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The Young Visiters or, Mr. Salteena's Plan By Daisy Ashford Characters: 29438

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


The Warden of the Eastern Marches, who was Henry Percy, fourth Earl of Northumberland, said that there was too much of this silken flummery. He desired to get back to the affairs of King Henry VII and a plain world where there were too many false Scots. The Lord Lovell of the Castle agreed with him, but said that the women would so have it. He was an immense, gross man, the rolls of fat behind his head, growing black curly hair that ran into his black and curly beard, mantled high up on his neck. His eyes were keen, peeble-blue, sagacious and mocking. The Lady Rohtraut, his wife, a fair, thin woman of forty-three, one of the Dacres of the North, leaned across the Bishop Palatine to disagree with the Warden. Thin as she was she wore an immense gown of red damask worked with leaves, birds and pomegranates. Her sleeves brushed the ground, her hood of black velvet had a diamond-shaped front, like the gable of a house, and was framed in yellow gold set with emeralds that her lord had brought from Venice to get her back to a good temper, though he never did. The broad edging of brown fur from her sleeves caught in a crochet of the gilded steel on the Bishop Palatine's armour which had been taken from the Saracens in the year 1482, they having rieved it from the Venetians.

The Lady Rohtraut said that these things had been ordered after the leaves of a written book that had been sent her by her cousin Alice from the King's court in London. This book was called "Faicts of Arms," and the King himself who loved good chivalry had bade it be printed tho' that would be long in doing. There the order of these things had been set forth, and she had done her best to have fashion of it right, though with only men to help her, she imagined that Messire de Montloisir would laugh if he did not happen to be on his bed of sickness.

But she had them there to the number of eleven score, gentry, priests and commonalty with many men-at-arms to hold the herd back with their pike-staves. The great stone hall she had had painted with vermilion, green and gold. Enormous banners with swallow-tails fell from the gilded beams of the roof. They displayed the snarling heads of red tigers, portculles, two-hued roses, and a dun cow on a field of green sarcenet in honour of the Bishop Palatine. The table at which they sat, the men divided from the women, had its silken cloth properly tabled out in chequers of green and vermilion. The pages with their proper badges walked to and fro before the table as they should do, and, as they should be, the people of no privilege were penned in behind the columns of the hall where they made a great noise. She would not have anything lacking at the sacring of her one son.

Sir Walter Limousin, of Cullerford, who had married her daughter Isopel, sneered at these words of his mother-in-law. He sat at the right hand of his father-in-law. Sir Symonde Vesey, of Haltwhistle, who had married the daughter Douce, and sat beyond Sir Walter, said loudly that too much gear went to waste over these Frenchifications of the Young Lovell and his dame. Their two wives said that indeed their mother was over-fond.

Their mother, who was a proud Dacre with the proudest of them, flushed vicious red. She said that her daughters were naughty jades, and if their husbands had not three times each been beggared by Scots raiders they might have had leave to talk so. But, being what they were, it would be better if they closed their mouths over one who had paid all his ransoms, whether to the Scots or on the bloody field of Kenchie's Burn, with sword-blows solely. She had paid one thousand marks to artificers of Brussels for stuffs to deck that hall and the street of the township where it led from the chapel whence her fair, brave son should come; so that banners and carpets hung from the windows, the outer galleries, stairways and the roofs where they were low. And she wished she had spent ten thousand on her son who had won booty enough to pay all she had laid out on him and her daughters' husbands' ransoms besides-after the day of Kenchie's Burn.

The Warden said that he wished by the many wounds of God that the stripling would come. There was too much babble of women there. They had come into these parts, the Bishop of Durham and he, to see what levies might be made from castle to castle and so to broom all false Scots out of the country from thereaways to Dunbar. And there they sate who should have been on the northward road before sunrise listening to this clavering of women. The young Lovell was a springald goodly enow, and the knights of Cullerford and Haltwhistle were known to blow on their fingers when they should be occupied with the heavy swords.

Sir Walter Limousin looked down his nose. He was a grim and silent craven that did little but sneer. Sir Symonde, who was brave and barbarous enough, but unlucky, smote so heavily the silver inkhorn standing before him that it flattened down its supports and stained the chequered fairness of the table.

The Percy cast his old glance aside on Sir Symonde.

"Aye, Haltwhistle," he said drily, "ye will break more than ye will take." And he went on to say that, in his day, he having been dubbed knight on the field, it had been done with a broken sword and the wet on it wiped across his chops to blood him the better. And he wished that Young Lovell would come.

The Lady Rohtraut said that without doubt her son was saying some very long and very precious prayers. The Warden said that belike, and more likely, the young fellow was unable to fasten the whimsy-marees of his new-fashioned harness and was stuck up there in the old chapel like a fool amid the evidences of his folly. The Lord Lovell said nay then, that a band of youngsters had gone up to the chapel, and the little Hal his son's page had reported that his master would soon be there, the page having run, whilst the Young Lovell was riding at a foot pace.

"He had better have kept his page to buckle his harness," the Border Warden harped on.

"Nay then," the Lady Rohtraut said with a flushed and angry face-no person nor page could enter into the sacred chapel till her son should be issued out in his panoply least they should disturb the angels of God who would invisibly assist her son at his harnessing.

The Bishop, whose dark head came out of its steel armour like a cormorant's out of a hole, looked all down that board to find a sympathetic soul. He had a lean, Italianate face, and had pleased the King Richard the Third-then Duke of Gloucester-rather because of a complaisance than a burly strength. He was very newly come to the Palatine Country. For he had been the King's Friend in Rome many years and, in fear of King Henry the Seventh-because the Bishop was reputed a friend of Richard Crookback after Bosworth-he had gone across the seas until now.

So that what with the clerkly details of his coming into the bishopric, this was his first tour of those parts and he did not well know those people. Therefore he had spoken very little.

This John Bishop Palatine was, in short, a cautious and well-advised churchman, well-read not only in the patristic books but in some of the poets, for in his day he had been long in Rome and later dwelt in Westminster, where the printing was done, though the King was even then pulling down Caxton's chapel to build his own more gorgeous fane.

This bishop then, set first the glory of God, good doctrine and his see, as his duty was. And after that he hoped that he might leave renown as a great clerk who had added glory, credit, power and wealth, whether of copes of gold or of lands, to his most famous bishopric.

That was why, throughout this discussion he had observed the face of a young woman that sat beyond the ladies Rohtraut, Isopel and Douce. She was the Lady Margaret of the Wear, coming from the neighbouring tower of Glororem, and that day he was to bless her betrothal to Young Lovell of the Castle. She was a dark girl, rising twenty, and with brownish features, open nostrils, a flush on her face and dark eyes of a coaly-sheen, all of one piece of black, so that you could not tell pupil from iris.

She had never spoken, as became her station, since she was the youngest woman there. But the Bishop Palatine had observed her looks as each uttered his or her thoughts, and from this he knew that she regarded the Lady Rohtraut with tender veneration, and the lower classes behind the pillars with dislike and contempt, for when their voices became loud she had lowered her black brows and clenched her hand that lay along the table.

Upon the Border Warden and upon the gross Lord Lovell she had gazed with a tolerant contempt, upon the Knight of Cullerford with a bitter scorn, upon Haltwhistle with irony, and upon their two wives that should be her sisters-in-law, with high dislike. He perceived that, like the Lady Rohtraut, she had read the book called "Faicts of Arms," for, when the lady Rohtraut had been speaking of it, she had leaned sideways over the table, her lips parted as if she could hardly contain herself. He saw also that she was of great piety, since every time Our Lady was mentioned in that debate she inclined, and when it was Our Lord, she did the like and crossed herself. And this pleased the Bishop Palatine, for these observances were not so often seen as could be done with. Moreover, he knew that, plainly to the eye she had given all her heart-and it was a proud and hot one-to the Young Lovell. At each mention of his deeds her dusky cheeks would flush up to her white forehead and she would pass her gemmed hands before her eyes as if they saw a mist of gladness.

The Bishop was glad that the will of God and the bent of his own mind could let his speech, that he was thinking upon, jump so well with that lady's desires, and so he addressed himself at first to the Lady Rohtraut, young Lovell's proud mother.

He had not, he said, spoken before in that high assembly because he was so newly come among them that, although he well knew that he was their father in God and in a sense their temporal protector, yet he did not wish to show himself to them as a rash and ardent fool by dictating upon matters that he might well know little of.

But still, having listened a decent while to their minds he would say something. Of facts and the practice of arms he would not declare himself all ignorant. He was a churchman, but he was of that church militant that should one day be the Church Triumphant-triumphant there in Heaven, but here in Northumberland, militant very fully. It was true that it would not much become him in those days of comparative peace to strike blows with the iron mace. It was rather his part to stand upon a high place observant of battles and sieges. And, if he wore arms, it was rather as a symbol than as of use. He hoped that, as his reverend and sainted predecessors in the see had done, he might confer on such arms a grace of holiness, and therefore with much travel and research, he had arms as golden as might be found for him by his trusty messengers, that their fair richness might shine to the greater glory of God. For himself he would as lief wear sackcloth and rusty pots.

In most things he must bow to the wiseness of the Earl of Northumberland. Being blooded upon a hot field with spurs gilded with the tide from the veins of men had produced very good men. It had doubtless produced better men than to-day might see the doubles and counterparts of. Those days before had been simpler and better. These days were very evil. There was in the land a spirit of luxury, sinful unless it had guidance, bestial unless it had control, and for want of counsel horrid, lecherous and filthy by turns. Theirs, by the will and blessing of God and by the wise rule of His vice-gerent-for so he would style their good King, though it was not the habit-theirs were days of near peace. The kingdom was no longer rent by dissensions; famine and pestilence came more seldom nigh them than in the days of their fathers of which they had read. In consequence, they had great wealth such as had never before been seen. Where their fathers had had woollens they had silks, satins and patterned damasks beyond compare for lascivious allurements; where their fathers had eaten off trenchers of bread, they had plates of silver, of gold, of parcel gilt or at the very least of latten.

Now all these things were the blessing of God in the highest, but they might well become the curse of Satan that dwelleth in the Pit. God had given them bread, but they might turn it to bitter stone; He had given them peace, but it might turn to a sword more sharp than that of Apollyon or Geryon. Arma virumque cano, the profane poet said, but the man he sang of was blessed and so his arms.

Therefore he, the Bishop Palatine, since he would not see all this splendour of God go down, as again Vergil saith, sicut flos purpurea aratro succisa, leant all his weight in the scale for the blessing and the sacring of arms. In the books of chivalry they should read not of vain pomps, but of how arms should be laid upon altars; not of luxurious feasts, but of how good knights held vigils and fasts and kept themselves virgin of heart to go upon quests that the blessed angels of God did love. So they might read of the blessed blood in its censor and of the lily-pure knights that sought it through forest and brake. And these books were very good reading.

The Warden suddenly laughed aloud.

"God keep your washed capons from a border fray!" he exclaimed, and shook his lean sides. The Bishop looked sideways upon him.

"I have not heard that Sir Artus of Bretagne slew the less pagans because he was of a cleaned heart, nor Sir Hugon of Bordeaux neither."

"I do not know those knights," the Percy said grimly. "Maybe they would have slain less if it had been Douglases and Murrays and other homely names."

"Nay, it was fell pagans," the Bishop said seriously. "You may read of it in virtuous and true histories it were a sin to doubt of, so greatly does the virtue of God and His glory shine through them."

"Well, if it be matter of doctrine my mouth is shut," the Warden said good humouredly. "I did not know it had been more than a matter of fashion. Yet I think it is early days to prate of our peaceful times. It is but three months since Kenchie's Burn and not three years since the false Scots had their smoke flying over the walls of Durham."

The Bishop bent his head obediently before the Warden.

"In these matters I will learn of you," he said; and the Warden answered:

"They are all I have to teach you. In my high day there wer

e none of your books and stories."

It was agreed that the Bishop and the Warden came off with level arms, the Bishop having spoken the more, but the Warden had sent in heavier stone shot. And all people were agreed that the Bishop was a worthy and proud prince.

At that moment the Almoner whispered in the Bishop's ear and laid a parchment before him. He begged the Bishop to sign this appointment. For the day drew on, they must ride very soon and might not again be in those parts for a year or more. It was to make the worthy Magister Stone, of Barnside, bailiff for the Palatinate in those parts, this side of Alnwick to the sea. This lawyer was a very skilled chicaner and there were suits to come very soon between the see and the Lords Ogle and Mitford, touching the Bishop's mills at Witton and on Wearside. The Bishop was aware that one of the Almoner's clerks must have had money of the lawyer; nevertheless he signed the appointment, for he knew they would never let him have any other man. A Prince Bishop cannot go searching for scriveners of honesty like Diogenes lacking a lanthorn.

The dispute as to the rules of chivalry went on in spite of the Bishop's abstraction from it. Indeed, the Lord Lovell of the Castle, who had not much reason for loving churchmen, spoke the more loudly because the Bishop was occupied with his papers. He was a jovial man, not much loved by his wife whom he delighted to tease. If he had any grief it was that his natural son, Decies of the South, had never shown himself a lad of any great parts. This lad was reputed to be his natural son, though he was called Young Lovell's foster brother. Nevertheless who was his mother no man knew.

What was known was this.

Six years before the Lord Lovell did some grievous sin, but what that too was, no men knew. He had been called before the former Bishop of Durham; the Lady Rohtraut had, then and afterwards, been heard to rate him soundly. He had given five farms to the Bishopric and had then gone on a Romer's journey, by way, it was considered, of penance. At any rate, he had gone to Rome in sackcloth, taking with him his son, the Young Lovell, who travelled very well appointed and, on the homeward way, had acted as his page. They had taken ship from the New Castle to Bordeaux and from Bordeaux to Genoa, where, falling in with a party of English Condottieri in the pay of the Holy Father, they had travelled in safety to the city of the seven hills.

On the homeward road they had travelled more like great lords, having enlisted a train of followers, and staying in the courts of Princes of Italy until they came again to Marseilles. The Young Lovell, who was then sixteen, had been permitted, by way of fleshing his sword, to fight with the captains of the Prince of Fosse Ligato against the men of the Princess of Escia. He had slept in pavilions of silk and saw the sack of two very rich walled cities whilst his easy father, who had seen fighting enough in his day, dallied over the sweet wines, lemons and the women with dyed hair of the Prince's Court.

In Venice, whilst his father had toyed with similar cates, the young Lovell had been present at a conclave, between the turbaned envoys of the Soldan and the Venetian council, over the exchange of prisoners taken in galleys of the one side and the other.

Therefore as travelling went, the young man had voyaged with his eyes open, having made friends of several youths of Italy and learned some pretty tricks of fence as well as sundry ways of dalliance.

The father regarded his son with not disagreeable complacency, like a carthorse who had begotten a slight and swift barb. The boy's soft ways and gentle speeches amused him till he laughed tears at times; his daring and hot, rash passions pleased his father still more. He had challenged six Italian squires on the Lido to combat with the rapier, the long sword, the axe and the dagger, and only with the rapier had he been twice worsted-and this quite well contented his father, who regarded him as a queer, new-fangled growth, but in no wise a disgraceful one. He set the boy, in fact, down to his mother's account. And this he did with some warrant, for the boy was the first blond child that had been born to the Lovells in a hundred years.

Further back than that the Lovells could not go. They were descended from one Ruthven, a Welsh brigand of whom, a hundred and twenty years before, it was written that he and his companions kept the country between the Rivers Seine and Loire so that none dare ride between Paris and Orleans, nor between Paris and Montargis. These robbers had made that Ruthven a knight and their captain. There were no towns in that district that did not suffer pillage and over-running from them, not Saint Arnold, Gaillardon, Chatillon or even Chartres itself. In that way Ruthven had amassed a marvellous great booty until, the country of France having been submitted to the English, he had set sail, with much of his wealth, for Edinburgh, but liking the Scots little, after he had married a Scots woman called Lovell, he had come south into the Percies' country. It had happened that the Percies had at that date five squires of their house in prison to the Douglas and had little money for their ransoming. So this Ruthven had bought of them seventy farms and land on which to build an outer wall round the fortress that, boastfully, he called the Castle, as if there had been no other castle in that land. And indeed, it was a marvellously strong place, over the sea on its crags of basalt.

Thus had arisen, from huge wealth, the great family of the Lovells of the Castle. For Ruthven had not wished to be known by his name, and indeed King Henry V swore that none of that name should have Lordship nor even Knighthood, though the Ruthven of that day fought well at Agincourt, losing three horses, two of which he had taken from French lords. So, since that day they had been the Lords Lovell of the Castle with none to gainsay them, though till latterly they had been held for rough lords and not over-reverend. The Percies looked down their noses when they met them, and so did the captains of Bamburgh and Holy Island. However, in the year 1459 the Lord Lovell had found the Lady Rohtraut of the Dacres to marry him and, having had three daughters, she bore him the Young Lovell though one of the daughters died.

At any rate; they had travelled home from Marseilles, father and son, very peaceably together, going from castle to castle of the French lords and knights, under a safe-conduct that had been granted them by the French envoy to the Holy Father in Rome, though there was war between the countries of France and England, the King Edward the Fourth having suddenly made a raid into the country of the lilies. And the courteous way with which the French lords treated them made them much wonder because they did not think a Scots lord would have so easily travelled through the Border Country or a Border lord through Scotland.

Therefore, when they came to Calais, they went quietly home to England without turning back to war in France. That was according to their oath to Messire Parrolles at Rome, though some of King Edward's lords and courtiers mocked at them and it was said to be in the King's mind to have fined them, not for having observed, but for having taken such an oath. However, when they came into the North parts, at Northallerton, they met with the Duke of Gloucester, the King's brother, who treated them very courteously and absolved them of ill intentions because at the time they had taken the oath peace had been between England and France, or at least no news of the war had reached Rome. This Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother of King Edward, was much loved in the North, of which region he was then Lord-General. He dealt with all men courteously, giving simple and smiling answers to simple questions and never failing to answer favourably any petition that he could grant, or refusing others with such phrases of regret as made the refusal almost a boon of itself. He inflicted also no harsh taxes and took off many others, so that in those parts he was known as the good Duke of Gloucester.

He treated the Lord Lovell and his son with such smiling courtesy that they very willingly went with him, before ever their home saw them, on a journey that he was making towards Dunbar, and it was in the battle that some Scots lords made against them on the field of Kenchie's Burn that the Young Lovel did such great things. He took prisoner with his own hands a great Scots lord, own cousin to Douglas, in a hot mêlée, where, before he was taken, the Scots lord, being otherwise disarmed by the Young Lovell, knocked with his clenched fist, nine teeth down the throat of Richard Raket, that was the Young Lovell's horse boy. And this lord having cried mercy, the Young Lovell pursued so furiously against the Scots that he slew many of them before nightfall and was lost in a great valley between moors and slept on the heather. There he heard many strange sounds, such as a great cry of dogs hunting overhead, which was said by those who had read in books to be the goddess Diana chasing still through the night the miserable shade of the foolish Act?on. And between two passages of sleep, he perceived a fair kind lady looking down upon him, but before he was fully awake she was no longer there, and this was thought to be the White Lady of Spindleston, though it was far from her country. But still that spirit might have loved that lording and have sought his company in the night for he was very fair of his body. And it was held to be a sign that he was a good Christian, that this lady vanished upon his awakening, for in that way spirits have been known to follow Good Knights from place to place for love of them, and in the end to work them very great disaster.

So at least that was interpreted by the young monk Francis of the order of St. Cuthbert who was with the army when, in the morning, Young Lovell came to it again after he had been held for dead. But the monk Francis had read in no books, having been an ignorant rustic knight of that country-side, that had become a monk for a certain sin. The Young Lovell found, indeed, that, whilst he had been so held for dead this young monk had much befriended him. For his father, the Lord Lovell, had shewn a disposition to adopt that Decies of the South and to give him the fruits of the young Lovell's deeds, such as the ransoming of the Scots lord and the knighthood that the Duke should have given him had he been found on the field at the closing of the day. The young monk had however protested so strongly that the Young Lovell was not dead, but had in his face the presage of great and strange deeds, whether of arms or other things-so hotly had the young monk made a clamour, that the old lord was shamed and had for the time desisted.

That Decies of the South was a son much more after the old lord's heart than ever the Young Lovell, for all his prowess, could be. He loved the one son whilst he dreaded the other, since he was too like his mother that was a Dacre and despised the Lovells or the Ruthvens.

This Decies the Lord Lovell had picked up at Nottingham on their homeward road, and, finding him a true Lovell, had made no bones about acknowledging him for a son though he never would say who his mother was or how he should come by the name of Decies. But he was rising twenty-one, like the Young Lovell, heavy, clumsy, very strong and an immense feeder. He was dark and red-cheeked and cunning and he fitted his father as a hand fits a glove. Nevertheless he had done little at Kenchie's Burn, he had slept so heavily. It had been no man's affair to waken him, he having drunk very deeply of sweet wines the night before. That battle began at dawn and travelled over many miles of land, so that when Decies of the South came up the Scots were already fleeing.

The old lord did no more than laugh, but he felt it bitter in his heart. And, as it had been on that day, so it continued, the one half-brother being always up in the morning too early for the other. They made very good companions hunting together, though it was always the Young Lovell that had his dagger first in the throat of the grey wolf or the red deer, and the Decies who came second when outlaws, or else when the false Scots, must be driven off from peel towers that had the byres alight beneath them and the farmers at death's door above, for the smoke and reek. Nor was it because the Decies lacked courage, but because he was slow in the uptake and, although cunning, not cunning enough.

Or it may have been that he was too cunning and just left the honours to the Young Lovell who was haughty and avid of the first place. For the Lady Rohtraut took very unkindly to the Decies and made him suffer what insults she could; only the lower sort of the castle-folk willingly had his company, and the old lord was growing so monstrous heavy that it was considered that his skin could not much longer contain him. He had led a life of violence, sloth, great appetites and negligent shamelessness, so that the Decies considered that he would soon have need of protectors in their place. The old lord might leave his lands, but much of his lands were the dower of his wife and upon his death would go back to her hands alone. For the lands of the Castle and the gear and gold and silver that were in the White Tower under the night and day guard of John Bulloc, the old lord might leave the Decies what he would, but the Young Lovell could take it all.

The Decies would find neither lord nor lord bishop nor lawyer to espouse his cause. Moreover, though his father might give him gold and gear whilst he lived, the Decies had no means whereby to convey it to a distance and no place in the distance in which to store it, besides it would surely be taken by moss-troopers and little cry made about it. For in those days all the North parts were full of good, small gentry robbing whom they would, like the Selbys of Liddell, the Eures of Witton or Adam Swinburn.

For the times were very unsettled, and no man could well tell, in robbing another, whether he were a knight of King Richard's despoiling the King's enemies or a traitor to King Henry robbing that King's lieges, and there was little for the livelihood of proper gentry but harrying whether in the King's cause or in rebellion. So that if the Decies' money on its way to safe quarters should be taken, there would be little or no outcry since he was nothing to those parts. So he was a very good brother to the Young Lovell and followed him like his shadow.

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