convent lately founded which began to have a special interest for
It was the house of the Hospitalier Grey Sisters, which if not
actually founded had been much embellished by Isabel of Portugal, the
wife of the Duke of Burgundy. Philip, though called the Good, from his
genial manners, and bounteous liberality, was a man of violent temper
and terrible severity when offended. He had a fierce quarrel with his
only son, who was equally hot tempered. The Duchess took part with her
son, and fell under such furious displeasure from her husband that she
retired into the house of Grey Sisters. She was first cousin once
removed to Henry VI.—her mother, the admirable Philippa, having been
a daughter of John of Gaunt—and she was the sister of the noble
Princes, King Edward of Portugal, Henry the great voyager, and
Ferdinand the Constant Prince; and she had never been thoroughly at
home or happy in Flanders, where her husband was of a far coarser
nature than her own family; and, in her own words, after many years,
she always felt herself a stranger.
Some of Grisell's lace had found its way to the convent, and was at
once recognised by her as English, such as her mother had always
prized. She wished to give the Chaplain a set of robes adorned with
lace after a pattern of her own devising, bringing in the five crosses
of Portugal, with appropriate wreaths of flowers and emblems. Being
told that the English maiden in Master Groot's house could devise her
own patterns, she desired to see her and explain the design in person.
CHAPTER XXV—THE OLD DUCHESS
Temples that rear their stately heads on high,
Canals that intersect the fertile plain,
Wide streets and squares, with many a court and hall,
Spacious and undefined, but ancient all.
SOUTHEY, Pilgrimage to Waterloo.
The kind couple of Groots were exceedingly solicitous about Grisell's
appearance before the Duchess, and much concerned that she could not be
induced to wear the head-gear a foot or more in height, with veils
depending from the peak, which was the fashion of the Netherlands. Her
black robe and hood, permitted but not enjoined in the external or
third Order of St. Francis, were, as usual, her dress, and under it
might be seen a face, with something peculiar on one side, but still
full of sweetness and intelligence; and the years of comfort and quiet
had, in spite of anxiety, done much to obliterate the likeness to a
cankered oak gall. Lambert wanted to drench her with perfumes, but she
only submitted to have a little essence in the pouncet box given her
long ago by Lady Margaret at their parting at Amesbury. Master Groot
himself chose to conduct her on this first great occasion, and they
made their way to the old gateway, sculptured above with figures that
still remain, into the great cloistered court, with its chapel,
chapter-house, and splendid great airy hall, in which the Hospital
Sisters received their patients.
They were seen flitting about, giving a general effect of gray,
whence they were known as Surs Grises, though, in fact, their dress was
white, with a black hood and mantle. The Duchess, however, lived in a
set of chambers on one side of the court, which she had built and
fitted for herself.
A lay sister became Grisell's guide, and just then, coming down from
the Duchess's apartments, with a board with a chalk sketch in his hand,
appeared a young man, whom Groot greeted as Master Hans Memling, and
who had been receiving orders, and showing designs to the Duchess for
the ornamentation of the convent, which in later years he so splendidly
carried out. With him Lambert remained.
There was a broad stone stair, leading to a large apartment hung with
stamped Spanish leather, representing the history of King David, and
with a window, glazed as usual below with circles and lozenges, but the
upper part glowing with coloured glass. At the farther end was a dais
with a sort of throne, like the tester and canopy of a four-post bed,
with curtains looped up at each side. Here the Duchess sat, surrounded
by her ladies, all in the sober dress suitable with monastic life.
Grisell knew her duty too well not to kneel down when admitted. A
dark-complexioned lady came to lead her forward, and directed her to
kneel twice on her way to the Duchess. She obeyed, and in that
indescribable manner which betrayed something of her breeding, so that
after her second obeisance, the manner of the lady altered visibly from
what it had been at first as to a burgher maiden. The wealth and
luxury of the citizen world of the Low Countries caused the proud and
jealous nobility to treat them with the greater distance of manner.
And, as Grisell afterwards learnt, this was Isabel de Souza, Countess
of Poitiers, a Portuguese lady who had come over with her Infanta; and
whose daughter produced Les Honneurs de la Cour, the most
wonderful of all descriptions of the formalities of the Court.
Grisell remained kneeling on the steps of the dais, while the Duchess
addressed her in much more imperfect Flemish than she could by this
time speak herself.
“You are the lace weaver, maiden. Can you speak French?”
“Oui, si madame, son Altese le veut,” replied
Grisell, for her tongue had likewise become accustomed to French in
this city of many tongues.
“This is English make,” said the Duchess, not with a very good French
accent either, looking at the specimens handed by her lady. “Are you
“So please your Highness, I am.”
“An exile?” the Princess added kindly.
“Yes, madame. All my family perished in our wars, and I owe shelter
to the good Apothecary, Master Lambert.”
“Purveyor of drugs to the sisters. Yes, I have heard of him;” and
she then proceeded with her orders, desiring to see the first piece
Grisell should produce in the pattern she wished, which was to be of
roses in honour of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, whom the Peninsular
Isabels reckoned as their namesake and patroness.
It was a pattern which would require fresh pricking out, and much
skill; but Grisell thought she could accomplish it, and took her leave,
kissing the Duchess's hand—a great favour to be granted to her—
curtseying three times, and walking backwards, after the old training
that seemed to come back to her with the atmosphere.
Master Lambert was overjoyed when he heard all. “Now you will find
your way back to your proper station and rank,” he said.
“It may do more than that,” said Grisell. “If I could plead his
Lambert only sighed. “I would fain your way was not won by a base,
mechanical art,” he said.
“Out on you, my master. The needle and the bobbin are unworthy of
none; and as to the honour of the matter, what did Sir Leonard tell us
but that the Countess of Oxford, as now she is, was maintaining her
husband by her needle?” and Grisell ended with a sigh at thought of the
happy woman whose husband knew of, and was grateful for, her toils.
The pattern needed much care, and Lambert induced Hans Memling
himself, who drew it so that it could be pricked out for the cushion.
In after times it might have been held a greater honour to work from
his pattern than for the Duchess, who sent to inquire after it more
than once, and finally desired that Mistress Grisell should bring her
cushion and show her progress.
She was received with all the same ceremonies as before, and even the
small fragment that was finished delighted the Princess, who begged to
see her at work. As it could not well be done kneeling, a footstool,
covered in tapestry with the many Burgundian quarterings, was brought,
and here Grisell was seated, the Duchess bending over her, and asking
questions as her fingers flew, at first about the work, but afterwards,
“Where did you learn this art, maiden?”
“At Wilton, so please your Highness. The nunnery of St. Edith, near
“St. Edith! I think my mother, whom the Saints rest, spoke of her;
but I have not heard of her in Portugal nor here. Where did she
“She was not martyred, madame, but she has a fair legend.”
And on encouragement Grisell related the legend of St. Edith and the
“You speak well, maiden,” said the Duchess. “It is easy to perceive
that you are convent trained. Have the wars in England hindered your
“Nay, madame; it was the Proctor of the Italian Abbess.”
Therewith the inquiries of the Duchess elicited all Grisell's early
story, with the exception of her name and whose was the iron that
caused the explosion, and likewise of her marriage, and the accusation
of sorcery. That male heirs of the opposite party should have expelled
the orphan heiress was only too natural an occurrence. Nor did Grisell
conceal her home; but Whitburn was an impossible word to Portuguese
lips, and Dacre they pronounced after its crusading derivation De Acor.
CHAPTER XXVI—THE DUKE'S DEATH
Wither one Rose, and let the other flourish;
If you contend, a thousand lives must wither.
SHAKESPEARE, King Henry VI., Part III.
So time went on, and the rule of the House of York in England seemed
established, while the exiles had settled down in Burgundy, Grisell to
her lace pillow, Leonard to the suite of the Count de Charolais.
Indeed there was reason to think that he had come to acquiesce in the
change of dynasty, or at any rate to think it unwise and cruel to bring
on another desperate civil war. In fact, many of the Red Rose party
were making their peace with Edward IV. Meanwhile the Duchess Isabel
became extremely fond of Grisell, and often summoned her to come and
work by her side, and talk to her; and thus came on the summer of 1467,
when Duke Philip returned from the sack of unhappy Dinant in a weakened
state, and soon after was taken fatally ill. All the city of Bruges
watched in anxiety for tidings, for the kindly Duke was really loved
where his hand did not press. One evening during the suspense when
Master Lambert was gone out to gather tidings, there was the step with
clank of spurs which had grown familiar, and Leonard Copeland strode in
hot and dusty, greeting Vrow Clemence as usual with a touch of the hand
and inclination of the head, and Grisell with hand and courteous voice,
as he threw himself on the settle, heated and weary, and began with
tired fingers to unfasten his heavy steel cap.
Grisell hastened to help him, Clemence to fetch a cup of cooling
Rhine wine. “There, thanks, mistress. We have ridden all day from
Ghent, in the heat and dust, and after all the Count got before us.”
“To the Duke?”
“Ay! He was like one demented at tidings of his father's sickness.
Say what they will of hot words and fierce passages between them, that
father and son have hearts loving one another truly.”
“It is well they should agree at the last,” said Grisell, “or the
Count will carry with him the sorest of memories.”
And indeed Charles the Bold was on his knees beside the bed of his
speechless father in an agony of grief.
Presently all the bells in Bruges began to clash out their warning
that a soul was passing to the unseen land, and Grisell made signs to
Clemence, while Leonard lifted himself upright, and all breathed the
same for the mighty Prince as for the poorest beggar, the intercession
for the dying. Then the solemn note became a knell, and their prayer
changed to the De Profundis, “Out of the depths.”
Presently Lambert Groot came in, grave and saddened, with the
intelligence that Philip the Good had departed in peace, with his wife
and son on either side of him, and his little granddaughter kneeling
beside the Duchess.
There was bitter weeping all over Bruges, and soon all over Flanders
and the other domains united under the Dukedom of Burgundy, for though
Philip had often deeply erred, he had been a fair ruler, balancing
discordant interests justly, and maintaining peace, while all that was
splendid or luxurious prospered and throve under him. There was a
certain dread of the future under his successor.
“A better man at heart,” said Leonard, who had learnt to love the
Count de Charolais. “He loathes the vices and revelry that have
stained the Court.”
“That is true,” said Lambert. “Yet he is a man of violence, and with
none of the skill and dexterity with which Duke Philip steered his
“A plague on such skill,” muttered Leonard. “Caring solely for his
own gain, not for the right!”
“Yet your Count has a heavy hand,” said Lambert. “Witness Dinant!
“The rogues insulted his mother,” said Leonard. “He offered them
terms which they would not have in their stubborn pride! But speak not
of that! I never saw the like in England. There we strike at the
great, not at the small. Ah well, with all our wars and troubles
England was the better place to live in. Shall we ever see it more?”
There was something delightful to Grisell in that “we,” but she made
answer, “So far as I hear, there has been quiet there for the last two
years under King Edward.”
“Ay, and after all he has the right of blood,” said Leonard. “Our
King Henry is a saint, and Queen Margaret a peerless dame of romance,
but since I have come to years of understanding I have seen that they
neither had true claim of inheritance nor power to rule a realm.”
“Then would you make your peace with the White Rose?”
“The rose en soleil that wrought us so much evil at Mortimer's
Cross? Methinks I would. I never swore allegiance to King Henry. My
father was still living when last I saw that sweet and gracious
countenance which I must defend for love and reverence' sake.”
“And he knighted you,” said Grisell.
“True,” with a sharp glance, as if he wondered how she was aware of
the fact; “but only as my father's heir. My poor old house and
tenants! I would I knew how they fare; but mine uncle sends me no
letters, though he does supply me.”
“Then you do not feel bound in honour to Lancaster?” said Grisell.
“Nay; I did not stir or strive to join the Queen when last she called
up the Scots—the Scots indeed!—to aid her. I could not join them
in a foray on England. I fear me she will move heaven and earth again
when her son is of age to bear arms; but my spirit rises against allies
among Scots or French, and I cannot think it well to bring back
bloodshed and slaughter.”
“I shall pray for peace,” said Grisell. All this was happiness to
her, as she felt that he was treating her with confidence. Would she
ever be nearer to him?
He was a graver, more thoughtful man at seven and twenty than he had
been at the time of his hurried marriage, and had conversed with men of
real understanding of the welfare of their country. Such talks as
these made Grisell feel that she could look up to him as most truly her
lord and guide. But how was it with the fair Eleanor, and whither did
his heart incline? An English merchant, who came for spices, had said
that the Lord Audley had changed sides, and it was thus probable that
the damsel was bestowed in marriage to a Yorkist; but there was no
knowing, nor did Grisell dare to feel her way to discovering whether
Leonard knew, or felt himself still bound to constancy, outwardly and
Every one was taken up with the funeral solemnities of Duke Philip;
he was to be finally interred with his father and grandfather in the
grand tombs at Dijon, but for the present the body was to be placed in
the Church of St. Donatus at Bruges, at night.
Sir Leonard rode at a foot's pace in the troop of men-at-arms, all in
full armour, which glanced in the light of the sixteen hundred torches
which were borne before, behind, and in the midst of the procession,
which escorted the bier. Outside the coffin, arrayed in ducal coronet
and robes, with the Golden Fleece collar round the neck, lay the exact
likeness of the aged Duke, and on shields around the pall, as well as
on banners borne waving aloft, were the armorial bearings of all his
honours, his four dukedoms, seven counties, lordships innumerable,
besides the banners of all the guilds carried to do him honour.
More than twenty prelates were present, and shared in the mass, which
began in the morning hour, and in the requiem. The heralds of all the
domains broke their white staves and threw them on the bier,
proclaiming that Philip, lord of all these lands, was deceased. Then,
as in the case of royalty, Charles his son was proclaimed; and the
organ led an acclamation of jubilee from all the assembly which filled
the church, and a shout as of thunder arose, “Vivat Carolus.”
Charles knelt meanwhile with hands clasped over his brow, silent,
immovable. Was he crushed at thought of the whirlwinds of passion that
had raged between him and the father whom he had loved all the time? or
was there on him the weight of a foreboding that he, though free from
the grosser faults of his father, would never win and keep hearts in
the same manner, and that a sad, tumultuous, troubled career and
piteous, untimely end lay before him?
His mother, Grisell's Duchess, according to the rule of the Court,
lay in bed for six weeks—at least she was bound to lie there whenever
she was not in entire privacy. The room and bed were hung with black,
but a white covering was over her, and she was fully dressed in the
black and white weeds of royal widowhood. The light of day was
excluded, and hosts of wax candles burnt around.
Grisell did not see her during this first period of stately mourning,
but she heard that the good lady had spent her time in weeping and
praying for her husband, all the more earnestly that she had little
cause personally to mourn him.
CHAPTER XXVII—FORGET ME NOT
And added, of her wit,
A border fantasy of branch and flower,
And yellow-throated nestling in the nest.
The Duchess Isabel sent for Grisell as soon as the rules of etiquette
permitted, and her own mind was free, to attend to the suite of lace
hangings, with which much progress had been made in the interval. She
was in the palace now, greatly honoured, for her son loved her with
devoted affection, and Grisell had to pass through tapestry-hung halls
and chambers, one after another, with persons in mourning, all filled
with men-at-arms first, then servants still in black dresses. Next
pages and squires, knights of the lady, and lastly ladies in black
velvet, who sat at their work, with a chaplain reading to them. One of
these, the Countess of Poitiers, whom Grisell had known at the Grey
Sisters' convent, rose, graciously received her obeisance, and
conducted her into the great State bedroom, likewise very sombre, with
black hangings worked and edged, however, with white, and the window
was permitted to let in the light of day. The bed was raised on steps
in an alcove, and was splendidly draped and covered with black
embroidered with white, but the Duchess did not occupy it. A curtain
was lifted, and she came forward in her deepest robes of widowhood,
leading her little granddaughter Mary, a child of eight or nine years
old. Grisell knelt to kiss the hands of each, and the Duchess said—
“Good Griselda, it is long since I have seen you. Have you finished
“Yes, your Highness; and I have begun the edging of the corporal.”
The Duchess looked at the work with admiration, and bade the little
Mary, the damsel of Burgundy, look on and see how the dainty web was
woven, while she signed the maker to seat herself on a step of the
When the child's questions and interest were exhausted, and she began
to be somewhat perilously curious about the carved weights of the
bobbins, her grandmother sent her to play with the ladies in the
ante-room, desiring Grisell to continue the work. After a few kindly
words the Duchess said, “The poor child is to have a stepdame so soon
as the year of mourning is passed. May she be good to her! Hath the
rumour thereof reached you in the city, Maid Griselda, that my son is
in treaty with your English King, though he loves not the house of
York? But princely alliances must be looked for in marriage.”
“Madge!” exclaimed Grisell; then colouring, “I should say the Lady
Margaret of York.”
“You knew her?”
“Oh! I knew her. We loved each other well in the Lord of
Salisbury's house! There never was a maid whom I knew or loved like
“In the Count of Salisbury's house,” repeated the Duchess. “Were you
there as the Lady Margaret's fellow-pupil?” she said, as though
perceiving that her lace maker must be of higher quality than she had
“It was while my father was alive, madame, and before her father had
fixed his eyes on the throne, your Highness.”
“And your father was, you said, the knight De—De—D'Acor.”
“So please you, madame,” said Grisell kneeling, “not to mention my
poor name to the lady.”
“We are a good way from speech of her,” said the Duchess smiling.
“Our year of doole must pass, and mayhap the treaty will not hold in
the meantime. The King of France would fain hinder it. But if the
Demoiselle loved you of old would she not give you preferment in her
train if she knew?”
“Oh! madame, I pray you name me not till she be here! There is much
that hangs on it, more than I can tell at present, without doing harm;
but I have a petition to prefer to her.”
“An affair of true love,” said the Duchess smiling.
“I know not. Oh! ask me not, madame!”
When Grisell was dismissed, she began designing a pattern, in which
in spray after spray of rich point, she displayed in the pure
frostwork-like web, the Daisy of Margaret, the Rose of York, and
moreover, combined therewith, the saltire of Nevil and the three
scallops of Dacre, and each connected with ramifications of the
forget-me-not flower shaped like the turquoises of her pouncet box, and
with the letter G to be traced by ingenious eyes, though the
uninitiated might observe nothing.
She had plenty of time, though the treaty soon made it as much of a
certainty as royal betrothals ever were, but it was not till July came
round again that Bruges was in a crisis of the fever of preparation to
receive the bride. Sculptors, painters, carvers were desperately at
work at the Duke's palace. Weavers, tapestry-workers, embroiderers,
sempstresses were toiling day and night, armourers and jewellers had no
rest, and the bright July sunshine lay glittering on the canals,
graceful skiffs, and gorgeous barges, and bringing out in full detail
the glories of the architecture above, the tapestry-hung windows in the
midst, the gaily-clad Vrows beneath, while the bells rang out their
merriest carillons from every steeple, whence fluttered the banners of
The bride, escorted by Sir Antony Wydville, was to land at Sluys, and
Duchess Isabel, with little Mary, went to receive her.
“Will you go with me as one of my maids, or as a tirewoman
perchance?” asked the Duchess kindly.
Grisell fell on her knee and thanked her, but begged to be permitted
to remain where she was until the bride should have some leisure. And
indeed her doubts and suspense grew more overwhelming. As she freshly
trimmed and broidered Leonard's surcoat and sword-belt, she heard one
of the many gossips who delighted to recount the members of the English
suite as picked up from the subordinates of the heralds and pursuivants
who had to marshal the procession and order the banquet. “Fair ladies
too,” he said, “from England. There is the Lord Audley's daughter with
her father. They say she is the very pearl of beauties. We shall see
whether our fair dames do not surpass her.”
“The Lord Audley's daughter did you say?” asked Grisell.
“His daughter, yea; but she is a widow, bearing in her lozenge, per
pale with Audley, gules three herrings haurient argent, for Heringham.
She is one of the Duchess Margaret's dames-of-honour.”
To Grisell it sounded like her doom on one side, the crisis of her
self-sacrifice, and the opening of Leonard's happiness on the other.
CHAPTER XXVIII—THE PAGEANT
When I may read of tilts in days of old,
And tourneys graced by chieftains of renown,
Fair dames, grave citoyens, and warriors bold—
If fancy would pourtray some stately town,
Which for such pomp fit theatre would be,
Fair Bruges, I shall then remember thee.
SOUTHEY, Pilgrimage to Waterloo.
Leonard Copeland was in close attendance on the Duke, and could not
give a moment to visit his friends at the Green Serpent, so that there
was no knowing how the presence of the Lady of Heringham affected him.
Duke Charles rode out to meet his bride at the little town of Damme,
and here the more important portions of the betrothal ceremony took
place, after which he rode back alone to the Cour des Princes, leaving
to the bride all the splendour of the entrance.
The monastic orders were to be represented in the procession. The
Grey Sisters thought they had an especial claim, and devised the
presenting a crown of white roses at the gates, and with great pleasure
Grisell contributed the best of Master Lambert's lovely white Provence
roses to complete the garland, which was carried by the youngest
novice, a fair white rosebud herself.
Every one all along the line of the tall old houses was hanging from
window to window rich tapestries of many dyes, often with gold and
silver thread. The trades and guilds had renewed their signs, banners
and pennons hung from every abode entitled to their use, garlands of
bright flowers stretched here and there and everywhere. All had been
in a frenzy of preparation for many days past, and the final touches
began with the first hours of light in the long, summer morning. To
Grisell's great delight, Cuthbert Ridley plodded in at the hospitable
door of the Green Serpent the night before. “Ah! my ladybird,” said
he, “in good health as ever.”
“All the better for seeing you, mine old friend,” she cried. “I
thought you were far away at Compostella.”
“So verily I was. Here's St. James's cockle to wit—Santiago as
they call him there, and show the stone coffin he steered across the
sea. No small miracle that! And I've crossed France, and looked at
many a field of battle of the good old times, and thought and said a
prayer for the brave knights who broke lances there. But as I was
making for St. Martha's cave in Provence, I met a friar, who told me of
the goodly gathering there was like to be here; and I would fain see
whether I could hap upon old friends, or at any rate hear a smack of
our kindly English tongue, so I made the best of my way hither.”
“In good time,” said Lambert. “You will take the lady and the
housewife to the stoop at Master Caxton's house, where he has promised
them seats whence they may view the entrance. I myself am bound to
walk with my fellows of the Apothecaries' Society, and it will be well
for them to have another guard in the throng, besides old Anton.”
“Nay, but my garb scarce befits the raree show,” said Ridley, looking
at his russet gown.
“We will see to that anon,” said Lambert; and ere supper was over,
old Anton had purveyed a loose blue gown from the neighbouring
merchants, with gold lace seams and girdle, peaked boots, and the
hideous brimless hat which was then highly fashionable. Ridley's
trusty sword he had always worn under his pilgrim's gown, and with the
dagger always used as a knife, he made his appearance once more as a
squire of degree, still putting the scallop into his hat, in honour of
Dacre as well as of St. James.
The party had to set forth very early in the morning, slowly gliding
along several streets in a barge, watching the motley crowds thronging
banks and bridges—a far more brilliant crowd than in these later
centuries, since both sexes were alike gay in plumage. From every
house, even those out of the line of the procession, hung tapestry, or
coloured cloths, and the garlands of flowers, of all bright lines, with
their fresh greenery, were still unfaded by the clear morning sun,
while joyous carillons echoed and re-echoed from the belfry and all the
steeples. Ridley owned that he had never seen the like since King
Harry rode home from Agincourt—perhaps hardly even then, for Bruges
was at the height of its splendour, as were the Burgundian Dukes at the
very climax of their magnificence.
After landing from the barge Ridley, with Grisell on his arm, and
Anton with his mistress, had a severe struggle with the crowd before
they gained the ascent of the stoop, where the upper steps had been
railed in, and seats arranged under the shelter of the projecting roof.
Master Caxton was a gray-eyed, thin-cheeked, neatly-made Kentishman,
who had lived long abroad, and was always ready to make an Englishman
welcome. He listened politely to Grisell's introduction of Master
Ridley, exchanged silent greetings with Vrow Clemence, and insisted on
their coming into the chamber within, where a repast of cold pasty,
marchpane, strawberries, and wine, awaited them—to be eaten while as
yet there was nothing to see save the expectant multitudes.
Moreover, he wanted to show Mistress Grisell, as one of the few who
cared for it, the manuscripts he had collected on the history of Troy
town, and likewise the strange machine on which he was experimenting
for multiplying copies of the translation he had in hand, with blocks
for the woodcuts which Grisell could not in conscience say would be as
beautiful as the gorgeous illuminations of his books.
Acclamations summoned them to the front, of course at first to see
only scattered bodies of the persons on the way to meet the bride at
the gate of St. Croix.
By and by, however, came the “gang,” as Ridley called it, in
earnest. Every body of ecclesiastics was there: monks and friars,
black, white, and gray; nuns, black, white, and blue; the clergy in
their richest robes, with costly crucifixes of gold, silver, and ivory
held aloft, and reliquaries of the most exquisite workmanship,
sparkling with precious jewels, diamond, ruby, emerald, and sapphire
flashing in the sun; the fifty-two guilds in gowns, each headed by
their Master and their banner, gorgeous in tint, but with homely
devices, such as stockings, saw and compasses, weavers' shuttles, and
the like. Master Lambert looked up and nodded a smile from beneath a
banner with Apollo and the Python, which Ridley might be excused for
taking for St. Michael and the Dragon. The Mayor in scarlet, white fur
and with gold collar, surrounded by his burgomasters in almost equally
radiant garments, marched on.
Next followed the ducal household, trumpets and all sorts of
instruments before them, making the most festive din, through which
came bursts of the joy bells. Violet and black arrayed the inferiors,
setting off the crimson satin pourpoints of the higher officers, on
whose brimless hats each waved with a single ostrich plume in a shining
Then came more instruments, and a body of gay green archers; next
heralds and pursuivants, one for each of the Duke's domains, glittering
back and front in the tabard of his county's armorial bearings, and
with its banner borne beside him. Then a division of the Duke's
bodyguard, all like himself in burnished armour with scarves across
them. The nobles of Burgundy, Flanders, Hainault, Holland, and Alsace,
the most splendid body then existing, came in endless numbers, their
horses, feather-crested as well as themselves, with every bridle
tinkling with silver bells, and the animals invisible all but their
heads and tails under their magnificent housings, while the knights
seemed to be pillars of radiance. Yet even more gorgeous were the
knights of the Golden Fleece, who left between them a lane in which
moved six white horses, caparisoned in cloth of gold, drawing an open
litter in which sat, as on a throne, herself dazzling in cloth of
silver, the brown-eyed Margaret of old, her dark hair bride fashion
flowing on her shoulders, and around it a marvellously-glancing diamond
coronet, above it, however, the wreath of white roses, which her own
hands had placed there when presented by the novice. Clemence squeezed
Grisell's hand with delight as she recognised her own white rose, the
finest of the garland.
Immediately after the car came Margaret's English attendants, the
stately, handsome Antony Wydville riding nearest to her, and then a
bevy of dames and damsels on horseback, but moving so slowly that
Grisell had full time to discover the silver herrings on the caparisons
of one of the palfreys, and then to raise her eyes to the face of the
tall stately lady whose long veil, flowing down from her towered
head-gear, by no means concealed a beautiful complexion and fair
perfect features, such as her own could never have rivalled even if
they had never been defaced. Her heart sank within her, everything
swam before her eyes, she scarcely saw the white doves let loose from
the triumphant arch beyond to greet the royal lady, and was first
roused by Ridley's exclamation as the knights with their attendants
began to pass.
“Ha! the lad kens me! 'Tis Harry Featherstone as I live.”
Much more altered in these seven years than was Cuthbert Ridley,
there rode as a fully-equipped squire in the rear of a splendid knight,
Harry Featherstone, the survivor of the dismal Bridge of Wakefield. He
was lowering his lance in greeting, but there was no knowing whether it
was to Ridley or to Grisell, or whether he recognised her, as she wore
her veil far over her face.
This to Grisell closed the whole. She did not see the figure which
was more to her than all the rest, for he was among the knights and
guards waiting at the Cour des Princes to receive the bride when the
final ceremonies of the marriage were to be performed.
Ridley declared his intention of seeking out young Featherstone, but
Grisell impressed on him that she wished to remain unknown for the
present, above all to Sir Leonard Copeland, and he had been quite
sufficiently alarmed by the accusations of sorcery to believe in the
danger of her becoming known among the English.
“More by token,” said he, “that the house of this Master Caxton as
you call him seems to me no canny haunt. Tell me what you will of
making manifold good books or bad, I'll never believe but that Dr.
Faustus and the Devil hatched the notion between them for the
bewilderment of men's brains and the slackening of their hands.”
Thus Ridley made little more attempt to persuade his young lady to
come forth to the spectacles of the next fortnight to which he rushed,
through crowds and jostling, to behold, with the ardour of an old
warrior, the various tilts and tourneys, though he grumbled that they
were nothing but child's play and vain show, no earnest in them fit for
Clemence, however, was all eyes, and revelled in the sight of the
wonders, the view of the Tree of Gold, and the champion thereof in the
lists of the Hôtel de Ville, and again, some days later, of the
banquet, when the table decorations were mosaic gardens with silver
trees, laden with enamelled fruit, and where, as an interlude, a whale
sixty feet long made its entrance and emitted from its jaws a troop of
Moorish youths and maidens, who danced a saraband to the sound of
tambourines and cymbals! Such scenes were bliss to the deaf housewife,
and would enliven the silent world of her memory all the rest of her
The Duchess Isabel had retired to the Grey Sisters, such scenes being
inappropriate to her mourning, and besides her apartments being needed
for the influx of guests. There, in early morning, before the revels
began, Grisell ventured to ask for an audience, and was permitted to
follow the Duchess when she returned from mass to her own apartments.
“Ah! my lace weaver. Have you had your share in the revels and
“I saw the procession, so please your Grace.”
“And your old playmate in her glory?”
“Yea, madame. It almost forestalled the glories of Heaven!”
“Ah! child, may the aping of such glory beforehand not unfit us for
the veritable everlasting glories, when all these things shall be no
The Duchess clasped her hands, almost as a foreboding of the day when
her son's corpse should lie, forsaken, gashed, and stripped, beside the
But she turned to Grisell asking if she had come with any petition.
“Only, madame, that it would please your Highness to put into the
hands of the new Duchess herself, this offering, without naming me.”
She produced her exquisite fabric, which was tied with ribbons of
blue and silver in an outer case, worked with the White Rose.
The Dowager-Duchess exclaimed, “Nay, but this is more beauteous than
all you have wrought before. Ah! here is your own device! I see there
is purpose in these patterns of your web. And am I not to name you?”
“I pray your Highness to be silent, unless the Duchess should divine
the worker. Nay, it is scarce to be thought that she will.”
“Yet you have put the flower that my English mother called
'Forget-me-not.' Ah, maiden, has it a purpose?”
“Madame, madame, ask me no questions. Only remember in your prayers
to ask that I may do the right,” said Grisell, with clasped hands and
CHAPTER XXIX—DUCHESS MARGARET
I beheld the pageants splendid, that adorned those days of old;
Stately dames, like queens attended, knights who bore the Fleece
LONGFELLOW, The Belfry of Bruges.
In another week the festivities were over, and she waited anxiously,
dreading each day more and more that her gift had been forgotten or
misunderstood, or that her old companion disdained or refused to take
notice of her; then trying to console herself by remembering the
manifold engagements and distractions of the bride.
Happily, Grisell thought, Ridley was absent when Leonard Copeland
came one evening to supper. He was lodged among the guards of the Duke
in the palace, and had much less time at his disposal than formerly,
for Duke Charles insisted on the most strict order and discipline among
all his attendants. Moreover, there were tokens of enmity on the part
of the French on the border of the Somme, and Leonard expected to be
despatched to the camp which was being formed there. He was out of
spirits. The sight and speech of so many of his countrymen had
increased the longing for home.
“I loathe the mincing French and the fat Flemish tongues,” he owned,
when Master Lambert was out of hearing. “I should feel at home if I
could but hear an honest carter shout 'Woa' to his horses.”
“Did you have any speech with the ladies?” asked Grisell.
“I? No! What reck they of a poor knight adventurer?”
“Methought all the chivalry were peers, and that a belted knight was
a comrade for a king,” said Grisell.
“Ay, in the days of the Round Table; but when Dukes and Counts, and
great Marquesses and Barons swarm like mayflies by a trout stream, what
chance is there that a poor, landless exile will have a word or a
Did this mean that the fair Eleanor had scorned him? Grisell longed
to know, but for that very reason she faltered when about to ask, and
turned her query into one whether he had heard any news of his English
“My good uncle at Wearmouth hath been dead these four years—so far
as I can gather. Amply must he have supplied Master Groot. I must
account with him. For mine inheritance I can gather nothing clearly.
I fancy the truth is that George Copeland, who holds it, is little
better than a reiver on either side, and that King Edward might grant
it back to me if I paid my homage, save that he is sworn never to
pardon any who had a share in the death of his brother of Rutland.”
“You had not! I know you had not!”
“Hurt Ned? I'd as soon have hurt my own brother! Nay, I got this
blow from Clifford for coming between,” said he, pushing back his hair
so as to show a mark near his temple. “But how did you know?”
“Harry Featherstone told me.” She had all but said, “My father's
“You knew Featherstone? Belike when he was at Whitburn. He is here
now; a good man of his hands,” muttered Leonard. “Anyway the King
believes I had a hand in that cruel business of Wakefield Bridge, and
nought but his witness would save my neck if once I ventured into
England—if that would. So I may resign myself to be the Duke's
captain of archers for the rest of my days. Heigh ho! And a lonely
man; I fear me in debt to good Master Lambert, or may be to Mistress
Grisell, to whom I owe more than coin will pay. Ha! was that—“
interrupting himself, for a trumpet blast was ringing out at intervals,
the signal of summons to the men-at-arms. Leonard started up, waved
farewell, and rushed off.
The summons proved to be a call to the men-at-arms to attend the Duke
early the next morning on an expedition to visit his fortresses in
Picardy, and as the household of the Green Serpent returned from mass,
they heard the tramp and clatter, and saw the armour flash in the sun
as the troop passed along the main street, and became visible at the
opening of that up which they walked.
The next day came a summons from the convent of the Grey Sisters that
Mistress Griselda was to attend the Duchess Isabel.
She longed to fly through the air, but her limbs trembled. Indeed,
she shook so that she could not stand still nor walk slowly. She
hurried on so that the lay sister who had been sent for her was quite
out of breath, and panted after her within gasps of “Stay! stay,
mistress! No bear is after us! She runs as though a mad ox had got
Her heart was wild enough for anything! She might have to hear from
her kind Duchess that all was vain and unnoticed.
Up the stair she went, to the accustomed chamber, where an additional
chair was on the dais under the canopy, the half circle of ladies as
usual, but before she had seen more with her dazzled, swimming eyes,
even as she rose from her first genuflection, she found herself in a
pair of soft arms, kisses rained on her cheeks and brow, and there was
a tender cry in her own tongue of “My Grisell! my dear old Grisell! I
have found you at last! Oh! that was good in you. I knew the
forget-me-nots, and all your little devices. Ah!” as Grisell, unable
to speak for tears of joy, held up the pouncet box, the childish gift.
The soft pink velvet bodice girdled and clasped with diamonds was
pressed to her, the deep hanging silken sleeves were round her, the
white satin broidered skirt swept about her feet, the pearl-edged
matronly cap on the youthful head leant fondly against her, as Margaret
led her up, still in her embrace, and cried, “It is she, it is she!
Dear belle mère, thanks indeed for bringing us together!”
The Countess of Poitiers looked on scandalised at English
impulsiveness, and the elder Duchess herself looked for a moment stiff,
as her lace-maker slipped to her knees to kiss her hand and murmur her
“Let me look at you,” cried Margaret. “Ah! have you recovered that
terrible mishap? By my troth, 'tis nearly gone. I should never have
found it out had I not known!”
This was rather an exaggeration, but joy did make a good deal of
difference in Grisell's face, and the Duchess Margaret was one of the
most eager and warm-hearted people living, fervent alike in love and in
hate, ready both to act on slight evidence for those whose cause she
took up, and to nourish bitter hatred against the enemies of her house.
“Now, tell me all,” she continued in English. “I heard that you had
been driven out of Wilton, and my uncle of Warwick had sped you
northward. How is it that you are here, weaving lace like any
mechanical sempstress? Nay, nay! I cannot listen to you on your
knees. We have hugged one another too often for that.”
Grisell, with the elder Duchess's permission, seated herself on the
cushion at Margaret's feet. “Speak English,” continued the bride. “I
am wearying already of French! Ma belle mère, you will not find
fault. You know a little of our own honest tongue.”
Duchess Isabel smiled, and Grisell, in answer to the questions of
Margaret, told her story. When she came to the mention of her marriage
to Leonard Copeland, there was the vindictive exclamation, “Bound to
that blood-thirsty traitor! Never! After the way he treated you, no
marvel that he fell on my sweet Edmund!”
“Ah! madame, he did not! He tried to save him.”
“He! A follower of King Henry! Never!”
“Truly, madame! He had ever loved Lord Edmund. He strove to stay
Lord Clifford's hand, and threw himself between, but Clifford dashed
him aside, and he bears still the scar where he fell against the
parapet of the bridge. Harry Featherstone told me, when he fled from
the piteous field, where died my father and brother Robin.”
“Your brother, Robin Dacre! I remember him. I would have made him
good cheer for your sake, but my mother was ever strict, and rapped our
fingers, nay, treated us to the rod, if we ever spake to any of my
father's meiné. Tell on, Grisell,” as her hand found its way under the
hood, and stroked the fair hair. “Poor lonely one!”
Her indignation was great when she heard of Copeland's love, and
still more of his mission to seize Whitburn, saying, truly enough, that
he should have taken both lady and Tower, or given both up, and lending
a most unwilling ear to the plea that he had never thought his
relations to Grisell binding. She had never loved Lady Heringham, and
it was plainly with good cause.
Then followed the rest of the story, and when it appeared that
Grisell had been instrumental in saving Copeland, and close inquiries
elicited that she had been maintaining him all this while, actually for
seven years, all unknown to him, the young Duchess could not contain
herself. “Grisell! Grisell of patience indeed. Belle mère, belle
mère, do you understand?” and in rapid French she recounted all.
“He is my husband,” said Grisell simply, as the two Duchesses showed
their wonder and admiration.
“Never did tale or ballad show a more saintly wife,” cried Margaret.
“And now what would you have me do for you, my most patient of
Grisells? Write to my brother the King to restore your lands, and—
and I suppose you would have this recreant fellow's given back since
you say he has seen the error of following that make-bate Queen. But
can you prove him free of Edmund's blood? Aught but that might be
“Master Featherstone is gone back to England,” said Grisell, “but he
can bear witness; but my father's old squire, Cuthbert Ridley, is here,
who heard his story when he came to us from Wakefield. Moreover, I
have seen the mark on Sir Leonard's brow.”
“Let be. I will write to Edward an you will. He has been more prone
to Lancaster folk since he was caught by the wiles of Lady Grey; but I
would that I could hear what would clear this knight of yours by other
testimony than such as your loving heart may frame. But you must come
and be one of mine, my own ladies, Grisell, and never go back to your
This, however, Grisell would not hear of; and Margaret really
reverenced her too much to press her.
However, Ridley was sent for to the Cour des Princes, and returned
with a letter to be borne to King Edward, and likewise a mission to
find Featherstone, and if possible Red Jock.
“'Tis working for that rogue Copeland,” he growled. “I would it were
for you, my sweet lady.”
“It is working for me! Think so with all your heart, good Cuthbert.”
“Well, end as it may, you will at least ken who and what you are, wed
or unwed, fish, flesh or good red herring, and cease to live nameless,
like the Poticary's serving-woman,” concluded Ridley as his parting
CHAPTER XXX—THE WEDDING CHIMES
Low at times and loud at times,
Changing like a poet's rhymes,
Rang the beautiful wild chimes,
From the belfry in the market
Of the ancient town of Bruges.
LONGFELLOW, The Carillon.
No more was heard of the Duchess for some weeks. Leonard was absent
with the Duke, who was engaged in that unhappy affair of Peroune and
Liège, the romantic version of which may be read in Quentin Durward, and with which the present tale dares not to meddle, though it seemed
to blast the life of Charles the Bold, all unknowing.
The Duchess Margaret was youthful enough to have a strong taste for
effect, and it was after a long and vexatious delay that Grisell was
suddenly summoned to her presence, to be escorted by Master Groot.
There she sat, on her chair of state, with the high tapestried back and
the square canopy, and in the throng of gentlemen around her Grisell at
a glance recognised Sir Leonard, and likewise Cuthbert Ridley and Harry
Featherstone, though of course it was not etiquette to exchange any
She knelt to kiss the Duchess's hand, and as she did so Margaret
raised her, kissing her brow, and saying with a clear full voice, “I
greet you, Lady Copeland, Baroness of Whitburn. Here is a letter from
my brother, King Edward, calling on the Bishop of Durham, Count
Palatine, to put you in possession of thy castle and lands, whoever may
That Leonard started with amazement and made a step forward Grisell
was conscious, as she bent again to kiss the hand that gave the letter;
but there was more to come, and Margaret continued—
“Also, to you, as to one who has the best right, I give this
parchment, sealed and signed by my brother, the King, containing his
full and free pardon to the good knight, Sir Leonard Copeland, and his
restoration to all his honours and his manors. Take it, Lady of
Whitburn. It was you, his true wife, who won it for him. It is you
who should give it to him. Stand forth, Sir Leonard.”
He did stand forth, faltering a little, as his first impulse had been
to kneel to Grisell, then recollecting himself, to fall at the
Duchess's feet in thanks.
“To her, to her,” said the Duchess; but Grisell, as he turned, spoke,
trying to clear her voice from a rising sob.
“Sir Leonard, wait, I pray. Her Highness hath not spoken all. I am
well advised that the wedlock into which you were forced against your
will was of no avail to bind us, as you in mind and will were
contracted to the Lady Eleanor Audley.”
Leonard opened his lips, but she waved him to silence. “True, I know
that she was likewise constrained to wed; but she is a widow, and free
to choose for herself. Therefore, either by the bishop, or it may be
through our Holy Father the Pope, by mutual consent, shall the marriage
at Whitburn be annulled and declared void, and I pray you to accept
seisin thereof, while my lady, her Highness the Duchess Isabel, with
the Lady Prioress, will accept me as a Grey Sister.”
There was a murmur. Margaret utterly amazed would have sprung
forward and exclaimed, but Leonard was beforehand with her.
“Never! never!” he cried, throwing himself on his knees and mastering
his wife's hand. “Grisell, Grisell, dost think I could turn to the
feather-pated, dull-souled, fickle-hearted thing I know now Eleanor of
Audley to be, instead of you?”
There was a murmur of applause, led by the young Duchess herself, but
Grisell tried still to withdraw her hand, and say in low broken tones,
“Nay, nay; she is fair, I am loathly.”
“What is her fair skin to me?” he cried; “to me, who have learnt to
know, and love, and trust to you with a very different love from the
boy's passion I felt for Eleanor in youth, and the cure whereof was the
sight and words of the Lady Heringham! Grisell, Grisell, I was about
to lay my very heart at your feet when the Duke's trumpet called me
away, ere I guessed, fool that I was, that mine was the hand that left
the scar that now I love, but which once I treated with a brute's or a
boy's lightness. Oh! pardon me! Still less did I know that it was my
own forsaken wife who saved my life, who tended my sickness, nay, as I
verily believed, toiled for me and my bread through these long seven
years, all in secret. Yea, and won my entire soul and deep devotion or
ever I knew that it was to you alone that they were due. Grisell,
Grisell,” as she could not speak for tears. “Oh forgive! Pardon me!
Turn not away to be a Grey Sister. I cannot do without you! Take me!
Let me strive throughout my life to merit a little better all that you
have done and suffered for one so unworthy!”
Grisell could not speak, but she turned towards him, and regardless
of all spectators, she was for the first time clasped in her husband's
arms, and the joyful tears of her friends high and low.
What more shall be told of that victory? Shall it be narrated how
this wedlock was blest in the chapel, while all the lovely bells of
Bruges rang out in rejoicing, how Mynheer Groot and Clemence rejoiced
though they lost their guest, how Caxton gave them a choice specimen of
his printing, how Ridley doffed his pilgrim's garb and came out as a
squire of dames, how the farewells were sorrowfully exchanged with the
Duchess, and how the Duke growled that from whichever party he took his
stout English he was sure to lose them?
Then there was homage to King Edward paid not very willingly, and a
progress northward. At York, Thora, looking worn and haggard, came and
entreated forgiveness, declaring that she had little guessed what her
talk was doing, and that Ralph made her believe whatever he chose! She
had a hard life, treated like a slave by the burgesses, who despised
the fisher maid. Oh that she could go back to serve her dear good
There was a triumph at Whitburn to welcome the lady after the late
reign of misrule, and so did the knight and dame govern their estates
that for long years the time of 'Grisly Grisell' was remembered as
Whitburn's golden age.