Throughout this furious and rapid
passage, Lawless had looked on helplessly, and even
when all was over, and Dick, already re-arisen to
his feet, was listening with the most passionate attention
to the distant bustle in the lower storeys of the
house, the old outlaw was still wavering on his legs
like a shrub in a breeze of wind, and still stupidly
staring on the face of the dead man.
“It is well,” said Dick,
at length; “they have not heard us, praise the
saints! But, now, what shall I do with this poor
spy? At least, I will take my tassel from his
So saying, Dick opened the wallet;
within he found a few pieces of money, the tassel,
and a letter addressed to Lord Wensleydale, and sealed
with my Lord Shoreby’s seal. The name
awoke Dick’s recollection; and he instantly
broke the wax and read the contents of the letter.
It was short, but, to Dick’s delight, it gave
evident proof that Lord Shoreby was treacherously
corresponding with the House of York.
The young fellow usually carried his
ink-horn and implements about him, and so now, bending
a knee beside the body of the dead spy, he was able
to write these words upon a corner of the paper:
My Lord of Shoreby, ye that
writt the letter, wot ye why your man is
ded? But let me rede
you, marry not.
He laid this paper on the breast of
the corpse; and then Lawless, who had been looking
on upon these last manoeuvres with some flickering
returns of intelligence, suddenly drew a black arrow
from below his robe, and therewith pinned the paper
in its place. The sight of this disrespect,
or, as it almost seemed, cruelty to the dead, drew
a cry of horror from young Shelton; but the old outlaw
“Nay, I will have the credit
for mine order,” he hiccupped. “My
jolly boys must have the credit on’t the
credit, brother;” and then, shutting his eyes
tight and opening his mouth like a precentor, he began
to thunder, in a formidable voice:
“If ye should drink
the clary wine”
“Peace, sot!” cried Dick,
and thrust him hard against the wall. “In
two words if so be that such a man can
understand me who hath more wine than wit in him in
two words, and, a-Mary’s name, begone out of
this house, where, if ye continue to abide, ye will
not only hang yourself, but me also! Faith,
then, up foot! be yare, or, by the mass, I may forget
that I am in some sort your captain and in some your
The sham monk was now, in some degree,
recovering the use of his intelligence; and the ring
in Dick’s voice, and the glitter in Dick’s
eye, stamped home the meaning of his words.
“By the mass,” cried Lawless,
“an I be not wanted, I can go;” and he
turned tipsily along the corridor and proceeded to
flounder down-stairs, lurching against the wall.
So soon as he was out of sight, Dick
returned to his hiding-place, resolutely fixed to
see the matter out. Wisdom, indeed, moved him
to be gone; but love and curiosity were stronger.
Time passed slowly for the young man,
bolt upright behind the arras. The fire in the
room began to die down, and the lamp to burn low and
to smoke. And still there was no word of the
return of any one to these upper quarters of the house;
still the faint hum and clatter of the supper party
sounded from far below; and still, under the thick
fall of the snow, Shoreby town lay silent upon every
At length, however, feet and voices
began to draw near upon the stair; and presently after
several of Sir Daniel’s guests arrived upon the
landing, and, turning down the corridor, beheld the
torn arras and the body of the spy.
Some ran forward and some back, and
all together began to cry aloud.
At the sound of their cries, guests,
men-at-arms, ladies, servants, and, in a word, all
the inhabitants of that great house, came flying from
every direction, and began to join their voices to
Soon a way was cleared, and Sir Daniel
came forth in person, followed by the bridegroom of
the morrow, my Lord Shoreby.
“My lord,” said Sir Daniel,
“have I not told you of this knave Black Arrow?
To the proof, behold it! There it stands, and,
by the rood, my gossip, in a man of yours, or one
that stole your colours!”
“In good sooth, it was a man
of mine,” replied Lord Shoreby, hanging back.
“I would I had more such. He was keen
as a beagle and secret as a mole.”
“Ay, gossip, truly?” asked
Sir Daniel, keenly. “And what came he
smelling up so many stairs in my poor mansion?
But he will smell no more.”
“An’t please you, Sir
Daniel,” said one, “here is a paper written
upon with some matter, pinned upon his breast.”
“Give it me, arrow and all,”
said the knight. And when he had taken into
his hand the shaft, he continued for some time to gaze
upon it in a sullen musing. “Ay,”
he said, addressing Lord Shoreby, “here is a
hate that followeth hard and close upon my heels.
This black stick, or its just likeness, shall yet
bring me down. And, gossip, suffer a plain knight
to counsel you; and if these hounds begin to wind you,
flee! ’Tis like a sickness it
still hangeth, hangeth upon the limbs. But let
us see what they have written. It is as I thought,
my lord; y’ are marked, like an old oak, by
the woodman; to-morrow or next day, by will come the
axe. But what wrote ye in a letter?”
Lord Shoreby snatched the paper from
the arrow, read it, crumpled it between his hands,
and, overcoming the reluctance which had hitherto
withheld him from approaching, threw himself on his
knees beside the body and eagerly groped in the wallet.
He rose to his feet with a somewhat unsettled countenance.
“Gossip,” he said, “I
have indeed lost a letter here that much imported;
and could I lay my hand upon the knave that took it,
he should incontinently grace a halter. But
let us, first of all, secure the issues of the house.
Here is enough harm already, by St. George!”
Sentinels were posted close around
the house and garden; a sentinel on every landing
of the stair, a whole troop in the main entrance-hall;
and yet another about the bonfire in the shed.
Sir Daniel’s followers were supplemented by
Lord Shoreby’s; there was thus no lack of men
or weapons to make the house secure, or to entrap
a lurking enemy, should one be there.
Meanwhile, the body of the spy was
carried out through the falling snow and deposited
in the abbey church.
It was not until these dispositions
had been taken, and all had returned to a decorous
silence, that the two girls drew Richard Shelton from
his place of concealment, and made a full report to
him of what had passed. He, upon his side, recounted
the visit of the spy, his dangerous discovery, and
Joanna leaned back very faint against the curtained
“It will avail but little,”
she said. “I shall be wed to-morrow, in
the morning, after all!”
“What!” cried her friend.
“And here is our paladin that driveth lions
like mice! Ye have little faith, of a surety.
But come, friend lion-driver, give us some comfort;
speak, and let us hear bold counsels.”
Dick was confounded to be thus outfaced
with his own exaggerated words; but though he coloured,
he still spoke stoutly.
“Truly,” said he, “we
are in straits. Yet, could I but win out of this
house for half an hour, I do honestly tell myself that
all might still go well; and for the marriage, it
should be prevented.”
“And for the lions,” mimicked
the girl, “they shall be driven.”
“I crave your excuse,”
said Dick. “I speak not now in any boasting
humour, but rather as one inquiring after help or counsel;
for if I get not forth of this house and through these
sentinels, I can do less than naught. Take me,
I pray you, rightly.”
“Why said ye he was rustic,
Joan?” the girl inquired. “I warrant
he hath a tongue in his head; ready, soft, and bold
is his speech at pleasure. What would ye more?”
“Nay,” sighed Joanna,
with a smile, “they have changed me my friend
Dick, ’tis sure enough. When I beheld
him, he was rough indeed. But it matters little;
there is no help for my hard case, and I must still
be Lady Shoreby!”
“Nay, then,” said Dick,
“I will even make the adventure. A friar
is not much regarded; and if I found a good fairy
to lead me up, I may find another belike to carry
me down. How call they the name of this spy?”
“Rutter,” said the young
lady; “and an excellent good name to call him
by. But how mean ye, lion-driver? What
is in your mind to do?”
“To offer boldly to go forth,”
returned Dick; “and if any stop me, to keep
an unchanged countenance, and say I go to pray for
Rutter. They will be praying over his poor clay
“The device is somewhat simple,”
replied the girl, “yet it may hold.”
“Nay,” said young Shelton,
“it is no device, but mere boldness, which serveth
often better in great straits.”
“Ye say true,” she said.
“Well, go, a-Mary’s name, and may Heaven
speed you! Ye leave here a poor maid that loves
you entirely, and another that is most heartily your
friend. Be wary, for their sakes, and make not
shipwreck of your safety.”
“Ay,” added Joanna, “go,
Dick. Ye run no more peril, whether ye go or
stay. Go; ye take my heart with you; the saints
Dick passed the first sentry with
so assured a countenance that the fellow merely figeted
and stared; but at the second landing the man carried
his spear across and bade him name his business.
answered Dick. “I go to pray over the body
of this poor Rutter.”
“Like enough,” returned
the sentry; “but to go alone is not permitted
you.” He leaned over the oaken balusters
and whistled shrill. “One cometh!”
he cried; and then motioned Dick to pass.
At the foot of the stair he found
the guard afoot and awaiting his arrival; and when
he had once more repeated his story, the commander
of the post ordered four men out to accompany him
to the church.
“Let him not slip, my lads,”
he said. “Bring him to Sir Oliver, on your
The door was then opened; one of the
men took Dick by either arm, another marched ahead
with a link, and the fourth, with bent bow and the
arrow on the string, brought up the rear. In
this order they proceeded through the garden, under
the thick darkness of the night and the scattering
snow, and drew near to the dimly-illuminated windows
of the abbey church.
At the western portal a picket of
archers stood, taking what shelter they could find
in the hollow of the arched doorways, and all powdered
with the snow; and it was not until Dick’s conductors
had exchanged a word with these, that they were suffered
to pass forth and enter the nave of the sacred edifice.
The church was doubtfully lighted
by the tapers upon the great altar, and by a lamp
or two that swung from the arched roof before the private
chapels of illustrious families. In the midst
of the choir the dead spy lay, his limbs piously composed,
upon a bier.
A hurried mutter of prayer sounded
along the arches; cowled figures knelt in the stalls
of the choir, and on the steps of the high altar a
priest in pontifical vestments celebrated mass.
Upon this fresh entrance, one of the
cowled figures arose, and, coming down the steps which
elevated the level of the choir above that of the
nave, demanded from the leader of the four men what
business brought him to the church. Out of respect
for the service and the dead, they spoke in guarded
tones; but the echoes of that huge, empty building
caught up their words, and hollowly repeated and repeated
them along the aisles.
“A monk!” returned Sir
Oliver (for he it was), when he had heard the report
of the archer. “My brother, I looked not
for your coming,” he added, turning to young
Shelton. “In all civility, who are ye?
and at whose instance do ye join your supplications
Dick, keeping his cowl about his face,
signed to Sir Oliver to move a pace or two aside from
the archers; and, so soon as the priest had done so,
“I cannot hope to deceive you, sir,” he
said. “My life is in your hands.”
Sir Oliver violently started; his
stout cheeks grew pale, and for a space he was silent.
“Richard,” he said, “what
brings you here, I know not; but I much misdoubt it
to be evil. Nevertheless, for the kindness that
was, I would not willingly deliver you to harm.
Ye shall sit all night beside me in the stalls:
ye shall sit there till my Lord of Shoreby be married,
and the party gone safe home; and if all goeth well,
and ye have planned no evil, in the end ye shall go
whither ye will. But if your purpose be bloody,
it shall return upon your head. Amen!”
And the priest devoutly crossed himself,
and turned and louted to the altar.
With that, he spoke a few words more
to the soldiers, and taking Dick by the hand, led
him up to the choir, and placed him in the stall beside
his own, where, for mere decency, the lad had instantly
to kneel and appear to be busy with his devotions.
His mind and his eyes, however, were
continually wandering. Three of the soldiers,
he observed, instead of returning to the house, had
got them quietly into a point of vantage in the aisle;
and he could not doubt that they had done so by Sir
Oliver’s command. Here, then, he was trapped.
Here he must spend the night in the ghostly glimmer
and shadow of the church, and looking on the pale
face of him he slew; and here, in the morning, he
must see his sweetheart married to another man before
But, for all that, he obtained a command
upon his mind, and built himself up in patience to
await the issue.