George MacDonald.

St. George and St. Michael (Volume 1) online

. (page 6 of 14)
Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldSt. George and St. Michael (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

very toes of an old man so in love with
ignorance, that he tortures the philosopher who
tells him the truth about the world and its
motions ?'

' Go on, master Roundhead ! I can chastise
you, and that you know. This cursed knee '

no SL George and St, Michael.

' I will stand unarmed within your thrust,
and never budge a foot/ said Richard. ' But
no/ he added, ' I dare not, lest I should further
injure one I have wronged already. Let there
be a truce between us.'

' I am no papist,' returned Scudamore. * I
speak only as one of the earl's household —
true men all. For them I cast the word in
your teeth, you roundhead traitor ! For myself
I am of the English church.'

* It Is but the wolf and the wolf's cub,' said
Richard. ' Prelatlcal episcopacy is but the
old harlot veiled, or rather, forsooth, her bloody
scarlet blackened In the sulphur fumes of her
coming desolation.'

' Curse on, roundhead,' sighed the youth ; ' I
must crawl home.'

Once more he rose and made an effort to
walk. But it was of no use : walk he could

* I must wait till the morning,' he said,
* when some Christian waggoner may be pass-
ing. Leave me in peace.'

'Nay, I am no such boor ! ' said Richard.
' Do you think you could ride ? '
' I could try.'

An Adventure,

1 1 1

* I will bring you the best mare in Gwent.
But tell me your name, that I may know with
whom I have the honour of a feud.'

' My name is Roland Scudamore,' answered
the youth. ' Yours I know already, and round-
head as you are, you have some smatch of
honour in you.'

With an air of condescension he held out
his hand, which his adversary, oppressed with
a sense of the injury he had done him, did
not refuse.

Richard hurried home, and to the stable,
where he saddled his mare. But his father,
who was still in his study, heard the sound
of her hoofs in the paved yard, and met him
as he led her out on the road, with an inquiry
as to his destination at such an hour. Richard
told him that he had had a quarrel with a
certain young fellow of the name of Scudamore,
a page of the earl of Worcester, whom he had
met at lady Vaughan's : and recounted the

' Was your quarrel a just one, my son ? '

' No sir. I was in the wrong.'

' Then you are so far in the right now. And
you are going to help him home ? '

112 S/. GeoTge and St. Michael.

* Yes, sir/

* Have you confessed yourself in the wrong V

* Yes, sir/

*Then go, my son, but beware of private
quarrel in such a season of strife. This youth
and thyself may meet some day in mortal
conflict on the battle-field ; and for my part —
I know not how it may be with another — in
such a case I would rather slay my friend than
my enemy/

Enlightened by the inward experience of
the moment, Richard was able to understand
and respond to the feeling. How different
a sudden action flashed off the surface of a
man's nature may be from that which, had time
been given, would have unfolded itself from
its depths !

Bare-headed, Roger He3^wood walked beside
his son as he led the mare to the spot where
Scudamore perforce awaited his return. They
found him stretched on the roadside, plucking
handfuls of grass, and digging up the turf with
his fingers, thus, and thus alone, betraying that
he suffered. Mr. Hey wood at first refrained
from any offer of hospitality, believing he
would be more inclined to accept it after he

An Adventure. 1 1 3

had proved the difficulty of riding, in which
case a previous refusal might stand in the way.
But although a slight groan escaped as they
lifted him to the saddle, he gathered up the
reins at once, and sat erect while they shortened
the stirrup-leathers. Lady seemed to know
what was required of her, and stood as still as
a vaulting horse until Richard took the bridle
to lead her away.

' I see ! ' said Scudamore ; ' you can't trust
me with your horse ! '

' Not so, sir,' answered Mr. Heywood. ' We
cannot trust the horse with you. It is quite
impossible for you to ride so far alone. If
you will go, you must submit to the attendance
of my son, on which I am sorry to think you
have so good a claim. But will you not yet
change your mind and be our guest — for the
night at least ? We will send a messenger to
the castle at earliest dawn.'

Scudamore declined the invitation, but with
perfect courtesy, for there was that about
Roger Heywood which rendered it impossible
for any man who was himself a gentleman,
whatever his judgment of him might be, to
show him disrespect. And the moment the
VOL. I. n

114 •^^^ George and St. Michael.

mare began to move, he felt no further incli-
nation to object to Richard's company at her
head, for he perceived that, should she prove
in the least troublesome, it would be impossible
for him to keep his seat. He did not suffer so
much, however, as to lose all his good spirits,
or fail in his part of a conversation composed
chiefly of what we now call chaff, b(5fh of them
for a time avoiding all such topics as might lead
to dispute, the one from a sense of wrong already
done, the other from a vague feeling that he was
under the protection of the foregone injury. '

' Have you known my cousin Dorothy long ?'
asked Scudamore.

* Longer than I can remember,' answered

* Then you must be more like brother and
sister than lovers.'

' That, I fear, is her feeling,' replied Richard,

* You need not think of me as a rival,' said
Scudamore. * I never saw the young woman
in my life before, and although anything of
yours, being a roundhead's, is fair game '

' Your humble servant, sir Cavalier ! ' inter-
jected Richard. * Pray use your pleasure.'

An Adventure.


' I tell you plainly,' Scudamore went on, with-
out heeding the interruption, ' though I admire
my cousin, as I do any young woman, if she be
but a shade beyond the passable '

' The ape ! The coxcomb ! ' said Richard to

* I am not, therefore, dying for her love ; and
I give you this one honest warning that, though
I would rather see mistress Dorothy in her
winding-sheet than dame to a roundhead, I
should be — yes, I may be a more dangerous
rival in respect of your mare, than of any lady
you are likely to set eyes upon.'

' What do you mean ? ' said Richard gruffly.

' I mean that, the king having at length re-
solved to be more of a monarch and less of
a saint '

' A saint ! ' echoed Richard, but the echo was
rather a loud one, for it startled his mare and
shook her rider.

* Don't shout like that ! ' cried the cavalier,
with an oath. * Saint or sinner, I care not. He
is my king, and I am his soldier. But with this
knee you have given me, I shall be fitter for
garrison than field-duty — damn it.'

' You do not mean that his majesty has

1 1 6 S^. George and St. Michael.

declared open war against the parliament ? '
exclaimed Richard.

' Faithless puritan, I do/ answered Scuda-
more. * His majesty has at length — with
reluctance, I am sorry to hear — taken up arms
against his rebellious subjects. Land will be
cheap by-and-by.'

' Many such rumours have reached us,' re-
turned Richard, quiedy. ' The king spares no
threats ; but for blows— well !'

' Insolent fanatic ! ' shouted Vaughan, * I tell
you his majesty is on his way from Scotland
with an army of savages ; and London has
declared for the king.'

Richard and his mare simultaneously quick-
ened their pace,

* Then it is time you were in bed, Mr Scuda-
more, for my mare and I will be wanted,' he
cried. ' God be praised ! I thank you for
the good news. It makes me young again to
hear it'

' What the devil do you mean by jerking this
cursed knee of mine so ?' shouted Scudamore.
' Faith, you were young enough In all conscience
already, you fool ! You want to keep me in
bed, as well as send me there ! Well out of the

An Adventure. 1 1 7

way, you think ! But I give you honest warning
to look after your mare, for I vow I have fallen
in love with her. She's worth three, at least, of
your mistress Dorothies.'

' You talk like a Dutch boor,' said Richard.

* Saith an English lout,' retorted Scudamore.
* But, all things being lawful in love and war,
not to mention hate and rebellion, this mare, if
I am blessed with a chance, shall be — well,
shall be translated.'

* You mean from Redware to Raglan.'

* Where she shall be entertained in a manner
worthy of her, which is saying no little, if all her
paces and points be equal to her walk and her

' I trust you will be more pitiful to my poor
Lady,' said Richard, quietly. 'If all they say
be true, Raglan stables are no place for a mare
of her breeding.'

' What do you mean, roundhead ? '
' Folk say your stables at Raglan are like
other some Raglan matters — of the infernal

Scudamore was silent for a moment
' Whether the stables be under the pavement
or over the leads,' he returned at last, * there are

1 1 8 SL Geo7'ge and St. Michael.

not a few in them as good as she — of which I
hope to satisfy my Lady some day/ he added,
patting the mare's neck.

* Wert thou not hurt already, I would pitch
thee out of the saddle,' said Richard.

* Were I not hurt in the knee, thou couldst
not,' said Scudamore.

* I need not lay hand upon thee. Wert thou
as sound in limb as thou art in wind, thou
wouldst feel thyself on the road ere thou
knewest thou hadst taken leave of the saddle —
did I but give the mare the sign she knows.' '

* By God's grace,' said the cavalier, ' she
shall be mine, and teach me the trick of it.'

Richard answered only with a grim laugh, and
again, but more gently this time, quickened the
mare's pace. Little more had passed between
them when the six-sided towers of Raglan rose
on their view.

Richard had, from childhood, been familiar
with their aspect, especially that of the huge
one called the Yellow Tower, but he had never
yet been within the walls that encircled them.
At any time during his life, almost up to the
present hour, he might have entered without
question, for the gates were seldom closed and

An A dventure. 1 1 9

never locked, the portcullises, sheathed in the
wall above, hung moveless in their rusty chains,
and the drawbridges spanned the moat from
scarp to counterscarp, as if from the first their
beams had rested there in solid masonry. And
still, during the day, there was little sign of
change, beyond an indefinable presence of
busier life, even in the hush of the hot autumnal
noon. But at night the drawbridges rose and
the portcullises descended — each with its own
peculiar creak, and jar, and scrape, setting the
young rooks cawing in reply from every pin-
nacle and tree-top — never later than the last
moment when the warder could see anything
larger than a cat on the brow of the road this
side the village. For who could tell when, or
with what force at their command, the parlia-
ment might claim possession ? And now
another of the frequent reports had arrived,
that the king had at length resorted to arms.
It was altogether necessary for such as occupied
a stronghold, unless willing to yield it to the
first who demanded entrance, to keep watch
and ward.

Admitted at the great brick gate, the outer-
most of all, and turning aside from the steps

I20 S^. George and St. Michael.

leading up to the white stone gate and main
entrance beyond, with its drawbridge and
double portcullis, Richard, by his companion's
directions, led his mare to the left, and, round-
ing the moat of the citadel, sought the western
gate of the castle, which seemed to shelter
itself under the great bulk of the Yellow
Tower, the cannon upon more than one of
whose bastions closely commanded it, and
made up for its inferiority in defence of its

Scudamore had scarcely called, ere the warder,
who had been waked by the sound of the horse's
feet, began to set the machinery of the portcullis
in motion.

' What ! wounded already, master Scuda-
more ! ' he cried, as they rode under the arch-

* Yes, Eccles,' answered Scudamore, * —
wounded and taken prisoner, and brought
home for ransom ! '

As they spoke, Richard made use of his eyes,
with a vague notion that some knowledge of
the place might one day or other be of service,
but it was little he could see. The moon was
almost down, and her low light, prolific of

An Adventure. 121

shadows, shone straight In through the Hfted
portculhs, but In the gateway where they stood,
there was nothing for her to show but the
groined vault, the massy walls, and the huge
iron-studded gate beyond.

* Curse you for a roundhead ! ' cried Scuda-
more, in the wrath engendered of a fierce
twinge, as Hey wood sought to help his lamed
leg over the saddle.

* Dismount on this side then,' said Richard,
regardless of the insult.

But the warder had caught the word.

' Roundhead ! ' he exclaimed.

Scudamore did not answer until he found
himself safe on his feet, and by that time he
had recovered his good manners.

' This is young Mr. Hey wood of Redware,'
he said, and moved towards the wicket, leaning
on Richard's arm.

But the old warder stepped In front, and
stood between them and the gate.

' Not a damned roundhead of the pack shall
set foot across this door-sill, so long as I hold
the gate,' he cried, with a fierce gesture of the
right arm. And therewith he set his back to
the wicket.

12 2 5/. George and St. Michael.

' Tut, tut, Eccles !' returned Scudamore im-
patiently. ' Good words are worth much, and
cost Httle.'

' If the old dog bark, he gives counsel,'
rejoined Eccles, immovable.

Hey wood was amused, and stood silent,
waiting the result. He had no particular
wish to enter, and yet would have liked to see
what could be seen of the court.

' Where the doorkeeper is a churl, what will
folk say of the master of the house ? ' said

* They may say as they list ; it will neither
hurt him nor me,' said Eccles.

* Make haste, my good fellow, and let us
through,' pleaded Scudamore. ' By Saint
George ! but my leg is in great pain. I fear
the knee-cap is broken, in which case I shall
not trouble thee much for a week of months.

As he spoke, he stood leaning on Richard's
arm, and behind them stood Lady, still as a
horse of bronze.

* I will but drop the portcullis,' said the
warder, ' and then I will carry thee to thy
room in my arms. But not a cursed roundhead
shall enter here, I swear.'

An A dventure. 1 2 3

' Let us through at once/ said Scudamore,
trying the imperative.

' Not if the earl himself gave the order/ per-
sisted the man.

' Ho ! ho ! what is that you say ? Let the
gentlemen through/ cried a voice from some-

The warder opened the wicket immediately,
stepped inside, and held it open while they
entered, nor uttered another word. But as
soon as Richard had got Scudamore clear of the
threshold, to which he lent not a helping finger,
he stepped quietly out again, closed the wicket
behind him, and taking Lady by the bridle, led
her back over the bridge towards the bowling-

Scudamore had just time to whisper to Hey-
wood, ' It is my master, the earl himself,' when
the voice came again.

* What ! wounded, Rowland ? How is this ?
And who have you there ? '

But that moment Richard heard the sound
of his mare's hoofs on the bridge, and leaving
Scudamore to answer for them both, bounded
back to the wicket, darted through, and called
her by name. Instantly she stood stock still,

124 St. George and St. Michael.

notwithstanding a vicious kick In the ribs from
Eccles, not unseen of Hey wood. Enraged at the
fellow's Insolence, he dealt him a sudden blow
that stretched him at the mare's feet, vaulted
into the saddle, and had reached the outer gate
before he had recovered himself. The sleepy
porter had just let him through, when the
warder's signal to let no one out reached him.
Richard turned with a laugh.

* When next you catch a roundhead,' he said,
* keep him ;' and giving Lady the rein, galloped
off, leaving the porter staring after him through
the bars like a half-roused wild beast.

Not doubting the rumour of open hostilities,
the warder's design had been to secure the
mare, and pretend she had run away, for a good
horse was now more precious than ever.

The earl's study was over the gate, and as he
suffered much from gout and slept ill, he not
unfrequently sought refuge in the night-watches
with his friends Chaucer, Gower, and Shakspere.

Richard drew rein at the last point whence
the castle would have been visible in the day-
time. All he saw was a moving light. The
walls whence it shone were one day to be as
the shell around the kernel of his destiny.



HEN Richard reached home and re-
counted the escape he had had, an
imprecation, the first he had ever
heard him utter, broke from his
fathers Hps. With the indiscrimination of
party spirit, he looked upon the warder's in-
solence and attempted robbery as the spirit
and behaviour of his master, the earl being
in fact as little capable of such conduct as Mr.
Hey wood himself.

Immediately after their early breakfast the
next morning, he led his son to a chamber in
the roof, of the very existence of which he had
been ignorant, and there discovered to him
good store of such armour of both kinds as
was then in use, which for some years past

126 SL George and St. Michael.

he had been quietly collecting in view of the
time — which, in the light of the last rumour,
seemed to have at length arrived — when
strength would have to decide the antagonism
of opposed claims. Probably also it was in
view of this time, seen from afar in silent
approach, that, from the very moment when he
took his education into his own hands, he had
paid thorough attention to Richard's bodily as
well as mental accomplishment, encouraging
him in all manly sports, such as wrestling,
boxing, and riding to hounds, with the more
martial training of sword -exercises, with and
without the target, and shooting with the car-
bine and the new-fashioned flint-lock pistols.

The rest of the morning Richard spent in
choosing a headpiece, and mail plates for
breast, back, neck, shoulders, arms, and thighs.
The next thing was to set the village tailor
at work upon a coat of that thick strong
leather, dressed soft and pliant, which they
called buff, to wear under his armour. After
that came the proper equipment of Lady, and
that of the twenty men whom his father
expected to provide from amongst his own
tenants, and for whom he had already a full

Love and War.


provision of clothing and armour ; they had to
be determined on, conferred with, and fitted,
one by one, so as to avoid drawing attention
to the proceeding. Hence both Mr. Hey-
wood and Richard had enough to do, and
the more that Faithful Stopchase, on whom
was their chief dependence, had not yet re-
covered sufficiently from the effects of his fall
to be equal to the same exertion as formerly —
of which he was the more impatient that he
firmly believed he had been a special object
of Satanic assault, because of the present value
of his counsels, and the coming weight of his
deeds on the side of the well-affected. Thus
occupied, the weeks passed into months.

During this time Richard called again and
again upon Dorothy, ostensibly to inquire after
her mother. Only once, however, did she
appear, when she gave him to understand she
was so fully occupied, that, although obliged
by his attention, he must not expect to see her

' But I will be honest, Richard,' she added,
' and let you know plainly that, were it other-
wise in respect of my mother, I yet should not
see you, for you and I have parted company,

128 S^. George and St. Michael.

and are already so far asunder on different
roads that I must bid you farewell at once
while yet we can hear each other speak."

There was no anger, only a cold sadness in
her tone and manner, while her bearing was
stately as towards one, with whom she had
never had intimacy. Even her sadness seemed
to Richard to have respect to the hopeless con-
dition of her mother s health, and not at all to
the changed relation between him and her.

* I trust, at least, mistress Dorothy,' he said,
with some bitterness, 'you will grant me' the
justice that what I do, I do with a good con-
science. After all that has been betwixt us I
ask for no more.'

' What more could the best of men ask

* I, who am far from making any claim to
rank with such '

* I am glad to know it,' interjected Dorothy.

' am yet capable of hoping that an eye

at once keener and kinder than yours may see
conscience at the very root of the actions which
you, Dorothy, will doubtless most condemn.'

Was this the boy she had despised for in-
difference ?

Love and War. . 129

* Was it conscience drove you to sprain my
cousin Rowland's knee ? ' she asked.

Richard was silent for a moment. The sting
was too cruel.

' Pray hesitate not to say so, if such be your
conviction,' added Dorothy.

* No,' replied Richard, recovering himself.
* I trust it is not such a serious matter as you
say ; but any how it was not conscience but
jealousy and anger that drove me to that wrong.'

* Did you see the action such at the time ? '

' No, surely ; else I would not have been
guilty of that for which I am truly sorry now.'

* Then, perhaps, the day will come when,
looking back on what you do now, you will
regard it with the like disapprobation. — God
grant it may ! ' she added, with a deep sigh.

' That can hardly be, mistress Dorothy. I.
am, in the matters to which you refer, under the
influence of no passion, no jealousy, no self-
seeking, no '

' Perhaps a deeper search might discover in
you each and all of the bosom-sins you so
stoutly abjure,' interrupted Dorothy. ' But it is
needless for you to defend yourself to me ; I am
not your judge.*


1 30 Si. George and St. Michael.

' So much the better for me ! ' returned
Richard ; ' I should else have an unjust as well
as severe one. I, on my part, hope the day
may come when you will find something to
repent of in such harshness towards an old
friend whom you choose to think in the wrong.*

' Richard Hey wood, God is my witness it is
no choice of mine. I have no choice : what
else is there to think ? I know well enough
what you and your father are about. But there
is nothing save my own conscience and my
mother's love I would not part with to be able
to believe you honourably right in your own eyes
— not in mine — God forbid ! That can never
be — not until fair is foul and foul is fair.'

So saying, she held out her hand.

* God be between thee and rne, Dorothy ! '
said Richard, with solemnity, as he took it in

He spoke with a voice that seemed to him
far away and not his own. Until now he had
never realized the idea of a final separation
between him and Dorothy ; and even now, he
could hardly believe she was in earnest, but
felt, rather, like a child whose nurse threatens
to forsake him on the dark road, and who

Love and War. 1 3 1

begins to weep only from the pitiful imagina-
tion of the thing, and not any actual fear of her
carrying the threat Into execution. The idea
of retaining her love by ceasing to act on his
convictions — the very possibility of it — had
never crossed the horizon of his thoughts.
Had it come to him as the merest Intellectual
notion, he would have perceived at once, of such
a loyal stock did he come, and so loyal had he
himself been to truth all his days, that to act
upon her convictions instead of his own would
have been to widen a gulf at least measurable,
to one infinite and impassable.

She withdrew the hand which had solemnly
pressed his, and left the room. For a moment
he stood gazing after her. Even in that
moment, the vague fear that she would not
come again grew to a plain conviction, and
forcibly repressing the misery that rose in
bodily presence from his heart to his throat, he
left the house, hurried down the pleached alley
to the old sun-dial, threw himself on the grass
under the yews, and wept and longed for war.

But war was not to be just yet. Autumn
withered and sank into winter. The rain came
down on the stubble, and the red cattle waded

132 St Geo7^ge and St. Michael,

through red mire to and from their pasture ; the
skies grew pale above, and the earth grew bare
beneath ; the winds grew sharp and seemed
unfriendly ; the brooks ran foaming to the
rivers, and the rivers ran roaring to the ocean.
Then the earth dried a little, and the frost came
and swelled and hardened it ; the snow fell and

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldSt. George and St. Michael (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 14)