Page images
PDF
EPUB

Ahsaid Henry, depressed by failing health, a sleepless night, and hungry morning, maybe it were better for him, soul and body botlı, did I stand here Duke of Lancaster, and good Edmund of March yonder were head of realm and army.'

• Never would be be head of this army,' said James. "He would be snoring at Shene; that is, if he could sleep for the trouble the Duke of Lancaster would be giving him.'

Henry laughed at last. Good King Edmund, he would assuredly never try to set the world right on its hinges. Honest fellow, soon he will be as hearty in his congratulations, as though he did not lie under a great wrong. Heigh ho! such as he may be in the right on't. I've marvelled of late, whether any priest or hermit could bring back my old assurance, that all this is my work on earth, or tell me if it be all one grand error. Men there have been like Cæsar, Alexander, or Charlemagne, who thought my thoughts, and worked them out; and surely Church and nations cry aloud for purifying. Jerusalem, and a general council-I saw them once clear and bright before me; but now a mist seems to come up from Richard's blood, and hide them from me; and there comes from it my father's voice, when he asked on his death-bed what right I had to the crown. What would it be, if I had to leave this work half done ?'

He was interrupted by the sight of a young knight stealing into the camp, after a furtive expedition to Paris. It was enough to rouse him from his morbid state ; and the severity of his wrath was in full proportion to the offence. Nor did he again utter his misgivings, but was full of his usual alacrity and life, as though daylight had restored his buoyancy.

James, on the way back to the thanksgiving Mass, interceded for last night's offenders, as an act of grace suitable to the occasion ; but Henry was inexorable.

Had they stood to die like Englishmen, they had not lied like dogs ! he said; and as dogs they shall hang!

In fact, in the critical state of his army, he knew that the only safety lay in the promptest and sternest justice; and therefore the three foremost in accusing King James of treachery, were hung long before noon.

However, he called for the two Yorkshiremen, and thus addressed them: Well done, my masters ! Thanks, for showing Scots and Frenchmen what stuff Englishmen are made of! I keep my word, good fellows. Kneel down, and I'll dub each a knight. How now ! What are you blundering and whispering for ?'

So please you, Sir,' said Kitson, this is no matter to win one's spurs for—mere standing still without a blow.'

• I would all had that same gift of standing still,' returned Henry. • What is it sticks in your gizzard, friend? If 'tis the fees, I take them on myself.'

will you

No, Sir,' hoarsely cried both.

And Kitson explained. "Sir, you said you'd knight the one of us that was foremost. Now, the two being dubbed, we shall be but where we were before as to Mistress Agnes of Mineshull, unless of your good

would be pleased to let us fight out the wager of the heriard in all peace and amity.'

Henry burst out laughing, with all his own merriment, as he said, • For no Mistress Agnes living, can I have honest men's lives wasted, specially of such as have that gift of standing still. If she does not know her own mind, one of you must get himself killed by the Frenchmen, not by one another. So kneel down, and we'll make your knighthood's feast fall in with that for my son.'

Thus Sir Christopher Kitson and Sir William Trenton rose up knights; and bore their honours with a certain bluntness that made them butts, even while they were the heroes of the day; and Henry, who had resumed his gay temper, made much diversion out of their mingled shrewdness and gruffness.

• So, muttered Malcolm to Ralf Percy, we are passed over in the self-sume matter for which these fellows are knighted.'

• Tush!' answered Percy; ' I'd scorn to be confounded with a couple of clowns like them! Moreover,' he added, with better reason, their valour was more exercised than ours, inasmuch as they thought there was treachery, and we did not. No, no; when my spurs are won, it shall be for some prowess, better than standing stock still.'

Malcolm held his tongue, unwilling that Percy should see that he did feel this an achievement; but he was vexed at the lack of reward, fancying that knighthood would be no small step in the favour of that imaginary Esclairmonde, whom he had made for himself.

Light of the world, he loved to call her still, but it was in the common-place romance of his time, the mere light of beauty and grace illuminating the world of chivalry.

(To be continued.)

BERTRAM; OR, THE HEIR OF PENDYNE.

CHAPTER XIV.

*OH, please, isn't this London ?' said a small weary voice to some men who were loitering around an inn in the High Street of the Borough.

Well, something very like it, only more no than yes-or perhaps more yes than no,' was the lucid reply of one of the men.

Our two tired little Gipsies looked puzzled; and their distressed faces, together with the remote possibility of a fare, nioved another of the men to speak.

• What part of London do you want to find, young ones ?'
'I don't know,' answered Robin. 'A fine part—not like this.'
"Got any money ?'

Yes,' hesitatingly. His bringing-up had not taught him to trust everyone in money matters.

'If you have got as much as eightpence, I'll set you down in a fine part—the finest in all London.' And he pointed to his omnibus, which was close by.

• I should like it very much. Yes, I have eightpence;' and he showed a shilling, part of his change received from the Westerleigh coachman. And I am so tired!'

*Yes, we are so very tired, chimed in the little echo; and her pale face and unsteady limbs told for her the same story.

• Jump in, then. The man looked really good-natured. “Leave it to me, I'll set you down all right.'

Yes,' said Robin, 'take us to the finest place you can.'
Never fear,' replied the conductor ; "the finest in all London.'

The Borough looked so black, Robin thought they should get on better, and feel safer, in a 'fine part,' where ladies and gentlemen might be about. He liked the remembrance of one or two kind faces at Westerleigh.

The conductor kept his word very well. The omnibus seemed to the children to be traveling on for hours. Gradually it filled, then it stopped in the middle of Regent Street.

• There,' said the man, ‘now jump out and look about you.'

They had been looking about them all the way. Now they paid their money, and were helped down the steps, gazing in right earnest. But the passers-by pushed them one way and another. Their hearts were heavy, and their limbs ached; their sad bereavement, their almost sleepless night, their loneliness, their bodily fatigue, were telling upon them.

Robin tried to look brave, but he was ready to burst into a flood of tears at any moment, only there were so many people about; and besides, it would be difficult to stop. Moreover, he should set little Amy off, and that would be worse than anything. He took some cakes out of his pocket which he had bought on their way, and they sat down upon a door-step to eat their supper. But they had no appetite; the cakes felt in their mouths like dust or straw, they could taste nothing. Still their great exhaustion led them to go on eating. At last the heavy eyes closed, and the little troubled hearts were resting in peaceful sleep.

But this could not last long. “Now, then, children, you had better go home and go to bed!'

Poor Robin and Amy started up. Home! they had no home. But they took the warning. The man seemed to be in earnest ; they started from the door-step, and ran away out of his sight. The lamps were lighted, it was quite dark—who could help them to a lodging ?

6

And now the rain began to fall. Amy was never to be out in the rain. A little girl with green brooms in her hand ran quickly past.

“Oh! do tell us of some place where we can sleep!' cried Robin. • I'll give you something if you will help us. A van would do,' added the boy, thinking he had made the request more simple and easy, and the night's lodging would feel more like home. "A van? Are

you

wild beast children?' said the girl, stopping, but not pausing for a reply. She was attracted by Robin's offer. "Give it me,' she said, as Robin held out some halfpence. “I'll show you ; and we are coming ourselves, but not yet.'

The child was bare-footed and in rags; but she was a child, and Robin and Amy followed her trustfully through various streets, narrower, darker at every turn. Under an archway, in at a door. • There,' said the girl, pointing to a black hole at the termination of a flight of steps.

Our little friends hung back. 'Not there, oh! not down there !

• Yes, down there. Oh, yes, you had better go down. They will light a lamp, and you will have company. See, it's raining fast. I'll take you down. You'll have to pay fourpence.'

She made a sign to a rough man who appeared at another door, took the children down the steps into the hole, and then left them.

Fearing to remain, yet fearing equally to depart, their entire exhaustion carried the day.

We must say our prayers, Amy,' said Robin gravely; and holding tightly by each other, they knelt down and said their few simple words, as they had done in the morning; and 'Oh! take care of us, for we are frightened in this dark place !' added Robin.

* Very frightened in this dark place !' repeated the sad little echo, scarcely able to speak, and somewhat calmer; and from positive exhaustion they lay-almost fell-down, and actually slept again.

After some hours of unconsciousness, a violent blow upon the ancle of little Amy roused her once more to a sense of her troubles. The cellar was full of people, and a man standing with his back to the children had struck the little girl with his heavy boot. He did not know what he had done, or perhaps he might have made a joke of her suffering face. The new comers sat upon the floor to eat their supper, none of the most inviting, though more attractive than the faces which were gathered around.

Robin, too, opened his eyes upon the spectacle. Laughter and noise, stories and songs, startled the unhappy children. The van supposed by the beggar girl to be their residence would have been peace compared to this. They had been little noticed, for the men were hungry; and starting up unheeded, they crawled up the dark steps as rapidly as they found to be possible; up the cellar steps, out into the darkness and the rain. It was pouring in torrents; but they darted on-on-out of the narrow lane into a broader, then a broader street. At last a sudden collision with something tolerably solid brought them to a stand. A man in a heavy great-coat and cape turned a lantern full upon them.

Eh! what is it? You should look. What are you at, children? Doing no good out at this time of night,' said the stout policeman, to whom the shock had been no more serious than the wafting of a leaf in the wind.

Oh, oh! we have come up from the country. We want somewhere to sleep, and they frightened us in that dreadful place!

• Up from the country? You are a school-boy run away, I am afraid,' said the man, observing the slate, from which Robin had never parted. * But I'll put you somewhere when I go off. Stand up there.' And he indicated a location where there was some shelter from the rain.

• Who have you here, Policeman?' said another voice inquiringly, before the policeman had turned away.

It was a gentleman, who stopped under his umbrella at the sound of sobs.

"Two children, Sir. Say they are from the country. They are half drowned, and have no place to go to.'

• Then they are just the children for me,' said the gentleman ; "and you

know me, Policeman, in case they are inquired for.' Yes, Sir; you are Mr. Sandford, I think.' "I am.' Then turning to the children, ‘I will give you a home tonight, and longer, if you are good children. It will depend upon yourselves. Will you come ??

They were too glad to accede. The kind words kindled a hope, but they could not stop the sobbing; moreover, from little Amy it was partly elicited by pain.

* Cannot you get on a little faster ? inquired their new friend. • And what makes

you

walk so lame?' “Somebody in the cellar kicked me,' faltered out Amy. Her voice was scarcely audible.

* And you came out of the cellar? So much the better,' said the clergyman kindly. We'll see to the foot.'

But how to reach home with the poor little limping child he did not know. Happily a cab drew near at the right moment, and, as the only hope, he took the children into it, arriving without further impediment at his own door.

Mr. Sandford took out a latch-key, and let himself in with his charges. He had been watching by the bed-side of a sick friend, and his small household had long since retired to rest.

'Stand there, my dears, and I will fetch a kind lady to help you.'

He went into the study, took some hot water, always left boiling for him over a lamp, that he might have some tea when unusually late, mixed it with a little wine, and brought it out to the children. “Drink, this,' said he, and ran up the staircase to call his sister.

Tap, tap, at Miss Sandford's door.
VOL. 7.

4

PART 37.

« PreviousContinue »