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The House of Walderne - A Tale of the Cloister and the Forest in the Days of the Barons' Wars
by A. D. Crake
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THE HOUSE OF WALDERNE

A Tale of the Cloister and the Forest in the Days of the Barons' Wars

by the Reverend A. D. Crake



Preface. Prologue. Chapter 1: The Knight And Squire. Chapter 2: Michelham Priory. Chapter 3: Kenilworth. Chapter 4: In the Greenwood. Chapter 5: Martin Leaves Kenilworth. Chapter 6: At Walderne Castle. Chapter 7: Martin's First Day At Oxford. Chapter 8: Hubert At Lewes Priory. Chapter 9: The Other Side Of The Picture. Chapter 10: Foul And Fair. Chapter 11: The Early Franciscans. Chapter 12: How Hubert Gained His Spurs. Chapter 13: How Martin Gained His Desire. Chapter 14: May Day In Lewes. Chapter 15: The Crusader Sets Forth. Chapter 16: Michelham Once More. Chapter 17: The Castle Of Fievrault. Chapter 18: The Retreat Of The Outlaws. Chapter 19: The Preaching Friar. Chapter 20: The Old Man Of The Mountain. Chapter 21: To Arms! To Arms! Chapter 22: A Medieval Tyrant. Chapter 23: Saved As By Fire. Chapter 24: Before The Battle. Chapter 25: The Battle Of Lewes. Chapter 26: After The Battle. Epilogue. Notes.



Preface.

It is not without pleasure that the author presents this, the twelfth of his series of historical novelettes, to his friends and readers; the characters, real and imaginary, are very dear to him; they have formed a part of his social circle for some two years past, and if no one else should believe in Sir Hubert of Walderne and Brother Martin, the author assuredly does. It was during a pleasant summer holiday that the plan of this little work was conceived: the author was taking temporary duty at Waldron in Sussex, during the absence of its vicar—the Walderne of our story, formerly so called, a lovely village situated on the southern slope of that range of low hills which extends from Hastings to Uckfield, and which formed the backbone of the Andredsweald. In the depths of a wood below the vicarage he found the almost forgotten site of the old Castle of Walderne, situate in a pathless thicket, and only approachable through the underwood. The moat was still there, although at that time destitute of water, the space within completely occupied by trees and bushes, where once all the bustle and life of a medieval household was centred.

The author felt a strong interest in the spot; he searched in the Sussex Archaeological Collections for all the facts he could gather together about this forgotten family: he found far more information than he had hoped to gain, especially in an article contributed by the Reverend John Ley, a former vicar of Waldron. He also made himself familiar with the topography of the neighbourhood, and prepared to make the old castle the chief scene of his next story, and to revivify the dry dust so far as he was able.

In a former story, the Andredsweald, a tale of the Norman Conquest, he wrote of "The House of Michelham," in the same locality, and he has introduced one of the descendants of that earlier family, in the person of Friar Martin, thinking it might prove a link of interest to the readers of the earlier story.

He had intended to incorporate more of the general history of the time, but space forbade, so he can only recommend his readers who are curious to know more of the period to the Life of Simon de Montfort, by Canon Creighton {1}, which will serve well to accompany the novelette. And also those who wish to know more of the loving and saintly Francis of Assisi, will find a most excellent biography by Mrs. Oliphant, in Macmillan's Sunday Library, to which the author also acknowledges great obligations.

If it be objected, as it probably may, that the author's Franciscans are curiously like the early Wesleyans, or in some respects even like a less respectable body of modern religionists, he can only reply "so they were;" but there was this great difference, that they deeply realised the sacramental system of the Church, and led people to her, not from her; the preacher was never allowed to supersede the priest.

But, on the other hand, it may reasonably be objected that Brother Martin only exhibits one side of the religion of his period; that there is an unaccountable absence of the popular superstitions of the age in his teaching; and that, more especially, he does not invoke the saints as a friar would naturally have done again and again.

Now, the author does not for a moment deny that Martin must have shared in the common belief of his time; but such things were not of the essence of his teaching, only the accidental accompaniments thereof. The prominent feature of the preaching of the early Franciscans was, as was that of St. Paul, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And in a book intended primarily for young readers of the Church of England, it is perhaps allowable to suppress features which would perplex youthful minds before they have the power of discriminating between the chaff and the wheat; while it is not thereby intended to deny that they really existed. The objectionable side of the teaching of the medieval Church of England has been dwelt upon with such little charity, by certain Protestant writers, that their youthful readers might be led to think that the religion of their forefathers was but a mass of superstition, devoid of all spiritual life, and therefore the author feels that it is better to dwell upon the points of agreement between the fathers and the children, than to gloat over "corruptions."

In writing the chapters which describe medieval Oxford, the author had the advantage of an ancient map, and of certain interesting records of the thirteenth century, so that the picture of scholastic life and of the conflicts of "north and south," etc. is not simply imaginary portraiture. The earliest houses of education in Oxford were doubtless the religious houses, beginning with the Priory of Saint Frideswide, but schools appear to have speedily followed, whose alumni lodged in such hostels as we have described in "Le Oriole." The hall, so called (we are not answerable for the non-elision of the vowel) was subsequently granted by Queen Eleanor to one James de Hispania, from whom it was purchased for the new college founded by Adam de Brom, and took the name of Oriel College.

Two other points in this family history may invite remark. It may be objected that the Old Man of the Mountain is too atrocious for belief. The author can only reply that he is not original; he met the old man and all his doings long ago, in an almost forgotten chronicle of the crusades, especially he noted the perversion of boyish intellect to crime and cruelty.

Lastly, in these days of incredulity, the supernatural element in the story of Sir Roger of Walderne may appear forced or unreal. But the incident is one of a class which has been made common property by writers of fiction in all generations; it occurs at least thrice in the Ingoldsby Legends; Sir Walter Scott gives a terrible instance in his story of the Scotch judge haunted by the spectre of the bandit he had sentenced to death {2}, which appears to be founded on fact; and indeed the present narrative was suggested by one of Washington Irving's short stories, read by the writer when a boy at school.

Whether such appearances, of which there are so many authentic instances, be objective or subjective—the creation of the sufferer's remorse—they are equally real to the victim.

But the author will no longer detain the reader from the story itself, only dedicating it to the kind friends he met at Waldron during his summer holiday in eighteen hundred and eighty-three.



Prologue.

It was an ancient castle, all of the olden time; down in a deep dell, sheltered by uplands north, east, and west; looking south down the valley to the Sussex downs, which were seen in the hazy distance uplifting their graceful outlines to the blue sky, across a vast canopy of treetops; beneath whose shade the wolf and the wildcat, the badger and the fox, yet roamed at large, and preyed upon the wild deer and the lesser game. It bore the name of Walderne, which signifies a sylvan spot frequented by the wild beasts; the castle lay beneath; the parish church rose on the summit of the ridge above—a simple Norman structure, imposing in its very simplicity.

Behind, the ground rose gradually to the summit of the ridge—which formed a sort of backbone to the Andredsweald. The ridge was then, as now, surmounted by a windmill, belonging then to the lords of the castle, where all his tenants and retainers were compelled to grind their corn. It commanded a beautiful view of sea and land; a hostelry stood near the summit, it was called the Cross in Hand, for it was once the rendezvous of the would-be crusaders, who, from various parts of the Weald, took the sacred badge, and started for the distant East via Winchelsea or Pevensey.

In the deep dark wood were many settlements and clearings; Walderne was perhaps the wildest, as its name implies; around lay Chiddinglye, once the abode of the Saxon offspring of Chad or Chid; Hellinglye (Ella-inga-leah), the home of the sons of Ella, of whom we have written before; Heathfield and Framfield on opposite sides, open heaths in the wood, covered with heather and sparsely peopled; Mayfield to the north, once the abode of the great Saint Dunstan, and the scene of his conflicts with Satan; Hothly to the south, where, at the date of our tale, lived the Hodleghs, an Anglo-Norman brood.

The Lord of Walderne was Ralph, son of Sybilla de Dene (West Dean) and Robert of Icklesham (near Winchelsea). He was blessed, or cursed, as the case might be, with three children; Roger, Sybil, and Mabel.

The old man came of a stern fighting stock: what wonder that his son inherited his character in this respect. He was a wilful yet affectionate lad of strong passions, one who might be led but never driven: unfortunately his father did not read his character aright, and at length a crisis arose.

Roger wooed the daughter of the neighbouring Lord of Hothly, but found a rival in a cousin, one Waleran de Dene, a favourite of his father, and a constant visitor at Walderne Castle. In those rude days the solution of the difficulty seemed simple—to fight the question out. The dead man would trouble neither lad nor lass any more, the living lead the fair bride to church; and, sooth to say, there were many misguided maidens who were proud to be fought for, and quite willing to give their hand to the victor.

So Roger challenged his cousin to fight when he met him returning from a visit to Edith de Hodlegh, and the challenge being readily accepted, the unhappy Waleran de Dene bit the dust. The old lord, grieving sore over the death of his sister's son, drove Roger from home and bade him never darken his doors again, till he had made reparation by a pilgrimage or a crusade; and Roger departed, mourned by his sisters and all the household, and was heard of no more during his father's lifetime.

But more grief was in store for the stern old lord of Walderne. The third child, Mabel, the youngest daughter, fell in love with a handsome young hunter, a Saxon outlaw of the type of Robin Hood, who delivered her from a wild boar which would have slain or cruelly mangled her. The old father had inspired no confidence in his children: she met her outlaw again and again by stealth, and eventually became the bride of Wulfstan, last representative of the old English family who had possessed Michelham before the Conquest {3}.

The remaining child, Sybil, alone gladdened her old father's heart and closed his eyes, weary of the world, in peace; after which she married Sir Nicholas de Harengod, and became Lady of Icklesham, by the sea, and Walderne up in the Weald.

The castle was originally one of those robber dens which were such a terror to their vicinities in the days of King Stephen; it escaped the general destruction of such holds under Henry Plantagenet, and became the abode of law-abiding folk.

It had long ceased to be a source of terror to the neighbourhood when it came into the possession of the Denes—to whom it was a convenient hunting seat; fortified, as a matter of course, by royal permission, which ran thus:

"Know that we have granted, on behalf of ourselves and our heirs, to our beloved Ralph de Dene that he may hold and keep his houses of Walderne fortified with moat and walls of stone and lime, and crenellated, without any let or hindrance from ourselves or our heirs."

This permission was made necessary in the time of the great Plantagenet, in order to prevent the multiplication of fortified places of offence as well as defence by tyrannical barons or other oppressors of the commonwealth; for in the days of Stephen, as we have remarked already, many, if not most, of such holds had been little better than dens of robbers, as the piteous lament which concludes the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" too well testifies.

The space enclosed by the moat and outer walls of Walderne Castle was about 150 feet in diameter.

The old lord died in the arms of his remaining daughter Sybil, without seeking any reconciliation with his other children—in fact Roger was lost to sight—upon her head he concentrated the benediction which should have been divided amongst the three.

She married Sir Nicholas of Harengod, near the sea, and was happy in her choice. She built a chapel within the castle precincts, and her prayer for permission to do so yet remains recorded:

"That it may be allowed me to have a chapel in my castle of Walderne, at my own expense, to be served by the parish priest as chaplain; without either font or bell."

It was granted upon the condition that to avoid any appearance of schism, she should attend the parish church in state with her whole household thrice in the year.

Six Hundred Years Ago: they have all been dead and buried these six centuries; a dense wood, within which the moat can be traced, covers the site of Sybil's castle and chapel, yet in these old records they seem to live again. A sojourner for a brief summer holiday amidst their former haunts—the same yet so changed—the writer has striven to revivify the dry bones, and to make the family live again in the story he now presents to his readers.



Chapter 1: The Knight And Squire.

The opening scene of our tale is a wild tract of common land, interspersed with forest and heath, which lies northward at the foot of the eastern range of the Sussex downs. The time is the year of grace twelve hundred and fifty and three; the month a cold and seasonable January. The wild heath around is crisp with frost and white with snow, it appears a dense solitude; away to the east lies the town of Hamelsham, or Hailsham; to the west the downs about Lewes; to the south, at a short distance, one sees the lofty towers and monastic buildings of a new and thriving community, surrounded by a broad and deep moat; to the north copse wood, brake, heath, dell, and dense forest, in various combinations and endless variety, as far as the lodge of Cross in Hand, so called from the crusaders who took the sacred sign in their hands, and started for the earthly Jerusalem not so many years agone.

Across this waste, as the dark night was falling, rode a knight and his squire. The knight was a man of some fifty years of age, but still strong, tall, and muscular; his dark features indicated his southern blood, and an indescribable expression and manner told of one accustomed to command. His face bore the traces of scars, doubtless honourably gained; seen beneath a scarlet cap, lined with steel, but trimmed with fur. A flexible coat of mail, so cunningly wrought as to offer no more opposition to the movements of the wearer than a greatcoat might nowadays, was covered with a thick cloak or mantle, in deference to the severity of the weather; the thighs were similarly protected by linked mail, and the hose and boots defended by unworked plates of thin steel. In his girdle was a dagger, and from the saddle depended, on one side, a huge two-handed sword, on the other a gilded battle axe.

It was, in short, a knight of the olden time, who thus travelled through this dangerous country, alone with his squire, who bore his master's lance and carried his small triangular shield, broad at the summit to protect the breast, but thence diminishing to a point.

"Dost thou know, my Stephen, thy way through this desolate country? for verily the traces of the road are but slight."

"My lord, the night grows darker, and the air seems full of snow. Had we not better return and seek shelter within the walls of Hamelsham? I fear we have lost the way utterly, and shall never reach Michelham Priory tonight."

"Nay, the motives that led me forth to face the storm still press upon me, I must reach Michelham tonight."

An angry hollow gust of wind almost impeded his further progress as he spoke, and choked his utterance.

"An inhospitable reception England affords us, after an absence of so many years. Methinks I like Gascony the better in regard to climate."

"For five happy years have I followed thy banner there, my lord."

"Yet I love England better, foreign although my blood, or I had thought more of the French king's offer."

"It was a noble offer, my lord."

"To be regent of an unquiet realm while my revered suzerain and friend, Louis, went upon his crusade—mark me, Stephen, England has higher destinies than France; this land is fated to be the mother of a race of freemen such as once ruled the world from Rome of old. The union of the long hostile races, Norman and English, is producing a people which shall in time rule the world; and if I can do aught to help to lay the foundation of such a polity as befits the union, please God, I shall feel well repaid: in short, Leicester is a dearer name to me than Montfort; England than France."

"Thy noble father, my lord, adorned the latter country."

"God grant he has not left an inheritance of judgment to his children; the cries of the slaughtered Albigenses ever rang in my poor mother's ears, and ring too often in mine."

"I have never heard the story fairly told."

"Thou shalt now. The land where they spoke the language of Oc, thence called Langue-d'oc, was hardly a part of France; it had its own government, its own usages, as well as its own sweet tongue. It was lovely as the garden of the Lord ere the serpent entered therein; the soil was fruitful, the corn and wine and oil abundant. The people were unlike other people; they cared little for war, they wrote books and made love on the banks of the Rhone and Garonne.

"Well had they stopped here, and not taken liberties" (here the knight crossed himself) "with the Church. Intercourse with Mussulmen and Greeks—who alike came to the marts—corrupted them, and they became unbelievers, so that even the children in their play mocked at the Church and Sacraments. In short, it was said they were Manicheans."

"What is that?"

"People who believe that the powers of good and evil are co-equal and co-eternal, that both God and the devil are to be worshipped. At least this was laid to their charge; I know not if it be all true.

"Well, the Church appealed for help to the chivalry of France; she declared the goods and possessions of this unfortunate people confiscate to them who should seize them, and offered heaven to those who died in battle against them. Now these poor wretches could write love songs and were clever at all kinds of art, but they could not fight. My father was chosen to head the new crusade; and even he was shocked at the murderous scenes, the massacres, the burnings, which followed—God forbid I should ever witness the like—they were blotted out from the earth."

The storm which had been gathering all this time now burst in its full violence upon our travellers. Blinding flakes of snow, borne with all the force of the wind, seemed to overwhelm them; soon the tracks which alone marked the way became obliterated, and the riders wandered aimlessly for more than an hour.

"What shall we do, Stephen? I have lost every trace of the way; my poor beast threatens to give up."

"I know not, my lord."

"Ah, the Saints be praised, there is a light close at hand. It shines clear and distinct—now it is shut out."

"A door or window must have been opened and closed again."

"So I deem, but this is the direction," said the knight as he turned his horse's head northwards.

Let us precede knight and squire and see what awaited them.

Upon a spot of firm ground, free from swamp, and clear for about the area of a couple of acres, stood a few primitive buildings: there was a barn, a cow shed, a few huts in which men slept but did not live, and a central building wherein the whole community, when at home, assembled to eat the king's venison, and wash it down with ale, mead, and even wine—the latter probably the proceeds of a successful forage.

Darkness is falling without and the snowflakes fall thicker and thicker—it yet wants three hours to curfew—but the woods are quite buried in the sombre gloom of a starless night. The central building is evidently well lighted, for we see the firelight through many chinks in the ill-built walls ere we enter, although they have daubed the interstices of the logs whereof it is composed with clay and mud almost as adhesive as mortar. Let us go in—the door opens.

A huge fire burns in the centre of the building, and the smoke ascends in clouds through an opening in the roof, directly above, down which the snowflakes descend and hiss as they meet their death in the ruddy flames. Three poles are suspended over the fire, and from the point where they unite descends an iron chain, suspending a large caldron or pot.

Oh, what a savoury smell! the woods have been ransacked, that their tenants, who possess succulent and juicy flesh, may contribute to appease the hunger of the outlaws—bird and beast are there, and soon will be beautifully cooked. Nor are edible herbs wanting, such at least as can be gathered in the woods or grown in the small plot of cultivated ground around the buildings; which the men leave entirely, as do all semi-savage races, to the care of the women.

There is plenty of room to sit round this fire, and several men, besides women and boys, are basking in its warmth—some sit on three-legged stools, some cross-legged on the floor—and amidst them, with a charming absence of restraint, are many huge-jawed dogs, who slobber as they smell the fumes from the pot, or utter an impatient whine from time to time.

Their chieftain, a man of no small importance judging from his dress and manner, sits on the seat of honour, a species of chair, the only one in the building, and is perhaps the most notable man of the party. He is tall of stature, his limbs those of a giant, his fist ponderous as a sledge hammer; a tunic of skins confined around the waist by a belt of untanned leather, in which is stuck a hunting knife, adorns his upper story: short breeches of skin, and leggings, with the undressed fur of a fox outside, complete his bedecking.

A loud barking of dogs was heard, then a trampling of horses; some looked astonished, others rose to their feet, and opening the door looked out into the storm.

"What folk hast thou got there, Kynewulf?"

"Some travellers I met outside as I was returning home from the chase, having got caught in the storm myself," replied a gruff voice; "they had seen our light, but were trying in vain to get into our nest."

"How many?"

"Two, a knight and a squire."

"Bring them in, in God's name; all are welcome tonight.

"But for all that," said he, sotto voce, "it may be easier to get in than out."

A brief pause, the horses were stabled, the guests entered.

"We have come to crave your hospitality," said the knight.

"It is free to all—sit you down, and in a few minutes the women will serve the supper."

They seated themselves—no names were asked, a few remarks were made upon that subject which interests all Englishmen so deeply even now—the weather.

"Hast travelled far?" asked the chieftain.

"Only from Pevensey; we sought Michelham, but in the storm we must have wandered miles from it."

"Many miles," said a low, sweet voice.

The knight then noticed the woman for the first time—he might have said lady—who sat on the right of this grim king. Her features and bearing were so superior to her surroundings that he started, as men do when they spy a rich flower in a garden of herbs. By her side was a boy, evidently her son, for he had her dark features, so unlike the general type around.

"How came such folk here?" thought De Montfort.

The meal was at length served, the stew poured into wooden bowls; no spoons or forks were provided. The fingers and the lips had to do their work unaided, in that day, at least in the huts of the peasantry. Bread, or rather baked corn cakes, were produced; herbs floated in the soup for flavouring; vegetables, properly so called, were there none.

Many a time had our travellers partaken of rougher fare in their campaigns, and they were well content with their food; so they ate contentedly with good appetite. The wind howled without, the snow found its way in through divers apertures, but the warmth of the central fire filled the hovel. Their hosts produced a decoction of honey, called mead, of which a little went a long way, and soon they were all quite convivial.

"Canst thou not sing a song, Stephen, like a gallant troubadour from the land of the sunny south, to reward our hosts for their entertainment?"

And Stephen sang one of the touching amatory ballads which had emanated so copiously from the unfortunate Albigenses of the land of Oc. The sweet soft sounds charmed, although the hosts understood not their meaning.

"And now, my lad, have not thy parents taught thee a song?" said the knight, addressing the boy.

"Sing thy song of the Greenwood, Martin," added the mother.

And the boy sang, with a sweet and child-like accent, a song of the exploits of the famous Robin Hood and Little John:

Come listen to me, ye gallants so free, All you that love mirth for to hear; And I will tell, of what befell, To a bold outlaw, in Nottinghamshire.

As Robin Hood, in the forest stood, Beneath the shade of the greenwood tree, He the presence did scan, of a fine young man, As fine as ever a jay might be.

Abroad he spread a cloak of red, A cloak of scarlet fine and gay, Again and again, he frisked over the plain, And merrily chanted a roundelay.

The ballad went on to tell how next day Robin saw this fine bird, whose name was Allan-a-dale, with his feathers all moultered; because his bonnie love had been snatched from him and was about to be wed to a wizened old knight, at a neighbouring church, against her will. And then how Robin Hood and Little John, and twenty-four of their merrie men, stopped the ceremony, and Little John, assuming the Bishop's robe, married the fair bride to Allan-a-dale, who thereupon became their man and took to an outlaw's life with his bonny wife.

"Well sung, my lad, but when thou shalt marry, I wish thee a better priest than Little John; here is a guerdon for thee, a rose noble; some day thou wilt be a famous minstrel.

"And now, my Stephen, let us sleep, if our good hosts will permit."

"There is a hut hard by, such as we all use, which I have devoted to your service; clean straw and thick coverlets of skins, warriors will hardly ask more."

"It was but an hour since I thought the heath would have been our couch, and a snowball our pillow; we shall be well content."

"It is wind proof, and thou mayst rest in safety till the horn summons all to break their fast at dawn: thou mayst sleep meanwhile as securely as in thine own castle."

And the outlaws rose with a courtesy one would hardly have expected from these wild sons of the forest; while Kynewulf showed the guests to their sleeping quarters, through the still fast-falling snow.

The hut was snug as Grimbeard (for such was the chieftain's appropriate name) had boasted, and tolerably wind proof, although in such a storm snow will always force its way through the tiniest crevices. It was built of wattle work, cunningly daubed with clay, even as the early Britons built their lodges.

And here slept the great earl, whose name was known through the civilised world, the brother-in-law of the king, the mightiest warrior of his time, and, amongst the laity, the most devout churchman known to fame.

___________

In the dead hour of the night, when the darkness is deepest and sleep the soundest, they were both awakened by the opening of the door, and the cold blast of wind it produced. The earl and his squire started up and sat upright on their couches.

A woman stood in the doorway, who held a boy by the hand; the eyes of both were red with weeping.

"Lady, thou lookest sad; hath aught grieved thee or any one injured thee? the vow of knighthood compels my aid to the distressed."

It was the woman they had noted at the fireside.

"Thou art Simon de Montfort," she said.

"I am; how dost thou know me?"

"I have met thee before, under other guise. Is liberty dear to thee?"

"Without it life is worthless—but who or what threatens it?"

"The outlaws, amongst whom thou hast fallen."

"They will not harm me. I have eaten of their salt."

"Nay, but they will hold thee to ransom, and detain thee till it is brought: I heard them amerce thee at a thousand marks."

"In that case, as I do not wish to winter here, I had better up and away; but who will be my guide?"

"My son; but thou must do me a service in return—thou must charge thyself with his welfare, for after guiding thee he can return here no more."

"But canst thou part with thine own son?"

"I would save him from a life of penury and even crime, and I can trust him to thee."

"Oh, mother!" said the boy, weeping silently.

"Nay, Martin, we have often talked of this and longed for such a chance, now it is come—for thine own sake, my darling, the apple of mine eye; this good earl can be trusted."

"Earl Simon," she said, 'I know thee both great and a man who fears God; yes, I know thee, I have long watched for such an opportunity; take this boy, and in saving him save yourself from captivity."

"Tell me his name."

"Martin will suffice."

"But ere I undertake charge of him I would fain learn more, that I may bring him up according to his degree."

"He is of noble birth, on both sides; how fallen from such high estate this packet—entrusted in full confidence—will tell thee. Simon de Montfort, I give thee my life, nay, my all; let me hear from time to time how he fareth, through the good monks of Michelham—thou leavest a bleeding heart behind."

"Poor woman! yet it is well for the boy; he shall be one of my pages, if he prove worthy."

"It is all I ask: now depart ere they are stirring. It wants about three hours to dawn, the moon shines, the snow has ceased, so that thou wilt reach Michelham in time for early mass. I will take thee to thine horses."

She led them forth; the horses were quietly saddled and bridled. No watch was kept; who could dread a foe at such a time and season? She opened the gateway in an outer defence of osier work and ditch which encompassed the little settlement.

One maternal kiss—it was the last.

And the three, earl, squire, and boy, went forth into the night, the boy riding behind the squire.



Chapter 2: Michelham Priory.

At the southern verge of the mighty forest called the Andredsweald, or Anderida Sylva, Gilbert d'Aquila, last of that name, founded the Priory of Michelham for the good of his soul.

The forest in question was of vast extent, and stretched across Sussex from Kent to Southampton Water; dense, impervious save where a few roads, following mainly the routes traced by the Romans, penetrated its recesses; the haunts of wild beasts and wilder men. It was not until many generations had passed away that this tract of land, whereon stand now so many pretty Sussex villages, was even inhabitable: like the modern forests of America, it was cleared by degrees as monasteries were built, each to become a centre of civilisation.

For, as it has been well remarked, without the influence of the Church there would have been in the land but two classes—beasts of burden and beasts of prey—an enslaved serfdom, a ferocious aristocracy.

And such an outpost of civilisation was the Priory of Michelham, on the verge of the debatable land where Saxon outlaws and Norman lords struggled for the mastery.

On the southern border of this sombre forest, close to his Park of Pevensey, Gilbert d'Aquila, as almost the last act of his race in England {4}, built this Priory of Michelham upon an island, which, as we have told in a previous tale, had been the scene of a most sanguinary contest, and sad domestic tragedy, during the troubled times of the Norman Conquest; the eastern embankment, which enclosed the Park of Pevensey and kept in the beasts of the chase for the use of Norman hunters, was close at hand.

The priory buildings occupied eight acres of land, surrounded by a wide and deep moat full forty yards across, fed by the river Cuckmere, and abounding in fish for fast-day fare. Although it had proved (as described in our earlier tale) incapable of a prolonged defence, yet its situation was quite such as to protect the priory from any sudden violence on the part of the "merrie men" or nightly marauders, and when the drawbridge was up, the gateway closed, the good brethren slept none the less soundly for feeling how they were protected.

Within this secure entrenchment stood their sacred and domestic buildings, their barns and stables; therein slept their thralls, and the teams of horses which cultivated their fields, and the cattle and sheep on which they fed on feast days. A fine square tower (still remaining) arose over the bridge, and alone gave access by its stately portals to the hallowed precincts; it was three stories high, the janitor lived and slept therein; a winding stair conducted to the turreted roof and the several chambers.

At the time of our story Prior Roger ruled the brotherhood; a man of varied parts and stainless life. He was not without monastic society: fifteen miles east was the Cluniac priory of Lewes, fifteen miles west the Benedictine abbey of Battle, three miles south under the downs the "Alien" priory of Wilmington.

But wherever a monastery was built roads were made, marshes drained, and the whole country rose in civilisation, while for the learning of the nineteenth century to revile monastic lore is for the oak to revile the acorn from which it sprang.

Here the wayfarer found a shelter; here the sick their needful medicine; here the children an instructor; here the poor relief; and here, above all, one weary of the incessant strife of an evil world might find PEACE.

On the morning succeeding the arrival of the great Earl of Leicester, that doughty guest was seated in the prior's chamber, in company with his host. The day was most uninviting without, but the fire blazed cheerfully within. The snow kept falling in thick flakes, which narrowed the vision so that our friends could hardly see across the moat, but the fire crackled on the great hearth where five or six logs fizzed and spluttered out their juices.

"My journey is indeed delayed," said the earl, "yet I am most anxious to reach London and present myself to the king."

"The weather is in God's hands; we may pray for a change, but meanwhile we must be patient and thankful that we have a roof over our heads, my lord."

"And it gives me full time to hear particulars about the boy whom I left in your care—a wilful, petted urchin, ten years of age he was then."

"The lad is docile; he has scant inclination towards the Church, but he shows the signs of his high lineage in a hundred different ways."

"High lineage?" said the earl, with a smile and a look of inquiry.

"We had supposed him of thy kindred; he bears every sign of noblesse and does not disgrace it," said the prior, himself of the kindred of the "lords of the eagle."

"He is the son of a brother crusader."

"The father is not living?"

"No, he fell in Palestine, within sight of the earthly Jerusalem, and I trust has found admittance into the Jerusalem which is above; he committed the boy to my care—

"But let them bring young Hubert hither."

The prior tinkled a silver bell, which lay upon the table, and a lay brother appeared, to whom he gave the necessary order. A knock at the door was soon heard, and a lad of some fourteen years entered in obedience to the prior's summons, and stood at first abashed before the great earl.

Yet he was not a lad wanting in self confidence; he was tall and slender, his features were regular, his hair and eyes light, his face a shapely oval; there was a winning expression on the features, and altogether it was a persuasive face.

"Dost thou remember me, my son?" asked the earl, as the boy knelt on one knee, and kissed his hand gracefully.

"It seems many years since thou didst leave me here, my lord."

"Ah! thy memory is good—hast thou been happy here? hast thou done thy duty?"

"It is dull for an eaglet to be brought up in a cave."

"Art thou the eaglet then, and this the cave? fie! Hubert."

"My father was a soldier of the cross."

"And wouldst thou be a soldier too, my boy? the paths of glory often lead to the grave; thou art safer far as an acolyte here; thou wilt perhaps be prior some day."

"I covet not safety, my lord. If my father loved thee, and thou didst love him, take me to thy castle and let me be thy page. There are no chivalrous exercises here, no tilt yard, only the bell which booms all day long; matins and lauds; prime, terce and sext; vespers and compline; and masses between whiles."

"My son, be not irreverent."

The boy lowered his eyes at the reproof.

"Thou shalt go with me. But, my boy, blame me not if some day thou grieve over the loss of this sweet peace."

"I love not peace—it is dull."

"How wonderful it is that the son should inherit the father's tastes with his form," said the earl to the prior. "When this lad's sire and I were young together he had just the same ideas, the same restless craving for excitement, and it led him at last to a soldier's grave. Well, what is bred in the bone will out in the flesh.

"Hubert, thou shalt go with me to Kenilworth, but it will be a hard and stern school for thee; there are no idlers there."

"I am not an idler, my good lord."

"Only over his books," said the prior.

"That is because I prefer the lance and the bow to pot hooks and hangers on parchment."

The boy spoke out fearlessly, almost pertly, like a spoiled child. Yet he had a winning manner, which reconciled his elders to his freedom.

"Now, go back to thy pot hooks and hangers, my boy, for the present," said the earl; "and tomorrow, perchance, I may take thee with me, if the storm abate.

"And now," said the earl, when Hubert was gone, "send for the other lad; the waif and stray from the forest."

So Hubert retired and Martin appeared. It was by no means an uninteresting face, that which the earl now scanned, but quite unlike the features of Hubert—a round face, contrasting with the oval outlines of the other—with twinkling eyes and curling hair; a face which ought to be lit up with smiles, but which was sad for the moment. Poor boy! he had just parted from his mother.

"Art thou willing to go away with me, my child?"

"Yes," said he sadly, "since she told me to go; but I love her."

"Thy name is Martin?"

"Yes; they call me so now."

"What is thy other name?"

"I know not. I have no other."

"Wouldst thou fear to return to the green wood?"

"Yes, for they might call me a traitor, and serve me as they served Jack, the shoe smith, when he betrayed their plans."

"And how was that?"

"Tied him to a tree and shot him to death with arrows. How he did scream!"

"What! didst thou see such a sight, a young boy like thee?"

"Yes," said Martin innocently; "why shouldn't I?"

There was a pause.

"Poor child," said the prior.

"My boy, thou should say 'my lord,' when addressing a titled earl."

"I did not know, my lord. I beg pardon, my lord, if I have been rude, my lord."

"Nay, thou hast already made up the tale of 'my lords.'"

"You will not let them get me again, my lord?"

"They couldn't get in here, and tomorrow, if the storm cease, I shall take thee away with me. Fear not, my poor boy. If thou hast for a while lost a mother, thou hast found a father."

The boy sighed. Affection is not so easily transferred; and the earl quite comprehended that sigh; as a strange interest, almost unaccountable, he thought, sprang up in his manly breast for the little nestling, thrown so strangely upon his protection and care.

Brave as a lion with the proud, gentle as a lamb with the weak and defenceless, such was Simon de Montfort, an embodiment of true greatness—the union of strength with love. Both Martin and Hubert were fortunate in their new lord.

"There sounds the vesper bell. Wilt thou with me to the chapel?" said the prior.

Thither both earl and prior proceeded. It was Wednesday evening; the psalms were then apportioned to the days of the week, not of the month, and the first this night was the one hundred and twenty-seventh:

Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but vain that build it. Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman watcheth but in vain.

And again:

Lo, children and the fruit of the womb are an heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord.

The two boys whom he had so strangely adopted came to the mind of the earl; they were not of his blood, yet they might be "an heritage and gift of the Lord." And as the psalms rose and fell to the rugged old Gregorian tones—old even then—their words seemed to Simon de Montfort as the voice of God.

Oh! how rough, yet how grand that old psalmody was! Modern ears call its intervals harsh, its melodies crude, but it spoke to the heart with a power which our sweet modern chants often fail to exercise over us, as we chant the same sacred lays.

___________

Nightfall—night hung like a pall over the island, over the moat, over the silent heath and woods; the snow kept falling, falling; the fires kept blazing in the huge hearths; and the bell kept tolling until curfew time, by the prior's order, that if any were lost in the wild night they might be guided by its sound to shelter.

The earl slept soundly in his little monastic cell that night, and in the morning he perceived the light of a bright dawn through the narrow window; anon the winter's sun rose, all glorious, and the frost and snow sparkled like the sheen of diamonds in its beams. The bell was just ringing for the Chapter Mass, the mass of obligation to all the brotherhood, and the only one sung—during the day—in contradistinction to the low, or silent, masses—which equalled the number of the brethren in full orders, of whom there were not more than five or six.

The earl, his squire, and the two boys were there. The prior was celebrant. The manner of Hubert showed his distraction and indifference: it was like a daily lesson in school to him, and he gave it neither more nor less attention. But to Martin the mysterious soothing music of the mass, like strains from another world, so unlike earthly tunes, came like a new sense, an inspiration from an unknown realm, and brought the unbidden tears to his young eyes.

It must not be supposed that he was totally ignorant of the elements of religion; even the wild inhabitants of the forest crave some form of approach to God, and from time to time a wandering priest, an outlaw himself of English birth, ministered to the "merrie men" at a rustic altar, generally in the open air or in a well-known cavern. The mass in its simplest form, divested of its gorgeous ceremonial but preserving the general outline, was the service he rendered; and sometimes he added a little instruction in the vernacular.

What good could such a service be to men living in the constant breach of the eighth commandment? the Normans would ask. To which the outlaws replied, we are at open war with you, at least as honourable a war as you waged at Senlac.

And his mother saw that little Martin was taught the simple truths and precepts of Christianity; more she asked not; nor at his age did he need it.

But here was a soil ready for the good seed.

___________

The weather continued fine, so after mass the earl and his squire started for Lewes, taking the two boys with him, Hubert and Martin. That night they were the guests of John, Earl of Warrenne {5}, who, although he did not agree with the politics of Simon de Montfort, could not refuse the rites of hospitality.

On the morrow, resuming their route, they left the towers of Lewes behind them as they pursued the northern road. Once or twice the earl turned and looked behind him, at the castle and the downs which encircled the old town, with a puzzled and serious expression of face.

"Stephen," he said to his squire; "I cannot tell what ails me, but there is an impression on my mind which I cannot shake off."

"My lord?"

"That yon castle and those hills, which I seem to have seen in a dream, are associated with my future fate, for weal or woe."



Chapter 3: Kenilworth.

The chief seat of the noble Earl of Leicester, as of a far less worthy earl of that name, three centuries later, was the Castle of Kenilworth. It had been erected in the time of Henry the First by one Geoffrey de Clinton, but speedily forfeited to the Crown, by treason, real or supposed. The present Henry, third of that name, once lived there with his fair queen, and beautified it in every way, specially adorning the chapel, but also strengthening the defences, until men thought the castle impregnable.

Well they might, for our Martin and Hubert beheld on their arrival a double row of ramparts, looking over a moat half a mile round, and sometimes a quarter of that distance broad: and the old servitors still told how the sad and feeble king had built a fragile bark, with silken hangings and painted sides, wherein he and his newly-married bride oft took the air on the moat. The buildings of the castle were most extensive; the space within the moat contained seven acres; the great hall could seat two hundred guests. The park extended without a break from the walls of Coventry on the northeast to the far borders of the park of the great Earl of Warwick on the southwest—a distance of several miles.

And here, in the society of a score of other boys of their own age, our Hubert and Martin were to receive their early education as pages.

Education—ah, how unlike that which falls to the lot of the schoolboy of the nineteenth century. As a rule, the care of the mother was deemed too tender and the paternal roof too indulgent for a boy after his twelfth year, so he was sent, not exactly to a boarding school, but to the castle of some eminent noble, such as the one under our observation; and here, in the company of from ten to twenty companions of his own age, he began his studies.

We have previously described this course of education in a former tale, The Rival Heirs, but for the benefit of those who have not read the afore-said story we must be pardoned a little recapitulation.

He was daily exercised in the use of all manner of weapons, beginning with such as were of simple character; he was taught to ride, not only in the saddle, but to sit a horse bare-backed, or under any conceivable circumstances which might occur. He had to bend the stout yew bow and to wield the sword, he had to couch the lance, which art he acquired with dexterity by the practice at the quintain.

He had also to do the work of a menial, but not in a menial spirit. It was his to wait upon his lord at table, to be a graceful cup bearer, a clever carver, able to select the titbits for the ladies, and then to assign the other portions according to rank.

It was his to follow the hounds, to learn the blasts of the horn, which belonged to each detail of the field; to track the hunted animal, to rush in upon boar or stag at bay, to break up or disembowel the captured quarry.

It was his to learn how to thread the pathless forests, like that of Arden; by observing the prevalent direction of the wind, as indicated by the way in which the trees threw their thickest branches, or the side of the trunk on which the mosses grew most densely; to know the stars, and to thread the murky forest at midnight by an occasional glimpse of that bright polar star, around which Charley's Wain revolved, as it does in these latter days.

It was his to learn that wondrous devotion to the ladies, which was at the foundation of chivalry, and found at last its reductio ad absurdum in the Dulcinea of Don Quixote; but it was not a bad thing in itself, and softened the manners, nor suffered them to become utterly ferocious.

He was taught to abhor all the meaner vices, such as cowardice or lying—no gentleman could live under such an imputation and retain his claim to the name. But it must be admitted that there were higher duties practised wheresoever the obligations of chivalry were fully carried out: the duty of succouring the distressed or redressing wrong, of devotion to God and His Church, and hatred of the devil and his works.

Alas! how often one aspect of chivalry alone, and that the worst, was found to exist; the ideal was too high for fallen nature.

To Hubert the new life which opened before him was full of promise and delight; he seemed to have found a paradise far more after his own heart than Eden could ever have been: but it was otherwise with Martin.

They had not been unkindly received by their companions, although, as the other pages were nearly all the sons of nobles, there was a marked restraint in the way in which they condescended to boys who had only one name {6}. Still, the earl's will was law, and since he had willed that the newcomers should share the privileges of the others, no protest could be made.

And as for Hubert there was no difficulty; he was one of nature's own gentlemen, and there was something in his brave winning ways, in which there was neither shyness nor presumption, which at once found him friends; besides, his speech was Norman French, and he was au fait in his manners.

But poor little Martin—the lad from the greenwood—surely it was a great mistake to expose him to the jeers and sarcasms of the lads of his own age, but of another culture; every time he opened his mouth he betrayed the Englishman, and it was not until the following reign that Edward the First, by himself adopting that designation as the proudest he could claim, redeemed it from being, as it had been since the Conquest, a term of opprobrium and reproach.

The day always began at Kenilworth Castle with an early mass in the chapel at sunrise; then, unless it were a hunting morning, the whole bevy of pages was handed over to the chaplain for a few brief hours of study, for the earl was himself a literary man, and would fain have all under him instructed in the rudiments of learning {7}.

Hubert did not show to advantage, for he regarded all such studies as a degrading remnant of his life at Michelham, yet none could read and write so well as he amongst the pages, and he had his Latin declensions and conjugations well by heart, while he could read and interpret in good Norman French, or indifferent English, the Gospels in the large illuminated Missal; but the silly lad was actually ashamed of this, and would have bartered it all for the emptiest success in the tilt yard.

On the contrary, little Martin, who could not yet read a line, was throwing the whole deep earnestness of an active intellect into the work.

"Courage! little friend," said the chaplain, "and thou wilt do as well as the wisest here, only be not impatient or discouraged."

And to Hubert he said one day:

"This hardly represents your best work, my son, you did better even yesterday."

Hubert tossed his head.

"Martin cares only for books—I want to learn better things; he may be a monk, I will be a soldier."

His literary acquirements, unusual in the time, increased his influence and reputation.

"And dost thou know," said a deep voice, "what is the first duty of a soldier?"

It was the stern figure of the earl who stood unobserved in the doorway of the library.

Hubert hung his head.

"Obedience!"

"And know this," added the speaker, "that learning distinguishes the man from the brute, as religion distinguishes him from the devil."

The two medieval boys, with the story of whose lives this veracious chronicle concerns itself, were indeed singularly unlike in their tastes and dispositions.

Martin seemed destined by nature for the life of the cloister, the home of learning and contemplation in those days, wherein alone were libraries to be found, and peaceful hours to devote to their perusal. He learned his lessons with such avidity as to surprise and delight his teacher, his leisure hours were spent in the library of the castle—for Kenilworth had a library of manuscripts under Simon de Montfort—a long low room on an upper floor, one end of which was boarded off as a chamber for the chaplain, who was of course also librarian. And again, he evinced a joy in the services of the castle chapel which sufficiently marked his vocation. The earl was both devout and musical, and the solemn tones of the Gregorian Church Modes were rendered with peculiar force by the deep voices of the men, for which they seemed chiefly designed. As Martin listened, he became aware of sensations and ideas which he could not express—he wept for joy, or trembled with emotion like Saint Augustine of old {8}.

Then again, Sunday by Sunday, the chaplain was like a living oracle to him, as to many others. The ascetic face became beautiful with a beauty not of this earth—"his pallor," said they, "became of a fair shining red" when he spoke of Christ or holy things, while anon his thunder tones awoke an echo in the heart of many as he testified against cruelty and wrong, of which there was no lack in those days.

Under his influence Martin was becoming moulded like pliant wax, the boy of the greenwood was losing all his rusticity, and yet, retaining his keen love of nature, was learning to look beyond nature to nature's God. At times Martin was very weary of Kenilworth, and almost wished himself back in the greenwood again, so little was he in sympathy with the companions whom he had found.

But one day the earl called him aside, and with a tenderness one could not have expected from that great statesman and mighty warrior, broke the sad tidings to the poor boy of the death of his ill-fated mother. It had arrived from Michelham; an outlaw had brought the news to the priory, with the request that the monks would send the tidings on to young Martin, wherever he might be. The death of his poor mother at last severed the ties which bound Martin to the greenwood; he longed after it no more; save that he often had daydreams wherein, as a brother of Saint Francis, he preached the glad tidings of the grace of God to his kindred after the flesh in the green glades of the Sussex woods.

One thing he had yet to subdue—his temper; like that of most people of excitable temperament it would some times flash forth like fire; his companions soon found this out, and the elder pages liked to amuse themselves in arousing it—a sport not quite so safe for those of his own age.

Altogether of a different mould was the bright joyous son of an ill-fated father; Hubert, son of Roger of Icklesham and Walderne. A boy, a typical boy, a brave free-hearted noble one:

With his unchecked, unbidden joy, His dread of books, and love of fun.

He was rapidly acquiring ease and dexterity in all the sports of the tilt yard; the quintain had now no terrors for him, and he was quite at home on horseback already. Naturally he was rising fast in favour with his fellows, the only lad who seemed to stand aloof from him being Drogo de Harengod.

Drogo was about a year older than Hubert, tall and dark, of a haughty and intolerant disposition, and very "masterful," but, as the old saw says:

Mores puerorum se detegunt inter ludendum.

So we will draw no more pen and ink sketches, but leave our characters to show themselves by their deeds.

It was a pleasant evening in early autumn, and the scene was the park of Kenilworth, some few months after the arrival of our two pages at the castle. Half a dozen of the youthful aspirants to chivalry, amongst whom were Drogo, Hubert, and Martin, gathered under an oak occupying an elevated site in the park: they had evidently just left the forest, for hares and rabbits were lying on the ground, the result of a little foray into the cover.

"What a view we have here; one can see the towers of Warwick, over the woods."

"And there is the line of hills over Keinton and Radway {9}."

"And there Black Down Hill."

"And there the spires of Coventry."

"Yes," said Drogo, "but it is not like the view from my uncle's castle in the Andredsweald, over a far wilder forest than this of Arden, with the great billowy downs for a southern bulwark. There be wolves, yea, boars, and for lesser beasts of prey wildcats, badgers, and polecats; while the deer are as plentiful as sheep."

"And where is that castle?" said Hubert.

"At Walderne; my uncle is Nicholas de Harengod, and some day the castle will be mine."

Martin looked up with strange interest.

"What! Walderne Castle yours!"

"Yes, have you heard of it?"

"And seen it."

"Seen it?"

"Yes, afar off," said the lad dreamily, for Hubert gave him a warning look.

"Even as a cat may look at a king's palace."

"But those woods are full of outlaws," said another lad, Louis de Chalgrave.

"All the better; it will be rare sport to hunt them out."

"Easier said than done," muttered Martin, but not so low that his words were unheard.

"What is easier said than done?" cried Drogo.

"I mean the hunting out those outlaws. Ever since you Normans came, in the days of the usurper you call the Conqueror, it has been talked about but never done."

"Usurper we call the Conqueror, pretty words these for the park of Kenilworth," said several voices. "They suit the descendants of the men who let themselves be beaten at Hastings."

"In any place but this Kenilworth they would cost a fellow his ears."

"Yes, but Earl Simon loves the English."

"Or he wouldn't degrade us by bringing louts from the greenwood amongst us—boys whom our fathers would have disdained to set to mind their swine," said Drogo.

"Probably your ancestor himself was a swineherd in Normandy, while mine were Thanes in England, and their courteous manners have descended to you," retorted Martin; whereupon Drogo laid his bowstring about his daring junior.

Forgetting all disparity of age, the youngster flew at him, and struck him full between the eyes with his clenched fist; the other boys, instead of interfering, laughed heartily at the scene, and watched its development with interest, thinking Martin would get a good switching. But they forgot one thing, or rather did not know it. Boxing was not a knightly exercise, not taught in the tilt yard, and Drogo could only use his natural weapons as a French boy uses his now. But in the greenwood it was different, and young Martin had been left again and again, as a part of a sound education, to "hold his own" against his equals in age and size, by aid of the noble art of fisticuffs; what wonder then that Drogo's eyes were speedily several shades darker than nature had designed them to be, of which there was no obvious need, and that victory would probably have decked the brows of the younger combatant had not the elders interfered.

"This is no work for a gentleman."

"If fight you must, run a course against each other with blunted spears, since they won't grant us sharp ones, more's the pity."

"The youngster should learn to govern his temper."

"Nay, he did not begin it."

The last speaker was Hubert.

Martin had walked away into the wood, as if he neither expected nor asked justice from his companions, and Hubert followed him.

"There they go together."

"Two boys, each without a second name."

"But after all," said Louis, 'I like Hubert better for standing up for his friend."

"They are queer friends, as unlike as light and darkness," said Drogo.

"Talking of darkness reminds one of your eyes, they are—"

"Hold your tongue."

And a new quarrel commenced, which we will not stop to behold, but follow the two into the woods; "older, deeper, grayer," with oaks that the Druids might have worshipped beneath.



Chapter 4: In the Greenwood.

While they were in sight of the other boys Martin's pride kept him from displaying any emotion, but when they were alone in the recesses of the woods, and Hubert, putting his hand on the other's shoulder bade him "not mind them," his bosom commenced to heave, and he had great difficulty in repressing his tears. It was not mere grief, it was the sense of desolation; he felt that he was not in his own sphere, and but for the thought of the chaplain would willingly have returned to the outlaws in the greenwood. No boy at a strange school feels as out of place as he, and the worst was, he did not get acclimatised in the least.

He had not found his vocation. Then again, he had been sweetly lectured upon his temper by Father Edmund, and had promised to control it. Still, was he to be switched by Drogo? He knew he never could bear it, and didn't quite feel that he ought to do so.

"Hubert," he said at last, "I don't think I can stay here."

"Why, it is a very pleasant place. I love it more every day, and they are not such bad fellows."

"You are like them in your tastes, and I am not."

"But tell me, Martin, how were you brought up; were you always with the outlaws? You almost let out the secret today."

"Yes, I was born in the woods."

"Then you are not of gentle blood?"

"That depends upon what you mean by gentle blood. I am not of Norman blood by my father's side, although my mother may be, from whom I get my dark features: my father was descended from the old English lords of Michelham, who lived on the island for ages before the Conquest; my mother's family is unknown to me."

"Indeed! what became of your English forbears?"

"Robert de Mortain contrived their ruin, but dearly did his race pay for it in the justice of God. His ghost, or that of his son, still haunts Pevensey: but all that is past and gone. Earl Simon sometimes says (you heard him perhaps the other day) that the English are of as good blood as the Normans, and that he should be proud to call himself an Englishman.

"He is worthy of the name," said Martin, and Hubert smiled; 'but it is not that—I want to be a scholar, and by and by a priest."

"The very thing they wanted to make me, and I wouldn't for the world; what a pity we could not change places. Ah! what is that?"

A crushing of brambles and parting of bushes was heard, and lo! a deer, with a little fawn by its side, came across the glade, looking very frightened. The mother was restraining her own speed for the sake of the little one, but every moment got ahead, involuntarily, then stopped, and strove by piteous cries to urge the fawn to do its best.

What did it mean? The mystery was soon explained, the deep bay of a hound was heard close behind.

Martin's deep sympathies with the animal creation were aroused at once, and he stood in the opening the deer had made, his short hunting spear in hand.

"Take care—what are you about!" cried Hubert.

The next instant the deerhound came in sight, and in a few leaps would have attained his prey had not Martin been in the way; but the boy knelt on one knee, presenting his spear full at the dog, who, springing down a bank through the opening, literally impaled itself upon it.

"Good heavens!" said Hubert, "to kill a hound, a good hound like this."

"Didn't you see the poor fawn and its mother? I wasn't going to let the brute touch them. I would have died first."

Just then the voices of men came from the wood.

"See, they follow upon the track of the deer; let us run, we are in for it else."

"I am not ashamed of my deed," said Martin, and would sooner face it out; if they are good men they will not blame me."

"They will hang thee, that's all—fly."

"Too late; you go, leave me to pay the penalty of my own deed, if penalty there be."

"What, forsake a comrade in distress? Nay, I would die first, that is a thing I would die for, but for a brute—never."

A tall hunter, a man of most commanding appearance and stature, stood upon the scene. Two attendants followed behind.

"THE EARL OF WARWICK," whispered Hubert, awe struck.

The earl looked astonished as he saw the dog.

"Who has done this?" he said, in a voice of thunder.

But Martin did not tremble as he replied:

"I, my lord."

"And why? did the hound attack thee?"

"It was to save the poor doe and her fawn; the mother would not leave her little one, and both would have been killed together."

The indignation of the two woodsmen was almost indecorous, but they did not speak before their dread master.

"And didst thou have aught to do with it?" said the earl, addressing Hubert.

"Nay, my lord, I did it all with this spear; he tried to stop me," said Martin.

"Then thou shalt hang for it.

"Here, Ralph, Gilbert, have you a rope between you?"

Ralph, the gamekeeper, unwound one from his waist. It was too often needed, and had our Martin been a peasant lad, he would have speedily swung from a branch of the oak above, but—Hubert came bravely forward.

"My Lord of Warwick, we knew not we were on your ground; we are pages from Kenilworth."

The men who had seized Martin stood motionless at this, still, however, holding him, and awaiting further orders.

"Can this be true?" growled the Lord of the Bear and Ragged Staff.

"Yes, my lord, you see the crest of the Montforts on our caps."

In his fury the earl had ignored the fact.

"Your names?"

"Martin."

"Hubert."

"'Martin,' 'Hubert,' of what? have you no 'de,' no second names?"

"We are not permitted to bear them."

"Doubtless for good reason. And now, what shall prevent me from hanging such nobodies, and burying you both beneath this oak, without anybody being the wiser?"

"The fact that you are a gentleman," said Hubert boldly.

The earl seemed struck by the answer.

"Boy," said he, "thou bast answered well, and second name or not, thou hast the right blood in thee; nor is the other lad wanting in courage. But you must both answer for this. Tomorrow I visit Kenilworth, and will see your lord.

"Release them, my men.

"Fare ye well till tomorrow.

"My poor Bruno!"

And the lads hastened home.

They told no one of their adventure, save Father Edmund, who not only did not chide them, but promised to plead for them if complaint were made to Earl Simon.

And very shortly, even the next day, the Earl of Warwick with an attendant squire rode up the approach to the barbican gate, and was admitted. The boys had not long to wait in suspense: they were soon summoned from their tasks into the presence of their dread yet kind lord, and his visitor.

As they were ushered along the passage of that mighty castle, both felt a sinking of heart, Hubert more than Martin, for the latter had far more moral courage than his lithesome companion.

"Martin, we are in bad case."

"I am not afraid."

"Do own you were wrong."

"I cannot, for I do not think I was."

"Say so at all events. What is the harm?"

"My tongue was given me to express my thoughts, not to conceal them."

"Then you will be beaten."

"And bear it; it was all my doing."

At that moment the heavy doors swung open, and they stood in the presence of the two mightiest earls of the Midlands. They stood as two culprits, Hubert very sheepish, with his head cast down, Martin with a comical mixture of resignation and apprehension.

"How is this?" said the Earl Simon. "I hear that you two killed the good deerhound of my brother of Warwick."

"It was I, my lord, not Hubert."

"They were both together," whispered the Earl of Warwick. "I saw not who did the deed."

"We may believe Martin."

"So thou dost take all the blame upon thyself, Martin."

"All the blame, if blame there was, my lord."

"If blame there was! Surely thou art mad, boy! and thy back will verify the force of Solomon's proverb, a rod for the fool's back, unless thou change thy tone and ask pardon of my good brother."

"My Lord of Warwick, I am very sorry that I was forced to kill your good hound, and hope you will forgive me."

"Forced to kill!"

"If I had not, he would have killed the poor doe and her fawn together, and I could not have seen that, if I had to hang for it, as the noble earl threatened I should."

"Tell me the whole story," said the Earl of Leicester.

"Pardon me, my good brother, I want to hear how he defends himself."

And Martin began:

"We were in the woods, when we heard a great rustling, and saw a doe crossing the path, very frightened, but for all that she kept stopping and looking back, and we saw a little fawn by her side, who couldn't keep up; then we heard the hound baying behind, and the poor mother trembled and started, but wouldn't leave her little one, but bleated piteously to the wee thing to make haste. I never saw an animal in such distress before, and I could not bear it, so I stood in the track to stop the dog, and he rushed upon my spear. I was very sorry for the good hound, but I was more sorry for the doe and her fawn."

"And thou wouldst do the same thing again, I suppose?" said the Earl of Leicester.

"I couldn't help it."

"And what didst thou do, Hubert?"

"I tried to stop him, but I couldn't."

"Thou didst not feel the same pity, then, for the deer?"

"No, my lord, because I thought dogs were made to hunt deer, and deer to be hunted."

"Thou art quite right, my lad," said he of Warwick, "and the other lad is a simpleton—I was going to say a chicken-hearted simpleton, but he was brave enough when his own neck seemed in danger, nor does he fear much for his back now—

"What dost thou say, boy?"

"My lord, if I have offended you, I refuse not to pay with my back."

"Get ready for the scourge, then," said the earl his lord, half smiling, and evidently trying his courage, "unless thou wilt say thou art sorry for thy deed."

"I am ready, my lord. I would say anything I could say without lying, rather than offend thee, but what am I to do? Let me bear what I have to bear."

"Nay," said the earl, "it may not be. My brother of Warwick, canst thou not forgive him? I will send thee two good hounds in the place of poor Bruno. Dost thou not see the lad has sat in the school of Saint Francis, who pitied and loved everything, great and small, as Adam de Maresco, my good friend at Oxford, tells me, and so all God's creatures loved him, and came at his call—the birds, nay, the fishes?"

"Dost thou believe all this, my boy?" said he of Warwick.

"Yes, it is all true, is it not? It is in the Flores Sancti Francisci."

The earl smiled.

"Come, my boy, I forgive thee.

"My good brother of Leicester, the lad is made for a Franciscan; don't spoil a good friar by making him a warrior."

"And Franciscan he shall be.

"Say, my boy, wouldst thou like to go to Oxford and study under my worthy friend, Adam de Maresco?"

Martin's eyes sparkled with delight.

"Oh yes, my lord.

"Thank you, my Lord of Warwick."

"Thy punishment shall then be exile from the castle; thou may'st cease from the sports of the tilt yard, which thou hast never loved, and Father Edmund shall take thee seriously in hand."

"Oh, thanks, my lord, O felix dies."

"See how he takes to Latin, like a duck to the water.

"Hubert, thou must go with him."

Hubert's countenance fell.

"Oh no, no, my lord, I want to be a soldier like my father; please don't send me away.

"Oh, Martin, what a fool thou art!"

"Fool! fie! for shame! thou forgettest in whose company thou art. Each to his own liking; thou to make food for the sword, Martin perhaps to suffer martyrdom on a gridiron, like Saint Lawrence, amongst the heathen."

"He is the stuff they make martyrs from," muttered he of Warwick.

"No, Hubert, you may stay and work out your own destiny, and Martin shall go to Oxford."

"Oh, Martin, I am so sorry."

But Martin was rapturous with joy.

And so, more soberly, was another person joyful—even the chaplain, for he saw the making of a valiant friar of Saint Francis in Martin. That wondrous saint, Francis of Assisi {10}, whose mission it was to restore to the depraved Christianity of the day an element it seemed losing altogether, that of brotherly love, was an embodiment of the sentiment of a later poet:

He prayeth best who loveth best, All things both great and small, For the dear God, who loveth us, He made and loveth all.

And wondrous was his power over the rudest men and the most savage animals in consequence. All things loved Francis—the most timid animals, the most shy birds, all alike flocked around him when he appeared.

The brotherhood he had founded was unlike the monastic orders; its members were not to retire from the world, but to live in it, and devote themselves entirely to the good of mankind; they were to renounce all worldly wealth, and embrace chastity, poverty, and obedience—theirs was not to be the joy of family life, theirs no settled abode. Wandering from place to place they were to live solely on the alms of those to whom they preached the gospel of peace.

Established only at the beginning of the century of our tale, it had already extended its energies throughout Europe. They came to England in 1224, only four clergy and five laymen. Already they numbered more than twelve hundred brethren in England alone; and they were found where they were most needed, in the back slums of the undrained and crowded towns, amongst the hovels of the serfs where plague was raging, where leprosy lingered—there were the Franciscans in this the heroic age of their order, before they had fallen from their first love, and verified the proverb—Corruptio optimi est pessima. Under their teaching a new school of theology had arisen at Oxford; the great Bishop of Lincoln, Robert Grosseteste, was its first lecturer, the most enlightened prelate of the day; and now Adam de Maresco, a warm friend of Earl Simon, was at its head. To his care the earl determined to commend young Martin.



Chapter 5: Martin Leaves Kenilworth.

Martin was henceforth relieved of his customary exercises in the tilt yard and elsewhere, which had become distasteful to him in proportion as the longing for a better life had grown upon his imagination. Of course the other boys treated him with huge contempt; and sent him metaphorically "to Coventry," the actual spires of which august medieval city, far more beautiful then than now, rose beyond the trees in the park.

But the chaplain saw this, and with the earl's permission lodged the neophyte in a chamber adjacent to his own "cell," where he gave himself up to his beloved books, only varying the monotony by an occasional stroll with his friend Hubert, who never turned his back upon his former friend, and endured much chaffing and teasing in consequence.

Most rapidly Martin's facile brain acquired the learning of the day—Latin became as his mother tongue, for it was then taught conversationally, and the chaplain seldom or never spoke to him in any other language.

And after a few months his zealous tutor thought him prepared for the important step in his life, and wrote to the great master of scholastic philosophy already mentioned, Adam de Maresco, to bespeak admission into one of the Franciscan schools or colleges then existing at Oxford. There was no penny or other post—a special messenger had to be sent.

The answer came in due course, and at the beginning of the Easter term Martin was told to prepare for his journey to the University. He was not then more than fifteen, but that was a common age for matriculation in those days.

The morning came, so long looked for, and with a strange feeling Martin arose with daybreak from his couch, and looked from his casement upon the little world he was leaving. A busy hum already ascended from beneath as our Martin put his head out of the window; he heard the clank of the armourer's hammer on mail and weapon, he heard the clamorous noise of the hungry hounds who were being fed, he heard the scolding of the cooks and menials who were preparing the breakfast in the hall, he heard the merry laughter of the boys in the pages' chamber. But soon one sound dominated over all—boom! boom! boom! came the great bell of the chapel, filling hill and dale, park and field, with its echoes. Father Edmund was about to say the daily mass, and all must go to begin the day with prayer who were not reasonably hindered—such was the earl's command.

And soon the chaplain called, "Martin, Martin."

"I am ready, sire."

"Looking round on the home thou art leaving, thou wilt find Oxford much fairer."

"But thou wilt not be there."

"My good friend Adam will do more for thee than ever I could."

"Nay, but for thee, sire, I had fallen into utter recklessness; thou hast dragged me from the mire.

"Sit Deo gloria, then, not to a frail man like thyself; thou must learn to lean on the Creator, not the creature. Come, it is time to vest for mass. Thou shalt serve me as acolyte for the last time."

People sometimes talk of that olden rite, wherein our ancestors showed forth the death of Christ day by day, as if it had been a mere mechanical service. It was a dead form only to those who brought dead hearts to it. To our Martin it was instinct with life, and it satisfied the deep craving of his soul for communion with the most High, while he pleaded the One Oblation for all his present needs, just entering upon a new world.

The short service was over, and Martin was breakfasting in the chaplain's room with him and Hubert, who had been invited to share the meal. They were sitting after breakfast—the usual feeling of depression which precedes a departure from home was upon them—when a firm step was heard echoing along the corridor.

"It is the earl," said the chaplain, and they all rose as the great man entered.

"Pardon my intrusion, father. I am come to say farewell to this wilful boy."

They all rose, Martin overwhelmed by the honour.

"Nay, sit down. I have not yet broken my own fast and will crack a crust with you."

And the earl ate and drank that he might put them all at their ease.

"So the scholar's gown and pen suit thee better than the coat of mail and the sword, master Martin!"

"Oh, my good lord!"

"Nay, my boy, thou wast exiled from home in my cause, and I may owe thee a life for all I can tell."

"They would not have harmed thee, not even they, had they known."

"But you see they did not know, and all was fish that came to their nets. Martin, don't thou ever think of them."

"Hubert, thou hadst better go, and come back presently," whispered the chaplain, who felt that there were certain circumstances of which the boy might be better left ignorant, which nearly concerned his companion.

"Nay," said Martin, 'there are no secrets between us. He knows mine. I know his."

"But no one else, I trust," said the earl, who remembered a certain prohibition.

"No, my lord, only Hubert. He already knew so much, I was forced to tell him all."

"Then thou hast not forgotten thy kindred in the greenwood?"

"I can never forget my poor mother."

"Thou hast already told me all that thou dost know, and that thy fathers once owned Michelham."

"So the outlaws said, the merrie men of the wood. Oh if my father had but lived."

"He would have made thee an outlaw, too."

"It might well have been, but my poor mother would have been happy then."

"But I think Martin has a scheme in his head," said Hubert shyly.

"What is it, my son?" said the earl.

"The chaplain knows."

"He thinks that when he has put on the cord of Saint Francis he will go and preach the Gospel to them that are afar off in the woods."

"But they are Christians, I hope."

"Nominally, but they know nought of the Gospel of love and peace. Their religion is limited to a few outward observances," said the chaplain, "which, separated from the living Spirit, only fulfil the words: 'The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.'"

"Ah, well, my boy, God speed thee on thy path, and preserve thee for that day when thou shalt come as a messenger of peace to them that sit in darkness," said the earl.

"Thine," he continued, 'is a far nobler ambition than that of the warrior, thine the task to save, his to destroy.

"What sayest thou, Hubert?"

"I would fain be a soldier of the Cross, like my father, and cut down the Paynim."

"Like a godly knight I once knew, who, called upon to convert a Saracen, said the Creed and told him he was to believe it. The Saracen, as one might have expected, uttered some words of scorn, and the good knight straight-way clove him to the chine."

"It was short and simple, my lord; I should like to convert them that way best."

The chaplain sighed.

"Oh, Hubert!" said Martin.

The earl listened and smiled a sad smile.

"Well, there is work for you both. Mine is not yet done in the busy fighting world; rivers of blood have I seen shed, nay, helped to shed, and I must answer to God for the way in which I have played my part; yet I thank Him that He did not disdain to call one whose career lay in like bloody paths 'the man after His own heart.'"

"It is lawful to draw sword in a good cause, my lord," said the chaplain.

"I never doubted it, but I say that Martin's ambition is more Christ-like—is it not?"

"It is indeed."

"Yet should I be called to lay down my life in some bloody field, if it be my duty, the path to heaven may not be more difficult than from the convent cell."

These last words he said as if to himself, but years afterwards, on an occasion yet to be related, they came back to the mind of our Martin.

Upon a horse, which he had learned at length to manage well; with two attendants in the earl's livery by his side, Martin set forth; his last farewells said. Yet he looked back with more or less sadness to the kind friends he was leaving, to tread all alone the paths of an unknown city, and associate with strangers.

As they passed through Warwick, the gates of the castle opened, and the earl of that town came forth with a gallant hunting suite; he recognised our young friend.

"Ah, Martin, Martin," he said, 'whither goest thou so equipped and attended?"

"To Oxenford, to be a scholar, good my lord."

"And after that?"

"To go forth with the cord of Saint Francis around me."

"Ah, it was he who taught thee to kill my deerhound. Well, fare thee well, lad, and when thou art a priest say a mass for me, for I sorely need it."

He waved his hand, and the cavalcade swept onward.

They rode through a wild tract of heath land. Cultivated fields there were few, tracts of furze—spinneys, as men then called small patches of wood—in plenty. The very road was a mere track over the grass, and it seemed like what we should now call riding across country.

At length they drew near the old town of Southam, where they made their noontide halt and refreshed themselves at the hostelry of the "Bear and Ragged Staff," for the people were dependants of the mighty Lord of Warwick.

Then through a dreary country, almost uninhabited, save by the beasts of the chase, they rode for Banbury. Twice or thrice indeed they passed knots of wild uncouth men, in twos or threes, who might have been dangerous to the unattended traveller, but saw no prospect of aught but good sound blows should they attack these retainers of Leicester.

And now they reached the "town of cakes" (I know not whether they made the luscious compound we call Banbury cakes then), and passed the time at the chief hostelry of the town, sharing the supper with twenty or thirty other wayfarers, and sleeping with some of them in a great loft above the common room on trusses of hay and straw.

It was rough accommodation, but Martin's early education had not rendered him squeamish, neither were his attendants.

The following day they rode through Adderbury, where not long before an unhappy miscreant, who counterfeited the Saviour and deluded a number of people, had been actually crucified by being nailed to a tree on the green. Then, an hour later, they left Teddington Castle, another stronghold of the Earl of Warwick, on their right: they were roughly accosted by the men-at-arms, but the livery of Leicester protected them.

Soon after they approached the important town of Woodstock, with its ancient palace, where a century earlier Henry II had wiled away his time with Fair Rosamond. The park and chase were most extensive and deeply wooded; emerging from its umbrageous recesses, they saw a group of spires and towers.

"Behold the spires of Oxenford!" cried the men.

Martin's heart beat with ill-suppressed emotion—here was the object of his long desire, the city which he had seen again and again in his dreams. Headington Hill arose on the left, and the heights about Cumnor on the right. Between them rose the great square tower of Oxford Castle, and the huge mound {11} thrown up by the royal daughter of Alfred hard by; while all around arose the towers and spires of the learned city, then second only in importance to London.

The first view of the Eternal City (Rome)—what volumes have been written upon the sensations which attend it. So was the first view of Oxford to our eager aspirant for monastic learning and ecclesiastical sanctity. Long he stood drinking in the sight, while his heart swelled within him and tears stood in his eyes; but the trance was roughly broken by his attendants.

"Come, young master. We must hurry on, or we may not get in before nightfall, and there may be highwaymen lurking about the suburbs."



Chapter 6: At Walderne Castle.

The watcher on the walls of Walderne Castle sees the sun sink beneath the distant downs, flooding Mount Caburn and his kindred giants with crimson light. In the great hall supper is preparing. See them all trooping in—retainers, fighting men, serving men, all taking their places at the boards placed at right angles to the high table, where the seats of Sir Nicholas de Harengod and his lady are to be seen.

He enters: a bluff stern warrior, in his undress, that is, without his panoply of armour and arms, in the long flowing robe affected by his Norman kindred at the festal board. She, with the comely robe which had superseded the gunna or gown, and the couvrechef (whence our word kerchief) on the head.

The chaplain, who served the little chapel within the castle, says grace, and the company fall upon the food with little ceremony. We have so often described their manners, or rather absence of manners, that we will not repeat how the joints were carved in the absence of forks, nor how necessary the finger glasses were after meals, although they only graced the higher board.

Wine, hippocras, mead, ale—there was plenty to eat and drink, and when the hunger was satisfied a palmer or pilgrim, who had but recently arrived from the Holy Land, sang a touching ballad about his adventures and sufferings in that Holy Land:

Trodden by those blessed feet Which for our salvation were Nailed unto the holy rood.

He sang of the captivity of Jerusalem under her Saracen rulers; of the Holy Places, nay, of the Sepulchre itself, in the hands of the heathen. That song, and kindred songs, had already caused rivers of blood to be shed; men were now getting hardened to the tale, albeit the Lady Sybil shed tears.

For she thought of her brother Roger, who had taken the Cross at that gathering at Cross-in-Hand when labouring under his sire's dire displeasure, and who had fallen yet more deeply under the ban, owing to events with which our readers are but partially acquainted.

And now, where Roger sat, she saw her own husband—well beloved—yet had he not effaced the memory of her brother. And she longed to see that brother's son, of whom she had heard, recognised as the heir of Walderne.

The palmer sang, and his song told of one, a father stern, who bade his son wash off the guilt of some grievous sin in the blood of the unbeliever—how that son went forth, full of zeal—but went forth to find his efforts blasted by a haunting, malignant fiend he had himself armed with power to blast; how at length, conquering all opposition, he had reached the holy shore, and embarked on every desperate enterprise, until he was laid out for dead, when—

At this moment the chapel bell rang for the evening prayers, which were never later than curfew, for as men then rose with the sun it was well to go to bed with him, so they all flocked to the chapel. The office commonly called Compline was said, and the little sanctuary was left again vacant and dark save where the solitary lamp twinkled before the altar.

But the Lady Sybil did not seek her couch. She remained kneeling in devotion before the altar, which her wealth and piety had founded. Nor was she alone. The palmer yet knelt on the floor of the sanctuary.

When they had been left alone together for some minutes, and all was still save the wind which howled without she rose and said:

"Tell me who thou art, O mysterious man: thy voice reminds me of one long dead."

"Dead to the world, yet living in the flesh. Sybil, I am thy brother Roger, at least what remains of him; thou hast not forgotten me."

"But why hast thou been silent so long? Thy brother in arms, the great Earl of Leicester, himself said he saw thee fall fighting gloriously against the fell Paynim."

"And he spake sooth, but he did not see me rise again. I was carried off the field for interment by the good brethren of Saint John, when, just as they were about to lower me with the dead warriors into one common grave, they perceived that there was life in me. They raised me, and restored the spirit which had all but fled, and when at last it returned, reason did not return with it. For a full year I was bereft of my senses. They kept me in the hospital at Acre, but they knew nought, and could learn nought of my kindred, until at length I recovered my reason. Then I told them I was dead to the world, and besought them to keep me, but they bade me wander, and stir up others to the rescue of the Holy Land ere I took my rest. And then, too, there was my son—"

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