Part 5 out of 5
'"Down-wind amongst the Dons - months ago," says my Aunt.
'"When can I go after 'en?" I says.
'"Your duty's to your town and trade now," says she. "Your
Uncle he died last Michaelmas and he've left you and me the yard.
So no more iron ships, mind ye."
'"What?" I says. "And you the only one that beleft in 'em!"
'"Maybe I do still," she says, "but I'm a woman before I'm a
Whitgift, and wooden ships is what England needs us to build. I
lay on ye to do so."
'That's why I've never teched iron since that day - not to build a
toy ship of. I've never even drawed a draft of one for my pleasure
of evenings.' Simon smiled down on them all.
'Whitgift blood is terrible resolute - on the she-side,'said Puck.
'Didn't You ever see Sir Francis Drake again?'Dan asked.
'With one thing and another, and my being made a burgess of
Rye, I never clapped eyes on him for the next twenty years. Oh, I
had the news of his mighty doings the world over. They was the
very same bold, cunning shifts and passes he'd worked with
beforetimes off they Dutch sands, but, naturally, folk took more
note of them. When Queen Bess made him knight, he sent my
Aunt a dried orange stuffed with spiceries to smell to. She cried
outrageous on it. She blamed herself for her foretellings, having
set him on his won'erful road; but I reckon he'd ha' gone that way
all withstanding. Curious how close she foretelled it! The world
in his hand like an apple, an' he burying his best friend, Mus'
'Never mind for Mus' Doughty,' Puck interrupted. 'Tell us
where you met Sir Francis next.'
'Oh, ha! That was the year I was made a burgess of Rye - the
same year which King Philip sent his ships to take England
without Frankie's leave.'
'The Armada!' said Dan contentedly. 'I was hoping that
'I knowed Frankie would never let 'em smell London smoke,
but plenty good men in Rye was two-three minded about the
upshot. 'Twas the noise of the gun-fire tarrified us. The wind
favoured it our way from off behind the Isle of Wight. It made a
mutter like, which growed and growed, and by the end of a week
women was shruckin' in the streets. Then they come slidderin'
past Fairlight in a great smoky pat vambrished with red gun-fire,
and our ships flyin' forth and duckin' in again. The smoke-pat
sliddered over to the French shore, so I knowed Frankie was
edgin' the Spanishers toward they Dutch sands where he was
master. I says to my Aunt, "The smoke's thinnin' out. I lay
Frankie's just about scrapin' his hold for a few last rounds shot.
'Tis time for me to go."
'"Never in them clothes," she says. "Do on the doublet I
bought you to be made burgess in, and don't you shame this
'So I mucked it on, and my chain, and my stiffed Dutch
breeches and all.
'"I be comin', too," she says from her chamber, and forth she
come pavisandin' like a peacock - stuff, ruff, stomacher and all.
She was a notable woman.'
'But how did you go? You haven't told us,' said Una.
'In my own ship - but half-share was my Aunt's. In the ANTONY
OF RYE, to be sure; and not empty-handed. I'd been loadin' her for
three days with the pick of our yard. We was ballasted on cannon-
shot of all three sizes; and iron rods and straps for his carpenters;
and a nice passel of clean three-inch oak planking and hide breech-
ropes for his cannon, and gubs of good oakum, and bolts o'
canvas, and all the sound rope in the yard. What else could I ha'
done? I knowed what he'd need most after a week's such work.
I'm a shipbuilder, little maid.
'We'd a fair slant o' wind off Dungeness, and we crept on till it
fell light airs and puffed out. The Spanishers was all in a huddle
over by Calais, and our ships was strawed about mending
'emselves like dogs lickin' bites. Now and then a Spanisher would
fire from a low port, and the ball 'ud troll across the flat swells,
but both sides was finished fightin' for that tide.
'The first ship we foreslowed on, her breastworks was crushed
in, an' men was shorin' 'em up. She said nothing. The next was a
black pinnace, his pumps clackin' middling quick, and he said
nothing. But the third, mending shot-holes, he spoke out plenty .
I asked him where Mus' Drake might be, and a shiny-suited man
on the poop looked down into us, and saw what we carried.
'"Lay alongside you!" he says. "We'll take that all."
'"'Tis for Mus' Drake," I says, keeping away lest his size
should lee the wind out of my sails.
'"Hi! Ho! Hither! We're Lord High Admiral of England!
Come alongside, or we'll hang ye," he says.
''Twas none of my affairs who he was if he wasn't Frankie, and
while he talked so hot I slipped behind a green-painted ship with
her top-sides splintered. We was all in the middest of 'em then.
'"Hi! Hoi!" the green ship says. "Come alongside, honest
man, and I'll buy your load. I'm Fenner that fought the seven
Portugals - clean out of shot or bullets. Frankie knows me."
'"Ay, but I don't," I says, and I slacked nothing.
'He was a masterpiece. Seein' I was for goin' on, he hails a
Bridport hoy beyond us and shouts, "George! Oh, George! Wing
that duck. He's fat!" An' true as we're all here, that squatty
Bridport boat rounds to acrost our bows, intendin' to stop us by
means o' shooting.
'my Aunt looks over our rail. "George," she says, "you finish
with your enemies afore you begin on your friends."
'Him that was laying the liddle swivel-gun at us sweeps off his
hat an' calls her Queen Bess, and asks if she was selling liquor to
pore dry sailors. My Aunt answered him quite a piece. She was a
'Then he come up - his long pennant trailing overside - his
waistcloths and netting tore all to pieces where the Spanishers had
grappled, and his sides black-smeared with their gun-blasts like
candle-smoke in a bottle. We hooked on to a lower port and hung.
'"Oh, Mus' Drake! Mus' Drake!" I calls up.
'He stood on the great anchor cathead, his shirt open to the
middle, and his face shining like the sun.
'"Why, Sim!" he says. just like that - after twenty year!
"Sim," he says, "what brings you?"
'"Pudden," I says, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.
'"You told me to bring cannon-shot next time, an' I've
brought 'em. "
'He saw we had. He ripped out a fathom and a half o' brimstone
Spanish, and he swung down on our rail, and he kissed me before
all his fine young captains. His men was swarming out of the
lower ports ready to unload us. When he saw how I'd considered
all his likely wants, he kissed me again.
'"Here's a friend that sticketh closer than a brother!" he says.
"Mistress," he says to my Aunt, "all you foretold on me was true.
I've opened that road from the East to the West, and I've buried
my heart beside it. "
'"I know," she says. "That's why I be come."
'"But ye never foretold this"; he points to both they
'"This don't seem to me to make much odds compared to
what happens to a man," she says. "Do it?"
'"Certain sure a man forgets to remember when he's proper
mucked up with work. Sim," he says to me, "we must shift every
living Spanisher round Dunkirk corner on to our Dutch sands
before morning. The wind'll come out of the North after this
calm - same as it used - and then they're our meat."
'"Amen," says I. "I've brought you what I could scutchel up
of odds and ends. Be you hit anywhere to signify?"
'"Oh, our folk'll attend to all that when we've time," he says.
He turns to talk to my Aunt, while his men flew the stuff out of
our hold. I think I saw old Moon amongst 'em, but he was too
busy to more than nod like. Yet the Spanishers was going to
prayers with their bells and candles before we'd cleaned out the
ANTONY. Twenty-two ton o' useful stuff I'd fetched him.
'"Now, Sim," says my Aunt, "no more devouring of Mus'
Drake's time. He's sending us home in the Bridport hoy. I want
to speak to them young springalds again."
'"But here's our ship all ready and swept," I says.
'"Swep' an' garnished," says Frankie. "I'm going to fill her
with devils in the likeness o' pitch and sulphur. We must shift the
Dons round Dunkirk comer, and if shot can't do it, we'll send
'"I've given him my share of the ANTONY," says my Aunt.
"What do you reckon to do about yours?"
'"She offered it," said Frankie, laughing.
'"She wouldn't have if I'd overheard her," I says; "because I'd
have offered my share first." Then I told him how the ANTONY's
sails was best trimmed to drive before the wind, and seeing he was
full of occupations we went acrost to that Bridport hoy, and
'But Frankie was gentle-born, d'ye see, and that sort they never
overlook any folks' dues.
'When the hoy passed under his stern, he stood bare-headed on
the poop same as if my Aunt had been his Queen, and his
musicianers played "Mary Ambree" on their silver trumpets
quite a long while. Heart alive, little maid! I never meaned to
make you look sorrowful!"
Bunny Lewknor in his sackcloth petticoats burst through the
birch scrub wiping his forehead.
'We've got the stick to rights now! She've been a whole hatful
o' trouble. You come an' ride her home, Mus' Dan and Miss Una!'
They found the proud wood-gang at the foot of the slope, with
the log double-chained on the tug.
'Cattiwow, what are you going to do with it?'said Dan, as they
straddled the thin part.
'She's going down to Rye to make a keel for a Lowestoft
fishin'-boat, I've heard. Hold tight!'
Cattiwow cracked his whip, and the great log dipped and
tilted, and leaned and dipped again, exactly like a stately ship
upon the high seas.
Old Horn to All Atlantic said:
(A-hay O! To me O!)
'Now where did Frankie learn his trade?
For he ran me down with a three-reef mains'le.'
(All round the Horn!)
Atlantic answered: 'Not from me!
You'd better ask the cold North Sea,
For he ran me down under all plain canvas.'
(All round the Horn!)
The North Sea answered: 'He's my man,
For he came to me when he began -
Frankie Drake in an open coaster.
(All round the Sands!)
'I caught him young and I used him sore,
So you never shall startle Frankie more,
Without capsizing Earth and her waters.
(All round the Sands!)
'I did not favour him at all,
I made him pull and I made him haul -
And stand his trick with the common sailors.
(All round the Sands!)
'I froze him stiff and I fogged him blind,
And kicked him home with his road to find
By what he could see of a three-day snow-storm.
(All round the Sands!)
'I learned him his trade o' winter nights,
'Twixt Mardyk Fort and Dunkirk lights
On a five-knot tide with the forts a-firing.
(All round the Sands!)
'Before his beard began to shoot,
I showed him the length of the Spaniard's foot -
And I reckon he clapped the boot on it later.
(All round the Sands!)
'If there's a risk which you can make
That's worse than he was used to take
Nigh every week in the way of his business;
(All round the Sands!)
'If there's a trick that you can try
Which he hasn't met in time gone by,
Not once or twice, but ten times over;
(All round the Sands!)
'If you can teach him aught that's new,
(A-hay O! To me O!)
I'll give you Bruges and Niewport too,
And the ten tall churches that stand between 'em.'
Storm along, my gallant Captains!
(All round the Horn!)
THE TREE OF JUSTICE
The Ballad of Minepit Shaw
About the time that taverns shut
And men can buy no beer,
Two lads went up by the keepers' hut
To steal Lord Pelham's deer.
Night and the liquor was in their heads -
They laughed and talked no bounds,
Till they waked the keepers on their beds,
And the keepers loosed the hounds.
They had killed a hart, they had killed a hind,
Ready to carry away,
When they heard a whimper down the wind
And they heard a bloodhound bay.
They took and ran across the fern,
Their crossbows in their hand,
Till they met a man with a green lantern
That called and bade 'em stand.
'What are you doing, O Flesh and Blood,
And what's your foolish will,
That you must break into Minepit Wood
And wake the Folk of the Hill?'
'Oh, we've broke into Lord Pelham's park,
And killed Lord Pelham's deer,
And if ever you heard a little dog bark
You'll know why we come here!'
'We ask you let us go our way,
As fast as we can flee,
For if ever you heard a bloodhound bay,
You'll know how pressed we be.'
'Oh, lay your crossbows on the bank
And drop the knife from your hand,
And though the hounds are at your flank
I'll save you where you stand!'
They laid their crossbows on the bank,
They threw their knives in the wood,
And the ground before them opened and sank
And saved 'em where they stood.
'Oh, what's the roaring in our ears
That strikes us well-nigh dumb?'
'Oh, that is just how things appears
According as they come.'
'What are the stars before our eyes
That strike us well-nigh blind?'
'Oh, that is just how things arise
According as you find.'
'And why's our bed so hard to the bones
Excepting where it's cold?'
'Oh, that's because it is precious stones
Excepting where 'tis gold.
'Think it over as you stand
For I tell you without fail,
If you haven't got into Fairyland
You're not in Lewes Gaol.'
All night long they thought of it,
And, come the dawn, they saw
They'd tumbled into a great old pit,
At the bottom of Minepit Shaw.
And the keepers' hound had followed 'em close
And broke her neck in the fall;
So they picked up their knives and their cross-bows
And buried the dog. That's all.
But whether the man was a poacher too
Or a Pharisee so bold -
I reckon there's more things told than are true,
And more things true than are told.
The Tree of Justice
It was a warm, dark winter day with the Sou'-West wind singing
through Dallington Forest, and the woods below the Beacon.
The children set out after dinner to find old Hobden, who had a
three months' job in the Rough at the back of Pound's Wood. He
had promised to get them a dormouse in its nest. The bright leaf
Still clung to the beech coppice; the long chestnut leaves lay
orange on the ground, and the rides were speckled with scarlet-
lipped sprouting acorns. They worked their way by their own
short cuts to the edge of Pound's Wood, and heard a horse's feet
just as they came to the beech where Ridley the keeper hangs up
the vermin. The poor little fluffy bodies dangled from the
branches - some perfectly good, but most of them dried to
'Three more owls,' said Dan, counting. 'Two stoats, four jays,
and a kestrel. That's ten since last week. Ridley's a beast.'
'In my time this sort of tree bore heavier fruit.' Sir Richard
Dalyngridge reined up his grey horse, Swallow, in the ride
behind them. [This is the Norman knight they met the year before
in PUCK OF POOK'S HILL. See 'Young Men at the Manor,' 'The Knights
of the Joyous Venture,' and 'Old Men at Pevensey,' in that book.]
'What play do you make?'he asked.
'Nothing, Sir. We're looking for old Hobden,'Dan replied.'He
promised to get us a sleeper.'
'Sleeper? A DORMEUSE, do you say?'
'Yes, a dormouse, Sir.'
'I understand. I passed a woodman on the low grounds. Come!'
He wheeled up the ride again, and pointed through an opening
to the patch of beech-stubs, chestnut, hazel, and birch that old
Hobden would turn into firewood, hop-poles, pea-boughs, and
house-faggots before spring. The old man was as busy as a beaver.
Something laughed beneath a thorn, and Puck stole out, his
finger on his lip.
'Look!' he whispered. 'Along between the spindle-trees.
Ridley has been there this half-hour.'
The children followed his point, and saw Ridley the keeper in
an old dry ditch, watching Hobden as a cat watches a mouse.
'Huhh!' cried Una. 'Hobden always 'tends to his wires before
breakfast. He puts his rabbits into the faggots he's allowed to take
home. He'll tell us about 'em tomorrow.'
'We had the same breed in my day,' Sir Richard replied, and
moved off quietly, Puck at his bridle, the children on either side
between the close-trimmed beech stuff.
'What did you do to them?' said Dan, as they repassed Ridley's
'That!' Sir Richard jerked his head toward the dangling owls.
'Not he!' said Puck. 'There was never enough brute Norman in
you to hang a man for taking a buck.'
'I - I cannot abide to hear their widows screech. But why am I
on horseback while you are afoot?' He dismounted lightly,
tapped Swallow on the chest, so that the wise thing backed
instead of turning in the narrow ride, and put himself at the head
of the little procession. He walked as though all the woods
belonged to him. 'I have often told my friends,' he went on, 'that
Red William the King was not the only Norman found dead in a
forest while he hunted.'
'D'you mean William Rufus?'said Dan.
'Yes,' said Puck, kicking a clump of red toad-stools off a
'For example, there was a knight new from Normandy,' Sir
Richard went on, 'to whom Henry our King granted a manor in
Kent near by. He chose to hang his forester's son the day before a
deer-hunt that he gave to pleasure the King.'
'Now when would that be?' said Puck, and scratched an ear
'The summer of the year King Henry broke his brother Robert
of Normandy at Tenchebrai fight. Our ships were even then at
Pevensey loading for the war.'
'What happened to the knight?'Dan asked.
'They found him pinned to an ash, three arrows through his
leather coat. I should have worn mail that day.'
'And did you see him all bloody?'Dan continued.
'Nay, I was with De Aquila at Pevensey, counting horseshoes,
and arrow-sheaves, and ale-barrels into the holds of the ships.
The army only waited for our King to lead them against Robert in
Normandy, but he sent word to De Aquila that he would hunt
with him here before he set out for France.'
'Why did the King want to hunt so particularly?' Una demanded.
'If he had gone straight to France after the Kentish knight
was killed, men would have said he feared being slain like the
knight. It was his duty to show himself debonair to his English
people as it was De Aquila's duty to see that he took no harm
while he did it, But it was a great burden! De Aquila, Hugh, and I
ceased work on the ships, and scoured all the Honour of the Eagle -
Aquila's lands - to make a fit, and, above all, a safe sport for
our King. Look!'
The ride twisted, and came out on the top of Pound's Hill
Wood. Sir Richard pointed to the swells of beautiful, dappled
Dallington, that showed like a woodcock's breast up the valley.
'Ye know the forest?' said he.
'You ought to see the bluebells there in Spring!' said Una.
'I have seen,' said Sir Richard, gazing, and stretched out his
hand. 'Hugh's work and mine was first to move the deer gently
from all parts into Dallington yonder, and there to hold them till
the King came. Next, we must choose some three hundred
beaters to drive the deer to the stands within bowshot of the King.
Here was our trouble! In the mellay of a deer-drive a Saxon
peasant and a Norman King may come over-close to each other.
The conquered do not love their conquerors all at once. So we
needed sure men, for whom their village or kindred would
answer in life, cattle, and land if any harm come to the King. Ye
'If one of the beaters shot the King,' said Puck, 'Sir Richard
wanted to be able to punish that man's village. Then the village
would take care to send a good man.'
'So! So it was. But, lest our work should be too easy, the King
had done such a dread justice over at Salehurst, for the killing of
the Kentish knight (twenty-six men he hanged, as I heard), that
our folk were half mad with fear before we began. It is easier to
dig out a badger gone to earth than a Saxon gone dumb-sullen.
And atop of their misery the old rumour waked that Harold the
Saxon was alive and would bring them deliverance from us
Normans. This has happened every autumn since Santlache fight.'
'But King Harold was killed at Hastings,'said Una.
'So it was said, and so it was believed by us Normans, but our
Saxons always believed he would come again. That rumour did
not make our work any more easy.'
Sir Richard strode on down the far slope of the wood, where
the trees thin out. It was fascinating to watch how he managed his
long spurs among the lumps of blackened ling.
'But we did it!' he said. 'After all, a woman is as good as a man
to beat the woods, and the mere word that deer are afoot makes
cripples and crones young again. De Aquila laughed when Hugh
told him over the list of beaters. Half were women; and many of
the rest were clerks - Saxon and Norman priests.
'Hugh and I had not time to laugh for eight days, till De Aquila,
as Lord of Pevensey, met our King and led him to the first
shooting-stand - by the Mill on the edge of the forest. Hugh and I
- it was no work for hot heads or heavy hands - lay with our
beaters on the skirts of Dallington to watch both them and the
deer. When De Aquila's great horn blew we went forward, a line
half a league long. Oh, to see the fat clerks, their gowns tucked
up, puffing and roaring, and the sober millers dusting the under-
growth with their staves; and, like as not, between them a Saxon
wench, hand in hand with her man, shrilling like a kite as she ran,
and leaping high through the fern, all for joy of the sport.'
'Ah! How! Ah! How! How-ah! Sa-how-ah!' Puck bellowed
without warning, and Swallow bounded forward, ears cocked,
and nostrils cracking.
'Hal-lal-lal-lal-la-hai-ie!' Sir Richard answered in a high clear
The two voices joined in swooping circles of sound, and a
heron rose out of a red osier-bed below them, circling as though
he kept time to the outcry. Swallow quivered and swished his
glorious tail. They stopped together on the same note.
A hoarse shout answered them across the bare woods.
'That's old Hobden,'said Una.
'Small blame to him. It is in his blood,' said Puck. 'Did your
beaters cry so, Sir Richard?'
'My faith, they forgot all else. (Steady, Swallow, steady!) They
forgot where the King and his people waited to shoot. They
followed the deer to the very edge of the open till the first flight of
wild arrows from the stands flew fair over them.
'I cried, "'Ware shot! 'Ware shot!" and a knot of young knights
new from Normandy, that had strayed away from the Grand
Stand, turned about, and in mere sport loosed off at our line
shouting: "'Ware Santlache arrows! 'Ware Santlache arrows!" A
jest, I grant you, but too sharp. One of our beaters answered in
Saxon: "'Ware New Forest arrows! 'Ware Red William's
arrow!" so I judged it time to end the jests, and when the boys saw
my old mail gown (for, to shoot with strangers I count the same
as war), they ceased shooting. So that was smoothed over, and we
gave our beaters ale to wash down their anger. They were
excusable! We - they had sweated to show our guests good sport,
and our reward was a flight of hunting-arrows which no man
loves, and worse, a churl's jibe over hard-fought, fair-lost
Hastings fight. So, before the next beat, Hugh and I assembled and
called the beaters over by name, to steady them. The greater part
we knew, but among the Netherfield men I saw an old, old man,
in the dress of a pilgrim.
'The Clerk of Netherfield said he was well known by repute for
twenty years as a witless man that journeyed without rest to all
the shrines of England. The old man sits, Saxon fashion, head
between fists. We Normans rest the chin on the left palm.
'"Who answers for him?" said I. "If he fails in his duty, who
will pay his fine?"
'"Who will pay my fine?" the pilgrim said. "I have asked that
of all the Saints in England these forty years, less three months
and nine days! They have not answered!" When he lifted his thin
face I saw he was one-eyed, and frail as a rush.
'"Nay, but, Father," I said, "to whom hast thou commended
thyself-?" He shook his head, so I spoke in Saxon: "Whose man
'"I think I have a writing from Rahere, the King's jester," said
he after a while. "I am, as I suppose, Rahere's man."
'He pulled a writing from his scrip, and Hugh, coming up,
'It set out that the pilgrim was Rahere's man, and that Rahere
was the King's jester. There was Latin writ at the back.
'"What a plague conjuration's here?" said Hugh, turning it
over. "Pum-quum-sum oc-occ. Magic?"
'"Black Magic," said the Clerk of Netherfield (he had been a
monk at Battle). "They say Rahere is more of a priest than a fool
and more of a wizard than either. Here's Rahere's name writ, and
there's Rahere's red cockscomb mark drawn below for such as
cannot read." He looked slyly at me.
'"Then read it," said I, "and show thy learning." He was a
vain little man, and he gave it us after much mouthing.
'"The charm, which I think is from Virgilius the Sorcerer,
says: 'When thou art once dead, and Minos' (which is a heathen
judge) 'has doomed thee, neither cunning, nor speechcraft, nor
good works will restore thee!' A terrible thing! It denies any
mercy to a man's soul!"
'"Does it serve?" said the pilgrim, plucking at Hugh's cloak.
"Oh, man of the King's blood, does it cover me?"
'Hugh was of Earl Godwin's blood, and all Sussex knew it,
though no Saxon dared call him kingly in a Norman's hearing.
There can be but one King.
'"It serves," said Hugh. "But the day will be long and hot.
Better rest here. We go forward now."
'"No, I will keep with thee, my kinsman," he answered like a
child. He was indeed childish through great age.
'The line had not moved a bowshot when De Aquila's great
horn blew for a halt, and soon young Fulke - our false Fulke's son
- yes, the imp that lit the straw in Pevensey Castle [See 'Old Men
at Pevensey' in PUCK OF POOK'S HILL.] - came thundering up
'"Uncle," said he (though he was a man grown, he called me
Uncle), "those young Norman fools who shot at you this morn
are saying that your beaters cried treason against the King. It has
come to Harry's long ears, and he bids you give account of it.
There are heavy fines in his eye, but I am with you to the hilt,
'When the boy had fled back, Hugh said to me: "It was Rahere's
witless man that cried, ''Ware Red William's arrow!' I heard him,
and so did the Clerk of Netherfield."
'"Then Rahere must answer to the King for his man," said I.
"Keep him by you till I send," and I hastened down.
'The King was with De Aquila in the Grand Stand above
Welansford down in the valley yonder. His Court - knights and
dames - lay glittering on the edge of the glade. I made my
homage, and Henry took it coldly.
'"How came your beaters to shout threats against me?"
'"The tale has grown," I answered. "One old witless man
cried out, ''Ware Red William's arrow,' when the young knights
shot at our line. We had two beaters hit."
'"I will do justice on that man," he answered. "Who is his
'"He's Rahere's man," said I.
'"Rahere's?" said Henry. "Has my fool a fool?"
'I heard the bells jingle at the back of the stand, and a red leg
waved over it; then a black one. So, very slowly, Rahere the
King's jester straddled the edge of the planks, and looked down
on us, rubbing his chin. Loose-knit, with cropped hair, and a sad
priest's face, under his cockscomb cap, that he could twist like a
strip of wet leather. His eyes were hollow-set.
'"Nay, nay, Brother," said he. "If I suffer you to keep your
fool, you must e'en suffer me to keep mine."
'This he delivered slowly into the King's angry face! My faith, a
King's jester must be bolder than lions!
'"Now we will judge the matter," said Rahere. "Let these two
brave knights go hang my fool because he warned King Henry
against running after Saxon deer through woods full of Saxons.
'Faith, Brother, if thy Brother, Red William, now among the
Saints as we hope, had been timely warned against a certain arrow
in New Forest, one fool of us four would not be crowned fool of
England this morning. Therefore, hang the fool's fool, knights!"
'Mark the fool's cunning! Rahere had himself given us order to
hang the man. No King dare confirm a fool's command to such a
great baron as De Aquila; and the helpless King knew it.
'"What? No hanging?" said Rahere, after a silence. "A' God's
Gracious Name, kill something, then! Go forward with the
'He splits his face ear to ear in a yawn like a fish-pond.
"Henry," says he, "the next time I sleep, do not pester me with
thy fooleries." Then he throws himself out of sight behind the
back of the stand.
'I have seen courage with mirth in De Aquila and Hugh, but
stark mad courage of Rahere's sort I had never even guessed at.'
'What did the King say?' cried Dan.
'He had opened his mouth to speak, when young Fulke, who
had come into the stand with us, laughed, and, boy-like, once
begun, could not check himself. He kneeled on the instant for
pardon, but fell sideways, crying: "His legs! Oh, his long,
waving red legs as he went backward!"
'Like a storm breaking, our grave King laughed, - stamped and
reeled with laughter till the stand shook. So, like a storm, this
strange thing passed!
'He wiped his eyes, and signed to De Aquila to let the drive
'When the deer broke, we were pleased that the King shot from
the shelter of the stand, and did not ride out after the hurt beasts as
Red William would have done. Most vilely his knights and
De Aquila kept me beside him, and I saw no more of Hugh till
evening. We two had a little hut of boughs by the camp, where I
went to wash me before the great supper, and in the dusk I heard
Hugh on the couch.
'"Wearied, Hugh?" said I.
'"A little," he says. "I have driven Saxon deer all day for a
Norman King, and there is enough of Earl Godwin's blood left in
me to sicken at the work. Wait awhile with the torch."
'I waited then, and I thought I heard him sob.'
'Poor Hugh! Was he so tired?' said Una. 'Hobden says beating
is hard work sometimes.'
'I think this tale is getting like the woods,' said Dan, 'darker and
twistier every minute.'
Sir Richard had walked as he talked, and though the children
thought they knew the woods well enough, they felt a little lost.
'A dark tale enough,' says Sir Richard, 'but the end was not all
black. When we had washed, we went to wait on the King at meat
in the great pavilion. just before the trumpets blew for the Entry -
all the guests upstanding - long Rahere comes posturing up to
Hugh, and strikes him with his bauble-bladder.
'"Here's a heavy heart for a joyous meal!" he says. "But each
man must have his black hour or where would be the merit of
laughing? Take a fool's advice, and sit it out with my man. I'll
make a jest to excuse you to the King if he remember to ask for
you. That's more than I would do for Archbishop Anselm."
'Hugh looked at him heavy-eyed. "Rahere?" said he. "The
King's jester? Oh, Saints, what punishment for my King!" and
smites his hands together.
'"Go - go fight it out in the dark," says Rahere, "and thy
Saxon Saints reward thee for thy pity to my fool." He pushed him
from the pavilion, and Hugh lurched away like one drunk.'
'But why?' said Una. 'I don't understand.'
'Ah, why indeed? Live you long enough, maiden, and you shall
know the meaning of many whys.' Sir Richard smiled. 'I wondered
too, but it was my duty to wait on the King at the High
Table in all that glitter and stir.
'He spoke me his thanks for the sport I had helped show him,
and he had learned from De Aquila enough of my folk and my
castle in Normandy to graciously feign that he knew and had
loved my brother there. (This, also, is part of a king's work.)
Many great men sat at the High Table - chosen by the King for
their wits, not for their birth. I have forgotten their names, and
their faces I only saw that one night. But' - Sir Richard turned in
his stride - 'but Rahere, flaming in black and scarlet among our
guests, the hollow of his dark cheek flushed with wine - long,
laughing Rahere, and the stricken sadness of his face when he was
not twisting it about - Rahere I shall never forget.
'At the King's outgoing De Aquila bade me follow him, with
his great bishops and two great barons, to the little pavilion. We
had devised jugglers and dances for the Court's sport; but Henry
loved to talk gravely to grave men, and De Aquila had told him of
my travels to the world's end. We had a fire of apple-wood, sweet
as incense, - and the curtains at the door being looped up, we
could hear the music and see the lights shining on mail and
'Rahere lay behind the King's chair. The questions he darted
forth at me were as shrewd as the flames. I was telling of our fight
with the apes, as ye called them, at the world's end. [See 'The
Knights of the Joyous Venture' in PUCK OF POOK'S HILL.]
'"But where is the Saxon knight that went with you?" said
Henry. "He must confirm these miracles."
'"He is busy," said Rahere, "confirming a new miracle."
'"Enough miracles for today," said the King. "Rahere, you
have saved your long neck. Fetch the Saxon knight."
'"Pest on it," said Rahere. "Who would be a King's jester? I'll
bring him, Brother, if you'll see that none of your home-brewed
bishops taste my wine while I am away." So he jingled forth
between the men-at-arms at the door.
'Henry had made many bishops in England without the Pope's
leave. I know not the rights of the matter, but only Rahere dared
jest about it. We waited on the King's next word.
'"I think Rahere is jealous of you," said he, smiling, to Nigel
of Ely. He was one bishop; and William of Exeter, the other -
Wal-wist the Saxons called him - laughed long. "Rahere is a priest
at heart. Shall I make him a bishop, De Aquila?" says the King.
'"There might be worse," said our Lord of Pevensey. "Rahere
would never do what Anselm has done."
'This Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, had gone off raging
to the Pope at Rome, because Henry would make bishops
without his leave either. I knew not the rights of it, but De Aquila
did, and the King laughed.
'"Anselm means no harm. He should have been a monk, not a
bishop," said the King. "I'll never quarrel with Anselm or his
Pope till they quarrel with my England. If we can keep the King's
peace till my son comes to rule, no man will lightly quarrel with
'"Amen," said De Aquila. "But the King's peace ends when
the King dies."
'That is true. The King's peace dies with the King. The custom
then is that all laws are outlaw, and men do what they will till the
new King is chosen.
'"I will amend that," said the King hotly. "I will have it so that
though King, son, and grandson were all slain in one day, still the
King's peace should hold over all England! What is a man that his
mere death must upheave a people? We must have the Law."
'"Truth," said William of Exeter; but that he would have said
to any word of the King.
'The two great barons behind said nothing. This teaching was
clean against their stomachs, for when the King's peace ends, the
great barons go to war and increase their lands. At that instant we
heard Rahere's voice returning, in a scurril Saxon rhyme against
William of Exeter:
'"Well wist Wal-wist where lay his fortune
When that he fawned on the King for his crozier,"
and amid our laughter he burst in, with one arm round Hugh, and
one round the old pilgrim of Netherfield.
'"Here is your knight, Brother," said he, "and for the better
disport of the company, here is my fool. Hold up, Saxon Samson,
the gates of Gaza are clean carried away!"
'Hugh broke loose, white and sick, and staggered to my side;
the old man blinked upon the company.
'We looked at the King, but he smiled.
'"Rahere promised he would show me some sport after supper
to cover his morning's offence," said he to De Aquila. "So this is
thy man, Rahere?"
'"Even so," said Rahere. "My man he has been, and my
protection he has taken, ever since I found him under the gallows
at Stamford Bridge telling the kites atop of it that he was - Harold
'There was a great silence upon these last strange words, and
Hugh hid his face on my shoulder, woman-fashion.
'"It is most cruel true," he whispered to me. "The old man
proved it to me at the beat after you left, and again in our hut even
now. It is Harold, my King!"
'De Aquila crept forward. He walked about the man and swallowed.
'"Bones of the Saints!" said he, staring.
'"Many a stray shot goes too well home," said Rahere.
The old man flinched as at an arrow. "Why do you hurt me
still?" he said in Saxon. "It was on some bones of some Saints that
I promised I would give my England to the Great Duke." He
turns on us all crying, shrilly: "Thanes, he had caught me at
Rouen - a lifetime ago. If I had not promised, I should have lain
there all my life. What else could I have done? I have lain in a strait
prison all my life none the less. There is no need to throw stones at
me. " He guarded his face with his arms, and shivered.
"Now his madness will strike him down," said Rahere. "Cast
out the evil spirit, one of you new bishops."
'Said William of Exeter: "Harold was slain at Santlache fight.
All the world knows it."
'"I think this man must have forgotten," said Rahere. "Be
comforted, Father. Thou wast well slain at Hastings forty years
gone, less three months and nine days. Tell the King."
'The man uncovered his face. "I thought they would stone
me," he said. "I did not know I spoke before a King." He came to
his full towering height - no mean man, but frail beyond belief.
'The King turned to the tables, and held him out his own cup of
wine. The old man drank, and beckoned behind him, and, before
all the Normans, my Hugh bore away the empty cup, Saxon-
fashion, upon the knee.
"It is Harold!" said De Aquila. "His own stiff-necked blood
kneels to serve him.
"Be it so," said Henry. "Sit, then, thou that hast been Harold
'The madman sat, and hard, dark Henry looked at him between
half-shut eyes. We others stared like oxen, all but De Aquila, who
watched Rahere as I have seen him watch a far sail on the sea.
'The wine and the warmth cast the old man into a dream. His
white head bowed; his hands hung. His eye indeed was opened,
but the mind was shut. When he stretched his feet, they were
scurfed and road-cut like a slave's.
'"Ah, Rahere," cried Hugh, "why hast thou shown him thus?
Better have let him die than shame him - and me!"
'"Shame thee?" said the King. "Would any baron of mine
kneel to me if I were witless, discrowned, and alone, and Harold
had my throne?"
'"No," said Rahere. "I am the sole fool that might do it,
Brother, unless" - he pointed at De Aquila, whom he had only
met that day - "yonder tough Norman crab kept me company.
But, Sir Hugh, I did not mean to shame him. He hath been
somewhat punished through, maybe, little fault of his own."
, "Yet he lied to my Father, the Conqueror, " said the King, and
the old man flinched in his sleep.
'"Maybe," said Rahere, "but thy Brother Robert, whose
throat we purpose soon to slit with our own hands -"
'"Hutt!" said the King, laughing. "I'll keep Robert at my table
for a life's guest when I catch him. Robert means no harm. It is all
his cursed barons."
'"None the less," said Rahere, "Robert may say that thou hast
not always spoken the stark truth to him about England. I should
not hang too many men on that bough, Brother."
'"And it is certain," said Hugh, "that" - he pointed to the old
man - "Harold was forced to make his promise to the Great Duke."
'"Very strongly, forced," said De Aquila. He had never any
pride in the Duke William's dealings with Harold before Hastings.
Yet, as he said, one cannot build a house all of straight sticks.
'"No matter how he was forced," said Henry, "England was
promised to my Father William by Edward the Confessor. Is it
not so?" William of Exeter nodded. "Harold confirmed that
promise to my Father on the bones of the Saints. Afterwards he
broke his oath and would have taken England by the strong hand. "
'"Oh! La! La!" Rahere rolled up his eyes like a girl. "That ever
England should be taken by the strong hand!"
'Seeing that Red William and Henry after him had each in just
that fashion snatched England from Robert of Normandy, we
others knew not where to look. But De Aquila saved us quickly.
'"Promise kept or promise broken," he said, "Harold came
near enough to breaking us Normans at Santlache. "
"Was it so close a fight, then?" said Henry.
"A hair would have turned it either way," De Aquila
answered. "His house-carles stood like rocks against rain. Where
wast thou, Hugh, in it?"
'"Among Godwin's folk beneath the Golden Dragon till your
front gave back, and we broke our ranks to follow," said Hugh.
"But I bade you stand! I bade you stand! I knew it was all a
deceit!" Harold had waked, and leaned forward as one crying
from the grave.
'"Ah, now we see how the traitor himself was betrayed!" said
William of Exeter, and looked for a smile from the King.
'"I made thee Bishop to preach at my bidding," said Henry;
and turning to Harold, "Tell us here how thy people fought us?"
said he. "Their sons serve me now against my Brother Robert!"
'The old man shook his head cunningly. "Na - Na - Na!" he
cried. "I know better. Every time I tell my tale men stone me.
But, Thanes, I will tell you a greater thing. Listen!" He told us
how many paces it was from some Saxon Saint's shrine to another
shrine, and how many more back to the Abbey of the Battle.
'"Ay," said he. "I have trodden it too often to be out even ten
paces. I move very swiftly. Harold of Norway knows that, and so
does Tostig my brother. They lie at ease at Stamford Bridge, and
from Stamford Bridge to the Battle Abbey it is -" he muttered
over many numbers and forgot us.
'"Ay, " said De Aquila, all in a muse. "That man broke Harold
of Norway at Stamford Bridge, and came near to breaking us at
Santlache - all within one month."
'"But how did he come alive from Santlache fight?" asked the
King. "Ask him! Hast thou heard it, Rahere?"
"Never. He says he has been stoned too often for telling the
tale. But he can count you off Saxon and Norman shrines till
daylight," said Rahere and the old man nodded proudly.
'"My faith!" said Henry after a while. "I think even my Father
the Great Duke would pity if he could see him.
'"How if he does see?" said Rahere.
'Hugh covered his face with his sound hand. "Ah, why hast
thou shamed him?" he cried again to Rahere.
'"No - no," says the old man, reaching to pluck at Rahere's
cape. "I am Rahere's man. None stone me now," and he played
with the bells on the scollops of it.
'"How if he had been brought to me when you found him?"
said the King to Rahere.
You would have held him prisoner again - as the Great Duke
did," Rahere answered.
'"True," said our King. "He is nothing except his name. Yet
that name might have been used by stronger men to trouble my
England. Yes. I must have made him my life's guest - as I shall
'"I knew it," said Rahere. "But while this man wandered mad
by the wayside, none cared what he called himself."
'"I learned to cease talking before the stones flew," says the old
man, and Hugh groaned.
'"Ye have heard!" said Rahere. "Witless, landless, nameless,
and, but for my protection, masterless, he can still make shift to
bide his doom under the open sky.
'"Then wherefore didst thou bring him here for a mock and a
shame?" cried Hugh, beside himself with woe.
'"A right mock and a just shame!" said William of Exeter.
'"Not to me," said Nigel of Ely. "I see and I tremble, but I
neither mock nor judge."
Well spoken, Ely." Rahere falls into the pure fool again. "I'll
pray for thee when I turn monk. Thou hast given thy blessing on a
war between two most Christian brothers." He meant the war
forward 'twixt Henry and Robert of Normandy. "I charge you,
Brother," he says, wheeling on the King, "dost thou mock my
The King shook his head, and so then did smooth William
'"De Aquila, does thou mock him?" Rahere jingled from one
to another, and the old man smiled.
'"By the Bones of the Saints, not I," said our Lord of Pevensey.
"I know how dooms near he broke us at Santlache.
'"Sir Hugh, you are excused the question. But you, valiant,
loyal, honourable, and devout barons, Lords of Man's justice in
your own bounds, do you mock my fool?"
'He shook his bauble in the very faces of those two barons
whose names I have forgotten. "Na - Na!" they said, and waved
him back foolishly enough.
'He hies him across to staring, nodding Harold, and speaks
from behind his chair.
'"No man mocks thee, Who here judges this man? Henry of
England - Nigel - De Aquila! On your souls, swift with the
answer!" he cried.
'None answered. We were all - the King not least - over-borne
by that terrible scarlet-and-black wizard-jester.
'"Well for your souls," he said, wiping his brow. Next, shrill
like a woman: "Oh, come to me!" and Hugh ran forward to hold
Harold, that had slidden down in the chair.
'"Hearken," said Rahere, his arm round Harold's neck. "The
King - his bishops - the knights - all the world's crazy chessboard
neither mock nor judge thee. Take that comfort with thee,
Harold of England!"
'Hugh heaved the old man up and he smiled.
'"Good comfort," said Harold. "Tell me again! I have been
'Rahere hallooed it once more into his ear as the head rolled. We
heard him sigh, and Nigel of Ely stood forth, praying aloud.
'"Out! I will have no Norman!" Harold said as clearly as I
speak now, and he refuged himself on Hugh's sound shoulder,
and stretched out, and lay all still.'
'Dead?' said Una, turning up a white face in the dusk.
'That was his good fortune. To die in the King's presence, and
on the breast of the most gentlest, truest knight of his own house.
Some of us envied him,' said Sir Richard, and fell back to take
'Turn left here,' Puck called ahead of them from under an oak.
They ducked down a narrow path through close ash plantation.
The children hurried forward, but cutting a corner charged
full-abreast into the thorn-faggot that old Hobden was carrying
home on his back.
'My! My!' said he. 'Have you scratted your face, Miss Una?'
'Sorry! It's all right,' said Una, rubbing her nose. 'How many
rabbits did you get today?'
'That's tellin'!' the old man grinned as he re-hoisted his faggot.
'I reckon Mus' Ridley he've got rheumatism along o' lyin' in the
dik to see I didn't snap up any. Think o' that now!'
They laughed a good deal while he told them the tale.
'An' just as he crawled away I heard some one hollerin' to the
hounds in our woods,' said he. 'Didn't you hear? You must ha'
been asleep sure-ly.'
'Oh, what about the sleeper you promised to show us?'
''Ere he be - house an' all!' Hobden dived into the prickly heart
of the faggot and took out a dormouse's wonderfully woven nest
of grass and leaves. His blunt fingers parted it as if it had been
precious lace, and tilting it toward the last of the light he showed
the little, red, furry chap curled up inside, his tail between his eyes
that were shut for their winter sleep.
'Let's take him home. Don't breathe on him,' said Una. 'It'll
make him warm and he'll wake up and die straight off. Won't he,
'Dat's a heap better by my reckonin' than wakin' up and findin'
himself in a cage for life. No! We'll lay him into the bottom o' this
hedge. Dat's jus' right! No more trouble for him till come Spring.
An' now we'll go home.'
Our Lord Who did the Ox command
To kneel to Judah's King,
He binds His frost upon the land
To ripen it for Spring -
To ripen it for Spring, good sirs,
According to His word;
Which well must be as ye can see -
And who shall judge the Lord?
When we poor fenmen skate the ice
Or shiver on the wold,
We hear the cry of a single tree
That breaks her heart in the cold -
That breaks her heart in the cold, good sirs,
And rendeth by the board;
Which well must be as ye can see -
And who shall judge the Lord?
Her wood is crazed and little worth
Excepting as to burn
That we may warm and make our mirth
Until the Spring return -
Until the Spring return, good sirs,
When people walk abroad;
Which well must be as ye can see -
And who shall judge the Lord?
God bless the master of this house,
And all that sleep therein!
And guard the fens from pirate folk,
And keep us all from sin,
To walk in honesty, good sirs,
Of thought and deed and word!
Which shall befriend our latter end -
And who shall judge the Lord?