You call this education, do you not?
Why 'tis the forced march of a herd of bullocks
Before a shouting drover. The glad van
Move on at ease, and pause a while to snatch
A passing morsel from the dewy greensward,
While all the blows, the oaths, the indignation,
Fall on the croupe of the ill-fated laggard
That cripples in the rear.
He often absented himself for whole days from the convent; and as the
adventure of Glendearg dwelt deeply on his memory, he was repeatedly
induced to visit that lonely tower, and to take an interest in the
orphans who had their shelter under its roof. Besides, he felt a deep
anxiety to know whether the volume which he had lost, when so
strangely preserved from the lance of the murderer, had again found
its way back to the Tower of Glendearg. "It was strange," he thought,
"that a spirit," for such he could not help judging the being whose
voice he had heard, "should, on the one side, seek the advancement of
heresy, and, on the other, interpose to save the life of a zealous
But from no inquiry which he made of the various inhabitants of the
Tower of Glendearg could he learn that the copy of the translated
Scriptures, for which he made such diligent inquiry, had again been
seen by any of them.
In the meanwhile, the good father's occasional visits were of no small
consequence to Edward Glendinning and to Mary Avenel. The former
displayed a power of apprehending and retaining whatever was taught
him, which tilled Father Eustace with admiration. He was at once acute
and industrious, alert and accurate; one of those rare combinations of
talent and industry, which are seldom united.
It was the earnest desire of Father Eustace that the excellent
qualities thus early displayed by Edward should be dedicated to the
service of the Church, to which he thought the youth's own consent
might be easily obtained, as he was of a calm, contemplative, retired
habit, and seemed to consider knowledge as the principal object, and
its enlargement as the greatest pleasure, in life. As to the mother,
the Sub-Prior had little doubt that, trained as she was to view the
monks of Saint Mary's with such profound reverence, she would be but
too happy in an opportunity of enrolling one of her sons in its
honoured community. But the good Father proved to be mistaken in both
When he spoke to Elspeth Glendinning of that which a mother best loves
to hear--the proficiency and abilities of her son--she listened with a
delighted ear. But when Father Eustace hinted at the duty of
dedicating to the service of the Church, talents which seemed fitted
to defend and adorn it, the dame endeavoured always to shift the
subject; and when pressed farther, enlarged on her own incapacity, as
a lone woman, to manage the feu; on the advantage which her neighbours
of the township were often taking of her unprotected state, and on the
wish she had that Edward might fill his father's place, remain in the
tower, and close her eyes.
On such occasions the Sub-Prior would answer, that even in a worldly
point of view the welfare of the family would be best consulted by one
of the sons entering into the community of Saint Mary's, as it was not
to be supposed that he would fail to afford his family the important
protection which he could then easily extend towards them. What could
be a more pleasing prospect than to see him high in honour? or what
more sweet than to have the last duties rendered to her by a son,
reverend for his holiness of life and exemplary manners? Besides, he
endeavoured to impress upon the dame, that her eldest son, Halbert,
whose bold temper and headstrong indulgence of a wandering humour,
rendered him incapable of learning, was, for that reason, as well as
that he was her eldest born, fittest to bustle through the affairs of
the world, and manage the little fief.
Elspeth durst not directly dissent from what was proposed, for fear of
giving displeasure, and yet she always had something to say against it.
Halbert, she said, was not like any of the neighbour boys--he was
taller by the head, and stronger by the half, than any boy of his
years within the Halidome. But he was fit for no peaceful work that
could be devised. If he liked a book ill, he liked a plough or a
pattle worse. He had scoured his father's old broadsword--suspended it
by a belt round his waist, and seldom stirred without it. He was a
sweet boy and a gentle if spoken fair, but cross him and he was a born
devil. "In a word," she said, bursting into tears, "deprive me of
Edward, good father, and ye bereave my house of prop and pillar; for
my heart tells me that Halbert will take to his father's gates, and
die his father's death."
When the conversation came to this crisis, the good-humoured monk was
always content to drop the discussion for the time, trusting some
opportunity would occur of removing her prejudices, for such he
thought them, against Edward's proposed destination.
When, leaving the mother, the Sub-Prior addressed himself to the son,
animating his zeal for knowledge, and pointing out how amply it might
be gratified should he agree to take holy orders, he found the same
repugnance which Dame Elspeth had exhibited. Edward pleaded a want of
sufficient vocation to so serious a profession--his reluctance to
leave his mother, and other objections, which the Sub-Prior treated as
"I plainly perceive," he said one day, in answer to them, "that the
devil has his factors as well as Heaven, and that they are equally,
or, alas! the former are perhaps more active, in bespeaking for their
master the first of the market. I trust, young man, that neither
idleness, nor licentious pleasure, nor the love of worldly gain and
worldly grandeur, the chief baits with which the great Fisher of souls
conceals his hook, are the causes of your declining the career to
which I would incite you. But above all I trust--above all I
hope--that the vanity of superior knowledge--a sin with which those
who have made proficiency in learning are most frequently beset--has
not led you into the awful hazard of listening to the dangerous
doctrines which are now afloat concerning religion. Better for you
that you were as grossly ignorant as the beasts which perish, that
that the pride of knowledge should induce you to lend an ear to the
voice of heretics." Edward Glendinning listened to the rebuke with a
downcast look, and failed not, when it was concluded, earnestly to
vindicate himself from the charge of having pushed his studies into
any subjects which the Church inhibited; and so the monk was left to
form vain conjectures respecting the cause of his reluctance to
embrace the monastic state.
It is an old proverb, used by Chaucer, and quoted by Elizabeth, that
"the greatest clerks are not the wisest men;" and it is as true as if
the poet had not rhymed, or the queen reasoned on it. If Father
Eustace had not had his thoughts turned so much to the progress of
heresy, and so little to what was passing in the tower, he might have
read, in the speaking eyes of Mary Avenel, now a girl of fourteen or
fifteen, reasons which might disincline her youthful companion towards
the monastic vows. I have said, that she also was a promising pupil of
the good father, upon whom her innocent and infantine beauty had an
effect of which he was himself, perhaps, unconscious. Her rank and
expectations entitled her to be taught the arts of reading and
writing;--and each lesson which the monk assigned her was conned over
in company with Edward, and by him explained and re-explained, and
again illustrated, until she became perfectly mistress of it.
In the beginning of their studies, Halbert had been their school
companion. But the boldness and impatience of his disposition soon
quarrelled with an occupation in which, without assiduity and
unremitted attention, no progress was to be expected. The Sub-Prior's
visits were at regular intervals, and often weeks would intervene
between them, in which case Halbert was sure to forget all that had
been prescribed for him to learn, and much which he had partly
acquired before. His deficiencies on these occasions gave him pain,
but it was not of that sort which produces amendment.
For a time, like all who are fond of idleness, he endeavoured to
detach the attention of his brother and Mary Avenel from their task,
rather than to learn his own, and such dialogues as the following
"Take your bonnet, Edward, and make haste--the Laird of Colmslie is
at the head of the glen with his hounds."
"I care not, Halbert," answered the younger brother; "two brace of dogs
may kill a deer without my being there to see them, and I must help Mary
Avenel with her lesson."
"Ay! you will labour at the monk's lessons till you turn monk yourself,"
answered Halbert.--"Mary, will you go with me, and I will show you the
cushat's nest I told you of?"
"I cannot go with you, Halbert," answered Mary, "because I must study
this lesson--it will take me long to learn it--I am sorry I am so
dull, for if I could get my task as fast as Edward, I should like to
go with you."
"Should you indeed?" said Halbert; "then I will wait for you--and,
what is more, I will try to get my lesson also."
With a smile and a sigh he took up the primer, and began heavily to
con over the task which had been assigned him. As if banished from the
society of the two others, he sat sad and solitary in one of the deep
window-recesses, and after in vain struggling with the difficulties of
his task, and his disinclination to learn it, he found himself
involuntarily engaged in watching the movements of the other two
students, instead of toiling any longer.
The picture which Halbert looked upon was delightful in itself, but
somehow or other it afforded very little pleasure to him. The
beautiful girl, with looks of simple, yet earnest anxiety, was bent on
disentangling those intricacies which obstructed her progress to
knowledge, and looking ever and anon to Edward for assistance, while,
seated close by her side, and watchful to remove every obstacle from
her way, he seemed at once to be proud of the progress which his pupil
made, and of the assistance which he was able to render her. There was
a bond betwixt them, a strong and interesting tie, the desire of
obtaining knowledge, the pride of surmounting difficulties.
Feeling most acutely, yet ignorant of the nature and source of his own
emotions, Halbert could no longer endure to look upon this quiet
scene, but, starting up, dashed his book from him, and exclaimed
aloud, "To the fiend I bequeath all books, and the dreamers that make
them!--I would a score of Southrons would come up the glen, and we
should learn how little all this muttering and scribbling is worth."
Mary Avenol and his brother started, and looked at Halbert with
surprise, while he went on with great animation, his features
swelling, and the tears starting into his eyes as he spoke.--"Yes,
Mary--I wish a score of Southrons came up the glen this very day; and
you should see one good hand, and one good sword, do more to protect
you, than all the books that were ever opened, and all the pens that
ever grew on a goose's wing."
Mary looked a little surprised and a little frightened at his
vehemence, but instantly replied affectionately, "You are vexed,
Halbert, because you do not get your lesson so fast as Edward can; and
so am I, for I am as stupid as you--But come, and Edward shall sit
betwixt us and teach us."
"He shall not teach _me_," said Halbert, in the same angry mood;
"I never can teach _him_ to do any thing that is honourable and
manly, and he shall not teach _me_ any of his monkish tricks.--I
hate the monks, with their drawling nasal tone like so many frogs, and
their long black petticoats like so many women, and their reverences,
and their lordships, and their lazy vassals that do nothing but peddle
in the mire with plough and harrow from Yule to Michaelmas. I will
call none lord, but him who wears a sword to make his title good; and
I will call none man, but he that can bear himself manlike and
"For Heaven's sake, peace, brother!" said Edward; "if such words were
taken up and reported out of the house, they would be our mother's
"Report them yourself, then, and they will be _your_ making, and
nobody's marring save mine own. Say that Halbert Glendinning will
never be vassal to an old man with a cowl and shaven crown, while
there are twenty barons who wear casque and plume that lack bold
followers. Let them grant you these wretched acres, and much meal may
they bear you to make your _brachan_." He left the room hastily,
but instantly returned, and continued to speak with the same tone of
quick and irritated feeling. "And you need not think so much, neither
of you, and especially you, Edward, need not think so much of your
parchment book there, and your cunning in reading it. By my faith, I
will soon learn to read as well as you; and--for I know a better
teacher than your grim old monk, and a better book than his printed
breviary; and since you like scholarcraft so well, Mary Avenel, you
shall see whether Edward or I have most of it." He left the apartment,
and came not again.
"What can be the matter with him?" said Mary, following Halbert with
her eyes from the window, as with hasty and unequal steps he ran up the
wild glen--"Where can your brother be going, Edward?--what book?--
what teacher does he talk of?"
"It avails not guessing," said Edward. "Halbert is angry, he knows not
why, and speaks of he knows not what; let us go again to our lessons,
and he will come home when he has tired himself with scrambling among
the crags as usual."
But Mary's anxiety on account of Halbert seemed more deeply rooted.
She declined prosecuting the task in which they had been so pleasingly
engaged, under the excuse of a headache; nor could Edward prevail upon
her to resume it again that morning.
Meanwhile Halbert, his head unbonneted, his features swelled with
jealous anger, and the tear still in his eye, sped up the wild and
upper extremity of the little valley of Glendearg with the speed of a
roebuck, choosing, as if in desperate defiance of the difficulties of
the way, the wildest and most dangerous paths, and voluntarily
exposing himself a hundred times to dangers which he might have
escaped by turning a little aside from them. It seemed as if he
wished his course to be as straight as that of the arrow to its mark.
He arrived at length in a narrow and secluded _cleuch_, or deep
ravine, which ran down into the valley, and contributed a scanty
rivulet to the supply of the brook with which Glendearg is watered. Up
this he sped with the same precipitate haste which had marked his
departure from the tower, nor did he pause and look around until he
had reached the fountain from which the rivulet had its rise.
Here Halbert stopt short, and cast a gloomy, and almost a frightened
glance around him. A huge rock rose in front, from a cleft of which
grew a wild holly-tree, whose dark green branches rustled over the
spring which arose beneath. The banks on either hand rose so high, and
approached each other so closely, that it was only when the sun was at
its meridian height, and during the summer solstice, that its rays
could reach the bottom of the chasm in which he stood. But it was now
summer, and the hour was noon, so that the unwonted reflection of the
sun was dancing in the pellucid fountain.
"It is the season and the hour," said Halbert to himself; "and now
I--I might soon become wiser than Edward with all his pains! Mary
should see whether he alone is fit to be consulted, and to sit by her
side, and hang over her as she reads, and point out every word and
every letter. And she loves me better than him--I am sure she
does--for she comes of noble blood, and scorns sloth and
cowardice.--And do I myself not stand here slothful and cowardly as
any priest of them all?--Why should I fear to call upon this
form--this shape?--Already have I endured the vision, and why not
again? What can it do to me, who am a man of lith and limb, and have
by my side my father's sword? Does my heart beat--do my hairs bristle,
at the thought of calling up a painted shadow, and how should I face a
band of Southrons in flesh and blood? By the soul of the first
Glendinning, I will make proof of the charm!"
He cast the leathern brogue or buskin from his right foot, planted
himself in a firm posture, unsheathed his sword, and first looking
around to collect his resolution, he bowed three times deliberately
towards the holly-tree, and as often to the little fountain, repeating
at the same time, with a determined voice, the following rhyme:
"Thrice to the holly brake--
Thrice to the well:--
I bid thee awake,
White Maid of Avenel!
"Noon gleams on the Lake--
Noon glows on the Fell--
Wake thee, O wake,
White Maid of Avenel!"
These lines were hardly uttered, when there stood the figure of a female
clothed in white, within three steps of Halbert Glendinning.
"I guess'twas frightful there to see
A lady richly clad as she--
Beautiful exceedingly." [Footnote: Coleridge's Christabelle.]
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