A Knight of The White Cross by G.A. Henty

A Knight of The White Cross by G.A. Henty.jpg

CHAPTER I The King Maker

A stately lady was looking out of the window of an apartment in the Royal Chateau of Amboise, in the month of June, 1470. She was still handsome, though many years of anxiety, misfortune, and trouble, had left their traces on her face. In the room behind her, a knight was talking to a lady sitting at a tambour frame; a lad of seventeen was standing at another window stroking a hawk that sat on his wrist, while a boy of nine was seated at a table examining the pages of an illuminated missal.

“What will come of it, Eleanor?” the lady at the window said, turning suddenly and impatiently from it. “It seems past belief that I am to meet as a friend this haughty earl, who has for fifteen years been the bitterest enemy of my House. It appears almost impossible.”

“‘Tis strange indeed, my Queen; but so many strange things have befallen your Majesty that you should be the last to wonder at this. At any rate, as you said but yesterday, naught but good can come of it. He has done his worst against you, and one can scarce doubt that if he chooses he has power to do as much good for you, as in past times he has done you evil. ‘Tis certain that his coming here shows he is in earnest, for his presence,—which is sure sooner or later to come to the ears of the Usurper,—will cause him to fall into the deepest disgrace.”

“And yet it seemed,” the queen said, “that by marrying his daughter to Clarence he had bound himself more firmly than ever to the side of York.”

“Ay, madam,” the knight said. “But Clarence himself is said to be alike unprincipled and ambitious, and it may well be that Warwick intended to set him up against Edward; had he not done so, such an alliance would not necessarily strengthen his position at Court.”

“Methinks your supposition is the true one, Sir Thomas,” the queen said. “Edward cares not sufficiently for his brother to bestow much favour upon the father of the prince’s wife. Thus, he would gain but little by the marriage unless he were to place Clarence on the throne. Then he would again become the real ruler of England, as he was until Edward married Elizabeth Woodville, and the House of Rivers rose to the first place in the royal favour, and eclipsed the Star of Warwick. It is no wonder the proud Earl chafes under the ingratitude of the man who owes his throne to him, and that he is ready to dare everything so that he can but prove to him that he is not to be slighted with impunity. But why come to me, when he has Clarence as his puppet?”

“He may have convinced himself, madam, that Clarence is even less to be trusted than Edward, or he may perceive that but few of the Yorkists would follow him were he to declare against the Usurper, while assuredly your adherents would stand aloof altogether from such a struggle. Powerful as he is, Warwick could not alone withstand the united forces of all the nobles pledged to the support of the House of York. Thence, as I take it, does it happen that he has resolved to throw in his lot with Lancaster, if your Majesty will but forgive the evil he has done your House and accept him as your ally. No doubt he will have terms to make and conditions to lay down.”

“He may make what conditions he chooses,” Queen Margaret said passionately, “so that he does but aid me to take vengeance on that false traitor; to place my husband again on the throne; and to obtain for my son his rightful heritage.”

As she spoke a trumpet sounded in the courtyard below.

“He has come,” she exclaimed. “Once again, after years of misery and humiliation, I can hope.”

“We had best retire, madam,” Sir Thomas Tresham said. “He will speak more freely to your Majesty if there are no witnesses. Come, Gervaise, it is time that you practised your exercises.” And Sir Thomas, with his wife and child, quitted the room, leaving Queen Margaret with her son to meet the man who had been the bitterest foe of her House, the author of her direst misfortunes.

For two hours the Earl of Warwick was closeted with the queen; then he took horse and rode away. As soon as he did so, a servant informed Sir Thomas and his wife that the queen desired their presence. Margaret was standing radiant when they entered.

“Congratulate me, my friends,” she said. “The Star of Lancaster has risen again. Warwick has placed all his power and influence at our disposal. We have both forgiven all the past: I the countless injuries he has inflicted on my House, he the execution of his father and so many of his friends. We have both laid aside all our grievances, and we stand united by our hate for Edward. There is but one condition, and this I accepted gladly—namely, that my son should marry his daughter Anne. This will be another bond between us; and by all reports Anne is a charming young lady. Edward has gladly agreed to the match; he could make no alliance, even with the proudest princess in Europe, which would so aid him, and so strengthen his throne.”

“God grant that your hopes may be fulfilled, madam,” the knight said earnestly, “and that peace may be given to our distracted country! The Usurper has rendered himself unpopular by his extravagance and by the exactions of his tax collectors, and I believe that England will gladly welcome the return of its lawful king to power. When does Warwick propose to begin?”

“He will at once get a fleet together. Louis, who has privately brought about this meeting, will of course throw no impediment in his way; but, on the other hand, the Duke of Burgundy will do all in his power to thwart the enterprise, and will, as soon as he learns of it, warn Edward. I feel new life in me, Eleanor. After fretting powerless for years, I seem to be a different woman now that there is a prospect of action. I am rejoiced at the thought that at last I shall be able to reward those who have ventured and suffered so much in the cause of Lancaster.”

“My hope is, madam, that this enterprise will be the final one,—that, once successful, our dear land will be no longer deluged with blood, and that never again shall I be forced to draw my sword against my countrymen.”

“‘Tis a good and pious wish, Sir Thomas, and heartily do I join in it. My married life has been one long round of trouble, and none more than I have cause to wish for peace.”

“There is the more hope for it, madam, that these wars have greatly diminished the number of powerful barons. It is they who are the authors of this struggle; their rivalries and their ambitions are the ruin of England. Save for their retainers there would be no armies to place in the field; the mass of people stand aloof altogether, desiring only to live in peace and quiet. ‘Tis the same here in France; ‘tis the powerful vassals of the king that are ever causing trouble.”

“‘Tis so indeed, Sir Thomas. But without his feudal lords how could a king place an army in the field, when his dominions were threatened by a powerful neighbour?”

“Then it would be the people’s business to fight, madam, and I doubt not that they would do so in defence of their hearths and homes. Besides, the neighbour would no longer have the power of invasion were he also without great vassals. These great barons stand between the king and his subjects; and a monarch would be a king indeed were he able to rule without their constant dictation, and undisturbed by their rivalry and ambitions.”

“That would be a good time indeed, Sir Thomas,” the queen said, with a smile; “but methinks there is but little chance of its coming about, for at present it seems to me that the vassals are better able to make or unmake kings, than kings are able to deprive the great vassals of power; and never since Norman William set foot in England were they more powerful than they are at present. What does my chance of recovering our throne rest upon? Not upon our right, but on the quarrel between Warwick and the House of Rivers. We are but puppets that the great lords play against each other. Did it depend upon my will, it should be as you say; I would crush them all at a blow. Then only should I feel really a queen. But that is but a dream that can never be carried out.”

“Not in our time, madam. But perhaps it may come sooner than we expect; and this long war, which has destroyed many great families and weakened others, may greatly hasten its arrival. I presume until Warwick is ready to move naught will be done, your Majesty?”

“That is not settled yet. Warwick spoke somewhat of causing a rising in the north before he set sail, so that a portion at least of Edward’s power may be up there when we make our landing.”

“It would be a prudent step, madam. If we can but gain possession of London, the matter would be half finished. The citizens are ever ready to take sides with those whom they regard as likely to win, and just as they shout at present ‘Long live King Edward!’ so would they shout ‘Long live King Henry!’ did you enter the town.”

“This may perhaps change the thought that you have entertained, Sir Thomas, of making your son a Knight of St. John.”

“I have not thought the matter over, madam. If there were quiet in the land I should, were it not for my vow, be well content that he should settle down in peace at my old hall; but if I see that there is still trouble and bloodshed ahead, I would in any case far rather that he should enter the Order, and spend his life in fighting the infidel than in strife with Englishmen. My good friend, the Grand Prior of the Order in England, has promised that he will take him as his page, and at any rate in the House of St. John’s he will pass his youth in security whatsoever fate may befall me. The child himself already bids fair to do honour to our name, and to become a worthy member of the Order. He is fond of study, and under my daily tuition is making good progress in the use of his weapons.”

“That is he,” the prince said, speaking for the first time, “It was but yesterday in the great hall downstairs he stood up with blunted swords against young Victor de Paulliac, who is nigh three years his senior. It was amusing to see how the little knaves fought against each other; and by my faith Gervaise held his own staunchly, in spite of Victor’s superior height and weight. If he join the Order, Sir Thomas, I warrant me he will cleave many an infidel’s skull, and will do honour to the langue of England.”

“I hope so, prince,” the knight said gravely. “The Moslems ever gain in power, and it may well be that the Knights of St. John will be hardly pressed to hold their own. If the boy joins them it will be my wish that he shall as early as possible repair to Rhodes. I do not wish him to become one of the drones who live in sloth at their commanderies in England, and take no part in the noble struggle of the Order with the Moslem host, who have captured Constantinople and now threaten all Europe. We were childless some years after our marriage, and Eleanor and I vowed that were a son born to us he should join the Order of the White Cross, and dedicate his life to the defence of Christian Europe against the infidel. Our prayers for a son were granted, and Gervaise will enter the Order as soon as his age will permit him. That is why I rejoice at the grand prior’s offer to take him as his page, for he will dwell in the hospital safely until old enough to take the first steps towards becoming a knight of the Order.”

“I would that I had been born the son of a baron like yourself,” the prince said earnestly, “and that I were free to choose my own career. Assuredly in that case I too would have joined the noble Order and have spent my life in fighting in so grand a cause, free from all the quarrels and disputes and enmities that rend England. Even should I some day gain a throne, surely my lot is not to be envied. Yet, as I have been born to the rank, I must try for it, and I trust to do so worthily and bravely. But who can say what the end will be? Warwick has ever been our foe, and though my royal mother may use him in order to free my father, and place him on the throne, she must know well enough that he but uses us for his own ends alone, and that he will ever stand beside the throne and be the real ruler of England.”

“For a time, Edward,” the queen broke in. “We have shown that we can wait, and now it seems that our great hope is likely to be fulfilled. After that, the rest will be easy. There are other nobles, well nigh as powerful as he, who look with jealousy upon the way in which he lords it, and be assured that they will look with a still less friendly eye upon him when he stands, as you say, beside the throne, once your father is again seated there. We can afford to bide our time, and assuredly it will not be long before a party is formed against Warwick. Until then we must bear everything. Our interests are the same. If he is content to remain a prop to the throne, and not to eclipse it, the memory of the past will not stand between us, and I shall regard him as the weapon that has beaten down the House of York and restored us to our own, and shall give him my confidence and friendship. If, on the other hand, he assumes too much, and tries to lord it over us, I shall seek other support and gather a party which even he will be unable successfully to withstand. I should have thought, Edward, that you would be even more glad than I that this long time of weary waiting for action is over, and that once again the banner of Lancaster will be spread to the winds.”

“I shall be that, mother. Rather would I meet death in the field than live cooped up here, a pensioner of France. But I own that I should feel more joy at the prospect if the people of England had declared in our favour, instead of its being Warwick—whom you have always taught me to fear and hate—who thus comes to offer to place my father again on the throne, and whose goodwill towards us is simply the result of pique and displeasure because he is no longer first in the favour of Edward. It does not seem to me that a throne won by the aid of a traitor can be a stable one.”

“You are a foolish boy,” the queen said angrily. “Do you not see that by marrying Warwick’s daughter you will attach him firmly to us?”

“Marriages do not count for much, mother. Another of Warwick’s daughters married Clarence, Edward’s brother, and yet he purposes to dethrone Edward.”

The queen gave an angry gesture and said, “You have my permission to retire, Edward. I am in no mood to listen to auguries of evil at the present moment.”

The prince hesitated for a moment as if about to speak, but with an effort controlled himself, and bowing deeply to his mother, left the room.

“Edward is in a perverse humour,” the queen said in a tone of much vexation to Sir Thomas Tresham, when Gervaise had left the room. “However, I know he will bear himself well when the hour of trial comes.”

“That I can warrant he will, madam; he has a noble character, frank and fearless, and yet thoughtful beyond his years. He will make, I believe, a noble king, and may well gather round him all parties in the state. But your Majesty must make excuses for his humour. Young people are strong in their likes and dislikes. He has never heard you speak aught but ill of Warwick, and he knows how much harm the Earl has done to your House. The question of expediency does not weigh with the young as with their elders. While you see how great are the benefits that will accrue from an alliance with Warwick, and are ready to lay aside the hatred of years and to forget the wrongs you have suffered, the young prince is unable so quickly to forget that enmity against the Earl that he has learnt from you.”

“You are right, Sir Thomas, and I cannot blame Edward that he is unable, as I am, to forget the past. What steps would you advise that I myself should take? Shall I remain passive here, or shall I do what I can to rouse our partisans in England?”

“I should say the latter, madam. Of course it will not do to trust to letters, for were one of these to fall into the wrong hands it might cause the ruin of Warwick’s expedition; but I should say that a cautious message sent by word of mouth to some of our old adherents would be of great use. I myself will, if your Majesty chooses to entrust me with the mission, undertake to carry it out. I should take ship and land in the west, and would travel in the guise of a simple country gentleman, and call upon your adherents in all the western counties. It would be needful first to make out a list of the nobles who have shown themselves devoted to your cause, and I should bid these hold themselves and their retainers in readiness to take the field suddenly. I should say no word of Warwick, but merely hint that you will not land alone, but with a powerful array, and that all the chances are in your favour.”

“But it would be a dangerous mission, Sir Thomas.”

“Not greatly so, madam. My own estates lie in Sussex, and there would be but little chance of my recognition, save by your own adherents, who may have seen me among the leaders of your troops in battle; and even that is improbable. At present Edward deems himself so securely seated on the throne that men can travel hither and thither through the country without being questioned, and the Lancastrians live quietly with the Yorkists. Unless I were so unfortunate as to meet a Yorkist noble who knew that I was a banished man and one who had the honour of being in your Majesty’s confidence, I do not think that any danger could possibly arise. What say you, wife?”

“I cannot think that there is no danger,” Lady Tresham said; “but even so I would not say a word to hinder you from doing service to the cause. I know of no one else who could perform the mission. You have left my side to go into battle before now, and I cannot think that the danger of such an expedition can be as great as that which you would undergo in the field. Therefore, my dear lord, I would say no word now to stay you.”

She spoke bravely and unfalteringly, but her face had paled when Sir Thomas first made the proposal, and the colour had not yet come back to her cheeks.

“Bravely spoken, dame,” the queen said warmly. “Well, Sir Thomas, I accept your offer, and trust that you will not be long separated from your wife and son, who will of course journey with me when I go to England, where doubtless you will be able to rejoin us a few days after we land. Now let us talk over the noblemen and gentlemen in the west, upon whom we can rely, if not to join our banner as soon as it is spread, at least to say no word that will betray you.”

Two days later Sir Thomas Tresham started on his journey, while the queen remained at Amboise eagerly awaiting the news that Warwick had collected a fleet, and was ready to set sail. Up to this point the Duke of Clarence had sided with Warwick against his brother, and had passed over with him to France, believing, no doubt, that if the Earl should succeed in dethroning Edward, he intended to place him, his son-in-law, upon the throne. He was rudely awakened from this delusion by Charles of Burgundy, who, being in all but open rebellion against his suzerain, the King of France, kept himself intimately acquainted with all that was going on. He despatched a female emissary to Clarence to inform him of the league Warwick had made with the Lancastrians, and the intended marriage between his daughter Anne and the young prince; imploring him to be reconciled with his brother and to break off his alliance with the Earl, who was on the point of waging war against the House of York.

Clarence took the advice, and went over to England, where he made his peace with Edward, the more easily because the king, who was entirely given up to pleasure, treated with contempt the warnings the Duke of Burgundy sent him of the intended invasion by Warwick. And yet a moment’s serious reflection should have shown him that his position was precarious. The crushing exactions of the tax gatherers, in order to provide the means for Edward’s lavish expenditure, had already caused very serious insurrections in various parts of the country, and his unpopularity was deep and general. In one of these risings the royal troops had suffered a crushing defeat. The Earl Rivers, the father, and Sir John Woodville, one of the brothers, of the queen had, with the Earl of Devon, been captured by the rebels, and the three had been beheaded, and the throne had only been saved by the intervention of Warwick.

Thus, then, Edward had every reason for fearing the result should the Earl appear in arms against him. He took, however, no measures whatever to prepare for the coming storm, and although the Duke of Burgundy despatched a fleet to blockade Harfleur, where Warwick was fitting out his expedition, and actually sent the name of the port at which the Earl intended to land if his fleet managed to escape from Harfleur, Edward continued carelessly to spend his time in pleasure and dissipation, bestowing his full confidence upon the Archbishop of York and the Marquis of Montague, both brothers of the Earl of Warwick.

The elements favoured his enemies, for early in September the Duke of Burgundy’s Fleet, off Harfleur, was dispersed by a storm, and Warwick, as soon as the gale abated, set sail, and on the 13th landed on the Devonshire coast. His force was a considerable one, for the French king had furnished him both with money and men; on effecting his landing he found no army assembled to oppose him. A few hours after his disembarkation, he was joined by Sir Thomas Tresham, who gave him the good news that the whole of the west was ready to rise, and that in a few days all the great landowners would join him with their retainers. This turned out to be the case, and Warwick, with a great array, marched eastward. Kent had already risen, and London declared for King Henry. Warwick, therefore, instead of marching thither, moved towards Lincolnshire, where Edward was with his army, having gone north to repress an insurrection that had broken out there at the instigation of Warwick.

Lord Montague now threw off the mask, and declared for King Henry. Most of the soldiers followed him, and Edward, finding it hopeless to oppose Warwick’s force, which was now within a short march of him, took ship with a few friends who remained faithful, and sailed for Holland. Warwick returned to London, where he took King Henry from the dungeon in the Tower, into which he himself had, five years before, thrown him, and proclaimed him king.

On the day that this took place Dame Tresham arrived in London with her son. The queen had found that she could not for the present cross, as she was waiting for a large French force which was to accompany her. As it was uncertain how long the delay might last, she counselled her friend to join her husband. The revolution had been accomplished without the loss of a single life, with the exception of that of the Earl of Worcester, who was hated for his cruelty by the people. Edward’s principal friends took refuge in various religious houses. The queen, her three daughters, and her mother, fled to the sanctuary at Westminster. All these were left unmolested, nor was any step taken against the other adherents of the House of York. Warwick was now virtually King of England. The king, whose intellect had always been weak, was now almost an imbecile, and Margaret of Anjou was still detained in France. Sir Thomas Tresham went down to his estates in Kent, and there lived quietly for some months. The Duke of Clarence had joined Warwick as soon as he saw that his brother’s cause was lost; and as the Duke had no knowledge of his changed feelings towards him, he was heartily welcomed. An act of settlement was passed by Parliament entailing the Crown on Henry’s son Edward, Prince of Wales, and in case of that prince’s death without issue, on the Duke of Clarence. On the 12th of March following (1471) Edward suddenly appeared with a fleet with which he had been secretly supplied by the Duke of Burgundy, and, sailing north, landed in the Humber. He found the northern population by no means disposed to aid him, but upon his taking a solemn oath that he had no designs whatever upon the throne, but simply claimed to be restored to his rights and dignities as Duke of York, he was joined by a sufficient force to enable him to cross the Trent. As he marched south his army speedily swelled, and he was joined by many great lords.

Warwick had summoned Henry’s adherents to the field, and marched north to meet him. When the armies approached each other, the Duke of Clarence, who commanded a portion of Henry’s army, went over with his whole force to Edward, and Warwick, being no longer in a position to give battle, was obliged to draw off and allow Edward to march unopposed towards London. The citizens, with their usual fickleness, received him with the same outburst of enthusiasm with which, five months before, they had greeted the entry of Warwick. The unfortunate King Henry was again thrown into his dungeon in the Tower, and Edward found himself once more King of England.

Sir Thomas Tresham, as soon as he heard of the landing of Edward, had hastened up to London. In his uncertainty how matters would go, he brought his wife and son up with him, and left them in lodgings, while he marched north with Warwick. As soon as the defection of Clarence opened the road to London, he left the Earl, promising to return in a few days, and rode to town, arriving there two days before Edward’s entry, and, purchasing another horse, took his wife and son down to St. Albans, where leaving them, he rejoined Warwick. In a few days the latter had gathered sufficient forces to enable him to risk the fortunes of a battle, and, marching south, he encamped with his army on the common north of Barnet. Edward had come out to meet him, and the two armies slept on Easter Eve within two miles of each other.

Late in the evening Clarence sent a messenger to the Earl, offering to mediate, but the offer was indignantly refused by Warwick.

In the darkness, neither party was aware of the other’s precise position. Warwick was much stronger than the king in artillery, and had placed it on his right wing. The king, in his ignorance of the enemy’s position, had placed his troops considerably more to the right than those of Warwick’s army. The latter, believing that Edward’s line was facing his, kept up a heavy cannonade all night upon where he supposed Edward’s left to be—a cannonade which was thus entirely futile.

In the morning (April 14th) a heavy mist covered the country and prevented either force from seeing the other’s dispositions. Warwick took the command of his left wing, having with him the Duke of Exeter. Somerset was in command of his centre, and Montague and Oxford of his right.

Edward placed himself in the centre of his array, the Duke of Gloucester commanded on his right, and Lord Hastings on his left.

Desirous, from his inferiority in artillery, to fight out the battle hand to hand, Edward, at six o’clock in the morning, ordered his trumpets to blow, and, after firing a few shots, advanced through the mist to attack the enemy. His misconception as to Warwick’s position, which had saved his troops from the effects of the cannonade during the night, was now disadvantageous to him, for the Earl’s right so greatly outflanked his left that when they came into contact Hastings found himself nearly surrounded by a vastly superior force. His wing fought valiantly, but was at length broken by Oxford’s superior numbers, and driven out of the field. The mist prevented the rest of the armies from knowing what had happened on the king’s left. Edward himself led the charge on Warwick’s centre, and having his best troops under his command, pressed forward with such force and vehemence that he pierced Somerset’s lines and threw them into confusion.

Just as Warwick’s right had outflanked the king’s left, so his own left was outflanked by Gloucester. Warwick’s troops fought with great bravery, and, in spite of the disaster to his centre, were holding their ground until Oxford, returning from his pursuit of the king’s left, came back through the mist. The king’s emblem was a sun, that of Oxford a star with streaming rays. In the dim light this was mistaken by Warwick’s men for the king’s device, and believing that Oxford was far away on the right, they received him with a discharge of arrows. This was at once returned, and a conflict took place. At last the mistake was discovered, but the confusion caused was irreparable. Warwick and Oxford each suspected the other of treachery, and the king’s right still pressing on, the confusion increased, and the battle, which had been so nearly won by the Earl, soon became a complete defeat, and by ten in the morning Warwick’s army was in full flight.

Accounts differ as to the strength of the forces engaged, but it is probable that there was no great inequality, and that each party brought some fifteen thousand men into the field. The number of slain is also very uncertain, some historians placing the total at ten thousand, others as low as one thousand; but from the number of nobles who fell, the former computation is probably nearest to the truth. Warwick, his brother Montague, and many other nobles and gentlemen, were killed, the only great nobles on his side who escaped being the Earls of Somerset and Oxford; many were also killed on Edward’s side, and the slaughter among the ordinary fighting men was greater than usual.

Hitherto in the battles that had been fought during the civil war; while the leaders taken on the field were frequently executed, the common soldiers were permitted to return to their homes, as they had only been acting under the orders of their feudal superiors, and were not considered responsible for their acts. At Barnet, however, Edward, smarting from the humiliation he had suffered by his enforced flight from England, owing to the whole country declaring for his rival, gave orders that no quarter was to be granted. It was an anxious day at St. Albans, where many ladies whose husbands were with Warwick’s army had, like Dame Tresham, taken up their quarters. It was but a few miles from the field of battle. In the event of victory they could at once join their husbands, while in case of defeat they could take refuge in the sanctuary of the abbey. Messengers the night before had brought the news that the battle would begin at the dawn of day, and with intense anxiety they waited for the news.

Dame Tresham and her son attended early mass at the abbey, and had returned to their lodgings, when Sir Thomas rode up at full speed. His armour was dinted and his plume shorn away from his helmet. As he entered the house he was met by his wife, who had run downstairs as she heard his horse stop at the door. A glance at his face was sufficient to tell the news.

“We have lost the day,” he said. “Warwick and Montague are both killed. All is lost here for the present. Which will you do, my love, ride with me to the West, where Queen Margaret will speedily land, if indeed she has not landed already, or take sanctuary here with the boy?”

“I will go with you,” she said. “I would vastly rather do so.”

“I will tell you more on the road,” he said. “There is no time to be lost now.”

The woman of the house was called, and at once set her son to saddle the other horse and to give a feed to that of the knight. Dame Tresham busied herself with packing the saddlebags while her husband partook of a hasty meal; and ten minutes after his arrival they set off, Gervaise riding behind his father, while the latter led the horse on which his wife was mounted. A thick mist hung over the country.

“This mist told against us in the battle, wife, for as we advanced our forces fell into confusion, and more than once friend attacked friend, believing that he was an enemy. However, it has proved an advantage to us now, for it has enabled great numbers to escape who might otherwise have been followed and cut down. I was very fortunate. I had left my horse at a little farmhouse two miles in the rear of our camp, and in the fog had but small hope of finding it; but soon after leaving the battlefield, I came upon a rustic hurrying in the same direction as myself, and upon questioning him it turned out that he was a hand on the very farm at which I had left the horse. He had, with two or three others, stolen out after midnight to see the battle, and was now making his way home again, having seen indeed but little, but having learned from fugitives that we had been defeated. He guided me to the farmhouse, which otherwise I should assuredly never have reached. His master was favourable to our party, and let the man take one of the cart horses, on which he rode as my guide until he had placed me upon the high road to St. Albans, and I was then able to gallop on at full speed.”

“And Warwick and his brother Montague are both killed?”

“Both. The great Earl will make and unmake no more kings. He has been a curse to England, with his boundless ambition, his vast possessions, and his readiness to change sides and to embroil the country in civil war for purely personal ends. The great nobles are a curse to the country, wife. They are, it is true, a check upon kingly ill doing and oppression; but were they, with their great arrays of retainers and feudal followers, out of the way, methinks that the citizens and yeomen would be able to hold their own against any king.”

“Was the battle a hard fought one?”

“I know but little of what passed, except near the standard of Warwick himself. There the fighting was fierce indeed, for it was against the Earl that the king finally directed his chief onslaught. Doubtless he was actuated both by a deep personal resentment against the Earl for the part he had played and the humiliation he had inflicted upon him, and also by the knowledge that a defeat of Warwick personally would be the heaviest blow that he could inflict upon the cause of Lancaster.”

“Then do you think the cause is lost?”

“I say not that. Pembroke has a strong force in Wales, and if the West rises, and Queen Margaret on landing can join him, we may yet prevail; but I fear that the news of the field of Barnet will deter many from joining us. Men may risk lands and lives for a cause which seems to offer a fair prospect of success, but they can hardly be blamed for holding back when they see that the chances are all against them. Moreover, as a Frenchwoman, it cannot be denied that Margaret has never been popular in England, and her arrival here, aided by French gold and surrounded by Frenchmen, will tell against her with the country people. I went as far as I could on the day before I left Amboise, urging her on no account to come hither until matters were settled. It would have been infinitely better had the young prince come alone, and landed in the West without a single follower. The people would have admired his trust in them, and would, I am sure, have gathered strongly round his banner. However, we must still hope for the best. Fortune was against us today: it may be with us next time we give battle. And with parties so equally divided throughout the country a signal victory would bring such vast numbers to our banners that Edward would again find it necessary to cross the seas.”

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Categories: English Literature

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