Robin Tremain, by Emily Sarah Holt.
Emily Holt was a historian of no mean calibre. Many of her books are set in the Middle Ages or a little later. This one is set in the 1550s, and a little before and after. This was the time when the Catholic Mary was on the throne, and Catholicism was enforced as the official religion. It was also the time when Protestantism, which had been on the rise, was checked, and many Protestants burnt at the stake. When Elizabeth came to the throne this was reversed, and Protestantism was once more the official religion.
This book, which is quite largely based on well-researched fact, tells of the family life of a few people who were Protestants, and who preached the Gospel unerringly throughout, despite in the end some of them being imprisoned, including Robin Tremayne himself. His account of the prison in which he was held is quite amazing—how wickedly unkind people can be to one another. At one stage in the story people were being burnt at the stake quite wholesale. When Elizabeth came to the throne all the Bishops were Catholic, and at first none could be persuaded to officiate at the Coronation. Eventually the Bishop of Carlisle agreed to do it, but as he hadn't any suitable vestments he had to borrow some from Bonner, the Bishop of London, who wouldn't do the Coronation himself.
Full of anecdotes like this, based on fact, the book is fascinating. There is a watered-down version of Elizabethan speech, a few decades before Shakespearean English, and so reasonably understandable. The footnotes are there to explain the more unusual words and phrases. ROBIN TREMAIN, BY EMILY SARAH HOLT.
More than three hundred years have rolled away since the events narrated in the following pages stirred the souls of men; since John Bradford sat down to his "merry supper with the Lord;" since Lawrence Saunders slept peacefully at the stake, lifted over the dark river in the arms of God; since Ridley and Latimer, on that autumn morning at Oxford, lighted that candle in England which they trusted by God's grace should never be put out.
And how stands it with England now? For forty-three years, like a bird fascinated by the serpent, she has been creeping gradually closer to the outstretched arms of the great enchantress. Is she blind and deaf? Has she utterly forgotten all her history, all the traditions of her greatness? It is not quite too late to halt in her path of destruction; but how soon may it become so? How soon may the dying scream of the bird be hushed in the jaws of the serpent?
The candle which was lighted on that autumn morning is burning dim. It burns dimmer every year, as England yields more and more to Rome. And every living soul of us all is responsible to God for the preservation of its blessed light. O sons and daughters of England, shall it be put out?
THE FOLDING OF THE LAMB.
"And then she fell asleep; but God Knew that His Heaven was better far, Where little children angels are; And so, for paths she should have trod Through thorns and flowers, gave her this sod.
"He gave her rest for troublousness, And a calm sleep for fitful dreams Of what is, and of more that seems For tossings upon earth and seas Gave her to see Him where He is."
"Arbel, look forth and see if thy father and Robin be at hand. I fear the pie shall be overbaken."
The speaker was a woman of about forty years of age, of that quiet and placid demeanour which indicates that great provocation would be needed to evoke any disturbance of temper. Gathering up the garment on which she was at work, Arbel [Note 1] crossed the long, low room to a wide casement, on the outer mullions of which sundry leafless boughs were tapping as if to ask shelter from the cold; and after standing there for two or three minutes, announced that the missing members of the family were approaching.
"And a third party withal," added she; "that seemeth me, so far as I may hence discern, to be Doctor Thorpe."
"He is very welcome, an' it be he," returned her mother, still calmly spinning. "I trust to ask his counsel touching Robin."
Figuratively speaking, for more than a century was yet to elapse ere George Fox founded the Society of Friends, it might be said that Custance [Note 2] Tremayne was born a Quakeress. It had hitherto proved impossible, through all the annals of the family experience, to offend or anger her. She was an affectionate wife and mother, but nothing roused in her any outward exhibition of anxiety or annoyance. The tenor of her way was very even indeed.
Before Arbel had done much more than resume her seat and her needle, the room was entered by two men and a lad of sixteen years. The master of the house, Mr Anthony Tremayne, [Note 3] who came in first, was a man of more demonstrative manners than his quiet partner. He who entered second was shorter and stronger-built, and had evidently seen a longer term of life. His hair, plentifully streaked with grey, was thinned to slight baldness on the summit of the head; his features, otherwise rather strong and harsh, wore an expression of benevolence which redeemed them; his eyes, dark grey, were sharp and piercing. When he took off his hat, he carefully drew forth and put on a black skull-cap, which gave him a semi-priestly appearance. The lad, who entered with a slow and almost languid step, though in face resembling his father, was evidently not without an element of his mother in his mental composition. His hair was dark, and his eyes brown: but the same calm placidity of expression rested on his features as on hers, and his motions were quiet and deliberate.
"Good morrow, Dr Thorpe," [Note 4] said Mistress Tremayne, rising from her work.
"The like to you, my mistress," was the response. "Well, how fare you all? Be any of you sick? or can you do without me for a se'nnight?"
"Whither go you, Doctor?" gently asked Custance.
The Doctor's brow grew graver. "On a sorrowful errand, friend," he replied. "Our noble friends at Crowe are in sore trouble, for their little maid is grievous sick."
"What, little Honor?" cried Arbel, pityingly.
"Ay, methinks the Master is come, and hath called for her. We might thank God, if we could see things as He seeth. The sorrows of her House shall never trouble her."
"Poor child!" said Custance in her quiet voice. "Why, good Doctor, we be none of us truly sick, I thank God; but in sooth I did desire you should step in hither, touching Robin."
"Touching whom?" asked Dr Thorpe with a faint sound of satire in his tone.
But the tone had no effect on Custance.
"Touching Robin," she repeated. "I would fain have you to send him some physic, an' it like you."
"What shall I send him?" said the Doctor with a grim smile. "A bottle of cider? He lacketh naught else."
"Nay, but I fear me he groweth too fast for his strength," answered his mother.
"Then give him more meat and drink," was the rather contemptuous reply. "The lad is as strong as a horse: he is only a trifle lazy. He lacketh but stirring up with a poker."
"Send us the poker," said his father, laughing.
"I am not an ironmonger," retorted the Doctor, again with the same grim smile. "But the boy is all right; women be alway looking out for trouble and taking thought."
"But I count you know a mother's fears," answered Custance calmly.
"How should I?" said he. "I was never a woman, let alone a mother. I know all women be fools, saving a handful, of whom Isoult Avery, at Bradmond yonder, is queen."
Mr Anthony Tremayne laughed heartily. His wife merely replied as quietly as before. "So be it, Doctor. I suppose men do fall sick at times, and then they use not to think so for a little while at the least."
"Well, I said not you were not in the handful," said he, smiling again.
"All that you yourself do know make the handful, I count," said Tremayne. "Ah! Doctor, your bark did alway pass your bite. But who goeth yonder? Come within!"
The door opened in answer to his call, and disclosed a good-looking man in the prime of life, whose dark hair and beard were particularly luxuriant in growth.
"Ah! Jack Avery, God save thee!" resumed Tremayne, heartily. "Thou art right welcome. What news?"
"Such news," was the response, in a clear, musical voice, "as we be scarce like to hear twice this century. May I pray you of a cup of wine, to drink the health of the King?"
"Fetch it, Robin," said Tremayne. "But what hath the King's Grace done, Avery? Not, surely, to repeal the Bloody Statute, his sickness making him more compatient [Note 5] unto his poor subjects? That were good news!"
"I sorrow to say it," replied Avery, "but this is better news than that should be." And holding up the cup of wine which Robin offered him, he said solemnly,—"The King's Majesty, Edward the Sixth! God save him!"
From all except Custance there came in answer such a cry—half amazement, half exultation—as we in this nineteenth century can scarcely imagine for such an event. For the last eight years of the reign of Henry the Eighth, England had been in slavery—"fast bound in misery and iron." Every year it had grown heavier. Murmuring was treated as rebellion, and might have entailed death. To know that Henry was dead was to be free—to be at liberty to speak as a man thought, and to act as a man believed right.
"Ay," resumed Avery gravely, "King Henry the Eight is gone unto the mercy of God. How much mercy God could show him, let us not presume to think. We can only know this—that it was as much as might stand with His glory."
Dr Thorpe and John Avery left Tremayne together, for both were on their way to Crowe. A walk of twenty minutes brought them to the house of the latter, an erection of some fifty years' standing. Bradmond comprised not only the house, but a large garden and a paddock, in which Avery's horse Bayard took his ease. There was also a small farm attached, with its requisite buildings; and when the gentlemen arrived, Tom [Note 4], the general factotum, was meandering about the flower-garden, under the impression that he was at work, while Avery's little daughter, Kate [Note 4] aged nearly four years, was trotting after him from one spot to another, also under the impression that she was affording him material assistance in his labours.
John Avery brought his guest into the hall, then the usual family sitting-room when particular privacy was not desired. Here they were met by a lady, a little under middle height, with a fair pale complexion, but dark brown eyes and hair, her manners at once very quiet and yet very cordial. This was Isoult Avery.
In due time the next morning the party set forth,—namely, John and Isoult Avery, and Dr Thorpe,—and after two days' travelling reached Crowe.
Crowe was a smaller house than Bradmond, less pleasantly situated, and with more confined grounds. The door was opened by a girl who, to judge from her dress and appearance, was a maid-of-all-work, and with whom tidiness was apparently not a cardinal virtue.
"Good morrow, Deb [Note 4]; how fareth the child?"
"Good lack, Mistress!" was all that could be extracted from Deb.
"Get thee down to the kitchen for a slattern as thou art, and wash thee and busk [dress] thee ere thou open the door to any again!" said a rather shrill, yet not unpleasant, voice behind Deb; and that damsel disappeared with prompt celerity. "The maid is enough to provoke all the saints in the calendar. Isoult, sweet heart, be a thousand times welcomed!" And the speaker, advancing, kissed her guest with as much affection as though they had been sisters.
"And how goeth it with the child, Mrs Philippa?"
A quick shake of the head seemed to give an unfavourable answer.
"Demand that of Dr Thorpe, when he hath seen her; but our apothecary feareth much."
Very unlike either of the women already described was Philippa Basset. There was nothing passive about her; every thing was of the most active type, and the mood in which she chiefly lived was the imperative. While really under the common height of women, in some mysterious way she appeared much taller than she was. Her motions were quick even to abruptness: her speech sincere even to bluntness. Every body who knew her loved her dearly, yet every body would have liked to alter her character a little. Generally speaking, she seemed to take no part in those softer feminine feelings supposed to be common to the sex; yet there were times when that firm voice could falter, and those bright, quick, grey-blue eyes grow dim with tears. Whatever she did, she did thoroughly and heartily: she loved fervently and hated fervently. That "capacity for indignation" which it has been said lies at the root of all human virtues, was very fully developed in Philippa. Her age was thirty-one, but she looked nearer forty. Perhaps Isoult Avery, who had gone with her through the storm of suffering which fell on the House of Lisle, could have guessed how that look of age had come into the once bright and lively face of Philippa Basset.
"Come in, dear heart," continued Philippa, "and speak with my Lady my mother; and I will carry up Dr Thorpe to see the child."
So John and Isoult went into the parlour, and Philippa conducted Dr Thorpe to the sick chamber.
In the little parlour of the little house at Crowe sat a solitary lady. She was not yet fifty years of age, but her hair was only one remove from white; and though lines of thought and suffering were marked on her pale face, it yet bore the remains of what had been delicate loveliness. Her complexion was still exquisitely fair, and her eyes were a light, bright blue. Though she moved quickly, it was with much dignity and grace. She was a small, slightly-made woman; she sat as upright as a statue; and she inclined her head like a queen. It was no marvel, for she had been all but a queen. For twelve years of her life, her velvet robes had swept over palace pavements, and her diamonds had glittered in the light of royal saloons; and for seven of those years she had herself occupied the highest place. An invitation from her had been an envied honour; a few minutes' conversation with her, a supreme distinction. For this was Honor Plantagenet, Viscountess Lisle, sometime Lady Governess of Calais. But that was all over now. She was "a widow indeed, and desolate." The House of Lisle had fallen seven years before; and Honour's high estate, as well as her private happiness, fell with it. And with her, as with so many others, it ended in the old fashion—
"'Where be thy frendes?' sayd Robin. 'Syr, never one wyll me know; Whyle I was ryche enow at home Grete boste then wolde they blowe; And now they renne awaye fro me, As bestes on a rowe; They take no more heed of me, Than they me never sawe.'"
Of the scores of distinguished persons who had enjoyed the princely hospitality of Lady Lisle at Calais, not one ever condescended to glance into the little house at Crowe. She had friends left, but they were not distinguished persons. And foremost among these was Isoult Avery, who for two years had been bower-woman to the Viscountess, in those old days when she sat in the purple as Governess of Calais.
Many minutes had not elapsed before Philippa and Dr Thorpe entered the parlour together.
"Well, what cheer?" asked Lady Lisle, quickly, even before her greeting: for the grandchild who lay ill in the chamber above was very dear to that lonely woman's heart.
"Madam, the child is dying."
"Alack, my poor lamb!" And Lady Lisle rose and went above to the little sufferer.
Dr Thorpe turned to Isoult. "What aileth the mother?" he asked her shortly.
"Frances?" she replied. "In good sooth, I wis not. I have not yet seen her. Doth aught ail her save sorrow?"
"The Lady Frances," he repeated. "Methinks somewhat else doth ail her. What it is essay you to discover."
He broke off rather abruptly as the door opened, and the lady under discussion entered the room. Taller than Lady Lisle or Philippa, she was more slender and fragile-looking than either. Hair of pale shining gold framed a face very white and fair, of that peculiar pure oval shape, and those serene, regular Grecian features, which marked the royal Plantagenets. For this lady was of the bluest blood, and but for an act of cruel treachery on the part of King Edward the Fourth, she might have been the Princess Royal of England. And never had England a daughter who could have graced that position more perfectly. To a character so high and pure, and a taste so delicate and refined, as were almost out of place in that coarsest and most blunt of all the centuries, she united manners exquisitely gentle, gracious, and winning. The Lady Frances Basset was a woman taught by much and varied suffering; she had known both the climax of happiness and the depth of sorrow. The crushing blow of her House's fall had been followed by two years of agonising suspense, which had closed in the lonely and far-off death of the father from whom she derived the fairest features of her character, and whom she loved more than life. Three years ensued, filled by the bitter pain of watching the gradual fading of the husband whom she loved with yet tenderer fervour; and at the end of that time she was left a widow, but with two children to comfort her. And now, two years later, the Lord came and called the elder of those cherished darlings. Joseph was not, and Simeon was not, yet Benjamin must be taken away. But no tears stood in the soft, clear blue eyes, as Frances came forward to greet Isoult. They would come later; but the time for them was not now, when little Honour's life was ebbing away. The mother was tearless.
"Come!" she said softly; and Isoult rose and followed her.
On a little truckle-bed in the chamber above, lay the dying child. Had she survived till the following spring, she would then have been eight years old. As Isoult bent over her, a smile broke on the thin wan face, and the little voice said,—"Aunt Isoult!" This was Honour's pet name for her friend; for there was no tie of relationship between them. Isoult softly stroked the fair hair. "Aunt Isoult," the faint voice pursued, "I pray you, tell me if I shall die? My Lady my grandmother will not say, and it hurteth my mother to ask her."
Isoult glanced at Lady Lisle for permission to reply.
"Speak thy will, child!" she said in a steeled voice. "We can scarce be more sorrowful than we are, I count. Yet I do marvel what we have sinned more than others, that God punisheth us so much the sorer."
A grieved look came into Isoult's eyes, but she only answered the question of the little child.
"Ay, dear Honor," she replied; "methinks the Lord Jesus shall send His angels for thee afore long."
"Send His angels?" she repeated feebly.
"Ay, dear heart. Wouldst thou not love to see them?"
"I would rather He would come Himself," said the child. "I were gladder to see Him than them."
Isoult's voice failed her a minute, and Frances laid her head down on the foot of the bed, and broke into a passion of tears.
"Go thy ways, child!" murmured Lady Lisle, her voice a little softer. "It shall not take much labour to make thee an angel."
"Aunt Isoult," said Honor again faintly, "will He not come Himself?"
"Maybe He will, sweet heart," answered she.
"Doth He know I want Him to come?" she said and shut her eyes wearily.
"Ay, He knoweth, darling," said Isoult.
"Doth He know how tired I am, thinkest?" broke in Lady Lisle, bitterly. "Are three dread, woeful, crushing sorrows in six years not enough for Him to give? Will He take this child likewise, and maybe Frances and Philippa as well, and leave me to creep on alone into my grave? What have I done to Him, that He should use me thus? Was I not ever just to all men, and paid my dues to the Church, and kept my duty, like a Christian woman? Are there no women in this world that have lived worser lives than I, that He must needs visit me? Answer me, Isoult! Canst thou see any cause? Frank will tell me 'tis wicked to speak thus, if she saith aught; or maybe she shall only sit and look it. Is it wicked for the traitor on the rack to cry out? Why, then, should not I, who am on God's rack, and have so been these six years, and yet am no traitor neither to Him nor to the Church?"
"Mother, dear Mother!" whispered Frances, under her breath.
"Well?" she resumed. "Is that all thou hast to say? I am so wicked, am I, thus to speak? But wherefore so? Come, Isoult, I await thine answer."
It was a minute before Isoult Avery could speak; and when she did so, her voice trembled a little. She lifted up her heart to God for wisdom, and then said—
"Dear my Lady, we be all traitors unto God, and are all under the condemnation of His holy law. Shall the traitor arraign the Judge? And unto the repenting traitor, God's hand falleth not in punishment, but only in loving discipline and fatherly training. You slack not, I count, to give Honor her physic, though she cry that it is bitter and loathsome; nor will God set aside His physic for your Ladyship's crying. Yet, dear my Lady, this is not because He loveth to see you weep, but only because He would heal you of the deadly plague of your sins. Our Lord's blood shed upon the rood delivereth us from the guilt of our sins; but so tied to sin are we, that we must needs be set under correction for to make us to loathe it. I pray your Ladyship mercy for my rude speaking, but it is at your own commandment."
"Ah! 'tis pity thou art not a man, that thou mightest have had the tonsure," replied Lady Lisle drily. "Ah me, children! If this be physic, 'tis more like to kill than cure."
Little Honor lived through the night; and when the morning came, they were still awaiting the King's messenger. As those who loved her sat round her bed, the child opened her eyes.
"Aunt Isoult," she said in her little feeble voice, "how soon will Jesus come and take me?"
Isoult looked for an answer to Dr Thorpe, who was also present. He brushed his hand over his eyes.
"Would you liefer it were soon or long, little maid?" said he.
"For Mother's sake, I would liefer He waited," she whispered; "but for mine, I would He might come soon. There will be no more physic, will there—nor no more pain, after He cometh?"
"Poor heart!" exclaimed Lady Lisle, who sat in the window.
"Nay, little maid," answered Dr Thorpe.
"Nor no more crying, Honor," said Isoult.
"I would He would take Mother along with me," pursued the child. "She hath wept so much these two years past. She used to smile so brightly, and it was so pretty to see her. I would she could do that again."
"Thou shalt see her do that again, dear Honor," said Isoult, as well as she could speak, "but not, methinks, in this world."
But her voice failed her, for she remembered a time when that smile had been brighter than ever Honor saw it.
"If He would take us all," the child continued faintly: "me, and Mother, and Arthur, and Grandmother, and Aunt Philippa! And Father is there waiting—is not he?"
"I think he is, Honor," answered Isoult.
"That would be so good," she said, as she closed her eyes. "Aunt Isoult, would it be wrong to ask Him?"
"It is never wrong to tell Him of our wants and longings, dear heart," was the answer. "Only we must not forget that He knoweth best."
"Please to ask Him," the child whispered. But Isoult's voice broke down in tears. "Ask Him thyself, little maid," said Dr Thorpe. The child folded her little hands on her breast. "Lord Jesus!" she said, in her faint voice, "I would like Thee to come and take me soon. I would like Thee to take us all together—specially Mother and Grandmother—with me. And please to make Grandmother love Thee, for I am afeard she doth not much; and then make haste and fetch her and Mother to me. Amen."
"God bless thee, little maid!" said Dr Thorpe in a low voice. "All the singing of the angels will not stay that little prayer from reaching His ear."
"But list the child!" whispered Lady Lisle under her breath.
Honor lay a minute with her eyes closed, and then suddenly opened them, and clasped her little hands again.
"I forgot to ask Him one thing," she said. "Please, Lord Jesus, not to send the angels, but come and fetch me Thyself."
And her eyes closed again. Frances came softly in, and sat down near the bed; and a few minutes after her, Philippa looked in, and then came forward and stood in the window. She and Dr Thorpe looked at each other, and he nodded. Philippa whispered a word or two to Lady Lisle, who appeared to assent to something; and then she came to Frances.
"Dr Thorpe confirmeth me in my thought," said she, "that 'twill not be long now; therefore I will fetch Father Dell."
But Frances rose, and laid her hand on her sister's arm.
"Nay, Philippa!" she said. "I will not have the child's last hour disturbed."
"Disturbed by the priest!" exclaimed Philippa, opening her eyes.
"What do ye chaffer about?" cried Lady Lisle, in her old sharp manner. "Go thy ways, Philippa, and send for the priest."
The noise aroused the dying child.
"Must the priest come?" asked the faint little voice from the bed. "Will Jesus not be enough?"
Frances bent down to kiss her with a resolved look through all her pain.
"Ay, beloved—Jesus will be enough!" she answered, "and no priest shall touch thee.—Mother! forgive me for disobeying you this once. But I pray you, by all that you hold dear and blessed, let my child die in peace! If not for my sake, or if not for hers, for their sakes—the dead which have linked you and me—let her depart in peace!"
Philippa shook her head, but she sat down again.
"Have your way, Frank!" answered Lady Lisle, with a strange mingling of sorrow and anger in her voice. "There is more parting us than time or earth, as I can see. I thought it sore enough, when Jack set him on his dying bed against the priest's coming; and then thou saidst never a word. But now—"
"There was no need," said Frances in a quivering voice.
"Have thy way, have thy way!" said her mother again. "I was used to boast there was no heresy in my house. Ah, well! we live and learn. If thou canst fashion to reach Heaven by a new road, prithee do it. Methinks it will little matter for her. And when my time cometh, thou wilt leave him come to me, maybe."
There was silence for a little while afterwards, and their eyes were all turned where Honor lay, the little life ebbing away like the tide of the ocean. Her eyes were shut, and her breathing slow and laboured. Suddenly, while they watched her, she opened her eyes, lifted her head, and stretched forth her arms with a cry of pleasure.
"Oh!" she said, delightedly. "Mother—it is not the angels—He is come Himself!"
What she saw, how could they know? The dying eyes were clear: but a film of earth over the living ones hindered their seeing Him. For an instant hers kept fixed on something unseen by the rest, and they shone like stars. Then suddenly a shiver came over her, her eyelids drooped, and she sank back into her mother's arms.
"Is she gone?" asked Lady Lisle.
"With God," said Dr Thorpe reverently.
Little Honor was buried at Crowe. The evening of her funeral found Isoult Avery in the painful position (for it is both painful and perplexing) of a general confidante. Each member of the family at Crowe took her aside in turn, and poured into her ear the special story of her troubles. This, as it always does, involved complaints of the others.
Of these complaints Lady Frances uttered the fewest, and had the greatest reason. And Isoult now found that Dr Thorpe was right; for more was troubling her than her maternal sorrow. In the first place, they were very poor. The Priory of Frithelstoke, granted some years before to Lord and Lady Lisle by the King their nephew, was all that remained to the widow: and from this piece after piece of land was detached and sold, to supply pressing necessities. The second trouble was of older standing. For the House of Lisle was divided against itself; and the Gospel had brought to them, not peace, but a sword. Nine years before, while he was yet Governor of Calais, Lord Lisle's heart had been opened to receive the truth, while his wife's remained closed. Frances followed her father, Philippa her mother. And there was in consequence a standing feud in the family, as to which religion should be taught to Arthur, the remaining child left to Frances. But the third trouble was at that moment pressing the sorest. Mr Monke of Potheridge, a gentleman of good family and fortune, had requested Lady Lisle's permission to seek the hand of her widowed daughter. For Frances was Lady Lisle's child by affinity in a double manner, being both her husband's daughter and her son's widow. Lady Lisle, under the impression that Mr Monke was of the "old doctrine" which she professed herself, not only gave him her leave, but aided him by every means in her power, in the hope that Frances might thus be converted from the error of her ways. Very bitter was this to the bereaved mother of the dead child. To be asked to marry again at all was no light matter; but to have the subject continually pressed upon her by the mother and sister of the lost husband whose memory she cherished with unabated devotion,—this was painful indeed. Philippa was less to blame in the matter than her mother. Being herself of less delicate mould than her sister-in-law, she really did not see half the pain she inflicted; and her energetic nature would have led her to endeavour to forget sorrow, rather than to nurse it, at any time. In her belief, Frances thought and mourned too much; she wanted rousing; she ought to make an effort to shake off all her ills, physical and mental. Philippa had honestly mourned for her dead brother, as well as for his child; but now it was over and done with; they were gone, and could not be recalled: and life must go on, not be spent in moping and moaning. This was Philippa's view of matters; and under its influence she gave more distress to the sister whom she dearly loved than, to do her justice, she had the faintest idea that she was giving.
When Lady Frances had unburdened herself, by pouring her troubles into her friend's sympathising ear, Philippa in her turn took Isoult aside and bespoke her sympathy.
"Frances is but foolish and fantastical," she said, "or she should wed with Jack's old friend Mr Monke, that would fain have her. My Lady my mother desireth the same much. It should ease her vastly as matter of money. This very winter doth she sell two parcels of the Frithelstoke lands, for to raise money; and at after, there is but Frithelstoke itself, and Crowe; after the which sold, we may go a-begging."
"An' you so do, Mrs Philippa," said Isoult with a smile, "metrusteth you shall come the first to Bradmond, after the which you shall need to go no further."
Last came Lady Lisle's secrets. Her complaint was short and decided, like most things she said.
"Frank is a born fool to set her against Mr Monke. He would make her a jointure of eighty pounds by the year, and he spendeth two hundred by the year and more. And is a gentleman born, and hath a fair house, and ne father ne mother to gainsay her in whatsoever she would. Doth the jade look for a Duke or a Prince, trow? Methinks she may await long ere she find them."
Isoult thought, but she did not say, that in all probability what Frances wished was only to be let alone. The result of these repeated confidences was that Isoult began to want a confidante also; and as Dr Thorpe had asked her to find out what was distressing Lady Frances, she laid the whole matter before him. When he was put in possession of as much as Isoult knew, he said thoughtfully—
"'Tis my Lady Lisle, then, that doth chiefly urge her?"
"I think so much," she replied. "Methinks Mrs Philippa doth but follow my Lady her mother; and should trouble her but little an' she did cease."
"She will cease ere long," he answered sadly.
"You think so, Dr Thorpe?" said Isoult, mistaking his meaning. "I shall verily be of good cheer when she doth so."
"You do misconceive me, Mrs Avery," said he. "I do not signify that she shall leave it of her good will; nay, nor perchance ere death take her. But that will be ere long."
"Dr Thorpe!" cried Isoult. "You would say—"
"I would say," answered he, "that my Lady Lisle's life is scantly worth twelve months' purchase. Methought it better to let you know so much, Mrs Avery, for I would not give you but Scarborough warning." [Note 7.]
"Woe worth the day!" said Isoult.
"The Lady Frances is but ill off touching her health," replied he, "but with her 'tis rather the soul than the body that doth suffer. Rest from sorrow and vexations might yet avail for her. But neither rest, nor physic, nor aught save a miracle from God, can avail, as methinks, for the Lady Lisle."
When Isoult came down into the little parlour the day after, she was surprised to find there a stranger, in close conversation with Lady Lisle and Philippa. She hesitated a moment whether to enter, but Lady Lisle desired her to come in; so she sat down and began to work. Little of the conversation reached her, for it was conducted almost in whispers; until the door opened, and Lady Frances came slowly into the room. A quick colour rose to her cheek, and she slightly compressed her lips; but she came forward, the stranger, a dark good-looking man, kissing her hand before she sat down.
"Is there aught new, Mr Monke?" asked Philippa, changing the conversation.
"I have heard but one thing," said he, "yet is that somewhat strange. My Lord's Grace of Canterbury is become a Gospeller."
"Wherefore, gramercy?" inquired Lady Lisle, scornfully.
"Wherefore not, I can say," said Philippa. "'Twill scarce serve to curry Favelle." [Note 8.]
"Very little, as I think," answered Mr Monke. "As to the wherefore, Madam, mecounteth my Lord Archbishop is gone according unto his conscience. 'Tis his wont, as men do know."
"Humph!" was all Lady Lisle said.
"Men's consciences do lead them by mighty diverse ways now o' days," observed Philippa. "I little wis wherefore all men cannot be of one fashion of belief, as they were aforetime. Thirty years gone, all was peace in religion."
"The dead are at peace ever, Sister," said Frances, softly. "The living it is that differ."
"'Living,' quotha!" exclaimed Lady Lisle. "Thy fashion of talk is aside of me, Frank.—But what think you, Mr Monke? Hath every man the born right to do that which is good in his eyes, or should he bow and submit his conscience and will unto holy Church and the King's Highness' pleasure?"
Lady Lisle spoke scornfully; but Frances turned and looked earnestly at Mr Monke. Isoult did the same, and she wondered to see his face change and his eyes kindle.
"Madam," said he, "maybe your Ladyship doth but set a trap for to hear what I shall say touching this matter. But verily, if I must tell mine opinion, in matters so near to a man's heart and conscience as are his soul and her affinity with God, methinks neither the King's Highness' pleasure, neither the teaching of the Church, hath much ado. I would say that a man should submit his will to God's will, and his conscience to God's Word, and no otherwise."
Lady Frances' eyes were radiant, and a quick flush was kindled on her cheeks. Her mother rose from her chair.
"Are you a Gospeller?" she said, yet in a tone from which no one could have guessed whether she were one herself or not.
"I am so, Madam," answered Mr Monke, his colour deepening, but his voice as firm as ever.
"Then get you gone out of mine house," cried she in a rage, "and come hither no more a-tempting of my daughter!"
Mr Monke rose, and endeavoured to kiss her Ladyship's hand; but she drew it from him as if he had been a snake. He came over to where Isoult sat, and held out his hand.
"Farewell, Mrs Avery," he said, in a low voice, which trembled a little. "I have made an end of all mine hopes in this quarter. Yet how could I have done other?"
"Forgive me, Mr Monke, I pray you," she said, glancing at Frances' face, whence the light and the colour had not yet died away. "I think rather, you have but now made a beginning."
Isoult Avery returned home in anything but a happy frame of mind. Lady Lisle had turned completely against Mr Monke, and now taunted Frances with "caring nought for him save for his Gospelling;" while Philippa took part, first with one side, and then with the other. In all this turmoil Isoult could see but one bright spot, which was the hope of an approaching visit from Sir Henry and Lady Ashley. Lady Ashley (nee Katherine Basset) was Lady Lisle's second daughter, and there was some reason to expect, from the gentleness of her disposition, that her influence would be exerted on the side of peace.
A letter was waiting for Isoult Avery at Bradmond, from an old friend and mistress whom she had not seen since her marriage. It ran thus:—
"My Good Isoult,—But shall I call you so, now you be Mistress Avery? Choose you if you will not have it so, for until you deny it I shall call you so.
"Annis fareth right well, and is a maid of most sweet conditions. Now I see your brow to wrinkle, and that you shall say, How cometh my Lady of Suffolk to wit any thing of Annis? If all riddles were as readily solute as this, it were scantly worth the trouble to make them. But have here mine explication of the mystery. Three months gone, certain of my kin writ unto me from Spain, to desire me to search and find a discreet maiden of good degree, that should be apt at the tongues, and that she should be reader of English unto the Queen's Grace of Spain, the Emperor Charles his mother. Truly I slept not on the matter, but endeavoured myself to serve them with all the haste in my power: but though maids be many, discreet maids be few, and discreet maids of good degree be fewer yet. Hereon writ I unto Mistress Anne Basset, the discreetest maid I know, to ask at her if she were ware of an other as discreet maid as herself, that would of her good will learn the Spanish tongue, and dwell in Spain. And what doth Mrs Anne but write me word in answer that there is in all this world no maid to compare for discretion with Annis Holland, which hath learned the French from her, and the Latin from Mr Hungerford, of the King's house, and can chatter like a pie in both the one and the other. Wherefore I, being aweary of searching for discreet maids, did lay hands with all quickness and pleasure on this maid, and she is now in mine house a-learning of the Spanish from Father Alonso, and Don Jeronymo, and me. And so, being weary, I commend you and Mr Avery to God. From Grimsthorpe, this Wednesday, at six of the clock in the morning; and like a sluggard [Note 9], in my bed.
"Your assured loving friend,—
The reader will need more explanation of this lively epistle than did Isoult. Anne Basset, the third of Lady Lisle's four daughters, had been successively Maid of Honour to the four latter Queens of Henry the Eighth; during much of which period (with an interval for her Calais experience) Isoult Barry had been her bower-woman. When Isoult quitted Anne's service for that of the Duchess of Suffolk, she begged that her old friend Annis Holland might be promoted to the vacant place,—a request readily granted by Anne. Since Isoult Barry became Isoult Avery, she had seen little of either Anne or Annis; and the transference of the latter to the Duchess's service was no little wonder to her.
Meanwhile public news poured in on all sides. Mr Tremayne, who had occasion to journey to Exeter, came back armed at all points with fresh tidings of what was doing in the world; and as such live newspapers supplied all that was to be had, every body in Bodmin immediately asked him to dinner. Mr Tremayne declined the majority of the invitations; but he accepted that from Bradmond, which included his family also. So he, in a brown velvet suit, and Custance in the gravest drab, and Arbel with some bright blue ribbons neutralising her sober "sad-coloured" dress, and Robin, whose cap bore a white feather stuck in it in a style not suggestive of Quakerism, walked up to Bradmond one Thursday afternoon, to four-hours.
It is scarcely needful to explain that four-hours was a meal taken at four p.m., and in style and custom corresponding to the "afternoon tea" now in vogue. It may be more desirable to indicate of what it consisted, seeing that tea and coffee were yet mysteries of the future. There were cakes of all varieties; there was clotted cream; and of course there was junket. There were apple puffs, and syllabubs, and half-a-dozen different kinds of preserves. In the place which is now occupied by the tea-pot was a gallon of sack, flanked by a flagon of Gascon wine; beside which stood large jugs of new milk and home-brewed ale. One thing at least was evident, there was no fear of starvation. When the ladies had finished a little private conference, and all the party were gathered round the table, Mr Tremayne was requested to open his budget of news.
It was glad news for the Gospellers, for the grand item which in their eyes overwhelmed every other, was that Bishop Gardiner had left Court— not exactly in disgrace, yet with a tacit understanding that his stay was no longer welcome—and that the King's uncle, the Earl of Hertford, now created Duke of Somerset, was placed at the head of public affairs. Somerset was a Lutheran, but just emerging from the twilight of Lutheranism into the full Gospel day.
After the great subject came the smaller ones. The knighting of the young King by his uncle Somerset; the creation of a large batch of peers,—Somerset himself and his brother, the brother of Queen Katherine (made Marquis of Northampton), the half-brother of Lady Frances Basset (created Earl of Warwick), and Wriothesley the persecutor, who was made Earl of Southampton. These were only a few of the number, but of them we shall hear again. Then came the account of the coronation on Shrove Sunday: how that grave, blue-eyed child of nine years old, had been crowned and anointed in the venerable Abbey, by Archbishop Cranmer, in the presence of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal; and how he had sat in the throne at the coronation-feast in the Hall, with the crown of England on the little head, and all the nobles at separate tables below. [Note 10.] And throughout England rang the cry, "God bless him!" for England's hope was all in God and him.
Note 1. Arabella; originally spelt Orabele or Orabilia, now Arbel or Arbella.
Note 2. Constance, at this time pronounced Custance.
Note 3. The members of the Tremayne family are imaginary persons.
Note 4. A fictitious character.
Note 5. The lost adjective of compassion.
Note 6. "A Litel Geste of Robyn Hode."
Note 7. "Scarborough warning—a word and a blow, and the blow come first."—Then a very popular proverb.
"He that would in Court dwell Must curry Favelle."
Favelle was the mediaeval name for a chestnut horse, as Bayard for a bay, and Lyard for a grey. From this proverb has been corrupted our modern phrase "to curry favour." The word is sometimes spelt Fauvelle.
Note 9. These expressions do no violence to her Grace's epistolary style. They are to be found in her genuine letters.
Note 10. Diary of Edward the Sixth, Cott. Ms. Nero, c. x. folio 9, b.
THE SILVER AND THE SABLE.
"'We measure life by years and tears,' he said; 'We live a little; then life leaves us dead, And the long grass grows greenly overhead.'"
While the party were still conversing, the post came in—always an important event at that day—and brought two letters for Isoult. The first was from Beatrice Dynham [fictitious persons], who had been her fellow bower-woman with the Duchess of Suffolk, and requested her old friend to remember her in the first week in May, when she was to marry Mr Vivian [a fictitious person], a gentleman of the late King's household. She also informed her that the young Duke of Suffolk, a boy of eleven years, had been placed about the person of the young Sovereign, under the care of the Duke of Somerset. The second letter was from Crowe. Lady Ashley had arrived, and had tried hard to effect a truce between the contending parties, she hoped not entirely without good results. Lady Lisle had been obliged to sell two pieces of land from the Frithelstoke estate, called Choldysoke and Meryfield; and Philippa Basset sent Isoult word that it was well Meryfield was sold, seeing that all mirth had departed from them long ago.
"When shall my mistress your friend be wed, Mrs Avery?" very gravely inquired Jennifer Trevor, Isoult's bower-woman.
"The first week in May," repeated Isoult, referring to the letter.
"Ay, methought you read so much," responded Jennifer, looking still more solemn.
"Come, out with your thought, Mrs Trevor," said Tremayne; "for I do see plainly that you have one."
"Why, Mr Tremayne," replied she, "'tis but that I would not be wed in May for all the gold in Cornwall."
"But how if your servant [suitor] were a sailor, Mrs Jennifer, and should set forth the last day of May?" queried Avery.
"Then," she said, "I would either be wed in April, or he should wait till he came back. But 'tis true, Mrs Avery, a May babe never liveth, no more than a May chick thriveth; nor is a May kit ever a mouser. 'Tis the unluckiest month in all the year. I never brake in all my life a steel glass [looking-glass] saving once, and that was in May; and sure enough, afore the same day next May died one on that farm."
"One of the household?" asked Avery.
"Well, nay," answered Jennifer, "'twas but the old black cow, that had been sick a month or more."
"Ah!" was the grave answer; "her dying was a marvel!"
"But there was a death, Mr Avery!" urged Jennifer.
"An' there had not been," said he, "I count you should have drowned the cat, to make one. But, Mrs Jennifer, in sober sadness, think you that God keepeth record of the breaking of steel glasses and the ticking of death-watches?"
"Eh, those death-watches!" cried she; "I were out of my wit if I heard one."
"Then I trust you shall not hear one," answered he, "for I desire that you should keep in your wit."
"Well, Mr Avery!" said Jennifer, "I could tell you somewhat an' I listed."
"Pray give us to hear it," replied he. "What is it? and whom threatens it? The red cow or the tabby cat? Poor puss!" and he stooped down and stroked her as she lay on the hearth.
"There shall come a stranger hither!" pursued Jennifer, solemnly. "I saw him yestereven in the bars of the grate."
"What favoured he?" asked Avery.
"'Twas a fair man, with a full purse," she replied.
"Then he is welcome, an' he come to give us the purse," was the answer. "It shall be an other post, I cast little doubt; for he shall be a stranger, and maybe shall have full saddlebags."
"You shall see, Mr Avery!" said Jennifer, pursing her lips.
"So I shall, Mrs Jennifer," responded he. "But in how long time shall he be here?"
"That I cannot tell," said she.
"Then the first fair man that cometh, whom you know not, shall serve?" answered he. "'Tis mighty easy witchery that. I could fall to prophesying mine own self at that rate. It shall rain, Mrs Jennifer, and thunder likewise; yea, and we shall have snow. And great men shall die, and there shall be changes in this kingdom, and some mighty ill statutes shall be passed. And you and I shall grow old, Mrs Jennifer (if we die not aforetime), and we shall suffer pain, and likewise shall enjoy pleasure. See you not what a wizard I am?"
Tremayne laughed merrily as he rose to depart.
"I shall look to hear if Mrs Trevor be right in her prophecy," said he.
"We will give you to know that in a month's time," answered John Avery rather drily.
In less than a month the news had to be sent, for a stranger arrived. It was Mr Monke. Jennifer was delighted, except for one item. She had announced that the stranger would be fair, and Mr Monke was dark. In this emergency she took refuge, as human nature is apt to do, in exaggerating the point in respect to which she had proved right, and overlooking or slighting that whereon she had proved wrong.
"I might readily blunder in his fairness," she observed in a self-justifying tone, "seeing it did but lie in the brightness of the flame."
"Not a doubt thereof," responded John Avery in a tone which did not tranquillise Jennifer.
When there happened to be no one in the hall but himself and Isoult, Mr Monke came and stood by her as she sat at work.
"Wish me happiness, Mrs Avery," he said in a low but very satisfied voice.
Isoult Avery was a poor guesser of riddles. She looked up with an air of perplexed simplicity.
"Why, Mr Monke, I do that most heartily at all times," she answered. "But what mean you?"
"That God hath given me the richest jewel He had for me," he said, in the same tone as before.
Then Isoult knew what he meant. "Is it Frances?" she asked, speaking as softly as he had done.
"It is that fair and shining diamond," he pursued, "known among men as the Lady Frances Basset."
For a moment Isoult was silent, and if Mr Monke could have read the thoughts hidden behind that quiet face, perhaps he would not have felt flattered. For Isoult was wondering in her own mind whether she ought to be glad or sorry. But the next moment her delicate instinct had told her what to answer.
"Mr Monke," she said, looking up again, "I do most heartily wish happiness to both you and her."
And Mr Monke never guessed from any thing in the quiet face what the previous thought had been.
The next day brought a letter to Isoult from Lady Frances herself; and the last relic of Jennifer's uneasiness was appeased by the fair hair and beard of the messenger. She only said now that there might have been two strangers in the fire; she ought to have looked more carefully.
All was smooth water now at Crowe. Lady Lisle had given way, but not until Frances plainly told her that she had urged this very match earnestly before, and now that she was reluctantly endeavouring to conform to her wishes, had turned round to the opposing side. Philippa was more readily won over. Lady Frances had told Mr Monke honestly that a great part of her heart lay in the grave of John Basset; but that she thoroughly esteemed himself, and such love as she could give him he should have.
"I trust," she wrote to Isoult, "that we may help, not hinder, the one the other on the way to Heaven. We look to be wed in June next, after the new fashion, in the English tongue. Pray meanwhile for me, dear heart, that I may 'abide in Him.'"
When Isoult came down-stairs from the careful perusal of her letter, she heard Dr Thorpe's voice in the hall, and soon perceived that her husband and he were deep in religious conversation.
"Softly, Jack!" Dr Thorpe was saying as she entered. "Methinks thou art somewhat too sweeping. We must have priests, man (though they need not be ill and crafty men); nor see I aught so mighty wrong in calling the Lord's Table an altar. Truly, myself I had liefer say 'table'; yet would I not by my good will condemn such as do love that word 'altar.' Half the mischief that hath arisen in all these battles of religion now raging hath come of quarrelling over words. And 'tis never well to make a martyr or an hero of thine adversary."
"I have no mind to make a martyr of you, my dear old friend," answered Avery, "in whatsoever signification. I see well what you would be at, though I see not with you. And I would put you in mind, by your leave, that while true charity cometh of God, there is a false charity which hath another source."
"But this is to split straws, Jack," said the Doctor.
"I pray you pardon me," replied he, "but I think not so. I know, Doctor, you do incline more toward the Lutheran than I, and therefore 'tis like that such matters may seem smaller unto you than to me. But when—"
"I incline toward the truth," broke in Dr Thorpe, bluntly.
"We will both strive our best so to do, friend," gently answered Avery. "But, as I was about to say, when you come to look to the ground of this matter, you shall see it (if I blunder not greatly) to be far more than quarrelling over words or splitting of straws. The calling of men by that name of priest toucheth the eternal priesthood of the Lord Christ."
"As how?" queried the old man, resting his hands on his staff, and looking Avery in the face.
"As thus," said he. "Cast back your eyes, I pray you, to the times of the old Jewish laws, and tell me wherefore they lacked so many priests as all the sons of Aaron should needs be. I mean, of course, so many at one time."
"Why, man! one at once should have been crushed under the work!" answered Dr Thorpe. "If one man had been to slay Solomon his twenty-two thousand sacrifices, he should not have made an end by that day month."
"Good. Then the lesser priests were needed, because of the insufficiency of the high priest for all that lacked doing?"
"That I allow," said Dr Thorpe, after some meditation.
"See you what you allow, friend?" Avery answered, softly. "If, then, the lesser priests be yet needed, it must be by reason that the High Priest is yet insufficient, and the sacrifice which He offered is yet incomplete."
"Nay, nay, Jack, nay!" cried the old man, much moved, and shaking his head.
"It must be so, dear friend. To what good were those common and ordinary priests, save to aid the high priest in that which, being but a man, he might not perform alone? Could the high priest have sufficed alone, what need were there of other? But our High Priest sufficeth, and hath trodden the wine-press alone. His sacrifice is perfect, is full, is eternal. There needeth no repeating—nay, there can be no repeating thereof. What do we, then, with priests now? Where is their sacrifice? And a priest that sacrificeth not is a gainsaying of words. Friend, whoso calleth him a priest now, by that word denieth the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus."
"And whoso calleth the Table an altar—" began Dr Thorpe.
"Is guilty of the same sin," pursued he; "the same affront unto the Majesty of Him that will not give His glory to an other."
"They mean it not so, I verily believe," responded Dr Thorpe, a little uneasily. "They mean assuredly to do Him honour."
"And He can see the difference," said Avery, tenderly, "betwixt the denial of Peter that loved Him, and the betrayal of Judas that hated Him. Our eyes are rarely fine enough for that. More than once or twice, had the judgment lain with us, we had, I think, condemned Peter and quitted Judas."
"I would all this variance betwixt Lutherans and Gospellers might cease!" resumed Dr Thorpe, rather bitterly. "When we should be pointing our spears all against the enemy, we are bent on pricking of each other!"
"A vain wish, friend," answered he. "So far as I can see, that hath been ever since the world began, and will last unto the world's end. I am not so fond as to look for Christ's kingdom until I see the King. The fair Angel of Peace flieth in His train; but, methinks, never out of it."
"It seemeth," said Dr Thorpe, "as though the less space there were betwixt my doctrine and thine, the more bitterly must thou and I wrangle!"
"Commonly it is so," replied Avery.
"And while these real battles be fighting," pursueth he, "betwixt Christ's followers and Christ's foes,—what a sight is it to see the followers dividing them on such matters as—whether childre shall be baptised with the cross or no; whether a certain garment shall be worn or no; whether certain days shall be kept with public service or no! Tush! it sickeneth a man with the whole campaign."
Both rose, but after his farewell Dr Thorpe broke out again, as though he could not let the matter drop.
"Do the fools think," asked the old man, "that afore the angels will open the gate of Heaven unto a man, they fall a-questioning him—to wit, whether salt were used at his baptism; whether his body were buried looking toward the East or the West; whether when he carried his Bible he held it in his right hand or his left? Dolts, idiots, patches! [Fools.] It should do me a relief to duck every man of them in the Tamar."
"And cause them to swallow a dose of physic at afterward?" laughed Avery.
"It were hemlock, then," said Dr Thorpe, grimly.
"Nay, friend, not so bad as that, methinks. But shall I give you one dose of a better physic than any of yours? 'By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one toward another.'"
"How are they to know it now?" said Dr Thorpe, despairingly. "How are they to know it? Well, I know not; maybe thou art not so far-off, Jack; but for all other I know—"
And away he went, shaking his grey head.
Lady Frances and Mr Monke were married when the summer came. John Avery and Isoult were invited to the wedding; and Philippa sent a special message requesting that their little Kate might be included; for, said she, "Arthur shall be a peck of trouble, and an' he had one that he might play withal he should be the less."
"List thee, sweet heart! thou art bidden to a wedding!" said Jennifer to Kate.
"What is a wedding?" inquired four-year-old Kate, in her gravest manner. "Is it a syllabub?"
"Ay, sweet heart; 'tis a great syllabub, full of sugar," answered Jennifer, laughing.
"That is as it may be, Mrs Jennifer," observed Dr Thorpe, who was present. "I have known that syllabub full of vinegar. That is, methinks, a true proverb,—'If Christ be not asked at the match, He will never make one at the marriage-feast.' And 'tis a sorry feast where He sitteth not at the table."
"I think He shall not be absent from this," said Isoult, softly.
So Kate went to Crowe with her parents; but her baby brother Walter, a year old, was left behind in charge of Jennifer.
The evening after their arrival, the bride took Isoult apart, and, rather to her surprise, asked her if she thought that the dead knew what was passing in this world. To such a question there was but one answer. Isoult could not tell.
"Isoult," she said, her eyes filling with tears, "I would not have him know of this, if it be so. And can that be right and good which I would not he should know?"
Isoult needed not to ask her who "he" was.
"Nay, sweet heart!" said she, "thinkest thou he would any thing save thy comfort and gladness? He is passed into the land where (saith David) all things are forgotten—to wit, (I take it) all things earthly and carnal, all things save God; and when ye shall meet again in the body, it shall be in that resurrection where they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are equal unto the angels."
"All things forgotten!" she faltered. "Hath he forgot me? They must sleep, then; that is a kind of forgetting. But if I were awake and witful, I never could forget him. It were not I that did so."
"Let us leave that with God, beloved," answered Isoult.
"O Isoult," she murmured, her tears beginning to drop fast, "I would do God's will, and leave all to Him: but is this God's will? Thou little knowest how I am tortured and swayed to and fro with doubt. It was easier for thee, that hadst but a contract to fulfil."
Isoult remembered the time before she had ever seen her husband, when it did not look very easy. She scarcely knew what she ought to answer. She only said—
"Dear heart, if thou do truly desire to do only God's will, methinks He will pardon thee if thou lose thy way."
"It looketh unto me at times," she said, "as if it scarce could be right, seeing it should lift me above want, and set me at ease."
This was a new thought to Isoult, and she was puzzled what to say. But in the evening she told John, and asked his advice. Much to her astonishment, he, usually gentle, pulled to the casement with a bang.
"Is that thine answer, Jack?" said Isoult, laughing.
"Somewhat like it," answered he drily. "'Tis no marvel that ill men should lose the good way, when the true ones love so much to walk in byepaths."
"Thou riddlest, Jack," said Isoult.
"Tell me, dear heart," he answered, "doth God or Satan rule the world?"
"God ruleth the world, without doubt," said she, "but if Satan spake sooth unto our Lord, he hath the power of the glory of it."
"Did Satan ever speak sooth, thinkest?" he replied smiling somewhat bitterly. "Howbeit to leave that point,—doth God, or doth Satan, mete out the lives of God's people, and give them what is best for them?"
"God doth, assuredly," said she.
"Well said," answered he. "Then (according unto this doctrine) when God giveth His child a draught of bitter physic, he may with safety take and drink it; but when He holdeth forth a cup of sugared succades [sweetmeats], that must needs be refused. Is it so?"
"Jack!" wonderingly cried Isoult.
"There be that think so," he made answer, "but I had scarce accounted my Lady Frances one ere now. Set the thing afore her in that light. This is the self spring whence cometh all the monasteries and nunneries, and anchorites' cells in all the world. Is God the author of darkness, and not of light? Doth He create evil, and not good? Tell her, when the Lord holdeth forth an honeycomb, He would have her eat it, as assuredly as, when He giveth a cup of gall into her hand, He meaneth she should drink it. And methinks it can scarce be more joyful to Him to watch her drink the gall than eat the honeycomb."
The last words were uttered very tenderly.
When Isoult told Frances what John had said, the tears rose to her eyes.
"O Isoult! have I been wronging my God and Father?" she said in a quivering voice. "I never meant to do that."
"Tell Him so, sweet heart," answered Isoult.
Isoult thought her husband was right, when, on the following day, she came across the text, "The Lord that hath pleasure in the prosperity of His people." But in her innocent way she showed it to John, and asked him if he thought it meant that it was a pleasure to the Lord Himself to bestow happiness on His people. John smiled at her, as he often did.
"Sweet heart," he answered, "doth it please or offend thee, when thou dost kiss Kate, and comfort her for some little trouble, and she stayeth her crying, and smileth up at thee?"
"Why, Jack, 'tis one of my greatest pleasures," answered Isoult.
Very gravely and tenderly he answered,—"'As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.'"
On the 17th of June, Isoult Avery wrote in her diary:—
"The church-bells are making music in mine ears as I sit to write. An hour gone, Frances and Mr Monke went forth, no longer twain, but one. God go with her, and bless her, this dear sister of mine heart, and comfort her for all she hath lost—ay, as 'one whom his mother comforteth!'"
The ink was scarcely dry from this entry when Philippa Basset marched in, with unrecognised step, for her shoes were new.
"Why, Mrs Philippa! your new shoes wrought that I knew not your step," said Isoult, with a smile.
"New shoes!" said she, "yea, in good sooth. I flung both mine old ones after Frank; and had I had an hundred pairs in my cupboard, I had sent them all flying."
The thought of a hundred pairs of shoes falling about, was too much for Isoult's gravity.
"One of them smote the nag on his tail," continued Philippa; "I warrant you it gave him a smart, for I sent it with all my might. 'Tis a good omen that—saving only that it might cause the beast to be restive."
"Believe you in omens, Mrs Philippa?" answered Isoult.
"Not one half so much as I do believe in mine own good sense," said she. "Yet I have known some strange things in my time. Well, what thinkest thou of this match of Frank's?"
"I trust with all mine heart she may find it an happy and a comfortable," was the reply.
"Ay, maybe a scrap of happiness shall not hurt her overmuch," said Philippa in her dry way. "As to Mr Monke, I will wish him none, for methought from his face he were as full as he could hold; and an' he had some trouble, he demeriteth it, for having away Frank."
And so away she went, both laughing.
News that stirred every Gospeller's heart reached Bradmond ere the Christmas of 1547. The Bloody Statute was repealed; and in every parish church, by royal order, a Bible and a copy of the Paraphrases of Erasmus were set open, for all the people to read.
But the repeal of the Bloody Statute, ardently as she desired it, was not without sad memories to Isoult Avery. The Act now abrogated had brought death, four years before, to one very dear to her heart; and it was not in human nature for her to hear of its destruction without a sigh given to the memory of Grace Rayleigh. In the churchyard at Bodmin were two nameless graves—of a husband and wife whom that Bloody Statute had parted, and who had only met at last in its despite, and to die. And when Grace had closed the eyes of her beloved, she lay down to her own long rest. Her work was finished in this world; and very welcome was the summons to her—"Come up higher."
"From her long heart-withering early gone, She hath lived—she hath loved—her task is done."
Yet how was it possible to wish her back? Back to pain, and sorrow, and fear, and mournful memory of the far-off husband and the dead child! Back from the lighted halls of the Father's Home, to the bleak, cold, weary wilderness of earth! Surely with Christ it was far better.
When Isoult came in comforted after her visit to Grace's grave, Barbara, her parlour-maid, met her at the door.
"Mistress, a letter came for you in all haste shortly after you went forth," said she. "I had come unto you withal, had I known whither you were gone."
Isoult took the letter from Barbara's hand. On the outside was written—the energetic ancient form of our mild direction "To be delivered immediately"—a rather startling address to the postman.
"Haste, haste, for thy life, haste!"
With forebodings travelling in more than one direction, Isoult cut the ribbon which fastened the letter and broke the seal. There were not a dozen lines written within; but her heart sank like lead ere she had read half of them.
The letter was from Crowe, and was signed by Mr George Basset, the eldest surviving son of Lady Lisle. He desired John Avery and his wife to hasten with all speed to Crowe, for Lady Lisle had been taken ill suddenly and dangerously, and they feared for her life. There was also an entreaty to bring Dr Thorpe, if he could possibly come; for at Crowe there was only an apothecary. Doctors, regularly qualified, were scarce in those days. All the scattered members of the family within reasonable distance had been summoned.
In as short a time as it was possible to be ready, John and Isoult set forth with Dr Thorpe, who said he could accompany them without more than temporary inconvenience to any of his patients. It was two days' journey to Crowe; and Isoult's heart sank lower and lower as they approached the house. But when they reached the end of the long lane which led to it, they suddenly encountered, at a turn in the road, the writer of the letter which had summoned them. It was an instant relief to see Mr George Basset smile and hold out his hand in welcome.
"Better news, thank God!" he said at once. "My mother hath rested well these two nights past, and is fairly amended this morrow. I am glad with all mine heart this bout is well over. It hath feared us no little, as I can tell you."
With lighter hearts they rode to the door, where Isoult had no sooner alighted than she found herself drawn from behind into the arms of Lady Frances Monke, who had arrived the day before. Isoult followed her into the little parlour, where in a large carved chair she saw a very stiff and rich silk dress; and on looking a little higher, she found that chair and silk were tenanted by Mrs Wollacombe, Lady Lisle's youngest daughter.
"Ah, Isoult, art thou come?" inquired that young lady, playing with her chatelaine. "I hope thou hast left thy childre behind. These childre be such plagues."
"Hand me thine for a silver groat," interrupted Philippa, coming in.
"Thou art welcome, an' thou choose to take them," replied her sister. "They do but rumple my ruffs and soil my gowns. They be for ever in some manner of mischievousness. I cannot keep them out thereof, for all I have two nursemaids, and Jack to boot."
"Thou art little like, Mall, an' thou add not thyself to the bargain," answered Philippa, in her old mocking way. "Isoult, but for the pleasure of seeing thee, I could be sorry I sent after thee. My Lady my mother is so sweetly amending (thank all the saints for it!) that I am little pleased to have put thee to such charges and labour."
"I pray you say no word of that, Mrs Philippa," said Isoult, "for in very sooth it giveth me right hearty pleasure to see you."
"Dr Thorpe," continued Philippa, turning to him, "I am right glad to welcome you, and I thank you with all mine heart that you are come. Will you grant us the favour of your skill, though it be less needed than we feared, and take the pain to come up with me to see my Lady?"
Dr Thorpe assenting, she took him up-stairs; and the next minute Mr Monke, coming in, greeted his friends cordially. Then came Lady Ashley, sweet and gentle as ever, and afterwards Sir Henry Ashley and Mr Wollacombe.
"Mrs Philippa," said Isoult, when she returned, "we will not be a charge on her Ladyship. Jack and I will lie at the inn, for assuredly she cannot lodge all us in this her house."
"I thank thee truly, dear heart," responded Philippa affectionately. "In good sooth, there is not room for all, howsoever we should squeeze us together; wherefore we must need disparkle [scatter] us. Verily, an' we had here but James and Nan, there were not one of us lacking."
"How fareth Mr James?" returned Isoult; "is he yet a priest?"
"He is now in London, with my Lord of Winchester," [Bishop Gardiner] answered Philippa. "Nay, so far from priesthood that he is now on the eve of his wedding, unto one Mrs Mary Roper [daughter of the well-known Margaret Roper], grand-daughter of Sir Thomas More."
It was late in the evening before Isoult could contrive to speak with Dr Thorpe in private; and then she asked him to tell her frankly how he thought Lady Lisle.
"Better this time," said he, significantly.
"Think you as you did, then?" she asked.
"Ay, Mrs Avery," said he, sadly, "I think as I did."
After this, Isoult saw Lady Lisle herself, but only for a moment, when she struck her as looking very ill; but Philippa assured her that there could be no comparison with what she had been two days before.
The next morning, Isoult, with Lady Frances, Lady Ashley, and Philippa, sat for an hour in the invalid's chamber. The conversation turned upon public affairs; and at last they began to talk of the pulling down of the roods, which Philippa opposed, while both Frances and Isoult pronounced them idols.
"Fight it out an' ye will," said the sick lady, laughing feebly, "only outside of my chamber."
"Go thou down, Kate, and fetch up Mr Monke first," responded Philippa; "for I am well assured my first blow should kill Frank an' she had not his help."
Thus playfully they chatted for a while, but Isoult fancied that Lady Lisle was scarcely so angrily earnest in her opposition to the doctrines of the Gospel as was generally her wont. Presently up came the untidy Deb, in all her untidiness, to say that dinner was served; and was parenthetically told by Philippa that she was a shame to the family.
"Which of us would you with you, Mother?" asked Frances.
"Why, none of you," she replied. "Go down all, children; I lack nought; I am going to sleep."
And she laid back her head on the pillow of her chair.
"Shall I not abide, Madam?" suggested Lady Ashley.
"No, child," she answered. "When you come above ye shall find me asleep, if all go well."
So, seeing she preferred to be left alone, they all went to dinner. When they returned, Lady Frances, Lady Ashley, and Isoult, went towards Lady Lisle's chamber. Lady Ashley opened the door softly, and put her head in.
"Doth she sleep, Kate?" whispered Frances.
"Softly!" said Lady Ashley, withdrawing her head. "Let us not disturb her—she is so sweetly sleeping."
Sleeping! ay, a sleep that should have no waking, From that sleep not the roaring of the winds, not the thunder of the tempest, not even the anguished voices of her children, should ever arouse her again.
"She had no priest, after all," said Frances under her breath to Isoult, the same evening.
Lady Ashley added very softly, "She said we should find her asleep, if all went well. We found her asleep. Is it an omen that all did go well?"
Isoult could make no answer.
Where Honor Plantagenet was buried, no record remains to tell us, unless it be some early entry in a parish register of Cornwall or Devon. It might be in the family burying-place of her own kindred, the Grenvilles of Stow; or it might be with her first husband, Sir John Basset, at Umberleigh. Only it may be asserted without fear of contradiction, that it was not with the royal lord whom she had so bitterly lamented, and whose coffin lay, with many another as illustrious as his own, in the old Norman Chapel of the Tower. No stranger admixture can there be on earth, than among those coffins crowding that Norman Chapel,—from traitors of the blackest dye, up to saints and martyrs.
The first news which the Averys heard after their return home, was not encouraging to that religious party to which they belonged. Bishop Gardiner had been set free, and had gone back to his Palace at Farnham, Mr James Basset accompanying him. This was an evil augury; for wherever Gardiner was, there was mischief. But it soon appeared that Somerset kept his eye upon the wolf, and on his first renewed attempt upon the fold, he was quietly placed again in durance. Meanwhile the leaven of reformation was working slowly and surely. On Candlemas Day there were no candles in the Chapel Royal; no ashes on Ash Wednesday; no palms on Palm Sunday. At Paul's Cross, after eight years' silence, the earnest voice of Hugh Latimer was heard ringing: and to its sound flocked such a concourse, that the space round the Cross could not hold them, and a pulpit was set up in the King's garden at Westminster Palace, where four times the number of those at the Cross might assemble. For eight years there had been "a famine of the word of the Lord" in England, and now men and women came hungering and ready to be fed. Perhaps, if we had borne eight years' famine, we should not quite so readily cry out that the provisions are too abundant. An outcry for short sermons has always hitherto marked the spiritual decadence of a nation. "Behold, what a weariness is it!" There is another inscription on the reverse side of the seal. "I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of Hosts."
The English service began with the following Easter. Confession—not yet abolished, yet so far relaxed as to be required of none who preferred to omit it—was made in English, and the Lord's Supper was also celebrated in English at the King's Chapel.
Isoult Avery began to think that she was to spend the year 1548 in visiting. She had not been long back from Crowe, when a letter reached her from her own home at Wynscote, inviting her to the wedding of her brother Hugh with Mrs Alice Wikes, which was to take place on the fourteenth of May. Jennifer Trevor shook her head in her most ominous style at the date. But Hugh, though a sailor, was nevertheless not at all superstitious, so far as concerned the point in question; and he had already sturdily declined to change the date selected by Alice, though half the gossips round Wynscote prophesied all manner of consequent evil. For a maiden of the sixteenth century, Alice also was remarkably free from the believing in omens and the observing of times: so Hugh and she were married on the fourteenth of May, and Isoult Avery was never able to discover that any harm had come of it.
On arrival at Wynscote, they found the house full and running over. Not only the family who ordinarily occupied it were there—namely, Mrs Barry, the widowed mother; Henry Barry, the head of the house, who was by calling a gentleman farmer, and by inclination the gentleman without the farmer; his wife Margaret, who would have made a better farmer than himself; and his three exceedingly noisy and mischievous boys, by name Michael, William, and Henry. But these, as I have said, were not by any means all. There was the bridegroom Hugh, who grumbled good-humouredly at being banished to Farmer Northcote's for the night, for there was no room for him except in the day-time; there was Bessy Dennis, the eldest sister, and John Dennis her husband, and William, Nicholas, Anne, and Ellen, their children. No wonder that Isoult told her husband in confidence that she did not expect to lose her headache till she reached home. Will Barry was the incarnation of mischief, and Will Dennis, his cousin and namesake, followed him like his shadow. The discipline which ensued was of doubtful character, for Bessy's two notions on the subject of rearing children were embodied in cakes or slaps, as they were respectively deserved, or rather, as she thought they were: while Mr Barry's ideas of education lay in very oracular exhortations, stuffed with words of as many syllables as he had the good fortune to discover. His wife's views were hardly better. Her interference consisted only in the invariable repetition of a formula—"Come, now, be good lads, do!"— which certainly did not err on the side of severity. But the grandmother, if possible, made matters worse. She had brought up her own children in abject terror and unanswering submission; and Nature, as usual, revenged herself by causing her never to cross the wills of her grandchildren on any consideration. Accordingly, when Will set fire to the barn, let the pony into the bean-field, and the cows into Farmer Northcote's meadow, Grandmother only observed quietly that "Boys will be boys"—an assertion which certainly could not be contradicted—and went on spinning as before.
The amazement of Isoult Avery—who had not previously visited home for some time—was intense. Her childhood had been a scene of obedience, both active and passive; a birch-rod had hung behind the front door, and nobody had ever known Anne Barry hesitate to whip a child, if there were the slightest chance that he or she deserved it: the "benefit of the doubt" being commonly given on the side of the birch-rod. And now, to see these boys—wild men of the woods as they were—rush unreproached up to the inaccessible side of Grandmother, lay violent hands upon her inviolable hood, kiss her as if they were thinking of eating her, and never meet with any worse penalty than a fig-cake [the Devonshire name for a plum-cake]—this was the source of endless astonishment and reflection to Isoult. On the whole, she congratulated herself that she had left Kate and Walter at Bradmond.
The bride was a stranger to Isoult. She talked to Bessy about her, and found that lady rather looked down upon her. "She was all very well, but—"
Ah, these unended buts! what mischief they make in this world of ours!
Then Isoult talked to Hugh, and found that if his description were to be trusted, Alice Wikes would be no woman at all, but an angel from Heaven. Bessy offered to take her sister to visit the bride, and Isoult accepted the offer. Meanwhile, she sketched a mental portrait of Alice. She would be short, and round-faced, and merry: the colour of her hair and eyes Isoult discreetly left blank.
So, three days before the wedding, her future sisters-in-law called upon the bride.
They found Alice's mother, Mrs Wikes, busy with her embroidery; and as soon as she saw who her guests were, she desired Mrs Alice to be summoned. After a little chat with Mrs Wikes upon things in general, the door opened to admit a girl the exact opposite of Isoult's imaginary picture. Alice proved tall, oval-faced, and grave.
The wedding was three days later, and on Sunday. Blue was the colour of the bride's costume, and favel-colour—a bright yellowish-brown—that of the bridesmaids. After the ceremony there was a banquet at Wynscote, and dancing, and a Maypole, and a soaped pig, and barley-break—an old athletic sport, to some extent resembling prisoner's base. Then came supper, and the evening closed with hot cockles and blind-hoodman—the latter being blindman's buff. And among all the company, to none but John and Isoult Avery did it ever occur that in these occupations there was the least incongruity with the Sabbath day. For they only were Gospellers; and at that time the Gospellers alone remembered to keep it holy. Rome strikes her pen through the third and fourth commandments, if less notoriously, yet quite as really, as through the second.
The Averys returned home about the 20th of May. They had left all well, and they found all well. And neither they nor any one else saw on the horizon a little cloud like a man's hand, which was ere long to break in a deluge of hail and fire upon Devonshire and Cornwall.
One evening in the beginning of June, when John Avery sat at the table making professional notes from a legal folio before him, and Isoult, at work beside him, was beginning to wonder why Barbara had not brought the rear-supper, a knock came at the door. Then the latch was lifted, and Mr Anthony Tremayne walked in.
"Heard you the news in Bodmin?" was the question which followed close upon his greeting.
"No," answered John. "I have not been in Bodmin for nigh a week, nor hath any thence been here."
"One Master Boddy, the King's Commissioner for Chantries," saith he, "came hither o' Friday; and the folk be all up at Bodmin, saying they will not have the chantries put down; and 'tis thought Father Giles is ahead of them. I much fear a riot, for the people are greatly aggrieved."
"I pray God avert the same, if His will is!" exclaimed Isoult.
This was the beginning of the first riots in Cornwall and Devon. There were tumults elsewhere, but the religious riots were worst in these parts. They began about the chantries, the people disliking the visitation: and from that they went to clamouring for the re-enactment of the Bloody Statute. On the 4th of June there were riots at Bodmin and Truro; and Father Giles, then priest at Bodmin, and a "stout Papist," helped them to the best of his ability. But on the 6th came the King's troops to Bodmin, and took Father Giles and others of the rioters, whom they sent to London to be tried; and about the 8th they reached Truro, where Mr Boddy, the King's Commissioner for the chantries, had been cruelly murdered five days before. For a little while after this, all was quiet in Bodmin; but the end was not come yet.
Father Giles, the priest of Bodmin, was hanged at London on the 7th of July for his share in the riots: and Government fondly imagined that the difficulty was at an end. How fond that imagination was, the events of the following year revealed.
Anthony Monke, the eldest child of Mr Monke and Lady Frances, was born in the summer of 1548 [date unknown]. In June of that year, a civil message from the Protector reached Bishop Gardiner at Farnham, requesting him to preach at Court on the 29th, Saint Peter's Day, following. This message perturbed Gardiner exceedingly. James Basset found him walking up and down his chamber, his hands clasped behind him, uttering incoherent words, indicative of apprehension; and this continued for some hours. On the 28th the Bishop reached London; on the 29th he preached before the King; and on the 30th he was in the Tower. Probably the wily prelate's conscience, never very clear, had already whispered the cause before he quitted Farnham.
On the 8th of September, at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, died the Lutheran Queen, Katherine Parr. She had taken a false step, and had lived to mourn it. Neglecting the command not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, she had married Sir Thomas Seymour very shortly after King Henry's death. It can be no lack of charity to call a man an unbeliever, a practical Atheist at least, whose daily habit it was to swear and walk out of the house when the summons was issued for family prayers. Poor Katherine had all the piety on her own side, but she had not to bear the penalty she had brought on herself long. She left behind her a baby daughter, Mary Seymour, who was sent to the care of the Duchess of Suffolk; for very soon after the Queen's death, Seymour was arrested and committed to the Tower. He died on Tower Hill, on the 20th of March following. That Seymour was a bad man there can be no question; whether he really were a traitor is much more doubtful. The Lutheran party accused his brother the Protector of having brought about his death. It might be so; yet any evidence beyond probability and declamation is lacking. "It was Somerset's interest to get rid of his brother; therefore he is responsible for his death." This may be assertion, but it surely is not argument.
Meanwhile in high places there was a leaven quietly working, unperceived as yet, which was ere long to pervade the whole mass. The government of Edward the Sixth had come into power under the colours of the Gospel. The Protector himself was an uncompromising Gospeller; and though many Lords of the Council were Lutherans, they followed at first in his wake. There was one member of the Council who never did so.
Nearly fifty years before that day, Henry the Seventh, whose "king-craft" was at least equal to that of James the First, had compelled the young heiress of Lisle, Elizabeth Grey, to bestow her hand upon his unworthy favourite, Edmund Dudley. It is doubtful whether she was not even then affianced to Sir Arthur Plantagenet (afterwards Lord Lisle), whose first wife she eventually became; but Henry Tudor would have violated all the traditions of his house, had he hesitated to degrade the estate, or grieve the heart, of a son of the House of York. This ill-matched pair—the covetous Edmund and the gentle Elizabeth— were the parents of four children: the first being John Dudley, who was born in 1502. It is of him I am about to speak.
His countenance, from a physiognomist's point of view, might be held to announce his character. The thick, obstinate lips, the cruel, cold blue eyes, intimated with sufficient accuracy the disposition of the man. Like all men who succeed, Dudley set before him one single aim. In his case, it was to dethrone Somerset, and step into his place. He held, too, in practice if not in theory, the diabolical idea, that the end sanctifies the means. And to hold that view is to say, in another form, "I will be like the Most High."
Such was John Dudley, and such the goal at which he aimed. And he just touched it. His hand was already stretched forth, to grasp the glittering thing which was in his eyes the crown imperial of his world, and then God's hand fell on him out of Heaven, and "he was brought down to Hell, to the sides of the pit."
We shall see how this man prospered, as the tale advances: how he said in his heart, "There is no God." But to Isoult Avery it was a standing marvel, how John Dudley could be the brother of Frances Monke. And the distance between them was as wide as from Hell to Heaven; for it was the distance between a soul sold to the devil, and a temple of the Holy Ghost.
The first introduction of Kate Avery to the grave and decorous behaviour required in church, was made on the third of February, 1549. Suffice it to say, that Isoult was satisfied with the result of the experiment. The new priest's name was Edmund Prideaux; and he was a Lutheran. Coming home from church, John and Isoult fell in with the Tremaynes; and were told by Mr Tremayne that all was now settled, and there was no fear of any further riots.
Some weeks later, Robin and Arbel Tremayne again rode over to Bradmond for four-hours. Arbel's favourite was Walter, but Robin was fonder of Kate, who on her part was greatly attached to him. While they were there Dr Thorpe came in. When Robin and Arbel were gone home, the old man remarked in confidence to John Avery, that he did not by any means share Mr Tremayne's opinion that all was settled at Bodmin. He thought rather that the present tranquillity was like the crust of a volcano, through which the fiery force might at any moment burst with little warning.
That which finally broke the crust seemed at first a very little matter. A proclamation came from the King, permitting land-owners to enclose the waste lands around, within certain limitations. And the old Socialist spirit which is inherent in man rose up in arms at this favour granted to the "bloated aristocrats"—this outrage upon "the rights of the people." For the three famous tailors of Tooley Street, who began their memorial, "We, the people of England," had many an ancestor and many a successor.
Mr Tremayne enclosed a piece of common behind his garden; John Avery enclosed nothing. The storm that fell swept away not only the guilty, but as is generally the case, the innocent suffered with them.
"O Day of endless brightness, dawn o'er these darkened skies! O Land of changeless beauty, break on these weary eyes! O Home whence no outgoing shall blind us with our tears— O rest and peace! O life and love! O summer of all years!"
The night of the fourth of July came hot and sultry, without a breath of wind. Isoult Avery had sunk to sleep after a weary day. The very warmth brought languor, and Walter had been naughty and peevish, needing all her patience; and Mr Tremayne had had a large party to supper, of which she had been one; and a multitude of little worries had pressed upon her—those worries which seem too insignificant to repeat or care about, yet form in the mass a large portion of our troubles. Hardly knowing it herself, her last thought before she slept had been a prayer for rest. But it was not rest that she really needed, and therefore it was not rest she was to have. Our Father giveth us often what we ask, but always what we need.
From a troubled dream Isoult was now aroused, by a sound which at first wove itself into her dream, and made her imagine herself in the great hall of the Palace of Westminster, where carpenters were busy pulling down the throne.
Knock, knock, knock!
Isoult hardly roused herself enough to recognise what the reality was which answered to her imaginary carpenters, and John Avery slept calmly.
The knocking was repeated more loudly.
"Jack!" said Isoult at last—much too faintly to arouse any but a very light sleeper.
Again came the knocking, and this time a voice with it. "Mr Avery!"
Isoult, thoroughly awake at last, sat up, and succeeded after a minute in bringing John to consciousness. The knocking went on. John sprang up, and threw open the window.
"Who are you, and what do you lack?" he called to the unseen visitant below.
"Let me in, and in haste, for God's sake!" cried a voice in answer, which both the listeners immediately recognised as Robin Tremayne's.
"There is somewhat gone wrong," said John, and hurrying down, he unbarred the door, and let in Robin. Isoult followed as quickly as she could.
"Why, Robin, lad, what is the matter?" she cried in dismay. "What can ail thee? Is somewhat amiss at Tremayne?"
For Robin's face was white with terror, and he trembled from head to foot, and his clothes were soiled and torn.
"All that can ail me in this world," murmured the poor lad, dropping upon the settle. "There is no Tremayne. The enclosure men came thither yestereven, and burned every brick of it to the ground."
"The rascals!" exclaimed Avery. "And what came of thy father, and mother, and sister, poor Robin?"
The lad looked up with tearless eyes. "I am all of us."
Isoult was silent. This was a sorrow beyond human comforting. It had been mockery to bid him be of good cheer then.
"My father had enclosed, as you know," resumed Robin in a low voice. "And these rioters would no enclosures."
"Would to God he had let it alone!" murmured Avery under his breath.
"God would not, Mr Avery," quietly answered Robin, "or he had let it alone."
And dropping his head upon his hands, the poor boy rocked himself to and fro silently. He seemed very faint and weary, yet Isoult doubted if he could eat; but she fetched a jug of milk, and set it before him, bidding him drink if he could.
"It would choke me, Mrs Avery," he answered. "But you are exceeding good unto me."
"Poor child!" said Avery, pityingly. "Thou wilt be safe here at the least. I have not enclosed, I thank God."
"I thought you would take me in for a few days," said the lad, "until I may see my way afore me, and win some little heart to pursue it."
"Thy way shall be my way, Robin," replied Avery tenderly. "Twenty years and more gone, when I was a stripling about thy years, thy father helped me unto my calling with a gift of twenty pounds, which he never would give me leave to pay him. Under thy leave, I will pay it thee."
"You are exceeding good," he said again, not lifting his head.
"And how didst thou get away, poor Robin?" asked Isoult.
"I dropped from the window," said he. "My chamber window was low built; and when I heard the horrid shouts and yells at the front of the house, I jumped out at the back, and hid me in the bushes beyond. And there, not daring to creep away till they were gone, lest they should discover me, I heard and saw all."
"Then the bushes took not fire?" suggested Avery.
"Nay," said he, "the fish-pond lieth atween them and the house, mind you."
He was silent a little while. Then he said softly, under his breath—"Mr Avery, when I saw the fiends lay hold upon Mother and Arbel, I thought God must surely strike from Heaven for us. But when, ten minutes later, I saw the flames shooting up to the welkin, I thanked Him in mine heart that He had taken them to His rest ere that."
"But, Robin, lad! didst thou not strike for them?" cried Avery, who could not bear anything that seemed like cowardice.
"Should I, think you?" he made answer, in that low, hopeless tone that goes to the heart. "There were seventy or more of the enclosure men. I could but have died with them. Maybe I ought to have done that. I think it had cost less."
"Forgive me, Robin!" said John, laying his hand on the lad's shoulder. "Poor heart! I meant not to reproach thee. I spake hastily, therefore unadvisedly."
"Let me have thee abed, poor Robin," said Isoult. "'Tis but one of the clock. Canst thou sleep, thinkest?"
"Sometime, I count I shall again," he answered; "but an' I were to judge by my feeling, I should think I never could any more."
"Time healeth," whispered Avery, rather to his wife than Robin; but the lad heard him.
"God doth, Mr Avery," he said. "And they are with God."
"Art thou less, Robin?" asked Avery tenderly.
"God is with me; that is the difference," he replied.
Robin Tremayne had always been a quiet, thoughtful boy; and even when the first gush of his agony was over, there remained upon him a gentle, grave pensiveness which it appeared as if he would never lose.
The next day proved as uneventful as other days at Bradmond. No rioters came near them.
In the evening Dr Thorpe appeared. When the old man saw Robin, he cast up his hands, and thanked God.
"Lad," said he, "I thought thou wert dead."
"I count God hath somewhat for me to do," answered Robin. "But if He hath not, I would I were."
"Hush thee, Robin dear!" said Isoult, uneasily.
"What wouldst thou be, Robin?" inquired Kate, her eyes wide open.
"Dead and buried," answered he.
"Then may I be dead and buried too?" she asked.
"Nay, Kate, not so!" cried Isoult, in dismay.
"It will not do, Robin," said Dr Thorpe, smiling. And his face growing grave, he pursued, "Lad, God setteth never too hard a lesson, nor layeth on us more than we are able to bear."
"Too hard for what?" answered Robin. "There have been that have had lessons set that they might not learn and live. Is that not too hard?"
"Nay, child!" Dr Thorpe answered. "If it be not too hard to learn, and keep hold on eternal life, the lesser life of this little world is of no matter."
"Nor the happiness of it, I suppose?" said Robin, gloomily.
"The plant God careth to grow now in us is holiness," he answered. "That other fair flower, happiness, He keepeth for us in His own garden above, where it is safer than in our keeping. 'Tis but stray fragments and single leaves thereof that find their way down hither."
"I think so," said Robin, bitterly.
"Lad, lad! kick not against the pricks!" exclaimed Dr Thorpe, more sternly. "God's will is the best for us. His way is the safe way, and the only way."
"Easy to say so," answered Robin, slowly. "And it was easy to think so—yesterday morning."
Dr Thorpe looked on him and did not reply.
"O Robin!" cried Kate, running to him from the door. "The sun is shining again. It was raining so fast all the morn; and now the sun is come, and all the little drops are so pretty in the sunshine. Come and see! They are so pretty shining on the roses."