CHARLOTTE M. YONGE
CHAPTER I--AN EXPLOSION
It was a great pity so it was this villanous saltpetre should be
digg'd out of the bowels of the harmless earth.
SHAKESPEARE King Henry IV. Part I.
A terrible shriek rang through the great Manor-house of Amesbury. It
was preceded by a loud explosion and there was agony as well as
terror in the cry. Then followed more shrieks and screams some of
pain some of fright others of anger and recrimination. Every one
in the house ran together to the spot whence the cries proceeded
namely the lower court where the armourer and blacksmith had their
There was a group of children the young people who were confided to
the great Earl Richard and Countess Alice of Salisbury for education
and training. Boys and girls were alike there some of the latter
crying and sobbing others mingling with the lads in the hot dispute
as to "who did it."
By the time the gentle but stately Countess had reached the place
all the grown-up persons of the establishment--knights squires
grooms scullions and females of every degree--had thronged round
them but parted at her approach though one of the knights said
"Nay Lady Countess 'tis no sight for you. The poor little maid is
dead or nigh upon it."
"But who is it? What is it?" asked the Countess still advancing.
A confused medley of voices replied "The Lord of Whitburn's little
"And no marvel" said a sturdy begrimed figure "if the malapert
young gentles be let to run all over the courts and handle that with
which they have no concern lads and wenches alike."
"Nay how can I stop it when my lady will not have the maidens kept
ever at their distaffs and needles in seemly fashion" cried a small
but stout and self-assertive dame known as "Mother of the Maidens"
then starting "Oh! my lady I crave your pardon I knew not you were
in this coil! And if the men-at-arms be let to have their perilous
goods strewn all over the place no wonder at any mishap."
"Do not wrangle about the cause" said the Countess. "Who is hurt?
The crowd parted enough for her to make way to where a girl of about
ten was lying prostrate and bleeding with her head on a woman's lap.
"Poor maid" was the cry "poor maid! 'Tis all over with her. It
will go ill with young Leonard Copeland."
"Worse with Hodge Smith for letting him touch his irons."
"Nay what call had Dick Jenner to lay his foul burning gunpowder--a
device of Satan--in this yard? A mercy we are not all blown to the
The Countess again ordering peace reached the girl whose moans
showed that she was still alive and between the barber-surgeon and
the porter's wife she was lifted up and carried to a bed the
Countess Alice keeping close to her though the "Mother of the
Maidens" who was a somewhat helpless personage hung back declaring
that the sight of the wounds made her swoon. There were terrible
wounds upon the face and neck which seemed to be almost bared of
skin. The lady who had been bred to some knowledge of surgical
skill together with the barber-surgeon did their best to allay the
agony with applications of sweet oil. Perhaps if they had had more
of what was then considered skill it might have been worse for her.
The Countess remained anxiously trying all that could allay the
suffering of the poor little semi-conscious patient who kept moaning
for "nurse." She was Grisell Dacre the daughter of the Baron of
Whitburn and had been placed young as she was in the household of
the Countess of Salisbury on her mother being made one of the ladies
attending on the young Queen Margaret of Anjou lately married to
King Henry VI.
Attendance on the patient had prevented the Countess from hearing the
history of the accident but presently the clatter of horses' feet
showed that her lord was returning and committing the girl to her
old nurse she went down to the hall to receive him.
The grave grizzled warrior had taken his seat on his cross-legged
round-backed chair and a boy of some twelve years old stood before
him in a sullen attitude one foot over the other and his shoulder
held fast by a squire while the motley crowd of retainers stood
There was a move at the entrance of the lady and her husband rose
came forward and as he gave her the courteous kiss of greeting
demanded "What is all this coil? Is the little wench dead?"
"Nay but I fear me she cannot live" was the answer.
"Will Dacre of Whitburn's maid? That's ill poor child! How fell it
"That I know as little as you" was the answer. "I have been seeing
to the poor little maid's hurts."
Lord Salisbury placed her in the chair like his own. In point of
fact she was Countess in her own right; he Richard Nevil had been
created Earl of Salisbury in her right on the death of her father
the staunch warrior of Henry V. in the siege of Orleans.
"Speak out Leonard Copeland" said the Earl. "What hast thou done?"
The boy only growled "I never meant to hurt the maid."
"Speak to the point sir" said Lord Salisbury sternly; "give
yourself at least the grace of truth."
Leonard grew more silent under the show of displeasure and only hung
his head at the repeated calls to him to speak. The Earl turned to
those who were only too eager to accuse him.
"He took a bar of iron from the forge so please you my lord and
put it to the barrel of powder."
"Is this true Leonard?" demanded the Earl again amazed at the
frantic proceeding and Leonard muttered "Aye" vouchsafing no more
and looking black as thunder at a fair handsome boy who pressed to
his side and said "Uncle" doffing his cap "so please you my lord
the barrels had just been brought in upon Hob Carter's wain and
Leonard said they ought to have the Lord Earl's arms on them. So he
took a bar of hot iron from the forge to mark the saltire on them
and thereupon there was this burst of smoke and flame and the maid
who was leaning over prying into his doings had the brunt thereof."
"Thanks to the saints that no further harm was done" ejaculated the
lady shuddering while her lord proceeded--"It was not malice but
malapert meddling then. Master Leonard Copeland thou must be
scourged to make thee keep thine hands off where they be not needed.
For the rest thou must await what my Lord of Whitburn may require.
Take him away John Ellerby chastise him and keep him in ward till
we see the issue."
Leonard with his head on high marched out of the hall not uttering
a word but shaking his shoulder as if to get rid of the squire's
grasp but only thereby causing himself to be gripped the faster.
Next Lord Salisbury's severity fell upon Hob the carter and Hodge
the smith for leaving such perilous wares unwatched in the court-
yard. Servants were not dismissed for carelessness in those days
but soundly flogged a punishment considered suitable to the
"blackguard" at any age even under the mildest rule. The gunner
being somewhat higher in position and not in charge at the moment
was not called to account but the next question was how the "Mother
of the Maids"--the gouvernante in charge of the numerous damsels who
formed the train of the Lady of Salisbury and were under education
and training--could have permitted her maidens to stray into the
regions appropriated to the yeomen and archers and others of the
meine where they certainly had no business.
It appeared that the good and portly lady had last seen the girls in
the gardens "a playing at the ball" with some of the pages and that
there on a sunny garden seat slumber had prevented her from
discovering the absence of the younger part of the bevy. The demure
elder damsels deposed that at the sound of wains coming into the
court the boys had rushed off and the younger girls had followed
them whether with or without warning was not made clear. Poor
little Grisell's condition might have been considered a sufficient
warning nevertheless the two companions in her misdemeanour were
condemned to a whipping to enforce on them a lesson of maidenliness;
and though the Mother of the Maids could not partake of the
flagellation she remained under her lord's and lady's grave
displeasure and probably would have to submit to a severe penance
from the priest for her carelessness. Yet as she observed Mistress
Grisell was a North Country maid never couthly or conformable but
like a boy who would moreover always be after Leonard Copeland
whether he would or no.
It was the more unfortunate as Lord Salisbury lamented to his wife
because the Copelands were devoted to the Somerset faction; and the
King had been labouring to reconcile them to the Dacres and to bring
about a contract of marriage between these two unfortunate children
but he feared that whatever he could do there would only be
additional feud and bitterness though it was clear that the mishap
was accidental. The Lord of Whitburn himself was in Ireland with the
Duke of York while his lady was in attendance on the young Queen
and it was judged right and seemly to despatch to her a courier with
the tidings of her daughter's disaster although in point of fact
where a house could number sons damsels were not thought of great
value except as the means of being allied with other houses. A
message was also sent to Sir William Copeland that his son had been
the death of the daughter of Whitburn; for poor little Grisell lay
moaning in a state of much fever and great suffering so that the
Lady Salisbury could not look at her nor hear her sighs and sobs
without tears and the barber-surgeon unaccustomed to the effects of
gunpowder had little or no hope of her life.
Leonard Copeland's mood was sullen not to say surly. He submitted
to the chastisement without a word or cry for blows were the lot of
boys of all ranks and were dealt out without much respect to
justice; and he also had to endure a sort of captivity in a dismal
little circular room in a turret of the manorial house with merely a
narrow loophole to look out from and this was only accessible by
climbing up a steep broken slope of brick-work in the thickness of
Here however he was visited by his chief friend and comrade Edmund
Plantagenet of York who found him lying on the floor building up
fragments of stone and mortar into the plan of a castle.
"How dost thou Leonard?" he asked. "Did old Hal strike very hard?"
"I reck not" growled Leonard.
"How long will my uncle keep thee here?" asked Edmund sympathisingly.
"Till my father comes unless the foolish wench should go and die.
She brought it on me the peevish girl. She is always after me when
I want her least."
"Yea is not she contracted to thee?"
"So they say; but at least this puts a stop to my being plagued with
her--do what they may to me. There's an end to it if I hang for
"They would never hang thee."
"None knows what you traitor folk of Nevil would do to a loyal
house" growled Leonard.
"Traitor saidst thou" cried Edmund clenching his fists. "'Tis thy
base Somerset crew that be the traitors."
"I'll brook no such word from thee" burst forth Leonard flying at
"Ha! ha!" laughed Edmund even as they grappled. "Who is the traitor
forsooth? Why 'tis my father who should be King. 'Tis white-faced
Harry and his Beauforts--"
The words were cut short by a blow from Leonard and the warder
presently found the two boys rolling on the floor together in hot
And meanwhile poor Grisell was trying to frame with her torn and
flayed cheeks and lips "O lady lady visit it not on him! Let not
Leonard be punished. It was my fault for getting into his way when I
should have been in the garden. Dear Madge canst thou speak for
Madge was Edmund's sister Margaret of York who stood trembling and
crying by Grisell's bed.
CHAPTER II--THE BROKEN MATCH
The Earl of Salisbury called Prudence.
Little Grisell Dacre did not die though day after day she lay in a
suffering condition tenderly watched over by the Countess Alice.
Her mother had been summoned from attendance on the Queen but at
first there only was returned a message that if the maid was dead she
should be embalmed and sent north to be buried in the family vault
when her father would be at all charges. Moreover that the boy
should be called to account for his crime his father being as the
Lady of Whitburn caused to be written an evil-minded minion and
fosterer of the house of Somerset the very bane of the King and the
enemies of the noble Duke of York and Earl of Warwick.
The story will be clearer if it is understood that the Earl of
Salisbury was Richard Nevil one of the large family of Nevil of Raby
Castle in Westmoreland and had obtained his title by marriage with
Alice Montagu heiress of that earldom. His youngest sister had
married Richard Plantagenet Duke of York who being descended from
Lionel Duke of Clarence was considered to have a better right to
the throne than the house of Lancaster though this had never been
put forward since the earlier years of Henry V.
Salisbury had several sons. The eldest had married Anne Beauchamp
and was in her right Earl of Warwick and had estates larger even
than those of his father. He had not however as yet come forward
and the disputes at Court were running high between the friends of
the Duke of Somerset and those of the Duke of York.
The King and Queen both were known to prefer the house of Somerset
who were the more nearly related to Henry and the more inclined to
uphold royalty while York was considered as the champion of the
people. The gentle King and the Beauforts wished for peace with
France; the nation and with them York thought this was giving up
honour land and plunder and suspected the Queen as a Frenchwoman
of truckling to the enemy. Jack Cade's rising and the murder of the
Duke of Suffolk had been the outcome of this feeling. Indeed Lord
Salisbury's messenger reported the Country about London to be in so
disturbed a state that it was no wonder that the Lady of Whitburn did
not make the journey. She was not as the Countess suspected a very
tender mother. Grisell's moans were far more frequently for her
nurse than for her but after some space they ceased. The child
became capable of opening first one eye then the other and both
barber and lady perceived that she was really unscathed in any vital
part and was on the way to recovery though apparently with
hopelessly injured features.
Leonard Copeland had already been released from restraint and
allowed to resume his usual place among the Earl's pages; when the
warder announced that he saw two parties approaching from opposite
sides of the down one as if from Salisbury the other from the
north; and presently he reported that the former wore the family
badge a white rosette the latter none at all whence it was
perceived that the latter were adherents of the Beauforts of
Somerset for though the "Rose of Snow" had been already adopted by
York Somerset had in point of fact not plucked the Red Rose in the
Temple gardens nor was it as yet the badge of Lancaster.
Presently it was further reported that the Lady of Whitburn was in
the fore front of the party and the Lord of Salisbury hastened to
receive her at the gates his suite being rapidly put into some
She was a tall rugged-faced North Country dame not very smooth of
speech and she returned his salute with somewhat rough courtesy
demanding as she sprang off her horse with little aid "Lives my
"Yes madam she lives and the leech trusts that she will yet be
"Ah! Methought you would have sent to me if aught further had
befallen her. Be that as it may no doubt you have given the
malapert boy his deserts."
"I hope I have madam" began the Earl. "I kept him in close ward
while she was in peril of death but--" A fresh bugle blast
interrupted him as there clattered through the resounding gate the
other troop at sight of whom the Lady of Whitburn drew herself up
redoubling her grim dignity and turning it into indignation as a
young page rushed forward to meet the newcomers with a cry of
"Father! Lord Father come at last;" then composing himself doffed
his cap and held the stirrup then bent a knee for his father's
"You told me Lord Earl the mischievous murderous fellow was in
safe hold" said the lady bending her dark brows.
"While the maid was in peril" hastily answered Salisbury. "Pardon
me madam my Countess will attend you."
The Countess's high rank and great power were impressive to the
Baroness of Whitburn who bent in salutation but almost her first
words were "Madam you at least will not let the murderous traitors
of Somerset and the Queen prevail over the loyal friends of York and
"There is happily no murder in the case. Praise be to the saints"
said Countess Alice "your little maid--"
"Aye that's what they said as to the poor good Duke Humfrey"
returned the irate lady; "but that you madam the good-sister of the
noble York should stand up for the enemies of him and the friends
of France is more than a plain North Country woman like me can
understand. And there--there turning round upon the steep steps
there is my Lord Earl hand and glove with that minion fellow of
Somerset who was no doubt at the bottom of the plot! None would
believe it at Raby."
"None at Raby would believe that my lord could be lacking in courtesy
to a guest" returned Lady Salisbury with dignity "nor that a North
Country dame could expect it of him. Those who are under his roof
must respect it by fitting demeanour towards one another."
The Lady of Whitburn was quenched for the time and the Countess
asked whether she did not wish to see her daughter leading the way
to a chamber hung with tapestry and with a great curtained bed
nearly filling it up for the patient had been installed in one of
the best guest-chambers of the Castle. Lady Whitburn was surprised
but was too proud to show herself gratified by what she thought was
the due of the dignity of the Dacres. An old woman in a hood sat by
the bed where there was a heap of clothes and a dark-haired little
girl stood by the window whence she had been describing the arrivals
in the Castle court.
"Here is your mother my poor child" began the Lady of Salisbury
but there was no token of joy. Grisell gave a little gasp and tried
to say "Lady Mother pardon--" but the Lady of Whitburn at sight of
the reddened half of the face which alone was as yet visible gave a
cry "She will be a fright! You evil little baggage thus to get
yourself scarred and made hideous! Running where you ought not I
warrant!" and she put out her hand as if to shake the patient but
the Countess interposed and her niece Margaret gave a little cry.
"Grisell is still very weak and feeble! She cannot bear much; we
have only just by Heaven's grace brought her round."
"As well she were dead as like this" cried this untender parent.
"Who is to find her a husband now? and as to a nunnery where is one
to take her without a dower such as is hard to find with two sons to
be fitly provided? I looked that in a household like this better
rule should be kept."
"None can mourn it more than myself and the Earl" said the gentle
Countess; "but young folks can scarce be watched hour by hour."
"The rod is all that is good for them and I trusted to you to give
it them madam" said Lady Whitburn. "Now the least that can be
done is to force yonder malapert lad and his father into keeping his
contract to her since he has spoilt the market for any other."
"Is he contracted to her?" asked the Countess.
"Not fully; but as you know yourself lady your lord and the King
and all the rest thought to heal the breach between the houses by
planning a contract between their son and my daughter. He shall keep
it now at his peril."
Grisell was cowering among her pillows and no one knew how much she
heard or understood. The Countess was glad to get Lady Whitburn out
of the room but both she and her Earl had a very trying evening in
trying to keep the peace between the two parents. Sir William
Copeland was devoted to the Somerset family of whom he held his
manor; and had had a furious quarrel with the Baron of Whitburn when
both were serving in France.
The gentle King had tried to bring about a reconciliation and had
induced the two fathers to consent to a contract for the future
marriage of Leonard Copeland's second son to Grisell Dacre then
the only child of the Lord of Whitburn. He had also obtained that
the two children should be bred up in the household of the Earl of
Salisbury by way of letting them grow up together. On the same
principle the Lady of Whitburn had been made one of the attendants of
Queen Margaret--but neither arrangement had been more successful than
most of those of poor King Henry.
Grisell indeed considered Leonard as a sort of property of hers but
she beset him in the manner that boys are apt to resent from younger
girls and when he was thirteen and she ten years old there was
very little affection on his side. Moreover the birth of two
brothers had rendered Grisell's hand a far less desirable prize in
the eyes of the Copelands.
To attend on the Court was penance to the North Country dame used to
a hardy rough life in her sea-side tower with absolute rule and no
hand over her save her husband's; while the young and outspoken
Queen bred up in the graceful poetical Court of Aix or Nancy