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Chapter 7

Oh, sadly shines the morning sun
On leaguer'd castle wall,
When bastion, tower, and battlement,
Seemed nodding to their fall.
OLD BALLAD.


True to his resolution, and telling his beads as he went, that he
might lose no time, Father Aldrovand began his rounds in the
castle so soon as daylight had touched the top of the eastern
horizon. A natural instinct led him first to those stalls which,
had the fortress been properly victualled for a siege, ought to
have been tenanted by cattle; and great was his delight to see
more than a score of fat kine and bullocks in the place which had
last night been empty! One of them had already been carried to the
shambles, and a Fleming or two, who played butchers on the
occasion, were dividing the carcass for the cook's use. The good
father had well-nigh cried out, a miracle; but, not to be too
precipitate, he limited his transport to a private exclamation in
honour of Our Lady of the Garde Doloureuse.

"Who talks of lack of provender?--who speaks of surrender now?" he
said. "Here is enough to maintain us till Hugo de Lacy arrives,
were he to sail back from Cyprus to our relief. I did purpose to
have fasted this morning, as well to save victuals as on a
religious score; but the blessings of the saints must not be
slighted.--Sir Cook, let me have half a yard or so of broiled beef
presently; bid the pantler send me a manchet, and the butler a cup
of wine. I will take a running breakfast on the western
battlements." [Footnote: Old Henry Jenkins, in his Recollections
of the Abbacies before their dissolution, has preserved the fact
that roast-beef was delivered out to the guests not by weight, but
by measure.]

At this place, which was rather the weakest point of the Garde
Doloureuse, the good father found Wilkin Flammock anxiously
superintending the necessary measures of defence. He greeted him
courteously, congratulated him on the stock of provisions with
which the castle had been supplied during the night, and was
inquiring how they had been so happily introduced through the
Welsh besiegers, when Wilkin took the first occasion to interrupt
him.

"Of all this another time, good father; but I wish at present, and
before other discourse, to consult thee on a matter which presses
my conscience, and moreover deeply concerns my worldly estate."

"Speak on, my excellent son," said the father, conceiving that he
should thus gain the key to Wilkin's real intentions. "Oh, a
tender conscience is a jewel! and he that will not listen when it
saith, 'Pour out thy doubts into the ear of the priest,' shall one
day have his own dolorous outcries choked with fire and brimstone.
Thou wert ever of a tender conscience, son Wilkin, though thou
hast but a rough and borrel bearing."

"Well, then," said Wilkin, "you are to know, good father, that I
have had some dealings with my neighbour, Jan Vanwelt, concerning
my daughter Rose, and that he has paid me certain gilders on
condition I will match her to him."

"Pshaw, pshaw! my good son," said the disappointed confessor,
"this gear can lie over--this is no time for marrying or giving in
marriage, when we are all like to be murdered."

"Nay, but hear me, good father," said the Fleming, "for this point
of conscience concerns the present case more nearly than you wot
of.--You must know I have no will to bestow Rose on this same Jan
Vanwelt, who is old, and of ill conditions; and I would know of
you whether I may, in conscience, refuse him my consent?"

"Truly," said Father Aldrovand, "Rose is a pretty lass, though
somewhat hasty; and I think you may honestly withdraw your
consent, always on paying back the gilders you have received."

"But there lies the pinch, good father," said the Fleming--"the
refunding this money will reduce me to utter poverty. The Welsh
have destroyed my substance; and this handful of money is all, God
help me! on which I must begin the world again."

"Nevertheless, son Wilkin," said Aldrovand, "thou must keep thy
word, or pay the forfeit; for what saith the text? _Quis
habitabit in tabernaculo, quis requiescet in monte sancta?_--
Who shall ascend to the tabernacle, and dwell in the holy
mountain? Is it not answered again, _Qui jurat proximo et non
decipit?_--Go to, my son--break not thy plighted word for a
little filthy lucre--better is an empty stomach and an hungry
heart with a clear conscience, than a fatted ox with iniquity and
wordbreaking.--Sawest thou not our late noble lord, who (may his
soul be happy!) chose rather to die in unequal battle, like a true
knight, than live a perjured man, though he had but spoken a rash
word to a Welshman over a wine flask?"

"Alas! then," said the Fleming, "this is even what I feared! We
must e'en render up the castle, or restore to the Welshman,
Jorworth, the cattle, by means of which I had schemed to victual
and defend it."

"How--wherefore--what dost thou mean?" said the monk, in
astonishment. "I speak to thee of Rose Flammock, and Jan Van-
devil, or whatever you call him, and you reply with talk about
cattle and castles, and I wot not what!"

"So please you, holy father, I did but speak in parables. This
castle was the daughter I had promised to deliver over--the
Welshman is Jan Vanwelt, and the gilders were the cattle he has
sent in, as a part-payment beforehand of my guerdon."

"Parables!" said the monk, colouring with anger at the trick put
on him; "what has a boor like thee to do with parables?--But I
forgive thee--I forgive thee."

"I am therefore to yield the castle to the Welshman, or restore
him his cattle?" said the impenetrable Dutchman.

"Sooner yield thy soul to Satan!" replied the monk.

"I fear it must be the alternative," said the Fleming; "for the
example of thy honourable lord--"

"The example of an honourable fool"--answered the monk; then
presently subjoined, "Our Lady be with her servant!--This Belgic-
brained boor makes me forget what I would say."

"Nay, but the holy text which your reverence cited to me even
now," continued the Fleming.

"Go to," said the monk; "what hast thou to do to presume to think
of texts?--knowest thou not the letter of the Scripture slayeth,
and that it is the exposition which maketh to live?--Art thou not
like one who, coming to a physician, conceals from him half the
symptoms of the disease?--I tell thee, thou foolish Fleming, the
text speaketh but of promises made unto Christians, and there is
in the Rubric a special exception of such as are made to
Welshmen." At this commentary the Fleming grinned so broadly as to
show his whole case of broad strong white teeth. Father Aldrovand
himself grinned in sympathy, and then proceeded to say,--"Come,
come, I see how it is. Thou hast studied some small revenge on me
for doubting of thy truth; and, in verity, I think thou hast taken
it wittily enough. But wherefore didst thou not let me into the
secret from the beginning? I promise thee I had foul suspicions of
thee.

"What!" said the Fleming, "is it possible I could ever think of
involving your reverence in a little matter of deceit? Surely
Heaven hath sent me more grace and manners.--Hark, I hear
Jorworth's horn at the gate."

"He blows like a town swineherd," said Aldrovand, in disdain.

"It is not your reverence's pleasure that I should restore the
cattle unto them, then?" said Flammock.

"Yes, thus far. Prithee, deliver him straightway over the walls
such a tub of boiling water as shall scald the hair from his
goatskin cloak. And, hark thee, do thou, in the first place, try
the temperature of the kettle with thy forefinger, and that shall
be thy penance for the trick thou hast played me."

The Fleming answered this with another broad grin of intelligence,
and they proceeded to the outer gate, to which Jorworth had come
alone. Placing himself at the wicket, which, however, he kept
carefully barred, and speaking through a small opening, contrived
for such purpose, Wilkin Flammock demanded of the Welshman his
business.

"To receive rendition of the castle, agreeable to promise," said
Jorworth.

"Ay? and art thou come on such errand alone?" said Wilkin.

"No, truly," answered Jorworth; "I have some two score of men
concealed among yonder bushes."

"Then thou hadst best lead them away quickly," answered Wilkin,
"before our archers let fly a sheaf of arrows among them."

"How, villain! Dost thou not mean to keep thy promise?" said the
Welshman.

"I gave thee none," said the Fleming; "I promised but to think on
what thou didst say. I have done so, and have communicated with my
ghostly father, who will in no respect hear of my listening to thy
proposal."

"And wilt thou," said Jorworth, "keep the cattle, which I simply
sent into the castle on the faith of our agreement?"

"I will excommunicate and deliver him over to Satan," said the
monk, unable to wait the phlegmatic and lingering answer of the
Fleming, "if he give horn, hoof, or hair of them, to such an
uncircumcised Philistine as thou or thy master."

"It is well, shorn priest," answered Jorworth in great anger. "But
mark me--reckon not on your frock for ransom. When Gwenwyn hath
taken this castle, as it shall not longer shelter such a pair of
faithless traitors, I will have you sewed up each into the carcass
of one of these kine, for which your penitent has forsworn
himself, and lay you where wolf and eagle shall be your only
companions."

"Thou wilt work thy will when it is matched with thy power," said
the sedate Netherlander.

"False Welshman, we defy thee to thy teeth!" answered, in the same
breath, the more irascible monk. "I trust to see hounds gnaw thy
joints ere that day come that ye talk of so proudly."

By way of answer to both, Jorworth drew back his arm with his
levelled javelin, and shaking the shaft till it acquired a
vibratory motion, he hurled it with equal strength and dexterity
right against the aperture in the wicket. It whizzed through the
opening at which it was aimed, and flew (harmlessly, however)
between the heads of the monk and the Fleming; the former of whom
started back, while the latter only said, as he looked at the
javelin, which stood quivering in the door of the guard-room,
"That was well aimed, and happily baulked."

Jorworth, the instant he had flung his dart, hastened to the
ambush which he had prepared, and gave them at once the signal and
the example of a rapid retreat down the hill. Father Aldrovand
would willingly have followed them with a volley of arrows, but
the Fleming observed that ammunition was too precious with them to
be wasted on a few runaways. Perhaps the honest man remembered
that they had come within the danger of such a salutation, in some
measure, on his own assurance. When the noise of the hasty retreat
of Jorworth and his followers had died away, there ensued a dead
silence, well corresponding with the coolness and calmness of that
early hour in the morning.

"This will not last long," said Wilkin to the monk, in a tone of
foreboding seriousness, which found an echo in the good father's
bosom.

"It will not, and it cannot," answered Aldrovand; "and we must
expect a shrewd attack, which I should mind little, but that their
numbers are great, ours few; the extent of the walls considerable,
and the obstinacy of these Welsh fiends almost equal to their
fury. But we will do the best. I will to the Lady Eveline--She
must show herself upon the battlements--She is fairer in feature
than becometh a man of my order to speak of; and she has withal a
breathing of her father's lofty spirit. The look and the word of
such a lady will give a man double strength in the hour of need."

"It may be," said the Fleming; "and I will go see that the good
breakfast which I have appointed be presently served forth; it
will give my Flemings more strength than the sight of the ten
thousand virgins--may their help be with us!--were they all
arranged on a fair field."


Sir Walter Scott