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It was a great pity, so it was, this villanous saltpetre should be digg'd out of the bowels of the harmless earth. SHAKESPEARE King Henry IV., Part I. A terrible shriek rang through the great Manor-house of Amesbury. It was preceded by a loud explosion, and there was agony as well as terror in the cry. Then followed more shrieks and screams, some of pain, some of fright, others of anger and recrimination. Every one in the house ran together to the spot whence the cries proceeded, namely, the lower court, where the armourer and blacksmith had their workshops. There was a group of children, the young people who were confided to the great Earl Richard and Countess Alice of Salisbury for education and training. Boys and girls were alike there, some of the latter crying and sobbing, others mingling with the lads in the hot dispute as to "who did it." By the time the gentle but stately Countess had reached the place, all the grown-up persons of the establishment - knights, squires, grooms, scullions, and females of every degree - had thronged round them, but parted at her approach, though one of the knights said, "Nay, Lady Countess, 'tis no sight for you.