THE LADY OF BLOSSHOLME
H. Rider Haggard
Part 2 out of 6
Day? If you do not guess it, learn that I have practised archery from
my youth. Should you doubt, hold up your hand and I'll send a shaft
between your fingers."
The Abbot, who was shaken but unhurt, rose slowly and stood there, the
dead horse on one side and the dead man on the other.
"Speak," he said in a muffled voice.
"My Lord Abbot," went on Christopher, "a minute ago you tried to
murder me, and, had not my mail been good, would have succeeded. Now
your life is in my hand, for, as you have seen, I do not miss. Those
servants of yours are coming to your help. Call to them to halt,
or----" and he lifted the bow.
The Abbot obeyed, and the men, understanding, stayed where they were,
at a distance, but within earshot.
"You have a crucifix upon your breast," continued Christopher. "Take
it in your right hand now and swear an oath."
Again the Abbot obeyed.
"Swear thus," he said, Emlyn, who was crouched beneath the parapet,
prompting him from time to time; "I, Clement Maldon, Abbot of
Blossholme, in the presence of Almighty God in heaven, and of
Christopher Harflete and others upon earth," and he jerked his head
backwards towards the windows of the house, where all therein were
gathered, listening, "make oath upon the symbol of the Rood. I swear
that I abandon all claim of wardship over the body of Cicely Harflete,
born Cicely Foterell, the lawful wife of Christopher Harflete, and all
claim to the lands and goods that she may possess, or that were
possessed by her father, John Foterell, Knight, or by her mother, Dame
Foterell, deceased. I swear that I will raise no suit in any court,
spiritual or temporal, of this or other realms against the said Cicely
Harflete or against the said Christopher Harflete, her husband, nor
seek to work injury to their bodies or their souls, or to the bodies
or the souls of any who cling to them, and that henceforth they may
live and die in peace from me or any whom I control. Set your lips to
the Rood and swear thus now, Clement Maldon."
The Abbot hearkened, and so great was his rage, for he had no meek
heart, that he seemed to swell like an angry toad.
"Who gave you authority to administer oaths to me?" he asked at
length. "I'll not swear," and he cast the crucifix down upon the snow.
"Then I'll shoot," answered Christopher. "Come, pick up that cross."
But Maldon stood silent, his arms folded on his breast. Christopher
aimed and loosed, and so great was his skill--for there were few
archers in England like to him--that the arrow pierced Maldon's fur
cap and carried it away without touching the shaven head beneath.
"The next shall be two inches lower," he said, as he set another on
the string. "I waste no more good shafts."
Then, very slowly, to save his life, which he loved well enough,
Maldon bent down, and, lifting the crucifix from the snow, held it to
his lips and kissed it, muttering--
"I swear." But the oath he swore was very different to that which
Christopher had repeated to him, for, like a hunted fox, he knew how
to meet guile with guile.
"Now that I, a consecrated abbot, deeming it right that I should live
on to fulfil my work on earth, have done your bidding, have I leave to
go about my business, Christopher Harflete?" he asked, with bitter
"Why not?" asked Christopher. "Only be pleased henceforth not to
meddle with me and my business. To-morrow I wish to ride to London
with my lady, and we do not seek your company on the road."
Then, having found his cap, the Abbot turned and walked back towards
his own men, drawing the arrow from it as he went, and presently all
of them rode away over the rise towards Blossholme.
"Now that is well finished, and I have an oath that he will scarcely
dare to break," said Christopher presently. "What say you, Nurse?"
"I say that you are even a bigger simpleton than I took you to be,"
answered Emlyn angrily, as she rose and stretched herself, for her
limbs were cramped. "The oath, pshaw! By now he is absolved from it as
given under fear. Did you not hear me whisper to you to put an arrow
through his heart, instead of playing boy's pranks with his cap?"
"I did not wish to kill an abbot, Nurse."
"Foolish man, what is the difference in such a matter between him and
one of his servants? Moreover, he will only say that you tried to slay
him, and missed, and produce the cap and arrow in evidence against
you. Well, my talk serves nothing to mend a bad matter, and soon you
will hear it straighter from himself. Go now and make your house ready
for attack, and never dare to set a foot without its doors, for death
waits you there."
Emlyn was right. Within three hours an unarmed monk trudged up to
Cranwell Towers through the falling snow and cast across the moat a
letter that was tied to a stone. Then he nailed a writing to one of
the oak posts of the outer gate, and, without a word, departed as he
had come. In the presence of Christopher and Cicely, Emlyn opened and
read this second letter, as she had read the first. It was short, and
"Take notice, Sir Christopher Harflete, and all others whom it may
concern, that the oath which I, Clement Maldon, Abbot of
Blossholme, swore to you this day, is utterly void and of none
effect, having been wrung from me under the threat of instant
death. Take notice, further, that a report of the murder which you
have done has been forwarded to the King's grace and to the
Sheriff and other officers of this county, and that by virtue of
my rights and authority, ecclesiastical and civil, I shall proceed
to possess myself of the person of Cicely Foterell, my ward, and
of the lands and other property held by her father, Sir John
Foterell, deceased, upon the former of which I have already
entered on her behalf, and by exercise of such force as may be
needful to seize you, Christopher Harflete, and to hand you over
to justice. Further, by means of notice sent herewith, I warn all
that cling to you and abet you in your crimes that they will do so
at the peril of their souls and bodies.
"Clement Maldon, Abbot of Blossholme."
WHAT PASSED AT CRANWELL
A week had gone by. For the first three days of that time little of
note had happened at Cranwell Towers; that is, no assault was
delivered. Only Christopher and his dozen or so of house-servants and
small tenants discovered that they were quite surrounded. Once or
twice some of them rode out a little way, to be hunted back again by a
much superior force, which emerged from the copses near by or from
cottages in the village, and even from the porch of the church. With
these men they never came to close quarters, so that no lives were
lost. In a fashion this was a disadvantage to them, since they lacked
the excitement of actual fighting, the dread of which was ever
present, but not its joy.
Meanwhile in other ways things went ill with them. Thus, first of all
their beer gave out, and then such other cordials as they had, so that
they were reduced to water to drink. Next their fuel became exhausted,
for nearly all the stock of it was kept at the farmstead about a
quarter of a mile away, and on the second day of the siege this stead
was fired and burned with its contents, the cattle and horses being
driven off, they knew not where.
So it came about at length they could keep only one fire, in the
kitchen, and that but small, which in the end they were obliged to
feed with the doors of the outhouses, and even with the floorings torn
out of the attics, in order that they might cook their food. Nor was
there much of this; only a store of salt meat and some pickled pork
and smoked bacon, together with a certain amount of oatmeal and flour,
that they made into cakes and bread.
On the fourth day, however, these gave out, so that they were reduced
to a scanty diet of hung flesh, with a few apples by way of
vegetables, and hot water to drink to warm them. At length, too, there
was nothing more to burn, and therefore they must eat their meat raw,
and grew sick on it. Moreover, a cold thaw set in, and the house grew
icy, so that they moved about it with chattering teeth, and at night,
ill-nurtured as they were, could scarce keep the life in them beneath
all the coverings which they had.
Ah! how long were those nights, with never a blaze upon the hearth or
so much as a candle to light them. At four o'clock the darkness came
down, which did not lessen, for the moon grew low and the mists were
thick, until day broke about seven on the following morning. And all
this time, fearing attack, they must keep watch and ward through the
gloom, so that even sleep was denied them.
For a while they bore up bravely, even the tenants, though news was
shouted to these that their steads had been harried, and their wives
and children hunted off to seek shelter where they might.
Cicely and Emlyn never murmured. Indeed, this new-made wife kept her
dreadful honeymoon with a cheerful face, trudging through the black
hours around the circle of the moat at her husband's side, or from
window-place to window-place in the empty rooms, till at length they
cast themselves down upon some bed to sleep a while, giving over the
watch to others. Only Emlyn never seemed to sleep. But at length their
companions did begin to murmur.
One morning at the dawn, after a very bitter night, they waited upon
Christopher and told him that they were willing to fight for his sake
and his lady's, but that, as there was no hope of help, they could no
longer freeze and starve; in short, that they must either escape from
the house or surrender. He listened to them patiently, knowing that
what they said was true, and then consulted for a while with Cicely
"Our case is desperate, dear wife. Now what shall we do, who have no
chance of succour, since none know of our plight? Yield, or strive to
escape through the darkness?"
"Not yield, I think," answered Cicely, choking back a sob. "If we
yield certainly they will separate us, and that merciless Abbot will
bring you to your death and me to a nunnery."
"That may happen in any case," muttered Christopher, turning his head
aside. "But what say you, Nurse?"
"I say fight for it," answered Emlyn boldly. "It is certain that we
cannot stay here, for, to be plain, Sir Christopher, there are some
among us whom I do not trust. What wonder? Their stomachs are empty,
their hands are blue, their wives and children are they know not
where, and the heavy curse of the Church hangs over them, all of which
things may be mended if they play you false. Let us take what horses
remain and slip away at dead of night if we can; or if we cannot, then
let us die, as many better folk have done before."
So they agreed to try their fortune, thinking that it was so bad it
could not be worse, and spent the rest of that day in getting ready as
best they could. The seven horses still stood in the stable, and
although they were stiff from want of exercise, had been hay-fed and
watered. On these they proposed to ride, but first they must tell the
truth to those who had stood by them. So about three o'clock of the
afternoon Christopher called all the men together beneath the gateway
and sorrowfully set out his tale. Here, he showed them, they could
bide no longer, and to surrender meant that his new-wed wife would
soon be made a widow. Therefore they must fly, taking with them as
many as there were horses for them to ride, if they cared to risk such
a journey. If not, he and the two women would go alone.
Now four of the stoutest-hearted of them, men who had served him and
his father for many years, stepped forward, saying that, evil as these
seemed to be, they would follow his fortunes to the last. He thanked
them shortly, whereon one of the others asked what they were to do,
and if he proposed to desert them after leading them into this plight.
"God knows I would rather die," he replied, with a swelling heart;
"but, my friends, consider the case. If I bide here, what of my wife?
Alas! it has come to this: that you must choose whether you will slip
out with us and scatter in the woods, where I think you will not be
followed, since yonder Abbot has no quarrel against you; or whether
you will wait here, and to-morrow at the dawn, surrender. In either
event you can say that I compelled you to stand by us, and that you
have shed no man's blood; also I will give you a writing."
So they talked together gloomily, and at last announced that when he
and their lady went they would go also and get off as best they could.
But there was a man among them, a small farmer named Jonathan Dicksey,
who thought otherwise. This Jonathan, who held his land under
Christopher, had been forced to this business of the defence of
Cranwell Towers somewhat against his will, namely, by the pressure of
Christopher's largest tenant, to whose daughter he was affianced. He
was a sly young man, and even during the siege, by means that need not
be described, he had contrived to convey a message to the Abbot of
Blossholme, telling him that had it been in his power he would gladly
be in any other place. Therefore, as he knew well, whatever had
happened to others, his farm remained unharried. Now he determined to
be out of a bad business as soon as he might, for Jonathan was one of
those who liked to stand upon the winning side.
Therefore, although he said "Aye, aye," more loudly than his comrades,
as soon as the dusk had fallen, while the others were making ready the
horses and mounting guard, Jonathan thrust a ladder across the moat at
the back of the stable, and clambered along its rungs into the shelter
of a cattle-shed in the meadow, and so away.
Half-an-hour later he stood before the Abbot in the cottage where he
had taken up his quarters, having contrived to blunder among his
people and be captured. To him at first Jonathan would say nothing,
but when at length they threatened to take him out and hang him, to
save his life, as he said, he found his tongue and told all.
"So, so," said the Abbot when he had finished. "Now God is good to us.
We have these birds in our net, and I shall keep St. Hilary's at
Blossholme after all. For your services, Master Dicksey, you shall be
my reeve at Cranwell Towers when they are in my hands."
But here it may be said that in the end things went otherwise, since,
so far from getting the stewardship of Cranwell, when the truth came
to be known, Jonathan's maiden would have no more to do with him, and
the folk in those parts sacked his farm and hunted him out of the
country, so that he was never heard of among them again.
Meanwhile, all being ready, Christopher at the Towers was closeted
with Cicely, taking his farewell of her in the dark, for no light was
left to them.
"This is a desperate venture," he said to her, "nor can I tell how it
will end, or if ever I shall see your sweet face again. Yet, dearest,
we have been happy together for some few hours, and if I fall and you
live on I am sure that you will always remember me till, as we are
taught, we meet again where no enemy has the power to torment us, and
cold and hunger and darkness are not. Cicely, if that should be so and
any child should come to you, teach it to love the father whom it
Now she threw her arms about him and wept, and wept, and wept.
"If you die," she sobbed, "surely I will do so also, for although I am
but young I find this world a very evil place, and now that my father
is gone, without you, husband, it would be a hell."
"Nay, nay," he answered; "live on while you may; for who knows? Often
out of the worst comes the best. At least we have had our joy. Swear
it now, sweet."
"Aye, if you will swear it also, for I may be taken and you left. In
the dark swords do not choose. Let us promise that we will both endure
our lives, together or separate, until God calls us."
So they swore there in the icy gloom, and sealed the oath with kisses.
Now the time was come at last, and they crept their way to the
courtyard hand in hand, taking some comfort because the night was very
favourable to their project. The snow had melted, and a great gale
blew from the sou'-west, boisterous but not cold, which caused the
tall elms that stood about to screech and groan like things alive. In
such a wind as this they were sure that they would not be heard, nor
could they be seen beneath that murky, starless sky, while the rain
which fell between the gusts would wash out the footprints of their
They mounted silently, and with the four men--for by now all the rest
had gone--rode across the drawbridge, which had been lowered in
preparation for their flight. Three hundred yards or so away their
road ran through an ancient marl-pit worked out generations before, in
which self-sown trees grew on either side of the path. As they drew
near this place suddenly, in the silence of the night, a horse neighed
ahead of them, and one of their beasts answered to the neigh.
"Halt!" whispered Cicely, whose ears were made sharp by fear. "I hear
They pulled rein and listened. Yes; between the gusts of wind there
was a faint sound as of the clanking of armour. They strained their
eyes in the darkness, but could see nothing. Again the horse neighed
and was answered. One of their servants cursed the beast beneath his
breath and struck it savagely with the flat of his sword, whereon,
being fresh, it took the bit between its teeth and bolted. Another
minute and there arose a great clamour from the marl-pit in front of
them--a noise of shoutings, of sword-strokes, and then a heavy groan
as from the lips of a dying man.
"An ambush!" exclaimed Christopher.
"Can we get round?" asked Cicely, and there was terror in her voice.
"Nay," he answered, "the stream is in flood; we should be bogged.
Hark! they charge us. Back to the Towers--there is no other way."
So they turned and fled, followed by shouts and the thunder of many
horses galloping. In two minutes they were there and across the bridge
--the women, Christopher, and the three men who were left.
"Up with the bridge!" cried Christopher, and they leapt from their
saddles and fumbled for the cranks; too late, for already the Abbot's
horsemen pressed it down.
Then a fight began. The horses of the enemy shrank back from the
trembling bridge, so their riders, dismounting, rushed forward, to be
met by Christopher and his three remaining men, who in that narrow
place were as good as a hundred. Wild, random blows were struck in the
darkness, and, as it chanced, two of the Abbot's people fell, whereon
a deep voice cried--
"Come back and wait for light."
When they had gone, dragging off their wounded with them, Christopher
and his servants again strove to wind up the bridge, only to find that
it would not stir.
"Some traitor has fouled the chains," he said in the quiet voice of
despair. "Cicely and Emlyn, get you into the house. I, and any who
will bide with me, stay here to see this business out. When I am down,
yield yourself. Afterwards I think that the King will give you
justice, if you can come to him."
"I'll not go," she wailed; "I'll die with you."
"Nay, you shall go," he said, stamping his foot, and, as he spoke, an
arrow hissed between them. "Emlyn, drag her hence ere she is shot.
Swift, I say, swift, or God's curse and mine rest on you. Unclasp your
arms, wife; how can I fight while you hang about my neck? What! Must I
strike you? Then, there and there!"
She loosed her grasp, and, groaning, fell back upon the breast of
Emlyn, who half led, half carried her across the courtyard, where
their scared horses galloped loose.
"Whither go we?" sobbed Cicely.
"To the central tower," answered Emlyn; "it seems safest there."
To this tower, whence the place took its name, they groped their way.
Unlike the rest of the house, which for the most part was of wood, it
was built of stone, being part of an older fabric dating from the
Norman days. Slowly they stumbled up the steps till at length they
reached the roof, for some instinct prompted them to find a spot
whence they could see, should the stars break out. Here, on this lofty
perch, they crouched them down and waited the end, whatever it might
be--waited in silence.
A while passed--they never knew how long--till at length a sudden
flame shot up above the roof of the kitchens at the rear, which the
wind caught and blew on to the timbers of the main building, so that
presently this began to blaze also. The house had been fired, by whom
was never known, though it was said that the traitor, Jonathan
Dicksey, had returned and done it, either for a bribe or that his own
sin might be forgotten in this great catastrophe.
"The house burns," said Emlyn in her quiet voice. "Now, if you would
save your life, follow me. Beneath this tower is a vault where no
flame can touch us."
But Cicely would not stir, for by the fierce and ever-growing light
she could see what passed beneath, and, as it chanced, the wind blew
the smoke away from them. There, beyond the drawbridge, were gathered
the Abbey guards, and there in the gateway stood Christopher and his
three men with drawn swords, while in the courtyard the horses
galloped madly, screaming in their fear. A soldier looked up and saw
the two women standing on the top of the tower, then called out
something to the Abbot, who sat on horseback near to him. He looked
and saw also.
"Yield, Sir Christopher," he shouted; "the Lady Cicely burns. Yield,
that we may save her."
Christopher turned and saw also. For a moment he hesitated, then
wheeled round to run across the courtyard. Too late, for as he came
the flames burst through the main roof of the house, and the timber
front of it, blazing furiously, fell outwards, blocking the doorway,
so that the place became a furnace into which none might enter and
Now a madness seemed to take hold of him. For a moment he stared up at
the figures of the two women standing high above the rolling smoke and
wrapping flame. Then, with his three men, he charged with a roar into
the crowd of soldiers who had followed him into the courtyard,
striving, it would seem, to cut his way to the Abbot, who lurked
behind. It was a dreadful sight, for he and those with him fought
furiously, and many went down. Presently, of the four only Christopher
was left upon his feet. Swords and spears smote upon his armour, but
he did not fall; it was those in front of him who fell. A great fellow
with an axe got behind him and struck with all his might upon his
helm. The sword dropped from Harflete's hand; slowly he turned about,
looked upward, then stretched out his arms and fell heavily to earth.
The Abbot leapt from his horse and ran to him, kneeling at his side.
"Dead!" he cried, and began to shrive his passing soul, or so it
"Dead," repeated Emlyn, "and a gallant death!"
"Dead!" wailed Cicely, in so terrible a voice that all below heard it.
"Dead, dead!" and sank senseless on Emlyn's breast.
At that moment the rest of the roof fell in, hiding the tower in
spouts and veils of flame. Here they might not stay if they would
live. Lifting her mistress in her strong arms, as she was wont to do
when she was little, Emlyn found the head of the stair, so that when
the wind blew the smoke aside for an instant, those below saw that
both had vanished, as they thought withered in the fire.
"Now you can enter on the Shefton lands, Abbot," cried a voice from
the darkness of the gateway, though in the turmoil none knew who
spoke; "but not for all England would I bear that innocent blood!"
The Abbot's face turned ghastly, and though it was hot enough in that
courtyard his teeth chattered.
"It is on the head of this woman-thief," he exclaimed with an effort,
looking down on Christopher, who lay at his feet. "Take him up, that
inquest may be held on him, who died doing murder. Can none enter the
house? His pocket full of gold to him who saves the Lady Cicely!"
"Can any enter hell and live?" answered the same voice out of the
smoke and gloom. "Seek her sweet soul in heaven, if you may come
Then, with scared faces, they lifted up Christopher and the other dead
and wounded and carried them away, leaving Cranwell Towers to burn
itself to ashes, for so fierce was the heat that none could bide there
Two hours had gone by. The Abbot sat in the little room of a cottage
at Cranwell that he had occupied during the siege of the Towers. It
was near midnight, yet, weary as he was, he could not rest; indeed,
had the night been less foul and dark he would have spent the time in
riding back to Blossholme. His heart was ill at ease. Things had gone
well with him, it is true. Sir John Foterell was dead--slain by
"outlawed men"; Sir Christopher Harflete was dead--did not his body
lie in the neat-house yonder? Cicely, daughter of the one and wife to
the other, was dead also, burned in the fire at the Towers, so that
doubtless the precious gems and the wide lands he coveted would fall
into his lap without further trouble. For, Cromwell being bribed, who
would try to snatch them from the powerful Abbot of Blossholme, and
had he not a title to them--of a sort?
And yet he was very ill at ease, for, as that voice had said--whose
voice was it? he wondered, somehow it seemed familiar--the blood of
these people lay on his head; and there came into his mind the text of
Holy Writ which he had quoted to Christopher, that he who shed man's
blood by man should his blood be shed. Also, although he had paid the
Vicar-General to back him, monks were in no great favour at the
English Court, and if this story travelled there, as it might, for
even the strengthless dead find friends, it was possible that
questions would be asked, questions hard to answer. Before Heaven he
could justify himself for all that he had done, but before King Henry,
who would usurp the powers of the very Pope, if the truth should
chance to reach the royal ear--ah! that was another matter.
The room was cold after the heat of that great fire; his Southern
blood, which had been warm enough, grew chill; loneliness and
depression took hold of him; he began to wonder how far in the eyes of
God above the end justifies the means. He opened the door of the
place, and holding on to it lest the rough, wintry gale should tear it
from its frail hinges, shouted aloud for Brother Martin, one of his
Presently Martin arrived, emerging from the cattleshed, a lantern in
his hand--a tall, thin man, with perplexed and melancholy eyes, long
nose, and a clever face--and, bowing, asked his superior's pleasure.
"My pleasure, Brother," answered the Abbot, "is that you shut the door
and keep out the wind, for this accursed climate is killing me. Yes,
make up the fire if you can, but the wood is too wet to burn; also it
smokes. There, what did I tell you? If this goes on we shall be hams
by to-morrow morning. Let it be, for, after all, we have seen enough
of fires to-night, and sit down to a cup of wine--nay, I forgot, you
drink but water--well, then, to a bite of bread and meat."
"I thank you, my Lord Abbot," answered Martin, "but I may not touch
flesh; this is Friday."
"Friday or no we have touched flesh--the flesh of men--up at the
Towers yonder this night," answered the Abbot, with an uneasy laugh.
"Still, obey your conscience, Brother, and eat bread. Soon it will be
midnight, and the meat can follow."
The lean monk bowed, and, taking a hunch of bread, began to bite at
it, for he was almost starving.
"Have you come from watching by the body of that bloody and rebellious
man who has worked us so much harm and loss?" asked the Abbot
The secretary nodded, then swallowing a crust, said--
"Aye, I have been praying over him and the others. At least he was
brave, and it must be hard to see one's new-wed wife burn like a
witch. Also, now that I come to study the matter, I know not what his
sin was who did but fight bravely when he was attacked. For without
doubt the marriage is good, and whether he should have waited to ask
your leave to make it is a point that might be debated through every
court in Christendom."
The Abbot frowned, not appreciating this open and judicial tone in
matters that touched him so nearly.
"You have honoured me of late by choosing me as one of your
confessors, though I think you do not tell me everything, my Lord
Abbot; therefore I bare my mind to you," continued Brother Martin
"Speak on then, man. What do you mean?"
"I mean that I do not like this business," he answered slowly, in the
intervals of munching at his bread. "You had a quarrel with Sir John
Foterell about those lands which you say belong to the Abbey. God
knows the right of it, for I understand no law; but he denied it, for
did I not hear it yonder in your chamber at Blossholme? He denied it,
and accused you of treason enough to hang all Blossholme, of which
again God knows the truth. You threatened him in your anger, but he
and his servant were armed and won out, and next day the two of them
rode for London with certain papers. Well, that night Sir John
Foterell was killed in the forest, though his servant Stokes escaped
with the papers. Now, who killed him?"
The Abbot looked at him, then seemed to take a sudden resolution.
"Our people, those men-at-arms whom I have gathered for the defence of
our House and the Church. My orders to them were to seize him living,
but the old English bull would not yield, and fought so fiercely that
it ended otherwise--to my sorrow."
The monk put down his bread, for which he seemed to have no further
"A dreadful deed," he said, "for which one day you must answer to God
"For which we all must answer," corrected the Abbot, "down to the last
lay-brother and soldier--you as much as any of us, Brother, for were
you not present at our quarrel?"
"So be it, Abbot. Being innocent, I am ready. But that is not the end
of it. The Lady Cicely, on hearing of this murder--nay, be not wrath,
I know no other name for it--and learning that you claimed her as your
ward, flies to her affianced lover, Sir Christopher Harflete, and that
very day is married to him by the parish priest in yonder church."
"It was no marriage. Due notice had not been given. Moreover, how
could my ward be wed without my leave?"
"She had not been served with notice of your wardship, if such exists,
or so she declared," replied Martin in his quiet, obstinate voice. "I
think that there is no court in Europe which would void this open
marriage when it learned that the parties lived a while as man and
wife, and were so received by those about them--no, not the Pope
"He who says that he is no lawyer still sets out the law," broke in
Maldon sarcastically. "Well, what does it matter, seeing that death
has voided it? Husband and wife, if such they were, are both dead; it
"No; for now they lay their appeal in the Court of Heaven, to which
every one of us is summoned; and Heaven can stir up its ministers on
earth. Oh! I like it not, I like it not; and I mourn for those two, so
loving, brave, and young. Their blood and that of many more is on our
hands--for what? A stretch of upland and of marsh which the King or
others may seize to-morrow."
The Abbot seemed to cower beneath the weight of these sad, earnest
words, and for a little while there was silence. Then he plucked up
courage, and said--
"I am glad that you remember that their blood is on your hands as well
as mine, since now, perhaps, you will keep them hidden."
He rose and walked to the door and the window to see that none were
without, then returned and exclaimed fiercely--
"Fool, do you then think that these deeds were done to win a new
estate? True it is that those lands are ours by right, and we need
their revenues; but there is more behind. The whole Church of this
realm is threatened by that accursed son of Belial who sits upon the
throne. Why, what is it now, man?"
"Only that I am an Englishman, and love not to hear England's king
called a son of Belial. His sins, I know, are many and black, like
those of others--still, 'son of Belial!' Let his Highness hear it, and
that name alone is enough to hang you!"
"Well, then, angel of grace, if it suits you better. At the least we
are threatened. Against the law of God and man our blessed Queen,
Catherine of Spain, is thrust away in favour of the slut who fills her
place. Even now I have tidings from Kimbolton that she lies dying
there of slow poison; so they say and I believe. Also I have other
tidings. Fisher and More being murdered, Parliament next month will be
moved to strike at the lesser monasteries and steal their goods, and
after them our turn will come. But we will not bear it tamely, for ere
this new year is out all England shall be ablaze, and I, Clement
Maldon, I--I will light the fire. Now you have the truth, Martin. Will
you betray me, as that dead knight would have done?"
"Nay, my Lord Abbot, your secrets are safe with me. Am I not your
chaplain, and does not this wilful and rebellious King of ours work
much mischief against God and His servants? Yet I tell you that I like
it not, and cannot see the end. We English are a stiff-necked folk
whom you of Spain do not understand and will never break, and Henry is
strong and subtle; moreover, his people love him."
"I knew that I could trust you, Martin, and the proof of it is that I
have spoken to you so openly," went on Maldon in a gentler voice.
"Well, you shall hear all. The great Emperor of Germany and Spain is
on our side, as, seeing his blood and faith, he must be. He will
avenge the wrongs of the Church and of his royal aunt. I, who know
him, am his agent here, and what I do is done at his bidding. But I
must have more money than he finds me, and that is why I stirred in
this matter of the Shefton lands. Also the Lady Cicely had jewels of
vast price, though I fear greatly lest they should have been lost in
the fire this night."
"Filthy lucre--the root of all evil," muttered Brother Martin.
"Aye, and of all good. Money, money--I must have more money to bribe
men and buy arms, to defend that stronghold of Heaven, the Church.
What matters it if lives are lost so that the immortal Church holds
her own? Let them go. My friend, you are fearful; these deaths weigh
upon your soul--aye, and on mine. I loved that girl, whom as a babe I
held in my arms, and even her rough father, I loved him for his honest
heart, although he always mistrusted me, the Spaniard--and rightly.
The knight Harflete, too, who lies yonder, he was of a brave breed,
but not one who would have served our turn. Well, they are gone, and
for these blood-sheddings we must find absolution."
"If we can."
"Oh! we can, we can. Already I have it in my pouch, under a seal you
know. And for our bodies, fear not. There is such a gale rising in
England as will blow out this petty breeze. A question of rights, some
arrows shot, a fire and lives lost--what of that when it agitates
betwixt powers temporal and spiritual, and which of them shall hold
the sceptre in this mighty Britain? Martin, I have a mission for you
that may lead you to a bishopric ere all is done, for that's your mind
and aim, and if you would put off your doubts and moodiness you've got
the brain to rule. That ship, the /Great Yarmouth/, which sailed for
Spain some days ago, has been beat back into the river, and should
weigh anchor again to-morrow morning. I have letters for the Spanish
Court, and you shall take them with my verbal explanations, which I
will give you presently, for they would hang us, and may not be
trusted to writing. She is bound for Seville, but you will follow the
Emperor wherever he may be. You will go, won't you?" and he glanced at
"I obey orders," answered Martin, "though I know little of Spaniards
or of Spanish."
"In every town the Benedictines have a monastery, and in every
monastery interpreters, and you shall be accredited to them all who
are of that great Brotherhood. Well, 'tis settled. Go, make ready as
best you can; I must write. Stay; the sooner this Harflete is under
ground the better. Bid that sturdy fellow, Bolle, find the sexton of
the church and help dig his grave, for we will bury him at dawn. Now
go, go, I tell you I must write. Come back in an hour, and I will give
you money for your faring, also my secret messages."
Brother Martin bowed and went.
"A dangerous man," muttered the Abbot, as the door closed on him; "too
honest for our game, and too much an Englishman. That native spirit
peeps beneath his cowl; a monk should have no country and no kin.
Well, he will learn a trick or two in Spain, and I'll make sure they
keep him there a while. Now for my letters," and he sat down at the
rude table and began to write.
Half-an-hour later the door opened and Martin entered.
"What is it now?" asked the Abbot testily. "I said, 'Come back in an
"Aye, you said that, but I have good news for you that I thought you
might like to hear."
"Out with it, then, man. It's scarce now-a-days. Have they found those
jewels? No, how could they? the place still flares," and he glanced
through the window-place. "What's the news?"
"Better than jewels. Christopher Harflete is not dead. While I was
praying over him he turned his head and muttered. I think he is only
stunned. You are skilled in medicine; come, look at him."
A minute later and the Abbot knelt over the senseless form of
Christopher where it lay on the filthy floor of the neat-house. By the
light of the lanterns with deft fingers he felt his wounded head, from
which the shattered casque had been removed, and afterwards his heart
"The skull is cut, but not broken," he said. "My judgment is that
though he may lie unsensed for days, if fed and tended this man will
live, being so young and strong. But if left alone in this cold place
he will be dead by morning, and perhaps he is better dead," and he
looked at Martin.
"That would be murder indeed," answered the secretary. "Come, let us
bear him to the fire and pour milk down his throat. We may save him
yet. Lift you his feet and I will take his head."
The Abbot did so, not very willingly, as it seemed to Martin, but
rather as one who has no choice.
Half-an-hour later, when the hurts of Christopher had been dressed
with ointment and bound up, and milk poured down his throat, which he
swallowed although he was so senseless, the Abbot, looking at him,
said to Martin--
"You gave orders for this Harflete's burial, did you not?"
The monk nodded.
"Then have you told any that he needs no grave at present?"
"No one except yourself."
The Abbot thought a while, rubbing his shaven chin.
"I think the funeral should go forward," he said presently. "Look not
so frightened; I do not purpose to inter him living. But there is a
dead man lying in that shed, Andrew Woods, my servant, the Scotch
soldier whom Harflete slew. He has no friends here to claim him, and
these two were of much the same height and breadth. Shrouded in a
blanket, none would know one body from the other, and it will be
thought that Andrew was buried with the rest. Let him be promoted in
his death, and fill a knight's grave."
"To what purpose would you play so unholy a trick, which must,
moreover, be discovered in a day, seeing that Sir Christopher lives?"
asked Martin, staring at him.
"For a very good purpose, my friend. It is well that Sir Christopher
Harflete should seem to die, who, if he is known to be alive, has
powerful kin in the south who will bring much trouble on us."
"Do you mean----? If so, before God I will have no hand in it."
"I said--seem to die. Where are your wits to-night?" answered the
Abbot, with irritation. "Sir Christopher travels with you to Spain as
our sick Brother Luiz, who, like myself, is of that country, and
desires to return there, as we know, but is too ill to do so. You will
nurse him, and on the ship he will die or recover, as God wills. If he
recovers our Brotherhood will show him hospitality at Seville,
notwithstanding his crimes, and by the time that he reaches England
again, which may not be for a long while, men will have forgotten all
this fray in a greater that draws on. Nor will he be harmed, seeing
that the lady whom he pretends to have married is dead beyond a doubt,
as you can tell him should he find his understanding."
"A strange game," muttered Martin.
"Strange or no, it is my game which I must play. Therefore question
not, but be obedient, and silent also, on your oath," replied the
Abbot in a cold, hard voice. "That covered litter which was brought
here for the wounded is in the next chamber. Wrap this man in blankets
and a monk's robe, and we will place him in it. Then let him be borne
to Blossholme as one of the dead by brethren who will ask no
questions, and ere dawn on to the ship /Great Yarmouth/, if he still
lives. It lies near the quay not half-a-mile from the Abbey gate. Be
swift now, and help me. I will overtake you with the letters, and see
that you are furnished with all things needful from our store. Also I
must speak with the captain ere he weighs anchor. Waste no more time
in talking, but obey and be secret."
"I obey, and I will be secret, as is my duty," answered Brother
Martin, bowing his head humbly. "But what will be the end of all this
business, God and His angels know alone. I say that I like it not."
"A /very/ dangerous man," muttered the Abbot, as he watched Martin go.
"He also must bide a while in Spain; a long while. I'll see to it!"
Just before the wild dawn broke on the morrow of the burning of the
Towers, a corpse, roughly shrouded, was borne from the village into
the churchyard of Cranwell, where a shallow grave had been dug for its
"Whom do we bury in such haste?" asked the tall Thomas Bolle, who had
delved the grave alone in the dark, for his orders were urgent, and
the sexton was fled away from these tumults.
"That man of blood, Sir Christopher Harflete, who has caused us so
much loss," said the old monk who had been bidden to perform the
office, as the clergyman, Father Necton, had gone also, fearing the
vengeance of the Abbot for his part in the marriage of Cicely. "A sad
story, a very sad story. Wedded by night, and now buried by night,
both of them, one in the flame and one in the earth. Truly, O God, Thy
judgments are wonderful, and woe to those who lift hands against Thine
"Very wonderful," answered Bolle, as, standing in the grave, he took
the head of the body and laid it down between his straddled feet; "so
wonderful that a plain man wonders what will be the wondrous end of
them, also why this noble young knight has grown so wondrously lighter
than he used to be. Trouble and hunger in those burnt Towers, I
suppose. Why did they not set him in the vault with his ancestors? It
would have saved me a lonely job among the ghosts that haunt this
place. What do you say, Father? Because the stone is cemented down and
the entrance bricked up, and there is no mason to be found? Then why
not have waited till one could be fetched? Oh, it is wonderful, all
wonderful. But who am I that I should dare to ask questions? When the
Lord Abbot orders, the lay-brother obeys, for he also is wonderful--a
"There, he is tidy now--straight on his back and his feet pointing to
the east, at least I hope so, for I could take no good bearings in the
dark; and the whole wonderful story comes to its wonderful end. So
give me your hand out of this hole, Father, and say your prayers over
the sinful body of this wicked fellow who dared to marry the maid he
loved, and to let out the souls of certain holy monks, or rather of
their hired rufflers, for monks don't fight, because they wished to
separate those whom God--I mean the devil--had joined together, and to
add their temporalities to the estate of Mother Church."
Then the old priest, who was shivering with cold, and understood
little of this dark talk, began to mumble his ritual, skipping those
parts of it which he could not remember. So another grain was planted
in the cornfields of death and immortality, though when and where it
should grow and what it should bear he neither knew nor cared, who
wished to escape from fears and fightings back to his accustomed cell.
It was done, and he and the bearers departed, beating their way
against the rough, raw wind, and leaving Thomas Bolle to fill in the
grave, which, so long as they were in sight, or rather hearing, he did
with much vigour. When they were gone, however, he descended into the
hole under pretence of trampling the loose soil, and there, to be out
of the wind, sat himself down upon the feet of the corpse and waited,
full of reflections.
"Sir Christopher dead," he muttered to himself. "I knew his
grandfather when I was a lad, and my grandfather told me that he knew
his grandfather's great-grandfather--say three hundred years of them--
and now I sit on the cold toes of the last of the lot, butchered like
a mad ox in his own yard by a Spanish priest and his hirelings, to win
his wife's goods. Oh! yes, it is wonderful, all very wonderful; and
the Lady Cicely dead, burnt like a common witch. And Emlyn dead--
Emlyn, whom I have hugged many a time in this very churchyard, before
they whipped her into marrying that fat old grieve and made a monk of
"Well, I had her first kiss, and, by the saints! how she cursed old
Stower all the way down yonder path. I stood behind that tree and
heard her. She said he would die soon, and he did, and his brat with
him. She said she would dance on his grave, and she did; I saw her do
it in the moonlight the night after he was buried; dressed in white
she danced on his grave! She always kept her promises, did Emlyn.
That's her blood. If her mother had not been a gypsy witch, she
wouldn't have married a Spaniard when every man in the place was after
her for her beautiful eyes. Emlyn is a witch too, or was, for they say
she is dead; but I can't think it, she isn't the sort that dies.
Still, she must be dead, and that's good for my soul. Oh! miserable
man, what are you thinking? Get behind me, Satan, if you can find
room. A grave is no place for you, Satan, but I wish you were in it
with me, Emlyn. You /must/ have been a witch, since, after you, I
could never fancy any other woman, which is against nature, for all's
fish that comes to a man's net. Evidently a witch of the worst sort,
but, my darling, witch or no I wish you weren't dead, and I'll break
that Abbot's neck for you yet, if it costs me my soul. Oh! Emlyn, my
darling, my darling, do you remember how we kissed in the copse by the
river? Never was there a woman who could love like you."
So he moaned on, rocking himself to and fro on the legs of the corpse,
till at length a wild ray from the red, risen sun crept into the
darksome hole, lighting first of all upon a mouldering skull which
Bolle had thrown back among the soil. He rose up and pitched it out
with a word that should not have passed the lips of a lay-brother,
even as such thoughts should not have passed his mind. Then he set
himself to a task which he had planned in the intervals of his amorous
meditations--a somewhat grizzly task.
Drawing his knife from its sheath, he cut the rough stitching of the
grave-clothes, and, with numb hands, dragged them away from the body's
The light went out behind a cloud, but, not to waste time, he began to
feel the face.
"Sir Christopher's nose wasn't broken," he muttered to himself,
"unless it were in that last fray, and then the bone would be loose,
and this is stiff. No, no, he had a very pretty nose."
The light came again, and Thomas peered down at the dead face beneath
him; then suddenly burst into a hoarse laugh.
"By all the saints! here's another of our Spaniard's tricks. It is
drunken Andrew the Scotchman, turned into a dead English knight.
Christopher killed him, and now he is Christopher. But where's
He thought a little while, then, jumping out of the grave, began to
fill it in with all his might.
"You're Christopher," he said; "well, stop Christopher until I can
prove you're Andrew. Good-bye, Sir Andrew Christopher; I am off to
seek your betters. If you are dead, who may not be alive? Emlyn
herself, perhaps, after this. Oh, the devil is playing a merry game
round old Cranwell Towers to-night, and Thomas Bolle will take a hand
He was right. The devil was playing a merry game. At least, so thought
others beside Thomas. For instance, that misguided but honest bigot,
Martin, as he contemplated the still senseless form of Christopher,
who, re-christened Brother Luiz, had been safely conveyed aboard the
/Great Yarmouth/, and now, whether dead or living, which he was not
sure, lay in the little cabin that had been allotted to the two of
them. Almost did Martin, as he looked at him and shook his bald head,
seem to smell brimstone in that close place, which, as he knew well,
was the fiend's favourite scent.
The captain also, a sour-faced mariner with a squint, known in
Dunwich, whence he hailed, as Miser Goody, because of his earnestness
in pursuing wealth and his skill in hoarding it, seemed to feel the
unhallowed influence of his Satanic Majesty. So far everything had
gone wrong upon this voyage, which already had been delayed six weeks,
that is, till the very worst period of the year, while he waited for
certain mysterious letters and cargo which his owners said he must
carry to Seville. Then he had sailed out of the river with a fair
wind, only to be beaten back by fearful weather that nearly sank the
Item: six of his best men had deserted because they feared a trip to
Spain at that season, and he had been obliged to take others at
hazard. Among them was a broad-shouldered, black-bearded fellow clad
in a leather jerkin, with spurs upon his heels--bloody spurs--that he
seemed to have found no time to take off. This hard rider came aboard
in a skiff after the anchor was up, and, having cast the skiff adrift,
offered good money for a passage to Spain or any other foreign port,
and paid it down upon the nail. He, Goody, had taken the money, though
with a doubtful heart, and given a receipt to the name of Charles
Smith, asking no questions, since for this gold he need not account to
the owners. Afterwards also the man, having put off his spurs and
soldier's jerkin, set himself to work among the crew, some of whom
seemed to know him, and in the storm that followed showed that he was
stout-hearted and useful, though not a skilled sailor.
Still, he mistrusted him of Charles Smith, and his bloody spurs, and
had he not been so short-handed and taken the knave's broad pieces
would have liked to set him ashore again when they were driven back
into the river, especially as he heard that there had been man-slaying
about Blossholme, and that Sir John Foterell lay slaughtered in the
forest. Perhaps this Charles Smith had murdered him. Well, if so, it
was no affair of his, and he could not spare a hand.
Now, when at length the weather had moderated, just as he was hauling
up his anchor, comes the Abbot of Blossholme, on whose will he had
been bidden to wait, with a lean-faced monk and another passenger,
said to be a sick religious, wrapped up in blankets and to all
Why, wondered that astute mariner Goody, should a sick monk wear
harness, for he felt it through the blankets as he helped him up the
ladder, although monk's shoes were stuck upon his feet. And why, as he
saw when the covering slipped aside for a moment, was his crown bound
up with bloody cloths?
Indeed, he ventured to question the Abbot as to this mysterious matter
while his Lordship was paying the passage money in his cabin, only to
get a very sharp answer.
"Were you not commanded to obey me in all things, Captain Goody, and
does obedience lie in prying out my business? Another word and I will
report you to those in Spain who know how to deal with mischief-
makers. If you would see Dunwich again, hold your peace."
"Your pardon, my Lord Abbot," said Goody; "but things go so upon this
ship that I grow afraid. That is an ill voyage upon which one lifts
anchor twice in the same port."
"You will not make them go better, captain, by seeking to nose out my
affairs and those of the Church. Do you desire that I should lay its
curse upon you?"
"Nay, your Reverence, I desire that you should take the curse off,"
answered Goody, who was very superstitious. "Do that and I'll carry a
dozen sick priests to Spain, even though they choose to wear chain
The Abbot smiled, then, lifting his hand, pronounced some words in
Latin, which, as he did not understand them, Goody found very
comforting. As they passed his lips the /Great Yarmouth/ began to
move, for the sailors were hoisting up her anchor.
"As I do not accompany you on this voyage, fare you well," he said.
"The saints go with you, as shall my prayers. Since you will not pass
the Gibraltar Straits, where I hear many infidel pirates lurk, given
good weather your voyage should be safe and easy. Again farewell. I
commend Brother Martin and our sick friend to your keeping, and shall
ask account of them when we meet again."
I pray it may not be this side of hell, for I do not like that Spanish
Abbot and his passengers, dead or living, thought Goody to himself, as
he bowed him from the cabin.
A minute later the Abbot, after a few earnest, hurried words with
Martin, began to descend the ladder to the boat, that, manned by his
own people, was already being drawn slowly through the water. As he
did so he glanced back, and, in the clinging mist of dawn, which was
almost as dense as wool, caught sight of the face of a man who had
been ordered to hold the ladder, and knew it for that of Jeffrey
Stokes, who had escaped from the slaying of Sir John--escaped with the
damning papers that had cost his master's life. Yes, Jeffrey Stokes,
no other. His lips shaped themselves to call out something, but before
ever a syllable had passed them an accident happened.
To the Abbot it seemed as though the whole ship had struck him
violently behind--so violently that he was propelled headfirst among
the rowers in the boat, and lay there hurt and breathless.
"What is it?" called the captain, who heard the noise.
"The Abbot slipped, or the ladder slipped, I know not which," answered
Jeffrey gruffly, staring at the toe of his sea-boot. "At least he is
safe enough in the boat now," and, turning, he vanished aft into the
mist, muttering to himself--
"A very good kick, though a little high. Yet I wish it had been off
another kind of ladder. That murdering rogue would look well with a
rope round his neck. Still I dared do no more and it served to stop
his lying mouth before he betrayed me. Oh, my poor master, my poor old
Bruised and sore as he was--and he was very sore--within little over
an hour Abbot Maldon was back at the ruin of Cranwell Towers. It
seemed strange that he should go there, but in truth his uneasy heart
would not let him rest. His plans had succeeded only far too well. Sir
John Foterell was dead--a crime, no doubt, but necessary, for had the
knight lived to reach London with that evidence in his pocket, his own
life and those of many others might have paid the price of it, since
who knows what truths may be twisted from a victim on the rack? Maldon
had always feared the rack; it was a nightmare that haunted his sleep,
although the ambitious cunning of his nature and the cause he served
with heart and soul prompted him to put himself in continual danger of
In an unguarded moment, when his tongue was loosed with wine, he had
placed himself in the power of Sir John Foterell, hoping to win him to
the side of Spain, and afterwards, forgetting it, made of him a
dreadful enemy. Therefore this enemy must die, for had he lived, not
only might he himself have died in place of him, but all his plans for
the rebellion of the Church against the Crown must have come to
nothing. Yes, yes, that deed was lawful, and pardon for it assured
should the truth become known. Till this morning he had hoped that it
never would be known, but now Jeffrey Stokes had escaped upon the ship
Oh, if only he had seen him a minute earlier; if only something--could
it have been that impious knave, Jeffrey? he wondered--had not struck
him so violently in the back and hurled him to the boat, where he lay
almost senseless till the vessel had glided from them down the river!
Well, she was gone, and Jeffrey in her. He was but a common serving-
man, after all, who, if he knew anything, would never have the wit to
use his knowledge, although it was true he had been wise enough to fly
No papers had been discovered upon Sir John's body, and no money.
Without doubt the old knight had found time to pass them on to
Jeffrey, who now fled the kingdom disguised as a sailor. Oh! what ill
chance had put him on board the same vessel with Sir Christopher
Well, Sir Christopher would probably die; were Brother Martin a little
less of a fool he would certainly die, but the fact remained that this
monk, though able, in such matters /was/ a fool, with a conscience
that would not suit itself to circumstances. If Christopher could be
saved, Martin would save him, as he had already saved him in the shed,
even if he handed him over to the Inquisition afterwards. Still, he
might slip through his fingers or the vessel might be lost, as was
devoutly to be prayed, and seemed not unlikely at this season of the
year. Also, the first opportunity must be taken to send certain
messages to Spain that might result in hampering the activities of
Brother Martin, and of Sir Christopher Harflete, if he lived to reach
Meanwhile, reflected Maldon, other things had gone wrong. He had
wished to proclaim his wardship over Cicely and to immure her in a
nunnery because of her great possessions, which he needed for the
cause, but he had not wished her death. Indeed, he was fond of the
girl, whom he had known from a child, and her innocent blood was a
weight that he ill could bear, he who at heart always shrank from the
shedding of blood. Still, Heaven had killed her, not he, and the
matter could not now be mended. Also, as she was dead, her inheritance
would, he thought, fall into his hands without further trouble, for he
--a mitred Abbot with a seat among the Lords of the realm--had friends
in London, who, for a fee, could stifle inquiry into all this far-off
No, no, he must not be faint-hearted, who, after all, had much for
which to be thankful. Meanwhile the cause went on--that great cause of
the threatened Church to which he had devoted his life. Henry the
heretic would fall; the Spanish Emperor, whose spy he was and who
loved him well, would invade and take England. He would yet live to
see the Holy Inquisition at work at Westminster, and himself--yes,
himself; had it not been hinted to him?--enthroned at Canterbury, the
Cardinal's red hat he coveted upon his head, and--oh, glorious
thought!--perhaps afterwards wearing the triple crown at Rome.
Rain was falling heavily when the Abbot, with his escort of two monks
and half-a-dozen men-at-arms, rode up to Cranwell. The house was now
but a smoking heap of ashes, mingled with charred beams and burnt
clay, in the midst of which, scarcely visible through the clouds of
steam caused by the falling rain, rose the grim old Norman tower, for
on its stonework the flames had beat vainly.
"Why have we come here?" asked one of the monks, surveying the dismal
scene with a shudder.
"To seek the bodies of the Lady Cicely and her woman, and give them
Christian burial," answered the Abbot.
"After bringing them to a most unchristian death," muttered the monk
to himself, then added aloud, "You were ever charitable, my Lord
Abbot, and though she defied you, such is that noble lady's due. As
for the nurse Emlyn, she was a witch, and did but come to the end that
she deserved, if she be really dead."
"What mean you?" asked the Abbot sharply.
"I mean that, being a witch, the fire may have turned from her."
"Pray God, then, that it turned from her mistress also! But it cannot
be. Only a fiend could have lived in the heat of that furnace; look,
even the tower is gutted."
"No, it cannot be," answered the monk; "so, since we shall never find
them, let us chant the Burial Office over this great grave of theirs
and begone--the sooner the better, for yon place has a haunted look."
"Not till we have searched out their bones, which must be beneath the
tower yonder, whereon we saw them last," replied the Abbot, adding in
a low voice, "Remember, Brother, the Lady Cicely had jewels of great
price, which, if they were wrapped in leather, the fire may have
spared, and these are among our heritage. At Shefton they cannot be
found; therefore they must be here, and the seeking of them is no task
for common folk. That is why I hurried hither so fast. Do you
The monk nodded his head. Having dismounted, they gave their horses to
the serving-men and began to make an examination of the ruin, the
Abbot leaning on his inferior's arm, for he was in great pain from the
blow in the back that Jeffrey had administered with his sea-boot, and
the bruises which he had received in falling to the boat.
First they passed under the gatehouse, which still stood, only to find
that the courtyard beyond was so choked with smouldering rubbish that
they could make no entry--for it will be remembered that the house had
fallen outwards. Here, however, lying by the carcass of a horse, they
found the body of one of the men whom Christopher had killed in his
last stand, and caused it to be borne out. Then, followed by their
people, leaving the dead man in the gateway, they walked round the
ruin, keeping on the inner side of the moat, till they came to the
little pleasaunce garden at its back.
"Look," said the monk in a frightened voice, pointing to some scorched
bushes that had been a bower.
The Abbot did so, but for a while could see nothing because of the
wreaths of steam. Presently a puff of wind blew these aside, and
there, standing hand in hand, he beheld the figures of two women. His
men beheld them also, and called aloud that these were the ghosts of
Cicely and Emlyn. As they spoke the figures, still hand in hand, began
to walk towards them, and they saw that they were Cicely and Emlyn
indeed, but in the flesh, quite unharmed.
For a moment there was deep silence; then the Abbot asked--
"Whence come you, Mistress Cicely?"
"Out of the fire," she answered in a small, cold voice.
"Out of the fire! How did you live through the fire?"
"God sent His angel to save us," she answered, again in that small
"A miracle," muttered the monk; "a true miracle!"
"Or mayhap Emlyn Stower's witchcraft," exclaimed one of the men
behind; and Maldon started at his words.
"Lead me to my husband, my Lord Abbot, lest, thinking me dead, his
heart should break," said Cicely.
Now again there was silence so deep that they could hear the patter of
every drop of falling rain. Twice the Abbot strove to speak, but could
not, but at the third effort his words came.
"The man you call your husband, but who was not your husband, but your
ravisher, was slain in the fray last night, Cicely Foterell."
She stood quite quiet for a while, as though considering his words,
then said, in the same unnatural voice--
"You lie, my Lord Abbot. You were ever a liar, like your father the
devil, for the angel told me so in the midst of the fire. Also he told
me that, though I seemed to see him fall, Christopher is alive upon
the earth--yes, and other things, many other things;" and she passed
her hand before her eyes and held it there, as though to shut out the
sight of her enemy's face.
Now the Abbot trembled in his terror, he who knew that he lied, though
at that time none else there knew it. It was as though suddenly he had
been haled before the Judgment-seat where all secrets must be bared.
"Some evil spirit has entered into you," he said huskily.
She dropped her hand, pointing at him.
"Nay, nay; I never knew but one evil spirit, and he stands before me."
"Cicely," he went on, "cease your blaspheming. Alas! that I must tell
it you. Sir Christopher Harflete is dead and buried in yonder
"What! So soon, and all uncoffined, he who was a noble knight? Then
you buried him living, and, living, in a day to come he shall rise up
against you. Hear my words, all. Christopher Harflete shall rise up
living and give testimony against this devil in a monk's robe, and
afterwards--afterwards--" and she laughed shrilly, then suddenly fell
down and lay still.
Now Emlyn, the dark and handsome, as became her Spanish, or perhaps
gypsy blood, who all this while had stood silent, her arms folded upon
her high bosom, leaned down and looked at her. Then she straightened
herself, and her face was like the face of a beautiful fiend.
"She is dead!" she screamed. "My dove is dead. She whom these breasts
nursed, the greatest lady of all the wolds and all the vales, the Lady
of Blossholme, of Cranwell and of Shefton, in whose veins ran the
blood of mighty nobles, aye, and of old kings, is dead, murdered by a
beggarly foreign monk, who not ten days gone butchered her father also
yonder by King's Grave--yonder by the mere. Oh! the arrow in his
throat! the arrow in his throat! I cursed the hand that shot it, and
to-day that hand is blue beneath the mould. So, too, I curse you,
Maldonado, evil-gifted one, Abbot consecrated by Satan, you and all
your herd of butchers!" and she broke into the stream of Spanish
imprecations whereof the Abbot knew the meaning well.
Presently Emlyn paused and looked behind her at the smouldering ruins.
"This house is burned," she cried; "well, mark Emlyn's words: even so
shall your house burn, while your monks run squeaking like rats from a
flaming rick. You have stolen the lands; they shall be taken from you,
and yours also, every acre of them. Not enough shall be left to bury
you in, for, priest, you'll need no burial. The fowls of the air shall
bury you, and that's the nearest you will ever get to heaven--in their
filthy crops. Murderer, if Christopher Harflete is dead, yet he shall
live, as his lady swore, for his seed shall rise up against you. Oh! I
forgot; how can it, how can it, seeing that she is dead with him, and
their bridal coverlet has become a pall woven by the black monks? Yet
it shall, it shall. Christopher Harflete's seed shall sit where the
Abbots of Blossholme sat, and from father to son tell the tale of the
last of them--the Spaniard who plotted against England's king and
Her rage veered like a hurricane wind. Forgetting the Abbot, she
turned upon the monk at his side and cursed him. Then she cursed the
hired men-at-arms, those present and those absent, many by name, and
lastly--greatest crime of all--she cursed the Pope and the King of
Spain, and called to God in heaven and Henry of England upon earth to
avenge her Lady Cicely's wrongings, and the murder of Sir John
Foterell, and the murder of Christopher Harflete, on each and all of
them, individually and separately.
So fierce and fearful was her onslaught that all who heard her were
reduced to utter silence. The Abbot and the monk leaned against each
other, the soldiers crossed themselves and muttered prayers, while one
of them, running up, fell upon his knees and assured her that he had
had nothing to do with all this business, having only returned from a
journey last night, and been called thither that morning.
Emlyn, who had paused from lack of breath, listened to him, and said--
"Then I take the curse off you and yours, John Athey. Now lift up my
lady and bear her to the church, for there we will lay her out as
becomes her rank; though not with her jewels, her great and priceless
jewels, for which she was hunted like a doe. She must lie without her
jewels; her pearls and coronet, and rings, her stomacher and necklets
of bright gems, that were worth so much more than those beggarly acres
--those that once a Sultan's woman wore. They are lost, though perhaps
yonder Abbot has found them. Sir John Foterell bore them to London for
safe keeping, and good Sir John is dead; footpads set on him in the
forest, and an arrow shot from behind pierced his throat. Those who
killed him have the jewels, and the dead bride must lie without them,
adorned in the naked beauty that God gave to her. Lift her, John
Athey, and you monks, set up your funeral chant; we'll to the church.
The bride who knelt before the altar shall lie there before the altar
--Clement Maldonado's last offering to God. First the father, then the
husband, and now the wife--the sweet, new-made wife!"
So she raved on, while they stood before her dumb-founded, and the man
lifted up Cicely. Then suddenly this same Cicely, whom all thought
dead, opened her eyes and struggled from his arms to her feet.
"See," screamed Emlyn; "did I not tell you that Harflete's seed should
live to be avenged upon all your tribe, and she stands there who will
bear it? Now where shall we shelter till England hears this tale?
Cranwell is down, though it shall rise again, and Shefton is stolen.
Where shall we shelter?"
"Thrust away that woman," said the Abbot in a hoarse voice, "for her
witchcrafts poison the air. Set the Lady Cicely on a horse and bear
her to our Nunnery of Blossholme, where she shall be tended."
The men advanced to do his bidding, though very doubtfully. But Emlyn,
hearing his words, ran to the Abbot and whispered something in his ear
in a foreign tongue that caused him to cross himself and stagger back
"I have changed my mind," he said to the servants. "Mistress Emlyn
reminds me that between her and her lady there is the tie of foster-
motherhood. They may not be separated as yet. Take them both to the
Nunnery, where they shall dwell, and as for this woman's words, forget
them, for she was mad with fear and grief, and knew not what she said.
May God and His saints forgive her, as I do."
THE ABBOT'S OFFER
The Nunnery at Blossholme was a peaceful place, a long, grey-gabled
house set under the shelter of a hill and surrounded by a high wall.
Within this wall lay also the great garden--neglected enough--and the
chapel, a building that still was beautiful in its decay.
Once, indeed, Blossholme Priory, which was older than the Abbey, had
been rich and famous. Its foundress in the time of the first Edward, a
certain Lady Matilda, one of the Plantagenets, who retired from the
world after her husband had been killed in the Crusade, being
childless, endowed it with all her lands. Other noble ladies who
accompanied her there, or sought its refuge in after days, had done
likewise, so that it grew in power and in wealth, till at its most
prosperous time over twenty nuns told their beads within its walls.
Then the proud Abbey rose upon the opposing hill, and obtained some
royal charter that the Pope confirmed, under which the Priory of
Blossholme was affiliated to the Abbey of Blossholme, and the Abbot of
Blossholme became the spiritual lord of its religious. From that day
forward its fortunes began to decline, since under this pretext and
that the abbots filched away its lands to swell their own estates.
So it came about that at the date of our history the total revenue of
this Nunnery was but £130 a year of the money of the day, and even of
this sum the Abbot took tithe and toll. Now in all the great house,
that once had been so full, there dwelt but six nuns, one of whom was,
in fact, a servant, while an aged monk from the Abbey celebrated Mass
in the fair chapel where lay the bones of so many who had gone before.
Also on certain feasts the Abbot himself attended, confessed the nuns,
and granted them absolution and his holy blessing. On these days, too,
he would examine their accounts, and if there were money in hand take
a share of it to serve his necessities, for which reason the Prioress
looked forward to his coming with little joy.
It was to this ancient home of peace that the distraught Cicely and
her servant Emlyn were conveyed upon the morrow of the great burning.
Indeed, Cicely knew it well enough already, since as a child during
three years or more she had gone there daily to be taught by the
Prioress Matilda, for every head of the Priory took this name in turn
to the honour of their foundress and in accordance with the provisions
of her will. Happy years they were, as these old nuns loved her in her
youth and innocence, and she, too, loved them every one. Now, by the
workings of fate, she was borne back to the same quiet room where she
had played and studied--a new-made wife, a new-made widow.
But of all this poor Cicely knew nothing till three weeks or more had
gone by, when at length her wandering brain cleared and she opened her
eyes to the world again. At the moment she was alone, and lay looking
about her. The place was familiar. She recognized the deep windows,
the faded tapestries of Abraham cutting Isaac's throat with a
butcher's knife, and Jonah being shot into the very gateway of a
castle where his family awaited him, from the mouth of a gigantic carp
with goggle eyes, for the simple artist had found his whale's model in
a stewpond. Well she remembered those delightful pictures, and how
often she had wondered whether Isaac could escape bleeding to death,
or Jonah's wife, with the outspread arms, withstand the sudden shock
of her husband's unexpected arrival out of the interior of the whale.
There also was the splendid fireplace of wrought stone, and above it,
cunningly carved in gilded oak, gleamed many coats-of-arms without
crests, for they were those of sundry noble prioresses.
Yes, this was certainly the great guest-chamber of the Blossholme
Priory, which, since the nuns had now few guests and many places in
which to put them, had been given up to her, Sir John Foterell's
heiress, as her schoolroom. There she lay, thinking that she was a
child again, a happy, careless child, or that she dreamed, till
presently the door opened and Mother Matilda appeared, followed by
Emlyn, who bore a tray, on which stood a silver bowl that smoked.
There was no mistaking Mother Matilda in her black Benedictine robe
and her white whimple, wearing the great silver crucifix which was her
badge of office, and the golden ring with an emerald bezel whereon was
cut St. Catherine being broken on the wheel--the ancient ring which
every Prioress of Blossholme had worn from the beginning. Moreover,
who that had ever seen it could forget her sweet, old, high-bred face,
with the fine lips, the arched nose, and the quick, kind grey eyes!
Cicely strove to rise and to do her reverence, as had been her custom
during those childish years, only to find that she could not, for lo!
she fell back heavily upon her pillow. Thereon Emlyn, setting down the
tray with a clatter upon a table, ran to her, and putting her arms
about her, began to scold, as was her fashion, but in a very gentle
voice; and Mother Matilda, kneeling by her bed, gave thanks to Jesus
and His blessed saints--though why she thanked Him at first Cicely did
"Am I ill, reverend Mother?" she asked.
"Not now, daughter, but you were very ill," answered the Prioress in
her sweet, low voice. "Now we think that God has healed you."
"How long have I been here?" she asked.
The Mother began to reckon, counting her beads, one for every day--for
in such places time slips by--but long before she had finished Emlyn
"Cranwell Towers was burned three weeks yesternight."
Then Cicely remembered, and with a bitter groan turned her face to the
wall, while the Mother reproached Emlyn, saying she had killed her.
"I think not," answered the nurse in a low voice. "I think she has
that which will not let her die"--a saying that puzzled the Prioress
at this time.
Emlyn was right. Cicely did not die. On the contrary, she grew strong
and well in her body, though it was long before her mind recovered.
Indeed, she glided about the place like a ghost in her black mourning
robe, for now she no longer doubted that Christopher was dead, and
she, the wife of a week, widowed as well as orphaned.
Then in her utter desolation came comfort; a light broke on the
darkness of her soul like the moon above a tortured midnight sea. She
was no longer quite alone; the murdered Christopher had left his image
with her. If she lived a child would be born to him, and therefore she
would surely live. One evening, on her knees, she whispered her secret
to the Prioress Matilda, whereat the old nun blushed like a girl, yet,
after a moment's silent prayer, laid a thin hand upon her head in
"The Lord Abbot declares that your marriage was no true marriage, my
daughter, though why I do not understand, since the man was he whom
your heart chose, and you were wed to him by an ordained priest before
God's altar and in presence of the congregation."
"I care not what he says," answered Cicely in a stubborn voice. "If I
am not a true wife, then no woman ever was."
"Dear daughter," answered Mother Matilda, "it is not for us unlearned
women to question the wisdom of a holy Abbot who doubtless is inspired
from on high."
"If he is inspired it is not from on high, Mother. Would God or His
saints teach him to murder my father and my husband, to seize my
heritage, or to hold my person in this gentle prison? Such
inspirations do not come from above, Mother."
"Hush! hush!" said the Prioress, glancing round her nervously; "your
woes have crazed you. Besides, you have no proof. In this world there
are so many things that we cannot understand. Being an abbot, how
could he do wrong, although to us his acts seem wrong? But let us not
talk of these matters, of which, indeed, I only know from that rough-
tongued Emlyn of yours, who, I am told, was not afraid to curse him
terribly. I was about to say that whatever may be the law of it, I
hold your marriage good and true, and its issue, should such come to
you, pure and holy, and night by night I will pray that it shall be
crowned with Heaven's richest blessings."
"I thank you, dear Mother," answered Cicely, as she rose and left her.
When she had gone the Prioress rose also, and, with a troubled face,
began to walk up and down the refectory, for it was here that they had
spoken together. Truly she could not understand, for unless all these
tales were false--and how could they be false?--this Abbot, whom her
high-bred English nature had always mistrusted, this dark, able
Spanish monk was no saint, but a wicked villain? There must be some
explanation. It was only that /she/ did not understand.
Soon the news spread throughout the Nunnery, and if the sisters had
loved Cicely before, now they loved her twice as well. Of the doubts
as to the validity to her marriage, like their Prioress, they took no
heed, for had it not been celebrated in a church? But that a child was
to be born among them--ah! that was a joyful thing, a thing that had
not happened for quite two hundred years, when, alas!--so said
tradition and their records--there had been a dreadful scandal which
to this day was spoken of with bated breath. For be it known at once
this Nunnery, whatever may or may not have been the case with some
others, was one of which no evil could be said.
Beneath their black robes, however, these old nuns were still as much
women as the mothers who bore them, and this news of a child stirred
them to the marrow. Among themselves in their hours of recreation they
talked of little else, and even their prayers were largely occupied
with this same matter. Indeed, poor, weak-witted, old Sister Bridget,
who hitherto had been secretly looked down upon because she was the
only one of the seven who was not of gentle birth, now became very
popular. For Sister Bridget in her youth had been married and borne
two children, both of whom had been carried off by the smallpox after
she was widowed, whereon, as her face was seamed by this same disease,
so that she had no hope of another husband, as her neighbours said, or
because her heart was broken, as she said, she entered into religion.
Now she constituted herself Cicely's chief attendant, and although
that lady was quite well and strong, persecuted her with advice and
with noxious mixtures which she brewed, till Emlyn, descending on her
like a storm, hunted her from the room and cast her medicines through
That these sisters should be thus interested in so small a matter was
not, indeed, wonderful, seeing that if their lives had been secluded
before, since the Lady Cicely came amongst them they were ten times
more so. Soon they discovered that she and her servant, Emlyn Stower,
were, in fact, prisoners, which meant that they, her hostesses, were
prisoners also. None were allowed to enter the Nunnery save the silent
old monk who confessed them and celebrated the Mass, nor, by an order
of the Abbot, were they suffered to go abroad upon any business
For the rest, as their only means of communication with those who
dwelt beyond was the surly gardener, who was deaf and set there to spy
on them, little news ever reached them. They were almost dead to the
world, which, had they known it, was busy enough just then with
matters that concerned them and all other religious houses.
At length one day, when Cicely and Emlyn were seated in the garden
beneath a flowering hawthorn-tree--for now June had come and with it
warm weather--of a sudden Sister Bridget hurried up saying that the
Abbot of Blossholme desired their presence. At this tidings Cicely
turned faint, and Emlyn rated Bridget, asking if her few wits had left
her, or if she thought that name was so pleasant to her mistress that
she should suddenly bawl it in her ear.
Thereon the poor old soul, who was not too strong-brained and much
afraid of Emlyn since she had thrown her medicines out of the window,
began to weep, protesting that she had meant no harm, till Cicely,
recovering, soothed her and sent her back to say that she would wait
upon his lordship.
"Are you afraid of him, Mistress?" asked Emlyn, as they prepared to
"A little, Nurse. He has shown himself a man to be afraid of, has he
not? My father and my husband are in his net, and will he spare the
last fish in the pool--a very narrow pool?" and she glanced at the
high walls about her. "I fear lest he should take you from me, and
wonder why he has not done so already."
"Because my father was a Spaniard, and through him I know that which
would ruin him with his friends, the Pope and the Emperor. Also, he
believes that I have the evil eye, and dreads my curse. Still, one day
he may try to murder me; who knows? Only then the secret of the jewels
will go with me, for that is mine alone; not yours even, for if you
had it they would squeeze it out of you. Meanwhile he will try to
profess you a nun, but push him off with soft words. Say that you will
think of it after your child is born. Till then he can do nothing,
and, if Mother Matilda's fresh tidings are true, by that time
perchance there will be no more nuns in England."
Now very quietly and by the side door they were entering the old
reception-hall, that was only used for the entertainment of visitors
and on other great occasions, and close to them saw the Abbot seated
in his chair, while the Prioress stood before him, rendering her
"Whether you can spare it or no," they heard him say sharply, "I must
have the half-year's rent. The times are evil; we servants of the Lord
are threatened by that adulterous king and his proud ministers, who
swear they will strip us to the shirt and turn us out to starve. I'm
but just from London, and, although our enemy Anne Boleyn has lost her
wanton head, I tell you the danger is great. Money must be had to stir
up rebellion, for who can arm without it, and but little comes from
Spain. I am in treaty to sell the Foterell lands for what they will
fetch, but as yet can give no title. Either that stiff-necked girl
must sign a release, or she must profess, for otherwise, while she
lives, some lawyer or relative might upset the sale. Is she yet
prepared to take her first vows? If not, I shall hold you much to
"Nay," answered the Prioress; "there are reasons. You have been away,
and have not heard"--she hesitated and looked about her nervously, to
see Cicely and Emlyn standing behind them. "What do you there,
daughter?" she asked, with as much asperity as she ever showed.
"In truth I know not, Mother," answered Cicely. "Sister Bridget told
us that the Lord Abbot desired our presence."
"I bid her say that you were to wait him in my chamber," said the
Prioress in a vexed voice.
"Well," broke in the Abbot, "it would seem that you have a fool for a
messenger; if it is that pockmarked hag, her brain has been gone for
years. Ward Cicely, I greet you, though after the sorrows that have
fallen on you, whereof by your leave we will not speak, since there is
no use in stirring up such memories, I grieve to see you in that
worldly garb, who thought you would have changed it for a better. But
ere you entered the holy Mother here spoke of some obstacle that stood
between you and God. What is it? Perchance my counsel may be of
service. Not this woman, as I trust," and he frowned at Emlyn, who at
once answered, in her steady voice--
"Nay, my Lord Abbot, I stand not between her and God and His holiness,
but between her and man and his iniquity. Still I can tell you of that
obstacle--which comes from God--if you so need."
Now the old Prioress, blushing to her white hair, bent forward and
whispered in the Abbot's ear words at which he sprang up as though a
wasp had stung him.
"Pest on it! it cannot be," he said. "Well, well, there it is, and
must be swallowed with the rest. Pity, though," he added, with a sneer
on his dark face, "since many a year has gone by since these walls
have seen a bastard, and, as things are, that may pull them down about
"I know such brats are dangerous," interrupted Emlyn, looking Maldon
full in the eyes; "my father told me of a young monk in Spain--I
forget his name--who brought certain ladies to the torture in some
such matter. But who talks of bastards in the case of Dame Cicely
Harflete, widow of Sir Christopher Harflete, slain by the Abbot of
"Silence, woman. Where there is no lawful marriage there can be no
"To take that lawful inheritance that it lawfully inherits. Say, my
Lord Abbot, did Sir Christopher make you his heir also?"
Then, before he could answer, Cicely, who had been silent all this
while, broke in--
"Heap what insults you will on me, my Lord Abbot, and having robbed me
of my father, my husband, and my heart, rob me of my goods also, if
you can. In my case it matters little. But slander not my child, if
one should be born to me, nor dare to touch its rights. Think not that
you can break the mother as you broke the girl, for there you will
find that you have a she-wolf by the ear."
He looked at her, they all looked at her, for in her eyes was
something that compelled theirs. Clement Maldon, who knew the world
and how a she-wolf can fight for its cub, read in them a warning which
caused him to change his tone.
"Tut, tut, daughter," he said; "what is the good of vapouring of a
child that is not and may never be? When it comes I will christen it,
and we will talk."
"When it comes you will not lay a finger on it. I'd rather that it
went unbaptized to its grave than marked with your cross of blood."
He waved his hand.
"There is another matter, or rather two, of which I must speak to you,
my daughter. When do you take your first vows?"
"We will talk of it after my child is born. 'Tis a child of sin, you
say, and I am unrepentant, a wicked woman not fit to take a holy vow,
to which, moreover, you cannot force me," she replied, with bitter
Again he waved his hand, for the she-wolf showed her teeth.
"The second matter is," he went on, "that I need your signature to a
writing. It is nothing but a form, and one I fear you cannot read, nor
in faith can I," and with a somewhat doubtful smile he drew out a
crabbed indenture and spread it before her on the table.
"What?" she laughed, brushing aside the parchment. "Have you
remembered that yesterday I came of age, and am, therefore, no more
your ward, if such I ever was? You should have sold my inheritance
more swiftly, for now the title you can give is rotten as last year's
apples, and I'll sign nothing. Bear witness, Mother Matilda, and you,
Emlyn Stower, that I have signed and will sign nothing. Clement
Maldon, Abbot of Blossholme, I am a free woman of full age, even
though, as you say, I am a wanton. Where is your right to chain up a
wanton who is no religious? Unlock these gates and let me go."
Now he felt the wolf's fangs, and they were sharp.
"Whither would you go?" he asked.
"Whither but to the King, to lay my cause before him, as my father
would have done last Christmas-time."
It was a bold speech, but foolish. The she-wolf had loosed her hold to
growl--to growl at a hunter with a bloody sword.
"I think your father never reached his Grace with his sack of
falsehoods; nor might you, Cicely Foterell. The times are rough,
rebellion is in the air, and many wild men hunt the woods and roads.
No, no; for your own sake you bide here in safety till----"
"Till you murder me. Oh! it is in your mind. Do you remember the angel
who spoke with me in the fire and told me my husband was not dead?"
"A lying spirit, then; no angel."
"I am not so sure," and again she passed her hand across her eyes, as
she had done in that dreadful dawn at Cranwell. "Well, I prayed to God
to help me, and last night that angel came again and spoke in my
sleep. He told me to fear you not at all, my Lord Abbot; however sore
my case and however near my death might seem, since God had shaped a
stone to drop upon your head. He showed it me; it was like an axe."
Now the old Prioress held up her hands and gasped in horror, but the
Abbot leapt from his seat in rage--or was it fear?
"Wanton, you named yourself," he exclaimed; "but I name you witch
also, who, if you had your deserts, should die the death of a witch by
fire. Mother Matilda, I command you, on your oath, keep this witch
fast and make report to me of all her sorceries. It is not fitting
that such a one should walk abroad to bring evil on the innocent.
Witch and wanton, begone to your chamber!"
Cicely listened, then, without another word, broke into a little
scornful laugh, and, turning, left the room, followed by the Prioress.
But Emlyn did not go; she stayed behind, a smile on her dark, handsome
"You've lost the throw, though all your dice were loaded," she said
The Abbot turned on her and reviled her.
"Woman," he said, "if she is a witch, you're the familiar, and
certainly you shall burn even though she escape. It is you who taught
her how to call up the devil."
"Then you had best keep me living, my Lord Abbot, that I may teach her
how to lay him. Nay, threaten not. Why, the rack might make me speak,
and the birds of the air carry the matter!"
His face paled; then suddenly he asked--
"Where are those jewels? I need them. Give me the jewels and you shall
go free, and perchance your accursed mistress with you."
"I told you," she answered. "Sir John took them to London, and if they
were not found upon his body, then either he threw them away or
Jeffrey Stokes carried them to wherever he has gone. Drag the mere,
search the forest, find Jeffrey and ask him."
"You lie, woman. When you and your mistress fled from Shefton a
servant there saw you with the box that held those jewels in your
"True, my Lord Abbot, but it no longer held them; only my mistress's
love-letters, which she would not leave behind."
"Then where is the box, and where are those letters?"
"We grew short of fuel in the siege, and burned both. When a woman has
her man she doesn't want his letters. Surely, Maldonado," she added,
with meaning, "you should know that it is not always wise to keep old
letters. What, I wonder, would you give for some that I have seen and
that are /not/ burned?"
"Accursed spawn of Satan," hissed the Abbot, "how dare you flaunt me
thus? When Cicely was wed to Christopher she wore those very gems; I
have it from those who saw her decked in them--the necklace on her
bosom, the priceless rosebud pearls hanging from her ears."
"Oho! oho!" said Emlyn; "so you own that she was wed, the pure soul
whom but now you called a wanton. Look you, Sir Abbot, we will fence
no more. She wore the jewels. Jeffrey took nothing hence save your
"Then where are they?" he asked, striking his fist upon the table.
"Where? Why, where you'll never follow them--gone up to heaven in the
fire. Thinking we might be robbed, I hid them behind a secret panel in
her chamber, purposing to return for them later. Go, rake out the
ashes; you might find a cracked diamond or two, but not the pearls;
they fly in fire. There, that's the truth at last, and much good may
it do to you."
The Abbot groaned. Like most Spaniards he was emotional, and could not
help it; his bitterness burst from his heart.
Emlyn laughed at him.
"See how the wise and mighty of this world overshoot themselves," she
said. "Clement Maldonado, I have known you for some twenty years, and
when I was called the Beauty of Blossholme, and the Abbot who went
before you made me the Church's ward, though I ever hated you, who
hunted down my father, you had softer words for me than those you name
me by to-day. Well, I have watched you rise and I shall watch you
fall, and I know your heart and its desires. Money is what you lust
for and must have, for otherwise how will you gain your end? It was
the jewels that you needed, not the Shefton lands, which are worth
little now-a-days, and will soon be worth less. Why, one of those pink
pearls placed among the Jews would buy three parishes, with their
halls thrown in. For the sake of those jewels you have brought death
on some and misery on some, and on your own soul damnation without
end, though had you but been wise and consulted me--why, they, or some
of them, might have been yours. Sir John was no fool; he would have
parted with a pearl or two, of which he did not know the value, to end
a feud against the Church and safeguard his title and his daughter.
And now, in your madness, you've burnt them--burnt a king's ransom, or
what might have pulled down a king. Oh! had you but guessed it, you'd
have hacked off the hand that put a torch to Cranwell Towers, for now
the gold you need is lacking to you, and therefore all your grand
schemes will fail, and you'll be buried in their ruin, as you thought
we were in Cranwell."
The Abbot, who had listened to this long and bitter speech in
patience, groaned again.
"You are a clever woman," he said; "we understand each other, coming
from the same blood. You know the case; what is your counsel to me
"That which you will not take, being foredoomed for your sins. Still
I'll give it honestly. Set the Lady Cicely free, restore her lands,
confess your evil doings. Fly the kingdom before Cromwell turns on you
and Henry finds you out, taking with you all the gold that you can
gather, and bribe the Emperor Charles to give you a bishopric in
Granada or elsewhere--not near Seville, for reasons that you know. So
shall you live honoured, and one day, after you have been dead a long
while and many things are forgotten, perchance be beatified as Saint
Clement of Blossholme."
The Abbot looked at her reflectively.
"If I sought safety only and old age comforts your counsel might be
good, but I play for higher stakes."
"You set your head against them," broke in Emlyn.
"Not so, woman, for in any case that head must win. If it stays upon
my shoulders it will wear an archbishop's mitre, or a cardinal's hat,
or perhaps something nobler yet; and if it parts from them, why, then
a heavenly crown of glory."
"Your head? /Your/ head?" exclaimed Emlyn, with a contemptuous laugh.
"Why not?" he answered gravely. "You chance to know of some errors of
my youth, but they are long ago repented of, and for such there is
plentiful forgiveness," and he crossed himself. "Were it not so, who
Emlyn, who had been standing all this while, sat herself down, set her
elbows on the table and rested her chin upon her clenched hands.
"True," she said, looking him in the eyes; "none of us would escape.
But, Clement Maldon, how about the unrepented errors of your age? Sir
John Foterell, for instance; Sir Christopher Harflete, for instance;
my Lady Cicely, for instance; to say nothing of black treason and a
few other matters?"
"Even were all these charges true, which I deny, they are no sins,
seeing that they would have been done, every one of them, not for my
own sake, but for that of the Church, to overset her enemies, to
rebuild her tottering walls, to secure her eternally in this realm."
"And to lift you, Clement Maldon, to the topmost pinnacle of her
temple, whence Satan shows you all the kingdoms of the world, swearing
that they shall be yours."
Apparently the Abbot did not resent this bold speech; indeed, Emlyn's
apt illustration seemed to please him. Only he corrected her gently,
"Not Satan, but Satan's Lord." Then he paused a while, looked round
the chamber to see that the doors were shut and make sure that they
were alone, and went on, "Emlyn Stower, you have great wits and
courage--more than any woman that I know. Also you have knowledge both
of the world and of what lies beyond it, being what superstitious
fools call a witch, but I, a prophetess or a seer. These things come
to you with your blood, I suppose, seeing that your mother was of a
gypsy tribe and your father a high-bred Spanish gentleman, very
learned and clever, though a pestilent heretic, for which cause he
fled for his life from Spain."
"To find his dark death in England. The Holy Inquisition is patent and
has a long arm. If I remember right, also it was this business of the
heresy of my father that first brought you to Blossholme, where, after
his vanishing and the public burning of that book of his, you so
"You are always right, Emlyn, and therefore I need not tell you
further that we had been old enemies in Spain, which is why I was
chosen to hunt him down and how you come to know certain things."
She nodded, and he went on--
"So much for the heretic father--now for the gypsy mother. She died,
by her own hand it is said, to escape the punishment of the law."
"No need to beat about the bush, Abbot; let's have truth between old
friends. You mean, to escape being burnt by you as a witch, because
she had the letters which were not burned and threatened to use them--
as I do."
"Why rake up such tales, Emlyn?" he interposed blandly. "At least she
died, but not until she had taught you all she knew. The rest of the
history is short. You fell in love with old yeoman Bolle's son, or
said you did--that same great, silly Thomas who is now a lay-brother
at the Abbey----"
"Or said I did," she repeated. "At least he fell in love with me, and
perhaps I wished an honest man to protect me, who in those days was
young and fair. Moreover, he was not silly then. That came upon him
after he fell into /your/ hands. Oh! have done with it," she went on,
in a voice of suppressed passion. "The witch's fair daughter was the
Church's ward, and you ruled the Abbot of that time, and he forced me
into marriage with old Peter Stower, as his third wife. I cursed him,
and he died, as I warned him that he would, and I bore a child, and it
died. Then with what was left to me I took refuge with Sir John
Foterell, who ever was my friend, and became foster-mother to his
daughter, the only creature, save one, that I have loved in this wide,
wicked world. That's all the story; and now what more do you want of
me, Clement Maldonado--evil-gifted one?"
"Emlyn, I want what I always wanted and you always refused--your help,
your partnership. I mean the partnership of that brain of yours--the
help of the knowledge that you have--no more. At Cranwell Towers you
called down evil on me. Take off that ban, for I'll speak truth, it
weighs heavy on my mind. Let us bury the past; let us clasp hands and
be friends. You have the true vision. Do you remember that when you
thought Cicely dead, you said that her seed should rise up against me,
and now it seems that it will be so."
"What would you give me?" asked Emlyn curiously.
"I will give you wealth; I will give you what you love more--power,
and rank too, if you wish it. The whole Church shall listen to you.
What you desire shall be done in this realm--yes, and across the
world. I speak no lie; I pledge my soul on it, and the honour of those
I serve, which I have authority to do. In return all I ask of you is
your wisdom--that you should read the future for me, that you should
show me which way to walk."
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