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 32


Then in my gown of sober gray
Along the mountain path I'll wander,
And wind my solitary way
To the sad shrine that courts me yonder.

There, in the calm monastic shade,
All injuries may be forgiven;
And there for thee, obdurate maid,
My orisons shall rise to heaven.
THE CRUEL LADY OF THE MOUNTAINS.

The first words which Edward uttered were,--"My brother is safe,
reverend father--he is safe, thank God, and lives!--There is not in
Corri-nan-shian a grave, nor a vestige of a grave. The turf around
the fountain has neither been disturbed by pick-axe, spade, nor
mattock, since the deer's-hair first sprang there. He lives as surely
as I live!"

The earnestness of the youth--the vivacity with which he looked and
moved--the springy step, outstretched hand, and ardent eye, reminded
Henry Warden of Halbert, so lately his guide. The brothers had indeed
a strong family resemblance, though Halbert was far more athletic and
active in his person, taller and better knit in the limbs, and though
Edward had, on ordinary occasions, a look of more habitual acuteness
and more profound reflection. The preacher was interested as well as
the Sub-Prior.

"Of whom do you speak, my son?" he said, in a tone as unconcerned as
if his own fate had not been at the same instant trembling in the
balance, and as if a dungeon and death did not appear to be his
instant doom--"Of whom, I say, speak you? If of a youth somewhat older
than you seem to be--brown-haired, open-featured, taller and stronger
than you appear, yet having much of the same air and of the same tone
of voice--if such a one is the brother whom you seek, it may be I can
tell you news of him."

"Speak, then, for Heaven's sake," said Edward--"life or death lies on
thy tongue!"

The Sub-Prior joined eagerly in the same request, and, without waiting
to be urged, the preacher gave so minute an account of the
circumstances under which he met the elder Glendinning, with so exact
a description of his person, that there remained no doubt as to his
identity. When he mentioned that Halbert Glendinning had conducted him
to a dell in which they found the grass bloody, and a grave newly
closed, and told how the youth accused himself of the slaughter of Sir
Piercie Shafton, the Sub-Prior looked on Edward with astonishment.

"Didst thou not say, even now," he said, "that there was no vestige of a
grave in that spot?"

"No more vestige of the earth having been removed than if the turf had
grown there since the days of Adam," replied Edward Glendinning. "It is
true," he added, "that the adjacent grass was trampled and bloody."

"These are delusions of the Enemy," said the Sub-Prior, crossing
himself.--"Christian men may no longer doubt of it."

"But an it be so," said Warden, "Christian men might better guard
themselves by the sword of prayer than by the idle form of a
cabalistical spell."

"The badge of our salvation," said the Sub-Prior, "cannot be so
termed--the sign of the cross disarmeth all evil spirits."

"Ay," answered Henry Warden, apt and armed for controversy, "but it
should be borne in the heart, not scored with the fingers in the air.
That very impassive air, through which your hand passes, shall as soon
bear the imprint of your action, as the external action shall avail
the fond bigot who substitutes vain motions of the body, idle
genuflections, and signs of the cross, for the living and heart-born
duties of faith and good works."

"I pity thee," said the Sub-Prior, as actively ready for polemics as
himself,--"I pity thee, Henry, and reply not to thee. Thou mayest as
well winnow forth and measure the ocean with a sieve, as mete out the
power of holy words, deeds, and signs, by the erring gauge of thine
own reason."

"Not by mine own reason would I mete them," said Warden; "but by
His holy Word, that unfading and unerring lamp of our paths, compared to
which human reason is but as a glimmering and fading taper, and your
boasted tradition only a misleading wildfire. Show me your Scripture
warrant for ascribing virtue to such vain signs and motions!"

"I offered thee a fair field of debate," said the Sub-Prior, "which
thou didst refuse. I will not at present resume the controversy."

"Were these my last accents," said the reformer, "and were they
uttered at the stake, half-choked with smoke, and as the fagots
kindled into a blaze around me, with that last utterance I would
testify against the superstitious devices of Rome."

The Sub-Prior suppressed with pain the controversial answer which
arose to his lips, and, turning to Edward Glendinning, he said, "there
could be now no doubt that his mother ought presently to be informed
that her son lived."

"I told you that two hours since," said Christie of the Clinthill, "an
you would have believed me. But it seems you are more willing to take
the word of an old gray sorner, whose life has been spent in pattering
heresy, than mine, though I never rode a foray in my life without duly
saying my paternoster."

"Go then," said Father Eustace to Edward; "let thy sorrowing mother
know that her son is restored to her from the grave, like the child of
the widow of Zarephath; at the intercession," he added, looking at
Henry Warden, "of the blessed Saint whom I invoked in his behalf."

"Deceived thyself," said Warden, instantly, "thou art a deceiver of
others. It was no dead man, no creature of clay, whom the blessed
Tishbite invoked, when, stung by the reproach of the Shunamite woman,
he prayed that her son's soul might come into him again."

"It was by his intercession, however," repeated the Sub-Prior; "for
what says the Vulgate? Thus it is written: '_Et exaudivit Dominus
vocem Helie; et reversa est anima pueri intra cum, et
revixit_;'--and thinkest thou the intercession of a glorified saint
is more feeble than when he walks on earth, shrouded in a tabernacle
of clay, and seeing but with the eye of flesh?"

During this controversy Edward Glendinning appeared restless and
impatient, agitated by some internal feeling, but whether of joy,
grief, or expectation, his countenance did not expressly declare. He
took now the unusual freedom to break in upon the discourse of the
Sub-Prior, who, notwithstanding his resolution to the contrary, was
obviously kindling in the spirit of controversy, which Edward diverted
by conjuring his reverence to allow him to speak a few words with him
in private.

"Remove the prisoner," said the Sub-Prior to Christie; "look to him
carefully that he escape not; but for thy life do him no injury."

His commands being obeyed, Edward and the monk were left alone, when
the Sub-Prior thus addressed him:

"What hath come over thee, Edward, that thy eye kindles so wildly, and
thy cheek is thus changing from scarlet to pale? Why didst thou break
in so hastily and unadvisedly upon the argument with which I was
prostrating yonder heretic? And wherefore dost thou not tell thy
mother that her son is restored to her by the intercession, as Holy
Church well warrants us to believe, of Blessed Saint Benedict, the
patron of our Order? For if ever my prayers were put forth to him with
zeal, it hath been in behalf of this house, and thine eyes have seen
the result--go tell it to thy mother."

"I must tell her then," said Edward, "that if she has regained one son,
another is lost to her."

"What meanest thou, Edward? what language is this?" said the Sub-Prior.

"Father," said the youth, kneeling down to him, "my sin and my shame
shall be told thee, and thou shalt witness my penance with thine own
eyes."

"I comprehend thee not," said the Sub-Prior. "What canst thou have
done to deserve such self-accusation?--Hast thou too listened," he
added, knitting his brows, "to the demon of heresy, ever most
effectual tempter of those, who, like yonder unhappy man, are
distinguished by their love of knowledge?"

"I am guiltless in that matter," answered Glendinning, "nor have
presumed to think otherwise than thou, my kind father, hast taught me,
and than the Church allows."

"And what is it then, my son," said the Sub-Prior, kindly, "which thus
afflicts thy conscience? speak it to me, that I may answer thee in the
words of comfort; for the Church's mercy is great to those obedient
children who doubt not her power."

"My confession will require her mercy," replied Edward. "My brother
Halbert--so kind, so brave, so gentle, who spoke not, thought not,
acted not, but in love to me, whose hand had aided me in every
difficulty, whose eye watched over me like the eagle's over her
nestlings, when they prove their first flight from the eyry--this
brother, so kind, so gently affectionate--I heard of his sudden, his
bloody, his violent death, and I rejoiced--I heard of his unexpected
restoration, and I sorrowed!"

"Edward," said the father, "thou art beside thyself--what could urge
thee to such odious ingratitude?--In your hurry of spirits you have
mistaken the confused tenor of your feelings--Go, my son, pray and
compose thy mind--we will speak of this another time."

"No, father, no," said Edward, vehemently, "now or never!--I will find
the means to tame this rebellious heart of mine, or I will tear it out
of my bosom--Mistake its passions?--No, father, grief can ill be
mistaken for joy--All wept, all shrieked around me--my mother--the
menials--she too, the cause of my crime--all wept--and I--I could
hardly disguise my brutal and insane joy under the appearance of
revenge--Brother, I said, I cannot give thee tears, but I will give
thee blood--Yes, father, as I counted hour after hour, while I kept
watch upon the English prisoner, and said, I am an hour nearer to hope
and to happiness----"

"I understand thee not, Edward," said the monk, "nor can I conceive in
what way thy brother's supposed murder should have affected thee with
such unnatural joy--Surely the sordid desire to succeed him in his
small possessions----"

"Perish the paltry trash!" said Edward, with the same emotion. "No,
father, it was rivalry--it was jealous rage--it was the love of Mary
Avenel, that rendered me the unnatural wretch I confess myself!"

"Of Mary Avenel!" said the Priest--"of a lady so high above either of
you in name and in rank? How dared Halbert--how dared you, to presume
to lift your eye to her but in honour and respect, as a superior of
another degree from yours?"

"When did love wait for the sanction of heraldry?" replied Edward;
"and in what but a line of dead ancestors was Mary, our mother's guest
and foster-child, different from us, with whom she was brought up?--
Enough, we loved--we both loved her! But the passion of Halbert was
requited. He knew it not, he saw it not--but I was sharper-eyed. I saw
that even when I was more approved, Halbert was more beloved. With me
she would sit for hours at our common task with the cold simplicity
and indifference of a sister, but with Halbert she trusted not
herself. She changed colour, she was fluttered when he approached her;
and when he left her, she was sad, pensive, and solitary. I bore all
this--I saw my rival's advancing progress in her affections--I bore
it, father, and yet I hated him not--I could not hate him!"

"And well for thee that thou didst not," said the father; "wild and
headstrong as thou art, wouldst thou hate thy brother for partaking in
thine own folly?"

"Father," replied Edward, "the world esteems thee wise, and holds thy
knowledge of mankind high; but thy question shows that thou hast never
loved. It was by an effort that I saved myself from hating my kind and
affectionate brother, who, all unsuspicious of my rivalry, was
perpetually loading me with kindness. Nay, there were moods of my
mind, in which I could return that kindness for a time with energetic
enthusiasm. Never did I feel this so strongly as on the night which
parted us. But I could not help rejoicing when he was swept from my
path--could not help sorrowing when he was again restored to be a
stumbling-block in my paths."

"May God be gracious to thee, my son!" said the monk; "this is an
awful state of mind. Even in such evil mood did the first murderer
rise up against his brother, because Abel's was the more acceptable
sacrifice."

"I will wrestle with the demon which has haunted me, father," replied
the youth, firmly--"I will wrestle with him, and I will subdue him.
But first I must remove from the scenes which are to follow here. I
cannot endure that I should see Mary Avenel's eyes again flash with
joy at the restoration of her lover. It were a sight to make indeed a
second Cain of me! My fierce, turbid, and transitory joy discharged
itself in a thirst to commit homicide, and how can I estimate the
frenzy of my despair?"

"Madman!" said the Sub-Prior, "at what dreadful crime does thy fury
drive?"

"My lot is determined, father," said Edward, in a resolute tone; "I
will embrace the spiritual state which you have so oft recommended. It
is my purpose to return with you to Saint Mary's, and, with the
permission of the Holy Virgin and of Saint Benedict, to offer my
profession to the Abbot."

"Not now, my son," said the Sub-Prior, "not in this distemperature of
mind. The wise and good accept not gifts which are made in heat of
blood, and which may be after repented of; and shall we make our
offerings to wisdom and to goodness itself with less of solemn
resolution and deep devotion of mind, than is necessary to make them
acceptable to our own frail companions in this valley of darkness?
This I say to thee, my son, not as meaning to deter thee from the good
path thou art now inclined to prefer, but that thou mayst make thy
vocation and thine election sure."

"There are actions, father," returned Edward, "which brook no delay,
and this is one. It must be done this very _now_; or it may never
be done. Let me go with you; let me not behold the return of Halbert
into this house. Shame, and the sense of the injustice I have already
done him, will join with these dreadful passions which urge me to do
him yet farther wrong. Let me then go with you."

"With me, my son," said the Sub-Prior, "thou shalt surely go; but our
rule, as well as reason and good order, require that you should dwell
a space with us as a probationer, or novice, before taking upon thee
those final vows, which, sequestering thee for ever from the world,
dedicate thee to the service of Heaven."

"And when shall we set forth, father?" said the youth, as eagerly as
if the journey which he was now undertaking led to the pleasures of a
summer holiday.

"Even now, if thou wilt," said the Sub-Prior, yielding to his
impetuosity--"go, then, and command them to prepare for our
departure.--Yet stay," he said, as Edward, with all the awakened
enthusiasm of his character, hastened from his presence, "come hither,
my son, and kneel down."

Edward obeyed, and kneeled down before him. Notwithstanding his slight
figure and thin features, the Sub-Prior could, from the energy of his
tone, and the earnestness of his devotional manner, impress his pupils
and his penitents with no ordinary feelings of personal reverence. His
heart always was, as well as seemed to be, in the duty which he was
immediately performing; and the spiritual guide who thus shows a deep
conviction of the importance of his office, seldom fails to impress a
similar feeling upon his hearers. Upon such occasions as the present,
his puny body seemed to assume more majestic stature--his spare and
emaciated countenance bore a bolder, loftier, and more commanding
port--his voice, always beautiful, trembled as labouring under the
immediate impulse of the Divinity--and his whole demeanour seemed to
bespeak, not the mere ordinary man, but the organ of the Church in
which she had vested her high power for delivering sinners from their
load of iniquity.

"Hast thou, my fair son," said he, "faithfully recounted the
circumstances which have thus suddenly determined thee to a religious
life?"

"The sins I have confessed, my father," answered Edward, "but I have
not yet told of a strange appearance, which, acting in my mind, hath, I
think, aided to determine my resolution."

"Tell it, then, now," returned the Sub-Prior; "it is thy duty to leave
me uninstructed in nought, so that thereby I may understand the
temptation that besets thee."

"I tell it with unwillingness," said Edward; "for although, God wot, I
speak but the mere truth, yet even while my tongue speaks it as truth,
my own ears receive it as fable."

"Yet say the whole," said Father Eustace; "neither fear rebuke from
me, seeing I may know reasons for receiving as true that which others
might regard as fabulous."

"Know, then, father," replied Edward, "that betwixt hope and
despair--and, heavens! what a hope!--the hope to find the corpse
mangled and crushed hastily in amongst the bloody clay which the foot
of the scornful victor had trod down upon my good, my gentle, my
courageous brother,--I sped to the glen called Corri-nan-shian; but,
as your reverence has been already informed, neither the grave, which
my unhallowed wishes had in spite of my better self longed to see, nor
any appearance of the earth having been opened, was visible in the
solitary spot where Martin had, at morning yesterday, seen the fatal
hillock. You know your dalesmen, father. The place hath an evil name,
and this deception of the sight inclined them to leave it. My
companions became affrighted, and hastened down the glen as men caught
in trespass. My hopes were too much blighted, my mind too much
agitated, to fear either the living or the dead. I descended the glen
more slowly than they, often looking back, and not ill pleased with
the poltroonery of my companions, which left me to my own perplexed
and moody humour, and induced them to hasten into the broader dale.
They were already out of sight, and lost amongst the windings of the
glen, when, looking back, I saw a female form standing beside the
fountain----"

"How, my fair son?" said the Sub-Prior, "beware you jest not with your
present situation!"

"I jest not, father," answered the youth; "it may be I shall never
jest again--surely not for many a day. I saw, I say, the form of a
female clad in white, such as the Spirit which haunts the house of
Avenel is supposed to be. Believe me, my father, for, by heaven and
earth, I say nought but what I saw with these eyes!"

"I believe thee, my son," said the monk; "proceed in thy strange
story."

"The apparition," said Edward Glendinning, "sung, and thus ran her
lay; for, strange as it may seem to you, her words abide by my
remembrance as if they had been sung to me from infancy upward:--


'Thou who seek'st my fountain lone,
With thoughts and hopes thou dar'st not own;
Whose heart within leap'd wildly glad
When most his brow seem'd dark and sad;
Hie thee back, thou find'st not here
Corpse or coffin, grave or bier;
The Dead Alive is gone and fled--
Go thou, and join the Living Dead!

'The Living Dead, whose sober brow
Oft shrouds such thoughts as thou hast now,
Whose hearts within are seldom cured
Of passions by their vows abjured;
Where, under sad and solemn show,
Vain hopes are nursed, wild wishes glow.
Seek the convent's vaulted room,
Prayer and vigil be thy doom;
Doff the green, and don the gray,
To the cloister hence away!'"


"'Tis a wild lay," said the Sub-Prior, "and chanted, I fear me, with
no good end. But we have power to turn the machinations of Satan to
his shame. Edward, thou shalt go with me as thou desirest; thou shalt
prove the life for which I have long thought thee best fitted--thou
shalt aid, my son, this trembling hand of mine to sustain the Holy
Ark, which bold unhallowed men press rashly forward to touch and to
profane.--Wilt thou not first see thy mother?"

"I will see no one," said Edward, hastily; "I will risk nothing that
may shake the purpose of my heart. From Saint Mary's they shall learn
my destination--all of them shall learn it. My mother--Mary Avenel--my
restored and happy brother--they shall all know that Edward lives no
longer to the world to be a clog on their happiness. Mary shall no
longer need to constrain her looks and expressions to coldness because
I am nigh. She shall no longer----"

"My son," said the Sub-Prior, interrupting him, "it is not by looking
back on the vanities and vexations of this world, that we fit
ourselves for the discharge of duties which are not of it. Go, get our
horses ready, and, as we descend the glen together, I will teach thee
the truths through which the fathers and wise men of old had that
precious alchemy, which can convert suffering into happiness."

Sir Walter Scott