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Title: Malvern Chase
Author: W. S. Symonds
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0606501.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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Malvern Chase
W. S. Symonds




Chapter 1.


THE ANCIENT FAMILY OF HILDEBRAND DE BRUTE, WHERE THEY
LIVED, AND HOW THEY CAME THERE.



I am one of that race which was English before William the Norman
conquered our country. One of my ancestors followed Robert of Normandy
to the wars of Palestine, and from plain John Birts changed his name
to John de Brute. The Roman poet called the great Saxon race from whom
we sprang "sea wolves that live on the pillage of the world," and I
fear that this was too true of their earlier history; but when the
land was conquered, they soon settled down around the villages of the
forest glades, or by the banks of the rivers, each settlement being
independent of its fellow settlement.

The Birts who assisted in the Saxon conquest of England were
landholders in a land of Birch trees, and land tillers, before they
crossed the seas. Their first settlement in this country was on the
banks of the Severn, below the site of the ancient town of Theocsbury,
at a place called Deorhyst. At Deorhyst, the religion of the Cross
succeeded the pagan worship of Woden, the War God, earlier than in
many parts of Saxon England, and a priory was founded in Saxon times.
Here, on the conversion of the Birts to Christianity, the sacred rite
of baptism was performed by immersion in the waters of the Severn, and
when they died, our Edwards, or Ealdwulfs, and their Ethelgifas were
laid in the grave to the ringing of the passing bell. For many years
the Priory of Deorhyst acquired great and deserved celebrity among the
early Christian establishments. It was rich and flourishing when the
fires of the Danish invasion wrapped in flames its great wooden
structures. Church and Grange were alike destroyed, and the family of
the Birts had, like the Prior of Deorhyst himself, to take refuge in
the dense forest which then stretched from the Malvern Hills to the
Severn, and from beyond Worcester to Gloucester, and which in after
times became the "Malvern Chase" of the haughty Norman conqueror.

From old traditions handed down through long generations of the Birts,
it is well nigh certain that at the time of the burning of Deorhyst, a
family of Saxons had settled in a glade in the forest near to the old
Roman trackway which led from Gloucester across the Malverns to Saxon
Hereford. Here, too, an ancient Christian church was built of forest
oaks with nothing of stone save mayhap the font, and it was called
Pendyke from very early times, the church being built at the head of a
dyke or trench, which was once a boundary of British tribes before the
Saxons landed in Britain or the Romans either.

The family who dwelt at Pendyke bore the name of Kite, and in Saxon
times the Birts of Deorhyst, and the Kitels of Pendyke, were mighty
hunters in the forest, and many a wolf and many a wild boar fell
before their spears.

It was to the Kitels that the Birts fled for safety at the burning and
sacking of Deorhyst by Sweyne, and it was by their aid that our family
reclaimed some hides of forest land within a short distance of Pendyke
and established a settlement, to which they gave the name of
Birtsmereton, or the ton or village where the Birts settled close upon
the borders of a great mere or moor-land swamp.

The time came when the Kitels and De Brutes were no longer contented
with their wooden granges and barns in the forest glades; moreover,
they were always in danger from the troublous Welsh; so they each
built their keep or strong tower, round which the ton or village
clustered, one at Pendyke, on Kitel Hill, and the other at
Birtsmereton, while close by each was erected a little church, for our
gallant ancestors were God-fearing men.

Birtsmereton Keep was small, but strong, surrounded by massive stone
walls and a deep trench or moat. A little stream fed this moat and ran
through a large upper fish-pool, which answered two purposes, it fed
the moat with water and the occupiers of the Keep with fish on fast
days. The only entrance to the Keep was by a drawbridge across the
deep, dark moat, and a strong portcullis hung from the battlemented
gateway, which was loopholed for archers, while from a niche looked
down our patron saint, St. Gunhilda. It was a forest keep, and when
the farmer became a knight among Normans he still followed in the
footsteps of our Saxon forefathers. He kept large droves of swine to
feed upon the acorns and the beech mast on the Swineyard Hill of the
Malverns, which rose above the Norman chase and forest, but it never
was a great stronghold in which a crowd could be banqueted or a
numerous retinue summoned to arms.

My grandfather, Giles de Brute, pulled down the Keep, leaving only the
basement, and erected the Manor House in which I was born. Instead of
the tower-like Keep with its round lights for windows, we had a
comfortable dwelling with hanging roofs and gables, and my dear mother
always pointed with pride to our windows filled with glass. Indeed,
neither at Kitel Keep or Castlemereton are there now such lattices
which can be opened or shut at pleasure, neither are there such
andirons for the burning logs in the winter time, or so fine a vent to
carry off the smoke as in our Hall. Then our bedrooms are far larger
and more lofty than the little cub-holes which our ancestor Sire Giles
and his dame used to occupy up the winding stone staircase of the
Norman Keep. The walls too are painted with the romance of George and
the Dragon, and with Noah's Ark and the wild beasts which came out of
it. Our tenants were thirteen in number, and they did service for the
land they occupied, which was taken in from the forest, and the gift
of the Red Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare. Besides this, there
were two hundred acres of arable and pasturage for the stock of the
home farm, which consisted of oxen and heifers, calves and sheep,
geese and capons, cocks and hens. These, with the gardens, fish-ponds,
rabbit-warren, and pigeon-house, kept us well provided, and right
hospitable my father was to poor as well as rich. Then there was the
chaplain, an old friend of my mother's family, and the steward who
lived in the house, and the forester who lived in the woods, while the
plough drivers and swineherds occupied mud cottages outside but near
to the Manor for defence.

Our nearest neighbours of gentle blood were Sire John Carfax of
Castlemereton, and the Kitels of Pendyke, the Calverleys of Branshill
across the Malvern Hills, and the Berews of Berew, the descendants of
a Saxon family as ancient as our own, but who had gone down in the
world through fines and spoliations, and by offence given the De
Clares by appropriations of land from the forest without saying with
or by your leave. Then farther off were the Bromwichs of Broomsbarrow,
and the Brydges of Longdune, who lived at an old grange--Eastington--
once the homes of the Saxon Eastings. To all these places there were
trackways through the Chase so broad that two or three might ride
abreast, while there were many portways and paths, known only to those
who lived in the neighbourhood, which led to different parts of the
forest, sometimes to open glades where the deer would pasture,
sometimes to dense thickets the lair of the wild boar, though boars
were becoming scarce to find and difficult to kill.

The south Malverns, under which our Manor House is built, are very
different in their character to the northern hills which rise above
the Priory and little village of Malvern. They are far more wooded up
their slopes, and although not so high, the thickets are more dense
and the gullets more deeply riven. For ages the forests about Waum's
well, on the flanks of the Herefordshire fire-beacon, have been
refuges for those who, like Owen Glendower and Sire John Oldcastle,
have had to seek shelter from the wrath of kings and ecclesiastics, or
the poacher who had offended against the forest laws, and was liable
to pains and penalties. The side of the Midsummer Hill, below the camp
on its summit, is famous for its hollows and masses of stone, with
which the Britons built rude huts and circles, and here we find ever
the biggest stag, and sometimes the lair of a boar.

The Ragged Stone, or Rent Hill, with its valleys of the white-leaved
oak and holly bush on either flank, and seamed with gullets both on
the northern and southern slopes, is a sunny hill-top on a summer's
day, where swallows skim and butterflies haunt the stunted flowers,
but below are the densest thickets of our forest, and the little rill
which runs through the hawthorn glades. Here grow the earliest
primroses of spring and the sweet white violet; and here, in the
summer, are the purple foxgloves, and the yellow mullein with its
woollen leaves. Then the last hill of all is the Chase End, or the end
of our Malvern Chase, for at Murrell's End, beyond the groves of
Hazeldine, begins the great Chase of Gloucester. At the base, towards
the south, nestles the little Norman church of Broomsbarrow, and
behind is the wilderness of the Howling Heath. But through all the
forest, go where you will, the spring time is resonant with the songs
of birds, the nightingale and mavis, the storm-cock and the blackbird;
and among the hill-tops we listen to the trill of the stone-chat and
the whistle of the whin-cock, or the piping of the white dappled
wheat-ear.

I was born in the year of grace 1438, just eight years after the Maid
of Orleans, Joan of Arc, was burnt to death for witchcraft, and three
years before Eleanor Cobham, who was a sort of relation of ours
through the Oldcastles, did public penance in three places in London,
being accused of the great sin of endeavouring to destroy the king,
his majesty Henry VI., by divinations and enchantments. But my dear
and learned father was more affected, as I have often heard him say in
after years, by the death of his friend the learned astrologer Roger
Bolingbroke, who was most falsely accused, with Margery Jourdain, of
making a wax figure of his most sacred majesty the King, for Eleanor
Cobham, and in necromancing it under the light of the stars, so that
in proportion as it was sweated and melted before a fire it would, by
magical sympathy, cause the flesh and substance of the King to wither
and melt away and his marrow to be dried up in his bones. Roger
Bolingbroke was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn, and Margery
Jourdain was burned alive in Smithfield. At this my father was most
indignant, for he, like Bolingbroke, was much given to the sciences,
and especially to the studies of astronomy and astrology, as indeed
was my grandfather before him, he having learned much at the time when
the celebrated Owen Glendower, who was himself reputed to be a
magician, was accustomed to take refuge in our forest home, and to go
to and fro to Kenderchurch, the home of his daughter, Jane Scudamore,
where he passed by the name of Jack of Kent.

My dear mother and ever respected father did not agree on these
subjects, she never liked my father star-gazing on the Malverns, or
squaring the circle with Bolingbroke, or watching the moon night after
night; while she knew well that her calves once died in the paddocks
hard by when Moll Billings went away cursing and blaspheming from the
drawbridge. She knew too that the butter would not churn, and the
conserves got mouldy when Moll was seen squinting in at the dairy door
after a moonlight night, so she kept Moll at a distance and wished my
father would let the moon alone also.

My father was a Wycliffite, or as was now termed a Lollard, and our
grandfather's dearest friend and cousin, Sire John Oldcastle, after he
had been hunted and persecuted for six long years, during which he had
often sheltered in our Manor House, had been hung in iron chains and
roasted over a fire, because he had been found guilty of heresy, as
Bolingbroke was of necromancy, and this only a little more than twenty
years before I was born.

My father was a powerful man, with large brown eyes and strongly
marked forehead, round which clustered thick brown hair. An air of
resolute determination expressed somewhat of his character, and a
just, true man was he. My sweet mother was of Norman blood, the
daughter of Sire Giles and Dame Acton; a family which came originally
from France in the time of Edward the Confessor. Mother was ever
beautiful, at least to father and me, her only child. Her face was
lighted by dark but kindly eyes, her thoughts were ever for others
rather than for herself and she nursed Moll Billings when she was sick
with fever well nigh unto death, after she believed the calves had
died through her witchments.

My boyhood was passed entirely at home, and to my father I owe that
excellent education which has been of such service to me during a
somewhat long life. He was a scholar, and had written out with his own
hand much of Wycliffe's Bible and the works of Master Chaucer and
Boccaccio. While my mother was busy in the long winter nights with her
needle or spindle, my father would be engaged with his parchments and
grey goose quill, and often would she rise up from by the burning
logs, and with beaming eyes look over the writing, and, putting her
arms round his neck, ask what it betokened.

Above our Manor House, within a two miles' gallop, rises the south end
of Malvern Hills, and many a time and oft have I clambered up the
Beacon of Herefordshire, or the Swineyard Hill, where the swine do
pasture, or the Hill of Midsummer, with its ancient camp, which my
father said "was occupied, with Danesmoor, by the Danes, some of whom
settled around this hill when they had harried all the Saxons they
could find."

Then there is the "Dead Oaks" below the Gullet Pass, where many a
poacher of deer has been hung in chains as a scare to others who would
trespass on the rights of those Norman barons who claimed all animals
of the chase and the falcons of the hills. Here, when a boy, I have
passed in fear and trembling, as the bones of the dead clattered in
the wind as it whistled down the Gullet or sighed and sobbed round the
Swineyard above.

When I was about twenty years of age, John Hasting, our forester and
woodman, became my frequent companion, and after the morning's studies
with my father over scrip, parchment, and pen, it was my delight to
persuade Hasting to accompany me to the mere of Longdune, where in
autumn time we snared snipes and plover in numbers with horse-hair
springes, while he would occasionally kill both wild ducks and wild
geese with his cress-bow, or the grey goose shaft from the long-bow,
in the use of which he had no compeer. In the summer time the mere was
dry in large portions, though much covered by the bull-rush and the
flag, and John could always find a heron for our falcons; while many a
boomer have we brought home from the mere before the summer's sun had
risen above the spire of Longdune.

In the summer days flags and rushes held wild ducks' eggs and plovers,
with which mother loved to make a dainty dish, when our friends and
neighbours came to dine or to pass the day fishing in the moat for the
luce, or in the little stream for the silver trouts.

Under the auspices of Hasting I learned a good deal of the noble sport
of falconry, and our tercels were taught to fly at herons, while we
had hobbies and merlins which would pounce on wild pigeons, snipe, and
partridges. I also learnt to reclaim the birds and direct their diet,
while, in the spring time, we would search for the young on some rocky
shelf among the Malverns, or in a crow's nest from which the owners
had been driven, among the tops of the highest oaks. Hasting always
made our bows, and he exercised the boys and serfs around us in
archery on the great green between our churches of Birtsmereton and
Berew. He knew every yew and ash tree in the forest for miles around,
and no arrows were so tapered, or winged with such wild-goose
feathers, as those we called the "Hasting's shaft." No wonder then
that in such company I became a proficient with the "gallant grey
goose shaft," and that before I was twenty I could have transfixed a
man at three hundred paces or a pigeon at fifty.

One evening, in the mid-spring time, Hasting told me he had heard a
bittern booming at the moon down among the reeds and willows in the
mere; so we were up before the sun, the grey mist still hanging over
the vale, I with my cross-bow, and Hasting with his long-bow and sheaf
of arrows. The air was, as Hasting said, "filled with a charm of the
songs of birds." We could hear the stormcock whistling on the tops of
the elms and the blackbird trolling in every thicket; by and by, from
a paddock, a lark would rise carolling his welcome to the sun, then a
blackcap would whistle with a tune that made us think it was the
nightingale until we heard the trill, trill of that songster himself,
while the zoo zoo was cooing in every grove.

The sun rose as we neared the mere, and we heard the boom, boom of the
bittern, the quack of the mallard, and the shrill cauk, cauk of the
heron. The mere possessed a character of its own. It was, if possible,
more lonely than the Chase with its scattered villages and granges,
and silent as the grave, save the calls of its wild fowl and the croak
of the frog. "Boom, boom," rang out the bittern, and we directed our
course towards it, as we knew it would cease to call soon after
sunrise, but it was not easy to reach the spot from which the sound
emanated. There were mires, tall rushes and sedges, with here and
there water lying in deep hollows filled by a spring-time flood, and
boggy places which would engulf a man if he slipped in, and cover him
up to the day of doom in black peaty slush. So it was agreed that I
should try a creep with my cross-bow in order to get a sitting shot at
the boomer, which I longed to obtain, for it was the birthday of our
neighbour Rosamond Berew. I then half scrambled and half waded through
the sedges to within some five hundred yards of the place where the
coveted bird sat, offering, in his own way, his hymn to the rising
sun. The boomer always feeds by night, not, like the heron, by day,
and in the early morning it will often sit close, whereas the heron
quickly takes flight on the slightest sound. This was in our favour,
and while Hasting went a little to the right, I crawled straight for
some thick reeds from which the loud call note seemed to come.
Creeping and creeping, with as little noise as possible, I was at last
rewarded by seeing the beautiful bird squatted on a little knoll among
the bull-rushes, his head flung well back as it uttered its call, and
the sun lighting up its beautiful buff brown and chestnut plumage,
while down the breast was a tippet I fervently hoped would soon grace
the neck of a turtle dove who nestled under the groves of Berew. But
my nerves were unsteady, and though within fifty paces of the bittern
I felt that I might miss. In after years, when my life depended on
steadiness of aim, I never felt so unnerved as I did when watching
that bittern on that spring morning. At last, placing the bolt of the
cross-bow in readiness, and bending on one knee, I took careful aim,
but my hand shook, and the bolt sped close above the head of the bird.
One sharp boom, a toss, as it were, through the sedges, and the strong
bird was high above me, winging its flight to less dangerous quarters.
In my chagrin I threw my crossbow on the ground, when suddenly the
bittern fell almost at my feet, an arrow having pierced its body from
wing to wing. A pang of jealousy shot through me for a moment, as
Hasting came splashing through the sedges.

"Never mind, Master Hildebrande," said he, "better luck next time; I
have missed more boomers than ever I killed."

Soon recovering, I congratulated him on his success, but I said
nothing about the feathers for the tippet, or the birth-day present.

By this time we had got well across the mere, and it was determined I
should try my luck with the long-bow at a wild duck on the water, and
that we would return by Kitel Hill and the trackway to our manor. We
had just crossed the brook that ran by Pendyke through the mere, when
we heard the whimper of a small dog in the sedges, and coming down the
bank towards the brook we saw Bessie Kitel with her red tercel on her
wrist, the very red tercel I gave her just a year before.

"Oh, Hildebrande de Brute," she said, "it is too bad of you and
Hasting thus early disturbing every hern within a reach of Kitel. You
naughty boy, I would fly the tercel at a hern, but you and Hasting
never give a poor girl a chance, and we of Kitel must content
ourselves with duck or partridge. However, it is your own loss, and
you will not now have a hern's crest worked by my own fingers to wear
in your cap and bring you the luck of falconry."

Hardly had she spoken when a hern rose from the sedges by the brook.
In a moment Bessie released the hood, and the tercel made such a dash
towards the hern as at once told us it was a bold bird.

"Right well trounced," said Hasting, as the noble bird made his first
swoop, and "cauk, cauk," cried the hern, as the falcon missed his
strike. Again the falcon trounced, again missed, and the hern rose
circling in the air. Here the tercel appeared to change its tactics,
as it rose higher in great sweeps above the quarry, until both seemed
soaring to the clouds. At last down came the swoop with lightning
force, and we could hear the air whistle as the tercel descended, when
suddenly there seemed a struggle among the clouds and slowly the heron
fell fluttering to the ground.

"Spiked! by all that's holy," shouted Hasting, as he rushed towards
the mere in which the heron had fallen.

Among the rushes lay both birds, dead, the falcon transfixed by the
heron's beak, and the neck of the heron so injured by the shock that
it too was killed.

A tear stood in Bessie's eye as we brought back her dead tercel and
the heron's plume. "Poor Hildebrande," she said, for thus had she
named her falcon, "you shall lie under the yew tree on our hill of
Kitel, a fitting grave for so bold a bird."

Bessie Kitel was about eighteen years of age, and with her long fair
hair and sparkling grey eyes looked the picture of good health and
good temper. I did not altogether like her appropriating the bittern
which Hasting had slung over his shoulder, saying, "Well, Hildebrande,
if I have lost my tercel in endeavouring to obtain a heron's plume for
you, you have won the boomer's tippet for me." She then inquired into
the circumstances of the capture, and I had the mortification of
confessing my miss and the good aim of Hasting. I thought a shade of
displeasure passed across her face as I told her I sought the bird for
the birthday of Rosamond Berew, but she was far too kindly-hearted to
bear enmity, and invited us to take some refreshment at Kitel Keep,
which rose immediately above us on the hill-top.

The Keep of Kitel, in the parish of Pendyke, is one of the most
curious relics of antiquity in this part of England. It is a single
tower, standing on the edge of a plain, and overlooking the mere of
Longdune, while in the distance rise the range of the Cotswolds and
the hill of Bredon. To the north we see the hills and priory of
Malvern, and below the green woodlands of Malvern Chase; while at a
short distance to the southward is the little monastery and church of
Pendyke. The Keep is said to have been built upon the site of a Saxon
grange by a Kitel who turned soldier in the days of William Rufus. In
later times the occupiers surrounded the tower with barns and pleasant
cots, so that the stronghold became the residence of the descendants
of the founder, who cultivated their land with the aid of their own
labourers and cottars, who gathered the grain, sheared the sheep, made
the cider, hewed the wood, and malted the barley. The entrance to
Kitel Keep is by a flight of stone steps, and the chambers are
somewhat small and confined, while the narrow window lights are not
filled with glass, but with thin cow's horn, inasmuch as Master Kitel
had a great objection to employing any of the modern novelties or new
luxuries.

We were greeted by the deep baying of two deer-hounds, and John Kitel
seeing us approaching up the hill, from the mere below, met us on the
steps, followed by his bulldog "Holdfast," a brute that would have
pinned a lion at his master's signal, but was singularly tractable to
the sound of his voice. Kitel gave us a homely greeting and hearty
welcome, bidding us to the table, where his serving men were already
gathered awaiting the important hour of dinner, for it wanted only two
hours of mid-day. I soon found myself seated between "the Master" and
Bessie, above the massive silver salt cellar, while Hasting placed
himself at the lower board with the grieve and hinds. Cups and
trenchers of bread were soon supplied to us, and a great collop pasty
with salt pork was already on the table. Flagons of cider were passed
round, also a small double-handed cup with wine in honour of the
guests, which was carried to myself and Hasting by the hands of the
fair Bessie. Kitel congratulated me on my prowess with the bow and
cross-bow, and expressed a fervent hope that I should never be
immersed in parchments, or become a scholar, which was fit only for
"priests and scriveners." He gave us an invitation to repeat our visit
whenever sport took us in that direction, and concluded by an
exhortation to "ware scholarship," "which took Sire John Oldcastle to
the gallows, and never yet enabled a man to draw a good bow or wield a
battle-axe."

We proceeded from Kitel Keep to the Berew, or home of the Berews, in
order that I might present Rosamond Berew with the boomer's tippet.

"Underhill," as their new manor house is called, from its situation
below the round hill of Berew, is a very different place from Kitel
Keep, although its site was formerly occupied likewise by a small
Saxon grange. Surrounded by a moat it is almost entirely constructed
of timber from the forest, with stone foundations and "wattle and dab"
for the walls. It is not nearly so large as our own manor house of
Birtsmereton, but far more comfortable than are the ancient Keeps, for
here there are windows with glass, and a parlour fitted up with
beautiful tapestry, also a chimney, a very rare structure in common
country houses. This parlour, too, boasted one luxury which we did not
then possess, and which old Master Berew is said to have received from
the far East. This was a carpet, an article much too valuable to tread
upon, and which is only put down for show on rare occasions, the floor
being usually occupied by clean rushes, of which the meres of Longdune
or Eldersfield furnish abundance.

Indeed the parlour itself at Underhill is rarely occupied, the central
hall being the chamber usually frequented by the household.

The first person we beheld on our arrival was the youth known to our
neighbourhood as "Silent John," the only brother of Rosamond, who
never spoke save when he was spoken to, and not always then. Clad in a
hunting vest with woollen hose, he was engaged in making horse-hair
springes for snipes and plover, while his eyes brightened as he beheld
the bittern, and he vouchsafed a quiet nod to our salutations. John
superintended the farming of the estate, and the ploughing and sowing
of autumn and spring. Under him were half-a-dozen churls, and in his
quiet way he managed to set an example of industry to the
neighbourhood, while, owing to the careful cultivation bestowed on the
land, the farming at Berew was conspicuous for its crops at harvest,
and the breed of cattle on the pastures. John and his sister Rosamond
were orphans, and lived with their grandfather at the grange of
Underhill, having lost both their parents in early childhood.

The Berews were of Saxon origin, like ourselves, but, owing to various
circumstances, they had yielded less to Norman influences, and
therefore were subjected more to Norman despotism. For a long time
therefore the family remained churls, under the bondage of Norman
lords, until one of them paid forty marks for his manumission, which
was obtained by the sub-prior of Little Malvern. This was about 100
years before I was born, but since that time the Berews had
accumulated money, and the grandfather of Rosamond wasknown to possess
many broad pieces in addition to certain hides of land. Master Berew
had known Sire John Oldcastle personally, and, himself a Lollard, had
witnessed some of the persecutions of that sect. Age did not diminish
his hatred of the house of Lancaster, though for years he had lived a
life of retirement, varied only by occasional visits from my father,
with whom, as a scholar, he was ever delighted to converse. Master
Berew had been tall in his younger days, and his face now a good deal
resembled the profile of the tercel or the kite. His hair was long and
almost white, and he looked at us as we entered with sharp grey eyes,
which seemed to search for information before we were ready to give
it. He had a sorrowful expression, and wore a somewhat stern
demeanour, as he rose to give his salutations to myself and my
companion. He requested us to be seated on the oaken bench opposite
the great chair he occupied, and on which Rosamond sat when she was
released from her household duties, and listened to the instructions
of her grandfather, or when he related the events of his younger days.
He heard my account of the morning's sport with some interest, but I
said nothing about the destiny of the boomer's tippet, or the crest of
the hern. Then he inquired what were my studies, and seemed to think
more of scholarship than of the hawk or the hound.

Rosamond Berew would only be pronounced beautiful by those who knew
and loved her, for her principal beauty lay in expression, and no face
I ever beheld equalled hers in the smiles which lighted it when she
was glad, or the look of deep sympathy when she sorrowed with the
bereaved. She had a gentle voice, too, which contrasted not a little
with the gruff tones of her grandfather or the shrill loud calls of
the country wenches. Her long brown hair hung in clusters down her
neck as she advanced with beaming eyes to welcome us as we crossed the
drawbridge, a posie of spring violets in her bodice, and a white dove
nestling on her shoulder.

In the chamber where Master Berew was sitting she had gathered a store
of herbs, from the woods above the house, which are famous as
medicaments and salves. There was the ground ivy and the roots of the
daffodil, with maiden's fingers and lords and ladies, all of which
awaited the arrival of the celebrated herbalist--Mary of Eldersfield--
sometimes called "The Witch," when they were to be stewed and
compressed for future use, and given, as need required, among the
households of the labourer and the poor. Then there were large bunches
of primroses and cowslips, and the white wind-flower, all fresh-
gathered in the woods, and with these the nest of the blue Isaac,
which John had brought in only to receive a scolding from his sister
for robbing the poor bird of its bright blue eggs, and an entreaty to
spare the nest of the water-hen which had built its sedgy cradle on
the borders of the moat.

The wild flowers were a birthday gift from the children of the
cottars, one of whom had brought a young furze pig and another a pair
of quice or wood-pigeons, for "the Rose of Berew," as she was often
called, was almost worshipped by the hinds and their children, as she
had ever a kind word and friendly greeting for those who are too often
regarded as of less consequence than the cattle on the land, and are
rarely so well treated.

Hasting meanwhile learnt from John Berew that a wild boar had been
seen in the thickets of the Holly Bush hill, and a large stag near the
pass of the hill of the Swineyard. It was therefore agreed that we
should consult my father and Kitel of Pendyke, and with our combined
foresters and others should hold a chase some early day. Rosamond
agreed to accompany us to Birtsmereton, only about a distance of a
score of bow-shots, as she wished to convey some flowers from the
woods of Berew for the acceptance of my mother. We said "good-bye" to
the venerable Nigel, and set forth together. Hitherto I had said
nothing of the bittern's tippet, but as Rosamond tripped along by my
side, and John was deep about potions for sick kine with Hasting, I
took the opportunity of requesting her to accept the feathers and wear
them for the sake of old acquaintance since we were children, as it
was her birthday and I had taken much trouble to obtain them. She
turned away her face while I spoke and was engaged in pulling her
violets to pieces; then turning cheerily, she said with a smile, "I
thank you gratefully, Master Hildebrande." Still I did not like the
"Master." We soon arrived in sight of the tower of our church and the
gables of the Manor-house. The rooks were cawing from the big elms and
the moor-hen and coot flitted across the great fish-pond, as we passed
towards the drawbridge. My father and mother were seated on the
parapet above the moat, in the evening's sunshine, and Rosamond Berew
curtsied as she received my mother's kiss and blessing. John soon
possessed himself of the big tankard of cider which was brought from
the house, and said little save giving some directions as to the most
probable place for finding the boar on the day of the proposed chase.
My father willingly gave his consent to the boar hunt, but declined
joining us, as he was engaged on business of a pressing nature. It was
agreed that the Kitels of Pendyke should be invited, and that we
should borrow two boar-hounds from Sire Hugh Calverley of Branshill,
in addition to the deer-hounds which would be furnished by the Kitels
and ourselves. Bessie Kitel and Rosamond Berew were to join our party,
with any of the Calverleys who liked to ride from Branshill, and Sire
John Carfax from Castlemereton. The meeting place was to be the summit
of the pass between the Ragged Stone and Midsummer Hills on the
trackway between Theocsbury and Ledbury. These arrangements settled,
Rosamond and her brother departed, an early day being fixed for our
hunt of the wild boar.



Chapter 2.


THE MEET AT THE HOLLY BUSH PASS--THE BOAR HUNT--AN UNIVITED VISITOR



In the days of the Norman kings the forest laws were far more
oppressive than they are now, and the Chase of Malvern stretched away
for miles with here and there a village and a church rising in the
clearings. Even in the time of Edward the First and his son-in-law
Gilbert de Clare, the Red Earl of Gloucester, land which now the
farmer's axe has cleared and converted into pastures was covered with
wood, dense thickets and the yellow gorse, the haunts of the wild boar
and the wild deer, while the bittern was a common bird in the meres,
and the beaver still haunted the Severn at Beverley. But now both
boars and bitterns are become rare, and the stag is not nearly so
abundant as it was in the days of my grandfather.

Still the chase of boar or deer was far more accessible to the
dwellers in the forest than it ever was in the days of the Red Earl,
when a man hardly dare venture out of the line of the trackways or cut
a new path through the thickets lest he should disturb the wild beasts
in their lairs. The owners of the principal keeps and castles--such as
Hanley and Branshill Castles, or Castlemereton and Birtsmereton
Keeps--now claimed a right of chase in portions of the forest near
them, as having been granted to their forefathers for services
rendered in years gone by.

The largest range in our neighbourhood was that of the Earl of Warwick
in the right of his Countess, Ann Beauchamp, who was the owner of
Hanley Castle and other vast possessions. Our forester, Hasting, was a
ranger of Lord Warwick's, and so had built a woodman's lodge, which he
called "The Robin Hood," at Castlemereton, as being near to the haunts
of some of the stags in the Gullet Pass and about the Swineyard Hill,
and where, after a deer had been killed, it could be flayed and
dressed. This lodge was a mere log house, but was filled with various
implements of the woodman's craft, such as long-bows and cross-bows,
bags of quarrels, sheaves of arrows, boar-spears, falcon tressels and
fishing gear. Against the beams of timber there hung knives and bills,
axes for falling timber, large boots made of buck's hides, and
leathern jackets which would defy the most thorny thicket.

It was at "The Robin Hood" that Hasting and I formed most of our
hunting plans, and more than once after a long chase and we had been
overtaken by nightfall, have we been glad of the rude shelter and
passed the night there with fern for our bedding and deer skins for
our coverlids. On the day before the boar hunt we passed most of our
time at the lodge making the necessary arrangements and sending
messages to the neighbouring gentry, with requests to bring the
particular dogs we required, and whose attendance was often, to us at
least, of more importance than their masters.

Thus we invited Sire Hugh Calverley of Branshill Castle across the
Malverns, and his son, begging of him to bring his famous boarhounds,
Hecate and Styx. Sire John Carfax of Castlemereton was the possessor
of several fox curs which he used for hunting vermin, but they had
remarkable noses, and might be useful as the ground was parched and
dry. Kitel of Pendyke managed his dogs right well, and Bessie would
surely join us in the forest. John Berew knew more of kine than
hounds, but he was sure to keep his tongue quiet, and was a right
sterling fellow if a boar was brought to bay. Then there was the
Rector of Broomsbarrow, a great lover of the chase, and who knew the
lair of every stag within five miles of his residence, with the Prior
of Newent, who would even hunt foxes on the hill of Maia, if he could
find no nobler game. Nay, it was even reported by scandalous tongues
that he had been seen chasing hares with his fox curs in Lent.

Another point to ascertain from "The Robin Hood" was the whereabouts
of the boar and his lair. This, as far as we could judge from the
accounts of foresters, was somewhere in the Gullet dingle among a
thicket of hollies above the Dead Oaks, and where tradition says Sire
John Oldcastle lay hid during three days when our house at
Birtsmereton was searched by the bloodhounds of the Archbishop
Arundel, and even our secret room in the pannelled chamber was
considered to be unsafe.

The Gullet Pass is situated between the great camp of Midsummer Hill
and the hill of the Swineyards, which Gilbert de Clare granted to the
dwellers around Ledbury whereon to pasture their swine, and all around
the camp there have grown up dense thickets, which form excellent
shelter for deer or wild boar, although tradition says that a British
town once clustered around the base of these hills.

Early on the appointed morning I mounted my iron grey, "Sir Roland,"
and accompanied by Hasting rode by the trackway from Theocsbury, past
the pilgrims' inn known as the "Duke of York," to Ledbury and
Hereford. This village hostel has for many years been a kind of half-
way house or resting-place for religious pilgrims travelling to
Hereford to worship at the shrines of St. Ethelbert or St. Cantilupe,
and was frequently the rendezvous of the Red Earl and his son who was
afterwards killed at the battle of Bannockburn, when they hunted among
the dense thickets of the Hawthorns or the Ragged Stone, or sought the
lair of the boar in the wilds of the Howling Heath.

"The Duke of York" is a rambling wooden edifice with the tabard of the
Duke Richard hanging from a pole which stands on the great open common
which surrounds the inn, and is the village green in the forest below
the hills. Here we found John Berew engaged with a tankard of cider
and a toast with borage, and carrying a huge boar-spear. He had also
brought some hinds as beaters, and they too were draining horn after
horn of their favourite beverage. In a short time Kitel of Pendyke
rode up, accompanied by his daughter Bessie, looking like a summer
rose as she gave us a cheery "good morrow," and patted her palfrey's
neck. With them also rode Rosamond Berew and the Brydges of
Eastington, lovers of the chase, and famous for their skill in
archery. As our custom is, when hunting near the only village hostel
for many a mile in these wild woodlands, we all partook of the host's
cheer, the fair damsels touching each cup of hippocrass with their
cherry lips before we drank, cap in hand, to their health and luck to
our own spears. Rosamond Berew rode a grey jennet, full of mettle,
which she managed with grace and spirit. She wore a dark grey riding
gown, cape and hood, with her nut brown hair loose down her back. A
look of dignity told of her ancient lineage, which her grandfather
used to say was that of "warriors before the Norman had a beginning."
The expression of her face was grave, tending even to melancholy, when
not lighted by that smile which Hasting used to call the "angel's
look." It was now arranged that our horses should be sent by the
trackway which led towards Broomsbarrow, in case the boar broke away
through the forest before he was brought to bay, and we proceeded on
foot up the pass to the trysting-place on the summit, the ladies only
riding on horseback.

At the Holly Bush Pass we met a numerous party assembled. Sire Hugh
Calverley rode up to the meet. With him was Lachmere of Severn End,
who was on a visit to Branshill, with Bromwich of Broomsbarrow, the
Prior of Newent, and the Rector of Broomsbarrow.

They brought a goodly staff of woodmen to drive the thickets, and dogs
of various kinds followed their masters. Sire Hugh was not dressed in
hunting gear, but rode up in his gown of violet-coloured cloth with
purfled sleeves. The velvet which adorned the sleeves showed his rank
of knight. He was a handsome man of somewhat proud bearing, and wore a
short beard. He wore peaks to his shoes of considerable length, but
not so long as those of his son Roger, who was dressed as if for a
Court instead of a hunt of the boar. We other hunters wore the hunting
gear of woodcraft, namely, skull caps of deer hide, surmounted by the
feathers of the eagle, the heron, or the bittern, while here and there
was a cap with the wing of the wild goose across the front. Then we
had boots which came up to the thigh, without the long and peaked toes
so ill adapted for charging through a thicket. The forester of
Branshill and Hasting were both equipped, after the fashion of the
times of Chaucer, in green hood and jerkin, green baldrics, and large
horns by their sides; and Hasting wore on his breast a St. Gunhilda of
silver, while he of Branshill wore an effigy of St. Christopher. All
had boar-spears and sharp daggers, but the bows and arrow sheafs were
left behind. The parsons rode on dainty palfreys with embossed bridles
jingling in the wind, and their gown sleeves were lined with fur, with
hoods like those for women.

The Prior of Newent gave us a merry nod and an invitation to see his
young dogs course a leveret in the summer, while he invited one and
all present to a miracle play on the ensuing week.

Sire John Carfax, of Castlemereton, brought his magnificent sleuth-
hound Hercules, and boasted that he "was of the blood of the
celebrated dog Hades, which had been laid on the scent of that arch-
heretic Sire John Oldcastle, who had obtained shelter in the
neighbourhood, and would, no doubt, have pulled him down on the very
crest of the Malverns, if it had not been that some churl had spilt
his own blood upon the trail and thus baffled the hound by fresh
blood." "This churl," he said, "lived somewhere near Pendyke," and I
observed that Rosamond Berew looked pale and angry; when Hasting blew
a blast upon his horn, which summoned us all for the start, and Kitel,
well versed in woodcraft, gave directions how the woodlands were to be
driven. The sleuth-hounds and boar-hounds were held in leash, but the
Prior of Newent's fox curs, and various other dogs that were
distinguished for their yelping powers, accompanied the woodmen and
beaters, who were to drive the thickets and startle the boar from his
lair. The nobler dogs were not to be loosed until the boar was at bay,
or until he broke through the beaters and made for some distant part
of the forest. In the latter case those who had horses would mount
them, the boar-hounds would be put on the track, and we might follow
as best we could. The hope was that he would stand at bay somewhere on
the line of the hills, so that all might be up at the death.

The drivers were sent to the base of Midsummer Hill in the direction
of the ravine called the "Gullet Pass," and we had to force our way
through thorns, brush wood, and tangled thicket, though here and there
the ground was white with the wood wind flower, and the primrose
blossomed under every tree. Great hollies grew on the hill side, and I
could hear Kitel to my right shouting to the beaters, and singing the
old song--

"Holly hath berries as red as any rose.

The forester and hunter

Keep them for the does."

As we neared the ravine called the Gullet, the yelping of half a score
curs told us that game was afoot, but it was impossible to see half-a-
dozen yards in advance, and I only knew where Kitel was by the whining
of his hound, which he led himself. While struggling through a mass of
brambles I was hailed by Kitel begging me to leave the line of beaters
to him and ascend the hill, so that I might get a good view, and
signal by voice and horn if the boar should go up the dingle or break
across the hill. With some difficulty I found my way through thorns
and hollies, to the open space which once formed the camp of Britons
or Romans on the hill Midsummer, and which furnished a splendid view
of the surrounding country.

The outer vallum of this great camp encircles the two spurs known as
the Holly Bush and the Midsummer Hills. The highest point and deepest
trenches are on the Midsummer Hill, and Gilbert de Clare, the Red Earl
of Gloucester, has struck his dyke right through mound and vallum.
Near the summit was a large pile of wood laid on fern, and surmounted
with faggots ready for a beacon fire which would show a light to the
whole country round. To my surprise Rosamond Berew was standing by the
beacon looking earnestly on the woodlands below. She started as I
addressed her, inquiring what had become of her gallant grey. It seems
that Sire Hugh Calverley had expressed his opinion that "some sharp
eyes were wanted on both hills," and Rosamond had volunteered for the
Midsummer, while we could now see that Besisie Kitel had climbed to
the summit of the Ragged Stone. They had left their horses in the
muddy trackway between the hills and were enjoying the glorious
scenery and the animated spectacle below. The hills were studded with
figures on foot or horseback, the sunlight flashing here and there
upon the steel caps and corselets of some archers who had run up from
Branshill, while the broad trackway below echoed with the neighing of
steeds as certain ladies from the castle rode up, hoping to be in time
for the finding of the boar. Hot and tired I threw myself down on the
hill-top for a few moments by the side of Rosamond, and listening to
the shouts of the beaters, the cry of the dogs, and the winding of the
foresters' horns, we revelled in the view revealed to us beneath that
spring-time sun.

I had often been upon those hill-tops with Hasting in our hunting
expeditions, but Rosamond knew the scenes around us as well or better
than myself. She had, it appeared, frequently accompanied her
grandfather, with whom this was a favourite ride, winding up the pass
of the Gullet. So she pointed out the Scyrrid Vawr and Black Mountains
among the hills of Wales, and the hills above Grosmont, where Harry of
Monmouth won his first battle against the followers of Owen Glendower.
We saw, too, the distinct smoke of Hereford with a wooded hill beyond,
where Mortimer of Wigmore raised his standard, and Prince Edward
galloped on his black charger on his escape from the castle where he
and his father Henry III. were confined as prisoners; then nearer was
the smoke above Ledbury, which she said was once the home of an
ancestor of the Berews, who became a Christian and gave it to the
Church.

In the valley at our feet, but sheltered beneath the hills of Eastnor,
rose the old baronial castle of Branshill, its four flanking towers
glistening in the morning sun. It is but a small fortress, but
strongly fortified, and in our troublous times it was an important
keep. Sire Hugh Calverley was well known to be a follower of the House
of Lancaster, and guarded his castle like a royal stronghold.
Branshill is as old as the days of the Norman king, William Rufus, who
ordered a chain of forts to be erected along the marches after he was
driven out of Wales, and of such are Branshill and Castlemereton.
Branshill has been little altered since Norman times, and the moat,
the walls, the towers, and the loop-holes for the archers remain the
same to the present day. The hall has been rendered more modern and
the armoury on its walls tells of many a knight who has defended it;
while its barbican, narrow archway, strong gates, and portcullis
bespeak security for its inhabitants. It has often been the home of
highborn dames and gallant knights, and Sire Hugh Calverley was of
goodly family and of distinction.

After gazing at the scene around us, Rosamond directed my attention to
the great Herefordshire camp with its fire beacon of wood and faggots,
which rose like a great haystack when facing the north, and looking
towards the ancient city of Worcester. She pointed to the "Hermit's
Cave," a dark hollow in the rocks below the fire beacon. Here, she
told me, as the tears glistened in her eyes, was the spot were the
bloodhounds of Castlemereton had nearly pulled down the hunted and
persecuted Oldcastle, but he was saved with the faithful Thomas Payne,
who accompanied him in his flight from Birtsmereton, where they had
sheltered for several weeks.

"It was grandfather," she said in a hollow whisper, "who opened a vein
in his own arm and let the blood stream out, and so smeared the turf
between the Hermit's Cave and the Wind's Point that it threw the
sleuth-hounds off the scent, and allowed Sire John and Payne to
diverge into the dense copses of the forest at Newer's Wood, and for
awhile to escape." "It was to grandfather, Master Hildebrande, that
proud knight alluded, as the descendant of a Saxon churl, and it was
my grandfather and yours also who sheltered the persecuted for the
sake of their religion and their God, and of whom I am more proud than
if I were the daughter of a Norman king."

I knew little of this episode, for my mother's family, the Actons,
being Catholics, it was seldom mentioned at Birtsmereton, although my
own grandfather assisted so much in the escape of the persecuted
Lollards not fifty years before we two were standing on the Midsummer
Camp waiting for the breaking of the boar.

Just then a horn winding in the trackway made us turn quickly towards
the south; Bessie Kitel still held her post on the Ragged Stone and
waved her kerchief as a signal that we should join her, by which I
judged that her father and the line of beaters were approaching the
Ragged Stone slopes. The sun was now sufficiently high to throw his
western shadows over the vale of Eastnor; and, giving Rosamond my
ungloved hand while using my boar spear as a support, we quickly
descended by the Red Earl's dyke to the trackway below. When halfway
down the steep slope Rosamond stopped suddenly, and exclaimed in an
excited tone, "Good heavens! see, Master Hildebrande, it is the Shadow
of the Ragged Stone," and she pointed to what seemed to be a black,
dark column resting on the Castle of Branshill, while all the rest of
the vale was flooded in sunshine. While we were gazing at this strange
scene of brilliant sunlight and local darkness, the tra-la-lirala of
half-a-dozen horns on our left gave us due notice that the boar was on
foot from his night's lair, and we lost no time in running full tilt
to meet the horsemen in the trackway below.

"Mount 'Sir Roland,' Master Hildebrande," said Rosamond, "and let us
gallop for the valley of the White-leaved Oak; the boar is safe to go
to the Howling Heath." But "Sir Roland" had been sent to the trackway
by the great hawthorn thickets, on the way to Broomsbarrow, and
besides it was my duty to proceed on foot to the summit of the Ragged
Stone and to signal to those below which way the boar was beading.

Mounting Rosamond on her grey, and giving directions that Bessie
Kitel's palfrey should be led to the pass of the White-leaved Oak, I
ran rapidly up the slopes, when I was accosted by Bessie Kitel:-

"Well, Hildebrande the hunter--though you do not deserve the name for
staring in the direction of the Beacon of Hereford when the boar was
twice showing himself in the open glades on this side the Dead Oak--
you will not be entrusted with the signals again by my father, if you
are given to moon-gazing so soon after sun-rise. What have you done
with my palfrey, and where is your own 'Sir Roland?'" "Now, there he
is again!" and truly again the boar showed himself travelling steadily
and without haste in the direction of the Chase-end--the last hill in
our Malvern Chase. The hunters were nearly a mile behind, so I wound
the signal-note on my bugle-horn, and waved a kerchief in the
direction the boar had taken, until I heard a reveillé sounded from
all the horns below, and the beaters were well on the track of the
boar. It was time now to assist Bessie down the deep cleft which gives
the name to the Ragged Stone until we came to the "While-leaved Oak,"
or the pass between the Chase-end and the Ragged Stone. Here we found
her palfrey, and here those who were not engaged in the chase were
assembled. Roger Calverley, Sire Hugh's son, was amongst them,
carrying a huge bear-spear and wearing fine feathers in a very fine
hood. His dress was little adapted to the chase, as you might have
hidden a fawn in his violet-coloured sleeves. An eagle's feather in a
woman's headgear was sadly out of place, and so thought Bessie Kitel,
who had challenged him to walk up the Ragged Stone, but he dared not
for the tips of his shoes.

A ringing note from one of the boar-hounds told us that the Branshill
foresters had let them loose upon the trail, while a whoop and wild
halloo from the summit of Chase-end let us know that the boar was well
forward in that direction, and heading, as Rosamond expected, toward
the Howling Heath. Telling Bessie Kitel to ride straight for the
"halloo," I ran at full speed to the trackway below, where I knew "Sir
Roland" awaited me. The gallant roan bounded with joy as he heard the
sound of the horn, and I galloped for the south end of the Chase-end,
and pulled up below the Howling Heath. Here I waited till the hunters
were seen crossing the crest of the hill, while Bessie Kitel and the
Calverleys rode along the western slope. Again rang out the deep notes
of the hounds, when the boar came thundering by and dashed down the
glen, avoiding the hill of the Howling Heath. I grasped my spear at
the thought that here he must come to bay, but waited patiently for
the rest to come up. Kitel, too, had mounted, and, with Rosamond
Berew, joined me, when we determined to leave our steeds with the
horse-boys and proceed on to the glen. Laying the hounds on the track,
we surrounded the thicket in which the boar had taken refuge, and each
hunter became anxious for first blood. In the densest part of the
thicket the boar turned upon his pursuers, and in a second one of the
sleuth-hounds lay ripped up by his tusks. I could now see that he was
an enormous animal with tusks that gleamed like white scimitars, and
that his charge would need a sturdy arm and an unflinching hold. I now
determined to show myself and await the charge, when to my utter
astonishment, his sleeves torn to rags, and his feather and hood gone,
I saw Roger Calverley, with boar-spear at rest, pushing through the
brambles to the wild beast at bay. Struck with his courage, I yet
determined not to be forestalled, and again pressed forward. Hecate
and Styx had now come up, and Styx pinned the boar by the ear. Turning
short he cut her fearfully with his tusks and charged Calverley, who
stood like a man. The spear glanced aside, and in one moment he was on
his back, prostrate amidst the briars. He, however, drew blood,
although it proved to be a mere skin scratch. The men hallooed, the
dogs yelled, the horns sounded, and the foresters swore great oaths as
the gallant beast charged through them all and broke clear away in the
direction of Broomsbarrow. Turning to Calverley, I found he had
escaped the animal's tusks, and was now coolly engaged in cutting off
the tips of his shoes with his dagger. When out of the thickets and
mire, all who had horses mounted and rode away. Calverley without hat
or hood, and his vestments in a condition wonderful to behold, mounted
the palfrey Sire Hugh rode to the meet, leaving his respected father
to find his way back to Branshill as he could. Roger Kitel got a heavy
fall, but was soon up again, and Bessie and Rosamond Berew followed at
the gallop, Rosamond knowing every forest path and trackway and
promising to be guide to her fair companion.

I felt annoyed with myself for halting in the bushes, and that
Calverley should have drawn first blood, while I could not but admire
the gallantry of one I thought a mere dandy and who now rode ahead of
us all; so, shaking the boar-spear I held in my hand, I determined
that the boar should serve me as he had done "Styx" before I waited
again for the charge. I soon overtook the palfrey that carried
Calverley, and the baying of the hounds told us that the boar was well
on his way to the copses of Hazeldine, where Hasting and I had trapped
many a badger. Turning at Redmarley, the home of the D'Abitots in the
days of the Conquest, he made for the forest thickets of Corse and the
gorse groves of Hasfield, and it was not until we reached these that
we saw him again. I was engaged with Hasting and Kitel in encouraging
the hounds, when he was viewed by Bessie Kitel crossing the open
glades leading to the Severn. We were, with Calverley and Rosamond
Berew, all that were left of the meet at the Hollybush, and the ladies
appeared to have had enough of the chase. We determined, however, to
endeavour once more to bring the animal to bay, and, cheering on the
dogs, we were soon galloping over the open flats below the hill when
Calverley exclaimed, "By St. George, he will cross the river," and by
the time we reached the Severn, we could see the boar ascending the
hill of Wainlode, on the other side the water. Shouting to the ladies
to ride by the river bank to the lode at Ashelworth, where the De
Clares had established a horse ferry more than a hundred years ago, I
leaped "Sir Roland" into the river, followed by Calverley. Kitel and
Hasting knew that their steeds were too exhausted for the effort, and
joined the fair huntresses as they galloped for the ferry.

The stream was strong and we were carried down a considerable distance
before we gained the opposite shore. Calverley had thrown himself
clear of the palfrey, and with one hand on the saddle was swimming
side by side by his steed. "Wet work this, De Brute," he said, as I
assisted him to land, "my poor horse is half drowned."

We now could hear from the baying of the hounds that the boar had
turned upon them in the thickets above. Tying our good steeds to some
trees, we faced the thickets together, and soon came upon the
besiegers and the besieged. The boar was bespattered with blood and
bloody foam, and was evidently much exhausted, but no sooner had I
emerged from the dense brushwood to the open space where the struggle
was taking place, than he at once charged, though Hecate held on like
grim death. Throwing myself on one knee and the whole weight of my
body forward, I met his charge with the spear at rest, but the
treacherous shaft broke short against his tough hide and brisket, when
Calverley rushed up, and driving his spear behind the shoulder into
the heart, our gallant prey lay dead. We were both still dripping like
otter dogs, and Calverley looked a miserable object in the remnants of
his dandy garments. Even my stout jerkin was torn, and I had lost my
cap with Bessie Kitel's feathers.

We were now across the Severn in the Chase of Gloucester, which was
carefully guarded by the foresters of that Chase. A few notes upon the
horn would be certain to bring a flayer or a forester upon us, and yet
it was necessary to blow the death signal that Kitel and Hasting might
assist in securing the head and tusks--trophies we had so hardly
earned.

Sounding then two blasts, we set to work with our knives and daggers
to cut off the boar's head--no easy task. Before it was accomplished,
we heard, as we thought, the gallop of our friends' horses along the
Severn bank, and Calverley went to direct them to the open glade,
which was completely hidden though so near the Severn stream.

I had allowed the hounds and curs to blood themselves at the carcase,
when I heard Calverley calling "De Brute!" in a loud voice. On
descending to the Severn an unexpected sight awaited me. Instead of
our friends, I found a party of four horsemen, and one of them was
assuming a very hostile attitude.

"Who are you, young Springalls, who dare to trespass on the chase of
Gloucester, and dare to cross the Severn after one of our boars that
has chosen to roam?"

"And who are you," said Calverley, "to talk so glibly to your
betters?"

"I am the Master Forester of the Royal Chase of Gloucester," was the
reply, "and if you cannot give a good account of yourselves I will
very soon lodge you both in Gloucester dungeons; such trespass shall
not go unpunished."

"Gently, gently, Master Forester," said a young man of about my own
age, "it seems to me we have to deal with gentlemen, and this trespass
may not be wanton."

The young nobleman, for such his dress betokened him, who now spoke
was of very remarkable appearance--his complexion was fair, with large
blue eyes, and long yellow hair with lovelocks in a style almost
effeminate. He was tall, more than six feet in height, with a great
width of chest and shoulder; his address was most courteous, while at
the same time he had the air of one accustomed to command.

"Who are you, my good friends," he asked, "and why here on the chase
of Gloucester?"

Calverley bowed profoundly, for he had no cap to doff, and explained
who we were, and the circumstances of the long hunt which brought us
there. He said also that we were both aware that by the Charter of
Edward III. we had trespassed, but that the custom and usage of
woodcraft now allowed of the following of stag or boar across the
boundary for a short distance.

A tall and portly gentleman now introduced himself as Sire John de
Guyse, and, offering his hand to Calverley and then to me, said he
knew our fathers right well, and would be answerable for the honour of
their sons.

We had thus smoothed matters when the rest of our party came galloping
up. They seemed surprised at seeing us thus surrounded, and both Kitel
and Hasting looked ready for a fight, when our mediator, transferring
the falcon on his wrist to one of his followers, dismounted, and,
walking up to Bessie Kitel, begged to be allowed to assist her to
descend from the saddle that she might see the boar which he
courteously said "had been so gallantly hunted by youth and beauty."

We now observed the manly form of this young nobleman; in his cap of
red velvet he wore a heron's plume, and on a jerkin of red velvet
braided with gold there was fastened a silver rose. A greater contrast
to my dowdy self and the tattered Calverley could hardly be imagined.
Turning to Rosamond Berew, he admired her jennet and asked how far she
had ridden, and when she pointed to the hills where the chase began,
he replied that truly we "seemed all hunters born!"

When Hasting had cut a path with his whinger to the green glade where
the boar lay dead and we had gathered round the scene, our friend in
need turned to the Master Forester and said, "Good boar, staunch
hounds, bold hunters, and fair ladies. Master Forester, we must take
no notice of this trespass; and from you, fair damsels, we may not
part without some slight token of this day's chase."

He then took his heron's plume and gave it to Rosamond Berew, and
clasped the silver rose upon the kirtle of Bessie. Then turning to his
followers, he said, "Sire John de Guyse and gentlemen, time flies," so
taking off his cap to the ladies, and giving us a slight nod of
recognition, he withdrew, and in a few minutes we heard the hoofs of
their horses as they galloped down the green turf by the Severn side.

We now prepared for our return homewards. The boar's head was fastened
behind the saddle of Hasting, and, tired with our exertions, we rode
slowly towards the Ashleworth ferry, and talked of the various
incidents of the chase and the meeting with the party of falconers
from Gloucester. Kitel said he believed the young noble-man to be Lord
Berkeley, while Calverley thought he might be Lord Tracy.

Having crossed the ferry, and being in need of refreshment, we
determined to seek for some at the manor of the Pauncefortes of
Hasfield. Calverley declared he would rather starve than present
himself in his present condition before the lovely daughters of Julian
Paunceforte, till a hint from Kitel of the probability of a pasty of
goose, a Berkeley cheese, and a tankard of hippocrass, made him prefer
to put off starvation, and we all rode up together to the drawbridge
of the moat, when Kitel dismounted to beg the hospitality he knew
would welcome us.

Hasfield Moat house differed somewhat in its structure from the manor
houses which are now arising in many parts of our western counties.
The moat was dug only in front of the dwelling house, which was
protected on the north and east by a high wall with steps on the inner
side to enable archers to shoot through the apertures, while on the
top of the wall was a chevaux de frise of strong oaken spikes. The
house was mostly built of strong timber, and the only entrance was by
the drawbridge; though it might not stand a regular siege, it was
right well protected against robbers and raiders.

We had not waited long when Paunceforte appeared to welcome the weary
hunters, and entreating us to dismount, led the way to the Moat House,
where at the door, ready to receive us with all hospitality, was the
fair mistress of the house and her two sweet daughters Dorothy and
Miranda, to whose care our damsels were committed.

Dorothy was a fair girl, with a sharp wit, and was so well taught by
her parents that she could read Master Wycliffes Bible, and had
written verses which might have passed for Master Lydgate's; while
Miranda had a voice like a mavis, and played with wondrous skill upon
harp and spinnet. The central hall was hung around with skins of wild
animals, which Master Paunceforte, who had been a great traveller, had
brought from foreign parts, and which excited much admiration among
our party, who had never seen such trophies of the chase before.

The table soon was spread with platters of salted beef, and the goose
pastie which Kitel said was a dish to dream of, and loaves of wastel
bread. Mistress Paunceforte, too, was famous for her green cheeses,
and never ceased to recommend the hot collops. Flagons of hippocrass
and cider passed around, and nothing was spared which hospitality
could provide.

The afternoon was now drawing to a close, so, making a promise to meet
our hosts at the miracle plays at Theocsbury or at the gluttony feast
at Redmarley, we again mounted out horses and partook of the stirrup
cup which was handed to us by the mistress herself. I now observed
that she had lost her right hand and bore the cup in her left. The
history I afterwards learnt was as follows:-

"In the days of his youth Julian Paunceforte had plighted his troth to
the beautiful Dorothy Ashfield, whose home was in Oxfordshire. He was
a gallant sailor, and had arrived at some distinction. Their marriage
was deferred, for Paunceforte was ordered to take the command of a
vessel and sailed to the distant Mediterranean sea. On this voyage he
was taken prisoner by pirates and sold as a slave in the East. A lady
of rank beholding his degraded and forlorn condition and seeing that
he had been gently nurtured and born in better circumstances, took
compassion on the broken-down and nearly dying captive, released him
from his fetters, and raised him to a situation of a less menial kind.

"By and by love succeeded to pity, and she offered to free him
altogether on condition that he should spend the rest of his life with
her in the East.

"Then Paunceforte told her how an English girl was weeping over his
absence by the broad meadows of the Isis, and anxiously hoping for his
return home in love and constancy.

"The Eastern lady laughed in bitter scorn at the idea of woman's
constancy, and Paunceforte, little thinking that his words would be
taken literally, declared that his betrothed would give her right hand
for the return of her lover. 'Then be it so!' exclaimed the indignant
princess, and she swore a solemn oath that Paunceforte should be her
slave unto death unless the hand of the English girl was sent across
the seas as a ransom and pledge of her fidelity.

"Tradition tells how Dorothy had gone to Hasfield to visit the widowed
mother of her lover, and the girl and the grey-haired woman mourned
together over the fate of him who seemed lost to them for ever; when
one day a ransomed captive, a fellow-prisoner of Julian Paunceforte's,
appeared and related to them the history of the strange oath which
would keep him a captive until the day of his death. This news
deepened the shadow of sorrow which was over the old Manor, and two
days afterwards Dorothy Ashfield left for the port of Bristol. She in
time returned, but bearing her arm in anguish in a sling, for the
plighted hand had been cut off at the wrist and gone across the seas
as a ransom."

Our horses were too much exhausted for us to ride faster than a walk,
and as Calverley seemed anxious to converse with Bessie Kitel, I rode
the whole way back with Rosamond Berew.

We had both of us heard much of the religious questions of the times,
for the exactions and encroachments of the ecclesiastics were the
constant topic of conversation between my father and Master Berew; and
we had read Master Wycliffe's "Trialogues," and his belief that Christ
taught faith, hope, and charity rather than the persecution and
burning of heretics. We had also learned to detest the sight of the
"sompnour," described by Master Chaucer, with his "fire-red cherubim's
face, so scalded, whelked, and bepimpled that children fled from its
presence," and whose vocation was that of an ecclesiastical officer
who served citations for trial in the Church courts on the most
trivial pretences. Nor were we better inclined towards the "pardoner,"
for we had learnt from the writings of the great Reformer of
Lutterworth that "God only can forgive sin, and that therefore pardons
and dispensations were not to be sold like an ox or an ass," that "the
Scriptures assure us that Christ is the mediator between God and man."
Yet a month rarely passed away that our villages were not pestered
with these miserable pedlars who travelled from place to place selling
dispensations for sin and exhibiting pretended relics, such as a veil
of the Virgin Mary, handkerchiefs with the blood of Christ, fragments
of St. Peter's boat, and such like impostures.

Witchcraft, too, was the subject of our conversation, and we agreed
that, although there might be cases in which black magic, sorcery, and
enchantment deserved to be punished with the strong arm of the law,
nevertheless hundreds of innocent persons were tortured and executed
for imaginary magic, as in the case of several poor women executed a
few years previously.

Indeed, to such a height had the fear of necromancy arisen, that it
was unsafe to concoct a potation of herbs, or even to gather plants
for medicaments; while the presence of a black cat, or an owl, in a
household was absolutely so dangerous that we ever destroyed our black
kittens.

Nor were these the only topics of our conversation. It was impossible
to ignore the fact that we were living in dangerous times. We were
both old enough to remember the excitement caused throughout the
country by Cade's rebellion; how the Archbishops of York and
Canterbury had to take refuge in the Tower, and the talk of the
desperate single combat between Squire Iden and Cade, in which the
latter was slain. The great battle of St. Alban's, too, (1454) was
hailed as a good omen by our parents, who looked upon the Duke of York
as the rightful king, and hoped under him for greater liberty of
conscience in religious matters.

At the present moment, it was true, a reconciliation had been patched
up, and King Henry was acknowledged as monarch of England by the
Yorkists and the great Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, but now, in
this year 1459, there were rumours of warlike preparations, and great
bodies of troops had been massed at Worcester.

Who could say how soon our quiet homes might not be invaded by armed
men and made desolate by a reckless soldiery!

While conversing on such subjects we had arrived as far as the rounded
hill of Berthhill on the horse trackway to Gadbury Camp and the church
of Eldersfield, when a tall figure crossed our path and entered the
dense glades of the forest. I had hardly time to see whether the dress
was that of a man or woman, but Rosamond said, "There is Mary of
Eldersfield; I expect she has been on Berthhill after nettles to make
a capon sit, or spurges for ointments." Mary of Eldersfield was
celebrated for her knowledge of herbs and medicaments, but led the
life of a strict recluse.



Chapter 3.


LORD EDWARD OF MARCH--THE PREDICAMENT AT WAINLODE HILL--THE
WITCH OF ELDERSFIELD AND HER MEDICAMENTS.



As I rode homewards I could not help thinking of Rosamond, and a
change of feeling respecting her, which had come over me of late, and
which I did not altogether understand. We had been much together as
boy and girl, but I had also seen much of Bessie Kitel and Kate
Brydges of Eastington. Yet, I was now almost afraid of Rosamond,
afraid of doing something she did not like, or saying something of
which she did not approve, and her face always haunted me, go where I
would. If I mounted "Roan Roland" or "Bold Harry," they always would
carry me towards Berew, and I always blushed when I got there and
wondered how they could be so stupid, especially when I found John
Berew only at home, and Rosamond away searching for wild flowers on
the hills. To her I owed all my knowledge of the herbs of the forest
glades, so good for medicaments, taught her by Mary of Eldersfield and
the Sub-Prior of Pendyke.

Many a time have I walked across the Malverns, or the Gullet Pass,
where alone I could gather sufficient whortleberries for a comfiture
for Master Berew, and receive for my reward a smile from Rosamond.
Then there was the bee flower which grows upon the hill of Berew, but
never in the vale, with which Rosamond loved to deck her hair in the
pleasant month of June! I knew where the first blossoms were to be
found in an old stone-pit, among stone oyster shells which look as if
fresh from the sea. But Rosamond's favourite flower was the "nodding
star of Bethlehem," with its white silvery blossoms, among the yellow
broom and gorse of Broomsbarrow. Long distances have I walked for
these flowers and others, such as wild mint and sages, with which
Rosamond would make medicaments for the poor and sick, for she was
never happier than when doing some kind service for others. But now,
and I could not account for it, we seemed somewhat estranged from each
other, and she called me "Master Hildebrande," whereas she once said
"Hildebrande." Thoughts of this kind passed through my mind as I
neared my own home!

I found my father and mother seated in the panelled chamber, the
internal adornment of which my father had superintended. In my
grandfather's time, the walls were bare, or only covered here and
there with worn tapestry. The noble chimney-piece was my father's own
design, and the armorial bearings of the various friends who visited
us from time to time were painted above each panel and were the work
of a foreign artist. Here are the arms of Scudamore of Kentchurch,
whose grandmother was a daughter of Owen Glendower, and the
Baskervilles of Erdisley who came over with the Conqueror, Blount of
Eye, Bromwich of Broomsbarrow, Throcmorton, Rudhall, Vaughan of
Hergest, all old friends of my father and mother. My father was clad
in the long manteline which he wore in the house, and which was well
suited to a scholar. His beloved parchments were on one side and
mother on the other, as was her custom when night drew on. A letter,
with the silk only lately cut, lay upon her lap, and tears were in her
eyes, and both of them seemed impressed by news of great importance.

When I had related the events of the day, my father said:-

"You are aware, Hildebrande, that the present King's marriage with
Margaret of Anjou has been the commencement of a series of troubles
from about the time of your birth to the present day. Within two years
of that marriage in the year 1445 the good Duke Humphrey was murdered.
Before Margaret had been Queen seven years, the noble Duke, Richard of
York, who many, like myself, believed to be the legitimate King, was
ignominiously cast into prison, and probably would have been there
now, or in another world, but for us Marchmen, who railed round his
standard at Wigmore, and frightened the Queen and the Council into
setting him at liberty.

"The year of grace 1454 saw the noble York lieutenant to the King,
when Queen Margaret was delivered of a sort who few believe to be the
son of the imbecile Henry. Through the intrigues of the unscrupulous
Margaret, Edmund Beaufort was placed in power until the battle of St.
Alban's, when Somerset was killed and King Henry taken prisoner. This
occurred four years ago and a peace has been patched up, when now I
have just received a letter to inform me that the Queen, dragging the
King in her train, has marched on Ludlow at the head of 60,000 men,
and that, owing to the treachery of Sire Andrew Trollop, the Duke of
York and his son the Earl of March, with the great Warwick, are all
fugitives from her who spares neither friend nor foe if they interfere
with her ambitious projects.

"This letter informs me that the Duke of York has escaped to Ireland,
that his son Edward of March has fled to Gloucester, and the Earl of
Warwick is safe at his castle of Hanley, only a few miles from hence.
Edward's situation is most precarious, there are only too many who
would betray him to the vindictive Queen, and she would rejoice at
getting the heir of York into her eagle clutches. Not a moment must be
lost in bringing him safe, by unfrequented paths, through the forest
to Hanley Castle, where Warwick may make a stand, until we who love
the White Rose can rally round him, and save the country and ourselves
from ruin.

"Lord Edward of March is now at the Forester's lodge at Wainlode in
the Chase of Gloucester, and it is evident that you have fallen in
with him to-day in company with the forester, who is true as he is
brave, and would defend him to the death; but Trollop's minions are
already on the track, and it is madness for March to be flying falcons
when he should be flying for his life. I must ride for Hanley Castle
before the sun rises to-morrow, to arrange with Warwick the summoning
of the adherents of the White Rose again to arms. You, I would have to
ride with the grey dawn of morning to Wainlode. Take Hasting with you,
and this letter for Edward of March. It is a missive from the Earl of
Warwick, and Lord Edward will not hesitate to place himself under your
guidance, while you must be guided by circumstances whether you will
conduct him straight to Hartley, or bring him here until we can safely
deliver him to the care of Warwick."

"The House of York, Hildebrande," he continued, "is the only hope of
those reformers whom men call Lollards, who in this country protest
against the exactions and encroachments of the Roman Pontiffs, and who
hold by the tenets and opinions of such as John de Wyckliffe. These
noble Lords are now in the greatest danger, and it becomes you and I,
if necessary, to die for our faith, and those who would aid us. In the
meantime let me show you a secret of this house, the chamber in which
Sire John Oldcastle was hidden, a secret which no one knows but myself
and your mother, and I now entrust it to you."

He then led me to one of the oaken panels close to the great chimney,
and touching a secret spring a door flew open and revealed a recess
large enough to hold two men standing. There was no apparent escape
from this recess save by the secret door into the chamber, but my
father showed me in the thick wall a large stone which had been
pierced and suspended on an iron rod, and fastened on the inside like
a trap door. This stone, when swung upwards, permitted the passage of
a man out to the terrace in front and the moat, from whence in a boat
it was easy to cross to the land and out into the forest. My father
explained how in my grandfather's time the secret chamber was hidden
only by tapestry, and how he had himself invented the panelled door
and spring. "It may happen," said he, "that we may require to use this
secret for ourselves, or others, in troublous times like these, for no
man can calculate what may happen on the morrow."

I mounted a fresh horse at sunrise on the following morning, and,
accompanied by Hasting, rode quickly by the avenue of great elms which
reached from the moat, across the park to the trackway to Branshill
and Ledbury. The blackbirds were singing and the swallows skimming
over the grass, the young leaves were bursting forth in the trees, and
the Malverns were clad in their green spring mantle, with the canopy
of a blue sky over all. My thoughts were so occupied with the sudden
fall of the Duke of York and Earl of Warwick, and the dispersion of
their followers near Ludlow, that I said little to Hasting as we rode
on, until we were close under Gadbury Camp, near to the Norman church
of Eldersfield.

This camp was an important stronghold in the forest, when the Romans
held the line of the Severn, and the British, under their chief
Caractacus, defended the barrier of the Malverns inch by inch.
Strongly fortified by nature in its steep sides, there is a level
platform on its summit, where a large force could be arrayed for
battle. It was now deserted and surrounded by dense woodlands, the
only access being a narrow pathway on the south. The camp is a large
flat area without trees, and nothing grew there save brush-wood,
gorse, and long grass.

The absence of trees was accounted for by the fact that the noted
"white witch," called the "Witch of Eldersfield," frequented this
isolated spot, and was said to summon the Devil to assist her, and to
visit the moon.

Hasting told me that only the year previous no less than forty
wondrous cures had been ascribed to the White Witch, who lived on the
camp. An instance of her evil doings had happened to the head forester
of Gloucester Chase in the thickets on the flanks of Gadbury. He had
gone forth in search of a stag of great size which was known to
frequent a part of the chase known as "Pudden Crok," and on climbing
the Crok he found the deer browsing beneath a large oak. He was
enabled to obtain a close shot, and the animal, badly wounded, rushed
down the steep bank and took refuge in the woodlands on the slopes of
Gadbury. Arriving at a dense thicket he heard the stag moaning and
dying in the bushes; he cut a path through the underwood, but there
was no sign of any stag or struggle, not a blade of grass was
disturbed, not a leaf moved, but he heard, on the platform above, a
peal of laughter, as if the witch had summoned some unearthly
companion to her revels. Night was approaching, and the forester
returned to his lodge convinced that foul spirits obeyed the commands
of the accursed witch, and that the black stag was a black fiend.

I listened with a smile to this tale, and, telling Hasting that I had
heard that the witch was only a herbalist, touched my horse with the
spur, and we trotted as fast as the muddy paths would allow towards
the horse ferry by which we were to cross the ferry at Ashleworth. We
had almost reached the river when the sound of a horse at full gallop
behind us made us pause to discover who was the rider.

It proved to be Rosamond Berew on her grey jennet all alone, hot with
her ride, and looking anxious and alarmed. There was little time for
greeting, and she said, as she pulled up her jennet:-

"Master Hildebrande, for God's sake do not attempt to cross at the
ferry. Not many minutes after you started, a message arrived from Lord
Warwick to your father to inform him that more than two hundred
archers, led by the traitor Sire Andrew Trollop, are now in our Chase
in search of those Yorkists who escaped from before Ludlow, and that a
high price is set upon the heads of all the leaders of the House of
York. Your father had started for Hanley Castle, and your respected
mother herself rode up to our poor house at Berew to beg of my brother
to gallop after you, lest you should fall into some ambush. Trollop
himself is with his bloodhounds, and is sure to make for the ferry at
Ashleworth. John was out with the kine, so I mounted 'Grey Bess,' and
rejoice greatly, Master Hildebrande, that I have overtaken you in
time."

This was a dilemma! Swimming the river on horseback was not to be
thought of, as we must keep our horses fresh; we therefore determined
to ride up the right bank to a boat ferry at a place called the Haw,
and that Hasting should remain there while I crossed in a boat and
proceeded on foot to the Lodge at Wainlode. Time would be lost, but
there was no help for it.

Entreating Rosamond to seek the most unfrequented paths on her return,
I begged the posie she wore in her bosom, of rue and rosemary--the one
for grace the other for remembrance--and arriving at the Haw I soon
was on the other side of the water.

I ran rapidly by the green meadows on the Severn side, where the
comfrey, so excellent for bruises, was just showing its lilac
blossoms, and soon reached the woodlands which at Wainlode surmounted
the steep cliff above the river.

The forester's lodge was erected near to this cliff, close upon the
river bank. It was built much after the fashion of the one Hasting
frequented in the Malvern Chase, but much larger, and was opposite the
spot where the wains or waggons, loaded with corn for Gloucester, came
once a year, when their burdens were placed on rafts and sent across
the Severn. Thus it was called Wainlode.

The bark of many dogs gave notice of my arrival, and I was some little
distance from the lodge when the forester accompanied by a couple of
woodmen, armed, met me, as I was running, with the question, "What
tidings?" Taking the forester aside, I told him that the archers of
Sire Andrew Trollop were searching in every direction, on the other
side of the water, for the followers of York and Warwick, who were now
fugitives from the wrath of the Lancastrians, and that I was the
bearer of a missive from Lord Warwick to Edward, Earl of March, and
who from my description my father believed to be the young nobleman I
had seen the day before.

"It is he, and no other," said the forester, "and right glad should I
be if he was safe at Hanley Castle, for King Henry's scouts are all
around this country. Theocsbury is ill-affected to the House of York,
and Gloucester would shield him if it were possible, but Trollop (may
he be accursed as a foul traitor) has arrived there, with a host of
archers from Hereford. Only this morning men-at-arms were seen upon
our hill. I am not suspected, or they would soon be here."

He then conducted me to the lodge, and we found Lord Edward standing
within the high palisades which surrounded it. He was caressing a
boar-hound, and received me with a courteous bow of recognition. He
did not wear the falconer's dress as before, but was clad in a suit of
hunter's green, which showed the proportions of his powerful frame to
great advantage.

Bending on one knee and doffing my cap, I presented Lord Warwick's
letter, which he read without evincing the slightest emotion, and
merely remarked, "We shall deal with these tyrants yet. Warwick is
safe in his castle at Hanley, and my noble father has by this time
crossed the seas to Ireland."

The Master Forester now came forward and informed him that his safety
was compromised by the appearance of Trollop at Gloucester, and that
Malvern Chase had parties of scouts distributed in hopes of his
capture or that of any other fugitive Yorkist. He therefore
recommended Lord Edward to accept my offers of guidance by the
unfrequented forest rides to Hanley Castle, as on that side of the
Severn many espoused the cause of Henry of Lancaster, while on the
other side many of the houses would advance the banners of the White
Rose.

The young Earl thus addressed me: "Will you be my guide, good Sir?
Warwick says in this missive that the De Brutes, of whom I suppose you
to be a scion, are men of honour. Serve me in this strait, and if I
live, I will serve you in turn. A Plantagenet never forgets a
kindness."

I then hastened to assure him that my life was at his service, and
proposed my plan of escape. The forester also suggested that Lord
Edward should be disguised, and go forth with the dogs in the
direction of the Haw, as if for hunting. The Earl consented, and the
forester winding his horn for "the rally," in a short time a dozen
woodmen assembled at the well-known call. Lord Edward was arrayed in a
rough leather jerkin and long boots and buskins, a cap with long
lappets which fell over the cheeks and covered his long fair hair, and
a bill in his hand. In this dress it was almost impossible to
recognise the dashing young nobleman of the previous day, now turned
into John Ball.

We had left the hunting lodge less than half an hour when the
glittering of steel caps was seen on the banks of the Severn, and soon
we heard the tramp of horses and the clatter of arms. The forester
begged of Lord Edward to show himself as little as possible and keep
well among the thickest of the wood, acting as a driver of the game.
He then called to me to accompany him and descended towards the river
bank, where he busily engaged himself in looking for the track of an
imaginary stag.

Five or six horsemen armed from head to foot rode up to us, and the
officer in command inquired if we had tidings of the escape of certain
Yorkists in the general flight from Ludlow, as both the Duke of York
and his son, Lord Edward of March, were believed to have taken refuge
in the Chase of Malvern or to have crossed to that of Gloucester. Sire
Andrew Trollop, he said, had arrived at Gloucester, while the Duke of
Somerset had despatched bands of scouts from Worcester, and good hopes
were entertained of their capture. Tidings had been brought, he said,
of the appearance of a strange nobleman who was seen searching for
herons along the river flats.

The forester replied that Sire John de Guyse and Lord Berkeley had
indeed been there, but had both departed for Gloucester the day
before.

"Well then," replied the officer, "I charge you in the king's name and
of Sire Andrew Trollop, knight, commissioned by the right honourable
parliament of England, now assembled at Coventry, to summon your
followers and assist me, John Salwey, of Ludlow, in apprehending the
followers of the Duke of York who rose in rebellion against our Lord
the King, and who are now believed to be hidden in the Chase over
which you have the care and keeping. I am sorry to spoil your hunting,
but there are stags on foot better worth our capture, for the heads of
these traitors are worth a thousand merks apiece. Sound, therefore,
your bugle-horn, and let your woodmen join us in the search."

"Have you," he continued, "for I am a stranger in this country, any
idea where these rebels may have taken shelter?"

A gleam of intelligence passed across the face of the Master Forester,
which, observed by both Master Salwey and myself, was interpreted by
us in a very different light "By my halidame," he replied, "I expect
the Rector of Down Hatherley is a malcontent who would gladly shelter
any one of the House of York or Warwick," though he well knew the
Rector was a staunch Lancastrian! "Also," he said, "there is Master
Paunceforte the other side the water, at Hasfield Moat House; we must
send a couple of trusty men to invite his aid, until we can ourselves
cross and conduct a search." "But we must first to Hatherley," he said
to Salwey, "a thousand merks is indeed a goodly sum."

Then he told me to take John Ball, the woodman, and crossing the ferry
at the Haw to proceed to Hasfield, and warn them of the party of
Lancastrian searchers and the quarry they hunted.

I at once took the hint, leaving Salwey and his men in the care of one
who I perceived was quite capable of putting them well on the chase of
the wild-goose, while I carried off the stag. I now joined Lord Edward
in the thickets, and beckoning him to follow in silence, led him in
the direction of the ferry by a narrow path through the forest from
Wainlode to Apperley.

We had not gone far before we heard the forester's horn calling up his
woodmen, and I knew that all the party were well offto Down Hatherley
in the opposite direction, so slackened speed, when Lord Edward,
coming up somewhat breathless, said:-

"I hope this pace will not last long, for I am well nigh winded, and
this leather jerkin and these buskins are not meant for such
travelling. Whither now, and what tidings?"

I related what had passed, and he laughed heartily the ruse of the
Master Forester.

We soon arrived at the boat at the Haw, and the ferryman said not a
soul had been there since I crossed in the morning. Safe on the other
side, a blast of horn soon brought Hasting and our steeds to the
trackway which leads from the river to the forest paths.

We now learned that several armed men had inquired of Hasting what he
was doing there, and whether any one had passed that way? He replied
that his young master had gone to the lodge at Wainlode seeking to
borrow a hound, and that he was waiting for his return. He overheard
the leader of the troop say that other riders were stationed along the
horse trackways which led through the forest.

Under these circumstances I determined to send Hasting ahead with the
horses instead of our mounting them, as the fact of Lord Edward being
seen on horseback in the woodman's dress would excite suspicion. So,
telling Hasting to make for the church green at Eldersfield by the
horse trackway, we at once took the footpaths by Chaseley in the same
direction.

Threading the narrow and intricate forest paths of Chaseley by ways no
horse could follow, we emerged near an open space called Eldersfield,
so named from the abundance of elder trees, with their flowers so
famous for eye ointments, and their berries for "honey rob" and black
pigments.

Here in the wilderness the Normans built a church, and in the
clearings of the forest had settled a few franklins and their churls,
but the trackways are still difficult to find and the village is most
remote and hidden.

As we emerged from the forest to the knoll on which stands the church,
we saw a tall, somewhat masculine, middle-aged woman, with large black
eyes of a most searching character, sitting upon a large stone, and
carrying in her hand a great bunch of wild sages freshly gathered. I
at once knew this could be no other than the celebrated "Mary of
Eldersfield," whom some called a witch and others a herbalist. In
former days she used to come to Berew and our Manor House, but
latterly she had led the life of a recluse, going nowhere save to the
house of sickness, where with her great skill and famous medicaments
she was ever welcome.

She arose as we approached, and, with her peculiar long stride,
advanced to meet us. Recognising me at once from my likeness to my
father, she said, "Rosamond Berew bid me watch and tell you that
wolves are abroad, and your road by the horse trackway already beset.
Follow me!"

She led the way by a clearing to the borders of the forest, until we
arrived at a rounded knoll, "the Pudden Krok," of which Hasting had
related the tale of the marvellous stag. The "Krok" is covered with
large yew trees, and Mary bid me mount one of these and to conceal
myself as much as possible among the dense foliage while I scanned the
valley below. On doing so I perceived that the trackway was full of
soldiers between us and our destination, and that no horseman could
pass without challenge. Our guide then put her fingers to her lips,
and motioned to us to follow her.

Descending from the Krok in the direction of the Camp of Gadbury, she
conducted us up a short steep slope to the perfectly level platform on
the summit of the ancient stronghold. There were no trees, but the
entire area was covered with dense scrub of gorse, honesty, ivy, and
brambles, which was impenetrable save by the aid of the billhook. No
path could we see until our guide pushed aside a mass of gorse and
passed into a narrow cutting, which led through walls of scrub and
thorns to the centre of the platform. Here was a strange structure of
wooden logs, interlaced with twigs and bedaubed with mud. It was
circular, with four slits looking north, south, east, and west, down
narrow paths cut in the scrub, which were straight for a short
distance and then winded through the thick underwood. The apertures
could be closed at night with wooden doors, and were large enough to
allow of escape from any one of them. The place was a remarkable
contrivance for safety and retreat.

Inviting us to enter, our guide drew a bench from under a table and
motioned us to be seated. Two brown owls, known as "hooters," blinked
upon us from a wicker cage, and a large raven hopped upon the floor.
With these, in apparent intimacy, was a large black cat, and outside,
in a box of wooden strips, a blackbird was singing with all his might.
A small wooden bedstead, a bench, a table, and a wooden cupboard was
all the furniture the hut contained. On the table was a parchment
covered with groups of stars, and a number of dried plants arranged in
bundles; also several adders were dried and hung by their tails from
the wooden logs of the walls. Dried newts hung about in clusters.

Such was the furniture within the dwelling of the famed "Witch of
Eldersfield," who was celebrated for her wonderful cures both of man
and beast, and the good which ever waited on her pharmacy.

I observed that Lord Edward surveyed this dwelling and its
surroundings with a suspicious look, as if we had entered into a
witch's den, which Mary observing said, "Fear not, Sir, these are but
nostrums for fevers and rheumatism, and neither Tab or her mistress
ever injured man or beast."

We had not, however, been long within the dwelling when the sound of a
bugle-horn among the gorse showed that the Lancastrians had ascended
the hill and might discover the retreat of the herbalist. On this,
Mary led us down one of the paths through dense scrub down the hill,
and below we could see the glitter of the steel caps of the soldiery,
and hear their shouts to their companions on the platform.

Pointing, to a large oak, the trunk of which appeared as firm and
sound as that of any tree of the forest, she whispered to Lord Edward
that there was a hollow in the middle fork where he might lie hidden,
and begged of him to ascend the tree and there wait in shelter until
we returned on the removal of the soldiers.

Having seen him safely hidden in the hollow of the oak, Mary returned
to her retreat upon the platform, while I descended the hill towards
the trackway, as I had no fear, clad as I was in the hunter's dress of
the Malvern Chase, that I should be mistaken for a fugitive Yorkist.
In the meantime it struck me that the hollow oak might be the cause of
the sudden disappearance of the "Witch of Eldersfield," which certain
tales of the surrounding peasantry recounted.

On reaching the trackway I saw our own horses and Hasting surrounded
by a troop of men-at-arms. They were led by an officer clad in a stout
jerkin of green, with yellow buskins, and wearing a steel bonnet
projecting far over the face. He was speaking roughly to Hasting when
I walked forward boar-spear in hand.

As I wore the crest of our house, the Talbot, embroidered upon the
sleeve of my jerkin, he saw I was of gentle blood, and said, "Pardon,
Sir, I asked your follower a plain question and I cannot get a plain
answer. I inquired if he had seen a young man of tall and comely
stature, with blue eyes and fair hair, and he tells me 'he knows the
spoor of a boar from the stud of a stag'--at least such I understand
to be the drift of his unintelligible speech."

I apologised for Hasting, who spoke only the Saxon dialect so
prevalent in our forest land, and was ignorant of the French parlance
of the more cultivated classes. Observing the velvet with which his
jerkin was trimmed, I knew that the Lancastrian was of knightly order,
so I made the low bow usual in addressing one of his rank and station.

"I am Sire Andrew Trollop," said the Knight, "and am engaged in
searching for rebels and traitors to our Lord the King, and there is
little doubt, from all we hear, that Edward of March, the eldest son
and heir of that foul traitor the Duke of York, is in these wilds,
having escaped from Wigmore." "And," he continued, "I never saw a
better hiding-place than this Gadbury, or more formidable thickets to
search for boar, or stag, or traitor. There are fifty men in those
woodlands, and another half-score are gone to the summit, yet not a
sign can be seen of any one of them. However, here come some of them."

As he spoke, several men-at-arms appeared leading or, rather dragging,
Mary of Eldersfield, with the cry too often heard, "The witch! the
witch!" One of the soldiers carried an owl with his neck twisted,
another had a handful of dried beetles, another displayed some dried
herbs and adder skins with as much pride as if they were the
honourable trophies of war.

The impeachment of the Duchess of Gloucester for witchcraft, the
burning of Margery Jourdayn at Smithfield, and the hanging of Roger
Bolingbroke for necromancy were still topics of general conversation,
and were examples of the fate one convicted of witchcraft was likely
to meet with at the hands of the highest judges in the land.
Courtiers, priests, and bishops went to see the burning of a witch, as
they would the baiting of a bull. Nor was their example lost upon the
lower classes. A man who was a student was very apt to be set down as
a wizard, and the fact of such animals as owls and cats being seen in
the house of an aged woman was enough to satisfy the soldiers of the
undoubted witchcraft of our guide. But Mary was not old, nor ugly, nor
withered, and even under the trying circumstances in which she was
placed there was an air of dignity as she raised her tall form, and
quietly awaited the judgment of the leader of the boisterous soldiery
around.

Having heard the circumstances of her apprehension and looked at the
contents of her dwelling displayed by the soldiers, Sire Andrew said:
"We can give her the ordeal of the nearest water, and see whether she
will sink or swim"--a judgment which was willingly acquiesced in by
the soldiers, who, more in sport than in cruelty, would have tossed
her into one of the large deep marl pits filled with water which are
abundant in the neighbourhood.

It was time to interfere, and I said to Sire Andrew:

"This is no witch, she is merely a poor herbalist of the forest, who
is well known for the cures effected by her nostrums; her witchments,
if witchments they are, are for good and not for evil, and every
village has some record of her healing.'

"I care nothing for her nostrums," said Trollop, with a glitter in his
cruel grey eyes. "This is enough for me! I have burnt half-a-dozen
hags, before now, for having in their possession less cunning means of
necromancy and wicked philtering than these," and he held up the adder
skins to my view. "She sinks or swims in that slough before we part."

"Not while I am present, Sire Andrew Trollop," I said. "I will not
stand by and see an innocent woman put to the torture of the ordeal
you propose, because a set of ignorant soldiers choose to imagine that
she is a witch."

The Lancastrian paled with passion as he shouted:

"And pray, Master Springall, what is to prevent me from putting you
into that horsepool, or hanging you to that oak? You propose to
interfere with my commission, given at Worcester by our royal master,
King Henry, which is to take and apprehend all witches and wizards,
and malcontents such as you, and deal with them according to my best
judgment, and that judgnient is--"

"Gently, gently, Sire Andrew," said the officer in command of a large
party of soldiers who had been searching Gadbury, and now joined their
comrades, "I may not have you talk of hanging my good and excellent
friend, Hildebrande de Brute." Then turning back his steel bonnet, he
displayed the handsome face of Roger Calverley, of Branshill, who, at
the head of his retainers, had, it seems, assisted the bully in his
search for the Yorkists. "You are not in a country, Sire Andrew," he
continued, "where even the king's writ will avail for such tyranny as
you propose. It is such conduct as yours," he proceeded in a tone of
the highest indignation, "which makes the name of Lancastrian to stink
in the land, conduct utterly unworthy of a knight and gentleman."

Trollop was a coward, as all traitors are, and said he merely intended
to give me a fright, and the ducking would do the witch no harm. "Ask
the crone yourself, Master Calverley," he said, "what necromancy and
philtering these portend," as he pointed to a bunch of snake sloughs
in the hands of a soldier.

Calverley turned to Mary, and questioned her as to the uses of the
various trophies from her dwelling. She replied that they were all
used in pharmacy, and gave a short description of the different
diseases to which they were applied. He then inquired from me what
character the supposed witch bore amongst her neighbours in the forest
villages, and I informed him that she went by the name of Mary of
Eldersfield, and was most notable for her knowledge of herb pharmacy,
and the efficacy of her nostrums.

Calverley then called me aside, and advised me to ride homewards and
keep quiet for a time: "For you know," he said, "that your father is
suspected of being a supporter of the House of York, and the Court is
now determined to make examples of any that outwardly manifest their
adherence to what now is a ruined cause, as you must know. In a short
time the Yorkist leaders must be in the power of the Crown, and Queen
Margaret never spares an enemy. This fellow," he said, alluding to
Trollop, "is the traitor who betrayed York and Warwick, and I would
willingly be rid of his company, for I hate traitors even if they
serve our cause. He rode from Gloucester to Branshill early this
morning with some half-score troopers, and a letter from Lord Belmore
to my father asking for aid to search this side the Severn, as Edward
of March is believed to be hiding in this immediate neighbourhood.
Now, my good friend and brother of woodcraft, let me beg of you to
lose no time in riding to your home at Birtsmereton, and when next we
meet, I trust this storm will have passed away."

"We will ride on, Sir Knight," he said haughtily to Trollop, "it is
not impossible that Edward of March may be sheltered in the thickets,
though I, for one, would rather meet him on the battle-field than be
seeking for him as I would for a murderer or a thief. Order your
sleuth-hounds to stand back, Sir, and follow at a distance" (for Sire
Andrew's half-score men at-arms came round their leader), "they are no
company for the retainers of Branshill, who are soldiers, not witch-
takers, or curs which hunt thieves." Then sounding three blasts upon
the silver horn which hung at his baldrick, Calverley led the way
slowly on the road to Hasfield, Trollop following, with a hang-dog
look, behind.

I congratulated Mary of Eldersfield upon our escape; then, when the
men-at-arms were out of sight, I told Hasting to remain where he was,
and, accompanied by "The Witch," proceeded to the oak where I expected
Lord Edward was chafing at his long confinement.

This was the case, and Lord Edward did not improve matters by his
excessive hurry to descend from his hiding-place. No sooner had I
assisted him from the hollow into the branches than he leaped down
from the tree to the ground, and, falling heavily, sprained his knee
so badly that he was almost incapable of standing, and the pain was
very great.

The question now was, "What we should do?" To ascend the hill to
Mary's hut was impossible, and it was not easy to reach the horses
below. However, Mary was equal to the predicament, and telling me to
remain quietly with Lord Edward, she strode up a pathway to her abode,
and in a short time descended with a small phial of oil and a bunch of
the "danewort." Begging me to cut away the top of Lord Edward's buskin
with my dagger so as to expose the injured limb, she proceeded to rub
in the oil. During the operation, I observed Lord Edward crossing
himself from time to time with a singular expression of fear on his
countenance for one who in danger was so collected and unmoved. After
the rubbing he was not only able to stand, but with the aid of my arm
to walk slowly towards the trackway where the horses were waiting, but
he refused the aid of Mary's arm, which she offered more than once. I
assisted him to mount "Roan Roland," and he then thanked Mary for her
medicaments, adding, "May God, good woman, preserve you from the wiles
of Satan."



Chapter 4.


LORD EDWARD OF MARCH AT BIRTSMERTON--HANLEY CASTLE



We reached Birtsmereton without further adventure and found my father
was still absent, not having returned from Hanley Castle. I resigned
Lord Edward, for a time, to the care of my mother and her damsels, and
busied myself in superintending the arrangement of our panelled
chamber for the comfort of our illustrious guest. I placed a couch
near the great chimney, and had a fire of logs lighted. I then looked
carefully to the secret chamber, as it was by no means improbable that
some Lancastrian men-at-arms, holding a writ from King Henry, now at
Coventry, might insist upon the right of search. Touching the spring,
I thoroughly examined the chamber and the swinging stone by which
egress could be obtained to the terrace above the moat. I then waited
on Lord Edward, and conducted him to the couch.

He had taken off the woodman's gear, and was now clad in a loose robe
of my father's. Lying at full length upon the couch, he laughed and
said: "I wonder what Warwick would say if he saw me now, tended like a
sick girl from having a sprained knee. What poor creatures we are,
Master Hildebrande, when hurt and wounded. I vow that I should be as
useless in a fray, at this present moment, as if I had a broken limb.
But I must not complain; I owe you my life, and, what is dearer, my
liberty. Have you news of Warwick yet? What men-at-arms has he at this
hunting place of Hanley, which I have heard him speak of as part of
the dower of his Countess?"

As he thus asked question after question, a damsel entered with the
tapers in our noblest silver sconces, and commenced arranging the
table for supper. Soon after my mother came with other maidens, and
the repast was quickly served. I was struck with the grace and
courtesy with which he addressed my mother, and he received nought at
the hands of the serving maidens without a bow or slight wave of the
hand.

Supper over, he requested my mother to sit at the foot of his couch,
and proceeded to relate to her our adventures of the day--the meeting
with Mary of Eldersfield, her hiding him in the hollow oak, the
appearance of her dwelling, and his strong suspicion that sorcery
intermingled with her pharmacy.

"I have good reason, Mistress de Brute," he said, "to fear and hate
sorcery and witchcraft; my young brother Richard, not yet nine years
old, was tall and as straight as a young poplar tree, when one day he
happened to ride on his palfrey against an old crone. She cursed him
by her demons and attendant fiends, and look at him now. The blessing
of the Holy Father of Rome, and the prayers of our Archbishop, and all
the assoilings of the Church have been ineffectual in removing some
blast which affects him. Richard has crooked shoulders through that
hag's sorcery, and I much doubt if he ever lives to be a man."

"Yet," he continued, "I would not find fault with the bridge that
carried me safe across the gulf and I might now have been a prisoner
in the hands of the Lancastrians but for your witch of this wild
Chase; her nostrums too are good for my injured knee, which is less
painful since the application of those herb bracings."

My gentle mother replied that witchcraft was no doubt a device of
Satan, but that my father had told her there were wise men, like
Master Roger Bacon, and wise women too, who were neither witches nor
wizards, and she had always heard Mary of Eldersfield spoken of as
famous for her pharmacy.

As the evening passed, Lord Edward made inquiry as to the disposition
of various families in the neighbourhood towards the rival claims of
York and Lancaster, and he then expressed a wish to retire for the
night, finding his knee painful. While assisting him to the great
tapestried chamber, he inquired how old I was? When I replied that I
was almost twenty-one years of age, he asked me what age I supposed
him to be? I guessed a score of years and five, whereupon he laughed,
and said forsooth I was the older of the two. Truly it was difficult
to believe such a stalwart form could be yet so youthful.

Promising to attend him in the early morning, he said: "Good night, my
good friend Hildebrande'; Edward of March feels as safe under your
honest roof-tree as he would in his father's halls at Wigmore, or his
strong castle at Ludlow; nay, safer, since we may no longer depend
upon a Saint's oath or a Queen's honour."

I could not sleep, however, when I went to my chamber, and stood for a
long time at the casement gazing at the reflection of the moon on the
moat, and the forms of the dark trees beyond, and listening to the
call of the coots as they swam to and fro across the water. I thought
of Rosamond Berew, her beautiful smile, her courage, her bright and
modest ways, and I wondered if she ever thought of me in that quiet
home of hers below the round hill of Berew. At last I sought my couch
and was only awakened by the sunlight streaming in at my casement, and
the clatter of arms as my father rode over the drawbridge into the
courtyard, attended by the archers who accompanied him to Hanley
Castle.

I was soon dressed and waited on him with the news of the safety of
our guest, when the expression of his face told me that all was not
well at Hanley Castle. I then learnt from him that after the dispersal
of the Yorkist camp before Ludlow, the King had summoned a Parliament
to meet at Coventry, and had attainted the Duke of York, his Duchess,
his sons, the Earl and Countess of Salisbury, their son the Earl of
Warwick, Lord Clinton, and many others. The army of 60,000 men was
broken up into separate corps. King Henry was at Coventry with the
Queen, and was expected to besiege Lord Warwick's great stronghold at
Warwick, while other corps were massed at Worcester, and two were
marching to London.

The Duke of York was believed to have escaped to Ireland from Wales,
and Lord Warwick had so few followers with him at Hanley Castle that
my father and others had counselled his flight also, as it was
impossible to hold Hanley if the Lancastrians should bring up
culverins to bear upon it, and which they had at Worcester.

It was therefore necessary, as soon as Lord Edward was able to move,
to conduct him to Hanley Castle, where he would be in a safer asylum
than in our small moated grange, should his track be followed by those
Lancastrians, who would hear of his having been seen in the Chase of
Gloucester.

I now proceeded to Lord Edward's bedchamber, and found that a night's
rest had greatly relieved him. I was again struck with his courageous
bearing as he received the tidings of the complete dispersal of his
father's followers, and the apparent crushing out of all his ambitious
schemes for power. "We shall meet that false Queen and her puppet king
again," said he; "the White Rose shall yet blossom on the banners of
England, while the Red Rose shall perish beneath the rivers of blood
of which it is an emblem!"

He now accepted my assistance in descending to the panelled chamber,
where he received my father with great consideration, and thanked him
warmly for the efforts made in his behalf and the shelter afforded him
in the hour of need. He expressed himself able to ride on horseback to
Hanley Castle as soon as possible, as he did not wish to compromise us
with the Lancastrians by being discovered in our Grange. My father
told him of his determination to escort him in person, accompanied by
half a score of archers, which he had summoned together with the aid
of Roger Kitel of Pendyke. I also begged to be allowed to go forward
with Hasting to give notice should any Lancastrian troops appear along
the route.

Lord Edward having taken a courteous leave of my mother, our small
party started, and, avoiding the road by Castlemereton, we proceeded
by the marshes of Long-dune and Eastington, the home of John Brydges,
a supporter of the House of York, and descended from the champion who
was selected by Bishop de Cantilupe of Hereford to defend the rights
of chase against the encroachments of the Red Earl of Gloucester in
the days of the first Edward.

Riding forward with Hasting, I learnt from Brydges that no
Lancastrians had been seen at Upton, a hamlet inhabited by the
retainers of the Countess of Warwick; but we found on arriving at
Upton that large parties of men-at-arms had been seen on the left bank
of the Severn, even as far as the bridge, but they had not ventured to
cross the river. We then proceeded at a brisk trot till we found
ourselves before the drawbridge of the Castle.

Hanley Castle had been a stronghold of Earl Brithric in the days of
the Norman Conquest, and it was here he was seized through the devices
of the Conqueror's wife Matilda. It was a Norman keep of great
importance before the bridge at Upton was built, as it was near a ford
at the quay of Hanley, by which troops might cross the river when the
waters were not in flood.

In the days of the first Edward it was a favourite residence of the
Red Earl of Gloucester, who married the daughter of that monarch, Joan
d'Acre, so called because she was born in Palestine during the siege
of Acre. De Clare pulled down the Norman keep and built a strong
Edwardian fortress with stone brought down the Severn, large enough to
hold a force of a score archers, ten of whom were cross-bow men. On
all sides it is surrounded by water. On the north and east is a double
moat, and on the west is a small mere or lake, with a stream issuing
from it which turns a mill, and on this side is a postern gate
communicating with the moat and lake by a flight of steps. The walls
are from eight to ten feet thick and have within them a gallery with
oeillets, for the discharge of arrows. The drawbridge over the inner
moat is defended by a double portcullis, and at the four corners of
the inner area, which is nearly a parallelogram, are four massive
towers, one of which, called the "Tower of the Princess," was often
the forest home of Joan d'Acre when she accompanied her lord, Gilbert
de Clare, who was devoted to the pleasures of the chase.

The castle is situated in a little vale by a small stream which rises
from the Malvern Hills, and as we rode down a slope towards the
drawbridge we could see the church tower rising from among the houses
of a secluded village in a nook of the forest of Malvern Chase. A few
archers were pacing to and fro on a kind of terrace within the walls
of the fortifications, but the days of Hanley Castle as a stronghold
for warlike purposes had passed away. The Earl of Warwick seldom
visited it except for a few days now and then for the purpose of
hunting in Malvern Chase. Since the death of the Duke of Warwick at
Hanley there was an air of decay and desertion different from that
presented by the great castles of Ludlow and Wigmore, or the
strongholds of the powerful Earls of Salisbury and Warwick.

My father had given me a pass-word, "The Black Bull of Middleham," and
on blowing my horn at the drawbridge a warder appeared at the
portcullis and inquired my name and business. I demanded to be
conducted to the Earl of Warwick, as I had a message of importance to
convey and had ridden some miles to bring it. I then gave the pass-
word and was at once admitted across the drawbridge.

The courtyard was nearly filled with archers and men-at-arms, in the
centre of whom stood a tall figure armed cap-à-pie, with a huge
battle-axe in his right hand, his casque shaded by black plumes, and a
face I shall never forget. Gallantry and daring was the expression of
those large, bold, and handsome features, and I knew at once that I
was in the presence of that celebrated warrior and leader, Richard
Neville, Earl of Warwick.

The man-at-arms sent with me by the warder went forward and repeated
the pass-word, on which the Earl came forward from among the soldiers
he was addressing and inquired who I was and whence I came.

Cap in hand, and making the obeisance due to so renowned a chieftain,
I explained that my father had sent me forward to announce the safety
of the Earl of March, Lord Edward of York, and that he was close at
hand, being conducted by my father himself to the care of Lord
Warwick.

The Earl's face lighted up with a sudden outburst of frank and genuine
emotion as he said, "Welcome, good sir, you are indeed the bearer of
good tidings, and welcome to your worshipful father, who I little
thought, when he parted from us before dawn, would so soon bring back
to our safe custody one so dear to the heart of Warwick as the gallant
Edward of York. But this is no place for him now, and verily hardly
for me. The forces of Henry of Lancaster are all around us, and I know
not how I shall make my own way without hindrance to our castle of
Warwick."

I then mentioned that my father thought it better to remain in a
hamlet near called Upton, where is a bridge across the Severn, until I
brought back word that it was safe to approach the castle of Hanley,
lest it might be beset by Lancastrians from Worcester, and if so we
intended to make for Warwick by Evesham.

"Right!" said the Earl, "right, and by Pershore and Evesham we must
travel, for every other road is closed to us." Lord Warwick then gave
orders--that all the troops available should proceed with me to Upton
to escort Lord Edward and my father to the castle.

Within an hour we were all safe inside the fortifications, when Lord
Warwick embraced Lord Edward, and assisted him to walk to one of the
chambers. After a short time a man-at-arms summoned my father and
myself to the presence of this great nobleman, and we ascended a stone
staircase to a narrow chamber above the massive arch of the gateway,
below which hung the grate of the portcullis. At the door was a
richly-dressed page who, in a somewhat supercilious manner, performed
the office of usher, and admitted us to the presence of Lord Edward
and the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick. The latter with a courteous
wave of the hand motioned us to be seated, saying to my father, "We
would take you into our counsel, good Master de Brute, and also your
son, of whom, though young, Lord Edward of York speaks in high terms
as regards valour and discretion."

He then spoke aside to the Earl of Salisbury, when that nobleman did
me the honour of making me a low bow and smiled kindly, as if well
pleased.

Lord Salisbury had much of the gallant bearing of his celebrated son,
but was somewhat bowed by age and the heavy armour he usually wore,
nor was he so large a man as "the stout Earl of Warwick." With a frank
manly bearing was united a certain majesty of demeanour which was
never absent from either father or son, and told of ancient lineage,
power, and high repute.

Lord Warwick then addressed himself to my father, and said that,
notwithstanding the present apparent success of the adherents of the
Crown, he believed it "was only temporary, and could not last."
"Everywhere," he said, "he was met with complaints, not only of the
common people, but often of gentlemen and even knights, who no longer
lived in security and ease, but were liable to attacks from
Lancastrian barons and followers of the Court, who did not hesitate to
break into the houses of yeomen and even the manors or keeps of
gentlemen, and to commit various acts of depredation in contempt of
all law and order. There is not a squire or franklin round Worcester
and Coventry who has not been despoiled by the followers of King
Henry."

He then inquired of my father if he thought the people would still go
on enduring this, or whether knight and squire, franklin and yeoman,
would not rather rise and follow the leading of the Duke of York, his
father, and himself who ever loved the people of England, and ever
pleaded their cause before King and Parliament.

My father rose, and, making a profound salutation, entered boldly on
the many grievances and just complaints of the people. He alluded to
the insecurity of property and of the general lawlessness of all
classes; to the persecution of the Lollards, and the oppressive power
of the Church. The principal grievance, he boldly declared, was the
persecution of men for conscience sake, and it was only necessary to
be known to be a possessor of a copy of the Bible of Wycliffe to bring
down the wrath of priests and bishops and the curses and persecutions
of the Church. "You, my Lords," said my father in his most dignified
manner, "are believed to be willing to shelter the persecuted for
religion's sake from the exactions of insolent priests and a
licentious and tyrannical Queen; and it is this which has gained for
you the hearts of thousands such as myself and my son, who will go
whithersoever you lead to danger, and, if God wills it, unto death.
The House of York and its gallant supporters are under a shadow for a
time, but they reign in the hearts of the people and will eventually
reign over the land."

When my father ceased speaking I could perceive that his pleading
produced considerable effect upon the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick,
and upon Lord Edward also until the allusion to the persecution of the
Lollards by the Church, when I observed that his brow contracted as if
in anger.

Lord Salisbury replied that he could answer for himself and his son
that neither Lollard nor Catholic should with their consent be
persecuted for conscience sake. He believed also that the noble Lord
Richard of York would gladly curtail the powers of the ecclesiastics,
powers which should belong to the Crown and the Parliament of England,
and not to those whose duty it is to teach mercy and not persecution,
peace rather than war, and by convincing arguments rather than the
gallows.

Prince Edward was about to speak when a loud blast from a trumpet near
the castle sounded through the chamber. Lord Warwick sprang from his
seat, and begging of Lord Edward, lame as he was, to remain quiet, and
his father also, he called upon my father and myself to accompany him
to the men-at-arms assembled below. As we passed down the stone
staircase, he looked through one of the oeillet holes and said, "I see
our own cognizance, 'The White Bear and Ragged Staff.' I expect our
Countess has sent our men-at-arms from Warwick Castle," and before we
reached the courtyard we could hear the shouts of "A Warwick! a
Warwick!" from the stentorian throats of some two hundred troopers,
who rode down the slope towards the moat and drawbridge. Lord Warwick
had guessed rightly, his courier had arrived at Warwick Castle, and
the Countess immediately despatched a number of riders under the
command of Sire Herbert Lovell to increase the force assembled at
Hanley.

Sire Herbert Lovell counselled immediate departure from Hanley, as the
Lancastrians would without doubt lay siege to the castle if it once
got abroad that the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick were within its
walls. The Countess of Warwick, too, had received certain tidings that
the forces at Worcester had cannon to batter the walls of any place to
which they might lay siege.

On hearing this, Lord Warwick determined to abandon his castle of
Hanley and make for Warwick before the route was closed by the
approach of troops from Worcester. In a short time the armed men were
marshalled in the courtyard, and the horses of the two Earls were
brought from their stabling. Lord Edward was mounted on a charger of
Lord Warwick's, when he called me by my Christian name of Hildebrande,
and beckoning me to his side, said, "I shall not easily forget the
words of your worshipful father, with much of which I quite agree, and
so, I am certain, would my father also; yet still more will Edward of
March never forget the succour he received when he most needed it from
his friend Hildebrande de Brute." Then taking a plain gold ring which
he wore on his right forefinger, he took me by the hand and placed it
on mine, saying, "Wear this for the sake of Edward of March, and if
ever the time should come when our House of York can repay their
friends for their adherence and devotion, and you have aught to ask
that an English nobleman may grant, bring or send this ring in token
of our adventures in Malvern Chase, and it shall go hard with me but
it shall be granted."

Leaving but a few men-at-arms to guard the Castle, the cavalcade rode
forth, the Earls, with Lord Edward between them, in the van, and Sire
Herbert Lovell bringing up the rear. We accompanied them as far as the
hamlet of Upton, where, receiving the salutes of these great leaders,
we parted and rode away for our own home under the southern Malverns.

All this happened in the year of grace 1459. The Earl of Warwick did
not remain long in his castle of Warwick, but crossed the seas to his
sure asylum at Calais, taking with him his own family, his father, and
the Earl of March. In the meantime the Court had appointed the Duke of
Somerset to the command of Calais, but the mariners of his fleet
deserted him and took their ships over to Lord Warwick, the Duke being
glad to escape to Guisnes.

News from foreign parts travels slowly into forest districts in the
country, and though my father had friends in London, we did not hear
of the safety of the Earls for many weeks.

In the meantime the Lancastrians made themselves more unpopular than
ever by the lawless violence they displayed wherever their standard
appeared. Sire Hugh Calverley and others of their party were disgusted
with the despoiling of corn and granaries, and even burning the houses
of franklins who had sided with neither Yorkist or Lancastrian.



Chapter 5.


THE TRIALS OF ARCHERS ON THE MERE OF LONGDUNE--THE STRANGER
ARCHER--THE MIRACLE PLAY AT THEOCSBURY



We passed a pleasant summer in home pursuits and duties, and visiting
our neighbours, which is hardly possible in the winter when slough
fills all the trackways up to the bellies of the horses. My father, as
a magistrate, put in force the Act passed in the reign of Richard II.,
"to compel all servants to practise with the long-bow on Sundays and
holidays." He also took care that the arrows were well winged with
goose feathers, according to the edict of Henry V. to the sheriffs of
each county, so that our neighbourhood could furnish a good number of
bowmen well equipped, while I took some pains to accustom our own
serving then to the use of the cross-bow, which was my favourite
weapon.

For the purpose of practice we repaired to the open green on the mere
of Longdune, which on a dry summer furnished us with a long range for
the flight of the arrows and bolts; and sometimes after our exercises
we would repair to the village green for a dance and a merry-making in
the evening's sunshine. The damsels of the neighbourhood, too, took
great interest in our progress, and would embroider the archer's glove
or bracer as prizes, and those worked by the fingers of Rosamond
Berew, Bessie Kitel, or Dorothy Paunceforte were eagerly contended
for.

It had been thought necessary to decree that no common man or servant
should wear hosen which cost more than fourteen-pence, or kerchiefs
that cost more than ten-pence, and that the women should not wear
girdles garnished with silver, prizes fairly won being excepted, so
any prizes ornamented by the ladies around were esteemed highly.

All the farms in Malvern Chase were held by a tenure of military
service to the knights, esquires, or franklins around, for we had no
great baron in our parts. The Earl of Warwick indeed married the last
of the Beauchamps, but he seldom visited the estates of his Countess
in the county of Worcester, and thus the yeomen in the parishes around
us were seldom called upon to follow the lead of any but the gentlemen
who lived amongst them and had at different times received grants of
land from the Chase.

My mother, seeing the interest we took in the progress of our archers
and pikemen, proposed that there should be a day fixed for rural
sports and competition in archery among the yeomanry around, and that
the meeting should be held on the mere of Longdune. She proposed to
prepare a feast for the occasion, and said she would request all the
damsels of the neighbourhood to embroider prizes, and grace the
gathering by their presence.

My father liked the plan, for he never lost sight of the fact that in
those troublous times it would be well for our parishes to be united,
in case it might be necessary to band together to resist the demands
of some insolent baron, or perhaps to defend together some attacked
dwelling-house or keep. Hitherto we had been preserved from the
effects of the quarrels between the houses of York and Lancaster, but
none could tell how soon war might break out again, and we might be
involved in the struggle and give offence either to one side or the
other.

The whole country round on our side the Malverns responded to my
mother's summons, and great preparations were made for the
entertainment of our guests on the great green glade on Longdune mere.
Days were passed in preparations for good cheer, consisting of chines
of pork, beef and mutton without end, with manchetts of bread and
casks of cider and ale in abundance. Then there were provisions for
the high table in the great shed where the gentry were to dine. For
this there were brazed peacocks and herons, and multitudes of capons,
with a great boar's head, into which was inserted the tusks of a real
wild boar, to add to the ferocity of the garniture. Also dishes of
"blanc-mangers of pounded capons, with pottels of milke and pottels of
creame," and above all, for the centre of the table, was a magnificent
"soteltie," which was to be carried in amidst the sounding of bugle-
horns. For the preparation of this soteltie my mother held a long
consultation with Dame Brydges, who rode over on her palfrey from
Eastington to lend her aid and advice. It was composed of jellies and
blancmangers, preserved fruits and confectionaries, built up to
imitate our manor house at Birtsmereton. There were figures of men and
animals admirably cut out of the pith of wood by Rosamond Berew, and
the water in the moat and fish-pools was represented by cream. Dorothy
Paunceforte, too, sent a pleasing riddle in jelly and blancmanger,
made with her own fair hands, and which was of the most subtle kind,
for no one could interpret it until they came to the illuminated
scroll inside.

It was on a bright morning in July that I marshalled our little band
of ten archers and cross-bow men of Birtsmereton in our courtyard
before conducting them to the mere of Longdune. Hasting wore his
forester's dress and a heron's plume in his cap. In honour of the day
I had put on my best jerkin of rich green cloth and a crimson baldric
with our crest, the Talbot, worked in silver thread by Bessie Kitel,
while my cap was adorned with a silver arrow, and on my forefinger was
the massive gold ring presented to me by Lord Edward of York.

My father wore a new doublet of damask cloth trimmed with satin, as
only knights were entitled to wear velvet, and my father was ever
careful not to presume upon his ancient family as a grandson of Sire
Giles de Brute. "Win your honours before you wear them," was one of
his precepts. My mother was robed in her newest gown from Worcester,
with long trailing sleeves and a silver girdle. Her head-dress, of the
newest fashion, came from London itself. It rose to such a height it
was difficult to think that the steeple of the church of Longdune had
not come among us. I much preferred her heart-shaped head-dress, but
my loved mother looked well in anything.

Arrived on the shooting-ground, we escorted my mother to a great
wooden shed which had been erected for the occasion to afford shelter
in case of a passing storm. In the centre was a raised dais for the
Queen of the Sports, who was to be selected by the most successful
archer of the day and to distribute the prizes to the winners. Roger
Calverley had arrived before us, dressed in archer's green, with his
jerkin and baldric trimmed with black. Kitel of Pendyke brought half-
a-dozen cross-bow men and the fair Bessie, and announced his intention
of challenging me to a cross-bow contest at 100 yards. Paunceforte of
Hasfield brought six archers, Sire John Carfax the same number, and
Brydges of Eastington six, while Bromwich of Broomsbarrow headed ten.

Lord Warwick's forester came accompanied by three picked archers from
the castle. "Old Master Berew," as he was usually called, was
accompanied by Rosamond and her silent brother. The inhabitants of
most of the villages round, old and young, attended, for it was made
as much a holiday as if it were a gluttony mass.

All the ladies came clad in their best, and most of them wore some
light gossamer stuff adapted to the heat of a July sun. Bessie Kitel
had a chaplet of red and white roses round her hat, as if the wearer
hoped and trusted the present antagonistic factions would blend
together, while Rosamond Berew had a single white rose on the side of
her dainty little head.

My father, who acted as commander for the day, had so arranged that
parties of three and six were to act as skirmishers. When arrived at a
calculated distance, they were to shoot at figures of men made of
straw and gorse. Then all the archers were to stand in a body and
shoot at a large target of straw with a black bull's-eye, as if they
were discharging their arrows at a clump of spear-men.

Loud shouts arose from the spectators as Hasting, accompanied by two
of our picked archers, pretended to creep on hands and knees through
imaginary thickets, and then rising suddenly shot all their arrows
into a maukin's head at the distance of two hundred paces. Nor was
Kitel far behind, with his Pendyke yeomen, in a performance which
required much practice. He and his six men started from one of the
maukins, and running at full speed turned round sharply at the
distance of a hundred yards, when all seven arrows struck the figure,
Kitel's arrow penetrating the head. These displays and evolutions went
on for a couple of hours, when the cross-bow men exhibited their
skill, and though, with Kitel's men, we made a fair score, it was by
no means equal to the performance with the long-bow. Each arrow, in
this kind of practice, is privately marked, and each archer claims his
own, and hits are scored accordingly. Head-hits in the maukins, and
bull's-eyes in the targets, entitled the archers to contend in the
single strifes which succeeded to decide the superiority of single
archers. Thus Hasting and three of our Birtsmereton archers with
myself were enabled to contend, while Kitel had two, Lord Warwick's
forester two, and Paunceforte of Hasfield one. Broomsbarrow had three.

It was not till the winning archers had been told off that I observed
a man of middle age, dressed in a suit of sober grey, and wearing a
baldric covered with arrows worked in silver thread, the signs of
success on many previous contests. He shot with the Broomsbarrow
archers, but did not wear the badge of Bromwich, or of any house
around us, and it was evident by the great skill he exhibited that the
competitors for the principal prize would have a most formidable
opponent.

A hearty cheer greeted the rivals for the great prize as they selected
their arrow from the sheaf or tested their bowstrings. The mark was a
white pigeon fastened by the legs to a pole, the height of a man's
head. The distance was two hundred yards, at which the bird looked but
a white spot. Roger Calverley wished to be a competitor though he had
not shot in the mêlée, and was admitted on handing in a baldric as a
prize for the shorter distances.

We were now shooting, "each for our own hand," as was termed, as
competitors who had displayed a decided superiority over others, and
now endeavoured to establish our superiority over the best. Before we
shot at the white dove, we aimed at the great target at a distance of
four hundred yards, and only those who were within four inches of the
bull's-eye could claim a right to shoot at the pigeon.

This trial at a long range weeded us out considerably! My own arrow
was not within a foot of the bull's-eye, and the only archers who
struck it were Lord Warwick's forester, Hasting, and the stranger in
grey. Lord Warwick's forester hit the post not two inches from the
pigeon, and the arrow remained quivering in the wood. Hasting now came
forward, and I believe would have transfixed the bird had not Bessie
Kitel called out, "Now, Master Hasting, shoot for the honour of
Birtsmereton, and I will work you a winter kerchief with my own hand."
I saw Hasting grew nervous, and though he ruffled the feathers he
missed the mark. The stranger in grey now advanced amidst breathless
silence. He did not appear to take much precaution in drawing the bow,
but gave a short, quick pull, and his arrow transfixed the pigeon
through and through. The spectators cheered loudly, but not so
heartily as they would have done had the successful archer been one of
ourselves; they then crowded round the post, the maukins, and the
targets, criticising the shots and the archers.

My father now invited the successful archer to come forward and give
his name, and to exercise his privilege, as champion, of naming the
"Queen of the Sports."

The grey marksman, who did not seem the least elated by his success,
gave his name as "Robin of Elsdune," a name well known on the Welsh
Marches of Kington and Wigmore, as that of a bold rider attached to
the House of York, and of remarkable skill in archery. He disclaimed
the intention of accepting any honour beyond the congratulations of
those present, and begged that the honours of this trial of skill
might be bestowed upon Hasting, who, he declared, "would have struck
the mark but for the challenge of the beautiful lady with the golden
hair." The applause of the spectators was now unbounded, for Hasting
was a favourite with all, and as the prizes were intended for
competitors from the neighbourhood, no demur was made to the request
of the archer.

I saw Hasting was much embarrassed, and, modest even to shyness, would
rather have faced the charge of a wild boar. Blushing like a girl, he
came forward, but without awkwardness, and casting a look of half
reproach, half admiration at Bessie Kitel, knelt on one knee before
Rosamond Berew, and led her to the dais amidst the shouts of all,
gentle and simple, who now surrounded the shed. Bestowing one of her
winning smiles upon the champion who selected her, and a curtsey to my
mother and those around her in the shed, Rosamond took the throne of
the "Queen of Sports," and my mother, assisted by Mistress Brydges,
placed a wreath of roses on her head. She was not so fair as Bessie
Kitel, nor so handsome as Kate Brydges, but there was a calm dignity
in her whole bearing, and an indescribable expression of countenance
which told of a mind of more than common culture.

The first prize of the day was now handed to the "Queen." It was a
magnificently worked baldric, and in receiving this, the champion was
privileged to kiss her cheek, while the other prize winners only
kissed her hand. She received the salutation of Hasting with grace,
and handed him the baldric with a few words of congratulation. My
mother insisted upon presenting "Robin of Elsdune" with the silvered
girdle she wore round her own dear waist, in token, she said, "of the
courtesy shown to a brother archer, and in memory of a day with the
archers of the South Malverns." The "Grey Marksman," as the people
called him, seemed surprised at this courteous gift, but received it
with evident pleasure as he knelt at the feet of Rosamond and kissed
her hand. The other prizes were then distributed to Kitel, Lord
Warwick's forester, and among others to myself, for the best hits with
the long-bow and the cross-bow, at shorter distances than the test of
the white pigeon.

The ceremony over, my honoured father, holding my mother by the hand,
came forward on the dais, and congratulated the archers upon their
skill. He said "that such men united would be ever ready to protect
the homes in which they lived." "A score such steady men," he said,
"might avail to turn the scale in many a battle when large numbers
were engaged. They could not all expect to equal the marksman from the
Marches, but all might practise till their aim was well nigh certain."
He then invited them to partake of the refreshments, and the bugles
sounded for the feast of good things.

The winners of the prizes were placed at seats of honour at the high
table. The boar's head was opposite my father at the extreme end, and
there was abundance of spiced wine, morat, and hippocrass for the
gentry, with ale, cider, and honey wine, or mead, for the people. It
was my office to see that all were well supplied with the drinks they
preferred, while the waiting maids were handing the simnel and wastel
cakes and spiced bread. I observed that Roger Calverley was
particularly attentive to Bessie Kitel, pulling off the wings of a
capon with his own hand; while I upset a flagon of hippocrass at
seeing Rosamond Berew reading a scrip found in the soteltie to Robin
of Elsdune, and I longed for the time when I should be released from
the office of cupbearer to my father's guests. I had gone with a
flagon of choice morat, a drink as old as the time of the second
Henry, and challenged Robin of Elsdune to drink to my mother's toast
of the "Archers of merry England," when he said to me in a quiet tone,
"After the feast, Master Hildebrande, do me the favour to grant me a
few minutes of your time, to hear a message from one who trusts you."

Feasts like frays have their ending, and when every one had partaken
to the full, the fragments were gathered into baskets, and sent to the
Church for distribution to the poorer classes. The Sub-Prior of
Pendyke gave thanksgiving, and then all prepared for the jig and the
dance before the sun went down.

It was a merry sight! On one side of the great green some of the
common people engaged in the game of "bob-apple," and many got a good
ducking at the end of the plank. Another group gathered round a Welsh
harper, who sang the achievements of Rollo and of Robin Hood. Sire
Hugh Calverley had sent his fool, who was a tumbler and dancer as well
as buffoon, and drew numbers around him to witness his agility. The
"Queen" had given her orders for the old Saxon dance of "Thread the
Needle," and begged each archer to select his maiden, when Robin of
Elsdune beckoned me on one side:-

"You will trust me," said he, pointing to my fore finger ring, "when I
tell you that he who gave you that ring sent a message to you."

"From Edward of York," I said, in great surprise, "he is safe in
France."

"That is quite true," said Robin; "nevertheless I only parted from him
ten days ago, so you may judge I have lost no time in reaching you."

He then informed me that Lord Warwick had command of the whole English
Channel, and had taken two fleets sent out by the Lancastrians, that
he purposed sailing to Ireland to bring away the Duke of York, and
that the Earls of Salisbury and March were safe in Calais. Lord Edward
sent to beg of me to try and induce my father and other followers of
the House of York to be in readiness to support their cause when once
their banner was displayed again in England. "The days of tyranny and
priestcraft are numbered," said Robin of Elsdune, "and before a year
has passed, York and Warwick united will summon a new Parliament, and
I, for one, hope that Richard of York will be King of England, as we
Marchers know full well is truly his lawful right."

I then sought my father and told him of this unexpected message. He
bade me request Robin of Elsdune to take up his abode with us for some
days, in order that measures might be concerted without exciting the
suspicions of the Lancastrians who were still in considerable force at
Worcester.

On returning to the merry-makers, I found Hasting still dancing with
the "Queen," so I sought the hand of sweet Dorothy Paunceforte.
"Thread the Needle" was now changed for "Hunt the Shoe," and we were
soon engaged in the evolutions of this well-known dance, enjoyed by
our grandfathers and grandmothers ages before our time. Somehow in the
scramble I managed to kiss Rosamond the "Queen" instead of Dorothy,
and so I got sentenced to stand in durance vile in the centre while
they all danced round me with good-humoured jeers at my discomfiture,
and my partner and place in the dance were taken by John Brydges. So
the merriment went on until the sun went down and the horns of the
foresters reminded us that we must all wend homewards. My mother
invited the "Queen," and her grandfather, with the Kitels,
Pauncefortes, and Calverley to our supper at the Manor House, and
bidding farewell to the numerous villagers who still lingered round,
we strolled homewards, discussing as we went the various adventures of
the day.

Robin of Elsdune walked by my side and told me how he had attended
Lord Edward of York from his childhood and had taught him to shoot
with the bow and wield the battle-axe, and I found that he was far
more educated than his appearance indicated from his dress, which was
in those times the outward sign of a superior station. He had
associated with some Lollards in his youth, and was one of the
bodyguards of Duke Richard of York, when he was Protector during the
lunacy of King Henry VI.

Robin had been present at the Battle of St. Alban's, when the
Lancastrians were defeated and Henry their king was found hidden in
the tanner's house; and later on he was with the Duke when Sire Andrew
Trollop deserted the cause of York and went over to Henry. In the
flight which was rendered necessary by this defection, he had
accompanied Richard, Duke of York, to Ireland, while Lord Edward
escaped to Gloucester; but Duke Richard, being anxious for the safety
of his son, despatched Robin to Lord Warwick, hoping that his son
would find shelter with that powerful baron till he could cross the
Channel.

Robin had just arrived at Hanley Castle when we rode in with Lord
Edward, and afterwards accompanied him as his body servant in the
train of Lord Warwick to Calais.

The heir of the House of York had not failed to observe when he was at
Gloucester and in the forest of Malvern Chase, that other classes
besides the great barons and their retainers would have to give their
adherence before the throne of England would be secured either by the
Red Rose or the White, and he thought much of my father's words, that
support would be given to that leader who would conform to the laws of
the land, and guarantee greater freedom for conscience sake in
religious matters.

Lord Edward therefore determined to send Robin to England, with
instructions to see first my father and myself, and to beg of us to
prepare as quietly but as surely as possible for a time, not long
distant, when he, Lord Edward, would raise the standard of York at
Gloucester, and call upon the knights and gentlemen of the
neighbourhood to join it.

As we neared the moat, Robin remarked that he knew the place from the
description of Lord Edward, who was astonished at the comfort and
safety of these well-defended Manor Houses, which were becoming so
common in the land, and were all able to send their six or ten well-
trained archers to the field of battle. Robin had this day scene how
some of us could shoot, so he had respect for the middle classes,
though he had been accustomed to the great following of such powerful
peers as the Duke of York, and the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick.

The supper was laid in the wainscoted chamber, and when the archer
observed the emblazoned shields above the panels, I told him that
these were the bearings of knights and gentlemen who were the equals
and friends of my father and mother, who would, if called upon, with
one or two exceptions, rally round the House of York.

In the conversation after supper, allusions were made to the "Miracle
Plays" which were soon to be enacted at Theocsbury, and my mother gave
a general invitation to all present to rendezvous at Birtsmereton and
attend these fashionable religious displays. All seemed gladly to
accept the invitation save my father, who said he had other business
to attend to, old Master Berew, and the "Queen" of the day, who looked
down in silence. Bessie Kitel clapped her hands, and Roger Calverley,
presenting her with a red rose, said he should reckon upon escorting
her, "as Theocsbury had the best Devil in all the country, and the
Angels were well spoken of."

The moon had now risen above the tall elms of our great avenue, and
our friends rose to depart. Calverley was to remain the night, so I
proposed to him and the archer that we should accompany them part of
their way home. We walked over the greensward in the direction of
Berew, the Kitels coming partly out of their way with us. I took the
opportunity of asking Rosamond Berew if she would go to the Miracle
Plays of Theocsbury, and she replied, "No, Master Hildebrande, I do
not like such amusements; they are innocent to many, but brought up as
I have been by my grandfather, I may not behold them without sin."

I asked somewhat angrily, "if she thought my mother was likely to
invite her friends to visit sinful places of amusement."

Rosamond replied very quietly, that the case was different. "That my
mother had always conformed to the customs of the country, although it
was believed that my father would gladly abolish miracle plays, and
see some things altered in the services of the Church." "But I am a
simple girl, Master Hildebrande, and have no right to talk to you on
such subjects; nevertheless, though I love a chase or a merry-go-
round, it is against my conscience to go to these plays in God's
house, and therefore I may not do it."

I pressed her to tell me why it was against her conscience.

"Not now," said she, "Master Hildebrande; it is too serious a subject,
and I am too tired with the exertions of the day. You should ask
grandfather why he would sorrow if his Rosamond was in that noble
house of God, the Abbey of Theocsbury, looking on at a devil dancing,
or an archangel trumpeting."

I told her that I objected to any approach to profanity, but that
miracle plays had been considered for a long time a good way of
instructing people who were without education in some of the facts
upon which the religion of Christ was founded, and that such
instruction was better than none at all. Although, no doubt, many of
the ecclesiastics of the time were a disgrace to their profession, as
in former days was William of Ledbury, who was prior of Malvern, yet
there were good Catholics as well as good Lollards, and I instanced
Prior Alcock, who even then was engaged in the rebuilding of Little
Malvern Priory, and I thought people should be allowed to worship God
in their own fashion without being considered sinful.

Rosamond said no more, but I could see the tears glistening in the
moonlight as they rolled down her cheek.

We had now come to the top of the hill where the road to Berew crosses
the trackway to Theocsbury ford, and "Good-night!" was said by all as
we parted from our friends.

Many questions passed before my mind ere I slept on that night of our
archery in Longdune mere. Were my father and I about to engage
definitely in the cause of the House of York against the reigning king
of England and his young son? Then I thought on the words and conduct
of Rosamond Berew! My father had given much time to my education, but
he had not influenced me in regard to the theological differences
between the Lollards and the Church of Rome, leaving me to follow my
own bias while never concealing his own opinion.

He thought the teaching of Wycliffe in advance of the age, and that
the attempt at propagating the views of such men as Roger Bacon,
Bishop Grostete, Wycliffe, Robert Langland and others, was but as the
casting of pearls before swine. Liberty of opinion for Lollard a well
as Catholic was his demand, and he was ever ready to defend the
persecuted for conscience sake, nay, even the proscribed Jew. I have
seen his cheek pale with anger when recounting the martyrdoms of
Oldcastle and others in the days of Henry IV. and Henry of Monmouth,
but he was equally indignant when speaking of the horrible cruelty of
Richard Coeur de Lion towards the persecuted Jews.

Not many days later, our party assembled for the miracle play, and we
rode by the ford of Fordington, where the Abbot of Theocsbury has his
country residence, crossing the Severn a mile below the town. We rode
past the Abbey to a hostelrie on the banks of the Avon having a tabard
painted with the arms of the Earl of Warwick.

The landlord of the "Black Bear" reminded me of Chaucer's landlord in
his prologue to the Canterbury Tales as fit to be a "marshall in a
hall; a right merrie man, wise and well taught." The stables were
opposite the hostelrie on the banks of the river. The space in front
was crowded with franklins and their wives and daughters, and monks
skilled in hunting with greyhounds and hawking; and friars who were
favourites with the franklins and ever ready to beg from those who had
anything to give. As we rode up, the head forester of the Chase of
Gloucester was quaffing a goblet of hippocrass with a monk of Bredon,
who was begging a puppy for his kennel and taking his share of the
potation for which the forester paid.

Then there were country gentlemen and their dames, some quaffing
goblets of ale and others attending to their steeds; with nuns from
Gloucester who could sing right sweetly as in Chaucer's time, and
pretty country girls with country bumpkins fresh from the plough. All
these had come in for the miracle play at the Abbey, and had assembled
round the best hostelrie in Theocsbury. The landlord had the "best
victual" and plenty of it, but those who wished to eat had to feast
under a wooden shed by the side of the Avon, for all the chambers were
occupied by persons of quality.

I was surprised to find Robin of Elsdune entering into conversation
with the forester of Gloucester Chase like an old acquaintance, till I
remembered that Lord Edward of York had taken shelter at the lodge at
Wainlode, and found upon inquiry that the forester came from Ludlow. I
joined them and inquired after the dogs and falcons, when our friend
of the Chase of Gloucester said, "Ware snakes," and on turning round I
saw Sire Andrew Trollop, with his cruel eyes, ride towards the Abbey
down the street from Bredon.

He was dressed, like the gay gallants of the time, in a short but
gorgeous gown of satin with enormous sleeves of velvet, and his boots
had tips as long as those of Calverley. He vociferated a series of
astonishing oaths as the crowd somewhat interfered with his progress.
He was followed by two men-at-arms, and used his riding whip very
freely upon men and women alike as they barred his way. "Dme," he
said, in a loud voice, "but I will ride over you country louts if you
do not clear a path," and spurring his horse he actually rode down an
infirm woman who was trying to get out of his way. I rushed forward
just in time to save the old body from being trampled to death, and if
I could have left her would have pulled him off his horse for his
pains, but she lay senseless in my arms and the gallant knight rode
on; not, however, before he had recognised me, as he said, "So, Master
de Brute, it is you again with another accursed witch!" Robin now came
up and assisted me in taking the helpless woman to the hostelrie, when
she proved to be a person employed on the premises and was attended by
the servants of the house.

I lost no time in telling Calverley of the arrival of Trollop, and
while we speculated on what could have brought him to Theocsbury,
Robin came up and said he should remain at the hostelrie while we went
to the Abbey, as Trollop would be certain to send back his attendants
and horses to the stables, and he should keep a watch on the men-at-
arms and make out, if possible, their master's errand and what
mischief he was brewing. "He is the man," said Robin, "who betrayed us
at Ludlow and went over to King Henry. I owe him a debt I may sometime
repay him, but it is not one of gratitude." He then addressed himself
to the landlord, and ordered a couple of measures of spiced ale to be
prepared, mixed with a measure of the strongest wine, as he expected
guests, and that soon.

It was now time to wend our way to the Abbey, which is so famous for
its early history and the many tombs of worthies of note who lie
buried there.

Fitz-Hamon, a follower of the Conqueror, built the Norman nave and
tower of the Abbey of Theocsbury, so grand in their proportions; and
the solemn round arches of massive stone were brought, men say, up the
Severn from Caen in Normandy. The founder was buried in the chapter-
house, and the Abbey was finished by Robert Fitz-Roy, the bastard of
Henry I., whom he made Earl of Gloucester.

Here, too, in front of the high altar, are the magnificent tombs of
several of the illustrious De Clares, the descendants of Strongbow,
the conqueror of Ireland. Of the noble family of the Despensers there
are several tombs. The body of Hugh Despenser the younger, the
favourite of Edward II., who was hung, drawn, and quartered at
Hereford, lies in the lavatory, but his limbs and head were sent to
different city gates.

There is a magnificent monument to Guy de Brian, standard bearer to
Edward III. I have stood with my father at this tomb, and fancied I
could hear his shout at Creçy, "Advance banners, in the name of God
and St. George!"

A magnificent tomb of modern date rests over the remains of Isabella
Despenser, the mother of the present Countess of Warwick, near to the
chapel she erected to the memory of her first husband Richard
Beauchamp, who fought at Agincourt and was created Earl of Worcester.

We had examined the tombs and admired the splendid proportions of both
Abbey and Monastery, when the sound of trumpets called us to our
appointed seats and we joined the multitude who were assembled in the
nave, between which and the choir was arranged the stage for the
"Mystery" which was to follow.

After a procession of the monastic clergy, headed by the Abbot, a
celebrated preacher preached a sermon which impressed the audience
much.

The subject was summoning the congregation to the services of "the
three days called Tenebrae," or the three days preceding Easter.

"Worshipful friends," said the preacher, "holy Church useth the three
days, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; the service to be said in the
eventide in darkness. And it is called with diverse men Tenables, but
holy Church calleth it Tenebus, as Rationale Divinorum saith, that is
to say, Thirus, or darkness, for then is the service said in darkness.
But unto the service of Thursday at eve is no bell rung, but a clapper
the sound of a Tree, tokening that every man and woman should come to
the service without noise making. Also in this service called
Tenebras, before the altar is set a hearse with twenty-four candles
burning, for twelve apostles and twelve prophets, which candles be
quenched one after another in tokening that Christ's disciples went
from him every one after another. But when all be quenched yet one is
kept light, which light is secretly, while the clerks sing the kyries
and the verses, and that signifieth the holy woman that made
lamentation at Christ's sepulture. Then afterwards that candle is
brought again, which betokeneth Christ in his manhood dead and laid in
sepulture. But soon after he rose from death to life, and gave light
of mercy and of grace to all that were quenched by despair. The
strokes that the priest giveth upon the book betoken the thunder-claps
when Christ brake hell gates and destroyed the power of the devil in
his resurrection."

The preacher continued at great length, and then came the moral of his
discourse, that his hearers "should not be unkind to the merciful Lord
that suffered for us, for unkindness is a sin that stinketh in the
sight of God." And then he told how "there was some time a knight came
from far countries and would seek adventures. So it fortuned to a
forest where he heard a great noise of a beast crying. So this knight
drew nigh, and there he saw how an adder had clipped a lion, and
venomed him, and bound the lion to a tree while he lay and slept. When
the lion waked of his sleep, and perceived himself bound, and might
not help himself, he made a horrible cry. Then the knight had
compassion on the lion: he drew out his sword and slew the adder, and
loosed the lion. And when the lion found himself unbound, he fell down
to the knight's feet, and ever after he served the knight, and every
night lay at his bed's feet; in tournaments and battles ever helped
the knight, insomuch that all men spake of the knight and the lion.
And so Christ loosed mankind out of the bond of the devil with the
sword of his precious passion, and made him free. Wherefore must every
man and woman show kindness to that good Lord as the lion did to the
knight, to be obedient to him and thank him of his goodness, and of
his unbinding of the bonds of the devil."

The miracle play, which followed the sermon, was written in the time
of Edward III. The subject was the descent of Christ into hell for the
liberation of Adam and Eve, the Prophets, and John the Baptist. The
play was conducted with music, and John the Baptist was arrayed in
real goat-skins, the prophets in long gowns, and Adam and Eve as
lightly dressed as decency would allow.

Then came a "Morality Play," in which the "Devil" and "Vice" were the
principal characters. The "Devil" appeared first as a handsome gallant
of the time, dressed in the extreme of Court fashion. His shirt was of
fine holland, with a stomacher of clear reynes. His gown was three
yards in length, and his hosen of the most costly cloth of crimson
with two dozen points of cheverelle, and the aglets of fine silver. He
had a goodly pair of peaked shoes, a dagger for devotion, and a small
high bonnet.

"Vice" was a wicked buffoon, but merry withal; he assisted Satan in
all his wicked seductions, until at last they quarrelled, when Satan
appeared in his proper character, with horns and hoofs; and shaggy
hide and tail. "Vice" attacked him with a great wooden sword, but the
"Devil" mastered him with fire and smoke, and carried him off to hell
on his back.

All this was sufficiently well played, but I could not see in what the
morality consisted, and how it could add to feelings of devotion. I
was glad when it was over, and thankful that it did not last as some
did for eight days, beginning at the creation of the world, and going
through the whole of the gospel history.

I left the church convinced that Rosamond Berew was right--that the
services in God's house should ever be adapted to devotion, and not
"to make sport" and to "glad the hearers."



Chapter 6.



A DILEMMA THROUGH NECROMANCY--TROLLOP AGAIN--ROBIN OF ELSDUNE AND MARY
OF ELDERSFIELD--THE WHISPERING GALLERY.

We left the Abbey and were wandering among the cloisters of the
Monastery, when the Abbot passed us, clad in a magnificent dress of
scarlet and gold, and attended by a large group of ecclesiastics. I
saw also Sire Andrew Trollop glide by, and follow the Abbot among the
clustered columns.

The Abbey was now emptied of the crowd and we re-entered it, as Bessie
Kitel wished to see the tomb of the "Skeleton Monk."

This monument is in the north aisle, not far from the tomb of the
Standard-bearer at Creçy, and is the representation of a skeleton on
which are the creeping things which prey upon the dead--a good rebuke
to human pride. We were regarding this stone effigy with somewhat
solemn feelings, when Robin of Elsdune appeared, coming up the north
aisle, beckoning as if he wished to speak to me alone. I passed on,
when he said in a low tone, "It is time for us to leave this place,
and you should leave at once. Get to the 'Black Bear of Warwick' as
soon as you can."

I now learnt that he had discovered from Sire Andrew's followers that
Trollop had obtained a writ to arrest one Master Hildebrande de Brute
of Birtsmereton, for conniving with a cunning necromancer known as
"Mary of Eldersfield," and had taken it to the Abbot and demanded his
aid to arrest my person for examination before the Archbishop of
Canterbury.

This was indeed a serious affair in the hands of one as unscrupulous
as Trollop. It would be of little avail to show that Mary of
Eldersfield employed her knowledge of herbs and nostrums for the
benefit of her fellow-creatures. Adder skins and beetles, owls and a
black cat had been found in her possession; she was therefore a
sorceress, and as such was liable to be brought to the stake. Joan of
Arc saved France, but Joan of Arc was burnt, Cardinal Beaufort and
several bishops being present. Roger Bolingbroke was a learned
astronomer, but learning did not save him. Margery Jourdain was a poor
woman, but poverty and obscurity, especially in aged women, was a
signal for their ill-treatment.

If the Abbot of Theocsbury aided Trollop there was nothing to prevent
my being seized at any moment and tried for the terrible offence of
consorting with a witch, and perhaps assisting at her sorceries. "Thou
shalt not allow a witch to live," was a text quoted by the Church
against the "white witch" as well as against the "black hag," and a
yeoman archer had been accused of obtaining the aid of a "white witch"
because he hit the mark at which he aimed with unerring dexterity.

I lost no time in acquainting Calverley with Trollop's abominable
accusation, for if he should attempt to arrest me on my road home, we
were none of us armed beyond our daggers, and were incapable of
resistance.

He saw the danger of the situation, and undertook to escort my mother
and our friends home with his men-at-arms, begging of me to absent
myself from home for a time until means could be taken to disprove the
charge. "I never knew," said Calverley, "how it was that you fell in
with that Mary of Eldersfield when I saved you from the clutches of
that false knight, who, I regret to say, has too much influence in
high places since his treachery at Ludlow."

We then consulted with Robin of Elsdune, when he proposed to accompany
me, and that we should take boat to Gloucester, where some friends of
the Yorkists would gladly give us shelter. Having arranged matters
with our friends, who seemed somewhat surprised at our sudden
departure, we entered a boat on the Avon, which impelled by two stout
oarsmen soon brought us to the waters of the broader Severn.

I had borrowed the cloak of Kitel, and Robin that of Calverley, so
that our persons were well concealed as we lay back against the flat
bottom of the boat. As we passed the Lower Lode, or ferry and ford of
Fordington, we saw on the left bank Trollop and his men-at-arms,
accompanied by others who wore the badges of the Abbot of Theocsbury,
and the knight was evidently waiting there to intercept our party. But
he was disappointed, for Calverley returned by the Bushley lode which
crossed the Severn by the ancient Roman ferry leading to the Roman
causeway at Sarnhill.

As we passed Wainlode, the scene of my meeting with Lord Edward of
York, Robin inquired if I was acquainted with Gloucester or any of its
inhabitants, and I replied that I had twice ridden there with my
father, who knew Master Nicholas Walred, a clerk who lived near the
church of St. Mary-de-Lode, and that I had no doubt he would show us
hospitality for a few days.

He then explained that he had been sent several years before on a
mission with a large troop of men at-arms to bring up the body of
Richard Boulers, a former abbot of Gloucester, and to take him to Duke
Richard of York, and during this expedition he had become well
acquainted with the city and some of its inhabitants. I therefore
determined to resign myself into his hands, for the more I saw of this
unobtrusive man, the more I became convinced of the sterling qualities
of his character.

The moon had now risen on the waters, when, landing near the western
gate of the city, Robin led the way to a woolmonger's near the castle,
who lived in a fine timbered house, containing a large store for
woolpacks besides many chambers well adapted for concealment. Robin
led his friend to suppose that we were Yorkists who had compromised
our safety, and being a Border man he had no hesitation in allowing us
to make an asylum of his dwelling, especially when he found there was
little chance of our being recognised in Gloucester. He conducted us
to a chamber we were to share together, showing us at the same time a
door behind some woolpacks, by which, if necessary, we might escape
into a narrow street which led to the city walls and the castle
bridge.

I lay long awake thinking over the stirring events of the last few
months, which had so changed my hitherto quiet and unruffled life, and
when I fell into an uneasy sleep I was wandering with Rosamond Berew
in the ancient Abbey of Theocsbury among the monuments of the dead,
while the miracle plays were going on in the nave, and the "Ho, ho,"
of Satan resounded through the aisles. Then a thousand fantastic
shapes flitted up and down, and we heard whisperings and murmurings
and suppressed voices close to us, and we saw rise from the surface of
the tomb the figure of the Skeleton Monk. Rosamond clung in terror to
my side when all the effigies on the different monuments began to
move. The marble draperies lost their rigidity, the features relaxed
into living expression, while each figure rose slowly and solemnly
from its recumbent posture and stood erect. The Abbots in their robes,
the Crusaders in bright armour, the warrior knights and their dames
came slowly towards the Lady Chapel, until a crowd was assembled there
of the illustrious dead. Suddenly the door of the Chapter-House
opened, from whence issued a flood of light, and numbers of choristers
and acolytes in white surplices appeared bearing lighted torches
reversed, and pointing to the nave where the "Devil" and "Vice" were
fighting and shouting. Led by the Skeleton Monk, that strange
procession marched in solemn order towards the nave as if to
expostulate with the performers at the profanity offered to the Abbey
and their graves. I heard the skeleton feet rattling on the pavement
in strange and unearthly tread; it was the rattle of dry bones. A
lurid light glared from sockets which once eyes did inhabit. The
Skeleton Monk approached nearer and nearer, leading the risen dead
towards the nave, which was crowded by playgoers, when the noise in
the nave ceased, the organ wailed, Rosamond screamed with terror, and
I awoke, in broad daylight, among the woolsacks.

Rising from this disturbed dream I proposed to Robin to take a plunge
in the Severn, and passing through the western gate we went out to the
rich meadows beyond. A swim across the river and back drove off the
feverish feeling a bad night's rest had produced, and we returned in
time for our host's early meal with appetites sharpened by the
morning's dip.

We now learnt that Gloucester was more Yorkist than Lancastrian, and
Robin was careful to indicate that Richard of York was far more likely
to befriend the trader and the merchant than was Henry of Lancaster or
the advisers of his Queen. Still the Lancastrians were triumphant, and
Master Ferley opined that "prudent men should not let their tongues
wag."

"If," he said, "the Duke of York or the stout Earl Warwick were in
Gloucester with a goodly following, hundreds of Gloucester men would
rise to their call, but the one was in Ireland, and the other at
Calais, and King Henry and his Queen at Windsor. It would be therefore
wise not to flaunt the white rose when the red was the fashion in the
ladies' hoods."

The day was passed in visiting some old acquaintances of Robin, and in
the evening we were admiring the statue of King Edward III. and his
queen, on the splendid high cross, when to my utter astonishment I saw
Rosamond Berew ride up with Mary of Eldersfield seated behind her,
while her brother rode by her side.

Robin of Elsdune seemed transfixed with astonishment at the sight of
Mary of Eldersfield. "Who is she? Who is she?" he repeated, looking
almost aghast, and seeming not to comprehend when I tried to explain.

I walked up to them, and inquired of Rosamond what could bring them to
Gloucester. She told me that she had gone down the evening before from
Underhills to Birtsmereton, with a message from Master Berew, when
Calverley had arrived at full gallop, in advance of the rest of the
party, and informed my father of the cause of my flight, and the
wicked accusations of Trollop. He therefore counselled that I should
remain in hiding until it could be shown that my acquaintance with
Mary was of the most innocent kind. He declared his own belief that it
was impossible that Mary, who went about doing good with her herbs and
nostrums, could receive her powers from the wicked one. Sorcerers and
black hags he would have exterminated, whenever wicked necromancy was
proven against them but Mary had never done aught but good to any
living thing.

"But I knew," said Rosamond, "how little mercy she might expect at the
hands of such men as Sire Andrew Trollop and his myrmidons, so I
begged of grandfather to let me go to Eldersfield, and rescue Mary
from the fate I knew would await her if that cruel knight and his
bloodthirsty men-at-arms should find her in her cottage on Gadbury, so
full of medicaments, which they would consider proofs of necromancy.
Thus I brought her here, and we know an honest clerk, Master Nicholas
Walred, who can discern between white witches and hags, and the good
deeds of Mary from the evil of the Devil, and who will give her refuge
and hospitality until better times come. Eldersfield is no place for
Mary now, or Birtsmereton for you, until our forest chase is rid of
such wolves as, no doubt, at this moment are prowling in search of you
both."

I admired Rosamond's courage, though I expostulated with her at the
danger she incurred if taken in the very fact of assisting a supposed
witch to escape. It was far greater than mine, for the utmost of which
Trollop could accuse me would be interference with his cruel order of
the test of the water ordeal at Gadbury, while here was Rosamond
riding in the streets of Gloucester with the noted "Mary of
Eldersfield" behind her. Rosamond would hardly be recognised, she was
so little known, but Mary had often visited Gloucester for the purpose
of healing some sickness, or anointing some sore, while some of the
monks had used her pots of herbage, and salves of the danewort and
rue. Reports of her presence there might reach the Abbot of
Theocsbury, when her arrest and trial would be certain to follow.

I determined to accompany them, and we proceeded to the "New Inn" in
Northgate Street. This is a fine hostelrie, only just constructed, of
goodly timber, and the chambers are built round a courtyard. Here John
Berew led the horses, and after assisting Rosamond and Mary to
dismount, I asked Robin to inquire the way to Master Nicholas
Walred's. He stared, as if frightened, at the tall gaunt form of Mary,
who was clad in a homely peasant's gown, with a hood that nearly
concealed her face, but could not hide the brilliant eyes which
flashed somewhat wildly.

Having ascertained the direction of the clerk's house, Robin, still in
a maze, led the way through some narrow streets by the Abbey, I
following with Rosamond and Mary, who had now learned the position I
was placed in, and the charge against us both. She begged of me to
leave them, and not expose myself to further danger, but I would not
consent, and Rosamond's smile thanked me more than words, when Robin
stopped at the door of an ancient timbered house, with an entrance
under a great archway of stone.

Over the archway was the cognisance of the De Clare (3 chevronels
gules in a field Or) known as Strongbow, the conqueror of Ireland, and
whose remains lie buried in the Chapter-House of the Abbey. Master
Nicholas Walred opened the door and appeared astonished at the arrival
of so large a party. His form was somewhat bowed with age, and what
little hair escaped from under his skull cap of black silk, was as
white as snow. He held forth both his hands to Rosamond, who kissed
first one and then the other, and he then extended them to Mary, with
an expression of gladness at their arrival, but he looked with an
inquiring eye at Robin and myself, as if to say, What brings you here?
Rosamond begged for his assistance and advice, and entreated that we
might be allowed to enter his dwelling to tell him the business we had
on hand. Robin excused himself, saying he wished to go to the Castle,
but, advising me to wait for the night before I traced my steps back
to our host's at the wool-shop, departed with a frightened glance at
Mary.

The residence of Master Walred must formerly have been that of a
person of distinction, as, being built entirely and substantially of
wood, it was ornamented in many places with rich carving, though the
beams of the roof of the chamber into which he conducted us were so
low I could hardly stand upright. It was scantily furnished with a few
wooden benches, but the rushes were clean, and in the middle of the
chamber stood a massive carved table covered with parchments and
scrip, copies, in Master Walred's own hand, of rare manuscripts from
the library of the Abbey, which had just been enriched by the donation
of Richard Boulers, who, after he was imprisoned at Ludlow Castle by
Duke Richard of York, became Bishop of Hereford, and, dying, left his
librarium to the Abbey of Gloucester.

Master Walred now begged us to be seated, and he placed refreshments
on the table, apologising for the poverty of his larder. He gave us a
flask of good wine, which he said was made at the vineyards at
Tortworth, a Berkeley cheese, and some manchetts of bread of fine
wheaten flour. He listened to our story as he attended to our comfort,
but when he learnt that Trollop had applied to the Abbot of Theocsbury
to take up the matter, he sat down suddenly and his benevolent face
was shaded with apprehension. Abbot Strensham, he said, was a noble-
hearted and humane man, and could draw a distinction between a
sorceress and a herbalist; but if the writ was issued by the officers
of the Crown, he, would be compelled to employ the "Witchfinder" in
pursuit of Mary, if Trollop should find at her dwelling suspected
spells or charms. He then inquired what they might find, and looked
very grave when Mary said she had left adder skins in her cottage, and
when I reminded her of the star scrip on a parchment, and the
broomstick without a broom, lying there also.

"There is no doubt," said Master Walred, "from Holy Scripture, that
witches were permitted to work their sorceries, and that through all
time the devil had been able to impart to his agents on earth
supernatural powers of injuring and tormenting others, of
necromancing, of bewitching cattle, and taking various shapes of
animals, such as cats or hares; but," he added, "I will never believe
that the Almighty would allow Satan to usurp his own gracious goodness
and work for the good of God's creatures! God and the devil never work
in the same fashion, and Mary has cured diseases by her medicaments,
as I know from my own experience." Still, this was not the belief of
uneducated people, and the "white witch" was liable to be prosecuted
and brought to the stake; therefore Mary must be sheltered from the
"Witchfinder," and Master Walred said he would do so to the best of
his power.

Master Walred then advised me to remain in hiding or go to a distance
until Trollop had left the neighbourhood. Rosamond he begged to return
to Berew as soon as possible, and to say nothing of what had occurred.
It was then arranged that Mary was to be arrayed in a serving-man's
clothes and to attend upon the clerk, while he advised me to dress
after the fashion of a woolstapler, when, as I was a stranger, I
should be safe enough in Gloucester. He then went into another
chamber, and, bringing thence a sharp dagger, proceeded to cut off my
love-locks, much to my annoyance, and I should have hardly allowed it
but for the entreaties of Rosamond and Mary. Then putting on my head a
vile woollen bonnet, he completed the disfigurement of my head and
face to such a degree that Rosamond laughed aloud.

The good clerk could not give the damsels a sleeping apartment for
that night, but said he would obtain a room close by, at a friend's he
could trust; and taking Rosamond on one side, he spoke to her for some
moments. She then came to me, and, blushing to her temples, asked if I
would join them at the Lollards' meeting for prayer and praise, as she
would wish to ask God's help in our present troubles. I at once
acquiesced, glad to take the opportunity of seeing and hearing the
religious service of a number of men and women known for their
goodness to others, and yet obliged to worship in secret for fear of
persecution.

Master Walred now led the way towards the Abbey Church. The masons
engaged on the new tower of the Abbey had left their work, and night
had set in, but we met Master Robert Tully, to whom the Abbot Sebroke,
had left the completion of this noble structure.

He saluted Master Walred and told him of the fine tomb just erected to
the memory of Abbot Sebroke, in the chapel west of the choir. With the
usual curiosity of his order, he inquired who we were, and Master
Walred replied that we were young people from the country. Mary had
remained behind, and was strictly enjoined not to appear in the
streets until disguised as a serving-man. We then entered at the
western door of the nave, and looked down the whole length of this
noble Abbey to the far east end, where the Chapel of Our Lady was then
rebuilding. The abbey was flooded with the light of the moon, not a
person was within the church, and the only other light was the small
lamp burning in front of the high altar.

We passed through the great columns of the nave in silence, and on by
pillars and buttresses to a small doorway, when, descending a narrow
stone staircase, we found ourselves in the gloomy crypt, which was
filled with a labyrinth of short stone pillars of massive solidity,
and lighted by a single lamp. Among the arches moved here and there a
human figure hardly discernible in the darkness, but when we came to
the eastern extremity we found a small altar on which was burning a
taper before a tall crucifix of wood.

This was the simple church in which the Lollards of Gloucester, some
two score in number, assembled to worship in silence and in gloom.

In the days of Henry IV. and Henry V., such worship, if detected,
would have led to the gallows and the stake; but in these days, when
Richard, Duke of York, had not hesitated to imprison an Abbot of
Gloucester for tampering with Rome, at his Castle of Ludlow, and the
"stout Earl of Warwick" was known to be inclined to favour the
Lollards, the ecclesiastics thought it wiser not to interfere, and
more expedient to allow them to assemble in this dismal crypt than in
some more public place within the precincts of the city.

Since the late success of the Lancastrians, the monks of the Abbey had
begun again to talk of the desecration of the crypt, but Master Tully
was a monk of known liberality and superior education, and hinted that
"if Richard of York returned to power again, he had small respect for
ecclesiastical prejudices and opinions." So the Lollards met in
prayer, and Master Walred was their clerk and conducted their
services.

I could now discover in the gloom that we were in the presence of a
number of men and women kneeling on the stones, engaged in prayer near
the altar. Rosamond knelt and I remained standing by her side, when
Master Walred appeared, clad in a pure white robe which reached to his
feet. He carried two tapers, which he lighted at the taper on the
altar and placed them on either side. He then knelt down in silent
prayer, and when he had arisen he stretched his arms as it were over
us, and besought a blessing for us all in the name of Christ, not in
Latin, but in plain Saxon English, and as he offered up in deep and
solemn tones the prayer for God's aid and blessing, I thought of the
contrast between this old man's devotion and the "ho! ha! Ho!" of "the
best devil in England" in the nave of Theocsbury Abbey.

Then there arose in those dismal arcades a choir of voices, clear and
distinct as evening bells, and those who knelt now stood upon their
feet. All present joined in the chaunt until the dark arches
themselves seemed filled with song and sound. Again the assembled
people knelt, and again rung the deep tones of the clerk offering
humble and solemn prayer for mercy for sins committed, and grace to
forgive the trespasses of others. Then once more arose the voices of
the hidden choir in a song of praise, and the hallelujah seemed to
shake the roof as if it would ascend to heaven. The effect in that
dark and sepulchral place was startling; it seemed as if some spirit
was leading us to praise God and give honour to him from whom all good
proceeds, even amidst the gloom of sorrow and the terrors of death.

Master Walred then addressed a short sermon to those assembled, and
reminded them that our Master Christ taught His disciples to worship
His Father and our Father, who was long-suffering in mercy and
plenteous in goodness. He spoke of the simplicity of the teaching of
Christ, and of the devotion and morality inculcated by Jesus, and that
we should endeavour by God's grace to obtain pure hearts and gentle
loving tempers. He inculcated the spirit of a Christian life instead
of a religion full of ceremonials and outward observances. He said
that the popular Christianity of the times was not the religion of
Jesus, and that personal righteousness with its roots going into the
inner soul was more needful than ceremonial rites of feasts and fasts.
He condemned the indecent familiarity of the Miracle Plays, and the
gross sensuality of the Gluttony Masses, and repudiated the notion of
"pardons" and "pardoners," with purchase-money for indulgences and
future salvation; and he hoped the time would come when the
abominations which now shrouded the simplicity of the teaching of our
Master should be cleared away from our public worship, and that our
churches should become the resorts for devotion, rather than that of
playgoers and mystery seekers.

Another simple but devout prayer concluded the service, and I arose
from my knees by the side of Rosamond thinking that this simple faith
of the persecuted Lollards should be mine through life and unto death.

The service over, we dispersed in the same silent manner in which we
had assembled. My heart was too full to say much even to Rosamond, and
we reached the door of Master Walred's dwelling in silence.

Telling me the road, bya narrow street, to the house of the
woolstapler, and bidding me come on the morrow when I had put on the
woolmonger's garb, we parted, and I gave Rosamond's hand a gentle
pressure, which I fancied was slightly returned. I found Robin fast
asleep on his couch, and muttering, "He's come back again;" and, with
a mental prayer for right guidance and purity of thought, I was soon
once more at the old home under the Malverns, and dreaming of my
father and mother, and Hasting, among the dear old woodlands and the
meres, with the bitterns and the herns.

We both arose at early dawn, and Robin was surprised at the
transformation of my head, but he approved of the clerk's plan of the
woolmonger's dress, and declared that in such a garb and without my
love-locks my mother would pass me in the street. He even indulged in
a quiet laugh at the appearance he expected I should put on. Ever
active and fertile in expedient, he insisted on going for a proper
garb, which when I had donned it affected his risible faculties more
than ever.

He then told me that he had ascertained that the Governor of the
Castle and the garrison were well disposed towards the cause of
Richard, Duke of York.

We started, after breaking our night fast, to find out John Berew at
the New Inn, as it was advisable to send Rosamond safe back again to
her home, and we found him standing as silent as the statues at the
High Cross. I begged of him to get the horses in readiness while I
would escort his sister to the mounting block. Returning through the
Abbey Close, we saw Master Walred with Rosamond engaged in
conversation with the monk Master Robert Tully, who was pointing out
to them the works of the new tower commenced by Abbot Sebroke, and
underneath the western arch of which Tully afterwards inscribed the
words--

"Hoc quod digestum specularis opusque politum.

Tullii, haec ex onere, Sebroke Abbate jubente."

He then took us over the works of the Chapel of Our Lady, just
commenced by the Abbot Richard Hanley. Finding we were interested in
the grand old Abbey, he conducted us through the Norman nave, the
choir, the transepts, and the chapels or oratories; but no allusion
was made to the crypt where three of us had been the night before. He
led us also to the famous whispering gallery, and showed us on the way
the little altar by which the abbot and other high ecclesiastics stood
to witness the elevation of the host or the performance of miracle
plays, of which Master Tully expressed a hope that no more would be
performed in the Abbey of Gloucester.

In the "whispering gallery" the sounds of the gentlest whispers are
carried as if by magic, but are conveyed to no other ears save the
single one applied to the wall. Master Walred talked by it to the
monk, and I tried it several times with them and at last with
Rosamond. What I said to her the dead wall conveyed and she made no
reply, but when I joined her the blush upon her cheeks revealed the
secret which had been carried to her. We then visited the tomb of the
murdered Edward II., and the monk told us the recumbent figure was
supposed to be the work of Peter Cavalini, who came to England in the
latter days of Edward I. We also saw the oaken figure of Robert, Duke
of Normandy, who was tortured by his own brother, Henry I., in Cardiff
Castle, by the searing out of his eyes with hot irons, and buried in
the Abbey. We also visited the great cloisters built by Abbot
Froucestre and only finished some fifty years before.

As we proceeded through the cloisters we heard steps behind us, and on
turning perceived an elderly ecclesiastic approaching. He was dressed
in the fashion of the time, and with little to tell that he was a
Churchman with the exception of his hair, which had no love-locks. He
wore a red tunic and surcoat of purple, trimmed with amber-coloured
velvet; the buckles were of gold, and his shoes had spikes so long
that they were fastened with cordons to the knee. He spoke to Master
Tully, who made a profound salute, and passed on, when the monk
informed us it was the Abbot Winchcomb, who had ridden over to consult
the Abbots of Gloucester and Theocsbury on a matter of witchcraft and
sorcery. I exchanged glances with Master Walred, and Rosamond's rosy
cheeks grew pale.

Having declined an invitation to inspect the Monastery and taste the
celebrated ale at the buttery, we bid our courteous guide farewell and
once more sought the chamber of Master Walred's house. Here we found
Mary of Eldersfield so absolutely disguised that I failed to recognise
her, in the suit of a serving-man, her tall and somewhat gaunt form
being well adapted for disguise in men's attire. Her long black har
was now rounded into a black poll, and little remained to identify her
save her sparkling dark eyes and intellectual expression.

We now held a consultation, in which it was determined that Rosamond
should leave as soon as possible with her brother, and that Robin
should accompany them and go on to Birtsmereton with tidings for my
father, and bring me back news of what had transpired at home. Master
Walred undertook to find out through Master Tully what the Abbot of
Theocsbury proposed to do, while I was to await the result of his
investigations. Rosamond insisted upon my keeping her grey jennet and
on riding on a pillion behind her brother, while Master Walred
borrowed the horse of a burgess for Robin.

We now proceeded to the New Inn, and in front of the arch which led to
the courtyard stood Sire Andrew Trollop talking to a peculiar-looking
man with long white hair, a pasty face, and eyes red as a ferret's,
with a shifting restless expression. He was dressed in a long black
cloak which fastened with a buckle round his waist, and he carried a
black rod. His eyes moved restlessly as he listened to the knight, and
he looked first at one and then at the others of our little party, as
a snake watches for his prey. I trusted to my disguise and walked
steadily on with Rosamond. The knight did not seem inclined to make
way, when an unfortunate kitten, escaping from a dog, rushed between
his legs as if for protection, and the brute seizing her in his great
hand, strode out into the street, and dashed her against the stones.
This made way for us, and we walked into the courtyard, past the red-
eyed man in the cloak, to the stables, where we found John Berew, and
the horses saddled.

Honest John Berew made no difficulty about the alteration in the horse
arrangements, or the loan of his sister's jennet, and I therefore
settled to ride with them part of the way as a sober woolstapler on
his road to make a bargain with a farmer or franklin. We rode through
the Westgate and over the bridge across the Severn, up the hill by
Maisemore, towards the forest at Hartpury. Here we halted to admire
the beauties of the view.

The sun was shining on the city walls of Gloucester as they encircled
the houses and various church spires, while the scaffolding of the new
tower rose like a great skeleton towards the skies. A large banner was
flying from the castle keep, and the waters of the Severn glistened
below the stout defences, which had defied the forces of Prince Edward
in the contest between Henry III. and his insurgent and rebellious
Barons. The smoke arising from the old city spoke of the busy haunts
and occupations of men, while the view in the opposite direction was a
great contrast. The Malverns rose like a wall from what apparently was
one great forest, and it was only here and there that a village spire
peeped through the trees, indicating the abodes of men which from
their very obscurity had hitherto been allowed to rest in peace. Yet
within the last few months there had been mutterings as of a distant
storm, and the hiding of Lord Edward, with the presence of such men as
Trollop in our Chase, and accusations against Mary and myself seemed
to belong to a dream, as I looked across the scenes hitherto to
peaceful and well-beloved.

I now alighted to tighten the saddle girths and bid farewell to my
friends; when John Berew observed that their horse had loosened a
shoe, and, before entering the deep trackways of the forest, proposed
to have a nail driven at the smith's furnace, which fortunately was
situated close by. He therefore drew a nail from his holster and
proceeded with Robin to the smith's dwelling.

Throwing the bridle rein over my arm, Rosamond and I took shelter from
the rays of the sun beneath a large oak, and awaited their return. I
now asked Rosamond if she heard what I said to her at the whispering
gallery. She blushed but said nothing; when I reminded her that we
were about to part under circumstances that might separate us a long
time; that evil times and evil tongues were around us, and that I
would willingly take with me in my troubles and trials the assurance
that she was not offended with my whisper, and would believe in the
truth and fidelity of my affection.

She looked almost frightened, but at last said, between smiles and
tears, "Oh! Master Hildebrande, I am not a fitting wife for such as
you, I am but a simple girl whose lot should be among those who have
no ambition beyond that of a village life and village duties. But you,
Master Hildebrande, are destined for a very different career. Lord
Edward and Lord Warwick must ere long be back again, and you will live
among arms, and knights, and lords, and ladies, and you will be
persuaded to join these dreadful wars. Oh no! better seek some nobler
mate than poor Rosamond Berew, and one more fitted to admire the deeds
of emprize such as warriors win."

While she was speaking I took her hand and kissed it, when, in the
struggle to get it free, there fell from her bosom one of the love-
locks Master Walred had so ruthlessly deprived me of the day before,
and, old as I am, I do not now forget the thrill of happiness that ran
through my heart as I saw what she had so secretly treasured. But
Rosamond was deeply affected, couching like a hare, with her face
hidden in her hands. At last the flood-gates of her heart were loosed,
I knelt beside her, and soon the tears that flowed from her eyes
wetted my own cheeks.

Presently we heard the whistle of John Berew returning, and we
endeavoured to regain our usual demeanour, but Silent John changed his
whistle to the sweet tune, "My love is like the red rose," which made
us still more confounded.



Chapter 7.


MASTER SNAKES, THE WITCHFINDER--THE ADMINISTRATION OF
DISCIPLINE BY ROBIN OF ELSDUNE--THE EARL OF MARCH AT GLOUCESTER
CASTLE.



On my return to Gloucester I took Rosamond's jennet to the New Inn,
and, remembering my character of woolstapler and trader, made myself
acquainted with the method of conducting business, and the prices of
fleeces. Master Ferley made no remark upon the transformation of my
dress and appearance, and allowed me to go in and out without
question. He appeared to hold Robin in high estimation, and to think
that I must be some person of importance in disguise. I was so much
struck by the simple character of Master Walred and his unostentatious
kindness to all around him that I passed much of my time at his house,
listening to his learned conversation, while anxiously expecting the
return of Robin of Elsdune.

Two days elapsed before Robin again appeared and brought me the
welcome news that all was well at Birtsmereton. Trollop had lost no
time in seeking to arrest me at home when he found I did not cross at
the Fordington ferry, but he seems to have had a dread of Calverley,
so behaved better than I expected, expressing his great regret to my
father that duty compelled him to search the premises, under the
warrant of the Crown Commissioners and the Abbot of Theocsbury.

They next went to Gadbury, and it would seem that Rosamond and Mary
had hardly left an hour when the knight gave orders that her dwelling
should be set on fire. This was done, and the fire spreading to the
surrounding gorse and bushes, a conflagration took place on the summit
of the old camp which was seen for miles around. Robin said that
Trollop was said to be accompanied by an extraordinary-looking man,
with long white hair and red eyes, who carried a black wand, and that
the men-at-arms declared that he was John Hum, or "Snakes," as he was
generally called, the witchfinder, who had been sent to examine the
house of Mary of Eldersfield, and give his opinion upon the sorceries
therein. From this description we had no difficulty in recognising the
man in the company of Trollop at the New Inn.

Robin now announced his intention of again visiting the New Inn, as he
declared he was particularly interested in witchfinders and their
ways. He thought also that the character of Trollop required study, as
it was somewhat remarkable to find a belted knight turned witch-
hunter, as well as Lancastrian.

I then adjourned to Master Walred's, and, as he was absent, I took the
opportunity of acquainting his serving man, John Tandy, as Mary was
now called, with the fate that had befallen her dwelling, and inquired
what it contained that would compromise her as a mistress of the black
art of sorcery.

She now told me that she was the daughter of the unhappy Roger
Bolingbroke, the friend of my grandfather, who, about the time I was
born, was executed at Tyburn for necromancy against the young king,
Henry VI.

"I was once," she said, "a prosperous woman, for my father collected
around him all the learned spirits of his time, and he was the friend
of the great Duke of Gloucester, who did all in his power to promote
his skill and encourage his studies. I was attached to the person of
the Duchess, whom I dearly loved, when there came about those horrible
accusations of cunning necromancy of which you must have heard so
often. My father was the most learned man of his time, and had written
books on mathematics and optics, chemistry and magic, and had made a
star chart of the heavens. He also made a large round glass which
would set fire to any dry wood or straw by means of the rays of the
sun, and through it you could see the spots on the wings of the
smallest insect. But all the power of the Duke of Gloucester could not
save him; for when his own young serving-man John Hum, whom he had
brought up from childhood, swore that he had seen him melting the
waxen figure of the king in the hot sun with his burning glass, it
sealed his fate.

"The Duke of Gloucester did all he could to save him, but the
Archbishop of Canterbury condemned even his Duchess to do public
penance for sorcery, and my father to the gallows and the fire-brand.
John Hum by his falsehoods obtained the king's grace, and turned
witchfinder, and is now known as 'John Snakes.' I went upon my knees
before the young king entreating for the life of my beloved father,
which he would have granted me but for the Lords around him, who
persuaded him that his sacred person was in danger, and I was carried
senseless from his presence, and when I recovered I was ignominiously
turned adrift into the streets of London as the daughter of a wizard.
I hardly remember now those days of misery, so horror-stricken was I,
but I was rescued by good Master Berew. He loved my father and was
present at his death, and he received his last words and prayers
respecting myself. He brought me down to Berew, and for a time I was
mad, Master Hildebrande, stark mad with sorrow, and I could not rest,
but roamed a wild woman through the forest and the Chase. Then I
begged Master Berew to let me be alone, and for well-nigh twenty years
I have lived as you saw me in my little but loved home.

"When my father was executed at Tyburn," she continued, "the
commissioners took all his wise treatises and burnt them, and they
broke his wonderful glass into a hundred pieces, for they said that it
must have been annealed by the devil. All that was rescued of his many
wonderments was the star parchment you saw, and which Master Berew
saved, with some receipts for nostrums for fevers, and rheumatism, and
catarrhs, with specifics for salves for wounds and bruises. It used to
calm my melancholy to search in the wild woods and on the Malvern
Hills for herbs and plants for the salves, and the beetles and the
adders for the nostrums; and I have walked miles and miles to heal a
poor man's wound or to give my mashments to a sick child. I never
harmed a living creature save the beetles and the newts and the
snakes, and I ever spared those when I did not need them for
pharmacies. I never saw the devil, unless he had entered into the body
of the Archbishop of Canterbury when he persuaded the king to turn a
deaf ear to my solicitations for my father; and he never entered into
my cat, for she was loving and gentle, or into my owls, as I am surely
certain. The devil," she said with energy, "is in the hearts of men;
he is among kings, and princes, and lords, and persuades them that the
things he loves are God's, and those God loves are his own. So they
killed my father and burned poor Margery Jourdain, and they call me a
witch, although they say I am a 'white witch,' and they fill the
churches with mock devils and persecute God-serving men and women, and
call this the religion of Christ! I sometimes think, Master
Hildebrande, that it is now, as was said in the days of King Stephen,
and as William of Malmesbury hath written, that 'Christ and his saints
have fallen asleep,' or horrors such as these could not stalk
throughout our land. Yes, I believe in the devil, but he is in the
souls of the rich and mighty and not in poor maligned men and women,
and I do wonder sometimes that God allows him such marvellous power!"

We were interrupted by the entrance of Master Walred, who had seen the
monk Tully and learned from him that a meeting had been held in the
chapter-house respecting the orders of the council brought by Trollop,
"to search into the witchcrafts, sorcery, and dealings with the devil
in the neighbourhood of Gloucester and Theocsbury, and hitherto
permitted to go unpunished." Trollop and Master Snakes appeared before
the meeting, when Snakes declared that "evidence had been found in
Gadbury sufficient to convict a score of witches, for that the place
was full of devilish and unholy charms. There were adder skins, the
powder of which would give the palsy, and internal beetles which would
make the cows' udders discharge the milk of their own accord; and
there was a broomstick which enabled the sorceress to go to the moon
and to milk the lunar Cow, thus obtaining lunar butter, which would
heal incurable wounds, and consequently persuade those who knew no
better that the wicked sorceress was no witch but a wise woman, and so
lead them on to their own destruction."

It was then agreed that Sire Andrew Trollop deserved the thanks of all
the clergy and laity of the neighbourhood, and the meeting entreated
Master Snakes to do all in his power to apprehend and bring before
them "the foul, pestilent, and devilish sorceress the Witch of
Eldersfleld."

Trollop now stated his indictment against myself, and how, when he was
in search of the traitors, the Duke of York and his son, he had come
suddenly upon me in the forest in company with the witch herself; and
how I had interfered with his just and praiseworthy attempt to submit
her to the ordeal of water.

Here the Abbot of Theocsbury expressed his opinion that I had not been
guilty of a major but only a minor connivance, and that it was
possible I knew nothing of the witch's sorceries, and supposed her to
be only a "wise woman" and herbalist. One of the holiest of the monks
observed that a nostrum of "the wise woman of Eldersfleld" had been
given him by the Sub-Prior of Pendyke, who was himself a learned
herbalist, and that he always carried it about with him as a cure for
cuts and sores. Upon this the Abbots requested to be allowed to see
the nostrum, and on passing a box of brown salve to Master Snakes he
pronounced it to be "lunar butter," at which all assembled were
intensely horrified, while the box was ordered to be committed to the
flames.

It was then determined that I should be arrested and brought before
the council at Gloucester, in order that it might be seen if one so
young had really connived at the sin of witchcraft, or, it may be,
have already sold myself to the devil.

Snakes shook his head, and said, "he had known younger men with the
tokens of the devil, and that there were young imps of Satan as well
as old war-jocks."

The Abbot of Gloucester, like the Bishop of Beauvais and Cardinal
Beaufort in the time of Joan of Arc, was a great foe to witchcraft,
while the Abbot of Theocsbury was believed to be somewhat sceptical;
but scepticism about witchcraft in those days was worse than heresy,
and those who were unbelievers had to keep it to themselves. To have
expressed a doubt was to cause suspicion that one had tampered with
the Evil One, or as my father would say, "the pearls if strewed will
be trampled on, and it is a waste of breath to argue with bigots." He
used to declare that such men as Master Walred and Master Berew had
been born centuries before their time, but that the days would come
when all educated men would think as they did.

After the council was over, Master Walred strongly urged our departure
from Gloucester, as there was no knowing what devices Snakes might
pursue. Our persons at present were unknown and our presence
unsuspected, but if Snakes found us out, Mary's fate would be certain,
and even the respectability and position of my father might not
protect me from the questionings of the witchfinder if I was handed
over to his discipline; and these detestable impostors frequently used
the torture of sleeplessness, or hot pincers, or running needles into
the flesh of their victims in order to make them declare their own
guilt. In this dilemma I thought the best plan would be to consult
with Robin, who I felt assured would be ready with some expedient; I
therefore determined to seek him at the New Inn.

I found the quadrangle filled with merchants and traders, for it was
market day, and there were also many yeomen and franklins from the
country. Among these was our friend Kitel, and I tested the disguise I
wore by passing close to him without recognition.

Robin was not in the crowd, but standing at a projecting window was
Snakes, and behind him I could see the well-known face of the Archer.
He perceived me and came out from the chamber. I then told him the
result of the meeting at the chapter-house, when, without being
disconcerted, he said that without doubt it would be expedient for
Mary and myself to get farther from the presence of the witchfinder
and the knight, who, he informed me, employed his time in tampering
with those men-at-arms at the Castle who were supposed to be still
faithful to the cause of York and Warwick.

He then proposed that before we relieved Master Snakes of our presence
in Gloucester we should pass an hour or so in his interesting society,
by which no doubt much profit might arise, and we might possibly learn
how to distinguish a witch or warlock at a glance. He then ordered
another goblet of dainty morat, and led the way to the chamber where
the witchfinder had seated himself, and was now engaged in draining
the last contents of a former tankard.

It was difficult for me, after hearing Mary Bolingbroke's sad tale, to
restrain some expression of the scorn and horror I felt when I first
entered into the presence of this scoundrel. Here was the man, the
trusted servant of Bolingbroke, who had grossly perjured himself to
obtain money by falsely accusing the master who trusted in him, and
who had since lived on the plunder accumulated by false accusations.

Seated in a large wooden chair, his lithe form wriggling and twisting,
I could now understand why he was known by the very appropriate name
of Snakes. He was nearly fifty years of age, but notwithstanding his
white hair he looked younger than he really was, and his red eyes
bleared and blinked as he surveyed me from head to foot. Robin
presented me as an honest woolstapler who "well knew the haunts of the
Witch of Eldersfield and detested all sorceries and necromancy."

I felt so disgusted at the presence of the witchfinder that I
maintained a rigid silence, pretending to listen to the accounts he
was giving to Robin of his peculiar art in discovering witches,
warlocks, and wizards, and how within the last few years he had given
evidence on no less than two hundred trials before committees of
inquiry, and had succeeded in obtaining sentences of capital execution
against most of them. I listened to some of the details until he gave
an animated account in his shrill, squeaking voice--for the morat had
mounted to his brain--of the way in which he drove an aged woman stark
mad by keeping her from sleep, when I was obliged to obtain relief by
going out into the quadrangle.

I noticed before I left the peculiar manner of Robin throughout all
these revelations. He never moved from his seat, but sat watching the
witchfinder like a cat does a mouse. Not a feature moved, not a
movement of the muscles changed the expression of his countenance. But
this was a forced and unnatural calm, for, when he joined me outside,
every feature of his face was convulsed with anger and indignation.
"Infernal scoundrel," he said, "accursed witchfinder, justice shall
find you yet!"

He then spoke of our immediate departure from Gloucester, but when I
confided to him the fact that Mary was the daughter of Roger
Bolingbroke, he started as if shot with an arrow. "Then, now it is
accounted for," he said; and he then related to me how, as a youth, he
had known Bolingbroke well, and had been so struck by the marvellous
likeness of Mary to Bolingbroke, that he had almost believed that for
some purpose Bolingbroke had been allowed to appear on earth again,
perhaps to confront the witchfinder, who had been the principal cause
of his torture and death. Then, as if some plan struck him on the
instant, he begged of me to return to Master Walred's, where he would
join me in the course of an hour and we would arrange plans for our
departure. "But one night more in Gloucester," he said, "we must pass
one more night in Gloucester!"

In the course of two hours Robin appeared at Master Walred's, when,
seating himself before the large table, he inquired for John Tandy.
When Mary appeared he was deeply affected, and silently gazed at her
by the light of the lamp which was now burning on the table. At last
he told us in a hollow voice that he had undertaken for a bribe to
show the Witch of Eldersfield to Master Snakes that night, in order
that he might recognise her when he saw her again, and might proceed
to her arrest. He said that he should require my aid, and that all
Mary would have to do would be to accompany us, and prepare to meet
her father's murderer for a few seconds.

He then informed her that Snakes was John Hum, and he hoped that
night, with our assistance, to submit him to some of that "discipline"
which he had found so efficacious with others. "You are now," he said,
"about the age of your dear father when he suffered, and you look as
if his wraith had returned to earth to rebuke the wickedness of men."
He then observed the ring she wore on her fore-finger, and kissed it,
saying that he had often seen it on his right hand, and he wondered
how it had been rescued from the flames which burnt alike his corpse
and the gallows. He declared that her hair, now cut short, was exactly
as Bolingbroke wore his, as he disdained long hair and love-locks.

Requesting Mary to array herself in the long black gown she wore
before she assumed the dress of John Tandy, he told us that he had
undertaken to guide the witchfinder to the crypt of the Abbey of
Llanthony that night at 12 o'clock, to see the Witch of Eldersfield
searching for creeping things among the bones of the dead; and that
Snakes, notwithstanding his boasting and vaunted courage in detecting
the emissaries of Satan, had strongly objected to the idea of visiting
graves at night, but had given way on the representations of Robin
that nothing was to be attempted beyond his becoming acquainted with
the witch's person, when the consideration of the emoluments to be
derived from her future arrest in some safe place quite decided him.

The first Abbey of Llanthony stands in a wild and secluded valley
among the hills of the Black Mountains of Wales, and Giraldus
Cambrensis, the great scholar, and tutor to King John, describes its
situation "as truly calculated for religion, and more adapted to
canonical discipline than all the monasteries of the British Isle."
Notwithstanding this the monks of Llanthony were continually ill-
treated and pillaged by the Welsh, so that in the year of grace 1136 a
second Monastery was erected at Gloucester, and now Master Dene is
prior.

Llanthony is famous for its crypt where many noble corpses lie buried,
but is even more dismal than that of the Abbey of Gloucester, for
there is a perfect labyrinth of stone pillars and dismal arches, with
corners filled with grinning skulls, while a fearful echo reverberates
at every sound, making night hideous.

Robin had made arrangements to conduct the witch finder to search for
the Witch of Eldersfield among the bones of the dead in this weird
crypt of Llanthony. Here, he said, he knew she was coming after some
of those unholy beetles necessary for her charms, and which are found
only in human charnel houses.

Robin then revealed his plan, which was for me to proceed with Mary to
the crypt a little before midnight, taking with us a lanthorn. I was
then to fasten a cord to one of the centre pillars, and carry it on to
the narrow doorway of the only entrance, so that we might guide
ourselves, after Snakes had seen Mary, and when the lights should be
put out, to the only means of escape from that dark and sombre
dungeon. At a signal from him we were to put out the lights, and find
our way out by means of the cord, leaving the witchfinder to pass the
night amongst the columns and the darkness of the crypt.

Having entered into the plan for "administering discipline," as Robin
called it, to Master Snakes, he left us, and we made preparations to
fulfil our part of the undertaking. The night was wild and stormy, and
the moon only now and then appeared from behind the clouds. The
inhabitants of Gloucester had retired to rest, when, lanthorn in hand,
accompanied by Mary, we wended our way to Llanthony. Not a sound was
heard, save the bark of the watch-dogs, the wind howling, and the
patter of rain against the casements.

It was so dark within the crypt that, notwithstanding the aid of the
lanthorn, I had to take Mary by the hand, and I felt her trembling as
we groped our way to the centre of the gloomy labyrinth of archways. I
now laid down the cord, and fastened it to the entrance doorway, when
we heard in the distance the shrill tones of Master Snakes, and the
deep-chested solemn voice of Robin.

It was arranged that Mary was to be found searching with the lanthorn,
among a heap of skulls and bones, for the supposed potent charm. We
reached the heap of bones, and I had hidden myself behind a column,
when the witchfinder entered bearing a large lanthom, while Robin
carried a taper, which he lighted on entering the Abbey. Snakes did
not seem happy, as he continually urged Robin on no account to leave
him. "What can you be fearful of, Master Snakes?" said Robin, "you
have traced scores of witches, and war-locks too."

"But this is a most dismal place, and dark, so dark," replied Snakes,
"and the devices of the Evil One are innumerable."

"Do you believe that the spirits of the dead are allowed to walk this
earth again, and to come back in their mortal bodies?" asked Robin.
"Even now I think I behold a dead man's face glimmering through that
slit," and he pointed to one of the narrow openings through which the
light of the moon waved and flickered.

"Saint Ethelbert defend us!" ejaculated Snakes, in a tremulous squeak;
"Master Robin, it would be far better to retire and leave the accursed
witch, if she is here, to search for her unhallowed nostrums by
herself!"

"Not so, Master Snakes," replied Robin, in a stern voice; "you
promised me half the reward if I assisted you to see and know the
Witch of Eldersfield, and I am determined to carry this venture out."

The witchfinder was now silent, and as they approached the column
behind which I was hidden, I changed my position and moved stealthily
to another, when Snakes again spoke in a tremulous voice: "Good Master
Robin, there is a shape before us, let us be gone." But Robin had a
firm grip on his long gown, and dragged him onwards, saying, "No, no,
Master Snakes, we must go through this venture if all the shapes from
hell were to flit around us."

They had now come in sight of Mary peering with her lanthorn over the
dry bones, when Robin said "Hist! hist! there she is! Now, Snakes, go
up and speak to her, and speak her fairly, so shall you see her face
and form, and then the reward! the reward! Oh speak her softly, noble
Snakes!"

"Yes, good Robin, kind friend," replied the coward, "I will speak to
her, and speak her fairly; but come with me, bold Robin, and do thou
hold the light and speak her fairly too, we must not anger her here,
lest--"

Here a rat ran across the bones, making a great rattle in the dead
silence of the crypt, and Snakes again became so frightened that Robin
had almost to drag him up to Mary, who now drew up her tall form to
its utmost height.

"How are you, good Mistress Eldersfleld? how are you, kind lady?" I
could hear Snakes muttering, as if in deadly fright.

Mary slowly raised her lanthorn, and, throwing its full light upon her
countenance, turned slowly to meet the witchfinder face to face.

My blood creeps now, though long years have passed away, as I recall
the fearful shriek of the witchfinder as he once again looked upon the
face of Roger Bolingbroke, his kind and indulgent master, and the
victim of his perfidy and perjury. It seemed to penetrate through the
dismal solitudes of the crypt, and to resound through the vast arches
of the Abbey; a cry of such mental agony, and a wail so fearful that
it sounded out into the streets and alleys, and was followed by the
howling of a hundred watch-dogs. The witchfinder had thrown himself
flat on his face, and there he lay, shriek after shriek ringing
through the crypt. Even Robin felt some compassion for the miserable
wretch as he led Mary away, and, beckoning me to follow, we passed
quickly through the crypt door.

All was now silent as the tomb, and Robin said, "I meant to lock that
fiend in for the night, but he may find his way out if he can, or hang
himself with the cord we have left behind us."

But Snakes never moved from the spot where he fell. The workmen, going
to their work at the new Lady Chapel next morning, found the door of
the crypt wide open, and seeing the cord, they followed it to the
western angle, where, facing the heap of skulls and bones, they found
the corpse of John Hum, his glazed eyes starting from their sockets,
and his teeth fast clenched in death. He had died of fright, the
"discipline" he administered to others.

Leaving Mary at Master Walred's we proceeded to our room at the
woolmonger's, where it was long before sleep closed the eyes of either
of us. Robin now told me that his own mother died through fright at
the machinations of this scoundrel Hum, who had endeavoured to convict
her of sorcery.

We were awakened in the early morning by a loud fanfare of trumpets,
announcing the arrival in the city of some person of consequence.

I jumped up, and looking out of the casement I was just in time to see
the commanding form and handsome countenance of the Earl of March as
he rode past at the head of a troop of horsemen, whose steel casques
and spear points were flashing in the morning sun. All the troopers
wore the liveries of the House of York, and were clad in buff leather
coats and jack boots, while several of the leaders rode in complete
armour.

On describing what I beheld to Robin, he bounded from his couch,
saying, "Then the standards of York and Warwick are again raised in
England." Telling me to leave my woolmonger's dress for woolmongers to
array themselves in, and once more to don my own, he proceeded to
resume his prize baldric and his archer's cap, while around his neck
he hung a gold chain, which I had not seen before; it was evidently a
guerdon of good service and a badge of distinction.

"We must follow Lord Edward to the Castle," said he "as soon as may
be, for there will be stirring work to do in these stirring times. Is
he not a gallant youth? A noble son of a noble father! I doubt not,
Master Hildebrande, but Lord Edward will retain you as a squire of his
own body-guard, and then we must see you fully equipped and armed. A
rush for that traitor Trollop now; I will warrant he is out of
Gloucester already!"

Robin then led the way up the Westgate Street to the Castle. The
warder knew him, and with a hearty greeting admitted him without
further question.

Lord Edward had dismounted, and was standing in the midst of two
hundred men-at-arms, whose horses seemed somewhat jaded. He held his
velvet bonnet in his hand, for he was not in armour, and, as the sun
shone upon his golden hair and noble features, he received the homage
of the Governor of the Castle, as if he was the monarch of the realm
himself.

Waiting till the bustle of reception was somewhat over, Robin, bending
on one knee, saluted his young master, who welcomed him with the
words, "Honest Robin, ever faithful, ever true, right glad are we to
see thee!" Then taking him on one side, they entered into earnest
conversation.

Robin evidently drew his attention to myself, for, looking towards me,
he beckoned me to come forward. His greeting was courteous and kind as
he alluded to our forest rides, and bade me attend him later on in
company with "honest Robin." "We must have your gallant father, too,"
he said, "for we shall need all the aid we can gather round us, to rid
my noble father of the meshes thrown around him by the Lords' party
and the Lancastrian Queen." He then retired with the Governor of the
Castle, it being understood that we were to be admitted to his
presence soon after mid-day.

In the meantime I went to see how Mary fared, and found her not a
little exhausted from the meeting with her father's murderer. I told
her of the arrival of Lord Edward, and to prepare for immediate
departure. Her name and former residence had been so prominently
brought forward before the ecclesiastics and their tribunal that we
thought it necessary to arrange for her to leave the country for some
time. With Lord Edward's arrival, there would be no longer any fear
for me, as he well knew that it was in his behalf I sought the home of
the Witch of Eldersfield; but it was not so with Mary. Lord Edward had
shown himself somewhat suspicious of her, and, brave as he was, this
noble youth was easily persuaded to lend an ear to any tale or
information respecting sorcery and magic; Robin therefore undertook to
find Mary an asylum at his own home of Elsdune on the Marches of
Wales, where he had a sister who would give her shelter until the
storm had passed away.

On our return to Lord Edward we learned how the Earl of Warwick had
landed in Kent, and marched on London at the head of 30,000 men, and
that the City of London welcomed him as a friend and a deliverer.
Edward himself had ridden through the City, accompanied by the Earls
of Warwick and Salisbury, and five bishops had followed in their
train.

They had sent to Ireland to beg of Duke Richard of York to return
forthwith, and Lord Warwick had marched with a large force on
Northampton. It was Lord Edward's intention to occupy the Castle of
Gloucester, and raise troops to reinforce the army of the north, until
he received an intimation to join his father and the Earls of
Salisbury and Warwick.

When we were admitted to the chamber where he held conference with
Lord Berkeley, Sire John de Guyse, the Abbot of Gloucester, the Prior
of Llanthony, and Sire Nicholas Alney, the Governor of the Castle, we
found him inquiring into the state of the military lines and
entrenchments, and the resources of the city, with all the gravity of
an experienced general. Giving us a look of recognition, we waited
till the conference broke up, when the young Earl came forward, and,
with a winning smile, said he hoped I would accept the post of esquire
to his own person. "It is not," he said, "a post of purses, but there
may be some hard knocks before long." Bowing low, I accepted the
appointment with gratitude, and he then addressed Robin with all the
familiarity of an old friend.

"I trust, bold Robin, that you have taught Hildebrande to use the
battle-axe and the brand as you taught me, and that he has attained to
that goodly swing which those of less stalwart build have acquired
under your tuition. Let those who like it charge with the lance or
sword, but give me the battle-axe for men of sinews and stature!"

"Now, Hildebrande," he said, "you must to your new duties, and first I
would send you to that right courteous and learned gentleman your own
father, and beg of him to come hither and assist Edward of York with
his counsel and advice. This done, you shall be my messenger and
esquire to various knights and gallant gentlemen, who will, I doubt
not, rally round our standard, now they may see it flying from the
summit of the keep. My noble father will soon arrive in London from
Ireland, and we must hold this city, so close upon the Marches,
against all corners, for a powerful party is in arms for Margaret of
Anjou and her son, who the Lords' party pretend to believe is the son
of Henry of Lancaster. Away then with you, Hildebrande! Take a week to
prepare your horses and your arms, and raise the neighbourhood round,
should these Lancastians dare to march upon our border land. You,
Robin, will remain with me, I shall need your wise head and cool
tongue, and, it maybe, your ready arm."

On retiring I arranged with Robin that Mary should be sent with the
first plump of spears that departed for Ludlow or Wigmore. I then
mounted Rosamond's jennet at the New Inn, and rode off by the western
gate for Malvern Chase and Birtsmereton. As I crossed the ridge above
Maisemore and Hartpury I turned to look back at the ancient abbey and
the castle keep, where now the standard of York floated proudly in the
breeze, and pondered on the sudden change in my fortunes since I was
rowed down the Severn in a boat with Robin to escape from the
abominable accusations of the traitor Trollop. And now I was the
chosen esquire of the heir of the House of York, and the bearer of
important tidings! Then the troubled thought arose that civil war may
now rage amongst our once peaceful homes, and the bloody scenes of St
Alban's be enacted by the Severn stream and in our woodlands of the
west, when the rays of the sun lit up the grey church tower of Berew,
by those green groves where Rosamond gathered her early primroses and
first sweet violets. That tower seemed like a beacon in the forest,
bidding me to be a Man, and bear myself as became the lover of
Rosamond, and the esquire of the heir of York. The jennet, too, arched
her neck, and bore herself more proudly as I pressed her to the
gallop, and she soon carried me right gallantly to the home of
Rosamond Berew.

Rosamond was walking on the greensward when she heard the sound of the
jennet's feet, and, turning round, saw her own mare and the rider. She
dropped a basket of flowers in her surprise, and stood with pale
cheeks, looking somewhat frightened, until I had alighted and pressed
her to my heart.

I then explained the reason of my sudden appearance, and she said, "Am
I not the witch now, dear Hildebrande, and did I not say that Lord
Edward and Lord Warwick would come back again and summon you among
arms and knights, and lords and ladies, and is it not all come true?
Well, I say again, that I am but a simple country girl, and you will
find a fitter wife for a gallant soldier, and, it may be, a gallant
knight."

I replied that no girl was poor who possessed the love of an honest
man, and that no man was rich who had not the love of a chaste woman.
I told her that, young as I was, her love had made me a man, and I
expected from her a true woman's constancy. If good times came we
would meet them with gratitude; if bad, we should look forward to
facing them together. "Faithful and true" was the rue plant and motto
of the Berews, and faithful and true we would be to each other.

Rosamond did not reply, but her expressive face told me that all I had
said was responded to in her heart. Promising to see her soon, I rode
on, with the setting sun, to Birtsmereton.



Chapter 8.


THE RIDE AFTER RECRUITS FOR THE WHITE ROSE--BULL-BATING AT
LEDBURY--BRANSHILL CASTLE--THE SHADOW OF THE RAGGED STONE--NEWS OF THE
BATTLE OF WAKEFIELD.



It was gladsome to see my mother's face when she met me as I rode
across the drawbridge, and she listened with wonder to the history I
had to relate. My father, however, was not surprised, for he knew well
how the Church, the State, and the people called for inquisition into
the damnable sins of witchcraft and heresy.

I then opened my heart to them both, and mentioned the plighting of my
troth to Rosamond Berew. Their reply was what I expected, as they
assured me that my affianced wife should be to them as their own
daughter; but my father reminded me that Master Berew was an undoubted
Lollard, and that probably Rosamond was also. I then mentioned how my
faith had been shaken in the Popish religion and their "wallets of
pardons hot from Rome," and above all by their anti-Christian spirit
of persecution ever since the time when the Pope of Rome censured King
Edward II. for not making use of torture against the Templars, and for
persuading the English clergy to introduce instruments of torture into
the land.

Machines for horrible cruelty had now become common, and for this we
had to thank the Roman pontiff. I then related how, with Rosamond, I
had attended the religious service of the Lollards in the crypt of
Gloucester Abbey, and was well pleased with the devotional simplicity
of the service.

My father in return informed me how he had received intimation from
Hanley Castle that the Earl of Warwick had returned from Calais and
was received with great joy by the people of London, but until my
arrival he was not aware of the presence of Lord Edward, Earl of
March, at Gloucester, and had indeed little thought I was his chosen
esquire. He declared that no time should be lost in summoning the
gentlemen and franklins in Malvern Chase, and on the borders, to be in
readiness to support the cause of York, and freedom from religious
persecution.

Having determined to lose no time in rallying our neighbours and
friends to prepare to resist any incursions of the Lancastrians and to
be ready to join the standard of Lord Edward, Hasting was despatched
with messages to the Prior of Newent, who openly declared for the
House of York. The Pyndars of Kempley also were to be visited, and the
Wynniatts of the Old Grange at Dymock; while my mother sent a message
to Mistress Pyndar, saying that she would soon ride over behind my
father to see the wonderful paintings of the twelve Apostles which so
embellish the roof of their Norman apse. Master Wynniatt's father was
said to have once sheltered Owen Glendower from the bloodhounds of
Henry IV., so we felt sure we might depend on him.

My father arranged to ride to Worcester and take counsel with the
Governor of the Castle and others who were supporters of the White
Rose, while I undertook to see Master Stone of the Glynch near
Ledbury, and Bromwich of Broomsbarrow, with Master Kitel and others of
the neighbourhood. I then mounted "Roan Roland" and rode off in the
direction of Underhills, intending to persuade Rosamond to accompany
me on her jennet.

On arriving there I found that she had confided to her grandfather the
relation in which we stood to each other, and the fine old man seemed
well pleased. He advised me to lose no time in seeing Master Kitel of
Pendyke, who had much influence with many of the landowners and
franklins in the neighbourhood of Bredon Hill, but to beware of the
pretty Bessie, who loved the red rose and abjured the white; why, no
one could tell or think! Passing across the little drawbridge to the
avenue of elms where our steeds were pacing to and fro, we were soon
on the trackway from the portway of Pendyke to the little church and
monastery.

This little monastery of Pendyke owes its establishment to lands in
Pendyke having been presented in Saxon times to the Church of
Worcester. It is therefore not in Malvern Chase, and is now a sub-
priory of Little Malvern. The monastic buildings face the grange and
barns of Prior's Court, where the Prior of Little Malvern occasionally
takes up his abode for a few weeks among his brethren at the
monastery. The sub-prior and his four monks pass their time, when not
engaged in ecclesiastical duties, in the cultivation of the land,
assisted by a few hinds or vassals who occupy their cots of wood and
mud in the adjoining hamlet. They seldom venture beyond their
monastery and their farm, save when sent for to some bed of sickness
in the wild regions about Cromer's pit, or to the portway of Pendyke,
once a Roman road but now only a forest pathway.

At the monastery we found the monks engaged in netting the
piscatorium, which the Norman builders of the church have dug right in
the middle of the old dyke. The sub-prior was selecting the luce and
perch for the next fast-day, while the others were restored to the
pond. The tramp of our horses' feet arrested his attention, and he
greeted us with a hearty "What cheer, what cheer, my children?"

The sub-prior was ever a great friend of my father's, and report said
that, for one of his calling and position, he had seen a good deal of
the world and the people in it. He had travelled in foreign lands, but
was now growing old and led the life of a recluse. On telling him I
wished to speak with him in private, he led the way to his cell in the
long, rambling buildings of the monastery. The walls of his chamber
were covered with wooden shelves, and these again were filled with all
kinds of wonderments which he had brought from foreign parts. There
were snake stones from the sea coast of Dorset, and pilgrim scallops
from the mountains of the Alps, with stone butterflies and grubs of
most curious texture. Then there were bunches of dried herbs famous in
pharmacy, with whole piles of parchments written out in his own hand.

I told him the position of affairs as regarded the Red Rose and the
White, and how my father trusted he would say a good word for the
cause of York to his friends Masters Kitel and Jackman, who could both
furnish good archers and pikemen if they would.

The sub-prior's reply was that as regarded political questions he
thought the less the clergy had to do with them the better, but for
his own part he should ever be on that side and party which would
protect the people from wrong and persecution. Religious persecution
was the curse of the times, and would surely end eventually in bitter
retaliation! He was, he declared, a firm supporter of the House of
Lancaster until they had become the persecutors of the Lollards and
had sent them to the gallows and the stake. If the House of York and
the stout Earl of Warwick would insist upon religious freedom and
equality and sternly forbid the persecutions of Lollards by Catholics,
or Catholics by Lollards, they should have his good word amongst his
own people. "A most horrible thing has come into our land, Master
Hildebrande," said he, "when men think they are rendering God service
by burning God's creatures in His Son's name, and forsooth, for the
sake of Christianity!"

I could not refrain from reminding him that a former Archbishop of
Canterbury, Arundel, and other Bishops of the Church, were mainly
responsible for burning Master Sawtre and Sire John Oldcastle, and
that the statute "De heretico comburendo" flourished particularly
under the Lancastrian kings. I also asked him what he thought the
Master, Christ, would say to "the successors of the Apostles," if he
could behold them residing over such horrible persecutions?

The old monk sighed, and made no reply beyond giving me his blessing,
and I fancied that he would not trust himself to speak of actions
which emanated from the Church of which he was a member, but against
which he felt a just indignation.

We now joined Rosamond and the party at the fish pool, when the sub-
prior showed us a fine patch of the Danewort growing near the
monastery, which he told us indicated that Pendyke was once a Danish
settlement, and that Danes had been massacred there in the time of the
Saxon king Ethelred, and hence sprang up this bloodwort, now so famed
for sprains and bruises.

He also pointed out a young and rare tree planted among these herbs,
called a Wall-nut, which he had brought from Italy, and with nuts four
times larger than our hazel nuts. He told us, too, about the little
Saxon church of timbers which was raised where now stands the
monastery, and how the font for holy baptism (the stone of which was
brought all the way from Caen in Normandy) was all the stone in the
church until the Normans came and occupied the forest clearing where
Saxons and Danes had been before them.

The old Norman apse at the east end of the church had fallen into
disrepair, and the monks were engaged in building a new chancel; but
they were careful to preserve the rood-loft and the great crucifix
before which for centuries Saxons and Normans had worshipped in these
forest wilds.

The tower, too, built in the time of Edward III. after the staying of
the plague of the Black Death, was also under repair, as indeed at
this period seemed to be all the churches of the land.

Rosamond told me that she gathered from the conversations between her
grandfather and the sub-prior that the latter had very strange
opinions, inasmuch as he believed that much knowledge respecting the
Deity might be gathered from studying the stars in the heavens, the
rocks of the mountains, the flowers of the woods, and all animals,
birds, and insects; also that he held some heretical notions about the
infallibility of the Pope, believing that there is an infinite
universe presided over by an infinite Deity, of whom popes and priests
had as yet conceived a very finite and limited notion. Still the sub-
prior thought that such ideas were little suited to the vulgar and
ignorant, and so said little about them.

We did not dismount at Kitel Keep and had to bear a good deal of
banter at thus riding side by side, with a malicious proposal from
Master Kitel that he should bear us company. I had no difficulty in
obtaining his promise to join the Yorkist forces if necessary, and
bring with him the gallant young Brydges, who lived at Eastington
across the mere. But Bessie chose to make herself disagreeable as soon
as she heard of my proposition.

She wore a red rose as large as a wild peony in her boddice, and when
the goblet of cider was brought in the stirrup-cup she allowed her
father to hand it to both Rosamond and myself. On her wrist she bore a
falcon which I knew came from Branshill Castle, and allowed the bird
to take morsels of food from her cherry lips; while her eyes flashed
fire as she inquired if I had heard of the burning of the habitation
of the "Witch of Eldersfield," with all her "sirrups and juleps, and
the strange parchment which was believed to contain 'Hell's black
grammar.'" I laughed at the idea of the devil assisting Mary in the
concoction of juleps; but Bessie crossed herself and said that "wise
women were but skeely neighbours we could all well spare." She also
commented on the pursuits of their near neighbour the sub-prior,
declaring that "it would be better for him to pay more attention to
his breviary instead of star-gazing all the night, and, may be,
getting moonstruck and wandersome."

She then reminded me of the good old times, when, in my archer's
jerkin, bonnet and feather, I loved to hawk at a boomer or a hern, or
shoot a bolt into a plump of young flappers on the mere, instead of
riding over the country inciting honest and peaceful people to arms.
"For be assured," she said, with a high colour and a flashing eye,
"all this will end in a stricken field, and you and my father may
become the prey of foul corbies in a quarrel which concerns ye not.
And ye will leave Rosamond and me lone lassies through your folly. Out
upon all civil wars, and may a just judgment await those who begin
them!" I could not avoid asking her, in return, for whom she worked
the last red rose, knowing well that it was for Roger Calverley, and
why she always wore the red rose herself when her father and best
friends wore the white? She only pouted, and declared that King Henry
was a right royal King and a foe to all sorceries, a far better man
than Richard of York, who consorted with Lollards and wise men, and
even had imprisoned a Bishop of the Church.

Wishing her a good-morrow and a better mind towards old friends and
true, we cantered away with a wave of the hand from her father, and a
smile, through tears, from herself.

We now turned our horses' heads for a long gallop through the forest
glades to the Hook Grange, the home of Master Bromwich, of
Broomsbarrow, which lies just under the Chase-end hill, or the end of
our Malvern Chase. It is a beautiful spot, surrounded by goodly trees,
with fine open glades, and not far from a sure stag's lair at the
Howling Heath.

Master Bromwich was a well-furnished gentleman, well beloved by all
his neighbours and his kindred, and a great lover of the chase. He was
likewise a good bowman, and could swing a battle-axe with most men. He
met us at the doorway of the Grange, as we rode up, attended by his
noble boar-hound, "Black Hector," and accompanied by his fair
daughters, "the Lily of Broomsbarrow," and "the Snowdrop of the
Chase," as we loved to call them when we toasted their healths at an
archers' gathering or a village feast. But the stately "Lily" wore a
red rose on her boddice, a sure sign of her Lancastrian inclinations,
while Mab, her sweet sister, wore the white; so constantly in these
days did members of the same family differ respecting the hostile
claimants for England's crown. Master Bromwich was true to the House
of York, as was his relation, Pyndar of Kempley.

The fair damsels made Rosamond dismount, and while "the Snowdrop"
presented me with a stagshorn beetle for hunter's luck, "the Lily"
gave Rosamond the Nodding Star of Bethlehem, which grows hard by, and
is good for potions when any one is sick for love. Having partaken of
their hospitality, and looked at the dogs, the horses, the bows, and
the battle-axes, we rode on to Master Stone's of the Glynch.

Giles Stone was a franklin, whose ancestors lived at the little moated
grange, which he now occupies, well nigh two hundred years ago. The
grange stands hard by to a brawling brook which runs from the mere of
Eastnor, a stream famous for the brilliant plumaged kingfisher and the
shy dipper, and all around are rounded hills, one famous for its
coneys, and so called. Coneygre.

We found Master Stone busy among his kine, clad in his frieze gown,
and little inclined to do battle for either Yorkist or Lancastrian.
His wife, good Mistress Martha, received us with kindness, and
insisted on our tasting her metheglin while she dilated upon the
antiquity of her husband's lineage, and the days when the Red Earl
slept in their best chamber when he had the great dyke reared as a
boundary for his Chase. Here, too, was the "pot and pan" which
Mistress Dorothy Stone bequeathed to her daughter in the days of King
Edward I., while the kerchief she gave to the Blessed Virgin of
Broomsbarrow is still preserved in the church.

Mistress Martha at once forbade her husband donning his buff jerkin
and steel morion; but their son was a gallant youth, and had no idea
of skulking at home, so he insisted on looking up an ancient sword
which an ancestor had worn at Crecy, but which was somewhat rusty. His
mother, however, interfered, and declared that the mill was of more
consequence than any cause of York or Lancaster, and that on no
account could the heifers be left while John went fooling to the wars.
Altogether we did not seem likely to gain any recruits at the Glynch,
so remounted our horses and said farewell.

We next rode for the broad green trackway which runs from Gloucester,
below the old British camp of Haffield, for Ledbury, when as we were
passing the camp we saw the tall form of Master Edwins, the Worcester
herbalist, with his long white hair flowing from beneath a black
skull-cap, and clad in black buskins and a stout frieze jerkin.

Rosamond knew him at once, for he was a friend of her grandfather's.
He had been to the summit of the camp, and searched the vallum and
ditch for "Good King Henry" and Herb Christopher, both famous for
mashments for bruises; also for the seed of a fern which grows on the
Pudding-stone rock, and which is said, if caught when falling, to
render the bearer invisible.

Rosamond begged for some of this fern seed. He gave her also a large
bunch of the bright green "King," so called after that monarch of whom
Master Robert of Gloucester wrote, "The goodness that King Henry and
the good Queen Mold did to this land, no never may be told," and told
her where she could find frog stools and paddock butts, which were
sure specifics for stopping blood, with toothworts, which dried are
marvellous for toothaches.

As the herbalist sat upon an old stowl of a decayed oak, with bundles
of herbs, and two or three staghorned beetles stuck with thorns to his
bonnet, I thought it was lucky Master Snakes never came across him, or
he would have seized him as a veritable old warlock. He was himself
going to Ledbury, to consult about pharmacies with the leech, Master
Straggles, who was said to be a learned man. Indeed there have been
leeches at Ledbury from the earliest Norman times. They were
introduced by the Bishops of Hereford with the vineyards, the wine of
which was apt to affect the stomach, and produce the gripes in some,
and in others podagra.

Leaving Master Edwins we rode by the Bishop's vineyard, which in the
time of King Edward I. is said to have yielded "seven casks of white
wine and nearly one of verjuice."

This wine was not in favour with the Bishop, who preferred that of
Burgundy, but he praised it mightily when he entertained the poorer
clergy; and the monks still mingle it with the juices of the sloe, or
wild plum, which grows abundantly among the thickets of the old Roman
camp on Wall hills near to Ledbury town, as it makes excellent good
beverage for the poor.

The Bishops of Hereford have ever been great lovers of the chase, and
it was Bishop Cantilupe, now Saint Cantilupe, who quarrelled with the
Red Earl of Gloucester about the Chase of Eastnor, and who appointed a
champion to fight the Red Earl, if the King would allow his appeal to
judicial combat. This champion was Thomas de Bruges, "pugili episcopi
Herefordensis," and an ancestor of the Brydges of Herefordshire, and
our friends at Eastington by Longdune.

We did not find the Bishop at Ledbury, he was at Bosbury; but many of
his attendants and the neighbouring gentry and clergy had assembled
for bull-baiting in the market-place. The town, indeed, was full of
men and dogs from the whole country round, Master Baskerville, of
Eardesly Castle, having given a couple of bulls of the wildest breed
from the Cummy Moors, a wild forest district near Kington, where the
cattle run at large and become unusually fierce and savage. The
hostelries of the "Saxon Oak," and the "Prince's Plume," were crowded
as we rode up, and great was the consumption of wine, and greater
still that of ales, mead, and cider, while big-headed bull-dogs with
deep jowls were led in thongs by their masters and backers.

If there was one of our English sports that Rosamond detested it was
bull-baiting, although a pastime much frequented by the wives and
daughters of the gentry and yeomen, some of whom had their petted dogs
with names by no means appropriate to such animals. Thus one terrific-
looking animal belonging to Mistress Straggles was named "Rose," and
another, the property of the wife of the Bishop's seneschal, was
dubbed "Beauty." When we were stabling our horses at the "Prince's
Plume," Roger Calverley rode up accompanied by Silent John and Master
Paunceforte, John having brought with him the dog he so kindly offered
to present to me.

The bulls were to be baited on the great square near King Stephen's
market-house, and Rosamond at once rushed away from the baiting and
looked at the church, while we indulged our curiosity and watched this
national pastime. We joined the committee appointed to see fair play
for the bull, as far as fair play could be obtained for a tethered
animal. It was determined that only one dog should be loosed at a
time, and not three or four, as would sometimes be done if the mob had
their own way, and the bull proved too good for the dogs. Also we
insisted on a fair length of rope and gearing, which the dog owners
were apt to make over short, and thus hardly allow a bull room to turn
and meet his savage antagonists. We would not sanction any worrying of
bulls by a number of dogs let loose at the close of a baiting, as had
been done several times of late to the disgrace of the managers, and
was altogether contrary to the rules of the sport.

When we arrived at the ring we found the bull already tethered and
fastened by a good rope and leathern girdles across the shoulders and
round the neck; but Calverley having measured the rope, we called upon
the judges to increase the length by two yards.

The first bull was the largest, and though wild and savage was
somewhat unwieldy, so some of the younger dogs were matched against
him, and very short work he made with most of them, goring some,
trampling others, while two he actually tossed into the middle of the
excited crowd. At last a Red Marley dog, well known for his courage
and power, was let loose at the now infuriated animal, who rushed
round the ring, mad with pain and fury. This dog at once pinned the
beast by the nose, and notwithstanding his struggles held on until the
bull fell exhausted and was declared defeated by the umpires.

The second bull was a much smaller animal, but as active as a cat, and
a dark red beast with sharp straight horns. The Red Marley dog was let
loose at him, and, being somewhat bow-legged and slow, was caught by
his horns and killed on the spot. Silent John now came forward with
"Saxon," a tawny dog with great width of chest and an enormous head.
"Saxon," however, fared no better, being met by the bull in full
charge and tossed nearly across the street. So powerful, however, was
the animal's charge, that the rope snapped close at his neck and set
him free in the midst of an affrighted crowd. We all ran away, some
rushing into St. Catherine's hospital, others into houses, and some up
the narrow streets which lead to the church. Just opposite the
"Prince's Plume" the enraged beast overset at least half-a-dozen of
the runaways, but fortunately did not gore them with his horns, when
at the cross trackways in the centre of the town there stood a little
child which had run into the centre of the trackways, and, having on a
red cloak, attracted the bull's attention. To my horror I saw Rosamond
come down the trackway from Branshill and Malvern, and, seeing the
danger of the child, rush forward and drag it to the corner of the
street In a moment the bull was upon them, but the gallant girl held
on firmly to the child, and, fortunately for their lives, both fell
together, and thus missed the fatal toss he gave with his horns at the
little red cloak beneath his feet. He then rushed on madly up the
Gloucester Street followed by men with ropes and dogs. Rosamond was
merely shaken by the fall; but the little girl was badly hurt by the
trampling of the bull, and moaned with pain as I lifted her from the
ground.

Fortunately Master Straggles, the leech, saw the accident, and came to
our assistance. His house was close by, indeed Rosamond and the little
sufferer fell underneath its overhanging gables, so I bore the child
in my arms, as it cried bitterly for its mother, into his dwelling.

It was the first time I had ever been in the house of a mediciner, or
seen a scalpel or an iron for burning a naked stump, so I shuddered at
seeing these implements laid out on a table, while we were all
thankful when Master Straggles declared he believed he could save the
arm. Mrs. Straggles was a kindly nurse, and quietly prepared bandages
and lotions, her bull-dog, Rose, looking on as if she were a mediciner
herself and accustomed to such sights.

The chirurgeon having fastened on his ligatures and used the
emollients of his craft, the child was carried to another room to
await the arrival of its mother, and we had time to look round the
laboratory. Besides phials, and pots, and herbs, there were drawings
on the wall of the limbs of defunct persons, cleverly executed by the
simple means of a burnt stick. But these were not the only evidences
of the leech's profession. There was a skull said to be that of Hugh
Despenser the younger, which once ornamented the market-place at
Hereford when that unhappy favourite of Edward II. was executed by the
orders of Mortimer and Queen Isabella. Then there was a grinning skull
brought from Wigmore and believed to be that of the great earl, Simon
de Montford, who was slain at the battle of Evesham, when his head was
sent by his nephew, Prince Edward, as a present to the wife of Roger
Mortimer. It was concerning this skull that certain other mediciners
from Hereford and Theocsbury were somewhat sceptical, thinking it was
too small for such a brain as that of good Earl Simon.

Having done all in our power for this unlucky accident, Rosamond
mounted her jennet and we rode homewards, being soon overtaken by
Roger Calverley. As we passed by Branshill Castle he insisted on our
riding up to see a cast of falcons from Norway and another of tercels
from the Stanner rocks near Kington.

Branshill had stood many a siege in the times of the Norman kings,
situated as it is on the borders, and ever liable to incursions from
the Welsh, and now men-at-arms guarded the flanking towers and grim
walls. But I could not help thinking that the Eastnor hills rose
ominously above the castle, and that such culverins as Henry V. used
in his sieges in France would render it indefensible. Calverley
evidently observed my investigations of the situation, for he remarked
that the introduction of filthy gunpowder into honest warfare was the
death knell of the age of chivalry, and that the time was at hand when
the best tempered mail would be a useless incumbrance before the fire
of linstocks and arquebuses from behind every tree and wall.

Branshill Castle is small compared to many of the Norman strongholds,
but yields to none in the beauty of its situation, as it nestles below
the Malverns and the hills of Eastnor. On the north side, as we
entered by the drawbridge and portcullis, all is old and ancient, but
a new hall had been added to the interior by Sire Hugh, and this was
furnished after the fashion of modern times with fine chairs, and
tables, and cupboards of the newest oak. The walls of this new hall
were hung around with ancient armour worn by the Calverleys at
Hastings, Crecy, and Agincourt, while there was also displayed on a
figure of wood the cumbrous panoply which Sire Hugh himself had worn
at the late battle of St. Alban's, when he fought for the House of
Lancaster.

We were received heartily by the gallant knight and his portly dame,
who did the honours of their ancient keep with grace and hospitality;
but no allusion was made to the fears entertained by both parties that
we might ere long meet each other in strife on some battlefield in
these dreadful civil wars between rival claimants to the Crown. Sire
Hugh inquired after my father, but it was with an awkward manner, and
I felt myself that the very errand I was engaged on, in recruiting for
Lord Edward of March, would excite the anger of our hosts did they but
suspect it. We therefore took our leave not without grievous
apprehensions on my part that the friendship with those I was attached
to from my childhood, and truly respected, might be alienated for ever
by the coming calamity of civil war.

We had ridden to the summit of the pass across the Malverns known as
the Holly Bush, and, it being now nearly Midsummer, the sun was
setting behind the Black Mountains where they rise into the peak of
the Van-sirgaer as it rises above the Welsh town of Llangorse and the
lake of Llynsavaddan. It was indeed a glorious sight. On the western
side the sun was yet throwing a golden light over hill and mountain,
glen and valley, save where long shadows stood out to mark the
approach of the darkness of night; while on the eastern side the long
line of the Cotswolds were glowing in its last rays, but the great
vale of Worcester was deepening into evening shades.

We pulled up our horses on the pass and gazed first on one side, then
on the other, with feelings none can understand save those who love
scenery and can appreciate such views as among the blessings God sends
us to behold.

I now pressed Rosamond to ride on, as our time was precious, when she
suddenly exclaimed, "Good heavens! there is the Shadow of the Ragged
Stone resting upon the Church and Manor House of Birtsmereton!" and
truly as we looked there was my loved home almost hidden by a dense
black pillar, which seemed to stretch athwart us right across the
forest, while all around was still lighted by the rays of the setting
sun. We gazed and gazed and then looked at each other, and I saw
Rosamond's cheek was pale and her eyes suffused with tears. And no
wonder, for we both well knew the presage that shadow conveyed! It was
the certain omen of the shadow of death, and a warning to some member
of our household that their last hour was rapidly drawing nigh. It
might be, possibly was, my own summons!

From the earliest date to which records of our Hill go back, the
Ragged Stone and Midsummer Hills hay been famous for their traditions.

There was a time, men say, when Druids and Bards assembled in crowds
and dressed in strange and savage garb to worship the "Pen Awyr," or
sacred mistletoe, where it grew upon an oak in the glades of Eastnor,
and when the "Fires of God" were kindled upon the peaks of the Ragged
Stone and Midsummer Hills, and as they flashed forth into flame, two
snow-white bulls were sacrificed, and great frames of wicker work
filled with human beings were fired also, and the air was rank with
the stench of the sacrifice thought to be acceptable to the Lord of
Heaven. These sacrifices went on at different times for centuries, but
on one occasion, as Priests, Druids, and Bards were marching in long
procession through the forest in the vale for the summit of the Ragged
Stone, where the night was to be passed in religious ceremonies
previous to the holocaust at the Mistletoe Oak, the dark pillar of the
Ragged Stone overshadowed them and not one ever reached the hill
alive.

Another tradition belongs to those times, when Archbishop Odo was the
persecutor with Saint Dunstan, and a pleasant saint was he, of the
beauteous but unhappy Queen Elgiva. It is a tale of love and sorrow
and of ecclesiastical persecution, but again fires burst forth and the
Ragged Stone was rent.

Again the Shadow of the Ragged Stone is said to have fallen upon the
spot where Sire John Oldcastle was hidden in our forest wilds the
night he fled from the secret chamber in our panelled room, and where
he was afterwards taken prisoner, and was haled to his martyrdom in
Smithfield.

It is not, therefore, to be wondered at that we beheld with dismay my
beloved home swathed in its black pillar of darkness, standing out
across the forest in a flood of sunshine. Even as we gazed I heard the
sound of a distant trumpet wafted on the east winds as they sighed
through the trees. It appeared to come from our courtyard, and we
urged our steeds at the gallop by the Foxholes down the glen.

It was no imaginary trumpet-call the winds had borne to us upon the
pass, for as we rode up to the Manor-house we found the trackway
filled with armed men, the retainers of the Earl of Warwick, from
Hanley Castle and Upton-on-Severn, and when we rode into our court
yard we found my father mounted and armed from head to foot, preparing
for immediate departure with the assembled riders.

He dismounted on our arrival, and led us into the house, which was
itself filled with our own archers and adherents preparing for a
sudden march, and told me the news he had received of the slaughter
and horrors of the battle of Wakefield.

The Lords in Council had acknowledged that the hereditary laws
sanctioned the claim of Duke Richard of York to the crown of England,
and it had been settled that King Henry was to retain the crown during
his life, but at his death it was to devolve to the Duke of York, to
the exclusion of Prince Edward, the son of Margaret of Anjou. On this
decision Queen Margaret was wild with rage, and called upon every
Lancastrian to take up arms for her son.

Two great armies had met at Wakefield in Yorkshire and Queen Margaret
had herself led the attack on the forces of the Duke of York, which
were very inferior in number.

The end was that the Duke himself was slain and two thousand of his
men lay dead upon the field. But this was not all! The vindictive
Queen, mad for blood, had ordered that no quarter should be given
either on the field of battle or after it, so those who escaped the
slaughter and surrendered as prisoners were executed at once. The head
of the Duke of York was stuck over a gate of the city of York with a
paper crown around the brows, and that of the Earl of Salisbury, whom
I had lately seen at Hanley Castle, was spiked above the gate of
Pontefract Castle. The worst butchery was that of the Earl of Rutland,
second son of the Duke of York, a boy of thirteen years of age, who
was murdered in cold blood by Lord Clifford as he was fleeing across
Wakefield bridge with his father's chaplain.

My father also told me that I must start at once for Gloucester, and
see whether Lord Edward had learned the dreadful tidings of the
massacre of his father and brother and the defeat of the Yorkist
forces.

For himself, he declared he would set forth attended by Hasting, and
our own armed archers and adherents, for the Marches at Ludlow and
Wigmore, summoning all he passed to join the standard of York, and
avenge the disaster and foul butchery at Wakefield. At one of these
places I could send a rider to convey to him the orders of Duke Edward
as to where the levies he could raise should assemble, and meet him
with the troops from Gloucester.

"It is no easy task, dear Hildebrande," he said, "to read the signs of
the times, but to me our own duty seems plain. The Church of Rome,
with its exalted position and vast power, seems determined to crush
out, by the weight of Church authority, every aspiration to freedom of
thought or freedom of worship. Rome would be accepted as the final and
sole authority on religious matters, and it will spare no rebel
against that authority. And if Henry of Lancaster and Margaret of
Anjou, with the high Catholic party, are to rule this land, all hope
of religious freedom must perish absolutely, and we must prepare for a
renewal of such scenes as the deaths and torture of such as Sawtre,
Oldcastle, and others. This, then, is a cause, my son, in which you
and I may well shed our blood. Not, indeed, whether the Red Rose or
the White Rose shall reign in England, but whether a man and a man's
household may worship God and serve his Master after his own belief
without being persecuted by the priests and tortured by the
government."

My father then begged of me to lose no time in preparing for my
departure for Gloucester. He gave me his own battle-axe, which he had
carried at St. Alban's, and a splendid hauberk of the finest mail. I
was to take "Roan Roland" as my charger, and a sturdy serving man,
known as Tom of Gulley's End, who was an excellent horse-keeper, firm
as an oak with the pike and short sword, and nearly as good as Hasting
with the long-bow. He had another good quality, he could hold his
tongue, which horse-keepers rarely did, being accustomed as a rule to
much talking, not only about the points and paces of their horses, but
also about the sayings and doings of their masters, whereas Thomas was
seldom heard to say much more than that "he would give a boy a hiding
if he 'coused the cat' or 'mullocked the sow.'" Tom was to ride a big
bay horse known as "The Badger," a beast well calculated from his size
to carry his rider and our double baggage.

These arrangements made, my father embraced my mother, and then folded
me in his arms, for we were both setting forth on expeditions of
adventure and danger, and we knew not when or where, or under what
circumstances we might meet again. Hasting and half-a-score men-at-
arms were now mounted and awaiting him just across the drawbridge. His
own charger stood in the inner court, and right noble looked my
gallant father as he rode forth that evening on his mottled grey. He
crossed the drawbridge, and passing down the great avenue of elms,
turned to give us his last look, and wave his last adieu.



Chapter 9.


ON THE MARCH--HEREFORD--THE REVIEW AT WIDEMERE--MASTER
VAUGHAN--THE SHADOW HOUND.



Our horses were ready in the court-yard for our ride through the
forest to Gloucester, and Roan Roland looked well with his war saddle,
frontlet of proof, and trappings on which was worked in fine colours
the Talbot of the De Brutes. The battle-axe my father had wielded at
St. Alban's hung at the saddle-bow, and I rode clad in steel morion, a
steel hauberk under a buff jerkin, and greaves of steel and leather.
On the sumpter horse was other gear in the baggage valise. The sturdy
Tom carried a spear as tough as himself, and wore a well-wadded
leathern jerkin and steel bonnet dinted with marks, showing the
service it had been in saving the wearer's head more than once.

My mother gave me several gold Richards from her own hoard and a
jewelled clasp for the vest which covered the shirt of mail. A
soldier's wife and a soldier's mother, she did not make a great
lamentation at parting, but the tears glistened in her eyes as I knelt
for her blessing and received her parting kiss.

We reached Gloucester without adventure, and giving the pass-word at
the western gate, of "The White Rose of York," rode through the
streets to the castle. In one of the principal houses we could hear
the click, clack of the castanets, with the tinkle of a harp and the
shrill notes of a rebeck, telling of the dance within, and in the
great courtyard of the castle were groups of soldiers listening to the
songs of minstrels before retiring for the rest of night. Over the
keep floated the rich banner of the House of York, covered with
armorial bearings and quarterings.

Sending a message by the sentinel on duty that I brought important
tidings, I was shortly summoned to Lord Edward's presence, as he sat
in council with Sire John de Guyse, Lord Berkeley, Master Cooke of
Highnam, with others of gentle blood who were discussing the
precarious state of the country from the refusal of Queen Margaret and
the Lancastrian barons to allow the claims of the Duke of York, in
preference to those of the Prince of Wales, in the succession of the
Crown after the death of King Henry.

It was evident from the light-hearted manner of Lord Edward, and the
joyous way in which he inquired for the tidings I brought, that no
news had arrived of the catastrophe at Wakefield. Bowing low, I said I
thought he would wish to receive the intelligence I brought alone, and
that I came with a message from my father, received through a
messenger of Lord Warwick's from his Castle of Hanley. Seeing that my
face was clouded, he requested the cavaliers to withdraw for awhile,
and said as they retired, "In God's name what is the matter,
Hildebrande, your face is dark and sombre as a funeral hearse?"

I have charged on the battle-field amidst the startling surroundings
of war, and have lain stricken myself, and thought I was a dying man;
I have stood by the bedside of those I loved when the last flicker of
the lamp of life was dying out, but never has memory impressed a sight
deeper on my soul than that look of Lord Edward as I recounted the sad
fate of his beloved father and brother after the battle of Wakefield.

He neither stormed nor swore, nor was he, as I almost hoped he would
be, relieved by tears, nor did he, as I expected, start in a frenzy
from his seat. He raised himself to his full height, and stood like a
magnificent marble statue, and as motionless, but his face assumed a
terrible expression for one so young, so handsome, and so noble. A vow
of vengeance was written in those glaring eyes, which just before were
beaming with a kindly welcome. Now he looked like a tiger ready for
its leap, or a bull-dog, half strangled in the leash when maddened by
the sight of the bull. I have since seen him assume the same stern and
pitiless expression when captives of war were brought before him, and
whom he seldom spared, in retaliation of that butchery by Queen
Margaret and Lord Clifford at Wakefield.

I stood motionless in his presence for some moments, when at last he
said, "Leave me, sir, and tell De Guyse and the others of this
accursed woman and her deeds; but let no one enter this chamber or my
presence until dawn to-morrow, when you yourself attend us."

I passed out and joined the knights and gentlemen in the great
courtyard, and in a few words acquainted them with the sad tidings and
the commands of him who was now the head of the House of York. I had
no heart for a long gossip, so left them and retired to the chamber I
was to occupy as the body esquire of the Duke. I listened to the wind
as it howled through the crenelles until I fell asleep, when I was
awoke at the grey dawn by the sound of trumpets and the clash of arms.
I went first to the chamber where I had left Lord Edward of York, but
he was gone, and I found him in the courtyard addressing the troops.

During the early part of the day Lord Edward seemed stunned by the
severity of the blow he had received, but when he aroused a total
change appeared to have settled over him; the merry-hearted youth was
now a stern man, and he evinced a coolness of judgment and sagacity in
the conduct of military affairs remarkable in one so young. He never
alluded in private to the death of his father and brother, but busied
himself in the preparations for war, and was indefatigable in sending
messengers in every direction to summon adherents to his standard and
inflame the minds of the gentry and the people against the tyranny of
the House of Lancaster. For days and often nights I was seldom out of
the saddle, and before a week had passed a force of seven thousand men
was ready to march on any point selected by the leader.

In the meantime a camp was formed in the fields below the Abbey on the
banks of the Severn, to which flocked not the great barons with their
banners and their pennons, but the gentry of the country, each with
their half-dozen or perhaps half-score of archers and pikemen, who,
shocked at the cruelties and butchery at Wakefield, rallied round the
son and brother of the noblest of the victims. The (now) Duke of York
moved his quarters from the Castle to a small pavilion in the centre
of this camp, and he visited every separate corps, appointing the
officers, and making himself personally acquainted with them. If his
manner was somewhat austere it was always courteous, and on horseback
or on foot he carried himself like a prince.

On one occasion I was sent to the manor-house of Sire John de Guyse,
with certain directions respecting the Elmore archers. A noble avenue
of oaks leads up to the manor, which, like so many others in Engand,
occupies the site of a Saxon grange. Sire John de Guyse was a man
somewhat proud of his ancestors, for they had been knights and
gentlemen from the days of the Conqueror, and that is much to say in
these times, when some whose ancestors were earls and knights are now
hinds, while others, whose fathers half-a-century ago were hinds, are
now knights or earls. He holds his manor on the presentation of a
clove of gilliflower at the court of Gloucester, and it was granted to
his ancestors by John de Burgh, son of Hubert, the first Earl of Kent,
and Justiciary of England.

The Manor-house is situated between the woodlands of Hockley Hill and
the River Severn, where it traverses noble meadows famous for their
pasturage, and whose waters furnish the silver salmon and the royal
lamprey.

A noble hall, of great timbers, with the walls hung with trophies of
the chase, was filled with guests, among whom were beautiful damsels
and men-at-arms wearing the cognisance of the Swan.

I found a score of archers engaged in practising with the long-bow,
while I gave some satisfaction to the knight by so handling the bow of
his ancestor, Sire Anselm, that I killed a corbie, sitting on the top
of one of the highest oaks, at a distance of over one hundred paces.

Sire John himself is one of those learned gentlemen who, like Sire
Richard Widville or his son Anthony, or the Earl of Worcester, follow
after learning, and are gallant knights besides. Dame Alice de Guyse
was a courteous lady, and handed the guests the wassail cup with her
own hand.

Messengers now came in almost daily, with tidings from my father that
the vassals of the Mortimers, and the gentry round Ludlow and
Leominster were arming and assembling at Wigmore, the castle and town
of the Mortimers. He advised the occupation of such villages as
Kington and Presteine that there might be some check upon forces then
being raised in Wales on the part of the House of Lancaster, by Owen
Tudor, the husband of Queen Katherine, the widow of Henry V., and
their son Jasper Tudor, now Earl of Pembroke; and he recommended a
movement of the camp at Gloucester in the direction of Wigmore, as
soon as possible.

Lord Edward had no sooner read my father's missive than he commanded
me to accompany Robin of Elsdune with a select corps of fifty men-at-
arms, and proceed to the small town of Kington on the borders of
Wales, close to the birthplace of Robin, from whence we were to raise
levies in all directions, and await the messengers and orders from
head-quarters. He told me that news had been received that Lord
Warwick held Queen Margaret in check on the northern road from York to
London, but as she had large forces with her no help could be expected
from Warwick at the present crisis, so he should himself endeavour
with his whole army to prevent the union of the army of the Tudors
with the forces of the Queen and the Duke of Somerset. He then bid me
keep up constant communication with my father at Wigmore, to trust to
Robin of Elsdune in the summoning of the gentry and vassals of the
Mortimers on the borders to arms, and to send him word by trusty
messengers as to our success in raising levies, till we had orders to
join the main army, whether at Hereford or Ludlow.

Our preparations made, we rode with a clump of fifty spears for Ross,
crossing the silver Wye at Wilton Castle. Some distance beyond the
town we passed the old grange of Sire Howell Powell of Pengethly,
where it rose above a green and sylvan vale, and the ancient Church of
Henlan. Sire Howell was a Welsh chieftain, who claimed descent from
Howell Dha, whose pedigree commenced with Adam, and he had ridden
forward with my father, his design of the Dolphin displayed side by
side with our Talbot.

We entered Hereford, which I had never before seen, by the noble stone
bridge which spans the Wye. Immediately on the left of the bridge,
after crossing, is the Monastery of the White Friars, so soon to hold
the body of Owen Tudor and other knights and gentlemen, who were
beheaded after the field of Kingsland, or, as some call it, of
Mortimer's Cross. On the right hand we saw the noble Cathedral and the
ancient Castle, a mighty stronghold.

The streets of this city are wider than those of Gloucester, and the
houses larger and finer, built of wood and slabber, with great
overhanging gables with casements in which are panes of glass as large
as a man's hand. There is also a spacious market-place in the centre
of the town, and the great timbers of which it is constructed are said
to have been granted by King Stephen when he sat crowned in the
Cathedral in the chair which may be seen to this day.

We obtained, quarters for our men-at-arms near the Market, and I was
the bearer of the epistle from Duke Edward to the Commandant of the
Castle, and another to Bishop Stanbury, who was now at Hereford, and
engaged in superintending the building of a chantry.

The Castle of Hereford is remarkable for its situation above the river
Wye, which is a complete barrier on the west, while on all other sides
it is protected by a wide deep moat. The walls are high and strong,
and its central keep rises like a giant in the midst. The drawbridge
and barbican are on the north side, and communicate with the town,
which is itself defended by dykes and walls, so that Hereford is a
city strong both by nature and the art of man.

As I crossed the drawbridge of the Castle, my father's lessons on our
country's history recurred to my mind, and I reflected on the many
Kings of England and the illustrious dead who from time to time had
trodden the same path, and occupied this feudal stronghold. Here had
come King Stephen in all the pomp of war; and Henry II. when he
marched against the Welsh. Hither fled King John when England was
invaded by Louis of France. Here Henry III, was imprisoned, with his
son Prince Edward, by his own brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort; and
here came Isabella, the traitorous Queen of Edward II., with her
paramour, Roger Mortimer, when they hung in chains Hugh Despenser,
because he was faithful and true to her husband. Again, that great
warrior, Edward III., was here, after the battle of Crecy, and was
present at the opening of the Monastery of Black Friars.

The Governor, having read Duke Edward's missive, declared that
Hereford had many men who swore by the House of Mortimer, and that
great indignation was felt throughout the whole city at the
ignominious treatment of his father's dead body, and the cold-blooded
murder of his brother. He told me of an encampment of some five
hundred men-at-arms on the great common of Widemere, outside the city
walls, and that he would meet us there on the morrow and himself
declare to the troops the coming of Duke Edward in our presence.

Returning to Robin with an account of my interview, I was astonished
to hear from Tom of Gulley's End that he had just met Mistress
Rosamond Berew walking by the market, but I treated the statement as
an absurd mistake, and I fear used no complimentary language to my
friend Thomas.

We found Bishop Stanbury the next morning busied with niches,
cinquefoils, and other devices, at the new chapel he was adding to the
ancient Cathedral, and waited some time before he cut the thread of
Duke Edward's letter, borrowing Robin's dagger for the purpose. He
said nothing whatever respecting the claims of York or Lancaster, but
contented himself with directing our attention to the tomb of the
saintly Thomas de Cantilupe, the opposer of the Red Earl respecting
the rights of Malvern Chase. He told us too that no less than 163
miracles had been performed at his shrine in the space of a few
months.

I now remembered that I had heard Master Berew speak of one of their
family who became a high ecclesiastic, and was buried in the
Cathedral, so I inquired where the tomb was to be found. The Bishop
informed us it was at the east end, in front of the Lady Chapel, and
conducted us to a spot where we could see the effigies beneath an
arch, but the approach on this side was blocked by masses of stone and
timber for repairs. We could see, nevertheless, the tomb, and although
she did not see us, Rosamond Berew, standing side by side with a tall
dark-complexioned elderly gentleman, and looking at the resting-place
of her relative, Dean Berew.

It is not easy to describe my sensations of anxiety! We had to make a
long divergence and go round by the tower, losing our way among the
chapels and arches, so that some time elapsed before we reached the
front of the Lady Chapel. When we reached the spot, Rosamond, to my
dismay, and the gentleman with her, had disappeared. We saw only the
stone effigies, and on the front of the arch the Berews' design of
boars passant with leaves of rue in their mouths.

We walked back to the stabling by the Market, wondering what could
have brought our forest damsel to the city of Hereford with an utter
stranger.

As the time was drawing near for our meeting the Governor on Widemere,
we assembled our spears and rode down a long, narrow, and dirty
street, with very poor houses, towards the northern gate; Robin and I
in the van, Roan Roland carrying his crest and arching his neck as if
he was bestrode by a king, and Tom bringing up the rear. We had almost
reached the entrance of the Monastery of the Black Friars, when we
beheld a crowd of the lowest rabble following the gentleman we had
seen in the Cathedral and Rosamond Berew. The mob was hooting and
howling, "Down with the Lords' party!" "Curses on all murderers!"
"Hurrah for York and Mortimer!" and some of the more ruffianly
threatened to proceed to acts of violence. I dismounted, and throwing
the reins of my horse to Robin, ran to the rescue of the soldier like
stranger as he was with difficulty sheltering Rosamond from the crush.

They stopped at the Monastery gate, when the stranger, turning round
upon the rabble, shouted, "Back, you howling hinds, or I will send
some of you to hell's gate!" This only produced a greater uproar, when
one butcher-like fellow seized Rosamond's gown, but, knocking him
down, I caught her by the waist, and carried her perforce through the
crowd, now scattered by the riding up of Robin and our troops.

Rosamond seemed dreadfully alarmed at my thus seizing her, as my steel
cap covered my face, and it was impossible she could recognise me in
my war gear. I had only time to say, "For heaven's sake, what brought
you here?" when the gate of the Monastery flew open, and her companion
rushed forward, and, receiving her from me, drew her inside.

At this moment the Governor of the Castle with a score of men-at-arms
rode up amidst the sound of clarions, the mob rushing to the side of
the street to escape the horsemen. He inquired into the cause of all
this uproar, and was informed that a partisan of the House of
Lancaster, wearing the symbol of the Red Rose, which he had flaunted
in the streets of Hereford, had just escaped mobbing by taking refuge
in the Monastery of the Black Friars. The knight sternly bade the mob
dismiss, saying that neither Red Rose nor White should be trampled on
by such city swine. He then shouted "Forward!" and I remounted
immediately, as a soldier was bound to do, riding at the head of our
men, but wondering marvellously at what brought Rosamond to Hereford
in company with a strange Lancastrian.

Soon after passing the north gate, we came upon the large open common,
known as Widemere, famous as the place where the gallant Prince
Edward, afterwards Edward I., gave the slip to his keepers from the
Castle, and rode away to meet Lord Mortimer of Wigmore, who had
displayed his standard as a signal upon a neighbouring hill, an
exploit soon to be followed by his great victory at Evesham. Here we
found a crowd assembled, watching the evolution of a large body of
men-at-arms, and admiring the sham charges which looked like real war,
amidst the trampling and neighing of horses, the flashing of spears,
the rustling of plumes, and the jingling of spurs.

As we rode to meet this warlike host, their commander, Sire Richard of
Crofts, advanced to meet the Governor of Hereford Castle. We all
saluted, when the Governor in a few words, and in soldier-like
fashion, informed the assembled men-at-arms of the purpose of Duke
Edward to ask for aid from the men of Herefordshire to avenges the
death of his father and brother. He told them that Duke Richard of
York, with his castles at Wigmore and Ludlow, had been one of
themselves, and was ever, the protector of the persecuted against the
tyrannical court of King Henry and his blood-thirsty Queen. He said,
too, that his son's standard was raised at Gloucester, and in a short
time, perhaps in a few days, Edward of York would be with them in
person, to lead them to revenge.

The deepest silence pervaded as the knight was speaking, but when he
had concluded, the troopers rent the air with a shout of "A York! a
York!" and "Mortimer to the rescue!"

It was a striking scene to a novice like myself in matters of war and
soldiery, and I thought that if Duke Edward could rally many such
soldiers to his standard, the Lancastrians would not have it all their
own way, whatever might be their numbers.

Robin now reminded me that it was time for us to press forward to our
destination, the border town of Kington; so, making our salutation to
the knights, and receiving their hearty "God-speed" in return, we rode
away for the borders of Radnorshire.

We passed Credenhill Camp, where Mortimer of Wigmore hoisted the
signal flag for Prince Edward, and where the Romans had a stronghold
above their great town of Kentchester at its base.

From thence we rode to Kington, a poor Welsh village, but a good place
from whence to rally the border men on the side of the Mortimers. I
observed that great deference was paid here to the Archer by every one
we met. The bustling landlord of the hostelrie doffed his cap, and the
big dog, Vulcan, that prowled about the yard, recognised him and came
up to be noticed. Soon the news of our arrival spread abroad, and
before our riders had stalled their horses, rough and ragged Welshmen
surrounded the door of the inn, some on foot, and others scampering in
on small ponies as rough and ragged as themselves.

For two or three days I accompanied Robin to some wild places in the
neighbourhood, where we held interviews with these border men. There
were the noble rocks and broken crags of Stanner, above which the
eagle soared and the ravens croaked, and where in "the Devil's garden"
grow herbs most rare, and famous for medicaments.

Then there was Old Radnor which Owen Glendower reduced to ruins, among
the stones of which a bloodwort was blossoming from a soil watered by
the blood of the three-score archers he beheaded in the Castle yard.

But the wildest spot we visited was the romantic waterfall of "Water-
break-its-neck," where the hard rocks are scooped out into a deep
ravine, the sides of which are clothed with stunted trees and parsley
ferns, and down which rushes a fall of water which may be heard for
miles. Here, and clustering on a steep hill which rises above, we met
a number of Welshmen, armed in a rude fashion, some with short
scythes, and some with pikes, but all carrying the long knives, which
were formidable weapons at close quarters, and which made such havoc
among the horses of the riders on many a battlefield. Robin addressed
them in their own language, and I could see by their countenances that
his speech was convincing. A bag of rose nobles seemed also very
persuasive, if shouting and grimacing were evidences of their
acquiescence.

The next thing was to send forth a number of scouts in order that we
might become acquainted with the numbers and whereabouts of the army
of northern Welshmen, whom Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, was
reported to be leading southwards from the mountains of Snowdonia and
the wild hills of Plinlimmon. These were instructed to report on every
movement of the enemy, and in a short time more than a score had
dashed off on their cat-like steeds. Robin now declared that his
principal difficulty was with Master Vaughan, of Hergest, commonly
known as "Black Vaughan," a gentleman of renown, who lived near
Kington, was of very determined character, had large possessions in
Radnorshire, and was a decided Lancastrian.

"He must be a friend of your father's, Master Hildebrande," he
observed, "for I saw his shield and device among the heraldic panels
in the oaken chamber at Birtsmereton. It might be advantageous for you
to ride over to Hergest; you will be sure of hospitable treatment, and
news travels so slowly in these savage wilds that it is possible
Master Vaughan has not yet heard of the massacre of Duke Richard and
his son, and Vaughan is an honourable man, and may be so disgusted
with the conduct of the Lancastrians at Wakefield that he may not move
a man-at-arms in such a cause. At all events I would give my best
baldric to know what he knows and how he intends to act."

On this I at once volunteered to go to Hergest, and renew the
acquaintance of the owner, whom I remembered in my early boyhood.
Taking a horse-boy as my guide, and having previously sent a messenger
to announce my arrival, I started on foot for the Grange at Hergest,
followed by the bull-dog, Vulcan, who had attached himself to us
without my observing his presence until we had gone too far to send
him back again.

My companion spoke little English, but I could see that he was a good
deal put out by the presence of the dog, and continually looked
backwards as if he feared something dangerous might appear in our
rear. At last we reached the high palisades which surround the Grange,
and could see lights flashing from the narrow windows. The building
itself is a large rambling fortified dwelling, and the entrance was
guarded by two armed Welshmen who could not speak a syllable of
English.

These sentinels looked us both well over, and after communicating with
the horse-boy, conducted me up a long flight of steps to a narrow
doorway. After a loud knocking, a woman, wearing an extraordinary
steeple-shaped hat, appeared, and led me by passages to the large
interior hall. The hall was principally remarkable for the great size
of its beams and rafters, while its walls were hung with hunter's
gear. Here were the heads and skins of noble stags, and the heads and
tusks of wild boars, while in a conspicuous place hung the mouldering
skin of the last wolf said to have been killed in Radnor forest. There
were also skins of that very rare animal, the beaver, from the Teivi,
among the mountains of Wales, and whose curious dens are described by
the great Welsh scholar, Gerald de Barri.

Numerous, too, were the skins of otters from the Arrow and the Lugg,
and those of the wild cat and marten from Kingswood Chase hard by.

Here Master Vaughan was seated at the head of a wide dais, and with
him a number of Welsh gentry--at least, such I supposed them to be
from the seats they occupied--while at the table below the dais sat
some fifty retainers and serving men of the house of Hergest. When the
servant went up to him and spoke of my arrival, he arose and advanced
to meet me, when to my surprise I recognised the stranger I had seen
with Rosamond Berew in the Cathedral at Hereford, and with the mob at
the Black Friars. He received me with the welcome of a well-bred
gentleman. After placing me by his side on the dais he returned to the
duties of hospitality, and I had then time to look around me.

I observed that the gentlemen on the dais were all clad in woollen
garments that looked home-spun and home-made, and with the exception
of Master Vaughan himself, who wore a dark cloth gown with slashed
sleeves, not one was dressed after the fashion of the day. They all
wore swords, whereas in England the sword is only worn on the battle-
field, and the gentry of both sexes wear dirks and daggers. Only two
of them could speak any English. One was a Welsh gentleman from Clyro,
who recommended a "foumarty budding," and the other was one John of
Glascomb, who "spakked" my Saxon tongue in terms it was impossible to
comprehend. I therefore contented myself with supping on the various
meats, and, after washing my fingers in a bowl of bog oak with a
silver rim, quaffed some spiced wine which I preferred to the
favourite drink of "cwrda" or Welsh ale.

No opportunity was afforded me to broach the claims of the Duke of
York upon the Marchmen, and the Welshmen seemed inclined to carouse
all night. At last Master Vaughan gave a signal, and there entered the
hall one of the most picturesque figures I ever beheld. It was that of
a handsome old man dressed in a long gown of grey serge, with white
hair falling upon his shoulders, and wearing a wreath of the green
holly. He carried the celebrated Welsh harp, and I never listened to
such music before; neither the githern or the rebeck are to compare to
it, even when accompanied by the reed pipe and the castanets. Song
after song accompanied by the harpist resounded through the hall, and,
although I understood not the words, some of the airs were plaintive,
and others martial and stirring beyond aught I ever listened to
before. They had a great effect upon the Welsh gentlemen, who
sometimes rose together, drew their swords, flourished them, and
stamped with their feet, but all was done in harmony with the music,
so that I sat entranced with the strange sight and marvellous effect.
Finally, the white-haired old bard concluded the entertainment by
singing words to a pathetic air, in which, in after years I learned,
was conveyed the Welsh ballad written in honour of Margaret of Anjou,
"Farwel iti Peggy bach."

The time for retiring came at last, and all prepared to occupy their
various couches. Master Vaughan was in the act of conducting me to my
chamber, when Vulcan, whose presence I had forgotten, made his
appearance at the door, as if he wished to pass the night with me. He
had hidden himself in some of the passages until he heard my voice.
Master Vaughan was apologising to me for putting me into an out-of-
the-way and somewhat forlorn chamber, when he saw the dog following
us, and appeared quite alarmed. Indeed, his fine face assumed a weird,
frightened expression I shall not easily forget. Nor did he recover
himself until I called the dog by his name and made sundry excuses for
his unlucky intrusion, begging that he might be allowed to remain with
me for the night. On this he merely bowed, said he hoped I should not
be disturbed by the brute's company, and, making rapid excuses of
having to attend upon his other guests, bade me "good night" without
giving me the opportunity of saying one word about Rosamond at
Hereford, or the claims of Lord Edward of York for the support of all
border gentlemen and Welshmen.

I now looked round my chamber; it was a large low room, full of great
beams, with but two small crenelles or openings in the timber for
windows, and by the light of a single Welsh rushlight it was somewhat
dismal.

The only furniture besides the great bedstead was a bench, a single
large oaken chair, before which was placed a deer-hide trimmed with
the fur of the otter, on which Vulcan at once lay down. I examined the
couch and found a soft bed well filled with hayriff, and a pillow of
goosedown, while curtains of tapestry hung around. Not feeling sleepy,
I sat down in the arm-chair in a reverie, with Vulcan at my feet, and
with the rushlight glimmering on the bench beside us.

The martial songs of the Welsh harper still lingered in my ears as I
thought over the scenes of the evening, and wondered if my darling
Rosamond had accompanied the master of the house, and was now actually
under the same roof as myself.

While thus pondering, and seated in the great armchair watching the
flickering of the rushlight, I was aroused by Vulcan uttering a low
growl. No sooner had he done this than he was answered by a low
"whimp, whimp," but whether it came from under the bed or outside the
door I could not tell. At all events it aroused Vulcan's wrath, as he
sprang up showing his teeth and bristling with ire as if preparing for
instant battle. Thinking that one of Master Vaughan's dogs was loose
and prowling about the passages, and not wishing to have a battle
royal in my bedroom, I looked to the fastening of the door, and,
persuading Vulcan to lie underneath the chair, I proceeded to undress
and retire to my couch. Still the dog remained so restless and excited
that I determined for a while to keep the rushlight burning, and in a
short time fell asleep.

I could not have been asleep above a quarter of an hour when I was
awakened by something moving at the foot of my bed, and, starting up,
I saw the figure of an enormous black boar-hound with glaring eyes and
a most savage expression, making as if he were about to spring upon
the bed. Seizing my dagger, which I had placed beneath my pillow, I
immediately jumped out of bed, when the black hound moved slowly
towards the door, turning round from time to time uttering the "whimp,
whimp," and showing his fangs and glaring eyes. Vulcan too, hearing
this, rushed from beneath the chair, and there were the two dogs
confronting each other, the black hound standing exactly opposite the
doorway, ready for a spring, and with his bristles standing on end and
eyes which flamed like torches.

I now gave the signal "Hie! Hie!" the well-known cheer to every bull-
dog for a rush at a bull at the stake, and Vulcan sprang towards the
door. No sooner had he reached it than he cowered down to the very
floor, and creeping slowly backwards on his belly with a distressing
cry, as if suffering great bodily torture, he crept close to the chair
and there remained soughing. Not liking to approach such an animal,
and wondering how the brute got into the room, and at the cowardice of
Vulcan, I was about to shout for aid, when gradually the form of the
animal faded away, and I saw nothing but the massive doorway, with its
great ribs of oak.

Having examined the door, I found it was fast, and lifting the latch,
I looked outside, but could see nothing, and hear nothing but the
sonorous sounds of heavy sleepers. I then returned to the great chair
and found the dog had cowered underneath. I spoke to him, and
encouraged him again and again, but there was no movement, and on
examination I found that he was stone dead! I was more than startled,
and felt that peculiar awe which unnerves the boldest heart, and pales
the cheek of the bravest who has to face an apparition.

Sleep was impossible, so, leaving the dead dog by the chair, I threw
myself on the bed, dressed as I was, and with my dagger by my side,
left the rushlight flickering upon the bench. Long did I lie awake
pondering upon this strange manifestation. At last, when wearied out,
I fell into a deep sleep, and was aroused in the morning by the sound
of a bugle horn close by the windows of my chamber. On looking through
the narrow opening, I saw the great square filled with men on
horseback, among whom I recognised the gentleman who recommended me
the "foumarty budding." They filed past one by one, and at their head
rode Master Vaughan, and by his side was Rosamond Berew.

When I left my chamber I was accosted by a Welsh damsel, who presented
me with a letter from my host. He apologised for leaving me thus
unceremoniously, but, having sent twice to my chamber, heard that I
was fast asleep. He had been summoned to join the forces which were
marching to the aid of the King against his rebellious subjects of the
houses of York and Warwick, and hoped at a future time to show me more
hospitality at Hergest than was possible under existing circumstances.
Here was a complication of troubles! Not that I cared so much for the
utter failure of my mission, or the departure of Master Vaughan to
join the army of the Tudors, but here was Rosamond, my Rosamond,
riding forth with these Royalist troops, and I had been in the same
house with her for hours! My brain swam and I stood on the steps which
led from the courtyard, gazing at the surrounding country, but without
seeing it, and heedless of the endeavours of the Welsh maiden to
convey to me the tidings that she had prepared something for me to
eat.

I was aroused by the tramp of horses' feet in the court yard, and then
perceived that Robin had sent "Roan Roland" by one of our men-at-arms,
with a request that I would join him without delay. Hastily partaking
of the bountiful refreshment provided for me, I left the dead Vulcan
where he lay, and taking an inward oath that it should be the last
time I slept at Hergest, I was soon on the road to Kington, where I
found Robin in the saddle and the men-at-arms assembled.

He now told me that despatches had arrived both from my father at
Wigmore and the Duke of York, who had arrived at Ross on his way to
Hereford; while scouts had brought tidings that the Tudor army was
already at Knighton-on-Teme. As we rode along, I related to him my
adventures, when he exclaimed, "By heavens! then you have seen the
black dog of Hergest!" In reply to my inquiries as to what he referred
to, he said that it was a strange tale and appertained to an ancestor
of the Vaughans, adding that the house must have been full of guests
to overflowing before the host of Hergest would have put a guest to
sleep in the chamber of the "shadow hound"!

Indeed, Master Vaughan often declared that he would pull down that
portion of the building in which this room is situated. I then pressed
him, again, to tell me the history of the "black dog of Hergest," but
he replied, "Not now, Master Hildebrande, we have other things to
think of! Jasper Tudor is marching upon Presteine and Wigmore."



Chapter 10.


WIGMORE CASTLE AND THE DUTCHESS OF YORK--THE SKIRMISH AT
BRAMPTON BRIAN--THE BATTLE OF MORTIMER'S CROSS--NARROW ESCAPE IN
KINSHAM DINGLE.



We found the Welsh village of Presteine occupied by Yorkist troops
sent forward from Wigmore, and a messenger was awaiting us from my
father telling us to push on and join him there. We saw on our march
Pylleth Hill, where the Earl of March gave battle to Owen Glendower,
and after a desperate struggle was defeated and made prisoner. The
scene of the personal combat between these renowned chieftains was
below this hill, on the banks of the river.

I burned with impatience once again to meet my father, but no sooner
had we arrived at Wigmore than we found he had moved southwards to
join Duke Edward.

Wigmore Castle is built on the site of a stronghold as old as the time
of Edward the Elder; and we admired the grandeur of the castle with
its massive keep, situated amidst scenes of picturesque beauty. Long
before we reached it we could hear the din and clangour of armed men,
and outside the castle was a large village occupied by retainers, the
dwellings situated upon a sloping rock and intersected by ravines.
Hundreds of men-at-arms were in troops around the castle, while others
were marching southwards towards Hereford, their steel caps and
morions sparkling in the setting sun.

"Who goes there?" shouted a hoarse voice as we rode up to the
drawbridge of the castle, and the reply, "Robin of Elsdune," seemed to
be a sufficient password.

Robin now dismounted and spoke anxiously to the warder, who informed
him that the widowed Duchess of York, and her sons, George and Richard
(afterwards the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester), were within the
walls for safety; that an attack by the Welsh army under the Tudors
was hourly expected, and yet the assembled forces were leaving to meet
Duke Edward, trusting to the strength of the place, and the garrison,
to keep it against all corners.

We then rode down the slippery paths to the village, where large
wooden sheds afforded shelter for man and horse for the night, and
arranged that our troops should be well cared for, and ready to saddle
at a moment's notice. This done, Robin invited me to accompany him to
an interview with the widowed Duchess of York, to present her with a
token and message from her son, the Duke. We crossed a ravine to the
eminence on which the castle is situated, and, on Robin again giving
the password, we were conducted to the keep, a massive square palace,
in which was lodged the widowed Duchess.

The great square was crowded with men-at-arms, with several domestics
clad in mourning, and to one of these Robin addressed himself, showing
the gold chain which he occasionally wore. In a few minutes the
servant re-appeared and summoned us to the presence of the widowed
lady.

Knowing that Duke Edward was nearly twenty years of age, I was
surprised to see his mother so young and so beautiful. Clad in the
deepest mourning, with golden hair and lovely blue eyes, it was hardly
possible to believe her to be the mother of that manly sop, and yet
the likeness was strong, for Edward had nothing of the "swarthy
Mortimers" about him, and resembled his mother, yet without a shade of
effeminacy.

The Duchess received Robin with more than courtesy, it was the welcome
of a trusted friend, and as he knelt and pressed her hand to his lips,
the tears flowed down her cheeks. On his telling her my name, she
extended her hand to me to kiss, saying that she had heard from Lord
Edward the good service I had rendered.

In the meantime Lord George had seized upon Robin, and was showing him
a new bow and a wooden battle-axe, but the Duchess had explanations to
receive from the Archer, so she called him on one side, and left me to
entertain the boy and his little brother, Lord Richard.

Lord Richard was dark and swarthy like his father, with an inclination
to high shoulders; his face was handsome, but his form was then
feeble, and I little thought that I should behold him leading the most
terrific charges at the battle of Theocsbury, or that he would become
a knight renowned for feats of valour and of arms. Even then, as he
sat upon my knee, he insisted on showing me "Robin's swing" with the
battle-axe, much to the danger of my head, and his brother's also.
Lord George had flaxen hair, and a weak expression of countenance.

The Duchess now addressed me, and noticing the ring on my finger, the
gift of her eldest son, she said the service must be good that won
such a token of his regard, as it was her own gift on his natal day.
She also alluded to my interview with Lord Warwick, at his castle at
Hanley, and I fancied a shade crossed her countenance as she spoke of
him, for, notwithstanding the predilection of her husband and her son
Edward, she never altogether trusted this powerful and somewhat
unscrupulous Baron.

It was now time for us to take our departure, when the Duchess
inquired if we thought she was safe from the raids of the Welshers
within the walls of the castle, or if she should take sanctuary in the
Abbey. To this Robin replied that "there were Marchmen to meet
Welshers, and it would be difficult for all the Welshmen in Wales to
penetrate to the stronghold of Wigmore Keep."

We now made our salutations, and took our departure, Lord Richard
entreating us to take him with us, and once again practising the
"Robin swing" at my devoted knees.

"Is not that a lady a man may die for?" said Robin, as we reached the
bottom of the staircase. He now inquired for the Captain of the
Archers within the walls, and, showing his golden chain, gave some
brief directions which that leader appeared to accept without
questioning. "We must now," he said, "make for the Abbey!"

The Abbey of Wigmore is distant nearly a mile northwards of the
castle, and here lie buried the remains of the illustrious Mortimers
from the times of Ranulph, who, having vanquished Edric Sylvaticus,
Earl of Shrewsbury, received from the Conqueror himself the extensive
possessions and immense estates which belong to this royal house. When
we reached it, masses were being said for the souls of Duke Richard
and his son.

It was from his ancestors, who lie buried within the walls of this
Abbey, that Edward of York inherited such decision of character that
no sense of personal danger, and no tie of kindred, could ever turn
him from the attempted accomplishment of a purpose once determined on,
and I pondered, as I stood among the graves of this proud family, who
never seemed to shrink from any violence to gain their end, if such
was to be the character of the youth who, if success attended upon his
arms, might one day be King of England.

My cogitations upon the Mortimers past and present were abruptly
broken by the sound of a war trumpet outside the Abbey walls, and I
found that some two hundred archers from the castle and village were
assembled, and prepared to follow Robin of Elsdune, fully confident in
his knowledge of the country, and his sagacity as a leader. In the
meantime the Archer had sent a message to Tom of Gulley's End, and our
own men-at-arms and horses had arrived at this trysting place. Robin
spoke in Welsh to the archers, and I could perceive that he was giving
precise directions for their guidance.

We waited for the arrival of some of his scouts, when at last two men
appeared breathless with hot haste, and in less than ten minutes every
armed man had disappeared in the darkness, and with them our own
troops, who were directed to follow the captain of the archers, while
Tom remained with us and in charge of our horses.

Robin told me that we must endeavour to give some check to the
advancing Welshmen, in order that Duke Edward might have time for his
march from Hereford, and with some 500 men to stop the advance, for a
time, of at least 10,000 men. We should meet some three hundred
archers and pikemen at dawn, from Kington and Radnor Forest, and
these, with our own men-at-arms, and the archers from Wigmore Castle,
were all we could gather, as so many had marched for Avemestry on the
south to meet the Duke.

We rode by narrow paths through the dense forest of Darvold, and, on
reaching the summit of the hill, we approached an ancient British
encampment with a deep fosse still encircling it.

Within the encampment the trees had been felled, and we could see a
light glimmering from a fire. Robin dismounted from his horse, and
beckoning me to do the same, we gave the bridles to Tom and crept
almost on hands and knees into the fosse. The moon had now risen, and
looking over the verge of the trench, we could see the figures of
several armed men, some of whom were clad in armour. A short but
powerful-looking man stood in the midst, gesticulating and speaking in
Welsh. We anxiously watched the party for some time, until Robin gave
me a signal to retire. Retracing our steps, we rode northwards for
some distance, when he told me that this was the advanced post of the
Welsh army, and with them was Jasper Tudor, their leader, ready for
the proposed attack on Wigmore Castle. "Now," he said, "we will have a
look at their rear."

We rode, almost in silence, and in single file, at a slow pace, for
several miles through woodlands and marshes, impassable without a
guide who knew every feature of the country, until we reached the
valley of the river Teme and the village of Brampton Brian, close to
which rose the Castle of Robert de Harley, who, with his men-at-arms,
had marched towards Hereford. The village was now occupied by our men
and the archers of Wigmore. This would not long be the case, as Robin
had information that the Welsh army had advanced by two routes, the
one by the valley of the Teme to Knighton, the other from Denbigh by
the great Offa's dyke. They had joined forces at Knighton, and were to
march to Brampton, and thence by Pedwardine on Wigmore.

When the sun rose, it shone upon our little army gathered upon the
platform of the camp of Cockswall Knoll, and below which flows the
river Teme. It was here the noble Briton Caractacus made his last
stand against the legions of Rome. Surrounded by strong entrenchments,
but with no precipices or crags, we led our horses to the summit, and
when there the horsemen and archers were kept well back upon the
platform. I accompanied Robin to a terrace cut along the brow of the
hill, and here we lay down flat, looking upon the lovely valley below.
It was now filled with the dark masses of the Welsh army, the advanced
columns of which had just reached the village of Brampton. The front
corps consisted of spearmen on foot, while in the rear were some three
hundred mounted soldiers, with here and there a knight in full armour,
and officers clad in leather jerkins with steel caps on their heads.

Robin now whispered to me his plan, which was to allow them to pass
through Brampton, and then to attack the rear in the village by the
church. He then took command of the archers, leaving me to lead the
mounted men, and no sooner had the last Welsh troops passed by
Cockswall Knoll, than he led the archers down the slopes of the hill
through the thick underwood.

The rear of the Welshmen had passed below the church of Brampton, when
a flight of arrows from Robin's archers carried death and destruction
into the midst of a troop of horsemen with whom was a tall knight,
from whose armour the arrows glanced as if from a stone effigy. He
turned, and with his lance at rest looked for some enemy to charge,
but the active archers had already sheltered among the trees, and we
horsemen had not yet reached the bottom of the hill.

Loud shouts of treachery now rose from the Welshmen; the rearguard
turned back to face the onslaught, and again a flight of arrows
emptied many a seat, while the horses galloped madly about the narrow
lanes, carrying confusion everywhere. Robin now occupied the
churchyard with his men, and the whole Welsh force turned back in aid
of their attacked rear. In overwhelming numbers they rushed towards
the churchyard but to meet a flight of arrows, and at a signal from
Robin the archers were back again under the protection of the wooded
knoll.

It was now time for me to act, and, calling upon my riders to follow
me, we charged down the village lane, in which the knight in armour
was gallantly endeavouring to rally his men, but could hardly move in
the crush without trampling down some of his own followers. Throwing
down his lance, he advanced upon me with his long sword, but the
"Robin swing" unhorsed him and he fell heavily.

In the meantime the Welsh borderers from the forest of Radnor and
Kington had attacked the van ahead of us, and again the shouts and
oaths of battle rent the air. In the narrow trackways it was only now
and then that our riders could act and charge, but Robin and his
archers seemed everywhere, and I could hear his long, keen, bugle
blast now in the woods and thickets, and now in some copse, from which
his men poured their arrows on the flanks of the Welsh forces. Nor did
the Welsh forget their wonted bravery. They rushed upon their unseen
foes into the churchyard and up the knoll, but only to meet death from
the unerring shafts. With wild and terrible clamour, the whole army
had now turned back, and closed in tumultuous throng round the village
of Brampton Brian. Again and again we attacked them with our little
body of horsemen, but some billmen threw themselves under our horses,
and I had soon lost a dozen of our best troopers, while several fought
on foot, having had their horses killed under them. I now saw that it
was useless continuing this unequal strife, so, shouting to my
dismounted men to ride behind their companions, we fought our way foot
by foot out of the throng, and made for the village of Leintwardine,
which had been appointed for our rendezvous and retreat. Soon
afterwards the Archer joined us there, having lost only ten of his
men, while the Radnor troops who attacked the van had retired towards
Wigmore, Jasper Tudor having had a narrow escape of being taken
prisoner. Our point had been gained, the whole Welsh army was now in
full retreat to Knighton.

We now left the village, which in the morning we found in peace and
tranquillity, and in the evening was crowded with the dead and dying.
The moon had arisen as we rode into the village of Wigmore, and lit up
the standard of York and Mortimer as it floated high above the keep of
the noble castle.

Being well-nigh exhausted, I did not awake until after cock-crowing
next morning. Robin had already looked to the horses and their riders,
and was conversing with a scout who had arrived from Knighton, full of
the rage of Jasper Tudor at the retreat of the whole army, owing to
the ambush and attack of a few hundred men. His father, Owen Tudor,
was with the horsemen of the rearguard, and had been dismounted, so
that it was his charger Robin rode back to Wigmore.

It was now the intention of Jasper Tudor to await fresh forces from
Clun, and then march upon Hereford, without attempting to besiege the
Castle of Wigmore, hoping to crush Duke Edward before he could receive
aid from the Earl of Warwick.

We found the gracious Duchess had already heard of our success the day
before, and we received her dignified congratulations. She then gave
us communications she had received from her son, Duke Edward, who had
intended first marching to Ludlow, but, from the tidings he had
received from our advanced outposts, was now determined to march to
meet the Welsh army. He had sent word to the troops under my father,
Sire John de Guyse, Sire Herbert of Crofts, Sire Howell Powell, and
other leaders, to join their forces with his on the line of the
trackway between Kington and Leominster; and he left to his trusty
follower, Robin of Elsdune, to organise, as he best could, a force at
Wigmore, which might hang upon the rear of the Welsh army as they
advanced from Knighton and Clun.

Two whole days we now passed within the Castle, during which we
collected a considerable number of veteran dependents of the house of
Mortimer, who had seen many a bloody field, but whose bows and spears
had been laid against their cottage walls, as if their days of
adventure were over. But these hours of leisure soon passed away, and
a messenger arrived from Duke Edward's camp on Kingsland Field to
inform us that he should await there the onset of the Welsh, while a
scout from Knighton brought the tidings that Jasper Tudor had this
time led his army by Presteine. His army was calculated at over twelve
thousand men, but a large proportion were badly armed, and but few
armour-bearing knights in the field.

In less than an hour the archers and men-at-arms of Wigmore were
assembled in the great courtyard, when the Duchess herself bade us
God-speed. Leaving a sufficient garrison for the Castle, we were soon
in full march for Avemestry, the village whither my father and the
Lord of Crofts had marched the day we arrived at Wigmore. It was
nearly dark when we reached this village, and learnt that all the
troops collected there had moved to Kingsland, where Duke Edward had
set up his standard, surrounded by his whole army, with the exception
of our reserves.

The dawn of the morning of Candlemas Day (1461) aroused us from our
rough quarters in the village of Avemestry, and before the sun had
risen we had marshalled our troops. I then rode for the camp of Duke
Edward, to communicate to him our exact position with three hundred
good men and true, and the arrival of the Welsh army on the hills of
Shobdon. As I rode forward on a sturdy pony, with "Roan Roland" led
behind me, the fog cleared from the valley, and the gloom was passing
into a morning's twilight, indicating the rising of the sun. Suddenly
a wailing voice rose among the hills, and a noise as of people
stamping came through the air; my companion said it was the "creening
of the Welsh," and, on listening to the mysterious sounds more
attentively, I heard distinctly the warlike notes of the Welsh march I
had heard on the harp in the great hall of Hergest.

The sun rose as I rode upon the field of Kingsland, when a magnificent
sight met my astonished eyes. At the eastern extremity rose the
pavilion of Duke Edward, above which waved the Plantagenet banner, and
on the right and left were the tents of the knights and gentlemen who
were now gathered together in front, while a flourish of trumpets
announced that the Duke and his retinue were now sounding to horse.
Duke Edward was arrayed in splendid armour, across which hung a rich
golden baldric studded with silver roses. Behind him were two heralds,
and pursuivants clad in their peculiar livery.

In front of the pavilions were drawn up in battle array some 6,000
foot and archers, all armed with bows or cross-bows, and pikes, or
short double-edged swords, while troops of horsemen galloped across
the field. Among the various groups I recognised the flags and devices
of many esquires and gentlemen who led their vassals and tenants in
this quarrel. Here floated the Swan of De Guyse, and my heart beat
when I saw on the far left the red Talbot of De Brute. On the right
was the Dolphin of Howell, and the devices of Scudamore, Baskerville,
Bromwich, and many others.

Sire John de Guyse rode by the side of the Duke, and his dark
complexion and deeply marked features were a strong contrast to the
fair face of the distinguished youth, who looked as much a king's son
as the other a tried warrior.

The Duke's quick and stern eye, for no one had a sterner eye in
battle, glanced towards me as I rode up on the gallop. He gave me a
look of recognition and approbation, while he bid me wait until he had
discussed some points in question with the knights around him.

The chivalrous spirit of Duke Edward urged him to challenge Jasper
Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, to the ordeal of personal combat, to be
waged first with the lance or battle-axe, and afterwards with swords
and daggers, until the death of one or other of the combatants. None
of the knights to whom he referred encouraged the idea, as, whoever
might gain the victory, battle between the forces, now so near to each
other, would be certain to ensue. The Duke was not to be persuaded, so
it was determined that I should carry his challenge, accompanied by
one of the heralds.

The heads of the Welsh columns were now seen advancing on the western
side of the great plain; they displayed a few banners, and as there
was little doubt that the Earl of Pembroke led the van, the Duke
commanded me to lose not a moment, but to ride with the herald bearing
a white flag, and to give his solemn challenge to deadly combat. The
herald rode in front, displaying the white banner, and I followed,
riding slowly across the plain, passing several corps of men-at-arms,
until we reached a knight cased in bright steel armour void of
ornament, with the exception of a collar of the order of St. David of
Wales. His herald displayed the banner of the Earl of Pembroke. The
knight's visor was up, and he had a dark sullen look and a swarthy
complexion. On his left hand rode an elderly knight with visor up,
whose good-humoured expression contrasted forcibly with the stern
bearing of Lord Pembroke; his helmet was bruised and dinted, and
behind him rode a pursuivant with the banner of the Tudors. The face
was that of one who had been extremely handsome in his youth, and
indeed it was that face and form which had attracted Catherine of
France, the widowed Queen of Henry V.

I had little time for observing more, as the Earl of Pembroke rode
forward to receive the message from Duke Edward of York. On the
herald's proclaiming the challenge to mortal combat, first by sounding
his trumpet, and then in a loud voice, I rode up and threw a mailed
glove of the Duke's in front of the charger of Jasper Tudor. His
pursuivant was about to raise it from the ground, when the Earl
shouted to him to let it lie, and said in response, "Return, Sir
Esquire and Sir Herald, to your master, and say that Jasper Tudor
declines to meet a beardless boy with sword and lance. Such questions
are not to be settled by the death of babes or infants, but by the
valour of bearded men. It were better for him to return to the care of
his mother until mayhap we drag him thence to answer for being in arms
as a traitor to our Lord the King!"

Enraged at this want of courtesy to my noble master, I said something
about the fall of knighthood and of honour, when I was told by a
knight near at hand to ride back from whence I came, and bear a civil
tongue lest perhaps I might return with cropped ears and a slit tongue
to them that sent me. I turned to hurl an angry defiance in the teeth
of the speaker, when I saw, underneath a bassinet or steel cap which
had no visor, the heavy features and sinister countenance of Sire
Andrew Trollop. Shaking my gloved fist in his face and shouting
"Traitor!" I gave the spur to "Roan Roland," not a moment too soon,
for at a loud signal of this treacherous knight a shower of arrows
followed me, and my days would have been numbered but for the good
shirt of mail I wore beneath a leather jerkin. Fortunately my horse
was uninjured, and the herald was untouched.

Duke Edward received the reply from the herald, given in somewhat
modified terms, in silent contempt, but he was much exasperated at the
traitorous and un-knightly attack upon his esquire.

The sun had now risen above a dark bank of clouds, which stretched
across the eastern sky, and we witnessed a strange appearance in the
heavens, which I have never seen before or since. Some say it was a
"delusion" caused by the clouds, others say it was a "miracle," but
the sun rose as three separate suns, each as large as the other, and
so continued for the space of half-an-hour. The appearance was hailed
by the shouts of our assembled army, also by the loud cries of the
Welsh forces, who were still marching on to the western plain.

How little had I realised the scenes on a field of battle! I had
imagined that we should shoot flights of arrows and advance pikes, and
charge with knights and mailed men on war-horses, and cut and slash,
and wield our battle-axes, and the battle would be won; but the field
of Kingsland was obstinately contested from sunrise to sunset, and
every yard of ground was fought for, for hours together.

It was a slow, surging, struggle for life and death, varied by
occasional charges of horsemen and knights as the leaders thought fit,
and I have ever thought that, had it not been for the clear head and
splendid qualities, as a general, of the youth the Earl of Pembroke
sneered at as an "infant," the battle would have been lost by us.
Although Duke Edward evinced great personal courage whenever there was
a sign of the troops giving way, he remained standing for an hour at a
time, giving directions through his esquires, and watching the
movement of every corps. At the close of that long and eventful day he
exposed his life again and again in terrific charges into the very
thickest of the Welsh forces. Neither did he ride his war-horse during
the earlier part of the day, but galloped to and fro on a stout
palfrey to various parts of the battle-field, directing attacks or
repelling the onset of the ever-advancing Welsh, who at one time
nearly surrounded us; nor was I, or the other esquires, engaged in the
mêlée for some hours, not until towards the close of this great
struggle, as we were engaged in carrying messages and rallying the
weary; neither did I ride "Roan Roland", or he would have expired from
sheer exhaustion before the fight was over. He was led, like the
Duke's charger, behind the great pavilion, and I rode across the field
again and again, on a stout Welsh pony, till he was killed under me,
and then I ran or walked until I caught another, there being no lack
of steeds without riders.

It all seems to me now as a misty dream, of trumpets sounding, of
shouts of men raving and dying, of horses and riders charging and
being overthrown, of archers shooting and bows clanging, of pikemen
thrusting, and falling in heaps of slain, of a hell let loose upon
earth, and of being utterly worn out with weariness at the end.

During the whole of this long day, I never once saw my beloved father;
he had been sent by Duke Edward to bring up the left wing half-a-mile
to the left of the pavilion, whereas my duties kept me continually
engaged on the right. I rode twice into the village of Avemestry, and
the last time I had to climb the crest of the hill above to take a
message to Robin of Elsdune, to keep our reserves hidden until strict
orders from the Duke himself, or, if he was killed, from Sire John de
Guyse. Indeed, it was the reserve led on by Robin that won the battle
for us at last.

It was well-nigh four o'clock on that Candlemas evening that fresh
Welsh troops poured down from the hills of Shobdon along the Kington
trackway. The principal struggle was near a small stream, which
traverses the Kingsland plain, where hundreds of the forces of both
sides had fallen. Here was Sire Hugh Calverley killed, and many a
Welsh knight and gentleman on the side of the Lancastrians, and here
was taken prisoner Owen Tudor himself. Here lay Baskerville of
Erdisley, Roger Kitel of Pendyke, and Howell of Pengethly, among heaps
of slain, and here were still fighting De Guyse, Herbert of Crofts,
and others, with the numbers of their men-at-arms sadly diminished,
and many utterly exhausted with their long and apparently useless
efforts.

Duke Edward bade me now gallop to Avemestry and order Robin to advance
with his reserves of fresh and unexhausted men, and to attack the
Welsh on their left rear, and this time I rode "Roan Roland." Brave as
they were, the Welsh could not withstand this final charge. The
advancing archers of Wigmore poured flight after flight of arrows upon
men who had not an arrow left. Then came the pikemen with their sturdy
thrusts, and the charge of the horsemen with sword and battle-axe.

The scene was now terrific! Duke Edward ordered the whole lines of
horse and foot to advance for a last and final struggle; and across
the stream, over dead and dying, the English forces advanced, amidst
the roar of the conflict, and the stentorian shouts of Robin's troops.
It was now that Duke Edward charged with his band of knights and
gentlemen, and I saw him gallop into the midst of the throng, and
fight his way towards the standard of Jasper Tudor, shouting his war-
cry of "A York! a York!" man after man falling under his battleaxe,
and the weight of his barbed steed.

Many of the Welsh, though in dense throngs, were borne to the earth by
the barbed horses, others were hewn down by the mailed riders, while
some actually clung round the legs of the horses, and stabbed them in
their bellies with daggers or knives.

The combat was thus raging, when I saw Duke Edward's horse totter and
reel, and shouting "De Brute to the rescue!" in a few moments I was in
the midst of the fight around the Welsh standard. Man to man was now
the combat; no cry for quarter, and in a short time a frightful
carnage ensued. Of the scenes enacted, and of my own share in them, I
remember very little. I only know that, when it was over, I found
myself well-nigh exhausted, with my battle-axe broken, and my left
hand grasping a mace which turned out to be that of the Earl of
Pembroke. I then saw Duke Edward standing close by me, having been
dragged from underneath his dying horse. I heard him say, "The day is
ours! they fly!" and bidding me kneel there among the heaps of the
slain, he laid his sword gently across my shoulders, and said, "Rise
up, Sire Hildebrande de Brute, you have saved my life a second time."

But the combat was not yet over. Duke Edward mounted a fresh horse,
and again dashed amongst the retreating Welshmen, shouting to me to
follow him; but it was not easy to do so, for noble Roland had seen
his last field, and there was no horse near. I therefore joined a band
of archers, and followed with them on the track of the retreating
Welsh. Again they turned at bay at a place called Kinsham dingle, and
fought like bull-dogs of the staunchest breed. I was thoroughly
exhausted when I came upon a stream of water, and having taken off my
steel morion and laid aside my battle-axe, I knelt down to drink.
Before I could rise, I saw Sire Andrew Trollop, who had hidden in the
bushes of the dingle, rush forward from behind an oak. I felt that it
was all over me, and, commending myself to God, I threw up my hand
with the steel bonnet, to protect my head. I remember no more save
that my eyes gave forth sparks of fire, as I sank beneath the coward's
blow.



Chapter 11.


AFTER THE BATTLE--"IVVAN IVVANS"--CHANGES AT HOME--LORD
EDWARD, KING OF ENGLAND--SIRE JOHN CARFAX OF CASTLEMERETON--BESSIE
KITEL AND SIRE JOHN.



When sense and memory returned, I found myself lying in a small room,
on a couch, on which shone the blessed light of the sun, and directly
in front of me, sitting at the foot of the bed, was the pale, wan face
of Mary Bolingbroke. On my attempting to rise, she pressed her
forefinger to her lips to indicate silence, and entreated me to lie
quiet, as my life depended on it. She then gave me a draught of some
potion, and I sank into a refreshing sleep with the happy
consciousness that I was tended by friends.

In due time I was allowed to sit up awhile, and ask questions, when I
learned that I was at Elsdune; that I had been rescued in Kinsham
Dingle by Robin and Tom of Gulley's End, and that, although apparently
dying, the former insisted upon having me borne upon a litter to his
own home, and, although himself wounded, had never left the litter
side until he had seen me safe under the care of Mary and his sister
Deborah.

My first inquiry was for tidings of my father, who, through all that
fierce day on the field of Kingsland, I had never once seen, as he was
engaged on the extreme left, and I was continually on the right and in
the centre, as esquire to Duke Edward. I had no sooner asked the
question than I saw from the expression of Mary's face and the little
sob she could not control, that my father was dead.

For some time I relapsed into unconsciousness, and remember little
save a pressure at my heart and a choking in my throat, for my father
had ever been to me as a loving elder brother and beloved friend.

Then succeeded a kind of dream, and I was back with him in memory
fishing together in the old moat at home, or rambling over hill and
glen among the Malverns, or listening to his wise words under the
shade of the elms, or by his side in the panelled chamber among the
scrips and parchments, and I longed once more to hear his kindly
voice, and to say to him, "Bless me, oh my father!" when there came
across my mind the numbing, certain feeling that I should never hear
that voice again, and I remembered the Shadow of the Ragged Stone as I
beheld it with Rosamond, hanging over our home.

The relation of personal sorrow, and a tedious illness, have but
little interest to others, so I shall merely say that, after a long
struggle between life and death, I recovered sufficiently to sit at
the window, when I knew by the cawing of the rooks, and the song of
the storm-cock and the blackbirds, that spring was about to renew the
buds and flowers, and that the long nights of winter were passing
away.

Sire Robin of Elsdune--for he, too, had been knighted on the battle-
field--still wore his right arm in a sling, was my constant companion,
at least as much as Mary Bolingbroke would allow him, and never tired
in showing the many kindnesses the sick and weary-hearted can best
appreciate.

My first inquiry, now I had again rallied, was for Rosamond; what
brought her to Hergest; where was she during the battle; what had
become of her, and where was Master Vaughan, whose pennon I had seen
flying at the great struggle round the standard of the Tudors?

Mary Bolingbroke then reminded me that Master Vaughan had married the
only sister of Mistress Berew, which I had forgotten, if indeed I ever
knew it, for old Master Berew being a Lollard and Master Vaughan a
strict Catholic, they had not met for years.

The Master of Hergest was a widower and childless, and from time to
time inquired after his niece's welfare and the way in which she was
brought up. Hearing of the rallying of the Yorkists at Gloucester, he
expected raids and plunderings would take place between the contending
forces in that neighbourhood, and so judged that Berew would be no
safe place for a young and motherless girl. He therefore undertook the
journey, and persuaded Master Berew to allow Rosamond to pass some
time at Hergest, which, situated as it is in the wilds of Radnorshire,
he little expected would be so near the scene of battle.

During the battle of Mortimer's Cross, Rosamond was in safety in Clun
Castle, and her uncle had escaped after the defeat, but whither no one
knew, for neither he nor Rosamond had returned as yet to Hergest,
which had been well searched by riders from Wigmore as the stronghold
of a bitter Lancastrian. Indeed, it was through Robin's influence that
it was not committed to the flames.

Neither had Master Vaughan's prospects improved. The great battle of
Towton had been fought, and Duke Edward had ridden royally into
Westminster, followed by an immense train of people shouting "Long
live King Edward!"

The hopes of the Lancastrians seemed shattered for ever; Henry of
Lancaster was a fugitive somewhere in the wilds of Yorkshire, and
Margaret of Anjou and her son Prince Edward were wanderers with large
sums offered for their apprehension.

After a time I was enabled to stroll about among the woods of Elsdune
and Lynhales, and to admire the grand scenery of the valley of the
Wye, the mountains of Brecon and Hay, and the hills of Kenderchurch,
Tibberton, and Foxley, as they rose in the noble panorama in front of
Robin's home. On the right rose the vans of Brecon capped with snow,
and below the dark headland of the Black Mountains were the castle and
village of Hay. Near to Hay is Clifford Castle, once the home of "Ye
fair Rosamond." Then nearer to us and in the vale rose the great Keep
of Erdisley, the home of the Baskervilles, and bordering on the Cummy
moors, the haunt of wild cattle and big boars. Just opposite we see
the Keep of Almeley, and in the distant vale the ever-winding Wye.
Neither was I uninterested in his fish stores, and devices for keeping
the trout and grayling in waters ponded for piscatoria. Tame stags
would eat from Deborah's hands, and near were woods where Mary
Bolingbroke could wander without fear or hindrance, the forests of
Kingswood and Lynhales.

Eisdune, the old grange where Robin was born, is an unpretending
dwelling, but right comfortable withal, and furnished with many modern
luxuries, which the master had introduced through his long
associations with the Mortimers. If the modest hall was small, it was
hung around with valuable trophies of the Archer's skill, and the bed
furniture of the dormitories was of the best. Nowhere were there such
pillows of goose-down and such mattresses of bog myrtle or bed straw
as those of Mistress Deborah. Nowhere were there such salted junk and
deer's flesh, or such confections and preserves of honey.

But the days passed by, and I was most anxious to return to
Birtsmereton, knowing how my widowed mother was affected by my
father's death, and how she had been prevented by dire sickness from
attending upon me her only child. But health and strength will not
return as we wish it, and my head had been so badly injured that all
at Elsdune insisted on my remaining a little longer.

Again I was most anxious to learn something of what had happened to
Rosamond, and if possible to find out where she had taken refuge with
Master Vaughan, and persuade them both to return home with me to
Worcestershire, which was now far safer than the borders of
Radnorshire, where hundreds of fugitive soldiery were prowling like
hunted wolves in the forests.

As soon, therefore, as I could mount a horse, I determined to ride
over to Hergest and try if I could not learn, by the aid of some
silver pieces, somewhat about the location of Master Vaughan and his
niece. Mary Bolingbroke insisted upon accompanying me, as also did our
friend Robin. Indeed, this was necessary, in order that the Welsh
domestics might be interrogated in their own language.

On our arrival at the great Grange we found all deserted with the
exception of one old gardener, Evan Evans, or as he called himself,
"Ivvan Ivvans," who was plodding among the herbs in the garden.
Wonderful to say, he could speak English, so while Robin and Mary went
to some of the tenants' houses hard by to make inquiries respecting
the master, I remained with "Ivvan," resting on the steps of the sun-
dial and enjoying the spring sunshine in the front of the quadrangle.

While talking to him about the fair visitor who had some time since
ridden away with his master, I closely scanned the windows of the
apartments which opened into the quadrangle, but nowhere did I
recognise the crenelle belonging to the chamber where I had passed
that terrible night with the dog "Vulcan" lying dead under the arm-
chair.

I then changed the subject from "Hergest apples" and "Mortimer
pippins" to the subject of dogs, and inquired if "Ivvans" ever
accompanied his master to the chase, and if they still possessed the
breed of the celebrated Hergest boar-hounds.

The word boar-hound was enough! The old man grounded his prong, and,
shaking his head, said, "Better not talk, sir, about the Hergest
tykes, or you may see one of them suner nor you loikes." I then told
him that a well-known bull-dog of the neighbourhood which had followed
me had died in one of the bed chambers under very peculiar
circumstances. Here the old man gave a low whistle, and raising
himself up said, "It would have been odd if he hadn't." Then he looked
about him tremulously as if he had said too much.

I encouraged him to go on, when, peering into the gorse thickets which
came up close to the quadrangle as if he expected some apparition
among them, he pointed to a narrow crenelle half hidden by ivy, and
said, "Is it there ye slept?" I replied that was about the position as
far as I could tell; when he muttered, "Then it's not much sleep ye
had, for that's the Black Dog's room, and the room in which his master
died." I tried with all my powers of elocution, backed by a piece of
silver, to extract more of the history from the old gardener, but he
only peered nervously into the glades around, and then, resuming his
prong and digging, said, in a low tone, "The less said the suner
mended."

Robin and Mary Bolingbroke now returned from their investigation among
the franklins and tenantry, but they had learned little save that
Master Vaughan, accompanied by his niece, had been seen taking the
road from Clun Castle to Abbey Cwm Hir, which had already been the
sanctuary of many of the unfortunate refugees among the defeated
Lancastrians; so we had to return without learning more of her in whom
my happiness was now more than ever concentrated.

On our arrival at Elsdune we all rejoiced again to see the face of
Hasting, who had ridden over with letters from my mother and brought
with him the home tidings. Also we learnt that the Houses of
Parliament had declared King Edward's right by descent to the throne
of England, and had passed a bill of attainder against the expelled
King Henry and his queen Margaret, Prince Edward, the Duke of
Somerset, the Earls of Pembroke and Exeter, Master Vaughan's great
friend and ally the Earl of Oxford, with many other lords, knights,
and esquires, amongst whom was Master Vaughan himself; but an amnesty
was granted to all others who would acknowledge King Edward and remain
quietly at their homes, and to these he promised to be "a very right
wise and loving lord."

The accounts Hasting gave of our own neighbourhood were somewhat
alarming. Roger Kitel had been killed at the battle of Mortimer's
Cross, and Bessie was now a forlorn damsel at the old Keep at Pendyke.
Bromwich of Broomsbarrow was found dead by the side of Sire Hugh
Calverley, as if they had struck down each other, and my friend and
companion, now Sire Roger, lay in a wounded condition and precarious
state at Branshill Castle, whither he had been lately borne in a
litter from Hereford. Old Master Berew, too, was very sick.

He reported the country around Ledbury and Malvern as being in a most
unsettled condition, for roving bands of marauders had sought shelter
in the forests of Wyre and Malvern Chase, and although houses well
defended by moats, and such like barriers, had hitherto been safe, the
homes and barns of many franklins had been invaded, and many gross
robberies committed. Nor was it only these roving marauders that were
to be feared! Certain knights and barons had proved to be as lawless
as the worst outlaws, and report said that on several occasions the
wives and daughters of yeomen and franklins had been carried off to
their keeps and castles and their surrender refused until they were
ransomed by corn, cattle, or money.

E'en the inhabitants of our own Chase had shown unusual lawlessness.
The squatters in the dense woods round the Church and Keep of
Castlemereton had long been notorious for their poaching propensities
and love of deer's meat, and were nominally under the surveillance of
Sire John Carfax of Castlemereton Keep and Castle; but of late there
were rumours of depredations of unusual character, and it was these
squatters who were believed to be the night attackers of Master
Lachmere's grange on the banks of the Severn by the red ford.

I now determined to return home without delay, and Robin declared that
he also should leave to attend the King at Windsor, so we were both
soon occupied in making the necessary preparations for our departure.
I owed a deep debt of gratitude both to Mary Bolingbroke and Deb for
their kindly nursing, and did not part without exacting a promise of a
visit to our home below the Malverns.

Having partaken of the stirrup-cup from the hands of Deb, we were soon
on the road to Hereford, all well armed, and two sumpter horses, right
well burthened with our packs and baggage, followed with their riders.

We had ridden as far as the great cross on the Hay and Weobley
trackways, some furlongs from Hereford, and which was erected in
memory of a market held there during the plague of the Black Death,
when we saw a tall woman, with her face shrouded in her hood, trying
to comfort a youth of nine or ten years of age, who had injured his
foot with the sharp stones, and was weeping as his mother bound it
with fresh leaves from the road-side.

On accosting them, I at once perceived that they belonged to the
gentle classes, and that the lady had a dignified and commanding
presence. She said that they were religious recluses journeying from
the ecclesiastical house at Sugwas to the sanctuary of the White
Friars at Hereford, when they met with this accident. We surmised,
too, that it was most probable they were some unfortunate Lancastrians
reduced to destitution by these miserable wars; so, without further
questioning, we insisted on their mounting our horses and our seeing
them safe to their destination at the White Friars.

The lady thanked us, but evidently did not wish to expose her
features, and kept her hood closely veiled; but the boy soon recovered
his spirits and chatted gaily as I walked by the side of the horse,
although without saying who they were or whence they came.

The sanctuary of the White Friars lay the other side the town of
Hereford, close to the bridge across the Wye, and it was here that
Owen Tudor and eight other Lancastrians of rank had been buried after
they had been beheaded in the market-place by the orders King Edward.

Before we arrived at the gate the lady asked me if knew Master Vaughan
of Hergest, as they were in search of him. On my replying in the
affirmative, and telling her he was a proscribed Lancastrian and a
price set on his head, she relapsed into silence and said no more
until she entered the Sanctuary, on giving a letter to the friar at
the entrance, when she thanked us heartily for our attention and
courtesy to those who had been brought low by these troublous times.

We now proceeded to the ancient hostelrie of George and the Dragon,
the resort of many a weary pilgrim to the shrine of St. Ethelbert and
famous for its good stabling. While our horses were being fed and
groomed, I amused myself by looking through the lattice at the market
stalls, for it was market day, and the country people filled the
streets and were engaged sale and barter with the inhabitants of the
town.

Right opposite was a stall with Welsh hosen exposed for sale, and
around it were country yokels and men-at-arms, some wearing the
liveries of the House of Mortimer and York and others those of the
Earl of Warwick.

In the midst of this crowd was the tall form of a pilgrim enveloped in
the usual long cloak worn by such travellers, and wearing an enormous
slouched hat which dropped over the face so as to hide it very
effectually from the passer-by. In the hat was the scallop shell, and
the pilgrim carried a stout staff, which he leaned upon while calmly
surveying the manners of the mob. I should not have seen his face but
that I threw open, somewhat suddenly, the lattice window through which
I was looking, when the man turned and looked sharply behind him. Our
eyes met, and I could not mistake the furtive glance and peculiar
expression of my bitter enemy Sire Andrew Trollop. Shouting to Robin,
who was engaged arranging his baggage, I made at once for the open
street, but some delay occurred before we reached the stall, and
Trollop had disappeared down one of the numerous alleys.

At Ledbury I parted with my friend Robin, with promises to meet again
as soon as possible, and rode with Hasting by Branshill and the
Malverns. The sun was setting as we crossed the pass of the Holly
Bush, and I once more beheld the grey tower of our church rising from
among the trees of the Chase below; but what changes had occurred
since I last looked upon that scene! The Shadow had fallen indeed! We
neither of us spoke, and a blinding mist filled my eyes as we rode in
silence down the Glen of Berew.

I shall not attempt to describe the meeting with my mother! Suffice it
to say that, before the night came on, we two were kneeling together
by a little mound of earth, now green with the May grass, in the old
churchyard.

When I awoke the next morning, it was difficult to realise that I was
a belted knight and the master of the house, with all the various
duties of life before me, and yet only twenty-one years of age.

My time was now occupied in the different business of country property
and a country life, and enclosing from the forest sundry grants of
land which Hasting and myself had received from the King for our
services at Mortimer's Cross. This land we now call The Rye.

I rode frequently to Branshill, and found that Roger Calverley had
been obliged to submit to the loss of his right arm, and was in
consequence sadly depressed and out of heart. There was still no news
of Rosamond Berew, and all that we could learn from Elsdune respecting
her uncle was that the soldiers from Wigmore were set to watch for his
return. I was most anxious and fretful.

News arrived from Robin, at the Court at Windsor, that King Edward had
been crowned at Westminster, and had reversed the attainders of the
Duke of Somerset, our friend Calverley, and Sire Andrew Trollop, who
had obtained pardon through some court dame on the understanding that
he never appeared in the presence of the King; but there was no
reversal for Master Vaughan.

In the meantime our near neighbour Sire John Carfax, of Castlemereton
Keep, who had a remarkable aptitude of veering with the wind, had
become a staunch Yorkist. In his younger days he had been an equerry
of Queen Margaret of Anjou, and was then a pronounced if not a bold
Lancastrian. Now he had arrived at the opinion that Henry of Lancaster
was only fitted to be a monk. One day, when riding with Bessie Kitel
by his keep towards the hills, we saw the gallant knight feeding his
pigeons, and gave him "good-day!"

Sire John had never been known to commit his person to the jeopardy of
a field of battle. Having received the grant of the keep and lands of
Castlemereton from King Henry, he was most anxious to keep them,
whoever ruled, as well as sundry glades which he had annexed from the
Chase at Welland without any authority or deed of gift. He was
somewhat undersized, with red hair and a pasty complexion, not lovely
to look upon, and as an equerry about the Court of Queen Margaret he
had contracted the habit of making promises which, like other
courtiers, he never had any intention of fulfilling. So notorious had
he become for this habit that "a Carfax" was understood to mean
something you would never obtain. Thus he had not been ten minutes in
conversation with Bessie before he had promised her a fox, a brood of
chickens, a tame squirrel, with several pots of raspberry comfits. He
much admired my principal charger "Kingsland," and talked of a bridle
with silver trappings he should like to send for my acceptance. But
Bessie never saw the comfits nor I the bridle.

With Sire John was a very different man, his friend and neighbour
Master Marten, whose father some said was a Jew. At all events he had
made money, and left his son the possessor of large money-bags. He was
a handsome gentleman with a Jewish cast of countenance, but with large
benevolent eyes indicating his character. Simple-minded himself, he
believed all Sire John told him, and had taken a small house up the
Castlemereton stream, where he devoted most of his time to his garden,
his flowers, his birds, and his bees. He had laid out much money on
Sire John's property, and fitted up his little dwelling after the
fashion of our manor-houses with a small moat, a drawbridge, and
terraces, and with the finest garden in all the Chase.

Sire John gave us a pressing invitation to visit his keep, which I was
about to decline, when an expressive glance from Bessie told me she
would enjoy the fun. I had not been inside this keep since I was a
boy, for although so near us, my father never affected Sire John's
company, but we now rode up and dismounted. It stands just below the
old Norman church, and is rather the "domus defensabilis" of Domesday
than a castle. It is defended on the north and east by a moat, and on
the west and south by a wall and strong palisades, while the so-called
castle is merely a strong Norman keep.

The court-yard within the moat and palisades is of goodly size, and
the keep stands on a mound above it. The interior is quaint, ancient,
and somewhat comfortless. Ascending the steps there is no reception
hall, but a series of small chambers in flats one above another, which
are reached by a narrow spiral stone staircase. It is impossible to go
over these old Norman strongholds without perceiving how much more
civilized and comfortable are our modern manor-houses, but some say
that such buildings were well adapted to the robbers who lived in
them, and who constantly harried the Saxon granges and villages within
their reach.

Sire John Carfax was very attentive to Bessie, now the mistress of
Kitel Keep and the owner of certain lands in Pendyke. But Bessie was a
loyal lass, and even wore the red rose on her boddice notwithstanding
the white rose was now in the ascendant. She was not to be bribed by
Sire John's honey pots to change her colours as he had done, and was
more interested in the conversation of Master Martin and the gardens
of Italy which he had visited, than in the attentions of the gallant
knight.

Like all ladies she was wild upon seeing the dungeon, the most dismal
place possible, for it lay beneath the floors of the lower chambers,
and Sire John hesitated in complying with the request, but Bessie
insisted upon the old warder conducting her down the ladder to the
filthy hole.

It was a large square chamber, the walls of which were cut deep with
the initials of some unfortunates, who from time to time had been
imprisoned, and who must have been well nurtured and well bred from
the fact of thus carving these writings. Bessie soon had enough of
exploring dungeons, and we were glad to regain the chambers above.

Thanking the knight for his hospitality we rode away, past the church
with its Norman porch and apse, while Bessie, who was a good Catholic,
crossed herself before the statue of the Virgin, which faces the
trackway on the western side of the tower. As she strongly affected
churches she now begged of me to take her to see the extensive
buildings now being carried on by Prior Alcock, at Little Malvern, a
very learned and pious man, and who afterwards became a bishop and the
instructor of King Edward's princely sons.

I now proposed to ride to the "Wind's Point," where the trackway to
Ledbury crosses the Malverns, and on the left of which rises that
great Caer which tradition says was held by the British chief
Caractacus against the Roman general Ostorius.

We left our horses at the little hostelrie on the pass, and then
ascended the Caer, as the day was bright and sunny, and Bessie loved a
noble view as well as I did.

But it was not the Caer of Caractacus, or the hunting grounds of the
Conqueror, or Gloucester, once the court of kings, that Bessie and I
had in our minds. As yet we had neither of us alluded to the battle-
field of Mortimer's Cross, but as the sun lit up the hills of Radnor
forest and wooded eminences of Shobdon away beyond the tall spire of
Hereford Cathedral, I could point out to my friend and companion where
lay the field of Kingsland, where her father and mine died for the
house of Mortimer, and from whence Roger Calverley and I were borne
two stricken and half-dying men.

We gazed in silence, until, remembering that I had not seen my wounded
friend at Branshill Castle for several days, I proposed that we should
ride on to enquire how he bore himself after the loss of his right
arm, and his other injuries.

From that moment Bessie's secret was no secret, at least to me. I now
understood fully why she ever wore red roses, and why Henry of
Lancaster was a right royal King. I had suspected, but now I knew it!
Bessie's face was mantling with blushes, and her eyes filling with
tears as she turned from my gaze. But "the distance was too far, she
was fatigued, and she must return as the hinds would be awaiting her
and she had forgotten to feed her tercel."

And all the while I felt certain that she would have walked to
Ledbury, or ridden to Hereford, to get one look at her stricken
knight, if she could have done so unawares and unseen, and I knew too
that this hungry tercel was his gift in happier days.

She now proposed to ride homeward alone, while I went to see
Calverley, and much pressed it, but those times were not nearly so
safe as they now are, for damosels to ride untended, so we went back
to the little hostelrie, where mine host was full of the noble
appearance of King Edward as he rode across the pass, at the head of
his army, after the great battle of Mortimer's Cross; how he enquired
the direction of Gloucester, Birtsmereton, and Hanley Castle in the
vale, and gave our informant a good broad piece of silver for pointing
them out.

We then mounted our steeds and rode down the gullet, skirting the pass
of the Swineyard, and by those thickets so well known for the haunts
of the stag and the wild boar, above the Hangman's Oak, and then a
sharp gallop across the forest glades led us by the glen of Berew to
the pilgrim's hostelrie, "The Duke of York." This hostelrie is the
only one dedicated to St. Julian in all our forest chase, and was a
pilgrims' inn before the times of Chaucer.

It was a forester's lodge in the times of the first and second
Edwards, and was frequented by the Red Earl and his son (who
afterwards fell at Bannockburn) when hunting among our wild woodlands.

The hostelrie lay on the trackway through the forest from the Severn
at Theocsbury to Hereford, and was frequented by the pilgrims who
visited the shrines of St. Ethelbert and St. Cantilupe. The first
tabard was put up at the time of the battle of Creçy, with the arms of
the Duke of Lancaster. When it became the property of my father, he
was careful for the good keeping of his inn, and placed there as
landlord one of our archers, "a man of goodly aspect, management, and
bearing," but he changed the arms on the tabard to those of Richard,
Duke of York.

In our time a traveller might be sure of a blazing fire of faggots on
a winter's night, cider of the sweetest, ale of the brightest, good
fat capons with hog's flesh bruised for gravy. Then the beds in the
niches were of the cleanest, and the pride of the host's wife, who
still showed the chamber where at times have slept the Earls de Clare.
Here too is a clock which tells the time of day like Master Chaucer's.

But not only is the hostelrie famous in our Chase. Here is the village
green, and trackway cross, and tallest maypole in all the country
side, the trysting place of the archers and villagers of many a
country parish for trials of quarter-staff or wrestling, and the
gentler sports of "club ball" and "hoodman's blind".

The most lusty bulls, the biggest badgers, and the most gallant cocks
ever appeared on our green, and in the days of Robin Hood our forest
chase was more famous for its bowmen than even in the days of my
youth.

Of late years archery had been neglected too much, and games were all
the fashion. Hence a prohibition had lately emanated from the Crown
against over-indulgence "in cock-fighting, tennis balls, kayles, closh
and half-bowls," and commanding magistrates "to seize and destroy
them, and make the people take to archery trials, and practise the
long and the cross-bow."

As we rode up to this village green, on which were a party of
villagers amusing themselves in various ways, Bessie told me how just
a year ago her gallant father had been judge of the sports, and how,
lest she should be thought too proud, she had joined in a game of
hood-man's blind.

King Edward endeavoured to gratify the loyalty of his followers by
gifts and grants of estates forfeited by the Lancastrians, and it was
only through the influence of Sire Robin of Elsdune that I was enabled
to preserve to Roger Calverley the domain and castle of Branshill.

Hundreds of Yorkists were seeking for titles, estates, places, or rich
wives, and some of them were so doubtful in their loyalty that if it
was not in the King's power to give what they wanted they would turn
Lancastrians at very short notice, especially when rumours arose that
the powerful Louis of France was raising a great army to support the
deposed King.

Sire John Carfax, who ever sailed with the tide, had in the mean time
sent to Court a petition for the grant of some land of the Calverleys'
which lay up the Gullet Pass on our side of the Malverns, and the only
claim to which was that after the battle of Towton he had all his red
roses superseded by white, and now never alluded to the time when he
was equerry to Queen Margaret. Having become a decided supporter of
the House of York, he was especially active in denouncing any one in
our neighbourhood who was or had been an adherent to the House of
Lancaster. A charge of disloyalty in those times was no easy matter to
set aside; it was so serious that I more than once entreated Bessie
Kitel to give up persistently wearing a red rose worked on her boddice
in the presence of such men as Sire John.

But Sire John had other plans for Bessie. If he thought it would be
advantageous to add the lands of Kitel Keep in Pendyke to his own, he
also thought it would be pleasant to take to wife the fairest and
bonniest damsel in all our forest chase.

Truly Bessie was not clerkly learned, but she could read Master
Chaucer with help from Rosamond, and she had practised enough in
writing to trace "Elizabeth Kitel" on a scrip; but neither was Sire
John learned, for he always went to the monks of Little Malvern to
indite the humblest missive he wished to send. Thus the letters which
sometimes came to Kitel Keep were not indited by Sire John in aught
but the concluding signature of "Geon Carfaks."

Potels of honey and such small offerings now rained upon Bessie, and a
day seldom passed that the gallant knight did not ride through the
woodlands to Kitel Keep, to enquire how the lone damosel bore herself,
and to inspect the snug barn, the kine and the sheep, the cocks and
hens, and the dovecot, all of which would make a considerable addition
to the somewhat wild and uncultivated manor of Castlemereton.

But Bessie never gave him any encouragement, although she could not
always refuse his white doves and other blandishments. When the visits
became over importunate she would take refuge with my mother, until at
last Sire John began visiting mother also, who was far too hospitable
to show him an averted face, especially as he came loaded with
promises, and frequently bore in his knightly hands conserves of
honied raspberries, and baskets of dried pippins.

As I was seldom at home during these pippin visits, I had little
opportunity of observing how he sped in his wooing, save that I had
heard it whispered that one of our wenches had seen him on his knees
before Bessie in the church porch, and he arose brushing his buskins
and wiping his eyes.

I was now becoming more and more distressed at the continued absence
of Rosamond, not only on my own account but for the sake of her
grandfather, who was rapidly failing, with no one but Silent John to
attend him, save the serving women and my good mother, whose health
since my father's death had become delicate. I did what I could to
help John, but men even with the best intentions are poor nurses, and
a sick bed without the care of a loving woman is a very sorry one.

The dying man's one call was for Rosamond, his "Rosie," as he called
her, but alas she came not, and death waits for no one. Master Berew
was rapidly sinking, and my mother declared that he had but a few days
to live. Still no Rosamond came, and at last her grandfather passed
quietly away and was laid in the peaceful churchyard beneath the hill
of Berew.



Chapter 12.


STRANGE VISITORS AT BIRTSMERETON--THE SNEEZE IN THE SECRET
CHAMBER--THE FLIGHT TO BRISTOL--CALVERLEY AND BESSIE.



The autumn of this eventful year (1461) had now arrived, and the
forest leaves were falling all around us; the ring ouzel had come from
the mountains to feed on the red berries of the mountain ash; and the
serving wenches had gone to the thickets to gather bramble berries for
winter conserves. Messenger after messenger was sent to Elsdune to
enquire whether there were tidings of Rosamond from Hergest, and Mary
Bolingbroke had continually questioned "Ivvan Ivvans," but nothing
transpired to afford us the least information of what had become of
her or Master Vaughan.

Night was coming on one gloomy October evening, the Malverns were
shrouded in mist, the rain was pattering among the falling leaves, and
the whole household was preparing to retire to rest, when we were
aroused by the blowing of the horn which hung against the gateway, and
which, when the drawbridge was up, summoned the warder to the
portcullis to see who demanded admittance and their business.
Wondering who had arrived, at this unusual hour, I proceeded myself to
the portcullis and found the warder parleying with a woman whose
garments were dripping with rain, and whose hood was so closely drawn
over her features that it was impossible to make out who she was. She
asked for admission to see my mother upon a matter of life and death,
and, obeying my orders, the gatekeeper at once lowered the drawbridge
and she entered the courtyard. I enquired what her wishes were, and
regretted that my mother was retired to her bed chamber, as she was
still an invalid and far from strong. Leading her into the house, she
threw back her hood, and to my utter astonishment revealed the
features of Rosamond Berew.

My first movement was to enfold her in my embrace, and the second to
hold her at arm's length and look upon a face I had yearned to see for
many a weary day. My mother hearing the unusual sounds of an arrival
at the drawbridge after it had been raised for the night, had returned
downstairs, and she, too, fondly embraced our long lost treasure. We
had, moreover, Rosamond's tale to listen to, and, as soon proved, a
good deal to prepare for.

It appeared that after placing Rosamond for safety at Clun Castle,
Master Vaughan led his followers to Knighton, where he joined the
Welsh forces under Jasper Tudor, and fought with them at the battle of
Mortimer's Cross. After the defeat, on Candlemas day, he feared for
the security of Clun Castle, and so removed with Rosamond for the
better refuge of Abbey Cwm Hir, the only monastic establishment in
Radnorshire, and so surrounded by wild mountains that escape was easy
if the Yorkists sent their armed men in search of fugitives. Rosamond
was placed under the care of a lady, a relative of the Vaughans, who
lived among the mountains, while Master Vaughan found shelter within
the walls of the monastery itself until the pursuit was over, at least
for a time.

Resolute and active as ever, Master Vaughan had led the few men he
could rally into Yorkshire, hoping to retrieve the losses the
Lancastrians had met with on the Welsh borders. Then came the field of
Towton, which, although it was fought at the end of March, began in
the midst of a terrible snow storm, and Master Vaughan found himself
again a fugitive, and lost among wild moors, with every chance of
being eventually taken prisoner.

Among those who saved themselves by flight were King Henry, Queen
Margaret, Prince Edward her son, and the Earls of Exeter and Oxford.
Even to the present time no one knew what had become of the
unfortunate Queen and her boy, but they were supposed to have crossed
the borders to Scotland. In his wanderings Master Vaughan had fallen
in with the Countess of Oxford and her young son, who were hidden in a
small house in Pontefract, and after many adventures and hairbreadth
escapes succeeded in conveying both mother and son safe to the
sanctuary of Abbey Cwm Hir. Here and at the home of his relation,
Mistress Fowler, among the Penmelly mountains, the persecuted
Lancastrians found, for several months, a secure hiding place; but of
late their safety had been compromised by the appearance of riders at
Abbey Cwm Hir bearing King Edward's royal warrant for the arrest of
all those mentioned in the bill of attainder, and in this bill were
particularly reported the Earl of Oxford, his son, though a mere boy,
and Master Vaughan.

Perhaps the most extraordinary part of Rosamond's revelation was the
fact that Sire Andrew Trollop, having obtained the reversal of his
attainder, was now endeavouring to curry favour with the Court by
turning spy and informer, and appeared at Abbey Cwm Hir, evidently for
the purpose of tracking those denounced and endeavouring to effect
their arrest.

Under these circumstances Master Vaughan had left Radnorshire with the
Countess, her son, and Rosamond, and determined to escape if possible
to France. But this was not easy to do, and for several days they had
been wandering among the woods and villages of Herefordshire, avoiding
the principal towns, and sheltering at night where best they could.
Rosamond's knowledge of the country was greatly in their favour, and
for some days they had avoided a party of soldiers at Ledbury by
taking up their abode at a small hostelrie in the village of Woolhope,
a wild district in the centre of the forest of Haughwood. Here they
might have remained, in safety, but Master Vaughan was anxious to go
to Bristol and see about a vessel wherein they might escape to the
Continent. It was therefore resolved that he should find his way as
best he could; and that, in the mean time, Rosamond should conduct the
Countess and her son to our manor-house as being more defensible and
less likely to be searched than Master Berew's. Their only means of
conveyance was one wretched Welsh pony between them, and to avoid
Ledbury they had to make a circuit by the remote village of Marcle.
Here they met with a great fright, for in a narrow trackway they were
passed by a party of horsemen bearing the pennon of the Mortimers and
making for the castle there, but who fortunately took no notice of
them save telling them to stand out of the way. On they plodded
through the thick copses below Haffield Camp, when in crossing the
Gloucester trackway they again heard the rattling armour of troops and
the sound of the clarion, so Rosamond determined upon abandoning the
pony and striking through the woodlands for the almost impenetrable
recesses of the Howling Heath above Broomsbarrow. Here, cowering in a
quarry, surrounded by dense gorse and thicket but sheltered by an oak,
she left the noble lady and her boy while she walked on, half dead
with fatigue and terror, to beg an asylum from my mother and myself
for a few days for a worn-out woman, whose only fault was that she was
the wife of one of King Edward's enemies, and was accompanied by her
proscribed son.

Insisting that Rosamond should go to bed immediately, I started for
the Howling Heath, taking with me a party of men bearing a litter,
whereon the unfortunate Countess might be carried, and a palfrey for
her son.

On arriving at the quarry in the thickets was a scene I shall never
forget. On the mossy roots of a giant oak sat the lady, her head bowed
over the face of her son, who was lying at full length upon the cold
ground, his head resting on his mother's knees, while a moon
flickering through dark clouds showed dresses soiled with mire and
torn with thorns. At my approach the Countess rose to her feet, and I
could see that she was of commanding stature and of dignified mien.
The boy, too, bore himself with courage, and laid his hand upon the
small dagger which was attached to his girdle, as he sprang from the
turf and stepped before his mother.

I reassured them by saying, "I bring you good tidings, lady; Rosamond
Berew is safe at that home to which I would, by your leave, conduct
you."

"Home," sighed the lady, "alas! when shall we reach home again!
Nevertheless, good Sir, if you are the trusty friend of Rosamond
Berew, we cannot do better than seek your hospitality and succour, for
we are stricken deer, well-nigh hunted unto death."

We lost no time in parleying, so leading them through the thickets to
the bottom of the hill, where I had left the litter and the palfrey,
we crossed the flanks of the Chase End and proceeded by the Hawthorns
homewards. It was now past midnight, and notwithstanding her fatigue
Rosamond had insisted upon assisting my mother in her preparations for
our unhappy but distinguished guests.

I now had an opportunity of seeing distinctly the features of the
Countess of Oxford. I thought I had seen them before, as she was
carried by the light of the moon. There was a foreign accent, too, in
her speech, which struck me as peculiar, and which I had heard on
another occasion. I could now doubt no longer! This was the lady and
the youth we had conducted to the White Friars at Hereford! Seated in
the great armchair by the chimney, in the panelled room, her face pale
with sorrow and wasted by suffering, there was yet an expression of
pride and energy which bespoke a man's courage beneath a woman's form.
Beautiful she undoubtedly was, but it was the beauty of a Boadicea or
a Clytemnestra! The youth was a boy of promise. He might have been
expected to have quailed with all he had undergone, as he could not
have been more than ten years old, but on the contrary, in aspect and
mien he looked far older than his years, and young as he was displayed
a most chivalrous attention to his mother.

Having replaced their wet and soiled garments in the best way we
could, and seeing them, after they had partaken of refreshments, to
their chambers, I went forth so as to meet the serving men, as they
came at dawn of morning to their daily work, and make arrangements
that no one approached the manor without due information, giving
orders that the drawbridge was not to be lowered without my especial
command. Neither the Countess nor her son ventured to leave the house
across the drawbridge; nor did I encourage their doing so, as I did
not care to be compromised with King Edward through harbouring
fugitives so especially proscribed.

Before many days had passed away, Master Vaughan made his appearance
before the drawbridge disguised as a Bristol woolstapler, all his
love-locks shorn off, and accompanied by a serving man, who led a
couple of strong horses for the purpose of carrying wool bales from
Birtsmereton to Bristol, and which I need hardly say were imaginary
altogether.

I told him that I thought he was running more risk than our guests,
for I could not believe that so gallant a knight as King Edward would
wreak his vengeance upon women and children.

Master Vaughan replied that the executions after the battle of Towton
had been most vindictive; that Edward had only just removed the heads
of his own father and young brother from the spikes above the gate of
York; and that the son of the Earl of Oxford would be safer across the
seas, while his mother would rather die than be parted from him. He
had made arrangements with the captain of a Bristol trader to sail for
France as soon as he could escort them across the country in safety,
where they would all remain in refuge until happier times.

He also told me that no time should be lost, as it was quite true that
the double traitor Trollop had sought immunity by volunteering to
bring in proscribed fugitives, and that he was the leader of a party
of riders who were sent into Radnorshire and Herefordshire for the
express purpose of arresting King Henry, who was believed to have
escaped to Wales, Queen Margaret and the Prince, and the families of
such as Exeter and Oxford. One difficulty Master Vaughan feared, and
this was the passage of the Severn at Gloucester. He had reason to
believe that the bridge there and the fords above and below were well
watched by spies, and I therefore undertook to ride over and see our
old friend Master Walred, and obtain through him a safe passage across
the bridge, and through the town, for my friend the Bristol
woolstapler, his wife and son, without being subjected to the
unnecessary scrutiny of the sentinels.

After making every arrangement possible for the safety and comfort of
our guests, and giving Hasting strict injunctions to watch well for
any indications of spies, I started early in the morning for
Gloucester. I had not ridden farther than the green near the church of
Berew when I fell in with Sire John Carfax, accompanied by a couple of
strange riders who wore the livery of the House of York. He stopped me
at once with the information that he was engaged in the service of
King Edward in endeavouring to arrest some of the most malignant of
his enemies who had been traced as far as Marcle, and were supposed to
have taken refuge in Malvern Chase; also that a large sum was offered
for their capture. He thought it possible that they might be secreted
in the little monastery of Pendyke, which he intended to search
thoroughly, and was on his way with the men-at-arms for that purpose.
Sire Andrew Trollop, he said, was closely searching the castle of
Branshill and the woods in that direction. After giving him a hint to
search Gadbury Camp, its thickets, the Grange of Hasfield, the lodge
at Fordington, and the Grange at Eastington, I rode as fast as I could
for Gloucester.

It was no easy matter to arrange, even with the aid of Master Walred,
for the safe passage through the city. It took me the whole of the
day, and night came on before I was able to return. Still by the aid
of friends at the Castle, and well paying the warders, I settled that
Master ap Rice, the Welsh woolstapler, and his family, should be
allowed to pass through without let or hindrance, especially as I
undertook to bear them company.

On my return home I found that my mother had received a visit from
some most unwelcome visitors, and that she and Rosamond had been put
to their wits' end to protect our guests. Early in the afternoon Sire
John Carfax, accompanied by a strange knight and a number of soldiers,
rode to the barbican and demanded admission to see me or Mistress de
Brute without delay.

On Hasting holding a parley with them he declined to let down the
drawbridge until he had received orders from my mother. In the
meantime Rosamond had surveyed the party through the crenelles of the
gate-house and at once recognized Sire Andrew Trollop as the leader of
the soldiers. What was to be done? It was hardly likely that suspicion
could fall upon me of harbouring King Edward's enemies, as I was well
known to be devoted to his cause. Still the knights requested a
personal interview, and a refusal would be almost unprecedented, as
the troops were undoubtedly those of the King, and led by his
officers. There was only one thing to be done! The drawbridge must be
lowered, Sire John Carfax and Trollop admitted, and the Countess, her
son, and Master Vaughan must be shut up in the secret chamber. It
would be close quarters, but nothing was left for it. They might
insist on searching the house with the King's warrant, and no other
place was safe!

My mother touched the spring of the secret door, and an a moment all
three were safely ensconced within the narrow space which was to be
their refuge in this dilemma.

There is no doubt that Trollop had ascertained from Sire John that I
was absent from home, or even his impudence would hardly have induced
him to face me, after what had happened, in my own home. As it was he
entered, with his usual pompous bearing and self-assertion, and,
having seated himself, at my mother's invitation, stared at Rosamond
and informed them that he had come in the name of his Majesty King
Edward to demand my aid and assistance in searching the Chase, around
our district, for certain malignant rebels supposed to be harboured by
other malignants and abettors. With this he exhibited a parchment roll
signed by the King's own hand.

My mother replied that I was absent from home and would not return
before night, and that she had no doubt I would pay every attention to
his Majesty' commands.

Fortunately Sire John had directed Trollop's attention to the shields
and armorial bearings above the panels, and they were examining the
devices of Vaughan, and Blount of Eye, when Bessie Kitel entered
looking like a damask rose, and made her curtsey to the assembled
party. She at once saw something was wrong, and therefore proceeded to
assist Rosamond in entertaining the guest while my mother attended to
the spicing of the hippocras with mints and honey.

Bessie had never seen Trollop, and had little idea that she was making
herself agreeable to my most bitter enemy. Sire John was as usual
profuse in his attention, but the beauty was too indignant at a man
who could easily turn his tunic inside out, to receive those
attentions with anything but disdain. Indeed, Rosamond told me
afterwards that she could not help laughing at the expression of Sire
John's puckered countenance when Bessie pointed to the shield of
Baskerville and asked if it was not that of a "very perfect, gentle
knight, full of truth and honour, and faithful unto death." After
examining the azures and gules of the armorial devices, Sire John
proceeded to compliment my mother on the size of her ducks, and
Trollop was evidently examining the room with curiosity, when the
young Lord in the secret chamber gave a violent sneeze, so sharp
indeed that it startled every one. Rosamond, with a woman's aptitude,
at once rushed to the casement, and said, "There is Tom fallen into
the moat; we must help him or he will be drowned!"

Every one of course rushed forth to assist in rescuing Tom; but the
drawbridge was up again, and by the time they had gone half round the
moat, and reached the spot where he was supposed to have tumbled in,
Thomas had disappeared, with no more, according to Rosamond's theory,
than a good fright and a wetting. After this the knights took their
departure, much to the relief of our entire household, for nobody
liked Sire John, and sneezing in the secret chamber was dangerous in
such company. On my return at night the Countess begged that there
should be no unnecessary delay with respect to their journey to
Bristol, for she had heard Sire John's peculiar squeaking voice
through the panels, and recognised it at once as that of one of Queen
Margaret's court attendants in former years. "It was a voice she would
know anywhere," and "the voice of one who loved to espouse the winning
cause." "She feared the chance of meeting him, as he would recognise
her at once."

It was therefore determined that we should proceed to Bristol at
midnight; there was a moon, and it would be well to pass through
Gloucester before daylight. I particularly wished Rosamond to remain
with my mother, but her uncle pressed her not to desert the Countess
in this her emergency. "She had been of immense service to her and her
young son, he therefore entreated her to assist him in seeing them
safe across the Channel."

"It did not," he said, "involve any great self-sacrifice. She was
safe, and there was no charge of rebellion against her. The captain of
the vessel was his friend, and would undertake to see her safe to
Bristol, where I could meet her, and this in the course of a few
weeks."

All this Master Vaughan urged, and to his entreaties the young Lord
added his beseechings, while the Countess looked imploringly but said
little.

So it was settled that Rosamond should bear them company for a few
weeks, although it was much against my desire, and I could not lay
aside the dismal forebodings which would cross my mind, at such an
adventurous proposal on the part of her uncle. Had I known the
objection he had, as a Catholic, to his niece marrying one of my
opinions, and his determination if possible to prevent it, Rosamond
would never have yielded to his importunity, and we should have both
been spared some years of anxiety and sorrow.

The journey to Bristol was performed without much fatigue or danger,
owing to the precautions I had taken at Gloucester and those already
made by Master Vaughan at Bristol. I accompanied the vessel down the
river Avon and told Rosamond that preparations would be made for our
marriage early in the ensuing year. There was no necessity for our
longer delay. She had lost her aged grandfather, and Silent John and
Master Vaughan were her only near relations, and both would be glad to
see her comfortably settled! She made no objection save that "we were
both very young and my mother thought we had better wait awhile,"
objections which I merely laughed at and thought most ridiculous.

But the time came when I was summoned by the captain to go ashore if I
would not be carried with her to the shores of France; and so I had to
say farewell, bitterly regretting, now, I had not made arrangements to
accompany her on this chivalrous journey for the sake of those who
differed from us in everything we believed to be right and true.

The Countess expressed her gratitude for all we had done in behalf of
herself and son, and promised to take as much care of Rosamond as if
she was her own child, until an early opportunity occurred for her
return. Master Vaughan said little and appeared to take it all as a
matter of course, treating all we had done, and all Rosamond's
devotion to the care of these noble refugees for months, as if we were
highly honoured by the opportunity. I confess I was irate at his
coolness and self-sufficiency, making an inward declaration that when
we were married Master Vaughan should never again compromise us with
rebels, even if it were Queen Margaret herself and her royal son.

I pressed Rosamond to my heart in the little cabin which had been
prepared for the reception of the Countess, and who had the good taste
to remain on deck during our last interview. The last I saw of her
beloved form, for some long, weary years, was standing on the poop of
the vessel, her hand in that of the youth, and side by side with
Master Vaughan and the Countess of Oxford. I had a long ride before me
and not a pleasant one! Owing to circumstances I could not control, my
betrothed wife was borne away to a foreign land, and for the sake of
those who were really neither more nor less than our born enemies.

On my return home, I found that Sire Andrew Trollop and his men had
gone northwards to the forest of Wyre in pursuit of fugitive
Lancastrians, and that sire John Carfax was as anxious as ever to gain
the favour of King Edward by denouncing the wounded Calverley, who was
crippled for life at Branshill Castle.

Having heard reports of this cowardly proceeding, I intended to ride
over and see my wounded friend, when one morning he made his
appearance riding down the avenue towards the Manor-house. He was
still much crippled, and could only proceed at a foot's pace and was
attended by his forester, who often had to guide his palfrey down the
steep paths, a sadly different fashion from that of the daring
horseman, who was accustomed to gallop down the Gullet or dash into
the Severn by Wainlode. Assisting him to dismount, I conducted him to
the house where my mother and Bessie Kitel were consulting together on
household arrangements. We entered the room suddenly, and without
preparation, and as this was the first time Bessie and Calverley had
met since the battle of Mortimer's Cross, it was a trying ordeal for
both.

All Bessie's roses fled at the sight of the tottering invalid and
crippled man she now beheld, instead of the hale and noble looking
fellow we once knew him. She sat pale and motionless with her eyes
fixed on him, and an expression and twitching about the lips which
made me fear she would become hysterical and cry aloud with sorrow.
Calverley was calm, composed, and manly, and paid his personal devoirs
to my mother right gallantly. But when he turned to Bessie it was with
a kind of hopeless manner, as if to say, "I am no longer a fit
companion for the young, and blithe, and brave, but a broken down man
whose lot it is to face what is left of life alone." "You won't find
me pressing my company upon those who should choose their associates
from the healthy and the uninjured. We have ridden our last ride
together."

Bessie somewhat recovered herself, and muttered some indistinct
expressions about his recovery, but she was so occupied in checking an
outburst of tears, that her manner was constrained and cold, and she
did not appear to sympathise as heartily as she should with so old a
friend and neighbour. So Calverley was cold also, and haughty withal,
and soon ceased addressing her to talk to me on the business which
brought him over. We left the room to walk in the garden by the moat,
when he took his leave, refusing my pressing invitation to return for
refreshments. My heart ached for the brave fellow, knowing how
bitterly he must feel the ruin of all his ambitious hopes as a knight
and a soldier.

On returning to the room in which I had left my mother and Bessie, my
mother asked me to leave them, but not before I had seen Bessie lying
like a statue in her arms. I went forth wondering if Roger Calverley
intended to separate himself, through pride, from the girl who, I felt
sure, would love him unto death.

Months passed by, and King Edward appeared to be so firmly established
on the throne that we all hoped the curse of civil war had passed
away. Rosamond wrote, but it was in a constrained manner, and there
was evidently something she wished to tell me, but thought it
inexpedient to commit to parchment that which she had to entrust to
the Lancastrian captain of the Bristol ship. Nor did she say when she
hoped to return, and already I was mourning for her absence.

Bessie Kitel seldom came to Birtsmereton after that interview with her
lover, and looked pale and harassed, no longer the ever smiling lass
of our happier hunting days. She passed much time, too, with the old
Sub-prior of Pendyke learning to read and write, clerkly
accomplishments which she had hitherto much neglected. So we thought
she would become a nun! I now had determined to appeal myself to King
Edward respecting the attainder of Calverley; when one evening an
armed knight attended by his esquire rode up to the barbican, and I at
once recognized the bronzed fine face of Robin of Elsdune.



Chapter 13.


KING EDWARD AT WINDSOR--MISTRESS ELIZABETH GREY--GRAFTON
GRANGE-ST. FOOLS DAY--OUTLAWS IN MALVERN CHASE--CALVERLEY IN SORE
STRAITS--MARY BOLINGBROKE AFTER THE HERBS ON THE MALVERNS.



Right glad was I to welcome my trusted friend once more, and well did
we regard each other with that gladsome look which none can mistake
when old and dear friends meet in uncertain times and circumstances.

Robin avoided ornament in dress, but the uniform of the "Archers of
the Guard" was so rich and handsome, that it set off his figure to
great advantage, while the calm and steady bearing, and the gentle
though determined look, was as unchanged as ever. His demeanour to my
mother was that of one who might have been bred in a Court but without
that affectation which spoils the gentleman.

Our greetings over, Robin presented me with a letter written with King
Edward's own hand, offering me a commission in his army higher than I
had any right to expect, and commanding my immediate return with Robin
to Windsor, that I might make myself acquainted with the duties of my
post.

I now learnt that Margaret of Anjou and her son, after a long hiding,
had escaped to France, where she was endeavouring to incite Louis XI.
and the Duke of Brittany to espouse her cause, and in the name of King
Henry offered Calais to the cautious and cunning Louis. Henry of
Lancaster had been conveyed to one of the strongest castles in Wales,
and King Edward seemed securely seated on the throne, with the great
Earl of Warwick as his adviser, minister, and general, while the
Lancastrians were too crushed to rise in fresh revolt.

I begged of Robin to give me a couple of days to make my preparations
for attendance upon the Kings, when I promised to return with him to
Windsor.

In the mean time I related to him all that had occurred through
Trollop's appointment over the soldiers who were charged with the
arrest of fugitive Lancastrians, his impudence at coming to my own
house in my absence, and the intimacy he had of late struck up with my
nearest neighbour, Sire John Carfax.

Nor was this all! The succession of Edward to the throne had done
nothing as yet to remove the disorders of the times, and restrain the
lawless violence of petty barons and needy knights. Complaints had
already reached our neighbourhood of the despoiling of houses by the
men under this very Trollop, and of many insolent exactions, in the
name of the Crown, not only from Lancastrians, but from those who
throughout had favoured the House of York.

This conversation had hardly taken place before Hasting informed me
that Sire Andrew Trollop was now staying at Castlemereton with Sire
John Carfax, and that both of late had been seen examining the
defences of Branshill Castle from the hills above. So convinced was I
of this man's treacherous disposition, that this announcement caused
me some alarm. I knew his hatred of myself, and his persistent
endeavours to injure me. Yet here he was again lurking in our
immediate neighbourhood, and just as I was leaving home for an
indefinite period! I almost felt inclined to send my excuses to
Windsor, at least for a time, but Robin assured me Trollop would not
dare to undertake any conspiracy against one so much a favourite with
King Edward, while a personal representation of the lawlessness
committed in remote districts would be most advantageous to us all.

Before I left Birtsmereton, I took the precaution of leaving my mother
in charge of Hasting, telling him to look well to the drawbridge and
defences, and to strengthen our little band of archers with some hinds
who were good bowmen, and who could come each night to sleep within
the walls. I also wrote to Calverley, informing him that the quondam
Yorkist, Trollop, who turned Lancastrian at Ludlow, and nearly killed
me at Kingsland field, was now Yorkist again, and on a visit to Sire
John Carfax at Castlemereton; so I begged of him, through his
foresters and woodmen, to keep an eye on them both, and if he
perceived the slightest trace of any plot to injure his yeomen and
franklins, or mine, to spare no trouble or expense in sending to me at
Windsor. I also entreated Bessie, for my sake, to return to
Birtsmereton nightly to sleep, even if she passed most of the day at
her own farm.

We were now enabled to pass a long evening together, and Robin had
some opportunity of judging of the superior attainments and education
of Bessie. It was pleasant to listen to her as she talked of Master
Chaucer, or Master Lydgate, and the poem of Piers Plowman. She could
now read, and could quote Chaucer from memory, and she was venturesome
enough to promise to write to me at Windsor, though I laughingly
declared that the Sub-prior of Pendyke would hold the pen. My mother
was ever busy with her tapestry and listening to our rattle, while she
watched me with a look of deep affection, and glanced at Robin from
time to time as if she would judge with her own eyes if he were
faithful and true.

The times of which I write were not as these peaceful times of Henry
VII., but so full of danger were they that one's heart must needs be
heavy at parting with those near and dear. So my mother wept as she
folded me in her arms, and tears filled the eyes of Bessie. She too
gave me her kiss at parting, and I felt that she was in sad and secret
trouble for her wounded knight across the hill, who had left her
without saying one kind word, or giving her one kind look. She sobbed
out something about "bringing back a sound heart," even if I returned
"with a wounded body," and as I kissed her forehead I whispered, "All
will yet come right; the fiercest storm will pass away, and God will
give us sunshine." So Bessie smilled amidst her tears, as if a vision
of happier times had come before he, and that there should yet be
gladness at Kitel Keep. Robin, having made his salutations, was
becoming impatient, so we rode away, my horses following under the
charge of Tom of Gulley's End, and we crossed the drawbridge on the
road to very different scenes, and very different company.

A steady ride for two days across the flat wide country on the summit
of the Cotswolds, then by the beautiful Thames at Maidenhead, brought
us to the noble Castle of Windsor, first founded by Norman kings, then
the favourite home of several of the Plantagenets, and the birthplace
of the gallant Edward III. The royal banner floated over the great
Keep, and numerous men-at-arms and sentries paced to and fro on the
battlemented walls.

King Edward was in the great Horncourt, engaged with the stout Earl
Warwick in examining some war steeds.

He then wore no gown or flowing surcoat, the effeminate garb of
courtiers in times of peace, but the tight fitting tunic, which became
him well, and showed the splendid symmetry of his powerful frame. His
voice, too, rung like the trumpet accents I had heard upon Kingsland
field, as he shouted to riders and steeds as they were going through
their paces. When we rode up with the mud and stain of travel, he came
forward and gave us both a cordial welcome. He then spoke of us to the
Earl of Warwick, who, stately as the King himself, smiled and bid us
welcome, saying I had made a good beginning on the field of Kingsland.
Seeing that we required refreshment, King Edward commended me to the
care of Sire Robin, to rest awhile, and commanding me, in some three
hours, again to seek his presence in the Winchester tower.

I was astonished at the magnificence of the Castle, which was
originally a mere hunting seat of the Conqueror, and the grand
buildings of which (a hundred years before) De Wyckham was the
architect, and Edward III. the king. Twelve glaziers had employed
their skill on the new buildings and collected vast quantities of
glass. The Keep, built on a vast artificial mound, and surrounded by a
deep moat in the centre of the Castle, is a noble object, and the view
from the summit commands the windings of the river Thames, the wild
forest, the green glades therein, the nestling hamlets, and, in the
eastern distance, the great city of London.

Quarters had been prepared for us in one of the Norman towers which
had been spared when Edward III. built the present magnificent fabric.
In one of the chambers, tradition reports that Queen Eleanor, the
consort of King Edward I., gave birth to one of her children, and that
King John occupied another during his contest with the Barons. It
might have been so, but they seemed to me cold apartments for kings
and queens.

Robin then conducted me to a great dining hall, where courtiers and
officers were engaged in the necessary occupation of eating and
drinking. Of the refection itself the least said the better. There was
indeed abundance, enormous masses of beef and mutton, and whole
barrels of ale stood at the end of the hall. The contrast to the well-
cooked capons and delicious meats, conserves, and sotelties of my
mother's own making at our Manor was very great, and not conducive to
appetite. But a soldier is ever accustomed to rough living, and I
mention this for the instruction of my daughters, who, as good
housewives, may thus learn that the meats at a king's table may be
badly served, and that a gentleman with a good housewife is better off
than a king with bad cooks.

In these early days of King Edward's reign, the Court, whether at
Windsor or in London, was of very different character to the later
period, and after his marriage with Dame Elizabeth Gray. It was now
more like an armed camp, and had not yet become the haunt of men who
should have been women, and women who should have been men.

When I entered into the presence of the King he was holding council
with the Earl of Warwick and other lords. He had that fire in his eye
and pride of mien, which ever distinguished him when war or danger was
imminent, entirely different from his manner in times of peace and
luxury, and later on, alas, of sensuality. His quick eye caught my
entrance, and he motioned to me to remain stationary while he listened
to those nobles who were privileged to speak and express their opinion
on the subjects of debate.

The topic now discussed was the presence of Margaret of Anjou at the
court of Philip, Duke of Burgundy, who had so long been the ally of
the Lancastrians, and who had sworn solemnly to support Henry of
Lancaster. With her was the Duke of Exeter, Lord Oxford, De Breze, and
other proscribed exiles, while the Duke of Somerset was in England,
and, in spite of his recent submission and pardon, was suspected of
being in correspondence with the Queen.

When the council broke up, the King came to me with that frank
courtesy which won for him so many hearts, especially those of women,
and giving me his hand, bade me welcome as an old and tried friend. He
then bade me tell him all my experiences since we last met, of the
death of my father on Kingsland field, my own escape from Sire Andrew
Trollop, and my subsequent illness.

"By my halidome, Sire Hildebrande," said he, "if I had known that
Trollop had been the man who thus struck you down, I never would have
signed the release of his attainder. It went hard with me to do it,
after his chase of myself in your Malvern forests, but his sister wept
and moaned, and I am ever too easily persuaded by the sighs of a fair
damosel. However, Sire Andrew Trollop had better mind his future
conduct, and he never enters my presence as long as I am King of
England."

About this time Edward fell desperately in love with the beautiful
Elizabeth Gray, who was the daughter of Jacquetta of Luxemburgh, the
widow of that great Duke of Bedford, who was once Regent of France.
After the Duke's death, the Duchess married Sire Richard Widville, who
was known for his learning and association with learned men.

The King kept this amour a secret even from Robin and myself, though
we suspected from his frequent absence on secret expeditions that
there was a woman in the case.

Early one morning, in the month of March (1464), the Earl of Warwick
entered the antechamber of the King's apartments in the Winchester
tower, where I was engaged in studying the models of some arquebusses
and culverins, and thinking that our archery would ere long be
superseded by these wonderful machines for war. The "stout Earl" had
little sympathy with the gallantry which could induce a monarch to
ride from Windsor to Grafton Regis to visit a fair lady. He asked
bluntly for the King, and his countenance changed when I said that he
had ridden the previous evening, attended only by a single esquire,
for the Duchess of Bedford's manor of Grafton.

"Then do you mount and ride to Grafton too, Sire Hildebrande," said
he, "and tell King Edward that this is no time to listen to the lute
of Dame Elizabeth Gray. Tell him that his bitter enemy, Margaret of
Anjou, is again in arms; that Somerset has thrown off the mask, and
has marched with a large force to join Percy in the north; that the
army of the Lancastrians is again in the field and his crown in
jeopardy, while he is going through love passages at Grafton. Nay," he
continued, "say nought of this foolery of amours, but entreat of him
to lose not a moment in showing himself, what he can be, if he likes,
one of the most gallant soldiers and ablest captains of the age. Say
also, that I will, at once, send troops under the command of my noble
brother, the Lord Montague, to prevent, if possible, the junction of
the forces of Somerset with those of Percy and Sire Ralph Gray, for if
these once join, the Lancastrians may yet reinstate the pious Henry at
Windsor or the Tower of London. Even now," he continued, "I should
like to take it on myself to bid Sire Robin and you march northward
with your archers to join Lord Montague, but I may not deprive the
King of his body-guard without consulting him. By St. George, these
women are the ruin of kings. Ride, Sire Hildebrande, for the honour of
our King and the safety of his crown!"

I was not long in preparing for this ride of nearly forty miles,
across the whole of Buckinghamshire, to Grafton Regis, on the borders
of Northampton. I mounted "Kingsland," and accompanied by the faithful
Tom, as my esquire, we first drew bridle for a short delay at
Wendover, among the chalk of the Chiltern hills, the birthplace of
that great historian, Roger of Wendover, who wrote a chronicle from
the creation of the world to the reign of Henry II.

When we arrived at Stoney Stratford, I felt sure that the King must be
more than usually enamoured to have journeyed so far across such a
country, by trackways so deep in mud and through such dense woodlands.

Grafton Grange was then but a mean place for the residence of so great
a lady, once the wife of the Regent of France; but it was much
improved in later years, when Sire Richard became Earl Rivers, and
when his son, the Lord of Scales, succeeded to the honours and estates
of his father. It was somewhat larger than our moated grange at
Birtsmereton, but wanted our beautiful oaks, our avenues of elms, and
our fish pools; above all it wanted our Malvern hills and wooded
glades, although there was more than enough of dense forest around the
Manor-house.

On our arrival late in the afternoon we rode up on our tired and mud-
bedraggled horses as King Edward and Dame Elizabeth Gray were
ascending the stone steps to the mansion. It was evident that they had
been engaged in gathering the earliest flowers of spring, as the King
carried in his hand a large bunch of the nodding snowflake, primroses,
and the sweet white violet. He was annoyed at my sudden appearance,
but after conversing with me aside, he recognized the importance of
Earl Warwick's message, for turning to Dame Elizabeth, he said, "We
must ride to Windsor, fair lady, at tomorrow's dawn, and, in the mean
time, let me present to you my good esquire and faithful friend, Sire
Hildebrande de Brute."

The lady bowed her acknowledgments, and I had now for the first time
an opportunity of looking upon the form and face of her who was
destined to play so great a part in the future of King Edward, and of
England. Several years older than King Edward, and both a widow and a
mother, she did not look so, but with beautiful golden hair, blue
eyes, and complexion of the loveliest pink and white, she seemed the
very poesie of beauty.

At first sight I was entranced by this lovely vision, but a longer
acquaintance somewhat diminished her attractiveness to me, for there
was not a trace of the intellectual expression which so distinguished
her father, Sire Richard Widville. Her mind was fashioned like her
mother's, who was notorious afterwards for her superstitious
tamperings with the necromancies of Friar Bungay.

Having made myself presentable, I was right glad of the excellent
supper which awaited us, and at which I made the acquaintance of Sire
Richard and his son Anthony Widville, both of whom I found to be
learned men, and who contrasted most agreeably with the courtiers who
had lately been my associates at Windsor.

The King occupied himself the whole evening, as might have been
expected, with the ladies, but principally with Dame Elizabeth Gray.
It was not until late that he bid me attend him to his bedchamber, and
then it was, as I assisted him to undress and lay aside the numerous
ornaments he had worn, that he entered into the question of the rising
of the Lancastrians, and enquired particularly about the mood of the
Earl of Warwick.

He laughed heartily when I mentioned that he had thrown out hints
about neglecting business for love passages, saying that "the stout
Earl was cold as a stone as regarded beauty or the softer influences,
and was never happy save at the head of troops or in his seat at the
council chamber." He alluded to my conversation with Sire Richard
Widville, and laughingly said he hoped I had gathered instruction from
the wise heads of both father and son. He said not a word about Dame
Elizabeth Gray, or her mother, who, at the supper table, asked me "if
there were not many parlous witches on the Malvern hills," to which
the King replied that "they were as thick as hazel nuts in the groves
at Grafton." Once too, afterwards, she took me aside, and mysteriously
presented me with a small box of salve, a sovereign remedy for
heartburn, and was "ointment of the stars." It looked like hog's lard.

The King was in the saddle soon after daylight, though he lingered
awhile in the grey dawn of the morning with Dame Elizabeth Gray, who
somehow managed to be dressed ready to hand him the stirrup-cup.

We rode as rapidly as the road would permit, but the King did not seem
in the vein for conversation; he was moody and absent, and this was
not surprising, for he had promised, before he left Grafton, to
contract a private marriage, in a month's time, with Dame Elizabeth.
He was doubtless contemplating the effect this would have upon his
future, or whether it would, as it proved afterwards, affect the
stability of his crown. It was the first day of April, and we had
nearly reached Windsor, when he exclaimed, "By St. Fool, Sire
Hildebrande, it is 'All Fool's Day,' and I have forgotten to make you
look for a ghost behind you, or to send your Tom of the Gullet, as you
call him, on a fool's errand." The thought crossed my mind that
perchance he was himself returning from a fool's errand.

Once at Windsor, I expected that King Edward would be himself again,
and active as usual now the trumpet of war was sounded. We heard that
Henry of Lancaster had been released from his confinement in Wales,
and had joined the rebels under the Duke of Somerset, Sire Ralph Gray,
and Sire Richard Percy; but instead of putting himself at the head of
his army, and marching northwards, the King ordered Sire Robin to
march to the aid of Lord Montague, and himself remained at Windsor,
and commanded me to go to Doncaster. Again, early in the month, he
went off to Grafton.

On the 25th of April, Lord Montague defeated Percy at Hedgley Moor, in
Northumberland, scattering the forces of the rebels; thus the King
left this battle to be won by Lord Warwick's brother instead of
himself.

My orders were to remain at Doncaster with the archers of the guard
until the arrival of the King. I was therefore in a fever of
apprehension at this waste of time and opportunity, especially as
tidings came of a large muster of rebellious Lancastrians at Hexham,
in Northumberland. At last Edward reached Doncaster, but he was very
scantily attended, and we wanted more troops. He was also so ill that
he had to take to his bed, and a leech was sent for. Robin of Elsdune
was now sent on to the front with orders to join Lord Montague at
Wooler, while I remained with King Edward, never leaving him day or
night until he rallied.

But we missed the celebrated battle of Hexham (15 May, 1464), while
Lord Montague gained a complete victory over the Lancastrians, which
ended in the execution of the rebellious lords who were taken
prisoners.

When the King was recovering from his illness at Doncaster, he did me
the honour of taking me into his confidence, and telling me how, while
we had been so anxiously expecting him before the battle of Hexham, he
had contracted a private marriage with Dame Elizabeth Gray on the 1st
of May, and how he intended before long to acknowledge his nuptials
before the world, but that for state reasons it must be kept a
profound secret for the present.

We had not returned from Windsor many days, when a messenger arrived
from my mother, entreating me to obtain leave of absence for a time,
as there were various reports respecting the lawless deeds of a set of
ruffians, who now infested our forest of Malvern Chase, and who had
been bold enough to attack the Grange at Eastington, where they had
levied a considerable sum of money, under threat of setting fire to
the farm homestead. I at once communicated these tidings to King
Edward, who told me to lose no time in riding down to Birtsmereton,
and if there was any necessity, to apply forthwith for aid and
soldiers to put down these lawless deeds and punish the offenders.

On my arrival at home I found the accounts which were forwarded to me
at Windsor had not been exaggerated. A body of marauders had of late
frequented the forests of Wyre and Malvern Chase, and had not only
levied "black mail" from travellers, but had broken into the houses of
several franklins and farmers and committed robbery with much
violence.

They had robbed some of the monks belonging to Great Malvern Priory of
their shoes and money. They had attacked Master Lachmere as he rode
from Worcester, in the broad daylight, and eased him of his purse, his
boots and his buskins, as well as his palfrey. More than once they had
been seen at the hostelrie of the "Robin Hood," at Castlemereton, but
while they had sacked the granges at Welland and Longdune they had
left Sire John Carfax unmolested, though they might easily have driven
off some of his cattle or harried some of his tenants.

I determined to consult with sire John, notwithstanding my prejudice
against him, as to the best method of bringing these scoundrels to
justice, not doubting for a moment that he would lend every assistance
in his power in such a cause. There was Master Marten too, his tenant,
who lived at Castlemereton in a little house without any defence but
that of a small moat, and who was known to be a man of ready money.
What more likely than that he should be plundered, perhaps murdered,
for the sake of his gold Richards!

While thus reflecting what action I should take, we received
information that a body of outlaws, at least a hundred strong, had
pillaged a farmer's dwelling-house at Welland on the previous night,
and also had murdered a poor franklin as he was returning home from
Upton-on-Severn, and left his rifled body in the middle of the
trackway.

It was now evident that this was something more than a roving body of
outlaws, and would have to be met by forces of greater strength than
our village archers. These too had been sadly thinned by the slaughter
at Mortimer's Cross; and Hasting could not now summon a third of those
who shot at the trials on the mere of Longdune. There was now no Kitel
of Pendyke with gallant crossbow men; and Bessie was a lone woman with
only serving men and hinds to protect the Keep. Calverley, though now
amnestied, was a suspected Lancastrian, and could not venture to keep
more men than were actually necessary for the protection of the castle
of Branshill. Still something must be done, and as Sire John Carfax
had some archers within a short distance of his Keep, I determined to
ride over and try to induce him to unite with our men, and to hunt
down or drive away these marauding murderers.

I found Sire John standing on the high steps before the entrance of
his Keep, and with him was Master Marten. The knight was rather
confused when I told him my business, and said that all his people
were busy haymaking, and there was little doubt the marauders would
now go to other parts of their own accord; he nevertheless promised,
on my pressing him, to summon together as many men as could be spared,
a promise he never fulfilled. He then proposed that an interview
should be sought with the leader of this gang of outlaws, and, as had
been done in the Forest of Dean in a similar instance, to effect a
compromise with the gang and induce them to carry their depredations
to a distance by the contribution of monies, to which he, and his
friend Master Marten, would gladly subscribe.

As I spurned such ignominious counsel, Sire John renewed his promises
of aid with his "Castlemereton lambs."

I now despatched Hasting to Calverley, to ask him to send what men he
could spare, and to enquire at the holstelrie of the "Wind's Point"
for any information that could be given respecting the numbers of
these marauders and their movements.

My next plan was to ride over to the farm cottage at Welland, where
the murdered farmer now lay dead. I had some difficulty in finding the
house, as it lay in a desolate spot bordering upon "Welland glade,"
close to a melancholy swamp through which flows a shallow brook rising
in the Malvern hills. As I approached I heard the sounds of
lamentation and mourning. Fastening my horse to the paling in front, I
rapped and entered, having to bend low to avoid the cross beam.

So dense was the smoke that for some time I could not see, and there
were only two small apertures for light, rudely filled with cow-horn.

The body lay on a wooden truckle, and the sad wife and her children,
with the exception of one neighbour, were alone in their sorrow,
performing as they best might, the last sad offices for the dead. The
corpse had been robbed of most of the clothing, and even the rough
wooden clogs had been taken from the stockingless feet. These poor
garments, and a groat, were all the booty the robbers had obtained,
and for these they had murdered the young farmer and left desolate his
widow and three children.

I sat down by the broken-hearted woman and said what I could to
console her, but what are words in tribulation such as this? I gave
her what substantial aid I could from the monies I had with me, and
bid her to come to Birtsmereton as soon as she had laid her "good-man"
in the grave, that we might give her some help for her poor children.
She knew nothing of the perpetrators of the foul deed, but her
neighbour had seen a dozen strange men, all armed, cross the trackway
from Upton to Ledbury, on the evening of the murder, and one was clad
in a steel cap or morion, with a thick brown leathern jerkin, and he
carried a large mace or bludgeon, while by his side was a big sword.

From her description they appeared to be some of those wandering men-
at-arms, who after the late Lancastrian defeats roamed about the
country ever ready to plunder, and not unfrequently, as in the present
instance, to commit the most unprovoked murders, especially when
disappointed of booty.

I had heard enough to induce me to ride across the country to Kitel
Keep, to persuade Bessie to come to us at Birtsmereton, in her
unprotected condition, until such miscreants were punished, which I
determined should be the case, even if I applied to King Edward for
aid, but this I did not wish to do, in the case of a few paltry
highwaymen and outlaws.

I rode at a gallop across the green glades, and entering a thick part
of the forest near the great elms of Castlemereton, made for the crest
of the hill, above the meres, known as Hill End. Here I encountered a
series of sloughs which brought my gallop to a walk, when, at some
distance, at a cross trackway, I saw Sire John Carfax walking side by
side with a tall man clad, as the woman had described, in a steel cap,
and a thick brown leathern jerkin.

As this was a common dress in these troublous times, when every man
had to mind his head with his own hand, I thought little of it, but
shouted to them to stop. Instead of doing this they walked on, at a
quicker pace, and disappeared in a bye path of the forest, so I
pursued my way, though I would gladly have told Sire John what I had
heard and seen at the farm cottage in the Welland glades.

I found Bessie quite ready to come with me, and we rode back by the
monastery of Pendyke and the Under-hill of Berew, to let the
inhabitants of both places understand that night-hawks were abroad in
the Chase, and that they would do well to prepare for emergencies.

When Hasting returned, we learnt that Calverley promised the aid of
several men-at-arms, on hearing from me where to assemble, and that he
proposed to ride over on the morrow to consult on the measures to be
taken. Hasting had also learnt, from the host at "Wind's Point," that
a number of armed men had, from time to time, been seen to cross the
pass, and that they generally disappeared in the dense thickets of
Newer's Grove. He also heard from Prior Alcock that for a month past,
the forest below Malvern Abbey, about the Rhydd ford, had been the
haunt of a body of outlaws who had committed numerous depredations of
an alarming character.

At one time they robbed a yeoman's grange on the banks of the Severn,
and the following week they appeared in the wild district through
which the Leddon runs, and had there plundered the Bishop of
Hereford's seneschal, and sent him home to the palace of Colwall tied
to his horse, with his face towards the tail, and deprived of his
purse, his shoon, and his breeches. They appeared to have a kind of
policy in their depredations, as they generally spared the property of
Yorkists, and harried the homes of any unfortunate Lancastrians. No
doubt thereby they hoped to escape the notice of the Crown
authorities, who were often too ready to wink at any lawlessness which
befel the opposite party.

During my absence from home, in attendance upon the King, my mother
had induced Mary Bolingbroke to come from Elsdune to bear her company;
but the rumours about the outlaws did not prevent Mary from roaming
among her old haunts, and seeking those who lived in humble cots among
the forest glades, and who owed many a cure of "the rheumatics" and of
"the quavers," or ague shakes, to her pharmacy of herbs. On my return
home, Mary Bolingbroke had intended returning to Elsdune, but she had
been induced to stay to meet her friend, the great Worcester
herbalist, who came every July to the hostelrie at Wind's Point, to
gather certain plants in the wild and dense parts of the forest. There
was the herb Paris, famous for rheumatism, and toothwort for
toothache, and the wood vetch, the seeds of which were a sure remedy
against the cholic. None of these grew near Elsdune, or even at the
"Devil's garden" at Stanner rocks; so Mary wished to take back with
her a hoard for winter use. For days together she and the Worcester
herbalist had been roving, gathering their much treasured plants among
the slopes of the Malverns, below Wind's Point. I was anxiously
expecting Calverley, who had not fulfilled his promise of riding over,
and Mary had not returned, though far beyond her usual hour, when a
small boy came running up to the drawbridge, bearing a slip of
parchment, which he said "a great man on a big horse" had given him to
take to me.

By this missive I was horrified to find that Calverley had been seized
by these miscreant outlaws, as he was riding along to our Manor,
across the Swineyard pass, by an obscure forest trackway. Calverley
was directed to say, that if, in three days from the writing of that
scrip, five hundred gold Richards were not placed in the Hermit's
Cave, and by a single person, without any follower, or movement of
men-at-arms from the surrounding villages, his decapitated head would
be found in the Hermit's Cave, and his body committed to the Severn
stream. He concluded by saying that the heavy fines exacted by the
Crown, on the reversal of his attainder, had left him well-nigh
penniless, and asking me, if possible, to raise the money on loan.

Without an hour's delay I sent off Tom of Gulley's End to Windsor,
where I knew that Sire Robin of Elsdune was in attendance, to whom I
wrote a brief account of the circumstances in which we were placed,
and requested him to explain the whole matter to our royal master, and
the damage which these miscreants were committing to private property.

The next thing was to consult with my mother about the amount of ready
gold we could muster, and we were alarmed to find we had not 200 rose
nobles between us. After the drain of these times of civil war, I knew
it was unlikely that Bessie Kitel or John Berew could furnish a
hundred gold pieces, so I determined not to alarm them. I thought of
pledging some land to Master Marten, when Mary Bolingbroke entered in
a high state of terror and excitement produced by the adventures of
the day.

She had gone early to the pass of the Wind's Point, and after waiting
some time in vain for the herbalist, she determined herself to search
Newer's Grove for the herb Paris she so much wished to obtain. When
there she heard loud shouts for aid, and the sounds of a struggle, as
if several men were engaged in rifling some solitary individual.
Feeling alarmed she made at once for the steep slopes of the Malverns
above the old well, known as "Waum's Well," and succeeded in reaching
the Hermit's Cave, which tradition says has more than once afforded a
night's shelter to both Owen Glendower and Sire John Oldcastle. Mary
had not been long in the cave when she heard persons approaching as if
about to enter, and she hid herself underneath some fern heaped up at
the back of the cave, and lay there trembling with fear lest she
should be detected. Lying still as a mouse she saw Sire Andrew Trollop
enter in deep consultation with Sire John Carfax. She then heard that
one hundred outlaws were engaged in different depredations, and that
some Lancastrian of importance had fallen into their hands, and
Trollop said he owed him an old grudge. They then discussed the amount
of the sum to be fixed upon as ransom. Trollop wished it to be 1000
gold pieces, but Carfax declared that sum could not be found in all
the country round, save perhaps in the money-bags of Master Marten.
She heard Trollop swear a deep oath that the victim should be
slaughtered if the money was not forthcoming at the exact time
specified, and he insisted on the necessity of Sire John watching
every movement in our neighbourhood and reporting it to him
accordingly. At this crisis a bugle horn sounded, and these two
precious scoundrels left the cave and disappeared in the depths of
Newer's Wood.

I was astounded at this revelation! Trollop, I knew to be capable of
any villany, but that our own near neighbour, a belted knight, could
stoop to such practices against another knight and neighbour, would
have been incredible, but that I knew such things had been done in
other parts of England, though they were hitherto unknown in our own
remote and peaceful Malvern Chase.

I rejoiced greatly that I had sent Tom of Gulley's End to Windsor, but
he might be delayed in many ways, and he might meet with outlaws
himself. The King and Robin of Elsdune might be away, and some days
might elapse before aid could reach us. I could obtain aid from
Worcester or Gloucester, but my movements were watched, and those of
my men, and the slightest indiscretion might hasten the death of my
friend. If I roused the immediate neighbourhood we could not find
fifty men to contend with a hundred trained soldiers fresh from the
battle-field. The only resource left to me was to apply to Master
Marten to lend me the money upon our land, and as Sire John Carfax set
his men to watch me, I set Hasting and my men to watch him.



Chapter 14.


CASTLEMERETON LAMBS--THE ATTACK UPON THE KEEP--BESSIE
KITEL A BRAVE LASS--THE RESCUE--THE TOWER OF LONDON--THE QUEEN--THE
KING-MAKER--THE CORONATION FEAST--NO TIDINGS OF ROSAMOND.



Hasting volunteered to endeavour to trace the rendezvous of the
outlaws, and the prison-house of Calverley. He preferred to go into
the forest alone, with no weapon but his dagger, and clad as a simple
woodman. Thoroughly acquainted with the most intricate paths, the bold
forester departed for the recesses of Newer's Wood, whistling a tune
as if merely in search of a heron or a stag.

I set spies to watch every glade and trackway towards Castlemereton
Keep, for any tidings that could be obtained of the movements of Sire
John Carfax. The knight was reported to be at home, and had been seen
going daily to Master Marten's; while several strange men had been
observed going to and from the Keep, and even prowling about the
glades, asking questions of the hinds respecting the different
families in the neighbourhood. Taking an unfrequented path, I found
myself at the little grange of Master Marten. He was in his garden,
and the house was covered with roses, ivy, and honesty, which he and
his serving-man were tending and entwining among the gables.
Everything around was in perfect order, with a fine display of flowers
in the garden, for Master Marten was a travelled man, and had brought
seeds and plants from foreign parts, which had never before been seen
in all the Chase.

It was not with pleasant feelings that I approached him, as I knew him
principally as the friend of Carfax, and I had doubts about the terms
of the loan. He seemed right glad to see me, as I walked across the
drawbridge admiring the taste with which he had turned the little
stream to supply his small piscatorium or fish pool, and wondering at
the beauty of the flowers.

He told me that Sire John had just departed, and had taken great
interest in the working of his drawbridge and the new bolts of his
entrance door, thinking of having some made of like fashion for his
own Keep. He then led me to a chamber admirably fitted up with every
modern improvement, and placed me in a chair equal to any in King
Edward's palace at Windsor, while there were goblets of pure silver
upon the tables. He had heard of the presence of the outlaws in the
Chase, and the murder of the farmer, and had consulted with Sire John
about his defences, when the knight informed him there was no fear, so
close as he was to his own Keep, and under the protection of his own
"brave lambs." He was nevertheless much startled when I told him of
Calverley's seizure by the outlaws, and the consequences which would
follow if the ransom was not sent to the Hermit's Cave by the hour
named. Knowing his intimacy with Carfax, I concealed his conduct in
the transaction; but Master Marten at once offered to advance the
ransom at his own risk, while he absolutely declined to take usury for
monies lent for such a purpose. In short, he acted like a generous
gentleman rather than a money-lender. So thanking him heartily, I
quaffed his health in a stoup of canary of the richest flavour, and
far better than any we had in our own cellar.

I had taken my leave, and gone a short way on my return, when I
remembered what Mary Bolingbroke said about the money-bags; so I went
back and entreated Marten to bring his monies and movable valuables to
our Manor, where he could remain in safety until the Chase was freed
from these outlaws. I told him that I had intelligence which convinced
me that a man like himself, known to have ready money in an
unprotected house, would not be safe, near as he was to Castlemereton
Keep, and cited Calverley as an example, who had been seized and
carried off, crippled though he was, within two miles of his own
castle. He thanked me and accepted my invitation without hesitation,
and by night he and his property were safe within our walls.

This sudden thought was most fortunate, for the same night a band of
the outlaws ransacked the premises. They shamefully ill-treated the
poor gardener, when they found Master Marten was gone, half-roasting
him before the fire which they made in the garden of the oak
furniture, while I have no doubt the house itself would have been
burnt to the ground, but that they knew it was the property of their
ally and associate at the Keep.

On my return I found Bessie in a very excited state, for the capture
of Calverley had transpired, and the poor girl could not conceal her
terror. When I told her that Master Marten had promised to advance the
ransom, I thought she would have embraced him, so heartfelt was her
gratitude.

Still I determined that paying the ransom should be our last resource.
If such a precedent was established, who would be safe in the future?
It would be a premium on the worst of crimes! Yet I did not see at
present how it was to be avoided, for no one knew whither Calverley
had been transported, or the lurking-place of the outlaws. In the vast
woodlands which stretched to the forest of Wyre, beyond Kidderminster,
there were many places where bands of men might lurk for days
together, and make forays on private houses at a distance from their
regular rendezvous. I therefore looked with anxiety to the exertions
of Hasting, hoping to receive some tidings of the place where our
friend was hidden.

Another day passed away, and time was becoming precious, but we were
indefatigable in strengthening our own defences and arming our own
men. The women worked night and day feathering arrows and grinding
pike heads on the stone, while my mother and the damsels welted every
jerkin with padding, and the smith refurbished every morion.

We were all hard at work when Hasting appeared from his foray and gave
me a signal that he wished to speak to me alone. He had found some of
the outlaws in the depths of Newer's Wood beyond Waum's Well, and,
pretending to be a woodman ready to join their band as a recruit, had
actually been enlisted among their numbers, promising to supply all
local information as to the best way of attacking Master Marten's,
Kitel Keep, and other places not likely to be well defended. He
gradually learnt that Calverley, when dragged from his palfrey at the
Swineyard Pass, was blindfolded and taken to a lonely house beyond
Cowleigh, where Sire John Carfax met Trollop, who proposed that the
unfortunate prisoner should be conducted to Castlemereton Keep. The
crafty knight thought, and thought rightly, that no one would suspect
he was incarcerated so near to his own castle, and that any rigorous
search would be conducted in very different quarters. The outlaws had
settled that a beacon-fire should be lighted on the hill above the
Hermit's Cave, if the ransom were not forthcoming at the hour named;
while the signal of smoke ascending was to be the death warrant of the
prisoner, to be executed by the band who were to assemble at the Keep,
and who would then leave the neighbourhood, at all events for a time,
to carry on their depredations elsewhere.

It was now midnight, and twelve o'clock next day was fixed for the
surrender of the ransom, and the assembling of the outlaws at
Castlemereton, with the exception of the band who remained to watch
the cave and the pass of the Wind's Point. Was it now possible to
avoid this ignominious acquiescence to a set of thieves and robbers
led on by the double traitors Trollop and Carfax? We thought over and
weighed well all the circumstances before us, when the bold idea
struck Hasting that it was not impossible to turn the tables on Carfax
by seizing his Keep, and rescuing Calverley who was imprisoned there,
with our own men, before the arrival of the outlaws. Carfax would
probably be away with the outlaws, and if he was not we could imprison
him in his own dungeon, as he had sent most of his "lambs" to assist
in a night foray against Master Hornpiper's. Once in the Keep we could
defend ourselves against Trollop and his men until aid came from
Windsor. We now heard a tap at the door of the antechamber, and found
that it was Bessie, who finding that Hasting had returned, could not
rest without enquiring if tidings had been heard of Calverley.

It is difficult to say at which we were all most astounded, the
knavery and deception of Carfax, or the boldness of the outlaws.
Calverley in the dungeons of Castlemereton Keep It seemed impossible!
Bessie was half distracted at the emergency, but she thought that
Hasting's plan of seizing the Keep was safer than trusting to the
delivery of the ransom at the cave, lest some mishap should occur, or
Trollop turn treacherous after receiving the monies.

One of my scouts now gave a hail at the drawbridge, and we learnt that
Sire John had just arrived at Castlemereton, but unattended by any of
his men, or any of the outlaws, so we made our preparations for the
expedition as soon as daylight should dawn.

The question was how to persuade Sire John to let down the drawbridge
and steps up to the Keep, and we agreed not to show ourselves in any
force as he might be as suspicious, as traitors generally are. It was
therefore determined that Hasting should take one dozen archers, and
proceeding at the back of the meres, come upon the Keep by the thick
woods of Castlemereton banks, and, forming an ambush close to the fish
pools near the Keep, should rush out on a signal from me and act as
circumstances would allow. I was to walk unattended as if for private
consultation with Sire John, and to persuade him to come forth, at
least as far as his own drawbridge, when I was then to collar him,
giving a signal to Hasting with my horn, and to prevent the elevation
of the drawbridge, when the Keep would be won.

Bessie entreated to be allowed to accompany me, saying that Sire John,
as a gallant, must come forth to receive a lady, and that she knew
exactly where the dungeon door was, and in which there was little
doubt Calverley was immured. Also it would be important that he should
be free to use his limbs when succour came.

In the grey dawn of morning Hasting led our archers by the roundabout
paths it was necessary to pursue, and taking the precaution to put my
steel cuirass beneath my jerkin, with a cloak to hide my trusty
battle-axe, while Bessie bore a bow and a sheaf of arrows as if we
were going after a clump of wild ducks in the meres, we set forth when
we thought Hasting was in ambush.

It was about eight o'clock in the morning of the first of August that
we made our appearance in front of the Keep, and the sun was pouring
his rays upon mountain, glade and forest, and the new tower of the
church, but just finished. No scene could look more peaceful or more
unlikely to become a scene of slaughter and carnage than all around
this village church and ancient Norman Keep. The church bell was going
for matins, and here and there villagers might be seen wending their
way to prayer, and yet, within a few miles, houses and barns had been
fired; men killed in attempting to defend their hearths and homes; a
poor gardener maimed and ill-treated within sight of the church; a
farmer murdered for sheer spite and cruelty because he had no monies
in his pouch; one of our principal proprietors of land and wealthiest
of gentlemen in jeopardy of his life; and two belted knights turned
into robbers! Such was the change which civil war and its consequent
lawlessness had brought upon our once peaceful Malvern Chase!

Blowing my horn, it was not long before Carfax himself appeared on the
summit of the steps. On seeing me alone with Bessie, he at once
descended and appeared at the barbican with an aged warder who
proceeded slowly to lower the drawbridge as Carfax smiled and simpered
at the appearance of the ladye of his love.

No sooner had Sire John met us on the lowered bridge, than, to use the
language of baiters, I took the bull by the horns, and seizing him by
the collar, blew a loud bugle blast. I then said, "As a magistrate and
officer-at-arms of His Majesty King Edward the Fourth, I here arrest
you, Sire John Carfax, for treasonable and unknightly practices
against his Majesty's liege subject Sire Roger Calverley, who, by
false and traitorous correspondence with outlaws and robbers, you now
hold incarcerated in your Keep of Castlemereton."

The coward looked ready to sink into the earth as I held him fast by
his collar, when Bessie rushed past us, and snatched the keys from the
trembling hands of the ancient warder. She then ran up the steps which
led to the entrance doorway, while I held a stern grip upon Sire John,
threatening to hurl him headlong into the moat if he stirred or
resisted. By this time Hasting and our archers reached the drawbridge,
where we bound Sire John's arms and legs, and carried him up the steps
into his own stronghold. As Hasting said, all the men-at-arms save the
old warder, were out on the night foray with Trollop, so we hastened
to garrison the Keep against their return. Bessie had found her way to
the dungeon door, outside of which she was holding a conversation with
the imprisoned Calverley, for she could not unlock it, a feat which we
soon compelled the warder to perform, releasing our friend, while in
his place we safely locked up, tied and bound, the quondam esquire of
Margaret of Anjou. Fearing too lest he might shout, through the single
crenelle, to the outlaws when they appeared across the moat, we gagged
him with his own kerchief.

Calverley was indeed surprised when he learnt that he was imprisoned
in Castlemereton Keep, for the outlaws had not released his bonds, or
taken the bandage from his eyes, until he was shut up in this dark and
dismal dungeon. He knew that he was in the hands of the false knight,
Trollop, and his myrmidons, but, like ourselves, he had not the
remotest suspicion that Carfax was an associate of the robbers. He
believed from the long time he was led about on horseback, bound, that
he was taken to some forest wilds at a distance, and would be murdered
in cold blood if the ransom named was not placed in the Hermit's Cave
as dictated by Trollop.

As the outlaws would probably not assemble at Castlemereton much
before mid-day, the time for the surrender of the ransom, we set to
work to investigate the resources of the Keep for means of defence;
and we found strong cross-bows or arblasts, which would throw their
bolts two hundred paces with deadly effect from the summit of the
Keep, and from all the crenelles. Many of these arblasts commanded the
trackway up to the church.

Our archers we placed opposite the crenelles, and we sent two to the
summit, where Calverley, who was well used to this kind of artillery,
had Bessie by his side to hand the quarrels, while the archers wound
the windlasses. Then he sent her, in a most unromantic manner, to
search in the larder for a manchett of bread, as Sire John had not
gone near his prisoner himself, or permitted any of his men-at-arms to
do so, and he had not tasted food for many hours.

Thus hour after hour passed away, and there was no sign or sound of
the presence of armed men. The height of the sun in the heavens told
us it was mid-day, when three notes on a bugle horn were heard in the
forest trackway, leading from Welland, and shortly afterwards a dense
smoke arose from the hill above the Hermit's Cave, known as the
Herefordshire Beacon, the signal that the ransom was not forthcoming
and for the death of Calverley.

The woodlands around the church and Keep are so dense on all sides,
save up the little dingle on the west, leading to Master Marten's and
the mill, that we could see no one, although we at last heard the
trample of horses in the trackway above the church. In a short time
Trollop, followed by a dozen riders, rode slowly down the trackway
towards the drawbridge. I had ordered every man to remain hidden, and
all at the Keep was still as death. Sire Andrew again blew three loud
notes on his bugle horn, but no reply was returned, and the drawbridge
remained as motionless as ever. He then shouted his war cry, "Trois-
loups," and throwing his bridle rein to one of his companions,
approached on foot opposite the barbican, immediately above which
stood Hasting opposite a crenelle with his deadly bow. An arrow now
struck the traitor in the region of the heart, which must have been
fatal but for his armour of proof underneath his jerkin. At the same
time I let fly another at his steel helmet, the vizor of which was
closed, but this arrow did not rebound, and he rushed back holding his
head in his hands, as it had struck between the bars of his vizor and
driven out several of his teeth. I now shouted "De Brute to the
rescue!" We were hardly prepared for the number of men the robber
knights had mustered under their command for purposes of plunder, for
at least two score horsemen rode down the trackway by the church, and
there were numerous footmen, among whom were included the
Castlemereton "lambs." Calverley was busy with the arblasts on the
tower, and as every arrow told from the sides of the Keep, men fell
fast, while wounded horses galloped to and fro. But the horsemen
sought refuge behind the church, where they dismounted, and,
accompanied by the footmen, surrounded the Keep on all sides. So close
were they that their shafts came through every loophole, and it was
impossible to look through one without standing a chance of being
transfixed, and as no one had a shirt of mail but myself, I sent all
to the summit of the Keep, two of our men being already wounded.

Many of their footmen had now occupied the thickets on the east side
by the fish ponds, while others, climbing on the shoulders of their
fellows, surmounted the palisades and walls on the west, though
several fell in the attempt, until at last a rush was made from the
side of the fish ponds and a few managed to obtain access to the outer
court. Arrows against stone walls are of little consequence, and we
were well sheltered, while the besiegers evidently began to fear the
effect of our deadly archery.

I had gone to the summit of the Keep and was talking to Bessie and
Calverley while I wound an arblast, when to our horror an arrow
whizzed so close to Bessie's head that it grazed her cheek, and we now
saw that Trollop with several bowmen had ascended the church tower,
the heights of which commanded the Keep, and rendered it dangerous for
Bessie to remain there a moment longer. By this time some of the
outlaws had brought down timbers and boards to the side of the moat,
which they threw in, endeavouring to construct a raft by which they
could cross; while Trollop, descending from the church tower, directed
their labours, but took care not to expose his precious person more
than was necessary.

At last some of the bolder outlaws crossed the moat on a pile of
timber, but the steps to the doorway had been drawn within, and they
now found that to attempt to enter the Keep was hopeless without they
had recourse to fire, and that would be a long and tedious process.

But the scene was soon to change into a very different aspect. The
sound of a trumpet was heard at the bottom of the hill below the Keep,
and with loud shouts of "Elsdune to the rescue!" a large body of
horsemen galloped up the trackway from Birtsmereton. We could now see
Trollop running as fast as his legs would carry him, up the hill past
the church, and in a few minutes there was a general flight among the
outlaws, and cries of terror from those who fell beneath the swords
and battle-axes of the men-at-arms Robin had brought from Windsor.

Lowering the steps from the Keep, and the drawbridge, our own men also
gave chase, and in a few minutes the flight or death of the outlaws
was the result. The thief, Trollop, managed to reach his horse and get
clear away, while many a braver and better man rolled in the dust. Few
of the horsemen even regained their steeds, but some escaped by flying
through the Welland woodlands. The footmen ran for the forest, but
some were overtaken and brought in as prisoners by our archers, when
Sire Robin gave orders that they should be immediately hung, and
suspended from the walls as a terror to like evil doers.

Robin now appeared amongst us with his usual calm demeanour and a
hearty greeting for us all. He congratulated Calverley on his happy
deliverance, and shook hands with the brave Bessie, whose cheek was
still bleeding from the effects of the arrow discharged from the
church tower. We now learnt that Tom of Gulley's End had found Robin
at Windsor, and he had immediately made King Edward acquainted with
the proceedings of the outlaws. Similar scenes had been enacted in
Yorkshire and other parts of the kingdom, so the King determined to
put down such lawlessness with a high hand. He therefore despatched
Robin, with a considerable force, with orders to extirpate the robbers
root and branch. Thus the Archer reached Birtsmereton, with two
hundred men-at-arms, and on learning that we were at Castlemereton,
rode on at once to our assistance.

The sight outside the moat was a sad one for Bessie, as more than a
score men lay dead on the trackway, but they richly deserved the fate
which they intended for others. We had now to explain to Robin the
strange history which compelled us to occupy the Keep, in order to
rescue our friend Calverley; and the humiliating guilt of Sir John
Carfax and his detection by Mary Bolingbroke.

King Edward's orders for the extirpation of the outlaws had been most
peremptory, but moved by the tears and entreaties of Bessie, the
Archer spared the life of Carfax until he had undergone a regular
trial. Had it not been for her beseechings, he would have hung there
and then above his own barbican. The miserable wretch came forth from
the dungeon cringing and cowering, a more pitiable object than the
dead men around him.

Robin deprived him of every token of his knightly rank, and then sent
him bound behind a stalwart trooper for the gaol and dungeons at
Worcester, where he is said to have died in a few months from gaol
fever. The Keep was filled with property which this man had received
as the confederate of outlaws and brigands. Since that time we have
had isolated instances of robberies and even murder, but no band of
outlaws has ever again ventured to assemble in our Malvern Chase.

Robin begged of Calverley or myself to take Bessie away, as these
scenes had well-nigh proved too much for her. I thought it a good
opportunity to leave them to their own explanations, so offered to
remain and assist in making arrangements for the burial of the dead,
and in manning the Keep with the troops who were now to hold it in the
name of the King. Robin also arranged for masses to be said for the
souls of those who had fallen, and Master Marten was liberal in his
donations for this purpose. He offered, too, to take the old warder
and provide for him, as he could water his flowers, and let down the
little drawbridge, until the end of his days.

We met that evening around the supper table with grateful hearts, and
in very different mood to that in which we assembled the previous day.
Calverley had left for Branshill Castle before my return, to reassure
his mother by his presence, but there was something about Bessie's
face and manner which told me, without a word of explanation, that all
estrangement had passed away, and that he had said to her those words
which an honourable man tells to the girl he loves, the more
especially if he thinks that love is returned.

The time arrived when we had to return to Court, so, leaving my mother
to superintend our home matters, and entreating Mary Bolingbroke to
remain as her friend and companion, while Calverley and Bessie both
promised to attend to her welfare, I proceeded with Robin to Windsor
to rejoin our corps of Archers of the Guard. We found that the Court
had removed from Windsor to the Tower of London, and we passed through
some strange scenes before we reached our destination.

No place in the world can be more unlike our forest homes, and our
Malvern Hills and Chase, than the Strand in the city of London. The
narrow streets of houses, mostly of wood and wattle, have holes in
them, which are dangerous for a horse or a foot passenger. Then there
are numberless booths with pert 'prentices standing at the doors
shouting, "Cock pie, hot trotters, fresh chitterlings, hog's puddings,
hot peascods, and boiled beef!" while vielles groaned, pipes whistled,
and harps twanged before the hostelries and public buildings. Now and
then, as we rode past an entry, we caught a sight of the river Thames,
covered with boats and barges; and down the streets rode horsemen,
some in armour, others in leathern jerkins and steel morions. Even the
foot passengers were armed, and all the merchants walking forth on
their daily business were followed by armed servitors.

Riding slowly, Robin led the way by narrow, noisome, city lanes to the
magnificent Tower of London, where has happened so many an event in
the history of our kings, and queens, and nobles. The royal banner
floated over the great White Tower of the Normans, and painted barges,
filled with barons, knights, and noble dames, swept down the river to
the gate of St. Thomas. Other courtiers were pacing up and down the
great courtyard, dressed in court corsets and supertunics, waiting for
audience and the royal summons of the King or Queen.

It took us some time to see to the stabling and care of our horses,
and dress ourselves in Court costume, before we faced the impertinent
pages who were to conduct us to the presence of royalty.

The King was in the great hall, surrounded by his officers of state,
such as the Earl of Warwick, and Lords Montague and Hastings. He
received us with that frank and courteous manner which made him so
popular, and was so different from the shuffling, weak address of
Henry of Lancaster, or the proud bearing of Margaret of Anjou. He
questioned us closely respecting the raids of the outlaws on Malvern
Chase, and denounced the conduct of such knights as Carfax and Trollop
as a curse to the people and dangerous to the crown. But the truth was
that at this period the feudal barons were nearly as lawless and cruel
as those of the time of King Stephen, and it was King Edward who
changed the character of the nobility, by introducing those who had
risen to wealth by trade and commerce, and destroying the influence
and pride of hereditary and needy lords and knights. Times had
changed, and, instead of reviewing troops or drilling archers, Robin
was made groom of the King's own chamber, and had the high honour of
attending on his person, as well as to the decorations of his bedroom.

We were presented to the Queen as personal esquires of his Majesty,
who received us with that studied supercilious manner which she
mistook for dignity, a manner she wore through life, and ever made her
unpopular and disliked. By her side was her mother Jacquetta, Duchess
of Bedford, soon to be the talk of England as a "parlous witch." This
lady hardly vouchsafed to recognise me, so much was she taken up with
a dirty friar, who I was told was Friar Bungay, the great nigromancer.
It was Friar Bungay who, in after years, was said to conjure up the
dense fog on the day of the battle of Barnet, and which resulted in so
great a victory for King Edward.

My sojourn at this period of my life at the Court gave me the
opportunity of seeing much of London and its noblest buildings.

I have stood in the noble Abbey of Westminster, which is finer far
than are those of Theocsbury or Gloucester, by the tombs of Edward the
Confessor and those of the Plantagenet Kings. I visited the Cathedral
of St. Paul's, where John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, protected
Master Wycliffe from the Bishops, and told them he would humble their
own pride. I visited too the Lollard's Tower at Lambeth, where so many
a wretch who believed as I and my father believed, was imprisoned for
heresy. And there, on the bare stone walls, are carved the names and
devices of some of the victims, and the rings by which they were
chained, as if they were howling wild beasts of prey.

But nothing in all London astonished me more than the elevation and
power of the great Earl of Warwick, to whose mansion I was often sent
on business or messages of courtesy. Warwick House was as much guarded
by men-at-arms as the Tower itself. Indeed, the retainers who
frequented the court-yard and guarded the approaches to the mansion
consumed six oxen every morning for breakfast. My children are living
in times when retainers are not allowed to the nobility of England,
and only recently the Earl of Oxford was fined £10,000 for assembling
a number of men in liveries to do honour to King Henry VII. What would
they think of the power of that Baron, afterwards termed the "King-
maker," the last of the great Barons of those times, who maintained
30,000 retainers at his different castles!

The Earl of Warwick never forgot our meeting at his castle of Hanley,
and ever said "Welcome" when I sought his presence. With all his
hospitality to his friends and retainers, he appeared to me to be
simple in his dress and tastes, nor was the furniture of his London
residence so rich as might have been expected. He seldom wore velvets
and satins even at Court, and he never looked like a popinjay or an
overdressed woman, which many courtiers did. His stately figure,
almost as tall and stout as that of King Edward, was always clad with
some mark of the warrior, in polished steel inlaid with gold,
sometimes as a placcard, sometimes as a cuirass which sparkled beneath
a surcoat. Clerkly learned he was not, for his writing was somewhat
like Bessie Kitel's signature, before she took lessons with the grey
goose quill; and though he had writings on the laws by Sir John
Fortescue, I never saw him reading them. He never failed, though, to
question me about the condition of the people, the complaints of the
Lollards, the work done by the lower clergy, who had much sympathy
with the common people, and the possibility of granting greater
freedom to the oppressed classes. But with all this it was evident
that the Earl of Warwick would support the Barons and the feudal
system.

Towards the close of the year 1464 came the coronation of the Queen,
and her uncle the Duke of Luxemburg arrived in England with a retinue
of one hundred knights and esquires, to do honour to the coronation of
his niece. Still the Countess of Warwick and some of the other great
ladies kept aloof, and offence was taken by the Queen's party.

Already I was becoming heartily tired of a Court life, and longed to
find myself back in our woodlands among those I loved, instead of
being surrounded with dames and damosels in brocaded skirts, satin
sacques, and silk modes, or by courtiers "lithping and piping" like a
sick girl with the measles. I longed, too, to look upon a modest face,
instead of being stared out of countenance by some Court dame, whose
character was more flimsy than her boddice, and who never spoke a kind
word for an absent friend.

It is impossible to describe the magnificence of the coronation
feasts, tournaments, and public rejoicings, and the King commenced his
future policy of encouraging trade and commerce by making four of the
London tradesmen and citizens "Knights of the Bath," which excited
much sneering and discontent among the Lords, who called them "Knights
of the Tub." Neither shall I attempt to describe the marvellous rich
dresses worn by the Court dames and gentlemen on this occasion. One
appeared to vie with another in extravagance of ornament and attire.
But the sight in the Abbey of Westminster was very magnificent, as the
gorgeous throng of nobles, knights, and beautiful ladies assembled
around her whom the King had raised from the condition of a knight's
daughter to the proud eminence of Queen of England. Show and ornament
were displayed even in the platters upon the tables and the food
thereon; but the Court cooks thought overmuch of the finery and the
rarity, rather than of the wholesome character of the provisions.
Fried porpoises there were, with stewed seals and sturgeon, but none
of these can be rendered good eating by tinsel and glitter, and more
than once, when seated opposite to a porpoise, I wished for one of our
larded capons at Birtsmereton.

Again, I was ever accustomed to look upon hunting and hawking, and
such like sports, as manly exercises, and requiring some nerve and
skill, so I was little prepared, when in attendance on the Queen at a
great hunt in the parks at Windsor, to see the sport of venery reduced
to a contemptible pastime, if pastime it could be called. The stags
and other wild animals were driven by a great concourse of people into
paled enclosures, where sheds were erected from whence lords and
knights, bishops and abbots, all clad in hunter's gear, shot them down
with their arrows, and thus avoided any labour or risk in the chase. I
looked upon the whole matter with contempt, and so did the noble Earl
of Warwick, for he said, "Pardieu, Sire Hildebrande, but this is sport
for women, not for men. What think you? Can you yet show us a stag of
ten in the Chase of Malvern, or have you a wild boar left amidst the
thickets? I should like right well, some day, to bring my Countess to
her Castle of Hanley, and see a stag hunt from the crests of your
hills."

All now seemed settled and peaceful, and the King and Queen appeared
to be on excellent terms with the powerful family of the Nevilles.
Nevertheless my position as equerry to the Queen gave me opportunities
of observing that jealousies would arise from the relations of her
Majesty being ravenous for titles, rich wives, and places at Court.
Her father was now created Earl Rivers, and made Treasurer; and then
the Queen affianced the heiress of the Duke of Exeter to her own son,
Thomas Gray, which gave offence to the Earl of Warwick, who wanted the
heiress for his nephew. Also her brother, John Widville, married the
old Duchess of Northumberland at the age of eighty-two, a most
scandalous match! In short, Queen Elizabeth's Court was full of
selfish family intrigues, and I hated it most heartily, the more
especially as King Edward gave up all personal attention to warlike
pursuits, and occupied himself in the pursuit of pleasures. Matters
went on from bad to worse, and the match making and match breaking
continued until five of the unmarried sisters of the Queen were mated
to the heirs of dukes and earls.

Then in the year of grace 1467 the Earl of Warwick went to France to
negotiate the alliance of Edward's sister, Margaret of York, with one
of the Sons of Louis XI. of France, and considered himself grossly
insulted when the King allowed his sister to accept the proposals of
the Count of Charolois. Neither could he tolerate the abridgment of
his influence at Court, while King Edward detested the interference of
this great Baron who had placed him on the throne.

During all this time my heart was sore at receiving no tidings of
Rosamond Berew. For a year or two she sent an occasional letter
enclosed with others from Master Vaughan to his tenants at Hergest. In
these she expressed hopes of a speedy return and her sorrow at being
so long absent from her home and those she loved, but it was evident
that the letters were written under the superintendence of others, and
that she was not allowed to say where they were written from. At last
they ceased altogether, and for a long period I knew nothing of her
welfare, or indeed if she was still among the living. Once only she
alluded to the Countess of Oxford, and this allusion had been
partially erased.

In the mean time the Duke of Clarence, King Edward's next brother, and
heir to the throne, for as yet the Queen had no son by Edward, fell in
love with the Lady Isabella, the beautiful daughter of "the stout Earl
of Warwick," who once more presented himself at Court, where he was
hailed with great enthusiasm by the common people.

The King and Queen did all in their power to prevent this marriage,
but to no purpose, for the Duke of Clarence was married to the Lady
Isabella at Calais, in the month of July (1469), and this marriage was
the cause of extraordinary events and circumstances which shook the
throne of Edward to its very bare, and brought about some strange
adventures in my own existence.



Chapter 15.


MASTER VAUGHAN'S LETTER--HAMME CASTLE--THE CASTLE OF
SUDELEY AND WHO WAS THERE--DAME DESPENSER--THE ESCAPE FROM THE FIGHT
OF BANBURY--SLOP'S HOLE AND LORD RIVERS--THE LAST OF SIRE ANDREW
TROLLOP.



Great changes had taken place since Rosamond went away with Master
Vaughan and the Countess of Oxford, owing to King Edward resuming all
grants made by the Lancastrian kings, "pretensed kings," as they are
styled in the first act of King Edward's Parliament.

He now transferred many lands, privileges, and offices to his own
supporters, and numerous Lancastrians forfeited their properties.
Castlemereton Keep was transferred to Robin of Elsdune; I received
sundry grants of land to be enclosed from the forest, and, through our
entreaties, Branshill Castle was saved to Calverley, but with a
diminished estate. He had married Bessie Kitel, and they were leading
happy useful lives.

But all were not so fortunate as Calverley, for the same year in which
the Duke of Clarence married the Lady Isabella Neville (1469), I
received a commission from the Parliament to visit Sudeley Castle and
Winchcombe, and report upon its condition and the general state of the
Manor of Sudeley. I therefore gladly took the opportunity of re-
visiting the old home below the Malverns, and consulted with my mother
as to what steps it was possible to take to find out what had become
of Rosamond Berew, for nothing more could be learned trom Hergest save
that Master Vaughan was still beyond the seas.

The very day before I started from home, on the Sudeley commission,
Sire Roger Calverley rode over, as he wished to consult me with
respect to a letter which he had received, signed by Master Vaughan's
own hand and sealed with his own seal. This letter, sent from Hergest,
called upon him to "render every assistance in his power at a rising
of the Lancastrian party, which would shortly take place, and when
thousands of Englishmen would rally round the standard of King Henry,
their lawful and right righteous King."

But Calverley had accepted King Edward's amnesty, had pledged his word
not to foster rebellion, and had been allowed to retain his Castle. He
was not a likely man to commit a breach of good faith, and would join
in no conspiracies against the House of York. He wished, too,
particularly to show me the letter of Rosamond's uncle, for in it the
name of Sire Andrew Trollop occurred as one of the principal leaders
and promoters of this rebellion. Thus this worthy, after his escape
from Castlemereton, when he endeavoured to plunder a Lancastrian, had
gone round again to the Lancastrian party, and thus completed the
circle of treachery.

The messenger who brought the epistle from Ledbury to Branshill Castle
declared that he was paid to deliver it into Sire Roger's own hands by
a dark-visaged knight, or gentleman, fully armed, who rode at the head
of a score of Welshmen, who drank gallons of small beer, and could not
speak a word of English. This was no doubt Master Vaughan!

It was evident that he had returned to England, and was engaged in
some wild scheme of rebellion, but to me the great question was, what
had he done with his niece? Had he brought her to Hergest while
engaged on this hazardous project? This was hardly likely, but happen
what would I must see him and learn the history of her whose loss I
had now mourned for years. When I had attended to the commission on
which I was sent by the Court, Master Vaughan should account to me for
his abstraction of my affianced wife!

Attended by Hasting and Tom, I started for Sudeley Castle on a bright
July morning. We were all well armed, and our way led us through the
town of Theocsbury. We crossed the Severn at the Lower Lode, and rode
past the Castle of Hamme, or as some call it Holme Castle, which
occupies the rising ground above the Swilgate stream, and faces the
Abbey.

Hamme Castle is a very ancient one, having been built in the days of
William the Norman, and was the principal residence of the first Earl
of Gloucester, the natural son of Henry I. It was often the residence
of the De Clares and Despensers, and it was the Lady Constance
Despenser (the widow of that Earl of Gloucester who was executed at
Bristol by Henry IV. for his fidelity to King Richard), who set free
Mortimer, the young Earl of March, and his brother from their
imprisonment at Windsor, in the year of grace 1405.

Although the great estates of the Despensers had passed away to the
Beauchamps on the marriage of Isabel in 1411, Hamme Castle was
occupied in these days by a widow of her cousin-german, an elderly
Dame Despenser, who lived in great seclusion. This lady we now met
walking up the rising ground towards the new Park, from the town, and
she beckoned to me as if she wished to speak to me.

I dismounted, and she told me that there was great disaffection to the
House of York in and around Theocsbury, and that well-known
Lancastrians, such as Sire Gervais Clifton, with Master John
Throgmorton and others, had been lately seen in the town, and had been
heard talking treason against King Edward.

It was then agreed that I should return to Hamme Castle after my
survey of Sudeley Castle, and remain a few days with Dame Despenser,
in order that I might ascertain to what height this disaffection to
the Crown was likely to be carried.

On our arrival at the south entrance to the town, we found a concourse
of people opposite the Abbey gate-way, and others assembled in the new
bowling-green playing at closhes and tennis, both of which games had
been prohibited by the King, as interfering with the practice of
archery.

This prohibition was very unpopular, and instead of being greeted with
courteous salutations, as we rode through the streets, I and my
followers, who wore King Edward's cognizance, met only with averted
faces and scowling looks. Nay, some at the Bull Ring ventured to hiss,
but Hasting had ever a mortal antipathy to the sounds of geese or
snakes, and it was dangerous to hiss in his presence.

Nearly opposite the Cross, in the centre of the town, is the Tolsey, a
noble structure of wood, in the midst of a number of poor dwellings of
wattles and clay. The upper stories are fine gables projecting over
the lower, and the chamber where the merchants meet is a room of great
size. But there are several good merchants' houses in Theocsbury, for
they make much money by their mustard, their wool hosen, and by the
corn and cider which they send in boats both up and down the Severn.
At the Tolsey, we passed Master Payne, who was known to be disaffected
towards King Edward, and, although he saluted me as I rode past, was
evidently expatiating with great warmth to some Theocsbury scriveners.

A sharp gallop took us into the wild open country between Winchcombe
and Theocsbury, for the most part destitute of trees, but covered with
gorse and thickets about Gretton. Soon we reached the famous abbey and
town of Winchcombe, situated under the Cotswold range and the seat of
a mitred abbot. Here Offa, King of Mercia, built a nunnery; but on the
misbehaviour of the nuns, Kenulph, King of Mercia, built an abbey for
300 monks. Here, too, came Henry III., when such was the grandeur of
the festivals that Matthew Paris says "he fears to describe it, lest
he should be accused of being a liar."

The abbey and monastic buildings are very grand, and well worthy of
their high repute. We found Abbot William Winchcombe surrounded by
workmen who were building a fine large church for the use of the
parish, to the west of the abbey itself.

The Abbot was noted for his hospitality, and good care was taken of
both riders and their steeds, while I still have remembrance of a
pasty of lampreys for which the monks of Winchcombe are famous, and
with which they console themselves on the strictest fasts. This pasty,
washed down with good red Burgundy, is a dish for a king.

The Castle of Sudeley stands well above Winchcombe and the stream
which runs through it, and I could not but admire the size and
grandeur of the buildings erected by Lord Boteler, especially the
Portmare Tower, so called from the French Admiral whom he took
prisoner. It was melancholy, too, to think that this old warrior, who
served King Henry V. in his wars in France with twenty men-at-arms and
sixty archers on horseback, could not remain quiet, but must hatch
plots against the King.

Ralph Boteler, Lord of Sudeley, had been a famous soldier, and also an
admiral on the sea. He pulled down the old Castle, which was built in
the time of King Stephen, and erected one of great magnificence in its
place with the money he obtained from the spoils of war. At the same
time he was a bitter Lancastrian, and fought at St. Alban's, against
Richard Duke of York, in the Wars of the Roses. During the first years
of King Edward's reign, the Lord of Sudeley had not been interfered
with, but he was suspected by the King of treasonable designs--indeed,
there was no doubt that he tampered with malcontents; so it was
determined by the Council to seize his manor of Sudeley, and to
transfer it to the King's brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester.

Having acquainted Abbot Winchcombe with my commission, and told him
how I had been sent to report upon the condition of the Castle and the
surrounding lands, he offered to accompany me over the domain, which
he said was a place well fitted for the residence of a royal Prince.

Lord Boteler had gone to London, where he was summoned before the
King, and we found only a few domestics in charge of the Castle. It
is, indeed, a noble estate! There is a large park filled with stalwart
oaks and elms, and a lake well stocked with fish, while every sort of
improvement is displayed in the apartments. We were taking our survey
of the fine buildings, and standing in the court-yard, when three
armed men, who from their dress were evidently knights, descended
quickly down the steps from the doorway of the Portmare Tower. They
were followed by a black boar-hound, which seemed to me like the
celebrated hound of Hergest. They quickly disappeared through the
various courts, and the Abbot like myself wondered who they could be.
On enquiry from the warder and domestics all we could learn was that
these knights had come with letters and keys of Lord Boteler's, and
had been engaged for some hours in examining parchments in the
Portmare Tower. One of them, however, in the hurry of departure, had
left a riding thong of peculiar make, and this I recognised as
belonging to Master Vaughan.

The hospitable Abbot would have received us for the night, but I
thought it would be as well to know more of the Lancastrian
manifestations about Theocsbury, so we received the Abbot's blessing
and set forth upon our return.

On the summit of the rising ground which descends towards the village
of Gretton, we saw in front of us the knights I had noticed leaving
the Portmare Tower, and with them were at least a score of riders with
spears erect. I determined to diverge from the trackway, and, taking a
somewhat more circuitous route, to gallop into Theocsbury before they
reached it. Nevertheless, as we arrived at the entrance known as
Barton Street, we found the clump of spears were before us, so I
begged of Hasting to ride on and see whither they were bound, and, if
possible, to ascertain who they were.

Near the Cross at Theocsbury is a fine new hostelrie with the tabard
of the de Guyse, and their device of "The Swan," and at this hostelrie
the men-at-arms halted, but apparently for a short time only, as they
called for manchetts of bread and flagons of ale without dismounting.

Hasting was seated on his horse, calmly looking on at a crowd of
people in a great state of excitement, and shouting "Down with all
tyrants!" but who the tyrants were we were left to imagine. As I rode
forward Hasting held up his hand, as if in caution, and coming to my
side, said, "The Earl of Pembroke whom we beat at Mortimer's Cross,
and that false knight Sire Andrew Trollop!" The whole party now rode
away amidst the shouts of "Long live King Henry!" This was rank
treason, and I was just in time to recognise the saturnine features of
the traitor Trollop.

My first thought was to follow them, but our horses were tired, and we
were but three against a score, so we rode quietly through a scowling
mob to the "Black Bear of Warwick." Here I learned from the host that
within the last few days several hundred troops had ridden northwards
up the hill by the Mythe Twt, and the Keep said to have been inhabited
by King John when he was Earl of Gloucester, and built the long bridge
across the Avon.

Leaving our steeds under the care of Tom of Gulley's End, Hasting and
I now wended our way to Hamme Castle.

This once powerful stronghold has become much dilapidated, and since
the manor passed away from the Despensers to the Beauchamps has been
suffered to fall into decay.

In former days numerous were the great men and high-born dames who
assembled within its walls, but now all was cold and comfortless. The
walls are of vast thickness, and the stairs are of stone, as indeed
are the roofs of the chambers. The widowed Dame Despenser lived there
upon no great means, with a few worn-out serving men and some
Theocsbury wenches, who seemed but a mockery among chambers that had
been often occupied by kings, and among mouldering turrets which,
could they have spoken, would have re-echoed the war cry of some of
the noblest barons in England's history.

Still the Dame Despenser kept as much state as her circumstances would
allow, and we were received in due form by a hoary-headed chamberlain
before we were ushered into her presence. The lady was of most
dignified demeanour, and with somewhat of pride of lineage.

A most bountiful supper was laid in the "King's Chamber," and as I led
her to the daïs she gave me an account of the royal visits at Hamme
Castle, and how King Henry III. had banqueted in the "King's Chamber"
on his return from Hailes Abbey.

We were regaled with beef and the mustard for which Theocsbury
housewives are held in repute, with tankards of the famous cider of
Styre. Here, too, were jorams of the lesser lamprey, a most savoury
dish stewed in cider with a sprig of rosemary and cloves. With these
was a noble salmon, fresh from the Severn's wave, with souse and a
roasted lamb.

Dame Despenser was pleased to enquire as to my experiences of the
Court of King Edward, and to allude much to the services rendered to
the house of Mortimer by "the Lady Constance of blessed memory." She
enquired, too, respecting that delicate subject, namely, the bruited
witchcrafts and necromancies attributed to the Queen's mother, the
Duchess of Bedford, and before I could reply, she gave us a full and
true account of the history of the noted "Witch of Eldersfield." She
had herself received the information from Master Payne, who had heard
it from the monk, Father Boxo, and he had it from the Abbot of
Theocsbury's own serving man, who accompanied his master to Gloucester
when the ecclesiastical commission was summoned in the Chapter-House
to examine into the sorceries of this witch. And the good Dame's voice
dropped to a whisper as she described "how it was supposed that Master
Snakes had met the witch, when tracking her in the old crypt of the
Abbey of Llanthony, and that she had fled at him, throttled him, and
sucked his blood. It was known that he went forth in search of her,
and he was found bloodless, and with all the appearance of having died
a death of terror. The witch herself had never been seen since in
human form, but a big black cat still frequented the woods of
Eldersfield, and howled and caterwauled the live long night."

Having listened to this veracious account, I proposed retiring to
rest, and we were conducted to the chambers which were once occupied
by King John, and that which was the favourite domicile of the Red
Earl and the Princess Joan a'Acre when they visited Hamme Castle.

Verily in those days lords and ladies cared far less for creature
comforts than we, who are not satisfied if the rushes in our chambers
are not changed every other day, and must have our wine cups handed to
us after we are in bed. The tapestry with which the walls of these
chambers were hung was mouldy with age, and it was difficult to tell
which was Noah, and which was Pharaoh's daughter, in the designs said
to have been worked by Eleanor de Clare. The beds wanted stuffing with
fresh bed straw, and the furniture was of the most antique character.

We had not undressed when there was a noise at the barbican, and then
a trampling of feet and unbarring of doors, from which it was evident
there was some unexpected arrival since we left the supper-room. In a
short time a serving man came to my door to say that Dame Despenser
would be glad if I would go below stairs. I lost no time in complying
with the request, when to my surprise I saw the Queen's father, Earl
Rivers, resting against the splay of the window, looking worn and
anxious, and covered with mire. He was relating to the good Dame how
he was flying for his life, having escaped from a most disastrous
battle, fought near Banbury, in which the forces of King Edward had
been surprised by a great rising on the side of the Lancastrians, and
were utterly routed. The victorious army was in full pursuit of the
fugitives, and he quite expected the result would be the overthrow of
the King and the restoration of Henry of Lancaster.

He said, also, that he narrowly escaped at Worcester falling into the
hands of Jasper Tudor and Sire Andrew Trollop, who were on their road
to Northampton. Jasper Tudor had gone north, but Trollop had returned
south, and might be expected at Theocsbury any moment, whither several
like himself had already fled. Among the fugitives were the Earl of
Devon and his own son John Widville, who had married the ancient
Duchess of Northumberland.

We had now to consider not only what to do to shelter Lord Rivers, but
what course to take ourselves. Theocsbury was no safe place for
Yorkists in such an emergency, as I had learned from the events of the
previous evening, and the conduct of the rabble, ever ready to hound
on the bloodhounds of war on the losing side. Hamme Castle, too, would
be the first place the Lancastrians would search, for the Despensers
ever favoured the White Rose and the House of York and Mortimer. After
a brief consultation we determined to leave the Castle, although it
was in the dead of night, and go to the "Black Bear of Warwick," to
mount our horses and escape for our lives, none of which were worth a
moment's purchase if we fell into the hands of Trollop and his men-at-
arms. As we passed down to the street we met other fugitives, some
hurrying towards the sanctuary of the Abbey, and others to the little
church in St. Mary's Lane, both of which the Lancastrians might be
expected to consider as sacred, and as yet the sacredness of such
refuges had been broken by neither party.

It was not until we reached the "Black Bear" that I learnt from Lord
Rivers the full account of the total rout of the royal army at
Edgecote under the command of Sire Richard Herbert, who had been made
Earl of Pembroke in place of Jasper Tudor, when Tudor was proscribed
by the Yorkists. The Lancastrian army was commanded by Lord Fitzhugh,
Sire John Conyers, and Robert Hulden, and were now in pursuit,
determined on slaughter and revenge.

It was no easy matter to arouse the household at the "Black Bear," or
Master Tom of Gulley's End from his couch. It was necessary, too, to
obtain refreshment for Lord Rivers, as we had left Hamme Castle too
hurriedly to allow of his partaking any there. We also feared that
some of the Lancastrian army would soon arrive at the hostelrie.
Hasting in the mean time had informed Tom of the strait we, as well as
Lord Rivers, were in. The horses were at the door when Tom came to me
and said he knew of a sure and safe refuge, within a short distance,
and where a man might remain a month with little chance of detection.

This was at his cousin's house in the parish of Fordington, a wild and
desolate spot known as "Slop's Hole," on the borders of the forest
towards Chaceley. I knew the place from hunting, and a more secluded
place for refuge it was impossible to fix on. Surrounded on the south
and west by morasses, the only approach was from the north, and this
was by a forest path, deep in winter time with slush and mud, and at
the bottom of which was a small grange protected by moat and
drawbridge.

I quite agreed with our horsekeeper that this would be a good place to
conduct Lord Rivers, at least for a time, until we could make farther
arrangements for his safety.

Lord Rivers now mounted his worn and tired steed, and we rode
unmolested through the streets, though the people had begun to stir,
through the flocking in of fugitive Yorkists, and crossed the Severn
at the Fordington Ferry. Here I paid the ferryman to cut the rope of
his ferry boat and let it drift down the river, while he promised that
it should take at least two days to recover it.

Having seen Lord Rivers safe at Slop's Hole, and promising to return
before long, we rode rapidly homewards, as I was most anxious to put
our Manor-house in the best state of defence possible, knowing that if
Trollop had but time and opportunity, nothing would delight him so
much as burning our home above our heads.

The sun was just rising on a beautiful August morning as we rode by
Swinley Green and its great oaks and up the steep hill on which rises
Kitel Keep on one side and the church of Pendyke on the other. All
looked as secure and peaceful as in days of yore, when we hunted the
stag in the forest, or flushed a bittern in the mere of Pendyke. The
Malverns gleamed with a ruddy glow and the grey towers of the village
churches peered from the trees by the side of our homesteads. But the
curse of civil war was again amongst us, and a man in my position, who
had been active in the service of the King, could not lie down at
night without feeling that before morning he might be attacked by some
marauding band, who called themselves "followers of King Henry, in
search of rebels and malcontents."

It was therefore with great joy that I found, on my return, that Robin
of Elsdune had arrived at Castlemereton from Nottingham. He was sent
by King Edward with the hopes of again raising troops who would flock
to his standard as they did before the battle of Mortimer's Cross, now
nine years ago. Then I learnt that, after the terrible defeat at
Edgecote, the King had advanced at the head of some troops as far as
Nottingham, but his army was weak and depressed, so the King sought
refuge in the strong castle of Nottingham, from whence he had
despatched a letter to Calais, beseeching his brother the Duke of
Clarence and the Earl of Warwick to come to his assistance. This
letter reached Calais just after the Earl of Warwick's brother, the
Archbishop of York, had married the Duke of Clarence to the beautiful
Lady Isabella Neville, the great Earl's daughter.

With regard to raising troops in our neighbourhood circumstances were
altogether altered! King Edward had been several years upon the
throne, but nothing had been said or done for those who followed the
Lollard's faith. The "stout Earl Warwick," too, was now the popular
idol, and his name, as a redresser of wrongs, was in every man's
mouth. But Lord Warwick had his ambitious views; and his devices for
advancing the power of his own family were as deeply laid as those of
the Widvilles.

Yet although it would not have been easy to raise troops to battle for
King Edward's crown, we could ever rally aid for the defence of our
own homes and hearths from any sudden raid. Robin and I had taken good
care that our own hinds were well practised in the use of the bow and
the pike. The Birts Street and Rye Green archers were the best cross-
bow men in the country, and they would join us at an hour's notice. We
were also a long way from the great trackways by which troops were
moved, so that it was unlikely that Trollop could bring large forces
to attack us until the Lancastrian successes were much more developed.

We now arranged to place watchers in all the villages round, so that a
line of communication could be kept up day and night as long as the
danger lasted. All was quiet for two or three days, so I felt more
assured for the safety of my beloved ones at home, and it was agreed
that I should ride to the ferry at the Lower Lode to reconnoitre, and
also enquire at Slop's Hole after the welfare of Lord Rivers. As yet
we had not heard of any Lancastrian forays on our side the Severn.

At the Lower Lode ferry I found the Abbot of Theocsbury, Abbot
Strensham, who had passed the previous night at his Court house at
Fordington, which he generally made his summer's residence, and from
him I learnt that Theocsbury was being well searched by the victorious
Lancastrians for all fugitive Yorkists, that several had been taken
and sent as prisoners to Banbury, others were executed on the spot.

The good Abbot was most sorrowful at the apparently endless bloodshed
of these civil wars. He was too simple minded to enter much into
politics and questions of inheritance, and too good not to feel
bitterly the loss of valuable lives on both sides of the contending
parties. When I rode up he was waiting for the ferry boat, and
received me with that hearty manner and genial kindness for which he
was remarkable. Abbot Strensham was not one of those priests who love
to exhibit themselves in fine garments of velvet and spangles, but his
dress indicated his clerical profession, and he looked like an English
gentleman as well as an ecclesiastic. He was not rich in this world's
goods, for he was generous beyond his income and had poor relations
whom he did not think it right and manly to ignore. With this he had
commenced buildings and restorations of great cost within the Abbey,
but which he was not destined to see completed. But his heart was in
the work, and it was pleasant to see him wandering among the tombs of
the Barons, watching the workmen, or giving information to some
stranger on the age of the tower or nave, or some mortuary chapel
raised to the memory of the dead.

Few were so full of historic lore as Abbot Strensham, and he could
descant on themes of which the generality of the clergy, as a rule,
are profoundly ignorant, they being usually occupied upon questions of
dress and postures, ceremonial processions, gluttony feasts, and such
like pageantries. He was talking cheerily, as was his wont, to the
ferryman's wife, and telling her about the swallows as they flitted to
and fro across the waters, or the martens as they fled chirruping from
their nests below the eaves of the ferryman's hut; and how in the
autumn they would take their flight to more sunny climes.

On my enquiring what news there was from Theocsbury, he pointed to the
Lancastrian banner which now waved just below the lofty spire which
rose proudly from the Norman tower; and said that he was anxious to
cross over as soon as possible, to see that the sanctuaries were not
invaded or profaned.

The ferryman, it seems, had gone after his "elver putchins," and the
boat had not returned.

I was standing conversing with the Abbot beneath the shade of some
great oaks, when Sire Andrew Trollop rode up to the opposite side,
accompanied by a score of armed riders. They tried the ford above the
ferry, but the water was too high with the August rains. He then
shouted for the ferry-boat, and raved at the ferryman's wife, who
could only point down the river in the direction of the absent boat.
He now shouted the words "Slop's Hole!" and asked where was the next
ford. The ferry woman pointed up the river, and he galloped off,
accompanied by his men.

Hearing the words "Slop's Hole" thus shouted across the river, I felt
sure that Trollop had discovered the locality where Lord Rivers was
hiding, and was even now endeavouring to cross the Severn to arrest
him. Bidding a hasty adieu to the good Abbot, I sent a lad from the
ferryman's hut with a message to Hasting and Robin that a troop of
Lancastrians were crossing the river, and then rode as hard as I could
for the retreat of the Queen's father.

We had little time for explanations, and to make matters worse, Lord
Rivers' horse was dead lame. The honest franklin recognising me, at
once offered the use of his own steed, and there was nothing to be
done but accept it. I begged of him in the mean time to lose no time
in taking the nearest forest path to Birtsmereton, as Trollop would
most likely hang him when he found Lord Rivers had escaped.
Fortunately he was a bachelor, and had only a couple of hinds about
the premises whom he could take with him, so he consented to follow my
advice.

He had a singular way, too, of impressing Slop's Hole upon the memory
of Lancastrians, and one which some of them will remember to their
dying day. Before fastening the door he shut up every crevice in the
little ante-chamber, and taking a hive of bees from the stool below
the eaves of the dwelling, he upset them in the middle of the room,
retiring precipitately himself. Having done this he smiled grimly and
disappeared in the forest among the Swinley glades, followed by his
serving men.

Trusting to my knowledge of the forest rides by Cors Hill, I thought
it would be easy for us to escape to Gloucester, where we could obtain
shelter until this Lancastrian storm had passed by, so I struck off by
an intricate horse track, and followed by Lord Rivers rode for the
woodlands of Cors, avoiding the trackway, which, as long ago as the
times of the Romans, led from Gloucester to Upocessa, now Upton.

Alas! we soon found that the franklin's steed was "as slow as a
badger," and that it was impossible to ride beyond a slow trot. Still,
I hoped, notwithstanding this serious drawback, that it would be
impossible for any one not well accustomed to the country to follow us
by the paths I took, for the most part through dense woodlands.

We had not ridden above a couple of miles before we heard the sound of
a horn and the deep-chested note of a sleuth-hound. We were toiling up
the hill of Cors, when looking back I could see the flash of spears
among the trees, and that our pursuers were rapidly following us along
the route I had selected. I entreated Lord Rivers to give his horse
the spur, and turning sharply to the right tried to gain the more open
trackway; but it mattered not which way we turned, or which direction
we took, there was the challenge of the sleuth-hound, which evidently
had been set upon our track at Slop's Hole. The farther we went the
slower did the franklin's horse become, and it was evident to us both
that Trollop and his riders must soon overtake us.

There was but one thing to be done! We had now gained the trackway by
Hartpury, and I insisted upon Lord Rivers changing horses and riding
"Kingsland," as hard as he could, for Gloucester. He refused at first,
but on my telling him that I could escape myself on foot through the
woodlands, he at last consented, and rode off at a pace few horses
were likely to overtake.

I now left the useless horse standing in the middle of the track, and
dashed into the thickets, running as rapidly as I could for Hartpury,
where I had a right good friend and true who would have lost his right
hand rather than have surrendered me to the Lancastrians. But Trollop
laid the sleuth-hound upon my trail, and, while he sent half a score
of his followers after Lord Rivers, followed the hound and me with the
like number of his men. I had not run far before I was obliged to
defend myself against the dog, with my dagger, standing with my back
against an oak tree like a stag at bay. Fortunately I had a strong
leathern glove on my left hand, and getting hold of him drove the
weapon to his heart as he flew at my throat. But hardly was the
struggle over when I was dragged to the ground by the men-at-arms, who
quickly overpowered me, already half exhausted, and bound me hand and
foot.

"You have not escaped me this time," said Trollop, "and I will take
care you do not have the opportunity again."

I made no reply, knowing it would be useless, when this double traitor
gave orders to his men to hang me by the neck to a large oak which was
near at hand, and quickly, as he wanted to be off after "the traitor
Widville," who he doubted not was the man in front.

I expected that every moment would be my last, and visions passed
through my brain of Rosamond, and my dear old mother left alone in the
world, with hopes that Master Vaughan and our sure friend Robin might
be their friends and protectors when I was gone; when one of the men-
at-arms who seemed to have some authority spoke to Trollop aside, and
after his expostulations the rope was taken from my neck. Trollop then
gave orders that I should be roped, saying, "Be it so, perhaps it
would be better to send him straight to Banbury or Northampton, where
the example of hanging a traitor will be more public, and they may
stick his cursed head over one of their gateways. I will see him off
myself from Gloucester under a strong guard. Now ride to the front,
and catch this newly-fledged lord who is so light of heels."

I was now placed on a horse behind one of the troopers, my arms being
bound tightly behind my back, and my feet strapped under the horse's
belly, a most painful condition, amounting indeed to torture, and
heavy drops coursed down my face with the torment. This the gallant
knight heartily enjoyed, and he smiled and made jocular remarks as he
drew the knots tighter with his own hand.

Turning to the guide who had accompanied them from Theocsbury, he
enquired the way to Gloucester, and rode on in front, leaving me in
this wretched condition behind the trooper.

The rest of the riders he commanded to gallop forward, and await him
at the western gateway.

Weary now seemed that well-known road which ascends the trackway above
Hartpury, and on the crest of the hill looks upon the noble city of
Gloucester.

I had looked upon this view when I was a happy boy riding by my
father's side on the old palfrey that was my first steed, and when all
in the world seemed young and fresh and beautiful. I looked upon it
now as one whose days were numbered, and who would soon have to meet
my God, and serve him, I humbly trusted, in another sphere, perhaps in
one where there should be no more killing and slaying, and hunting one
another to the death. I felt no fear or terror, but sorrow that I
should have to die in so ignominious a manner rather than on the
battle field.

These thoughts and many others ran through my brain, when I heard the
gallop and snorting of a horse immediately behind us. I was so
fettered that all I could do was to turn my head half round, and see
my good esquire Hasting, mounted on our gallant "Mortimer," ride to
the head of the trooper's horse.

In an instant a blow from his battle-axe felled the trooper in front
of me from his seat, and in the next Hasting was engaged in a hand-to-
hand fight with Trollop. Trollop was some twenty yards in front of us
when the trooper went down, and attempted to defend the impetuous
charge of Hasting with the spear at the end of his battle-axe. He
might as well have attempted to stop the rush of a bull or the charge
of a wild boar! Then I heard a crash of iron against iron, and saw the
recreant knight fall to the ground as falls the ox stricken by the
butcher.

Hasting now galloped back to where I sat helpless upon the trooper's
horse, and a few seconds, with the edge of his dagger, sufficed to set
me free. So tightly had I been bound, that when I scrambled from the
horse I could not stand for some minutes, and my arms were as useless
as my legs. After a time I rallied, and we proceeded to examine the
unlucky trooper. He was stone dead, indeed it was unlikely he should
have lived a minute after that crushing blow.

Trollop lay at full length on his face on the green sward, now deeply
stained with his blood. The bridle was still in his left hand, and the
well broken charger stood by him motionless. But the cruel man had
ridden his last raid, for when we turned the body over and unfastened
his helmet, hardly a feature of his face was recognisable. Hasting had
struck him with tremendous force and driven in the bars of the vizor,
crushing the head as if it had been an egg.

We drew both corpses to the side of the trackway, and left them where
they lay, for we knew not how soon the men-at-arms under Trollop's
command might not return to see what had become of their leader and
his prisoner. I mounted Trollop's steed, and we galloped away for
Birtsmereton, my gallant friend telling me, as we rode, how he had the
good fortune thus to rescue me.

Robin knew I was going to Slop's Hole, and being anxious to learn what
had become of Lord Rivers, asked Hasting to ride over and see if he
could be of any service with our archers. Hasting met the franklin and
his men on the road, and learnt how they had amused themselves with
seeing from the summit of some trees the discomfiture of the riders
who entered among the infuriated bees, and listening to the wild oaths
of Trollop, who seemed to have been severely stung. They then saw the
party following upon our trail, and supposed I was making for
Gloucester. Hasting now rode for the trackway, and galloped in
pursuit, and in the hopes of seeing or hearing something of us.

Thus was wrought out for me this merciful and unexpected deliverance.



Chapter 16.


THE STRANGE EPISODES OF THE YEAR OF GRACE 1469--THE BATTLE
OF THE NIBLEY GREEN--THE KING MAKER AT THE ABBEY OF THEOCSBURY--MASTER
VAUGHAN AT PAYNE'S PLACE--THE IDES OF MARCH--THE KING-MAKER KING--
CHRISTMAS AMONGST THE HOLLANDERS--GLADSMORE HEATH--THE MARCH TO MEET
QUEEN MARGARET--THE MARCH BEFORE THE FIGHT AT THEOCSBURY.



The fate of Lord Rivers was less fortunate. He escaped as far as
Gloucester, and left my horse Kingsland, as agreed between us, at the
New Inn stables. Finding a number of Lancastrian troops at this city
he, with his son Sire John Widville, fled to the Forest of Dean, among
the wilds of which they hoped to obtain refuge.

For some days they hid in the old scowles, but at last were taken
prisoners and sent to Coventry, where they were both beheaded.

Hasting seemed to think very little of his performance in my behalf,
saying "it was good luck," but he could not escape from the gratitude
of my mother, and the way in which she said "God bless you, Master
Hasting." He was also much pleased by my presenting him with
"Mortimer," the best horse I ever possessed. A battle-axe which Sire
Robin had used at the battle of Towton was given him by the Knight of
Castlemereton and Elsdune, with many a hearty handshake.

Thus was I rid, in a most unexpected manner, of my inveterate foe, the
only personal enemy I ever had in the world, for a soldier's foe on
the battle-field cannot be deemed a personal enemy.

While this was taking place in our neighbourhood, King Edward had
retreated to Olney in a very precarious condition. Herbert, whom he
had created Earl of Pembroke, was dead; the Earl of Devon had been
executed at Bridgwater; and his own father-in-law, and brother in-law,
Earl Rivers and Sire John Widville, had been beheaded by the
insurgents. Others of the Yorkists were dead or scattered, fleeing for
their lives, or hiding themselves in remote places.

It was now that the extraordinary power and popularity of the Earl of
Warwick became manifest.

He arrived in England from Calais, after the summons of the King,
accompanied by his son-in-law the Duke of Clarence. On reaching Olney
they found Edward regularly beset, and the rebels preparing to attack
him. But such was the great Earl's popularity that, after he had held
an interview with Sire John Conyers and the other leaders, the
insurgent camp broke up and dispersed, while the King accompanied Earl
Warwick to his strong castle at Middleham. Here the King remained some
time as a guest, some say as a prisoner, but I do not think this
likely, for he soon returned to London and reigned as before.

These strange episodes happened in the year of grace 1469, and five
years after the King's marriage, but he had as yet no son, and the
Duke of Clarence was still heir to the crown. Court matters seemed
peaceful again, solemn oaths were interchanged, the royal brothers
were reconciled, and there was general feasting and forgiving. Sire
Robin and I were again summoned to the counsels of the King, but I
entreated of Robin to make my excuses, save if war broke out again,
for I had an idea, from my former experiences as the Queen's equerry,
that I should soon be involved in Court manoeuvres and intrigues,
crafts and artifices.

Besides this dislike of again living a Court life, I had determined to
seek Master Vaughan, and learn what had become of my lost Rosamond. I
revisited Elsdune and Hergest, and again I found that nothing whatever
was known of Master Vaughan! A few of the Welshmen whom he had taken
with him had returned to their mountain homes, but all they knew of
their chief and master was that he was engaged in several of the
skirmishes which occurred about the time of the battle near Banbury,
and had been seen badly wounded riding with Sire Andrew Trollop
through Worcester. They thought it was probable he was dead, as the
shadow of a black hound had been seen more than once in the glades of
Hergest, a sure sign of the decease of the head of the family.

In this year of grace 1469, was fought the great fight of Nibley Green
near Stinchcombe, among the Cotswold Hills, and which was more fatal
to those concerned than even our struggle at Castlemereton Keep.

It arose out of the disputes and claims for the possession of the
Castle and Barony of Berkeley between Thomas Talbot, Lord Lisle, and
Lord Berkeley. It was on the 19th of March that Lord Lisle, who was
only twenty years of age, and had recently married Maud, the daughter
of that William Herbert who was made Earl of Pembroke instead of
Jasper Tudor, sent a challenge written in his own hand to Lord
Berkeley, and dared him to come forth "with all his carts of gunnes
and bows and other ordinance," and "to try between God and their two
hands all their quarrel and title of right." The following day Lord
Berkeley returned answer to this challenge, and summoned Lord Lisle to
"faile not to morrow to be at Niblyes green at eight or nyne of the
clock."

So at sunrise on that March morning the two noblemen met, and Lord
Berkeley commanded an army of one thousand men. Lord Lisle's army was
not so strong, but they marched in order from Nibley Church and
attacked Lord Berkeley on the great green of Fowleshard, near a rough
wood where Lord Berkeley's men lay hidden. The fight was very bloody,
but Lord Berkeley's party gained the day, being much the most
numerous. Lord Lisle was shot by an arrow, his vizor being up, through
the face, and he was also stabbed by "Black Will" of the Forest of
Dean. Lord Berkeley then led on his archers to Wooton, where was the
manor of Lord Lisle, and sacked and pillaged it right fervently.

The yule log had burnt and smouldered all through the night of
Christmas eve of 1469, and this was hailed as such an excellent good
omen that mother declared we should have tidings of the lost one. It
were too long to tell of the Christmas feast, and the songs of olden
times, with all our merriment and revelry. Suffice to say that it took
our dames and damsels, with their wenches, a month to prepare for it,
and that not a poor person within hearing of our church bells went
either dinnerless or supperless to bed.

New Year's Day of 1470 arrived, with its interchange of presents and
hopes for "good luck and good gear for all the new year;" while the
wasshael was replenished from morning to night. There were more carols
and more feasting and dancing, but at last we settled down to our
usual home life.

Then came St. Valentine, "when every lover kissed his maid, and every
maid her John," and the snowflake was eagerly sought for as a lucky
posy by anxious lovers.

It was on St. Valentine that I had occasion to ride over to
Theocsbury, and on my way to the Lower Lode I passed the good Abbot
Strensham, who was standing at the gateway of the Abbot's Court at
Fordington, and entreated me to dismount and go to the Court and see a
painting on wood of most excellent limnering. This was a portrait of
King Offa investing a pilgrim with the staff and ring, and had been
found, hidden away behind the altar, in the little chapel. The Abbot
surmised that it was of great antiquity. He also invited me to inspect
the new works of the Lady Chapel at the Abbey, and accompanied me
across the ferry on my way to the town.

When I had stabled my horse I went down to the Abbey and found Abbot
Strensham in the cloisters attending to some guests who were evidently
personages of consequence. I now recognized, to my great surprise, the
Earl of Warwick and his Countess, Anne Beauchamp. They had visited the
Abbey from their Castle at Hanley, as the Countess was desirous of
seeing the tombs of her mother, Isabel Despenser, Countess of Warwick,
and of her brother, the Duke of Warwick.

The Earl gave me a soldier's greeting, and the Countess a courteous
recognition. This lady possessed a gentle voice and manner, far more
winning than the sharp tones of Elizabeth, Queen of England. She was a
right gentle lady! We lingered until the Abbot conducted us to the
western view of the noble west window with its great Norman arches,
and the grandest in all the Abbey.

While we were thus engaged, the Earl enquired if the Abbot had heard
of the infamous conduct of the Queen's mother, the Duchess of Bedford,
in employing sorcery against his life, and having a waxen figure made
which by wicked witchcrafts should cause him to die by slow and
lingering disease.

Abbot Strensham replied that the accusations of witchcraft against the
Duchess were the common talk of the country, but that he was glad to
see that the Earl looked none the worse for the necromancy, which
often recoiled upon those who had recourse to such abominable devices.
Declining the hospitality of the Abbot, the Earl of Warwick invited me
to accompany him to his barge, which was waiting on the Severn to
convey them on their return to Hanley Quay, as the Countess wished to
grant me certain privileges of chase in her manors of Hanley and
Welland. As we walked through the town he told me that the jealousies
and animosities of the Queen's family against himself and his
relations were so manifest, that they tended to produce great
misunderstandings between himself and the King.

At the corner of Tolsey Lane we met with Master Payne, who recognizing
"the stout Earl," was most profound in his salutations, and we were
soon surrounded by a delighted crowd eager to welcome their
illustrious visitors, while the welkin soon rung with shouts of "A
Warwick!" "Long live the Earl of Warwick!"

Crossing the wide Holme meadows to where the barge lay on the Severn
waters, Earl Warwick said that it was his intention to challenge me to
a day's stag hunting in the Chase at Hanley, but that he had been
summoned unexpectedly to a great entertainment to be given to the King
and the Duke of Clarence by his own brother, the Archbishop of York,
at his Manor of the Moor, in Hertfordshire. Still he hoped the time
would come when we should have a gallop together among the glades and
woodlands of our Chase.

By this time we neared the barge, which was well fitted for the
accommodation of noble ladies, as there was a kind of dais at the prow
sheltered from the sun or from storms by curtains of silk and damask,
such as I had often seen on the Thames. Four towing horses, richly
caparisoned, and with riders in the Warwick liveries, stood ready
harnessed for hauling up the river. But I ceased to look at these on
beholding a fair young face, wreathed in smiles, and peering through
the curtains as we approached the river bank.

Then bounding from the barge's prow on to the shore came one of the
most fairy-like figures I have ever beheld. This was the Lady Anne
Neville, who not being strong had remained on board the barge, and now
came to meet her parents, looking like a lily of the valley, which
cannot bear exposure to a hot sun or a bitter wind.

Her father presented me as "a stalwart knight who fought at Mortimer's
Cross," and she gave me a sweet smile and a curtsey before she cast
her arm round her mother's waist and assisted her across the wooden
platform to the barge.

I thought at the time how little this noble girl was fitted to battle
with the stern ambitious men with whom her lot was cast. Earl Warwick
took the tiller with his own hand, and shouting to the prowman to look
well ahead, the horses started, at first slowly, up the stream,
hundreds of people running by the side of the barge and cheering
vociferously.

I walked along the shore for a short distance, removing my cap from
time to time in adieu, until the barge passed by the red cliff of the
Mythe Twt, when I received a wave of the hand from one of the greatest
statesmen and soldiers England ever possessed. It would have been
better for him, as events turned out, if he had not gone to meet the
King at that feasting of the Archbishop's, where he was enticed into a
conspiracy which was unworthy of his fame and character.

I was returning slowly to the hostelrie when I was accosted by Master
Payne of Bushley and the fertile meads of Pull, who begged of me to
accompany him to his little grange, "Payne's Place," as a Lancastrian
gentleman lay there badly wounded, who had enquired after me and how
far it was to our Manor.

On reaching the timbered lodge of "Payne's Place," which stands by the
quaint old church with its Saxon relics, where it was built among the
wild bushes on the ley, I found, to my great surprise, that the
wounded soldier was Master Vaughan. He had been with the insurgents in
the late fight, thinking the rising would end in the restoration of
Henry of Lancaster, and had been struck by an arrow, but making light
of it he rode southward with troops, until his wound rankled to such
an extent that he was compelled to halt at Theocsbury, where he would
have died had not Master Payne, finding he was a Lancastrian, acted
like the good Samaritan, and removed him to his own house and under
his own care, where he lay lingering for weeks and weeks.

Master Vaughan's wound had again rankled and festered, so that he was
now in a high fever, and lay in a very precarious condition. For
several days he was quite delirious, and I feared he would die without
being able to tell me what had become of my beloved Rosamond. I rode
daily over to see him, and passed a good deal of my time watching by
the sick bed of one whom I soon found had done me most grievous wrong.

At last he rallied for a time, recognised me, and I could see was not
a little confused at my presence. Then little by little he told me of
the miseries many of the Lancastrians had undergone for six long
years, "ever since the great defeat at Hexham and the marriage of the
usurper Edward of York." He told how "King Henry had wandered about
for weeks in a half-starving state until he was taken a prisoner to
the Tower, and how the Queen and her son roamed from place to place,
fell among a band of robbers, and at last escaped to France." But not
a syllable did he say about his niece, or the Countess of Oxford,
until I pressed him to tell me what had happened to them among all
this misery and indigence. Even then he avoided the subject, and told
how one Philip de Comines had himself seen the once proud Duke of
Exeter "serving for his livelihood as a running footman."

After this he appeared exhausted, and lay back upon the couch, closing
his eyes and begging of me to leave him quiet for the present. Nor was
it for three days that I learned how, fearful for the eternal welfare
of Rosamond, owing to her Lollard predilections and youthful training
by her grandfather, and my belief also in "the heresies of Master
Wycliffe," he had consulted with the Countess of Oxford and had placed
his niece in a convent in the south of France, where he hoped she
might eventually be converted to a true faith and her future
salvation.

Many years have passed away since these revelations were, little by
little, dragged by questioning from Master Vaughan, but it is
impossible to express my indignation at the time, or the bitter way in
which my heart was wrung by such treatment of my affianced wife.

I knew perfectly well that her custody in this convent was against her
will, and that could she have escaped she would have begged her bread
to the sea-side, and endeavoured to return to us and her own home; but
it was evident she was a prisoner, and might remain so, and
undiscovered for the rest of her life, without I could learn from her
uncle where she was immured. I now knelt by the side of his couch and
told him how long we had loved each other, how we had been brought up
together from our earliest childhood, how anxious we were to lead
together good and useful lives, and besought him, for the sake of a
merciful God, if he hoped to obtain merecy himself, not to sacrifice
the happiness of two persons connected with him by the ties of
relationship and the old friendship of years, and all for the
religious opinions of erring men and misguided priests; but he only
turned uneasily on his couch, avoided my earnest gaze, and said feebly
something about "to-morrow!" But that to-morrow never came to him! I
sat by him all that night, the fever again rose to its full height,
and before midnight his spirit passed away as he was talking and
gesticulating to an imaginary hound, which nothing would induce him to
believe was not endeavouring to jump up upon the couch. It was a sad
spectacle next morning as the corpse of this gallant gentleman lay
distorted, and the morning sun burst full upon it, another victim of
these accursed wars. And mine was a sad heart, as I knew not whether I
should ever again see, or even hear of, the beloved of my heart in
this world of sin and suffering!

I did all that was left to be done for the body of Rosamond's uncle,
and he was laid in the church of Kington, near to the home of his
youth and maturer years, and where he might have lived for may years
honoured and respected, but for the conflicts and disputes of the
"Wars of the Roses." He had been knighted by King Louis of France, and
now lies beside his wife, with the escutcheon of Sire Thomas Vaughan.
Verily, I had cause to curse the day when English men and English
women could be thus separated and persecuted through priestly
quibblings about their common Christianity.

It was quite evident from Master Vaughan's manner before he died at
Payne's Place that he had still great hopes for the Lancastrian cause,
but it was not possible to ascertain on what foundation those hopes
rested; and as King Edward appeared to be safe on his throne once
more, I dismissed the idea of danger from my mind, and was busy making
arrangements to go to the continent, search out the Countess of
Oxford, and endeavour to learn from her where Rosamond Berew was
imprisoned in the south of France.

The Ides of March of the year of grace 1470 had now arrived, the time
of warnings and omens. Ever since the days of the Romans have these
March Ides been notable for visions, warnings, omens, and portents!
The village maidens hate to see a single magpie, as that bird seen
alone in the early morn, at this time of year, is fatal to all hopes
of their wedding for another twelve months; whereas two in company are
"a most loving sign." The croak of the raven, too, as he wings his way
towards the Malverns, is ever a bad token, if heard during the Ides,
and makes the wenches turn the left way in their beds to try to undo
the unlucky spell.

A strange omen was also reported from Theocsbury. A damosel was
searching for spring violets and the early primrose among the glades
in the New Parks, when, at Lincoln's Green, and where now is the
"Field of Blood", she came on bunches and clusters of crimson daisies.

I thought little of this at the time among the many wonderments which
are ever told on the Ides of March, but after the great battle I
remembered how daisies were the emblem flowers of Margaret of Anjou,
and how she ever wore them worked in noble stitchery upon her boddice.

Another warning of those war-begotten times happened at the old Saxon
grange and mill called Bury Mill, beneath the hanging groves of
Hazeldine at Redmarley. Mistress Alice Shipside, who lived at the
Grange, was a learned lady, and though she loved well to play at
tennis, and was famous at closh bowls, loved still better the lore of
scrip and the grey goose quill.

Nay, she had written a poesie of romaunt with her own fair hand. She
knew well, too, how to interpret a token or a manifestation; and so
her friends Miranda and Dorothy Paunceforte entreated her to try the
test of March mistletoe.

The "kissing boss" of Christmas had been carefully saved until the
Ides, and was put upon the blazing hearth in all solemnity at the hour
of midnight, each damsel hoping and praying for a fair omen. But alas!
instead of the steady, fervent, glowing blaze of the future lover, the
boss burst forth not only in those sputterings and spitterings which
warn the damsel against cross and ill-tempered swains, but in 40,000
death sparks, frighting the omen seekers, and a sure sign of future
and grievous battle.

My mother, too, had received several omens! Some portended marriage,
for "bells upon the wind" were heard in the early morn, and she had
searched, too, for the four-leaved shamrock. Others portended death,
for a piece of wood like a coffin had shot out from the fire, and
winding sheets had been seen in the rushlights.

But of all the omnious forebodings none seemed to promise such
disastrous results as that unlucky entertainment of the Archbishop of
York to King Edward, which the Earl of Warwick left his hunting seat
at Hanley Castle to attend.

The illustrious guests had assembled at the Archbishop's Manor of the
Moor, at the end of the month of February, and as the King was washing
his hands for supper he received information through an attendant that
the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence had conspired to seize
his person, and that an armed band was lurking near the house. Leaving
his supper and his host the King got secretly to horse, and riding all
night reached Windsor Castle alone, furious at such treachery. The
Duchess of York, the King's mother, had endeavoured to patch up a
reconciliation, but from that hour Edward never again had faith in the
Earl of Warwick or any of the Nevilles.

In a few weeks the King manifested such open hostility against his
brother Clarence and the great Earl, that they in their turn took to
flight, and embarking at Dartmouth sailed with their ladies and a
number of adherents to Calais. There was now an open breach which was
never likely to be healed.

And yet Edward seemed little concerned at this crisis. He followed his
sports, his feasts, and his gallantries, and although warned by his
brother-in-law, Charles the Bold, "to put his kingdom in a state of
defence," he took no precautions, and summoned no fresh troops to his
standard.

Yet another omen of future war burst upon us! In the month of June the
fallen Lancastrian Queen, Margaret of Anjou, and her son, the Prince
of Wales, met the Earl of Warwick at the château of Amboise, and
forgave the Earl the long years of humiliation of which he had been
the principal cause. Soon, too, this extraordinary reconciliation was
ratified by the marriage of the Prince Edward to the beautiful Lady
Anne Neville, whom I had seen so lately in all her virgin loveliness
by the Severn shore at Theocsbury. Well indeed might Master Comines
write of this marriage, "An unaccountable match this, to dethrone and
imprison the father, and then marry his own daughter to the son."

But I shall ever believe that the "stout Earl" knew well enough that
Edward would never forget that attempt to arrest his person at the
Archbishop's supper; that he also knew the weak and flimsy character
of his first son-in-law, the Duke of Clarence, and so determined to
fly a new hawk at the quarry of ambition.

Still King Edward made no sign, but acted as if he cared nothing for
Warwick or anything that happened across the seas. It was a most
hazardous negligence, as time soon discovered.

Our corn had ripened beneath the August's sun; we had partaken of the
"codlings and cream," garnished with the willow herb; had netted our
partridges and leverets in the early September; and I had arranged to
sail for France in a merchant's ship to search for Rosamond, when I
received a message from Dame Despenser, begging of me to wait upon her
at Hamme Castle without delay. On riding over, I found that she had
tidings to communicate, which came upon me, as it did upon thousands
of others, like the crash of a thunderbolt! It was that the Earl of
Warwick and the Duke of Clarence had landed on the 12th of September,
in Devonshire, and already many thousands had flocked to the standard
which they had raised in the name of Henry of Lancaster! Already the
populace were tossing their bonnets in the air, shouting "God bless
King Harry!"

While this was going on, King Edward was in the north, drawn thither
by a feigned revolt, and there were no troops to meet Earl Warwick and
prevent his marching on London.

What the end of all this would be no one could foresee, but it behoved
every one who supported the White Rose of York to be up and stirring,
and every soldier that could be enlisted must be rallied to the
standard.

Dame Despenser was ready to do all a woman could, out of a poor purse,
to aid in levying troops in and around Theocsbury, but she had little
interest with those who would take up the bow and spear in such a
cause, being more affected towards the clergy, to whom she was ever
hospitable. Indeed, as far as circumstances allowed, she assayed to
follow the example of Robert, the first Earl of Gloucester, who
centuries before lived much at Hamme Castle, and was wont to invite
the Abbot and his monks to dine with him every Sunday in the year.

Thus a Sunday never passed without some ecclesiastic being the guest
of this hospitable lady, at the well-nigh ruined edifice, once the
proud home of the great Earls of Gloucester. It was said that the good
Abbot never missed the Sunday's dinner, as long as the "least
lampreys" were in season, or as long as the salmon was pink and
crimped. Here, too, often came Master Holdhard, the chirurgeon (for
Theocsbury could boast a real chirurgeon), a man of mark and learning.

From Master Holdhard I gathered that little good was to be done at
Theocsbury itself in recruiting for King Edward. Indeed, it was
doubtful whether the common people cared for either king, for the Earl
of Warwick consumed more mustard at his daily banquets than ever did
the Courts of King Henry or King Edward, and mustard here meant
politics and patriotism.

Nevertheless I went to the Bowling Green and played closh bowls with
several gentlemen of the neighbourhood, and to the Tolsey, where I met
Master Payne and Sire Gervais Clifton; but these were both
Lancastrians, although neither as yet had heard of the landing of the
Earl of Warwick. Having met with little encouragement at the Bowling
Green, I applied to the host of "the Black Bear of Warwick," and from
information I received from him, was induced to take a boat up the
river Avon to Twyning Fleet, where the Danes are said to have turned
back after the burning of Theocsbury, and the pillage of the Saxon
granges and church of Bredon. At Twyning and Bredon I was enabled by
promises and money to enlist about half-a-score archers, but here as
everywhere the cry was "A Warwick! A Warwick!" and I perceived that
"the stout Earl" might, if he would, become King of England, as far as
the populace was concerned.

The aspect of affairs was such that I rode homeward anxious and
depressed, but determined, come what may, never to desert the cause of
my Royal Master, while inwardly cursing the family squabbles which
again seemed likely to bring the best blood of England to be shed like
water.

Still no message came from Robin, and no summons from the King to
march with what troops I could assemble. Everything was in a state of
uncertainty, at all events to us who lived in a remote district,
until, on the 29th of September, came the sad tidings, by a special
messenger of Robin's, that King Edward had found all resistance
hopeless, and had fled for his life to Holland with few attendants.
Indeed, such was his haste and so great his straits, that of this
adventure Master Comines has written, "The King, having no money, was
forced to give the master of the ship a gown lined with martens, and
to promise to do more for him another time, and sure so poor a company
had never been seen before."

"The King-Maker," as the Earl of Warwick was now called, was now in
possession of all England, and with his son-in-law, the Duke of
Clarence, entered London in triumph on the 6th of October (1470). He
then released King Henry, whom he had himself committed to the Tower
five years before. So all the people shouted "God save King Henry!"
and declared Edward of York a foul usurper, in the presence of his own
brother Clarence, and had great processions with praise and
thanksgiving to the Virgin, as is ever the custom with all mobs
whenever there has been, or is likely to be, much slaughter and
desolation.

The "King-Maker" was now really King, for Henry of Lancaster was too
weak of character, although pious withal, to hold the reins of power
in these troublous times. The Duke of Clarence was only a little over
twenty-one years of age, and was trusted by no one who knew him!
Besides, he was no longer heir to the Crown, for since Henry of
Lancaster was king, Edward his son, the husband of the Lady Anne, was
Prince of Wales.

Great, indeed, were the changes throughout all England, and thousands
of Yorkists had to fly for their lives. Queen Elizabeth and her young
daughters, with her mother the Duchess of Bedford, sought refuge in
the sanctuary at Westminster; many fled to the wilds of Scotland and
Wales; many to the Continent; but all were in a state of despair. The
attainders of the Lancastrians were reversed, and every one who was
dispossessed by King Edward expected to be restored to their lost
honours.

My own position became serious. I had been attached to the person of
Edward of York at different times for ten years, and received grants
of three hides of land from the Chase of Malvern as his free gift. It
was true I had a sincere friend in Calverley, but his claims were
little known at Court. Still through his aid and endeavours I made
enquiries respecting the Countess of Oxford, from whom I hoped to
ascertain something or other as to the convent where Rosamond was
immured, and learnt to my infinite mortification that she had not
returned with the Lancastrian refugees from the Continent.

While these enquiries were being instituted, with delays which were
most provoking, Robin of Elsdune arrived from his home on the borders
of Radnorshire, and announced his determination of joining his royal
master in Holland as soon as he could find a ship. He invited we to
accompany him, but I hardly liked leaving my mother in such troublous
times. She, however, entreated me to hold firmly to the King in this
his dire distress, saying that she was well assured that if my father
was living he would be one of the first to follow him to the death.

With some difficulty we found a ship, and crossing the seas to
Holland, joined King Edward at the Hague. Notwithstanding our
appearance, without a single man-at-arms but ourselves, and rather
scantily supplied with money, the King received us in his usual frank
and hearty manner, and we found him preparing four great ships in
Walcheren, with money furnished him by his loving brother-in-law the
Duke of Burgundy.

We passed our Christmas and the commencement of the New Year (1471) in
that strange country where live the Hollanders. It is one continuous
mere or marsh land, flat as a Shrove pancake, and traversed by great
dikes and ditches, while their towns and villages are ever ready to be
swamped by the overflowing waters.

Right glad, therefore, were we when the month of March arrived, and we
embarked with a gallant little force of well-armed men, and, facing a
stormy sea, sailed for the shores of England. It is true that the
voyage reduced us both to a condition unbecoming knights and
gentlemen, but, if it was any satisfaction, the King himself and
several noble lords were as incapable as ourselves. My Lord of Scales,
now Earl Rivers, King Edward's brother-in-law, looked like a trussed
fowl, and his cheeks chattered like castanets; while the bravest
knights went stumbling about as if overcome with strong drink, and
retching fearfully like a consumptive cat.

On the morning of the 16th of March we safely landed our little army
at Ravenspur, and then marched on York, where we found but a cold
reception, and so crossed the Trent, when numbers flocked to the
King's standard.

The strong walls and numerous gates and towers completed by Richard
II. bespoke the magnificence of Coventry, and the noble Cathedral
towered over all; but the inhabitants were hostile to King Edward, and
had admitted the Earl of Warwick with great stores of ordnance, for
which afterwards they had to pay the fine of 500 marks. Thus King
Edward was driven to lodge that night at Warwick in a hostelrie.

Now had the Earl of Warwick to suffer for destroying the prospects of
his son-in-law, the Duke of Clarence, to the crown of England. This
fickle young man, who was to have joined his father-in-law at
Coventry, made his men put the White Rose of York over their gorgets,
and deserted to his brother Edward with all his troops. On this the
King threw himself, with his whole army, between the Lancastrians and
London, marching to the capital, where his return was hailed with
enthusiasm by all the citizens, who, forgetting the splendid
hospitalities of Lord Warwick and the piety of King Henry, now shouted
"God save King Edward!"

Queen Elizabeth, too, had added to the general joy by presenting her
husband, and his loving citizens, with a Prince of Wales of the line
of York, who was born in the Sanctuary at Westminster.

We had but a short time to enjoy all the popular demonstrations, for
in two days after our entry we heard that Warwick had formed a large
camp on Gladsmore Heath, about midway between St. Alban's and London,
and with him were many powerful barons. Robin and I were in attendance
on the King, who arrived at the small town of Barnet during the
afternoon of Easter eve, and occupied most of his time in bringing up
his army almost close to the Lancastrians, under cover of the night,
while they thought to frighten us by a continual firing of carronades,
as most of the artillery was in their hands.

It is much to my regret that I cannot describe the famous battle of
Barnet, for I was not present at the struggle, having been sent by the
King at midnight on the eve of the battle with despatches for London.
On my return it was to look upon a stricken field, the dead and the
dying. I gathered from others how the battle commenced between four
and five o'clock on the morning of that Easter Sunday, though the mist
was so thick that neither Lancastrians nor Yorkists could discern the
forces of the other. This dense fog was reported to have been raised
by the incantations of Friar Bungay, who was employed by the Duchess
of Bedford to make a waxen image of the Earl of Warwick.

The Duke of Gloucester commanded the van; the King, with the Duke of
Clarence, the centre; and Lord Hastings the rear. Robin was all day in
close attendance as an equerry on the King.

Lord Warwick led the centre of the Lancastrians, with his brother the
Marquis of Montague and Lord Oxford; the Duke of Somerset led the
archers; while the Duke of Exeter was in the rear. The armies were so
completely enveloped in the mist that whole corps of men-at-arms went
astray, and although 40,000 Englishmen were engaged in deadly combat
against each other, the slaughter was not to compare to that of
Mortimer's Cross, still less to that of Towton. The contest was
furious and terrible between the central forces led by the King and
those led by the Earl of Warwick and his brother, while the two wings
of both armies appear hardly to have engaged at all. Lord Warwick and
his gallant brother sent away their horses and rushed on foot against
their enemies, dealing death on every side. The King's standard-bearer
was killed by Warwick's own hand, and it was said that Warwick himself
was struck down by the battle-axe of the Duke of Gloucester, who
rushed forward through fog and mist.

Thus fell the "Stout Earl of Warwick," so famed for his hospitality,
so royal in his tastes, and so popular that his absence was accounted
as the want of the sun in the heavens, and whose authority was such
that kings were raised or deposed as he willed. With the fall of the
leaders the Lancastrians took to flight, and were much sheltered by
the Friar's fog. The slain were somewhat over one thousand on both
sides; but of all the great Lancastrian lords not one escaped save the
Earl of Oxford, and he joined Jasper Tudor, who had reached Wales and
was raising another Lancastrian army.

Gladsmore Heath was a sorry sight when the fog cleared about mid-day,
for the battle was won before ten o'clock in the forenoon. The bodies
of the "stout Earl" and his brother lay side by side. Loving each
other in life, in death they were not divided. They were borne to
London on a litter, and after being exposed in the Church of St.
Paul's for three days, were buried in the same tomb, at Bisham Priory
in Berkshire.

King Edward's first act after the battle of Barnet, was to send King
Henry back to his old prison in the Tower. There were thanksgivings at
St. Paul's and all the great London churches. The banner with the
three suns floated from the battlements of the Tower; the trumpets
sounded, all was rejoicing, and no one thought that another bloody
battle was soon to follow before Edward was again seated firmly on his
throne!

I and Robin occupied our old quarters in the Tower, and only five days
had elapsed after the battle of Barnet when the King received
information that Margaret of Anjou and her son Prince Edward had
landed with a large body of French troops at Weymouth on the very day
her ally Earl Warwick was defeated and slain. The King was prompt and
vigorous; all the perils he had so lately passed through by sea and by
land did but increase his energy.

It was necessary to attack this French army of Margaret's before
Jasper Tudor should march across the Severn with his new levies, or
she should join him on the borders of Wales.

We now marched to Windsor, where we remained several days, and the
King celebrated the feast of St. George.

Queen Margaret, after her landing at Weymouth, was entertained at
Cerne Abbey, between Sherborne and Dorchester, and thither came the
Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Devonshire to hold consultation, as
they were raising troops in the southern counties.

At Windsor the King was well informed of the movements of the enemy,
through his scouts and spies, and heard that bodies of Lancastrian
troops had advanced from Exeter to Wells, and sent their riders as far
as Yeovil, as if they would advance on Reading.

But the King believed this to be a feint, and that the real intention
of Somerset was to join forces with Jasper Tudor somewhere on the line
of the Severn. That he was right the following events proved. On the
24th of April the camp at Windsor was broken up amidst the neighing of
steeds and the clangour of mail, and again at the head of his army
rode "The Lion of York," the silver sun on all his banners, and the
very housings of his war-horse sparkling with devices. Robin followed
as his body esquire, and I was attached also to his personal staff. We
marched by Abingdon to Cirencester, where the whole army encamped in a
large park; and from thence proceeded to Malmesbury, from which place
I was sent with a body of archers to watch the movements of the
Queen's forces and send back reports to the King.

We rode to the village of Bath, famous for its hot springs and Roman
ruins, and from thence I sent scouts to the important city of Bristol,
where they learned that the Lancastrian army was embarrassed by the
presence of Queen Margaret, her son, Prince Edward, and daughter-in-
law, the Princess Anne; also that they had been well received by the
Bristol citizens, who furnished them with food, men, and money.

No sooner had the King assurance of the encampment of the Lancastrians
before Bristol, than he led his army from Malmesbury to Sudbury, and
encamped upon a hill which rises above this little town, and is
distant about seven miles from Bristol.

It was now the first of May, and we all felt sure that a battle would
be fought between Bristol and Sudbury, but the Duke of Somerset could
not induce the Governor of Bristol Castle to espouse the cause of the
Queen, and he feared being caught in the rear by the garrison, if he
should there engage with the forces of the King. So at midnight I
received information that the Lancastrians had broken up their camp
and were marching towards Berkeley and Gloucester. Not a moment was to
be lost, as the enemy's tactics were now apparent! They would
endeavour to cross the Severn. When the scout brought this news I was
between Bristol and the hill of Sudbury, and not more than three miles
from the King's camp, so I galloped to his quarters in the town below,
and found him sleeping on a low couch as peacefully as if in his
palace at Windsor.

Most generals would have waited, at least for the dawn of morning,
before arousing the officers and troops. Not so the energetic Edward!
While I assisted him to buckle on his riding gear, the sentinels were
calling the troops to arms, and by two o'clock in the morning he was
in full march along the high ground of the Cotswold Hills, while the
Lancastrians marched in the vale below. During the time he was
dressing he conversed with me and Robin, gaily, about the movements of
his enemies, and made a great point of overtaking them before they
could cross the Severn, where Jasper Tudor was awaiting them with
several thousand Welshmen.

Robin, as his most trusted esquire, had charge of his armour, which
was placed upon a sumpter horse, while Robin himself bore the Kings
casque and lance. His favourite battle-axe hung by the side of his war
steed, and before dawn, on that morning of the 2nd of May, Edward rode
forth upon the most extraordinary march in all these unhappy wars. The
whole army moved as silently as possible, and not a trumpet sounded.
But I was not destined to accompany him, for I was sent on a business
of importance into the vale. Bidding me select the swiftest horse in
all his stud, the King commanded me to head the enemy, and if possible
reach Gloucester before the advent of the foremost riders of the
Lancastrians. The Governor of the Castle there was Richard Beauchamp,
son of Lord Beauchamp of Powick, and I was to entreat him to hold the
Castle at all hazards, and if possible to prevent the Queen's army
from entering the city. Conducted by a well-mounted franklin I took
the route by Alderley, Wooton, and Frocester, and while the
Lancastrians were refreshing their men with good Berkeley cheeses and
strong ale, we struck ahead of their advanced corps of scouts and came
upon the Bristol trackway below Haresfield, and rode from thence
rapidly to the Southgate of Gloucester walls.

It was not easy to obtain admission, for Richard Beauchamp was a
staunch follower of King Edward's, and had given strict orders that no
one should be allowed to enter the city without his leave. He had a
strong garrison and was enabled to enforce his commands, otherwise the
Queen had numerous partisans within the city who would gladly have
received the whole Lancastrian army. Before I could obtain entrance,
the Governor rode down to the Southgate to make a personal examination
of myself and my companion, and, on finding who we really were, gladly
welcomed us as friends and allies.

The whole city was in an uproar, for news of the arrival of the Queen
and her adherents at Berkeley had already reached Gloucester, although
nothing was known of the movements of King Edward. The scaffolding of
the Cathedral tower was covered with men curious to see the advance of
the Lancastrians, as were the towers of all the other churches, and
the parapets along the city walls. It was evident that the Abbot and
the clergy with their followers would, if they had dared, have opened
their gates wide to the Lancastrians; but Beauchamp had hoisted the
banner of York, which now floated proudly in the morning's sun, and
said he would hang the first man who talked of opening the city gates
over the city walls, and Richard Beauchamp was a man to keep his word.
Several citizens, therefore, who had been very busy running to and fro
shouting "God save King Henry!" from henceforth held their peace. At
the Castle, I found the garrison to a man in favour of Edward of York,
and they were a strong body of men-at-arms under a very determined
commander. Beauchamp, however, privately informed me that he should
not like to lead them beyond the walls and leave the Castle
defenceless, so strong a Lancastrian party was there within the city.

It was about ten o'clock in the forenoon that a party of riders, with
whom I recognized Sire Gervais Clifton, reached the Southgate,
demanding admittance "in the name of the Queen of England and the Duke
of Somerset." Richard Beauchamp himself gave a stern refusal, and they
returned to their leaders; but by eleven o'clock the whole army was
encamped before the town. Lord Wenlock now rode to the Southgate,
preceded by two trumpeters, and again demanded admittance,
threatening, if it were denied, to assault the gates and enter by
force, which Richard Beauchamp challenged him to do, advising him to
retreat, if he would not himself be assaulted by a shower of arrows.

While these interchanges of menaces were going on, a number of King
Edward's fore-riders, who were far in advance of the main army, and
were led by Sire Thomas Grey, appeared with banners flying, on the
summit of Robin's Wood Hill, within two miles of the city, and the
sound of their clarions was brought by the wind.

The Lancastrians now thought that King Edward had approached with his
whole army, and feared, if they attempted to attack the city, that he
would assail them in the rear, so they marched away in the direction
of Theocsbury as rapidly as they could.

No sooner had they departed, than I begged the loan of a fresh horse
from Beauchamp, and rode by the bridge across the Severn, making for
Theocsbury, by the right bank, while the Lancastrians marched on the
other side by Norton and Deorhyste through woods and noisome lanes.
The road by Maisemore and Ashelworth is full of cumbersome paths and
deep ditches, and, on the left, hills and dales, so that it was not
possible to travel fast; moreover, I found that in front of me was a
strong party of men-at-arms, under Jasper Tudor, reconnoitring, and
nothing but my knowledge of the country saved me from being taken
prisoner. I came upon them suddenly, near Ashelworth quay, and seeing
by the badges I wore, that I was one of King Edward's equerries, two
of them gave chase, but my gallant horse soon left them, cumbered as
they were with armour and gear, to flounder among the Hasfield
ditches, while I quietly quaffed a flagon of Styre cider at Master
Paunceforte's, giving him due notice that there were wolves ahead, and
savage ones withal. I learned from him that Jasper Tudor's army was
reported to be at Newnham-on-Severn, and that the men-at-arms I saw
were fore-riders, with Jasper himself in their company.

I drew bridle for a few minutes only at Hasfield and then took my way
by Chaseley for the ferry at the Lower Lode. My friend, the ferryman,
had heard and seen nothing of the Lancastrian army, but the Tudor
riders had been there in the morning, and asked questions about the
fords, lodes, and ferry.

Before two o'clock I was in the town of Theocsbury, and had given
warning to Dame Despenser and the Abbot of the approach of Queen
Margaret and her army. At Hamme Castle I found many of the citizens
assembled, discussing various rumours. Some said that Gloucester had
opened her gates to the Queen, others that a great battle was now
going on at Apperley, with such like rumours, which generally fly
abroad, pending all emergencies, in all towns and cities. In the
meantime, the Queen's forces, most of them foot soldiers, marched from
Gloucester, with their left wing on the Severn, and their right
advancing by Norton, until they came to the meres of Apperley, when
they divided, and while one division (with whom was Queen Margaret,
her son Prince Edward, and her daughter-in-law, the Princess Anne),
marched by Combe Hill, the other traversed the muddy lanes and
woodlands until they passed through the village of Deorhyste, and
encamped upon the hill called the New Park, above Hamme Castle and
Theocsbury.

Queen Margaret and the Princess Anne were borne in a litter along the
trackway between Gloucester and Theocsbury, and while the left wing of
her army, with Lord Wenlock and the Earl of Devonshire, took up their
station on the hill, she passed the night with her son and daughter
close to the trackway, near a place called "Lincoln's Green," having
declined the offer of shelter from the good Abbot. With her usual
courage, she resolved to share the same hardships as those who were
risking so much for her and her son's sake. Neither would the Princess
Anne leave her husband. There is no doubt that the Duke of Somerset
might have crossed the Severn with his whole army, for they arrived
before Theocsbury by four o'clock in the forenoon, but the men were
beat and foot-sore, and he thought King Edward was much nearer to him
than he really was.

He had been deceived by the fore-riders on Robin's Wood Hill, and
feared an attack upon his troops before he could pass them over the
Severn. Again, the men themselves were hungry and thirsty, and the
provisions in Theocsbury were plentiful and good, and much easier to
obtain on that side the Severn, whereas on the other there was but
poor cheer, as the Abbot's cellar at Fordington was not well stocked,
and Fordington was a poor place with few dainties.

In an hour after their arrival before Theocsbury the town was filled
with men-at-arms who demanded provisions, and took them out in
cartloads to their fellow soldiers, who, notwithstanding their
weariness, were engaged in throwing up some entrenchments both on the
hill and around the spot selected for the Queen's encampment for the
night. Barrels of good ale and cider, with bread and meat, much
refreshed them.

I was altogether uncertain as to the route the King would take, and it
was nearly seven o'clock that evening when I recognized one of our own
scouts, disguised as a country hind, passing the house where I had
taken refuge to avoid the Lancastrian soldiers who well nigh filled
the streets. This was at the new house with the gables and fine
windows, near the Church of St. Mary's, and at the entrance of the
narrow street leading to the Swilgate. He was well disguised, and
pretended to be staring about him with country awe at such an array of
armed men. Beckoning him in to Master Holdhard's I found that the King
was marching upon Cheltenham, a little village some seven miles
distant as the crow flies, and, indeed, by this time must have arrived
there with all his army.

I made up my mind to join him as soon as possible, but to ride was not
easy, as the trackway was blocked by the Lancastrian forces, and the
other roads were devious and difficult to find. We therefore decided
to walk, and, altering my gear as I best could, we set off across the
Swilgate drawbridge, over a wild unfrequented country, taking with us
a nimble-heeled youth as guide, and in less than two hours I was
standing in the presence of our gallant King, giving him the
information I had gathered during this foray.



Chapter 17.


THE BATTLE OF THEOCSBURY--THE BLOODY MEADOW--AN UNEXPECTED
MEETING AT LINCOLN'S GREEN--THE SCENE IN THE ABBEY--PRINCE EDWARD--
QUEEN MARGARET AT PAYNE'S PLACE--AT WORCESTER--THE WEDDING--KING
EDWARD AND QUEEN ELIZABETH AT GREAT MALVERN--THE SHADOW--THE END.



Cheltenham is but a poor village, nevertheless there are two
hostelries, as people are apt to frequent them for the drinking, not
good wine but strong waters, that is to say, waters which are
unsavoury to the palate but strong to drive away meagrims, the cholic,
and podagra.

It would have been impossible to have provisioned the army at this
village had they not carried food with them from Sudbury on their
sumpter horses, and found stores of provisions and whole casks of
wines at Prestbury, a favourite hunting resort of the Bishops of
Hereford, and where they kept much excellent provender.

King Edward had already made one of the most extraordinary marches
ever known among generals and leaders of armies, having taken the high
ground along the ridge of the Cotswolds, intersected by many steep
valleys. The day had been hot and the way weary, but no sooner did he
hear of the position of the Queen's troops close to Theocsbury than
the trumpets sounded to horse, and in a short time we marched by
moonlight across a wide open country dotted with trees, thickets, and
furze, to a place known as Tredington Common, where water could be
obtained, and a certain amount of shelter for the night among the
furze bushes and thickets. Here we were not three miles from the place
selected for Queen Margaret to pass the night, and it was certain that
a battle would be fought on the morrow. The ground, fortunately, was
hard and dry on the open common, but the lanes were of such stiff
clays and sticky mires that one or two culverins had to be left
behind. The troops, too, had no refection for the night save what they
carried in their pouch bags, and a barrel of wine from the Bishop's
stores at Prestbury. King Edward addressed them before they lay down
to rest for the night, promising that they should break their fast at
Theocsbury on excellent good victuals. He passed the night himself at
Fiddington Grange.

During the night spies were employed to ascertain, as nearly as they
could, the exact positions of the Lancastrian army, but they did not
accomplish much in the way of scrutiny.

As soon as the sun had risen on Saturday, the 4th of May, King Edward
marshalled his army and divided them into three battalions. The Duke
of Gloucester led the van, the King commanded the centre, and the Duke
of Clarence with Lord Hastings brought up the rear and the reserves.

Robin and I, with two hundred picked archers, went to the front as
skirmishers, my orders being to communicate with the King from time to
time as to the movements of the enemy and their positions.

A light mist in the early morning shrouded our silent advance, and
favoured the King's army, allowing them to march unseen towards the
Lancastrian camp.

When the leading archers reached the Theocsbury trackway, we found a
large corps strongly posted along the road, on the other side of
which, and near to the trackway, was a small stronghold of fallen
trees and dense fences of bushes. Here the Queen, the Prince, and the
Lady Anne passed the night.

Beyond was a position right hard to assail by reason of the deep
ditches, hedges, trees, bushes and cumbersome lanes.

The right wing of the Lancastrian army was commanded by Prince Edward
and Lord St. John. The centre occupied the flat lands round the base
of the hill, under the Earl of Devonshire, while on the crest, or New
Park, was Lord Wenlock with the archers and a few culverins, but the
Lancastrians had not the same number of big guns that the King had,
some of which threw shot as large as a great apple.

By the time we reached the trackway, the heat of the sun cleared the
mist away, and we found ourselves in front of a thousand troops, who
at once took the alarm, and concentrating behind the hedges and
bushes, gave us such a storm of arrows that we lost several men, and
should have lost more, had we not dispersed at the blast of Robin's
bugle, and fallen back upon the corps led by the Duke of Gloucester.
The Duke, with his usual courage, attacked the forces in the trackway,
but he found men as full of valour as himself, and every yard was
desperately disputed.

The Duke of Somerset, who was on horseback in the trackway, with
several other riders in full armour, charged down upon us, and but for
the thick hedge and ditch into which the Duke of Gloucçster threw
himself, he would have seen his last battle-field. For full half-an-
hour the strife was renewed in the trackway, and round the Queen's
encampment, while the King, standing on a slight eminence above the
roadway, directed the assaults. Our men fell fast, for the
Lancastrians were defended by their thick ambush of trees and hedges.

On this the King gave me directions to convey a message to the Duke of
Gloucester to debouch to the right and make way for him to attack with
the powerful troops of the centre, after he had poured shots with his
great artillery into the Queen's camp and the surrounding defences.

It was not the position about Lincoln's Green that gave the King
anxiety. He knew he could force it, but there was the corps of the
centre within the Park, and the battalions on the hill, both of which
might fall on us while we were engaged around the trackway.

It was necessary to make a diversion, and before making his attack, in
person, on this tough stronghold, he asked me if I was not well
acquainted with the locality, and on my replying in the affirmative,
he said, "If you, good Sire Hildebrande, with old Robin of Elsdune,
will hold those Frenchmen on the hill in check for one single hour, we
will win this battle by the help of God."

On reaching the Duke of Gloucester, I gave him the King's command to
clear the trackway on the right up to the very gates of Hamme Castle,
and hold the entrance to Theocsbury. I also told him of a plan I had,
knowing the ground, of marching on the left with two hundred archers,
and attacking the troops on the crest of the hill in the rear, from
the side of Deorhyste, and also in flank from the ferry by the Lower
Lode.

I then begged of him to detach two hundred more archers and spearmen
under the command of Robin, and send them by way of the trackway from
Hamme Castle to the Lower Lode. Opposite the Lode were dense woodlands
on hanging banks above the Severn, and by these Robin might attack
Lord Wenlock and his corps of reserve on the crest of the hill, much
about the same time as I did from the side of Deorhyste. The gallant
young Duke, for he was only twenty years of age, shook me by the hand,
and said, "A right good plan, most worthy knight. You lead your men,
and Robin will back you as in days of yore."

By this time the culverins were making a great deal of noise, and
doing very little damage, save that the Lancastrians liked them not,
and left the trackway, concentrating their forces in the Park beneath
the hill.

I now rapidly passed to the left, leading my men through woodlands
until we could see the grey Saxon tower of the church of Deorhyste
from the slope of the hill we were ascending. The noise of the
culverins had ceased, and from the shouts and yells we could gather
that the King was leading in person and forcing his way into the great
close in the Park. I even thought I could discern his own powerful
voice, and the shout "En avant!" which I so well remembered years ago
in the desperate charges at Mortimer's Cross.

We rested for a few moments to gain breath under some great oak trees,
on the slope of the hill facing Deorhyste, when I heard a shrill
whistle which I recognized as Robin's, who was ascending the steep
slope from the Severn through the woodlands. In a few minutes our
forces were united, and with him was the Duke of Gloucester. He had
left his corps under the command of the Duke of Clarence, as being the
safer place, and of his own accord was our companion in the dangerous
assault we were about to carry into the very stronghold of the enemy.
Well do I remember that young warrior, for such he truly was, leaning
against a tall oak, balancing the battle-axe he used with such a
sturdy arm, and tightening his armour for the fray.

We now marched up the southern slope of the hill and the din of battle
arose louder than ever around Lincoln's Green, into which King Edward
had forced his way. On the summit of the hill we found ourselves
confronted by a strong body of Frenchmen, who defended the position
with great bravery. We learnt afterwards that the Duke of Somerset had
sent two or three messengers to Lord Wenlock with orders to lead his
men down the hill to attack the King. This Lord Wenlock could not do,
as he had to repel the onset of our archers upon his rear. Whereupon
the Duke of Somerset galloped like a madman up the hill, and finding
Lord Wenlock standing on the crest, reviled him, calling him
"Traitor!" and with his battle-axe struck the brains out of his head.

At this moment, the Duke of Gloucester, ever to the front, dashed
forwards, slaying the Frenchmen right and left, and cheering our
gallant archers. The struggle was hard for a while around the great
oaks on the summit, but at last, seeing they had been taken in the
rear, and not knowing how small a body of men were attacking, the
whole corps on the crest of the hill gave way, and rushed tumultuously
down the slope towards "Lincoln's Green" and "The Bloody Meadow."

We followed, driving them among the King's troops on one side, and
among those of the Duke of Clarence in front of Hamme Castle.
Everywhere they found themselves surrounded, and in a short time, it
was no longer a field of battle, it was a field of slaughter.

After the Duke of Somerset had killed Lord Wenlock, he saw his
mistake, and tried to rally the flying Frenchmen; but all to no
purpose, they rushed wildly down the hill, shouting "Treachery!" The
whole scene was changed; in every direction were flying men, and no
quarter being given to the foreigners, not one of them that was taken
was left alive. Some of the English troops from Devonshire escaped,
but not many of these. Some fled through the park by way of Deorhyste,
some hid themselves in ditches, a few swam across the Severn, and
others were drowned in the attempt. A few found refuge in houses and
the Abbey, others were drowned in the Swilgate stream, which was
choked with corpses near the bridge by the Abbey.

When next I saw King Edward, he was standing, wearied with his
exertions, on the rising ground to the west of Hamme Castle, looking
down upon the "Bloody Meadow," where nearly three thousand dead bodies
lay in very small compass. His armour was covered with mud and blood,
but he had taken off his helmet for air, and the flush of victory was
on his brow. He ordered me to take a message to the Duke of Clarence,
who was, he thought, in the "Bloody Meadow," and tell him to occupy
the crest of the hill with the culverins. I had proceeded a short
distance, when he shouted to me, "Tell Gloucester and Clarence to find
out what has become of Margaret of Anjou and her son, and make every
effort to seize their persons, for if that woman escapes to those
accursed Tudors across the water, we shall have to fight this battle
over again."

"The Bloody Meadow" was a sorry sight, and just at the side next
Lincoln's Green, lay the dead bodies of Sire John Delves, Sire John
Leukenor, and Sire William Vaulx, and the slaughter was still
continuing near the Severn, where a noisome swamp had entrapped many
who otherwise might have escaped.

Neither of the Royal Dukes could I find, for they had gone into the
town, and I therefore prepared to carry out the King's commands
respecting the culverins, which were now posted on the slope of the
hill. It was no easy matter to induce men, after the heat of battle,
to set to work to drag these instruments of warfare, but at last by
dint of promises and guerdons I succeeded in doing so. As we ascended
the hill I met Sire Richard Crofts walking down side by side with a
well-proportioned, handsome young gentleman, who was his prisoner, and
had surrendered on his parole. Would that I had known then that this
was Edward, the Lancastrian Prince of Wales, as I might have averted
the tragedy which was so soon to follow!

I had no sooner seen the artillerymen and their carronades posted on
the summit of the New Park, than I mounted a horse, and rode down the
hill to the town.

As I was crossing a narrow trackway which leads to Lincoln's Green, I
thought I heard a woman's shrieks proceeding from a peasant's cot some
distance up the lane. On this I galloped to the spot, and there,
struggling with two rough soldiers of King Edward's body-guard, was a
lady whom they were endeavouring to plunder of a few gold ornaments
she wore on her neck and wrists. Jumping from my horse I rushed into
the small garden, where this scene was being enacted, and the men,
recognizing in me one of their own officers, sprang over the hedge and
disappeared among the trees of the park. The lady fell fainting into
my arms, and, as I laid aside the long hair which fell in thick
tresses across her face to give her air, I beheld, to my utter
bewilderment and astonishment, my long-lost love, Rosamond Berew!

As she gradually recovered it was some time before she recognized me,
so great was her terror and dismay at the perils around her. When at
last she fully comprehended it was the Hildebrande of her childhood
who held her in fond embrace, she laid her head on my bosom and wept
tears of gratitude and joy. But this was no place for long
endearments, or even for much explanation how she arrived there. I
could only gather that she had accompanied Margaret of Anjou and the
Princess Anne, on their landing in England, and had undergone with
them the perils of the march only to witness the utter disaster of the
Lancastrian army before Theocsbury. She now entreated, after I had
seen her safe within some friendly house in the town, or in the
Sanctuary of the Abbey, that I would look to the rescue of the unhappy
Queen and her luckless children.

Having placed my Rosamond under the care of a servant of the good
Abbot, the next thing was to find what had become of Queen Margaret,
and rescue her, and the Princess Anne, from falling into the hands of
the rough and rude soldiers. I learned from John Baynton, one of the
prisoners who had been in attendance upon them during the night, that
both had gone up the park during the attack upon the stronghold near
Lincoln's Green, and that when we took the hill with our archers the
Queen was hurried away in the direction of the Lower Lode by a monk
who had never left her side. The Princess Anne had refused to leave
her husband, until, at his urgent entreaties, she was carried in a
half fainting condition down the hill towards Theocsbury, where
Baynton expected she must have fallen into the custody of the Duke of
Clarence.

Hoping that both these unfortunate ladies had found a refuge and
sanctuary in the Abbey, I hurried thither, and what a sight did I
behold! The slain lay thick in the churchyard among the graves and
around the Abbey walls, as some of the unfortunate foreigners who had
been persuaded to join Queen Margaret, in the hopes of plunder,
thought that once inside they were safe! On entering the Abbey the
noble arches of the nave resounded with the shouts of the savage
soldiery, and the shrieks of those who sought in vain for quarter,
while the pavement was streaming with blood. The mortuary chapels of
Beauchamp and Despenser were thick with dead and dying, as many hoped
for safety when within reach of their little altars. Vain hope, with
men's passions aroused to frenzy! The Abbot was standing in front of
the high altar, exhibiting the sacrament of the Host, and entreating
the Yorkist soldiers, in the name of the Most High God, to stay their
butchery in God's House. The Duke of Somerset and the Earl of
Devonshire, with the Prior of St. John's, had sought refuge close to
the high altar, and some fugitives were clinging to the robes of the
Abbot and monks.

I did my utmost to stay the carnage, but my person was not known to
the London troops, and I was nearly struck down through my endeavours
to interfere. "The King gives no quarter!" was everywhere the cry, and
the infuriated pursuers were proceeding to drag the fugitives from the
shelter of the altar, when a voice like a trumpet call rang through
the Abbey in the one word "Hold!" It was the stentorian voice of King
Edward himself, who now strode down the nave, his tall form and bare
head towering above the crowd of officers and generals who surrounded
him. Had a thunderbolt fallen amongst them the effect could not have
been greater, for in a few minutes the shameless butchers had sneaked
out of the doorways into the town, and were plundering the houses.

The King, addressing the Abbot, said that he entered the Abbey "to
give God thanks for his great and glorious victory, and not to slay
and kill. The sanctuary should be respected, and, the next day being
Sunday, no one should be tried or arraigned until the Monday."

Thus those who still lived were taken in charge by the Abbot and the
monks, and were well cared for within the precincts of the monastery
as long as they were under their care.

The dead lay in heaps, and I was leaving to obtain aid to remove the
unsightly corpses, when I received a summons to wait upon the King,
who was now standing by the great doorway.

He enquired whether I had any tidings of Queen Margaret, telling me
that the Duke of Clarence was in possession of the Lady Anne, who had
been taken when flying for the Abbey. He then begged of me to spare no
pains to capture the Queen, and, as I was acquainted with persons in
the town, to obtain aid, and, if it were needed, to search every house
which was likely to afford her shelter.

During all that Saturday evening I was engaged in a fruitless pursuit!
The Queen was not to be found in either the Abbey, or St. Mary's, nor
did I succeed in tracing that she had passed the Severn at either of
the lodes, or gone through the town.

And now there happened the most sorrowful episode of this terrible
war, and one which will ever stain the character of Edward IV. When
the King departed from the staying of the slaughter in the Abbey, he
took up his quarters at an old timbered dwelling house where lived
Master Morley, a faithful adherent of the House of York, and who was
in some fashion connected with the Despensers. This house is nearly
opposite the Cross at Theocsbury, and the King chose to lodge there in
preference to some of the nobler dwellings, as he was well affected to
Master Morley.

The Duke of Clarence occupied a fine house with new casements and
gables opposite the tabard of the Swan, and the Duke of Gloucester was
lodged in the Tolsey. Robin and I had gone to our old friend the host
of the "Black Bear of Warwick," and were of some service to him in
preventing the over licence of the troops foraging for drink and
provisions.

About six o'clock in the evening of that Saturday so fatal to the
Lancastrians, having exhausted every effort to find Queen Margaret, I
was going to report my want of success to the King, when I beheld a
sight at the door of Master Morley, I would I had never looked upon.

A number of men-at-arms were placed before the entrance as a guard,
and through them I was going, with the pass-word for approach to the
King's presence, when I saw the Duke of Clarence standing at the
doorway supporting the senseless form of the beautiful Princess Anne.
On seeing me he called me by name, and bid me lend him a helping hand,
so we carried her, as she lay in a swoon, to the Duke's quarters,
where she was handed over to the care of the women of the house in
which he lodged. The only remark he made to me, as we returned to
Master Morley's was, "Wild and sorry work this, Sire Hildebrande!" for
as we reached the door some men-at-arms were carrying the dead body of
a noble-looking youth towards the Abbey.

Alas! this was the corpse of the Lancastrian Prince Edward! And well
might the Duke say this was "wild and sorry work," for, in these days,
report says, and future historians will repeat it, that he, with
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the Marquis of Dorset, Thomas Grey, and
William, Lord Hastings, foully murdered Prince Edward in cold blood in
the presence of the King. I was not present in the fatal room at the
time the Prince was killed, but I may safely say that I will never
believe that these noblemen themselves shed the blood of Prince
Edward; and it is well known that, in these times, when a Tudor is
King of England, any lie against the House of York is well received
and duly circulated. What did happen I will truly write, to the best
of my knowledge and belief!

After the battle was ended proclamation was made, that whosoever could
bring forth Prince Edward alive or dead, should have an annuity of a
hundred pounds during his life; but the Prince's life was to be saved
if he were taken alive.

As I have already said, the Prince surrendered to Sire Richard Crofts,
who it appears sheltered him for some time, when, not mistrusting the
King's promise, he conducted his prisoner to the presence of Edward
himself.

The King then demanded of him "How he durst so presumptuously to enter
into his realm with banner displayed?"

Whereupon the Prince boldly answered, "To recover my father's kingdom
and heritage, from his father and grandfather to him, and from him,
after him, to me lineally descended!" At which words King Edward said
nothing, but with his hand thrust him from him, or, as some say,
struck him with his gauntlet.

Then report says, "the above-named Lords stabbed the Prince to death
with their daggers." This, I say, I do not believe, and I will state
my reasons.

In the first place, I will leave it to the ladies of England to
declare that no lady of the gentle disposition of the Princess Anne
and so noble withal, would have married the Duke of Gloucester if she
had beheld him murder her young bridegroom.

Secondly, it was reported at the time of the Prince's death that the
deed was done "by some servants of the King, who thought that they
would please their master!"

Again, Master-Fabyan, the Chronicler, who was living in London at this
time, and who would have been certain to have reported such scandal of
the Yorkists, if such had been spread abroad in his time, writes, with
respect to the death of Henry VI., that "the common fame went, that he
was sticked by the hands of the Duke of Gloucester," but that the
Prince was despatched by servants.

Thirdly, the known characters of the Marquis of Dorset, and William,
Lord Hastings, are altogether against the belief that these Lords
killed the Prince with their own hands! No, I believe it not; and in
these days, when I hear such reports of those who are gone down to the
grave and cannot defend themselves, I lift up my hands and say, "How
some men are given to lying!"

The following sabbath morning was a beautiful May day, and the sun
rose on hill and dale, lighting up the spring green of the great
Severn holms, the red cliffs of the Mythe Twt, and the great trees of
the New Park; but such a Sunday morning Theocsbury never saw before,
and I trust may never see again.

The Abbey had been cleared of the bloody corpses, all save that of the
Prince, which lay exposed that all corners might see that the heir of
Henry VI. was dead, so his body lay upon a bier in the middle of the
nave. And all day long tolled the death bell, and the dead were being
buried in the churchyard, in a pit on the right hand of the great gate
above which now rests an altar stone with a stone cross to mark the
spot where lie some scores of unhappy Lancastrians. During the whole
of Sunday the Duke of Somerset and the other, fugitive Lords remained
safe under the protection of Abbot Strensham within the precincts of
the Sanctuary. I found means to send Rosamond Berew to my mother's
care at Birtsmereton. The Duke of Clarence also obtained leave from
the King to place the Princess Anne under the care of his Duchess, the
Lady Isabella; but we could not hear or the whereabouts of the unhappy
Queen Margaret of Anjou.

Theocsbury is full of narrow alleys and strange out-of-the-way places,
but all these were searched in vain; so the Sunday passed away, and I
had received no clue to her discovery, although a large sum was
offered for her apprehension. On the Monday morning I received orders
from the King to search the Abbot's house at Fordington, as there was
some suspicion of the Queen having fled there for shelter. It was mere
suspicion, for there were no signs of such having been the case.

On my return I passed the great pit which was dug for those who fell
on the battle-field close to the turn of the trackway to the Lower
Lode, and where more than 4000 corpses of the foreigners and common
men were thrown in heaps together.

Then came the trial of the lords and knights with other gentlemen and
esquires who had taken refuge in the Abbey, at St. Mary's, and other
parts of the town. They were apprehended and brought before the Duke
of Gloucester, as Constable of England, at the Tolsey in the midst of
the town. After a long hearing they were all judged guilty of raising
rebellion against the King, and were condemned to die; but some, among
whom was my father's friend, John Throcmorton, whose arms are in our
panelled chamber, King Edward pardoned.

Both Robin and myself strongly objected to the executions of these
lords and knights, because hitherto the asylum of Church sanctuaries
had ever been respected, and to these sanctuaries the King owed the
preservation of his Queen, his children, and many friends whom the
Lancastrians when in power left undisturbed in their sacred refuge.

The preparations for the execution were carried on all the Monday
night, and a great scaffold was erected at the Cross in the middle of
the town. At an early hour the space around was occupied by troops and
spectators, who seemed little moved at the thought of the bloody
scenes which were to follow. Up to the last moment I hoped that the
King would have pardoned many of the prisoners, even if he dealt
rigorously with the Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Devonshire, who
were ever his bitter opponents, and no doubt would have cut off his
head had he fallen into their power. But Edward was ever of revengeful
temper, and was still more so since the conspiracy of the Earl of
Warwick and his brother, so he allowed the executions to be carried
out, and even looked out upon several from the casement of the house
of Master Morley where he lodged.

The streets ran with the blood of nearly thirty Lancastrians of rank,
whose heads were struck off at Theocsbury Cross on this May morning.

King Edward did not follow the example of Queen Margaret in setting up
their heads and quarters in any public places, but permitted them to
be buried, some in the Abbey, some in the churchyard, and some, as in
the case of the Prior of St. John, were transported for burial by
their friends and relations. This wholesale execution was but just
concluded, when the King announced his intention of riding that
afternoon to Worcester, and commanded me to follow with the archers.
In half-an-hour I should have been in the saddle, but that Robin of
Elsdune, who had been superintending the burial of the fallen on the
battle-field, informed me that some men who were digging the great pit
reported that a strange lady had been seen escorted by two monks
crossing the Severn, on the afternoon of the battle, in a fisherman's
boat, just above the Red Bank at the Mythe.

It then struck me that Master Payne, who befriended Master Vaughan
when sick and dying, was mayhap a person to run the risks of giving
shelter to the unhappy Queen, I therefore begged Robin to inform the
King that I had received what might prove to be tidings of Queen
Margaret, and would follow him to Worcester after conducting the
investigations. I walked quickly through the town to the Mythe hill,
where the nightingales were singing in the groves, and the yellow woad
was blossoming on bright red cliffs, and crossing the river in a
fisherman's boat, I walked over fine green meadows, with numerous
skylarks carolling overhead, until I reached a narrow trackway which
led to Bushley Church. Pursuing this I took the turn to Payne's Place,
when opposite the doorway of the Grange was Master Payne himself,
mounted on a tall horse, and on a pillion behind him was seated a lady
dressed after the description of her who had been seen to cross the
Severn in a boat by the grave-diggers. Master Payne riding forward,
without hesitation begged me not to interfere with the escape of the
unhappy Queen of England, who was well-nigh distracted at the tidings
of the murder of her beloved son, but to allow them to pass on
unmolested.

While he was thus speaking the lady lifted her hood, which was drawn
far over her face, and notwithstanding that time and sorrow had told
sadly upon her great beauty, I recognized, in the fire of that eye,
the remarkable expression of the Countess of Oxford, who ten years
before had taken refuge both at Hergest and Birtsmereton after the
battle of Towton. Lines of sorrow were deeply engraved upon that noble
face, and she sat on her horse as if stricken dumb.

Payne now said, "You are too chivalric a knight to put the sleuth
hounds of Edward upon our track. In God's name delay us not."

Overwhelmed at the sight of the sorrowing, broken-hearted mother, I
approached and respectfully kissed her hand, entreating her to allow
me to conduct her to the presence of the King, and offering to pledge
my own life that hers should be sacred. Master Payne sternly
interposed, saying that Edward had broken his promise to Sire Richard
Crofts, and falsified his own proclamation of safety for Prince
Edward. He, too, had broken his kingly word to the Abbot and the
prisoners in the Sanctuary, whom he pardoned on the Saturday, and then
had them dragged forth to death on that very morning. Alas! it was
impossible to deny these charges, and my own heart was burning with
indignation at these self-same deeds of cruelty. So come what may I
determined to oppose their flight no longer, and they were soon lost
in the woodlands which came down to Master Payne's dwelling, and the
pleasant glades of Pull. Mistress Payne was in tears at the misery of
the Queen, and the risks encountered by her own husband, but she
insisted upon my entering the grange, and showed me a string of beads
and a crucifix which the Queen had left as a memorial of her safe
refuge.

Yielding to the entreaties of her son, Margaret of Anjou had allowed
herself to be conducted to this homely retreat, where she was well
cared for until it was feared that search would be made by the Kings
emissaries. The room she occupied during three days of bitter anguish
is called "The Queen's Room" to this day.

By the time I reached Theocsbury the King had left for Worcester, but
Robin was to remain until the morrow with the archers, and await the
return of some scouts who had been sent to find out the movements of
the Welshmen under Jasper Tudor. My orders, too, were to march with
the rear-guard.

We were glad to leave a place which would ever be associated in our
memories with scenes of carnage and revenge no true soldier could look
back upon without disgust. Robin was as indignant as myself at the
murder of the Prince, and much did we lament on our ride to the city
of Worcester that the King suffered himself to be swayed from his
given word, and sent the Lancastrian prisoners from the Sanctuary to
the block.

The young Duke of Gloucester, too, was exhibiting a ruthless
disposition in early life, and Clarence had perjured himself over and
over again. False to his brother in the affair of the Archbishop's
feasting, false to his father-in-law before the battle of Barnet, who
could tell where his perfidy would end?

"I would give my gold spurs," said Robin, "if that poor youth had not
been stabbed to death in Edward's presence," and then, turning in his
saddle for a last look at Theocsbury, he added in a low tone, "That is
my last battle-field." I knew what he meant, and fully sympathized
with one who would sheathe his sword for ever, rather than draw it in
a cause in which success was to be followed by cruelty and perfidy.

As we entered the city of Worcester the sun was setting behind the
Malverns we both loved so well. Trumpets were sounding, crowds were
cheering, bells were ringing, flags were flying from every steeple.
King Edward was showing himself to the people, but he had lost the
respect and affection of two devoted followers.

In Worcester we heard that Queen Margaret and her guide and protector
had been taken prisoners at a place called the "Old Hills."

The unhappy Queen had an awful interview with the King, and a sad
scene of recrimination ensued. This interview formed a bitter part of
the cup which she was doomed to drink, as Edward reminded her of the
skeleton heads of his father and brother, which, by her orders, were
transfixed on spikes above the gates of York. He told her that he was
much pressed by his advisers to set her head above the gates of
Worcester, but that he never warred with women, and should send her to
join her husband in the Tower.

Master Payne was confined in the common prison, and was condemned to
be hanged, the following morning, as a traitor and accessor to the
Queen's escape.

On presenting myself before the King he gave me commands to wait upon
Queen Margaret at the sanctuary of the Cathedral, and tell her to
prepare to travel on the morrow to London; and thus I saw this unhappy
woman for the last time.

I found her gazing on the portrait of that son for whom she had
sacrificed the lives of thousands, and who lay in the grave in the
Abbey of Theocsbury, surrounded by the last holocaust of victims who
fell for the Lancastrian cause. Over this picture she was moaning and
wailing as I entered the gloomy chamber. She did not at first
recognise me, but looked up as I knelt before her to deliver the
King's command. But what a look! What an expression of hopeless
sorrow! The window of the chamber was open, and a glint of sunshine
fell upon the chair upon which the Queen was seated, as if in mockery
of such a scene of misery. She now rose, and turning to the window
looked out for a few moments at the Cathedral Close, where sentinels
and soldiers were pacing up and down, then, returning to where I was
standing awaiting her reply, she drew herself up haughtily, displaying
her commanding figure, and, with some of the old fire in her eye,
asked "Why 'Master Blackburn' would not comply with her sole request,
and send her to the scaffold?" "It is the one favour," she continued,
"that Margaret of Anjou asks of the son of the Archer of Middleham."

I was now leaving, when she said, "Nay! but I have one request to make
of you before we part for ever." Then, taking a golden crucifix from
her neck, she passed the chain from which it was suspended round mine,
saying, "Give this emblem to your Rosamond in memory of Margaret of
England. I shall never forget her care and solicitude towards my
darling son long years ago, among the woods of Hergest and the hills
of Malvern, or what she has since suffered for conscience sake."

I found the King at the Gueston hall, in the Cathedral Close,
surrounded by the royal dukes and nobles, who had assembled for a
great banquet. As soon as he became aware of my presence he conducted
me to an inner chamber, and asked how I had been received by the
Queen, and if she had any request to make that he could grant "without
endangering his throne, and having all his best friends hung, drawn,
and quartered." He then added, "But by my halidome, Sire Hildebrande,
you look as if you had seen a witch! Have you met with Mary of
Eldesborough, or whatever she calls herself as well as with Margaret
of Anjou?" I replied that the Queen seemed distracted with her
sorrows, and was in no condition to ask for his royal favours, but
that I had one to implore for the sake of olden times, and a promise
of days gone by. I now knelt and showed him the ring I had worn since
we were youths together, and he took my hand kindly, and pressing it
said, "Ask away, good Hildebrande, Edward never forgets a staunch
friend." I then entreated him to pardon Master Payne, who had been
condemned to death for assisting Queen Margaret in her attempted
escape.

He made no hesitation, but granted my request forthwith, saying
laughingly, "Is that all? You may take half-a-score Paynes for the
good services I owe you." He then called for writing materials, and
with his own hand signed a free pardon, saying, as he handed it to me,
"But, Hildebrande, you must attend our Court, and join our Council. We
have plenty of work, and rewards, too, I trust, for such as you and
our faithful Robin. Let us find you a noble wife." I bowed low, and
begged to be allowed to retire, and for several years I never saw the
face of King Edward IV.

Before dawn the next morning, I, with Master Payne, were on our road
to Birtsmereton, for the King had given me as long a leave from my
duties as his equerry and esquire as I chose to take.

On the 21st of May King Edward entered London in great pomp at the
head of a large army; on one side rode the Duke of Gloucester, on the
other the Duke of Clarence, all bare-headed and clad in splendid
armour. The Sun banner of the conqueror preceded him, and floated
proudly as he passed Queen Elizabeth and her mother, the proud
Duchess, seated at a balcony in the May sunshine, the Queen holding in
her arms the infant Prince of Wales.

Yet another dark episode clouded the fame of the conquerors with a
blot no time may ever eradicate. On the morning which followed this
noble entry, and when peace and pardon should have followed their
rejoicings, Henry of Lancaster was found lifeless in the Tower, and,
as Master Fabyan wrote, "men said boldly that the deed was done by
Richard Duke of Gloucester."

In a few days after this happened, Robin retired to his Keep of
Castlemereton. What transpired between him and King Edward I know not,
but this I know, that nothing save falseness and cruelty would
alienate the Archer from the cause of him he really loved, and I fear
he did not acquit the King of conniving at Henry's death.

The Lancastrians as a party were annihilated, and peace once more
settled over England. Disliking a Court life and disgusted at the
deeds at Theocsbury, I, like Robin, determined never again to draw the
sword for either the White Rose or the Red, especially as I now
perceived that little hope could be entertained that King Edward would
aid the Lollards in obtaining freedom for worship, or in withstanding
the demands of the ecclesiastics.

On returning home I found Rosamond safe under my mother's care, and
overwhelmed with joy at her return to the happy scenes of our youth.

I had much to listen to, and she had much to tell of all she had
undergone, when for years she had been imprisoned in a convent away
from all she loved, owing to her uncle's fear for her future
salvation, and his determination to prevent, if possible, her marriage
with myself, a believer in the doctrines and teachings of Master
Wycliffe.

On their first landing in France, after their escape from
Birtsmereton, Master Vaughan had informed her that the so-called
Countess of Oxford and her son were Margaret of Anjou and Prince
Edward. For some time she remained in the service of Queen Margaret as
a companion for the young Prince, and every means were taken to
convert her from the faith she had chosen to that of the Orthodox
Church. But Rosamond steadfastly refused to listen either to the
pleadings of her uncle and the Queen, or to the sophistries of the
priests; and it was then that Master Vaughan conveyed her to a convent
from which there appeared to be no means of escape. Nor indeed would
she ever have been enabled to leave her prison house, but for the
fortunate circumstance that the Earl of Warwick, being well acquainted
with the lady superior, sent his daughter, the Lady Anne, there for a
short time during his negotiations with Queen Margaret. Rosamond was
selected to attend upon this young lady, and so far succeeded in
interesting her by her tale of sorrow, that the Lady Anne obtained
leave from her father to request the lady superior to allow her to
leave the convent as her personal attendant. In this way she
accompanied Queen Margaret and her daughter-in-law to England, the
Queen being really glad of an excuse to aid in the release of one to
whom she was much indebted when herself a fugitive after the field of
Towton.

In the sunny month of June I led Rosamond to the altar at our church
at Birtsmereton. Bessie Calverley insisted that the wedding should be
there, rather than at Berew, for in olden times the holder of the
manor of Birtsmereton presented a rose to the Dukes of Lancaster on
the feast of St. John the Baptist, and now my blushing rose would on
this happy occasion be presented to me.

On our wedding morning Bessie Calverley gave me good proof of her
clerkly skill and sweet imagination in the following flowers of
poesie:-

"I love the flowers which circle round

Our Malverns far and free;

The 'Heart's-ease' and Forget-me-not'

Are flowers I love to see.

"I love the yellow 'Buttercup,'

That sunny, springtime flower;

And 'Daisy' sparkling 'white and redde,'

Beneath the summer shower.

"I love the purple 'heather Bell,'

Which o'er the moorland ranges;

And 'Ivy' clinging to the wall.

Which like true love ne'er changes.

"I love to see the 'yellow Flag'

By sparkling streamlets quiver;

And the modest 'Lily of the Vale,'

Or 'Wild Rush' by the river.

"I love the nodding 'Daffodil,'

Which blossoms on the mead;

And 'Violet' or 'Pimpernel,'

With humble 'Silver Weed.'

"I love to see the 'Woodbine' cling

Around our forest trees;

And 'Honesty' its tendrils throw.

To every passing breeze.

"But oh! there is one flower I love.

O'er every flower that grows

On mountain, woodland, hill or dale.

Our own, our sweet 'Wild Rose.'"

The church looked well worthy of being called "God's House" on that
summer morning, and it was filled with wild roses from the thickets,
and worshippers with grateful hearts. My mother wore a chamlet gown
most beautiful to look upon, a gift from Queen Elizabeth, and the King
sent me a wedding present of ten ells of fine cloth of colour violet
in grain, and for lining thirty bellies of minever.

Rosamond and Bessie wore gowns of fairest white linen, Rosamond's
being worked with roses and Bessie's with white lilies, with silver
girdles the presents of Calverley, whose own dress was fine enough for
King Edward. Hasting and Master Thomas of Gulley's End wore their new
"fyne felt hats" after the fashion of those alluded to in the "London
Lycpeny." We also gave to all our hinds, both at Birtsmereton, Berew,
and Pendyke, smocks worked on the stomachers with the device of a
rose, and to all their women new gowns and comfachers.

The Sub-prior of Pendyke united us in the sacrament of marriage at our
most earnest request, and he gave us a copy of the Gospels transcribed
with his own hand from Master Wycliffe's Bible. The margins of the
parchments were limnered over with shapes of stars and rocks, the wild
birds of the air and the flowers of the field, for the old priest
thought that such things in nature were the works of the Creator, and
so pictured them with his quill upon the fringes of His Word.

As the years passed away Rosamond and I lived happy and contented
lives in the old home under the hills. No son was born to us, but our
daughters were ever comely from their cradles.

Two years after the fatal field of Theocsbury, Richard duke of
Gloucester married the Lady Anne of Warwick (1473), the widow of
Prince Edward, which should alone be sufficient refutation to the
slanderous tale that he, Duke Richard, had any personal hand in the
Prince's murder. Sire John Paston, writing to his brother soon after
this marriage, says, "The world seemeth queasy here; for the most part
that be about the King have sent hither for their harness."

In truth the brothers, Duke Richard and the Duke of Clarence, disputed
about the Lady Anne's inheritance, and pleaded each his cause in
person before the King in council. For several years the land was in
peace and quietude, and the Duke of Gloucester, with the lovely Anne,
resided at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire.

In the year of grace 1479, Isabella, Duchess of Clarence, died in a
suspicious manner, and the nurse who attended her was condemned to
death and executed for administering poison. No sooner was she buried
in the Abbey of Theocsbury than Clarence proposed himself as a husband
to Mary, Duchess of Burgundy, who had vast estates. And now after this
there befel one of those dark tragedies which ever and anon appear in
the history of courts and kings. First of all two gentlemen of his
household, and afterwards the Duke of Clarence himself, were accused
of "damnable magic," and "of dealing with the devil," in order to
dethrone the King and disinherit the King's children. Then this weak-
minded Duke received sentence of death, and report says that he was
drowned in a butt of that Malmsey wine he loved so well and quaffed so
freely. His body rests by the side of his wife in the Abbey of
Theocsbury, in a vault just opposite the effigy of the Skeleton Monk,
and among the bones of those who were slaughtered on the battlefield
and scaffold hard by.

It was in the year of grace 1482, and about the time of Midsummer, as
I was fishing and watching the glimmer chafers in the great fishpool
above our moat, with Rosamond and our loved Jacinth by my side, that a
rider appeared before the drawbridge, charged with a message from King
Edward, commanding me to attend him forthwith at Malvern Magna,
whither he had journeyed accompanied by his Queen, his son the Prince
of Wales, and the Princess Elizabeth. They had just arrived, the
messenger informed us, on a visit to the Prior of Malvern, and came
from Worcester in great privacy, attended only by Bishop Alcock, the
tutor of the young princes.

I wondered greatly at the King's thus arriving at this lonely village
in Malvern Chase. True it is noted for its priory, but King Edward
never affected either churches or monasteries. Then the messenger told
us how he had gathered, from some of the retinue, that the Queen would
have the forest driven for deer for the pleasure of her princely boy,
and would try a venture with her own cross-bow.

I was somewhat surprised, too, at this deer-driving at such a time of
year, when the fawns were by the sides of the hinds, for the King was
well versed in woodcraft; but I remembered from my experience at
Court, how the Queen ever had her own way in matters of small
consequence.

The sun was rising and bathing the heights of the beacon hills of
Worcester and Hereford with golden light as I rode on the gallop by
the green glades of Castlemereton towards the Priory of Malvern Parva.
As I crossed the streamlet which flows from the pass of the Gullet, a
bright blue kingfisher shot like an arrow up the waters, and a gallant
stag arose among the ferns below the Wind's Point, and tossed his
antlers as if in defiance. Taking the forest ride below the Holy Well
I disturbed several hinds and their fawns, but they soon disappeared
in the woody dingles along the base of the hills. Arrived at the
Priory at Malvern I found that the Queen and Princess Elizabeth had
heard mattins and were preparing to break their fast at the refectory.
With them, besides Bishop Alcock, was Anthony Widville, now Earl
Rivers, who was afterwards to conduct the Prince of Wales to Ludlow
Castle and the Marches.

The King had gone forth early to fly some tercels of the Prior's at a
hem or bittern, at Blackmere, a morass in the Chase between Malvern
and Hanley, and generally a safe find. He was not disappointed, and
returning in high spirits, received me with courtesy and cordiality,
complimenting me upon my look of health and vigour. Verily, I could
hardly return such greetings, for sack and canary, with wines of Spain
and Burgundy, had much transformed the once handsome countenance of
Edward of York.

The hall, refectory, and cloisters of Malvern remain much as they were
built, in those Norman times, when King Henry I. confirmed the grant
of St. Edward the Confessor; but the Priory Church has been renovated
and the choir rebuilt.

Only the Norman nave remains of Wolstan's days. Tradition says that
this noble church stands on the exact spot where the Prior of
Deorhyste founded a little cell when he fled from the Danes, leaving
his own church in flames, and sought here a refuge amidst wild woods
and wilder hills. Here, too, lived the pious hermit St. Werstan, who
built a chapel to St. John the Baptist, where he worshipped until he
was slain by Welsh raiders, who had no love for copes and coifs, or
monks and cells.

It was somewhat singular, too, that the choir was finished, and the
high altar and six other altars were dedicated, after the completion
of the choir and transepts, in the year of grace 1460, the year before
King Edward in his youth won his great battle of Mortimer's Cross, and
it was before the high altar that he heard mass as he marched past the
Priory on his road to Worcester.

The good Prior and his monks did their utmost for festal cheer and the
entertainment of their illustrious guests. The tables in the refectory
groaned with the huge sirloin, and with savoury Midsummer fawns well
stuffed with rosemary, while the wild boar's head was trimmed with
sweet ciceley in honour of the King's venerable mother, Ciceley,
Duchess of York.

I now learnt why I was summoned to attend the King! Queen Elizabeth
wished to ascend the Malvern heights, and behold with her own eyes,
from these lofty crests, the cathedral towers of Gloucester, where her
royal husband first raised his standard; the city of Hereford, the
scene of his revenge for Wakefield; the distant field of Mortimer's
Cross; and the hill which rises above the spire of Theocsbury, and
round which raged the battle which was his crowning glory.

Edward himself wished to hunt with the Prince of Wales, as the youth
was full of ardour for the chase, and to him a fawn was as good as a
stag to older hunters, and as large.

Thus it was arranged that I should attend upon the Queen and the
Princess Elizabeth, and guide them to the Wind's Point, where palfreys
would meet us, and refections; while at this pass it was probable that
her Majesty might transfix a buck with her own bolt as he passed the
borders into the woodlands of Colwall. Beautiful as the summer's morn
looked Queen Elizabeth as she mounted the Prior's sure-footed palfrey,
but still more lovely was her daughter, Elizabeth of York, then in her
sixteenth year. Fair as her mother, she was taller, with golden hair
which flowed in long tresses down her back. Her demeanour, too, was
more gracious and royal. She had not the Queen's ill habit of being
fond and familiar one day, and cold and forgetful the next. The
Princess insisted upon walking the whole distance to Wind's Point, and
Bishop Alcock accompanied us, while the Prior, Earl Rivers, and a few
others, joined the foresters, and started for the hunt and the
thickets by the Holy Well.

I led the way past the solitary cell of St. Michael where a hermit met
us and presented the Queen with a posy of roses, old man, and organy;
he also invited us to view the portraiture upon the dingy walls of his
cell, of an archer aiming his shaft at a hind, and supposed to be very
ancient.

Soon we reached the Well of St. Ann, which is a hollow in the rock
surrounded by ferns and leafy foliage, and into which flows an
unceasing streamlet of health-giving waters. Among the fern and yellow
gorse arises a simple cross and a stone image of the blessed Ann.

Taking the Gullet above the well we ascended slowly, listening to the
cuckoo's note, and the chiff-chaff of the willow wren, or watching the
stone-chats as they perched upon the brambles. The Princess was
delighted to see the yellow blossoms of "Genista," the badge of her
ancestor, the first Plantagenet, when we came upon a little streamlet
weeping beneath the moss, by which grew the bright blue flowers of
"Forget-me-not," a flower which she laughingly declared was filched by
that great usurper Henry of Lancaster, when he made the loving flower
his floral symbol, his mot and watchword.

Then there was pink "Herb Robert," the flower of the unhappy Robert of
Normandy; and bright daisies in abundance, which reminded me of the
broken-hearted Margaret of Anjou, now far away in the French Castle of
Damprierre, where, in a few months, she closed the sad pilgrimage of a
troublous and most eventful life.

On arriving at the summit of the Beacon of Worcestershire, the
glorious view almost startled the Princess Elizabeth, as she stood
wondering at the hills of blue in the northern distance, where rise
the Longmynds, Caer Caradoc, and the bold Clees. The Queen's eyes
sought the westward, and were fixed upon the Black Mountains, the
Gadir, and the peak of the Sugar-loaf, for it was westward the King
told her to look for the site of Kingsland's battle-field.

Directing their attention first to Bredon's isolated hill, rising
above the Avon water, I showed them the dark promontory opposite,
beyond the bold tower of Pershore, and told the tale of Evesham's
battle, and how De Montfort met the Plantagenet, and fell close by
that "Battle Well," around which raged the shock of fight, the clang
of swords and spears, shouts of defiance, and the sobs of death.

Then nearer on, I showed them the Cathedral tower of ancient
Worcester, where that false king, John, lies buried, and the city of
which has hardly yet recovered from the burning it suffered from the
troops of Owen Glendower, whose camp at Woodbury we could see crested
with tall trees, and from which Henry of Lancaster had no small
difficulty in driving him back to his mountains in Wales.

Northwards, and beyond Woodbury in the distance, we could see "Round
Wrekin" rising against the bright blue sky, and beyond lies
Shrewsbury, the birthplace of her Majesty's son, Duke Richard. Well
did her Grace describe that battle-field, where Henry of Lancaster won
victory from his stern foe the Glendower, where Percy died, and
Douglas fell from the rock of Haughmond, and his horse lay dead below
him.

Next, turning more westward, the bold Clees and the wooded Vinnals
rose, on either side, above the strong Castle of Ludlow, so often the
residence of the bold Mortimers, the stronghold on the Marches, and
the principal home for years of the King's father, Richard, Duke of
York.

More to the westward still, I was able to point out to the enquiring
eyes of her Grace the hill of Shobdon, by which the Welsh marched to
their doom at Kingsland. To an experienced eye, on a clear bright day
such as this, the ridge above Avemestry is visible. And it was near
these places, as the Queen well knew, that three suns were seen to
rise on the first battle-field of the "Lion of York." Long did the
royal visitors gaze upon this scene, and many questions did they ask;
while much the Princess Elizabeth enquired respecting the bearing of
the Tudors, and how Sire Owen fell a prisoner, and Jasper ran away.

This led us to look upon the tall, grey spire of Hereford Cathedral
and the waters of the Wye; when Bishop Alcock took up his parable and
told of Herefordian lore and great antiquities. He discoursed upon the
murder of St. Ethelbert, when he came courting at King's Sutton to
King Offa's daughter; and how a church of stone was built above the
bones of the saint, and miracles without number were worked at his
shrine. He told of the pillage of the Cathedral, and, worse still, the
murder of Bishop Leofgar by the ravenous Welsh, and the revenge of
Harold. Much did he relate of good St. Cantilupe, and how the Saint,
who "was a mighty hunter before the Lord," quarrelled with the Red
Earl Gilbert about the right of chase, and caused him to dig the dyke
close to which we were now standing. He told, too, of the White Cross
and the "black dethe;" and pointed to thee butts of bold Robin Hood,
where Little John stood and allowed an apple to be shot off, by an
arrow, from his head. The good Bishop was about to revert to the
miracles worked at the tomb of St. Cantilupe, but the Princess
Elizabeth, somewhat irreverently, asked where lay the field of
Theocsbury?

Turning to the southwards we could see the noble tower of Gloucester
Abbey, now free from scaffolding, and the walls of the Castle, where
first King Edward raised his standard. The Queen's cheek paled and
crimsoned as I told of the great struggle round the camp of Margaret
of Anjou at Theocsbury; and we could see the tears coursing down the
face of the Princess as I alluded slightly to the death of Prince
Edward, as if it had happened on the battle-field, through accident.
Nor were they content until I had pointed out the hill of Wainlode,
the humble tower of Birtsmereton, and the old Castle of Hanley, in the
Severn vale by Upton.

Such were the scenes we gazed on that Midsummer morning, as we marked
the distant landscapes, and, to me, how fraught they were with the
deeds and memories of the dead! What changes had elapsed since that
morning when I looked out from the woolstapler's window at Gloucester
and saw the young Edward of March ride by, on his war-horse towards
the Castle. Again the dingle at Kinsham came before me, and I saw the
cruel face of Trollop as he dealt the blow, as, he thought, of death.
Again I could hear the deep curses of Somerset, as he rode madly up
the hill above Theocsbury and struck Lord Wenlock from his saddle; and
saw once more the sorrow-stricken face of the Lady Anne of Warwick as
she was borne senseless from the scene of her husband's murder. But
while these sights and scenes again arose before my vivid fancy's
view, and as I related somewhat of the history, three bugle notes from
the glens above the Holy Well, told us that the King and the hunters
were moving onwards towards our trysting place at Wind's Point.

We therefore left the bare hill summit and took our way downwards by
the pass of the Wych. Bishop Alcock, who was learned in all local
lore, as well as in all ecclesiastical research, again discoursed on
the celestial wonders brought to mother earth, and instanced the
example of St. Catherine of Ledbury, the miraculous footsteps of her
mare and colt, and how the bells of the church rung of their own
accord as she rode with her maid Mabel into the town, and was saved
from her pursuers.

As we listened to St. Catherine's story, and how Bishop Foliot flouted
Thomas à-Becket, the Princess Elizabeth was searching for wild
flowers, just at that spot near Wind's Point where great elm trees
rise above a little spring. It is here, tradition says, the visions
came to Will Longland, which he relates in the "Complaint of Piers the
Ploughman;" and it was of this water, where grows the marsh violet,
and the woolly grass, that he wrote, "I was wery forwandered and went
me to rest under a broad bank by a burnside, and as I lay and looked
in the water I slumbered in a sleeping it sweyved so merry."

Above and around this spring butterflies were hovering, and wild roses
clustering with tangled stems; and here on a trailing briar the
Princess Elizabeth found a cluster of roses both white and red. Little
heeding the marvel of the mixture on one stem, the light-hearted girl
wound them round her bodice and danced merrily down the hill.

Arrived at Wind's Point we were met by a forester sent by the King,
bidding her Majesty not to wait for the hunting party, inasmuch as
they were following a wounded stag. We therefore at once attacked the
refection sent forward by the Prior, while Bishop Alcock discoursed on
Ledbury cider, and told how "crabs hot and hissing in the bowl" were
good for hippocrass. He pointed out, too, where lay Bosbury, famous
for orchards of the Bishops of Hereford, and once the home of that
Thomas Brydges who was champion to Bishop Cantilupe. Of Cantilupe the
Princess thought we had heard enough and enquired where was the crab-
tree under which King Edgar was reported to have slept after drinking
too much cider?

An hour passed away, the merry Princess asked to be conducted to the
"Hermit's Cave," which she had heard of as being at different times
the refuge and hiding place of Sire John Oldcastle and Owen Glendower
when he had taken refuge in the wilds of Herefordshire.

We now passed on from the little hostelrie by that wild hollow below
the great British Gaer, near which nestles the ancient Priory of
Malvern Parva. No rocks frown here from the mountain's brow, but green
grass covers the hill slopes, where the coney burrows, and the whin-
chat lays its blue eggs among the yellow gorse. With the exception of
a cowled monk from the monastery, an occasional traveller, or a hind
from the hostelrie, one may go for days without meeting a human being
in these solitudes. With wild forests all around, the camp above, once
occupied by an armed multitude, is now a waste, the haunt of the eagle
and the kite, save when some antlered stag seeks its solitude. Now its
great trenches and deserted vallum are sole memorials of the past,
where British bards and Roman legions have in turn looked forth on the
surrounding regions, and beheld the Cotswolds on one horizon and the
mountains of Wales on the other. Taking our route below the Gaer we
soon reached the Hermits Cave above the well of Waum.

The refuge of Sire John Oldcastle and Owen Glendower furnished the
Bishop with a theme on the subjects of heresy and heretics, magic and
enchantments, for it is reported that Glendower, under the name of
Jack of Kent, and by the aid of the devil, built the bridge of
Kenderchurch, in Herefordshire, in a single night. The Queen thought
it was a pity the learned Bishop had not lived in those days, and I
thought so too, for he was too good a man to be a persecutor with the
brand and the faggot, and as regards good-will towards men, I would
that there had been more like him.

Having well surveyed the haunt of the persecuted, and lately the den
of robbers, we walked forward to the hill crest, and were standing
upon the summit just above the Red Earl's dyke, when a tall figure in
a flowing garb emerged from the woodlands of Waum's Well. I quickly
recognised Mary Bolingbroke, who advanced towards us clad in a long
cloak of Welsh serge, and with a steeple-crowned hat, and with her now
snow-white hair floating in the breeze. The Queen seemed somewhat
alarmed at this strange apparition on the wild hill side, until I told
her that Mary was well known, and an innocent herbalist. Advancing to
meet her, I told her into whose presence she had come, and gracefully,
though somewhat sternly, she made her obeisance, for Mary had seen
courts and royalty when her learned father was the guest of the good
Duke Humphry. The Queen admired the wood vetch with which her hat was
twined, and the oak balls she carried for my bonnie girls at home.
While Mary's attention seemed concentrated on the briar with its red
and white roses which the Princess Elizabeth had made into a girdle,
Queen, Princess, and Bishop all seemed forgotten, as with clasped
hands she stood gazing on that wreath of roses. How long she would
have continued thus I may not say, had not her trance been broken by
the Queen waving her kerchief and saying, "There below us is the King
and my noble Edward;" and truly in front of us, in the vale, but more
to the westward, rode the King, the Prince of Wales, and Earl Rivers,
their plumes dancing above their hunting caps as they galloped along
the broad glade which reaches from the old Saxon mill at Castlemereton
to the base of the Gullet pass. We could hear, too, the deep-mouthed
baying of the hounds, and the shouts of the foresters and drivers, who
were evidently on the track of a wounded stag. The Queen waved, her
kerchief again and again, the Bishop and I cheered heartily, and the
Princess, joyous with glee, trolled forth with melodious voice.

"Merrily ride the hunters.

And merrily sounds the horn,"

when my own eyes were arrested by a sight which made my blood run
cold.

I saw the King, the Prince, and Earl Rivers ride from brilliant
sunlight into Lethean darkness. I looked again, and saw it was the
Shadow of the Ragged Stone. A glance at Mary told me she saw it too,
as she stood with folded arms and her cheeks like a whited wall!

We said nothing to the wife and mother, and daughter, as they looked
in ignorance upon this dread omen of the shadow of death, and were
relieved when the Queen expressed a wish to return towards the village
of Malvern, and rode back to the ancient Priory; but, in after years,
we both remembered how little more than twelve months found the King
in his grave at Windsor, the Prince of Wales and his young brother
murdered, as was supposed by their uncle's commands, but without trace
of their lonely grave, and Earl Rivers a headless corpse at
Pontefract.

Nor did Mary forget to remind me of the wreath of roses gathered by
Longland's water, when Elizabeth of York was happily married to our
present noble Tudor King, and thus blended the red rose with the
white.

Belief in witchcraft, conjurors, and necromancers, and accusations
against others of dealing with the devil, always haunted the family of
the House of York. Thus I ever consider that Mary Bolingbroke was a
fortunate woman to escape the fate of her father, sooner or later, for
we could never persuade her to give up pharmacies, herbments, and such
like healings, whenever she knew any one was sick or sorry.
Nevertheless, as Elsdune is a lonely spot among our border wilds, and
she only visited us from time to time, she did not again acquire the
dangerous notoriety for doing good which arose when she was at
Eldersfield; for doing good appears in certain circumstances to be far
more dangerous than doing evil. She lived to be an old woman, much
petted by us all, and now lies in our peaceful churchyard, her grave
well planted with the herbs she loved so well.

Master Hasting is an esquire of no little renown. He fought his last
battle on Bosworth Field, against Richard III., for he declares to the
present hour that it was him, and no other, who foully spirited away
the princely sons of Edward IV. He acquired a goodly property, and has
exchanged his battle-axe and bow for the plough. He and his fair wife
are ever welcome guests at all our feasts and festivals.

Robin of Elsdune, the noble-hearted archer, lived for several years at
Castlemereton, and often received tokens of his royal master's
affection and goodwill; but he never again frequented his Court or
commanded his body-guard. My children know how we all esteemed his
friendship, and how we lamented him when he died.

Sire Roger Calverley, like myself is grey-haired, bald, and given to
podagra; but Bessie is the bonniest and blithest dame in all our
country side. Her husband and her children bless the very ground on
which she treads. She still wears the red rose in her boddice on
summer Sundays at church, but when she comes to see her old friends at
our Manor she wears a white one too.

Dorothy Paunceforte married a learned knight, who, like Earl Rivers,
was a friend of Master Caxton; and this was a happy marriage, for
Dorothy had a shrewd wit, and much knowledge of the Bible.

Silent John married in leap year, when a buxom damosel exercised the
well-known privilege of saying "Will you?" and John replied in the one
word "Aye."

My dear old mother passed away full of years, and we laid her by my
father's side among the daffodils, the primroses, and the nodding star
of Bethlehem. The "Shadow of the Ragged Stone" gave us no token as her
death drew nigh, for her life smouldered away like the dying embers on
the hearth. My daughter Jacinth is married to Sire Richard Nanfan, a
Cornish gentleman, who will succeed to the manor of Birtsmereton; and
Amy is now Dame ap-Howell, and married a descendant of the Welsh
kings.

I have often, in past years, wandered among the clefts of the Ragged
Stone in the gloaming of the summer evenings, and watched for the dark
pillar thrown across the vale, but I never beheld it again.

Still the old man needs no omen as a signal for his departure from
this world to another, the grey hairs, the shrunken form, the feeble
gait, and the blood which chills with the first frost, all tell him
that death is casting his shadow before him as he advances with swift
but noiseless steps. Nor is this all! The companions of his youth are
borne to the grave with every passing year, and drop like autumn
leaves into their mother earth. But with all this, often, like Will
Longland on the Malvern Hills, I have "slumbered in a sleeping" as I
rested "under a broad bank by a burnside," and dear old faces have
come back, and old familiar voices have been again eloquent, faces
which are now dust, and voices which have long been silent. So, too, I
have seen visions of another land which lies beyond the deep and
narrow stream we all must pass, a land where there is no persecution
for religious opinions, no hellish fires, no death, no sin, but
where--as says Master Wycliffe's Bible--

"His yoke is soft and His charge is light."



THE END



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