For since they rode among our doors
With splent on spauld and rusty spurs,
There grows no fruit into our furs;
Thus said John Up-on-land.
The Scottish laws, which were as wisely and judiciously made as they
were carelessly and ineffectually executed, had in vain endeavoured to
restrain the damage done to agriculture, by the chiefs and landed
proprietors retaining in their service what were called jack-men, from
the _jack_, or doublet, quilted with iron which they wore as
defensive armour. These military retainers conducted themselves with
great insolence towards the industrious part of the community--lived
in a great measure by plunder, and were ready to execute any commands
of their master, however unlawful. In adopting this mode of life, men
resigned the quiet hopes and regular labours of industry, for an
unsettled, precarious, and dangerous trade, which yet had such charms
for those once accustomed to it, that they became incapable of
following any other. Hence the complaint of John Upland, a fictitious
character, representing a countryman, into whose mouth the poets of
the day put their general satires upon men and manners.
They ride about in such a rage,
By forest, frith, and field,
With buckler, bow, and brand.
Lo! where they ride out through the rye!
The Devil mot save the company,
Quoth John Up-on-land.
Christie of the Clinthill, the horseman who now arrived at the little
Tower of Glendearg, was one of the hopeful company of whom the poet
complains, as was indicated by his "splent on spauld," (iron-plates on
his shoulder,) his rusted spurs, and his long lance. An iron
skull-cap, none of the brightest, bore for distinction a sprig of the
holly, which was Avenel's badge. A long two-edged straight sword,
having a handle made of polished oak, hung down by his side. The
meagre condition of his horse, and the wild and emaciated look of the
rider, showed their occupation could not be accounted an easy or a
thriving one. He saluted Dame Glendinning with little courtesy, and
the monk with less; for the growing, disrespect to the religious
orders had not failed to extend itself among a class of men of such
disorderly habits, although it may be supposed they were tolerably
indifferent alike to the new or the ancient doctrines.
"So, our lady is dead, Dame Glendinning?" said the jack-man; "my
master has sent you even now a fat bullock for her mart--it may serve
for her funeral. I have left him in the upper cleugh, as he is
somewhat kenspeckle, [Footnote: _Kenspeckle>/I>--that which is
easily recognized by the eye.] and is marked both with cut and
birn--the sooner the skin is off, and he is in saultfat, the less like
you are to have trouble--you understand me? Let me have a peck of corn
for my horse, and beef and beer for myself, for I must go on to the
Monastery--though I think this monk hero might do mine errand."
"Thine errand, rude man!" said the Sub-Prior, knitting his brows--
"For God's sake" cried poor Dame Glendinning, terrified at the idea of
a quarrel between them,--"O Christie!---it is the Sub-Prior--O
reverend sir, it is Christie of the Clinthill, the laird's chief
jack-man; ye know that little havings can be expected from the like o'
"Are you a retainer of the Laird of Avenel?" said the monk, addressing
himself to the horseman, "and do you speak thus rudely to a Brother of
Saint Mary's, to whom thy master is so much beholden?"
"He means to be yet more beholden to your house, Sir Monk," answered
the fellow; "for hearing his sister-in-law, the widow of Walter of
Avenel, was on her death-bed, he sent me to say to the Father Abbot
and the brethren, that he will hold the funeral-feast at their
convent, and invites himself thereto, with a score of horse and some
friends, and to abide there for three days and three nights,--having
horse-meat and men's-meat at the charge of the community; of which his
intention he sends due notice, that fitting preparation may be
"Friend," said the Sub-Prior, "believe not that I will do to the
Father Abbot the indignity of delivering such an errand.--Think'st
thou the goods of the church were bestowed upon her by holy princes
and pious nobles, now dead and gone, to be consumed in revelry by
every profligate layman who numbers in his train more followers than
he can support by honest means, or by his own incomings? Tell thy
master, from the Sub-Prior of Saint Mary's, that the Primate hath
issued his commands to us that we submit no longer to this compulsory
exaction of hospitality on slight or false pretences. Our lands and
goods were given to relieve pilgrims and pious persons, not to feast
bands of rude soldiers."
"This to me!" said the angry spearman, "this to me and to my master
--Look to yourself then, Sir Priest, and try if _Ave_ and
_Credo_ will keep bullocks from wandering, and hay-stacks from
"Dost thou menace the Holy Church's patrimony with waste and
fire-raising," said the Sub-Prior, "and that in the face of the sun? I
call on all who hear me to bear witness to the words this ruffian has
spoken. Remember how the Lord James drowned such as you by scores in
the black pool at Jeddart.-To him and to the Primate will I complain."
The soldier shifted the position of his lance, and brought it down to
a level with the monk's body.
Dame Glendinning began to shriek for assistance. "Tibb Tacket! Martin!
where be ye all?--Christie, for the love of God, consider he is a man
of Holy Kirk!"
"I care not for his spear," said the Sub-Prior; "if I am slain in
defending the rights and privileges of my community, the Primate will
know how to take vengeance."
"Let him look to himself," said Christie, but at the same time
depositing his lance against the wall of the tower; "if the Fife men
spoke true who came hither with the Governor in the last raid, Norman
Leslie has him at feud, and is like to set him hard. We know Norman a
true bloodhound, who will never quit the slot. But I had no design to
offend the holy father," he added, thinking perhaps he had gone a
little too far; "I am a rude man, bred to lance and stirrup, and not
used to deal with book-learned men and priests; and I am willing to
ask his forgiveness--and his blessing, if I have said aught amiss."
"For God's sake! your reverence," said the widow of Glendearg apart to
the Sub-Prior, "bestow on him your forgiveness--how shall we poor folk
sleep in security in the dark nights, if the convent is at feud with
such men as he is?"
"You are right, dame," said the Sub-Prior, "your safety should, and
must be, in the first instance consulted.--Soldier, I forgive thee,
and may God bless thee and send thee honesty."
Christie of the Clinthill made an unwilling inclination with his head,
and muttered apart, "that is as much as to say, God send thee
starvation, But now to my master's demand, Sir Priest? What answer am
I to return?"
"That the body of the widow of Walter of Avenel," answered the Father,
"shall be interred as becomes her rank, and in the tomb of her valiant
husband. For your master's proffered visit of three days, with such a
company and retinue, I have no authority to reply to it; you must
intimate your Chief's purpose to the Reverend Lord Abbot."
"That will cost me a farther ride," said the man, "but it is all in
the day's work.--How now, my lad," said he to Halbert, who was
handling the long lance which he had laid aside; "how do you like such
a plaything?--will you go with me and be a moss-trooper?"
"The Saints in their mercy forbid!" said the poor mother; and then,
afraid of having displeased Christie by the vivacity of her
exclamation, she followed it up by explaining, that since Simon's
death she could not look on a spear or a bow, or any implement of
destruction without trembling.
"Pshaw!" answered Christie, "thou shouldst take another husband, dame,
and drive such follies out of thy thoughts--what sayst thou to such a
strapping lad as I? Why, this old tower of thine is fensible enough,
and there is no want of clenchs, and crags, and bogs, and thickets, if
one was set hard; a man might bide here and keep his half-score of
lads, and as many geldings, and live on what he could lay his hand on,
and be kind to thee, old wench."
"Alas! Master Christie," said the matron, "that you should talk to a
lone woman in such a fashion, and death in the house besides!"
"Lone woman!--why, that is the very reason thou shouldst take a mate.
Thy old friend is dead, why, good--choose thou another of somewhat
tougher frame, and that will not die of the pip like a young chicken.--
Better still--Come, dame, let me have something to eat, and we will talk
more of this."
Dame Elspeth, though she well knew the character of the man, whom in
fact she both disliked and feared, could not help simpering at the
personal address which he thought proper to make to her. She whispered
to the Sub-Prior, "ony thing just to keep him quiet," and went into
the tower to set before the soldier the food he desired, trusting
betwixt good cheer and the power of her own charms, to keep Christie
of the Clinthill so well amused, that the altercation betwixt him and
the holy father should not be renewed.
The Sub-Prior was equally unwilling to hazard any unnecessary rupture
between the community and such a person as Julian of Avenel. He was
sensible that moderation, as well as firmness, was necessary to
support the tottering cause of the Church of Rome; and that, contrary
to former times, the quarrels betwixt the clergy and laity had, in the
present, usually terminated to the advantage of the latter. He
resolved, therefore, to avoid farther strife by withdrawing, but
failed not, in the first place, to possess himself of the volume which
the Sacristan carried off the evening before, and which had been
returned to the glen in such a marvellous manner.
Edward, the younger of Dame Elspeth's boys, made great objections to
the book's being removed, in which Mary would probably have joined,
but that she was now in her little sleeping-chamber with Tibb, who was
exerting her simple skill to console the young lady for her mother's
death. But the younger Glendinning stood up in defence of her
property, and, with a positiveness which had hitherto made no part of
his character, declared, that now the kind lady was dead, the book was
Mary's, and no one but Mary should have it.
"But if it is not a fit book for Mary to read, my dear boy," said the
father, gently, "you would not wish it to remain with her?"
"The lady read it," answered the young champion of property; "and so
it could not be wrong--it shall not be taken away.--I wonder where
Halbert is?--listening to the bravading tales of gay Christie, I
reckon,--he is always wishing for fighting, and now he is out of the
"Why, Edward, you would not fight with me, who am both a priest and
"If you were as good a priest as the Pope," said the boy, "and as old
as the hills to boot, you shall not carry away Mary's book without her
leave. I will do battle for it."
"But see you, my love," said the monk, amused with the resolute
friendship manifested by the boy, "I do not take it; I only borrow it;
and I leave in its place my own gay missal, as a pledge I will bring
Edward opened the missal with eager curiosity, and glanced at the
pictures with which it was illustrated. "Saint George and the dragon--
Halbert will like that; and Saint Michael brandishing his sword over
the head of the Wicked One--and that will do for Halbert too. And see
the Saint John leading his lamb in the wilderness, with his little
cross made of reeds, and his scrip and staff--that shall be my
favourite; and where shall we find one for poor Mary?--here is a
beautiful woman weeping and lamenting herself."
"This is Saint Mary Magdalen repenting of her sins, my dear boy," said
"That will not suit _our_ Mary; for she commits no faults, and is
never angry with us, but when we do something wrong."
"Then," said the father, "I will show you a Mary, who will protect her
and you, and all good children. See how fairly she is represented,
with her gown covered with golden stars."
The boy was lost in wonder at the portrait of the Virgin, which the
Sub-Prior turned up to him.
"This," he said, "is really like our sweet Mary; and I think I will
let you take away the black book, that has no such goodly shows in it,
and leave this for Mary instead. But you must promise to bring back
the book, good father--for now I think upon it, Mary may like that
best which was her mother's."
"I will certainly return," said the monk, evading his answer, "and
perhaps I may teach you to write and read such beautiful letters as
you see there written, and to paint them blue, green, and yellow, and
to blazon them with gold."
"Ay, and to make such figures as these blessed Saints, and especially
these two Marys?" said the boy.
"With their blessing," said the Sub-Prior, "I can teach you that art
too, so far as I am myself capable of showing, and you of learning
it." "Then," said Edward, "will I paint Mary's picture--and remember
you are to bring back the black book; that you must promise me."
The Sub-Prior, anxious to get rid of the boy's pertinacity, and to set
forward on his return to the convent, without having any further
interview with Christie the galloper, answered by giving the promise
Edward required, mounted his mule, and set forth on his return
The November day was well spent ere the Sub-Prior resumed his journey;
for the difficulty of the road, and the various delays which he had
met with at the tower, had detained him longer than he proposed. A
chill easterly wind was sighing among the withered leaves, and
stripping them from the hold they had yet retained on the parent
"Even so," said the monk, "our prospects in this vale of time grow
more disconsolate as the stream of years passes on. Little have I gained
by my journey, saving the certainty that heresy is busy among us with
more than his usual activity, and that the spirit of insulting religious
orders, and plundering the Church's property, so general in the eastern
districts of Scotland, has now come nearer home."
The tread of a horse which came up behind him, interrupted his reverie,
and he soon saw he was mounted by the same wild rider whom he had left
at the tower.
"Good even, my son, and benedicite," said the Sub-Prior as he passed;
but the rude soldier scarce acknowledged the greeting, by bending his
head; and dashing the spurs into his horse, went on at a pace which
soon left the monk and his mule far behind. And there, thought the
Sub-Prior, goes another plague of the times--a fellow whose birth
designed him to cultivate the earth, but who is perverted by the
unhallowed and unchristian divisions of the country, into a daring and
dissolute robber. The barons of Scotland are now turned masterful
thieves and ruffians, oppressing the poor by violence, and wasting the
Church, by extorting free-quarters from abbeys and priories, without
either shame or reason. I fear me I shall be too late to counsel the
Abbot to make a stand against these daring _sorners_ [Footnote:
To _sorne_, in Scotland, is to exact free quarters against the
will of the landlord. It is declared equivalent to theft, by a statute
passed in the year 1445. The great chieftains oppressed the
monasteries very much by exactions of this nature. The community of
Aberbrothwick complained of an Earl of Angus, I think, who was in the
regular habit of visiting them once a year, with a train of a thousand
horse, and abiding till the whole winter provisions of the convent
were exhausted.]--I must make haste." He struck his mule with his
riding wand accordingly; but, instead of mending her pace, the animal
suddenly started from the path, and the rider's utmost efforts could
not force her forward.
"Art thou, too, infected with the spirit of the times?" said the
Sub-Prior; "thou wert wont to be ready and serviceable, and art now as
restive as any wild jack-man or stubborn heretic of them all."
While he was contending with the startled animal, a voice, like that
of a female, chanted in his ear, or at least very close to it,
"Good evening-. Sir Priest, and so late as you ride,
With your mule so fair, and your mantle so wide;
But ride you through valley, or ride you o'er hill.
There is one that has warrant to wait on you still.
The volume black!
I have a warrant to carry it back."
But the mule stood as if it had been rooted to the spot, backed from
the point to which it was pressed by its rider, and by her ears laid
close into her neck, and her eyes almost starting from their sockets,
testified that she was under great terror.
While the Sub-Prior, by alternate threats and soothing, endeavoured to
reclaim the wayward animal to her duty, the wild musical voice was again
heard close beside him.
"What, ho! Sub-Prior, and came you but here
To conjure a book from a dead woman's bier?
Sain you, and save you, be wary and wise,
Ride back with the book, or you'll pay for your prize.
There's death in the track!
In the name of my master I bid thee bear back."
The same voice replied,
"That which is neither ill nor well.
That which belongs not to Heaven nor to hell,
A wreath of the mist, a bubble of the stream,
'Twixt a waking thought and a sleeping dream;
A form that men spy
With the half-shut eye.
In the beams of the setting sun, am I."
"Vainly, Sir Prior. wouldst thou bar me my right!
Like the star when it shoots, I can dart through the night;
I can dance on the torrent and ride on the air,
And travel the world with the bonny night-mare.
At the crook of the glen,
Where bickers the burnie, I'll meet thee again."
"I used to doubt the existence of Cabalists and Rosicrucians," thought
the Sub-Prior, "but, by my Holy Order, I know no longer what to say!--
My pulse beats temperately--my hand is cool--I am fasting from
everything but sin, and possessed of my ordinary faculties--Either
some fiend is permitted to bewilder me, or the tales of Cornelius
Agrippa, Paracelsus, and others who treat of occult philosophy, are
not without foundation.--At the crook of the glen? I could have
desired to avoid a second meeting, but I am on the service of the
Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against me."
He moved around accordingly, but with precaution, and not without
fear; for he neither knew the manner in which, or the place where his
journey might be next interrupted by his invisible attendant. He
descended the glen without interruption for about a mile farther,
when, just at the spot where the brook approached the steep hill, with
a winding so abrupt as to leave scarcely room for a horse to pass, the
mule was again visited with the same symptoms of terror which had
before interrupted her course. Better acquainted than before with the
cause of her restiveness, the Priest employed no effort to make her
proceed, but addressed himself to the object, which he doubted not was
the same that had formerly interrupted him, in the words of solemn
exorcism prescribed by the Church of Rome on such occasions.
In reply to his demand, the voice again sung;--
"Men of good are bold as sackless,[Footnote: Sackless--Innocent.]
Men of rude are wild and reckless,
Lie thou still
In the nook of the hill.
For those be before thee that wish thee ill."
With some exertion he collected himself, remounted the animal, and
meditating upon his wild adventure, descended the glen till its
junction with the broader valley through which the Tweed winds. The
drawbridge was readily dropped at his first summons; and so much had
he won upon the heart of the churlish warden, that Peter appeared
himself with a lantern to show the Sub-Prior his way over the perilous
"By my sooth, sir," he said, holding the light up to Father Eustace's
face, "you look sorely travelled and deadly pale--but a little matter
serves to weary out you men of the cell. I now who speak to you--I
have ridden--before I was perched up here on this pillar betwixt wind
and water--it may be thirty Scots miles before I broke my fast, and
have had the red of a bramble rose in my cheek all the while--But will
you taste some food, or a cup of distilled waters?"
"I may not," said Father Eustace, "being under a vow; but I thank you
for your kindness, and pray you to give what I may not accept to the
next poor pilgrim who comes hither pale and fainting, for so it shall
be the better both with him here, and with you hereafter."
"By my faith, and I will do so," said Peter Bridge-Ward, "even for thy
sake--It is strange now, how this Sub-Prior gets round one's heart
more than the rest of these cowled gentry, that think of nothing but
quaffing and stuffing!--Wife, I say--wife, we will give a cup of
distilled waters and a crust of bread unto the next pilgrim that comes
over; and ye may keep for [Footnote: An old-fashioned name for an
earthen jar for holding spirits.] the purpose the grunds of the last
greybeard, and the ill-baked bannock which the bairns couldna eat."
While Peter issued these charitable, and, at the same time, prudent
injunctions, the Sub-Prior, whose mild interference had awakened the
Bridge-Ward to such an act of unwonted generosity, was pacing onward
to the Monastery. In the way, he had to commune with and subdue his
own rebellious heart, an enemy, he was sensible, more formidable than
any which the external powers of Satan could place in his way.
Father Eustace had indeed strong temptation to suppress the
extraordinary incident which had befallen him, which he was the more
reluctant to confess, because he had passed so severe a judgment upon
Father Philip, who, as he was not unwilling to allow, had, on his
return from Glendearg, encountered obstacles somewhat similar to his
own. Of this the Sub-Prior was the more convinced, when, feeling in
his bosom for the Book which he had brought off from the Tower of
Glendearg, he found it was amissing, which he could only account for
by supposing it had been stolen from him during his trance.
"If I confess this strange visitation," thought the Sub-Prior, "I
become the ridicule of all my brethren--I whom the Primate sent hither
to be a watch, as it were, and a check upon their follies. I give the
Abbot an advantage over me which I shall never again recover, and
Heaven only knows how he may abuse it, in his foolish simplicity, to
the dishonour and loss of Holy Kirk.--But then, if I make not true
confession of my shame, with what face can I again presume to admonish
or restrain others?--Avow, proud heart," continued he, addressing
himself, "that the weal of Holy Church interests thee less in this
matter than thine own humiliation--Yes, Heaven has punished thee even
in that point in which thou didst deem thyself most strong, in thy
spiritual pride and thy carnal wisdom. Thou hast laughed at and
derided the inexperience of thy brethren--stoop thyself in turn to
their derision--tell what they may not believe--affirm that which they
will ascribe to idle fear, or perhaps to idle falsehood--sustain the
disgrace of a silly visionary, or a wilful deceiver.--Be it so, I will
do my duty, and make ample confession to my Superior. If the discharge
of this duty destroys my usefulness in this house, God and Our Lady
will send me where I can better serve them."
There was no little merit in the resolution thus piously and
generously formed by Father Eustace. To men of any rank the esteem of
their order is naturally most dear; but in the monastic establishment,
cut off, as the brethren are, from other objects of ambition, as well
as from all exterior friendship and relationship, the place which they
hold in the opinion of each other is all in all.
But the consciousness how much he should rejoice the Abbot and most of
the other monks of Saint Mary's, who were impatient of the
unauthorized, yet irresistible control, which he was wont to exercise
in the affairs of the convent, by a confession which would put him in
a ludicrous, or perhaps even in a criminal point of view, could not
weigh with Father Eustace in comparison with the task which his belief
As, strong in his feelings of duty, he approached the exterior gate of
the Monastery, he was surprised to see torches gleaming, and men
assembled around it, some on horseback, some on foot, while several of
the monks, distinguished through the night by their white scapularies,
were making themselves busy among the crowd. The Sub-Prior was
received with a unanimous shout of joy, which at once made him
sensible that he had himself been the object of their anxiety.
"There he is! there he is! God be thanked--there he is, hale and
fear!" exclaimed the vassals; while the monks exclaimed, "_Te Deum
laudamus_--the blood of thy servants is precious in thy sight!"
"What is the matter, children? what is the matter, my brethren?" said
Father Eustace, dismounting at the gate.
"Nay, brother, if thou know'st not, we will not tell thee till thou
art in the refectory," answered the monks; "suffice it that the Lord
Abbot had ordered these, our zealous and faithful vassals, instantly
to set forth to guard thee from imminent peril--Ye may ungirth your
horses, children, and dismiss; and to-morrow, each who was at this
rendezvous may send to the convent kitchen for a quarter of a yard of
roast beef, and a black-jack full of double ale." [Footnote: It was
one of the few reminiscences of Old Parr, or Henry Jenkins, I forget
which, that, at some convent in the veteran's neighbourhood, the
community, before the dissolution, used to dole out roast-beef in the
measure of feet and yards.]
The vassals dispersed with joyful acclamation, and the monks, with equal
jubilee, conducted the Sub-Prior into the refectory.
Sorry, no summary available yet.