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Chapter 20

I hope you'll give me cause to think you noble.
And do me right with your sword, sir, as becomes
One gentleman of honour to another;

All this is fair, sir--let us make no days on't,
I'll lead your way.


The look and sign of warning which the Sub-Prior gave to Halbert
Glendinning as they parted, went to his heart; for although he had
profited much less than Edward by the good man's instructions, he had
a sincere reverence for his person; and even the short time he had for
deliberation tended to show him he was embarked in a perilous
adventure. The nature of the provocation which he had given to Sir
Piercie Shafton he could not even conjecture; but he saw that it was
of a mortal quality, and he was now to abide the consequences.

That he might not force these consequences forward by any premature
renewal of their quarrel, he resolved to walk apart for an hour, and
consider on what terms he was to meet this haughty foreigner. The time
seemed propitious for his doing so without having the appearance of
wilfully shunning the stranger, as all the members of the little
household were dispersing either to perform such tasks as had been
interrupted by the arrival of the dignitaries, or to put in order what
had been deranged by their visit.

Leaving the tower, therefore, and descending, unobserved as he
thought, the knoll on which it stood, Halbert gained the little piece
of level ground which extended betwixt the descent of the hill, and
the first sweep made by the brook after washing the foot of the
eminence on which the tower was situated, where a few straggling birch
and oak-trees served to secure him from observation. But scarcely had
he reached the spot, when he was surprised to feel a smart tap upon
the shoulder, and, turning around, he perceived he had been closely
followed by Sir Piercie Shafton. When, whether from our state of
animal spirits, want of confidence in the justice of our cause, or any
other motive, our own courage happens to be in a wavering condition,
nothing tends so much altogether to disconcert us, as a great
appearance of promptitude on the part of our antagonist. Halbert
Glendinning, both morally and constitutionally intrepid, was
nevertheless somewhat troubled at seeing the stranger, whose
resentment he had provoked, appear at once before him, and with an
aspect which boded hostility. But though his heart might beat somewhat
thicker, he was too high-spirited to exhibit any external signs of
emotion.--"What is your pleasure, Sir Piercie?" he said to the English
knight, enduring without apparent discomposure all the terrors which
his antagonist had summoned into his aspect.

"What is my pleasure!" answered Sir Piercie; "a goodly question after
the part you have acted towards me!--Young man, I know not what
infatuation has led thee to place thyself in direct and insolent
opposition to one who is a guest of thy liege-lord the Abbot, and who,
even from the courtesy due to thy mother's roof, had a right to remain
there without meeting insult. Neither do I ask, or care, by what means
thou hast become possessed of the fatal secret by which thou hast
dared to offer me open shame. But I must now tell thee, that the
possession of it has cost thee thy life."

"Not, I trust, if my hand and sword can defend it," replied Halbert,

"True," said the Englishman, "I mean not to deprive thee of thy fair
chance of self-defence. I am only sorry to think, that, young and
country-bred as thou art, it can but little avail thee. But thou must
be well aware, that in this quarrel I shall use no terms of quarter."

"Rely on it, proud man," answered the youth, "that I shall ask none;
and although thou speakest as if I lay already at thy feet, trust me,
that as I am determined never to ask thy mercy, so I am not fearful of
needing it."

"Thou wilt, then," said the knight, "do nothing to avert the certain
fate which thou hast provoked with such wantonness?"

"And how were that to be purchased?" replied Halbert Glendinning, more
with the wish of obtaining some farther insight into the terms on
which he stood with this stranger, than to make him the submission
which he might require.

"Explain to me instantly," said Sir Piercie, "without equivocation or
delay, by what means thou wert enabled to wound my honour so
deeply--and shouldst thou point out to me by so doing an enemy more
worthy of my resentment, I will permit thine own obscure
insignificance to draw a veil over thine insolence."

"This is too high a flight," said Glendinning, fiercely, "for thine
own presumption to soar without being checked. Thou hast come to my
father's house, as well as I can guess, a fugitive and an exile, and
thy first greeting to its inhabitants has been that of contempt and
injury. By what means I have been able to retort that contempt, let
thine own conscience tell thee. Enough for me that I stand on the
privilege of a free Scotchman, and will brook no insult unreturned,
and no injury unrequited."

"It is well, then," said Sir Piercie Shafton; "we will dispute this
matter to-morrow morning with our swords. Let the time be daybreak,
and do thou assign the place. We will go forth as if to strike a

"Content," replied Halbert Glendinning: "I will guide thee to a spot
where an hundred men might fight and fall without any chance of

"It is well," answered Sir Piercie Shafton. "Here then we part.--Many
will say, that in thus indulging the right of a gentleman to the son
of a clod-breaking peasant, I derogate from my sphere, even as the
blessed sun would derogate should he condescend to compare and match
his golden beams with the twinkle of a pale, blinking, expiring,
gross-fed taper. But no consideration of rank shall prevent my
avenging the insult thou hast offered me. We bear a smooth face,
observe me, Sir Villagio, before the worshipful inmates of yonder
cabin, and to-morrow we try conclusions with our swords." So saying,
he turned away towards the tower.

It may not be unworthy of notice, that in the last speech only, had
Sir Piercie used some of those flowers of rhetoric which characterized
the usual style of his conversation. Apparently, a sense of wounded
honour, and the deep desire of vindicating his injured feelings, had
proved too strong for the fantastic affectation of his acquired
habits. Indeed, such is usually the influence of energy of mind, when
called forth and exerted, that Sir Piercie Shafton had never appeared
in the eyes of his youthful antagonist half so much deserving of
esteem and respect as in this brief dialogue, by which they exchanged
mutual defiance. As he followed him slowly to the tower, he could not
help thinking to himself, that, had the English knight always
displayed this superior tone of bearing and feeling, he would not
probably have felt so earnestly disposed to take offence at his hand.
Mortal offence, however, had been exchanged, and the matter was to be
put to mortal arbitrement.

The family met at the evening meal, when Sir Piercie Shafton extended
the benignity of his countenance and the graces of his conversation
far more generally over the party than he had hitherto condescended to
do. The greater part of his attention was, of course, still engrossed
by his divine inimitable Discretion, as he chose to term Mary Avenel;
but, nevertheless there were interjectional flourishes to the Maid of
the Mill, under the title of Comely Damsel, and to the Dame, under
that of Worthy Matron. Nay, lest he should fail to excite their
admiration by the graces of his rhetoric, he generously, and without
solicitation, added those of his voice; and after regretting bitterly
the absence of his viol-de-gamba, he regaled them with a song,
"which," said he, "the inimitable Astrophel, whom mortals call Philip
Sidney, composed in the nonage of his muse, to show the world what
they are to expect from his riper years, and which will one day see
the light in that not-to-be-paralleled perfection of human wit, which
he has addressed to his sister, the matchless Parthenope, whom men
call Countess of Pembroke; a work," he continued, "whereof his
friendship hath permitted me, though unworthy, to be an occasional
partaker, and whereof I may well say, that the deep afflictive tale
which awakeneth our sorrows, is so relieved with brilliant
similitudes, dulcet descriptions, pleasant poems, and engaging
interludes, that they seem as the stars of the firmament, beautifying
the dusky robe of night. And though I wot well how much the lovely
and quaint language will suffer by my widowed voice, widowed in that
it is no longer matched by my beloved viol-de-gamba, I will essay to
give you a taste of the ravishing sweetness of the poesy of the
un-to-be-imitated Astrophel."

So saying, he sung without mercy or remorse about five hundred verses,
of which the two first and the four last may suffice for a specimen--

"What tongue can her perfections tell,
On whose each part all pens may dwell.

Of whose high praise arid praiseful bliss,
Goodness the pen. Heaven paper is;
The ink immortal fame doth send,
As I began so I must end."

As Sir Piercie Shafton always sung with his eyes half shut, it was not
until, agreeably to the promise of poetry, he had fairly made an end,
that looking round, he discovered that the greater part of his
audience had, in the meanwhile, yielded to the charms of repose. Mary
Avenel, indeed, from a natural sense of politeness, had contrived to
keep awake through all the perplexities of the divine Astrophel; but
Mysie was transported in dreams back to the dusty atmosphere of her
father's mill. Edward himself, who had given his attention for some
time, had at length fallen fast asleep; and the good dame's nose,
could its tones have been put in regulation, might have supplied the
bass of the lamented viol-de-gamba. Halbert, however, who had no
temptation to give way to the charms of slumber, remained awake with
his eyes fixed on the songster; not that he was better entertained
with the words, or more ravished with the execution, than the rest of
the company, but rather because he admired, or perhaps envied, the
composure, which could thus spend the evening in interminable
madrigals, when the next morning was to be devoted to deadly combat.
Yet it struck his natural acuteness of observation, that the eye of
the gallant cavalier did now and then, furtively as it were, seek a
glance of his countenance, as if to discover how he was taking the
exhibition of his antagonist's composure and serenity of mind.

He shall read nothing in my countenance, thought Halbert, proudly, that
can make him think my indifference less than his own.

And taking from the shelf a bag full of miscellaneous matters
collected for the purpose, he began with great industry to dress
hooks, and had finished half-a-dozen of flies (we are enabled, for the
benefit of those who admire the antiquities of the gentle art of
angling, to state that they were brown hackles) by the time that Sir
Piercie had arrived at the conclusion of his long-winded strophes of
the divine Astrophel. So that he also testified a magnanimous contempt
of that which to-morrow should bring forth.

As it now waxed late, the family of Glendearg separated for the evening;
Sir Piercie first saying to the dame, that "her son Albert--"

"Halbert," said Elspeth, with emphasis, "Halbert, after his goodsire,
Halbert Brydone."

"Well, then, I have prayed your son, Halbert, that we may strive
tomorrow, with the sun's earliness, to wake a stag from his lair, that
I may see whether he be as prompt at that sport as fame bespeaks him."

"Alas! sir," answered Dame Elspeth, "he is but too prompt, an you talk
of promptitude, at any thing that has steel at one end of it, and
mischief at the other. But he is at your honourable disposal, and I
trust you will teach him how obedience is due to our venerable father
and lord, the Abbot, and prevail with him to take the bow-bearer's
place in fee; for, as the two worthy monks said, it will be a great
help to a widow-woman."

"Trust me, good dame," replied Sir Piercie, "it is my purpose so to
indoctrinate him. touching his conduct and bearing towards his
betters, that he shall not lightly depart from the reverence due to
them.--We meet, then, beneath the birch-trees in the plain," he said,
looking to Halbert, "so soon as the eye of day hath opened its
lids."--Halbert answered with a sign of acquiescence, and the knight
proceeded, "And now, having wished to my fairest Discretion those
pleasant dreams which wave their pinions around the couch of sleeping
beauty, and to this comely damsel the bounties of Morpheus, and to all
others the common good-night, I will crave you leave to depart to my
place of rest, though I may say with the poet,

'Ah rest!--no rest but change of place and posture:
Ah sleep!--no sleep but worn-out Nature's swooning;
Ah bed!--no bed but cushion fill'd with stones:
Rest, sleep, nor bed, await not on an exile.'"

With a delicate obeisance he left the room, evading Dame Glendinning,
who hastened to assure him he would find his accommodations for repose
much more agreeable than they had been the night before, there having
been store of warm coverlets, and a soft feather-bed, sent up from the
Abbey. But the good knight probably thought that the grace and effect
of his exit would be diminished, if he were recalled from his heroics
to discuss such sublunary and domestic topics, and therefore hastened
away without waiting to hear her out.

"A pleasant gentleman," said Dame Glendinning; "but I will warrant him
an humorous [Footnote: _Humorous_--full of whims--thus
Shakspeare, "Humorous as winter."--The vulgar word humorsome comes
nearest to the meaning.]--And sings a sweet song, though it is
somewhat of the longest.--Well, I make mine avow he is goodly
company--I wonder when he will go away."

Having thus expressed her respect for her guest, not without
intimation that she was heartily tired of his company, the good dame
gave the signal for the family to disperse, and laid her injunctions
on Halbert to attend Sir Piercie Shafton at daybreak, as he required.

When stretched on his pallet by his brother's side, Halbert had no
small cause to envy the sound sleep which instantly settled on the
eyes of Edward, but refused him any share of its influence. He saw now
too well what the spirit had darkly indicated, that, in granting the
boon which he had asked so unadvisedly, she had contributed more to
his harm than his good. He was now sensible, too late, of the various
dangers and inconveniences with which his dearest friends were
threatened, alike by his discomfiture or his success in the
approaching duel. If he fell, he might say personally, "good-night
all." But it was not the less certain that he should leave a dreadful
legacy of distress and embarrassment to his mother and family,--an
anticipation which by no means tended to render the front of death, in
itself a grisly object, more agreeable to his imagination. The
vengeance of the Abbot, his conscience told him, was sure to descend
on his mother and brother, or could only be averted by the generosity
of the victor--And Mary Avenel--he should have shown himself, if he
succumbed in the present combat, as inefficient in protecting her, as
he had been unnecessarily active in bringing disaster on her, and on
the house in which she had been protected from infancy. And to this
view of the case were to be added all those imbittered and anxious
feelings with which the bravest men, even in a better or less doubtful
quarrel, regard the issue of a dubious conflict, the first time when
it has been their fate to engage in an affair of that nature.

But however disconsolate the prospect seemed in the event of his being
conquered, Halbert could expect from victory little more than the
safety of his own life, and the gratification of his wounded pride. To
his friends--to his mother and brother--especially to Mary Avenel--the
consequences of his triumph would be more certain destruction than the
contingency of his defeat and death. If the English knight survived,
he might in courtesy extend his protection to them; but if he fell,
nothing was likely to screen them from the vindictive measures which
the Abbot and convent would surely adopt against the violation of the
peace of the Halidome, and the slaughter of a protected guest by one
of their own vassals, within whose house they had lodged him for
shelter. These thoughts, in which neither view of the case augured
aught short of ruin to his family, and that ruin entirely brought on
by his own rashness, were thorns in Halbert Glendinning's pillow, and
deprived his soul of peace and his eyes of slumber.

There appeared no middle course, saving one which was marked by
degradation, and which, even if he stooped to it, was by no means free
of danger. He might indeed confess to the English knight the strange
circumstances which led to his presenting him with that token which
the White Lady (in her displeasure as it now seemed) had given him,
that he might offer it to Sir Piercie Shafton. But to this avowal his
pride could not stoop, and reason, who is wonderfully ready to be of
counsel with pride on such occasions, offered many arguments to show
it would be useless as well as mean so far to degrade himself. "If I
tell a tale so wonderful," thought he, "shall I not either be
stigmatized as a liar, or punished as a wizard?--Were Sir Piercie
Shafton generous, noble, and benevolent, as the champions of whom we
hear in romance, I might indeed gain his ear, and, without demeaning
myself, escape from the situation in which I am placed. But as he is,
or at least seems to be, self-conceited, arrogant, vain, and
presumptuous--I should but humble myself in vain--and I will not
humble myself!" he said, starting out of bed, grasping his broadsword,
and brandishing it in the light of the moon, which streamed through
the deep niche that served them as a window; when, to his extreme
surprise and terror, an airy form stood in the moonlight, but
intercepted not the reflection on the floor. Dimly as it was
expressed, the sound of the voice soon made him sensible he saw the
White Lady.

At no time had her presence seemed so terrific to him; for when he had
invoked her, it was with the expectation of the apparition, and the
determination to abide the issue. But now she had come uncalled, and
her presence impressed him with a sense of approaching misfortune, and
with the hideous apprehension that he had associated himself with a
demon, over whose motions he had no control, and of whose powers and
quality he had no certain knowledge. He remained, therefore, in mere
terror, gazing on the apparition, which chanted or recited in cadence
the following lines--

"He whose heart for vengeance sued,
Must not shrink from shedding blood
The knot that thou hast tied with word,
Thou must loose by edge of sword."

"Avaunt thee, false Spirit!" said Halbert Glendinning; "I have bought
thy advice too dearly already--Begone in the name of God!"

The Spirit laughed; and the cold unnatural sound of her laughter had
something in it more fearful than the usually melancholy tones of her
voice. She then replied,--

"You have summon'd me once--you have summoned me twice,
And without e'er a summons I come to you thrice;
Unask'd for, unsued for, you came to my glen;
Unsued and unask'd I am with you again."

Halbert Glendinning gave way for a moment to terror, and called on his
brother, "Edward! waken, waken, for Our Lady's sake!"

Edward awaked accordingly, and asked what he wanted.

"Look out," said Halbert, "look up! seest thou no one in the room?"

"No, upon my good word," said Edward, looking out.

"What! seest thou nothing in the moonshine upon the floor there?"

"No, nothing," answered Edward, "save thyself resting on thy naked
sword. I tell thee, Halbert, thou shouldst trust more to thy spiritual
arms, and less to those of steel and iron. For this many a night hast
thou started and moaned, and cried out of fighting, and of spectres,
and of goblins--thy sleep hath not refreshed thee--thy waking hath
been a dream.--Credit me, dear Halbert, say the _Pater_ and
_Credo_, resign thyself to the protection of God, and thou wilt
sleep sound and wake in comfort."

"It may be," said Halbert slowly, and having his eye still bent on the
female form which to him seemed distinctly visible,--"it may be. But
tell me, dear Edward, seest thou no one on the chamber floor but me?"

"No one," answered Edward, raising himself on his elbow; "dear
brother, lay aside thy weapon, say thy prayers, and lay thee down to

While he thus spoke, the Spirit smiled at Halbert as if in scorn; her
wan cheek faded in the wan moonlight even before the smile had passed
away, and Halbert himself no longer beheld the vision to which he had
so anxiously solicited his brother's attention. "May God preserve my
wits!" he said, as, laying aside his weapon, he again threw himself on
his bed.

"Amen! my dearest brother," answered Edward; "but we must not provoke
that Heaven in our wantonness which we invoke in our misery.--Be not
angry with me, my dear brother--I know not why you have totally of
late estranged yourself from me--It is true, I am neither so athletic
in body, nor so alert in courage, as you have been from your infancy;
yet, till lately, you have not absolutely cast off my society--Believe
me, I have wept in secret, though I forbore to intrude myself on your
privacy. The time has been--when you held me not so cheap; and--when,
if I could not follow the game so closely, or mark it so truly as you,
I could fill up our intervals of pastime with pleasant tales of the
olden times, which I had read or heard, and which excited even your
attention as we sate and ate our provision by some pleasant
spring--but now I have, though I know not why, lost thy regard and
affection.--Nay, toss not thy arms about thee thus wildly," said the
younger brother; "from thy strange dreams, I fear some touch of fever
hath affected thy blood--let me draw closer around thee thy mantle."

"Forbear," said Halbert--"your care is needless--your complaints are
without reason--your fears on my account are in vain."

"Nay, but hear me, brother," said Edward. "Your speech in sleep, and
now even your waking dreams, are of beings which belong not to this
world, or to our race--Our good Father Eustace says, that howbeit we
may not do well to receive all idle tales of goblins and spectres, yet
there is warrant from holy Scripture to believe, that the fiends haunt
waste and solitary places; and that those who frequent such
wildernesses alone, are the prey, or the sport, of these wandering
demons. And therefore, I pray thee, brother, let me go with you when
you go next up the glen, where, as you well know, there be places of
evil reputation--Thou carest not for my escort; but, Halbert, such
dangers are more safely encountered by the wise in judgment, than by
the bold in bosom; and though I have small cause to boast of my own
wisdom, yet I have that which ariseth from the written knowledge of
elder times."

There was a moment during this discourse, when Halbert had well-nigh
come to the resolution of disburdening his own breast, by intrusting
Edward with all that weighed upon it. But when his brother reminded
him that this was the morning of a high holiday, and that, setting
aside all other business or pleasure, he ought to go to the Monastery
and shrive himself before Father Eustace, who would that day occupy
the confessional, pride stepped in and confirmed his wavering
resolution. "I will not avow," he thought, "a tale so extraordinary,
that I may be considered as an impostor or something worse--I will not
fly from this Englishman, whose arm and sword may be no better than my
own. My fathers have faced his betters, were he as much distinguished
in battle as he is by his quaint discourse."

Pride, which has been said to save man, and woman too, from falling,
has yet a stronger influence on the mind when it embraces the cause of
passion, and seldom fails to render it victorious over conscience and
reason. Halbert, once determined, though not to the better course, at
length slept soundly, and was only awakened by the dawn of day.

Sir Walter Scott