The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Black Arrow

A Tale of Two Roses

subjects: Adventure Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction

Description

From the beloved author of Treasure Island Originally serialized in a periodical of boys’ adventure fiction, The Black Arrow is a swashbuckling portrait of a young man’s journey to discover the heroism within himself. Young Dick Shelton, caught in the midst of England’s War of the Roses, finds his loyalties torn between the guardian who will ultimately betray him and the leader of a secret fellowship, The Black Arrow. As Shelton is drawn deeper into this conspiracy, he must distinguish friend from foe and confront war, shipwreck, revenge, murder, and forbidden love, as England’s crown threatens to topple around him.

Excerpt

Sir Daniel and his men lay in and about Kettley that night, warmly quartered and well patrolled. But the Knight of Tunstall was one who never rested from money-getting; and even now, when he was on the brink of an adventure which should make or mar him, he was up an hour after midnight to squeeze poor neighbours. He was one who trafficked greatly in disputed inheritances; it was his way to buy out the most unlikely claimant, and then, by the favour he curried with great lords about the king, procure unjust decisions in his favour; or, if that was too roundabout, to seize the disputed manor by force of arms, and rely on his influence and Sir Oliver’s cunning in the law to hold what he had snatched. Kettley was one such place; it had come very lately into his clutches; he still met with opposition from the tenants; and it was to overawe discontent that he had led his troops that way.

By two in the morning, Sir Daniel sat in the inn room, close by the fireside, for it was cold at that hour among the fens of Kettley. By his elbow stood a pottle of spiced ale. He had taken off his visored headpiece, and sat with his bald head and thin, dark visage resting on one hand, wrapped warmly in a sanguine-coloured cloak. At the lower end of the room about a dozen of his men stood sentry over the door or lay asleep on benches; and somewhat nearer hand, a young lad, apparently of twelve or thirteen, was stretched in a mantle on the floor. The host of the Sun stood before the great man.

“Now, mark me, mine host,” Sir Daniel said, “follow but mine orders, and I shall be your good lord ever. I must have good men for head boroughs, and I will have Adam-a-More high constable; see to it narrowly. If other men be chosen, it shall avail you nothing; rather it shall be found to your sore cost. For those that have paid rent to Walsingham I shall take good measure–you among the rest, mine host.”

“Good knight,” said the host, “I will swear upon the cross of Holywood I did but pay to Walsingham upon compulsion. Nay, bully knight, I love not the rogue Walsinghams; they were as poor as thieves, bully knight. Give me a great lord like you. Nay; ask me among the neighbours, I am stout for Brackley.”

“It may be,” said Sir Daniel, drily. “Ye shall then pay twice.”

The innkeeper made a horrid grimace; but this was a piece of bad luck that might readily befall a tenant in these unruly times, and he was perhaps glad to make his peace so easily.

“Bring up yon fellow, Selden!” cried the knight.

And one of his retainers led up a poor, cringing old man, as pale as a candle, and all shaking with the fen fever.

“Sirrah,” said Sir Daniel, “your name?”

[Illustration: illus01.jpg “Now, mark me, mine host,” Sir Daniel said, “follow but mine orders, and I shall be your good lord ever”]

“An’t please your worship,” replied the man, “my name is Condall–Condall of Shoreby, at your good worship’s pleasure.”

“I have heard you ill reported on,” returned the knight. “Ye deal in treason, rogue; ye trudge the country leasing; y’are heavily suspicioned of the death of severals. How, fellow, are ye so bold? But I will bring you down.”

“Right honourable and my reverend lord,” the man cried, “here is some hodge-podge, saving your good presence. I am but a poor private man, and have hurt none.”

“The under-sheriff did report of you most vilely,” said the knight. “‘Seize me,’ saith he, ‘that Tyndal of Shoreby.’”

“Condall, my good lord; Condall is my poor name,” said the unfortunate.

“Condall or Tyndal, it is all one,” replied Sir Daniel, coolly. “For, by my sooth, y’are here, and I do mightily suspect your honesty. If ye would save your neck, write me swiftly an obligation for twenty pound.”

“For twenty pound, my good lord!” cried Condall. “Here is midsummer madness! My whole estate amounteth not to seventy shillings.”

“Condall or Tyndal,” returned Sir Daniel, grinning, “I will run my peril of that loss. Write me down twenty, and when I have recovered all I may, I will be good lord to you, and pardon you the rest.”

“Alas! my good lord, it may not be; I have no skill to write,” said Condall.

“Well-a-day!” returned the knight. “Here, then, is no remedy. Yet I would fain have spared you, Tyndal, had my conscience suffered. Selden, take me this old shrew softly to the nearest elm, and hang me him tenderly by the neck, where I may see him at my riding. Fare ye well, good Master Condall, dear Master Tyndal; y’are post-haste for Paradise; fare ye then well!”

“Nay, my right pleasant lord,” replied Condall, forcing an obsequious smile, “an ye be so masterful, as doth right well become you, I will even, with all my poor skill, do your good bidding.”

“Friend,” quoth Sir Daniel, “ye will now write two-score. Go to! y’are too cunning for a livelihood of seventy shillings. Selden, see him write me this in good form, and have it duly witnessed.”