Very early the next morning, before
the first peep of the day, Dick arose, changed his
garments, armed himself once more like a gentleman,
and set forth for Lawless’s den in the forest.
There, it will be remembered, he had left Lord Foxham’s
papers; and to get these and be back in time for the
tryst with the young Duke of Gloucester could only
be managed by an early start and the most vigorous
The frost was more rigorous than ever;
the air windless and dry, and stinging to the nostril.
The moon had gone down, but the stars were still
bright and numerous, and the reflection from the snow
was clear and cheerful. There was no need for
a lamp to walk by; nor, in that still but ringing
air, the least temptation to delay.
Dick had crossed the greater part
of the open ground between Shoreby and the forest,
and had reached the bottom of the little hill, some
hundred yards below the Cross of St. Bride, when,
through the stillness of the black morn, there rang
forth the note of a trumpet, so shrill, clear, and
piercing, that he thought he had never heard the match
of it for audibility. It was blown once, and
then hurriedly a second time; and then the clash of
At this young Shelton pricked his
ears, and drawing his sword, ran forward up the hill.
Presently he came in sight of the
cross, and was aware of a most fierce encounter raging
on the road before it. There were seven or eight
assailants, and but one to keep head against them;
but so active and dexterous was this one, so desperately
did he charge and scatter his opponents, so deftly
keep his footing on the ice, that already, before
Dick could intervene, he had slain one, wounded another,
and kept the whole in check.
Still, it was by a miracle that he
continued his defence, and at any moment, any accident,
the least slip of foot or error of hand, his life
would be a forfeit.
“Hold ye well, sir! Here
is help!” cried Richard; and forgetting that
he was alone, and that the cry was somewhat irregular,
“To the Arrow! to the Arrow!” he shouted,
as he fell upon the rear of the assailants.
These were stout fellows also, for
they gave not an inch at this surprise, but faced
about, and fell with astonishing fury upon Dick.
Four against one, the steel flashed about him in the
starlight; the sparks flew fiercely; one of the men
opposed to him fell in the stir of the
fight he hardly knew why; then he himself was struck
across the head, and though the steel cap below his
hood protected him, the blow beat him down upon one
knee, with a brain whirling like a windmill sail.
Meanwhile the man whom he had come
to rescue, instead of joining in the conflict, had,
on the first sign of intervention, leaped aback and
blown again, and yet more urgently and loudly, on
that same shrill-voiced trumpet that began the alarm.
Next moment, indeed, his foes were on him, and he
was once more charging and fleeing, leaping, stabbing,
dropping to his knee, and using indifferently sword
and dagger, foot and hand, with the same unshaken
courage and feverish energy and speed.
But that ear-piercing summons had
been heard at last. There was a muffled rushing
in the snow; and in a good hour for Dick, who saw the
sword-points glitter already at his throat, there poured
forth out of the wood upon both sides a disorderly
torrent of mounted men-at-arms, each cased in iron,
and with visor lowered, each bearing his lance in rest,
or his sword bared and raised, and each carrying,
so to speak, a passenger, in the shape of an archer
or page, who leaped one after another from their perches,
and had presently doubled the array.
The original assailants; seeing themselves
outnumbered and surrounded, threw down their arms
without a word.
“Seize me these fellows!”
said the hero of the trumpet; and when his order had
been obeyed, he drew near to Dick and looked him in
Dick, returning this scrutiny, was
surprised to find in one who had displayed such strength,
skill and energy, a lad no older than himself slightly
deformed, with one shoulder higher than the other,
and of a pale, painful, and distorted countenance.
The eyes, however, were very clear and bold.
“Sir,” said this lad,
“ye came in good time for me, and none too early.”
“My lord,” returned Dick,
with a faint sense that he was in the presence of
a great personage, “ye are yourself so marvellous
a good swordsman that I believe ye had managed them
single-handed. Howbeit, it was certainly well
for me that your men delayed no longer than they did.”
“How knew ye who I was?” demanded the
“Even now, my lord,” Dick answered, “I
am ignorant of whom I speak with.”
“Is it so?” asked the
other. “And yet ye threw yourself head
first into this unequal battle.”
“I saw one man valiantly contending
against many,” replied Dick, “and I had
thought myself dishonoured not to bear him aid.”
A singular sneer played about the
young nobleman’s mouth as he made answer:
“These are very brave words.
But to the more essential are ye Lancaster
“My lord, I make no secret;
I am clear for York,” Dick answered.
“By the mass!” replied the other, “it
is well for you.”
And so saying, he turned towards one of his followers.
“Let me see,” he continued,
in the same sneering and cruel tones “let
me see a clean end of these brave gentlemen.
Truss me them up.”
There were but five survivors of the
attacking party. Archers seized them by the
arms; they were hurried to the borders of the wood,
and each placed below a tree of suitable dimension;
the rope was adjusted; an archer, carrying the end
of it, hastily clambered overhead; and before a minute
was over, and without a word passing upon either hand,
the five men were swinging by the neck.
“And now,” cried the deformed
leader, “back to your posts, and when I summon
you next, be readier to attend.”
“My lord duke,” said one
man, “beseech you, tarry not here alone.
Keep but a handful of lances at your hand.”
“Fellow,” said the duke,
“I have forborne to chide you for your slowness.
Cross me not, therefore. I trust my hand and
arm, for all that I be crooked. Ye were backward
when the trumpet sounded; and ye are now too forward
with your counsels. But it is ever so; last with
the lance and first with tongue. Let it be reversed.”
And with a gesture that was not without
a sort of dangerous nobility, he waved them off.
The footmen climbed again to their
seats behind the men-at-arms, and the whole party
moved slowly away and disappeared in twenty different
directions, under the cover of the forest.
The day was by this time beginning
to break, and the stars to fade. The first grey
glimmer of dawn shone upon the countenances of the
two young men, who now turned once more to face each
“Here,” said the duke,
“ye have seen my vengeance, which is, like my
blade, both sharp and ready. But I would not
have you, for all Christendom, suppose me thankless.
You that came to my aid with a good sword and a better
courage unless that ye recoil from my misshapenness come
to my heart.”
And so saying, the young leader held
out his arms for an embrace.
In the bottom of his heart Dick already
entertained a great terror and some hatred for the
man whom he had rescued; but the invitation was so
worded that it would not have been merely discourteous,
but cruel, to refuse or hesitate; and he hastened
“And now, my lord duke,”
he said, when he had regained his freedom, “do
I suppose aright? Are ye my Lord Duke of Gloucester?”
“I am Richard of Gloucester,”
returned the other. “And you how
call they you?”
Dick told him his name, and presented
Lord Foxham’s signet, which the duke immediately
“Ye come too soon,” he
said; “but why should I complain? Ye are
like me, that was here at watch two hours before the
day. But this is the first sally of mine arms;
upon this adventure, Master Shelton, shall I make or
mar the quality of my renown. There lie mine
enemies, under two old, skilled captains Risingham
and Brackley well posted for strength, I
do believe, but yet upon two sides without retreat,
enclosed betwixt the sea, the harbour, and the river.
Methinks, Shelton, here were a great blow to be stricken,
an we could strike it silently and suddenly.”
“I do think so, indeed,” cried Dick, warming.
“Have ye my Lord Foxham’s notes?”
inquired the duke.
And then, Dick, having explained how
he was without them for the moment, made himself bold
to offer information every jot as good, of his own
knowledge. “And for mine own part, my lord
duke,” he added, “an ye had men enough,
I would fall on even at this present. For, look
ye, at the peep of day the watches of the night are
over; but by day they keep neither watch nor ward only
scour the outskirts with horsemen. Now, then,
when the night watch is already unarmed, and the rest
are at their morning cup now were the time
to break them.”
“How many do ye count?” asked Gloucester.
“They number not two thousand,” Dick replied.
“I have seven hundred in the
woods behind us,” said the duke; “seven
hundred follow from Kettley, and will be here anon;
behind these, and further, are four hundred more;
and my Lord Foxham hath five hundred half a day from
here, at Holywood. Shall we attend their coming,
or fall on?”
“My lord,” said Dick,
“when ye hanged these five poor rogues ye did
decide the question. Churls although they were,
in these uneasy, times they will be lacked and looked
for, and the alarm be given. Therefore, my lord,
if ye do count upon the advantage of a surprise, ye
have not, in my poor opinion, one whole hour in front
“I do think so indeed,”
returned Crookback. “Well, before an hour,
ye shall be in the thick on’t, winning spurs.
A swift man to Holywood, carrying Lord Foxham’s
signet; another along the road to speed my laggards!
Nay, Shelton, by the rood, it may be done!”
Therewith he once more set his trumpet
to his lips and blew.
This time he was not long kept waiting.
In a moment the open space about the cross was filled
with horse and foot. Richard of Gloucester took
his place upon the steps, and despatched messenger
after messenger to hasten the concentration of the
seven hundred men that lay hidden in the immediate
neighbourhood among the woods; and before a quarter
of an hour had passed, all his dispositions being
taken, he put himself at their head, and began to
move down the hill towards Shoreby.
His plan was simple. He was
to seize a quarter of the town of Shoreby lying on
the right hand of the high road, and make his position
good there in the narrow lanes until his reinforcements
If Lord Risingham chose to retreat,
Richard would follow upon his rear, and take him between
two fires; or, if he preferred to hold the town, he
would be shut in a trap, there to be gradually overwhelmed
by force of numbers.
There was but one danger, but that
was imminent and great Gloucester’s
seven hundred might be rolled up and cut to pieces
in the first encounter, and, to avoid this, it was
needful to make the surprise of their arrival as complete
The footmen, therefore, were all once
more taken up behind the riders, and Dick had the
signal honour meted out to him of mounting behind
Gloucester himself. For as far as there was any
cover the troops moved slowly, and when they came
near the end of the trees that lined the highway,
stopped to breathe and reconnoitre.
The sun was now well up, shining with
a frosty brightness out of a yellow halo, and right
over against the luminary, Shoreby, a field of snowy
roofs and ruddy gables, was rolling up its columns
of morning smoke. Gloucester turned round to
“In that poor place,”
he said, “where people are cooking breakfast,
either you shall gain your spurs and I begin a life
of mighty honour and glory in the world’s eye,
or both of us, as I conceive it, shall fall dead and
be unheard of. Two Richards are we. Well,
then, Richard Shelton, they shall be heard about,
these two! Their swords shall not ring more
loudly on men’s helmets than their names shall
ring in people’s ears.”
Dick was astonished at so great a
hunger after fame, expressed with so great vehemence
of voice and language, and he answered very sensibly
and quietly, that, for his part, he promised he would
do his duty, and doubted not of victory if everyone
did the like.
By this time the horses were well
breathed, and the leader holding up his sword and
giving rein, the whole troop of chargers broke into
the gallop and thundered, with their double load of
fighting men, down the remainder of the hill and across
the snow-covered plain that still divided them from