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sir priest! I do protest and vow I have no cog- “confess all,” walked slowly through them, nisance of these two young gentlemen."
mounted his palfrey, and rode over to the sheriff As he spoke the sweat hung upon his brow: at Penkridge. The two young gentlemen were the cause of which neither the brothers nor the delighted on seeing the consternation of Sir priest could interpret; but it really was lest they Magnus and his company, and encouraged by the should have come to dine with him, and perhaps familiarity of one among them, led him aside and have moreover some retinue in the yard. Dis- said, “ It will be well and happy for you if you claimed so unceremoniously, Humphrey de Arden persuade the others of your party to return home opened a leathern purse, and carefully took out speedily. The sheriff is a shrewd severe man, his father's letter. Whereat the alarm of Sir and will surely send every soul of you into Picardy, Magnus increased beyond measure, from the un- excepting such as he may gibbet on the common certainty of its contents, and from the certainty for an ensample.” of being discovered as the usurper of a noble “Masters !” replied the Warwickshire wag,
His terrors however were groundless : the “I will return among them and frighten them letter was this.
into the road : but you two brave lads shall have “Son HUMPHREY, I grieve that the varlet who your horses, and your father his, together with promised me those three strong geldings, and such attendants as you little reckon on. Are ye took monies thereupon, hath mortally disap- for the wars ?” pointed me; for verily we have hard work here, “We were going," said they gaily, “whenever being one against seven or eight;* and, if matters we could raise enough monies from our father's go on in this guise, I must e'en fight afoot ere it tenantry; for he, much as he desires to hare is be long; they having killed among them my with him, is very loth to be badly equipped ; and brave old Black Jack, who had often winnowed would peradventure see us rather slain in battle, them with his broken wind, which was not broken or (what he thinks worse) not in it at all, than till they broke it. The drunken fat rogue that villanously mounted.” now fails me, would rather hunt on Colefield or “Will ye take me?” cried the gallant yeoman. (if he dare come so near to you) on Cannock, than Gladly," answered they both together. lead the three good steeds in a halter up Yoxall Ralph Roebuck was the name of this brave
ne. Whenever ye find him, stand within law youngster; and, without another word, he ran with him, and use whit-leather rather than Need- among his fellows, and putting his hand above wood holly, which might provoke the judge ; and his ear, as our hunters are wont, shouted aloud, take the three hale nags, coming hither with “Who's for hanging this fine morning?” “ Ralph!" them yourselves, and paying him forthwith three chimed they together, somewhat languidly, "what angels, due unto him on the feast of Saint Barna- dost mean?" bas and that other (Saint Jude, as I am now re- “I mean,” whispered he slowly and distinctly minded), if ye have so many; if not, mortgage a to the nearest, “ that the country will be up in meadow. And let this serve as a warrant from half an hour; that the priest is gone for the your loving father.+
++" sheriff; and that if he went for the devil he could “What is that to me?" cried in agony Sir fetch him. I never knew a priest at a fault. Magnus. The priest took the letter and shook his whatever he winded. Whosoe'er has a horse able head. “Sir priest ! you see how it stands with to carry him is in luck. In my mind there will us;" said the knight. “Do deliver me from the be some heels without a stirrup under them, lion's den and from the young lions !”
before to-morrow, kick as they may to find it. I “Friend !” said the priest gravely and sternly, must not however be unfaithful to my master, for "I know the mark of Sir Humphrey: and the whom I have spoken a fair word, and wom a handwriting is my own brother's, who, taking smiling face, in my perils and tribulations, with with him in his saddle-bag a goose-pie and twelve these stout young gallants. Each to his 091 strings of black pudding for Sir Humphrey, left bit and bridle: the three led chargers let no his cure at Tamworth but four months ago, and man touch, on his life. For the rest, I will be joined the army in France, in order to shrive the spokesman, in lack of a better. May we meet wounded. It is my duty to make known unto again in Charlecote, at least half the number we the sheriff whatever is irregular in my parish. set out!” “O! for the love of Christ ! say nothing to the Away they ran, saddled their horses, and rode sheriff! I will confess all,” exclaimed the knight. off. Ralph, who had lately been put in the stocks
The attendants and many of the customers and by his master, for drinking a cup too much and countryfolks had listened at the door, which was for singing a song by no means dissuasive of inindeed wide-open ; and the priest being now con- continence, now for the first time began to think firmed in his suspicion by the knight's offer to of it again, and expected a like repose after less
baiting. Presently came up a swart, thin, fierce * Such soon afterward was the disproportion of numbers little man, with four others bearing arms. He at the battle of Cressy.
observing Ralph, ordered him to “ stand," in the † The mark of a knight, instead of his name, is not to be wondered at. Out of the thirty-six barone who sub
king's name. Ralph had been standing, and scribed the Magna Charta, three only signed with their stood, with his arms before him, hanging as if
they were broken.
“ Varlet and villain !" cried the under-sheriff, “O sir sheriff, sir sheriff! I am disposed to for such was the little man, “who art thou?" swear on the rood, I am not, and never was, Sir
May it please your honour," answered he sub- Nigel de Arden." missively, “my name is a real one and my own, At these words the under-sheriff laughed such as it is."
bitterly, and said, “Nor I neither;" and, going And what may it be, sirrah !"
out of the room, ordered a guard to stand at the Ralph Roebuck.”
door, Egad!” cried the little man, starting at it, Henry then took him by the arm and said " that too sounds like a feigned one. Ye are all softly, “Gildart! do not be severe with the poor rogues and vagrants. Where are thy fellows ?" young man below. It is true he is in the secret,
“I can answer only for myself, may it please which he swears he will not betray if he dies for your worship !" said Ralph.
it; but he promises us the three horses without “Where is thy leader, vagabond !” cried the trial or suit or trouble or delay, and hopes you magistrate, more and more indignant.
will allow his master to leave the kingdom in “God knows," answered Ralph, dolorously. peace and safety under his conduct, promising “ Has he fled with the rest of his gang?" to serve the king, together with us, faithfully in
“ God grant he may,” ejaculated Roebuck, his wars." “ rather than hang upon the cursed tree."
“We could not do better," answered the underThe under-sheriff then ordered his people to sheriff, "if we were certain the fellow and his hold Ralph in custody, and went and saluted the gang would not waylay and murder you on the two De Ardens, who requested that clemency road.” might be shown to everyone implicated in an “ Never fear!” cried Henry. “As we shall have offence so slight.
other attendants, and are neither less strong nor “We must consider of that," answered the (I trust) less courageous than he, we will venture, under-sheriff. “ Edward à Brocton, the priest of with your leave and perinission.” Cannock here, has given me this letter, which he This was given in writing. The under-sheriff swears is written by his brother William, priest ordered his guards to bring down the culprit, who of Tamworth, and marked by your worshipful came limping and very slow. father.” The young men bowed. “ Who is the " Pity he can not feign and counterfeit a little rogue that defrauded him," resumed the under- better on the spur of the occasion!” said the sheriff, “ in the three horses, to our lord the king's under-sheriff. He well answers the description great detriment and discomfort ?"
of fat and lazy : as for drunken, it shall not be It was not for them, they replied, to incriminate to-day, on Cannock ale or Burton beer.” anyone; ner indeed would they knowingly bring When the knight had descended the stairs, and any man's blood on their heads if they could help it. saw Ralph Roebuck, he shrieked aloud with sur.
“ The impostor in the house shall be examined," prise and gladness, “O thou good and faithful cried the little man, drawing his forefinger along servant ! enter into the joy of thy lord !" his lips, for they were foamy. He went into the “ God's blood !" cried Ralph. “I must enter room, and found the knight in a shower of tears. then into a thing narrower than a weasel's or a
“Call my varlets ! call my rogues !” cried Sir wasp's hole. To what evil have you led us?" Magnus, wringing his hands and turning away “Now you can speak for me!" said the knight. his face.
Ralph shook his head and sighed, “ It will not “Rogues !” said the under-sheriff. “They are do, master! I am resolved to keep my promise, gone off, and in another county, or near upon it; which you commanded upon first setting out, else would I hang them all speedily, as I will thee, though it may cost me limb or life. Master ! one by God's pleasure. How many horses hast thou word in your ear.” in the stable ?"
“No whisperings ! no connivances ! no plans “Sir! good sir! gentle sir! patience a little ! or projects of escape !” cried the guard. They let me think awhile !” said the knight.
helped Sir Magnus into his saddle with more than “Ay, ay, ay! let thee think forsooth !” scorn their hands and arms; which, instead of officiousfully and canorously in well-sustained tenor ness, he thought an indignity, though it might be hymned the son of Themis. “This paper hath the practice of those parts. The two De Ardens told me.”
mounted two of the richly caparisoned steeds; the “ Worthy sir !” said the knight, "hear reason ! third was led by their servant, who went homeHear truth and righteousness and justification by ward with those also which they had ridden, for faith! Hear a sinner in tribulation, in the shadow what was necessary, being ordered to rejoin them of death !”
at Lichfield. Ralph Roebuck sat alert on his “Faith! sirrah! thou art very near the sub- own sorrel palfrey, a quick and active one, with stance, if there be any,” interposed the under- open transparent nostrils. He would, as became sheriff.
him, have kept behind his master, if the knight “Nay, nay! hold! I beseech you ! as I have a had not called him to his side, complaining that soul to be saved”...
the length and roughness of the roads had shaken “ Pack it up then ! pack it up! I will give it his saddle so as to make it uneven and uneasy. a lift when it is ready."
Many and pressing were the offers of Ralph to set it right : Sir Magnus shook his head and answered “ I can not well think it,” muttered Sir Magnus that “man is born to suffering as the sparks fly in suspense. “They would never have dared to upward."
rebuild it, after God's anger thereupon.” “I could wish, sir,” said Ralph, "if it did not It was the spire of Lichfield cathedral. interfere with higher dispensations"...
When they entered the city they found there "The very word ! Ralph! the very word! thou some hundreds of French prisoners, taken in the rememberest it! I could not bring it nicely to late skirmishes, who were chattering and laughing mind. Several Sundays have passed since we and boasting of their invincibility. Their sunheard it. Well! what couldst thou wish?" burnt faces, their meagre bodies, their loud cries,
“That your worship had under you at this and the violence our surly countrymen expressed juncture the cushion of our late good lady Joan, at not being understood by them, although as which might serve you now somewhat better than natives of Lichfield they spoke such good English, it did at the battle of the bulrush. We all serve removed in part the doubts of Sir Magnus, eren best in our places."
before he heard our host cry, “By God! a very “By our lady! Ralph! I never saw a man so Babel!” Later in the evening came some Welshmuch improved by his travels as thou art. What men, having passed through Shropshire and shall we both be ere we reach home again ?” Cheshire with mountain sheep, for the fair the
Ralph persuaded his master how much better it next morning. These too were unintelligible in were that his worship did not return too speedily their language, and different from the others. among the cravens and recreants who had de- They quarrelled with the French for mocking serted him, and who probably would be pursued; them, as they thought. Sir Magnus expressed and then what a shame and scandal it would be, if his wonder that an Englishman, which the host such a powerful knight as Sir Magnus should see was, should be found in such a far country, among them dragged from his own hall, and from under the heathen ; albeit some of them spoke English, his own eyes to prison. If by any means it could not being able for their hearts and souls to do be contrived to prolong the journey a few days, it otherwise, since all the languages in the world would be a blessing; and the De Ardens, it might were spoken there as a judgment on the ungodly. be hoped, would say nothing of the matter to the He confessed he had always thought Babel was in sheriff. Sir Magnus felt that his importance another place, though he could not put his finger would be lowered by the seizure of his servants, upon it exactly. Nothing, he added, so clearly in his presence, and under his roof; and he had proved the real fact, as that the sheep themselves other reasons for wishing to ride leisurely, in were misbegotten and blackfaced, and several of which his more active companions little partici-them altogether tawny, like a Moor's head he had pated. On their urging him to push forward, he seen, he told them in the chancel-window of Saint complained that his horse had been neglected, Mary's at Warwick. “Which reminds me," said and had neither tasted oat nor bean, nor even the pious knight, “ that the hour of Angelus must sweet meadow-hay, at Cannock. His company be at hand, and, beside the usual service, I have expressed the utmost solicitude that this neglect several forms of thanksgiving to run through be should be promptly remedied, and grieving that fore I break bread again.” the next stage was still several miles distant, It was allowed him to go alone upstairs for his offered, and at the same time exerted, their best devotions, in which, ye will have observed, he was services, in bringing the hungry and loitering very regular. Meanwhile the landlord and his steed to a trot. Sir Magnus now had his shrewd two daughters, two buxom wenches, were admitted suspicions, he said, that the saddle had been ill into the secret; and it was agreed that at supper looked to, and doubted whether a nail from behind all should speak a jargon, by degrees more and might not somehow have dropped lower. When more confused, and that at last every imaginable he would have cleared up his doubts by the agency mistake should be made, in executing the orders of his hand, again the whip, applied to his flinch of the company. The girls entered heartily into ing steed, disturbed the elucidation ; and his the device, and the rosy-faced father gave them knuckles, instead of solving the knotty point, hints and directions while the supper was being only added to its nodosity. At last he cried, cooked. Sir Magnus came down, after a time, “Roebuck! Roebuck! gently, softly! If we go covered with sweat. He protested that the heat on at this rate, in another half-hour I shall be of the climate in these countries was intolerable, black and bloody, as ever rook was that dropped particularly in his bedroom : that indeed he had! ill-fledged from the rookery.”
felt it before, in the open air, but only on certain "The Lord hath well speeded our flight,” said portions of the body, which certain stars have an Ralph relenting : “ he hath delivered us from our influence upon, and not at all in the face. enemies. What miles and miles have we travelled, The oven had been heated just under the to all appearance in a few hours !"
knight's bed, in order to supply loaves for the “Not many hours indeed,” answered the knight, farmers and drovers the following day. still pondering. “What is yon red spire ?' Supper was now served : bread however was added he.
wanting. The knight desired one of the young “ The tower of Babel,” replied Ralph com- women to give him some. She looked at him in posedly.
astonishment, shrank back, blushed, and hid her
face in her apron. The father came forward | sufferings and visions; and when they had ended, furiously, and said many words, or rather uttered Sir Magnus said, he seemed to hear throughout many sounds, which Sir Magnus could not under the night the roaring of a fiery furnace, for all the stand. He requested his attendant Ralph to world like King Nebuchadnezzar's; only that explain. Ralph made a few attempts at English, sinful bodies, and not righteous ones, were moved and, failing in it, spoke very fluently another and shoved backward and forward in it, until their tongue. The father and his daughters stared one bones grated like iron, and until his own teeth at another, and brought a bucket of hot water, chattered so in his head he could hear them no with a square of soap; then a goose's wing; then longer. a sack of grey peas; then a blackbird in a cage; His conductor was careful to avoid the county then a mustard-pot; then a handful of brown of Warwick, lest any one should recognise the paper; then a pair of white rabbits, hanging by knight, little as was the chance of it; for he never the ears. Sir Magnus now addressed the other had been further from home than at Warwick, girl. She appeared more willing to comply, and, and there but twice, the distance being five good making a sign at her father, whose back was miles. On his way toward the coast, he wondered turned in his anxiety to find what was called for, to find the stars so very like those at Charlecote; as if she would be kinder still when he was out of and some of them seemed to know him and wink the way, laid her arm across the neck of the at him. He thought indeed here were a good knight, and withdrew it hesitatingly and timidly. many more of them awake and stirring ; because At this instant a great dog entered, allured by he had been longer out of doors than he had ever the smell of the meat. The knight's lips qui- been before, at night. Slowly as he would have vered, and the first accents he uttered audibly travelled, if he had been allowed his own way, on and distinctly were .. “Seeking whom he may the sixth morning from his adventure at Cannock devour.” Then falling on his knees he cried he had come within sight of the coast. To his aloud, “O Lord ! thy mercies are manifold ! I am questions no other answer was returned, than that a sinner."
the times were unquiet; that the roads were inThe girl trembled from head to foot, ready to fested with robbers; and that the orders of a sheriff burst with the laughter she was suppressing, and were as a king's. In the afternoon, the travellers kissed her father, and appe to implore his descended the narrow holloway that leads into pardon. He pushed her back and cried, “ Away! the seaport town of Hastings. Ralph pointed at I saw thee ! I saw thee with these very eyes !” some sailors who were stepping into a boat, and clenching his fist and striking his brow franticly. cried, “ Master! what do you think of these ?" “I saw thy shadow upon the wall. No wicked- “I think, Roebuck," answered he, after ponderness is hidden."
ing some moments, “that they are like unto those " The hand-writing! the hand-writing ! that who go down into the great waters.” was upon the wall too! perhaps upon this very The De Ardens were conveying their stores and one," exclaimed the conscience-stricken and aghast horses aboard, to lose no time, when Ralph whisSir Magnus. He fell on his knees, and praised pered in the ear of the knight, “Sir Knight! do the Lord for allowing to the host again the use of not, for the love of Christ ! do not venture with his mother-tongue; for the salvation of him a those two dare-devils any further. Let us take sinner; if indeed it were not the Lord himself only a small boat, just large enough to enter the who spake by the lips of his servant in the words, Avon. There is a short cut hereabout, if we “No wickedness is hidden.” After a prayer, he could find it. For six pieces of gold we may protested that, although indeed his heart was hire as many sailors to hazard their liberties and corrupt, as all hearts were, the devil had failed to lives for us, and see us safe at home again.” inflame him universally. Not one knew what he “Six pieces of gold !" repeated Sir Magnus said. Humphrey laughed and nodded assent; very slowly and distinctly: "six pieces of gold, in Henry offered him baked apples; Ralph brushed these hard times, go well-nigh to purchase an acre his doublet-sleeve.
of pasture-land.” Before it was light in the morning, the horses " True,” replied Roebuck, "with a hundred of were at the door: nobody appeared : no money sand and a thousand of sea thrown in, as hoof and had been paid or demanded : nevertheless it shank to a buttock of beef.” seemed an inn. They mounted; they mused ; “ Indeed !” interjected Sir Magnus. Why, they feared to meet each other's eyes : at last then, would not it be better to look out for some Ralph addressed one of the De Ardens in a low such investment of said monies, and to get the voice, but so as to be heard by his master. The indentures fairly engrossed forthwith ?" two brothers tried each a monosyllable : Ralph “ Investment ! indentures !” cried Ralph. shook his head, and they looked despondently.“ Master! it is well for those who can carry by Attempts were renewed at intervals for several land and sea such fine learned words about with miles; when suddenly a distant bell was heard, 'em, which are enough to show a man's gentility probably from the cathedral, and Humphrey cried, all the world over.”.
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.
" What a quantity of fishes there must be in a “The gold must go, and make room for more." thousand acres of deep salt water, being well said Roebuck. The knight answered nothing; looked to! Rats and otters might sneeze their but turning round, lest anybody should notice bis hearts out before they could catch a fin, with the capacious and well-stored scrip, he drew forth the brine and foam bobbing up everlastingly and six pieces, and, after a doubt and a trial with his buffeting their whiskers : and the poachers must thumb and finger, whether by reason of their buy lime-kilns, and forests, and mines of pure roughness two peradventure might not stick to poison, if they would make the fish drunk at the gether and make seven, he placed them in the bottom. Furthermore, there never could be a palm of Roebuck, who took them with equal lack of sand at Charlecote these twenty years to silence and less uncertainty. Great contentment come, for kitchen or scullery or walk before the was manifested by the worshipful knight that the hall-windows, or repairs of cow-house or dove-cote: two De Ardens had left him; and he ate a good and many a cart-load would be lying in store dinner, and drank a glass of Rhenish, which he for sale."
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 be; 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 “I do not see anywhere that short cut, nor that hundreds."
brook which runs into the Avon,” said Sir Mag The knight drew back and hesitated.
“ As for the Low Countries, no fear of “Well, Sir!” said Ralph, “the business is none them : the water rises before us, and we mount of mine. I have been let go ere now for an old higher and higher every moment, insomuch that song when I had angered my man : here I have I begin to feel as if I were going up in a swing, angered nobody : I am safe anywhere, and wel. like that between the elms.” come in most places.”
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 heads and stretching out their arms and acknos a swan, and a griskin than a heron; and I can ledging his supremacy with tears and groans. He do either with good-will about noon any day in now fancied he had been poisoned on shore; seven, bating Friday, and without mounting up and was confirined in his belief, when Roebuck three long steps that run across the room, or rest- hummed a tune without any words to it, prodigal ing my feet on a dainty mat of rushes. A good and profuse as he was of them on ordinary octa blazing kitchen fire is enough for me. I care sions ; and when neither he nor any of the sailors neither for bucks nor partridges. As for spiced would bring him such a trifle as water-gruel sweetale at christenings and weddings, I may catch a ened with clary wine, or camomile flowers picked draught of it when it passes. Sack I have heard with the dew upon them and simmered in fair of : poor tipple, I doubt, that wants sweetening. spring water and in an earthen pan, or viper-broth But a horn of home-brewed beer, frothing leisurely, with a spoonful of Venice-treacle in it, stirred and humming lowly its contented tune, is suitable with the tusk of a wild boar in the first quarter to my taste and condition ; and I envy not the of the moon : the only things he asked them great and glorious who have a goose with a capon for. Soon however his pains abated ; yet he comin his belly on the table, or even a peacock, his plained that his eyesight was so affected, be head as good as alive, and the proudest of his seemed to see nothing but greenish water, like feathers to crown him."
leek-porridge, albeit by his reckoning they must The knight answered, “Somehow I do not like now be near the brook. to part with my gold; I never saw any in coinage Methinks," said he, “ we are running after till last Easter ;* and it seems so fresh and sun that great white ship yonder." shiny and pleasant, I would keep it to look at in “Methinks so too,” answered Ralph ; crying. damp weather. Pay the varlets in groats.”
“ How is this?” with apparent anger, to the “ Sir Knight!” replied Ralph, “do not let them sailors. see your store of groats, which are very handy, “ It cannot be otherwise," said one of them : and sundry of these likewise are quite new.” “the boat is the brig's own daughter : what mor
Nobody would pay away new groats that could tal can keep them asunder? You might as well help it,” sighed Sir Magnus.
hope to hold tight by your teeth a two months'
calf from its dam." * The first gold coined in England came out rather more than a year before this time, that is in 1344; the quantity
Why didst not thou see to that, Ralph !" cried was small, and probably the circulation not rapid nor the knight in the bitterness of his soul.“ Always extensive.
rash and imprudent!”