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Full text of "Historical tales from Shakespeare"

HISTORICAL TALES 

T: FROM 

3HAKESPEARE 



--- .T. Q.UILLER-COUCH 



1/6 




Presented to the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 
LIBRARY 

by the 

ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE 
LIBRARY 

1980 



HISTORICAL TALES 
FROM SHAKESPEARE 



P,Y 



A. T. QUILLER- COUGH 



ILLUS 




LONDON 
EDWARD ARNOLD 

All rights reserved 



PREFACE 

ALTHOUGH in the following pages I have chosen those plays, 
or most of them, which Charles and Mary Lamb omitted 
from their Tales from Shakespeare, and although I have 
taken a title very like theirs, my attempt has not been to 
round off or tag a conclusion to their inimitable work. They, 
as wise judges of what their book should be, found that a 
certain class of play lay outside their purpose. It is just 
these plays the historical ones which, with a different 
purpose, are here cast into narrative form. 

It appeared to the friend who suggested this book, and 
to me, that nowhere, in spite of many inaccuracies, can 
historical pictures be found so vivid or in the main so just 
as in these historical plays of Shakespeare. We were think 
ing especially of the plays from English history. But 
our own experience seemed to show that many young 
readers fight shy of them, and so miss much which might 
quicken their interest in history and their early patriotism, 
being deterred perhaps by the dramatic form and partly by 
the sophisticated language. (For although even a very 
young reader may delight in Shakespeare, it takes a grown 
one and a wise one to understand his full meaning.) And 
we asked ourselves, " Is it possible, by throwing the stories 
into plain narrative form, and making the language more 
ordinary, to represent these vivid pictures so that young 
readers may be attracted to them yet reverently, and in 
the hope that from our pale, if simple, copies they may be led 
on and attracted to his rich and wonderful work ?" 

This, at any rate, was my task : not to extract pleasant 
and profitable stories, as one might (and as the Lambs did) 
from the masterpieces of Shakespeare's invention, but to 
follow him into his dealings with history, where things 



iv PREFACE 

cannot be forced to happen so neatly as in a made-up tale, 
and to persuade my young audience that history (in 'spite of 
their natural distrust) is by no means a dull business when 
handled by one who marvellously understood the human 
heart and was able so to put life into the figures of men and 
women long passed away that they become real to us as we 
follow their thoughts and motions and watch them making 
love, making war, plotting, succeeding, or accepting reverses, 
playing once more the big drama which they played on 

earth. 

For although "history" means properly "inquiry" or 
"research," and threatens nowadays to be a pursuit only 
enjoyable by a few grown-up persons, when taken in hand 
by such a poet or " maker "it becomes again a story in 
the familiar sense, a moving tale which everyone can under 
stand and enjoy, children no less than their elders. There 
had to be this difference, however, between the Lambs' 
stories and those which I set myself to repeat from Shakes 
peare that whereas they had only to rehearse the plot of 
The Merchant of Venice, for instance, and the result was 
a pretty and, for their readers, a novel tale, if I contented 
myself with doing this to the historical plays I should be 
telling children little more than they already knew from their 
text-books. It seemed necessary, therefore, to lay more 
stress on the characters in these plays, and on the many 
springs of action, often small and subtle ones, by uncovering 
which Shakespeare made history visible ; to keep to the 
story indeed, but to make it a story of men's motives and 
feelings, as well as of the actual events they gave rise to or 
were derived from. 

For the sake of the story in this sense I have often 
followed Shakespeare where he is inaccurate, though I have 
sometimes corrected without comment where a slight 
correction could do no harm. It seemed to me equally 
uncalled-for on the one hand to talk of Decius Brutus and 
on the other to omit the tremendous reappearance of Queen 



PREFACE v 

Margaret in Richard the Third ; equally idle to tie myself to 
the stage-chronology of King John and to set it elaborately 
right ; alike unnecessary to repeat Shakespeare's confusion 
of the two Edmund Mortimers in one play and officious 
to cut out Mortimer's farewell in another on the ground that 
it is untrue to fact. The tale's the thing ; else what becomes 
of Faulconbridge, Falstaff, Fluellen ? In general, therefore, 
I have made it my rule to follow Shakespeare so long as he 
tells his story with fairness and justice. 

It would be a great pleasure to believe that Shakespeare 
was always fair and just ; to be convinced (with the illus 
trious poet who allows me to dedicate my book to him) that 
Shakespeare had no hand in the slanderous portrait of Joan 
of Arc sent down to us under his name. But, convinced or 
not, no writer with a conscience could repeat that portrait 
for the children in whom are bound up our hopes of a better 
England than we shall see. Were he to do so, I believe 
that, thanks to such books as Green's Short History of the 
English People* and Mr. Andrew Lang's A Monk of Fife, 
our schoolboys would reject it with scornful disgust. It is 
enough to say that here they will not be given the chance ; 
since to-day, if ever, it is necessary to insist that no patriot 
ism can be true which gives to a boy no knightliness or to 
a girl no gentleness of heart. 

Of true and fervent patriotism these plays are full. 
Indeed, though they are, in Charles Lamb's words, 
" strengtheners of virtue " in many ways, that remains their 
great lesson. It has been said that the real hero of Shake 
speare's historical plays is England ; and no one can read 
them and be deaf to the ringing, vibrating note of pride, of 
almost fierce joy to be an Englishman, to have inherited 
the liberties of so great a country and be a partaker in her 
glory. And this love of England is the sincerer for the 

* To which, as to a classic, I have gone for what the play denies ; 
even for some of its language, remembering the effect it had .upon me 
as a boy. 



vi PREFACE 

courage with which he owns and grieves that she has been 
sometimes humiliated, sometimes untrue to herself. But as 
if this were not enough, he has left us in Faulconbridge, 
in King Harry, in the two Talbots lofty yet diverse ex 
amples of what patriotism can do ; and again in Coriolanus 
and Marcus Brutus particular warnings of how even able 
men who love their country may, by a little unwisdom, 
injure her and wreck themselves. In short, and with the 
single exception named, these plays might almost serve as 
a handbook to patriotism, did that sacred passion need one. 
For nowhere surely in literature is it so confidently nourished 
and at the same time so wisely and anxiously directed. 

And now, having excused my purpose, let me try to 
excuse my method also. I started, in my reverence for 
Charles and Mary Lamb, with some thought of tying myself 
by their rules of diction, and admitting no word which had 
not at least a warrant somewhere in Shakespeare. But I 
soon found (i) that the difference of design baulked my pen, 
and often in an irritating manner ; and (2) that although I 
might hope to ape their examples with success enough to 
deceive many, yet in my heart I was conscious how far 
short the attempt must fall of that natural easy grace which 
was theirs alike by genius and by years of loving familiarity 
with Shakespeare. Every man whose lot it is to write a 
great deal discovers his own manner, and does his best in 
that. So I resolved to use my own, and trust to telling the 
tales as simply and straightforwardly as I could. Now for 
my purpose it was necessary to be continually breaking up 
the rhythm of Shakespeare's majestic lines, and reducing 
them to ordinary prose ; and there remains an apology to 
make to the critics who, with Shakespeare's lines in their 
memory, find this hard to tolerate. I ask them to remember 
that these stories are not intended for grown-up persons who 
know Shakespeare more or less by heart, but for children 
to whom their first reading of him is a pleasure to come. 

A. T. QUILLER-COUCH. 




CONTENTS 

PAGE 

CORIOLANUS 9 

JULIUS CAESAR -' 39 

KING JOHN - - 70 

KING RICHARD THE SECOND - 92 

Q KING HENRY THE FOURTH - 116 

KING HENRY THE FIFTH 183 

KING HENRY THE SIXTH 214 

KING RICHARD THE THIRD 257 

APPENDIX - 299 




HOTSPUR, GLENDOWER, AND MORTIMER IN COUNCIL. 
(From a print in the Boydell collection after R. Westall, R.A.) 



HISTORICAL TALES FROM 
SHAKESPEARE 

. CORIOLANUS 

FIVE hundred years before the birth of Christ there lived 
in Rome a man of noble family named Cams Marcius. 
One of his ancestors, Ancus Marcius, had been King of 
Rome, and of the same house were afterwards descended 
the Marcius who was surnamed Censorinus, from having 
twice held the censorship, the most venerable office in the 
commonwealth, and Publius and Quintus Marcius, who 
together built the great aqueduct which supplied the city 
with pure water. So that altogether this house of Marcius 
was a very important one in Rome, and also a very proud one. 
But of all its members none was ever so proud as this 
Caius Marcius, whose story we have to tell. His father died 
when he was quite a child, and thus his training fell into 
the hands of his widowed mother, the Lady Volumnia. In 
some respects it could not have fallen into better, for in those 
days the quality honoured above all others in Rome was man 
liness, and Volumnia, like a true Roman mother, set herself 
from the first to encourage her boy in all those manly pur 
suits to which she saw him inclined by nature. As a child 
he was taught to handle weapons, to exercise his body, and 
to endure hard living, so that he became swift in running, 
dexterous in sword-play, and so strong in wrestling that no 
man could ever throw him. And when he was but sixteen 



10 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

she sent him off to the wars. " For," said she, " had I a 
dozen sons, and each one as dear to me as my Cams, I had 
rather have eleven die nobly for their country than one 
live at home in idle indulgence." 

The war to which she sent Caius had been stirred up by 
Tarquin the Proud, the expelled King of Rome, in the hope 
of winning back his kingdom. The boy distinguished him 
self in his first battle, bestriding a Roman soldier who had 
been beaten to the ground beside him, and slaying the 
assailant with his own hands. For this feat, when the fight 
was over and the Roman side victorious, his general caused 
Caius Marcius to be crowned with a garland of oak-leaves, 
a coveted honour, and only bestowed on one who saved the 
life of a fellow-Roman. Deep was Volumnia's joy when 
he returned to her with his brows thus bound ; while, as 
for Caius, this first success so spurred his valour, that he 
soon became known as the bravest fighter in Rome, and 
though not yet one of her generals by reason of his youth 
yet the first of her warriors, and the swordsman on whom 
her armies doted and her generals depended. 

To this his love and passionate pursuit of honour had led 
him. But what he and his mother forgot, or perhaps never 
saw clearly, was this that the love and pursuit of honour 
may be so mixed up with pride as to become but a kind of 
selfishness ; a very sublime kind of selfishness, no doubt, 
but none the less a disease. Caius Marcius was arrogantly 
proud, proud of his family, and, as time went on, insuffer 
ably proud on his own account ; and this self-esteem, while 
it taught him to scorn all mean actions and petty personal 
gain, made him churlish and uncivil of speech to all whom 
he looked upon as his inferiors. 

Now the Romans at this time, and for long years after, 
were divided into two classes, the Patricians and the Ple 
beians. To the Patricians belonged the old governing 
families of Rome, descendants of the first founders of the 
city, a nobility keeping the chief power in their own hands, 



CORIOLANUS 11 

trained in war and looking upon war as the one occupation 
which became their dignity. The Plebeians, on the other 
hand, were an undisciplined and oppressed crowd of traders, 
handicraftsmen, labourers, and idlers, having this on their 
side, that they grew in numbers with the growth of the city, 
until the Patricians, though they still despised, could no 
longer ignore them. 

The chief ground of the Plebeians' complaint, among 
many, lay in the usury practised upon them by their rich 
masters. The poor man, unable to pay the heavy interest 
charged, was not only deprived of his goods but taken and 
sold into bondage, notwithstanding the wounds and scars he 
showed which he had received in fighting for Rome ; and 
this, they urged, was a violation of the pledge given in the 
late wars, when they had been persuaded to fight, and had, 
indeed, fought faithfully, under a promise of gentler treat 
ment. But when the war was done this promise had not 
been kept. The common people, indeed, were very nearly 
starving, and the angrier because the city held great stores 
of corn, which they firmly believed were being kept by the 
Patricians for their own use. 

Their discontent began to break out in tumults and street 
riots, and word of this soon came to the ears of the neigh 
bouring states, which were jealous of Rome (with very good 
reason) and watching for an opportunity to do her a mischief. 
They believed this opportunity to be come, and prepared to 
invade her ; and to meet them the Roman Senate made 
proclamation by sound of trumpet that all men who were of 
age to carry weapons should come and enter their names on 
the muster-roll. The Plebeians refused to come ; they had 
been tricked once with promises (they said), and would not 
give their masters another chance. 

In this fix it began to occur to some of the Senators that 
they had been too hard upon the poor Plebeians, and many 
were now for softening the law. But others held out against 
this, and none so stubbornly as Caius Marcius. In his 



12 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

proud opinion these Plebeians were vile dogs and the scum 
of the earth, and he never scrupled to tell them so to their 
faces. That he and this dirty, cowardly rabble were men 
of like flesh and blood was a thing past belief, and since he 
never opened his mouth to them but to call them curs and 
worse, it may be fancied how they hated him even while 
they admired him for a brave soldier. 

The Senate consulted for many days, but thanks to 
Marcius and his party no good came of their discussions. 
The Plebeians, seeing no redress, took a bold step ; they 
gathered themselves together and marched out of the city 
in a body, using no violence, but crying as they went that 
Rome had no place for them, and that therefore they must 
go into wide Italy to find free air, water, and earth to bury 
them ; and so passing out beyond the gates, they encamped 
on a hill beside the Tiber, called the Sacred Mount. 

This stroke fairly disconcerted the Senators, who now 
sent out some of their number to treat with the malcon 
tents, and among them one Menenius Agrippa, a friend of 
Caius Marcius. This Menenius was an old man, not over- 
wise, and certainly no great friend to the Plebeians ; but 
having a blunt, hail-fellow way with him which the people 
liked. He could use his tongue roughly, but for all that he 
knew how to tackle a crowd in its own humour, and put in 
just the shrewd hits which folk of that class enjoy in a public 
speaker. He wasted no fine words on them, but went 
straight to the point with a homely proverb. " What is 
this ? You say that while you sweat and starve, your rich 
masters eat and grow fat ? Did you ever hear tell of the 
Belly and the Members ? Once upon a time all the mem 
bers of man's body rebelled against the belly, complaining 
that it alone remained in the midst of the body, eating all 
the food and doing nothing, while the rest of them toiled 
early and late for the body's maintenance the eye seeing, 
the ear hearing, the legs walking, and so with the rest. But 
the belly smiled by the way, you never heard of such 



CORIOLANUS 13 

a thing as a belly smiling, did you ? Well, it did, though ; 
and it answered, " That's true enough that I first receive 
and (so to speak) cupboard all the meats which nourish 
man's body ; but afterwards, look you, I send out nourish 
ment to all the other parts and limbs. And just so, my 
friends, the Senate of Rome digests and sends out that which 
benefits you and all members of the state." 

Menenius told this old tale so aptly, singling out one who 
interrupted, and addressing him as the Great Toe, that he 
very soon had his audience laughing ; and in this good 
humour they consented with the Senate to come back, 
on condition that there should be chosen every year five 
magistrates, called Tribunes, whose special business should 
be to protect the poor people from violence and oppression. 

Caius Marcius was furious when he heard of this conces 
sion. He had scoffed at the people's stale complaints that 
they were hungry, that even dogs must eat, that meat was 
made for mouths, and the gods did not send corn for rich 
men only. " The rabble," he declared, " should have pulled 
the roof off the city before I would have given way and 
granted them these five fellows to defend their vulgar 
wisdom." 

His rage was diverted for the moment by the news that 
the Volscians, the chief enemies of Rome, had taken up 
arms and were in full march upon the city. They had 
a leader, too, Tullus Aufidius, whom Marcius longed to 
encounter. The two had met before this, and found each 
other worthy foes : and between them, apart from their 
countries' quarrel, there had grown up a fierce but generous 
rivalry. " He is a lion I am proud to hunt," said Marcius ; 
and with his own big arrogance. " Were I anything but 
what I am, I would wish to be Tullus Aufidius." In the 
campaign for which he was now eager the chief command 
did not fall to Marcius. By Roman rule this rested with the 
Consul for the year, Cominius, a gallant commander under 
whom he was proud to serve as Cominius was glad to have 



14 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

his services. But as Marcius, always courteous to his 
equals, begged Cominius to precede him and lead the way, 
he could not resist turning for a parting shot at the 
assembled rabble. "The Volscians have much corn. 
Shall we take these rats with us to gnaw their granaries ?" 
But at the mention of fighting the crowd had begun to 
melt. " Worshipful mutineers, your valour comes forward 
bravely ! Pray follow !" 

So Marcius departed for the wars, followed by the sullen 
hatred of the poorer citizens and their newly -chosen 
Tribunes, and by the prayers of his own women-kind, sitting 
at home at their household work and waiting for news. But 
no two prayers could well have been more different in spirit 
than those offered up by Volumnia, his mother, and Virgilia, 
his gentle-hearted wife. The one rejoiced that her son had 
gone to win honour and prove his manhood once more, and 
her pictures of him as the two sat at their sewing terrified 
the softer Virgilia, who shuddered at the name of bloodshed, 
and besought Heaven to spare her husband from death. 
" The gods bless him from that fell Aufidius !" " Aufidius !" 
cried Volumnia ; " he'll beat Aufidius' head lower than his 
knee, and then tread on his neck !" But Virgilia could not 
be quite comforted by this lively picture. She sat and 
quaked, and would not be tempted out of doors even when 
her gossiping acquaintances came with news of the 
campaign, which was now centred upon the Volscian town 
of Corioli. 

Upon this important town the Consul Cominius had 
directed his march. But hearing that the rest of the 
Volscians were massing their forces to relieve it, he divided 
his army into two parts. To the one part, which included 
Marcius and was commanded by Titus Lartius, one of the 
bravest of the Roman generals, he entrusted the siege 
of Corioli ; while with the other he himself marched out 
into the country to meet and grapple with the relieving 
forces. 



CORIOLANUS 15 

The men of Corioli, disdaining the numbers of the division 
he left behind, were not slow in making a sortie, and at the 
first onset succeeded in beating back the Romans to their 
trenches. But Marcius, heaping curses on the runaways 
and calling on the stoutest fighters to rally and follow him, 
replied with a superb charge which drove the assailants back 
to their open gates, through which he hurled himself at their 
heels almost alone, for the rain of arrows and javelins from 
the walls brought his followers to a halt. The Coriolans 
thereupon slammed-to the city gates, shutting him inside, 
and Titus Lartius, arriving a little later, was fully persuaded 
he must have perished. But Marcius meanwhile had laid 
about him with incredible spirit, and actually hewed his way 
back to the gates ; so that even while Titus lamented him, 
these flew open again, and our hero appeared covered with 
blood, but keeping his pursuers well at bay. 

Now was the Romans' chance. They poured in to his 
rescue, and in a very short time the city was theirs. The 
baser soldiery then and there fell to sacking and plundering, 
though across the plain could be distinctly heard the noise 
of fighting where Cominius and his division had fallen in 
with the relieving force under Tullus Aufidius, and was 
being hotly beset. Marcius abhorred this vulgar pillaging, 
and most of all at such a time when, for aught they knew, 
their general urgently needed help. The thought of his 
rival, too, and the chance of encountering him, spurred him 
to fresh exertions, and he begged Titus Lartius to retain 
only a force sufficient to hold the city, and dispatch him with 
the rest to Cominius's relief. To this the old commander 
readily assented, and Marcius flew on his errand. 

His aid was needed. Cominius had been forced to give 
ground before Tullus Aufidius' attack, and was drawing 
his men off, albeit in good order, and with none of the 
violent scolding to which Marcius would have given way in 
a like reverse. Still the position was grave, and was not 
made more cheerful by the report of a messenger who had 



16 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

seen Titus Lartius and his men driven back on the trenches 
at the beginning of the fight, and knew nothing of their later 
success. But the well-known shout of Marcius as he dashed 
up to the rescue, and his brief tidings that Corioli had 
fallen, quickly dispelled this gloom and gave the men heart 
for a second attack. He demanded to be told of the 
Volscians' order of battle, and on which side they had placed 
their best fighting men ; and learning that the flower of their 
warriors, the Antiates, were in the van and led by Aufidius, 
he besought leave to be set directly against these. This 
Cominius granted, and as the two armies advanced to their 
second encounter, Marcius outstripped his company, and so 
fiercely charged and cut a lane through the Antiates that 
the press of Romans following into the gap cut the Volscian 
array in half, and broke it up. Even so he would not desist 
from fighting, but calling out that it was not for conquerors 
to faint, pressed forward until the defeat became a rout and 
the Volscians were chased off the field with great slaughter. 
In their last rally Marcius for a moment had the joy of 
finding himself face to face with Aufidius, and the two were 
exchanging blows when a knot of Volscians came to the 
succour of their commander and against his will bore him 
off, to nurse a fiercer longing than ever for revenge. Up to 
this his hatred of Marcius had been a soldierly one, but now, 
in the bitterness of defeat, he felt, for the moment at any 
rate, that he could stick at nothing to be even with the man 
who had met him already these five times, and always come 
off with the advantage. " Were he sick, asleep, naked, in 
sanctuary, nay, my own brother's guest, none of these 
protections," swore Aufidius, " should hinder me from 
washing my fierce hand in his heart !" 

The next morning the Consul Cominius, having entered 
Corioli, mounted a chair of state, and in the presence of the 
whole army gave thanks to the gods for the great victory. 
Especially he thanked them that Rome had such a soldier 
as Caius Marcius, and engaged that the citizens at home 



CORIOLANUS 17 

should echo him. But Marcius would have none of this 
praise. With a humility which really covered an insane 
pride a pride which resented even the suggestion that 
valour in him could possibly be surprising he protested 
that he had done no more than Lartius, for instance, had 
done : " and that's the best I can." His wounds (he said) 
smarted to hear themselves thus recognised. When 
Cominius offered him a tithe of all the horses and treasure 
captured, he begged to be forgiven for refusing this " bribe 
to pay his sword," as he put it. To his credit he had an 
entire contempt for private riches ; but this refusal again 
smacked at least as much of pride as of disinterestedness. 
" You are too modest," Cominius insisted ; " and if you will 
indeed be such an enemy to your own deserts, give us leave 
to treat you as they treat madmen who seek their own 
hurt that is, put you in handcuffs first and then reason 
with you. Be it known, then," he raised his voice, " that 
for his valour I present Caius Marcius with the crown of 
this war, that I beg him to accept my own horse and 
harness, and in addition proclaim that henceforth, for his 
deeds before Corioli, he be known to all the world as we 
here applaud him CAIUS MARCIUS CORIOLANUS !" 

This compliment, paid before the whole army and ac 
claimed with shouts and the noise of drum and trumpet, our 
hero could not refuse. " Let me go wash the blood from 
my face," he answered, " and then you shall perceive whether 
I blush or no. But, sir, although I have received princely 
gifts, I have a boon yet to beg." " It is yours before you 
ask it," said Cominius. " There is among the Volscians an 
old friend and host of mine, a man who once used me 
kindly. I saw him taken prisoner yesterday, but I was 
pursuing Aufidius, and in my heat I neglected him. It 
would do me great pleasure if I could save him from being 
sold as a slave." " A noble request and readily granted. 
What is your friend's name ?" " By Jupiter, I have 
forgotten " It was his own fine action, not the prisoner, he 

2 



18 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

was thinking of; and so at the moment when nothing 
seemed too small for his magnanimous remembrance his 
selfishness betrayed him. 

Caius Marcius or Coriolanus as we shall henceforth call 
him had reached the height of his renown. At home even 
the discontented Plebeians were awed by the lustre of his 
exploits, and the path lay open before him to the Consulship, 
the highest honour Rome could bestow, and beyond that to 
a great and useful career. Volumnia and Virgilia went 
forth with the crowd that welcomed him into the city, the 
one praising the gods for his honourable wounds, the other 
stopping her tender ears at the mention of them. And such 
a crowd it was ! Dignified priests jostled with nursemaids 
and kitchen wenches for a sight of the hero ; fine ladies, 
regardless of their complexions, having found their stations, 
sat for hours in the sun's eye to await his coming and throw 
him their gloves and kerchiefs as he passed. Stalls, 
windows, parapets, ridge-roofs were thronged. It was 
faces, faces everywhere ; faces of all complexions, but all 
agreeing in their earnestness to catch one glimpse of 
Coriolanus. His worst enemies, the Tribunes, marked all 
this and agreed among themselves that the great prize of the 
state, the Consulship the one gift left for his mother to 
desire for him lay within his grasp. And they foresaw 
well enough that should Coriolanus be Consul their own 
office might (as they put it) " go to sleep." 

But among these Tribunes were two, Junius Brutus and 
Sicinius Velutus, astuter than the rest. They watched the 
exultant entry, and kept their tempers even while Menenius 
Agrippa (our old friend of the " Belly and the Members " 
story) jibed at them for envying the Patrician triumph. 
They bided their time. 

For a Roman who sought the Consulship had to observe 
certain formalities which they foresaw must go sorely against 
the grain with Coriolanus. In particular, custom required 
him to appear on the day of canvassing in a humble dress, 



CORIOLANUS 19 

wearing only a white tunic like any mere workman, without 
the flowing cloak, or toga, which marked a Roman of birth ; 
and to solicit each vote as a favour, giving reasons why he 
thought himself worthy to be Consul, and perhaps even 
displaying the wounds he had earned in his country's service. 
For the moment, no doubt, the Plebeians were disposed to 
forgive Coriolanus' past rancour and to let bygones be by 
gones. But a very little offensiveness might revive the old 
dislike and turn the scale against him, and these two clever^ 
Tribunes believed they might count on his turning restive 
and showing some of his old arrogance during the canvass. 

As it turned out, they were right. At first Coriolanus' 
candidature went well enough. He had the Senate's sup 
port, and this his commander Cominius announced before 
a public assembly in a speech which lauded him to the 
skies. Coriolanus would not stay to listen to it ; he had 
already undergone too much of this praise for his taste, and 
he had not the least desire to hear all his exploits recounted 
once more, and himself compared as a warrior to a ship in 
sail and treading men like weeds under its stem. But he 
returned to hear that the Senate approved his election, and 
it only remained for him to speak to the people. Upon this 
(as the Tribunes had expected) he asked leave to be excused 
the indignity of the canvass, a permission w r hich they were 
too cunning to grant. Assured now that there were diffi 
culties ahead, they went off to drill the people, so that the 
questions put to him, and the manner of putting them, 
might be providentially irritating to his temper. 

The day of canvass arrived, and Coriolanus appeared in 
the market-place clad in his candidate's tunic, and feeling 
hot and very much ashamed of himself. The citizens, who 
had gathered in knots to await his coming, dispersed at 
once, and, as their cue was, advanced by ones, twos, and 
threes to put their questions. From the first Coriolanus 
was not happy in his manner towards them. " What am 
1 to say ?" he asked Menenius Agrippa by his side : " surely 



20 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

you would not have me ask, ' What, do you want to see my 
wounds ? Here they are then I got them in my country's 
service when some of your brethren roared and ran away 
from the sound of our own drums.' " " Good heavens !" 
cried Menenius, "you must not speak of that! Talk to 
them reasonably, as for their good." "For their good? 
Shall 1 tell them to go home, then, and wash their faces ?" 

The very first knot of citizens began to catechise him in 
a style not likely to improve his temper. This was a great, 
day for them, and they felt a high sense of their own im 
portance. "Tell us, sir, what brings you to stand here?" 
They insisted upon all the formalities. " My own desert," 
snapped Coriolanus. " Your own desert ?" " Ay, not my 
own desire." " How not your own desire ?" " No, sir ; it 
was never my desire yet to beg of the poor." " You must 
think, sir," put in one specially offensive catechiser, " that 
if we give you anything we hope to gain something from 
you." Coriolanus appeared to be vastly impressed by this, 
which, to be sure, was a somewhat shopkeeper-like view of 
.the position. "Ah," he answered, "pray tell me then your 
price for the Consulship." " The price, sir," interposed 
another with better sense, " is to ask it kindly." " Kindly?" 
Coriolanus pitched his voice in a mocking key : " Sir, I pray 
you let me have it. I have wounds to show, and will show 
them to you in private. Your good vote, sir; what say 
you ? May I count on it ?" " You shall have it, worthy 
sir," promised a citizen, whose wits happened to be too 
thick to catch the sarcasm. " That makes two worthy votes 
begged then. I have your alms. Good-day !" Coriolanus 
turned on his heel. "There's something odd about this," 
grumbled the voter who had talked about exchange ; and 
even the thick-witted one muttered that " if his vote could 
be given again but no matter !" 

The truth is that even the meanest of us feels a certain 
importance when he has something to give, and likes to be 
asked for it politely. Coriolanus was at once too narrowly 



CORIOLANUS 21 

proud to see what every great leader of men must see, that 
all men have their feelings and these must not be rough- 
ridden but understood, and too honestly proud to stoop to 
devices which other politicians used while despising them. 
He did, indeed, go through the form of observance, but 
with an insolent carelessness which made it worse than 
omission. Nor was his a noble carelessness, as one humble 
and mistaken observer had termed it. It was not that he 
did not care, but that in his heart he hated these Plebeians. 
He felt all the while how false his position was, and by and 
by, as this feeling became intolerable, he broke out bitterly, 
" Here come more votes ! Your votes, pray ! For your 
votes I have fought and kept watch ; for your votes I carry 
two dozen odd wounds, and have seen thrice six battles 
or heard of them. Pray, pray, give me your votes then, for 
indeed I want to be Consul !" 

Puzzled and angered, yet remembering his past services, 
they gave him their votes. To this as their Tribunes 
presently discovered with some dismay they stood com 
mitted. Coriolanus had gone off to change his detestable 
garments, and, as he put it, " know himself again." 
Nothing remained but to confirm the election. Yet the 
temper of the people was sulky, and Brutus and Sicinius 
quickly perceived that all was not lost. " What ? Could 
you not see he was mocking you ? Could you not have 
insisted that as Consul he would be the state's servant, and 
have pressed your claims and tied him by a promise to 
serve you instead of speaking, as he always has spoken, 
against your liberties and charters ? Had you not a man's 
heart amongst you, that you suffered all his contempt and 
gave him just what he asked ?" " It is not too late yet," 
cried the citizen who had talked about exchange ; " the 
election is not yet confirmed !" " Be quick then, and re 
voke this ignorant choice of yours ! Stay put the fault 
on us. Say that we, your Tribunes, over-persuaded you by 
laying stress on his great deeds and his ancestry, but that 



22 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

on second thoughts you find him your fixed enemy and 
regret our advice our advice, mind ! Harp on that." 
" We will !" shouted the crowd, who by this time repented 
the election almost to a man. They rushed off to the 
Capitol, and Brutus and Sicinius followed to watch this 
pretty storm of their raising. 

Coriolanus, who fully deemed himself Consul elect, and 
was so deemed by the Senators, was talking among them 
with Titus Lartius, newly returned from Corioli. Tullus 
Aufidius, so Titus reported, had raised new troops, and in 
the face of them the Romans had been the quicker in 
offering terms of peace and coming away. In short, the 
Volscians, though checked for a while, were still dangerous. 
Their general, Aufidius, in wrath at their yielding Corioli 
so cheaply, had retired to his own house in the neighbour 
ing town of Antium. " I wish I had cause to seek him 
there," muttered Coriolanus, little thinking that he would 
indeed be seeking Aufidius very soon, but not as Consul of 
Rome. 

For while he came along the street discussing this news, 
he found his way unexpectedly barred by the Tribunes 
Brutus and Sicinius. " Pass no further," they commanded ; 
" there will be mischief if this man goes to the market 
place." "Why," cried the Senators, "is not Coriolanus 
elected by nobles and commons both?" "No; for the 
people are incensed against him. They cry out that they 
have been mocked, and call to mind his late opposition when 
corn was distributed to them free." " And so," Coriolanus 
broke out, " on that account they take back their votes, and 
I am not to be Consul ! I'd better deserve the worst of 
them, then, and be made a vulgar Tribune like yourself!" 
" Let me tell you," answered Sicinius, " that if you wish to 
attain whither you're bound, you had better inquire your 
way, which you're out of, more gently, or you'll never be 
either Consul or Tribune." Menenius and Cominius here 
interposed, imploring calm ; but Coriolanus broke out, 



CORIOLANUS 28 

" Talk to me of corn ! What I said then I'll repeat." It 
was in vain that the Senators tried to check him. " No ; I 
will say it. This shifty, foul-smelling rabble shall learn 
that I do not flatter. I say again that in truckling to them 
we are feeding a harvest of tares, of insolence, and sedition, 
which we ourselves have ploughed for and sown in our 
folly !" " No more, we beseech you !" his friends entreated. 
But Coriolanus' anger had passed completely out of control. 
He rated the Senators for their past lenity. " The rabble 
had well deserved corn ! How ? By shirking to fight for 
their country ? By mutinies and revolts during the cam 
paign ? No ! they demanded it, and the Senate, terrorised 
by their voting strength, gave way. ' Enough !' you say ? 
Nay, take more hear it all. When gentry, title, wisdom 
cannot conclude without the ' yes ' or ' no ' of general 
ignorance, then I say you must neglect the true necessity 
of the state for unstable vanity. I bid you those of you 
who prefer a noble life to a long one pluck out this multi 
tude's tongue ! Cease to let it lick poison because it finds 
poison sweet ! Put an end to this dishonour which takes 
from your state the power to do good by submitting it to the 
control of that which only knows, or can do, evil !" 

"Enough !" cried the Tribunes. " He has spoken like a 
traitor, and shall answer as a traitor ! This man a Consul ? 
Never !" They shouted for their officers, the aediles, to 
summon the people. Sicinius laid hands on Coriolanus to 
arrest him. The Senators offered to be surety, but 
Coriolanus flung him off. " Hence, old goat ! Hence, 
rotten thing ! or I will shake your bones out of your 
garments." " Help ! help !" shouted Sicinius, and the 
sediles and rabble came running together to his rescue. 
For a while, as they hustled about Coriolanus and tried to 
lay hands on him, their cries and the counter-cries of the 
Patricians deafened the air. At length Menenius appealed 
to the Tribunes to speak to the people, and between them 
they managed to get a hearing. But when they spoke it 



24 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

was not to soothe the feeling against Coriolanus. "The 
city of Rome is the people, and we are the people's 
magistrates. We must stand to that authority or lose it, 
and in the name of the people we pronounce Marcius worthy 
of death, and command that he be carried hence and hurled 
from the Tarpeian rock," for this was the form of death 
set apart for traitors by Roman custom. " ^Ediles, seize 
him !" Coriolanus drew his sword. " No, no " Menenius 
would have prevented him, calling on the Tribunes, to 
withdraw for a while. But it was too late, and a moment 
after he was shouting to his fellow-nobles to help Coriolanus, 
as the rabble made a rush crying, " Down with him ! down 
with him !" 

In the skirmish which followed the men of birth had the 
upper hand, and beat Tribunes, aediles, and mob together 
out of the street. " On fair ground I could whip forty such 
curs," panted Coriolanus; but Cominius knew that their 
advantage was a short one, and he and Menenius persuaded 
Coriolanus to escape to his house before the crowd came 
pouring back as it presently did, demanding his instant 
death without trial for resisting the law. It taxed all 
Menenius' powers of persuasion to patch up a truce for the 
moment, engaging that if the Tribunes would promise a 
regular form of trial he would produce Coriolanus to submit 
to it. To this the Tribunes, after some dispute, declared 
themselves ready ; and dispersed their followers, command 
ing them, however, to reassemble in the market-place where 
the trial should be held. 

It was no easy matter to persuade Coriolanus to attend. 
At home he raged up and down, swearing the rabble should 
pull his house about his ears and pile ten Tarpeian rocks 
one on another, or tear him in pieces by wild horses before 
he would submit. His friends could do nothing with him, 
and it was Volumnia who at length persuaded him to go. 
Coriolanus had always the deepest respect, as well as love, 
for his mother. From her he had learnt that passion for 



CORIOLANUS 25 

honour which he followed with so headstrong a will, and 
when she besought him to go and use fair speech, insisting 
that this could not disgrace him, he sullenly consented. 
''We'll prompt you," promised Cominius ; "remember 
'mildly' is the word." And "mildly" echoed Menenius. 
" Mildly be it then," grumbled Coriolanus, " mildly !" 

In the market-place the people were awaiting him, well 
drilled by Brutus and Sicinius to echo whatever cry the 
Tribunes should raise. These two felt confident that they 
had only to put Coriolanus in a passion and he would be in 
their power. Coriolanus entered, his friends following close 
and standing about him to hold him in check, and Sicinius 
began to question him. "Do you submit to the people's 
voice and acknowledge their officers ? and are content to 
suffer such legal censure as may be pronounced on you?" 
" I am content," was the answer. " There ! you see he is 
content," put in the delighted Menenius : " he is a soldier, 
remember ; you must not expect a soldier to be over-gentle 
in his language." " Well, well, no more of that," commented 
Cominius, who did not feel easy just yet. And in his very 
next words Coriolanus began to take the offensive, demand 
ing why, after being elected Consul, he was dishonoured by 
having his election annulled. " It is your business here to 
answer, not to ask questions," said Sicinius. Still Corio 
lanus kept down his temper. " True, so it is." " We 
charge you that you have deprived Rome of her con 
stitutional government and taken to yourself tyrannical 
power, for which you are a traitor to the people of Rome." 
This was too much. The charge, a new and unexpected 
one, had no justification. But it was the word "traitor" 
which stuck in Coriolanus' throat. "'Traitor!'" in a 
moment he was past holding. " May the fires of lowest 
hell wrap this people ! Call me their traitor ! If this lying 
Tribune had twenty thousand deaths for me, I would call 
him the liar that he is!" "To the rock! To the rock!" 
bawled the multitude. Still his friends implored, but Corio- 



26 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

lanus was now utterly deaf. " Be it the rock, or be it exile, 
flaying, starvation, I would not buy their mercy with a single 
word." 

Exile was the sentence the Tribunes had determined on, 
and in the name of the people Sicinius now pronounced it. 
Perhaps they hardly dared to exact the last penalty of the 
Tarpeian rock, but this they promised awaited Coriolanus if 
he ever again set foot within the gates of Rome. 

" Curs !" answered Coriolanus, " it is I who banish you ! 
Remain, and tremble at every rumour of war, shake when 
ever you see the plumes of your invaders nodding. Banish 
your defenders one by one, until your ignorance delivers you 
captive without a blow. For your sakes I despise Rome, 
and thus turn my back on her. There is a world elsewhere." 
And so he turned and departed, while they flung up their 
caps and shouted, " The people's enemy is gone !" 

His wife, his mother, and a few friends escorted him to 
the gate. " Do not weep ; a brief farewell is the best. 
Nay, mother, remember your ancient courage." Volumnia 
called curses upon the " many-headed beast " that treated 
her son so ungratefully. Virgilia could only weep. Old 
Cominius, that true friend, would have gone with him 
for a while, but Coriolanus forbade it and went his way 
alone. 

\Yhither was Coriolanus bound ? He was, as we have 
seen, a man with many great elements ; and yet not an 
entirely great man, for selfishness infected them all. Even 
his high worship of honour had its roots in selfishness. He 
could say, and he believed, that he had fought and bled for 
his country, but at heart he thought first of self. He, the 
brave and noble Coriolanus, had been insulted, abused, 
treated with shameful ingratitude. The wound to his self- 
love poisoned all his thoughts. He forgot his boasted 
affection for his country, forgot everything but his one 
desire to be revenged. 

It was twilight in the Volscian town of Antium when a 



CORIOLANUS 27 

stranger, dressed in mean apparel and wearing a muffler 
about his face, entered the gate and wandered along the 
streets like a man uncertain of his way. Many people 
passed, but no man knew him. Of one of these he asked 
to be directed to the house of Tullus Aufidius. 

Tullus Aufidius was dining and (as it chanced) entertain 
ing the Senators of Antium, for the Volscians were even 
now on the eve of launching a fresh invasion into Roman 
territory under his guidance. The troops were mustered, 
Aufidius had made his preparations, and the Senators had 
gathered to-night to wish him good speed. From the 
banqueting-room where they feasted the sound of music 
poured through the doors into the outer hall, where the 
serving-men ran to and fro with dishes or shouted for more 
wine. Such was the scene upon which Coriolanus entered, 
still in his disguise, and stood for a moment looking about 
him. " A goodly house ! And the feast smells well ; but I 
have scarcely the look of a guest." " Hullo, friend !" called 
out one of the slaves, " what's your business, and where do 
you come from ? Here's no place for you ; go to the door, 
pray." "And whence are you, sir?" demanded another: 
" has the porter no eyes, that he admits such fellows ? 
Pray, get you out." " Away !" Coriolanus thrust him aside. 
" Away ? It's for you to go away. I'll have you talked 
with in a moment." " What fellow's this ?" inquired a 
third. " A strange one as ever I saw. I cannot get him 
out of the house. Prithee, call my master to him." " Let 
me but stand here," said Coriolanus ; " I will not hurt your 
hearth." But the fellow insisted that he must begone, and 
so insolently that Coriolanus lost his temper and caught him 
a sound buffet. In the midst of this hubbub Aufidius him 
self entered, having been summoned to deal with the 
intruder. "Where is this fellow?" he asked; and per 
ceiving Coriolanus, " Your business, pray ? and your name ? 
Be quick, if you please your name, sir ?" 

Coriolanus unwound the muffler from his face. "A name, 



28 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Tullus, not musical in the Volscians' ears, and I believe 
harsh to thine." 

Still Aufidius did not recognise him, being unprepared 
for this visitor, of all men. " Thou hast a face of com 
mand, and seemest a noble ship, though thy tackle is torn. 
But I know thee not." 

"I am Caius Marcius, once thy foe in particular, and foe 
of all the Volscians, as my surname Coriolanus may wit 
ness. That name is all my thankless country requites me 
with. The cruelty and envy of the rabble, by leave of the 
dastard nobles who forsook me, have swallowed all the rest 
and hounded me out of Rome. Therefore I am come to your 
hearth not in hope to save my life but in spite, to be 
revenged on my banishers. If thou, too, desirest revenge 
on Rome, make my misery serve thy turn ; use me, and I 
will fight against my country with the spleen of all the 
devils below. If thou dare not, if it weary thee to try thy 
fortune afresh, then I am weary, weary to live, and offer my 
life here to thee and our old grudge." 

While he spoke Aufidius had drawn back in amazement. 
But he was a man of generous impulse, and in a moment 
he fought down his present incredulity and his old malice 
together : 

" O Marcius, Marcius ! Each word of thine plucks up a 
root of our ancient envy !" He embraced the foe whose 
body he had so often and vainly assailed with sword and 
lance. " Not when my wedded wife first crossed my thres 
hold did my heart dance as it dances now to see thee here, 
thou noble thing ! Why, thou Mars ! I tell thee we have a 
power on foot now, at this moment ; and once more I was 
purposing to hew thy shield from thine arm or lose my own 
arm in the endeavour. Time upon time thou hast beaten 
me, and night after night I have dreamed of new encoun 
ters in my sleep we have been down together, tearing 
loose our helms, fisting each other's throat and so waked 
half-dead with nothing. Worthy Marcius! Had we no 



CORIOLANUS 29 

other quarrel with Rome than her banishing thee, we would 
muster all from youngest to oldest to avenge thee. Come, 
come in ; take our friendly Senators by the hand they are 
here to wish me good speed. Take the half of my com 
mand, and direct thine own revenge. Thou shouldst know 
best when and how to strike Rome. Come in, I say. They 
shall say yes to all thy desires. Welcome a thousand 
times ! more a friend than ever an enemy and yet that 
was much, Marcius ! Your hand, come !" 

They passed together into the banqueting-room, and 
soon the disconcerted slaves had plenty to gossip about 
as they saw the strange visitor seated at the upper table 
and feasted, questioned, and consulted amid the deferential 
awe of the Senators. Aufidius was as good as his word, 
and readily gave up to Coriolanus the half of his com 
mission. With his undreamt-of ally there was no division 
and no hesitation in the counsels of Antium. It was war 
now, and war without delay. 

In Rome the Tribunes were* congratulating themselves. 
Their enemy was gone, and they had heard no more of him. 
It was pleasant to see the tradesmen singing in their shops, 
or going amicably about their business instead of running 
about the streets in tumult as in the days when they had 
Caius Marcius to provoke them. The Tribunes took great 
credit for this and for having rid Rome of one who aimed at 
kingship. They could repeat this false accusation safely ; 
and Menenius and his fellow Senators, while they shook 
their heads, took care to treat the Tribunes with considera 
tion. As for Coriolanus, even his mother and wife heard 
nothing from him. 

The first warning of something amiss came from a slave, 
who reported that the Volscians were astir again and had 
crossed the Roman frontiers with two separate armies. He 
carried this news to the aediles, and was by those wise 
acres promptly clapped into prison for a liar. " Have him 



30 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

whipped," commanded Brutus. Menenius suggested that it 
might be as well to make a few inquiries before whipping him. 

And while Brutus and Sicinius protested that the tale 
could not be true it was not possible there arrived a 
messenger with word that the nobles had received news, 
and were crowding to the Senate House. The slave's 
report had been confirmed by a second. Marcius had 
joined with Aufidius, and was marching on Rome to 
revenge himself. 

" A likely story !" sneered Sicinius. " Ay," added Brutus, 
" and raised no doubt to make the weaker spirits wish him 
home again." But this messenger was followed by another, 
and he again by Cominius in a towering rage. " You've 
made good work !" he broke out, addressing the Tribunes. 
" What news ? What news ?" asked Menenius eagerly ; and 
being told it, he, too, rounded on the Tribunes. " You've 
made good work, you and your apron-men ! Oh, you've 
made fine work !" " But is this true, sir ?" Brutus stam 
mered. " True ? You'll look pale enough before you find 
it anything else. He will shake Rome about your ears ? 
Who can blame him ? And who can beg his mercy ? 
Not you Tribunes you who deserve such pity as a wolf 
deserves of the shepherd. Yes, indeed, you've made good 
work of it ! You've brought Rome to a pretty pass !" " Say 
not we brought it." "Who, then?" snapped Menenius: 
"was it we? We loved him ; but, cowards that we were, 
we gave way and allowed your crew of danglers to hoot 
him out of the city. Here they come, your danglers !" as 
the crowd poured around them discussing the news. " Well, 
sirs, how do you like your handiwork ?" The crowd was 
scared, but clamorous after its wont, each man noisily 
anxious to shift the blame off his own shoulders. " For my 
part, when I voted to banish him I said 'twas a pity." " I 
always said we were in the wrong." " So did we all." " You 
are goodly things, you voters," said Cominius, with bitter 
contempt. 



CORIOLANUS 31 

The peril was urgent. Town after town yielded before 
Coriolanus without a blow, and Rome, divided within her 
gates, lay apparently at his mercy. In name he shared the 
command with Aundius, but in fact Coriolanus was the 
sole hero of the campaign. The Volscian soldiery swore 
by their new leader, and his popularity began to teach 
Aundius that the roots of ancient envy are not so easily 
plucked up after all. Aundius was a generous man, up to 
a point ; he had proved it by a highly generous action. 
But to obey a generous impulse is easier than to keep 
a magnanimous temper constant in face of a rival's success. 
Something of the old jealousy awoke in the Volscian leader ; 
he saw, or thought he saw, that Coriolanus behaved more 
haughtily towards him than at first ; his near friends and 
lieutenants encouraged the suspicion ; he began to repent 
that he had given up half his command. Too big a man 
to deny his rival's merit, he was little enough to be galled 
by it, and to spy out faults which might some day serve 
for an accusation. " Coriolanus has merit ; yet something 
brought him to grief once in spite of it. He has merit 
enough to silence criticism ; yet he fell. Our virtues are 
as men choose to interpret them ; a man may have power 
and be conscious of his own deserts, yet he will not find in 
an epitaph what he lacked in the praise of the living. Fire 
drives out fire, one nail another, and one man's reputation 
another's. When Rome has fallen, and Caius Marcius 
thinks himself strongest, my time shall come." 

In Rome there was absolute dismay, and no attempt even 
to disguise it. Panic-stricken women ran wailing about the 
streets ; the temples were filled with old folks weeping 
bitterly and entreating the gods ; nor could a man be found 
wise or strong enough to provide for the city's defence. 
At the suit of the Tribunes (humble enough by this time) 
Cominius had been persuaded to visit the Volscian camp 
and supplicate Coriolanus in person. Coriolanus would not 
listen to his old commander; but as he knelt and pleaded 



32 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

their old acquaintance and blood shed together for Rome's 
sake, bade him rise, and with no more words, but a wave 
of the hand only, dismissed him back to the city. Where 
Cominius had failed would Menenius succeed ? It was not 
likely ; yet Menenius had strong claims on Coriolanus' love, 
and at length suffered himself to be persuaded. Cominius 
has perhaps chosen an unhappy moment. Menenius, a firm 
believer in the influence of the stomach over men's actions, 
would choose a propitious one, after dinner. The mission 
flattered his sense of importance ; he might be able to show 
these huckstering Tribunes something, these fellows who 
were likely to cheapen coals by getting Rome burnt to the 
ground. After all he did not despair. 

So he, too, set out for the Volscian camp. But his 
reception there was scarcely encouraging. The sentries 
at first would not let him pass, and seemed as little im 
pressed by his name as by his recital of friendly services 
done for Coriolanus in the past. "You are mistaken," they 
assured him, " if you think to blow out the fire preparing 
for Rome with such weak breath as this." While they 
wrangled, Coriolanus himself came by in talk with Aufidius. 
" Now, you fellow," Menenius promised, " you shall see in 
what estimation I am held, and if a Jack-in-office can keep 
me from my son Coriolanus without hanging for it or 
worse"; and approaching Coriolanus, "The glorious gods 
sit in hourly synod about thy particular prosperity, and love 
thee no worse than thy old father Menenius does ! O my 
son, my son ! I was hardly moved to come to thee ; but 
being assured that none but myself could move thee, I have 
been blown out of our gates with sighs, and conjure thee to 
pardon Rome and thy petitioning countrymen. The good 
gods assuage thy wrath, and turn the dregs of it upon this 
varlet here this blockhead, who hath denied my access to 
thee !" " Away !" answered Coriolanus. " Eh ? How ? 
Away ?" stammered Menenius. " Away ! I know not 
wife, mother, or child ; I am servant to the Volscians now. 



CORIOLANUS 38 

My ears are closed against your petitions more firmly than 
your gates against me. Not another word !" He turned 
to Aufidius. " This man was my dear friend in Rome, yet 
thou see'st." " You keep a constant temper," said Aufidius. 
The two generals turned away and left Menenius standing 
red and discomfited before the jeers of the sentinels. "As 
for you, I take no account of such fellows. I say to you as 
I was said to, Away !" and away he stalked, followed by 
their laughter. 

There was yet one plea left for Rome. While Coriolanus 
sat within his tent, grieved to have sent this old friend home 
(as he said) with a cracked heart, and resolute to listen to 
no more embassies, a stir arose without in the camp. No 
man had the cruelty to disturb or forbid this new proces 
sion. At the head of it in deepest mourning walked Virgilia, 
and behind her Volumnia leading Coriolanus' little son 
Marcius by the hand, and behind them again a train of 
Roman ladies, all in sorrowful black. They entered the 
tent and knelt before him, while Coriolanus rose, divided 
between his heart's instinct and his resolution to deny it. 

" My lord and husband !" murmured Virgilia, and ceased. 

" These eyes " Coriolanus tried to recover his firmness 
"are not the same I wore in Rome." 

" Sorrow the sorrow that has changed us makes you 
think so." 

He could hold back his love no longer. " Best of my 
flesh, forgive me; but do not say, 'Forgive our Romans.' 
One kiss a kiss *as long as my exile, as sweet as my 
revenge!" He turned to his mother and knelt to salute 
her. 

But Volumnia bade him rise, and, in spite of his protesta 
tion, sank herself upon her knees, and the child Marcius 
beside her. "Thou art my warrior; I helped to frame thee; 
this is thy son, and thyself in little." "The God of soldiers," 
said Coriolanus, " make him a noble soldier, proof against 
shame, and give him to stand in war like a great sea-mark, 



34 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

steadfast, the salvation of men who look upon him!" "And 
it is we who plead with you," said Volumnia. 

" Nay, I beseech. Or, if you will plead, bid me not 
dismiss my soldiers or capitulate a second time with Rome's 
mechanics ; plead not against ^my revenge, for to that I have 
sworn." 

" You deny beforehand all we ask, yet we will and must 
ask." "Then all the Volscians shall hear it," said Corio- 
lanus, and he called them to stand around. 

"My son," said Volumnia, "should we hold our peace, 
yet the sight of us and our raiment would bewray what 
manner of life we have led since thy exile. Think how far 
more unfortunate than all living women are we, since the 
sight of thee, which should make our eyes flow with joy, 
our hearts dance with comfort, constrains them to weep and 
shake with sorrow and terror, making us, thy wife, thy 
mother, thy child, to see thee besieging the walls of his 
native country. Ah, it is worst for us ; for others may pray 
to the gods, but we cannot. How can we pray for our 
country and for thy victory both so dear to us when one 
must destroy the other ? when, whichever wins, a curse is 
bound up in the prayer ? Either my son must be led, a 
foreign recreant, in manacles through our streets, or march 
in triumph through them, trampling on his country's ruin. 
But, for me, I will not see that day. If I cannot persuade 
thee, thou shalt march to assault thy country over thy 
mother's body that brought thee into the world." 

" Ay," echoed Virgilia, " and over mine that brought thy 
son into the world to keep thy name alive." 

Coriolanus groaned. " I do wrong to look on women's 
faces; they turn a man to womanish tenderness." He 
turned to leave them. 

" Nay," commanded Volumnia, " go not thus from us. 
Did we implore thee to save the Romans by destroying 
the Volscians, thou mightst condemn us as aiming against 
thine honour. But we plead only to reconcile them, so that 



86 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

the Volscians may say, ' This mercy we have shown ' ; and 
the Romans, ' This mercy we have received,' and both unite 
in blessing thee as the maker of this peace. Son, the end 
of war is uncertain ; but this is certain, that if thou conquer 
Rome it will be to reap a name which shall be dogged with 
curses, and its chronicle thus written, ' The man was noble, 
but with his last attempt he wiped out the remembrance 
of it and destroyed his country, and his name remains 
abhorred.' " 

Yet Coriolanus sat silent. He could not trust himself to 
speak. 

" Answer me, my son. Dost thou think it honourable for 
a noble man to remember the wrongs and injuries done him. 
Daughter, speak to him. He cares not for your weeping. 
Speak to him, boy ; thy childishness may move him more 
than our reasoning. Son, no son in the world owes his 
mother more than thou owest ; never in thy life hast thou 
shown thy mother any courtesy ; not when she, poor soul, 
fond of no other child, doted on thee going to the wars, 
doted on thee returning laden with honour. Is my plea 
unjust? Spurn it, then. But if it be just, as thou fearest 
heaven, deny not thy mother her due." 

A last time he would have turned away, but she and 
Virgilia and the child flung themselves on their knees 
together, uplifting their hands. 

And seeing this, Coriolanus was mastered. He stepped 
to his mother, and lifting her, held her by the hand for a 

moment, silent. Then with a cry speech broke from him 

" O mother, mother, what have you done to me !" Still he 
held her hand, fighting for words. " O mother, you have 
won a happy victory for your country, but though you 
know it not mortal and unhappy for your son !" He 
turned to Aufidius. " Sir, though I cannot make this war 
as I promised, I can and will make a peace to suit you. 
Say," he added, almost wistfully, since he had come to trust 
Aufidius, " could you in my place have listened to a mother 



CORIOLANUS 37 

less? or have granted less?" "I was moved myself," 
owned Aufidius, but this was all he would say. " I dare 
be sworn you were. But advise me, my friend, touching 
what peace you will make. I remain here, and I pray you 
stand by me in this matter." He would fain have gone to 
Rome with them whose dearness to him he had just so 
dearly proved ; but his honour held him among the 
Volscians. " By and by," he promised ; and dismissed 
them back on their happy errand. " You deserve to have 
a temple built to you ; all the swords in Italy could not 
have made this peace." 

Meanwhile in Rome the citizens swayed between hope 
and despair. Watchers lined the walls, their eyes bent on 
the Volscian camp. Within the city the mob had seized 
upon Brutus, and haled him up and down, promising him a 
lingering death if the petitioners brought back no comfort. 

At length a cry went up from the walls, a shout The 
Volscian camp was moving, retiring. Messengers came 
running, one after another, with the tidings ; and soon, like 
the blown tide through an archway, the glad throng poured 
in through the gates. Trumpets sounded, drums, all instru 
ments of music half-drowned in a tumult of cheering. And 
when at length Volumnia and her ladies appeared, escorted 
by the Senators, the crowd pressed about them rapturously, 
strewing flowers and shouting, " Welcome ! welcome !" 
Some lit triumphal fires ; others ran and flung open the 
gates of all the temples, which soon were filled with men 
crowned with garlands and doing sacrifice as though news 
had come of a great victory. 

Coriolanus was not to share this joy. He had spoken 
truth when he told his mother that she had won a victory 
most mortal for him. He turned his back upon the rejoicing 
city, and went, as his honour summoned him, friendless back 
to his fate. For as he led the Volscian troops homeward, 
Aufidius hurried before him, and before he reached Antium 
with drum and colours, Aufidius had made ready to receive 



38 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

him. " He has betrayed us. For a few women's tears he 
has bartered all the blood and labour of our great actions " ; 
such was the charge forwarded by Aufidius in letters to the 
Senators. So when Coriolanus halted in the market-place, 
and delivered up the terms of peace, Aufidius stepped for 
ward. " Read it not, noble lords ! But tell this man he is 
a traitor !" 

" Traitor !" Coriolanus turned on him fierce and amazed. 
" Ay, traitor," Aufidius repeated doggedly, " traitor and 
coward." " My lords," Coriolanus faced the Senators, 
" you shall judge me, and your judgment shall give this 
cur the lie, as he he who shall carry the marks of my past 
whippings to his grave already knows himself to be a liar." 
The Senators would have interposed, but the crowd had 
been instructed beforehand. Many had cause to hate 
Coriolanus for sons, fathers, kinsmen lost to them in fight 
ing Rome. They pressed about him, crying, "Kill! kill!" 
and pierced with stroke upon stroke of their daggers, 
Coriolanus fell. 

They had killed him believing him their enemy; but, 
their rage spent, they knew that they had slain a great 
man. Lifting the body, they bore it with military honours 
through the streets of Antium, and buried it as became its 
rank and its great deeds. 



JULIUS C.&SAR 

FOUR hundred and fifty years had passed and the Rome of 
Coriolanus had become the mistress of the world. But all 
these years had not healed the quarrel between the patricians 
and plebeians ; for as the city increased in size and dignity 
and empire, so her citizens increased in numbers and grew 
less and less inclined to submit to the rule of a few noble 
and privileged families. And these civil quarrels became 
more bloody and dangerous as Rome lost that fear of the 
foreigner which had once bound her citizens together in 
self-defence. 

To hold and garrison her vast possessions, too, she needed 
soldiers, and drew them from far and wide to fight under 
her eagles. And in times of peace these soldiers, being out 
of employment, were only too apt to meddle with civil 
affairs ; until at length it became clear that whoever wanted 
the upper hand must get the support of the army. The 
man who perceived this most clearly was himself a soldier 
and one of the greatest generals the world has ever known 
Julius Caesar ; and his hope was, by making himself 
master of the army, to rule alone and supreme and by 
strong and steady government to put an end to the miser 
able dissensions from which the state suffered. 

To this he attained after a long struggle with his great 
rival Pompey. When it was over and the sons of Pompey, 
after their father's death, had been crushed in the battle of 
Munda, Caesar treated the vanquished party with great 
leniency, no doubt because he wanted as few enemies as 
possible in the work of steady government to which, as 

39 



40 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

master of the whole Roman world, he was now to turn 
his mind. 

But he had made more enemies than he bargained for, 
and some quite unsuspected ones. To begin with, the 
beaten Pompeians were not men of the sort to understand 
his generosity or to be grateful for it. Then some of his 
own followers were angry because their rewards had fallen 
short of what they believed themselves entitled to ; and also 
because Caesar, though he had given them high appoint 
ments, went his own way, as strong men will, without con 
sulting them. There were others again noble spirits 
who loved him and yet believed that so much power in the 
hands of one man was a danger to that Liberty on which 
the Romans had always prided themselves. As for the 
mob, they cheered for the man who was up, after the manner 
of mobs. A few months ago they had climbed the walls and 
house-tops and shouted themselves hoarse for Pompey. 
Now that Pompey was dead, and Caesar returned in triumph 
from his victory over Pompey's sons, they shouted with 
equal enthusiasm for Caesar. 

And Ciusar, in the glow of his triumph, had parted with 
some of his old wisdom. Men of his great achievements 
become what we call " men of destiny " ; and just as their 
enemies fail to see that success so mighty must contain 
something fatal, and cannot wholly depend on one man's 
cleverness or good luck, so they themselves are apt to forget 
that they are but the instruments of Heaven, and to take all 
the credit and become vain and puffed up. Thus the 
moment of Caesar's triumph was the moment of his most 
dangerous weakness : for fancying himself almost a god, he 
began to talk and act in a way which persuaded his enemies 
that he was no more than a man with an ordinary man's 
frailties. Both were mistaken, and Destiny as usual turned 
the mistakes of both to her own sure purposes. 

As usual, too, she gave warning ; and at first in that 
small and seemingly casual voice which men disregard at 



JULIUS C/ESAR 41 

the time and remember afterwards. There was an annual 
festival at Rome called the Lupercalia, held on the i5th of 
February, at the foot of the Aventine Hill, where Romulus 
and Remus, the founders of the city, had been discovered 
as infants with a she-wolf for their nurse. No doubt in the 
beginning it had been a rude shepherd's festival ; but the 
Romans, proud to be reminded of their city's small 
beginnings, had appointed a company of priests who yearly 
on this date made a sacrifice of goats in honour of the old 
mother-wolf, and afterwards cut their skins into thongs. 
And the custom was for many noble youths to strip naked 
and run with these thongs, with which they playfully struck 
the bystanders. One of the runners this year was Mark 
Antony, a young man of pleasure, but of ambition too 
and excellent parts, when his love of pleasure allowed 
him to use them, and an especial friend of Caesar's. Caesar 
himself attended in state with his train of followers and 
flatterers, among whom one Casca was foremost calling 
" Silence !" to the crowd whenever the great man so much 
as opened his mouth. 

The great man just now was talking familiarly with 
Antony, who stood ready stripped for the course, when a 
shrill voice from the throng cried " Caesar !" " Ha ! who 
calls ?" asked Caesar, turning about, and the officious Casca 
ordered silence again. " Beware the ides of March !"* It 
was a soothsayer who gave this warning, and repeated 
it when Casca called him forward ; but Caesar lightly 
dismissed him as a " dreamer," and passed on to see the 
show. 

The crowd followed at his heels, and left two men stand 
ing noble Romans both of them. Their names were 

* The Romans marked off their months by three points : the Kalends 
or ist day, and the Nones and Ides, which were the 7th and i5th of 
March, May, July, October, and the 5th and i3th of other months. 
They began by reckoning the number of days before the Nones, then 
the Ides, then the Kalends of next month. The Ides of March were 
he i 3th. 



H i FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Marcus Brutus and Caius Cassius, and a close friendship, 
united them in spite of their very different natures. No 
citi/en of Rome was more upright than Brutus, more single- 
minded, more unselfishly patriotic. A philosopher and a 
man of books rather than of action, he was in some ways as 
. imp),. a s H . lnl.1 ; and U-in;; pc.rl'f,' ily hour:- t liini'.'-lf, 
doubted not that every one else must be honest. Privately 
he liked Caesar and was respected by Caesar ; but he believed 
from the bottom of his heart that all this power in the hands 
of one man was a monstrous treason to the old Roman idea 
of liberty, and a danger to the commonwealth, and he 
watched it with a growing sadness and indignation. 

Cassius, too, was indignant ; but for reasons less lofty 
than those which moved Brutus. He felt the wrong done 
to the state ; but being of a splenetic and angry temper, he 
disliked and was jealous of Cajsar. And Caesar paid back 
this feeling with suspicion. " That Cassius," he said once 
to Antony, " has a lean and hungry look. lie thinks too 
much, and such men are dangerous." " Fear him not, 
Caesar," replied Antony, " he is a noble Roman and well 
disposed." " I would he were fatter," Causar. persisted, 'who 
liked to have sleek and contented men about him : "If I, 
Causar, were liable to fear, I do not know whom I should 
avoid so soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much, is a 
great observer ; he loves no plays as thou dost, Antony ; 
hears no music ; smiles seldom ; and then as if he scorned 
himself for smiling. Men such as he are never easy of 
heart while they behold a greater than themselves; and 
therefore they are very dangerous." And Ca.-sar was right, 
though he fancied himself too great to fear tbit danger which 
he pointed out. 

" Will you go see the runners ?" asked Cassius, as he and 
Brutus were left alone. 

" Not I," said Brutus, " I am not inclined for sport, and 
lack Antony's lively spirits. But do not let me hinder you, 
Cassius." 



JULIUS C/ESAR 43 

" Brutus, how comes it that your manner to me has 
changed of late ? I miss the old gentleness and show of 
love, and observe that you bear yourself stiffly towards the 
friend who loves you." 

" Pardon me, Cassius. I am troubled in mind, at war 
with myself ; and it is this which makes me seem negligent 
in my behaviour to my good friends." 

" Then," said Cassius, " I have mistaken you, and my 
mistake has made me keep buried in my breast some 
thoughts of mine well worth imparting. Tell me, Brutus," 
he asked abruptly, " can you see your face ? . . . I wish 
you could ; and I have heard of men of the best respect in 
Rome except immortal Caesar," he put in with a sneer ; 
" men groaning under this present yoke declare how they 
wished Brutus would but use his eyes." 

" Cassius, into what dangers would you lead me ?" 

" Well, my friend, let me be your glass ; and look on me 
that you may discover more of yourself than you yet know." 
And he was beginning to protest what Brutus well knew, 
that he was no common flatterer or loose talker in company, 
when the noise of distant shouting interrupted him. 

" What means this shouting ?" said Brutus ; " I fear the 
people are acclaiming Caesar for their king." 

" Ay, do you fear that ? Then I must think you would 
not have it so." 

" No, Cassius, though I love him well. But what is it 
you would impart to me ? If it be aught toward the public 
good, you know that I prize what is honourable more than 
I fear death." 

Thus encouraged, Cassius unfolded his tale of grievance. 
" Is it honour that we should all stand in awe of this one 
Caesar, a man like ourselves ? You and I w r ere born free as 
Caesar. Is he in any way more of a man ? He is a great 
swimmer ; yet I have swum the roaring Tiber with him, 
and he has called to me to save him from drowning. I 
have seen him in Spain, sick of a fever this god of 



44 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

ours shaking and pallid, and calling for drink like a sick 

girl." 

" Hark !" said Brutus, " they are shouting again, 
believe this applause must be for some new honours heaped 
on him." 

" Why, man, he bestrides this narrow world like a 
Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and 
peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves. Men 
at one time or another are masters of their own fate, and if 
we are underlings, we, and not our stars, not our destinies, 
are to blame. Brutus and Caesar! Why Caesar more 
than Brutus ? Is Rome so degenerate that in this last age 
it holds but one man, and makes him king ? There was a 
Brutus once who would have brooked the devil himself in 
Rome as easily as a king." He spoke of that Lucius Junius 
Brutus, his friend's ancestor, who had in old times expelled 
the Tarquins. Cassius was indeed no common flatterer, 
but knew exactly how to touch his friend's pride. Brutus 
was moved. He confessed that he guessed Cassius' mean 
ing ; he would think of what had been said ; would talk of 
it further at some other time. Meanwhile let Cassius 
sustain himself with this " Brutus had rather be a villager 
than repute himself a son of Rome under such conditions as 
he foresees will be laid upon Romans." 

The re-entry of Caesar and his train broke off their talk. 
Something had clearly happened at the games to annoy the 
great man, for his face wore an angry spot, and his wife 
Calpurnia was pale, while the great orator Cicero had the 
look he put on when crossed in debate. As they went by 
Cassius plucked Casca by the sleeve and delayed him to 
know what the matter was. " Oh," said Casca, " there was 
a crown offered to Caesar, or a kind of crown. It was mere 
foolery, and I did not mark it. Antony offered it, and 
Caesar refused it thrice, and then he fell down in a fit." 
Casca had a bluff hearty manner with him, but he was 
really a sly unstable man who took his cue from his 



JULIUS C/ESAR 45 

company. " A fit ?" said Brutus: "that is likely enough, 
he suffers from the falling-sickness."* " Nay," interposed 
Cassius, with meaning, " it is not Caesar, but you and I and 
honest Casca here that suffer from the falling-sickness." 
Casca scented the hint at once, and still keeping his jolly- 
good-fellow-well-met way of speaking, let fall another in 
answer. " The tag-rag people," said he, " clapped and 
hissed Caesar, just as if he were playing a part ; and what's 
more, he gave them excuse enough, for just before he fell 
down he plucked open his doublet and offered me his throat 
to cut ! If I had only been a practical fellow instead of the 
easy-going one you see, . swear I'd have taken him at his 
word." " And when all was over," said Brutus, " Caesar 
came away sad, as we saw him ?" " Ay." " Did Cicero 
say anything ?" asked Cassius (for Cicero might or might 
not join the plot, and it was worth while to find out how he 
behaved). " Ay, he spoke Greek." " To what effect ?" 
" Nay," said Casca, with a shrug of the shoulders, " you 
mustn't ask me that. I'm a plain fellow, and it was Greek 
to me at any rate. There was more foolery besides, if I 
could remember it." " Will you dine with me to-morrow, 
Casca?" asked Cassius, for he saw cunning where Brutus 
saw bluntness only. Casca promised, and so they parted. 

And during the next month Cassius was busy. He 
feared, on second thoughts, to trust Cicero ; but he sounded 
others of his acquaintance Trebonius, Ligarius, Cinna, 
Decimus Brutus, Metellus Cimber who were ready to join 
the plot. Their main hope, however, rested on Marcus 
Brutus ; for whatever their own several motives might be, 
they knew none but the highest would persuade him to lift 
a hand against Caesar, and that the people would give him 
credit for this. Cassius, to influence his friend, had letters 
and scrolls carefully prepared in different handwritings, all 
hinting at Caesar's ambition, and that Rome looked to 
Brutus for deliverance. Some of them would be thrown 
* A name given to the epilepsy. 



46 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

in at Brutus' window, others laid among the petitions in his 
praetor's chair, others again pinned to the statue of his great 
ancestor. Every day brought a fresh shower of these 
letters, which Brutus believed to come honestly from the 
people and express their wishes. 

Indeed, as often happens when treason or conspiracy is in 
the air, the public mind began to be disquieted with vague 
rumours and whisperings. Whence they came, or what 
they meant precisely, none knew. But folk began to talk 
of omens, signs of heaven, mysterious fires and meteors. A 
lion had been found wandering loose in the streets ; an owl 
had settled at noonday above the great market-place; a 
slave's hand had burst into flame, but when he had cast the 
flames from him the hand was found to be unhurt such 
were the foolish tales spread and discussed. Certainly the 
heavens were unsettled and broke on the night before the 
Ides into a furious thunderstorm. 

Cassius passing through the drenched streets, reckless of 
the lightning, to join his fellow-conspirators, ran against 
Casca, whom the storm and its horrors had completely 
terrified. He had left Casca to the last, knowing him to 
be easily pliable. But now the time was short. To-night 
the plotters were to come together and hear Brutus' final 
answer. It took Cassius but a few minutes to convince the 
shaking man that the portents at which he trembled were 
really directed against Caesar, to whom in the morning, if 
report said true, the senators meant to offer the crown ; 
and but a few minutes more to persuade him that he really 
was a bondman and owed Caesar a grudge. " I am ready," 
he protested, " to dare as much as Cassius in putting 
down the tyrant. I am no tell-tale." Cassius had his own 
opinion about this ; but now that the time for tale-bearing 
was past, disclosed the plot to him and bade him follow to 
the porch of Pompey's Theatre, where the conspirators 
were assembling to pay their visit together to Brutus' 
house. 



JULIUS C^SAR 47 

Brutus meanwhile had been passing through a terrible 
time. The more he pondered the more clearly he seemed 
to see that Caesar's life was a daily-growing menace to the 
welfare and liberties of Rome. " It must be by his death," 
he heard an inner voice whispering. Another voice would 
whisper that privately he could find no quarrel with Caesar. 
And then a third would answer that Caesar's tyranny must 
increase with his opportunities. "It is the bright day that 
brings forth the adder, and therefore," it said, "kill this 
serpent in the egg." 

These were the thoughts which for days had kept him 
distracted. They allowed him no sleep to-night, but drove 
him from his bed long before daybreak. He wakened his 
young slave Lucius, and bidding him set a taper in the 
study, walked out into his orchard when the storm had 
spent itself and left the heavens clear enough for the eye 
to mark the meteors shooting above the dark trees. 

But out here the same miserable doubts dogged and 
besieged him. The boy brought word that his taper was 
lit, and handed him a sealed paper which he had found by 
the window in searching for a flint. " Go back to bed," 
said his master, "it is not day yet. By the way, is not 
to-morrow the Ides of March?" "I know not, sir." 
" Go then first and look in the calendar, and bring me 
word." 

He broke the seal of the paper, and read a sentence or 
two by the light of the trailing stars. It was another of 
the mysterious letters. " Brutus, thou sleepest. Awake 
and see thyself" the very words might have told him who 
the author was. Another call to him in the name of his 
great ancestors to come to the rescue of Rome ! 

The boy, coming back to report the date, was interrupted 
by a knocking without. It was Cassius, with the rest of 
the conspirators, heavily cloaked and wrapped. By his 
master's order Lucius admitted them to the dark garden. 
Cassius made them known Trebonius, Decimus Brutus, 



48 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Casca, Cinna, Metellus Cimber ; and then drew Brutus 
aside while the rest fell into constrained trivial talk which 
barely hid their uneasiness. 

But Brutus' mind was made up. After some whispering 
with Cassius he came forward. " Give me your hands 
no oath is necessary. We are Romans, and a promise is 
enough." He laid great stress on this; to him it meant 
everything to read in their purpose the genuine old Roman 
spirit. Cassius recalled him to more practical matters. 
"What of Cicero? Shall we sound him?" "We must 
not leave him out," said Casca, and Cinna and Metellus 
agreed. Brutus urged that Cicero was not a man to follow 
what others began. " Better leave him out, then," said 
Cassius, who mistrusted Cicero on other grounds. " No, 
indeed, he won't do," chimed in Casca, ready as usual to 
contradict himself and echo the last speaker. 

Decimus Brutus wished to know if Caesar alone should 
be sacrificed. "Well urged," said Cassius; ( 'if we allow 
Mark Antony to live, he is just the man to do us mischief. 
Antony must fall too." 

But this counsel revolted Brutus. " We are sacrificers 
and not butchers," he dwelt again on the sober justice of 
their purpose as it appeared to him. He abhorred blood 
shed, and pleaded for no more than was necessary. 

"Yet I fear him," urged the more far-sighted Cassius, 
" for the love he .bears to Caesar." 

" Do not think of him," Brutus answered impatiently. 
He underrated Antony, and Cassius felt sure he was wrong, 
but gave way. 

It was three in the morning and high time to disperse. 
There remained a doubt whether Caesar, who had grown 
suspicious of late, would not be deterred by recent omens 
from going to the Capitol. Decimus Brutus engaged to 
override any such hesitation and bring him. They left 
promising to send another likely conspirator Caius Ligarius 
whom Brutus was to persuade ; and with yet another 



JULIUS C^SAR 49 

reminder of the Roman part they were to play, he saw them 
through the gate. 

As he turned and bent over the boy Lucius, who, having 
no plots or cares on his mind, had fallen into a sound sleep, 
Brutus' wife, Portia, came out from the house. 

She was uneasy about her husband. He had been strange 
in his manner for many days. Men, she knew, had their 
dark hours, and she had waited and watched. But this 
trouble, it seemed, would not let him eat, or talk, or sleep. 
It had changed him so that only in feature was he the Brutus 
she knew. " Dear my lord, tell me the cause of your grief!" 

" I am not well in health ; that is all." 

" Is it for your health, then, that you are here abroad on 
this cold raw morning ? No, you have some sickness of the 
mind rather, which as your wife I have a right to share. 
See, I beg you on my knees, by the beauty you once com 
mended and the great vow you swore to me your other 
half that you tell me the truth. What men were here 
just now men who kept their faces hidden ?" 

Then, as Brutus hesitated, she reminded him that though 
a woman only she was Brutus' wife and Cato's daughter. 
" Listen," she said, "before asking to share your secret I 
determined to test myself, to prove if I were worthy of it. 
See, I took a knife and gashed myself here, in the thigh. 
The wound is very painful, but I have kept my lips tight, 
and not allowed the pain to overcome me. Now say if I 
cannot be trusted to keep my lips closed on your secret !" 

Brutus, touched and amazed by his wife's heroism, took 
her in his arms, and would have told her the whole story 
then and there, but a knocking interrupted him, and with a 
hurried promise that she should know all, he dismissed her 
into the house just as the boy admitted the last of the con 
spirators, Caius Ligarius. 

Nor was Portia the only wife who had slept ill on that 
ominous night. Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, had been tormented 

4 



50 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

with horrible dreams ; dreams in which she had seen her 
husband's statue spouting blood from a hundred wounds, 
while a crowd of Romans came and bathed their hands in 
it ; dreams so ghastly that thrice in her sleep she had started 
up crying for help that Caesar was being murdered. 

To unnerve her further, close upon these dreams had 
come early reports of the night's portents, the horrid sights 
seen by the watch. A lioness had whelped in the streets ; 
the very graves had been shaken ; the men swore to hearing 
noises of battle, the neighing of horses, the groans of dying 
men, the squealing of ghosts among the voices of the storm, 
and that the clouds had actually drizzled blood on the 
Capitol. Calpurnia had not Portia's firmness of mind. 
She gave herself up to terror, and protested that Caesar 
should not stir from the house that day. 

Her fears even infected Caesar, though he would not own 
it to himself. He gave orders that the priests should do 
sacrifice and report what omens the victim yielded. Then 
he turned to Calpurnia. " What the gods purpose men 
cannot avoid. These portents are meant for all men, not 
specially for Caesar. But suppose them meant for me 
well, cowards die many times before their death, but a brave 
man tastes of death once, and once only. It seems to me 
the strangest of all wonders that men should be fearful, 
seeing that a man must die and the end must come in its 
due time." 

His servant returned with word that the augurs warned 
Caesar against stirring abroad that day. On plucking forth 
the entrails of the victim they discovered yet another portent 
the heart was missing. Caesar would have made light of 
it. " 'Tis the gods' reproof of cowardice," he said; "I, 
too, should lack a heart were I to stay at home for fear." 
But Calpurnia besought him to stay and send word by 
Mark Antony that he was not well ; and Caesar, divided 
between a belief that he was above danger and a sense of 
menace in the air, was promising to humour her, when 



JULIUS C^SAR 51 

Decimus Brutus arrived to accompany him to the Senate- 
house. 

" Tell them," said Caesar, " that I will not come. It were 
false to say I cannot, and false to say that I dare not. So 
say that I will not." 

Decimus asked for his reasons ; and being told of Cal- 
purnia's fears, so well enacted his promised part of flatterer, 
with hints of what the Senate might say or suspect, that 
Caesar soon felt ashamed to have yielded to his wife's fears. 
" Give me my robe," said he, " I will go." And an escort 
of his supposed friends (for the conspirators were among 
them) arriving at that moment settled the matter. " Come, 
Antony, Cinna, Metellus ! what, Trebonius ? You are the 
man I want to talk with. Keep near me that I may re 
member." " I will," muttered Trebonius darkly. 

Caesar was to have yet another warning. One Artemido- 
rus, a teacher of rhetoric, had an inkling of the plot, and 
had posted himself in the crowd before the Capitol with a 
letter. The citizens cheered as the great man passed 
through the streets, while Brutus' wife, Portia, waited out 
side her door, straining her ears at every sound borne across 
the city from the direction of the Senate-house. She bade 
Lucius run thither, and broke off, forgetting she had given 
the boy no message to take. She read meanings into the 
talk of the passers-by. She breathed a prayer for Brutus, 
and then was terrified to think the boy had overheard it. 
" Run," said she, "any message ! Tell my lord I am cheer 
ful, and bring me back word what he answers." 

Caesar, arriving before the steps of the Senate-house, 
spied amid the crowd there the soothsayer who had warned 
him against the Ides of March, and halted to throw him a 
rallying word. " So the Ides of March are come !" 

" Ay, Caesar," answered the man, " but not gone." 

Decimus Brutus stepped forward with a petition from 
Trebonius. At the same moment Artemidorus pressed 
close, and would have thrust his letter of warning into 

42 



52 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Caesar's hand. " Read mine first," he implored ; " mine is 
a suit which touches Caesar nearer." But Caesar waved it 
aside with a truly royal answer. " What touches us ourself 
shall be served last." Artemidorus was thrust back into the 
throng, and so the great man went up the steps, with the 
attendant crowd at his heels. 

However anxiously some hearts were now beating in 
that crowd, he the unsuspicious victim was at ease, 
possessed (as never before perhaps) by the calm conscious 
ness of pre-eminence. The conspirators eyed each other 
nervously. When anyone not in the plot approached 
Caesar it filled them with misgivings. They had laid their 
plan. Trebonius was to draw off Mark Antony, and 
presently they saw the two step aside together. Metellus 
Cimber was to kneel and present a petition for the recall of 
his brother from banishment. Then Casca was to strike ; 
after him all the others. They pressed around as Cimber 
flung himself on his knees. Caesar guessed the nature of 
his petition, and would have prevented him. " Courtesies 
such as these might have effect upon ordinary men, not 
upon Caesar. If this plea be for thy brother, I spurn 
thee aside like a cur. Know that Csesar doth no wrong, 
nor will be satisfied without cause." Brutus and Cassius 
here pressed forward. " What, Brutus ! I tell thee that as 
the stars in heaven are past number, but among them only 
one, the pole star, is fixed and constant, so among men is 
only one who holds his place unassailably, unmoved and 
unshaken, and I am he. Hence !" as Cinna, in turn, knelt : 
" Wilt thou lift Mount Olympus ?" he demanded ; and 
turning on Decimus Brutus, " It is idle. Does not even 
Marcus Brutus kneel in vain ?" 

" Speak, hands, for me then !" cried Casca, and stabbed 
him fiercely between the shoulders. As Caesar staggered, 
the rest ran upon him with their daggers, hewing and 
hacking. He turned at bay, but only to take the blow 
from the man he most trusted, and to look him in the eyes : 



JULIUS C^SAR 53 

" Thou too, Brutus ?" 

And with that he covered his face and let them strike as 
they would, until his strength failed, and he sank in his 
blood upon the pavement at the foot of Pompey's statue. 

" Liberty ! Freedom !" shouted the conspirators, bran 
dishing their daggers. But they shouted to empty benches. 
The scared senators had started from their seats, and were 
crowding in a panic for the open. The attack had been so 
sudden that for the moment none knew how many were in 
the plot, or could tell friend from foe. Cassius, turning and 
seeing one aged man who stood confounded and unable to 
flee, spoke a kind word, and hurried him after the rest. 
For the moment these men stood alone among the pillars 
of the deserted building alone with the body of their 
victim. Antony had fled to his house with the running, 
screaming crowd. Thence he despatched a servant, who 
made bold to pass through the awe-stricken few who 
lingered outside and present himself before the group, as at 
Brutus' command they smeared their hands and arms with 
the blood of their victim. To Brutus what they had done 
was still a deed worthy of old Rome, and as Romans he 
called on them to go forward, and, waving their red weapons, 
cry " Freedom and liberty !" through the market-place. 

The message brought by the servant was merely a plea 
that Antony might be allowed to come in safety and learn 
what manner of burial would be granted to Caesar's body. 
"Thy master," answered Brutus, "is a wise and valiant 
Roman. Tell him upon my honour that he may come and 
be satisfied, and shall go untouched." Brutus believed, as 
the messenger had indeed professed, that Antony could be 
won over to their side ; but Cassius had his misgivings. 

Antony soon arrived, and seeming not to hear Brutus' 
salutation, knelt first beside Caesar's body. "I know not," 
said he, looking up from his farewell, and letting fall the 
cloak he had lifted from the dead face, " I know- not what 
you intend, gentlemen, or what other blood must be shed. 



54 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

For myself there is no fitter hour to die than this, and no 
place will please me so much as here, by Caesar." 

Brutus assured him they had no such intent. " Though 
we must seem to you bloody and cruel, look not at our 
hands, but at our hearts rather. It is for pity we have done 
this pity for Rome. Against you we have no malice at all." 

" Join us," said Cassius, who better understood the man 
they were dealing with, " and your voice shall be as power 
ful as any man's in disposing of new dignities." 

Antony put this aside. The part he had to play was 
that of a true friend and admirer of Caesar stunned by the 
shock of the murder, yet willing to believe that other men 
were wiser than he in his fondness could be. He took the 
hand of each conspirator in turn, and then seemed to break 
down under the thought that these hands had just murdered 
his friend. " Pardon me, Julius ! So it was here they 
brought thee to bay ; here thy hunters stand red with blood, 
and thou liest among them like a royal stag struck down by 
many princes !" 

" Mark Antony " interrupted Cassius. But again 

Antony seemed to misunderstand him. 

" Pardon me, Caius Cassius ; even an enemy might say 
this. How much more a friend such as I was ?" 

" I blame you not for praising Caesar. But I am im 
patient to know what compact you mean to have with us, 
and if we may depend on you." 

" It was for that I shook hands with you; but the sight 
of Caesar distracted me. Yes, I am friends with you all if 
you will tell me why and in what Caesar was so dangerous." 

"Certainly," put in Brutus, "this would indeed be a 
savage spectacle if we could give no reasons for it ; but we 
can reasons that would satisfy you were you Caesar's 
own son." 

"That is all I ask; except this, that I may carry his 
body to the market-place and, as becomes a friend, make 
my speech among the funeral rites in due course." 



JULIUS C/ESAR 55 

" You shall," promised Brutus ; but Cassius drew him 
aside. " You know not what you are promising," he 
whispered. " Do not consent to this. Consider how he 
may move the people." But Brutus never doubted that, 
his own reasons being good, he had only to state them to 
convince everybody. " By your leave," said he, " I will 
myself mount the pulpit first and show what reasons we 
had for Caesar's death ; and explain that what Antony may 
say is said by our permission. It will do us more advantage 
than harm to show our wish that Caesar should be buried 
with all lawful ceremonies." 

Cassius was discontented, but gave way again ; and 
Antony readily accepted the conditions. The conspirators 
left him to prepare the body. Sinking on his knees beside 
it, he begged its dumb forgiveness that he must behave so 
meekly and gently with " these butchers." Then after 
prophetic promise of the curse this murder should bring 
upon Rome and Italy, he rose, despatched a messenger to 
Octavius, Caesar's adopted son, and, lifting the body, bore 
it out to the market-place. 

Brutus had already mounted the rostrum and was 
addressing the crowd. And the crowd listened approvingly, 
because they respected his character ; but his formal 
sentences did not kindle them. " Romans, countrymen, 
and lovers! my appeal is to your judgment. If there be 
any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar's, to him I 
say that Brutus' love for Caesar was no less than his. If, 
then, that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, 
this is my answer : not that I loved Caesar less, but that I 
loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living, and 
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free 
men ? . . . , Who is here so base that he would be a bond 
man ? Who so rude that he would not _be a Roman ? 
Who so vile that he will not love his country ? If any, 
speak ; for him have I offended. I pause fora reply." 

This was speaking " like a book," as we say. The im- 



56 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

pressed but slightly puzzled crowd, finding an answer 
expected, cried, after a moment, " None, Brutus, none !" 

" Then I have offended none," the speaker argued, and 
was enlarging on the necessity of Caesar's death when 
Antony arrived with his fellow-mourners bearing Caesar's 
body in sad procession. Here was a far more effective 
appeal than cold logic, had Brutus known men well 
enough ; but he was blind to it. " With this 1 depart," he 
went on, "that as I slew my best lover for the good of 
Rome, I have the same dagger for myself when it Shall 
please my country to need my death." 

" Live, Brutus ! live !" shouted the mob. And some 
were for escorting him home in triumph, others for giving 
him a statue with his ancestors. " Let him be Caesar !" 
shouted one ; while another, even more sapient, suggested 
" Caesar's better parts shall be crowned in Brutus." Com 
ments so ignorant might have warned him of the mistake 
he made in relying on their reasonableness. But the warn 
ing was wasted. Begging them to listen to what Antony 
might have to say, he stepped down from the rostrum and 
withdrew, chivalrously leaving the coast clear. 

There was some disturbance when Antony mounted the 
steps to speak. The mob was persuaded after a fashion 
that Caesar had been a tyrant, and that Rome was well rid 
of him. " He'd best speak no harm of Brutus here," 
threatened the sapient citizen who had suggested crowning 
Caesar's better parts. But having obtained silence, Antony 
knew better than to begin by attacking Brutus. 

" Friends, Romans, countrymen," he began, " attend ! I 
am here to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil which 
men do survives them ; the good is often laid away under 
earth with their bones. Let it be so with Caesar. He 
was ambitious, the noble Brutus has told you. If that 
were so, it was a grievous fault, and Caesar has paid for it 
grievously. Here, by leave of Brutus and the rest for 
Brutus is a man of honour, and so are they all, all men 



JULIUS C^SAR 57 

of honour I am come merely to speak the last words over 
my friend. 

" For he was my friend, and to me faithful and just ; 
though Brutus- -who is a man of honour says he was 
ambitious. He brought, in his time, many captives home 
to this city, and poured their ransoms into the public 
coffers. When the poor have cried, Caesar has wept for 
them. It is hard to detect ambition in all this ; but Brutus 
who is a man of honour says he was ambitious. You 
all saw how at the Lupercalia I thrice offered him the kingly 
crown, and how he refused it thrice. Was this ambition ? 
Brutus says so ; and to be sure, he is a man of honour. 
But I am not here to disprove what Brutus told you. I 
am here merely to tell you what I know. You all loved 
him once not without cause. Can you not mourn for 
him ? Oh, have men lost all their judgment, all their 
reason !" He paused as one surprised at his own out 
burst. ". Bear with me, friends ; my heart is in the 
coffin there with Caesar. Grant me a while to pause and 
recover it !" 

His listeners were moved already. " There is reason in 
what he says." " Caesar has had a great wrong, if you con 
sider." " We may have a worse master than Caesar." " He 
refused the crown so he did so 'tis plain he couldn't have 
been ambitious." " Poor soul ! look at his eyes, red as 
fire!" "There's not a nobler man in all Rome than 
Antony !" Thus they murmured together, while Antony 
conquered his emotion and prepared to speak again. 

" But yesterday," he went on, " the word of Caesar might 
have weighed against the whole world. Now he lies there 
with none -not the poorest to do him reverence. Sirs, 
if I were disposed to stir you to mutiny and rage I should 
be wronging Brutus and Cassius who, as you know, are 
men of honour. I will not do this. I choose rather to 
wrong the dead, to wrong myself, to wrong you, than to 
wrong such men of honour ! But here I have Caesar's will. 



58 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

If I were to read it to you but, pardon me, I do not mean 
to I say if I were to read it you would run to kiss Caesar's 
wounds, to dip your handkerchiefs in his blood 

"The will! read the will!" shouted the people; but 
Antony protested that he must not; it was not meet for 
them to hear how much Caesar loved them ; it would in 
flame them, make them mad. There was no saying what 
might come of it. 

" Read the will ! Read it !" they clamoured. 

But again he protested ; he had gone too far in speaking 
of it ; he feared, indeed he did, that he was wronging the 
men of honour whose daggers had stabbed Caesar. 

" The will ! the will ! ' Men of honour !' Traitors ! 
Read the will !" 

" You force me to read it ? Then come, make a ring 
about Caesar's corpse while I show you him who made the 
will." He stepped down from the rostrum, and as they 
gathered and pressed about him, he lifted the mantle from 
the body. " You all know this mantle. I remember the 
first time Caesar put it on one summer's evening, in his 
tent. It was the day he overcame the Nervii." He showed 
them the holes made by the daggers ; where Cassius had 
stabbed, and Casca, and Brutus "the well-beloved Brutus," 
" Caesar's angel " " ah, that was the unkindest blow ! That 
was the heart-breaking stroke ! Then it was that great 
Caesar covered his face and fell !" His hearers were weep 
ing by this time, and he could be bold. " Fell ? Ay, and 
what a fall ! My countrymen, then it was that I and you 
and all of us fell, while treason and bloodshed flourished 
over us. You weep at sight of his garments merely ! Look 
you here then on him marred, as you behold, by traitors !" 

They were mad now. They shouted for revenge. " Fire !" 
" Kill !" " Slay !" " Death to the traitors !" But Antony, 
who had worked them to frenzy with such masterly art, 
must perfect that frenzy before letting them slip. 

" Good friends, sweet friends, I must not stir you up so. 



JULIUS C^SAR 59 

The men who have done this deed are men of honour. 
What private griefs they had against Caesar to make them 
do it, I know not, alas ! But as men of honour they will 
give you their reasons. You see, I am no orator like 
Brutus !" indeed he was not ! " but, as you all know me, 
a plain blunt man, who love my friend, and have permission 
to speak. For I have no gifts of eloquence to set men's 
blood stirring. I only speak right on, telling you what you 
know already, showing you Caesar's wounds, and bidding 
them speak for me. Were I Brutus now, I could put a 
tongue into every wound of Caesar that should move the 
very stones of Rome to rise in revolt." 

" And so will we !" " Burn the house of Brutus !" "Down 
with the conspirators !" Antony had to shout for a hearing. 
" Why, friends, you are going to do you know not what ! 
Nay, you scarce know yet how much cause you have to 
love Caesar. You have forgotten the will I told you of." 

" True the will ! Read the will !" 

" Here is the will, then, sealed by Caesar. It gives to 
every Roman citizen a legacy of seventy-five drachmas," 
again the hubbub was deafening " and to the citizens in 
general he bequeaths his gardens and orchards beyond 
Tiber, to them and their heirs for their recreation for 
ever. . . ." 

They listened for no more. They rushed on the market 
place, tearing up benches, stalls, tables, and heaping the 
wreckage for a funeral pile. They laid the body of Caesar 
on it and set fire to the mass ; and as it grew hot they 
plucked out the blazing brands and rushed off towards the 
conspirators' houses, yelling for revenge. Antony could 
watch now. He had done his work, and done it thoroughly. 

But the conspirators had been warned, and by this time 
were riding through the gates in hot haste. They drew 
rein at Antium. The mob, after all, was but a mob ; and, 
though Antony doubtless coveted Caesar's place, before he 
could aspire to it he must win the army. The senatorial 



60 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

party on the whole supported the conspirators; for when 
Brutus and the rest talked of Roman liberty, what they 
meant was the privileges of the old Roman families, which 
still composed the Senate, not the rights of the populace. 
It was the senate, not the populace, which had resented 
Caesar's absolute power, and for their deliverance the blow 
had been struck. Officially the senators had, by law and in 
name at any rate, the army on their side ; for by law the 
chief magistrates took command of the forces. So the con 
spirators had much in their favour. 

Between these two parties Antony and the mob on one 
side, and the majority of the Senate on the other stood the 
young Octavius, Caesar's grand-nephew and heir, with an 
army at his back ; a young man, not yet twenty, but wiser 
than other young men, with a handsome, expressionless, 
inscrutable face, a heart without feeling, and a temper 
inhumanely cold and obstinate an enigma to all, and as 
yet perhaps even to himself. Brutus and the rest had 
made the grand mistake of conspirators ; they had supposed 
that by killing a great man they could destroy the forces 
which made him. Driven from Caesar's dead body, these 
forces gathered again and centred upon Caesar's young 
heir, and henceforth this statue of a youth is propelled by 
them and moves as a man of fate. 

At first Octavius inclined towards the senatorial party. 
Brutus and Cassius went off to their provinces in the East. 
In Italy Antony might have been crushed had the Senate 
followed a fixed plan or dared to trust Octavius ; but dis 
trust and divisions palsied their policy and the movements 
of their troops. Octavius saw that he could make nothing 
of them. On the other hand, by combining with Antony he 
could crush them in Italy, and then turn upon Brutus and 
Cassius in the East. As for Antony well, time would show. 

The two chiefs met, and took into their counsels one 
Marcus ^milius Lepidus a weak man, but a name of 
weight and influence with the popular party. The three 



JULIUS C^SAR 61 

appointed themselves to a Triumvirate in other words, a 
three-man dictatorship and divided up the Roman Empire 
between them as though it had been their own inheritance. 
To effect this, however, certain prominent men had to be 
got rid of, and each Triumvir was naturally anxious to 
shield his own friends. At length, however, by bartering 
their separate friendships against their hatreds, they " pro 
scribed" or marked down and put to death all who were 
likely to interfere with their plans. Octavius handed over 
Cicero to Antony, who in turn sacrificed Lucius Caesar, his 
uncle on his mother's side ; while Lepidus, to his peculiar 
shame, suffered his own brother Paulus to be pricked down 
on the list. Having thus by wholesale murder cleared the 
coast in Italy, they could turn securely upon Brutus and 
Cassius in the East. 

And in the East Brutus was beginning to learn that 
the philosophy found in books will not carry a man through 
the business of statecraft, especially when one is conducting 
a revolution. He wanted money, and pressed Cassius for 
money. He would have no unjust tolls levied in his own 
province, and disgraced his subordinate, Lucius Pella, on 
finding him guilty of pilfering the inhabitants of Sardis. 
Yet he must have known, had he considered, that if Cassius 
had money to spare it was only by behaving less scrupu 
lously. This punishment of Pella annoyed Cassius, who 
took it for a reflection upon himself, having dealt leniently 
a few days before with two of his own officers similarly 
convicted. At Brutus' request he came with his army to 
Sardis to clear up misunderstandings. The two friends met 
coldly, for Cassius was genuinely incensed and made no 
secret of his feelings. 

Brutus, however, led him to his own tent, and setting 
a watch on the door bade him speak out his complaints. 

"You have wronged me," said Cassius, "in disgracing 
Lucius Pella and making light of the letters I sent appealing 
for him." 



62 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

"You wronged yourself, rather, to write in such a 

case." 

''This is no time for laying stress on every petty 

offence." 

Now Brutus was suffering and hiding a private sorrow of 
which his friend knew nothing. Under such trials the 
tempers of good men grow infirm. 

" Let me tell you," he broke out violently, " you yourself, 
Cassius, are accused of an itching palm of trafficking your 
offices for gold to unworthy men !" 

" I ! an itching palm !" Cassius sprang up indignant, 
blankly astonished. " You know you are Brutus who utter 
the words, or by the gods that speech were your last !" 

" The name of Cassius honours this corrupt dealing, and 
therefore it goes without chastisement." 
" Chastisement !" 

But Brutus was not to be checked. " Remember March 
remember the Ides of March ! Why did Caesar bleed, 
but for justice ? Was there a man of us stabbed him 
except for justice ?" Cassius winced. " What ! Shall one 
of us who smote down the foremost man in the world 
because he supported robbers shall we, I say, now be 
contaminating our fingers with base bribes ? I'd rather be 
a dog than such a Roman !" 

We may pity Cassius now. The ablest, shrewdest, most 
practical of all the conspirators, he had one soft place in his 
heart his admiring love for his friend. Time after time 
he had given way to Brutus in sparing Antony, in allowing 
Antony to harangue the crowd, he had given way against 
his judgment ; and always the event proved that he had 
been right and Brutus wrong. His respect for Brutus was 
a kind of superstition. And here he was being preached at 
and pelted with opprobrious words by the friend who had 
been pressing him for money, being too moral himself to 
raise money in the only way it could be raised ! It was 
intolerable, and he felt it so. 



JULIUS C^SAR 63 

" Brutus, bait me not, for I'll not endure it. You forget 
yourself ! I am a soldier, older in practice than you, and 
abler to make conditions." 

Brutus caught him up. " What, you abler ?" " Do not 
tempt me further." Cassius pleaded. " You abler ?" Brutus 
replied with sneer upon sneer : " You a better soldier ?" 
" I said an elder soldier, not a better one. Did I say 
better ?" " If you did, I care not. . . . You threaten me ? 
I am armed so strong in honesty, your threats go by me like 
so much wind," and Brutus began to twit him with refusing 
the money, "/can raise no money by vile means, /had 
rather coin my blood than wring the vile stuff from these 
peasants. You know this, and yet when I asked you for 
money you refused me ! Was this done like Cassius ?" 
Cassius answered simply that he had not refused the money 
(which, in fact, was true). " You did !" "I did not. It 
was a fool who brought you my answer. A friend should 
bear the infirmities of a friend, but you, Brutus, make mine 
greater than they are. Come, Antony ! Come, Octavius ! 
revenge yourself on Cassius alone ! He is weary of this 
world ; hated by the man he loves ; checked like any slave ; 
all his faults set down, noted, learned by rote, cast in his 
teeth. Here is my dagger and here my breast, naked ! 
I denied your gold ? Take my heart, then. Strike, as you 
struck Caesar." 

Brutus was softened, though as yet far from convinced 
he was in the wrong. " Sheathe your dagger. I must bear 
with you; I cannot carry my anger long." "And must 
I live to be mocked and laughed at by Brutus ?" "I was 
ill-tempered," Brutus admitted. " You confess so much ? 
Give me your hand." " And my heart too." They had 
come thus near to being reconciled when a noise at the 
tent-door interrupted them, and in broke a crazy follower of 
Brutus, one Marcus Phaonius, who set up to be a philosopher, 
but from his eccentric behaviour was more often regarded 
as a fool. This fellow had heard that the two generals were 



64 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

quarrelling ; and, pushing past the guards, he struck an 
attitude and began to recite certain verses of Homer, full of 
wise counsel, but with such extravagant gestures that 
Cassius burst out laughing while Brutus angrily hustled the 
fellow from the room. 

Nothing cleanses the temper like a hearty laugh. Brutus, 
still frowning, called for a bowl of wine. "I did not think," 
said his friend, " you could have been so angry." " O 
Cassius," came the confession, " I am sick of many 
griefs." 

" You a Stoic should make use of your philosophy." 

"I do. No man bears sorrow better. Portia is dead." 

" Portia !" 

" She is dead." 

So this was the explanation . . . Cassius sat stunned. 
" How did I escape killing," he murmured, " when I crossed 
you so ?" 

Heart-broken with grief for her husband's absence and 
the forces gathering under Octavius and Antony to over 
whelm him, Portia had lost her reason and taken her own 
life. Brutus told of it in a dull, level voice. It was Cassius 
who broke out with exclamations ; not he to whom she had 
been dear above living things. 

" Speak no more of her," he said, as the boy Lucius 
entered with the wine. The two friends drank to their love 
before admitting the captains to consider with them the plan 
of campaign. 

At first, while Brutus discussed the latest news received 
of their enemies, Cassius sat dazed and inattentive, mutter 
ing of Portia's loss. He roused himself for a moment on 
hearing that Cicero too had perished " proscribed " by the 
Triumvirs ; but it was a direct question from Brutus which 
fully awoke him. "Octavius and Antony were marching 
upon Philippi, on the border between Thrace and Macedonia. 
What did Cassius think of crossing over to Europe and 
encountering them there ?" 



JULIUS C/ESAR 65 

Cassius was opposed to this. It was better to let the 
enemy weary himself and exhaust his means on long marches 
than to go and save his labour by meeting him. 

But Brutus made little of these reasons. The people in 
Asia Minor were disaffected already and grudged their 
contributions. Octavius and Antony would enlist recruits 
as they came, and therefore were better met and opposed as 
soon as possible. 

Cassius would have argued. Once more he was right, 
and Brutus wrong ; but either the old admiration blinded 
him, or he was passing weary of altercations. He gave 
way; the march was fixed for the morrow, and with the 
friendliest good-nights they parted. 

It was late when the council broke up, and Brutus was 
left alone. A sense of calamity lay heavy on him. He 
called for two soldiers, Varro and Claudius, to sleep within 
his tent-door. They were willing to stand and watch ; but 
he would not have it so, being always a kind master. His 
slave Lucius brought him his gown and book ; the poor boy 
was heavy with want of sleep. With some self-reproach, 
Brutus begged him to take his lute and play. Lucius 
would do far more than this for the master he loved ; and 
began to sing, touching the strings drowsily, while the two 
soldiers slept. The instrument almost slipped from his 
hand. Brutus took it gently from him, and the boy's head 
fell back on the pillow. And now the master alone kept 
watch, holding his book close to a solitary taper. 

Minutes past ; by and by was the taper burning ill, or 
was there a shadow deepening beyond it ? He looked up. 
It was a shadow, but it had shape likeness ; it was dead 
Caesar standing there ! Brutus' blood ran cold as he stared 
at the apparition. It seemed to him that he found voice to 
challenge it. " Speak what art thou ?" 

" Thy evil spirit, Brutus." 

" Why comest thou ?" 

" To warn thee thou shalt see me again at Philipph" 

5 



66 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Between dread and scorn of himself and incredulity 
Brutus echoed the words stupidly, almost with a laugh. 

" At Philippi," the vision repeated. 

" Why, I will see thee then, at Philippi " Brutus 
brought his fist down on the table, calling " Lucius ! Varro ! 
Claudius ! Awake there !" and looked again. The vision 
had vanished. 

" The strings are out of tune, my lord," muttered the boy 
Lucius drowsily. 

Brutus awoke him ; awoke the two soldiers. " Why 
had they cried out in their sleep ? what had they seen ?" 
They had seen nothing. Had they cried out? It was 
strange ; but indeed they had seen nothing. 

Had Brutus, too, seen nothing ? Perhaps. But the 
spirit of Caesar all that Caesar had stood for, all that he 
had meant upon earth awaited them on the plains of 
Philippi towards which Brutus and Cassius set forth next 
day. They said little to one another as they and their 
legions marched deeper into what they felt to be the 
shadow of doom. When they had crossed the straits and 
were face to face with their enemies' tents, that shadow 
hung visible over them. During the march out from Sardis 
two eagles had perched on their banners and fed from the 
soldiers' hands. But at Philippi these birds of good omen 
had taken their departure, and now in their place the air 
was darkened with a flock of ravens, crows, and kites 
gathered from every quarter to forestall the grim feast 
preparing. 

Nor did the two generals wear the mood of happy 
assurance. On the morning of the fight they took leave of 
each other bravely, as men should, but solemnly, as men 
prepared for the worst. If victory should be theirs, with 
the gods' help, then they might meet again with smiles and 
live all the rest of their days quietly one with another. If 
not then this day would end the work begun on the Ides 
of March. No conqueror should ever have the joy of 



JULIUS C^SAR 67 

leading Brutus and Cassius in triumph. And upon this 
they took their farewells. 

In the ordering of the battle Brutus found himself 
opposed by Octavius, Cassius by Antony. The two 
Triumvirs were never in hearty agreement from the first. 
Destiny alone bound them together for the time. Their 
natures were opposed in all respects. The elder man, 
eager, talented, and pleasure-loving, girded against the lad 
who was young enough to be his son but who went his own 
way so calmly and with a sort of bloodless self-possession. 
Antony had wished to oppose Brutus. " Why do you cross 
me ?" he complained on finding that Octavius had arranged 
otherwise. " I do not cross you," replied Octavius, as if it 
did not admit of argument ; " but I will have it so." 
Antony said no more. 

Brutus finding Octavius' forces at a disadvantage, gave 
the word to charge ; and his haste would have been justified 
for his men at the first assault drove their enemies back 
with great slaughter had it not taken Cassius unawares. 
As it was, Cassius' men gave ground before Antony's 
attack. He rallied them only to find himself hemmed 
round. Brutus should have relieved him at this point, and 
the day would have been won ; but his men were plundering 
and killing among Octavius' tents, and he could not recall 
them in time. Cassius' cavalry were in full flight for the 
coast ; he did what he could to hold his infantry firm, and 
snatching an ensign from one of the standard-bearers, 
planted it for a rallying mark, and fought on in hope of the 
assistance which did not come. 

At length, however, he was forced to pluck up his 
standard and withdraw, with a few about him, to a little 
hill which gave a prospect over the plain. His sight was 
weak, but he could see his own tents blazing while Antony's 
soldiery pillaged through them. He made out also a troop 
of horsemen galloping towards him, and doubtful whether 
they were friends or foes, sent one of his companions, 

52 



68 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Titinius, to make sure. Meanwhile his servant Pindarus 
had climbed to the summit of the hill for a better view. 

The advancing horsemen had in fact been sent by Brutus, 
though too late. Perceiving Titinius, and knowing him 
for one of Cassius' friends, they raised a great shout of 
welcome, with boastings of their victory. But Pindarus on 
the hill, hearing the noise and seeing Titinius surrounded, 
made sure that he was taken prisoner, and called down this 
news to Cassius. " Come down," commanded his master. 
The two were alone. " In Parthia I made thee prisoner, 
and in return for thy life took an oath from thee that 
whatsoever I might bid thou wouldst do. Take thy liberty 
now, and this sword the sword that stabbed Caesar. 
Smite, I command thee ; now, as I cover my face." 
Pindarus drove the sword home, and then, as his master fell 
dead, cast it from him and ran ; nor was he ever seen again. 

So it happened that Titinius returning crowned with a 
wreath of victory and impatient to tell his good news, 
stumbled on his master stretched dead upon the hillside. 
The garland was useless now. Titinius bound it reverently 
on the senseless brow, and forthwith, like a stern Roman, 
slew himself upon the body ; there to be found a little later 
by Brutus and his attendants. With bent head Brutus 
uttered the last farewell over his friend" the last of all the 
Romans," he called him. " Friends, I owe this dead man 
more tears than ever you shall see me pay. I shall find 
time, Cassius; I shall find time." 

In truth, as he said, the spirit of Caesar still walked the 
earth and turned the conspirators' swords against them 
selves. Brutus' own time was not long. The first battle 
having proved indecisive, he offered fight again to be 
driven from the field with a few remaining followers. One 
by one he drew them aside and entreated them to perform 
for him the office which Pindarus had performed for 
Cassius. Each shook his head ; they loved him too well. 
It was a servant who at length, turning his head aside, held 



JULIUS CAESAR 69 

the sword on which Brutus flung himself more gladly, he 
said, than he had lifted it against Caesar. 

Even his enemies respected the body, and gave it burial 
with full honours. " This," said Antony, " was the noblest 
Roman of them all. All the conspirators save him did what 
they did in envy of Caesar's greatness. He alone joined 
them in honest motive and thought for the common good. 
His life was gentle, and himself so composed, that Nature 
might stand up and say to all the world, ' This was a man !' " 



KING JOHN 

HENRY II., King of England, was lord not of England only, 
but of a good third of what we call France. If you take a 
map of France and draw a line from Boulogne due south to 
the Pyrenees, you may say roughly that the country east of 
it was swayed by the King of France, and the country west 
of it by the King of England. 

From his mother Matilda, daughter of our Henry I., he 
inherited the dukedom of Normandy as well as the crown 
of England ; from his father Anjou, Maine, and Touraine ; 
and his marriage with Elinor, Duchess of Aquitaine, brought 
him the seven provinces of the south Poitou, Saintonge, 
the Angoumois, La Marche, the Limousin, Perigord, and 
Gascony. 

Through his father Geoffrey, the handsome Plantagenet, 
Count of Anjou Henry came of one of the most notable 
and terrible races in history ; a race descended from a wild 
Breton woodman who had helped the French king against 
the Danes and won for himself a grant of broad lands beside 
the Loire ; a race half-savage, utterly unscrupulous, and 
abominably shrewd ; great fighters to begin with, afterwards 
great generals, schemers, and controllers of men ; outwardly 
good-natured and charming, but at heart lustful, selfish 
monstrous in greed, without natural affection and indifferent 
to honour ; scoffers at holiness, yet slavishly superstitious ; 
and withal masterful men of affairs, sticking at no crime or 
treason which might help their ends. Such was the character 
fatally handed down from father to son. Henry inherited 
his share of it, and passed it on to his sons, who broke his 

70 



KING JOHN 71 

heart by their hatreds and conspiracies against him ; but 
the son whose treachery darkened his last hour was his 
favourite, John. 

Of these sons we are only concerned with three Richard 
Cceur de Lion ; Geoffrey Duke of Brittany ; and John. On 
his father's death, Richard who had hastened it by in 
triguing with the King of France succeeded to the throne. 
Geoffrey was already dead, but had left a young son, Arthur, 
of whom we are to hear. Richard reigned for ten years, of 
which he spent just six months in England. He was a 
brave soldier but a detestably bad king. He looked on 
war as a sport, and to feed that sport in foreign countries 
he drained England by the cruellest taxes, which he repaid 
with misgovernment, or rather with no government at all. 
To him England, whose crown he wore, was a foreign land. 
Now to John who remained at home while Richard went 
crusading England was not a foreign land, not a country 
of second importance. John was the shrewdest as well as 
the wickedest of his shrewd and wicked race, and alone of 
that race he valued England aright. We shall have to hate 
him ; but let this be set to his credit against his black sins. 
He was the first of our kings to teach England by bitter 
suffering, indeed, but still he taught her to stand up for 
herself and defy the world. 

When Richard died of an arrow-wound received while 
he was attacking the Castle of Chalus in the Limousin for 
some treasure he supposed it to contain, John, who had long 
been plotting against him at home, seized his opportunity 
and the crown of England. 

Pie had no right to it. The true heir was young Arthur, 
son of his elder brother Geoffrey. But John was here on 
the spot, and he had his mother Elinor's support for with 
her, as with the father he injured, he had always been the 
favourite son. England acknowledged him ; Normandy 
acknowledged him ; and in the south of France his mother 
held Aquitaine secure for him. 



72 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

On the other hand Anjou, Maine, and Touraine did 
homage to young Arthur; and Philip, King of France, 
stood forward to champion his cause not, as we shall see, 
from any burning sense of justice, but calculating perhaps 
that on his borders so young and gentle a lad would be 
a more comfortable neighbour than the ruthless and sinister 
John. At any rate, in answer to the entreaties of Constance, 
Arthur's mother, he made a fine show of indignation and sent 
his ambassador Chatillon to, demand the surrender of John's 
claims. 

" What follows," asked John grimly, " if we refuse ?" 

" Fierce and bloody war," replied Chatillon, " proudly to 
control you and enforce the rights you withhold by force." 

" Here we have war for war, blood for blood, control- 
ment for control ment. Take that answer to France ; and 
take it swiftly. For be you swift as lightning, the thunder 
of my cannon shall be quick on your heels." 

And John was as good as his word. Chatillon, delayed 
by contrary winds, had scarcely time to reach France and 
report this defiance to his master before John had collected 
troops and was after him. 

The ambassador found King Philip, with Constance, 
Arthur, and his forces, collected before the walls of Angiers, 
the capital of Anjou and birthplace of the Plantagenets. 
The unhappy citizens of that town saw themselves, as we 
say, between the devil and the deep sea. To acknowledge 
Arthur, to acknowledge John, seemed equally hazardous ; 
and an error in deciding would assuredly mean their ruin. 
With admirable prudence, therefore, they had closed their 
gates against both parties, and postponed the ticklish 
business of declaring their preference until events should 
determine which side was likely to win. 

This hesitancy of theirs naturally annoyed Philip, who 
had by his side, to support Arthur's cause, the Viscount of 
Limoges though the real importance of this nobleman 
counted as nothing to his importance in his own conceit. 



KING JOHN 7H 

As friend of the family to a Plantagenet he was enacting a 
new part. For it was by an arrow-shot from his Castle of 
Chalus that Richard Cceur de Lion had perished. 

This was hardly an affair to brag about ; but in honour 
of it Limoges ever after wore a lion's skin across his 
shoulders, and was swaggering now in this cloak while pro 
fessing his love for Richard's nephew. But if the part he 
enacted was new, he seemed to feel it a magnanimous one, 
and promised Arthur his help and received the thanks of 
Constance with the air of a man who has reason to be 
pleased with himself and believe Heaven pleased with him. 

While Philip was making up his mind to batter the 
obstinate town into submission, Chatillon arrived with his 
report and the news that John had crossed the Channel 
and was following upon Angiers by forced marches, bring 
ing with him his mother Elinor, a very goddess of discord 
stirring him up to blood and strife ; his niece Blanch, 
daughter of his sister Elinor and King Alphonso of Castile ; 
and a whole crowd of dauntless volunteers who had sold 
their fortunes in England to equip themselves and win 
new and greater fortunes in France. 

Chatillon spoke truth. Before Philip could bend his 
artillery against the walls, John arrived with his host and 
brought the French to parley. There was little to argue. 
Philip took his stand upon Arthur's plain right to inherit. 
." Geoffrey was thy elder brother, and this is his son. 
England was Geoffrey's right, and this is Geoffrey's." 
" Whence hast thou commission to lay down a law and 
condemn me by it ?" was all that John could demand in 
reply. " From that supernal Judge," answered Philip, 
" who stirs good thoughts in the breast of any man holding 
strong authority, and bids him see to it when the right is 
defaced or stained. That Judge has made me this boy's 
guardian ; under His warrant I impeach the wrong you are 
doing, and by His help I mean to chastise it." The parley 
might have ended here had not the dispute been fiercely 



74 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

taken up by the tongues of the women, Elinor on the one 
side, Constance on the other. Limoges in his character of 
family friend was ill-advised enough to interpose between 
them, crying " Peace !" " Hear the crier !" exclaimed a 
mocking voice at his elbow. The insulted noble turned 
round, demanding who dared thus to interrupt, and found 
himself face to face with a bluff and burly Englishman, a 
soldier commanding in John's army, Robert Faulconbridge 
by name. 

Now this Faulconbridge was a son of Richard Cceur de 
Lion's, born out of wedlock. Like his father, he loved 
fighting for its own sake, and like a true Englishman he 
loved his country. So when John offered him service 
abroad, these two passions of his jumped together, and he 
readily gave up all claim to his estates at home and took 
the knighthood held out to him as his reward. The honour, 
as he confessed, he might learn to rise to. It was his 
humour to make himself out a rough and careless free-lance. 
But this blunt humour covered a real earnestness, and to 
see his father's memory insulted by this Limoges with the 
lion's skin was more than he could endure. 

" Who is this fellow ?" demanded Limoges. 

" One that will soon let you know, sir, if I can catch you 
and that hide of yours alone. I'll tan that skin-coat for 
you, I promise you. So look to it!" and Faulconbridge 
rated him until the ladies of John's train began to join in 
the sport. "See," went on Faulconbridge, "the ass in 
lion's clothing! Ass, I'll take that burden off you, never 
fear, or lay on another that your shoulders shall feel !" 

Limoges turned away in disgust; and Philip calling 
silence on this noisy diversion, demanded if John would 
resign his usurped titles and lay down his arms. " My life 
as soon!" John retorted, and called on Arthur to submit, 
promising him more by way of recompense than ever the 
coward hand of France could win for him. Elinor, too, 
urged Arthur to submit. " Do, child," mimicked Constance, 



KING JOHN 75 

using such prattle as is used to children. " Go to it 
grandam ; give grandam kingdom, and grandam will give 
it a plum, a cherry, and a fig; there's a good grandam." 
The women's tongues broke loose again. Philip with 
difficulty cried them down at length, and bade a trumpet be 
blown to summon the citizens of Angiers to the parley. 

The citizens appeared on the walls, and John and Philip 
in turn urged them by threats and persuasion to make 
their decision. The citizens made answer that they would 
acknowledge neither John nor Arthur until one had proved 
himself the stronger ; for him they reserved their sub 
mission. In this resolution they were obstinate, and the 
two parties drew off to array their armies for the test of 
combat. 

But the engagement which followed was indecisive. 
Each side claimed some trifling success, and on the strength 
of their claims the heralds of France and England were 
soon under the walls once more urging the citizens to 
decide. The citizens, who had watched the fight with 
impartial minds and from a capital position, made answer 
to the heralds and to the impatient kings who followed, that 
in their opinion no advantage had been gained by either 
party, and that they abode by their determination to keep 
their gates barred. 

On hearing this answer it occurred to the pugnacious 
Faulconbridge to recollect that once upon a time the 
factions in Jerusalem under John of Giscala and Simon 
bar-Gioras had ceased their assaults upon each other to 
combine in resisting the Romans. He suggested that this 
example from history was worth copying, and that by first 
combining their forces to batter down Angiers, France and 
England would clear the ground for settling their own 
quarrel. To this wild counsel, as its author modestly called 
it, Philip and John were the more readily disposed to listen 
because in fact there appeared no other way out of a some 
what ludicrous fix. 



76 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Hitherto the citizens of Angiers had found the easiest 
policy that of sitting still and waiting the wisest. But 
now they saw clearly it was high time for them in their 
turn to make a suggestion ; for if the two kings listened to 
Faulconbridge, as they seemed not averse from doing, 
Angiers was doomed. 

So their spokesman craved leave for a word, and it was 
granted. This astute burgess saw well enough that the 
real decision for Angiers lay, not between Arthur and John, 
its rightful and its wrongful sovereign, but between the army 
of Philip and the army of John. From the beginning he 
had pledged the town to accept as in the right the claimant 
which should prove the stronger ; and from this there was 
but a short step to the proposal he now made, which with 
out any regard for right was simply aimed to get both 
armies on the same side. 

" See," said he, " on one side here is the Lady Blanch, 
the niece of England ; on the other, Lewis, the Dauphin of 
France. Where could be sought and found a couple more 
clearly suited each for the other ? Unite them, and you 
unite two divided excellences, which only need union to be 
perfection ; you join two silver currents such as together 
glorify the banks that bound them in." It was a shameless 
proposal, but the speaker was addressing shameless ears, 
and did not allow this to trouble him. Indeed his eloquence 
began to carry him away. " Marry them," said he, " and 
their union shall do more than battery upon our gates. 
But without this match the sea enraged is not half so deaf, 
nor are lions more confident, nor mountains and rocks more 
immovable ; no, nor is Death himself in mortal fury one- 
half so peremptory, as we are to keep this city !" 

" Dear, dear !" commented Faulconbridge, who had a 
natural prejudice against any scheme likely to dissuade 
from fighting, and perhaps a leaning of his own towards the 
love of the Lady Blanch, " here's a large mouth indeed ! It 
spits forth death and mountains, rocks and seas, and talks 



KING JOHN 77 

as familiarly of roaring lions as maids of thirteen talk of 
puppy-dogs I Zounds ! in all my born days I was never so 
bethumped with words I" 

But the speaker knew what ears he was addressing. 
First Elinor advised her son to grasp the offer. She saw 
that Philip was wavering ; perceived him already whispering 
with his advisers; noted that he glanced about him, and 
that Arthur and Constance were not present to harden him 
in the right. " Will their Majesties answer me ?" asked the 
voice upon the wall. " Let England speak first," said 
wavering Philip. And John on this invitation spoke ; 
offering Anjou, Touraine, Maine, Poictiers for the bride's 
dowry. The bribe was too much for Philip ; the young 
couple professed themselves willing ; Angiers opened her 
gates. Philip had one spasm of contrition for the widow 
and the widow's son he was betraying ; but John quickly 
silenced his regrets. " Arthur shall be Duke of Brittany 
and Earl of Richmond, as well as lord of this fair town. If 
we cannot fulfil all the Lady Constance's wishes, we will at 
least give enough to silence her exclamations." The whole 
party passed through the gates to solemnise the contract 
without loss of time, leaving that rough soldier Faulcon- 
bridge to muse alone on the power of Self-Interest, that 
goddess who persuades men to break their vows, and kings 
to do off the armour which conscience has buckled on. But 
Faulconbridge had perhaps more than one reason for 
being out of temper. 

To the Earl of Salisbury fell the thankless errand of 
carrying the news to Constance as she sat with her son in 
the French king's pavilion. Her outcries were terrible and 
pitiful too. " Gone to be married ! Gone to swear a truce 
to join false blood with false blood !" She would not 
believe it. She turned fiercely on the Earl, and then read 
ing the truth in his looks, fell to caressing and fondly 
lamenting over her boy. "Begone!" she commanded 
Salisbury, " leave me alone with my woes." 



78 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

" Pardon me, madam," he answered, " I may not return 
without you." 

"Thou mayst thou shalt. I will not go. Grief so 
great as mine is proud," and she seated herself upon the 
ground. " Here," said she, " I and sorrows sit. Here is 
my throne; go bid kings come and bow before it !" 

Terrible were the curses she uttered when the kings with 
the bridal train returned from the ceremony and found her 
seated thus ; curses and prayers for discord between them, 
swiftly to be fulfilled. The officious Limoges again tried to 
pacify her, and again most ill-advisedly, for she turned on 
him and withered him with contemptuous fury. He was 
a coward, ever strong upon the stronger side ; a champion 
who never fought but when fighting was safe ; a ramping, 
bragging, fool ; a loud-mouthed promiser, who fell away 
from his promises. " Thou wear a lion's hide ! Do it off 
for shame, and hang a calf-skin on those recreant limbs !" 

Limoges was stung. " If a man," he sputtered, "dared 
to say those words to me !" 

" And hang a calf-skin on those recreant limbs," spoke a 
cool voice at his elbow, and there stood Faulconbridge 
ready for him. 

It was maddening. "Villain! for thy life thou darest 
not say so !" 

" And hang a calf-skin on those recreant limbs,' 
repeated Faulconbridge imperturbably. 

John had scarcely time to call peace between them before 
a newcomer was announced Pandulph, the legate of Pope 
Innocent the Third. The Pope had grave cause of anger 
against John. After the death of Hubert Walter, Arch 
bishop of Canterbury, John had forced the monks of Christ- 
church to accept a creature of his own, John de Gray, 
Bishop of Norwich, as Primate. Innocent set aside the 
election, and consecrated Stephen Langton, a cardinal and 
thorough churchman, as archbishop. John refused to 
allow Stephen to set foot in England, drove out the monks 



KING JOHN 79 

of Christchurch, quartered a troop of soldiers in their 
cloisters, and confiscated their lands. Innocent threatened 
excommunication, and now sent Pandulph to demand in 
the Pope's name why John had not submitted. 

This flung John into a fury. " What earthly name can 
compel the free breath of a sacred king to submit to 
questioning ? Go, ask your master that ; and further add, 
from the mouth of England, that no Italian priest shall take 
tithe or toll in our dominions. But as, under God, we are 
supreme head, so under Him we will uphold that supremacy 
without the assistance of any Pope !"* 

" Brother of England, you blaspheme," put in Philip, 
shocked by this defiance. 

" Blaspheme, do I ? Though you and all the kings in 
Christendom are misled by this meddling priest this man 
who sells divine pardon for money ; though you and all the 
rest feed this juggling witchcraft with your moneys ; yet I 
alone alone, I say will stand up against it and count the 
Pope's friends my foes." 

This was enough. In the Pope's name Pandulph pro 
nounced the terrible words of interdict placing John 
without the pale of Christianity, blessing all who revolted 
from allegiance to him, and promising the name and worship 
of a saint to any one who should by secret murder rob him 
of his hateful life. And the curses of Constance echoed the 
appalling sentences. 

Then turning to Philip, Pandulph bade him, on peril of 
the Pope's curse, withdraw his friendship and join with the 
rest of Christendom against the heretic. 

This demand, coming so soon upon his newly-knit com 
pact, placed Philip in a truly pitiable plight. And standing 
there amid the clamours of the women between the imperious 

* Remember that Shakespeare, who puts this defiance into John's 
mouth, was writing for a Protestant England. Call it right or wrong, 
" England for England " was John's motto, and black as Shakespeare 
must paint him it is also the motto of this play. 



80 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

calm of Pandulph and dark face of John, who stood silent, 
waiting for his answer with the sneer ready on his lips, the 
King of France cut a sorry figure. In vain he protested 
and appealed to Pandulph. The legate answered him 
calmly, proving that to keep faith with John was to break 
faith with religion that to be friends with both was 
impossible. 

And in the end, as was certain from the first, Philip gave 
way. Though by doing so he must set discord between the 
young pair so newly married, he gave way. John had 
looked for nothing else. " France," said he, with curt 
contempt, " thou shalt rue this hour within this hour "; and 
turning to Faulconbridge, bade him draw the English 
forces together. Faulconbridge needed no second bidding. 

And in the fight which followed, Faulconbridge, at least, 
had his revenge. It is not known in what part of the field 
he encountered Limoges, or what was said between them. 
But he returned nonchalantly bearing Limoges' head, and 
asserting that, by his life, it was very hot weather ! 

John, too, enjoyed some measure of revenge in taking 
prisoner young Arthur, whom he handed over into the 
keeping of his Chamberlain, Hubert de Burgh. In the 
camp of the beaten French there was little doubt now of 
the fate in store for the boy. His mother, Constance, cried 
for him, and refused to be comforted. Her body had 
become a grave to her soul, a prison holding the eternal 
spirit against its will. Her cries and calls upon death 
wrung the hearers' hearts. They deemed her mad wholly, 
but she denied it with fierceness. " I am not mad. If I 
were, I could forget my son, or cheat myself with a babe of 
rags. I am not mad." Binding up her dishevelled hair, 
she fell to wondering and asking Pandulph if 'twere true she 
should meet her boy in heaven. " For now sorrow will 
canker his beauty, and he will grow hollow as a ghost, and 
dim, and meagre ; and so he'll die. And so, when he rises 
again, and I meet him in the court of heaven, I shall not 



KING JOHN 81 

know him shall never, never again behold my pretty 
Arthur !" Philip and Pandulph tried to rebuke this excess 
of grief. She pointed to the Legate, " He talks that never 
had a son!" Then turned to the King: "Grief! It is 
grief that fills up the room of my absent child, lies in his 
bed, walks at my side, puts on his pretty looks, and repeats 
his words. Good reason have I to be fond of grief. Fare 
you well ! Had you such a loss as 1,1 could give 
better comfort than yours." And she went her way to her 
chamber ; but as she went she broke out crying again, " O 
Lord ! my boy, my fair son, my Arthur !" 

Lewis the Dauphin and Pandulph watched her as she 
went, the boy shallow of heart and head, the man deep- 
witted and just now thoughtful even beyond his habit. 
" Before the curing of a disease," he mused, half-aloud, 
" ay, in the instant when health turns back towards repair, 
the fit is strongest. It is strange, now, to think how much 
John has lost in this which he supposes so clearly won. 
You are grieved, are you not, that Arthur is prisoner ?" 

"As heartily," said Lewis, "as John is glad." 

" You are young. Listen ; John has seized Arthur, and 
while that lad lives John cannot draw a quiet breath. 
Arthur will fall." 

" But what shall I gain by Arthur's fall ?" 

" Simply this, that in the right of your bride, the Lady 
Blanch, you can then claim all that Arthur did. The times 
conspire with you. This murder of Arthur which must be 
will so freeze the hearts of men against John that every 
natural sign of heaven will be taken for an index of divine 
wrath against him." 

" May be," Lewis urged, " he will not touch his life, but 
hold him a prisoner." 

" Should you but move a foot," said the astute priest, 
" even if Arthur be not dead already, at that news he dies. 
That death will set the hearts of all England in revolt. Nor 
is this all. Faulconbridge is even now in England ransack- 

6 



82 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

ing the church and offending charity. A dozen French 
over there at this moment would whistle ten thousand 
Englishmen to their side. Shall we lay this before your 
father ?" 

The temptation was too strong. " Yes, let us go," 
answered Lewis. " Strong reasons make strong actions. 
What you urge my father will not deny." 

On one point Pandulph was not mistaken. While Arthur 
lived John could not draw quiet breath. No sooner had he 
despatched Faulconbridge to England than he called Hubert 
de Burgh to him. Of murder he would not speak openly, 
but first he dwelt on Hubert's professed love for him, and 
went on to say that he had a matter to speak of, but must 
fit it to some better time. The day was too open. If it 
were night now, and a friend standing by such a friend as 
could see without eyes, hear without ears, make reply with 
out tongue, why then . . . and yet he loved Hubert well 
and believed himself loved in return. 

" So well," protested Hubert, " that were it death to do 
bidding of yours, I would undertake it !" 

" Do I not know thou wouldst ? Hubert," he whispered, 
casting a glance over his shoulder at the boy, whom Elinor 
had craftily drawn aside. " Good Hubert, throw an eye on 
that boy yonder. I tell thee he is a serpent in my way. 
Wheresoever I tread he lies before me. Dost understand ? 
Thou art his keeper." 

" And will keep him so that he shall never offend your 
Majesty." 

" Death." John muttered the word, half to himself. 

" My lord ?" Hubert heard, and half understood. 

" A grave." John was not looking at him. 

" He shall not live." 

"Enough." John made show not to have heard. 
"Hubert, I love thee. Well, well, I'll not say what I 
intended. To England now, with a merry heart !" 




ARTHUR PLEADING WITH HUBERT. 
(From a print in the Boydell collection after J. Northcote, R.A.) 



84 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

When Hubert, however, had his young charge safe in 
England, John's commands became more precise. Arthur's 
eyes were to be burnt out with hot irons an order which 
revolted even one of the executioners hired for the task. 
And when the dreadful hour came, and Hubert had the 
men stationed behind the arras with orders to heat the 
irons, his heart, as he sent for the boy, sickened at the 
thought of the black business. For Arthur with his gentle 
and confiding nature had soon given Hubert his love, and 
Hubert's rough nature was touched by the child who meant 
no harm to any one and could not understand that any one 
should mean harm to him. 

Arthur saw at once that his friend was heavy. " Why 
should you be sad ?" he asked. " I think nobody should be 
sad but I ; and if only I were out of prison, and a shepherd- 
boy, I could be as merry as the day was long. I would 
even be merry here, if it were not for fear of my uncle. Is 
it my fault, though, that I am Geoffrey's son ? I wish I 
were your son, Hubert, and then you would love me." 

This innocent talk was torture to Hubert. He feared 
that more of it would steal all his resolution, and therefore 
pulled out the hateful paper at once and showed it, turning 
away to hide the tears that against his will came into 
his eyes. 

" What !" cried the dazed child. " Burn out my eyes ! 
Will you do it ? Have you the heart ? Hubert, when 
your head ached, I bound it with my handkerchief the 
best I had and sat with you at midnight to comfort you. 
If you think this was crafty love, you must. But will you 
ndeed put out these eyes that never so much as frowned on 
you, and never shall ?" 

" I must. I have sworn," groaned Hubert, and stamped 
his foot for signal to call the executioners. It was pitiful 
how Arthur ran and clung to him at the sight of them with 
their cords and irons. 

" Save me, Hubert, save me !" he screamed. 



KING JOHN 85 

" Give me the iron, and bind him here," commanded 
Hubert. 

" No, no I will not struggle. I will be still as a stone. 
For Heaven's sake do not let them bind me ! Hubert, hear 
me ! drive these men away, and I will sit as quiet as a 
lamb. I will not wince, will not speak a word. Only send 
these men away, and I will forgive whatever torment you 
put me to !" 

" Go," said Hubert, " leave me with him." And the 
executioners withdrew, glad to be released from the horrible 
deed. " Come, boy, prepare yourself." 

But Arthur pleaded on his knees. " Hubert, cut out my 
tongue, if you will, but spare my eyes ! O, spare my eyes !" 
The iron, while he pleaded, grew cold in Hubert's hand. 
He could not do this monstrous crime. It was ruin for 
him if John discovered the truth, but he would take the 
risk, and spread the report that Arthur was dead. Thus 
resolved, he led the boy away to hide him. 

His friends in the French camp were not the only ones 
who foreboded evil for Arthur. To make all sure, John on 
his return to England had himself crowned a second time. 
The barons who attended the Earls of Pembroke, Salis 
bury, and the rest were full of courtly phrases. This 
second coronation, they assured John, was superfluous as 
to gild refined gold, to paint the lily, perfume the violet, or 
seek to garnish daylight with a taper. But behind these 
polite professions they were whispering about Arthur's fate. 
And when John bade them state what reforms they wished 
for, the Earl of Pembroke boldly requested, for all, that 
Arthur should be set at liberty. 

" Let it be so," answered John, who knew, or thought he 
knew, how idle a thing he conceded. At this moment 
Hubert entered, and the King drew him aside, while the 
lords whispered their suspicions. 

" Good lords," announced John, coming back, " I regret 



86 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

that to grant your demand is beyond me. This man tells 
me that Arthur died last night." 

There was an ominous silence. Then the Earl of Salis 
bury spoke. " Indeed," said he with meaning, " we feared 
that his sickness was past cure." " Yes," added the Earl of 
Pembroke, " we heard how near his death he was before 
he felt himself sick. This must be answered for." 

" Why are you frowning on me ?" John demanded. 
"Do I hold the shears of destiny, or can I command 
life ?" 

"It is foul play," said Salisbury boldly, and Pembroke 
echoed him. In stern anger the barons withdrew. Already 
John began to repent his cruel order, or at any rate the 
haste of it. 

Soon he had further cause. News came that France was 
arming mightily to invade England nay, had already landed 
an army under the Dauphin ; that his mother Elinor was 
dead ; that death, too, had ended the frenzy of poor Con 
stance. How could he meet the invaders ? His barons 
were disaffected. Faulconbridge, who had been levying 
cruel toll upon the clergy, returned with word that the 
whole country was uneasy, full of vague fears, overrun with 
men prophesying disasters. In truth the interdict lay on 
the land like a blight. All public worship of God had 
ceased. The church-doors were shut and their bells silent ; 
men celebrated no sacrament but that of private baptism ; 
youth and maid could not marry ; the dying went without 
pardon or comfort ; the dead lay unburied by the highroads ; 
the corpses of the clergy were piled on churchyard walls in 
leaden coffins ; the people heard no sermons but those 
preached at the market-crosses by priests who cried down 
curses, or wild prophets who uttered warnings and pointed 
to the signs of heaven for confirmation. With news similar 
to Faulconbridge's Hubert broke in on the King, as he sat 
muttering in dark sorrow for his mother Elinor's death. It 
was " Arthur," Arthur," in all men's mouths. The peers 



KING JOHN 87 

had gone to seek Arthur's grave ; all the common folk 
whispered of Arthur's death. 

" Arthur's death?" John interrupted him savagely. "Who 
murdered him but you ?" 

" At your wish," retorted Hubert. 

" It is the curse of kings to be attended by such over- 
hasty slaves." 

" Here is your hand and seal for it," Hubert protested. 
But John, who by this time heartily wished Arthur alive 
again, broke out on him with craven reproaches. Why 
had Hubert taken him at his word? Why had he not 
dissuaded, even by a look a look would have been enough." 
So he ran on, until Hubert had to confess the truth, that 
Arthur was yet alive. 

" Arthur alive !" The King sprang up. " Hasten ! Re 
port it to the peers ! Forgive what I said in my passion ; 
my rage was blind. Nay, answer me not, but hasten and 
bring these angry lords back to me !" 

But Hubert was mistaken. Arthur was no longer alive- 
The unhappy Prince, scheming to break from his prison, 
had escaped the watch by donning a ship-boy's clothes ; but 
in a rash leap from the walls had broken himsslf upon the 
stones below, a little while before the barons Pembroke, 
Salisbury, and Bigot arrived in search of him. Before 
hearing Hubert's news John had despatched Faulcon bridge 
to persuade them to return. He overtook them by the wall 
of the castle ; and while he urged them, they stumbled 
together on the young body lying at the base of it. 

" It was murder," they swore ; " the worst and vilest of 
murder ; nay, a murder that stood alone, unmatchable !" 
They appealed to Faulconbridge. 

" It is a damnable work," he admitted indignantly. " The 
deed of a heavy hand ; that is," he mused doubtfully, " if it 
be the work of any hand." 

"///" cried Salisbury. "There is no *// We had an 
inkling of this. It is Hubert's shameful handiwork devised 



88 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

by the King whose service, kneeling by this sweet child's 
body, I renounce, and swear neither to taste pleasure nor 
take rest until I have glorified this hand of mine with ven 
geance !" And the two other barons said AMEN to him. 

But hardly was the vow taken before Hubert himself 
arrived, hot with haste, and panting, " Lords, the King 
sends for you. Arthur is alive !" With that he stood con 
founded, staring down upon Arthur's dead body. 

" Begone, villain !" Salisbury drew his sword. " Mur 
derer !" " I am no villain, no murderer," Hubert protested. 
" Cut him to pieces !" urged Pembroke. Faulconbridge 
flung himself between them, threatening to strike Salisbury 
dead if he stirred a foot. " Put up your sword, or I'll so 
maul you and your toasting-iron that you'll think the devil 
himself has got hold of you !" And Salisbury, proud lord 
as he was, obeyed. But, though Hubert protested his 
innocence, the angry lords would not believe. Faulcon 
bridge could do no more, and was forced, to his chagrin, to 
watch them galloping off to join the Dauphin. 

When they were gone he turned to Hubert. " Know 
you of this work ? For if this work be yours, Hubert, your 
soul is lost beyond reach of mercy ; nay, if you but con 
sented, despair. Hubert, I suspect you grievously." 

Said Hubert : " If in act, or consent, or thought, I stole 
the sweet breath of this child, let hell lack pains enough for 
my torture ! I left him well." He lifted the body and 
carried it in his arms into the castle, while Faulconbridge 
followed sorely perplexed. " I lose my way," confessed 
that honest soldier, " amid the thorns and dangers of this 
world." 

By this time John's case was a sorry one. Pope Innocent 
had formally deposed him, and was urging on the crusade 
which the Dauphin led against England. Wales was in 
revolt, Scotland intriguing against him. But, worse than 
all, England herself could not be relied on. Betrayed by 
his barons, who flocked to Lewis' standard ; denounced 



KING JOHN 89 

by the clergy ; sullenly hated by all classes, who laid the 
miseries of the interdict to his account ; the King felt the 
ground slipping from under his feet. 

But he was an Angevin, after all ; that is to say, as 
diabolically clever as he was shameless. It only needed 
shamelessness, and by a bold stroke he could turn the tables 
on France, and perhaps win back all. John played it. He 
sent for Pandulph, and hypocritically tendered his submis 
sion to the Pope, on condition that the Pope called off the 
French and put a stop to the crusade against him. Like 
many a man without religion John was slavishly super 
stitious, and he had heard it prophesied that before Ascen 
sion Day he should deliver up his crown ; and it pleased 
him to think that by this form of tendering it into Pandulph's 
hands he was cheating Heaven as well as his enemies. 

Pandulph gave him back the circlet, and hastened off to 
compel the Dauphin to lay down his arms. Scarcely had 
he left before Faulconbridge arrived with news that London 
had thrown open its gates to the French, and the barons 
refused to return to their allegiance. 

" What ! When they heard that Arthur was yet alive ?" 

" They found him dead done to death by some accursed 
hand." 

" That villain Hubert told me he lived." 

"On my soul," said Faulconbridge, "he did, for aught 
Hubert knew." 

John informed him of the peace just made with the Pope. 
As might be expected, this news filled Faulconbridge 
with disgust. It was too much altogether for his English 
stomach. " But perhaps," he suggested, " the Cardinal 
Pandulph cannot make your peace," he had to call it "your 
peace " " and, if he can, let them see at least that we 
meant to defend ourselves." And with John's permission he 
hurried off to save what he could of England's honour. 

Indeed, Pandulph was not prospering on his errand. He 
found the Dauphin entertaining the revolted barons with 



90 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

words as fair as they were deceitful, since, after using them 
to crush John, he meant to make short work with Salisbury, 
Pembroke, and the rest. Young Lewis had learnt his lesson 
too well. As Pandulph himself had once suggested, he was 
now by Arthur's death left with a good claim to the English 
crown. In short, he flatly refused to draw off his troops. 
" Am I Rome's slave ?" he demanded. " Your breath 
kindled this war, but who maintained it ? Who but I pro 
vided men and munition, and bore the sweat of this busi 
ness ? Here I am with England half-conquered, and all 
the best cards in my hand, and you ask me to retire ! No, 
on my soul, I will not !" 

In this temper Faulconbridge found him, with the legate 
at a complete loss. It was the chance he had prayed for, 
and he made royal use of it. In the name of England he 
stood up to the angry Dauphin, defied him, and dressed him 
down with threats. " Our English King promises through 
me to whip you and your army of youngsters out of his terri 
tories. What ! the hand that cudgelled you the other day 
at your own door till you jumped the hatch and hid yourself, 
and shook even when a cock crew your own Gallic cock 
thinking its voice an Englishman's do you deem that hand 
which chastised you in your own chambers to be enfeebled 
here ?" And having done with the Dauphin, he swung 
round on the revolted barons and gave them their rating in 
turn. 

" Enough !" broke in Lewis at length. " We grant you 
can outscold us." Pandulph would have put in a word, but 
Faulconbridge bore him down, and with mutual defiance 
the parley ended. 

It was war now, but a war which brought disasters to 
both sides. In the south of England the Dauphin met with 
small resistance ; but the fleet 'which was to bring him sup 
plies came to wreck on the Goodwin Sands, and the English 
barons, warned of the treachery he plotted against them, 
streamed away from him. On the other hand, John, though 



KING JOHN 



91 



he kept the field fiercely, traversing the midlands by forced 
marches from the Welsh border to Lincoln and breaking up 
the barons' plans, was already touched with a fever which 
increased on him as he started from Lynn and crossed the 
Wash in a fresh movement northwards. In crossing the 
sandy flats his troops were surprised by the tide, and all his 
baggage and treasure washed away. 

Shaking with the fever, which by this time had taken 
fatal hold of him, wet, exhausted, and sick at heart, the 
stricken tyrant took shelter in the Abbey of Swineshead. 
There, men said, a monk poisoned his foodj but although 
the monks had reason enough to hate him, we need not lay 
this crime at their door. Panting for air, crying that his 
soul might have elbow-room for hell was within him, he 
was borne out into the abbey orchard. The tears of his 
young son Henry fell on his face. "The salt of them is 
hot," he complained ; and so, at the height of his own misery 
and England's, he died. 

His death put a new face on the fortunes of England. 
Against a young king, supported by the barons and the 
better hopes of his subjects, the troops of a foreigner could 
not hold their ground for long on this island. And the 
lesson of this " troublesome raigne " is summed up for us in 
the wise, brave, and patriotic words of Faulconbridge 
lines which every English boy should get by heart : 

" This England never did, nor never shall, 
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror, 
But when it first did help to wound itself. 
Now these her princes are come home again, 
Come the three corners of the world in arms, 
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue, 
If England to herself do rest but true." 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 

WHEN King Edward the Third died, the crown passed to 
his grandson Richard, son of the good and gallant Black 
Prince, whose untimely death all England lamented. And 
though Richard became King in his eleventh year, all England 
hoped much of him for his father's sake. In honour of his 
coronation London was gay with banners and arches, and 
the loyal merchants of Cheapside erected a fountain which 
ran with wine for the rejoicing citizens. 

But the sons of strong men are not always strong, and as 
time went on Richard began to disappoint the hopes of his 
subjects. He was weak, partly no doubt by nature, partly 
perhaps by training for he had too many advisers, some of 
whom flattered him whilst all were intent on their own 
ends. A boy may be weak and yet very wilful, and this boy- 
king naturally made favourites of those who flattered him 
most, and, being without experience, trusted to their advice. 
At first he was given twelve councillors ; his three uncles, 
the Duke of Lancaster (called John of Gaunt), the Duke of 
York, and the Duke of Gloucester, being excluded : but these 
three in their jealousy often interfered with the government, 
and at last one of them, the Duke of Gloucester, was put at 
the head of the council. Under him the Parliament called 
"wonderful" by some, and " merciless " by others who 
admired it less put to death two of Richard's favourites, 
De Vere and Suffolk, and stripped the rest of their properties. 
This incensed the young King, who waited his time, and at 
twenty-two, declaring he would be in leading-strings no 

92 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 93 

longer, dismissed his guardians and for some years ruled his 
kingdom discreetly and well. 

But he was not great enough to forgive those who had 
humbled him. Perhaps, too, he still feared the Duke of 
Gloucester. At any rate, after eight years of merciful rule 
he seized his uncle suddenly and had him carried off to 
Calais, where Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, was 
governor; and in the prison there Gloucester came to a 
mysterious end. We cannot be certain that he was murdered 
by the King's order ; but many believed this. And they 
believed it the more surely when Richard began to cast off 
pretence of ruling to please his people. He had chosen new 
favourites Sir John Bushy, Sir Henry Green, Sir William 
Bagot to replace his old ones ; and now he called a packed 
parliament, which not only undid the acts of the detested 
" wonderful " Parliament, but entrusted all future govern 
ment to the King and a little knot of his friends. So Richard 
for the time was absolute, and the kingdom suffered, as it 
always must when a King postpones its happiness to his 
private likes and dislikes. 

Gloucester was dead, and of the other two uncles (what 
ever they suspected) old Lancaster or John of Gaunt was 
too wise, and old York too pliable, to accuse the King openly 
of his murder. But John of Gaunt had a son Henry, sur- 
named Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, a soldierly man, 
who was not so cautious. Henry's wife, too, was a sister of 
Gloucester's widow, and this no doubt made him more eager 
for revenge. Yet even Henry Bolingbroke did not dare 
accuse his cousin the King in so many words. He chose a 
more politic way. At first privately, and then openly, he 
charged Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk who had been governor 
of Calais at the time of Gloucester's murder as a traitor. 
The King summoned the appellant and the accused to con 
front each other in his presence, and there, after mutual 
defiance, the one protesting the truth of his charge, the other 
his complete innocence, and both their loyalty, they severally 



94 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

stated their quarrel. " I accuse Mowbray," said Boling- 
broke, "first, that he has detained for his own use eight 
thousand nobles which should have been paid to the King's 
soldiers ; next, that he has been the head and spring of all 
treasons contrived in this realm for these eighteen years; and 
further," and here lay the pith of his accusation " that he 
did contrive the death of the Duke of Gloucester, whose 
innocent blood cries to me from the earth for justice and 
chastisement." "What sayest thou to this?" demanded 
Richard, hiding his feelings (whatever they were) and turn 
ing to Mowbray. " Fear not because the accuser is my 
cousin. Ye are equally my subjects, and the King's eyes 
and ears are impartial, the firmness of his soul unstooping." 
Mowbray gave Bolingbroke the lie in his throat. Each of 
the disputants by this time had thrown down his gage, and 
now each swore to uphold his cause upon the other's body. 
Richard endeavoured to appease them, and invoked the help 
of old John of Gaunt, Bolingbroke's father, who stood by. 
But Mowbray flung himself at the King's feet imploring to 
be allowed to defend his honour ; and finding Bolingbroke 
equally stubborn, Richard ceased his mediation. " We were 
not born," he said, " to sue, but to command. And since our 
commandment will not make you friends, we charge you to 
appear at Coventry, on St. Lambert's day, and there decide 
your quarrel with sword and lance." 

So at Coventry on the appointed day the lists were set 
with all the ceremony and circumstance of those times. 
The King attended with his train of nobles and favourites ; 
and as they entered to the sound of trumpets and filed into 
their seats along the decorated balcony, they found both 
combatants armed and ready with their heralds. At a wcrd 
from the King the Lord Marshal, to whom fell the solemn 
business of dressing the lists, approached Mowbray the 
defendant, and demanded his name and quarrel. 

" My name," was the answer, " is Thomas Mowbray, 
Duke of Norfolk, and I come hither upon my knightly oath, 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 95 

to defend my loyalty and truth to God, my King, and my 
heirs, against the Duke of Hereford who appeals me ; and 
by the grace of God and this arm of mine to prove him a 
traitor to my God, my King, and me. And as I truly fight, 
defend me Heaven !" 

Bolingbroke, on being asked the same question, declared, 
" I am Harry of Hereford, Lancaster, and Derby, who stand 
in arms here ready to prove in lists upon Thomas Mowbray, 
Duke of Norfolk, by God's grace and my bodily valour, that 
he is a traitor to God, to King Richard, and to me. And 
as I truly fight, defend me Heaven !" 

The Lord Marshal thereupon (as the custom was) gave 
warning that no man should, upon pain of death, enter or 
touch the lists, except only the officers appointed to direct 
the duel. But before engaging Bolingbroke craved leave to 
kneel and kiss the King's hand ; "for," said he, " Mowbray 
and I are like two men vowed to a long and weary pilgrim 
age, and it were fitting that we took a ceremonious and 
loving farewell of our friends." "Nay," said the King, 
when this message was reported ; " we will ourselves 
descend and embrace him ;" and he did so, saying, " Cousin 
of Hereford, as thy cause is right, so be thy fortune !" mean 
ing " as far as," or "if thy cause is right," for he well knew 
that the charge against Mowbray was covertly aimed at 
himself. And he added, " Though thy blood and mine be 
kin, if thy blood be shed we may lament but not avenge 
thee." " Nay," answered Bolingbroke, who took his mean 
ing, " let no man lament for me if I fall. But I go to this 
fight, and so I take my leave, confident, lusty, young, and 
cheerful. And do thou, my father," turning to John of 
Gaunt, " prosper me with thy blessing, that my armour may 
be proof against my adversary, and thy name take new 
brightness from thy son's lance." " God make thee pros 
perous in thy good cause !" answered the old man. 

The King's farewell to Mowbray was purposely more 
cold and brief. " However God or fortune may cast my 



96 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

lot," Mowbray protested, " there lives or dies a true subject, 
a loyal, just, and upright gentleman. Take from me the 
wish of happy years. And so, as a captive from prison, 
gentle and jocund, I go to this feast of battle. For truth 
has a quiet breast." "Farewell, my lord," the King an 
swered ; " in thine eye I read virtue and valour together." 

With that he gave the word to the Lord Marshal. The 
two combatants received their lances, and the heralds on 
either side made proclamation : " Here standeth Harry of 
Hereford, Lancaster, and Derby, on pain to be found false 
and recreant, to prove the Duke of Norfolk a traitor to God, 
to his sovereign, and to him." " Here standeth Thomas 
Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, on pain to be found false and 
recreant, both to defend himself and to approve the same on 
Henry of Hereford, Lancaster, and Derby." 

" Sound trumpets ! and set forward, combatants !" shouted 
the Lord Marshal ; but as the pair couched lances and dug 
spurs for the charge, as the horses gathered pace for the 
shock, he glanced towards the royal balcony, and held up a 
hand. 

" Stay !" he cried. " The King has thrown down his 
truncheon !" 

For by this signal Richard, as president of the fight, 
arrested it. 

The combatants reined up. " Let them," commanded 
Richard, " lay by their helmets and spears and both return 
here to their chairs." And while they obeyed, and the 
trumpets sounded a long flourish, he consulted, or seemed 
to consult, with his nobles. 

" Draw near," he commanded again, "and hearken what 
with our council we have decided." And he went on to 
unfold his sentence a sentence of banishment on both ; for 
Bolingbroke ten years, but for Mowbray no date at all. 
" Never to return," were the hopeless words of Mowbray's 
sentence. " It is a heavy one," pleaded the unhappy man. 
" A dearer merit, and not so deep a maim, I have deserved 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 97 

at my King's hands. Can I unlearn my native English 
which I have learned these forty years ? I am too old to 
go to school now. That to which you condemn me is a 
living death." 

But the King answered curtly that the time had gone by 
for pleading. Yet, weak man that he was, he recalled 
Mowbray and desired both him and Bolingbroke to lay 
hands on his sword and vow never to meet and plot against 
him a foolish vow, which suggested a fear, and the keep 
ing of which he could never enforce. 

Both took the vow. And on rising Bolingbroke made a 
last appeal to Mowbray to confess. But " No," said Mow- 
bray, " I am no traitor. What thou art, God, thou, and I 
know ; and all too soon, I fear, the King will learn and rue 
it." And so he departed into exile. 

No sooner was he gone than weak Richard, reading the 
sorrow in the dimmed eyes of old John of Gaunt, impetu 
ously relieved Bolingbroke of four years of his sentence. 
His banishment, he promised, should be for six not for ten 
winters. But this wayward leniency brought him little 
gratitude. Bolingbroke did not even thank him. " Four 
lagging winters," he commented grimly, " four wanton 
springs ended in a word ! Such is the breath of kings !" 
Old Gaunt was more nobly rebukeful. " I thank my liege 
that for my sake he remits four years of my son's exile ; 
though it will profit me little, since, ere the six years be 
gone, my inch of taper will be burnt out, and I gone into 
darkness where I shall never see my son." " Why, uncle," 
Richard would have reassured him, " thou hast many years 
yet." The old man turned on him grandly. " But not a 
minute, King, that thou canst give ! Shorten my days with 
sorrow thou canst, kill me thou canst, but lengthen life or 
restore it thou canst not." " Thy son," said Richard, 
nettled to an unworthy taunt, " is banished upon good 
advice which thy tongue joined in giving." " That is 
true," answered John of Gaunt ; " I gave it as a judge, not 

7 



98 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

as a father, and in the sentence destroyed my own life. 
Alas ! I looked for one of you to say I was too strict with 
my own. But you did not ; you allowed my unwilling 
tongue to do myself this wrong !" To this the selfish 
Richard could find no answer, but curtly left them to their 
leave-taking. And a sorry leave-taking it was, the good old 
man vainly casting about for arguments to cheat the bitter 
ness of his son's exile. " Six winters are quickly gone . . . 
this absence will make home-coming all the more precious 
... to the wise man all places visited by the eye of Heaven 
are ports and happy havens ... let necessity teach thee to 
reason thus, for there is no virtue like necessity." But the 
younger man brushed these flimsy consolations aside. 
" Can a man bear to hold fire in his hand by thinking of 
the frosty Caucasus, or cloy his hunger by imagining that 
he feasts ? No ; to apprehend happiness makes him feel 
more keenly the evil he suffers. But farewell England's 
ground my mother and nurse ! Where'er I wander, this 
I can yet boast, that though banished I am a true-born 
Englishman." And with this he took his leave. 

But Richard, alone with his favourites Bagot and Green 
and the rest could confess he was glad to be rid of Henry 
Bolingbroke. For the King had no sons of his own, and 
this son of Lancaster had w r ooed the common people and 
practised such affability that to jealous minds he seemed to 
look forward with confidence to a day when the crown 
would be his. "Well, he is gone," said Green; "out of 
sight is out of mind." Thus relieved of present anxiety, 
and having no child for whom his love might have taught 
him that in the end a king's welfare and his people's are 
one, and having emptied his coffers by selfish extravagance, 
Richard fell in with a proposal to farm out the nation's 
revenues to these harpies, who undertook to provide him with 
ready money to suppress a rebellion in Ireland which for 
the moment was giving him trouble One day, while they 
were discussing this, Bushy entered with the news that 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 99 

John of Gaunt had been seized with a grievous illness. In 
such company Richard could blurt out his feelings. " Now, 
may God," he cried, " put it in the physician's mind to help 
him to his grave immediately ! ' The lining of his coffers shall 
make coats for our soldiers in these Irish wars. Pray God," 
he added cruelly, " that we may make haste and come too 
late !" And all said " Amen." 

John of Gaunt was sick indeed. His son's banishment 
had been his death-blow; and now, at Ely House in Holborn, 
he lay in his bed and discussed with his pliable brother, 
old York, the last warning he intended to deliver to Richard. 
"Vex not yourself; counsel comes in vain to him," urged 
York. " But the tongues of dying men these, they say, 
enforce attention like deep harmony. Men's ends are more 
marked than their lives. Though Richard would not hear 
my counsel in life, his ear may be unsealed now." " No," 
said York, " for it is stopped with flattery. Save the little 
breath thou hast remaining." But the dying man felt bound 
to speak ; " for," said he, " I feel like a prophet inspired to 
foretell that this rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last;" and 
as he lay awaiting the King's coming, his lips began to 
mutter, over and over, words of love for England and pride 
in her.* 

* This incomparable lament may only be rendered in Shakespeare's 
own words, which no English boy, who is old enough to love his 
country, is too young to get by heart, forgetting the sorrow in it. 
Tears such as Gaunt's are drawn from a well of joy and pride in 
England and of fierce love of her good name 

" This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle, 
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, 
This other Eden, demi-paradise, 
This fortress built by Nature for herself 
Against infection and the hand of war, 
This happy breed of men, this little world, 
This precious stone set in the silver sea, 
Which serves it in the office of a wall 
Or as a moat defensive to a house, 
Against the envy of less happier lands, 
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, 

72 



100 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

While he mourned, the King was announced, with his 
Queen and train of courtiers. " How fares our noble 
uncle, Lancaster?" were the Queen's words; but Richard 
addressed York more roughly. " What comfort, man ? 
How is't with old Gaunt." The sick man heard the word, 
and his failing mind fixed and began to harp on it : " Ay, 
old Gaunt old and gaunt gaunt with keeping watch for 
sleeping England gaunt as the grave to which I go." 
"Can sick and dying men be so witty ?" sneered Richard. 
" Nay, King, 'tis thou who art sick, and thy death-bed no 
lesser than thy realm wherein thou liest and givest over 
thy anointed body to be cured by these flatterers, these 
physicians who dealt the wound." And rising on his pillow 
he began to call shame on his nephew's mad misgovern- 
ment. But Richard, white for the moment and scared, 
turned upon him in a fury. "Thou lunatic, lean-witted 
fool ! Darest thou presume on an ague's privilege to 
admonish me thus ? Now, by my throne, wert thou not 
brother to great Edward's son, thy tongue which runs so 
roundly should run thy head from thy shoulders !" " Spare 
me not for that" exclaimed Gaunt bitterly : " my brother 
Gloucester's end is good witness that thou regardest not 



This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings, 
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth, 
Renowned for their deeds as far from home, 
For Christian service and true chivalry, 
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry 
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son, 
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land, 
Dear for her reputation through the world, 
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it, 
Like to a tenement or pelting farm : 
England, bound in with the triumphant sea, 
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege 
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame, 
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds : 
That England, that was wont to conquer others, 
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself. 
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life, 
How happy then were my ensuing death ! ' ' 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 101 

shedding Edward's thy grandfather's blood !" And so 
having uttered at last the accusation which he had so long 
foreborne to utter, and for hinting at which he had consented 
to see his son exiled, Gaunt was borne out dying. " So be 
it," said Richard. 

But so incensed was he men of his nature being angriest 
when some fear underlies their wrath that presently, when 
the Earl of Northumberland brought news that Gaunt's 
life had indeed flickered out, he rapped forth the order 
which he had discussed secretly with Bushy, Bagot, and 
the rest to seize upon the dead duke's estate and moneys 
for his own royal use. 

Even old York weak worm as he was turned at this. 
The nation's disgrace had not stirred him as it stirred 
Gaunt, but he could feel a family wrong ; and for once he 
plucked up courage to speak out so boldly, indeed, as to 
astonish Richard. " Why, uncle, what's the matter ?" 
exclaimed the King incredulously, after a while. Even so 
small an interruption as this dashed the old man's spirit ; 
but he persisted only now with some abatement of vigour 
in warning the King what danger he courted by con 
fiscating Gaunt's property and thus dispossessing Boling- 
broke. Richard quickly took the measure of this protest. 
" Think what you will, we seize his plate, goods, money, 
and lands.' " Then I'll not be by to countenance it," was 
York's feeble conclusion, and with that he departed, mutter 
ing that no good could come of it. 

He was scarcely gone before Richard betrayed how a 
little firmness might have carried the day. Almost in the 
same breath with which he gave instructions about con 
fiscating Lancaster's property, he appointed York to be 
lord governor of England during his own absence at the 
Irish wars. For in truth he had been brought up in a 
wholesome dread of his uncles, and some of it still lingered 
to be transferred to this last surviving one, and the weakest 
of them all. 



102 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

But if York scarcely knew his own mind, other nobles 
knew theirs. The Earl of Northumberland, head of the 
great house of Percy, only waited the King's departure to 
call shame on his conduct, or, as he preferred to put it (and 
men, when they meant business, have put it thus more than 
once or twice in English history), on the conduct of his 
misleading flatterers. He said enough, indeed, to make 
certain nobles present suspect that he had more to tell, and 
they pressed him to tell it which he did. News had come 
from Brittany that Bolingbroke with a few noble followers 
and three thousand men-at-arms had set sail in eight tall 
ships with intent to make a landing in the north-east of 
England. They had been waiting only for the King's 
departure. " Then to horse !" cried Lord Ross ; and " To 
horse !" echoed Lord Willoughby ; and soon the con 
spirators were in saddle and galloping northwards. 

It was true ; Bolingbroke had landed at Ravenspurgh on 
the Humber. There the Earl of Northumberland joined 
him, with other discontented nobles ; and no sooner was 
Northumberland proclaimed traitor than his brother, the 
Earl of Worcester, Lord Steward, broke his white staff of 
office and fled northwards to join the rising. The news 
reached the Queen as she sat talking with Bushy and 
Bagot. Her heart was heavy already after parting from 
her husband for she loved him, poor lady ! and heavier 
yet with an unborn sorrow ; for trouble often makes itself 
felt before it takes shape. And when Green came running 
with the ominous news, it sank like lead. Nor could she 
take comfort at the sight of trembling old York, who 
followed on Green's heels. " Uncle," she cried, " for God's 
sake speak comfortable words!" But York, though he had 
donned his gorget as if for war, could only wring his hands 
and cry feebly that he was old, and " Why am I, so weak 
that I can scarce support myself, left to underprop my 
nephew's kingdom ? Would to God he had cut my head 
off first ! Have no posts been despatched for Ireland ? How 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 103 

are we to find money ? Sure I cannot tell what to do in 
this tangle ... on one side the King, my kinsman, whom 
oath and duty bid me defend ; on the other, Bolingbroke, 
my kinsman too, whom the King has wronged. . . . Well, 
something must be done ! Gentlemen, muster your forces 
and meet me at Berkeley. I ought to be at Flashy where 
my brother Gloucester's wife is lying dead at this moment. 
But there's no time ; everything is at sixes and sevens !" 

Clearly there was little to be hoped of so rambling a 
commander ; and no sooner had he departed than Bushy, 
Bagot, and Green resolved to save themselves by flight. 
Green and Bushy posted off for Bristol ; Bagot to take 
advantage of the fair wind for Ireland the wind which at 
once hastened the ill news towards the King and hindered 
his own return. 

There was good cause for their dejection and terror. 
Escorted by Northumberland and his forces, Bolingbroke 
marched unimpeded down and across England from Ravens- 
purgh to Berkeley in Gloucestershire. Here with some 
show of boldness old York challenged his advance, and in 
an interview which he opened with great dignity upbraided 
his nephew roundly with this bold act of treason. Henry, 
whose action spoke for itself, was humble enough in words. 
" My gracious uncle, in what have I offended ? I am 
Lancaster now ; but my rights and revenues have your 
self knows how unjustly been plucked from me and given 
away to unthrifty upstarts. I ask for my legal rights only ; 
but lawyers are denied me, and therefore I am come to lay 
my claim in person." Behind all this, and behind the pleas 
urged on York by the other disaffected lords, stood the real 
argument which all were too polite to hint at Bolingbroke's 
troops. York hemm'd and ha'd. " Well, I can't prevent 
you ; but if I could I call Heaven to witness that I would. 
Since I cannot, I call you to witness that I am neutral. So 
fare you well unless it please you to enter the castle here 
and repose you for the night." " An offer," answered 



104 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Bolingbroke smoothly, " which we will accept. But we 
must persuade you a little further and that is, to go with 
us to Bristol Castle, where I hear that Bushy, Bagot, and 
the rest of these caterpillars of the commonwealth have 
sought shelter." " May be, may be," answered old York, 
who knew himself in no condition to refuse. " Things past 
redress are past care," was now the one reflection in which 
he could find any comfort. 

There remained a last hope for Richard in the Welsh 
army, forty thousand strong, which the Earl of Salisbury 
had collected in Wales. But already this strong force was 
weakening. A report ran among them that the King was 
dead ; and in their superstitious minds this was confirmed 
by a dozen idle omens. A blight had fastened on all the 
bay-trees in the country, the heaven was full of meteors, 
the moon had taken a bloody tinge, and prophets 
whispered that such signs infallibly foreran the death ot 
kings or their fall. One thing was certain : the King 
delayed to return. And before he landed on the Welsh 
coast, this army, which might have saved him, had melted 
away. 

But as yet Richard knew nothing of the extent of these 
disasters. On his landing he wept for joy and touched the 
very earth affectionately, comparing himself to a mother who 
re-greets her child after a long absence and plays fondly 
with her tears and smiles at meeting. And in truth this was 
Richard's way ; whether glad or sorry, he must play with 
his feelings and dress them up in fine words, and dandle and 
make a show of them. " Nay, do not mock me, my lords," 
said he (for they could not always conceal their impatience 
of this pretty habit) ; " this earth shall have a feeling and 
these stones turn to armed soldiers sooner than see her 
native King falter under foul rebellion." " No doubt, no 
doubt," answered in effect the trusty Bishop of Carlisle; 
"but none the less we had better be using all the means 
which Heaven puts in our way." And old York's son, the 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 105 

Duke of Aumerle, hinted even more roughly that this was 
no time for dallying. Richard turned on him petulantly : 
" Discomfortable cousin ! knowest thou not that thieves and 
robbers range abroad boldly in darkness ; but when the sun 
confronts them and plucks the cloak of night off their backs, 
they stand bare and naked and tremble at themselves ! So, 
when I confront him, shall this traitor Bolingbroke tremble 
at himself and his sins. Not all the water in the rough rude 
sea has power to wash the balm from an anointed King, nor 
can the breath of worldlings depose the Lord's elected deputy. 
For every man impressed to aid Bolingbroke, God hath in 
his pay a glorious angel to fight for Richard !" 

The entrance of the Earl of Salisbury interrupted these 
big words. " Ah, my lord, welcome !" Richard greeted him. 
" How far off lies your power ?" meaning the Welsh army. 
" Alas," was the desperate answer, " no nearer and no farther 
off thaji this my weak arm. My gracious lord, you have 
come one day too late. Call back yesterday and you shall 
have twelve thousand fighting men. But to-day that army 
is gone. It heard that the King was dead, and has fled to 
make friends with Bolingbroke." 

At this ominous news the blood left Richard's cheeks ; 
but at a word from Aumerle he recovered himself. " Am I 
not King ? Is not the King's name twen,ty thousand men ? 
Arm then, my name, against this puny subject ! Have I 
not York, too ? And has not York power enough to serve 
my turn ?" 

But his high tone sank again as he caught sight of a new 
messenger, Sir Stephen Scroop, with ill-tidings written on 
his face ; and (as men will) he tried to meet the blow he saw 
coming, and to soften it by talking humbly. "At the worst 
it will be worldly loss. Suppose my kingdom lost. Why, 
then, my care goes with it. Will Bolingbroke be great as 
we ? He shall not be greater ; for if he serve God, we'll 
serve Him too." 

Poor flimsy arguments and not even honest ones to 



106 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

fortify a king's mind ! For Scroop's tale was of disaster. 
" Bolingbroke covers the land with steel, and hearts harder 
than steel. Not strong men only, but greybeards, boys, thy 
very almsmen, yea, even women, are running to him." 
" What what of my friends, the Earl of Wiltshire, Bushy, 
and Green ? Have they made peace with Bolingbroke ?" 
"They have made peace" began Scroop. "O villains, 
vipers!" broke in the King, and fell to cursing them for 
dogs and Judases. As he took breath, Scroop explained 
that the peace these unhappy men had made was not this 
world's peace. Bolingbroke had taken them prisoners at 
Bristol, and already the grave covered them. "But where," 
asked Aumerle, " is my father, the Duke of York, with his 
power ?" " No matter where," cried despondent Richard, 
and began again to play with his misery. " Let us talk of 
graves, worms, epitaphs nothing but sorrow. For God's 
sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the 
death of kings, and of Death, the King of kings !" and so 
forth. " My lord," said the Bishop of Carlisle impatiently, 
" wise men never sit and wail their woes, but seek to meet 
and prevent them ;" and " Yes," said Aumerle once more, 
"ask of my father York; he has a force to help you." 
Richard, as easily elated as cast down, caught at the sug 
gestion he had rejected a minute before. He was not only 
hopeful again, but confident. "Thou chidest me well; to 
win our own is an easy task. Say " he turned on Scroop 
" where is our uncle York with his power ? Speak sweetly, 
man, though thou lookest sourly!" "Alas!" said the mes 
senger, " I look as I feel, and my tale is like a torture 
applied little by little. Your uncle York has joined Boling 
broke ; your northern castles have fallen to him, and your 
southern gentlemen-in-arms have gone over to his side." 
Under this last blow of all Richard weakly faced around on 
Aumerle. " Beshrew thee, cousin, for leading me to comfort 
when I was so sweetly on the way to despair ! By heaven, 
I'll hate him for ever who speaks another word of comfort ! 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 107 

Discharge my followers ! Let them hence from me to 
Bolingbroke !" 

In this spirit the unhappy King set forth on his way to 
Flint Castle, where he was scarcely installed before Boling 
broke arrived with drums and colours and a force which 
included the willing Northumberland and the unwilling 
York. It was Harry Percy (or Hotspur, as men called him 
for his brave and heady temper), Northumberland's son, 
who brought the news that King Richard lay within the 
castle. Bolingbroke at once ordered a parley. His trumpet 
sounded and was answered, and presently Richard himself 
appeared on the walls, with the Bishop of Carlisle, Aumerle, 
Salisbury, Scroop, and the rest of his followers. 

Bolingbroke did not himself advance to the parley, but 
remained below the walls -and withdrawing a little apart 
sent Northumberland forward to be his spokesman. As this 
rough noble advanced, unceremoniously enough, the King 
drew himself up and his eye (as even the watchers below 
could see) flashed like an eagle's. There was a pause, and 
" We are waiting, my lord," said Richard ; " you forget, it 
seems, the duty of kneeling to your lawful King. If we be 
not that, show us, pray, the hand of God that hath dis 
missed us from our stewardship. Go, tell Bolingbroke 
who methinks stands yonder that every stride he makes 
upon my land is dangerous treason. He is come to open 
war as it were a testament bequeathing him a crown ; but 
before he enjoys that crown in peace, ten thousand bloody 
crowns of mothers' sons shall change the complexion of 
England to scarlet indignation." 

To this Northumberland gave a smooth answer. "'Heaven 
forbid our lord the King should so be assailed ! Nay, 
Bolingbroke begs leave rather to kiss thy hand and swear 
that he comes only to sue for his revenues and his restora 
tion as a free subject. This granted, he swears to lay aside 
his arms ; and, as I am a gentleman, I believe him." 

" Then tell him," said Richard, " that he is welcome, and 



108 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

his demands shall be granted," a galling answer for a 
monarch to utter, yet a wise one ; for, as Aumerle said, " We 
must fight with gentle words till time lend us friends and 
sharper weapons." 

And it was an answer which yet gave Richard a chance, 
had he kept a cool head. For by holding Bolingbroke to 
his oath he could have forced him to choose between dis 
banding his army and seizing the King by force, and so pro 
claiming himself a breaker of his word. But the sight of 
Northumberland returning so agitated him that he let slip 
the very offer which Bolingbroke dearly wished to receive, 
but hardly yet dared to demand. " Must the King submit ?" 
he cried. "The King shall do it. Must he be deposed and 
lose the name of King ? Why, then, let it go !" And turn 
ing to Aumerle, who could not withhold his tears (for many 
men yet loved Richard in spite of his waywardness), he 
confessed most pitifully and in words that might have moved 
a stone that his spirit was broken. " Let me now change 
my jewels for a set of beads, my palace for a hermitage, my 
gay apparel and my sceptre for an almsman's gown and 
such a staff as palmers carry, my large kingdom for a little 
grave a little grave and obscure. Or bury me rather in 
the King's highway, some way of common traffic, where 
subjects' feet may trample, hour by hour, on their sovereign's 
head. Nay, my weeping cousin, let us weep together, and 
make a pretty match of our weeping. Shall we drop our 
tears until they fret a pair of graves for us to lie in, and men 
write over us how we dug them ?" 

While he played with these poor sorrowful fancies, came 
Northumberland with word that Bolingbroke desired to 
speak with his Majesty in the base court below. The King 
descended ; and, when the invader met him with due homage, 
would not suffer him to kneel. " My gracious lord," said 
Bolingbroke, " I come but for my own." " Your own is 
yours," Richard answered, " and I am yours, and all is 
yours. We must do what force will have us do ; and that, 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 109 

cousin, is to set on towards London, is it not ?" " Yea, my 
good lord." " Then I must not say no," sighed the King. 

To London accordingly he was escorted, in name still 
King of England ; but what he was in fact his reception 
there told only too surely. For, as the citizens crowded to 
their casements, all their eyes were for Bolingbroke, who 
rode ahead on a mettlesome horse Richard's own horse, 
too, Roan Barbary by name which paced as if proud of its 
new master; all tongues cried "God save Bolingbroke!" 
and Bolingbroke answered their salutations with bared head, 
bowing to this side and that. As it is on the stage when a 
well-graced actor leaves it and is succeeded by one whom 
the audience holds tedious, so poor Richard followed, droop 
ing beneath the scowls of his " faithful subjects." No joyful 
tongue gave him welcome. No man cried " God save 
Richard !" But some even cast dust down upon his 
anointed head, dust which he shook off with a gentler, 
simpler sorrow than he was presently to show in laying off 
his crown. 

For it was to come to this. Shortly, at Westminster, old 
York who was learning his lackey-like business of compli 
ance more and more easily brought Bolingbroke word that 
Richard willingly resigned his sceptre to the " great Duke 
of Lancaster." " And long live Henry the Fourth !" wound 
up this venerable time-server. 

" In God's name, then, I ascend the throne," replied 
Bolingbroke. 

One voice only challenged his right the voice of the 
trusty old Bishop of Carlisle, who, stirred up by God, as he 
asserted, boldly and at risk of his head protested against 
this dethronement as a sin against God, and prophesied the 
wars and bloodshed that this division of house against house 
would bring upon England in the end. " Well have you 
argued, sir," sneered Northumberland ; " and for your pains 
we arrest you of high treason." 

He was answered yet more effectually by the entrance of 



110 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Richard, who humbly offered Henry the crown ; and yet 
with a last reluctance which Henry bore down by quietly 
pinning him back from his wandering sentences to the point, 
"Are you, or are you not, contented to resign?": and with 
many pretty sad speeches too, which Henry (having gained 
his point) treated now with some humour and little cere 
mony, while Northumberland would have forced the King 
to read over the bald confession of his misgovernment. 
Unable to keep the dignity of kingship, Richard would fain 
have dallied with the dignity of his sorrow. "If my word 
be sterling yet in England, let it command that a mirror be 
brought to show me what face I have, since it is bankrupt 
of its majesty." " Go somebody, and fetch him a looking- 
glass," commanded Bolingbroke, with brief and biting con 
tempt. It was brought. "Was this the face that every 
day kept under its household roof ten thousand men ? This 
the face that faced so many follies, and was at last outfaced 
by Bolingbroke ? Brittle glory and brittle face !" Richard 
dashed the glass on the ground. " I have done. I beg one 
boon, and will afterwards trouble you no more." " Name 
it." " Your leave to go." " Whither ?" " Whither you 
will, only to be out of your sight." "Go, some of you, 
convey him to the Tower." 

We left Richard's young Queen alone with her attendants 
and her foreboding heart. One day, as the poor lady sat 
with two of her maids in the Duke of York's garden at 
Langley, she heard the gardeners chatting as they went 
about their pruning and weeding ; and one began to contrast 
their well-ordered plot of ground with England" our sea 
walled garden," as they called it, -so full of weeds, so un 
kempt, unpruned, with her hedges ruined, her flower-knots 
disordered, and her wholesome herbs swarming with cater 
pillars. "Hold thy peace," the head-gardener chid him. 
" He who allowed this disordered spring has now himself 
met with autumn and the fall of leaf; and the weeds which 




u 

u 



- 

g-s 

SI 



112 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

his once-spreading leaves sheltered Wiltshire, Bushy, and 
Green are by this time plucked up root and all." " What, 
are they dead ?" " They are, and Bolingbroke has seized 
the King himself. Tis doubt he will be deposed before 
long. Letters arrived last night for a dear friend of the 
Duke of York's, and they tell black tidings." 

The Queen, listening in the shadow of the trees, heard all 
that was said, and came running forward all distraught. 
" Wretch ! Where got you this ill news ? Speak !" 
" Alas ! madam, and pardon me ; it is all true." 

Poor lady ! She hurried to London, in time to post her 
self with her attendants in the street along which in a little 
while Richard came with the guard escorting him to the 
Tower. In her eyes, if not in others, he was kingly still. 
" Ah, see him . . . nay, rather, do not see him, my fresh 
rose withered ; and yet, look up and behold him, that your 
eyes may dissolve to dew, and wash my rose fresh again 
with true-love tears !" " Sweet," said Richard, catching 
sight of her and halting, " this is Necessity, to whom I am 
now sworn brother. Hie thee to France, and there hide 
thee in some religious house, and learn to think of our former 
state as a happy dream. We two must win a heavenly 
crown now in place of the crown we squandered here." 

Was this her royal husband, answering so tamely ? Even 
her eyes of love could see that it was a changed Richard 
changed in more than estate. "What!" she cried, "is 
thine intellect deposed too ? Hath Bolingbroke usurped 
even thy heart. Does not the dying lion thrust forth a paw 
and wound the earth, if nothing else, in his noble rage at 
being overpowered. And wilt thou take thy correction 
mildly and kiss the rod and fawn thou, the lion of 
England ?' 

She could not rouse him. "Go," he answered, "think 
that I am dead, and that here, as from my death-bed, thou 
takest leave for the last time." And he fell to fancying how 
her tale would move hearers in foreign lands, as she sat by 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 113 

the late winter's fire with good old folks and listened to 
their stories of woeful happenings in ages long ago, and in 
requital told them the lamentable history of Richard, and 
sent them weeping to their beds. " For," said he, dwelling 
with the fancy, " the very brands on the hearth will weep 
the fire out, and will mourn, some in ashes, some coal-black, 
for the deposing of a rightful king." 

Their leave-taking was bluntly broken short by Northum 
berland, with news that Bolingbroke had now changed his 
mind and Richard must go, not to the Tower, but to Pomfret 
Castle in Yorkshire. An order too had come that the Queen 
must depart for France with all speed. 

"Northumberland," said Richard, "the time shall not be 
long before thou, who hast planted an unrightful King, wilt 
desire to pluck him up again." 

" My guilt be on my head," was the short reply. " Take 
your leave and part." 

" Come then, my wife, let me unkiss our married oath 
and yet not so, for it was made with a kiss. Part us, 
Northumberland ; me towards the shivering north ; my 
wife to France, whence she came to me adorned like May- 
time, and whither she returns like Hallowmas with its short 
daylight." 

" Must we be divided ? Must we part ?" pleaded the 
Queen. "Ah ! banish us both, or let me go whither he goes !" 

But this was not allowed. With fond, unhappy speeches 
they kissed and tore themselves asunder, not to meet again 
in this world. 

For even with Richard in prison Bolingbroke was hardly 
secure, and his friends felt that he was not secure. Already 
the Abbot of Westminster, with Aumerle, Salisbury, and 
others of Richard's friends, had hatched a plot against the 
new King. 

It came, indeed, to nothing. Old York, discovering his 
son Aumerle's share in the conspiracy, lost no time in de 
nouncing him to Bolingbroke. A different father this from 

8 



114 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

old John of Gaunt, who had so heroically, yet sorrowfully, 
voted his son's banishment ! Henry was not to be scared 
by plotters of this order ; and at the Duchess of York's 
intercession he pardoned Aumerle, who lived to become 
Duke of York in his turn, and, later, to find a brave man's 
end on the great field of Agincourt. The Bishop of Car 
lisle, too, was pardoned, as his straight and fearless loyalty 
deserved. And with the death of the grand conspirator, the 
Abbot of Westminster, and the execution of Salisbury and 
some of the lesser men, this small rebellion flickered out. 

But while Richard lived Henry's fears must live too ; for 
any uprising would find an excuse in him, helpless prisoner 
though he might be. A certain knight, Sir Pierce of Exton, 
catching up some unguarded word of Henry's, resolved to 
set this fear to rest for ever. 

In his prison at Pomfret Richard was already schooling 
himself to bear his calamity. For even calamity can be 
carried with an air, and king or captive a man of his 
nature must be a figure. Friends to visit him he had none 
but a faithful groom of his stable, who came with hardly- 
won leave to look upon the face of his late royal master ; 
for Richard, with all his faults and weakness, was a lovable 
man, and could inspire devotion. The poor groom could 
talk of little besides horses, but his sympathy was none the 
less honest for that, and none the less grateful. 

While they talked a keeper entered with a dish. " My 
lord," he said, setting it down, " will it please you to fall 
to?" "Taste of it first," answered Richard, who feared 
poison ; and indeed it was the man's custom to do so ; but 
this time he refused. " My lord, I dare not. Sir Pierce of 
Exton, who lately came from the King, commands the 
contrary." " The devil take Henry of Lancaster and thee!" 
cried Richard, and began to beat him soundly. " Help ! 
help ! help !" cried the keeper. And at this signal the door 
flew open, and Sir Pierce of Exton, with his armed servants, 
stood on the threshold. 



KING RICHARD THE SECOND 115 

With that Richard knew that his hour had come. Weak 
as his will might be, he had never lacked bodily courage ; 
it has never been the way of English kings to lack it. In 
his youth he had faced a crowd of armed rebels under Wat 
Tyler, and- cowed them with rare fearlessness ; and the same 
spirit was alive in him yet He snatched an axe from the 
first servant and clove him down with it. " Go thou, and 
fill another room in hell!" he shouted, turning on a second 
and smiting him dead. But this was his last blow. Before 
he could recover, Exton beat him to the ground with a fatal 
stroke. 

Thus died Richard the Second, more nobly than he had 
lived. " I hate the murderer, love him the murdered," said 
Henry, when the coffin was brought to him at Windsor ; 
and perhaps he was sincere. England had stood sorely in 
need of a firm and soldierly king, and now she had one. 
But the crown had come to him through bloodshed, and not 
without treason ; and men who inclined to question the 
future saw the punishment for these things looming there 
sullenly, though as yet afar off. 



82 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 

I 

BOLINGBROKE, now King Henry the Fourth, found no ease 
and little happiness in the throne to which he had made his 
way so crookedly. To begin with, Richard's death did not 
leave him the rightful successor. This was a youth named 
Edward Mortimer, grandson of the Earl of March, who had 
married Philippa, daughter of Lionel Duke of Clarence. 
This Lionel was the third, John of Gaunt (Henry's father) 
the fourth, of Edward III.'s sons; and therefore, while young 
Edward Mortimer lived, the title of Henry was a faulty one. 
He rested it, however, not on law but on the goodwill of 
his subjects. We have seen how as Bolingbroke he courted 
the opinions and flattered the hopes of Englishmen of all 
degrees. These hopes and opinions had given him the 
crown. He was the popular King ; and now he must 
approve the people's choice by governing to please them. 

Unfortunately by doing so he could not avoid offending 
the great nobles who had helped to exalt him ; and especially 
the rough Earl of Northumberland, whom Richard had 
warned "the time will not be long before thou who hast 
planted an unrightful king shalt be longing to pluck him up 
again." There was nothing these feudal barons desired so 
little as to see the privileges of the common folk extended ; 
lor each was a little king in his own territory and a law to 
himself. But this happened to be just the mischief which 
Henry's first Parliament set about correcting, and in the 
course of its stormy debates no less than forty gauntlets of 

116 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 117 

defiance were flung down on the floor of the House. We 
stand now at the beginning of the struggle which the Wars 
of the Roses completed by utterly breaking up the old 
feudal system. The first heavy blows against that system 
were dealt by this Parliament of Henry's. Bit by bit the 
Commons increased their power. Parliament took upon 
itself authority to declare what was treason and what was 
not ; it forbade government by packed assemblies ; it voted 
the supplies of money and claimed to know how they were 
spent ; it tried to restrain the insolence of the great lords by 
forbidding any person except the King to give liveries to 
his retainers. 

Naturally the barons began to ask themselves why they 
had seated this man on the throne, to consider they had 
been tricked, and to feel sore about it. And Henry, who 
read their thoughts, knew that he had no answer to give. 
But above all the death of Richard lay on his conscience and 
haunted him continually. In two years this burden had 
changed " mounting Bolingbroke " into an old man shaken 
and wan with care ; too much the man to faint or turn back 
from the path marked out for him, yet conscious all the 
while of a heavy debt which must be discharged some day, 
and praying that the settlement might be deferred. 

Two years before, when the news of Richard's murder 
was first brought to him, he had meditated a pilgrimage to 
the Holy Land to expiate his guilt ; but civil discord had 
kept him at home, and the purpose was yet unfulfilled. 
Now in a short breathing space his thoughts turned again 
to a crusade against the pagans in the 

" holy fields 

Over whose acres walked those blessed feet 
Which fourteen hundred years ago were nailed 
For our advantage on the bitter cross." 

But again while his Council discussed the expedition 
came news to unsettle it. One Owen Glendower, a Welsh- 



118 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

man and descendant of Welsh princes, had been educated 
in London, and had served as an esquire at the Court of 
Richard II. In wrath at his master's death and the con 
fiscation of his own estates, he had raised a revolt in Wales, 
and his harrying of the English border called out the forces 
of the shire of Hereford to resist him, under the command 
of Sir Edmund Mortimer, uncle of that Edmund Mortimer, 
Earl of Marchj whom we spoke of just now as legal heir to 
the throne. The encounter ended in a defeat of the English, 
over a thousand of whom were slain, and their dead bodies 
barbarously mutilated by the savage women of Wales. 
Sir Edmund himself fell into Glendower's hands. Close 
upon this came tidings from the North, more cheerful 
indeed, yet not wholly pleasing to Henry. A Scottish 
invasion had been roughly checked by a defeat on Nesbit 
Moor ; but that brave Scot and inveterate foe of the Percies, 
Archibald Earl of Douglas, had vowed vengeance, and 
invading England three months later, was faced at Holme- 
don (now Humbleton, in Northumberland) on Holy-rood 
day by the English under young Harry Percy, surnamed 
Hotspur, and was there utterly routed with the loss of ten 
thousand men, including three-and-twenty Scottish knights. 
Douglas himself lost an eye in the fight ; and five hundred 
prisoners fell into Hotspur's hands, including Mordake 
(Murdach) Earl of Fife, eldest son of Robert Duke of 
Albany, Regent of Scotland, and the Earls of Murray, 
Angus, and Athol. 

Two thoughts at least poisoned Henry's pleasure in this 
victory. In the first place it must increase in the North 
the prestige of the House of Percy, already great enough 
to keep him uneasy. And secondly, whenever men spoke 
of the heir of that house, Harry Hotspur, he could not 
help reflecting upon his own graceless son, that other and 
very different Harry, who seemed deaf to every call of 
honour, and squandered his youth in taverns with all 
manner of dissolute company. " I would," he groaned, " it 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 119 

could be proved that some fairy had changed our two 
children in their cradles, and called mine Harry Percy, his 
Harry Plantagenet !" And he would try to dismiss the 
young scapegrace from his mind as he turned wearily to his 
business of state. 

The Percies at any rate held that the time had come when 
they might bear themselves haughtily towards Henry. The 
ransom of the prisoners taken at Holmedon would amount 
to no small sum of money ; and when the King sent to claim 
them, his messenger brought word that Hotspur flatly 
refused to surrender any but Mordake Earl of Fife. In hot 
displeasure the King sent again to summon him, with his 
father Northumberland and his uncle Worcester, to Windsor, 
to answer for this refusal. 

To Windsor accordingly they came, but their bearing was 
by no means humble. Worcester, indeed, who was ever a 
sour-minded noble, flatly told Henry that the House of 
Percy deserved no such treatment from one who owed his 
greatness to it, and was promptly dismissed from the 
presence. " When we need your counsel we will send for 
you," said the King, and turned to Northumberland for his 
explanation. "The prisoners, my good lord," the Earl said, 
"were not denied with the positiveness reported to you." 
But here his son broke in hotly. " My liege, I denied no 
prisoners. But I remember when the fight was over, and I 
leaning on my sword breathless, exhausted, and dry with 
rage and hard work, there came to me a certain lord, neat, 
trimly dressed, clean shaven, and fresh as a bridegroom. 
The fellow was scented like a milliner, and kept sniffing at 
a pouncet-box he held 'twixt finger and thumb, and smiling 
and chattering ; and as the soldiers went by carrying the 
dead bodies, he rated them for unmannerly knaves to bring 
a slovenly, ill-looking corpse between the wind and his 
nobility. In this mincing speech of his he questioned me, 
and amongst the rest demanded my prisoners in your 
Majesty's name. Then it was that all smarting, with my 



120 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

wounds taking cold, to be so pestered with a coxcomb, I 
gave him out of my pain and impatience some careless 
answer he should, or he should not I forget what exactly. 
For he made me mad, standing there so spruce and dapper, 
scented and talking like a lady-in-waiting of guns and drums 
and wounds save the mark ! and telling me that spermaceti 
was the sovereign'st remedy on earth for an inward bruise, 
and it was a great pity, so it was, to dig that nasty salt 
petre out of the harmless earth to destroy many a good tall 
fellow so cowardly!' and 'but for these vile guns he would 
have been a soldier himself.' This empty, idle chatter, my 
lord, I answered at random as I have told you, and beseech 
you not to take his report as any accusation of my love for 
your Majesty." 

" Surely, my lord," pleaded Sir Walter Blunt, a gallant 
and loyal knight who stood among the listeners, " whate'er 
Lord Harry Percy said at such a time and place, and to 
such a person, may reasonably be forgotten and held in 
the circumstances void of offence, if he be ready now to 
unsay it." 

" But I tell you he still denies me his prisoners !" insisted 
the King angrily ; " or surrenders them only on condition 
that we promptly ransom at our own cost his foolish brother- 
in-law Mortimer, now held a prisoner by Glendower." 

This was indeed Hotspur's stipulation, and one not at all 
pleasing to Henry. The King had no inclination at all to 
spend money in buying home a Mortimer of all persons in 
the world. And Mortimer did not seem to find his captivity 
intolerable, if the news were true that he had actually 
married Glendower's daughter. From this to the suggestion 
that he had led his troops against Glendower with the set 
purpose of betraying them was no very long step, and Henry 
did not find it a difficult one. " Ask us to empty our coffers 
to buy back a traitor ! No ; let him starve on the barren 
mountains ! He is no friend of mine who asks for one penny 
to ransom revolted Mortimer." 






KING HENRY THE FOURTH 121 

"Revolted Mortimer!" Hotspur flared up at the word. 
" He never did revolt, my liege ; never fell off from you but 
by the fortune of war ; and to that his many wounds can bear 
witness wounds which he took in stubborn and bloody 
combat with Glendower on the banks of Severn. Treachery 
never yet took wounds of that sort, and therefore let him not 
be slandered with revolt." 

" Tut, tut !" answered Henry lightly. " Mortimer fought 
no such combat ; he durst as well have met with the devil 
alone as with Owen Glendower. Sirrah," he wound up 
sharply, " speak no more of Mortimer. Send me your 
prisoners speedily, or you shall hear from me in a fashion 
you won't care for. My lord Northumberland, we give you 
and your son leave to depart. Send us your prisoners, I 
repeat, or you will hear of it." 

With these words the King walked out, and left Hotspur 
raging. "If the devil come and roar for his prisoners, I 
will not send them !" He would have run after Henry and 
shouted it, had not his father and his uncle, who re-entered 
at the moment, held him back while they tried to make him 
hear reason. " Not speak of Mortimer ! 'Zounds, I will 
speak of him ; aye, and let my soul want mercy if I don't 
join with him and lift him as high as this thankless King ! 
He will have all my prisoners, will he ? But when I urge 
him to ransom my wife's brother, when I speak the name 
Mortimer, then his countenance changes !" 

"And good reason why," Worcester put in quietly. " Is 
not a Mortimer true heir to the crown, and was he not so 
proclaimed by King Richard before his death?" 

" Ay ? Then I don't blame this cousinly King for wishing 
a Mortimer to starve on the barren mountains ! But .you 
you who set the crown on the head of this forgetful man 
will you go on to abet this murder ? Shall it be recorded 
of you that not only did you pluck down the rose Richard to 
plant this thorn, this canker, this Bolingbroke as you did 
and God forgive you for it ! but suffered the shame of being 



122 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

fooled and cast off by the man for whom you stooped to do 
it ? Nay, while there is yet time redeem your good name 
and revenge yourself on this King, who would pay his debt 
by plotting to take your lives." " And so we will," said 
Worcester, "if you will hearken to the secret I have to 
whisper. But I warn you that what I propose will be 
perilous." " Perilous ?" Hotspur was off again : " Give me 
peril, adventure, anything so that it wins honour ! Set 
honour shining in the moon and I will leap for her ; sink her 
into unfathomed depths of sea and I will dive for her and 
pluck her up by the locks, so that I might have her for my 
own ! It's this half-faced sharing of honour that I cannot 
stomach." " Pray listen !" " I cry your mercy ; proceed." 

"These Scottish prisoners, then " " Pll keep them all, 

I tell you ! By heaven, he shall not have a single Scot of 
them, not if a Scot would save his soul !" " Nay, but listen ; 

you shall keep those prisoners " " Nay, I will, and 

that's flat ! He won't ransom Mortimer, won't he ? forbids 
me to speak of Mortimer ! I swear Pll catch him asleep 
and holla * Mortimer !' in his ear; nay, Pll train a starling to 
say Mortimer,' ' Mortimer,' nothing but ' Mortimer,' all day 
long, and make him a present of it to keep his anger going. 
Pll make it my life's business to torment this Bolingbroke ; 
and as for that Prince Harry, that son of his, if I didn't 
think his father would thank me to be rid of him, Pd have 
him poisoned with a pot of ale." Worcester was making for 
the door in despair. " Why, what a wasp-stung impatient 
fool thou art," cried Northumberland, " that wilt listen to no 
tongue but thy own !" " Well, and it does sting me when I 
hear of this vile politician and remember the candy deal of 
courtesy the fawning dog proffered me once at where was 
it ? that place in Gloucestershire where we helped to put 
him on the throne. How went it ? When my fortune 
shall be better established,' and 'gentle Harry Percy,' and 
' kind cousin.' The devil take such cozeners ! say I. God 
forgive me ! Let's have your tale, uncle ; Pve done." " Nay, 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 123 

if you have not, start afresh. We will stay your leisure." 
" I have done, I tell you." Hotspur flung himself into a 
chair, while Worcester unfolded his plot. Briefly it was 
this that Hotspur should return all his Scottish prisoners 
without ransom and, crossing the border, on the strength of 
this act of generosity invite his old foe the Douglas to an 
alliance against Henry ; that meanwhile Northumberland 
should visit and make cause with Richard Scroop, the 
powerful Archbishop of York, who (it was understood) 
bitterly resented the death of his brother, William Earl of 
Wiltshire, at Bolingbroke's hands, and only waited an 
occasion to be revenged ; and finally, that these two forces 
should unite with Glendower and Mortimer from Wales, 
a matter which Worcester charged himself to arrange 
presently when the time should be ripe. It was a strong 
plot, as Hotspur allowed. It suited his temper exactly, and 
soon the two Percies were riding north to put their revenge 
into action. 

Here we must leave them and go in search of that Prince 
Harry of whom we have heard men speaking from time to 
time, but speaking nothing to his credit. While his father 
toiled and watched and schemed to preserve the crown 
against other ambitious men who threatened it, we shall 
find him at ease entertaining his pet crony, an old, dis 
reputable, and immensely fat knight called Sir John Falslaff. 
There was much^good in this old fellow, or rather, much 
that was amiable, in spite of his rascality and loose living. 
He was, in fact, a gentleman ; a poor gentleman shaken 
loose from the lower degrees of feudalism when that edifice 
began to rock and totter. Shaken off, he had gone utterly 
astray, wasting his days in drinking and rioting among un 
worthy company, which in the end became a necessity to 
him. His round face and grotesque, fat belly were familiar 
in every low London tavern, and the butt of men far below 
him in birth and still farther below him in honesty. Yet 



124 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

with all his incurable frailty he kept so large a heart and so 
sweet a temper that at the sound of his infectious laugh 
never so ready as at his own expense men felt themselves 
drawn to him even in the act of despising him. The Prince 
found him the rarest of companions ; for you could laugh at 
him, or laugh with him, or even both together. 

For the moment their pursuit of folly left them a little 
repose, and for lack of anything better or worse to do, 
Falstaff sat drinking, while the Prince lounged and watched 
him. 

" Hal, what time of day is it, lad ?" demanded the old 
Knight. 

" Thou art so fat-witted with drinking and snoring after 
supper and sleeping upon benches after noon that thou hast 
even forgotten to ask what it concerns thee to know. What 
in the world hast thou to do with the time of day ?" 

" True ; the night is the time for us, who take purses. 
Sweet wag, let there be no gallows standing when thou art 
King. Do not thou, when thou art King, hang a thief. 
Phew !" he sighed, " I am as melancholy to-day as a gib 
cat. I prithee, Hal, trouble me no more with vanity. I 
would to Heaven thou and I knew where good reputations 
could be bought. An old lord of the Council rated me the 
other day in the street about you, but I marked him not ; 
and yet he talked very wisely, but I regarded him not ; and 
yet he talked wisely, and in the street too. But indeed thou 
art enough to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm 
upon me, Hal Heaven forgive thee for it ! Before I 
knew thee, Hal, I knew nothing, and now I am, if a man 
should speak truly, little better than one of the wicked. I 
must give over this life, and I will. I'll not forfeit my soul 
for any King's son in Christendom." 

The Prince looked across at him slily. " Where shall we 
take a purse to-morrow, Jack ?" 

" 'Zounds, where thou wilt, lad. I'll make one, call me a 
villain and cut off my spurs if I don't !" 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 125 

"I see a good amendment of life in thee," laughed his 
companion, " from praying to purse-taking!" 

Sir John grinned amiably. " But hullo ! here comes 
Poins. Now we shall know if that villain Gadshill have 
made an appointment," this being a notorious footpad 
named after a rise on the road between London and Canter 
bury in evil repute for highway robberies. And Poins 
indeed brought word of an appointment at this very spot. 
" My lads, my lads, to-morrow morning by four o'clock 
early at Gadshill ! There are pilgrims going to Canterbury 
with rich offerings, and traders riding to London with fat 
purses. I have masks for you all. Bring your own horses. 
Gadshill spends to-night at Rochester, and I have bespoke 
supper for to-morrow night in Eastcheap. We may do it 
as secure as sleep." 

" I'll go," promised Falstaff. " Hal, wilt thou make 
one?" 

" What, I rob ? I a thief ? Not I, by my faith." Prince 
Harry had no prejudice against playing the madcap, but 
he kept a good share of common sense at the bottom of 
his follies, and highway robbery was too serious a jest 
altogether. 

" I'll turn traitor then," growled Falstaff, " when thou art 
King," and assured him having a pun handy as usual 
that a man couldn't be half a sovereign if he dared not stand 
for ten shillings ! But Poins got rid of the old Knight with 
a promise to persuade the Prince, and no sooner saw his fat 
back turned than he whispered a plan which made Harry 
rub his hands with delight. 

So it was that while Harry Percy rode north with a secret 
in his breast and a plot to be executed, Harry Plantagenet 
took horse at nightfall and rode south, with a secret and a 
plot of far merrier complexion. 

It was four in the morning and pitch-dark, and already 
in an inn-yard at Rochester the sleepy carriers were shuffling 
about with lanterns and harnessing their horses. Gadshill, 



126 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

the highwayman, who had slept in the house, was astir too, 
and soon enough to learn from the chamber- man of the inn 
(an accomplice) that in the party just setting forth was a 
franklin, or yeoman, from the weald of Kent with three 
hundred marks worth of gold* about him. "I heard him 
tell it to one of his company last night at supper. They 
are up already and calling for eggs and butter ; they will 
away presently." 

Gadshill smacked his lips. This was no ordinary piece 
of business, and he could not hang for a job in which, for 
sport's sake, no less a personage than the Prince of Wales 
was "gracing the profession," as he put it. To-night he 
was in league with no sixpenny rascals, but with the 
"nobility and tranquillity." So he saddled his nag with a 
quiet mind, and ambled off to Gadshill, where the Prince, 
Poins, and Falstaff were already at the rendezvous beside 
the dark highway. Poins had taken advantage of the dark 
ness to untether FalstafFs horse, and tie him up at a little 
distance ; and the fat knight was fuming up and down in 
search of him, while the other two lay a few paces off and 
shook with laughter. " Eight yards of uneven ground is 
threescore and ten miles afoot with me," he groaned, as he 
waddled to and fro ; " and the stony-hearted villains know 
it well enough. A plague upon it when thieves cannot be 
true to one another !" At length they whistled from their 
hiding-place. " Plague on you ! Give me my horse, you 
rogues ; give me my horse, and be hanged to you !" 

" Keep quiet, you fat paunch !" whispered the Prince. 
" Lie down, lay your ear to the ground, and listen if you can 
hear the tread of travellers." 

" Lie down ? Have you any levers to lift me up again 
if I do ? Good Prince Hal," he wheedled, " help me to my 
horse, good King's son ! Treatment like this, when a jest 
is so forward, and afoot too ! I hate it." 

Just then Gadshill arrived with Bardolph and Peto, two 
* 200. 






KING HENRY THE FOURTH 127 

fellow-plotters he had picked up on the way. " On with 
your masks, quick ! There's money a little way behind us, 
and now coming down the hill !" 

The Prince made haste, and divided his company on the 
plan arranged. Gadshill, Bardolph, Peto, and Falstaff 
were to waylay the travellers close by in the narrow lane. 
The Prince himself and Poins would take their stand a 
little farther down the hill, and pounce upon any who 
escaped. 

" How many be there of them ?" asked Peto. 

" Some eight or ten," Gadshill reported. 

" 'Zounds !" Falstaff's voice had dismay in it. " Won't 
they rob us ?" 

But the footsteps were close by this time, and with a 
whispered word or two Prince Harry and Poins slipped off 
to their place of ambush. 

Along came the unsuspecting travellers. They had 
finished the toilsome ascent, and were giving their horses 
over to the boy to lead down the hill while they stretched 
their legs, when out sprang our rascals from behind a 
thicket. " Strike !" bellowed Sir John. " Down with them ! 
Cut the villains' throats ! Ah, you caterpillars, you bacon- 
fed knaves ! They hate us young fellows ; down with them ! 
fleece them !" 

The poor travellers, thrown into confusion, and crying 
helplessly, were quickly robbed and secured. " Hang ye, 
you fat-bellied knaves ! Young men must live !" panted 
Falstaff, while this was doing. The four seated themselves 
by the road to divide their spoil before taking horse. " If 
the Prince and Poins be not two arrant cowards there's no 
equity stirring. There's no more valour in that Poins than 
in a wild-duck !" 

"Your money!" shouted a voice behind his shoulder. 
"Villains!" 

They scrambled to their feet in the darkness. Gadshill, 
Bardolph, Peto broke away and ran for their lives ; and 



128 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Falstaff, after a blow or two, took to his heels also, leaving 
the booty scattered on the ground. The Prince and Poins 
for these and no other were the assailants flung them 
selves down and laughed until they were tired. Still shaking 
with laughter at the thought of the dismayed four now 
running at the sound of each other's footsteps each taking 
the other in the darkness for a constable of Falstaff 
especially, larding the earth with sweat as he shuffled along, 
the pair gathered up their gains, climbed into saddle, and 
galloped away merrily towards London. 

But the cream of the jest, they promised themselves, was 
to come when FalstafF should make his appearance next 
evening in Eastcheap, where Poins had ordered supper at 
the Boar's Head. The Prince and Poins were there early, 
you may be sure, and whiled away the time at the expense 
of Francis, a distracted waiter, whom the Prince held in 
talk, while Poins played the impatient customer, and kept 
bawling "Francis!" from the next room. "Francis! 
Francis !" " Coming, sir ! Coming !" By this simple 
game they managed to drive the poor fellow half out of his 
wits before letting him go. 

The Prince flung himself into a chair. " Men take their 
pleasures differently. Now I am not yet of that fellow 
Hotspur's mind he that kills me some six or seven dozen 
Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, 
' Fie upon this quiet life ! I want work.' ' My sweet 
Harry/ says she, ' how many hast thou killed to-day ?' 
' Give my roan horse a drench,' says he ; and answers, 
' Some fourteen,' an hour after ; ' a trifle, a trifle.' " 

But here the door opened, and in walked Falstaff, Gads- 
hill, Bardolph, and Peto, with the waiter at their heels 
carrying wine. All four were footsore and sulky, and 
Falstaff merely growled when Poins bade him welcome. 
" A plague of all cowards, I say, and amen to it ! Give me 
a cup of sack, boy. A plague of all cowards !" He affected 
to disregard the Prince and Poins and their greetings. 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 129 

" Pah ! this sack has been doctored too ; there is nothing 
but roguery to be found in villainous man ; yet a coward is 
worse than doctored sack. Go thy ways, old Jack ; die 
when thou wilt, for manhood, good manhood, is forgot upon 
the face of the earth. There live not three good men un 
hanged in England, and one of them is fat and grows old. 
A bad world, I say. A plague of all cowards, I say still." 

" How now, wool-sack ?" demanded Prince Harry. 
" What are you muttering ?" 

" A king's son ! If I do not beat thee out of thy kingdom 
with a dagger of lath, and drive all thy subjects afore thee 
like a flock of wild-geese, I'll never wear hair on my face 
more. You Prince of Wales !" 

" Why what's the matter, you round man ?" 

" Are you not a coward ? answer me that : and Poins 
there ?" 

" 'Zounds," threatened Poins, " call me coward again, 
and I put a knife into your fat paunch." 

" I call thee coward ? I'll see thee further ere I call thee 
a coward ; but I would give a thousand pounds if I could 
run as fast as thou canst. You are straight enough in the 
shoulders, you care not who sees your back. Call you that 
backing of your friends ? A plague on such backing ! Give 
me a cup of sack." FalstafF drained another cup. " A plague 
of all cowards, still say I." 

" What's the matter ?" asked the Prince again. 

" What's the matter ! There be four of us here have 
taken a thousand pounds this very morning." 

" Where is it, Jack ? Where is it ?" 

" Where is it ? Taken from us it is : a hundred upon 
poor four of us." 

" What, a hundred, man ?" 

" I am a rogue if I was not at close quarters with a dozen 
of them two hours together. 'Twas a miracle I escaped. 
I was eight times thrust through the doublet, four through 
the hose ; my buckler cut through and through ; my sword 

9 



130 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

hacked like an hand-sawlook for yourself ! I never fought 
better since I was a man ; but all no good. A plague of all 
cowards !" , 

The Prince, in mock bewilderment, appealed to the others 
to tell their story, and all together plunged into the outrageous 
concocted tale. " We four set upon some dozen ' "Six 
teen at least." " And bound them." " No, they were not 
bound." "Yes, they were bound, every man of them, or 
I'm a Hebrew Jew." "As we were sharing some six or 

seven fresh men set upon us " " And unbound all the 

rest, and on they all came." " If I fought not with fifty of 
them, I'm a bunch of radish." 

" Dear, dear "the Prince kept a serious face " pray 
Heaven you have not murdered some of them !" 

" Nay, that's past praying for. Two I am sure I have 
paid, two rogues in buckram suits. See here, Hal" Fal- 
staff struck an attitude "thou knowest my old guard; 
well, I took it so. Four rogues in buckram let drive at 
me " 

" What, four ? Thou saidst two a moment ago." 

" Four, Hal ; I told thee four. These four assailed me in 
front, thrusting at me. I made no more ado, but took all 
their seven points in my buckler, thus." 

" Seven ? Why just now there were but four." 

"In buckram?" 

" That was it ; four, in buckram suits." 

" Seven, by my sword-hilt, or else I am a villain." 

" Let him alone," whispered Poins; " we shall have more 
presently." 

" Dost thou hear me, Hal ? That's right, for it is worth 
the listening to. These nine men in buckram that I told 
thee of 

The Prince whistled softly. " Two more already !" 

" Their points being broken, began to give me ground. I 
followed close, came in foot and hand; and as quick as 
thought paid out seven of the eleven !" 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 131 

" Monstrous !" groaned Harry. " Eleven buckram men 
out of two !" 

"But, as the devil would have it," went on Falstaff, 
" three accursed fellows in coats of Kendal green came at 
my back and let drive at me ; for it was so dark, Hal, that 
thou couldst not see thy hand " 

"Well, of all the lies!" 

" Eh ? What ? Art thou mad ? Is not the truth the 
truth?" 

" Why, how couldst thou know these men in Kendal green, 
when thou sayst it was too dark to see thy hand ? Come, 
explain, pray." And Poins joined in, " Explain, Jack, 
explain." 

" What, upon compulsion ! Tell you on compulsion ! Give 
you a reason on .compulsion ! If reasons were as plentiful 
as blackberries, I would give no man a reason upon com 
pulsion not I !" 

"Enough of this," said the Prince; "and now listen to 
me. We two Poins and I saw you four set upon four 
travellers, and bind them, and make yourselves masters of 
their wealth. Mark, now, how a plain tale shall put you 
down. Then we two did set on you four, and, with a word, 
outbraved you and took your booty ; ay, and have it. We 
can show it to you here in the house. Why, Falstaff, you 
carried your fat paunch away and roared while you ran as 
lustily as ever I heard bull-calf. And you hack your sword 
like that, and say it was done in fight ! Come, what trick 
can you find now to cover your shame ?" 

" Ay, Jack," echoed Poins, " what trick can you find now ?" 

Sir John stood abashed for just a moment ; then a twinkle 
showed in a corner of his eye, and spread slowly over his fat 
features. 

" By the Lord, I knew ye all the time ! Why, hear you, 
my masters, was it for me to kill the heir-apparent ? Should 
I turn upon a true Prince ? Why, thou knowest I am as 
valiant as Hercules ; but beware instinct ! The lion will 

92 



132 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

not touch the true Prince. Instinct is a great matter ; I 
was a coward upon instinct. I shall think the better of 
myself and thee during my life ! But, lads, I am glad you 
have the money. Shut the doors, hostess !" 

But the hostess had a word of her own to say. " There 
was a nobleman of the Court at the door would speak with 
the Prince." 

" Give him money and send him packing," said the Prince, 
not willing to be interrupted. 

Falstaff offered to take him an answer, and while he was 
gone Bardolph and the others confessed how the knight had 
hacked his sword with his dagger, and persuaded them to 
tickle their noses with spear-grass, and make them bleed, 
and smear their clothes with the blood, to make believe it 
was all done in fight. 

But Falstaff came back with serious news. The Prince 
hailed him lightly. " Well, how now, fat Jack ? How long 
is't ago since thou sawest thine own knee?" " My own knee ? 
When I was about thy years, Hal, an eagle's talons would 
have met round my waist. I could have crept through an 
alderman's thumb-ring. A plague of sighing and grief ! it 
blows a man up like a bladder. But there's villainous news 
abroad. That was Sir John Bracy, sent by your father ; 
you must go to the Court in the morning. That mad Percy 
of the north, and that wizard-fellow of Wales, Owen Glen- 
dower, and his son-in-law Mortimer, and old Northumber 
land, and that sprightly Scot of Scots, Douglas, that never 
runs away 

" Unless upon instinct, Jack." 

" I grant ye, upon instinct. Well these, and one Mordake, 
and a thousand blue bonnets more, are up in arms. Wor 
cester has stolen away to-night ; thy father's beard is turned 
white with the news, and you may buy land now as cheap 
as stinking mackerel. Tell me, Hal, art thou not horribly 
afraid ? Could the world choose for thee, as heir-apparent, 
three worse enemies than Douglas, Percy, and Glendower ?" 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 138 

" Afraid ? Not a whit, Jack ; I lack some of thy instinct" 

" Well, well ; thou wilt be horribly chid to-morrow, when 
thy father gives thee a talking-to. If thou lovest me, prac 
tise an answer." 

Upon this, though the news was serious and the time 
short, Prince Harry could not resist setting the fat Knight 
in a chair to represent the King, and rehearsing to morrow's 
scene with him in mockery ; and afterwards taking the 
King's seat himself and rating the corpulent old man as a 
headstrong youth, rebuking him especially with his fond 
ness for that hoary old reprobate, Sir John Falstaff. While 
the two were at this game a second knocking sounded on 
the outer door, and the hostess came running to say that the 
sheriff and watch were without, demanding to search the 
house. Guessing what brought them, the Prince cleared 
the room and had just time to stow Sir John behind the 
arras hangings before the sheriff appeared with the robbed 
carrier. 

" Pardon me, my lord," explained the sheriff, recognizing 
the Prince, " but a hue and cry has followed certain men to 
this house." 

" What men ?" 

" One of them, my gracious lord, is a notorious character 
a gross, fat man." 

" Ha ! I know whom you mean. He is not here, but I 
will engage he shall call upon you by to-morrow dinner 
time, and answer any charge you may bring." 

" There are two gentlemen, my lord, who have lost three 
hundred marks in this robbery." 

" That may be. If he have robbed them, he shall be 
answerable "; and so with compliments the Prince bowed 
the sheriff out. 

But when he and Peto, the coast being clear, pulled aside 
the arras, they found Sir John with his double chin sunk on 
his chest. Tired out with his last night's exertions he had 
dropped sound asleep. " Search his pockets," whispered 



134 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

the Prince ; but Peto could find no money only a tavern 

bill which read : 

s. d. 
Item, A capon . . . . . .22 

Hem, Sauce . . . .04 

Hem, Sack, 2 gallons 58 

Item, Anchovies and sack after supper . 2 6 
Item, Bread . . ' . ... . . o o 

" O monstrous ! but one half-pennyworth of bread to this 
intolerable deal of sack !" The Prince looked down on the 
stertorous sleeper. " Let him snore on. It is late, and I 
must to Court in the morning. The money stolen must be 
paid back with interest. We must to the wars now, and I'll 
procure this fat rogue a charge of foot-soldiers ; I know the 
marching will be the death of him. Good morrow, Peto," 
and Prince Harry stepped out into the cold dawn. 

In truth the serious summons had come for him. Hotspur 
had prospered in the affair which took him north. Douglas 
had readily joined the conspiracy. Northumberland had no 
difficulty in persuading the Archbishop of York, who com 
mended not only the attempt but the plan of campaign. 
And Glendower needed no persuasion, being already in active 
rebellion against the King. By the Archbishop's advice a 
paper was drawn up stating the several grounds which 
justified the revolt, and copies of this were secretly sent here 
and there throughout England to those barons whose affec 
tion for Henry stood in doubt. Many returned promises of 
help ; though it may be said here that their promises did not 
amount to much on the day of trial. And indeed the con 
spiracy held grave elements of weakness. It had no roots 
in popular feeling ; for the people as a whole looked upon the 
King as their friend, and justly ; and read plainly enough in 
this revolt the jealousy and disappointment of a few big 
nobles. Nor was it knit together by a common purpose. 
Northumberland lagged behind his son, considering how he 






KING HENRY THE FOURTH 185 

might save himself in case of failure. Douglas and Glen- 
dower had quite different aims ; and Glendower especially 
was about the last man in the world Hotspur could under 
stand. 

Hotspur worked hard, and for a while his impetuosity 
carried the movement along. His plans laid, he set out for 
Wales ; and his wife (who had pleaded vainlv to be taken 
into his confidence) followed him to Bangor, where she met 
her brother Mortimer and his newly-wedded Welsh wife in 
company with Glendowef and his wild troops. Worcester, 
too, had arrived. But from the first it was clear that 
Hotspur and Glendower could neither agree nor tolerate 
each other. 

We know what Hotspur was a blunt, headstrong, prac 
tical soldier, impatient of speech and curt, almost brutal, of 
manner even towards his own wife. Glendower was a fighter 
too, but he was also a chieftain over a wild and superstitious 
race ; a dreamer and a visionary ; gentle towards women ; 
insanely proud of his barbaric sovereignty, and touchy at 
the least suspicion of ridicule ; a romantic and dignified 
savage thinly varnished by his youthful training in the 
English Court. 

So when the leaders met in council at the Archdeacon of 
Bangor's house, and began, with the map between them, to 
parcel out the realm of England, the first compliments were 
scarcely exchanged before Hotspur and Glendower began 
(as we say) to rub each other's temper the wrong way. 

" Be seated, cousin Percy," Glendower began graciously; 
" or let me say cousin Hotspur, for when our enemy Lan 
caster hears tell of you by that name he turns pale and 
wishes you in heaven." 

" And you in hell whenever he hears of Owen Glen 
dower." Hotspur bettered the compliment with a brusque 
laugh. 

But Glendower took it quite seriously. " I cannot blame 
him ; at my nativity the heavens were full of blazing stars. 



136 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

and the whole frame and foundation of the earth quaked at 
my birth." 

" Why so it would have done at the same season if your 
mother's cat had but kittened, though you had never been 
born." 

"I say," repeated Glendower solemnly, "that the earth 
shook when I was born." 

" Did it ? Then I say that the earth couldn't have been 
of my mind, if it shook for fear of you." 

" The heavens were on fire ; the earth trembled." 

" Oh, then the earth shook to see the heavens on fire ; 
that explains it. The earth suffers from those spasms at 
times." 

" Cousin," Glendower reproved him, " I do not permit 
many to cross me as you are doing." And having no spark 
of humour, he went on to adduce further proof that he was 
no ordinary man. 

" I think no man speaks better Welsh." Hotspur soon 
had enough of this. " I'll to dinner." 

" Peace, cousin," put in Mortimer, " or you will drive him 
mad." 

" I can call spirits out of the deep," still went on the 
sonorous Glendower. 

" Why so can I ; so can any man. The question is if 
they'll come when you call them." 

" I can teach you to command the devil himself." 

" And / can teach you how to shame him. Tell the truth 
and shame the devil that's the way, cousin." 

" Thrice hath Henry Bolingbroke made head against me; 
thrice from the banks of Wye and Severn have I beaten 
him home bootless and weather-beaten." 

" Home without boots, and in foul weather ! How in the 
world escapes he the ague 1" 

Clearly Hotspur in this mood was intractable. Even 
Glendower saw this at length, and picked up the map 
sullenly. The Archdeacon of Bangor had divided off the 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH IS? 

future realms of the three parties in the revolt. To the 
Mortimers, as true heirs to the throne, fell the whole of 
England south of Trent and east of Severn. The Percies 
took the north of England from Trent to the Scottish border, 
and Glendower his native Wales. But Hotspur was now 
in a temper to pick holes in any arrangement. " It seems 
to me you have given me the smallest of the portions ; look 
at this river here, this Trent, winding into the best of my 
territory, and cutting out a huge slice. I'll have the current 
dammed up here, and cut a straight channel across. It 
shall not wind so." 

" Not wind ?" cried Glendower. " But it shall, it must; 
you see that it does." 

" Then I'll see that it shall not ; it shall run straight." 

Mortimer showed that another bend of the river gave Hot 
spur back as much as the first took from him. Worcester 
pointed out how a little engineering would make the channel 
straight. Glendower would not hear of any alteration. 
" Pray who will deny me ?" demanded Hotspur. " I will." 
" Then you had better say it in Welsh, so that I shall not 
understand you." " I can speak English, my lord, as well 
as you. Yes, and I learnt in the English Court to turn 
many an English song to the harp, and give a new orna 
ment to your language ; an accomplishment which I believe 
you never possessed." " No, I'm glad to say, I'd rather be 
a kitten and cry ' mew !' than be one of your ballad- 
mongers." Glendower gave him up in despair. " Very 
well, you shall have Trent turned." " Oh, as for that I don't 
care ; I'd give thrice so much land to any friend who de 
served it ; but when a man starts to bargain with me, look 
you, I'll dispute to the ninth part of a hair." 

The compact was given into the secretary's hands, and 
Glendower withdrew with dignity, while the two others 
expostulated with Hotspur for so crossing the worthy 
gentleman. " I cannot help it," Hotspur protested ; " he 
wearies and vexes me so with his lore and his crack-brained 



138 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

pretensions. He's worse than a smoky house." " And yet, 
let me tell you," said Mortimer, " my father-in-law has a 
real respect for you, and curbs himself when you cross his 
humour as he would for no other man in- the world." 
" Well, well, I am schooled," said Hotspur, and bore him 
self good-humouredly enough until the moment of departure 
hours spent in that peaceful happiness which made home 
so dear to Glendower, and was enjoyed by him so rarely. 
It was small wonder that Mortimer had fallen in love with 
his captor's daughter, and was loath now to leave his Welsh 
wife, whose language was strange to him, as his was to her, 
but who loved him and spoke it with tearful eyes while she 
sang him the soft songs of her native land, and he, laid on 
the rushes with his head on her lap, looked up and forgot 
for a while that the campaign called him and the moments 
were running away towards his departure. Even Hotspur, 
that hater of ballads and scorner of sentiment, was less 
brutal than his wont in announcing that the time was come 
to take leave. 

We left Prince Harry on his way to answer his father's 
summons. The King wished to speak with him alone, for 
he read the anger of Heaven in the reports which reached 
him of his eldest son's misconduct, and fully believed that 
in this was laid up the punishment for his own past wrong 
doing. " My father," said the Prince, " I would I could 
redeem all my offences as thoroughly as I can prove myself 
guiltless of many charged against me. But let me beg this, 
that if I disprove many falsehoods brought to your Majesty's 
ear by smiling but envious tattlers, I may in return for some 
youthful faults which I have indeed committed find pardon 
on making a clean breast." 

" May God pardon thee, Harry ! It is for me to wonder 
how my son can so differ from his father and all his blood. 
Struck out of the Council thy place there given to thy 
younger brother Clarence all but an alien to my Court and 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 139 

thy kindred of the blood ! What wonder that men think 
upon what they hoped and expected of thee before now, and 
shake their heads prophetically ? Had I made myself cheap 
as thou, should I ever have won the crown ? No ; I hus 
banded myself, went abroad rarely, and when I did people 
would point and say, ' This is he !' or ask, ' Where ? Which 
is Bolingbroke ?' And with this I used such courtesy as won 
their allegiance, so that they raised cheers for me even in the 
King's presence. It was Richard, that skipping fellow, that 
made himself cheap and familiar ; ambling up and down 
with shallow companions, laughing and sporting until the 
public eye grew utterly tired of him. And thou, Harry, 
art running the same gait. Not an eye but is aweary 
of thee" the King sighed "save mine, which hath 
yearned to see thee more ; which even now does what I 
would not have it do, and grows dim with a foolish tender 
ness." 

" My gracious lord," promised Harry, "from this time I 
will be more myself." But the King had more on his mind. 
That his son should be so different from Hotspur there lay 
the wound which gnawed him that he should be driven to 
envy this foe, and acknowledge him at every point superior 
to his own Harry, his nearest and dearest enemy. And in 
his bitterness he uttered a taunt equally cruel and unjust. 
" I could believe thou art base enough, degenerate enough, 
through fear of him or pettish wrath against me, to take 
Percy's pay and fall in at his heels to fight against me !" 

" Do not think that !" cried Harry, shocked and indignant. 
" You shall not find it so ; and God forgive those who have 
so warped your Majesty's good thoughts from me ! There 
shall come yet the close of a day when, wiping off the blood 
of battle and with it my past disgrace, I shall be bold to tell 
you I am your son. And that day shall be when this much- 
lauded Hotspur and your poorly-thought-of Harry come 
face to face. Before God, sir, he shall render me up all my 
lost honours, if I have to tear the reckoning from his heart. 



140 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Trust me this once, and I will die every death before break 
ing this vow !" 

" I will trust thee," said the King slowly. 

And the hour for proving that trust was at hand. While 
father and son still looked each other in the face, Sir Walter 
Blunt arrived with the news that Douglas and Percy had 
already joined forces at Shrewsbury. Glendower would be 
following, and old Northumberland might be despatching 
reinforcements at any moment. The Earl of Westmoreland 
and young Prince John of Lancaster were already moving 
northward upon the rebels. " On Wednesday, Harry, you 
shall set forward ; we ourselves the day after. Let your line 
of march be through Gloucestershire, and in twelve days' 
time we should meet and join at Bridgenorth." Smarting 
from this interview, but flushed now with a new resolve, 
Harry hurried off to prepare for the campaign. 

In his preparations he did not forget his old promise to 
provide Falstaff with a command of foot. That worthy just 
now was in a melancholy humour, but doing his best to work 
it off by railing at Bardolph's red nose, a feature which did 
much service by engaging his attention in hours of slackness 
or despondency. The images biblical and other called up 
by it, the trains of thought suggested by it, were endless. 
"Thou art our admiral, thou bearest the lantern in the 
poop. . . . When thou rannest up Gadshill in the night to 
catch my horse, if I did not take thee for a will-o'-the-wisp 
or a ball of wildfire there's no purchase in money. . . . 
Thou hast saved me a thousand marks in links and torches, 
walking with thee in the night betwixt tavern and tavern ; 
but what thou hast drunk would have bought me lights as 
cheap in the dearest chandler's in Europe. I have main 
tained that salamander of yours with fire any time this two- 
and-thirty years, Heaven reward me for it !" Sir John's 
commentary was peculiarly rich and pungent to-day ; the 
fact (as he asserted) being that during his sleep he had been 
robbed of several valuable bonds and a seal-ring belonging 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 141 

to his grandfather. This charge against the credit of her 
house Mistress Quickly, hostess of the Boar's Head, shrilly 
resented, and the dispute was hot when the Prince arrived 
and proved the robbery to have been but a few unpaid 
tavern-bills. As for the money taken from the travellers, it 
had been paid back. "Ah!" quoth Sir John, not in the 
least out of countenance ; " I do not like that paying back ; 
'tis a double labour." But the Prince was in earnest now. 
Sir John must attend in the Temple Hall to-morrow to 
receive his commission and money for his equipment. 
Bardolph must set out with a letter for Prince John of Lan 
caster. " To horse, Peto ; thou and I have thirty miles yet 
to ride ere dinner-time." These tavern loafers took fire from 
him ; their marching orders had come, and in a day or two 
they with their betters had left London and were pressing 
northward to Shrewsbury. 

At Shrewsbury in the rebel camp all was not prospering. 
Hotspur and Douglas had met in good fighting trim, but 
Glendower had not arrived and, worse still, Northumber 
land, whose name and influence in the north meant every 
thing to their cause, was either sick or feigning sickness, and 
marched southward slowly, sending messages that his 
coming must not be relied on. " A bad time to be taken 
sick," grumbled Worcester. " His health was never so 
valuable as it is just now." Hotspur, for a moment de 
pressed by the news, quickly recovered his spirits. It would 
be no bad thing in case of mishap to have a second force to 
fall back upon. Worcester shook his head ; the great Percy's 
hesitation would have a moral effect men would begin to 
doubt and question. Hotspur and Douglas alike scorned the 
notion of fear; and a report that the royal forces were 
approaching set the former on fire with impatience. Hap 
piest of all was he to hear that the Prince of Wales was 
coming ; for in truth, and for some time, these two Harrys 
had felt themselves to be rivals. Harry Percy might talk 
disdainfully, but the feeling was there Harry, Prince of 



142 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Wales, might listen to the other's praises with affected care 
lessness, but he had not been too careless to mark and 
remember even what kind of horse Hotspur rode. While 
men contrasted them, fate whispered to each of a day which 
should finally decide between them " Harry to Harry, hot 
horse to horse." 

So while Glendower tarried and Northumberland sent 
malingering messages, the royal troops pressed on towards 
Bridgenorth. It was lucky for his Majesty that his army 
contained few companies such as Falstaff's. Sir John had 
not left London too soon. The tale of the robbery on 
Gadshill had come to the ears of the Lord Chief-Justice 
Gascoigne, who was not a man to show favour to any friend 
of the Prince, or even to the Prince himself. It had been 
his duty before now to sentence Bardolph to imprisonment 
for a riot committed in the Prince's company, and Harry, 
being in court when the sentence was delivered, had so far 
forgotten himself as to draw his sword; whereupon the 
judge had promptly committed him to the King's Bench. 

Falstaff, who had been reported as concerned in the 
Gadshill robbery, had to thank the confusion of the times 
rather than any weakness of Lord Chief-Justice Gascoigne 
that he was still free to abuse the King's confidence. And 
he abused it royally. Being licensed to " press " soldiers in 
the King's service, he had taken care to lay hands only on 
passably rich fellows yeomen's sons, well-to-do bridegrooms 
on the eve of marriage, and the like in fact anyone who 
seemed pretty sure to pay a round sum to escape serving. 
And with the money thus gotten he had hired in their place 
such a crew of scarecrows that he was fairly ashamed to 
march them through the streets of Coventry. " The villains," 
he growled, " march so wide between the legs as if they had 
fetters on ; for indeed I had the most of 'em out of prison. 
There's but a shirt and a half in all my company ; and the 
half-shirt is two napkins tacked together and thrown over 
the shoulders like a herald's coat without sleeves ; and the 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 143 

shirt, to say the truth, stolen from my host at St. Albans, 
or else from the red-nosed innkeeper of Daventry. But," 
he consoled himself, " that's all one ; they'll find linen on 
every hedge. And as for the fellows themselves, they'll 
serve as food for powder ; they'll fill a pit as well as their 
betters. Tush ! mortal men, mortal men !" 

The Prince, in whose army these rapscallions marched, 
joined the King at Bridgenorth, and the combined armies 
marched forward on Shrewsbury and halted within sight of 
the rebel forces. 

Still Northumberland hung back, and Glendower tarried 
on the Welsh border. But although he knew himself out 
numbered, although Worcester and even Douglas counselled 
delay, Hotspur was for prompt attack Always a fierce 
fighter, in this crisis he showed himself an indifferent 
general. He had, however, a true general's power of 
swaying men, which he used now to override opposition ; 
and when the King sent Sir Walter Blunt to offer generous 
terms, he returned the insulting message that he and his 
house had proved the King's promises before and knew 
what they were worth. Yet on an afterthought he promised 
that the King's offer should be considered, and that 
Worcester should bring a cooler answer on the morrow. 

The morrow had scarcely dawned when Worcester with 
Sir Richard Vernon by his side, rode into the royal camp 
for this last interview. The day was that before the feast 
of St. Mary Magdalen, and the month July, but the newly 
risen sun hung red and angry in a cheerless sky, and a 
whistling south wind gave promise of stormy weather. 

In the King's presence Worcester rehearsed once more 
his old tale of the promises given to the house of Percy 
and unfulfilled. Prince Harry, standing beside his father, 
listened with impatience, and at the close of the recital 
stepped forward and offered to save unnecessary bloodshed 
and decide the quarrel between their two houses by single 
combat with Hotspur, to whose admitted prowess he paid 



144 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

many courtly compliments. This gallant proposal was of 
course not to be thought of ; but the King, still clemently 
minded, again offered the rebels pardon if they would sur 
render, and a free inquiry into their grievances with a view 
to redress. 

Vernon was for reporting this offer to Hotspur, but 
Worcester, morose and distrustful as ever, turned it over in 
his mind and decided that the King was not to be relied on : 
he would merely bide his time and find another occasion to 
strike. Hotspur's trespass might be forgotten for the sake 
of his youth and notoriously choleric temper ; but his 
elders, who had spurred him on, would one day surely be 
made to pay for it. Thus reasoning, Worcester took a 
decision as fatal as it was dishonest, and returning to 
Hotspur and Douglas not only said nothing of the King's 
offer, but so misreported him as to throw his nephew into 
a new rage. One thing only he related truthfully, the 
Prince of Wales's challenge ; and Vernon, not relishing the 
deceit which he was abetting, found some consolation in 
bearing witness to the courtesy with which that challenge had 
been uttered. " Courteous, was he ?" answered Hotspur. 
" I hope before night to embrace him so with a soldier's arm 
that he will find himself- shrinking under my courtesy." 
Without delay he set his battle in order, and with the 
famous cry of his house, " Esperance ! Percy !" led them 
forward to the attack. 

After a murderous exchange of archery, the two armies 
joined, and in the first shock Douglas with his Scots forced 
back the King's van, led by the Earl of Stafford, and very 
nearly broke their array. Distressed by a storm of arrows 
and harassed in flank by irregular bodies of Welshmen who 
had been lurking in the wooded hills and marshes and now 
came to the rebels' support, the Earl's men were wavering 
when Henry came up and relieved them with his main 
body. Now from the nature of the quarrel it had been 
foreseen that the rebels might direct their attack specially 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 145 

against the King's person and to baffle this no less than 
four knights had taken the field that day in armour precisely 
like the King's. Two of these, the Earl of Stafford himself 
and Sir Walter Blunt, were cut down by Douglas in two 
separate onsets which carried to the very foot of the royal 
standard ; and finding himself twice cheated, the Scot 
swore to cut his way through the King's wardrobe piece 
by piece until he found the real Henry, and to this vow our 
friend Falstaff no doubt owed his life. For, encountering 
with Douglas, and finding himself in peril of being spitted, 
this hero flung himself on the ground and shammed dead. 
It was not easy in any circumstances to mistake Falstaff 
for the King of England in disguise, and without pausing 
to make sure Douglas hurried forward in pursuit of higher 
game. 

As we know, it was no light matter for Falstaff, once 
prostrate, to get on his legs again. On this occasion he 
was in no great haste to try, and so it happened that, 
stretched where he had fallen, he was witness of the 
encounter between the pair who had been seeking each 
other since first the battle joined. 

Prince Harry had been fighting nobly. Early in the day 
an arrow had wounded him in the face, and his father, 
himself withdrawn from the hottest of the fight only by the 
vehement entreaties of the Earl of March, had vainly 
implored him to retire and have his wound dressed. To 
this he would not listen, and it was on the ground from 
which he had already beaten off an onslaught of Douglas 
upon his father that he and Hotspur at length came face to 
face. 

" Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere." They 
fought, knowing that for one or the other his hour had come. 
And it was Hotspur, the formidable, the approved soldier, 
who fell. It was Prince Hal, the reputedly worthless, who 
stooped and laid his scarf respectfully over the face of his 
dead rival so often envied ! As he did so he turned and 

10 



146 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

spied Falstaff. " What ? Thou too, old acquaintance ! 
Farewell, old Jack ! I could better have spared a better 
man. Lie there by Percy until I return and see thee duly 
embowelled and buried !" 

Falstaff watched him out of sight, and slowly heaved him 
self on his feet. " Embowelled ! If thou embowel me to 
day, I'll give thee leave to powder and eat me too to-morrow. 
Phew ! It was time to counterfeit, or that hot, termagant 
Scot had paid me scot and lot too. The better part of 
valour is discretion, say I." He waddled over to Hotspur's 
corpse, and giving it a thrust or two with his dagger to 
make sure, hoisted it on his back. 

By this time the rebel bugles were sounding retreat. 
Lacking Hotspur to put heart in them, their ranks were 
breaking, and the day was already won when Prince Harry 
and his brother, John of Lancaster, met the fat Knight 
staggering along under his burden. The Prince could 
hardly believe his eyes, or his ears either, when Falstaff cast 
the body on the ground and complacently claimed that he 
and no other had killed Hotspur. "There is Percy. If 
your father will do me any honour, well and good ; if not, 
let him kill the next Percy himself." 

" Why, I killed Percy with my own hand, and I saw thee 
dead !" 

" Didst thou indeed ? Lord, Lord, how this world is 
given to lying ! I grant you I was down and out of breath, 
and so was he. But we rose both at an instant, and fought 
a long hour by Shrewsbury clock. See you this wound in 
his thigh !" 

" Make the most of thy falsehood, if it do thee any good." 
The Prince had no time to waste in such disputing. The 
victory was now assured, the rebellion broken up. Douglas, 
chased from the field and spurring his horse at a desperate 
crag, was flung heavily and taken prisoner. Him the King 
pardoned without ransom at Harry's entreaty. Worcester 
and Vernon, captives too, he condemned to execution. 




PRINCE HARRY AND HOTSPUR AT THE BATTLE OF SHREWSBURY. 
(From a print in the Boydell collection after Francis Rigaud, R.A.) 



10 2 



148 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

" Hadst thou borne back our true message of grace, many 
a gallant man now dead had been drawing life this hour." 
They were led forth, and the King, despatching his son 
John and the Earl of Westmoreland towards York to deal 
with Northumberland and the Archbishop, directed his own 
march upon Wales to complete his victory. 



II 

In the orchard of Warkworth Castle, on the banks of the 
Coquet and handy by the sea, the old Earl of Northumber 
land paced to and fro, waiting for news of the battle he had 
been too " crafty-sick " to attend. And along the roads 
between Shrewsbury and Warkworth more than one horse 
man was spurring with rumours caught up in quiet towns 
far from the battle-field. 

The first of these tired riders to dismount at the castle 
gate was Lord Bardolph, one of the heads of the conspiracy. 
Northumberland tottered out to learn the news. 

" Certain news !" announced Lord Bardolph, " and as 
good as heart can wish ! The King defeated and wounded 
almost to death, the Prince of Wales slain outright by your 
son, both the Blunts dead, and young Prince John, West 
moreland, and Stafford fled from the field! Never since 
Caesar's time was day so fought, so followed up, and so 
fairly won !" 

" But whence have you this ? From Shrewsbury ? Saw 
you the field ?" 

" I had it, my lord, from a gentleman who w.as there and 
saw ; one of birth and name, who can be trusted." 

While Lord Bardolph spoke another rider appeared on 
the crest of the road. 

" Here comes Travers," cried the Earl, " my servant 
whom I sent last Tuesday to seek news." 

" I overtook him, my lord, and rode on ahead ; he can 
bring no certain news but what I gave him." 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 149 

But Travers had something more to tell. " My lord," he 
panted, dismounting, " Lord Bardolph turned me back with 
the joyful tidings and outrode me, being better horsed. But 
after him came spurring a gentleman on a horse over-ridden 
and lathered with blood. He reined up and asked the way 
to Chester ; and I demanded what news from Shrewsbury. 
He answered that the rebellion had bad luck, and young 
Harry Percy's spur was cold. That is how he said it, and 
with that gave his horse the head and striking spur again 
left me at a furious gallop." 

" What ! tell it me again. How said he ? that Hotspur's 
spur was cold, the rebellion had ill luck ?" 

"My lord," insisted Lord Bardolph, "I'll wager my 
barony his story was false !" 

But the Earl was not convinced, and presently a third 
horseman hove in sight. It was Morton, another retainer 
of the Percy ; and his face told that his tidings were evil. 
He had escaped from Shrewsbury, he reported. The Earl 
forestalled more with a trembling string of questions, which 
Morton's white face answered only too surely. " Yes, the 
Douglas was living, and the Earl's brother as yet ; but as 

for my lord's son " " Why, he is dead. Ah, I guessed 

it, I know it ! Yet speak, Morton, and tell me my son is 
not dead !" " I cannot think he is dead, my lord," said Lord 
Bardolph. 

But Morton had to answer that it was true. " Sorry am 
I to force you, my lord, to believe that which I would to 
God these eyes had not seen. But he is dead, slain by 
Prince Harry, and his death disheartened the troops and 
turned the day. Worcester fell a prisoner in the flight, 
Douglas was thrown from his horse and taken. In short, 
the victory was the King's, who has already despatched a 
force under Prince John and Westmoreland against your 
lordship." 

Such in sum was the news, not to be doubted. And now 
the unhappy Earl, who had tarried and feigned illness when 



150 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

he could have saved everything, awoke to his loss and fling 
ing his crutch away in a weak passion, called too late for 
his armour, and too late took heaven and earth to witness 
that he would be avenged. His listeners, who knew too 
well what his conduct had cost, yet reasoned with him that 
nothing could be gained while yet more might be hazarded 
by this outburst. The mischief at Shrewsbury was done ; it 
remained for men who had counted the risks of rebellion 
beforehand to accept that reverse and put forth new efforts 
elsewhere. The Archbishop of York was up, with a strong 
army ; and the rising which before had been in men's eyes a 
rebellion only, now had the sanction of religion to avenge 
the death of Richard, whose blood had been scraped from 
the stones of Pomfret Castle to incite the people. Let the 
Earl and the Archbishop join forces boldly and all might 
yet be redeemed. 

From Warkworth Lord Bardolph posted south to York, 
where the Archbishop sat deliberating with Lord Hastings 
and Lord Mowbray. These had ready a picked force of 
twenty-five thousand men, and they had to consider if such 
a force could hold head without Northumberland's aid. 
With that aid they could feel reasonably safe, but Lord 
Bardolph knew too well to trust the Earl's energy. They 
were (he argued) planning a big enterprise, and ought to 
count the cost carefully, and be certain their means were 
equal to it. Hastings was more sanguine ; the King, to be 
sure, had more than five-and- twenty thousand men, but his 
power must be divided against three separate dangers 
against Glendower, against the French (who had landed 
twelve thousand men at Milford Haven in Wales), and 
lastly against this new revolt should they determine on it. 
The Archbishop decided for prompt action. " The country,'' 
said he, " is already sick and surfeited of this usurper. Let 
us go forward boldly and proclaim everywhere what calls us 
to arms !" 

Meanwhile Prince Harry, whom the King had now 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 151 

learned to trust with the command of men, was pressing 
back the Welshmen ; and it is enough to say here that by 
slow and careful campaigns, lasting over four years, during 
which he learned the art of soldiery and a scorn of hardships 
which was to stand him in good stead hereafter, Harry 
wrested the south of Wales from Glendower, and drove him 
back into the mountain fastnesses around Snowdon, there to 
maintain a stubborn and almost single-handed fight until 
his death. 

But this was a kind of fighting which, sharp while it 
lasted, had its holidays ; and now and again it gave Harry 
time to revisit London. Falstaff (who was of no build for 
Welsh campaigning) soon after the battle of Shrewsbury 
found himself back in the old haunts, with a boy to follow 
him for page (a gift from the Prince), but a purse barely 
sufficient to maintain this grandeur. Somehow his tailor 
fought shy of giving him credit, and demanded security; 
was even unkind enough to ask for better security than 
Bardolph's, which Falstaff offered. " The rascally knave ! 
I looked he should have sent me two-and-twenty yards of 
satin, as I am a true knight, and he sends me security ! I 
can get no remedy against this consumption of the purse ; 
borrowing Dnly lingers and lingers it out, but the disease is 
incurable." 

So we find him back in London streets with seven groats 
and twopence in his purse, and a page at heel pompously 
bearing his master's sword and buckler, and openly poking 
fun at his master's broad back. " I know not how 'tis,"- 
Falstaff turned about on the pavement, and sticking his 
thumbs in his girdle, addressed the lad reproachfully ; " but 
men of all sorts take a pride to gird at me ; the brain of that 
foolish clay, man, is not able to invent anything that tends 
to laughter more than I invent, or is invented on me ; I 
am not only witty in myself, but the cause of wit in other 
men." 

Who should pass along the street at this moment but the 



152 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

man Sir John had best reason to avoid Lord Chief-Justice 
Gascoigne? Sir John had, indeed, been sent for by this 
upright judge before marching north, to answer some awk 
ward questions about the robbery on Gadshill, but had 
managed to put a convenient distance between himself and 
London. The victory at Shrewsbury had happened in the 
interval, and the Lord Chief-Justice was disposed to let 
bygones be bygones ; though, at the same time, the sight of 
Falstaff suggested that a word of advice would not be out 
of place. So, knowing that the fat knight was to depart 
again northwards presently to join Prince John of Lancaster, 
he sent his servant to call him. 

Falstaff at first pretended to be deaf, and then, as the 
servant plucked his sleeve, made believe to take him for a 
beggar. But the judge was not to be shaken off so. " Sir 
John FalstaiT, a word with you," said he gravely, walk 
ing up. 

Thus cornered, Falstaff could only push forward a hundred 
inquiries for his lordship's health. " I am glad to see your 
lordship abroad : I heard say your lordship was sick : I hope 
your lordship goes abroad by advice. Your lordship, though 
not clean past your youth, hath yet a touch of age. I most 
humbly beseech your lordship to have a reverent care of 
your health." 

The judge waved aside all this solicitude, and would have 
begun, but Sir John was off upon another tack. " An't 
please your lordship, I hear his Majesty is returned sick 
from Wales. I hear it is that apoplexy again. This 
apoplexy is, as I take it, a kind of lethargy, an't please 
your lordship ; a kind of sleeping in the blood, or pins-and- 
needles, as your lordship might say. It has its origin in 
much grief, in study, and worry of the brain. I have read 
the cause of its effects in Galen : it is a kind of deafness." 

" I think you must be suffering from it, then," said 
Gascoigne drily ; " for you hear not what I say to you." 

" Say rather, my lord," Falstaff answered with a broad 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 153 

smile, " it is the disease of not listening that I am troubled 
with." 

" Well, well, sir ; I sent for you before the expedition to 
Shrewsbury to answer for a robbery upon Gadshill : your 
services in the wars have a little gilded over that night's 
exploit, and you may thank the unquiet times that the 
business was allowed to pass so quietly. But I warn you- 
to let sleeping dogs lie. The truth is, you live in great 
infamy, and have been a bad companion for the young 
Prince." 

" My lord, you that are old make no allowances for us 
youngsters. We are wags, I confess, we fellows in the 
prime of our youth." 

" You a youngster ! you, with every mark of age on you 
a moist eye, a white beard, a decreasing leg, an increasing 
belly ; with your voice cracked, your wind short, your chin 
double, your wit single, every part of you smitten with 
antiquity ? And yet you call yourself young ? Fie, fie, fie, 
Sir John !" 

" My lord, I was born about three o'clock in the after 
noon, with a white head and something of a round belly. 
-For my voice, I have lost it with halloing and singing of 
anthems. The truth is, I am only old in judgment and 
understanding ; and if any one will dance with me for a 
thousand marks, let him lend me the money and I'm his 
man. As for that box on the ear the Prince gave you, he 
gave it like a rude Prince and you took it like a sensible 
lord. I have rebuked him for it, and the young lion repents, 
not in sackcloth, but in old sack." 

" Well, the King has separated Prince Harry from you. 
I hear you are going with Prince John of Lancaster against 
the Archbishop and the Earl of Northumberland." 

" Yes, and I thank your pretty sweet wit for it." Falstaff 
was shrewd enough to put two and two together. " It 
seems there is not a dangerous action can peep out its 
head, but I am thrust upon it. Well, I cannot last for 



154 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

ever ; but it always was the trick of our English nation, if 
they have a good thing, to make it too common. If you 
must have it that I am an old man, you should give me 
some rest. But there ! I would to Heaven my name 
were not so terrible to the enemy as it is. I were better to 
be eaten to death with rust than scoured to nothing with 
perpetual motion." 

Somehow the Lord Chief -Justice felt that he was not 
having the best of the encounter. He turned to walk away. 
" Well, be honest, be honest ; and may your expedition 
prosper." 

" Will your lordship lend me a thousand pounds to 
furnish me forth ?" asked Falstaff blandly. 

" Not a penny, not a penny. Farewell ; commend me 
to my cousin Westmoreland." The judge was off in a 
hurry. 

Falstaff looked after him. " Lord, how old age is given 
to covetousness !" he sighed. 

Indeed Sir John's purse was at a low ebb. Mistress 
Quickly of the Boar's Head Tavern would give him 
credit no longer, and had actually entered a suit against 
him to recover what he owed. " A hundred mark," she 
tearfully assured the sheriff's officers, " is a long one for a 
poor lone woman to bear ; and I have borne, and borne, 
and borne, and have been fubbed off, and fubbed off, and 
fubbed off from this day to that day, that it is a shame to 
be thought on !" And so it happened that when next the 
Lord Chief- Justice came upon Falstaff it was to find him 
brawling with the sheriff's men, with Bardolph backing his 
resistance, and Dame Quickly dancing round the scuffle, 
calling names and crying for a rescue or as she put it, 
rescue or two " at the top of her shrill voice. 

" Keep the peace here !" commanded the Chief-Justice. 
" What's the matter ? How now, Sir John ! You shouk 
have been well on your way to York by this time." 

" Oh, my most worshipful lord," began Mistress Quickly, 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 155 

" an't please your grace, I am a poor widow of Eastcheap, 
and he is arrested at my suit." 

" For what sum ?" 

" It is more than for some, my lord ; it is for all, all I 
have. He hath eaten me out of house and home." 

Gascoigne turned to Falstaff. " Fie, Sir John ! Are you 
not ashamed to enforce a poor widow to so rough a course 
to come by her own ?" 

"What is the gross sum I owe thee ?" Falstaff de 
manded. 

" Marry, if thou wert an honest man, thyself and thy 
money too. Thou didst swear to me upon a parcel-gilt 
goblet, sitting in my Dolphin-chamber, at the round table, 
by a sea-coal fire, upon Wednesday in Wheeson* week, 
when the Prince broke thy head for likening his father to a 
singing-man of Windsor, thou didst swear to me then, as I 
was washing thy wound, to marry me and make me my 
lady thy wife. Canst thou deny it ? Did not goodwife 
Keech, the butcher's wife, come in then and call me Gossip 
Quickly ? coming in to borrow some vinegar ; telling us she 
had a good dish of prawns ; whereby thou didst desire to 
eat some; whereby I told thee they were ill for a green 
wound ? And didst thou not, when she was gone down stairs, 
desire me to be no more so familiarity with such poor 
people ; saying that ere long they should call me madam ? 
And didst thou not kiss me and bid me lend thee thirty 
shillings ? I put thee now to thy book-oath ; deny it, if 
thou canst !" 

" My lord," said FalstafF compassionately, " this is a poor 
mad soul. She has seen better days, and the truth is 
poverty has driven her crazy." 

"Sir John, Sir John," the Chief-Justice answered, "I 
know well your manner of twisting the true cause the false 
way. But neither your confidence nor your glib and im 
pudent sauciness can prevail upon my level consideration. 

* Mistress Quickly means Whitsun. 



156 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

You have practised upon this woman's weakness. Pay her 
the debt you owe her, and undo the wrong you have done 
her." 

Falstaff was stung. " My lord, I will take no such 
snubbing from you without an answer. You call honourable 
boldness impudent sauciness ; if a man makes courtesy to 
you and holds his peace, he is virtuous. No, my lord, my 
humble duty remembered, I do not choose to be your suitor. 
I say to you I request to be delivered from these officers, 
being upon hasty employment in the King's affairs." 

The reply was poor perhaps ; but it showed that Falstaff, 
though careless with the low company of his choice, had 
shame enough left, being a gentleman himself, to wince 
under the rebuke of a gentleman. The Chief-Justice was 
here interrupted by a Captain named Gower, with letters 
from the King ; and while he studied them, Falstaff applied 
himself to the task of wheedling Mistress Quickly no very 
difficult one. Scraps of their talk only reached the judge, 
and he paid no heed to them. " As I am a gentleman, now." 
"By the heavenly ground I tread upon, Sir John, I shall 
have to pawn my plate and the tapestry of my dining- 
chambers." " Glasses, glasses are the only ware for drink 
ing ; and for thy walls, a pretty slight drollery, or the story 
of the Prodigal, or the German hunting in water-colours, is 
worth a thousand of these bed-hangings and these fly-bitten 
tapestries. Come, there's not a better soul in England than 
thou, if 'twere not for thy humours. Go, wash thy face and 
withdraw the action. Come, come, I know thou wast set on 
to this." " Let it be twenty nobles, Sir John ; i' faith, I am 
loath to pawn my plate, I am. . . . Well, well, you shall 
have your way, though I pawn my gown. I hope you'll 
come to supper. You'll pay me in the lump no instal 
ments?" "As sure as I live!" So Falstaff had his way, 
and the prospect of a good supper besides ; and as Dame 
Quickly bustled off to prepare it, he turned to the Chief- 
Justice. " What's the news, my lord ?" 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 157 

But the Chief-Justice affected not to hear him. " Where 
lay the King last night ?" he demanded of Gower. 

" At Basingstoke, my lord," was the answer. 

" I hope all is well, my lord. What's the news, my lord ?" 
Falstaff repeated. 

Still the Chief-Justice paid no regard. " Are all his forces 
returned with him ?" he went on to inquire. Gower 
answered, " No ; fifteen hundred foot and five hundred 
horse have marched to join Prince John against the Earl of 
Northumberland and the Archbishop." 

" Is the King back from W T ales, my lord ?" Falstaff per 
sisted. But still he addressed a deaf ear. 

" Come with me, Master Gower," went on the Chief- 
Justice. " I shall have a letter presently to send by you." 

Falstaff cleared his throat. " My lord !" 

"Hey? What's the matter?" For the first time the 
Chief-Justice seemed aware of his presence. But now it was 
Sir John's turn, and he pointedly addressed Captain Gower. 

" Master Gower, may I beg you to dine with me ?" 

" I thank you, Sir John, I must wait upon my lord here." 

" Sir John," said the Chief-Justice sternly, " you loiter 
too long here, being bound to recruit soldiers on your way." 

Not a word did Sir John seem to hear. " Will you sup 
with me then, Master Gower?" 

The Chief-Justice stamped his foot. " What foolish master 
taught you these manners, Sir John ?" 

"Gower," said Sir John, with his bland smile, "if my 
manners become me not, he was a fool who taught them 
me." Than with a mock bow he turned on his adversary, 
" Tap for tap, my lord, as between fencers and so part 
fair!" 

So once more Chief-Justice Gascoigne had not all the best 
of it, and Falstaff supped merrily that night at the Boar's 
Head, hob-a-nob with Bardolph and Dame Quickly and a 
ranting follower of his named Pistol, whose gift lay chiefly 
in swaggering and mouthing fustian lines out of plays and 



158 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

books, of which he knew just enough to misquote them a 
bragging rascal with the heart of a mouse. We shall meet 
him again and make his better acquaintance. 

And in the midst of their feasting who should drop in but 
the Prince, newly returned from Wales, with his old comrade 
Poins ? We do not change old habits in a moment ; and 
now and again, even after his taste of a new self-respect and 
men's better opinions, Harry caught himself hankering after 
the old wild ways. As he put it to Poins, " It does my great 
ness discredit, but I must confess to a longing for small 
beer." He knew, too, that men did not seriously believe 
him reformed. In his heart he was deeply sorry for his 
father's sickness ; but few, he felt sure, would give him credit 
for this, and the thought cast him back upon a reckless show 
of not caring. " Yet," he confided to Poins, " I could tell 
thee, as one whom it pleases me for lack of a better to call 
my friend, I could be sad, and very sad too." 

" Scarcely," answered Poins incredulously, " upon such a 
subject." 

The Prince sighed. " I see ; thou thinkest me as deep in 
the devil's book as thyself or Falstaff. Let the end try the 
man. But I tell thee my heart bleeds inwardly that my 
father is so sick. What wouldst thou think of me if I should 
weep ?" 

" I should think thee a most princely hypocrite." 

"And so would every man," said Harry bitterly ; "and 
thou art a blessed fellow to think as every man thinks. And 
why, pray, should you and every man think so ?" 

" Why, because of your loose life and your attachment to 
Falstaff." 

" And to thee ; add that." 

Poins protested. " The worst any one can say of me is 
that I am a younger son and a proper fellow of my hands." 
So surely it appears to every man that he is a good fellow 
really, though led astray by somebody else, or perhaps by 
circumstances. 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 159 

The man they most blamed at any rate had resolved to 
lead the Prince astray no longer, nor be suspected of it. 
Falstaff had been stung by the Chief- Justice's rebuke, and 
learning of the Prince's likely arrival in London, sat down 
and wrote a letter, and despatched it by Bardolph. Thus it 
ran : " SIR JOHN FALSTAFF, KNIGHT, to the son of the King, 
nearest his father, HARRY PRINCE OF WALES, GREETING : / 
will imitate the honourable Romans in brevity. I commend me to 
thee, I commend thee, and I leave thee. Be not too familiar with 
Poins, who abuses thy favour. Repent at idle times as thou mayest ; 
and so, farewell. Thine, by yea and no, which is as muck as to 
say, as thou usest him, JACK FALSTAFF with my familiars, JOHN 
with my brothers and sisters, and SIR JOHN with all Europe." 

" Is your master here in London ?" the Prince asked 
Bardolph. 

" Yea, my lord." 

" Where sups he ? at the old haunt ?" 

" At the old place, my lord, in Eastcheap." 

" What company ?" 

" The old crew, my lord." 

Prince Harry turned to Poins. " We will steal upon 
them there " ; and after cautioning Bardolph not to report 
his arrival, he and Poins hurried off to procure a couple of 
waiters' suits, in which they appeared on the scene as the 
old riotous mirth was at its height. The old laugh went 
round, the old jests were played, but the Prince, though he 
entered into them, missed the old sparkle. In truth he had 
descended to this tavern world, but he had never belonged 
to it, and was just beginning to find this out. Even Falstaff, 
with the quick sympathy of a gentleman, felt a difference, 
and answered now and then with a changed note a terribly 
sad note for all its defiant recklessness. It was Peto who 
put an end to the revelry, breaking in with news that the 
King had returned to Westminster, that a score of weary 
riders had come with tidings from the north, and that 
messengers were knocking up all the taverns to find Falstaft, 



160 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

and hurry him on his road. Sir John thrust his chair back 
from the table, and lurched off to pack his campaigning kit, 
while the Prince did on sword and cloak and passed out 
into the street, busy with the thought which had been in his 
head all day. " We play the fools with the moment, and 
the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds and mock us. Well, 
the end shall try the man." 

In quiet Gloucestershire there lived at this time a country 
gentleman and Justice of the Peace, by name Master 
Shallow; a vain, petty, talkative person, well on in years, 
full of his own importance, and given to painting for his 
neighbours the most wonderful pictures of the dashing, 
dare-devil life he had led in London when he had studied at 
Clement's Inn, and before he had come back to settle down 
as a country squire. 

He had not many listeners, and the best of them was his 
cousin Master Silence ; for Master Silence either took, or 
seemed to take, all his stories for gospel, and seldom inter 
rupted with talk of his own. Now it happened that he had 
come over for an early visit, and after the first handshaking 
he must answer for his health and his wife's and his daughter 
Ellen's (a godchild of Shallow's) and his son William's. 
Thus the talk ran on : 

" And William ? I dare say now William is become a 
good scholar. He is at Oxford still, is he not ?" 

" He is, to my cost." 

" He must be going then to the Inns o' Court shortly. I 
w.as once of Clement's Inn, where I think they will talk of 
mad Shallow yet." 

" You were called ' lusty Shallow ' then, cousin." 

" By the mass, I was called anything ; and I would have 
done anything indeed too, and never thought twice. There 
was I, and little John Doit of Staffordshire, and black 
George Barnes, and Francis Pickbone, and Will Squele, a 
Cotswold man ; you wouldn't see another four such roisterers 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 161 

in all the Inns o' Court. There was Jack Falstaff, too, now 
Sir John, a youngster and page to Thomas Mowbray, Duke 
of Norfolk." 

" Will that be the same Sir John who is coming here to 
enlist soldiers?" 

" The same, the very same. I saw him break Skogan's 
head at the court-gate when he was a whipper-snapper not 
so high ; and the very same day did I fight with one Sampson 
Stockfish, a fruiterer, behind Gray's Inn. Dear, dear, the 
mad days I have spent ! And to think how many of my old 
acquaintance are dead !" 

" We shall all follow, cousin." 

" Certain, 'tis certain ; very sure, very sure : death, as the 
Psalmist says, is certain to all ; all shall die. What was a 
good yoke of bullocks fetching at Stamford fair ?" 

"To say truth, I was not there." 

" Death is certain. Is old Double of your town still 
living ?" 

" Dead, cousin." 

"Dear, dear, dead is he? 'A drew a good bow: and 
dead ! 'A shot a fine shoot : John o' Gaunt loved him well, 
and betted much money on him. Dead, now? He'd hit 
you the white at twelve-score yards, and carry a long 
distance shot fourteen and fourteen and a half, 'twould have 
done your heart good to see. What price a score of ewes 
now?" 

" That depends ; a score of good ewes may be worth ten 
pounds." 

" And so old Double is dead, is he?" , 

This profitable talk was here interrupted by a visitor, who 
turned out to be our friend Bardolph, bearing Sir John 
FalstafFs compliments and the news of his arrival. 

Master Shallow was delighted to hear it. " How doth 
the good knight ? May I ask how my lady his wife doth ?" 

"Pardon, sir," answered Bardolph, "a soldier is better 
accommodated than with a wife." 

ii 



162 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

" And that is well said, sir ; well said indeed. ' Better 
accommodated,' very good indeed ; good phrases are surely, 
and ever were, very commendable. 'Accommodated,' it 
comes of Latin 'accommodo ' ; very good, a good phrase." 

" Please, sir ?" Bardolph was puzzled. " I know nothing 
about phrase ; but the word is a good soldier-like word, and 
that I will maintain with my sword. 'Accommodated,' 
that is, when a man is, as they say, accommodated ; or when 
a man is, being, whereby he may be thought to be accom 
modated; which," Bardolph wound up, "is an excellent 
thing." 

Before Master Shallow had done admiring this interpre 
tation, FalstafFs arrival claimed his politeness. " Give me 
your hand, give me your worship's good hand. By my 
truth, you bear your years very well ! Welcome, good Sir 
John. This is my cousin Silence, a justice of the peace like 
myself." 

" Good Master Silence," Falstaff bowed, " it is fitting that 
you should be of the peace. Phew ! this is hot weather, 
gentlemen. Have you provided me here half a dozen 
sufficient men ?" 

" Marry, we have, sir." Master Shallow begged Falstaff 
to be seated. " Where's the roll ? where's the roll ? where's . 
the roll ?" He fussed about, fitting on his spectacles. 
"Let me see, let me see, let me see. So, so, so, so, . . ." 
He found the names at length and called up the six dispirite 
recruits one by one. They were a sorry crew, and Sir Johi 
had plenty to say about their looks. Two of them only hi 
the makings of stout soldiers Ralph Mouldy and Pete 
Bullcalf. "Is thy name Mouldy?" demanded Falstaff. 
" Yes, sir, an it please you," stammered the poor man. 
" Tis the more time thou wert used then." " Ha, ha, ha !" 
tittered Master Shallow, " excellent, upon my word ! things 
that are mouldy lack use : very good indeed ! Well said, 
Sir John ; very well said." 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 163 

Falstaff passed the six in review, " Are these all ?" he 
asked. 

" They are two more than your number," Shallow re 
minded him. " You must have but four from these parts. 
And so, I pray you, go in with me to dinner." 

But Sir John was pressed for time. " Come, I will drink 
with you, but I cannot stay for dinner. By my troth I am 
glad to see you again, Master Shallow," he added affably. 

" Ah, Sir John, do you remember that wild night we spent 
in the windmill in St. George's Field ?" 

" Tut, tut, Master Shallow ; no more of that, no more of 
that." 

" Ha ! that was a merry night. Ha, Cousin Silence, if 
thou hadst seen what this knight and I have seen ! Eh, 
Sir John ?" 

" We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master 
Shallow." 

" That we have, that we have, that we have ; faith, Sir 
[ohn, we have : our watchword was * Hem boys !' Come, 
t's to dinner, let's to dinner. Dear, dear, the days that 
e have seen ! Come, come . . ." 

Now it suited Sir John's book very well that Bardolph 
lould be left alone for a while with the recruits. As he 
lly expected, no sooner had he stepped into the house with 
ie justices than a couple Bullcalf and Mouldy began to 
die up to the Corporal ; for these two likely fellows were 
e ones who least liked the prospect of soldiering. 
Bullcalf began, " Good Master Corporate Bardolph, stand 
y friend, and here's four ten-shillings in French crowns 
r you. In truth, sir, I had as lief be hanged as go to the 
ars. For my own part, sir, I don't care ; but rather 
scause I am unwilling, and for my own part have a desire 
stay with my friends ; else, sir, I would not care, for my 
vn part, so much." 

" Go to ; stand aside," said Bardolph gruffly. 
"And good master corporal captain," pleaded Mouldy, 

II 2 



164 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

"for my old woman's sake stand my friend. She has 
nobody to do anything about her when I am gone, and she 
is old and cannot help herself. You shall have forty shillings 
from me too, sir." 

" Go to; stand aside," commanded Bardolph in the same 
tone. Perhaps he expected some further bribes ; but the 
others were either too poor or too reckless to offer anything. 
Indeed the feeblest scarecrow of them all protested that he 
for his part was ready to go. " A man can die but once : 
we owe God a death ; and I'll never bear a base mind. If 
it be my destiny, so be it : if not, so be it : no man's too 
good to serve his king : and let it go which way it will, the 
man who dies this year is safe for the next." 

" Well spoken," said Bardolph ; " thou'rt a good fellow." 

" Faith, sir, I'll bear no base mind." 

So when FalstafT came out, Bardolph drew him aside. 
" Sir, a word with you," he whispered, " I have three pounds 
to let Mouldy and Bullcalf go." From which it will be seen 
that the corporal took his pickings. 

" Come, Sir John," demanded Master Shallow, " which 
four will you have ?" 

FalstafT eyed the six with his wisest air. " Mouldy and 
Bullcalf shall stay at home ; I'll take the rest." 

" Sir John, Sir John," Shallow twittered, " be better 
advised ! They are your likeliest men, and I would have 
you served with the best." 

" Master Shallow," replied Falstaff loftily, " are you 
pretending to teach me how to choose a man ? What care 
I for limbs, thews, stature, bulk, or all the big total of these ? 
Give me spirit, Master Shallow. Take that thin fellow 
yonder: he presents no mark to the enemy; the foeman 
might as .well aim at the edge of a penknife. And that 
other fellow what a pair of legs for a retreat ! Or see this 
ragged man what's his name? Wart. Bardolph, give 
Wart a musket : now then, Wart, march ! Come, show us 
how you handle your musket. So ; very well ; very good,. 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 165 

very good indeed ! O give me always a little, lean, old, 
wrinkled, bald marksman ! There's a sixpence for thee, 
Wart." 

" But," Master Shallow protested, " he's not doing it right ! 
I remember at Mile-end Green, when I lived at Clement's 
Inn, I belonged to an archery club; and there was a little 
nimble fellow who would manage his weapon thus ; and he 
would about and about, and come you in and come you in ; 
' rah-tah-tah,' would he say; 'bounce!' would he say; and 
away again would he go, and again would he come. I shall 
never see such a fellow!" sighed Master Shallow, pacing 
about and skipping to show exactly how it was done. 

" These fellows will do well, Master Shallow," Falstaff 
assured him, and so took leave, vowing he had a dozen miles 
to march that night. The justice wished him prosperity. 
" And pay us a visit on your way back ; let our old acquain 
tance be renewed. Nay, who knows but I may go up to 
London with you to court." 

" Indeed, I wish you would, Master Shallow." 
" There, there ; I said, it too hastily. Fare you well." 
" Fare you well, gentlemen." Falstaff commanded Bar- 
dolph to march the recruits ahead of him. " As I return," 
he told himself, " I will have sport with these justices; I do 
see to the bottom of this Shallow. Dear, dear, how subject 
we old men are to this vice of lying ! This same shrivelled- 
up justice hath done nothing but prate to me of the wildness 
of his youth and the feats he hath done about Turnbull 
Street and every third word of it a falsehood ! I remember 
him at Clement's Inn like a man made out of a cheese-paring, 
a forked radish with a funny little head carved on top. And 
now this miserable lath is become a squire, and talks as 
familiarly of John o' Gaunt as if he had been his sworn 
brother ; and I'll swear never set eyes on him but once, in 
the tilt-yard, and then had his head broken for crowding 
among the marshal's men. I was there and saw it, and told 
John o' Gaunt he beat his own name. Well, well, I'll make 



166 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

his further acquaintance if I return, and it shall go hard if I 
don't turn him to some profit." 

At home in his palace of Westminster the King lay sick 
in mind and body, wearing to his end under the cares of the 
crown he had once so eagerly seized, restless, wooing in vain 
on his pillows of down that sleep which the meanest of his 
subjects enjoyed as an easy boon the labourer in smoky 
cabin on a hard pallet, the ship-boy perched on a giddy mast 
yet cradled by the rocking seas. And lying awake through 
the long night-watches he remembered Richard and Richard's 
prophecy that Northumberland, who had made haste to 
overthrow one king, would not be slow in casting down 
another. Another prophecy he recalled ; an old one which 
promised that his death should be in Jerusalem ; and he 
prayed for an end of these civil wars, that he might sail, as 
he had so long purposed, for the Holy Land, and there meet 
it, not unwelcome. 

And Northumberland, not less unhappy, still tarried in 
his castle of Warkworth near the sea. But for him his son 
Hotspur might be alive and Mortimer King of England ; 
and it added a gnawing poison to his self-reproach that now, 
when too late he would have redeemed his honour, the voices 
that assured him how vain it was were the dispirited sad 
voices of Hotspur's mother and Hotspur's wife. " The time 
was," the young widow reminded him, scarce knowing how 
cruelly ; " the time was you broke your word when it was 
dearer than it can ever be now ; when your own Percy, 
Harry, my heart's dear, looked northward for his father's 
coming, and looked in vain. His honour was to him as the 
sun to heaven ; by the light of him was all England's chivalry 
moved to do brave deeds. All copied him who sought to be 
noble; copied even his small tricks of manner and speech. 
Him you left at disadvantage to abide a battle hopeless but 
for the miracle of his name. Your honour ? Ah, never now 
wrong his ghost by holding your honour more scrupulous 






KING HENRY THE FOURTH 167 

with others than you held it with him ! Let the Archbishop 
alone and his friends. They are strong. Had my dear Harry 
had but half their numbers, this day might I, twining my 
arms around his neck, be talking of that other Harry's his 
slayer's grave !" 

" Beshrew your heart, daughter," groaned the unhappy 
father, " you draw the spirit out of my breast. I must go 
and face the danger, or it will find me elsewhere and worse 
provided." But wife and son's wife implored him together 
to escape to Scotland and wait; and knowing that they 
despised him, knowing that he despised himself, he took their 
advice, sent excuses to the Archbishop, and fled northward. 
It must be terrible for an old man to despise himself, and 
feel that the time for cure has gone by. 

His message was felt as a heavy blow by the Archbishop 
and his partisans Mowbray and Hastings. But it reached 
them when they were in full march and committed to war. 
At Gaultree Forest in Yorkshire they came face to face with 
the King's army, led by Prince John and the Earl of West 
moreland ; and again from the royal side came an offer of 
terms. But this time the offer was not so honest as it had been 
at Shrewsbury. Perhaps the King had Worcester's treachery 
in his mind when he gave Prince John his instructions, or 
perhaps that somewhat cold-blooded youth devised the snare 
which his brother Prince Harry would have scorned to lay. 

It was Westmoreland who brought the rebel leaders to 
parley, demanding in the King's name their reasons for this 
armed rising. Once more the Archbishop repeated the old 
story. It was not with these men as with the Percies, a 
story of past services unrewarded. They had hated Boling- 
broke and felt his hatred from the beginning. The Arch 
bishop owed him a brother's death. Mowbray was the son 
of that Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, who had faced 
Bolingbroke in the lists at Coventry, and gone from them 
into hopeless exile ; he had been allowed, indeed, to inherit 
his father's estates, but he had inherited, too, the memory of 



168 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

that bitter sentence, and no man in England nursed a deeper 
detestation of Henry. "With my consent," he declared, 
"we will admit no parley." Hastings was less uncom 
promising. " Has the Prince John," he asked, " a full com 
mission from his father to hear our complaints and grant 
conditions ?" Westmoreland assured them that this was so. 
" I am come to learn these complaints, to tell you that his 
Grace will give you audience and freely grant those demands 
which shall appear to him to be just." On this assurance 
the Archbishop tendered a paper setting forth their griev 
ances. " Let them be redressed, my lord," said he, " and 
all concerned in this movement granted due acquittal, and 
once more we are His Majesty's peaceful subjects." 

The royal offer seemed a fair one, and Mowbray alone 
remained unconvinced. Westmoreland departed back with 
the document, and returned with word that Prince John 
would meet and confer with the malcontent leaders midway 
between the two armies. 

In the conference which followed the Prince opened with 
a formal rebuke, but ended by confessing that the demands 
contained in the paper seemed to him fair. " And I swear 
here by the honour of my blood that my father's intentions 
have been mistaken ; that they and his authority alike have 
been abused by some about him. My Lord Archbishop, 
these grievances shall be speedily redressed ; they shall, on 
my soul. If my word for it content you, we will here and 
now disband our forces on each side, and pledge our restored 
love and amity." 

" I take your princely word that they shall be redressed," 
answered the Archbishop. 

And now it only remained to pay and discharge the two 
armies. Hastings sent word to the rebel camp ; and while 
the leaders drank and pledged one another, they heard the 
cheers of the dispersing soldiery. Prince John commanded 
Westmoreland to go and disband the royal troops. " My 
lord," said he, turning to the Archbishop, " if it please you. 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 169 

let the two armies march past us, that we may see the men 
we came so near contending with." 

The Archbishop agreed, and sent Hastings to give the 
order. 

But now Westmoreland came back with word that the 
royal army was not yet in motion. Its leaders had charge 
from Prince John to keep their station, and would not stir 
without his direct command. 

" They know their duties," said the Prince calmly. 

What he meant by this he made plain when Hastings 
returned and announced that it was too late to march the 
Archbishop's men past ; they were already dispersed and 
hurrying homeward, east, west, north, and south, like boys 
when a school breaks up. 

"Good news, my Lord Hastings," said Westmoreland 
ironically ; " and so I arrest you, traitor, of high treason ; 
and you, Lord Archbishop ; and you also, Lord Mowbray." 

Under this treacherous stroke, Mowbray, as he had most 
mistrusted, was the first to find his speech. He turned on 
Prince John. " Is this just and honourable ?" he asked. 

It was neither ; it was the meanest and coldest crime the 
House of Lancaster had to pay for in its day of reckoning. 
" Will you break your faith thus ?" the Archbishop de 
manded. 

" I pledged none to thee" was the Prince's shameful 
answer. "I promised redress of these grievances, and by 
my honour I will perform it with a most Christian care. 
But for you rebels, you shall taste the doom of rebels. 
Lead these men to the block ; and sound drums for the 
pursuit of their followers !" With the name of God on his 
lips the Prince hurried off to chase and massacre. 

At home the thoughts of the sick King still ran on his 
voyage to Palestine, and again on the son he loved most but 
could never understand. The nearer he drew to his end the 
more his heart yearned over this Harry who should succeecj 



170 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

him. Most of all he hated that others should share or even 
guess his own fears. To his other sons and especially to 
Thomas of Clarence, who had succeeded to Harry's place in 
the Council, and cherished little love but no little contempt 
for his elder brother he insisted pitifully on Harry's good 
qualities and kindness of heart. 

There came a day when, stretched on his couch, he asked 
after Harry, and was told that the Prince had gone to hunt 
at Windsor. 

" Is not Thomas of Clarence with him ?" 

" No, my lord, he is here." And Clarence came forward. 
" What would my lord and father ?" he asked. 

" W 7 hy, Clarence, art thou not with thy brother ? Thou 
dost neglect him, and yet of all his brothers he loves thee 
best. Cherish that love, my son ; and when I am dead it 
may knit you all together in brotherly affection, proof against 
envious whispers who will seek to divide our house against 
itself. His is a generous nature, but quickly incensed, and 
then as stubborn as flint ; therefore chide his faults carefully 
and in season, and again in his headstrong moods give him 
rein and let his passion work itself out. Study him, Clarence." 

" I will observe him, my lord, with all care and love." 

" But why art thou not at Windsor with him ?" 

" He is not at Windsor to-day, but dining in London 
with Poins and his other constant companions." 

This was just what Henry had dreaded to hear ; and for 
the moment in his weakness he let slip the cry of his heart, 
the anguish he had been trying to hide, the perpetual haunt 
ing terror of the days to come, when he should be asleep in 
his tomb and his son misgoverning England without check 
or guidance. It was at this moment, while the Earl of 
Warwick, one of his wisest counsellors, sought to console 
him, that a messenger arrived from the north with happy 
news. Northumberland at last had met the reward of 
paltering with fate. He had failed Hotspur ; he had failed 
the Archbishop ; both in the hour of need. Too late he had 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 171 

been forced to summon up courage and strike with Lord 
Bardolph and the remnant of the rebel leaders ; and at 
Tadcaster, near York, had fallen on the field in the general 
rout of his troops. 

This was the news which at another time might have put 
new life into Henry. But Henry was past rejoicing. 
Stretching out his hands, with one terrible call upon Good 
Fortune which had come too late, he sank back upon his 
couch in a swoon. 

His sons rushed to his side, with Westmoreland and 
Warwick. They bore him into another chamber, and laid 
him there on a bed, standing beside him until the fit passed 
and his eyes opened. He was very weary, he whispered ; 
let there be no noise made, unless it were soothing music. 
He begged them to set the crown on the pillow beside him, 
while the music lulled him if it might be to sleep. 

While the musicians played softly in a near room, and 
the King's eyes closed, Prince Harry came in noisy high 
spirits along the corridor, eager to tell the good news from 
the north which he had heard outside. Warwick met him 
at the door, entreating, " Less noise, less noise !" 

The sight of his brothers' grief and of the figure stretched 
on the bed sobered him. " Has he heard the good news ?" 
he asked. " What ? Overcome by it ? If he be sick with 
joy, he'll recover without physic." 

" Not so much noise," Warwick entreated again. " Prince, 
I implore you speak low ; your father is disposed to sleep." 

The others withdrew softly to the other room, but Harry 
sat down to watch alone by his father. While he watched 
his eyes fell on the crown resting on the pillow. "Why 
does it lie there, I wonder ?" He went over, touched it, took 
it in his hands, laid it back again. " Sleep with it now ; but 
of how much slumber has it not robbed thee, my father 
this golden burden ?" As he set it down something caught 
his attention. A tiny feather of down had escaped from the 
pillow and lay close to the King's parted lips. He bent ; 



172 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

the feather did not stir. " This must be death !" He dropped 
on his knees. " My gracious lord ! my father !" The figure 
on the bed neither answered nor moved. " Sleep ? ay, the 
sleep that hath parted so many English kings from this 
golden circlet." He took the crown again from the pillow, 
and standing upright held it in both hands above him. " My 
due to thee, father, is a son's tears and heavy sorrows, and 
tenderly, fully, shall they be paid ; thy due to me is this 
crown. Here on my head I place it ; God shall guard it : the 
whole world shall not be strong enough to force it from me 
the crown of England, to be my son's as it was my father's !" 

By and by the eyes of the sick King unclosed, and gazed 
feebly about the room. It was empty. He raised himself 
on an elbow. " Warwick ! Gloucester ! Clarence !" he 
called; and as they came hurriedly, "Why have you left 
me alone here ?" 

" We left the Prince of Wales here, my liege. He under 
took to sit by you and watch." 

" The Prince of Wales ! Where is he ? Let me see him ; 
he is not here." 

" He must have gone out by this door ; he did not pass 
through the room where we have been sitting." 

But the King's eyes were now turned upon his pillow. 
" Where is the crown ? Who has taken it ? Go, fetch the 
Prince. Is he so hasty to think me dead ? O you sons !" he 
cried bitterly, " you for whom we fathers wake and scheme 
and toil, only to be thus rewarded !" 

The Prince was not far to seek. Warwick found him 
overcome with grief, weeping alone in one of the rooms close 
by ; and he came back joyful and amazed, while Henry dis 
missed the others with a motion of his weak hand. 

" Father ! I never thought to hear you speak again !" 

" Thy wish, Harry, was father of that thought. It seems 
I stay too long and weary thee. What ! So hungry after 
my empty chair that thou must needs put on my honours 
before thy hour comes ? Couldst thou not have waited a 






KING HENRY THE FOURTH 173 

little a very little ? but must steal that which in an hour 
or two would have been thine without offence ? All thy life 
has proved that thou hadst never any love for me, and now 
thou wilt have me die well assured of it. What ! Couldst 
thou not forbear one half-hour ? Go, then, dig my grave : 
bid the bells ring for thy coronation." From terrible re 
proaches the dying father passed to yet more bitter, more 
terrible gibes, " Harry tlie Fifth is crowned ! Long live the 
new king, and farewell to dignity and wise counsel ! 
Assemble, all the apes of idleness, all the scum of Europe ! 
Has any nation a ruffian ready to swear, drink, dance, revel, 
rob, murder, commit the oldest sins in the newest kind of 
ways ? Be happy he shall trouble you no longer. Send 
him to England there are office, honours, power awaiting 
him here. For Harry the Fifth is King, and England goes 
back to her old inhabitants, the wolves !" 

Harry was hurt beyond anger. " My liege, blame the 
tears that hindered my speech and have suffered you to 
speak, me to listen, so far. There is your crown ; and may 
He who wears a crown everlasting long guard it yours ! If 
I care for it more than as your honour and renown, let me 
not rise from these knees. God is my witness, when I came 
in and finding no sign of breath believed you dead, how cold 
it struck my heart : my witness with what thoughts I lifted 
the crown, accusing it and the cares of it for thy death, and 
put it on my head as moved by the moment to try with it, 
as with an enemy who had murdered my father, the quarrel 
of a true inheritor. But if I rejoiced, was puffed up, or 
hailed its possession, may God keep it from my head for ever, 
and abase me as low as the poorest vassal who kneels to it 
in awe and terror !" 

These indignant words, spoken with honest looks, touched 
the King and convinced him. " My son, God must have put 
it in thy mind to take the crown, that thy words of excuse 
might win the more surely thy father's love ! Come, Harry, 
sit by my bed, and hear my counsel the latest, I think, that 



174 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

I shall ever utter. God knows, my son, by what devious 
ways I came to this crown, as I know too well what a weight 
it hath been to wear. But it descends to thee more quietly, 
better allowed by men's opinions, ay, and assured; for I 
carry to earth all the stain with which it was won. All my 
reign through I have been forced to defend it, and thou 
knowest with what peril I have done so. My death changes 
all, and by thee it will be worn as a fair inheritance. Yet 
beware ; the power of those who advanced me and might 
have dragged me low again is but newly broken. It was to 
keep them busy, too busy to be idly prying into my title, that 
I had planned to lead them to Palestine. Do thou, Harry, 
keep them busy with wars abroad, and so may action wear 
out the old bad memories, and God, forgiving how I came 
by the crown, grant it may abide with thee in true peace !" 

"My gracious liege," declared Harry, "as you won it, 
wore it, kept it, and have given it to me, so it is mine, and 
against all the world will I maintain it." 

The King was exhausted and almost too weak for speech. 
" My lord,'" he muttered, as Warwick re-entered, " the 
chamber where I swooned has it not some particular 
name?" 

"It is called Jerusalem, your majesty." For so it was 
called from the paintings around its walls, and indeed is so 
called to this day. 

Henry remembered the old prophecy that nowhere but in 
Jerusalem should his end be. " Praise be unto God ! vainly 
I supposed it was to be in the Holy Land ; but now bear 
me back to that chamber, and let Henry die in Jerusalem." 

Now Falstaff had not forgotten his promise to revisit 
Justice Shallow on his way back from the wars ; and a little 
while after these things happened at Westminster, in peace 
ful Gloucestershire Sir John was resting his unwieldy legs 
under the justice's table, drinking deep of his sack, listening 
to his endless empty discourse, and promising himself how 




PRINCE HARRY RESTORING THE CROWN. 

From a print in the Boydell collection after J. Boydell. 



176 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Prince Harry would laugh over his description of this visit, 
a little dressed up. " It's a long way a dressed-up tale and 
a jest with a solemn face will go with a youngster who never 
had an ache in his shoulders. I will make Harry laugh over 
this Shallow till he cries." 

And indeed after supper, when the justice led his guests 
out into his orchard, where their dessert was spread in a 
summer arbour " a last year's pippin of my own grafting, 
with a dish of caraways and so forth " the tale promised to 
be a very lively one. For Master Shallow had drunk too 
much sack, and Master Silence had unaccountably found his 
tongue and could not be restrained from trolling out snatches 
of song. 

" I did not think," remarked Falstafi, observing him with 
a roguish cock of the eye ; " I did not think Master Silence 
had been a man of this mettle." 

" Who, I ?" hiccupped Silence ; " I have been merry once 
or twice in my time :" and again he broke into singing. 

While they pledged each other and Falstaff egged Silence 
on to make himself more and more ridiculous, they heard 
from the orchard a knocking on the house door, and Shallow's 
man Davy ran to answer it. He came back. " An't please 
your worship, there's one Pistol arrived from the court with 
news." 

" Pistol ? From the court ? Let him come in. Why, 
how now, Pistol ?" demanded Sir John, as the visitor came 
swaggering across the turf. " What wind blew you hither ?" 

" Not the ill wind which blows no man to good. Knight, 
thou art now one of the greatest men in this realm." 

"Ton my word, now, I think he be," tittered Master 
Silence foolishly, "unless it be fat Puff of Barson parish." 

"Puff!" Pistol rounded on him with a flourish in his 
loftiest manner, familiar enough to his friends, but highly 
disconcerting to an honest country gentleman pretty far 
fuddled with drink. " Puff in thy teeth, most recreant coward 
base ! Sir John, I am thy Pistol and thy friend, And belter- 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 177 

skelter have I rode to thee, And tidings do I bring and lucky 
joys And golden times and happy news of price." 

"Come," said Falstaff, with a glance at Silence, who sat 
with his jaw dropped in sheer astonishment at a gentleman 
who talked blank verse, and such unusual blank verse, by 
habit, " I pray thee tell thy news like a man of this world." 

" A farthing for the world and worldlings base ! I speak 
of Africa and golden joys." 

" Very well, then." Falstaff observing its effect upon the 
two justices, took up Pistol's manner with a grin. " O base 
Assyrian knight, what is thy news ? Let King Cophetua 
know the truth thereof." 

"And Robin Hood, Scarlet, and John"- 

warbled Silence. 

" Shall dunghill curs confront the Helicons ? And shall 
good news be baffled ? Then, Pistol, lay thy head in Furies' 
lap!" 

" Honest gentleman," quavered Shallow, " I don't know 
who you may be, but all this is very strange to me 

" Why, then, be sorry for it," Pistol interrupted. 

"Your pardon, sir," persisted the little justice; "if you 
come with news from the court, I take it there's but two 
ways, either to utter it or to conceal it." He drew himself 
up primly. " I am, sir, under the King, a person of some 
authority." 

" Under which King, Besonian ? Speak or die !" 

" Why, under King Harry." 

" Harry the Fourth or the Fifth?" 

" Harry the Fourth, to be sure." 

Pistol snapped his fingers. " That, then, for thy authority ! 
Sir John, thy pet lamb is to-day King of England. And long 
live Harry the Fifth!" 

" What !" Falstaff staggered to his feet. " The old King 
dead!" 

12 



178 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

" As a door-nail." 

"Away, Bardolph ! saddle my horse. Master Robert 
Shallow, choose what office thou wilt in the land, it is thine. 
Pistol, I will double-charge thee with honours." 

" O joyful day !" Bardolph waved his hat. " I wouldn't 
swap my fortune to-day for a knighthood." 

But Falstaff was all fume and bustle to be off towards 
London. " Carry Master Silence to bed. Master Shallow 

my Lord Shallow be what thou wilt, I am the dispenser 

of fortune now get on thy boots! We'll ride all night. 
Bless thee, Pistol. Away, Bardolph ! Come, tell me more, 
Pistol. Boot, boot and saddle, .Master Shallow! I know 
the young King is pining for me. Let us take any man's 
horses; the laws of England are what I choose 'em to be. 
Blessed are they who have been Jack Falstaff's friends ; and 
woe to my Lord Chief- Justice !" 

The Prince's loose companions were not alone in believing 
that a merry time lay in store for them, and a sorry one for 
men of sobriety and good counsel. The Lord Chief-Justice, 
for example, had reason enough to fear what Falstaff so 
confidently promised. What could he look for from the 
youth he had been hardy enough to commit to prison ? "I 
would he had called me with him," he sighed, when news 
came to him of the King's death. Whatever happened, it 
could not be worse than he had foreboded of late. 

At the first audience of the new King which he attended 
at Westminster, the Princes Gloucester and Clarence gave 
this upright judge but cold comfort. " You will have to pay 
your suit to Sir John Falstaff now," the latter sneered. 

Harry when he entered the audience chamber was quick 
to perceive the gloom on their faces. "Brothers," said he, 
"you mix fears with your sadness. This is the English 
court, not the Turkish ; here Harry is succeeded by Harry, 
not one tyrant by a tyrant who slays his brothers. Yet be 
sorrowful, as I will be sorrowful ; but let us as brothers 
wear for a common reason the sorrow that so royally be- 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 179 

comes you." The young King cast his eyes around the 
chamber. " I see you all look strangely on me. You most 
of all " he turned on the Lord Chief-Justice " you are 
assured I have little love for you." 

" I am assured," answered Gascoigne with humble courage,' 
" that if I be measured rightly, your Majesty has no just 
reason to hate me." He had promised the Princes before 
hand that he would sue for no half-hearted pardon, but if his 
uprightness and innocence availed nothing, would follow the 
dead King to his grave and tell him in another world who 
had sent him there. 

"No reason?" demanded Harry. "Can a prince of my 
great hopes forget the indignity you once laid on me ? 
What ! rate, rebuke, pack off to prison the heir of England ! 
Is that to be forgotten, think you ?" 

" My liege," answered Gascoigne firmly, " as judge I stood 
for your father. I represented the King. While I admin 
istered his law your highness was pleased to forget the 
majesty I stood for; you struck me there in the very seat 
of justice. In me you offended your father, and by his 
authority I committed you. If I did ill, you who now wear 
his crown cannot take it ill should a son of yours insult the 
law and, through the law, your royal person. Suppose the 
case yours ; imagine yourself so disdained by a son ; imagine 
me silencing that son by the power I hold from you ; and so 
after cold consideration pass sentence upon me, and say what 
I did that misbecame my place or my person or the majesty 
of my King." 

" My lord judge," answered Harry, " you are right. Con 
tinue to bear the scales and the sword of justice, and may 
you increase in honour till you live to see a son of mine 
offend you and obey you as I did. Then shall I live to say 
as my father said : ' I am happy to have a judge so brave 
that he dares to do justice on my own son ; and not less 
happy to have a son who can so submit himself to justice.' 
Yes, my lord, continue to wear that untarnished sword and 

12 2 



180 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

to use it as boldly, as justly, as impartially as you used it 
against me. There is my hand ; help me with your wisdom ; 
and with the help of God and such counsellors as you, no 
one shall have cause to wish aught but long life to King 
Harry." 

Had Falstaff known of this had he and his companions 
guessed that while they spurred towards London the King's 
officers were ransacking the Boar's Head Tavern and 
dragging its hostess and others to answer for the life of a 
man mishandled there by Pistol and since dead of his 
wounds their haste had been less confident. As it was, 
they reached the city and posted themselves near West 
minster Abbey in time to hear the trumpets and see the 
grooms strewing rushes along the roadway for the King's 
return from the coronation. Falstaff had already on the 
strength of his promises bled the justice for the loan of a 
thousand pounds, and his only regret was that time had not 
allowed him to array his men in new liveries. " Stand here 
by me, Master Shallow ; I will make the King do you grace : 
I will leer upon him as he comes by, and you shall mark 
how pleasantly he'll look. Stand behind me, Pistol ; I wish 
I had those liveries. But no matter, this poor show will 
prove what zeal, what devotion, I had to see him." 

"True, true," Master Shallow agreed. 

" As it were to ride day and night ; and not to have 
patience, not to change my clothes, but to stand stained 
with travel and sweating with desire to see him ; thinking of 
nothing else, putting all other business aside, as if there 
were nothing else important in the world but to see him." 

" Very true." 

Pistol indeed had heard disquieting news of the raid on 
the Boar's Head Tavern, and repeated it to Falstaff. The 
womenkind there, it seemed, had been taken and flung into 
prison. 

" Tut, tut," Sir John waved him aside ; " I will see them 
set atjiberty." 



KING HENRY THE FOURTH 181 

And now the trumpets sounded, the throng raised a mighty 
shout, and forth from the great doors of the Abbey stepped 
the newly crowned King with his train of peers attending. 

" God save thy grace, King Hal !" Falstaff thrust himself 
forward, cheering louder than any. " My royal Hal !" 

"The heavens thee guard and keep, most royal imp of 
fame!" chimed in Pistol. 

" God save thee, my sweet boy !" Falstaff shouted, almost 
splitting his lungs. 

The King heard his remembered voice, halted, flung him 
a glance, and turned to Gascoigne. " My Lord Chief- 
Justice, pray speak to that vain man." 

" Have you lost your wits ?" chided the judge. " Do you 
know whom you speak to ?" 

But Falstaff was not to be repressed. " My King ! My 
Jove ! I am speaking to thee, my heart !" 

The King looked him up and down. Then, clearly and 
coldly, he spoke: " Old man, I know thee not. Get thee to 
thy prayers ; for ill do white hairs become a fool and a jester. 
I have been a long time dreaming, and in that dream I have 
known such a man, one so swollen with indulgence, so old, 
and so profane. But now I am awake and despise my dream. 
Hence ! leave gluttony, and learn that there is a grave gaping 
for thee and thrice as wide as for other men. Nay ; answer 
me not with some foolish jest, nor presume that what I was 
I still am. For God knows, and the world shall know, that 
I have dismissed my old self, and with it I dismiss those 
who were my companions. When thou hearest that I am 
again what I was, then approach and be again my tutor and 
feeder in riots ; but until then I forbid thee on pain of death, 
as I have forbidden the rest of my misleaders, to approach 
within ten miles of my person. I have granted thee a 
sufficient income for life, that poverty may not drive thee to 
evil, and as we hear of your reformation we will advance 
you. My Lord Chief-Justice, it shall be your duty to see 
this performed." And so King Harry passed on. 



182 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Falstaff turned a sad, very woeful face. " Master Shallow," 
he said, " I owe you a thousand pound." 

" Yea, marry, Sir John," chirped Shallow ; " and I beseech 
you let me have it to carry home with me." 

"That can hardly be, Master Shallow," the old knight 
answered pitifully, and strove to reassure himself. " Do 
not you grieve at this. He will send for me in private. 
Look you, he has to appear like this to the world. Never 
fear for your advancement ; I shall make you a great man 
yet." 

Master Shallow shook a rueful head. " I cannot well 
perceive how. I beseech you, Sir John, let me have five 
hundred of my thousand." 

" Sir, I will be as good as my word. Come with me to 
dinner ; come, Pistol and Bardolph ; I shall be sent for soon 
to-night." 

But even this hope was shattered by Lord Chief-Justice 
Gascoigne as he came back along the street in talk with 
Prince John of Lancaster and followed by his officers. 
" Go," he commanded ; " carry Sir John Falstaff and his 
company to the Fleet Prison !" 

" My lord, my lord," stammered poor Falstaff. 

" No more at present ! I will hear you soon, at another 
time." He watched them as they were led off and turned 
to Prince John in silence. 

" A good beginning," said the Prince quietly ; " the King 
has provided for his old followers, but they are banished 
until the world finds their conduct more reputable." 

" They are," assented the Lord Chief-Justice grimly. 

" My lord, he has called his parliament." Again the stern 
old judge nodded as a man well pleased. " I will lay odds," 
the Prince went on, " that before the year is out we shall 
be moving perhaps as far as to France." The Lord Chief- 
Justice looked at him sharply. " I heard a little bird sing 
so," said Prince John. 






KING HENRY THE FIFTH 

PRINCE HAL was now King Henry V., and Prince Hal no 
longer. All trace of that madcap, that haunter of taverns 
and dissolute company, had vanished in the young man who 
now held the sceptre of England with a firm hand and 
serious purpose. The wildness seemed to die out of him 
as the breath left his father's body, and his people won 
dered, while they thanked Heaven for the change. Never, 
they told each other, had reformation come in such a swift 
and cleansing flood ; and since the days of miracles had 
gone by, they were forced to believe that his thoughtfulness 
had been growing secretly under cover of his old wild 
courses, as a strawberry ripens under a nettle, or grass 
springs fastest while the night hides it. 

For they saw him to be not sober-minded only, but 
shrewd ; of strong will, yet just ; masterful, while willing to 
listen to advice ; at once a king with high thoughts for his 
country's welfare and honour, and a man with a mind of 
his own. He had not forgotten his father's dying counsel, 
to strengthen his throne by busying the minds of the nobles 
with foreign conquest, that so they might be the less tempted 
to plot mischief. They were restless, he knew. War was 
their chief and natural pastime ; he must supply it abroad 
upon an honourable excuse, or they would find one for 
raising trouble at home. Already plots were hatching 
around the young Earl of March, who (as men did not 
forget) in strict law was heir to the throne. It was high 
time to confirm himself for the great struggle surely coming 
between the crown of England and big feudal lords. A 

183 



184 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

successful war abroad would keep them busy, and (better 
still) busy in strengthening his hands. 

And the chance lay open to him. France had let no 
occasion slip of thwarting and fostering treason against 
Bolingbroke ; but France just now had an unhappy mad 
man for king, under whom she was rent by the quarrels 
of two factions, the one headed by the Duke of Burgundy, 
the other by the Duke of Orleans : Burgundians and 
Armagnacs they were called. Under this strife she lay 
for the moment helpless. This moment was Henry's, and 
he seized it to claim the French throne. 

The claim was in law a shadowy one ; the shadow of a 
claim raised once before by our Edward III. It rested on 
this. Philip the Bold of France, who died in 1285, had left 
two sons, Philip the Fair, who succeeded him, and Charles, 
Count of Valois. Philip the Fair had three sons, each of 
whom held the throne in turn, and one daughter Isabella, 
who married our Edward II., and became the mother of 
Edward III. Now, when these three sons died without 
heirs, the crown did not pass to their sister Isabella, but to 
the son of Charles of Valois, the reason being that by a law 
(called the Salic Law) no woman could hold the succession. 
And with the descendants of Charles of Valois the crown 
had remained down to the madman Charles VI., who now 
wore it. 

Edward III. had refused to accept this Salic law, arguing 
that it was of force only in Salic land, and that this did not 
include France. There had been much reason in his claim, 
but there was none in the claim now revived by Henry V., 
his descendant ; because if Henry stood upon strict law, the 
throne of France belonged not to him but to the young Earl of 
March, as first in direct descent from Edward* 

He made his claim, however, and he had something more 
than the weakness of France to promise him success. For 

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186 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

reasons of their own the clergy of England, headed by the 
Archbishop of Canterbury, were longing for a foreign war. 
As Henry wanted to keep his nobles busy, so the clergy 
wished to keep Henry diverted from prying into their 
affairs. The Church, in fact, was feeling the first of the 
pains and disquiet which in time brought the Reformation 
to birth. Men were beginning to look enviously on her 
great riches, and to ask how they were spent. In the last 
reign a bill had been brought before Parliament making 
the King master of the lands left to the Church by devout 
persons and " disordinately spent " by the clergy ; the 
money to be used in maintaining earls, knights, and 
esquires for the defence of the realm, almshouses for the 
poor, and leaving a surplus of twenty thousand pounds for 
the King's own coffers. This, as the Archbishop put it, 
was not drinking deep, but drinking cup and all ; and how 
the clergy felt towards the bill we need not say. Pressing 
troubles had pushed it out of question for the time, but now 
under the new King it was being proposed again. Some 
thing must be done to divert him, and what better for this 
purpose than a foreign war ? For this to be sure he would 
need money. Very well ; these wily Churchmen would 
supply him with money. 

They did more ; they made the war binding upon his 
conscience. The day came which brought the French 
answer to his demands ; but before granting the ambas 
sadors audience, Henry sent for the Archbishop of Canter 
bury and desired to be told whether the Salic law did or did not 
bar his claim. " God forbid," said he, " that you should wrest 
or bow your interpretation to that which suits not with the 
truth, since God knows how much blood will be shed to seal 
approval of what you say. Speak, my lord ; but bear this in 
mind, I conjure you, and speak only with a pure conscience." 

The Archbishop spoke without hesitation. To begin 
with (he argued), the Salic land did not include France, but 
lay in Germany, between the Rivers Sala and Elbe. The 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 187 

Salic law was never devised for France, nor did the French 
possess their present territory until 400 years and more 
after the death of King Pharamond, the supposed founder of 
the law. Moreover, this very law would upset the French 
King's claim to their own crown, since both King Pepin 
and Hugh Capet had derived their titles by female descent. 
All this the Archbishop set forth with much show of learn 
ing, and quoted the Book of Numbers to support him : " If 
a man die, and have no son, ye shall cause his inheritance 
to pass unto his daughter." " May I, then, with right and 
conscience make this claim ?" demanded Henry. " The sin 
be on my head !" was the Archbishop's answer. Nobles 
and churchmen now vied in urging the King to uphold his 
claim, but Henry, having the answer he religiously sought, 
needed no urging. His mind made up on this main point, 
he turned his thoughts at once to ways and means. It 
would never do to leave his kingdom defenceless against the 
Scot, who would seize the moment of his absence to invade 
and harry. Said the old proverb 

" If that you will France win, 
Then with Scotland first begin." 

The Duke of Exeter and the Archbishop met this diffi 
culty. " My liege, a quarter of your fighting men, with 
you to lead them, will set France shaking. Leave us with 
the rest, and we promise to defend England for you." 

It was enough. " Call in the Dauphin's messengers !" 
commanded Henry, and they entered. "Now we will 
know the Dauphin's pleasure, since it seems you come 
from him." " May we speak freely ?" they demanded. 
" We are no tyrant," was the answer, " but a Christian 
King ; our passions as securely chained as the wretches in 
our prisons. Be frank without fear.' 7 

Their first words made it clear that to the mistaken 
Dauphin Henry was still Prince Hal. " In answer to your 
claims, then, the Dauphin, our master, says that you savour 



188 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

too much of your youth ; bids you be advised you cannot 
dance your way into French dukedoms; and sends you, 
therefore, as an offering more suitable for you this chest 
of treasure." 

" What treasure, uncle ?" asked Henry, as the Duke of 
Exeter peered beneath the lid they lifted. 

" My liege, it is tennis-balls !" 

Henry sprang from his throne, but mastered his rage in a 
moment, and stood grimly staring down upon the tennis- 
balls, these insulting ghosts of his youth fetched up for a 
sorry joke. He turned upon the ambassadors. " We are 
glad," he said quietly, " the Dauphin is so pleasant with us. 
We thank you for his present and for your pains. When 
we have matched our rackets with these balls of his, by 
God's grace we will play a set which shall strike his father's 
crown into the hazard ! Yes, we understand him, and how 
he twits us with our wild youth. But tell him that when I 
rouse me in my throne of France he shall see and know for 
what I reserved my majesty ! And tell him," Henry's 
voice rose, " tell the pleasant prince this mock of his has 
turned his tennis-balls to gun-stones, shall mock wives out 
of their husbands, mothers from their sons, shall mock 
castles down, and give men yet unborn cause to curse the 
pleasantry. But all this lies in the will of God, to whom I 
appeal. Go in peace. Let the Dauphin know that I follow, 
and add that his jest will savour of a shallow wit when 
bewept by thousands more than it made laugh." He turned 
to his attendants, " Give these men safe conduct hence." 

" It was a merry message." said the Duke of Exeter 
when the ambassadors had taken their leave. 

" We hope to make the sender blush for it," answered 
the King. Having committed the main issue to God 
whose will upon the best advice he was following, this 
thorough Englishman turned to business. All his thought 
now was to get to France swiftly and in good time. 

And all the fighting spirits of England took fire from 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 189 

him. They cared little for the right or wrong of the excuse ; 
they looked back across years of galling peace and French 
insult and intrigue, and remembered Cressy. No more 
silken dalliance ! Noble and knight, squire and serving- 
man, took down their weapons and looked to their equip 
ment. The poor man sold his pasture and bought a horse 
to carry him to the wars and win wealth. All was noise 
and bustle about the armourers' forges. The taverns of 
Eastcheap felt the stir. The war would bring plunder for 
rascals. " Profits," as Pistol put it, " will accrue " ; and he 
and the rest of Falstaft's hangers-on began to furbish up 
their swords and scour their stained armour, eager as crows 
at the scent of carrion, thirsty as horse-leeches. Pistol 
himself had lately patched up a marriage with Dame 
Quickly, greatly to the disgust of a late crony, Corporal 
Nym, to whom that lady had already plighted her troth ; 
and red-nosed Bardolph had much ado to keep the peace 
between the rivals, who drew when they met and deafened 
him with their abuse, Pistol ranting in the old braggart 
fashion, Nym sheepish but persistent and vindictive, and 
the one as cowardly as the other. " Come, shall I make 
you two friends ?" proposed Bardolph. " We must to 
France together. Why should we keep knives to cut one 
another's throats ?" 

" Let floods o'erswell, and fiends for food howl on !" 
foamed Pistol. 

Nym was more matter of fact. " You'll pay me the 
eight shillings I won of you at betting ?" 

" Base is the slave that pays !" was all the satisfaction to 
be had at first; but presently relenting, Pistol promised 
six-and-eightpence, money down. Such are the quarrels of 
rogues, quickly patched up on the chance of preying to 
gether upon honest men. Within a minute this pair were 
sworn brothers for the campaign, in which Pistol proposed 
to serve as sutler with pickings. 

But Falstaff had come to the end of his campaignings. 



190 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

He lay at Mistress Quickly's, sick (as his hostess described 
it) of " a burning quotidian tertian " ; but in a wiser moment 
she came nearer the truth. " The King has killed his 
heart " ; there lay the secret of the disease, and before the 
King embarked the old reprobate had died of it. " A' made 
a finer end," was Mistress Quickly's account, " and went 
away an it had been any christom child ; a' parted even 
just between twelve and one, even at the turning o' the 
tide ; for after I saw him fumble with the sheets and play 
with flowers and smile upon his fingers' ends, I knew there 
was but one way ; for his nose was as sharp as a pen, and a' 
babbled of green fields. How now, Sir John !' quoth I ; 
' what, man ! be o' good cheer.' So a' cried out, ' God, 
God, God!' three or four times. Now I, to comfort him, 
bid him a' should not think of God ; I hoped there was no 
need to trouble himself with any such thoughts yet. So a' 
bade me lay more clothes on his feet. . . ." In short, Fal- 
staff was dead. " Would I were with him," groaned 
Bardolph, " wheresome'er he is, either in heaven or in 
hell !" and even Pistol heaved an honest sigh before kissing 
his wife and bidding her keep good house and give no credit 
during his absence. 

The King, before setting sail from Southampton, had to 
cast off other and better trusted friends than Sir John. On 
the very eve of departure a plot was discovered for murder 
ing him and setting the young Earl of March on the throne. 
To this treason French gold had tempted three men in 
Henry's inmost counsels his cousin Richard, Earl of 
Cambridge, Sir Thomas Grey, and even Lord Scroop of 
Masham, his bedfellow. And they, not suspecting them 
selves discovered, gave Henry opportunity to condemn 
them out of their own mouths. Before the nobles, who 
already knew their guilt, he first consulted them on the 
firmness and loyalty of his troops, and having listened to 
their false assurances, turned to the Duke of Exeter, bid 
ding him set free a man who the day before had been 




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192 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

imprisoned for railing against the King's majesty. The 
three plotters each in turn pressed for severity upon the 
offence, though a trifling one and committed in drunken 
ness. " Let us be merciful," said Henry. " Your high 
ness," urged Cambridge, " may be merciful and yet punish 
him." " Nevertheless, we will set him free, although Cam 
bridge, Scroop, and Grey, in their dear care to preserve our 
person, would have him punished. And now to our French 
business !" He handed to the three plotters the parchments 
they supposed to contain their commissions, and watched 
them break the seals. " Why, how now, gentlemen ? 
What read you in those papers that so changes your 
complexion ?" 

The unhappy three were staring at their death warrants. 
Mercy was not for them. Their punishment must be 
extreme as the trust reposed in them. In solemn sorrow 
Henry sent them out to their doom. " I will weep for 
thee," he said to Scroop, the most trusted of all, " for thy 
revolt is like another Fall of Man." And they confessed 
that they deserved the death which Henry prayed God 
to give them patience to endure. They were led forth ; 
and that same night the King put his puissance in the 
further keeping of God and cheerfully hoisted sail for 
France. 

Already in the French court some minds were growing 
uneasy. The Dauphin, to be sure, consented to follow his 
father's advice (for Charles, now enjoying one of his short 
spells of sanity, observed the vigour of the English approach 
and recalled bygone disasters and the memorable shame o 
Cressy) and to repair some of the weaker fortresses. But 
he persisted in his fatal error that Henry was but a vain 
shallow boy, not to be taken seriously, still less to be feared 
" As for fear," he urged, " we have no more cause to show 
it than we should if we learned that England were busy 
with a Whitsun morris-dance." The Constable of France 
Charles d'Albert, was wiser. " Prince, you are mistaken 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 193 

Question your ambassadors, and they will tell you how 
royally, yet modestly, he received them ; how careful he 
showed himself in taking counsel, yet how resolute. These 
vanities you speak of are spent and done with." " You are 
wrong, my lord," was the Dauphin's reply ; " but there's no 
harm in esteeming an enemy more formidable than he seems, 
and our defences shall be looked to." 

Quick on the heels of the message returned to the 
Dauphin, Henry had despatched an embassy of his own, 
headed by the Duke of Exeter, bearing his conditions with 
documents in support of his claim. He would endure no 
delay. He whom we first found rallying Falstaff for want 
ing to know the time of day, had now learnt (as Exeter 
said) to weigh time even to the uttermost grain. The 
Dauphin was for prompt defiance. His father pleaded for 
a night's respite. " Despatch us with speed," Exeter in 
sisted, " or he will be here in person to know why you are 
loitering. Already he and his men have landed." Charles 
could find no conditions to stay the invasion already 
launched, and the Dauphin had his wish therefore, with 
what fatal results to France we are to see. 

Henry's fleet had crossed from Southampton with a fair 
wind, and made the mouth of the Seine ; and there, at Caux, 
he landed his thirty thousand soldiers and marched upon 
the town of Harfleur. It was a motley and miscellaneous 
army he commanded. English of all ranks and classes were 
there, from nobles down to sturdy yeomen, and from these 
down to such needy rascals as our friends Bardolph, Pistol, 
and Nym. These three worthies owned one page between 
them the boy given by Henry to Falstaff in the old days 
but, indeed, as the lad consoled himself, " three such antics 
do not amount to one man." He was not long in discover 
ing their arrant cowardice. Bardolph was red-faced, but 
white-livered. Pistol had a killing tongue and a quiet 
sword ; while as for Nym, " he never broke any man's head 
but bis own, and that was against a post when he was 



194 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

drunk." Plunder, not fighting, was their game. " Bardolph 
stole a lute-case, bore it twelve leagues, and sold it for three 
half-pence, Nym and Bardolph are sworn brothers in 
filching, and in Calais they stole a fire-shovel." Rogues all, 
and when all was said and done, very futile rogues ! The 
lad, being honest as well as shrewd, promised himself a quick 
dismissal from such service. 

But the ranks were not made up of Englishmen only. 
Scotsmen, Irishmen, Welshmen had taken service with 
Henry as common soldiers and petty officers, and the shouts 
and calls of command under the walls of Harfleur made up 
a babel of dialects comic enough for those who listened to 
it, but more than merely amusing to us who know of what 
this was the beginning ; how men of these races have since 
fought side by side, or back to back, with what traditions of 
glory and with what splendid results. They were good 
fighters even at Harfleur, these men of strange dialects. 
There was Captain Fluellen, for instance, a self-conceited, 
peppery, and pedantic little Welshman, scolding, arguing, 
criticising orders, but sweating and fighting like a hero. 
In Captain Fluellen's neighbourhood our London bullies 
found it unpleasantly difficult to shirk danger. " Up to the 
breach, you dogs !" was his exhortation, backed with blows 
of the sword. A moment later would find him wrangling 
with the messenger sent by the Duke of Gloucester to fetch 
him to the siege-mines. " Tell the Duke it is not so good 
to come to the mines ; for, look you, the mines is not 
according to the disciplines of the war : the concavities of it 
is not sufficient ; for, look you, the adversary, you may dis 
cuss unto the Duke, look you, is digg'd himself four yard 
under by countermines : I think a' will plow up all, if there 
is not better directions." Captain Gower, the messenger, 
had to remind him that the siege was being conducted 
by the Duke of Gloucester, under the direction of an 
Irishman, one Captain Macmorris. " He is an ass. He 
has no more directions in the disciplines of the wars, look 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 195 

you, of the Roman disciplines, than is a puppy dog !" This 
amiable opinion Fluellen had occasion to repeat to Macmorris 
himself, who came up at this point. " Captain Macmorris, 
I beseech you now, will you vouchsafe me, look you, a few 
disputations with you, as partly touching or concerning the 
disciplines of the war, the Roman wars, in the way of argu 
ment, look you." Macmorris first pleaded that the day was 
too hot for argument, and went on to lose his temper, but 
without the least effect. " Look you, if you take the matter 
otherwise than is meant, Captain Macmorris, peradventure 
I shall think you do not use me with that affability as in 
discretion you ought to use me, look you ; being as good a 
man as yourself, both in the disciplines of war, and in the 
derivation of my birth, and in other particularities." 

It was the King who controlled these jarring elements 
and knit them into an army; the King, now proving himself 
a born commander, and not least by the ardour of devotion 
his mere presence kindled. Englishman, Welshman, Irish 
man, Scot, each caught fire from him. Did he hold them 
back ? they stood ready, eager, like greyhounds straining at 
the leash. Did he cry them on ? they flung themselves 
into the breach again and again, resolute to force it or close 
the wall up with their bodies, for he called on their pride of 
birth in the name of home and the pastures which had bred 
them brave men. He never spared himself. He rode here, 
there, everywhere, and as he rode from point to point kept 
alive the battle-cry, " God for Harry, England, and St. 
George!" around Harfleur. 

Moreover, though merciful by nature, he had hardened 
his temper to war as every great general must. When 
after five weeks' siege he summoned the citizens to the last 
parley, there was no lack of sternness in his conditions. 
" Submit yourselves, or defy us on certainty of the worst ; 
for, as I am a soldier, if you force me to begin the battery 
once again, I will not leave Harfleur until she is buried 
in her ashes. Before shutting the gates of mercy, I bid you 

132 



196 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

take pity on your town, on your people, while I have my 
soldiers in control. Refuse, and you shall see their hands 
defiling the locks of your screaming daughters ; your old 
men taken by their beards and brained against the walls ; 
your babes spitted upon pikes, while their maddened 
mothers shriek as the wives of Jewry before King Herod's 
slaughterers. Choose, then." 

There was no other choice. Hopeless of aid from the 
Dauphin, Harfleur flung open its gates. But the city had 
been won at terrible cost. Dysentery and fever ravaged 
Henry's camp, and his men were falling like sheep. It was 
with an army reduced to half its old strength that he deter 
mined to follow the example of his great-grandfather Edward 
and insult the enemy by a bold march upon Calais. He 
found the bridges of the Somme broken down, and the fords 
rendered impassable by lines of sharp stakes; but after 
some days' delay an unguarded point was discovered high 
up the stream, and by forced marches he flung his army 
rapidly across, and pressing forward to Blangy, captured by 
a sharp skirmish the bridge over the little river Ternoise, 
just beyond which, at the village of Agincourt, lay the 
French army of more than sixty thousand, barring the road 
to Calais. 

The bridge was gallantly seized and held. To quote 
Fluellen, who esteemed himself a judge, " I assure you there 
is very excellent services committed at the pridge. . . . 
The Duke of Exeter has very gallantly maintained the 
pridge ; the French is gone off, look you ; and there is 
gallant and most prave passages. . . . The perdition of th' 
athversary hath been very great, reasonable great : marry, 
for my part, I think the duke hath lost never a man, but one 
that is like to be executed for robbing a church." 

This was indeed the unhappy Bardolph. Though his 
men were half-starving, Henry had given express orders 
that the villages were not to be plundered, nor the inhabi 
tants insulted, nor anything taken without payment. He 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 197 

presented himself to France, let us remember, not as a ruth 
less conqueror but as a lawful sovereign interposing to heal 
her dissensions. Towards such an offence as Bardolph's he 
was least likely to show mercy, for Bardolph had stolen a 
pax.* " A pax of little price," urged his crony Pistol, who 
came to persuade Fluellen to make intercession for the thief. 
Now Fluellen had been not a little impressed by Pistol's 
loud boasting at the bridge, and was inclined to think him a 
very valiant soldier ; but he could not stomach indiscipline. 
" For if, look you, he were my brother, I would desire the 
duke to use his good pleasure and put him to execution ; for 
discipline ought to be used." Whereupon Pistol fell to 
abusing him, and stalked off in a huff. " It is well. Very 
good." Fluellen shrugged his shoulders with much calm. 
" Why," said Captain Gower, who stood by, " I remember 
that fellow ; an arrant counterfeit rascal and a cutpurse." 
" I assure you, a' uttered as prave words at the pridge as 
you shall see in a summer's day." " Ay, the kind of rogue 
that now and then goes to the wars, to return and swagger 
about London as a soldier. Such fellows are pat with the 
names of great commanders ; they have the campaign by 
heart, and would teach you what happened at such and such 
an earthwork, breach, or convoy ; who was shot, who 
disgraced ; what terms the enemy stood out for ; they have 
it all in the right war-like phrases, which they trick up with 
new oaths. You'd hardly believe how far a suit of campaign 
ing clothes and a beard cut like a general's will go among 
foaming bottles and listeners whose wits ale has washed out 
of them !" 

But a campaign so grim as this of Henry's was like to 
prove sadly fatal to these swashers. Indeed it was fast 
thinning the ranks of honester men ; and the French, while 
they wondered at Henry's daring, were almost sorry to see 
him come on with troops so sick, weary, famished, and (as 

* That is, a picture of Christ on a piece of wood or metal, kissed by 
worshippers in token of brotherly peace and unity. 



198 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

they were bound to believe) dispirited. The glory of beating 
him would be the less. They never doubted to have him at 
their mercy ; and King Charles sent his herald Montjoy 
from Rouen to demand the invader's surrender. " Say thou 
to Harry of England " thus ran the message" though we 
seemed dead, we did but sleep. We could have rebuked 
him at Harfleur, but that we thought not good to bruise an 
injury till it were full ripe. Now we speak, and our voice 
is imperial. England shall repent his folly, see his weak 
ness, and admire our long-suffering. Bid him, therefore, 
consider his ransom, which must be proportionate to our 
losses in wealth, and men, and the disgrace we have 
digested. Our losses he is too poor to repay ; and for our 
disgrace his own person, kneeling at our feet, will hardly 
give satisfaction. Tell him, for conclusion, that he has 
betrayed his followers, whose doom is pronounced." 

"Fairly rendered," was Henry's answer to Montjoy. 
" Turn back and tell your King I am not anxious to meet 
him between this and Calais. To speak frankly, my men 
are weakened by sickness, lessened in numbers ; the few 
I have scarcely better than so many Frenchmen nay, God 
forgive me ! that was boasting, and I am sorry for it. Tell 
your master my ransom is but this body of mine, and my 
army a weak and sickly guard for it ; yet, before God, we 
will come on, though King Charles and another as mighty 
as he stand in our way. If we may pass, we will ; hinder 
us, and French blood shall pay for it. We desire no battle ; 
but weak as we are we will not shun it." 

" I hope they will not come on us now," muttered 
Gloucester, the King's brother, when Montjoy had 
departed. " We are in God's hand, brother," was Henry's 
answer; "not in theirs." He gave the order to cross the 
river. 

There was very different talk in the French camp. While 
Henry spoke of trusting in God, the Dauphin was boasting 
of his horse and armour. Says the Psalmist : " Some trust 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 199 

in chariots, and some in horses ; but we will remember the 
name of the Lord our God." u I will trot to-morrow a 
mile," promised the Dauphin, " and my way shall be paved 
with English faces." The young French nobles cast dice 
for the prisoners they were to take in the morning. The 
English, they agreed, were fools ; if they had any apprehen 
sion they would run away. " By ten o'clock, let me see," 
said the Duke of Orleans, " we shall have a hundred 
Englishmen apiece." 

The English had found a camping ground but fifteen 
hundred paces from the French outposts. Drenched and 
exhausted they lit their watch-fires and cowered over them 
to ruminate on the morrow ; so lank and gaunt in their 
worn coats that they seemed beneath the moon's rays a 
gathering of ghosts rather than of men a gathering, at any 
rate, of men devoted to the sacrifice on which the enemy 
counted. So close lay the two camps, that across the belt 
of darkness where the outposts listened, between the glow of 
the watchfires, each army could hear the other's confused 
hum, the horses neighing and challenging, the armourers' 
hammers busily closing the rivets for the morning, now 
announced to be near by the cocks crowing from unseen 
farmsteads along the countryside. 

Henry knew even better than his soldiers how nearly 
desperate was the prospect for England. Weariness aside, 
he was outnumbered by five to one. But in him the greater 
danger awoke the greater courage ; nor did his own 
weariness prevent him going the rounds before dawn with 
his brother Gloucester. " Good-morrow," said he, finding 
his other brother, Bedford, upon a like errand ; " there 
must be some sort of goodness in evil, for, see, our bad 
neighbour makes us early risers, which is both healthful 
and thriftful." Then greeting a stout old soldier, Sir 
Thomas Erpingham, " A good soft pillow," said he, " were 
better for that good white head than the churlish turf of 
France." " My liege, I like my lodging better as it is, 



200 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

since now I may say, ' I am lodged like a king.' " Henry 
borrowed the old knight's cloak, and wrapping himself 
close in it went forward alone. He wished to observe 
quietly and in disguise those feelings which his men would 
be loath to disclose in the presence of their King. 

The first sentry to challenge him in this disguise was our 
friend Pistol, still chewing his disgust at that unfeeling 
man Captain Fluellen. "What's thy name?" demanded 
Pistol. " Harry le Roy." " Leroy ? a Cornish name, eh?" 
" I am a Welshman," which was true enough, for Henry's 
birthplace was Monmouth. " Knowest thou Fluellen?" 
"Yes." "Then tell that leek-eating Welshman I'll knock 
his leek about his pate next "St. David's day." "You had 
better not wear your dagger in your cap that day, lest he 
knock that about yours." But Fluellen just now had more 
important matters to think about. Presently the King 
passed him in earnest talk with his English friend, Captain 
Gower; chiding, in fact, Captain Gower for raising his 
voice too loudly. " It is the greatest admiration in the 
world, when the true and aunchient prerogatives and laws 
of the wars is not kept : if you would take the pains but to 
examine the wars of Pompey the Great, you shall find, I 
warrant you, that there is no tiddle taddle nor pibble pabble 
in Pompey's camp ; I warrant you, you shall find the 
ceremonies of the wars, and the cares of it, and the forms of 
it, and the sobriety of it, and the modesty of it, to be 
otherwise." " W T hy," pleaded Gower, " the enemy is loud ; 
you hear him all night." " If the enemy is an ass and a 
fool and a prating coxcomb, is it meet, think you, that we 
should also, look you, be an ass and a fool and a prating 
coxcomb ?" " There is much care and valour in this 
Welshman," thought Henry, and passed on unobserved. 

But he heard another aspect of war discussed by the 
next group he fell in with, a group of three common soldiers 
standing and watching the dawn. As he strolled up in the 
uncertain light, they asked to what company he belonged. 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 201 

" To Sir Thomas Erpingham's." " A good old commander 
and a kind-hearted gentleman ; tell us, how does he think 
we stand?" "As men wrecked on a sandbank, who look 
to be washed off by the next tide." " He has not told the 
King so, surely?" " No," replied Henry, " nor is it fitting 
he should. For, though I speak it to you, I think the 
King is but a man as I am ; a man with a man's senses ; a 
man like any other when his royal pomp and rich clothes 
are laid by. His feelings may soar higher, maybe ; yet 
when they swoop back to earth, they swoop much as ours. 
No doubt he tastes fear as we do ; and yet men should be 
chary of imparting their fear to him, lest by showing it he 
should dishearten his whole army." " He may show what 
outward courage he will," growled one of the three, a 
fellow named John Bates ; " but I believe, cold as the night 
is, he could wish himself in Thames up to the neck ! And 
I wish he were, and I beside him, so we could win out of this." 
" I swear I don't believe the King would wish himself 
anywhere but where he is." " Then I would he were here 
alone. So would he be ransomed, and a many poor men's 
lives saved." " I dare say," said Henry, " you love him 
better than to wish any such thing, howsoever you say this 
to feel other men's minds. For my part, I could die 
nowhere so contentedly as in the King's company, his cause 
being just and his quarrel honourable." " That's more 
than we know," put in another, Michael Williams by name. 
" Ay," said Bates, "and more than we should seek to know. 
It's enough that we're his subjects ; if his cause be wrong, 
we are only obeying him, and that clears us." " But," 
Williams objected, " if the cause be wrong, the King has a 
heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms, 
chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day, 
and cry all ' We died at such a place !' ; some swearing, 
some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor 
behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon 
their children left without provision. I'm afeard few men 



202 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

die well in battle ; for how can they quit themselves in 
goodwill towards men while their business is shedding 
blood? And if they do not die well, it will be a black 
matter for the King who led them to it, and whom they 
could not disobey." 

" Nay," said Henry, " suppose a son went after merchan 
dise by his father's orders, and in his seafaring perished in 
a state of sin, by your argument his father must be held 
responsible! Or if a servant, carrying money for his 
master, be set upon by robbers and killed before he can 
make his peace with God, you would call his master to 
blame for his soul's damnation ! Not so ; nor in fact can 
any king, be his cause never so spotless, if it come to be 
decided by swords, try it out with unspotted soldiers. 
Every subject's duty is the King's ; but every subject's soul 
is his own. Therefore, should every soldier in the wars do 
as every sick man in his bed, wash every mote out of his 
conscience. So, if he die, his death is gain ; and if he do 
not, he has lost his time blessedly in gaining such prepara 
tion. And in him that escapes it were no sin to think that 
God, to whom he made so free an offering of himself, let 
him outlive that day to see His greatness and teach others 
how they should prepare." 

They were honest fellows. " 1 do not desire," said Bates, 
" the King should answer for me ; and yet I determine to 
fight lustily for him." Yet they could not quite believe 
Henry's word that the King would never allow himself to 
be ransomed. " Ay, he said so, to make us fight cheerfully; 
but when our throats are cut, he may be ransomed, and we 
never the wiser." Henry rallied the gloomy Williams, and 
played at pretending to lose his temper when they jeered at 
him a common soldier for his impudence in promising 
" if I live to see the King ransomed, I'll never trust his 
word again." But as he parted from them his spirits felt 
suddenly the terrible weight laid upon him. " Yes ; they 
laid it all on the King : their lives, their souls, their debts, 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 203 

their wives and children, their sins all on the King ! He 
must bear all. To this hard condition greatness is born, 
and can never escape from it to bear the reproach of every 
fool who has only sense to feel his own wringing. Kings 
must neglect the heart's ease of private men ; yet for what 
recompense? Is ceremony a recompense? Let be the 
hollowness of it : can it repay a king for the sleep which 
slaves enjoy, but he misses upon his gorgeous bed ?" 

The moment found him weak, but it was a moment only. 
It passed when Sir Thomas Erpingham came with news 
that the English nobles were seeking him. " Collect them 
at my tent," he commanded ; and falling on his knees he 
besought the God of battles to steel the hearts of his 
Englishmen yes, and to forget for this day the sin by 
which his father had won the crown. That sin, he knew in 
his heart, had not been retrieved ; the blood of Richard was 
yet to be answered for. He had done much ; would do 
more : the debt of divine wrath must be met, but " Not to 
day, O Lord ! O, not to-day !" 

And again while he prayed the French were boasting of 
their horses and armour. In the gathering light they paraded 
sixty thousand strong. The ground favoured them too. 
Flanked on either side by thick woods, they showed the 
English so narrow a front as to offer nothing to assault but 
a pack of men drawn up thirty deep. While they kept that 
position they could defy attack, and Henry had no choice 
between attack and surrender. Day found his ragged 
horsemen already in saddle and planted in face of this host 
" like fixed candlesticks," each with a torch in his hand ; 
their armour rusty, their horses shrunken in flesh, with a 
tell-tale droop of the hindquarters and heads lolling forward 
on their fouled bits. And over this spiritless cavalry 
wheeled flock upon flock of crows, sinister and impatient. 

" They have said their prayers, and they stay for death," 
cried the French Constable. 

"God's arm strike for us!" said the pious Earl of 



204 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Salisbury among the English Lords ; " the odds are fear 
ful." " O," sighed Westmoreland, " that we had here but ten 
thousand of those men who stand idle in England to-day !" 
Henry overheard him. " I would not have a single man 
more ! If we are to die, the smaller loss to England ; if to 
live, the greater our share of honour. Before God, as 
I love honour I would not have one man more to lessen 
the honour of this day's work ! Go, make it known through 
the ranks that any man who will may depart ; shall have a 
passport home and money to take him. We would not die 
in company of that man who fears his willingness to die in 
our company. To-day is St. Caspian's feast. I tell you 
the man who outlives this day and comes safely home shall 
stand an inch higher and feel his heart leap whenever he 
hears the name of Crispian ; ay, if he live to see old age, 
yearly he shall call his neighbours to feast on this day's 
eve, and tell them 'To-morrow is St. Crispian!' shall 
strip back his sleeve, show his scars, ' These wounds I had 
on Crispin's day.' Old men forget; yet when all's for 
gotten he shall remember and brag of his feats performed 
this day ; and then our names King Harry, Bedford and 
Exeter, Warwick, Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester will 
rise to his lips familiar as household words, and as the cup 
goes round be freshly remembered. Good man ! he shall 
teach his son the tale, and Crispin Crispian never go by 
from this day to the world's end but we shall be remembered 
in it we, we happy few, we band of brothers ! For 
the man who sheds his blood with me to-day shall be 
my brother ; by that raised a gentleman, however low his 
estate. And gentlemen now a-bed in England shall curse 
themselves that they were not here, and stand abashed when 
any man speaks who fought beside me upon St. Crispian's 
day !" 

Once more before the armies engaged the Constable sent 
Montjoy to offer Henry the chance of ransom ; and again 
Montjoy carried back a firm refusal. The Duke of York 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 205 

known to us in Richard's reign as Aumerle, but now under 
a higher title a better and braver man craved the honour 
of leading the English van. Henry granted it, and for the 
last time commending the battle to God, gave the order to 
advance. 

The English archers bared their breasts and arms for free 
play and charged forward with shout. It is likely enough 
their charge would have had small effect on the French 
defence, had the French been contented to defend. But the 
sight of this audacious advance was too much for their 
patience ; and, disregarding the Constable's plan of battle, 
the dense, heavily-weighted mass of men-at-arms broke 
ground and came floundering forward into the open over 
the sodden ground ; which they trod into a quagmire. As 
they came, Henry called a halt. Each of his archers carried 
a sharpened stake ; and now at a word planting a rough- 
and-ready stockade, from behind it they poured their arrows 
into the throng where no arrow could miss a mark. The 
slaughter was terrible ; yet the French blundered on and 
by sheer weight drove the archers right and left into the 
woods, only to find the deadly rain now pouring on either 
flank from behind the trees, among which they could not 
pursue. While they swayed mire-bound and exposed to 
this cross-fire, Henry flung his heavier troops straight on 
their front, himself charging like a hero and setting an 
example to all. Once he went down under the blow of a 
French mace ; again, while stooping to lift the Duke of 
York, felled by a blow of Alen9on's, he took a stroke from 
the same hand which shore away a piece of the crown on 
his helmet. But the French masses were breaking up. 
The first to take to flight was a body of horsemen, some 
six hundred in number, who, hearing that the English camp 
lay undefended, rode round upon it and through it, pillaging 
and hacking down the lackeys and boys who showed fight. 
The news of it reached Henry as he drew breath after the 
great charge. There was no gentleness in him now. 



206 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Stung by this outrage, and perceiving the French cavalry 
attempting to rally, he gave the stern order to give no 
quarter but kill all prisoners taken. 

But the French rally came to nothing. The day was 
Henry's, as the herald Montjoy admitted, who came by-and- 
by to sue for leave to bury the French dead. " What," 
asked Henry, is the name of the castle standing yonder ?" 
" Agincourt." " Then we will name this the field of 
Agincourt." 

On this field of Agincourt more than ten thousand 
Frenchmen lay dead, and among them one hundred and 
twenty-six princes and nobles bearing banners. The Con 
stable himself had fallen, Chatillon, Admiral of France, the 
Duke of Alen9on, felled by Henry's own hand, the Dukes of 
Brabant and Bar, the Duke of Burgundy's brother, the 
Earls Grandpre, Roussi, Fauconberg, Foix, Beaumont^ 
Marie, Vaudemont, and Lestrale. The Dukes of Orleans 
and Bourbon were prisoners, with fifteen hundred lords, 
barons, knights, and esquires, besides common men. 
England had lost the Duke of York and the Earl of 
Suffolk they had dropped side by side, and shaken hands 
like gallant brothers-in-arms before death parted them ; one 
knight, one esquire, and but five-and-twenty rank and file. 
" O God, thy arm was here !" cried Henry as his eye fell on 
the short list. " Accept this victory, God, for it is thine 
only !" He forbade his men, on pain of death, to boast of 
their triumph ; even the numbers of the killed were only 
to be published with the acknowledgment that God had 
fought for England. The army fell into line of march and 
moved in procession to the village, there to chant the " Te 
Deum" and " Non woiw " " Not unto us, O Lord, not 
unto us, but unto thy Name give glory. . . ." 

But England was less disposed to make light of her 
soldiers' prowess. Henry's army, too weary to pursue its 
victory, made its way unopposed to Calais, and there shipped 
for home. Crowds lined the beach at Dover to welcome 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 207 

him, and even rushed into the sea to touch his ship. London 
poured forth her citizens on Blackheath to fetch home the 
victor. Henry behaved throughout as a modest man, 
rejecting even the proposal that his battered helmet and 
sword should be borne through the city of London before 
him. His work was not' done yet. He had struck but the 
first blow, if the most effective, and was content for two 
years to watch France as between the Burgundians and 
Armagnacs she went from bad to worse. For a time the 
Emperor Sigismund occupied himself in an attempt to patch 
up terms between the two countries, but with no result ; 
and in 1417 Henry sailed once more for Normandy, this 
time with forty thousand followers. 

The discipline of the former campaign had been a stern 
discouragement of weeds and wastrels in the English 
soldiery. Men of true stuff Gower, Fluellen, and their 
likes were eager enough to serve again ; Fluellen, for 
example, was ready to follow wherever led by his modern 
Alexander the Great, or Big, or (as he preferred to pronounce 
it) " Pig." Henry was born at Monmouth, and " I think it 
is in Macedon where Alexander the Pig is porn. I tell you, 
if you look in the map of the 'orld, I warrant you sail find 
in the comparisons between Macedon and Monmouth 
that the situations, look you, is both alike. There is a river 
in Macedon ; and there is also moreover, a river at Mon 
mouth : it is called Wye at Monmouth ; but it is out of my 
prains what is the name of the other river ; but 'tis all one, 
'tis alike as my fingers is to my fingers, and there is salmons 
in both." But the day of Sir John FalstafFs merry rascally 
crew was over. The march upon Calais had weeded out 
Bardolph and Nym both hanged for pilfering. At home 
Dame Quickly lay dying while her husband took ship for 
the wars, the last of the gang. 

Even for Pistol there was waiting retribution of a sort. 
Still nursing his grudge against Fluellen, he had been ill- 
advised enough, soon after landing on French soil, to insult 



208 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

the little Welshman before company by bringing him bread 
and salt to eat with his Welsh leek. " It was in a place 
where I could not breed no contention with him ; but I will 
be so bold as to wear it in my cap till I see him once 
again, and then I will tell him a little piece of my 
desires." 

So Fluellen still wore the leek in his cap, though St. 
David's day was long past, and at length he caught his 
man. " God pless you, Aunchient Pistol ! you scurvy, 
lousy knave, God pless you ! I peeseech you heartily, 
scurvy, lousy knave, at my desires, and my requests, and 
my petitions, to eat, look you, this leek ; because, look you, 
you do not love it, nor your affections and your appetites 
and your digestions doo's not agree with it, I would desire 
you to eat it." " Not for Cadwallader and all his goats !" 
swore Pistol : " Base Trojan, thou shalt die !" as Fluellen 
fell to and began to cudgel him lustily. " You say very 
true ; I sail die when God's will is. In the mean time I 
will desire you to live and eat your victuals." Here, still 
holding out his raw leek, he banged him again. " I pray 
you fall to ; if you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek." 
Pistol began to whine. " Must I eat it ?" " Yes, certainly, 
out of doubt, and out, of question too, and ambiguities." 
The unhappy man began to nibble. " By this leek I will 
most horribly revenge : I eat and eat, I swear " Eat, I 
pray you. Will you have some more sauce to your leek ?" 
Seeing Fluellen's cudgel lifted again, he ate obediently. 
" Throw none away," insisted Fluellen ; " the skin is good 
for your broken coxcomb." He flung the poor wretch a 
groat, to heal his pate. Pistol pocketed it and slunk away, 
swearing horribly ; slunk away to sink lower as such men 
will. We see no more of him. With him, as he goes, 
passes the old order of the Boar's Head, Eastcheap. 

He who had once been the spoilt child of that order 
was now riding at the head of an army from victory to 
victory. He stormed Caen, was received by Bayeux, 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 209 

reduced Alenson, and Falaise, Avranches and Domfront ; 
marched through Evreux, captured Louviers, flung his troops 
across the Seine, and sat down before Rouen. This, the 
wealthiest of all the cities of France, fell after a long, hideous 
siege. " War," said Henry, " has three handmaidens to wait 
on her Fire, Blood, and Famine- I have chosen the meekest 
maid of the three." With Rouen fallen, and his kingdom 
hopelessly at variance, there remained but one course for 
the poor mad King of France. It was the young Duke of 
Burgundy who finally, at Troyes, brought about a meeting 
between the unhappy Charles and his conqueror. Henry 
listened unmoved while the miseries of France were re 
counted. The recital over, he laid down his terms like a man 
of business. He must be regent of France during Charles's 
life ; he must receive the crown as his own upon Charles's 
death ; and he must have Charles's daughter Katharine 
to wife. 

Rather, this last was his first and his capital demand. It 
remained to learn what Katharine would say. 

She was a lady of great good sense. From the first she 
had been curious to hear of this brave soldier from the north 
who won battles and spoke a language so barbarous. It 
was still as a soldier that he came wooing her. She was 
one of his terms of truce ; and between this assurance and 
a perception of the ludicrous figure he cut as a wooer with 
scarcely a dozen words of French, he performed his court 
ship bluntly enough. Katharine could speak English but 
a very little better. " Faith, Kate, I am glad of it ; else 
thou wouldst find me such a plain king thou wouldst think 
I had sold my farm to buy my crown. I know no ways to 
mince it in love, but directly to say ' I love you.' If thou 
canst love such a downright fellow, whose face is not worth 
sun-burning, and who never looks in his glass for love of 
anything he sees there, why well and good. I speak like a 
plain soldier. If thou canst love me for this, take me; if 
not, I shall not die of it ; and yet I love thee." He essayed 



210 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

a French sentence, but broke down in comic despair. 
Katharine smiled at his perplexity, and liked him ; and in 
this manner the conqueror of France won a French wife, 
and a charming one. We met him first as a wild scape 
grace youngster, little better than a boy. We have seen 
him confirmed, step by step, in strength and a better judg 
ment; become a wise king, a God-fearing man, a triumphant 
warrior. Here, at the height of achievement, we leave him ; 
happily married, worshipped by his subjects, seated on a 
throne securely established, and looking forward to a still 
more splendid inheritance. 

THE BALLAD OF AGINCOURT 

Fayre stood the winde for France, 
When we our sailes advance, 
Nor now to proue our chance 

Longer not tarry, 
But put vnto the mayne : 
At Kdux, the mouth of Seine, 
With all his warlike trayne 

Landed King Harry. 

And taking many a forte, 
Furnish'd in warlike sorte, 
Comming toward Agincourte 

(In happy houre), 
Skermishing day by day 
With those oppose his way. 
Whereas the Genrall laye 

With all his powre. 

Which in his height of pride, 
As Henry to deride, 
His Ransom e to prouide 

Vnto him sending ; 
Which he neglects the while, 
As from a nation vyle, 
Yet with an angry smile 

Their fall portending. 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 

And turning to his men, 
Quoth famous Henry then, 
" Though they be one to ten 

Be not amazed : 
Yet haue we well begun ; 
Battailes so brauely wonne 
Euermore to the sonne 

By fame are raysed. 

" And for my selfe, (quoth hee) 
This my full rest shall bee, 
England nere mourne for me 

Nor more esteeme me : 
Victor I will remaine, 
Or on this earth be slaine ; 
Neuer shall she sustaine 

Losse to redeeme me. 

" Poiters and Cressy tell, 

When moste their pride did swell, 

Vnder our swords they fell : 

Ne lesse our skill is, 
Then when our grandsyre greate, 
Claiming the regall seate, 
In many a warlike feate 

Lop'd the French lilies." 

The Duke of Yorke soe dread 
The eager vaward led ; 
With the maine Henry sped 

Amongst his hench men. 
Excester had the rear, 
A brauer man not there. 
And now preparing were 

For the false Frenchmen. 

And ready to be gone, 
Armour on armour shone, 
Drum vnto drum did grone, 
To heare was woonder ; 



211 



142 



212 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

That with the cries they make 
The very earth did shake : 
Trumpet to trumpet spake, 
Thunder to thunder. 

Well it thine age became. 
O, noble Erpingham ! 
That didst the signall frame 

Vnto the forces ; 
When from a medow by, 
Like a storme, sodainely 
The English archery 

Stuck the French horses. 

The Spanish vghe [yew] so strong, 
Arrowes a cloth-yard long, 
That like to serpents stoong, 

Piercing the wether : 
None from his death now starts, 
But playing manly parts, 
And like true English harts 

Stuck close together. 

When down theyr bowes they threw, 
And foorth theyr bilbowes drewe, 
And on the French they flew, 

No man was tardy. 
Arms from the shoulders sent, 
Scalpes to the teeth were rent ; 
Downe the French pesants went, 

These men were hardye. 

When now that noble King, 
His broade sword brandishing, 
Into the hoast did fling, 

As to or'whelme it ; 
Who many a deep wound lent, 
'His armes with blood besprent, 
And many a cruell dent 

Brused his helmett. 



KING HENRY THE FIFTH 

Glo'ster, that Duke so good, 
Next of the royall blood, 
For famous England stood 

With his brave brother : 
Clarence in steele most bright, 
That yet a maiden knighte, 
Yet in this furious fighte, 

Scarce such an other. 

Warwick in bloode did wade, 
Oxford the foes inuade, 
And cruel slaughter made 

vStill as they ran vp. 
Suffolk his axe did ply, 
Beaumont and Willoughby 
Bear them right doughtyly, 

Ferrers and Fanhope. 

On happy Cryspin day 
Fought was this noble fray, 
Which fame did not delay 

To England to carry. 
O ! when shall Englishmen 
With such acts fill a pen, 
Or England breed agen, 

Such a King Harry ? 

MICHAEL DRAYTOX. 



213 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 

I 

HENRY V. was granted but two years to enjoy his glory. 
He lived to see a son born to him ; and with the help of 
the young Duke of Burgundy who since the treacherous 
murder of his father by the Armagnacs, had in revenge 
flung the full weight of his support on the English side to 
make himself complete master of Northern France to the 
banks of the Loire. When, as regent of France and heir 
to the crown, he celebrated the feast of Whitsuntide at 
Paris in the palace of the Louvre the splendour and gaiety 
of his court far outshone that of the real king. 

And then, at the height of his fortunes, death claimed him. 
What the disease was is not known. It struck swiftly, 
baffling the physicians ; and at Vincennes near Paris, on 
the ist of September, 1422, Henry died. His body was borne 
home in state and laid in the vaults of Westminster Abbey. 

While the echoes of his dead march were still rolling 
through the Abbey aisles, men's ears caught the murmur 
of coming trouble. The inheritor of the two heavy sceptres 
of England and France (for the mad King Charles had died . 
a few weeks after his conqueror) was an infant nine months 
old, whose welfare, with that of England, was placed in the 
hands of his uncle Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, as 
Protector, and a Council of twenty headed by Henry 
Beaufort, Bishop of Winch ster. Another uncle, the Duke 
of Bedford a general only inferior in skill to the dead King 
was made Regent of France. 

In other words, the kingly power which Henry IV. had 
14 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 215 

fought so hardly for, and Henry V. had kept and increased 
by his own winning qualities and the fame of foreign 
victories, was now by force of circumstances given back 
to the great nobles. We shall see how they used it to 
wreck their country and in the end to work out their own 
perdition. The story we have to tell reminds one of the 
house swept and garnished of the Gospel parable. Such a 
house the conqueror of Agincourt had prepared ; his sudden 
death left it open to a company of evil spirits far " worse 
than the first." " The violence and anarchy which had 
always clung like a taint to the baronage had received a 
new impulse from the war with France. Long before the 
struggle was over it had done its fatal work on the mood of 
the English noble. His aim had become little more than a 
lust for gold, a longing after plunder, after the pillage of 
farms, the sack of cities, the ransom of captives. So intense 
was the greed of gain, that only a threat of death could keep 
the fighting-men in their ranks, and the results of victory 
after victory were lost by the anxiety of the conquerors to 
deposit their plunder and captives safely at home."* 

For a while the firm hand of Bedford kept this mischief 
in check. Summoned from the funeral rites of his great 
brother by the first of those messengers of disaster whom 
in a short time every wind was to bring across the Channel, 
he soon gave the French provinces proof that they were 
over-hasty in revolting. The Dauphin on his father's death 
had at once proclaimed himself King with the title of 
Charles VII., but it was long before he saw the end of the 
struggle on which he now entered. Still helped by the 
Duke of Burgundy, Bedford reduced the North of France 
back to its submission, and nobly upheld the honour of 
England in the victories of Crevant (1423) and Verneuil 
(1424). The latter crushed a daring advance of the French, 
who had pushed northward from the Loire, which separated 
the English from the French provinces, and offered battle 
* Green's Short History of the English People. 



216 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

on the very borders of Normandy most rashly, for they 
were hurled back leaving a third of their knighthood on the 
field. In this moment of their utter discomfiture Bedford 
should have thrown his troops across the Loire. 

He did not, and the reason why he did not is to be found 
at home. The Protector, "the good" but certainly not 
too good "Duke Humphrey," was at loggerheads with the 
Council from the first, and especially with its president, 
Henry Beaufort, a rich, ambitious, and quite unscrupulous 
churchman, son of John of Gaunt by a second marriage. 
The hatred of these two men broke into fierce words even 
over the coffin of the late King. " Cease your wranglings 
and live at peace !" Bedford had implored them ; but with 
Bedford away in France they paid little heed to his counsel. 
By Henry's will Gloucester should have been Regent of 
England as well as Protector. By Beaufort's influence in 
the Council he was refused the title. The serving men of 
the two nobles Gloucester's in blue and Beaufort's in 
tawny livery never met without a skirmish ; they flourished 
clubs and hurled paving-stones in the very streets of London, 
to the sore scandal of the Lord Mayor and all peaceable 
citizens ; they brawled, and their masters bandied insults and 
threats in the presence of the boy-king, who already began 
to show a gentle, timorous nature, devout, wishing well to 
all men, but weak and quite unfit to rule least of all to 
rule the selfish and turbulent crowd which surrounded him. 

Utterly selfish it was, every man in it ; the " good Duke 
Humphrey " no less than the rest. Sick of the Protectorate, 
in which the Council persistently tied his hands, Gloucester 
sought his own ambition abroad. He had married Jacque 
line of Bavaria, the divorced wife of the Duke of Brabant, 
and claimed a large portion of the Netherlands as her in 
heritance. The Duke, her first husband, opposed this claim, 
and was supported by the Duke of Burgundy, who looked 
upon himself as Brabant's heir. For Gloucester to persist 
in his claim meant estranging the Duke of Burgundy from 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 217 

the English alliance, a most serious loss. But England's 
interest came second to her Lord Protector's. He himself 
soon had enough of the struggle ; but it dragged on for three 
years, and meanwhile Bedford had to sit helpless before the 
chance of a splendid success, and watch his late allies the 
Burgundians marching away from him to fight his brother. 
Even without them he might have done much, had the 
quarrels of Gloucester and Beaufort at home allowed them 
time to provide him with the supplies of men and money he 
begged for. It was riot until 1428 that, peace being restored 
in Holland and the Duke of Burgundy once more free to help 
his old allies, it was resolved to push southward across the 
Loire and reduce the provinces owning the sway of Charles. 

The English had let their golden opportunity slip ; but 
for all their fortunate delay the plight of the Dauphin, as 
we may yet call him, was very nearly desperate. As his 
first step, Bedford laid siege to Orleans, and while he 
invested it with ten thousand men Charles had to look on 
and own himself powerless to relieve the city. The besieged 
themselves lay under a spell of terror, cowed, as it were, by 
the names of Bedford and his two gallant lieutenants, the 
Earl of Salisbury and Lord Talbot. Behind the English 
all the North of France, as far eastward as the border of 
Lorraine, lay ravaged and starving, the crops burnt, the 
peasantry destitute. 

It was from Domremy, a village near that Lorraine 
border, that, while Orleans meditated surrender and Charles 
had shut himself up at Chinon to weep helplessly, help arose 
for France ; a girl to put courage into a nation of men, a saint 
to match her unselfish devotion against the utter selfishness 
guiding the counsels of England, and against all expectation, 
almost against hope, to perform the miracle and win. 

Jeanne d'Arc, or Joan of Arc, as we call her, was a 
shepherd's daughter in this village of Domremy, at the foot 
of the wooded slopes climbing towards the Vosges mountains. 
She was a dreamy child, fond of wandering alone in these 



218 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

woods, and making friends with the birds and wild creatures 
she met ; the folk at home saw nothing more in her than 
" a good girl, simple and pleasant in her ways," fonder of 
indoor tasks than of work in the fields, tender towards all 
suffering, very devout, a child living very near to God, and 
loving Him passionately. 

The war, of which she had heard echoes in the talk of the 
villagers, but very vague echoes, came sweeping by Dom- 
remy at length. Then she knew what it meant, saw the 
ruin and misery it left in its wake, and while she nursed 
the wounded her heart swelled with pity for France. 

It seems a little thing, pity in the heart of one peasant 
girl among thousands who saw this war and suffered from 
it. But there lies the miracle ; it was a little thing. While 
she brooded she recalled an old prophecy that a maid from 
the Lorraine border should arise and save the land. In her 
walks now she saw visions the mother of God walking 
between the trees ; St. Michael standing in a slant of light 
between the green boughs and calling on her to save 
France ; there was pity in Heaven (said he) for the fail- 
realm of France. How might she save France ? " Messire, 
I am but a poor maiden ; I know not how to ride to the 
wars or to lead men-at-arms." She thought with shudder 
ing of warfare and wounds ; she shrank even from facing 
the rough men of the camp with their coarse greetings and 
brutal oaths. Yet her duty led thither, and lay plain before 
her " I must go to the King." Her parents threatened, 
the villagers mocked her. " It is no will of mine to go," 
she pleaded ; " I had far rather stay here among you. But 
I must go to the King, even if I wear my legs to the knees." 
At length the captain of the near town of Vaucouleurs took 
her by the hand, and swore to lead her to Charles. At 
Chinon the Churchmen refused to believe in her mission, 
but she won her way to the Dauphin at length, and he 
received her in the midst of his despairing nobles. " Gentle 
Dauphin," said she, " my name is Joan the Maid. The 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 219 

heavenly King sends me to tell you that you shall be 
anointed and crowned in the town of Rheims, to be 
lieutenant of Himself who is the King of France." 

Had his case been only a little less desperate, the 
Dauphin would no doubt have dismissed her lightly. As 
it was, his French were so completely cowed by past 
defeats, and stood in such awe of the very names of mad- 
brained Salisbury and Talbot who, made prisoner in an 
engagement when the odds against him were four to one, 
had effected his ransom, and taken the field again more 
fiercely than ever, that even though the English before 
Orleans numbered but three thousand, the swarms of 
soldiery in the starving city dared not come out and fight. 
The coming of Joan broke this spell. Riding at the head 
of ten thousand men, clad cap-a-pie in white armour, with 
the great white banner of France studded with fieur-de-lys 
waving above her, she appeared to the citizens of Orleans 
as an angel from heaven. " I bring you," she told Dunois, 
the commander of the besieged, as "he sallied out to greet 
her, " the best aid ever sent, the aid of the heavenly King." 
Scarcely opposed, she rode in through the gates and round 
the walls, bidding the citizens look on the ring of English 
forts and fear them no longer. The French Generals 
plucked up heart and marched out to the attack. Salisbury 
had already fallen, killed by a shot as he surveyed Orleans 
from one of the forts. Talbot fought like a lion, but was 
utterly outnumbered. The French reduced fort after fort. 
Joan herself fell wounded before the last and strongest. 
They carried her into a vineyard, and Dunois would have 
sounded the retreat. " Not yet ! As soon as my standard 
touches the walls you shall enter the fort." It touched, 
and the French burst in. Orleans was saved. 

Talbot, however, was not the leader to be daunted by 
a single reverse, nor could the spell his prowess had built 
up be destroyed so summarily. Famous stories gathered 
about his name as they now began to gather about Joan. 



220 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

One ran that the Countess of Auvergne, professing a wish 
to see and speak with so renowned a warrior, invited him 
to pay her a visit and accept the hospitality of her castle. 
Talbot obeyed, and arriving was led to the Countess, who 
had given orders to lock and bar all the doors behind him. 
" What ! is this the man ?" was her greeting. " Is this the 
redoubtable Talbot, the scourge of France ? I looked to 
have seen a Hercules, or a Hector at least ; not this puny 
fellow." "Madam," answered Talbot, but moderately 
abashed, " it is plain that I have come at an unwelcome 
moment ; I must take leave of you and choose some fitter 
occasion." " Take leave ? No, my lord, excuse me, you 
are my prisoner." Talbot laughed. " Your ladyship 
should have chosen Talbot's substance, not his shadow, to 
treat so severely." " Why, are you not Talbot ?" " I am 
indeed ; and yet but the shadow of Talbot. As for his 
substance He put his horn to his lips and blew, and 
at once, with beat of drums, his soldiers came bursting 
through the gates and poured into the castle. " These, 
madam, are Talbot's substance." The discomfited lady 
sued for mercy. " Nay, you have not offended me. Some 
food and wine for my soldiers will be satisfaction enough." 

A warrior of this humour will hardly be persuaded that 
he is beaten. Even after Joan had entered Orleans with 
colours flying, in the midst of the French rejoicings Talbot 
with his handful of English had escaladed the walls by 
night and fought his way to the market-place. The death 
of Salisbury, the hero of thirteen battles, called upon him 
to be avenged. He had read this command on the face of 
his great comrade as he bent over him ; and over the body, 
which had been carried up the scaling-ladder and advanced 
to the middle of the great square, he could claim that his vow 
had been paid by the death of five Frenchmen for every drop 
of Salisbury's blood. Forced from the town, and at length (as 
we have seen) from the forts surrounding it, by overwhelming 
numbers, he withdrew his troops northward in good order. 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 221 

Until reinforcements arrived he was powerless. But the 
French generals still feared him heartily, and, remembering 
Verneuil, would have remained inactive on the Loire. Joan 
refused to hear of this. Her mission was not yet over ; 
and while the English waited around Paris she left the 
river at Giens and marched through Troyes, her army 
growing as it advanced, to Rheims. Here, with the corona 
tion of Charles, she felt that her promise had been fulfilled. 
" The pleasure of God is done," she said, kneeling at the 
King's feet, and besought leave to go home. She. was told 
that she could not be spared yet. 

Though far differently inspired, these soldiers of France 
and England thought first of their duty ; Joan following a 
heavenly vision, Talbot fighting under no such lofty enthu 
siasm, but doggedly and as a man should who loves his 
country. The selfishness lay at home in England with the 
wrangling nobles who kept him short of supplies ; and 
among these was one whose growing ambitions, secretly 
nursed as yet, were to cost England even more dear than 
the disputes which already weakened her fighting arm. 

We have seen that when Henry IV. deposed Richard 
and seized the throne, he was not the true heir to it even 
after Richard's death. The true heirship rested with the 
Mortimers, descended from Edward III.'s third son, Lionel, 
Duke of Clarence ; whereas the house of Lancaster de 
scended from his fourth son John of Gaunt. This fault in 
their succession they had cause enough to bear in mind, 
and fear that one day it would come to be paid for. It had 
been in Henry's mind when he prayed before Agincourt, 
" Not to-day, O Lord !" 

The day, though for long averted, was coming. The 
last of the Mortimers, Earls of March, lay wasting to death 
in the Tower of London ; but his sister, Ann Mortimer, 
had married Richard, Earl of Cambridge, son of the old 
Duke of York who so feebly defended the kingdom from 
Bolingbroke ; and thus in her son, Richard Plantagenet, 



222 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

were united the two lines of Mortimer and York, both 
derived from Edward III., and the elder claiming the true 
succession to the throne. 

He was heir, too, to a great revenge ; for his father, the 
Earl of Cambridge, had been one of the three whose 
treason Henry V. had discovered on the eve of sailing from 
Southampton* (and we can guess at what the husband of 
Ann Mortimer would be aiming). His death and attainder 
left his son without title ; but Richard meant to get his 
title and his revenge too, in time. 

Meanwhile he must walk warily, for to all appearances 
the odds were heavy against him. The house of Lancaster 
had possession which is proverbially nine points of the 
law and a record of three reigns in unbroken succession, 
one at least a reign of which England was proud. For all 
their differences, the rulers of the state were Lancastrian to 
a man, and Lancastrian by birth. Gloucester and Bedford 
were the King's uncles. Beaufort, now created a Cardinal, 
was a son of John of Gaunt, and only a little below him in 
influence came another Beaufort, his nephew the Duke of 
Somerset. These Beauforts, moreover, had a game of their 
own to play. Though belonging to a junior branch of 
Lancaster, and barred from the succession by a special 
clause in the Act which confirmed the marriage of John of 
Gaunt with their ancestress Katharine Swynford, they had 
hopes that, should the young King leave no heir, their 
claim would be made good.f The Beauforts, therefore, 

* See p. 190. 

f The following table will illustrate the hopes of the Beauforts : 

HOUSE OF LANCASTER. 

Blanche of Lancaster. =f John of Gaunt, Duke of =f= Katharine Swynford. 

Lancaster. 
Henry IV. 



I I John Beaufort, Henry Beaufort, 

Henry V. Duke of Glou- Duke of Bed- Earl of Somerset. Bishop of Winches- 

| cester (childless;, ford (childless). | ter and Cardinal. 

Henry VI. John Beaufort, 

Duke of Somerset. 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 223 

were the last to whom Richard could look for help. There 
remained two powerful nobles, who might or might not be 
of service to him the Earls of Suffolk and Warwick. 
Both were astute, ambitious, selfish ; each sought his own 
increase and sought it along his own path. It remained 
for Richard to see if those paths would run for a time 
with his. 

A quarrel with the young Earl of Somerset in the Temple 
Hall " where now the studious lawyers have their bowers " 
brought this to the test. No fitter spot could have been 
found for setting forward Richard Plantagenet's claim, 
which rested on law. Stung by a taunt of the heir of the 
Beauforts in the presence of Suffolk, Warwick, and others, 
Richard lost control of his tongue and spoke boldly of his 
rights. The argument grew loud, and at Suffolk's sug 
gestion they left the hall and walked out into the quiet 
garden by the river, where each disputant appealed in turn 
to his hearers. But the hearers felt they were on ticklish 
and dangerous ground. Suffolk evaded Richard's appeal. 
" Faith," said Warwick, " ask me to judge between two 
hounds, two swords, two horses, two girls, and I may have 
something to say ; but these nice sharp quillets of the law 
are beyond me." " Since you are tongue-tied then," said 
Richard, " leave words alone and proclaim your thoughts 
by token. Let him who values his birth as a true-born 
gentleman, if he believes there is truth in my plea, join me 
in plucking a white rose off this briar." " Ay," answered 
Somerset, " and let him who is neither coward nor flatterer, 
but dares to take sides with truth, pluck here a red rose 
with me." Warwick plucked a white rose, Suffolk a red. 
A gentleman called Vernon who stood by chose a white 
rose, and a lawyer of the party did the same ; " for," said 
he, " unless my study and my books tell me false, the Earl 
of Somerset's argument will not hold." "Now where is 
your argument ?" Richard asked tauntingly. " Here in 
my scabbard," answered Somerset; " and it meditates that 



224 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

which shall dye your white rose crimson." The dispute 
broke out afresh, and Warwick and Suffolk found them 
selves drawn into it. Somerset took his stand on the death 
and attainder of Richard's father. Richard insisted that his 
father had been no traitor, " and that I will prove on better 
men than Somerset." The champions of the red rose with 
drew from the garden, uttering defiance. " This slur they 
cast on your house," promised Warwick, " shall be wiped 
out speedily. The King has summoned his Parliament to 
patch up a truce between Gloucester and Beaufort ; and if 
he do not then and there make thee Duke of York, my name 
shall no longer be Warwick." Pinning on their w T hite roses, 
Richard's supporters left the garden. 

Warwick was as good as his word. But before Parlia 
ment met, Richard had visited the Tower and received a 
blessing from the lips of his dying uncle Mortimer. The 
unhappy prisoner, whose youth had flowered and wasted 
behind bars, rehearsed the woes of his house. " I am 
childless, dying ; thou art my heir, but tread warily. I ask 
for no mourning, only see to my funeral. And so farewell, 
depart with fair hopes and prosper !" 

Death had quenched Edmund Mortimer's " dusky torch " 
before his nephew hurried to the Parliament House, where 
the young King was attempting once more the endless busi 
ness of reconciling Gloucester and the Cardinal. This time 
he indeed persuaded them to shake hands, but only after an 
open brawl which proved how little they respected their 
sovereign's presence ; and the Cardinal, at any rate, had no 
intention of keeping his promise. Richard's turn came after 
this difficulty had been composed. Warwick presented a 
petition for his restoration to title and inheritance; the 
Protector joined in urging it. Henry gave way readily. " I 
grant it, with all the inheritance belonging to the house of 
York." Richard vowed obedience till death. " Stoop, then ; 
set your knee against my foot. For this homage I gird thee 
with the sword of thy house, and bid thee rise, Duke of York." 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 225 

Henry had a special reason just now for desiring concord 
among his nobles, being on the point of crossing the sea to 
Paris, there to be crowned King of France in answer to 
Charles's coronation at Rheims. But their amity was as 
insincere and short lived as the homage of York, between 
whom and Somerset the feud of the two roses broke out in 
sharp words during the hollow ceremony. 

No ceremony could have been hollower, for the English 
cause in France was doomed already, and soon to be doubly 
doomed by a hateful crime. Joan of Arc had been detained 
in the French court while the towns in the north opened 
their gates to Charles. But Bedford, relieved by the efforts 
of Cardinal Beaufort, who poured his own wealth into the 
English treasury to raise fresh troops, took the offensive in 
his turn and drove Charles back behind the Loire, while the 
Duke of Burgundy set about reducing the revolted towns. 
This new call brought Joan upon the scene again. Her 
mission from God had ended, as she felt, at Rheims. But 
she could be brave still, and she still led the French ranks 
gallantly, until in a sortie from the city of Compiegne she 
was pulled from her horse by an archer and made prisoner. 
Her captors sold her to Burgundy, and he in his turn to the 
English. To them she was a sorceress and her triumphs 
procured by the Evil One. After a year's imprisonment 
she was tried as a witch before an ecclesiastical court pre 
sided over by the Bishop of Beauvais. Their questions 
failed to entangle her. They forbade her the mass. " Our 
Lord can make me hear it without your aid," she told them, 
weeping. That she was a witch she denied to the last. 
" God has always been my Lord in all that I have done. 
The devil has never had any power over me." In the end 
they condemned her. A pile of faggots was raised in the 
market-place of Rouen, where her statue stands to-day. 
The brutal soldiers tore her from the hands of the clergy 
and hurried her to the stake, but their tongues fell silent at 
her beautiful composure. One even handed her a cross he 

15 



226 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

had patched together with two rough sticks. She clasped 
it as the flames rose about her. " Yes!" she cried ; " my 
voices were of God!" and with those triumphant words the 
head of this incomparable martyr sank on her breast. " We 
are lost," muttered an English soldier standing in the crowd; 
" we have burned a saint." 

Burgundy, who had sold her, was already wavering. 
Very tenderly Joan had pleaded with him in a parley for 
France, and against the unnatural wounds he inflicted on 
France. " Consider her, thine own country, France once 
so fertile ! Consider her towns and cities defaced, her wast 
ing ruin. As a mother looks on her dying babe, so look 
upon France as she pines to death." And to Burgundy her 
words might well have brought echoes of a day when he 
himself had pleaded for France with Henry V., painting the 
decay of her husbandry and the savage misery of her in 
habitants. It had taxed all the diplomacy of Beaufort to 
pin him so long to the English cause. But even the 
Cardinal's persuasions failed in the end, and soon after 
Joan's death the Duke deserted back to Charles, This 
blow was followed by a second and yet more fatal one in 
the death of Bedford. Paris rose, drove out its garrison of 
English, and declared for Charles. The English possessions 
shrank at once to Normandy, portions of Anjou and Picardy, 
and Maine. At home the policy of England was distracted 
between Gloucester, who strove to continue the war, and 
Suffolk, who, following his own ambitious career, had 
become master of the Council when age and infirmity forced 
Beaufort to give over the active conduct of affairs, and was 
now scheming for peace. Abroad, York had succeeded 
Bedford as Regent of France, but was hampered at every 
turn by his deadly foe, Somerset. If Talbot, now Earl of 
Shrewsbury, had been supported, our tale might have been 
a different one. He fought a hopeless cause with magnifi 
cent courage, at one time fording the Somme with the waters 
up to his chin to relieve Crotoy, at another forcing the 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 227 

passage of the Oise in face of a whole French army. Driven 
from Normandy, which in 1450 was wholly lost, he sailed 
for the south and landed in Gascony. Twenty thousand 
men should have followed to reinforce him, but were delayed, 
and while Somerset hung back in spite against York, Talbot 
found himself confronted before Bordeaux by an overwhelm 
ing army of French. " The feast of death is prepared," 
said he ; and turning to his son, young John Talbot, bade 
him mount his swiftest horse and escape. Hotly the young 
man refused. "Is my name Talbot ? Am I your son, and 
you ask me to fly ?" " To stay means death for both of us." 
" Then let me be the one to stay. By flight I can save 
nothing of Talbot but will be a shame to me." Father and 
son embraced and made ready to die together. Far from 
help, yet not too far if Somerset had made haste with his 
cavalry, the fighting Earl saw his troops mown down in 
swathes by the French cannon, and charging into the press 
rescued his son from the sword of Orleans. " Art not weary, 
John ? There is time yet. Fly and avenge me." " Talbot's 
son," was the answer, " will die beside Talbot." In the 
next charge the Earl fell, and the lad rushed forward after 
his assailants. Some soldiers brought back his body and 
laid it in the arms of his dying father. " Now I am content. 
My old arms are my boy's grave." So passed indignant 
from France to heaven the last surviving spirit of Agincourt 
Elsewhere the end had been ignoble enough. The young 
King had his will counted detested the war. To his 
pious and contemplative nature such strife between peoples 
of one faith was abhorrent. Gloucester, awake at length to 
the hopelessness of the struggle, was for accepting the 
intervention of the Pope and the Emperor, concluding 
peace on good terms, and sealing it by a marriage between 
Henry and the daughter of the Earl of Armagnac. This, 
however, did not suit his opponent, Suffolk, who had a 
scheme of his own for marrying Henry to Margaret, 
daughter of Reignier Duke of Anjou and titular King of 

152 



228 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Naples a beautiful and almost penniless lady with whom, 
indeed, Suffolk himself had fallen more than half in love. 
In wooing her for his sovereign his tongue now and then 
spoke for his own heart. But if fond, he was above all 
things ambitious. Her being Queen of England would not 
prevent his paying court to her, while it would give her 
power to support his schemes. Reignier was a grasping 
father and drove a hard bargain, naming nothing less as the 
price of the match than the cession of Anjou (which by this 
time was not England's to give) and Maine, which Suffolk 
knew well to be the key of Normandy. To Suffolk this 
weighed little in comparison with his private advantage. 
He posted back to England and plied Henry and the 
Council with his praises of Margaret's beauty. Gloucester 
was outvoted again, and the contract with the Earl of 
Armagnac broke off. Henry listened wearily to their 
wrangling. "I am sick," said he, "with too much think 
ing." He had lost his father's conquests. Even the great 
southern province which had belonged to England ever 
since Henry II. had married Eleanor of Aquitaine was 
preparing to pass from him. If peace could be purchased 
by ceding Anjou and Maine, he was ready to spare them. 
Marriage he did not desire, yet (as he told Gloucester) 
would be content with any choice tending to God's glory 
and England's welfare. His mind, utterly irresolute, was 
sensitive enough to be distracted by these perpetual quarrels ; 
and in this condition, as weak men will, he decided suddenly, 
almost pettishly ; despatched Suffolk to France to arrange 
the betrothal with Margaret ; in the very act of disregarding 
his advice, begged Gloucester to excuse this sudden enforce 
ment of " my will " ; and withdrew from the Council to shut 
himself up and meditate on the cares which afflict a king. 

So Suffolk departed triumphant, following a vision of still 
greater personal triumphs. Margaret should be Queen and 
rule Henry ; but Suffolk should rule her, and through her 
the King and the whole realm. 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 229 

II 

But one thing Suffolk had left out of account, the temper 
of the English people. He and his peers might treat the 
national honour as a chattel to be bartered for their 
private ends ; but the mass of his countrymen had learnt 
under Henry V. to be proud of England, and this pride 
broke into furious resentment when they saw her greatness 
dishonoured by weak hands and trafficked away with a 
selfish unconcern. Duke Humphrey might be an imperfect 
patriot, but he was for continuing the fight rather than 
surrendering on such terms. When Suffolk brought 
Margaret home to London in state, the Protector's voice 
faltered as he read over the contract. At the clause ceding 
Anjou and Maine he fairly broke down. 

The Cardinal, Suffolk's chief supporter, took the scroll 
from him and read on. Henry listened, professed himself 
well pleased with the bargain, and made Suffolk a duke for 
his services. He had no sooner withdrawn, however, with 
Margaret and her conductor to prepare for the coronation, 
than Duke Humphrey found speech. "What! was it for 
this my brother Henry spent all his youth, his valour, 
money, and men, lodging in the open field, winter and 
summer, to conquer France ? Was it for this my brother 
Bedford laboured with his wits to keep what Henry had 
won ? Yourselves Somerset, Buckingham, York, Salis 
bury, Warwick have earned honourable scars, while the 
Cardinal and I have sat toiling in Council early and late, 
and all to keep France. Is this to be the undoing and 
shameful end of your prowess and our policy ?" 

He had England behind him in speaking so ; but the 
conscience of Englishmen had not yet discovered how to 
make itself heard. For the moment he spoke to men of 
opposing aims, and they listened with very different minds. 
Beaufort, his old enemy, openly censured his boldness ; but 
then Beaufort's interest lay with the King's party and the 



230 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

new favourite, Suffolk. Somerset and Buckingham (another 
duke of the blood royal, descended from Thomas of 
Gloucester, the youngest of Edward III.'s sons) distrusted 
the Cardinal as their rival in craft, but were more concerned 
just now in hating and scheming against Duke Humphrey, 
the actual Protector, and were ready to join forces to pull 
him down from his seat. That Somerset took one side was 
reason enough for York's taking the other. But York, 
we must remember, considered himself the rightful heir to 
the throne, and that these were his dukedoms which Suffolk 
had given away. Warwick and his father Salisbury,* as 
supporters of York, were angry on his account, and also 
indignant at the loss of provinces they had helped to win. 

For the moment,, then, these diverse factions fall into 
two. On the one hand we see Gloucester, supported by 
York, Salisbury, and Warwick, all indignant at the King's 
marriage and the bargain it stood for, and representing in 
this the general silent feeling of England. On the other we 
have Suffolk, who made the bargain, favoured by the 
Queen, upheld by the Cardinal, and joined by Somerset and 
Buckingham, for the present purpose of unseating and 
destroying Gloucester. 

And for the moment this second party could use the King's 
favour, and so held the upper hand. The stroke against 
Duke Humphrey must be dealt, and quickly ; but how ? 
They found their opening in the indiscretion of his second 
wife, Eleanor Cobham. This aspiring dame was guessed, 

* To show the descent of the King-maker, we may extend the table 
given on p. 222, thus 



John of Gaunt-pKaiharine Svvynford. 


John Beaufort, 
Earl of Somerset. 

John Beaufort, 
Duke of Somerset. 


Henry Beaufort, 
the Cardinal. 


Joan Beaufort^ Ralph Nevil, Earl of 
Westmoreland. 

Richard, 
Earl of Salisbury. 



Richard, 
Earl of Warwick (King -maker). 



. KING HENRY THE SIXTH 231 

and shrewdly enough, to nurse ambitions which flew higher 
than her husband's. She was a good hater, at any rate, and 
found a hater to match her in the young Queen, with whom 
she soon started a fierce quarrel. It maddened Margaret 
to see Gloucester's wife parading the Court with a troop of 
ladies and a duchy's revenue on her back, flaunting her 
riches, and not careful to hide her disdain of the penniless 
upstart from Anjou. She had boasted (so Margaret heard) 
that the train of her meanest gown outvalued all the Duke 
Reignier's estates. It was a woman's quarrel, and the storm 
burst in a very feminine fashion. Somerset and York were 
quarrelling again; this time over their claims to be regent 
over what remained of French territory. York, who had 
held the office, looked to be reappointed. Somerset opposed 
him. Duke Humphrey supported York. "Why should 
Somerset be preferred ?" was the natural question urged by 
the Protector's party. " Because," answered Margaret im 
periously, " the King will have it so." " Madam," replied 
Gloucester, " if so, the King is old enough to speak for him 
self." " Then," came the retort, " if he be old enough, he 
does not need you for Protector." "At his pleasure," said 
Gloucester, " I am ready to resign." " Resign then !" 
broke out the tongues of his enemies in turn Suffolk, 
the Cardinal, Somerset, Buckingham, the Queen herself. 
Gloucester choked down his rage for the moment and with 
drew, not trusting himself to speak. His Duchess remained. 
Margaret dropped her fan. " My fan, if you please!" she 
commanded, and, as the Duchess delayed to pick it up, 
caught her a box in the ear ; then, feigning to have mistaken 
her for a maid-in-waiting, " I cry you mercy, madam. Was 
it you ?" The Duchess flounced out promising vengeance. 
She meant it too. But Suffolk had already prepared a 
trap for her, and when the Queen complained impatiently 
of her husband's subjection, Suffolk could promise a speedy 
deliverance. " I tell thee, De la Pole," Margaret confessed, 
" when I saw thee at Tours riding a tilt in my honour, and 



232 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

stealing away the French ladies' hearts, I thought thy 
master had been as brave and handsome and as gallant a 
wooer. But his thoughts are all given over to holiness. 
His beads and his sacred books are more to his taste than 
tilt-yard and weapons, and saints' images all the lady-loves 
he cares for." She stamped her foot. " I wish to Heaven 
the Cardinals' College would elect him Pope and carry him 
off to Rome !" Suffolk besought her to be patient. " And 
as for the Duchess," he promised, " I have limed a bush for 
that bird. When I have caught her, as I presently shall, 
never fear that she'll mount again to trouble you." 

Eleanor Cobham, in fact, had over-reached herself. Since 
her husband would not make a snatch at the crown, she 
had set her own wits to work, and tempted by an oppor 
tunity which Suffolk cunningly threw in her way, had called 
in the help of sorcery. She was now, as her enemy knew, 
consulting with Margery Jourdain, a witch, a conjurer 
named Bolingbroke, and two priestly confederates, Hume 
and Southwell. Hume was actually in Suffolk's pay ; the 
rest, it is most likely, were but foolish impostors, who made 
a living by trading on superstitious folks. To such knaves 
the rich Duchess would be a gold mine, if only they could 
keep her bemused by jugglery and specious prophesying. 
Unfortunately for them Suffolk proved as prompt in striking 
as he was careless of what became of his tools after they 
had served him. As soon as ever he felt the moment ripe 
he used his information and despatched York and Bucking 
ham with a guard to Duke Humphrey's London house. 
They broke into the garden and surprised the victims in the 
midst of their incantations Margery Jourdain and Boling 
broke pretending to raise the Spirit of Evil, while Southwell 
took down its answers, and the Duchess, with Hume, 
watched from a balcony. " Lay hands on these traitors 
and their trash !" commanded York ; and then glancing 
aloft, " What ! You there, madam ? The King and common 
wealth are deeply indebted to you for these pains of 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 233 

yours !" The papers seized by the guard contained the 
following prophecies : 

(1) Of the King 

" The duke yet lives that Henry shall depose ; 
But him outlive, and die a violent death." 

(2) Of Suffolk 

" By water shall he die, and take his end." 

(3) Of Somerset 

" Let him shun castles." 

To seek information concerning the King's death was 
plainly treasonable. York marched his captives to prison, 
and despatched Buckingham post-haste to St. Albans, 
where he found Henry hawking and distracted as usual in 
the midst of his sport by the quarrelling peers, of whom 
Gloucester and the Cardinal were at the moment within an 
ace of coming to blows. Buckingham's news, as may be 
supposed, wholly confounded the Protector, and fetched the 
King hurriedly back to London to inquire into the Duchess's 
treason. There was, of course, no defence ; the culprits 
had been taken red-handed. Henry pronounced judgment, 
sentencing Margery Jourdain to be burned at Smithfield, 
Bolingbroke, Southwell, and Hume to be hanged, while the 
Duchess saved from the worst by her noble birth was 
condemned to do three days' open penance through the 
streets of London, and then to live in banishment in the 
Isle of Man, under care of the governor, Sir John Stanley. 

The day of her penance came, horrible alike for her and 
for Duke Humphrey, who on hearing her condemnation 
had knelt and with tears rendered up his Protector's staff 
into the King's hands. In mourning dress, with his attendants 
in black about him, the unhappy husband waited and watched 
the street along which his wife came in her degradation. 
She came bare-footed, draped in a white sheet pinned with 
insulting placards, holding a taper alight. A jeering crowd 
followed her. " Are you come, my lord, to look on my open 



234 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

shame ? It is penance for thee too." She pointed back at 
the crowd. " Ah ! Gloucester, hide from their hateful 
looks!" "Patience, Nell!" the poor Duke pleaded; "be 
patient and forget this grief." " Teach me, then, to forget 
myself. For while I think I am thy wife, and thou art a 
prince and ruler of England, methinks I should not be led 
along thus ! Ah, Humphrey ! can I bear it ? Believest 
thou I shall ever look forth on the world again and deem 
it happy to see the sun ! To remember what I was there 
will lie the hell : to say ' I am Duke Humphrey's wife. 
He was a prince and a ruler of England ; yet so ruled and 
was such a prince that he stood by whilst I, his duchess, 
was made a shameful jest for the street.' No!" she went 
on bitterly, " be mild as ever ! Do not blush at it ! Stir at 
nothing until the axe of death hang over thine own neck 
as it will ! For Suffolk, all in all with her who hates thee 
and all of us, and York, and the false Cardinal, have set the 
snare for thy feet. Go thy way, trusting as ever, and never 
seek to prevent them !" 

But Gloucester would not believe. " I must offend before 
I can be attainted. Had I twenty times the foes I have ; 
had each of them twenty times his present power, I cannot 
be harmed while I rest loyal, true, without crime. I beseech 
thee, Nell, be patient, and leave this to wear itself quickly 
away !" 

While he talked with her a herald arrived to summon 
him to the King's Parliament, fixed to be held at Bury 
St. Edmunds on the first of the next month. u The date fixed ! 
My consent not asked !" Duke Humphrey forgot that he 
was Protector no longer. " This is close dealing," mused 
he, but prepared to obey. Hastily husband and wife took 
their sorrowful farewells and parted ; she towards her exile, 
he for Bury St. Edmunds, where before his arrival his 
enemies were arranging his downfall. 

For while Henry wondered at his delay in coming, 
Margaret, Suffolk, the Cardinal, and Buckingham were 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 235 

together poisoning his ear with evil charges and worse 
hints against the late Protector. " Should Henry die now 
and without child, Gloucester would be next heir to the 
throne." " It was he who must have set his wife upon her 
devilish practices." To come to more definite charges : 
'He had taken bribes from France." "As Protector he 
had visited small offences with savage punishments." "He 
had levied money to pay the armies in France and had 
never sent it." It was York who brought this last charge ; 
for although York had disclosed his aims to Salisbury and 
Warwick, and although they had secretly sworn to make 
him King of England, he saw more clearly than they that 
Duke Humphrey's fate was now sealed, and the time had 
come to abandon him. Between them the plotters so 
wrought on the weak King, that when Gloucester entered 
at length and, wishing the King health, prayed to be 
forgiven his delay, Suffolk felt able to step forward boldly 
and arrest him of high treason. Duke Humphrey did not 
blench. " A clean heart is not easily daunted," said he, and 
denied, as he honestly could, the charges his enemies now 
repeated against him. " I never robbed the soldiers of any 
pay, nor have ever received one penny from France as bribe. 
So help me God, I have watched night after night studying 
good for England ! If I have stolen one doit from the King, 
or hoarded one groat of his for my own use, let it be brought 
against me in fair trial. Nay, rather than tax the poor com 
mons, I have poured out my own money to pay the garrisons, 
and never asked for repayment. As for my punishment of 
offenders, it is notorious that my fault, if any, was too great 
clemency." Suffolk cut him short. " These are trifles. It 
is for heavier crimes I arrest you, and hand you over to my 
Lord Cardinal here, who will keep you until your trial." 
The hunted man turned to Henry, but Henry could give 
little help. " My lord," said he, " it is my especial hope 
that you will clear yourself of all these suspicions ; for my 
conscience assures me you are innocent." " Ah, my liege ! 



236 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

I know that they want my life; and if my death could make 
England , happy they would be welcome to it. But my 
death is the prologue only. Thousands, who as yet suspect 
nothing, will die and yet not conclude the tragedy here 
plotted. I see the Cardinal's malice in his red ferret eyes ; 
Suffolk's brow clouded with hate ; I hear Buckingham's 
sharp tongue unloading his envy ; York dogged as ever 
York whose ambitious arm I have held back from the moon 
he would grasp levelling false charges against my life. And 
you, my sovereign lady " he turned to Margaret " have 
joined them in stirring up my true liege to hate me. Oh, I 
have had notice of your meetings, your conspiracies ! I 
shall not lack false witnesses to condemn me!" 

Henry stood powerless while the Cardinal's guards hurried 
away their prisoner ; then he moved sadly towards the door. 
" My lords, I leave it to your wisdom. Do or undo as if I 
myself were present." " What ?" cried Margaret, " will 
your Majesty leave the Parliament ?" " Ay, Margaret ; 
this grief overwhelms me. Gloucester is no traitor ; he 
never wronged you, or these great lords, or any man, that 
his life should be sought." He could make pretty, touching 
speeches about his old friend and counsellor ; but what, 
though King of England, he could not do was to find man 
hood enough to stand by him. His lamentations proved 
that he guessed only too well what was threatened ; yet in 
the act of uttering them he was moving towards the door, 
and betraying Duke Humphrey to his fate. The savage 
and more intrepid hearts he left behind him in the Parlia 
ment House had already decided that fate, and were not 
long in discovering their agreement. Duke Humphrey 
must die. 

York was spared whatever small dishonour remained, 
after consenting, inactively compassing the murder. While 
Gloucester's enemies deliberated, news came of a rebellion 
in Ireland, and to York was given the task of shipping an 
army at Bristol and sailing to suppress it. He could have 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 237 

desired nothing better. It removed him out of the way of 
the popular rage which he foresaw would follow the crime. 
And it gave him an army, which was precisely what he 
lacked. The golden opportunity had arrived, and he grasped 
it. He would nurse his army in Ireland and wait, while 
Suffolk and the rest did his dirty work and incurred the 
odium of it. 

For Suffolk was short-sightedly eager to strike. He had 
always made the mistake of undervaluing the opinion of 
England at large. His strength lay in his favour with 
Margaret and the influence this gave him in the narrow 
inmost circle around the King. He forgot, or thought he 
could neglect, that which no English king even has forgotten 
or neglected without disaster. Margaret, as a French-woman, 
might be forgiven for ignoring this ; Suffolk's ignorance 
belonged to the tradition by which the great feudal lords 
treated the commons and their feelings as of no account, 
and by which they came to their ruin. 

Two murderers hired by Suffolk strangled Duke Humphrey 
as he lay sick on his bed at Bury. As the King took his 
seat to try the accused, Suffolk, who had been sent to fetch 
him, returned with a white face. " He is dead, my lord ! 
Dead in his bed!" The King swooned back in his chair. 
They revived him, and he fell to petulant, weak ravings ; 
poor cries of a heart to which grief is half a luxury, some 
thing at least to be tasted. Margaret, who spoke up boldly 
for her pet Suffolk, would have made short work of this 
lamb-like rage; but as she ended a stronger wrath hammered 
at the door. A crowd of the commons stood outside. They 
had heard of the crime, and they had Salisbury and Warwick 
to speak for them and exact vengeance. While Henry wept 
impotently, these two nobles thrust themselves in, bearing 
the dead body on its bed. " View it, my liege ! See, the 
blood black in his face his eyeballs staring, his nostrils 
stretched with struggling look on his hands, spread as they 
must have grasped for life ! And on the sheets see his 



238 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

hair is yet sticking ! By the Lord who died for men, this is 
foul play ! This is Suffolk's work the murderous coward !" 

Suffolk and Margaret together hotly denied it. The 
favourite had long ago warned his Queen that the Nevils 
would have to be reckoned with ; that Salisbury, the father, 
and Warwick, the son, were no simple peers ; but as he now 
followed Warwick out to make good his denial by the sword, 
he found on the further side of the door a more terrible 
enemy than the Nevils. The throng there shouted for his 
blood, and he could not face it. W 7 ith difficulty Salisbury 
forced the commons back while he spoke their mind. 
" Either Suffolk must be banished, or the crowd would 
enter and hale him forth to torture and lingering death. It 
was for the King's own sake they insisted, but the King must 
choose." " A mob of tinkers !" sneered Suffolk ; but the time 
for sneering was past. These despised commons had fixed 
his doom for him, and clamoured impatiently while the King 
seemed to hesitate. He pronounced it at length. Suffolk 
was given three days in which to quit the kingdom for ever. 

Margaret flung herself on her knees, but in vain. Henry 
had found a will stronger than even hers. This stormy, 
masterful woman could love, and she loved Suffolk as he 
had loved her from the day he wooed her for the husband 
she could neither understand nor respect. Before him she 
could be weak, and she wept as she took leave of him. He 
would stay, he swore, and face death rather than cry for 
death in a foreign land, cry for her to close his eyes and 
take his last breath on her lips. But no, she insisted, he 
must go and take her heart .with him. Whithersoever he 
might wander her messengers should find him out. And 
he went, to an exile shorter than either of them guessed. 

For the vengeance of Heaven was not tarrying. Already 
the Cardinal lay on his death-bed writhing in torments of 
conscience, clutching and gasping for breath, now blasphem 
ing God and now cursing his fellow-men. Above all, he 
kept crying aloud for the King ; but when Henry was 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 239 

summoned and stood by his bedside the dying wretch failed 
to recognise him. " Death ? Art thou Death ? I'll give 
thee all England's treasure enough to purchase another 
such island only let me live and feel no pain !" He passed 
to wilder ravings. Warwick bent and spoke in his ear ; 
" Beaufort, it is the King come to speak to thee." " Bring 
me to my trial when you will ! He died in bed, did he 
not ? Where should he die ? Can I make men live 
whether they will or no ? . . . O ! cease torturing ; I will 
confess. . . . Alive again ? Show me where he is I'll 
give a thousand pounds to have a look. He has no eyes ; 
the dust has blinded his eyes ! Comb down his hair ! 
Look ! look ! it is standing upright ! . . . Give me drink . . . 
bring the poison. Where is the poison I bought ? . . ." 

Henry, kneeling and praying for the divine mercy on 
this terrible end, cried to the Cardinal as he sank into 
silence to make some sign to lift a hand in token that his 
last thoughts were of heaven. The hand was not lifted. 
The breathing ceased. " O God, forgive him ! We are 
sinners and may not judge him. Close up his eyes and 
draw the curtains." 

Vengeance, passing onward from this bedside, overtook 
Suffolk as he reached the coast in disguise he dared not 
travel openly, knowing the temper of the people. Near 
Dover he hired a small craft and put out to sea, trusting to 
be allowed a landing at Calais. He had sailed but a little 
way when a fleet of armed ships bore down on him. 
Forced to heave-to, he was summoned on board the Nicholas 
of the Tower, and as he climbed up the side the captain 
received him with the words, " Welcome, traitor !" Two 
days later, as the ship hung off the English coast, a boat 
came alongside, carrying a headsman, a block, and a rusty 
sword. This was the end of Suffolk "by water," as had 
been prophesied.* His head was conveyed to Margaret, 

* Some found a punning confirmation of the prophecy in the name 
of his executioner, a certain Walter (or Water] Whitmore. 



240 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

who mourned for it passionately. " I fear me, love," 
remonstrated Henry, " thou wouldst not have mourned so 
for me had I been dead." " Nay, my love, I should not 
mourn but die for thee." 

The ships which seized Suffolk had put out from the 
Cinque Ports ; and the men of Kent, who had furnished 
them, heard whispers that a terrible revenge was preparing. 
They were fiercely discontented, because they had prospered 
on the spoil of the French wars and their prosperity was at 
an end. Under John Cade, a soldier of some experience in 
those wars, they now determined to be beforehand with the 
royal anger, and rose in open revolt. There is more than a 
suspicion that York had a hand in this rising, though by 
reason" of his absence in Ireland his hand did not appear ; 
but Cade took the name of Mortimer, and although very 
few even of his ignorant followers believed him to be the 
true Mortimer, the name was significant. 

They were a rough, incoherent crew, having at the 
bottom of their discontent a dull sense of injustice a dull 
feeling that they were misused, that England was disgraced 
by misgovernment, and that somehow these two things 
were connected, though they were quite incapable them 
selves of reasoning this out. But their sense of it broke 
out in a brute rage against the governing class. " It was 
never merry world in England since gentlemen came up " : 
" The nobility think scorn to go in leather aprons." Yet as 
happens with men of their class, flashes of mother-wit, 
narrow but very shrewd and practical, lit up their absurd 
arguments ; as when Cade himself except in fighting, as 
ignorant as any of them proclaimed that his father was a 
Mortimer. " That Mortimer," growled his right-hand man, 
Dick the Butcher, " was an honest man and a good brick 
layer." Cade promised a thorough reformation of the 
realm. " There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves 
sold for a penny ; the three hooped pots shall have ten 
hoops ; and I will make it felony to drink small beer. 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 241 

When I am king all shall eat and drink and chalk it up to 
me, and all shall go dressed in one livery, that they may 
agree like brothers and worship me, their lord." " The 
first thing we do," suggested Dick, " let's kill all the 
lawyers." " Nay," answered Cade, " that I mean to do. 
Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an 
innocent lamb should be made parchment ? that parchment, 
being scribbled over, should undo a man ? Why, I set my 
seal once to such a thing and was never my own master 
since !" They brought him a prisoner they had taken. 
"Who's this?" "The Clerk of Chatham; he can write 
and read and cast accounts." " O monstrous !" " We 
took him setting of boys' copies." " Here's a villain !" To 
Sir Humphrey Stafford, who came with the King's forces to 
suppress the rising, Cade boldly announced himself a 
genuine Mortimer, and boldly proceeded to prove it. 
" Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, married the daughter 
of Lionel Duke of Clarence, hey ? Well, he had two 
children, twins, and the elder was stolen away by a beggar- 
woman and grew up to be a bricklayer. I am his son, and 
you may deny that if you can." " Indeed, sir," put in a 
rebel, " he made a chimney in my father's house, and the 
bricks are alive to this day to testify it. Therefore you 
cannot deny it." But Cade could fight better than he could 
argue. Stafford, finding persuasion vain, gave battle. His 
troops were defeated and himself and his brother slain, and 
the rebels marched triumphantly upon London, which they 
entered without resistance, Cade cutting the ropes of the 
drawbridge with his sword as he passed. Henry and his 
court had already escaped to Kenilworth, and for two days 
the city lay at the rebels' mercy. Their chief rage, now 
that Suffolk had fallen, was against Lord Say, as the royal 
adviser most guilty of the surrender of Anjou and Maine. 
Him they seized in his London house and brought to a rough 
trial an old tottering man shaken with the palsy. " I'll 
see if his head will stand steadier on a pole or no," promised 

16 



242 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Cade. He charged Say who denied that he was chargeable 
with the loss of Normandy, besides lesser misdemeanours. 
" I am the besom that must sweep the court clean of such 
filth as thou art. Thou hast most traitorously corrupted 
the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar-school ; and 
whereas before our forefathers had no other books but the 
score and tally, thou hast caused printing to be used ; and, 
contrary to the King's crown and dignity, thou hast built a 
paper-mill. It will be proved to thy face that thou hast 
men about thee that usually talk of a noun, and a verb, and 
such abominable words as no Christian ear can endure to 
hear !" 

Such a little distorted, perhaps, in jest were the charges 
brought against Lord Say, and from treason of this sort he 
could hardly be expected to clear himself. He was led forth 
and executed ; his head set on a pole, and the head of his 
son-in-law, Sir John Cromer, on another. The rebels enjoyed 
the brutal sport of making the two heads kiss. 

But the term of Cade's triumph was a brief one. On the 
third day the Londoners, roused by the pillage of their shops 
and houses, seized London Bridge and held it gallantly for 
six hours. They were relieved by Buckingham and Clifford 
of Cumberland, a great noble of the north, who came not 
only with troops, but with promises from the King, on the 
strength of which they addressed Cade's rabble and promised 
pardon to all who dispersed. Cade saw his men wavering. 
" Believe them not !" he shouted. " What, has my sword 
broken through London gates that you should leave me at 
the White Hart in Southwark ?" Clifford, however, knew 
the men he was addressing. The King after all was the son 
of their adored Harry the Fifth. " Will you by hating him 
dishonour his father ? Is Cade a son of King Harry, to lead 
you through the heart of France ? Or will you quarrel at 
home till the French pluck up heart to cross over the seas 
and lord it in London streets ? To France ! and recover 
what you have lost!" "A Clifford! a Clifford!" shouted 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 243 

the mob ; " We'll follow the King and Clifford." Cade 
turned on them. " Was ever feather so lightly blown to 
and fro as this multitude ? The name of Henry the Fifth 
will lead them blindfold." While his late followers laid 
their heads together to seize him, he broke through their 
ranks and escaped, heading southwards. After days of 
hiding in the woods of Kent, hunger drove him to break into 
the garden of an honest esquire named Iden, who was 
rambling in his quiet walks when, to his astonishment, 
he came on this scarecrow intruder. Cade, utterly desperate 
with famine, showed fight at once, and Iden cut him down 
before recognising the rebel. Through this chance en 
counter he found himself suddenly the richer by knighthood 
and one thousand merks, the price set on the outlaw's head. 

But the unhappy Henry had a short relief from his 
troubles. " Never," he lamented, " did a subject so long to 
be a king as I long to be a subject." He was no sooner rid 
of Cade, than there arrived the worse news that the Duke of 
York had landed with his Irish troops and was marching on 
London. York's proclaimed purpose was to remove from 
the King's side his inveterate enemy, Somerset, whom he 
declared a traitor. Somerset by this time had become a 
favourite with Margaret, but York's approach was too 
formidable to be defied, and the King had to send word 
by Buckingham that his enemy had been removed and 
committed to the Tower. This left him no excuse but 
to disband his Irish levies, and indeed for a while events 
took away all temptation to use force. To be sure, in 1453 
a son was born to the King, and this might well have seemed 
fatal to the Yorkist chance of succession; but about the 
same time Henry sank into a state of idiocy which made his 
rule impossible, and York was entrusted with the business 
of government under the title of Protector of the Realm. 

Margaret, however, who had now her infant, Edward, to 
scheme for, waited her time Henry recovered, and his 
recovery deprived York of office. She seized this chance to 

16 2 



044 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

release Somerset from prison and restore him to his old 
power. " For a thousand Yorks," she boldly announced, 
" Somerset shall not hide his head." This was too much. 
York denounced it as a breach of faith, denied the King's 
fitness to govern, and collecting again his scattered troops, 
openly took the field, supported by the Nevils. Clifford's 
great power in the north enabled Margaret and Somerset to 
get an army together to oppose him and set up the royal 
standard at St. Albans. 

Upon this camp York marched with Salisbury and 
Warwick and a force of thirty thousand men. The battle 
which followed, though ostensibly fought over the question 
of dismissing Somerset or keeping him in power, was really 
the first fought to decide whether the English crown should 
go to the White or the Red Rose, and in the blood of 
Clifford, whom York slew with his own hand, it sowed a 
hatred which, inherited by Clifford's son, was to grow to 
a terrible harvest. The death of Somerset on the field, as 
the Yorkists swept victorious into St. Albans, removed the 
pretended cause of the quarrel. But York had proved his 
strength. Henry and Margaret were now in full flight for 
London, and thither he must follow with speed. In 
London he would learn how to act, would choose his next 
step. 

Ill 

York had four sons, the fortunes of whom we are to 
follow Edward, Earl of March, soon to succeed his father 
as head of the House of York, and in time to become King 
of England and the first soldier of his age ; Edmund, Earl 
of Rutland ; George, afterwards Duke of Clarence, the false 
and fleeting ; and Richard, the youngest, a hunchbacked lad, 
already giving promise of that sinister and malignant genius 
which was to carry him to the throne of England, and set 
him there in a white glare of hatred, the master-fiend of her 
history. In his crooked body, with its colourless, twisted 






KING HENRY THE SIXTH 



245 



face, eyes which repelled and fascinated, and snarling mouth 
(he had been born, the tale went, with all his teeth) there 
dwelt something of the wild animal, a monster hatched 
out of the worst and corruptest passions of Feudal England, 
to be its own scourge, and in the end its destroyer. Even as 
youth he feared neither God nor man nor devil. He had 
started for St. Albans with a blasphemy on his lips ; in the 
battle he had thrice rescued the old Earl of Salisbury by his 
reckless courage, had cut down Somerset with his own 
hand,* and striking off his head, had carried it off and flung 
it down before his father in triumph. York gazed on the 
features of. his lifelong enemy. " Richard," said he, " has 
done best of all my sons." " I hope to shake off King 
Henry's head in the same fashion," said Richard. 

For this, as for other things, Richard's time was to come, 
For the moment he stood in the shadow of another great figure 
on the side of the White Rose Richard, Earl of Warwick, 
the strongest of the strong Nevils, the " King-maker," the 
" Last of the Barons." Feudalism was doomed, but in 
Warwick it died, if not nobly, at any rate magnificently. 
He was its fine flower and its grandest type. Heir to the 
earldom of Salisbury, he had doubled his wealth and added 
the earldom of Warwick by his marriage with the heiress of 
the Beauchamps. When he rode to Parliament six hundred 
retainers, wearing his badge of the bear and ragged staff, 
followed at his heels. Thousands feasted daily in his court- 
1 yard. He could raise whole armies from his own earldoms. 
In generalship and (some said) in personal courage he might 
fall short of York's two sons, Edward and Richard, but he 
was an active warrior none the less, and for intrigue and 

)litic dealing the first head in the kingdom. In the end 
the two lads outplayed him, but for the present he supported 
their cause, and it was by his support that in time they 
found themselves strong enough to challenge him. 

* Under the signboard of the Castle Inn in St. Albans. Those who 
will may see in this a confirmation of the prophecy on p. 233. 



246 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

This array of power and ability on the Yorkist side would 
have left Lancaster weak indeed had it not been for 
Margaret. Fierce and implacable as her husband was weak, 
she took the place of a man at the head of the Red Rose 
faction. Clifford could fight, but it was Margaret who 
commanded ; and hereafter whenever success falls to the 
arms of Lancaster, it is always Margaret who is in the field, 
fighting like a tigress for the rights of her boy, again and 
again putting fresh life into her husband, and with un 
defeated tenacity lifting a beaten cause and renewing the 
struggle. 

For a brief while after the battle of St. Albans a return of 
the King's malady gave the two parties a respite. York 
became Protector again, and Margaret pretended, at least, 
to be reconciled. But once more Henry's recovery raised 
the question " Who, after all, is to rule England ?" and in 
1460 York took the bold course and openly, in the presence 
of Parliament, asserted that the crown belonged to him. 
" My father was King," protested Henry, " and my grand 
father was King by conquest." "Not so," answered York, 
" by rebellion." There, of course, lay the weakness of the 
Lancastrian title. " But a king may adopt an heir, and 
Richard in the presence of many nobles resigned the crown 
to my grandfather." "Yes, under force. Now, as well as 
right, we have force on our side." Warwick stamped his 
foot, and the Parliament house was filled in a minute with 
soldiers. " Let me reign for my lifetime," pleaded Henry, 
too weak either to be a true king or to resign with a good 
grace. On this ground a compact was patched up. Henry 
should be allowed to reign during his life, and the crown 
should then pass to York and his heirs. 

Young Clifford and the other barons of the north were 
furious at Henry's faint-hearted bargain, and marched out 
of the Parliament rather than consent to it. But their fury 
was nothing to Margaret's when the word came to her that 
her darling son had been disinherited. " Wretched man," 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 247 

she broke out, " would I had never seen thee ! '.Enforced '? 

What! art thou a King and wilt consent to be forced 

consent to reign on sufferance with York for Protector, 
Warwick for Chancellor and lord of Calais, and his uncle 
Falconberg in command of the Channel ? Had I been 
there I, a silly woman Warwick's soldiers should have 
tossed me on their pikes before I let them disinherit my boy. 
Until that compact be repealed thou art no husband of mine. 
The northern lords have forsworn thy colours ; they shall 
follow mine. Come, my son, let us leave this talker !" 

Poor Henry sat down to write letters entreating Clifford 
and the rest not to forsake him. But Margaret called 
on their loyalty in a more heroic fashion, and seeing her take 
the field Clifford raised the royal standard for her in the 
northern shires, while the new Duke of Somerset levied an 
army in the west. York, leaving Warwick in London to 
watch over the King, hastily gathered a force and marched 
northward until he encountered Clifford's army at Wakefield 
in Yorkshire. There he found himself outnumbered by four 
to one, and disaster fell on the White Rose. His second 
son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, wandering the battlefield in 
charge of a tutor, fell into Clifford's hands. While the 
soldiers hurried away his protector, the poor boy begged for 
life. But Clifford had taken an oath of vengeance. " Thy 
father slew my father," was the answer, "so will I kill thee." 
And he drove his dagger into the young breast. 

York's hour, too, was at hand. His two sons, Edward 
and Richard, fighting beside him, had made a lane for him 
through his foes, shouting, " Courage, father ! fight it out !" 
But as their overmatched troops broke and fled, father and 
sons were swept apart, and at length the Duke found him 
self, faint and alone, hedged around by his deadly enemies. 
He could hope for no quarter. But Margaret held back 
Clifford's sword while she made her prisoner taste the full 
bitterness of death. She enthroned him on a molehill this 
man who had reached at mountains. " Where are your 



248 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

sons now, to back you ? wanton Edward and lusty 
George, and your boy Dicky, that crookback prodigy ? 
Where is your darling, your Rutland ? Look, York," she 
held out a crimsoned napkin, " I dipped this in your boy's 
blood. If you have tears for him, take this and wipe your 
eyes." They called on him to weep for their sport. They 
brought a paper crown and set it on him. " Marry, now he 
looks like a king !" Clifford, in his father's memory, claimed 
the privilege of dealing the death-stroke. The doomed 
man's indignant protest moved even his enemy Northumber 
land to pity. " Woman, worse than tiger, I take thy cloth 
and wash my sweet boy's blood from it with my tears. So, 
keep it. Go boast of it, and have in thine own hour of need 
such comfort as thou art offering me!" Margaret had no 
pity. She taunted Northumberland's compassionate weak 
ness. With her own dagger she followed up Clifford's 
stroke. " Off with his head ! Set it on York gates, and let 
York overlook his city of York !" 

It was in Herefordshire, near Mortimer's Cross, that news 
of York's fate reached his sons. Young Edward was 
hurrying to avenge the reverse at Wakefield with the army 
collected by Somerset in the west ; and the soldiers told of 
an omen, an apparition at dayrise of three suns which, after 
shining separate for a while in the clear sky, joined and 
melted into one. The three heirs of York read it as promis 
ing them a triple yet united glory, and Edward from that 
time took three suns for the cognizance of his arms. It was 
Richard who recovered first from the blow of the heavy 
tidings. " Tears are for babes. I choose blows and revenge. 
As I bear my father's name, I'll avenge him." 

In Herefordshire they were met by Warwick, who on 
learning the issue of the fight at Wakefield, guessing that 
Margaret's next move would be on London to rescue the 
King from his keeping, had promptly collected a force of 
Kentishmen and marched out to oppose her. For the 
second time St. Albans had seen a conflict between the Red 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 249 

and White Roses, but after a fierce day's fighting the 
Yorkist forces had broken under cover of the night, and 
Henry fallen again into the hands of his own party. 

Such was the tale brought by Warwick, who had collected 
his broken regiments and marched post-haste to join with 
young Edward's fresh forces. The tidings might have 
been fatal .had not Margaret paused in her march upon 
London to indulge her thirst for vengeance in a savage 
butchery of prisoners, and allowed her northerners to scatter 
for pillage. As it was, Edward had just time to overthrow 
a body of Lancastrians barring his way at Mortimer's Cross, 
and hurrying forward to dash into London ahead of her. 
It was a stroke which proved him a born general. The 
citizens received him with shouts of " Long live King 
Edward !" as a gallant handsome youth of nineteen he 
rode along their streets. Margaret and her army fell back 
sullenly upon their northern headquarters at York, where 
Henry winced at the sight of his late enemy's head impaled 
over the gate. Edward, now secure of the support of the 
capital, lost no time in hurrying with Warwick to compel 
them to a decisive battle. 

A parley at York between the leaders ended as usual in 
open threats and defiance, and the two armies met on 
Towton Field, near Tadcaster, to contest the bloodiest and 
most obstinate battle fought in England since Hastings. 
Together the armies numbered almost a hundred and twenty 
thousand men, and from daybreak, when the Yorkists 
advanced to the charge through blinding snow, for six hours 
the tide of success swayed to and fro undecisively. At one 
moment Warwick, as his men gave ground and their com 
manders began to consult gloomily, stabbed his horse before 
their eyes, and, kneeling, swore on the cross of his sword- 
hilt to revenge his brother (borne down and thrust through 
by Clifford) or to die on the field. 

As the daylight grew, Henry, the unwilling cause of all 
this carnage, wandered forth on the outskirts of the fight, 



250 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Margaret and Clifford had chidden him back out of danger, 
swearing that they prospered best when relieved of his 
presence. Seating himself on a hummock just such a 
molehill as that on which York had been mockingly en 
throned in kinship scarcely less impotent and forlorn, he 
watched the ebb and flow of the battle. " Let the victory 
go to whom God wills it ! Would that, by God's good will, 
I were dead !" Heartily he envied a shepherd's lot in just 
such a pastoral land as this, which, but for him, had been 
bloodless and smiling. To sit upon just such a hill, in the 
hawthorn shade, and carve out rustic dials while his sheep 
browsed that to this gentlest of monarchs seemed true 
happiness. And while he sat he saw and understood what 
this horrible civil war meant for pastoral England, a war in 
which, forced by no will of their own to take sides, sons 
slew their fathers and fathers their sons. While at a little 
distance slayers such as these lamented over their slain, 
Henry wept for the unnatural error of it all. 

At length Norfolk arriving with reinforcements turned the 
scale in favour of the White Rose. The Lancastrians were 
beaten back to the river which lay in their rear, and there 
the retreat became a rout. No quarter was given. All that 
night and through the next day the killing went forward. 
Clifford, desperately wounded, died before his enemies could 
overtake him, but the sons of York seized the body and 
exulted over the man who had slain their father and brother, 
and set his head to decorate the gates of York in its turn. 
Twenty thousand Lancastrians lay dead on the field, and 
almost as many Yorkists ; but the victory made Edward 
king for the time beyond dispute. Henry and Margaret 
escaped over the Scottish border, Somerset into exile. 
Northumberland was dead. Devonshire and Wiltshire 
followed him as soon as the murderous reprisals began. 
Edward created his brother George Duke of Clarence, and 
Richard Duke of Gloucester. Richard had wished the 
dukedom of Clarence for himself. " That of Gloucester is 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 251 

too ominous," said he, between earnest and a jesting glance 
at the fate of Duke Humphrey. He took it, however, and 
waited his time for something better. 

Edward was now Edward IV., crowned King of England, 
and could reign for a time in something like security. Yet 
Margaret kept up the struggle.' Leaving Henry in Scotland, 
which had been their refuge after the disaster of Towton, 
she crossed back over the border and stirred up the north 
to a new rising, only to be crushed by Warwick at Hedgeley 
Moor and again at Hexham. Still indomitable, she set sail 
for France to beg help from the young king Lewis XI. ; 
and there met face to face again with her enemy Warwick, 
who had come upon a rival mission. 

Warwick by this time had reached the height of his 
power. He was Lord Admiral of England, and maintained 
in the Channel ports a fleet devoted to his service. He 
was Captain of Calais and Warden of the Western Marches. 
A brother, Lord Montague, ruled the northern border ; a 
younger brother was Archbishop of York and Lord Chan 
cellor ; while his uncles Lords Falconberg, Abergavenny, 
and Latimer had all drawn rich spoils from the Yorkist 
triumph. 

But if for three years the King-maker seemed all-powerful, 
the King (as his march on London had proved) was no 
Henry, but a young man of brain and will, and a leader 
of men. In private life abominably dissolute, and to all 
appearance an idler, a lover of costly wines and meats, a 
follower of vicious pleasures which in the end bloated his 
body and killed him before his time, amid these pursuits 
he could scheme as cunningly as Warwick, and when war 
summoned him it found him always the first general of 
his age. 

Sooner or later between these two strong men the struggle 
was bound to come. It began silently, and Edward struck 
his first blow when Warwick was absent in France nego 
tiating for him a marriage with the Lady Bona, sister of 



252 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

the French Queen. Lewis found himself between two 
petitioners; on the one side Margaret, passionately plead 
ing for aid to restore her boy to the throne ; on the other 
Warwick, temptingly offering a rich alliance with the actual 
King of England. Even poor Henry in his Scottish hiding 
could forecast how the contest would go, Margaret had 
come to beg, Warwick to give. Lewis might pity the 
weaker side, but he would surely decide for the stronger. 

So indeed he did, but in the act of deciding he was in 
terrupted by news from England. Edward had flouted 
Warwick and made his mission idle by privately marrying 
Dame Elizabeth Grey, the widow of a slain Lancastrian 
and daughter of a knight named Woodville. The King's 
brothers resented the match ; but while Clarence openly in 
veighed against it, Richard kept a stiller tongue in his head. 
An heir to Edward, should one be born, would be one more 
life between him and the crown on which he had set his 
heart ; but what was done could not be undone. He would 
have the crown, with time and patience. 

To the Lady Bona, and through her to the French King, 
this marriage was a deliberate insult. Nor did it improve 
the temper of the befooled Warwick that Edward at once 
began to shower favours on the Woodvilles, the greedy and 
vulgar-minded family of his new wife, and raise them to 
power in opposition to the proud Nevils. The King-maker 
and Queen Margaret, whom he had ruined, now discovered 
that they had a common cause, and King Lewis in his 
anger was ready to back them. They swore alliance, and 
to cement it Warwick betrothed his eldest daughter, the 
Lady Anne Nevil, to Margaret's boy, the young Prince of 
Wales. 

Warwick thus stood pledged to unmake the king he had 
made, and restore the House of Lancaster to the throne, in 
the person either of the young prince or of the deposed Henry 
who tossed to and fro like a shuttlecock in the game had 
once more passed abjectly into his enemies' hands. Stealing 



KING HENRY THE SIXTH 253 

across the Scottish border to indulge in the sorrowful luxury 
of gazing on the realm he had lost, he blundered upon a 
couple of deer-keepers, who promptly secured and marched 
him to London, where, on horseback, with his feet tied to 
the stirrups, he was paraded thrice round the pillory and 
then cast into the Tower. 

Warwick could feel no real affection for anyone of the 
House of Lancaster. He had a second daughter, Isabel ; 
and, while playing with the hopes and demands of the 
Lancastrians, he gave her in marriage to the discontented 
Clarence, whom he secretly proposed to set on the throne 
in Edward's place. Clarence had no scruple now in be 
traying his brother. He left the court and raised a revolt 
in the Midlands. Edward, marching hurriedly to cope with 
it, was surprised by Warwick and Clarence one night in his 
own camp, made prisoner, and confided to the keeping of 
Nevil, Archbishop of York. From this captivity he was 
cunningly stolen by his brother Richard, and Warwick's 
schemes for crowning Clarence were defeated by the 
Lancastrians, who demanded Henry's restoration and would 
do nothing under that price. In the following spring a new 
revolt broke out in Lincolnshire, but this found Edward 
better prepared. Marching northwards, he crushed the 
rebels and turned swiftly on their abettors. Clarence and 
Warwick could gather no force to meet them, and were 
forced to escape over-sea. 

Desperate now of setting up Clarence, Warwick calmly 
abandoned him and fell back on the plan which he had 
taken so long to stomach of staking all on Margaret's 
side. To her he engaged his word to liberate Henry, and 
crossing once more to England, at a moment when a fresh 
revolt had drawn Edward off to the north, he pressed on 
his heels with an army which gathered so ominously that 
Edward in turn was glad enough to escape out of the 
kingdom and take shelter in Flanders. 

He retreated, however, but to return and strike effec- 



254 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

tively. Warwick had indeed liberated Henry, and led him 
from his cell to the throne, but the unhappy King enjoyed 
a very brief freedom. He asked no more than to place the 
substance of power in the joint hands of Warwick and 
Clarence. The shadow was enough for him, might he 
share it with Margaret and his son, whom he summoned 
from France, where King Lewis was providing fresh troops 
to uphold the advantage which Warwick had gained for 
them. 

But before they could obey, Edward whom the Duke 
of Burgundy had supplied with an army landed at Ravens- 
purgh, and came marching down the length of England, 
making proclamation that he had surrendered his claim to 
the crown, and sought only to be restored to his dukedom. 
But the name of Ravenspurgh and the terms of his pro 
clamation sounded ominously to those who recalled where 
and how, and under what pretext, Bolingbroke had landed 
and wrested the sceptre from King Richard II. By the 
time he reached Nottingham sixty thousand men marched 
under the White Rose. Warwick, rallying his supporters 
under the Red Rose banner at Coventry, waited long but 
waited in vain for Clarence to join him. Oxford, Montague, 
Somerset, one after another, came trooping in with their 
drums and colours ; still Clarence tarried. He had deserted 
back to his brother as lightly as he had deserted from him. 
Edward knew his levity ; and, too cold perhaps to feel any 
deep resentment, certainly too politic to show it at this 
moment, gave him an affectionate greeting. Richard 
echoed it with a sneer "Welcome, Clarence; this is 
indeed brother-like !" 

The brothers, once more united, marched rapidly on 
London, the gates of which were opened to them ; and for 
the last time Henry passed back from the throne to the 
Tower. Warwick followed, and the deciding battle was 
fought at Barnet, on the north side of London, April i4th, 
1471 (Easter Sunday). Three hours of furious and con- 






KING HENRY THE SIXTH 255 

fused slaughter, in which the Lancastrians, amid flying 
rumours of treachery and desertion, scarcely knew their 
friends from their foes, left Warwick, Montague, and all 
their ablest leaders dead on the field. The cause of the 
Red Rose was lost. 

Somerset and Oxford escaped and fled westward to join 
Margaret, who on that very day had landed with her son at 
Plymouth. Three weeks later, as they marched to join the 
troops which the Earl of Pembroke was raising in Wales, 
their army was overtaken at Tewkesbury by Edward, who 
by a brilliant piece of strategy had hurried from Windsor 
to intercept them. Footsore and weary, they reached 
Tewkesbury on May 3rd, and took ground in a strong posi 
tion close by the Abbey there. From this, on the follow 
ing day, they were enticed by Richard, cut to pieces and 
slaughtered like sheep. Hundreds ran screaming into the 
Abbey for sanctuary, were seized, dragged forth, and 
executed in batches at the town cross ; hundreds were 
chased down into the River Avon and drowned. Margaret 
and her son were taken and brought before Edward, who, 
angered by the gallant boy's defiance, smote him across the 
mouth with his iron glove. The daggers of the three 
brothers silenced him more effectually. Edward struck 
first. . " What, sprawling ?" sneered Richard. " Take that, 
to end your agony." " And that," added Clarence, " for 
twitting me with perjury." " Kill me too!" pleaded Mar 
garet, broken at last, as his blood ran from their daggers. 
" Marry, that will I." Richard was ready, but Edward held 
his hand. When she recovered from her swoon and would 
have besought him again, Richard had galloped from the 
field. " The Tower ! The Tower !" had been his last 
whisper in Clarence's ear. " He's sudden, when a thing 
comes into his head," was Edward's cynical comment when 
Clarence told him. 

Henry sat reading in his cell in the Tower, when Richard 
was announced and entered with a sneering smile. The sad 



256 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

King knew his errand at once. His eyes were opened ; he 
saw that death had entered with Richard and stood behind 
his crooked shoulder; and he saw in that crooked figure 
incarnate the final curse begotten in the long struggle and 
bred for the blight of all its shadow was to fall upon. His 
lips were opened too, and he prophesied. Richard leaped 
on him with his dagger. " For this I was ordained among 
other things !" he snarled, and drove home the blow. 
" Ay, and for much more slaughter to come," gasped Henry : 
" God forgive my sins, and thee !" He was dead ; but 
Richard, like a wild beast mad with the taste of blood, 
struck again and again. " Down down to hell, and say I 
sent thee !" he growled over the body. 

Richard II. was avenged. The curse against which 
Henry V. prayed before Agincourt had overtaken the House 
of Lancaster at length, and was fulfilled. But the curse 
on the House of York was yet to fall. At Westminster 
Edward could feel himself secure ; could turn all his 
thoughts to pleasure and courtly shows. Margaret was 
banished ; his strong foes, from Warwick downward, were 
dead one and all. A son had been born to inherit the 
crown. He bade his two brothers kiss their nephew. 
Clarence and Richard bent over the child in turn. We 
shall see that child again with Richard's shadow bent above 
him and over-arching. 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 

AT length England was at peace. The long struggle of the 
Roses had exhausted her and drained her of blood. When 
the great peers met in Parliament, the long empty benches 
told them at what cost to their order they had fought. 
They, the survivors, sat as it were with ghosts, representing 
the shadow only of those civil liberties their ancestors had 
won, had abused, and had lost again. In his palace King 
Edward could give himself up to indolence and pleasure; 
and he did so in the sight of all men, but he did also many 
things which they failed to mark. Few understood this 
curious cynical King who so carelessly cast his handsome 
body away to perdition, yet all the while was patiently and 
cunningly strengthening the monarchy, and making it all 
but absolutely powerful. In war he had never lost a battle;, 
when it came to treachery, he had outplayed his master, the 
great Warwick ; at one time and another almost one-fifth 
of the whole land in the kingdom, stripped from the nobles, 
had fallen into his hands ; and now while he appeared to 
take his ease, content only to be gay and popular, his eyes 
under their drooped lids never relaxed their vigilance. 
Stealthily, surely, his toils closed around new sources of 
wealth ; his ships multiplied on the seas ; his spies were 
everywhere ; his will made itself silently felt in every court 
of law. 

So his masterly brain went on working ; but for himself 
he was weary of soul. He had reached his own ambition 
early. The most selfish of men, when it occurred to him to 
desire a thing, he heeded no opposition. It had been his 

257 17 



258 



TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 



fancy to marry Dame Elizabeth Grey, and he did so though 
it insulted the King of France and mortally offended 
Warwick. Her kinsfolk, the Woodvilles, were a base and 
greedy crew. Edward ennobled and enriched them one 
after another, enjoying the disgust of Clarence and Warwick 
and the great families, and afterwards watched with contempt, 
half-amused, half-tired, the vulgarity of these newcomers as 
they intrigued about him. For his children, indeed, he was 
anxious and even over-anxious; he had two sons and five 
daughters, and from their cradles he schemed to make 
marriages for them. Oddly enough, while his other projects 
succeeded, these always failed. For the rest he had come 
to the end of his desires ; nothing remained but to fall bad 
on eating and drinking and coarse bodily pleasure, and wit! 
these he wore himself out. 

While he was doing it, still, as always, his brother Richarc 
stood by his side watching, waiting. He had not reache 
the end of his ambitions. 

Our tale has brought us to a time when the darkness 
the Middle Ages was breaking up. Already Caxton had set 
up his printing-press at Westminster, and soon, as the 
Turks took Constantinople and its Greek scholars fled fc 
refuge to Italy, a flood of old Greek learning was to cor 
pouring over the west of Europe. In that queer twilight 
while the old faith was dissolving and before a new one 
fairly dawned, there were born it is one of the wonde 
of history numbers of men with utterly pagan souls. The} 
disbelieved in God and* scoffed at Him; they were wicked, 
knew themselves to be wicked, rejoiced in it, and took a 
pride in their wickedness as if it had been a sort of fine art. 
Nowadays a wicked man usually tries to persuade himself 
that he is not so bad after all, that the world has used him 
ill, that he is " more sinned against than sinning " ; but these 
men were wicked from choice and strove to be devilish. In 
the history of Italy about this time you may find many 
such. In England for several reasons this deliberate 




KING EDWARD IV. AND HIS HEIR. 

From a print in the Boydell collection after J. Northcote, R.A. 



260 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

villainy has never been common ; but if there ever lived 
in England a deliberate villain, by all accounts Richard 
was he.* 

Let this be said for him though it does not excuse him : 
it was no fault of his that Nature had made him so 
monstrous to the eye that the very dogs in the street barked 
at him. He felt his deformity keenly. " Very well," he 
resolved, " men shrink from me in loathing. They shall 
find me what they expect." He had still to learn that his 
terrible face could fascinate as well as repel. 

He learned it in this way. The corpse of King Henry VI., 
after lying in state in St. Paul's, was being conveyed to the 
river-side, thence to be carried by boat to Chertsey in 
Surrey for burial. Richard strolled out into the street to 
feast his eyes on the small procession the body of his 
victim, the bier, the few gentlemen of birth walking with 
halberds beside it, and one only mourner the Lady Anne, 
daughter of the King-maker, and widow of the young 
Prince of Wales, over whose death agony the Yorkist 
brothers had gloated at Tewkesbury. 

While she walked lamenting, cursing the man \vho had 
murdered father as well as son, the procession halted, and 
Richard himself stood before her. 

" Set down the corpse," he commanded ; and as the 

* I say " by all accounts " ; but it is possible or even likely that if the 
truth about Richard had ever been allowed to come down to us, we 
should hold quite another opinion of him. When the first Tudor king 
slew him and took his crown, it became the business of the Tudors to 
blacken his memory and represent him as a fiend in human shape; 
and the Tudor historians did this handsomely. It is believed that 
Henry VII. 's chronicler, Polydore Vergil, destroyed documents whole 
sale, with his master's connivance, to remove all that might tell in 
Richard's favour. This was overshooting the mark. It left the picture 
too black to be credited when in course of time Tudor prejudice dis 
appeared. But Shakespeare wrote under a Tudor queen and for a 
prejudiced audience; and, lacking the means to correct it, we must 
take what he gives us with more than a grain of salt. 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 261 

halberdiers hesitated, "By St. Paul, I'll make a corpse of 
any man of you who disobeys !" 

" My lord," entreated one of the gentlemen, " stand back, 
and let the coffin pass." 

" Stand thyself, thou unmannerly dog ! Lower thy 
halberd, or, by St. Paul, I'll strike thee down and trample 
on thee." 

The Lady Anne came forward. " What, gentlemen ! Are 
you trembling ? Are you all afraid ? I cannot blame you, 
alas ! that your mortal eyes cannot endure such a devil." 
She turned on Richard. " Hence ! minister of hell ! Thou 
hadst power over his mortal body, but his soul thou canst not 
have." 

" Be not so shrewish, sweet saint ;" Richard leered on her. 
In truth a wild scheme had come into his head, and he stood 
with his eyes on her and a smile twisting his face, while she 
cursed and accused him, pointing to Henry's wounds. 

" Fair, but most uncharitable lady," he answered at 
length, "give me leave to excuse myself." 

" Excuse ! Foul beyond power of thinking, what excuse 
canst thou give but to hang thyself ? thou slaughterer !" 

" Ay ; but suppose I slew them not ? It was not I who 
killed your husband, but Edward." . 

" Liar ! Margaret saw thy dagger hot in his blood ; nay, 
and it was turned against her own breast when thy brothers 
beat it aside." 

Richard shrugged his shoulders. " She provoked me 
with her tongue." 

" Thine own bloody mind provoked thee ! Didst thou 
not kill Henry, here?" 

" I grant it." 

" You grant it ? Then God grant me thy soul's damna 
tion for that wicked deed ! Oh, he was gentle, so mild, so 
virtuous !" 

" And the fitter to go to heaven. Heaven will suit him 
better than earth," Richard sneered. 



262 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

" Thou art unfit for any place but hell." 

" I grant it again. But let us be reasonable, gentle 
Lady Anne ! Is the executioner of these untimely deaths 
more blameworthy than the cause of them." 

" Thou wast the cause of them." 

" Not so." He fixed his eyes more intently upon hers. 
" Your beauty was the cause," he said slowly ; then with a 
sudden passionate haste, " Your beauty, which has haunted 
my sleep, bidding me murder all the world if only to live 
for an hour on your sweet breast." 

Anne shrank back, putting np her hands to cover her eyes ; 
her fingers pressed the flesh until they left white marks. 
" If I thought that," she gasped, " these nails should tear 
that beauty away." 

" Nay," said Richard coaxingly, "not while I stood by. 
I could not see the light of my life so blemished." 

But Anne recovered herself, loathing herself that she could 
not free her eyes from his gaze. Breaking into curses 
again, she spat at him. " Would it were poison !" she 
panted. " Oh, if these eyes could but strike thee dead !" 

" I would they might," Richard went on blandly, his own 
playing with them as a cat with a mouse ; " then I should 
die at once : now they are killing me with a living death. 
They have drawn salt tears, lady, from mine mine, which 
had no tears even when Rutland, my tender brother, moaned 
under Clifford's sword ; none even when thy father, warlike 
Warwick, told us like a child the sad story of my father's 
death, and twenty times broke down in sobs while his 
hearers wept with him." Again Anne drew herself up and 
forced her mouth to smile scornfully ; but he held her eyes. 
" Teach thy lips no such scorn, lady ; they were made for 
kissing, not for, contempt. If thou be too full of revenge to 
forgive me, see "he drew his sword, and kneeling tendered 
it to her by the blade " plunge this in this true breast, and 
let forth the soul that adores thee." 

She took the sword by its handle : still kneeling, still with 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 263 

his eyes on hers, he pulled open his shirt. She pushed 
forward the point, then wavered. 

" Nay, pause not. I did kill King Henry but it was thy 
beauty provoked me ; I did stab young Edward but it was 
thy heavenly face set me on." 

The sword dropped from her hands with a clang. Still 
Richard knelt. 

" Nay, take it up again, or take me." 

" Rise," stammered the poor woman. " I wish thy death, 
but I cannot kill thee." 

" Then bid me kill myself. I will do it." 

" I have done so." 

" Tush, that was in thy rage. Come, say it again ; and 
the hand which for thy sake killed thy love shall for love of 
thee kill a far truer love, and thou shalt be accessory to both 
murders." 

She peered at him shuddering. " I wish I could read thy 
heart." 

" My tongue utters it." 

" Well, well," she sighed hopelessly ; " put up thy sword." 

" Tell me then that my peace is made." 

" You shall know hereafter." For the moment she was 
vanquished, yet still she fought for time. But he stepped to 
her, caught her hand, and slipped his ring on her finger. " So," 
he persisted, " thy breast encloses my poor heart. Wear both, 
for they both are thine. For the moment I beg but one 
thing more : leave to me these sad rites, go quickly to my 
palace in Bishopsgate ; and when I have seen King Henry 
interred at Chertsey monastery, I will repair back thither 
with all the swiftness of my regard. Grant this : I have 
reasons for asking it." 

And Anne obeyed. Under his will she was powerless : it 
thrilled her, yet to be mastered in this fashion was not all 
unhappiness. 

"Bid me farewell," Richard commanded, 

She, poor soul, could even play at archness, or perhaps 



264 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

caught at it to steady herself. " 'Tis more than you 
deserve," said she ; " but since you must teach me to flatter 
you imagine that I have done so already." 

Richard watched her along the street, then turned abruptly 
to the bearers. " Sirs, take up the corpse," he commanded. 

" Shall we bear it on to Chertsey, my lord ?" asked one. 

" No ; to Whitefriars. Wait for me there at the river 
side." 

The mourners lifted the bier and passed on, leaving 
Richard alone. It had been the strangest w r ooing. 
"Was ever woman wooed or won in this humour?" he 
mused. " I'll have her !" he paused, and added, " But I 
will not keep her long." 

Why had he wooed her ? That answer at any rate is 
simple. She was one of the richest women in England. 
She and her sister, his brother Clarence's wife, were 
heiresses of all the vast possessions of their father, the 
King-maker. Clarence would be a heavy loser by this, and 
his wrath something worth witnessing. Well, Clarence 
would have to be dealt with. 

But it was wonderful ! It amazed Richard himself. 
*' What ! I who killed both her husband and her father, to 
take her so in the moment of her bitterest hate, with curses 
in her mouth, with tears in her eyes, over the very body of 
Henry ; with God and her conscience and all these witnesses 
against me, and I with nothing to back my suit but the 
sheer devil in me, and a few dissembling glances ; and to 
win nevertheless against every odds! Ha!" He took a 
long breath. He had learnt something a power of mastery 
in him beyond his dreams. He had proved it in these few 
minutes ; and yet, so wonderful was it, he glanced down his 
withered body as though prepared for a surprise there. 
" Has she already forgotten her Edward, young, gallant, 
and royal, whom I stabbed not three months ago? And 
can she condescend to be taken by me poor, limping, 
misshapen me ? Upon my life, I must be mistaken in my 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 265 

person. She must find me a marvellous good - looking 
fellow. I wish / could ; but it seems I must buy a looking- 
glass." 

But if he meant to marry Anne there would be Clarence 
to reckon with. This would not be hard. In his heart 
Richard despised Clarence wholly. Richard, with all his 
faults, had ever stood loyally by Edward's fortunes ; whereas 
Clarence had betrayed him once in a baffled attempt to 
grasp the crown for himself and his children, and was even 
now scheming again. 

This was the card which Clarence held or supposed him 
self to hold. When Edward had first declared his intention 
of marrying Dame Elizabeth Grey, his mother, who (like the 
rest of his kin) hated the match, tried to prevail on a certain 
Lady Elizabeth Lucy to come forward and swear that she 
had been privately married by the king. When it came to 
the point, however, the lady had to admit that the contract 
was not a regular one. Of course if it could be proved 
valid, Edward's second marriage would be void and his 
children illegitimate, and the crown on his death must go by 
law to his next brother Clarence and to Clarence's heirs. 
That there was more in it than Edward owned was made 
the likelier by his touchiness on the subject ; which went so 
far that once having heard that a London grocer who plied 
his business under the sign of " The Crown " had jestingly 
spoken of his son as " heir to the Crown," he had the 
unhappy tradesman hanged for his joke. 

So when Clarence became troublesome, Richard had to 
his hand an easy means of removing him. He had simply 
to go to the King and report that his brother was prying 
into this business and raking up the old scandal. Edward, 
who as he felt his end near grew more angrily suspicious 
than ever of any hint against his children's legitimacy, was 
worked into a greater rage by the production of a prophecy 
which said that " G " should disinherit the King's heirs. 
Now Clarence's name was George, and George begins with 



266 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

a G. (So, by the way, does Gloucester, but Richard did 
not point this out.) As for the Queen and her kinsfolk, 
they were furious, as was only natural. 

" So much the better," thought Richard ; " Master 
Clarence, when he suffers, will put it down to them and 
never suspect me." 

Everything fell out as he planned. Clarence was arrested 
and marched off to the Tower. 

Richard lay in wait for him on his way thither and 
expressed a painful surprise. " This is the Queen's that 
woman Grey's work, with her pestilent kin," he declared ; 
and when told by Sir Robert Brakenbury, Lieutenant of 
the Tower, that speech with the prisoner could not be 
allowed, " We are the Queen's abjects," sneered he, slurring 
over the two words so that Brakenbury might hear it as 
" the Queen's subjects " if he chose : " we must obey " ; and 
he sent Clarence away with a promise that he would leave 
no stone unturned to obtain a release. Having watched 
him down the street he hurried to the palace where Edward, 
sick and alarmed, desired his presence, hoping to reconcile 
him with the Queen and her party so that when the end 
came they should all stand together and support the young 
heir to the throne. 

Could the King have looked into the antechamber where 
presently they assembled he might have known how vain 
was that hope. The Queen was there, restless with appre 
hension ; her brother, Earl Rivers ; her two sons by her 
first marriage Thomas, newly created Marquis of Dorset, 
and Richard, knighted as Sir Richard Grey. With them 
were Hastings, the Lord Chamberlain, but newly released 
from an imprisonment he owed to the Queen's hatred; 
Buckingham, Richard's most thorough-going and least 
scrupulous supporter, himself of the blood-royal by descent 
from Edward III.'s youngest son Thomas of Woodstock; 
and Stanley, Earl of Derby, a politic peer with an oppor 
tunity ahead and waiting for him. For out of the wreckage 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 267 

of the House of Lancaster there survived only one child, 
for the time safe in Brittany, who might in time be able to 
challenge the right of the House of York to the throne. 
This was the young Henry, Earl of Richmond, son of 
Edmund Tudor and Margaret Beaufort, and through her 
descended from John of Gaunt.* And on Edmund Tudor's 
death Stanley had married the widow T . But as yet he 
served the House of York, not guessing the fortune in store 
for his stepson. 

Such was the incongruous company found by Richard in 
the anteroom. His line for the moment lay in a fine show 
of grievance against the Queen and her kinsfolk (as if they, 
and not he, had compassed Clarence's ruin), and before such 
hearers as Buckingham and Hastings he could afford to let 
them feel the rough side of his tongue. " A pretty state of 
things," he grumbled, " this tittle-tattling to the King ! Who 
are they who spread such complaints ? Cannot a plain man 
go his own way and think no harm of anybody, but his 
honest meaning must be abused by a lot of sly, insinuating 
upstarts." 

" To whom in the room is Your Grace speaking ?" Rivers 
incautiously asked. 

" To thee," snapped Richard. " And to thee and to 
thee," turning from one to another of the Queen's party ; 
and, fairly started, he rated them high and low for a set of 
low-born vulgar schemers until, after a worse taunt than the 
rest, the Queen protested she would stand it no longer ; she 
would acquaint the King with these gross insults ; she had 
rather be a country serving-maid than a queen on such terms. 

But while they scolded there had stolen into the room a 
dark figure which, unperceived by them, hung back against 
the dim arras. It might have been taken for a ghost. In a 
sense it was indeed a ghost the spectre of a terrible past 
crept back from exile Margaret, once Queen of England. 
And yet it was no longer Margaret; no longer the fierce 

* See Genealogical Table (Appendix) . 



268 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

woman who had traversed England with troops and banners 
battling desperately for her child ; nor even a childless 
widowed woman ; but a body from which love, hope, 
ambition had departed, leaving only hate, to burn in the 
wasted frame and keep it alive. She in whose arms, years 
ago, the ambitious Suffolk had prayed to die, had now no 
interest tying her to earth but to stand by and gloat over 
Heaven's vengeance. Upon all in the room lay the shadow 
of that vengeance ; from each in turn the penalty would be 
exacted ; and while they bickered she cursed each in turn 
under her breath, and having done, stepped forward before 
their faces. " Hear me, you wrangling pirates ! you that 
fall out in sharing what you have pillaged from me. Yes, 
tremble ; if not as subjects before their reigning queen, then 
as rebels before their deposed one 

Richard was the first to recover speech. " Foul, wrinkled 
witch ! what hath brought thee here ? Wast thou not 
banished on pain of death ?" 

" I was, but for me death has no pains." She turned 
from one to another. " Where is my husband ? my son ? 
my kingdom ? Yours should be the sorrows I bear." 

" Thou bearest the curse laid on thee by my father in that 
hour when thou didst crown him in mockery and offer, to 
dry his tears, the kerchief steeped in his child's innocent 
blood. God, not any of us, has scourged thee." And all 
forgot for a moment their quarrels and joined in cursing 
their common enemy. 

" What ! You were snarling, all of you, till I came. 
You were ready to fly at each other's throat, and now you 
turn all your hatred upon me ! Curse, can you ? and believe 
your curses reach the ear of Heaven ? Nay, then, listen 
to mine." She faced upon the Queen, " May Edward thy 
son, now Prince of Wales, die for Edward my son who was 
Prince of Wales and die young and by violence ! Mayst 
thou outlive thy queenly glory as I have done, and live long 
to lament thy children as I lament mine ; live, as I live, to 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 269 

see another decked in thy rights, and so end neither mother, 
nor wife, nor Queen of England ! Rivers and Dorset, you 
stood by and you, too, my Lord Hastings when my boy 
was stabbed. I pray God that none of you live to reach 
your natural end !" 

" Have done !" Richard commanded. 

" What, and leave thee out ? Stay, thou dog, for thou 
shall hear me. If God have in His store any punishment 
exceeding the worst I can wish for thee, I pray Him to keep 
it until thy sins be ripe and then visit thee, thou troubler of 
the peace of this poor world ! May the worm of conscience 
then gnaw thy soul ; mayst thou suspect thy friends for 
traitors, and take traitors for thy friends ; let no sleep visit 
thee save with dreams of devils in torment thou twisted, 
monstrous, rooting hog, sealed at thy birth to be hell's own 
son ! Thou 

Richard alone had courage to interrupt her curse with a 
jeering laugh ; the others cowered before her. " Have 
done !" protested Buckingham ; " for shame if not for 
charity's sake !" 

She turned upon him, too, but without anger. " I have 
no quarrel with thee, princely Buckingham. Fair befal thee 
and thy house ! Only beware of yonder dog " she pointed 
a finger at Richard " When he fawns, he bites ; when he 
bites his tooth is poisonous, and the wound mortal. Beware, 
have not to do with him ; for sin, death, hell, have set their 
marks on him, and all their ministers wait on him. What ?" 
for Buckingham shrugged his shoulders " you scorn my 
warning ? O, but remember it in the day coming when he 
shall split your heart with sorrow ! Then say that Margaret 
was a prophetess!" In one long final gaze of hatred she 
gathered up all the others. " To Richard's hate I commit 
you, and Richard to yours, and all of you to God's !" 

They stared after her in silence, or muttering that such 
curses made the hair stand on end. " Poor soul !" Richard 
heaved a sigh, " she hath been heavily wronged, and I repent 



270 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

my share in her wrongs." The others suspected no mockery 
in his creaking voice. " I never did her any wrong to my 
knowledge," the Queen protested. "But you have all 
profited by her wrongs," Richard answered. " For my 
part I was too hasty to help someone who seems to have 
forgotten my help; while as for Clarence" he sighed 
again" he is near his reward. May God pardon them 
who are to blame for it !" 

With this most Christian conclusion, while the others 
passed into the sick King's room, Richard lingered to give 
audience to two ruffians whom he had kept in waiting. In 
a few words he gave them their instructions, with the 
warrant for Clarence's death, and then he too passed into 
the sick-chamber. 

In his cell in the Tower Clarence still trusted that Richard 
would gain his release. He guessed nothing of this 
treachery, or of the doom surely approaching. Yet horrible 
dreams haunted his sleep. " O," he confessed to Braken- 
bury, who came in the morning to wake him, " I have passed 
a miserable night ! a night of dreams so hideous, so full of 
dismal terror, that, as I am a Christian, I would not spend 
such another were it to purchase a whole world of happy 
days." 

Brakenbury begged him to recount his dream. 

" I dreamed," said Clarence, " I had broken from the 
Tower here and taken ship to cross over to Burgundy ; and 
that my brother Gloucester was with me, and tempted me 
from my cabin to walk on the hatches, on the poop. Stand 
ing there we looked back upon England, and called up in 
talk the thousand times we had stood in peril during the 
wars between York and Lancaster. As we paced side by 
side on that giddy foothold methought Gloucester stumbled, 
and in falling, as I tried to save him, struck me overboard 
into the billows. God ! what pain it seemed to drown ! 
What dreadful noise of waters roared in my ears ! What 
ugly shapes of death passed in my eyes ! Brakenbury ! I 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 271 

saw there a thousand fearful wrecks ten thousand bodies of 
men on whom the fishes were gnawing wedges of solid 
gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl, gems, and jewels 
beyond price scattered on the floor of the sea. Some of 
these lay in dead men's skulls, shining in the sockets where 
eyes had been, and leering on the dead bones strewn by them 
along the slimy bottom." 

" What ! In the moment of death you had leisure to mark 
these things." 

" It seemed so ; and often I strove to yield up the ghost, 
but the flood held in my soul, and would not suffer it to 
escape forth on the empty wandering air, though I choked 
and panted to cast it free. Nor with this was the horror 
ended. For when my soul at length burst free and passed 
across the ferry of death and stood shivering and strange on 
the dark bank beyond, the first to greet me was my great 
father-in-law, Warwick ; and he cried aloud, ' What scourge 
can hell afford for Clarence, perjured Clarence ?' So he 
vanished : and then came wandering by a shade like an 
angel, with bright hair dabbled in blood, and lifted a thin 
voice crying, ' Clarence is come ! False, fleeting, perjured 
Clarence is come, who stabbed me in the field beside 
Tewkesbury ! Furies, seize on Clarence and drag him to 
your torments !' And with that a legion of foul devils were 
about me howling in my ears so shrilly that with the noise I 
awoke trembling, and for a while could not believe but that 
1 was truly in hell." 

" My lord, I cannot marvel that you were frightened ; for 
it frights me even to hear." 

" O Brakenbury," groaned Clarence, " I have done those 
things, which now bear witness against my soul, for my 
brother Edward's sake. See how he requites me ! Yet, O 
God, if my prayers come too late to appease Thee, and for 
me there is no forgiveness yet spare my innocent wife and 
my poor children !" He begged Brakenbury to sit by 
him; and Brakenbury drew a chair beside the bed and 



272 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

watched until the eyes of the unhappy man closed and he 
slept. 

Brakenbury was still watching when the sound of a harsh 
voice startled and fetched him to his feet. In the open 
doorway of the cell stood two ruffianly-looking men. "In 
God's name," the Lieutenant asked, " what are you, and how 
came you hither ?" They handed him a warrant. It briefly 
commanded him to deliver over to the bearers the person of 
the Duke of Clarence. " I must not ask," said he, " what is 
meant by this " though he knew only too well. " Here are 
my keys ; there lies the Duke sleeping." He left to report 
to the King that he had resigned his charge. 

" Shall we stab him while he sleeps ?" They were in two 
minds how to do it when Clarence awoke and sat up, rubbing 
his eyes. " Keeper, a cup of wine !" he called ; and his eyes 
falling on the intruders, he demanded, as Brakenbury had 
done, " In God's name, who are you ? Who sent you 
hither, and why?" As his eyes sought theirs and the two 
men stammered, he read their purpose. " To murder me ?" 

" Ay, ay," growled the pair. 

" But how, friends, have I offended you ?" 

" You have not offended us, but the King." 

" I shall be reconciled to him." 

" Never, my lord. You had best prepare to die." 

" But what is my offence ?" the Duke pleaded. They 
could answer little but that they were obeying the King's 
orders. " I love my brother Edward," he insisted. " If you 
are hired to do this thing, go back, seek out my brother 
Gloucester. He shall pay you better for my life than ever 
the King will to hear of my death." 

" You are deceived," said the softer-hearted of the two. 
" Your brother Gloucester hates you." 

But Clarence would not believe this. " When I parted 
with him he hugged me in his arms, and with sobs swore 
that he would labour to set me at liberty." 

" My lord, make your peace with God," commanded the 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 273 

sterner ruffian. But the other was moved by pity and more 
than half regretted his errand. Clarence read this in his 
looks and turned to him with a piteous appeal, thus giving 
his back to the resolute one, who crept up knife in hand. 
" Look behind you, my lord !" cried the man he addressed. 
But it was too late. Before Clarence could turn, the knife 
entered his back and he dropped without another word. In 
the next room there stood a butt full of Malmsey wine. 
"He called for wine," said the murderer grimly ; " and he 
shall have it." He dragged out the body and plunged it 
into the butt. The other stood conscience-stricken. " Take 
the full fee," he told his comrade ; " I will have none of it." 

Nor was he alone in repenting the deed. Edward, feeling 
his end near, had already sent to revoke his warrant. He 
wished to die in peace with all men, and to leave them in 
peace one with another; and the court factions had met 
beside his bed and been reconciled, at any rate to all 
appearances. Hastings had shaken hands and embraced 
with Rivers, Dorset and the Queen. Buckingham, conjured 
by Edward to join this league of amity, had sworn to the 
Queen an oath which she and he had afterwards good cause 
to recall. " Madam," said he, " if ever I fail to cherish you 
and yours with all duteous love, may God punish me with 
the hatred of those to whom I look for love ! When I have 
sorest need of a friend and turn to him most confidently, 
may he prove hollow, treacherous, guileful. This is my 
prayer to God if ever I am cold in zeal to you or yours." 

While he spoke, Gloucester entered ; and he too entreated 
to be friends with all assembled. " I do not know an English 
man living with whom I have more quarrel than a new 
born infant. I thank God for my humility," he concluded 
unctuously. Said the Queen, " This shall be kept hereafter 
as a holy day. I would to Heaven that all quarrels were 
healed, and I beseech your Majesty to take our brother 
Clarence back to your loving favour." 

Richard gave a start of well-feigned indignant surprise. 

18 



274 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

" Madam, have I offered love for this to be mocked in the 
King's own presence ? Which of you knows not that 
Clarence is dead ?" It was now their turn to start. There 
was not one in the room but turned pale at the word. " You 
should not insult a corpse," he added quietly. 

" Dead ?" " Clarence dead ?" They stared at each other. 

" Clarence dead ?" gasped the dying King. " But the 
order was reversed." 

" Ay, my lord : but the second messenger ran too slowly. 
God grant that some, less noble than he and less loyal, 
nearer in thoughts of bloodshed if not so near in blood, 
deserve no worse than poor Clarence and yet escape 
suspicion !" 

Now while they yet stood aghast, Lord Stanley came 
hurriedly into the presence-chamber and without observing 
their faces cast himself at the King's feet. He had a boon 
to beg. A servant of his had slain a gentleman in the 
Duke of Norfolk's service, and he had come hastily to plead 
for the man. 

" Oh, peace !" groaned the King. " Canst thou not see 
that my soul is full of sorrow ?" But Stanley could not see 
how untimely his interruption was, and refused to rise. 
Edward groaned again. " And I who doomed my brother 
to death must with the same tongue pronounce pardon on a 
slave ! My brother slew no man ; yet he is dead, and who 
sued for his pardon ? Who kneeled at my feet and bade my 
rage be better advised ? Who spoke of brotherhood or of 
love ? Who reminded me how the poor soul forsook Warwick 
to fight for me ? or how he rescued me at Tewkesbury from 
under Oxford's sword ? or of the night when we lay side by 
side in the open field, half -frozen, and he plucked off his own 
garments and wrapped me in them while he shivered ? All 
this my wrath took from my remembrance, and not a man 
of you had the grace to put me in mind of it. But when 
your carters or serving-men have done some drunken murder 
and defaced Christ's image, then you are on your knees at 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 275 

once crying 'Pardon, pardon'; and I, as unjust as you, 
must grant it ! But for my brother not one of you had a 
word ; no, nor had I a word to plead with myself for poor 
Clarence. God, I fear Thy justice will seize on us and on 
ours for this !" And moaning, " Clarence ! O poor Clarence !" 
Edward was borne to his chamber, never to leave it alive. 

The Queen herself carried the news of his death a few 
days later to the old Duchess of York, Edward's mother, 
as she sat in her own apartments mourning for her other son 
Clarence, with Clarence's children beside her. Elizabeth's 
younger boy, Richard Duke of York, was at home in 
London ; but the elder, Edward Prince of Wales and now 
heir to the throne, had been sent to Ludlow Castle in 
Shropshire. Thence he must now be fetched home to be 
crowned, and Gloucester, who had whispered his plans to 
Buckingham, undertook this duty. " We had better bring 
him with a small escort," Buckingham suggested. 

" Why with a small escort ?" asked Rivers. 

" Because, my lord, in times so unsettled a multitude 
would merely provoke enemies and give them moreover a 
dangerous suspicion that we are afraid." 

" I hope," put in Richard with meaning, " the King made 
peace between all of us. I at any rate abide by my pledged 
word." 

Rivers agreed. " Yes, as you say, a big escort would 
suggest strife, and so I vote with my lord of Buckingham 
for a small one." He was the better pleased that this small 
escort included by arrangement all the young prince's uncles 
himself and Grey as well as Gloucester. And so they 
set out. 

But two of the uncles never returned. While the Queen 
sat expecting news at Westminster, and with her Arch 
bishop Rotherham of York, the Chancellor, waiting to 
surrender the Great Seal to the new King, there arrived 
a messenger with the heavy news that Rivers, Grey, and 
Sir Thomas Vaughan, another kinsman of the Woodvilles, 

lS2 



276 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

had been arrested at Northampton and sent under guard 
northward to Pomfret Castle. Richard and Buckingham 
had struck their first blow. At once Elizabeth's heart told 
er of other and worse blows to come. " I see the downfall 
of all our house," cried she ; and taking the Seal from the 
hands of the Archbishop she fled with her younger son to the 
Abbey for sanctuary. 

The young King was sad and dispirited as he drew near 
the capital, as though he felt himself stepping into the 
shadow of doom. He missed his uncles Rivers and Grey. 
" You have not yet fathomed this world's deceit," Gloucester 
assured him ; " those uncles of yours were dangerous. God 
save your Majesty from all such false friends !" 

" God keep me indeed from false friends !" sighed the 
boy ; " but they were none." 

Nor could he hide his dejection when the Lord ]\layor 
came out in full state to welcome him. " I thank you, my 
Lord Mayor, and all of you. I thought my mother and my 
brother w r ould have met us on the way long before this. 
And where is Hastings, who should bring news of them ?" 

At this moment Hastings appeared, but with ill news. 
" Your mother and your brother York have taken sanctuary 
in the Abbey. The young duke wished greatly to come, but 
his mother would not allow it." 

" What peevish caprice is this of the Queen's ?" exclaimed 
Buckingham, and turned to the Archbishop of Canterbury, 
Cardinal Bouchier. " Will your Grace persuade her to send 
the Duke of York at once to the Prince, his brother ? If 
she refuse my Lord Hastings, go you with the Cardinal 
and take the child from her." 

The Cardinal shook his head. " My lord of Buckingham, 
if my weak oratory can persuade her, you may expect the 
Prince ; but I cannot, for all this land is worth, be guilty of 
infringing the holy privilege of sanctuary." 

"You stand too much upon ceremony, my lord Cardinal. 
These times call for blunter methods. The benefit of 



278 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

sanctuary is granted to those who either deserve it or have 
the wit to claim it. But of a child's claiming or deserving 
it I never heard yet." 

The Archbishop accepted the argument and departed on 
his cowardly errand. 

" Say, uncle " the boy- King turned to Gloucester " if our 
brother comes, where will you lodge us until our coronation ?" 

" Wherever your Majesty pleases. If I may advise, 
though, let it be the Tower for a day or two, and thereafter 
in whatever place you choose as best fitting your Majesty's 
health and recreation." 

" I do not like the Tower of all places. Did not Julius 
Caesar build it, my lord ?" 

" He began the building of it, my gracious lord," Bucking 
ham answered ; " later ages have rebuilt and added to it." 

"That Julius Caesar," mused the boy, "was a famous 
man." His eyes brightened; "I'll tell you what, cousin 
Buckingham " 

" What, my gracious lord ?" 

" If I live to be a man, I'll win back our ancient rights in 
France, or else die a soldier !" 

" Short summers have forward springs," muttered 
Gloucester under his breath. 

Young Richard of York, whom Hastings and the Arch 
bishop now brought from the Abbey, was forward in a 
different way. Less melancholy and reflective than his 
brother, he had a sharper tongue, and made no secret of his 
dislike -for his uncle Gloucester, who in return listened to 
his childish, pert sayings and answered them with grim 
humour. " Will it please you to pass along, my lord ?" he 
said at length ; " my cousin Buckingham and I will go to 
your mother and beg her to go to the Tower and welcome 
you there." 

"The Tower!" The poor lad turned to his brother. 
" What, are we to go to the Tower ?" 

" Our uncle will have it so," said Edward sadly. 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 279 

" I shall not sleep quietly in the Tower," young Richard 
declared. 

" Why ? what should you be afraid of ?" asked Gloucester. 

" Marry, of my uncle Clarence's ghost. My grandmother 
told me he was murdered there." 

" That boy is his mother's own child," Gloucester growled, 
as the procession moved on. He would deal with these boys 
in time ; for the moment it sufficed to have them safe under 
lock and key while he turned to a preliminary piece of work. 
Buckingham he was not quite sure how far Buckingham 
would go in the end but Buckingham would help in this. 
He thought he could count too on another accomplice 
present, one Catesby, a lawyer, who had owed his rise to 
Hastings, and was known to have Hastings' confidence. 
Buckingham had already sounded Catesby on Richard's 
behalf, and had assured himself the man was ready to turn 
traitor to his old master ; and now on Richard's behalf he 
put the all-important question, " Will it, think you, be an 
easy matter to persuade Lord Hastings to join us in setting 
the Duke of Gloucester here on the throne ?" 

" It will not," Catesby answered confidently. " The Lord 
Chamberlain loves the young King for his father's sake, and 
cannot be won to move a finger against him." 

" H'm ... and Lord Stanley ?" 

" Lord Stanley will follow Lord Hastings." 

" Well, well, no more of this, then. Go you and sound 
Lord Hastings discreetly, and bid him attend a Council 
to-morrow at the Tower. Be cautious with him and bring 
us word. There will be two Councils to-morrow, Catesby ; 
and you shall have an important share in them." 

"Ay," said Richard, breaking silence at length, "go, 
Catesby ; commend me to my Lord Hastings, and tell him 
from me that his old enemies the Woodvilles will be let 
blood to-morrow at Pomfret Castle." 

Catesby hurried off with a promise to return ere evening 
and report. Buckingham gazed after him. " My lord," he 






280 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

turned to Richard, "what shall we do if Hastings prove 
stubborn ?" 

"Chop off his. head, man," was Richard's short answer. 
" And look you here ; when I am King you may claim of me 
the Earldom of Hereford with its properties which the late 
King, my brother, enjoyed." 

" I will claim that promise," said Buckingham, and the 
pair went off to arrange the plot over supper. 

That night, while Hastings lay asleep, there came a 
knocking at his door and a messenger entered from Lord 
Stanley. Stanley had been troubled by an ugly dream, and 
some news which might or might not be uglier. In his 
dream he had encountered with a wild boar, and the brute 
had shorn away his helm with its tusks. Now a wild boar 
was the Duke of Gloucester's private badge. The news was 
that two Councils had been determined on for the morrow. 
" My master," said the messenger, " fears that one Council 
may determine that which may make him and you rue 
attending the other ; and he sends to know if you will take 
horse at once and post northward with him out of danger." 

Hastings laughed at these fears. " Return to your master 
and bid him not be afraid of these separate Councils. He 
and I will attend the one, and my servant Catesby the other, 
who may be trusted to report anything which concerns us. 
His dream is a foolish one. Bid him rise and come to me 
and we will go to the Tower together." 

The messenger had scarcely departed when Catesby entered. 

" Ha, Catesby ? You are an early riser. What news of 
this tottering state of ours ?" 

" It is a tottering state indeed," said Catesby gravely; and 
then with a sharp look at his master, " I believe it will 
never stand upright again until Richard wear the crown of 
England." 

"How! Richard the King of England? I'll lose my 
head first. Is that what he aims at, think you ?" 

" I am sure of it ; and, moreover, he hopes for your good 



KING RfCHARD THE THIRD 281 

help, and on the strength of it sends you word that this very 
day your enemies, the Queen's kinsmen, are to die at Pomfret." 

" Well, I am not sorry to hear it ; they were always my 
enemies. But if Richard thinks I'll help him to oust my 
late master's true heirs, God knows I'll die sooner." 

"And may God keep your lordship in that mind," said 
Catesby. Hastings suspected no irony. His mind was 
running on the fate of his old enemies. " I shall laugh at 
this a year hence. To think that those who once thrust 
me out of my master's favour have come to this, and I live to 
see it. Catesby, I tell thee that before I'm a fortnight older 
I shall send some folks packing who little expect it." 

" It is a vile thing to die, my lord," said Catesby musingly, 
" when it takes men unprepared." 

But the confident Hastings still suspected nothing. 
Indeed for a moment he saw no bearing in the remark. 
" Eh ? Oh, monstrous, monstrous ! And so it happened to 
Rivers and Vaughan and Grey ; and so it will happen 
mark my words with some others who think themselves as 
secure as you and I, friends as we are with Richard and 
Buckingham." He looked up to welcome Lord Stanley, 
who entered at this moment, and to rally him. " Come on, 
come on ; why, man, where is your boar-spear ?" 

" Good-morrow, my lord ; good-morrow, Catesby. You 
may jest as you will," said Stanley, " but for my part I don't 
like these separate Councils." 

But Hastings pooh-poohed his fears, even when reminded 
that the Queen's kinsmen had been jocund and confident too 
as they rode from London. He set forth in the highest 
spirits. On his way to the Tower he ran against a pursuivant 
who had once escorted him prisoner along this very road. 
" I am in better case, man, than when last I met thee. 
Then I was going to prison through the malice of the 
Queen's party ; to-day hark ye, and keep it to yourself 
those enemies are to die and I am in better state than ever." 
He flung the fellow a purse. A little further he met a 



282 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

priest, and stopped to arrange with him for a service in his 
private chapel. Buckingham coming along the street just 
then found them conferring. 

"What, talking with a priest, my Lord Chamberlain? 
Your friends at Pomfret will be needing a priest this 
morning ; but you surely have no need for shriving." 

" Faith now," said Hastings, as they walked on towards 
the Tower together, " when I met the holy man those you 
mention came into my head." 

Up in Yorkshire in the same cold dawn, Rivers, Grey, 
and Vaughan were being led out to die ; Rivers calm, Grey 
reviling, Vaughan prophesying a retribution to come, but 
all remembering Margaret's curse and hugging in their last 
hour the remembrance that with them she had cursed others 
Hastings, Buckingham, Richard . . . " O God, remember 
her prayers for them as for us !" 

In London the Council the second Council had met. 
Buckingham, Hastings, Stanley were there, with Morton, 
Bishop of Ely, Ratcliffand Lovel (two partisans of Richard), 
and others. Richard himself was late, and they fell to 
business without him. They had to decide on the young 
King's coronation ; or, rather (said Hastings, coming to the 
point at once), to fix the day for it. 

" Is everything ready for it ?" asked Buckingham casually. 

" Certainly," answered Stanley, reading no second mean 
ing in the question ; " the day only needs to be named." 

" To-morrow, then, seems to me none too soon," said 
Bishop Morton. 

Buckingham glanced round. " I wonder now if any one 
knows the Lord Protector's mind on this matter ? Who is 
most in the Duke of Gloucester's secrets ?" 

" We think your Grace should know his mind sooner than 
any one," said Morton. 

" Who ? I ? He and I know each other's faces, my 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 283 

lord ; but as for our hearts, he knows no more of mine than 
I do of yours ; nor I more of his than you of mine," and 
this was truer than the speaker guessed. " Lord Hastings, 
you have his loving confidence." 

" Well, I believe so," agreed that deluded man. " It is 
true that I have not sounded him on this matter ; but if you 
will name the time, my lords, I will take it on myself to 
agree in the Duke's name and feel sure he will approve." 

But at this moment Richard appeared in the doorway 
with a smile on his face. With an apology and a light 
compliment to Hastings, he turned towards the Bishop, 
" My lord, when last I was in Holborn I saw some famous 
strawberries there in your garden. Might I beg you to send 
for some ?" 

"With all my heart," said the Bishop, and went off to 
give the order. No sooner was his back turned than 
Richard drew Buckingham aside and whispered to him 
what he had heard from Catesby that Hastings would not 
join them against the young King. The pair left the 
Council together. 

So when Bishop Morton returned, having sent for the 
strawberries, he looked around and inquired what had 
become of the Lord Protector. " He looks in good temper 
to-day, does he not?" said Hastings; "I believe there's no 
man whose face hides his love or hatred less than his Grace 
of Gloucester's." The fond man was rubbing his hands 
with satisfaction when Richard and Buckingham came 
hurriedly back into the room, and this time Richard's face 
was twisted with passion. "Tell me" his vicious eye 
swept the Council " what do they deserve who are caught 
planning devilish witchcraft against me, and have actually 
prevailed upon my body with their hellish charms ?" 

In the general astonishment, Hastings was the first to find 
his tongue. " The love I bear your Grace makes me most 
favoured to speak. I say that such persons deserve death." 

" See here, then." Richard pulled up his sleeve and 



284 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

showed his withered arm ; he was making his deformity 
help him now. " See this arm of mine shrivelled up like a 
blasting sapling ! It is Edward's wife who hath done this 
that monstrous witch !" 

"If they have done this, my lord " stammered Hastings. 

"/// Thou talkest of <ifs'! Thou art a traitor! 
Lovel and Ratcliff, off with this fellow's head! By St. 
Paul, I will not dine till I see it. You that are my friends 
here, rise and follow me !" 

He dashed from the room. Too late the befooled man 
saw the trap, and repented his vain confidence, and called 
out upon his murderers. With a brutal jest, Ratcliff and 
Lovel hurried him to the block. Meanwhile Richard and 
Buckingham had sent Catesby in hot haste for the Lord 
Mayor, and employed the interval in disfiguring their clothes 
until they looked like men under some blight of witchcraft. 
The Lord Mayor came hurrying as fast as his legs would 
bring him, and not in the least knowing why he was 
summoned. They called to him from the walls, and claimed 
his protection. They were in danger victims of a plot. 
"Look behind thee !" called Richard, as the Lord Mayor 
halted by the drawbridge completely puzzled. " Here are 
enemies !" But the newcomers were Lovel and Ratcliff 
bearing the head of the unhappy Hastings. Richard heaved 
a mock sigh of relief. "I loved the man so dearly, I 
must weep. I took him for the plainest, most harmless 

creature " Buckingham caught up the cue : "He was 

the subtlest most covert traitor that ever lived ! Would 
you believe it, my Lord Mayor, were it not that by a 
miracle we have escaped to tell it, that traitor had plotted to 
murder me and the good Duke of Gloucester to-day in the 
Council-house." 

"Eh? What? Had he indeed?" The Lord Mayor 
could only stammer astonishment. 

" What ? Can you think for a moment we would have 
had the villain executed without form of law had not the 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 285 

instant peril to us and the peace of England compelled us ?" 
Richard was virtuously indignant. 

" Dear me, dear me ! No doubt you did well and he 
deserved it," agreed the Lord Mayor. 

"And yet," Richard went on, "we had not intended that 
he should die until your lordship should be present to witness 
his death. The zealous rage of our friends here somewhat 
outrun our intention. We wished,, my lord, that you should 
hear him confess his treason, and report to the citizens, who 
may perhaps misconstrue what we have done." 

" Not at all," said this very foolish Lord Mayor. " Your 
Grace's word shall serve as well as though I had been here 
and heard him confess. Be assured I will acquaint our 
dutiful citizens with the step you have justly taken." And 
he departed on his errand.. 

Now was the moment for action. The pair had prepared 
their plans well and almost too well, since it was discovered 
later that although the indictment of Hastings was published 
within five hours after his arrest, the scrivener employed to 
draw it up had done his work so elaborately and in such 
beautiful penmanship that the veriest child could see it had 
taken twice that time at least to prepare, and therefore that 
the whole plot must have been arranged not long beforehand. 
But just now men did stop to think. Richard was ready 
with his trump-card Edward's early contract of marriage 
and the consequent illegitimacy of the two young Princes. 
He was of course too clever to play it himself. He sent 
Buckingham off on the Lord Mayor's heels to hint it to the 
assembled citizens in the Guildhall ; he had provided 
eloquent preachers notably two named Doctor Shaw and 
Friar Penker to proclaim it publicly ; and having fired the 
train he withdrew quietly to his mother's house, Baynard's 
Castle by the Thames' side, to await results and plan a 
further piece of villainy which he doubted might be too 
strong even for Buckingham. 

And yet the business did not proceed quite so smoothly as 



286 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

he had hoped. Buckingham in the Guildhall cast away 
reserve, and spoke boldly of Edward's early contract of 
marriage, winding up with " God save King Richard !" 
but the citizens were dumb. They desired above all things 
peace ; they feared that under a boy-king the country must 
be torn by new dissensions; the Wars of the Roses had 
exhausted and wearied them utterly. It would be a blessing 
to be ruled by a strong man. And yet they had liked Edward 
and guessed that injustice was intended against his children. 

Buckingham demanded the reason why they kept silence. 
The Lord Mayor answered that the citizens were accustomed 
to be addressed through the City Recorder, and did not 
understand being talked to by a stranger. So the Recorder - 
was brought forward and rehearsed the arguments, not as 
his own, but as Buckingham's, speaking in his most formal 
voice " The Duke says this," " The Duke argues so and 
so." At the conclusion some hired followers of Buckingham 
at the lower end of the hall tossed up their caps and cheered 
for Richard. It was little enough, but Buckingham made 
the most of it. " Thanks, my friends thanks, gentle 
citizens !" said he, bowing ; " this general applause proves 
your wise affection for Richard," and with this he managed 
to bring the Lord Mayor with a considerable following to 
Baynard's Castle. 

The position was ticklish ; but the pair were clever enough 
to save it. When the Lord Mayor craved audience, Richard 
at first sent Catesby to refuse it. The Duke of Gloucester 
(so ran the message) was at his devotions with two reverend 
fathers of the Church. He was loth to be disturbed on a 
matter of worldly business. Could not his lordship defer it 
to some other day ? Buckingham sent Catesby again with 
word that the matter was urgent, and used the interval to 
dwell on Richard's godly graces so different from the idle 
wantonness of their late King ! At length, with feigned 
reluctance, Richard made his appearance on a balcony 
above, standing between two bishops and with a book of 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 287 

prayer in his hand. This mightily impressed the Lord 
Mayor. Buckingham began with an apology for interrupt 
ing his Grace's devotion, and went on to press him to accede 
to the popular wish and accept the crown. Gloucester 
gravely rebuked him. He would depart in silence, but for 
the fear that his silence might be misconstrued. He thanked 
them for their affectionate zeal ; but felt himself unworthy 
of it. He was poor-spirited, perhaps ; conscious of his 
defects, at any rate. But, thank God ! he was not needed. 
The late King had left an heir young, no doubt, but time 
might be trusted to better that. And in short he would not 
wrest the child's right from him. 

Buckingham plunged into a speech arguing against young 
Edward's legitimacy, and wound up by offering the crown 
again. The Lord Mayor joined in the petition. Again 
Richard refused. " Then whether you accept or no, your 
nephew shall never reign King of England. Come, citizens ; 
I'll entreat him no more !" Buckingham flounced out with an 
oath. " Nay, my lord of Buckingham, do not swear,"- 
Richard was piously shocked hurt even. Well, Bucking 
ham was gone ; but Catesby and others implored the arch- 
hypocrite to call him back. " Will you force me to bear 
this grievous burden ?" he sighed. Buckingham was recalled, 
and came with his following. 

" Cousin, and you other sage, grave men, since you will 
bind this load upon me, I must find patience to bear it. 
Should scandal arise from my acceptance, remember that 
you forced it on me. For God knows, and you in a measure 
must see, how far I am from desiring it." 

The Mayor and his silly crowd waved their hats and, led 
by Buckingham, cheered for King Richard. He should be 
crowned on the morrow, Buckingham proposed. " When 
you please, since you will have it your own way," said 
Richard ; and turning to the bishops " Come, it is time we 
applied ourselves again to our holy task." 

Early next morning two separate trains of ladies met at 



288 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

the Tower gate. They were on the one side the Queen and 
the old Duchess of York, escorted by the Queen's son, 
Dorset ; and on the other the Lady Anne, now Richard's 
wife, leading with her the young daughter of Clarence, 
Both companies had come to wish joy to the young Princes; 
both were ignorant of what had happened at Baynard's 
Castle. 

Brakenbury came out to meet them. " Pardon, madam,' 
said he, addressing the Queen, " I may not allow you to 
visit the Princes. The King has given strict orders to the 
contrary." 

" The King ! why, who's that ?" 

"Your pardon, madam, again I should have said the 
Lord Protector." 

" The Lord protect him from being King ! I am their 
mother." 

" And I their father's mother," said the Duchess. 

"And I, "said Anne, " their aunt-in-law, but I love them 
as a mother. Take us to them, sir, and I will take to myself 
the blame." 

Still Brakenbury shook his head; and, looking up, the 
ladies were aware that Lord Stanley stood before them with 
a message to deliver. 

" Madam," said Stanley, addressing Anne, " I am sent to 
conduct you to Westminster, there to be crowned Richard's 
Queen." 

Then Elizabeth understood. For the moment half-stunned 
by the news, she recovered, and turned on her son, Dorset. 
" Fly !" she panted. " Thou too art my child, and my name 
is ominous to my children. Quick cross the seas and seek 
shelter with Richmond. Fly from this slaughter-house, lest 
thou be added to the number of the dead, and I bow to the 
full curse of Margaret, and die neither Queen nor wife nor 
mother." 

" Wisely counselled," said Stanley. " Make haste, my 
lord, and you shall take from me letters to my son Rich- 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 289 

mond." He turned to Anne, " We too must hasten, madam 
to Westminster." 

And the poor lady went unwillingly enough, unenvied even 
by the Queen whom she was to supersede. " Ah," she 
confessed, " when beside Henry's corpse I set eyes on the 
man who is now my husband, I cursed him and the woman 
who should marry him. * May she be made wretched as I 
am wretched,' I prayed ; and before I could repeat it his 
tongue had beguiled me and I had basely surrendered to 
be his wife to inherit my own curse ; I swear to you that 
never since then have I enjoyed one quiet hour, one hour of 
easy slumber beside him. He hates me ; soon, I know, he 
will murder me." 

So they parted; one to be crowned, the other to forget 
that ever she had been a Queen, yet the one as heavy of heart 
as the other. The old Duchess after eighty years of calamity 
was almost past grieving. As they started to go their sorrow 
ful ways Elizabeth suddenly stood still, " Stay," she cried, 
" look once back with me !" She pointed towards the walls 
of the Tower. " O have pity, you ancient stones, on those 
tender babes by envy immured behind you. Rough cradle 
are you for such little pretty ones. Harsh and rugged nurse 
old and sullen playfellow ah, use my babies kindly !" 

So Richard had reached his ambition, and was King of 
England ; yet he could not feel safe while the boy lived who 
was King by right. Would Buckingham help him to get 
rid of Edward ? Richard was not sure. He dropped a hint 
or two, eyeing his fellow-conspirator stealthily ; but somehow 
Buckingham was less quick than usual in taking a hint. 
Perhaps he was considering that the time had come to be 
thinking of his own reward. 

" Cousin," said Richard sharply, " you were not wont to 
be so dull. Must I say it plainly ? Well then, I wish the 
boys dead, and quickly. What say you ? Come promptly, 
man !" 

19 



290 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

" Your Grace may do as you please," Buckingham 
answered evasively. 

" Tut, tut ; your zeal must be cooling. Yes or no, do you 
consent to their death ?" 

" Your Grace must give me time some little time- 
before I can answer positively. I will think of it and bring 
my answer without delay," and so Buckingham made his 
escape. 

Richard frowned. " H'm ; ambitious Buckingham is 
growing circumspect." It was as he had more than half 
guessed. There were limits to Buckingham's wickedness, 
and he lacked either the heart or the nerve for this. Richard 
took account of all the dangers ahead. To begin with, there 
were the Princes; well, he could manage them without 
Buckingham's help. But their death would leave the 
succession to their sister, the young Princess Elizabeth;, 
and after her came Clarence's children, a boy and a girl. 
The boy was half-witted and not dangerous ; the girl could 
be married to some one of mean birth, which would keep 
her out of the way. But what about young Elizabeth ? 
He considered, and his brow cleared. Why might he not 
marry her himself ? She was his niece, and he had a wife 
living. Well, Anne must die. He called Catesby, and 
ordered him to have it rumoured about that she was danger 
ously ill he would see to the rest. Even Catesby was 
staggered, but obeyed. 

Trn's marriage with a niece would be monstrous. " Murder 
her brothers and afterwards marry her !" Richard muttered 
it over in a kind of awe of himself ; but if awed he was not 
afraid. He made inquiry and learned of a man likely to 
suit his purpose a gentleman by birth and byname Tyrrel, 
poor, discontented, and ready to sell his soul for money. 
Richard sent for him. Their conference was short. That 
night Tyrrel, with two accomplices, named Dighton and 
Probyn, entered the Tower and crept to the room where the 
young Princes lay in bed, cheek to cheek, their arms girdling 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 291 

each other, the book of prayers in which they had both been 
reading open on the pillow beside them. The sight almost 
melted the murderers' hearts ; the wretches wept afterwards 
when they told what they had done how they had drawn 
the pillows tight over the young lips and smothered them. 
Tyrrel handed the bodies over to the chaplain of the Tower, 
who buried them secretly, and dying soon afterwards took 
the secret to the grave with him.* 

Tyrrel had scarcely left the King's presence before 
Buckingham returned. He found Richard in talk with 
Stanley, who had come to report that Dorset had escaped to 
join Richmond. 

" My lord," began Buckingham, " I have considered the 
suggestion concerning which you sounded me." 

" Well, well, let that pass," Richard was no longer inter 
ested. " Dorset has escaped to join Richmond." 

" So I hear, my lord," said Buckingham; and would have, 
said more, but the King turned to Stanley. 

" My lord Stanley," said he, " Richmond is your wife's 
son. You had best be careful." 

Buckingham was not rebuffed. " My lord, I have come 
to claim my reward, the Earldom of Hereford, which you 
faithfully promised me." 

" Stanley," pursued Richard, " look to your wife. If she 
be found conveying letters to Richmond you shall answer 
for it." 

" May I have your Highness's answer to my demand ?" 
Buckingham persisted. Richard paid no heed to him, but 
still addressing Stanley began to discuss the prophecy once 
uttered by the unhappy Henry the Sixth that Richmond 
should one day be King of England. 

* Two hundred years later, in 1674, in the course of some alterations 
in the White Tower, the workmen discovered the bones of two children. 
These were at once guessed to be the bones of the two Princes, and by 
Charles II. 's orders they were removed to Westminster Abbey, and 
placed in Henry VII. 's Chapel there. 

I 9 2 



292 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Still Buckingham persevered, until the King turned on 
him sharply : " You annoy me with your interruptions. I 
am not in the giving vein to-day." He walked out and left 
Buckingham standing. "And it was for this I made him 
King!" muttered the disappointed man. Suddenly there 
came into his mind the thought of Hastings of his con 
fidence in Richard's favour, and of his fate. He took horse 
in haste and posted away towards Wales and his manor of 
Brecknock. 

Now Morton, Bishop of Ely, lay in prison in Brecknock, 
having been removed by Richard as an obstacle in his path 
and put there under Buckingham's custody. Prisoner and 
gaoler had now a common cause ; and the bishop presently 
escaped over sea to Richmond, but not before arranging the 
half of a dangerous plot. Buckingham was to raise a revolt 
in Wales ; Richmond to sail from Brittany with an invading 
army, and on reaching England, to confirm his somewhat 
faulty title * to the throne by marrying the young Princess 
Elizabeth. 

We shall see how the revolt fared. As we know, Richard 
had resolved to forestall one dangerous move in the plot by 
marrying the Princess himself ; and before many days had 
gone by the country learned that the unhappy. Anne was no 
longer living. Murders by this time were crowding thick 
and fast. Even Margaret as she haunted the court, hungry 
for revenge, could say that her appetite was almost cloyed. 
Margaret, Elizabeth, the old Duchess these three had 
passed beyond hatred; they could seat themselves on the 
ground together, and recount and compare their woes, too 
far crushed under calamity to bandy reproaches. Only 
Margaret, whose wounds were older, could now and then 
break out into taunts. " Ah, triumph no more in my woes, 
thou wife of Henry !" pleaded Elizabeth : " God is my 

* His Lancastrian descent was derived from John of Gaunt's marriage 
with Katharine Swynford ; and the issue of that marriage had been 
expressly debarred from the succession (see p. 222). 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 293 

witness that I have wept for thine." " Bear with me," 
Margaret answered ; " only Richard remains now, and his 
time is drawing near. Dear God, grant me life until I can 
say that dog is dead !" " Ay, thou didst prophesy the time 
when I should call on thee to help. me in cursing him. Do 
not leave me, thou who art so skilled in cursing ; stay, and 
teach me how to curse." "Shall I teach thee how? Put 
away sleep at night ; fast by day ; compare thy dead 
happiness with thy living woe ; think upon thy lost babes 
deem them fairer than they were, and their destroyer even 
fouler than he is. That," said Margaret, " is the way to 
learn to curse," " My words are dull," wailed Elizabeth ; 
" oh, put life into them with thine !" " Thy woes will make 
them pierce," said Margaret, and left the two women alone. 
While they sat, Richard came by in state, and they lifted 
their accusing voices together " Where is Clarence ? 
Where is young Edward ? Where are Hastings, Rivers, 
Vaughan, Grey?" 

" Silence !" snarled Richard, and turning commanded the 
drums and trumpets to sound and drown their cries. " Now 
then," he said, as the hubbub died down, " either speak to 
me fair or your voices shall be silenced again." 

The old Duchess, his mother, arose and pointed a finger 
at him. " Grievous thy birth was to me ; thy infancy 
peevish and wayward ; thy school-days frightful, desperate, 
furious ; thy prime of manhood daring and venturous ; thy 
full age proud, subtle, bloody, treacherous, milder but more 
dangerous, masking hatred with kindly looks. Canst thou 
name one hour in which I have had joy of thee ? Nay, let 
me speak for the last time. Thou art going to war, and 
either thou wilt die in it, or I shall be dead of age and 
sorrow ere thou returnest. . Therefore take my heaviest 
curse with thee, and in the day of battle may it weigh thee 
down more than thy heaviest armour. My prayers go with 
thy enemies: may the little souls of Edward's children 
whisper success to them and cheer them to victory ! Bloody 



294 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

thou art ; bloody shall be thy end, and shameful as thy life 
hath been shameful !" 

She tottered away and left Richard and Elizabeth face to 
face. Was it dogged defiance of shame or was it faith in 
his star that he stopped Elizabeth as she too turned away, 
and began to woo her for her daughter, very much as he 
had once wooed the Lady Anne for herself ? Was it owing 
to this difference that he now wooed a woman for her 
daughter, not for herself or was it through some failure in 
his own hateful fascination that success this time eluded 
him? And yet he seemed to be repeating his success. 
Again the woman cursed and the man cajoled ; again the 
woman seemed to weaken while against all odds, in the face 
of hatred and loathing, his hands red with the blood of her 
dearest, the man fought and fought for his end with an 
unwearied persistence such as benumbs a rabbit and forces 
it in the end to lie down and wait for the weasel. And 
again the woman to all appearance yielded. She left him 
with a promise to bring her daughter round to his mind. 

" Relenting fool ! shallow, changing woman !" sneered 
Richard as he gazed after her. But in fact she had over 
reached him; or rather he had overreached himself. He 
had killed too much in Elizabeth ; killed the ambitious 
intriguing woman and left only the woman with a mother's 
heart. It was the old Elizabeth to whom he had been 
appealing ; the new Elizabeth the woman he had made 
listened and promised and went her way to give her 
daughter to Richmond. 

For Richmond was on the seas, intending to land on the 
coast of Devon, and win a kingdom. The men of Devon 
and the men of Kent were ready to rise, and by agreement 
Buckingham marched in open rebellion to cross the Welsh 
border. This was in October, 1483. As he started, a heavy 
and extraordinary storm broke over the country. It rained 
and blew for days. He reached Severn only to find it 
sweeping in a flood which is spoken of to this day as " The 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 295 

Great Water," or " Buckingham's Water." The King's 
supporters had broken down the bridges ; and he found it 
hopeless to think of uniting his Welsh forces with the 
insurgents from Devon, for the whole country down to 
Bristol was under water. The same gale drove Richmond's 
ships back towards France. An eclipse of the moon 
terrified Buckingham's Welshmen still further, and the 
army melted away. The rebellion had been drowned out. 
Buckingham fled to the house of a retainer named Bannister, 
was betrayed some say by his host and executed in the 
market-place of Salisbury. 

He had begged but in vain to see Richard ; it is 
believed, in the hope of a chance of stabbing him. The day 
of his execution was All-Souls' Day (November 2nd), and 
as he was led forth he thought on the many souls hurried 
out of this life by his wickedness and remembered Margaret's 
curse. " All-Souls' Day is my body's doomsday. This is 
the day I wished might befall me when I was found false to 
Edward's children and his wife's kin. All have perished 
with my aid, and the curse has come upon me." He went 
to the block muttering the words of Margaret's warning. 

So ended the man who had been Richard's most useful 
friend. Richard, the incarnate curse of the House of York, 
had fulfilled his terrible mission ; in him the House of York 
had devoured its own children ; he had executed judgment, 
he stood alone on the stage he had drenched with blood, and 
now Heaven had no further need of him and his own hour 
was at hand. 

Richmond, driven back on the French coast, bided his 
time, and in 1485 sailed for England again. His voyage 
prospered, and on August ist his ships dropped anchor in 
Milford Haven. Richard, warned that he had started, had 
pitched his camp at Nottingham as a central point of the 
kingdom, and horsemen sat in saddle along all the chief 
roads to gallop with tidings of the invader's approach. 

Treachery was now what he had most to fear, and on 



296 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Stanley, as Richmond's stepfather, his suspicions rested 
heaviest. He had good grounds for them ; but Stanley was 
the wiliest fox in England. He detested Richard, he knew 
himself suspected, and yet he had lived among bitter enemies 
and never given the King a fair excuse to lay hands on him ; 
had kept his level head on his shoulders, and seen Rivers, 
Vaughan and Grey, Hastings and Buckingham each fall in 
his turn. His sympathies lay with Richmond, but he could 
not declare himself since Richard held his son George 
Stanley as hostage, and would have chopped off his head at 
the first sign of revolt. So the father followed his master 
for the moment and bided his time. 

In a fortnight after Richmond's landing the two armies 
came face to face on Bosworth Field to the south of Market 
Bosworth in Leicestershire. Desertions had weakened the 
King's army in spite of his savage watchfulness. Yet he 
kept the advantage of numbers and his old untameable 
courage. There was this difference, however, that he, who 
all his life long had feared neither God nor man nor devil, 
was beginning at last to be uneasy about God. On the eve 
of the battle he left his supper untasted, but drank great 
bowls of wine. Catesby, Ratcliff, and Lovel remained 
faithful to the master they had served so wickedly ; better 
men stood by him in the staunch old Duke of Norfolk and 
his son the Earl of Surrey. With a parting injunction that 
Stanley should be watched and ordered to parade his troops 
before sunrise, and some commands about preparing his 
armour and saddling his charger White Surrey for the 
morrow's battle, Richard dismissed his friends and flung 
himself on the bed to sleep. 

Hideous dreams haunted his sleep; visions of his many 
victims passed by the bed, and leaning over it bade him 
despair. There stood young Edward, stabbed at Tewkes- 
bury, dabbled in blood, pointing to his wounds ; there stood 
Clarence ; there stood Rivers, Grey, Vaughan ; there stood 
Hastings; there stood the two murdered Princes; there 



KING RICHARD THE THIRD 297 

stood his wife Anne ; there stood his first friend and last 
victim, Buckingham. " Let me sit heavy upon thy soul 
to-morrow " " Let me " " And me "; one after the other 
took up the terrible imprecation. " To-morrow despair 
and die !" 

" Jesu, have mercy !" Richard started from the bed in a 
bath of terror. The candles burned blue by the bedside, 
but the tent was empty. " I was dreaming . . . conscience 
it is afflicting me. Oh, I am a villain ! . . . No, it is too 
late to repent, to face the truth ... I am no villain ! . . . 
Fool ! do not flatter thyself, when conscience has a thousand 
tongues and each one denounces thee villain. . . . Perjury, 
murder, sin upon sin thronging to the bar, each crying 
' Guilty ! guilty !' . . . I must not despair ; not a creature 
loves me ; and if I die not a soul shall pity me." 

He was wiping the sweat from his brow when a hand 
lifted the flap of the tent. 

" My lord," said a voice. 

" 'Zounds !" Richard swung around fiercely. " Who is 
there ?" 

" It is I, my lord RatclifF. The cocks are crowing, and 
thy friends buckling on their armour." 

" O Ratcliff, I have had fearful dreams ! Will our friends 
prove true to us, think you ?" 

" I have no doubt of it, my lord." 

" Yet, Ratcliff, I fear I fear " 

" Nay, my lord, do not fear shadows." 

" By Saint Paul, shadows have done more to-night to 
frighten the soul of Richard than can ten thousand armed 
soldiers led on by that shallow Richmond." 

He did on his armour. The day hung back dark and 
ominous as he set his battle in order and rode down the 
ranks. He heard the advancing drums of the enemy and 
looked around him. " Where is Stanley ?" he demanded. 

" My lord," said a messenger, "Lord Stanley will not 
come." 



298 TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE 

Off with his son George's head !" shouted Richard ; but 
the enemy had already crossed the marsh, and Norfolk, who 
led the King's van, pointed out that there was no time now 
for small revenge. The troops swung forward, and then it 
grew clear that Stanley was -not the only deserter. The 
Earl of Northumberland drew his men out of call and so 
passed over, foot and horse, to the invader. " Treason ! 
treason !" shouted Richard, and dashed into the thick of the 
fray seeking for Richmond. He had never fought so 
splendidly, because never so desperately. White Surrey 
was stabbed and sank under him. " Another horse !" he 
yelled ; " my kingdom for another horse !" While his men 
gave ground, he yet pressed forward ; hewed his way to the 
Lancastrian standard, tore it from its pole, trod the pole in 
the ground, and still fought forward like a demon into the 
very presence of Richmond. And there a foot or two only 
dividing them as he aimed a murderous stroke at his rival, 
a score of men rushed on him together and bore him to the 
ground by sheer weight of numbers. Under that struggling 
mass he took his death-stroke. They drew off; the body 
did not move. They had pulled the wild boar down at last, 
and the great curse was ended. 

As he went down the crown had fallen from his head and 
rolled beneath a hawthorn bush. Stanley picked it up and 
set it on the brows of the conqueror. 



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APPEN DIX 



THE claim of the House of York to the throne can be 
worked out with fair ease, I hope, from the foregoing table. 
It is set forth clearly by Shakespeare in a conversation 
between Richard, afterwards Duke of York, and the Earls 
of Salisbury and Warwick (" Henry VI.," Part II., Act II., 
Scene 2) : 

York. Edward the Third, my lords, had seven sons : 
The first, Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Wales ; 
The second, William of Hatfield ; and the third, 
Lionel Duke of Clarence ; next to whom 
Was John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster ; 
The fifth was Edmund Langley, Duke of York ; 
The sixth was Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester ; 
William of Windsor was the seventh and last.* 
Edward the Black Prince died before his father, 
And left behind him Richard, his only son, 
Who after Edward the Third's death reign'd as king ; 
Till Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, 
The eldest son and heir of John of Gaunt, 
Crown'd by the name of Henry the Fourth, 
Seized on the realm, deposed the rightful king, 
Sent his poor queen to France, from whence she came, 
And him to Pomfret ; where, as all you know, 
Harmless Richard was murder'd traitorously. 

Warwick. Father, the duke hath told the truth ; 
Thus got the house of Lancaster the crown. 

York. Which now they hold by force and not by right ; 
For Richard, the first son's heir, "being dead, 
The issue of the next son should have reign'd. 

Salisbury. But William of Hatfield died without an heir. 

* Shakespeare reverses the order of these two. Thomas of Wood 
stock was Edward's youngest son. 

300 



APPENDIX 301 

York. The third son, Duke of Clarence, from whose line 
I claim the crown, had issue, Philippe, a daughter, 
Who married Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March : 
Edmund had issue, Roger, Earl of March ; 
Roger had issue, Edmund, Anne and Eleanor. 

Salisbury. This Edmund, in the reign of Bolingbroke, 
As I have read, laid claim unto the crown ; 
And, but for Owen Glendower, had been king,* 
Who kept him in captivity till he died.t 
But to the rest. 

York. His eldest sister, Anne, 

My mother, being heir unto the crown, 
Married Richard Earl of Cambridge ; who was son 
To Edmund Langley, Edward the Third's fifth son. 
By her I claim the kingdom : she was heir 
To Roger Earl of March, who was the son 
Of Edmund Mortimer, who married Philippe, 
Sole daughter unto Lionel Duke of Clarence : 
So, if the issue of the elder son 
Succeed before the younger, I am king. 

Warwick. What plain proceeding is more plain than this ? 
Henry doth claim the crown from John of Gaunt, 
The fourth son ; York claims it from the third. 
Till Lionel's issue fails, his should not reign : 
It fails not yet, but flourishes in thee 
And in thy sons, fair slips of such a stock. 
Then, father Salisbury, kneel we together ; 
And in this private plot be we the first 
That shall salute our rightful sovereign 
With honour of his birthright to the crown. 

* An error. The Edmund Mortimer taken prisoner by Glendower 
was an uncle of Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, the true heir to 
the Throne (seep. 118). 

t Salisbury is again mistaken. This happened, not to Mortimer, 
but to another captive and son-in-law of Glendower 's Lord Grey of 
Ruthven. 



THE EXD 



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Designed to form an introduction to the study of English Literature. Containing 
folk-tales from various sources, stories from Homer, Virgil, the Beowulf poem, 
Chaucer, Malory, Froissart, Spenser, Shakespeare, Barbour, Scott, Lamb, and 
Washington Irving, and a large number of extracts from the works of the best 
poets Illustrated with beautiful reproductions of twelve famous paintings, including 
r ' Sir Galahad," by G. F. Watts, R.A. 

The Greenwood Tree. 

An English Reading Book for Junior Forms. 224 pages. Crown 
8vo. Price Is. 3d. 

Designed as a stepping-stone to Literature and containing stories from the Greek 
and Latin Classics, Red Indian and Maori Mythology and Nature lore, the 
Icelandic Edda, Celtic tradition, etc., etc. ; with a collection of poems from some of 
the leading poets. The illustrations consist of reproductions from famous paintings 
representing country life by such artists as Angelica Kaufmann, George Morland, 
George Wheatley, Sir Joshua Reynolds, K. Westall, and others. 

Rambles in Bookland. 

An English Reading Book for Junior Forms. Edited by C. E. 
BYLES, B.A. 224 pages. Crown 8vo., cloth. Price Is. 3d. 

Chips from a Bookshelf. 

An English Reading Book for Junior Forms. Edited by H. B. 
BROWNE, M.A. 224 pages. Crown 8vo., cloth. Price 
is. 3d. 

Both the above books are uniform with "In Golden Realms," and designed as an 
introduction to some of the greatest poets and prose writers. Illustrated with repro 
ductions of famous pictures. 

Tellers of Tales. 

Biographies of some English Novelists, with extracts from their 
works. Edited by RICHARD WILSON, B.A. Crown 8vo., 
cloth. Price Is. 6d. 

The novelists selected are Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, Kingsley, Charles Reade, 
C. Bronte, George Eliot, and R. L. Stevenson. This book has been found very 
useful as a guide to the selection of books in the public library. 

In the World of Books. 

An English Reading Book for Middle Forms. 256 pages. 
Crown 8vo., cloth. Price Is. 6d. 

Designed to introduce the pupil to some of the greatest names in English Literature, 
and consisting of extracts from their works arranged in chronological order, and 
ranging from Catdmon to Tennyson. An excellent companion to " A First Course in 
English Literature." Illustrated in a manner similar to " In Golden Realms." 



LONDON : EDWARD ARNOLD, 41 & 43 MADDOX STREET, W. 

302 



STEPS TO LITERATURE. 

A Graduated Series of pure'y Literary Reading 'Books. 



BOOK I. Tales of the Homeland. 112 pages. Price 

iod. 

Folk-Tales and Fairy-Tales of our own Country, with simple Rhymes. 
Illustrated from original drawings by GILBERT JAMES. 

BOOK II. Tales of Many Lands. 144 pages. Price is. 

Folk-Tales and Fairy-Tnles of Foreign Lands, with simple Rhymes. 
Illustrated from original drawings by GILBERT JAMES. 

BOOK III. Stories from English and Welsh Litera 
ture. 192 pages. Price is. 3d. 

Stories from the works of great writers, with simple Poems of the first 
rank. A charming introduction to literature of the best kind. 

BOOK III A. Stories from the Literature of the 

British Isles. 224 pages. Price is. 6d. 

Stories from Literature and Folk-Lore of England, Wales, Scotland, and 
Ireland. Poems of the various countries by leading posts. 

BOOK IV. Literary Reading's relating- to the Empire. 

224 pages. Price is. 6d. 

Legends and Myths of the Native Races of the Empire. Travel Tales of 
Empire pioneers. Litemry Extracts describing great events in the 
history of the Empire. Poems relating to the same subject. 

BOOK V. Literary Reading's relating- to Europe. 

224 pages. Price is. 6d. 

Tales from the Greek and Latin Classics, the Song of Roland, the Nibe- 
hingen Lied, the Heimskringla Saga, and later Romances. Literary 
Extracts from English. and American writers relating to the people or 
countries of Europe, and introducing great names in European literature. 
Poems from English literature with a European background. 

BOOK VI. Glimpses of World Literature. 256 pages. 

Price is. 6d. 

Extracts from the works of some of the greatest poets and prose writers of 
the world, from Homer to Tennyson. Arranged roughly in chronological 
order. 



LONDON : EDWARD ARNOLD, 41 & 43 MADDOX STREET, W. 

303 



ARNOLD'S ENGLISH TEXTS. 

Edited by H. B. BROWNE, M.A., Assistant Master at Hymers 
College, Hull. In 12 volumes. 96 pages. Limp cloth, price 6d. 
each. 

An entirely new series of texts for pupils from twelve to thirteen 
years of age, and those who are taking the first two years in the four-year 
course in English as suggested by the Board of Education. Also 
suitable for Continuous Readers in the Upper Standards of Primary 
Schools. 



The Song of Hiawatha. 

LONGFELLOW. 



Marmion. 



Scoi 



Idylls of the King. 

TENNYSON. 

Hereward the Wake. 

KlNGSLEY. 

The Cloister and the 

Hearth. CHARLES READE. 

The Life of Nelson. 

SOUTHEY. 



Tanglewood Tales. 

HAWTHORNE. 

Gulliver's Voyage to Lilliput. 

SWIFT. 

The Pilgrim's Progress. 

BUNYAN. 

The Bible in Spain. BORROW. 
The Natural History of Sel- 

borne. GILBERT WHITE. 

A Naturalist on the Ama 
zons. BATES. 



SPECIAL FEATURES. The verse texts are chosen so as to give three 
different styles of subject-matter and three different forms of verse. 
The prose texts include specimens of historical romance, prose romance, 
and descriptive prose ; uniformity in length of text, and systems of 
punctuation and paragraph division ; the addition of marginal synopses ; 
footnotes ; questions framed on modern lines. 



THE ARNOLD PROSE BOOKS. 

A new series of representative selections from leading prose 
writers, each book confined to one author. A few explanatory 
footnotes have been added. 

24 books, each 48 pages. Paper, 2d. ; cloth, 4d. 

i. Goldsmith, 

a. Froissart. 

3. Lamb. 

4. Bacon. 

5. Malory. 

6. Gibbon. 

7. Johnson. 

8. Carlyle. 



9. Macaulay. 
10. Burke, 
n. De Coverley Papers. 
12. Boswell. 
13. Kinglake. 
14. Leigh Hunt. 
15. Southey. 
16. Borrow. 


17. Motley. 
18. Napier. 
19. Addison. 
20. Prescott. 
21. Froude. 
22. Thackeray. 
23. Washington Irving. 
24. Emerson. 



LONDON: EDWARD ARNOLD, 41 & 43 MADDOX STREET, W. 

304 



PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE 
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRARY 



PR Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas 
2877 Historical tales from 

Q62 Shakespeare 
1910