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 34


It is not texts will do it--Church artillery
Are silenced soon by real ordnance,
And canons are but vain opposed to cannon.
Go, coin your crosier, melt your church plate down
Bid the starved soldier banquet in your halls,
And quaff your long-saved hogsheads--Turn them out
Thus primed with your good cheer, to guard your wall,
And they will venture for't.--
OLD PLAY.

The Abbot received his counsellor with a tremulous eagerness of
welcome, which announced to the Sub-Prior an extreme agitation of
spirits, and the utmost need of good counsel. There was neither
mazer-dish nor standing-cup upon the little table, at the elbow of his
huge chair of state; his beads alone lay there, and it seemed as if he
had been telling them in his extremity of distress. Beside the beads
was placed the mitre of the Abbot, of an antique form, and blazing
with precious stones, and the rich and highly-embossed crosier rested
against the same table.

The Sacristan and old Father Nicholas had followed the Sub-Prior into
the Abbot's apartment, perhaps with the hope of learning something of
the important matter which seemed to be in hand.--They were not
mistaken; for, after having ushered in the Sub-Prior, and being
themselves in the act of retiring, the Abbot made them a signal to
remain.

"My brethren," he said, "it is well known to you with what painful
zeal we have overseen the weighty affairs of this house committed to
our unworthy hand--your bread hath been given to you, and your water
hath been sure--I have not wasted the revenues of the Convent on vain
pleasures, as hunting or hawking, or in change of rich cope or alb, or
in feasting idle bards and jesters, saving those who, according to old
wont, were received in time of Christmas and Easter. Neither have I
enriched either mine own relations nor strange women, at the expense
of the Patrimony."

"There hath not been such a Lord Abbot," said Father Nicholas, "to
my knowledge, since the days of Abbot Ingelram, who----"

At that portentous word, which always preluded a long story, the Abbot
broke in.

"May God have mercy on his soul!--we talk not of him now.--What I
would know of ye, my brethren, is, whether I have, in your mind,
faithfully discharged the duties of mine office?"

"There has never been subject of complaint," answered the Sub-Prior.

The Sacristan, more diffuse, enumerated the various acts of indulgence
and kindness which the mild government of Abbot Boniface had conferred
on the brotherhood of Saint Mary's--the _indulgentiae_--the
_gratias_--the _biberes_-the weekly mess of boiled
almonds--the enlarged accommodation of the refectory--the better
arrangement of the cellarage--the improvement of the revenue of the
Monastery--the diminution of the privations of the brethren.

"You might have added, my brother," said the Abbot, listening with
melancholy acquiescence to the detail of his own merits, "that I
caused to be built that curious screen, which secureth the cloisters
from the north-east wind.--But all these things avail nothing--As we
read in holy Maccabee, _Capta est civitas per voluntatem Dei_. It
hath cost me no little thought, no common toil, to keep these weighty
matters in such order as you have seen them--there was both barn and
binn to be kept full--Infirmary, dormitory, guest-hall, and refectory,
to be looked to--processions to be made, confessions to be heard,
strangers to be entertained, _veniae_ to be granted or refused;
and I warrant me, when every one of you was asleep in your cell, the
Abbot hath lain awake for a full hour by the bell, thinking how these
matters might be ordered seemly and suitably."

"May we ask, reverend my lord," said the Sub-Prior, "what additional
care has now been thrown upon you, since your discourse seems to point
that way?"

"Marry, this it is," said the Abbot. "The talk is not now of _biberes_,

[Footnote: The _biberes, caritas_, and boiled almonds, of which
Abbot Boniface speaks, were special occasions for enjoying luxuries,
afforded to the monks by grants from different sovereigns, or from
other benefactors to the convent. There is one of these charters
called _De Pitancia Centum Librarum_ By this charter, which is
very curious, our Robert Bruce, on the 10th January, and in the
twelfth year of his reign, assigns, out of the customs of Berwick, and
failing them, out of the customs of Edinburgh or Haddington, the sum
of one hundred pounds, at the half-yearly terms of Pentecost and Saint
Martin's in winter, to the abbot and community of the monks of
Melrose. The precise purpose of this annuity is to furnish to each of
the monks of the said monastery, while placed at food in the
refectory, an extra mess of rice boiled with milk, or of almonds, or
peas, or other pulse of that kind which could be procured in the
country. This addition to their commons is to be entitled the King's
Mess. And it is declared, that although any monk should, from some
honest apology, want appetite or inclination to eat of the king's
mess, his share should, nevertheless, be placed on the table with
those of his brethren, and afterwards carried to the gate and given to
the poor. "Neither is it our pleasure," continues the bountiful
sovereign, "that the dinner, which is or ought to be served up to the
said monks according to their ancient rule, should be diminished in
quantity, or rendered inferior in quality, on account of this our
mess, so furnished as aforesaid." It is, moreover, provided, that the
abbot, with the consent of the most sage of his brethren, shall name a
prudent and decent monk for receiving, directing, and expending, all
matters concerning this annuity for the benefit of the community,
agreeably to the royal desire and intention, rendering a faithful
account thereof to the abbot and superiors of the same convent. And
the same charter declares the king's farther pleasure, that the said
men of religion should be bound yearly and for ever, in acknowledgment
of the above donation, to clothe fifteen poor men at the feast of
Saint Martin in winter, and to feed them on the same day, delivering
to each of them four ells of large or broad, or six ells of narrow
cloth, and to each also a new pair of shoes or sandals, according to
their order; and if the said monks shall fail in their engagements or
any of them, it is the king's will that the fault shall be redeemed by
a double performance of what has been omitted, to be executed at the
sight of the chief forester of Ettrick for the time being, and before
the return of Saint Martin's day succeeding that on which the omission
has taken place.

Of this charter, respecting the pittance of 100_l_ assigned to
furnish the monks of Melrose with a daily mess of boiled rice,
almonds, or other pulse, to mend their commons, the antiquarian reader
will be pleased, doubtless, to see the original.


CARTA REGIS ROBERTI I. ABBATI ET CONVENTUI DE MELROSS.

_Carta de Pitancia Centum Librarum._

Robertus Dei gracia Rex Scottorum omnibus probis hominibus tocius
terre sue Salutem. Sciatis nos pro salute anime nostre et pro salute
animarum antecessorum et suocessorum nostrorum Regum Scocie Dedisse
Concessisse et hac presenti Carta nostra confirmasse Deo et Beate
Marie virgini et Religiosis viris Abbati et Conventui de Melross et
eorum successoribus in perpetuum Centum Libras Sterlingorum Annui
Redditus singulis annis percipiendas de firmis nostris Burgi Berwici
super. Twedam ad terminos Pentecostis et Sancti Martini in hyeme pro
equali portione vel de nova Custuma nostra Burgi predicti si firme
nostre predicte ad dictam summam pecunie sufficere non poterunt vel de
nova Custuma nostra Burgorum nostrorum de Edenburg et de Hadington Si
firme nostre et Custuma nostra ville Berwici aliquo casu contingente
ad hoc forte non sufficiant. Ita quod dicta summa pecunie Centum
Librarum eis annuatim integre et absque contradictione aliqua plenarie
persolvatur pre cunctis aliis quibuscunque assignacionibus per nos
factis seu faciendis ad inveniendum in perpetunm singulis diebus
cuilibet monacho monasterii predicti comedenti in Refectorio unum
sufficiens ferculum risarum factarum cum lacte, amigdalarum vel
pisarum sive aliorum ciborum consimilis condicionis inventornm in
patria et illud ferculum ferculum Regis vocabitur in eternum. Et si
aliquis monachus ex aliqua causa honesta de dicto ferculo comedere
noluerit vel refici non poterit non minus attamen sibi de dicto
ferculo ministretur et ad portam pro pauperibus deportetur. Nec
volumus quod occasione ferculi nostri predicti prandium dicti
Conventus de quo antiquitus communiter eis deserviri sive ministrari
solebat in aliquo pejoretur seu diminuatur. Volum us insuper et
ordinamus quod Abbas ejusdem monasterii qui pro tempore fuerit de
cousensu saniorum de Conventu specialiter constituat unum monachum
providum et discretum ad recipiendum ordinandum et expendendum totam
summam pecunie memorate pro utilitate conventus secundum votum et
intencionem mentis nostre superius annotatum et ad reddendum fidele
compotum coram Abbate et Maioribus de Conventu singulis annis de
pecunia sic recepta. Et volumus quod dicti religiosi teneantur
annuatim in perpetuum pro predicta donacione nostra ad perpetuam
nostri memoriam vestire quindecim pauperes ad festum Sancti Martini in
hieme et eosdem cibare eodem die liberando eorum cuilibet quatuor
ulnas panni grossi et lati vel sex ulnas panni stricti et eorum
cuilibet unum novum par sotularium de ordine suo. Et si dicti
religiosi in premissis vel aliquo premissorum aliquo anno defecerint
volumus quod illud quod minus perimpletum fuerit dupplicetur diebus
magis necessariis per visum capitalis forestarii nostri de Selkirk,
qui pro tempore fuerit. Et quod dicta dupplicatio fiat ante natale
domini proximo sequens festum Sancti Martini predictum. In cujus rei
testimonium presenti Carte nostre sigillum nostrum precipimus apponi.
Testibus venerabilibus in Christo patribus Willielmo, Johanne,
Willielmo et David Sancti Andree, Glasguensis, Dunkeldensis et
Moraviensis ecclesiarum dei gracia episcopis Bernardo Abbate de
Abirbrothock Cancellario, Duncano, Malisio, et Hugone de Fyf de
Strathin et de Ross, Comitibus Waltero Senescallo Scocie, Jacobo
domini de Duglas et Alexandro Fraser Camerario nostro Socie militibus.
Apud Abirbrothock, decimo die Januarij. Anno Regni nostri vicesimo.]


or of _caritas_, or of boiled almonds, but of an English band
coming against us from Hexham, commanded by Sir John Foster; nor is it
of the screening us from the east wind, but how to escape Lord James
Stewart, who cometh to lay waste and destroy with his heretic
soldiers."

"I thought that purpose had been broken by the feud between Semple and
the Kennedies," said the Sub-Prior, hastily.

"They have accorded that matter at the expense of the church as
usual," said the Abbot; "the Earl of Cassilis is to have the
teind-sheaves of his lands, which were given to the house of
Crossraguel, and he has stricken hands with Stewart, who is now called
Murray.--_Principes convenerunt unum adversus Dominum._--There
are the letters."

The Sub-Prior took the letters, which had come by an express messenger
from the Primate of Scotland, who still laboured to uphold the
tottering fabric of the system under which he was at length buried,
and, stepping towards the lamp, read them with an air of deep and
settled attention--the Sacristan and Father Nicholas looked as
helplessly at each other, as the denizens of the poultry-yard when the
hawk soars over it. The Abbot seemed bowed down with the extremity of
sorrowful apprehension, but kept his eye timorously fixed on the
Sub-Prior, as if striving to catch some comfort from the expression of
his countenance. When at length he beheld that, after a second intent
perusal of the letters, he remained still silent and full of thought,
he asked him in an anxious tone, "What is to be done?"

"Our duty must be done," answered the Sub-Prior, "and the rest is in
the hands of God."

"Our duty--our duty?" answered the Abbot, impatiently; "doubtless we
are to do our duty; but what is that duty? or how will it serve
us?--Will bell, book, and candle, drive back the English heretics? or
will Murray care for psalms and antiphonars? or can I fight for the
Halidome, like Judas Maccabeus, against those profane Nicanors? or
send the Sacristan against this new Holofernes, to bring back his head
in a basket?"

"True, my Lord Abbot," said the Sub-Prior, "we cannot fight with
carnal weapons, it is alike contrary to our habit and vow; but we can
die for our Convent and for our Order. Besides, we can arm those who
will and can fight. The English are but few in number, trusting, as it
would seem, that they will be joined by Murray, whose march has been
interrupted. If Foster, with his Cumberland and Hexham bandits,
ventures to march into Scotland, to pillage and despoil our House, we
will levy our vassals, and, I trust, shall be found strong enough to
give him battle."

"In the blessed name of Our Lady," said the Abbot, "think you that I
am Petrus Eremita, to go forth the leader of an host?"

"Nay," said the Sub-Prior, "let some man skilled in war lead our
people--there is Julian Avenel, an approved soldier."

"But a scoffer, a debauched person, and, in brief, a man of Belial,"
quoth the Abbot.

"Still," said the monk, "we must use his ministry in that to which he
has been brought up. We can guerdon him richly, and indeed I already
know the price of his service. The English, it is expected, will
presently set forth, hoping here to seize upon Piercie Shafton, whose
refuge being taken with us, they make the pretext of this unheard-of
inroad."

"Is it even so?" said the Abbot; "I never judged that his body of satin
and his brain of feathers boded us much good."

"Yet we must have his assistance, if possible," said the Sub-Prior;
"he may interest in our behalf the great Piercie, of whose friendship
he boasts, and that good and faithful Lord may break Foster's purpose.
I will despatch the jackman after him with all speed.--Chiefly,
however, I trust to the military spirit of the land, which will not
suffer peace to be easily broken on the frontier. Credit me, my lord,
it will bring to our side the hands of many, whose hearts may have
gone astray after strange doctrines. The great chiefs and barons will
be ashamed to let the vassals of peaceful monks fight unaided against
the old enemies of Scotland."

"It may be," said the Abbot, "that Foster will wait for Murray, whose
purpose hitherward is but delayed for a short space."

"By the rood, he will not," said the Sub-Prior; "we know this Sir John
Foster--a pestilent heretic, he will long to destroy the church--born
a Borderer, he will thirst to plunder her of her wealth--a
Border-warden, he will be eager to ride in Scotland. There are too
many causes to urge him on. If he joins with Murray, he will have at
best but an auxiliary's share of the spoil--if he comes hither before
him, he will reckon on the whole harvest of depredation as his own.
Julian Avenel also has, as I have heard, some spite against Sir John
Foster; they will fight, when they meet, with double determination.--
Sacristan, send for our bailiff.--Where is the roll of fencible men
liable to do suit and service to the Halidome?--Send off to the Baron
of Meigallot; he can raise threescore horse and better--Say to him the
Monastery will compound with him for the customs of his bridge, which
have been in controversy, if he will show himself a friend at such a
point.--And now, my lord, let us compute our possible numbers, and
those of the enemy, that human blood be not spilled in vain--Let us
therefore calculate----"

"My brain is dizzied with the emergency," said the poor Abbot--"I am
not, I think, more a coward than others, so far as my own person is
concerned; but speak to me of marching and collecting soldiers, and
calculating forces, and you may as well tell of it to the youngest
novice of a nunnery. But my resolution is taken.--Brethren," he said,
rising up, and coming forward with that dignity which his comely
person enabled him to assume, "hear for the last time the voice of
your Abbot Boniface. I have done for you the best that I could; in
quieter times I had perhaps done better, for it was for quiet that I
sought the cloister, which has been to me a place of turmoil, as much
as if I had sate in the receipt of custom, or ridden forth as leader
of an armed host. But now matters turn worse and worse, and I, as I
grow old, am less able to struggle with them. Also, it becomes me not
to hold a place, whereof the duties, through my default or misfortune,
may be but imperfectly filled by me. Wherefore I have resolved to
demit this mine high office, so that the order of these matters may
presently devolve upon Father Eustatius here present, our well-beloved
Sub-Prior; and I now rejoice that he hath not been provided according
to his merits elsewhere, seeing that I well hope he will succeed to
the mitre and staff which it is my present purpose to lay down."

"In the name of Our Lady, do nothing hastily, my lord!" said Father
Nicholas--"I do remember that when the worthy Abbot Ingelram, being in
his ninetieth year--for I warrant you he could remember when Benedict
the Thirteenth was deposed--and being ill at ease and bed-rid, the
brethren rounded in his ear that he were better resign his office. And
what said he, being a pleasant man? marry, that while he could crook
his little finger he would keep hold of the crosier with it."

The Sacristan also strongly remonstrated against the resolution of his
Superior, and set down the insufficiency he pleaded to the native
modesty of his disposition. The Abbot listened in downcast silence;
even flattery could not win his ear.

Father Eustace took a nobler tone with his disconcerted and dejected
Superior. "My Lord Abbot," he said, "if I have been silent concerning
the virtues with which you have governed this house, do not think that
I am unaware of them. I know that no man ever brought to your high
office a more sincere wish to do well to all mankind; and if your rule
has not been marked with the bold lines which sometimes distinguished
your spiritual predecessors, their faults have equally been strangers
to your character."

"I did not believe," said the Abbot, turning his looks to Father
Eustace with some surprise, "that you, father, of all men, would have
done me this justice."

"In your absence," said the Sub-Prior, "I have even done it more
fully. Do not lose the good opinion which all men entertain of you,
by renouncing your office when your care is most needed."

"But, my brother," said the Abbot, "I leave a more able in my place."

"That you do not," said Eustace; "because it is not necessary you
should resign, in order to possess the use of whatever experience or
talent I may be accounted master of. I have been long enough in this
profession to know that the individual qualities which any of us may
have, are not his own, but the property of the Community, and only so
far useful when they promote the general advantage. If you care not in
person, my lord, to deal with this troublesome matter, let me implore
you to go instantly to Edinburgh, and make what friends you can in our
behalf, while I in your absence will, as Sub-Prior, do my duty in
defence of the Halidome. If I succeed, may the honour and praise be
yours, and if I fail, let the disgrace and shame be mine own."

The Abbot mused for a space, and then replied,--"No, Father Eustatius,
you shall not conquer me by your generosity. In times like these, this
house must have a stronger pilotage than my weak hands afford; and he
who steers the vessel must be chief of the crew. Shame were it to
accept the praise of other men's labours; and, in my poor mind, all
the praise which can be bestowed on him who undertakes a task so
perilous and perplexing, is a meed beneath his merits. Misfortune to
him would deprive him of an iota of it! Assume, therefore, your
authority to-night, and proceed in the preparations you judge
necessary. Let the Chapter be summoned to-morrow after we have heard
mass, and all shall be ordered as I have told you. Benedicite, my
brethren!--peace be with you! May the new Abbot-expectant sleep as
sound as he who is about to resign his mitre."

They retired, affected even to tears. The good Abbot had shown a point
of his character to which they were strangers. Even Father Eustace had
held his spiritual Superior hitherto as a good-humoured, indolent,
self-indulgent man, whose chief merit was the absence of gross faults;
so that this sacrifice of power to a sense of duty, even if a little
alloyed by the meaner motives of fear and apprehended difficulties,
raised him considerably in the Sub-Prior's estimation. He even felt an
aversion to profit by the resignation of the Abbot Boniface, and in a
manner to rise on his ruins; but this sentiment did not long contend
with those which led him to recollect higher considerations. It could
not be denied that Boniface was entirely unfit for his situation in
the present crisis; and the Sub-Prior felt that he himself, acting
merely as a delegate, could not well take the decisive measures which
the time required; the weal of the Community therefore demanded his
elevation. If, besides, there crept in a feeling of a high dignity
obtained, and the native exultation of a haughty spirit called to
contend with the imminent dangers attached to a post of such
distinction, these sentiments were so cunningly blended and
amalgamated with others of a more disinterested nature, that, as the
Sub-Prior himself was unconscious of their agency, we, who have a
regard for him, are not solicitous to detect it.

The Abbot elect carried himself with more dignity than formerly, when
giving such directions as the pressing circumstances of the times
required; and those who approached him could perceive an unusual
kindling of his falcon eye, and an unusual flush upon his pale and
faded cheek. With briefness and precision he wrote and dictated
various letters to different barons, acquainting them with the
meditated invasion of the Halidome by the English, and conjuring them
to lend aid and assistance as in a common cause. The temptation of
advantage was held out to those whom he judged less sensible of the
cause of honour, and all were urged by the motives of patriotism and
ancient animosity to the English. The time had been when no such
exhortations would have been necessary. But so essential was
Elizabeth's aid to the reformed party in Scotland, and so strong was
that party almost every where, that there was reason to believe a
great many would observe neutrality on the present occasion, even if
they did not go the length of uniting with the English against the
Catholics.

When Father Eustace considered the number of the immediate vassals
of the church whose aid he might legally command, his heart sunk at the
thoughts of ranking them under the banner of the fierce and profligate
Julian Avenel.

"Were the young enthusiast Halbert Glendinning to be found," thought
Father Eustace in his anxiety, "I would have risked the battle under
his leading, young as he is, and with better hope of God's blessing.
But the bailiff is now too infirm, nor know I a chief of name whom I
might trust in this important matter better than this Avenel."--He
touched a bell which stood on the table, and commanded Christie of the
Clinthill to be brought before him.--"Thou owest me a life," said he
to that person on his entrance, "and I may do thee another good turn
if thou be'st sincere with me."

Christie had already drained two standing-cups of wine, which would, on
another occasion, have added to the insolence of his familiarity. But at
present there was something in the augmented dignity of manner of Father
Eustace, which imposed a restraint on him. Yet his answers partook of
his usual character of undaunted assurance. He professed himself willing
to return a true answer to all inquiries.

"Has the Baron (so styled) of Avenel any friendship with Sir John
Foster, Warden of the West Marches of England?"

"Such friendship as is between the wild-cat and the terrier," replied
the rider.

"Will he do battle with him should they meet?"

"As surely," answered Christie, "as ever cock fought on
Shrovetide-even."

"And would he fight with Foster in the Church's quarrel?"

"On any quarrel, or upon no quarrel whatever," replied the jackman.

"We will then write to him, letting him know, that if upon occasion of
an apprehended incursion by Sir John Foster, he will join his force
with ours, he shall lead our men, and be gratified for doing so to the
extent of his wish.--Yet one word more--Thou didst say thou couldst
find out where the English knight Piercie Shafton has this day fled
to?"

"That I can, and bring him back too, by fair means or force, as best
likes your reverence."

"No force must be used upon him. Within what time wilt thou find him
out?"

"Within thirty hours, so he have not crossed the Lothian firth--If it
is to do you a pleasure, I will set off directly, and wind him as a
sleuth-dog tracks the moss-trooper," answered Christie.

"Bring him hither then, and thou wilt deserve good at our hands, which
I may soon have free means of bestowing on thee."

"Thanks to your reverence, I put myself in your reverence's hands. We
of the spear and snaffle walk something recklessly through life; but
if a man were worse than he is, your reverence knows he must live, and
that's not to be done without shifting, I trow."

"Peace, sir, and begone on thine errand--thou shalt have a letter from
us to Sir Piercie."

Christie made two steps towards the door; then turning back and
hesitating, like one who would make an impertinent pleasantry if he
dared, he asked what he was to do with the wench Mysie Happer whom the
Southron knight had carried off with him.

"Am I to bring her hither, please your reverence?"

"Hither, you malapert knave?" said the churchman; "remember you to
whom you speak?"

"No offence meant," replied Christie; "but if such is not your will, I
would carry her to Avenel Castle, where a well-favoured wench was
never unwelcome.

"Bring the unfortunate girl to her father's and break no scurril jests
here," said the Sub-Prior--"See that thou guide her in all safety and
honour."

"In safety, surely," said the rider, "and in such honour as her
outbreak has left her.--I bid your reverence farewell, I must be on
horse before cock-crow."

"What, in the dark!--how knowest thou which way to go?"

"I tracked the knight's horse-tread as far as near to the ford, as we
rode along together," said Christie, "and I observed the track turn to
the north-ward. He is for Edinburgh, I will warrant you--so soon as
daylight comes I will be on the road again. It is a kenspeckle
hoof-mark, for the shoe was made by old Eckie of Cannobie--I would
swear to the curve of the caulker." So saying, he departed.

"Hateful necessity," said Father Eustace, looking after him, "that
obliges us to use such implements as these! But assailed as we are on
all sides, and by all conditions of men, what alternative is left
us?--But now let me to my most needful task."

The Abbot elect accordingly sate down to write letters, arrange
orders, and take upon him the whole charge of an institution which
tottered to its fall, with the same spirit of proud and devoted
fortitude wherewith the commander of a fortress, reduced nearly to the
last extremity, calculates what means remain to him to protract the
fatal hour of successful storm. In the meanwhile Abbot Boniface,
having given a few natural sighs to the downfall of the pre-eminence
he had so long enjoyed amongst his brethren, fell fast asleep, leaving
the whole cares and toils of office to his assistant and
[Chapter ending is missing in the original]

Sir Walter Scott