Now that I am an old man, and have some leisure, which formerly
I did not enjoy, I am often minded to write down my memories of
that surprising and remarkable adventure of mine, which began in
the year 1578, and came to an end, by God’s mercy, two years
There are more reasons than one why I should engage in this
task. Every Christmas brings a houseful of grandchildren and young
folks about me, and they, though they have heard it a dozen times
already, are never tired of hearing me re-tell the story which
seems to them so wonderful.
Then, again, I am often visited by folk who have heard of my
travels, and would fain have particulars of them from my own lips;
so that ofttimes I have to tell my tale, or part of it, a dozen
times in the year. Nay, upon one occasion I even told it to the
King’s majesty, which was when I went up to London on some tiresome
law business. Sir Ralph Wood, who is my near neighbor and a
Parliament man, had mentioned me to the King, and so I had to go to
Whitehall and tell my story before the court, which was a hard
matter for a plain-spoken country gentleman, as you may well
Now all these matters have oft prompted me to write down my
story, so that when any visitor of mine might ask me for it, I
could satisfy him without trouble to myself, by simply putting the
manuscript into his hand and bidding him read what I had there
written. But until this present time I have never seemed to have
opportunity such as I desired, for my duties as magistrate and
church-warden have been neither light nor unimportant. Now that I
have resigned them to younger hands, I have leisure time of my own,
and therefore I shall now proceed to carry out the intention which
has been in my mind for many years.
I was born at York, in the year 1558. My father, Richard
Salkeld, was the youngest son of Oliver Salkeld, lord-of-the-manor
of Beechcot-on-the-Wold, and he practiced in York as an attorney.
Whether he did well or ill in this calling I know not, for at the
early age of six years I was left an orphan. My father being seized
by a fever, my mother devoted herself to nursing him, which was a
right and proper thing to do; but the consequence was disastrous,
for she also contracted the disease, and they both died, leaving me
alone in the world.
However, I was not long left in this sad condition, for there
presently appeared my uncle, Sir Thurstan Salkeld of Beechcot, who
settled my father’s affairs and took me away with him. I was
somewhat afraid of him at first, for he was a good twenty years
older than my father, and wore a grave, severe air. Moreover, he
had been knighted by the Queen for his zealous conduct in
administering the law. But I presently found him to be exceeding
kind of heart, and ere many months were over I had grown fond of
him, and of Beechcot. He had never married, and was not likely to,
and so to the folks round about his home he now introduced me as
his adopted son and heir. And thus things went very pleasantly for
me, and, as children will, I soon forgot my early troubles.
I think we had nothing to cause us any vexation or sorrow at
Beechcot until Dame Barbara Stapleton and her son Jasper came to
share our lot. Jasper was then a lad of my own age, and like me an
orphan, and the nephew of Sir Thurstan. His mother, Sir Thurstan’s
sister, had married Devereux Stapleton, an officer in the Queen’s
household, and when she was left a widow she returned to Beechcot
and quartered herself and her boy on her brother. Thereafter we had
trouble one way or another, for Dame Barbara could not a-bear to
think that I was preferred before her own boy as Sir Thurstan’s
heir. Nor did she scruple to tell Sir Thurstan her thoughts on the
matter, on one occasion at any rate, for I heard them talking in
the great hall when they fancied themselves alone.
“’Tis neither right nor just,” said Dame Barbara, “that you
should make one nephew your son and heir to the exclusion of the
other. What! is not Jasper as much your own flesh and blood as
“You forget that Humphrey is a Salkeld in name as well as in
blood,” said Sir Thurstan. “If the lad’s father, my poor brother
Richard, had lived, he would have succeeded me as lord of Beechcot.
Therefore, ’tis but right that Dick’s boy should step into his
“To the hurt of my poor Jasper!” sighed Dame Barbara.
“Jasper is a Stapleton,” answered Sir Thurstan. “However,
sister, I will do what is right as regards your lad. I will charge
myself with the cost of his education and training, and will give
him a start in life, and maybe leave him a goodly sum of money when
I die. Therefore, make your mind easy on that point.”
But I knew, though I was then but a lad, that she would never
give over fretting herself at the thought that I was to be lord of
all the broad acres and wide moors of Beechcot, and that Jasper
would be but a landless man. And so, though she never dare flout or
oppress me in any way, for fear of Sir Thurstan’s displeasure, she,
without being openly unfavorable, wasted no love on me, and no
doubt often wished me out of the way.
At that time Jasper and I contrived to get on very well
together. We were but lads, and there was no feeling of rivalry
between us. Indeed, I do not think there would ever have been
rivalry between us if that foolish woman, my Aunt Barbara, had not
begun sowing the seeds of discord in her son’s mind. But as soon as
he was old enough to understand her, she began talking to him of
Beechcot and its glories, pointing out to him the wide park and
noble trees, the broad acres filled with golden grain, and the
great moors that stretched away for miles towards the sea; and she
said, no doubt, how grand a thing it would be to be lord of so
excellent an estate, and how a man might enjoy himself in its
possession. Then she told him that I was to have all these things
when Sir Thurstan died, and thereafter my cousin Jasper hated me.
But he let his hate smoulder within him a good while before he
showed it openly. One day, however, when we were out in the park
with our bows, he began to talk of the matter, and after a time we
got to high words.
“My mother tells me, Humphrey,” said he, “that when my uncle
Thurstan dies all these fair lands will pass to thee. That is not
“’Tis our uncle’s land to do with as he pleases,” I answered.
“We have naught to do with it. If he likes to leave it to me, what
hast thou to say in the matter? ’Tis his affair; not thine, Master
Jasper. Besides, I am a Salkeld, and you are not.”
“Is not my mother a Salkeld?” he asked.
“It counts not by the mother,” I answered. “And, moreover, my
father would have heired the estate had he lived. But be not
down-hearted about it, Jasper, I will see that thou art provided
for. When I am lord of Beechcot I will make thee my steward.”
Now, that vexed him sore, and he flew into a violent rage,
declaring that he would serve no man, and me last of all; and so
violent did he become that he was foolish to look at, and thereupon
I laughed at him. At that his rage did but increase, and he
presently fitted an arrow to his bow and shot at me meaning, I
doubt not, to put an end to me forever. But by good fortune his aim
mischanced, and the arrow did no more than pin me to the tree by
which I stood, passing through my clothes between the arm and the
body. And at that we were both sobered, and Jasper cooled his hot
“What wouldst thou have done if the arrow had passed through my
heart, as it might easily have chanced to do?” I inquired of
“I would have gone home and told them that I had killed thee by
accident,” he answered readily enough. “Thou wouldst have been
dead, and therefore no one could have denied my tale.”
I said naught to that, but I there and then made up my mind that
if ever I went shooting with him again I would keep my eyes open.
For I now saw that he was not only false, but also treacherous.
Indeed, I was somewhat minded to go to my uncle and tell him what
had taken place between us, but I remembered that the good knight
was not fond of carried tales, and therefore I refrained.
After that there was peace for some years, Dame Barbara having
evidently made up her mind to take things as they were. She was
mortally afraid of offending Sir Thurstan, for she had no jointure
or portion of her own, and was totally dependent upon his charity
for a sustenance. This made her conduct herself towards me with
more consideration than I should otherwise have received from her.
Possibly she thought that it might be well to keep in good favor
with me in view of my succeeding Sir Thurstan at no distant period.
At any rate I had no more trouble with Jasper, and I overheard no
more unpleasant discussions between Dame Barbara and the
From our tenth year upwards Jasper and myself daily attended the
vicarage, in order to be taught Greek, Latin, and other matters by
the Reverend Mr. Timotheus Herrick, vicar of Beechcot. He was a
tall, thin, spindle-shanked gentleman, very absent-minded, but a
great scholar. It was said of him, that if he had not married a
very managing woman in the shape of Mistress Priscilla Horbury, he
would never have got through the world. He had one child, Rose, of
whom you will hear somewhat in this history, and she was three
years younger than myself. When Jasper and I were thirteen and Rose
ten years of age, she began to learn with us, and presently made
such progress that she caught up to us, and then passed us, and so
made us ashamed of ourselves. After that she was always in advance
of us, and we used to procure her help in our lessons; then she
lorded it over us, as little maidens will over big lads, and we
were her humble slaves in everything.