"I need not have told you this, but I would not deceive you—I have led a wild sort of a life, and I used to laugh at it; but somehow, since I have beheld the place of my boyhood, I would give back all the lawless freedom of the seas, and all the money-making traffic of the land, to be what I was when I left this spot—but this is all foolish talking; what is past is gone and cannot be helped.""Be brief, Sir Blacksmith," replied the Baron, surprised at the abrupt question, "be brief with whatever you have to say.""You have made him a freeman since then?" inquired Sir Robert. 一分幸运28咋玩 "Madam," said Sudbury, with some heat, "his grace has so determined; and, moreover, contrary to the advice of his noble cousins and councillors, he will go down the river and parley with the villeins!""What means this, Stephen Holgrave?" asked the baron impatiently."Aye, Master," said another, "he is laid up but I fear he has forgot the shrieving. However, he will never again say guilty or not guilty in a jury-box, or kiss the book in justification of bail!""Enough! Tom Merritt, this is no place for an honest man. I was to have gone in a few days, but when this night's job is done, I shall just pack up all I can get together into a cart, and let the black fiend, or his imp, Calverley, take the rest. Aye! with my wife, the boy, and Will, I shall be out of Gloucester before sun-rise—and the sooner the better. But now let us talk of the rescue. How many honest hands can you get among the town's folk?""What, my lieges!" he exclaimed, with a smile of confidence, "are ye angry that your leader is slain? Richard of England shall supply his place—follow me to the field and ye shall have what ye desire!" Byles looked at Calverley for an instant, perfectly astonished at his condescension.The apartment was so densely filled, that the door had opened, while this conversation passed without attracting the least attention; but Wells, who bethought him that the minutes were flitting, found a passage for himself, and, approaching the table, placed a stool that he took from behind one who had relinquished it, in order that not a word that fell from Jack Straw should escape him, and, mounting upon it, shouted out at the top of his voice—"By the green wax!" said he, "you seem to think lightly of Black Jack's promises! What! you would bribe me to betray their secrets, would you? One never thinks of doing well, but some temptation is sure to come across.—Come, come, give me the money—I shall think of what you have said another time.—Come, come, I can hardly speak for very drought!""'Tis the fiend Calverley, or one of his imps," exclaimed Holgrave, springing forward to the broken wall; but if any object had really presented itself, it had, in a singular manner, disappeared—for Holgrave, after a few minutes of anxious search, returned without having discovered the trace of a human being."Did you accompany her home?" "They lie, Master Neville! Bring them here, and I will maintain, in combat against them both, that they have sworn falsely.""Know you any retainer of yours who could have written this?""Robbers! Master Tyler, no—no—it is one thing to rob, and another to repay yourself, if the chance comes in your way, if you have been cheated." "Madam," said Sudbury, with some heat, "his grace has so determined; and, moreover, contrary to the advice of his noble cousins and councillors, he will go down the river and parley with the villeins!"CHAPTER VII."Stephen Holgrave!" cried the devotee, jumping up, "what brings you here at such an hour?""My mother! what know you of her?""My Lord de Boteler, and you noble sir, and fair dames—it may seem strange that an old woman like me should speak for a man of my son's years; but, in truth, he is better able to defend himself with his arm than his tongue." 一分幸运28咋玩 He returned home gloomy and discontented; and, as he stood by the bed of the pallid Margaret, and inquired of her health, there was nothing of the tender solicitude with which he used to address her, in his manner or in his voice. In the motley crowd, of nearly sixty thousand men, the most conspicuous figure was, perhaps, John Leicester himself, cased in a complete suit of steel armour, (taken as lawful spoil from some castle in the route) waving in the sun a bright Damascus scimitar, while he gave directions, in an authoritative tone, to a peasant who was unloosing the trappings of a large black horse, from which Leicester had just alighted. Standing at a short distance from him, John Oakley, otherwise Jack Straw, formed an adjunct little less important in the picturesque of the scene. Unwilling to incumber himself with armour, his portly person was defended by a leathern jack, covered over with a thick quilting of crimson silk, dagger proof; and in this guise, he contrasted well with the monk clad in dark woollen, with whom he was engaged in conversation—although turning every now and then, his large blue eyes towards a tempting display of eatables and wine profusely spread under the shade of a tree. A cluster of formidable-looking men in tough leathern jacks, were laying aside their hand-bills and swords and dividing the contents of a large satchel. There was a group variously armed and accoutred, some wearing the shirt of mail with the yew-tree bow in their hands and quivers of arrows at their backs; and others in doublets of leather or freize, with swords, some rusty and some bright, or staves, or sharp-pointed clubs, or reaping hooks, or wood-knives.But lo! when Calverley's prison door was opened, for the purpose of conducting him to the hall, he was not to be found! It was to no purpose that the baron stormed and threatened, no trace of Calverley could be discovered; but John Byles was brought forward, and, upon being confronted with his own servitor, and promised that if he made a full disclosure, the punishment of the crime should be remitted, he confessed all with which the reader was made acquainted in the early part of the tale. The question of poisoning was then put, but Byles had cunning enough to remember that no one was privy to this but Calverley, and as it might peril Mary's life, he stoutly denied all knowledge of the matter. Mary Byles, who had also been kept in durance, was then introduced, but she was more collected than on the preceding evening, and would admit nothing. She knew not any thing of the buck—and she could say nothing more respecting the poisoning than she had already said at Gloucester, and the supposition of Edith's innocence, was compelled to rest upon the servitor's oath, who swore that he had heard Mary say, on the evening she returned from Gloucester, what Sir Robert had repeated. This, coupled with the circumstance that, together with the poisoning, Mary had denied what her husband had admitted, and what could not have happened without her knowledge, brought sufficiently conclusive evidence to convince every one that Edith had died a martyr to Mary's cruelty or carelessness."Yes, Isabella; but, by my faith, it seems they are such sturdy knaves in that forest, that even the promise of reward has no effect upon them.""Indeed, noble lady," replied Margaret, "the gloves cost but little—Edith, here, my husband's mother, knitted them, and I have striven to ornament them." "By the green wax!" said he, "you seem to think lightly of Black Jack's promises! What! you would bribe me to betray their secrets, would you? One never thinks of doing well, but some temptation is sure to come across.—Come, come, give me the money—I shall think of what you have said another time.—Come, come, I can hardly speak for very drought!""Stop;" said the baron, "the knave surrenders. Base-born churl, how dare you oppose my commands?" It was in vain, however, that Isabella promised, implored, and even threatened; John Ball would not vouchsafe another reply, and the baroness, at length, wearied and indignant, arose, turned abruptly from the monk, and summoning her attendants, hastened forth to her own apartment, and there, throwing herself in a chair, wept and sobbed until her heart was in a measure relieved."No—I have enough to think of, without troubling my head about news!""Leave it to me—I fear not the dead—though if the old woman started from the grave, she could owe me no good will. Would you lend a hand if this Calverley should bear down upon us?""Yes," replied Holgrave; "and enough too, I think, for any reasonable man at one time."Holgrave answered carelessly, and without looking at the smith, continued his work. 一分幸运28咋玩 "Hear you, my Lord de Boteler, that I, Stephen Holgrave, from this day forth, unto you shall be true and faithful, and shall owe you fealty for the land which I may hold of you in villeinage, and shall be justified by you both in body and goods, so——"As the baron had promised not to punish, Byles and his wife were dismissed unharmed; but from that hour forward, they were regarded by all as under ban, and therefore shunned as much as possible. We should premise, however, that before Byles was permitted to leave the hall, Stephen Holgrave was led in, that he might receive a public acquittal. When Holgrave entered, supported by one of the servitors, and, appearing unable to stand, was seated on a stool, Sir Robert Knowles, who had more than once taken a strong interest in him, started up, and was about to make some observation; but recollecting himself, he resumed his seat, and remained silent. De Boteler himself felt a glow of shame and a qualm of conscience, as he looked upon the white, swollen face, and bent and shrunken form of one who had, in the moment of peril, sprung, with the vigour and ferocity of the tiger, between him and death. Holgrave had not been informed why the agonizing punishment had been remitted, nor why he had been placed in a comfortable bed, and every attention paid him; and he only suspected that, perceiving severity could effect nothing, they were unwilling to lose their victim, and wished again to try the effect of a milder treatment. His suspicions seemed confirmed, when, upon an order from De Boteler, a page approached, and presented him with a cup of wine. Although, as we have said, suspecting the motive of so much indulgence, he drank the wine, and then, looking round the hall, wondered why there had been such a gathering of the vassals, and why their looks were bent upon him with such friendly interest, and why words of pity and triumph were murmured amongst them; then he wondered why Jack Straw was sitting in Calverley's place, and what fault John Byles and his wife had committed, that they stood there like criminals. These thoughts, however, had scarcely passed through his mind, when the baron addressed him in a gentle tone. "It is of no consequence who I am: and as to this mask, why! a man can work as well with it as without it."That afternoon De Boteler, throwing a plain dark cloak over his rich dress, left the castle, took the path that led to Holgrave's abode, and raising the latch, entered the cottage."For what purpose, then?""Aye, aye," said Harvey, with some shew of courage; "we don't mind, unless the odds are against us, and in that case, you know, we must retreat.""It may be so," answered Byles, doubtfully; "keep in the shade of the trees, and let us stop awhile—I do not much like this light." They watched the cottage anxiously, and, in about twenty minutes, the light disappeared.