The Golden Grasshopper; a story of the days of Sir Thomas Gresham, by W.H.G. Kingston.
This book was originally published in 1870, under the title of "The Royal Merchant". As there were sundry things that needed changing, the book was edited and re-issued under the title of "The Golden Grasshopper". Kingston, the author, was in the last few months of his life while this was being done, so the work was done by some of his various ghosts, but with Kingston's approval.
The tale is told through the eyes of a Dutch boy, Ernst Verner, whose parents had been put to death in Holland for their Protestant faith.
It was a difficult time in England, for, between the Protestant sovereigns, Edward the Sixth, and Elizabeth, there were a few years under the Catholic Queen, Mary, during which very many people were put to death for their Protestantism. Most people did their best to pay lip service to whoever was the current ruler, while keeping their own beliefs to themselves.
The boy, Ernst has a recommendation to the great Sir Thomas Gresham, a merchant so important at the time that many of his initiatives persist to this day. He is sent to Saint Paul's School, which still exists, though not now in the centre of the City of London.
He makes friends with another boy, A'Dale. From here on the story becomes very convoluted, either because the boys are trying to do things they have been ordered to do by Sir Thomas, or because they are being pursued by a Romish priest, who had taken a major dislike to them as they were not paying due attention while he was saying Mass at Saint Paul's Cathedral. We realise what a major barrier the English Channel was in those days, with the short distance sometimes taking but a few hours, and at other times several days, perhaps even with loss of life.
THE GOLDEN GRASSHOPPER, A STORY OF THE DAYS OF SIR THOMAS GRESHAM, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
In the year of Grace 1551, Antwerp was not only the chief city of the Netherlands, but the commercial capital of the world. Its public buildings were also celebrated for the elaborate carving of their exteriors, for their richly-furnished interiors, and for their general architectural beauty.
In one of the principal streets of that city there stood a handsome house, the property of that wealthy and highly-esteemed merchant—Jasper Schetz. In a private room, the walls richly adorned with carving and tapestry, sat at a dark oak writing table a gentleman in a black velvet suit, having a black cap of the same material on his head. On a high-backed chair near him hung his cloak and rapier, while at his side he had a short dagger, with a jewelled hilt, ready for use. He was still young, but his features were grave, and his brow full of thought. His figure was tall and slight, though perhaps somewhat too stiff to be graceful. He was evidently a person of note, one more accustomed to guide men by his counsels, perhaps, than to command them in the field— rather a financier or diplomatist than a military commander. Another person was in the room, standing at a high desk at a little distance. He was a somewhat older man than the former, shorter in figure, and more strongly built. His countenance also exhibited a considerable amount of intelligence, as well as firmness and decision of character.
"Write to their lordships, Master Clough, that I have secured a loan from Lazarus Tucker of 10,000 pounds for six months, with interest at the rate of 14 per cent, per annum. Acknowledge that the rate is somewhat high, but the loan could not be procured for less. Say I have paid over to our good friends Schetz Brothers the sum of 1,000 pounds, according to the command of the King, as an acknowledgment to them for the last loan which they obtained for his Majesty."
The gentleman first described continued dictating to the latter, his secretary, for some time, much in the same style. He then branched off into other subjects, and gave a sketch of the political events which had lately occurred in the Netherlands, then ruled by the Emperor Charles the Fifth of Germany and King of Spain, his sister Queen Mary of Hungary acting as Regent for him. He continued: "Protestant principles have made great progress, even though the fatal Inquisition flourishes in the country more actively than heretofore. The Emperor has just drawn up a new set of instructions for the guidance of the Inquisitors. These men are empowered to inquire, proceed against, and chastise all they call heretics, or persons suspected even of heresy, and their protectors. It is dreadful to think of the power placed in their hands. Already thousands of the inhabitants of the Netherlands have been burned, or drowned, or hung, or killed on the rack; those who can taking to flight, till many parts are well-nigh depopulated. Nothing can be more dreadful than the system of torture employed. The accused person is carried off to prison, often without knowing the crime he is accused of, or his accusers. He is tortured to make him confess. The torture takes place at midnight in some gloomy dungeon, dimly-lighted by torches. The victim, whether man, woman, or tender virgin, is stripped naked, and stretched upon a wooden bench. Water, weights, fires, pulleys, screws, all the apparatus by which the sinews can be strained without cracking, the bones bruised without breaking, and the body racked without giving up the ghost, is now put into operation. If the victim, to escape further torture, confesses, he is at once carried off to execution; if not, he is restored to prison to recover somewhat from the effects of the torture, when he is again brought back to suffer, in the hopes of extorting a confession. However, I have already spun out my letter to too great a length, and I must bring it to a conclusion. Your lordships will see how differently situated the Netherlands are at the present time to our happy England, under the rule of our gentle sovereign, King Edward."
Master Clough having added some further remarks, closed the letter, and sealed it carefully with the signet ring of his employer, the Worshipful Master Thomas Gresham (the device on which was a grasshopper).
Thomas Gresham at that time held the honourable post of Royal agent at Antwerp. The letter being carefully done up with other papers in a silk covering, Richard Clough took it out of the room, and delivered it into the hands of a special messenger who was to convey it to England. He soon returned, saying that a lady earnestly craved an audience.
"I know her not," he added, "but she will in no wise receive a refusal. She is a matron of comely appearance, though her cheeks are pale, and her eyes betoken grief and anxiety. She is accompanied, too, by a young boy, who appears to be her son, and stands holding her hand, trembling as if lately put in great bodily fear."
"Let her come up by all means, Master Clough," answered the merchant; "if we can assist her in her distress, we are bound to do so. The Lady Anne will, I doubt not, if she finds her worthy, be interested in her case."
"I will obey you, sir," said Richard Clough, hurrying out. In a short time he returned with a lady, who although not young, yet retained many traces of beauty. She led by the hand a boy apparently about nine years of age, who, as Master Clough had remarked, looked completely terrorstricken. The merchant rose, and with becoming courtesy placed a chair for the lady opposite to where he sat.
"Pray, madam, tell me how I can assist you," he said, "for I see at once that you are in distress."
"Indeed, indeed, I am, sir," she answered. "I come to pray a great boon of you. I am your countrywoman, though married to a Netherlander. My husband, Karl Van Verner, may not be unknown to you, as he is a wealthy and highly honoured burgher of Antwerp. My maiden name was Bertram, and my family, as well as that of my husband, have long been attached to the Protestant faith. We had till lately worshipped God in private, according to the way we considered most acceptable to Him, not intruding, however, our opinions on our neighbours, but, alas! my husband's wealth was coveted by those in power. Some secret enemy informed against us, and only this morning the officers of the Inquisition suddenly entered our house. We had just assembled for morning prayer. As my young boy beheld them seize his father, he cried out with terror, at the same time attempting to drag him out of their hands. I could not help at first giving way to my grief and terror. In vain my husband expostulated with them, and promised to accompany them quietly if they would set him at liberty. He contrived, however, to whisper to me, to place our boy in safety, and to endeavour to escape myself. In spite of my tears and entreaties, my beloved husband was then dragged off by the officers of the Inquisition, and I hastened away to obey his directions. My husband's fate is, I fear, too certainly sealed. The Bible was found in his hands. He had long been known to be a consistent Protestant. What may be my fate, I know not, but my desire and hope are to share his. Again, I ask you, sir, will you, in the abundance of your compassion and charity, take charge of this boy—soon, I verily believe, to be an orphan? Ernst is his Christian name. He will, in return, I feel sure, serve you well, and prove true and faithful."
The merchant cast an eye of compassion on the boy. The mother saw the look, and trusted that she had gained an advantage.
"Oh! take him, sir, take him! I implore you!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands. "Should he be deprived of his father and me, as I feel sure he soon will be, though his life may be spared, he may be brought up by the priests in the fearful errors of the Romish faith. I appeal to you as a Protestant. Oh! save him from such a fate! I know no one else who is able to protect him, but you can do so fully and completely. I ask you not to bestow wealth on him. I will make over all we possess to you, if I have the power. Let him only labour for you, and be brought up in the Reformed faith."
While the lady was speaking, the merchant had been considering how far granting her request might imperil his own position, where his business led him into constant intercourse with numerous Roman Catholics, and sometimes even with the very ministers of the Emperor. Still his heart leaned towards the side of compassion. His features gradually relaxed as his feelings softened towards the distressed lady and her child.
"Whatever the risk, I will befriend your boy, madam," he said. "Come here, Ernst; your mother wishes you to trust to me. Lady, I would gladly afford you also any assistance in my power," he continued, interrupted, however, by Madame Verner, who poured out before him her feelings of gratitude.
"I am resolved to share the lot of my husband," she answered. "While he lives I will not desert him."
"You are a noble lady, and I would not interfere with your purpose," said the merchant; "but consider that you will not be, able to aid your husband, and you may only sacrifice your own life."
"That I am prepared to do," said the lady, rising. "May God reward you, as you protect my child!"
She pressed the boy to her bosom, again uttered an expression of gratitude to the merchant, and, not daring to trust herself with another look at her child, hastened from the room. I was that little boy, Ernst Verner. It was the last time I heard the voice of my beloved mother. I saw her, yes, once, but oh! my heart sickens even now as I bring the fearful vision to my sight.
FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH.
Master Gresham, leaving Richard Clough at his desk, took Ernst Verner by the hand, and led him out of the room. They passed along a gallery with a richly carved balustrade on one side, and portraits of burgomasters, warriors, and stately dames, hanging from the wall on the other. Opening a door, several female voices saluted them.
At one end of the room sat a tall and graceful lady, young and handsome, with an embroidery frame before her. Her head-dress was a small sort of hood, richly ornamented, with a veil falling behind. She had a long waist with an embroidered stomacher, and a handsome girdle which hung down in front. Her gown was open, showing a richly-decorated petticoat beneath, so long as completely to hide her feet when she stood up on the entrance of her husband, Master Gresham. On either side of the room were several damsels with spinning-wheels and distaffs by their sides, or else actively plying their needles. A little boy, fair and delicate—a year or two younger than Ernst, he appeared—was playing on the ground near the couch on which the lady sat, with some of those wonderful toys for which Holland was already celebrated. The lady looked up as Master Gresham approached.
"What child have you there, my dear lord?" she asked.
"One in whom perchance you will take an interest, Lady Anne, when you hear his history," answered Master Gresham; and he detailed in a few words the visit of the boy's mother, and her petition that the child might be taken care of.
"We cannot refuse the charge which Heaven has sent us," answered the lady. "He may be a companion and playmate to our little Richard, and I doubt not a blessing to us, if we are faithful to our trust."
From that day forward Ernst became one of the family of Master Thomas Gresham. In the house he had many amusements; but his life was a somewhat dull one notwithstanding, for he was never allowed to go abroad, unless in the company of his patron. The reason of this did not occur to him. Master Gresham, however, acted wisely. He knew that those who had seized the child's parents might seize the boy also, and though from his youth he might escape death, he would certainly be brought up as a Romanist—a proceeding which the honest Protestant Englishman greatly dreaded. There was no lack of company, however, in the house. Often entertainments were given to various guests. Seldom indeed was the merchant's hospitable board spread without several visitors being present.
Soon after Ernst had become an inmate of Master Gresham's house, a personage arrived who was treated with great consideration. He had come from the South, after having visited the Holy Land, and appeared to have seen much of the world besides. Indeed, there were few countries about which he had not something to say. There was nothing very remarkable about his appearance. He was slightly built, and of middle size; but he had that hardy, wiry look, which showed that he was capable of undergoing great fatigue and enduring an excess of heat without inconvenience, if not of cold. His ordinary dress was that of a simple gentleman, with a flat cap, having a coif tying beneath the chin and completely concealing his hair. His cloak, or gown, was of fine cloth, trimmed with rich fur, and having long sleeves. Beneath it was a closely-buttoned waistcoat, while he wore long hose, and puffed breeches, reaching but a short way down the upper part of the leg. The upper part of his shoes were pointed, a jewelled dagger hung to his waist by a belt, in which were stuck his gloves when not in use, and leathern purse also hanging to it. He was addressed by Master Gresham as Sir John De Leigh, and was treated by him as a person of consideration. A banquet was given in honour of his arrival, to which a number of the principal merchants, magistrates, and other civil officers of Antwerp were invited. It made a never-forgotten impression on Ernst, young as he was. It took place in the grand hall on the ground floor of the house. With interest he watched the placing of the tables and the spreading of the cloths, while at one end the butler arranged on the buffet the rich pieces of plate and other vessels, giving a magnificent appearance to that part of the hall, and standing out well against the dark tapestry hung up behind them. In the centre of the table was first placed a silver vessel of large size, containing salt; and small round cakes of bread were arranged where each guest was to sit. Drinking-cups also, of glass, were placed along the table, with a plate and napkin for each guest.
About thirty persons had been summoned, among whom were a few dames to bear the Lady Anne company. At the further end of the hall was a gallery where the musicians were stationed; while cushioned chairs were arranged on each side of the table and covered with handsome tapestry work.
When the guests began to arrive, the servitors came forward with basin, ewers, and towels, that each might wash his hands before sitting down to the meal.
Master Gresham and Lady Anne received them with due courtesy, when each guest was conducted to the place assigned to him at the table; Sir John De Leigh and other personages of distinction being seated at the upper part, while Master Clough and several other secretaries and attendants took their seats at the further end below the salt-cellar.
And now the musicians struck up a lively tune. The servitors entered with the good cheer, which was, in due course, served round.
It would be impossible to describe all the luxuries. Among them a boar's head was seen, highly ornamented, while on either side were two peacocks, the feathers of their tails spread out, while on their necks hung two golden grasshoppers, the armorial bearings of the host. The peacocks, which had been roasted, and covered with the yolk of eggs, after having cooled, had been sewed into their skins, and thus looked almost as if they were alive. There were two pair of cocks which had been roasted, and then covered, one with gold, and the other with silver foil. There was also venison, a swan boiled, roasted pheasant and roasted bittern, with fish of various sorts—pike and perch. A variety of ornaments, too, made their appearance, subtilties, they were called, and ornamental devices in pastry. One was a lofty castle, covered with silver, flags of gold waving on its summit. However, it would take up too much space to describe the numberless dishes which appeared at this banquet.
The musicians at intervals played for the amusement of the guests, and toward the end, lest they might have become weary of too many sweet sounds, the doors of the hall opened, and a band of maskers entered habited in various grotesque costumes. With a deep obeisance to the master of the feast, as well as to the lady and their visitors, the leader of the party commenced an oration the subject of which Ernst Verner was too young at the time to note down, and has long since forgotten. It was followed by the representation of a Morality, the subject of which also, for the same reason, is not noted in this diary. Ernst, with his young companion, little Richard Gresham, were running about the hall hand in hand, watching the maskers, and amusing themselves by observing the guests. One of the former, wearing a huge cloak which completely concealed his form, during the performance separated himself from his companions. His eye was fixed on the two boys. It might have been that he supposed no one observed him; but, even though attending to her guests, the mother's glance was following her young Richard. With cautious steps the masker slowly moved up towards where the little boys were standing, their attention occupied with one of the most exciting portions of the mystery. At length the masker stood close to the boys. And now the eyes of every one in the hall were riveted on the performers. On a sudden, the cloak was thrown round the boys. No cry was heard, and the masker glided rapidly towards the door of the hall, still left open. So quick were his movements, that he would have escaped unobserved had not Lady Anne's voice been heard, exclaiming, "Stop him! Stop him! He has carried off the children!" Richard Clough started from his seat, and drawing his dagger, rushed after the abductor. The man, turning his head at the cry, saw that he was pursued, and letting go one of the children—it was the little Richard—fled more rapidly. Honest Master Clough, however, with the excited feelings of a warm-hearted Welshman, pursued him. The man had just reached the door, when Master Clough caught him by the cloak, and would have struck his dagger into his neck, had he not loosened the garment and let go the little Ernst, whose head had been so muffled in a cloth that he had been unable to cry out. The man sprang from the door before Master Clough could again seize him, exhibiting, now deprived of his cloak, the dark dress of an ecclesiastic, though his head, still concealed by his large mask, prevented his features being visible. A number of persons were at the time passing, and the stranger was thus able to make his escape. Indeed, honest Master Clough, having gained his object of rescuing the children, probably considered that it might be wise not to continue the pursuit in the open street, where perchance he might have found more enemies than friends.
As may be supposed, after this Master Gresham was chary of letting his young charge go without his doors, unless with a strong escort. But one day, having to pay a visit of ceremony to an important person at the farther end of the city, he set forth on horseback, attended by Master Clough, two of his other secretaries, and several attendants, all well-armed. Ernst, as the Lady Anne thought, having suffered from being deprived of the free air, was carried along with the party, being placed on the saddle in front of one of the serving-men. Ernst gazed about him, enjoying the free air and the warm sun, which shone down from the blue sky. The scene in the streets, however, was at no time lively; the dresses both of men and women being of a sombre hue, the latter wearing the large dark cloaks with hoods which had been introduced from Spain, while a gloomy expression sat generally on the countenances of the men. The visit was paid, Ernst remaining in the hall with the attendants, while Master Gresham with his secretaries proceeded into the audience chamber of the great man. They were on their way back, when, approaching the wide thoroughfare of the Mere, a crowd of persons was seen proceeding in that direction. It was necessary for Master Gresham's party to proceed through the Mere, or he would have turned aside to avoid the throng. As they entered the place, a procession was seen advancing down one of the streets which led into it. First came a band of acolytes, swinging censers and chanting hymns to the honour of the Virgin. Next to them marched on either side of the street a guard of soldiers, having in their midst a large party of priests, between whom were seen four persons with their hands fastened behind them, their heads bare, and clothed in long coarse robes; blood-red banners were borne aloft by some of the priests. Then came a brotherhood, also in dark garments, with cowls on their heads and their faces masked. A party of officials on horseback, magistrates, and others, with another body of troops, brought up the rear. Slowly the procession wound its way into the Square, on one side of which was now seen a scaffold with a pulpit raised above it, and a booth or stand, covered with cloth, with seats arranged within. At one end were two lofty gibbets; while below, in the open space, two stout posts appeared fixed in the ground, with iron chains hanging to them, and near at hand large piles of faggots.
So completely closed round by the throng were the English party, that they could neither move forward nor recede. The procession reached the stage, when the prisoners were led up upon it, the magistrates and other officials taking their places on either side, the brotherhoods forming a dark line below the platform. The priests seemed to be exhorting the prisoners, but the distance was too great to allow what was being said to be heard. The preacher, lifting a crucifix in the air, waved it round, and addressed the multitude below. He was met rather by glances of hatred and fear than by looks of sympathy. Still he continued, now in a loud voice thundering anathemas on the heads of heretics, and threatening the vengeance of Heaven on those who sheltered them, or refused to give them up into the hands of the Inquisitors. Sometimes the crowd appeared to be violently agitated, and here and there persons were seen moving among them, as if to urge them forward in an attempt to rescue those about to suffer; but the stern looks of the well-trained Spanish troops kept them in awe. The sermon—if a fierce harangue composed of invectives against simple Christianity could so be called— was brought to a conclusion; and now, in a loud voice, the presiding Inquisitor asked the accused for the last time whether they would recant and make confession of their sins, promising them absolution and a sure entrance into heaven, with a more easy death than the terrible one to which they were condemned. The gag was removed from the mouth of the chief prisoner that he might give his answer.
"No, no!" he exclaimed, "I accept not such mercy as you offer. I hold fast to a simple faith in Christ's meritorious death, and that alone is sufficient to secure my salvation. I look upon the sacrifice of the Mass as an act dishonouring Him. I believe that no human person has power to absolve me from sin; that all must enter the kingdom of heaven here who are to belong to it hereafter, and thus that masses for the dead are a deceit and fraud; that Christ hears our prayers more willingly than any human mediator or being who has once dwelt on earth; that His mother was honoured among women, but not above women; that her heart was less tender than His; and that she can no more hear prayers or intercede with Him than can any other person of the seed of Adam requiring, like all others, to be cleansed by His blood."
"Off with him to the stake! to the stake!" shouted the priests as these words were uttered.
A female—a graceful lady—was next asked whether she would recant.
"I hold to the opinion my dear husband has uttered," she answered.
Master Gresham turned pale when he heard her speak, for he recognised the features of one he had seen but a short time before. At that moment the little boy, who had been eagerly watching the scene, uttered a loud shriek.
"Oh! my father! my dear mother!" he cried out; "let me go to them—let me go to save them!"
With difficulty the groom held him on his horse, for he struggled desperately to be free. "There's kind Bertha, my nurse; and honest, good Gunter too! Let me go, I say, that I may help them!"
The English party were too far off to allow those on the stage to observe them. Even the servants refused to recant, though promised their lives and liberty if they would do so.
Karl Van Verner and his wife were led down from the platform by the steps towards the two stakes, which stood close to each other. And now the members of the brotherhood on whom had been imposed the sad office of executing the victims, rushed forward with faggots, which they piled up round them. Two professional executioners, who had been summoned for the purpose, secured the victims by the chains to the stakes. While fire was set to the piles, the members of the brotherhood burst forth into a melancholy miserere, which rose up even above the groans and sighs of the people.
Master Gresham ordered his attendants to try and force their way out of the crowd. At length, many persons, unwilling to witness the suffering of the victims, retired along the various streets leading into the Mere, thus giving an opportunity to the English party to retreat. Once more the young boy cast a terrified glance towards the horrible spectacle, when the groom, in mercy, throwing a cloak round his head, pushed on through the crowd, the whole party making their way as rapidly as they could towards the royal merchant's residence.
For days, for months, for years even, did that dreadful spectacle occur again and again to the mind of the child. Thus perished his parents, with their two faithful attendants, their only crime that of reading God's Word, singing His praises, and holding together family prayer.
Theirs was no solitary fate. Every week, every day almost, victims were offered up to the papal Moloch by those who thus hoped to stamp out the very existence of Protestantism from the land. Vain efforts! The seed of religious truth, scattered far and wide, was springing up and bearing fruit—sometimes bitter enough, it must be owned—but such as was not to be destroyed by Roman Pontiff or Spanish King.
NEWS FROM ENGLAND.
For several days the young Ernst did not recover from the effects of the dreadful scene he had witnessed. No smile ever beamed on his countenance, his cheeks were pale, his eyes dim. His kind protectors began to fear that he had received a blow which might cast a gloom over his life, if it did not quickly shorten it. Even Sir John De Leigh, the philosopher, the man of the world, who declared that no circumstances of life, no human suffering, should produce any effect on the mind of a man of sense, compassionated the orphan boy. He even condescended to call the child to him, to tell him of the scenes he had witnessed in foreign lands—how he had seen the Grand Bashaw and the Great Mogul,—the splendour of their palaces, and the obedience of their subjects; how he himself had ridden under a silken canopy on the back of a huge elephant, and traversed the burning desert, placed between the humps of a swift dromedary. By degrees he won back the boy to take an interest in what was going on around him, though often little Ernst would start, and burst forth again into bitter tears.
The boy and his young companion were, for a large portion of each day, with the Lady Anne, who took a pleasure in instructing him. Already he could read without difficulty, and she now placed paper and pen in his hand, and instructed him in the art of writing, an art very soon to stand him in good stead, and to enable him to serve his generous patron, Master Gresham.
Of that kind patron some account ought now to be given.
Master Thomas Gresham came, so Ernst believed, of a line of honourable merchants. Sir Richard Gresham, his father, of whom he was the youngest son, died some three years before this, having been some time Lord Mayor of London. Sir Richard had a brother, Sir John Gresham, who was employed as Royal agent to King Henry the Eighth in Flanders, a post to which the patron of Ernst Verner afterwards succeeded. Sir Richard's eldest son was named after his uncle, and became Sir John Gresham. Sir Richard had two daughters, the eldest of whom married the wealthy Sir John Thynne, of Longleat, in Wiltshire.
Although it was not customary for merchants to send their sons to college, so much talent was exhibited by Thomas Gresham, that his father determined to give him the advantage of a University education. When only three years old he was deprived of his mother's care, a loss he ever bewailed. According to his father's purpose, he was sent to Cambridge, and admitted a pensioner at Gonville and Caius College. He there undoubtedly imbibed that attachment to the Protestant faith for which he was ever afterwards conspicuous, and for which his Hall was at that time distinguished. He there also gained a taste for literature, and a respect for learned men, for which he was noted throughout life, and which none of the subsequent cares of business were ever able to extinguish in him.
Expediency probably, rather than inclination, made him a merchant; at the same time the advantages to be derived from foreign commerce were then so considerable, that, with the splendid examples of his father and of his uncle before him, it can be no matter of surprise, that he forsook the quiet walk of life which his college might have afforded, for one of honour and emolument. Before going to college he had been bound apprentice to his uncle, Sir John Gresham, in consequence of which he was, in 1543, admitted a member of the Mercers' Company, being then in the twenty-fifth year of his age.
He had at the time the event here described occurred, for some time been holding the post of Royal agent at Antwerp, greatly to the satisfaction of the King and their lordships.
In consequence of the maritime position of Antwerp, it far surpassed, in size and wealth, Brussels, and every other Flemish town. Its population was estimated at 100,000 souls. Its internal splendour was unequalled, the wealth of its merchants unsurpassed. They attracted hither traders of all nations—English, French, Germans, Danes, Osterlings, Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese. Of these the Spaniards were by far the most numerous. For many years, the city exhibited the uncommon spectacle of a multitude of nations, living together like one large family, where each used its own customs, and spoke its own language. The inhabitants were talented, and noted for their hospitality. The ladies were highly educated: many of them could converse in several different languages; while during most days of the week there was a constant succession of gay assemblies, banquets, dances and nuptial parties, while music, singing, and cheerful sounds might be heard by the passer-by in every street. What a fearful change was in a few short years to be wrought in this state of things! Shrieks of agony, cries of despair, hideous, brutal slaughter, blood flowing down the doorsteps of every house, flames bursting forth from amid those once festive halls!
Ernst was sorry when Sir John De Leigh took his departure. The boy had gained a powerful friend, though he was not aware of it. Little more need be said for the present of Ernst Verner's life at that time. He was treated with the greatest kindness and consideration by Master Gresham and his lady. Indeed, there was no difference in the care they bestowed on him and on their little Richard. More than one journey was made by Master Gresham to England and back, while his family remained at the house of Caspar Schetz. The Baron Grobbendonck, for that was his title, who was at that time one of the greatest merchants of Antwerp, and the chief supporter of the Bourse, was one of the four brothers who formed an influential mercantile establishment.
Once more Master Gresham returned to Antwerp. At length news came from England. It was observed that he looked more serious than was his wont.
The young Protestant King Edward the Sixth was very sick. There would probably be disturbances in England, for he had set aside the devise of Henry the Eighth to his daughters Mary and Elizabeth, and had given the Crown to the heirs of the Lady Frances, the Duchess of Suffolk, she herself being passed over. The Lady Jane Grey was the eldest of her three daughters; she had no male heir. Fifteen Lords of the Council, nine judges, and other officers had signed a paper, agreeing to maintain the succession contained in the King's notes delivered to the judges. Master Gresham observed that he feared greatly that this arrangement would cause disturbances in England. Shortly after this, another dispatch arrived. It contained the news that King Edward had died on the 6th of July, twenty-two days after he had thus solemnly excluded his sisters from the throne.
He acted undoubtedly from right motives, believing this arrangement to be the best, in order to secure a Protestant ruler and a Protestant faith to England.
Already had the Reformed faith made great progress. The last prayer of the young King showed his earnest and abiding love of that faith: "O Lord God! save Thy chosen people of England. O my Lord God! defend this realm from papistry, and maintain Thy true religion!" were almost his dying words.
Master Gresham's anticipations of evil were too soon fulfilled. While the Duke of Northumberland and his party supported Lady Jane and her husband (the Earl of Dudley), the larger portion of the nation rallied round Queen Mary, not because she was a Romanist, but because she was considered to be the legitimate heiress to the Crown, while the unfortunate Lady Jane was shut up in the Tower. Mary arrived in London, and was triumphantly proclaimed as Queen on the 3rd of August, A.D. 1553.
In a short time the estimation in which Master Gresham was held by the new Romish sovereign of England was made manifest, as he was deprived of his office and ordered to return home. The journey was performed on horseback, the Lady Anne riding a horse alone, but each of her maidens being placed behind a groom. Ernst and the little Richard were carried in the same manner. They took the road to Bruges, from thence intending to proceed on to Dunkirk and Calais, that Lady Anne might not be exposed to a long sea-voyage. The journey was of necessity performed at a very slow rate, many sumpter mules being required to carry the baggage and bedding, and some of the inns at which they had to stop being without any but the roughest accommodation. At Bruges they rested a day, that the Lady Anne might see some of the churches and public buildings of that fine city. The eyes of all the party were, however, grieved with a spectacle which they would willingly have avoided, since they could not prevent it. Ernst Verner was the first to apprehend what was about to take place, and his cry of horror drew the attention of the rest of the party to the scene. Just such a procession as he had beheld two years before was passing through the streets. There were Spanish soldiers, and priests in various coloured vestments, with boys waving censers and banners borne above their heads. A vast crucifix, with the figure of the Lord of light and life—that Holy One, full of love and mercy— nailed to it. How His heart must grieve, as looking down from heaven He beholds the deeds of cruelty and injustice performed in His name. The procession had just arrived at the place of execution, and soon, with but little ceremony or form, five victims were chained to the stakes there erected, and the flames burst up, consuming their bodies. The people looked on, if not with indifference, at all events without exhibiting their feelings, kept in awe by the Spanish troops, and their dread of the power of the Emperor. Lady Anne entreated that they might hasten from the city.
"Alas! my wife, I fear, that though we proceed onwards, we may meet with similar scenes till we are beyond the boundaries of the country. And now we have a Popish sovereign on the throne of England, I know not what events may there take place."
"Surely the Princess Mary has herself not escaped suffering, and has been so exemplary in her conduct, that she would not permit such deeds to be done as we hear of in this country."
"Her training has been that of the Emperor Charles. She has been brought up, as he was, by the priests of Rome; and the same training will in most instances produce the same results," answered the merchant. "But let us be wise, my wife, and not speak of these things where any eavesdropper may overhear them. Now that I have lost my firm friend and patron, the Duke of Northumberland, I feel much uncertainty as to my own position. There are those who hate me, both because I am a Protestant, and because they are jealous of my success. The old Marquis of Winchester has ever turned a green eye towards me, and is even now plotting to do me ill. He, I doubt not, has been the chief cause of my recall."
Ernst heard these remarks, though he did not give much heed to them at the time, but still it left the impression on his mind that his kind patron was in danger.
Calais was at length reached, and the party once more found themselves under the protection of the British flag. While waiting for the rise of the tide to float the vessel out of the river, Master Gresham took a walk round the fortifications; and he saw enough to convince him that they had been allowed to go to decay, and were not in a condition to enable them to resist any sudden attack of the enemy. Although England was at that time at peace with France, yet at any moment war might be declared between the rival powers; and any simple man might know, as well as the most experienced general, that Calais would be the first place attacked. Master Gresham determined to make this important fact known to the Queen's Council on his arrival in England.
Ernst now for the first time saw the open sea rolling up through that narrow passage, across which England and France can gaze on each other. Ernst heard Master Gresham remark that, long time as they had taken to accomplish the journey, it was his wont when riding post, with relays of fleet horses along the road, to perform it in three days.
The wind was fair, and the white cliffs of Dover, seen when leaving the land, gradually rose up more distinctly before the eyes of the voyagers, till the sloop coming to an anchor, they were conveyed on shore in a small boat. Master Gresham's party, with his servants, who were all well-armed, was a strong one. On the road they passed several suspicious characters, who looked greatly inclined to examine the inside of the leathern purses of the merchant and his attendants. But gold may be bought too dearly, and the gentlemen, with glances of regret, allowed the travellers to pass on.
They had just crossed London Bridge on their way to Master Gresham's house in Lombard Street, when a concourse of people was seen coming up along the road from the west. There were troops with their halberds glittering in the sun, banners waving, with trumpets sounding, horsemen in rich armour, and horse soldiers with lances and streamers. Master Gresham's party had to draw up on one side to allow the procession to pass, and it was soon known that the Queen was coming on her way from Westminster to the Tower. Soon she appeared in an open chariot, ornamented with tissue of gold and silver, and drawn by six steeds. She was dressed in a gown of blue velvet, furred with powdered ermine, while on her head hung a cloth of tinsel, beset with pearls and precious stones, and outside round her head was a circlet of gold, so richly ornamented with jewels, that their weight compelled her to support her head with her hands. Her small size was not perceived as she thus sat in her chariot, though it was seen that her countenance was thin and pale, betokening ill-health.
"Will she visit the Lady Jane in the Tower, I wonder—she who might have been Queen instead, had those who supported her proved faithful?" whispered Lady Anne into her husband's ear.
"Hush! hush, wife!" answered Master Gresham; "such words are dangerous. We have seen many sad things done in the Netherlands. If we would be safe, now we have come to England, we must hold our peace."
The procession having moved onward towards the east, the travellers proceeded on their way, and in a short time were comfortably lodged in Master Gresham's own mansion in Lombard Street. Although English was the native tongue of his mother, as yet young Ernst spoke it but imperfectly. It was therefore deemed advisable by his kind patron that he should be sent to school, where he might acquire a greater acquaintance with the language, and other knowledge besides.
SAINT PAUL'S SCHOOL.
Ernst Verner felt somewhat sad and lonely in London. Antwerp was a large city, but London was far larger, and he was afraid to venture out by himself, lest he should not find his way back again to Lombard Street. Lady Anne too was very kind, but she was somewhat stately and cold, and could not replace one whom he still remembered with tender love. With Richard he was more at home, but Richard was delicate, and did not seem inclined to enter into the sports for which Ernst sighed. Master Gresham was as kind as Lady Anne, but he was at all hours engaged in business, and often appeared not to take notice of the young boy depending on him. He told Ernst that he was to go to school, but the time passed by, and Ernst still remained at home, picking up such knowledge as a worthy man, Master Dickson, who came every day to instruct Richard, was willing to impart.
At length, one evening when Master Gresham was seated before the fireplace, in which blazed several logs, Ernst, who had been sitting silently in one corner for some time, with his face over a book, ventured to address him. Ernst was in no way afraid of his patron, whose genial, easy manners had from the first put him at his ease.
"Master Gresham," he said, "I now speak English well enough to go to an English school. You said I was to go: when may that time be?"
"Few boys are in a hurry to put themselves under the power of a pedagogue's birch," answered Ernst's patron, looking down upon him. "Have you thought on that subject, Ernst? The road to learning is not always one of roses. You must be prepared for many things to which you have not been accustomed, boy."
"I do not expect to find many roses in this big city," answered Ernst; "but yet I would lief get more learning than I at present possess."
"Well, lad, you shall have your will. As soon as Saint Paul's School opens again after the holidays, you shall go to it," answered Master Gresham. "You have heard of it, may be. It was founded by a ripe scholar—Dean Colet—and it is well able to turn out ripe scholars, I am told. Dr Freeman, the head master, is a learned man, and a thorough disciplinarian, and it is the fault of his pupils if they do not imitate his example. The Honourable Company of Mercers, to which I belong, are the trustees of the school, and although you are not native born, I shall be able to obtain a nomination for you. In Dean Colet's trust he especially declares, in the statutes of the school, that it shall be open to the children of all nations and countries indifferently. Indeed there is no doubt that while he limited the number of scholars to 153— so many fishes as were caught in the net by the apostles (John twenty-one, verse 11), he wished the offspring of our foreign brethren in the reformed doctrines to have a share in his benefits. No boys are, however, to be admitted, but such as can say their Catechism, as well as read and write competently; but as you can do that, Ernst, already, I may promise you an admission."
Ernst thanked his patron, for he had a desire to gain knowledge, though he did not clearly understand what sort of place a school was. As he was anxious to make a good appearance on entering, he attended with more assiduity than ever to his studies at home, and thus he had made very fair progress before the day of admission arrived. At that time there was less difficulty than there had been previously in obtaining admission to the school. Romanists would not send their children to it, and Protestant parents were often afraid of doing so, lest they should bring suspicion on themselves, or lest some day Bishop Gardiner should insist on the pupils being brought up in the Romish doctrines.
The day at length arrived for Ernst's admission. Master Gresham himself was too much occupied to go with him. He therefore deputed Master Elliot, his factor in Lombard Street, to perform the duty of introducing the boy. It was a bitter cold morning, but Ernst was up betimes, and having eaten his breakfast, he slung his new satchel, which Lady Anne had procured for him, over his back. He had, too, thick shoes, with bright red cloth hose, and a long blue coat, which kept his knees warm, though it somewhat impeded his running.
Master Elliot and his charge soon reached Saint Paul's, and turning to the left, stood before the entrance of the school. Ernst looked up, and thought the building a very fine one. There were none around to be compared to it.
On either side were two dwelling-houses, which Master Elliot told him were the habitations of the masters. Passing under a fine porch, they found themselves in the entrance-hall, where the younger pupils were assembled, who were under the especial charge of the chaplain. In a second large hall were boys of more advanced age, who were instructed by the under master, while in a third division were the boys of the upper forms, who were under the especial superintendence of the high master himself. The last two divisions were separated only by a large curtain, which could be drawn at will. Master Elliot passing on, stood before the head master's chair at the further end of the hall. Dr Freeman received his salute, and descending from his chair, inquired the name of the boy he had brought.
"Ah! yes," he said, on hearing Ernst's name, "a ward of the worshipful Master Gresham—that ditissimus mercator, as my honoured friend Dr Caius calls him. I am glad to have the youthful Verner under my charge. I will presently see that he possesses the necessary qualifications for entering, of which, however, I entertain no doubt, being fully persuaded, from what Master Gresham wrote, that he is far more proficient than many who come here."
Ernst did not exactly understand all that the Doctor was saying; at the same time he heard enough to give him courage, and with less anxiety and alarm than might have been expected, he bade his friend the factor farewell.
"Keep thy wits about thee, my lad," whispered Master Elliot, "and do credit to your name and country. There is nothing very difficult for you to go through, depend on that, or those dull-headed boys we passed as we entered would never have taken their places in the school."
Ernst found his friend's remarks correct.
His reading, in spite of his foreign accent, was considered fluent, and his writing very good. To the questions put to him he answered in a way to obtain the approbation of the Doctor, and he was forthwith sent to take his place in the lower school. Ernst found that each class contained sixteen boys. The one who was at the head of his class had a little seat to mark his honourable position, arranged above the benches on which the other boys were placed.
As at that early hour lights were required, each boy had brought a wax candle, it being against the rules laid down by Dean Colet that any tallow candles should be used. As soon as the day became sufficiently bright, the candles were immediately extinguished, to be ready again in the evening. Ernst, by attending diligently to his studies, gained the approbation of his masters, and, greatly to his surprise, was in a short time promoted to the seat of honour at the head of the class. He observed that when Master Elliot entered he laid down fourpence, which he found was the fee for his admission into the school. This sum was given to a certain poor scholar, who was engaged to attend to the schoolrooms, swept them out, and also kept the seats and desks clean— John Tobin was his name. Ernst took a liking to the lad because he seemed so humble and quiet, and ready to oblige. His cheeks were somewhat hollow and his garments threadbare, for in truth the fourpence he received, though not a sum to be despised, was not sufficient to maintain him in much luxury. John Tobin had also a widowed mother, already advancing in life, whom he did his utmost to support, and he looked forward to the time when he should, by the result of his labours, enable her to live in more comfort than she then could. Ernst, in course of time, made friends with several of his schoolfellows, who will be mentioned hereafter. He had to be up early every morning to take his breakfast and be away to school, as the hours of study were from 7 to 11 a.m., and from 1 to 5 p.m.
On one side of the hall was a chapel, where the pupils assembled for prayers on first collecting in the morning, as also at noon, and again in the evening. Ernst, having been brought up a strict Calvinist, was not altogether pleased at seeing, over the chair of the head master, an image of the boy Jesus, albeit it was a beautiful work of art.
It was in the gesture of teaching. All the scholars on going into the hall, as also on departing, were taught to salute it with a hymn. Above the figure there was a painting, intended to represent God the Father, under which was written the words, "Hear ye Him!" These words were placed there, Ernst heard, at the suggestion of the great Dutch scholar Erasmus, who was a friend of Dean Colet, and who, some years before, had visited London. Under the figure also were some lines in Latin, written by the same learned person. Behind the school was a playground surrounded by cloisters, where the pupils played in rainy weather.
As is well-known, it was the custom for the elder boys in some schools, and other youths, to assemble on stages at Barthelmy Fair, where they held disputations on various subjects, much in the way as is done in the Netherlands. The scholars at Dean Colet's school were, however, interdicted from this amusement, he considering it as tending only to idle jabbering.
His great wish was that they all should learn pure and chaste Latin, and he prohibited them from studying the later writers, after Sallust and Cicero. Ernst found that there were very few holidays at the school, Dean Colet holding that keeping the Saints' days, as had been the custom, was a great cause of idleness and dissipation. He remarked that those countries where the Saints were thus honoured were the poorest, and most immoral in Christendom. The students were, however, allowed to act plays, interludes, and moralities, and were trained by the head master and others to speak their parts with correctness and grace; indeed, so perfect did they become, that they at times exhibited their talents before their Sovereign.
Ernst's days were not altogether pleasant ones. He was jeered at by the other boys on account of his foreign tongue. The discipline too of the school was very strict. The ferule and the birch were constantly employed. If he was perchance late at school, either in the morning or afternoon, he had additional tasks and impositions, not that he often suffered on that account. He attended with great assiduity to his studies, anxious to improve himself, and to show that he was worthy of the kind patronage of Master Gresham. He soon made himself acquainted with Paul's Accidents, written by Dean Colet for the use of his scholars, and consisting of the rudiments of grammar, with an abridgment of the principles of religion.
Ernst had mixed so little with other boys, that he was unaccustomed to defend himself against the attacks of his companions. Thus at first even very small boys dared to assail him, he looking upon them with pity, or it may have been with contempt, just as a large mastiff, when little dogs are barking at his heels, refrains from retaliating. This gave them courage to continue their persecutions. One day, however, several of the bigger boys thought fit to unite with them, mimicking Ernst, and inquiring what had become of his parents, that they allowed him thus to be sent to a foreign land.
"They were burnt for their religion," answered Ernst at last; "because they would not bow down to idols, or attend the Popish mass."
"Oh! oh! young master, heretics were they!" exclaimed some of the boys; for at this time, although the principles of the school existed as before, Romanism was apparently in the ascendant. "Then you are a heretic, I doubt not, and will some day come to the stake."
A big boy was standing by whom Ernst had often seen, though never spoken to. He listened eagerly to what Ernst was saying, as also to the exclamations of the other boys.
"I am ready to burn for the true faith," said Ernst. "It were well for some of you to try and learn what that true faith is, instead of abusing a foreigner sent among you."
"Are you, young jackanapes, to teach us?" exclaimed several of the big boys together; and the younger ones, set on by them, once more began to attack Ernst, to pull his coat tails, and to give him cuffs on the head. He stood it for some time in his usual way, till one of the big ones began to treat him in the same manner. Instantly turning round, he struck his new assailant a blow between the eyes, which sent him reeling backwards. The boy, enraged, flew upon Ernst, and would have punished him severely, had not at that moment the lad who, has been spoken of sprung forward.
"Fair play!" he exclaimed, "fair play! English boys, if you forget what that is, I intend to see it carried out. Now as Ernst Verner is a slight boy, and I am a stout one, whoever wants to attack him must attack me first—who is ready? Come on! you all know me, Andrew A'Dale, that I never flinch from a fight; and with a good cause to fight for, I am not going to do so now."
The boy who had been attacking Ernst, blinded with anger, flew at A'Dale, who sent him back reeling among his companions.
"Does anybody else want to attack Verner?" he exclaimed; "let him come on now, or ever afterwards keep quiet."
No one answered the challenge. The bigger boys walked off one by one with looks of anger turned towards A'Dale, while the younger ones slunk away, and Ernst was left standing near A'Dale. Ernst thanked A'Dale warmly for the protection he had afforded him.
"I never stood up for another more willingly," answered A'Dale. "You are a foreigner, and without friends, and more than that you are a Protestant, and your parents have suffered for a good cause. Both those things would make me wish you well, but I like you for yourself, and for the spirit you have shown, so say no more about it."
From that day forward Ernst and Andrew A'Dale became firm friends.
Soon after this the whole school went in procession, according to custom, to attend the service of the Boy Bishop. He was one of the choristers of the cathedral, one of whom every year was selected for this office. He was habited in a bishop's full dress, though it cannot be said that he looked altogether as dignified as might have been desired. Still he managed to ape with tolerable accuracy the movements and mode of proceeding of a full-grown bishop. One thing might truly be said, that had he played many strange antics, he would scarcely have out-done Bishop Bonner, albeit such a remark would have been dangerous to make at that time. The boys of the school were arranged, as has been said, in their seats, when the bishop, ascending the pulpit, and with crozier in hand, delivered his address. His companions now and then made signs to him which betokened no great amount of respect. As the boys of Saint Paul's School, however, had the eyes of their masters fixed on them, they behaved with sufficient decorum. A'Dale, however, who disliked such mummeries as much as did Ernst, did not altogether keep his countenance. He was in sight of the altar, where the priest was about to perform the high mass. That ceremony was gone through in the usual way, both A'Dale and Ernst, and some others may be, chafing not a little at being obliged to be present at it. Ernst's quick sight had detected the eyes of the priest fixed on him and A'Dale. He whispered to his companion.
"Yes, possibly we are marked," answered A'Dale; "but the priest can do us little harm, I should think; and at all events we must brave it out." The two boys, it must be owned, took little pains to conceal their feelings. Before leaving the church each boy of the school had to take up one penny, and present it to the Boy Bishop for his maintenance, and thus every year he collected a goodly number of pennies. It may be remarked that the Boy Bishop was chosen by the other choristers to officiate from Saint Nicholas Day to the evening of Innocents' Day. Should he die during that period, he was always buried in the habit of a bishop. The following day Ernst and A'Dale saw, not without some anxiety, the priest who had been officiating at the altar enter the school. After speaking with the head master, he cast his eyes round the classes and pointed to A'Dale and Ernst.
"Some harm will come out of this," they thought; but they wisely said nothing. Again the priest consulted with the head master, who seemed to be expostulating with him, and finally took his departure, casting a frowning glance on the two boys. Having reached the door he turned round, as if to watch what the head master would do. Dr Freeman on this called up A'Dale and Ernst, and spoke in a loud voice with great severity to them, threatening them with condign punishment for their irreverent behaviour. As, however, he did not proceed further than words, they had reason to hope that he did not consider them guilty of any very atrocious crime. As soon as the priest had taken his departure, they were allowed to return to their seats, with an admonition, that in future, whatever they might think of such matters, not to express their thoughts by their gestures.
It may be supposed, though, that the masters were not personally favourable to the re-introduction of the Popish forms and ceremonies which was then taking place throughout the country. There was more to come out of this than the boys thought.
Queen Mary had been for some months seated on the throne. The nation was becoming uneasy. The Protestant Bishop Latimer was committed to the Tower on the 13th of November, and Archbishop Cranmer was sent there on the 14th, while, at the same time, deprived Bishops, among whom were Bonner, Bishop of London, and Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, were restored to their sees, both well-known for their virulent hatred of the Reformation. And now the intended match of the Queen with Philip of Spain, the son of Charles the Fifth, was openly talked of. It was known in a short time that the Queen had herself selected him. This was further confirmed by a statement, that on the 30th of October, having sent for the Spanish Ambassador into her chamber, the Queen repeated the Veni Creator, and kneeling before the host, gave him her sacred promise that she would marry no other man than Philip.
The Queen thus hoped, with a Popish husband, and with the aid of Spain, that she might restore within the realm the faith of Rome to which she clung. A secret agent had arrived from Rome—Francis Commendone by name. At first he was unable to gain access to the Queen, but, being well-known to Sir John De Leigh, the knight arranged his introduction. To him the Queen expressed her desire to re-establish the Romish Church in the country. She sent letters also by him to the Pope, which it is said were so acceptable to Julius the Third, that he wept for joy, in the belief that his pontificate would be honoured by the restoration of England to its ancient obedience. These facts becoming known, and many more statements being made which were untrue, the hatred of the people to the proposed marriage increased.
Ernst with many of his schoolfellows were in the street, when the report was spread that a large body of Spaniards, being chiefly the retinue of the Count and his harbingers, were riding through London. The dislike which Ernst naturally entertained for the people of that nation, who were so cruelly tyrannising over his native country, now blazed up, "Let's treat these people as they deserve!" he cried out to his companions. "Let us show them that though Englishmen love freedom and free men, they hate tyranny and tyrants!"
A loud hurrah was the response to this appeal. It was in the depth of winter, and the snow was lying somewhat thickly in the streets. The boys soon gathered snow-balls, with which each one loaded himself. As they moved along their numbers increased, till Ernst and his companions were almost lost sight of. They hurried on to a spot they knew the Spaniards must pass. The Count's attendants were congratulating themselves on their safe arrival in the country, and at the thoughts of being soon comfortably housed after their long ride.
"Now, boys, now!" shouted Ernst. "Give them a taste of our quality. Let us show them we will have no Spaniards in this country to reign over us. Give it them! give it them!"
As he spoke, every hand was raised on high, and a shower of snow-balls came flying about the ears of the astonished Spaniards. At first they stopped, in the vain hope of catching their assailants. The boys flew off, mocking them with their laughter. Again they moved on, when the hardy crowd collected again, and sent rapidly flying round them a complete storm of snow-balls. They were no soft or harmless missiles— some were hard as stone—masses of ice. Several of the cavaliers were cut and bruised, two or three were nearly hurled from their horses. The gay doublets of all were thoroughly bespattered with snow, and sometimes with other materials mixed with it. Ernst was more eager even than the rest, urging on his companions to continue the assault. The more angry the Spaniards became, the more the boys laughed, especially when one or two ecclesiastics among them got hit. The people who came out from their houses, although taking no part in the sport, stood by, applauding the boys, and laughing heartily. As Ernst was running here and there, encouraging his companions, re-collecting them when they were dispersed, and bringing them up again to the assault, he suddenly felt his arm grasped by a man's hand. Looking up he saw a stranger. "What is it you want of me?" he asked; "let me go, I wish to have another cast."
"Stay, boy, stay, you are acting foolishly," answered the stranger. "I know you, though you do not remember me. I was in search of you. Come with me; I have something of importance to communicate."
"I cannot! I cannot!" cried Ernst. "I must not desert my companions! I must have another throw at the Spaniards. See! it was I who hit that grim old gentleman in the eye. I think I could just catch the tip of his long nose if I was to try again. Let me go, I say! Hurrah! boys, shoot away! We will show the Dons what Englishmen think of them and their Romish faith. We want no idolatry and masses and confessions, and priests to play the tricks they used to do!"
"Foolish lad! come with me!" again exclaimed the stranger. "Such exclamations as these may cause you your life, and injure, not only yourself, but those who have protected you."
This last remark had more effect on Ernst Verner than any of the others.
"Well," he said, "I will go with you, sir, and hear what you have got to say. We have given the Spaniards a taste of our quality, and have made them understand that they are no welcome visitors to the shores of Old England."
The last remark was made as the stranger led off Ernst down a narrow street, or lane rather, such as branched off in every direction from the thoroughfares of the City. They stopped under an archway where they were free from observation.
"What is it you would have with me?" asked Ernst, looking up at the stranger, nothing daunted, though of course he was in the man's power, and the stroke of a dagger might have left him lifeless on the pavement, no one being witness to the deed, while his murderer would, to a certainty, have escaped.
"Listen to me, foolish boy," said the stranger. "I am in the service of a certain worthy gentleman—a friend of your patron, Master Gresham. He sent me to look for you, for it appears he holds you in more esteem than were he acquainted with your proceedings to-day he would be inclined to bestow on you. Now listen. He would not himself communicate directly with Master Gresham, but he desires you, as you would wish to show your gratitude to your patron, as well as to him, to hasten forth to Master Gresham's house: tell him to boot and saddle, and to hie him with all speed to his country house at Intwood. Danger threatens him. The fate his old friend and patron has lately suffered may be his. After he reaches it, let him make such arrangement of his affairs as he deems necessary, and go into hiding. When the danger has blown over, he who sends me will give him advice thereof; but if his enemies continue to seek his life, he must remain concealed, or fly for safety to some foreign land."
"Pardon me for my vehemence and rudeness, sir," said Ernst, when the stranger ceased speaking. "I will thankfully convey your message; I understand it clearly. My only fear is, lest I may have been observed, as one of those engaged in the attack on the Spaniards, and may be impeded on my way."
"I will take care of that," said the stranger. "I will watch you at a distance, and, should you be stopped, will endeavour to obtain your release. I may have more influence with the people in authority than you may suppose. Now hasten away, you will not go so fast that I cannot keep up with you; but remember that you must yourself deliver the message to Master Gresham in person. Let it not pass through any other hands. He will excuse you for your absence from school, and will probably send a message to your master that may enable you to escape punishment. Now hie thee away, lad. I will follow, and will go to thy rescue, should any attempt to stop thee."
Ernst, thus understanding that his patron was in danger, tucked up the skirts of his long gown closely round his waist, and hurried away at the top of his speed. The stranger must have had to keep up a rapid pace to hold him in sight. Ernst sped on. His chief fear was that he might meet some of his companions, who would inquire the cause of his haste. On he went. He saw several of them at a distance; but, by turning down one lane and running up another, he avoided them. He forgot that in so doing he should probably get out of sight of the stranger, but he little heeded that: he rather trusted to his own adroitness than to any assistance which might be given him. Breathless he reached the door of his patron's house.
Hurriedly knocking, he was admitted. Master Gresham was out. He hastened to the Lady Anne's apartments. With anxious looks she inquired the cause of his coming.
"It is better that you should endure some alarm than that my dear master should suffer evil," said Ernst, as he delivered the message which he had received. "It will be well to make preparations for his journey, that the instant he returns he may be able to set forth."
"Wisely spoken, lad," answered Lady Anne; "you have well repaid the care we have taken of you. While I am seeing that such garments as my lord may require are put up, do you go and tell the factor, John Elliot, to have the horses in readiness; and let James Brocktrop know that he is to ride with his lord. Tell him not where, but that he must be prepared for a long journey."
All these arrangements were made before the return of Master Gresham: he had been presiding at a meeting of the Mercers' Company. Seldom had he appeared so much out of spirits, even before he heard the account Ernst had to give him. The merchants of London, he said, were universally against this Spanish marriage. They were too well acquainted with the affairs of Europe, and with the character of the Emperor and his son, not to dread the worst consequences to England. The cruelties exercised over the inhabitants of the Low Countries had driven numerous skilled artisans to England; but if Philip was ruler here, they would be afraid to come, dreading lest the same cruelties might be exercised upon them in the land of their adoption.
Lady Anne interrupted these remarks by bringing forward Ernst. The merchant listened calmly to the account given him by the lad.
"The warning is from a friend," he remarked; "it should not be disregarded. Yet I have no fancy to fly away like a traitor or criminal: I would rather remain and stand the brunt of any attack made on me."
"Oh, my dear lord, be not so rash!" exclaimed Lady Anne. "If the Queen desires again to establish the Romish faith in England, surely she will endeavour to remove all those who, from their rank or wealth and sound Protestant principles, are likely to interfere with her project."
Ernst added his entreaties to those of the Lady Anne, assuring his patron that the man who had spoken to him had urged instant flight as the only sure means of escaping the threatened danger. Master Gresham at length yielded to the entreaties of his wife; and having put on his riding-dress, and secured his arms round him, accompanied by his faithful attendant James Brocktrop, he took his departure from his house. He was soon clear of the City, riding along the pleasant lanes and open fields towards the north of London. Ernst ran behind the horses, keeping a little way off, for a considerable distance, till he saw them safe out of the City, and then returned to make his report to the Lady Anne, who failed not to pray that her lord might be protected on his journey. Again she thanked Ernst for the benefit he had done her lord.
And now the boy returned, with his heart beating more proudly than it had ever beaten before, back to school: a line from Lady Anne, explaining that he had been employed by his patron, saved him from the penalty which he might have had to suffer for his absence.
Ernst got back to school: the master asked no questions. He might have been aware that some of his boys had been out pelting the Spaniards with snow-balls; but the crime, perchance, was not a great one in his eyes.
The following day, the Earl of Devonshire and a large assemblage of other lords and gentlemen went down to the Tower Wharf to receive the Spanish Ambassador, who came to arrange the terms of the Queen's marriage. He travelled in great state, attended by a number of nobles and others. He was Flemish—the Count of Egmont; hereafter to be seen by Ernst under very different circumstances. As he landed thus in great state, the Earl of Devonshire gave him his right hand, and assisted him to mount a richly-caparisoned steed standing ready to carry him. Thus the cavalcade of nobles, in their furred cloaks, proceeded on through Cheapside, and so forth to Westminster. As the Count looked round him, he might have suspected that his master Philip was in no respect welcome to the English. There were many people, notwithstanding the cold, in the streets; but none of them shouted or waved their hats, but on the contrary held down their heads and turned aside, well knowing that his visit boded no good to their country. Still more hateful were the thoughts of the marriage to the people when the terms of the treaty became known. The boys at Saint Paul's School were the first to invent a new game, one half calling themselves Spaniards, the other English. Ernst would never consent to join the Spaniards.
"No," he said; "they burned my father and my mother, and while I live I will never unite with them. I tell you, boys, they will burn you and your fathers and your mothers, and all you love, who dare to call themselves Protestants, if they ever get power in this country of England."
Often the battle raged furiously in the playground between the two parties. On no occasion would the English allow themselves to be beaten: indeed, those who represented the Spaniards seemed to feel that they had a bad cause; and whether they charged each other, or one party pursued the other, the Spaniards invariably gave way.
And now troublous times began in England. News was received that various gentlemen and others were up in arms to resist the coming of the King of Spain—Sir Thomas Carew in Devonshire and Sir Thomas Wyatt in Kent. The Duke of Suffolk also caused proclamation to be made against the Queen's marriage. News reached London that an army of insurgents under Sir Thomas Wyatt was marching on the City. The boys from the schools were sent to their friends, no one knowing what might occur. Willingly the Lady Anne would have followed her lord into the country; but she feared that by going thither she might betray the place of his retreat. She therefore waited in London, hoping that she might receive tidings of his safety. Day after day, however, passed by, and no news reached her. Ernst endeavoured to console her, entreating that he might be allowed to set off to visit Master Gresham.
"That would cause almost as much risk as my going," she answered. "Your foreign tongue, my boy, would betray you, and you might easily be traced. No; we must put our trust in God that He will protect my lord amid the dangers which surround him."
Not many days after this the insurgents came to the south side of the Thames. Those of the inhabitants of London who held to Queen Mary armed themselves for her defence; and as the army of Sir Thomas Wyatt passed on the Surrey side in sight of the Tower, the ordnance which was placed thereon was discharged at them. Though the guns roared loudly, however, no injury was inflicted. When they came to London Bridge they found the gates shut and the drawbridge cut down. Onward they marched therefore to Kingston, there being no other means of passing the Thames till they could reach that place. Here also the bridge was broken down; but the Queen's men being dispersed, the insurgents crossed in boats, and, marching on, halted not till they had reached Knightsbridge. Ernst, hearing of what was taking place, was eager to go out and join them, and he failed not to find a number of companions who were willing to unite with him in the expedition. They had no arms, but they arranged a plan to obtain daggers and bows and arrows, and they hoped with these to perform some mighty exploit, so as to prevent the hateful Spanish match.
Ernst was captain of this youthful band, and Andrew A'Dale and the young Richard Gresham lieutenants. They had full fifty others with them. That they were not sent off to prison at once, with no small risk of afterwards being hung up, as were many older men, was owing to the prudence of Ernst Verner. He advised that, should any demand their intentions, their replies should be that they were arming for the protection of their country, and that as yet they had not decided on their plan of operation. Thus, while the citizens were assembling in the public places or marching here and there, they also were able to go forth, no one doubting that they were prepared to defend the City against the insurgents. It may have been, however, that some of those of more advanced age had the same intentions, and that, had Sir Thomas Wyatt been successful, they would gladly have joined him. And now there was a great commotion, it being known that the insurgents were approaching close to the west end of London. On this Queen Mary came into the City, and arriving at Guildhall, where a large concourse of people was assembled, made a vehement oration against Wyatt and his followers, Bishop Gardiner exclaiming as she concluded, "How happy are we, to whom God has given so wise and learned a Queen!"
Not long after, however, when Wyatt drew still closer to the City, many of the followers of the Queen went to her, crying out that all was lost, and urged her to take boat, so that she might go down the river and escape. Her women, too, were shrieking through terror, and endeavouring to hide themselves away, thinking that the insurgents would speedily come in and slay them. It might have been a happy thing for this kingdom and people, if the advice of these timorous soldiers had been followed. Some probably were only too glad at having an excuse for persuading the Queen to leave the kingdom. She, however, refused to move, declaring "that now she was Queen—Queen she would remain." One thing certainly must be said of Queen Mary: she was a bold, brave woman, determined in purpose, though all gentle feelings were completely overcome by the influence of her bigotry and superstition; thus, having once tasted of blood, her disposition seemed that of a veritable tiger.
The sound of guns was now heard in the City. Ernst and his companions were very eager to march forth, but obtaining no certain information, they knew not in which direction to proceed. He, therefore, with one faithful companion—Andrew A'Dale—agreed to set forth to gain information.
Poor Lady Anne was by this time in great agitation about her young charges, they having strayed out unknown to her, and she being unable to tell what had become of them.
Ernst and Andrew, hiding their weapons, hurried along, passing through Cheapside, and going on till they arrived at Ludgate. Joining an armed band who were going forth, they slipped out through the gate. And now they took their way along Fleet Street to Temple Bar. They had not gone far before they saw a large body of armed men approaching. They guessed rightly. They formed part of the army of Sir Thomas Wyatt.
"We will join them," said Ernst; but A'Dale was cautious. "Let us draw aside," he observed, "and see what they are about."
On marched the insurgents. Some had fire-arms, but many had only long pikes and scythes, and other hastily-formed weapons. Still as they advanced, the people shouted, "A Wyatt! a Wyatt!"
The boys now joined the band, which with loud shouts marched onward till they arrived at Ludgate. The gate was, however, shut. Wyatt having thus far been successful, hoped that he should have no difficulty in entering the City; but when he knocked at the gate, Lord William Howard, who was there commanding, shouted out:
"Avaunt, traitor! Thou shalt not enter in here."
In vain the insurgents thundered at the gate. They could by no means force it. Some were slain in making the attempt. Two or three were struck down by arrows close to where Ernst and his companion were standing.
"We shall do well to retreat," observed A'Dale, in a low voice; "we shall gain no honour here. I fear that these men will not force the gate."
He spoke too truly. The order was given to retreat. The boys were now hurried back by the crowd, from which it was impossible to extricate themselves.
IN FLEET PRISON.
Ernst Verner and Andrew A'Dale began bitterly to repent their folly in having come out of the City. Still more so did they when the insurgents met a body of the Queen's troops near Temple Bar. Sir Thomas Wyatt's men, though they for some time fought bravely, many losing their lives, were at length put to flight, and a herald advancing, urged their leader to yield himself a prisoner, and to submit to the Queen's clemency. The friends around him, however, entreated him rather to fly than to trust to one under such evil influences as was her Majesty, but in despair he at length yielded himself up to Sir Maurice Berkley. It was a sad sight to see poor Sir Thomas mounted on a horse behind Sir Maurice, and carried off to Westminster. As this is not a record of public events, it may briefly be said that the clemency afforded to Sir Thomas Wyatt was that of death, he being some time afterwards executed.
There can be no doubt that this insurrection hastened the execution of the young and talented Lady Jane Grey, and of her husband, Lord Guilford Dudley. The event just described took place on the 7th of February, 1554, and on the 12th Lord Guilford Dudley was led out of his prison to die on Tower Hill. Ernst and A'Dale heard, as boys are apt to hear, that some event of importance was about to take place, and together they found their way to the spot, little knowing, however, what they were to witness. The bell tolled slowly when the young nobleman was led forth from the Tower to the scaffold. He gazed round him on that cold winter's morning; yet colder seemed the hearts of those who were thus putting him out of life. After a short time allowed him for prayer, he laid his head on the block. The executioner held it up, and declared it to be the head of a traitor. It was then wrapped in a cloth, and his body was taken back in a cart to the Tower. The boys, with many other persons, now made their way within the walls, supposing that they were to witness the interment of the young lord, but shortly they found themselves beneath the walls of the White Tower. There, on the green open space, a scaffold appeared. While they were wondering why it was there placed, a door at the foot of the Tower opened, and forthwith came several guards and other persons. In their midst walked a lady, young and lovely, moving with grace, and her countenance, though grave and sad, yet beaming with a radiance which seemed to the boys angelic.
Young indeed she was, for she had as yet numbered only seventeen summers. She walked on with a firm step, not a tear appearing in her eyes. In her hand she held a book, from which she read, praying as she walked. Thus she came to the scaffold. There she knelt down and again lifted up her heart in prayer to God. She was the Lady Jane Grey, thus about cruelly to be put to death for no crime—no fault of hers. When she rose, she handed her book from which she had been reading, to an officer who stood by her side. He was Master Brydges, brother of the Lieutenant of the Tower. In vain the priests who stood round endeavoured to persuade her to die in the faith of Rome. She who had a short time before uttered these memorable words, "I ground my faith upon God's Word, and not upon the Church, for if the Church be a good Church, the faith of the Church must be tried by God's Word, and not God's Word by the Church," could not, while God's grace supported her, abandon the pure Protestant truth she held. And now she was well prepared to die, for she trusted in the risen Saviour, all-powerful to keep her to the end. Tying the kerchief about her eyes, she felt for the block, and said, in a sweet, low voice, "What shall I do? Where is it?"
One of those standing by guided her to the block, on which she then laid down her head as if on a pillow, and stretched forth her body, seemingly about to rest, saying: "Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." No other word she spoke. The gleaming axe descended, and the life of that young and virtuous and highly talented lady was thus cut short. Had Ernst been alone he would have fallen to the ground, so faint and sick at heart did he become at the spectacle he had witnessed. But A'Dale was of somewhat firmer stuff, and taking his companion by the arm, led him again out of the precincts of the Tower. The gates were once more closed.
Such was the commencement of horrors which the City of London was to witness.
On the following day, when morning broke, in all parts of London gallows were found erected, from Billingsgate in the east to Hyde Park Corner in the west, and in nineteen different places were these instruments of death set up; and ere the close of that black day, forty-eight men had been suspended on them, all accused of joining in the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt. Still the prisons were full of captives; and a few days afterwards several leaders and twenty-two common rebels were marched out of London under a strong escort to suffer death in Kent, there to strike terror into the hearts of the inhabitants.
It was melancholy at that time to walk about London, for in every direction the sight of men hanging in gibbets met the eye. Ernst declared that he would not again leave the house, and yet a feverish curiosity compelled him, with A'Dale, often to traverse the streets.
Still no news came of Master Gresham, and Lady Anne became very anxious to hear of his safety.
At length, one night, the wind blowing, and the rain pattering down on the roof, a loud knocking was heard at the door, and after some time the porter, being aroused, went to the watch-hole to see who was without. As there was but a single horseman, the porter asked his business.
"Don't you know me, knave?" asked the voice of James Brocktrop; "open quickly! I have a message for our lady!"
Saying this, as soon as the door was opened, he brought his horse into the paved hall, and led it through to the back of the house, where the stables were situated.
"Now hie thee to bed, knave," he said to the porter. "I will get for thee a cup of sack, that thou mayest sleep sounder after being thus aroused."
In a short time Ernst was summoned by Lady Anne, and directed to bring James Brocktrop into her presence, to hear the news he had brought from her lord. They spoke for a short time together, when both went down to the hall, Lady Anne calling Ernst to her. The door was opened, and James Brocktrop sallied forth, leaving Lady Anne and Ernst to watch at the door.
In a short time Brocktrop returned, accompanied by another person, with a cloak wrapped closely round him which shaded his features. No sooner was he inside than the door was again closed, and, without speaking a word, Lady Anne led him along to the stairs, and together they ascended to the upper part of the house.
"Who is that?" asked Ernst of Brocktrop; "surely I know the figure of the stranger."
"It will be wise in you to know nothing about the matter, young master," answered Brocktrop: "some knowledge is dangerous, especially in these times."
Ernst formed his own opinion on the subject. He had little doubt who the stranger was.
"Now hie thee to bed, lad, hie thee to bed," said Master Brocktrop, "and forget, if thou canst, that thou hast been awakened out of thy sleep; and if thou art cross-questioned at any time, thou wilt remember that which has passed to-night is but an idle dream not to be spoken of."
Ernst went back to his room, which he shared with the young Richard Gresham, and was soon again fast asleep.
After this, Lady Anne no longer spoke of her anxiety regarding the fate of her husband; but she saw no guests, and those who called on business were told that as soon as Master Gresham returned, and was able to see them, he would willingly hear what they had to communicate.
Master Gresham was not the only Protestant gentleman of repute who was at this time anxious about himself. Many who had come prominently forward during the reign of King Edward were now placed in great fear in consequence of the proceedings of the Queen's ministers. A sermon, a short time before preached by Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, before the Queen, greatly alarmed the minds of those who held Protestant principles, in which he had entreated that, as before open rebellion and conspiracy had sprung out of her leniency, she would now be merciful to the body of the commonwealth and conservation thereof, which could not be unless the rotten and hurtful members thereof were cut off and consumed. In truth, it was well-known that she and her counsellors had determined to carry through the matter of restoring the Popish faith by fire and blood. Ernst especially trembled when he heard that Philip, the son of the cruel persecutor of the Netherlands, had arrived in England, and that he had been married to Queen Mary on the 25th of June, the festival of Saint James, the Patron Saint of Spain, and that henceforth he was to be called King of England. Gardiner, who performed the ceremony, was treated with great respect, and at the banquet which followed was the only person permitted to sit upon the dais with the King and Queen.
And now all the gibbets in London were taken down, so that the dead bodies hanging thereon might not offend the sight of the King, who, however, had been too much accustomed to see the subjects of his father burned because they trusted in God's Word to have felt any great repugnance to the spectacle.
Everywhere the streets of London were filled with Spaniards, who walked haughtily about with their cloaks over their shoulders and swords by their sides, greatly to the displeasure of the citizens, who often seemed disposed to place them all, with their Prince, on board the vessels in the Thames, and send them forthwith again out of the country. And now preparations were complete for the state visit of the King and Queen to the City.
Banners were hung out along the streets; all sorts of designs were prepared, while all public spots which would allow of paintings were ornamented with various devices; among others, the conduit in Gracechurch Street was decorated with pictures of Henry the Eighth and Edward the Sixth, and of the nine worthies. Henry was represented with a Bible in his hand, on which was written, "Verbum Dei."
Now the Queen and a vast number of nobles—English, Flemish, and Spanish—rode through the City in great state; but few of the mob cheered, or cried, "God save the King and Queen!" Many, indeed, uttered very different exclamations, at which Mary, and Bishop Gardiner, were very wroth, scarcely attempting to conceal their anger. Still more angry was the Bishop when he arrived in Gracechurch Street, and saw the representation of King Henry with a Bible in his hand. Immediately he sent some one to call the painter before him, who, on his appearing, had numerous foul words showered down on his head.
"Thou art an accursed traitor!" he added. "Who bade thee thus paint the good King with a book in his hand? Thou shalt be sent to the Fleet because thou art a fool, if not a traitor."
The poor painter humbly apologised, saying that he thought, as King Henry had allowed the Bible to be read in all churches, it was right to paint him in that manner.
"No, no, knave!" answered the bishop. "Such a painting is against the Queen's Catholic proceedings. She does not esteem the Bible as the vile heretics do. Now go and paint out the book, or thy head will grace one of the first fresh gibbets which will soon be erected in the City."
The painter hastened off, and painting out the Bible, put in the King's hands a pair of gloves in its stead.
Ernst, as has been said, was watching the procession, but with a bitter heart. He did not intend to make any sign of disrespect: he simply avoided shouting, or showing that he was pleased at the arrival of the Prince, when suddenly he found his arm seized by a person with a firm grasp.
"What want you with me?" he asked, looking up, and almost expecting to see the person who had before warned him that Master Gresham was in danger.
"Thou art a young traitor, and must prepare to go with me to prison," said the officer of justice. "I saw thee just now make signs of hatred towards the Queen. For this alone thou deservest to die; we can have no traitors in England."
In vain Ernst pleaded that he had not done any wrong, and that though he had not shouted, neither had the great mass of people standing round. This seemed somewhat to stagger the officer. The man was about, indeed, to let Ernst go, when a priest, who had been standing near, stepped forward, and looking the boy earnestly in the face, exclaimed: "Oh! young traitor, I saw thee when I was performing mass at Saint Mary Overy, and the rebels under Wyatt attacked the church. Thou wert among those who stripped the altar, and endeavoured to carry off the silver candlesticks. Young heretic and traitor that thou art! Off to the Fleet with him! I wot that his father and friends are as bad as he is; and when they come to look for him they shall be secured likewise. I can swear to his countenance. See! he trembles and turns pale. He is guilty, there is no doubt of it."