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Chapter 8

The sacred tapers lights are gone.
Gray moss has clad the altar stone,
The holy image is o'erthrown,
The bell has ceased to toll,
The long ribb'd aisles are burst and shrunk,
The holy shrines to ruin sunk,
Departed is the pious monk,
God's blessing on his soul!

The cell of Saint Cuthbert, as it was called, marked, or was supposed
to mark, one of those resting-places, which that venerable saint was
pleased to assign to his monks, when his convent, being driven from
Lindisfern by the Danes, became a peripatetic society of religionists,
and bearing their patron's body on their shoulders, transported him
from place to place through Scotland and the borders of England, until
he was pleased at length to spare them the pain of carrying him
farther, and to choose his ultimate place of rest in the lordly towers
of Durham. The odour of his sanctity remained behind him at each place
where he had granted the monks a transient respite from their labours;
and proud were those who could assign, as his temporary resting-place,
any spot within their vicinity. There were few cells more celebrated
and honoured than that of Saint Cuthbert, to which Roland Graeme now
bent his way, situated considerably to the north-west of the great
Abbey of Kennaquhair, on which it was dependent. In the neighbourhood
were some of those recommendations which weighed with the experienced
priesthood of Rome, in choosing their sites for places of religion.

There was a well, possessed of some medicinal qualities, which, of
course, claimed the saint for its guardian and patron, and
occasionally produced some advantage to the recluse who inhabited his
cell, since none could reasonably expect to benefit by the fountain
who did not extend their bounty to the saint's chaplain. A few rods of
fertile land afforded the monk his plot of garden ground; an eminence
well clothed with trees rose behind the cell, and sheltered it from,
the north and the east, while the front, opening to the south-west,
looked up a wild but pleasant valley, down which wandered a lively
brook, which battled with every stone that interrupted its passage.

The cell itself was rather plainly than rudely constructed--a low
Gothic building with two small apartments, one of which served the
priest for his dwelling-place, the other for his chapel. As there were
few of the secular clergy who durst venture to reside so near the
Border, the assistance of this monk in spiritual affairs had not been
useless to the community, while the Catholic religion retained the
ascendancy; as he could marry, christen, and administer the other
sacraments of the Roman church. Of late, however, as the Protestant
doctrines gained ground, he had found it convenient to live in close
retirement, and to avoid, as much as possible, drawing upon himself
observation or animadversion. The appearance of his habitation,
however, when Roland Graeme came before it in the close of the
evening, plainly showed that his caution had been finally ineffectual.

The page's first movement was to knock at the door, when he observed,
to his surprise, that it was open, not from being left unlatched, but
because, beat off its upper hinge, it was only fastened to the
door-post by the lower, and could therefore no longer perform its
functions. Somewhat alarmed at this, and receiving no answer when he
knocked and called, Roland began to look more at leisure upon the
exterior of the little dwelling before he ventured to enter it. The
flowers, which had been trained with care against the walls, seemed to
have been recently torn down, and trailed their dishonoured garlands
on the earth; the latticed window was broken and dashed in. The
garden, which the monk had maintained by his constant labour in the
highest order and beauty, bore marks of having been lately trod down
and destroyed by the hoofs of animals, and the feet of men.

The sainted spring had not escaped. It was wont to rise beneath a
canopy of ribbed arches, with which the devotion of elder times had
secured and protected its healing waters. These arches were now almost
entirely demolished, and the stones of which they were built were
tumbled into the well, as if for the purpose of choking up and
destroying the fountain, which, as it had shared in other days the
honour of the saint, was, in the present, doomed to partake his
unpopularity. Part of the roof had been pulled down from the house
itself, and an attempt had been made with crows and levers upon one of
the angles, by which several large corner-stones had been forced out
of their place; but the solidity of ancient mason-work had proved too
great for the time or patience of the assailants, and they had
relinquished their task of destruction. Such dilapidated buildings,
after the lapse of years, during which nature has gradually covered
the effects of violence with creeping plants, and with weather-stains,
exhibit, amid their decay, a melancholy beauty. But when the visible
effects of violence appear raw and recent, there is no feeling to
mitigate the sense of devastation with which they impress the
spectators; and such was now the scene on which the youthful page
gazed, with the painful feelings it was qualified to excite.

When his first momentary surprise was over, Roland Graeme was at no
loss to conjecture the cause of these ravages. The destruction of the
Popish edifices did not take place at once throughout Scotland, but at
different times, and according to the spirit which actuated the
reformed clergy; some of whom instigated their hearers to these acts
of demolition, and others, with better taste and feeling, endeavoured
to protect the ancient shrines, while they desired to see them
purified from the objects which had attracted idolatrous devotion.
From time to time, therefore, the populace of the Scottish towns and
villages, when instigated either by their own feelings of abhorrence
for Popish superstition, or by the doctrines of the more zealous
preachers, resumed the work of destruction, and exercised it upon some
sequestered church, chapel, or cell, which had escaped the first burst
of their indignation against the religion of Rome. In many places, the
vices of the Catholic clergy, arising out of the wealth and the
corruption of that tremendous hierarchy, furnished too good an apology
for wreaking vengeance upon the splendid edifices which they
inhabited; and of this an old Scottish historian gives a remarkable

"Why mourn ye," said an aged matron, seeing the discontent of some of
the citizens, while a stately convent was burnt by the multitude,--
"why mourn ye for its destruction? If you knew half the flagitious
wickedness which has been perpetrated within that house, you would
rather bless the divine judgment, which permits not even the senseless
walls that screened such profligacy, any longer to cumber Christian

But although, in many instances, the destruction of the Roman Catholic
buildings might be, in the matron's way of judging, an act of justice,
and in others an act of policy, there is no doubt that the humour of
demolishing monuments of ancient piety and munificence, and that in a
poor country like Scotland, where there was no chance of their being
replaced, was both useless, mischievous, and barbarous.

In the present instance, the unpretending and quiet seclusion of the
monk of Saint Cuthbert's had hitherto saved him from the general
wreck; but it would seem ruin had now at length reached him. Anxious
to discover if he had at least escaped personal harm, Roland Graeme
entered the half ruined cell.

The interior of the building was in a state which fully justified the
opinion he had formed from its external injuries. The few rude
utensils of the solitary's hut were broken down, and lay scattered on
the floor, where it seemed as if a fire had been made with some of the
fragments to destroy the rest of his property, and to consume, in
particular, the rude old image of Saint Cuthbert, in its episcopal
habit, which lay on the hearth like Dagon of yore, shattered with the
axe and scorched with the flames, but only partially destroyed. In the
little apartment which served as a chapel, the altar was overthrown,
and the four huge stones of which it had been once composed lay
scattered around the floor. The large stone crucifix which occupied
the niche behind the altar, and fronted the supplicant while he paid
his devotion there, had been pulled down and dashed by its own weight
into three fragments. There were marks of sledge-hammers on each of
these; yet the image had been saved from utter demolition by the size
and strength of the remaining fragments, which, though much injured,
retained enough of the original sculpture to show what it had been
intended to represent.

[Footnote: I may here observe, that this is entirely an ideal scene.
Saint Cuthbert, a person of established sanctity, had, no doubt,
several places of worship on the Borders, where he flourished whilst
living; but Tillmouth Chapel is the only one which bears some
resemblance to the hermitage described in the text. It has, indeed, a
well, famous for gratifying three wishes for every worshipper who
shall quaff the fountain with sufficient belief in its efficacy. At
this spot the Saint is said to have landed in his stone coffin, in
which he sailed down the Tweed from Melrose and here the stone coffin
long lay, in evidence of the fact. The late Sir Francis Blake Delaval
is said to have taken the exact measure of the coffin, and to have
ascertained, by hydrostatic principles, that it might have actually
swum. A profane farmer in the neighborhood announced his intention of
converting this last bed of the Saint into a trough for his swine; but
the profanation was rendered impossible, either by the Saint, or by
some pious votary in his behalf, for on the following morning the
stone sarcophargus was found broken in two fragments.

Tillmouth Chapel, with these points of resemblance, lies, however, in
exactly the opposite direction as regards Melrose, which the supposed
cell of St. Cuthbert is said to have borne towards Kennaquhair.]

Roland Graeme, secretly nursed in the tenets of Rome, saw with horror
the profanation of the most sacred emblem, according to his creed, of
our holy religion.

"It is the badge of our redemption," he said, "which the felons have
dared to violate--would to God my weak strength were able to replace
it--my humble strength, to atone for the sacrilege!"

He stooped to the task he first meditated, and with a sudden, and to
himself almost an incredible exertion of power, he lifted up the one
extremity of the lower shaft of the cross, and rested it upon the edge
of the large stone which served for its pedestal. Encouraged by this
success, he applied his force to the other extremity, and, to his own
astonishment, succeeded so far as to erect the lower end of the limb
into the socket, out of which it had been forced, and to place this
fragment of the image upright.

While he was employed in this labour, or rather at the very moment
when he had accomplished the elevation of the fragment, a voice, in
thrilling and well-known accents, spoke behind him these words:--"Well
done, thou good and faithful servant! Thus would I again meet the
child of my love--the hope of my aged eyes."

Roland turned round in astonishment, and the tall commanding form of
Magdalen Graeme stood beside him. She was arrayed in a sort of loose
habit, in form like that worn by penitents in Catholic countries, but
black in colour, and approaching as near to a pilgrim's cloak as it
was safe to wear in a country where the suspicion of Catholic devotion
in many places endangered the safety of those who were suspected of
attachment to the ancient faith. Roland Graeme threw himself at her
feet. She raised and embraced him, with affection indeed, but not
unmixed with gravity which amounted almost to sternness.

"Thou hast kept well," she said, "the bird in thy bosom. [Footnote:
An expression used by Sir Ralph Percy, slain in the battle of
Hedgly-moor in 1464, when dying, to express his having preserved
unstained his fidelity to the house of Lancaster.] As a boy, as a
youth, thou hast held fast thy faith amongst heretics--thou hast kept
thy secret and mine own amongst thine enemies. I wept when I parted
from you--I who seldom weep, then shed tears, less for thy death than
for thy spiritual danger--I dared not even see thee to bid thee a last
farewell--my grief, my swelling grief, had betrayed me to these
heretics. But thou hast been faithful--down, down on thy knees before
the holy sign, which evil men injure and blaspheme; down, and praise
saints and angels for the grace they have done thee, in preserving
thee from the leprous plague which cleaves to the house in which thou
wert nurtured."

"If, my mother--so I must ever call you" replied Graeme,--"if I am
returned such as thou wouldst wish me, thou must thank the care of the
pious father Ambrose, whose instructions confirmed your early
precepts, and taught me at once to be faithful and to be silent."

"Be he blessed for it," said she; "blessed in the cell and in the
field, in the pulpit and at the altar--the saints rain blessings on
him!--they are just, and employ his pious care to counteract the evils
which his detested brother works against the realm and the
church,--but he knew not of thy lineage?"

"I could not myself tell him that," answered Roland. "I knew but
darkly from your words, that Sir Halbert Glendinning holds mine
inheritance, and that I am of blood as noble as runs in the veins of
any Scottish Baron--these are things not to be forgotten, but for the
explanation I must now look to you."

"And when time suits, thou shalt not look for it in vain. But men say,
my son, that thou art bold and sudden; and those who bear such tempers
are not lightly to be trusted with what will strongly move them."

"Say rather, my mother," returned Roland Graeme, "that I am laggard
and cold-blooded--what patience or endurance can you require of which
_he_ is not capable, who for years has heard his religion
ridiculed and insulted, yet failed to plunge his dagger into the
blasphemer's bosom!"

"Be contented, my child," replied Magdalen Graeme; "the time, which
then and even now demands patience, will soon ripen to that of effort
and action--great events are on the wing, and thou,--thou shalt have
thy share in advancing them. Thou hast relinquished the service of the
Lady of Avenel?"

"I have been dismissed from it, my mother--I have lived to be
dismissed, as if I were the meanest of the train."

"It is the better, my child," replied she; "thy mind will be the more
hardened to undertake that which must be performed."

"Let it be nothing, then, against the Lady of Avenel," said the page,
"as thy look and words seem to imply. I have eaten her bread--I have
experienced her favour--I will neither injure nor betray her."

"Of that hereafter, my son," said she; "but learn this, that it is not
for thee to capitulate in thy duty, and to say this will I do, and
that will I leave undone--No, Roland! God and man will no longer abide
the wickedness of this generation. Seest thou these fragments--
knowest thou what they represent?--and canst thou think it is for thee
to make distinctions amongst a race so accursed by Heaven, that they
renounce, violate, blaspheme, and destroy, whatsoever we are commanded
to believe in, whatsoever we are commanded to reverence?"

As she spoke, she bent her head towards the broken image, with a
countenance in which strong resentment and zeal were mingled with an
expression of ecstatic devotion; she raised her left hand aloft as in
the act of making a vow, and thus proceeded; "Bear witness for me,
blessed symbol of our salvation, bear witness, holy saint, within
whose violated temple we stand, that as it is not for vengeance of my
own that my hate pursues these people, so neither, for any favour or
earthly affection towards any amongst them, will I withdraw my hand
from the plough, when it shall pass through the devoted furrow! Bear
witness, holy saint, once thyself a wanderer and fugitive as we are
now--bear witness, Mother of Mercy, Queen of Heaven--bear witness,
saints and angels!"

In this high train of enthusiasm, she stood, raising her eyes through
the fractured roof of the vault, to the stars which now began to
twinkle through the pale twilight, while the long gray tresses which
hung down over her shoulders waved in the night-breeze, which the
chasm and fractured windows admitted freely.

Roland Graeme was too much awed by early habits, as well as by the
mysterious import of her words, to ask for farther explanation of the
purpose she obscurely hinted at. Nor did she farther press him on the
subject; for, having concluded her prayer or obtestation, by clasping
her hands together with solemnity, and then signing herself with the
cross, she again addressed her grandson, in a tone more adapted to the
ordinary business of life.

"Thou must hence," she said, "Roland, thou must hence, but not till
morning--And now, how wilt thou shift for thy night's quarters?--thou
hast been more softly bred than when we were companions in the misty
hills of Cumberland and Liddesdale."

"I have at least preserved, my good mother, the habits which I then
learned--can lie hard, feed sparingly, and think it no hardship. Since
I was a wanderer with thee on the hills, I have been a hunter, and
fisher, and fowler, and each of these is accustomed to sleep freely in
a worse shelter than sacrilege has left us here."

"Than sacrilege has left us here!" said the matron, repeating his
words, and pausing on them. "Most true, my son; and God's faithful
children are now worst sheltered, when they lodge in God's own house
and the demesne of his blessed saints. We shall sleep cold here, under
the nightwind, which whistles through the breaches which heresy has
made. They shall lie warmer who made them--ay, and through a long

Notwithstanding the wild and singular expression of this female, she
appeared to retain towards Roland Graeme, in a strong degree, that
affectionate and sedulous love which women bear to their nurslings,
and the children dependent on their care. It seemed as if she would
not permit him to do aught for himself which in former days her
attention had been used to do for him, and that she considered the
tall stripling before her as being equally dependent on her careful
attention as when he was the orphan child, who had owed all to her
affectionate solicitude.

"What hast thou to eat now?" she said, as, leaving the chapel, they
went into the deserted habitation of the priest; "or what means of
kindling a fire, to defend thee from this raw and inclement air? Poor
child! thou hast made slight provision for a long journey; nor hast
thou skill to help thyself by wit, when means are scanty. But Our Lady
has placed by thy side one to whom want, in all its forms, is as
familiar as plenty and splendour have formerly been. And with want,
Roland, come the arts of which she is the inventor."

With an active and officious diligence, which strangely contrasted
with her late abstracted and high tone of Catholic devotion, she set
about her domestic arrangements for the evening. A pouch, which was
hidden under her garment, produced a flint arid steel, and from the
scattered fragments around (those pertaining to the image of Saint
Cuthbert scrupulously excepted) she obtained splinters sufficient to
raise a sparkling and cheerful fire on the hearth of the deserted

"And now," she said, "for needful food."

"Think not of it, mother," said Roland, "unless you yourself feel
hunger. It is a little thing for me to endure a night's abstinence,
and a small atonement for the necessary transgression of the rules of
the Church upon which I was compelled during my stay in the castle."

"Hunger for myself!" answered the matron--"Know, youth, that a mother
knows not hunger till that of her child is satisfied." And with
affectionate inconsistency, totally different from her usual manner,
she added, "Roland, you must not fast; you have dispensation; you are
young, and to youth food and sleep are necessaries not to be dispensed
with. Husband your strength, my child,--your sovereign, your religion,
your country, require it. Let age macerate by fast and vigil a body
which can only suffer; let youth, in these active times, nourish the
limbs and the strength which action requires."

While she thus spoke, the scrip, which had produced the means of
striking fire, furnished provision for a meal; of which she herself
scarce partook, but anxiously watched her charge, taking a pleasure,
resembling that of an epicure, in each morsel which he swallowed with
a youthful appetite which abstinence had rendered unusually sharp.
Roland readily obeyed her recommendations, and ate the food which she
so affectionately and earnestly placed before him. But she shook her
head when invited by him in return to partake of the refreshment her
own cares had furnished; and when his solicitude became more pressing,
she refused him in a loftier tone of rejection.

"Young man," she said, "you know not to whom or of what you speak.
They to whom Heaven declares its purpose must merit its communication
by mortifying the senses; they have that within which requires not the
superfluity of earthly nutriment, which is necessary to those who are
without the sphere of the Vision. To them the watch spent in prayer is
a refreshing slumber, and the sense of doing the will of Heaven is a
richer banquet than the tables of monarchs can spread before
them!--But do thou sleep soft, my son," she said, relapsing from the
tone of fanaticism into that of maternal affection and tenderness; "do
thou sleep sound while life is but young with thee, and the cares of
the day can be drowned in the slumbers of the evening. Different is
thy duty and mine, and as different the means by which we must qualify
and strengthen ourselves to perform it. From thee is demanded strength
of body--from me, strength of soul."

When she thus spoke, she prepared with ready address a pallet-couch,
composed partly of the dried leaves which had once furnished a bed to
the solitary, and the guests who occasionally received his
hospitality, and which, neglected by the destroyers of his humble
cell, had remained little disturbed in the corner allotted for them.
To these her care added some of the vestures which lay torn and
scattered on the floor. With a zealous hand she selected all such as
appeared to have made any part of the sacerdotal vestments, laying
them aside as sacred from ordinary purposes, and with the rest she
made, with dexterous promptness, such a bed as a weary man might
willingly stretch himself on; and during the time she was preparing
it, rejected, even with acrimony, any attempt which the youth made to
assist her, or any entreaty which he urged, that she would accept of
the place of rest for her own use. "Sleep thou," said she, "Roland
Graeme, sleep thou--the persecuted, the disinherited orphan--the son
of an ill-fated mother--sleep thou! I go to pray in the chapel beside

The manner was too enthusiastically earnest, too obstinately firm, to
permit Roland Graeme to dispute her will any farther. Yet he felt some
shame in giving way to it. It seemed as if she had forgotten the years
that had passed away since their parting; and expected to meet, in the
tall, indulged, and wilful youth, whom she had recovered, the passive
obedience of the child whom she had left in the Castle of Avenel. This
did not fail to hurt her grandson's characteristic and constitutional
pride. He obeyed, indeed, awed into submission by the sudden
recurrence of former subordination, and by feelings of affection and
gratitude. Still, however, he felt the yoke.

"Have I relinquished the hawk and the hound," he said, "to become the
pupil of her pleasure, as if I were still a child?--I, whom even my
envious mates allowed to be superior in those exercises which they
took most pains to acquire, and which came to me naturally, as if a
knowledge of them had been my birthright? This may not, and must not
be. I will be no reclaimed sparrow-hawk, who is carried hooded on a
woman's wrist, and has his quarry only shown to him when his eyes are
uncovered for his flight. I will know her purpose ere it is proposed
to me to aid it."

These, and other thoughts, streamed through the mind of Roland Graeme;
and although wearied with the fatigues of the day, it was long ere he
could compose himself to rest.

Sir Walter Scott