The Abbot, by Walter Scott

Chapter the Fifteenth.

As when in tumults rise the ignoble crowd,

Mad are their motions, and their tongues are loud,

And stones and brands in rattling furies fly,

And all the rustic arms which fury can supply —

Then if some grave and pious man appear,

They hush their noise, and lend a listening ear.

Dryden’s Virgil

A dreadful shout of vengeance was raised by the revellers, whose sport was thus so fearfully interrupted; but for an instant, the want of weapons amongst the multitude, as well as the inflamed features arid brandished poniard of Roland Graeme, kept them at bay, while the Abbot, horror-struck at the violence, implored, with uplifted hands, pardon for blood-shed committed within the sanctuary. Magdalen Graeme alone expressed triumph in the blow her descendant had dealt to the scoffer, mixed, however, with a wild and anxious expression of terror for her grandson’s safety. “Let him perish,” she said, “in his blasphemy — let him die on the holy pavement which he has insulted!”

But the rage of the multitude, the grief of the Abbot, the exultation of the enthusiastic Magdalen, were all mistimed and unnecessary. Howleglas, mortally wounded as he was supposed to be, sprung alertly up from the floor, calling aloud, “A miracle, a miracle, my masters! as brave a miracle as ever was wrought in the kirk of Kennaquhair. And I charge you, my masters, as your lawfully chosen Abbot, that you touch no one without my command — You, wolf and bear, will guard this pragmatic youth, but without hurting him — And you, reverend brother, will, with your comrades, withdraw to your cells; for our conference has ended like all conferences, leaving each of his own mind, as before; and if we fight, both you, and your brethren, and the Kirk, will have the worst on’t — Wherefore, pack up you pipes and begone.”

The hubbub was beginning again to awaken, but still Father Ambrose hesitated, as uncertain to what path his duty called him, whether to face out the present storm, or to reserve himself for a better moment. His brother of Unreason observed his difficulty, and said, in a tone more natural and less affected than that with which he had hitherto sustained his character, “We came hither, my good sir, more in mirth than in mischief — our bark is worse than our bite — and, especially, we mean you no personal harm — wherefore, draw off while the play is good; for it is ill whistling for a hawk when she is once on the soar, and worse to snatch the quarry from the ban-dog — Let these fellows once begin their brawl, and it will be too much for madness itself, let alone the Abbot of Unreason, to bring them back to the lure.”

The brethren crowded around Father Ambrosius, and joined in urging him to give place to the torrent. The present revel was, they said, an ancient custom which his predecessors had permitted, and old Father Nicholas himself had played the dragon in the days of the Abbot Ingelram.

“And we now reap the fruit of the seed which they have so unadvisedly sown,” said Ambrosius; “they taught men to make a mock of what is holy, what wonder that the descendants of scoffers become robbers and plunderers? But be it as you list, my brethren — move towards the dortour — And you, dame, I command you, by the authority which I have over you, and by your respect for that youth’s safety, that you go with us without farther speech — Yet, stay — what are your intentions towards that youth whom you detain prisoner? — Wot ye,” he continued, addressing Howleglas in a stern tone of voice, “that he bears the livery of the House of Avenel? They who fear not the anger of Heaven, may at least dread the wrath of man.”

“Cumber not yourself concerning him,” answered Howleglas, “we know right well who and what he is.”

“Let me pray,” said the Abbot, in a tone of entreaty, “that you do him no wrong for the rash deed — which he attempted in his imprudent zeal.”

“I say, cumber not yourself about it, father,” answered Howleglas, “but move off with your train, male and female, or I will not undertake to save yonder she-saint from the ducking-stool — And as for bearing of malice, my stomach has no room for it; it is,” he added, clapping his hand on his portly belly, “too well bumbasted out with straw and buckram — gramercy to them both — they kept out that madcap’s dagger as well as a Milan corslet could have done.”

In fact, the home-driven poniard of Roland Graeme had lighted upon the stuffing of the fictitious paunch, which the Abbot of Unreason wore as a part of his characteristic dress, and it was only the force of the blow which had prostrated that reverend person on the ground for a moment.

Satisfied in some degree by this man’s assurances, and compelled — to give way to superior force, the Abbot Ambrosius retired from the Church at the head of the monks, and left the court free for the revellers to work their will. But, wild and wilful as these rioters were, they accompanied the retreat of the religionists with none of those shouts of contempt and derision with which they had at first hailed them. The Abbot’s discourse had affected some of them with remorse, others with shame, and all with a transient degree of respect. They remained silent until the last monk had disappeared through the side-door which communicated with their dwelling-place, and even then it cost some exhortations on the part of Howleglas, some caprioles of the hobby-horse, and some wallops of the dragon, to rouse once more the rebuked spirit of revelry.

“And how now, my masters?” said the Abbot of Unreason; “and wherefore look on me with such blank Jack-a-Lent visages? Will you lose your old pastime for an old wife’s tale of saints and purgatory? Why, I thought you would have made all split long since — Come, strike up, tabor and harp, strike up, fiddle and rebeck — dance and be merry today, and let care come tomorrow. Bear and wolf, look to your prisoner — prance, hobby — hiss, dragon, and halloo, boys — we grow older every moment we stand idle, and life is too short to be spent in playing mumchance.”

This pithy exhortation was attended with the effect desired. They fumigated the Church with burnt wool and feathers instead of incense, put foul water into the holy-water basins, and celebrated a parody on the Church-service, the mock Abbot officiating at the altar; they sung ludicrous and indecent parodies, to the tunes of church hymns; they violated whatever vestments or vessels belonging to the Abbey they could lay their hands upon; and, playing every freak which the whim of the moment could suggest to their wild caprice, at length they fell to more lasting deeds of demolition, pulled down and destroyed some carved wood-work, dashed out the painted windows which had escaped former violence, and in their rigorous search after sculpture dedicated to idolatry, began to destroy what ornaments yet remained entire upon the tombs, and around the cornices of the pillars.

The spirit of demolition, like other tastes, increases by indulgence; from these lighter attempts at mischief, the more tumultuous part of the meeting began to meditate destruction on a more extended scale —“Let us heave it down altogether, the old crow’s nest,” became a general cry among them; “it has served the Pope and his rooks too long;” and up they struck a ballad which was then popular among the lower classes. 19

“The Paip, that pagan full of pride,

Hath blinded us ower lang.

For where the blind the blind doth lead,

No marvel baith gae wrang.

Like prince and king,

He led the ring

Of all iniquity.

Sing hay trix, trim-go-trix,

Under the greenwood tree.

“The Bishop rich, he could not preach

For sporting with the lasses;

The silly friar behoved to fleech

For awmous as he passes:

The curate his creed

He could not read —

Shame fa’ company!

Sing hay trix, trim-go-trix,

Under the greenwood tree.”

Thundering out this chorus of a notable hunting song, which had been pressed into the service of some polemical poet, the followers of the Abbot of Unreason were turning every moment more tumultuous, and getting beyond the management even of that reverend prelate himself, when a knight in full armour, followed by two or three men-at-arms, entered the church, and in a stern voice commanded them to forbear their riotous mummery.

His visor was up, but if it had been lowered, the cognizance of the holly-branch sufficiently distinguished Sir Halbert Glendinning, who, on his homeward road, was passing through the village of Kennaquhair; and moved, perhaps, by anxiety for his brother’s safety, had come directly to the church on hearing of the uproar.

“What is the meaning of this,” he said, “my masters? are ye Christian men, and the king’s subjects, and yet waste and destroy church and chancel like so many heathens?”

All stood silent, though doubtless there were several disappointed and surprised at receiving chiding instead of thanks from so zealous a protestant.

The dragon, indeed, did at length take upon him to be spokesman, and growled from the depth of his painted maw, that they did but sweep Popery out of the church with the besom of destruction.

“What! my friends,” replied Sir Halbert Glendinning, “think you this mumming and masking has not more of Popery in it than have these stone walls? Take the leprosy out of your flesh, before you speak of purifying stone walls — abate your insolent license, which leads but to idle vanity and sinful excess; and know, that what you now practise, is one of the profane and unseemly sports introduced by the priests of Rome themselves, to mislead and to brutify the souls which fell into their net.”

“Marry come up — are you there with your bears?” muttered the dragon, with a draconic sullenness, which was in good keeping with his character, “we had as good have been Romans still, if we are to have no freedom in our pastimes!”

“Dost thou reply to me so?” said Halbert Glendinning; “or is there any pastime in grovelling on the ground there like a gigantic kail-worm? — Get out of thy painted case, or, by my knighthood, I will treat you like the beast and reptile you have made yourself.”

“Beast and reptile?” retorted the offended dragon, “setting aside your knighthood, I hold myself as well a born man as thyself.”

The Knight made no answer in words, but bestowed two such blows with the butt of his lance on the petulant dragon, that had not the hoops which constituted the ribs of the machine been pretty strong, they would hardly have saved those of the actor from being broken. In all haste the masker crept out of his disguise, unwilling to abide a third buffet from the lance of the enraged Knight. And when the ex-dragon stood on the floor of the church, he presented to Halbert Glendinning the well-known countenance of Dan of the Howlet-hirst, an ancient comrade of his own, ere fate had raised him so high above the rank to which he was born. The clown looked sulkily upon the Knight, as if to upbraid him for his violence towards an old acquaintance, and Glendinning’s own good-nature reproached him for the violence he had acted upon him.

“I did wrong to strike thee,” he said, “Dan; but in truth, I knew thee not — thou wert ever a mad fellow — come to Avenel Castle, and we shall see how my hawks fly.”

“And if we show him not falcons that will mount as merrily as rockets,” said the Abbot of Unreason, “I would your honour laid as hard on my bones as you did on his even now.”

“How now, Sir Knave,” said the Knight, “and what has brought you hither?”

The Abbot, hastily ridding himself of the false nose which mystified his physiognomy, and the supplementary belly which made up his disguise, stood before his master in his real character, of Adam Woodcock, the falconer of Avenel.

“How, varlet!” said the Knight; “hast thou dared to come here and disturb the very house my brother was dwelling in?”

“And it was even for that reason, craving your honour’s pardon, that I came hither — for I heard the country was to be up to choose an Abbot of Unreason, and sure, thought I, I that can sing, dance, leap backwards over a broadsword, and am as good a fool as ever sought promotion, have all chance of carrying the office; and if I gain my election, I may stand his honour’s brother in some stead, supposing things fall roughly out at the Kirk of Saint Mary’s.”

“Thou art but a cogging knave,” said Sir Halbert, “and well I wot, that love of ale and brandy, besides the humour of riot and frolic, would draw thee a mile, when love of my house would not bring thee a yard. But, go to — carry thy roisterers elsewhere — to the alehouse if they list, and there are crowns to pay your charges — make out the day’s madness without doing more mischief, and be wise men tomorrow — and hereafter learn to serve a good cause better than by acting like buffoons or ruffians.”

Obedient to his master’s mandate, the falconer was collecting his discouraged followers, and whispering into their ears —“Away, away — tace is Latin for a candle — never mind the good Knight’s puritanism — we will play the frolic out over a stand of double ale in Dame Martin the Brewster’s barn-yard — draw off, harp and tabor — bagpipe and drum — mum till you are out of the church-yard, then let the welkin ring again — move on, wolf and bear — keep the hind legs till you cross the kirk-stile, and then show yourselves beasts of mettle — what devil sent him here to spoil our holiday! — but anger him not, my hearts; his lance is no goose-feather, as Dan’s ribs can tell.”

“By my soul,” said Dan, “had it been another than my ancient comrade, I would have made my father’s old fox 20 fly about his ears!”

“Hush! hush! man,” replied Adam Woodcock, “not a word that way, as you value the safety of your bones — what man? we must take a clink as it passes, so it is not bestowed in downright ill-will.”

“But I will take no such thing,” said Dan of the Howlet-hirst, suddenly resisting the efforts of Woodcock, who was dragging him out of the church; when the quick military eye of Sir Halbert Glendinning detecting Roland Graeme betwixt his two guards, the Knight exclaimed, “So ho! falconer — Woodcock — knave, hast thou brought my Lady’s page in mine own livery, to assist at this hopeful revel of thine, with your wolves and bears? Since you were at such mummings, you might, if you would, have at least saved the credit of my household, by dressing him up as a jackanapes — bring him hither, fellows!”

Adam Woodcock was too honest and downright, to permit blame to light upon the youth, when it was undeserved. “I swear,” he said, “by Saint Martin of Bullions —” 21

“And what hast thou to do with Saint Martin?”

“Nay, little enough, sir, unless when he sends such rainy days that we cannot fly a hawk — but I say to your worshipful knighthood, that as I am, a true man ——”

“As you are a false varlet, had been the better obtestation.”

“Nay, if your knighthood allows me not to speak,” said Adam, “I can hold my tongue — but the boy came not hither by my bidding, for all that.”

“But to gratify his own malapert pleasure, I warrant me,” said Sir Halbert Glendinning —“Come hither, young springald, and tell me whether you have your mistress’s license to be so far absent from the castle, or to dishonour my livery by mingling in such a May-game?”

“Sir Halbert Glendinning,” answered Roland Graeme with steadiness, “I have obtained the permission, or rather the commands, of your lady, to dispose of my time hereafter according to my own pleasure. I have been a most unwilling spectator of this May-game, since it is your pleasure so to call it; and I only wear your livery until I can obtain clothes which bear no such badge of servitude.”

“How am I to understand this, young man?” said Sir Halbert Glendinning; “speak plainly, for I am no reader of riddles. — That my lady favoured thee, I know. What hast thou done to disoblige her, and occasion thy dismissal?”

“Nothing to speak of,” said Adam Woodcock, answering for the boy —“a foolish quarrel with me, which was more foolishly told over again to my honoured lady, cost the poor boy his place. For my part, I will say freely, that I was wrong from beginning to end, except about the washing of the eyas’s meat. There I stand to it that I was right.”

With that, the good-natured falconer repeated to his master the whole history of the squabble which had brought Roland Graeme into disgrace with his mistress, but in a manner so favourable for the page, that Sir Halbert could not but suspect his generous motive.

“Thou art a good-natured fellow,” he said, “Adam Woodcock.”

“As ever had falcon upon fist,” said Adam; “and, for that matter, so is Master Roland; but, being half a gentleman by his office, his blood is soon up, and so is mine.”

“Well,” said Sir Halbert, “be it as it will, my lady has acted hastily, for this was no great matter of offence to discard the lad whom she had trained up for years; but he, I doubt not, made it worse by his prating — it jumps well with a purpose, however, which I had in my mind. Draw off these people, Woodcock — and you, Roland Graeme, attend me.”

The page followed him in silence into the Abbot’s house, where, stepping into the first apartment which he found open, he commanded one of his attendants to let his brother, Master Edward Glendinning, know that he desired to speak with him. The men-at-arms went gladly off to join their comrade, Adam Woodcock, and the jolly crew whom he had assembled at Dame Martin’s, the hostler’s wife, and the Page and Knight were left alone in the apartment. Sir Halbert Glendinning paced the floor for a moment in silence and then thus addressed his attendant —

“Thou mayest have remarked, stripling, that I have but seldom distinguished thee by much notice; — I see thy colour rises, but do not speak till thou nearest me out. I say I have never much distinguished thee, not because I did not see that in thee which I might well have praised, but because I saw something blameable, which such praises might have made worse. Thy mistress, dealing according to her pleasure in her own household, as no one had better reason or title, had picked thee from the rest, and treated thee more like a relation than a domestic; and if thou didst show some vanity and petulance under such distinction, it were injustice not to say that thou hast profited both in thy exercises and in thy breeding, and hast shown many sparkles of a gentle and manly spirit. Moreover, it were ungenerous, having bred thee up freakish and fiery, to dismiss thee to want or wandering, for showing that very peevishness and impatience of discipline which arose from thy too delicate nurture. Therefore, and for the credit of my own household, I am determined to retain thee in my train, until I can honourably dispose of thee elsewhere, with a fair prospect of thy going through the world with credit to the house that brought thee up.”

If there was something in Sir Halbert Glendinning’s speech which flattered Roland’s pride, there was also much that, according to his mode of thinking, was an alloy to the compliment. And yet his conscience instantly told him that he ought to accept, with grateful deference, the offer which was made him by the husband of his kind protectress; and his prudence, however slender, could not but admit he should enter the world under very different auspices as a retainer of Sir Halbert Glendinning, so famed for wisdom, courage, and influence, from those under which he might partake the wanderings, and become an agent in the visionary schemes, for such they appeared to him, of Magdalen, his relative. Still, a strong reluctance to re-enter a service from which he had been dismissed with contempt, almost counterbalanced these considerations.

Sir Halbert looked on the youth with surprise, and resumed —“You seem to hesitate, young man. Are your own prospects so inviting, that you should pause ere you accept those which I should offer to you? or, must I remind you that, although you have offended your benefactress, even to the point of her dismissing you, yet I am convinced, the knowledge that you have gone unguided on your own wild way, into a world so disturbed as ours of Scotland, cannot, in the upshot, but give her sorrow and pain; from which it is, in gratitude, your duty to preserve her, no less than it is in common wisdom your duty to accept my offered protection, for your own sake, where body and soul are alike endangered, should you refuse it.”

Roland Graeme replied in a respectful tone, but at the same time with some spirit, “I am not ungrateful for such countenance as has been afforded me by the Lord of Avenel, and I am glad to learn, for the first time, that I have not had the misfortune to be utterly beneath his observation, as I had thought — And it is only needful to show me how I can testify my duty and my gratitude towards my early and constant benefactress with my life’s hazard, and I will gladly peril it.” He stopped.

“These are but words, young man,” answered Glendinning, “large protestations are often used to supply the place of effectual service. I know nothing in which the peril of your life can serve the Lady of Avenel; I can only say, she will be pleased to learn you have adopted some course which may ensure the safety of your person, and the weal of your soul — What ails you, that you accept not that safety when it is offered you?”

“My only relative who is alive,” answered Roland, “at least the only relative whom I have ever seen, has rejoined me since I was dismissed from the Castle of Avenel, and I must consult with her whether I can adopt the line to which you now call me, or whether her increasing infirmities, or the authority which she is entitled to exercise over me, may not require me to abide with her.”

“Where is this relation?” said Sir Halbert Glendinning.

“In this house,” answered the page.

“Go then, and seek her out,” said the Knight of Avenel; “more than meet it is that thou shouldst have her approbation, yet worse than foolish would she show herself in denying it.”

Roland left the apartment to seek for his grandmother; and, as he retreated, the Abbot entered.

The two brothers met as brothers who loved each other fondly, yet meet rarely together. Such indeed was the case. Their mutual affection attached them to each other; but in every pursuit, habit or sentiment, connected with the discords of the times, the friend and counsellor of Murray stood opposed to the Roman Catholic priest; nor, indeed, could they have held very much society together, without giving cause of offence and suspicion to their confederates on each side. After a close embrace on the part of both, and a welcome on that of the Abbot, Sir Halbert Glendinning expressed his satisfaction that he had come in time to appease the riot raised by Howleglas and his tumultuous followers.

“And yet,” he said, “when I look on your garments, brother Edward, I cannot help thinking there still remains an Abbot of Unreason within the bounds of the Monastery.”

“And wherefore carp at my garments, brother Halbert?” said the Abbot; “it is the spiritual armour of my calling, and, as such, beseems me as well as breastplate and baldric becomes your own bosom.”

“Ay, but there were small wisdom, methinks, in putting on armour where we have no power to fight; it is but a dangerous temerity to defy the foe whom we cannot resist.”

“For that, my brother, no one can answer,” said the Abbot, “until the battle be fought; and, were it even as you say, methinks a brave man, though desperate of victory, would rather desire to fight and fall, than to resign sword and shield on some mean and dishonourable composition with his insulting antagonist. But, let not you and I make discord of a theme on which we cannot agree, but rather stay and partake, though a heretic, of my admission feast. You need not fear, my brother, that your zeal for restoring the primitive discipline of the church will, on this occasion, be offended with the rich profusion of a conventual banquet. The days of our old friend Abbot Boniface are over; and the Superior of Saint Mary’s has neither forests nor fishings, woods nor pastures, nor corn-fields; — neither flocks nor herds, bucks nor wild-fowl — granaries of wheat, nor storehouses of oil and wine, of ale and of mead. The refectioner’s office is ended; and such a meal as a hermit in romance can offer to a wandering knight, is all we have to set before you. But, if you will share it with us, we shall eat it with a cheerful heart, and thank you, my brother, for your timely protection against these rude scoffers.”

“My dearest brother,” said the Knight, “it grieves me deeply I cannot abide with you; but it would sound ill for us both were one of the reformed congregation to sit down at your admission feast; and, if I can ever have the satisfaction of affording you effectual protection, it will be much owing to my remaining unsuspected of countenancing or approving your religious rites and ceremonies. It will demand whatever consideration I can acquire among my own friends, to shelter the bold man, who, contrary to law and the edicts of parliament, has dared to take up the office of Abbot of Saint Mary’s.”

“Trouble not yourself with the task, my brother,” replied Father Ambrosius. “I would lay down my dearest blood to know that you defended the church for the church’s sake; but, while you remain unhappily her enemy, I would not that you endangered your own safety, or diminished your own comforts, for the sake of my individual protection. — But who comes hither to disturb the few minutes of fraternal communication which our evil fate allows us?”

The door of the apartment opened as the Abbot spoke, and Dame Magdalen entered.

“Who is this woman?” said Sir Halbert Glendinning, somewhat sternly, “and what does she want?”

“That you know me not,” said the matron, “signifies little; I come by your own order, to give my free consent that the stripling, Roland Graeme, return to your service; and, having said so, I cumber you no longer with my presence. Peace be with you!” She turned to go away, but was stopped by inquiries of Sir Halbert Glendinning.

“Who are you? — what are you? — and why do you not await to make me answer?”

“I was,” she replied, “while yet I belonged to the world, a matron of no vulgar name; now I am Magdalen, a poor pilgrimer, for the sake of Holy Kirk.”

“Yea,” said Sir Halbert, “art thou a Catholic? I thought my dame said that Roland Graeme came of reformed kin.’

“His father,” said the matron, “was a heretic, or rather one who regarded neither orthodoxy or heresy — neither the temple of the church or of antichrist. I, too, for the sins of the times make sinners, have seemed to conform to your unhallowed rites — but I had my dispensation and my absolution.”

“You see, brother,” said Sir Halbert, with a smile of meaning towards his brother, “that we accuse you not altogether without grounds of mental equivocation.”

“My brother, you do us injustice,” replied the Abbot; “this woman, as her bearing may of itself warrant you, is not in her perfect mind. Thanks, I must needs say, to the persecution of your marauding barons, and of your latitudinarian clergy.”

“I will not dispute the point,” said Sir Halbert; “the evils of the time are unhappily so numerous, that both churches may divide them, and have enow to spare.” So saying, he leaned from the window of the apartment, and winded his bugle.

“Why do you sound your horn, my brother?” said the Abbot; “we have spent but few minutes together.”

“Alas!” said the elder brother, “and even these few have been sullied by disagreement. I sound to horse, my brother — the rather that, to avert the consequences of this day’s rashness on your part, requires hasty efforts on mine. — Dame, you will oblige me by letting your young relative know that we mount instantly. I intend not that he shall return to Avenel with me — it would lead to new quarrels betwixt him and my household; at least to taunts which his proud heart could ill brook, and my wish is to do him kindness. He shall, therefore, go forward to Edinburgh with one of my retinue, whom I shall send back to say what has chanced here. — You seem rejoiced at this?” he added, fixing his eyes keenly on Magdalen Graeme, who returned his gaze with calm indifference.

“I would rather,” she said, “that Roland, a poor and friendless orphan, were the jest of the world at large, than of the menials at Avenel.”

“Fear not, dame — he shall be scorned by neither,” answered the Knight.

“It may be,” she replied —“it may well be — but I will trust more to his own bearing than to your countenance.” She left the room as she spoke.

The Knight looked after her as she departed, but turned instantly to his brother, and expressing, in the most affectionate terms, his wishes for his welfare and happiness, craved his leave to depart. “My knaves,” he said, “are too busy at the ale-stand, to leave their revelry for the empty breath of a bugle-horn.”

“You have freed them from higher restraint, Halbert,” answered the Abbot, “and therein taught them to rebel against your own.”

“Fear not that, Edward,” exclaimed Halbert, who never gave his brother his monastic name of Ambrosius; “none obey the command of real duty so well as those who are free from the observance of slavish bondage.”

He was turning to depart, when the Abbot said — “Let us not yet part, my brother — here comes some light refreshment. Leave not the house which I must now call mine, till force expel me from it, until you have at least broken bread with me.”

The poor lay brother, the same who acted as porter, now entered the apartment, bearing some simple refreshment, and a flask of wine. “He had found it,” he said with officious humility, “by rummaging through every nook of the cellar.”

The Knight filled a small silver cup, and, quaffing it off, asked his brother to pledge him, observing, the wine was Bacharac, of the first vintage, and great age.

“Ay,” said the poor lay brother, “it came out of the nook which old brother Nicholas, (may his soul be happy!) was wont to call Abbot Ingelram’s corner; and Abbot Ingelram was bred at the Convent of Wurtzburg, which I understand to be near where that choice wine grows.”

“True, my reverend sir,” said Sir Halbert; “and therefore I entreat my brother and you to pledge me in a cup of this orthodox vintage.”

The thin old porter looked with a wishful glance towards the Abbot. “Do veniam,” said his Superior; and the old man seized, with a trembling hand, a beverage to which he had been long unaccustomed; drained the cup with protracted delight, as if dwelling on the flavour and perfume, and set it down with a melancholy smile and shake of the head, as if bidding adieu in future to such delicious potations. The brothers smiled. But when Sir Halbert motioned to the Abbot to take up his cup and do him reason, the Abbot, in turn, shook his head, and replied —“This is no day for the Abbot of Saint Mary’s to eat the fat and drink the sweat. In water from our Lady’s well,” he added, filling a cup with the limpid element, “I wish you, brother, all happiness, and above all, a true sight of your spiritual errors.”

“And to you, my beloved Edward,” replied Glendinning, “I wish the free exercise of your own free reason, and the discharge of more important duties than are connected with the idle name which you have so rashly assumed.”

The brothers parted with deep regret; and yet, each confident in his opinion, felt somewhat relieved by the absence of one whom he respected so much, and with whom he could agree so little.

Soon afterwards the sound of the Knight of Avenel’s trumpets was heard, and the Abbot went to the top of the tower, from whose dismantled battlements he could soon see the horsemen ascending the rising ground in the direction of the drawbridge. As he gazed, Magdalen Graeme came to his side.

“Thou art come,” he said, “to catch the last glimpse of thy grandson, my sister. Yonder he wends, under the charge of the best knight in Scotland, his faith ever excepted.”

“Thou canst bear witness, my father, that it was no wish either of mine or of Roland’s,” replied the matron, “which induced the Knight of Avenel, as he is called, again to entertain my grandson in his household — Heaven, which confounds the wise with their own wisdom, and the wicked with their own policy, hath placed him where, for the services of the Church, I would most wish him to be.”

“I know not what you mean, my sister,” said the Abbot.

“Reverend father,” replied Magdalen, “hast thou never heard that there are spirits powerful to rend the walls of a castle asunder when once admitted, which yet cannot enter the house unless they are invited, nay, dragged over the threshold?22 Twice hath Roland Graeme been thus drawn into the household of Avenel by those who now hold the title. Let them look to the issue.”

So saying she left the turret; and the Abbot, after pausing a moment on her words, which he imputed to the unsettled state of her mind, followed down the winding stair to celebrate his admission to his high office by fast and prayer instead of revelling and thanksgiving.

19 These rude rhymes are taken, with some trifling alterations, from a ballad called Trim-go-trix. It occurs in a singular collection, entitled; “A Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs, collected out of sundrie parts of the Scripture, with sundry of other ballatis changed out of prophane sanges for avoyding of sin and harlotrie, with Augmentation of sundrie Gude and Godly Ballates. Edinburgh, printed by Andro Hart.” This curious collection has been reprinted in Mr. John. Grahame Dalyell’s Scottish Poems of the 16th century Edin. 1801, 2 vols.

20 Fox, An old-fashioned broadsword was often so called.

21 The Saint Swithin, or weeping Saint of Scotland. If his festival (fourth July) prove wet, forty days of rain are expected.

22 There is a popular belief respecting evil spirits, that they cannot enter an inhabited house unless invited, nay, dragged over the threshold. There is an instance of the same superstition in the Tales of the Genii, where an enchanter is supposed to have intruded himself into the Divan of the Sultan.

“‘Thus,’ said the illustrious Misnar, ‘let the enemies of Mahomet be dismayed! but inform me, O ye sages! under the semblance of which of your brethren did that foul enchanter gain admittance here?’—‘May the lord of my heart,’ answered Balihu, the hermit of the faithful from Queda, ‘triumph over all his foes! As I travelled on the mountains from Queda, and saw neither the footsteps of beasts, nor the flight of birds, behold, I chanced to pass through a cavern, in whose hollow sides I found this accursed sage, to whom I unfolded the invitation of the Sultan of India, and we, joining, journeyed towards the Divan; but ere we entered, he said unto me. ‘Put thy hand forth, and pull me towards thee into the Divan, calling on the name of Mahomet, for the evil spirits are on me and vex me.’”

I have understood that many parts of these fine tales, and in particular that of the Sultan Misnar, were taken from genuine Oriental sources by the editor, Mr. James Ridley.

But the most picturesque use of this popular belief occurs in Coleridge’s beautiful and tantalizing fragment of Christabel. Has not our own imaginative poet cause to fear that future ages will desire to summon him from his place of rest, as Milton longed

“To call him up, who left half told

The story of Cambuscan bold?”

The verses I refer to are when Christabel conducts into her father’s castle a mysterious and malevolent being, under the guise of a distressed female stranger.

‘They cross’d the moat, and Christabel

Took the key that fitted well;

A little door she open’d straight,

All in the middle of the gate;

The gate that was iron’d within and without,

Where an army in battle array had march’d out.

“The lady sank, belike through pain,

And Christabel with might and main

Lifted her up, a weary weight,

Over the threshold of the gate:

Then the lady rose again,

And moved as she were not in pain.

“So free from danger, free from fear,

They cross’d the court; — right glad they were,

And Christabel devoutly cried

To the lady by her side:

‘Praise we the Virgin, all divine,

Who hath rescued thee from this distress.’

‘Alas, alas!’ said Geraldine,

‘I cannot speak from weariness.’

So free from danger, free from fear,

They cross’d the court: right glad they were

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/abbot/chapter15.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29