For a moment Charles seemed thoughtful as though Enderby's reasons
appealed to him but Lord Rippingdale had now the chance which for ten
years he had invited and he would not let it pass.
"The honour which his Majesty offers my good Lincolnshire squire is
more to your children than the few loaves and fishes which you might
leave them. We all know how miserly John Enderby has grown."
Lord Rippingdale had touched the tenderest spot in the King's mind. His
vanity was no less than his impecuniosity and this was the third time in
one day he had been defeated in his efforts to confer an honour and
exact a price beyond all reason for that honour. The gentlemen he had
sought had found business elsewhere and were not to be seen when his
messengers called at their estates. It was not the King's way to give
anything for nothing. Some of these gentlemen had been benefited by the
draining of the Holland fens which the King had undertaken reserving a
stout portion of the land for himself; but John Enderby benefited
nothing for his estates lay further north and near the sea not far
from the town of Mablethorpe. He had paid all the taxes which the King
had levied and had not murmured beyond his own threshold.
He spoke his mind with candour and to him the King was still a man to
whom the truth was to be told with directness which was the highest
honour one man might show another.
"Rank treason!" repeated Lord Rippingdale loudly. "Enderby has been in
bad company your Majesty. If you are not wholly with the King you are
against him. 'He that is not with me is against me and he that
gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.'"
A sudden anger seized the King and turning he set foot in the stirrup
muttering something to himself which boded no good for John Enderby.
A gentleman held the stirrup while he mounted and with Lord Rippingdale
beside him in the saddle he turned and spoke to Enderby. Self-will and
resentment were in his tone. "Knight of Enderby we have made you" he
said "and Knight of Enderby you shall remain. Look to it that you pay
the fees for the accolade."
"Your Majesty" said Enderby reaching out his hand in protest "I will
not have this greatness you would thrust upon me. Did your Majesty need
and speak to me as one gentleman to another in his need then would I
part with the last inch of my land; but to barter my estate for a gift
that I have no heart nor use for--your Majesty I cannot do it."
The hand of the King twisted in his bridle-rein and his body stiffened
"See to it my Lord Rippingdale" he said "that our knight here pays to
the last penny for the courtesy of the accolade. You shall levy upon his
"We are both gentlemen your Majesty and my rights within the law are no
less than your Majesty's" said Enderby stoutly.
"The gentleman forgets that the King is the fountain of all law" said
Lord Rippingdale obliquely to the King.
"We will make one new statute for this stubborn knight" said Charles;
"even a writ of outlawry. His estates shall be confiscate to the Crown.
Go seek a King and country better suited to your tastes our rebel Knight
"I am still an Enderby of Enderby and a man of Lincolnshire your
Majesty" answered the squire as the King rode towards Boston church
where presently he should pray after this fashion with his subjects there
"Most heartily we beseech Thee with Thy favour to behold our most
gracious sovereign King Charles. Endue him plenteously with
Heavenly gifts; grant him in health and wealth long to live;
strengthen him that he may vanquish and overcome all his enemies;
and finally after this life he may attain everlasting joy and
With a heavy heart Enderby turned homewards; that is towards Mablethorpe
upon the coast which lies between Saltfleet Haven and Skegness two
ports that are places of mark in the history of the kingdom as all the
He had never been so vexed in his life. It was not so much anger against
the King for he had great reverence for the monarchy of England; but
against Lord Rippingdale his mind was violent. Years before in a
quarrel between the Earl of Lindsey and Lord Rippingdale upon a public
matter which Parliament settled afterwards he had sided with the Earl of
Lindsey. The two Earls had been reconciled afterwards but Lord
Rippingdale had never forgiven Enderby.
In Enderby's brain ideas worked somewhat heavily; but to-day his
slumberous strength was infused with a spirit of action and the warmth of
a pervasive idea. There was no darkness in his thoughts but his pulse
beat heavily and he could hear the veins throbbing under his ear
impetuously. Once or twice as he rode on in the declining afternoon he
muttered to himself. Now it was: "My Lord Rippingdale indeed!" or "Not
even for a King!" or "Sir John Enderby forsooth! Sir John Enderby
forsooth!" Once again he spoke reining in his horse beside a tall cross
at four corners near Stickford by the East Fen. Taking off his hat he
"Thou just God do Thou judge between my King and myself. Thou knowest
that I have striven as an honest gentleman to do right before all men.
When I have seen my sin oh Lord I have repented! Now I have come upon
perilous times the gins are set for my feet. Oh Lord establish me in
true strength! Not for my sake do I ask that Thou wilt be with me and
Thy wisdom comfort me but for the sake of my good children. Wilt Thou
spare my life in these troubles until they be well formed; till the lad
have the bones of a man and the girl the wise thought of a woman--for
she hath no mother to shield and teach her. And if this be a wrong
prayer my God forgive it: for I am but a blundering squire whose
tongue tells lamely what his heart feels."
His head was bowed over his horse's neck his face turned to the cross
his eyes were shut and he did not notice the strange and grotesque
figure that suddenly appeared from among the low bushes by the fen near
It was an odd creature perched upon stilts; one of those persons called
the stilt-walkers. They were no friends of the King nor of the Earl of
Lindsey nor of my Lord Rippingdale for the draining of these fens took
from them their means of living. They were messengers postmen and
carriers across the wide stretch of country from Spilsby even down to
the river Witham and from Boston Deep down to Market Deeping and over to
the sea. Since these fens were drained one might travel from Market
Deeping to the Wolds without wetting a foot.
"Aw'll trooble thee a moment maister" said the peasant. "A stilt-
walker beant nowt i' the woorld. Howsome'er aw've a worrd to speak i'
Enderby reined in his horse and with a nod of complaisance (for he was a
man ever kind to the poor and patient with those who fared ill in the
world) he waited for the other to speak.
"Thoo'rt the great Enderby of Enderby maister" said the peasant
ducking his head and then putting on his cap; "aw've known thee sin tha
wast no bigger nor a bit grass'opper i' the field. Wilt tha ride long
Sir John Enderby and aw'll walk aside thee ma grey nag with thy
sorrel." He glanced down humorously at his own long wooden legs.
Enderby turned his horse round and proceeded on his way slowly the old
man striding along beside him like a stork.
"Why do you dub me Knight?" he asked his eyes searching the face of the
"Why shouldna aw call thee Knight if the King calls thee Knight? It is
the dooty of a common man to call thee Sir John and tak off his hat at
saying o' it." His hat came off and he nodded in such an odd way that
Enderby burst out into a good honest laugh. "Dooth tha rememba little
Tom Dowsby that went hoonting wi' thee when tha wert not yet come to
age?" continued the stilt-walker. "Doost tha rememba when for a jest
thee and me stopped the lord bishop tha own uncle in the highway at
midnight and took his poorse from him and the rich gold chain from his
neck? And doost tha rememba that tha would have his apron too for tha
said that if it kept a bishop clean wouldna it keep highwaymen clean
whose work was not so clean as a bishop's? Sir John Enderby aw loove
thee better than the King an' aw loove thee better than my Lord
Rippin'dale-ay theere's a sour heart in a goodly body!"
John Enderby reined up his horse and looked the stilt-walker in the face.
"Are you little Tom Dowsby?" exclaimed he. "Are you that scamp?" He
laughed all at once as though he had not a trouble in the world. "And do
you keep up your evil practices? Do you still waylay bishops?"
"If aw confessed to Heaven or man aw would confess to thee Sir John
Enderby; but aw'll confess nowt."
"And how know you that I am Sir John Enderby?"
"Even in Sleaford town aw kem to know it. Aw stood no further from his
Majesty and Lord Rippin'dale than aw stand from you when the pair talked
by the Great Boar inn. Where doos tha sleep to-night?"
"To-night the King sleeps at Sutterby on the Wolds. 'Tis well for thee
tha doost not bide wi' his Majesty. Theer aw've done thee a service."
"What service have you done me?"
"Aw've told thee that tha moost sleep by Spilsby when the King sleeps at
Sutterby. Fare-thee-well maister."
Doffing his cap once more the stilt-walker suddenly stopped and
turning aside made his way with an almost incredible swiftness across
the fen taking the ditches with huge grotesque strides. Enderby looked
back and watched him for a moment curiously. Suddenly the man's words
began to repeat themselves in Enderby's head: "To-night the King sleeps
at Sutterby on the Wolds. 'Tis well for thee tha doost not bide wi' his
Majesty." Presently a dozen vague ideas began to take form. The man had
come to warn him not to join the King at Sutterby.
There was some plot against Charles! These stiltwalkers were tools in
the hands of the King's foes who were growing more powerful every day.
He would sleep to-night not at Spilsby but at Sutterby. He was a loyal
subject; no harm that he could prevent should come to the King.
Before you come to Sutterby on the Wolds as you travel north to the
fenland there is a combe through which the highway passes and a stream
which has on one side many rocks and boulders and on the other a sort of
hedge of trees and shrubs. It was here that the enemies of the King
that is some stilt-walkers with two dishonourable gentlemen who had
suffered from the King's oppressions placed themselves to way lay his
Majesty. Lord Rippingdale had published it abroad that the King's route
was towards Horncastle but at Stickney by the fens the royal party
separated most of the company passing on to Horncastle while Charles
Lord Rippingdale and two other cavaliers proceeded on a secret visit to a
gentleman at Louth.
It was dark when the King and his company came to the combe. Lord
Rippingdale suggested to his Majesty that one of the gentlemen should
ride ahead to guard against surprise or ambush but the King laughed
and said that his shire of Lincoln bred no brigands and he rode on.
He was in the coach with a gentleman beside him and Lord Rippingdale
rode upon the right. Almost as the hoofs of the leaders plunged into the
stream there came the whinny of a horse from among the boulders.
Alarmed the coachman whipped up his team and Lord Rippingdale clapped
his hand upon his sword.
Even as he did it two men sprang out from among the rocks seized the
horses' heads and a dozen others swarmed round all masked and armed
and calling upon the King's party to surrender and to deliver up their
valuables. One ruffian made to seize the bridle of Lord Rippingdale's
horse but my lord's sword severed the fellow's hand at the wrist.
"Villain" he shouted "do you know whom you attack?"
For answer shots rang out; and as the King's gentlemen gathered close to
the coach to defend him the King himself opened the door and stepped
out. As he did so a stilt struck him on the head. Its owner had aimed
it at Lord Rippingdale; but as my lord's horse plunged it missed him
and struck the King fair upon the crown of the head. He swayed groaned
and fell back into the open door of the coach. Lord Rippingdale was at
once beside him sword drawn and fighting gallantly.
"Scoundrels" he cried "will you kill your King?"
"We will have the money which the King carries" cried one of his
assailants. "The price of three knighthoods and the taxes of two shires
we will have."
One of the King's gentlemen had fallen and another was wounded. Lord
Rippingdale was hard pressed but in what seemed the last extremity of
the King and his party there came a shout from the other side of the
"God save the King! For the King! For the King!"
A dozen horsemen splashed their way across the stream and with swords
and pistols drove through the King's assailants and surrounded his coach.
The ruffians made an attempt to rally and resist the onset but presently
broke and ran pursued by a half-dozen of his Majesty's defenders. Five
of the assailants were killed and several were wounded.
As Lord Rippingdale turned to Charles to raise him the coach-door was
opened upon the other side a light was thrust in and over the
unconscious body of the King my lord recognised John Enderby.
"His Majesty"--began John Enderby.
"His Majesty is better" replied Lord Rippingdale as the King's eyes
half opened. "You lead these gentlemen? This should bring you a
barony--Sir John" my lord added half graciously half satirically; for
the honest truth of this man's nature vexed him. "The King will thank
"John Enderby wants no reward for being a loyal subject my lord"
Then with another glance at the King in which he knew that his Majesty
was recovered he took off his hat bowed and mounting his horse rode
away without a word.
At Sutterby the gentlemen received gracious thanks of the King who had
been here delivered from the first act of violence made against him in
Of the part which Enderby had played Lord Rippingdale said no more to the
King than this:
"Sir John Enderby was of these gentlemen who saved your Majesty's life.
Might it not seem to your Majesty that--"
"Was he of them?" interrupted the King kindly; then all at once out of
his hurt vanity and narrow self-will he added petulantly: "When he hath
paid for the accolade of his knighthood then will we welcome him to us
and make him Baron of Enderby."
Next day when Enderby entered the great iron gates of the grounds of
Enderby House the bell was ringing for noon. The house was long and low
with a fine tower in the centre and two wings ran back forming the
court-yard which would have been entirely inclosed had the stables moved
up to complete the square.
When Enderby came out into the broad sweep of grass and lawn flanked on
either side by commendable trees the sun shining brightly the rooks
flying overhead and the smell of ripe summer in the air he drew up his
horse and sat looking before him.
"To lose it! To lose it!" he said and a frown gathered upon his
Even as he looked the figure of a girl appeared in the great doorway.
Catching sight of the horseman she clapped her hands and waved them
Enderby's face cleared as the sun breaks through a mass of clouds and
lightens all the landscape. The slumberous eyes glowed the square head
came up. In five minutes he had dismounted at the great stone steps and
was clasping his daughter in his arms.
"Felicity my dear daughter!" he said tenderly and gravely.
She threw back her head with a gaiety which bespoke the bubbling laughter
in her heart and said:
"Booh! to thy solemn voice. Oh thou great bear dost thou love me with
tears in thine eyes?"
She took his hand and drew him inside the house where laying aside his
hat and gloves and sword they passed into the great library.
"Come now tell me all the places thou hast visited" she said perching
herself on his arm-chair.
He told her and she counted them off one by one upon her fingers.
"That is ninety miles of travel thou hast had. What is the most pleasing
thing thou hast seen?"
"It was in Stickford by the fen" he answered after a perplexed pause.
"There was an old man upon the roadside with his head bowed in his hands.
Some lads were making sport of him for he seemed so woe-begone and old.
Two cavaliers of the King came by. One of them stopped and drove the
lads away then going to the old man he said: 'Friend what is thy
trouble?' The old man raised his melancholy face and answered: 'Aw'm
afeared sir.' 'What fear you?' inquired the young gentleman. 'I fear ma
wife sir' replied the old man. At that the other cavalier sat back in
his saddle and guffawed merrily. 'Well Dick' said he to his friend
'that is the worst fear in this world. Ah Dick thou hast ne'er been
married!' 'Why do you fear your wife?' asked Dick. 'Aw've been robbed
of ma horse and saddle and twelve skeins o' wool. Aw'm lost aw'm
ruined and shall raise ma head nevermore. To ma wife aw shall ne'er
return.' 'Tut tut man' said Dick 'get back to your wife. You are
master of your own house; you rule the roost. What is a wife? A wife's
a woman. You are a man. You are bigger and stronger your bones are
harder. Get home and wear a furious face and batter in the door and say:
"What ho thou huzzy!" Why man fear you the wife of your bosom?'
The old man raised his head and said: 'Tha doost not know ma wife or tha
wouldst not speak like that.' At that Dick laughed and said: 'Fellow I
do pity thee;' and taking the old man by the shoulders he lifted him
on his own horse and took him to the village fair. There he bought him
twelve skeins of wool and sent him on his way rejoicing with a horse
worth five times his own."
With her chin in her hands the girl had listened intently to the story.
When it was finished she said: "What didst thou say was the gentleman's
"His friend called him Dick. He is a poor knight one Sir Richard
Mowbray of Leicester called at Court and elsewhere Happy Dick Mowbray
for they do say a happier and braver heart never wore the King's
"Indeed I should like to know that Sir Richard Mowbray. And tell me
now who is the greatest person thou hast seen in thy absence?"
"I saw the King--at Boston town."
"The King! The King!" Her eyes lightened her hands clapped merrily.
"What did he say to thee? Now now there is that dark light in thine
eyes again. I will not have it so!" With her thumbs she daintily drew
down the eyelids and opened them again. "There that's better. Now what
did the King say to thee?"
"He said to me that I should be Sir John Enderby of Enderby."
"A knight! A knight! He made thee a knight?" she asked gaily. She
slipped from his knee and courtesied before him then seeing the
heaviness of his look she added: "Booh Sir John Enderby why dost thou
look so grave? Is knighthood so big a burden thou dost groan under it?"
"Come here my lass" he said gently. "Thou art young but day by day
thy wisdom grows and I can trust thee. It is better thou shouldst know
from my own lips the peril this knighthood brings than that trouble
should suddenly fall and thou be unprepared."
Drawing her closely to him he told her the story of his meeting with the
King; of Lord Rippingdale; of the King's threat to levy upon his estates
and to issue a writ of outlawry against him.
For a moment the girl trembled and Enderby felt her hands grow cold in
his own for she had a quick and sensitive nature and passionate
intelligence and imagination.
"Father" she cried pantingly indignantly "the King would make thee an
outlaw would seize upon thy estates because thou wouldst not pay the
price of a paltry knighthood!" Suddenly her face flushed the blood came
back with a rush and she stood upon her feet. "I would follow thee to
the world's end rather than that thou shouldst pay one penny for that
honour. The King offered thee knighthood? Why two hundred years before
the King was born an Enderby was promised an earldom. Why shouldst thou
take a knighthood now? Thou didst right thou didst right." Her fingers
clasped in eager emphasis.