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TALES OF ENGLISH HISTORY
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THI CHURCHI AND THE KIN,.G. A Tale of England in the Days of
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LO/YAL HEART TS AND TRUE. A Tale of England in the Days of Queen
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IN Tf/HE' IiWARS OF THE ROSES. Post 8vo, cloth extra. Price 2s. 6d.
T. NELSON AND SONs, London, Edinburgh, and New York.
((1 J HAN DT 1-/
tiK N Y Ili
I' N Ei )- L (I-
A Tale of England in t/e Days of
Author of In the IWars of the Roses," The Lord of Dynevor,"
"Loyal Hearts and True," Temple's Trial,"
Dulcie's Little Brother,"
T. NELSON AND SONS
London,' Edinburgh, and New York
o 1tc 1nti3.
I. TIE SIGN OF THE WHITE WOLF,
II. THE FORERUNNERS OF THE PURITANS,
III. WIERWOLD HALL,
IV. IIEATIICLIFFE CASTLE,
V. IN HIS FATTIER'S HOUSE, ...
VI. GUY'S RESOLVE, .. ..
VII. THE CLAIMS OF KIN, ..
'III. ERMENGARDE, ..
IX. CONSPIRACY, .
X. A MIDNIGHT ATTACK, ...
XI. SIR KENNETH, ..
XII. IN THE HOUSE OF THE GARTIIS,
:III. THE SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART,
XIV. TIIE LUBBER-FIEND,"
XV. FATHER AND SON, ...
XVI. MONK FRYSTONE, ...
VII. FAREWELL TO TII, OLD LIFE,
7III. LONDON AND ITS KING,
XIX. TIE KING'S COURT, ...
XX. THE DANCE OF DEATH, ...
XXI. WITIIIN THE CLOISTER, ..
... ... 31
.. ... 230
A TERRIBLE NIGIT, ... .
TIHE MARTYR MONK, ... .
NUX, NOVICE, AND BETROTIIID),
THIE HERALD OF THE STORM, ...
THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE,
TIE ADDUCTION OF EIRMENGARDE,
TIIE FATE OF THE FALCONERS,
TIHE MIND OF THE KING, ...
... ... 444
... ... 523
.. ... 50 ; t
THE CHURCH AND THE KING.
THE SIGN OF TAHE WHTIITE WVOLr
T RAVELLERS on the road, Guy! They are e'en
S now crossing the Ferry in old Charon's punt.
Belike they will pause here for the night, seeing that the
daylight is on the wane. They have servants and are well
mounted, and make a brave show. I saw them at the
Ferry as I was crossing the fi1.i- 'Tis bitter cold. Me-
thinks they will be glad enough to turn in hither. The
glow from our windows looks right cheery over the white
snow. Leave thy book, Guy, and come out and let us
watch for them together,"
With all my heart," answered the second lad, springing
up from the rude bench in the Inn parlour snugly ensconced
within the warm ingle-nook, and thrusting the small
volume over which his head had been bent into the breast
of his doublet. He tossed on his cap, which lay beside
him on the table, and stepped out first into a 1,l _.-1
o1 THE SIGN OF THE WHITE WOLF.
entry, and then into the chill, crisp coldness of a snowy
"Cold!" he exclaimed, half laughing, as the keen
northerly air met his fire-scorched cheek; ay, marry it is
cold enough, in good sooth. If this goes on, old C(1'i .n -.
trade will soon be gone, and travellers will ride their steeds
over the river when and where they please. I warrant me
that no travellers will pass the door of the White Wolf after
sundown on such a night as this. Why, they might well
freeze in their saddles as they picked their way along the
snow-bound road. 'Tis bad enough travelling by day; he
will be bold indeed who will brave the i...-.. paths by
The cold was indeed ti..i: ii. but the two Yorkshire-
born lads did not appear to heed it much as they stood
together before the door of the Inn, looking along the road
in the direction from which travellers from the Ferry might
be expected. They were dressed exactly alike in suits of
home-made homespun, with hose to match, and leather
jerkins which showed signs of having done service in their
day. Each lad wore in his belt a short, sharp hunting-
knife-a weapon of some kind being generally carried by
almost all classes of persons in these wilder regions of the
country-and the only ,.1'.:, i!... to be observed between
the two in their dress was that Guy wore a small ruff of
plaited linen round his throat, whilst Diccon's neck was
bare, and tanned a deep brown by exposure to sun and
wind. As the two lads stood thus together at the Inn door,
a casual observer would have supposed them to be brothers,
THE SIGN OF THIE IHITE IVOLF
but a closer scrutiny of their features and their bearing
might have done something to dispel that impression.
Diccon Holt, the son of the jolly Inn-keeper Nicholas
Holt, a right popular man in these parts, was a small copy of
his rubicund and jovial sire. His honest round face, with
features of an indeterminate but thoroughly English char-
acter, wore an expression of cheerful contentment and easy-
going kindliness which won him general good-will as well
as the friendship of his comrades and the travellers who
passed to and fro upon the road. It was never a trouble
to him to do anything for anybody. He would tumble
out of his warm bed at night with the greatest good-will in
the world to saddle a horse and speed a parting guest, or
receive a late comer who had not succeeded in rousing the
sleepy hostler. He was always ready to amuse a party of
travellers with his gossiping stories, or to ride along the road
with them to put them in the way they wished to go. In
fact he was a thorough and complete child of the Inn, born
and bred to the life, and he had no greater ambition than
to succeed some day to his father's calling, and to remain a
fixture at the White Wolf in some capacity or other. And
something of this good-humoured complacency seemed to
be stamped upon his face and form, for he looked entirely
in his right place as he stood thus before his father's door.
But of his companion the same could scarce be said; for
Guy Falconer was cast in a .illt, .. M, mould, and looked
something like a young eaglet reared by some strange
chance in the nest of a barn-door hen.
As the lad stood there, in the clear light of the red
12 TIM SLGH 01 OF THEi.i:
December sunset, an artist or a physiognomist would have
been struck by the power as well as by the beauty of the
face. Guy's features were exceedingly good, and were very
finely and clearly cut: the brow wide and square; the
eyes, set rather far apart, well opened, shaded by dark,
curling lashes, their own colour a dark vivid blue, which in
moments of excitement looked almost black; a firm, short,
straight nose, with well-opened nostrils, which had a trick
of dilating like those of a high-bred horse; a mouth full
and sweet, with a short upper lip, disclosing very white,
even teeth; and a small, square chin, expressive of resolu-
tion and firmness. These features, combined with a slight,
well-proportioned !,1i., a naturally commanding bearing,
and an air which would in these days be pronounced dis-
tinguished," seemed to raise the lad above his surroundings,
although there was not either in his face or in his voice
when he spoke a trace of discontent or hautewr, or any
indication of dissatisfaction with the home which sheltered
him or with the persons with whom his life was spent.
It had indeed never occurred to Guy to find any fault
with either the one or the other. Although he knew him-
self as the foster-son of the Holts only-knew that his
own father, Sir Ralph Falconer, lived at Wierwold Hall,
not more than five-and-twenty miles away, though he
had never seen the place himself, having been removed to
the care of Mistress Bridget Holt (then a servant upon the
place like her husband) almost as soon as he first drew
breath-he had never longed after his own home or kindred,
but had been more than content to remain where he was;
THE SIGN OF THE WHITE WOLF
and his foster-parents, who loved him hardly second to
their own Diccon, only looked forward with dread to the
summons, which never came, for the boy to be sent to the
Yet there was a very sufficient reason why this sum-
mons was delayed and delayed, until Guy had well-nigh
forgotten he was aught but Bridget Holt's own child.
Hardly had the days of mourning for the first Lady Fal-
coner (who had died at Guy's birth) been accomplished
before her place was taken by another-the retainers of
Wierwold Hall declared that their poor master had been
regularly entrapped into the marriage by the haughty
beauty who now ruled his house with a rod of iron; and
this second Lady Falconer had expressed a determination
from the first to have no concern with a "puling babe,"
desiring that he should remain where he was, and hoping
that even his father would in time forget his very
Sir Ralph, who, if report speaks truth, was quickly en-
lightened as to the character of his second spouse, and was
bitterly sorry he had ever married her, was glad enough
that his second son should be safely removed from her
tyranny and caprice. His eldest son Geoffrey and his
daughter Ermengarde were of necessity subject to her
tender mercies, and he was unable to disguise from himself
the fact that she hated them with a steady, unwavering
hatred, which only increased with the birth of children of
her own, in whose light, according to her fashion of think-
ing, these elder children stood. There was little enough
r4 THE SIGN OF THE WHITE WOLF
reason why the father should bring Guy home to such a
step-dame's care. He had established Nicholas and his
wife at the Inn (which was his property), and felt that the
lad was far happier and safer under their charge than he
would be at home. He did not go to see him. He believed
it better, whilst Guy remained where he was, that there
should be no connection at all between him and those at
Wierwold Hall. Probably he just knew himself as a son
of that house, but it would be better that nothing should
be said or done which might rouse within him the desire
to see himself acknowledged, and so draw upon himself the
malignity of his unknown step-mother. Thus reasoned the
father; and so time had fled by until he himself scarce
remembered that he had another son, whilst amongst the
kindred and friends of the Falconer family it was reported
that the infant had died with his mother-a report which
the second Lady Falconer took care should be widely
spread. She was resolved that if after his father's death
he had the hardihood to put in a claim, he should have the
utmost difficulty in proving his right to the name he pro-
fessed to bear. Mi. t;,l, his education and all other
expenses were amply paid for out of the funds of the Inn,
which the Holts held rent free so long as Guy remained
their charge. They had almost forgotten that it was not
actually their own property, although they religiously ex-
pended everything needful upon the boy, and secured for
him, through the good Brothers of a neighboring monas-
tery, such an education as would fit him for his rightful
station in life, if ever he should be called to fill it.
THE SIGN OF THE IWIIZTE WOLF
All this Guy vaguely knew, without the knowledge
having ever taken any great hold upon him. He was
happy in the freedom and variety of the life at the Inn ; he
had so far never desired to change it for any other. He
loved his foster-parents, Diccon was as a brother to him,
and the unknown grandeurs of Wierwold Hall failed to
exercise any fascination upon him. Not without dreams
and aspirations of his own, he was yet resolved to carve
out fame and fortune for himself. He was glad to know
that the blood of soldiers and nobles ran in his veins, but
for the rest he was content to win by his own prowess any
distinction which might come in his way. He had read
enough to stuff his own and his foster-brother's head full
of tales of chivalry and romance, and to win the spurs of
knighthood was the dream of his boyish ambition, whilst
Diccon would be quite content to ride behind, and fill the
station of humble esquire.
Yet, as they stood together in the clear cold evening
light, a casual observer would have called them brothers,
and have decided that both were sons of the house. The
Inn itself was a charming old place-one of those ancient
hostelries which have well-nigh ceased to exist now. It
had a long, low frontage to the road, richly decorated by
carving in wood, and with great black beams of oak cross-
ing and recrossing in a species of network, and forming a
marked contrast to the whitewashed walls. The carving
was chiefly .-i ... to the lintel and door-posts, and to the
gallery which ran along the one upper story of the house,
but it cropped out -here and again in the crossing of the
16 THE SIGN OF THE TVIIITE TVOLF
beams, whilst a grinning griffin head ornamented the top of
the archway leading to the court-yard round which the Inn
was built, and where a great horse-block and rows of stalls
for horses showed that mounted travellers were frequent
along the road, and that the White Wolf was a favourite
halting-place both for man and beast. The roof was
thatched, and shone yellow and brown in the light of the
saffron sunset. The latticed windows gave out a ruddy
gleam which told of blazing fires within doors; and upon
this winter's evening, when the ground lay a foot deep
in fresh-fallen snow, such a sight must have been wel-
come indeed to weary travellers and their patient, tired
I trow none will willingly pass by the doors of the
White Wolf to-night," said Guy, glancing up at the rudely-
painted sign which hung above their heads, groaning every
now and then as it swung to and fro in the breeze. Hast
thou told thy mother that travellers are on the road,
Diecon ? I warrant me they will come in as hungry as
huntsmen, and will not care to tarry long for their supper."
Ay, I told her before I summoned thee, and there are
a pair of fat capons at the fire now, to say nothing of the
pics and pasties the wenches have been making all the
day. It would make thee hungry thyself to put nose
inside the kitchen door. But hist! here come the fore-
most riders. A brace of gallant gentlemen, in all truth.
Thinkest thou not so ? "
Habit and practice had given the lads a pretty sound
discrimination as to the rank and the following of the
THE SIGN OF THE WHITE WOLRF
guests who passed to and fro along the great London and
York road. The gentlemen now approaching were stran-
gers to the lads, but they saw at once that they were men
of station and substance, not mere swash-bucklers or
roisterers; and that though they were plainly habited, and
their attendants were not numerous, they were guests of
the right sort, who would eat and drink without indulging
in unseemly revelry, and would pay their reckoning in
solid coin before they left in the morning.
The two gentlemen were some distance in advance of
their attendants, who had crossed the Ferry later. They
had reached the Inn before the latter had more than
crested the little hill from the river, and as they drew
rein before the door, the two lads stepped forth with
alacrity, and stood each at the head of one of the horses,
a ready Good-even, fair sir," upon their lips.
Good-even, good lads," was the ready response. "Canst
tell, boy, if there be lodging within for man and beast, for
a company of some half-score ? We have ridden far to-
day, and the roads are heavy for the poor beasts. Can
the White Wolf harbour us for the night ? "
"Ay, that it can," answered Diccon eagerly; "and
though I say it, I warrant you will not find softer beds or
better fare anywhere betwixt this and London, if you find
it there.-Guy, show the gentlemen to the parlour, and I
will take the horses to their stable.-My father will be
here anon. He has but just descended to the cellar for a
measure of his best canary. We had seen you on the road,
and my mother is a rare good hand at the spiced drinks
18 TIlE SIGNV OF THE WHITE W OLF
which keep the cold away; she will have it ready for
your worships in a trice."
"The sooner the better, good lad," answered the gentle-
men, who had swung themselves down from their saddles,
and were stretching their cramped limbs and lifting their
saddle-bags down.-" Methinks we did well, Ranulph, to
push on over the Ferry to-day. That last halting-place
was a villanous-looking house. You were right in think-
ing we should find better cheer here."
"Ay, I had a shrewd notion we should do well to
proceed. It is long since I have been in these parts, yet
I felt certain I had been a guest at some such hospitable
house as this before.-Lead on, boy, and we will follow.-
It seems that they understand the art of fire-making in
these parts. What a thing it is to stand beside such a
blaze after a ride like ours "
Guy had shown the way into the parlour, where the
great log fire blazed upon the open hearth. The table had
already been laid with a clean though coarse cloth, and
the trenchers and so forth set in order upon it. And the
next moment in came Nicholas Holt himself, his broad face
beaming like a rising sun, seen as it was through the
steam of the tankard of spiced wine he was bearing,
and very welcome to the eyes of tired travellers was the
sight he presented and the cup of which he -..:..1 them
Whilst the host and his guests chatted amicably together
over the state of the roads, the severity of the cold, and
the distance the travellers had come, Guy stood a little
THE SIGN OF THE WHITE WOLF.
apart taking note of their dress, bearing, and speech, and
came to the conclusion that both were soldiers, and both
men of gentle birth, though, as he presently discovered,
only one of the pair had won the spurs of knighthood.
Sir Kenneth Fane was the elder of the two riders, a
man of some five-and-twenty summers, with a tall, erect
figure, well set off by his handsome riding-dress, and a
pair of keen, dark eyes, that matched his raven hair and
the drooping moustache which concealed the mouth. His
companion, Ranulph Ogleby, was fair-haired and more
boyish-looking, but strongly made and muscular. It ap-
peared in conversation that their friendship was but of
recent growth and only dated back a few days, when they
had discovered upon the road that both were bent for the
same spot-at least within a score of miles-and they had
resolved to unite their forces and travel in company.
"And methinks we cannot be far from our goal," said
Ranulph, in the course of the discussion.-" Say, good mine
host, is there not a place by name Wierwold Hall not far
hence, owned by one Sir Ralph Falconer, a gallant knight
of the King's own making ? "
Guy started involuntarily as he heard this question, and
fixed his eyes on the speaker.
"Ay, verily, and a right goodly gentleman he is, as none
know better than I, seeing that I was born and brought
up at Wierwold Hall. But if rumour speaketh truth, he
has fallen something into disfavour with the King's Majesty
of late. It is long since he has been summoned to the
20 THE SIGN OF THE WHITE WOLF
Oh, as for that, times are changing fast in these hurry -
ing days," answered Sir Kenneth, as he seated himself at
the table, which was being rapidly furnished with appetizing
viands. "I suppose Sir Ralph is one of those who hold
stanchly to the old opinions and the old religion,' as it is
the fashion in some quarters to call it. He has, doubtless,
sided with the hapless Queen Catherine through the matter
of the divorce, and those who have done so are scarce
likely to be welcomed at the Court over which our lovely
Queen, Anne Boleyn, presides.-Ranulph, it will behove
thee to speak seriously with thy kinsman and host that he
trim his sails more carefully to the wind; for if I mistake
me not, such a storm is brewing over this land as has
never been seen or thought on before."
"Now soothly that is what we hear on every hand,"
quoth Nicholas, as he raised the cover from the dish the
serving-wench had just brought in, and began carving the
capons with no sparing hand. "No matter from whence
he comes, or whither he goes, or what be his station in
life, the same tale is in every man's mouth change,
change, change; the downfall of old customs and habits,
the uprising of notions that erst would have made all
godly folk cross themselves in pious horror. Speak, good
gentlemen, and tell us what it all portends; for verily we
of these country parts are sorely perplexed and ofttimes
troubled by it all."
As also are we from the heart of the royal city,"
answered Ranulph, with a laugh and a shrug of the shoul-
ders. We none of us dare to say what will betide us ere
THE SIGN OF THIE WHITE TWOLF
the next moon comes and goes. But this much we do know,
that the King's Majesty has some great scheme in his royal
brain which is like to change the face of England as it hath
never been changed by monarch before. Men are to have
the right to think for themselves. Holy ('Ci.. is no
longer to bind their consciences as heretofore, and the word
of his Holiness the Pope is no longer to have sway in this
land. Whether or not the King will be himself a second
Pope-binding men's consciences and ruling even the
('l! .ir.! herself-remains yet to be seen, but there are those
who declare that--"
"Hist, Ranulph! speak not over-boldly," said Sir Kenneth
with a smile. These are days in the which it behoves
men to walk warily, which good lesson thou hadst best
instil into the mind of thy good host at Wierwold Hall.-
And now tell me, good Master Nicholas, is there not an-
other house in these parts owned by my Lord Osbaldistone
-Heathcliffe Castle is its name ? We have made out, this
friend of mine and I, that it cannot be very far away from
Wierwold Hall, whither he is bent."
Guy approached a step nearer, and threw a meaning
glance at Diccon, who responded with a knowing wink.
Both lads were in attendance upon the guests, and their
presence in the room raised no comment or question, but
Guy was paying far more heed to the talk that went on
than to his duties as drawer or waiter.
Ay, ay," returned Nicholas readily, Heathcliffe Castle
is none so far away. It lies a matter of a dozen good
miles from here, and Wierwold Hall something over
22 THE SIGN OF THE WHITE IWOLF.
twenty." Then the landlord hesitated for a moment, and
added after a pause, "But there is a long-standing enmity
between the dwellers at Heathcliffe and Wierwold, and if
you two gentlemen are going thither respectively, you had
best make your adieus in good time. You will not meet
again when once it is known that you lodge in the rival
"Rival houses! this is interesting," said Sir Kenneth,
laughing.-" Ranulph, we must know more of this.-
Wherefore, then, comes this rivalry, and what is its ob-
ject ? My Lord Osbaldistone is high in favour with the
King's Majesty. He obtained the wardship of my sister,
Mistress Beatrice Fane, to see whom is the main object
of my visit to these parts. Tell me, good mine host,
what is his quarrel with Sir Ralph, and when did it
Marry that is more than I can tell, or any in this coun-
try-side. It hath been a quarrel of long standing, handed
down from father to son, so long as Falconers and Osbaldi-
stones have been in these parts. Methinks it now rests
chiefly with my Lord Osbaldistone, who has set covetous
eyes upon the fair lands surrounding Wierwold Hall, and
would fain make them his own. He has amassed much
land of late. The King has given him grants of land, they
say, and now his property extends up to the very confines
of Wierwold Hall. It is said that he is resolved to possess
that too ere he has done, but I know not the truth of such
tales. It is long since I have been five miles from mine
own doors. Much do I hear from the mouths of others,
TlHE SIGn OF THLE [TJITE, II 011.7
but it is little I should like to vouch for as to the truth
of these same reports."
The travellers appeared interested in all that was said,
and exchanged smiling glances.
So we are to step into the midst of a long-standing
feud," said Sir Kenneth. This savours of the days of
romance, which some men say have gone by for ever.
What wilt thou lay, good comrade, that I pay thee not
a visit in the stronghold of the foe ? It were a merry
pastime, in sooth, thus to meet, and to learn for ourselves
the truth of these same reports of which our good host
Ay, and he speaks no more than the truth," answered
Ranulph. I remember now, albeit it had escaped me
heretofore, that there was a bitter feud betwixt Wierwold
and Heathcliffe. It is so many long years since I was in
these parts that the matter had passed out of my thoughts,
but I well recall it now. Methinks, good Kenneth, thou
wilt scarce obtain entrance at Wierwold Hall if thou comes
from the castle of the foe."
And yet my purpose holds to come," answered Kenneth,
with that smile of conscious power which had from the
first attracted Guy. "I mean to come and to win myself
a welcome.-Say, mine host, are not all travellers received
with kindliness in these parts ? And are there not to be
such gay doings at Wierwold as will secure to all comers
a joyous welcome ? "
"Nay, now, I know not that, unless you speak of the
merry Christmas-tide, which is kept by high and low as a
24 THE SIGN OF THE WHITE WOLF.
season of high revel. Ay, sir, at Christmas all honest folk
are made welcome to bed and board whatever their degree,
so long as they will help on the festive merriment of the
season. Few questions are asked, and good-will is the
order of the day. Even a foe might haply find a welcome
at such a time as that."
Ay, and it is not Christmas alone that will be thus
celebrated at Wierwold Hall," answered Ranulph, but
the coining of age of the heir, my young kinsman, Geoffrey
Falconer. It is to help to do him honour that I have
travelled thus far to be present on the day. He first saw
the light on C('l-I tin ..--.', methinks; wherefore on this
particular festival high revel is to be kept, at the which I
have long purposed to be present."
"Why, verily, that is sooth," answered Nicholas reflect-
ively, rubbing his head. "Ay, I mind me well the snowy
('I,1 r-i ...-..h. when the heir was born. It must indeed
be just one-and-twenty years agone by now. And so they
are to keep the day right jovially! Well, I am glad to
know that it will be so. I had feared such festivities
would be little to the liking of her proud ladyship-"
But at that point the man pulled up short, as if uncer-
tain of the wisdom of proceeding. It might not be safe
to gossip too freely of the Falconer family to one who was
bound for that house.
But Ranulph looked up quickly.
Nay, now, be not afraid to speak. I have some notion
of thy meaning. What do they say of this second Lady
Falconer ? She is no kindred of mine. Thou needest not
THE SIGN OF THE WHIIITE fWOLF
fear to speak. I have heard a whisper ere this that she
bears no tender love to those to whom she should stand in
the mother's place."
"Ay-that is what folks say-she would fain see her
own son, the lad Ralph, in the place of heir of Wier-
wold. Mayhap such feeling is but natural in a mother;
still there is a whisper that it bodeth no good to the heir
himself. But it is only by hearsay that I speak. I have
had no knowledge of the place since the sweet lady died
who was the only mistress I ever knew there."
"But surely there is another son standing betwixt
young Ralph and the heirship ?" remarked Ranulph, with
a reflective look. Did not the first Lady Falconer die in
giving birth to a son? What has become of that lad?
Has he died likewise ? I know so little of the matters
pertaining to the Falconers of late years, that I might well
have remained in ignorance had they lost a son."
Nicholas Holt coughed behind his hand, and stole a
glance at Guy, whose face had crimsoned over. It was
rather a difficult question to answer, the worthy man be-
ing uncertain how far Sir Ralph wished the lad's identity
to be concealed from his present lady. It had sometimes
occurred to him that he might have some motive in thus
ignoring his boy, and if this were the case the secret ought
not to be too readily betrayed.
"Marry there is no second son living at Wierwold, save
only the youthful Ralph," he said, after a perceptible pause.
" But there is a fair daughter-the sweet Ml. Ermen-
garde, of whom all speak in high praise both for her
20 THE SIGN OF THfE WHITE W'OLF
beauty and her saintly life. It is said that she will
shortly take the veil in some convent hard by; but I
know not with what truth men speak thus."
"Doubtless the step-dame would like well enough to
see her there," said Sir Kenneth, who had listened with
interest to this story. But these are scarce the days for
young maidens to enter the religious life. If what men
say is coming come, there may soon be no religious houses
left in the land. The King, it is rumoured, has been
mightily stirred by what he has heard respecting the lives
of those who have taken the vows, and purposes to make
strict inquisition into the truth of the report. Men say
that matters will not end, as in past days, with mere ad-
monition, and here and there a fine. It is rumoured that
such houses as have fallen from their high estate will be
swept from off the face of the land; and it will be ill
indeed for those who have found shelter within their
The lads exchanged wondering glances, and Nicholas
crossed himself as though he had heard some blasphemy.
Despite the leaven of the new opinions, and the wave of
freedom of thought which was beginning to be felt through-
out the length and the breadth of the land, the traditions
and beliefs of centuries were deeply rooted in men's minds,
whilst matters which in London were being freely discussed
had not even been whispered abroad in the remoter parts
of the country. To speak a word against the religious
houses or the religious life seemed like rank heresy; and
although men were beginning to read the Scriptures and to
THE SIGN OF THE WH111TE WOLT
think for themselves as they had never done before, still
the name of heretic was odious to them, and they hugged
the phantom they spoke of under the name of Holy Church
long after they had come to see that the holiness had well-
nigh departed from her, and that the Church was some-
thing altogether broader and wider than they themselves
had ever dreamed of hitherto.
Nay, now, the saints and the Holy Virgin protect us
from such a peril as that," quoth the Inn-keeper piously.
" What would become of the poor and needy, the sick and
the dying, were our houses of religion to be closed ? His
blessed Majesty can never lend his aid to such a deed.
Men said it was bad enough when he brought upon the
whole land an interdict from his Holiness the Pope (not
that I myself have been able to see that we have been a
penny the worse for it, to be sure); but to sweep away
our religious houses! for sure men must be dreaming to
think of such a thing. Why, the whole country would be
in arms. 'Twould be a terrible thing."
Sir Kenneth laughed lightly. "Ah good mine host,
many things are done by slow degrees that men have
deemed impossible beforehand. But whatever may befall
in the future, take you this to heart, our bold King Hal
knows mightily well what he is about. He will not
plunge the kingdom into war for nothing. He has the
heart of a lion, but the head of a statesman. He has the
good of the nation at heart as perhaps no prince has had
it before. He who now styles himself the Head of the
Church will surely have the good of that Church steadily
28 THE SIGN OF THE ;:-._ WOLF.
before him in the policy he elects to pursue, be it what
By this it may be seen that Sir Kenneth was a man of
what may be styled very "advanced views" for the age
in which he lived, and that he could contemplate with
a certain exultation the prospective changes which were
making others shake with dread and rage, and were
causing a quiver of horror to pass through the minds
even of some amongst those who had drunk deeply at
the fountain of the new and as yet barely authorized
fountains of knowledge. Nicholas Holt himself was a
man who was well used to the airing of all shades of
opinion, and he had a decided leaning towards the re-
formed faith, although he had made no open schism from
the authorized Church. But he had never heard any one
of rank and knowledge speak in quite such a free way of
abuses and reform, and he felt rather as though a glass of
cold water had been suddenly dashed in his face.
Yorkshire, with its strongholds of monasticism at Selby
and York, was Papist to the core as regards the mass of
the people; and though Lord Osbaldistone had set the
example of blind adhesion to whatever the King might
say or do, the lower orders had barely awakened to the
consciousness that changes of some kind were impending.
And with the stolid conservatism which has been the
backbone of the English constitution from earliest times,
they tacitly and sullenly resolved to repel innovation, and
to stand by the traditions of their forefathers, whether or
not they understood them, or could be made to see that
THE SIGN OF THE WfHITE WOLF
abuses had gathered about them which required strong
measures for their arrest.
Meantime, whilst Nicholas and Sir Kenneth chatted to-
gether on questions of public import, Guy had drawn
nearer to the other traveller, and was asking tentative
questions about Wierwold Hall and its inhabitants. Often
for months together he never thought of his ancestral
home. Of late years he had almost ceased to regard him-
self as aught but the son of the Inn. But something in
the words lately spoken had aroused in him a sudden and
vivid interest. Nicholas Holt had never spoken so openly
in his hearing before of the step-mother and her inimical
feelings towards his brother Geoffrey. Hitherto that
brother had been but a name to, him; now he suddenly
felt a kindling of interest in him. Was he in some
danger ? Would the haughty step-dame try to make
away with him by some secret machinations ? In those
days sudden and 1.v- .I..i,- deaths, said to be due to
poison, were by no means unfrequent. A designing
woman might with small difficulty accomplish such a deed
were her mind set upon it. As he sat and chatted with
Ranulph, who appeared to take a decided liking to this
bright-faced, intelligent lad, he grew more and more in-
terested in what he heard. For the first time in his life
he began to entertain a wish to see his father, his brother,
and his sister. Their guest of the night had been an
inmate of Wierwold Hall many years gone by, and told
him much that aroused his curiosity. When the two lads
presently sought the chamber they shared together in an
30 THE SIGN OF THE ;:' --.-." WOLF.
attic beneath the sloping thatch, Guy was unwontedly
silent for a while, and then suddenly broke forth,-
"Diccon, I have a plan. I too will to Wierwold Hall.
I will be one of those who make merry there in honour of
the coming of age of the heir-my brother C-..!-!._-;."
Thou wilt go there I thou wilt declare thyself! Alas,
Guy, an thou doest so thou wilt never come back to be
my brother again."
"Ay, but I will," cried the boy, throwing his arm about
Diccon's shoulder. "I will return-never fear. I love
not halls. I love not the caprices of a haughty step-dame.
And listen: it is not as Guy Falconer that I go thither, but
as some wanderer or stranger. Dost think I will disclose
myself ere my father bid me come forward and own me
as his son ? Never Yet I will see him and my brother
face to face ere many more suns have risen and set."
THIE FOORE]RUNNAERS OF TIHE PURITAArNS
Where is the little one ?"
"I have not seen her this past hour. Methinks she
must have slipped across to the Convent. Perchance she
hath run thither with the dried herbs and simples I was
preparing yestere'en for the Reverend Mother."
The hum of the busy spinning-wheel had ceased for the
moment, whilst the tall, slim maiden raised her head to
answer her mother's question. An artist would have de-
lighted in the picture presented by the dark panelled room
and its one occupant. Possibly some slight description of
both may not be amiss here.
The house was only a farm now, but a century ago it
had been a Manor of some standing-one of those many
Manor-houses which had suffered so greatly in the Wars of
the Roses that it had never recovered its former grandeur,
and had sunk to the level of a mere farm-house, to be
tenanted by a yeoman instead of a knight. But a few
relics of its former higher estate lingered within its pro-
32 THE FOREtRUNJNERS OF THE PURITANS.
cincts, and one of these was the lofty panelled chamber,
with its mullioned window and groined roof, in which
the maiden now sat spinning, the bright December sun-
shine lighting up the braids of her golden hair shaded
by a light, veil-like coif, which, although she had not yet
aspired to the matron's estate, she wore out of respect to
the wishes of her mother.
Esther Garth was the sister of the present tenant of
Friars' Meads, as the house was now called. It was church
property, but was let on rental to one Roger Garth, who
farmed it with unwonted success and skill. His mother
and his sister passed the greater part of their time beneath
his roof, and acted the part of mother and elder sister to
his only child, the little Dorothy, who had lost her mother
before she had completed her second year, and had come
to regard her Grandam as the only mother in the world
Esther was a singularly beautiful maiden. Her face
was one that instantly riveted attention wherever she
went; and yet it was hard to define exactly wherein the
charm lay. Her features were not faultless, though the
curve of her thoughtful lips was very sweet, and there
was a certain calm nobility stamped upon her lineaments
which could not but arouse admiration and respect. Her
eyes were perhaps her most marked feature, so calm, so
clear, so steady in their luminous glance, and withal so full
of grave sweetness, and of that peculiar brightness which
takes the reflection of the soul within, and not that of the
glamour of the world without.
TIE FORER UNNERS OF TIHE PURITANS. 33
Her eyes were deeper than the depths
Of waters stilled at even,"
as a modern poet has written of his blessed damozel;"
and the phrase fits excellently well with the impression
produced by the eyes of Esther Garth, who, even at the
early age of one-and-twenty, looked like a woman who
had a history of her own.
There was a wide doorway in one wall of the panelled
chamber which led through a short passage into the
kitchen; and through this passage Esther's mother came
stepping with the light, active tread of youth, somewhat
at variance with the snowy whiteness of the rim of hair
which peeped from beneath the widow's coif. Upon her
small, pale face there was just a shade of anxiety.
Thinkest thou, my daughter, that the little one goeth
too oft to yon cloistered house ? I would not needlessly
disturb her innocent pleasures, and the good Sisters are
right fond of the sweet little maid, but-"
Madam Garth (she was always so called from the fact
that foreign blood ran in her veins, and she was scarce
reckoned as an Englishwoman even now by the rustics,
although she had lived amongst them for many a long
year) paused with an expressive glance, and Esther looked
into her face with her calm, sweet smile.
Thou needst not fear, little Mother," she said, in her
full, caressing accents. The child will learn nought to
harm her there, and it is a solace to those worn and weary
women to look upon anything so bright and sweet and
fearless as her merry child's face. I trow there is more
34 THE FORERUNNERS OF THE PURITANS.
than one amongst them. who recalls in our Dorothy's
innocent chatter the vanished childhood which for them
may never return in the lives of sweet-faced children of
their own. And Sister Bianca is sick, and craves to see
the little one each day. Our Dorothy will take no harm
in early learning to think for the poor and sick and suf-
Nay, nay, I would that all young things were taught
that lesson early, and the Sisters are indeed to be pitied in
many a way. I would not deny them the solace of the
child's company, save for the fear that they would fill her
young mind with those false and dangerous notions which
might lead her to look upon the burial of the cloister as
the highest service for her Master above."
Esther smiled calmly and serenely.
Methinks there is small fear of that, little Mother. I
soothly think that it is they who know little of such
matters who are most drawn thus to seclude themselves.
The sense of longing for the calm and peace and ceaseless
devotion of the cloistered life is natural in its way to every
woman in these hurrying, tumultuous days-more so to
those who hold by the ancient faith, and the belief in
works rather than simple Christian faith. But the eyes of
one like our Dorothy, eyes that have seen so much behind
the veil, are less like to be blinded than others. She
cometh to me times and again with such questions as these:
'Why do the Sisters get so angry if the bread be not rightly
baked, or if their woman doth not wash their caps to their
liking ? They scold far worse than Grandam ever does,
THE FORERUNNERS OF TIHE PURITANS. 35
however wrong the wenches be, and whatever trouble they
give her. I thought the Sisters were holier than the rest
of us. Why do they get so angry?'"
The mother smiled slightly, and the little pucker smoothed
itself from her brow.
Ah, the little one will find that not even the cloister
wall is strong enough to keep out the evil passions which
flesh is heir to. Perchance it may be well that she should
have her eyes opened thus young, for she hath somewhat
of the craving after that ideal goodness which hath led
many a young girl to take the veil. Thou dost not think
I need fear ? Thou knowest that I would live in charity
with all men, and think the best of friends and foes alike.
And yet thou knowest too, my daughter, that there are
times when the lesson of charity is hard to put in practice."
And a strange shade crossed Madam Garth's face, which
Esther was not slow to see, and the cause of which she at
She rose, and came and put her arms about her mother's
He would be the first to bid thee forgive, sweet Mother,
and not visit on others who it may be would never have
stood by to see the deed done that has robbed us of father
A sort of shiver shook the woman's frame. For one
moment she put her hands before her eyes, as if to shut
out some horrid sight, and then with a slight shudder she
let them drop to her side.
That deed was done in the name of the ('i1,i,..i," she
36 T-HE FORERUNNERS OF THE PURITANS.
said, almost beneath her breath,-" that Church which
hath stained red the ground with the blood of innumer-
That 'noble army' of which our father is one," said
Esther, with a strangely kindling glance. Ah, Mother,
11..1t!.-i, shall we grudge him that crown, now that the
suffering hath so long been ended ? "
The woman raised her head, and there was a strange
mingling of horror and of triumph in her glance as she
Nay, my daughter, I grudge him not his place in that
noble army. There are moments when methinks I hear
already the triumph-song of the redeemed, and his voice
mingling in it. But there are scenes upon which mipe
eyes have looked that will never, never be blotted out of
remembrance. It seemeth to me a fearsome thing for man
to bind himself over to blind obedience to any power-be
it even the power of the Holy Church, as she is called-and
reserve not to himself the use of his own reason, his own
conscience, his own interpretation of God's all-wise and all-
merciful laws. Wherefore, whilst calling all men brothers,
and regarding all with brotherly love, I fear sometimes lest
the little one grow too fond of the cloister and its inmates,
albeit I love each gentle Sister right well myself."
I trow thou needst not fear for her, sweet Mother,"
answered Esther, smiling. The little one hath little love
for blind obedience, and her father hath taught her to
question and think as few children of her age have been
encouraged to do. She is loyal to the tenets in the which
THE FORERUNNERS OF THE PURITANS. 37
she hath been reared; and the remembrance of the history
of her grandsire at York she will never, never forget.
Child as she was at the time, what she heard and saw then
will never fade from her mind. Fear not to let her come
and go at will. She will never disgrace the martyr blood
that runs in her veins."
Madam Garth smiled her strange inward smile once
again, looking out over the white world with the far-away
expression in the dark eyes which her daughter had in-
herited. She was a small, slightly-built woman, a head
shorter than Esther, who had inherited some of her
father's stately height and English colouring. i. ....
Garth's face was thin and pointed, and the complexion was
dusky olive, though the skin was very fine in texture, and
was seamed with innumerable tiny wrinkles. She was a
native of France--one of those whose fathers had been the
pioneers of the Reformation-and her own parents had
sought the protection of the German Str I., where freedom
of conscience was not visited by the stake. Here Roger
Garth, flying his own land from the storm of persecution
his boldness had brought upon his head, found and fell in
love with her, and finally, when he thought himself safe,
brought her with him to his native land.
Religious persecution in England was carried on more by
fits and starts than in the systematic and relentless fashion
of other lands. It depended more upon the wave of feeling,
or the ruling statesman of the hour, than upon the existing
laws, which were in all conscience severe enough, but by no
means always rigorously enforced. It has seemed even
38 THE FORERUNNERS OF THE PURITANS.
from early days as though there was something repellent
to the instincts of the nation in the thought of persecution
for conscience' sake, and stanch Romanist as Wolsey was,
he avoided whenever he could do so inflicting death upon
heretics. But others less enlightened and less humane had
jurisdiction in the land. Wolsey fell under the King's dis-
pleasure, and matters were left to the rule of those who
hated heresy with the bitter hatred of jealous fanaticism.
Roger Garth was seized red-handed in the act of adminis-
tering comfort of an unorthodox kind at the dying-bed of
one who was called a son of the Church. He was carried
to York Castle and racked again and again to extort con-
fession of his accomplices," and to give up the names of
those who had listened to his damnable words." As he
proved obdurate, and would neither answer questions nor
renounce his errors, he was burned alive within the city, as
a warning to all others of like opinions, his wife standing
by and encouraging him to the last, regardless of the risk
she ran in thus doing.
But vengeance seemed glutted by this one martyrdom,
and no notice was taken of the family of the martyr.
They were given shelter by Robert Garth, a mercer of the
city, and a brother of the deceased, and lived beneath his
roof in safety until the son Roger was rich enough to rent
the Friars' Meads, and make a home for his mother and
sister there. As he had married young, and was already a
widower with one little girl, he was glad and thankful for
the presence of these relatives at his house.
The gradual change coming over public opinion had
THIE FORERUNAERS OF THE PURITANS. 39
rendered the Garth household secure from farther molesta-
tion on the subject of religious opinion. i[ I- stood in no
present peril of faggot or rack, but the scenes through
which they had passed were such as leave indelible traces
upon both young and old, and no one could be long in the
presence of Madam Garth or her children without being
aware of the existence of some past history which had left
its mark upon them all.
Mother and daughter did not often talk together of
those past days; perhaps in the future they might speak
more, when the keen edge of memory was somewhat blunted.
Now as they stood a deep silence fell upon them, which
was broken by Esther, who said,-
Here comes the little one back."
There was the sound of light childish footsteps across
the threshold, and in through the open door tripped a
sunny-faced child, wrapped in a brown duffel cloak and
hood, from beneath which the yellow curls peeped roguishly
out. She paused a moment on the door-sill to drop a
winsome little courtesy to the Grandam, as she had been
taught to do from her babyhood, and then came eagerly
.,--- ,.1, plainly waiting to be bidden to speak, though she
would not have opened her lips without leave.
What is it, little one ? thou mayest tell us all."
"I am just from the Convent, Grandam. I ran thither
with the herbs the Reverend Mother wanted; and Sister
Bianca kept me a while beside her. She could not leave
her bed, and I thought thou wouldst let me stay to cheer
her. And as I was slipping out through the little door
40 THE FORIERUINNERS OF TIHE PURITANS.
into our own orchard, there was Guy looking over the
wall. He told me that two strangers had lodged the night
at the Inn, and that they would like to visit this house,
and see the carving of our chimney nook, and the fretwork
of the roof here overhead. They are travellers, and are
pleased to see whatever the country hath to show them.
I dared not say yes till I had asked leave. Guy is waiting
without for an answer."
Madam Garth smiled. Guy was a favourite of hers; he
generally was a favourite with all with whom he came in
contact. She gave a ready assent to the request, and the
child darted out with the message.
It might have been ten minutes later when there was a
sound without of feet and voices. Guy entered the room,
doffing his cap to the ladies, and ushering into the panelled
parlour two stalwart and well-dressed travellers, who paid
their respects with all courtesy to the inmates, and looked
with admiration upon the fine fretwork of the vaulted roof,
and the coats of arms deeply carved in many of the panels.
"I trust you will pardon this our intrusion," said the
younger of the pair, addressing Madam Garth, "but I have a
shrewd notion that my forefathers lived beneath this very
roof long years agone now.-Ha! seest thou this shield,
good Kenneth ? The cognizance, in truth, of the Oglebys
-three greyhounds gules, on ground argent; and see, there
are greyhounds everywhere, their heads supporting the
shelf, their slim tails curling round the pillars. In sooth
it was no idle guess. This has been the home of my fore-
fathers at some far-distant period."
THE FORERUNNERS OF JiHE PURITANS. 41
Madam Garth was interested in the young man's family
history, as he traced it in some of the many quaint carvings
about the old house, and she gladly accompanied him
upon a tour of inspection over the rambling old homestead,
every spot of which had a charm for him. Sir Kenneth
meantime remained below in conversation with Esther,
Guy and little Dorothy standing by and listening, and
sometimes exchanging whispers on their own account be-
neath their breath.
But the travellers could not linger long, notwithstanding
that they appeared loath, to tear themselves away. Their
horses and servants were awaiting them without, and they
had a good journey before them ere the brief winter's day
drew to its close. They said a courteous adieu to their
hostesses, and attended by Guy walked out to the gate
where their steeds waited.
A marvellous fair maiden," said Sir Kenneth, with a
backward glance towards Esther, whose tall, straight figure
was thrown into relief by the dark background of the
doorway, as she stood with the golden-haired child beside
her to watch the travellers away; I trow she has gentle
blood in her veins. I have met fine Court dames whose
speech and bearing may not compare with hers. Who are
these same Garths, good lad ? Surely they are something
above the common farmer folk around."
"Ay, truly, methinks they are the best and noblest
people the world e'er saw," cried the lad, in honest en-
thusiasm. "The maiden's ,i.1,. was a right godly and
learned man; one of those who .il: ,. .1 for his faith as a
42 THE FORERUiYNNEFRS OF TIIE PURITIANS.
heretic, albeit I am certain he never could have spoken or
taught aught but what was good and true. M1adam Garth,
they say, is descended from a noble house, but she, too, has
been an outcast for the faith. Men have been wont to
look with disfavour upon them all, for fear the Church
should brand them with the name of heretic; but if what
people now say is coming to pass, there will be no need
to tremble for them in the fiin. "
Ay, boy," answered Kenneth, with suddenly kindling
glance, it is they and such as they who have paved the
way for the glorious day now about to dawn upon this
land, when every man shall have leave to think for him-
self, and worship his God as his conscience dictates. All
honour be unto them who have been !.:.' ... r. in the
1 ,__1 and who have watered with their blood the seed
which their hands have helped to sow." And with these
words, spoken with some vehemence, the traveller swung
himself to his saddle and set spurs to his horse, nodding
his farewell to Guy as he did so, and leaving the boy
looking after him with a good deal of honest admiration;
for there was something very attractive in Sir Kenneth
Fane, and he gave the impression of being a strong man
very much in earnest.
When the last of the little cavalcade had vanished down
the white road, Guy turned back to the house once more.
From the way in which he went f..! ..1i through the dim
passage, it was plain that he was very much at home
there; and he did not pause till he reached the panelled
chamber, where he found Esther and Dorothy sitting-
THE FORERUNNERS OF THE PURITAINS. 43
Esther once more employed with her spinning; whilst the
little one had taken her favourite seat at her aunt's feet,
and was watching the dancing flames as they roared up
the wide chimney. She turned her head as she heard
footsteps and smiled brightly.
Here is Guy, Aunt Esther," she said. "Did I not say
he would come back ? "
Guy came f .. I'.1 smiling, and stood beside the chim-
ney, whilst he watched Esther's deft fingers turning the
distaff and winding the flax with the ease and steadiness
of continual practice.
It had long been Guy's habit to come to the house of the
Garths for advice or counsel in any time of physical or
mental need. Despite their opinions, which he did not
believe he shared, as he had been reared a Romanist accord-
ing to his father's wishes, he thought them the truest and
best of all the persons he had ever known, and loved them
with that species of reverent love which is an elevating in-
fluence in a boy's life. It had never occurred to him that
this love and reverence might lead to a loosening of the tie
which bound him to the form of religion he had been taught
by the Brothers of the Monastery of 3,l.,l: Frystone hard
by. He was hardly of an age to concern himself greatly
with these matters, and was content to take instruction in
a perfunctory way without considering greatly how far it
went home to his heart, and believing all he was told
without weighing matters for himself.
He never heard within the walls of Friars' Meads any-
thing to startle or shock him, and the intercourse between
44 THE FORERUNNERS OF TIIE PURITANS.
the inmates of the farm and the Convent close beside it
was pleasant and reassuring. Guy was certain that at
such a house as this he could get no harm, and his fre-
quent visits there were rebuked by no one.
Esther glanced up at the boy, and seeing that he was
unwontedly grave, she fancied he had some plan to un-
fold. He was looking thoughtfully into the glow of the
fire, and there was a set purpose in his face.
"Thou hast somewhat to tell us, Guy? she said.
"Ay, I have," he answered: "I have come hither for
advice. Esther, I have heard that my brother Geoffrey
comes of age this Christmas-tide nigh upon us, and that
there will be feasting and merry-making beyond the wont
at Wierwold Hall. It came into my head to ask, Why
should not I be there to see ? Am I to grow up for ever
a stranger to mine own people ? May I not at least
know what manner of semblance they wear, that I might
know them were it our lot to meet in the world in days
to come ? "
Esther gave him a quick, searching glance; whilst little
golden-haired Dorothy sprang eagerly to her feet and
caught hold of Guy's hand, looking earnestly and wistfully
into his face.
"Thou wilt not go away never to return, Guy ? thou
wilt not let them keep thee there ? Oh, say that thou
wilt come back an thou goest! We should miss thee so
sorely didst thou go never to return."
A bright smile flashed over Guy's face as he returned
the clasp of the child's hand.
THE FORERUNVNERS OF THE PURITANS. 45
Oh, I shall come back, little one-never fear for that;
and I go not as Guy Falconer, a son of the house, but as
some lowly traveller in need of a night's shelter. So long
as my father bids me not enter his doors as a son, I will
never thrust myself upon him. At such a time of revelry
all comers will be welcome, and few questions asked. Had
there been time to think of all, I might have joined the
party of Mr. Ranulph Ogleby, who is bound thither to be
present at these revels. But there may be others on the
road. I can soon find mine occasion an I watch for it.-
Tell me, Esther-do I right in this ? I know not how it
is, but since I heard and took part in some converse
yestere'en, I have a strange -. rein. never felt before, to
look upon the faces of mine own brother and sister. I
had scarce grasped before that they existed. Since I do
so now, methinks I must needs look upon them, that I
may know them."
"It were indeed a natural and brotherly 1.. _! _," an-
swered Esther. "I see no reason why thou shouldst not
go. Thou knowest that the Mother hath always said it
were a strange and untoward fate that kept thee from
thine own home and kindred these long years of thy
Nay, I think not so," answered Guy eagerly. "I love
my home, the White Wolf. I love the freedom, the
change, the coming and going. I love to talk with every
kind of man, and learn what this great realm is thinking
and doing and like to do. I would not live mewed up in
rocky fastnesses, with scarce a soul to visit us through all
46 THE FORERUiNNERS OF THE PURITANS.
the long snowy winter days; and I would not be beneath
the hard rule of the haughty step-dame of whom all men
speak with fear. I am happier here with my foster-
parents, and with thee and thine for friends.-Nay, never
think I will not return, Dorothy. It will not be long
before thou seest me back once more, to tell thee all the
adventures I have met with at the house where I was
"Oh, then go, go, go !" cried Dorothy, clapping her
hands in childlike glee. "I would I might go with
thee. I would fain see the world and learn what adven-
tures are like. It will be like some minstrel's song-how
that thou goest in disguise to thy fathers' halls, and moves
amongst them all unbeknown. I would I were a poet
myself, that I could sing the lay. Thou wilt surely go
and come again, and tell us all that thou hast done."
"Ay, verily I will," answered the boy, his grave face
lighting into smiles; and Esther, looking once more up at
him, saw the shadow of a new manhood stealing upon him,
all unknown to himself, as if he were leaving behind the
estate of careless boyhood, in which he had lingered
hitherto, and were beginning to realize something of the
duties of life, and to take upon himself some of its
responsibilities. His own kin had hitherto been but
names to him: he had scarce given them a thought.
After this prospective journey to Wierwold Hall, would
this state of calm indifference continue ? and if not, would
it be for weal or woe that the boy recognized the claims
of kinship that had never been extended to him ?
THE FORERU1AN ERS OF TIHE PURITAAS. 47
Methinks thou art right, Guy," she said, after con-
sidering his face attentively for a few moments. It hath
been a strange upbringing for thee, and perchance a happy
one; but the ties of blood are ties from Heaven, and
nothing can quite sever them. Go, and it may be thou
wilt learn to love thy brother and thy sister, and where
love is there is often power to succour and strengthen and
support. It may be that it is thy life's work calling to
thee. If so, fear not to follow. Only pray for a blessing
on thy path, and guidance in all that thou doest"
Guy gave Esther a quick, grateful look. He felt him-
self understood down to the very deepest aspirations and
unformulated thoughts of his heart. He was not surprised
at the seriousness of the words addressed to him. It was
the way of that household to take life seriously, and Guy
had not found that its members were any less happy for
so doing. Even little Dorothy was the brightest of chil-
dren, though well used to the serious talk of her elders;
and Guy was not sorry that there were those who did not
treat the step he proposed to take as a pure freak of boy-
hood, a simple means of gaining amusement for ...-. ii
At the Inn the idea was looked on more as a joke than in
any other way; but Guy felt it something more than that,
and was grateful to Esther for her clear and sympathetic
"Master and Ai ... Holt fear not to let thee go?"
questioned Dorothy, who was still hanging on his hand.
"Nay; they bid me do as I will. And Diccon would
fain go with me, but I fear his riotous spirits would betray
48 TIHE FORLERUiWNERS OF THE PURITANS.
the secret, and he is needed at home likewise. I would
not say for certain if I would go until I had seen thee,
Esther, and had asked thy counsel; but I will return now,
and wait my chance. Maybe there will be others on the
road whom I may join, and so escape question."
Guy said a brief adieu, and returned to the Inn, to find
everything there in some bustle and confusion, owing to
the arrival of a troop of play-actors and mummers, who
were bound, as he quickly and to his great satisfaction dis-
covered, for no other place than Wierwold Hall, where
they were to hold high revel for the entertainment of the
household and its guests.
The commotion was caused in part by the arrival of
such a numerous company, and partly on account of the
sudden and alarming indisposition of one member of the
troop, a lad of some fifteen summers, who had been
seized with a sudden colic, as it was termed, not far from
the Inn door, and was so exceedingly ill as to rouse the
gravest apprehensions for his life. He had been carried
into a place apart in one of the outbuildings--for the fear
of the plague or some malignant fever was always upper-
most in the minds of those who entertained strangers from
no man knew whither-and already one of the nursing
Sisters from the Convent of the Sacred Heart had come to
attend upon the -iil.-..... Nobody else was allowed to
approach, save to bring the Sister what she needed; and
Guy made his way into the crowded kitchen, where
the rest of the travellers had assembled, and where
the chief of the band was loudly bemoaning the mis-
THE FORERUNNERS OF THE PURIT4ANS. 49
chance which had robbed him of one of his most valuable
The play will be ruined," he was saying in mournful
accents: "it will be nothing without the lad, and not a
soul of these slow-witted fellows here can learn the part
in time. The Holy Virgin send him a speedy recovery,
else we are all undone I The play would be the making
of us. Without it we have nought but the common
.ii__l; and tumbling, of which the good folks of the
better sort are becoming aweary. Good lack, good lack
what a thing life is! We could 'a' spared anybody better
than the lad, and, for sure, it is he and he alone that goes
to fall sick."
Guy listened to this and a great deal more to the same
effect in silence, an idea slowly forming in his brain; and
when a message was presently brought in that the Sister
had said the lad would be quite unable to travel for a
week to come at the least, even if he made the best pos-
sible recovery, he stepped up to the groaning master and
requested a word with him in private.
Much surprised, but taken by the handsome face and
mannerly address of the youth, the man at once complied;
and Guy led him to a small room apart from the company,
where they could speak at their ease.
Tell me now, I pray thee, good sir," said Guy, what is
this part thou speakest of in the play, and look me well
over and say, if I should be fit to play it, could I learn it
in the time? I am a good scholar. If thou hast the part
in writing, I should not take long, methinks, to master it.
50 THE FORERUNNERS OF THE PURITANS.
Prithee, tell me what thou thinkest. I have a mighty
fancy for seeing these same revels, and would fain seek an
excuse which my good father would listen to" (Guy
always spoke of the Inn-keeper as his father); and I ask
no pay for the work-only leave to go with thee and be
numbered in thy company. What thinkest thou ? Shall
I do, an I learn to rehearse the words and gestures ? "
"Do ? why, thou art the likeliest young cockerel I
have seen these many days, and I would I could have thee
for one of us, if thou be half as smart as thou lookest.-
See here, boy," searching in a wallet stuffed with parchment,
" this is the play. 'Tis a right merry one, as thou wilt
see, an thou art a scholar; and the merriest part of all is
that of the young prince-the lad. The dress I have for
him would mightily become thee, and gladly would I have
such a gallant young spark, canst thou but master the
words and fit them with gesture appropriate. I could
teach thee much of the craft an we gave ourselves to it;
but 'tis a brief time in which to learn, and perchance thou
hast never acted before."
"Try me and see," answered Guy, with a smile which
told of the consciousness of power; and praying to be left
alone with the manuscript, he carried it up to his chamber
out of the way of all noise and stir, and was soon deep in
the study of a part which he felt was one that he could
play and play well.
The century which gave a Shakespeare to England must
of necessity have been one in which the drama was dear
to the heart of the nation, and in which her sons must
THE FOREfRUNNTIERS OF THE PURITANS. 51
have had the power to excel. Guy was blessed with a
clear, retentive memory, a modest appreciation of his own
powers, and some decided histrionic skill, which had been
exercised many times for the amusement of the household
and its guest by scenes and dialogues between him and
Diccon, in which Guy always took the leading part. So
when at dusk the Master of the company sought Guy again,
he found him not only master of his part to an extent
far beyond his warmest hopes, but ready to play it with
the whole troop, with a spirit and humour and dash
that delighted them all; indeed it was agreed on all hands
that it was a happy accident which caused the original
prince to fall sick, so as to leave his part vacant for such
a substitute. Guy's noble bearing and refinement of voice
and gesture rendered his personification of a prince a
particularly happy one, and his desire to acquit himself
well in the eyes of his own relations made him throw
himself into the part with unwonted zeal, and won for
him the rapturous applause of all onlookers at the various
rehearsals instituted during the next two days.
Marry, thou wilt one day be a great actor thyself,"
said Diccon, as the final and dress rehearsal closed on the
eve of the start for Wierwold. I would I were going
with thee, Guy. I would fain hear what thine own kins-
folk think of thee, when they see thee in such fine feathers
and hear how thou canst play the king."
"Play the travelling mountebank rather," laughed Guy.
"I trow my father would be little pleased to claim kin-
ship with such spawn of the earth. But I go not as a son;
52 THE FORERUiUNNERS OF THE PURITANS.
I go only as a stranger, and mayhap my performance
may win me some kind notice from mine own flesh and
blood. Something within tells me that they will be kind
of heart and friendly."
And Guy went to bed to dream of his unknown brother;
and started off upon the morrow in great spirits as one
of the company of strolling players bound for Wierwold
ISTER, my mind is made up. I will endure it no
longer. I will away from this place, and that
soon. Life is barely endurable here."
A pair of soft, lustrous dark eyes were raised wistfully
to the face of Geoffrey Falconer, and a voice replied in
Home so soon from the hunt, Geoffrey ? What has
brought thee back before the rest ?"
Come out on to the terrace with me, Ermengarde; I
would speak with thee, and here even the walls may have
ears. I can never lose the sense that we are watched and
spied upon. Wrap thy mantle well about thee, for it is
bitter cold. But come, and we will walk together. In the
free air of the outer world one can at least breathe."
Ermengarde rose without a word, and laid down the
breviary she had been studying. She was clad very
simply for her rank in life, in a long black robe, which set
off the graceful proportions of her slim figure, and showed
up the dazzling fairness of her complexion. I-er only
ornaments were the snowy ruffles at throat and wrist, and
W'IEYR WOLD HALL.
the long rosary of carved ebony beads, with a silver
crucifix at the end. There was something almost suggest-
ive of the severity of a nun's garb in the dress of the
young maiden, and the long and ample cloak she wrapped
about herself as she rose to follow her brother increased
this resemblance not a little.
CG..._.ri y-, on his side, was dressed in a suit of hunting
green, and wore his plumed hat jauntily enough. He was
a very handsome youth, with yellow locks, blue eyes, and
frank, open face, to which distrust and suspicion seemed by
nature foreign. Yet his face was clouded just now by a
look of mingled anger and distress, and as he and his
sister passed through the hall on their way out of doors,
this look deepened upon his face, and a gleam of hatred
seemed to flash out of the well-opened blue eyes.
This look appeared to be directed towards a female
figure at the upper end of the hall. The back of the
figure was turned towards the brother and sister; and they
stepped softly across the warm and soft skin rugs which
lay about in 1p.f -i...! as though they had no wish to
attract the notice of the one occupant of the place.
Next moment they were outside, in the keen freshness
of the December afternoon, and a i. moments' walking
brought them to the secluded terrace walk, cut in the
thickness of the rock upon which the Hall was built-a
rock which fell away rapidly on this side towards a
brawling stream sixty feet below-which terrace was pro-
tected by a wall, perforated by loopholes, and was even in
the coldest weather a sheltered spot.
This was always the place selected by brother and sister
when they wished to talk with perfect freedom without
the possibility of being overheard. The smooth wall of
rock on one side and the parapet on the other supplied no
lurking-place for eaves-droppers to hide in. The sound of
their voices could not reach any point whence it could be
overheard, and here they always felt safe and alone, which
was by no means the case when they were within the
walls of that house.
What has befallen thee, -, .ti. y, this day, that thou
art so displeased?" asked Ermengarde, laying her hand
gently upon his arm. Is it some new thing ? "
New ? nay; methinks no new method of annoyance
and petty insult can be devised whereby I may stand
humiliated in the eyes of all who are there to see. It is
nought beyond what I have suffered a score of times before
from that imp of malice and mischief young Ralph. But
they say the last straw will break the camel's back. I
have borne with him till I am weary of bearing. The day
has well-nigh come when I shall stand a free man free to
come or to go as I will. And, by my troth, it is little
that V\i. .--,.li Hall shall see of me when that day has
passed. I will brook this treatment no longer; beshrew
me if I will!"
What has Ralph done?" asked Ermengarde.
Oh, nothing new ; only the same spiteful, monkey-
like tricks, whereby he spoils my sport and makes me the
laughing-stock of the hunting-party whenever he can. He
is ever at my side, spoiling my aim, robbing my gun of its
VWIE R WOLD HALL.
charge, jerking my elbow when I am about to strike the
quarry or let fly an arrow; and so quick and lithe withal
that no man sees how the mischance happens. They are
but pin-pricks to one's pride, but such pricks try the
temper and chafe the spirit sorely. And at home thou
knowest well how it is. That proud woman yonder would
gladly see me in my grave, so as her son might reign here
as heir. She is bitterer than ever, now that the season
draws nigh for these f,: t -- i.. to be held. I would the
day might pass unmarked. I am in no mood for feasting
and merry-making. I do but count the hours until I may
be gone hence."
Ermengarde made no reply for a few moments, and a
shadow seemed to fall upon her fair face.
"I shall miss thee sorely, brother, when thou art gone,"
she said softly, and heaved a little sigh.
He turned and glanced at her, pity for her loneliness
and youthful impatience at his own surroundings li ,_!i._i-'
together within him as he did so.
Sweet sister," he said, "methought that thou hadst
some plan of thine own for thy life in the days to come.
It would grieve me sore to leave thee here with her. But
hast thou not spoken ofttimes of the-"
Of the Convent walls-the blessed cloister ? said the
maiden, forestalling the words that he hesitated to speak,
a wonderful smile lighting her face as she spoke them.
" 0 my brother, thou canst little know how I long and
pine for the blessed rest and peace of that holy retreat,
where, shut out from all the turmoil, the greed, the striv-
WIER WOLD HALL.
ings of the world, I may give myself unto penance and
prayer; where I may be the humble companion and serv-
ant of the blessed Sisters who have kept themselves un-
spotted from the world; and where I may pray ceaselessly
for thee, my brother, and intercede with the Holy Virgin
to keep thee safe from harm and peril, as thou takes
thy way in the world. Oh, it would be such peace, such
bliss! There are moments when I fear even to let myself
think upon it, lest I repine too much against my present
G l-!!._- was pacing rapidly to and fro. E ..1.:
had loosed her hold upon his arm, and was gazing with an
expression of rapt intensity across the wide valley, and up
to the lonely heights, where the sun was sinking in a blaze
of .... !.. and crimson cloud. There was something so
ethereal in the expression of that lovely face that Geoffrey,
as he turned at the end of the walk and approached her
once more, held his breath in a species of awe. For a
moment he stood very still watching her, and then he mur-
mured a few words to himself.
"Surely it is the life for her. Men may mutter of
coming change; they may scoff at the truths which have
ruled the world hitherto, but have they anything half as
precious to give us in exchange ? Dare I say she is too
fair, too sweet to be hidden away thus behind the cloister
walls ? Can they be too beauteous, too pure and fair,
who are thus to be made fit to be called the Bride of
C'i, I ? Nay, the thought itself were blasphemy."
Hastily crossing himself, as though conscious of some
WIER VOLD HALL.
temptation suggested by the Evil One, Geoffirey stepped
gently to his sister and laid a hand upon her arm.
Sweetest sister, and if such be thy strenuous desire, why
should it not be even as thou desirest ? Far rather would
I leave thee in such safe-keeping than in the charge of yon
haughty dame, who wishes evil alike to me and thee,
though scarce so much to thee, I trust, as to me, who stand
in the light of her own son. Why should it not be as thou
wishes ? Our ',i.. is a faithful son of the (' 1in~: 1,
These new doctrines, of which we hear men speak, have in
no wise corrupted him. He abhors all manner of heresy,
and would sooner see a child of his in the grave than thus
tainted. Why shouldst thou not take the veil, if thy
heart is set on it ? Hast ever spoken to him ancnt such
a matter ?"
Ermengarde's thoughts returned to earth once more.
She turned her glance upon her brother and faintly shook
Ay, many a time have I so spoken. I would have
told thee, my brother, but I feared to anger thee the more
against her. My father would fain accede to my wish, but
he may not let daughter of his enter the Convent walls
without making suitable provision for her there, as becomes
his rank in life. And that he dares not do for fear of the
anger of his wife. She preys upon him for more money
than he can well furnish her with, and grudges every mite
spent upon me. He can do nothing without her knowledge,
and he fears her, our poor father. I know that he fears
her. And his pride will not let him send me undowered to
WIER WOLD HALL.
any Convent, albeit I would gladly serve in the humblest
state, might I but feel that those blessed doors had closed
upon me, to keep me for ever from the hard and treacherous
(...n !.y heard this explanation with a kindling of the
eye and a contraction of the brow which bespoke rising
If that is all the trouble, sweet sister, it may soon be
rolled away. Knowest thou that ere a week has passed I
shall be my own master, and master of such moneys as
were bequeathed me by our mother ere she died, which
moneys our father has kept for me, giving them over
into the safe-keeping of our kinsman Mr. Robert Aske,
from whom I am to demand my portion when I leave this
house anon ? There is a dower, too, for thee in his hands;
but it may not be given to thee till thou too reaches the
age of twenty-one. But when my portion is in my hands,
I will dower thee, sweet sister, so that thou needest wait
no longer. It shall never be said that I, thy brother, went
forth into the world to leave thee alone and unprotected to
the mercies of yon hard woman."
A great light had come into Ermcngarde's face. She
clasped her hands together, and her eyes shone with an
almost unearthly radiance.
Alone I ah, never alone! The Holy Virgin and the
blessed saints are ever with us on this lone pilgrimage, 0
my brother. Methinks I can almost see them ; and surely
they have heard the prayers ceaselessly offered to them by
these faltering lips. Surely it is their hands which have
'- "WOLD HALL.
thus opened the door through thee, my brother. Ah,
if they hear and answer prayers even now, what will
they not do when I may kneel night and day before
their blessed shrines, making intercession for those I
love, and above all for thee, so dear to me, so true, so
Geoffrey put his arm about her and kissed her, feeling
as though he might indeed go forth fearlessly into the
world if he had such a sister praying for him in the
cloister at home. If a pang went through him at the
thought of seeing her incarcerated in this living tomb, he
checked it as a suggestion of the devil. At least he would
go away happier for knowing her safe within Convent
walls, and it had not entered into his mind or the minds of
those about him that a time might come when even the
cloisters should be found insufficient protection for the
But the sun was setting, and the air grew very keen and
chill. Ermengarde shivered slightly beneath the folds of
her heavy cloak, and Geoffrey urged her to return. As
they mounted some steps which led back to the castle
portal, they saw before them a stretch of white road,
trodden by the feet of those who had passed and repassed
since the snow first fell; and Geoffrey, shading his eyes
with his hand, looked long and earnestly out eastward, and
then spoke quickly.
Travellers on the road, by my troth. Belike it is our
kinsman Ranulph Ogleby, who was to arrive this week. I
will to meet him. Go thou to the house and tell that
WIER WOLD HALL.
some guest is coming. Perchance our father may be by
this returned from the hunt." The sight of travellers was
welcome to the youth, and he sped down the steep road
with a light foot.
Wierwold Hall occupied a commanding situation on a
rocky eminence surrounded by water. On one side, the
brawling stream leaped along its pebbly bed with cease-
less noise; on the other, the channel had been dug by the
hands of man, and the water of the little river, partially
diverted from its natural course, joined the parent stream
below. At the junction, which was both wide and deep,
stood the drawbridge of the castle, which formed the only
means of ingress or egress, unless we take into account
that afforded by a boat which lay moored up against a
small postern door at the opposite side of the small
island, which was occupied by the stronghold and the
quarters of the retainers and servants.
The drawbridge in those days of peace remained down
the whole day, being raised only at night. Geoffrey dashed
across it at a rapid pace, and was soon within hailing dis-
tance of the travellers. As he approached, the foremost of
the horsemen, who was plainly the lord of the small band,
swung himself from his saddle, and advanced to meet the
My good cousin Geoffrey, I do not doubt," he said, as
they grasped hands together. "It is long since we met,
and thou wert but a lad, and I a mere stripling;
but methinks I should have known thee again in any
company. Thou hast so strong a likeness to thy mother
WIER IOLD HALL.
-heaven rest her soul-whom I truly and tenderly loved
when I was a motherless lad."
"Ah, would she had lived!" said Geoffrey, with a deep-
drawn sigh; "life at Wierwold would have been another
thing had her gentle presence remained amongst us."
Ranulph looked at him with kindly sympathy.
"The step-dame, then, is not all thou wouldest have ?
Rumour has muttered as much before," he said.
She is-nay, it were an unmanly and unmannerly
thing to say what she is," quoth Geoffrey, checking the
hasty words that rose hot to his lips.
He and Ranulph had played together as boys. Ranulph
was related to him on his mother's side. He felt at home
with him after the first few words of greeting had passed,
and there was something very comforting in the companion-
ship of another man, not so many years older than himself,
who would be likely to see his side of the silent struggle
always going on in the house, and to understand how in-
tolerable his position was often made, in a way that his
father could scarcely be expected to see it.
Fear not to speak to me," said Ranulph, who had heard
enough at the Inn about Wierwold and its inhabitants to
have a very shrewd notion as to the state of affairs exist-
ing there. "Am I not a kinsman of thine own ? I would
gladly help thee an I could. Why, if thou lovest not thy
home, dost thou linger there so long ? Other youths are
up and away ere they arrive at man's estate; why hast
thou remained beneath the old roof-tree when thou mightest
have been winning thy spurs elsewhere ?"
Ay, thou mayest well ask that," answered Geoffrey,
with a smile that was not without its bitterness. "But
the sons of knights may not ride abroad in the world
without horses and servitors, and money in their purses.
I would have been content with little. One horse, one
man, and money sufficient to take me to London, was all
I asked; but even that little I might not obtain. I know
not how it was. My step-dame hates the very sight of
me, yet she will not let me stir hence. It is her doing, I
know right well. My father would never thwart me. He
is kind to me when she is not by. But he fears her-I
know it. There are times when I almost believe she hates
him too. That she has deep-laid plots in her head I may
not doubt, and one of these has ever been to keep me fast
at Wierwold; to what end I cannot guess, save only the
greed that grudges me the money to make a start in the
Ranulph, who knew more of life, and had seen something
of the mysterious fashion in which superfluous and trouble-
some persons were oftentimes put out of the way, wondered
if there could be an ugly side to this desire to keep Geoffrey
at home. Ranulph had heard things about the second
Lady Falconer, although he had not been a guest at Wier-
wold since her rule commenced, and he had recollections
which tended to make him think that she had deal-
ings in what was called the Black Art and magic. The
youth was quite of the opinion that men could be done to
death by means of waxen effigies melted at the fire, or by
other fashions equally mysterious; yet certainly Geoffrey's
WIER WOLD HALL.
athletic frame and bronzed face gave no indication of
premature wasting, and if such machinations had been set
on foot against him they had been singularly unsuccessful.
But surely the time has come when thou canst choose
for -1,-..--1." he said; and C(...if.:-.-'s face lighted at the
"Ay, she cannot hold me here for ever. I have reached
man's estate, and my mother's portion will be mine. Wier-
wold will not see me here much longer. A few weeks
for preparation, and to let this bitter cold pass by, and
then I will up and away, to seek my fortune in the wide
world; beshrew me if I make not up for past misery in
the blithesome gladness of freedom then !"
If my Lady Falconer wishes to make away with the
heir before he leaves this i.l :-:.. she will have to bestir her-
self to better purpose," thought Ranulph, not without a
qualm of uneasiness. "Well, I will keep a close outlook
whilst I am here. Perchance I shall see something to tell
me how far my surmise be right. Yet what will his death
profit my lady ? there is surely another son."
Then turning to I'. -nt .. he asked,-
Hast thou not a sister and a brother ?"
"A sister in all sooth; the others are but indifferent
brother and sister to us. Young Ralph, my lady's son, is
the very pest of my life. Roxana is not a malicious elf,
yet a very elf for mischief and frolic. Me thinks there may
be good in the sprite. Ermengarde is fond of her ; but
I know less about her."
"But thine own brother-it was of him I spoke-the
VIER WOLD HALL.
brother who was at nurse when last we played together as
boys ? What became of him ? Surely he has since re-
turned to Wierwold ? "
Geoffrey shook his head, looking as if the idea was
altogether new to him, as indeed it was, for it was years
since he had even remembered that he had another brother.
"The babe must have died," he said slowly. We have
never heard his name spoken. He never came hither. He
must have died at nurse. I would indeed I had a brother
of mine own to roam the world with me.-But here we
come to the Hall; and see, here is my father just returned
from the chase. Thou art welcome indeed to Wierwold; I
would thou wouldst remain long our guest."
Out from the open door of the Hall stepped a strong
knightly form, and Ranulph found himself confronted by
his kinsman and host. Sir Ralph had the dark eyes in-
herited by Ermengarde, but in features his son resembled
him the more. Ranulph was struck at the first glance by
the extent to which the man had aged since he had seen
him last. His hair had turned from brown to gray, and
the face had sharpened, and was deeply lined with furrows.
Still, when he smiled the wrinkles seemed to smooth them-
selves away, and his manner was cheery and hearty, as it
had been in old times.
Within the Hall itself a cooler greeting awaited him
from a very stately and haughty-looking dame, whose great
beauty was rendered almost devoid of attractiveness owing
to the hard and supercilious expression her face almost
always wore. At her side stood a tall boy of thirteen or
WIER VWOLD HALL.
fourteen years, whose greeting was almost as cold as the
lady's, and what was coldness in the one amounted to little
less than insolence in the other; whilst frisking about the
lower end of the place, where the supper was being spread,
was a black-eyed girl of twelve, who sprang forward to
greet the guest, and put up her cheek for the customary
salute with the greatest appearance of friendliness.
"I am so glad you have come," she remarked, looking
Ranulph over from head to foot with her sharp black eyes.
"It is (C ..11, '-s birthday almost directly, and I think
birthdays ought to be very merry. You will help us to
be merry, will you not ? Here everybody is as gloomy as
if the Day of Judgment were coming. You like C ..1t.y,
do you not ? So do I when he will let me; but as for
Silence, thou malapert wench !" broke in the clear,
incisive tones of Lady Falconer. "How oft am I to tell
thee that I will not have thee thus free with thy tongue ?
I will send thee to thy chamber, and there thou shalt stay,
if I hear a word more of thine insolent chatter," and the
mother .; ... .-t! raised the ebony staff on which she
was leaning. The weight of that same staff was well
known by every serving man or maid upon the place, and
the menace checked the saucy retort that appeared to be
trembling upon Roxana's tongue. It did not appear to
Ranulph, who watched this family party with interest
and some astonishment, as though the little girl stood much
in awe of her mother. Ti,. i was 1. i ,,,.. in the poise of
the curly black head, as the maid retreated to a shadowy
WIER WOLD HALL.
corner of the hall, and backed up against a dark figure
which had hitherto remained unnoticed by the stranger.
But the light of the declining winter's day was just
shimmering through a neighboring window, and fell upon
the fair face and sombre robes of Ermengarde. Ranulph
caught the dreamy gaze of the liquid eyes, and wondered
where he had recently seen just such a pair of dark eyes,
and something of the same contour of feature. But he
could not catch the fleeting memory, and the next moment
he was bending low over the taper fingers extended to him,
and was renewing acquaintance with one whom last he
had seen as a little fragile child, to be worshipped and
waited on, and sometimes teased, in true boy fashion, but
who now had grown into a most lovely maiden.
The tic of cousinship was much stronger in those days
than it is now. First cousins were utterly prohibited from
marrying each other, and they no more thought of such a
thing than did brothers and sisters. This made the rela-
tions between them more frank and easy than would have
been possible had no such barrier existed, and Ranulph
found himself talking to his cousins before the evening
was over as fully and freely as though they had met
frequently during the past years.
It was at the supper-table that he had ventured to put
one question to his host, the only question which had been
in any way taken amiss. In speaking of his journey, he
had spoken of his travelling companion, and remarked that
they had only parted company some few miles away, he
being bound for the house of Lord Osbaldistone, who in-
WVIER WOLD HALL.
habited a place called Heatheliffe Castle, not so very far
The face of Sir Ralph clouded over impatiently, whilst
that of his wife (only this was unobserved by Ranulph)
put on a look of interest and curiosity.
Not far away ? No; would it were ten times the dis-
tance. Those Osbaldistones have been the curse of my
life. Thou must have known as much before this, surely,
Ranulph ? Methinks thou mightest have f'.i .1l better
company than such spawn as they."
"It was none of the I ,ll- I travelled with, only a
guest bound for the house, one Sir Kenneth Fane, a very
proper knight, as it seemed to me. The name awakened
no memories within me. I was but a lad when I was last
here. I had no memory of any ill-blood."
"It is of late years that the feud has awakened from
sleep," answered ( ..... .., speaking in a low tone and
T1 -. "It has been in the family for long, but troubled
us not greatly till these last years. But speak not of it
to my father; the thought ever troubles him, and oft-
times robs him of his sleep."
So Ranulph, with the tact of a man of the world, con-
trived to slip away from the forbidden topic by easy
stages; and Sir Ralph was soon pledging his guest in a
brimming cup, and telling of the coming gaieties by which
his boy's feast was to be celebrated shortly.
Ranulph could not but fancy that he detected a sinister
light in the eyes of his hostess as the proud father talked
on this i, and he felt disposed to cross himself as he
WVIERIU WOLD HALL.
sat, and to mutter a prayer against witches and sorceresses.
He felt as though he would be loath to stand in Geoffrey's
shoes, and was resolved to watch pretty closely all that
went on in the house during his stay there. He should
certainly advise ( ...,it.., to leave Wierwold as soon as he
could make shift to do so.
Early hours were the fashion of the day, and by nine
o'clock the party round the fire broke up, and G('. .rl.y
conducted the guest to the chamber prepared for him.
When this was reached an exclamation of impatience
passed the young man's lips; for the fire which should
have been blazing on the hearth had been extinguished
by the fall of a mass of snow down the chimney, which
had so wetted the logs and wood that it was hopeless
to attempt to rekindle them that night. Ranulph made
light of the disaster; yet nothing would satisfy C.'I!.y
but a change of apartments with the traveller, and as
he seemed so much in earnest over it, the elder man gave
For I sleep as sound as a dormouse the whole night
long, whatever betides within doors or without," said
Geoffrey persuasively. It is no manner of trouble to me
to be without light or warmth. I shall sleep so soon as
my head touches the pillow, whilst thou in a strange house
wilt maybe lie awake an hour or more."
So the youths settled matters in this fashion. Ran-
ulph lay down to sleep in Geoffrey's chamber, and as the
other had divined, he did not all at once go to sleep,
but lay drowsily watching the play of the firelight in the
70 WTIER VOLD HALL.
room, thinking of the day's doings, and wondering into
what manner of house he had come.
Gradually his thoughts took less distinct form; he was
uncertain whether or not he had dropped into a light
slumber, when he was aware of a sweeping sound along
the outer wall next to the corridor against which the head
of the bed was placed, and the next moment he was certain
that the latch of the door was softly lifted, and that some
person stood upon the threshold listening intently.
Ranulph was not afraid of any material visitor, but a
superstitious dread of some presence from the unseen
world caused him to lie perfectly still, quaking slightly,
and drawing his breath hard. The even breathing seemed
to reassure the visitor, and the next moment a tall,
shadowy figure glided across the room-intercepting for a
moment the light of the fire as it passed-and Ranulph
saw by the flickering gleams still cast by the burning
wood that his mysterious intruder was none other than
Lady Falconer herself.
His ghostly terror -i; 1;j.. he was just about to speak
and ask the motive for the visit, when he remembered
that it was C..,H .ri 's chamber that she thought she was
invading. C'l ... I-;, 1, -...., the words upon his tongue,
he lay still, watching intently her movements, and saw her
cross to a small bracket upon the wall, on which stood, as
he had before observed, a pitcher of clear spring water.
Into this pitcher she dropped something that Ranulph
took to be a powder of some kind, and glided away as
noiselessly as she had come. The young man's dreams
IWIETR OLD HALL. 71
that night were troubled by dark fancies, and he awoke
with the first light of early day. A few birds, rendered
tame by the cold, were fluttering about the window. Pro-
',1.1-,- kind-hearted Geoffiey fed them with crumbs in the
frost. Ranulph had no food to offer them, but he poured
out some of the water from the pitcher into a shallow
vessel and put it on the sill. They were thirsty, as birds
generally are in a hard frost, and sat long drinking from
it. Before the young man had donned his clothes, two of
the sparrows lay dead upon the window ledge, and he saw
a third corpse lying below. He flung the whole contents
of the pitcher angrily away, and went below with a
clouded face and anxious heart.
" T WELVE arrows-and all in the inner round.
i Marry now, Beatrice, methinks we may well
cease our sport and rest upon our laurels," and the
speaker, a laughing girl of fifteen, threw herself into a
chair and drew off her archery gauntlets, looking at her
taller companion with a smile.
Beatrice, leaning on her long bow, and looking critically
at the position of the last arrow she had let fly, which was
still quivering in the target at the far end of the gallery,
replied by drawing a deep breath and unstringing her bow.
"I shall scarce better that last shot," she said. Where-
fore I am the more content to lay aside my weapon. I
wonder if thy father will reach home to-night. If he is
to be here for (i i b1 r he must not tarry much longer."
I verily believe that Frank looks for him this day, for
he rode forth after the :i-l-.1 ,; meal without either hound
or hawk, and took the road towards the south. But as
for me, I never look to see him till he comes. He loves
the air of Courts above that of these lone solitudes, and the
worship of the King beyond all else beside."
HEA TICLIFFEE CASTLE.
Ay, the King-he must be a wondrous monarch; he
seems to cast a spell upon all who approach him, and
bring them to his manner of thinking, be it what it may.
Thou canst well remember the days, even thou, Margery,
when we were all as loyal to Pope and Church as human
souls could be; and, behold, we now are foremost in the
rank of them who hold his Majesty as lord in this realm, in
all matters temporal and spiritual alike. Thy father was
one of the first to swear that oath of supremacy, and now
here are we, a household rejoicing in our freedom from old
bondage, and thinking ourselves the pioneers of liberty,
when but a few short years agone we should have stood in
danger of the stake for rank heresy. Thinkest thou not
that it is something strange ?"
Margery leaned her head against the uncompromising
back of her chair, and looked with half-closed eyes at her
companion. Her answer was scarcely relevant.
M. 1 ,tlhl:-, Beatrice, that thou growest handsomer
every day. Thou shouldst be at Court thyself. I trow
the King would cast an eye of favour upon thee. By what
Frank telleth us of the present Queen, Mistress Anne
Boleyn, as she used to be, she is none so wondrous beaute-
ous. Yet the coil that was made for her-"
"Peace, foolish child," answered Beatrice, laughing.
"Thy saucy tongue and bright eyes would doubtless do
more havoc at Court, be it our lot ever to go thither, than
any poor beauty I may boast, which, as thou knowest, has
not even done the work so confidently expected of it here
in these wilds."
LHE ATICLIIJE CASTLE.
The girls exchanged a laughing glance, and Margery's
face dimpled into the most mischievous look of amuse-
This dialogue took place in a long gallery of Heathcliffe
Castle, between the only .1... li. of Lord Osbaldistone
and his ward, the beautiful and well-doowered Beatrice
S-,,, who had lived for many years beneath his roof, and
was almost as a sister to Margery. This gallery was a
lavourite place with the two maidens when they were
alone and the weather was inclement; for here they could
take exercise and enjoy many sports of their own, and no
sounds from the court-yard or house reached them, the long
row of windows which lighted it looking away southward
over a wide expanse of moorland and wooded hillside.
Opposite to the row of windows was a wall hung with
tapestry, and at each end of the gallery was a fireplace
piled with blazing logs. Several noble hounds lay upon
the skins before the ruddy glow, and they seemed to ex-
perience no uneasiness from the pastime of their young
mistresses, who were shooting at the targets fixed above
the chimney shelves of each fireplace. During the long
winter months, when the deep snow and bitter cold kept
the girls much indoors, this archery practice in the long
gallery was a favourite pastime with them, and so skilful
were they both in the use of the bow that to miss the
target was rare, and to let fly a random bolt that could do
injury to any of their faithful canine companions a thing
unknown. There was just ,;i,. .,,I furniture in the
gallery to make it habitable, but not enough to hinder
IEA THCLIMTFE CASTLE.
the freedom of movement coveted by those who were
debarred from their accustomed exercises of hunting and
The girls themselves presented a marked contrast, and
were an excellent foil each to the other. Margery was a
true English maiden, fair-haired, blue-eyed, with a round,
saucy face, softly-dimpled cheeks, and a peach-bloom upon
her cheek that withstood all attempts of the sun to tan
or freckle. She was just emerging from the awkward and
unformed stage of girlhood, and showed promise of grace
and beauty of iin., in days to come. Her sunny hair
was unbound, and fell in natural waves and ringlets about
her neck and shoulders. Her dress was simple and homely
in character, and its only ornament a jewelled zone about
Beatrice was of an altogether different type. She was
full five years older than 1 -., y, and her -o,, '. had
attained all the dignity and graceful stateliness of woman-
hood. She was tall for her sex, but carried her height so
well that few observed that it was unusual. She had the
delicate oval face, the dark almond-shaped eyes, and the
clear olive-tinted complexion which we associate in our
minds with the daughters of the South. In moments of
excitement or exertion her cheek would wear a rich
damask bloom, but at other times it was pale. The
features were almost faultless, and the carriage of the
head peculiarly graceful and stately. Beatrice always
dressed with a certain sombre richness which well becaIme
her, and save that she had not the covered locks of
J111>-I fEC fLYE CASTLE.
matronhood, would have been taken for a married woman
rather than a maid. Indeed, the caul of fine gold cord in
which her abundant raven tresses were frequently confined
encouraged the supposition in the minds of strangers that
she was beyond the pale of girlhood; but to-day the net
had slipped off, and her beautiful hair hung round her
almost like a veil. She tossed it back out of her way as
she took one of the tall-backed chairs, and replied to Mar-
gery's laughing look with a slight grimace and brilliant
smile; and then, before more could be said, the younger
girl sprang to her feet and sped along the gallery, crying
"I declare they have come-they have come Here is
Frank, and he has brought Kenneth with him."
Beatrice did not rise from her seat, but her eyes sought
the I ii... end of the gallery, and there, just within the
doorway, behind the arras, which they held aside with
their hands, stood two young men in riding-dress, one
being none other than the traveller we have seen at the
Inn, whilst the fair-haired youth, his companion, dressed in
the pink of perfection according to the most advanced
notions of the day, was plainly [i ,'. '"s brother, for the
likeness between them was so strong that no one could see
them together and not notice it.
Finding themselves thus observed, both the young men
advanced up the gallery, ,i,,~-.,,. their hats, and smiling
their response to the welcome Mi I. was eagerly out-
pouring, Beatrice awaited their approach with her cus-
tomary queenly dignity of mien, though there was nothing
chilling in her air as she kissed her brother and welcomed
him to the Castle.
Thou didst not say that thou wert coming, Kenneth;
but when I heard of thee with my guardian in London, I
half looked to see thee here with him. But where is he ?
'l..,,l. we not go to pay him our dutiful respects? Surely
you twain have come together ? "
Nay; I have come as his herald. The King detains
him from day to day, and, for all I know, may hold him
captive longer yet. I tarried until I wearied of the long
delay, and then he bid me forth alone, to tell you not to
look for him with too great confidence. Bluff King Hal's
will is law to him, as to all good subjects, and if it be the
King's will he tarry, why tarry he will."
"Ay, and grow apace in Court favour," said Beatrice,
"as it behoves all men to do in these troublous days. To
trim our sails to the shifting breeze is the secret of success
to all good mariners; is it not so, Kenneth ? Methinks,
good brother, that thou hast learned somewhat of that
lesson. Hast thou not learned to move forward at a mar-
vellous great rate these past two years ? "
Was there some mockery in the tones of the girl's voice,
or did she speak in simple good faith ? People often
asked that question of themselves when they spoke with
-t : Beatrice Fane. Her brother asked it now without
knowing what to reply; but he answered in a bold and
To trim the .ails to the wind is indeed the duty of
every man who ventures forth upon the stormy deep, but
HEAT HC-LITIE CASTLE.
to trim one's convictions of right and wrong at the bidding
of man-be he monarch or no-is a cowardly and an un-
worthy thing. Sister mine, I know not how far thou
thinkest that thy brother is a mere time-server, pandering
to the dictates of prudence and policy, and listening not
to the voice of reason and conscience; but I tell thee that
as I think so I speak and act, and that whatever may be
the changes we see in this land, whether a relapse to priest-
craft or a steady going forward to freedom, thy brother will
ever be one of those who will uphold the latter cause,
even if his life pays the price of his conscience.'
Kenneth rose to his feet suddenly, and straightened
himself as he looked round him.
So help me God," he added, with unwonted earnestness,
SI will be true to the cause of liberty of conscience, so
long as I have a voice to raise in its defence or a hand
to strike a blow for freedom's cause."
There was something both of admiration and of mockery
in the sister's eyes as she raised them to her brother's face.
Good Kenneth, thou art ever so terribly in earnest,"
she said, with a little deprecating movement of her hands.
" It has ever been so with thee since thy residence abroad,
when thou must surely have consorted with some strange
persons, for ever since thou hast been another man from
thine old self. I say not that I like not the new man
as well as the old, but thou takest my breath somewhat
by thy vehemence. I take life more smoothly and easily
than thou dost, and I love the old we s I have learned
from childhood. It is so easy to give one's conscience
HEA IHCLIFFE CASTLE.
into the keeping of Holy Church, and to feel no qualms
as to what be right or wrong, but only to do as the good
Father bids. And if the Church may not grant absolution
for sins, where are unlucky wights to go who would fain
be shriven of their many slips and failings ?"
Kenneth did not answer for a moment. It seemed as
if too many words rose to his lips, and he had to check
the torrent. Margery, who loved not earnest discussion,
and who thought that brother and sister would be happier
without her, had drawn Frank to the far end of the gallery,
and so the two Fanes were practically alone together.
Kenneth looked down at the beautiful but half-mocking
face of his sister, and his own grew grave; yet his voice
was steady and calm as he made reply,
Thou knowest right well, methinks, sweet sister, where
the only true absolution is to be found. God grant that
the men of this realm may learn the lesson themselves.
Sure it cannot be new to thee. Still thou needst not talk
as though this same confession and absolution to and
through priests were a thing of the past, or like to be
these many years yet. Men's minds are opening to re-
ceive the untrammelled truth, but it will be long ere
the old beliefs and traditions of men die away. The King
himself holds to many of them right loyally, and-"
And looks to all men to follow in his royal footsteps,"
added Beatrice, quickly and with a little sneer. Ay,
there it is, there it is, Kenneth. Methinks his Majesty
has need to learn the lesson another monarch taught to
his subjects. It seemeth by all we hear that this royal
Henry thinks he may stand upon the sea-shore and bid
the tumultuous tide come rushing on, and yet plant his
foot upon the margin of those seething waves and say,
'Thus far and no farther,' in the belief that all men
will obey him, and that the tide of thought will stay
where he bids it. Oh the pride and folly of men-the
arrogance of that kingly man 1" Beatrice started from
her chair, and shook back her raven locks with a passion-
ate gesture of scorn; whilst her brother gazed upon her
in amazement, not understanding her mood, not knowing
whither her sympathies and her wishes pointed. But he
was struck by her remark, and gazed thoughtfully out
of the window. It had not been his lot to come often
across a woman who thought for herself. He lived in
a world of men, and had unconsciously imbibed something
of the J. i, that these deep matters were above the ken
of the softer sex. But there was nothing soft or helpless
in the aspect of his sister just now. She had stopped
short in her speech, and had checked the flow of her words,
but her pause had been quite as significant as language at
"Tell me then, sister mine, what wouldst thou have ?
Thou speakest one moment as though thou wouldst keep
the old faith unassailed, and yet the next moment thou
ravest against him who would stand as a barrier between
those same old beliefs and their utter destruction. Art
a lover of paradoxes, Beatrice ? "
Paradox ? nay, it is no paradox-I scarce know the
meaning of the word. Canst thou not understand ? Are
all men so dense of head and heart that they know not
how their ruthless ways pierce the hearts of us poor help-
less women, who have no voice in these great matters ?
Canst thou not see that thou hast robbed us of the faith
in Holy ( '!I... I, which has ever been our anchor and
groundwork, and hast given us nothing to put in its place?
Your cunning words, your ruthless hands, have torn away
the veil from our eyes. You have taught us that the
holy men we loved and reverenced are holy no longer.
You have disclosed to us their vices, their >..-li1 1-;,
their covetousness, their simony. You have proved your
words but too well. You have shaken and sapped the
foundations of our faith. And having done so, having
laid our idols in the dust, you bid us go to them still to
confess our sins, and be shrived from them; and you expect
us to believe that they may yet be our guides, our coun-
sellors-almost our conscience-keepers-when you have
shattered the very foundations upon which such belief
was built! Nay, Kenneth, dost thou think we shall be
content with that ? Thinkest thou that we can blindly
obey as before ? Nay; give us back the sweet old happy
faith of the past-be it right or wrong-or give us some-
thing better and purer to take its place. We were happy
once; it may be it was the happiness of ignorance-
security, not safety. Now we have lost the one, and
have found none other. We cannot rest where the King
would leave us. We must go forward-or backward."
Kenneth was taken aback by this sudden attack. He
had not looked to find in his sister such an acuteness
lHEAT THCIFFE CASTLE.
of mind or such power of expression. He himself had
felt before something of the hopeless futility of half-
measures, with a kingdom in its present state of seething
revolt against the tyranny of ages. He had felt before
now that the people would not be content to be held back
at the place where the King proposed to halt. He knew
that whatever might be the eventual high-water mark,
the spring-tide must first sweep far in advance of it, to
ebb back by slow degrees; but he had not looked to hear
his own opinions put into form by another, and that other
Perhaps Beatrice divined this thought. It was not
usual for women to trouble themselves greatly over mat-
ters too high for them." She paused a moment, and then,
with a light little half-mocking laugh, turned the conver-
sation into another channel.
"But good-lack, what do we thus troubling our heads
over these great matters, and you scarce out of the saddle
after a five days' ride ? Good brother, forgive me. Thy
earnestness hath bred in me a like disease, most unbecom-
ing to a woman. We will put aside all such mouldy and
wearisome matters, and thou shalt be -. f,. 1i .1 after thy
journey. Where didst thou meet Frank ? And how many
servants hast thou brought with thee ? "
One moment, Beatrice," said Kenneth quickly, catching
ner by the hand as she seemed about to move across the
,- I ly towards the door by which Frank and Margery
had already quitted it; "there is one question I would
ask of thee whilst we are thus alone. IHow stand matters
HEA TICLIFFE CASTLE.
betwixt thee and young Frank ? I gathered from Lord
Osbaldistone that I might almost look to tread a measure
at the nuptials ere I turned my face southward again. I
asked Frank how things were, and gathered that he was
willing, but that he knew not how thou mightest receive
"Of the boy who is graciously 'willing' to be thus
hampered with a wife-to obey the dictates of parental
authority, and honour me with his noble name Truly a
tempting and a glorious future to be tied for life to a youth
who is smilingly willing' to take me 1 O you men, you
men! methinks ye are all alike. You think it such an
honour for us to link our poor, worthless lives with your
mighty ones, that you have only to be 'willing' and we
come running to your embraces. No," and here Beatrice
drew herself up with an air that was little short of regal,
"I am not thus to be wooed-not thus to be won. The
man who sues for the hand of Beatrice Fane comes in
ilt...i. i,. fashion from that. Frank Osbaldistone, the boy
I have cni. .l a hundred times, the fine young popinjay
ruffling in his feathers and laced doublet, and all the pride
of his recent knighthood I thank thee, good my brother,
but thou mayest tell young Frank to look for a bride in
some simpler maiden who will be dazzled by his gaudy
frippery. I will wed a man when my time comes, not a
gilded boy; nay, not even though that same complaisant
youth be so graciously willing' to honour me thus far."
Beatrice made a sweeping and mocking courtesy, whilst
Kenneth broke into a short, impatient laugh.
By my troth, Beatrice, thou makes a jibe of everything.
This mocking humour is scarce seemly in a maid. And
thou speakest with scant justice of Frank, who, for all he
is so fine in his outward man, is none such a popinjay as
thou wouldst make out. Let the time come for men to
show themselves in their true colours, and thou wilt find
that he can be-
"A great and mighty Paladin-a lion among men.
Good Kenneth, I doubt it not. Let him have all the
virtues, all the graces of manhood under the sun. I deny
him them not. One thing alone I do deny him, and that
is this hand in wedlock. He hath not asked it, in truth,
and mayhap he never will. Let Lord Osbaldistone seek
another bride for him, for he will never get me."
Kenneth shrugged his shoulders with the slightly foreign
gesture which was one of the very few traits he had in-
herited from their Italian mother. Beatrice was full of
little un-English mannerisms, but her brother had caught
My Lord Osbaldistone is greatly set upon it. Thou
wilt have to answer to a resolute man for thy decision,
The girl's head went up in a scornful gesture.
Tii r. thou I fear my Lord Osbaldistone or any
other man ? I will tell him to his face the truth, an he
will have it. It will not be the first difference we have
had; but we generally make i i. ,,.i-. again after the storm
has passed by."
It will be a big storm this time," said Kenneth, with
a half-smile. But methinks thou canst hold thine own,
sister; thou wilt scarce need aid of mine."
Beatrice laughed as she twisted up her hair into the
gold net, and without directly replying, gave her hand to
her brother to let him lead her down to the hall, where
they knew refreshments would by this time have been laid
out for the travellers.
Graver themes were laid aside whilst the riders discussed
the good cheer before them ; and as this was not the cus-
tomary supper of the household, and the servants had
speedily withdrawn, talk was able to flow freely, and
Kenneth told of his friendship with Ranulph Ogleby and
his purpose to visit him at Wierwold Hall.
A sudden eager light came into Margery's eyes as these
words were spoken, and Frank looked equally interested
Nay, if thou goest, and my father be not back, prithee
take me too as thine esquire," cried the youth. Long
have I wished for entrance within those walls, but there
seemed no manner of hope of obtaining it."
"And wherefore wouldst thou go ? asked Kenneth.
"Is it not true that a deadly feud divides your two
houses ? "
Brother and sister and Beatrice exchanged glances, and
Beatrice said, Tell him all, good Frank; he may he
trusted not to divulge aught."
Beatrice was plainly the leading spirit in that household
when the master was away, and Frank obeyed her at
Ik-I TH-CLLTE CASTLE.
"The matter goeth something after this fashion, good
Kenneth. Our father is at bitter feud with Sir Ralph, for
that he greatly desires his lands which now adjoin his own,
and there are grievances of generations back which can be
raked up to do service in the cause and embroil us deeper
and deeper. But for mine own part I cannot see that we
have aught to complain of, nor can I feel towards our
neighbours that i. -il hatred my father thinks is their
due. Nay; rather would I be friends with all men, save
they be traitors to their King. And nought can be urged
against Sir Ralph beyond the fact that he and his are
Papist to the core, which until these last few years was
the highest praise a man could win."
And thy wish is to make a secret friendship with this
household in the absence of thy father ?"
Frank was not quite certain if this were meant as a
rebuke, and his cheek glowed whilst he answered hastily,-
"Nay, not that altogether. I would not let any man
know my true name. It would be as useless for me to try
to win a way there as for one of them to strive to enter
these halls. It is as an unknown stranger that I would
present :-.. ,lr, and my object is less to make friends with
those within, which might be a profitless task, than to see
what manner of woman my Lady Falconer may be; for
methinks that in her both we and the knight himself and
his first family have a right bitter enemy."
An enemy in his own wife?" repeated Kenneth wonder-
ingly ; how may that be ?"
Again the other three exchanged glances, and Frank
IIEATHCLI 1E1 CASTLE.
appeared to hesitate; whereupon Beatrice took up the talc
in her full half-mocking tones, and Kenneth listened in
Frank is too nice to put into words what has become
a fact patent to all who have eyes and ears and a modicum
of brains. But thou art a man of the world, Kenneth, and
wilt have come across treachery of a deeper and blacker
kind than this. Shortly, then, understand that we have
good reason to suspect that my Lady Falconer, second
mistress of Wierwold Hall, would gladly make a compact
with the lord of Heathcliffe Castle. She loves not her
husband; she detests the son who is heir to the estates.
She would willingly lend assistance to any plan for com-
passing the death of one and the death or ruin of the other,
so as the reversion of the Hall might fall to her own son,
and she might reign at Heathcliffe Castle, as she reigns
now at Wierwold. In short, she is coveting to be the
Lady Osbaldistone, just as Lord Osbaldistone is coveting
the acres adjoining his own which lie on this side the
Wharf. She would yield up these, if her son kept the
remainder of the property, for the glory of her position as
a baroness. He would wed her to obtain her assistance in
the matter he has at heart-the disgrace, the death of his
foe, and the attainment of his pet ambition. To speak the
truth, I believe the wife is the more implacable of the two.
Disgrace would serve Lord Osbaldistone's turn; death
alone will free my lady from a yoke of which she is weary.
There is the story, Kenneth, in brief, and you will under-
stand the interest we take in Wierwold Hall and its in-
mates, and why we do not hate them-the father and the
son and daughter whose lives may be threatened--but
rather feel that we would gladly make common cause with
them against a common foe."
Kenneth took all this in without any appearance of
being over-much shocked to find a man with whom he
stood in f, I. .11- relation embarked in such an intrigue.
Times were somewhat brutal in their simplicity in the
fifteenth century; and matters that would scarce be
named in a whisper now were openly canvassed and dis-
cussed. Men of ambition and determination had often
half-a-dozen intrigues on hand of a more or less violent
kind, and to get rid, by fair means or foul, of a hated enemy
was a very ordinary course of proceeding. There was no
reason to suppose that Lord Osbaldistone was the only
person meditating evil in this long-standing feud. Sir
Ralph might have his own plot on hand for disposing of
his foe. There was little of the polish of the Court to be
found in the wilds of Yorkshire. Manners were rude, and
passions were easily roused. Even these young girls
talked and thought of such matters with a certain amount
of fii,.l .,. and had it not been that Frank and Mar-
gery's father was one of those concerned in the intrigue of
hatred and revenge, they would have felt little concern in
the matter. As it was, the personal detestation they felt
for Lady Falconer, and their dread at the thought of her
possible rule in Heathcliffe Castle, made them indignant
against the suspected villany, and this not unnaturally led
them to desire to make common cause with the victims of
the intended plot, notwithstanding the fact that they were
the traditionary foes of the house.
A further discussion on the matter, and certain questions
from Kenneth, showed him that the suspicion just im-
parted to him was of a kind that could not be proved.
The plot had been rather divined than discovered, and
would scarcely stand the test of close examination. He
did not doubt that something strange was going on, but he
was not as certain as his hosts that Lord Osbaldistone
really meditated carrying out such a plan. Rumours
picked up from servants, and bits of circumstantial evi-
dence, although all of value when they tended in one
direction, could scarcely be quoted as evidence. Kenneth
tried to make the best of what he heard, and advised
Frank and Margery to excite themselves as little as pos-
sible over the matter; but he was more than ever resolved
upon the expedition to Wierwold Hall, himself to take
counsel with his friend Ranulph, and perhaps put him
somewhat on his guard ; and Frank was as fully determined
to accompany him, if his father's return did not prevent
Lord Osbaldistone, however, showed no sign of return.
He sent letters announcing that business detained him at
Greenwich, and that he could not arrive before the close
of the year at earliest. And so upon the eve of the
Christmas Festival, Kenneth and Frank rode forth together,
soberly clad, like travellers upon the road, to present them-
selves at the door of Wiorwold Hall upon the evening of
the coming of age of the heir.
INV 1HIS FATHER'S HOUSE.
IT was with strange feelings that Guy, after a long
day's march over snowy roads in the merry company
of the troop of mummers, arrived at last within sight of
his own birthplace, and saw the turrets of his father's
house rising up solemn and gray against the clear yellow
of the evening sky. Strange it was, too, to be entering
that portal as a stranger and menial, when he might have
claimed the rights of son and brother. But Guy had no
sense of repulsion for the part he had elected to play.
So far the life within grim stone walls, far removed from
the haunts of man, had few attractions for him. He was
filled with a lively curiosity as to his kinsfolk, but he
experienced no desire to share their gloomy state-for such
did it seem to him after the cheerful bustle of the Inn.
Not that lie saw Wierwold Hall at its gloomiest or
quietest by any means. Within the great kitchen, whither
the mummers were taken on their first arrival, all was stir
and life. Two huge fires were burning in cavernous
arches, and cooks and turnspits were hard at work prepar-
ing the baked meats and more delicate dainties that would
INT HIS FAf1THEIR'S HO USEI.
presently be served up at the tables in the hall, where the
evening revel was to be held. The supper-hour was nigh
at hand, and Guy, who saw too much of drinking at home
for it to have any great attraction for him, declined the
tankard of huff-cap pressed upon him, and conrmenced a
little voyage of discovery on his own account, nobody heed-
ing whither his steps were bent.
The kitchens of the Hall formed a part of the boundary
of the court-yard, and Guy soon found himself in the open
air, the rough paving-stones of the yard beneath his feet,
the clear sky overhead, a range of stabling opposite, and to
the right the long row of lighted windows which plainly
belonged to the banqueting-hall, where the feast of their
evening was to be held.
There were no curtains to the windows, and he could see
forms passing and repassing as the servants hastened to
and fro, setting out the tables and putting all in readiness.
Guy crept cautiously up to one of these windows and
looked curiously within.
It chanced that the window he had approached was one
at the upper end of the hall, and close to the dais where
the first table was set for guests of the higher quality. A
fine linen table-cloth, then something of a novelty, was
spread upon the board, and a .i. t; ,ii array of costly
silver plate was laid upon it. But it was not the table or
its appointments which riveted Guy's gaze, but the group
of figures gathered round the hearth and superintending or
watching the proceedings of the servants.
My father," said Guy beneath his breath, as his eyes
IN HIS FATHER'S HOUSE.
rested upon the grizzled head and worn features of one
who was plainly the master of the house. The boy was
filled at once with a rush of love and pity he could not for
a moment have accounted for or have analyzed. But it
seemed to him, as he stood there, that he read in his
father's face the story of an embittered and disappointed
life, and his throat swelled and his breast heaved with
a strange rush of emotion as he turned his glance upon
the haughty woman at his side.
"It is she who has been the disappointment, the curse of
his life," quoth the lad, with the quick intuition of youth
and its accompanying hard, decisive judgment; "she looks
like it-she is just the woman I have pictured. I trow I
will never place -, H I' beneath the yoke she sets upon all
beneath her sway. My father did well to leave me to the
care of Nicholas and Bridget Holt."
At that moment Guy felt his cloak pulled from behind,
and turning quickly round, found himself confronted by a
little girl in holiday ruff and kirtle, whose black eyes shone
with mischievous glee, and who had the appearance of a
Boy," she said, with an imperiousness of manner that
was entertaining in one of her small stature, what are
you doing here, staring in at the windows like that? "
"I crave your pardon, little mistress; it was something
unmannerly, I fear. But I was out in the court-yard, and
the lights attracted me. Yon is a noble hall, in good
sooth, and I see preparations for a right goodly feast."
"Certes yes; everybody knows that. It is C(''I-.I, ..--
IN HIS FATHER'S HOUSE.
eve, and my brother's birthday to boot. But who are you,
boy, and what do you here ? Are you one of our guests ?
If so, why does not some lazy varlet of a servant take you
to your own room ? "
"Nay, sweet mistress, I am amply well lodged with the
rest of our company in some loft above the buttery. I am
but a member of the troop of actors or mummers, who
come to make sport for the gentlefolk assembled here. We
have but lately arrived, and the kitchen is something full
to overflowing; wherefore I came out hither to breathe the
night air, and the lights drew me to the window. I pray
you pardon me if I have done aught amiss."
"Puff! no harm in the world. So thou art nothing
but a strolling player ? quoth Roxana, with a long stare
of something like surprise. By the mass, I took thee
for something better than that. Thou hast the air and
the speech of gentle birth. What is thy name, and how
camest thou to be such a thing as that ? Methought
actors were little better than rogues and vagabonds."
"They call me Tony," answered Guy, who had adopted
the name as well as the character of the lad who lay sick
at home; "I trust we are something better than the vaga-
bonds upon the roads. And as for what we can do, thou
wilt see that for thyself anon. We have many a merry
feat of juggling to show, to say nothing of the play, that
will best show what we are worth."
The child gave him a keen, quick look as the familiar
" thou passed his lips. She had fallen into it herself as
a matter of course so soon as she had learned that he was
94- I HIS FATHER'S HOUSE.
but a mummer, yet she i1 .ll, expected him to do the
same. Guy, who knew that he was speaking to his little
half-sister, found it natural enough to address her so; but
something in her look recalled him to his assumed part,
and he added more formally,-
"But I may not keep you out here in the cold, fair
mistress. The frost is keen, and you have no covering for
"I care not for that; I am no weakling," answered the
child, with a laugh. "I love to talk with travellers who
have seen the world. I would hear more of thine adven-
tures. So follow me, I pray thee, and I will bring thee to
the lower end of the hall. We shall not be noticed there,
and thou canst tell me about the play, and what part thou
art going to take."
The child turned quickly and beckoned him to follow.
Guy ;11.-i, obeyed, and soon found himself beside the
glowing fire at the lower end of the hall, the tables
and the shifting throng of servants between him and the
dais at the upper end, and Roxana standing beside him,
eagerly questioning him and listening greedily to his
Guy was fond of all children, and was willing enough to
make friends with his little half-sister. He got her to
chatter to him, and she let slip a great deal which possibly
her mother might scarce have cared for her to bruit abroad
to a stranger; but the child was recklessly truthful by
nnture, and had ceased to regard her mother in the light of
a beneficent presence in the house. Some of Guy's vague
IN HIS FA THEIR'S HIOUXS.
fears and misgivings began to take more active shape, and
he felt that he had much cause for thankfulness in the
chance that had kept him from his step-dame's power.
Presently he was roused from his brief reverie by hearing
"And here comes C: ii ., doubtless to chide me for
concerting with an idle knave like thee, Tony. But I care
not; Geoffrey is never spiteful like Ralph, nor hasty, nor
sullen, if things please him not.-Well, Brother, what
wouldst thou ? Hast come to call me to order ?" and
Roxana lifted a saucy face to meet the glance of the tall
youth who approached. "This is Tony, one of the play-
actors, and a right honest youth, as I will answer for. He
hath played the gentleman so long, I take it, that he hath
grown into the part almost. He is to play the prince in
the play, and a right goodly one he will make, if I mis-
Geoffrey smiled, and laid a kindly hand on Roxana's
Thy mother is asking for thee, little one. Thou hadst
better find her ere she finds thee," said he; and Roxana
darted off without a word of protest, for Lady Falconer
was decidedly mistress of her own house. Geoffrey stood
looking at Guy with some faint stirring of curiosity upon
his face; and as the boy lifted his eyes and met this
glance, the elder brother spoke.
MIethinks I have seen thy face before, yet I know not
how nor when," he said. Hast been in these parts before,
good youth ?"
IN IIIS FATHER'S HOUSE.
"Not very nigh to this noble Hall, but I am not quite
a stranger to the neighbourhood," answered Guy; "yet I
remember not having seen your face before."
He was looking at it earnestly now-the face of his
brother-and experiencing that strange sense of love and
kinship which will make itself felt in our hearts, proving
the truth of the old adage that blood is thicker than water.
Every tone of (,..r ..;'s voice thrilled him. An unreason-
ing affection, utterly unlike any other that had entered
into his life before, sprang up in his heart towards this tall
and handsome youth, whose face had been unknown to him
a few minutes before. He longed to fall upon his neck
and call him Brother," but he restrained ;,i,-, If, and gave
no outward sign of emotion, only betraying an eagerness
and responsiveness which was not without its effect upon
He took to Guy at once. It seemed to him that a lad
of such gentle speech and manner was out of place in the
company of a mere band of wandering actors. No definite
plan entered his head, but he had some vague thoughts of
asking if the youth would not like to change his state in
life. He himself would require servants when he started
forth to see the world. Might not such a lad as this serve
him well in some such capacity ?
But this idea was too vague to be called a plan at
present, and Guy's attention was at that moment taken
off by the entrance at the upper end of the hall of another
figure. A tall, slim maiden, habited in a long black robe,
had glided silently in, and was standing gazing at the
IN HIS FATHER'S HOUSE.
festively-decked ball with a pair of dreamy dark eyes
which scarce seemed to take in outward impressions, but
appeared to be lighted by some illumination from within.
The hall was by this time almost clear. The servants
had done their task, and all was in readiness for the feast.
From where he stood, Guy could look straight at his sister,
and he recognized in her that strong likeness to himself
which explained why Geoffrey had spoken of having seen
his face before.
As Guy watched her, wondering at her ethereal loveli-
ness, and feeling as though so fair a creature could scarce
be sister of his, the hard-faced lady of the house bore down
upon the girl as she stood, and after speaking some rapid
words, which did not reach Guy's ear, struck her twice
sharply across the shoulders with the ebony staff she
With a stifled exclamation of anger and astonishment,
Guy made a step forward as if to interpose, when he was
recalled to himself by feeling the eyes of (C...!. y upon
him. Parental discipline in those days was freely adminis-
tered in such fashion, and there was nothing in Lady Fal-
coner's action which would have been censured as trans-
gressing the prerogative of those in authority. But the
sight of the blows dealt to his fragile and lovely sister
set Guy's blood boiling in his veins, and drew upon him
the surprised regard of the son of the house, to whom such
scenes were familiar, although they never failed to awaken
a sense of deep indignation within him.
"I pray your pardon," said Guy, colouring to the roots
IL HIS FATHER'S HOUSE.
of his hair, "but it ever goes against me to see a woman
C0,.. i'. 's smile was rather bitter.
"Ay, boy, I know well the feeling; but the .days of
chivalry are dead and gone, and the worship and protec-
tion of womanhood is no longer part of our faith. We
are called upon to show our manhood now by despoiling
churches, by falling upon defenceless nuns and peaceful
monks-or shall be soon, if what men say is true. Men
in old days waged war against the heathen infidel in the
name of the Holy Church and her Lord. Now they are
to turn their arms against that Holy Church, and show
their love to Him by rending the unity of His sacred Body.
But enough; this is the day of revelry and feasting. We
must all laugh and be merry, and forget that there are
evil days coming upon the world."
And in effect at this moment a great fanfare of trumpets
sounded, and the hall became filled with a motley throng.
The guests at the high table had already taken their seats,
and Geoffrey, at an imperative summons from his father,
hastened across to his own chair. The lower tables were
quickly filled, Guy finding a seat beside those of his own
company; and, with a great deal of laughter and cheering
and merriment, as well as a certain amount of solemnity,
the great boar's head was borne in upon a huge dish, two
or three singers walking backwards before it, singing the
well-known words commencing thus :
" The boar's head in hand bear I,
All decked with garlands and rosemarie."