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Chapter 10


Here we stand--
Woundless and well, may Heaven's high name be bless'd for't!
As erst, ere treason couch'd a lance against us.
Decker.



No sooner was the Sub-Prior hurried into the refectory by his
rejoicing companions, than the first person on whom he fixed his eye
proved to be Christie of the Clinthill. He was seated in the
chimney-corner, fettered and guarded, his features drawn into that air
of sulky and turbid resolution with which those hardened in guilt are
accustomed to view the approach of punishment. But as the Sub-Prior
drew near to him, his face assumed a more wild and startled
expression, while he exclaimed--"The devil! the devil himself, brings
the dead back upon the living."

"Nay," said a monk to him, "say rather that Our Lady foils the
attempts of the wicked on her faithful servants--our dear brother
lives and moves."

"Lives and moves!" said the ruffian, rising and shuffling towards the
Sub-Prior as well as his chains would permit; "nay, then, I will never
trust ashen shaft and steel point more--It is even so," he added, as he
gazed on the Sub-Prior with astonishment; "neither wem nor wound--not
as much as a rent in his frock!"

"And whence should my wound have come?" said Father Eustace.

"From the good lance that never failed me before," replied Christie of
the Clinthill.

"Heaven absolve thee for thy purpose!" said the Sub-Prior; "wouldst
thou have slain a servant of the altar?"

"To choose!" answered Christie; "the Fifemen say, an the whole pack
of ye were slain, there were more lost at Flodden."

"Villain! art thou heretic as well as murderer?"

"Not I, by Saint Giles," replied the rider; "I listened blithely
enough to the Laird of Monance, when he told me ye were all cheats and
knaves; but when he would have had me go hear one Wiseheart, a
gospeller as they call him, he might as well have persuaded the wild
colt that had flung one rider to kneel down and help another into the
saddle."

"There is some goodness about him yet," said the Sacristan to the Abbot,
who at that moment entered--"He refused to hear a heretic preacher."

"The better for him in the next world," answered the Abbot. "Prepare
for death, my son,--we deliver thee over to the secular arm of our
bailie, for execution on the Gallow-hill by peep of light."

"Amen!" said the ruffian; "'tis the end I must have come by sooner or
later--and what care I whether I feed the crows at Saint Mary's or at
Carlisle?"

"Let me implore your reverend patience for an instant," said the
Sub-Prior; "until I shall inquire--"

"What!" exclaimed the Abbot, observing him for the first time--"Our
dear brother restored to us when his life was unhoped for!--nay, kneel
not to a sinner like me--stand up--thou hast my blessing. When this
villain came to the gate, accused by his own evil conscience, and
crying out he had murdered thee, I thought that the pillar of our main
aisle had fallen--no more shall a life so precious be exposed to such
risks as occur in this border country; no longer shall one beloved and
rescued of Heaven hold so low a station in the church as that of a
poor Sub-Prior--I will write by express to the Primate for thy speedy
removal and advancement."

"Nay, but let me understand," said the Sub-Prior; "did this soldier say
he had slain me?"

"That he had transfixed you," answered the Abbot, "in full career with
his lance--but it seems he had taken an indifferent aim. But no sooner
didst thou fall to the ground mortally gored, as he deemed, with his
weapon, than our blessed Patroness appeared to him, as he averred--"

"I averred no such thing," said the prisoner; "I said a woman in white
interrupted me, as I was about to examine the priest's cassock, for
they are usually well lined--she had a bulrush in her hand, with one
touch of which she struck me from my horse, as I might strike down a
child of four years old with an iron mace--and then, like a singing
fiend as she was, she sung to me.

'Thank the holly-bush
That nods on thy brow;
Or with this slender rush
I had strangled thee now.'

I gathered myself up with fear and difficulty, threw myself on my horse,
and came hither like a fool to get myself hanged for a rogue."

"Thou seest, honoured brother," said the Abbot to the Sub-Prior, "in
what favour thou art with our blessed Patroness, that she herself
becomes the guardian of thy paths--Not since the days of our blessed
founder hath she shown such grace to any one. All unworthy were we to
hold spiritual superiority over thee, and we pray thee to prepare for
thy speedy removal to Aberbrothwick."

"Alas! my lord and father," said the Sub-Prior, "your words pierce my
very soul. Under the seal of confession will I presently tell thee why
I conceive myself rather the baffled sport of a spirit of another
sort, than the protected favourite of the heavenly powers. But first
let me ask this unhappy man a question or two."

"Do as ye list," replied the Abbot--"but you shall not convince me
that it is fitting you remain in this inferior office in the convent
of Saint Mary."

"I would ask of this poor man," said Father Eustace, "for what purpose
he nourished the thought of putting to death one who never did him
evil?"

"Ay! but thou didst menace me with evil," said the ruffian, "and no
one but a fool is menaced twice. Dost thou not remember what you said
touching the Primate and Lord James, and the black pool of Jedwood?
Didst thou think me fool enough to wait till thou hadst betrayed me to
the sack and the fork! There were small wisdom in that, methinks--as
little as in coming hither to tell my own misdeeds--I think the devil
was in me when I took this road--I might have remembered the proverb,
'Never Friar forgot feud.'"

"And it was solely for that--for that only hasty word of mine, uttered
in a moment of impatience, and forgotten ere it was well spoken?" said
Father Eustace.

"Ay! for that, and--for the love of thy gold crucifix," said Christie of
the Clinthill.

"Gracious Heaven! and could the yellow metal--the glittering earth--
so far overcome every sense of what is thereby represented?--Father
Abbot, I pray, as a dear boon, you will deliver this guilty person to
my mercy."

"Nay, brother," interposed the Sacristan, "to your doom, if you will,
not to your mercy--Remember, we are not all equally favoured by our
blessed Lady, nor is it likely that every frock in the Convent will
serve as a coat of proof when a lance is couched against it."

"For that very reason," said the Sub-Prior, "I would not that for my
worthless self the community were to fall at feud with Julian of Avenel,
this man's master."

"Our Lady forbid!" said the Sacristan, "he is a second Julian the
Apostate."

"With our reverend father the Abbot's permission, then," said Father
Eustace, "I desire this man be freed from his chains, and suffered to
depart uninjured;--and here, friend," he added, giving him the golden
crucifix, "is the image for which thou wert willing to stain thy hands
with murder. View it well, and may it inspire thee with other and
better thoughts than those which referred to it as a piece of bullion!
Part with it, nevertheless, if thy necessities require, and get thee
one of such coarse substance that Mammon shall have no share in any of
the reflections to which it gives rise. It was the bequest of a dear
friend to me; but dearer service can it never do than that of winning
a soul to Heaven."

The Borderer, now freed from his chains, stood gazing alternately on
the Sub-Prior, and on the golden crucifix. "By Saint Giles," said he,
"I understand ye not!--An ye give me gold for couching my lance at
thee, what would you give me to level it at a heretic?"

"The Church," said the Sub-Prior, "will try the effect of her
spiritual censures to bring these stray sheep into the fold, ere she
employ the edge of the sword of Saint Peter."

"Ay, but," said the ruffian, "they say the Primate recommends a little
strangling and burning in aid of both censure and of sword. But fare ye
weel, I owe you a life, and it may be I will not forget my debt."

The bailie now came bustling in, dressed in his blue coat and
bandaliers, and attended by two or three halberdiers. "I have been a
thought too late in waiting upon your reverend lordship. I am grown
somewhat fatter since the field of Pinkie, and my leathern coat slips
not on so soon as it was wont; but the dungeon is ready, and though,
as I said, I have been somewhat late--"

Here his intended prisoner walked gravely up to the officer's nose, to
his great amazement.

"You have been indeed somewhat late, bailie," said he, "and I am
greatly obligated to your buff-coat, and to the time you took to put
it on. If the secular arm had arrived some quarter of an hour sooner,
I had been out of the reach of spiritual grace; but as it is, I wish
you good even, and a safe riddance out of your garment of durance, in
which you have much the air of a hog in armour."

Wroth was the bailie at this comparison, and exclaimed in ire--"An it
were not for the presence of the venerable Lord Abbot, thou knave--"

"Nay, an thou wouldst try conclusions," said Christie of the Clinthill,
"I will meet thee at day-break by Saint Mary's Well."

"Hardened wretch!" said Father Eustace, "art thou but this instant
delivered from death, and dost thou so soon morse thoughts of
slaughter?"

"I will meet with thee ere it be long, thou knave," said the bailie,
"and teach thee thine Oremus."

"I will meet thy cattle in a moonlight night before that day," said he
of the Clinthill.

"I will have thee by the neck one misty morning, thou strong thief,"
answered the secular officer of the Church.

"Thou art thyself as strong a thief as ever rode," retorted Christie;
"and if the worms were once feasting on that fat carcass of thine I
might well hope to have thine office, by favour of these reverend
men."

"A cast of their office, and a cast of mine," answered the bailie; "a
cord and a confessor, that is all thou wilt have from us."

"Sirs," said the Sub-Prior, observing that his brethren began to take
more interest than was exactly decorous in this wrangling betwixt
justice and iniquity, "I pray you both to depart--Master Bailie,
retire with your halberdiers, and trouble not the man whom we have
dismissed.--And thou, Christie, or whatever be thy name, take thy
departure, and remember thou owest thy life to the Lord Abbot's
clemency."

"Nay, as to that," answered Christie, "I judge that I owe it to your
own; but impute it to whom ye list, I owe a life among ye, and there is
an end." And whistling as he went, he left the apartment, seeming as if
he held the life which he had forfeited not worthy further thanks.

"Obstinate even to brutality!" said Father Eustace; "and yet who
knows but some better ore may lie under so rude an exterior?"

"Save a thief from the gallows," said the Sacristan--"you know the rest
of the proverb; and admitting, as may Heaven grant, that our lives and
limbs are safe from this outrageous knave, who shall insure our meal and
our malt, our herds and our flocks?"

"Marry, that will I, my brethren," said an aged monk. "Ah, brethren,
you little know what may be made of a repentant robber. In Abbot
Ingilram's days--ay, and I remember them as it were yesterday--the
freebooters were the best welcome men that came to Saint Mary's. Ay,
they paid tithe of every drove that they brought over from the South,
and because they were something lightly come by, I have known them
make the tithe a seventh--that is, if their confessor knew his
business--ay, when we saw from the tower a score of fat bullocks, or a
drove of sheep, coming down the valley, with two or three stout
men-at-arms behind them with their glittering steel caps, and their
black-jacks, and their long lances, the good Lord Abbot Ingilram was
wont to say--he was a merry man--there come the tithes of the spoilers
of the Egyptians! Ay, and I have seen the famous John the Armstrang--a
fair man he was and a goodly, the more pity that hemp was ever heckled
for him--I have seen him come into the Abbey-church with nine tassels
of gold in his bonnet, and every tassel made of nine English nobles,
and he would go from chapel to chapel, and from image to image, and
from altar to altar, on his knees--and leave here a tassel, and there
a noble, till there was as little gold on his bonnet as on my
hood--you will find no such Border thieves now!"

"No, truly, Brother Nicolas," answered the Abbot; "they are more apt
to take any gold the Church has left, than to bequeath or bestow
any--and for cattle, beshrew me if I think they care whether beeves
have fed on the meadows of Lanercost Abbey or of Saint Mary's!"

"There is no good thing left in them," said Father Nicolas; "they are
clean naught--Ah, the thieves that I have seen!--such proper men! and
as pitiful as proper, and as pious as pitiful!"

"It skills not talking of it, Brother Nicolas," said the Abbot; "and I
will now dismiss you, my brethren, holding your meeting upon this our
inquisition concerning the danger of our reverend Sub-Prior, instead
of the attendance on the lauds this evening--Yet let the bells be duly
rung for the edification of the laymen without, and also that the
novices may give due reverence.--And now, benedicite, brethren! The
cellarer will bestow on each a grace-cup and a morsel as ye pass the
buttery, for ye have been turmoiled and anxious, and dangerous it is
to fall asleep in such case with empty stomach."

"_Gratias agimus quam maximas, Domine reverendissime_," replied the
brethren, departing in their due order.

But the Sub-Prior remained behind, and falling on his knees before the
Abbot, as he was about to withdraw, craved him to hear under the seal
of confession the adventures of the day. The reverend Lord Abbot
yawned, and would have alleged fatigue; but to Father Eustace, of all
men, he was ashamed to show indifference in his religious duties. The
confession, therefore, proceeded, in which Father Eustace told all the
extraordinary circumstances which had befallen him during the journey.
And being questioned by the Abbot, whether he was not conscious of any
secret sin, through which he might have been subjected for a time to
the delusions of evil spirits, the Sub-Prior admitted, with frank
avowal, that he thought he might have deserved such penance for having
judged with unfraternal rigour of the report of Father Philip the
Sacristan.

"Heaven," said the penitent, "may have been willing to convince me,
not only that he can at pleasure open a communication betwixt us and
beings of a different, and, as we word it, supernatural class, but
also to punish our pride of superior wisdom, or superior courage, or
superior learning."

It is well said that virtue is its own reward; and I question if duty
was ever more completely recompensed, than by the audience which the
reverend Abbot so unwillingly yielded to the confession of the
Sub-Prior. To find the object of his fear shall we say, or of his
envy, or of both, accusing himself of the very error with which he had
so tacitly charged him, was a corroboration of the Abbot's judgment, a
soothing of his pride, and an allaying of his fears. The sense of
triumph, however, rather increased than diminished his natural
good-humour; and so far was Abbot Boniface from being disposed to
tyrannize over his Sub-Prior in consequence of this discovery, that in
his exhortation he hovered somewhat ludicrously betwixt the natural
expression of his own gratified vanity, and his timid reluctance to
hurt the feelings of Father Eustace.

"My brother," said he, _ex cathedra_, "it cannot have escaped
your judicious observation, that we have often declined our own
judgment in favour of your opinion, even about those matters which
most nearly concerned the community. Nevertheless, grieved would we
be, could you think that we did this, either because we deemed our own
opinion less pregnant, or our wit more shallow, than that of our
brethren. For it was done exclusively to give our younger brethren,
such as your much esteemed self, my dearest brother, that courage
which is necessary to a free deliverance of your opinion,--we ofttimes
setting apart our proper judgment, that our inferiors, and especially
our dear brother the Sub-Prior, may be comforted and encouraged in
proposing valiantly his own thoughts. Which our deference and
humility may, in some sort, have produced in your mind, most reverend
brother, that self-opinion of parts and knowledge, which hath led
unfortunately to your over-estimating your own faculties, and thereby
subjecting yourself, as is but too visible, to the japes and mockeries
of evil spirits. For it is assured that Heaven always holdeth us in
the least esteem when we deem of ourselves most highly, and also, on
the other hand, it may be that we have somewhat departed from what
became our high seat in this Abbey, in suffering ourselves to be too
much guided, and even, as it were, controlled, by the voice of our
inferior. Wherefore," continued the Lord Abbot, "in both of us such
faults shall and must be amended--you hereafter presuming less upon
your gifts and carnal wisdom, and I taking heed not so easily to
relinquish mine own opinion for that of one lower in place and in
office. Nevertheless, we would not that we should thereby lose the
high advantage which we have derived, and may yet derive, from your
wise counsels, which hath been so often recommended to us by our most
reverend Primate. Wherefore, on affairs of high moment, we will call
you to our presence in private, and listen to your opinion, which, if
it shall agree with our own, we will deliver to the Chapter as
emanating directly from ourselves; thus sparing you, dearest brother,
that seeming victory which is so apt to engender spiritual pride, and
avoiding ourselves the temptation of falling into that modest facility
of opinion, whereby our office is lessened and our person (were that
of consequence) rendered less important in the eyes of the community
over which we preside."

Notwithstanding the high notions which, as a rigid Catholic, Father
Eustace entertained of the sacrament of confession, as his Church
calls it, there was some danger that a sense of the ridiculous might
have stolen on him, when he heard his Superior, with such simple
cunning, lay out a little plan for availing himself of the Sub-Prior's
wisdom and experience, while he should take the whole credit to
himself. Yet his conscience immediately told him he was right.

"I should have thought more," he reflected, "of the spiritual
Superior, and less of the individual. I should have spread my mantle
over the frailties of my spiritual father, and done what I might to
support his character, and, of course, to extend his utility among the
brethren, as well as with others. The Abbot cannot be humbled, but
what the community must be humbled in his person. Her boast is, that
over all her children, especially over those called to places of
distinction, she can diffuse those gifts which are necessary to render
them illustrious."

Actuated by these sentiments, Father Eustace frankly assented to the
charge which his Superior, even in that moment of authority, had
rather intimated than made, and signified his humble acquiescence in
any mode of communicating his counsel which might be most agreeable to
the Lord Abbot, and might best remove from himself all temptation to
glory in his own wisdom. He then prayed the reverend Father to assign
him such penance as might best suit his offence, intimating, at the
same time, that he had already fasted the whole day.

"And it is that I complain of," answered the Abbot, instead of giving
him credit for his abstinence; "it is these very penances, fasts, and
vigils, of which we complain; as tending only to generate airs and
fumes of vanity, which, ascending from the stomach into the head, do
but puff us up with vain-glory and self-opinion. It is meet and
beseeming that novices should undergo fasts and vigils; for some part
of every community must fast, and young stomachs may best endure it.
Besides, in them it abates wicked thoughts, and the desire of worldly
delights. But, reverend brother, for those to fast who are dead and
mortified to the world, as I and thou, is work of supererogation, and
is but the matter of spiritual pride. Wherefore, I enjoin thee, most
reverend brother, go to the buttery and drink two cups at least of
good wine, eating withal a comfortable morsel, such as may best suit
thy taste and stomach. And in respect that thine opinion of thy own
wisdom hath at times made thee less conformable to, and companionable
with, the weaker and less learned brethren, I enjoin thee, during the
said repast, to choose for thy companion, our reverend brother
Nicolas, and without interruption or impatience, to listen for a
stricken hour to his narration, concerning those things which befel in
the times of our venerable predecessor, Abbot Ingilram, on whose soul
may Heaven have mercy! And for such holy exercises as may farther
advantage your soul, and expiate the faults whereof you have
contritely and humbly avowed yourself guilty, we will ponder upon that
matter, and announce our will unto you the next morning."

It was remarkable, that after this memorable evening, the feelings of
the worthy Abbot towards his adviser were much more kindly and
friendly than when he deemed the Sub-Prior the impeccable and
infallible person, in whose garment of virtue and wisdom no flaw was
to be discerned. It seemed as if this avowal of his own imperfections
had recommended Father Eustace to the friendship of the Superior,
although at the same time this increase of benevolence was attended
with some circumstances, which, to a man of the Sub-Prior's natural
elevation of mind and temper, were more grievous than even undergoing
the legends of the dull and verbose Father Nicolas. For instance, the
Abbot seldom mentioned him to the other monks, without designing him
our beloved Brother Eustace, poor man!--and now and then he used to
warn the younger brethren against the snares of vainglory and
spiritual pride, which Satan sets for the more rigidly righteous, with
such looks and demonstrations as did all but expressly designate the
Sub-Prior as one who had fallen at one time under such delusions. Upon
these occasions, it required all the votive obedience of a monk, all
the philosophical discipline of the schools, and all the patience of a
Christian, to enable Father Eustace to endure the pompous and
patronizing parade of his honest, but somewhat thick-headed Superior.
He began himself to be desirous of leaving the Monastery, or at least
he manifestly declined to interfere with its affairs, in that marked
and authoritative manner, which he had at first practised.

* * * * *

Sir Walter Scott