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a rise in his salary ‘of one farthing,' and when he asked for more,
all the satisfaction he got from the testy old knight was the expression of a wish that he had been a priest, for then he could have given him a living.
Along with Sir John came to Caister his stepson Stephen Scrope, who was the child of lady Millicent, Fastolf's wife, by her first husband. He was of good family, and heir to a considerable property, of which his stepfather had the management during his minority, a trust which was not well discharged. To make matters worse Fastolf sold the wardship of the boy to Chief Justice Gascoigne for 500 marks;
through the which sale,' wrote Scrope, • I took sickness that • kept me a thirteen or fourteen years ensuing ; whereby I am
disfigured in person and shall be while I live.' Gascoigne meant to have married Scrope to one of his own daughters, but as this was not thought by the youth's relations an equal match, Sir John bought Scrope back again, for which his stepson was not very grateful. He bought me and sold me as a • beast, against all right and law, to mine hurt more than * 1,000 marks. The stinginess of his stepfather caused Scrope afterwards to sell a manor which was part of his inheritance, and when he served with him in France he brought him in a long bill for his meat and drink. As this claim was pressed Scrope was driven to contract a disadvantageous marriage to find the means to pay it, and then his stepfather brought an action against him, by which he was deprived of the little property that his wife had brought him.
But even usurers and iniquitous hard-hearted stepfathers have souls, and Sir John Fastolf began to think of his when he settled down in his castle. Besides that outstanding account with the Crown, he had another open with Heaven, and he prepared to close it after the fashion of the day by founding a college or religious house at Caister, in which seven poor folk were to be maintained, and seven priests were to pray for his • soul and the souls of his wife, father, and mother, and others • that he was beholden to.'
It does not appear that John Paston, who in the meantime had been elected member for the county, was more about the old knight than usual during the last years of his life. On the contrary Friar Brackley, a fine specimen of the medieval clergy, and a stanch friend of the Paston family, was obliged to write to him to come down, as Sir John could not live much longer. It is high time, he draweth fast homeward, and • is right low brought, and sore weakened and feebled. The old knight was eager to see him, and when Paston came he was
to be sure to bring with him a draught petition to the king about the foundation of the college, and an arrangement with the monks of St. Benet's for his satisfaction. Every day these five days he saith, “God send me soon my good cousin Paston, for I hold him a faithful man, and ever one man; 'when the friar said, " That is sooth,” and pressed him to take
meat, the sick man rejoined, “show me not the meat, show me * the man.” Of this affection for Paston the explanation is that of all his kinsmen John Paston was the only one he trusted, and this was shown when, on Nov. 5, 1459, Sir John Fastolf breathed his last, and it was found that, subject to the conditions for founding the college in question, and of paying 4,000 marks to the other executors, he had bequeathed to John Paston all his lands in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. We are tempted here to compare the deathbed of this vindictive, usurious old man with that imaginary one in which Shakspeare has described the end of his fat and dissolute knight, whose character was perhaps suggested by that story of cowardice at Patay against the real Fastolf. We wonder if the Sir John Fastolf' in his castle, with twenty-seven chambers crammed with costly furniture and plate, and surrounded by his mortgages and pledges, made as fine an end’ as he who went away 'an it had been any christom child,' or whether he saw something which reminded him of a black soul burning ' in hell-fire. Anyhow he was gone, and his wealth remained behind, John Paston coming in for a large share of it.
Nowadays, of course after waiting a certain time, a notice would appear in the newspapers that Sir John Fastolf, Knight, had died, and made such and such a disposal of his property ; the will would be proved by the executors, and the bequests, supposing the testator capable, and the document in proper form, would be handed over to the legatees. This might take a year in ordinary cases; but though wills were proved in those days, they did not go quite so fast or so smoothly. In the first place under the Feudal system--we are afraid this is not so generally known as Mr. Gairdner supposes—land did not pass by will, but when a tenant in Capite died, his landed estates were seized in the king's name by an officer called an Escheator, who held them till a jury of the country had ascertained who the lawful heir was and whether he were under age. The estates of Sir John were not all exactly in this condition, for he had handed some of them over to trustees, of whom John Paston was one, declaring his intention with regard to them just before his death by the will, to which John Paston and Sir Thomas Howes were the sole acting
executors. These escheators acted under the writs of diem clausit extremum appointing them; but before they were issued there had been a general scramble in the counties where Sir John's immense estates lay, several great lords striving to seize and hold them by force. Thus the Duke of Exeter set up a claim to Fastolf's house in Southwark, while others offered to prove the Crown's right to the whole of the personalty. Under such circumstances it was something for the heirs to stand well with the escheators, and that they should act with them, that they might be put, with as little delay as possible, in possession of their rights. It is with the Norfolk and Suffolk properties that we are concerned, as these were to belong to the Pastons; and here it, fortunately for them, happened that the escheator, Richard Southwell, was a friend of John Paston's, so that, but not until after a delay of five months, the Norfolk and Suffolk inquisitions were held at Acle. Such proceedings knew nothing of wills, but they acknowledged the right of trustees; and thus John Paston, as one of Sir John's trustees, was put into possession of these properties which he afterwards could claim as his own, after fulfilling the dispositions made by old Sir John in his will.
We have used the word possession, and we know that possession is now held to be nine points of the law; and so it was in those days too, only that possession then often meant the right of the strongest to seize and keep any manor that he might choose to occupy. Even before Sir John Fastolf's death the Duke of Norfolk had tried to induce the old knight to sell him the reversion of the castle and manor, but Sir John told him he meant to give it to Paston to found a college. This proposal on the part of that powerful nobleman at once irritated Fastolf and aroused his suspicions as to what the rest of his trustees would do after his death. He knew, as we have seen, that he could trust John Paston, and he therefore made him his chief executor in order that ‘no great lord nor great
estate should inhabit in time to come within the great mansion,' and disturb his monks and almsmen at their devotions. This Paston was to provide, and then he and his heirs might have the Norfolk and Suffolk estates for themselves. And in order that his intention might be the more plain, he declared that if John Paston was interfered with by anyone he was to 'pull • down the said mansion and every stone and stick thereof,' and to found three of the said priests at St. Benet's, one at Attleborough, and one at St. Olave's church in Southwark. John Paston therefore was put into possession of the Fastolf estates by the escheator, but this right little availed him or his heirs
for many years. As for Caister, it was seized by the Duke of Norfolk, and not only by him but by successive Dukes of Norfolk more times than we can count, the Pastons recovering possession for short intervals, and then being ousted by their powerful adversaries. At last, after more than twenty years, they were put into peaceable possession of the castle, but this was not until long after the death of John Paston. It might have been thought that one duke was enough for the Pastons to have on their hands at once, but the castle and manor of Caister were not all the Norfolk possessions of the old knight. He owned Drayton and Hellesdon, in the valley of the Wensum, close to Norwich, a valley now fair and fruitful, with its flour and paper mills on one side the river, while beyond it lies Costessy common, and the noble house of the Staffords. The mansion of Hellesdon in those days lay near the church, and, above it, further up on the hill, was Drayton Lodge, which now crowns it as a venerable ruin. But at that time Drayton Lodge was a fortified house, until it was ruined, as we shall see. The manor of Costessy was owned by the Duke of Suffolk, the son of him who had given the good judge' trouble, and who now was to give the Pastons still more annoyance. The duke had really no right either in Drayton or Hellesdon, but, profiting by some trouble in which the Pastons were involved, and which caused the temporary absence of the stout Margaret in London, he came to Norwich with a retinue of 500 men, coerced the followers of Paston, some of whom he threatened to hang, and then proceeded to make a regular attack on the mansion at Hellesdon, which had a slender garrison, quite unequal to cope with such odds. Having thus obtained possession, the duke's men destroyed the mansion, carrying off all the movables, and hacking to pieces what they could not carry off. At the same time they ransacked the church, turned out the parson, and spoiled the images. The day after they destroyed Drayton Lodge, and left it the ruin which still crowns the ridge that, just beyond Bloodsdale, looks down on the valley of the Wensum. Of course the Pastons petitioned for redress, but it was not obtained till John Paston was dead, and, in fact, not till years afterwards, when Edward IV. was more able and willing to render justice than in the earlier years of his reign.
No doubt this fresh trouble contributed to shorten John Paston's days, but he had a greater cause of care than either Caister or Hellesdon. In his last days a very awkward story arose as to Sir John Fastolf's will, on which his right to the property mainly rested, and this was supported by the evidence of William Worcester, the old knight's secretary, who was vexed that no provision had been made
for him in the will
. The accusation was that that document was a forgery. This is by far too long a story for us to enter into, and all the less, that the right of the Pastons to the property was ultimately acknowledged; but the charge probably brought John Paston to his grave in 1466. When we consider that all in consequence of this new acquisition of wealth he had, by the machinations of his enemies, been once outlawed and three times imprisuned in the Fleet in the space of five years, we may well think that his access of fortune had been a curse rather than a blessing. Nor was this charge of forgery all. His enemies concocted a strange story that these upstart Pastons, who were thus making to themselves lordships, were after all not of gentle blood, but serfs, bound to the soil and the king's bondsmen, who might, if he chose, dispose of them or their property as if it belonged to the crown. This was so serious a charge that John Paston's son, Sir John Paston, before he asserted his rights to Caister and Hellesdon, was bound to clear himself of the stain attempted to be thrown on the family. The case come before the king in council in 1466, and it was then satisfactorily proved that the Pastons had been of worshipful blood since the Conquest, and that so far from being bondsmen their ancestors had themselves been owners of bondsmen. After this, Sir John Paston, who, strange to say, had another brother of the same name who succeeded him, was much about the Court, and in such favour with Edward IV. that when the king's sister, Margaret, went over in 1468 to be married to Charles the Bold, of Burgundy, both the brothers John Paston went with her. Then it was that the younger John wrote to his mother that he had never
heard of anything like the splendour of the Burgundian Court, except that of King Arthur.' But for all that, the disputes about Sir John Fastolf's will and the seizures of Caister still went on; nor was it until July 1470, that a compromise was made in the matter of the will, by which it was arranged that Bishop Waynflete should be sole executor, that the lands of Fastolf in Essex, Surrey, Norfolk, and Suffolk, which had been much wasted in the interval, should be divided between Sir John Paston and the Bishop, the former undertaking to surrender the titledeeds of all the manors except Caister. The project of a college there was to be given up, seven priests and seven poor scholars in Waynflete's new college of Magdalen in Oxford being founded in its stead. Thus it will be seen, as it were by the irony of Providence, that the express intention of the