Puslapio vaizdai

less men, and bearing the wolf's head, but wealthy citizens, as 'twas said at the inquest, and some noblemen to boot."

"Holy saints!" exclaimed a very venerable looking man, whose eyes had hitherto been fixed on the corpse with a look almost of commiseration, "surely it cannot be!"

Ah! worthy Galfrid, of the Langbourne, is scantly fit for an earlderman in these days," said Aylwin Hunne, shaking his head, "for he thinketh evil of no man."

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

"Many thanks, old neighbour," said he, "twill be time enow some dozen years hence to fulfil your good wishes-but what is the finding of the jurors?"

Slain in his own wrong; what else could it be? But beware Andrew Bucquint of riotous courses. Here is this young man-high-born as ye may see- -dead, without prayer, or housel; lying like some scatterling, with no one to prepare a winding sheet, no kind voice to sing a dirge, no death-bell, no corpse-light."

But these accumulated images of destitution at the hour of death, which appealed so powerfully to the feelings of our Saxon forefathers, seemed to produce no effect upon the young man. "What is he to me?" said he, turning away from the body.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The old man looked earnestly at the speaker. "You do whole of his patrimony, and heaven knows what may not say so," was his reply.

"But I do," said Levestan, the goldsmith; "and as to this young man lying here, it was shown that long, long after the curfew he was with a riotous company in a tavern at Eastcheap, that just as the bells for the midnight service rung at St. Martins-le-grand, there were noise and riot near here, and call for help against thieves; and that when Ricald, the herb-gatherer, came very early this morning, with his basket of herbs, to sell in the market, as his wont is, he stumbled over this very body, lying stiff, and cold; and in the right hand was part of a gold chain, so tightly grasped, that ye scarce might withdraw it." "But might not the gold chain have been his?" said Galfrid, of the Langbourne, earnestly.

"Soothly not, seeing even nobles wear not two; and he had one about his neck; moreover, his purse being opened, a seal ring was found which Osbert de Weatieslande hath sworn was stolen away from him two nights ago."

"And therefore he was doubtless slain in his own wrong," resumed Adam le Blunde, "and King Henry himself cannot except against our finding-though I would that the person attacked by the thieves had come forward."

"I would he had-but perchance he was not aware that he had slain this man," said a fourth.

"Likely enow; more especially as the death wound was given with a club, or staff," said Levestan, the goldsmith, turning back the thick clustering hair that partly hung over the blanched forehead.

A young man now came up; he wore the dress of the higher order of citizens, and the bracelet, and collar. "A woeful sight this," said Adam le Blunde, addressing him ; "good Andrew, I would ye would give up your riotous courses, and remember your worthy father's ways. Heaven rest his soul! I carried a taper at his funeral eighteen years agone, and as I saw ye led up to the altar by Siward Lelutor to offer the corpse gifts, 'saints grant that yonder pretty boy may follow in his good father's footsteps,' said I."

befall him!"

"Let us pray heaven that he may see his folly betimes," said Galfrid, of the Langbourne.

There were several persons now coming through "the little gate," as it was called, that afforded a passage during the day-time from the wide adjoining churchyard, to Westcheap. It was the deputation from the inquest returned with two clerks of the chief justiciar, and some half dozen men from the King's palace, who being well acquainted with the persons of the chief nobles and their followers, might probably identify the body at the cross; and with them, taking advantage of their safe escort along a road, which, beyond the church of St. Clement Danes, was seldom wholly free from "strong thieves," came Siward Lelutor, the mercer, and some of his men.

Now Siward Lelutor had been at Westminster ever since yesterday afternoon, for he had been charged to convey to the palace some precious gold band chain which the "lion-faced Plantaganet" had commanded him to bring, and for which, he had been promised immediate payment. This promise, the reader at all acquainted with royal doings in the middle ages will be well aware was not kept, but after long waiting, Siward had at length obtained his tallies-these promissory notes of our Plantagenets-and he was now returning, unconscious, until the message came to the chief justiciar, of what had occurred in Westcheap.

As the retainers of the palace pressed forward to endeavour to identify the body, the London mercer pressed in among them.

"Sweet Lady!" cried he, starting back, "it is the very young man who made forcible entrance into my house last Penticost cour pleniere, and who claimed to be brother of the Earl of Ferrers.

[blocks in formation]

"I did,” replied Siward Lelutor haughtily, “according The old man's voice faltered with emotion, but the to the custumal of our ancient city, that enacts that no young man laughed a scornful, but forced laugh, follower of the King's Court, or Baron, can claim hos

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

"An' they came to me, methinks I would soon deal cup from his daughter's hand which she had just filled with them," returned Siward.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

The clerk of the high justiciar, a right learned ecclesiastic, who had studied three years at Oxford, and six at Paris, and moreover, attended Master Robert Pulleyn's lectures on the Pandects, cast an angry and scornful glance at the goldsmith with his "common law;" but the directions of Richard de Lacy had been so express and stringent, that no offence should be given to the citizens-the worthy justiciar being anxious enough to keep them in good humour, until the time of the tollage —so he sharply turned to Siward Lelutor and said, “you declare, then, that this body lying here was Eudo, brother of the Earl of Ferrers?"

"I do, to the best of my knowledge," replied Siward. The same question was put to two of the palace servants; and the accompanying clerk having duly noted it down, and the three witnesses having appended their marks, the two clerks remounted their mules, and proIceeded with their train westward.

"This is a sad sight,” remarked Siward Lelutor, lingering beside the body, "to see Earl Ferrers's brother-tho' scant love can we bear to such as he-lying like a dog; and to be carried to his grave without passing bell."

"He may not have it-seeing he died in strife, and unconfessed," replied Adam le Blunde, "but masses may be said for his soul, and toward them I would willingly pay, especially seeing that his brother is now in Normandy, and knoweth naught of this."

The charitable proposition of Adam le Blunde met with hearty approval; each hand dived into the large ornamented purse suspended at the girdle, and when the almoner of St. Paul's drew near with his assistants to remove the body for burial-a task appropriated to that officer of the chapter in respect to all bodies found dead, or murdered within the precincts of the city, so much silver was given, that even he stood astonished. Of this, almost half a handful—a large sum in these days-was given by Galfrid, of the Langbourne.

[ocr errors]


"A worthy man is that," said the almoner, royally open-handed. A doleful day will it be for our city, when the death-bell tolls for him!"'

The old men now summoned their respective attendants -who, less interested in these proceedings than their masters, had been beguiling the time beneath the penthouse of the Blue Lattice-and all now proceeded homeward. Siward Lelutor and his men took their way across the market; dived into a narrow lane among thicklyelustered houses, built of wood, with high slanting shingled roofs; passed by a narrow turning across Milk Street, another clergy-built portion of the city; and leaving the

[ocr errors]

for him, alas! I cannot but think of that poor young man lying stark, and stiff at the cross," said he. And who was he, father?-were they able to find him out?" said she.

The very young man who made strife here last Pentecost; ruffling then with his pages and men-at-arms, and now, with not even one priest to sing a mass for him."

"And how was he killed, dear father?"

"In his own wrong. He attempted to rob some passerby, and he was found with part of a gold chain in his very hand."

"Did you see it, father?-did you see it?" said Edeva, hurriedly.

[ocr errors]

"No; I had nought to do with it.” "Holy saints! aid us," said Edeva. Alas, what will the end be!" and she sat down to her broidery-frame; but her thoughts were far away.

While the worthy old men, who had taken part in the inquiry, were talking over the events of the day by their comfortable hearths, the same subject furnished conversation to a widely different class, assembled in a low room, well strewed with rushes, and hung with thick tapestry, having, too, at each end a stout door, furnished with bolts and bars, rather fitted for a castle dungeon than a private room. A table, on which was placed a silver standing cup of exquisite workmanship, stood in the middle, while large cushions, placed on a narrow, slightly raised ledge on each side the room, showed that the residence belonged to a Jew.

Partly leaning on these cushions, partly lying on the floor, were six or eight men, and conspicuous among them were two-a venerable old man, his features nearly concealed by his overhanging hood, and a middle-aged man, whose square yellow cap, and the two pieces of yellow cloth on the front of his gaberdine, showed him to be a Jew. This was Hakelot, the owner of the house in which, or rather under which, this company were assembled; and the venerable old man was his intimate friend, and known by the title of "Johan le Vieux."

"We shall miss him, for he was aye ready at the attack," said one; "but how came it that he lost his life?"

"Andrew Bucquint can tell, methinks," said another. "And so can more than he," answered the young man, sullenly.

"Well," interposed the Jew, "what is past is past. The question now is, what is next to be done."

"Twould be but just to rob old Adam le Blunde for the lecture he gave young Andrew at the cross," said the first speaker.

He would have lectured me more severely, Fitzradulf, had he known how I was employed last night, and where I am this," said the young man, angrily.

"Nay, he would not; for had it been known ye belonged to us, dared ye have shown your face at the cross?" said a third,

"I went but because ye dared not show yours," retorted the young man.

"Now make no debate, I pray you," cried the Jew: "all hath passed over well; so where shall our next visit be?"

"To Siward Lelutor's," said the first.

"To Siward Lelutor's," cried three or four voices. "Nay; there are richer than he," said Johan le Vieux. "But none who deal in such costly merchandise," said the Jew; "he hath much treasure in his storehouse. Silks of divers colours, worthy to be weighed against pure silver, and gold bandekin, gleaming as though wrought with gems."

[ocr errors]

'But that is at the palace of Westminster," replied Johan le Vieux, "and exchanged for wooden tallies."

"That may be," replied Hakelot, "but there is treasure in that house that its master little knoweth of." "Sweet lady! how?" whispered Johan le Vieux, drawing the Jew aside.

"Mind ye not who dwelt there in King Stephen's time," said Hakelot in a low voice. "I much misdoubt if there be not concealed somewhere a small stone chest with three locks."

The Jew shook his head. "I have but just gained notice of this stone chest, and I must try to find out where it is buried; so to-morrow I shall go to Siward Lelutor, to purchase some silk, and carry my staff; that will point out the buried treasure; and then I can inquire when his storehouse will be full again; for I know he expects more gold bandekin, and meanwhile we will take our measures."

The result of this conference was communicated to the rest.

More than a week passed away, and the death of the young man seemed to have put a stop to the robberies that had for so long disturbed the peace of the city; so the inhabitants blessed the saints that the danger was over. Little did they know that the arrival of Reginald de Barbeflet's great ship, with its precious freight of silks, and spices, and gold bandekin, was to be the signal for another attempt; and little did Siward Lelutor suspect on that clear bright morning, when he watched the tall masts and broad sails of that gallant ship, as she bore up and anchored in Edredshithe, that his own strong stone house was to be the place.

There were many gathered on the wharf; and among "And what therein?" cried the old man, eagerly. them Ilakelot, the Jew, who soon returned to his house "Gold?-bright, red gold?'' in the old Jewry, then the appropriated place of residence

"No; gems-graven gems-powerful talismans," whis- of the Jews, where Johan le Vieux was anxiously awaitpered the Jew. ing his arrival.

"Wherefore hath this house not been attempted before?" said Johan le Vieux.

"We must wait for a fortunate time, and, moreover, go to work warily. 'Tis a strong stone house, and the treasure of magister Vives, if still remaining there, is doubtless guarded by strong spells."

"What is this whispering about?" cried Simon de Berevil, rising up, and taking a draught from the standing cup; "whither we shall go is the question. What say you, Andrew Bucquint; will you go with us to Siward Lelutor's?''

"Nay, ask him not," said Fitzradulf, who seemed to possess more correct feeling than the others; "ask him not to go there."

"But I will go, and right willingly," cried Andrew Bucquint; 'scant reason have I to spare any in Siward Lelutor's household, save himself."

[ocr errors]

Then, when shail we go?" asked Simon de Berevil. "Not until his storehouses are re-filled, good Simon," said Johan le Vieux; "but that will be shortly; and meanwhile Hakelot will make us a charm, for the walls are strong."

'Dig through them, then, as we did at the treasurehouse in the castle of Devizes," cried Simon de Berevil, who, in king Stephen's reign, had been one of the most desperate of plunderers.

"A goodly thought," exclaimed Hakelot; "for the stones are large, but may easily be removed; and with strong wedges, it may be done without disturbing the household."

[ocr errors]

And when shall it be?'' said he, eagerly. "To-morrow night," said the Jew; "the day is fortunate, the iron bars and wedges are ready, so bid them all hither to-morrow after curfew."

Johan le Vieux departed, well pleased that ere two nights had passed, the treasure-not that which Siward Lelutor would by that time have secured in his strong storehouse, but that thrice-locked stone chest, which, so the Jew declared, was buried right beneath the hearthstone of the inner room, would be Hakelot's and his; so he sought out Andrew Bucquint, and gave him the message to deliver to his companions; and moreover, urged upon the young man, seeing that he so well knew every part of the house wherein he had so long dwelt, to take the lead in the enterprise.

Little thinking what was to befall him, Siward Lelutor, on the following day, busied himself in removing the valuable stores which he had purchased from the ship to his own dwelling. Thus was he engaged, even until nightfall; and then was about to return to his home, when news was brought him that a large number of Croises, who, three years before, had set forth for the rescue of "that sweet land over the sea," as our forefathers so fondly named Palestine, had just been put on shore by one of the Cinque Port vessels, weary and pennyless. A portion of these had found shelter at the hospital of St. Katherine, and many more were seeking for an asylum, when the devout and kind-hearted mercer, heartily welcoming them from their long and toilsome pilgrimage, insisted on their accompanying him home to

"They are stout ones, I promise you, and will fight partake his hospitality. The offer was too tempting to well," said Andrew Bucquint.

[blocks in formation]

be refused; and Siward Lelutor saw, not with alarm, for our forefathers would have shared their last morsel with the pilgrim, but with some surprise, a full score, ready to avail themselves of his kindness.

"Come all," said he, "my house is large; and if you can sleep beside the hearthstone, on the rushes in

the hall, methinks I might find room for as many more."

The leader of the good company heartily thanked the mercer for his kindness, but refused to burthen him with more guests; so about a dozen proceeded onward with Siward Lelutor, while the leader stayed behind to endeavour to find lodging for the rest, attended by Siward's chief servant, who had express orders to endeavour to persuade them all to avail themselves of his proffered hospitality.

It was late and quite dark, when Siward and the returned Croises quitted Edredshithe. The evening bells were ringing a late time, indeed, for our forefathers to be still engaged in business, for it was almost the supper hour; so no wonder was it that Siward strode hastily and cheerily onward, threading the narrow lanes that led to the top of Westcheap, and then diving into a maze of passages that led past the Jews' quarter-a locality always shunned after nightfall; and finally, notwithstanding the thick fog that had come on, he reached his own gate, ere the chimes of the adjoining little church of St. Alphege had ended their summons to vespers.

Seated round the blazing hearth, reciprocating the "wassail" of their host, and doing ample justice to the boar's head, the chine, the pasty, and the numerous substantial dishes placed before them, the Croises, after their many toils and privations, enjoyed with tenfold glee their hospitable entertainment, and well did they repay it, by the wondrous stories they told of the fair land of the east, and of the perils and strange adventures through which they had passed. And so delightful were these "personal narratives," that even Edeva looked up with a pleasant smile, while the servants pressed from the lower end of the hall, with stealthy tread and hushed breath, to listen. Ereley, the leader of the company, arrived; he brought the remaining men with him, for whom he had been unable to find lodgings; and still pleasantly passed the evening, until long after curfew.

At length, the leader beckoned his kind host aside. "It was by the especial grace of Heaven," said he, "that we have been led hither, for this very night will there be need for all of us. Your house is this night to be attacked by a large company of strong thieves, who will dig through the wall at the north-west corner."

"Impossible!" said the astonished mercer.

"Nay, 'tis sooth," replied the leader-Ingelram de Baynham was his name; "for as I passed hither, two Jews, speaking the very language of the paynim, were in close discourse. So, hearing your name, I stopped and listened; and what I have told you, they said." "Blessed be the saints!" cried Siward Lelutor, 'tis the very company of strong thieves for whom long search hath been made in vain; but now, with my bold fellows and your gallant company, we will give them such greeting as they shall long remember."

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

"It is," replied the Jew, "and until one hour after midnight nought can harm you."

"Only until one hour after?" exclaimed De Berevil. "Until two hours," interposed Johan le Vieux. The Jew turned to the last speaker-"How say you so?" said he.

"O, anything to prevent their going back. Remember the chest, and the gems, and the talismans," whispered the eager old man.

They had best be early," resumed the Jew, fixing his eyes on a brass vessel containing water, and which at this period formed a good substitute for a clock; "let them set off one hour before midnight."

We need be quick, then," said Simon de Berevil; "there is scantly half-an-hour, and our leader is not come."

"But he is," said Johan le Vieux, pointing to Andrew Bucquint, who at the moment entered the room.

[ocr errors]

Now, success to our doings," cried Hakelot, filling the silver standing cup to the brim from a skin of wine, and offering it to Andrew Bucquint first.

"Choose another leader," said he, pushing away the cup; "I will not go."

"Good Andrew, wherefore?" cried they all. "Because it will end ill. Only this morning, out beside the Clerk's well, a hare crossed my path." "What marvel of that, this hard weather," cried Simon de Berevil; "I met one hard by the city wall."

"But even now, I had wandered out up to the forest boundary, by Totehill, and came home to take a short sleep, when I dreamt "

[ocr errors]

That we came off gallantly," cried Fitzradulf. "That it failed," said the young man fiercely; "and the gyves, tight and cold, were on this very wrist;"' and he struck his right arm.

"Nay, my good youth," said Johan le Vieux soothingly, "dreams oft come by contraries." "But I dreamt it twice."

The reckless crew started, for this was considered a sure proof of the dream coming true. Even Hakelot looked anxiously at the speaker. At length he said

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

My good youth, remember how much depends on you," urged Johan le Vieux, casting an anxious glance towards the clepsydra. "Go-do go-I will engage to bear you harmless.”

"And that he can well do," said Hakelot. "He shall give you that ring," and he pointed to an agate ring on the old man's finger.

"Good Hakelot! what say you?" cried he, in the wildest alarm. My precious ring! it hath never left this finger for twenty years."

"It will ensure him against iron and steel. You cannot want it, for you will not go," said the Jew.

"O, yes, I shall. Remember the chest, good Hakelot it must not be left to them. Let them take the silks and bandekin, but not that."

Nought will be had except you lend that ring," was the firm reply.

The whole group, except Andrew Bucquint, now stood ready to depart. The wedges shod with iron, and many a curious instrument, were distributed among them; the wine-cup had been so often filled and drained, that the skin was almost empty, and the rising water in the brass vessel was just on a line with the hour.

"You will go―surely you will go, and with that ring ?"

said Hakelot.

The young man raised his eyes: he had been deeply musing. "Yes, with that ring," said he, but not

without it."

[ocr errors]

"Good Andrew, this ring cannot avail you," said Johan le Vieux, earnestly.

their opponents soon, however, prevailed, and the robbers fled, followed by Siward Lelutor's servants, who endeavoured to track them, but in vain. Meanwhile Siward called for lights, and made diligent search round about; but nought could be found save the cressit, and just beside, on the rushes, a right hand, fair, and well-shaped, with a signet ring on the forefinger.

Long ere dawn did the tale of the robbers, and their defeat, circulate throughout London; and as daylight appeared, on more diligent search being made among the many narrow turnings hard by, three of the robbers were found, quite dead; and news was also brought that a welldressed young man had been carried, severely wounded, into the House of Cripples, close beside Cripplegate. As the morning advanced, the rich Jew Hakelot was

"Give it me, and I go-give it not, and I stay," said discovered to have left his dwelling; and so great was the young man, sternly.

Johan le Vieux looked anxiously round. The Jew had turned from him. He hurriedly slipt a ring off his finger, which he placed on the forefinger of Andrew's right hand. "Go, good youth, with the blessing of the saints," said he.

A loud laugh echoed round, and taking a deep draught of the cup, Andrew Bucquint lifted the cressit-a small iron pan of coals which was to light them along-and the bundle of wax tapers, and departed with his companions. "Touch not iron or steel, an' ye can avoid them," were the Jew's parting injunctions; "but if ye must fight, use the knife at your girdle.”

[ocr errors]

"That silly young man," said Johan le Vieux. 'Wherefore did ye speak of my ring to him?”

the excitement among all classes, that the Portreve sent a pressing message to Richard de Lacy, the chief justiciar, praying him to come down and conduct the inquiry.

At the foot of the stone cross where the inquest had so lately been held, Richard de Lacy, in his ample scarlet robe, and ermine hood, supported by mace bearers and men at arms, took his seat; while, at his right hand, stood the Portreve and the sheriffs, and before him the marshalled witnesses, and most emphatic witness of all, the freshly severed hand with the signet ring.

"The hand is that of a young man," said Adam le Blunde, "but holy saints the ring belongs to Galfrid, of the Langbourne !"

A shudder of horror ran through the bystanders at this remark-had that venerable old man been waylaid and

"Because, unless he wore it, I should fear for his murdered-so messengers were instantly despatched to his safety," said Hakelot.

[ocr errors]

'Impossible! are they not all well guarded by spells?'' "Still, I like not his dreams. But he is safe, methinks, with that ring."

house. Meanwhile tidings came that the young man who had been taken to the House of Cripples was discovered to have recently lost his right hand; so the chief justiciar directed that he should be instantly brought before "Aha! he hath it not. It was my signet ring I gave him, and that promise should be given of life and limb,


"You did?" said the Jew, fiercely. "Then beware of the end!"

Crowding round the fire in the hall, which was now covered up as was the custom of the times, the Croises and Siward Leluter's servants, all well armed, sat in hushed silence; while in the adjoining chamber, where the first attempt was to be made, the mercer himself kept eager watch; and he caused rushes to be thickly laid along the floor to the entrance of the hall, that no footstep might be heard. It seemed a long time to the watchers ere their summons came; but at length the low tramp of many footsteps, and the slight creeking of bolts broke the silence. Then came the tramp of nearer footsteps, and then a dull, heavy sound, as if some ponderous weight was being raised. Then Siward Lelutor softly trod across the rushes, and summoned the men. Ingleram de Baynham and twelve-well tried companions followed into the chamber, just as one of the huge stones was dislodged from the wall; and, in silence, bearing the cressit, Andrew Bucquint and the foremost of the robbers made their way through, calling upon the others to aid him. Ingleram de Baynham laid about him as he had been wont in Palestine. He struck the cresset from the young man's hand, who drew his knife, while the Croises engaged the other robbers, who, unaware of this resistance, still pressed in, and sharp was the conflict. The numbers and courage of

provided he made full confession.

It was a sad sight to see that young man pale, and faint, unable to stand, brought in a litter, and laid down on the very spot where his murdered companion had been placed; and sadder was it to see the heart-broken look with which he regarded Siward Lelutor, who started with surprise, and exclaimed, “Andrew Bucquint, a robber!"

"Yes," groaned the young man, "but never should I have been so, save by the aid of Sathanas, and Galfrid of the Langbourne!"

"Sathanas, and Galfrid of Langbourne! What a

! Galfrid, that worthiest of men, whose alms, and whose devotions were known to all, and the author of all evil!"


He is mad," said the bystanders, and so said Galfrid himself, who now appeared, and who said he had missed his signet ring that morning, but could not tell how he had lost it.

But the chief justiciar paid little heed to his assertions; he ordered him to be silent, and bent down his head to listen to the confession of the maimed young man, who, with his left hand, placed upon the copy of the Gospels, which he reverently kissed, told how that desperate company of robbers had been organised by Galfrid, of the Langbourne, himself; and how, under the name of Johan le Vieux, he had attended when they met, counselled their doings, and received a large portion of the specic, "as

« AnkstesnisTęsti »