CHAPTER IV. THE RETURN OF EDWARD OF YORK.
And the winds still blew, and the storm was on the tide, and Margaret came not when, in the gusty month of March, the fishermen of the Humber beheld a single ship, without flag or pennon, and sorely stripped and rivelled by adverse blasts, gallantly struggling towards the shore. The vessel was not of English build, and resembled in its bulk and fashion those employed by the Easterlings in their trade, half merchantman, half war-ship.
The villagers of Ravenspur,—the creek of which the vessel now rapidly made to,—imagining that it was some trading craft in distress, grouped round the banks, and some put out their boats: But the vessel held on its way, and, as the water was swelled by the tide, and unusually deep, silently cast anchor close ashore, a quarter of a mile from the crowd.
The first who leaped on land was a knight of lofty stature, and in complete armour richly inlaid with gold arabesques. To him succeeded another, also in mail, and, though well guilt and fair proportioned, of less imposing presence. And then, one by one, the womb of the dark ship gave forth a number of armed soldiers, infinitely larger than it could have been supposed to contain, till the knight who first landed stood the centre of a group of five hundred men. Then were lowered from the vessel, barbed and caparisoned, some five score horses; and, finally, the sailors and rowers, armed but with steel caps and short swords, came on shore, till not a man was left on board.
"Now praise," said the chief knight, "to God and Saint George that we have escaped the water! and not with invisible winds but with bodily foes must our war be waged."
"Beau sire," cried one knight, who had debarked immediately after the speaker, and who seemed, from his bearing and equipment, of higher rank than those that followed, "beau sire, this is a slight army to reconquer a king's realm! Pray Heaven that our bold companions have also escaped the deep!"
"Why, verily, we are not eno' at the best, to spare one man," said the chief knight, gayly, "but, lo! we are not without welcomers." And he pointed to the crowd of villagers who now slowly neared the warlike group, but halting at a little distance, continued to gaze at them in some anxiety and alarm.
"Ho there! good fellows!" cried the leader, striding towards the throng, "what name give you to this village?"
"Ravenspur, please your worship," answered one of the peasants.
"Ravenspur, hear you that, lords and friends? Accept the omen! On this spot landed from exile Henry of Bolingbroke, known afterwards in our annals as King Henry IV.! Bare is the soil of corn and of trees,—it disdains meaner fruit; it grows kings! Hark!" The sound of a bugle was heard at a little distance, and in a few moments a troop of about a hundred men were seen rising above an undulation in the ground, and as the two bands recognized each other, a shout of joy was given and returned.
As this new reinforcement advanced, the peasantry and fishermen, attracted by curiosity and encouraged by the peaceable demeanour of the debarkers, drew nearer, and mingled with the first comers.
"What manner of men be ye, and what want ye?" asked one of the bystanders, who seemed of better nurturing than the rest, and who, indeed, was a small franklin.
No answer was returned by those he more immediately addressed; but the chief knight heard the question, and suddenly unbuckling his helmet, and giving it to one of those beside him, he turned to the crowd a countenance of singular beauty at once animated and majestic, and said in a loud voice, "We are Englishmen, like you, and we come here to claim our rights. Ye seem tall fellows and honest.—Standard bearer, unfurl our flag!" And as the ensign suddenly displayed the device of a sun in a field azure, the chief continued, "March under this banner, and for every day ye serve, ye shall have a month's hire."
"Marry!" quoth the franklin, with a suspicious, sinister look, "these be big words. And who are you, Sir Knight, who would levy men in King Henry's kingdom?"
"Your knees, fellows!" cried the second knight. "Behold your true liege and suzerain, Edward IV.! Long live King Edward!"
The soldiers caught up the cry, and it was re-echoed lustily by the smaller detachment that now reached the spot; but no answer came from the crowd. They looked at each other in dismay, and retreated rapidly from their place amongst the troops. In fact, the whole of the neighbouring district was devoted to Warwick, and many of the peasantry about had joined the former rising under Sir John Coniers. The franklin alone retreated not with the rest; he was a bluff, plain, bold fellow, with good English blood in his veins. And when the shout ceased, he said shortly, "We hereabouts know no king but King Henry. We fear you would impose upon us. We cannot believe that a great lord like him you call Edward IV. would land with a handful of men to encounter the armies of Lord Warwick. We forewarn you to get into your ship and go back as fast as ye came, for the stomach of England is sick of brawls and blows; and what ye devise is treason!"
Forth from the new detachment stepped a youth of small stature, not in armour, and with many a weather-stain on his gorgeous dress. He laid his hand upon the franklin's shoulder. "Honest and plain-dealing fellow," said he, "you are right: pardon the foolish outburst of these brave men, who cannot forget as yet that their chief has worn the crown. We come back not to disturb this realm, nor to effect aught against King Henry, whom the saints have favoured. No, by Saint Paul, we come but back to claim our lands unjustly forfeit. My noble brother here is not king of England, since the people will it not, but he is Duke of York, and he will be contented if assured of the style and lands our father left him. For me, called Richard of Gloucester, I ask nothing but leave to spend my manhood where I have spent my youth, under the eyes of my renowned godfather, Richard Nevile, Earl of Warwick. So report of us. Whither leads yon road?"
"To York," said the franklin, softened, despite his judgment, by the irresistible suavity of the voice that addressed him.
"Thither will we go, my lord duke and brother, with your leave," said Prince Richard, "peaceably and as petitioners. God save ye, friends and countrymen, pray for us, that King Henry and the parliament may do us justice. We are not over rich now, but better times may come. Largess!" and filling both hands with coins from his gipsire, he tossed the bounty among the peasants.
"Mille tonnere! What means he with this humble talk of King Henry and the parliament?" whispered Edward to the Lord Say, while the crowd scrambled for the largess, and Richard smilingly mingled amongst them, and conferred with the franklin.
"Let him alone, I pray you, my liege; I guess his wise design. And now for our ships. What orders for the master?"
"For the other vessels, let them sail or anchor as they list. But for the bark that has borne Edward king of England to the land of his ancestors there is no return!"
The royal adventurer then beckoned the Flemish master of the ship, who, with every sailor aboard, had debarked, and the loose dresses of the mariners made a strong contrast to the mail of the warriors with whom they mingled.
"Friend," said Edward, in French, "thou hast said that thou wilt share my fortunes, and that thy good fellows are no less free of courage and leal in trust."
"It is so, sire. Not a man who has gazed on thy face, and heard thy voice, but longs to serve one on whose brow Nature has written king."
"And trust me," said Edward, "no prince of my blood shall be dearer to me than you and yours, my friends in danger and in need. And sith it be so, the ship that hath borne such hearts and such hopes should, in sooth, know no meaner freight. Is all prepared?"
"Yes, sire, as you ordered. The train is laid for the brennen."
"Up, then, with the fiery signal, and let it tell, from cliff to cliff, from town to town, that Edward the Plantagenet, once returned to England, leaves it but for the grave!"
The master bowed, and smiled grimly. The sailors, who had been prepared for the burning, arranged before between the master and the prince, and whose careless hearts Edward had thoroughly won to his person and his cause, followed the former towards the ship, and stood silently grouped around the shore. The soldiers, less informed, gazed idly on, and Richard now regained Edward's side.
"Reflect," he said, as he drew him apart, "that, when on this spot landed Henry of Bolingbroke, he gave not out that he was marching to the throne of Richard II. He professed but to claim his duchy,—and men were influenced by justice, till they became agents of ambition. This be your policy; with two thousand men you are but Duke of York; with ten thousand men you are King of England! In passing hither, I met with many, and sounding the temper of the district, I find it not ripe to share your hazard. The world soon ripens when it hath to hail success!"
"O young boy's smooth face! O old man's deep brain!" said Edward, admiringly, "what a king hadst thou made!" A sudden flush passed over the prince's pale cheek, and, ere it died away, a flaming torch was hurled aloft in the air; it fell whirling into the ship—a moment, and a loud crash; a moment, and a mighty blaze! Up sprung from the deck, along the sails, the sheeted fire,—
"A giant beard of flame." [Aeschylus: Agamemnon, 314]
It reddened the coast, the skies, from far and near; it glowed on the faces and the steel of the scanty army; it was seen, miles away, by the warders of many a castle manned with the troops of Lancaster; it brought the steed from the stall, the courier to the selle; it sped, as of old the beacon fire that announced to Clytemnestra the return of the Argive king. From post to post rode the fiery news, till it reached Lord Warwick in his hall, King Henry in his palace, Elizabeth in her sanctuary. The iron step of the dauntless Edward was once more pressed upon the soil of England.
CHAPTER V. THE PROGRESS OF THE PLANTAGENET.
A few words suffice to explain the formidable arrival we have just announced. Though the Duke of Burgundy had by public proclamation forbidden his subjects to aid the exiled Edward, yet, whether moved by the entreaties of his wife, or wearied by the remonstrances of his brother-in-law, he at length privately gave the dethroned monarch fifty thousand florins to find troops for himself, and secretly hired Flemish and Dutch vessels to convey him to England. [Comines, Hall, Lingard, S. Turner] But so small was the force to which the bold Edward trusted his fortunes, that it almost seemed as if Burgundy sent him forth to his destruction. He sailed from the coast of Zealand; the winds, if less unmanageable than those that blew off the seaport where Margaret and her armament awaited a favouring breeze, were still adverse. Scared from the coast of Norfolk by the vigilance of Warwick and Oxford, who had filled that district with armed men, storm and tempest drove him at last to Humber Head, where we have seen him land, and whence we pursue his steps.
The little band set out upon its march, and halted for the night at a small village two miles inland. Some of the men were then sent out on horseback for news of the other vessels, that bore the remnant of the invading force. These had, fortunately, effected a landing in various places; and, before daybreak, Anthony Woodville, and the rest of the troops, had joined the leader of an enterprise that seemed but the rashness of despair, for its utmost force, including the few sailors allured to the adventurer's standard, was about two thousand men. [Fifteen hundred, according to the Croyland historian.] Close and anxious was the consultation then held. Each of the several detachments reported alike of the sullen indifference of the population, which each had sought to excite in favour of Edward. Light riders [Hall] were despatched in various directions, still further to sound the neighbourhood. All returned ere noon, some bruised and maltreated by the stones and staves of the rustics, and not a voice had been heard to echo the cry, "Long live King Edward!" The profound sagacity of Gloucester's guileful counsel was then unanimously recognized. Richard despatched a secret letter to Clarence; and it was resolved immediately to proceed to York, and to publish everywhere along the road that the fugitive had returned but to claim his private heritage, and remonstrate with the parliament which had awarded the duchy of York to Clarence, his younger brother.
"Such a power," saith the Chronicle, "hath justice ever among men, that all, moved by mercy or compassion, began either to favour or not to resist him." And so, wearing the Lancastrian Prince of Wales's cognizance of the ostrich feather, crying out as they marched, "Long live King Henry!" the hardy liars, four days after their debarkation, arrived at the gates of York.
Here, not till after much delay and negotiation, Edward was admitted only as Duke of York, and upon condition that he would swear to be a faithful and loyal servant to King Henry; and at the gate by which he was to enter, Edward actually took that oath, "a priest being by to say Mass in the Mass tyme, receiving the body of our blessed Saviour!" [Hall.]
Edward tarried not long in York; he pushed forward. Two great nobles guarded those districts,—Montagu and the Earl of Northumberland, to whom Edward had restored his lands and titles, and who, on condition of retaining them, had re-entered the service of Lancaster. This last, a true server of the times, who had sided with all parties, now judged it discreet to remain neutral. [This is the most favourable interpretation of his conduct: according to some he was in correspondence with Edward, who showed his letters.] But Edward must pass within a few miles of Pontefract castle, where Montagu lay with a force that could destroy him at a blow. Edward was prepared for the assault, but trusted to deceive the marquis, as he had deceived the citizens of York,—the more for the strong personal love Montagu had ever shown him. If not, he was prepared equally to die in the field rather than eat again the bitter bread of the exile. But to his inconceivable joy and astonishment, Montagu, like Northumberland, lay idle and supine. Edward and his little troop threaded safely the formidable pass. Alas! Montagu had that day received a formal order from the Duke of Clarence, as co-protector of the realm, [Our historians have puzzled their brains in ingenious conjectures of the cause of Montagu's fatal supineness at this juncture, and have passed over the only probable solution of the mystery, which is to be found simply enough stated thus in Stowe's Chronicle: "The Marquess Montacute would have fought with King Edward, but that he had received letters from the Duke of Clarence that he should not fight till hee came." This explanation is borne out by the Warkworth Chronicler and others, who, in an evident mistake of the person addressed, state that Clarence wrote word to Warwick not to fight till he came. Clarence could not have written so to Warwick, who, according to all authorities, was mustering his troops near London, and not in the way to fight Edward; nor could Clarence have had authority to issue such commands to his colleague, nor would his colleague have attended to them, since we have the amplest testimony that Warwick was urging all his captains to attack Edward at once. The duke's order was, therefore, clearly addressed to Montagu.] to suffer Edward to march on, provided his force was small, and he had taken the oaths to Henry, and assumed but the title of Duke of York,—"for your brother the earl hath had compunctious visitings, and would fain forgive what hath passed, for my father's sake, and unite all factions by Edward's voluntary abdication of the throne; at all hazards, I am on my way northward, and you will not fight till I come." The marquis,—who knew the conscientious doubts which Warwick had entertained in his darker hours, who had no right to disobey the co-protector, who knew no reason to suspect Lord Warwick's son-in-law, and who, moreover, was by no means anxious to be, himself, the executioner of Edward, whom he had once so truly loved,—though a little marvelling at Warwick's softness, yet did not discredit the letter, and the less regarded the free passage he left to the returned exiles, from contempt for the smallness of their numbers, and his persuasion that if the earl saw fit to alter his counsels, Edward was still more in his power the farther he advanced amidst a hostile population, and towards the armies which the Lords Exeter and Oxford were already mustering.
But that free passage was everything to Edward! It made men think that Montagu, as well as Northumberland, favoured his enterprise; that the hazard was less rash and hopeless than it had seemed; that Edward counted upon finding his most powerful allies among those falsely supposed to be his enemies. The popularity Edward had artfully acquired amongst the captains of Warwick's own troops, on the march to Middleham, now bestead him. Many of them were knights and gentlemen residing in the very districts through which he passed. They did not join him, but they did not oppose. Then rapidly flocked to "the Sun of York," first the adventurers and condottieri who in civil war adopt any side for pay; next came the disappointed, the ambitious, and the needy. The hesitating began to resolve, the neutral to take a part. From the state of petitioners supplicating a pardon, every league the Yorkists marched advanced them to the dignity of assertors of a cause. Doncaster first, then Nottingham, then Leicester,—true to the town spirit we have before described,—opened their gates to the trader prince.
Oxford and Exeter reached Newark with their force. Edward marched on them at once. Deceived as to his numbers, they took panic and fled. When once the foe flies, friends ever start up from the very earth! Hereditary partisans—gentlemen, knights, and nobles—now flocked fast round the adventurer. Then came Lovell and Cromwell and D'Eyncourt, ever true to York; and Stanley, never true to any cause. Then came the brave knights Parr and Norris and De Burgh; and no less than three thousand retainers belonging to Lord Hastings—the new man—obeyed the summons of his couriers and joined their chief at Leicester.
Edward of March, who had landed at Ravenspur with a handful of brigands, now saw a king's army under his banner. [The perplexity and confusion which involve the annals of this period may be guessed by this,—that two historians, eminent for research (Lingard and Sharon Turner), differ so widely as to the numbers who had now joined Edward, that Lingard asserts that at Nottingham he was at the head of fifty or sixty thousand men; and Turner gives him, at the most, between six and seven thousand. The latter seems nearer to the truth. We must here regret that Turner's partiality to the House of York induces him to slur over Edward's detestable perjury at York, and to accumulate all rhetorical arts to command admiration for his progress,—to the prejudice of the salutary moral horror we ought to feel for the atrocious perfidy and violation of oath to which he owed the first impunity that secured the after triumph.] Then the audacious perjurer threw away the mask; then, forth went—not the prayer of the attainted Duke of York—but the proclamation of the indignant king. England now beheld two sovereigns, equal in their armies. It was no longer a rebellion to be crushed; it was a dynasty to be decided.
CHAPTER VI. LORD WARWICK, WITH THE FOE IN THE FIELD AND THE TRAITOR AT THE HEARTH.
Every precaution which human wisdom could foresee had Lord Warwick taken to guard against invasion, or to crush it at the onset. [Hall.] All the coasts on which it was most probable Edward would land had been strongly guarded. And if the Humber had been left without regular troops, it was because prudence might calculate that the very spot where Edward did land was the very last he would have selected,—unless guided by fate to his destruction,—in the midst of an unfriendly population, and in face of the armies of Northumberland and of Montagu. The moment the earl heard of Edward's reception at York,—far from the weakness which the false Clarence (already in correspondence with Gloucester) imputed to him,—he despatched to Montagu, by Marmaduke Nevile, peremptory orders to intercept Edward's path, and give him battle before he could advance farther towards the centre of the island. We shall explain presently why this messenger did not reach the marquis. But Clarence was some hours before him in his intelligence and his measures.
When the earl next heard that Edward had passed Pontefract with impunity, and had reached Doncaster, he flew first to London, to arrange for its defence; consigned the care of Henry to the Archbishop of York, mustered a force already quartered in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, and then marched rapidly back towards Coventry, where he had left Clarence with seven thousand men; while he despatched new messengers to Montagu and Northumberland, severely rebuking the former for his supineness, and ordering him to march in all haste to attack Edward in the rear. The earl's activity, promptitude, all-provident generalship, form a mournful contrast to the errors, the pusillanimity, and the treachery of others, which hitherto, as we have seen, made all his wisest schemes abortive. Despite Clarence's sullenness, Warwick had discovered no reason, as yet, to doubt his good faith. The oath he had taken—not only to Henry in London, but to Warwick at Amboise—had been the strongest which can bind man to man. If the duke had not gained all he had hoped, he had still much to lose and much to dread by desertion to Edward. He had been the loudest in bold assertions when he heard of the invasion; and above all, Isabel, whose influence over Clarence at that time the earl overrated, had, at the tidings of so imminent a danger to her father, forgot all her displeasure and recovered all her tenderness.
During Warwick's brief absence, Isabel had indeed exerted her utmost power to repair her former wrongs, and induce Clarence to be faithful to his oath. Although her inconsistency and irresolution had much weakened her influence with the duke, for natures like his are governed but by the ascendancy of a steady and tranquil will, yet still she so far prevailed, that the duke had despatched to Richard a secret courier, informing him that he had finally resolved not to desert his father-in-law.
This letter reached Gloucester as the invaders were on their march to Coventry, before the strong walls of which the Duke of Clarence lay encamped. Richard, after some intent and silent reflection, beckoned to him his familiar Catesby.
"Marmaduke Nevile, whom our scouts seized on his way to Pontefract, is safe, and in the rear?"
"Yes, my lord; prisoners but encumber us; shall I give orders to the provost to end his captivity?"
"Ever ready, Catesby!" said the duke, with a fell smile. "No; hark ye, Clarence vacillates. If he hold firm to Warwick, and the two forces fight honestly against us, we are lost; on the other hand, if Clarence join us, his defection will bring not only the men he commands, all of whom are the retainers of the York lands and duchy, and therefore free from peculiar bias to the earl, and easily lured back to their proper chief; but it will set an example that will create such distrust and panic amongst the enemy, and give such hope of fresh desertions to our own men, as will open to us the keys of the metropolis. But Clarence, I say, vacillates; look you, here is his letter from Amboise to King Edward; see, his duchess, Warwick's very daughter, approves the promise it contains! If this letter reach Warwick, and Clarence knows it is in his hand, George will have no option but to join us. He will never dare to face the earl, his pledge to Edward once revealed—"
"Most true; a very legal subtlety, my lord," said the lawyer Catesby, admiringly.
"You can serve us in this. Fall back; join Sir Marmaduke; affect to sympathize with him; affect to side with the earl; affect to make terms for Warwick's amity and favour; affect to betray us; affect to have stolen this letter. Give it to young Nevile, artfully effect his escape, as if against our knowledge, and commend him to lose not an hour—a moment—in gaining the earl, and giving him so important a forewarning of the meditated treason of his son-in-law."
"I will do all,—I comprehend; but how will the duke learn in time that the letter is on its way to Warwick?"
"I will seek the duke in his own tent."
"And how shall I effect Sir Marmaduke's escape?"
"Send hither the officer who guards the prisoner; I will give him orders to obey thee in all things."
The invaders marched on. The earl, meanwhile, had reached Warwick, hastened thence to throw himself into the stronger fortifications of the neighbouring Coventry, without the walls of which Clarence was still encamped; Edward advanced on the town of Warwick thus vacated; and Richard, at night, rode along to the camp of Clarence. [Hall, and others.]
The next day, the earl was employed in giving orders to his lieutenants to march forth, join the troops of his son-in-law, who were a mile from the walls, and advance upon Edward, who had that morning quitted Warwick town, when suddenly Sir Marmaduke Nevile rushed into his presence, and, faltering out, "Beware, beware!" placed in his hands the fatal letter which Clarence had despatched from Amboise.
Never did blow more ruthless fall upon man's heart! Clarence's perfidy—that might be disdained; but the closing lines, which revealed a daughter's treachery—words cannot express the father's anguish.
The letter dropped from his hand, a stupor seized his senses, and, ere yet recovered, pale men hurried into his presence to relate how, amidst joyous trumpets and streaming banners, Richard of Gloucester had led the Duke of Clarence to the brotherly embrace of Edward. [Hall. The chronicler adds: "It was no marvell that the Duke of Clarence with so small persuasion and less exhorting turned from the Earl of Warwick's party, for, as you have heard before, this marchandise was laboured, conducted, and concluded by a damsell, when the duke was in the French court, to the earl's utter confusion." Hume makes a notable mistake in deferring the date of Clarence's desertion to the battle of Barnet.]
Breaking from these messengers of evil news, that could not now surprise, the earl strode on, alone, to his daughter's chamber.
He placed the letter in her hands, and folding his arms said, "What sayest thou of this, Isabel of Clarence?" The terror, the shame, the remorse, that seized upon the wretched lady, the death-like lips, the suppressed shriek, the momentary torpor, succeeded by the impulse which made her fall at her father's feet and clasp his knees,—told the earl, if he had before doubted, that the letter lied not; that Isabel had known and sanctioned its contents.
He gazed on her (as she grovelled at his feet) with a look that her eyes did well to shun.
"Curse me not! curse me not!" cried Isabel, awed by his very silence. "It was but a brief frenzy. Evil counsel, evil passion! I was maddened that my boy had lost a crown. I repented, I repented! Clarence shall yet be true. He hath promised it, vowed it to me; hath written to Gloucester to retract all,—to—"
"Woman! Clarence is in Edward's camp!"
Isabel started to her feet, and uttered a shriek so wild and despairing, that at least it gave to her father's lacerated heart the miserable solace of believing the last treason had not been shared. A softer expression—one of pity, if not of pardon—stole over his dark face.
"I curse thee not," he said; "I rebuke thee not. Thy sin hath its own penance. Ill omen broods on the hearth of the household traitor! Never more shalt thou see holy love in a husband's smile. His kiss shall have the taint of Judas. From his arms thou shalt start with horror, as from those of thy wronged father's betrayer,—perchance his deathsman! Ill omen broods on the cradle of the child for whom a mother's ambition was but a daughter's perfidy. Woe to thee, wife and mother! Even my forgiveness cannot avert thy doom!"
"Kill me! kill me!" exclaimed Isabel, springing towards him; but seeing his face averted, his arms folded on his breast,—that noble breast, never again her shelter,—she fell lifeless on the floor. [As our narrative does not embrace the future fate of the Duchess of Clarence, the reader will pardon us if we remind him that her first-born (who bore his illustrious grandfather's title of Earl of Warwick) was cast into prison on the accession of Henry VII., and afterwards beheaded by that king. By birth, he was the rightful heir to the throne. The ill-fated Isabel died young (five years after the date at which our tale has arrived). One of her female attendants was tried and executed on the charge of having poisoned her. Clarence lost no time in seeking to supply her place. He solicited the hand of Mary of Burgundy, sole daughter and heir of Charles the Bold. Edward's jealousy and fear forbade him to listen to an alliance that might, as Lingard observes, enable Clarence "to employ the power of Burgundy to win the crown of England;" and hence arose those dissensions which ended in the secret murder of the perjured duke.]
The earl looked round, to see that none were by to witness his weakness, took her gently in his arms, laid her on her couch, and, bending over her a moment, prayed to God to pardon her.
He then hastily left the room, ordered her handmaids and her litter, and while she was yet unconscious, the gates of the town opened, and forth through the arch went the closed and curtained vehicle which bore the ill-fated duchess to the new home her husband had made with her father's foe! The earl watched it from the casement of his tower, and said to himself,—
"I had been unmanned, had I known her within the same walls. Now forever I dismiss her memory and her crime. Treachery hath done its worst, and my soul is proof against all storms!"
At night came messengers from Clarence and Edward, who had returned to Warwick town, with offers of pardon to the earl, with promises of favour, power, and grace. To Edward the earl deigned no answer; to the messenger of Clarence he gave this: "Tell thy master I had liefer be always like myself than like a false and a perjured duke, and that I am determined never to leave the war till I have lost mine own life, or utterly extinguished and put down my foes." [Hall.]
After this terrible defection, neither his remaining forces, nor the panic amongst them which the duke's desertion had occasioned, nor the mighty interests involved in the success of his arms, nor the irretrievable advantage which even an engagement of equivocal result with the earl in person would give to Edward, justified Warwick in gratifying the anticipations of the enemy,—that his valour and wrath would urge him into immediate and imprudent battle.
Edward, after the vain bravado of marching up to the walls of Coventry, moved on towards London. Thither the earl sent Marmaduke, enjoining the Archbishop of York and the lord mayor but to hold out the city for three days, and he would come to their aid with such a force as would insure lasting triumph. For, indeed, already were hurrying to his banner Montagu, burning to retrieve his error, Oxford and Exeter, recovered from, and chafing at, their past alarm. Thither his nephew, Fitzhugh, led the earl's own clansmen of Middleham; thither were spurring Somerset from the west, [Most historians state that Somerset was then in London; but Sharon Turner quotes "Harleian Manuscripts," 38, to show that he had left the metropolis "to raise an army from the western counties," and ranks him amongst the generals at the battle of Barnet.] and Sir Thomas Dymoke from Lincolnshire, and the Knight of Lytton, with his hardy retainers, from the Peak. Bold Hilyard waited not far from London, with a host of mingled yeomen and bravos, reduced, as before, to discipline under his own sturdy energies and the military craft of Sir John Coniers. If London would but hold out till these forces could unite, Edward's destruction was still inevitable.
BOOK XII. THE BATTLE OF BARNET.
CHAPTER I. A KING IN HIS CITY HOPES TO RECOVER HIS REALM—A WOMAN IN HER CHAMBER FEARS TO FORFEIT HER OWN.
Edward and his army reached St. Alban's. Great commotion, great joy, were in the Sanctuary of Westminster! The Jerusalem Chamber, therein, was made the high council-hall of the friends of York. Great commotion, great terror, were in the city of London. Timid Master Stokton had been elected mayor; horribly frightened either to side with an Edward or a Henry, timid Master Stokton feigned or fell ill. Sir Thomas Cook, a wealthy and influential citizen, and a member of the House of Commons, had been appointed deputy in his stead. Sir Thomas Cook took fright also, and ran away. [Fabyan.] The power of the city thus fell into the hands of Ureswick, the Recorder, a zealous Yorkist. Great commotion, great scorn, were in the breasts of the populace, as the Archbishop of York, hoping thereby to rekindle their loyalty, placed King Henry on horseback, and paraded him through the streets from Chepeside to Walbrook, from Walbrook to St. Paul's; for the news of Edward's arrival, and the sudden agitation and excitement it produced on his enfeebled frame, had brought upon the poor king one of the epileptic attacks to which he had been subject from childhood, and which made the cause of his frequent imbecility; and, just recovered from such a fit,—his eyes vacant, his face haggard, his head drooping,—the spectacle of such an antagonist to the vigorous Edward moved only pity in the few and ridicule in the many. Two thousand Yorkist gentlemen were in the various Sanctuaries; aided and headed by the Earl of Essex, they came forth armed and clamorous, scouring the streets, and shouting, "King Edward!" with impunity. Edward's popularity in London was heightened amongst the merchants by prudent reminiscences of the vast debts he had incurred, which his victory only could ever enable him to repay to his good citizens. [Comines.] The women, always, in such a movement, active partisans, and useful, deserted their hearths to canvass all strong arms and stout hearts for the handsome woman-lover. [Comines.] The Yorkist Archbishop of Canterbury did his best with the ecclesiastics, the Yorkist Recorder his best with the flat-caps. Alwyn, true to his anti-feudal principles, animated all the young freemen to support the merchant-king, the favourer of commerce, the man of his age! The city authorities began to yield to their own and the general metropolitan predilections. But still the Archbishop of York had six thousand soldiers at his disposal, and London could be yet saved to Warwick, if the prelate acted with energy and zeal and good faith. That such was his first intention is clear, from his appeal to the public loyalty in King Henry's procession; but when he perceived how little effect that pageant had produced; when, on re-entering the Bishop of London's palace, he saw before him the guileless, helpless puppet of contending factions, gasping for breath, scarcely able to articulate, the heartless prelate turned away, with a muttered ejaculation of contempt.
"Clarence had not deserted," said he to himself, "unless he saw greater profit with King Edward!" And then he began to commune with himself, and to commune with his brother-prelate of Canterbury; and in the midst of all this commune arrived Catesby, charged with messages to the archbishop from Edward,—messages full of promise and affection on the one hand, of menace and revenge upon the other. Brief: Warwick's cup of bitterness had not yet been filled; that night the archbishop and the mayor of London met, and the Tower was surrendered to Edward's friends. The next day Edward and his army entered, amidst the shouts of the populace; rode to St. Paul's, where the archbishop [Sharon Turner. It is a comfort to think that this archbishop was, two years afterwards, first robbed, and then imprisoned, by Edward IV.; nor did he recover his liberty till a few weeks before his death, in 1476 (five years subsequently to the battle of Barnet).] met him, leading Henry by the hand, again a captive; thence Edward proceeded to Westminster Abbey, and, fresh from his atrocious perjury at York, offered thanksgiving for its success. The Sanctuary yielded up its royal fugitives, and, in joy and in pomp, Edward led his wife and her new-born babe, with Jacquetta and his elder children, to Baynard's Castle.
The next morning (the third day), true to his promise, Warwick marched towards London with the mighty armament he had now collected. Treason had done its worst,—the metropolis was surrendered, and King Henry in the Tower.
"These things considered," says the Chronicler, "the earl saw that all calculations of necessity were brought to this end,—that they must now be committed to the hazard and chance of one battle." [Hall.] He halted, therefore, at St. Alban's, to rest his troops; and marching thence towards Barnet, pitched his tents on the upland ground, then called the Heath or Chase of Gladsmoor, and waited the coming foe.
Nor did Edward linger long from that stern meeting. Entering London on the 11th of April, he prepared to quit it on the 13th. Besides the force he had brought with him, he had now recruits in his partisans from the Sanctuaries and other hiding-places in the metropolis, while London furnished him, from her high-spirited youths, a gallant troop of bow and bill men, whom Alwyn had enlisted, and to whom Edward willingly appointed, as captain, Alwyn himself,—who had atoned for his submission to Henry's restoration by such signal activity on behalf of the young king, whom he associated with the interests of his class, and the weal of the great commercial city, which some years afterwards rewarded his affection by electing him to her chief magistracy. [Nicholas Alwyn, the representative of that generation which aided the commercial and anti-feudal policy of Edward IV. and Richard III., and welcomed its consummation under their Tudor successor, rose to be Lord Mayor of London in the fifteenth year of the reign of Henry VII.—FABYAN.]
It was on that very day, the 13th of April, some hours before the departure of the York army, that Lord Hastings entered the Tower, to give orders relative to the removal of the unhappy Henry, whom Edward had resolved to take with him on his march.
And as he had so ordered and was about to return, Alwyn, emerging from one of the interior courts, approached him in much agitation, and said thus: "Pardon me, my lord, if in so grave an hour I recall your attention to one you may haply have forgotten."
"Ah, the poor maiden; but you told me, in the hurried words that we have already interchanged, that she was safe and well."
"Safe, my lord,—not well. Oh, hear me. I depart to battle for your cause and your king's. A gentleman in your train has advised me that you are married to a noble dame in the foreign land. If so, this girl whom I have loved so long and truly may yet forget you, may yet be mine. Oh, give me that hope to make me a braver soldier."
"But," said Hastings, embarrassed, and with a changing countenance, "but time presses, and I know not where the demoiselle—"
"She is here," interrupted Alwyn; "here, within these walls, in yonder courtyard. I have just left her. You, whom she loves, forgot her! I, whom she disdains, remembered. I went to see to her safety, to counsel her to rest here for the present, whatever betides; and at every word I said, she broke in upon me with but one name,—that name was thine! And when stung, and in the impulse of the moment, I exclaimed, 'He deserves not this devotion. They tell me, Sibyll, that Lord Hastings has found a wife in exile.' Oh, that look! that cry! they haunt me still. 'Prove it, prove it, Alwyn,' she cried. 'And—' I interrupted, 'and thou couldst yet, for thy father's sake, be true wife to me?'"
"Her answer, Alwyn?"
"It was this, 'For my father's sake only, then, could I live on; and—' her sobs stopped her speech, till she cried again, 'I believe it not! thou hast deceived me. Only from his lips will I hear the sentence.' Go to her, manfully and frankly, as becomes you, high lord,—go! It Is but a single sentence thou hast to say, and thy heart will be the lighter, and thine arm the stronger for those honest words."
Hastings pulled his cap over his brow, and stood a moment as if in reflection; he then said, "Show me the way; thou art right. It is due to her and to thee; and as by this hour to-morrow my soul may stand before the Judgment-seat, that poor child's pardon may take one sin from the large account."
CHAPTER II. SHARP IS THE KISS OF THE FALCON'S BEAR.
Hastings stood in the presence of the girl to whom he had pledged his truth. They were alone; but in the next chamber might be heard the peculiar sound made by the mechanism of the Eureka. Happy and lifeless mechanism, which moves, and toils, and strives on, to change the destiny of millions, but hath neither ear nor eye, nor sense nor heart,—the avenues of pain to man! She had—yes, literally—she had recognized her lover's step upon the stair, she had awakened at once from that dull and icy lethargy with which the words of Alwyn had chained life and soul. She sprang forward as Hastings entered; she threw herself in delirious joy upon his bosom. "Thou art come, thou art! It is not true, not true. Heaven bless thee! thou art come!" But sudden as the movement was the recoil. Drawing herself back, she gazed steadily on his face, and said, "Lord Hastings, they tell me thy hand is another's. Is it true?"
"Hear me!" answered the nobleman. "When first I—"
"O God! O God! he answers not, he falters! Speak! Is it true?"
"It is true. I am wedded to another."
Sibyll did not fall to the ground, nor faint, nor give vent to noisy passion. But the rich colour, which before had been varying and fitful, deserted her cheek, and left it of an ashen whiteness; the lips, too, grew tightly compressed, and her small fingers, interlaced, were clasped with strained and convulsive energy, so that the quivering of the very arms was perceptible. In all else she seemed composed, as she said, "I thank you, my lord, for the simple truth; no more is needed. Heaven bless you and yours! Farewell!"
"Stay! you shall—you must hear me on. Thou knowest how dearly in youth I loved Katherine Nevile. In manhood the memory of that love haunted me, but beneath thy sweet smile I deemed it at last effaced; I left thee to seek the king, and demand his assent to our union. I speak not of obstacles that then arose; in the midst of them I learned Katherine was lone and widowed,—was free. At her own summons I sought her presence, and learned that she had loved me ever,—loved me still. The intoxication of my early dream returned; reverse and exile followed close; Katherine left her state, her fortunes, her native land, and followed the banished man; and so memory and gratitude and destiny concurred, and the mistress of my youth became my wife. None other could have replaced thy image; none other have made me forget the faith I pledged thee. The thought of thee has still pursued me,—will pursue me to the last. I dare not say now that I love thee still, but yet—" He paused, but rapidly resumed, "Enough, enough! dear art thou to me, and honoured,—dearer, more honoured than a sister. Thank Heaven, at least, and thine own virtue, my falsehood leaves thee pure and stainless. Thy hand may yet bless a worthier man. If our cause triumphs, thy fortunes, thy father's fate, shall be my fondest care. Never, never will my sleep be sweet, and my conscience laid to rest, till I hear thee say, as honoured wife—perchance, as blessed and blessing mother—'False one, I am happy!'"
A cold smile, at these last words, flitted over the girl's face,—the smile of a broken heart; but it vanished, and with that strange mixture of sweetness and pride,—mild and forgiving, yet still spirited and firm,—which belonged to her character, she nerved herself to the last and saddest effort to preserve dignity and conceal despair. "Farther words, my lord, are idle; I am rightly punished for a proud folly. Let not woman love above her state. Think no more of my destiny."
"No, no," interrupted the remorseful lord, "thy destiny must haunt me till thou hast chosen one with a better right to protect thee."
At the repetition of that implied desire to transfer her also to another, a noble indignation came to mar the calm for which she had hitherto not vainly struggled. "Oh, man!" she exclaimed, with passion, "does thy deceit give me the right to deceive another? I—I wed!—I—I—vow at the altar—a love dead, dead forever—dead as my own heart! Why dost thou mock me with the hollow phrase, 'Thou art pure and stainless?' Is the virginity of the soul still left? Do the tears I have shed for thee; doth the thrill of my heart when I heard thy voice; doth the plighted kiss that burns, burns now into my brow, and on my lips,—do these, these leave me free to carry to a new affection the cinders and ashes of a soul thou hast ravaged and deflowered? Oh, coarse and rude belief of men, that naught is lost if the mere form be pure! The freshness of the first feelings, the bloom of the sinless thought, the sigh, the blush of the devotion—never, never felt but once! these, these make the true dower a maiden should bring to the hearth to which she comes as wife. Oh, taunt! Oh, insult! to speak to me of happiness, of the altar! Thou never knewest, lord, how I really loved thee!" And for the first time, a violent gush of tears came to relieve her heart.
Hastings was almost equally overcome. Well experienced as he was in those partings when maids reproach and gallants pray for pardon, but still sigh, "Farewell,"—he had now no words to answer that burst of uncontrollable agony; and he felt at once humbled and relieved, when Sibyll again, with one of those struggles which exhaust years of life, and almost leave us callous to all after-trial, pressed back the scalding tears, and said, with unnatural sweetness: "Pardon me, my lord, I meant not to reproach; the words escaped me,—think of them no more. I would fain, at least, part from you now as I had once hoped to part from you at the last hour of life,—without one memory of bitterness and anger, so that my conscience, whatever its other griefs, might say, 'My lips never belied my heart, my words never pained him!' And now then, Lord Hastings, in all charity, we part. Farewell forever, and forever! Thou hast wedded one who loves thee, doubtless, as tenderly as I had done. Ah, cherish that affection! There are times even in thy career when a little love is sweeter than much fame. If thou thinkest I have aught to pardon thee, now with my whole heart I pray, as while life is mine that prayer shall be murmured, 'Heaven forgive this man, as I do! Heaven make his home the home of peace, and breathe into those now near and dear to him, the love and the faith that I once—'" She stopped, for the words choked her, and, hiding her face, held out her hand, in sign of charity and of farewell.
"Ah, if I dared pray like thee," murmured Hastings, pressing his lips upon that burning hand, "how should I weary Heaven to repair, by countless blessings, the wrong which I have done thee! And Heaven will—oh, it surely will!" He pressed the hand to his heart, dropped it, and was gone.
In the courtyard he was accosted by Alwyn—
"Thou hast been frank, my lord?"
"And she bears it, and—"
"See how she forgives, and how I suffer!" said Hastings, turning his face towards his rival; and Alwyn saw that the tears were rolling down his cheeks—"Question me no more." There was a long silence. They quitted the precincts of the Tower, and were at the river-side. Hastings, waving his hand to Alwyn, was about to enter the boat which was to bear him to the war council assembled at Baynard's Castle, when the trader stopped him, and said anxiously,—
"Think you not, for the present, the Tower is the safest asylum for Sibyll and her father? If we fail and Warwick returns, they are protected by the earl; if we triumph, thou wilt insure their safety from all foes?"
"Surely; in either case, their present home is the most secure."
The two men then parted. And not long afterwards, Hastings, who led the on-guard, was on his way towards Barnet; with him also went the foot volunteers under Alwyn. The army of York was on its march. Gloucester, to whose vigilance and energy were left the final preparations, was necessarily the last of the generals to quit the city. And suddenly, while his steed was at the gate of Baynard's Castle, he entered, armed cap-a-pie, into the chamber where the Duchess of Bedford sat with her grandchildren.
"Madame," said he, "I have a grace to demand from you, which will, methinks, not be displeasing. My lieutenants report to me that an alarm has spread amongst my men,—a religious horror of some fearful bombards and guns which have been devised by a sorcerer in Lord Warwick's pay. Your famous Friar Bungey has been piously amongst them, promising, however, that the mists which now creep over the earth shall last through the night and the early morrow; and if he deceive us not, we may post our men so as to elude the hostile artillery. But, sith the friar is so noted and influential, and sith there is a strong fancy that the winds which have driven back Margaret obeyed his charm, the soldiers clamour out for him to attend us, and, on the very field itself, counteract the spells of the Lancastrian nigromancer. The good friar, more accustomed to fight with fiends than men, is daunted, and resists. As much may depend on his showing us good will, and making our fellows suppose we have the best of the witchcraft, I pray you to command his attendance, and cheer up his courage. He waits without."
"A most notable, a most wise advice, beloved Richard!" cried the duchess. "Friar Bungey is, indeed, a potent man. I will win him at once to your will;" and the duchess hurried from the room.
The friar's bodily fears, quieted at last by assurances that he should be posted in a place of perfect safety during the battle, and his avarice excited by promises of the amplest rewards, he consented to accompany the troops, upon one stipulation,—namely, that the atrocious wizard, who had so often baffled his best spells,—the very wizard who had superintended the accursed bombards, and predicted Edward's previous defeat and flight (together with the diabolical invention, in which all the malice and strength of his sorcery were centred),—might, according to Jacquetta's former promise, be delivered forthwith to his mercy, and accompany him to the very spot where he was to dispel and counteract the Lancastrian nigromancer's enchantments. The duchess, too glad to purchase the friar's acquiescence on such cheap terms, and to whose superstitious horror for Adam's lore in the black art was now added a purely political motive for desiring him to be made away with,—inasmuch as in the Sanctuary she had at last extorted from Elizabeth the dark secret which might make him a very dangerous witness against the interests and honour of Edward,—readily and joyfully consented to this proposition.
A strong guard was at once despatched to the Tower with the friar himself, followed by a covered wagon, which was to serve for conveyance to Bungey and his victim.
In the mean while, Sibyll, after remaining for some time in the chamber which Hastings had abandoned to her solitary woe, had passed to the room in which her father held mute commune with his Eureka.
The machine was now thoroughly completed,—improved and perfected, to the utmost art the inventor ever could attain. Thinking that the prejudice against it might have arisen from its uncouth appearance, the poor philosopher had sought now to give it a gracious and imposing appearance. He had painted and gilt it with his own hands; it looked bright and gaudy in its gay hues; its outward form was worthy of the precious and propitious jewel which lay hidden in its centre.
"See, child, see!" said Adam; "is it not beautiful and comely?"
"My dear father, yes!" answered the poor girl, as still she sought to smile; then, after a short silence, she continued, "Father, of late, methinks, I have too much forgotten thee; pardon me, if so. Henceforth, I have no care in life but thee; henceforth let me ever, when thou toilest, come and sit by thy side. I would not be alone,—I dare not! Father, Father! God shield thy harmless life! I have nothing to love under heaven but thee!"
The good man turned wistfully, and raised, with tremulous hands, the sad face that had pressed itself on his bosom. Gazing thereon mournfully, he said, "Some new grief hath chanced to thee, my child. Methought I heard another voice besides thine in yonder room. Ah, has Lord Hastings—"
"Father, spare me! Thou wert too right; thou didst judge too wisely. Lord Hastings is wedded to another! But see, I can smile still, I am calm. My heart will not break so long as it hath thee to love and pray for!"
She wound her arms round him as she spoke, and he roused himself from his world out of earth again. Though he could bring no comfort, there was something, at least, to the forlorn one, in his words of love, in his tears of pity.
They sat down together, side by side, as the evening darkened,—the Eureka forgotten in the hour of its perfection! They noted not the torches which flashed below, reddened at intervals the walls of their chamber, and gave a glow to the gay gilding and bright hues of the gaudy model. Yet those torches flickered round the litter that was to convey Henry the Peaceful to the battlefield, which was to decide the dynasty of his realm! The torches vanished, and forth from the dark fortress went the captive king.
Night succeeded to eve, when again the red glare shot upward on the Eureka, playing with fantastic smile on its quaint aspect. Steps and voices, and the clatter of arms, sounded in the yard, on the stairs, in the adjoining chamber; and suddenly the door was flung open, and, followed by some half score soldiers, strode in the terrible friar.
"Aha, Master Adam! who is the greater nigromancer now? Seize him! Away! And help you, Master Sergeant, to bear this piece of the foul fiend's cunning devising. Ho, ho! see you how it is tricked out and furbished up,—all for the battle, I warrant ye!"
The soldiers had already seized upon Adam, who, stupefied by astonishment rather than fear, uttered no sound, and attempted no struggle. But it was in vain they sought to tear from him Sibyll's clinging and protecting arms. A supernatural strength, inspired by a kind of superstition that no harm could chance to him while she was by, animated her slight form; and fierce though the soldiers were, they shrunk from actual and brutal violence to one thus young and fair. Those small hands clung so firmly, that it seemed that nothing but the edge of the sword could sever the child's clasp from the father's neck.
"Harm him not, harm him at your peril, friar!" she cried, with flashing eyes. "Tear him from me, and if King Edward win the day, Lord Hastings shall have thy life; if Lord Warwick, thy days are numbered, too. Beware, and avaunt!"
The friar was startled. He had forgotten Lord Hastings in the zest of his revenge. He feared that, if Sibyll were left behind, the tale she might tell would indeed bring on him a powerful foe in the daughter's lover; on the other hand, should Lord Warwick get the better, what vengeance would await her appeal to the great protector of her father! He resolved, therefore, on the instant, to take Sibyll as well as her father; and if the fortune of the day allowed him to rid himself of Warner, a good occasion might equally occur to dispose forever of the testimony of Sibyll. He had already formed a cunning calculation in desiring Warner's company; for while, should Edward triumph, the sacrifice of the hated Warner was resolved upon, yet, should the earl get the better, he could make a merit to Warner that he (the friar) had not only spared, but saved, his life, in making him his companion. It was in harmony with this double policy that the friar mildly answered to Sibyll,—
"Tusk, my daughter! Perhaps if your father be true to King Edward, and aid my skill instead of obstructing it, he may be none the worse for the journey he must take; and if thou likest to go with him, there's room in the vehicle, and the more the merrier. Harm them not, soldiers; no doubt they will follow quietly."
As he said this, the men, after first crossing themselves, had already hoisted up the Eureka; and when Adam saw it borne from the room, he instinctively followed the bearers. Sibyll, relieved by the thought that, for weal or for woe, she should, at least, share her father's fate, and scarce foreboding much positive danger from the party which contained Hastings and Alwyn, attempted no further remonstrance.
The Eureka was placed in the enormous vehicle,—it served as a barrier between the friar and his prisoners.
The friar himself, as soon as the wagon was in motion, addressed himself civilly enough to his fellow-travellers, and assured them there was nothing to fear, unless Adam thought fit to disturb his incantations. The captives answered not his address, but nestled close to each other, interchanging, at intervals, words of comfort, and recoiling as far as possible from the ex-tregetour, who, having taken with him a more congenial companion in the shape of a great leathern bottle, finally sunk into the silent and complacent doze which usually rewards the libations to the Bromian god.
The vehicle, with many other baggage-wagons in the rear of the army in that memorable night-march, moved mournfully on; the night continued wrapped in fog and mist, agreeably to the weatherwise predictions of the friar. The rumbling groan of the vehicle, the tramp of the soldiers, the dull rattle of their arms, with now and then the neigh of some knight's steed in the distance, were the only sounds that broke the silence, till once, as they neared their destination, Sibyll started from her father's bosom, and shudderingly thought she recognized the hoarse chant and the tinkling bells of the ominous tymbesteres.
CHAPTER III. A PAUSE.
In the profound darkness of the night and the thick fog, Edward had stationed his men at a venture upon the heath at Gladsmoor, [Edward "had the greater number of men."—HALL, p. 296.] and hastily environed the camp with palisades and trenches. He had intended to have rested immediately in front of the foe, but, in the darkness, mistook the extent of the hostile line; and his men were ranged only opposite to the left side of the earl's force (towards Hadley), leaving the right unopposed. Most fortunate for Edward was this mistake; for Warwick's artillery, and the new and deadly bombards he had constructed, were placed on the right of the earl's army; and the provident earl, naturally supposing Edward's left was there opposed to him, ordered his gunners to cannonade all night. Edward, "as the flashes of the guns illumined by fits the gloom of midnight, saw the advantage of his unintentional error; and to prevent Warwick from discovering it, reiterated his orders for the most profound silence." [Sharon Turner.] Thus even his very blunders favoured Edward more than the wisest precautions had served his fated foe.
Raw, cold, and dismal dawned the morning of the fourteenth of April, the Easter Sabbath. In the fortunes of that day were involved those of all the persons who hitherto, in the course of this narrative, may have seemed to move in separate orbits from the fiery star of Warwick. Now, in this crowning hour, the vast and gigantic destiny of the great earl comprehended all upon which its darkness or its light had fallen: not only the luxurious Edward, the perjured Clarence, the haughty Margaret, her gallant son, the gentle Anne, the remorseful Isabel, the dark guile of Gloucester, the rising fortunes of the gifted Hastings,—but on the hazard of that die rested the hopes of Hilyard, and the interests of the trader Alwyn, and the permanence of that frank, chivalric, hardy, still half Norman race, of which Nicholas Alwyn and his Saxon class were the rival antagonistic principle, and Marmaduke Nevile the ordinary type. Dragged inexorably into the whirlpool of that mighty fate were even the very lives of the simple Scholar, of his obscure and devoted child. Here, into this gory ocean, all scattered rivulets and streams had hastened to merge at last.
But grander and more awful than all individual interests were those assigned to the fortunes of this battle, so memorable in the English annals,—the ruin or triumph of a dynasty; the fall of that warlike baronage, of which Richard Nevile was the personation, the crowning flower, the greatest representative and the last,—associated with memories of turbulence and excess, it is true, but with the proudest and grandest achievements in our early history; with all such liberty as had been yet achieved since the Norman Conquest; with all such glory as had made the island famous,—here with Runnymede, and there with Cressy; the rise of a crafty, plotting, imperious Despotism, based upon the growing sympathy of craftsmen and traders, and ripening on the one hand to the Tudor tyranny, the Republican reaction under the Stuarts, the slavery, and the civil war, but on the other hand to the concentration of all the vigour and life of genius into a single and strong government, the graces, the arts, the letters of a polished court, the freedom, the energy, the resources of a commercial population destined to rise above the tyranny at which it had first connived, and give to the emancipated Saxon the markets of the world. Upon the victory of that day all these contending interests, this vast alternative in the future, swayed and trembled. Out, then, upon that vulgar craving of those who comprehend neither the vast truths of life nor the grandeur of ideal art, and who ask from poet or narrator the poor and petty morality of "Poetical Justice,"—a justice existing not in our work-day world; a justice existing not in the sombre page of history; a justice existing not in the loftier conceptions of men whose genius has grappled with the enigmas which art and poetry only can foreshadow and divine,—unknown to us in the street and the market, unknown to us on the scaffold of the patriot or amidst the flames of the martyr, unknown to us in the Lear and the Hamlet, in the Agamemnon and the Prometheus. Millions upon millions, ages upon ages, are entered but as items in the vast account in which the recording angel sums up the unerring justice of God to man.
Raw, cold, and dismal dawned the morning of the fourteenth of April. And on that very day Margaret and her son, and the wife and daughter of Lord Warwick, landed, at last, on the shores of England. [Margaret landed at Weymouth; Lady Warwick, at Portsmouth.] Come they for joy or for woe, for victory or despair? The issue of this day's fight on the heath of Gladsmoor will decide. Prank thy halls, O Westminster, for the triumph of the Lancastrian king,—or open thou, O Grave, to receive the saint-like Henry and his noble son. The king-maker goes before ye, saint-like father and noble son, to prepare your thrones amongst the living or your mansions amongst the dead!
CHAPTER IV. THE BATTLE.
Raw, cold, and dismal dawned the morning of the fourteenth of April. The heavy mist still covered both armies, but their hum and stir was already heard through the gloaming,—the neighing of steeds, and the clangour of mail. Occasionally a movement of either force made dim forms, seeming gigantic through the vapour, indistinctly visible to the antagonistic army; and there was something ghastly and unearthlike in these ominous shapes, suddenly seen, and suddenly vanishing, amidst the sullen atmosphere. By this time, Warwick had discovered the mistake of his gunners; for, to the right of the earl, the silence of the Yorkists was still unbroken, while abruptly, from the thick gloom to the left, broke the hoarse mutter and low growl of the awakening war. Not a moment was lost by the earl in repairing the error of the night: his artillery wheeled rapidly from the right wing, and, sudden as a storm of lightning, the fire from the cannon flashed through the dun and heavy vapour, and, not far from the very spot where Hastings was marshalling the wing intrusted to his command, made a deep chasm in the serried ranks. Death had begun his feast!
At that moment, however, from the centre of the Yorkist army, arose, scarcely drowned by the explosion, that deep-toned shout of enthusiasm, which he who has once heard it, coming, as it were, from the one heart of an armed multitude, will ever recall as the most kindling and glorious sound which ever quickened the pulse and thrilled the blood,—for along that part of the army now rode King Edward. His mail was polished as a mirror, but otherwise unadorned, resembling that which now invests his effigies at the Tower, [The suit of armour, however, which the visitor to the Royal Armoury is expected to believe King Edward could have worn, is infinitely too small for such credulity. Edward's height was six feet two inches.] and the housings of his steed were spangled with silver suns, for the silver sun was the cognizance on all his banners. His head was bare, and through the hazy atmosphere the gold of his rich locks seemed literally to shine. Followed by his body squire, with his helm and lance, and the lords in his immediate staff, his truncheon in his hand, he passed slowly along the steady line, till, halting where he deemed his voice could be farthest heard, he reined in, and lifting his hand, the shout of the soldiery was hushed; though still, while he spoke, from Warwick's archers came the arrowy shower, and still the gloom was pierced and the hush interrupted by the flash and the roar of the bombards.
"Englishmen and friends," said the martial chief, "to bold deeds go but few words. Before you is the foe! From Ravenspur to London I have marched, treason flying from my sword, loyalty gathering to my standard. With but two thousand men, on the fourteenth of March, I entered England; on the fourteenth of April, fifty thousand is my muster roll. Who shall say, then, that I am not king, when one month mans a monarch's army from his subjects' love? And well know ye, now, that my cause is yours and England's! Those against us are men who would rule in despite of law,—barons whom I gorged with favours, and who would reduce this fair realm of King, Lords, and Commons to be the appanage and property of one man's measureless ambition,—the park, forsooth, the homestead to Lord Warwick's private house! Ye gentlemen and knights of England, let them and their rabble prosper, and your properties will be despoiled, your lives insecure, all law struck dead. What differs Richard of Warwick from Jack Cade, save that if his name is nobler, so is his treason greater? Commoners and soldiers of England, freemen, however humble, what do these rebel lords (who would rule in the name of Lancaster) desire? To reduce you to villeins and to bondsmen, as your forefathers were to them. Ye owe freedom from the barons to the just laws of my sires, your kings. Gentlemen and knights, commoners and soldiers, Edward IV. upon his throne will not profit by a victory more than you. This is no war of dainty chivalry,—it is a war of true men against false. No quarter! Spare not either knight or hilding. Warwick, forsooth, will not smite the Commons. Truly not,—the rabble are his friends! I say to you—" and Edward, pausing in the excitement and sanguinary fury of his tiger nature,—the soldiers, heated like himself to the thirst of blood, saw his eyes sparkle, and his teeth gnash, as he added in a deeper and lower, but not less audible voice, "I say to you, SLAY ALL! [Hall.] What heel spares the viper's brood?"
"We will! we will!" was the horrid answer, which came hissing and muttered forth from morion and cap of steel.
"Hark! to their bombards!" resumed Edward. "The enemy would fight from afar, for they excel us in their archers and gunners. Upon them, then, hand to hand, and man to man! Advance banners, sound trumpets! Sir Oliver, my bassinet! Soldiers, if my standard falls, look for the plume upon your king's helmet! Charge!"
Then, with a shout wilder and louder than before, on through the hail of the arrows, on through the glare of the bombards, rather with a rush than in a march, advanced Edward's centre against the array of Somerset; but from a part of the encampment where the circumvallation seemed strongest, a small body of men moved not with the general body.
To the left of the churchyard of Hadley, at this day, the visitor may notice a low wall; on the other side of that wall is a garden, then but a rude eminence on Gladsmoor Heath. On that spot a troop in complete armour, upon destriers pawing impatiently, surrounded a man upon a sorry palfrey, and in a gown of blue,—the colour of royalty and of servitude; that man was Henry the Sixth. In the same space stood Friar Bungey, his foot on the Eureka, muttering incantations, that the mists he had foretold, [Lest the reader should suppose that the importance of Friar Bungey upon this bloody day has been exaggerated by the narrator, we must cite the testimony of sober Allerman Fabyan: "Of the mists and other impediments which fell upon the lords' party, by reason of the incantations wrought by Friar Bungey, as the fame went, me list not to write."] and which had protected the Yorkists from the midnight guns, might yet last, to the confusion of the foe. And near him, under a gaunt, leafless tree, a rope round his neck, was Adam Warner, Sibyl still faithful to his side, nor shuddering at the arrows and the guns, her whole fear concentrated upon the sole life for which her own was prized. Upon this eminence, then, these lookers-on stood aloof. And the meek ears of Henry heard through the fog the inexplicable, sullen, jarring clash,—steel had met steel.
"Holy Father!" exclaimed the kingly saint, "and this is the Easter Sabbath, Thy most solemn day of peace!"
"Be silent," thundered the friar; "thou disturbest my spells. Barabbarara, Santhinoa, Foggibus increscebo, confusio inimicis, Garabbora, vapor et mistes!"
We must now rapidly survey the dispositions of the army under Warwick. In the right wing, the command was entrusted to the Earl of Oxford and the Marquis of Montagu. The former, who led the cavalry of that division, was stationed in the van; the latter, according to his usual habit—surrounded by a strong body-guard of knights and a prodigious number of squires as aides-de-camp—remained at the rear, and directed thence by his orders the general movement. In this wing the greater number were Lancastrian, jealous of Warwick, and only consenting to the generalship of Montagu because shared by their favourite hero, Oxford. In the mid-space lay the chief strength of the bowmen, with a goodly number of pikes and bills, under the Duke of Somerset; and this division also was principally Lancastrian, and shared the jealousy of Oxford's soldiery. The left wing, composed for the most part of Warwick's yeomanry and retainers, was commanded by the Duke of Exeter, conjointly with the earl himself. Both armies kept a considerable body in reserve, and Warwick, besides this resource, had selected from his own retainers a band of picked archers, whom he had skilfully placed in the outskirts of a wood that then stretched from Wrotham Park to the column that now commemorates the battle of Barnet, on the high northern road. He had guarded these last-mentioned archers (where exposed in front to Edward's horsemen) by strong tall barricades, leaving only such an opening as would allow one horseman at a time to pass, and defending by a formidable line of pikes this narrow opening left for communication, and to admit to a place of refuge in case of need. These dispositions made, and ere yet Edward had advanced on Somerset, the earl rode to the front of the wing under his special command, and, agreeably to the custom of the time, observed by his royal foe, harangued the troops. Here were placed those who loved him as a father, and venerated him as something superior to mortal man; here the retainers who had grown up with him from his childhood, who had followed him to his first fields of war, who had lived under the shelter of his many castles, and fed, in that rude equality of a more primeval age which he loved still to maintain, at his lavish board. And now Lord Warwick's coal-black steed halted, motionless in the van. His squire behind bore his helmet, overshadowed by the eagle of Monthermer, the outstretched wings of which spread wide into sable plumes; and as the earl's noble face turned full and calm upon the bristling lines, there arose not the vulgar uproar that greeted the aspect of the young Edward. By one of those strange sympathies which pass through multitudes, and seize them with a common feeling, the whole body of those adoring vassals became suddenly aware of the change which a year had made in the face of their chief and father. They saw the gray flakes in his Jove-like curls, the furrows in that lofty brow, the hollows in that bronzed and manly visage, which had seemed to their rude admiration to wear the stamp of the twofold Divinity,—Beneficence and Valour. A thrill of tenderness and awe shot through the veins of every one, tears of devotion rushed into many a hardy eye. No! there was not the ruthless captain addressing his hireling butchers; it was the chief and father rallying gratitude and love and reverence to the crisis of his stormy fate.
"My friends, my followers, and my children," said the earl, "the field we have entered is one from which there is no retreat; here must your leader conquer or here die. It is not a parchment pedigree, it is not a name derived from the ashes of dead men, that make the only charter of a king. We Englishmen were but slaves, if, in giving crown and sceptre to a mortal like ourselves, we asked not in return the kingly virtues. Beset of old by evil counsellors, the reign of Henry VI. was obscured, and the weal of the realm endangered. Mine own wrongs seemed to me great, but the disasters of my country not less. I deemed that in the race of York, England would know a wiser and happier rule. What was, in this, mine error, ye partly know. A prince dissolved in luxurious vices, a nobility degraded by minions and blood-suckers, a people plundered by purveyors, and a land disturbed by brawl and riot. But ye know not all: God makes man's hearth man's altar: our hearths were polluted, our wives and daughters were viewed as harlots, and lechery ruled the realm. A king's word should be fast as the pillars of the world. What man ever trusted Edward and was not deceived? Even now the unknightly liar stands in arms with the weight of perjury on his soul. In his father's town of York, ye know that he took, three short weeks since, solemn oath of fealty to King Henry. And now King Henry is his captive, and King Henry's holy crown upon his traitor's head. 'Traitors' calls he Us? What name, then, rank enough for him? Edward gave the promise of a brave man, and I served him. He proved a base, a false, a licentious, and a cruel king, and I forsook him; may all free hearts in all free lands so serve kings when they become tyrants! Ye fight against a cruel and atrocious usurper, whose bold hand cannot sanctify a black heart; ye fight not only for King Henry, the meek and the godly,—ye fight not for him alone, but for his young and princely son, the grandchild of Henry of Agincourt, who, old men tell me, has that hero's face, and who, I know, has that hero's frank and royal and noble soul; ye fight for the freedom of your land, for the honour of your women, for what is better than any king's cause,—for justice and mercy, for truth and manhood's virtues against corruption in the laws, slaughter by the scaffold, falsehood in a ruler's lips, and shameless harlotry in the councils of ruthless power. The order I have ever given in war I give now; we war against the leaders of evil, not against the hapless tools; we war against our oppressors, not against our misguided brethren. Strike down every plumed crest, but when the strife is over, spare every common man! Hark! while I speak, I hear the march of your foe! Up standards!—blow trumpets! And now, as I brace my bassinet, may God grant us all a glorious victory, or a glorious grave! On, my merry men! show these London loons the stout hearts of Warwickshire and Yorkshire. On, my merry men! A Warwick! A Warwick!"
As he ended, he swung lightly over his head the terrible battle-axe which had smitten down, as the grass before the reaper, the chivalry of many a field; and ere the last blast of the trumpets died, the troops of Warwick and of Gloucester met, and mingled hand to hand.
Although the earl had, on discovering the position of the enemy, moved some of his artillery from his right wing, yet there still lay the great number and strength of his force. And there, therefore, Montagu, rolling troop on troop to the aid of Oxford, pressed so overpoweringly upon the soldiers under Hastings, that the battle very soon wore a most unfavourable aspect for the Yorkists. It seemed, indeed, that the success which had always hitherto attended the military movements of Montagu was destined for a crowning triumph. Stationed, as we have said, in the rear, with his light-armed squires, upon fleet steeds, around him, he moved the springs of the battle with the calm sagacity which at that moment no chief in either army possessed. Hastings was thoroughly outflanked, and though his men fought with great valour, they could not resist the weight of superior numbers.
In the midst of the carnage in the centre, Edward reined in his steed as he heard the cry of victory in the gale.
"By Heaven!" he exclaimed, "our men at the left are cravens! they fly! they fly!—Ride to Lord Hastings, Sir Humphrey Bourchier, bid him defile hither what men are left him; and now, ere our fellows are well aware what hath chanced yonder, charge we, knights and gentlemen, on, on!—break Somerset's line; on, on, to the heart of the rebel earl!"
Then, visor closed, lance in rest, Edward and his cavalry dashed through the archers and billmen of Somerset; clad in complete mail, impervious to the weapons of the infantry, they slaughtered as they rode, and their way was marked by corpses and streams of blood. Fiercest and fellest of all was Edward himself; when his lance shivered, and he drew his knotty mace from its sling by his saddlebow, woe to all who attempted to stop his path. Vain alike steel helmet or leathern cap, jerkin or coat of mail. In vain Somerset threw himself into the melee. The instant Edward and his cavalry had made a path through the lines for his foot-soldiery, the fortunes of the day were half retrieved. It was no rapid passage, pierced and reclosed, that he desired to effect,—it was the wedge in the oak of war. There, rooted in the very midst of Somerset's troops, doubling on each side, passing on but to return again, where helm could be crashed and man overthrown, the mighty strength of Edward widened the breach more and more, till faster and faster poured in his bands, and the centre of Warwick's army seemed to reel and whirl round the broadening gap through its ranks, as the waves round some chasm in a maelstrom.
But in the interval, the hard-pressed troops commanded by Hastings were scattered and dispersed; driven from the field, they fled in numbers through the town of Barnet; many halted not till they reached London, where they spread the news of the earl's victory and Edward's ruin. [Sharon Turner.]
Through the mist, Friar Bungey discerned the fugitive Yorkists under Hastings, and heard their cries of despair; through the mist, Sibyll saw, close beneath the intrenchments which protected the space on which they stood, an armed horseman with the well-known crest of Hastings on his helmet, and, with lifted visor, calling his men to the return, in the loud voice of rage and scorn. And then she herself sprang forwards, and forgetting his past cruelty in his present danger, cried his name,—weak cry, lost in the roar of war! But the friar, now fearing he had taken the wrong side, began to turn from his spells, to address the most abject apologies to Adam, to assure him that he would have been slaughtered at the Tower but for the friar's interruption; and that the rope round his neck was but an insignificant ceremony due to the prejudices of the soldiers. "Alas, Great Man," he concluded, "I see still that thou art mightier than I am; thy charms, though silent, are more potent than mine, though my lungs crack beneath them! Confusio Inimicis Taralorolu, I mean no harm to the earl. Garrabora, mistes et nubes!—Lord, what will become of me!"
Meanwhile, Hastings—with a small body of horse, who being composed of knights and squires, specially singled out for the sword, fought with the pride of disdainful gentlemen, and the fury of desperate soldiers—finding it impossible to lure back the fugitives, hewed their own way through Oxford's ranks to the centre, where they brought fresh aid to the terrible arm of Edward.
CHAPTER V. THE BATTLE.
The mist still continued so thick that Montagu was unable to discern the general prospects of the field; but, calm and resolute in his post, amidst the arrows which whirled round him, and often struck, blunted, against his Milan mail, the marquis received the reports of his aides-de-camp (may that modern word be pardoned?) as one after one they emerged through the fog to his side.
"Well," he said, as one of these messengers now spurred to the spot, "we have beaten off Hastings and his hirelings; but I see not 'the Silver Star' of Lord Oxford's banner." [The Silver Star of the De Veres had its origin in a tradition that one of their ancestors, when fighting in the Holy Land, saw a falling star descend upon his shield. Fatal to men nobler even than the De Veres was that silver falling star.]
"Lord Oxford, my lord, has followed the enemy he routed to the farthest verge of the heath."
"Saints help us! Is Oxford thus headstrong? He will ruin all if he be decoyed from the field! Ride back, sir! Yet hold!"—as another of the aides-de-camp appeared. "What news from Lord Warwick's wing?"
"Sore beset, bold marquis. Gloucester's line seems countless; it already outflanks the earl. The duke himself seems inspired by hell! Twice has his slight arm braved even the earl's battle-axe, which spared the boy but smote to the dust his comrades!"
"Well, and what of the centre, sir?" as a third form now arrived.
"There rages Edward in person. He hath pierced into the midst. But Somerset still holds on gallantly!" Montagu turned to the first aide-de-camp.
"Ride, sir! Quick! This to Oxford—No pursuit! Bid him haste, with all his men, to the left wing, and smite Gloucester in the rear. Ride, ride, for life and victory! If he come but in time the day is ours!" [Fabyan.]
The aide-de-camp darted off, and the mist swallowed up horse and horseman.
"Sound trumpets to the return!" said the marquis. Then, after a moment's musing, "Though Oxford hath drawn off our main force of cavalry, we have still some stout lances left; and Warwick must be strengthened. On to the earl! Laissez aller! A Montagu! a Montagu!" And lance in rest, the marquis and the knights immediately around him, and hitherto not personally engaged, descended the hillock at a hand-gallop, and were met by a troop outnumbering their own, and commanded by the Lords D'Eyncourt and Say.
At this time Warwick was indeed in the same danger that had routed the troops of Hastings; for, by a similar position, the strength of the hostile numbers being arrayed with Gloucester, the duke's troops had almost entirely surrounded him [Sharon Turner]; and Gloucester himself wondrously approved the trust that had consigned to his stripling arm the flower of the Yorkist army. Through the mists the blood-red manteline he wore over his mail, the grinning teeth of the boar's head which crested his helmet, flashed and gleamed wherever his presence was most needed to encourage the flagging or spur on the fierce. And there seemed to both armies something ghastly and preternatural in the savage strength of this small slight figure thus startlingly caparisoned, and which was heard evermore uttering its sharp war-cry, "Gloucester to the onslaught! Down with the rebels, down!"
Nor did this daring personage disdain, in the midst of his fury, to increase the effect of valour by the art of a brain that never ceased to scheme on the follies of mankind. "See, see!" he cried, as he shot meteor-like from rank to rank, "see, these are no natural vapours! Yonder the mighty friar, who delayed the sails of Margaret, chants his spells to the Powers that ride the gale. Fear not the bombards,—their enchanted balls swerve from the brave! The dark legions of Air fight for us! For the hour is come when the fiend shall rend his prey!" And fiendlike seemed the form thus screeching forth its predictions from under the grim head-gear; and then darting and disappearing amidst the sea of pikes, cleaving its path of blood!
But still the untiring might of Warwick defied the press of numbers that swept round him tide upon tide. Through the mist, his black armour, black plume, black steed, gloomed forth like one thundercloud in the midst of a dismal heaven. The noble charger bore along that mighty rider, animating, guiding all, with as much ease and lightness as the racer bears its puny weight; the steed itself was scarce less terrible to encounter than the sweep of the rider's axe. Protected from arrow and lance by a coat of steel, the long chaffron, or pike, which projected from its barbed frontal dropped with gore as it scoured along. No line of men, however serried, could resist the charge of that horse and horseman. And vain even Gloucester's dauntless presence and thrilling battle-cry, when the stout earl was seen looming through the vapour, and his cheerful shout was heard, "My merry men, fight on!"
For a third time, Gloucester, spurring forth from his recoiling and shrinking followers, bending low over his saddle-bow, covered by his shield, and with the tenth lance (his favourite weapon, because the one in which skill best supplied strength) he had borne that day, launched himself upon the vast bulk of his tremendous foe. With that dogged energy, that rapid calculation, which made the basis of his character, and which ever clove through all obstacles at the one that, if destroyed, destroyed the rest,—in that, his first great battle, as in his last at Bosworth, he singled out the leader, and rushed upon the giant as the mastiff on the horns and dewlap of the bull. Warwick, in the broad space which his arm had made around him in the carnage, reined in as he saw the foe and recognized the grisly cognizance and scarlet mantle of his godson. And even in that moment, with all his heated blood and his remembered wrong and his imminent peril, his generous and lion heart felt a glow of admiration at the valour of the boy he had trained to arms,—of the son of the beloved York. "His father little thought," muttered the earl, "that that arm should win glory against his old friend's life!" And as the half-uttered word died on his lips, the well-poised lance of Gloucester struck full upon his bassinet, and, despite the earl's horsemanship and his strength, made him reel in his saddle, while the prince shot by, and suddenly wheeling round, cast away the shivered lance, and assailed him sword in hand.
"Back, Richard! boy, back!" said the earl, in a voice that sounded hollow through his helmet; "it is not against thee that my wrongs call for blood,—pass on!"
"Not so, Lord Warwick," answered Richard, in a sobered and almost solemn voice, dropping for the moment the point of his sword, and raising his visor, that he might be the better heard,—"on the field of battle all memories sweet in peace must die! Saint Paul be my judge, that even in this hour I love you well; but I love renown and glory more. On the edge of my sword sit power and royalty, and what high souls prize most,—ambition; these would nerve me against my own brother's breast, were that breast my barrier to an illustrious future. Thou hast given thy daughter to another! I smite the father to regain my bride. Lay on, and spare not!—for he who hates thee most would prove not so fell a foe as the man who sees his fortunes made or marred, his love crushed or yet crowned, as this day's battle closes in triumph or defeat. REBEL, DEFEND THYSELF!"
No time was left for further speech; for as Richard's sword descended, two of Gloucester's followers, Parr and Milwater by name, dashed from the halting lines at the distance, and bore down to their young prince's aid. At the same moment, Sir Marmaduke Nevile and the Lord Fitzhugh spurred from the opposite line; and thus encouraged, the band on either side came boldly forward, and the melee grew fierce and general. But still Richard's sword singled out the earl, and still the earl, parrying his blows, dealt his own upon meaner heads. Crushed by one sweep of the axe fell Milwater to the earth; down, as again it swung on high, fell Sir Humphrey Bourchier, who had just arrived to Gloucester with messages from Edward, never uttered in the world below. Before Marmaduke's lance fell Sir Thomas Parr; and these three corpses making a barrier between Gloucester and the earl, the duke turned fiercely upon Marmaduke, while the earl, wheeling round, charged into the midst of the hostile line, which scattered to the right and left.
"On! my merry men, on!" rang once more through the heavy air. "They give way, the London tailors,—on!" and on dashed, with their joyous cry, the merry men of Yorkshire and Warwick, the warrior yeomen! Separated thus from his great foe, Gloucester, after unhorsing Marmaduke, galloped off to sustain that part of his following which began to waver and retreat before the rush of Warwick and his chivalry.
This, in truth, was the regiment recruited from the loyalty of London; and little accustomed, we trow, were the worthy heroes of Cockaigne to the discipline of arms, nor trained to that stubborn resistance which makes, under skilful leaders, the English peasants the most enduring soldiery that the world has known since the day when the Roman sentinel perished amidst the falling columns and lava floods [at Pompeii], rather than, though society itself dissolved, forsake his post unbidden. "Saint Thomas defend us!" muttered a worthy tailor, who in the flush of his valour, when safe in the Chepe, had consented to bear the rank of lieutenant; "it is not reasonable to expect men of pith and substance to be crushed into jellies and carved into subtleties by horse-hoofs and pole-axes. Right about face! Fly!"—and throwing down his sword and shield, the lieutenant fairly took to his heels as he saw the charging column, headed by the raven steed of Warwick, come giant-like through the fog. The terror of one man is contagious, and the Londoners actually turned their backs, when Nicholas Alwyn cried, in his shrill voice and northern accent, "Out on you! What will the girls say of us in East-gate and the Chepe? Hurrah for the bold hearts of London! Round me, stout 'prentices! let the boys shame the men! This shaft for Cockaigne!" And as the troop turned irresolute, and Alwyn's arrow left his bow, they saw a horseman by the side of Warwick reel in his saddle and fall at once to the earth; and so great evidently was the rank of the fallen man that even Warwick reined in, and the charge halted midway in its career. It was no less a person than the Duke of Exeter whom Alwyn's shaft had disabled for the field. This incident, coupled with the hearty address of the stout goldsmith, served to reanimate the flaggers, and Gloucester, by a circuitous route, reaching their line a moment after, they dressed their ranks, and a flight of arrows followed their loud "Hurrah for London Town!"
But the charge of Warwick had only halted, and (while the wounded Exeter was borne back by his squires to the rear) it dashed into the midst of the Londoners, threw their whole line into confusion, and drove them, despite all the efforts of Gloucester, far back along the plain. This well-timed exploit served to extricate the earl from the main danger of his position; and, hastening to improve his advantage, he sent forthwith to command the reserved forces under Lord St. John, the Knight of Lytton, Sir John Coniers, Dymoke, and Robert Hilyard, to bear down to his aid.
At this time Edward had succeeded, after a most stubborn fight, in effecting a terrible breach through Somerset's wing; and the fog continued still so dense and mirk, that his foe itself—for Somerset had prudently drawn back to re-form his disordered squadron—seemed vanished from the field. Halting now, as through the dim atmosphere came from different quarters the many battle-cries of that feudal-day, by which alone he could well estimate the strength or weakness of those in the distance, his calmer genius as a general cooled, for a time, his individual ferocity of knight and soldier. He took his helmet from his brow to listen with greater certainty; and the lords and riders round him were well content to take breath and pause from the weary slaughter.
The cry of "Gloucester to the onslaught!" was heard no more. Feebler and feebler, scatteringly as it were, and here and there, the note had changed into "Gloucester to the rescue!"