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Chapter 3

  • The Sieur Lascelles looked round him in that dim cave.
  • 'Ho!' he said, 'this place stinks,' and he pulled from his pocket a dried an_hrivelled orange-peel purse stuffed with cloves and ginger. 'Ho!' he said t_he cornet that was come behind him with the Queen's horsemen. 'Come not i_ere. This will breed a plague amongst your men!' and he added—
  • 'Did I not tell you my sister was ill-housed?'
  • 'Well, I was not prepared against this,' the cornet said. He was a man with _rizzling beard that had little patience away from the Court, where he had _ottle that he loved and a crony or two that he played all day at chequer_ith, except when the Queen rode out; then he was of her train. He did no_ome over the sill, but spoke sharply to his men.
  • 'Ungird not here,' he said. 'We will go farther.' For some of them were fo_etting their pikes against the mud wall and casting their swords and heav_ottle-belts on to the table before the door. The old man in the armchai_egan suddenly to prattle to them all—of a horse-thief that had bee_ismembered and then hanged in pieces thirty years before. The cornet looke_t him for a moment and said—
  • 'Sir, you are this woman's father-in-law, I do think. Have you aught to repor_gainst her?' He bent in at the door, holding his nose. The old man babbled o_ne Pease-Cod Noll that had no history to speak of but a swivel eye.
  • 'Well,' the grizzled cornet said, 'I shall get little sense here.' He turne_pon Mary Hall.
  • 'Mistress,' he said, 'I have a letter here from the Queen's High Grace,' and, whilst he fumbled in his belt to find a little wallet that held the letter, h_poke on: 'But I misdoubt you cannot read. Therefore I shall tell you th_ueen's High Grace commandeth you to come into her service—or not, as th_eport of your character shall be. But at any rate you shall come to th_astle.'
  • Mary Hall could find no words for men of condition, so long she had been ou_f the places where such are found. She swallowed in her throat and held he_reast over her heart.
  • 'Where is the village here?' the cornet said, 'or what justice is there tha_an write you a character under his seal?'
  • She made out to say that there was no village, all the neighbourhood havin_een hanged. A half-mile from there there was the house of Sir Nichola_hrockmorton, a justice. From the house-end he might see it, or he might hav_ hind to guide him. But he would have no guide; he would have no man nor mai_or child to go from there to the justice's house. He set one soldier to guar_he back door and one the front, that none came out nor went beyond the dyke- end.
  • 'Neither shall you go, Sir Lascelles,' he said.
  • 'Well, give me leave with my sister to walk this knoll,' Lascelles said good- humouredly. 'We shall not corrupt the grass blades to bear false witness of m_ister's chastity.'
  • 'Ay, you may walk upon this mound,' the cornet answered. Having got out th_acket of the Queen's letter, he girded up his belt again.
  • 'You will get you ready to ride with me,' he said to Mary Hall. 'For I wil_ot be in these marshes after nightfall, but will sleep at Shrimpton Inn.'
  • He looked around him and added—
  • 'I will have three of your geese to take with us,' he said. 'Kill me the_resently.'
  • Lascelles looked after him as he strode away round the house with the lon_aces of a stiff horseman.
  • 'Before God,' he laughed, 'that is one way to have information about a quean.
  • Now are we prisoners whilst he inquires after your character.'
  • 'Oh, alack!' Mary Hall said, and she cast up her hands.
  • 'Well, we are prisoners till he come again,' her brother said good-humouredly.
  • 'But this is a foul hole. Come out into the sunlight.'
  • She said—
  • 'If you are with them, they cannot come to take me prisoner.'
  • He looked her full in the eyes with his own that twinkled inscrutably. He sai_ery slowly—
  • 'Were your mar-locks and prinking-prankings so very evil at the ol_uchess's?'
  • She grew white: she shrank away as if he had threatened her with his fist.
  • 'The Queen's Highness was such a child,' she said. 'She cannot remember. _ave lived very godly since.'
  • 'I will do what I can to save you,' he said. 'Let me hear about it, as, bein_risoners, we may never come off.'
  • 'You!' she cried out. 'You who stole my wedding portion!'
  • He laughed deviously.
  • 'Why, I have laid it up so well for you that you may wed a knight now if yo_o my bidding. I was ever against your wedding Hall.'
  • 'You lie!' she said. 'You gar'd me do it.'
  • The maids were peeping out of the cellar, whither they had fled.
  • 'Come upon the grass,' he said. 'I will not be heard to say more than this: that you and I stand and fall together like good sister and goodly brother.'
  • Their faces differed only in that hers was afraid and his smiling as h_hought of new lies to tell her. Her face in her hood, pale beneath it_eathering, approached the colour of his that shewed the pink and white o_ndoors. She came very slowly near him, for she was dazed. But when she wa_lmost at the sill he caught her hand and drew it beneath his elbow.
  • 'Tell me truly,' she said, 'shall I see the Court or a prison?… But you canno_peak truth, nor ever could when we were tiny twins. God help me: last Sunda_ had the mind to wed my yard-man. I would become such a liar as thou to com_way from here.'
  • 'Sister,' he said, 'this I tell you most truly: that this shall fall ou_ccording as you obey me and inform me'; and, because he was a little th_aller, he leaned over her as they walked away together.
  • On the fourth day from then they were come to the great wood that is to sout_nd east of the castle of Pontefract. Here Lascelles, who had ridden much wit_is sister, forsook her and went ahead of the slow and heavy horses of tha_roop of men. The road was broadened out to forty yards of green turf betwee_he trees, for this was a precaution against ambushes of robbers. Across th_oad, after he had ridden alone for an hour and a half, there was a guard o_our men placed. And here, whilst he searched for his pass to come within th_imits of the Court, he asked what news, and where the King was.
  • It was told him that the King lay still at the Fivefold Vents, two days'
  • progress from the castle, and as it chanced that a verderer's pricker came ou_f the wood where he had been to mark where the deer lay for to-morrow'_illing, Lascelles bade this man come along with him for a guide.
  • 'Sir, ye cannot miss the way,' the pricker said surlily. 'I have my deer t_atch.'
  • 'I will have you to guide me,' Lascelles said, 'for I little know thes_arts.'
  • 'Well,' the pricker answered him, 'it is true that I have not often seen yo_ide a-hawking.'
  • Whilst they went along the straight road, Lascelles, who unloosened th_oodman's tongue with a great drink of sherry-sack, learned that it was sai_hat only very unwillingly did the King lie so long at the Fivefold Vents. Fo_n the morrow there was to be driven by, up there, a great herd of moor stag_nd maybe a wolf or two. The King would be home with his wife, it wa_eported, but the younger lords had been so importunate with him to stay an_bide this gallant chase and great slaughter that, they having ridden loyall_ith him, he had yielded to their prayers and stayed there—twenty-four hours, it was said.
  • 'Why, you know a great deal,' Lascelles answered.
  • 'We who stand and wait had needs have knowledge,' the woodman said, 'for w_ave little else.'
  • 'Aye, 'tis a hard service,' Lascelles said. 'Did you see the Queen's Highnes_' Thursday week borrow a handkerchief of Sir Roger Pelham to lure her falco_ack?'
  • 'That did not I,' the woodman answered, 'for o' Thursday week it was a fros_nd the Queen rode not out.'
  • 'Well, it was o' Saturday,' Lascelles said.
  • 'Nor was it yet o' Saturday,' the woodman cried; 'I will swear it. For o'
  • Saturday the Queen's Highness shot with the bow, and Sir Roger Pelham, as al_en know, fell with his horse on Friday, and lies up still.'
  • 'Then it was Sir Nicholas Rochford,' Lascelles persisted.
  • 'Sir,' the woodman said, 'you have a very wrong tale, and patent it is tha_ittle you ride a-hunting.'
  • 'Well, I mind my book,' Lascelles said. 'But wherefore?'
  • 'Sir,' the woodman answered, 'it is thus: The Queen when she rides a-hawkin_as always behind her her page Toussaint, a little boy. And this little bo_oldeth ever the separate lures for each hawk that the Queen setteth up. An_he falcon or hawk or genette or tiercel having stooped, the Queen will cal_pon that eyass for the lure appropriated to each bird as it chances. And ver_arefully the Queen's Highness observeth the laws of the chase, of venery an_awking. For the which I honour her.'
  • Lascelles said, 'Well, well!'
  • 'As for the borrowing of a handkerchief,' the woodman pursued, 'that is a ver_dle tale. For, let me tell you, a lady might borrow a jewelled feather or _carlet pouch or what not that is bright and shall take a bird's eye—a littl_irror upon a cord were a good thing. But a handkerchief! Why, Sir Bookman, that a lady can only do if she will signify to all the world: "This knight i_y servant and I his mistress." Those very words it signifieth—and that th_etter for it showeth that that lady is minded to let her hawk go, luring th_entleman to her with that favour of his.'
  • 'Well, well,' Lascelles said, 'I am not so ignorant that I did not know that.
  • Therefore I asked you, for it seemed a very strange thing.'
  • 'It is a very foolish tale and very evil,' the man answered. 'For this I wil_wear: that the Queen's Highness—and I and her honour for it—observeth ver_ealously the laws of wood and moorland and chase.'
  • 'So I have heard,' Lascelles said. 'But I see the castle. I will not take yo_arther, but will let you go back to the goodly deer.'
  • 'Pray God they be not wandered fore,' the woodman said. 'You could have foun_his way without me.'
  • There was but one road into the castle, and that from the south, up a stee_reen bank. Up the roadway Lascelles must ride his horse past four men tha_ore a litter made of two pikes wattled with green boughs and covered with _orse-cloth. As Lascelles passed by the very head of it, the man that la_here sprang off it to his feet, and cried out—
  • 'I be the Queen's cousin and servant. I brought her to the Court.' Lascelles'
  • horse sprang sideways, a great bound up the bank. He galloped ten paces ahea_efore the rider could stay him and turn round. The man, all rags and with _lack face, had fallen into the dust of the road, and still cried ou_utrageously. The bearers set down the litter, wiped their brows, and then, falling all four upon Culpepper, made to carry him by his legs and arms, fo_hey were weary of laying him upon the litter from which incessantly h_prang.
  • But before them upon his horse was Lascelles and impeded their way. Culpeppe_rew in and pushed out his legs and arms, so that they all four staggered, and—
  • 'For God's sake, master,' one of them grunted out, 'stand aside that we ma_ass. We have toil enow in bearing him.'
  • 'Why, set the poor gentleman down upon the litter,' Lascelles said, 'and le_s talk a little.'
  • The men set Culpepper on the horse-cloth, and one of them knelt down to hol_im there.
  • 'If you will lend us your horse to lay him across, we may come more easil_p,' one said. In these days the position and trade of a spy was so littl_steemed—it had been far other with the great informers of Privy Seal'_ay—that these men, being of the Queen's guard, would talk roughly t_ascelles, who was a mere poor gentleman of the Archbishop's if his othe_ocation could be neglected. Lascelles sat, his hand upon his chin.
  • 'You use him very roughly if this be the Queen's cousin,' he said.
  • The bearer set back his beard and laughed at the sky.
  • 'This is a coif—a poor rag of a merchant,' he cried out. 'If this were th_ueen's cousin should we bear him thus on a clout?'
  • 'I am the Queen's cousin, T. Culpepper,' Culpepper shouted at the sky. 'Who b_ou that stay me from her?'
  • 'Why, you may hear plainly,' the bearer said. 'He is mazed, doited, starved, thirsted, and a seer of visions.'
  • Lascelles pondered, his elbow upon his saddle-peak, his chin caught in hi_and.
  • 'How came ye by him?' he asked.
  • One with another they told him the tale, how, the Queen being ridden toward_he north parts, at the extreme end of her ride had seen the man, at _istance, among the heather, flogging a dead horse with a moorland kern besid_im. He was a robbed, parched, fevered, and amazed traveller. The Queen'_ighness, compassionating, had bidden bear him to the castle and comfort an_ure him, not having looked upon his face or heard his tongue. For, for sur_hen, she had let him die where he was; since, no sooner were these four, hi_ew bearers, nearly come up among the knee-deep heather, than this man ha_tarted up, his eyes upon the Queen's cavalcade and many at a distance. And, with his sword drawn and screaming, he had cried out that, if that was th_ueen, he was the Queen's cousin. They had tripped up his heels in a bed o_ing and quieted him with a clout on the poll from an axe end.
  • 'But now we have him here,' the eldest said; 'where we shall bestow him w_now not.'
  • Lascelles had his eyes upon the sick man's face as if it fascinated him, and, slowly, he got down from his horse. Culpepper then lay very still with hi_yes closed, but his breast heaved as though against tight and strong rope_hat bound him.
  • 'I think I do know this gentleman for one John Robb,' he said. 'Are you ver_ertain the Queen's Highness did not know his face?'
  • 'Why, she came not ever within a quarter mile of him,' the bearer said.
  • 'Then it is a great charity of the Queen to show mercy to a man she hath neve_een,' Lascelles answered absently. He was closely casting his eyes ove_ulpepper. Culpepper lay very still, his begrimed face to the sky, his hand_broad above his head. But when Lascelles bent over him it was as if h_huddered, and then he wept.
  • Lascelles bent down, his hands upon his knees. He was afraid—he was ver_fraid. Thomas Culpepper, the Queen's cousin, he had never seen in his life.
  • But he had heard it reported that he had red hair and beard, and went alway_ressed in green with stockings of red. And this man's hair was red, and hi_eard, beneath coal grime, was a curly red, and his coat, beneath a crust o_lack filth, was Lincoln green and of a good cloth. And, beneath the black, his stockings were of red silk. He reflected slowly, whilst the bearer_aughed amongst themselves at this Queen's kinsman in rags and filth.
  • Lascelles gave them his bottle of sack to drink empty among them, that h_ight have the longer time to think.
  • If this were indeed the Queen's cousin, come unknown to the Queen and maze_nd muddled in himself to Pontefract, what might not Lascelles make of him?
  • For all the world knew that he loved her with a mad love—he had sold farms t_uy her gowns. It was he that had brought her to Court, upon an ass, a_reenwich, when her mule—as all men knew—had stumbled upon the threshold. Onc_efore, it was said, Culpepper had burst in with his sword drawn upon the Kin_nd Kate Howard when they sat together. And Lascelles trembled with eagernes_t the thought of what use he might not make of this mad and insolent lover o_he Queen's!
  • But did he dare?
  • Culpepper had been sent into Scotland to secure him up, away at the farthes_imits of the realm. Then, if he was come back? This grime was the grime of _ea-coal ship! He knew that men without passports, outlaws and the like, escaped from Scotland on the Durham ships that went to Leith with coal. An_his man came on the Durham road. Then… .
  • If it were Culpepper he had come unpermitted. He was an outlaw. Dare Lascelle_ave trade with—dare he harbour—an outlaw? It would be unbeknown to th_ueen's Highness! He kicked his heels with impatience to come to a resolution.
  • He reflected swiftly:
  • What hitherto he had were: some tales spread abroad about the Queen's lew_ourt—tales in London Town. He had, too, the keeper of the Queen's door bribe_nd talked into his service and interest. And he had his sister… .
  • His sister would, with threatening, tell tales of the Queen before marriage.
  • And she would find him other maids and grooms, some no doubt more willin_till than Mary Hall. But the keeper of the Queen's door! And, in addition, the Queen's cousin mad of love for her! What might he not do with these two?
  • The prickly sweat came to his forehead. Four horsemen were issuing from th_ate of the castle above. He must come to a decision. His fingers trembled a_f they were a pickpocket's near a purse of gold.
  • He straightened his back and stood erect.
  • 'Yes,' he said very calmly, 'this is my friend John Robb.'
  • He added that this man had been in Edinburgh where the Queen's cousin was. H_ad had letters from him that told how they were sib and rib. Thus this fanc_ad doubtless come into his brain at sight of the Queen in his madness.
  • He breathed calmly, having got out these words, for now the doubt was ended.
  • He would have both the Queen's door-keeper and the Queen's mad lover.
  • He bade the bearers set Culpepper upon his horse and, supporting him, lead hi_o a room that he would hire of the Archbishop's chamberlain, near his own i_he dark entrails of the castle. And there John Robb should live at hi_xpenses.
  • And when the men protested that, though this was very Christian of Lascelles, yet they would have recompense of the Queen for their toils, he said that h_imself would give them a crown apiece, and they might get in addition wha_ecompense from the Queen's steward that they could. He asked them each thei_ames and wrote them down, pretending that it was that he might send each ma_is crown piece.
  • So, when the four horsemen were ridden past, the men hoisted Culpepper int_ascelles' horse and went all together up into the castle.
  • But, that night, when Culpepper lay in a stupor, Lascelles went to th_rchbishop's chamberlain and begged that four men, whose names he had writte_own, might be chosen to go in the Archbishop's paritor's guard that went nex_awn to Ireland over the sea to bring back tithes from Dublin. And, next day, he had Culpepper moved to another room; and, in three days' time, he set i_bout in the castle that the Queen's cousin was come from Scotland. By tha_ime most of the liquor had come down out of Culpepper's brain, but he wa_till muddled and raved at times.