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The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 4 out of 5

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Thus they set forth together along the road to Shoreby, which, in
this part of its course, kept near along the margin or the forest,
coming forth, from time to time, in the open country, and passing
beside poor folks' houses and small farms.

Presently at sight of one of these, Lawless pulled up.

"Brother Martin," he said, in a voice capitally disguised, and
suited to his monkish robe, "let us enter and seek alms from these
poor sinners. Pax vobiscum! Ay," he added, in his own voice,
"'tis as I feared; I have somewhat lost the whine of it; and by
your leave, good Master Shelton, ye must suffer me to practise in
these country places, before that I risk my fat neck by entering
Sir Daniel's. But look ye a little, what an excellent thing it is
to be a Jack-of-all-trades! An I had not been a shipman, ye had
infallibly gone down in the Good Hope; an I had not been a thief, I
could not have painted me your face; and but that I had been a Grey
Friar, and sung loud in the choir, and ate hearty at the board, I
could not have carried this disguise, but the very dogs would have
spied us out and barked at us for shams."

He was by this time close to the window of the farm, and he rose on
his tip-toes and peeped in.

"Nay," he cried, "better and better. We shall here try our false
faces with a vengeance, and have a merry jest on Brother Capper to

And so saying, he opened the door and led the way into the house.

Three of their own company sat at the table, greedily eating.
Their daggers, stuck beside them in the board, and the black and
menacing looks which they continued to shower upon the people of
the house, proved that they owed their entertainment rather to
force than favour. On the two monks, who now, with a sort of
humble dignity, entered the kitchen of the farm, they seemed to
turn with a particular resentment; and one--it was John Capper in
person--who seemed to play the leading part, instantly and rudely
ordered them away.

"We want no beggars here!" he cried.

But another--although he was as far from recognising Dick and
Lawless--inclined to more moderate counsels.

"Not so," he cried. "We be strong men, and take; these be weak,
and crave; but in the latter end these shall be uppermost and we
below. Mind him not, my father; but come, drink of my cup, and
give me a benediction."

"Y' are men of a light mind, carnal, and accursed," said the monk.
"Now, may the saints forbid that ever I should drink with such
companions! But here, for the pity I bear to sinners, here I do
leave you a blessed relic, the which, for your soul's interest, I
bid you kiss and cherish."

So far Lawless thundered upon them like a preaching friar; but with
these words he drew from under his robe a black arrow, tossed it on
the board in front of the three startled outlaws, turned in the
same instant, and, taking Dick along with him, was out of the room
and out of sight among the falling snow before they had time to
utter a word or move a finger.

"So," he said, "we have proved our false faces, Master Shelton. I
will now adventure my poor carcase where ye please."

"Good!" returned Richard. "It irks me to be doing. Set we on for


Sir Daniel's residence in Shoreby was a tall, commodious, plastered
mansion, framed in carven oak, and covered by a low-pitched roof of
thatch. To the back there stretched a garden, full of fruit-trees,
alleys, and thick arbours, and overlooked from the far end by the
tower of the abbey church.

The house might contain, upon a pinch, the retinue of a greater
person than Sir Daniel; but even now it was filled with hubbub.
The court rang with arms and horseshoe-iron; the kitchens roared
with cookery like a bees'-hive; minstrels, and the players of
instruments, and the cries of tumblers, sounded from the hall. Sir
Daniel, in his profusion, in the gaiety and gallantry of his
establishment, rivalled with Lord Shoreby, and eclipsed Lord

All guests were made welcome. Minstrels, tumblers, players of
chess, the sellers of relics, medicines, perfumes, and
enchantments, and along with these every sort of priest, friar, or
pilgrim, were made welcome to the lower table, and slept together
in the ample lofts, or on the bare boards of the long dining-hall.

On the afternoon following the wreck of the Good Hope, the buttery,
the kitchens, the stables, the covered cartshed that surrounded two
sides of the court, were all crowded by idle people, partly
belonging to Sir Daniel's establishment, and attired in his livery
of murrey and blue, partly nondescript strangers attracted to the
town by greed, and received by the knight through policy, and
because it was the fashion of the time.

The snow, which still fell without interruption, the extreme chill
of the air, and the approach of night, combined to keep them under
shelter. Wine, ale, and money were all plentiful; many sprawled
gambling in the straw of the barn, many were still drunken from the
noontide meal. To the eye of a modern it would have looked like
the sack of a city; to the eye of a contemporary it was like any
other rich and noble household at a festive season.

Two monks--a young and an old--had arrived late, and were now
warming themselves at a bonfire in a corner of the shed. A mixed
crowd surrounded them--jugglers, mountebanks, and soldiers; and
with these the elder of the two had soon engaged so brisk a
conversation, and exchanged so many loud guffaws and country
witticisms, that the group momentarily increased in number.

The younger companion, in whom the reader has already recognised
Dick Shelton, sat from the first somewhat backward, and gradually
drew himself away. He listened, indeed, closely, but he opened not
his mouth; and by the grave expression of his countenance, he made
but little account of his companion's pleasantries.

At last his eye, which travelled continually to and fro, and kept a
guard upon all the entrances of the house, lit upon a little
procession entering by the main gate and crossing the court in an
oblique direction. Two ladies, muffled in thick furs, led the way,
and were followed by a pair of waiting-women and four stout men-at-
arms. The next moment they had disappeared within the house; and
Dick, slipping through the crowd of loiterers in the shed, was
already giving hot pursuit.

"The taller of these twain was Lady Brackley," he thought; "and
where Lady Brackley is, Joan will not be far."

At the door of the house the four men-at-arms had ceased to follow,
and the ladies were now mounting the stairway of polished oak,
under no better escort than that of the two waiting-women. Dick
followed close behind. It was already the dusk of the day; and in
the house the darkness of the night had almost come. On the stair-
landings, torches flared in iron holders; down the long, tapestried
corridors, a lamp burned by every door. And where the door stood
open, Dick could look in upon arras-covered walls and rush-
bescattered floors, glowing in the light of the wood fires.

Two floors were passed, and at every landing the younger and
shorter of the two ladies had looked back keenly at the monk. He,
keeping his eyes lowered, and affecting the demure manners that
suited his disguise, had but seen her once, and was unaware that he
had attracted her attention. And now, on the third floor, the
party separated, the younger lady continuing to ascend alone, the
other, followed by the waiting-maids, descending the corridor to
the right.

Dick mounted with a swift foot, and holding to the corner, thrust
forth his head and followed the three women with his eyes. Without
turning or looking behind them, they continued to descend the

"It is right well," thought Dick. "Let me but know my Lady
Brackley's chamber, and it will go hard an I find not Dame Hatch
upon an errand."

And just then a hand was laid upon his shoulder, and, with a bound
and a choked cry, he turned to grapple his assailant.

He was somewhat abashed to find, in the person whom he had so
roughly seized, the short young lady in the furs. She, on her
part, was shocked and terrified beyond expression, and hung
trembling in his grasp.

"Madam," said Dick, releasing her, "I cry you a thousand pardons;
but I have no eyes behind, and, by the mass, I could not tell ye
were a maid."

The girl continued to look at him, but, by this time, terror began
to be succeeded by surprise, and surprise by suspicion. Dick, who
could read these changes on her face, became alarmed for his own
safety in that hostile house.

"Fair maid," he said, affecting easiness, "suffer me to kiss your
hand, in token ye forgive my roughness, and I will even go."

"Y' are a strange monk, young sir," returned the young lady,
looking him both boldly and shrewdly in the face; "and now that my
first astonishment hath somewhat passed away, I can spy the layman
in each word you utter. What do ye here? Why are ye thus
sacrilegiously tricked out? Come ye in peace or war? And why spy
ye after Lady Brackley like a thief?"

"Madam," quoth Dick, "of one thing I pray you to be very sure: I
am no thief. And even if I come here in war, as in some degree I
do, I make no war upon fair maids, and I hereby entreat them to
copy me so far, and to leave me be. For, indeed, fair mistress,
cry out--if such be your pleasure--cry but once, and say what ye
have seen, and the poor gentleman before you is merely a dead man.
I cannot think ye would be cruel," added Dick; and taking the
girl's hand gently in both of his, he looked at her with courteous

"Are ye, then, a spy--a Yorkist?" asked the maid.

"Madam," he replied, "I am indeed a Yorkist, and, in some sort, a
spy. But that which bringeth me into this house, the same which
will win for me the pity and interest of your kind heart, is
neither of York nor Lancaster. I will wholly put my life in your
discretion. I am a lover, and my name--"

But here the young lady clapped her hand suddenly upon Dick's
mouth, looked hastily up and down and east and west, and, seeing
the coast clear, began to drag the young man, with great strength
and vehemence, up-stairs.

"Hush!" she said, "and come! Shalt talk hereafter."

Somewhat bewildered, Dick suffered himself to be pulled up-stairs,
bustled along a corridor, and thrust suddenly into a chamber, lit,
like so many of the others, by a blazing log upon the hearth.

"Now," said the young lady, forcing him down upon a stool, "sit ye
there and attend my sovereign good pleasure. I have life and death
over you, and I will not scruple to abuse my power. Look to
yourself; y' 'ave cruelly mauled my arm. He knew not I was a maid,
quoth he! Had he known I was a maid, he had ta'en his belt to me,

And with these words, she whipped out of the room and left Dick
gaping with wonder, and not very sure if he were dreaming or awake.

"Ta'en my belt to her!" he repeated. "Ta'en my belt to her!" And
the recollection of that evening in the forest flowed back upon his
mind, and he once more saw Matcham's wincing body and beseeching

And then he was recalled to the dangers of the present. In the
next room he heard a stir, as of a person moving; then followed a
sigh, which sounded strangely near; and then the rustle of skirts
and tap of feet once more began. As he stood hearkening, he saw
the arras wave along the wall; there was the sound of a door being
opened, the hangings divided, and, lamp in hand, Joanna Sedley
entered the apartment.

She was attired in costly stuffs of deep and warm colours, such as
befit the winter and the snow. Upon her head, her hair had been
gathered together and became her as a crown. And she, who had
seemed so little and so awkward in the attire of Matcham, was now
tall like a young willow, and swam across the floor as though she
scorned the drudgery of walking.

Without a start, without a tremor, she raised her lamp and looked
at the young monk.

"What make ye here, good brother?" she inquired. "Ye are doubtless
ill-directed. Whom do ye require? And she set her lamp upon the

"Joanna," said Dick; and then his voice failed him. "Joanna," he
began again, "ye said ye loved me; and the more fool I, but I
believed it!"

"Dick!" she cried. "Dick!"

And then, to the wonder of the lad, this beautiful and tall young
lady made but one step of it, and threw her arms about his neck and
gave him a hundred kisses all in one.

"Oh, the fool fellow!" she cried. "Oh, dear Dick! Oh, if ye could
see yourself! Alack!" she added, pausing. "I have spoilt you,
Dick! I have knocked some of the paint off. But that can be
mended. What cannot be mended, Dick--or I much fear it cannot!--is
my marriage with Lord Shoreby."

"Is it decided, then?" asked the lad.

"To-morrow, before noon, Dick, in the abbey church," she answered,
"John Matcham and Joanna Sedley both shall come to a right
miserable end. There is no help in tears, or I could weep mine
eyes out. I have not spared myself to pray, but Heaven frowns on
my petition. And, dear Dick--good Dick--but that ye can get me
forth of this house before the morning, we must even kiss and say

"Nay," said Dick, "not I; I will never say that word. 'Tis like
despair; but while there's life, Joanna, there is hope. Yet will I
hope. Ay, by the mass, and triumph! Look ye, now, when ye were
but a name to me, did I not follow--did I not rouse good men--did I
not stake my life upon the quarrel? And now that I have seen you
for what ye are--the fairest maid and stateliest of England--think
ye I would turn?--if the deep sea were there, I would straight
through it; if the way were full of lions, I would scatter them
like mice."

"Ay," she said, dryly, "ye make a great ado about a sky-blue robe!"

"Nay, Joan," protested Dick, "'tis not alone the robe. But, lass,
ye were disguised. Here am I disguised; and, to the proof, do I
not cut a figure of fun--a right fool's figure?"

"Ay, Dick, an' that ye do!" she answered, smiling.

"Well, then!" he returned, triumphant. "So was it with you, poor
Matcham, in the forest. In sooth, ye were a wench to laugh at.
But now!"

So they ran on, holding each other by both hands, exchanging smiles
and lovely looks, and melting minutes into seconds; and so they
might have continued all night long. But presently there was a
noise behind them; and they were aware of the short young lady,
with her finger on her lips.

"Saints!" she cried, "but what a noise ye keep! Can ye not speak
in compass? And now, Joanna, my fair maid of the woods, what will
ye give your gossip for bringing you your sweetheart?"

Joanna ran to her, by way of answer, and embraced her fierily.

"And you, sir," added the young lady, "what do ye give me?"

"Madam," said Dick, "I would fain offer to pay you in the same

"Come, then," said the lady, "it is permitted you."

But Dick, blushing like a peony, only kissed her hand.

"What ails ye at my face, fair sir?" she inquired, curtseying to
the very ground; and then, when Dick had at length and most tepidly
embraced her, "Joanna," she added, "your sweetheart is very
backward under your eyes; but I warrant you, when first we met he
was more ready. I am all black and blue, wench; trust me never, if
I be not black and blue! And now," she continued, "have ye said
your sayings? for I must speedily dismiss the paladin."

But at this they both cried out that they had said nothing, that
the night was still very young, and that they would not be
separated so early.

"And supper?" asked the young lady. "Must we not go down to

"Nay, to be sure!" cried Joan. "I had forgotten."

"Hide me, then," said Dick, "put me behind the arras, shut me in a
chest, or what ye will, so that I may be here on your return.
Indeed, fair lady," he added, "bear this in mind, that we are sore
bested, and may never look upon each other's face from this night
forward till we die."

At this the young lady melted; and when, a little after, the bell
summoned Sir Daniel's household to the board, Dick was planted very
stiffly against the wall, at a place where a division in the
tapestry permitted him to breathe the more freely, and even to see
into the room.

He had not been long in this position, when he was somewhat
strangely disturbed. The silence, in that upper storey of the
house, was only broken by the flickering of the flames and the
hissing of a green log in the chimney; but presently, to Dick's
strained hearing, there came the sound of some one walking with
extreme precaution; and soon after the door opened, and a little
black-faced, dwarfish fellow, in Lord Shoreby's colours, pushed
first his head, and then his crooked body, into the chamber. His
mouth was open, as though to hear the better; and his eyes, which
were very bright, flitted restlessly and swiftly to and fro. He
went round and round the room, striking here and there upon the
hangings; but Dick, by a miracle, escaped his notice. Then he
looked below the furniture, and examined the lamp; and, at last,
with an air of cruel disappointment, was preparing to go away as
silently as he had come, when down he dropped upon his knees,
picked up something from among the rushes on the floor, examined
it, and, with every signal of delight, concealed it in the wallet
at his belt.

Dick's heart sank, for the object in question was a tassel from his
own girdle; and it was plain to him that this dwarfish spy, who
took a malign delight in his employment, would lose no time in
bearing it to his master, the baron. He was half-tempted to throw
aside the arras, fall upon the scoundrel, and, at the risk of his
life, remove the telltale token. And while he was still
hesitating, a new cause of concern was added. A voice, hoarse and
broken by drink, began to be audible from the stair; and presently
after, uneven, wandering, and heavy footsteps sounded without along
the passage.

"What make ye here, my merry men, among the greenwood shaws?" sang
the voice. "What make ye here? Hey! sots, what make ye here?" it
added, with a rattle of drunken laughter; and then, once more
breaking into song:

"If ye should drink the clary wine,
Fat Friar John, ye friend o' mine -
If I should eat, and ye should drink,
Who shall sing the mass, d'ye think?"

Lawless, alas! rolling drunk, was wandering the house, seeking for
a corner wherein to slumber off the effect of his potations. Dick
inwardly raged. The spy, at first terrified, had grown reassured
as he found he had to deal with an intoxicated man, and now, with a
movement of cat-like rapidity, slipped from the chamber, and was
gone from Richard's eyes.

What was to be done? If he lost touch of Lawless for the night, he
was left impotent, whether to plan or carry forth Joanna's rescue.
If, on the other hand, he dared to address the drunken outlaw, the
spy might still be lingering within sight, and the most fatal
consequences ensue.

It was, nevertheless, upon this last hazard that Dick decided.
Slipping from behind the tapestry, he stood ready in the doorway of
the chamber, with a warning hand upraised. Lawless, flushed
crimson, with his eyes injected, vacillating on his feet, drew
still unsteadily nearer. At last he hazily caught sight of his
commander, and, in despite of Dick's imperious signals, hailed him
instantly and loudly by his name.

Dick leaped upon and shook the drunkard furiously.

"Beast!" he hissed--"beast and no man! It is worse than treachery
to be so witless. We may all be shent for thy sotting."

But Lawless only laughed and staggered, and tried to clap young
Shelton on the back.

And just then Dick's quick ear caught a rapid brushing in the
arras. He leaped towards the sound, and the next moment a piece of
the wall-hanging had been torn down, and Dick and the spy were
sprawling together in its folds. Over and over they rolled,
grappling for each other's throat, and still baffled by the arras,
and still silent in their deadly fury. But Dick was by much the
stronger, and soon the spy lay prostrate under his knee, and, with
a single stroke of the long poniard, ceased to breathe.


Throughout this furious and rapid passage, Lawless had looked on
helplessly, and even when all was over, and Dick, already re-arisen
to his feet, was listening with the most passionate attention to
the distant bustle in the lower storeys of the house, the old
outlaw was still wavering on his legs like a shrub in a breeze of
wind, and still stupidly staring on the face of the dead man.

"It is well," said Dick, at length; "they have not heard us, praise
the saints! But, now, what shall I do with this poor spy? At
least, I will take my tassel from his wallet."

So saying, Dick opened the wallet; within he found a few pieces of
money, the tassel, and a letter addressed to Lord Wensleydale, and
sealed with my Lord Shoreby's seal. The name awoke Dick's
recollection; and he instantly broke the wax and read the contents
of the letter. It was short, but, to Dick's delight, it gave
evident proof that Lord Shoreby was treacherously corresponding
with the House of York.

The young fellow usually carried his ink-horn and implements about
him, and so now, bending a knee beside the body of the dead spy, he
was able to write these words upon a corner of the paper:

My Lord of Shoreby, ye that writt the letter, wot ye why your man
is ded? But let me rede you, marry not.


He laid this paper on the breast of the corpse; and then Lawless,
who had been looking on upon these last manoeuvres with some
flickering returns of intelligence, suddenly drew a black arrow
from below his robe, and therewith pinned the paper in its place.
The sight of this disrespect, or, as it almost seemed, cruelty to
the dead, drew a cry of horror from young Shelton; but the old
outlaw only laughed.

"Nay, I will have the credit for mine order," he hiccupped. "My
jolly boys must have the credit on't--the credit, brother;" and
then, shutting his eyes tight and opening his mouth like a
precentor, he began to thunder, in a formidable voice:

"If ye should drink the clary wine" -

"Peace, sot!" cried Dick, and thrust him hard against the wall.
"In two words--if so be that such a man can understand me who hath
more wine than wit in him--in two words, and, a-Mary's name, begone
out of this house, where, if ye continue to abide, ye will not only
hang yourself, but me also! Faith, then, up foot! be yare, or, by
the mass, I may forget that I am in some sort your captain and in
some your debtor! Go!"

The sham monk was now, in some degree, recovering the use of his
intelligence; and the ring in Dick's voice, and the glitter in
Dick's eye, stamped home the meaning of his words.

"By the mass," cried Lawless, "an I be not wanted, I can go;" and
he turned tipsily along the corridor and proceeded to flounder
down-stairs, lurching against the wall.

So soon as he was out of sight, Dick returned to his hiding-place,
resolutely fixed to see the matter out. Wisdom, indeed, moved him
to be gone; but love and curiosity were stronger.

Time passed slowly for the young man, bolt upright behind the
arras. The fire in the room began to die down, and the lamp to
burn low and to smoke. And still there was no word of the return
of any one to these upper quarters of the house; still the faint
hum and clatter of the supper party sounded from far below; and
still, under the thick fall of the snow, Shoreby town lay silent
upon every side.

At length, however, feet and voices began to draw near upon the
stair; and presently after several of Sir Daniel's guests arrived
upon the landing, and, turning down the corridor, beheld the torn
arras and the body of the spy.

Some ran forward and some back, and all together began to cry

At the sound of their cries, guests, men-at-arms, ladies, servants,
and, in a word, all the inhabitants of that great house, came
flying from every direction, and began to join their voices to the

Soon a way was cleared, and Sir Daniel came forth in person,
followed by the bridegroom of the morrow, my Lord Shoreby.

"My lord," said Sir Daniel, "have I not told you of this knave
Black Arrow? To the proof, behold it! There it stands, and, by
the rood, my gossip, in a man of yours, or one that stole your

"In good sooth, it was a man of mine," replied Lord Shoreby,
hanging back. "I would I had more such. He was keen as a beagle
and secret as a mole."

"Ay, gossip, truly?" asked Sir Daniel, keenly. "And what came he
smelling up so many stairs in my poor mansion? But he will smell
no more."

"An't please you, Sir Daniel," said one, "here is a paper written
upon with some matter, pinned upon his breast."

"Give it me, arrow and all," said the knight. And when he had
taken into his hand the shaft, he continued for some time to gaze
upon it in a sullen musing. "Ay," he said, addressing Lord
Shoreby, "here is a hate that followeth hard and close upon my
heels. This black stick, or its just likeness, shall yet bring me
down. And, gossip, suffer a plain knight to counsel you; and if
these hounds begin to wind you, flee! 'Tis like a sickness--it
still hangeth, hangeth upon the limbs. But let us see what they
have written. It is as I thought, my lord; y' are marked, like an
old oak, by the woodman; to-morrow or next day, by will come the
axe. But what wrote ye in a letter?"

Lord Shoreby snatched the paper from the arrow, read it, crumpled
it between his hands, and, overcoming the reluctance which had
hitherto withheld him from approaching, threw himself on his knees
beside the body and eagerly groped in the wallet.

He rose to his feet with a somewhat unsettled countenance.

"Gossip," he said, "I have indeed lost a letter here that much
imported; and could I lay my hand upon the knave that took it, he
should incontinently grace a halter. But let us, first of all,
secure the issues of the house. Here is enough harm already, by
St. George!"

Sentinels were posted close around the house and garden; a sentinel
on every landing of the stair, a whole troop in the main entrance-
hall; and yet another about the bonfire in the shed. Sir Daniel's
followers were supplemented by Lord Shoreby's; there was thus no
lack of men or weapons to make the house secure, or to entrap a
lurking enemy, should one be there.

Meanwhile, the body of the spy was carried out through the falling
snow and deposited in the abbey church.

It was not until these dispositions had been taken, and all had
returned to a decorous silence, that the two girls drew Richard
Shelton from his place of concealment, and made a full report to
him of what had passed. He, upon his side, recounted the visit of
the spy, his dangerous discovery, and speedy end.

Joanna leaned back very faint against the curtained wall.

"It will avail but little," she said. "I shall be wed to-morrow,
in the morning, after all!"

"What!" cried her friend. "And here is our paladin that driveth
lions like mice! Ye have little faith, of a surety. But come,
friend lion-driver, give us some comfort; speak, and let us hear
bold counsels."

Dick was confounded to be thus outfaced with his own exaggerated
words; but though he coloured, he still spoke stoutly.

"Truly," said he, "we are in straits. Yet, could I but win out of
this house for half an hour, I do honestly tell myself that all
might still go well; and for the marriage, it should be prevented."

"And for the lions," mimicked the girl, "they shall be driven."

"I crave your excuse," said Dick. "I speak not now in any boasting
humour, but rather as one inquiring after help or counsel; for if I
get not forth of this house and through these sentinels, I can do
less than naught. Take me, I pray you, rightly."

"Why said ye he was rustic, Joan?" the girl inquired. "I warrant
he hath a tongue in his head; ready, soft, and bold is his speech
at pleasure. What would ye more?"

"Nay," sighed Joanna, with a smile, "they have changed me my friend
Dick, 'tis sure enough. When I beheld him, he was rough indeed.
But it matters little; there is no help for my hard case, and I
must still be Lady Shoreby!"

"Nay, then," said Dick, "I will even make the adventure. A friar
is not much regarded; and if I found a good fairy to lead me up, I
may find another belike to carry me down. How call they the name
of this spy?"

"Rutter," said the young lady; "and an excellent good name to call
him by. But how mean ye, lion-driver? What is in your mind to

"To offer boldly to go forth," returned Dick; "and if any stop me,
to keep an unchanged countenance, and say I go to pray for Rutter.
They will be praying over his poor clay even now."

"The device is somewhat simple," replied the girl, "yet it may

"Nay," said young Shelton, "it is no device, but mere boldness,
which serveth often better in great straits."

"Ye say true," she said. "Well, go, a-Mary's name, and may Heaven
speed you! Ye leave here a poor maid that loves you entirely, and
another that is most heartily your friend. Be wary, for their
sakes, and make not shipwreck of your safety."

"Ay," added Joanna, "go, Dick. Ye run no more peril, whether ye go
or stay. Go; ye take my heart with you; the saints defend you!"

Dick passed the first sentry with so assured a countenance that the
fellow merely figeted and stared; but at the second landing the man
carried his spear across and bade him name his business.

"Pax vobiscum," answered Dick. "I go to pray over the body of this
poor Rutter."

"Like enough," returned the sentry; "but to go alone is not
permitted you." He leaned over the oaken balusters and whistled
shrill. "One cometh!" he cried; and then motioned Dick to pass.

At the foot of the stair he found the guard afoot and awaiting his
arrival; and when he had once more repeated his story, the
commander of the post ordered four men out to accompany him to the

"Let him not slip, my lads," he said. "Bring him to Sir Oliver, on
your lives!"

The door was then opened; one of the men took Dick by either arm,
another marched ahead with a link, and the fourth, with bent bow
and the arrow on the string, brought up the rear. In this order
they proceeded through the garden, under the thick darkness of the
night and the scattering snow, and drew near to the dimly-
illuminated windows of the abbey church.

At the western portal a picket of archers stood, taking what
shelter they could find in the hollow of the arched doorways, and
all powdered with the snow; and it was not until Dick's conductors
had exchanged a word with these, that they were suffered to pass
forth and enter the nave of the sacred edifice.

The church was doubtfully lighted by the tapers upon the great
altar, and by a lamp or two that swung from the arched roof before
the private chapels of illustrious families. In the midst of the
choir the dead spy lay, his limbs piously composed, upon a bier.

A hurried mutter of prayer sounded along the arches; cowled figures
knelt in the stalls of the choir, and on the steps of the high
altar a priest in pontifical vestments celebrated mass.

Upon this fresh entrance, one of the cowled figures arose, and,
coming down the steps which elevated the level of the choir above
that of the nave, demanded from the leader of the four men what
business brought him to the church. Out of respect for the service
and the dead, they spoke in guarded tones; but the echoes of that
huge, empty building caught up their words, and hollowly repeated
and repeated them along the aisles.

"A monk!" returned Sir Oliver (for he it was), when he had heard
the report of the archer. "My brother, I looked not for your
coming," he added, turning to young Shelton. "In all civility, who
are ye? and at whose instance do ye join your supplications to

Dick, keeping his cowl about his face, signed to Sir Oliver to move
a pace or two aside from the archers; and, so soon as the priest
had done so, "I cannot hope to deceive you, sir," he said. "My
life is in your hands."

Sir Oliver violently started; his stout cheeks grew pale, and for a
space he was silent.

"Richard," he said, "what brings you here, I know not; but I much
misdoubt it to be evil. Nevertheless, for the kindness that was, I
would not willingly deliver you to harm. Ye shall sit all night
beside me in the stalls: ye shall sit there till my Lord of
Shoreby be married, and the party gone safe home; and if all goeth
well, and ye have planned no evil, in the end ye shall go whither
ye will. But if your purpose be bloody, it shall return upon your
head. Amen!"

And the priest devoutly crossed himself, and turned and louted to
the altar.

With that, he spoke a few words more to the soldiers, and taking
Dick by the hand, led him up to the choir, and placed him in the
stall beside his own, where, for mere decency, the lad had
instantly to kneel and appear to be busy with his devotions.

His mind and his eyes, however, were continually wandering. Three
of the soldiers, he observed, instead of returning to the house,
had got them quietly into a point of vantage in the aisle; and he
could not doubt that they had done so by Sir Oliver's command.
Here, then, he was trapped. Here he must spend the night in the
ghostly glimmer and shadow of the church, and looking on the pale
face of him he slew; and here, in the morning, he must see his
sweetheart married to another man before his eyes.

But, for all that, he obtained a command upon his mind, and built
himself up in patience to await the issue.


In Shoreby Abbey Church the prayers were kept up all night without
cessation, now with the singing of psalms, now with a note or two
upon the bell.

Rutter, the spy, was nobly waked. There he lay, meanwhile, as they
had arranged him, his dead hands crossed upon his bosom, his dead
eyes staring on the roof; and hard by, in the stall, the lad who
had slain him waited, in sore disquietude, the coming of the

Once only, in the course of the hours, Sir Oliver leaned across to
his captive.

"Richard," he whispered, "my son, if ye mean me evil, I will
certify, on my soul's welfare, ye design upon an innocent man.
Sinful in the eye of Heaven I do declare myself; but sinful as
against you I am not, neither have been ever."

"My father," returned Dick, in the same tone of voice, "trust me, I
design nothing; but as for your innocence, I may not forget that ye
cleared yourself but lamely."

"A man may be innocently guilty," replied the priest. "He may be
set blindfolded upon a mission, ignorant of its true scope. So it
was with me. I did decoy your father to his death; but as Heaven
sees us in this sacred place, I knew not what I did."

"It may be," returned Dick. "But see what a strange web ye have
woven, that I should be, at this hour, at once your prisoner and
your judge; that ye should both threaten my days and deprecate my
anger. Methinks, if ye had been all your life a true man and good
priest, ye would neither thus fear nor thus detest me. And now to
your prayers. I do obey you, since needs must; but I will not be
burthened with your company."

The priest uttered a sigh so heavy that it had almost touched the
lad into some sentiment of pity, and he bowed his head upon his
hands like a man borne down below a weight of care. He joined no
longer in the psalms; but Dick could hear the beads rattle through
his fingers and the prayers a-pattering between his teeth.

Yet a little, and the grey of the morning began to struggle through
the painted casements of the church, and to put to shame the
glimmer of the tapers. The light slowly broadened and brightened,
and presently through the south-eastern clerestories a flush of
rosy sunlight flickered on the walls. The storm was over; the
great clouds had disburdened their snow and fled farther on, and
the new day was breaking on a merry winter landscape sheathed in

A bustle of church officers followed; the bier was carried forth to
the deadhouse, and the stains of blood were cleansed from off the
tiles, that no such ill-omened spectacle should disgrace the
marriage of Lord Shoreby. At the same time, the very ecclesiastics
who had been so dismally engaged all night began to put on morning
faces, to do honour to the merrier ceremony which was about to
follow. And further to announce the coming of the day, the pious
of the town began to assemble and fall to prayer before their
favourite shrines, or wait their turn at the confessionals.

Favoured by this stir, it was of course easily possible for any man
to avoid the vigilance of Sir Daniel's sentries at the door; and
presently Dick, looking about him wearily, caught the eye of no
less a person than Will Lawless, still in his monk's habit.

The outlaw, at the same moment, recognised his leader, and privily
signed to him with hand and eye.

Now, Dick was far from having forgiven the old rogue his most
untimely drunkenness, but he had no desire to involve him in his
own predicament; and he signalled back to him, as plain as he was
able, to begone.

Lawless, as though he had understood, disappeared at once behind a
pillar, and Dick breathed again.

What, then, was his dismay to feel himself plucked by the sleeve
and to find the old robber installed beside him, upon the next
seat, and, to all appearance, plunged in his devotions!

Instantly Sir Oliver arose from his place, and, gliding behind the
stalls, made for the soldiers in the aisle. If the priest's
suspicions had been so lightly wakened, the harm was already done,
and Lawless a prisoner in the church.

"Move not," whispered Dick. "We are in the plaguiest pass, thanks,
before all things, to thy swinishness of yestereven. When ye saw
me here, so strangely seated where I have neither right nor
interest, what a murrain I could ye not smell harm and get ye gone
from evil?"

"Nay," returned Lawless, "I thought ye had heard from Ellis, and
were here on duty."

"Ellis!" echoed Dick. "Is Ellis, then, returned?

"For sure," replied the outlaw. "He came last night, and belted me
sore for being in wine--so there ye are avenged, my master. A
furious man is Ellis Duckworth! He hath ridden me hot-spur from
Craven to prevent this marriage; and, Master Dick, ye know the way
of him--do so he will!"

"Nay, then," returned Dick, with composure, "you and I, my poor
brother, are dead men; for I sit here a prisoner upon suspicion,
and my neck was to answer for this very marriage that he purposeth
to mar. I had a fair choice, by the rood! to lose my sweetheart or
else lose my life! Well, the cast is thrown--it is to be my life."

"By the mass," cried Lawless, half arising, "I am gone!"

But Dick had his hand at once upon his shoulder.

"Friend Lawless, sit ye still," he said. "An ye have eyes, look
yonder at the corner by the chancel arch; see ye not that, even
upon the motion of your rising, yon armed men are up and ready to
intercept you? Yield ye, friend. Ye were bold aboard ship, when
ye thought to die a sea-death; be bold again, now that y' are to
die presently upon the gallows."

"Master Dick," gasped Lawless, "the thing hath come upon me
somewhat of the suddenest. But give me a moment till I fetch my
breath again; and, by the mass, I will be as stout-hearted as

"Here is my bold fellow!" returned Dick. "And yet, Lawless, it
goes hard against the grain with me to die; but where whining
mendeth nothing, wherefore whine?"

"Nay, that indeed!" chimed Lawless. "And a fig for death, at
worst! It has to be done, my master, soon or late. And hanging in
a good quarrel is an easy death, they say, though I could never
hear of any that came back to say so."

And so saying, the stout old rascal leaned back in his stall,
folded his arms, and began to look about him with the greatest air
of insolence and unconcern.

"And for the matter of that," Dick added, "it is yet our best
chance to keep quiet. We wot not yet what Duckworth purposes; and
when all is said, and if the worst befall, we may yet clear our
feet of it."

Now that they ceased talking, they were aware of a very distant and
thin strain of mirthful music which steadily drew nearer, louder,
and merrier. The bells in the tower began to break forth into a
doubling peal, and a greater and greater concourse of people to
crowd into the church, shuffling the snow from off their feet, and
clapping and blowing in their hands. The western door was flung
wide open, showing a glimpse of sunlit, snowy street, and admitting
in a great gust the shrewd air of the morning; and in short, it
became plain by every sign that Lord Shoreby desired to be married
very early in the day, and that the wedding-train was drawing near.

Some of Lord Shoreby's men now cleared a passage down the middle
aisle, forcing the people back with lance-stocks; and just then,
outside the portal, the secular musicians could be descried drawing
near over the frozen snow, the fifers and trumpeters scarlet in the
face with lusty blowing, the drummers and the cymbalists beating as
for a wager.

These, as they drew near the door of the sacred building, filed off
on either side, and, marking time to their own vigorous music,
stood stamping in the snow. As they thus opened their ranks, the
leaders of this noble bridal train appeared behind and between
them; and such was the variety and gaiety of their attire, such the
display of silks and velvet, fur and satin, embroidery and lace,
that the procession showed forth upon the snow like a flower-bed in
a path or a painted window in a wall.

First came the bride, a sorry sight, as pale as winter, clinging to
Sir Daniel's arm, and attended, as brides-maid, by the short young
lady who had befriended Dick the night before. Close behind, in
the most radiant toilet, followed the bridegroom, halting on a
gouty foot; and as he passed the threshold of the sacred building
and doffed his hat, his bald head was seen to be rosy with emotion.

And now came the hour of Ellis Duckworth.

Dick, who sat stunned among contrary emotions, grasping the desk in
front of him, beheld a movement in the crowd, people jostling
backward, and eyes and arms uplifted. Following these signs, he
beheld three or four men with bent bows leaning from the clerestory
gallery. At the same instant they delivered their discharge, and
before the clamour and cries of the astounded populace had time to
swell fully upon the ear, they had flitted from their perch and

The nave was full of swaying heads and voices screaming; the
ecclesiastics thronged in terror from their places; the music
ceased, and though the bells overhead continued for some seconds to
clang upon the air, some wind of the disaster seemed to find its
way at last even to the chamber where the ringers were leaping on
their ropes, and they also desisted from their merry labours.

Right in the midst of the nave the bridegroom lay stone-dead,
pierced by two black arrows. The bride had fainted. Sir Daniel
stood, towering above the crowd in his surprise and anger, a
clothyard shaft quivering in his left forearm, and his face
streaming blood from another which had grazed his brow.

Long before any search could be made for them, the authors of this
tragic interruption had clattered down a turnpike stair and
decamped by a postern door.

But Dick and Lawless still remained in pawn; they had, indeed,
arisen on the first alarm, and pushed manfully to gain the door;
but what with the narrowness of the stalls and the crowding of
terrified priests and choristers, the attempt had been in vain, and
they had stoically resumed their places.

And now, pale with horror, Sir Oliver rose to his feet and called
upon Sir Daniel, pointing with one hand to Dick.

"Here," he cried, "is Richard Shelton--alas the hour!--blood
guilty! Seize him!--bid him be seized! For all our lives' sakes,
take him and bind him surely! He hath sworn our fall."

Sir Daniel was blinded by anger--blinded by the hot blood that
still streamed across his face.

"Where?" he bellowed. "Hale him forth! By the cross of Holywood,
but he shall rue this hour!"

The crowd fell back, and a party of archers invaded the choir, laid
rough hands on Dick, dragged him head-foremost from the stall, and
thrust him by the shoulders down the chancel steps. Lawless, on
his part, sat as still as a mouse.

Sir Daniel, brushing the blood out of his eyes, stared blinkingly
upon his captive.

"Ay," he said, "treacherous and insolent, I have thee fast; and by
all potent oaths, for every drop of blood that now trickles in mine
eyes, I will wring a groan out of thy carcase. Away with him!" he
added. "Here is no place! Off with him to my house. I will
number every joint of thy body with a torture."

But Dick, putting off his captors, uplifted his voice.

"Sanctuary!" he shouted. "Sanctuary! Ho, there, my fathers! They
would drag me from the church!"

"From the church thou hast defiled with murder, boy," added a tall
man, magnificently dressed.

"On what probation?" cried Dick. "They do accuse me, indeed, of
some complicity, but have not proved one tittle. I was, in truth,
a suitor for this damsel's hand; and she, I will be bold to say it,
repaid my suit with favour. But what then? To love a maid is no
offence, I trow--nay, nor to gain her love. In all else, I stand
here free from guiltiness."

There was a murmur of approval among the bystanders, so boldly Dick
declared his innocence; but at the same time a throng of accusers
arose upon the other side, crying how he had been found last night
in Sir Daniel's house, how he wore a sacrilegious disguise; and in
the midst of the babel, Sir Oliver indicated Lawless, both by voice
and gesture, as accomplice to the fact. He, in his turn, was
dragged from his seat and set beside his leader. The feelings of
the crowd rose high on either side, and while some dragged the
prisoners to and fro to favour their escape, others cursed and
struck them with their fists. Dick's ears rang and his brain swam
dizzily, like a man struggling in the eddies of a furious river.

But the tall man who had already answered Dick, by a prodigious
exercise of voice restored silence and order in the mob.

"Search them," he said, "for arms. We may so judge of their

Upon Dick they found no weapon but his poniard, and this told in
his favour, until one man officiously drew it from its sheath, and
found it still uncleansed of the blood of Rutter. At this there
was a great shout among Sir Daniel's followers, which the tall man
suppressed by a gesture and an imperious glance. But when it came
to the turn of Lawless, there was found under his gown a sheaf of
arrows identical with those that had been shot.

"How say ye now?" asked the tall man, frowningly, of Dick.

"Sir," replied Dick, "I am here in sanctuary, is it not so? Well,
sir, I see by your bearing that ye are high in station, and I read
in your countenance the marks of piety and justice. To you, then,
I will yield me prisoner, and that blithely, foregoing the
advantage of this holy place. But rather than to be yielded into
the discretion of that man--whom I do here accuse with a loud voice
to be the murderer of my natural father and the unjust retainer of
my lands and revenues--rather than that, I would beseech you, under
favour, with your own gentle hand, to despatch me on the spot.
Your own ears have heard him, how before that I was proven guilty
he did threaten me with torments. It standeth not with your own
honour to deliver me to my sworn enemy and old oppressor, but to
try me fairly by the way of law, and, if that I be guilty indeed,
to slay me mercifully."

"My lord," cried Sir Daniel, "ye will not hearken to this wolf?
His bloody dagger reeks him the lie into his face."

"Nay, but suffer me, good knight," returned the tall stranger;
"your own vehemence doth somewhat tell against yourself."

And here the bride, who had come to herself some minutes past and
looked wildly on upon this scene, broke loose from those that held
her, and fell upon her knees before the last speaker.

"My Lord of Risingham," she cried, "hear me, in justice. I am here
in this man's custody by mere force, reft from mine own people.
Since that day I had never pity, countenance, nor comfort from the
face of man--but from him only--Richard Shelton--whom they now
accuse and labour to undo. My lord, if he was yesternight in Sir
Daniel's mansion, it was I that brought him there; he came but at
my prayer, and thought to do no hurt. While yet Sir Daniel was a
good lord to him, he fought with them of the Black Arrow loyally;
but when his foul guardian sought his life by practices, and he
fled by night, for his soul's sake, out of that bloody house,
whither was he to turn--he, helpless and penniless? Or if he be
fallen among ill company, whom should ye blame--the lad that was
unjustly handled, or the guardian that did abuse his trust?"

And then the short young lady fell on her knees by Joanna's side.

"And I, my good lord and natural uncle," she added, "I can bear
testimony, on my conscience and before the face of all, that what
this maiden saith is true. It was I, unworthy, that did lead the
young man in."

Earl Risingham had heard in silence, and when the voices ceased, he
still stood silent for a space. Then he gave Joanna his hand to
arise, though it was to be observed that he did not offer the like
courtesy to her who had called herself his niece.

"Sir Daniel," he said, "here is a right intricate affair, the
which, with your good leave, it shall be mine to examine and
adjust. Content ye, then; your business is in careful hands;
justice shall be done you; and in the meanwhile, get ye
incontinently home, and have your hurts attended. The air is
shrewd, and I would not ye took cold upon these scratches."

He made a sign with his hand; it was passed down the nave by
obsequious servants, who waited there upon his smallest gesture.
Instantly, without the church, a tucket sounded shrill, and through
the open portal archers and men-at-arms, uniformly arrayed in the
colours and wearing the badge of Lord Risingham, began to file into
the church, took Dick and Lawless from those who still detained
them, and, closing their files about the prisoners, marched forth
again and disappeared.

As they were passing, Joanna held both her hands to Dick and cried
him her farewell; and the bridesmaid, nothing downcast by her
uncle's evident displeasure, blew him a kiss, with a "Keep your
heart up, lion-driver!" that for the first time since the accident
called up a smile to the faces of the crowd.


Earl Risingham, although by far the most important person then in
Shoreby, was poorly lodged in the house of a private gentleman upon
the extreme outskirts of the town. Nothing but the armed men at
the doors, and the mounted messengers that kept arriving and
departing, announced the temporary residence of a great lord.

Thus it was that, from lack of space, Dick and Lawless were clapped
into the same apartment.

"Well spoken, Master Richard," said the outlaw; "it was excellently
well spoken, and, for my part, I thank you cordially. Here we are
in good hands; we shall be justly tried, and, some time this
evening, decently hanged on the same tree."

"Indeed, my poor friend, I do believe it," answered Dick.

"Yet have we a string to our bow," returned Lawless. "Ellis
Duckworth is a man out of ten thousand; he holdeth you right near
his heart, both for your own and for your father's sake; and
knowing you guiltless of this fact, he will stir earth and heaven
to bear you clear."

"It may not be," said Dick. "What can he do? He hath but a
handful. Alack, if it were but to-morrow--could I but keep a
certain tryst an hour before noon to-morrow--all were, I think,
otherwise. But now there is no help."

"Well," concluded Lawless, "an ye will stand to it for my
innocence, I will stand to it for yours, and that stoutly. It
shall naught avail us; but an I be to hang, it shall not be for
lack of swearing."

And then, while Dick gave himself over to his reflections, the old
rogue curled himself down into a corner, pulled his monkish hood
about his face, and composed himself to sleep. Soon he was loudly
snoring, so utterly had his long life of hardship and adventure
blunted the sense of apprehension.

It was long after noon, and the day was already failing, before the
door was opened and Dick taken forth and led up-stairs to where, in
a warm cabinet, Earl Risingham sat musing over the fire.

On his captive's entrance he looked up.

"Sir," he said, "I knew your father, who was a man of honour, and
this inclineth me to be the more lenient; but I may not hide from
you that heavy charges lie against your character. Ye do consort
with murderers and robbers; upon a clear probation ye have carried
war against the king's peace; ye are suspected to have piratically
seized upon a ship; ye are found skulking with a counterfeit
presentment in your enemy's house; a man is slain that very

"An it like you, my lord," Dick interposed, "I will at once avow my
guilt, such as it is. I slew this fellow Rutter; and to the
proof"--searching in his bosom--"here is a letter from his wallet."

Lord Risingham took the letter, and opened and read it twice.

"Ye have read this?" he inquired.

"I have read it," answered Dick.

"Are ye for York or Lancaster?" the earl demanded.

"My lord, it was but a little while back that I was asked that
question, and knew not how to answer it," said Dick; "but having
answered once, I will not vary. My lord, I am for York."

The earl nodded approvingly.

"Honestly replied," he said. "But wherefore, then, deliver me this

"Nay, but against traitors, my lord, are not all sides arrayed?"
cried Dick.

"I would they were, young gentleman," returned the earl; "and I do
at least approve your saying. There is more youth than guile in
you, I do perceive; and were not Sir Daniel a mighty man upon our
side, I were half-tempted to espouse your quarrel. For I have
inquired, and it appears ye have been hardly dealt with, and have
much excuse. But look ye, sir, I am, before all else, a leader in
the queen's interest; and though by nature a just man, as I
believe, and leaning even to the excess of mercy, yet must I order
my goings for my party's interest, and, to keep Sir Daniel, I would
go far about."

"My lord," returned Dick, "ye will think me very bold to counsel
you; but do ye count upon Sir Daniel's faith? Methought he had
changed sides intolerably often."

"Nay, it is the way of England. What would ye have?" the earl
demanded. "But ye are unjust to the knight of Tunstall; and as
faith goes, in this unfaithful generation, he hath of late been
honourably true to us of Lancaster. Even in our last reverses he
stood firm."

"An it pleased you, then," said Dick, "to cast your eye upon this
letter, ye might somewhat change your thought of him;" and he
handed to the earl Sir Daniel's letter to Lord Wensleydale.

The effect upon the earl's countenance was instant; he lowered like
an angry lion, and his hand, with a sudden movement, clutched at
his dagger.

"Ye have read this also?" he asked.

"Even so," said Dick. "It is your lordship's own estate he offers
to Lord Wensleydale?"

"It is my own estate, even as ye say!" returned the earl. "I am
your bedesman for this letter. It hath shown me a fox's hole.
Command me, Master Shelton; I will not be backward in gratitude,
and to begin with, York or Lancaster, true man or thief, I do now
set you at freedom. Go, a Mary's name! But judge it right that I
retain and hang your fellow, Lawless. The crime hath been most
open, and it were fitting that some open punishment should follow."

"My lord, I make it my first suit to you to spare him also,"
pleaded Dick.

"It is an old, condemned rogue, thief, and vagabond, Master
Shelton," said the earl. "He hath been gallows-ripe this score of
years. And, whether for one thing or another, whether to-morrow or
the day after, where is the great choice?"

"Yet, my lord, it was through love to me that he came hither,"
answered Dick, "and I were churlish and thankless to desert him."

"Master Shelton, ye are troublesome," replied the earl, severely.
"It is an evil way to prosper in this world. Howbeit, and to be
quit of your importunity, I will once more humour you. Go, then,
together; but go warily, and get swiftly out of Shoreby town. For
this Sir Daniel (whom may the saints confound!) thirsteth most
greedily to have your blood."

"My lord, I do now offer you in words my gratitude, trusting at
some brief date to pay you some of it in service," replied Dick, as
he turned from the apartment.


When Dick and Lawless were suffered to steal, by a back way, out of
the house where Lord Risingham held his garrison, the evening had
already come.

They paused in shelter of the garden wall to consult on their best
course. The danger was extreme. If one of Sir Daniel's men caught
sight of them and raised the view-hallo, they would be run down and
butchered instantly. And not only was the town of Shoreby a mere
net of peril for their lives, but to make for the open country was
to run the risk of the patrols.

A little way off, upon some open ground, they spied a windmill
standing; and hard by that, a very large granary with open doors.

"How if we lay there until the night fall?" Dick proposed.

And Lawless having no better suggestion to offer, they made a
straight push for the granary at a run, and concealed themselves
behind the door among some straw. The daylight rapidly departed;
and presently the moon was silvering the frozen snow. Now or never
was their opportunity to gain the Goat and Bagpipes unobserved and
change their tell-tale garments. Yet even then it was advisable to
go round by the outskirts, and not run the gauntlet of the market-
place, where, in the concourse of people, they stood the more
imminent peril to be recognised and slain.

This course was a long one. It took them not far from the house by
the beach, now lying dark and silent, and brought them forth at
last by the margin of the harbour. Many of the ships, as they
could see by the clear moonshine, had weighed anchor, and,
profiting by the calm sky, proceeded for more distant parts;
answerably to this, the rude alehouses along the beach (although in
defiance of the curfew law, they still shone with fire and candle)
were no longer thronged with customers, and no longer echoed to the
chorus of sea-songs.

Hastily, half-running, with their monkish raiment kilted to the
knee, they plunged through the deep snow and threaded the labyrinth
of marine lumber; and they were already more than half way round
the harbour when, as they were passing close before an alehouse,
the door suddenly opened and let out a gush of light upon their
fleeting figures.

Instantly they stopped, and made believe to be engaged in earnest

Three men, one after another, came out of the ale-house, and the
last closed the door behind him. All three were unsteady upon
their feet, as if they had passed the day in deep potations, and
they now stood wavering in the moonlight, like men who knew not
what they would be after. The tallest of the three was talking in
a loud, lamentable voice.

"Seven pieces of as good Gascony as ever a tapster broached," he
was saying, "the best ship out o' the port o' Dartmouth, a Virgin
Mary parcel-gilt, thirteen pounds of good gold money--"

"I have bad losses, too," interrupted one of the others. "I have
had losses of mine own, gossip Arblaster. I was robbed at
Martinmas of five shillings and a leather wallet well worth
ninepence farthing."

Dick's heart smote him at what he heard. Until that moment he had
not perhaps thought twice of the poor skipper who had been ruined
by the loss of the Good Hope; so careless, in those days, were men
who wore arms of the goods and interests of their inferiors. But
this sudden encounter reminded him sharply of the high-handed
manner and ill-ending of his enterprise; and both he and Lawless
turned their heads the other way, to avoid the chance of

The ship's dog had, however, made his escape from the wreck and
found his way back again to Shoreby. He was now at Arblaster's
heels, and suddenly sniffing and pricking his ears, he darted
forward and began to bark furiously at the two sham friars.

His master unsteadily followed him.

"Hey, shipmates!" he cried. "Have ye ever a penny pie for a poor
old shipman, clean destroyed by pirates? I am a man that would
have paid for you both o' Thursday morning; and now here I be, o'
Saturday night, begging for a flagon of ale! Ask my man Tom, if ye
misdoubt me. Seven pieces of good Gascon wine, a ship that was
mine own, and was my father's before me, a Blessed Mary of plane-
tree wood and parcel-gilt, and thirteen pounds in gold and silver.
Hey! what say ye? A man that fought the French, too; for I have
fought the French; I have cut more French throats upon the high
seas than ever a man that sails out of Dartmouth. Come, a penny

Neither Dick nor Lawless durst answer him a word, lest he should
recognise their voices; and they stood there as helpless as a ship
ashore, not knowing where to turn nor what to hope.

"Are ye dumb, boy?" inquired the skipper. "Mates," he added, with
a hiccup, "they be dumb. I like not this manner of discourtesy;
for an a man be dumb, so be as he's courteous, he will still speak
when he was spoken to, methinks."

By this time the sailor, Tom, who was a man of great personal
strength, seemed to have conceived some suspicion of these two
speechless figures; and being soberer than his captain, stepped
suddenly before him, took Lawless roughly by the shoulder, and
asked him, with an oath, what ailed him that he held his tongue.
To this the outlaw, thinking all was over, made answer by a
wrestling feint that stretched the sailor on the sand, and, calling
upon Dick to follow him, took to his heels among the lumber.

The affair passed in a second. Before Dick could run at all,
Arblaster had him in his arms; Tom, crawling on his face, had
caught him by one foot, and the third man had a drawn cutlass
brandishing above his head.

It was not so much the danger, it was not so much the annoyance,
that now bowed down the spirits of young Shelton; it was the
profound humiliation to have escaped Sir Daniel, convinced Lord
Risingham, and now fall helpless in the hands of this old, drunken
sailor; and not merely helpless, but, as his conscience loudly told
him when it was too late, actually guilty--actually the bankrupt
debtor of the man whose ship he had stolen and lost.

"Bring me him back into the alehouse, till I see his face," said

"Nay, nay," returned Tom; "but let us first unload his wallet, lest
the other lads cry share."

But though he was searched from head to foot, not a penny was found
upon him; nothing but Lord Foxham's signet, which they plucked
savagely from his finger.

"Turn me him to the moon," said the skipper; and taking Dick by the
chin, he cruelly jerked his head into the air. "Blessed Virgin!"
he cried, "it is the pirate!"

"Hey!" cried Tom.

"By the Virgin of Bordeaux, it is the man himself!" repeated
Arblaster. "What, sea-thief, do I hold you?" he cried. "Where is
my ship? Where is my wine? Hey! have I you in my hands? Tom,
give me one end of a cord here; I will so truss me this sea-thief,
hand and foot together, like a basting turkey--marry, I will so
bind him up--and thereafter I will so beat--so beat him!"

And so he ran on, winding the cord meanwhile about Dick's limbs
with the dexterity peculiar to seamen, and at every turn and cross
securing it with a knot, and tightening the whole fabric with a
savage pull.

When he had done, the lad was a mere package in his hands--as
helpless as the dead. The skipper held him at arm's length, and
laughed aloud. Then he fetched him a stunning buffet on the ear;
and then turned him about, and furiously kicked and kicked him.
Anger rose up in Dick's bosom like a storm; anger strangled him,
and he thought to have died; but when the sailor, tired of this
cruel play, dropped him all his length upon the sand and turned to
consult with his companions, he instantly regained command of his
temper. Here was a momentary respite; ere they began again to
torture him, he might have found some method to escape from this
degrading and fatal misadventure.

Presently, sure enough, and while his captors were still discussing
what to do with him, he took heart of grace, and, with a pretty
steady voice, addressed them.

"My masters," he began, "are ye gone clean foolish? Here hath
Heaven put into your hands as pretty an occasion to grow rich as
ever shipman had--such as ye might make thirty over-sea adventures
and not find again--and, by the mass I what do ye? Beat me?--nay;
so would an angry child! But for long-headed tarry-Johns, that
fear not fire nor water, and that love gold as they love beef,
methinks ye are not wise."

"Ay," said Tom, "now y' are trussed ye would cozen us."

"Cozen you!" repeated Dick. "Nay, if ye be fools, it would be
easy. But if ye be shrewd fellows, as I trow ye are, ye can see
plainly where your interest lies. When I took your ship from you,
we were many, we were well clad and armed; but now, bethink you a
little, who mustered that array? One incontestably that hath much
gold. And if he, being already rich, continueth to hunt after more
even in the face of storms--bethink you once more--shall there not
be a treasure somewhere hidden?"

"What meaneth he?" asked one of the men.

"Why, if ye have lost an old skiff and a few jugs of vinegary
wine," continued Dick, "forget them, for the trash they are; and do
ye rather buckle to an adventure worth the name, that shall, in
twelve hours, make or mar you for ever. But take me up from where
I lie, and let us go somewhere near at hand and talk across a
flagon, for I am sore and frozen, and my mouth is half among the

"He seeks but to cozen us," said Tom, contemptuously.

"Cozen! cozen!" cried the third man. "I would I could see the man
that could cozen me! He were a cozener indeed! Nay, I was not
born yesterday. I can see a church when it hath a steeple on it;
and for my part, gossip Arblaster, methinks there is some sense in
this young man. Shall we go hear him, indeed? Say, shall we go
hear him?"

"I would look gladly on a pottle of strong ale, good Master
Pirret," returned Arblaster. "How say ye, Tom? But then the
wallet is empty."

"I will pay," said the other--"I will pay. I would fain see this
matter out; I do believe, upon my conscience, there is gold in it."

"Nay, if ye get again to drinking, all is lost!" cried Tom.

"Gossip Arblaster, ye suffer your fellow to have too much liberty,"
returned Master Pirret. "Would ye be led by a hired man? Fy, fy!"

"Peace, fellow!" said Arblaster, addressing Tom. "Will ye put your
oar in? Truly a fine pass, when the crew is to correct the

"Well, then, go your way," said Tom; "I wash my hands of you."

"Set him, then, upon his feet," said Master Pirret. "I know a
privy place where we may drink and discourse."

"If I am to walk, my friends, ye must set my feet at liberty," said
Dick, when he had been once more planted upright like a post.

"He saith true," laughed Pirret. "Truly, he could not walk
accoutred as he is. Give it a slit--out with your knife and slit
it, gossip."

Even Arblaster paused at this proposal; but as his companion
continued to insist, and Dick had the sense to keep the merest
wooden indifference of expression, and only shrugged his shoulders
over the delay, the skipper consented at last, and cut the cords
which tied his prisoner's feet and legs. Not only did this enable
Dick to walk; but the whole network of his bonds being
proportionately loosened, he felt the arm behind his back begin to
move more freely, and could hope, with time and trouble, to
entirely disengage it. So much he owed already to the owlish
silliness and greed of Master Pirret.

That worthy now assumed the lead, and conducted them to the very
same rude alehouse where Lawless had taken Arblaster on the day of
the gale. It was now quite deserted; the fire was a pile of red
embers, radiating the most ardent heat; and when they had chosen
their places, and the landlord had set before them a measure of
mulled ale, both Pirret and Arblaster stretched forth their legs
and squared their elbows like men bent upon a pleasant hour.

The table at which they sat, like all the others in the alehouse,
consisted of a heavy, square board, set on a pair of barrels; and
each of the four curiously-assorted cronies sat at one side of the
square, Pirret facing Arblaster, and Dick opposite to the common

"And now, young man," said Pirret, "to your tale. It doth appear,
indeed, that ye have somewhat abused our gossip Arblaster; but what
then? Make it up to him--show him but this chance to become
wealthy--and I will go pledge he will forgive you."

So far Dick had spoken pretty much at random; but it was now
necessary, under the supervision of six eyes, to invent and tell
some marvellous story, and, if it were possible, get back into his
hands the all-important signet. To squander time was the first
necessity. The longer his stay lasted, the more would his captors
drink, and the surer should he be when he attempted his escape.

Well, Dick was not much of an inventor, and what he told was pretty
much the tale of Ali Baba, with Shoreby and Tunstall Forest
substituted for the East, and the treasures of the cavern rather
exaggerated than diminished. As the reader is aware, it is an
excellent story, and has but one drawback--that it is not true; and
so, as these three simple shipmen now heard it for the first time,
their eyes stood out of their faces, and their mouths gaped like
codfish at a fishmonger's.

Pretty soon a second measure of mulled ale was called for; and
while Dick was still artfully spinning out the incidents a third
followed the second.

Here was the position of the parties towards the end: Arblaster,
three-parts drunk and one-half asleep, hung helpless on his stool.
Even Tom had been much delighted with the tale, and his vigilance
had abated in proportion. Meanwhile, Dick had gradually wormed his
right arm clear of its bonds, and was ready to risk all.

"And so," said Pirret, "y' are one of these?"

"I was made so," replied Dick, "against my will; but an I could but
get a sack or two of gold coin to my share, I should be a fool
indeed to continue dwelling in a filthy cave, and standing shot and
buffet like a soldier. Here be we four; good! Let us, then, go
forth into the forest to-morrow ere the sun be up. Could we come
honestly by a donkey, it were better; but an we cannot, we have our
four strong backs, and I warrant me we shall come home staggering."

Pirret licked his lips.

"And this magic," he said--"this password, whereby the cave is
opened--how call ye it, friend?"

"Nay, none know the word but the three chiefs," returned Dick; "but
here is your great good fortune, that, on this very evening, I
should be the bearer of a spell to open it. It is a thing not
trusted twice a year beyond the captain's wallet."

"A spell!" said Arblaster, half awakening, and squinting upon Dick
with one eye. "Aroint thee! no spells! I be a good Christian.
Ask my man Tom, else."

"Nay, but this is white magic," said Dick. "It doth naught with
the devil; only the powers of numbers, herbs, and planets."

"Ay, ay," said Pirret; "'tis but white magic, gossip. There is no
sin therein, I do assure you. But proceed, good youth. This
spell--in what should it consist?"

"Nay, that I will incontinently show you," answered Dick. "Have ye
there the ring ye took from my finger? Good! Now hold it forth
before you by the extreme finger-ends, at the arm's-length, and
over against the shining of these embers. 'Tis so exactly. Thus,
then, is the spell."

With a haggard glance, Dick saw the coast was clear between him and
the door. He put up an internal prayer. Then whipping forth his
arm, he made but one snatch of the ring, and at the same instant,
levering up the table, he sent it bodily over upon the seaman Tom.
He, poor soul, went down bawling under the ruins; and before
Arblaster understood that anything was wrong, or Pirret could
collect his dazzled wits, Dick had run to the door and escaped into
the moonlit night.

The moon, which now rode in the mid-heavens, and the extreme
whiteness of the snow, made the open ground about the harbour
bright as day; and young Shelton leaping, with kilted robe, among
the lumber, was a conspicuous figure from afar.

Tom and Pirret followed him with shouts; from every drinking-shop
they were joined by others whom their cries aroused; and presently
a whole fleet of sailors was in full pursuit. But Jack ashore was
a bad runner, even in the fifteenth century, and Dick, besides, had
a start, which he rapidly improved, until, as he drew near the
entrance of a narrow lane, he even paused and looked laughingly
behind him.

Upon the white floor of snow, all the shipmen of Shoreby came
clustering in an inky mass, and tailing out rearward in isolated
clumps. Every man was shouting or screaming; every man was
gesticulating with both arms in air; some one was continually
falling; and to complete the picture, when one fell, a dozen would
fall upon the top of him.

The confused mass of sound which they rolled up as high as to the
moon was partly comical and partly terrifying to the fugitive whom
they were hunting. In itself, it was impotent, for he made sure no
seaman in the port could run him down. But the mere volume of
noise, in so far as it must awake all the sleepers in Shoreby and
bring all the skulking sentries to the street, did really threaten
him with danger in the front. So, spying a dark doorway at a
corner, he whipped briskly into it, and let the uncouth hunt go by
him, still shouting and gesticulating, and all red with hurry and
white with tumbles in the snow.

It was a long while, indeed, before this great invasion of the town
by the harbour came to an end, and it was long before silence was
restored. For long, lost sailors were still to be heard pounding
and shouting through the streets in all directions and in every
quarter of the town. Quarrels followed, sometimes among
themselves, sometimes with the men of the patrols; knives were
drawn, blows given and received, and more than one dead body
remained behind upon the snow.

When, a full hour later, the last seaman returned grumblingly to
the harbour side and his particular tavern, it may fairly be
questioned if he had ever known what manner of man he was pursuing,
but it was absolutely sure that he had now forgotten. By next
morning there were many strange stories flying; and a little while
after, the legend of the devil's nocturnal visit was an article of
faith with all the lads of Shoreby.

But the return of the last seaman did not, even yet, set free young
Shelton from his cold imprisonment in the doorway.

For some time after, there was a great activity of patrols; and
special parties came forth to make the round of the place and
report to one or other of the great lords, whose slumbers had been
thus unusually broken.

The night was already well spent before Dick ventured from his
hiding-place and came, safe and sound, but aching with cold and
bruises, to the door of the Goat and Bagpipes. As the law
required, there was neither fire nor candle in the house; but he
groped his way into a corner of the icy guest-room, found an end of
a blanket, which he hitched around his shoulders, and creeping
close to the nearest sleeper, was soon lost in slumber.



Very early the next morning, before the first peep of the day, Dick
arose, changed his garments, armed himself once more like a
gentleman, and set forth for Lawless's den in the forest. There,
it will be remembered, he had left Lord Foxham's papers; and to get
these and be back in time for the tryst with the young Duke of
Gloucester could only be managed by an early start and the most
vigorous walking.

The frost was more rigorous than ever; the air windless and dry,
and stinging to the nostril. The moon had gone down, but the stars
were still bright and numerous, and the reflection from the snow
was clear and cheerful. There was no need for a lamp to walk by;
nor, in that still but ringing air, the least temptation to delay.

Dick had crossed the greater part of the open ground between
Shoreby and the forest, and had reached the bottom of the little
hill, some hundred yards below the Cross of St. Bride, when,
through the stillness of the black morn, there rang forth the note
of a trumpet, so shrill, clear, and piercing, that he thought he
had never heard the match of it for audibility. It was blown once,
and then hurriedly a second time; and then the clash of steel

At this young Shelton pricked his ears, and drawing his sword, ran
forward up the hill.

Presently he came in sight of the cross, and was aware of a most
fierce encounter raging on the road before it. There were seven or
eight assailants, and but one to keep head against them; but so
active and dexterous was this one, so desperately did he charge and
scatter his opponents, so deftly keep his footing on the ice, that
already, before Dick could intervene, he had slain one, wounded
another, and kept the whole in check.

Still, it was by a miracle that he continued his defence, and at
any moment, any accident, the least slip of foot or error of hand,
his life would be a forfeit.

"Hold ye well, sir! Here is help!" cried Richard; and forgetting
that he was alone, and that the cry was somewhat irregular, "To the
Arrow! to the Arrow!" he shouted, as he fell upon the rear of the

These were stout fellows also, for they gave not an inch at this
surprise, but faced about, and fell with astonishing fury upon
Dick. Four against one, the steel flashed about him in the
starlight; the sparks flew fiercely; one of the men opposed to him
fell--in the stir of the fight he hardly knew why; then he himself
was struck across the head, and though the steel cap below his hood
protected him, the blow beat him down upon one knee, with a brain
whirling like a windmill sail.

Meanwhile the man whom he had come to rescue, instead of joining in
the conflict, had, on the first sign of intervention, leaped aback
and blown again, and yet more urgently and loudly, on that same
shrill-voiced trumpet that began the alarm. Next moment, indeed,
his foes were on him, and he was once more charging and fleeing,
leaping, stabbing, dropping to his knee, and using indifferently
sword and dagger, foot and hand, with the same unshaken courage and
feverish energy and speed.

But that ear-piercing summons had been heard at last. There was a
muffled rushing in the snow; and in a good hour for Dick, who saw
the sword-points glitter already at his throat, there poured forth
out of the wood upon both sides a disorderly torrent of mounted
men-at-arms, each cased in iron, and with visor lowered, each
bearing his lance in rest, or his sword bared and raised, and each
carrying, so to speak, a passenger, in the shape of an archer or
page, who leaped one after another from their perches, and had
presently doubled the array.

The original assailants; seeing themselves outnumbered and
surrounded, threw down their arms without a word.

"Seize me these fellows!" said the hero of the trumpet; and when
his order had been obeyed, he drew near to Dick and looked him in
the face.

Dick, returning this scrutiny, was surprised to find in one who had
displayed such strength, skill and energy, a lad no older than
himself--slightly deformed, with one shoulder higher than the
other, and of a pale, painful, and distorted countenance. {2} The
eyes, however, were very clear and bold.

"Sir," said this lad, "ye came in good time for me, and none too

"My lord," returned Dick, with a faint sense that he was in the
presence of a great personage, "ye are yourself so marvellous a
good swordsman that I believe ye had managed them single-handed.
Howbeit, it was certainly well for me that your men delayed no
longer than they did."

"How knew ye who I was?" demanded the stranger.

"Even now, my lord," Dick answered, "I am ignorant of whom I speak

"Is it so?" asked the other. "And yet ye threw yourself head first
into this unequal battle."

"I saw one man valiantly contending against many," replied Dick,
"and I had thought myself dishonoured not to bear him aid."

A singular sneer played about the young nobleman's mouth as he made

"These are very brave words. But to the more essential--are ye
Lancaster or York?"

"My lord, I make no secret; I am clear for York," Dick answered.

"By the mass!" replied the other, "it is well for you."

And so saying, he turned towards one of his followers.

"Let me see," he continued, in the same sneering and cruel tones--
"let me see a clean end of these brave gentlemen. Truss me them

There were but five survivors of the attacking party. Archers
seized them by the arms; they were hurried to the borders of the
wood, and each placed below a tree of suitable dimension; the rope
was adjusted; an archer, carrying the end of it, hastily clambered
overhead; and before a minute was over, and without a word passing
upon either hand, the five men were swinging by the neck.

"And now," cried the deformed leader, "back to your posts, and when
I summon you next, be readier to attend."

"My lord duke," said one man, "beseech you, tarry not here alone.
Keep but a handful of lances at your hand."

"Fellow," said the duke, "I have forborne to chide you for your
slowness. Cross me not, therefore. I trust my hand and arm, for
all that I be crooked. Ye were backward when the trumpet sounded;
and ye are now too forward with your counsels. But it is ever so;
last with the lance and first with tongue. Let it be reversed."

And with a gesture that was not without a sort of dangerous
nobility, he waved them off.

The footmen climbed again to their seats behind the men-at-arms,
and the whole party moved slowly away and disappeared in twenty
different directions, under the cover of the forest.

The day was by this time beginning to break, and the stars to fade.
The first grey glimmer of dawn shone upon the countenances of the
two young men, who now turned once more to face each other.

"Here," said the duke, "ye have seen my vengeance, which is, like
my blade, both sharp and ready. But I would not have you, for all
Christendom, suppose me thankless. You that came to my aid with a
good sword and a better courage--unless that ye recoil from my
misshapenness--come to my heart."

And so saying, the young leader held out his arms for an embrace.

In the bottom of his heart Dick already entertained a great terror
and some hatred for the man whom he had rescued; but the invitation
was so worded that it would not have been merely discourteous, but
cruel, to refuse or hesitate; and he hastened to comply.

"And now, my lord duke," he said, when he had regained his freedom,
"do I suppose aright? Are ye my Lord Duke of Gloucester?"

"I am Richard of Gloucester," returned the other. "And you--how
call they you?"

Dick told him his name, and presented Lord Foxham's signet, which
the duke immediately recognised.

"Ye come too soon," he said; "but why should I complain? Ye are
like me, that was here at watch two hours before the day. But this
is the first sally of mine arms; upon this adventure, Master
Shelton, shall I make or mar the quality of my renown. There lie
mine enemies, under two old, skilled captains--Risingham and
Brackley--well posted for strength, I do believe, but yet upon two
sides without retreat, enclosed betwixt the sea, the harbour, and
the river. Methinks, Shelton, here were a great blow to be
stricken, an we could strike it silently and suddenly."

"I do think so, indeed," cried Dick, warming.

"Have ye my Lord Foxham's notes?" inquired the duke.

And then, Dick, having explained how he was without them for the
moment, made himself bold to offer information every jot as good,
of his own knowledge. "And for mine own part, my lord duke," he
added, "an ye had men enough, I would fall on even at this present.
For, look ye, at the peep of day the watches of the night are over;
but by day they keep neither watch nor ward--only scour the
outskirts with horsemen. Now, then, when the night watch is
already unarmed, and the rest are at their morning cup--now were
the time to break them."

"How many do ye count?" asked Gloucester.

"They number not two thousand," Dick replied.

"I have seven hundred in the woods behind us," said the duke;
"seven hundred follow from Kettley, and will be here anon; behind
these, and further, are four hundred more; and my Lord Foxham hath
five hundred half a day from here, at Holywood. Shall we attend
their coming, or fall on?"

"My lord," said Dick, "when ye hanged these five poor rogues ye did
decide the question. Churls although they were, in these uneasy,
times they will be lacked and looked for, and the alarm be given.
Therefore, my lord, if ye do count upon the advantage of a
surprise, ye have not, in my poor opinion, one whole hour in front
of you."

"I do think so indeed," returned Crookback. "Well, before an hour,
ye shall be in the thick on't, winning spurs. A swift man to
Holywood, carrying Lord Foxham's signet; another along the road to
speed my laggards! Nay, Shelton, by the rood, it may be done!"

Therewith he once more set his trumpet to his lips and blew.

This time he was not long kept waiting. In a moment the open space
about the cross was filled with horse and foot. Richard of
Gloucester took his place upon the steps, and despatched messenger
after messenger to hasten the concentration of the seven hundred
men that lay hidden in the immediate neighbourhood among the woods;
and before a quarter of an hour had passed, all his dispositions
being taken, he put himself at their head, and began to move down
the hill towards Shoreby.

His plan was simple. He was to seize a quarter of the town of
Shoreby lying on the right hand of the high road, and make his
position good there in the narrow lanes until his reinforcements

If Lord Risingham chose to retreat, Richard would follow upon his
rear, and take him between two fires; or, if he preferred to hold
the town, he would be shut in a trap, there to be gradually
overwhelmed by force of numbers.

There was but one danger, but that was imminent and great--
Gloucester's seven hundred might be rolled up and cut to pieces in
the first encounter, and, to avoid this, it was needful to make the
surprise of their arrival as complete as possible.

The footmen, therefore, were all once more taken up behind the
riders, and Dick had the signal honour meted out to him of mounting
behind Gloucester himself. For as far as there was any cover the
troops moved slowly, and when they came near the end of the trees
that lined the highway, stopped to breathe and reconnoitre.

The sun was now well up, shining with a frosty brightness out of a
yellow halo, and right over against the luminary, Shoreby, a field
of snowy roofs and ruddy gables, was rolling up its columns of
morning smoke. Gloucester turned round to Dick.

"In that poor place," he said, "where people are cooking breakfast,
either you shall gain your spurs and I begin a life of mighty
honour and glory in the world's eye, or both of us, as I conceive
it, shall fall dead and be unheard of. Two Richards are we. Well,
then, Richard Shelton, they shall be heard about, these two! Their
swords shall not ring more loudly on men's helmets than their names
shall ring in people's ears."

Dick was astonished at so great a hunger after fame, expressed with
so great vehemence of voice and language, and he answered very
sensibly and quietly, that, for his part, he promised he would do
his duty, and doubted not of victory if everyone did the like.

By this time the horses were well breathed, and the leader holding
up his sword and giving rein, the whole troop of chargers broke
into the gallop and thundered, with their double load of fighting
men, down the remainder of the hill and across the snow-covered
plain that still divided them from Shoreby.


The whole distance to be crossed was not above a quarter of a mile.
But they had no sooner debauched beyond the cover of the trees than
they were aware of people fleeing and screaming in the snowy
meadows upon either hand. Almost at the same moment a great rumour
began to arise, and spread and grow continually louder in the town;
and they were not yet halfway to the nearest house before the bells
began to ring backward from the steeple.

The young duke ground his teeth together. By these so early
signals of alarm he feared to find his enemies prepared; and if he
failed to gain a footing in the town, he knew that his small party
would soon be broken and exterminated in the open.

In the town, however, the Lancastrians were far from being in so
good a posture. It was as Dick had said. The night-guard had
already doffed their harness; the rest were still hanging--
unlatched, unbraced, all unprepared for battle--about their
quarters; and in the whole of Shoreby there were not, perhaps,
fifty men full armed, or fifty chargers ready to be mounted.

The beating of the bells, the terrifying summons of men who ran
about the streets crying and beating upon the doors, aroused in an
incredibly short space at least two score out of that half hundred.
These got speedily to horse, and, the alarm still flying wild and
contrary, galloped in different directions.

Thus it befell that, when Richard of Gloucester reached the first
house of Shoreby, he was met in the mouth of the street by a mere
handful of lances, whom he swept before his onset as the storm
chases the bark.

A hundred paces into the town, Dick Shelton touched the duke's arm;
the duke, in answer, gathered his reins, put the shrill trumpet to
his mouth, and blowing a concerted point, turned to the right hand
out of the direct advance. Swerving like a single rider, his whole
command turned after him, and, still at the full gallop of the
chargers, swept up the narrow bye-street. Only the last score of
riders drew rein and faced about in the entrance; the footmen, whom
they carried behind them, leapt at the same instant to the earth,
and began, some to bend their bows, and others to break into and
secure the houses upon either hand.

Surprised at this sudden change of direction, and daunted by the
firm front of the rear-guard, the few Lancastrians, after a
momentary consultation, turned and rode farther into town to seek
for reinforcements.

The quarter of the town upon which, by the advice of Dick, Richard
of Gloucester had now seized, consisted of five small streets of
poor and ill-inhabited houses, occupying a very gentle eminence,
and lying open towards the back.

The five streets being each secured by a good guard, the reserve
would thus occupy the centre, out of shot, and yet ready to carry
aid wherever it was needed.

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