CHAPTER I-AT THE SIGN OF THE SUN IN KETTLEY
Sir Daniel and his men lay in and about Kettley that night, warmly
quartered and well patrolled. But the Knight of Tunstall was one who never rested from money-getting; and even now, when he was on the brink
of an adventure
which should make or mar
him, he was up an hour after midnight to squeeze
poor neighbours. He was one who trafficked greatly in disputed inheritances; it was his way to buy out the most unlikely claimant, and then, by the favour he curried with great lords about the king, procure unjust
decisions in his favour; or, if that was too roundabout, to seize
the disputed manor
of arms, and rely
on his influence
and Sir Oliver's cunning
in the law to hold what he had snatched. Kettley was one such place; it had come very lately into his clutches; he still met with opposition
from the tenants; and it was to overawe discontent
that he had led his troops that way.
By two in the morning, Sir Daniel sat in the inn room, close by the fireside, for it was cold at that hour among the fens of Kettley. By his elbow stood a pottle of spiced ale. He had taken off his visored headpiece, and sat with his bald
head and thin
, dark visage
resting on one hand, wrapped warmly
in a sanguine-coloured cloak
. At the lower end of the room about a dozen of his men stood sentry
over the door or lay asleep on benches; and somewhat nearer hand, a young lad, apparently
of twelve or thirteen, was stretched in a mantle
on the floor. The host
of the Sun stood before the great man.
"Now, mark me, mine host
," Sir Daniel said, "follow but mine
orders, and I shall be your good lord ever. I must have good men for head boroughs, and I will have Adam-a-More high constable; see to it narrowly. If other men be chosen, it shall avail
you nothing; rather it shall be found to your sore
cost. For those that have paid rent
to Walsingham I shall take good measure-you among the rest, mine host
," said the host
, "I will swear
upon the cross
of Holywood I did but pay to Walsingham upon compulsion
. Nay, bully knight
, I love not the rogue
Walsinghams; they were as poor as thieves, bully knight
. Give me a great lord like you. Nay; ask me among the neighbours, I am stout
"It may be," said Sir Daniel, dryly. "Ye shall then pay twice."
made a horrid grimace
; but this was a piece of bad luck that might readily befall
in these unruly
times, and he was perhaps glad to make his peace so easily.
"Bring up yon fellow, Selden!" cried the knight
And one of his retainers led up a poor, cringing old man, as pale
as a candle, and all shaking with the fen fever
"Sirrah," said Sir Daniel, "your name?"
"An't please your worship
," replied the man, "my name is Condall-Condall of Shoreby, at your good worship
"I have heard you ill reported on," returned the knight
. "Ye deal in treason
; ye trudge
the country leasing; y' are heavily
suspicioned of the death of severals. How, fellow, are ye so bold
? But I will bring you down."
"Right honourable and my reverend
lord," the man cried, "here is some hodge-podge, saving your good presence
. I am but a poor private
man, and have hurt none."
"The under-sheriff did report
of you most vilely," said the knight
. "'Seize me,' saith he, 'that Tyndal of Shoreby.'"
"Condall, my good lord; Condall is my poor name," said the unfortunate
"Condall or Tyndal, it is all one," replied Sir Daniel, coolly. "For, by my sooth, y' are here and I do mightily suspect
. If ye would save your neck, write me swiftly an obligation
for twenty pound."
"For twenty pound, my good lord!" cried Condall. "Here is midsummer madness! My whole estate
amounteth not to seventy shillings."
"Condall or Tyndal," returned Sir Daniel, grinning, "I will run my peril
of that loss. Write me down twenty, and when I have recovered all I may, I will be good lord to you, and pardon
you the rest."
"Alas! my good lord, it may not be; I have no skill
to write," said Condall.
"Well-a-day!" returned the knight
. "Here, then, is no remedy
. Yet I would fain
have spared you, Tyndal, had my conscience
suffered. Selden, take me this old shrew
softly to the nearest elm, and hang me him tenderly by the neck, where I may see him at my riding. Fare ye well, good Master Condall, dear Master Tyndal; y' are post-haste
for Paradise; fare
ye then well!"
"Nay, my right pleasant
lord," replied Condall, forcing an obsequious
smile, "an ye be so masterful, as doth right
well become you, I will even, with all my poor skill
, do your good bidding."
"Friend," quoth Sir Daniel, "ye will now write two score
. Go to! y' are too cunning
for a livelihood
of seventy shillings. Selden, see him write me this in good form, and have it duly
And Sir Daniel, who was a very merry knight
, none merrier in England, took a drink of his mulled ale, and lay back, smiling.
Meanwhile, the boy upon the floor began to stir
, and presently
sat up and looked about him with a scare
"Hither," said Sir Daniel; and as the other rose at his command
and came slowly towards him, he leaned back and laughed outright. "By the rood!" he cried, "a sturdy
The lad flushed crimson
with anger, and darted a look of hate out of his dark eyes. Now that he was on his legs, it was more difficult
to make certain
of his age. His face looked somewhat older in expression
, but it was as smooth
as a young child's; and in bone and body he was unusually slender
, and somewhat awkward
"Ye have called me, Sir Daniel," he said. "Was it to laugh at my poor plight
"Nay, now, let laugh," said the knight
. "Good shrew
, let laugh, I pray
you. An ye could see yourself, I warrant
ye would laugh the first."
"Well," cried the lad, flushing, "ye shall answer this when ye answer for the other. Laugh while yet ye may!"
"Nay, now, good cousin," replied Sir Daniel, with some earnestness, "think not that I mock
at you, except in mirth
, as between kinsfolk and singular
friends. I will make you a marriage
of a thousand pounds, go to! and cherish
you exceedingly. I took you, indeed, roughly, as the time demanded; but from henceforth I shall ungrudgingly maintain
and cheerfully serve
you. Ye shall be Mrs. Shelton-Lady Shelton, by my troth
! for the lad promiseth bravely. Tut! ye will not shy
laughter; it purgeth melancholy
. They are no rogues who laugh, good cousin. Good mine host
, lay me a meal now for my cousin, Master John. Sit ye down, sweetheart, and eat."
But the lad was obstinate
, drank a cup of water, and, once more wrapping himself closely in his mantle
, sat in a far corner
In an hour or two, there rose a stir
in the village
of sentries challenging
and the clatter
of arms and horses; and then a troop
drew up by the inn door, and Richard Shelton, splashed with mud, presented himself upon the threshold
"Save you, Sir Daniel," he said.
"How! Dickie Shelton!" cried the knight
; and at the mention
of Dick's name the other lad looked curiously across. "What maketh Bennet Hatch?"
"Please you, sir knight
, to take cognisance of this packet from Sir Oliver, wherein are all things fully stated," answered Richard, presenting the priest
's letter. "And please you farther, ye were best make all speed
to Risingham; for on the way hither
we encountered one riding furiously
with letters, and by his report
, my Lord of Risingham was sore
bested, and lacked exceedingly your presence
"How say you? Sore bested?" returned the knight
. "Nay, then, we will make speed
sitting down, good Richard. As the world goes in this poor realm
of England, he that rides softliest rides surest. Delay, they say, begetteth peril
; but it is rather this itch of doing that undoes men; mark it, Dick. But let me see, first, what cattle
ye have brought. Selden, a link
here at the door!"
And Sir Daniel strode forth into the village
street, and, by the red glow
of a torch
, inspected his new troops. He was an unpopular neighbour and an unpopular master
; but as a leader
in war he was well-beloved by those who rode behind his pennant
. His dash, his proved courage
, his forethought for the soldiers' comfort
, even his rough gibes, were all to the taste of the bold
blades in jack and salet.
"Nay, by the rood!" he cried, "what poor dogs are these? Here be some as crooked
as a bow, and some as lean
as a spear
. Friends, ye shall ride in the front of the battle
; I can spare
you, friends. Mark me this old villain
on the piebald
! A two-year mutton
riding on a hog would look more soldierly! Ha! Clipsby, are ye there, old rat? Y' are a man I could lose with a good heart
; ye shall go in front of all, with a bull's eye painted on your jack, to be the better butt for archery
; sirrah, ye shall show me the way."
"I will show you any way, Sir Daniel, but the way to change sides," returned Clipsby, sturdily.
Sir Daniel laughed a guffaw
"Why, well said!" he cried. "Hast a shrewd
tongue in thy mouth, go to! I will forgive you for that merry
word. Selden, see them fed, both man and brute
re-entered the inn.
"Now, friend Dick," he said, "fall to. Here is good ale and bacon. Eat, while that I read."
Sir Daniel opened the packet, and as he read his brow darkened. When he had done he sat a little, musing
. Then he looked sharply
at his ward
"Dick," said he, "Y' have seen this penny rhyme
The lad replied in the affirmative
"It bears your father's name," continued the knight
; "and our poor shrew
of a parson
is, by some mad soul
, accused of slaying him."
"He did most eagerly deny
it," answered Dick.
"He did?" cried the knight
, very sharply
. "Heed him not. He has a loose tongue; he babbles like a jack-sparrow. Some day, when I may find the leisure
, Dick, I will myself more fully inform
you of these matters. There was one Duckworth shrewdly blamed for it; but the times were troubled, and there was no justice
to be got."
"It befell at the Moat House?" Dick ventured, with a beating at his heart
"It befell between the Moat House and Holywood," replied Sir Daniel, calmly; but he shot a covert glance
, black with suspicion
, at Dick's face. "And now," added the knight
you with your meal; ye shall return to Tunstall with a line from me."
Dick's face fell sorely.
"Prithee, Sir Daniel," he cried, "send one of the villains! I beseech
you let me to the battle
. I can strike
, I promise
"I misdoubt it not," replied Sir Daniel, sitting down to write. "But here, Dick, is no honour to be won. I lie in Kettley till
I have sure tidings
of the war, and then ride to join me with the conqueror
. Cry not on cowardice
; it is but wisdom
, Dick; for this poor realm
so tosseth with rebellion
, and the king's name and custody
so changeth hands, that no man may be certain
of the morrow. Toss-pot and Shuttle-wit run in, but my Lord Good-Counsel sits o' one side, waiting."
With that, Sir Daniel, turning his back to Dick, and quite at the farther end of the long table
, began to write his letter, with his mouth on one side, for this business of the Black Arrow stuck sorely in his throat.
Meanwhile, young Shelton was going on heartily enough with his breakfast, when he felt a touch upon his arm, and a very soft voice whispering in his ear.
"Make not a sign, I do beseech
you," said the voice, "but of your charity
tell me the straight
way to Holywood. Beseech you, now, good boy, comfort
a poor soul
and extreme distress
, and set me so far forth upon the way to my repose
"Take the path by the windmill," answered Dick, in the same tone
; "it will bring you to Till Ferry; there inquire
And without turning his head, he fell again to eating. But with the tail of his eye he caught a glimpse
of the young lad called Master John stealthily
creeping from the room.
Dick, "he is a young as I. 'Good boy' doth he call me? An I had known, I should have seen the varlet hanged ere I had told him. Well, if he goes through the fen
, I may come up with him and pull his ears."
Half an hour later, Sir Daniel gave Dick the letter, and bade him speed
to the Moat House. And, again, some half an hour after Dick's departure
, a messenger
came, in hot haste
, from my Lord of Risingham.
"Sir Daniel," the messenger
said, "ye lose great honour, by my sooth! The fight began again this morning ere the dawn
, and we have beaten their van and scattered their right
wing. Only the main battle
standeth fast. An we had your fresh
men, we should tilt
you them all into the river. What, sir knight
! Will ye be the last? It stands not with your good credit
"Nay," cried the knight
, "I was but now upon the march
. Selden, sound
me the tucket. Sir, I am with you on the instant
. It is not two hours since the more part of my command
came in, sir messenger
. What would ye have? Spurring is good meat, but yet it killed the charger. Bustle, boys!"
By this time the tucket was sounding cheerily in the morning, and from all sides Sir Daniel's men poured into the main street and formed before the inn. They had slept upon their arms, with chargers saddled, and in ten minutes five-score
men-at-arms and archers, cleanly equipped and briskly disciplined
, stood ranked and ready. The chief part were in Sir Daniel's livery
, murrey and blue, which gave the greater show to their array
. The best armed rode first; and away out of sight
, at the tail of the column
, came the sorry reinforcement
of the night before. Sir Daniel looked with pride
along the line.
"Here be the lads to serve
you in a pinch," he said.
"They are pretty men, indeed," replied the messenger
. "It but augments my sorrow
that ye had not marched the earlier."
"Well," said the knight
, "what would ye? The beginning of a feast
and the end of a fray
, sir messenger
;" and he mounted into his saddle
. "Why! how now!" he cried. "John! Joanna! Nay, by the sacred
rood! where is she? Host, where is that girl?"
"Girl, Sir Daniel?" cried the landlord
. "Nay, sir, I saw no girl."
"Boy, then, dotard
!" cried the knight
. "Could ye not see it was a wench
? She in the murrey-coloured mantle
-she that broke her fast with water, rogue
-where is she?"
"Nay, the saints bless us! Master John, ye called him," said the host
. "Well, I thought
. He is gone. I saw him-her-I saw her in the stable
a good hour agone; 'a was saddling a grey horse."
"Now, by the rood!" cried Sir Daniel, "the wench
was worth five hundred pound to me and more."
," observed the messenger
, with bitterness, "while that ye are here, roaring for five hundred pounds, the realm
of England is elsewhere being lost
"It is well said," replied Sir Daniel. "Selden, fall me out with six cross
-bowmen; hunt me her down. I care not what it cost; but, at my returning, let me find her at the Moat House. Be it upon your head. And now, sir messenger
, we march
And the troop
broke into a good trot, and Selden and his six men were left behind upon the street of Kettley, with the staring villagers.