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HAM T' 1 M W o T"f I IFFIF; B
THE EIEST VOLUME.
Time : place : bele Aliz I
May Day and the lovers : the Prince and the churl . . 12
Devon and Lincoln antecedents 27
A short cut through the marshes 44
The good old times 49
Old Tangley Manor 59
The Fire 64
The singed moth â¢ . . 68
Newark Priory * â¢ 74
Dame Margery's discovery 83
Visitors at Tything 89
St. Martha's 97
Our nunnery, and the monks of old. .... 104
The new brother of Newark 112
The Nun of St. Catherine's 120
Consecration, , 128
Tything Lodge . 136
Hal and his family 143
The Sleepers in the Silent Pool 154
Lying in state 160
The prince's feather at Gilford 166
As to our authorities 184
Fitz-Ooth and Matilda 192
The forest king and queen 202
A telegram of English history . . . â¢ . 219
Alice the nun 231
The Pilgrimage to Gomershal 240
The letters and a lock of hair 248
Maid Marian 256
Stephan's valet 265
Learning, love, and patriotism 270
The old esquire hears a sermon 275
A father's blessing . 284
^Titne: Place: BeU ^li^
If I lead you back in thought some seven
centuries, and attempt to quicken your interest
for scenes and persons so far away removed
from us, you shall not therefore find your guide
an antiquarian idler : for Providence was the
Great King then as now ; and the men and
women of those days were of like passions and
affections with our living throbbing selves ; and
there is wisdom to be culled from their expe-
riences, and amusement to be gained from their
VOL. I. B
2 STEPHAN LANGTON.
adventures ; if not also, and in chief, sympathy
due from us to them, and justly to be accorded
them in homage for their sorrows.
Ay, and even more than simply so ; for the
acorns just then sown have since grown up to
be the gnarled and strong-limbed oaks of our
present English liberties ; and the fruitful vines
and fig-trees under which we now sit happily at
peace were sprouting in those early times as
tender plants out of a dry ground.
I will concentrate my pictured fancies in a
framework of real scenery round characters of
strict historic fame ; and, further than their
ornamental details, and such other circumstan-
tial filHngs-in of outline as needs must be thus
invented, I will set before your patience rather
reality than romance, drawing both landscapes
and persons from the truth.
This beautiful neighbourhood of south Surrey
(a right dear home from infancy) is full not
alone of picturesque features in the present,
STEPHAN LANGTON. 3
but of unrecorded interest in the past ; is rich
especially (as you shall prove anon) in all the
stirring incidents of Stephan Langton*s earlier
life; while yet that future statesman, arch-
prelate and chief champion of common liberty
against our tyrant King was the humble monk
of St. Martha's : and thus a life-time debt of
health, country pleasure, and old friendship to
many a hill and wood and ancient dwelling-
place hereabouts, shall now at length in some
sort be repaid.
It is possible â may it soon be actual â to
make classic ground of certain sweet retired
spots set among the fairest hill and vale country
in South England; to invest familiar Surrey
scenes (as even railway travellers get glimpses
of them) with their due historic interest ; and
to win the eyes of men this way-wards, not
only by our present pastoral beauties, but also
by our past chivalrous sublimities; so far at
least, and only so, as may regard just one
4 STEPHAN LANGTON.
short era of our long unwritten archives, and
just one morsel of romantic biography, gathered
from the untold heaps that might be diligently
compiled anent our many unnoised worthies.
How fair and rich a field then remains, and
may remain ever still unreaped for other men
to harvest !
Hereabouts, in the famous county Surrey,
and all over the three kingdoms one may say
the same, we are continually hunting or shoot-
ing or rambling or ploughing or pic-nicing on
sites where all sorts of w^ondrous things have
happened : and blessed are the eyes that can
see down the vista of past ages, and people
every spot with its interests and incidents ;
happy the hands whose eager diligence hath
skill to body forth those picturesque adventures.
We do not, as aforesaid, indulge in mere
romance ; or, where one must in some sort be
inventive, truth shall be the ground floor of
our airy castle : all whatever else of more ima-
STEPHAN LANGTON. 5
ginative tambour- work shall be sewn on the
coarse canvas substratum of downright reality.
For instance : King John did of old time
hunt our country, leaving to us still for wit-
nesses thereof, moated old Tangley his whilome
hunting-box, and town-quarters at Kingston,
and the ruined watch-tower at Woking : he did
hold famous festival in ' Gilford at Christ-
masse ' as ancient HoUingshed doth testify, â
and often oscillated (folks do so still, we see)
between Reading and Reygate, both then
famous for their castles : the Pilgrim's Way
from Winchester towards Canterbury, trodden
afterwards by Chaucer's self in his world-
famous pilgrimage and made immortal in his
* Tales,' is traceable to this day across our val-
leys and past our twin chapel-crowned hills, St.
Martha's and St. Catherine's ; Newark Priory,
now an almost extinct ruin, but in its original
phase at least a splendid Gothic structure, was
in the early days of John then just founded in
6 STEPHAN LANGTON.
honour of Thomas a Becket ; and the chancel
of St. Martha's (then called Martyr's Hill) was
added, exactly as our tale relates, in the latter
part of the twelfth century to the rude old fane
built of rough iron-stone and with keyless
arches, â possibly quite primeval, as over the
grave of some martyred Barnabas or Joseph of
So then, patient reader, accept me as en-
deavouring to connect for your better entertain-
ment our evident modern scenes (changed be-
like in such accidental features as culture brings
about, yet substantially the same as to geogra-
phy) with antique but actual incidents ; I will
do my best to pourtray human character, to
attach to place its stirring incidents actual or
probable, and to recognize the Divine Govern-
ment, wise and good both then and now, in the
tumultuous birth-time of Magna Charta : and
for my central figure, I have fixed upon a man
hitherto almost unstoried, though the very hinge
STEPHAN LANGTON. 7
and pivot in his own person of our national
greatness ; a man too, whom (possibly with
overboldness, but Demosthenes advises well)
we claim for our native county Surrey, and
therein more distinctly for our own near neigh-
bourhood, this fair valley of St. Martha's.
And, ifLangton in Lincolnshire and some
other suicidal synonyme in Devonshire may
claim, or even seem to have, a prior right on the
strength of mere nomenclature â well, let local
pundits battle out the proof if they can and
will, to their own complacence; â and let me
tell them it can be to that only ; for no biogra-
pher has yet, even probably, settled Stephan's
birth-place, which (see all the Encyclopaedias)
to this day rests as conjectural as Homer's or
Melchisedec's : whereas it is quite certain that
the great and good Archbishop Langton was
frequently both at Reygate and at Reading, still
oftener at Gilford, and finally died at his manor
of Slinfold, just beyond the hundred of Wode-
8 STEPHAN LANGTON.
tone and within a crow's flight ten miles of us ;
and all know that practically most men hare-
like return, if they have the chance, to their
native birth-forms when hard run down by death.
Furthermore, and still with that wise Demos-
thenean boldness, I claim as still extant in St.
Martha's chapel (one on each side of the restored
chancel) Langton's stone-coffin lid, and that of
his long-loved Alice.
It may, indeed, be true that there is to be
seen at Canterbury Cathedral, fixt under an
arch in the Warrior's Chapel a plain and name-
less tomb-stone, the very counterpart of ours
on the hill-top, which the local cicerone will,
if cross-questioned, insist upon pointing out to
you as Archbishop Langton's : but it is also
true, that when St. Martha's ancient chapel
was very recently restored, two and only two
stone coffins were found in digging out the
chancel, the one rudely carved with a patriar-
chal crook, the other with the simple cross of
STEPHAN LA.NGTON. 9
an Abbess: the lids were brought to upper
light, but all that they had covered remain
reverently in undisturbed repose beneath ; and
any one may see them now at old St. Martha's
in the chancel, " to witness if I lie/'
That Stephan Langton's true love of a real
Alice influenced his whole life, take this strange
historical fact in proof : and by all means have
the patience to read the extract following (a
genuine one, mind, and not invented) as a key
to the character of the man.
I quote from Thomson's " Essay on Magna
Charta," p. 502.
" In a communication from the Abbe de la
Rue, printed in the ' Archseologia,' vol. xiii.
p. 231, it is stated that in the Duke of Nor-
folk's library there is a manuscript containing
a sermon and two other pieces written by
Langton ; and that in the course of the sermon,
which is upon the Holy Virgin, there occurs
the following stanza :
10 STEPHAN LANGTON.
" Bele AHz matin leva,
Sur cors vest! et para,
Eiiz un verger s*en entra
Cink fleurettes y'truva
Un chapelet fit en a
De rose flurie.
Pur Deu trahez vous en a la
Vus ki ne amez mie."
Thus to be Englished from that Chaucer-like old
" Fair Alice arose in the morning.
And put on her vest and made her ready ;
Then she went into her bower
And found there five flowerets,
"Which she made into a chaplet
With the blooming rose :
And you will betray God herein
If you do not love me."
" The orator then," continues this account,
" enforces each particular verse, and applies it
mystically to the Holy Virgin. The allegorical
STEPHAN LANGTON. 11
turn which he gives the whole of the above
stanza is very happily handled, and the preacher
in speaking of his subject cries out at frequent
intervals with enthusiasm,
'* Ceste est la Bele Aliz,
Cest est la flur, ceste est la liz."
" This, this is Alice, fair to see.
The flower, the lily, this is she/*
That Stephan's " Bele Aliz," (thus pervading
even the public sernaons of this poor love-
martyred monk, this great enhghtened prelate,
but ignorantly supposed to symbolize the Virgin
Mary), sleeps at St. Martha's with Stephan
himself beside her, no one who reads the fol-
lowing tale can doubt.
12 STEPHAN LANGTON.
plas^tjag antJ tj^e ILobers: tje prince mts tje CJurl
It was sunset of Mayday, in the year of sal-
There had been unusual merrymakings every
where throughout broad England, for that the
good King Henry had now at last been recon-
ciled to his undutiful sons, whom his indiscre-
tion as a sort of Lear had too much pampered
with honour and power to the impoverishment of
himself; but now for a little while there was a
truce : and after his penance done as last Mid-
STEPHAN LANGTON. 13
summer for Becket's death, (a martyrdom that
had grieved him sorely, and whereof the King
was an absolute innocent) he stood again in full
communion with Holy Church.
And nowhere had the national jousts and
gambols been rarer than in the snug little
hamlet of Aldeburie, where the good old Knight
Sir Tris:trem de Braiose gave open hospitality to
all comers ; by his hearty welcome and profuse
largesse making his mossy-oaked old park more
like the thronged gay fair of Gilford, than the
quiet home of an octogenarian.
Yonder is the many-gabled rambling old
house, quaintly timbered and high-chimneyed,
between a beech-crowned hill to the south, and
the little Norman church among its yews to the
northward : and yonder too, everywhere dotted
about among the beauteous undulations of Al-
deburie Park, you may see an irregular camp of
booths decorated with green boughs and gar-
lands of spring flowers, with here and there
14 STEPHAN LANGTON.
an old heraldic banner lent from the great
And there was a merry chattering crowd,
and good store of ballad-singers and itinerant
fools and mountebanks, with a bear-leader and
monkeys, and antique Punch and Judy, and a
juggler or two, and fortune-telling gipsies with
their following of happy true believers ; there
were crippled old soldiers, and pilgrims with
their scallops, full of eastern marvels strange
but true ; and there w^ere chapmen and pedlars
hawking their wares; and some of the new-
fangled and much- mocked sect of begging
friars ; and a sprinkUng of bat-like monks and
nuns, good people enough and charitable, won-
dering at the gladness of a sunshine hoHday ;
and all manner of the county folk, gentle and
simple, as happy as could be : there was quoit-
flinging, and hatchet-hurhng, and leaping, and
racing, and the popinjay, and the quintain, and
lots of fun and waggery among the assembled
STEPHAN LANGTON. 15
hundreds : for, recollect, the Park is traversed
throughout its length, (to say nothing of its
other paths in all directions) by the famous Pil-
grim's Way. Be sure that on so gallant a
Mayday, the company would stream on it
towards Aldeburie Park, as naturally as its
brawling little native river Tillingbourne.
But I was forgetting the chief feature of that
Mayday junketting, â how merrily all danced
about the Maypole; and, chiefest of all, how
prettily the Mayqueen AHce footed it with
A charming little queen was Alice ; lively,
lovely, and good-natured ; with a sweet Madonna
face, Ut up by bright blue eyes, and flanked
with flaxen ringlets coronalled by a wreath of
wild hyacinths : and the swelling white boddice
lightly laced across, and the fair bare arms with
wristlets of wreathed violets, and the short red
petticoat of homespun dyed in Alderbark, and
the naked little feet, white as snow, just san-
16 STEPHAN LANGTON.
dalled underneath with otter's skin, and the
ringing laugh, and the graceful sympathetic
tinae-keeping with yon piper's simple music,
and innocence and joyfulness and youthfulness
and beauty, made Alice verily a natural queen
o' the May.
And, if young Stevie be less attractive to our
masculine eyes, at least he looked as comely
in the maiden's. A frank-faced, brave-browed
youth was Stephan Langton ; more thoughtful
than his fairy queen withal, as well became the
stronger, sterner nature ; with the dark down
upon his lip, and manliness written on every
limb and lineament, daring in his eye, and
vigorous self-dependence on his forehead. He
was dressed in a close-fitting hunter's frock and
leggings of tanned leather, had a flat cap with a
drooping cock's plume set jauntily on his crisp
black curls, and for a trifle of ornament wore his
brass-sheathed forester's knife in a girdle of
er-skin : a tall young fellow, and well-favoured.
STEPHAN LANGTON. 17
So the couple footed it merrily, and rest as-
sured they made the gossips cackle. Ay, and all
the more so, when queen Alice was persuaded to
sing, beside the Maypole in the middle of that
crowded green, a pretty little song written for
her that very morning by good-natured cousin
Stevie. She sung it sweetly too, because so
simply ; but I have after much research been
able to rescue from the oblivion of antiquity
only one stanza :
The merry May, the happy May,
"When all that breathes is blythe and gay,
And neighbours gather with greeting glad.
And even lovers cannot be sad.
But, quite forgetting their deep-heaved sighs,
Laugh in the hght of each other's bright eyes, â
All hail to the happy May !
Thus, the gossips had some reason on their
side, good sooth.
All this, however, is now some three hours
VOL. I. c
18 STEPHAN LANGTON.
past : the crowd has melted homewards by
many a deep fern-fringed lane and tangled foot
path : and, just at sunset, we find (strange to
say) Queen Alice and that comely cousin Stevie
wandering alone, â if with each other be alone, â
in the hazel walk just underneath St. Martha's.
How or why they so happened to be there,
and in each other's company too, a rational man
can hardly guess ; let the gossips cackle if they
will ; but it is surely pleasant enough, and
natural to boot, for such a pair to find them-
selves quite accidentally alone together in that
Lover's Walk at the foot of what we now call
CoUyer's Hanger : no doubt they had plenty to
say to each other ; besides that the morning's
coronal of hyacinths drooped so as to look un-
becomingly faded ; and then, Collyer's Hanger
in May is ever coerulean blue with the weed, in
succession to its earlier spring carpet of pale
primroses: anotter chaplet is manifestly inevit-
able, and so also must be a kiss or two in trying
STEPHAN LANGTON. 19
"And when will my sweet consent to be a
forester's bride ? Make good speed with a yea
to me, Alice ; ay, and ere this hyacinth season
passes ; for the blue flowerets in thy flaxen curls
become thee bravely, dearest."
" Stay a little longer, Stevie ; I am full young
yet ; and my mother's ailing sadly, as thou
knowest ; and," she added, coyly, " can't we go
on loving each other thus heartily and patiently
the while ? Here, take this posy, â ay and arede
its riddle," said she, in a graver tone.
It was a pretty little chaplet, artfully fashioned
on a twist of floss silk, in six flower stars ; each
star made of five flowers round a rose : she had
worn it in the morning, till cousin Stevie came
with his far more welcome coronal of hyacinths ;
and then she gladly dofl'ed the other, crumpling
it into her boddice.
Dearest Stevie's choice was as usual so much
simpler and so much prettier ; but her chaplet,
nevertheless, spake the language of flowers ; and
20 STEPHAN LANGTON.
it was destined afterwards (as we have seen from
his grace of Norfolk's naanuscript) to live im-
mortal in a great man's oddly-allegorical sermons
still extant after seven centuries.
There was set in every one of those six stars
its central rose of Love ; atop the spring
anemone of Patience ; next after was the pansy
of Remembrance ; anon the violet of Faith-
fulness ; then the drooping cowslip of Sor-
row ; and last the vale-lily of Happiness to
" Need I arede it to thee, Stephan ? There
be many more of tears than of smiles in life, I
trow ; and we must expect our troubles,
" Nay, nay, my pretty love, speak not so
sadly ; this posy should be full of brighter
thoughts, methinks ; and I shall wear it round
my arm like this, love, some day when I'm thy
knight i' the lists, Alice."
" I feel very sad at heart, Stevie, very sad ; I
STEPHAN LANGTON. 21
know not why, but 1 dread some coming evil.
Hark ! hist ! wasn't that a hunter's horn ?"
Unmistakeably it was, though at such a dis-
tance. And the lovers, knit as one with twined
arms, loitering affectionately together beneath
the catkined hazels, listen with startled sidelong
eyes ; â a pretty picture enough, if any limner
had been nigh to sketch them.
" Hark, Stevie ! that was another, and a
nearer ; and look, look !"
A hunted roebuck looms larger than life
over the south shoulder of St. Martha's, soon
flying past them like an arrow ; and here
streaming along after a space come the swift
deer-hounds wiry and brindled, and anon the
staunch and heavily-flewed sleugh-hounds, â
and over the ridge men on horseback hie this
way down into the glen-like wooded hollow
rapidly, â and the roe and the hounds have
rushed by, with an eager mudded huntsman
or two, and sundry fleet runners, leaping along
22 STEPHAN LANGTON.
with poles like kangaroos : but now comes
hitherward a statelier company gaily plumed
and parti-vested ; and with one a little ahead
of the rest, as if for rank's sake.
So the habitually thoughtful Stephan bids
Alice to get safely out of the horses' way, and
drop into the coppice for more of those hya-
cinths ; while he will step forth to speak with
the gallants, in case they should enquire of him
which way the chase went.
" Hallo, churl, â Gad'steeth ! why should yon
pretty maid run off so ? Hark her back,
villein : there isn't a fairer roe i' the forest,
I'll swear to it by King Harry's best blood-
hound; and so here without more ado I've
caught my pretty chase, ha ! â Hark her
Stephan Langton crossed his arms, and
looked upon the speaker. The pair were in-
tellectually and physically gladiators not ill-
matched ; and were destined, though they little
STEPHAN LANGTON. 23
knew it then, to do battle with each other to
life's end, and in their social life-influences far
beyond it : Langton, now the simple forester,
gazed with quiet and considering courage upon
one evidently his royal Liege Lord, the famous
wicked Prince : an equal in years, some twenty
of them, black-browed, fierce-eyed, " of a
soure and angry aspect ;" richer in garb and
circumstance of course with his crimson velvet
tunic on that sleek white charger, and more
boastful and loud in his manner ; but natheless,
by no means Stephan's equal as a man of
courage and action, and doomed to be subdued
by him the churl, albeit a King.
"What, slave, haltest thou in thine obe-
dience ? Look to him, Cantelupe."
Attendants had by this time crowded round ;
and an insolent courtier of the hunt spurring
his horse at the word brutally up against young
Stephan, with a cruel backhander from his
heavy hunting whip smashed him on the face.
24 STEPHAN LANGTON.
In an instant, Alice, with a shriek spring-
ing from among the hazels, flung herself upon
her cousin Stevie.
" Aha ! by our sweet Pope's peacock-crown,
â the very white doe o' the forest ! Hither,
Fawkes, lift that pretty puppet to our knee,
and so straight off for Tangley."
The burly knight, leaping from his horse
and flinging the reins to a runner, with both
arms seized the maiden round the waist ; â but
not before Stephan with his unsheathed knife
had him in a moment at his mercy.
" Hold, sirrah !" shouted Prince John ; then
in a lower tone, " Quick upon the quarry,
At the word, six shaggy fellows in tunics of
red cow-skin, bare-legged bare-armed and bare-
headed but for their unkempt shocks and a
universal hide of hair like Caliban's, rushed
forward in a circle round the arrested comba-
tants whirling their quarter-staves overhead.
STEPHAN LANGTON. 25
And a terrible weapon is your quarter-staff well
handled ; yon heavy ashen pole, iron-shod at
both ends, and equally of use for leaping over