There was not a foe left within striking
distance; and Dick, as he looked ruefully about him
on the remainder of his gallant force, began to count
the cost of victory. He was himself, now that
the danger was ended, so stiff and sore, so bruised
and cut and broken, and, above all, so utterly exhausted
by his desperate and unremitting labours in the fight,
that he seemed incapable of any fresh exertion.
But this was not yet the hour for
repose. Shoreby had been taken by assault; and
though an open town, and not in any manner to be charged
with the resistance, it was plain that these rough
fighters would be not less rough now that the fight
was over, and that the more horrid part of war would
fall to be enacted. Richard of Gloucester was
not the captain to protect the citizens from his infuriated
soldiery; and even if he had the will, it might be
questioned if he had the power.
It was, therefore, Dick’s business
to find and to protect Joanna; and with that end he
looked about him at the faces of his men. The
three or four who seemed likeliest to be obedient
and to keep sober he drew aside; and promising them
a rich reward and a special recommendation to the
duke, led them across the market-place, now empty of
horsemen, and into the streets upon the further side.
Every here and there small combats
of from two to a dozen still raged upon the open street;
here and there a house was being besieged, the defenders
throwing out stools and tables on the heads of the
assailants. The snow was strewn with arms and
corpses; but except for these partial combats the
streets were deserted, and the houses, some standing
open, and some shuttered and barricaded, had for the
most part ceased to give out smoke.
Dick, threading the skirts of these
skirmishers, led his followers briskly in the direction
of the abbey church; but when he came the length of
the main street, a cry of horror broke from his lips.
Sir Daniel’s great house had been carried by
assault. The gates hung in splinters from the
hinges, and a double throng kept pouring in and out
through the entrance, seeking and carrying booty.
Meanwhile, in the upper storeys, some resistance
was still being offered to the pillagers; for just
as Dick came within eyeshot of the building, a casement
was burst open from within, and a poor wretch in murrey
and blue, screaming and resisting, was forced through
the embrasure and tossed into the street below.
The most sickening apprehension fell
upon Dick. He ran forward like one possessed,
forced his way into the house among the foremost, and
mounted without pause to the chamber on the third
floor where he had last parted from Joanna.
It was a mere wreck; the furniture had been overthrown,
the cupboards broken open, and in one place a trailing
corner of the arras lay smouldering on the embers
of the fire.
Dick, almost without thinking, trod
out the incipient conflagration, and then stood bewildered.
Sir Daniel, Sir Oliver, Joanna, all were gone; but
whether butchered in the rout or safe escaped from
Shoreby, who should say?
He caught a passing archer by the tabard.
“Fellow,” he asked, “were ye here
when this house was taken?”
“Let be,” said the archer. “A
murrain! let be, or I strike.”
“Hark ye,” returned Richard, “two
can play at that. Stand and be plain.”
But the man, flushed with drink and
battle, struck Dick upon the shoulder with one hand,
while with the other he twitched away his garment.
Thereupon the full wrath of the young leader burst
from his control. He seized the fellow in his
strong embrace, and crushed him on the plates of his
mailed bosom like a child; then, holding him at arm’s
length, he bid him speak as he valued life.
“I pray you mercy!” gasped
the archer. “An I had thought ye were so
angry I would ‘a’ been charier of crossing
you. I was here indeed.”
“Know ye Sir Daniel?” pursued Dick.
“Well do I know him,” returned the man.
“Was he in the mansion?”
“Ay, sir, he was,” answered
the archer; “but even as we entered by the yard
gate he rode forth by the garden.”
“Alone?” cried Dick.
“He may ‘a’ had a score of lances
with him,” said the man.
“Lances! No women, then?” asked
“Troth, I saw not,” said
the archer. “But there were none in the
house, if that be your quest.”
“I thank you,” said Dick.
“Here is a piece for your pains.”
But groping in his wallet, Dick found nothing.
“Inquire for me to-morrow,” he added “Richard
Shelt Sir Richard Shelton,” he corrected,
“and I will see you handsomely rewarded.”
And then an idea struck Dick.
He hastily descended to the courtyard, ran with all
his might across the garden, and came to the great
door of the church. It stood wide open; within,
every corner of the pavement was crowded with fugitive
burghers, surrounded by their families and laden with
the most precious of their possessions, while, at the
high altar, priests in full canonicals were imploring
the mercy of God. Even as Dick entered, the
loud chorus began to thunder in the vaulted roofs.
He hurried through the groups of refugees,
and came to the door of the stair that led into the
steeple. And here a tall churchman stepped before
him and arrested his advance.
“Whither, my son?” he asked, severely.
“My father,” answered
Dick, “I am here upon an errand of expedition.
Stay me not. I command here for my Lord of Gloucester.”
“For my Lord of Gloucester?”
repeated the priest. “Hath, then, the
battle gone so sore?”
“The battle, father, is at an
end, Lancaster clean sped, my Lord of Risingham Heaven
rest him! left upon the field. And
now, with your good leave, I follow mine affairs.”
And thrusting on one side the priest, who seemed
stupefied at the news, Dick pushed open the door and
rattled up the stairs four at a bound, and without
pause or stumble, till he stepped upon the open platform
at the top.
Shoreby Church tower not only commanded
the town, as in a map, but looked far, on both sides,
over sea and land. It was now near upon noon;
the day exceeding bright, the snow dazzling.
And as Dick looked around him, he could measure the
consequences of the battle.
A confused, growling uproar reached
him from the streets, and now and then, but very rarely,
the clash of steel. Not a ship, not so much as
a skiff remained in harbour; but the sea was dotted
with sails and row-boats laden with fugitives.
On shore, too, the surface of the snowy meadows was
broken up with bands of horsemen, some cutting their
way towards the borders of the forest, others, who
were doubtless of the Yorkist side, stoutly interposing
and beating them back upon the town. Over all
the open ground there lay a prodigious quantity of
fallen men and horses, clearly defined upon the snow.
To complete the picture, those of
the foot soldiers as had not found place upon a ship
still kept up an archery combat on the borders of the
port, and from the cover of the shoreside taverns.
In that quarter, also, one or two houses had been
fired, and the smoke towered high in the frosty sunlight,
and blew off to sea in voluminous folds.
Already close upon the margin of the
woods, and somewhat in the line of Holywood, one particular
clump of fleeing horsemen riveted the attention of
the young watcher on the tower. It was fairly
numerous; in no other quarter of the field did so
many Lancastrians still hold together; thus they had
left a wide, discoloured wake upon the snow, and Dick
was able to trace them step by step from where they
had left the town.
While Dick stood watching them, they
had gained, unopposed, the first fringe of the leafless
forest, and, turning a little from their direction,
the sun fell for a moment full on their array, as it
was relieved against the dusky wood.
“Murrey and blue!” cried
Dick. “I swear it murrey and
The next moment he was descending the stairway.
It was now his business to seek out
the Duke of Gloucester, who alone, in the disorder
of the forces, might be able to supply him with a
sufficiency of men. The fighting in the main
town was now practically at an end; and as Dick ran
hither and thither, seeking the commander, the streets
were thick with wandering soldiers, some laden with
more booty than they could well stagger under, others
shouting drunk. None of them, when questioned,
had the least notion of the duke’s whereabouts;
and, at last, it was by sheer good fortune that Dick
found him, where he sat in the saddle directing operations
to dislodge the archers from the harbour side.
“Sir Richard Shelton, ye are
well found,” he said. “I owe you
one thing that I value little, my life; and one that
I can never pay you for, this victory. Catesby,
if I had ten such captains as Sir Richard, I would
march forthright on London. But now, sir, claim
“Freely, my lord,” said
Dick, “freely and loudly. One hath escaped
to whom I owe some grudges, and taken with him one
whom I owe love and service. Give me, then,
fifty lances, that I may pursue; and for any obligation
that your graciousness is pleased to allow, it shall
be clean discharged.”
“How call ye him?” inquired the duke.
“Sir Daniel Brackley,” answered Richard.
“Out upon him, double-face!”
cried Gloucester. “Here is no reward, Sir
Richard; here is fresh service offered, and, if that
ye bring his head to me, a fresh debt upon my conscience.
Catesby, get him these lances; and you, sir, bethink
ye, in the meanwhile, what pleasure, honour, or profit
it shall be mine to give you.”
Just then the Yorkist skirmishers
carried one of the shoreside taverns, swarming in
upon it on three sides, and driving out or taking its
defenders. Crookback Dick was pleased to cheer
the exploit, and pushing his horse a little nearer,
called to see the prisoners.
There were four or five of them two
men of my Lord Shoreby’s and one of Lord Risingham’s
among the number, and last, but in Dick’s eyes
not least, a tall, shambling, grizzled old shipman,
between drunk and sober, and with a dog whimpering
and jumping at his heels.
The young duke passed them for a moment
under a severe review.
“Good,” he said. “Hang them.”
And he turned the other way to watch the progress
of the fight.
“My lord,” said Dick,
“so please you, I have found my reward.
Grant me the life and liberty of yon old shipman.”
Gloucester turned and looked the speaker in the face.
“Sir Richard,” he said,
“I make not war with peacock’s feathers,
but steel shafts. Those that are mine enemies
I slay, and that without excuse or favour. For,
bethink ye, in this realm of England, that is so torn
in pieces, there is not a man of mine but hath a brother
or a friend upon the other party. If, then,
I did begin to grant these pardons, I might sheathe
“It may be so, my lord; and
yet I will be overbold, and at the risk of your disfavour,
recall your lordship’s promise,” replied
Richard of Gloucester flushed.
“Mark it right well,”
he said, harshly. “I love not mercy, nor
yet mercymongers. Ye have this day laid the
foundations of high fortune. If ye oppose to
me my word, which I have plighted, I will yield.
But, by the glory of heaven, there your favour dies!
“Mine is the loss,” said Dick.
“Give him his sailor,”
said the duke; and wheeling his horse, he turned his
back upon young Shelton.
Dick was nor glad nor sorry.
He had seen too much of the young duke to set great
store on his affection; and the origin and growth of
his own favour had been too flimsy and too rapid to
inspire much confidence. One thing alone he
feared that the vindictive leader might
revoke the offer of the lances. But here he
did justice neither to Gloucester’s honour (such
as it was) nor, above all, to his decision. If
he had once judged Dick to be the right man to pursue
Sir Daniel, he was not one to change; and he soon
proved it by shouting after Catesby to be speedy, for
the paladin was waiting.
In the meanwhile, Dick turned to the
old shipman, who had seemed equally indifferent to
his condemnation and to his subsequent release.
“Arblaster,” said Dick,
“I have done you ill; but now, by the rood, I
think I have cleared the score.”
But the old skipper only looked upon
him dully and held his peace.
“Come,” continued Dick,
“a life is a life, old shrew, and it is more
than ships or liquor. Say ye forgive me; for
if your life be worth nothing to you, it hath cost
me the beginnings of my fortune. Come, I have
paid for it dearly; be not so churlish.”
“An I had had my ship,”
said Arblaster, “I would ‘a’ been
forth and safe on the high seas I and my
man Tom. But ye took my ship, gossip, and I’m
a beggar; and for my man Tom, a knave fellow in russet
shot him down. ‘Murrain!’ quoth he,
and spake never again. ‘Murrain’
was the last of his words, and the poor spirit of
him passed. ’A will never sail no more,
will my Tom.’”
Dick was seized with unavailing penitence
and pity; he sought to take the skipper’s hand,
but Arblaster avoided his touch.
“Nay,” said he, “let
be. Y’ have played the devil with me, and
let that content you.”
The words died in Richard’s
throat. He saw, through tears, the poor old
man, bemused with liquor and sorrow, go shambling away,
with bowed head, across the snow, and the unnoticed
dog whimpering at his heels, and for the first time
began to understand the desperate game that we play
in life; and how a thing once done is not to be changed
or remedied, by any penitence.
But there was no time left to him for vain regret.
Catesby had now collected the horsemen,
and riding up to Dick he dismounted, and offered him
his own horse.
“This morning,” he said,
“I was somewhat jealous of your favour; it hath
not been of a long growth; and now, Sir Richard, it
is with a very good heart that I offer you this horse to
ride away with.”
“Suffer me yet a moment,”
replied Dick. “This favour of mine whereupon
was it founded?”
“Upon your name,” answered
Catesby. “It is my lord’s chief superstition.
Were my name Richard, I should be an earl to-morrow.”
“Well, sir, I thank you,”
returned Dick; “and since I am little likely
to follow these great fortunes, I will even say farewell.
I will not pretend I was displeased to think myself
upon the road to fortune; but I will not pretend,
neither, that I am over-sorry to be done with it.
Command and riches, they are brave things, to be sure;
but a word in your ear yon duke of yours,
he is a fearsome lad.”
“Nay,” said he, “of
a verity he that rides with Crooked Dick will ride
deep. Well, God keep us all from evil!
Speed ye well.”
Thereupon Dick put himself at the
head of his men, and giving the word of command, rode
He made straight across the town,
following what he supposed to be the route of Sir
Daniel, and spying around for any signs that might
decide if he were right.
The streets were strewn with the dead
and the wounded, whose fate, in the bitter frost,
was far the more pitiable. Gangs of the victors
went from house to house, pillaging and stabbing,
and sometimes singing together as they went.
From different quarters, as he rode
on, the sounds of violence and outrage came to young
Shelton’s ears; now the blows of the sledge-hammer
on some barricaded door, and now the miserable shrieks
Dick’s heart had just been awakened.
He had just seen the cruel consequences of his own
behaviour; and the thought of the sum of misery that
was now acting in the whole of Shoreby filled him with
At length he reached the outskirts,
and there, sure enough, he saw straight before him
the same broad, beaten track across the snow that he
had marked from the summit of the church. Here,
then, he went the faster on; but still, as he rode,
he kept a bright eye upon the fallen men and horses
that lay beside the track. Many of these, he
was relieved to see, wore Sir Daniel’s colours,
and the faces of some, who lay upon their back, he
About half-way between the town and
the forest, those whom he was following had plainly
been assailed by archers; for the corpses lay pretty
closely scattered, each pierced by an arrow.
And here Dick spied among the rest the body of a very
young lad, whose face was somehow hauntingly familiar
He halted his troop, dismounted, and
raised the lad’s head. As he did so, the
hood fell back, and a profusion of long brown hair
unrolled itself. At the same time the eyes opened.
“Ah! lion driver!” said
a feeble voice. “She is farther on.
Ride ride fast!”
And then the poor young lady fainted once again.
One of Dick’s men carried a
flask of some strong cordial, and with this Dick succeeded
in reviving consciousness. Then he took Joanna’s
friend upon his saddlebow, and once more pushed toward
“Why do ye take me?” said
the girl. “Ye but delay your speed.”
“Nay, Mistress Risingham,”
replied Dick. “Shoreby is full of blood
and drunkenness and riot. Here ye are safe;
“I will not be beholden to any
of your faction,” she cried; “set me down.”
“Madam, ye know not what ye
say,” returned Dick. “Y’ are
“I am not,” she said. “It
was my horse was slain.”
“It matters not one jot,”
replied Richard. “Ye are here in the midst
of open snow, and compassed about with enemies.
Whether ye will or not, I carry you with me.
Glad am I to have the occasion; for thus shall I
repay some portion of our debt.”
For a little while she was silent.
Then, very suddenly, she asked:
“My Lord Risingham?” returned
Dick. “I would I had good news to give
you, madam; but I have none. I saw him once in
the battle, and once only. Let us hope the best.”