The Monastery, by Walter Scott

Chapter the Thirty-Third.

Now, on my faith, this gear is all entangled,

Like to the yarn-clew of the drowsy knitter,

Dragg’d by the frolic kitten through the cabin,

While the good dame sits nodding o’er the fire!

Masters, attend; ’twill crave some skill to clear it.

Old play.

Edward, with the speed of one who doubts the steadiness of his own resolution, hastened to prepare the horses for their departure, and at the same time thanked and dismissed the neighbours who had come to his assistance, and who were not a little surprised both at the suddenness of his proposed departure, and at the turn affairs had taken.

“Here’s cold hospitality,” quoth Dan of the Howlet-hirst to his comrades; “I trow the Glendinnings may die and come alive right oft, ere I put foot in stirrup again for the matter.”

Martin soothed them by placing food and liquor before them. They ate sullenly, however, and departed in bad humour.

The joyful news that Halbert Glendinning lived, was quickly communicated through the sorrowing family. The mother wept and thanked Heaven alternately; until her habits of domestic economy awakening as her feelings became calmer, she observed, “It would be an unco task to mend the yetts, and what were they to do while they were broken in that fashion? At open doors dogs come in.”

Tibb remarked, “She aye thought Halbert was ower gleg at his weapon to be killed sae easily by ony Sir Piercie of them a’. They might say of these Southrons as they liked; but they had not the pith and wind of a canny Scot, when it came to close grips.”

On Mary Avenel the impression was inconceivably deeper. She had but newly learned to pray, and it seemed to her that her prayers had been instantly answered — that the compassion of Heaven, which she had learned to implore in the words of Scripture, had descended upon her after a manner almost miraculous, and recalled the dead from the grave at the sound of her lamentations. There was a dangerous degree of enthusiasm in this strain of feeling, but it originated in the purest devotion.

A silken and embroidered muffler, one of the few articles of more costly attire which she possessed, was devoted to the purpose of wrapping up and concealing the sacred volume, which henceforth she was to regard as her chiefest treasure, lamenting only that, for want of a fitting interpreter, much must remain to her a book closed and a fountain sealed. She was unaware of the yet greater danger she incurred, of putting an imperfect or even false sense upon some of the doctrines which appeared most comprehensible. But Heaven had provided against both these hazards.

While Edward was preparing the horses, Christie of the Clinthill again solicited his orders respecting the reformed preacher, Henry Warden, and again the worthy monk laboured to reconcile in his own mind the compassion and esteem which, almost in spite of him, he could not help feeling for his former companion, with the duty which he owed to the Church. The unexpected resolution of Edward had removed, he thought, the chief objection to his being left at Glendearg.

“If I carry this Well-wood, or Warden, to the Monastery.” he thought, “he must die — die in his heresy — perish body and soul. And though such a measure was once thought advisable, to strike terror into the heretics, yet such is now their daily increasing strength, that it may rather rouse them to fury and to revenge. True, he refuses to pledge himself to abstain from sowing his tares among the wheat; but the ground here is too barren to receive them. I fear not his making impression on these poor women, the vassals of the Church, and bred up in due obedience to her behests. The keen, searching, inquiring, and bold disposition of Edward, might have afforded fuel to the fire; but that is removed, and there is nothing left which the flame may catch to. — Thus shall he have no power to spread his evil doctrines abroad, and yet his life shall be preserved, and it may be his soul rescued as a prey from the fowler’s net. I will myself contend with him in argument; for when we studied in common, I yielded not to him, and surely the cause for which I struggle will support me, were I yet more weak than I deem myself. Were this man reclaimed from his errors, an hundred-fold more advantage would arise to the Church from his spiritual regeneration, than from his temporal death.”

Having finished these meditations, in which there was at once goodness of disposition and narrowness of principle, a considerable portion of self-opinion, and no small degree of self-delusion, the Sub-Prior commanded the prisoner to be brought into his presence.

“Henry,” he said, “whatever a rigid sense of duty may demand of me, ancient friendship and Christian compassion forbid me to lead thee to assured death. Thou wert wont to be generous, though stern and stubborn in thy resolves; let not thy sense of what thine own thoughts term duty, draw thee farther than mine have done. Remember, that every sheep whom thou shalt here lead astray from the fold, will be demanded in time and through eternity of him who hath left thee the liberty of doing such evil. I ask no engagement of thee, save that thou remain a prisoner on thy word at this tower, and wilt appear when summoned.”

“Thou hast found an invention to bind my hands,” replied the preacher, “more sure than would have been the heaviest shackles in the prison of thy convent. I will not rashly do what may endanger thee with thy unhappy superiors, and I will be the more cautious, because, if we had farther opportunity of conference, I trust thine own soul may yet be rescued as a brand from the burning, and that, casting from thee the livery of Anti-Christ, that trader in human sins and human souls, I may yet assist thee to lay hold on the Rock of Ages.”

The Sub-Prior heard the sentiment, so similar to that which had occurred to himself, with the same kindly feelings with which the game-cock hears and replies to the challenge of his rival.

“I bless God and Our Lady,” said he, drawing himself up, “that my faith is already anchored on that Rock on which Saint Peter founded his Church.”

“It is a perversion of the text,” said the eager Henry Warden, “grounded on a vain play upon words — a most idle paronomasia.”

The controversy would have been rekindled, and in all probability — for what can insure the good temper and moderation of polemics? — might have ended in the preacher’s being transported a captive to the Monastery, had not Christie of the Clinthill observed that it was growing late, and that he, having to descend the glen, which had no good reputation, cared not greatly for travelling there after sunset. The Sub-Prior, therefore, stifled his desire of argument, and again telling the preacher, that he trusted to his gratitude and generosity, he bade him farewell.

“Be assured, my old friend,” replied Warden, “that no willing act of mine shall be to thy prejudice. But if my Master shall place work before me, I must obey God rather than man.”

These two men, both excellent from natural disposition and acquired knowledge, had more points of similarity than they themselves would have admitted. In truth, the chief distinction betwixt them was, that the Catholic, defending a religion which afforded little interest to the feelings, had, in his devotion to the cause he espoused, more of the head than of the heart, and was politic, cautious, and artful; while the Protestant, acting under the strong impulse of more lately-adopted conviction, and feeling, as he justly might, a more animated confidence in his cause, was enthusiastic, eager, and precipitate in his desire to advance it. The priest would have been contented to defend, the preacher aspired to conquer; and, of course, the impulse by which the latter was governed, was more active and more decisive. They could not part from each other without a second pressure of hands, and each looked in the face of his old companion, as he bade him adieu, with a countenance strongly expressive of sorrow, affection, and pity.

Father Eustace then explained briefly to Dame Glendinning, that this person was to be her guest for some days, forbidding her and her whole household, under high spiritual censures, to hold any conversation with him on religious subjects, but commanding her to attend to his wants in all other particulars.

“May Our Lady forgive me, reverend father,” said Dame Glendinning, somewhat dismayed at this intelligence, “but I must needs say, that ower mony guests have been the ruin of mony a house, and I trow they will bring down Glendearg. First came the Lady of Avenel —(her soul be at rest — she meant nae ill)— but she brought with her as mony bogles and fairies, as hae kept the house in care ever since, sae that we have been living as it were in a dream. And then came that English knight, if it please you, and if he hasna killed my son outright, he has chased him aff the gate, and it may be lang eneugh ere I see him again — forby the damage done to outer door and inner door. And now your reverence has given me the charge of a heretic, who, it is like, may bring the great horned devil himself down upon us all; and they say that it is neither door nor window will serve him, but he will take away the side of the auld tower along with him. Nevertheless, reverend father, your pleasure is doubtless to be done to our power.”

“Go to, woman,” said the Sub-Prior; “send for workmen from the clachan, and let them charge the expense of their repairs to the Community, and I will give the treasurer warrant to allow them. Moreover, in settling the rental mails, and feu-duties, thou shalt have allowance for the trouble and charges to which thou art now put, and I will cause strict search to be made after thy son.”

The dame curtsied deep and low at each favourable expression; and when the Sub-Prior had done speaking, she added her farther hope that the Sub-Prior would hold some communing with her gossip the Miller, concerning the fate of his daughter, and expound to him that the chance had by no means happened through any negligence on her part.

“I sair doubt me, father,” she said, “whether Mysie finds her way back to the Mill in a hurry; but it was all her father’s own fault that let her run lamping about the country, riding on bare-backed naigs, and never settling to do a turn of wark within doors, unless it were to dress dainties at dinner-time for his ain kyte.”

“You remind me, dame, of another matter of urgency,” said Father Eustace; “and, God knows, too many of them press on me at this moment. This English knight must be sought out, and explanation given to him of these most strange chances. The giddy girl must also be recovered. If she hath suffered in reputation by this unhappy mistake, I will not hold myself innocent of the disgrace. Yet how to find them out I know not.”

“So please you,” said Christie of the Clinthill, “I am willing to take the chase, and bring them back by fair means or foul; for though you have always looked as black as night at me, whenever we have forgathered, yet I have not forgotten that had it not been for you, my neck would have kend the weight of my four quarters. If any man can track the tread of them, I will say in the face of both Merse and Teviotdale, and take the Forest to boot, I am that man. But first I have matters to treat of on my master’s score, if you will permit me to ride down the glen with you.”

“Nay, but my friend,” said the Sub-Prior, “thou shouldst remember I have but slender cause to trust thee for a companion through a place so solitary.”

“Tush! tush!” said the Jackman, “fear me not; I had the worst too surely to begin that sport again. Besides, have I not said a dozen of times, I owe you a life? and when I owe a man either a good turn or a bad, I never fail to pay it sooner or later. Moreover, beshrew me if I care to go alone down the glen, or even with my troopers, who are, every loon of them, as much devil’s bairns as myself; whereas, if your reverence, since that is the word, take beads and psalter, and I come along with jack and spear, you will make the devils take the air, and I will make all human enemies take the earth.”

Edward here entered, and told his reverence that his horse was prepared. At this instant his eye caught his mother’s, and the resolution which he had so strongly formed was staggered when he recollected the necessity of bidding her farewell. The Sub-Prior saw his embarrassment, and came to his relief.

“Dame,” said he, “I forgot to mention that your son Edward goes with me to Saint Mary’s, and will not return for two or three days.”

“You’ll be wishing to help him to recover his brother? May the saints reward your kindness!”

The Sub-Prior returned the benediction which, in this instance, he had not very well deserved, and he and Edward set forth on their route. They were presently followed by Christie, who came up with his followers at such a speedy pace, as intimated sufficiently that his wish to obtain spiritual convoy through the glen, was extremely sincere. He had, however, other matters to stimulate his speed, for he was desirous to communicate to the Sub-Prior a message from his master Julian, connected with the delivery of the prisoner Warden; and having requested the Sub-Prior to ride with him a few yards before Edward, and the troopers of his own party, he thus addressed him, sometimes interrupting his discourse in a manner testifying that his fear of supernatural beings was not altogether lulled to rest by his confidence in the sanctity of his fellow-traveller.

“My master,” said the rider, “deemed he had sent you an acceptable gift in that old heretic preacher; but it seems, from the slight care you have taken of him, that you make small account of the boon.”

“Nay,” said the Sub-Prior, “do not thus judge of it. The Community must account highly of the service, and will reward it to thy master in goodly fashion. But this man and I are old friends, and I trust to bring him back from the paths of perdition.”

“Nay,” said the moss-trooper, “when I saw you shake hands at the beginning I counted that you would fight it all out in love and honour, and that there would be no extreme dealings betwixt ye — however it is all one to my master — Saint Mary! what call you yon, Sir Monk?”

“The branch of a willow streaming across the path betwixt us and the sky.”

“Beshrew me,” said Christie, “if it looked not like a man’s hand holding a sword. — But touching my master, he, like a prudent man, hath kept himself aloof in these broken times, until he could see with precision what footing he was to stand upon. Right tempting offers he hath had from the Lords of Congregation, whom you call heretics; and at one time he was minded, to be plain with you, to have taken their way — for he was assured that the Lord James 67 was coming this road at the head of a round body of cavalry. And accordingly Lord James did so far reckon upon him, that he sent this man Warden, or whatsoever be his name, to my master’s protection, as an assured friend; and, moreover, with tidings that he himself was marching hitherward at the head of a strong body of horse.”

“Now, Our Lady forfend!” said the Sub-Prior.

“Amen!” answered Christie, in some trepidation, “did your reverence see aught?”

“Nothing whatever,” replied the monk; “it was thy tale which wrested from me that exclamation.”

“And it was some cause,” replied he of the Clinthill, “for if Lord James should come hither, your Halidome would smoke for it. But be of good cheer — that expedition is ended before it was begun. The Baron of Avenel had sure news that Lord James has been fain to march westward with his merry-men, to protect Lord Semple against Cassilis and the Kennedies. By my faith, it will cost him a brush; for wot ye what they say of that name —

“Twixt Wigton and the town of Ayr,

Portpatrick and the cruives of Cree,

No man need think for to bide there,

Unless he court Saint Kennedie.’”

“Then,” said the Sub-Prior, “the Lord James’s purpose of coming southwards being broken, cost this person, Henry Warden, a cold reception at Avenel Castle.”

“It would not have been altogether so rough a one,” said the mosstrooper; “for my master was in heavy thought what to do in these unsettled times, and would scarce have hazarded misusing a man sent to him by so terrible a leader as the Lord James. But, to speak the truth, some busy devil tempted the old man to meddle with my master’s Christian liberty of hand-fasting with Catherine of Newport. So that broke the wand of peace between them, and now ye may have my master, and all the force he can make, at your devotion, for Lord James never forgave wrong done to him; and if he come by the upper hand, he will have Julian’s head if there were never another of the name, as it is like there is not, excepting the bit slip of a lassie yonder. And now I have told you more of my master’s affairs than he would thank me for; but you have done me a frank turn once, and I may need one at your hands again.”

“Thy frankness,” said the Sub-Prior, “shall surely advantage thee; for much it concerns the Church in these broken times to know the purposes and motives of those around us. But what is it that thy master expects from us in reward of good service? for I esteem him one of those who are not willing to work without their hire.”

“Nay, that I can tell you flatly; for Lord James had promised him, in case he would be of his faction in these parts, an easy tack of the teindsheaves of his own Barony of Avenel, together with the lands of Cranberry-moor, which lie intersected with his own. And he will look for no less at your hand.”

“But there is old Gilbert of Cranberry-moor,” said the Sub-Prior; “what are we to make of him? The heretic Lord James may take on him to dispone upon the goods and lands of the Halidome at his pleasure, because, doubtless, but for the protection of God, and the baronage which yet remain faithful to their creed, he may despoil us of them by force; but while they are the property of the Community, we may not take steadings from ancient and faithful vassals, to gratify the covetousness of those who serve God only from the lucre of gain.”

“By the mass,” said Christie, “it is well talking, Sir Priest; but when ye consider that Gilbert has but two half-starved cowardly peasants to follow him, and only an auld jaded aver to ride upon, fitter for the plough than for manly service; and that the Baron of Avenel never rides with fewer than. ten jackmen at his back, and oftener with fifty, bodin in all that effeirs to war as if they were to do battle for a kingdom, and mounted on nags that nicker at the clash of the sword as if it were the clank of the lid of a corn-chest — I say, when ye have computed all this, ye may guess what course will best serve your Monastery.”

“Friend,” said the monk, “I would willingly purchase thy master’s assistance on his own terms, since times leave us no better means of defence against sacrilegious spoliation of heresy; but to take from a poor man his patrimony —”

“For that matter,” said the rider, “his seat would scarce be a soft one, if my master thought that Gilbert’s interest stood betwixt him and what he wishes. The Halidome has land enough, and Gilbert may be quartered elsewhere.”

“We will consider the possibility of so disposing the matter,” said the monk, “and will expect in consequence your master’s most active assistance, with all the followers he can make, to join in the defence of the Halidome, against any force by which it may be threatened.”

“A man’s hand and a mailed glove on that,” said the jackman. “They68 call us marauders, thieves, and what not; but the side we take we hold by. — And I will be blithe when my Baron comes to a point which side he will take, for the castle is a kind of hell, (Our Lady forgive me for naming such a word in this place!) while he is in his mood, studying how he may best advantage himself. And now, Heaven be praised, we are in the open valley, and I may swear a round oath, should aught happen to provoke it.”

“My friend,” said the Sub-Prior, “thou hast little merit in abstaining from oaths or blasphemy, if it be only out of fear of evil spirits.”

“Nay, I am not quite a Church vassal yet,” said the jackman, “and if you link the curb too tight on a young horse, I promise you he will rear — Why, it is much for me to forbear old customs on any account whatever.”

The night being fine, they forded the river at the spot where the Sacristan met with his unhappy encounter with the spirit. As soon as they arrived at the gate of the Monastery, the porter in waiting eagerly exclaimed, “Reverend father, the Lord Abbot is most anxious for your presence.”

“Let these strangers be carried to the great hall,” said the Sub-Prior, “and be treated with the best by the cellarer; reminding them, however, of that modesty and decency of conduct which becometh guests in a house like this.”

“But the Lord Abbot demands you instantly, my venerable brother,” said Father Philip, arriving in great haste. “I have not seen him more discouraged or desolate of counsel since the field of Pinkie-cleugh was stricken,”

“I come, my good brother, I come,” said Father Eustace. “I pray thee, good brother, let this youth, Edward Glendinning, be conveyed to the Chamber of the Novices, and placed under their instructor. God hath touched his heart, and he proposeth laying aside the vanities of the world, to become a brother of our holy order; which, if his good parts be matched with fitting docility and humility, he may one day live to adorn.”

“My very venerable brother,” exclaimed old Father Nicholas, who came hobbling with a third summons to the Sub-Prior, “I pray thee to hasten to our worshipful Lord Abbot. The holy patroness be with us! never saw I Abbot of the House of St. Mary’s in such consternation; and yet I remember me well when Father Ingelram had the news of Flodden-field.”

“I come, I come, venerable brother,” said Father Eustace — And having repeatedly ejaculated “I come!” he at last went to the Abbot in good earnest.

67 Lord James Stewart, afterwards the Regent Murray.

68 As some atonement for their laxity of morals on most occasions, the Borderers were severe observers of the faith which they had pledged, even to an enemy. If any person broke his word so plighted, the individual to whom faith had not been observed, used to bring to the next Border-meeting a glove hung on the point of a spear, and proclaim to Scots and English the name of the defaulter. This was accounted so great a disgrace to all connected with him, that his own clansmen sometimes destroyed him, to escape the infamy he had brought on them.

Constable, a spy engaged by Sir Ralph Sadler, talks of two Border thieves, whom he used as his guides:—“That they would not care to steal, and yet that they would not betray any man that trusts in them, for all the gold in Scotland or in France. They are my guides and outlaws. If they would betray me they might get their pardons, and cause me to be hanged; but I have tried them ere this.”— Sadler’s letters during the Northern Insurrection.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00