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The Black Arrow Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson

  The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Black Arrow, by Robert Louis Stevenson This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Title: The Black Arrow A Tale of the Two Roses Author: Robert Louis Stevenson Illustrator: N. C. Wyeth Release Date: June 23, 2010 [EBook #32954] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE BLACK ARROW *** Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Anne Grieve and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

  Please read the Transcriber’s Note at the end of the text.








  Copyright, 1916, by


  Printed in the United States of America

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without

  the permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons.

  * * *

  Critic on the Hearth:

  No one but myself knows what I have suffered, nor what my books have gained, by your unsleeping watchfulness and admirable pertinacity. And now here is a volume that goes into the world and lacks your imprimatur: a strange thing in our joint lives; and the reason of it stranger still! I have watched with interest, with pain, and at length with amusement, your unavailing attempts to peruse The Black Arrow; and I think I should lack humour indeed, if I let the occasion slip and did not place your name in the fly-leaf of the only book of mine that you have never read—and never will read.

  That others may display more constancy is still my hope. The tale was written years ago for a particular audience and (I may say) in rivalry with a particular author; I think I should do well to name him, Mr. Alfred R. Phillips. It was not without its reward at the time. I could not, indeed, displace Mr. Phillips from his well-won priority; but in the eyes of readers who thought less than nothing of Treasure Island, The Black Arrow was supposed to mark a clear advance. Those who read volumes and those who read story papers belong to different worlds. The verdict on Treasure Island was reversed in the other court; I wonder, will it be the same with its successor?

  R. L. S.

  Saranac Lake, April 8, 1888

  * * *




  John Amend-all 3

  Book I


  At the Sign of the Sun in Kettley 25

  In the Fen 36

  The Fen Ferry 44

  A Greenwood Company 54

  “Bloody as the Hunter” 64

  To the Day’s End 75

  The Hooded Face 84

  Book II


  Dick Asks Questions 97

  The Two Oaths 108

  The Room Over the Chapel 118

  The Passage 127

  How Dick Changed Sides 133

  Book III



  The House by the Shore 147

  A Skirmish in the Dark 156

  St. Bride’s Cross 164

  The “Good Hope” 169

  The “Good Hope” (Continued) 180

  The “Good Hope” (Concluded) 188

  Book IV


  The Den 197

  “In Mine Enemies’ House” 206

  The Dead Spy 218

  In the Abbey Church 228

  Earl Risingham 240

  Arblaster Again 245

  Book V


  The Shrill Trumpet 261

  The Battle of Shoreby 270

  The Battle of Shoreby (Concluded) 279

  The Sack of Shoreby 285

  Night in the Woods: Alicia Risingham 298

  Night in the Woods (Concluded): Dick and Joan 308

  Dick’s Revenge 320

  Conclusion 325

  * * *





  “Now, mark me, mine host,” Sir Daniel said, “follow but mine

  orders and I shall be your good lord ever” 26

  In the fork, like a mastheaded seaman, there stood a man in a

  green tabard, spying far and wide 56

  Lastly, a little before dawn, a spearman had come staggering to

  the moat side, pierced by arrows 98

  “We must be in the dungeons,” Dick remarked 128

  The little cockle dipped into the swell and staggered under every

  gust of wind 174

  And Lawless, keeping half a step in front of his companion and

  holding his head forward like a hunting-dog upon the scent,

  ... studied out their path 198

  First came the bride, a sorry sight, as pale as the winter, clinging

  to Sir Daniel’s arm 234

  There were seven or eight assailants, and but one to keep head

  against them 262

  “But be at rest; the Black Arrow flieth nevermore” 324



  * * *



  * * *



  On a certain afternoon, in the late springtime, the bell upon Tunstall Moat House was heard ringing at an unaccustomed hour. Far and near, in the forest and in the fields along the river, people began to desert their labours and hurry towards the sound; and in Tunstall hamlet a group of poor countryfolk stood wondering at the summons.

  Tunstall hamlet at that period, in the reign of old King Henry VI., wore much the same appearance as it wears to-day. A score or so of houses, heavily framed with oak, stood scattered in a long green valley ascending from the river. At the foot, the road crossed a bridge, and mounting on the other side, disappeared into the fringes of the forest on its way to the Moat House, and further forth to Holywood Abbey. Half-way up the village, the church stood among yews. On every side the slopes were crowned and the view bounded by the green elms and greening oak-trees of the forest.

  Hard by the bridge, there was a stone cross upon a knoll, and here the group had collected—half-a-dozen women and one tall fellow in a russet smock—discussing what the bell betided. An express had gone through the hamlet half an[4] hour before, and drunk a pot of ale in the saddle, not daring to dismount for the hurry of his errand; but he had been ignorant himself of what was forward, and only bore sealed letters from Sir Daniel Brackley to Sir Oliver Oates, the parson, who kept the Moat House in the master’s absence.

  But now there was the noise of a horse; and soon, out of the edge of the wood and over the echoing bridge, there rode up young Master Richard Shelton, Sir Daniel’s ward. He, at the least, would know, and they hailed him and begged him to explain. He drew bridle willingly enough—a young fellow not yet eighteen, sun-browned and grey-eyed, in a jacket of deer’s leather, with a black velvet collar, a green hood upon his head, and a steel cross-bow at his back. The express, it appeared, had brought great news. A battle was impending. Sir Daniel had sent for every man that could draw a bow or carry a bill to go post-haste to Kettley, under pain of his severe displeasure; but for whom they were to fight, or of where the battle was expected, Dick knew nothing. Sir Oliver would come shortly himself, and Bennet Hatch was arming at that moment, for he it was who should lead the party.

  “It is the ruin of this kind land,” a woman said. “If the barons live at war, ploughfolk must eat roots.”

  “Nay,” said Dick, “every man that follows shall have sixpence a day, and archers twelve.”

  “If they live,” returned the woman, “that may very well be; but how if they die, my master?”

  “They cannot better die than for their natural lord,” said Dick.[5]

  “No natural lord of mine,” said the man in the smock. “I followed the Walsinghams; so we all did down Brierly way, till two years ago, come Candlemas. And now I must side with Brackley! It was the law that did it; call ye that natural? But now, what with Sir Daniel and what with Sir Oliver—that knows more of law than honesty—I have no natural lord but poor King Harry the Sixt, God bless him!—the poor innocent that cannot tell his right hand from his left.”

  “Ye speak with an ill tongue, friend,” answered Dick, “to miscall your good master and my lord the king in the same libel. But King Harry—praised be the saints!—has come again into his right mind, and will have all things peaceably ordained. And as for Sir Daniel, y’are very brave behind his back. But I will be no tale-bearer; and let that suffice.”

  “I say no harm of you, Master Richard,” returned the peasant. “Y’are a lad; but when ye come to a man’s inches, ye will find ye have an empty pocket. I say no more: the saints help Sir Daniel’s neighbours, and the Blessed Maid protect his wards!”

  “Clipsby,” said Richard, “you speak what I cannot hear with honour. Sir Daniel is my good master, and my guardian.”

  “Come, now, will ye read me a riddle?” returned Clipsby. “On whose side is Sir Daniel?”

  “I know not,” said Dick, colouring a little; for his guardian had changed sides continually in the troubles of that period, and every change had brought him some increase of fortune.[6]

  “Ay,” returned Clipsby, “you, nor no man. For, indeed, he is one that goes to bed Lancaster and gets up York.”

  Just then the bridge rang under horse-shoe iron, and the party turned and saw Bennet Hatch come galloping—a brown-faced, grizzled fellow, heavy of hand and grim of mien, armed with sword and spear, a steel salet on his head, a leather jack upon his body. He was a great man in these parts; Sir Daniel’s right hand in peace and war, and at that time, by his master’s interest, bailiff of the hundred.

  “Clipsby,” he shouted, “off to the Moat House, and send all other laggards the same gate. Bowyer will give you jack and salet. We must ride before curfew. Look to it: he that is last at the lych-gate Sir Daniel shall reward. Look to it right well! I know you for a man of naught. Nance,” he added, to one of the women, “is old Appleyard up town?”

  “I’ll warrant you,” replied the woman. “In his field, for sure.”

  So the group dispersed, and while Clipsby walked leisurely over the bridge, Bennet and young Shelton rode up the road together, through the village and past the church.

  “Ye will see the old shrew,” said Bennet. “He will waste more time grumbling and prating of Harry the Fift than would serve a man to shoe a horse. And all because he has been to the French wars!”

  The house to which they were bound was the last in the village, standing alone among lilacs; and beyond it, on three sides, there was open meadow rising towards the borders of the wood.

  Hatch dismounted, threw his rein over the fence, and[7] walked down the field, Dick keeping close at his elbow, to where the old soldier was digging, knee-deep in his cabbages, and now and again, in a cracked voice, singing a snatch of song. He was all dressed in leather, only his hood and tippet were of black frieze, and tied with scarlet; his face was like a walnut-shell, both for colour and wrinkles; but his old grey eye was still clear enough, and his sight unabated. Perhaps he was deaf; perhaps he thought it unworthy of an old archer of Agincourt to pay any heed to such disturbances; but neither the surly notes of the alarm bell, nor the near approach of Bennet and the lad, appeared at all to move him; and he continued obstinately digging, and piped up, very thin and shaky:

  “Now, dear lady, if thy will be,

  I pray you that you will rue on me.”

  “Nick Appleyard,” said Hatch, “Sir Oliver commends him to you, and bids that ye shall come within this hour to the Moat House, there to take command.”

  The old fellow looked up.

  “Save you, my masters!” he said, grinning. “And where goeth Master Hatch?”

  “Master Hatch is off to Kettley, with every man that we can horse,” returned Bennet. “There is a fight toward, it seems, and my lord stays a reinforcement.”

  “Ay, verily,” returned Appleyard. “And what will ye leave me to garrison withal?”

  “I leave you six good men, and Sir Oliver to boot,” answered Hatch.[8]

  “It’ll not hold the place,” said Appleyard; “the number sufficeth not. It would take two-score to make it good.”

  “Why, it’s for that we came to you, old shrew!” replied the other. “Who else is there but you that could do aught in such a house with such a garrison?”

  “Ay! when the pinch comes, ye remember the old shoe,” returned Nick. “There is not a man of you can back a horse or hold a bill; and as for archery—St. Michael! if old Harry the Fift were back again, he would stand and let ye shoot at him for a farthen a shoot!”

  “Nay, Nick, there’s some can draw a good bow yet,” said Bennet.

  “Draw a good bow!” cried Appleyard. “Yes! But who’ll shoot me a good shoot? It’s there the eye comes in, and the head between your shoulders. Now, what might you call a long shoot, Bennet Hatch?”

  “Well,” said Bennet, looking about him, “it would be a long shoot from here into the forest.”

  “Ay, it would be a longish shoot,” said the old fellow, turning to look over his shoulder; and then he put up his hand over his eyes, and stood staring.

  “Why, what are you looking at?” asked Bennet, with a chuckle. “Do you see Harry the Fift?”

  The veteran continued looking up the hill in silence. The sun shone broadly over the shelving meadows; a few white sheep wandered browsing; all was still but the distant jangle of the bell.

  “What is it, Appleyard?” asked Dick.

  “Why, the birds,” said Appleyard.[9]

  And, sure enough, over the top of the forest, where it ran down in a tongue among the meadows, and ended in a pair of goodly green elms, about a bowshot from the field where they were standing, a flight of birds was skimming to and fro, in evident disorder.

  “What of the birds?” said Bennet.

  “Ay!” returned Appleyard, “y’are a wise man to go to war, Master Bennet. Birds are a good sentry; in forest places they be the first line of battle. Look you, now, if we lay here in camp, there might be archers skulking down to get the wind of us; and here would you be, none the wiser!”

  “Why, old shrew,” said Hatch, “there be no men nearer us than Sir Daniel’s, at Kettley; y’are as safe as in London Tower; and ye raise scares upon a man for a few chaffinches and sparrows!”

  “Hear him!” grinned Appleyard. “How many a rogue would give his two crop ears to have a shoot at either of us? St. Michael, man! they hate us like two polecats!”

  “Well, sooth it is, they hate Sir Daniel,” answered Hatch, a little sobered.

  “Ay, they hate Sir Daniel, and they hate every man that serves with him,” said Appleyard; “and in the first order of hating, they hate Bennet Hatch and old Nicholas the bow-man. See ye here: if there was a stout fellow yonder in the wood-edge, and you and I stood fair for him—as, by St. George, we stand!—which, think ye, would he choose?”

  “You, for a good wager,” answered Hatch.

  “My surcoat to a leather belt, it would be you!” cried the old archer. “Ye burned Grimstone, Bennet—they’ll[10] ne’er forgive you that, my master. And as for me, I’ll soon be in a good place, God grant, and out of bow-shoot—ay, and cannon-shoot—of all their malices. I am an old man, and draw fast to homeward, where t
he bed is ready. But for you, Bennet, y’are to remain behind here at your own peril, and if ye come to my years unhanged, the old true-blue English spirit will be dead.”

  “Y’are the shrewishest old dolt in Tunstall Forest,” returned Hatch, visibly ruffled by these threats. “Get ye to your arms before Sir Oliver come, and leave prating for one good while. An’ ye had talked so much with Harry the Fift, his ears would ha’ been richer than his pocket.”

  An arrow sang in the air, like a huge hornet; it struck old Appleyard between the shoulder-blades, and pierced him clean through, and he fell forward on his face among the cabbages. Hatch, with a broken cry, leapt into the air; then, stooping double, he ran for the cover of the house. And in the meanwhile Dick Shelton had dropped behind a lilac, and had his cross-bow bent and shouldered, covering the point of the forest.

  Not a leaf stirred. The sheep were patiently browsing; the birds had settled. But there lay the old man, with a cloth-yard arrow standing in his back; and there were Hatch holding to the gable, and Dick crouching and ready behind the lilac bush.

  “D’ye see aught?” cried Hatch.

  “Not a twig stirs,” said Dick.

  “I think shame to leave him lying,” said Bennet, coming forward once more with hesitating steps and a very pale[11] countenance. “Keep a good eye on the wood, Master Shelton—keep a clear eye on the wood. The saints assoil us! here was a good shoot!”

  Bennet raised the old archer on his knee. He was not yet dead; his face worked, and his eyes shut and opened like machinery, and he had a most horrible, ugly look of one in pain.