The King's Daughters, How Two Girls Kept the Faith, by Emily Sarah Holt.
You will enjoy this book about the time when Mary was Queen of England, following the rise of Protestantism during Henry the Eighth's and Edward the Sixth's reigns. Mary was a Catholic, and during her reign there was a time when people with the Protestant faith were apt to be tortured and burnt at the stake.
So the King of the title is the King of Heaven, and his daughters are those women who retain their faith even up to the moment when they die in the flames. The subtitle is "How Two Girls Kept The Faith".
The problem with killing saintly mothers is that they may leave young children behind them, and a great deal of this book deals with the three young children of one such woman.
The edition used was not registered in the Copyright Library, but it appears to have been a rather badly printed pirated version. It was not an easy job to create this e-book, but I believe the author would approve of what we have done for you.
THE KING'S DAUGHTERS, HOW TWO GIRLS KEPT THE FAITH, BY EMILY SARAH HOLT.
CHOOSING A NEW GOWN.
"Give you good den, Master Clere!" said a rosy-faced countrywoman with a basket on her arm, as she came into one of the largest clothier's shops in Colchester. It was an odd way of saying "Good Evening," but this was the way in which they said it in 1556. The rosy-faced woman set down her basket on the counter, and looked round the shop in the leisurely way of somebody who was in no particular hurry. They did not dash and rush and scurry through their lives in those days, as we do in these. She was looking to see if any acquaintance of hers was there. As she found nobody she went to business. "Could you let a body see a piece of kersey, think you? I'd fain have a brown or a good dark murrey 'd serve me—somewhat that should not show dirt, and may be trusted to wear well.—Good den, Mistress Clere!—Have you e'er a piece o' kersey like that?"
Master Nicholas Clere, who stood behind the counter, did not move a finger. He was a tall, big man, and he rested both hands on his counter, and looked his customer in the face. He was not a man whom people liked much, for he was rather queer-tempered, and as Mistress Clere was wont to remark, "a bit easier put out than in." A man of few words, but those were often pungent, was Nicholas Clere.
"What price?" said he.
"Well! you mustn't ask me five shillings a yard," said the rosy-faced woman, with a little laugh. That was the price of the very best and finest kersey.
"Shouldn't think o' doing," answered the clothier.
"Come, you know the sort as 'ill serve me. Shilling a yard at best. If you've any at eightpence—"
"Well, then I reckon I must go a bit higher."
"We've as good a kersey at elevenpence," broke in Mrs Clere, "as you'd wish to see, Alice Mount, of a summer day. A good brown, belike, and not one as 'll fade—and a fine thread—for the price, you know. You don't look for kersey at elevenpence to be even with that at half-a-crown, now, do you? but you'll never repent buying this, I promise you."
Mrs Clere was not by any means a woman of few words. While she was talking her husband had taken down the kersey, and opened it out upon the counter.
"There!" said he gruffly: "take it or leave it."
There were two other women in the shop, to whom Mrs Clere was showing some coarse black stockings: they looked like mother and daughter. While Alice Mount was looking at the kersey, the younger of these two said to the other—
"Isn't that Alice Mount of Bentley?—she that was had to London last August by the Sheriffs for heresy, with a main lot more?"
"Ay, 'tis she," answered the mother in an undertone.
"Twenty-three of them, weren't there?"
"Thereabouts. They stood to it awhile, if you mind, and then they made some fashion of submission, and got let off."
"So they did, but I mind Master Maynard said it was but a sorry sort. He wouldn't have taken it, quoth he."
The other woman laughed slightly. "Truly, I believe that, if he had a chance to lay hold on 'em else. He loves bringing folk to book, and prison too."
"There's Margaret Thurston coming across," said the younger woman, after a moment's pause. "I rather guess she means to turn in here."
When people say "I guess" now, we set them down at once as Americans; but in 1556 everybody in England said it. Our American cousins have kept many an old word and expression which we have lost. See Note Two.
In another minute a woman came in who was a strong contrast to Alice Mount. Instead of being small, round, and rosy, she was tall and spare, and very pale, as if she might have been ill not long before. She too carried a basket, but though it was only about half as large as Alice's, it seemed to try her strength much more.
"Good den, neighbour!" said Alice, with a pleasant smile.
"Good den, Alice. I looked not to find you here. What come you after?"
"A piece of kersey for my bettermost gown this summer. What seek you?"
"Well, I want some linsey for mine. Go you on, and when you've made an end I'll ask good Master Clere to show me some, without Mistress Clere's at liberty sooner."
Alice Mount was soon satisfied. She bought ten yards of the brown kersey, with some black buckram to line it, and then, as those will who have time to spare, and not much to occupy their thoughts, she turned her attention to helping Margaret Thurston to choose her gown. But it was soon seen that Margaret was not an easy woman to satisfy. She would have striped linsey; no, she wouldn't, she would have a self colour; no, she wouldn't, she would have a little pattern; lastly, she did not know which to have! What did Master Clere think? or what would Alice recommend her?
Master Clere calmly declined to think anything about it.
"Take it or leave it," said he. "You'll have to do one or t'other. Might as well do it first as last."
Margaret turned from one piece to another with a hopelessly perplexed face. There were three lying before her; a plain brown, a very dark green with a pretty little pattern, and a delicate grey, striped with a darker shade of the same colour.
"Brown's usefullest, maybe," said she in an uncertain tone. "Green's none so bad, though. And that grey's proper pretty—it is a gentlewoman's gown. I'd like that grey."
The grey was undoubtedly ladylike, but it was only fit for a lady, not for a working man's wife who had cooking and cleaning to do. A week of such work would ruin it past repair.
"You have the brown, neighbour," said Alice. "It's not the prettiest, maybe, but it 'll look the best when it's been used a while. That grey 'll never stand nought; and the green, though it's better, 'll not wear even to the brown. You have the brown now."
Still Margaret was undecided. She appealed to Mrs Clere.
"Why, look you," responded that talkative lady, "if you have yonder green gown, you can don it of an even when your master comes home from work, and he'll be main pleased to see you a-sitting in the cottage door with your bit o' needlework, in a pretty green gown."
"Ay, so he will!" said Margaret, suddenly making up as much mind as she had. "I thank you Mistress Clere. I'll have the green, Master Clere, an' it please you."
Now, Alice Mount had offered a reason for choosing the brown dress, and Mrs Clere had only drawn a picture; but Margaret was the sort of woman to be influenced by a picture much more than by a solid reason. So the green linsey was cut off and rolled up—not in paper: that was much too precious to be wasted on parcels of common things. It was only tied with string, and each woman taking her own package, the two friends were about to leave the shop, when it occurred to Mrs Mount to ask a question.
"So you've got Bessy Foulkes at last, Mistress Clere?"
"Ay, we have, Alice," was the answer. "And you might have said, 'at long last,' trow. Never saw a maid so hard to come by. I could have got twenty as good maids as she to hire themselves, while Bess was thinking on it."
"She should be worth somewhat, now you have her, if she took such work to come by," observed Margaret Thurston.
"Oh, well, she'll do middling. She's a stirring maid over her work: but she's mortal quiet, she is. Not a word can you get out of her without 'tis needed. And for a young maid of nineteen, you know, that's strange fashions."
"Humph!" said Master Nicholas, rolling up some woollen handkerchiefs. "The world 'd do with another or twain of that fashion."
"Now, Nicholas, you can't say you get too much talk!" exclaimed his wife turning round. "Why Amy and me, we're as quiet as a couple of mice from morning till night. Aren't we now?"
"Can't I?" said Nicholas, depositing the handkerchiefs on a shelf.
"Well, any way, you've got no call to it. Nobody can say I talk too much, that I know: nor yet Amy."
"You know, do you?" said her husband coolly. "Well, then, I need not to say it."
"Now, neighbours, isn't that too bad?" demanded Mrs Clere, as Nicholas moved away to attend to another customer. "I never was a rattle, not I. But 'tis right like men: they take in their heads that all women be talkers, and be as still as you will, they shall write you down a chatterbox. Well, now, can't I tempt you with nought more? Stockings, or kerchiefs, or a knitted cap? Well, then, good den. I don't so well like the look of them clouds yonder; we shall have rain afore night, take my word for it. Farewell!"
Mulberry-colour, much like that we call plum-colour or prune.
Note 2. They say, "I want to have you go," when we should say, "I want you, to go." Queen Elizabeth would have used the former expression.
WHO TOOK CARE OF CISSY?
The clothier's shop which we entered in the last chapter was in Balcon or Balkerne Lane, not far from its northern end. The house was built, as most houses then were, with the upper storey projecting beyond the lower, and with a good deal of window in proportion to the wall. The panes of glass were very small, set in lead, and of a greenish hue; and the top of the house presented two rather steeply sloped gables. Houses in that day were more picturesque than they have been for the last two hundred years, though they have shown a tendency in recent times to turn again in that direction. Over Master Clere's door—and over every door in the street—hung a signboard, on which some sign was painted, each different from the rest, for signs then served the purpose of numbers, so that two alike in the same street would have caused confusion. As far as eye could see ran the gaily-painted boards—Blue Lion, varied by red, black, white, and golden lions; White Hart, King's Head, Golden Hand, Vine, Wheelbarrow, Star, Cardinal's Hat, Crosskeys, Rose, Magpie, Saracen's Head, and Katherine Wheel. Master Nicholas Clere hung out a magpie: why, he best knew, and never told. His neighbours sarcastically said that it was because a magpie lived there, meaning Mistress Clere, who was considered a chatterbox by everybody except herself.
Our two friends, Margaret Thurston and Alice Mount, left the shop together, with their baskets on their arms, and turning down a narrow lane to the left, came out into High Street, down which they went, then along Wye Street, and out at Bothal's Gate. They did not live in Colchester, but at Much Bentley, about eight miles from the town, in a south-easterly direction.
"I marvel," said Margaret, as the two pursued their way across the heath, "how Bessy Foulkes shall make way with them twain."
"Do you so?" answered Alice. "Truly, I marvel more how she shall make way with the third."
"What, Mistress Amy?"
"But why? There's no harm in her, trow?"
"She means no harm," said Alice. "But there's many an one, Meg, as doesn't mean a bit of harm, and does a deal for all that. I'm feared for Bessy."
"But I can't see what you're feared for."
"These be times for fear," said Alice Mount. "Neighbour, have you forgot last August?"
"Eh! no, trust me!" cried Margaret. "Didn't I quake for fear, when my master came in, and told me you were taken afore the justices! Truly, I reckoned he and I should come the next. I thank the good Lord that stayed their hands!"
"'Tis well we be on the Heath," said Alice, glancing round, as if to see whether they could be overheard. "If we spake thus in the streets of Colchester, neighbour, it should cost us dear."
"Well, I do hate to be so careful!"
"Folks cannot have alway what they would," said Alice, "But you know, neighbour, Bessy Foulkes is one of us."
"Well, what then? So's Master Clere."
Alice made no answer.
"What mean you, Alice Mount? Master Clere's a Gospeller, and has been this eight years or more."
"I did not gainsay it, Meg."
"Nay, you might not gainsay it, but you looked as if you would if you opened your mouth."
"Well, neighbour, my brother at Stoke Nayland sells a horse by nows and thens: and the last time I was yonder, a gentleman came to buy one. There was a right pretty black one, and a bay not quite so well-looking. Says the gentleman to Gregory, 'I'd fainer have the black, so far as looks go; but which is the better horse?' Quoth Gregory, 'Well, Master, that hangs on what you mean to do with him. If you look for him to make a pretty picture in your park, and now and then to carry you four or five mile, why, he'll do it as well as e'er a one; but if you want him for good, stiff work, you'd best have the bay. The black's got no stay in him,' saith he. So, Meg, that's what I think of Master Clere—he's got no stay in him. I doubt he's but one of your fair-weathered folks, that'll side with Truth when she steps bravely forth in her satin gown and her velvet slippers; but when she comes in a threadbare gown and old clouted shoes, then she's not for their company. There's a many of that sort."
"And you think Master Clere's one?" said Margaret, in a tone which sounded as if she did not think so.
"I'm feared he is. I'd not say it if there wasn't need. But if you see Bess afore I do—and you are more like, for you go into town oftener—do drop a word to her to be prudent."
"Tell Elizabeth Foulkes to be prudent!" exclaimed Margaret, laughing. "Nay, that were carrying coals to Newcastle!"
"Well, and the day may come for that, if the pits there be used up. Meg, have you ne'er noted that folks oftener come to trouble for want of their chief virtue than from overdoing it?"
"Nay, Alice, nor I don't think it, neither."
"Well, let be!" said Alice, shifting the basket to her other arm. "Them that lives 'll see it."
"But what mean you touching Mistress Amy! You said you were feared she'd make trouble for Bess."
"Ay, I am: but that's another matter. We've fault-found enough for one even. Who be them two afore us?"
"What, those bits of children? Why, they're two of Jack Johnson's, of Thorpe."
"They look as if they'd got too much to carry," said Alice, as they came up to the children. They were now about half way to Bentley.
The younger, a boy of about six, held one ear of a large jar full of meal, and the other was carried by his sister, whose apparent age was eight. They were plodding slowly along, as if afraid of spilling their meal, for the jar was pretty full.
"Well, Cis, thou hast there a load!" was Margaret's greeting.
The little girl turned her head to see who spoke, but she only said gravely, "Ay." A very grave, demure little maiden she seemed to be.
"Whither go you?" asked Alice Mount.
"We're going home," said the small boy.
"What, a matter of five miles, with that jar? Why, you'll drop in the road! Couldn't nobody have fetched it but you?"
"There wasn't nobody," said the little boy; and his sister looked up to say, in her grave way,—
"You know Mother's gone to Heaven."
"And who looks after you?"
"Will looks after Baby," answered Cissy demurely, "and I look after Will."
"And who looks after thee?" asked Alice much amused.
"I'm older than I look," replied Cissy, drawing herself up; but she was not big enough to go far.
"I'm nine—going in ten. I can make porridge, and clean the room and wash Baby. And Will's learning to wash himself, and then he'll be off my hands."
It was irresistibly funny to hear this small mite talk like a woman, for she was very small of her age; and Alice and Margaret could not help laughing.
"Well, but thou knowest thou canst not do a many things that must be done. Who takes care of you all? I dare be bound thou does thy best: but somebody there must be older than thee. Who is it now?"
"Have you e'er an aunt or a grandmother?" added Margaret.
Cissy looked up quietly into Alice's face.
"God takes care of us," she said. "Father helps when his work's done; but when he's at work, God has to do it all. There's nobody but God."
Alice and Margaret looked at each other in astonishment.
"Poor little souls!" cried Margaret.
"Oh, but we aren't!" said Cissy, rather more eagerly. "God looks after us, you know. He's sure to do it right, Father says so."
Alice Mount laid her hand softly on Cissy's head.
"Ay, little maid, God will do it right," she said. "But maybe He'd let me help too, by nows and thens. Thou knowest the Black Bear at Much Bentley—corner of lane going down to Thorpe?"
Yes, Cissy knew the Black Bear, as her face showed.
"Well, when thou gets to the Black Bear, count three doors down the lane, and thou'lt see a sign with a bell. That's where I live. Thee rap at the door, and my daughter shall go along with you to Thorpe, and help to carry the meal too. Maybe we can find you a sup of broth or milk while you rest you a bit."
"Oh, thank you!" said Cissy in her grown-up way. "That will be good. We'll come."
"Poor little souls!" repeated Margaret Thurston, when the children were out of hearing.
Alice Mount looked back, and saw the small pair still toiling slowly on, the big jar between them. It would not have been a large jar for her to carry, but it was large and heavy too for such little things as these.
"However will they get home!" said she. "Nobody to look after them but 'God and Father'!"
The moment she had said it, her heart smote her. Was that not enough? If the Lord cared for these little ones, did it matter who was against them? How many unseen angels might there be on that road, watching over the safety of the children, and of that homely jar of meal for their sakes? It was not the first time that angels had attended to springs of water and cakes baken on the coals. No angel would dream of stopping to think whether such work degraded him. It is only men who stoop low enough for that. The highest work possible to men or angels is just doing the will of God: and God was the Father of these little ones.
"What is their Father?" asked Alice Mount.
"Johnson? Oh, he is a labouring man—a youngish man, only four-and-thirty: his mistress died a matter of six months back, and truly I know not how those bits of children have done since."
"They have had 'God and Father,'" said Alice "Well, I've no doubt he's a good father," answered Margaret. "John Johnson is as good a man as ever stepped, I'll say that for him: and so was Helen a rare good woman. I knew her well when we were maids together. Those children have been well fetched up, take my word for it."
"It must have been a sad matter to lose such a wife," said Alice.
"Well, what think you?" answered Margaret, dropping her voice. "Agnes Love told me—Jack Love's wife, that dwells on the Heath—you'll maybe know her?"
"Ay, I know her, though not well."
"I've known her ever since she was a yard long. Well, she told me, the even it happed came Jack Johnson to their house, and when she oped the door, she was fair feared of him, he looked so strange—his face all white, and such a glitter of his eyes—she marvelled what had taken him. And says he, 'Agnes, my Helen's gone.' 'Gone? oh dear!' says she. 'Ay, she's gone, thank God!' says he. Well, Agnes thought this right strange talk, and says she, 'Jack Johnson, what can you mean? Never was a better woman than your Helen, and you thanking God you've lost her!' 'Nay, Agnes, could you think that?' says he. 'I'm thanking God because now I shall never see her stand up on the waste by Lexden Road,' says he. 'She's safe from that anguish for evermore!' And you know what that meant."
Yes, Alice Mount knew what that meant—that allusion to the waste ground by Colchester town wall on the road to Lexden, where the citizens shot their rubbish, and buried their dead animals, or threw them unburied, and burned their martyrs. It was another way of saying what the Voice from Heaven had cried to the Apostle—"Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth!"
"It's a marvel they haven't done somewhat to them Loves afore now," said Margaret, after a minute's silence.
"I thought they had?" replied Alice. "Wasn't John Love up afore the Sheriff once at any rate?"
"Oh, ay, they've had him twice o'er; don't you mind they gat them away in the night the last time, and all his goods was taken to the Queen's use? But now, see, he's come back, and they let him alone. They've done all they mean to do, I reckon."
"God grant it!" said Alice, with a sigh. "Meg, I cannot forget last August. Twenty-two of us had up afore the Bishop, and we only escaped by the very skin of our teeth, as saith Job. Ay me! I sometimes marvel if we did well or no, when we writ our names to that submission."
"Truly, neighbour, so have I," replied Margaret rather bluntly. "I would not have set mine thereto, I warrant you."
Alice sighed heavily. "God knoweth we meant not to deny His truth," said she; "and He looketh on the heart."
After that they were silent till they came to Much Bentley. Turning down the lane which led to Thorpe, they came in sight of a girl of twenty years, sitting on a low stool at the door of the third cottage in the lane, weaving worsted lace on a pillow with bobbins. Over the door hung a signboard bearing a bell painted blue. The lace-maker was a small-built girl, not in any way remarkable to look at, with smooth dark hair, nicely kept, and a rosy face with no beauty about it, but with a bright, kind-hearted expression which was better than outside beauty. If a person accustomed to read faces had been there, he might perhaps have said that the small prominent chin, and the firm setting of the lips, suggested that Rose Allen occasionally had a will of her own. The moment that Rose saw who was coming, she left her stool with a bright smile which lighted up all her face, and carrying the stool in one hand, and her lace pillow in the other, disappeared within the house.
"She's quick at her work, yonder maid," said Margaret.
"Ay, she's a good lass, my Rose!" was her mother's answer. "You'll come in and sit a bit, neighbour?"
"Well, thank you, I don't mind if I do—at any rate till them children comes up," responded Margaret, with a little laugh. "Will you have me while then?"
"Ay, and as long after as you've a mind," said Alice heartily, leading the way into her cottage.
As Margaret had a mile yet to walk, for she lived midway between Much Bentley and Thorpe, she was glad of a rest. In the kitchen they found Rose, very busy with a skillet over the fire. There was no tea in those days, so there was no putting on of the kettle: and Rose was preparing for supper a dish of boiled cabbage, to which the only additions would be bread and cheese. In reply to her mother's questions, she said that her step-father had been in, but finding his wife not yet come from market, he had said that he would step into the next neighbour's until she came, and Rose was to call him when supper was ready.
William Mount, the second husband of Alice, was twenty years older than his wife, their ages being sixty-one and forty-one. He was a tall, grey, grave-looking man,—a field labourer, like most of the dwellers in Much Bentley. This was but a small place, nestling at one corner of the large park of the Earl of Oxford, the owner of all the property for some distance round. Of course he was the great man in the esteem of the Much Bentley people. During the reign of Edward the Sixth, when Protestantism was in favour at Court, Lord Oxford had been a Protestant like other people; but, also like many other people, he was one of those of whom it has been well said that:
"He's a slave who dare not be In the right with two or three."
Lord Oxford was a slave in this sense—a slave to what other people said and thought about him—and very sad slavery it is. I would rather sweep a crossing than feel that I did not dare to say what I believed or disbelieved, what I liked or did not like, because other people would think it strange. It is as bad as being in Egyptian bondage. Yet there are a great many people quite contented to be slaves of this kind, who have not half so much excuse as Lord Oxford. If he went against the priests, who then were masters of everything, he was likely to lose his liberty and property, if not his life; while we may say any thing we like without need to be afraid. It is not always an advantage to have a great deal to lose. The poor labourers of Much Bentley, who had next to no property at all, and could only lose liberty and life, were far braver than the Earl whom they thought such a grand man, and who carried a golden wand before the Queen.
Supper was over at the Blue Bell, and Margaret Thurston was thinking about going home, when a little faint rap came on the door of the cottage. Rose opened it, and saw a big jar standing on the door-sill, a little boy sitting beside it, and an older girl leaning against the wall.
"Please, we're come," said Cissy.
ON THE WAY TO THORPE.
"Please, we're come," said Cissy. "We've been a good while getting here, but we—Oh, it isn't you!"
"What isn't me?" said Rose, laughing—for people said me where it should have been I, then, as they do still. "I rather think it is me; don't you?"
"Yes, but you are not she that spake to us on the road," said Cissy. "Somebody told us to call here as we went down the lane, and her daughter should go home with us, and help us to carry the big jar. Perhaps you're the daughter?"
"Well, I guess I am," answered Rose. "Where's home?"
"It's at the further end of Thorpe."
"All right. Come in and rest you, and I'll fetch a sup of something to do you good, poor little white faces."
Rose took a hand of each and led them forward.
"Mother, here be two bits of Maypoles," said she, "for they be scarce fatter; and two handfuls of snow, for they be scarce rosier—that say you promised them that I should go home with them and bear their jar of meal."
"So I did, Rose. Bring them in, and let them warm themselves," answered Mrs Mount. "Give them a sup of broth or what we have, to put a bit of life in them; and at after thou shalt bear them company to Thorpe. Poor little souls! they have no mother, and they say God looks after them only."
"Then I shall be in His company too," said Rose softly. Then, dropping her voice that the children might not hear, she added, "Mother, there's only that drop of broth you set aside for breakfast; and it's scarce enough for you and father both. Must I give them that?"
Alice Mount thought a moment. She had spoken before almost without thinking.
"Daughter," she said, "if their Father, which is also ours, had come with them visible to our eyes, we should bring forth our best for Him; and He will look for us to do it for the little ones whose angels see His Face. Ay, fetch the broth, Rose."
Perhaps Cissy had overheard a few words, for wheel the bowl of broth was put into her hands, she said, "Can you spare it? Didn't you want it for something else than us?"
"We can spare it, little maid," said Alice, with a smile.
"Sup it up," added Rose, laying her hand on the child's shoulder; "and much good may it do thee! Then, when you are both warmed and rested, I'll set forth with you."
Cissy did not allow that to be long. She drank her broth, admonished Will by a look to finish his—for he was disposed to loiter,—and after sitting still for a few minutes, rose and put down the bowl.
"We return you many thanks," she said in her prim little way, "and I think, if you please, we ought to go home. Father 'll be back by the time we get there; and I don't like to be away when he comes. Mother bade me not. She said he'd miss her worse if he didn't find me. You see, I've got to do for Mother now, both for Father and the children."
Alice Mount thought it very funny to hear this little mite talking about "the children," as if she were not a child at all.
"Well, tarry a minute till I tie on my hood," said Rose. "I'll be ready before you can say, 'This is the house that Jack built.'"
"What do you with the babe, little maid, when you go forth?" asked Alice.
"Baby?" said Cissy, looking up. "Oh, we leave her with Ursula Felstede, next door. She's quite safe till we come back."
Rose now came in from the inner room, where she had been putting on her hood and mantle. There were no bonnets then. What women called bonnets in those days were close thick hoods, made of silk, velvet, fur, or woollen stuff of some sort. Nor had they either shawls or jackets—only loose mantles, for out-door wear. Rose took up the jar of meal.
"Please, I can carry it on one side," said Cissy rather eagerly.
"Thou mayest carry thyself," said Rose. "That's plenty. I haven't walked five miles to-day. I'm a bit stronger than thou, too."
Little Will had not needed telling that he was no longer wanted to carry the jar; he was already off after wild flowers, as if the past five miles had been as many yards, though he had assured Cissy at least a dozen times as they came along that he did not know how he was ever to get home, and as they were entering Bentley had declared himself unable to take another step. Cissy shook her small head with the air of a prophetess.
"Will shouldn't say such things!" said she. "He said he couldn't walk a bit further—that I should have to carry him as well as the jar—and I don't know how I could, unless I'd poured the meal out and put him in, and he'd never have gone, I'm sure; and now, do but look at him after those buttercups!"
"He didn't mean to tell falsehoods," said Rose. "He was tired, I dare say. Lads will be lads, thou knowest."
"Oh dear, I don't know how I'm to bring up these children to be good people!" said Cissy, as gravely as if she had been their grandmother. "Ursula says children are great troubles, and I'm sure it's true. If there's any place where Will should be, that's just where he always isn't; and if there's one spot where he shouldn't be, that's the place where you commonly find him. Baby can't walk yet, so she's safe; but whatever I shall do when she can, I'm sure I don't know! I can't be in all the places at once where two of them shouldn't be."
Rose could not help laughing.
"Little maid," she said kindly, "thy small shoulders will never hold the world, nor even thy father's cottage. Hast thou forgot what thou saidst not an half-hour gone, that God takes care of you all?"
"Oh yes, He takes big care of us," was Cissy's answer. "He'll see that we have meat and clothes and so forth, and that Father gets work. But He'll hardly keep Will and Baby out of mischief, will He? Isn't that too little for Him?"
"The whole world is but a speck, little Cicely, compared with Him. If He will humble Himself to see thee and me at all, I reckon He is as like to keep Will out of mischief as to keep him alive. It is the very greatness of God that He can attend to all the little things in the world at once. They are all little things to Him. Hast thou not heard that the Lord Jesus said the very hairs of our heads be numbered?"
"Yea, Sir Thomas read that one eve at Ursula's."
Sir Thomas Tye was the Vicar of Much Bentley.
"Well," said Rose, "and isn't it of more importance to make Will a good lad than to know how many hairs he's got on his head? Wouldn't thy father think so?"
"For sure he would," said Cissy earnestly.
"And isn't God thy Father?"
Just as Rose asked that, a tall, dark figure turned out of a lane they were passing, and joined them. It was growing dusk, but Rose recognised the Vicar of whom they had just been speaking. Most priests were called "Sir" in those days.
"Christ bless you, my children!" said the Vicar.
Both Rose and Cissy made low courtesies, for great respect was then paid to a clergyman. They called them priests, for very few could read the Bible, which tells us that the only priest is our Lord Jesus Christ. A priest does not mean the same thing as a clergyman, though too many people thoughtlessly speak as if it did. A priest is a man who offers a sacrifice of some living thing to God. So, as Jesus Christ, who offered Himself, is our sacrifice, and there can never be any other, there cannot be any priests now. There are a great many texts which tell us this, but I will only mention one, which you can look out in your Bibles and learn by heart: the tenth verse of the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is easy to remember two tens.
Cissy was a little frightened when she saw that Sir Thomas walked on with them; but Rose marched on as if she did not care whether he came or not. For about a year after Queen Mary's accession Sir Thomas had come pretty regularly to the prayer-meetings which were held sometimes at the Blue Bell, and sometimes at Ursula Felstede's at Thorpe, and also sometimes at John Love's on the Heath. He often read the Bible to them, and gave them little sermons, and seemed as kind and pleasant as possible. But when Queen Mary had been about a year on the throne, and it could be plainly seen which way things were going—that is, that she would try to bring back the Popish religion which her brother had cast off—Sir Thomas began to come less often. He found it too far to John Love's and to Thorpe; and whenever the meeting was at the Blue Bell, which was only a few hundred yards from the Vicarage,—well, it certainly was odd that Sir Thomas was always poorly on that night. Still, nobody liked to think that he was making believe; but Alice Mount said so openly, and Rose had heard her.
Cissy Johnson was not old enough to understand all the reasons why her father distrusted the priest; but she knew well that "Father didn't like him," and like the dutiful little girl she was, she was resolved not to make a friend of any one whom her father disliked, for she knew that he might have good reasons which she could not understand. But Cissy had been taught to be civil to everybody, and respectful to her betters— lessons of which a little more would not hurt some folks in the present day. People make a great mistake who think that you cannot both be respectful to others and independent for yourself. The Bible teaches us to do both. Being in this state of mind, Cissy was decidedly pleased to see her father coming up from the other end of the lane.
"Oh, here's Father!" she said to Rose; and little Will ran on joyfully to meet him.
"Well, my lad!" was Johnson's greeting to his boy. "So thou and Cissy have got back? It's a right long way for such as thou."
Little Will suddenly remembered that he was exceedingly tired, and said so.
"Thou'd better go to bed," said her father, as they came up with the girls. "Well, Cis, who hast thou picked up?—I'm right thankful to you," he added, looking at Rose, "for giving my little maid a helping hand. It's a long way for such little ones, all the way from the Heath, and a heavy load for little arms, and I'm main thankful. Will you come in a bit and rest you?" he said to Rose.
But Rose declined, for she knew her mother would expect her to come back at once. She kissed Cissy, and told her, whenever she had a load to carry either way, to be sure she looked in at the Blue Bell, when Rose would help her if she possibly could: and giving the jar to Johnson, she bade him good-night, and turned back up the lane. Sir Thomas had walked on, as Rose supposed: at any rate, he was not to be seen. She went nearly a mile without seeing any one, until Margaret Thurston's cottage came in sight. As Rose began to go a little more slowly, she heard footsteps behind her, and the next minute she was joined—to her surprise—by the priest.
"My daughter," he said, in a soft, kind voice, "I think thou art Rose Allen?"
Rose dropped a courtesy, and said she was.
"I have been wishful to speak with some of thy father's household," said Sir Thomas, in the same gentle way: "so that I am fain to meet thee forth this even. Tell me, my child, is there illness in the house or no?"
Rose breathed quickly: she guessed pretty well what was coming.
"No, Father," she answered; "we are all in good health, God be thanked for that same."
"Truly. I am glad to hear thee so speak, my daughter, and in especial that thou rememberest to thank God. But wherefore, then, being in good health, have ye not come to give thanks to God in His own house, these eight Sundays past? Ye have been regular aforetime, since ye were back from the Bishop's Court. Surely it is not true—I do hope and trust it is not true, that ye be slipping yet again into your past evil ways of ill opinions and presumptuous sin?"
The reason why the Mounts had not been to church was because the services were such as they could no longer join in. Queen Mary had brought back the Popish mass, and all the images which King Edward had done away with; so that to go to church was not to worship God but to worship idols. And so terrible was the persecution Mary had allowed to be set up, that the penalty for refusing to do this was to be burnt to death for what she called heresy.
It was a terrible position for a young girl in which Rose Allen stood that night. This man not only held her life in his hands, but also those of her mother and her step-father. If he chose to inform against them, the end of it might be death by fire. For one moment Rose was silent, during which she cried silently but most earnestly to God for wisdom and courage—wisdom to keep her from saying what might bring them into needless danger, and courage to stand true and firm to God and His truth.
"Might I be so bold as to pray you, Father," she said at last, "to ask at my mother the cause of such absence from mass? You wot I am but a young maid, and under direction of mine elders."
Sir Thomas Tye smiled to himself. He thought Rose a very cautious, prudent girl, who did not want to bring herself into trouble.
"So be it, my daughter," said he in the same gentle way. "Doubtless it was by direction of thine elders that then wert absent aforetime, ere ye were had up to the Bishop."
He meant it as a question, by which he hoped to entangle poor Rose. She was wise enough not to answer, but to let it pass as if he were merely giving his own opinion, about which she did not wish to say anything.
"Crafty girl!" thought Sir Thomas. Then he said aloud,—"The festival of our Lady cometh on apace: ye will surely have some little present for our blessed Lady?"
The Virgin Mary was then called "Our Lady."
"We be but poor folks," said Rose. "Truly, I know ye be poor folks," was the priest's reply. "Yet even poor folks do oft contrive to pleasure their friends by some little present. And if ye might bring no more than an handful of daisies from the field, yet is our Lady so gracious that she will deign to accept even so small an offering. Ye need not be empty-handed."
"I trust we shall do our duty," said poor Rose, in great perplexity. "Father, I cry you mercy if I stay me here, for I would fain speak with the woman of this cot."
"So do, my daughter," was the soft reply, "and I will call here belike, for I do desire to speak with Thurston." Poor Rose was at her wit's end. Her little manoeuvre had not succeeded as she hoped. She wanted to be rid of the unwelcome company of the priest; and now it seemed as if, by calling on Margaret Thurston instead of going straight home, she would only get more of it. However, she must do it now. She had nothing particular to say to Margaret, whom she had already seen that day, though her mother had said after Margaret was gone, that she wished she had told her something, and Rose meant to use this remark as furnishing an excuse.
She tapped, lifted the latch, and went in, the priest following.
John Thurston sat by the fire cutting clothes-pegs; Margaret was ironing clothes. Thurston rose when he saw the priest, and both received him reverently.
Feeling that her best chance of escaping the priest was to proceed immediately, Rose drew Margaret aside, and told her what her mother had said; but Margaret, who was rather fond of talking, had something to say too, and the precious minutes slid by. Meanwhile the priest and Thurston went on with their conversation: and at last Rose, saying she really could not stay any longer, bade them good-bye, and went out. But just as Margaret was opening the door to let her out, Sir Thomas said a few words in reply to Thurston, which Rose could not but overhear.
"Oh, Master Clere is a worthy man enough. If he hath gone somewhat astray in times past, that shall now be amended. Mistress Cicely, too, is an honest woman that wist how to do her duty. All shall be well there. I trust, John Thurston, that thou shalt show thyself as wise and well ruled as he."
Rose heard no more. She passed out into the night, and ran nearly all the way home.
"Why, Rose, how breathless art thou, maid!" said the other when she came in.
"Well I may, Mother!" cried Rose. "There is evil ahead for us, and that not a little. Father Tye overtook me as I came back, and would know of me why we had not been to mass these eight Sundays; and I staved him off, and prayed him to ask of you. And, Mother, he saith Master Clere the draper, though he have gone somewhat astray, is now returned to his duty, and you wot what that meaneth. And I am feared for us, and Bessy too."
"The good Lord have mercy on us!" said Alice Mount.
"Amen!" responded William Mount gravely. "But it had best be such mercy as He will, Alice, not such as we would. On one matter I am resolved—I will sign no more submissions. I fear we have done it once too often."
"O Father, I'm so fain to hear you say it!" cried Rose.
"Art thou so, daughter?" he answered a little sadly. "Have a care thy quick tongue bring thee not into more trouble than need be. Child, to refuse that submission may mean a fiery death. And we may not—we must not—shrink from facing death for Him who passed through death for us. Lord, grant us Thy grace to stand true!"
And William Mount stood up with uncovered head, and looked up, as we all do instinctively when we speak to Him who dwelleth in the heavens.
"Who hath abolished death!" was the soft response of Alice.
ROSE ASKS A FAVOUR.
"You'll not find no better, search all Colchester through!" said Mrs Clere, to a fat woman who did not look particularly amiable, holding up some worsted florence, drab with a red stripe.
"Well, I'm not so sure," replied the cross-looking customer. "Tomkins, now, in Wye Street, they showed me some Kendal frieze thicker nor that, and a halfpenny less by the yard."
"Tomkins!" said Mrs Clere, in a tone not at all flattering to the despised Tomkins. "Why, if that man knows a Kendal frieze from a piece of black satin, it's all you can look for. Never bred up to the business, he wasn't. And his wife's a poor good-for-nought that wouldn't know which end of the broom to sweep with, and his daughters idle, gossiping hussies that'll drive their husbands wild one o' these days. Don't talk to me about Tomkins!"
And Mrs Clere turned over the piece of florence as roughly as if it had been Tomkins instead of itself.
"It was right good frieze," said the customer doubtfully.
"Then you'd better go and buy it," snapped Mrs Clere, whom something seemed to have put out that morning, for she was generally better-tempered than that.
"Well, but I'm not so sure," repeated the customer. "It's a good step to Wye Street, and I've lost a bit o' time already. If you'll take tenpence the ell, you may cut me off twelve."
"Tenpence the fiddlesticks!" said Mrs Clere, pushing the piece of worsted to one side. "I'll not take a farthing under the shilling, if you ask me while next week. You can just go to Tomkins, and if you don't find you've got to darn his worthless frieze afore you've done making it up, why, my name isn't Bridget Clere, that's all. Now, Rose Allen, what's wanting?"
"An't please you, Mistress Clere, black serge for a girdle."
"Suit yourself," answered Mistress Clere, giving three pieces of serge, which were lying on the counter, a push towards Rose. "Well, Audrey Wastborowe, what are you standing there for? Ben't you a-going to that Tomkins?"
"Well, nay, I don't think I be, if you'll let me have that stuff at elevenpence the ell. Come now, do 'ee, Mistress Clere!"
"I'm not to be coaxed, I tell you. Shilling an ell, and not a bit under."
"Well! then I guess I shall be forced to pay it. But you'll give me good measure?"
"I'll give you as many ells as you give me shillings, and neither more nor less. Twelve? Very good."
Mrs Clere measured off the florence, tied it up, received the twelve shillings, which Audrey drew from her pocket as slowly as possible, perhaps fancying that Mrs Clere might relent, and threw it into the till as if the coins were severely to blame for something. Audrey took up her purchase, and went out.
"Whatever's come to Mistress Clere?" asked a young woman who stood next to Rose, waiting to be served. "She and Audrey Wastborowe's changed tempers this morrow."
"Something's vexed her," said Rose. "I'm sorry, for I want to ask her a favour, when I've done my business."
"She's not in a mood for favour-granting," said the young woman. "That's plain. You'd better let be while she's come round."
"Nay, I can't let be," whispered Rose in answer.
"Now or never, is it? Well, I wish you well through it."
Mistress Clere, who had been serving another customer with an ounce of thread—there were no reels of thread in those days; it was only sold in skeins or large hanks—now came to Rose and the other girl.
"Good-morrow, Gillian Mildmay! What's wanting?"
"Good-morrow, Mistress Clere! My mother bade me ask if you had a fine marble cloth, about five shillings the ell, for a bettermost gown for her."
Mrs Clere spoke a little less crossly, but with a weary air.
"Marbled cloth's not so much worn as it was," she said; "but I have a fair piece that may serve your turn. It's more nor that, though. I couldn't let it go under five and eightpence."
"Mother'll want it better cheap than that," said Gillian. "I think that'll not serve her, Mistress Clere. But I want a pair of tawny sleeves, an't like you, wrought with needlework."
Sleeves, at this time, were not a part of the dress, but were buttoned in as the wearer chose to have them. Gillian found these to suit her, paid for them, and went away. Mrs Clere turned to Rose.
"Now, then, do be hasteful, Rose Allen; I'm that weary!"
"You seem so in truth, Mistress Clere. I'm feared you've been overwrought," said Rose, in a sympathising tone.
"Overwrought? Ay, body and soul too," answered Mrs Clere, softening a little in response to Rose's tone. "Well! folks know their own troubles best, I reckon, and it's no good harrying other folks with them. What priced serge would you have?"
"About eighteenpence, have you some?"
"One and eightpence; and one and fourpence. The one-and-fourpenny's right good, you'll find."
"Thank you, I'll take the one-and-fourpenny: it'll be quite good enough for me. Well, I was going to ask you a favour, Mistress Clere; but seeing you look so o'erwrought, I have no mind to it."
"Oh, it's all in the day's work. What would you?" asked Mrs Clere, rather more graciously.
"Well, I scarce like to tell you; but I was meaning to ask you the kindness, if you'd give leave for Bessy Foulkes to pass next saint's day afternoon with us. If you could spare her, at least."
"I can spare Bessy Foulkes uncommon well!" said Mrs Clere irascibly.
"Why, Mistress Clere! Has Bessy—" Rose began in an astonished tone. Mrs Clere's servant, Elizabeth Foulkes, was her dearest friend.
"You'd best give Mistress Elizabeth Foulkes the go by, Rose Allen. She's a cantankerous, ill-beseen hussy, and no good company for you. She'll learn you to do as ill as herself, if you look not out."
"But what has Bessy done?"
"Gone into school-keeping," said Mrs Clere sarcastically. "Expects her betters to go and learn their hornbook of her. Set herself up to tell all the world their duty, and knows it a sight better than they do. That's what Mistress Elizabeth's done and doing. Ungrateful hussy!"
"I couldn't have thought it!" said Rose, in a tone of great surprise, mixed with disappointment. "Bessy's always been so good a maid—"
"Good! don't I tell you she's better than every body else? Tell you what, Rose Allen, being good's all very well, but for a young maid to stick herself up to be better than her neighbours 'll never pay. I don't hold with such doings. If Bess'd be content to be the best cook, or the best cleaner, in Colchester, I'd never say nought to her; but she's not content; she'd fain be the best priest and the best school-master too. And that isn't her work, preaching isn't; dressing meat and scouring pans and making beds is what she's called to, and not lecturing folks at Market Cross."
"Has Bessy been preaching at the Market Cross?" asked Rose in genuine horror, for she took Mrs Clere's statements literally.
"That's not while to-morrow," said Mrs Clere in the same sarcastic tone. "She's giving the lecture at home first, to get perfect. I promise you I'm just harried out of my life, what with one thing and another!"
"Well, I'd like to speak with Bessy, if I might," said Rose in some perplexity. "We've always been friends, Bessy and me; and maybe she'd listen to me—or, any ways, to Mother. Could you kindly give leave for her to come, Mistress Clere?"
"You may have her, and keep her, for all the good she is to me," answered the clothier's wife, moving away. "Mind she doesn't give you the malady, Rose Allen: that's all I say! It's a fair infection going about, and the great doctors up to London 'll have to come down and look to it—see if they don't! Oh, my lady can go if it like her—she's so grand now o' days I'm very nigh afeared of her. Good-morrow!"
And Rose went out with her parcel, lost in wonder as to what could be the matter—first with Mistress Clere, and then with her friend Elizabeth.
THE CLOUDS BEGIN TO GATHER.
"Methinks that becomes me better. What sayest thou, Bess?"
Two girls were standing in an upper room of Nicholas Clere's house, and the younger asked this question of the elder. The elder girl was tall, of stately carriage and graceful mien, with a very beautiful face: but her whole aspect showed that she thought nothing about herself, and never troubled her head to think whether she was pretty or ugly. The younger, who was about seventeen, was not nearly so handsome; but she would have been pleasant enough to look at if it had not been for a silly simper and a look of intensely satisfied vanity, which quite spoiled any prettiness that she might have had. She had just fastened a pair of ear-rings into her ears, and she was turning her head from one side to the other before the mirror, as she asked her companion's opinion of the ornaments.
There are some savages—in Polynesia, I think—who decorate themselves by thrusting a wooden stick through their lips. To our European taste they look hideous, honestly, I cannot see that they who make holes in their lips in order to ornament themselves are any worse at all than they who make holes in their ears for the same purpose. The one is just as thorough barbarism as the other.
When Amy Clere thus appealed to her to express an opinion, Elizabeth Foulkes looked up from her sewing and gave it.
"No, Mistress Amy; I do scarce think it."
"Why, wouldst thou better love these yellow ones?"
"To speak truth, Mistress Amy, I think you look best without either."
"Dear heart, to hear the maid! Wouldst not thou fain have a pair, Bess?"
"Nay, Mistress Amy, that would I not."
"Because, as methinks, such tawdry gewgaws be unworthy a Christian profession. If you desire my thought thereon, Mistress Amy, you have it now."
"Forsooth, and thou mightest have kept it, for all I want of it. 'Tawdry gewgaws,' indeed! I tell thee, Bess; these be three shillings the pair."
"They may be. I would not pay three half-pence for them."
"Bess, 'tis ten thousand pities thou art not a nun."
"I would rather be what I am, Mistress."
"I rather not be neither," said Amy flippantly. In those days, they always put two nots together when they meant to speak strongly. They did not see, as we do now, that the one contradicts the other.
"Well, Mistress Amy, you have no need," said Elizabeth quietly.
"And as to Christian profession—why, Bess, every lady in the land wears ear-rings, yea, up to the Queen's Grace herself. Prithee who art thou, to set thee up for better than all the ladies in England, talking of Christian profession as though thou wert a priest?"
"I am Mistress Clere's servant-maid; but I set not myself up to be better than any, so far as I know."
"Thee hold thy peace! Whether goeth this lace or the wide one best with my blue kirtle?"
"The narrower, I would say. Mistress Amy, shall you have need of me this next Wednesday afternoon?"
"Why? What's like to happen Wednesday afternoon?"
"Saint Chrysostom's like to happen, an't please you; and Mistress granted me free leave to visit a friend, if so be you lacked me not."
"What fashion of a friend, trow? A jolly one?" Elizabeth looked a little amused.
"Scarce after your fashion, Mistress Amy."
"What, as sad and sober as thyself?"
"Then I'll not go with thee. I mean to spend Saint Chrysostom with Mary Boswell and Lucy Cheyne, and their friends: and I promise thee we shall not have no sadness nor sedateness in the company."
"That's very like," answered Elizabeth.
"As merry as crickets, we shall be. Dost not long to come withal?"
"I were liefer to visit Rose, if it liked you."
"What a shame to call a sad maid by so fair a name! Oh, thou canst go for all me. Thy company's never so jolly I need shed tears to lose it."
And with this rather uncomplimentary remark, Amy left the room, with the blue ear-rings in her ears and the yellow ones in her hand. Elizabeth waited till her piece of work was finished. Then folding it up and putting it away in a drawer, she ran down to prepare supper,—a task wherein Amy did not offer to help her, though it was usual then for the mistress of the house and her daughters to assist in the cooking.
About two o'clock on the afternoon of the following Wednesday, a tap on the door of the Blue Bell called Rose to open it, and she greeted her friend Elizabeth with much pleasure. Rose had finished her share of the household work (until supper), and she took her lace pillow and sat down in the window. Elizabeth drew from her pocket a couple of nightcaps, and both girls set to work. Mrs Mount was sewing also in the chimney-corner.
"And how be matters in Colchester, Bess, at this present?"
"The clouds be gathering for rain, or I mistake," said Elizabeth gravely. "You know the thing I mean?"
Alice Mount had put down her work, and she looked grave too.
"Bess! you never mean we shall have last August's doings o'er again?"
"That do I, Alice, and more. I was last night at the King's Head, where you know they of our doctrine be wont to meet, and Master Pulleyne was there, that good man that was sometime chaplain to my Lady's Grace of Suffolk: he mostly puts up at the King's Head when he cometh to town. And quoth he, 'There shall shortly be another search made for Gospel books,—ay, and Gospellers belike: and they be not like to 'scape so well as they did last year.' And John Love saith—he was there, John Love of the Heath; you know him?—well, he saith he heard Master Simnel the bailiff to swear that the great Doctors of Colchester should find it warm work ere long. There's an ill time coming, friends. Take you heed."
"The good Lord be our aid, if so be!" said Alice.
"But what shall Master Clere do, Bessy?" asked Rose. "He hath ever been a Gospeller."
"He hath borne the name of one, Rose. God knoweth if he be true. I'm 'feared—"
Elizabeth stopped suddenly.
"That he'll not be staunch?" said Alice.
"He is my master, and I will say no more, Alice. But this may I say— there's many in Colchester shall bear faggots ere they burn. Ay, and all over England belike."
Those who recanted had to carry a faggot, as if owning themselves worthy to be burned.
"Thou'rt right there, Bess. The Lord deliver us!"
"Some thinketh we have been too bold of late. You see, John Love coming home again, and nothing done to him, made folks think the worst was over."
"Isn't it then?" said Rose.
"Master Benold says he misdoubts if 'tis well begun."
"Master Benold the chandler?"
"Of East Hill—ay. He was at the King's Head last night. So was old Mistress Silverside, and Mistress Ewring the miller's wife, and Johnson—they call him Alegar—down at Thorpe."
"Call him Alegar! what on earth for?" asked Rose indignantly.
Elizabeth laughed. "Well, they say he's so sour. He'll not dance, nor sing idle songs, nor play quoits and bowls, but loveth better to sit at home and read; so they call him Alegar."
Alegar is malt vinegar; the word vinegar was then used only of white wine vinegar.
"He's not a bit sour!" cried Rose. "I've seen him with his little lad and lass; and right good to them he was. It's a shame to call folks names that don't fit them!"
"Nay, I don't call him no names, but other folks do. Did you know his wife, that died six months gone?"
"No, but I've heard her well spoken of."
"Then you've heard truth. Those children lost a deal when they lost her, and so did poor Johnson. Well, he'll never see her burn: that's one good thing!"
"Ay," said Alice, "and that's what he said himself when she died. Well, God help us to stand firm! Have you been asked any questions, Bess?"
"Not yet," said Elizabeth quietly, "but I look for it every day. Have you?"
"Not I; but our Rose here foregathered with the priest one even of late, and he was set to know why we came not to church these eight weeks past. She parried his darts right well; but I look to hear more thereabout."
NOT A BIT AFEARD.
Alice Mount had only just spoken when the latch was lifted by Margaret Thurston.
"Pray you, let me come in and get my breath!" said she; "I'm that frighted I can scarce stand."
"Come in, neighbour, and welcome," replied Alice; and Rose set a chair for Margaret. "What ails you? is there a mad bull about, or what?"
"Mad bull, indeed! A mad bull's no great shakes. Not to him, any way."
"Well, I'd as soon not meet one in our lane," said Alice; "but who's him?"
"Him's the priest, be sure! Met me up at top o' the lane, he did, and he must needs turn him round and walk by me. I well-nigh cracked my skull trying to think of some excuse to be rid of him; but no such luck for me! On he came till we reached hither, and then I could bear no more, and I said I had to see you. He said he went about to see you afore long, but he wouldn't come in to-day; so on he marched, and right thankful was I, be sure. Eh, the things he asked me! I've not been so hauled o'er the coals this year out."
"But what about, marry?"
"Gramercy! wherefore I came not to mass, and why Master didn't: and what I believed and didn't believe, and wherefore I did this and didn't do that, till I warrant you, afore he left off, I was that moithered I couldn't have told what I did believe. I got so muggy I only knew one thing under the sun, and that was that I'd have given my best gown for to be rid of him."
"Well, you got free without your best gown, Margaret," said Rose.
"May be I have, but I feel as if I'd left all my wits behind me in the lane, or mayhap in the priest's pocket. Whatever would the man be at? We pay our dues to the Church, and we're honest, peaceable folks: if it serve us better to read our Bible at home rather than go look at him hocus-pocussing in the church, can't he let us be? Truly, if he'd give us something when we came, there'd be some reason for finding fault; nobody need beg me to go to church when there's sermon: but what earthly good can it do any mortal man to stare at a yellow cross on Father Tye's back? And what good do you ever get beyond it?"
Sermons have always been a Protestant institution, in this sense, that the more pure and Scriptural the Church has been, the more sermons there have generally been, while whenever the clergy have taken up with foolish ceremonies and have departed from the Bible, they have tried to do away with preaching. And of course, when very few people could read their Bibles, there was more need of preaching than there is now, when nearly everybody can read. Very, very few poor people could read a word in 1556. It was put down as something remarkable, in the case of Cissy's father, that he could "read a little." Saint Paul says that it pleased God by preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians one 21), but he never says "by hearing music," or "by looking at flowers, or candles, or embroidered crosses." Those things can only amuse our eyes and ears; they will never do our souls any good. How can they? The only thing that will do good to our souls is to get to know God better: and flowers, candles, music, and embroidery, cannot teach us anything about God.
"What laugh you at, Rose?" asked Elizabeth.
"Only Margaret's notion that it could do no man good to stare at the cross on Father Tye's back," said Rose, trying to recover her gravity.
"Well, the only animal made with a cross on his back is an ass," said Margaret; "and one would think a man should be better than an ass; but if his chief business be to make himself look like one, I don't see that he is so much better."
This amused Rose exceedingly. Elizabeth Foulkes, though the same age as Rose, was naturally of a graver turn of mind, and she only smiled.
"Well! if I haven't forgot all I was charged with, I'd better give my message," said Margaret; "but Father Tye's well-nigh shook all my wits out of my head. Robin Purcas came by this morrow, and he lifted the latch, and gave me a word from Master Benold, that I was to carry on— for he's got a job of work at Saint Osyth, and won't be back while Friday—saith he, on Friday even, Master Pulleyne and the Scots priest, that were chaplains to my Lady of Suffolk, shall be at the King's Head, and all of our doctrine that will come to hear shall be welcome. Will you go?"
"Verily, that will I," replied Alice heartily.
"You see, if Father Tye should stir up the embers and get all alight again, maybe we shalln't have so many more sermons afterward; so we'd best get our good things while we can."
"Ay, there may be a famine of hearing the words of the Lord," said Alice gravely. "God avert the same, if His will is!"
"Johnson, he says he's right sure Master Simnel means to start of his inquirations. Alice, think you you could stand firm?"
Alice Mount sighed and half shook her head. "I didn't stand over firm last August, Margaret," said she: "and only the Lord knows how I've since repented it. If He'll keep me true—but I'm feared of myself."
"Well, do you know I'm not a bit feared? It's true, I wasn't tried in August, when you were: but if I had been, be sure I'd never have signed that submission that you did. I wouldn't, so!"
"Maybe not, neighbour," answered Alice meekly. "I was weak."
"Now, Mother," said Rose, who could bear no longer, "you know you stood forth best of anybody there! It was Father that won her to sign, Margaret; she never would have done it if she'd been left to herself. I know she wouldn't."
"Then what didst thou sign for, Rose?" was the reply.
Rose went the colour of her name. Her mother came at once to her help, as Rose had just done to hers.
"Why, she signed because we did, like a dutiful maid as she is alway: and it was our faults, Margaret. May God forgive us!"
"Well, but after all, it wasn't so very ill, was it?" asked Margaret, rather inconsistently with what she had said before: but people are not always consistent by any means. "Did you promise anything monstrous wrong? I thought it was only to live as became good Christians and faithful subjects."
"Nay, Meg, it was more than that. We promised right solemnly to submit us to the Church in all matters, and specially in this, that we did believe the Sacrament to be Christ's body, according to His words."
"Why, so do we all believe," said Margaret, "according to His words. Have you forgot the tale Father Tye did once tell us at the King's Head, of my Lady Elizabeth the Queen's sister, that when she was asked what she did believe touching the Sacrament, she made this answer?
"'Christ was the Word that spake it, He took the bread, and brake it; And what that word did make it, That I believe, and take it.'"
"That was a bit crafty, methinks," said Rose. "I love not such shifts. I would rather speak out my mind plainly."
"Ay, but if you speak too plainly, you be like to find you in the wrong place," answered Margaret.
"That would not be the wrong place wherein truth set me," was Rose's earnest answer. "That were never the wrong place wherein God should be my company. And if the fire were too warm for my weakness to bear, the holy angels should maybe fan me with their wings till I came to the covert of His Tabernacle."
"Well, that's all proper pretty," said Margaret, "and like a book as ever the parson could talk: but I tell thee what, Rose Allen, thou'lt sing another tune if ever thou come to Smithfield. See if thou doesn't."
And Rose answered, "'The word that God putteth in my mouth, that will I speak.'"
COME TO THE PREACHING.
"Dorothy Denny, art thou never going to set that kettle on?"
"Oh, deary me! a body never has a bit of peace!"
"That's true enough of me, but it's right false of thee. Thou's nought but peace all day long, for thou never puts thyself out. I dare be bounden, if the Queen's Grace and all her noble company were to sup in this kitchen at five o' the clock, I should come in and find never a kettle nor a pan on at the three-quarter past. If thy uncle wasn't a sloth, and thine aunt a snail, I'm not hostess of the King's Head at Colchester, thou'rt no more worth thy salt—nay, salt, forsooth! thou'rt not worth the water. Salt's one and fourpence the raser, and that's a deal too much to give for thee. Now set me the kettle on, and then teem out that rubbish in the yard, and run to the nests to see if the hens have laid: don't be all day and night about it! Run, Doll!—Eh deary me! I might as well have said, Crawl. There she goes with the lead on her heels! If these maids ben't enough to drive an honest woman crazy, my name's not Philippa Wade."
And Mistress Wade began to put things tidy in the kitchen with a promptitude and celerity which Dorothy Denny certainly did not seem likely to imitate. She swept up the hearth, set a chair before the table, fresh sanded the floor and arranged the forms in rows, before Dorothy reappeared, carefully carrying something in her apron.
"Why, thou doesn't mean to say thou'st done already?" inquired her mistress sarcastically. "Thou'st been all across the yard while I've done no more than sand the floor and side things for the gathering. What's that in thine apron? one of the Queen's Majesty's jewels?"
"It's an egg, Mistress."
"An egg! an egg?" demanded Mrs Wade, with a burst of hearty laughter; for she laughed, as she did everything else, with all her might. "Is that all thou'st got by thy journey? Marry, but I would have tarried another day, and fetched two! Poor Father Pulleyne! so he's but to have one egg to his supper? If them hens have laid no more, I'm a Dutchwoman! See thou, take this duster, and dust the table and forms, and I'll go and search for eggs. If ever a mortal woman—"
Mistress Wade was in the yard before she got further, and Dorothy was left to imagine the end of the sentence. Before that leisurely young woman had finished dusting the first form, the landlady reappeared with an apronful of eggs.
"I marvel whither thou wentest for thy egg, Doll. Here be eighteen thou leftest for me to gather. It's no good to bid thee be 'shamed, for thou dost not know how, I should in thy place, I'll warrant thee. Verily, I do marvel whatever the world's a-coming to!"
Before Mrs Wade had done more than empty her apron carefully of the eggs, a soft rap came on the door; and she called out,—
"Please, I can't reach," said a little voice.
"Open the door, Doll," said Mrs Wade; and in came three children—a girl of nine, a boy of six, and a baby in the arms of the former.
"Well, what are you after? Come for skim milk! I've none this even."
"No, please. Please, we're come to the preaching."
"You're come to the preaching? Why, you're only as big as mice, the lot of you. Whence come you?"
"Please, we've come from Thorpe."
"You've come from Thorpe! you poor little bits of things! All that way!" cried Mrs Wade, whose heart was as large as her tongue was ready. "Why, I do believe you're Cicely Johnson. You are so grown I didn't know you at first—and yet you're no bigger than a mouse, as I told you. Have you had any supper?"
"No, Mistress. Please, we don't have supper, only now and then. We shall do very well, indeed, if we may stay for the preaching."
"You'll sit down there, and eat some bread and milk, before you're an hour older. Poor little white-faced mortals as ever I did see! But you've never carried that child all the way from Thorpe?—Doll didst ever see such children?"
"They're proper peaked, Mistress," said Dorothy. [See note 1.]
"Oh no!" answered the truth-loving Cissy. "I only carried her from the Gate. Neighbour Ursula, she bare her all the way."
"Thou'rt an honest lass," said Mrs Wade, patting Cissy on the head. "There, eat that."
And she put a large slice of bread into the hand of both Will and Cissy, setting a goodly bowl of milk on the table between them.
"That's good!" commented Will, attacking the milk-bowl immediately.
Cissy held him back, and looked up into Mrs Wade's kindly and capacious face.
"But please we haven't got any money," she said anxiously.
"Marry come up! to think I'd take money from such bits of things as you! I want no money, child. The good Lord, He pays such bills as yours. And what set you coming to the preaching? Did your father bid you?" [See Note 2.]
"Father likes us to come," said Cissy, when her thanks had been properly expressed; "but he didn't bid us—not to-night. Mother, she said we must always come if we could. I'm feared Baby won't understand much: but Will and me, we'll try."
"I should think not!" replied Mrs Wade, laughing. "Why, if you and Will can understand aught that'll be as much as need be looked for. How much know you about it?"
"Please, we know about the Lord Jesus," said Cissy, putting her hands together, as if she were going to say her prayers. "We know that He died on the cross for us, so that we should not be punished for our sins, and He sends the Holy Ghost to make us good, and the Bible, which is God's Word, and we mustn't let anybody take it away from us."
"Well, if you know that much in your little hearts, you'll do," said the landlady. "There's many a poor heathen doesn't know half as much as that. Ay, child, you shall 'bide for the preaching if you want, but you're too soon yet. You've come afore the parson. Eat your bread and milk up, and 'bide where you are; that's a snug little corner for you, where you'll be warm and safe. Is Father coming too, and Neighbour Ursula?"
"Yes, they're both coming presently," said Cissy.
The next arrival was that of two gentlemen, the preacher and a friend. After this people began to drop in, at first by twos and threes, and as the time drew near, with more rapidity. The Mounts and Rose Allen came early; Elizabeth Foulkes was late, for she had hard work to get away at all. Last of anybody was Margaret Thurston and with her a tall, strong-looking man, who was John Thurston, her husband. John Johnson found out the corner where his children were, and made his way to them; but Rose Allen had been before him, and was seated next to Cissy, holding the little hand in hers. On the other side of little Will sat an old lady with grey hair, and a very sweet, kind face. She was Mrs Silverside, the widow of a priest. By her was Mrs Ewring the miller's wife, who was a little deaf, and wanted to get near the preacher.
When the room was full, Mr Pulleyne, who was to preach that evening, rose and came forward to the table, and gave out the Forty-Second Psalm.
They had no hymn-books, as we have. There were just a few hymns, generally bound up at the end of the Prayer-Book, which had been written during the reign of good King Edward the Sixth; but hardly any English hymns existed at all then. They had one collection of metrical Psalms— that of Sternhold and Hopkins, of which we never sing any now except the Hundredth—that version known to every one, beginning—
"All people that on earth do dwell."
The Psalms they sang then sound strange to us now but we must remember they did not sound at all strange to those who sang them. Here are two verses of the Forty-Second.
"Like as the hart doth pant and bray, The well-springs to obtain, So doth my soul desire alway With Thee, Lord, to remain. My soul doth thirst, and would draw near The living God of might; Oh, when shall I come and appear In presence of His sight!
"The tears all times are my repast, Which from mine eyes do slide; Whilst wicked men cry out so fast, 'Where now is God thy Guide?' Alas! what grief is it to think The freedom once I had! Therefore my soul, as at pit's brink, Most heavy is and sad."
Note 1. Peaked: Very thin and pinched-looking.
Note 2. Come up. An exclamation of surprise, then often used.
BROUGHT OUT, TO BE BROUGHT IN.
Loud and full rang the volume of voices in the kitchen of the King's Head at Colchester, that winter evening. They did not stand up in silence and let a choir do it for them, while they listened to it as they might to a German band, and with as little personal concern. When men's hearts are warm with patriotism, or overflowing with loyalty, they don't want somebody else to sing Rule, Britannia, or God Save the Queen; the very enjoyment lies in doing it themselves. Nobody would dream of paying another person to go to a party or to see a royal procession for him. Well, then, when we prefer to keep silent, and hear somebody sing God's praises instead of doing it ourselves, what can it mean except that our Hearts are not warm with love and overflowing with thankfulness, as they ought to be? And cold hearts are not the stuff that makes martyrs.
There was plenty of martyr material in the King's Head kitchen that night—from old Agnes Silverside to little Cissy Johnson; from the learned priest, Mr Pulleyne, to many poor men and women who did not know their letters. They were not afraid of what people would say, nor even of what people might do. And yet they knew well that it was possible, and even likely, that very terrible things might be done to them. Their feeling was,—Well, let them be done, if that be the best way I can glorify God. Let them be done, if it be the way in which I can show that I love Jesus Christ. Let them be done, if by suffering with Him I can win a place nearer to Him, and send a thrill of happiness to the Divine and human heart of the Saviour who paid His heart's blood to ransom me.
So the hymn was not at all too long for them, though it had fifteen verses; and the sermon was not too long, though it lasted an hour and a half. When people have to risk their lives to hear a sermon is not the time when they cry out to have sermons cut shorter. They very well knew that before another meeting took place at the King's Head, some, and perhaps all of them, might be summoned to give up liberty and life for the love of the Lord Jesus.
Mr Pulleyne took for his text a few words in the 23rd verse of the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy. "He brought us out from thence, that He might bring us in." He said to the people:—
"'He brought us out'—who brought us? God, our Maker; God, that loved the world. 'He brought us out'—who be we? Poor, vile, wicked sinners, worms of the earth, things that He could have crushed easier than I can crush a moth. From whence? From Egypt, the house of bondage; from sin, self, Satan—the only three evil things there be: whereby I mean, necessarily inwardly, utterly evil. Thence He brought us out. Friends, we must come out of Egypt; out from bondage; out of these three ill things, sin, and self, and Satan: God will have us out. He will not suffer us to tarry in that land. And if we slack [Hesitate, feel reluctant] to come out, He will drive us sharp thence. Let us come out quick, and willingly. There is nothing we need sorrow to leave behind; only the task-master, Satan; and the great monster, sin; and the slime of the river wherein he lieth hid, self. He will have at us with his ugly jaws, and bite our souls in twain, if we have not a care. Let us run fast from this land where we leave behind such evil things.
"But see, there is more than this. God had an intent in thus driving us forth. He did not bring us out, and leave us there. Nay, 'He brought us out that He might bring us in.' In where? Into the Holy Land, that floweth with milk and honey; the fair land where nothing shall enter that defileth; the safe land where in all the holy mountain nothing shall hurt nor destroy; His own land, where He hath His Throne and His Temple, and is King and Father of them that dwell therein. Look you, is not this a good land? Are you not ready to go and dwell therein? Do not the clusters of its grapes—the hearing of its glories—make your mouths water? See what you shall exchange: for a cruel task-master, a loving Father; for a dread monster, an holy City; for the base and ugly slime of the river, the fair paving of the golden streets, and the soft waving of the leaves of the tree of life, and the sweet melody of angel harps. Truly, I think this good barter. If a man were to exchange a dead rat for a new-struck royal, [see Note 1] men would say he had well traded, he had bettered himself, he was a successful merchant. Lo, here is worse than a dead rat, and better than all the royals in the King's mint. Will ye not come and trade?
"Now, friends, ye must not misconceive me, as though I did mean that men could buy Heaven by their own works. Nay, Heaven and salvation be free gifts—the glorious gifts of a glorious God, and worthy of the Giver. But when such gifts are set before you but for the asking, is it too much that ye should rise out of the mire and come?
"'He brought them out, that He might bring them in.' He left them not in the desert, to find their own way to the Holy Land. Marry, should they ever have come there? I trow not. Nay, no more than a babe of a month old, if ye set him down at Bothal's Gate, could find his way to the Moot Hall. But He dealt not with them thus. He left them not to find their own way. He brought them, He led them, He showed them where to plant their feet, first one step, then another, as mothers do to a child when he learneth first to walk. 'As a nurse cherisheth her children,' the Apostle saith he dealt with his converts: and the Lord useth yet tenderer image, for 'as a mother comforteth her babe,' saith He, 'will I comfort you.' Yea, He bids the Prophet Esaias to learn them, 'line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little'—look you, how careful is God of His nurse-children. 'Feed My Lambs,' saith He: and lambs may not nibble so hard as sheep. They take not so full a mouthful; they love the short grass, that is sweet and easily cropped. We be all lambs afore we be sheep. Sheep lack much shepherding, but lambs yet more. Both be silly things, apt to stray away, and the wolf catcheth them with little trouble. Now, if a dog be lost, he shall soon find his way back; but a lamb and a babe, if they be lost, they are utterly lost; they can never find the way. Look you, the Lord likeneth His people to lambs and babes, these silly things that be continually lost, and have no wit to find the way. So, brethren, He finds the way. He goeth after that which is lost, until He find it. First He finds the poor silly lamb, and then He leadeth it in the way wherein it shall go. He 'brings us in' to the fair green pastures and by the still waters—brings us in to the safe haven where the little boats lie at rest—brings us in to the King's banquet-hall where the feast is spread, and the King Himself holdeth forth hands of welcome.— He stretched not forth the cold sceptre; He giveth His own hand—that hand that was pierced for our sins. What say I? Nay, 'He shall gird Himself, and shall come forth and serve them'—so great honour shall they attain which serve God, as to have Him serve them.
"Now, brethren, is this not a fair lot that God appointeth for His people? A King to their guide, and a throne to their bed, and angels to their serving-men—verily these be folks of much distinction that be so served! But, look you, there is one little point we may not miss—'If we suffer, we shall reign.' There is the desert to be passed. There is the Jordan to be forded. There is the cross to bear for the Master that bare the cross for us. Yea, we shall best bear our cross by looking well and oft on His cross. Ah! brethren, He standeth close beside; He hath borne it all; He knoweth where the nails run, and in what manner they hurt. Yet a little patience, poor suffering soul! yet a little courage; yet a little stumbling over the rough stones of the wilderness: and then the Golden City, and the royal banquet-hall, and the King that brought us out despite all the Egyptians, that brought us in despite all the dangers of the desert,—the King, our Shield, and Guide, and Father, shall come forth and serve us."
Old Agnes Silverside, the priest's widow, sat with her hands clasped, and her eyes fixed on the preacher. As he ended, she laid her hand upon Rose Allen's.
"My maid," she said, "never mind the wilderness. The stones be sharp, and the sun scorching, and the thirst sore: but one sight of the King in the Golden City shall make up for all!"
Note 1. Ten shillings; this was then the largest coin made.
"Now then, who goes home?" cried the cheerful voice of Mrs Wade, when the sermon was over. "You, Mistress Benold?—you, Alice Mount?—you, Meg Thurston? You'd best hap your mantle well about your head. Mistress Silverside, this sharp even: yon hood of yours is not so thick, and you are not so young as you were once. Now, Adrian Purcas, thee be off with Johnson and Mount; thou'rt not for my money. Agnes Love, woman, I wonder at you! coming out of a November night with no thicker a mantle than that old purple thing, that I'm fair tired of seeing on you. What's that? 'Can't afford a new one?' Go to Southampton! There's one in my coffer that I never use now. Here, Doll! wherever is that lazy bones? Gather up thy heels, wilt thou, and run to my great oak coffer, and bring yon brown hood I set aside. Now don't go and fetch the red one! that's my best Sunday gear, and thou'rt as like to bring red when I tell thee brown as thou art to eat thy supper.—Well, Alice?"
"I cry you mercy, Hostess, for troubling of you; but Master and me, we're bidden to lie at the mill. Mistress Ewring's been that good; but there's no room for Rose, and—"
"Then Rose can turn in with Dorothy, and I'm fain on't if she'll give her a bit of her earnestness for pay. There's not as much lead to her heels in a twelvemonth as would last Doll a week.—So this is what thou calls a brown hood, is it? I call it a blue apron. Gramercy, the stupidness o' some folks!"
"Please you, Mistress, there was nought but that in the coffer."
"The walnut, in the porch-chamber."
"Well, if ever I did! I never spake a word of the walnut coffer, nor the porch-chamber neither, I told thee the great oak coffer, and that's in my chamber, as thou knows, as well as thou knows thy name's Dorothy. Put that apron back where thou found it, and bring me the brown hood from the oak coffer. Dear heart, but she'll go and cast her eyes about for an oak hood in a brown coffer, as like as not! She's that heedless. It's not for lack of wit; she could if she would.—Why, what's to be done with yon little scraps! You can never get home to Thorpe such a night as this. Johnson! you leave these bits o' children with me, and I'll send them back to you to-morrow when the cart goes your way for a load of malt. There's room enough for you; you'd all pack in a thimble, well-nigh.—Nay, now! hast thou really found it? Now then, Agnes Love, cast that over you, and hap it close to keep you warm. Pay! bless the woman, I want no pay! only some day I'd like to hear 'Inasmuch' said to me. Good even!"
"You'll hear that, Mistress Wade!" said Agnes Love, a pale quiet-looking woman, with a warm grasp of Mistress Wade's hand. "You'll hear that, and something else, belike—as we've heard to-night, the King will come forth and serve you. Eh, but it warms one's heart to hear tell of it!"
"Ay, it doth, dear heart, it doth! Good-night, and God bless thee! Now, Master Pulleyne, I'll show you your chamber, an' it like you. Rose Allen, you know the way to Dorothy's loft? Well, go you up, and take the little ones with you. It's time for babes like them to be abed. Doll will show you how to make up a bed for them. Art waiting for some one, Bessy?"
"No, Mistress Wade," said Elizabeth Foulkes, who had stood quietly in a corner as though she were; "but if you'd kindly allow it, I'd fain go up too and have a chat with Rose. My mistress gave me leave for another hour yet."
"Hie thee up, good maid, and so do," replied Mrs Wade cheerily, taking up a candlestick to light Mr Pulleyne to the room prepared for him, where, as she knew from past experience, he was very likely to sit at study till far into the night.
Dorothy lighted another candle, and offered it to Rose.
"See, you'll lack a light," said she.
"Nay, not to find our tongues," answered Rose, smiling.
"Ah, but to put yon children abed. Look you in the closet, Rose, as you go into the loft, and you'll see a mattress and a roll of blankets, with a canvas coverlet that shall serve them. You'll turn in with me."
"All right, Doll; I thank you."
"You look weary, Doll," said Elizabeth.
"Weary? Eh, but if you dwelt with our mistress, you'd look weary, be sure. She's as good a woman as ever trod shoe-leather, only she's so monstrous sharp. She thinks you can be there and back before you've fair got it inside your head that you're to go. I marvel many a time whether the angels 'll fly fast enough to serve her when she gets to Heaven. Marry come up but they'll have to step out if they do."
Rose laughed, and led the way upstairs, where she had been several times before.
Inns at that time were built like Continental country inns are now, round a square space, with a garden inside, and a high archway for the entrance, so high that a load of hay could pass underneath. There were no inside stairs, but a flight led up to the second storey from the courtyard, and a balcony running all round the house gave access to the bedrooms. Rose, however, went into none of the rooms, but made her way to one corner, where a second steep flight of stairs ran straight up between the walls. These the girls mounted, and at the top entered a low door, which led into a large, low room, lighted by a skylight, and occupied by little furniture. At the further end was a good-sized bed covered with a patchwork quilt, but without any hangings—the absence of these indicating either great poverty or extremely low rank. There was neither drawers, dressing-table, nor washstand. A large chest beside the bed held all Dorothy's possessions, and a leaf-table which would let down was fixed to the wall under a mirror. A form in one corner, and two stools, made up the rest of the furniture. In a corner close to the entrance stood another door, which Rose opened after she had set up the leaf-table and put the candle upon it. Then, with Elizabeth's help, she dragged out a large, thick straw mattress, and the blankets and coverlet of which Dorothy had spoken, and made up the bed in one of the unoccupied corners. A further search revealed a bolster, but no pillows were forthcoming. That did not matter, for they expected none.
"Now then, children, we'll get you into bed," said Rose.
"Will must say his prayers first," said Cissy anxiously.
"Of course. Now, Will, come and say thy prayers, like a good lad."
Will knelt down beside the bed, and did as he was told in a shrill, sing-song voice. Odd prayers they were; but in those days nobody knew any better, and most children were taught to say still queerer things. First came the Lord's Prayer: so far all was right. Then Will repeated the Ten Commandments and the Creed, which are not prayers at all, and finished with this formula:—
"Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Bless the bed that I lie on: Four corners to my bed, Four angels at their head; One to read, and one to write, And one to guard my bed at night.
"And now I lay me down to sleep, I pray that Christ my soul may keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray that Christ my soul may take; Wake I at morn, or wake I never, I give my soul to Christ for ever."
After this strange jumble of good things and nonsense, Will jumped into bed, where the baby was already laid. It was Cissy's turn next. Ever since it had been so summarily arranged by Mrs Wade that the children were to stay the night at the King's Head, Cissy had been looking preternaturally solemn. Now, when she was desired to say her prayers, as a prelude to going to bed, Cissy's lip quivered, and her eyes filled with tears.
"Why, little maid, what ails thee?" asked Rose.
"It's Father," said Cissy, in an unsteady voice. "I don't know however Father will manage without me. He'll have to dress his own supper. I only hope he'll leave the dish for me to wash when I get home. No body never put Father and me asunder afore!"
"Little maid," answered Elizabeth, "Mistress Wade meant to save thee the long walk home."
"Oh, I know she meant it kind," replied Cissy, "and I'm right thankful: but, please, I'd rather be tired than Father be without me. We've never been asunder afore—never!"
TRYING ON THE ARMOUR.
"Oh, thy father 'll do right well!" said Rose encouragingly. "I dare be bound he thought it should be a pleasant change for thee."
"Ay, I dare say Father thought of us and what we should like," said Cissy. "He nodded to Mistress Wade, and smiled on me, as he went forth; so of course I had to 'bide. But then, you see, I'm always thinking of Father."
"I see," said Rose, laughing; "it's not, How shall I do without Father? but, How can Father do without me?"
"That's it," replied Cissy, nodding her capable little head. "He'll do without Will and Baby—not but he'll miss them, you know; but they don't do nothing for him like me."
This was said in Cissy's most demure manner, and Rose was exceedingly amused.
"And, prithee, what dost thou for him?" said she.
"I do everything," said Cissy, with an astonished look. "I light the fire, and dress the meat, [Note 1] and sweep the floor. Only I can't do all the washing yet; Neighbour Ursula has to help me with that. But about Father—please, when I've said the Paternoster [the Lord's Prayer], and the Belief, and the Commandments, might I ask, think you, for somebody to go in and do things for Father? I know he'll miss me very ill."