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A Novel


Author of "Domitia," "The Broom-Squire," "Bladys," "Mehalah," Etc.


Copyright, 1899,































King Henry sat in a great chair with a pillow under each arm, and one
behind his head resting on the lofty chair-back. He was unwell,
uncomfortable, irritable.

In a large wicker-work cage at the further end of the room was a
porcupine. It had been sent him as a present by the King of Denmark.

Henry Beauclerk was fond of strange animals, and the princes that
desired his favor humored him by forwarding such beasts and birds as
they considered to be rare and quaint.

The porcupine was a recent arrival, and it interested the King as a new
toy, and drew his thoughts away from himself.

He had occasion to be irritable. His leech had ordered him to eat salt
pork only.

By his hand, on the table, stood a ewer and a basin, and ever and anon
Henry poured water out of the ewer into the basin, and then with a huge
wooden spoon ladled the liquid back into the receiver. The reason of the
proceeding was this -

He had for some time been troubled with some internal discomfort - not
serious, but annoying; one which we, nowadays, would interpret very
differently from the physicians of the twelfth century. We should say
that he was suffering from dyspepsia; but the Court leech, who diagnosed
the condition of the King, explained it in other fashion.

He said that Henry had inadvertently drunk water that contained the
spawn of a salamander. It had taken many months for the spawn to develop
into a sort of tadpole, and the tadpole to grow into a salamander. Thus
the reptile had attained large size, and was active, hungry, and
rampageous. Beauclerk had a spotted salamander within him, which could
not be extracted by a forceps, as it was out of reach; it could not be
poisoned, as that medicament which would kill the brute might also kill
the King. It must, therefore, be cajoled to leave its prison. Unless
this end were achieved the son of the Conqueror of England would succumb
to the ravages of this internal monster.

The recipe prescribed was simple, and commended itself to the meanest
intelligence. Henry was to eat nothing but highly salted viands, and was
to drink neither wine, water, nor ale. However severely he might suffer
from thirst he could console himself with the reflection that the
sufferings of the salamander within him were greater - a poor comfort,
yet one that afforded a measure of relief to a man of a vindictive mind.

Not only was he to eat salt meat, but he was also to cause the splash of
water to be heard in his insides. Therefore he was to pour water
forwards and backwards between the ewer and the basin; and this was to
be done with gaping mouth, so that the sound might reach the reptile,
and the salamander would at length be induced to ascend the throat of
the monarch and make for the basin, so as to drink. Immediately on the
intruder leaving the body of the King, Henry was to snap it up with a
pair of tongs, laid ready to hand, and to cast it into the fire.

Although the season was summer and the weather was warm, there burned
logs on the hearth, emitting a brisk blaze.

There were in the room in the palace of Westminster others besides the
King and the imprisoned salamander. Henry had sent into South Wales for
Gerald de Windsor and his wife Nest. These two were now in the chamber
with the sick King.

"There, Nest," said he, "look at yon beast. Study it well. It is called
a porcupine. Plinius asserts - I think it is Plinius - that when angered
he sets all his quills in array and launches one at the eyes of such as
threaten or assail him. Therefore, when I approach the cage, I carry a
bolster before me as a buckler."

"Prithee, Sire, when thou didst go against the Welsh last year, didst
thou then as well wear a bolster?"

"Ah," said the King, "you allude to the arrow that was aimed at me, and
which would have transfixed me but for my hauberk. That was shot by no

"Then by whom?"

"Odds life, Nest, there be many who would prefer to have the light and
lax hand of Robert over them than mine, which is heavy, and grips

"Then I counsel, when thou warrest against the Welsh, wear a pillow
strapped behind as well as one before."

"Nest! Thy tongue is sharp as a spine of the porcupine. Get thee gone
into the embrasure, and converse with the parrot there. Gerald and I
have some words to say to each other, and when I have done with him,
then I will speak with thee."

The lady withdrew into the window. She was a beautiful woman, known to
be the most beautiful in Wales. She was the daughter of Rhys, King of
Dyfed - that is, South Wales, and she had been surrendered when quite
young as a hostage to Henry. He had respected neither her youth nor her
helpless position away from her natural protectors. Then he had thrust
her on Gerald of Windsor, one of the Norman adventurers who were turned
loose on Wales to be the oppressors, the plunderers, and the butchers of
Nest's own people.

Nest had profuse golden hair, and a wonderful complexion of lilies and
roses, that flashed, even flamed with emotion. Her eyes were large and
deep, under dark brows, and with long dark lashes that swept her cheeks
and veiled her expressive eyes when lowered. She was tall and willowy,
graceful in her every movement. In her eyes, usually tremulous and sad,
there scintillated a lurking fire - threats of a blaze, should she be
angered. When thrown into the arms of Gerald, her wishes had not been
consulted. Henry had desired to be rid of her, as an encumbrance, as
soon as he resolved on marrying Mathilda, the heiress of the Saxon
kings, daughter of Malcolm of Scotland, and niece to Edgar Etheling. At
one time he had thought of conciliating the Welsh by making Nest his
wife. Their hostility would cease when the daughter of one of their
princes sat on the English throne. But on further consideration, he
deemed it more expedient for him to attach to him the English, and so
rally about him a strong national party against the machinations of his
elder brother, Robert. This concluded, he had disposed of Nest,
hurriedly, to the Norman Gerald.

Meanwhile, her brother, Griffith, despoiled of his kingdom, a price set
on his head, was an exile and a refugee at the Court of the King of
Gwynedd, or North Wales, at Aberfraw in Anglesey.

"Come now, Gerald, what is thy report? How fares it with the
pacification of Wales?"

"Pacification, Lord King! Do you call that pacifying a man when you
thrash his naked body with a thorn-bush?"

"If you prefer the term - subjugation."

"The word suits. Sire, it was excellent policy, as we advanced, to fill
in behind us with a colony of Flemings. The richest and fattest land has
been cleared of the Welsh and given to foreigners. Moreover, by this
means we have cut them off from access to the sea, from their great
harbors. It has made them mad. Snatch a meal from a dog, and he will
snarl and bite. Now we must break their teeth and cut their claws. They
are rolled back among their tangled forests and desolate mountains."

"And what advance has been made?"

"I have gone up the Towy and have established a castle at Carreg Cennen,
that shall check Dynevor if need be."

"Why not occupy Dynevor, and build there?"

Gerald looked askance at his wife. The expression of his face said more
than words. She was trifling with the bird, and appeared to pay no
attention to what was being said.

"I perceive," spoke Henry, and chuckled.

Dynevor had been the palace in which Nest's father, the King of South
Wales, had held court. It was from thence that her brother Griffith had
been driven a fugitive to North Wales.

"In Carreg Cennen there is water - at Dynevor there is none," said
Gerald, with unperturbed face.

"A good reason," laughed Henry, and shifted the pillow behind his head.
"Hey, there, Nest! employ thy energies in catching of flies. Methinks
were I to put a bluebottle in my mouth, the buzzing might attract the
salamander, and I would catch him as he came after it." Then to Gerald,
"Go on with thine account."

"I have nothing further to say - than this."

He put forth his hand and took a couple of fresh walnuts off a leaf that
was on the table. Then, unbidden, he seated himself on a stool, with his
back to the embrasure, facing the King. Next he cracked the shells in
his fist, and cast the fragments into the fire. He proceeded leisurely
to peel the kernels, then extended his palm to Henry, offering one, but
holding his little and third finger over the other.

"I will have both," said Beauclerk.

"Nay, Sire, I am not going to crack all the nutshells, and you eat all
the kernels."

"What mean you?"

"Hitherto I and other adventurers have risked our lives, and shed our
blood in cracking the castles of these Welsh fellows, and now we want
something more, some of the flesh within. Nay, more. We ask you to help
us. You have done nothing."

"I led an army into Wales last summer," said Henry angrily.

"And led it back again," retorted Windsor drily. "Excuse my bluntness.
That was of no advantage whatsoever to us in the south. Your forces were
not engaged. It was a promenade through Powys. As for us in the south,
we have looked for help and found none since your great father made a
pilgrimage to St. David. Twice to Dewi is as good as once to Rome, so
they say. He went once to look around him and to overawe those mountain

"What would you have done for you?" inquired Henry surlily.

"Not a great thing for you; for us - everything."

"And that?"

"At this moment a chance offers such as may not return again in our
time. If what I propose be done, you drive a knife into the heart of the
enemy, and that will be better than cutting off his fingers and toes and
slicing away his ears. It will not cost you much, Sire - not the risk of
an arrow. Naught save the stroke of a pen."

"Say what it is."

"The Bishop of St. David's is dead, a Welsh prelate, and the Church
there has chosen another Welshman, Daniel, to succeed him. Give the see
to an Englishman or a Norman, it matters not which - not a saint, but a
fellow on whom you can rely to do your work and ours."

"I see not how this will help you," said Henry, with his eye on the hard
face of Gerald, which was now becoming animated, so that the bronze
cheek darkened.

"How this will help us!" echoed Windsor. "It will be sovereign as help.
See you, Sire! We stud the land with castles, but we cannot be
everywhere. The Welsh have a trick of gathering noiselessly in the woods
and glens and drawing a ring about one of our strongholds, and letting
no cry for assistance escape. Then they close in and put every
Englishman therein to the sword - if they catch a Fleming, him they hang
forthwith. We know not that a castle has been attacked and taken till we
see the clouds lit up with flame. When we are building, then our convoys
are intercepted, our masons are harassed, our limekilns are destroyed,
our cattle carried off, our horses houghed, and our men slaughtered."

"But what will a bishop avail you in such straits?"

"Attend! and you shall hear. A bishop who is one of ourselves and not a
Welshman drains the produce of the land into English pockets. He will
put an Englishman into every benefice, that in every parish we may have
a spy on their actions, maintained by themselves. There is the joke of
it. We will plant monasteries where we have no castles, and stuff them
with Norman monks. A bishop will find excuses, I warrant you, for
dispossessing the native clergy, and of putting our men into their
berths. He will do more. He will throw such a net of canon law over the
laity as to entangle them inextricably in its meshes, and so enable us,
without unnecessary bloodshed, to arrogate their lands to ourselves."

Henry laughed.

"Give us the right man. No saint with scruples."

"'Sdeath!" exclaimed the King; "I know the very man for you."

"And he is?"

"Bernard, the Queen's steward."

"He is not a clerk!"

"I can make him one."

"He is married!"

"He can cast off his wife - a big-mouthed jade. By my mother's soul, he
will be glad to purchase a bishopric so cheap."

"He is no saint?"

"He has been steward to one," mocked Henry. "My Maude postures as a
saint, gives large alms to needy clerks, washes the feet of beggars,
endows monasteries, and grinds her tenants till they starve, break out
into revolt, and have to be hung as an example. She lavishes coin on
foreign flattering minstrels - and for that the poor English churl must
be put in the press. It is Bernard, and ever Bernard, who has to turn
the screw and add the weights and turn the grindstone."

"And he scruples not?"

"Has not a scruple in his conscience. He cheats his mistress of a third
of what he raises for her to lavish on the Church and the trumpeters of
her fame."

"That is the man we require. Give us Bernard, and, Sire, you will do
more to pacify Wales - pacify is your word - than if you sent us an army.
Yet it must be effected speedily, before the Welsh get wind of it, or
they will have their Daniel consecrated and installed before we shall be
ready with our Bernard."

"It shall be accomplished at once - to-morrow. Go, Gerald, make inquiry
what bishops are in the city, and send one or other hither. He shall
priest him to-morrow, and Bernard shall be consecrated bishop the same
day. Take him back with you. If you need men you shall have them.
Enthrone him before they are aware. They have been given Urban at
Llandaff, and, death of my soul! he has been belaboring his flock with
his crook, and has shorn them so rudely that they are bleeding to death.
There is Hervey, another Norman we have thrust into St. Asaph, and, if I
mistake not, his sheep have expelled their shepherd. So, to support
Bernard, force will be required. Let him be well sustained."

"I go," said Gerald. "When opposition is broken we shall eat our walnuts
together, Sire."

"Aye - but Bernard will take the largest share."



King Henry folded his hands over his paunch, leaned back and laughed

"'Sdeath!" said he. "But I believe the salamander has perished: he could
not endure the mirth of it. Odds blood! But Bernard will be a veritable
salamander in the rude bowels of Wales."

Before him stood Nest, with fire erupting from her dark eyes.

Henry looked at her, raised his brows, settled himself more easily in
his chair, but cast aside the pillows on which his arms had rested. "Ha!
Nest, I had forgotten thy presence. Hast caught me a bluebottle? My
trouble is not so acute just now. How fares our boy, Robert?"

She swept the question aside with an angry gesture of the hand.

"And what sort of housekeeping do you have with Gerald?" he asked.

Again she made a movement of impatience.

"Odds life!" said he. "When here it was ever with thee Wales this, and
Wales that. We had no mountains like thy Welsh Mynyddau - that is the
silly word, was it not? And no trees like those in the Vale of Towy, and
no waters that brawled and foamed like thy mountain brooks, and no music
like the twanging of thy bardic harps, and no birds sang so sweet, and
no flowers bloomed so fair. Pshaw! now thou art back among them all
again. I have sent thee home - art content?"

"You have sent me back to blast and destroy my people. You have coupled
my name with that of Gerald, that the curses of my dear people when they
fall on him may fall on me also."

"Bah!" said the King. "Catch me a bluebottle, and do not talk in such
high terms."

"Henry," she said, in thrilling tones, "I pray you - - "

"You were forever praying me at one time to send you back to Wales. I
have done so, and you are not content."

"I had rather a thousand times have buried my head - my shamed, my
dishonored head" - she spoke with sternness and concentrated wrath - "in
some quiet cloister, than to be sent back with a firebrand into my own
land to lay its homesteads in ashes."

"You do pretty well among yourselves in that way," said Henry
contemptuously. "When were you ever known to unite? You are forever
flying at each other's throats and wasting each other's lands. Those who
cannot combine must be broken."

Nest drew a long breath. She knitted her hands together.

"Henry," she said, "I pray you, reconsider what Gerald has advised, and
withhold consent."

"Nay, it was excellent counsel."

"It was the worst counsel that could be given. Think what has been done
to my poor people. You have robbed them of their corn-land and have
given it to aliens. You have taken from them their harbors, and they
cannot escape. You have driven away their princes, and they cannot
unite. You have crushed out their independence, and they cease to be
men. They have but one thing left to them as their very own - their
Church. And now you will plunder them of that - thrust yourselves in
between them and God. They have had hitherto their own pastors, as they
have had their own princes. They have followed the one in war and the
other in peace. Their pastors have been men of their own blood, of their
own speech, men who have suffered with them, have wept with them, and
have even bled with them. These have spoken to them when sick at heart,
and have comforted them when wounded in spirit. And now they are to be
jostled out of their places, to make room for others, aliens in blood,
ignorant of our language, indifferent to our woes; men who cannot advise
nor comfort, men from whom our people will receive no gift, however
holy. Deprived of everything that makes life endurable, will you now
deprive them of their religion?"

She paused, out of breath, with flaming cheek, and sparkling
eyes - quivering, palpitating in every part of her body.

"Nest," said the King, "you are a woman - a fool. You do not understand

"Policy!" she cried scornfully. "What is policy? My people have their
faults and their good qualities."

"Faults! I know them, I trow. As to their good qualities, I have them to
learn." He shrugged his shoulders contemptuously.

"You know their faults alone," pursued Nest passionately, "because you
seek to find them that you may foster and trade on them. That is policy.
Policy is to nurture the evil and ignore the good. None know better
their own weaknesses than do we. But why not turn your policy to helping
us to overcome them and be made strong?"

"It is through your own inbred faults that we have gained admission into
your mountains. Brothers with you cannot trust brothers - - "

"No more than you or Robert can trust each other, I presume," sneered
Nest. "An arrow was aimed at you from behind. Who shot it? Not a
Welshman, but Robert, or a henchman of Robert. On my honor, you set us a
rare example of fraternal affection and unity!"

Henry bit his lips.

"It is through your own rivalries that we are able to maintain our hold
upon your mountains."

"And because we know you as fomenters of discord - doers of the devil's
work - that is why we hate you. Give up this policy, and try another
method with us."

"Women cannot understand. Have done!"

"Justice, they say, is figured as a woman; for Justice is pitiful
towards feebleness and infirmity. But with you is no justice at all,
only rank tyranny - tyranny that can only rule with the iron rod, and
drive with the scourge."

"Be silent! My salamander is moving again."

But she would not listen to him. She pursued -

"My people are tender-hearted, loving, loyal, frank. Show them trust,
consideration, regard, and they will meet you with open arms. We know
now that our past has been one of defeat and recoil, and we also know
why it has been so. Divided up into our little kingdoms, full of
rivalries, jealousies, ambitions, we have not had the wit to cohere. Who
would weave us into one has made a rope of sand. It was that, not the
superior courage or better arms of the Saxon, that drove us into
mountains and across the sea. It is through playing with, encouraging
this, bribing into treachery, that you are forcing your way among us
now. But if in place of calling over adventurers from France and boors
from Flanders to kill us and occupy our lands, you come to us with the
olive branch, and offer us your suzerainty and guarantee us against
internecine strife - secure to us our lands, our laws, our
liberties - then we shall become your devoted subjects, we shall look up
to you as to one who raises us, whereas now we regard you as one who
casts us down to trample on us. We have our good qualities, and these
qualities will serve you well if you will encourage them. But your
policy is to do evil, and evil only."

Henry Beauclerk, with a small mallet, struck a wooden disk, and an
attendant appeared.

"Call Gerald Windsor back," said he; then, to himself, "this woman is an
offense to me."

"Because I utter that which you cannot understand. I speak of justice,
and you understand only tyranny."

"Another word, Nest, and I shall have you forcibly removed."

She cast herself passionately at the King's feet.

"I beseech thee - I - I whom thou didst so cruelly wrong when a poor
helpless hostage in thy hands - I, away from father and mother - alone
among you - not knowing a word of your tongue. I have never asked for
aught before. By all the wrongs I have endured from thee - by thy hopes
for pardon at the great Day when the oppressed and fatherless will be
righted - I implore thee - withhold thy consent."

"It is idle to ask this," said Henry coldly, "Leave me. I will hear no
more." Then taking the ewer, he began again to pour water into the
basin, and next to ladle it back into the vessel whence he had poured

"Oh, you beau clerk!" exclaimed Nest, rising to her feet. "So skilled in
books, who knowest the qualities of the porcupine through Plinius, and
how to draw forth a salamander, as instructed by Galen! A beau clerk
indeed, who does not understand the minds of men, nor read their hearts;
who cannot understand their best feelings, whose only thought is that of
the churl, to smash, and outrage, and ruin. A great people, a people
with more genius in its little finger than all thy loutish Saxons in
their entire body, thou wilt oppress, and turn their good to gall, their
sweetness to sour, and nurture undying hate where thou mightest breed

"Begone! I will strike and summon assistance, and have thee removed."

"Then," said Nest, "I appeal unto God, that He may avenge the injured
and the oppressed. May He smite thee where thou wilt most painfully feel
the blow! May He break down all in which thou hast set thy hopes, and
level with the dust that great ambition of thine!" She gasped. "Sire,

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