Page:Devonshire Characters and Strange Events.djvu/288

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DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS

him fast. He, after a while, confessed that he had been sent to kill the King by William de Marisco, son of Geoffrey (or Jordan) de Marisco, and he stated that others had conspired to commit the same crime. On learning this, the King ordered him to be torn limb from limb by horses, at Coventry."

The evidence incriminating William de Marisco was clearly worthless. If the would-be assassin had not been insane he would not have asserted a claim to the crown and drawn attention to himself before making the murderous attempt. De Marisco had nothing to gain by the King's death, and he may certainly be acquitted of participation.

William fled to Lundy, "impregnable from the nature of the place, and having attached to himself many outlaws and malefactors, subsisted by piracies, taking more especially wine and provisions, and making frequent sudden descents on the adjacent lands, spoiling and injuring the realm by land and by sea, and native as well as foreign merchants. Many English nobles, having learnt how that the said William and his followers could not be surprised save by stratagem, apprised the King that the securing of this malefactor must be effected not by violence, but by craft. The King therefore ordered his faithful subjects to exert themselves strenuously in order to capture him and relieve their country."

Nothing, however, was done for four years, during which the piracies continued. There was this excuse for De Marisco, that as the island grew neither corn nor wine, he was dependent on the mainland or on merchant vessels for his subsistence. As all those on the mainland were on the look-out to capture him as the supposed mover of the plot to kill the King, he was forced to live by piracy. In 1242, William of