MoboReader > Literature > The Young Visiters or, Mr. Salteena's Plan

   Chapter 4 No.4

The Young Visiters or, Mr. Salteena's Plan By Daisy Ashford Characters: 46402

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


So the Young Lovell sat listening to the old Elizabeth in the sun that grew hottish amongst the flowering bushes. He thought to himself nigh all the time, and still every second thought was of that lady.

His thoughts went like this-

There could be no doubt that the law would not help him to retake his Castle; but he longed for her red, crooked, smiling lips. He must therefore get together a band and besiege that place; and at the thought of climbing through a breach in great towers whilst the cannon spoke and the fascines fell into the ditches, arrows clittered on harness, greek fire rustled down, and the great banners drooped over the tumult, his blood leapt for a moment. But her hair he remembered in its filaments and it blotted out the blue sea that lay below his feet and was more golden than the gold of the broom flowers and the gorse that surrounded him. He thought that, first, he must have the sanction of the Bishop Palatine and his absolution from any magic he might in innocence have witnessed; but, in longing for her queer smile, he could scarcely keep from springing to his feet. He knew he must be moving over the hills, but the remembrance of her crossed breasts with her girdle kept him languishing there in the hot sun as if his limbs had lost their young strength.

So, when the old woman had finished her story, she sat looking at him with a queer glance. He spoke no word until she could not but say-

"Master, where did ye bide? Was it with the bonny witch-wives?"

He contemplated her face expressionlessly.

"Tell me truly, old woman," he said, "where will ye say that I did bide, to save my name?" for he knew that this old woman could tell a very good tale.

"I will say Gib Elliott took ye up into Chevyside and held ye there in an old tower, till a scrivener of Embro' could be found to take your bond for a thousand marks. And ye shall send fifty crowns to Gib by me-he was my mother's sister's foster son-and he shall say that so it was."

"Say even that," he answered, without either joy or sorrow in his tone.

"Oh my fair son," she cried out in an unhappy and lamenting voice, "I knew ye had been among the witch-wives; and shall your face, a young comely face of a golden lording...."

"What ails my face?" he asked.

"Sirs," she cried out, "his face is like the very still water of old grey rock-pools, with no dancing before the wind and sun."

"Even let it be so," he answered.

"Ay, ye are in a worse case than your dad," she cried. "All the Ruthvens had these traffics."

He looked at her hardly.

"My brother Decies was a witch's son?" he said. "That was my father's sin that sent him roaming?"

"Of a witch that dressed as a nun and stole into a convent," she said, and rocked herself woefully where she sat beside her washing board at the edge of the pool. "They found witch marks upon her. They should have drowned the child, but he took it by force and with great oaths and sent it into foreign shires. And that made his sin the heavier."

"Ah, well!" the Young Lovell said.

"You Ruffyns," the old woman went on lamenting, "for, call yourselves never so much Lovells, Ruthvens ye will remain, and ye are never of this countryside but of the Red Welsh or the Black Welsh or of some heathen countryside. And always ye have had truck with witches and warlocks. The first of ye that came into these parts was your grandfather's father and he had a black stone, like a coal but not like a coal. That was given him by a witch that loved him, as she went on the way to the faggots, for they burnt her. And without it, how could he have made his marvellous booties, riding thro' the land of France, from how 'twas to how 'twas, and sacking the marvellous rich and walled cities? And I had thought to have saved you from these hussies, seeing that you might well be of a better race, your mother being of a German house and the Almains, as all the world tells, being foul and dirty in their lives, but almighty pious so that nine crucifixes in ten that we buy come from there. Therefore as you came first from your mother's womb I put the fat of good bacon in your mewling mouth, and your sleeves I tied with green ribbons, and I took you to the low shed in the tennis court and rolled you down the roof-and the one thing should have saved you from the fiends and the other from the witches, and the third even from the fairy people. And these things are older than holy water, though you had enough of that...."

"May it save me yet!" the Young Lovell said. "But what I now have to consider is how to take my mother from these people and to get back what is mine own."

"Aye," the old woman said, "you were ever a good child to your mother; therefore I had hopes of you. For your sisters, they were all black Ruffyns, bitter and so curst that they had no need for resort to the powers of evil to help them."

"Tell me truly now, old woman," her master said, "how long may my mother live and abide the treatment that she now has and not die?"

"Ah," the old woman lamented, "how altered is now her estate from what it was, who had the finest bower that was to see in the North Country! Not a Percy lady nor any Neville nor any mistress of a Canon of Durham had such a one. Remember the great red curtains there were to the bed, and the painted windows that showed the story of the man without a coat. And the great chest carved with curliecues from Flanders, and the other chest with the figures of holy kings, and the third that was from Almain and stood as high as my head upon twisted pillars and had angels holding candles at each corner. And for what was in the chest-the stores of gowns, the furs of zibelline and of marten, the golden chains joining diamond to diamond and pearl to pearl! ... And now she lieth upon a little pallet, and here, upon these bushes, is drying all the linen that she hath. The one gown of scarlet is all that there is for her back, except for the great slit coat that they have given her for fear that she die of the cold. And her little dog Butterfly is all that she hath for comfort, that sits in her sleeve.... But yet I think she will not die, and it is certain that none of them wish her death that should bring against them the mighty house of Dacre to have her heritage. But day after day they come in, now one, now two, now three and cry out upon her with great and curious words seeking to gar her give them her lands and render up her yearly dower. And so she sits still; and sometimes she gives them back hard words, but most often she says no more than that they shall give her her due and let her go. And so they rave all the more. But I do not think that she will die..."

"And has she never sent word to her own mother?" the Young Lovell asked, "I think that ancient dame could do more than another to save her."

"I think she is too proud," the old woman said. "Of the Duke of Croy she has spoken often enough, but of her mother never one word, so that, God forgive me, I had forgotten that she had that mother though it was in her house I saw the first of God His good light three score and twelve years was. For you know that these ladies have never spoken together nor written broad letters since your grandfather Dacre died, and your father, on the day the funeral was, was sacking the castles and houses that were your mother's inheritance. And the old lady thought they should have been hers; so that to this day she is wealthy enough in gold but hath little or no land and dwells in but a moderate house in the Bailey at Durham, though when her son, the Dacre, is in London she is mostly there herself."

The Young Lovell stood up upon his legs.

"Then if there is no great haste to save my mother's life," he said, "it is the better. I would else very well have hastened to get together twenty or thirty lusty bachelors and so we might have burst into this Castle of mine. But if my mother may stay out a fortnight or a month it is the better. For I will get together money and a host and cannon and so we may make sure."

"Ay," the old woman said, "but hasten all ye may for the sake of Richard Bek and Robert Bulmer."

"Now tell me truly what is this?" her master asked.

The old woman burst out into many ejaculations how that with the haste and her master's strange looks she did not know what she had told him and what she had missed out.

Certain it was that Richard Bek, Robert Bulmer, and Bertram Bullock held the White Tower for him, the Young Lovell. The others could not come to them for the White Tower stood on a rock twenty yards from the Castle and joined to it by such a narrow stone bridge that it was, as it were, a citadel. It could stand fast though all the rest of the Castle should be taken, having been devised for that purpose. Richard Bek and Robert Bulmer, poor squires, or almost of the degree of yeomen, had always been captains of the White Tower and in it the dead Lord Lovell had kept his marvellous store of gold-as much as four score thousand French crowns, more or less-and all these were theirs still, with such strong cannon as might well batter down the Castle; only Richard Bek would not do this. And to him there had resorted from time to time certain strong fellows that were still faithful to their master, creeping in the night along the narrow bridge into the tower ... such as Richard Raket, the Young Lovell's groom that had lost his teeth at the fight of Kenchie's Burn. There might be a matter of twenty-five of them that held it and victualled it by boats from the sea at night.

"Old woman," the Young Lovell said, "ye keep the best wine for the last, but ye have our Lord's warrant for that."

So he got slowly up and put the bit in the mouth of Hamewarts, that had been grazing, and when he was on that horse's back he looked down on Elizabeth Campstones and said-

"Old woman, tell me truly, shall I take thee with me upon this great horse; for I think my kin will very surely hang thee for having talked and walked with me?"

She looked up at him with a surly, sideways gaze.

"Ah, gentle lording," she said, "if I may not with my tongue save my neck from thy sisters and their men I may as well go hang, for my occupation will be gone." He left her straining a twisted and wet clout over the dark pool.

When he came to the high uplands where there was some heather, he saw a man with a grey coat with a hood, and as soon as that man was aware of him, he went away with great bounds like a hare, but casting his arms on high as he sprang. The Young Lovell was well accustomed to that stretch of land. It was full of soft, boggy places and he knew therefore that that man had some money in his poke and desired to betake himself where no horse could follow. But because the Young Lovell knew that land so well, he threaded Hamewarts between bog and soft places, calling the notes of the chase to hasten him. Thus the great horse breathed deep and made large bounds. And the Young Lovell thought that times were not all that they should be when every footman must run from every gentle upon a horse and upon Lovell ground. For either that man was a felon, which was not unlike, or he feared that the gentleman should rob him, which was more likely still. The Young Lovell was resolved that these things should be brought to better order on his lands, for he would fine, hang, or cut the ears off every felon of simple origin that was there. To the gentle robbers too, he would not be very easy, though this was not so light an enterprise, since most of them would prove to be his cousins or not much further off. Still, they could go harry the false Scots.

In five minutes he was come up to that man in grey, and that man cast himself at first on his knees in the heather and then on his face, for his sides were nearly burst with running and leaping. The Young Lovell sat still and looked down upon the hind, for he was never a lord of much haste. And afterwards, the man, with his face still among the heather, for he was afraid to look at death that might be ready for him-this man fumbled for the grey woollen poke that lay under him. He pushed it out and bleated-

"I have but three shillings;" and when the Young Lovell asked him how he came by his three shillings, he said that he was bound for Belford neat's fair to buy him a calf.

"Then I wager two cow's tails," the Young Lovell said, "Hugh Raket, you owe me those shillings; for such a knave as you, for docking me of my dues, I have never known. You should pay me twelve pence and five hens and three days' labour a year-yet when did you pay my sire even the half of the hens in one year?"

This Hugh Raket turned himself right over upon his back and setting his arm above his head to shield his eyes from the sun he gazed upwards at the rider's head. His jaw fell though he lay down.

"If I am no Scot," he said, "ye are the Young Lovell."

"I am Lord Lovell," he got his answer, "get up and kiss my foot, for that is your duty."

He looked down at the man whilst he did his homage and said with an aspect of grimness:

"Ay, Hugh Raket, if you were not my horse-boy's brother you would be a poorer man and I a richer!"

The man looked up at his lord with an impudent shade on his face that had a thin beard. It was true that he had not many times done either suit or service since the field of Kenchie's Burn, for so surely did a Court Baron come round so surely would Hugh Raket be away on the hills after a strayed sow or goose, and Richard, his brother, would beg him off from the Young Lovell. Nevertheless, from time to time, the Young Lovell would take a couple or two of hens from him by force, for this was a very impudent family, and if they had the land scot-free and lot-free for a few years they were such fellows as would swear it was their free-holding-gay fellows they were, both brothers, but they had always a wet mouth for the main chance:

"Friend Raket," his lord said now, "that you are a very capable cozener I have known very well ever since your brother aided me upon the field. But, if you are upon Belfordtrod, catch you hold of my stirrup leather and you may have its aid as far as that town is. And, if hidden hereabouts-for you hold this land of me-you have any sword or crossbow or pike or such arms as naughty knaves like you are forbidden to have, you may go dig it up and bring it to me and I will look the other way. For, since I came out of my prison I have no arms at all, and it is not meet or seemly that I should ride unarmed."

The husbandman looked keenly at his lord; for, since Bosworth Field, the King had ordered that none of the simple people, unless they bought a licence at the cost of one pound English, should carry more arms than a short knife.

"Friend Raket," his lord said, "I think I can find thy arms as well as thou canst, for well I know this terrain, and they lie in a stone chest over beside that holed rock. But, if you will fetch them for me, giving me the sword and carrying for me the crossbow and for thyself the pike, I will call thee my man-at-arms, and so you shall have licence to keep all the arms you will in your own steading, which shall much comfort you when you think of the false Scots in the night-time." And at that, calling out, "O joy!" and ducking his head between his hands, the fellow ran over the ling to a great stone with a round hole in it that maidens were accustomed to pass their hands through up to the elbow to show their lovers or bridegrooms that they were pure. He knelt down beside this stone.

The Young Lovell sat on his horse in the summer weather. He gave one great sigh and gazed upon the blue sea behind and below him and the green plain before and on a level. The husbandman came back to him. Upon his head he had a cap of steel; over his back a small target was slung; in his left hand he held a pike with a steel head three foot long and armed with a hook such as the common sort use in battles to pull knights from off their horses. Bundled together in his arms were a Genoese cross-bow, a great sword and a little dagger, whilst slung across his back was a leather bag filled with such heavy steel quarrels and bolts as should fit the cross-bow. These arms Hugh Raket and his fellows used when they went raiding into the Scots or the Middle or the Western Marches; for they cared little whom they journeyed upon; even, when they heard that the Scots marched with a strong body upon Carlisle or the Debateable Lands they would take a hand with the Scots and bring back what they could.

And without any manner of doubt these arms-the knight's great sword and dagger which were a pair, and the Genoese bow-had been taken in a foray when the Lord Dacre was Warden of the Middle Marches and had some Genoese and many gentlemen to help him, though he had not made much of it. The little target had certainly been taken from the Scots, for it was such a one as the Murrays and the Macleods use, being not much larger than a cheese-top with many bosses and bubbles. But the pike and the steel cap this fellow might have made himself, for they were rude enough.

He stood looking up at his lord with a face of anxious roguery, but the Young Lovell never heeded him till the husbandman spoke; he was gazing to northward as if his eyes would start from his head.

The man continued watching his lord and thinking his thoughts as to where that lord had been until he spoke and asked the Young Lovell whether he should indeed have leave to bear all these weapons and be a man-at-arms. The Young Lovell came out of his reverie and said:

"Yes, yes; ye shall be my man-at-arms." And then he said: "Give me the great sword and the dagger. I will make them serve as arms enough till we come to Belford."

The bondsman was intent upon his own bargaining.

"Then if I be a man-at-arms," he said, "I shall no longer be a bondsman."

"If you will give me back your lands, that is so," said his lord. He was buckling on his sword and he hung the dagger from the belt. He drew the sword from the scabbard to see that it was not rusted in, and it came out very easily, for it had been lately greased.

"It is not very long since you used this sword in gentle feats of arms," the Young Lovell said.

"For using it," the man said, "I will not say that; cudgels and stones proved enough."

"Well, you shall tell me," Young Lovell said. "But now take my stirrup leather and let us go to Belford, for the sun is high."

The man took the stirrup, and whilst he ran lightly beside the great horse over the ling and the mosshags he called, a little coyly, his story up to his lord. It was a long tale, or he made it so, for there was a great deal to tell as to how a Milburn called Barty of the Comb and Corbit Jock had called the bondsmen of the Castle Lovell together, and of how they had said that in the absence of the Young Lovell they would pay no heriots, nor yet hens, nor yet bolls of wheat. So, when the bailiff of the Castle had come among their steadings and had sought to take heriots for the death of the Lord Lovell and tythes in hens and pence, they had greeted him at first civilly and had asked to see the charters and papers of their lands, saying that that was the custom upon the death of the lord.

That had occasioned some delay, since the charters and papers had all been taken to Cullerford, to the tower of Sir Walter Limousin that had married the Young Lovell's sister, the Lady Isopel. So a strong guard was sent to Cullerford and brought the charters back for the time. At beat of drum the charters, customs, the number of the rent-hens and such things had been read out by the bailiff and the lawyer called Stone, standing upon a little mound at the head of the village. From here these things had been read from time immemorial, even to the oldest ages when it had been called the Wise Men's Talking-place. The lawyer Stone had told them that the heritage of the old Lovell had fallen to those three, the Decies, called now Young Lovell and the husbands of the ladies Isopel and Douce. They had, the lawyer read, fyled a suit against the late Young Lovell for sorcery, at a Warden's Court held in the Debateable Land on St. Mark's Day last gone. Since the Young Lovell had not appeared, that bill had been fouled and those three had taken his lands and all he had. And the lawyer Slone, standing upon that mound had bidden them go back to their byres and, peaceably, to do suit and service and pay their heriots and rent-hens and bolls of corn and the rest.

Then Barty of the Comb and Corbit Jock, his friend, and Robert Raket, had answered for the other bondsmen that they would think upon it. Then the three of them had ridden to Lucker, where there was a lawyer called Shurstanes, and had taken counsel with him. So when, upon the morrow, the bailiff of that Castle came again, those three cunning ones had met him courteously, and said that, for a suit of sorcery, a Warden's Court could not foul or find a bill. It must go before a court of the Bishop Palatine. They had great respect for the Lord Warden, but so it was and his court was only for raidings in the Marches. And for the dispossession of a barony that could only be tried (after the Bishop's Court in Durham had found a true bill of sorcery) in an assize of the King's justices travelling, Alnwick or wheresoever it might be. And any such finding of the assize court must be ratified by the most dreadful King of England in council before ever the Young Lovell could be dispossessed of his lands.

And those three cunning men had further answered the bailiff that they were very willing to pay rent-hens and tythes and heriots and pence and whatever was rightfully to be had of them. But first they must be assured of what the King said in his council. Else the Young Lovell, coming again, might have it all of them a second time, and that, being poor men, they could not well abide.

Then the bailiff went back to the Castle-he was not the old bailiff of the Lord Lovell who had been cast out of his dwelling in the King's Tower and had gone to live at Beal-but it was a new bailiff that Sir Walter Vesey had brought from Haltwhistle, where he had been a surveyor's clerk.

But, in three days, the bailiff had issued again from the Castle and had gone to the byres of the poor widow of Martin Taylor, having about him ten pikemen for his protection.

Then Barty of the Comb and Corbit Jock and Richard Raket considered that if this thing were done, even upon the poorest of them, it might well serve as a precedent. They had called together all the bondsmen and their sons, and the number of sixty-seven men and all the women had come, being ninety in number, and the more noisy because it was a woman and a widow that the bailiff sought to oppress. So they had thrown stones at the pikemen who were bearing off the widow's donkey, and had broken out the bailiff's teeth, and driven them all back to the Castle.

And, in expectation that the bailiff should come again with a greater force, they had fetched from their hiding-places all their arms, and had them rea

dy. But the people from the Castle never came again; without doubt they thought they were not strong enough; the bondsmen of Castle Lovell were all very notable reivers and fighting men.

Thus, if Sir Walter and Limousin and the Decies came out with such forces as they had, it was very likely-nay it was certain-that the men who were in the White Tower and still faithful to the Young Lovell would issue behind them into the Castle with their cannons, and so, if they might not take the Castle they might at least set free the Lady Rohtraut, and have her away by sea; for they of the Castle had no boats, and no fisherman would help them.

The Young Lovell listened as attentively as he might to what Hugh Raket had to say, and, at the end of the story, they were come to the hill top where the heather and marshy ground ceased. They saw before them great plains of green grass with people going about everywhere, and there getting their hay. And a little way away there were going, along a trodden road, some ten armed men and another amongst them, all on horseback.

So the Lord Lovell kept himself apart, but sent Hugh Raket to look who these men were that went abroad upon his lands. Before him, but a little to the right was the town of Belford, but the monastery, with its great church and its great tower just in building, was a little to the South, near the wood called Newlands. Further to the South was the little hamlet of Lucker. He cast his eyes behind him and he frowned. For, apart from the sea and the sky, the two Castles and the islands set in foam, he had seen mostly the square tower of Glororum. A little company, in the clear weather, were riding out of this tower, and there the Lady Margaret dwelt. It seemed a weary thought to him since he remembered the lady with the crooked smile.

Hugh Raket came back to him and said that those ten men rode with a prisoner that had been convicted of theft in the Courts of the Nevilles. He had appealed to the Bishop's Courts in Durham, and so they were taking him there. Hugh Raket thought that it was a folly to make such matter of a felon. Let them hang him to the first tree and ride back. For this appeal, before they had the thief strung up, should cost the Neville lord, for guards and victual and horsemeat and harbouring, nothing less than ten pounds which was a great sum of money, and a folly too.

He was of opinion that, if such great lords as the Nevilles and the Darceys and the Young Lovell suffered none to appeal from their courts, but hung every man that came before them, it would be much better; for then there would be none of this monstrous outlay that was for ever occurring, and the great lords could excuse their poor bondsmen their rent-hens and their suit and service.

The Lord Lovell made Hugh Raket tell all over again his story of how they had contended with the bailiff. For, the first time, he had not been very attentive. But now he bent his brows firmly on the face of this cunning bondsman and gave him all his mind. And then it speedily appeared to him that it was this fellow that had really moved in the resistance to the bailiff, and that Barty of the Comb and Corbit Jock had had little to do with it, for they were simple, slow fellows. So the Young Lovell frowned upon Hugh Raket and called him a naughty knave, for the Young Lovell prized good order in his dominions above everything.

The bondsman began to cry out then, that if they had paid their tributes, heriots and what not to the bailiff of the false pretenders, they would have none wherewith to pay the Young Lovell's bailiff when he came in turn as come he would.

"Now are you a very naughty fellow," the Young Lovell cut into his outcry, "for well ye knew ye thought I should never come again, but was away amongst the false Scots and dead, or amongst the false witches and worse. So ye were minded to escape all your suits and services for ever. And, for the bailiff of a great lord, proclaimed with drums upon his hill, he is no person for such scum and vermin as ye are to protest against, or against whom to cry out to lawyers. It is for you to do your services to those whom God for the time sees fit to set over you, and to our Lord the King and the Prince Bishop and the Lord Warden and others. For, if such fellows as you are to question whom ye shall pay and whom ye shall not pay, what peace or order should we have in these my lands? Nay, we shall see ye rise up against mine own bailiffs, so that, by God His sorrow, I must speedily come against ye with fire and brands...."

The Lord Lovell set his teeth and the bondsman shrank back. Nevertheless, he mumbled that they were very poor folk and could never pay two sets of masters, the one against the law and the other their rightful lord.

"Sir, you lie," the Lord Lovell said. "For very well ye know that such a parcel of rich scoundrels are not between Tweed and Tyne. For my Castle is a very strong Castle, and I have been and shall be to you a very powerful lord at whose name all the false Scots do tremble. So that, from the shadow of that my Castle, ye go burning and reiving into Scotland and the Marches, whereas none dare ever come against ye to take what ye have by right or what ye have falsely stolen. I have had complaints against ye, in my father's time, that, in one winter season, you and Barty of the Comb and the other Milburns and Jock Corbit and his fellows and others that are upon my lands, with fellows from Haltwhistle, and God only knows where or under whose leadership (though I think it was a Wharton that led ye), you cast down or burned ninety-two towns, towers, stedes, barnekyns, and parish churches; ye slew one hundred and seven Scots, and prisoners taken were two hundred and nine, who were ransomed with whitemail and black; 2,700 horned cattle ye took, and 3,039 sheep, along with nags, geldings, goats, swine and eight hundred bolls of corn...."

Hugh Raket mumbled that he had had very little of all this.

"Filthy knave," his lord said, "I know not what you had but you had your share, you and Barty of the Comb and Jock Corbit. And well I know that I was-God help and save me-surety for you and my other men at the Warden's Court where complaint was made against ye. And well I know that when ye should have assoiled yourselves by arms, it was my armourer that had made the arms ye wore, and so war-like did ye appear that none came into the field against ye, the complainers being mostly Scots widows that ye had made. God keep and save me! now I wish I had never done those things for you, for you came away with no bills fouled against ye and ye had the Scots horned cattle, and black and white mail, and their nags and geldings and goats, and so ye have waxed fat, and would rise up against your betters."

The bondsman was silent, deeming that the better course before the visible anger of his lord, and the Young Lovell continued:

"If ye would not pay your just dues to me where then should ye be? If it were not for the fear of my name how should you be safe in the nights? And how may I make my name feared but by keeping a great store of knights and men-at-arms and bondsmen and my Castle very strong? Where should ye be if I had no lead upon my roofs, and the rain and frost destroyed my towers? Ye would be men undone, for the false Scots would come burning and slaying, and the Lords Percy should take all ye had, and the Bishops Palatine would sell ye into slavery. So I rede ye well, pay me what ye owe me, or I will be in your steads and barnekyns a very burning torch, and upon your nags and geldings a death rider such as ye never saw."

The bondsman fell upon his knees before his lord's horse.

"Ah gentle lording," he cried out, "God forbid that we should not pay ye all that we owe. Then indeed were we all undone, for no men ever had lord so gentle and so kind."

"Foul knave," his lord said, "I know that if by my murder ye might well profit, murder me ye would, you and your fellows; but ye dare not for fear of the Scots."

The bondsman wept and groaned with his hands held up, and his hood fallen from his face.

"Now, by God's dreadful grace, that is not so," he cried. "For if I would have murdered ye-and I tremble at that word-might I not have done so even now, when I had the arms and weapons that I surrendered to you so that ye might have killed me? Ye are my very dread lord, and well I know it. For I have sate under the mass priest and heard his sermons, and well I know how that the lion is the symbol and token of Antichrist, the dragon of Satan, the basilisk of death, and the aspic of the sinner that shut his ears to the teachings of life. And have I not seen all these trampled beneath the feet of the Saviour in stone set upon the church door? And shall I be like unto the aspic and pass from life to hell ... the aspic that shutteth his ears? Alas, no! I do know that there are set over me, God and the Saints and the most dreadful King Henry, Seventh of that name, and the Bishop Palatine and the Border Warden and the monks of St. Radigund. But before all these men and next only to God, comes my most dread Lord Lovell of the Castle, and that if I do not serve him with all rights and dues, fire and sword will be my portion in this life or else the barren hillside and hell-flame in after time...."

The Lord Lovell said:

"Well, ye have learnt your lesson, the mass priest has taught you well."

Then the crafty bondsman, seeing that his lord's face was softened, and hoping, by means of his brother, still to escape his due payments, sighed and said:

"I would indeed, and before the saints, that I must give greater payments to my lord if there were none to other people. For there is no end to this payment of taxes and tithes. No sooner is my lord's bailiff gone than there come my Lord Warden's men seeking to take my horse for the King's wars in France-God curse that Lord Warden! And he gone, comes the Bishop Palatine's bailiff seeking payment for the milling of my corn at his mills on the Wear though the grists were all my own. Then comes the prior of St. Radigund's for a half tithe; then Sir John, the mass priest, for a whole. Then there are the market dues of Belford-for God His piteous sake, ah gentle lording, set us up here in Castle Lovell a market where we may sell toll free-we of the Castle. Now if I will sell some bolls of wheat and ship them to the Percies at King's Lynn, I must pay river dues at Sunderland according to the brass plate that is set in the Castle wall at Dunstanburgh. And if I pay that due it is claimed of me again a second time by the Admiral of the Yorkshire coast, saying that I should not have paid it the first, though God He knows what maketh the Admiral of Yorkshire in our rivers and seas. So with wood haulage to Glororem, and maltings to the King's Castle guard at Bamburgh, and a day's work of service here and two days in harvest there, God knows there is no end to a poor man's payments. But this I know..." and the peasant scowled deeply, "that my Lord of Northumberland may rue the day when he taxed us for the French wars. It is not that Lord Percy that shall live long."

The bondsman allowed himself these words against the Percy partly out of his great hatred, and partly because he knew his lord did not love this Earl of Northumberland for his treachery to King Richard upon Bosworth Field.

They were still halted at the edge of that plain that the lord might the better hear his bondsman. But the Young Lovell heard only parts of what the peasant said, for he was nearly lost in thought whilst the great white horse cropped the grass. At last the Young Lovell spoke.

"For what you say," he exclaimed, "as to the multiplicity of burdens there is some sense in it. And it might well be that I could buy some of these rights from the King, or the Prince Bishop, or others, as it chances. And, for a market, I am well minded to buy the right to hold one from the King. And so was my father minded before me. But you know very well that your gossip, Corbit Jock-like the tough rogues that ye all are-this Corbit Jock stood in the way of it. For the only piece of land I have that is fitting for a market lies under the wall of that my Castle on the way running through that my township of Castle Lovell. And amid most of that, as ye know, Corbit Jock has a mound of his holding. How his father got it I know not. But there, running into my Castle wall, is his mound, and on it a filthy barn leaning against my Castle wall, and before the barnekyn a heap of dung and a shed that might harbour five goats. The whole is not worth to him ninepence by the year, and it is far from his house and of no use to him. Yet, though I would well and willingly buy this of him, and my father would have bought it of his father that there we might have a market holden, ye know very well that this Corbit Jock will not sell and I have no power to take it from him. For, though I might get a broad letter from the King in his Council to take this mound by force, and to pay him full value, yet such a letter must cost me much gold, and it is doubtful if the King's writ, in such matters, runneth in these North parts. In the country of France, as I heard when I was there of the Sieur Berthin de Silly, such things are done every day by the King's letters. Nay, he was about then engaged in such a matter with a peasant, whom he dispossessed, but paid well and so has a fair market below his Castle of La Roche Gayon. And so it may well be in the South of this realm for aught I know. But here it is different, and I am not minded to have a hornet's nest of lawyers about my ears in order to give a market place-that should cost me dear enough when I bought the rights of my lord the King-to such rogues and cozeners as you and Barty of the Comb and Corbit Jock and the widow of Martin Taylor. But, if ye will talk of the matter with Corbit Jock that he may sell his mound to me, I will promise you this, that you shall have your market. For I am your very good lord. And so no more of talk for this time."

He set his horse towards Belford, going decently by roundabout ways and paths from landmark to landmark that he might not trample down the long grass of which his bondsmen were making their hay all about him. Of late years, since his father had been too heavy to ride, the Young Lovell had considered much the matters of his lands, and he had done certain things, such as selling by the year to third parties of the rights to collect his dues, whether on malt, hens, salt, housing and of other things. And these new methods, of which mostly he had heard in the realms of France, Gascony and Provence, had worked well enough, for his incomings had been settled and the buyers of his rights had neither the power to steal his moneys nor so much to oppress the bondsmen as his own bailiffs had. So that, in one way and another, he could talk of these things to his bondsman whilst he thought of other matters. And one of these matters came into his head from that talk of the shed of Corbit Jock that leant against the very rock below his Castle wall.

From below the flags of the men-at-arms' kitchen, in the solid stone of the rocks, there ran a passage going finally through the earth not ten feet from the mound of Corbit Jock. The only persons that might know of this passage had been the dead lord and Young Lovell himself. The Decies might know of it, for the dead lord had prated of all things to his bastard. But it was odds that it would never come into the Decies' head, for he was a very drunken fellow and remembered most things too late.

Now if, under cover of night, the Young Lovell could introduce a dozen or twenty lusty fellows with picks and other instruments into Corbit Jock's barnekyn, in five hours or less they could dig a way into that tunnel where it went under the ground. Then it was but pushing up the flagstones of the kitchen and they would be terrifyingly and surprisingly within the Castle whilst all the men-at-arms could be drawn off from those parts with a feigned attack on the outer walls. Or, if by chance there were men in that passage and guarding it, they could put into it a great cask of gunpowder and so kill them all. It was a task much easier than my lord of Derby and Sir Walter Manny had, who tunnelled under the Castle of la Réole for eleven weeks when Agout de Baux held it and yet could not take that place which is in Languedoc, though he had with him three Earls, five hundred knights and two thousand archers. The young Lovell thought he would have his Castle more easily.

And as he rode through the fields, the thoughts of war driving out those of the lady with the crooked smile, the siege of that Castle grew clear to him and like a picture, red and blue and pink, at the edge, or the head of a missal. At first, hearing that the White Tower was held for him with its gold and cannons, he had thought that, going by sea into that place, which was like a citadel over against a walled city, such as he had seen at Boulogne and Carcassowne and other places, he would set the cannon to batter down the walls and so enter in with what many he could get together.

But then it had seemed to him that that was his own Castle and, if he beat down its walls, he must build it up again at his own pains and great cost-for the building of castles is no light work to a lord, however rich. Moreover, his sisters would certainly set his mother in whatsoever part of the Castle he began to batter-so that he must either kill his mother or leave off; for that was the nature of his good sisters.

And then he began to think of stratagems and devices by which he might, more readily and at less cost, come to his desires. And so he cast about for a cunning device by the means of which he might get possession of the great gate of that Castle. But at that time he thought of none.

So he rode an hour through the fields, diverting himself with that picture in his mind and with his bondsman stepping beside him. Then they came to a brook which was a bowshot from the frowning and high tower of Belford monastery. This was so new that the stones were still white and the scaffold poles and planks all about its crenellations. The Young Lovell stayed his horse by the streamside and spoke to his bondsman.

"Now this I will do," he said, "and you may set it privately about the countryside. For I know well, Hugh Raket, that it is you that are the masterful rogue in these affairs. Although in your story you have sought to make it appear that Barty of the Comb and others had a great share in devising a mutiny against that bailiff, yet it was you alone that stirred up the people. So let it be known to my men a fortnight hence, at nine at night they shall meet me at a certain place of which I will warn you later. And each man shall be armed as he is when he goes against the Scots. Then they shall come into my service for four or five days each, as if it were harvest time and they doing their services due to me. Then they shall sack a tower and have their sackings. And of the prisoners that they take in another place they shall have the ransoming, unless I prefer to hang those prisoners. In that case I will pay them what the ransoming would have been. And, for the men out of the sea, they shall be excused all rent-hens and services and heriots that they owe me. You-that is to say-have called them heriots, but rather they should be called deodanda. For a heriot is paid, the tenant being dead, by the tenant's heirs. But in this case it is the lord that is dead and what is paid is paid by the bondsmen as a fine or a forfeit, because they did not save the life of their lord."

The bondsman looked upon the face of his lord and marvelled what manner of man this was that, in the very conception of a martial scheme, could so hang upon the niceties of words. But the Young Lovell was a very sober, hardy and cunning lord. In all that he said he had his purpose. So that, before the peasant could speak and ask him for more particulars of that bargain, the young lord drew up Hamewarts' mouth from the water where he had drunk sufficiently and went on, lifting his hand in the sunlight.

"So that it is in the nature of deodand rather than of heriot. And how it works is in this wise-that, every tenant having to pay and suffer upon the death of his lord, so he works very carefully to keep his lord alive. So mark you well that, Hugh Raket. For, if I succeed in this enterprise, two out of three of you shall be excused all rent-hens and deodands due at the death of my father. But if I fail and die-and, full surely I will not live if I fail-ye must all of you pay double, rent-hens, deodands and all. For then shall my sisters be my lawful heiresses and you must pay to them firstly all that you owe upon my father's death and then all that you owe upon mine who am your rightful lord. So you will be in a very pitiful case if I die, and it will well repay you to fight well for me. Mark that very carefully and report it where you will. But, if you think rather to make favour with my sisters, you know very well it is not they that will go to the sweat and cost of getting leave of our lord the King to hold markets. No, but they will get them to Cullerford and Haltwhistle and strengthen these places, and the Castle will be thrown down, and the Scots will come in upon you and you will be in a very lamentable case."

He paused and looked earnestly upon his bondsman. And then he continued:

"So I have spoken what was in my mind very soberly and I think well. For this business of being a great lord is not merely the riding about in summer time and the sacking of castles. But I have to think what is good for me to do for my people. For your good is mine and I study how to bring it about. And that I learned of the Lord Berthin de Silly when I was in France. Now think well upon what I have said and give me your answer, yea or nay. For I know well that the others will be guided by you."

The bondsman looked upon the stream and upon the monastery whose wall, like a castle's, lay new and square in the sunlight.

"I take thought," he said, "not that I doubt the upshot, but that I may find words. For these matters are above my head that you have deigned to speak of. But of this, gentle lording, you may make sure that, at eight of the clock a fortnight hence, I will meet you at any place of which you shall send me the name. And there shall be with me sixty-eight or seventy stout men and well armed after our fashion."

He went on to try to say that this lording was a soldier so cunning and so great a knight that all the countryside said they would very gladly go a-riding or a-foot with bows, into Scotland or Heathenesse or the South, whatever his enterprise. But, since he was a better hand at grumbling at taxes than in praising his lord, he got little of it out. Nevertheless he made it plain that fighting men would be there on the appointed day, and so they parted-the lord riding across the stream to the monastery and the hind along it to Belford town.

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