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sir priest! I do protest and vow I have no cognisance of these two young gentlemen."

"confess all," walked slowly through them, mounted his palfrey, and rode over to the sheriff at Penkridge. The two young gentlemen were delighted on seeing the consternation of Sir Magnus and his company, and encouraged by the familiarity of one among them, led him aside and Dis-said, "It will be well and happy for you if you persuade the others of your party to return home speedily. The sheriff is a shrewd severe man, and will surely send every soul of you into Picardy, excepting such as he may gibbet on the common for an ensample."

As he spoke the sweat hung upon his brow: the cause of which neither the brothers nor the priest could interpret; but it really was lest they should have come to dine with him, and perhaps have moreover some retinue in the yard. claimed so unceremoniously, Humphrey de Arden opened a leathern purse, and carefully took out his father's letter. Whereat the alarm of Sir Magnus increased beyond measure, from the uncertainty of its contents, and from the certainty of being discovered as the usurper of a noble name. His terrors however were groundless: the letter was this.

"SON HUMPHREY, I grieve that the varlet who promised me those three strong geldings, and took monies thereupon, hath mortally disappointed me; for verily we have hard work here, being one against seven or eight ;* and, if matters go on in this guise, I must e'en fight afoot ere it be long; they having killed among them my brave old Black Jack, who had often winnowed them with his broken wind, which was not broken till they broke it. The drunken fat rogue that now fails me, would rather hunt on Colefield or (if he dare come so near to you) on Cannock, than lead the three good steeds in a halter up Yoxall Lane. Whenever ye find him, stand within law with him, and use whit-leather rather than Needwood holly, which might provoke the judge; and take the three hale nags, coming hither with them yourselves, and paying him forthwith three angels, due unto him on the feast of Saint Barnabas and that other (Saint Jude, as I am now reminded), if ye have so many; if not, mortgage a meadow. And let this serve as a warrant from your loving father.+ ++"

"What is that to me?" cried in agony Sir Magnus. The priest took the letter and shook his head. "Sir priest! you see how it stands with us;" said the knight. "Do deliver me from the lion's den and from the young lions!"


"Friend!" said the priest gravely and sternly, "I know the mark of Sir Humphrey and the handwriting is my own brother's, who, taking with him in his saddle-bag a goose-pie and twelve strings of black pudding for Sir Humphrey, left his cure at Tamworth but four months ago, and joined the army in France, in order to shrive the wounded. It is my duty to make known unto the sheriff whatever is irregular in my parish. "O! for the love of Christ! say nothing to the sheriff! I will confess all," exclaimed the knight. The attendants and many of the customers and countryfolks had listened at the door, which was indeed wide-open; and the priest being now confirmed in his suspicion by the knight's offer to

* Such soon afterward was the disproportion of numbers at the battle of Cressy.

The mark of a knight, instead of his name, is not to be wondered at. Out of the thirty-six barons who subscribed the Magna Charta, three only signed with their


"Masters!" replied the Warwickshire wag, "I will return among them and frighten them into the road: but you two brave lads shall have your horses, and your father his, together with such attendants as you little reckon on. Are ye for the wars?"

"We were going," said they gaily, "whenever we could raise enough monies from our father's tenantry; for he, much as he desires to have us with him, is very loth to be badly equipped; and would peradventure see us rather slain in battle, or (what he thinks worse) not in it at all, than villanously mounted."

"Will ye take me?" cried the gallant yeoman. "Gladly," answered they both together.

Ralph Roebuck was the name of this brave youngster; and, without another word, he ran among his fellows, and putting his hand above his ear, as our hunters are wont, shouted aloud, "Who's for hanging this fine morning?" "Ralph!" chimed they together, somewhat languidly, “what dost mean?"

"I mean," whispered he slowly and distinctly to the nearest, "that the country will be up in half an hour; that the priest is gone for the sheriff; and that if he went for the devil he could fetch him. I never knew a priest at a fault. whatever he winded. Whosoe'er has a horse able to carry him is in luck. In my mind there will be some heels without a stirrup under them. before to-morrow, kick as they may to find it. I must not however be unfaithful to my master, for whom I have spoken a fair word, and worn a smiling face, in my perils and tribulations, with these stout young gallants. Each to his own bit and bridle: the three led chargers let no man touch, on his life. For the rest, I will be spokesman, in lack of a better. May we meet again in Charlecote, at least half the number we set out!"

Away they ran, saddled their horses, and rode off. Ralph, who had lately been put in the stocks by his master, for drinking a cup too much and for singing a song by no means dissuasive of incontinence, now for the first time began to think of it again, and expected a like repose after less baiting. Presently came up a swart, thin, fierce little man, with four others bearing arms. He, observing Ralph, ordered him to "stand,” in the king's name. Ralph had been standing, and stood, with his arms before him, hanging as if they were broken.

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And what may it be, sirrah!" 'Ralph Roebuck."

Egad!" cried the little man, starting at it, "that too sounds like a feigned one. Ye are all rogues and vagrants. Where are thy fellows?" "I can answer only for myself, may it please your worship!" said Ralph.

"Where is thy leader, vagabond!" cried the magistrate, more and more indignant.

"God knows," answered Ralph, dolorously. "Has he fled with the rest of his gang?" "God grant he may," ejaculated Roebuck, "rather than hang upon the cursed tree."

The under-sheriff then ordered his people to hold Ralph in custody, and went and saluted the two De Ardens, who requested that clemency might be shown to everyone implicated in an offence so slight.

"We must consider of that," answered the under-sheriff. "Edward à Brocton, the priest of Cannock here, has given me this letter, which he swears is written by his brother William, priest of Tamworth, and marked by your worshipful father." The young men bowed. "Who is the rogue that defrauded him," resumed the undersheriff, "in the three horses, to our lord the king's great detriment and discomfort?"

It was not for them, they replied, to incriminate anyone; nor indeed would they knowingly bring any man's blood on their heads if they could help it. "The impostor in the house shall be examined," cried the little man, drawing his forefinger along his lips, for they were foamy. He went into the room, and found the knight in a shower of tears. "Call my varlets! call my rogues!" cried Sir Magnus, wringing his hands and turning away his face.

"Rogues!" said the under-sheriff. " They are gone off, and in another county, or near upon it; else would I hang them all speedily, as I will thee, by God's pleasure. How many horses hast thou in the stable?"

"Sir! good sir! gentle sir! patience a little! let me think awhile!" said the knight.

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Ay, ay, ay! let thee think forsooth!" scornfully and canorously in well-sustained tenor hymned the son of Themis. "This paper hath told me."

"Worthy sir!" said the knight, "hear reason! Hear truth and righteousness and justification by faith! Hear a sinner in tribulation, in the shadow of death!"

"Faith! sirrah! thou art very near the substance, if there be any," interposed the undersheriff.

"Nay, nay! hold! I beseech you! as I have a soul to be saved"...

"Pack it up then! pack it up! I will give it a lift when it is ready."

"O sir sheriff, sir sheriff! I am disposed to swear on the rood, I am not, and never was, Sir Nigel de Arden."

At these words the under-sheriff laughed bitterly, and said, "Nor I neither;" and, going out of the room, ordered a guard to stand at the door.

Henry then took him by the arm and said softly, "Gildart! do not be severe with the poor young man below. It is true he is in the secret, which he swears he will not betray if he dies for it; but he promises us the three horses without trial or suit or trouble or delay, and hopes you will allow his master to leave the kingdom in peace and safety under his conduct, promising to serve the king, together with us, faithfully in his wars."

"We could not do better," answered the undersheriff, "if we were certain the fellow and his gang would not waylay and murder you on the road."

"Never fear!" cried Henry. "As we shall have other attendants, and are neither less strong nor (I trust) less courageous than he, we will venture, with your leave and permission."

This was given in writing. The under-sheriff ordered his guards to bring down the culprit, who came limping and very slow.

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When the knight had descended the stairs, and saw Ralph Roebuck, he shrieked aloud with surprise and gladness, "O thou good and faithful servant! enter into the joy of thy lord!”

"God's blood!" cried Ralph. "I must enter then into a thing narrower than a weasel's or a wasp's hole. To what evil have you led us?"

"Now you can speak for me!" said the knight. Ralph shook his head and sighed, "It will not do, master! I am resolved to keep my promise, which you commanded upon first setting out, though it may cost me limb or life. Master! one word in your ear."

"No whisperings! no connivances! no plans or projects of escape!” cried the guard. They helped Sir Magnus into his saddle with more than their hands and arms; which, instead of officiousness, he thought an indignity, though it might be the practice of those parts. The two De Ardens mounted two of the richly caparisoned steeds; the third was led by their servant, who went homeward with those also which they had ridden, for what was necessary, being ordered to rejoin them at Lichfield. Ralph Roebuck sat alert on his own sorrel palfrey, a quick and active one, with open transparent nostrils. He would, as became him, have kept behind his master, if the knight had not called him to his side, complaining that the length and roughness of the roads had shaken his saddle so as to make it uneven and uneasy. Many and pressing were the offers of Ralph to set

it right: Sir Magnus shook his head and answered that man is born to suffering as the sparks fly upward."

"I could wish, sir," said Ralph, "if it did not interfere with higher dispensations". . .

"The very word! Ralph! the very word! thou rememberest it! I could not bring it nicely to mind. Several Sundays have passed since we heard it. Well! what couldst thou wish?"

"That your worship had under you at this juncture the cushion of our late good lady Joan, which might serve you now somewhat better than it did at the battle of the bulrush. We all serve best in our places."

"By our lady! Ralph! I never saw a man so much improved by his travels as thou art. What shall we both be ere we reach home again ?"

Ralph persuaded his master how much better it were that his worship did not return too speedily among the cravens and recreants who had deserted him, and who probably would be pursued; and then what a shame and scandal it would be, if such a powerful knight as Sir Magnus should see them dragged from his own hall, and from under his own eyes to prison. If by any means it could be contrived to prolong the journey a few days, it would be a blessing; and the De Ardens, it might be hoped, would say nothing of the matter to the sheriff. Sir Magnus felt that his importance would be lowered by the seizure of his servants, in his presence, and under his roof; and he had other reasons for wishing to ride leisurely, in which his more active companions little participated. On their urging him to push forward, he complained that his horse had been neglected, and had neither tasted oat nor bean, nor even sweet meadow-hay, at Cannock. His company expressed the utmost solicitude that this neglect should be promptly remedied, and grieving that the next stage was still several miles distant, offered, and at the same time exerted, their best services, in bringing the hungry and loitering steed to a trot. Sir Magnus now had his shrewd suspicions, he said, that the saddle had been ill looked to, and doubted whether a nail from behind might not somehow have dropped lower. When he would have cleared up his doubts by the agency of his hand, again the whip, applied to his flinching steed, disturbed the elucidation; and his knuckles, instead of solving the knotty point, only added to its nodosity. At last he cried, "Roebuck! Roebuck! gently, softly! If we go on at this rate, in another half-hour I shall be black and bloody, as ever rook was that dropped ill-fledged from the rookery."

"The Lord hath well speeded our flight," said Ralph relenting: "he hath delivered us from our enemies. What miles and miles have we travelled, to all appearance in a few hours!"

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Not many hours indeed," answered the knight, still pondering. "What is yon red spire?"

added he.

"The tower of Babel," replied Ralph composedly.

"I can not well think it," muttered Sir Magnus in suspense. 66 They would never have dared to rebuild it, after God's anger thereupon." It was the spire of Lichfield cathedral. When they entered the city they found there some hundreds of French prisoners, taken in the late skirmishes, who were chattering and laughing and boasting of their invincibility. Their sunburnt faces, their meagre bodies, their loud cries, and the violence our surly countrymen expressed at not being understood by them, although as natives of Lichfield they spoke such good English, removed in part the doubts of Sir Magnus, even before he heard our host cry, "By God! a very Babel!" Later in the evening came some Welshmen, having passed through Shropshire and Cheshire with mountain sheep, for the fair the next morning. These too were unintelligible in their language, and different from the others. They quarrelled with the French for mocking them, as they thought. Sir Magnus expressed his wonder that an Englishman, which the host was, should be found in such a far country, among the heathen; albeit some of them spoke English, not being able for their hearts and souls to do otherwise, since all the languages in the world were spoken there as a judgment on the ungodly. He confessed he had always thought Babel was in another place, though he could not put his finger upon it exactly. Nothing, he added, so clearly proved the real fact, as that the sheep themselves were misbegotten and blackfaced, and several of them altogether tawny, like a Moor's head he had seen, he told them, in the chancel-window of Saint Mary's at Warwick. "Which reminds me," said the pious knight, "that the hour of Angelus must be at hand, and, beside the usual service, I have several forms of thanksgiving to run through be fore I break bread again."

It was allowed him to go alone upstairs for his devotions, in which, ye will have observed, he was very regular. Meanwhile the landlord and his two daughters, two buxom wenches, were admitted into the secret; and it was agreed that at supper all should speak a jargon, by degrees more and more confused, and that at last every imaginable mistake should be made, in executing the orders of the company. The girls entered heartily into the device, and the rosy-faced father gave them hints and directions while the supper was being cooked. Sir Magnus came down, after a time, covered with sweat. He protested that the heat of the climate in these countries was intolerable, │ particularly in his bedroom: that indeed he had felt it before, in the open air, but only on certain portions of the body, which certain stars have an influence upon, and not at all in the face.

The oven had been heated just under the knight's bed, in order to supply loaves for the farmers and drovers the following day.

Supper was now served bread however was wanting. The knight desired one of the young women to give him some. She looked at him in astonishment, shrank back, blushed, and hid her

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face in her apron.

The father came forward sufferings and visions; and when they had ended,
Sir Magnus said, he seemed to hear throughout
the night the roaring of a fiery furnace, for all the
world like King Nebuchadnezzar's; only that
sinful bodies, and not righteous ones, were moved
and shoved backward and forward in it, until their
bones grated like iron, and until his own teeth
chattered so in his head he could hear them no

furiously, and said many words, or rather uttered
many sounds, which Sir Magnus could not under-
stand. He requested his attendant Ralph to
explain. Ralph made a few attempts at English,
and, failing in it, spoke very fluently another
tongue. The father and his daughters stared one
at another, and brought a bucket of hot water,
with a square of soap; then a goose's wing; then
a sack of grey peas; then a blackbird in a cage;
then a mustard-pot; then a handful of brown
paper; then a pair of white rabbits, hanging by
the ears. Sir Magnus now addressed the other
girl. She appeared more willing to comply, and,
making a sign at her father, whose back was
turned in his anxiety to find what was called for,
as if she would be kinder still when he was out of
the way, laid her arm across the neck of the
knight, and withdrew it hesitatingly and timidly.
At this instant a great dog entered, allured by
the smell of the meat. The knight's lips qui-
vered, and the first accents he uttered audibly
and distinctly were . .
"Seeking whom he may
devour." Then falling on his knees he cried
aloud, "O Lord! thy mercies are manifold! I am
a sinner."

The girl trembled from head to foot, ready to burst with the laughter she was suppressing, and kissed her father, and appeared to implore his pardon. He pushed her back and cried, "Away! I saw thee! I saw thee with these very eyes!" clenching his fist and striking his brow franticly. "I saw thy shadow upon the wall. No wickedness is hidden."

"The hand-writing! the hand-writing! that was upon the wall too! perhaps upon this very one," exclaimed the conscience-stricken and aghast Sir Magnus. He fell on his knees, and praised the Lord for allowing to the host again the use of his mother-tongue; for the salvation of him a sinner; if indeed it were not the Lord himself who spake by the lips of his servant in the words, "No wickedness is hidden." After a prayer, he protested that, although indeed his heart was corrupt, as all hearts were, the devil had failed to inflame him universally. Not one knew what he said. Humphrey laughed and nodded assent; Henry offered him baked apples; Ralph brushed his doublet-sleeve.


His conductor was careful to avoid the county of Warwick, lest any one should recognise the knight, little as was the chance of it; for he never had been further from home than at Warwick, and there but twice, the distance being five good miles. On his way toward the coast, he wondered to find the stars so very like those at Charlecote; and some of them seemed to know him and wink at him. He thought indeed here were a good many more of them awake and stirring; because he had been longer out of doors than he had ever been before, at night. Slowly as he would have travelled, if he had been allowed his own way, on the sixth morning from his adventure at Cannock he had come within sight of the coast. To his questions no other answer was returned, than that the times were unquiet; that the roads were infested with robbers; and that the orders of a sheriff were as a king's. In the afternoon, the travellers descended the narrow holloway that leads into the seaport town of Hastings. Ralph pointed at some sailors who were stepping into a boat, and cried, "Master! what do you think of these?"

"I think, Roebuck," answered he, after pondering some moments, "that they are like unto those who go down into the great waters.”

The De Ardens were conveying their stores and horses aboard, to lose no time, when Ralph whispered in the ear of the knight, "Sir Knight! do not, for the love of Christ! do not venture with those two dare-devils any further. Let us take only a small boat, just large enough to enter the Avon. There is a short cut hereabout, if we could find it. For six pieces of gold we may hire as many sailors to hazard their liberties and lives for us, and see us safe at home again."

"Six pieces of gold!" repeated Sir Magnus very slowly and distinctly: "six pieces of gold, in these hard times, go well-nigh to purchase an acre of pasture-land."

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'True," replied Roebuck, "with a hundred of sand and a thousand of sea thrown in, as hoof and shank to a buttock of beef."

"Indeed!" interjected Sir Magnus. "Why, then, would not it be better to look out for some such investment of said monies, and to get the indentures fairly engrossed forthwith?"

Before it was light in the morning, the horses were at the door: nobody appeared: no money had been paid or demanded: nevertheless it seemed an inn. They mounted; they mused; they feared to meet each other's eyes: at last Ralph addressed one of the De Ardens in a low voice, but so as to be heard by his master. The two brothers tried each a monosyllable: Ralph shook his head, and they looked despondently. Attempts were renewed at intervals for several miles; when suddenly a distant bell was heard, probably from the cathedral, and Humphrey cried, "Matins! matins !" At this moment all spoke It is uncertain whether Sir Magnus heard him, English perfectly, and the knight uttered many for he continued to utter and repeat the substance fervent ejaculations. The others related their of his reflections.

"Investment! indentures!" cried Ralph. "Master! it is well for those who can carry by land and sea such fine learned words about with 'em, which are enough to show a man's gentility all the world over."

"What a quantity of fishes there must be in a thousand acres of deep salt water, being well looked to! Rats and otters might sneeze their hearts out before they could catch a fin, with the brine and foam bobbing up everlastingly and buffeting their whiskers: and the poachers must buy lime-kilns, and forests, and mines of pure poison, if they would make the fish drunk at the bottom. Furthermore, there never could be a lack of sand at Charlecote these twenty years to come, for kitchen or scullery or walk before the hall-windows, or repairs of cow-house or dove-cote: and many a cart-load would be lying in store for sale."

"The gold must go, and make room for more," said Roebuck. The knight answered nothing; but turning round, lest anybody should notice his capacious and well-stored scrip, he drew forth the six pieces, and, after a doubt and a trial with his thumb and finger, whether by reason of their roughness two peradventure might not stick together and make seven, he placed them in the palm of Roebuck, who took them with equal silence and less uncertainty. Great contentment was manifested by the worshipful knight that the two De Ardens had left him; and he ate a good dinner, and drank a glass of Rhenish, which he said was "pure sour;" and presently was anxious "There is great foresight and cleverness in all to go aboard the boat, if it was ready. Ralph conthis," said Ralph: "and if your worship had only ducted him to it and helped him in. The rowers six gold pieces in the world, no time ought to be for some time played their parts lustily, and then lost in running with 'em seaward. But to my hoisted sail. Roebuck asked the oldest of them foolishness, three for life and three for liberty whether the wind was fair. 'Passably," said he; seem reasonable enough. Pirates, and even fair-"but unless we look sharp we may be carried into fighting enemies, such as those gentlemen over the Low Countries.” the way, demand for a knight's ransom as many hundreds."

The knight drew back and hesitated.


'Well, Sir!" said Ralph, "the business is none of mine. I have been let go ere now for an old song when I had angered my man: here I have angered nobody: I am safe anywhere, and welcome in most places."



"I do not see anywhere that short cut, nor that brook which runs into the Avon," said Sir Mag"As for the Low Countries, no fear of them: the water rises before us, and we mount higher and higher every moment, insomuch that I begin to feel as if I were going up in a swing, like that between the elms."

Presently old Ocean exacted from him his "I am fain to learn that old song of his," said tribute, which the powerfullest not of knights the knight inaudibly. only and barons, but of princes and kings must Roebuck continued, "I have no hall with ant-pay him in his own dominions, bending their lers in it; I would rather eat a sucking pig than a swan, and a griskin than a heron; and I can do either with good-will about noon any day in seven, bating Friday, and without mounting up three long steps that run across the room, or resting my feet on a dainty mat of rushes. A good blazing kitchen fire is enough for me. I care neither for bucks nor partridges. As for spiced ale at christenings and weddings, I may catch a draught of it when it passes. Sack I have heard of poor tipple, I doubt, that wants sweetening. But a horn of home-brewed beer, frothing leisurely, and humming lowly its contented tune, is suitable to my taste and condition; and I envy not the great and glorious who have a goose with a capon in his belly on the table, or even a peacock, his head as good as alive, and the proudest of his feathers to crown him."

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Sir Knight!" replied Ralph, "do not let them see your store of groats, which are very handy, and sundry of these likewise are quite new." "Nobody would pay away new groats that could help it," sighed Sir Magnus.

*The first gold coined in England came out rather more

heads and stretching out their arms and acknow ledging his supremacy with tears and groans. He now fancied he had been poisoned on shore; and was confirmed in his belief, when Roebuck hummed a tune without any words to it, prodigal and profuse as he was of them on ordinary occasions; and when neither he nor any of the sailors would bring him such a trifle as water-gruel sweetened with clary wine, or camomile flowers picked with the dew upon them and simmered in fair spring water and in an earthen pan, or viper-broth with a spoonful of Venice-treacle in it, stirred with the tusk of a wild boar in the first quarter of the moon: the only things he asked them for. Soon however his pains abated; yet he complained that his eyesight was so affected, be seemed to see nothing but greenish water, like leek-porridge, albeit by his reckoning they must now be near the brook.

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Methinks," said he, "we are running after that great white ship yonder."

"Methinks so too," answered Ralph; crying, "How is this?" with apparent anger, to the sailors.

"It cannot be otherwise," said one of them: "the boat is the brig's own daughter: what mor tal can keep them asunder? You might as well hope to hold tight by your teeth a two months' calf from its dam."


than a year before this time, that is in 1344; the quantity the knight in the bitterness of his soul. “ Always Why didst not thou see to that, Ralph ?" cried

was small, and probably the circulation not rapid nor extensive.

rash and imprudent!"

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