The Grey Dolphin
'He won't -- won't he? Then bring me my boots!' said the
Consternation was at its height in the castle of Shurland -- a
caitiff had dared to disobey the Baron! and -- the Baron had called
for his boots!
A few days before, a notable miracle had been wrought in the
nieghbourhood; and in those times miracles were not so common as
they are now; no royal balloons, no steam, no railroads, -- while
the few Saints who took the trouble to walk with their heads under
their arms, or to pull the Devil by the nose, scarcely appeared
above once in a century; -- so the affair made the greater
The clock had done striking twelve, and the Clerk of Chatham was
untrussing his points preparatory to seeking his truckle-bed; a
half-emptied tankard of mild ale stood at his elbow, the roasted
crab yet floating on its surface. Midnight had surprised the worthy
functionary while occupied in dliscussing it, and with his task yet
unaccomplished. He meditated a mighty draft: one hand was fumbling
with his tags, while the other was extended in the act of grasping
the jorum, when a knock on the portal, solemn and sonorous,
arrested his fingers. It was repeated thrice ere Emmanuel Saddleton
had presence of mind sufficient to inquire who sought admittance at
that untimeous hour.
'Open! open! good Clerk of St. Bridget's,' said a female voice
small, yet distinct and sweet -- an excellent thing in woman.
The Clerk arose, crossed to the doorway, and undid the
On the threshold stood a Lady of surpassing beauty: her robes
wore rich, and large, and full; and a diadem, sparkling with gems
that shed a halo around, crowned her brow: she beckoned the Clerk
as he stood in astonishment before her.
'Emmanuel!' said the Lady; and her tones sounded like those of a
silver flute. 'Emmanuel Saddleton,' truss up your points, and
The worthy Clerk stood aghast at the vision; the purple robe,
the cymar, the coronet, -- above all, the smile; no, there was no
mistaking her; it was the blessed Saint Bridget herself!
And what could have brought the sainted Lady out of her warm
shrine at such a time of night? and on such a night? for it was as
dark as pitch, and metaphroically speaking, 'rained cats and
Emmanuel could not speak, so he looked the question.
'No matter for that,' said the saint, answering to his thought.
'No matter for that, Emmanuel Saddleton; only follow me, and you'll
The Clerk turned a wistful eye at the corner cupboard.
'Oh! never mind the lantern, Emmanuel: you'll not want it: bring
a mattock and a shovel.' As she spoke, the apparition held up her
delicate hand. From the tip of each of her long taper fingers
issued a lambent flame of such surpassing brilliancy as would have
plunged a whole gas company into despair -- it was a 'Hand of
Glory,' such a one as tradition tells us yet burns in Rochester
Castle every St. Mark's Eve. Many are the daring individuals who
have watched Gundolf's Tower, hoping to find it, and the treasure
it guards; -- but none of them ever did.
'This way, Emmanuel!' and a flame of peculiar radiance streamed
from her little finger as it pointed to the pathway leading to the
Saddleton shouldered his tools, and followed in silence.
The cemetery of Saint Bridget's was some half-mile distant from
the Clerk's domicile, and adjoined a chapel dedicated to that
illustrious lady, who, after leading but a so-so life, died in the
odour of sanctity. Emmanuel Saddleton was fat and scant of breath,
the mattock was heavy, and the Saint walked too fast for him: he
paused to take second wind at the end of the first furlong.
'Emmanuel,' said the holy lady, good-humouredly, for she heard
him puffing; 'rest awhile, Emmanuel, and I'll tell you what I want
Her auditor wiped his brow with the back of his hand, and looked
all attention and obedience.
'Emmanuel,' continued she, 'what did you and Father Fothergill,
and the rest of you, mean yesterday by burying that drowned man so
close to me ? He died in mortal sin, Emmanuel; no shrift, no
unction, no absolution: why, he might as well have been
excommunicated. He plagues me with his grinning, and I can't have
any peace in my shrine. You must howk him up again, Emmanuel!'
'To be sure, madam, -- my lady, -- that is, your holiness,'
stammered Saddleton, trembling at the thought of the task assigned
him. 'To be sure, your ladyship; only -- that is --'
'Emmanuel,' said the saint, 'you'll do my bidding; or it would
be better you had! and her eye changed from a dove's eye to that of
a hawk, and a flash came from it as bright as the one from her
little finger. The Clerk shook in his shoes; and, again dashing the
cold perspiration from his brow, followed the footsteps of his
The next morning all Chatham was in an uproar. The Clerk of St.
Bridget's had found himself at home at daybreak, seated in his own
armchair, the fire out, and -- the tankard of ale out too! Who had
drunk it? -- where had he been? -- and how had he got home? -- all
was a mystery! -- he remembered 'a mass of things, but nothing
distinctly;' all was fog and fantasy. What he could clearly
recollect was that he had dug up the Grinning Sailor, and that the
Saint had helped to throw him into the river again. All was
thenceforth wonderment and devotion. Masses were sung, tapers were
kindled, bells were tolled; the monks of Saint Romuald had a solemn
procession, the abbot at their head, the sacristan at their tail,
and the holy breeches of St.Thomas à Beckett in the centre; --
Father Fothergill brewed a XXX puncheon of holy water. The Rood of
Gillingham was deserted; the chapel of Rainham forsaken; everyone
who had a soul to be saved, flocked with his offering to Saint
Bridget's shrine, and Emmanuel Saddleton gathered more fees from
the promiscuous piety of that one week than he had pocketed during
the twelve preceding months.
Meanwhile the corpse of the ejected reprobate oscillated like a
pendulum between Sheerness and Gillingham Reach. Now borne by the
Medway into the Western Swale, -- now carried by the fluent tide
back to the vicinity of its old quarters, it seemed as though the
River god and Neptune were amusing themselves with a game of
subaqueous battledore, and had chosen this unfortunate carcass as a
marine shuttlecock. For some time the alternation was kept up with
great spirit, till Boreas, interfering in the shape of a stiffish
'Nor'-wester,' drifted the bone (and flesh) of contention ashore on
the Shurland domain, where it lay in all the majesty of mud. It was
soon discovered by the retainers, and dragged from its oozy bed,
grinning worse than ever. Tidings of the godsend were of course
carried instantly to the castle; for the Baron was a very great
man; and if a dun cow had flown across his property unannounced by
a warder, the Baron would have kicked him, the said warder, from
the topmost battlement into the bottommost ditch, -- a descent of
peril, and one which 'Ludwig the Leaper,' or the illustrious Trenck
himself might well have shrunk from encountering.
'An't please your lordship --' said Peter Periwinkle.
'No, villain! it does not please me!' roared the Baron.
His lordship was deeply engaged with a peck of Feversham
oysters, -- he doted on shellfish, hated interruptions at meals,
and had not yet dispatched more than twenty dozens of the
'There's a body, my lord, washed ashore in the lower creek,'
said the seneschal.
The Baron was going to throw the shells at his head; but paused
in the act, and said with much dignity --
'Turn out the fellow's pockets!'
But the defunct had before been subjected to the double scrutiny
of Father Fothergill and the Clerk of St. Bridget! It was ill
gleaning after such hands; there was not a single maravedi.
We have already said that Sir Robert de Shurland, Lord of the
Isle of Sheppey, and of many a fair manor on the mainland, was a
man of worship. He had rights of freewarren, saccage and sockage,
cuisage and jambage, fosse and fork, infang theofe and outfang
theofe; and all the waifs and strays belonged to him in fee
'Turn out his pockets!' said the knight.
'An't please you, my lord, I must say as how they was turned out
afore, and the devil a rap's left.'
'Then bury the blackguard!'
'Please your lordship, he has been buried once.'
'Then bury him again, and be ----!' The Baron bestowed a
The seneschal bowed low as he left the room, and the Baron went
on with his oysters.
Scarcely ten dozen had vanished when Periwinkle reappeared.
'An't please you, my lord, Father Fothergill says as how that
it's the Grinning Sailor, and he won't bury him anyhow.'
Oh! he won't -- won't he?' said the Baron. Can it be wondered
that he called for his boots?
Sir Robert de Shurland, Lord of Shurland and Minster, Baron of
Sheppey in comitatuKent, was, as has been before hinted, a very
great man. He was also a very little man; that is, he was
relatively great, and relatively little -- or physically little,
and metaphorically great -- like Sir Sidney Smith and the late M.
Bonaparte. To the frame of a dwarf he united the soul of a giant,
and the valour of a gamecock. Then, for so small a man, his
strength was prodigious; his fist would fell an ox, and his kick --
oh! his kick was tremendous, and, when he had his boots on, would
-- to use an expression of his own, which he had picked up in the
holy wars -- would 'send a man from Jericho to June.' He was
bull-necked and bandy-legged; his chest was broad and deep, his
head large and uncommonly thick, his eyes a little bloodshot, and
his nose retroussé with a remarkably red tip. Strictly speaking,
the Baron could not be called handsome; but his tout ensemble was
singularly impressive; and when he called for his boots, everybody
trembled and dreaded the worst.
'Periwinkle,' said the Baron, as he encased his better leg, 'let
the grave be twenty feet deep!'
Your lordship's command is law.'
'And, Periwinkle' Sir Robert stamped his left heel into its
receptacle -- ' and, Periwinkle, see that it be wide enough to hold
not exceeding two!'
'Y--y--yes, my lord?'
'And, Periwinkle! -- tell Father Fothergill I would fain speak
with his reverence.'
'Y--y--yes, my lord.'
The Baron's beard was peaked; and his moustaches, stiff and
stumpy, projected horizontally like those of a Tom Cat; he twirled
the one; he stroked the other, he drew the buckle of his surcingle
a thought tighter, and strode down the great staircase three steps
at a stride.
The vassals were assembled in the great hall of Shurland Castle;
every cheek was pale, every tongue was mute: expectation and
perplexity were visible on every brow. What would his lordshipdo?
Were the recusant anybody else, gyves to the heels and hemp to the
throat were but too good for him: but it was Father Fothergill who
had said 'I won't;' and though the Baron was a very great man,the
rope was a greater; and the Pope was Father Fothergill's great
friend -- some people said he was his uncle.
Father Fothergill was busy in the refectory trying conclusions
with a venison pasty, when he received the summons of his patron to
attend him in the chapel cemetery. Of course he lost notime obeying
it for obedience was the general rule in Shurland Castle. If
anybody ever said 'I won't,' it was the exception; and like all
other exceptions, only proved the rule the stronger. The Father was
a friar of the Augustine persuasion; a brotherhood which, having
been planted in Kent some few centuries earlier, had taken very
kindly to the soil, and overspread the county much as hops did some
few centuries later. He was plump and portly, a little
thick-winded, especially after dinner; stood five feet four in his
sandals; and weighed hard upon eighteen stone. He was moreover a
personage of singular piety; and the iron girdle, which, he said,
he wore under his cassock to mortify withal, might have been well
mistaken for the tire of a cartwheel. When he arrived, Sir Robert
was pacing up and down by the side of a newly opened grave.
'Benedicite!' fair son ' -- (the Baron was as brown as a cigar)
-- 'Benedicite!' said the Chaplain.
The Baron was too angry to stand upon compliment. 'Bury me that
grining caitiff there!' quoth he, pointing to the defunct.
'It may not be, fair son,' said the friar, 'he hath perished
'Bury the body!' reared Sir Robert
'Water and earth alike reject him,' returned the Chaplain; 'holy
St Bridget herself --'
'Bridget me no Bridgets! -- do me thine office quickly, Sir
Shaveling! or, by the Piper that played before Moses --' The oath
was a fearful one; and whenever the Baron swore to do mischief, he
was never known to perjure himself. He was playing with the hilt of
his sword. 'Do me thine office, I say. Give him his passport to
'He is already gone to Hell!' stammered the Friar.
'Then do you go after him!' thundered the Lord of Shurland.
His sword half leaped from its scabbard. No! the trenchant
blade, that had cut Suleman Ben Malek Ben Buckskin from helmet to
chine, disdained to daub itself with the cerebellum of a miserable
monk; -- it leaped back again; -- and as The Chaplain, scared at
its flash, turned him in terror, the Baron gave him a kick! -- one
kick! -- it was but one! -- but such a one! Despite its obesity, up
flew his holy body in an angle of forty five degrees; then having
reached its highest point of elevation, sunk headlong into the open
grave that yawned to receive it. If the reverend gentleman had
possessed such a thing as a neck, he had infallibly broken it! as
he did not, he only dislocated his vertebrae -- but that did quite
as well. He was as dead as ditch-water!
'In with the other rascal!' said the Baron; and he was obeyed;
for there he stood in his boots. Mattock and shovel made short work
of it; twenty feet of superincumbent mould pressed dawn alike the
saint and the sinner. 'Now sing a requiem who list!' said the
Baron, and his lordship went back to his oysters.
The vassals at Castle Shurland were astounded, or, as the
Seneschal Hugh better expressed it, 'perfectly conglomerated,' by
this event. What! murder a monk in the odour of sanctity and on
consecrated ground too! They trembled for the health of the Baron's
soul. To the unsophisticated many it seemed that matters could not
have been much worse had he shot a bishop's coach-horse -- all
looked for some signal judgment. The melancholy catastrophe of
their neighbours at Canterbury was yet rife in their memories: not
two centuries had elapsed since those miserable sinners had cut off
the tail of the blessed St Thomas's mule. The tail of the mule, it
was well known, had been forthwith affixed to that of the Mayor;
and rumour said it had since been hereditary in the the
corporation. The least that could be expected was, that Sir Robert
should have a friar tacked on to his for the term of his natural
life! Some bolder spirits there were, 'tis true who viewed the
matter in various lights, according to their different temperaments
and positions; for perfect unanimity existed not even in the good
old times. The verderer, roistering Hob Roebuck, swore roundly,
'Twere as good a deed as eat to kick down the chapel as well as the
monk.' Hob had stood there in a white sheet for kissing Giles
Miller's daughter. On the other hand, Simpkin Agnew, the
bell-ringer, doubted if the devil's cellar, which runs under the
bottomless abyss, were quite deep enough for the delinquent, and
speculated on the probability of a hole being dug in it for his
especial accommodation. The philosophers and economists thought,
with Saunders McBullock, the Baron's bagpiper, that a 'feckless
monk more or less was nae great subject for a clamjamphry,'
especially as the supply considerably exceeded the demand; while
Malthouse, the tapster, was arguing to Dame Martin that a murder
now and then was a seasonable check to population, without which
the Isle of Sheppey would in time be devoured, like a mouldy
cheese, by inhabitants of its own producing. Meanwhile, the Baron
ate his oysters, and thought no more of the matter.
But this tranquillity of his lordship was not to last. A couple
of Saints had been seriously offended; and we have all of us read
at school that celestial minds are by no means insensible to the
provocations of anger. There were those who expected that St
Bridget would come in person, and have the friar up again, as she
did the sailor; but perhaps her ladyship did not care to trust
herself within the walls of Shurland Castle. To say the truth, it
was scarcely a decent house for a female Saint to be seen in. The
Baron's gallantries, since he became a widower, had been but too
notorious; and her own reputation was a little blown upon in the
earlier days of her earthly pilgrimage: then things were so apt to
he misrepresented -- in short, she would leave the whole affair to
St Austin,who, being a gentleman, could interfere with propriety,
avenge her affront as well as his own, and leave no loop-hole for
scandal. St Austin himself seems to have had his scruples, though
of their precise nature it would be difficult to determine, for it
were idle to suppose him at all afaid of the Baron's boots. Be this
as it may, the mode which he adopted was at once prudent and
efficacious. As an ecclesiastic, he could not well call the Baron
out -- had his boots been out of the question; so he resolved to
have recourse to the law. Instead of Shurland Castle, therefore, he
repaired forthwith to his own magnificent monastery, situate just
without the walls of Canterbury, and presented himself in a vision
to its abbot. No one who has ever visited that ancient city can
fail to recollect the splendid gateway which terminates the vista
of St Paul's-street, and stands there yet in all its pristine
beauty. The tiny train of miniature artillery which now adorns its
battlements is, it is true, an ornament of a later date; and is
said to have been added some centuries after by a learned but
jealous proprietor, for the purpose of shooting any wiser man than
himself, who might chance to come that way. Tradition is silent as
to any discharge having taken place, nor can the oldest inhabitant
of modern days recollect any such occurrence. Here it was, in a
handsome chamber, immediately over the lofty archway, that the
Superior of the monastery lay buried in a brief slumber, snatched
from his accustomed vigils. His mitre -- for he was a mitred Abbot,
and had a seat in Parliament -- rested on a table beside him; near
it stood a silver flagon of Gascony wine, ready, no doubt, for the
pious uses of the morrow. Fasting and watching had made him more
than usually somnolent, than which nothing could have been better
for the purpose of the Saint who now appeared to him radiant in all
the colours of the rainbow.
'Anselm!' said the beatific vision, -- ' Anselm! are you not a
pretty fellow to lie snoring there when your brethren are being
knocked at head, and Mother Church herself is menaced ? -- It is a
sin and a shame, Anselm!'
'What's the matter? -- Who are you?' cried the Abbot, rubbing
his eyes, which the celestial splendour of his visitor had set
a-winking. 'Ave Maria! St Austin himself! Speak, Beatissime!what
would you with the humblest of your votaries?'
'Anselm!' said the saint, 'a brother of our order, whose soul
Heaven assoilzie! hath been foully murdered. He hath been
ignominiously kicked to the death, Anselm; and there he lieth
by-jowl with a wretched carcass, which our sister Bridget has
turned out of her cemetery for unseemly grinning. Arouse thee,
'Ay, so please you, Sanctissime!' said he Abbot. 'I will order
forthwith that thirty mases be said, thirty Paters, and thirty
'Thirty fools' heads!' interrupted his patron, who was a little
'I will send for bell, book, and candle --'
'Send for an ink-horn, Anselm. Write me now a letter to his
Holiness the Pope in good round terms, and another to the Coroner,
and another to the Sheriff, and seize me the
never-enough-to-be-anathematised villain who hath done this deed!
Hang him as high as Haman, Anselm! -- up with him! -- down with his
dwelling-place, root and branch, hearth-stone and roof-tree, --
down with it all, and sow the site with salt and sawdust!'
St Austin, it will be perceived, was a radical reformer.
'Marry will I,' quoth the Abbot, warming with the Saint's
eloquence; 'ay, marry will I, and that instanter. But there is one
thing you have forgotten, most Beatified -- the name of the
'Robert de Shurland.'
'The Lord of Sheppey! Bless me!' said the Abbot, crossing
himself, 'won't that be rather inconvenient? Sir Robert is a bold
baron, and a powerful; blows will come and go, and crowns will be
cracked and --'
'What is that to you, since yours will not be of the
'Very true, Beatissime! -- I will don me with speed, and do your
'Do so, Anselm! -- fail me not to hang the Baron, burn his
castle, confiscate his estate, and buy me two large wax candles for
my own particular shrine out of your share of the property.'
With this solemn injunction the vision began to fade.
'One thing morel' cried the Abbot grasping his rosary.
'What is that? asked the Saint.
'O Beate Augustine, ora pro nobis!'
'Of course I shall,' said St. Austin, 'Pax vobiscum!' -- and
Abbot Anselm was left alone.
Within an hour all Canterbury was in commotion. A friar had been
murdered, -- two friars -- ten -- twenty; a whole convent had been
assaulted, attacked, burnt, -- all the monks had been killed, and
all the nuns had been kissed! Murder! fire! sacrilege! Never was
city in such an uproar. From St George's-gate to St Dunstan's
suburb, from the Donjon to the borough of Staplegate, it was noise
and hubbub. 'Where was it ? -- ' When was it? -- 'How was it?' The
Mayor caught up his chain, the Aldermen donned their furred gowns,
the Town Clerk put on his spectacles. 'Who was he?'-- 'What was
he?' -- ' Where was he?' -- He should be hanged, -- he should be
burned, -- he should be broiled, -- he should be fried, -- he
should be scraped to death with red-hot oyster shells! 'Who was
he?' -- ' What was his name?'
The Abbot's Apparitor drew forth his roll and read aloud:-- 'Sir
Robert de Shurland, Knight banneret, Baron of Shurland and Minster,
and Lord of Sheppey.'
The Mayor put his chain in his pocket, the Aldermen took off
their gowns, the Town Clerk put his pen behind his ear. It was a
county business altogether -- the Sheriff had better call out the
While saints and sinners were thus leaguing against him, the
Baron de Shurland was quietly eating his breakfast. He had passed a
tranquil night, undisturbed by dreams of cowl or capuchin; nor was
his appetite more affected than his conscience. On the contrary, he
sat rather longer over his meal than usual: luncheon-time came, and
he was ready as ever for his oysters: but scarcely had Dame Martin
opened his first half-dozen when the warder's horn was heard from
'Who the devil's that?' said Sir Robert. 'I'rm not at home,
Periwinkle. I hate to be disturbed at meals, and I won't be at home
'An't please your lordship,' answered the Seneschal, 'Paul Prior
hath given notice that there is a body --'
'Another body!' roared the Baron. 'Am I to be everlastingly
plagued with bodies? No time allowed me to swallow a morsel. Throw
it into the moat!'
'So please you, my lord, it is a body of horse -- and Paul say
there is a larger body of foot behind it; and he thinks, my lord,
-- that is, he does not know, but he thinks -- and we all think my
lord, that they are coming to -- to besiege the castle!'
'Besiege the castle! Who? what? What for?'
'Paul says, my lord, that he can see the banner of St Austin,
and the bleeding heart of Hamo de Crevecoeur, the Abbot's chief
vassal; and there is John de Northwood, the sheriff, with his red
cross engrailed; and Hever, and Leybourne, and Heaven knows how
many more; and they are all coming on as fast as ever they
'Periwinkle,' said the Baron' 'up with the drawbridge; down with
the portcullis; bring me a cup of canary, and my nightcap. I won't
bothered with them. I shall go to bed.'
'To bed, my lord?' cried Periwinkle, with a look that seemed to
say, 'He's crazy!'
At this moment the shrill tones of a trumpct were heard to sound
thrice from the champaign. It was the signal for parley: the Baron
changed his mind; instead of going to bed, he went to the
'Well, rapscallions! and what now?' said the Baron.
A herald, two pursuivants, and a trumpeter, occupied the
foreground of the scene: behind them, some three hundred paces off,
upon a rising ground, was drawn up in battle array the main body of
the ecclesiastical forces.
'Hear you, Robert de Shurland, Knight, Baron of Shurland and
Minster, and lord of Sheppey, and know all men, by these presents,
that I do hereby attach roll, the said Robert, of murder and
sacrilege, new, or of late, done and committed by you, the said
Robert, contrary to the peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, his
crown and dignity: and I do hereby require and charge you, the said
Robert, to forthwith surrender and give up your own proper person,
together with the castle of Shurland aforesaid, in order that the
same may be duly dealt with according to law. And here standeth
John de Northwood, Esquire, good man and true, sheriff of this his
Majesty's most loyal county of Kent, to enforce the same, if need
be, with his posse comitatus --'
'His what?' said the Baron.
'His posse comitatus, and --'
'Go to Bath!' said the Baron.
A defiance so contemptuous roused the ire of the adverse
commanders. A volley of missiles rattled about the Baron's ears.
Nightcaps avail little against contusions. He left the walls, and
returned to the great hall.
'Let them pelt away; quoth the Baron: 'there are no windows to
break, and they can't get in.' So he took his afterooon nap, and
the siege went on.
Towards evening his lordship awoke, and grew tired of the din.
Guy Pearson, too, had got a black eye from a brickbat, and the
assailants were clambering over the outer wall. So the Baron called
for his Sunday hauberk of Milan steel, and his great two-handed
sword with the terrible name:-- it was the fashion in feudal times
to give names to swords: King Arthur's was christened Excalibar;
the Baron called his Tickletoby, and whenever he took it in hand it
was no joke.
'Up with the portcullis! down with the drawbridge!' said Sir
Robert; and out he sallied, followed by the élite of his retainers.
Then there was a pretty to do. Heads flew one way -- arms and legs
another; round went Tickletoby; and, wherever it alighted, down
came horse and man: the Baron excelled himself that day. All that
he had done in Palestine faded in the comparison; he had fought for
fun there, but now it was for life and lands. Away went John de
Northwood; away went William of Hever, and Roger of Leybourne. Hamo
de Crevecoeur, with the church vassals and the banner of St.
Austin, had been gone some time. The siege was raised, and the Lord
of Sheppey was left alone in his glory.
But, brave as the Baron undoubtedly was, and total as had been
the defeat of his enemies, it cannot be supposed that La Stoccata
would be allowed to carry it away thus. It has before been hinted
that Abbot Anselm had written to the Pope, and Boniface the Eighth
piqued himself on his punctuality as a correspondent in all matters
connected with church discipline. He sent back an answer by return
of post; and by it all Christian people were strictly enjoined to
aid in exterminating the offender, on pain of the greater
excommunication in this world, and a million of years of purgatory
in the next. But then, again, Boniface the Eighth was rather at a
discount in England just then. He had affronted Longshanks, as the
royal lieges had nicknamed their monarch; and Longshanks had been
rather sharp upon the clergy in consequence. If the Baron de
Shurland could but get the King's pardon for what, in his cooler
moments, he admitted to be a peccadillo, he might sniff at the
Pope, and bid him 'do his devilmost.'
Fortune, who, as the poet says, delights to favour the bold,
stood his friend on this occasion. Edward had been for some time
collecting a large force on the coast of Kent, to carry on his
French wars for the recovery of Guienne; he was expected shortly to
review it in person; but, then, the troops lay principally in
cantonments about the mouth of the Thames, and his Majesty was to
come down by water. What was to he done? -- the royal barge was in
sight, and John de Northwood and Hamo de Crevecur had broken up all
the boats to boil their camp-kettles. A truly great mind is never
'Bring me my boots!' said the Baron.
They brought him his boots, and his dapple-grey steed along with
them; such a courser! all blood and bone, short-backed,
broad-chested, and -- but that be was a little ewe-necked --
faultless in form and figure. The Baron sprung upon his back, and
dashed at once into the river.
The barge which carried Edward Longshanks and his fortunes had
by this time nearly reached the Nore; the stream was broad, and the
current strong, but Sir Robert and his steed were almost as broad,
and a great deal stronger. After breasting the tide gallantly for a
couple of miles, the knight was near enough to hail the
'What have we got here?' said the King. 'It's a mermaid,' said
one. 'It's a grampus,' said another. 'It's the devil,' said a
third. But they were all wrong; it was only Robert de Shurland.
'Gramercy,' said the King, 'that fellow was never born to be
It has been said before that the Baron had fought in The Holy
Wars; in fact, he had accompanied Longshanks, when only heir
apparent in his expedition twenty-five years before, although his
name is unacountably omitted by Sir Harris Nicolas in his list of
crusaders. He had been present at Acre when Amirand of Joppa
stabbed the prince with a poisoned dagger, and had lent Princess
Eleanor his own tooth-brush after she had sucked out the venom from
the wound. He had slain certain Saracens, contented himself with
his own plunder, and never dunned the commissariat for arrears of
pay. Of course he ranked high in Edward's good graces, and had
received the honour of knghthood at his hands on the field of
In one so circumstanced, it canot be supposed that such a trifle
as the killing of a frowsy friar would be much resented, even had
he not taken so bold a measure to obtain his pardon. His petition
was granted, of course, as soon as asked; and so it would have been
had the indictment drawn up by the Canterbury town-clerk, viz.,
'That he, the said Robert de Shurland, &c., had then and
there,, with several, to wit, one thousand, pairs of boots, given
sundry, to wit, two thousand, kicks, and therewith and thereby
killed divers; to wit, ten thousand, Austin Friars,' been true to
Thrice did the gallant grey circumnavigate the barge, while
Robert de Winchelsey, the chancellor and archbishop to boot was
making out, albeit with great reluctance, the royal pardon. The
interval was sufficiently long to enable his Majesty, who, gracious
as he was had always an eye to business, just to hint that the
gratitude he felt towards the Baron was not unmixed with a lively
sense of services to come; and that if life were now spared him,
common decency must oblige him make himself useful. Before the
archbishop, who had scalded his fingers with the wax in affixing
the great-seal, had time to take them out of his mouth, all was
settled, and the Baron de Shurland had pledged himself to be
forthwith in readiness, cum suis, to accompany his lord to
With the royal pardon secured in his vest, boldly did his
lordship turn again to the shore; and as boldly did his courser
oppose his breadth of chest to the stream. It was a work of no
common difficulty or danger; a steed of less 'mettle and bone' had
long since sunk in the effort: as it was, the Baron's boots were
full of water, and Grey Dolphin's chamfrain more than once dipped
beneath the wave. The covvulsive snorts of the noble animal showed
his distress; each instant they became more loud and frequent; when
his hoof touched the strand, and the horse and his rider stood once
again in safety on the shore.
Rapidly dismounting, the Baron was loosening the girths of his
demi-pique, to give the panting animal breath, when he was aware of
as ugly an oldwoman as he had ever clapped eyes upon, peeping at
him under the horse's belly.
''Make much of your steed, Robert Shurland!' Make much of your
steed!' cried the hag; shaking at him her long and bony finger.
'Groom to the hide, and corn to the manger! He has saved your life,
Robert Shurland, for the nonce; but he shall yet be the means of
your 1osing it for all that!'
The Baron started: 'What's that you say, you old faggot?' He ran
round by his horse's tail; The woman was gone!
The Baron paused; his great soul was not to be shaken by
trifles; he looked around him and solemnly ejaculated the word
'Humbug!' then slinging the bridle acrosss his arm,walked slowly on
in the direction of the castle.
The appearance, and still more, the disappearance of the crone,
had, however, made an impresslon; every step he took he became more
thoughtful. ''Twould be deuced provoking, though, if he should
break my neck after all.' He turned and gazed at Dolphin with the
scrutinising eye of a veterinary surgeon. 'I'll be shot if he is
not groggy! said the Baron.
With his lordship, like another great commander, 'Once to be in
doubt was once to be resolved:' it would never do to go to the wars
on a ricketty prad. He dropped he rein, drew forth Tickletoby, and,
as the enfranchised Dolphin, good easy horse, stretched out his
ewe-neck to the herbage; struck off his head at a single blow.
'There, you 1ying old beldame!' said the Baron; 'now take him away
to the knacker's.'
* * *
Three years were come and gone. King Edward's French wars were
over; both parties having fought till they came to a stand-still,
shook hands, and the quarrel, as usual, was patched up by a royal
marriage. This happy event gave his Majesty leisure to turn his
attention to Scotland, where things, through the intervention of
William Wallace, were looking rather queerish. As his
reconciliation with Philip now allowed of his fighting the Scotch
in peace and quietness, the monarch lost no time in marching his
long legs across the border, and the short ones of the Baron
followed him of course. At Falkirk, Tickletoby was in great
request; and in the year following, we find a contemporary poet
hinting at his master's prowess under tbe walls of Caerlaverok
Ovec eus fu achiminez
Li beau Robert de Shurland
Ki kant seoit sur le cheval
Ne sembloit home de someille.
A quatrain which Mr. Simpkinson translates,
'With them was marching
The good Robert de Shurland,
Who, when seated on horseback,
does not resemble a man asleep!'
So thoroughly awake, indeed, does he seem to have proved
himse1f, that the bard subsequently exclaims in an ecstacy of
Si ie estoie une pucelette
Je li donroie ceur et cors
Tant est de lu bons lu recors.
'If I were a young maiden;
I would give my heart and person,
So great is his fame!'
Fortunately the poet was a tough old monk of Exeter; since such
a present to a nobleman, now in his grand climacteric, would hardly
have been worth the carriage. With the reduction of this stronghold
of the Maxwells seem to have concluded the Baron's military
services; as on the very first day of the fourteenth century we
find him once more landed on his native shore, and marching, with
such of his retainers as the wars had left him, towards the
hospitable shelter of Shurland Castle. It was then, upon that very
beach, some hundred yards distant from high-water mark, that his
eye fell upon something like an ugly old woman in a red cloak. She
was seated on what seemed to be a large stone, in an interesting
attitude, with her elbows resting upon her knees, and her chin upon
her thumbs. The Baron started: the remembrance of his interview
with a similar personage in the same place, some three years since;
flashed upon his recollection. He rushed towards the spot but the
form was gone -- nothing remained but the seat it had appeared to
occupy. This, on examination, turned out to be no stone, but the
whitened skull of a dead horse! A tender remembrance of the
deceased Grey Dolphin shot a momentary pang into the Baron's bosom;
he drew the back of his hand across his face; the thought of the
hag's prediction in an instant rose, and banished all softer
emotions. In utter contempt of his own weakness, yet with a tremor
that deprived his redoubtable kick of half its wonted force, he
spurned the relic with his foot. One word alone issued from his
lips, elucidatory of what was passing in his mind -- it long
remained imprinted on the memory of his faithful followers -- that
word was 'Gammon!' The skull bounded across the beach till it
reached the very margin of the stream ; -- one instant more and it
would be engulfed for ever. At that moment a loud 'Ha! ha! ha!' was
distinctly heard by the whole train to issue from its bleached 'and
toothless jaws: it sank beneath the flood in a horse laugh.
Meanwhile Sir Robert de Shurland felt an odd sort of sensation
in his right foot. His boots had suffered in the wars. Great pains
had been token for their preservation. They bed been 'soled' and
'heeled' more than once -- had they been 'goloshed,' their owner
might have defied Fate! Well has it been said that 'There is no
such thing as a trifle.' A nobleman's life depended upon a question
The Baron marched on; the uneasiness in his feat increased. He
plucked off his boot; -- a horse's tooth was sticking in his great
The result may be anticipated. Lame as he was, his lordship,
with characteristic decision, would hobble on to Shurland; his walk
increased the inflammation; a flagon of aqua vitae did not mend
matters. He was in a high fever; he took to his bed. Next morning
the toe presented the appearance of a Bedfordshire carrot; by
dinner time it had deepened to beetroot; and when Bargrave, the
leech, at last sliced it off, the gangrene was too confirmed to
admit of remedy. Dame Martin thought it high time to send for Miss
Margaret who, ever since her mother's death, had been living with
her maternal aunt, the abbess, in the Ursuline convent at
Greenwich. The young lady came, and with her came one Master
Ingoldsby, her Cousin-german by the mother's side; but the Baron
was too far gone in the dead-thraw to recognise either. He died as
he lived, unconquered and unconquerable. His last words were 'Tell
the old hag she may go to --' Whither remains a secret. He expired
without fully articulating the place of her destination.
But who and what was the crone who prophesied the catastrophe?
Ay, 'that is the mystery of this wonderful history.' -- Some say it
was Dame Fothergill, the late confessor's mamma; others, St Bridget
herself; others thought it was nobody at all, but only a phantom
conjured up by conscience. As we do not know, we decline giving an
And what became of the Clerk of Chatham? -- Mr. Simpkinson avers
that he lived to a good old age, and was at last hanged by Jack
Cade, with his inkhorn about his neck, for 'setting boys copies.'
In support of this he adduces his name 'Emmanuel,' and refers to
the historian Shakspeare.Mr. Peters, on the contrary, considers
this to be what he calls one of Mr. Simpkinson's 'Anacreonisms,'
inasmuch as, at the introduction of Mr. Cade's reform measure, the
Clerk, if alive, would have been hard upon two hundred years old.
The probability is that the unfortunate alluded to was his
Margaret Shurland in due course became Margaret Ingoldsby: her
portrait still hangs in the gallery at Tappington. The features are
handsome, but shrewish, betraying, as it were, a touch of the old
Baron's temperament; but we never could learn that she actually
kicked her husband. She brought him a very pretty fortune in
chains, owches, and Saracen ear-rings; the barony being a male
fief; reverted to the Crown.
In the abbey-church at Minster may yet be seen the tomb of a
recumbent warrior, clad in the chain-mail of the 13th century. His
hands are clasped in prayer, his legs, crossed in that position so
prized by Templars in ancient, and tailors in modern days, bespeak
him a soldier of the faith in Palestine. Close behind his dexter
calf lies sepultured in bold relief a horse's head: and a
respectable elderly lady, as she shows the monument, fails not to
read her auditors a fine moral lesson on the sin of ingratitude, or
to claim a sympathising tear to the memory of poor 'Grey