spoke, was hoarse and broken with the exultation of battle and
success. He looked at the rampart, which neither friend nor foe
could now approach without precaution, so fiercely did the horses
struggle in the throes of death, and at the sight of that great
carnage he smiled upon one side.
"Despatch these horses," he said; "they keep you from your vantage.
Richard Shelton," he added, "ye have pleased me. Kneel."
The Lancastrians had already resumed their archery, and the shafts
fell thick in the mouth of the street; but the duke, minding them
not at all, deliberately drew his sword and dubbed Richard a knight
upon the spot.
"And now, Sir Richard," he continued, "if that ye see Lord
Risingham, send me an express upon the instant. Were it your last
man, let me hear of it incontinently. I had rather venture the
post than lose my stroke at him. For mark me, all of ye," he
added, raising his voice, "if Earl Risingham fall by another hand
than mine, I shall count this victory a defeat."
"My lord duke," said one of his attendants, "is your grace not
weary of exposing his dear life unneedfully? Why tarry we here?"
"Catesby," returned the duke, "here is the battle, not elsewhere.
The rest are but feigned onslaughts. Here must we vanquish. And
for the exposure - if ye were an ugly hunchback, and the children
gecked at you upon the street, ye would count your body cheaper,
and an hour of glory worth a life. Howbeit, if ye will, let us
ride on and visit the other posts. Sir Richard here, my namesake,
he shall still hold this entry, where he wadeth to the ankles in
hot blood. Him can we trust. But mark it, Sir Richard, ye are not
yet done. The worst is yet to ward. Sleep not."
He came right up to young Shelton, looking him hard in the eyes,
and taking his hand in both of his, gave it so extreme a squeeze
that the blood had nearly spurted. Dick quailed before his eyes.
The insane excitement, the courage, and the cruelty that he read
therein filled him with dismay about the future. This young duke's
was indeed a gallant spirit, to ride foremost in the ranks of war;
but after the battle, in the days of peace and in the circle of his
trusted friends, that mind, it was to be dreaded, would continue to
bring forth the fruits of death.
CHAPTER III - THE BATTLE OF SHOREBY (Concluded)
Dick, once more left to his own counsels, began to look about him.
The arrow-shot had somewhat slackened. On all sides the enemy were
falling back; and the greater part of the market-place was now left
empty, the snow here trampled into orange mud, there splashed with
gore, scattered all over with dead men and horses, and bristling
thick with feathered arrows.
On his own side the loss had been cruel. The jaws of the little
street and the ruins of the barricade were heaped with the dead and
dying; and out of the hundred men with whom he had begun the
battle, there were not seventy left who could still stand to arms.
At the same time, the day was passing. The first reinforcements
might be looked for to arrive at any moment; and the Lancastrians,
already shaken by the result of their desperate but unsuccessful
onslaught, were in an ill temper to support a fresh invader.
There was a dial in the wall of one of the two flanking houses; and
this, in the frosty winter sunshine, indicated ten of the forenoon.
Dick turned to the man who was at his elbow, a little insignificant
archer, binding a cut in his arm.
"It was well fought," he said, "and, by my sooth, they will not
charge us twice."
"Sir," said the little archer, "ye have fought right well for York,
and better for yourself. Never hath man in so brief space
prevailed so greatly on the duke's affections. That he should have
entrusted such a post to one he knew not is a marvel. But look to
your head, Sir Richard! If ye be vanquished - ay, if ye give way
one foot's breadth - axe or cord shall punish it; and I am set if ye
do aught doubtful, I will tell you honestly, here to stab you from
Dick looked at the little man in amaze.
"You!" he cried. "And from behind!"
"It is right so," returned the archer; "and because I like not the
affair I tell it you. Ye must make the post good, Sir Richard, at
your peril. O, our Crookback is a bold blade and a good warrior;
but, whether in cold blood or in hot, he will have all things done
exact to his commandment. If any fail or hinder, they shall die
"Now, by the saints!" cried Richard, "is this so? And will men
follow such a leader?"
"Nay, they follow him gleefully," replied the other; "for if he be
exact to punish, he is most open-handed to reward. And if he spare
not the blood and sweat of others, he is ever liberal of his own,
still in the first front of battle, still the last to sleep. He
will go far, will Crookback Dick o' Gloucester!"
The young knight, if he had before been brave and vigilant, was now
all the more inclined to watchfulness and courage. His sudden
favour, he began to perceive, had brought perils in its train. And
he turned from the archer, and once more scanned anxiously the
market-place. It lay empty as before.
"I like not this quietude," he said. "Doubtless they prepare us
And, as if in answer to his remark, the archers began once more to
advance against the barricade, and the arrows to fall thick. But
there was something hesitating in the attack. They came not on
roundly, but seemed rather to await a further signal.
Dick looked uneasily about him, spying for a hidden danger. And
sure enough, about half way up the little street, a door was
suddenly opened from within, and the house continued, for some
seconds, and both by door and window, to disgorge a torrent of
Lancastrian archers. These, as they leaped down, hurriedly stood
to their ranks, bent their bows, and proceeded to pour upon Dick's
rear a flight of arrows.
At the same time, the assailants in the market-place redoubled
their shot, and began to close in stoutly upon the barricade.
Dick called down his whole command out of the houses, and facing
them both ways, and encouraging their valour both by word and
gesture, returned as best he could the double shower of shafts that
fell about his post.
Meanwhile house after house was opened in the street, and the
Lancastrians continued to pour out of the doors and leap down from
the windows, shouting victory, until the number of enemies upon
Dick's rear was almost equal to the number in his face. It was
plain that he could hold the post no longer; what was worse, even
if he could have held it, it had now become useless; and the whole
Yorkist army lay in a posture of helplessness upon the brink of a
The men behind him formed the vital flaw in the general defence;
and it was upon these that Dick turned, charging at the head of his
men. So vigorous was the attack, that the Lancastrian archers gave
ground and staggered, and, at last, breaking their ranks, began to
crowd back into the houses from which they had so recently and so
Meanwhile the men from the market-place had swarmed across the
undefended barricade, and fell on hotly upon the other side; and
Dick must once again face about, and proceed to drive them back.
Once again the spirit of his men prevailed; they cleared the street
in a triumphant style, but even as they did so the others issued
again out of the houses, and took them, a third time, upon the
The Yorkists began to be scattered; several times Dick found
himself alone among his foes and plying his bright sword for life;
several times he was conscious of a hurt. And meanwhile the fight
swayed to and fro in the street without determinate result.
Suddenly Dick was aware of a great trumpeting about the outskirts
of the town. The war-cry of York began to be rolled up to heaven,
as by many and triumphant voices. And at the same time the men in
front of him began to give ground rapidly, streaming out of the
street and back upon the market-place. Some one gave the word to
fly. Trumpets were blown distractedly, some for a rally, some to
charge. It was plain that a great blow had been struck, and the
Lancastrians were thrown, at least for the moment, into full
disorder, and some degree of panic.
And then, like a theatre trick, there followed the last act of
Shoreby Battle. The men in front of Richard turned tail, like a
dog that has been whistled home, and fled like the wind. At the
same moment there came through the market-place a storm of
horsemen, fleeing and pursuing, the Lancastrians turning back to
strike with the sword, the Yorkists riding them down at the point
of the lance.
Conspicuous in the mellay, Dick beheld the Crookback. He was
already giving a foretaste of that furious valour and skill to cut
his way across the ranks of war, which, years afterwards upon the
field of Bosworth, and when he was stained with crimes, almost
sufficed to change the fortunes of the day and the destiny of the
English throne. Evading, striking, riding down, he so forced and
so manoeuvred his strong horse, so aptly defended himself, and so
liberally scattered death to his opponents, that he was now far
ahead of the foremost of his knights, hewing his way, with the
truncheon of a bloody sword, to where Lord Risingham was rallying
the bravest. A moment more and they had met; the tall, splendid,
and famous warrior against the deformed and sickly boy.
Yet Shelton had never a doubt of the result; and when the fight
next opened for a moment, the figure of the earl had disappeared;
but still, in the first of the danger, Crookback Dick was launching
his big horse and plying the truncheon of his sword.
Thus, by Shelton's courage in holding the mouth of the street
against the first attack, and by the opportune arrival of his seven
hundred reinforcements, the lad, who was afterwards to be handed
down to the execration of posterity under the name of Richard III.,
had won his first considerable fight.
CHAPTER IV - THE SACK OF SHOREBY
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
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
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
"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 Shelton.
"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
"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
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 blue!"
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
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
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 my sword."
"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 Dick.
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
In the meanwhile, Dick turned to the old shipman, who had seemed
equally indifferent to his condemnation and to his subsequent
"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-
"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
"Nay," said he, "of a verity he that rides with Crooked Dick will