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Chapter 13

What, Dagon up again!--I thought we had hurl'd him
Down on the threshold, never more to rise.
Bring wedge and axe; and, neighbours, lend your hands
And rive the idol into winter fagots!

Roland Graeme slept long and sound, and the sun was high over the
horizon, when the voice of his companion summoned him to resume their
pilgrimage; and when, hastily arranging his dress, he went to attend
her call, the enthusiastic matron stood already at the threshold,
prepared for her journey. There was in all the deportment of this
remarkable woman, a promptitude of execution, and a sternness of
perseverance, founded on the fanaticism which she nursed so deeply,
and which seemed to absorb all the ordinary purposes and feelings of
mortality. One only human affection gleamed through her enthusiastic
energies, like the broken glimpses of the sun through the rising
clouds of a storm. It was her maternal fondness for her grandson--a
fondness carried almost to the verge of dotage, in circumstances where
the Catholic religion was not concerned, but which gave way instantly
when it chanced either to thwart or come in contact with the more
settled purpose of her soul, and the more devoted duty of her life.
Her life she would willingly have laid down to save the earthly object
of her affection; but that object itself she was ready to hazard, and
would have been willing to sacrifice, could the restoration of the
Church of Rome have been purchased with his blood. Her discourse by
the way, excepting on the few occasions in which her extreme love of
her grandson found opportunity to display itself in anxiety for his
health and accommodation, turned entirely on the duty of raising up
the fallen honours of the Church, and replacing a Catholic sovereign
on the throne. There were times at which she hinted, though very
obscurely and distantly, that she herself was foredoomed by Heaven to
perform a part in this important task; and that she had more than mere
human warranty for the zeal with which she engaged in it. But on this
subject she expressed herself in such general language, that it was
not easy to decide whether she made any actual pretensions to a direct
and supernatural call, like the celebrated Elizabeth Barton, commonly
called the Nun of Kent; [Footnote: A fanatic nun, called the Holy Maid
of Kent, who pretended to the gift of prophecy and power of miracles.
Having denounced the doom of speedy death against Henry VIII. for his
marriage with Anne Boleyn, the prophetess was attainted in Parliament,
and executed with her accomplices. Her imposture was for a time so
successful, that even Sir Thomas More was disposed to be a believer.]
or whether she dwelt upon the general duty which was incumbent on all
Catholics of the time, and the pressure of which she felt in an
extraordinary degree.

Yet though Magdalen Graeme gave no direct intimation of her
pretensions to be considered as something beyond the ordinary class of
mortals, the demeanour of one or two persons amongst the travellers
whom they occasionally met, as they entered the more fertile and
populous part of the valley, seemed to indicate their belief in her
superior attributes. It is true, that two clowns, who drove before
them a herd of cattle--one or two village wenches, who seemed bound
for some merry-making--a strolling soldier, in a rusted morion, and a
wandering student, as his threadbare black cloak and his satchel of
books proclaimed him--passed our travellers without observation, or
with a look of contempt; and, moreover, that two or three children,
attracted by the appearance of a dress so nearly resembling that of a
pilgrim, joined in hooting and calling "Out upon the mass-monger!" But
one or two, who nourished in their bosoms respect for the downfallen
hierarchy--casting first a timorous glance around, to see that no one
observed them--hastily crossed themselves--bent their knee to Sister
Magdalen, by which name they saluted her--kissed her hand, or even the
hem of her dalmatique--received with humility the Benedicite with
which she repaid their obeisance; and then starting up, and again
looking timidly round to see that they had been unobserved, hastily
resumed their journey. Even while within sight of persons of the
prevailing faith, there were individuals bold enough, by folding their
arms and bending their head, to give distant and silent intimation
that they recognized Sister Magdalen, and honoured alike her person
and her purpose.

She failed not to notice to her grandson these marks of honour and
respect which from time to time she received. "You see," she said, "my
son, that the enemies have been unable altogether to suppress the good
spirit, or to root out the true seed. Amid heretics and schismatics,
spoilers of the church's lands, and scoffers at saints and sacraments,
there is left a remnant."

"It is true, my mother," said Roland Graeme; "but methinks they are of
a quality which can help us but little. See you not all those who wear
steel at their side, and bear marks of better quality, ruffle past us
as they would past the meanest beggars? for those who give us any
marks of sympathy, are the poorest of the poor, and most outcast of
the needy, who have neither bread to share with us, nor swords to
defend us, nor skill to use them if they had. That poor wretch that
last kneeled to you with such deep devotion, and who seemed emaciated
by the touch of some wasting disease within, and the grasp of poverty
without--that pale, shivering, miserable caitiff, how can he aid the
great schemes you meditate?"

"Much, my son," said the Matron, with more mildness than the page
perhaps expected. "When that pious son of the church returns from the
shrine of Saint Ringan, whither he now travels by my counsel, and by
the aid of good Catholics,--when he returns, healed, of his wasting
malady, high in health, and strong in limb, will not the glory of his
faithfulness, and its miraculous reward, speak louder in the ears of
this besotted people of Scotland, than the din which is weekly made in
a thousand heretical pulpits?"

"Ay, but, mother, I fear the Saint's hand is out. It is long since we
have heard of a miracle performed at St. Ringan's."

The matron made a dead pause, and, with a voice tremulous with
emotion, asked, "Art thou so unhappy as to doubt the power of the
blessed Saint?"

"Nay, mother," the youth hastened to reply, "I believe as the Holy
Church commands, and doubt not Saint Ringan's power of healing; but,
be it said with reverence, he hath not of late showed the

"And has this land deserved it?" said the Catholic matron, advancing
hastily while she spoke, until she attained the summit of a rising
ground, over which the path led, and then standing again still.
"Here," she said, "stood the Cross, the limits of the Halidome of
Saint Mary's--here--on this eminence--from which the eye of the holy
pilgrim might first catch a view of that ancient monastery, the light
of the land, the abode of Saints, and the grave of monarchs--Where is
now that emblem of our faith? It lies on the earth--a shapeless block,
from which the broken fragments have been carried off, for the meanest
uses, till now no semblance of its original form remains. Look towards
the east, my son, where the sun was wont to glitter on stately
spires--from which crosses and bells have now been hurled, as if the
land had been invaded once more by barbarous heathens.--Look at yonder
battlements, of which we can, even at this distance, descry the
partial demolition; and ask if this land can expect from the blessed
saints, whose shrines and whose images have been profaned, any other
miracles but those of vengeance? How long," she exclaimed, looking
upward, "How long shall it be delayed?" She paused, and then resumed
with enthusiastic rapidity, "Yes, my son, all on earth is but for a
period--joy and grief, triumph and desolation, succeed each other like
cloud and sunshine;--the vineyard shall not be forever trodden down,
the gaps shall be amended, and the fruitful branches once more dressed
and trimmed. Even this day--ay, even this hour, I trust to hear news
of importance. Dally not--let us on--time is brief, and judgment is

She resumed the path which led to the Abbey--a path which, in ancient
times, was carefully marked out by posts and rails, to assist the
pilgrim in his journey--these were now torn up and destroyed. A
half-hour's walk placed them in front of the once splendid Monastery,
which, although the church was as yet entire, had not escaped the fury
of the times. The long range of cells and of apartments for the use of
the brethren, which occupied two sides of the great square, were
almost entirely ruinous, the interior having been consumed by fire,
which only the massive architecture of the outward walls had enabled
them to resist. The Abbot's house, which formed the third side of the
square, was, though injured, still inhabited, and afforded refuge to
the few brethren, who yet, rather by connivance than by actual
authority,--were permitted to remain at Kennaquhair. Their stately
offices--their pleasant gardens--the magnificent cloisters constructed
for their recreation, were all dilapidated and ruinous; and some of
the building materials had apparently been put into requisition by
persons in the village and in the vicinity, who, formerly vassals of
the Monastery, had not hesitated to appropriate to themselves a part
of the spoils. Roland saw fragments of Gothic pillars richly carved,
occupying the place of door-posts to the meanest huts; and here and
there a mutilated statue, inverted or laid on its side, made the
door-post, or threshold, of a wretched cow-house. The church itself
was less injured than the other buildings of the Monastery. But the
images which had been placed in the numerous niches of its columns and
buttresses, having all fallen under the charge of idolatry, to which
the superstitious devotion of the Papists had justly exposed them, had
been broken and thrown down, without much regard to the preservation
of the rich and airy canopies and pedestals on which they were placed;
nor, if the devastation had stopped short at this point, could we have
considered the preservation of these monuments of antiquity as an
object to be put in the balance with the introduction of the reformed

Our pilgrims saw the demolition of these sacred and venerable
representations of saints and angels--for as sacred and venerable they
had been taught to consider them--with very different feelings. The
antiquary may be permitted to regret the necessity of the action, but
to Magdalen Graeme it seemed a deed of impiety, deserving the instant
vengeance of heaven,--a sentiment in which her relative joined for the
moment as cordially as herself. Neither, however, gave vent to their
feelings in words, and uplifted hands and eyes formed their only mode
of expressing them. The page was about to approach the great eastern
gate of the church, but was prevented by his guide. "That gate," she
said, "has long been blockaded, that the heretical rabble may not know
there still exist among the brethren of Saint Mary's men who dare
worship where their predecessors prayed while alive, and were interred
when dead--follow me this way, my son."

Roland Graeme followed accordingly; and Magdalen, casting a hasty
glance to see whether they were observed, (for she had learned caution
from the danger of the times,) commanded her grandson to knock at a
little wicket which she pointed out to him. "But knock gently," she
added, with a motion expressive of caution. After a little space,
during which no answer was returned, she signed to Roland to repeat
his summons for admission; and the door at length partially opening,
discovered a glimpse of the thin and timid porter, by whom the duty
was performed, skulking from the observation of those who stood
without; but endeavouring at the same time to gain a sight of them
without being himself seen. How different from the proud consciousness
of dignity with which the porter of ancient days offered his important
brow, and his goodly person, to the pilgrims who repaired to
Kennaquhair! His solemn "_Intrate, mei filii,_" was exchanged for
a tremulous "You cannot enter now--the brethren are in their
chambers." But, when Magdalen Graeme asked, in an under tone of voice,
"Hast thou forgotten me, my brother?" he changed his apologetic
refusal to "Enter, my honoured sister, enter speedily, for evil eyes
are upon us"

They entered accordingly, and having waited until the porter had, with
jealous haste, barred and bolted the wicket, were conducted by him
through several dark and winding passages. As they walked slowly on,
he spoke to the matron in a subdued voice, as if he feared to trust
the very walls with the avowal which he communicated.

"Our Fathers are assembled in the Chapter-house, worthy sister--yes,
in the Chapter-house--for the election of an Abbott.--Ah, Benedicite!
there must be no ringing of bells--no high mass--no opening of the
great gates now, that the people might see and venerate their
spiritual Father! Our Fathers must hide themselves rather like robbers
who choose a leader, than godly priests who elect a mitred Abbot."

"Regard not that, my brother," answered Magdalen Graeme; "the first
successors of Saint Peter himself were elected, not in sunshine, but
in tempests--not in the halls of the Vatican, but in the subterranean
vaults and dungeons of heathen Rome--they were not gratulated with
shouts and salvos of cannon-shot and of musketry, and the display of
artificial fire--no, my brother--but by the hoarse summons of Lictors
and Praetors, who came to drag the Fathers of the Church to martyrdom.
From such adversity was the Church once raised, and by such will it
now be purified.--And mark me, brother! not in the proudest days of
the mitred Abbey, was a Superior ever chosen, whom his office shall so
much honour, as _he_ shall be honoured, who now takes it upon him
in these days of tribulation. On whom, my brother, will the choice

"On whom can it fall--or, alas! who would dare to reply to the call,
save the worthy pupil of the Sainted Eustatius--the good and valiant
Father Ambrose?"

"I know it," said Magdalen; "my heart told me long ere your lips had
uttered his name. Stand forth, courageous champion, and man the fatal
breach!--Rise, bold and experienced pilot, and seize the helm while
the tempest rages!--Turn back the battle, brave raiser of the fallen
standard!--Wield crook and slang, noble shepherd of a scattered

"I pray you, hush, my sister!" said the porter, opening a door which
led into the great church, "the brethren will be presently here to
celebrate their election with a solemn mass--I must marshal them the
way to the high altar--all the offices of this venerable house have
now devolved on one poor decrepit old man."

He left the church, and Magdalen and Roland remained alone in that
great vaulted space, whose style of rich, yet chaste architecture,
referred its origin to the early part of the fourteenth century, the
best period of Gothic building. But the niches were stripped of their
images in the inside as well as the outside of the church; and in the
pell-mell havoc, the tombs of warriors and of princes had been
included in the demolition of the idolatrous shrines. Lances and
swords of antique size, which had hung over the tombs of mighty
warriors of former days, lay now strewed among relics, with which the
devotion of pilgrims had graced those of their peculiar saints; and
the fragments of the knights and dames, which had once lain recumbent,
or kneeled in an attitude of devotion, where their mortal relics were
reposed, were mingled with those of the saints and angels of the
Gothic chisel, which the hand of violence had sent headlong from their

The most fatal symptom of the whole appeared to be, that, though this
violence had now been committed for many months, the Fathers had lost
so totally all heart and resolution, that they had not adventured even
upon clearing away the rubbish, or restoring the church to some decent
degree of order. This might have been done without much labour. But
terror had overpowered the scanty remains of a body once so powerful,
and, sensible they were only suffered to remain in this ancient seat
by connivance and from compassion, they did not venture upon taking
any step which might be construed into an assertion of their ancient
rights, contenting themselves with the secret and obscure exercise of
their religious ceremonial, in as unostentatious a manner as was

Two or three of the more aged brethren had sunk under the pressure of
the times, and the ruins had been partly cleared away to permit their
interment. One stone had been laid over Father Nicholas, which
recorded of him in special, that he had taken the vows during the
incumbency of Abbot Ingelram, the period to which his memory so
frequently recurred. Another flag-stone, yet more recently deposited,
covered the body of Philip the Sacristan, eminent for his aquatic
excursion with the phantom of Avenel, and a third, the most recent of
all, bore the outline of a mitre, and the words _Hic jacet Eustatius
Abbas_; for no one dared to add a word of commendation in favour of
his learning, and strenuous zeal for the Roman Catholic faith.

Magdalen Graeme looked at and perused the brief records of these
monuments successively, and paused over that of Father Eustace. "In a
good hour for thyself," she said, "but oh! in an evil hour for the
Church, wert thou called from us. Let thy spirit be with us, holy
man--encourage thy successor to tread in thy footsteps--give him thy
bold and inventive capacity, thy zeal and thy discretion--even
_thy_ piety exceeds not his." As she spoke, a side door, which
closed a passage from the Abbot's house into the church, was thrown
open, that the Fathers might enter the choir, and conduct to the high
altar the Superior whom they had elected.

In former times, this was one of the most splendid of the many
pageants which the hierarchy of Rome had devised to attract the
veneration of the faithful. The period during which the Abbacy
remained vacant, was a state of mourning, or, as their emblematical
phrase expressed it, of widowhood; a melancholy term, which was
changed into rejoicing and triumph when a new Superior was chosen.
When the folding doors were on such solemn occasions thrown open, and
the new Abbot appeared on the threshold in full-blown dignity, with
ring and mitre, and dalmatique and crosier, his hoary standard-bearers
and his juvenile dispensers of incense preceding him, and the
venerable train of monks behind him, with all besides which could
announce the supreme authority to which he was now raised, his
appearance was a signal for the magnificent _jubilate_ to rise
from the organ and music-loft, and to be joined by the corresponding
bursts of Alleluiah from the whole assembled congregation. Now all was
changed. In the midst of rubbish and desolation, seven or eight old
men, bent and shaken as much by grief and fear as by age, shrouded
hastily in the proscribed dress of their order, wandered like a
procession of spectres, from the door which had been thrown open, up
through the encumbered passage, to the high altar, there to instal
their elected Superior a chief of ruins. It was like a band of
bewildered travellers choosing a chief in the wilderness of Arabia; or
a shipwrecked crew electing a captain upon the barren island on which
fate has thrown them.

They who, in peaceful times, are most ambitious of authority among
others, shrink from the competition at such eventful periods, when
neither ease nor parade attend the possession of it, and when it gives
only a painful pre-eminence both in danger and in labour, and exposes
the ill-fated chieftain to the murmurs of his discontented associates,
as well as to the first assault of the common enemy. But he on whom
the office of the Abbot of Saint Mary's was now conferred, had a mind
fitted for the situation to which he was called. Bold and
enthusiastic, yet generous and forgiving--wise and skilful, yet
zealous and prompt--he wanted but a better cause than the support of a
decaying superstition, to have raised him to the rank of a truly great
man. But as the end crowns the work, it also forms the rule by which
it must be ultimately judged; and those who, with sincerity and
generosity, fight and fall in an evil cause, posterity can only
compassionate as victims of a generous but fatal error. Amongst these,
we must rank Ambrosius, the last Abbot of Kennaqubair, whose designs
must be condemned, as their success would have riveted on Scotland the
chains of antiquated superstition and spiritual tyranny; but whose
talents commanded respect, and whose virtues, even from the enemies of
his faith, extorted esteem.

The bearing of the new Abbot served of itself to dignify a ceremonial
which was deprived of all other attributes of grandeur. Conscious of
the peril in which they stood, and recalling, doubtless, the better
days they had seen, there hung over his brethren an appearance of
mingled terror, and grief, and shame, which induced them to hurry over
the office in which they were engaged, as something at once degrading
and dangerous.

But not so Father Ambrose. His features, indeed, expressed a deep
melancholy, as he walked up the centre aisle, amid the ruin of things
which he considered as holy, but his brow was undejected, and his step
firm and solemn. He seemed to think that the dominion which he was
about to receive, depended in no sort upon the external circumstances
under which it was conferred; and if a mind so firm was accessible to
sorrow or fear, it was not on his own account, but on that of the
Church to which he had devoted himself.

At length he stood on the broken steps of the high altar, barefooted,
as was the rule, and holding in his hand his pastoral staff, for the
gemmed ring and jewelled mitre had become secular spoils. No obedient
vassals came, man after man, to make their homage, and to offer the
tribute which should provide their spiritual Superior with palfrey and
trappings. No Bishop assisted at the solemnity, to receive into the
higher ranks of the Church nobility a dignitary, whose voice in the
legislature was as potential as his own. With hasty and maimed rites,
the few remaining brethren stepped forward alternately to give their
new Abbot the kiss of peace, in token of fraternal affection and
spiritual homage. Mass was then hastily performed, but in such
precipitation as if it had been hurried over rather to satisfy the
scruples of a few youths, who were impatient to set out on a hunting
party, than as if it made the most solemn part of a solemn ordination.
The officiating priest faltered as he spoke the service, and often
looked around, as if he expected to be interrupted in the midst of his
office; and the brethren listened to that which, short as it was, they
wished yet more abridged.[Footnote: In Catholic countries, in order to
reconcile the pleasures of the great with the observances of religion,
it was common, when a party was bent for the chase, to celebrate mass,
abridged and maimed of its rites, called a hunting-mass, the brevity
of which was designed to correspond with the impatience of the

These symptoms of alarm increased as the ceremony proceeded, and, as
it seemed, were not caused by mere apprehension alone; for, amid the
pauses of the hymn, there were heard without sounds of a very
different sort, beginning faintly and at a distance, but at length
approaching close to the exterior of the church, and stunning with
dissonant clamour those engaged in the service. The winding of horns,
blown with no regard to harmony or concert; the jangling of bells, the
thumping of drums, the squeaking of bagpipes, and the clash of
cymbals--the shouts of a multitude, now as in laughter, now as in
anger--the shrill tones of female voices, and of those of children,
mingling with the deeper clamour of men, formed a Babel of sounds,
which first drowned, and then awed into utter silence, the official
hymns of the Convent. The cause and result of this extraordinary
interruption will be explained in the next chapter.

Sir Walter Scott