Farther off rose, mingled and blent together, the opposing shouts, "A Montagu! a Montagu! Strike for D'Eyncourt and King Edward!"—"A Say! A Say!"
"Ha!" said Edward, thoughtfully, "bold Gloucester fails, Montagu is bearing on to Warwick's aid, Say and D'Eyncourt stop his path. Our doom looks dark! Ride, Hastings,—ride; retrieve thy laurels, and bring up the reserve under Clarence. But hark ye, leave not his side,—he may desert again! Ho! ho! Again, 'Gloucester to the rescue!' Ah, how lustily sounds the cry of 'Warwick!' By the flaming sword of Saint Michael, we will slacken that haughty shout, or be evermore dumb ourself, ere the day be an hour nearer to the eternal judgment!"
Deliberately Edward rebraced his helm, and settled himself in his saddle, and with his knights riding close each to each, that they might not lose themselves in the darkness, regained his infantry, and led them on to the quarter where the war now raged fiercest, round the black steed of Warwick and the blood-red manteline of the fiery Richard.
CHAPTER VI. THE BATTLE.
It was now scarcely eight in the morning, though the battle had endured three hours; and, as yet, victory so inclined to the earl that nought but some dire mischance could turn the scale. Montagu had cut his way to Warwick; Somerset had re-established his array. The fresh vigour brought by the earl's reserve had well-nigh completed his advantage over Gloucester's wing. The new infantry under Hilyard, the unexhausted riders under Sir John Coniers and his knightly compeers, were dealing fearful havoc, as they cleared the plain; and Gloucester, fighting inch by inch, no longer outnumbering but outnumbered, was driven nearer and nearer towards the town, when suddenly a pale, sickly, and ghostlike ray of sunshine, rather resembling the watery gleam of a waning moon than the radiance of the Lord of Light, broke through the mists, and showed to the earl's eager troops the banner and badges of a new array hurrying to the spot. "Behold," cried the young Lord Fitzhugh, "the standard and the badge of the Usurper,—a silver sun! Edward himself is delivered into our hands! Upon them, bill and pike, lance and brand, shaft and bolt! Upon them, and crown the day!"
The same fatal error was shared by Hilyard, as he caught sight of the advancing troop, with their silvery cognizance. He gave the word, and every arrow left its string. At the same moment, as both horse and foot assailed the fancied foe, the momentary beam vanished from the heaven, the two forces mingled in the sullen mists, when, after a brief conflict, a sudden and horrible cry of "Treason! Treason!" resounded from either band. The shining star of Oxford, returning from the pursuit, had been mistaken for Edward's cognizance of the sun. [Cont. Croyl., 555; Fabyan, Habington, Hume, S. Turner.] Friend was slaughtering friend, and when the error was detected, each believed the other had deserted to the foe. In vain, here Montagu and Warwick, and there Oxford and his captains, sought to dispel the confusion, and unite those whose blood had been fired against each other. While yet in doubt, confusion, and dismay, rushed full into the centre Edward of York himself, with his knights and riders; and his tossing banners, scarcely even yet distinguished from Oxford's starry ensigns, added to the general incertitude and panic. Loud in the midst rose Edward's trumpet voice, while through the midst, like one crest of foam upon a roaring sea, danced his plume of snow. Hark! again, again—near and nearer—the tramp of steeds, the clash of steel, the whiz and hiss of arrows, the shout of "Hastings to the onslaught!" Fresh, and panting for glory and for blood, came on King Edward's large reserve; from all the scattered parts of the field spurred the Yorkist knights, where the uproar, so much mightier than before, told them that the crisis of the war was come. Thither, as vultures to the carcass, they flocked and wheeled; thither D'Eyncourt and Lovell, and Cromwell's bloody sword, and Say's knotted mace; and thither, again rallying his late half-beaten myrmidons, the grim Gloucester, his helmet bruised and dinted, but the boar's teeth still gnashing wrath and horror from the grisly crest. But direst and most hateful of all in the eyes of the yet undaunted earl, thither, plainly visible, riding scarcely a yard before him, with the cognizance of Clare wrought on his gay mantle, and in all the pomp and bravery of a holiday suit, came the perjured Clarence. Conflict now it could scarce be called: as well might the Dane have rolled back the sea from his footstool, as Warwick and his disordered troop (often and aye, dazzled here by Oxford's star, there by Edward's sun, dealing random blows against each other) have resisted the general whirl and torrent of the surrounding foe. To add to the rout, Somerset and the on-guard of his wing had been marching towards the earl at the very time that the cry of "treason" had struck their ears, and Edward's charge was made; these men, nearly all Lancastrians, and ever doubting Montagu, if not Warwick, with the example of Clarence and the Archbishop of York fresh before them, lost heart at once,—Somerset himself headed the flight of his force.
"All is lost!" said Montagu, as side by side with Warwick the brothers fronted the foe, and for one moment stayed the rush.
"Not yet," returned the earl; "a band of my northern archers still guard yon wood; I know them,—they will fight to the last gasp! Thither, then, with what men we may. You so marshal our soldiers, and I will make good the retreat. Where is Sir Marmaduke Nevile?"
"Horsed again, young cousin! I give thee a perilous commission. Take the path down the hill; the mists thicken in the hollows, and may hide thee. Overtake Somerset; he hath fled westward, and tell him, from me, if he can yet rally but one troop of horse—but one—and charge Edward suddenly in the rear, he will yet redeem all. If he refuse, the ruin of his king and the slaughter of the brave men he deserts be on his head! Swift, a tout bride, Marmaduke. Yet one word," added the earl, in a whisper,—"if you fail with Somerset, come not back, make to the Sanctuary. You are too young to die, cousin! Away! keep to the hollows of the chase."
As the knight vanished, Warwick turned to his comrades "Bold nephew Fitzhugh, and ye brave riders round me,—so we are fifty knights! Haste thou, Montagu, to the wood! the wood!"
So noble in that hero age was the Individual MAN, even amidst the multitudes massed by war, that history vies with romance in showing how far a single sword could redress the scale of war. While Montagu, with rapid dexterity, and a voice yet promising victory, drew back the remnant of the lines, and in serried order retreated to the outskirts of the wood, Warwick and his band of knights protected the movement from the countless horsemen who darted forth from Edward's swarming and momently thickening ranks. Now dividing and charging singly, now rejoining, and breast to breast, they served to divert and perplex and harass the eager enemy. And never in all his wars, in all the former might of his indomitable arm, had Warwick so excelled the martial chivalry of his age, as in that eventful and crowning hour. Thrice almost alone he penetrated into the very centre of Edward's body-guard, literally felling to the earth all before him. Then perished by his battle-axe Lord Cromwell and the redoubted Lord of Say; then, no longer sparing even the old affection, Gloucester was hurled to the ground. The last time he penetrated even to Edward himself, smiting down the king's standard-bearer, unhorsing Hastings, who threw himself on his path; and Edward, setting his teeth in stern joy as he saw him, rose in his stirrups, and for a moment the mace of the king, the axe of the earl, met as thunder encounters thunder; but then a hundred knights rushed into the rescue, and robbed the baffled avenger of his prey. Thus charging and retreating, driving back with each charge farther and farther the mighty multitude hounding on to the lion's death, this great chief and his devoted knights, though terribly reduced in number, succeeded at last in covering Montagu's skilful retreat; and when they gained the outskirts of the wood, and dashed through the narrow opening between the barricades, the Yorkshire archers approved their lord's trust, and, shouting, as to a marriage feast, hailed his coming.
But few, alas! of his fellow-horsemen had survived that marvellous enterprise of valour and despair. Of the fifty knights who had shared its perils, eleven only gained the wood; and, though in this number the most eminent (save Sir John Coniers, either slain or fled) might be found, their horses, more exposed than themselves, were for the most part wounded and unfit for further service. At this time the sun again, and suddenly as before, broke forth,—not now with a feeble glimmer, but a broad and almost a cheerful beam, which sufficed to give a fuller view than the day had yet afforded of the state and prospects of the field.
To the right and to the left, what remained of the cavalry of Warwick were seen flying fast,—gone the lances of Oxford, the bills of Somerset. Exeter, pierced by the shaft of Alwyn, was lying cold and insensible, remote from the contest, and deserted even by his squires.
In front of the archers and such men as Montagu had saved from the sword, halted the immense and murmuring multitude of Edward, their thousand banners glittering in the sudden sun; for, as Edward beheld the last wrecks of his foe, stationed near the covert, his desire of consummating victory and revenge made him cautious, and, fearing an ambush, he had abruptly halted.
When the scanty followers of the earl thus beheld the immense force arrayed for their destruction, and saw the extent of their danger, and their loss,—here the handful, there the multitude,—a simultaneous exclamation of terror and dismay broke from their ranks.
"Children!" cried Warwick, "droop not! Henry at Agincourt had worse odds than we!"
But the murmur among the archers, the lealest part of the earl's retainers, continued, till there stepped forth their captain, a gray old man, but still sinewy and unbent, the iron relic of a hundred battles.
"Back to your men, Mark Forester!" said the earl, sternly.
The old man obeyed not. He came on to Warwick, and fell on his knees beside his stirrup.
"Fly, my lord! escape is possible for you and your riders. Fly through the wood, we will screen your path with our bodies. Your children, father of your followers, your children of Middleham, ask no better fate than to die for you! Is it not so?" and the old man, rising, turned to those in hearing. They answered by a general acclamation.
"Mark Forester speaks well," said Montagu. "On you depends the last hope of Lancaster. We may yet join Oxford and Somerset! This way through the wood,—come!" and he laid his hand on the earl's rein.
"Knights and sirs," said the earl, dismounting, and partially raising his visor as he turned to the horsemen, "let those who will, fly with Lord Montagu! Let those who, in a just cause, never despair of victory, nor, even at the worst, fear to face their Maker, fresh from the glorious death of heroes, dismount with me!" Every knight sprang from his steed, Montagu the first. "Comrades!" continued the earl, then addressing the retainers, "when the children fight for a father's honour, the father flies not from the peril into which he has drawn the children. What to me were life, stained by the blood of mine own beloved retainers, basely deserted by their chief? Edward has proclaimed that he will spare none. Fool! he gives us, then, the superhuman mightiness of despair! To your bows!—one shaft—if it pierce the joints of the tyrant's mail—one shaft may scatter yon army to the winds! Sir Marmaduke has gone to rally noble Somerset and his riders; if we make good our defence one little hour, the foe may be yet smitten in the rear, and the day retrieved! Courage and heart then!" Here the earl lifted his visor to the farthest bar, and showed his cheerful face—"Is this the face of a man who thinks all hope is gone?"
In this interval, the sudden sunshine revealed to King Henry, where he stood, the dispersion of his friends. To the rear of the palisades, which protected the spot where he was placed, already grouped "the lookers-on and no fighters," as the chronicler [Fabyan] words it, who, as the guns slackened, ventured forth to learn the news, and who now, filling the churchyard of Hadley, strove hard to catch a peep of Henry the saint, or of Bungey the sorcerer. Mingled with these gleamed the robes of the tymbesteres, pressing nearer and nearer to the barriers, as wolves, in the instinct of blood, come nearer and nearer round the circling watch-fire of some northern travellers. At this time the friar, turning to one of the guards who stood near him, said, "The mists are needed no more now; King Edward hath got the day, eh?"
"Certes, great master," quoth the guard, "nothing now lacks to the king's triumph except the death of the earl."
"Infamous nigromancer, hear that!" cried Bungey to Adam. "What now avail thy bombards and thy talisman! Hark yet—tell me the secret of the last,—of the damnable engine under my feet, and I may spare thy life."
Adam shrugged his shoulders in impatient disdain. "Unless I gave thee my science, my secret were profitless to thee. Villain and numskull, do thy worst."
The friar made a sign to a soldier who stood behind Adam, and the soldier silently drew the end of the rope which girded the scholar's neck round a bough of the leafless tree. "Hold!" whispered the friar, "not till I give the word. The earl may recover himself yet," he added to himself; and therewith he began once more to vociferate his incantations. Meanwhile the eyes of Sibyll had turned for a moment from her father; for the burst of sunshine, lighting up the valley below, had suddenly given to her eyes, in the distance, the gable-ends of the old farmhouse, with the wintry orchard,—no longer, alas! smiling with starry blossoms. Far remote from the battlefield was that abode of peace,—that once happy home, where she had watched the coming of the false one!
Loftier and holier were the thoughts of the fated king. He had turned his face from the field, and his eyes were fixed upon the tower of the church behind. And while he so gazed, the knoll from the belfry began solemnly to chime. It was now near the hour of the Sabbath prayers, and amidst horror and carnage, still the holy custom was not suspended.
"Hark!" said the king, mournfully, "that chime summons many a soul to God!"
While thus the scene on the eminence of Hadley, Edward, surrounded by Hastings, Gloucester, and his principal captains, took advantage of the unexpected sunshine to scan the foe and its position, with the eye of his intuitive genius for all that can slaughter man. "This day," he said, "brings no victory, assures no crown, if Warwick escape alive. To you, Lovell and Ratcliffe, I intrust two hundred knights,—your sole care the head of the rebel earl!"
"And Montagu?" said Ratcliffe.
"Montagu? Nay, poor Montagu, I loved him as well once as my own mother's son; and Montagu," he muttered to himself, "I never wronged, and therefore him I can forgive. Spare the marquis.—I mislike that wood; they must have more force within than that handful on the skirts betrays. Come hither, D'Eyncourt."
And a few minutes afterwards, Warwick and his men saw two parties of horse leave the main body, one for the right hand, one the left, followed by long detachments of pikes, which they protected; and then the central array marched slowly and steadily on towards the scanty foe. The design was obvious,—to surround on all sides the enemy, driven to its last desperate bay. But Montagu and his brother had not been idle in the breathing-pause; they had planted the greater portion of the archers skilfully among the trees. They had placed their pikemen on the verge of the barricades made by sharp stakes and fallen timber, and where their rampart was unguarded by the pass which had been left free for the horsemen, Hilyard and his stoutest fellows took their post, filling the gap with breasts of iron.
And now, as with horns and clarions, with a sea of plumes and spears and pennons, the multitudinous deathsmen came on, Warwick, towering in the front, not one feather on his eagle crest despoiled or shorn, stood, dismounted, his visor still raised, by his renowned steed. Some of the men had by Warwick's order removed the mail from the destrier's breast; and the noble animal, relieved from the weight, seemed as unexhausted as its rider; save where the champed foam had bespecked its glossy hide, not a hair was turned; and the on-guard of the Yorkists heard its fiery snort as they moved slowly on. This figure of horse and horseman stood prominently forth amidst the little band. And Lovell, riding by Ratcliffe's side, whispered, "Beshrew me, I would rather King Edward had asked for mine own head than that gallant earl's!"
"Tush, youth," said the inexorable Ratcliffe, "I care not of what steps the ladder of mine ambition may be made!"
While they were thus speaking, Warwick, turning to Montagu and his knights, said,—
"Our sole hope is in the courage of our men. And, as at Towton, when I gave the throne to yon false man, I slew, with my own hand, my noble Malech, to show that on that spot I would win or die, and by that sacrifice so fired the soldiers, that we turned the day, so now—oh, gentlemen, in another hour ye would jeer me, for my hand fails: this hand that the poor beast hath so often fed from! Saladin, last of thy race, serve me now in death as in life. Not for my sake, oh noblest steed that ever bore a knight,—not for mine this offering!"
He kissed the destrier on his frontal, and Saladin, as if conscious of the coming blow, bent his proud crest humbly, and licked his lord's steel-clad hand. So associated together had been horse and horseman, that had it been a human sacrifice, the bystanders could not have been more moved. And when, covering the charger's eyes with one hand, the earl's dagger descended, bright and rapid, a groan went through the ranks. But the effect was unspeakable! The men knew at once that to them, and them alone, their lord intrusted his fortunes and his life; they were nerved to more than mortal daring. No escape for Warwick—why, then, in Warwick's person they lived and died! Upon foe as upon friend, the sacrifice produced all that could tend to strengthen the last refuge of despair. Even Edward, where he rode in the van, beheld and knew the meaning of the deed. Victorious Towton rushed back upon his memory with a thrill of strange terror and remorse.
"He will die as he has lived," said Gloucester, with admiration. "If I live for such a field, God grant me such a death!"
As the words left the duke's lips, and Warwick, one foot on his dumb friend's corpse, gave the mandate, a murderous discharge from the archers in the covert rattled against the line of the Yorkists, and the foe, still advancing, stepped over a hundred corpses to the conflict. Despite the vast preponderance of numbers, the skill of Warwick's archers, the strength of his position, the obstacle to the cavalry made by the barricades, rendered the attack perilous in the extreme.
But the orders of Edward were prompt and vigorous. He cared not for the waste of life, and as one rank fell, another rushed on. High before the barricades stood Montagu, Warwick, and the rest of that indomitable chivalry, the flower of the ancient Norman heroism. As idly beat the waves upon a rock as the ranks of Edward upon that serried front of steel. The sun still shone in heaven, and still Edward's conquest was unassured. Nay, if Marmaduke could yet bring back the troops of Somerset upon the rear of the foe, Montagu and the earl felt that the victory might be for them. And often the earl paused, to hearken for the cry of "Somerset" on the gale, and often Montagu raised his visor to look for the banners and the spears of the Lancastrian duke. And ever, as the earl listened and Montagu scanned the field, larger and larger seemed to spread the armament of Edward. The regiment which boasted the stubborn energy of Alwyn was now in movement, and, encouraged by the young Saxon's hardihood, the Londoners marched on, unawed by the massacre of their predecessors. But Alwyn, avoiding the quarter defended by the knights, defiled a little towards the left, where his quick eye, inured to the northern fogs, had detected the weakness of the barricade in the spot where Hilyard was stationed; and this pass Alwyn (discarding the bow) resolved to attempt at the point of the pike, the weapon answering to our modern bayonet. The first rush which he headed was so impetuous as to effect an entry. The weight of the numbers behind urged on the foremost, and Hilyard had not sufficient space for the sweep of the two-handed sword which had done good work that day. While here the conflict became fierce and doubtful, the right wing led by D'Eyncourt had pierced the wood, and, surprised to discover no ambush, fell upon the archers in the rear. The scene was now inexpressibly terrific; cries and groans, and the ineffable roar and yell of human passion, resounded demonlike through the shade of the leafless trees. And at this moment, the provident and rapid generalship of Edward had moved up one of his heavy bombards. Warwick and Montagu and most of the knights were called from the barricades to aid the archers thus assailed behind; but an instant before that defence was shattered into air by the explosion of the bombard. In another minute horse and foot rushed through the opening. And amidst all the din was heard the voice of Edward, "Strike, and spare not; we win the day!" "We win the day! victory! victory!" repeated the troops behind. Rank caught the sound from rank, and file from file; it reached the captive Henry, and he paused in prayer; it reached the ruthless friar, and he gave the sign to the hireling at his shoulder; it reached the priest as he entered, unmoved, the church of Hadley. And the bell, changing its note into a quicker and sweeter chime, invited the living to prepare for death, and the soul to rise above the cruelty and the falsehood, and the pleasure and the pomp, and the wisdom and the glory of the world! And suddenly, as the chime ceased, there was heard, from the eminence hard by, a shriek of agony,—a female shriek,—drowned by the roar of a bombard in the field below.
On pressed the Yorkists through the pass forced by Alwyn. "Yield thee, stout fellow," said the bold trader to Hilyard, whose dogged energy, resembling his own, moved his admiration, and in whom, by the accent in which Robin called his men, he recognized a north-countryman; "yield, and I will see that thou goest safe in life and limb. Look round, ye are beaten."
"Fool!" answered Hilyard, setting his teeth, "the People are never beaten!" And as the words left his lips, the shot from the recharged bombard shattered him piecemeal.
"On for London and the crown!" cried Alwyn,—"the citizens are the People!"
At this time, through the general crowd of the Yorkists, Ratcliffe and Lovell, at the head of their appointed knights, galloped forward to accomplish their crowning mission.
Behind the column which still commemorates "the great battle" of that day, stretches now a trilateral patch of pasture-land, which faces a small house. At that time this space was rough forest-ground, and where now, in the hedge, rise two small trees, types of the diminutive offspring of our niggard and ignoble civilization, rose then two huge oaks, coeval with the warriors of the Norman Conquest. They grew close together; yet, though their roots interlaced, though their branches mingled, one had not taken nourishment from the other. They stood, equal in height and grandeur, the twin giants of the wood. Before these trees, whose ample trunks protected them from the falchions in the rear, Warwick and Montagu took their last post. In front rose, literally, mounds of the slain, whether of foe or friend; for round the two brothers to the last had gathered the brunt of war, and they towered now, almost solitary in valour's sublime despair, amidst the wrecks of battle and against the irresistible march of fate. As side by side they had gained this spot, and the vulgar assailants drew back, leaving the bodies of the dead their last defence from death, they turned their visors to each other, as for one latest farewell on earth.
"Forgive me, Richard," said Montagu,—"forgive me thy death; had I not so blindly believed in Clarence's fatal order, the savage Edward had never passed alive through the pass of Pontefract."
"Blame not thyself," replied Warwick. "We are but the instruments of a wiser Will. God assoil thee, brother mine. We leave this world to tyranny and vice. Christ receive our souls!"
For a moment their hands clasped, and then all was grim silence.
Wide and far, behind and before, in the gleam of the sun, stretched the victorious armament, and that breathing-pause sufficed to show the grandeur of their resistance,—the grandest of all spectacles, even in its hopeless extremity,—the defiance of brave hearts to the brute force of the many. Where they stood they were visible to thousands, but not a man stirred against them. The memory of Warwick's past achievements, the consciousness of his feats that day, all the splendour of his fortunes and his name, made the mean fear to strike, and the brave ashamed to murder! The gallant D'Eyncourt sprang from his steed, and advanced to the spot. His followers did the same.
"Yield, my lords, yield! Ye have done all that men could do!"
"Yield, Montagu," whispered Warwick. "Edward can harm not thee. Life has sweets; so they say, at least."
"Not with power and glory gone.—We yield not, Sir Knight," answered the marquis, in a calm tone.
"Then die, and make room for the new men whom ye so have scorned!" exclaimed a fierce voice; and Ratcliffe, who had neared the spot, dismounted and hallooed on his bloodhounds.
Seven points might the shadow have traversed on the dial, and, before Warwick's axe and Montagu's sword, seven souls had gone to judgment. In that brief crisis, amidst the general torpor and stupefaction and awe of the bystanders, round one little spot centred still a war.
But numbers rushed on numbers, as the fury of conflict urged on the lukewarm. Montagu was beaten to his knee, Warwick covered him with his body; a hundred axes resounded on the earl's stooping casque, a hundred blades gleamed round the joints of his harness. A simultaneous cry was heard; over the mounds of the slain, through the press into the shadow of the oaks, dashed Gloucester's charger. The conflict had ceased, the executioners stood mute in a half-circle. Side by side, axe and sword still griped in their iron hands, lay Montagu and Warwick.
The young duke, his visor raised, contemplated the fallen foes in silence. Then dismounting, he unbraced with his own hand the earl's helmet. Revived for a moment by the air, the hero's eyes unclosed, his lips moved, he raised, with a feeble effort, the gory battle-axe, and the armed crowd recoiled in terror. But the earl's soul, dimly conscious, and about to part, had escaped from that scene of strife, its later thoughts of wrath and vengeance, to more gentle memories, to such memories as fade the last from true and manly hearts!
"Wife! child!" murmured the earl, indistinctly. "Anne! Anne! Dear ones, God comfort ye!" And with these words the breath went, the head fell heavily on its mother earth, the face set, calm and undistorted, as the face of a soldier should be, when a brave death has been worthy of a brave life.
"So," muttered the dark and musing Gloucester, unconscious of the throng, "so perishes the Race of Iron. Low lies the last baron who could control the throne and command the people. The Age of Force expires with knighthood and deeds of arms. And over this dead great man I see the New Cycle dawn. Happy, henceforth, he who can plot and scheme, and fawn and smile!" Waking with a start from his revery, the splendid dissimulator said, as in sad reproof, "Ye have been over hasty, knights and gentlemen. The House of York is mighty enough to have spared such noble foes. Sound trumpets! Fall in file! Way, there,—way! King Edward comes. Long live the king!"
CHAPTER VII. THE LAST PILGRIMS IN THE LONG PROCESSION TO THE COMMON BOURNE.
The king and his royal brothers, immediately after the victory, rode back to London to announce their triumph. The foot-soldiers still stayed behind to recruit themselves after the sore fatigue. And towards the eminence by Hadley church, the peasants and villagers of the district had pressed in awe and in wonder; for on that spot had Henry (now sadly led back to a prison, never again to unclose to his living form) stood to watch the destruction of the host gathered in his name; and to that spot the corpses of Warwick and Montagu were removed, while a bier was prepared to convey their remains to London; [The bodies of Montagu and the earl were exhibited bareheaded at St. Paul's church for three days, "that no pretence of their being alive might stir up any rebellion afterwards;... they were then carried down to the Priory of Bisham, in Berkshire, where among their ancestors by the mother's side (the Earls of Salisbury), the two unquiet brothers rest in one tomb.... The large river of their blood, divided now into many streams, runs so small, they are hardly observed as they flow by." (Habington's "Life of Edward IV.," one of the most eloquent compositions in the language, though incorrect as a history).—"Sic transit gloria mundi."] and on that spot had the renowned friar conjured the mists, exorcised the enchanted guns, and defeated the horrible machinations of the Lancastrian wizard.
And towards the spot, and through the crowd, a young Yorkist captain passed with a prisoner he had captured, and whom he was leading to the tent of the Lord Hastings, the only one of the commanders from whom mercy might be hoped, and who had tarried behind the king and his royal brothers to make preparations for the removal of the mighty dead.
"Keep close to me, Sir Marmaduke," said the Yorkist; "we must look to Hastings to appease the king: and, if he hope not to win your pardon, he may, at least, after such a victory, aid one foe to fly."
"Care not for me, Alwyn," said the knight; "when Somerset was deaf save to his own fears, I came back to die by my chieftain's side, alas, too late! too late! Better now death than life! What kin, kith, ambition, love, were to other men was Lord Warwick's smile to me!"
Alwyn kindly respected his prisoner's honest emotion, and took advantage of it to lead him away from the spot where he saw knights and warriors thickest grouped, in soldier-like awe and sadness, round the Hero-Brothers. He pushed through a humbler crowd of peasants and citizens, and women with babes at their breast; and suddenly saw a troop of timbrel-women dancing round a leafless tree, and chanting some wild but mirthful and joyous doggerel.
"What obscene and ill-seasoned revelry is this?" said the trader to a gaping yeoman.
"They are but dancing, poor girls, round the wicked wizard whom Friar Bungey caused to be strangled, and his witch daughter."
A chill foreboding seized upon Alwyn: he darted forward, scattering peasant and tymbestere with his yet bloody sword. His feet stumbled against some broken fragments; it was the poor Eureka, shattered, at last, for the sake of the diamond! Valueless to the great friar, since the science of the owner could not pass to his executioner,—valueless the mechanism and the invention, the labour and the genius; but the superstition and the folly and the delusion had their value, and the impostor who destroyed the engine clutched the jewel!
From the leafless tree was suspended the dead body of a man; beneath, lay a female, dead too; but whether by the hand of man or the mercy of Heaven, there was no sign to tell. Scholar and Child, Knowledge and Innocence, alike were cold; the grim Age had devoured them, as it devours ever those before, as behind, its march, and confounds, in one common doom, the too guileless and the too wise!
"Why crowd ye thus, knaves?" said a commanding voice.
"Ha, Lord Hastings! approach! behold!" exclaimed Alwyn.
"Ha, ha!" shouted Graul, as she led her sisters from the spot, wheeling, and screaming, and tossing up their timbrels, "ha! the witch and her lover! Ha, ha! Foul is fair! Ha, ha! Witchcraft and death go together, as thou mayest learn at the last, sleek wooer."
And, peradventure, when, long years afterwards, accusations of witchcraft, wantonness, and treason resounded in the ears of Hastings, and, at the signal of Gloucester, rushed in the armed doomsman, those ominous words echoed back upon his soul!
At that very hour the gates of the Tower were thrown open to the multitude. Fresh from his victory, Edward and his brothers had gone to render thanksgivings at St. Paul's (they were devout, those three Plantagenets!), thence to Baynard's Castle, to escort the queen and her children once more to the Tower. And, now, the sound of trumpets stilled the joyous uproar of the multitude, for in the balcony of the casement that looked towards the chapel the herald had just announced that King Edward would show himself to the people. On every inch of the courtyard, climbing up wall and palisade, soldier, citizen, thief, harlot, age, childhood, all the various conditions and epochs of multiform life, swayed, clung, murmured, moved, jostled, trampled,—the beings of the little hour!
High from the battlements against the weltering beam floated Edward's conquering flag,—a sun shining to the sun. Again, and a third time, rang the trumpets, and on the balcony, his crown upon his head, but his form still sheathed in armour, stood the king. What mattered to the crowd his falseness and his perfidy, his licentiousness and cruelty? All vices ever vanish in success! Hurrah for King Edward! THE MAN OF THE AGE suited the age, had valour for its war and cunning for its peace, and the sympathy of the age was with him! So there stood the king; at his right hand, Elizabeth, with her infant boy (the heir of England) in her arms, the proud face of the duchess seen over the queen's shoulder. By Elizabeth's side was the Duke of Gloucester, leaning on his sword, and at the left of Edward, the perjured Clarence bowed his fair head to the joyous throng! At the sight of the victorious king, of the lovely queen, and, above all, of the young male heir, who promised length of days to the line of York, the crowd burst forth with a hearty cry, "Long live the king and the king's son!" Mechanically Elizabeth turned her moistened eyes from Edward to Edward's brother, and suddenly, as with a mother's prophetic instinct, clasped her infant closer to her bosom, when she caught the glittering and fatal eye of Richard, Duke of Gloucester (York's young hero of the day, Warwick's grim avenger in the future), fixed upon that harmless life, destined to interpose a feeble obstacle between the ambition of a ruthless intellect and the heritage of the English throne!
I. The badge of the Bear and Ragged Staff was so celebrated in the fifteenth century, that the following extract from a letter addressed by Mr. Courthope, Rouge Croix, to the author, will no doubt interest the reader, and the author is happy in the opportunity afforded of expressing his acknowledgments for the courteous attention with which Mr. Courthope has honoured his inquiries:—
"COLLEGE OF ARMS. As regards the badge of Richard Nevile, Earl of Warwick,—namely, the Bear and Staff,—I agree with you, certainly, as to the probability of his having sometimes used the whole badge, and sometimes the Staff only, which accords precisely with the way in which the Bear and Staff are set forth in the Rous Roll to the early earls (Warwick) before the Conquest. We there find them figured with the Staff upon their shields and the Bear at their feet, and the Staff alone is introduced as a quartering upon their shields.
"The story of the origin of these badges is as follows:
"Arth, or Arthgal, is reputed to have been the first Earl of Warwick, and being one of the knights of King Arthur's Round Table, it behooved him to have a cognizance; and Arth or Narth signifying in British the same as Ursus in Latin, he took the Bear for such cognizance. His successor, Morvidus, Earl of Warwick, in single combat, overcame a mighty giant (who had encountered him with a tree pulled up from the root, the boughs of which had been torn from it), and in token of his success assumed the Ragged Staff. You will thus see that the origins of the two were different, which would render the bearing of them separately not unlikely, and you will likewise infer that both came through the Beauchamps. I do not find the Ragged Staff ever attributed to the Neviles before the match with Beauchamp.
"As regards the crest or cognizance of Nevile, the Pied Bull has been the cognizance of that family from a very early time, and the Bull's head, its crest, and both the one and the other may have been used by the king-maker, and by his brother, the Marquis Montagu; the said Bull appears at the feet of Richard Nevile in the Rous Roll, accompanied by the Eagle of Monthermer; the crests on either side of him are those of Montagu and Nevile. Besides these two crests, both of which the Marquis Montagu may have used, he certainly did use the Gryphon, issuant out of a ducal coronet, as this appears alone for his crest, on his garter plate, as a crest for Montagu, he having given the arms of that family precedence over his paternal coat of Nevile; the king-maker, likewise, upon his seal, gives the precedence to Montagu and Monthermer, and they alone appear upon his shield."
II. Hume, Rapin, and Carte, all dismiss the story of Edward's actual imprisonment at Middleham, while Lingard, Sharon Turner, and others, adopt it implicitly. And yet, though Lingard has successfully grappled with some of Hume's objections, he has left others wholly unanswered. Hume states that no such fact is mentioned in Edward's subsequent proclamation against Clarence and Warwick. Lingard answers, after correcting an immaterial error in Hume's dates, "that the proclamation ought not to have mentioned it, because it was confined to the enumeration of offences only committed after the general amnesty in 1469;" and then, surely with some inconsistency, quotes the attainder of Clarence many years afterwards, in which the king enumerates it among his offences, "as jeopardyng the king's royal estate, person, and life, in strait warde, putting him thereby from all his libertye after procuring great commotions." But it is clear that if the amnesty hindered Edward from charging Warwick with this imprisonment only one year after it was granted, it would, a fortiori, hinder him from charging Clarence with it nine years after. Most probable is it that this article of accusation does not refer to any imprisonment, real or supposed, at Middleham, in 1469, but to Clarence's invasion of England in 1470, when Edward's state, person, and life were jeopardized by his narrow escape from the fortified house, where he might fairly be called "in straite warde;" especially as the words, "after procuring great commotions," could not apply to the date of the supposed detention in Middleham, when, instead of procuring commotions, Clarence had helped Warwick to allay them, but do properly apply to his subsequent rebellion in 1470. Finally, Edward's charges against his brother, as Lingard himself has observed elsewhere, are not proofs, and that king never scrupled at any falsehood to serve his turn. Nothing, in short, can be more improbable than this tale of Edward's captivity,—there was no object in it. At the very time it is said to have taken place, Warwick is absolutely engaged in warfare against the king's foes. The moment Edward leaves Middleham, instead of escaping to London, he goes carelessly and openly to York, to judge and execute the very captain of the rebels whom Warwick has subdued, and in the very midst of Warwick's armies! Far from appearing to harbour the natural resentment so vindictive a king must have felt (had so great an indignity been offered to him), almost immediately after he leaves York, he takes the Nevile family into greater power than ever, confers new dignities upon Warwick, and betroths his eldest daughter to Warwick's nephew. On the whole, then, perhaps some such view of the king's visit to Middleham which has been taken in this narrative, may be considered not the least probable compromise of the disputed and contradictory evidence on the subject.