Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A March on London by G. A. Henty

Part 3 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"They are Flemings!" the man whom Edgar had struck shouted out.

"Well, sir, I should say that you were a Fleming yourself, by your
speech," Edgar said.

"I am but a clerk," the man said. "He who lives here is one of the
Flemings who bought the taxes, and has been grinding down the people, of
whom I am one."

"The people must be badly off, indeed," Edgar said, contemptuously, "if
they need to have such a cur as you on their side."

But his words were drowned by the furious shouts of the crowd, "Death to
the Flemings!" and a rush was made at the door, headed by the clerk, who
struck savagely at Edgar. The latter parried the stroke, and thrust the
man through the throat. With a yell of rage the crowd now strove furiously
to enter, but the position of the two lads standing back a couple of feet
from the entrance rendered it impossible for more than two or three to
attack them at once, and the clubs and rough weapons were no match for the
swords. Nevertheless, although five or six of their opponents fell, the
weight of numbers pressed the friends back to the staircase, where they
again made a stand.

For five minutes the conflict raged. The boys had both received several
blows, for the weight of the heavy weapons sometimes beat down their
guard; but they still fought on, retiring a step or two up the stair when
hardly pressed, and occasionally making dashes down upon their assailants,
slaying the foremost, and hurling the others backwards. Presently the girl
ran down again to them.

"All are in safety," she said. "Run upstairs when you can. Where you see
me standing at a door run in and lock it on the inside."

"One more rush, Albert, and then upstairs."

With a shout Edgar threw himself upon a man who had raised a heavy pole-
axe, and cut the fellow down. Then, as the man fell, Edgar flung himself
on him, and hurled him against those behind, while Albert at the same
moment ran an opponent through the body. Then, turning, they sprang up the
stairs. On the landing above the girl was standing at an open door. They
ran in and closed it, and then piled articles of furniture against it.

"There is no occasion for that," she said; "this way."

The room was heavily panelled, and one of the panels was standing open.
They followed her into this.

"Push it back," she said; "it is too heavy for me." The panel was indeed
of great weight, the wood being backed with brick, the whole ran on
rollers, but Edgar had no difficulty in closing it.

"Thank God, and you, gentlemen, that we are in safety. The keenest eye
could not see that the panel opens, and, being backed with brick, it gives
no hollow sound when struck. They will search in vain for it."

Taking a lamp from the ground, she led the way down a narrow flight of
stairs. By the depth to which they descended Edgar judged when they
reached the bottom that they must be below the level of the cellars. She
opened a door, and entered an apartment some twenty feet square. It was
lighted by four candles standing on a table. In one corner a woman lay on
a pallet; two women servants, sobbing with terror and excitement, stood
beside her, while a tall, elderly man rose to meet them.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I don't know how to thank you. You must think it
cowardly that I did not descend to share your peril; but it was necessary
that I should go to the storey above that you reached to bring down my
wife, who, as you see, is grievously sick. Her two maids were very nearly
distraught with terror, and, if left to themselves, would never have
carried their mistress below. Having had some experience of popular
tumults in Bruges, my native town, I had this hiding-place constructed
when I first came here twenty years ago. Now, to whom am I indebted for
our safety?"

Edgar introduced his companion and himself.

"Then you are not, as would seem by your attire, merchants like myself?"

"No, sir. We but put on this attire over our own in order to be able to
traverse the streets without interruption. May I ask how it is that your
daughter was alone and unattended in the streets?"

"She was not unattended. She had with her my servant, a Flemish lad, who
has but recently come over. He speaks no English, and not knowing the
tongue, could not be sent out alone. My wife was taken worse this morning,
and the leech not having sent the medicine he promised, my daughter,
thinking that there could be no danger to a young girl, went to get it,
and as the servant was dressed in English fashion, and would not be called
upon to speak, I thought that she could pass unnoticed did they fall in
with any party of the rioters."

"So we should have done, father," the girl said, "had we not met a band
headed by Nicholas Bierstadt."

"The villain!" the merchant exclaimed. "So it was he who led the party
here. When these troubles are over I will see that he obtains his
deserts."

"He has obtained them already, sir," Edgar said, "for I slew the knave at
the first thrust."

"He was my clerk, the son of a man of some influence at Bruges. He was
well recommended to me, and came over here to learn the business and the
language, with the intention of going into trade for himself. It was not
long before I came to dislike his ways, and when, a fortnight since, he
asked me for the hand of my daughter, I repulsed him, telling him that in
the first place, she was too young to think of marriage, and that, in the
second, I liked him not, and would never give my consent to her having
him, and lastly, that she liked him as little as I did. He answered
insolently, and I then expelled him from the house, when he threatened me
that I should erelong regret my conduct. I gave the fellow no further
thought, and did not know where he bestowed himself. Doubtless he was
waiting to see whether this rabble would reach London and what would come
of it, and when they entered doubtless he endeavoured to gratify his
hatred by leading some of them hither. And now, Joanna, tell me what
befell you."

"We went safely to the leech's, father, and I got the medicine from him.
He made many apologies, but said that he had heard so much of the doings
of the rioters that he thought it best to stay indoors, and of course he
had not heard that mother was taken worse. We had come half-way back when
we fell in with a party of the rioters. Methinks they would have said
naught, but Bierstadt, whom I had not noticed, suddenly grasped me by the
arm, saying, 'This is the daughter of the Fleming to whose house I am
taking you, one of the chief oppressors of the poor.' Johann struck him in
the face, and as he loosened his hold of me I darted away. Looking back, I
saw Johann on the ground, and the mob round him were hacking at him with
their weapons. This gave me a start, and I ran, but just as I reached the
door Bierstadt overtook and seized me; then this gentleman, who was
passing, struck him a stout buffet in the face, and without waiting to see
more I hastened to give you the alarm."

"Providence surely sent you to the spot, gentlemen," the Fleming said;
"here we are absolutely safe. During the last two days I have brought down
a provision of food, wine, and water sufficient to last us for a month,
and long before that methinks this rascaldom will have been suppressed."

"There is no doubt of that, sir; my only fear is that when they cannot
discover where you are concealed, they will fire the house."

"Against that I have provided," the Fleming said. He opened the door. "See
you that stone slab, above a foot in thickness; it looks solid, but it is
not. It is worked by a counterpoise, and when it is lowered," and touching
a spring, it began to descend, thus closing the stairway, "not only would
it baffle them did they find the entrance above, but it would prevent any
fire reaching here. The staircase is of stone, and above us is a strongly
arched cellar, which would resist were the whole house to fall upon it."

CHAPTER VIII

A COMBAT IN THE TOWER

"I see that you are safe against fire, sir," Edgar said, when the stone
slab had descended and they had closed the door behind it; "but were the
walls of the house to fall in you might be buried here, as I hear many
drunken wretches were yesterday in the cellars of the Savoy."

"I have means of escape," the merchant said, going to the other side of
the apartment, where there was a massive iron door, which they had not
before noticed. "Here," he said, "is a passage leading under the street;
at the end it ascends, and is closed at the top by a massive panel in the
hall of the house opposite. When I took this house a compatriot lived
there, and it was with his consent that I made the passage, which might be
useful in case of need, to him as well as to me. He returned to Flanders
three years since, and the house has been occupied by an English trader,
who knows naught of the passage, so that, at will, I can sally out by that
way."

"And how is your dame, sir?" Albert asked. "I trust that she is none the
worse for her transport here."

"I trust not, young sir; she swooned as I brought her down, but I at once
poured some cordial between her lips, and when she opened her eyes, just
before you came down, I assured her that we were all safe, and that there
was no cause for the least fear; thereupon she closed her eyes again, and
is, methinks, asleep. When she wakes I shall give her the medicine that my
daughter brought. I trust that she will erelong recover. Her attack was
doubtless brought on by the news that we received yesterday of the murder
of so many of our countrymen. We had already talked of taking refuge here,
but deemed not that there was any pressing need of haste, for the front
door is a very strong one, and could have resisted any attacks long enough
to give us ample time to retire here."

"How do you manage to breathe here, sir, now that the stone slab is down
and the door closed? I see not how you obtain air."

"For that I made provision at the time it was built. Here are two shafts,
six inches square; this one runs up into the chimney of the kitchen and
draws up the air from here; the other goes up to a grating in the outer
wall of the house in the yard behind. It looks as if made for giving
ventilation under the floors or to the cellar, and through this the air
comes down to take the place of that drawn upwards by the heat of the
chimney."

"And now, Mynheer Van Voorden," for such they had learned was the
Fleming's name, "as there is a way of escape, we shall be glad to use it."

"I pray you do not think of doing so at present," the Fleming said. "We
know not yet whether the evil-doers have cleared off, and methinks it is
not likely that they will have gone yet. First they will search high and
low for us, then they will demolish the furniture, and take all they deem
worth carrying; then, doubtless, they will quench their thirst in the
cellar above, and lastly they will fire the house, thinking that although
they cannot find us, they will burn us with it. They will wait some time
outside to see if we appear at one of the windows, and not until the roof
has fallen in will they be sure that we have perished. Moreover, you
cannot well appear in the streets for the present in that attire, for you
might well be recognized and denounced. First of all, let me persuade you
to take such poor refreshments as I can offer you."

"Thanks, sir; of that we shall be glad, for 'tis now past noon, and we
have had but a loaf we bought at a baker's as we entered the city."

The Fleming gave orders to the servant, and they speedily had a snow-white
cloth of the finest damask on the table, and placed on it a service of
silver dishes.

"'Tis well that I had my plate brought down here yesterday," the merchant
said, smiling, "though it hardly consorts well with the fare that I have
to offer you. To-morrow, should you pay us a visit, you will find us
better prepared, for, as you see, we have a fireplace at the bottom of the
flue opening into the kitchen chimney. This was done, not only that we
might have warmth, and be able, if need be, to cook here, but to increase
the draught upwards, and so bring down more air from the other flue."

The lads, however, found that there was no need for apology, for there
were upon the dishes two chickens, a raised pasty large enough for a dozen
people, and a variety of sweets and conserves. The wine, too, was superb.
They made a hearty meal. When they had finished, the Fleming said: "Now we
will go upstairs; there is a peephole in the carving of the panel, and we
can see how matters stand."

Opening the door, they pushed up the massive stone. As they ascended the
stairs they smelt smoke, which grew thicker at each step.

"We need go no further, sirs; the house is clearly on fire, and smoke has
made its way through the peephole that I spoke of."

They waited for another half hour, and then they heard a heavy crash on
the other side of the stone barrier.

"The roof has doubtless fallen in or one of the walls," Van Voorden said.
"There is, be sure, a mob gathered to watch the flames, but in another
half hour it will have gone elsewhere; still, I should advise you to wait
until nightfall."

They saw that this would be prudent, for their attire would certainly
render them obnoxious to the rioters. They were, however, impatient to be
off and see what was being done. The Fleming's wife was still sleeping
soundly, and her husband said that he was convinced that the crisis was
passed, and that she would now recover. The Fleming asked them many
questions about themselves, and where they could be found. They told them
where they were at present lodging, but said they thought that as soon as
the present troubles were over they should return to their home in the
country.

"I myself shall be returning to Flanders, sirs. I have talked of it many
times these last five years, and after this outburst it will be long
before any of my people will be able to feel that they are safe in London.
Had it not been that the populace are as much masters in Bruges as they
are here, I should have gone long ago.

"There is, indeed, no change for the better there, but I shall settle in
Brussels or Louvain, where I can live in peace and quiet."

At the end of half an hour Edgar said: "I think that they must have
cleared off by this time. When we sally out, do you, Albert, go one way,
and I will go another. There is naught in our dress to distinguish us from
other citizens, and methinks that most of those who would have known us
again are lying under the ruins above."

They had, on first arriving below, washed the blood from their faces, and
bathed their wounds, which were by no means of a serious character. The
Fleming agreed with them that, if they separated, there would be no great
danger of their being recognized. After taking farewell of the girl, who
had all this time been sitting silently by her mother's bedside, they
passed through the iron door, preceded by the Fleming carrying a lamp.
After passing through the passage they went up a long flight of narrow
steps until their course was arrested by a wooden panel. The Fleming
applied first his eye and then his ear to a tiny peephole.

"Everything is quiet," he said; then touched a spring, pushed the panel
open a short distance, and looked out.

"All is clear; you have but to open the door and go out."

He pushed the panel farther back, pressed the lads' hands as they went
out, and then closed the entrance behind them. There was but a single bolt
to undraw; then they opened the door and stepped into the street, Edgar
waiting for half a minute to let Albert get well away before he went out.

The front wall of the opposite house, having fallen inward, quickly
smothered the fire, and although a light smoke, mingled with tongues of
flame, rose from the ruin, the place had ceased to have any attraction for
the mob, who had wandered away to look for more exciting amusement
elsewhere.

Scenes of this kind were being enacted throughout the city. Already the
restriction against plundering was disregarded, and although the men from
the counties still abstained from robbery, the released prisoners from the
jail and the denizens of the slums of the city had no such scruples, and
the houses of the Flemings were everywhere sacked and plundered. The two
friends met again at Aldgate. When they reached Tower Hill, it was, they
found, occupied by a dense throng of people, who beleaguered the Tower and
refused to allow any provisions to be taken in, or any person to issue
out.

"What had best be done, Edgar? So menacing is the appearance of the rabble
that methinks this attire would be as much out of place among them as
would our own."

"I agree with you there, Albert, and yet I know not what we are to do.
What we need is either a craftsman's dress or that of a countryman, but I
see not how the one or the other is to be obtained. Assuredly nothing is
to be bought, save perhaps bread, for the rioters have ordered that all
bakers' shops are to stand open."

He stood for a minute thinking. "I tell you what we might do," he went on.
"Let us go back into Aldgate, and then down on to the wharf. There are
many country boats there, and we might buy what we need from the sailors."

"That is a good idea indeed, Edgar."

In a quarter of an hour they were on the wharf. Many of the craft there
had no one on board, the men having gone either to join the rioters or to
look on at what had been done. The skipper of a large fishing-boat was
sitting on the wharf looking moodily down into his vessel.

"Are you the captain of that craft?" Edgar asked him.

"I used to think so," he said; "but just at present no one obeys orders,
as every Jack thinks that he is as good as his master. I ought to have
gone out with the morning's tide, but my men would not have it so, and
just at present they are the masters, not I. A murrain on such doings, say
I. I was with them when it was but a talk of rights and privileges, but
when it comes to burning houses and slaying peaceable men, I, for one,
will have naught to do with it."

"Captain," Edgar said, "I see that you are an honest man, and maybe you
will aid us. We find that there is peril in going about attired as we are,
for we aided a short time since in saving a Flemish family from massacre
by these fellows, and we need disguises. We want two countrymen's suits--
it matters not whether they be new or old. We are ready to pay for them,
but every shop is closed, and we have come down to the wharves to find
someone who will sell."

"There is no difficulty about that," the skipper said, rising from his
seat. "My own clothes would scarce fit you, but two of my crew are
somewhat of your size. Step on board, and I will overhaul their lockers,
and doubt not that I shall find something to serve your purpose. They will
not mind if they find that there is money sufficient to buy them new ones.
Indeed, there is no need for that, for if you leave behind you the clothes
you wear they will sell at Colchester for enough to buy them two or three
suits such as those you take."

There was in those days no distinctive dress worn by sailors. The captain
went down into the little cabin forward and opened two lockers.

"There," he said, "suit yourselves out of these. They are their best, for
they thought that aught would do for mixing up with the mob in the city."

So saying he went on deck again. The citizen's clothes were soon stripped
off, and the lads dressed in those they took from the lockers, and in a
few minutes they rejoined the skipper, looking like two young countrymen.

"That will do well," he said, with a laugh. "Hob and Bill would scarce
know their clothes again if they saw them on you. No, no," he added, as
Albert put his hand into his pouch, "there is no need for money, lads;
they will be mightily content with the clothes you have left. Well, yes; I
don't care if I do take a stoup of liquor. There is a tavern over there
where they keep as good ale as you can find anywhere about here."

After drinking a pint of beer with the honest skipper, they again went off
to the Tower, and mingled in the crowd. It was easy to see that it was
composed of two different sections--the one quiet and orderly, the men
looking grave and somewhat anxious, as if feeling that it was a perilous
enterprise upon which they were embarked, although still bent upon
carrying it out; the other noisy and savage--the men from the jails, the
scum of Canterbury and Rochester, and the mob of the city. Between these
classes there was no sympathy, the one was bent only upon achieving their
deliverance from serfdom, the other was solely influenced by a desire for
plunder, and a thirst for the blood of those obnoxious to them. Presently
there was a loud shout from the crowd as the drawbridge was lowered.

"Perhaps they are going to make a sally, Albert. If so, we had best make
off to our lodgings, throw off these garments, and appear in our own."

"'Tis the king!" Albert exclaimed; "and see, there is De Vere, the Earl of
Kent, and other nobles riding behind him."

"Yes; and there is your father. The king and those with him are without
armour or arms; if they had seen as much as we have seen the last two
days, they would scarce trust themselves in such a garb."

A great shout arose as the boy king rode across the drawbridge. The lads
noticed that the shout proceeded from the men who had hitherto been
silent, and that the noisy portion of the crowd now held their peace. The
king held up his hand for silence.

"My friends," he said, in a loud, clear voice, "there is no room here for
conference. Follow me to Mile End Fields, and I will then hear what you
wish to say to me, and will do what I can to give you satisfaction."

A great shout arose, and as the king rode off, most of the country people
followed him. A great mob, however, still remained. These consisted
principally of Wat the Tyler's following, who had ever been in the front
in the doings that had taken place, together with the released malefactors
and the town rabble. A few minutes after the king and his followers had
left, there was a movement forward, and a moment later, with loud shouts,
they began to pour across the drawbridge.

"What madness is this?" Edgar exclaimed. "There are twelve hundred men
there, and yet no bow is bent. It must be treachery!"

"It may be that, Edgar; but more like, orders have been issued that none
should shoot at the rioters or do them any harm, for were there any killed
here it might cost the king his life."

"That may be it," Edgar muttered; "but come on, there is no saying what
may happen."

They were now near the drawbridge, for when a part of the gathering had
left to follow the king, they had taken advantage of it to press forward
towards the gates, and in a few minutes were inside the Tower. All was in
confusion. The men-at-arms and archers remained immovable on the walls,
while a crowd of well-nigh twenty thousand men poured into the Tower with
shouts of "Death to the archbishop! Death to the treasurer!" Knowing their
way better than others, Edgar and Albert ran at full speed towards the
royal apartments. Finding themselves in a deserted passage they threw off
their upper garments.

"Throw them in here," Edgar said, opening a door; "they may be useful to
us yet."

Finding the king's chamber empty, they ran into the princess's apartment.
The princess was sitting pale and trembling, surrounded by a group of
ladies, among whom was Dame Agatha. A few gentlemen were gathered round.
Just as the lads entered, Sir Robert Hales, the treasurer, ran in.

"Madam," he said, "I beseech you order these gentlemen to sheathe their
swords. Resistance is impossible. There are thousands upon thousands of
these knaves, and were a sword drawn it would cost your life and that of
all within the Tower. They have no ill-will against you, as they showed
when you passed through them at Blackheath. I implore you, order all to
remain quiet whatever happens, and it were best that all save your
personal attendants dispersed to their apartments. Even the semblance of
resistance might excite these people to madness, and serve as an excuse
for the most atrocious deeds."

"Disperse, I pray you, knights and ladies," the princess said. "I order--
nay, I implore you, lose not a moment."

"Come," Dame Agatha said, firmly, taking hold of Aline's hand; "and do you
follow, my son, with Edgar."

They hurried along the passages, one of which was that by which the lads
had entered.

"Go on with them," Edgar said to his friend; "I will follow in a moment.
This is the room where we left our disguises."

Running in he gathered the clothes, made them into a rough bundle, and
then followed. He overtook his friends as they were mounting a staircase
which led to a room in one of the turrets. As they reached the chamber,
and the door closed behind them, Dame Agatha burst into tears.

"I have been in such anxiety about you both!" she exclaimed.

"We have fared well, mother," Albert said; "but do you lose no moment of
time. We have disguises here. I pray you put on the commonest garment that
you have, you and Aline. If you can pass as servants of the palace, we can
conduct you safely out of the crowd."

Edgar ran up a narrow flight of stone stairs, at the top of which was a
trap-door. He forced back the bolts and lifted it.

"Bring up the clothes, Albert," he called down. "We will put them on while
the ladies are changing, and we can watch from this platform what is doing
without."

They soon slipped on the countrymen's clothes over their own, and then
looked out at the scene below. Every space between the buildings was
crowded by the mob shouting and yelling. The garrison still stood
immovable on the outer walls.

"You must be right, Albert. Even if there be some traitors among them
there must also be some true men, and never would they stand thus
impassive had not the strictest orders been laid upon them before the
king's departure."

In a minute or two they saw a number of men pour out, hauling along the
Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Robert Hales, the king's confessor, and four
other gentlemen. Then with exulting shouts they dragged their prisoners to
Tower Hill, and then forced them to kneel.

"They cannot be going to murder them!" Albert exclaimed with horror.

"That is surely their intent," Edgar said, sternly. "Would that we were
there with but a hundred men-at-arms. Assuredly there would be a stout
fight before they had their way."

"I cannot look on!" Albert exclaimed, hurrying to the other side of the
platform as a man armed with a heavy sword faced the prisoners.

Edgar did not move, but stood gazing with scowling brow and clenched hand.
Presently he turned.

"There is naught more to see, Albert. All are murdered! God assoil their
souls."

At this moment Dame Agatha called out from below that they were ready, and
they ran down at once into the chamber. Dame Agatha and her daughter were
both dressed in rough garments with hoods pulled over their faces, and
might well have passed unnoticed as being the wife and daughter of some
small trader, or superior domestics of the palace. Just as they were about
to start they heard an uproar on the stairs below. The door had been
already fastened.

"Best to open it," Edgar said; "they would but break it in."

Seven rough fellows, whose flushed faces showed that they had already been
drinking, rushed into the room.

"Who have we here?" one shouted roughly. "Two wenches and two country
lads. But what are all these fine clothes lying about; they must be nobles
in disguise. We must take them down to Tyler and hear what he has to say
to them. But, first of all, let us have a kiss or two. I will begin with
this young woman," and he rudely caught hold of Aline.

Edgar's sword flashed out, and with the hilt he struck the ruffian so
terrible a blow on the top of his head that he fell dead. An instant later
he ran another through the body, shouting to the ladies: "Quick! to the
platform above! Albert, guard the stairs after they pass. I will hold this
door. None of these fellows must go out alive."

Taken by surprise for a moment, the men made a rush at him. The nearest
was cut down with a sweeping blow that caught him on the neck, and almost
severed the head from his body. Albert had drawn his sword as soon as he
saw Edgar strike the first blow, and ran one of the men through the body,
then engaged another, who made at him fiercely, while Dame Agatha and
Aline sped up the steps. There were now but three foes left. While one
engaged with Albert and pressed him hotly, the other two attacked Edgar,
who was standing with his back to the door; but they were no match for the
young swordsman, who parried their blows without difficulty, and brought
them one after the other to the ground just as Albert rid himself of his
opponent.

"Bring the ladies down, Albert, quickly. We must be out of this before
anyone else comes."

Albert ran up. The two ladies were on their knees. "Quick, mother! There
is not a moment to be lost. It is all over, and you have to go down as
speedily as possible."

Dame Agatha passed through the scene of carnage without a shudder, for she
had more than once accompanied Sir Ralph abroad, and had witnessed several
battles and sieges, but Aline clung to Albert's arm, shuddering and
sobbing. Edgar stood at the door until they had passed out. He closed it
behind him, locked it on the outside, and threw the key through a loophole
on the stair. They met with no one until they reached the lower part of
the Tower, which the rioters were now leaving, satisfied with the
vengeance that they had taken upon the archbishop and treasurer, whom they
regarded as the authors of the obnoxious poll-tax. The party were
unquestioned as they issued out into the yard and mingled with the mob.
Here they gathered that the princess, having been roughly kissed by some
of those who first entered her apartment, had swooned with terror, and
that her attendants had been permitted to carry her down and place her in
a boat, and that she had been taken across the river.

The rioters poured out across the drawbridge with almost as much haste as
they had pressed over to enter the Tower, anxious to be away before the
king's return, when he might turn against them the whole of the garrison.
Many had intoxicated themselves by the wine in the royal cellars, and
beyond a few rough jests nothing was said to the ladies, who were supposed
to be some of the royal servants now being escorted to their country homes
by their friends. As soon as possible Edgar and Albert edged their way out
of the crowd and soon reached the door of their lodging. As soon as the
garden gate closed behind them Aline fainted. Edgar, who was walking
beside her, caught her as she fell, and carried her into the house, where
he left her for a while in the care of her mother.

The latter said before she closed the door: "Edgar, I charge you to go
back to the Tower and speak to my lord as he enters with the king. He will
be well-nigh distraught should he find that we are missing, and go up to
our chamber to look for us. Albert, do you remain here with us."

A quarter of an hour later she came down to her son.

"Aline has recovered her senses," she said, "but will have to lie quiet
for a time. Now tell me what has happened. Have any of the Court been
killed?"

Albert told her of the murder of the archbishop, the treasurer, and their
five companions.

"'Tis terrible!" she said, "and I can well understand that Edgar was so
maddened at the sight that when one of those half-drunken wretches
insulted Aline he could contain himself no longer. But it was a rash act
thus to engage seven men."

"Well, mother, if he had not smitten that man down I should have run him
through. My sword was half out when he did so. You would not have had me
stand by quietly and see you and Aline insulted by those wretches. But,
indeed, the odds were not so great, seeing that they were but rabble of
the town, and already half-drunk. Besides the man that he smote down,
Edgar killed four of them, while I had but two to encounter, which was a
fair division considering his strength and skill compared with mine. No
half measures would have been of any use after that first blow was struck.
It is certain that we should all have been killed had one of them escaped
to give the alarm."

"I am far from blaming you, Albert. My own blood boiled at the indignity,
and had I carried a dagger I believe that I should have stabbed that
fellow myself, though I had been slain a moment afterwards."

Looking out from the gate Edgar saw that the mob had now melted away.
Throwing off his disguise, he proceeded to the Tower. Half an hour later
the king rode up at a furious pace, followed by all who had ridden out
with him save the king's half-brothers, the Earl of Kent and Sir John
Holland, who, knowing their own unpopularity, and alarmed for their
safety, put spurs to their horses and rode away. The king threw himself
from his horse at the entrance, at which Edgar was standing.

"Is the news that has reached me true," he asked him, "that the princess,
my mother, has been grossly insulted by this foul rabble, and that the
archbishop, treasurer, and others have been murdered?"

"It is quite true, your Majesty; the princess has been carried across the
river in a swoon; the bodies of the gentlemen murdered still lie on the
hill."

With an exclamation of grief and indignation the king ascended the steps.

"What of my dame and daughter, Edgar?" the knight asked, as the king
turned away.

"They are both safe, and at their former lodging, Sir Ralph. Dame Agatha
sent me here to acquaint you where they were to be found; she knew that
you would be very anxious as to their safety."

"I thank her for the thought," the knight said, turning his horse's head
to go there. "Where have you and Albert been for the last two days?"

"We have slept at the lodgings, Sir Ralph, and during the day have
traversed the city in sober clothes watching what has been done."

"Then you have seen scenes which must have made you almost ashamed of
being an Englishman," Sir Ralph said, angrily. "This has been a
disgraceful business. It was bad enough to destroy John of Gaunt's palace;
for, although I love not Lancaster greatly, it was an ornament to London
and full of costly treasures. For this, however, there was some sort of
excuse, but not so for the burning of the Temple, still less for the
destruction of the great house of the Knights of St. John, and also the
manor-house of the prior of the order. I hear to-day that great numbers of
Flemings have been slain, their houses pillaged, and in some cases burnt.
Now comes the crowning disgrace. That the Tower of London, garrisoned by
1,200 men, and which ought to have defied for weeks the whole rabbledom of
England, should have opened its gates without a blow being struck, and the
garrison remained inert on the walls while the king's mother was being
grossly insulted, and the two highest dignitaries of the state with others
massacred is enough, by my faith, to make one forswear arms, put on a
hermit's dress and take to the woods. Here we are!"

The knight's two retainers ran up to take his horse as he entered the
gateway; and, vaulting off, he hurried into the house.

"Why, Agatha, you are strangely pale! What has happened? I have not had
time yet to question Edgar, and, indeed, have been talking so fast myself
that he has had no chance of explaining how you and Aline managed to get
here. You came by water, I suppose, and so escaped that crowd of knaves
round the Tower?"

"No, Sir Ralph, we escaped under the protection of your son and this brave
youth. Had it not been for them we should surely have suffered indignity
and perhaps death."

"What! were they in the Tower? How got they there, wife?"

"I have had no time to ask questions yet, husband, having been attending
Aline, who fainted after bearing up bravely until we got here. She has but
a few minutes since come out of her swoon, and I have stayed with her."

"Tell me what has happened, Albert," the knight said.

"We slept here last night, sir; and upon sallying out found the rioters
assembled round the Tower. We were clad in traders' dresses Master Gaiton
had given us; and seeing that there was no chance of entering the Tower,
while it would not have been safe to have mingled with the mob in such an
attire, we knew not what to do until Edgar suggested that we might, if we
went down to the wharf, obtain disguises from one of the vessels lying
there. We were fortunate, and exchanged our citizen clothes for those of
two sailor-men. Then we came back and mingled in the crowd. We saw the
drawbridge lowered, and the king ride off with his company, followed by
the more orderly portion of the rioters. In a few minutes, headed by Wat
the Tyler, those who remained poured across the drawbridge and were
masters of the place, not a blow being struck in its defence.

"We made our way, by back passages known to us, to the princess's
apartments, where she, with several knights and ladies, among them my
mother and sister, were waiting to see what might come. Sir Robert Hales
rushed in and prayed that no resistance be offered, as this would inflame
the passions of the mob, and cost the lives of all within the Tower. So
the princess gave orders for all to leave her save her maids, and to
scatter to their own apartments, and remain quiet there. As soon as we
reached my mother's room we besought her to put on that sombre dress, and
prayed her similarly to attire Aline, so that they might pass with us
unnoticed through the crowd. While they were doing this we went up to the
platform above, and there witnessed the murder of the archbishop,
treasurer, and priest--at least, Edgar did so, for I could not bring
myself to witness so horrible a sight.

"In a short time my mother called that she and Aline were ready. We were
about to leave the room and hurry away, when suddenly seven rough knaves,
inflamed by wine, rushed in. The leader of them said that they saw we were
people of quality, and that he would take us down before Wat the Tyler,
who would know how to deal with us; but before doing so he and his crew
would give the ladies some kisses, and thereupon he seized Aline roughly.
I was in the act of drawing my sword, when Edgar dealt him so terrible a
blow with the hilt of his that the man fell dead. Then there was a general
fight. Edgar shouted to my mother and Aline to run up the steps to the
platform above, and to me to hold the stairs, while he placed his back to
the door.

"The combat lasted but a short time, for the fellows possessed no kind of
skill. In addition to the man that Edgar had first killed he slew four
others, while I killed the other two. Then mother and Aline came down from
the platform, descended the stairs, and mingled with the mob; they were
pouring out exulting in the mischief they had done, but plainly anxious as
to the consequences to themselves. We had no difficulty in coming hither.
By the remarks we heard, it is clear that they took the ladies for two of
the princess's tirewomen, and we their friends who were going to escort
them to their homes."

"Of a truth 'tis a brave tale, Albert!" the knight exclaimed, bringing his
hand down on the lad's shoulder with hearty approbation. "By my faith, no
knights in the realm could have managed the matter more shrewdly and
bravely. Well done, Albert; I am indeed proud of my son. As for you,
Edgar, you have added a fresh obligation to those I already owe you. 'Tis
a feat, indeed, for one of your age to slay five men single-handed, even
though they were inflamed by liquor. Now, wife, what about Aline?"

"She is here to answer for herself," the girl said, as she entered the
room. "I am better, but still feel strangely weak. I could not lie still
when I knew that you were in the house. I take great shame to myself,
father. I thought I could be brave, in case of peril, as your daughter
should be, but instead of that I swooned like a village maiden."

"You are not to be blamed. So long as there was danger you kept up, and,
in truth, it was danger that might well drive the blood from the face of
the bravest woman; for the sight of that chamber, after the fight was
over, must, in itself, have filled a maid of your age with horror. Why,
the princess herself swooned on vastly less occasion. No, no, girl, I am
well pleased with you; as for your mother, she had seen such sights
before, but it was a rough beginning for you, and I think that you acted
bravely and well."

CHAPTER IX

DEATH OF THE TYLER

"What befell the king, my lord?" said Edgar.

"As far as he was concerned all went well. A multitude accompanied him to
Mile End Fields, and then, on his demanding that they should frankly tell
him what were their grievances, they handed to him a parchment containing
the four points that have from the first been asked for, and all of which
are reasonable enough. The king, after reading them, told them in a loud
voice that he was willing to grant their desires, and would forthwith
issue a charter bestowing these four points on the people. The rebels set
up a great shout, and forthwith marched away in their companies, the men
of Herts, Cambridge, and Suffolk, and all those of Essex who were there.
Nothing could have been better. We knew not that the Kentish men and some
of the Essex bands, together with the rabble of the city, had remained at
the Tower, and it was only as we rode back, believing that the trouble was
all over, that we heard what had happened."

"Will the king still grant the charter, father?" Albert asked.

"I know not. Everything has been changed by the conduct of these fellows,
and the murder of the archbishop, the lord treasurer, and others, to say
nothing of the insults to the king's mother, and the insolence of the mob
in making themselves masters of the Tower. But, indeed, the king could not
himself grant such a charter. It is a matter that must be done both by
king and parliament, and when the knights of the shires and the
representatives of the great towns meet, they will be equally indisposed
to grant concessions to men who have burned palaces, destroyed all deeds
and titles wheresoever they could find them, killed every man of law on
whom they could lay hands, and throughout all England have risen against
the lords of the soil.

"If the rabble could, whenever they had the fancy, rise in arms and
enforce any claim that they chose to propose, they would soon be masters
of all. It may be that erelong serfdom will cease, and I see not why all
men should not have the right of buying and selling in open market. As to
fixing the price of land, I think not that that can be done, seeing that
some land is vastly more fertile than others, and that the land towns is
of much greater value than elsewhere. But even in my time there have been
great changes, and the condition of the serfs is very greatly improved,
while the hardships they complain of, and the heavy taxation, are not felt
by serfs only, but are common to all.

"However, although for a time I believe that these unlawful and riotous
doings will do harm rather than good, and assuredly all those who have
taken a leading part in them will be punished, yet in the end it will be
seen that it were best that these things that they now ask for should be
granted, and that England should be content, and all classes stand
together. Undoubtedly these fellows have shown that they can bite as well
as growl, and though they would always be put down in the end, it might be
only after great effort and much heavy fighting, and after terrible
misfortunes befalling, not only towns, but all throughout the country who
dwell in houses incapable of making a long defence.

"At present we may be sure that whatever the king may promise these
varlets, parliament will grant no such charter. I myself would not that
they should do so. It would be fatal to the peace of the land for the
commons, as they call themselves, to think that they have but to rise in
arms to frighten the king and government into granting whatsoever they may
demand. And now let us eat and drink, for indeed I am both hungry and
thirsty, and I doubt not that 'tis the same with you. I told Jenkin, as I
came in, to give us something to eat, it mattered not what, so that it
were done speedily. 'Tis well that I left the two men here, otherwise we
should have found an empty larder."

"That might well have been, father," Albert said, "for our hostess and her
servants all went away yesterday, thinking that it would be safer in the
city than here, but we told Hob and Jenkin always to keep a store of food,
since there was no saying when you would all return, and that, at any
rate, even were we out all day, Edgar and I might want supper on our
return, and a good meal before leaving in the morning."

"What have you both been doing since I saw you last?" the knight asked,
when the meal was finished.

Albert told how they had seen the mayor constrained to open the bridge
gates; how the Duke of Lancaster's palace at the Savoy had been burned,
and the houses in the Temple pillaged and fired; and how the Flemings had
been murdered in great numbers, and their houses sacked and in some cases
burned.

"In faith, I am glad I was not there," Sir Ralph said, "for I think not
that I could have kept my sword in its sheath, even though it had cost me
my life."

"You charged us to take no part in broils, father," Albert said, with a
smile, "and we felt, therefore, constrained to do nothing save on one
occasion."

"Ah! ah!" the knight exclaimed in evident satisfaction, "then you did do
something. I hope that you gave a lesson to one or more of these villains.
Now that I look at you closely, it seems to me that you use your left arm
but stiffly, Albert; and you have your hair cut away in one place, Edgar,
and a strip of plaster on it. I thought it was the result of the fray in
the Tower."

"No, sir, it was in the other matter. We each got some blows--some of them
pretty hard ones--but they were of no great consequence."

"How did it come about, Albert?"

Albert gave a full account of the fray, from the time they came to the
assistance of the Flemish girl until they escaped by the secret passage.

"By St. George, wife!" the knight said, "but these young esquires shame us
altogether. While the king's knights and courtiers, his garrison of the
Tower, and the worshipful citizens of London have not among them struck
one blow at this rabbledom, they must have disposed of fully a score
between them--seven, you say, in the Tower, and, I doubt not, a good
thirteen at the door and on the stair of this Fleming's house--and to
think that we considered this boy of ours fit for nothing else than to
become a priest. This is the second time since we came up here, a
fortnight since, that they have rescued a fair lady, to say nothing of
their fathers, and without counting the saving of yourself and Aline; the
sooner they are shipped off to France the better, or they will be causing
a dearth of his Majesty's subjects. I am proud of you, lads. Who is this
Fleming? Did you learn his name?"

"Yes, sir; it was Van Voorden."

"Say you so. It seems to me that you make choice of useful men upon whom
to bestow benefits. Master Robert Gaiton is, as I learn, one of the
leading citizens of London, a wealthy man, and one who in a few years is
like to be mayor; and now you have befriended Van Voorden, who is the
richest and most influential of the Flemish merchants in London. It is to
him that the chancellor goes when he desires to raise a loan among the
Flemings, and he always manages it without difficulty, he himself, as they
say, contributing no small share of it. He is one who may be a good friend
to you indeed, and who, should fortune take you to the Low Country, could
recommend you to the greatest merchants there."

"He will be out there himself, father. He told us that he had for some
little time been thinking of returning to Flanders, and that now he should
do so at once. How was it, father, that the men-at-arms did not defend the
Tower?"

"It was not altogether their fault. When it was determined that the king
should ride out and meet the mob, the most stringent orders were given
that on no account should the archers draw a bow upon the rabble. It is
true that there were doubts whether many of them were not at heart with
the people, which was not altogether unnatural, seeing that they were
drawn from the same class and from the same counties. Still, doubtless,
most of them would have proved true, and so long as they did their duty
the others could hardly have held back; but, in truth, this had naught to
do with the order, which was simply given to prevent a broil between the
garrison and the mob, for had some of the latter been killed, it might
have cost the king his life and the lives of all with him.

"No one, however, thought for a moment that the rabble would have attacked
the Tower. We supposed, of course, that the drawbridge would be raised as
soon as we had passed over it, but whether the order was not given for it
or whether it was misunderstood I know not, but the blunder has cost the
lives of the archbishop, the lord treasurer, and others, the insult to the
princess, and the disgrace of the Tower having been in the hands of this
rascaldom. Well, I must be off there and see what is going to be done."

The knight found that the king had already gone to visit his mother, who
had, after landing, been conveyed to a house called the Royal Wardrobe, in
Bayard's Castle Ward by the Thames, where he remained until the next
morning. While there he learned that Wat the Tyler and a portion of the
Kentish men had rejected contemptuously the charter with which the men
from the counties north of the Thames had been perfectly satisfied, and
which was all that they themselves had at first demanded. Another was
drawn up craving further concessions. This was also rejected, as was a
third.

"The king is going to mass at Westminster," the knight said, "and after
that he will ride round the city. I shall go myself to Westminster with
him, and you can both ride with me, for it may be that the king on his way
may be met by the rabble, which is composed of the worst and most
dangerous of all who have been out, for in addition to Tyler's own
following, there will be the prisoners released from all of the jails and
the scum of the city. We will ride in our armour. They say there are still
20,000 of them, but even if the worst happens we may be able to carry the
king safely through them."

In the morning they took horse. The knight was in full armour; Edgar and
Albert were in body armour with steel caps. He skirted the walls of the
city and rode to Westminster. At the Abbey they found the lord mayor and
many of the leading citizens also in armour, they having come to form an
escort for the king. Richard arrived by water with several knights and
gentlemen who had accompanied him on his visit to his mother. Mass was
celebrated, and the king then paid his devotions before a statue of the
Virgin, which had the reputation of performing many miracles, particularly
in favour of English kings. After this he mounted his horse and rode off
with the barons, knights, and citizens--in all some sixty persons.

"There they are," Sir Ralph said, as a great crowd were seen gathered in
West Smithfield. "I have some curiosity to see this knave Tyler. I hear
from one of the knights with the king that he had the insolence to demand,
in addition to all the concessions offered, that all forest laws should be
abolished, and that all warrens, waters, parks, and woods should be made
common land, so that all might fish in all waters, hunt the deer in
forests and parks, and the hare wherever they chose."

When they approached the rioters, the king checked his horse, and made a
sign that he would speak with them. Wat the Tyler at once rode forward,
telling his followers to stand fast until he gave the signal.

"The insolent varlet!" Sir Ralph muttered, grasping the hilt of his sword;
"see, he lifts not his cap to the king, but rides up as if he were his
equal!"

The Tyler, indeed, rode up until his horse's head touched the flank of the
king's horse, and he and Richard were knee to knee. Nothing could exceed
the insolence of his demeanour.

"King," he said, "do you see all these men here?"

"I see them," Richard replied. "Why dost thou ask?"

"Because," the Tyler said, "they are all at my will, sworn to do
whatsoever I shall bid them."

So threatening and insolent was his manner as he spoke, keeping his hand
on his sword, that the lord mayor, who was riding next to the king,
believed that he intended to do Richard harm, and drawing a short sword,
stabbed him in the throat. Wat the Tyler reeled on his horse, and Ralph
Standish, one of the king's esquires, thrust him through the body, and he
fell dead. A great shout arose from his followers, and fitting their
arrows to the strings of their bows they ran forward with cries of
vengeance. The knights and gentlemen drew their swords, but Richard,
signing to them not to advance, rode forward.

"What are you doing, my lieges?" he cried. "Wat the Tyler was a traitor. I
am your king, and I will be your captain and guide."

The mob stood irresolute. Although they had declared war against his
councillors, they had always professed loyalty to the boy king himself.
The king then rode back to his party.

"What had we best do now?" he asked the lord mayor.

"We had best make for the fields, sire," the latter said; "if they see us
attempt to retreat they will gain heart and courage and will rush upon us,
while if we advance we may gain a little time. Sir Robert Knowles is
gathering a force in the city, and I have issued an order for all loyal
citizens to join him; they will soon be with us, then we shall put an end
to the matter."

[Illustration: THE LORD MAYOR STABS WAT THE TYLER, IN PRESENCE OF THE BOY-
KING.]

Slowly the party proceeded onwards; the mob, silent and sullen, opened a
way for them to pass, and then followed close behind them. Deprived of
their leader they knew not what to do; and as no one else came forward to
take the command, they did nothing until the king reached the open fields
by Islington. As he did so, Sir Robert Knowles, with a following of
upwards of a thousand men, rode up from the city and joined him. The mob
at once took to flight, some running through the corn-fields, while others
threw away their bows and other weapons, dropping upon their knees and
crying for mercy.

"Shall I charge them, your Majesty? We will speedily make an end of the
affair altogether."

"No," Richard replied; "many of them are but poor varlets who have been
led astray. They are no longer dangerous, and we shall have time to deal
with their leaders later on."

It was with the greatest difficulty that Sir Robert and the citizens, who
were burning with a desire to avenge the dishonour thrown upon the city by
the doings of the rioters, were restrained from taking their revenge upon
them.

"Nay, nay, gentlemen," the king said, "they are unarmed and defenceless,
and it would be an ill deed to slay them unresistingly. Rest content, I
will see that due punishment is dealt out."

"The king is right," Sir Ralph said, as he sheathed his sword. "As long as
they stood in arms I would gladly have gone at them, but to cut them down
without resistance is a deed for which I have no stomach. It was a
courageous action of the young king, lads, thus to ride alone to that
angry crowd armed with bills and bows. Had one of them loosed an arrow at
him all would have shot, and naught could have saved his life, while we
ourselves would all have been in a perilous position. Well, there is an
end of the matter. The knaves will scarce cease running until they reach
their homes."

In the meantime the insurgents throughout the country had done but little.
The nobles shut themselves up in their castles, but the young Bishop of
Norwich armed his retainers, collected his friends, and marched against
the insurgents in Norfolk, Cambridge, and Huntingdon. He surprised several
bodies of peasants and utterly defeated them. The prisoners taken were
brought before him, and putting off the complete armour which he wore, he
heard the confession of his captives, gave them absolution, and then sent
them straight to the gibbet. With the return of the peasants to their
homes the gentlemen from the country were able to come with their
retainers to town, and Richard found himself at the head of forty thousand
men.

He at once annulled the charters that had been wrung from him, while
commissioners were sent throughout the country to arrest and try the
leaders of the insurrection, and some fifteen hundred men, including all
the leaders, were executed. The men of Essex alone took up arms again, but
were defeated with great loss, as was to be expected. When parliament met
they not only approved the annulment of the charters, but declared that
such charters were invalid without their consent, and passed several
stringent laws to deter the people from venturing upon any repetition of
the late acts. Later on, the commons presented petitions calling for the
redress of abuses in administration, attributing this insurrection to the
extortions of the tax-collectors, and the venality and rapacity of judges
and officers of the courts of law.

On the day following the death of Wat the Tyler Sir Ralph told the lads
that the king desired to see them.

"He was good enough to ask me this morning how you had fared, and I told
him how you had rescued my dame and daughter, and also how you had
befriended Mynheer Van Voorden, and he at once asked me to bring you again
to him."

The king received them in private. "By St. George, gentlemen," he said,
"had all my knights and followers proved themselves as valiant as you, we
should have had no difficulty in dealing with these knaves. It seems to me
strange, indeed, that, while you are but a year older than myself, you
should have fought so valiantly, and killed so many of these rioters."

"Your Majesty should hardly think that strange," Edgar said, courteously,
"seeing how you yourself performed a far more valiant action, by riding up
to twenty thousand angry men with bows drawn and pikes pointed. I
trembled, and felt well-nigh sick when I saw you thus expose yourself to
what seemed certain death. In our case the risk was but small, for in the
fray here we had to deal with men flushed with wine, and knowing naught of
the use of their weapons, and it was the same thing in the house of the
Fleming, where, moreover, we had the advantage of ground."

The young king was evidently pleased at the compliment. "It seemed to me
that it was the only thing to do," he said, "and I had no time to think of
the danger. I have told Sir Ralph De Courcy that I would gladly knight you
both, in proof of my admiration for your courage; but he has pointed out
to me that you are as yet young, and that he would prefer--and believed
that you also would do so--to wait until you had an opportunity of winning
your spurs in combat with a foreign foe. However, it is but deferred, and
I promise you that as soon as you are two years older, I will bestow
knighthood upon you. I myself would willingly," he added, with a smile,
"have laid Van Voorden under an obligation. He is a very Croesus, and I
regard him as my banker, for he is ever ready to open his money-bags, and
to make me advances upon any tax that may have been ordered. Have you seen
him since the fray?"

"No, sire, we are going to him when we leave you, to tell him that order
is restored, and that he may now without danger leave his hiding-place."

"Van Voorden is not the only merchant in London that my son and Master
Ormskirk have had the good fortune to aid since their arrival here, your
Majesty, for they rescued from an attack by robbers outside Aldersgate
Master Robert Gaiton, who is an alderman and a foreign merchant. He had
his daughter with him, and had the lads arrived a minute later, the two
would have been killed."

"I know him," the king said; "he was one of those who rode with the lord
mayor from Westminster with me. Please tell me all about it. I love to
hear of brave deeds."

Albert told the story of the rescue.

"It was well done indeed," the king said. "I would that I could ramble
about and act the knight-errant as you do. 'Tis tiresome to be in the
hands of councillors, who are ever impressing upon me that I must not do
this or that, as if I were a child. I would gladly have you here about my
person, but, as Sir Ralph has told me, you would fain, at any rate for the
present, devote yourselves to arms, I did not press the matter, but be
assured that at any time you will find in me a friend. You have but to ask
a boon, and whatsoever it is, if it be in my power, I will grant it, and I
hope that some day I shall find you settled at Court, where," and he
laughed, "it seems to me, that honours, if not honour, are much more
easily gained than in the battle-field."

Leaving the king's presence, the lads went into the city. Van Voorden had
showed them how the sliding panel might be opened from the outside.
Already the city had resumed its usual appearance, and the people were
going about their business. They therefore found the door of the house
opposite Van Voorden's standing open. Waiting until they saw that no one
was near, they entered, opened the sliding panel, and, closing it
carefully behind them, descended the stairs. On reaching the iron door
Edgar gave three knocks, the signal that they had arranged with the
Fleming. It was opened at once.

"Welcome, my friends," Van Voorden said, as they entered. "I have not
ventured out, thinking that it would be better to remain quiet for at
least a week, rather than run any risk. What news do you bring me?"

"Good news, sir," Edgar replied; "the insurrection is at an end, the men
of the northern counties have marched away, the Tyler has been killed and
his followers have fled, loyal gentlemen with their retainers are coming
in fast, all is quiet here, the shops are open, and save for the ruins of
burnt houses there are no signs of the evil days that we have passed
through."

"That is good news, indeed. My dame is better, but I shall be glad to get
her out into the light and air. I will sally out with you at once and look
for a lodging, where we may bestow ourselves until I have wound up my
affairs and am ready to start for Flanders."

This business was soon settled. The Fleming found a compatriot whose house
had escaped sack, but who had been so alarmed that he intended to return
home at once, until order was completely restored throughout the country,
and he decided to let his house as it stood to Van Voorden. As a vessel
was sailing that evening, he arranged to give up possession at once.

"I will, with your permission," said Van Voorden, "fetch my wife and
daughter here forthwith. The former has so far recovered from her malady
that she will not need to be carried hither, but I want to get her out
from the hiding-place where she now is, for, in truth, in spite of the
precautions that were taken when it was built, the air is close and
heavy."

"By all means do so at once," the Fleming said. "There is plenty of room
in the house, for I embarked my wife and family ten days since, and there
is no one but myself and the servants here."

On the way Van Voorden had been warmly greeted by many acquaintances, all
of whom had believed him to have been killed by the rioters before they
fired his house, and on issuing out now he met Robert Gaiton.

"I am glad, indeed, to see you, Mynheer," the latter said. "I feared that
yon and yours had all perished."

"That we did not do so was owing to the valour of these gentlemen, Master
Robert; let me introduce them to you."

"I need no introduction," the merchant said, smiling, "for it is to their
valour also that I owe it that you see me here alive. If yon can spare
time to come and take your meal with me, which should be ready by this
time, I will tell you about it, and will hear from you also, how they have
done you a like service."

"I will do so gladly," Van Voorden said, "for they will not be expecting
me back for some time, as they would not deem that I could so soon find a
house for them to go to."

"Of course you will come too?" said Gaiton.

"With your permission we will decline your offer," Albert said. "My father
is detained at the Tower, and my mother and sister are alone, and will be
expecting us."

"Well, I will not press you. I do not suppose that you care about having
your good actions talked about."

"Truly, Master Robert, these young gentlemen have rendered us both rare
service," Van Voorden said, after he and Gaiton had both told their
stories. "I see not how I am to discharge any of my obligations to them.
If they had taken us both captives in war they would have put us to ransom
and we could have paid whatever was demanded, but in this case we do not
stand so."

"I feel that myself, Mynheer. A knight considers himself in no ways
lowered by taking ransom from a captive, or by receiving a purse of gold
from his sovereign. But his notions of honour will scarce admit of his
taking money for a service rendered. I have promised to fit them out with
arms, armour, and a war-horse when they go on service; but beyond that,
which is after all but a trifle to me, I see not what to do."

"I am sorry that you have forestalled me," Van Voorden said, "for I had
thought of doing that myself. I may do them a service if they should
chance at any time to go to Flanders; but beyond that I see not that I can
do aught at present. Later on, when they become knights, and take wives
for themselves, I shall step in and buy estates for them to support their
rank, and methinks that they will not refuse the gift."

"I shall claim to take part with you in that matter," Robert Gaiton said.
"I cannot count guineas with you, but I am a flourishing man, and as I
have but one daughter to marry, I have no need for my money beyond what is
engaged in trade."

"Well, we won't quarrel over that," the Fleming replied. "However, for the
present it were best to say naught of our intentions. They are noble lads.
Edgar is the leading spirit, and, indeed, the other told me, when they
were waiting till it was safe for them to leave the hiding-place, that he
had been a very weakly lad, and had been intended for the Church, but that
Edgar had been a great friend of his, had urged him to practise in arms,
which so increased his strength that he was, to his father's delight, able
to abandon the idea. He said that all he knew of arms he had acquired from
Edgar, and that, while he was still but an indifferent swordsman, his
friend was wonderfully skilled with his weapon, and fully a match for most
men."

"That he has proved for both of our benefits," Robert Gaiton said. "In
truth, they are in all ways worthy youths. I have seen much of them during
the last few days, and like them greatly, irrespective of my gratitude for
what they did for me."

On the following day the king knighted the lord mayor, William Walworth,
Robert Gaiton, and five other aldermen who had ridden with him, and
granted an augmentation to the arms of the city, introducing a short sword
or dagger in the right quarter of the shield, in remembrance of the deed
by which the lord mayor had freed him from the leader of the rioters.

Van Voorden called with Robert Gaiton upon Sir Ralph to thank him for the
services his son and Edgar had rendered him, and heard for the first time
how they had saved Dame Agatha and Aline from insult, and had slain the
seven rioters, of whom five had fallen to Edgar's sword.

"Truly a brave deed, and a prudent one," Sir Robert Gaiton said. "Once
begun, it was a matter of life and death that the business should be
carried out to the end."

"His Majesty has highly commended them," Sir Ralph said, "and would fain
have knighted them had they been a year or two older."

"I see not that age should have stood in the way," Van Voorden broke in.
"Of a surety no men could have done better, and as they have behaved as
true knights in all respects, methinks they deserve the rank."

"I cannot say you nay there, though I am the father of one of them;
nevertheless, they can well wait for a couple of years. They have not yet
learned that the first duty of a knight is to obey, and it were well they
served under some brave captain, and learned how to receive as well as
give orders. To-morrow, gentlemen, I ride to St. Alwyth, for news has come
in that the Kentish rebels, as well as those of Essex, are burning and
slaying on their way to their homes, and I must go and see to the safety
of my castle. A force will march to-morrow morning to deal with the Essex
men."

"Then, Sir Ralph, I will ride with you," Sir Robert said. "I have raised a
troop of fifty men from my ward to join those the city is gathering for
the king's aid. They are stout fellows, and will, I warrant, fight well;
and they will do as good service for the king in Kent as they would do in
Essex."

"Nay; while thanking you for your offer, I cannot so trouble you, Sir
Robert."

"'Tis no trouble. On the contrary, after what your son did for me, it will
be a pleasure to lift some small share of the burden of obligation from my
shoulders, and if you will not let me ride with you, I shall go down on my
own account."

"I thank you heartily, Sir Robert, and assuredly will not refuse so good
an offer, for my men in the castle are scarce numerous enough to make
defence against a strong attack. I doubt not that all the serfs on the
estate have been in the Tyler's following, and my vassals would scarce be
enough, even if I could gather them, to make head against a crowd."

"When do you start, Sir Ralph?"

"As soon as the gate at Aldgate is open I shall ride through it."

"Then I will be at the head of the bridge, awaiting you with my men."

"I am afraid that I cannot send a contingent, sir knight," Van Voorden
said, "for so many of my countrymen have been slaughtered that we could
scarce gather a company."

"Nay; I shall have enough with those our good friend will bring me. With
him by my side, and my son, and that stout swordsman, young Edgar, and
with fifty sturdy Londoners, who have always in their wars proved
themselves to be as good fighters as any in our armies, I would ride
through a host of the rabble."

"Will you be returning, Sir Ralph?"

"Yes; I leave my wife and daughter here, and as soon as matters are
settled, come back to fetch them."

"Then may I beg you to leave them with me?" the Fleming said, earnestly.
"They will hardly wish to go back to the Tower at present, after their
late experience of it. My wife and daughter will do their best to make
them comfortable."

"I accept your invitation for them thankfully," the knight replied. "The
Tower is already crowded, so many ladies and gentlemen have come in during
the last few days; nor do I like to leave them here without protection."

"I thank you most heartily, sir knight. It will be a pleasure, indeed, to
my wife and daughter to have ladies with them, for indeed both are
somewhat shaken from what they have gone through. I will, if it pleases
you, be at the gate to-morrow if they will accompany you so far, and will
escort them to my house; or, should you prefer it, my wife will come
thither with me to take them back after they have had their morning meal."

"Thanks, sir; but I will escort them myself and hand them over to you.
Will you kindly bring a servant with you to carry their valises, for I had
yesterday all their things removed from that room in the Tower, and at the
same time had the dead bodies of the rioters carried down and thrown into
the Thames."

"I wish that there was more that I could do," Van Voorden said to Sir
Robert Gaiton as they walked back to the city.

"I will tell you what you can do, Master Van Voorden. I had the intention
of doing it myself; but if you wish it I will relinquish it to you. I
marked as we rode two days since to Smithfield that our friend's son and
Master Edgar Ormskirk had but body armour and wore steel caps, and I
intended to buy this afternoon two complete suits for them."

"I thank you greatly for your offer; it would be a relief to me to do
something for them. Know you about their size?"

"To within an inch, for I fitted them on two citizen suits. If you like I
will go with you to Master Armstrong's. He is accounted the best armourer
in the county, and provides no small share of the armour for our knights
and nobles."

"I know his name well," the Fleming said. "I shall be glad if you will
accompany me to choose them, for indeed I am but a poor judge of such
matters."

"I would fain have two suits of the best armour in your store, Master
Armstrong," Van Voorden said, as he entered the armourer's shop. "The cost
is a matter of no account, but I want the best, and I know that no one can
supply better than yourself. My friend, Sir Robert Gaiton, will do the
choosing for me."

The armourer bowed to the wealthy Fleming, who was well known to everyone
in the city.

"'Tis but a matter of size that I have to decide upon," the alderman said,
"See and get the suits somewhat large, for the gentlemen for whom Mynheer
Van Voorden intends them have not yet come to their full stature."

The armourer led them to an inner room. "These are my best suits," he
said, pointing to a score of lay figures in armour ranged along the wall.
"They would soon get tarnished were they exposed to the fogs of London.
They are all of foreign make save these two, which, as you see, are less
ornamented than the rest. The others are all of Spanish or Milanese
workmanship. These two suits are my own make. Our craftsmen are not so
skilled in inlaying or ornamenting as the foreigners, but I will guarantee
the temper of the steel and its strength to keep out a lance thrust, a
cross-bow bolt, or a cloth-yard arrow against the best of them."

"Methinks, Mynheer," the alderman said, "that if these suits are of the
right size they were better than the Italian or Spanish suits. In the
first place, these others would scarce be in keeping with two young men
who are not yet knights, seeing that they are such as would be worn by
wealthy nobles; in the next place, there is no saying how much the lads
may grow; and lastly, I have myself promised their father to present them
with a suit of armour when they obtain the rank of knighthood."

"So be it, then," the Fleming said. "If Master Armstrong guarantees the
suits equal in strength to the others I care not, and indeed there is
reason in what you say as to their fitness for the youths."

"Will you run a yard measure round the shoulders?" Sir Robert said. One
was forty inches, the other thirty-six.

"That will do well; one is bigger than the other, and the measurement will
give them an inch or two to spare. And now as to heights. The one is five
feet ten, the other an inch less; but this matters little, seeing that
another strip of steel can be added or one taken away from the leg pieces
without difficulty. I think that they will do excellently well. And now,
what is the price?"

It was a heavy one, for the armour was of exceptional make and strength by
reason of its temper, but was still light, the excellence of the steel
rendering it unnecessary to get anything like the weight of ordinary
armour.

Van Voorden made no attempt to bargain, but merely said, "Please send them
round at once to the Golden Fleece, in the Poultry, which was till
yesterday the abode of Master Nicholas Leyd, and also furnish me with the
bill by your messenger."

"My son will come," said the armourer, "with two men to carry the armour,
and in a quarter of an hour the suits shall be at your door."

"Send also, I pray you, swords and daggers of the finest temper with each
suit, and add the charge to the account."

CHAPTER X

A FIGHT IN THE OPEN

It was seven in the evening, and Sir Ralph and his family had just
finished their evening meal, when one of the retainers announced that two
porters had brought a letter and some goods from Mynheer Van Voorden.

"Let them bring the goods in here," Sir Ralph said, "and then take them
into the kitchen and give them a tankard of ale and refreshment, and keep
them there till we have a letter ready for their master."

The party were surprised to see the bulky parcels brought in. One of the
men handed a letter addressed to Sir Ralph. "Go with my retainers, my good
fellows," the latter said, "and remain until I see what your master says.
Here, Albert, my scholarship is rusty; read what the Fleming says; it may
tell us what are in those crates."

"They are not for you, father," Aline, who had run across to look at them,
said; "one is for Albert and the other for Edgar."

The letter was as follows:--

"_To the good knight, Sir Ralph De Courcy, greeting--It seems to me that,
prone as your son and Master Edgar Ormskirk are to rush into danger in
order to aid and succour those in peril, it were but right that they
should be clad in armour suitable for such adventures, and meet that such
armour should be provided for them by one of those who has benefited by
their valour, whose life and that of his wife and daughter have been
preserved by them. Therefore I send them two suits as the only token I can
at present give them of my thankfulness and gratitude. It is feeble
testimony indeed, but none the less sincere. I know well that the armour
made by Master Armstrong could be borne by none worthier, and trust that
the swords will ever be used in the cause of right and in the protection
of the oppressed and the unfortunate._"

Aline clapped her hands joyfully as Albert finished reading the letter.

"A timely gift indeed," the knight said; "and one that does honour both to
the giver and those who receive it. Open the crates, lads, and let us see
what the worthy Fleming has sent us."

The casques were the first pieces that came to view. Albert carried his to
his father, while Aline placed Edgar's on the table in front of Dame
Agatha. The knight examined it carefully.

"I know the suit," he said, "for I was in the armourer's shop a week
before these troubles began, with the Earl of Suffolk, who had asked me to
go with him to choose a suit. This, and another like it, stood in one
corner, and mightily took my fancy, though others were there from the
master armourers of Milan and Toledo. These two suits were, however, he
thought, not as fine and ornamental as he should like; indeed, they were
scarce large enough for him, for he is well-nigh as big as I am myself,
and he chose a Milan suit, but Master Armstrong said to me, 'I see you
know a good piece of steel, sir knight, for methinks those two suits are
the best that I have ever forged, and I would not part with them for less
than the price of the very finest of those inlaid ones. I have tried their
strength in every way and am proud of them, but it may be that I shall
keep them here for some time before I sell them. The foreign arms are now
all the fashion, and those who can afford the best would take the more
showy of the foreign suits, but I would not bate a penny in their price
were these two suits to stand in my shop as long as I live. Do you see
that tiny mark?--you need to look closely at it to make it out. That was
made by a cloth-yard arrow shot by an archer, who is reputed the strongest
in the city, and who carries a bow that few others can bend to its full;
he shot at a distance of five yards, and I doubt if among all those suits
you would find one that would have stood such a test without a deep dint.'
'Tis a noble gift, lads, and the Fleming, whom I should hardly take to be
a judge of armour, must either have had a good adviser with him, or he
must have trusted himself wholly to Master Armstrong's advice."

"'Tis like enough, father, that Sir Robert Gaiton may have gone with him
to choose them when they left us yesterday. I have heard him say that
though 'tis in the stuffs of Italy and the East that he chiefly deals,
that his agents abroad sometimes send him suits of the finest Milan
armour, swords of Damascus, and other such things, for which he can always
find purchasers among the nobles who deal with him. He therefore would
probably be a good judge."

By this time the crates were completely unpacked, and the armour, with the
swords and daggers, laid upon the table, where the two lads surveyed them
in silent admiration.

"Put them on," Sir Ralph said. "I know that you are longing to do so, and
it would be strange were you not. Do you buckle them on the lads, dame.
You have done me the service many a time, and it is right that you should
be the first to do it for Albert. Aline, do you wait upon Edgar. As you
are new to such work, your mother will show you how to do it, but seeing
that he has struck five mortal blows in your defence, it is right that you
should do him this service."

Aline coloured with pleasure. Her mother first instructed her how to arm
Edgar, and then herself buckled on Albert's harness. Their swords were
girt on, and the casques added last of all.

"They look two proper esquires, wife," the knight said; "and as we ride
to-morrow I shall make but a sorry show beside them."

"Ah, father," said Albert, "but your armour has many an honourable mark,
and it can be seen that, if it is not as bright as ours, 'tis in battle
that its lustre has been lost, while all can see that, bright as our
armour may be, it has not had the christening of battle."

"Well put!" his mother said, softly. "There was no more noble figure than
your father when I first buckled his armour on for him. It was a new suit
he had taken from a great French lord he had overthrown in battle, and I
was as proud of him as I now feel of you, for you have shown yourself
worthy of him, and though your arms are unmarked, 'tis but because your
battles were fought before you had them."

"We had hardly ventured to hope for this, dame," Sir Ralph said, with a
strange huskiness in his throat. "No knight could have begun a career more
creditably or more honourably. Three times has he fought--once on behalf
of you and Aline, twice for men and women in danger. In what better causes
could he have first fleshed his sword? Now, unbuckle him at once, dame,
that he may write in my name a letter of thanks to this noble Fleming. I
have not written a letter for years, and our friend would scarce be able
to decipher it were I to try." Then he went on, as she removed Albert's
casque: "There was good taste as well as judgment in the purchase of those
arms, Agatha. To me who knows what arms are, they are superb, but to the
ordinary eye they would seem no better than those generally worn by
knights or by esquires of good family; whereas, had he bought one of these
damascened suits it would at once have attracted attention, and the lads
would have been taken for great nobles. I doubt not that guided the stout
alderman in his choice. He is a man of strong sense and sober taste, and
had he not been born a merchant he would have made a rare good fighter."

As soon as Albert's harness was taken off he sat down and wrote, in his
fair clerkly hand, a letter of the warmest thanks on the part of Sir
Ralph, Edgar, and himself to Van Voorden. After this had been sent off,
the swords and daggers were examined and admired, Sir Ralph declaring the
former to be of the finest Toledo steel and the latter to come from
Damascus. Edgar had said little, but he was even more delighted with his
new acquisition than Albert. To have a good suit of armour had been his
greatest ambition, but his father was by no means wealthy, and he had
thought that his only chance of obtaining such a suit would be to
overthrow some French noble in battle.

The next morning they were up betimes, and mounted a few minutes before
the hour at which the city gates would be opened. Sir Ralph and his dame
rode first, Aline took her place between her brother and Edgar, the latter
keeping a watchful eye over her horse, which was fresh after six or seven
days' idleness. The two retainers rode behind, having the ladies' valises
strapped behind them. The city churches rang out the hour when they were
within a hundred yards of the gate, and as this opened, Van Voorden, with
his daughter behind him on a pillion, rode out to meet them, followed by
two mounted men.

"That is thoughtful and courteous of him, dame," the knight said. "He
might well have come alone; but it is kindly of him as well as courteous
to bring his daughter."

As the party met, the Fleming bowed deeply to Lady Agatha.

"I have brought my daughter with me," he said, "in that I might introduce
her to you, and that she might assure you, in her mother's name, of the
pleasure your visit will give her."

"'Tis kind and courteous of you, Mynheer Van Voorden," Dame Agatha said,
as, leaning over, she shook his daughter's hand.

"My mother bade me say that she is impatiently waiting your coming, and
that your visit will give her the greatest pleasure--and yours also,
Mistress Aline," she added, as the girl rode up, "and I am sure that it
will give me great pleasure too."

Joanna Van Voorden was some two years older than Aline. Both were fair,
but of a different type, for while Aline's hair was golden, the Joanna's
was of a tawny red. Even making allowance for the difference in age, she
was of a heavier build than the English girl, and gave signs of growing up
into a stately woman.

"And now, Master Van Voorden," the knight said, as the latter turned his
horse, and they proceeded on their way, "I must repeat in person what I
said in my letter, how deeply obliged we are to you for the superb suits
of armour you sent last night to my son and his friend."

"Speak not of it again, I pray you," the merchant said. "I owe them a debt
of gratitude that I never can hope to repay, and the harness was indeed
but a slight token of it. I can only hope that some day I may have an
opportunity of more worthily testifying my gratitude. We shall scarcely be
able to lodge you, lady," he went on, turning to Dame Agatha, "as I could
have done in my house at Bread Street, for the one I have hired, although
comfortable enough, is much less commodious; still, I doubt not that you
will find your rooms more comfortable than those you occupied in the
Tower, for indeed, as yet, even English palaces, stately though they be,
have not the comforts that we Flemings have come to regard as
necessaries."

"So I have understood, sir, but I think that some of our city merchants
cannot be far behind you, judging from what my daughter has told me of the
abode of Sir Robert Gaiton."

"No; many of the London traders are in this respect far better housed than
any of the nobles with whose castles I am acquainted, and Sir Robert has,
in Italy and elsewhere, had opportunities of seeing how the merchant
princes there live. I have known him for some years. He is one of the
foremost men in the city; he has broad and liberal ideas, and none of the
jealousy of us Flemings that is so common among the citizens, although my
countrymen more directly rival him in his trade than they do many others
who grumble at us, though they are in no way injured by our trading."

So they chatted until they reached the spot where the knight required to
turn off towards the bridge. There was a moment's pause, the valises were
transferred to the saddles of the Van Voorden's followers, while adieux
were exchanged. Then the Fleming's party turned to the right, while the
knight, Edgar, Albert, and the two retainers trotted down at a smart pace
to the bridge. Here Sir Robert Gaiton, in full armour, with fifty stout
men-at-arms, were awaiting them.

"Good morrow, Sir Ralph, and you, young sirs," Sir Robert said, as they
rode up. "Let me congratulate you on your armour, which becomes you
mightily."

"And for which," Sir Ralph put in, "I think we have somewhat to thank you
for choosing."

"Yes; I went with Van Voorden to Master Armstrong's, not so much to choose
the harness as to give my opinion as to the size required, and these suits
greatly took my fancy. The armourer guaranteed their temper, and they
were, as it seemed to me, about the right size; for although just at first
they may be somewhat roomy, 'tis a matter that a few months will mend.

"Are they comfortable, Edgar?" he added.

"I suppose as much so as any armour can be, Sir Robert; but 'tis the first
time I have worn such things, and they seem to me marvellously to confine
me, and with the vizor down I should feel well-nigh stifled in my casque,
and as if fighting in the dark."

"You will get accustomed to it in a short time. I know that when I began
to be known in the city, and found that I must, like others of the better
class of citizens, ride in full armour when occasion offered, I felt just
as you do. Perhaps more so, for I was some seven or eight years older, and
less accustomed to changes, but even now I would far rather fight with my
vizor up, save that one must have its protection when arrows or cross-bow
bolts are flying; but as against other knights I would always keep it up;
the helm itself and the cheek-pieces cover no small part of the face, and
naught but a straight thrust could harm one, and I think I could trust my
sword to ward that off. However, I have never yet had occasion to try. I
have had more than one encounter with Eastern and African pirates during
my voyages, but I have never taken my helmet with me on such journeys, and
have not suffered by its loss."

By this time they were across the bridge, and, proceeding at a sharp trot,
until beyond the boundaries of Southwark, they broke into a gallop. When,
after going at this pace for three or four miles, they reined their horses
into a walk, Sir Ralph said, "Albert, if it likes you, you can remove your
helmet and carry it on your saddle-bow."

"Thanks, father; indeed I was well-nigh reeling in my saddle with heat.
Edgar, will you take yours off?"

"No, thank you, I have got to get accustomed to it, and may as well do so
now as at any other time." Under their helmet both wore a small velvet
cap. "You are looking quite pale, Albert," Edgar went on, as his friend
unhelmed.

"It is not everyone who is made of iron, as you are," Albert laughed. "You
must make allowances for me. In another year or two I hope that I too
shall be able to bear the weight of all these things without feeling them;
but you must remember that it is not two years since I began hard
exercise, while you have been at it since your childhood."

"I don't forget it, Albert, and I wonder at you daily."

At Greenwich they heard many tales as to the damage committed by the
peasants on their homeward way. Houses had been sacked and burnt, and many
persons of substance killed.

"The king ought to have let us charge the fellows," Sir Ralph said, as
they went forward again. "When men find that they get off without
punishment for misdeeds, they will recommence them as soon as the danger
is past. One lesson would have made itself felt over the whole land. I
heard last night that there was news that many manors and the houses of
men of law have been destroyed in Essex, and that the rioters have
beheaded the Lord Chief-Justice of England, Sir John of Cambridge, and the
Prior of St. Edmondsbury, and set tip their heads on poles in the market-
place of Bury, and have destroyed all the charters and documents of the
town. We shall have great trouble before order is restored, whereas had we
charged the rioters of Kent, who are the worst of all, the others would
have been cowed when they heard of the slaughter. By our lady, we will
give these fellows a rough lesson if we find them besieging our castle."

"Is it a strong place, Sir Ralph?"

"No. With a fair garrison it could easily repel any assault by such
fellows as these, but it could not stand for a day against an attack by a
strong body of men-at-arms, even if they were unprovided with machines."

When within five miles of the castle they obtained sure news that it was
attacked by some two thousand of the rioters, but that so far as was known
it was still holding out.

"Shall we gallop on, Sir Ralph?" the alderman asked.

"Nay, we will rather go more slowly than before, so that our horses may be
in good wind when they arrive. We shall need all their strength, for we
may have to charge through them two or three times before they break and
run, and then we will pursue and cut them up as long as the horses have
breath. These fellows must have a lesson, or we shall never be able to
dwell in peace and quiet."

When within half a mile of the castle they saw that the flag was still
flying above it, and knew that they had arrived in time. Then Albert put
on his helmet again, and the two lads followed the example of Sir Ralph
and the alderman, and lowered their vizors, for, as the knight said,
"Though some of the knaves threw away their bows at Smithfield, many of
the others took them away." On reaching a field near the castle, they
could see that a fierce fight was going on. The rioters had procured
ladders, and were striving to climb the walls, while a small party of
armed men were defending the battlement.

"By St. Mary, we are but just in time!" the knight said. "We four will
ride in front. Sir Robert, will you bid your men form in two lines and
follow us, one line twenty yards behind the other. Bid them all keep
together in their rank, the second line closing up with the first if the
fellows make a stout resistance, but above all things they must keep in
their order, and follow close behind us."

The alderman raised his voice, and repeated the orders to the men.

"The reports as to the rascals' numbers were about right," Sir Ralph said.
"Now, boys, do you keep between us, and leave a space of some three yards
between each horse, so as to give each man room to swing his sword. Now,
Sir Robert, let us have at them."

Going slowly at first, they increased their speed to a fierce gallop as
they neared the mass of rioters. They had been noticed now. The men on the
ladders hastily climbed down again; confused orders were heard, and many
were seen separating themselves from the main body and flying. The mass of
the rioters, however, held their ground, seeing how small was the number
of their opponents. A flight of arrows was shot when they were some sixty
yards distant, but as all were bending forward in their saddles, and the
arrows were shot in haste, most of them fell harmless; three or four of
the horses were struck, and plunged violently from the pain, but still
kept on with the others. With a shout the party fell upon the rioters, the
weight of the riders and horses throwing great numbers to the ground,
while the knights and their followers hewed right and left with their
swords.

The bravest spirits had thrown themselves in front, and once the troops
had cut their way through these, but little resistance was met with
beyond, the peasants seeking only to get out of their way. As soon as they
were through the crowd they turned again, and in the same order as before,
charged the mob, with the same success. As they drew up and again turned,
Sir Ralph ordered them to charge this time in single line.

"They are becoming utterly disheartened now," he said, "and we shall sweep
a wider path."

This time when they drew up they saw that the crowd had broken up, and the
rioters were flying filled with dismay through the fields.

"Chase and slay!" Sir Ralph shouted, raising his vizor that his voice
might reach all; "give no quarter; the business must be ended once and for
all."

Edgar and Albert both threw up their vizors--there was no fear of arrows
now, and both felt half stifled. There was no longer any order kept, and
the horsemen followed the fugitives in all directions. The two lads kept
together so as to be able to give each other assistance should any stand
be made. None, however, was attempted; the greater portion of the rioters
had thrown away their arms, and when overtaken they raised cries, for
mercy.

"You gave none to the Flemings," the lads shouted in return, infuriated by
the scenes that they had witnessed in London; and for an hour they
followed the fugitives, sparing none who came within reach of their
swords.

"We have done enough now," Albert exclaimed at last; "I am fairly spent,
and can scarce lift my sword."

"My horse is spent, but not my strength," Edgar said, as he reined up.
"Well, we have avenged the Flemings, and have done something towards
paying these fellows for their insults to the princess. Now let us wend
our way back; I must say good-bye to Sir Ralph and the sturdy alderman,
and will then ride home and see how my father has fared. I have little
fear that any harm has befallen him, for his magic would frighten the
rioters even more than our swords. Well, our armour has stood us in good
stead, Albert. When we charged the first time I was several times struck
with bill-hook and pike, and more than one arrow shivered on my breast-
piece, but I found that the blows all fell harmless, and after that I
wasted no pains in defending myself, but simply struck straightforward
blows at my opponents."

"I found the same, Edgar; the weapons glanced off the armour as a stone
would fly from a sheet of strong ice."

For a while they rode slowly to give their horses time to recover wind.
When they had done so, they rode more rapidly, and, keeping a straight
line--they had before ridden a devious course in pursuit--they arrived in
an hour at the castle. Here they found that most of the horsemen had
already returned. Two hundred bodies lay dead on the ground over which
they had charged so often; and when notes were compared they calculated
that no less than five hundred of the rioters had been slain.

"I think we shall hear no more of rioting in this neighbourhood," Sir
Ralph said, grimly. "If the king had but taken my advice and ridden out to
Blackheath with his knights and half the garrison of the Tower, and with
such aid as the loyal citizens would have furnished him, he and the city
would have been spared the humiliation that they have suffered. One blow
struck in time will save the need of twenty struck afterwards. Had we but
killed a thousand on Blackheath it would have spared us the trouble of
slaying perhaps ten times that number now; would have saved the lives of
many honourable gentlemen throughout the country, to say nothing of the
damage that has been wrought in London. So you are riding home, Edgar? You
are right, lad; I trust you will find all quiet there."

"Would you like twenty of my men to ride with you?" the alderman asked.

"No, thank you, Sir Robert; my father, who, as I told you, is a man of
science, has prepared sundry devices, any one of which would terrify these
peasants out of their wits; and if they have troubled him, which is like
enough, I will warrant that he has given them as great a scare as we have
given these fellows to-day."

"At any rate, Edgar, you had best take a fresh horse. Yours has done a
good day's work, indeed; and it is just as well that you should bestride
an animal that can carry you off gaily should you fall in with another
party. There are half a dozen in the stalls. I don't suppose they have
been out since we have been away; besides, methinks that after such hot
work as we have been doing a cup of wine will do us all good."

Edgar, therefore, rode into the castle, and while he was taking a cup of
wine and a hasty meal in the hall, Sir Ralph's servitors changed his
saddle to a fresh horse, and the lad then started for home. Confident as
he felt, it was still a great satisfaction to him to see that no signs of
violence were visible as he approached the house. The door in the gate was
indeed closed, contrary to usual custom.

Dismounting, he rung the bell. A small grille in the door opened, then the
servitor's head appeared.

"Now then, Andrew, what are you staring at? Why don't you open the gate?"

"I was not sure that it was yourself, Master Edgar. In that grand helmet I
did not at first make you out. Well, I am glad that you have come back
safely, young master, for we heard of parlous doings in London."

"Yes, I have come back all right. I hope that everything has gone on well
here."

"Ay, ay, sir; we had a bit of trouble, but, bless you, the master sent
them running, most scared out of their senses." And the man burst into a
fit of laughter.

"Here, take the horse, Andrew; I must go in to see him."

"Hulloa! hulloa!" Mr. Ormskirk exclaimed; "is this really my son?"

"It is, father; and right glad am I to see you safe and well. I told Sir
Ralph that I felt sure you would be able to hold your own here; still, I
was very pleased when I saw that the gate stood uninjured, and that there
were no signs of attack."

"Has Sir Ralph come back?" Mr. Ormskirk asked; "and knows he that the
rabble are besieging his castle?"

"Were besieging, father; for with us came a worthy city knight with a
troop of fifty stout men; and we have given the rioters such a lesson that
methinks there will be no more rioting in this part of Kent, for from four
to five hundred of them have been slain, and I believe all the rest are
still running!"

"It was a lesson much needed, Edgar, for after their doings in London
these fellows would never have been quiet, had they not been roughly
taught that they are but like a flock of sheep before the charge of men-
at-arms.

"But whence this armour, my son? Truly it is a goodly suit. My coffer is
so low that I know not how I shall make shift to pay for it."

"It is a gift, father, and Albert has one like it. 'Tis of the finest
steel, and is, as you see, all undinted, though it has had many a shrewd
blow from arrow, bill-hook, and pike in to-day's fight. But the story is a
long one to tell, and I pray you, before I begin it, to let me know how
matters have fared here, for I hear from Andrew that you have not been
left entirely alone."

Mr. Ormskirk smiled. "No, I had a goodly company three days ago. Some
hundred of men from Dartford joined, I am sorry to say, by a good share of
those at the village, came round here in the evening with the intent, as
they were good enough to say, of roasting the witchman in his bed. Andrew
had brought me news of their intentions, so I was ready for them. I had
gone out and had painted on the door, with that stuff I told you of, the
rough figure of a skeleton holding a dart in his hand. It was of the same
colour as the door, so that it did not show in the daylight. Then I fixed
along on the top of the wall a number of coloured lights that I had seen
in use in Italy on fête days, and of which I learned the composition. I
had, as I told you before, placed cases of Friar Bacon's powder round the
house, and had laid trains to them by which they could be fired from
within the wall.

"Had it been dark when they came the skeleton and that skull would have
sufficed; but it wanted still an hour before these devices would be of
use. I made them out in the distance, and thought that something else
would be needed. Therefore I got that Eastern gong that I purchased as a
curiosity at Genoa, and lighted a fire in the courtyard. As soon as they
approached I threw pitch into the fire, making thereby a great column of
smoke, and set Andrew to beat the gong furiously, telling him to shout and
yell as he pleased. Then I went to an upper window to observe the effect.
The crowd had halted some fifty yards away and stood open-mouthed gazing
at the place, and indeed it was no wonder that such ignorant men were
scared, for truly the yelling of Andrew and the noise of the gong were
enough to frighten anyone who knew not what it meant.

"For some time it seemed to me that they would depart without venturing
farther, but some of the bolder spirits plucked up courage and went about
among the others shouting that no true Kentish man would be frightened by
a noise that meant nothing, they had but to break down the door and they
would soon put an end to it. However, the night began to fall before they
got fairly in motion, and I went down and prepared to fire the powder
should it be needful, and besides I hoisted the skull above the parapet
over the gate. Thinking that the light of the phosphorus might not show up
well a short distance away, I placed in addition some red fire in the
skull. I then got on the wall, and sat down where I could peep out without
being seen. Shouting a great deal to encourage each other, they came on
until within a few paces of the gate. Then I heard a sudden cry, and those
in front pushed back and stood staring at the door as if bewitched; then
all ran away some distance. After much talk they came forward again,
timidly pointing to the figure as they advanced.

"This was now, doubtless, plain enough to be well made out fifty yards
away. There they came to a halt again. Then I called out to Andrew to
light the fire in the skull, and set the jaw wagging, having so balanced
it, that having been once set going it would wag for two or three minutes
before it stopped. Then he ran one way with a brand from the fire, and I
the other, and twelve green fires burst out. There was a yell of horror
when the skull was made out The alarm was doubtless heightened by the
green fire, they having never seen such a thing before, and they started
to run wildly off. To hasten their flight I ran down and fired four of the
powder cases, which exploded with a noise that might have been heard at
Dartford.

"After that Andrew and I went quietly to bed, sure that not another soul
would venture to attack the house. Andrew went into the village in the
morning. He found that some of the men had been well-nigh killed by
fright. All sorts of tales were told of great blazing skeletons that
dashed out from the gate with dart in hand, and of a skull that breathed
out red fire from a blazing mouth, and grinned and gibbered at them. As to
the noises and the ghastly green fire, none could account for them, and I
do believe that there is not a villager who would approach within a
quarter of a mile of the house after dark, on any condition."

CHAPTER XI

AN INVITATION

Edgar laughed heartily at his father's account of the success of his
defence of the house. Then he said: "I hope, father, that distorted
accounts of the affair may not get you into trouble with the Church."

"I have no fear of that, Edgar. I had shown the prior my preparations, and
he approved of them heartily, being a man of much broader intelligence
than is common. Indeed, he begged of me a pot of my shining paste, and
with it painted the stone crucifix over the abbey gateway. And it was well
that he did so, for last night some men came out from Dartford with intent
to plunder the priory of its deeds and muniments, but on seeing the
glowing crucifix, they went off in fear and trembling, and the villagers
were saying this morning that the priory had been protected by a miracle,
while you see in my case they attribute it to the work of the devil. And
now, Edgar, tell me all that has befallen you since you went away."

Edgar related the various adventures that had happened.

Book of the day: