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Chapter 22


CHAPTER III - THE DEAD SPY


Throughout this furious and rapid passage, Lawless had looked on
helplessly, and even when all was over, and Dick, already re-arisen
to his feet, was listening with the most passionate attention to
the distant bustle in the lower storeys of the house, the old
outlaw was still wavering on his legs like a shrub in a breeze of
wind, and still stupidly staring on the face of the dead man.

"It is well," said Dick, at length; "they have not heard us, praise
the saints!  But, now, what shall I do with this poor spy?  At
least, I will take my tassel from his wallet."

So saying, Dick opened the wallet; within he found a few pieces of
money, the tassel, and a letter addressed to Lord Wensleydale, and
sealed with my Lord Shoreby's seal.  The name awoke Dick's
recollection; and he instantly broke the wax and read the contents
of the letter.  It was short, but, to Dick's delight, it gave
evident proof that Lord Shoreby was treacherously corresponding
with the House of York.

The young fellow usually carried his ink-horn and implements about
him, and so now, bending a knee beside the body of the dead spy, he
was able to write these words upon a corner of the paper:


My Lord of Shoreby, ye that writt the letter, wot ye why your man
is ded?  But let me rede you, marry not.

JON AMEND-ALL.


He laid this paper on the breast of the corpse; and then Lawless,
who had been looking on upon these last manoeuvres with some
flickering returns of intelligence, suddenly drew a black arrow
from below his robe, and therewith pinned the paper in its place.
The sight of this disrespect, or, as it almost seemed, cruelty to
the dead, drew a cry of horror from young Shelton; but the old
outlaw only laughed.

"Nay, I will have the credit for mine order," he hiccupped.  "My
jolly boys must have the credit on't - the credit, brother;" and
then, shutting his eyes tight and opening his mouth like a
precentor, he began to thunder, in a formidable voice:


"If ye should drink the clary wine" -


"Peace, sot!" cried Dick, and thrust him hard against the wall.
"In two words - if so be that such a man can understand me who hath
more wine than wit in him - in two words, and, a-Mary's name,
begone out of this house, where, if ye continue to abide, ye will
not only hang yourself, but me also!  Faith, then, up foot! be
yare, or, by the mass, I may forget that I am in some sort your
captain and in some your debtor!  Go!"

The sham monk was now, in some degree, recovering the use of his
intelligence; and the ring in Dick's voice, and the glitter in
Dick's eye, stamped home the meaning of his words.

"By the mass," cried Lawless, "an I be not wanted, I can go;" and
he turned tipsily along the corridor and proceeded to flounder
down-stairs, lurching against the wall.

So soon as he was out of sight, Dick returned to his hiding-place,
resolutely fixed to see the matter out.  Wisdom, indeed, moved him
to be gone; but love and curiosity were stronger.

Time passed slowly for the young man, bolt upright behind the
arras.  The fire in the room began to die down, and the lamp to
burn low and to smoke.  And still there was no word of the return
of any one to these upper quarters of the house; still the faint
hum and clatter of the supper party sounded from far below; and
still, under the thick fall of the snow, Shoreby town lay silent
upon every side.

At length, however, feet and voices began to draw near upon the
stair; and presently after several of Sir Daniel's guests arrived
upon the landing, and, turning down the corridor, beheld the torn
arras and the body of the spy.

Some ran forward and some back, and all together began to cry
aloud.

At the sound of their cries, guests, men-at-arms, ladies, servants,
and, in a word, all the inhabitants of that great house, came
flying from every direction, and began to join their voices to the
tumult.

Soon a way was cleared, and Sir Daniel came forth in person,
followed by the bridegroom of the morrow, my Lord Shoreby.

"My lord," said Sir Daniel, "have I not told you of this knave
Black Arrow?  To the proof, behold it!  There it stands, and, by
the rood, my gossip, in a man of yours, or one that stole your
colours!"

"In good sooth, it was a man of mine," replied Lord Shoreby,
hanging back.  "I would I had more such.  He was keen as a beagle
and secret as a mole."

"Ay, gossip, truly?" asked Sir Daniel, keenly.  "And what came he
smelling up so many stairs in my poor mansion?  But he will smell
no more."

"An't please you, Sir Daniel," said one, "here is a paper written
upon with some matter, pinned upon his breast."

"Give it me, arrow and all," said the knight.  And when he had
taken into his hand the shaft, he continued for some time to gaze
upon it in a sullen musing.  "Ay," he said, addressing Lord
Shoreby, "here is a hate that followeth hard and close upon my
heels.  This black stick, or its just likeness, shall yet bring me
down.  And, gossip, suffer a plain knight to counsel you; and if
these hounds begin to wind you, flee!  'Tis like a sickness - it
still hangeth, hangeth upon the limbs.  But let us see what they
have written.  It is as I thought, my lord; y' are marked, like an
old oak, by the woodman; to-morrow or next day, by will come the
axe.  But what wrote ye in a letter?"

Lord Shoreby snatched the paper from the arrow, read it, crumpled
it between his hands, and, overcoming the reluctance which had
hitherto withheld him from approaching, threw himself on his knees
beside the body and eagerly groped in the wallet.

He rose to his feet with a somewhat unsettled countenance.

"Gossip," he said, "I have indeed lost a letter here that much
imported; and could I lay my hand upon the knave that took it, he
should incontinently grace a halter.  But let us, first of all,
secure the issues of the house.  Here is enough harm already, by
St. George!"

Sentinels were posted close around the house and garden; a sentinel
on every landing of the stair, a whole troop in the main entrance-
hall; and yet another about the bonfire in the shed.  Sir Daniel's
followers were supplemented by Lord Shoreby's; there was thus no
lack of men or weapons to make the house secure, or to entrap a
lurking enemy, should one be there.

Meanwhile, the body of the spy was carried out through the falling
snow and deposited in the abbey church.

It was not until these dispositions had been taken, and all had
returned to a decorous silence, that the two girls drew Richard
Shelton from his place of concealment, and made a full report to
him of what had passed.  He, upon his side, recounted the visit of
the spy, his dangerous discovery, and speedy end.

Joanna leaned back very faint against the curtained wall.

"It will avail but little," she said.  "I shall be wed to-morrow,
in the morning, after all!"

"What!" cried her friend.  "And here is our paladin that driveth
lions like mice!  Ye have little faith, of a surety.  But come,
friend lion-driver, give us some comfort; speak, and let us hear
bold counsels."

Dick was confounded to be thus outfaced with his own exaggerated
words; but though he coloured, he still spoke stoutly.

"Truly," said he, "we are in straits.  Yet, could I but win out of
this house for half an hour, I do honestly tell myself that all
might still go well; and for the marriage, it should be prevented."

"And for the lions," mimicked the girl, "they shall be driven."

"I crave your excuse," said Dick.  "I speak not now in any boasting
humour, but rather as one inquiring after help or counsel; for if I
get not forth of this house and through these sentinels, I can do
less than naught.  Take me, I pray you, rightly."

"Why said ye he was rustic, Joan?" the girl inquired.  "I warrant
he hath a tongue in his head; ready, soft, and bold is his speech
at pleasure.  What would ye more?"

"Nay," sighed Joanna, with a smile, "they have changed me my friend
Dick, 'tis sure enough.  When I beheld him, he was rough indeed.
But it matters little; there is no help for my hard case, and I
must still be Lady Shoreby!"

"Nay, then," said Dick, "I will even make the adventure.  A friar
is not much regarded; and if I found a good fairy to lead me up, I
may find another belike to carry me down.  How call they the name
of this spy?"

"Rutter," said the young lady; "and an excellent good name to call
him by.  But how mean ye, lion-driver?  What is in your mind to
do?"

"To offer boldly to go forth," returned Dick; "and if any stop me,
to keep an unchanged countenance, and say I go to pray for Rutter.
They will be praying over his poor clay even now."

"The device is somewhat simple," replied the girl, "yet it may
hold."

"Nay," said young Shelton, "it is no device, but mere boldness,
which serveth often better in great straits."

"Ye say true," she said.  "Well, go, a-Mary's name, and may Heaven
speed you!  Ye leave here a poor maid that loves you entirely, and
another that is most heartily your friend.  Be wary, for their
sakes, and make not shipwreck of your safety."

"Ay," added Joanna, "go, Dick.  Ye run no more peril, whether ye go
or stay.  Go; ye take my heart with you; the saints defend you!"

Dick passed the first sentry with so assured a countenance that the
fellow merely figeted and stared; but at the second landing the man
carried his spear across and bade him name his business.

"PAX VOBISCUM," answered Dick.  "I go to pray over the body of this
poor Rutter."

"Like enough," returned the sentry; "but to go alone is not
permitted you."  He leaned over the oaken balusters and whistled
shrill.  "One cometh!" he cried; and then motioned Dick to pass.

At the foot of the stair he found the guard afoot and awaiting his
arrival; and when he had once more repeated his story, the
commander of the post ordered four men out to accompany him to the
church.

"Let him not slip, my lads," he said.  "Bring him to Sir Oliver, on
your lives!"

The door was then opened; one of the men took Dick by either arm,
another marched ahead with a link, and the fourth, with bent bow
and the arrow on the string, brought up the rear.  In this order
they proceeded through the garden, under the thick darkness of the
night and the scattering snow, and drew near to the dimly-
illuminated windows of the abbey church.

At the western portal a picket of archers stood, taking what
shelter they could find in the hollow of the arched doorways, and
all powdered with the snow; and it was not until Dick's conductors
had exchanged a word with these, that they were suffered to pass
forth and enter the nave of the sacred edifice.

The church was doubtfully lighted by the tapers upon the great
altar, and by a lamp or two that swung from the arched roof before
the private chapels of illustrious families.  In the midst of the
choir the dead spy lay, his limbs piously composed, upon a bier.

A hurried mutter of prayer sounded along the arches; cowled figures
knelt in the stalls of the choir, and on the steps of the high
altar a priest in pontifical vestments celebrated mass.

Upon this fresh entrance, one of the cowled figures arose, and,
coming down the steps which elevated the level of the choir above
that of the nave, demanded from the leader of the four men what
business brought him to the church.  Out of respect for the service
and the dead, they spoke in guarded tones; but the echoes of that
huge, empty building caught up their words, and hollowly repeated
and repeated them along the aisles.

"A monk!" returned Sir Oliver (for he it was), when he had heard
the report of the archer.  "My brother, I looked not for your
coming," he added, turning to young Shelton.  "In all civility, who
are ye? and at whose instance do ye join your supplications to
ours?"

Dick, keeping his cowl about his face, signed to Sir Oliver to move
a pace or two aside from the archers; and, so soon as the priest
had done so, "I cannot hope to deceive you, sir," he said.  "My
life is in your hands."

Sir Oliver violently started; his stout cheeks grew pale, and for a
space he was silent.

"Richard," he said, "what brings you here, I know not; but I much
misdoubt it to be evil.  Nevertheless, for the kindness that was, I
would not willingly deliver you to harm.  Ye shall sit all night
beside me in the stalls:  ye shall sit there till my Lord of
Shoreby be married, and the party gone safe home; and if all goeth
well, and ye have planned no evil, in the end ye shall go whither
ye will.  But if your purpose be bloody, it shall return upon your
head.  Amen!"

And the priest devoutly crossed himself, and turned and louted to
the altar.

With that, he spoke a few words more to the soldiers, and taking
Dick by the hand, led him up to the choir, and placed him in the
stall beside his own, where, for mere decency, the lad had
instantly to kneel and appear to be busy with his devotions.

His mind and his eyes, however, were continually wandering.  Three
of the soldiers, he observed, instead of returning to the house,
had got them quietly into a point of vantage in the aisle; and he
could not doubt that they had done so by Sir Oliver's command.
Here, then, he was trapped.  Here he must spend the night in the
ghostly glimmer and shadow of the church, and looking on the pale
face of him he slew; and here, in the morning, he must see his
sweetheart married to another man before his eyes.

But, for all that, he obtained a command upon his mind, and built
himself up in patience to await the issue.


Robert Louis Stevenson