The Herd Boy and His Hermit
by Charlotte M. Yonge
CHAPTER I. IN
CHAPTER II. THE
OVER THE MOOR
CHAPTER IV. A
MOTHER AND SON
CHAPTER VI. A
CHAPTER VII. ON
HENRY OF WINDSOR
CHAPTER X. THE
SCHOLAR OF THE
CHAPTER XI. THE
CHAPTER XII. A
CHAPTER XIV. THE
CHAPTER XVI. THE
HERMIT IN THE
CHAPTER XVII. A
CHAPTER XIX. A
Henry, thou of holy birth,
Thou, to whom thy Windsor gave
Nativity and name and grave
Heavily upon his head
Ancestral crimes were visited.
Meek in heart and undefiled,
Patiently his soul resigned,
Blessing, while he kissed the rod,
His Redeemer and his God.
CHAPTER I. IN THE MOSS
I can conduct you, lady, to a low
But loyal cottage where you may be safe
Till further quest.—MILTON.
On a moorland slope where sheep and goats were dispersed among the
rocks, there lay a young lad on his back, in a stout canvas cassock
over his leathern coat, and stout leathern leggings over wooden shoes.
Twilight was fast coming on; only a gleam of purple light rested on
the top of the eastern hills, but was gradually fading away, though
the sky to the westward still preserved a little pale golden light by
the help of the descending crescent moon.
'Go away, horned moon,' murmured the boy. 'I want to see my stars
come out before Hob comes to call me home, and the goats are getting
up already. Moon, moon, thou mayst go quicker. Thou wilt have longer
time to-morrow—and be higher in the sky, as well as bigger, and thou
mightst let me see my star to-night! Ah! there is one high in the
sunset, pale and fair, but not mine! That's the evening star—one of
the wanderers. Is it the same as comes in the morning betimes, when we
do not have it at night? Like that it shines with steady light and
twinkles not. I would that I knew! There! there's mine, my own star,
far up, only paling while the sun glaring blazes in the sky; mine own,
he that from afar drives the stars in Charles's Wain. There they come,
the good old twinkling team of three, and the four of the Wain! Old
Billy Goat knows them too! Up he gets, and all in his wake "Ha-ha-ha"
he calls, and the Nannies answer. Ay, and the sheep are rising up too!
How white they look in the moonshine! Piers—deaf as he is—waking at
their music. Ba, they call the lambs! Nay, that's no call of sheep or
goat! 'Tis some child crying, all astray! Ha! Hilloa, where beest
thou? Tarry till I come! Move not, or thou mayst be in the bogs and
mosses! Come, Watch'—to a great unwieldy collie puppy—'let us find
A feeble piteous sound answered him, and following the direction of
the reply, he strode along, between the rocks and thorn-bushes that
guarded the slope of the hill, to a valley covered with thick moss,
veiling treacherously marshy ground in which it was easy to sink.
The cry came from the further side, where a mountain stream had
force enough to struggle through the swamp. There were
stepping-stones across the brook, which the boy knew, and he made his
way from one to the other, calling out cheerily to the little figure
that he began to discern in the fading light, and who answered him
with tones evidently girlish, 'O come, come, shepherd! Here I am! I am
lost and lorn! They will reward thee! Oh, come fast!'
'All in good time, lassie! Haste is no good here! I must look to my
Presently he was by the side of the wanderer, and could see that it
was a maiden of ten or twelve years old, who somehow, even in the
darkness, had not the air of one of the few inhabitants of that wild
'Lost art thou, maiden,' he said, as he stood beside her; 'where is
'I am at Greystone Priory,' replied the girl. 'I went out hawking
to-day with the Mother Prioress and the rest. My pony fell with me
when we were riding after a heron. No one saw me or heard me, and my
pony galloped home. I saw none of them, and I have been wandering
miles and miles! Oh take me back, good lad; the Mother Prioress will
''Tis too far to take thee back to-night,' he said. 'Thou must come
with me to Hob Hogward, where Doll will give thee supper and bed, and
we will have thee home in the morning.'
'I never lay in a hogward's house,' she said primly.
'Belike, but there be worse spots to be harboured in. Here, I must
carry thee over the burn, it gets wider below! Nay, 'tis no use trying
to leap it in the dark, thou wouldst only sink in. There!'
And as he raised her in his arms, the touch of her garment was
delicate, and she on her side felt that his speech, gestures and
touch were not those of a rustic shepherd boy; but nothing was said
till he had waded through the little narrow stream, and set her down
on a fairly firm clump of grass on the other side. Then she asked,
'What art thou, lad?—Who art thou?'
'They call me Hal,' was the answer; 'but this is no time for
questions. Look to thy feet, maid, or thou wilt be in a swamp-hole
whence I may hardly drag thee out.'
He held her hand, for he could hardly carry her farther, since she
was almost as tall as himself, and more plump; and the rest of the
conversation for some little time consisted of, 'There!' 'Where?' 'Oh,
I was almost down!' 'Take heed; give me thy other hand! Thou must leap
this!' 'Oh! what a place! Is there much more of it?' 'Not much! Come
bravely on! There's a good maid.' 'Oh, I must get my breath.' 'Don't
stand still. That means sinking. Leap! Leap! That's right. No, not
that way, turn to the big stair.' 'Oh—h!' 'That's my brave wench! Not
far now.' 'I'm down, I'm down!' 'Up! Here, this is safe! On that white
stone! Now, here's sound ground! Hark!' Wherewith he emitted a strange
wild whoop, and added, 'That's Hob come out to call me!' He holloaed
again. 'We shall soon be at home now. There's Mother Doll's light! Her
light below, the star above,' he added to himself.
By this time it was too dark for the two young people to see more
than dim shapes of one another, but the boy knew that the hand he
still held was a soft and delicate one, and the girl that those which
had grasped and lifted her were rough with country labours. She began
to assert her dignity and say again, 'Who art thou, lad? We will
guerdon thee well for aiding me. The Lord St. John is my father. And
who art thou?'
'I? Oh, I am Hob Hogward's lad,' he answered in an odd off-hand
tone, before whooping again his answer to the shouts of Hob, which
were coming nearer.
'I am so hungry!' said the little lady, in a weak, famished tone.
'Hast aught to eat?'
'I have finished my wallet, more's the pity!' said the boy, 'but
never fear! Hold out but a few steps more, and Mother Doll will give
thee bite and sup and bed.'
'Alack! Is it much further! My feet! they are so sore and weary—'
'Poor maiden, let me bear thee on!'
Hal took her up again, but they went more slowly, and were glad to
see a tall figure before them, and hear the cry, 'How now, Hal boy,
where hast been? What hast thou there?'
'A sorely weary little lady, Daddy Hob, lost from the hawking folk
from the Priory,' responded Hal, panting a little as he set his
burthen down, and Hob's stronger arms received her.
Hal next asked whether the flock had come back under charge of
Piers, and was answered that all were safely at home, and after
'telling the tale' Hob had set out to find him. 'Thou shouldst not
stray so far,' he said.
'I heard the maid cry, and went after her,' said Hal, 'all the way
to the Blackreed Moss, and the springs, and 'twas hard getting over
'Well indeed ye were not both swallowed in it,' said Hob; 'God be
praised for bringing you through! Poor wee bairn! Thou hast come far!
From whence didst say?'
'From Greystone Priory,' wearily said the girl, who had her head
down on Hob's shoulder, and seemed ready to fall asleep there.
'Her horse fell with her, and they were too bent on their sport to
heed her,' explained the boy, as he trudged along beside Hob and his
charge,' so she wandered on foot till by good hap I heard her moan.'
'Ay, there will be a rare coil to-night for having missed her,'
said Hob; 'but I've heard tell, my Lady Prioress heeds her hawks more
than her nuns! But be she who she may, we'll have her home, and Mother
Doll shall see to her, for she needs it sure, poor bairn. She is
So she was, with her head nestled into the shepherd's neck, nor did
she waken when after a tramp of more than a mile the bleatings of the
folded sheep announced that they were nearly arrived, and in the low
doorway there shone a light, and in the light stood a motherly form,
in a white woollen hood and dark serge dress. Tired as he was, Hal ran
on to her, exclaiming 'All well, Mammy Doll?'
'Ah well!' she answered, 'thank the good God! I was in fear for
thee, my boy! What's that Daddy hath? A strayed lamb?'
'Nay, Mammy, but a strayed maiden! 'Twas that kept me so long. I
had to bear her through the burn at Blackreed, and drag her on as
best I might, and she is worn out and weary.'
'Ay,' said Hob, as he came up. 'How now, my bit lassie?' as he put
her into the outstretched arms of his wife, who sat down on the settle
to receive her, still not half awake.
'She is well-nigh clemmed,' said Hal. 'She has had no bite nor sup
all day, since her pony fell with her out a-hawking, and all were so
hot on the chase that none heeded her.'
Mother Doll's exclamations of pity were profuse. There was a kettle
of broth on the peat fire, and after placing the girl in a corner of
the settle, she filled three wooden bowls, two of which she placed
before Hal and the shepherd, making signs to the heavy-browed Piers to
wait; and getting no reply from her worn-out guest, she took her in
her arms, and fed her from a wooden spoon. Though without clear
waking, mouthfuls were swallowed down, till the bowl was filled again
and set before Piers.
'There, that will be enough this day!' said the good dame. 'Poor
bairn! 'Twas scurvy treatment. Now will we put her to bed, and in the
morn we will see how to deal with her.'
Hal insisted that the little lady should have his own bed—a
chaff-stuffed mattress, covered with a woollen rug, in the recess
behind the projecting hearth—a strange luxury for a farm boy; and
Doll yielded very unwillingly when he spoke in a tone that savoured
of command. The shaggy Piers had already curled himself up in a
corner and gone to sleep.
CHAPTER II. THE SNOW-STORM
Yet stay, fair lady, rest awhile
Beneath the cottage wall;
See, through the hawthorns blows the cold wind,
And drizzling rain doth fall.—OLD BALLAD.
Though Hal had gone to sleep very tired the night before, and only
on a pile of hay, curled up with Watch, having yielded his own bed to
the strange guest, he was awake before the sun, for it was the decline
of the year, and the dawn was not early.
He was not the first awake—Hob and Piers were already busy on the
outside, and Mother Doll had emerged from the box bed which made
almost a separate apartment, and was raking together the peat, so as
to revive the slumbering fire. The hovel, for it was hardly more, was
built of rough stone and thatched with reeds, with large stones to
keep the roof down in the high mountain blasts. There was only one
room, earthen floored, and with no furniture save a big chest, a rude
table, a settle and a few stools, besides the big kettle and a few
crocks and wooden bowls. Yet whereas all was clean, it had an air of
comfort and civilisation beyond any of the cabins in the
neighbourhood, more especially as there was even a rude chimney-piece
projecting far into the room, and in the niche behind this lay the
little girl in her clothes, fast asleep.
Very young and childish she looked as she lay, her lips partly
unclosed, her dark hair straying beyond her hand, and her black
lashes resting on her delicate brunette cheeks, slightly flushed with
sleep. Hal could not help standing for a minute gazing at her in a
sort of wondering curiosity, till roused by the voice of Mother Doll.
'Go thy ways, my bairn, to wash in the burn. Here's thy comb. I
must have the lassie up before the shepherd comes back, though 'tis
amost a pity to wake her! There, she is stirring! Best be off with
thee, my bonnie lad.'
It was spoken more in the tone of nurse to nursling than of mother
to son, still less that of mistress to farm boy; but Hal obeyed, only
observing, 'Take care of her.'
'Ay, my pretty, will not I,' murmured the old woman, as the child
turned round on her pillow, put up a hand, rubbed her eyes, and
disclosed a pair of sleepy brown orbs, gazed about, and demanded,
'What's this? Who's this?'
''Tis Hob Hogward's hut, my bonnie lamb, where you are full
welcome! Here, take a sup of warm milk.'
'I mind me now,' said the girl, sitting up, and holding out her
hands for the bowl. 'They all left me, and the lad brought me—a
great lubber lout—'
'Nay, nay, mistress, you'll scarce say so when you see him by
day—a well-grown youth as can bear himself with any.'
'Where is he?' asked the girl, gazing round; 'I want him to take me
back. This place is not one for me. The Sisters will be seeking me!
Oh, what a coil they must be in!'
'We will have you back, my bairn, so soon as my goodman can go with
you, but now I would have you up and dressed, ay, and washed, ere he
and Hal come in. Then after meat and prayer you will be ready to go.'
'To Greystone Priory,' returned the girl. 'Yea, I would have thee
to know,' she added, with a little dignity that sat drolly on her bare
feet and disordered hair and cap as she rose out of bed, 'that the
Sisters are accountable for me. I am the Lady Anne St. John. My father
is a lord in Bedfordshire, but he is gone to the wars in Burgundy, and
bestowed me in a convent at York while he was abroad, but the Mother
thought her house would be safer if I were away at the cell at
Greystone when Queen Margaret and the Red Rose came north.'
'And is that the way they keep you safe?' asked the hostess, who
meanwhile was attending to her in a way that, if the Lady Anne had
known it, was like the tendance of her own nurse at home, instead of
that of a rough peasant woman.
'Oh, we all like the chase, and the Mother had a new cast of hawks
that she wanted to fly. There came out a heron, and she threw off the
new one, and it went careering up—and up—and we all rode after, and
just as the bird was about to pounce down, into a dyke went my pony,
Imp, and not one of them saw! Not Bertram Selby, the Sisters, nor the
groom, nor the rabble rout that had come out of Greystone; and before
I could get free they were off; and the pony, Imp of Evil that he is,
has not learnt to know me or my voice, and would not let me catch him,
but cantered off—either after the other horses or to the Priory. I
knew not where I was, and halloaed myself hoarse, but no one heard,
and I went on and on, and lost my way!'
'I did hear tell that the Lady Prioress minded her hawks more than
her Hours,' said Mother Doll.
'And that's sooth,' said the Lady Anne, beginning to prove herself
a chatterbox. 'The merlins have better hoods than the Sisters; and as
to the Hours, no one ever gets up in the night to say Nocturns or even
Matins but old Sister Scholastica, and she is as strict and cross as
Here the flow of confidence was interrupted by the return of Hal,
who gazed eagerly, though in a shamefaced way, at the guest as he set
down a bowl of ewe milk. She was a well-grown girl of ten, slender,
and bearing herself like one high bred and well trained in deportment;
and her face was delicately tinted on an olive skin, with fine marked
eyebrows, and dark bright eyes, and her little hunting dress of green,
and the hood, set on far back, became the dark locks that curled in
She saw a slender lad, dark-haired and dark-eyed, ruddy and
embrowned by mountain sun and air; and the bow with which he bent
before her had something of the rustic lout, and there was a certain
shyness over him that hindered him from addressing her.
'So, shepherd,' she said, 'when wilt thou take me back to
'Father will fix that,' interposed the housewife; 'meanwhile, ye
had best eat your porridge. Here is Father, in good time with the
The rugged broad-shouldered shepherd made his salutation duly to
the young lady, and uttered the information that there was a black
cloud, like snow, coming up over the fells to the south-west.
'But I must fare back to Greystone!' said the damsel. 'They will be
in a mighty coil what has become of me.'
'They would be in a worse coil if they found your bones under a
Hal went to the door and spied out, as if the tidings were rather
pleasant to him than otherwise. The goodwife shivered, and reached out
to close the shutter, and there being no glass to the windows, all the
light that came in was through the chinks.
'It would serve them right for not minding me better,' said the
maiden composedly. 'Nay, it is as merry here as at Greystone, with
Sister Margaret picking out one's broidery, and Father Cuthbert
making one pore over his crabbed parchments.'
'Oh, does this Father teach Latin?' exclaimed Hal with eager
'Of course he doth! The Mother at York promised I should learn
whatever became a damsel of high degree,' said the girl, drawing
'I would he would teach me!' sighed the boy.
'Better break thy fast and mind thy sheep,' said the old woman, as
if she feared his getting on dangerous ground; and placing the bowl of
porridge on the rough table, she added, 'Say the Benedicite, lad, and
fall to.' Then, as he uttered the blessing, she asked the guest
whether she preferred ewes' milk or cows' milk, a luxury no one else
was allowed, all eating their porridge contentedly with a pinch of
salt, Hob showing scant courtesy, the less since his guest's rank had
been made known.
By the time they had finished, snowflakes—an early autumn
storm—were drifting against the shutter, and a black cloud was
lowering over the hills. Hob foretold a heavy fall of snow, and
called on Hal to help him and Piers fold the flock more securely,
sleepy Watch and his old long-haired collie mother rising at the same
call. Lady Anne sprang up at the same time, insisting that she must go
and help to feed the poor sheep, but she was withheld, much against
her will, by Mother Dolly, though she persisted that snow was nothing
to her, and it was a fine jest to be out of the reach of the Sisters,
who mewed her up in a cell, like a messan dog. However, she was much
amused by watching, and thinking she assisted in, Mother Dolly's
preparations for ewe milk cheese-making; and by-and-by Hal came in,
shaking the snow off the sheepskin he had worn over his leathern coat.
Hob had sent him in, as the weather was too bad for him, and he and
Anne crouched on opposite sides of the wide hearth as he dried and
warmed himself, and cosseted the cat which Anne had tried to caress,
but which showed a decided preference for the older friend.
'Our Baudrons at Greystone loves me better than that,' said Anne.
'She will come to me sooner than even to Sister Scholastica!'
'My Tib came with us when we came here. Ay, Tib! purr thy best!' as
he held his fingers over her, and she rubbed her smooth head against
'Can she leap? Baudrons leaps like a horse in the tilt-yard.'
'Cannot she! There, my lady pussy, show what thou canst do to
please the demoiselle,' and he held his arms forward with clasped
hands, so that the grey cat might spring over them, and Lady Anne
cried out with delight.
Again and again the performance was repeated, and pussy was induced
to dance after a string dangled before her, to roll over and play in
apparent ecstasy with a flake of wool, as if it were a mouse, and
Watch joined in the game in full amity. Mother Dolly, busy with her
distaff, looked on, not displeased, except when she had to guard her
spindle from the kitten's pranks, but she was less happy when the
children began to talk.
'You have seen a tilt-yard?'
'Yea, indeed,' he answered dreamily. 'The poor squire was hurt—I
did not like it! It is gruesome.'
'Oh, no! It is a noble sport! I loved our tilt-yard at Bletso. Two
knights could gallop at one another in the lists, as if they were out
hunting. Oh! to hear the lances ring against the shields made one's
heart leap up! Where was yours?'
Here Dolly interrupted hastily, 'Hal, lad, gang out to the shed and
bring in some more sods of turf. The fire is getting low.'
'Here's a store, mother—I need not go out,' said Hal, passing to a
pile in the corner. 'It is too dark for thee to see it.'
'But where was your castle?' continued the girl. 'I am sure you
have lived in a castle.'
Insensibly the two children had in addressing one another changed
the homely singular pronoun to the more polite, if less grammatical,
second person plural. The boy laughed, nodded his head, and said, 'You
are a little witch.'
'No great witchcraft to hear that you speak as we do at home in
Bedfordshire, not like these northern boors, that might as well be
'I am not from Bedfordshire,' said the lad, looking much amused at
'Who art thou then?' she cried peremptorily.
'I? I am Hal the shepherd boy, as I told thee before.'
'No shepherd boy are you! Come, tell me true.'
Dolly thought it time to interfere. She heard an imaginary bleat,
and ordered Hal out to see what was the matter, hindering the girl by
force from running after him, for the snow was coming down in larger
flakes than ever. Nevertheless, when her husband was heard outside she
threw a cloak over her head and hurried out to speak with him. 'That
maid will make our lad betray himself ere another hour is over their
'Doth she do it wittingly?' asked the shepherd gravely.
'Nay, 'tis no guile, but each child sees that the other is of
gentle blood, and women's wits be sharp and prying, and the maid will
never rest till she has wormed out who he is.'
'He promised me never to say, nor doth he know.'
'Thee! Much do the hests of an old hogherd weigh against the wiles
of a young maid!'
'Lord Hal is a lad of his word. Peace with thy lords and ladies,
woman, thou'lt have the archers after him at once.'
'She makes no secret of being of gentle blood—a St. John of
'A pestilent White Rose lot! We shall have them on the scent ere
many days are over our head! An unlucky chance this same snow, or I
should have had the wench off to Greystone ere they could exchange a
'Thou wouldst have been caught in the storm. Ill for the maid to
have fallen into a drift!'
'Well for the lad if she never came out of it!' muttered the gruff
old shepherd. 'Then were her tongue stilled, and those of the clacking
wenches at York—Yorkists every one of them.'
Mother Dolly's eyes grew round. 'Mind thee, Hob!' she said; 'I ken
thy bark is worse than thy bite, but I would have thee to know that if
aught befall the maid between this and Greystone, I shall hold
thee—and so will my Lady—guilty of a foul deed.'
'No fouler than was done on the stripling's father,' muttered the
shepherd. 'Get thee in, wife! Who knows what folly those two may be
after while thou art away? Mind thee, if the maid gets an inkling of
who the boy is, it will be the worse for her.'
'Oh!' murmured the goodwife, 'I moaned once that our Piers there
should be deaf and well-nigh dumb, but I thank God for it now! No
fear of perilous word going out through him, or I durst not have kept
my poor sister's son!'
Mother Doll trusted that her husband would never have the heart to
leave the pretty dark-haired girl in the snow, but she was relieved to
find Hal marking down on the wide flat hearth-stone, with a bit of
charcoal, all the stars he had observed. 'Hob calls that the
Plough—those seven!' he said; 'I call it Charles's Wain!'
'Methinks I have seen that!' she said, 'winter and summer both.'
'Ay, he is a meuseful husbandman, that Charles! And see here! This
middle mare of the team has a little foal running beside her'—he made
a small spot beside the mark that stood for the central star of what
we call the Bear's Tail.
'I never saw that!'
'No, 'tis only to be seen on a clear bright night. I have seen it,
but Hob mocks at it. He thinks the only use of the Wain is to find the
North Star, up beyond there, pointing by the back of the Plough, and
go by it when you are lost.'
'What good would finding the North Star do? It would not have
helped me home if you had not found me!'
'Look here, Lady Anne! Which way does Greystone lie?'
'How should I tell?'
'Which way did the sun lie when you crossed the moor?'
Anne could not remember at first, but by-and-by recollected that it
dazzled her eyes just as she was looking for the runaway pony; and Hal
declared that it proved that the convent must have been to the south
of the spot of her fall; but his astronomy, though eagerly
demonstrated, was not likely to have brought her back to Greystone.
Still Doll was thankful for the safe subject, as he went on to mark
out what he promised that she should see in the winter—the swarm of
glow-worms, as he called the Pleiades; and 'Our Lady's Rock,' namely,
distaff, the northern name for Orion; and then he talked of the stars
that so perplexed him, namely, the planets, that never stayed in their
By-and-by, when Mother Dolly's work was over the kettle was on the
fire, and she was able to take out her own spinning, she essayed to
fill up the time by telling them lengthily the old stories and ballads
handed down from minstrel to minstrel, from nurse to nurse, and they
sat entranced, listening to the stories, more than even Hal knew she
possessed, and holding one another by the hand as they listened.
Meantime the snow had ceased—it was but a scud of early autumn on
the mountains—the sun came out with bright slanting beams before his
setting, there was a soft south wind; and Hob, when he came in,
growled out that the thaw had set in, and he should be able to take
the maid back in the morning. He sat scowling and silent during
supper, and ordered Hal about with sharp sternness, sending him out to
attend to the litter of the cattle, before all had finished, and
manifestly treated him as the shepherd's boy, the drudge of the house,
and threatening him with a staff if he lingered, soon following
himself. Mother Dolly insisted on putting the little lady to bed
before they should return, and convent-bred Anne had sufficient
respect for proprieties to see that it was becoming. She heard no more
CHAPTER III. OVER THE MOOR
In humblest, simplest habit clad,
But these were all to me.—GOLDSMITH.
'Hal! What is your name?'
She stood at the door of the hovel, the rising sun lighting up her
bright dark eyes, and smiling in the curly rings of her hair while Hal
stood by, and Watch bounded round them.
'You have heard,' he said, half smiling, and half embarrassed.
'Hal! That's no name.'
'Harry, an it like you better.'
'Harry what?' with a little stamp of her foot.
'Harry Hogward, as you see, or Shepherd, so please you.'
'You are no Hogward, nor shepherd! These folk be no kin to you, I
can see. Come, an you love me, tell me true! I told you true who I am,
Red Rose though I see you be! Why not trust me the same?'
'Lady, I verily ken no name save Harry. I would trust you, verily I
would, but I know not myself.'
'I guess! I guess!' she cried, clapping her hands, but at the
moment Dolly laid a hand on her shoulder.
'Do not guess, maiden,' she said. 'If thou wouldst not bring evil
on the lad that found thee, and the roof that sheltered thee, guess
not, yea, and utter not a word save that thou hast lain in a
shepherd's hut. Forget all, as though thou hadst slept in the castle
on the hill that fades away with the day.'
She ended hastily, for her husband was coming up with a rough
pony's halter in his hand. He was in haste to be off, lest a search
for the lost child might extend to his abode, and his gloomy
displeasure and ill-masked uneasiness reduced every-one to silence in
'Up and away, lady wench!' he said. 'No time to lose if you are to
be at Greystone ere night! Thou Hal, thou lazy lubber, go with Piers
and the sheep—'
'I shall go with you,' replied Hal, in a grave tone of resolution.
'I will only go within view of the convent, but go with you I will.'
He spoke with a decided tone of authority, and Hob Hogward muttered
a little to himself, but yielded.
Hal assisted the young lady to mount, and they set off along the
track of the moss, driving the cows, sheep, and goats before
them—not a very considerable number—till they came to another hut,
much smaller and more rude than that where they had left Mother Doll.
Piers was a wild, shaggy-haired lad, with a sheepskin over his
shoulders, and legs bare below the knee, and to him the charge of the
flock was committed, with signs which he evidently understood and
replied to with a gruff 'Ay, ay!' The three went on the way, over the
slope of a hill, partly clothed with heather, holly and birch trees,
as it rose above the moss. Hob led the pony, and there was something
in his grim air and manner that hindered any conversation between the
two young people. Only Hal from time to time gathered a flower for the
young lady, scabious and globe flowers, and once a very pink wild
rose, mingled with white ones. Lady Anne took them with a meaning
smile, and a merry gesture, as though she were going to brush Hal's
face with the petals. Hal laughed, and said, 'You will make them shed.'
'Well and good, so the disputes be shed,' said Anne, with more
meaning than perhaps Hal understood. 'And the white overcomes the
'May be the red will have its way with spring—'
But there Hob looked round on them, and growled out, 'Have done
with that folly! What has a herd boy like thee to do with roses and
frippery? Come away from the lady's rein. Thou art over-held to
thrust thyself upon her.'
Nevertheless, as Hal fell back, the dark eyes shot a meaning glance
at him, and the party went on in silence, except that now and then Hob
launched at Hal an order that he endeavoured to render savagely
contemptuous and harsh, so that Lady Anne interfered to say, 'Nay, the
poor lad is doing no harm.'
'Scathe enough,' answered Hob. 'He always will be doing ill if he
can. Heed him not, lady, it only makes him the more malapert.'
'Malapert,' repeated Anne, not able to resist a little teasing of
the grim escort; 'that's scarce a word of the dales. 'Tis more like a
This Hob would not hear, and if he did, it produced a rough
imprecation on the pony, and a sharp cut with his switch.
They had crossed another burn, travelled through the moss, and
mounted to the brow of another hill, when, far away against the sky,
on the top of yet another height, were to be seen moving figures, not
cattle, but Anne recognised them at once. 'Men-at-arms! archers!
lances! A search party for me! The Prioress must have sent to the
'Off with thee, lad!' said Hob, at once turning round upon Hal.
'I'll not have thee lingering to gape at the men-at-arms! Off I say,
He raised his stout staff as though to beat the boy, who looked up
in his face with a laugh, as if in very little alarm at his threat,
smiled up in the young lady's face, and as she held out her hand with
'Farewell, Hal; I'll keep your rose-leaves in my breviary,' he bent
over and kissed the fingers.
'How now! This impudence passes! As if thou wert of the same blood
as the damsel!' exclaimed Hob in considerable anger, bringing down his
stick. 'Away with thee, ill-bred lubber! Back to thy sheep, thou lazy
loiterer! Get thee gone and thy whelp with thee!'
Hal obeyed, though not without a parting grin at Anne, and had sped
away down the side of the hill, among the hollies and birches, which
entirely concealed him and the bounding puppy.
Hob went on in a gruff tone: 'The insolence of these loutish lads!
See you, lady, he is a stripling that I took up off the roadside out
of mere charity, and for the love of Heaven—a mere foundling as you
may say, and this is the way he presumes!'
'A foundling, sayest thou?' said Anne, unable to resist teasing him
a little, and trying to gratify her own curiosity.
'Ay, you may say so! There's a whole sort of these orphans, after
all the bad luck to the land, to be picked up on every wayside.'
'On Towton Moor, mayhap,' said Anne demurely, as she saw her surly
guide start. But he was equal to the occasion, and answered:
'Ay, ay, Towton Moor; 'twas shame to see such bloody work; and
there were motherless and fatherless children, stray lambs, to be met
with, weeping their little hearts out, and starving all around unless
some good Christian took pity on them.'
'Was Hal one of these?' asked Lady Anne.
'I tell you, lady, I looked into a church that was full of weeping
and wailing folk, women and children in deadly fear of the cruel,
bloody-minded York folk, and the Lord of March that is himself King
Edward now, a murrain on him!'
'Don't let those folk hear you say so!' laughed Lady Anne. 'They
would think nothing of hauling thee off for a black traitor, or
hanging thee up on the first tree stout enough to bear thee.'
She said it half mischievously, but the only effect was a grunt,
and a stolid shrug of his shoulders, nor did he vouchsafe another
word for the rest of the way before they came through the valley, and
through the low brushwood on the bank, and were in sight of the search
party, who set up a joyful halloo of welcome on perceiving her.
A young man, the best mounted and armed, evidently an esquire, rode
forward, exclaiming, 'Well met, fair Lady Anne! Great have been the
Mother Prioress's fears for you, and she has called up half the
country side, lest you should be fallen into the hands of Robin of
Redesdale, or some other Lancastrian rogue.'
'Much she heeded me in comparison with hawk and heron!' responded
Anne. 'Thanks for your heed, Master Bertram.'
'I must part from thee and thy sturdy pony. Thanks for the use of
it,' added she, as the squire proceeded to take her from the pony. He
would have lifted her down, but she only touched his hand lightly and
sprang to the ground, then stood patting its neck. 'Thanks again, good
pony. I am much beholden to thee, Gaffer Hob! Stay a moment.'
'Nay, lady, it would be well to mount you behind Archie. His beast
is best to carry a lady.'
Archie was an elderly man, stout but active, attached to the
service of the convent. He had leapt down, and was putting on a belt,
and arranging a pad for the damsel, observing, 'Ill hap we lost you,
damsel! I saw you not fall.'
'Ay,' returned Anne, 'your merlin charmed you far more. Master
Bertram, the loan of your purse. I would reward the honest man who
Bertram laughed and said, tossing up the little bag that hung to
his girdle, 'Do you think, fair damsel, that a poor Border squire
carries about largesse in gold and silver? Let your clown come with
us to Greystone, and thence have what meed the Prioress may bestow on
him, for a find that your poor servant would have given worlds to
'Hearest thou, Hob?' said Anne. 'Come with us to the convent, and
thou shalt have thy guerdon.'
Hob, however, scratched his head, with a more boorish air than he
had before manifested, and muttered something about a cow that needed
his attention, and that he could not spare the time from his herd for
all that the Prioress was like to give him.
'Take this, then,' said Anne, disengaging a gold clasp from her
neck, and giving it to him. 'Bear it to the goodwife and bid her
recollect me in her prayers.'
'I shall come and redeem it from thee, sulky carle as thou art,'
said Bertram. 'Such jewels are not for greasy porridge-fed
housewives. Hark thee, have it ready for me! I shall be at thy hovel
ere long'—as Anne waved to Hob when she was lifted to her seat.
But Hob had already turned away, and Anne, as she held on by
Archie's leathern belt, in her gay tone was beginning to defend him
by declaring that porridge and grease did not go together, so the
nickname was not rightly bestowed on the kindly goodwife.
'Ay! Greasy from his lord's red deer,' said Bertram, 'or his
tainted mutton. Trust one of these herds, and a sheep is tainted
whenever he wants a good supper. Beshrew me but that stout fellow
looks lusty and hearty enough, as if he lived well.'
'They were good and kind, and treated me well,' said Anne. 'I
should be dead if they had not succoured me.'
'The marvel is you are not dead with the stench of their hovel, and
the foulness of their food.'
'It was very good food—milk, meat, and oaten porridge,' replied
'Marvellous, I say!' cried Bertram with a sudden thought. 'Was it
not said that there were some of those traitorous Lancastrian folk
lurking about the mountains and fells? That rogue had the bearing of a
man-at-arms, far more than of a mere herd. Deemedst thou not so,
Archie?' to the elderly man who rode before the young damsel.
'Herdsmen here are good with the quarter-staff. They know how to
stand against the Scots, and do not get bowed like our Midland
serfs,' put in Anne, before Archie could answer, which he did with
something of a snarl, as Bertram laughed somewhat jeeringly, and
declared that the Lady Anne had become soft-hearted. She looked down
at her roses, but in the dismounting and mounting again the petals of
the red rose had floated away, and nothing was left of it save a
slender pink bud enclosed within a dark calyx.
Archie, hard pressed, declared, 'There are poor fellows lurking
about here and there, but bad blood is over among us. No need to
ferret about for them.'
'Eh! Not when there may be a lad among them for whose head the king
and his brothers would give the weight of it in gold nobles?'
Anne shivered a little at this, but she cried out, 'Shame on you,
Master Bertram Selby, if you would take a price for the head of a
brave foe! You, to aspire to be a knight!'
'Nay, lady, I was but pointing out to Archie and the other grooms
here, how they might fill their pouches if they would. I verily
believe thou knowst of some lurking-place, thou art so prompt to
argue! Did I not see another with thee, who made off when we came in
view? Say! Was he a blood-stained Clifford? I heard of the mother
having married in these parts.'
'He was Hob Hogward's herd boy,' answered Anne, as composedly as
she could. 'He hied him back to mind his sheep.'
Nor would Anne allow another word to be extracted from her ere the
grey walls of the Priory of Greystone rose before her, and the lay
Sister at the gate shrieked for joy at seeing her riding behind Archie.
CHAPTER IV. A SPORTING PRIORESS
Yet nothing stern was she in cell,
And the nuns loved their abbess well.—SCOTT.
The days of the Wars of the Roses were evil times for the
discipline of convents, which, together with the entire Western
Church, suffered from the feuds of the Popes with the Italian princes.
Small remote houses, used as daughters or auxiliaries to the large
convents, were especially apt to fall into a lax state, and in truth
the little priory of Greystone, with its half-dozen of Sisters, had
been placed under the care of the Lady Agnes Selby because she was too
highly connected to be dealt with sharply, and too turbulent and
unmanageable for the soberminded house at York. So there she was sent,
with the deeply devout and strict Sister Scholastica, to keep the
establishment in order, and deal with the younger nuns and lay
Sisters. Being not entirely out of reach of a raid from the Scottish
border, it was hardly a place for the timid, although the better sort
of moss troopers generally spared monastic houses. Anne St. John had
been sent thither at the time when Queen Margaret was making her
attempt in the north, where the city of York was Lancastrian, as the
Mother Abbess feared that her presence might bring vengeance upon the
There was no great harm in the Mother Agnes, only she was a maiden
whom nothing but family difficulties could have forced into a monastic
life—a lively, high-spirited, out-of-door creature, whom the close
conventionalities of castle life and even whipping could not tame, and
who had been the despair of her mother and of the discreet dames to
whom her first childhood had been committed, to say nothing of a Lady
Abbess or two. Indeed, from the Mother of Sopwell, Dame Julian
Berners, she had imbibed nothing but a vehement taste for hawk, horse,
and hound. The recluses of St. Mary, York, after being heartily
scandalised by her habits, were far from sorry to have a good excuse
for despatching her to their outlying cell, where, as they observed,
she would know how to show a good face in case the Armstrongs came
over the Border.
She came flying down on the first rumour of Lady Anne's return, her
veil turned back, her pace not at all accordant with the solemn gait
of a Prioress, her arms outstretched, her face, not young nor
handsome, but sunburnt, weather-beaten and healthy, and full of
delight. 'My child, my Nan, here thou art! I was just mounting to
seek for thee to the west, while Bertram sought again over the mosses
where we sent yester morn. Where hast thou been in the snow?'
'A shepherd took me to his hut, Lady Mother,' answered Anne rather
'Little didst thou think of our woe and grief when thy palfrey was
found standing riderless at the stable door, and Sister Scholastica
told us that there he had been since nones! And she had none to send
in quest but Cuddie, the neatherd.'
'My palfrey fell with me when you were in full chase of hawk and
heron, 'and none ever turned a head towards me nor heard me call.'
'Poor maid! But it was such a chase as never you did watch. On and
on went the heron, the falcon ever mounting higher and higher, till
she was but a speck in the clouds, and Tam Falconer shouting and
galloping, mad lest she should go down the wind. Methought she would
have been back to Norroway, the foul jade!'
'Did you capture her, Mother?' asked Anne.
'Ay, she pounced at last, and well-nigh staked herself on the
heron's beak! But we had a long ride, and were well-nigh at the Tyne
before we had caught her. Full of pranks, but a noble hawk, as I shall
write to my brother by the next messenger that comes our way. I call
it a hawk worth her meat that leads one such a gallop.'
'What would you have done, reverend Mother, if she had crossed the
Border?' asked Bertram.
'Ridden after her. No Scot would touch a Lady Prioress on the
chase,' responded Mother Agnes, looking not at all like a reverend
Mother. 'Now, poor Anne, thou must be hungered. Thou shalt eat with
Master Bertram and me in the refectory anon. Take her, Sister Joan,
and make her ready to break her fast with us.'
Anne quickly went to her chamber. It was not quite a cell, the bare
stone walls being hung with faded woollen tapestry, the floor covered
with a deerskin, the small window filled with dark green glass, a
chest serving the double purpose of seat and wardrobe, and further, a
bed hung with thick curtains, in which she slept with the lay Sister,
Joan, who further fetched a wooden bowl of water from the fountain in
the court that she might wash her face and hands. She changed her
soiled riding-dress for a tight-fitting serge garment of dark green
with long hanging sleeves, assisted by Joan, who also arranged her
dark hair in two plaits, and put over it a white veil, fastened over a
framework to keep it from hanging too closely.
All the time Joan talked, telling of the fright the Mother had been
in when the loss of the Lady Anne had been discovered, and how it was
feared that she had been seized by Scottish reivers, or lost in the
snow on the hills, or captured by the Lancastrians.
'For there be many of the Red Rose rogues about on the
mosses—comrades, 'tis said, of that noted thief Robin of Redesdale.'
'I was with good folk, in a shepherd's sheiling,' replied Anne.
'Ay, ay. Out on the north hill, methinks.'
'Nay. Beyond Deadman's Pool,' said Anne. 'By Blackreed Moss. That
was where the pony fell.'
'Blackreed Moss! That moor belongs to the De Vescis, the blackest
Lancaster fellow of all! His daughter is the widow of the red-handed
Clifford, who slew young Earl Edmund on Wakefield Bridge. They say her
young son is in hiding in some moss in his lands, for the King holds
him in deadly feud for his brother's death.'
'He was a babe, and had nought to do with it,' said Anne.
'He is of his father's blood,' returned Sister Joan, who in her
convent was still a true north country woman. 'Ay, Lady Anne, you
from your shires know nought of how deep goes the blood feud in us of
the Borderland! Ay, lady, was not mine own grandfather slain by the
Musgrave of Leit Hill, and did not my father have his revenge on his
son by Solway Firth? Yea, and now not a Graeme can meet a Musgrave but
they come to blows.'
'Nay, but that is not what the good Fathers teach,' Anne interposed.
'The Fathers have neither chick nor child to take up their quarrel.
They know nought about blood crying for blood! If King Edward caught
that brat of Clifford he would make him know what 'tis to be born of a
Anne tried to say something, but the lay Sister pushed her along.
'There, there, go you down—you know nothing about what honour
requires of you! You are but a south country maid, and have no notion
of what is due to them one came from.'
Joan Graeme was only a lay Sister, her father a small farmer when
not a moss trooper; but all the Border, on both sides, had the
strongest ideas of persistent vendetta, such as happily had never
been held in the midland and southern counties, where there was less
infusion of Celtic blood. Anne was a good deal shocked at the doctrine
propounded by the attendant Sister, a mild, good-natured woman in
daily life, but the conversation confirmed her suspicions, and put her
on her guard as she remembered Hob's warning. She had liked the
shepherd lad far too much, and was far too grateful to him, to utter a
word that might give him up to the revengers of blood.
At the foot of the stone stairs that led into the quadrangle she
met the black-robed, heavily hooded Sister Scholastica on her way to
the chapel. The old nun held out her arms. 'Safely returned, my child!
God be thanked! Art thou come to join thy thanksgiving with ours at
this hour of nones?'
'Nay, I am bound to break my fast with the Mother and Master
'Ah! thou must needs be hungered! It is well! But do but utter thy
thanks to Him Who kept thee safe from the storm and from foul doers.'
Anne did not break away from the good Sister, but went as far as
the chapel porch, was touched with holy water, and bending her knee,
uttered in a low voice her 'Gratias ago,' then hastened across the
court to the refectory, where the Prioress received her with a laugh
and, 'So Sister Scholastica laid hands on thee; I thought I should
have to come and rescue thee ere the grouse grew cold.'
Bertram, as a courteous squire of dames, came forward bowing low,
and the party were soon seated at the board—literally a board,
supported upon trestles, only large enough to receive the Prioress,
the squire and the recovered girl, but daintily veiled in delicate
It was screened off from the rest of the refectory, where the few
Sisters had already had their morning's meal after Holy Communion; and
from it there was a slight barrier, on the other side of which Bertram
Selby ought to have been, but rules sat very lightly on the Prioress
Selby. Bertram was of kin to her, and she had no demur as to admitting
him to her private table. He was, in fact, a squire of the household
of the Marquess of Montagu, brother of the Kingmaker and had been
despatched with letters to the south. He had made a halt at his
cousin's priory, had been persuaded to join in flying the new hawks,
and then had first been detained by the snow-storm, and then joined in
the quest for the lost Lady Anne St. John.
No doubt had then arisen that the Nevils were firm in their
attachment to Edward IV., and, as a consequence, in enmity to the
House of Clifford, and both these scions of Selby had been excited at
a rumour that the widow of the Baron who had slain young Edmund of
York had married Sir Lancelot Threlkeld of Threlkeld, and that her
eldest son, the heir of the line, might be hidden somewhere on the De
Bertram had already told the Prioress that his men had spied a lad
accompanying the shepherd who escorted the lady, and who, he thought,
had a certain twang of south country speech; and no sooner had he
carved for the ladies, according to the courtly duty of an esquire,
than the inquiry began as to who had found the maiden and where she
had been lodged. Prioress Agnes, who had already broken her fast, sat
meantime with the favourite hawk on her wrist and a large dog beside
her, feeding them alternately with the bones of the grouse.
'Come, tell us all, sweet Nan! Where wast thou in that untimely
snow-storm? In a cave, starved with cold, eh?'
'I was safe in a cabin with a kind old gammer.'
'Eh! And how cam'st thou there? Wandering thither?'
'Nay, the shepherd heard me call.'
'The shepherd! What, the churl that came with thee?'
'He carried me to the hut.'
Anne was on her guard, though Bertram probed her well. Was there
only one shepherd? Was there not a boy with her on the hill-side
where Bertram met her? The shepherd lad in sooth! What became of him?
The shepherd sent him back, he had been too long away from his flock.
What was his name? What was the shepherd's name? Who was his master?
Anne did not know—she had heard no names save Hob and Hal, she had
seen no arms, she had heard nothing southland. The lad was a mere
herd-boy, ordered out to milk ewes and tend the sheep. She answered
briefly, and with a certain sullenness, and young Selby at last turned
on her. 'Look thee here, fair lady, there's a saying abroad that the
heir of the red-handed House of Clifford is lurking here, on the
look-out to favour Queen Margaret and her son. Couldst thou put us on
the scent, King Edward would favour thee and make thee a great dame,
and have thee to his Court—nay, maybe give thee what is left of the
barony of Clifford.'
'I know nothing of young lords,' sulkily growled Anne, who had been
hitherto busy with her pets, striking her hand on the table.
'And I tell thee, Bertram Selby,' exclaimed the Prioress, 'that if
thou art ware of a poor fatherless lad lurking in hiding in these
parts, it is not the part of an honest man to seek him out for his
destruction, and still less to try to make the maid he rescued betray
him. Well done, little Anne, thou knowest how to hold thy tongue.'
'Reverend Mother,' expostulated Bertram, 'if you knew what some
would give to be on the scent of the wolf-cub!'
'I know not, nor do I wish to know, for what price a Selby would
sell his honour and his bowels of mercy,' said Mother Agnes. 'Come
away, Nan; thou hast done well.
Bertram muttered something about having thought her a better
Yorkist, women not understanding, and mischief that might be brewing;
but the Prioress, taking Anne by the hand, went her way, leaving
Bertram standing confused.
'Oh, mother,' sighed Anne, 'do you think he will go after him? He
will think I was treacherous!'
'I doubt me whether he will dare,' said the Prioress. 'Moreover, it
is too late in the day for a search, and another snow-shower seems
coming up again. I cannot turn the youth, my kinsman, from my door,
and he is safer here than on his quest, but he shall see no more of
thee or me to-night. I may hold that Edward of March has the right,
but that does not mean hunting down an orphan child.'
'Mother, mother, you are good indeed!' cried Anne, almost weeping
Bertram, though hurt and offended, was obliged by advance of
evening to remain all night in the hospitium, with only the chaplain
to bear him company, and it was reported that though he rode past
Blackpool, no trace of shepherd or hovel was found.
CHAPTER V. MOTHER AND SON
My own, my own, thy fellow-guest
I may not be, but rest thee, rest—
The lowly shepherd's life is best.—WORDSWORTH.
The Lady Threlkeld stood in the lower storey of her castle, a sort
of rough-built hall or crypt, with a stone stair leading upward to the
real castle hall above, while this served as a place where she met her
husband's retainers and the poor around, and administered to their
wants with her own hands, assisted by the maidens of her household.
Among the various hungry and diseased there limped in a sturdy
beggar with a wallet on his back, and a broad shady hat, as though on
pilgrimage. He was evidently a stranger among the rest, and had his
leg and foot bound up, leaning heavily on a stout staff.
'Italy pilgrim, what ails thee?' demanded the lady, as he
'Alack, noble dame! we poor pilgrims must ever be moving on,
however much it irks foot and limb, over these northern stones,' he
answered, and his accent and tone were such that a thrill seemed to
pass over the lady's whole person, but she controlled it, and only
said, 'Tarry till these have received their alms, then will I see to
thee and thy maimed foot. Give him a stool, Alice, while he waits.'
The various patients who claimed the lady's assistance were
attended to, those who needed food were relieved, and in due time the
hall was cleared, excepting of the lady, an old female servant, and
Hob, who had sat all the time with his foot on a stool, and his back
against the wall, more than half asleep after the toils and long
journey of the night.
Then the Lady Threlkeld came to him, and making him a sign not to
rise, said aloud, 'Good Gaffer, let me see what ails thy leg.' Then
kneeling down and busying herself with the bandages, she looked up
piteously in his face, with the partly breathed inquiry, 'My son?'
'Well, my lady, and grown into a stalwart lad,' was Hob's answer,
with an eye on the door, and in a voice as low as his gruff tones
'And wherefore? What is it?' she asked anxiously. 'Be they on the
track of my poor boy?'
'They may be,' answered Hob, 'wherefore I deemed it well to shift
our quarters. As hap would have it, the lad fell upon a little wench
lost in the mosses, and there was nothing for it but to bring her home
for the night. I would have had her away as soon as day dawned, and no
questions asked, but the witches, or the foul fiend himself, must
needs bring up a snow-storm, and there was nothing for it but to let
her bide in the cot all day, giving tongue as none but womenfolk can
do; and behold she is the child of the Lord St. John of Bletso.'
'Nay, what should bring her north?'
'She wonnes at Greystone with the wild Prioress Selby, who lost her
out hawking. Her father is a black Yorkist. I saw him up to his
stirrups in blood at St. Albans!'
'But sure my boy did not make himself known to her?' exclaimed the
'I trow not. He has been well warned, and is a lad of his word; but
the two bairns, left to themselves, could scarce help finding out that
each was of gentle blood and breeding, and how much more my goodwife
cannot tell. I took the maid back so soon as it was safe yester morn,
and sent back my young lord, much against his will, half-way to
Greystone. And well was it I did so, for he was scarce over the ridge
when a plump of spears came in sight on the search for him, and led by
the young squire of Selby.'
'Ah! and if the damsel does but talk, even if she knows nought, the
foe will draw their conclusions!' said the lady, clasping her hands.
'Oh, would that I had sent him abroad with his little brothers!'
'Nay, then might he have fallen into the hands of Bletso himself,
and they say Burgundy is all for the Yorkists now,' said Hob. 'This is
what I have done, gracious lady. I bade my good woman carry off all
she could from the homestead and burn the rest; and for him we wot on,
I sent him and his flock off westward, appointing each of them the
same trysting-place—on the slope beneath Derwent Hill, my
lady—whence I thought, if it were your will and the good knight Sir
Lancelot's, we might go nigher to the sea and the firth, where the
Selby clan have no call, being at deadly feud with the Ridleys. So if
the maiden's tongue goes fast, and the Prioress follows up the quest
with young Selby, they will find nought for their pains.'
'Thou art a good guardian, Hob! Ah! where would my boy be save for
thee? And thou sayest he is even now at the very border of the forest
ground! Sure, there can be no cause that I should not go and see him.
My heart hungers for my children. Oh, let me go with thee!'
'Sir Lancelot—' began Hob.
'He is away at the Warden's summons. He will scarce be back for a
week or more. I will, I must go with thee, good Hob.'
'Not in your own person, good madam,' stipulated Hob. 'As thou
knowest, there are those in Sir Lancelot's following who might be too
apt to report of secret visits, and that were as ill as the Priory
It was then decided that the lady should put on the disguise of a
countrywoman bringing eggs and meat to sell at the castle, and meet
Hob near the postern, whence a path led to Penrith.
Hob, having received a lump of oatcake and a draught of very small
ale, limped out of the court, and, so soon as he could find a
convenient spot behind the gorse bushes, divested himself of his
bandages, and changed the side of his shepherd's plaid to one much
older and more weather-beaten; also his pilgrim's hat for one in his
pouch—a blue bonnet, more like the national Scottish head-gear,
hiding the hat in the gorse.
Then he lay down and waited, where he could see a window, whence a
red kerchief was to be fluttered to show when the lady would be ready
for him to attend her. He waited long, for she had first to disarm
suspicion by presiding at the general meal of the household, and
showing no undue haste.
At last, though not till after he had more than once fallen asleep
and feared that he had missed the signal, or that his wife and 'Hal'
might be tempted to some imprudence while waiting, he beheld the
kerchief waving in the sunset light of the afternoon, and presently,
shrouded in such a black and white shepherd's maud as his own, and in
a russet gown with a basket on her arm, his lady came forth and joined
His first thought was how would she return again, when the darkness
was begun, but her only answer was, 'Heed not that! My child, I must
Indeed, she was almost too breathless and eager with haste, as he
guided her over the rough and difficult path, or rather track, to
answer his inquiries as to what was to be done next. Her view,
however, agreed with his, that they must lurk in the borders of the
woodland for a day or two till Sir Lancelot's return, when he would
direct them to a place where he could put them under the protection
of one of the tenants of his manor. It was a long walk, longer than
Hob had perhaps felt when he had undertaken to conduct the lady
through it, for ladies, though inured to many dangers in those days,
were unaccustomed to travelling on their own feet; but the mother's
heart seemed to heed no obstacle, though moments came when she had to
lean heavily on her companion, and he even had to lift her over brooks
or pools; but happily the sun had not set when they made their way
through the tangles of the wood, and at last saw before them the
fitful glow of a fire of dead leaves, branches and twigs, while the
bark of a dog greeted the rustling, they made.
'Sweetheart, my faithful!' then shouted Hob, and in another moment
there was a cry, 'Ha! Halloa! Master Hob—beest there?'
'His voice!—my son's!' gasped the lady, and sank for a moment of
overwhelming joy against the faithful retainer, while the shaggy dog
leapt upon them both.
'Ay, lad, here—and some one else.'
The boy crashed through the underwood, and stood on the path in a
moment's hesitation. Mother and son were face to face!
The years that had passed had changed the lad from almost a babe
into a well-grown strong boy but the mother was little altered, and
as she held out her arms no word was wasted ere he sprang into them,
and his face was hidden on her neck as when he knew his way into her
embrace of old!
When the intense rapturous hold was loosed they were aware of
Goodwife Dolly looking on with clasped hands and streaming eyes,
giving thanks for the meeting of her dear lady and the charge whom
she and her husband had so faithfully kept.
When the mother and son had leisure to look round, and there was a
pleased survey of the boy's height and strength, Goodwife Dolly came
forward to beg the lady to come to her fire, and rest under the gipsy
tent which she and nephew Piers—her _real_ herd-boy, a rough, shaggy,
almost dumb and imbecile lad—had raised with branches, skins and
canvas, to protect their few articles of property. There was a
smouldering fire, over which Doll had prepared a rabbit which the dog
had caught, and which she had intended for Hal's supper and that of
her husband if he came home in time. While the lady lavished thanks
upon her for all she had done for the boy she was intent on improving
the rude meal, so as to strengthen her mistress after her long walk,
and for the return. The lady, however, could see and think of nothing
but her son, while he returned her tearful gaze with open eyes,
gathering up his old recollections of her.
'Mother!' he said—with a half-wondering tone, as the recollections
of six years old came back to him more fully, and then he nestled
again in her arms as if she were far more real to him than at
first—'Mother!' And then, as she sobbed over him, 'The little one?'
'The babe is well, when last I heard of her, in a convent at York.
Thou rememberest her?'
'Ay—my little sister! Ay,' he said, with a considering
interrogative sound, 'I mind her well, and old Bunce too, that taught
me to ride.'
But Hob interrupted the reminiscences by bringing up the pony on
which Anne had ridden, and insisting that the lady should not tarry
longer. 'He,' indicating Hal, might walk beside her through the wood,
and thus prolong their interview, but, as she well knew, it was
entirely unsafe to remain any longer away from the castle.
There were embraces and sobbing thanks exchanged between the lady
and her son's old nurse, and then Hal, at a growling hint from Hob,
came forward, and awkwardly helped her to her saddle. He walked by her
side through the wood, holding her rein, while Hob, going before, did
his best in the twilight to clear away the tangled branches and
brambles that fell across the path, and were near of striking the lady
across the face as she rode.
On the way she talked to her son about his remembrances, anxious to
know how far his dim recollections went of the old paternal castle in
Bedfordshire, of his infant sister and brother, and his father. Of him
he had little recollection, only of being lifted in his arms, kissed
and blessed, and seeing him ride away with his troop, clanking in
their armour. After that he remembered nothing, save the being put
into a homelier dress, and travelling on Nurse Dolly's lap in a wain,
up and down, it seemed to him, for ever, till at last clearer
recollections awoke in him, and he knew himself as Hal the shepherd's
boy, with the sheep around him, and the blue starry sky above him.
'Dost thou remember what thou wast called in those times?' asked
'I was always Hal. The little one was Meg,' he said.
'Even so, my boy, my dear boy! But knowst thou no more than this?'
'Methinks, methinks there were serving-men that called me the young
Lord. Ay, so! But nurse said I must forget all that. Mother dear, when
that maiden came and talked of tilts and lances, meseemed that I
recollected somewhat. Was then my father a knight?'
'Alack! alack! my child, that thou shouldst not know!'
'Memories came back with that maiden's voice and thine,' said Hal,
in a bewildered tone. 'My father! Was he then slain when he rode
'Ah! I may tell thee now thou art old enough to guard thyself,' she
said. 'Thy father, whom our blessed Lord assoilzie, was the Lord
Clifford, slain by savage hands on Towton field for his faith to King
Harry! Thou, my poor boy, art the Baron of Clifford, though while this
cruel House of York be in power thou must keep in hiding from them in
this mean disguise. Woe worth the day!'
'And am I then a baron—a lord?' said the boy. 'Great lords have
books. Were there not some big ones on the hall window seats? Did not
Brother Eldred begin to teach me my letters? I would that I could go
on to learn more!'
'Oh, I would that thou couldst have all knightly training, and
learn to use sword and lance like thy gallant father!'
'Nay, but I saw a poor man fall off his horse and lie hurt, I do
not want those hard, cruel ways. And my father was slain. Must a lord
go to battle?'
'Boy, boy, thou wilt not belie thy Clifford blood,' cried the lady
in consternation, which was increased when he said, 'I have no mind to
go out and kill folks or be killed. I had rather mark the stars and
tend my sheep.'
'Alack! alack! This comes of keeping company with the sheep. That
my son, and my lord's son, should be infected with their sheepish
'Never fear, madam,' said Hob. 'When occasion comes, and strength
is grown, his blood will show itself.'
'If I could only give him knightly breeding!' sighed the lady. 'Sir
Lancelot may find the way. I cannot see him grow up a mere shepherd
'Content you, madam,' said Hob. 'Never did I see a shepherd boy
with the wisdom and the thought there is in that curly pate!'
'Wisdom! thought!' muttered the lady. 'Those did not save our good
King, only made him a saint. I had rather hear the boy talk of sword
and lance than prate of books and stars! And that wench, whom to our
misfortune thou didst find! What didst tell her?'
'I told her nought, mother, for I had nought to tell.'
'She scented mystery, though,' said Hob. 'She saw he was no herd
'Nay? Though he holds himself like a lout untrained! Would that I
could have thee in hand, my son, to make thee meet to tread in thy
brave father's steps! But now, comrade of sheep thou art, and I fear
me thou wilt ever be! But that maid, I trust that she perceived
nothing in thy bearing or speech?'
'She will not betray whatever she perceived,' said Hal stoutly.
The wood was by this time nearly past, and the moment of parting
had come. The lady had decided on going on foot to the little grey
stone church whose low square tower could be seen rising like another
rock. Thither she could repair in her plaid, and by-and-by throw it
off, and return in her own character to the castle, as though she had
gone forth to worship there. When lifted off the shaggy pony she threw
her arms round Hal, kissed him passionately, and bade him never
breathe a word of it, but never to forget that a baron he was, and
bound to be a good brave knight, fit to avenge his father's death!
Hal came to understand from Dolly's explanations that his recent
abode had been on the estate of his grandfather, Baron de Vesci, at
Londesborough, but his mother had since married Sir Lancelot
Threlkeld, and had intimated that her boy should be removed thither
as soon as might be expedient, and therefore the house on the
Yorkshire moor had been broken up.
CHAPTER VI. A CAUTIOUS STEPFATHER
Thou tree of covert and of rest
For this young bird that was distrest.— WORDSWORTH.
A baron—bound to be a good knight, and to avenge my father's
death! What does it all mean?' murmured Hal to himself as he lay on
his back in the morning sunshine, on the hill-side, the wood behind
him, and before him a distance of undulating ground, ending in the
straight mysterious blue-grey line that Hob Hogward had told him was
'Baron! Lord Clifford, like my father! He was a man in steel
armour; I remember how it rang, and how his gorget—yes, that was the
thing round his throat—how it hurt me when he lifted me up to kiss
me, and how they blamed me for crying out. Ay, and he lived in a
castle with dark, dull, narrow chambers, all save the hall, where
there was ever a tramping and a clamouring, and smells of hot burning
meat, and horses, and all sorts of things, and they sat and sat over
their meat and wine, and drank health to King Harry and the Red Rose.
I mind now how they shouted and roared, and how I wanted to go and
hide on the stairs, and my father would have me shout with them, and
drink confusion to York out of his cup, and shook me and cuffed me
when I cried. Oh! must one be like that to be a knight? I had rather
live on these free green hills with the clear blue sky above me, and
my good old ewe for my comrade'—and he fell to caressing the face of
an old sheep which had come up to him, a white, mountain-bleached
sheep with fine and delicate limbs. 'Yes, I love thee, good, gentle,
little ewe, and thee, faithful Watch,' as a young collie pressed up to
him, thrusting a long nose into his hand, 'far better than those great
baying hounds, or the fierce-eyed hawks that only want to kill. If I
be a baron, must it be in that sort? Avenge! avenge! what does that
mean? Is it, as in Goodwife Dolly's ballads, going forth to kill? Why
should I? I had rather let them be! Hark! Yea, Watch,' as the dog
pricked his ears and raised his graceful head, then sprang up and
uttered a deep-mouthed bark. The sheep darted away to her companions,
and Hal rose to his feet, as the dog began to wave his tail, and Hob
came forward accompanied by a tall, grave-looking gentleman. 'Here he
be, sir. Hal, come thou and ask the blessing of thy knightly
Hal obeyed the summons, and coming forward put a knee to the
ground, while Sir Lancelot Threlkeld uttered the conventional
blessing, adding, 'Fair son, I am glad to see thee. Would that we
might be better acquainted, but I fear it is not safe for thee to
come and be trained for knighthood in my poor house. Thou art a well
grown lad, I rejoice to see, and strong and hearty I have no doubt.'
'Ay, sir, he is strong enow, I wis; we have done our best for him,'
responded Hob, while Hal stood shy and shamefaced; but there was
something about his bearing that made Sir Lancelot observe, 'Ay, ay,
he shows what he comes of more than his mother made me fear. Only thou
must not slouch, my fair son. Raise thy head more. Put thy shoulders
back. So! so! Nay.'
Poor Hal tried to obey, the colour mounting in his face, but he
only became more and more stiff when he tried to be upright, and his
expression was such that Sir Lancelot cried out, 'Put not on the
visage of one of thine own sheep! Ah! how shalt thou be trained to be
a worthy knight? I cannot take thee to mine house, for I have men
there who might inform King Edward that thy mother harboured thee. And
unless I could first make interest with Montagu or Salisbury, that
would be thy death, if not mine.'
The boy had nothing to say to this, and stood shy by, while his
stepfather explained his designs to Hal. It was needful to remove the
young Baron as far as possible from the suspicion of the greater part
of Sir Lancelot Threlkeld's household, and the present resting-place,
within a walk of his castle, was therefore unsafe; besides that,
freebooters might be another danger, so near the outskirts of the
wood, since the northern districts of moor and wood were by no means
clear of the remnants of the contending armies, people who were
generally of the party opposite to that which they intended to rob.
But on the banks of the Derwent, not far from its fall into the
sea, Sir Lancelot had granted a tenure to an old retainer of the De
Vescis, who had followed his mistress in her misfortunes; and on his
lands Hob Hogward might be established as a guardian of the herds with
his family, which would excite no suspicion. Moreover, he could train
the young Baron in martial exercises, the only other way of fitting
him for his station unless he could be sent to France or Burgundy like
his brother; but besides that the journey was a difficulty, it was
always uncertain whether there would be revengeful exiles of one or
other side in the service of their King, who might wreak the wrongs of
their party on Clifford's eldest son. There was reported to be a
hermit on the coast, who, if he was a scholar, might teach the young
gentleman. To Sir Lancelot's surprise, his stepson's face lighted up
more at this suggestion than at that of being trained in arms.
Hob had done nothing in that way, not even begun to teach him the
quarterstaff, though he avouched that when there was cause the young
lord was no craven, no more than any Clifford ever was—witness when
he drove off the great hound, which some said was a wolf, when it fell
upon the flock, or when none could hold him from climbing down the
Giant's Cliff after the lamb that had fallen. No fear but he had heart
enough to make his hand keep his own or other folks' heads.
'That is well,' said Sir Lancelot, looking at the lad, who stood
twisting his hands in the speechless silence induced by being the
subject of discussion; 'but it would be better, as my lady saith, if
he could only learn not to bear himself so like a clown.'
However, there was no more time, for Simon Bunce, the old
man-at-arms whom Sir Lancelot had appointed to meet him there, came
in sight through the trees, riding an old grey war-horse, much
resembling himself in the battered and yet strong and effective air
of both. Springing down, the old man bent very low before the young
Baron, raising his cap as he gave thanks to Heaven for permitting him
to see his master's son. Then, after obeisance to his present master,
he and Hob eagerly shook hands as old comrades and fellow-soldiers who
had thought never to meet again.
Then turning again to the young noble, he poured out his love,
devotion and gratitude for being able to serve his beloved lord's
noble son; while poor Hal stood under the discomfort of being
surrounded with friends who knew exactly what to say and do to him,
their superior, while he himself was entirely at a loss how to show
himself gracious or grateful as he knew he ought to do. It was a
relief when Sir Lancelot said 'Enough, good Simon! Forget his
nobility for the present while he goes with thee to Derwentside as
herd boy to Halbert Halstead here; only thou must forget both their
names, and know them only as Hal and Hob.'
With a gesture of obedience, Simon listened to the further
directions, and how he was to explain that these south country folks
had been sent up in charge of an especial flock of my lady's which she
wished to have on the comparatively sheltered valley of the Derwent.
Perhaps further directions as to the training of the young Baron were
added later, but Hal did not hear them. He was glad to be dismissed to
find Piers and gather the sheep together in preparation for the
journey to their new quarters. Yet he did not fail to hear the sigh
with which his stepfather noted that his parting salutation was far
too much in the character of the herd boy.
CHAPTER VII. ON DERWENT BANKS
When under cloud of fear he lay
A shepherd clad in homely grey.—WORDSWORTH.
Simon Bunce came himself to conduct his new tenants to their abode.
It was a pleasant spot, a ravine, down which the clear stream rushed
on its course to mingle its waters with those of the ocean. The rocks
and brushwood veiled the approach to an open glade where stood a rude
stone hovel, rough enough, but possessing two rooms, a hearth and a
chimney, and thus superior to the hut that had been left on the moor.
There were sheds for the cattle around, and the grass was fresh and
green so that the sheep, the goat and the cow began eagerly feeding,
as did the pony which Hal and Piers were unloading.
On one side stretched the open moor rising into the purple hills,
just touched with snow. On the other was the wooded valley of the
Derwent, growing wider ever before it debouched amid rocks into the
sea. The goodwife at once discovered that there had been recent
habitation, and asked what had become of the former dwellers there.
'The woman fretted for company,' said Simon, 'and vowed she was in
fear of the Scots, so I even let her have her way and go down to the
The town in north country parlance only meant a small village, and
Hob asked where it lay.
It was near the junction of the two streams, where Simon lived
himself in a slightly fortified farmhouse, just high up enough to be
fairly safe from flood tides. He did not advise his newly arrived
tenants to be much seen at this place, where there were people who
might talk. They were almost able to provide for their daily needs
themselves, excepting for meal and for ale, and he would himself see
to this being supplied from a more distant farm on the coast, which
Hob and Piers might visit from time to time with the pony.
Goodwife Dolly inquired whether they might safely go to church,
from which she had been debarred all the time they had been on the
move. 'So ill for both us and the lad,' she said.
Simon looked doubtful. 'If thou canst not save thy soul without,'
he said, 'thou mightst go on some feast day, when there is such a
concourse of folk that thou mightst not be noticed, and come away at
once without halting for idle clavers, as they call them here.'
'That's what the women folk are keen for with their church-going,'
said Hob with a grin.
'Now, husband, thou knowst,' said Dolly, injured, though she was
more than aware he spoke with intent to tease her. 'Have I not lived
all this while with none to speak to save thee and the blessed lads,
and never murmured.'
'Though thy tongue be sore for want of speech!' laughed Hob, 'thou
beest a good wife, Dolly, and maybe thy faithfulness will tell as much
in the saving of thy soul as going to church.'
'Nay, but,' said Hal with eagerness, 'is there not a priest?'
'The priest comes of a White Rose house—I trust not him. Ay,
goodwife, beware of showing thyself to him. I give him my dues, that
he may have no occasion against me or Sir Lancelot, but I would not
have him pry into knowledge that concerns him not.'
'Did not Sir Lancelot say somewhat of a scholarly hermit who might
learn me in what I ought to know?' asked the boy.
'Never you fear, sir! Here are Hob Halstead and I, able to train
any young noble in what behoves him most to know.'
'Yea, in arms and sports. They must be learnt I know, but a noble
needs booklore too,' said the boy. 'Cannot this same hermit help me?
Simon Bunce interrupted sharply. 'Sir Lancelot knows nought of the
hermit! He is—he is—a holy man.'
'A priest,' broke in Dolly, 'a priest!'
'No such thing, dame, no clerk at all, I tell thee. And ye lads had
best not molest him! He is for ever busy with his prayers, and wants
none near him.'
Hal was disappointed, for his mind was far less set on the
exercises of a young knight than on the desire to acquire knowledge,
that study which seemed to be thrown away on the unwilling ears of
Anne St. John.
Hob had been awakened by contact with his lady and her husband, as
well as with the old comrade, Simon Bunce, to perceive that if there
were any chance of the young Lord Clifford's recovering his true
position he must not be allowed to lounge and slouch about like Piers,
and he was continually calling him to order, making him sit and stand
upright, as he had seen the young pages forced to do at the castle,
learn how to handle a sword, and use the long stick which was the
substitute for a lance, and to mount and sit on the old pony as a
knight should do, till poor Hal had no peace, and was glad to get away
upon the moor with Piers and the sheep, where there was no one to
criticise him, or predict that nothing would ever make him do honour
to his name if he were proved ten times a baron.
It was still worse when Bunce came over, and brought a taller
horse, and such real weapons as he deemed that the young lord might
be taught to use, and there were doleful auguries and sharp reproofs,
designed in comically respectful phrases, till he was almost beside
himself with being thus tormented, and ready to wish never to hear of
being a baron.
His relief was to wander away upon the moors, watch the lights and
shadows on the wondrous mountains, or dream on the banks of the river,
by which he could make his way to the seashore, a place of endless
wonder and contemplation, as he marvelled why the waters flowed in and
retreated again, watched the white crests, and the glassy rolls of the
waves, felt his mind and aspiration stretched as by something
illimitable, even as when he looked up to the sky, and saw star beyond
star, differing from one another in brightness. There were those white
birds too, differing from all the night-jars and plovers he had seen
on the moor, floating now over the waves, now up aloft and away, as if
they were soaring into the very skies. Oh, would that he could follow
them, and rise with them to know what were those great grey or white
clouds, and what was above or below in those blue vastnesses! And
whence came all those strange things that the water spread at his feet
the long, brown, wet streamers, or the delicate red tracery that could
be seen in the clear pools, where were sometimes those lumps like raw
flesh when closed, but which opened into flowers? Or the things like
the snails on the heath, yet not snails, and all the strange creatures
that hopped and danced in the water?
Why would no one explain such things to him? Nay, what a pity
everyone treated it as mere childish folly in him to be thus
interested! They did not quite dare to beat him for it—that was one
use of being a baron. Indeed, one day when Simon Bunce struck him
sharply and hard over the shoulders for dragging home a great piece of
sea-weed with numerous curious creatures upon it, Goodwife Dolly
rushed out and made such an outcry that the esquire was fain to excuse
himself by declaring that it was time that my lord should know how to
bide a buffet, and answer it. He was ready and glad to meet the stroke
in return! 'Come on, sir!'
And Hob put a stout headless lance in the boy's hand, while Simon
stood up straight before him. Hob adjusted the weapon in his inert
hand, and told him how and where to strike. But 'It is not in sooth. I
don't want to hurt Master Simon,' said the child, as they laughed, and
yet with displeasure as his blow fell weak and uncertain.
'Is it a mouse's tail?' cried Simon in derision.
'Come, sir, try again,' said Hob. 'Strike as you did when the black
bull came down. Why cannot you do the like now, when you are tingling
from Bunce's stroke?'
'Ah! then I thought the bull would fall on Piers,' said Hal.
'Come on, think so now, sir. One blow to do my heart good, and show
you have the arm of your forebears.'
Thus incited, with Hob calling out to him to take heart of grace,
while Simon made a feint of trying to beat Mother Dolly, Hal started
forward and dealt a blow sufficient to make Simon cry out, 'Ha, well
struck, sir, if you had had a better grip of your lance! I even feel
it through my buff coat.'
He spoke as though it had been a kiss; but oh! and alack! why were
these rough and dreary exercises all that these guardians—yea, and
even Sir Lancelot and his mother—thought worth his learning, when
there was so much more that awoke his delight and interest? Was it
really childish to heed these things? Yet even to his young,
undeveloped brain it seemed as if there must be mysteries in sky and
sea, the unravelling of which would make life more worth having than
the giving and taking of blows, which was all they heeded.
CHAPTER VIII. THE HERMIT
No hermit e'er so welcome crost
A child's lone path in woodland lost.—KEBLE.
Hal had wandered farther than his wont, rather hoping to be out of
call if Simon arrived to give him a lesson in chivalrous sports. He
found himself on the slope of one of the gorges down which smaller
streams rushed in wet weather to join the Derwent. There was a sound
of tinkling water, and leaning forward, Hal saw that a tiny thread of
water dropped between the ferns and the stones. Therewith a low, soft
chant in a manly voice, mingling with the drip of the water.
The words were strange to him—
Lucis Creator optime,
Lucem dierum proferens—
but they were very sweet, and in leaning forward to look between
the rowan branches and hear and see more, his foot slipped, and with
Watch barking round him, he rolled helplessly down the rock, and found
himself before a tall light-haired man, in a dark dress, who gave a
hand to raise him, asking kindly, 'Art hurt, my child?'
'Oh, no, sir! Off, off, Watch!' as the dog was about to resent
anyone's touching his master. 'Holy sir, thanks, great thanks,' as a
long fair hand helped him to his feet, and brushed his soiled garment.
'Unhurt, I see,' said that sweet voice. 'Hast thou lost thy way?
Good dog, thou lovest thy master! Art thou astray?'
'No, sir, thank you, I know my way home.'
'Thou art the boy who lives with the shepherd at Derwentside, on
'Ay, Hob Hogward's herd boy,' said Hal. Oh, sir, are you the holy
hermit of the Derwent vale?'
'A hermit for the nonce I am,' was the answer, with something of a
smile responsive to the eager face.
'Oh, sir, if you be not too holy to look at me or speak to me! If
you would help me to some better knowledge—not only of sword and
'Better knowledge, my child! Of thy God?' said the hermit, a sweet
look of joy spreading over his face.
'Goodwife Dolly has told me of Him, and taught me my Pater and
Credo, but we have lived far off, and she has not been able to go to
church for weeks and years. But what I long after is to tell me what
means all this—yonder sea, and all the stars up above. And they will
call me a simpleton for marking such as these, and only want me to
heed how to shoot an arrow, or give a stroke hard enough to hurt
another. Do such rude doings alone, fit for a bull or a ram as
meseems, go to the making of a knight, fair sir?'
'They go to the knight's keeping of his own, for others whom he
ought to defend,' said the hermit sadly; 'I would have thee learn and
practise them. But for the rest, thou knowest, sure, who made the
'Oh yes! Nurse Dolly told me. She saw it all in a mystery play long
long ago—when a Hand came out, and put in the stars and sun and moon.'
'Knowest thou whose Hand was figured there, my child?'
'The Hand of God,' said Hal, removing his cap. 'They be sparks to
show His glory! But why do some move about among the others—one big
one moves from the Bull's face one winter to half-way beyond it. And
is the morning star the evening one?'
'Ah! thou shouldst know Ptolemy and the Almagest,' said the hermit
smiling, 'to understand the circuits of those wandering stars—Coeli
enarrant gloriam Dei.'
'That is Latin,' said the boy, startled. 'Are you a priest, sir?'
'No, not I—I am not worthy,' was the answer, 'but in some things I
may aid thee, and I shall be blessed in so doing. Canst say thy
'Oh, yes! nurse makes me say them when I lie down and when I get
up—Credo and Pater. She says the old parson used to teach them our
own tongue for them, but she has well-nigh forgot. Can you tell me,
'That will I, with all my heart,' responded the hermit, laying his
long delicate hand on Hal's head. 'Blessed be He who has sent thee to
The boy sat at the hermit's feet, listening with the eagerness of
one whose soul and mind had alike been under starvation, and how time
went neither knew till there was a rustling and a step. Watch sprang
up, but in another moment Simon Bunce, cap in hand, stood before the
hut, beginning with 'How now, sir?'
The hermit raised his hand, as if to make a sign, saying, 'Thou
seest I have a guest, good friend.'
Bunce started back with 'Oh! the young Lord! Sworn to silence, I
trust! I bade him not meddle with you, sir.'
'It was against his will, I trow,' said the hermit. 'He fell over
the rock by the waterfall, but since he is here, I will answer for him
that he does no hurt by word or deed!'
'Never, holy sir!' eagerly exclaimed Hal. 'Hob Hogward knows that I
can keep my mouth shut. And may I come again?'
Simon was shaking his head, but the hermit took on him to say,
'Gladly will I welcome thee, my fair child, whensoever thou canst
find thy way to the weary old anchoret! Go thy way now! Or hast thou
'No, sir; I ken the woodland and can soon be at home,' replied Hal;
then, putting a knee to the ground, 'May I have your blessing, holy
'Alack, I told thee I am no priest,' said the hermit; 'but for such
as I am, I bless thee with all my soul, thou fatherless lad,' and he
laid his hand on the young lad's wondering brow, then bade him begone,
since Simon and himself had much to say to one another.
Hal summoned Watch, and turned to a path through the wood, leading
towards the coast, wondering as he walked how the hermit seemed to
know him—him whose presence had been so sedulously concealed. Could
it be that so very holy a man had something of the spirit of prophecy?
He kept his promise of silence, and indeed his guardians were so
much accustomed to his long wanderings that he encountered no
questions, only one of Hob's growls that he should always steal away
whenever there was a chance of Master Bunce's coming to try to make a
man of him.
However, Bunce himself arrived shortly after, and informed Hob that
since young folks always pried where they were least wanted, and my
lord had stumbled incontinently on the anchoret's den, it was the holy
man's will that he might come there whenever he chose. A pity and
shame it was, but it would make him more than ever a mere priestling,
ever hankering after books and trash!
'Were it not better to ask my lady and Sir Lancelot if they would
have it so? I could walk over to Threlkeld!'
'No, no, no, on your life not,' exclaimed Simon, striking his staff
on the ground in his vehemence. 'Never a word to the Threlkeld or any
of his kin! Let well alone! I only wish the lad had never gone
a-roaming there! But holy men must not be gainsaid, even if it does
make a poor craven scholar out of his father's son.'
And thus began a time of great contentment to the Lord Clifford.
There were few days on which he did not visit the hermitage. It was a
small log hut, but raised with some care, and made weatherproof with
moss and clay in the crevices, and there was an inner apartment, with
a little oil lamp burning before a rough wooden cross, where Hal, if
the hermit were not outside, was certain to find him saying his
prayers. Food was supplied by Simon himself, and, since Hal's
admission, was often carried by him, and the hermit seemed to spend
his time either in prayer or in a gentle dreamy state of meditation,
though he always lighted up into animation at the arrival of the boy
whom he had made his friend. Hal had thought him old at first, on the
presumption that all hermits must be aged, nor was it likely that age
should be estimated by one living such a life, but the light hair,
untouched with grey, the smooth cheeks and the graceful figure did not
belong to more than a year or two above forty. And he had no air of
ill health, yet this calm solitary residence in the wooded valley
seemed to be infinite rest to him.
Hal had no knowledge nor experience to make him wonder, and
accepted the great quiet and calm of the hermit as the token of his
extreme holiness and power of meditation. He himself was always made
welcome with Watch by his side, and encouraged to talk and ask
questions, which the hermit answered with what seemed to the boy the
utmost wisdom, but older heads would have seen not to be that of a
clever man, but of one who had been fairly educated for the time, had
had experience of courts and camps, and referred all the inquiries and
wonderments which were far beyond him direct to Almighty Power.
The mind of the boy advanced much in this intercourse with the
first cultivated person he had encountered, and who made a point of
actually teaching and explaining to him all those mysteries of
religion which poor old Dolly only blindly accepted and imparted as
blindly to her nursling. Of actual instruction, nothing was
attempted. A little portuary, or abbreviated manual of the service,
was all that the hermit possessed, treasured with his small crucifix
in his bosom, and of course it was in Latin. The Hours of the Church
he knew by heart, and never failed to observe them, training his young
pupil in the repetition and English meaning of such as occurred during
his visits. He also told much of the history of the world, as he knew
it, and of the Church and the saints, to the eager mind that absorbed
everything and reflected on it, coming with fresh questions that would
have been too deep and perplexing for his friend if he had not always
determined everything with 'Such is the will of God.'
Somewhat to the surprise of Simon Bunce and Hob Hogward, Hal
improved greatly, not only in speech but in bearing; he showed no
such dislike or backwardness in chivalrous exercises as previously;
and when once Sir Lancelot Threlkeld came over to see him, he was
absolutely congratulated on looking so much more like a young knight.
'Ay,' said Bunce, taking all the merit to himself, 'there's nought
like having an old squire trained in the wars in France to show a
stripling how to hold a lance.'
Hal had been too well tutored to utter a word of him to whom his
improvement was really due, not by actual training, but partly by
unconscious example in dignified grace and courtesy of demeanour, and
partly by the rather sad assurances that it was well that a man born
to his station, if he ever regained it, should be able to defend
himself and others, and not be a helpless burthen on their hands.
Tales of the Seven Champions of Christendom and of King Arthur and his
Knights likewise had their share in the moulding of the youthful Lord
His great desire was to learn to read, but it was not encouraged by
the hermit, nor was there any book available save the portuary,
crookedly and contractedly written on vellum, so as to be illegible
to anyone unfamiliar with writing, with Latin, or the service.
However, the anchoret yielded to his importunity so far as to let him
learn the alphabet, traced on the door in charcoal, and identify the
more sacred words in the book—which, indeed, were all in gold, red
He did not advance more than this, for his teacher was apt to go
off in a musing dream of meditation, repeating over and over in low
sweet tones the holy phrases, and not always rousing himself when his
pupil made a remark or asked a question. Yet he was always concerned
at his own inattention when awakened, and would apologise in a tone of
humility that always made Hal feel grieved and ashamed of having been
importunate. For there was a dignity and gentleness about the hermit
that always made the boy feel the contrast with his own roughness and
uncouthness, and reverence him as something from a holier world.
'Nurse, I do think he is a saint,' one day said Hal.
'Nay, nay, my laddie, saints don't come down from heaven in these
days of evil.'
'I would thou could see him when one comes upon him at his prayers.
His face is like the angel at the cross I saw so long ago in the
'Dost thou remember that chapel? Thou wert a babe when we quitted
'I had well nigh forgotten it, but the good hermit's face brought
all back again, and the voice of the father when he said the Service.'
'That thou shouldst mind so long! This hermit is no priest, thou
'No, he said he was not worthy; but sure all saints were not
'Nay, it is easy to be more worthy than the Jack Priests I have
known. Though I would they would let me go to church. But look thee
here, Hal, if he be such a saint as thou sayst, maybe thou couldst
get him to bestow a blessing on poor Piers, and give him his hearing
Hal was sure that his own special saint was holy enough for
anything, and accordingly asked permission of him to bring his silent
companion for blessing and healing.
The mild blue eye lighted for a moment. 'Is the poor child then
afflicted with the King's Evil?' the hermit asked.
'Nay, he is sound enough in skin and limb. It is that he can
neither hear nor speak, and if you, holy sir, would lay thine hand on
him, and sign him with the rood, and pray, mayhap your holiness—'
'Peace, peace,' cried the hermit impetuously, lifting up his hand.
'Dost not know that I am a sinner like unto the rest—nay, a greater
sinner, in that a burthen was laid on me that I had not the soul to
rise to, so that the sin and wickedness of thousands have been caused
by my craven faint heart for well nigh two score years? O miserere
He threw himself on the ground with clasped hands, and Hal,
standing by in awestruck amazement, heard no more save sobs, mingled
with the supplications of the fifty-first Psalm.
He was obliged at last to go away without having been able to
recall the attention of his friend from his agony of prayer. With the
reticence that had grown upon him, he did not mention at home the full
effect of his request, but when he thought it over he was all the more
convinced that his friend was a great saint. Had he not always heard
that saints believed themselves great sinners, and went through many
penances? And why did he speak as if he could have cured the King's
Evil? He asked Dolly what it was, and she replied that it was the
sickness that only the King's touch could heal.
CHAPTER IX. HENRY OF WINDSOR
My crown is in my heart, not on my head;
Not deck'd with diamonds, and Indian stones,
Nor to be seen. My crown is call'd Content.—SHAKESPEARE.
Summer had faded, and an early frost had tinted the fern-leaves
with gold here and there, and made the hermit wrap himself close in a
cloak lined with thick brown fur.
Simon, who was accustomed very respectfully to take the command of
him, insisted that he should have a fire always burning on a rock
close to his door, and that Piers, if not Hal, should always take care
that it never went out, smothering it with peat, as every shepherd boy
knew how to do, so as to keep it alight, or, in case of need, to
conceal it with turf.
One afternoon, as Hal lay on the grass, whiling away the time by
alternately playing with Watch and trying to unravel the mysteries of
a flower of golden-rod, until the hermit should have finished his
prayers and be ready to attend to him, Piers came through the wood,
evidently sent on a message, and made him understand that he was
immediately wanted at home.
Hal turned to take leave of his host, but the hermit's eyes were
raised in such rapt contemplation as to see nought, and, indeed, it
might be matter of doubt whether he had ever perceived the presence
of his visitor.
Hal directed Piers to arrange the fire, and hurried away, becoming
conscious as he came in sight of the cottage that there were horses
standing before it, and guessing at once that it must be a visit from
Sir Lancelot Threlkeld.
It was Simon Bunce, however, who, with demonstrations of looking
for him, came out to meet him as he emerged from the brushwood, and
said in a gruff whisper, clutching his shoulder hard, 'Not a word to
give a clue! Mum! More than your life hangs on it.'
No more could pass, to explain the clue intended, whether to the
presence of the young Lord Clifford himself, which was his first
thought, or to the inhabitant of the hermitage. For Sir Lancelot's
cheerful voice was exclaiming, 'Here he is, my lady! Here's your son!
How now, my young lord? Thou hast learnt to hold up thy head! Ay, and
to bow in better sort,' as, bending with due grace, Hal paused for a
second ere hurrying forward to kneel before his mother, who raised him
in her arms and kissed him with fervent affection. 'My son! mine own
dear boy, how art thou grown! Thou hast well nigh a knightly bearing!'
she exclaimed. 'Master Bunce hath done well by thee.'
'Good blood will out, my lady,' quoth Simon, well pleased at her
'He hath had no training but thine?' said Sir Lancelot, looking
full at Simon.
'None, Sir Knight, unless it be honest Halstead's here.'
'Methought I heard somewhat of the hermit in the glen,' put in the
'He is a saint!' declared two or three voices, as if this precluded
his being anything more.
'A saint,' repeated the lady. 'Anchorets are always saints. What
'Prayeth,' answered Simon. 'Never doth a man come in but he is at
his prayers. 'Tis always one hour or another!'
'Ay?' said Sir Lancelot, interrogatively. 'Sayest thou so? Is he an
Simon put in his word before Hal could speak: 'Men get so knocked
about in these wars that there's no guessing their age. I myself
should deem that the poor rogue had had some clouts on the head that
dazed him and made him fit for nought save saying his prayers.'
Here Sir Lancelot beckoned Simon aside, and walked him away, so as
to leave the mother and son alone together.
Lady Threlkeld questioned closely as to the colour of the eyes and
hair, and the general appearance of the hermit, and Hal replied,
without suspicion, that the eyes were blue, the hair, he thought, of a
light colour, the frame tall and slight, graceful though stooping; he
had thought at first that the hermit must be old, very old, but had
since come to a different conclusion. His dress was a plain brown gown
like a countryman's. There was nobody like him, no one whom Hal so
loved and venerated, and he could not help, as he stood by his mother,
pouring out to her all his feeling for the hermit, and the wise
patient words that now and then dropped from him, such as 'Patience is
the armour and conquest of the godly;' or, 'Shall a man complain for
the punishment of his sins?' 'Yet,' said Hal, 'what sins could the
anchoret have? Never did I know that a man could be so holy here on
earth. I deemed that was only for the saints in heaven.'
The lady kissed the boy and said, 'I trow thou hast enjoyed a great
honour, my child.'
But she did not say what it was, and when her husband summoned her,
she joined him to repair to Penrith, where they were keeping an autumn
retirement at a monastery, and had contrived to leave their escort and
make this expedition on their way.
Simon examined Hal closely on what he had said to his mother,
sighed heavily, and chided him for prating when he had been warned
against it, but that was what came of dealing with children and
'What can be the hurt?' asked Hal. 'Sir Lancelot knows well who I
am! No lack of prudence in him would put men on my track.'
'Hear him!' cried Simon; 'he thinks there is no nobler quarry in
the woods than his lordship!'
'The hermit! Oh, Simon, who is he?'
But Simon began to shout for Hob Hogward, and would not hear any
further questions before he rode away, as far as Hal could see, in
the opposite direction to the hermitage. But when he repaired thither
the next day he was startled by hearing voices and the stamp of
horses, and as he reconnoitred through the trees he saw half a dozen
rough-looking men, with bows and arrows, buff coats, and steel-guarded
caps—outlaws and robbers as he believed.
His first thought was that they meant harm to the gentle hermit,
and his impulse was to start forward to his protection or assistance,
but as he sprang into sight one of the strangers cried out: 'How now!
Here's a shepherd thrusting himself in. Back, lad, or 'twill be the
worse for you.'
'The hermit! the hermit! Do not meddle with him! He's a saint,'
But even as he spoke he became aware of Simon, who called out:
'Hold, sir; back, Giles; this is one well nigh in as much need of
hiding as him yonder. Well come, since you be come, my lord, for we
cannot get _him_ there away without a message to you, and 'tis well
he should be off ere the sleuth-hounds can get on the scent.'
'What! Where! Who?' demanded the bewildered boy, breaking off, as
at that moment his friend appeared at the door of the hovel, no longer
in the brown anchoret's gown but in riding gear, partially defended by
slight armour, and with a cap on his head, which made him look much
younger than he had before done.
'Child, art thou there? It is well; I could scarce have gone
without bidding thee farewell,' he said in his sweet voice; 'thou,
the dear companion of my loneliness.'
'O sir, sir, and are you going away?'
'Yea, so they will have it! These good fellows are come to guard
'Oh! may I not go with thee?'
'Nay, my fair son. Thou art beneath thy mother's wing, while I am
like one who was hunted as a partridge on the mountains.'
'Whither, oh whither?' gasped Hal.
'That I know not! It is in the breasts of these good men, who are
charged by my brave wife to have me in their care.'
'Oh! sir, sir, what shall I do without you? You that have helped
me, and taught me, and opened mine eyes to all I need to know.'
'Hush, hush; it is a better master than I could ever be that thou
needest. But,' as tokens of impatience manifested themselves among the
rude escort, 'take thou this,' giving him the little service-book, as
he knelt to receive it, scarce knowing why. 'One day thou wilt be able
to read it. Poor child! whose lot it is to be fatherless and landless
for me and mine, I would I could do more for thee.'
'Oh! you have done all,' sobbed Hal.
'Nay, now, but this be our covenant, my boy! If thou, and if mine
own son both come to your own, thou wilt be a true and loyal man to
him, even as thy father was to me, and may God Almighty make it go
better with you both.'
'I will, I will! I swear by all that is holy!' gasped Hal Clifford,
with a flash of perception, as he knelt.
'Come, my liege, we have far to go ere night. No time for more
parting words and sighs.'
Hal scarcely knew more except that the hands were laid on his head,
and the voice he had learnt to love so well said: 'The blessing of God
the Father be upon thee, thou fatherless boy, and may He reward thee
sevenfold for what thy father was, who died for his faithfulness to
me, a sinner! Fare thee well, my boy.'
As the hand that Hal was fervently kissing was withdrawn from him
he sank upon his face, weeping as one heartbroken. He scarce heard the
sounds of mounting and the trampling of feet, and when he raised his
head he was alone, the woods and rocks were forsaken.
He sprang up and ran along at his utmost speed on the trampled
path, but when he emerged from it he could only see a dark party,
containing a horseman or two, so far on the way that it was hopeless
to overtake them.
He turned back slowly to the deserted hut, and again threw himself
on the ground, weeping bitterly. He knew now that his friend and
master had been none other than the fugitive King, Henry of Windsor.
CHAPTER X. THE SCHOLAR OF THE
Not in proud pomp nor courtly state;
Him his own thoughts did elevate,
Most happy in the shy recess.—WORDSWORTH.
The departure of King Henry was the closing of the whole
intellectual and religious world that had been opened to the young
Lord Clifford. To the men of his own court, practical men of the
world, there were times when poor Henry seemed almost imbecile, and
no doubt his attack of melancholy insanity, the saddest of his
ancestral inheritances, had shattered his powers of decision and
action; but he was one who 'saw far on holy ground,' and he was a
well-read man in human learning, besides having the ordinary
experience of having lived in the outer world, so that in every way
his companionship was delightful to a thoughtful boy, wakening to the
instincts of his race.
To think of being left to the society of the sheep, of dumb Piers
and his peasant parents was dreariness in the extreme to one who had
begun to know something like conversation, and to have his countless
questions answered, or at any rate attended to. Add to this, he had a
deep personal love and reverence for his saint, long before the
knowing him as his persecuted King, and thus his sorrow might well be
profound, as well as rendered more acute by the terror lest his even
unconscious description to his mother might have been treason!
He wept till he could weep no longer, and lay on the ground in his
despair till darkness was coming on, and Piers came and pulled him up,
indicating by gestures and uncouth sounds that he must go home.
Goodwife Dolly was anxiously looking out for him.
'Laddie, there thou beest at last! I had begun to fear me whether
the robber gang had got a hold of thee. Only Hob said he saw Master
Simon with them. Have they mishandled thee, mine own lad nurse's
darling? Thou lookest quite distraught.'
All Hal's answer was to hide his head in her lap and weep like a
babe, though she could, with all her caresses, elicit nothing from
him but that his hermit was gone. No, no, the outlaws had not hurt
him, but they had taken him away, and he would never come back.
'Ay, ay, thou didst love him and he was a holy man, no doubt, but
one of these days thou shalt have a true knight, and that is better
for a young baron to look to than a saint fitter for Heaven than for
earth! Come now, stand up and eat thy supper. Don't let Hob come in
and find thee crying like a swaddled babe.'
With which worldly consolations and exhortations Goodwife Dolly
brought him to rise and accept his bowl of pottage, though he could
not swallow much, and soon put it aside and sought his bed.
It was not till late the next day that Simon Bunce was seen riding
his rough pony over the moor. Hal repaired to him at once, with the
breathless inquiry, 'Where is he?'
'In safe hands! Never you fear, sir! But best know nought.'
'O Simon, was I—? Did I do him any scathe?—I—I never knew—I
only told my lady mother it was a saint.'
'Ay, ay, lad, more's the pity that he is more saint than king! If
my lady guessed aught, she would be loyal as became your father's
wife, and methinks she would not press you hard for fear she should be
forced to be aware of the truth.'
'But Sir Lancelot?'
'As far as I can gather,' explained Simon, 'Sir Lancelot is one
that hath kept well with both sides, and so is able to be a
protector. But down came orders from York and his crew that King
Harry is reported to be lurking in some of these moors, and the
Countess Clifford being his wife, he fell under suspicion of
harbouring him. Nay, there was some perilous talk in his own
household, so that, as I understand the matter, he saw the need of
being able to show that he knew nothing; or, if he found that the
King was living within these lands, of sending him a warning ere
avowing that he had been there. So I read what was said to me.'
'He knew nothing from me! Neither he nor my lady mother,' eagerly
said Hal. 'When I mind me I am sure my mother cut me short when I
described the hermit too closely, lest no doubt she should guess who
'Belike! It would be like my lady, who is a loyal Lancastrian at
heart, though much bent on not offending her husband lest his
protection should be withdrawn from you.'
'Better—O, a thousand times better!—he gave me up than the King!'
'Hush! What good would that do? A boy like you? Unless they took
you in hand to make you a traitor, and offered you your lands if you
would swear allegiance to King Edward, as he calls himself.'
'Never, though I were cut into quarters!' averred Hal, with a
fierce gesture, clasping his staff. 'But the King? Where and what
have they done with him?'
'Best not to know, my lord,' said Simon. 'In sooth, I myself do not
know whither he is gone, only that he is with friends.'
'But who—what were they? They looked like outlaws!'
'So they were; many a good fellow is of Robin of Redesdale's train.
There are scores of them haunting the fells and woods, all Red Rose
men, keeping a watch on the King,' replied Simon. 'We had made up our
minds that he had been long enough in one place, and that he must have
taken shelter the winter through, when I got notice of these notions
of Sir Lancelot, and forthwith sent word to them to have him away
before worse came of it.'
'Oh! why did you not let me go with him? I would have saved him,
waited on him, fought for him.'
'Fine fighting—when there's no getting you to handle a lance,
except as if you wanted to drive a puddock with a reed! Though you
have been better of late, little as your hermit seemed the man to
'He said it was right and became a man! Would I were with him! He,
my true King! Let me go to him when you know where, good Simon. I,
that am his true and loving liegeman, should be with him.'
'Ay! when you are a man to keep his head and your own.'
'But I could wait on him.'
'Would you have us bested to take care of two instead of one, and
my lady, moreover, in a pother about her son, and Sir Lancelot stirred
to make a hue and cry all the more? No, no, sir, bide in peace in the
safe homestead where you are sheltered, and learn to be a man, minding
your exercises as well as may be till the time shall come.'
'When I shall be a man and a knight, and do deeds of derring-do in
his cause,' cried Hal.
And the stimulus drove him on to continual calls to Hob, in Simon's
default, to jousts with sword or spear, represented generally by
staves; and when these could not be had, he was making arrows and
practising with them, so as to become a terror to the wild ducks and
other neighbours on the wolds, the great geese and strange birds that
came in from the sea in the cold weather. When it was not possible to
go far afield in the frosts and snows, he conned King Henry's
portuary, trying to identify the written words with those he knew by
heart, and sometimes trying to trace the shapes of the letters on the
snow with a stick; visiting, too, the mountains and looking into the
limpid grey waters of the lakes, striving hard to guess why, when the
sea rose in tides, they were still. More than ever, too, did the
starry skies fill him with contemplation and wonder, as he dwelt on
the scraps alike of astronomy, astrology, and devotion which he had
gathered from his oracle in the hermitage, and longed more and more
for the time to return when he should again meet his teacher, his
saint, and his King.
Alas! that time was never to come. The outlawed partisans of the
Red Rose had secret communications which spread intelligence rapidly
throughout the country, and long before Sir Lancelot and his lady
knew, and thus it was that Simon Bunce learnt, through the outlaws,
that poor King Henry had been betrayed by treachery, and seized by
John Talbot at Waddington Hall in Lancashire. Deep were the curses
that the outlaws uttered, and fierce were the threats against the
Talbot if ever he should venture himself on the Cumbrian moors; and
still hotter was their wrath, more bitter the tears of the shepherd
lord, when the further tidings were received that the Earl of Warwick
had brought the gentle, harmless prince, to whom he had repeatedly
sworn fealty, into London with his feet tied to the stirrups of a
sorry jade, and men crying before him, 'Behold the traitor!'
The very certainty that the meek and patient King would bear all
with rejoicing in the shame and reproach that led him in the steps of
his Master, only added to the misery of Hal as he heard the tale; and
he lay on the ground before his hut, grinding his teeth with rage and
longing to take revenge on Warwick, Edward, Talbot—he knew not
whom—and grasping at the rocks as if they were the stones of the
Tower which he longed to tear down and liberate his beloved saint.
Nor, from that time, was there any slackness in acquiring or
practising all skill in chivalrous exercises.
CHAPTER XI. THE RED ROSE
That Edward is escaped from your brother
And fled, as he hears since, to Burgundy.—SHAKESPEARE.
Years passed on, and still Henry Clifford continued to be the
shepherd. Matters were still too unsettled, and there were too many
Yorkists in the north, keeping up the deadly hatred of the family
against that of Clifford, for it to be safe for him to show himself
openly. He was a tall, well-made, strong youth, and his stepfather
spoke of his going to learn war in Burgundy; but not only was his
mother afraid to venture him there, but he could not bear to leave
England while there was a hope of working in the cause of the captive
King, though the Red Rose hung withered on the branches.
Reports of misunderstandings between King Edward and the Earl of
Warwick came from time to time, and that Queen Margaret and her son
were busy beyond seas, which kept up hope; and in the meantime Hal
grew in the knowledge of all country lore, of herd and wood, and
added to it all his own earnest love of the out-of-door world, of
sun, moon, and stars, sea and hills, beast and bird. The hermit King,
who had been a well-educated, well-read man in his earlier days, had
given him the framework of such natural science as had come down to
the fifteenth century, backed by the deepest faith in scriptural
descriptions; and these inferences and this philosophy were enough to
lead a far acuter and more able intellect, with greater opportunities
of observation, much further into the fields of the mystery of nature
than ever the King had gone.
He said nothing, for never had he met one who understood a word he
said apart from fortune telling, excepting the royal teacher after
whom he longed; but he watched, he observed, and he dreamt, and came
to conclusions that his King's namesake cousin, Enrique of Portugal,
the discoverer, in his observatory at St. Vincent, might have profited
by. Brother Brian, a friar, for whose fidelity Simon Bunce's outlaw
could absolutely answer, and who was no Friar Tuck, in spite of his
rough life, gave Dolly much comfort religiously, carried on some of
the education for which Hal longed, and tried to teach him astrology.
Some of the yearnings of his young soul were thus gratified, but they
were the more extended as he grew nearer manhood, and many a day he
stood with eyes stretched over the sea to the dim line of the horizon,
with arms spread for a moment as if he would join the flight of the
sea-gulls floating far, far away, then clasped over his breast in a
sort of despair at being bound to one spot, then pressed the tighter
in the strong purpose of fighting for his imprisoned King when the
time should come.
For this he diligently practised with bow and arrow when alone, or
only with Piers, and learnt all the feats of arms that Simon Runce or
Giles Spearman could teach him. Spearman was evidently an accomplished
knight or esquire; he had fought in France as well as in the home
wars, and knew all the refinements of warfare in an age when the
extreme weight of the armour rendered training and skill doubly
necessary. Spearman was evidently not his real name, and it was
evident that he had some knowledge of Hal's real rank, though he never
hazarded mention of other name or title. The great drawback was the
want of horses. The little mountain ponies did not adequately
represent the warhorses trained to charge under an enormous load, and
the buff jerkins and steel breast-plates of the outlaws were equally
far from showing how to move under 'mail and plates of Milan steel.'
Nor would Sir Lancelot Threlkeld lend or give what was needful.
Indeed, he was more cautious than ever, and seemed really alarmed as
well as surprised to see how tall and manly his step-son was growing,
and how like his father. He would not hear of a visit to Threlkeld
under any disguise, though Lady Clifford was in failing health, nor
would he do anything to forward the young lord's knightly training. In
effect, he only wanted to keep as quiet and unobserved as possible,
for everything was in a most unsettled and dangerous condition, and
there was no knowing what course was the safest for one by no means
prepared to lose life or lands in any cause.
The great Earl of Warwick, on whom the fate of England had hitherto
hinged, was reported to have never forgiven King Edward for his
marriage with Dame Elizabeth Grey, and to be meditating insurrection.
Encouraged by this there was a great rising in Yorkshire of the
peasants under Robin of Redesdale, and a message was brought to Giles
Spearman and his followers to join them, but he and Brother Brian
demurred, and news soon came that the Marquess of Montagu had defeated
the rising and beheaded Redesdale.
Sir Lancelot congratulated his step-son on having been too late to
take up arms, and maintained that the only safe policy was to do
nothing, a plan which suited age much better than youth.
He still lived with Hob and Piers, and slept at the hut, but he
went further and further afield among the hills and mosses, often
with no companion save Watch, so that he might without interruption
watch the clear streams and wonder what filled their fountains, and
why the sea was never full, or stand on the sea-shore studying the
tides, and trying to construct a theory about them. King Henry was
satisfied with 'Hitherto shalt thou come and no farther,' but He who
gave that decree must have placed some cause or rule in nature thus to
affect them. Could it be the moon? The waves assuredly obeyed the
changes of the moon, and Hal was striving to keep a record in strokes
marked by a stick on soft earth or rows of pebbles, so as to establish
a rule. 'Aye, aye,' quoth Hob. 'Poor fellow, he is not much wiser than
the hermit. See how he plays with pebbles and stones. You'll make
nought of him, fine grown lad as he is. Why, he'll sit dazed and
moonstruck half a day, and all the night, staring up at the stars as
if he would count them!'
So spoke the stout shepherd to Simon Bunce, pointing to the young
man, who lay at his length upon the grass calculating the proportions
of the stones that marked the relations of hours of the flood tide and
those of the height of the moon. Above and beyond was a sundial cut
out in the turf, from his own observations after the hints that the
hermit and the friar had given him.
'Ha now, my lord, I have rare news for you.'
The unwonted title did not strike Hal's unaccustomed ears, and he
continued moving his lips, 'High noon, spring tide.'
'There, d'ye see?' said Hob, 'he heeds nothing. 'That I and my
goodwife should have bred up a mooncalf! Here, Hal, don't you know
Simon? Hear his tidings!'
'Tidings enow! King Henry is freed, King Edward is fled. My Lord of
Warwick has turned against him for good and all. King Henry is
proclaimed in all the market-places! I heard it with my own ears at
Penrith!' And throwing up his cap into the air, while the example was
followed by Hob, with 'God save King Henry, and you my Lord of
The sound was echoed by a burst of voices, and out of the brake
suddenly stood the whole band of outlaws, headed by Giles Spearman,
but Hal still stood like one dazed. 'King Harry, the hermit, free and
on his throne,' he murmured, as one in a dream.
'Ay, all things be upset and reversed,' said Spearman, with a hand
on his shoulder. 'No herd boy now, but my Lord of Clifford.'
'Come to his kingdom,' repeated Hal. 'My own King Harry the hermit!
I would fain go and see him.'
'So you shall, my brave youth, and carry him your homage and mine,'
said Spearman. 'He will know me for poor Giles Musgrave, who upheld
his standard in many a bloody field. We will off to Sir Lancelot at
Threlkeld now! Spite of his policy of holes and corners, he will not
now refuse to own you for what you are, aye, and fit you out as
becomes a knight.'
'God grant he may!' muttered Bunce, 'without his hum and ha, and
swaying this way and that, till he never moves at all! Betwixt his
caution, and this lad's moonstruck ways, you have a fair course
before you, Sir Giles! See, what's the lad doing now?'
The lad was putting into his pouch the larger white pebbles that
had represented tens in his calculation, and murmuring the numbers
they stood for. 'He will understand,' he said almost to himself, but
he showed himself ready to go with the party to Threlkeld, merely
pausing at Hob's cottage to pick up a few needful equipments. In the
skin of a rabbit, carefully prepared, and next wrapped in a silken
kerchief, and kept under his chaff pillow, was the hermit's portuary,
which was carefully and silently transferred by Hal to his own bosom.
Sir Giles Musgrave objected to Watch, in city or camp, and Hal was
obliged to leave him to Goodwife Dolly and to Piers.
With each it was a piteous parting, for Dolly had been as a mother
to him for almost all his boyhood, and had supplied the tenderness
that his mother's fears and Sir Lancelot's precautions had prevented
his receiving at Threlkeld. He was truly as a son to her, and she
sobbed over him, declaring that she never would see him again, even if
he came to his own, which she did not believe was possible, and who
would see to his clean shirts?
'Never fear, goodwife,' said Giles Musgrave; 'he shall be looked to
as mine own son.'
'And what's that to a gentle lad that has always been tended as
'Heed not, mother! Be comforted! I must have gone to the wars,
anyway. If so be I thrive, I'll send for thee to mine own castle, to
reign there as I remember of old. Here now! Comfort Piers as thou only
Piers, poor fellow, wept bitterly, only able to understand that
something had befallen his comrade of seven years, which would take
him away from field and moor. He clung to Hal, and both lads shed
tears, till Hob roughly snatched Piers away and threw him to his
aunt, with threats that drew indignant, though useless, interference
from Hal, though Simon Bunce was muttering, 'As lief take one lad as
the other!' while Dolly's angry defence of her nursling's wisdom broke
the sadness of the parting.
CHAPTER XII. A PRUDENT RECEPTION
So doth my heart misgive me in these conflicts,
What may befall him to his harm and ours.—SHAKESPEARE.
Through the woods the party went to the fortified house of
Threlkeld, where the gateway was evidently prepared to resist any
passing attack, by stout gates and a little watch-tower.
Sir Giles blew a long blast on his bugle-horn, and had to repeat it
twice before a porter looked cautiously out at a wicket opening in the
heavy door, and demanded 'Who comes?'
'Open, porter, open in the name of King Harry, to the Lords of
Clifford and of Peelholm.'
The porter fell back, observing, 'Sir, pardon, while I have speech
with my master, Sir Lancelot Threlkeld.'
Some delay and some sounds of conversation were heard, then, on a
renewed and impatient blast on Sir Giles's horn, Sir Lancelot
Threlkeld himself came to the wicket, and his thin anxious voice
might be heard demanding, 'What madness is this?'
'The madness is past, soundness is come,' responded Sir Giles.
'King Harry is on his throne, the traitors are fled, and your own
fair son comes forth in his proper person to uphold the lawful
sovereign; but he would fain first see his lady mother, and take her
blessing with him.'
'And by his impatience destroy himself, after all the burthen of
care and peril he hath been to me all these years,' lamented Sir
Lancelot. 'But come in, fair lad. Open the gates, porter. I give you
welcome, Lord Musgrave of Peelholm. But who are these?' he added,
looking at the troop of buff-coated archers in the rear.
'They are bold champions of the Red Rose, returned Sir Giles, 'who
have lived with me in the wolds, and now are on the way to maintain
our King's quarrel.'
Sir Lancelot, however, would not hear of admitting the outlaws.
Young Clifford and the Lord of Peelholm should be welcome, or more
truly he could not help receiving them, but the archers must stay
outside, their entertainment in beef and ale being committed to Bunce
and the chief warder, while the two noblemen were conducted to the
castle hall. For the first time in his life Clifford was received in
his mother's home, and accepted openly, as he knelt before her to ask
her blessing. A fine, active, handsome youth was he, with bright, keen
eyes, close-curled black locks and hardy complexion, telling of his
out-of-door life, and a free use of his limbs, and upright carriage,
though still with more of the grace of the free mountain than of the
training of pagedom and squiredom.
Nor could he speak openly and freely to her, not knowing how much
he might say of his past intercourse with King Henry, and of her
endeavour to discover it; and he sat beside her, neither of them
greatly at ease, at the long table, which, by the array of silver
cups, of glasses and the tall salt cellar separating the nobility and
their followers, recalled to him dim recollections of the scenes of
He asked for his sister—he knew his little brother had died in the
Netherlands—and he heard that she had been in the Priory of St.
Helen's, and was now in the household of my Lady of Hungerford, who
had promised to find a good match for her. There was but one son of
the union with the knight of Threlkeld, and him Hal had never seen;
nor was he at home, being a page in the household of the Earl of
Westmoreland, according to the prevailing fashion of the castles of
the great feudal nobles becoming schools of arms, courtesy and
learning for the young gentlemen around. Indeed, Lady Clifford
surveyed her eldest son with a sigh that such breeding was denied him,
as she observed one or two little deficiencies in what would be called
his table manners—not very important, but revealing that he had grown
up in the byre instead of the castle, where there was a very strict
and punctilious code, which figured in catechisms for the young.
She longed to keep him, and train him for his station, but in the
first place, Sir Lancelot still held that it could not safely be
permitted, since he had little confidence in the adherence of the
House of Nevil to the Red Rose; and moreover Hal himself utterly
refused to remain concealed in Cumberland instead of carrying his
service to the King he loved.
In fact, when he heard the proposal of leaving him in the north, he
stood up, and, with far more energy than had been expected from him,
said, 'Go I must, to my lawful King's banner, and my father's cause.
To King Harry I carry my homage and whatever my hand can do!'
Such an expression of energy lighted his hitherto dreamy eyes, that
all beholders turned their glances on his face with a look of wonder.
Sir Lancelot again objected that he would be rushing to his ruin.
'Be it so,' replied Hal. 'It is my duty.'
'The time seems to me to be come,' added Musgrave, 'that my young
lord should put himself forward, though it may be only in a losing
cause. Not so much for the sake of success, as to make himself a man
and a noble.'
'But what can he do?' persisted Threlkeld; 'he has none of the
training of a knight. How can you tilt in plate armour, you who have
never bestridden a charger? These are not the days of Du Guesclin,
when a lad came in from the byre and bore down all foes before him.'
The objection was of force, for the defensive armour of the
fifteenth century had reached a pitch of cumbrousness that required
long practice for a man to be capable of moving under it.
'So please you, sir,' said Hal, 'I am not wholly unskilled. The
good Sir Giles and Simon Bunce have taught me enough to strike a blow
with a good will for a good cause.'
'With horse and arms as befits him,' began Musgrave.
'I know not that a horse is here that could be depended on,' began
Threlkeld. 'Armour too requires to be fitted and proved.'
He spoke in a hesitating voice that showed his unwillingness, and
Hal exclaimed, 'My longbow is mine own, and so are my feet. Sir Giles,
will you own me as an archer in your troop, where I will strive not to
disgrace you or my name?'
'Bravely spoken, young lord,' said Sir Giles heartily; 'right
willingly will I be your godfather in chivalry, since you find not
one nigher home.'
'So may it best be,' observed his mother, 'since he is bent on
going. Thus his name and rank may be kept back till it be plain
whether the enmity of my Lords of Warwick and Montagu still remain
against our poor house.'
There was no desire on either side to object when the Lord Musgrave
of Peelholm decided on departing early on the morrow. Their host was
evidently not sorry to speed them on their way, and his reluctant
hospitality made them anxious to cumber him no longer than needful;
and his mind was relieved when it was decided that the heir of the De
Vescis and Cliffords should be known as Harry of Derwentdale.
Only, when all was preparation in the morning, and a hearty service
had been said in the chapel, the lady called her son aside, and
looking up into his dark eyes, said in a low voice, 'Be not angered
with my lord husband's prudence, my son. Remember it is only by
caution that he has saved thine head, or mine, or thy sister's!'
'Ay, ay, mother, I know,' he said, more impatiently than perhaps he
'It was by the same care that he preserved us all when
Edgecotefield was fought. Chafe not at him. Thou mayst be thankful
even now, mayhap, to find a shelter preserved, while that rogue and
robber Nevil holds our lands.'
'I am more like to have to protect thee, lady mother, and bring
thee to thy true home again!' said Hal.
'Meantime, my child, take this purse and equip thyself at York or
whenever thou canst. Nay, thou needst not shrug and refuse! How like
thy father the gesture, though I would it were more gracious and
seemly. But this is mine, mine own, none of my husband's, though he
would be willing. It comes from the De Vesci lands, and those will be
thine after me, and thine if thou winnest not back thy Clifford
inheritance. And oh! my son, crave of Sir Giles to teach thee how to
demean thyself that they may not say thou art but a churl.'
'I trust to be no churl in heart, if I be in manners,' said Hal,
looking down on his small clinging mother.
'Only be cautious, my son. Remember that you are the last of the
name, and it is your part to bring it to honour.'
'Which I shall scarce do by being cautious,' he said, with
something of a smile. That was not my father's way.'
'Ah me! You have his spirit in you, and how did it end?'
'My Lord of Clifford,' said a voice from the court, 'you are waited
'And remember,' cried his mother, with a last embrace, 'there will
be safety here whenever thou shalt need it.'
'With God's grace, I am more like to protect you and your husband,'
said the lad, bending for another kiss and hurrying away.
CHAPTER XIII. FELLOW TRAVELLERS
And sickerlie she was of great disport,
And full pleasant and amiable of port;
Of small hounds had she that she fed
With roasted flesh and milk and wastel bread.—CHAUCER.
Sir Giles Musgrave of Peelholm was an old campaigner, and when Hal
came out beyond the gate of the Threlkeld fortalice, he found him
reviewing his troop; a very disorderly collection, as Sir Lancelot
pronounced with a sneer, looking out on them, and strongly advising
his step-son not to cast in his lot with them, but to wait and see
what would befall, and whether the Nevils were in earnest in their
desertion of the House of York.
Hal restrained himself with difficulty enough to take a courteous
leave of his mother's husband, to whose prudence and forbearance he
was really much beholden; though, with his spirit newly raised and
burning for his King, it was hard to have patience with neutrality.
He found Sir Giles employed in examining his followers, and rigidly
sending home all not properly equipped with bow, sheaf of arrows,
strong knife or pike, buff coat, head-piece and stout shoes; also a
wallet of provisions for three days, or a certain amount of coin. He
would have no marauding on the way, and refused to take any mere
lawless camp follower, thus disposing of a good many
disreputable-looking fellows who had flocked in his wake. Sir
Lancelot's steward seconded him heartily by hunting back his master's
retainers; and there remained only about five-and-twenty—mostly, in
fact, yeomen or their sons—men who had been in arms for Queen
Margaret and had never made their submission, but lived on unmolested
in the hills, really outlawed, but not coming in collision with the
authorities enough to have their condition inquired into. They had
sometimes attacked Yorkist parties, sometimes resisted Scottish raids,
or even made a foray in return, and they were well used to arms. These
all had full equipments, and some more coin in their pouches than they
cared to avow. Three or four of them brought an ox, calf or sheep, or
a rough pony loaded with provisions, and driven by a herd boy or a
son eager to see life and 'the wars.' Simon Bunce, well armed, was of
this party. Hob Hogward, though he had come to see what became of his
young lord, was pronounced too stiff and aged to join the band, which
might now really be called a troop, not a mere lawless crowd of rough
lads. There were three trained men-at-arms, the regular retainers of
Sir Giles, who held a little peel tower on the borders where nobody
durst molest him, and these marshalled the little band in fair order.
It was no season for roses, but a feather was also the cognisance
of Henry VI., and every one's barret-cap mounted a feather, generally
borrowed from the goodwife's poultry yard at home, but sometimes
picked up on the moors, and showing the barred black and brown
patterns of the hawk's or the owl's plumage. It was a heron's feather
that Hal assumed, on the counsel of Sir Giles, who told him it was an
old badge of the Cliffords, and it became well his bright dark hair
and brown face.
On they went, a new and wonderful march to Hal, who had only looked
with infant eyes on anything beyond the fells, and had very rarely
been into a little moorland church, or seen enough people together for
a market day in Penrith. Sir Giles directed their course along the
sides of the hills till he should gain further intelligence, and know
how they would be received. For the most part the people were well
inclined to King Henry, though unwilling to stir on his behalf in fear
of Edward's cruelty.
However, it was as they had come down from the hills intending to
obtain fresh provisions at one of the villages, and Hal was beginning
to recognise the moors he had known in earlier childhood, that they
perceived a party on the old Roman road before them, which the
outlaws' keen eyes at once discovered to be somewhat of their own
imputed trade. There seemed to be a waggon upset, persons bound, and a
buzz of men, like wasps around a honeycomb preying on it. Something
like women's veiled forms could be seen. 'Ha! Mere robbery. This must
not be. Upon them! Form! Charge!' were the brief commands of the
leader, and the compact body ran at a rapid but a regulated pace down
the little slope that gave them an advantage of ground with some
concealment by a brake of gorse. 'Halt! Pikes forward!' was the next
order. The little band were already close upon the robbers, in whom
they began to recognise some of those whom Sir Giles had dismissed as
mere ruffians unequipped a few days before. It was with a yell of
indignation that the troop fell on them, Sir Giles with a sharp blow
severing the bridle of a horse that a man was leading, but there was a
cry back, 'We are for King Harry! These be Yorkists!'
'Nay! nay!' came back the voices of the overthrown. 'Help! help!
for King Harry and Queen Margaret! These be rank thieves who have set
on us! Holy women are here!'
These exclamations came broken and in utter confusion, mingled with
cries for mercy and asseverations on the part of the thieves, and
fierce shouts from Sir Giles's men. All was hubbub, barking dogs,
shouting men, and Hal scarcely knew anything till he was aware of two
or three shrouded nuns, as it seemed, standing by their ponies, of
merchantmen or carters trying to quiet and harness frightened mules,
of waggons overturned, of a general confusion over which arose Lord
Musgrave's powerful authoritative voice.
'Kit of Clumber! Why should I not hang you for thieving on yonder
tree, with your fellow thieves?'
'Yorkists, sir! It was all in the good cause,' responded a sullen
voice, as a grim red and scarred face was seen on a ruffian held by
two of the archers.
'No Yorkists we, sir!' began a stout figure, coming forward from
the waggon. 'We be peaceable merchants and this is a holy dame, the—'
'The Prioress Selby of Greystone,' interrupted one of the nuns,
coming forward with a hawk on her wrist. 'Sir Giles of Musgrave, I am
beholden to you! I was on my way to take the young damsel of Bletso to
her father, the Lord St. John, with Earl Warwick in London. He sent us
an escort, but they being arrant cravens, as it seems, we thought it
well to join company with these same merchants, and thus we became a
bait for the outlaws of the Border.'
'Lady, lady,' burst from one of the prisoners, 'I swear that we
kenned not holy dames to be of the company! Sir, my lord, we thought
to serve the cause of King Harry, and how any man is to guess which
side is Earl Warwick's is past an honest man.'
'An honest man whose cause is his own pouch!' returned Sir Giles.
'Miscreants all! But I trow we are scarce yet out of the land of
misrule! So if the Lady Prioress will say a word for such a sort of
sorners, I'll e'en let you go on your way.'
'They have had a warning, the poor rogues, and that will suffice
for this time! Nay, now, fellows, let my wimple alone! You'll not
find another lord to let you off so easy, nor another Prioress to
stand your friend. Get off, I say.'
An archer enforced her words with a blow, and by some means, rough
or otherwise, a certain amount of order was restored, the ruffians
slinking off among the gorse bushes, their flight hastened by the
pointing of pikes and levelling of arrows at them. While the
merchants, diving into their packages, produced horns of ale which a
younger man offered to their defenders, the chief of the party, a
portly fellow, interrupted certain civilities between the Prioress
and Sir Giles by praying them to partake of a cup of malmsey, and
adding an entreaty that they might be allowed to join company with so
brave an escort, explaining that he was a poor merchant of London and
the Hans towns who had been beguiled into an expedition to Scotland to
the young King James, who was said to have a fair taste. He waved his
hands as if his sufferings had been beyond description.
'Went for wool and came back shorn!' said the Prioress, laughing.
'Well, my Lord Musgrave, what say you to letting us join company?—as
I see your band is afoot it will be no great delay, and the more the
safer as well as the merrier! Here, let me present to you my young
maid, the Lady Anne of Bletso, whom I in person am about to deliver to
'And let me present privately to both ladies,' said Sir Giles, 'the
young squire Harry of Derwentdale, who hath been living as a shepherd
in the hills during the York rule.'
'Ha! my lord, methinks this may not be the first meeting between
Lady Anne and you, though she would not know who the herd boy was who
found her, a stray lambkin on the moor.'
The young people looked at each other with eyes of recognition, and
as Hal made his best bow, he said, 'Forsooth, lady, I did not know
myself till afterwards.'
'Your shepherd and his wife gave me to understand that I should do
hurt by inquiring too much,' said the young lady smiling, and holding
out her hand, which Hal did not know whether to kiss or to shake. 'I
hope the kind old goodwife is well, who cosseted me so lovingly.'
'She fares well, indeed, lady, only grieved at parting with me.'
'There now,' said the Prioress, 'since we are quit of the robbers,
methinks we cannot do better than halt awhile for Master Lorimer's
folk to mend the tackling of their gear, while we make our noonday
meal and provide for our further journey. Allow me to be your hostess
for the nonce, my lords.'
And between the lady's sumpter mules and the merchant's stores a
far more sumptuous meal was produced than would have otherwise been
the share of the Lancastrian party.
CHAPTER XIV. THE JOURNEY
'Twas sweet to see these holy maids,
Like birds escaped to greenwood shades,—SCOTT.
The Prioress Agnes Selby of Greystone was a person who would have
made a much fitter lady of a castle than head of a nunnery. She would
have worked for and with her lord, defended his lands for him,
governed his house and managed her sons with untiring zest and energy.
But a vow of her parents had consigned her to a monastic life at York,
where she could only work off her vigour by teasing the more devout
and grave sisters, and when honourably banished to the more remote
Greystone, in field sports, and in fortifying her convent against
Scots or Lancastrians who, somewhat to her disappointment, never did
attack her. No complaint or scandal had ever attached itself to her
name, and she let Mother Scholastica manage the nuns, and regulate the
devotions, while Greystone was known as a place where a thirsty
warrior might be refreshed, where tales and ballads of Border raids
were welcome, and where good hawk or hound was not despised.
It had occurred to the Lord St. John of Bletso that the little
daughter whom he had left at York might be come to a marriageable
age, and he had listened to the proposal of one of the cousins of the
house of Nevil for a contract between her and his son, sending an
escort northwards to fetch her, properly accompanied.
She had been all these years at Greystone, and the Prioress
immediately decided that this would be an excellent opportunity of
seeing the southern world, and going on a round of pilgrimages which
would make the expedition highly decorous. The ever restless spirit
within her rose in delight, and the Sisterhood of York were ready to
acquiesce, having faith in Mother Agnes' good sense to guide her and
her pupil to his castle in Bedfordshire by the help of Father Martin
through any tangles of the White and Red Roses that might await her,
as well to her real principle for avoiding actual evil, though she
might startle monastic proprieties.
There was no doubt but that conversation, when she could have it,
was as great a joy to her as ever was galloping after a deer; and
there she sat with her beautiful hound by her side, and her hawk on a
pole, exchanging sentiments of speculation as to Warwick's change of
front with Sir Giles Musgrave, Father Martin, and Master Ralph
Lorimer, while discussing a pasty certainly very superior to anything
that had come out of the Penrith stores.
Young Clifford and Lady Anne sat on the grass near, too shy for the
present to renew their acquaintance, but looking up at one another
under their eyelashes, and the first time their eyes met, the girl
breaking into a laugh, but it was not till towards the end of the
refection that they were startled into intercourse by a general
growling and leaping up of the great hound, and of the two big
ungainly dogs chained to the waggon, as wet, lean, bristling but
ecstatic, Watch dashed in among them, and fell on his master.
For four days (unless he was tied up at first) the good dog must
have been tracking him. 'Off! off!' cried the Prioress, holding back
her deer-hound by main strength. 'Off, Florimond! he sets thee a
pattern of faithfulness! Be quiet and learn thy devoir!'
'O sir, I cannot send him back!' entreated Hal, also embracing and
caressing the shaggy neck.
'Send him back! Nay, indeed. As saith the Reverend Mother, it were
well if some earls and lords minded his example,' said Sir Giles.
'Here! Watch, I mind thee well,' added Anne. 'Here's a slice of
pasty to reward thee. Oh! thou art very hungry,' as the big mouth
bolted it whole.
'Nearly famished, poor rogue!' said Hal, administering a bone. 'How
far hast thou run, mine own lad! Art fain to come with thy master and
see the hermit?'
'Thou must e'en go,' growled Simon Bunce, 'unless the lady's dog
make an end of thee! 'Tis ever the worthless that turn up.'
'I would Florimond would show himself as true,' said the Prioress.
'Don't show thy teeth, sir! I can honour Watch, yet love thee.'
''Tis jealousy as upsets faith,' said the merchant. 'The hound is a
knightly beast with his proud head, but he brooks not to see a
Woodville creep in.'
'Nay, or a Beaufort!' suggested Sir Giles.
'No treason, Lord Musgrave!' said the Prioress, laughing.
'Ah, madam,' responded Sir Giles, 'what is treason?'
'Whatever is against him that has the best of it,' observed Master
Lorimer. 'Well that it is not the business of a poor dealer in
horse-gear and leather-work. He asks not which way his bridles are to
turn! How now, Tray and Blackchaps? Never growl and gird. You have no
part in the fray!'
For they were chained, and could only champ, bark and howl, while
Florimond and Watch turned one another over, and had to be pulled
forcibly back, by Hal on the one hand and on the other by the Mother
Agnes, who would let nobody touch Florimond except herself. After
this, the two dogs subsided into armed neutrality, and gradually
became devoted friends.
The curiously composed cavalcade moved on their way southward. The
Prioress was mounted on the fine chestnut horse that Sir Giles had
rescued. She was attended by a nun, Sister Mabel, and a lay Sister,
both as hardy as herself, and riding sturdy mountain ponies; but her
chaplain, a thin delicate-looking man with a bad cough, only ventured
upon a sturdy ass; Anne St. John had a pretty little white palfrey and
two men-at-arms. There were two grooms, countrymen, who had run away
on the onset of the thieves, but came sneaking back again, to be
soundly rated by the Prioress, who threatened to send them home again
or have them well scourged, but finally laughed and forgave them.
The merchant, Master Lorimer—who dealt primarily in all sorts of
horse furniture, but added thereto leather-work for knights and
men-at-arms, and all that did not too closely touch the armourer's
trade—had three sturdy attendants, having lost one in an attack by
the Scottish Borderers, and he had four huge Flemish horses, who sped
along the better for their loads having been lightened by sales in
Edinburgh, where he had hardly obtained skins enough to make up for
the weight. His headquarters, he said, were at Barnet, since tanning
and leather-dressing, necessary to his work, though a separate guild,
literally stank in the nostrils of the citizens of London.
To these were added Sir Giles Musgrave's twenty archers, making a
very fair troop, wherewith to proceed, and the Prioress decided on not
going to York. She was not particularly anxious for an interview with
the Abbess of her Order, and it would have considerably lengthened the
journey, which both Musgrave and Lorimer were anxious to make as short
as possible. They preferred likewise to keep to the country, that was
still chiefly open and wild, with all its destiny in manufactories yet
to come, though there were occasionally such towns, villages and
convents on the way where provisions and lodging could be obtained.
Every fresh scene of civilisation was a new wonder to Hal Clifford,
and scarcely less so to Anne St. John, though her life in the moorland
convent had begun when she was not quite so young as he had been when
taken to the hills of Londesborough. He had only been two or three
times in the church at Threlkeld, which was simple and bare, and the
full display of a monastic church was an absolute amazement, making
him kneel almost breathless with awe, recollecting what the royal
hermit had told him. He was too illiterate to follow the service, but
the music and the majestic flow of the chants overwhelmed him, and he
listened with hands clasped over his face, not daring to raise his
eyes to the dazzling gold of the altar, lighted by innumerable wax
The Prioress was amused. 'Art dazed, my friend? This is but a poor
country cell; we will show you something much finer when we get to
Hal drew a long breath. 'Is that meant to be like the saints in
Heaven?' he said. 'Is that the way they sing there?'
'I should hope they pronounce their Latin better,' responded the
Prioress, who, it may be feared, was rather a light-minded woman. At
any rate there was a chill upon Hal which prevented him from directing
any of his remarks or questions to her for the future. The chaplain
told him something of what he wanted to know, but he met with the most
sympathy from the Lady Anne.
'Which, think you, is the fittest temple and worship?' he said; as
they rode out together, after hearing an early morning service, gone
through in haste, and partaking of a hurried meal. The sun was rising
over the hills of Derbyshire, dyeing them of a red purple, standing
out sharply against a flaming sky, flecked here and there with rosy
clouds, and fading into blue that deepened as it rose higher. The elms
and beeches that bordered the monastic fields had begun to put on
their autumn livery, and yellow leaves here and there were like sparks
caught from the golden light.
Hal drew off his cap as in homage to the glorious sight.
'Ah, it is fine!' said Anne, 'it is like the sunrise upon our own
moors, when one breathes freely, and the clouds grow white instead of
'Ah!' said Hal, 'I used to go out to the high ground and say the
prayer the hermit taught me—"Jam Lucis," it began. He said it was
about the morning light.'
'I know that "Jam Lucis,"' said Anne; 'the Sisters sing it at
prime, and Sister Scholastica makes us think how it means about light
coming and our being kept from ill,' and she hummed the chant of the
'I think this blue sky and royal sun, and the moon and stars at
night, are God's great hall of praise,' said Hal, still keeping his
cap off, as he had done through Anne's chant of praise.
'Verily it is! It is the temple of God Almighty, Creator of Heaven
and earth, as the Credo says,' replied Anne, 'but, maybe, we come
nearer still to Him in God the Son when we are in church.'
'I do not know. The dark vaulted roof and the dimness seem to crush
me down,' said the mountain lad, 'though the singing lifts me
sometimes, though at others it comes like a wailing gust, all
mournful and sad! If I could only understand! My royal hermit would
tell me when I can come to him.'
'Do you think, now he is a king again, he will be able to take heed
'I know he cares for me,' said Hal with confidence.
'Ah yea, but will the folk about him care to let him talk to you? I
have heard say that he was but a puppet in their hands. Yea, you are a
great lord, that is true, but will that great masterful Earl Warwick
let you to him, or say all these thoughts of his and yours are but
fancies for babes?'
'Simon Bunce did mutter such things, and that one of us was as
great an innocent as the other,' said Hal, 'but I trust my hermit's
'Ay, you know you are going to someone you love, and who loves
you,' sighed Anne, 'but how will it be with me?'
'Your father?' suggested Hal.
'My father! What knows he of me or I of him? I tell thee, Harry
Clifford, he left me at York when I was not eight years old, and I
have never seen him since. He gave a charge on his lands to a
goldsmith at York to pay for my up-bringing, and I verily believe
thought no more of me than if I had been a messan dog. He wedded a
lady in Flanders and had a son or twain, but I have never seen them
nor my stepdame; and now Gilbert there, who brought the letter to the
Mother Prioress, says she is dead, and the little heir, whose birth
makes me nobody, is at a monastery school at Ghent. But my Lord of
Redgrave must needs make overtures to my father for me, whether for
his son or himself Gilbert cannot say. So my father sends to bring me
back for a betrothal. The good Prioress goes with me. She saith that
if it be the old Lord, who is a fierce old rogue with as ill a name as
Tiptoft himself, the butcher, she will make my Lord St. John know the
reason why! But what will he care?'
'It would be hard not to hear my Lady Prioress!' said Hal, looking
back at the determined black figure, gesticulating as she talked to
Anne laughed, half sadly, 'So you think! But you have never seen
the grim faces at Bletso! They will say she is but a woman and a nun,
and what are her words to alliance with a friend of the Lord of
Warwick? Ah! it is a heartless hope, when I come to that castle!'
'Nay, Anne, if my King gives me my place then—
'Lady Anne! Lady Anne!' called Sir Giles Musgrave, 'the Mother
Prioress thinks it not safe for you to keep so much in the front.
There might be ill-doers in the thickets.'
Anne perforce reined in, but Hal fed on the idea that had suddenly
flashed on him.
CHAPTER XV. BLETSO
Matter of marriage was the charge he gave me.—SHAKESPEARE,
The cavalcade journeyed on not very quickly, as the riders
accommodated themselves to those on foot. They avoided the towns when
they came into the more inhabited country, the Prioress preferring the
smaller hostels for pilgrims and travellers, and, it may be suspected,
monasteries to the nunneries, where she said the ladies had nothing to
talk about but wonder at her journey, and advice to stay in shelter
till after the winter weather. Meantime it was a fine autumn still,
and with bright colours on the woods, where deer, hare, rabbit, or
partridge tempted the hounds, not to say their mistress, but she kept
them well in leash, and her falcon with hood and jesses, she being too
well nurtured not to be well aware of the strict laws of the chase,
except when some good-natured monk gave her leave and accompanied
her—generally Augustinians, who were more of country squires than
ecclesiastics. Watch needed no leash—he kept close to his master,
except when occasionally tempted to a little amateur shepherding, from
which Hal could easily call him off. The great stag-hounds evidently
despised him, and the curs of the waggon hated him, and snarled
whenever he came near them, but the Prioress respected him, and could
well believe that the hermit King had loved him. 'He had just the
virtues to suit the good King Harry,' she said, 'dutifulness and
The Prioress was the life of the party, with her droll descriptions
of the ways of the nuns who received her, while the males of the party
had to be content with the hostel outside. Sir Giles and Master
Lorimer, riding on each side of her, might often be heard laughing
with her. The young people were much graver, especially as there were
fewer and fewer days' journeys to Bletso, and Anne's unknown future
would begin with separation from all she had ever known, unless the
Mother Prioress should be able to remain with her.
And to Harry Clifford the loss of her presence grew more and more
to be dreaded as each day's companionship drew them nearer together in
sympathy, and he began to build fanciful hopes of the King's influence
upon the plans of Lord St. John, unless the contract of betrothal had
been actually made, and therewith came a certain zest in looking to
his probable dignity such as he had never felt before.
The last day's journey had come. The escort who had acted as guides
were in familiar fields and lanes, and one, the leader, rode up to
Lady Anne and pointed to the grey outline among the trees of her home,
while he sent the other to hurry forward and announce her.
Anne shivered a little, and Hal kept close to her. He had made the
journey on foot, because he had chosen to be reckoned among Musgrave's
archers till he had received full knightly training; and, besides, he
had more freedom to attach himself to Anne's bridle rein, and be at
hand to help through difficult passages. Now he came up close to her,
and she held out her hand. He pressed it warmly.
'You will not forget?'
'Never, never! That red rose in the snow—I have the leaf in my
breviary. And Goodwife Dolly, tell her I'll never forget how she
cosseted the wildered lamb.'
'Poor Mother Dolly, when shall I see her?'
'Oh! you will be able to have her to share your state, and Watch
too! I take none with me.'
'If we are all in King Harry's cause, there will be hope of
meeting, and then if—'
'Ah! I see a horseman coming! Is it my father?'
It was a horseman who met them, taking off his cap of maintenance
and bowing low to the Prioress and the young lady, but it was the
seneschal of the castle, not the father whom Anne so dreaded, but an
old gentleman, Walter Wenlock, with whom there was a greeting as of an
old friend. My lord had gone with the Earl of Warwick to Queen
Margaret in France, and had sent a messenger with a letter to meet his
daughter at York, and tell her to go to the house of the Poor Clares
in London instead of coming home, 'and there await him.'
The route that had been taken by the party accounted for their not
having met the messenger and it was plain that they must go on to
London. The evening was beginning to draw in, and a night's lodging
was necessary. Anne assumed a little dignity.
'My good friends who have guarded me, I hope you will do me the
honour to rest for the night in my father's castle.'
The seneschal bowed acquiescence, but the poor man was evidently
sorely perplexed by such an extensive invitation on the part of his
young lady on his peace establishment, though the Prioress did her
best to assist Anne to set him at ease. 'Here is Sir Giles Musgrave,
the Lord of Peelholm on the Borders, a staunch friend of King Harry,
with a band of stout archers, and this gentleman from the north is
with him.' (It had been agreed that the Clifford name should not be
mentioned till the way had been felt with Warwick, one of whose
cousins had been granted the lands of the Black Lord Clifford.)
The seneschal bent before Musgrave courteously, saying he was happy
to welcome so good and brave a knight, and he prayed his followers to
excuse if their fare was scant and homely, being that he was
unprovided for the honour.
'No matter, sir,' returned Musgrave; 'we are used to soldiers'
'And,' proceeded Anne, 'Master Lorimer must lie here, and his
'Master Lorimer,' said the Prioress, 'with whom belike—Lorimer of
Barnet—Sir Seneschal has had dealings,' and she put forward the
merchant, who had been falling back to his waggon.
'Yea,' said Walter Wenlock frankly, holding out his hand. 'We have
bought your wares and made proof of them, good sir. I am glad to
welcome you, though I never saw you to the face before.'
'Great thanks, good seneschal. All that I would ask would be
licence for my wains to stand in your court to-night while my fellows
and I sup and lodge at the hostel.'
The hospitality of Bletso could not suffer this, and both Anne and
the seneschal were urgent that all should remain, Wenlock reflecting
that if the store for winter consumption were devoured, even to the
hog waiting to be killed, he could obtain fresh supplies from the
tenants, so he ushered all into the court, and summoned steward,
cooks, and scullions to do their best. It was not a castle, only a
castellated house, which would not have been capable of long
resistance in time of danger, but the court and stables gave ample
accommodation for the animals and the waggons, and the men were
bestowed in the great open hall, reaching to the top of the house,
where all would presently sup.
In the meantime the seneschal conducted the ladies and their two
attendants to a tiny chamber, where an enormous bed was being made
ready by the steward's wife and her son, and in which all four ladies
would sleep, the Prioress and Anne one way, the other two foot to foot
with them! They had done so before, so were not surprised, and the
lack of furniture was a matter of course. Their mails were brought up,
a pitcher of water and a bowl, and they made their preparations for
supper. Anne was in high spirits at the dreaded meeting, and still
more dreaded parting, having been deferred, and she skipped about the
room, trying to gather up her old recollections. 'Yes, I remember that
bit of tapestry, and the man that stands there among the sheep. Is it
King David, think you, Mother, about to throw his stone at the lion
and the bear?'
'Lion and bear, child! 'Tis the three goddesses and Paris choosing
the fairest to give the golden apple.'
'Methought that was the lion's mane, but I see a face.'
'What would the Lady Venus say to have her golden locks taken for a
'I like black hair,' said Anne.
'Better not fix thy mind on any hue! We poor women have no choice
save what fathers make for us.'
'O good my mother, peace! They are all in France, and there's no
need to spoil this breathing time with thinking of what is coming!
Good old Wenlock! I used to ride on his shoulder! I'm right glad to
see him again! I must tell him in his ear to put Hal well above the
salt! May not I tell him in his ear who he is?'
'Safer not, my maid, till we know what King Harry can do for him.
Better that his name should not get abroad till he can have his own.'
A great bell brought all down, and Anne was pleased to see that her
seneschal made no question about placing Harry Clifford beside the
Prioress, who sat next to the Lord of Peelholm, who sat next to the
young daughter of the house in the seat of honour.
The nuns, Master Lorimer, and one of the archers, who was a Border
squire, besides Master Wenlock, occupied the high table on the dais,
and the archers, grooms, and the rest of the household were below.
The fare was not scanty nor unsubstantial, but evidently hastily
prepared, being chiefly broiled slices of beef, on which salting had
begun; but there was a lack of bread, even of barley, though there was
no want of drink.
However, the Prioress was good-humoured, and forestalled all
excuses by jests about travellers' meals and surprises in the way of
guests, and both she and Sir Giles were anxious for Wenlock's news of
the state of things.
He knew much more of the course of affairs than they in their
northern homes and on their journey.
'The realm is divided,' he said. 'Those who hold to King Harry, as
you gentles do, are in high joy, but there be many, spoken with
respect, who cannot face about so fast, and hold still for York,
though they mislike the Queen's kindred. Of such are the merchantmen
'Is it so?' asked Lorimer. 'If King Edward be as deep in debt to
them as to me for housings and bridle reins methinks he should not be
in good odour in their nostrils.'
'Yea,' said Wenlock, 'but if he be gone a beggar to Burgundy what
becomes of their debt?'
'I would not give much for it were he restored a score of times,'
said the Prioress. 'What would he do but plunge deeper?'
'There would be hope, though, of getting an order on the royal
demesne, or the crown jewels, or the taxes,' said Lorimer. 'Nay, I
hold one even now that will be but waste if he come not back.'
'And this poor King spendeth nothing save on priests and masses,'
Hal started forward, eager to hear of his King, and Musgrave said,
'A holy man is he.'
'Too holy for a King,' said the seneschal. 'He looked like a
woolsack across a horse when my Lord of Warwick led him down
Cheapside; and only the rabble cried out "Long live King Harry!" but
some scoffed and said they saw a mere gross monk with a baby face
where they had been wont to see a comely prince full of manhood, with
a sword instead of beads.'
'His son will please them,' said Musgrave. 'He was a goodly child,
full of spirit, when last I saw him.'
'If so be he have not too much of the Frenchwoman, his mother, in
him,' said Wenlock. 'A losing lot, as poor as any rats, and as proud
as very peacocks.'
'She was gracious enough and won all hearts on the Border,' replied
'Come, come!' put in the Prioress, 'you may have the chance yet to
break a lance on her behalf. No fear but she is royal enough to shine
down King Edward's low-born love, the Widow Grey!'
'Ay, there lay the cause of discontent,' said Lorimer; 'the upstart
ways of her kin were not to be borne. To hear Dick Woodville chaffer
about the blazoning of his horse-gear when he was wedding the
fourscore-year-old Duchess of Norfolk, one would have thought he was
an emperor at the very least.'
'Widow Grey has done something for her husband's cause,' said the
seneschal, 'in bringing him at last a fair son, all in his exile, and
she in sanctuary at Westminster. The London citizens are ever touched
through all the fat about their hearts by whatever would sound well in
the mouth of a ballad-monger.'
'My King, my King, what of him?' sighed Hal in the Prioress's ear,
and she made the inquiry for him: 'What said you of King Henry, Sir
Seneschal? How did he fare in his captivity?'
'Not so ill, methinks,' said the seneschal. 'He had the range of
the Tower, and St. Peter's in the Fetters to pray in, which was what
he heeded most; also he had a messan dog, and a tame bird. Indeed, men
said he had laid on much flesh since he had been mewed up there; and
my lord, who went with my Lord of Warwick to fetch him, said his
garments were scarce so cleanly as befitted. 'Twas hard to make him
understand. First he clasped his hands, and bowed his head, crying out
that he forgave those who came to slay him, and when he found it was
all the other way, he stood like one dazed, let his hand be kissed,
and they say is still in the hands of my Lord Archbishop of York just
as if he were the waxen image of St. John in a procession.'
'The Earl and the Queen will have to do the work,' said the
Prioress, 'and they will no more hold together than a couple of wild
hawks will hunt in company. How long do you give them to tear out one
'Son and daughter may keep them together,' said Musgrave,
'Hatred of the Woodvilles is more like, a poor band though it be,'
said the Prioress. 'These are stirring times! I'll not go back to my
anchoress lodge in the north till I see what works out of them!
Meantime, to our beds, sweet Anne, since 'tis an early start tomorrow.'
The Prioress, who had become warmly interested in Hal, and had
divined the feeling between him and Anne, thought that if she could
obtain access to the Archbishop of York, Warwick's brother George,
she could deal with him to procure Clifford's restitution in name and
in blood, and at least his De Vesci inheritance, if Dick Nevil, who
had grasped the Clifford lands, could not be induced to give them up.
'I have seen George Nevil,' she said, 'when I was instituted to
Greystone. He is of kindlier mood than his brothers, and more a
valiant trencherman and hunter than aught else. If I had him on the
moors and could show him some sport with a red deer, I could turn him
round my finger.'
CHAPTER XVI. THE HERMIT IN THE TOWER
Thy pity hath been balm to heal their wounds,
Thy mildness hath allayed their swelling griefs,
Thy mercy dried their ever flowing tears.—SHAKESPEARE.
Early in the morning, while the wintry sun was struggling with
mists, and grass and leaves were dark with frost, the Prioress was in
her saddle. Perhaps the weather might have constrained a longer stay,
but that it was clear to her keen eyes that, however welcome Wenlock
might make his young lady, there was little provision and no welcome
for thorough-going Lancastrians like Sir Giles's troop, who had
besides a doubtful Robin Hood-like reputation; and as neither she nor
Anne wished to ride forward without them, they decided to go on all
together as before.
And a very wet and slightly snowy journey they had, 'meeting in
snow and parting in snow,' as Hal said, as he marched by Anne's
bridle-rein, leading her pony, so as to leave her hands free to hold
cloak and hood close about her.
She sighed, and put one hand on his, but a gust of wind took that
opportunity of getting under her cloak and sending it fluttering over
her back, so that he had to catch it and return it to her grasp.
'Let us take that as a prophecy that storms shall not hinder our
further meeting! It may be! It may be! Who knows what my King may do
'Only a storm can bring us together! But that may—'
Her breath was blown away again before the sentence was finished,
if it was meant to be finished, and Master Lorimer came to insist on
the ladies taking shelter in his covered waggon, where the Prioress
was already installed.
Through rain and sleet they reached Chipping Barnet in due time on
the third day's journey, and here they were to part from the
merchant's wains. He had sent forward, and ample cheer was provided
at the handsome timbered and gabled house at the porch of which stood
his portly wife, with son, daughter, and son-in-law, ready to welcome
the party, bringing them in to be warmed and dried before sitting down
to the excellent meal which it had been Mistress Lorimer's pride and
pleasure to provide. There was a small nunnery at Barnet, but not very
near, and the Prioress Agnes did not think herself bound to make her
way thither in the dark and snow, so she remained, most devoutly
waited on by her hostess, and discussed the very last tidings, which
had been brought that morning by the foreman whom Mistress Lorimer had
sent to bring the news to her husband.
It was probable that the Lord of Bletso was with Warwick and the
Queen, as he had not been heard of at his home. The King was in the
royal apartments of the Tower, under the charge of the Chancellor.
The Earl of Oxford, a steady partisan of the Red Rose, was Constable
of the Kingdom, and was guarding the Tower.
On hearing this, Musgrave decided to repair at once to the Earl,
one of the few men in whom there was confidence, since he had never
changed his allegiance, and to take his counsel as to the recognition
of young Clifford. On the way to the Tower they would leave the
Prioress and her suite at the Sister Minoresses', till news could be
heard of the Baron St. John.
So for the last time the travellers rode forth in slightly improved
weather. Harry's heart beat high with the longing soon to be in the
presence of him who had opened so many doors of life to his young
mind, whom he so heartily loved, and who, it might be, could give him
that which he began to feel would be the joy of his life.
The archers, who had been lodged in the warehouses, were drawn up
in a compact body, and Master Lorimer, who had a shop in Cheapside,
decided on accompanying them, partly to be at the scene of action and
partly to facilitate their entrance.
So Hal walked by the side of Anne St. John's bridle-rein, with a
very full heart, swelling with sensations he did not understand, and
which kept him absolutely silent, untrained as he was in the
conventionalities which would have made speech easier to him. Nor had
Anne much more command of tongue, and all she did was to keep her hand
upon the shoulder of her squire; but there was much involuntary
meaning in the yearning grasp of those fingers, and both fed on the
hopes the Prioress had given them.
Christmas was close at hand, and fatted cattle on their way to
market impeded the way, so that Hal's time was a good deal taken up
in steering the pony along, and in preventing Watch from getting into
a battle with the savage dogs that guarded them. Penrith market, where
once he had been, had never shown him anything like such a concourse,
and he could hear muttered exclamations from the archers, who walked
by Sir Giles's orders in a double line on each side the horses, their
pikes keeping off the blundering approach of bullocks or sheep. 'By
the halidome, if the Scots were among them, they might victual their
whole kingdom till Domesday!'
The tall spire of old St. Paul's and the four turrets of the Tower
began to rise on them, and were pointed out by Master Lorimer, for
even Sir Giles had only once in his life visited the City, and no one
else of the whole band from the north had ever been there. The road
was bordered by the high walls of monasteries, overshadowed by trees,
and at the deep gateway of one of these Lorimer called a halt. It was
the house of the Minoresses or Poor Clares, where the ladies were to
remain. The six weeks' companionship would come to an end, and the
Prioress was heartily sorry for it. 'I shall scarce meet such good
company at the Clares',' she said, laughing, as she took leave of Lord
Musgrave, 'Mayhap when I go back to my hills I shall remember your
goodwife's offer of hospitality, Master Lorimer.'
Master Lorimer bowed low, expressed his delight in the prospect,
and kissed the Prioress's hand, but the heavy door was already being
opened, and with an expressive look of drollery and resignation, the
good lady withdrew her hand, hastily brought her Benedictine hood and
veil closely over her face, and rode into the court, followed by her
suite. Anne had time to let her hand be kissed by Sir Giles and Hal,
who felt as if a world had closed on him as the heavy doors clanged
together behind the Sisters. But the previous affection of his young
life lay before him as Sir Giles rode on to the fortified Aldgate, and
after a challenge from the guard, answered by a watchword from
Lorimer, and an inquiry for whom the knight held, they were admitted,
and went on through an increasing crowd trailing boughs of holly and
mistletoe, to the north gateway of the Tower. Here they parted with
Lorimer, with friendly greetings and promises to come and see his
stall at Cheapside.
There was a man-at-arms with the star of the De Veres emblazoned on
his breast, and a red rosette on his steel cap, but he would not admit
the new-comers till Sir Giles had given his name, and it had been sent
in by another of the garrison to the Earl of Oxford.
Presently, after some waiting in the rain, and looking up with awe
at the massive defences, two knights appeared with outstretched hands
of welcome. Down went the drawbridge, up went the portcullis, the
horses clattered over the moat, and the reception was hearty indeed.
'Well met, my Lord of Musgrave! I knew you would soon be where Red
'Welcome, Sir Giles! Methought you had escaped after the fight at
'Glad indeed to meet you, brave Sir John, and you, good Lord of
Holmdale! Is all well with the King?'
'As well as ever it will be. The Constable is nigh at hand! You
have brought us a stout band of archers, I see! We will find a use
for them if March chooses to show his presumptuous nose here again!'
'And hither comes my Lord Constable! It rejoices his heart to hear
of such staunch following.'
The Earl of Oxford, a stern, grave man of early middle age, was
coming across the court-yard, and received Sir Giles with the
heartiness that became the welcome of a proved and trustworthy ally.
After a few words, Musgrave turned and beckoned to Hal, who advanced,
shy and colouring.
'Ha! young Lord Clifford! I am glad to see you! I knew your father
well, rest his soul! The King spoke to me of the son of a loyal house
living among the moors.'
'The King was very good to me,' faltered Hal, crimson with
'Ay, ay! I sent not after you, having enough to do here; and
besides, till we have the strong hand, and can do without that heady
kinsman of Warwick, it will be ill for you to disturb the
rogue—what's his name—to whom your lands have been granted, and who
might turn against the cause and maybe make a speedy end of you if he
knew you present. Be known for the present as Sir Giles counsels.
Better not put his name forward,' he added to Musgrave.
'I care not for lands,' said Hal, 'only to see the King.'
'See him you shall, my young lord, and if he be not in one of his
trances, he will be right glad to see you and remember you. But he is
scarce half a man,' added Oxford, turning to Musgrave. 'Cares for
nought but his prayers! Keeps his Hours like a monk! We can hardly
bring him to sit in the Council, and when he is there he sits scarce
knowing what we say. 'Tis my belief, when the Queen and Prince come,
that we shall have to make the Prince rule in his name, and let him
alone to his prayers! He will be in the church. 'Tis nones, or some
hour as they call it, and he makes one stretch out to another.'
They entered the low archway of St. Peter ad Vincula, and there Hal
perceived a figure in a dark mantle just touched with gold, kneeling
near the chancel step, almost crouching. Did he not know the attitude,
though the back was broader than of old? He paused, as did his
companions; but there was one who did not pause, and would not be left
outside. Watch unseen had pattered up, and was rearing up, jumping and
fawning. There was a call of 'Watch! here sirrah!' but 'Watch! Watch!
Good dog! Is it thou indeed?' was exclaimed at the same moment, and
with Watch springing up, King Henry stood on his feet looking round
with his dazed glance.
'My King! my hermit father! Forgive! Down, Watch!' cried Hal,
falling down at his feet, with one arm holding down Watch, who tried
to lick his face and the King's hand by turns.
'Is it thou, my child, my shepherd?' said Henry, his hands on the
lad's head. 'Bless thee! Oh, bless thee, much loved child of my
wanderings! I have longed after thee, and prayed for thee, and now
God hath given thee to me at this shrine! Kneel and give the Lord thy
best thanks, my lad! Ah! how tall thou art! I should not have known
thee, Hal, but for Watch.'
'It is well,' muttered Oxford to Musgrave. 'I have not seen him so
well nor so cheery all this day. The lad will waken him up and do him
CHAPTER XVII. A CAPTIVE KING
And we see far on holy ground,
If duly purged our mental view.—KEBLE.
The King held Harry Clifford by the hand as he left St. Peter's
Church. 'My child, my shepherd boy,' he said, and he called Watch
after him, and interested himself in establishing a kind of
suspicious peace between the shaggy collie and his own 'Minion,' a
small white curly-haired dog, which belonged to a family that had
been brought by Queen Margaret from Provence.
His attendant knight, Sir Nicolas Romford, told Sir Giles Musgrave
that he had really never seemed so happy since his deliverance, and
Sir Nicolas had waited on him ever since his capture, six years
previously. He led the youth along to the royal rooms, asking on the
way after his sheep and the goodwife who had sent him presents of
eggs, then showing him the bullfinch, that greeted his return with
loving chirps, and when released from its cage came and sat upon his
shoulder and played with his hair, 'A better pet than a fierce hawk,
eh, Hal?' he said.
He laughed when he found that Harry thought he had spent all this
time in a dark underground dungeon with fetters on his feet.
'Oh no!' he said; 'they were kindly jailors. They dealt better with
me than with my Master.'
'Sir, sir, that terrible ride through Cheapside!' said Harry. 'We
heard of it at Derwent-side, and we longed to have our pikes at the
throats of the villain traitors.'
The King looked as if he hardly remembered that cruel procession,
when he was set upon a sorry jade with his feet tied to the stirrups,
and shouts of 'Behold the traitor!' around him. Then with a sweet
smile of sudden recollection, he said, 'Ah! I recall it, and how I
rejoiced to be led in the steps of my Lord, and how the cries sounded,
"We will not have this man to reign over us!" Gratias ago, unworthy
me, who by my own fault could not reign.'
Harry was silenced, awe-struck, and by-and-by the King took him to
see his old chamber in the White Tower, up a winding stone stair. It
was not much inferior to the royal lodgings, except in the matter of
dais, canopy, and tapestry, and the window looked out into the
country, so that the King said he had loved it, and it had many a
happy thought connected with it.
Hal followed him in a sort of silent wonder, if not awe, not daring
to answer him in monosyllables. This was not quite the hermit of
Derwentdale. It was a broader man—not with the breadth of full
strength, but of inactivity and advance of years, though the fiftieth
year was only lately completed—and the royal robe of crimson, touched
with gold, suited him far less thaft the brown serge of the anchoret.
The face was no longer thin, sunburnt, and worn, but pale, and his
checks slightly puffed, and the eyes and smile, with more of the
strange look of innocent happiness than of old, and of that which
seemed to bring back to his young visitor the sense of peace and
well-being that the saintly hermit had always given him.
There was consultation that evening between Lord Oxford and Sir
Giles Musgrave. It was better, they agreed, to let young Clifford
remain with the King as much as possible, but without divulging his
name. The King knew it, and indeed had known it, when he received the
boy at his hermitage, but he seemed to have forgotten it, as he had
much besides. Oxford said that though he could be roused into actual
fulfilment of such forms as were required of him, and understood what
was set before him, his memory and other powers seemed to have been
much impaired, and it was held wiser not to call on him more than
could be helped, till the Queen and her son should come to supply the
energy that was wanting. They would make the gay and brilliant
appearance that the Londoners had admired in Edward of York, and which
could not be obtained from poor Henry.
His memory for actual matters was much impaired. Never for two days
together could he recollect that his son and Warwick's daughter were
married, and it was always by an effort that he remembered that the
Prince of Wales was not the eight-years-old child whom he had last
seen. As to young Clifford, he sometimes seemed to think the tall
nineteen-years-old stripling was just where he had left the child of
twelve or thirteen, and if he perceived the age, was so far confused
that it was not quite certain that he might not mix him up with his
own son, though the knight in constant attendance was sure that he was
clear on that point, and only looked on 'Hal' as the child of his
teaching and prayers.
But Harry Clifford could not persuade him to enter into that which
more and more lay near the youthful heart, the rescuing Anne St. John
from the suitor of whom little that was hopeful was heard; and the
obtaining her from his father. Of course this could not be unless
Harry could win his father's property, and no longer be under the
attaint in blood, so as to be able to lay claim to the lands of the De
Vescis through his mother; but though the King listened with kindly
interest to the story of the children's adventure on the Londesborough
moor, and the subsequent meeting in Westmorland, the rescue from the
outlaws, and the journey together, it was all like a romance to
him—he would nod his head and promise to do what he could, if he
could, but he never remembered it for two days together, and if Hal
ventured on anything like pressure, the only answer was, 'Patience, my
son, patience must have her work! It is the will of God, it will be
And when Hal began to despair and work himself up and seek to do
more with one so impracticable, Lord Oxford and Sir Giles warned him
not to force his real name and claims too much, for he did not need
too many enemies nor to have Lord St. John and the Nevil who held his
lands both anxious to sweep him from their path.
Nor was anything heard from or of the Prioress of Greystone, and
whenever the name of George Nevil, the Chancellor and Archbishop of
York, was heard, Hal's heart burnt with anxiety, and fear that the
lady had forgotten him, though as Dick Nevil, who held the lands of
Clifford, was known to be in his suite, it was probable that she was
acting out of prudence.
The turmoil of anxious impatience seemed to be quelled when Hal sat
on a stool before the King, with Watch leaning against his knee. The
instruction or meditation seemed to be taken up much where it had been
left six years before, with the same unanswerable questions, only the
youth had thought out a great deal more, and the hermit had advanced
in a wisdom which was not that of the rough, practical world.
Part of Clifford's day was spent in the tilt-yard, where his two
friends, as well as himself, were anxious that he should acquire
proficiency and ease such as would become his station, when he
recovered it; and a martinet old squire of Oxford proved himself
nearly as hard a master as ever Simon Bunce had been.
One very joyous day came to Henry in his regal capacity. Christmas
Day had been quietly spent. There was much noisy revelling in the
city, and the guards in the castle had their feastings, but Warwick
was daily expected to return from France, and neither his brother nor
the Archbishop thought that there was much policy in making a public
spectacle of a puppet King.
But there was one ceremony from which Henry would not be debarred.
He would make the public offering on the Epiphany in Westminster
Abbey. He had done so ever since he was old enough to totter up to the
altar and hold the offerings; and his heart was set on doing so once
more. So a large and quiet cream-coloured Flemish horse was brought
for him, he was robed in purple and ermine, with a coronal around the
cap that covered his hair, fast becoming white. His train in full
array followed him, and the streets were thronged, but there was an
ominous lack of applause, and even a few audible jeers at the monk
dressed up like the jackdaw in peacock's plumes, and comparisons with
Edward, in sooth a king worth looking at.
Henry seemed not to heed or hear. His blue eyes looked upward, his
face was set in peaceful contemplation, his lips were moving, and
those who were near enough caught murmurs of 'Vidimus enim stellam
Ejus in Oriente et venimus adorare Eum.' Truly the one might be a king
to suit the kingdoms of this world, the other had a soul near the
Kingdom of Heaven.
The Dean and choir received him at the west door, and with the same
rapt countenance he paced up to the sanctuary, and knelt before the
chair appropriated to him, while the grand Epiphany Celebration was
gone through, in all its glory and beauty of sound and sight, and with
the King kneeling with clasped hands, and a radiant look of happiness
almost transfiguring that worn face.
When the offertory anthem was sung, he rose up, and advanced to the
altar. A salver of gold coins was presented to him, which he took and
solemnly laid on the altar, but paused for a moment, and removed his
crown with both hands, placing it likewise on the altar, and kneeling
for a moment ere he turned to take the vase whence breathed the
fragrant odour of frankincense; and presenting this, and afterwards
kneeling and bowing low with clasped hands, he again took the salver
in which the myrrh was laid. This again he placed on the altar, and
remained kneeling in intense devotion through the remainder of the
service, only looking up at the 'Sursum Corda,' when those near enough
to see his countenance said that they never knew before the full
import of those words, nor how the heart could be uplifted.
It was the first time that Hal Clifford had ever joined in the full
ceremonial of the Church, or in such splendid accompaniment, for
though there had been the rightful ritual at St. Peter's in the Tower,
the space had been confined, and the clergy few, and the whole, even
on Christmas Day, had been more or less a training to him to enter
into what he now saw and heard. He had in these last weeks gathered
much of the meaning of all this from the King, who perhaps never fully
disentangled the full-grown youth from the boy he had taught at
Derwentdale, but who, perhaps for that very cause, really suited
better the strange mixture of ignorance, simplicity, observation and
aspiration of the shepherd lord.
The King did not help more but less than he had done before in
Hal's researches and wonderings about natural objects; he had
forgotten the philosophies he had once read, and the supposed
circuits of moon, planets and stars only perplexed and worried his
brain. It was much more satisfactory to refer all to 'He hath made
them fast for ever and ever, He hath given them a law which shall not
be broken,' and he could not understand Hal's desire to find out what
that law was, and far less his calculations about the tides. He had
scarcely ever seen the sea, and as to its motions, 'Hitherto shalt
thou come and no farther' was sufficient explanation, and when Hal
tried to show him the correspondence between spring tides and full
moons he either waved him away or fell asleep.
But on the spiritual side of his mind there was no torpor. He loved
to explain the sense of the prayers to his willing pupil, and to tell
him the Gospel story, dwelling on whatever could waken or carry on the
Christian life; and between the tiltyard and the oratory Hal spent a
That question which had occurred to him on the journey Hal ventured
to lay before his King—'Was it really and truly better and more
acceptable worship that came to breathe through him when alone with
God under the open vault of Heaven, with endless stars above and
beyond, or was the best that which was beautified and guided by
priests, with all that man's devices could lavish upon its
embellishment?' Such, though in more broken and hesitating words, was
the herd boy's difficulty, and Henry put his head back, and after
having once said, 'Adam had the one, God directed the other,' he shut
his eyes, and Hal feared he would put it aside as he had with the moon
and the tides, but after some delay, he leant forward and said, 'My
son, if man had always been innocent, that worship as Adam and Eve had
it might—nay, would—have sufficed them. The more innocent man is,
the better his heart rises. But sin came into the world, and expiation
was needed, not only here on earth, but before the just God in Heaven
above. Therefore doth He, who hath once offered Himself in sacrifice
for us, eternally present His offering in Heaven before the
Mercy-Seat, and we endeavour as much as our poor feeble efforts can,
to take part in what He does above, and bring it home to our senses by
all that can represent to us the glories of Heaven.'
There was much in this that went beyond Hal, who knitted his brow,
and would have asked further, but the King fell into a state of
contemplation, and noticed nothing, until presently he broke out into
a thanksgiving: 'Blessed be my Lord, who hath granted me once more to
follow in the steps of the kings of the East, though but as in a
dream, and lay my crown and my prayer before Him. Once more I thank
Thee, O my true King of kings, and Lord of lords.'
'Oh, do not say once more!' exclaimed Hal. 'Again and again, I
trust, sir. It is no dream. It is real.'
The King smiled and shook his head. 'It is all a dream to me,' he
said, 'the pageants and the whole. They will not last! Oh, no! It is
all but an empty show.'
Hal looked up anxiously, and the King went on: 'Well do I remember
the day when, scarce able to walk, and weighed down by my robes, I
tottered up to the altar and was well pleased to make my offering, and
how my Lord of Warwick, who was then, took me in his arms, and showed
me my great father's figure on his grave, and told me I was bound to
be such a king as he! Alas! was it mine own error that I so failed?—
Henry born at Monmouth shall short live and gain all,
Henry born at Windsor shall long live and lose all.'
'Oh, sir, sir, do not speak of that old saw!'
Still the King smiled. 'It has come true, my child. All is lost,
and it may be well for my soul that thus it should be, and that I
should go into the presence of my God freed from the load of what was
gained unjustly. I know not whether, if my hand had been stronger, I
should have striven to have borne up the burthen of these two realms,
but they never ought to have been mine, and if the sins of the
forefathers be visited on the children to the third and fourth
generation, no marvel that my brain and mine arm could but sink under
the weight. Would that I had yielded at once, and spared the bloodshed
and sacrilege! Miserere mei! My son was a temptation. Oh, my poor boy!
is he to be the heir to all that has come on me? Have pity on him,
'Nay, sir, your brave son will come home to comfort you, and help
you and make all well.'
'I know not! I know not! I cannot believe that I shall see him
again, or that the visitation of these crimes is not still to come!
My son, my sweet son, I can only pray that he might give up his soul
sackless and freer of guilt than his father can be, when I remember
all that I ought to have hindered when I could think and use my will!
Now, now all is but confusion! God has taken away my judgment, even as
He did with my French grandsire, and I can only let others act as they
will, and pray for them and for myself.'
He had never spoken at such length, nor so clearly, and whenever he
was required to come forward, he merely walked, rode, sat or signed
rolls as he was told to do, and continually made mistakes as to the
persons brought to him, generally calling them by their fathers'
names, if he recognised them at all, but still to his nearest
attendants, and especially to his beloved herd boy, he was the same
gentle, affectionate being, never so happy as at his prayers, and
sometimes speaking of holy things as one almost inspired.
CHAPTER XVIII. AT THE MINORESSES'
The bird that hath been limed in a bush,
With trembling wings misdoubteth every bush.—SHAKESPEARE.
One day, soon after that Twelfth Day, Hal accompanied Sir Giles
Musgrave to the shop or stall of Master Lorimer in Cheapside, a wide
space, open by day but closed by shutters at night, where all sorts of
gilded and emblazoned leather-works for man or horse were displayed,
and young 'prentices called, 'What d'ye lack?' 'Saddle of the newest
make?' 'Buff coat fit to keep out the spear of Black Douglas himself?'
''Tis Master Lorimer himself I lack,' said Musgrave with a
good-humoured smile, and the merchant appeared from a room in the
rear, something between a counting-house and a bedroom, where he
welcomed his former companions, and insisted on their tasting the
good sherris sack that had been sent with his last cargo of Spanish
'I would I could send a flask to our good Prioress,' he said, 'to
cheer her heart. I went to the Minoresses' as she bade me, to settle
some matters of account with her, and after some ado, Sister Mabel
came down to the parlour and told me the Prioress is very sick with a
tertian fever, and they misdoubt her recovering.'
'And the young Lady of St. John.'
'She is well enough, but sadly woeful as to the Mother Prioress,
and likewise as to what they hear of the Lord Redgrave. It is the old
man, not his son, a hard and stark old man, as I remember. He would
have bargained with me for the coats of the poor rogues slain at St.
Albans, and right evil was his face as he spoke thereof, he being then
for Queen Margaret; but then he went over to King Edward, and glutted
himself with slaughter at Towton, and here he calls himself Red Rose
again. Ill-luck to the poor young maid if she falls to him!'
It was terrible news for Hal, and Musgrave could not but gratify
him by riding by the Minories to endeavour to hear further tidings of
It was a grand building in fine pointed architecture, for the
Clares, though once poor, in imitation of St. Clara and St. Francis,
had been dispensed collectively from their vow of poverty, and though
singly incapable of holding property, had a considerable accumulation
en masse. They were themselves a strict Order, but they often gave
lodgings to ladies either in retreat or for any cause detained near
Sir Giles and Harry were only admitted to the outer court, whence
the portress went with their message of inquiry. They waited a long
time, and then the Greystone lay Sister who had been the companion of
their journey came back in company with the portress.
'Benedicite, dear gentles,' she said; 'oh, you are a sight for sair
'And how fares the good Mother Prioress?' asked the Lord of
'Alack! she is woefully ill when the fever takes her, and she is
wasted away so that you would scarce know her; but this is one of the
better days, and if you, sir, will come into the parlour, she will see
you. She was arraying herself as I came down. She was neither to have
nor to hold when she heard you were there, and said a north country
face would be better to her than all the Sisters' potions!'
They were accordingly conducted through a graceful cloister,
overgrown with trailing ivy, to a bare room, with mullioned windows,
and frescoes on the Walls with the history of St. Francis relieving
beggars, preaching to the birds, &c., and with a stout open work
barrier cutting off half the room.
Presently the Prioress tottered in, leaning heavily on the arms of
Sister Mabel and of Anne St. John, while her own lay Sister and
another placed a seat for her; but before she would sit down, she
would go up to the opening, and turning back her veil, put out a hand
to be grasped. 'Right glad am I to see you, good Sir Giles and young
Harry. Are you going back to the wholesome winds of our moors?'
'Not yet, holy Mother. It grieves me to see you faring so ill.'
'Ah! a breeze from the north would bring life back to my old bones.
Aye, Giles, this place has made an old woman of me.' And truly her
bright ruddy face was faded to a purple hue, and her cheeks hung
haggard and almost withered, but as her visitors expressed their grief
and sympathy, she went on in her own tone. 'And tell me somewhat of
how things are going. How doth Richard of Warwick comport himself to
the King? Hath your King zest enough to reign? Is my White Rose King
still abroad in Burgundy?' And as Sir Giles replied to each inquiry in
turn, and told all he could of political matters, she exclaimed: 'Ah!
that is better than the hearing whether the black hen hath laid an
egg, or the skein of yellow silk matches. I am weary, O! I am weary.
Moreover, young Hal, I know as matters are that could I see George
Nevil face to face I could do somewhat with him, and I laid my plans
to obtain a meeting, but therewith, what with vexation and weariness
and lack of air, comes this sickness, and I am laid aside and can do
nought but pray, and lay my plans to meet him some day in the fields,
and show him what a hawk can do, then shame him into listening to my
tale. But I must be a sound woman first! And maybe his brother
Warwick, being a sturdy gentleman who loves a brave man, will be
better to deal with. I am a sinful woman, and maybe my devotions here
will help me to be more worthy to be heard. Moreover, I hoped you had
done somewhat in thine own cause with thy King and Earl Oxford,' she
proceeded. 'Thou hast an esquire's coat; hast thou any hope of thy
'I must strive to earn them by deeds,' said Hal. 'And—'
'Well spoken, lad! 'Tis the manly way; but methought you hadst
interest with this King of thine, or hath he only a royal memory for
'He is good to me. Yea, most good,' began Harry.
'Ay, he loves the boy,' said Sir Giles, 'no question about that;
but his memory for all that is about him hath failed, and there is
nothing for it save to wait for the Queen and the Prince, who will
bear the boy's father's services in mind.'
'And wherefore tarries the French woman? This maid's father is to
come over with her. He is forming her English court, I trow; she can
have few beside from England.'
'When he comes,' said Harry, with a look into Anne's eyes that made
them droop and her cheeks burn, 'then shall we put it to the touch.
Then shall I know whether I have mine own, and what is more than mine
'Thine own,' whispered Anne. 'Oh, better live in the sheepfolds
with thee than with this Baron! I shudder at the thought.'
This, and a few more such words were an aside, while the Prioress
continued her conversation with Sir Giles, and went on to say that she
was sure she should never recover till she was out of these walls, and
away from London smoke and London smells, and she naughtily added in a
whisper the weary talk of these good nuns, who had never flown a hawk
or chased a deer in their lives, and thought Florimond a mere wolf, if
not the evil one himself, and kept the poor hound chained up like a
malefactor in gyves, till she was fain to send him away with Master
Lorimer to keep for her.
She would not go back to her Priory till Anne's fate was settled,
being in hopes of doing something yet for the poor wench; but meantime
she should die if she stayed there much longer, and she meant to set
forth on pilgrimage in good time, before she had scandalised the good
ladies enough to make them gossip to the dames of St. Helen's, who
would be only too glad to have a story against the Benedictines. A
ride over the Kentish downs was the only cure for her or for Anne, who
had been pining ever since they had been mewed up here, though,
looking across at the girl, whose head was leaning against the bars,
Sir Giles seemed to have brought a remedy to judge by those cheeks.
'Would that we could hope it would be an effectual and lasting
remedy,' sighed Sir Giles; 'but unless this poor King could be roused
to insist, or the Earl of Warwick fell out with his cousin, I do not
see much chance for the lad.'
'Is it Warwick who is his chief foe or King Edward?' asked the
'King Edward, doubtless, for his father's slaughter of young
Rutland at Wakefield.'
'That bodes ill,' said the lady. 'By all I gather, King Edward is a
tiger when once roused, but at other times is like that same tiger,
purring and slow to move. But there's a bell that warns us to vespers.
They are mightily more strict here than ever we are at Greystone. Ah!
you won't tell tales, Sir Giles! You'll soon hear of me at St.
Thomas's shrine at Canterbury.'
The knight took his leave. It was impossible not to like and pity
the Prioress, though the life among devout nuns was clearly beyond her
The dreamy peaceful days of the Tower of London were stirred by the
arrival of the great Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker, as people already
called him. He took up his residence in his own mighty establishment
at Warwick House near St. Paul's; and the day after his arrival, he
came clanking over London Bridge with a great following of knights and
squires to pay his respects to King Henry.
Henry Clifford was not disposed to meet him, and only watched from
a window when the drawbridge was lowered, and the sturdy man, with
grizzled hair and marked, determined features, rode into the gateway,
where he was received by the Earl of Oxford.
The interview was long, and when it was finished, the two Earls
made the round of the defences, and Oxford drew up his garrison on
the Tower Green to be inspected.
When Warwick had taken his leave, Hal was summoned to the
Constable's hall. 'We must be jogging, my young master,' he said.
'There are rumours of King Edward making another attempt for his
crown, and my Lord of Warwick would have me go and watch the eastern
seaboard. And you had best go with me.'
'The King—' began Hal.
'You will come back to the King by-and-by if so be he misses you,
but he was more dazed than ever to-day, and perhaps it was well, for
Warwick brought with him Dick Nevil, who has got your lands of
Clifford, and might be tempted to put you out of the way in one of the
dungeons that lie so handy.'
'No one save the King knows who I am,' said Hal, 'and he forgets
from day to day all save that I am the herd boy, and I think it
cheers him to have me with him. I will stay beside him even as a
'Nay, my lord, that may not be. 'Tis true he loves thee, but he
will forget anon, and I may not suffer the risk. Too many know or
Harry Clifford repeated that he recked not of the risk when he
could serve and comfort his beloved King, and, indeed, his mind was
made up on the subject. He had taken measures for remaining as one of
the men-at-arms of the garrison; but King Henry himself surprised him
by saying, 'My young Lord of Clifford, fare thee well. Thou goest
forth to-morrow with the Constable of Oxford. Take my blessing with
thee, my child. Thou hast been granted to me to make life very sweet
to me of late, and I thank God for it, but the time is come that thou
must part from me.'
'Oh, sir, never! None was ever so dear to me! For weal or woe I
will be with you! Suffer me to be your meanest varlet, and serve you
as none other can do.'
Henry shook his head. 'It may not be, my child, let not thy blood
also be on my head! Go with Oxford and his men. Thou hast learnt to
draw sword and use lance. Thou wilt be serving me still if again there
be, which Heaven forefend, stricken fields in my cause or my son's.'
'Sir, if I must fight, let no less holy hand than thine lay
knighthood on my shoulder,' sobbed Hal, kneeling.
Henry smiled. 'I have well-nigh forgotten the fashion. But if it
will please thee, my son, give me thy sword, Oxford. In the name of
God and St. George of England I dub thee knight. For the Church, for
the honour of God, for a good cause, fight. Arise, Sir Henry Clifford!'
CHAPTER XIX. A STRANGE EASTER EVE
And spare, O spare
The meek usurper's holy head.—GRAY.
Once more, at the close of morning service, while it was still
dark, did Harry Clifford, the new-made knight, kneel before King
Henry and feel his hand in blessing on his head. Then he went forth
to join Musgrave and the troop that the Earl of Oxford was leading
from the Tower to raise the counties of East Anglia and watch the
coast against a descent of King Edward from the Low Countries.
As they passed the walls enclosing the Minories Convent, and Hal
gazed at it wistfully, the wide gateway was opened and out came a
party of black-hooded nuns, mounted on ponies and mules, evidently
waiting till Oxford's band had gone by. Harry drew Sir Giles's
attention, and they lingered, as they became certain that they beheld
the Prioress Selby of Greystone, hawk, hound and all, riding forth,
nearly smothered in her hood, and not so upright as of old.
'Ay, here I am!' she said, as he reined up and bowed his greeting.
'Here I am on my pilgrimage! I got Father Ridley, the Benedictine
head, to order me forth. Methinks he was glad, being a north
countryman, to send me out before I either died on the Poor Clares'
hands, or gave them a fuller store of tales against us of St.
Bennet's! Not but that they are good women, too godly and devout for a
poor wild north country Selby like me, who cannot live without air.O the oak and the ash and the bonny ivy tree,
They flourish best at home in the north countree.
Flori, Flori, whither away? Ah! thou hast found thine old friend.
Birds of a feather. Eh? the young folk have foregathered likewise.
Watch! And thou, sir knight, whither are you away?'
'On our way to Norfolk in case the Duke of York should show himself
on the coast. And yours, reverend Mother?'
'To Canterbury first by easy journeys. We sleep to-night at the
Tabard, where we shall meet other pilgrims.'
'Here, alack! our way severs from yours. Farewell, holy Mother, may
you find health on your pilgrimage.'
'Every breath I take in is health,' said the Mother, who had
already manoeuvred an opening in her veil, and gasped to throw it
back as soon as she should attain an unfrequented place. 'There are
so many coming and going here that all the air is used up by their
greasy nostrils! Well! good luck, and God's blessing go with you, and
you, young Hal, I may say so far, whichever side ye be, but still I
hold that York has the right, and yours may be a saint, but not a
Hal had meantime 'forgathered' as the Prioress said with Anne,
marching, in spite of his new honours, close to her stirrup, and
venturing to whisper to her that he was now her knight, and 'her
colours,' which he was to wear for her, were only a tiny scrap of
ribbon from her glove, which he cut off with his dagger, and kissed,
saying he should wear it next his heart, though he might not do so
Their love was more implied than ever it had been before, and she
repeated her confidence that the kind Prioress would never leave her
till she had done her utmost for them both.
'But you, my good stripling, I am ashamed to see you. I have done
nothing for you. I sent a humble message to ask to see the Archbishop,
but had no answer, and by-and-by, when I stirred again, who should
come to see me but young Bertram Selby, and "Kinswoman," said he, "you
had best keep quiet. The Archbishop hath asked me whether rumours were
sooth that yours was scarce a regular Priory." The squire stood up for
me and said, as became one of the family, that an outlying cell, where
there were ill neighbours of Scots, thieves, borderers, and the like,
could scarce look to be as trim as a city nunnery, and that none had
ever heard harm of Mother Agnes. But then one of his priests took on
him to whisper in his ear, and he demanded whether we had not gone so
far as to hide traitors from justice, to which Bertram returned a
stout denial as well he might, though he thought it well to give me
warning, but for the present there was no use in attempting anything
more. The Archbishop was exceedingly busy with the work of his office
and the defence of London in case of Edward's threatened return; but
he had not yet come, and no one thought there was a reasonable doubt
that Warwick, the Kingmaker, would not be victorious, and he had
carried his son-in-law, the Duke of Clarence, with him.' After the
cause of the Red Rose was won, there was no fear but that the services
of Clifford would be remembered. So Harry Clifford parted with Anne,
promising himself and her that there should be fresh Clifford
services, winning a recognition of the De Vesci inheritance if of no
The ladies went on their way in the track which Chaucer has made
memorable, laying their count to meet Queen Margaret and her son, and
win their ears beforehand, and wondering that they came not. Kentish
breezes soon revived the Prioress, and she went through many strange
devotions at the shrine of Becket, which, it might be feared, did not
improve her spiritual, so much as her bodily, health, while Anne's
chiefly resolved themselves into prayers that Harry Clifford might be
guarded and restored, and that she herself might be saved from the
dreaded Lord Redgrave.
They did not set out on the return to London till they had inhaled
plenty of sea breezes by visiting the shrine of St. Mildred in the
isle of Thanet, and St. Eanswith at Folkestone, till Lent had begun,
and the first fresh tidings that they met were that Edward had landed
in Yorkshire, but his fleet had been dispersed by storms, and the
people did not rise to join him, so that he was fain to proclaim that
he only came to assert his right to his father's inheritance of the
Dukedom of York.
At the Minoresses' Convent they found that a messenger had arrived,
bidding Anne go to meet her father at his castle in Bedfordshire. He
was coming over with the Queen whenever she could obtain a convoy from
King Louis of France. Lord Redgrave was with him, and the marriage
should take place as soon as they arrived.
'Never fear, child,' said the Prioress; 'many is the slip between
the cup and the lip.'
Further tidings came that Edward had thrown off his first plea,
that he had passed Warwick's brother Montagu at Pontefract, and that
men from his own hereditary estates were flocking to his royal banner.
Warwick was calling up his men in all directions, and both armies were
advancing on London. Then it was known that 'false, fleeting, perjured
Clarence' had deserted his father-in-law, and returned to his brother;
and worthless as he individually was, it boded ill for Lancaster,
though still hope continued in the uniform success of the Kingmaker.
Warwick was about twenty miles in advance of Edward, till that King
actually passed him and reached the town of Warwick itself. Still the
Earl wrote to his brother that if he could only hold out London for
forty-eight hours all would be well.
Once more poor King Henry was set on horseback and paraded through
the streets. Brother Martin went out with the chaplain of the Poor
Clares to gaze upon him, and they came back declaring that he was more
than ever like the image carried in a procession, seeming quite as
helpless and indifferent, except, said Brother Martin, when he passed
a church, and then a heavenly look came over his still features as he
bowed his head; but none of the crowd who came out to gaze cried 'Save
King Harry!' or 'God bless him!'
There were two or three thousand Yorkists in the various
sanctuaries of London, and they were preparing to rise in favour of
their King Edward, and only a few hundred were mustering in St.
Paul's Churchyard for the Red Rose.
The Poor Clares were in much terror, though nunneries and religious
houses, and indeed non-combatants in general, were usually respected
by each side in these wars; but the Prioress of Greystone was not
sorry that the summons to her protegee called her party off on the way
to Bedfordshire, and they all set forward together, intending to make
Master Lorimer's household at Chipping Barnet their first stage, as
they had engaged to do.
Their intention had been notified to Lorimer's people in his London
shop, who had sent on word to their master, and the good man came out
to meet them, full of surprise at the valour of the ladies in
attempting the journey. But they could not possibly go further. King
Edward was at St. Albans, and was on his way to London, and the Earl
of Warwick was coming up from Dunstable with the Earls of Somerset and
Oxford. For ladies, even of religious orders, to ride on between the
two hosts was manifestly impossible, and he and his wife were
delighted to entertain the Lady Prioress till the roads should be safe.
The Prioress was nothing loth. She always enjoyed the freedom of a
secular household, and she was glad to remain within hearing of the
last news in this great crisis of York and Lancaster.
'I marvel if there will be a battle,' she said. 'Never have I had
the good luck to see or hear one.'
'Oh! Mother, are you not afraid?' cried Sister Mabel.
'Afraid! What should I be afraid of, silly maid? Do you think the
men-at-arms are wolves to snap you up?'
'And,' murmured Anne, 'we shall know how it goes with my Lord of
These were the last days of Lent, and were carefully kept in the
matter of food by the household, but the religious observances were
much disturbed by the tidings that poured in. King Henry and
Archbishop Nevil had taken refuge in the house of Bishop Kemp of
London, Urswick the Recorder, with the consent of the Aldermen, had
opened the gates to Edward, and the Good Friday Services at Barnet,
the Psalms and prayers in the church, were disturbed by men-at-arms
galloping to and fro, and reports coming in continually.
There could be no going out to gather flowers to deck the Church
the next day, for King Edward was on the London side, and Warwick
with his army had reached the low hills of Hadley, and their tents,
their banners, and the glint of their armour might be seen over the
heathy slope between them and the lanes and fields, surrounded by
hedges, that fenced in the valley of Barnet. The little town itself,
though lying between the two armies, remained unoccupied by either
party, and only men-at-arms came down into it, not as plunderers, but
to buy food.
Warwick's cannon, however, thundered all night, a very awful sound
to such unaccustomed ears, but they were so directed that the charges
flew far away from Barnet, under a false impression as to the
situation of the Yorkist forces.
Mistress Lorimer had heard them before, but accompanied every
report with a pious prayer; Sister Mabel screamed at each, then
joined in; the Prioress was greatly excited, and walked about with
Master Lorimer, now on the roof, trying to see, now at the gate,
trying to hear. Anne fancied it meant victory to Hal's party, but
knelt, tried to pray while she listened, and the dogs barked
incessantly. And that Hal must be in the army above the little town
they guessed, for in the evening Watch came floundering into the
courtyard, hungry and muddy, but full of affectionate recognition of
his old friends and the quarters he had learnt to know. Florimond, who
happened to be loose, had a romp with him in their old fashion, and to
the vexation and alarm of his mistress, they both ran off together,
and must have gone hunting on the heath, for there was no response to
her silver whistle.
CHAPTER XX. BARNET
A dead hush fell; but when the dolorous day
Grew drearier toward twilight falling, came
A bitter wind, clear from the North, and blew
The mist aside.—TENNYSON.
And Sir Henry Clifford? Still he was Hal of Derwentdale, for the
perilous usurper, Sir Richard Nevil, was known to be continually with
Warwick, and Musgrave was convinced that the concealment was safest.
The youth then remained with the Peelholm men, and became a good
deal more practised in warlike affairs, and accustomed to
campaigning, during the three months when Oxford was watching the
eastern coast. On this Easter night he lay down on the hill-side with
Watch beside him, his shepherd's plaid round him, his heart rising as
he thought himself near upon gaining fame and honour wherewith to win
his early love, and winning victory and safety for his beloved King,
or rather his hermit. For as his hermit did that mild unearthly face
always come before him. He could not think of it wearing that golden
crown, which seemed alien to it, but rather, as he lay on his back,
after his old habit looking up at the stars, either he saw and
recognised the Northern Crown, or his dazed and sleepy fancy wove a
radiant coronet of stars above that meek countenance that he knew and
loved so well; and as at intervals the cannon boomed and wakened him,
he looked on at the bright Northern Cross and dreamily linked together
the cross and crown.
Easter Sunday morning came dawning, but no one looked to see the
sun dance, even if the morning had not been dull and grey, a thick
fog covering everything; but through it came a dull and heavy sound,
and the clang of armour. Even by their own force the radiant star of
the De Veres could hardly be seen on the banner, as the Earl of Oxford
rode up and down, putting his men in battle array. Hal was on foot as
an archer, meaning to deserve the spurs that he had not yet worn. The
hosts were close to one another, and at first only the continual rain
of arrows darkened the air; but as the sun rose and the two armies saw
one another, Oxford's star was to be seen carried into the very midst
of the opposing force under Lord Hastings. On, on, with cries of
victory, the knights rode, the archers ran across the heath carrying
all before them, never doubting that the day was theirs, but not
knowing where they were till trumpets sounded, halt was called, and
they were drawn up together, as best they might, round their leading
star. But as they advanced, behold there was an unexpected shout of
treason. Arrows came thickly on them, men-at-arms bearing Warwick's
ragged staff came thundering headlong upon them. 'Treason, treason,'
echoed on all sides, and with that sound in his ears Harry Clifford
was cut down, and fell under a huge horse and man, and lay senseless
under a gorse-bush.
He knew no more but that horses and men seemed for ever trampling
over him and treading him down, and then all was lost to him—for how
long he knew not, but for one second he was roused so far as to hear a
furious growling and barking of Watch, but with dazed senses he
thought it was over the sheep, tried to raise himself, could not,
thought himself dying, and sank back again.
The next thing he knew was 'Here, Master Lorimer, you know this
gear better than I; unfasten this buff coat. There, he can breathe.
Drink this, my lad.'
It was the Prioress's voice! He felt a jolt as of a waggon, and
opened his eyes. It was dark, but he knew he was under the tilt of
Lorimer's waggon, which was moving on. The Prioress was kneeling over
him on one side, Lorimer on the other, and his head was on a soft
lap—nay, a warm tear dropped on his face, a sweet though stifled
voice said, 'Is he truly better?'
Then came sounds of 'hushing,' yet of reassurance; and when there
was a halt, and clearer consciousness began to revive, while kind
hands were busy about him, and a cordial was poured down his throat,
by the light of a lantern cautiously shown, Hal found speech to say,
as he felt a long soft tongue on his face, 'Watch, Watch, is it thou,
'Ay, Watch it is,' said the Prioress. 'Well may you thank him! It
is to him you owe all, and to my good Florimond.'
'But what—how—where am I?' asked Hal, trying to look round, but
feeling sharp thrills and shoots of pain at every motion.
'Lie still till they bring their bandages, and I will tell you.
Gently, Nan, gently—thy sobs shake him!' But, as he managed to hold
and press Anne's hand, the Prioress went on, 'You are in good
Lorimer's warehouse. Safer thus, though it is too odorous, for the
men of York do not respect sanctuary in the hour of victory.'
The word roused Hal further. 'The victory was ours!' he said. 'We
had driven Hastings' banner off the field! Say, was there a cry of
'Even so, my son. So far as Master Lorimer understands, Lord
Oxford's banner of the beaming star was mistaken for the sun of York,
and the men of Warwick turned on you as you came back from the chase,
but all was utter confusion. No one knows who was staunch and who not,
and the fields and lanes are full of blood and slaughtered men; and
Edward's royal banner is set up on the market cross, and trumpets were
sounding round it. And here come Master Lorimer and the goodwife to
bind these wounds.'
'But Sir Giles Musgrave?' still asked Hal.
'Belike fled with Lord Oxford and his men, who all made off at the
cry of treason,' was the answer.
Lorimer returned with his wife and various appliances, and likewise
with fresh tidings. There was no doubt that the brothers Warwick and
Montagu had been slain. They had been found—Warwick under a hedge
impeded by his heavy armour, and Montagu on the field itself. Each
body had been thrown over a horse, and shown at the market cross; and
they would be carried to London on the morrow. 'And so end,' said
Lorimer, 'two brave and open-handed gentlemen as ever lived, with whom
I have had many friendly dealings.'
One thing more Hal longed to hear—namely, how he had been saved.
He remembered that Watch had come back to him with Florimond the
evening before. They had probably been hunting together, and the
hound, who had always been very fond of him on the journey, had
accompanied Watch to his side before going back to his chain in
Barnet; but he had lost sight of them in the morning, and regretted
that he could not find Watch to provide for his safety. He knew, he
said, by the presence of Florimond, who must be in Barnet. And he
also had a dim recollection of being licked by Watch's tongue as he
lay, and likewise of hearing a furious barking, yelling and growling,
whether of one or both dogs he was not sure.
It seemed that towards the evening, when the battle-cries had grown
fainter, and the sun was going down, Florimond had burst in on his
mistress, panting and blood-stained—but not with his own blood, as
was soon ascertained—and made vehement demonstrations by which, as a
true dog-lover, the Prioress perceived that he wanted her to follow
him. And Anne, who thought she saw a piece of Hal's plaid caught in
his collar, was 'neither to have nor to hold,' as the Mother said,
till Master Lorimer was found, and entreated to follow the hound, ay,
and to take them with him. He demurred much as to their safety, but
the Prioress declared that it was the part of the religious to take
care of the wounded, and not inconsistent with her vow. See the
Sisters of St. Katharine's of the Tower! And though her interpretation
was a broad one, and would have shocked alike her own Abbess and her
of the Minoresses, he was fain to accept it in such a cause; but he
commanded his waggoners to bring the wain in the rear, both as an
excuse, and a possible protection for the ladies, and, it might be, a
conveyance for the wounded.
Florimond, who had sprung about, barked, fawned and made entreating
sounds all this time (longer in narrative than in reality) led them,
not through the central field of slaughter, but somewhat to the left,
among the heath—where, in fact, Oxford had lost his way in the fog,
and his own allies had charged him, but had not followed far beyond
the place of Hal's fall, discovering the fatal error that spread
confusion through their ranks, where everyone distrusted his fellow
There, after a weary and perilous way, diversified by the horrid
shouts of plunderers of the slain, happily not near at hand, and when
Lorimer, but for the ladies, would have given up the quest as useless,
they were greeted by Watch's bark, and found him lying with his fine
head alert and ready over his senseless master.
There was no doubt but that the two good creatures, both powerful
and formidable animals, must have saved him from the spoilers, and
then been sagacious enough to let the hound go down to fetch
assistance while the sheep-dog remained as his master's faithful
guardian. How honoured and caressed they were can hardly be described,
but all will know.
The joy and gratitude of knowing of Anne's devotion, and the
pleasure of his good dog's faithfulness, helped Hal through the
painful process of having his hurts dealt with. Surgeons, even
barbers, were fully occupied, and Lorimer did not wish to have it
known that a Lancastrian was in his house. His wife and her old
nurse, as well as the Prioress, had some knowledge of simple
practical surgery; and Hal's disasters proved to be a severe cut on
the head, a slash on the shoulder, various bruises, and a broken rib
and thigh-bone, all which were within their capabilities, with
assistance from the master's stronger hand. No one could tell whether
the savage nature of the York brothers might not slake their revenge
in a general massacre of their antagonists; so Lorimer caused Hal's
bed to be made in the waggon in the warehouse, where he was safe from
detection until the victorious army should have quitted Barnet.
CHAPTER XXI. TEWKESBURY
The last shoot of that ancient tree
Was budding fair as fair might be;
Its buds they crop
Its branches lop
Then leave the sapless stem to die.—SOPHOCLES (Anstice).
Harry Clifford lay fevered, and knowing little of what passed, for
several days, only murmuring sometimes of his flock at home, sometimes
of the royal hermit, and sometimes in distress of the men-at-arms with
whom he had been thrown, and whose habits and language had plainly
been a great shock to his innocent mind, trained by the company of the
sheep, and the hermit. He took the Prioress's hand for Good-wife
Dolly's, but he generally knew Anne, who could soothe him better than
Master Lorimer was fully occupied by combatants who came to have
their equipments renewed or repaired, and he spent the days in his
shop in London, but rode home in the long evenings with his budget of
news. King Henry was in the Tower again, as passive as ever, but on
the very day of the battle of Barnet Queen Margaret had landed at
Weymouth with her son, and the war would be renewed in Somersetshire.
Search for prisoners being over at Barnet, Hal was removed to the
guest chamber of his hosts, where he lay in a huge square bed, and in
the better air began to recover, understand what was going on round
him, and be anxious for his friends, especially Sir Giles Musgrave and
Simon Bunce. The ladies still attended to him, as Lorimer pronounced
the journey to be absolutely unsafe, while so many soldiers disbanded,
or on their way to the Queen's army, were roaming about, and the
Burgundians brought by Edward might not be respectful to an English
Prioress. It was safer to wait for tidings from Lord St. John, which
were certain to come either from Bletso or the Minoresses'.
So May had begun when Lorimer hurried home with the tidings that a
messenger had come in haste from King Edward from the battlefield of
Tewkesbury, with the tidings of a complete victory. Prince Edward, the
fair and spirited hope of Lancaster, was slain, Somerset and his
friends had taken sanctuary in the Abbey Church, Queen Margaret and
the young wife of the prince in a small convent, and beyond all had
been flight and slaughter.
For a few days no more was known, but then came fuller and sadder
tidings. The young prince had been brutally slain by his cousins,
Edward, George, and Richard, excited as they were to tiger-like
ferocity by the late revolt. The nobles in the sanctuary, who had for
one night been protected by a cord drawn in front of them by a priest,
had in the morning been dragged out and beheaded. Among them was
Anne's father, Lord St. John of Bletso, and on the field the heralds
had recognised the corpse of her suitor, Lord Redgrave. To expect that
Anne felt any acute sorrow for a father whom she had never seen since
she was six years old, and who then had never seemed to care for her,
was not possible.
And what was to be her fate? Her young brother, the heir of Bletso,
was in Flanders with his foreign mother, and she knew not what might
be her own claims through her own mother, though the Prioress and
Master Lorimer knew that it could be ascertained through the seneschal
at Bletso, if he had not perished with his lord, or the agents at York
through whom Anne's pension had been paid. If she were an heiress, she
would become a ward of the Crown, a dreary prospect, for it meant to
be disposed of to some unknown minion of the Court.
CHAPTER XXII. THE NUT-BROWN MAID
All my wellfare to trouble and care
Should change if you were gone,
For in my mynde, of all mankind
I love but you alone.—NUT-BROWN MAID.
Anne St. John, in her 'doul' or deep mourning, sat by Hal's couch
or daybed in tears, as he lay in the deep bay of the mullioned window,
and told him of the consultation that had been held.
'Ah, dear lady!' he said, 'now am I grieved that I have not mine
own to endow you with! Well would I remain the landless shepherd were
it not for you.'
'Nay,' she said, looking up through her tears, 'and wherefore
should I not share your shepherd's lot?'
'You! Nan, sweet Nan, tenderly nurtured in the convent while I have
ever lived as a rough hardy shepherd!'
'And I have ever been a moorland maid,' she answered, 'bred to no
soft ways. I know not how to be the lady of a castle—I shall be a
much better herdsman's wife, like your good old Dolly, whom I have
always loved and envied.'
'You never saw us snowed up in winter with all things scarce, and
hardly able to milk a goat.'
'Have not we been snowed up at Greystone for five weeks at a time?'
'Ay, but with thick walls round and a stack of peat at hand,' said
Hal, his heart beating violently as more and more he felt that the
maiden did not speak in jest, but in full earnestness of love.
'Verily one would deem you took me for a fine dainty dame, such as
I saw at the Minoresses', shivering at the least gust of fresh wind,
and not daring to wet their satin shoes if there had been a shower of
rain in the cloisters. Were we not all stifled within the walls, and
never breathed till we were out of them? Nay, Hal, there is none to
come between us now. Take me to your moors and hills! I will be your
good housewife and shepherdess, and make you such a home! And you will
teach me of the stars and of the flowers and all the holy lore of your
good royal hermit.'
'Ah! my hermit, my master, how fares it with him? Would that I
could go and see!'
'Which do you love best—me or the hermit?' asked Anne archly,
lifting up her head, which was lying on his shoulder.
'I love you, mine own love and sweetheart, with all my heart,' he
said, regaining her hand, 'but my King and master with my soul; and
oh! that I had any strength to give him! I love him as my master in
holy things, and as my true prince, and what would I not give to know
how it is with him and how he bears these dreadful tidings!'
He bent his head, choking with sobs as he spoke, and Anne wept with
him, her momentary jealousy subdued by the picture of the lonely
prisoner, his friends slain in his cause, and his only child cut off
in early prime; but she tried the comfort of hoping that his Queen
would be with him. Thus talking now of love, now of grief, now of the
future, now of the past, the Prioress found them, and as she was
inclined to blame Anne for letting her patient weep, the maiden looked
up to her and said, 'Dear Mother, we are disputing—I want this same
Hal to wed me so soon as he can stand and walk. Then I would go home
with him to Derwentside, and take care of him.'
The Prioress burst out laughing. 'Make porridge, milk the ewes and
spin their wool? Eh? Meet work for a baron's daughter!'
'So I tell her,' said Harry. 'She knows not how hard the life is.'
'Do I not?' said Anne. 'Have I not spent a night and day, the
happiest my childhood knew, in your hut? Has it not been a dream of
joy ever since?'
'Ay, a summer's dream!' said Hal. 'Tell her the folly of it.'
'I verily believe he does not want me. If he had not a lame leg, I
trow he would be trying to be mewed up with his King!'
'It would be my duty,' murmured Hal, 'nor should I love thee the
''Tis a duty beyond your reach,' said the Prioress. 'Master Lorimer
hears that none have access to King Henry, God help him! and he sits
as in a trance, as though he understood and took heed of nothing—not
even of this last sore battle.'
'God aid him! Aye, and his converse is with Him,' said Hal, with a
gush of tears. 'He minds nought of earth, not even earthly griefs.'
'But we, we are of earth still, and have our years before us,' said
Anne, 'and I will not spend mine the dreary lady of a dull castle.
Either I will back and take my vows in your Priory, reverend Mother,
if Hal there disdains to have me.'
'Nan, Nan! when you know that all I dread is to have you mewed
behind a wall of snow as thick as the walls of the Tower and freezing
to the bone!'
'With you behind it telling all the tales. Mother, prithee prove to
him that I am not made of sugar like the Clares, but that I love a
fresh wind and the open moorlands.'
The Prioress laughed and took her away, but in private the maiden
convinced her that the proposal, however wild, was in full earnest,
and not in utter ignorance of the way of life that was preferred.
Afterwards the good lady discussed it with the Lorimers. 'For my
part,' she said, 'I see nought to gainsay the children having their
way. They are equal in birth and breeding, and love one another
heartily, and the times may turn about to bring them to their own
'But the hardness and the roughness of the life,' objected Mistress
Lorimer, 'for a dainty, convent-bred lady.'
'My convent—God, forgive me!—is not like the Poor Clares. We knew
there what cold and hunger mean, as well as what free air and
mountains are. Moreover, though the maid thinks not of it, I do not
believe the life will be so bare and comfortless. The lad's mother
hath not let him want, and there is a heritage through the Vescis
that must come to him, even if he never can claim the lands of
'And now that all Lancaster is gone, King Edward may be less
vindictive against the Red Rose,' said Lorimer.
'There must be a dowry secured to the maid,' said the Prioress.
'Let them only lie quiet for a time till the remains of the late
tempest have blown over, and all will be well with them. Ay, and
Master Lorimer, the Lady Threlkeld, as well as myself, will fully
acquit ourselves of the heavy charges you have been put to for your
hospitality to us.'
Master Lorimer disclaimed all save his delight in the honour paid
to his poor house, and appealed to his wife, who seconded him
courteously, though perhaps the expenses of a wounded knight, three
nuns, a noble damsel and their horses, were felt by her enough to
make the promise gratifying.
While the elders talked, a horseman was heard in the court, asking
whether the young demoiselle of Bletso were lodged there. It was the
seneschal Wenlock, who had come with what might be called the official
report of his lord's death, and to consider of the disposal of the
young lady, being glad to find the Prioress of Greystone, to whom she
had originally been committed by her father.
Before summoning her, he explained to the Prioress that a small
estate which had belonged to her mother devolved upon her. The
proceeds of the property were not large, but they had been sufficient
to keep her at the convent, on the moderate charges of the time. Anne
was only eighteen, and at no time of their lives were women, even
widows, reckoned able to dispose of themselves. She would naturally
become a ward of the Crown, and Lord Redgrave having been killed, the
seneschal was about to go and inform King Edward of the situation.
'But,' said the Prioress, 'suppose you found her already betrothed
to a gentleman of equal birth, and with claims to an even greater
inheritance? Would you not be silent till the match was concluded, and
the King had no chance of breaking it?'
'If it were well for the maid's honour and fortune,' said the
seneschal. 'If you, reverend Mother, have found a fair marriage for
her, it might be better to let well alone.'
Then the Prioress set forth the situation and claims of young
Clifford, and the certainty, that even if it were more prudent not to
advance them at present, yet the ruin of the house of Nevil removed
one great barrier, and at least the Vesci inheritance held by his
mother must come to him, and she was the more likely to make a portion
over to him when she found that he had married nobly.
The seneschal acquiesced, even though the Prioress confessed that
the betrothal had not actually taken place. In fact he was relieved
that the maiden, whom he had known as a fair child, should be off his
hands, and secured from the greed of some Yorkist partisan needing a
When Anne, her dark eyes and hair shaded by her mourning veil, came
down, and had heard his greeting, with such details of her father's
death and the state of the family as he could give her, she rose and
said: 'Sir, there have been passages between Sir Harry Clifford and
myself, and I would wed none other than him.'
Nor did the seneschal gainsay her.
All that he desired was that what was decided upon should be done
quickly, before heralds or lawyers brought to the knowledge of the
Woodvilles that there was any sort of prize to be had in the damsel of
St. John, and he went off, early the next morning, back to Bletso,
that he might seem to know nothing of the matter.
The Prioress laughed at men being so much more afraid than women.
She was willing to bear all the consequences, but then the
Plantagenets were not in the habit of treating ladies as traitors.
However, all agreed that it would be wiser to be out of reach of
London as soon as possible, and Master Lorimer, who had become deeply
interested in this romance of true love, arranged to send one of his
wains to York, in which the bride and bridegroom might travel
unsuspected, until the latter should be able to ride and all were out
of reach of pursuit. The Prioress would go thus far with them, 'And
then! And then,' she said sighing, 'I shall have to dree my penance
for all my friskings!'
'But, oh, what kindly friskings!' cried Anne, throwing herself into
those tender arms.
'Little they will reck of kindness out of rule,' sighed the
Prioress. 'If only they will send me back to Greystone, then shall I
hear of thee, and thou hadst better take Florimond, poor hound, or the
Sisters at York may put him to penance too!'
Henry Clifford was able to walk again, though still lame, when, in
the early morning of Ascension Day, he and Anne St. John were married
in the hall of Master Lorimer's house by a trusty priest of Barnet,
and in the afternoon, when the thanksgiving worship at the church had
been gone through, they started in the waggon for the first stage of
the journey, to be overtaken at the halting-place by the Prioress and
Master Lorimer, who had had to ride into London to finish some
And he brought tidings that rendered that wedding-day one of
mournful, if peaceful, remembrances.
For he had seen, borne from the Tower, along Cheapside, the bier on
which lay the body of King Henry, his hands clasped on his breast, his
white face upturned with that heavenly expression which Hal knew so
well, enhanced into perfect peace, every toil, every grief at an end.
Whether blood dropped as the procession moved along, Lorimer could
not certainly tell. Whether so it was, or whoever shed it, there was
no marring the absolute rest and joy that had crowned the 'meek
usurper's holy head,' after his dreary half-century of suffering under
the retribution of the ancestral sins of two lines of forefathers. All
had been undergone in a deep and holy trust and faith such as could
render even his hereditary insanity an actual shield from the
poignancy of grief.
Tears were shed, not bitter nor vengeful. Such thoughts would have
seemed out of place with the memory of the gentle countenance of love,
good-will and peace, and as Harry and Anne joined in the service that
the Prioress had requested to have in the early daylight before
starting, Hal felt that to the hermit saint of his boyhood he verily
owed his own self.
CHAPTER XXIII. BROUGHAM CASTLE
And now am I an Earlis son,
And not a banished man.—NUT-BROWN MAID.
That journey northward in the long summer days was a honeymoon to
the young couple. The Prioress left them as much to themselves as
possible, trying to rejoice fully in their gladness, and not to think
what might have been hers but for that vow of her parents, keeping her
hours diligently in preparation for the stricter rule awaiting her.
When they parted she sent Florimond with them, to be restored if
she were allowed to return to Greystone, and Anne parted with her
with many tears as the truest mother and friend she had ever known.
By this time Harry was able to ride, and the two, with a couple of
men-at-arms hired as escort, made their way over the moors, Harry's
head throbbing with gladness, as, with a shout of joy, he hailed his
own mountain-heads, Helvellyn and Saddleback, in all their purple
They agreed first to go to Dolly's homestead, drawn as much by
affection as by prudence. Delight it was to Hal to point out the
rocks and bushes of his home; but when he came in sight of Piers and
the sheep, the dumb boy broke out into a cry of terror, and rushed
away headlong, nor did he turn till he felt Watch's very substantial
paws bounding on him in ecstasy.
Watch was indeed a forerunner, for Dolly and her husband could
scarcely be induced by his solid presence and caresses to come out
and see for themselves that the tall knight and lady were no ghostly
shades, nor bewildered travellers, but that this was their own
nursling Hal, whom Simon Bunce had reported to be lying dead under a
gorse-bush at Barnet, and further that the lovely brunette lady was
the little lost child whom Dolly had mothered for a night.
While the happy goodwife was regaling them with the best she had to
offer, Hob set forth to announce their arrival at Threlkeld, being not
certain what the cautious Sir Lancelot would deem advisable, since the
Lancaster race had perished, and York was in the ascendant.
There was a long time to wait, but finally Sir Lancelot himself
came riding through the wood, no longer afraid to welcome his stepson
at the castle, and the more willing since the bride newly arrived was
no maiden of low degree, but a damsel of equal birth and with
So all was well, and the lady no longer had to embrace her son in
fear and trembling, but to see him a handsome and thoughtful young
man, well able to take his place in her halls.
Since he had been actually in arms against King Edward it was not
thought safe to assert his claims to his father's domains, but the
lady gave up to him a portion of her own inheritance from the Vescis,
where he and Anne were able to live in Barden Tower in Yorkshire, not
far from Bolton Abbey. So Hal's shepherd days were over, though he
still loved country habits and ways. Hob came to be once more his
attendant, Dolly was Anne's bower-woman, and Simon Bunce Sir Harry's
squire, though he never ceased blaming himself for having left his
master, dead as he thought, when even a poor hound was more trusty.
Florimond was restored to the Prioress, who was reinstated at
Greystone, a graver woman than before she had set forth, the better
for having watched deeper devotion at the Minoresses', and still more
for the terrible realities of the battle of Barnet. At Bolton Abbey
Harry found monks who encouraged his craving for information on
natural science, and could carry him on much farther in these
researches than his hermit, though he always maintained that the
royal anchorite and prisoner saw farther into heavenly things than
any other whom he had known, and that his soul and insight rose the
higher with his outward troubles and bodily decay.
So peacefully went the world with them till Henry was
one-and-thirty, and then the tidings of Bosworth Field came north.
The great tragedy of Plantagenet was complete, and the ambitious and
blood-stained house of York, who had avenged the usurpation of Henry
of Lancaster, had perished, chiefly by the hands of each other, and
the distantly related descendant of John of Gaunt, Henry Tudor,
The Threlkelds were not slow to recollect that it was time for the
Cliffords to show their heads; moreover, that the St. Johns of Bletso
were related to the Tudors. Though now an aged woman, she descended
from her hills, called upon her son and his wife with their little
nine-year-old son to come with her, and pay homage to the new
sovereign in their own names, and rode with them to Westminster.
There a very different monarch from the saint of Harry's memory
received and favoured him. The lands of Westmoreland were granted to
him as his right, and on their return, Master Lorimer coming by
special invitation, the family were welcomed at Brougham Castle, the
cradle of their race, where Harry Clifford, no longer an outlaw, began
the career thus described:
Love had he found in huts where poor men lie,
His daily teachers had been woods and rills,
The silence that is in the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills.
In him the savage virtue of the race,
Revenge, and all ferocious thoughts were dead,
Nor did he change, but kept in lofty place
The wisdom that adversity had bred.
Glad were the vales, and every cottage hearth,
The Shepherd Lord was honoured more and more,
And ages after he was laid in earth
The Good Lord Clifford was the name he bore.