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       The Black Arrow: A Tale of Two Roses, p.1
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           Robert Louis Stevenson
The Black Arrow: A Tale of Two Roses


  Transcribed from the 1899 Charles Scribner's Sons edition by David Price,email ccx074@pglaf.org

  THE BLACK ARROW--A TALE OF THE TWO ROSES

  Critic on the Hearth:

  No one but myself knows what I have suffered, nor what my books havegained, by your unsleeping watchfulness and admirable pertinacity. Andnow here is a volume that goes into the world and lacks your_imprimatur_: a strange thing in our joint lives; and the reason of itstranger still! I have watched with interest, with pain, and at lengthwith amusement, your unavailing attempts to peruse _The Black Arrow_; andI think I should lack humour indeed, if I let the occasion slip and didnot place your name in the fly-leaf of the only book of mine that youhave never read--and never will read.

  That others may display more constancy is still my hope. The tale waswritten years ago for a particular audience and (I may say) in rivalrywith a particular author; I think I should do well to name him, Mr.Alfred R. Phillips. It was not without its reward at the time. I couldnot, indeed, displace Mr. Phillips from his well-won priority; but in theeyes of readers who thought less than nothing of _Treasure Island_, _TheBlack Arrow_ was supposed to mark a clear advance. Those who readvolumes and those who read story papers belong to different worlds. Theverdict on _Treasure Island_ was reversed in the other court; I wonder,will it be the same with its successor?

  _R. L. S._

  SARANAC LAKE, April 8, 1888.

  PROLOGUE--JOHN AMEND-ALL

  On a certain afternoon, in the late springtime, the bell upon TunstallMoat House was heard ringing at an unaccustomed hour. Far and near, inthe forest and in the fields along the river, people began to deserttheir labours and hurry towards the sound; and in Tunstall hamlet a groupof poor country-folk stood wondering at the summons.

  Tunstall hamlet at that period, in the reign of old King Henry VI., woremuch the same appearance as it wears to-day. A score or so of houses,heavily framed with oak, stood scattered in a long green valley ascendingfrom the river. At the foot, the road crossed a bridge, and mounting onthe other side, disappeared into the fringes of the forest on its way tothe Moat House, and further forth to Holywood Abbey. Half-way up thevillage, the church stood among yews. On every side the slopes werecrowned and the view bounded by the green elms and greening oak-trees ofthe forest.

  Hard by the bridge, there was a stone cross upon a knoll, and here thegroup had collected--half a dozen women and one tall fellow in a russetsmock--discussing what the bell betided. An express had gone through thehamlet half an hour before, and drunk a pot of ale in the saddle, notdaring to dismount for the hurry of his errand; but he had been ignoranthimself of what was forward, and only bore sealed letters from Sir DanielBrackley to Sir Oliver Oates, the parson, who kept the Moat House in themaster's absence.

  But now there was the noise of a horse; and soon, out of the edge of thewood and over the echoing bridge, there rode up young Master RichardShelton, Sir Daniel's ward. He, at the least, would know, and theyhailed him and begged him to explain. He drew bridle willingly enough--ayoung fellow not yet eighteen, sun-browned and grey-eyed, in a jacket ofdeer's leather, with a black velvet collar, a green hood upon his head,and a steel cross-bow at his back. The express, it appeared, had broughtgreat news. A battle was impending. Sir Daniel had sent for every manthat could draw a bow or carry a bill to go post-haste to Kettley, underpain of his severe displeasure; but for whom they were to fight, or ofwhere the battle was expected, Dick knew nothing. Sir Oliver would comeshortly himself, and Bennet Hatch was arming at that moment, for he itwas who should lead the party.

  "It is the ruin of this kind land," a woman said. "If the barons live atwar, ploughfolk must eat roots."

  "Nay," said Dick, "every man that follows shall have sixpence a day, andarchers twelve."

  "If they live," returned the woman, "that may very well be; but how ifthey die, my master?"

  "They cannot better die than for their natural lord," said Dick.

  "No natural lord of mine," said the man in the smock. "I followed theWalsinghams; so we all did down Brierly way, till two years ago, comeCandlemas. And now I must side with Brackley! It was the law that didit; call ye that natural? But now, what with Sir Daniel and what withSir Oliver--that knows more of law than honesty--I have no natural lordbut poor King Harry the Sixt, God bless him!--the poor innocent thatcannot tell his right hand from his left."

  "Ye speak with an ill tongue, friend," answered Dick, "to miscall yourgood master and my lord the king in the same libel. But KingHarry--praised be the saints!--has come again into his right mind, andwill have all things peaceably ordained. And as for Sir Daniel, y' arevery brave behind his back. But I will be no tale-bearer; and let thatsuffice."

  "I say no harm of you, Master Richard," returned the peasant. "Y' are alad; but when ye come to a man's inches, ye will find ye have an emptypocket. I say no more: the saints help Sir Daniel's neighbours, and theBlessed Maid protect his wards!"

  "Clipsby," said Richard, "you speak what I cannot hear with honour. SirDaniel is my good master, and my guardian."

  "Come, now, will ye read me a riddle?" returned Clipsby. "On whose sideis Sir Daniel?"

  "I know not," said Dick, colouring a little; for his guardian had changedsides continually in the troubles of that period, and every change hadbrought him some increase of fortune.

  "Ay," returned Clipsby, "you, nor no man. For, indeed, he is one thatgoes to bed Lancaster and gets up York."

  Just then the bridge rang under horse-shoe iron, and the party turned andsaw Bennet Hatch come galloping--a brown-faced, grizzled fellow, heavy ofhand and grim of mien, armed with sword and spear, a steel salet on hishead, a leather jack upon his body. He was a great man in these parts;Sir Daniel's right hand in peace and war, and at that time, by hismaster's interest, bailiff of the hundred.

  "Clipsby," he shouted, "off to the Moat House, and send all otherlaggards the same gate. Bowyer will give you jack and salet. We mustride before curfew. Look to it: he that is last at the lych-gate SirDaniel shall reward. Look to it right well! I know you for a man ofnaught. Nance," he added, to one of the women, "is old Appleyard uptown?"

  "I'll warrant you," replied the woman. "In his field, for sure."

  So the group dispersed, and while Clipsby walked leisurely over thebridge, Bennet and young Shelton rode up the road together, through thevillage and past the church.

  "Ye will see the old shrew," said Bennet. "He will waste more timegrumbling and prating of Harry the Fift than would serve a man to shoe ahorse. And all because he has been to the French wars!"

  The house to which they were bound was the last in the village, standingalone among lilacs; and beyond it, on three sides, there was open meadowrising towards the borders of the wood.

  Hatch dismounted, threw his rein over the fence, and walked down thefield, Dick keeping close at his elbow, to where the old soldier wasdigging, knee-deep in his cabbages, and now and again, in a crackedvoice, singing a snatch of song. He was all dressed in leather, only hishood and tippet were of black frieze, and tied with scarlet; his face waslike a walnut-shell, both for colour and wrinkles; but his old grey eyewas still clear enough, and his sight unabated. Perhaps he was deaf;perhaps he thought it unworthy of an old archer of Agincourt to pay anyheed to such disturbances; but neither the surly notes of the alarm bell,nor the near approach of Bennet and the lad, appeared at all to move him;and he continued obstinately digging, and piped up, very thin and shaky:

  "Now, dear lady, if thy will be, I pray you that you will rue on me."

  "Nick Appleyard," said Hatch, "Sir Oliver commends him to y
ou, and bidsthat ye shall come within this hour to the Moat House, there to takecommand."

  The old fellow looked up.

  "Save you, my masters!" he said, grinning. "And where goeth MasterHatch?"

  "Master Hatch is off to Kettley, with every man that we can horse,"returned Bennet. "There is a fight toward, it seems, and my lord stays areinforcement."

  "Ay, verily," returned Appleyard. "And what will ye leave me to garrisonwithal?"

  "I leave you six good men, and Sir Oliver to boot," answered Hatch.

  "It'll not hold the place," said Appleyard; "the number sufficeth not.It would take two score to make it good."

  "Why, it's for that we came to you, old shrew!" replied the other. "Whoelse is there but you that could do aught in such a house with such agarrison?"

  "Ay! when the pinch comes, ye remember the old shoe," returned Nick."There is not a man of you can back a horse or hold a bill; and as forarchery--St. Michael! if old Harry the Fift were back again, he wouldstand and let ye shoot at him for a farthen a shoot!"

  "Nay, Nick, there's some can draw a good bow yet," said Bennet.

  "Draw a good bow!" cried Appleyard. "Yes! But who'll shoot me a goodshoot? It's there the eye comes in, and the head between your shoulders.Now, what might you call a long shoot, Bennet Hatch?"

  "Well," said Bennet, looking about him, "it would be a long shoot fromhere into the forest."

  "Ay, it would be a longish shoot," said the old fellow, turning to lookover his shoulder; and then he put up his hand over his eyes, and stoodstaring.

  "Why, what are you looking at?" asked Bennet, with a chuckle. "Do, yousee Harry the Fift?"

  The veteran continued looking up the hill in silence. The sun shonebroadly over the shelving meadows; a few white sheep wandered browsing;all was still but the distant jangle of the bell.

  "What is it, Appleyard?" asked Dick.

  "Why, the birds," said Appleyard.

  And, sure enough, over the top of the forest, where it ran down in atongue among the meadows, and ended in a pair of goodly green elms, abouta bowshot from the field where they were standing, a flight of birds wasskimming to and fro, in evident disorder.

  "What of the birds?" said Bennet.

  "Ay!" returned Appleyard, "y' are a wise man to go to war, Master Bennet.Birds are a good sentry; in forest places they be the first line ofbattle. Look you, now, if we lay here in camp, there might be archersskulking down to get the wind of us; and here would you be, none thewiser!"

  "Why, old shrew," said Hatch, "there be no men nearer us than SirDaniel's, at Kettley; y' are as safe as in London Tower; and ye raisescares upon a man for a few chaffinches and sparrows!"

  "Hear him!" grinned Appleyard. "How many a rogue would give his two cropears to have a shoot at either of us? Saint Michael, man! they hate uslike two polecats!"

  "Well, sooth it is, they hate Sir Daniel," answered Hatch, a littlesobered.

  "Ay, they hate Sir Daniel, and they hate every man that serves with him,"said Appleyard; "and in the first order of hating, they hate Bennet Hatchand old Nicholas the bowman. See ye here: if there was a stout fellowyonder in the wood-edge, and you and I stood fair for him--as, by SaintGeorge, we stand!--which, think ye, would he choose?"

  "You, for a good wager," answered Hatch.

  "My surcoat to a leather belt, it would be you!" cried the old archer."Ye burned Grimstone, Bennet--they'll ne'er forgive you that, my master.And as for me, I'll soon be in a good place, God grant, and out ofbow-shoot--ay, and cannon-shoot--of all their malices. I am an old man,and draw fast to homeward, where the bed is ready. But for you, Bennet,y' are to remain behind here at your own peril, and if ye come to myyears unhanged, the old true-blue English spirit will be dead."

  "Y' are the shrewishest old dolt in Tunstall Forest," returned Hatch,visibly ruffled by these threats. "Get ye to your arms before Sir Olivercome, and leave prating for one good while. An ye had talked so muchwith Harry the Fift, his ears would ha' been richer than his pocket."

  An arrow sang in the air, like a huge hornet; it struck old Appleyardbetween the shoulder-blades, and pierced him clean through, and he fellforward on his face among the cabbages. Hatch, with a broken cry, leaptinto the air; then, stooping double, he ran for the cover of the house.And in the meanwhile Dick Shelton had dropped behind a lilac, and had hiscrossbow bent and shouldered, covering the point of the forest.

  Not a leaf stirred. The sheep were patiently browsing; the birds hadsettled. But there lay the old man, with a cloth-yard arrow standing inhis back; and there were Hatch holding to the gable, and Dick crouchingand ready behind the lilac bush.

  "D'ye see aught?" cried Hatch.

  "Not a twig stirs," said Dick.

  "I think shame to leave him lying," said Bennet, coming forward once morewith hesitating steps and a very pale countenance. "Keep a good eye onthe wood, Master Shelton--keep a clear eye on the wood. The saintsassoil us! here was a good shoot!"

  Bennet raised the old archer on his knee. He was not yet dead; his faceworked, and his eyes shut and opened like machinery, and he had a mosthorrible, ugly look of one in pain.

  "Can ye hear, old Nick?" asked Hatch. "Have ye a last wish before yewend, old brother?"

  "Pluck out the shaft, and let me pass, a' Mary's name!" gasped Appleyard."I be done with Old England. Pluck it out!"

  "Master Dick," said Bennet, "come hither, and pull me a good pull uponthe arrow. He would fain pass, the poor sinner."

  Dick laid down his cross-bow, and pulling hard upon the arrow, drew itforth. A gush of blood followed; the old archer scrambled half upon hisfeet, called once upon the name of God, and then fell dead. Hatch, uponhis knees among the cabbages, prayed fervently for the welfare of thepassing spirit. But even as he prayed, it was plain that his mind wasstill divided, and he kept ever an eye upon the corner of the wood fromwhich the shot had come. When he had done, he got to his feet again,drew off one of his mailed gauntlets, and wiped his pale face, which wasall wet with terror.

  "Ay," he said, "it'll be my turn next."

  "Who hath done this, Bennet?" Richard asked, still holding the arrow inhis hand.

  "Nay, the saints know," said Hatch. "Here are a good two score Christiansouls that we have hunted out of house and holding, he and I. He haspaid his shot, poor shrew, nor will it be long, mayhap, ere I pay mine.Sir Daniel driveth over-hard."

  "This is a strange shaft," said the lad, looking at the arrow in hishand.

  "Ay, by my faith!" cried Bennet. "Black, and black-feathered. Here isan ill-favoured shaft, by my sooth! for black, they say, bodes burial.And here be words written. Wipe the blood away. What read ye?"

  "'_Appulyaird fro Jon Amend-All_,'" read Shelton. "What should thisbetoken?"

  "Nay, I like it not," returned the retainer, shaking his head. "JohnAmend-All! Here is a rogue's name for those that be up in the world!But why stand we here to make a mark? Take him by the knees, good MasterShelton, while I lift him by the shoulders, and let us lay him in hishouse. This will be a rare shog to poor Sir Oliver; he will turn papercolour; he will pray like a windmill."

  They took up the old archer, and carried him between them into his house,where he had dwelt alone. And there they laid him on the floor, out ofregard for the mattress, and sought, as best they might, to straightenand compose his limbs.

  Appleyard's house was clean and bare. There was a bed, with a bluecover, a cupboard, a great chest, a pair of joint-stools, a hinged tablein the chimney corner, and hung upon the wall the old soldier's armouryof bows and defensive armour. Hatch began to look about him curiously.

  "Nick had money," he said. "He may have had three score pounds put by.I would I could light upon't! When ye lose an old friend, MasterRichard, the best consolation is to heir him. See, now, this chest. Iwould go a mighty wager there is a bushel of gold therein. He had astrong hand to get, and a hard hand to keep withal, had Appleyard thearcher. Now may God rest his spirit! Near eighty year
he was afoot andabout, and ever getting; but now he's on the broad of his back, poorshrew, and no more lacketh; and if his chattels came to a good friend, hewould be merrier, methinks, in heaven."

  "Come, Hatch," said Dick, "respect his stone-blind eyes. Would ye robthe man before his body? Nay, he would walk!"

  Hatch made several signs of the cross; but by this time his naturalcomplexion had returned, and he was not easily to be dashed from anypurpose. It would have gone hard with the chest had not the gatesounded, and presently after the door of the house opened and admitted atall, portly, ruddy, black-eyed man of near fifty, in a surplice andblack robe.

  "Appleyard"--the newcomer was saying, as he entered; but he stopped dead."Ave Maria!" he cried. "Saints be our shield! What cheer is this?"

  "Cold cheer with Appleyard, sir parson," answered Hatch, with perfectcheerfulness. "Shot at his own door, and alighteth even now at purgatorygates. Ay! there, if tales be true, he shall lack neither coal norcandle."

  Sir Oliver groped his way to a joint-stool, and sat down upon it, sickand white.

  "This is a judgment! O, a great stroke!" he sobbed, and rattled off aleash of prayers.

  Hatch meanwhile reverently doffed his salet and knelt down.

  "Ay, Bennet," said the priest, somewhat recovering, "and what may thisbe? What enemy hath done this?"

  "Here, Sir Oliver, is the arrow. See, it is written upon with words,"said Dick.

  "Nay," cried the priest, "this is a foul hearing! John Amend-All! Aright Lollardy word. And black of hue, as for an omen! Sirs, this knavearrow likes me not. But it importeth rather to take counsel. Who shouldthis be? Bethink you, Bennet. Of so many black ill-willers, whichshould he be that doth so hardily outface us? Simnel? I do muchquestion it. The Walsinghams? Nay, they are not yet so broken; theystill think to have the law over us, when times change. There was SimonMalmesbury, too. How think ye, Bennet?"

  "What think ye, sir," returned Hatch, "of Ellis Duckworth?"

  "Nay, Bennet, never. Nay, not he," said the priest. "There cometh neverany rising, Bennet, from below--so all judicious chroniclers concord intheir opinion; but rebellion travelleth ever downward from above; andwhen Dick, Tom, and Harry take them to their bills, look ever narrowly tosee what lord is profited thereby. Now, Sir Daniel, having once morejoined him to the Queen's party, is in ill odour with the Yorkist lords.Thence, Bennet, comes the blow--by what procuring, I yet seek; buttherein lies the nerve of this discomfiture."

  "An't please you, Sir Oliver," said Bennet, "the axles are so hot in thiscountry that I have long been smelling fire. So did this poor sinner,Appleyard. And, by your leave, men's spirits are so foully inclined toall of us, that it needs neither York nor Lancaster to spur them on.Hear my plain thoughts: You, that are a clerk, and Sir Daniel, that sailson any wind, ye have taken many men's goods, and beaten and hanged not afew. Y' are called to count for this; in the end, I wot not how, ye haveever the uppermost at law, and ye think all patched. But give me leave,Sir Oliver: the man that ye have dispossessed and beaten is but theangrier, and some day, when the black devil is by, he will up with hisbow and clout me a yard of arrow through your inwards."

  "Nay, Bennet, y' are in the wrong. Bennet, ye should be glad to becorrected," said Sir Oliver. "Y' are a prater, Bennet, a talker, ababbler; your mouth is wider than your two ears. Mend it, Bennet, mendit."

  "Nay, I say no more. Have it as ye list," said the retainer.

  The priest now rose from the stool, and from the writing-case that hungabout his neck took forth wax and a taper, and a flint and steel. Withthese he sealed up the chest and the cupboard with Sir Daniel's arms,Hatch looking on disconsolate; and then the whole party proceeded,somewhat timorously, to sally from the house and get to horse.

  "'Tis time we were on the road, Sir Oliver," said Hatch, as he held thepriest's stirrup while he mounted.

  "Ay; but, Bennet, things are changed," returned the parson. "There isnow no Appleyard--rest his soul!--to keep the garrison. I shall keepyou, Bennet. I must have a good man to rest me on in this day of blackarrows. 'The arrow that flieth by day,' saith the evangel; I have nomind of the context; nay, I am a sluggard priest, I am too deep in men'saffairs. Well, let us ride forth, Master Hatch. The jackmen should beat the church by now."

  So they rode forward down the road, with the wind after them, blowing thetails of the parson's cloak; and behind them, as they went, clouds beganto arise and blot out the sinking sun. They had passed three of thescattered houses that make up Tunstall hamlet, when, coming to a turn,they saw the church before them. Ten or a dozen houses clusteredimmediately round it; but to the back the churchyard was next themeadows. At the lych-gate, near a score of men were gathered, some inthe saddle, some standing by their horses' heads. They were variouslyarmed and mounted; some with spears, some with bills, some with bows, andsome bestriding plough-horses, still splashed with the mire of thefurrow; for these were the very dregs of the country, and all the bettermen and the fair equipments were already with Sir Daniel in the field.

  "We have not done amiss, praised be the cross of Holywood! Sir Danielwill be right well content," observed the priest, inwardly numbering thetroop.

  "Who goes? Stand! if ye be true!" shouted Bennet. A man was seenslipping through the churchyard among the yews; and at the sound of thissummons he discarded all concealment, and fairly took to his heels forthe forest. The men at the gate, who had been hitherto unaware of thestranger's presence, woke and scattered. Those who had dismounted beganscrambling into the saddle; the rest rode in pursuit; but they had tomake the circuit of the consecrated ground, and it was plain their quarrywould escape them. Hatch, roaring an oath, put his horse at the hedge,to head him off; but the beast refused, and sent his rider sprawling inthe dust. And though he was up again in a moment, and had caught thebridle, the time had gone by, and the fugitive had gained too great alead for any hope of capture.

  The wisest of all had been Dick Shelton. Instead of starting in a vainpursuit, he had whipped his crossbow from his back, bent it, and set aquarrel to the string; and now, when the others had desisted, he turnedto Bennet and asked if he should shoot.

  "Shoot! shoot!" cried the priest, with sanguinary violence.

  "Cover him, Master Dick," said Bennet. "Bring me him down like a ripeapple."

  The fugitive was now within but a few leaps of safety; but this last partof the meadow ran very steeply uphill; and the man ran slower inproportion. What with the greyness of the falling night, and the unevenmovements of the runner, it was no easy aim; and as Dick levelled hisbow, he felt a kind of pity, and a half desire that he might miss. Thequarrel sped.

  The man stumbled and fell, and a great cheer arose from Hatch and thepursuers. But they were counting their corn before the harvest. The manfell lightly; he was lightly afoot again, turned and waved his cap in abravado, and was out of sight next moment in the margin of the wood.

  "And the plague go with him!" cried Bennet. "He has thieves' heels; hecan run, by St Banbury! But you touched him, Master Shelton; he hasstolen your quarrel, may he never have good I grudge him less!"

  "Nay, but what made he by the church?" asked Sir Oliver. "I am shrewdlyafeared there has been mischief here. Clipsby, good fellow, get ye downfrom your horse, and search thoroughly among the yews."

  Clipsby was gone but a little while ere he returned carrying a paper.

  "This writing was pinned to the church door," he said, handing it to theparson. "I found naught else, sir parson."

  "Now, by the power of Mother Church," cried Sir Oliver, "but this runshard on sacrilege! For the king's good pleasure, or the lord of themanor--well! But that every run-the-hedge in a green jerkin shouldfasten papers to the chancel door--nay, it runs hard on sacrilege, hard;and men have burned for matters of less weight. But what have we here?The light falls apace. Good Master Richard, y' have young eyes. Readme, I pray, this libel."

  Dick Shelton took the paper in his hand and
read it aloud. It containedsome lines of very rugged doggerel, hardly even rhyming, written in agross character, and most uncouthly spelt. With the spelling somewhatbettered, this is how they ran:

  "I had four blak arrows under my belt, Four for the greefs that I have felt, Four for the nomber of ill menne That have opressid me now and then.

  One is gone; one is wele sped; Old Apulyaird is ded.

  One is for Maister Bennet Hatch, That burned Grimstone, walls and thatch.

  One for Sir Oliver Oates, That cut Sir Harry Shelton's throat.

  Sir Daniel, ye shull have the fourt; We shall think it fair sport.

  Ye shull each have your own part, A blak arrow in each blak heart. Get ye to your knees for to pray: Ye are ded theeves, by yea and nay!

  "JON AMEND-ALL of the Green Wood, And his jolly fellaweship.

  "Item, we have mo arrowes and goode hempen cord for otheres of your following."

  "Now, well-a-day for charity and the Christian graces!" cried Sir Oliver,lamentably. "Sirs, this is an ill world, and groweth daily worse. Iwill swear upon the cross of Holywood I am as innocent of that goodknight's hurt, whether in act or purpose, as the babe unchristened.Neither was his throat cut; for therein they are again in error, as therestill live credible witnesses to show."

  "It boots not, sir parson," said Bennet. "Here is unseasonable talk."

  "Nay, Master Bennet, not so. Keep ye in your due place, good Bennet,"answered the priest. "I shall make mine innocence appear. I will, uponno consideration, lose my poor life in error. I take all men to witnessthat I am clear of this matter. I was not even in the Moat House. I wassent of an errand before nine upon the clock"--

  "Sir Oliver," said Hatch, interrupting, "since it please you not to stopthis sermon, I will take other means. Goffe, sound to horse."

  And while the tucket was sounding, Bennet moved close to the bewilderedparson, and whispered violently in his ear.

  Dick Shelton saw the priest's eye turned upon him for an instant in astartled glance. He had some cause for thought; for this Sir HarryShelton was his own natural father. But he said never a word, and kepthis countenance unmoved.

  Hatch and Sir Oliver discussed together for a while their alteredsituation; ten men, it was decided between them, should be reserved, notonly to garrison the Moat House, but to escort the priest across thewood. In the meantime, as Bennet was to remain behind, the command ofthe reinforcement was given to Master Shelton. Indeed, there was nochoice; the men were loutish fellows, dull and unskilled in war, whileDick was not only popular, but resolute and grave beyond his age.Although his youth had been spent in these rough, country places, the ladhad been well taught in letters by Sir Oliver, and Hatch himself hadshown him the management of arms and the first principles of command.Bennet had always been kind and helpful; he was one of those who arecruel as the grave to those they call their enemies, but ruggedlyfaithful and well willing to their friends; and now, while Sir Oliverentered the next house to write, in his swift, exquisite penmanship, amemorandum of the last occurrences to his master, Sir Daniel Brackley,Bennet came up to his pupil to wish him God-speed upon his enterprise.

  "Ye must go the long way about, Master Shelton," he said; "round by thebridge, for your life! Keep a sure man fifty paces afore you, to drawshots; and go softly till y' are past the wood. If the rogues fall uponyou, ride for 't; ye will do naught by standing. And keep ever forward,Master Shelton; turn me not back again, an ye love your life; there is nohelp in Tunstall, mind ye that. And now, since ye go to the great warsabout the king, and I continue to dwell here in extreme jeopardy of mylife, and the saints alone can certify if we shall meet again below, Igive you my last counsels now at your riding. Keep an eye on Sir Daniel;he is unsure. Put not your trust in the jack-priest; he intendeth notamiss, but doth the will of others; it is a hand-gun for Sir Daniel! Getyour good lordship where ye go; make you strong friends; look to it. Andthink ever a pater-noster-while on Bennet Hatch. There are worse roguesafoot than Bennet. So, God-speed!"

  "And Heaven be with you, Bennet!" returned Dick. "Ye were a good friendto me-ward, and so I shall say ever."

  "And, look ye, master," added Hatch, with a certain embarrassment, "ifthis Amend-All should get a shaft into me, ye might, mayhap, lay out agold mark or mayhap a pound for my poor soul; for it is like to go stiffwith me in purgatory."

  "Ye shall have your will of it, Bennet," answered Dick. "But, whatcheer, man! we shall meet again, where ye shall have more need of alethan masses."

  "The saints so grant it, Master Dick!" returned the other. "But herecomes Sir Oliver. An he were as quick with the long-bow as with the pen,he would be a brave man-at-arms."

  Sir Oliver gave Dick a sealed packet, with this superscription: "To myryght worchypful master, Sir Daniel Brackley, knyght, be thys delyveredin haste."

  And Dick, putting it in the bosom of his jacket, gave the word and setforth westward up the village.

 
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