Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 19

Now choose thee, gallant, betwixt wealth and honour;
There lies the pelf, in sum to bear thee through
The dance of youth, and the turmoil of manhood,
Yet leave enough for age's chimney-corner;
But an thou grasp to it, farewell ambition,
Farewell each hope of bettering thy condition,
And raising thy low rank above the churls
That till the earth for bread.

It is necessary to dwell for some brief space on the appearance and
demeanour of young Glendinning, ere we proceed to describe his interview
with the Abbot of St. Mary's, at this momentous crisis of his life.

Halbert was now about nineteen years old, tall and active rather than
strong, yet of that hardy conformation of limb and sinew, which
promises great strength when the growth shall be complete, and the
system confirmed. He was perfectly well made, and, like most men who
have that advantage, possessed a grace and natural ease of manner and
carriage, which prevented his height from being the distinguished part
of his external appearance. It was not until you had compared his
stature with that of those amongst or near to whom he stood, that you
became sensible that the young Glendinning was upwards of six feet
high. In the combination of unusual height with perfect symmetry,
ease, and grace of carriage, the young heir of Glendearg,
notwithstanding his rustic birth and education, had greatly the
advantage even of Sir Piercie Shafton himself, whose stature was
lower, and his limbs, though there was no particular point to object
to, were on the whole less exactly proportioned. On the other hand,
Sir Piercie's very handsome countenance afforded him as decided an
advantage over the Scotsman, as regularity of features and brilliance
of complexion could give over traits which were rather strongly marked
than beautiful, and upon whose complexion the "skyey influences," to
which he was constantly exposed, had blended the red and white into
the purely nut-brown hue, which coloured alike cheeks, neck, and
forehead, and blushed only in a darker glow upon the former.--
Halbert's eyes supplied a marked and distinguished part of his
physiognomy. They were large and of a hazel colour, and sparkled in
moments of animation with such uncommon brilliancy, that it seemed as
if they actually emitted light. Nature had closely curled the locks of
dark-brown hair, which relieved and set off the features, such as we
have described them, displaying a bold and animated disposition, much
more than might have been expected from his situation, or from his
previous manners, which hitherto had seemed bashful, homely, and

Halbert's dress was certainly not of that description which sets off
to the best advantage a presence of itself prepossessing. His jerkin
and hose were of coarse rustic cloth, and his cap of the same. A belt
round his waist served at once to sustain the broad-sword which we
have already mentioned, and to hold five or six arrows and bird-bolts,
which were stuck into it on the right side, along with a large knife
hilted with buck-horn, or, as it was then called, a dudgeon-dagger. To
complete his dress, we must notice his loose buskins of deer's hide,
formed so as to draw up on the leg as high as the knee, or at pleasure
to be thrust down lower than the calves. These were generally used at
the period by such as either had their principal occupation, or their
chief pleasure, in silvan sports, as they served to protect the legs
against the rough and tangled thickets into which the pursuit of game
frequently led them.--And these trifling particulars complete his
external appearance.

It is not easy to do justice to the manner in which young
Glendinning's soul spoke through his eyes when ushered so suddenly
into the company of those whom his earliest education had taught him
to treat with awe and reverence. The degree of embarrassment, which
his demeanor evinced, had nothing in it either meanly servile, or
utterly disconcerted. It was no more than became a generous and
ingenuous youth of a bold spirit, but totally inexperienced, who
should for the first time be called upon to think and act for himself
in such society and under such disadvantageous circumstances. There
was not in his carriage a grain either of forwardness or of timidity,
which a friend could have wished away.

He kneeled and kissed the Abbot's hand, then rose, and retiring two
paces, bowed respectfully to the circle around, smiling gently as he
received an encouraging nod from the Sub-Prior, to whom alone he was
personally known, and blushing as he encountered the anxious look of
Mary Avenel, who beheld with painful interest the sort of ordeal to
which her foster-brother was about to be subjected. Recovering from
the transient flurry of spirits into which the encounter of her glance
had thrown him, he stood composedly awaiting till the Abbot should
express his pleasure.

The ingenuous expression of countenance, noble form, and graceful
attitude of the young man, failed not to prepossess in his favor the
churchmen in whose presence he stood. The Abbot looked round, and
exchanged a gracious and approving glance with his counsellor Father
Eustace, although probably the appointment of a ranger, or bow-bearer,
was one in which he might have been disposed to proceed without the
Sub-Prior's advice, were it but to show his own free agency. But the
good mien of the young man now in nomination was such, that he rather
hastened to exchange congratulation on meeting with so proper a
subject of promotion, than to indulge any other feeling. Father
Eustace enjoyed the pleasure which a well-constituted mind derives
from seeing a benefit light on a deserving object; for as he had not
seen Halbert since circumstances had made so material a change in his
manner and feelings, he scarce doubted that the proffered
appointment would, notwithstanding his mother's uncertainty, suit the
disposition of a youth who had appeared devoted to woodland sports,
and a foe alike to sedentary or settled occupation of any kind. The
Refectioner and Kitchener were so well pleased with Halbert's
prepossessing appearance, that they seemed to think that the salary,
emoluments, and perquisites, the dole, the grazing, the gown, and the
galligaskins, could scarce be better bestowed than on the active and
graceful figure before them.

Sir Piercie Shafton, whether from being more deeply engaged in his own
cogitations, or that the subject was unworthy of his notice, did not
seem to partake of the general feeling of approbation excited by the
young man's presence. He sate with his eyes half shut, and his arms
folded, appearing to be wrapped in contemplations of a nature deeper
than those arising out of the scene before him. But, notwithstanding
his seeming abstraction and absence of mind, there was a flutter of
vanity in Sir Piercie's very handsome countenance, an occasional
change of posture from one striking attitude (or what he conceived to
be such) to another, and an occasional stolen glance at the female
part of the company, to spy how far he succeeded in riveting their
attention, which gave a marked advantage, in comparison, to the less
regular and more harsh features of Halbert Glendinning, with their
composed, manly, and deliberate expression of mental fortitude.

Of the females belonging to the family of Glendearg, the Miller's
daughter alone had her mind sufficiently at leisure to admire, from
time to time, the graceful attitudes of Sir Piercie Shafton; for both
Mary Avenel and Dame Glendinning were waiting in anxiety and
apprehension the answer which Halbert was to return to the Abbot's
proposal, and fearfully anticipating the consequences of his probable
refusal. The conduct of his brother Edward, for a lad constitutionally
shy, respectful, and even timid, was at once affectionate and noble.
This younger son of Dame Elspeth had stood unnoticed in a corner,
after the Abbot, at the request of the Sub-Prior, had honoured him
with some passing notice, and asked him a few common-place questions
about his progress in Donatus, and in the _Promptuarium
Parvulorum_, without waiting for the answers. From his corner he
now glided round to his brother's side, and keeping a little behind
him, slid his right hand into the huntsman's left, and by a gentle
pressure, which Halbert instantly and ardently returned, expressed at
once his interest in his situation, and his resolution to share his

The group was thus arranged, when, after the pause of two or three
minutes, which he employed in slowly sipping his cup of wine, in order
that he might enter on his proposal with due and deliberate dignity,
the Abbot at length expressed himself thus:--

"My son--we your lawful Superior, and the Abbot, under God's favour,
of the community of Saint Mary's, have heard of your manifold good
gifts--a-hem--especially touching wood-craft--and the huntsman-like
fashion in which you strike your game, truly and as a yeoman should,
not abusing Heaven's good benefits by spoiling the flesh, as is too
often seen in careless rangers--a-hem." He made here a pause, but
observing that Glendinning only replied to his compliment by a bow, he
proceeded,--"My son, we commend your modesty; nevertheless, we will
that thou shouldst speak freely to us touching that which we have
premeditated for thine advancement, meaning to confer on thee the
office of bow-bearer and ranger, as well over the chases and forests
wherein our house hath privilege by the gifts of pious kings and
nobles, whose souls now enjoy the fruits of their bounties to the
Church as to those which belong to us in exclusive right of property
and perpetuity. Thy knee, my son--that we may, with our own hand, and
without loss of time, induct thee into office."

"Kneel down," said the Kitchener on the one side; and "Kneel down,"
said the Refectioner on the other.

But Halbert Glendinning remained standing.

"Were it to show gratitude and good-will for your reverend lordship's
noble offer, I could not," he said, "kneel low enough, or remain long
enough kneeling. But I may not kneel to take investure of your noble
gift, my Lord Abbot, being a man determined to seek my fortune

"How is that, sir?" said the Abbot, knitting his brows; "do I hear you
speak aright? and do you, a born vassal of the Halidome, at the moment
when I am destining to you such a noble expression of my good-will,
propose exchanging my service for that of any other?"

"My lord," said Halbert Glendinning, "it grieves me to think you hold
me capable of undervaluing your gracious offer, or of exchanging your
service for another. But your noble proffer doth but hasten the
execution of a determination which I have long since formed."

"Ay, my son," said the Abbot, "is it indeed so?--right early have you
learned to form resolutions without consulting those on whom you
naturally depend. But what may it be, this sagacious resolution, if I
may so far pray you?"

"To yield up to my brother and mother," answered Halbert, "mine
interest in the fief of Glendearg, lately possessed by my father,
Simon Glendinning: and having prayed your lordship to be the same kind
and generous master to them, that your predecessors, the venerable
Abbots of Saint Mary's, have been to my fathers in times past; for
myself, I am determined to seek my fortune where I may best find it."

Dame Glendinning here ventured, emboldened by maternal anxiety, to
break silence with an exclamation of "O my son!" Edward clinging to
his brother's side, half spoke, half whispered, a similar ejaculation,
of "Brother! brother!"

The Sub-Prior took up the matter in a tone of grave reprehension,
which, as he conceived, the interest he had always taken in the family
at Glendearg required at his hand.

"Wilful young man," he said, "what folly can urge thee to push back
the hand that is stretched out to aid thee? What visionary aim hast
thou before thee, that can compensate for the decent and sufficient
independence which thou art now rejecting with scorn?"

"Four marks by the year, duly and truly," said the Kitchener.

"Cow's-grass, doublet, and galligaskins," responded the Refectioner.

"Peace, my brethren," said the Sub-Prior; "and may it please your
lordship, venerable father, upon my petition, to allow this headstrong
youth a day for consideration, and it shall be my part so to
indoctrinate him, as to convince him what is due on this occasion to
your lordship, and to his family, and to himself."

"Your kindness, reverend father," said the youth, "craves my dearest
thanks--it is the continuance of a long train of benevolence towards
me, for which I give you my gratitude, for I have nothing else to
offer. It is my mishap, not your fault, that your intentions have been
frustrated. But my present resolution is fixed and unalterable. I
cannot accept the generous offer of the Lord Abbot; my fate calls me
elsewhere, to scenes where I shall end it or mend it."

"By our Lady," said the Abbot, "I think the youth be mad indeed--or
that you, Sir Piercie, judged of him most truly, when you prophesied
that he would prove unfit for the promotion we designed him--it may be
you knew something of this wayward humour before?"

"By the mass, not I," answered Sir Piercie Shafton, with his usual
indifference. "I but judged of him by his birth and breeding; for seldom
doth a good hawk come out of a kite's egg."

"Thou art thyself a kite, and kestrel to boot," replied Halbert
Glendinning, without a moment's hesitation.

"This in our presence, and to a man of worship?" said the Abbot, the
blood rushing to his face.

"Yes, my lord," answered the youth; "even in your presence I return to
this gay man's face, the causeless dishonour--which he has flung on my
name. My brave father, who fell in the cause of his country, demands
that justice at the hands of his son!"

"Unmannered boy!" said the Abbot.

"Nay, my good lord," said the knight, "praying pardon for the coarse
interruption, let me entreat you not to be wroth with this
rustical--Credit me, the north wind shall as soon puff one of your
rocks from its basis, as aught which I hold so slight and
inconsiderate as the churlish speech of an untaught churl, shall move
the spleen of Piercie Shafton."

"Proud as you are, Sir Knight," said Halbert, "in your imagined
superiority, be not too confident that you cannot be moved."

"Faith, by nothing that thou canst urge," said Sir Piercie.

"Knowest thou, then, this token?" said young Glendinning, offering to
him the silver bodkin he had received from the White Lady.

Never was such an instant change, from the most contemptuous serenity,
to the most furious state of passion, as that which Sir Piercie
Shafton exhibited. It was the difference between a cannon lying quiet
in its embrasure, and the same gun when touched by the linstock. He
started up, every limb quivering with rage, and his features so
inflamed and agitated by passion, that he more resembled a demoniac,
than a man under the regulation of reason. He clenched both his fists,
and thrusting them forward, offered them furiously at the face of
Glendinning, who was even himself startled at the frantic state of
excitation which his action had occasioned. The next moment he
withdrew them, struck his open palm against his own forehead, and
rushed out of the room in a state of indescribable agitation. The
whole matter had been so sudden, that no person present had time to

When Sir Piercie Shafton had left the apartment, there was a moment's
pause of astonishment; and then a general demand that Halbert
Glendinning should instantly explain by what means he had produced
such a violent change in the deportment of the English cavalier.

"I did nought to him," answered Halbert Glendinning, "but what you
all saw--am I to answer for his fantastic freaks of humour?"

"Boy," said the Abbot, in his most authoritative manner, "these
subterfuges shall not avail thee. This is not a man to be driven from
his temperament without some sufficient cause. That cause was given by
thee, and must have been known to thee. I command thee, as thou wilt
save thyself from worse measure, to explain to me by what means thou
hast moved our friend thus--We choose not that our vassals shall drive
our guests mad in our very presence, and we remain ignorant of the
means whereby that purpose is effected."

"So may it please your reverence, I did but show him this token," said
Halbert Glendinning, delivering it at the same time to the Abbot, who
looked at it with much attention, and then, shaking his head, gravely
delivered it to the Sub-Prior, without speaking a word.

Father Eustace looked at the mysterious token with some attention; and
then addressing Halbert in a stern and severe voice, said, "Young man,
if thou wouldst not have us suspect thee of some strange
double-dealing in this matter, let us instantly know whence thou hadst
this token, and how it possesses an influence on Sir Piercie
Shafton?"--It would have been extremely difficult for Halbert, thus
hard pressed, to have either evaded or answered so puzzling a
question. To have avowed the truth might, in those times, have
occasioned his being burnt at a stake, although, in ours, his
confession would have only gained for him the credit of a liar beyond
all rational credibility. He was fortunately relieved by the return of
Sir Piercie Shafton himself, whose ear caught, as he entered, the
sound of the Sub-Prior's question.

Without waiting until Halbert Glendinning replied, he came forward,
whispering to him as he passed, "Be secret--thou shalt have the
satisfaction thou hast dared to seek for."

When he returned to his place, there were still marks of discomposure
on his brow; but, becoming apparently collected and calm, he looked
around him, and apologized for the indecorum of which he had been
guilty, which he ascribed to sudden and severe indisposition. All were
silent, and looked on each other with some surprise.

The Lord Abbot gave orders for all to retire from the apartment, save
himself, Sir Piercie Shafton, and the Sub-Prior. "And have an eye," he
added, "on that bold youth, that he escape not; for if he hath
practised by charm, or otherwise, on the health of our worshipful
guest, I swear by the alb and mitre which I wear, that his punishment
shall be most exemplary."

"My lord and venerable father," said Halbert, bowing respectfully,
"fear not but that I will abide my doom. I think you will best learn
from the worshipful knight himself, what is the cause of his
distemperature, and how slight my share in it has been."

"Be assured," said the knight, without looking up, however, while he
spoke, "I will satisfy the Lord Abbot."

With these words the company retired, and with them young Glendinning.
When the Abbot, the Sub-Prior, and the English knight were left alone,
Father Eustace, contrary to his custom, could not help speaking the
first. "Expound unto us, noble sir," he said, "by what mysterious
means the production of this simple toy could so far move your spirit,
and overcome your patience, after you had shown yourself proof to all
the provocation offered by this self-sufficient and singular youth?"

The knight took the silver bodkin from the good father's hand, looked
at it with great composure, and, having examined it all over, returned
it to the Sub-Prior, saying at the same time, "In truth, venerable
father, I cannot but marvel, that the wisdom implied alike in your
silver hairs, and in your eminent rank, should, like a babbling hound,
(excuse the similitude,) open thus loudly on a false scent. I were,
indeed, more slight to be moved than the leaves of the aspen-tree,
which wag at the least breath of heaven, could I be touched by such a
trifle as this, which in no way concerns me more than if the same
quantity of silver were stricken into so many groats. Truth is, that
from my youth upward, I have been subjected to such a malady as you
saw me visited with even now--a cruel and searching pain, which goeth
through nerve and bone, even as a good brand in the hands of a brave
soldier sheers through limb and sinew--but it passes away speedily, as
you yourselves may judge."

"Still," said the Sub-Prior, "this will not account for the youth
offering to you this piece of silver, as a token by which you were to
understand something, and, as we must needs conjecture, something

"Your reverence is to conjecture what you will," said Sir Piercie;
"but I cannot pretend to lay your judgment on the right scent when I
see it at fault. I hope I am not liable to be called upon to account
for the foolish actions of a malapert boy?"

"Assuredly," said the Sub-Prior, "we shall prosecute no inquiry which
is disagreeable to our guest. Nevertheless," said he, looking to his
Superior, "this chance may, in some sort, alter the plan your lordship
had formed for your worshipful guest's residence for a brief term in
this tower, as a place alike of secrecy and of security; both of
which, in the terms which we now stand on with England, are
circumstances to be desired."

"In truth," said the Abbot, "and the doubt is well thought on, were it
as well removed; for I scarce know in the Halidome so fitting a place
of refuge, yet see I not how to recommend it to our worshipful guest,
considering the unrestrained petulance of this headstrong youth."

"Tush! reverend sirs--what would you make of me?" said Sir Piercie
Shafton. "I protest, by mine honour, I would abide in this house were
I to choose. What! I take no exceptions at the youth for showing a
flash of spirit, though the spark may light on mine own head. I honour
the lad for it. I protest I will abide here, and he shall aid me in
striking down a deer. I must needs be friends with him, and he be such
a shot: and we will speedily send down to my lord Abbot a buck of the
first head, killed so artificially as shall satisfy even the reverend

This was said with such apparent ease and good-humour, that the Abbot
made no farther observation on what had passed, but proceeded to
acquaint his guest with the details of furniture, hangings,
provisions, and so forth, which he proposed to send up to the Tower of
Glendearg for his accommodation. This discourse, seasoned with a cup
or two of wine, served to prolong the time until the reverend Abbot
ordered his cavalcade to prepare for their return to the Monastery.

"As we have," he said, "in the course of this our toilsome journey,
lost our meridian, [Footnote: The hour of repose at noon, which, in
the middle ages, was employed in slumber, and which the monastic rules
of nocturnal vigils rendered necessary.] indulgence shall be given to
those of our attendants who shall, from very weariness, be unable to
attend the duty at prime, [Footnote: _Prime_ was the midnight
service of the monks.] and this by way of misericord or
_indulgentia._" [Footnote: _Misericord,_ according to the
learned work of Fosbrooke on British Monachism, meant not only an
indulgence, or exoneration from particular duties, but also a
particular apartment in a convent, where the monks assembled to enjoy
such indulgences or allowances as were granted beyond the rule.]

Having benevolently intimated a boon to his faithful followers, which
he probably judged would be far from unacceptable, the good Abbot,
seeing all ready for his journey, bestowed his blessing on the
assembled household--gave his hand to be kissed by Dame
Glendinning--himself kissed the cheek of Mary Avenel, and even of the
Miller's maiden, when they approached to render him the same
homage--commanded Halbert to rule his temper, and to be aiding and
obedient in all things to the English Knight--admonished Edward to be
_discipulus impiger atque strenuus_--then took a courteous
farewell of Sir Piercie Shafton, advising him to lie close, for fear
of the English borderers, who might be employed to kidnap him; and
having discharged these various offices of courtesy, moved forth to
the courtyard, followed by the whole establishment. Here, with a heavy
sigh, approaching to a groan, the venerable father heaved himself upon
his palfrey, whose dark purple housings swept the ground; and, greatly
comforted that the discretion of the animal's pace would be no longer
disturbed by the gambadoes of Sir Piercie and his prancing war-horse,
he set forth at a sober and steady trot upon his return to the

When the Sub-Prior had mounted to accompany his principal, his eye
sought out Halbert, who, partly hidden by a projection of the outward
wall of the court, stood apart from, and gazing upon the departing
cavalcade, and the group which assembled around them. Unsatisfied with
the explanation he had received concerning the mysterious transaction
of the silver bodkin, yet interesting himself in the youth, of whose
character he had formed a favourable idea, the worthy monk resolved to
take an early opportunity of investigating that matter. In the
meanwhile, he looked upon Halbert with a serious and warning aspect,
and held up his finger to him as he signed farewell. He then joined
the rest of the churchmen, and followed his Superior down the valley.

Sir Walter Scott