Gone to be married? — Gone to swear a peace!
The news of the lost battle, so quickly carried by the fugitives to the village and convent, had spread the greatest alarm among the inhabitants. The Sacristan and other monks counselled flight; the Treasurer recommended that the church plate should be offered as a tribute to bribe the English officer; the Abbot alone was unmoved and undaunted.
“My brethren,” he said, “since God has not given our people victory in the combat, it must be because he requires of us, his spiritual soldiers, to fight the good fight of martyrdom, a conflict in which nothing but our own faint-hearted cowardice can make us fail of victory. Let us assume, then, the armour of faith, and prepare, if it be necessary, to die under the ruin of these shrines, to the service of which we have devoted ourselves. Highly honoured are we all in this distinguished summons, from our dear brother Nicholas, whose gray hairs have been preserved until they should be surrounded by the crown of martyrdom, down to my beloved son Edward, who, arriving at the vineyard at the latest hour of the day, is yet permitted to share its toils with those who have laboured from the morning. Be of good courage, my children. I dare not, like my sainted predecessors, promise to you that you shall be preserved by miracle — I and you are alike unworthy of that especial interposition, which, in earlier times, turned the sword of sacrilege against the bosom of tyrants by whom it was wielded, daunted the hardened hearts of heretics with prodigies, and called down hosts of angels to defend the shrine of God and of the Virgin. Yet, by heavenly aid, you shall this day see that your Father and Abbot will not disgrace the mitre which sits upon his brow. Go to your cells, my children, and exercise your private devotions. Array yourselves also in alb and cope, as for our most solemn festivals, and be ready, when the tolling of the largest bell announces the approach of the enemy, to march forth to meet them in solemn procession. Let the church be opened to afford such refuge as may be to those of our vassals, who, from their exertion in this day’s unhappy battle, or the cause, are particularly apprehensive of the rage of the enemy. Tell Sir Piercie Shafton, if he has escaped the fight —”
“I am here, most venerable Abbot,” replied Sir Piercie; “and if it so seemeth meet to you, I will presently assemble such of the men as have escaped this escaramouche, and will renew the resistance, even unto the death. Certes, you will learn from all, that I did my part in this unhappy matter. Had it pleased Julian Avenel to have attended to my counsel, specially in somewhat withdrawing of his main battle, even as you may have marked the heron eschew the stoop of the falcon, receiving him rather upon his beak than upon his wing, affairs, as I do conceive, might have had a different face, and we might then, in a more bellacose manner, have maintained that affray. Nevertheless, I would not be understood to speak any thing in disregard of Julian Avenel, whom I saw fall fighting manfully with his face to his enemy, which hath banished from my memory the unseemly term of ‘meddling coxcomb,’ with which it pleased him something rashly to qualify my advice, and for which, had it pleased Heaven and the saints to have prolonged the life of that excellent person, I had it bound upon my soul to have put him to death with my own hand.”
“Sir Piercie,” said the Abbot, at length interrupting him, “our time allows brief leisure to speak what might have been.”
“You are right, most venerable Lord and Father,” replied the incorrigible Euphuist; “the preterite, as grammarians have it, concerns frail mortality less than the future mood, and indeed our cogitations respect chiefly the present. In a word, I am willing to head all who will follow me, and offer such opposition as manhood and mortality may permit, to the advance of the English, though they be my own countrymen; and be assured, Piercie Shafton will measure his length, being five feet ten inches, on the ground as he stands, rather than give two yards in retreat, according to the usual motion in which we retrograde.”
“I thank you, Sir Knight,” said the Abbot, “and I doubt not that you would make your words good; but it is not the will of Heaven that carnal weapons should rescue us. We are called to endure, not to resist, and may not waste the blood of our innocent commons in vain — Fruitless opposition becomes not men of our profession; they have my commands to resign the sword and the spear — God and Our Lady have not blessed our banner.”
“Bethink you, reverend lord,” said Piercie Shafton, very eagerly, “ere you resign the defence that is in your power — there are many posts near the entry of this village, where brave men might live or die to the advantage; and I have this additional motive to make defence — the safety, namely, of a fair friend, who, I hope, hath escaped the hands of the heretics.”
“I understand you, Sir Piercie,” said the Abbot —“you mean the daughter of our Convent’s miller?”
“Reverend my lord,” said Sir Piercie, not without hesitation, “the fair Mysinda is, as may be in some sort alleged, the daughter of one who mechanically prepareth corn to be manipulated into bread, without which we could not exist, and which is therefore an employment in itself honourable, nay necessary. Nevertheless, if the purest sentiments of a generous mind, streaming forth like the rays of the sun reflected by a diamond, may ennoble one, who is in some sort the daughter of a molendinary mechanic ——”
“I have no time for all this, Sir Knight,” said the Abbot; “be it enough to answer, that with our will we war no longer with carnal weapons. We of the spirituality will teach you of the temporality how to die in cold blood, our hands not clenched for resistance, but folded for prayer — our minds not filled with jealous hatred, but with Christian meekness and forgiveness — our ears not deafened, nor our senses confused, by the sound of clamorous instruments of war; but, on the contrary, our voices composed to Halleluiah, Kyrie-Eleison, and Salve Regina, and our blood temperate and cold, as those who think upon reconciling themselves with God, not of avenging themselves of their fellow-mortals.”
“Lord Abbot,” said Sir Piercie, “this is nothing to the fate of my Molinara, whom I beseech you to observe, I will not abandon, while golden hilt and steel blade bide together on my falchion. I commanded her not to follow us to the field, and yet methought I saw her in her page’s attire amongst the rear of the combatants.”
“You must seek elsewhere for the person in whose fate you are so deeply interested,” said the Abbot; “and at present I will pray of your knighthood to inquire concerning her at the church, in which all our more defenceless vassals have taken refuge. It is my advice to you, that you also abide by the horns of the altar; and, Sir Piercie Shafton,” he added, “be of one thing secure, that if you come to harm, it will involve the whole of this brotherhood; for never, I trust, will the meanest of us buy safety at the expense of surrendering a friend or a guest. Leave us, my son, and may God be your aid!”
When Sir Piercie Shafton had departed, and the Abbot was about to betake himself to his own cell, he was surprised by an unknown person anxiously requiring a conference, who, being admitted, proved to be no other than Henry Warden. The Abbot started as he entered, and exclaimed, angrily — “Ha! are the few hours that fate allows him who may last wear the mitre of this house, not to be excused from the intrusion of heresy? Dost thou come,” he said, “to enjoy the hopes which fete holds out to thy demented and accursed sect, to see the bosom of destruction sweep away the pride of old religion — to deface our shrines — to mutilate and lay waste the bodies of our benefactors, as well as their sepulchres — to destroy the pinnacles and carved work of God’s house, and Our Lady’s?”
“Peace, William Allan!” said the Protestant preacher, with dignified composure; “for none of these purposes do I come. I would have these stately shrines deprived of the idols which, no longer simply regarded as the effigies of the good and of the wise, have become the objects of foul idolatry. I would otherwise have its ornaments subsist, unless as they are, or may be, a snare to the souls of men; and especially do I condemn those ravages which have been made by the heady fury of the people, stung into zeal against will-worship by bloody persecution. Against such wanton devastations I lift my testimony.”
“Idle distinguisher that thou art!” said the Abbot Eustace, interrupting him; “what signifies the pretext under which thou dost despoil the house of God? and why at this present emergence will thou insult the master of it by thy ill-omened presence?”
“Thou art unjust, William Allan,” said Warden; “but I am not the less settled in my resolution. Thou hast protected me some time since at the hazard of thy rank, and what I know thou holdest still dearer, at the risk of thy reputation with thine own sect. Our party is now uppermost, and, believe me, I have come down the valley, in which thou didst quarter me for sequestration’s sake, simply with the wish to keep my engagements to thee.”
“Ay,” answered the Abbot, “and it may be, that my listening to that worldly and infirm compassion which pleaded with me for thy life, is now avenged by this impending judgment. Heaven hath smitten, it may be, the erring shepherd, and scattered the flock.”
“Think better of the Divine judgments,” said Warden. “Not for thy sins, which are those of thy blended education and circumstances; not for thine own sins, William Allan, art thou stricken, but for the accumulated guilt which thy mis-named Church hath accumulated on her head, and those of her votaries, by the errors and corruption of ages.”
“Now, by my sure belief in the Rock of Peter,” said the Abbot, “thou dost rekindle the last spark of human indignation for which my bosom has fuel — I thought I might not again have felt the impulse of earthly passion, and it is thy voice which once more calls me to the expression of human anger! yes, it is thy voice that comest to insult me in my hour of sorrow, with these blasphemous accusations of that church which hath kept the light of Christianity alive from the times of the Apostles till now.”
“From the times of the Apostles?” said the preacher, eagerly. “Negatur, Gulielme Allan — the primitive church differed as much from that of Rome, as did light from darkness, which, did time permit, I should speedily prove. And worse dost thou judge, in saying, I come to insult thee in thy hour of affliction, being here, God wot, with the Christian wish of fulfilling an engagement I had made to my host, and of rendering myself to thy will while it had yet power to exercise aught upon me, and if it might so be, to mitigate in thy behalf the rage of the victors whom God hath sent as a scourge to thy obstinacy.”
“I will none of thy intercession,” said the Abbot, sternly; “the dignity to which the church has exalted me, never should have swelled my bosom more proudly in the time of the highest prosperity, than it doth at this crisis — I ask nothing of thee, but the assurance that my lenity to thee hath been the means of perverting no soul to Satan, that I have not given to the wolf any of the stray lambs whom the Great Shepherd of souls had intrusted to my charge.”
“William Allan,” answered the Protestant, “I will be sincere with thee. What I promised I have kept — I have withheld my voice from speaking even good things. But it has pleased Heaven to call the maiden Mary Avenel to a better sense of faith than thou and all the disciples of Rome can teach. Her I have aided with my humble power — I have extricated her from the machinations of evil spirits to which she and her house were exposed during the blindness of their Romish superstition, and, praise be to my Master, I have not reason to fear she will again be caught in thy snares.”
“Wretched man!” said the Abbot, unable to suppress his rising indignation, “is it to the Abbot of St. Mary’s that you boast having misled the soul of a dweller in Our Lady’s Halidome into the paths of foul error and damning heresy? — Thou dost urge me, Wellwood, beyond what it becomes me to bear, and movest me to employ the few moments of power I may yet possess, in removing from the face of the earth one whose qualities, given by God, have been so utterly perverted as thine to the service of Satan.”
“Do thy pleasure,” said the preacher; “thy vain wrath shall not prevent my doing my duty to advantage thee, where it may be done without neglecting my higher call. I go to the Earl of Murray.”
Their conference, which was advancing fast into bitter disputation, was here interrupted by the deep and sullen toll of the largest and heaviest bell of the Convent, a sound famous in the chronicles of the Community, for dispelling of tempests, and putting to flight demons, but which now only announced danger, without affording any means of warding against it. Hastily repeating his orders, that all the brethren should attend in the choir, arrayed for solemn procession, the Abbot ascended to the battlements of the lofty Monastery, by his own private staircase, and there met the Sacristan, who had been in the act of directing the tolling of the huge bell, which fell under his charge.
“It is the last time I shall discharge mine office, most venerable Father and Lord,” said he to the Abbot, “for yonder come the Philistines; but I would not that the large bell of Saint Mary’s should sound for the last time, otherwise than in true and full tone — I have been a sinful man for one of our holy profession,” added he, looking upward, “yet may I presume to say, not a bell hath sounded out of tune from the tower of the house, while Father Philip had the superintendence of the chime and the belfry.”
The Abbot, without reply, cast his eyes towards the path, which, winding around the mountain, descends upon Kennaquhair, from the south-east. He beheld at a distance a cloud of dust, and heard the neighing of many horses, while the occasional sparkle of the long line of spears, as they came downwards into the valley, announced that the band came thither in arms.
“Shame on my weakness!” said Abbot Eustace, dashing the tears from his eyes; “my sight is too much dimmed to observe their motions — look, my son Edward,” for his favourite novice had again joined him, “and tell me what ensigns they bear.”
“They are Scottish men, when all is done!” exclaimed Edward —“I see the white crosses — it may be the Western Borderers, or Fernieherst and his clan.”
“Look at the banner,” said the Abbot; “tell me, what are the blazonries?”
“The arms of Scotland,” said Edward, “the lion and its tressure, quartered, as I think, with three cushions — Can it be the royal standard?”
“Alas! no,” said the Abbot, “it is that of the Earl of Murray. He hath assumed with his new conquest the badge of the valiant Randolph, and hath dropt from his hereditary coat the bend which indicates his own base birth — would to God he may not have blotted it also from his memory, and aim as well at possessing the name, as the power, of a king.”
“At least, my father,” said Edward, “he will secure us from the violence of the Southron.”
“Ay, my son, as the shepherd secures a silly lamb from the wolf, which he destines in due time to his own banquet. Oh my son, evil days are on us! A breach has been made in the walls of our sanctuary — thy brother hath fallen from the faith. Such news brought my last secret intelligence — Murray hath already spoken of rewarding his services with the hand of Mary Avenel.”
“Of Mary Avenel!” said the novice, tottering towards and grasping hold of one of the carved pinnacles which adorned the proud battlement.
“Ay, of Mary Avenel, my son, who has also abjured the faith of her fathers. Weep not, my Edward, weep not, my beloved son! or weep for their apostasy, and not for their union — Bless God, who hath called thee to himself, out of the tents of wickedness; but for the grace of Our Lady and Saint Benedict, thou also hadst been a castaway.”
“I endeavour, my father,” said Edward, “I endeavour to forget; but what I would now blot from my memory has been the thought of all my former life — Murray dare not forward a match so unequal in birth.”
“He dares do what suits his purpose — The Castle of Avenel is strong, and needs a good castellan, devoted to his service; as for the difference of their birth, he will mind it no more than he would mind defacing the natural regularity of the ground, were it necessary he should erect upon it military lines and intrenchments. But do not droop for that — awaken thy soul within thee, my son. Think you part with a vain vision, an idle dream, nursed in solitude and inaction. — I weep not, yet what am I now like to lose? — Look at these towers, where saints dwelt, and where heroes have been buried — Think that I, so briefly called to preside over the pious flock, which has dwelt here since the first light of Christianity, may be this day written down the last father of this holy community — Come, let us descend, and meet our fate. I see them approach near to the village.”
The Abbot descended, the novice cast a glance around him; yet the sense of the danger impending over the stately structure, with which he was now united, was unable to banish the recollection of Mary Ayenel. —“His brother’s bride!” he pulled the cowl over his face, and followed his Superior.
The whole bells of the Abbey now added their peal to the death-toll of the largest which had so long sounded. The monks wept and prayed as they got themselves into the order of their procession for the last time, as seemed but too probable.
“It is well our Father Boniface hath retired to the inland,” said Father Philip; “he could never have put over this day — it would have broken his heart!”
“God be with the soul of Abbot Ingelram!” said old Father Nicholas, “there were no such doings in his days. — They say we are to be put forth of the cloisters; and how I am to live any where else than where I have lived for these seventy years, I wot not — the best is, that I have not long to live any where.”
A few moments after this the great gate of the Abbey was flung open, and the procession moved slowly forward from beneath its huge and richly-adorned gateway. Cross and banner, pix and chalice, shrines containing relics, and censers steaming with incense, preceded and were intermingled with the long and solemn array of the brotherhood, in their long black gowns and cowls, with their white scapularies hanging over them, the various officers of the convent each displaying his proper badge of office. In the centre of the procession came the Abbot, surrounded and supported by his chief assistants. He was dressed in his habit of high solemnity, and appeared as much unconcerned as if he had been taking his usual part in some ordinary ceremony. After him came the inferior persons of the convent; the novices in their albs or white dresses, and the lay brethren distinguished by their beards, which were seldom worn by the Fathers. Women and children, mixed with a few men, came in the rear, bewailing the apprehended desolation of their ancient sanctuary. They moved, however, in order, and restrained the marks of their sorrow to a low wailing sound, which rather mingled with than interrupted the measured chant of the monks.
In this order the procession entered the market-place of the village of Kennaquhair, which was then, as now, distinguished by an ancient cross of curious workmanship, the gift of some former monarch of Scotland. Close by the cross, of much greater antiquity, and scarcely less honoured, was an immensely large oak-tree, which perhaps had witnessed the worship of the Druids, ere the stately Monastery to which it adjoined had raised its spires in honour of the Christian faith. Like the Bentang-tree of the African villages, or the Plaistow-oak mentioned in White’s Natural History of Selborne, this tree was the rendezvous of the villagers, and regarded with peculiar veneration; a feeling common to most nations, and which perhaps may be traced up to the remote period when the patriarch feasted the angels under the oak at Mamre. 71
The monks formed themselves each in their due place around the cross, while under the ruins of the aged tree crowded the old and the feeble, with others who felt the common alarm. When they had thus arranged themselves, there was a deep and solemn pause. The monks stilled their chant, the lay populace hushed their lamentations, and all awaited in terror and silence the arrival of those heretical forces, whom they had been so long taught to regard with fear and trembling.
A distant trampling was at length heard, and the glance of spears was seen to shine through the trees above the village. The sounds increased, and became more thick, one close continuous rushing sound, in which the tread of hoofs was mingled with the ringing of armour. The horsemen soon appeared at the principal entrance which leads into the irregular square or market-place which forms the centre of the village. They entered two by two, slowly, and in the greatest order. The van continued to move on, riding round the open spaoe, until they had attained the utmost point, and then turning their horses’ heads to the street, stood fast; their companions followed in the same order, until the whole market-place was closely surrounded with soldiers; and the files who followed, making the same manoeuvre, formed an inner line within those who had first arrived, until the place was begirt with a quadruple file of horsemen closely drawn up. There was now a pause, of which the Abbot availed himself, by commanding the brotherhood to raise the solemn chant De profundis clamavi. He looked around the armed ranks, to see what impression the solemn sounds made on them. All were silent, but the brows of some had an expression of contempt, and almost all the rest bore a look of indifference; their course had been too long decided to permit past feelings of enthusiasm to be anew awakened by a procession or by a hymn.
“Their hearts are hardened,” said the Abbot to himself in dejection, but not in despair; “it remains to see whether those of their leaders are equally obdurate.”
The leaders, in the meanwhile, were advancing slowly, and Murray, with Morton, rode in deep conversation before a chosen band of their most distinguished followers, amongst whom came Halbert Glendinning. But the preacher Henry Warden, who, upon leaving the Monastery, had instantly joined them, was the only person admitted to their conference.
“You are determined, then,” said Morton to Murray, “to give the heiress of Avenel, with all her pretensions, to this nameless and obscure young man?”
“Hath not Warden told you,” said Murray, “that they have been bred together, and are lovers from their youth upward?”
“And that they are both,” said Warden, “by means which may be almost termed miraculous, rescued from the delusions of Rome, and brought within the pale of the true church. My residence at Glendearg hath made me well acquainted with these things. Ill would it beseem my habit and my calling, to thrust myself into match-making and giving in marriage, but worse were it in me to see your lordships do needless wrong to the feelings which are proper to our nature, and which, being indulged honestly and under the restraints of religion, become a pledge of domestic quiet here, and future happiness in a better world. I say, that you will do ill to rend those ties asunder, and to give this maiden to the kinsman of Lord Morton, though Lord Morton’s kinsman he be.”
“These are fair reasons, my Lord of Murray,” said Morton, “why you should refuse me so simple a boon as to bestow this silly damsel upon young Bennygask. Speak out plainly, my lord; say you would rather see the Castle of Avenel in the hands of one who owes his name and existence solely to your favour, than in the power of a Douglas, and of my kinsman.”
“My Lord of Morton,” said Murray, “I have done nothing in this matter which should aggrieve you. This young man Glendinning has done me good service, and may do me more. My promise was in some degree passed to him, and that while Julian Avenel was alive, when aught beside the maiden’s lily hand would have been hard to come by; whereas, you never thought of such an alliance for your kinsman, till you saw Julian lie dead yonder on the field, and knew his land to be a waif free to the first who could seize it. Come, come, my lord, you do less than justice to your gallant kinsman, in wishing him a bride bred up under the milk-pail; for this girl is a peasant wench in all but the accident of birth. I thought you had more deep respect for the honour of the Douglasses.”
“The honour of the Douglasses is safe in my keeping,” answered Morton, haughtily; “that of other ancient families may suffer as well as the name of Avenel, if rustics are to be matched with the blood of our ancient barons.”
“This is but idle talking,” answered Lord Murray; “in times like these, we must look to men and not to pedigrees. Hay was but a rustic before the battle of Loncarty — the bloody yoke actually dragged the plough ere it was emblazoned on a crest by the herald. Times of action make princes into peasants, and boors into barons. All families have sprung from one mean man; and it is well if they have never degenerated from his virtue who raised them first from obscurity.”
“My Lord of Murray will please to except the house of Douglas,” said Morton, haughtily; “men have seen it in the tree, but never in the sapling — have seen it in the stream, but never in the fountain.72 In the earliest of our Scottish annals, the Black Douglas was powerful and distinguished as now.”
“I bend to the honours of the house of Douglas,” said Murray, somewhat ironically; “I am conscious we of the Royal House have little right to compete with them in dignity — What though we have worn crowns and carried sceptres for a few generations, if our genealogy moves no farther back than to the humble Alanus Dapifer!“73
Morton’s cheek reddened as he was about to reply; but Henry Warden availed himself of the liberty which the Protestant clergy long possessed, and exerted it to interrupt a discussion which was becoming too eager and personal to be friendly.
“My lords,” he said, “I must be bold in discharging the duty of my Master. It is a shame and scandal to hear two nobles, whose hands have been so forward in the work of reformation, fall into discord about such vain follies as now occupy your thoughts. Bethink you how long you have thought with one mind, seen with one eye, heard with one ear, confirmed by your union the congregation of the Church, appalled by your joint authority the congregation of Anti-Christ; and will you now fall into discord, about an old decayed castle and a few barren hills, about the loves and likings of an humble spearman, and a damsel bred in the same obscurity, or about the still vainer questions of idle genealogy?”
“The good man hath spoken right, noble Douglas,” said Murray, reaching him his hand, “our union is too essential to the good cause to be broken off upon such idle terms of dissension. I am fixed to gratify Glendinning in this matter — my promise is passed. The wars, in which I have had my share, have made many a family miserable; I will at least try if I may not make one happy. There are maids and manors enow in Scotland. — I promise you, my noble ally, that young Bennygask shall be richly wived.”
“My lord,” said Warden, “you speak nobly, and like a Christian. Alas! this is a land of hatred and bloodshed — let us not chase from thence the few traces that remain of gentle and domestic love. — And be not too eager for wealth to thy noble kinsman, my Lord of Morton, seeing contentment in the marriage state no way depends on it.”
“If you allude to my family misfortune,” said Morton, whose Countess, wedded by him for her estate and honours, was insane in her mind, “the habit you wear, and the liberty, or rather license, of your profession, protect you from my resentment.”
“Alas! my lord,” replied Warden, “how quick and sensitive is our self-love! When pressing forward in our high calling, we point out the errors of the Sovereign, who praises our boldness more than the noble Morton? But touch we upon his own sore, which most needs lancing, and he shrinks from the faithful chirurgeon in fear and impatient anger!”
“Enough of this, good and reverend sir,” said Murray; “you transgress the prudence yourself recommended even now. — We are now close upon the village, and the proud Abbot is come forth at the head of his hive. Thou hast pleaded well for him, Warden, otherwise I had taken this occasion to pull down the nest, and chase away the rooks.”
“Nay, but do not so,” said Warden; “this William Allan, whom they call the Abbot Eustatius, is a man whose misfortunes would more prejudice our cause than his prosperity. You cannot inflict more than he will endure; and the more that he is made to bear, the higher will be the influence of his talents and his courage. In his conventual throne he will be but coldly looked on — disliked, it may be, and envied. But turn his crucifix of gold into a crucifix of wood — let him travel through the land, an oppressed and impoverished man, and his patience, his eloquence, and learning, will win more hearts from the good cause, than all the mitred abbots of Scotland have been able to make prey of during the last hundred years.”
“Tush! tush! man,” said Morton, “the revenues of the Halidome will bring more men, spears, and horses, into the field in one day, than his preaching in a whole lifetime. These are not the days of Peter the Hermit, when monks could march armies from England to Jerusalem; but gold and good deeds will still do as much or more than ever. Had Julian Avenel had but a score or two more men this morning, Sir John Foster had not missed a worse welcome. I say, confiscating the monk’s revenues is drawing his fang-teeth.”
“We will surely lay him under contribution,” said Murray; “and, moreover, if he desires to remain in his Abbey, he will do well to produce Piercie Shafton.”
As he thus spoke, they entered the market-place, distinguished by their complete armour and their lofty plumes, as well as by the number of followers bearing their colours and badges. Both these powerful nobles, but more especially Murray, so nearly allied to the crown, had at that time a retinue and household not much inferior to that of Scottish royalty. As they advanced into the market-place, a pursuivant, pressing forward from their train, addressed the monks in these words:—“The Abbot of Saint Mary’s is commanded to appear before the Earl of Murray.”
“The Abbot of Saint Mary’s,” said Eustace, “is, in the patrimony of his Convent, superior to every temporal lord. Let the Earl of Murray, if he seeks him, come himself to his presence.”
On receiving this answer, Murray smiled scornfully, and, dismounting from his lofty saddle, he advanced, accompanied by Morton, and followed by others, to the body of monks assembled around the cross. There was an appearance of shrinking among them at the approach of the heretic lord, so dreaded and so powerful. But the Abbot, casting on them a glance of rebuke and encouragement, stepped forth from their ranks like a courageous leader, when he sees that his personal valour must be displayed to revive the drooping courage of his followers. “Lord James Stewart,” he said, “or Earl of Murray, if that be thy title, I, Eustatius, Abbot of Saint Mary’s, demand by what right you have filled our peaceful village, and surrounded our brethren, with these bands of armed men? If hospitality is sought, we have never refused it to courteous asking — if violence be meant against peaceful churchmen, let us know at once the pretext and the object?”
“Sir Abbot,” said Murray, “your language would better have become another age, and a presence inferior to ours. We come not here to reply to your interrogations, but to demand of you why you have broken the peace, collecting your vassals in arms, and convocating the Queen’s lieges, whereby many men have been slain, and much trouble, perchance breach of amity with England, is likely to arise?”
“Lupus in fabula,” answered the Abbot, scornfully. “The wolf accused the sheep of muddying the stream when he drank in it above her — but it served as a pretext for devouring her. Convocate the Queen’s lieges! I did so to defend the Queen’s land against foreigners. I did but my duty; and I regret I had not the means to do it more effectually.”
“And was it also a part of your duty to receive and harbour the Queen of England’s rebel and traitor; and to inflame a war betwixt England and Scotland?” said Murray.
“In my younger days, my lord,” answered the Abbot, with the same intrepidity, “a war with England was no such dreaded matter; and not merely a mitred abbot, bound by his rule to show hospitality and afford sanctuary to all, but the poorest Scottish peasant, would have been ashamed to have pleaded fear of England as the reason for shutting his door against a persecuted exile. But in those olden days, the English seldom saw the face of a Scottish nobleman, save through the bars of his visor.”
“Monk!” said the Earl of Morton, sternly, “this insolence will little avail thee; the days are gone by when Rome’s priests were permitted to brave noblemen with impunity. Give us up this Piercie Shafton, or by my father’s crest I will set thy Abbey in a bright flame!”
“And if thou dost, Lord of Morton, its ruins will tumble above the tombs of thine own ancestors. Be the issue as God wills, the Abbot of Saint Mary’s gives up no one whom he hath promised to protect.”
“Abbot!” said Murray, “bethink thee ere we are driven to deal roughly — the hands of these men,” he said, pointing to the soldiers, “will make wild work among shrines and cells, if we are compelled to undertake a search for this Englishman.”
“Ye shall not need,” said a voice from the crowd; and, advancing gracefully before the Earls, the Euphuist flung from him the mantle in which he was muffled. “Via the cloud that shadowed Shafton!” said he; “behold, my lords, the Knight of Wilverton, who spares you the guilt of violence and sacrilege.”
“I protest before God and man against any infraction of the privileges of this house,” said the Abbot, “by an attempt to impose violent hands upon the person of this noble knight. If there be yet spirit in a Scottish Parliament, we will make you hear of this elsewhere, my lords!”
“Spare your threats,” said Murray; “it may be, my purpose with Sir Piercie Shafton is not such as thou dost suppose — Attach him, pursuivant, as our prisoner, rescue or no rescue.”
“I yield myself,” said the Euphuist, “reserving my right to defy my Lord of Murray and my Lord of Morton to single duel, even as one gentleman may demand satisfaction of another.”
“You shall not want those who will answer your challenge, Sir Knight,” replied Morton, “without aspiring to men above thine own degree.”
“And where am I to find these superlative champions,” said the English knight, “whose blood runs more pure than that of Piercie Shafton?”
“Here is a flight for you, my lord!” said Murray.
“As ever was flown by a wild-goose,” said Stawarth Bolton, who had now approached to the front of the party.
“Who dared to say that word?” said the Euphuist, his face crimson with rage.
“Tut! man,” said Bolton, “make the best of it, thy mother’s father was but a tailor, old Overstitch of Holderness — Why, what! because thou art a misproud bird, and despiseth thine own natural lineage, and rufflest in unpaid silks and velvets, and keepest company with gallants and cutters, must we lose our memory for that? Thy mother, Moll Overstitch, was the prettiest wench in those parts — she was wedded by wild Shafton of Wilverton, who men say, was akin to the Piercie on the wrong side of the blanket.”
“Help the knight to some strong waters,” said Morton; “he hath fallen from such a height, that he is stunned with the tumble.”
In fact, Sir Piercie Shafton looked like a man stricken by a thunderbolt, while, notwithstanding the seriousness of the scene hitherto, no one of those present, not even the Abbot himself, could refrain from laughing at the rueful and mortified expression of his face.
“Laugh on,” he said at length, “laugh on, my masters,” shrugging his shoulders; “it is not for me to be offended — yet would I know full fain from that squire who is laughing with the loudest, how he had discovered this unhappy blot in an otherwise spotless lineage, and for what purpose he hath made it known?”
“I make it known?” said Halbert Glendinning, in astonishment — for to him this pathetic appeal was made — “I never heard the thing till this moment.”74
“Why, did not that old rude soldier learn it from thee?” said the knight, in increasing amazement.
“Not I, by Heaven!” said Bolton; “I never saw the youth in my life before.”
“But you have seen him ere now, my worthy master,” said Dame Glendinning, bursting in her turn from the crowd. “My son, this is Stawarth Bolton, he to whom we owe life, and the means of preserving it — if he be a prisoner, as seems most likely, use thine interest with these noble lords to be kind to the widow’s friend.”
“What, my Dame of the Glen!” said Bolton, “thy brow is more withered, as well as mine, since we met last, but thy tongue holds the touch better than my arm. This boy of thine gave me the foil sorely this morning. The Brown Varlet has turned as stout a trooper as I prophesied; and where is White Head?”
“Alas!” said the mother, looking down, “Edward has taken orders, and become a monk of this Abbey.”
“A monk and a soldier! — Evil trades both, my good dame. Better have made one a good master fashioner, like old Overstitch, of Holderness. I sighed when I envied you the two bonny children, but I sigh not now to call either the monk or the soldier mine own. The soldier dies in the field, the monk scarce lives in the cloister.”
“My dearest mother,” said Halbert, “where is Edward — can I not speak with him?”
“He has just left us for the present,” said Father Philip, “upon a message from the Lord Abbot.”
“And Mary, my dearest mother?” said Halbert. — Mary Avenel was not far distant, and the three were soon withdrawn from the crowd, to hear and relate their various chances of fortune.
While the subordinate personages thus disposed of themselves, the Abbot held serious discussion with the two Earls, and, partly yielding to their demands, partly defending himself with skill and eloquence, was enabled to make a composition for his Convent, which left it provisionally in no worse situation than before. The Earls were the more reluctant to drive matters to extremity, since he protested, that if urged beyond what his conscience would comply with, he would throw the whole lands of the Monastery into the Queen of Scotland’s hands, to be disposed of at her pleasure. This would not have answered the views of the Earls, who were contented, for the time, with a moderate sacrifice of money and lands. Matters being so far settled, the Abbot became anxious for the fate of Sir Piercie Shafton, and implored mercy in his behalf.
“He is a coxcomb,” he said, “my lords, but he is a generous, though a vain fool; and it is my firm belief you have this day done him more pain than if you had run a poniard into him.”
“Run a needle into him you mean, Abbot,” said the Earl of Morton; “by mine honour, I thought this grandson of a fashioner of doublets was descended from a crowned head at least!”
“I hold with the Abbot,” said Murray; “there were little honour in surrendering him to Elizabeth, but he shall be sent where he can do her no injury. Our pursuivant and Bolton shall escort him to Dunbar, and ship him off for Flanders. — But soft, here he comes, and leading a female, as I think.”
“Lords and others,” said the English knight with great solemnity, “make way for the Lady of Piercie Shafton — a secret which I listed not to make known, till fate, which hath betrayed what I vainly strove to conceal, makes me less desirous to hide that which I now announce to you.”
“It is Mysie Happer, the Miller’s daughter, on my life!” said Tibb Tacket. “I thought the pride of these Piercies would have a fa’.”
“It is indeed the lovely Mysinda,” said the knight, “whose merits towards her devoted servant deserved higher rank than he had to bestow.”
“I suspect, though,” said Murray, “that we should not have heard of the Miller’s daughter being made a lady, had not the knight proved to be the grandson of a tailor.”
“My lord,” said Piercie Shafton, “it is poor valour to strike him that cannot smite again; and I hope you will consider what is due to a prisoner by the law of arms, and say nothing more on this odious subject. When I am once more mine own man, I will find a new road to dignity.”
“Shape one, I presume,” said the Earl of Morton.
“Nay, Douglas, you will drive him mad,”— said Murray; “besides, we have other matter in hand — I must see Warden wed Glendinning with Mary Avenel, and put him in possession of his wife’s castle without delay. It will be best done ere our forces leave these parts.”
“And I,” said the Miller, “have the like grist to grind; for I hope some one of the good fathers will wed my wench with her gay bridegroom.”
“It needs not,” said Shafton; “the ceremonial hath been solemnly performed.”
“It will not be the worse of another bolting,” said the Miller; “it is always best to be sure, as I say when I chance to take multure twice from the same meal-sack.”
“Stave the miller off him,” said Murray, “or he will worry him dead. The Abbot, my lord, offers us the hospitality of the Convent; I move we should repair hither, Sir Piercie and all of us. I must learn to know the Maid of Avenel — tomorrow I must act as her father — All Scotland shall see how Murray can reward a faithful servant.”
Mary Avenel and her lover avoided meeting the Abbot, and took up their temporary abode in a house of the village, where next day their hands were united by the Protestant preacher in presence of the two Earls. On the same day Piercie Shafton and his bride departed, under an escort which was to conduct him to the sea-side, and see him embark for the Low Countries. Early on the following morning the bands of the Earls were under march to the Castle of Avenel, to invest the young bridegroom with the property of his wife, which was surrendered to them without opposition.
But not without those omens which seemed to mark every remarkable event which befell the fated family, did Mary take possession of the ancient castle of her forefathers. The same warlike form which had appeared more than once at Glendearg, was seen by Tibb Tacket and Martin, who returned with their young mistress to partake her altered fortunes. It glided before the cavalcade as they advanced upon the long causeway, paused at each drawbridge, and flourished its hand, as in triumph, as it disappeared under the gloomy archway, which was surmounted by the insignia of the house of Avenel. The two trusty servants made their vision only known to Dame Glendinning, who, with much pride of heart, had accompanied her son to see him take his rank among the barons of the land. “Oh, my dear bairn!” she exclaimed, when she heard the tale, “the castle is a grand place to be sure, but I wish ye dinna a’ desire to be back in the quiet braes of Glendearg before the play be played out.” But this natural reflection, springing from maternal anxiety, was soon forgotten amid the busy and pleasing task of examining and admiring the new habitation of her son.
While these affairs were passing, Edward had hidden himself and his sorrows in the paternal Tower of Glendearg, where every object was full of matter for bitter reflection. The Abbot’s kindness had despatched him thither upon pretence of placing some papers belonging to the Abbey in safety and secrecy; but in reality to prevent his witnessing the triumph of his brother. Through the deserted apartments, the scene of so many bitter reflections, the unhappy youth stalked like a discontented ghost, conjuring up around him at every step new subjects for sorrow and for self-torment. Impatient, at length, of the state of irritation and agonized recollection in which he found himself, he rushed out and walked hastily up the glen, as if to shake off the load which hung upon his mind. The sun was setting when he reached the entrance of Corri-nan-shian, and the recollection of what he had seen when he last visited that haunted ravine, burst on his mind. He was in a humour, however, rather to seek out danger than to avoid it.
“I will face this mystic being,” he said; “she foretold the fate which has wrapt me in this dress — I will know whether she has aught else to tell me of a life which cannot but be miserable.”
He failed not to see the White Spirit seated by her accustomed haunt, and singing in her usual low and sweet tone. While she sung, she seemed to look with sorrow on her golden zone, which was now diminished to the fineness of a silken thread.
“Fare thee well, thou Holly green,
Thou shall seldom now be seen,
With all thy glittering garlands bending,
As to greet my slow descending,
Startling the bewilder’d hind.
Who sees thee wave without a wind.
“Farewell, Fountain! now not long
Shalt thou murmur to my song,
While thy crystal bubbles glancing,
Keep the time in mystic dancing,
Rise and swell, are burst and lost,
Like mortal schemes by fortune crost.
“The knot of fate at length is tied,
The Churl is Lord, the Maid is bride.
Vainly did my magic sleight
Send the lover from her sight;
Wither bush, and perish well,
Fall’n is lofty Avenel!”
The vision seemed to weep while she sung; and the words impressed on Edward a melancholy belief, that the alliance of Mary with his brother might be fatal to them both.
71 It is scarcely necessary to say, that in Melrose, the prototype of Kennaquhair, no such oak ever existed.
72 The late excellent and laborious antiquary, Mr. George Chalmers, has rebuked the vaunt of the House of Douglas, or rather of Hume of Godscroft, their historian, but with less than his wonted accuracy. In the first volume of his Caledonia, he quotes the passage in Godscroft for the purpose of confuting it.
The historian (of the Douglasses) cries out, “We do not know them in the fountain, but in the stream; not in the root, but in the stem; for we know not which is the mean man that did rise above the vulgar.” This assumption Mr. Chalmers conceives ill-timed, and alleges, that if the historian had attended more to research than to declamation, he might easily have seen the first mean man of this renowned family. This he alleges to have been one Theobaldus Flammaticus, or Theobald the Fleming, to whom Arnold, Abbot of Kelso, between the year 1147 and 1160, granted certain lands on Douglas water, by a deed which Mr. Chalmers conceives to be the first link of the chain of title-deeds to Douglasdale. Hence, he says, the family must renounce their family domain, or acknowledge this obscure Fleming as their ancestor. Theobald the Fleming, it is acknowledged, did not himself assume the name of Douglas; “but,” says the antiquary, “his son William, who inherited his estate, called himself, and was named by others, De Duglas;” and he refers to the deeds in which he is so designed. Mr. Chalmers’ full argument may be found in the first volume of his Caledonia, p. 579.
This proposition is one which a Scotsman will admit unwillingly, and only upon undeniable testimony: and as it is liable to strong grounds of challenge, the present author, with all the respect to Mr. Chalmers which his zealous and effectual researches merit, is not unwilling to take this opportunity to state some plausible grounds for doubting that Theobaldus Flammaticus was either the father of the first William de Douglas, or in the slightest degree connected with the Douglas family.
It must first be observed, that there is no reason whatever for concluding Theobaldus Flammaticus to be the father of William de Douglas, except that they both held lands upon the small river of Douglas; and that there are two strong presumptions to the contrary. For, first, the father being named Fleming, there seems no good reason why the son should have assumed a different designation: secondly, there does not occur a single instance of the name of Theobald during the long line of the Douglas pedigree, an omission very unlikely to take place had the original father of the race been so called. These are secondary considerations indeed; but they are important, in so far as they exclude any support of Mr. Chalmers’ system, except from the point which he has rather assumed than proved, namely, that the lands granted to Theobald the Fleming were the same which were granted to William de Douglas, and which constituted the original domain of which we find this powerful family lords.
Now, it happens, singularly enough, that the lands granted by the Abbot of Kelso to Theobaldus Flammaticus are not the same of which William de Douglas was in possession. Nay, it would appear, from comparing the charter granted to Theobaldus Flammaticus, that, though situated on the water of Douglas, they never made a part of the barony of that name, and therefore cannot be the same with those held by William de Douglas in the succeeding generation. But if William de Douglas did not succeed Theobaldus Flammaticus, there is no more reason for holding these two persons to be father and son than if they had lived in different provinces; and we are still as far from having discovered the first mean man of the Douglas family as Hume of Godscroft was in the 16th century. We leave the question to antiquaries and genealogists.
73 To atone to the memory of the learned and indefatigable Chalmers for having ventured to impeach his genealogical proposition concerning the descent of the Douglasses, we are bound to render him our grateful thanks for the felicitous light which he has thrown on that of the House of Stewart, still more important to Scottish history.
The acute pen of Lord Hailes, which, like the spear of Ithuriel, conjured so many shadows from Scottish history, had dismissed among the rest those of Banquo and Fleance, the rejection of which fables left the illustrious family of Stewart without an ancestor beyond Walter the son of Allan, who is alluded to in the text. The researches of our late learned antiquary detected in this Walter, the descendant of Allan, the son of Flaald, who obtained from William the Conqueror the Castle of Oswestry in Shropshire, and was the father of an illustrious line of English nobles, by his first son, William, and by his second son, Walter, the progenitor of the royal family of Stewart.
74 The contrivance of provoking the irritable vanity of Sir Piercie Shafton, by presenting him with a bodkin, indicative of his descent from a tailor, is borrowed from a German romance, by the celebrated Tieck, called Das Peter Manchem, i. e. The Dwarf Peter. The being who gives name to the tale, is the Burg-geist, or castle spectre, of a German family, whom he aids with his counsel, as he defends their castle by his supernatural power. But the Dwarf Peter is so unfortunate an adviser, that all his counsels, though producing success in the immediate results, are in the issue attended with mishap and with guilt. The youthful baron, the owner of the haunted castle, falls in love with a maiden, the daughter of a neighbouring count, a man of great pride, who refuses him the hand of the young lady, on account of his own superiority of descent. The lover, repulsed and affronted, returns to take counsel with the Dwarf Peter, how he may silence the count, and obtain the victory in the argument, the next time they enter on the topic of pedigree. The dwarf gives his patron or pupil a horse-shoe, instructing him to give it to the count when he is next giving himself superior airs on the subject of his family. It has the effect accordingly. The count, understanding it as an allusion to a misalliance of one of his ancestors with the daughter of a blacksmith, is thrown into a dreadful passion with the young lover, the consequences of which are the seduction of the young lady, and the slaughter of her father.
If we suppose the dwarf to represent the corrupt part of human nature — that “law in our members which wars against the law of our minds,”— the work forms an ingenious allegory.
Here terminates the First Part of the Benedictine’s Manuscript. I have in vain endeavoured to ascertain the precise period of the story, as the dates cannot be exactly reconciled with those of the most accredited histories. But it is astonishing how careless the writers of Utopia are upon these important subjects. I observe that the learned Mr. Laurence Templeton, in his late publication entitled Ivanhoe, has not only blessed the bed of Edward the Confessor with an offspring unknown to history, with sundry other solecisms of the same kind, but has inverted the order of nature, and feasted his swine with acorns in the midst of summer. All that can be alleged by the warmest admirer of this author amounts to this — that the circumstances objected to are just as true as the rest of the story; which appears to me (more especially in the matter of the acorns) to be a very imperfect defence, and that the author will do well to profit by Captain Absolute’s advice to his servant, and never tell him more lies than are indispensably necessary.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54