Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens' complete works online

. (page 7 of 84)
Online LibraryCharles DickensCharles Dickens' complete works → online text (page 7 of 84)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

prison, some wei-e put to death. The Earl of Northumberland
himself was shut up in a dungeon beneath Windsor Castle,
where he died, an old man, thirty long yeai-s altei-wards-
The Priests in England wei-e more unquiet than any other

Digitized by


Digitized by



Digitized by


- '." |>ou«t; for the K'.mI Ki'r^ tn^aK'' -h- rn vi'l» Mi 1

t vt i' iiH-m iliil lit} nTii^l \*^ t, *{><>. nt niw b..> :''i> <»i

.;. ;> ! '^i- wlii'j tl " ' '<1 o.H'M ''i.'*, i'Ut K *,/* a'l :■!'■ \ t^nl'li

: :i^ •-> 'h »>*r «-i '^ i.» I.i . -'Wh luui i^. In .-i-f. .,i *\)r

* ..• l*':t-js,s »vn'Ui U\^ \U'v wlu'li ho \K:i> (It ;mK Uli i i* >]■>*•[

t. r a- iii'*iini'd \o tin: k, nn s if, i :\\ Uivn- ^/as

•H»ti . !• .- w* r-* gr«'tH*\ arj.j Jt>i-i;iiii; , and liiut tiioy wire

f ].»• 1 Iviiijz was Talso <'t' i-f^rt, M'Ui h, ruvit »'is, iui-i

fi t i.>« i'.i,r*i lv,s — Klr.iul»:in», or th' ]'i;r' ni »'i. (Jjim.
tta* A '»;. I'-'tj^: ill. iK^caimj p*i.iU'ii», aii.l ma A\>».i.M. a

|. *, . r, pi it-.; \ru{ a g(M/tl man. Ar; bl i. uitp ol ( aiit* •Iniry.

i • wi '. > h^i<.af»r /^)t woU a/rin Wtaii h<* n p* n.- -1 -^f !.is /i-

h \t]4 . , HiiM TMi'-ii^U^ ! in wi'Mijjt'.ln Krrpin<x . > hiinsrif S(>.r-*

'• - nt '* -.>iitt'S, "WiiU'h wcu* airiirrawiUul hy i^'v-n* ^ in^' lu

..<ii ii tJ-ul time two ri\al Poj.(-<; ftnt' of \y'i"Ii. 'IjI.-U"!

f.' ^t:i- lilt' o'jiy n-ai mi'zi'uil ii f'lil )»!(' r-^jX', v'lo f( '., ;»'t,

I .li'.trint?. Al la-t» Aur .:.'. k»j«'., u-g tli^ U*.] •' i '\

.'•{n-tii. ami' I -'. iVt-lli,_( i-'in-' If ^n\V in J.: 'l-Hi.' t^t-.l

.\i .. uriini 'i'..u.til. r'li* Iv(m1 Km;i- ^la(..\ . ( i, , i" »

*' i '!♦■■» ^liat *t^ -'joi as A'ise!»p "as ;.''o!i", U«- <•■'..'' ''">_ * .

V ^ip I'l th* l.'aU'*>r}»'i'T i.ioii'?} ai^aj.i, lor Iii- o\, •» n-»'

-i; Slit K nit-an^i, and o; taxint^ anvl ^'ppiis^ ■: i*i. Ki- h
(h-^'pk' ii» I \'''r\ u ^^-^ihiv way. the Red Kii;j 'hmmmo vt'i\ " a.
Wi** Ji l.t- wauttnl nu.nt y for :*ny jujriio.s*', !i*' ia:-r'l it iu - - uc
'■'•••■I- oroMic*' aM(l (M t'd niiluiiiT I.m th;- in; .^M.-i- he <. '. -tr
Xln. .' Psc. . Ijc -aused. ll.tviu^ toe oi^por iiiit\ of Imp i- 'j;
fhMl liolM-n the who'.c* <IikI>\ of N^ripand;, "or f»v * v\. -, -.c
UKi."* *iit l',ntx '-K I 'op\' riu'r-» than evoi, ui^d niadv V-h' w^y
x/ii^iwiiK V* 11 tht'ir plat( and valuahK'S to '!|*lh Inn, with I'lc
If- t.i; to hitki' t!ie ])Mi<*lia^t. But he wa^ as (jiiick j-nd •; u< ^
" '*' ttm^ dowi- ri'\oll nh hv was in ra: *ng niont'y ; i'<i , i

Digitized by


-;• I

V . .

1 f V - *.



' i:^

r. ..- ,


ft% J/ ■ .* '< .V .**.-

1 n* ws I I' H 11."

Digitized by



class or power; for the Bed King treated them with such
small ceremony that he refused to appoint new bishops or
archbishops when the old ones died, but kept all the wealth
belon^ng to those offices in his own hands. In return for
this, the Priests wrote his life when he was dead, and abused
him well. I am inclined to think, myself, that there was
little to choose between the Priests and the Bed King ; that
both sides were greedy and designing ; and that they were
fairly matched.

The Bed King was false of heart, selfish, covetous, and
mean. He had a worthy minister in his favorite, Balph,
nicknamed — for almost every famous person had a nickname
in those rough days — Flambard, or the Firebrand. Once,
the King being ill, became penitent, and made Anselh, a
Ibre^n priest and a good man. Archbishop of Canterbur}\
Bat he no sooner got well again than he repented of his re-
pentance, and persisted in wiongfuli^' keeping to himself some
of the wealth belonging to the archbishopric. This led to
violent disputes, which were aggravated by there being in
Kome at that time two rival Popes ; each of whom declared
he was the only real original infallible Pope, who couldn't
make a mistake. At last, Anselm, knowing the Red King's
character, and not feeUng himself safe in England, asked
leave to return abroad. The Bed King gladly gave it ; for
he knew that as soon as Anselm was gone, he could begin to
store up all the Canterbury money again, for his own use.

B3' such means, and bj* taxing and oppi'essing the English
people in every possible way, the Bed King became very rich.
When he wanted money for any purpose, he raised it by some
means or other, and cared nothing for the injustice he did, or
the miser}' he caused. Having the opportunity of buying
from Bobert the whole duchy of Normandy for five years, he
taxed the English people more than ever, and made the very
convents sell their plate and valuables to supply him with the
means to make the purchase. But he was as quick and eager
in putting down revolt as he was in raising money ; for, a

Digitized by



part of the Norman people objecting — very naturally, I tiiink
— to being sold in this way, he headed an army against them
with all the speed and energy of his father. He was so im-
patient, that he embarked for Normand}- in a great gale of
wind. And when the sailors told him it was dangerous to go
to sea in such angrj' weather, he replied, " Hoist sail and
away ! Did you ever hear of a king who was drowned ? "

You will wonder how it was that even the careless Robert
came to sell his dominions. It happened thus. It had long
l)een the custom for many English people to make joume3-8 to
Jerusalem, which were called pilgrimages, in order tliat thej
might pray beside the tomb of Our Saviour there. Jerusalem
belonging to the Turks, and the Turks hating Christianity,
these Christian travellers were often insulted and ill-used.
The pilgrims bore it patiently for some time, but at length a
remarkable man, of great earnestness and eloquence, called
Peter the Hermit, began to preach in various places against
the Turks, and to declare that it was the duty of good Chris-
tians to drive away those unbelievers from the tomb of Our
Saviour, and to take possession of it, and protect it. An
excitement such as the world had never known before was
created. Thousands and thousands of men of all ranks and
conditions departed for Jerusalem to make war against the
Turks. The war is called in history the first Crusade ; and
eveiy Crusader wore a cross ittarked on his right shoulder.

All the Cnisaders were not zealous Christians. Among
them were vast numbers of the restless, idle, profligate, and
adventurous spirits of the time. Some became Crusaders for
the love of change ; some, in the hope of plunder ; some,
because the}' had nothing to do at home ; some, because they
did what the priests told them ; some, because the}- liked to
sec foreign countries ; some, because they were fond of knock-
ing men about, and would as soon knock a Turk about as a
Christian. Robert of Normandy ma}- have been influenced
by all these motives ; and by a kind desire, besides, to save
the Christian Pilgiims from bad treatment in Aiture. He

Digitized by



mtnted to raise a mmber of armed men, and to go to the
Crnsade. He could not do so without money* He had no
mottej; and he sold his dorainions to his brother, the Red
King, tor five years. With the large snm he thus obtained,
he fitted out his Crusaders gallantly, and went away to Jeru«
salem in martial state. The Red Ki^, who made money out
of ever}'thing, stayed at home, busily squee^ung more money
oat of Normans and English.

After three years of great hardship and suffering — from
^ipwreek at sea ; from travel in strange labds ; from hunger,
thirst, and fever, upon the burning sands of the desert ; and
(torn the ftiry of the Tm-ks — the valiant Crusaders got pos*
session of our Saviour's tomb. The Turks were still resisting
and fighting bravely, but this success increased the general
desire in Europe to Join the Crusade. Another great French
Duke was proposing to sell his dominions for a term to the
riefa Red King, when the Red King's reign came to a sudden
and violent end.

You have not foi^otten the New Forest which the Co»-
qoeror made, and which the miserable people whose homes
he had laid waste, so hated. The cruelty of the Forest Laws,
and the torture and death the}* brought upon the peasantr}',
increased this hatred. The poor persecuted country people
believed that the New Forest was enchanted. They said that
in thunder-storms, and on dark nights, demons appeared,
moving beneath the branches of the gloomy ti'ees. They
said that a terrible spectre had foretold to Norman hunters
^ml the Red King should be punished there. And now, in
the pleasant season of May, when the Red King had reigned
almost thirteen years ; and a second Prince of the Conquemr's
blood— ^another Richard, the son of Duke Robert — was
killed by an arrow in this dreaded forest ; the people said the
second time was not the last, and that there was another
death to come.

It was a tonel}' ftyrest, accursed in the people's hearts for
the wicked deed^ that had been done to make it ; and no man

Digitized by



save the King and his Courtiers and Huntsmen, liked to stray
there. But, in reality, it was like an}' other forest. In the
spring, the green leaves broke out of the buds ; in the sum-
mer, flourished heartily, and made deep shades ; in the win-
ter, shrivelled and blew down, and lay in brown heaps on the
moss. Some trees were stately, and grew high and strong:
some had fallen of themselves; some were felled by the
forester's axe ; some were hollow, and the rabbits burrowed
at tlieir roots; some few were struck by lightning, and
stood white and bare. There were hill-sides covered with
rich fetn^ on which the morning dew so beautifully sparkled ;
there were brooks, where the deer went down to drink, or
over which the whole herd bounded, flying from the arrows of
the huntsmen ; there were sunny glades, and solemn places
where but little light came through the rustling leaves. The
, songs of the birds in the New Forest were pleasanter to hear
than the shouts of fighting men outside ; and even when the
Red King and his Coui*t came hunting through its solitudes,
cursing loud and riding hard, with a jingling of stirrups and
bridles and knives and daggers, they did much less harm
there tlian among the English or Normans, and the stags
died (as they lived) far easier than the people.

Ui>on a day in August, the Red King, now reconciled to
his brother, Fine-Scholar, came with a great train to hunt in
the New Forest Fine-Scholar was of the party. They were
a meny party, and had lain all night at Malwood-Keep, a
hunting-lodge in the forest, where they had made good cheer,
both at supper and bi-eakfast, and had drunk a deal of wine.
The party dispersed in various directions, as the custom of
hunters then was. The King took with him only Sir Wal-
ter Tyhrel, who was a famous sportsman, and to whom he
had given, before they mounted horse that morning, two fine

The last time the King was ever seen alive, he was riding
with Sir Walter Tyrrel, and their dogs were hunting together.
< It was almost night, when a poor charcoal-burner, passing

Digitized by



throngh the forest with his cart, came upon the solitarj' body
of a dead, man, shot with an arrow in the breast, and still
bleeding. He got it into his cart. It was the body of the
King. Shaken and tumbled, with its red beard all whitened
with lime and clotted with blood, it was driven in the cart by
the charcoal-burner next day to Winchester Cathedral, where
it was received and buried.

Sir Walter T3'rrel, who escaped to Normandy, and claimed
the protection of the King of France, swore in France that
the Red King was suddenly shot dead by an arrow from an
unseen hand, while they were hunting together ; that he was
fearful of being suspected as the King's murderer ; and that
he instantly' set spurs to his horse, and fled to the sea-shore.
Others declared that the King and Sir Walter Tyrrel were
hunting in company, a little before sunset, standing in bushes
opposite one another, when a stag came between them. That ,
the King drew his bow and took aim, but the string broke.
That the King then cried, "Shoot, Walter, in the Devil's
name ! " That Sir Walter shot. That the arrow glanced
against a tree, was turned aside from the stag, and struck
the King from his horse, dead.

By whose hand the Red Kii^ really fell, and whether that
hand despatched the arrow to his breast by accident or by
design, is only known to God. Some think his brother may
ha\'e caused him to be killed ; bat the Red King had made so
many enemies, both among priests and people, that suspicion
nwy reasonably rest u|)on a less unnatural murderer. Men
know no nK>re than that he was found dead in the New For-
est, which the suffering people had regarded as a doomed
ground for his race.

Digitized by





FtNE-ScHOLAR, OH hearing of the Red King's death, hur-
ried to Winchester, with as mticli speed as RuAis himself
had made, to seize the Royal treasure. But the keeper of
the treasure, who had lieen one of the hunting-party in the
Forest, made haste to Winchester, too, and, arri\ing there
about the same time, refused to yield it up. Upon this,
• Fine-Scholar drew his sword, and threatened to kill the treas-
urer ; who might have paid for his fidelity with his life, but
that he knew longer resistance to be useless when he found
the Prince supported by a company of powerful barons, who
declared they were determined to make him King. The
treasurer, therefore, gave up the money and jewels of the
Crown ; and on the third day after the death of the Red King,
being a Sunday, Fine-Scholar stood before the high altar in
Westminster Abliey, and made a solemn declaration that he
would resign the Church property which his brother had
seized ; that he would do no wrong to the nobles ; and that
he would restore to the peo))le the laws of Edward the Con-
fessor, with all the improvements of William the Conqueror.
So began the reign of Knm Hekkt, the First.

The people were attached to their new King, both because
he had known distresses, and because he was an Englishman
by biitli and not a Norman. To strengthen this last hold
upon them, the King wished to marrj^ an English lady ; and
could think of no other wife than Malt> the Good, the
daugliter of the King of Scotland. Although this good Prin-
cess did not love the King, she was so affected by the reprc-

Digitized by



wntations the nobles made to her of the great ohanty it
would be in her to unite the Norman and Saxon races, and
prevent hatred and bloodshed between tbefm for the future,
that she consented to become his wife. After some disputing
among the priests, who said that as she had been in a convent
in ])cr jonth, and had worn the veil of a nun, she could not
lawftilly be married — against which the Princess stated that
her aunt, with whom she had lived in her youth, had indeed
sometimes thrown a piece of black stuff oyer her, but for no
other reason than because the nan's veil was the only dress
the conquering N<»mans respected in girl or woman, and
not because she had taken the tows of a nun, which she
ae^'er had — she was declared free to marry, and was
made King Henry's Queen. A good Queen she was ; bean-
tifnl, kind*hearted, and worthy of a better husband than the

F6r he was a cunning and nnscmpulous man, though firm
and clever. He cared very little for his word, and took any
means to gain his ends. All this is shown in his treatuient
of his brother Robert — Robert, who had suffered him to be
refreshed with water, and who had sent him the wine fix>m
his own table, when he was shut up, with the crows flying
below him, parched with thirst, in the castle on the top of
8L Michaers Mount, wh»*e his Red brother would have let
Mb die.

Before the King began to deal with Robert, he removed
and disgraced all the favorites of the late King ; who were
for the most part base characters, much detested by the
Ijeople. Fkmbard, or Firebrand, whom the late King had
made Bishop of Durham, of all tilings in the worid, Henry
imprisoned in the Tower ; but Firebrand was a great joker
and a jolly companion, and made himself so popular with his
guards that they pretended to know nothing about a long '
rape that was sent into his prison at the bottom of a deep
flagon of wine. The guards took the wine, and Firebmnd
took the rope ; with which, when they were fast asleep, he

Digitized by



let himself down fW)m a window in the night, and so got
cleverly aboard ship and awa}' to Normandj.

Now Robert, when his brother Fine-Scholar came to the
tiirone, was still absent in the Holy Land. Henry pretended
that Robert had been made Sovereign of that countrj- ; and
he had been awa}' so long that the ignorant people believed
it. But, behold, when Henr>' had been some time King of
England, Robert came home to Normandy ; having leisurely
returned from Jerusalem through liaXy^ in which beautiful
country he had enjoyed himself very much, and had married
a lady as beautiful as itself! In Normandy he found Fire^
brand waiting to urge him to assert his claim to the English
crown, and declare war against King Henry. This, after
great loss of time in feasting and dancing with his beautiful
Italian wife among his Norman Mends, he at last did.

The English in general were on King Henry's side, though
many of the Normans were on Robert's. But the English
sailors deserted the King, and took a great part of the English
fleet over to Normandy ; so that Robert came to invade this
country in no foreign vessels, but in English ships. The vir-
tuous Ansel m, however, whom Henry had invited back from
abroad, and made Archbishop of Canterbury, was steadfast
in the King's cause ; and it was so well supported that the two
annies, instead of fighting, made a peace. Poor Robert, who
trusted anybody and everybody, readily- trusted his brother,
the King ; and agreed to go home and receive a pension fhom
England, on condition that all his followers were fully par-
doned. This the King very faithfully promised, but Robert
was no sooner gone than he began to punish them.

Among them was the Elarl of Shi^wsbuiy, who, on being
summoned by tlie King to answer to five-and-forty accusa-
tions, rode awa}' to one of his strong castles, shut himself up
therein, called around him his tenants and vassals, and fought
for his liberty, but was defeated and banished. Robert, with
all his faults, was so true to his woixl, that when he first heaitl
of tliis nobleman having risen against his b^-other, be laid

Digitized by



waste the Earl of Shrewsbury's estates in Normandy, to show
the King that he would favor no breach of their treaty.
Finding, on better information, afterwards, that the Earl's
only crime was having been his friend, he came over to Eng-
land, in his old thonghtless warm-hearted way, to intercede
with the King, and remind him of the solemn promise to
pardon all his followers.

This confidence might have put the false King to the blush,
but it did not. Pretending to be xevy friendly, he so sur-
rounded his brother with spies and traps, that Robert, who
was quite in his power, had nothing for it but to renounce his
pension and escape while he could. Getting home to Nor-
mandy, and understanding the King better now, he naturally
allied himself with his old friend the Earl of Shrewsbur3', who
had still thirty castles in that country. This was exactly
what Henry wanted. He immediately declared that Robei-t
had broken the treaty, and next year invaded Normandy.

He pretended that he came to deliver tlie Normans, at their
own reqnest, from his brother's misrule. There is reason to
fear that his misrule was bad enough : for his beautiful wife
had died, leaving him with an infant son, and his court was
again so careless, dissipated, and ill-regulated, that it was
«aid he "sometimes lay in bed of a da}' for want of clothes to
pal on — his attendants having stolen all his dresses. But
lie headed his army like a brave prince and a gallant soldier,
though he had the misfortune to be taken prisoner by King
Heniy, with four hundred of his Knights. Among them was
poor harmless Edgar Atlieling, who loved Robert well. Ed-
gar was not important enot^h to be severe with. The King
afterwards gave him a small pension, which he lived uix)n
and died upon, in peace, among the quiet woods and fields of

And Robert — poor, kind, generous, wasteful, heedless
Bobert, with so many faults, and yet with >irtues that might
have made a better and a happier man — what was the end
.of him? If the King had had the magnanimity to say wiUi a

Digitized by



kind air, " Brother, tell me, before these noblemen^ that from
this time jou will be my faith(\il follower and Mend, and
never raise your hand against me or my forces more ! " he
might have trusted Robert to the death. But the King was
not a magnanimous man. He sentenced his brother to be
confined for life in one of the Royal Caslies. In the begin-
ning of his imprisonment, he was allowed to ride (Hit, guarded ;
but he one day broke away from his guard and galloped off.
He had the evil fortune to ride into a swamp, where his horse
btuck fast and he was taken. When the King heard of it he
oi'dei'ed him to be blinded, which was done by putting a red-
hot metal basin on his eyes.

And so, in darkness and in prison, man}' years, he thongfat
of all his past life, of the time he had wasted, of the treasure
he had squandered, of the opix)rtunitie8 he had lost, of the
3'outh he had thrown away, of the talents he had neglected.
Sometimes, on fine autumn mornings, he would sit and think
of the old hunting parties in the free Forest, where he had
been the foremost and the gayest. Sometimes, in the stall
nights, he would wake, and mourn for the many nighte that
had stolen past him at the gaming-table ; sometimes, would
seem to hear, u[X)n the melancholy wind, the old songs of the
minstrels ; sometimes, would dream, in his blindness, of the
light and glitter of the Noiman Court. Many and many a
time, he groped back, in his fancy, to Jerusalem, where he
had fought so well ; or, at the head of his brave companions,
bowed his feathered helmet to the shouts of welcome greeting
him in Italy, and seemed again to walk among the sunny
vineyai-ds, or on the shore of the blue sea, with his lovely-
wife. And then, thinking of her grave, and of his fatherless
boy, he would sti-etch out his solitary arms and weep.

At length one day there lay in prison dead, with cruel and
disfiguring scai-s upon his eyelids, bandaged from his jailer's
sight, but on which the eternal heavens looked down, a worn
old man of eighty. He had Once been Robert of Normandy.
Pity him !

Digitized by



At the time when Robert of Normandy was taken prisoner
by his broths*, Robert's little son was only five 3'ears old.
This child was taken, too, and canied before the King, 8ob<-
bing and crying ; for, yoong as he was, he knew he had good
reason to be afraid of his Royal uncle. The King was not
much accustomed to pity those who were in his power, but
his cold heart seemed for the moment to soften towards the
boy. He was observed to make a great effort, as if to pre-
vent himself fVom being cruel, and ordered the child to be
taken away ; whereupon a certain Baron, who had married a
daughter of Duke Robertas (by name, Helie of Saint Saen),
took charge of him, tenderiy. The King's gentleness did not
last long. Before two years were over, he sent messengers
to this lord's Castle to seize the child and bring him away.
The Boron was not there at the time, but his servants were
faithful, and carried the boy off in his sleep and hid him.
When the Baron came home, and was told what tiie King had
done, he tcx>k the chiki abroad, and leading him by the hand,
went from King to King and fh>m Court to Court, relating
how the child had a claim to the throne of England, and how

Online LibraryCharles DickensCharles Dickens' complete works → online text (page 7 of 84)