THE MOAT OF THE KEEP.
Richard left the cottage, and mounted Oliver. To pass the time and
indulge a mournful memory, he rode round by Wyfern. When he reached
home, he found that his father had gone to pay a visit some miles
off. He went to his own room, cast himself on his bed, and tried to
think. But his birds would not come at his call, or coming would but
perch for a moment, and again fly. As he lay thus, his eyes fell on
his cousin, old Thomas Heywood's little folio, lying on the window
seat where he had left it two years ago, and straightway his
fluttering birds alighting there, he thought how the book had been
lying unopened all the months, while he had been passing through so
many changes and commotions. How still had the room been around it,
how silent the sunshine and the snow, while he had inhabited
tumult--tumult in his heart, tumult in his ears, tumult of sorrows,
of vain longings, of tongues and of swords! Where was the gain to
him? Was he nearer to that centre of peace, which the book, as it
lay there so still, seemed to his eyes to typify? The maiden loved
from childhood had left him for a foolish king and a phantom-church:
had he been himself pursuing anything better? He had been fighting
for the truth: had he then gained her? where was she? what was she
if not a living thing in the heart? Would the wielding of the sword
in its name ever embody an abstraction, call it from the vasty deep
of metaphysics up into self-conscious existence in the essence of a
man's own vitality? Was not the question still, how, of all loves,
to grasp the thing his soul thirsted after?
To many a sermon, cleric and lay, had he listened since he left that
volume there--in church, in barn, in the open field--but the
religion which seemed to fill all the horizon of these preachers'
vision, was to him little better than another tumult of words;
while, far beyond all the tumults, hung still, in the vast of
thought unarrived, unembodied, that something without a shape, yet
bearing a name around which hovered a vague light as of something
dimly understood, after which, in every moment of inbreaking
silence, his soul straightway began to thirst. And if the Truth was
not to be found in his own heart, could he think that the blows by
which he had not gained her had yet given her?--that through means
of the tumult he had helped to arouse in her name and for her sake,
but in which he had never caught a sight of her beauteous form, she
now sat radiantly smiling in any one human soul where she sat not
Or should he say it was Freedom for which he had fought? Was he then
one whit more free in the reality of his being than he had been
before? Or had ever a battle wherein he had perilled his own life,
striking for liberty, conveyed that liberty into a single human
heart? Was there one soul the freer within, from the nearer presence
of that freedom which would have a man endure the heaviest wrong,
rather than inflict the lightest? He could not tell, but he greatly
His thought went wandering away, and vision after vision, now of war
and now of love, now of earthly victory and now of what seemed
unattainable felicity, arose and passed before him, filling its
place. At length it came back: he would glance again into his cousin
Thomas's book. He had but to stretch out his hand to take it, for
his bed was close by the window. Opening it at random, he came upon
And as the Mill, that circumgyreth fast, Refuseth nothing that
therein is cast, But whatsoever is to it assign'd Gladly receives
and willing is to grynd, But if the violence be with nothing fed, It
wasts itselfe: e'en so the heart mis-led, Still turning round,
unstable as the Ocean, Never at rest, but in continuall Motion,
Sleepe or awake, is still in agitation Of some presentment in th'
If to the Mill-stone you shall cast in Sand, It troubles them, and
makes them at a stand; If Pitch, it chokes them; or if Chaffe let
fall, They are employ'd, but to no use at all. So, bitter thoughts
molest, uncleane thoughts staine And spot the Heart; while those
idle and vaine Weare it, and to no purpose. For when 'tis Drowsie
and carelesse of the future blisse, And to implore Heav'n's aid, it
doth imply How far is it remote from the most High. For whilst our
Hearts on Terrhen things we place, There cannot be least hope of
'Just such a mill is my mind,' he said to himself. 'But can I
suppose that to sit down and read all day like a monk, would bring
me nearer to the thing I want?'
He turned over the volume half thinking, half brooding.
'I will look again,' he thought, 'at the verses which that day my
father gave me to read. Truly I did not well understand them.'
Once more he read the poem through. It closed with these lines:
So far this Light the Raies extends, As that no place It
comprehends. So deepe this Sound, that though it speake, It cannot
by a Sence so weake Be entertain'd. A Redolent Grace The Aire blowes
not from place to place. A pleasant Taste, of that delight It doth
confound all appetite. A strict Embrace, not felt, yet leaves That
vertue, where it takes it cleaves. This Light, this Sound, this
Savouring Grace, This Tastefull Sweet, this Strict Embrace, No Place
containes, no Eye can see, My God is; and there's none but Hee.
'I HAVE gained something,' he cried aloud. 'I understand it now--at
least I think I do. What if, in fighting for the truth as men say,
the doors of a man's own heart should at length fly open for her
entrance! What if the understanding of that which is uttered
concerning her, be a sign that she herself draweth nigh! Then I will
go on.--And that I may go on, I must recover my mare.'
Honestly, however, he could not quite justify the scheme. All the
efforts of his imagination, as he rode home, to bring his judgment
to the same side with itself, had failed, and he had been driven to
confess the project a foolhardy one. But, on the other hand, had he
not had a leading thitherward? Whence else the sudden conviction
that Scudamore had taken her, and the burning desire to seek her in
Raglan stables? And had he not heard mighty arguments from the lips
of the most favoured preachers in the army for an unquestioning
compliance with leadings? Nay, had he not had more than a leading?
Was it not a sign to encourage him, even a pledge of happy result,
that, within an hour of it, and in consequence of his first step in
partial compliance with it, he had come upon the only creature
capable of conducting him into the robber's hold? And had he not at
the same time learned the Raglan password?--He WOULD go.
He rose, and descending the little creaking stair of black oak that
led from his room to the next storey, sought his father's study,
where he wrote a letter informing him of his intended attempt, and
the means to its accomplishment that had been already vouchsafed
him. The rest of his time, after eating his dinner, he spent in
making overshoes for his mare out of an old buff jerkin. As soon as
the twilight began to fall, he set out on foot for the witch's
When he arrived, he found her expecting him, but prepared with no
'I had liefer by much thee had not come so pat upon thy promise,
master Heywood. Then I might have looked to move thee from thy
purpose, for truly I like it not. But thou will never bring an old
woman into trouble, master Richard?'
'Or a young one either, if I can help it Mother Rees,' answered
Richard. 'But come now, thou must trust me, and tell me all I want
He drew from his pocket paper and pencil, and began to put to her
question after question as to the courts and the various buildings
forming them, with their chief doors and windows, and ever as she
gave him an answer, he added its purport to the rough plan he was
drawing of the place.
'Listen to me, Master Heywood,' said the old woman at length after a
long, silence, during which he had been pondering over his paper.
'An' thou get once into the fountain court thou will know where thee
is by the marble horse that stands in the middle of it. Turn then
thy back to the horse, with the yellow tower above thee upon thy
right hand, and thee will be facing the great hall. On the other
side of the hall is the pitched court with its great gate and double
portcullis and drawbridge. Nearly at thy back, but to thy right
hand, will lie the gate to the bowling-green. At which of these
gates does thee think to lead out thy mare?'
'An' I pass at all, mother, it will be on her back, not at her
'Thou wilt not pass, my son. Be counselled. To thy mare, thou wilt
but lose thyself.'
Richard heard her as though he heard her not.
'At what hour doth the moon rise, mistress Rees?' he asked.
'What would thou with the moon?" she returned. "Is not she the enemy
of him who roves for plunder? Shines she not that the thief may be
shaken out of the earth?'
'I am not thief enough to steal in the dark, mother. How shall I
tell without her help where I am or whither I go?'
'She will be half way to the top of her hill by midnight.'
'An' thou speak by the card, then is it time that Marquis and I were
'Here, take thee some fern-seed in thy pouch, that thou may walk
invisible,' said the old woman. 'If thee chance to be an hungred,
then eat thereof,' she added, as she transferred something from her
pocket to his.
She called the dog and opened the chamber door. Out came Marquis,
walked to Richard, and stood looking up in his face as if he knew
perfectly that his business was to accompany him. Richard bade the
old woman good night, and stepped from the cottage.
No sooner was he in the darkness with the dog, than, fearing he
might lose sight of him, he tied his handkerchief round the dog's
neck, and fastened to it the thong of his riding whip--the sole
weapon he had brought with him--and so they walked together, Marquis
pulling Richard on. Ere long the moon rose, and the country dawned
into the dim creation of the light.
On and on they trudged, Marquis pulling at his leash as if he had
been a blind man's dog, and on and on beside them crept their
shadows, flattened out into strange distortion upon the road. But
when they had come within about two miles of Raglan, whether it was
that the sense of proximity to his mistress grew strong in him, or
that he scented the Great Mogul, as the horse the battle from afar,
Marquis began to grow restless, and to sniff about on one side of
the way. When at length they had by a narrow bridge crossed a brook,
the dog insisted on leaving the road and going down into the meadow
to the left. Richard made small resistance, and that only for
experiment upon the animal's determination. Across field after field
his guide led him, until, but for the great keep towering dimly up
into the moonlit sky, he could hardly have even conjectured where he
was. But he was well satisfied, for, ever as they came out of copse
or hollow, there was the huge thing in the sky, nearer than before.
At last he was able to descry a short stretch of the castle rampart,
past which, away to the westward, the dog was pulling, along a rough
cart-track through a field. This he presently found to be a quarry
road, and straight into the quarry the dog went, pulling eagerly;
but Richard was compelled to follow with caution, for the ground was
rough and broken, and the moon cast black misleading shadows.
Towards the blackest of these the dog led, and entered a hollow way.
Richard went straight after him, guarding his head with his arm,
lest he might meet a sudden descent of the roof, and lengthening his
leash to the utmost, that he might have timely warning of any
descent of the floor.
It was a very rough tunnel, the intent of which will afterwards
appear, forming part of one of lord Herbert's later contrivances for
the safety of the castle; but so well had Mr. Salisbury, the
surveyor, managed, that not one of the men employed upon it had an
idea that they were doing more than working the quarry for the
repair of the fortifications.
From the darkness, and the cautious rate at which he had to proceed,
holding back the dog who tugged hard at the whip, Richard could not
even hazard a conjecture as to the distance they had advanced, when
he heard the noise of a small runnel of water, which seemed from the
sound to make abrupt descent from some little height. He had gone
but a few paces further when the handle of the whip received a great
upward pull and was left loose in his grasp: the dog was away,
leaving his handkerchief at the end of the thong. So now he had to
guide himself, and began to feel about him. He seemed at first to
have come to the end of the passage, for he could touch both sides
of it by stretching out his arms, and in front a tiny stream of
water came down the face of the rough rock; but what then had become
of Marquis? The answer seemed plain: the water must come from
somewhere, and doubtless its channel had spare room enough for the
dog to pass thither. He felt up the rock, and found that, at about
the height of his head, the water came over an obtuse angle.
Climbing a foot or two, he discovered that the opening whence it
issued was large enough for him to enter.
Only one who has at some time passed where lengthened creeping was
necessary, will know how Richard felt, with water under him,
pitch-darkness about him, and the rock within an inch or two of his
body all round. By and by the slope became steeper and the ascent
more difficult. The air grew very close, and he began to fear he
should be stifled. Then came a hot breath, and a pair of eyes
gleamed a foot or two from his face. Had he then followed into the
den of the animal by which poor Marquis had been so frightfully
torn? But no: it was Marquis himself waiting for him!
'Go on, Marquis,' he said, with a sigh of relief.
The dog obeyed, and in another moment a waft of cool air came in.
Presently a glimmer of light appeared. The opening through which it
entered was a little higher than his horizontally posed head, and
looked alarmingly narrow.
But as he crept nearer it grew wider, and when he came under it he
found it large enough to let him through. When cautiously he poked
up his head, there was the huge mass of the keep towering blank
above him! On a level with his eyes, the broad, lilied waters of the
moat lay betwixt him and the citadel.
Marquis had brought him to the one neglected, therefore forgotten,
and thence undefended spot of the whole building. Before the well
was sunk in the keep, the supply of water to the moat had been far
more bountiful, and provision for a free overflow was necessary. For
some reason, probably for the mere sake of facility in the
construction, the passage for the superfluous water had been made
larger than needful at the end next the moat. About midway to its
outlet, however--a mere drain-mouth in a swampy hollow in the middle
of a field--it had narrowed to a third of the compass. But the
quarriers had cut across it above the point of contraction; and no
danger of access occurring to lord Herbert or Mr. Salisbury, while
they found a certain service in the tiny waterfall, they had left it
as it was.