Emily Sarah Holt.

A Forgotten Hero Not for Him online

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Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

A Forgotten Hero, or, Not for Him, by Emily Sarah Holt.


This shortish book takes us to the end of the thirteenth century, and,
although the people in the book are mostly high-born, the scene is a
very domestic one. It gives us a good understanding of the way life was
lived in those days. Recommended for its social interest.




"O pale, pale face, so sweet and meek, Oriana!"


"Is the linen all put away, Clarice?"

"Ay, Dame."

"And the rosemary not forgotten?"

"I have laid it in the linen, Dame."

"And thy day's task of spinning is done?"

"All done, Dame."

"Good. Then fetch thy sewing and come hither, and I will tell thee
somewhat touching the lady whom thou art to serve."

"I humbly thank your Honour." And dropping a low courtesy, the girl
left the room, and returned in a minute with her work.

"Thou mayest sit down, Clarice."

Clarice, with another courtesy and a murmur of thanks, took her seat in
the recess of the window, where her mother was already sitting. For
these two were mother and daughter; a middle-aged, comfortable-looking
mother, with a mixture of firmness and good-nature in her face; and a
daughter of some sixteen years, rather pale and slender, but active and
intelligent in her appearance. Clarice's dark hair was smoothly brushed
and turned up in a curl all round her head, being cut sufficiently short
for that purpose. Her dress was long and loose, made in what we call
the Princess style, with a long train, which she tucked under one arm
when she walked. The upper sleeve was of a narrow bell shape, but under
it came down tight ones to the wrist, fastened by a row of large round
buttons quite up to the elbow. A large apron - which Clarice called a
barm-cloth - protected the dress from stain. A fillet of ribbon was
bound round her head, but she had no ornaments of any kind. Her mother
wore a similar costume, excepting that in her case the fillet round the
head was exchanged for a wimple, which was a close hood, covering head
and neck, and leaving no part exposed but the face. It was a very
comfortable article in cold weather, but an eminently unbecoming one.

These two ladies were the wife and daughter of Sir Gilbert Le Theyn, a
knight of Surrey, who held his manor of the Earl of Cornwall; and the
date of the day when they thus sat in the window was the 26th of March

It will strike modern readers as odd if I say that Clarice and her
mother knew very little of each other. She was her father's heir, being
an only child; and it was, therefore, considered the more necessary that
she should not live at home. It was usual at that time to send all
young girls of good family, not to school - there were no schools in
those days - but to be brought up under some lady of rank, where they
might receive a suitable education, and, on reaching the proper age,
have a husband provided for them, the one being just as much a matter of
course as the other. The consent of the parents was asked to the
matrimonial selection of the mistress, but public opinion required some
very strong reason to justify them in withholding it. The only
exception to this arrangement was when girls were destined for the
cloister, and in that case they received their education in a convent.
But there was one person who had absolutely no voice in the matter, and
that was the unfortunate girl in question. The very idea of consulting
her on any point of it, would have struck a mediaeval mother with
astonishment and dismay.

Why ladies should have been considered competent in all instances to
educate anybody's daughters but their own is a mystery of the Middle
Ages. Dame La Theyn had under her care three girls, who were receiving
their education at her hands, and she never thought of questioning her
own competency to impart it; yet, also without a question, she sent
Clarice away from her, first to a neighbouring knight's wife, and now to
a Princess, to receive the education which she might just as well have
had at home. It was the command of Fashion; and who does not know that
Fashion, whether in the thirteenth century or the nineteenth, _must_ be

Clarice was on the brink of high promotion. By means of a ladder of
several steps - a Dame requesting a Baroness, and the Baroness entreating
a Countess - the royal lady had been reached at last, whose husband was
the suzerain of Sir Gilbert. It made little difference to this lady
whether her bower-women were two or ten, provided that the attendance
given her was as much as she required; and she readily granted the
petition that Clarice La Theyn might be numbered among those young
ladies. The Earl of Cornwall was the richest man in England, not
excepting the King. It may be added that, at this period, Earl was the
highest title known short of the Prince of Wales. The first Duke had
not yet been created, while Marquis is a rank of much later date.

Dame La Theyn, though she had some good points, had also one grand
failing. She was an inveterate gossip. And it made no difference to
her who was her listener, provided a listener could be had. A spicy
dish of scandal was her highest delight. She had not the least wish nor
intention of doing harm to the person whom she thus discussed. She had
not even the slightest notion that she did any. But her bower-maidens
knew perfectly well that, if one of them wanted to put the dame in high
good-humour before extracting a favour, the best way to do so was to
inform her that Mrs Sheppey had had words with her goodman, or that
Dame Rouse considered Joan Stick i' th' Lane [Note 1], no better than
she should be.

An innocent request from Clarice, that she might know something about
her future mistress, had been to Dame La Theyn a delightful opportunity
for a good dish of gossip. Reticence was not in the Dame's nature; and
in the thirteenth century - and much later than that - facts which in the
nineteenth would be left in concealment, or, at most, only delicately
hinted at, were spoken out in the plainest English, even to young girls.
The fancy that the Countess of Cornwall might not like her whole life,
so far as it was known, laid bare to her new bower-woman was one which
never troubled the mind of Dame La Theyn. Privacy, to any person of
rank more especially, was an unknown thing in the Middle Ages.

"Thou must know, Clarice," began the Dame, "that of old time, before
thou wert born, I was bower-maiden unto my most dear-worthy Lady of
Lincoln - that is brother's wife to my gracious Lady of Gloucester,
mother unto my Lady of Cornwall, that shall be thy mistress. The Lady
of Lincoln, that was mine, is a dame of most high degree, for her father
was my Lord of Saluces, [Note 2], in Italy - very nigh a king - and she
herself was wont to be called `Queen of Lincoln,' being of so high
degree. Ah, she gave me many a good gown, for I was twelve years in her
service. And a good woman she is, but rarely proud - as it is but like
such a princess should be. I mind one super-tunic she gave me, but half
worn," - this was said impressively, for a garment only _half worn_ was
considered a fit gift from one peeress to another - "of blue damask, all
set with silver buttons, and broidered with ladies' heads along the
border. I gave it for a wedding gift unto Dame Rouse when she was wed,
and she hath it now, I warrant thee. Well! her lord's sister, our Lady
Maud, was wed to my Lord of Gloucester; but stay! - there is a tale to
tell thee thereabout."

And Dame La Theyn bit off her thread with a complacent face. Nothing
suited her better than a tale to tell, unless it were one to hear.

"Well-a-day, there be queer things in this world!"

The Dame paused, as if to give time for Clarice to note that very
original sentiment.

"Our Lady Maud was wed to her lord, the good Earl of Gloucester, with
but little liking of her side, and yet less on his. Nathless, she made
no plaint, but submitted herself, as a good maid should do - for mark
thou, Clarice, 'tis the greatest shame that can come to a maiden to set
her will against those of her father and mother in wedlock. A good
maid - as I trust thou art - should have no will in such matters but that
of those whom God hath set over her. And all love-matches end ill,
Clarice; take my word for it! Art noting me?"

Clarice meekly responded that the moral lesson had reached her. She did
not add whether she meant to profit by it. Probably she had her own
ideas on the question, and it is quite possible that they did not
entirely correspond with those which her mother was instilling.

"Now look on me, Clarice," pursued Dame La Theyn, earnestly. "When I
was a young maid I had foolish fancies like other maidens. Had I been
left to order mine own life, I warrant thee I should have wed with one
Master Pride, that was page to my good knight my father; and when I wist
that my said father had other thoughts for my disposal, I slept of a wet
pillow for many a night - ay, that did I. But now that I be come to
years of discretion, I do ensure thee that I am right thankful my said
father was wiser than I. For this Master Pride was slain at Evesham,
when I was of the age of five-and-twenty years, and left behind him not
so much as a mark of silver that should have come to me, his widow. It
was a good twenty-fold better that I should have wedded with thy father,
Sir Gilbert, that hath this good house, and forty acres of land, and
spendeth thirty marks by the year and more. Dost thou not see the

No. Clarice heard, but she did not see.

"Well-a-day! Now know, that when my good Lord of Gloucester, that wed
with our Lady Maud, was a young lad, being then in wardship unto Sir
Hubert, sometime Earl of Kent (whom God pardon!) he strake up a
love-match with the Lady Margaret, that was my said Lord of Kent his
daughter. And in very deed a good match it should have been, had it
been well liked of them that were above them; but the Lord King that
then was - the father unto King Edward that now is - rarely misliked the
same, and gat them divorced in all hate. It was not meet, as thou
mayest well guess, that such matters should be settled apart from his
royal pleasure. And forthwith, ere further mischief could ensue, he
caused my said Lord of Gloucester to wed with our Lady Maud. But look
thou, so obstinate was he, and so set of having his own way, that he
scarce ever said so much as `Good morrow' to the Lady Maud until he knew
that the said Lady Margaret was commanded to God. Never do thou be
obstinate, Clarice. 'Tis ill enough for a young man, but yet worse for
a maid."

"How long time was that, Dame, an' it like you?"

"Far too long," answered Dame La Theyn, somewhat severely. "Three years
and more."

Three years and more! Clarice's thoughts went off on a long journey.
Three years of disappointed hope and passionate regret, three years of
weary waiting for death, on the part of the Lady Margaret! Naturally
enough her sympathies were with the girl. And three years, to Clarice,
at sixteen, seemed a small lifetime.

"Now, this lady whom thou shalt serve, Clarice," pursued her mother - and
Clarice's mind came back to the subject in hand - "she is first-born
daughter unto the said Sir Richard de Clare, Lord of Gloucester, and our
Lady Maud, of whom I spake. Her name is Margaret, after the damsel that
died - a poor compliment, as methinks, to the said Lady Maud; and had I
been she, the maid should have been called aught else it liked my baron,
but not that."

Ah, but had I been he, thought Clarice, it should have been just that!

"And I have heard," said the Dame, biting off her thread, "that there
should of old time be some misliking - what I know not - betwixt the Lady
Margaret and her baron; but whether it were some olden love of his part
or of hers, or what so, I cast no doubt that she hath long ere this
overlived the same, and is now a good and loving lady unto him, as is

Clarice felt disposed to cast very much doubt on this suggestion. She
held the old-fashioned idea that a true heart could love but once, and
could not forget. Her vivid imagination instantly erected an exquisite
castle in the air, wherein the chief part was played by the Lady
Margaret's youthful lover - a highly imaginary individual, of the most
perfect manners and unparalleled beauty, whom the unfortunate maiden
could never forget, though she was forced by her cruel parents to marry
the Earl of Cornwall. He, of course, was a monster of ugliness in
person, and of everything disagreeable in character, as a man in such
circumstances was bound to be.

Poor Clarice! she had not seen much of the world. Her mental picture of
the lady whom she was to serve depicted her as sweet and sorrowful, with
a low plaintive voice and dark, starry, pathetic eyes, towards whom the
only feelings possible would be loving reverence and sympathy.

"And now, Clarice, I have another thing to say."

"At your pleasure, Dame."

"I think it but meet to tell thee a thing I have heard from thy father -
that the Lord Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, thy lady's baron, is one that
hath some queer ideas in his head. I know not well what kind they are;
but folk say that he is a strange man and hath strange talk. So do thou
mind what thou dost. Alway be reverent to him, as is meet; but suffer
him not to talk to thee but in presence of thy lady."

Clarice felt rather frightened - all the more so from the extreme
vagueness of the warning.

"And now lap up thy sewing, child, for I see thy father coming in, and
we will go down to hall."

A few weeks later three horses stood ready saddled at the door of Sir
Gilbert's house. One was laden with luggage; the second was mounted by
a manservant; and the third, provided with saddle and pillion, was for
Clarice and her father. Sir Gilbert, fully armed, mounted his steed,
Clarice was helped up behind him, and with a final farewell to Dame La
Theyn, who stood in the doorway, they rode forth on their way to Oakham
Castle. Three days' journey brought them to their destination, and they
were witnesses of a curious ceremony just as they reached the Castle
gate. All over the gate horseshoes were nailed. A train of visitors
were arriving at the Castle, and the trumpeter sounded his horn for

"Who goes there?" demanded the warder. "The right noble and puissant
Prince Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, Leicester, and Derby; and his most
noble lady, Blanche, Queen Dowager of Navarre, Countess of the same,
cousins unto my gracious Lord of Cornwall."

"Is this my said noble Lord's first visit unto the lordship of Oakham?"
asked the warder, without opening the gate. "It is."

"Then our gracious Lord, as Lord of the said manor, demands of him one
of the shoes of the horse whereon he rides as tribute due from every
peer of the realm on his first coming to this lordship."

"My right noble and puissant Lord," returned the trumpeter, "denies the
said shoe of his horse; but offers in the stead one silver penny, for
the purchase of a shoe in lieu thereof."

"My gracious Lord deigns to receive the said silver penny in lieu of the
shoe, and lovingly prays your Lord and Lady to enter his said Castle."

Then the portcullis was drawn up, and the long train filed noisily into
the courtyard. This ceremony was observed on the first visit of every
peer to Oakham Castle; but the visitor was allowed, if he chose, as in
this instance, to redeem the horse-shoe by the payment of money to buy
one. The shoes contributed by eminent persons were not unfrequently

The modest train of Sir Gilbert and Clarice crept quietly in at the end
of the royal suite. As he was only a knight, his horse-shoe was not in
request Sir Gilbert told the warder in a few words his name and errand,
whereupon that functionary summoned a boy, and desired him to conduct
the knight and maiden to Mistress Underdone. Having alighted from the
horse, Clarice shook down her riding-gown, and humbly followed Sir
Gilbert and the guide into the great hall, which was built like a
church, with centre and aisles, up a spiral staircase at one end of it,
and into a small room hung with green say [Note 3]. Here they had to
wait a while, for every one was too busily employed in the reception of
the royal guests to pay attention to such comparatively mean people. At
last - when Sir Gilbert had yawned a dozen times, and strummed upon the
table about as many, a door at the back of the room was opened, and a
portly, comfortable-looking woman came forward to meet them. Was this
the Countess? thought Clarice, with her heart fluttering. It was
extremely unlike her ideal picture.

"Your servant, Sir Gilbert Le Theyn," said the newcomer, in a cheerful,
kindly voice. "I am Agatha Underdone, Mistress of the Maids unto my
gracious Lady of Cornwall. I bid thee welcome, Clarice - I think that is
thy name?"

Clarice acknowledged her name, with a private comforting conviction that
Mistress Underdone, at least, would be pleasant enough to live with.

"You will wish, without doubt, to go down to hall, where is good company
at this present," pursued the latter, addressing Sir Gilbert. "So, if
it please you to take leave of the maiden - "

Sir Gilbert put two fingers on Clarice's head, as she immediately knelt
before him. For a father to kiss a daughter was a rare thing at that
time, and for the daughter to offer it would have been thought quite
disrespectful, and much too familiar.

"Farewell, Clarice," said he. "Be a good maid, be obedient and meek;
please thy lady; and may God keep thee, and send thee an husband in good

There was nothing more necessary in Sir Gilbert's eyes. Obedience was
the one virtue for Clarice to cultivate, and a husband (quality
immaterial) was sufficient reward for any amount of virtue.

Clarice saw her father depart without any feeling of regret. He was
even a greater stranger to her than her mother. She was a
self-contained, lonely-hearted girl, capable of intense love and
hero-worship, but never having come across one human being who had
attracted those qualities from their nest in her heart.

"Now follow me, Clarice," said Mistress Underdone, "and I will introduce
thee to the maidens, thy fellows, of whom there are four beside thee at
this time."

Clarice followed, silently, up a further spiral staircase, and into a
larger chamber, where four girls were sitting at work.

"Maidens," said Mistress Underdone, "this is your new fellow, Clarice La
Theyn, daughter of Sir Gilbert Le Theyn and Dame Maisenta La Heron.
Stand, each in turn, while I tell her your names."

The nearest of the four, a slight, delicate-looking, fair-haired girl,
rose at once, gathering her work on her arm.

"Olympias Trusbut, youngest daughter of Sir Robert Trusbut, of the
county of Lincoln, and Dame Joan Twentymark," announced Mistress

She turned to the next, a short, dark, merry-looking damsel.

"Elaine Criketot, daughter of Sir William Criketot and Dame Alice La
Gerunell, of the county of Chester."

The third was tall, stately, and sedate.

"Diana Quappelad, daughter of Sir Walter Quappelad and Dame Beatrice
Cotele, of the county of Rutland."

Lastly rose a quiet, gentle-looking girl.

"Roisia de Levinton, daughter of Sir Hubert de Levinton and Dame Maud
Ingham, of the county of Surrey."

Clarice's heart went faintly out to the girl from her own county, but
she was much too shy to utter a word.

Having introduced the girls to each other, Mistress Underdone left them
to get acquainted at their leisure.

"Art thou only just come?" asked Elaine, who was the first to speak.

"Only just come," repeated Clarice, timidly.

"Hast thou seen my Lady?"

"Not yet: I should like to see her."

Elaine's answer was a little half-suppressed laugh, which seemed the
concentration of amusement.

"Maids, hear you this? Our new fellow has not seen the Lady. She would
like to see her."

A smile was reflected on all four faces. Clarice thought Diana's was
slightly satirical; those of the other two were rather pitying.

"Now, what dost thou expect her to be like?" pursued Elaine.

"I may be quite wrong," answered Clarice, in the shy way which she was
not one to lose quickly. "I fancied she would be tall - "

"Right there," said Olympias.

"And dark - "

"Oh, no, she is fair."

"And very beautiful, with sorrowful eyes, and a low, mournful voice."

All the girls laughed, Roisia and Olympias gently, Diana scornfully,
Elaine with shrill hilarity.

"_Ha, jolife_!" cried the last-named young lady. "Heard one ever the
like? Only wait till supper. Then thou shalt see this lovely lady,
with the sweet, sorrowful eyes and the soft, low voice. _Pure foy_! I
shall die with laughing, Clarice, if thou sayest anything more."

"Hush!" said Diana, sharply and suddenly; but Elaine's amusement had too
much impetus on it to be stopped all at once. She was sitting with her
back to the door, her mirthful laughter ringing through the room, when
the door was suddenly flung open, and two ladies appeared behind it.
The startled, terrified expression on the faces of Olympias and Roisia
warned Clarice that something unpleasant was going to happen. Had
Mistress Underdone a superior, between her and the Countess, whom to
offend was a very grave affair? Clarice looked round with much interest
and some trepidation at the new comers.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Note 1. Stykelane and Bakepuce - both most unpleasantly suggestive
names - occur on the Fines Roll for 1254.

Note 2. Saluzzo.

Note 3. A common coarse silk, used both for dress and upholstery.



"Nec tecum possum vivere, nec sine te."


One at least of the ladies who had disturbed Elaine's hilarity did not
look a person of whom it was necessary to be afraid. She was a matronly
woman of middle age, bearing the remains of extreme beauty. She had a
good-natured expression, and she rather shrank back, as if she were
there on sufferance only. But the other, who came forward into the
room, was tall, spare, upright, and angular, with a face which struck
Clarice as looking very like verjuice.

"Agatha!" called the latter, sharply; and, laying her hand, not gently,
on Elaine's shoulder, she gave her a shake which rapidly reduced her to

"Ye weary, wretched giglots, what do ye thus laughing and tittering,
when I have distinctly forbidden the same? - Agatha! - Know ye not that
all ye be miserable sinners, and this lower world a vale of tears? -

"Truly, Cousin Meg," observed the other lady, now coming forward,
"methinks you go far to make it such."

"Agatha might have more sense," returned her acetous companion. "I have
bidden her forty times o'er to have these maids well ordered, and mine
house as like to an holy convent as might be compassed; and here is she
none knows whither - taking her pleasure, I reckon - and these caitiff
hildings making the very walls for to ring with their wicked foolish
laughter! - Agatha! bring me hither the rod. I will see if a good
whipping bring not down your ill-beseen spirits, mistress!"

Elaine turned pale, and cast a beseeching glance at the pleasanter of
the ladies.

"Nay, now, Cousin Meg," interposed she, "I pray you, let not this my
first visit to Oakham be linked with trouble to these young maids. I am
well assured you know grey heads cannot be well set on green shoulders."

"Lady, I am right unwilling to deny any bidding of yours. But I do
desire of you to tell me if it be not enough to provoke a saint to

"What! to hear a young maid laugh, cousin? Nay, soothly, I would not
think so."

Mistress Underdone had entered the room, and, after dropping a courtesy
to each of the ladies, stood waiting the pleasure of her mistress.
Clarice was slowly coming to the conclusion, with dire dismay, that the
sharp-featured, sharp-tongued woman before her was no other than the
Lady Margaret of Cornwall, her lovely lady with the pathetic eyes.

"Give me the rod, Agatha," said the Countess, sternly.

"Nay, Cousin Meg, I pray you, let Agatha give it to me."

"_You'll_ not lay on!" said the Countess, with a contortion of her lips
which appeared to do duty for a smile.

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