Part 3 out of 10
indispensable, has been called to a better world. The Abbot Eustatius
is no more."
"May his soul have mercy!" said Magdalen Graeme, "and may Heaven, too,
have mercy upon us, who linger behind in this bloody land! His loss is
indeed a perilous blow to our enterprise; for who remains behind
possessing his far-fetched experience, his self-devoted zeal, his
consummate wisdom, and his undaunted courage! He hath fallen with the
church's standard in his hand, but God will raise up another to lift
the blessed banner. Whom have the Chapter elected in his room?"
"It is rumoured no one of the few remaining brethren dare accept the
office. The heretics have sworn that they will permit no future
election, and will heavily punish any attempt to create a new Abbot of
Saint Mary's. _Conjuraverunt inter se principes, dicentes,
Projiciamus laqueos ejus_."
"_Quousque, Domine!_"--ejaculated Magdalen; "this, my sister,
were indeed a perilous and fatal breach in our band; but I am firm in
my belief, that another will arise in the place of him so untimely
removed. Where is thy daughter Catharine?"
"In the parlour," answered the matron, "but"--She looked at Roland
Graeme, and muttered something in the ear of her friend.
"Fear it not," answered Magdalen Graeme, "it is both lawful and
necessary--fear nothing from him--I would he were as well grounded in
the faith by which alone comes safety, as he is free from thought,
deed, or speech of villany. Therein is the heretics' discipline to be
commended, my sister, that they train up their youth in strong
morality, and choke up every inlet to youthful folly."
"It is but a cleansing the outside of the cup," answered her friend,
"a whitening of the sepulchre; but he shall see Catharine, since you,
sister, judge it safe and meet.--Follow us, youth," she added, and led
the way from the apartment--with her friend. These were the only words
which the matron had addressed to Roland Graeme, who obeyed them in
silence. As they paced through several winding passages and waste
apartments with a very slow step, the young page had leisure to make
some reflections on his situation,--reflections of a nature which his
ardent temper considered as specially disagreeable. It seemed he had
now got two mistresses, or tutoresses, instead of one, both elderly
women, and both, it would seem, in league to direct his motions
according to their own pleasure, and for the accomplishment of plans
to which he was no party. This, he thought, was too much; arguing
reasonably enough, that whatever right his grandmother and
benefactress had to guide his motions, she was neither entitled to
transfer her authority or divide it with another, who seemed to
assume, without ceremony, the same tone of absolute command over him.
"But it shall not long continue thus," thought Roland; "I will not be
all my life the slave of a woman's whistle, to go when she bids, and
come when she calls. No, by Saint Andrew! the hand that can hold the
lance is above the control of the distaff. I will leave them the
slipp'd collar in their hands on the first opportunity, and let them
execute their own devices by their own proper force. It may save them
both from peril, for I guess what they meditate is not likely to prove
either safe or easy--the Earl of Murray and his heresy are too well
rooted to be grubbed up by two old women."
As he thus resolved, they entered a low room, in which a third female
was seated. This apartment was the first he had observed in the
mansion which was furnished with moveable seats, and with a wooden
table, over which was laid a piece of tapestry. A carpet was spread on
the floor, there was a grate in the chimney, and, in brief, the
apartment had the air of being habitable and inhabited.
But Roland's eyes found better employment than to make observations on
the accommodations of the chamber; for this second female inhabitant
of the mansion seemed something very different from any thing he had
yet seen there. At his first entry, she had greeted with a silent and
low obeisance the two aged matrons, then glancing her eyes towards
Roland, she adjusted a veil which hung back over her shoulders, so as
to bring it over her face; an operation which she performed with much
modesty, but without either affected haste or embarrassed timidity.
During this manoeuvre Roland had time to observe, that the face was
that of a girl apparently not much past sixteen, and that the eyes
were at once soft and brilliant. To these very favourable observations
was added the certainty that the fair object to whom they referred
possessed an excellent shape, bordering perhaps on _enbonpoint_,
and therefore rather that of a Hebe than of a Sylph, but beautifully
formed, and shown to great advantage by the close jacket and petticoat
which she wore after a foreign fashion, the last not quite long enough
to conceal a very pretty foot, which rested on a bar of the table at
which she sate; her round arms and taper fingers very busily employed
in repairing--the piece of tapestry which was spread on it, which
exhibited several deplorable fissures, enough to demand the utmost
skill of the most expert seamstress.
It is to be remarked, that it was by stolen glances that Roland Graeme
contrived to ascertain these interesting particulars; and he thought
he could once or twice, notwithstanding the texture of the veil,
detect the damsel in the act of taking similar cognizance of his own
person. The matrons in the meanwhile continued their separate
conversation, eyeing from time to time the young people, in a manner
which left Roland in no doubt that they were the subject of their
conversation. At length he distinctly heard Magdalen Graeme say these
words--"Nay, my sister, we must give them opportunity to speak
together, and to become acquainted; they must be personally known to
each other, or how shall they be able to execute what they are
It seemed as if the matron, not fully satisfied with her friend's
reasoning, continued to offer some objections; but they were borne
down by her more dictatorial friend.
"It must be so," she said, "my dear sister; let us therefore go forth
on the balcony, to finish our conversation.--And do you," she said,
addressing Roland and the girl, "become acquainted with each other."
With this she stepped up to the young woman, and raising her veil,
discovered features which, whatever might be their ordinary
complexion, were now covered with a universal blush.
"_Licitum sit,_" said Magdalen, looking at the other matron.
"_Vix licitum,_" replied the other, with reluctant and hesitating
acquiescence; and again adjusting the veil of the blushing girl, she
dropped it so as to shade, though not to conceal her countenance, and
whispered to her, in a tone loud enough for the page to hear,
"Remember, Catharine, who thou art, and for what destined."
The matron then retreated with Magdalen Graeme through one of the
casements of the apartment, that opened on a large broad balcony,
which, with its ponderous balustrade, had once run along the whole
south front of the building which faced the brook, and formed a
pleasant and commodious walk in the open air. It was now in some
places deprived of the balustrade, in others broken and narrowed; but,
ruinous as it was, could still be used as a pleasant promenade. Here
then walked the two ancient dames, busied in their private
conversation; yet not so much so, but that Roland could observe the
matrons, as their thin forms darkened the casement in passing or
repassing before it, dart a glance into the apartment, to see how
matters were going on there.
Chapter the Eleventh.
Life hath its May, and is mirthful then:
The woods are vocal, and the flowers all odour;
Its very blast has mirth in't,--and the maidens,
The while they don their cloaks to screen their kirtles,
Laugh at the rain that wets them.
Catherine was at the happy age of innocence and buoyancy of spirit,
when, after the first moment of embarrassment was over, a situation of
awkwardness, like that in which she was suddenly left to make
acquaintance with a handsome youth, not even known to her by name,
struck her, in spite of herself, in a ludicrous point of view. She
bent her beautiful eyes upon the work with which she was busied, and
with infinite gravity sate out the two first turns of the matrons upon
the balcony; but then, glancing her deep blue eye a little towards
Roland, and observing the embarrassment under which he laboured, now
shifting on his chair, and now dangling his cap, the whole man
evincing that he was perfectly at a loss how to open the conversation,
she could keep her composure no longer, but after a vain struggle
broke out into a sincere, though a very involuntary fit of laughing,
so richly accompanied by the laughter of her merry eyes, which
actually glanced through the tears which the effort filled them with,
and by the waving of her rich tresses, that the goddess of smiles
herself never looked more lovely than Catherine at that moment. A
court page would not have left her long alone in her mirth; but Roland
was country-bred, and, besides, having some jealousy as well as
bashfulness, he took it into his head that he was himself the object
of her inextinguishable laughter. His endeavours to sympathize with
Catherine, therefore, could carry him no farther than a forced giggle,
which had more of displeasure than of mirth in it, and which so much
enhanced that of the girl, that it seemed to render it impossible for
her ever to bring her laughter to an end, with whatever anxious pains
she laboured to do so. For every one has felt, that when a paroxysm of
laughter has seized him at a misbecoming time and place, the efforts
which he made to suppress it, nay, the very sense of the impropriety
of giving way to it, tend only to augment and prolong the irresistible
It was undoubtedly lucky for Catherine, as well as for Roland, that
the latter did not share in the excessive mirth of the former. For,
seated as she was, with her back to the casement, Catherine could
easily escape the observation of the two matrons during the course of
their promenade; whereas Graeme was so placed, with his side to the
window, that his mirth, had he shared that of his companion, would
have been instantly visible, and could not have failed to give offence
to the personages in question. He sate, however, with some impatience,
until Catherine had exhausted either her power or her desire of
laughing, and was returning with good grace to the exercise of her
needle, and then he observed with some dryness, that "there seemed no
great occasion to recommend to them to improve their acquaintance, as
it seemed, that they were already tolerably familiar."
Catherine had an extreme desire to set off upon a fresh score, but she
repressed it strongly, and fixing her eyes on her work, replied by
asking his pardon, and promising to avoid future offence.
Roland had sense enough to feel, that an air of offended dignity was
very much misplaced, and that it was with a very different bearing he
ought to meet the deep blue eyes which had borne such a hearty burden
in the laughing scene. He tried, therefore, to extricate himself as
well as he could from his blunder, by assuming a tone of correspondent
gaiety, and requesting to know of the nymph, "how it was her pleasure
that they should proceed in improving the acquaintance which had
commenced so merrily."
"That," she said, "you must yourself discover; perhaps I have gone a
step too far in opening our interview."
"Suppose," said Roland Graeme, "we should begin as in a tale-book, by
asking each other's names and histories?"
"It is right well imagined," said Catherine, "and shows an argute
judgment. Do you begin, and I will listen, and only put in a question
or two at the dark parts of the story. Come, unfold then your name and
history, my new acquaintance."
"I am called Roland Graeme, and that tall woman is my grandmother."
"And your tutoress?--good. Who are your parents?"
"They are both dead," replied Roland.
"Ay, but who were they? you _had_ parents, I presume?"
"I suppose so," said Roland, "but I have never been able to learn much
of their history. My father was a Scottish knight, who died gallantly
in his stirrups--my mother was a Graeme of Hathergill, in the
Debateable Land--most of her family were killed when the Debateable
country was burned by Lord Maxwell and Herries of Caerlaverock."
"Is it long ago?" said the damsel.
"Before I was born," answered the page.
"That must be a great while since," said she, shaking her head
gravely; "look you, I cannot weep for them."
"It needs not," said the youth, "they fell with honour."
"So much for your lineage, fair sir," replied his companion, "of whom
I like the living specimen (a glance at the casement) far less than
those that are dead. Your much honoured grandmother looks as if she
could make one weep in sad earnest. And now, fair sir, for your own
person--if you tell not the tale faster, it will be cut short in the
middle; Mother Bridget pauses longer and longer every time she passes
the window, and with her there is as little mirth as in the grave of
"My tale is soon told--I was introduced into the castle of Avenel to
be page to the lady of the mansion."
"She is a strict Huguenot, is she not?" said the maiden.
"As strict as Calvin himself. But my grandmother can play the puritan
when it suits her purpose, and she had some plan of her own, for
quartering me in the Castle--it would have failed, however, after we
had remained several weeks at the hamlet, but for an unexpected master
"And who was that?" said the girl.
"A large black dog, Wolf by name, who brought me into the castle one
day in his mouth, like a hurt wild-duck, and presented me to the
"A most respectable introduction, truly," said Catherine; "and what
might you learn at this same castle? I love dearly to know what my
acquaintances can do at need."
"To fly a hawk, hollow to a hound, back a horse, and wield lance, bow,
"And to boast of all this when you have learned it," said Catherine,
"which, in France at least, is the surest accomplishment of a page.
But proceed, fair sir; how came your Huguenot lord and your no less
Huguenot lady to receive and keep in the family so perilous a person
as a Catholic page?"
"Because they knew not that part of my history, which from infancy I
have been taught to keep secret--and because my grand-dame's former
zealous attendance on their heretic chaplain, had laid all this
suspicion to sleep, most fair Callipolis," said the page; and in so
saying, he edged his chair towards the seat of the fair querist.
"Nay, but keep your distance, most gallant sir," answered the
blue-eyed maiden, "for, unless I greatly mistake, these reverend
ladies will soon interrupt our amicable conference, if the
acquaintance they recommend shall seem to proceed beyond a certain
point--so, fair sir, be pleased to abide by your station, and reply to
my questions.--By what achievements did you prove the qualities of a
page, which you had thus happily acquired?"
Roland, who began to enter into the tone and spirit of the damsel's
conversation, replied to her with becoming spirit.
"In no feat, fair gentlewoman, was I found inexpert, wherein there was
mischief implied. I shot swans, hunted cats, frightened serving-women,
chased the deer, and robbed the orchard. I say nothing of tormenting
the chaplain in various ways, for that was my duty as a good
"Now, as I am a gentlewoman," said Catherine, "I think these heretics
have done Catholic penance in entertaining so all-accomplished a
serving-man! And what, fair sir, might have been the unhappy event
which deprived them of an inmate altogether so estimable?"
"Truly, fair gentlewoman," answered the youth, "your real proverb says
that the longest lane will have a turning, and mine was more--it was,
in fine, a turning off."
"Good!" said the merry young maiden, "it is an apt play on the word
--and what occasion was taken for so important a catastrophe?--Nay,
start not for my learning, I do know the schools--in plain phrase, why
were you sent from service?"
The page shrugged his shoulders while he replied,--"A short tale is
soon told--and a short horse soon curried. I made the falconer's boy
taste of my switch--the falconer threatened to make me brook his
cudgel--he is a kindly clown as well as a stout, and I would rather
have been cudgelled by him than any man in Christendom to choose--but
I knew not his qualities at that time--so I threatened to make him
brook the stab, and my Lady made me brook the 'Begone;' so adieu to
the page's office and the fair Castle of Avenel--I had not travelled
far before I met my venerable parent--And so tell your tale, fair
gentlewoman, for mine is done."
"A happy grandmother," said the maiden, "who had the luck to find the
stray page just when his mistress had slipped his leash, and a most
lucky page that has jumped at once from a page to an old lady's
"All this is nothing of your history," answered Roland Graeme, began to
be much interested in the congenial vivacity of this facetious young
gentlewoman,--" tale for tale is fellow-traveller's justice."
"Wait till we are fellow-travellers, then," replied Catherine.
"Nay, you escape me not so," said the page; "if you deal not justly by
me, I will call out to Dame Bridget, or whatever your dame be called,
and proclaim you for a cheat."
"You shall not need," answered the maiden--"my history is the
counterpart of your own; the same words might almost serve, change but
dress and name. I am called Catherine Seyton, and I also am an
"Have your parents been long dead?"
"This is the only question," said she, throwing down her fine eyes
with a sudden expression of sorrow, "that is the only question I
cannot laugh at."
"And Dame Bridget is your grandmother?"
The sudden cloud passed away like that which crosses for an instant
the summer sun, and she answered with her usual lively expression,
"Worse by twenty degrees--Dame Bridget is my maiden aunt."
"Over gods forbode!" said Roland--"Alas! that you have such a tale to
tell! and what horror comes next?"
"Your own history, exactly. I was taken upon trial for service--"
"And turned off for pinching the duenna, or affronting my lady's
"Nay, our history varies there," said the damsel--"Our mistress broke
up house, or had her house broke up, which is the same thing, and I am
a free woman of the forest."
"And I am as glad of it as if any one had lined my doublet with cloth
of gold," said the youth.
"I thank you for your mirth," said she, "but the matter is not likely
to concern you."
"Nay, but go on," said the page, "for you will be presently
interrupted; the two good dames have been soaring yonder on the
balcony, like two old hooded crows, and their croak grows hoarser as
night comes on; they will wing to roost presently.--This mistress of
yours, fair gentlewoman, who was she, in God's name?"
"Oh, she has a fair name in the world," replied Catherine Seyton. "Few
ladies kept a fairer house, or held more gentlewomen in her household;
my aunt Bridget was one of her housekeepers. We never saw our
mistress's blessed face, to be sure, but we heard enough of her; were
up early and down late, and were kept to long prayers and light food."
"Out upon the penurious old beldam!" said the page.
"For Heaven's sake, blaspheme not!" said the girl, with an expression
of fear.--"God pardon us both! I meant no harm. I speak of our blessed
Saint Catherine of Sienna!--may God forgive me that I spoke so
lightly, and made you do a great sin and a great blasphemy. This was
her nunnery, in which there were twelve nuns and an abbess. My aunt
was the abbess, till the heretics turned all adrift."
"And where are your companions?" asked the youth.
"With the last year's snow," answered the maiden; "east, north, south,
and west--some to France, some to Flanders, some, I fear, into the
world and its pleasures. We have got permission to remain, or rather
our remaining has been connived at, for my aunt has great relations
among the Kerrs, and they have threatened a death-feud if any one
touches us; and bow and spear are the best warrant in these times."
"Nay, then, you sit under a sure shadow," said the youth; "and I
suppose you wept yourself blind when Saint Catherine broke up
housekeeping before you had taken arles [Footnote: _Anglice_--
Earnest-money] in her service?"
"Hush! for Heaven's sake," said the damsel, crossing herself; "no more
of that! but I have not quite cried my eyes out," said she, turning
them upon him, and instantly again bending them upon her work. It was
one of those glances which would require the threefold plate of brass
around the heart, more than it is needed by the mariners, to whom
Horace recommends it. Our youthful page had no defence whatever to
"What say you, Catherine," he said, "if we two, thus strangely turned
out of service at the same time, should give our two most venerable
duennas the torch to hold, while we walk a merry measure with each
other over the floor of this weary world?"
"A goodly proposal, truly," said Catherine, "and worthy the mad-cap
brain of a discarded page!--And what shifts does your worship propose
we should live by?--by singing ballads, cutting purses, or swaggering
on the highway? for there, I think, you would find your most
"Choose, you proud peat!" said the page, drawing off in huge disdain
at the calm and unembarrassed ridicule with which his wild proposal
was received. And as he spoke the words, the casement was again
darkened by the forms of the matrons--it opened, and admitted Magdalen
Graeme and the Mother Abbess, so we must now style her, into the
Chapter the Twelfth.
Nay, hear me, brother--I am elder, wiser,
And holier than thou--And age, and wisdom,
And holiness, have peremptory claims,
And will be listen'd to.
When the matrons re-entered, and put an end to the conversation--which
we have detailed in the last chapter, Dame Magdalen Graeme thus
addressed her grandson and his pretty companion: "Have you spoke
together, my children?--Have you become known to each other as
fellow-travellers on the same dark and dubious road, whom chance hath
brought together, and who study to learn the tempers and dispositions
of those by whom their perils are to be shared?"
It was seldom the light-hearted Catharine could suppress a jest, so
that she often spoke when she would have acted more wisely in holding
"Your grandson admires the journey which you propose so very greatly,
that he was even now preparing for setting out upon it instantly."
"This is to be too forward, Roland," said the dame, addressing him,
"as yesterday you were over slack--the just mean lies in obedience,
which both waits for the signal to start, and obeys it when
given.--But once again, my children, have you so perused each other's
countenances, that when you meet, in whatever disguise the times may
impose upon you, you may recognize each in the other the secret agent
of the mighty work in which you are to be leagued?--Look at each
other, know each line and lineament of each other's countenance. Learn
to distinguish by the step, by the sound of the voice, by the motion
of the hand, by the glance of the eye, the partner whom Heaven hath
sent to aid in working its will.--Wilt thou know that maiden,
whensoever, or wheresoever you shall again meet her, my Roland
As readily as truly did Roland answer in the affirmative. "And thou,
my daughter, wilt thou again remember the features of this youth?"
"Truly, mother," replied Catherine Seyton, "I have not seen so many
men of late, that I should immediately forget your grandson, though I
mark not much about him that is deserving of especial remembrance."
"Join hands, then, my children," said Magdalen Graeme; but, in saying
so, was interrupted by her companion, whose conventual prejudices had
been gradually giving her more and more uneasiness, and who could
remain acquiescent no longer.
"Nay, my good sister, you forget," said she to Magdalen, "Catharine is
the betrothed bride of Heaven--these intimacies cannot be."
"It is in the cause of Heaven that I command them to embrace," said
Magdalen, with the full force of her powerful voice; "the end, sister,
sanctifies the means we must use."
"They call me Lady Abbess, or Mother at the least, who address me,"
said Dame Bridget, drawing herself up, as if offended at her friend's
authoritative manner--"the Lady of Heathergill forgets that she speaks
to the Abbess of Saint Catherine."
"When I was what you call me," said Magdalen, "you indeed were the
Abbess of Saint Catherine, but both names are now gone, with all the
rank that the world and that the church gave to them; and we are now,
to the eye of human judgment, two poor, despised, oppressed women,
dragging our dishonoured old age to a humble grave. But what are we in
the eye of Heaven?--Ministers, sent forth to work his will,--in whose
weakness the strength of the church shall be manifested-before whom
shall be humbled the wisdom of Murray, and the dark strength of
Morton,--And to such wouldst thou apply the narrow rules of thy
cloistered seclusion?--or, hast thou forgotten the order which I
showed thee from thy Superior, subjecting thee to me in these
"On thy head, then, be the scandal and the sin," said the Abbess,
"On mine be they both," said Magdalen. "I say, embrace each other,
But Catherine, aware, perhaps, how the dispute was likely to
terminate, had escaped from the apartment, and so disappointed the
grandson, at least as much as the old matron.
"She is gone," said the Abbess, "to provide some little refreshment.
But it will have little savour to those who dwell in the world; for I,
at least, cannot dispense with the rules to which I am vowed, because
it is the will of wicked men to break down the sanctuary in which they
wont to be observed."
"It is well, my sister," replied Magdalen, "to pay each even the
smallest tithes of mint and cummin which the church demands, and I
blame not thy scrupulous observance of the rules of thine order. But
they were established by the church, and for the church's benefit; and
reason it is that they should give way when the salvation of the
church herself is at stake."
The Abbess made no reply.
One more acquainted with human nature than the inexperienced page,
might have found amusement in comparing the different kinds of
fanaticisms which these two females exhibited. The Abbess, timid,
narrowminded, and discontented, clung to ancient usages and
pretensions which were ended by the Reformation; and was in adversity,
as she had been in prosperity, scrupulous, weak-spirited, and bigoted.
While the fiery and more lofty spirit of her companion suggested a
wider field of effort, and would not be limited by ordinary rules in
the extraordinary schemes which were suggested by her bold and
irregular imagination. But Roland Graeme, instead of tracing these
peculiarities of character in the two old damps, only waited with
great anxiety for the return of Catherine, expecting probably that the
proposal of the fraternal embrace would be renewed, as his grandmother
seemed disposed to carry matters with a high hand.
His expectations, or hopes, if we may call them so, were, however,
disappointed; for, when Catherine re-entered on the summons of the
Abbess, and placed on the table an earthen pitcher of water, and four
wooden platters, with cups of the same materials, the Dame of
Heathergill, satisfied with the arbitrary mode in which she had borne
down the opposition of the Abbess, pursued her victory no farther--a
moderation for which her grandson, in his heart, returned her but
In the meanwhile, Catherine continued to place upon the table the
slender preparations for the meal of a recluse, which consisted almost
entirely of colewort, boiled and served up in a wooden platter, having
no better seasoning than a little salt, and no better accompaniment
than some coarse barley-bread, in very moderate quantity. The
water-pitcher, already mentioned, furnished the only beverage. After a
Latin grace, delivered by the Abbess, the guests sat down to their
spare entertainment. The simplicity of the fare appeared to produce no
distaste in the females, who ate of it moderately, but with the usual
appearance of appetite. But Roland Graeme had been used to better
cheer. Sir Halbert Glendinning, who affected even an unusual degree of
nobleness in his housekeeping, maintained it in a style of genial
hospitality, which rivalled that of the Northern Barons of England. He
might think, perhaps, that by doing so, he acted yet more completely
the part for which he was born--that of a great Baron and a leader.
Two bullocks, and six sheep, weekly, were the allowance when the Baron
was at home, and the number was not greatly diminished during his
absence. A boll of malt was weekly brewed into ale, which was used by
the household at discretion. Bread was baked in proportion for the
consumption of his domestics and retainers; and in this scene of
plenty had Roland Graeme now lived for several years. It formed a bad
introduction to lukewarm greens and spring-water; and probably his
countenance indicated some sense of the difference, for the Abbess
observed, "It would seem, my son, that the tables of the heretic
Baron, whom you have so long followed, are more daintily furnished
than those of the suffering daughters of the church; and yet, not upon
the most solemn nights of festival, when the nuns were permitted to
eat their portion at mine own table, did I consider the cates, which
were then served up, as half so delicious as these vegetables and this
water, on which I prefer to feed, rather than do aught which may
derogate from the strictness of my vow. It shall never be said that
the mistress of this house made it a house of feasting, when days of
darkness and of affliction were hanging over the Holy Church, of which
I am an unworthy member."
"Well hast thou said, my sister," replied Magdalen Graeme; "but now it
is not only time to suffer in the good cause, but to act in it. And
since our pilgrim's meal is finished, let us go apart to prepare for
our journey tomorrow, and to advise on the manner in which these
children shall be employed, and what measures we can adopt to supply
their thoughtlessness and lack of discretion."
Notwithstanding his indifferent cheer, the heart of Roland Graeme
bounded high at this proposal, which he doubted not would lead to
another _tÍte-‚-tÍte_ betwixt him and the pretty novice. But he
was mistaken. Catherine, it would seem, had no mind so far to indulge
him; for, moved either by delicacy or caprice, or some of those
indescribable shades betwixt the one and the other, with which women
love to tease, and at the same time to captivate, the ruder sex, she
reminded the Abbess that it was necessary she should retire an hour
before vespers; and, receiving the ready and approving nod of her
Superior, she arose to withdraw. But before leaving the apartment, she
made obeisance to the matrons, bending herself till her hands touched
her knees, and then made a lesser reverence to Roland, which consisted
in a slight bend of the body and gentle depression of the head. This
she performed very demurely; but the party on whom the salutation was
conferred, thought he could discern in her manner an arch and
mischievous exultation over his secret disappointment.--"The devil
take the saucy girl," he thought in his heart, though the presence of
the Abbess should have repressed all such profane imaginations,--"she
is as hard-hearted as the laughing hyaena that the story-books tell
of--she has a mind that I shall not forget her this night at least."
The matrons now retired also, giving the page to understand that he
was on no account to stir from the convent, or to show himself at the
windows, the Abbess assigning as a reason, the readiness with which
the rude heretics caught at every occasion of scandalizing the
"This is worse than the rigour of Mr. Henry Warden, himself," said the
page, when he was left alone; "for, to do him justice, however strict
in requiring the most rigid attention during the time of his homilies,
he left us to the freedom of our own wills afterwards--ay, and would
take a share in our pastimes, too, if he thought them entirely
innocent. But these old women are utterly wrapt up in gloom, mystery
and self-denial.--Well, then, if I must neither stir out of the gate
nor look out at window, I will at least see what the inside of the
house contains that may help to pass away one's time--peradventure I
may light on that blue-eyed laugher in some corner or other."
Going, therefore, out of the chamber by the entrance opposite to that
through which the two matrons had departed, (for it may be readily
supposed that he had no desire to intrude on their privacy.) he
wandered from one chamber to another, through the deserted edifice,
seeking, with boyish eagerness, some source of interest and amusement.
Here he passed through a long gallery, opening on either hand into the
little cells of the nuns, all deserted, and deprived of the few
trifling articles of furniture which the rules of the order admitted.
"The birds are flown," thought the page; "but whether they will find
themselves worse off in the open air than in these damp narrow cages,
I leave my Lady Abbess and my venerable relative to settle betwixt
them. I think the wild young lark whom they have left behind them,
would like best to sing under God's free sky."
A winding stair, strait and narrow, as if to remind the nuns of their
duties of fast and maceration, led down to a lower suite of
apartments, which occupied the ground story of the house. These rooms
were even more ruinous than those which he had left; for, having
encountered the first fury of the assailants by whom the nunnery had
been wasted, the windows had been dashed in, the doors broken down,
and even the partitions betwixt the apartments, in some places,
destroyed. As he thus stalked from desolation to desolation, and began
to think of returning from so uninteresting a research to the chamber
which he had left, he was surprised to hear the low of a cow very
close to him. The sound was so unexpected at the time and place, that
Roland Graeme started as if it had been the voice of a lion, and laid
his hand on his dagger, while at the same moment the light and lovely
form of Catherine Seyton presented itself at the door of the apartment
from which the sound had issued.
"Good even to you, valiant champion!" said she: "since the days of
Guy of Warwick, never was one more worthy to encounter a dun cow."
"Cow?" said Roland Graeme, "by my faith, I thought it had been the
devil that roared so near me. Who ever heard of a convent containing a
"Cow and calf may come hither now," answered Catherine, "for we have
no means to keep out either. But I advise you, kind sir, to return to
the place from whence you came."
"Not till I see your charge, fair sister," answered Roland, and made
his way into the apartment, in spite of the half serious half laughing
remonstrances of the girl.
The poor solitary cow, now the only severe recluse within the nunnery,
was quartered in a spacious chamber, which had once been the refectory
of the convent. The roof was graced with groined arches, and the wall
with niches, from which the images had been pulled down. These
remnants of architectural ornaments were strangely contrasted with the
rude crib constructed for the cow in one corner of the apartment, and
the stack of fodder which was piled beside it for her food.
[Footnote: This, like the cell of Saint Cuthbert, is an imaginary
scene, but I took one or two ideas of the desolation of the interior
from a story told me by my father. In his youth--it may be near eighty
years since, as he was born in 1729--he had occasion to visit an old
lady who resided in a Border castle of considerable renown. Only one
very limited portion of the extensive ruins sufficed for the
accommodation of the inmates, and my father amused himself by
wandering through the part that was untenanted. In a dining-apartment,
having a roof richly adorned with arches and drops, there was
deposited a large stack of hay, to which calves were helping
themselves from opposite sides. As my father was scaling a dark
ruinous turnpike staircase, his greyhound ran up before him, and
probably was the means of saving his life, for the animal fell through
a trap-door, or aperture in the stair, thus warning the owner of the
danger of the ascent. As the dog continued howling from a great depth,
my father got the old butler, who alone knew most of the localities
about the castle, to unlock a sort of stable, in which Kill-buck was
found safe and sound, the place being filled with the same commodity
which littered the stalls of Augeas, and which had rendered the dog's
fall an easy one.]
"By my faith," said the page, "Crombie is more lordly lodged than any
"You had best remain with her," said Catherine, "and supply by your
filial attentions the offspring she has had the ill luck to lose."
"I will remain, at least, to help you to prepare her night's lair,
pretty Catherine," said Roland, seizing upon a pitch-fork.
"By no means," said Catherine; "for, besides that you know not in the
least how to do her that service, you will bring a chiding my way, and
I get enough of that in the regular course of things."
"What! for accepting my assistance?" said the page,--"for accepting
_my_ assistance, who am to be your confederate in some deep
matter of import? That were altogether unreasonable--and, now I think
on it, tell me if you can, what is this mighty emprise to which I am
"Robbing a bird's nest, I should suppose," said Catherine,
"considering the champion whom they have selected."
"By my faith," said the youth, "and he that has taken a falcon's nest
in the Scaurs of Polmoodie, has done something to brag of, my fair
sister.--But that is all over now--a murrain on the nest, and the
eyases and their food, washed or unwashed, for it was all anon of
cramming these worthless kites that I was sent upon my present
travels. Save that I have met with you, pretty sister, I could eat my
dagger-hilt for vexation at my own folly. But, as we are to be
"Fellow-labourers! not fellow-travellers!" answered the girl; "for to
your comfort be it known, that the Lady Abbess and I set out earlier
than you and your respected relative to-morrow, and that I partly
endure your company at present, because it may be long ere we meet
"By Saint Andrew, but it shall not though," answered Roland; "I will
not hunt at all unless we are to hunt in couples."
"I suspect, in that and in other points, we must do as we are bid,"
replied the young lady.--"But, hark! I hear my aunt's voice."
The old lady entered in good earnest, and darted a severe glance at
her niece, while Roland had the ready wit to busy himself about the
halter of the cow.
"The young gentleman," said Catherine, gravely, "is helping me to tie
the cow up faster to her stake, for I find that last night when she
put her head out of window and lowed, she alarmed the whole village;
and--we shall be suspected of sorcery among the heretics, if they do
not discover the cause of the apparition, or lose our cow if they do."
"Relieve yourself of that fear," said the Abbess, somewhat ironically;
"the person to whom she is now sold, comes for the animal presently."
"Good night, then, my poor companion," said Catherine, patting the
animal's shoulders; "I hope thou hast fallen into kind hands, for my
happiest hours of late have been spent in tending thee--I would I had
been born to no better task!"
"Now, out upon thee, mean-spirited wench!" said the Abbess; "is that a
speech worthy of the name of Seyton, or of the mouth of a sister of
this house, treading the path of election--and to be spoken before a
stranger youth, too?--Go to my oratory, minion--there read your Hours
till I come thither, when I will read you such a lecture as shall make
you prize the blessings which you possess."
Catherine was about to withdraw in silence, casting a half sorrowful
half comic glance at Roland Graeme, which seemed to say--"You see to
what your untimely visit has exposed me," when, suddenly changing her
mind, she came forward to the page, and extended her hand as she bid
him good evening. Their palms had pressed each other ere the
astonished matron could interfere, and Catherine had time to
say--"Forgive me, mother; it is long since we have seen a face that
looked with kindness on us. Since these disorders have broken up our
peaceful retreat, all has been gloom and malignity. I bid this youth
kindly farewell, because he has come hither in kindness, and because
the odds are great, that we may never again meet in this world. I
guess better than he, that the schemes on which you are rushing are
too mighty for your management, and that you are now setting the stone
a-rolling, which must surely crush you in its descent. I bid
fare-well," she added, "to my fellow-victim!"
This was spoken with a tone of deep and serious feeling, altogether
different from the usual levity of Catherine's manner, and plainly
showed, that beneath the giddiness of extreme youth and total
inexperience, there lurked in her bosom a deeper power of sense and
feeling, than her conduct had hitherto expressed.
The Abbess remained a moment silent after she had left the room. The
proposed rebuke died on her tongue, and she appeared struck with the
deep and foreboding, tone in which her niece had spoken her good-even.
She led the way in silence to the apartment which they had formerly
occupied, and where there was prepared a small refection, as the
Abbess termed it, consisting of milk and barley-bread. Magdalen
Graeme, summoned to take share in this collation, appeared from an
adjoining apartment, but Catherine was seen no more. There was little
said during the hasty meal, and after it was finished, Roland Graeme
was dismissed to the nearest cell, where some preparations had been
made for his repose.
The strange circumstances in which he found himself, had their usual
effect in preventing slumber from hastily descending on him, and he
could distinctly hear, by a low but earnest murmuring in the apartment
which he had left, that the matrons continued in deep consultation to
a late hour. As they separated he heard the Abbess distinctly express
herself thus: "In a word, my sister, I venerate your character and the
authority with which my Superiors have invested you; yet it seems to
me, that, ere entering on this perilous course, we should consult some
of the Fathers of the Church."
"And how and where are we to find a faithful Bishop or Abbot at whom
to ask counsel? The faithful Eustatius is no more--he is withdrawn
from a world of evil, and from the tyranny of heretics. May Heaven and
our Lady assoilzie him of his sins, and abridge the penance of his
mortal infirmities!--Where shall we find another, with whom to take
"Heaven will provide for the Church," said the Abbess; "and the
faithful fathers who yet are suffered to remain in the house of
Kennaquhair, will proceed to elect an Abbot. They will not suffer the
staff to fall down, or the mitre to be unfilled, for the threats of
"That will I learn to-morrow," said Magdalen Graeme; "yet who now
takes the office of an hour, save to partake with the spoilers in
their work of plunder?--to-morrow will tell us if one of the thousand
saints who are sprung from the House of Saint Mary's continues to look
down on it in its misery.--Farewell, my sister--we meet at Edinburgh."
"Benedicito!" answered the Abbess, and they parted.
"To Kennaquhair and to Edinburgh we bend our way." thought Roland
Graeme. "That information have I purchased by a sleepless hour--it
suits well with my purpose. At Kennaquhair I shall see Father
Ambrose;--at Edinburgh I shall find the means of shaping my own course
through this bustling world, without burdening my affectionate
relation--at Edinburgh, too, I shall see again the witching novice,
with her blue eyes and her provoking smile."--He fell asleep, and it
was to dream of Catherine Seyton.
Chapter the Thirteenth.
What, Dagon up again!--I thought we had hurl'd him
Down on the threshold, never more to rise.
Bring wedge and axe; and, neighbours, lend your hands
And rive the idol into winter fagots!
ATHELSTANE, OR THE CONVERTED DANE.
Roland Graeme slept long and sound, and the sun was high over the
horizon, when the voice of his companion summoned him to resume their
pilgrimage; and when, hastily arranging his dress, he went to attend
her call, the enthusiastic matron stood already at the threshold,
prepared for her journey. There was in all the deportment of this
remarkable woman, a promptitude of execution, and a sternness of
perseverance, founded on the fanaticism which she nursed so deeply,
and which seemed to absorb all the ordinary purposes and feelings of
mortality. One only human affection gleamed through her enthusiastic
energies, like the broken glimpses of the sun through the rising
clouds of a storm. It was her maternal fondness for her grandson--a
fondness carried almost to the verge of dotage, in circumstances where
the Catholic religion was not concerned, but which gave way instantly
when it chanced either to thwart or come in contact with the more
settled purpose of her soul, and the more devoted duty of her life.
Her life she would willingly have laid down to save the earthly object
of her affection; but that object itself she was ready to hazard, and
would have been willing to sacrifice, could the restoration of the
Church of Rome have been purchased with his blood. Her discourse by
the way, excepting on the few occasions in which her extreme love of
her grandson found opportunity to display itself in anxiety for his
health and accommodation, turned entirely on the duty of raising up
the fallen honours of the Church, and replacing a Catholic sovereign
on the throne. There were times at which she hinted, though very
obscurely and distantly, that she herself was foredoomed by Heaven to
perform a part in this important task; and that she had more than mere
human warranty for the zeal with which she engaged in it. But on this
subject she expressed herself in such general language, that it was
not easy to decide whether she made any actual pretensions to a direct
and supernatural call, like the celebrated Elizabeth Barton, commonly
called the Nun of Kent; [Footnote: A fanatic nun, called the Holy Maid
of Kent, who pretended to the gift of prophecy and power of miracles.
Having denounced the doom of speedy death against Henry VIII. for his
marriage with Anne Boleyn, the prophetess was attainted in Parliament,
and executed with her accomplices. Her imposture was for a time so
successful, that even Sir Thomas More was disposed to be a believer.]
or whether she dwelt upon the general duty which was incumbent on all
Catholics of the time, and the pressure of which she felt in an
Yet though Magdalen Graeme gave no direct intimation of her
pretensions to be considered as something beyond the ordinary class of
mortals, the demeanour of one or two persons amongst the travellers
whom they occasionally met, as they entered the more fertile and
populous part of the valley, seemed to indicate their belief in her
superior attributes. It is true, that two clowns, who drove before
them a herd of cattle--one or two village wenches, who seemed bound
for some merry-making--a strolling soldier, in a rusted morion, and a
wandering student, as his threadbare black cloak and his satchel of
books proclaimed him--passed our travellers without observation, or
with a look of contempt; and, moreover, that two or three children,
attracted by the appearance of a dress so nearly resembling that of a
pilgrim, joined in hooting and calling "Out upon the mass-monger!" But
one or two, who nourished in their bosoms respect for the downfallen
hierarchy--casting first a timorous glance around, to see that no one
observed them--hastily crossed themselves--bent their knee to Sister
Magdalen, by which name they saluted her--kissed her hand, or even the
hem of her dalmatique--received with humility the Benedicite with
which she repaid their obeisance; and then starting up, and again
looking timidly round to see that they had been unobserved, hastily
resumed their journey. Even while within sight of persons of the
prevailing faith, there were individuals bold enough, by folding their
arms and bending their head, to give distant and silent intimation
that they recognized Sister Magdalen, and honoured alike her person
and her purpose.
She failed not to notice to her grandson these marks of honour and
respect which from time to time she received. "You see," she said, "my
son, that the enemies have been unable altogether to suppress the good
spirit, or to root out the true seed. Amid heretics and schismatics,
spoilers of the church's lands, and scoffers at saints and sacraments,
there is left a remnant."
"It is true, my mother," said Roland Graeme; "but methinks they are of
a quality which can help us but little. See you not all those who wear
steel at their side, and bear marks of better quality, ruffle past us
as they would past the meanest beggars? for those who give us any
marks of sympathy, are the poorest of the poor, and most outcast of
the needy, who have neither bread to share with us, nor swords to
defend us, nor skill to use them if they had. That poor wretch that
last kneeled to you with such deep devotion, and who seemed emaciated
by the touch of some wasting disease within, and the grasp of poverty
without--that pale, shivering, miserable caitiff, how can he aid the
great schemes you meditate?"
"Much, my son," said the Matron, with more mildness than the page
perhaps expected. "When that pious son of the church returns from the
shrine of Saint Ringan, whither he now travels by my counsel, and by
the aid of good Catholics,--when he returns, healed, of his wasting
malady, high in health, and strong in limb, will not the glory of his
faithfulness, and its miraculous reward, speak louder in the ears of
this besotted people of Scotland, than the din which is weekly made in
a thousand heretical pulpits?"
"Ay, but, mother, I fear the Saint's hand is out. It is long since we
have heard of a miracle performed at St. Ringan's."
The matron made a dead pause, and, with a voice tremulous with
emotion, asked, "Art thou so unhappy as to doubt the power of the
"Nay, mother," the youth hastened to reply, "I believe as the Holy
Church commands, and doubt not Saint Ringan's power of healing; but,
be it said with reverence, he hath not of late showed the
"And has this land deserved it?" said the Catholic matron, advancing
hastily while she spoke, until she attained the summit of a rising
ground, over which the path led, and then standing again still.
"Here," she said, "stood the Cross, the limits of the Halidome of
Saint Mary's--here--on this eminence--from which the eye of the holy
pilgrim might first catch a view of that ancient monastery, the light
of the land, the abode of Saints, and the grave of monarchs--Where is
now that emblem of our faith? It lies on the earth--a shapeless block,
from which the broken fragments have been carried off, for the meanest
uses, till now no semblance of its original form remains. Look towards
the east, my son, where the sun was wont to glitter on stately
spires--from which crosses and bells have now been hurled, as if the
land had been invaded once more by barbarous heathens.--Look at yonder
battlements, of which we can, even at this distance, descry the
partial demolition; and ask if this land can expect from the blessed
saints, whose shrines and whose images have been profaned, any other
miracles but those of vengeance? How long," she exclaimed, looking
upward, "How long shall it be delayed?" She paused, and then resumed
with enthusiastic rapidity, "Yes, my son, all on earth is but for a
period--joy and grief, triumph and desolation, succeed each other like
cloud and sunshine;--the vineyard shall not be forever trodden down,
the gaps shall be amended, and the fruitful branches once more dressed
and trimmed. Even this day--ay, even this hour, I trust to hear news
of importance. Dally not--let us on--time is brief, and judgment is
She resumed the path which led to the Abbey--a path which, in ancient
times, was carefully marked out by posts and rails, to assist the
pilgrim in his journey--these were now torn up and destroyed. A
half-hour's walk placed them in front of the once splendid Monastery,
which, although the church was as yet entire, had not escaped the fury
of the times. The long range of cells and of apartments for the use of
the brethren, which occupied two sides of the great square, were
almost entirely ruinous, the interior having been consumed by fire,
which only the massive architecture of the outward walls had enabled
them to resist. The Abbot's house, which formed the third side of the
square, was, though injured, still inhabited, and afforded refuge to
the few brethren, who yet, rather by connivance than by actual
authority,--were permitted to remain at Kennaquhair. Their stately
offices--their pleasant gardens--the magnificent cloisters constructed
for their recreation, were all dilapidated and ruinous; and some of
the building materials had apparently been put into requisition by
persons in the village and in the vicinity, who, formerly vassals of
the Monastery, had not hesitated to appropriate to themselves a part
of the spoils. Roland saw fragments of Gothic pillars richly carved,
occupying the place of door-posts to the meanest huts; and here and
there a mutilated statue, inverted or laid on its side, made the
door-post, or threshold, of a wretched cow-house. The church itself
was less injured than the other buildings of the Monastery. But the
images which had been placed in the numerous niches of its columns and
buttresses, having all fallen under the charge of idolatry, to which
the superstitious devotion of the Papists had justly exposed them, had
been broken and thrown down, without much regard to the preservation
of the rich and airy canopies and pedestals on which they were placed;
nor, if the devastation had stopped short at this point, could we have
considered the preservation of these monuments of antiquity as an
object to be put in the balance with the introduction of the reformed
Our pilgrims saw the demolition of these sacred and venerable
representations of saints and angels--for as sacred and venerable they
had been taught to consider them--with very different feelings. The
antiquary may be permitted to regret the necessity of the action, but
to Magdalen Graeme it seemed a deed of impiety, deserving the instant
vengeance of heaven,--a sentiment in which her relative joined for the
moment as cordially as herself. Neither, however, gave vent to their
feelings in words, and uplifted hands and eyes formed their only mode
of expressing them. The page was about to approach the great eastern
gate of the church, but was prevented by his guide. "That gate," she
said, "has long been blockaded, that the heretical rabble may not know
there still exist among the brethren of Saint Mary's men who dare
worship where their predecessors prayed while alive, and were interred
when dead--follow me this way, my son."
Roland Graeme followed accordingly; and Magdalen, casting a hasty
glance to see whether they were observed, (for she had learned caution
from the danger of the times,) commanded her grandson to knock at a
little wicket which she pointed out to him. "But knock gently," she
added, with a motion expressive of caution. After a little space,
during which no answer was returned, she signed to Roland to repeat
his summons for admission; and the door at length partially opening,
discovered a glimpse of the thin and timid porter, by whom the duty
was performed, skulking from the observation of those who stood
without; but endeavouring at the same time to gain a sight of them
without being himself seen. How different from the proud consciousness
of dignity with which the porter of ancient days offered his important
brow, and his goodly person, to the pilgrims who repaired to
Kennaquhair! His solemn "_Intrate, mei filii,_" was exchanged for
a tremulous "You cannot enter now--the brethren are in their
chambers." But, when Magdalen Graeme asked, in an under tone of voice,
"Hast thou forgotten me, my brother?" he changed his apologetic
refusal to "Enter, my honoured sister, enter speedily, for evil eyes
are upon us"
They entered accordingly, and having waited until the porter had, with
jealous haste, barred and bolted the wicket, were conducted by him
through several dark and winding passages. As they walked slowly on,
he spoke to the matron in a subdued voice, as if he feared to trust
the very walls with the avowal which he communicated.
"Our Fathers are assembled in the Chapter-house, worthy sister--yes,
in the Chapter-house--for the election of an Abbott.--Ah, Benedicite!
there must be no ringing of bells--no high mass--no opening of the
great gates now, that the people might see and venerate their
spiritual Father! Our Fathers must hide themselves rather like robbers
who choose a leader, than godly priests who elect a mitred Abbot."
"Regard not that, my brother," answered Magdalen Graeme; "the first
successors of Saint Peter himself were elected, not in sunshine, but
in tempests--not in the halls of the Vatican, but in the subterranean
vaults and dungeons of heathen Rome--they were not gratulated with
shouts and salvos of cannon-shot and of musketry, and the display of
artificial fire--no, my brother--but by the hoarse summons of Lictors
and Praetors, who came to drag the Fathers of the Church to martyrdom.
From such adversity was the Church once raised, and by such will it
now be purified.--And mark me, brother! not in the proudest days of
the mitred Abbey, was a Superior ever chosen, whom his office shall so
much honour, as _he_ shall be honoured, who now takes it upon him
in these days of tribulation. On whom, my brother, will the choice
"On whom can it fall--or, alas! who would dare to reply to the call,
save the worthy pupil of the Sainted Eustatius--the good and valiant
"I know it," said Magdalen; "my heart told me long ere your lips had
uttered his name. Stand forth, courageous champion, and man the fatal
breach!--Rise, bold and experienced pilot, and seize the helm while
the tempest rages!--Turn back the battle, brave raiser of the fallen
standard!--Wield crook and slang, noble shepherd of a scattered
"I pray you, hush, my sister!" said the porter, opening a door which
led into the great church, "the brethren will be presently here to
celebrate their election with a solemn mass--I must marshal them the
way to the high altar--all the offices of this venerable house have
now devolved on one poor decrepit old man."
He left the church, and Magdalen and Roland remained alone in that
great vaulted space, whose style of rich, yet chaste architecture,
referred its origin to the early part of the fourteenth century, the
best period of Gothic building. But the niches were stripped of their
images in the inside as well as the outside of the church; and in the
pell-mell havoc, the tombs of warriors and of princes had been
included in the demolition of the idolatrous shrines. Lances and
swords of antique size, which had hung over the tombs of mighty
warriors of former days, lay now strewed among relics, with which the
devotion of pilgrims had graced those of their peculiar saints; and
the fragments of the knights and dames, which had once lain recumbent,
or kneeled in an attitude of devotion, where their mortal relics were
reposed, were mingled with those of the saints and angels of the
Gothic chisel, which the hand of violence had sent headlong from their
The most fatal symptom of the whole appeared to be, that, though this
violence had now been committed for many months, the Fathers had lost
so totally all heart and resolution, that they had not adventured even
upon clearing away the rubbish, or restoring the church to some decent
degree of order. This might have been done without much labour. But
terror had overpowered the scanty remains of a body once so powerful,
and, sensible they were only suffered to remain in this ancient seat
by connivance and from compassion, they did not venture upon taking
any step which might be construed into an assertion of their ancient
rights, contenting themselves with the secret and obscure exercise of
their religious ceremonial, in as unostentatious a manner as was
Two or three of the more aged brethren had sunk under the pressure of
the times, and the ruins had been partly cleared away to permit their
interment. One stone had been laid over Father Nicholas, which
recorded of him in special, that he had taken the vows during the
incumbency of Abbot Ingelram, the period to which his memory so
frequently recurred. Another flag-stone, yet more recently deposited,
covered the body of Philip the Sacristan, eminent for his aquatic
excursion with the phantom of Avenel, and a third, the most recent of
all, bore the outline of a mitre, and the words _Hic jacet Eustatius
Abbas_; for no one dared to add a word of commendation in favour of
his learning, and strenuous zeal for the Roman Catholic faith.
Magdalen Graeme looked at and perused the brief records of these
monuments successively, and paused over that of Father Eustace. "In a
good hour for thyself," she said, "but oh! in an evil hour for the
Church, wert thou called from us. Let thy spirit be with us, holy
man--encourage thy successor to tread in thy footsteps--give him thy
bold and inventive capacity, thy zeal and thy discretion--even
_thy_ piety exceeds not his." As she spoke, a side door, which
closed a passage from the Abbot's house into the church, was thrown
open, that the Fathers might enter the choir, and conduct to the high
altar the Superior whom they had elected.
In former times, this was one of the most splendid of the many
pageants which the hierarchy of Rome had devised to attract the
veneration of the faithful. The period during which the Abbacy
remained vacant, was a state of mourning, or, as their emblematical
phrase expressed it, of widowhood; a melancholy term, which was
changed into rejoicing and triumph when a new Superior was chosen.
When the folding doors were on such solemn occasions thrown open, and
the new Abbot appeared on the threshold in full-blown dignity, with
ring and mitre, and dalmatique and crosier, his hoary standard-bearers
and his juvenile dispensers of incense preceding him, and the
venerable train of monks behind him, with all besides which could
announce the supreme authority to which he was now raised, his
appearance was a signal for the magnificent _jubilate_ to rise
from the organ and music-loft, and to be joined by the corresponding
bursts of Alleluiah from the whole assembled congregation. Now all was
changed. In the midst of rubbish and desolation, seven or eight old
men, bent and shaken as much by grief and fear as by age, shrouded
hastily in the proscribed dress of their order, wandered like a
procession of spectres, from the door which had been thrown open, up
through the encumbered passage, to the high altar, there to instal
their elected Superior a chief of ruins. It was like a band of
bewildered travellers choosing a chief in the wilderness of Arabia; or
a shipwrecked crew electing a captain upon the barren island on which
fate has thrown them.
They who, in peaceful times, are most ambitious of authority among
others, shrink from the competition at such eventful periods, when
neither ease nor parade attend the possession of it, and when it gives
only a painful pre-eminence both in danger and in labour, and exposes
the ill-fated chieftain to the murmurs of his discontented associates,
as well as to the first assault of the common enemy. But he on whom
the office of the Abbot of Saint Mary's was now conferred, had a mind
fitted for the situation to which he was called. Bold and
enthusiastic, yet generous and forgiving--wise and skilful, yet
zealous and prompt--he wanted but a better cause than the support of a
decaying superstition, to have raised him to the rank of a truly great
man. But as the end crowns the work, it also forms the rule by which
it must be ultimately judged; and those who, with sincerity and
generosity, fight and fall in an evil cause, posterity can only
compassionate as victims of a generous but fatal error. Amongst these,
we must rank Ambrosius, the last Abbot of Kennaqubair, whose designs
must be condemned, as their success would have riveted on Scotland the
chains of antiquated superstition and spiritual tyranny; but whose
talents commanded respect, and whose virtues, even from the enemies of
his faith, extorted esteem.
The bearing of the new Abbot served of itself to dignify a ceremonial
which was deprived of all other attributes of grandeur. Conscious of
the peril in which they stood, and recalling, doubtless, the better
days they had seen, there hung over his brethren an appearance of
mingled terror, and grief, and shame, which induced them to hurry over
the office in which they were engaged, as something at once degrading
But not so Father Ambrose. His features, indeed, expressed a deep
melancholy, as he walked up the centre aisle, amid the ruin of things
which he considered as holy, but his brow was undejected, and his step
firm and solemn. He seemed to think that the dominion which he was
about to receive, depended in no sort upon the external circumstances
under which it was conferred; and if a mind so firm was accessible to
sorrow or fear, it was not on his own account, but on that of the
Church to which he had devoted himself.
At length he stood on the broken steps of the high altar, barefooted,
as was the rule, and holding in his hand his pastoral staff, for the
gemmed ring and jewelled mitre had become secular spoils. No obedient
vassals came, man after man, to make their homage, and to offer the
tribute which should provide their spiritual Superior with palfrey and
trappings. No Bishop assisted at the solemnity, to receive into the
higher ranks of the Church nobility a dignitary, whose voice in the
legislature was as potential as his own. With hasty and maimed rites,
the few remaining brethren stepped forward alternately to give their
new Abbot the kiss of peace, in token of fraternal affection and
spiritual homage. Mass was then hastily performed, but in such
precipitation as if it had been hurried over rather to satisfy the
scruples of a few youths, who were impatient to set out on a hunting
party, than as if it made the most solemn part of a solemn ordination.
The officiating priest faltered as he spoke the service, and often
looked around, as if he expected to be interrupted in the midst of his
office; and the brethren listened to that which, short as it was, they
wished yet more abridged.[Footnote: In Catholic countries, in order to
reconcile the pleasures of the great with the observances of religion,
it was common, when a party was bent for the chase, to celebrate mass,
abridged and maimed of its rites, called a hunting-mass, the brevity
of which was designed to correspond with the impatience of the
These symptoms of alarm increased as the ceremony proceeded, and, as
it seemed, were not caused by mere apprehension alone; for, amid the
pauses of the hymn, there were heard without sounds of a very
different sort, beginning faintly and at a distance, but at length
approaching close to the exterior of the church, and stunning with
dissonant clamour those engaged in the service. The winding of horns,
blown with no regard to harmony or concert; the jangling of bells, the
thumping of drums, the squeaking of bagpipes, and the clash of
cymbals--the shouts of a multitude, now as in laughter, now as in
anger--the shrill tones of female voices, and of those of children,
mingling with the deeper clamour of men, formed a Babel of sounds,
which first drowned, and then awed into utter silence, the official
hymns of the Convent. The cause and result of this extraordinary
interruption will be explained in the next chapter.
Chapter the Fourteenth.
Not the wild billow, when it breaks its barrier--
Not the wild wind, escaping from its cavern--
Not the wild fiend, that mingles both together,
And pours their rage upon the ripening harvest,
Can match the wild freaks of this mirthful meeting--
Comic, yet fearful--droll, and yet destructive.
The monks ceased their song, which, like that of the choristers in the
legend of the Witch of Berkley, died away in a quaver of
consternation; and, like a flock of chickens disturbed by the presence
of the kite, they at first made a movement to disperse and fly in
different directions, and then, with despair, rather than hope,
huddled themselves around their new Abbot; who, retaining the lofty
and undismayed look which had dignified him through the whole
ceremony, stood on the higher step of the altar, as if desirous to be
the most conspicuous mark on which danger might discharge itself, and
to save his companions by his self-devotion, since he could afford
them no other protection.
Involuntarily, as it were, Magdalen Graeme and the page stepped from
the station which hitherto they had occupied unnoticed, and approached
to the altar, as desirous of sharing the fate which approached the
monks, whatever that might be. Both bowed reverently low to the Abbot;
and while Magdalen seemed about to speak, the youth, looking towards
the main entrance, at which the noise now roared most loudly, and
which was at the same time assailed with much knocking, laid his hand
upon his dagger.
The Abbot motioned to both to forbear: "Peace, my sister," he said, in
a low tone, but which, being in a different key from the tumultuary
sounds without, could be distinctly heard, even amidst the
tumult;--"Peace," he said, "my sister; let the new Superior of Saint
Mary's himself receive and reply to the grateful acclamations of the
vassals, who come to celebrate his installation.--And thou, my son,
forbear, I charge thee, to touch thy earthly weapon;--if it is the
pleasure of our protectress, that her shrine be this day desecrated by
deeds of violence, and polluted by blood-shedding, let it not, I
charge thee, happen through the deed of a Catholic son of the church."
The noise and knocking at the outer gate became now every moment
louder; and voices were heard impatiently demanding admittance. The
Abbot, with dignity, and with a step which even the emergency of
danger rendered neither faltering nor precipitate, moved towards the
portal, and demanded to know, in a tone of authority, who it was that
disturbed their worship, and what they desired?
There was a moment's silence, and then a loud laugh from without. At
length a voice replied, "We desire entrance into the church; and when
the door is opened you will soon see who we are."
"By whose authority do you require entrance?" said the Father.
"By authority of the right reverend Lord Abbot of Unreason,"
[Footnote: We learn from no less authority than that of Napoleon
Bonaparte, that there is but a single step between the sublime and
ridiculous; and it is a transition from one extreme to another; so
very easy, that the vulgar of every degree are peculiarly captivated
with it. Thus the inclination to laugh becomes uncontrollable, when
the solemnity and gravity of time, place, and circumstances, render it
peculiarly improper. Some species of general license, like that which
inspired the ancient Saturnalia, or the modern Carnival, has been
commonly indulged to the people at all times and in almost all
countries. But it was, I think, peculiar to the Roman Catholic Church,
that while they studied how to render their church rites imposing and
magnificent, by all that pomp, music, architecture, and external
display could add to them, they nevertheless connived, upon special
occasions, at the frolics of the rude vulgar, who, in almost all
Catholic countries, enjoyed, or at least assumed, the privilege of
making: some Lord of the revels, who, under the name of the Abbot of
Unreason, the Boy Bishop, or the President of Fools, occupied the
churches, profaned the holy places by a mock imitation of the sacred
rites, and sung indecent parodies on hymns of the church. The
indifference of the clergy, even when their power was greatest, to the
indecent exhibitions which they always tolerated, and sometimes
encouraged, forms a strong contrast to the sensitiveness with which
they regarded any serious attempt, by preaching or writing, to impeach
any of the doctrines of the church. It could only be compared to the
singular apathy with which they endured, and often admired the gross
novels which Chaucer, Dunbar, Boccacio, Bandello, and others, composed
upon the bad morals of the clergy. It seems as if the churchmen in
both instances had endeavoured to compromise with the laity, and
allowed them occasionally to gratify their coarse humour by indecent
satire, provided they would abstain from any grave question concerning
the foundation of the doctrines on which was erected such an immense
fabric of ecclesiastical power.
But the sports thus licensed assumed a very different appearance, so
soon as the Protestant doctrines began to prevail; and the license
which their forefathers had exercised in mere gaiety of heart, and
without the least intention of dishonouring religion by their frolics,
were now persevered in by the common people as a mode of testifying
their utter disregard for the Roman priesthood and its ceremonies.
I may observe, for example, the case of an apparitor sent to Borthwick
from the Primate of Saint Andrews, to cite the lord of that castle,
who was opposed by an Abbot of Unreason, at whose command the officer
of the spiritual court was appointed to be ducked in a mill-dam, and
obliged to eat up his parchment citation.
The reader may be amused with the following whimsical details of this
incident, which took place in the castle of Borthwick, in the year
1517. It appears, that in consequence of a process betwixt Master
George Hay de Minzeane and the Lord Borthwick, letters of
excommunication had passed against the latter, on account of the
contumacy of certain witnesses. William Langlands, an apparitor or
macer (_bacularius_) of the See of St Andrews, presented these
letters to the curate of the church of Borthwick, requiring him to
publish the same at the service of high mass. It seems that the
inhabitants of the castle were at this time engaged in the favourite
sport of enacting the Abbot of Unreason, a species of high jinks, in
which a mimic prelate was elected, who, like the Lord of Misrule in
England, turned all sort of lawful authority, and particularly the
church ritual, into ridicule. This frolicsome person with his retinue,
notwithstanding of the apparitor's character, entered the church,
seized upon the primate's officer without hesitation, and, dragging
him to the mill-dam on the south side of the castle, compelled him to
leap into the water. Not contented with this partial immersion, the
Abbot of Unreason pronounced, that Mr. William Langlands was not yet
sufficiently bathed, and therefore caused his assistants to lay him on
his back in the stream, and duck him in the most satisfactory and
perfect manner. The unfortunate apparitor was then conducted back to
the church, where, for his refreshment after his bath, the letters of
excommunication were torn to pieces, and steeped in a bowl of wine;
the mock abbot being probably of opinion that a tough parchment was
but dry eating, Langlands was compelled to eat the letters, and
swallow the wine, and dismissed by the Abbot of Unreason, with the
comfortable assurance, that if any more such letters should arrive
during the continuance of his office, "they should a' gang the same
gate," _i. e._ go the same road.
A similar scene occurs betwixt a sumner of the Bishop of Rochester,
and Harpool, the servant of Lord Cobham, in the old play of Sir John
Oldcastle, when the former compels the church-officer to eat his
citation. The dialogue, which may be found in the note, contains most
of the jests which may be supposed, appropriate to such an
_Harpool_ Marry, sir, is, this process parchment?
_Sumner._ Yes, marry is it.
_Harpool._ And this seal wax?
_Sumner._ It is so.
_Harpool._ If this be parchment, and this be wax, eat you this
parchment and wax, or I will make parchment of your skin, and beat
your brains into wax. Sirrah Sumner, despatch--devour, sirrah, devour.
_Sumner._ I am my Lord of Rochester's sumner; I came to do my
office, and thou shall answer it.
_Harpool._ Sirrah, no railing, but, betake thyself to thy teeth.
Thou shalt, eat no worse than thou bringest with thee. Thou bringest
it for my lord; and wilt thou bring my lord worse than thou wilt eat
_Sumner._ Sir. I brought it not my lord to eat.
_Harpool._ O, do you Sir me now? All's one for that; I'll make
you eat it for bringing it.
_Sumner._ I cannot eat it.
_Harpool._ Can you not? 'Sblood, I'll beat you till you have a
stomach! (_Beats him._)
_Sumner._ Oh, hold, hold, good Mr. Servingman; I will eat it.
_Harpool._ Be champing, be chewing, sir, or I will chew you, you
rogue. Tough wax is the purest of the honey.
_Sumner._ The purest of the honey?--O Lord, sir, oh! oh!
_Harpool._ Feed, feed; 'tis wholesome, rogue, wholesome. Cannot
you, like an honest sumner, walk with the devil your brother, to fetch
in your bailiff's rents, but you must come to a nobleman's house with
process! If the seal were broad as the lead which covers Rochester
Church, thou shouldst eat it.
_Sumner._ Oh, I am almost choked--I am almost choked!
_Harpool._ Who's within there? Will you shame my lord? Is there
no beer in the house? Butler, I say.
_Butler._ Here, here.
_Harpool._ Give him beer. Tough old sheep skin's but dry meat.
_First Part of Sir John Oldcastle_, Act II. Scene I.]
replied the voice from without; and, from the laugh--which followed,
it seemed as if there was something highly ludicrous couched under
"I know not, and seek not to know, your meaning," replied the Abbot,
"since it is probably a rude one. But begone, in the name of God, and
leave his servants in peace. I speak this, as having lawful authority
to command here."
"Open the door," said another rude voice, "and we will try titles with
you, Sir Monk, and show you a superior we must all obey."
"Break open the doors if he dallies any longer," said a third, "and
down with the carrion monks who would bar us of our privilege!" A
general shout followed. "Ay, ay, our privilege! our privilege! down
with the doors, and with the lurdane monks, if they make opposition!"
The knocking was now exchanged for blows with great, hammers, to which
the doors, strong as they were, must soon have given way. But the
Abbot, who saw resistance would be in vain, and who did not wish to
incense the assailants by an attempt at offering it, besought silence
earnestly, and with difficulty obtained a hearing. "My children," said
he, "I will save you from committing a great sin. The porter will
presently undo the gate--he is gone to fetch the keys--meantime I pray
you to consider with yourselves, if you are in a state of mind to
cross the holy threshold."
"Tillyvally for your papistry!" was answered from without; "we are in
the mood of the monks when they are merriest, and that is when they
sup beef-brewis for lanten-kail. So, if your porter hath not the gout,
let him come speedily, or we heave away readily.--Said I well,
"Bravely said, and it shall be as bravely done," said the multitude;
and had not the keys arrived at that moment, and the porter in hasty
terror performed his office, throwing open the great door, the
populace would have saved him the trouble. The instant he had done so,
the affrighted janitor fled, like one who has drawn the bolts of a
flood-gate, and expects to be overwhelmed by the rushing inundation.
The monks, with one consent, had withdrawn themselves behind the
Abbot, who alone kept his station, about three yards from the
entrance, showing no signs of fear or perturbation. His
brethren--partly encouraged by his devotion, partly ashamed to desert
him, and partly animated by a sense of duty.--remained huddled close
together, at the back of their Superior. There was a loud laugh and
huzza when the doors were opened; but, contrary to what might have
been expected, no crowd of enraged assailants rushed into the church.
On the contrary, there was a cry of "A halt!-a halt--to order, my
masters! and let the two reverend fathers greet each other, as beseems
The appearance of the crowd who were thus called to order, was
grotesque in the extreme. It was composed of men, women, and children,
ludicrously disguised in various habits, and presenting groups equally
diversified and grotesque. Here one fellow with a horse's head painted
before him, and a tail behind, and the whole covered with a long
foot-cloth, which was supposed to hide the body of the animal, ambled,
caracoled, pranced, and plunged, as he performed the celebrated part
of the hobby-horse,
[Footnote: This exhibition, the play-mare of Scotland, stood high
among holyday gambols. It must be carefully separated from the wooden
chargers which furnish out our nurseries. It gives rise to Hamlet's
But oh, but oh, the hobby-horse is forgot!
There is a very comic scene in Beaumont and Fletcher's play of "Woman
Pleased," where Hope-on-high Bombye, a puritan cobbler, refuses to
dance with the hobby-horse. There was much difficulty and great
variety in the motions which the hobby-horse was expected to exhibit.
The learned Mr. Douce, who has contributed so much to the illustration
of our theatrical antiquities, has given us a full account of this
pageant, and the burlesque horsemanship which it practised.
"The hobby-horse," says Mr. Douce, "was represented by a man equipped
with as much pasteboard as was sufficient to form the head and hinder
parts of a horse, the quadrupedal defects being concealed by a long
mantle or footcloth that nearly touched the ground. The former, on
this occasion, exerted all his skill in burlesque horsemanship. In
Sympson's play of the Law-breakers, 1636, a miller personates the
hobby-horse, and being angry that the Mayor of the city is put in
competition with him, exclaims, 'Let the mayor play the hobby-horse
among his brethren, an he will; I hope our town-lads cannot want a
hobby-horse. Have I practised my reins, my careers, my prankers, my
ambles, my false trots, my smooth ambles, and Canterbury paces, and
shall master mayor put me beside the hobby-horse? Have I borrowed the
fore-horse bells, his plumes, his braveries; nay, had his mane new
shorn and frizzled, and shall the mayor put me beside the
--_Douce's Illustrations_, vol. II. p. 468]
so often alluded to in our ancient drama; and which still flourishes
on the stage in the battle that concludes Bayes's tragedy. To rival
the address and agility displayed by this character, another personage
advanced in the more formidable character of a huge dragon, with
gilded wings, open jaws, and a scarlet tongue, cloven at the end,
which made various efforts to overtake and devour a lad, dressed as
the lovely Sabaea, daughter of the King of Egypt, who fled before him;
while a martial Saint George, grotesquely armed with a goblet for a
helmet, and a spit for a lance, ever and anon interfered, and
compelled the monster to relinquish his prey. A bear, a wolf, and one
or two other wild animals, played their parts with the discretion of
Snug the joiner; for the decided preference which they gave to the use
of their hind legs, was sufficient, without any formal annunciation,
to assure the most timorous spectators that they had to do with
habitual bipeds. There was a group of outlaws with Robin Hood and
Little John at their head
[Footnote: The representation of Robin Hood was the darling Maygame
both in England and Scotland, and doubtless the favourite
personification was often revived, when the Abbot of Unreason, or
other pretences of frolic, gave an unusual decree of license.
The Protestant clergy, who had formerly reaped advantage from the
opportunities which these sports afforded them of directing their own
satire and the ridicule of the lower orders against the Catholic
church, began to find that, when these purposes were served, their
favourite pastimes deprived them of the wish to attend divine worship,
and disturbed the frame of mind in which it can be attended to
advantage. The celebrated Bishop Latimer gives a very _naive_
account of the manner in which, bishop as he was, he found himself
compelled to give place to Robin Hood and his followers.
"I came once myselfe riding on a journey homeward from London, and I
sent word over night into the towne that I would preach there in the
morning, because it was holiday, and me thought it was a holidayes
worke. The church stood in my way, and I took my horse and my company,
and went thither, (I thought I should have found a great company in
the church,) and when I came there the church doore was fast locked.
I tarryed there halfe an houre and more. At last the key was found,
and one of the parish comes to me and said,--'Sir, this is a busie day
with us, we cannot hear you; it is Robin Hood's day. The parish are
gone abroad to gather for Robin Hood. I pray you let them not.' I was
faine there to give place to Robin Hood. I thought my rochet should
have been regarded, though I were not: but it would not serve, it was
faine to give place to Robin Hood's men. It is no laughing matter, my
friends, it is a weeping matter, a heavie matter, a heavie matter.
Under the pretence for gathering for Robin Hood, a traytour, and a
theif, to put out a preacher; to have his office lesse esteemed; to
preferre Robin Hood before the ministration of God's word; and all
this hath come of unpreaching prelates. This realme hath been ill
provided for, that it hath had such corrupt judgments in it, to prefer
Robin Hood to God's word."--_Bishop Latimer's sixth Sermon before
While the English Protestants thus preferred the outlaw's pageant to
the preaching of their excellent Bishop, the Scottish calvinistic
clergy, with the celebrated John Knox at their head, and backed by the
authority of the magistrates of Edinburgh, who had of late been chosen
exclusively from this party, found it impossible to control the rage
of the populace, when they attempted to deprive them of the privilege
of presenting their pageant of Robin Hood.
[Note on old Scottish spelling: leading y = modern 'th'; leading v =
(561) "Vpon the xxi day of Junij. Archibalde Dowglas of Kilspindie,
Provest of Edr., David Symmer and Adame Fullartoun, baillies of the
samyne, causit ane cordinare servant, callit James Gillion takin of
befoir, for playing in Edr. with Robene Hude, to wnderly the law, and
put him to the knawlege of ane assyize qlk yaij haid electit of yair
favoraris, quha with schort deliberatioun condemnit him to be hangit
for ye said cryme. And the deaconis of ye craftismen fearing vproare,
maid great solistatuis at ye handis of ye said provost and baillies,
and als requirit John Knox, minister, for eschewing of tumult, to
superceid ye execution of him, vnto ye tyme yai suld adverteis my Lord
Duke yairof. And yan, if it wes his mynd and will yat he should be
disponit vpoun, ye said deaconis and craftismen sould convey him
yaire; quha answerit, yat yai culd na way stope ye executioun of
justice. Quhan ye time of ye said pouer mans hanging approchit, and
yat ye hangman wes cum to ye jibbat with ye ledder, vpoune ye qlk ye
said cordinare should have bene hangit, ane certaine and remanent
craftischilder, quha wes put to ye horne with ye said Gillione, ffor
ye said Robene Huide's _playes_, and vyris yair assistaris and
favoraris, past to wappinis, and yai brak down ye said jibbat, and yan
chacit ye said provest, baillies, and Alexr. Guthrie, in ye said
Alexander's writing buith, and held yame yairin; and yairefter past to
ye tolbuyt, and becaus the samyne was steiket, and onnawayes culd get
the keyes thairof, thai brak the said tolbuith dore with foure
harberis, per force, (the said provest and baillies luckand thairon.)
and not onlie put thar the said Gillione to fredome and libertie, and
brocht him furth of the said tolbuit, bot alsua the remanent
presonaris being thairintill; and this done, the said craftismen's
servands, with the said condempnit cordonar, past doun to the
Netherbow, to have past furth thairat; bot becaus the samyne on thair
coming thairto wes closet, thai past vp agane the Hie streit of the
said bourghe to the Castellhill, and in this menetymne the saidis
provest and baillies, and thair assistaris being in the writing buith
of the said Alexr. Guthrie, past and enterit in the said tolbuyt, and
in the said servandes passage vp the Hie streit, then schote furth
thairof at thame ane dog, and hurt ane servand of the said childer.
This being done, thair wes nathing vthir but the one partie schuteand
out and castand stanes furth of the said tolbuyt, and the vther
pairtie schuteand hagbuttis in the same agane. Aund sua the
craftismen's servandis, aboue written, held and inclosit the said
provest and baillies continewallie in the said tolbuyth, frae three
houris efternone, quhill aught houris at even, and na man of the said
town prensit to relieve their said provest and baillies. And than thai
send to the maisters of the Castell, to caus tham if thai mycht stay
the said servandis, quha maid ane maner to do the same, bot thai could
not bring the same to ane finall end, ffor the said servands wold on
noways stay fra, quhill thai had revengit the hurting of ane of them;
and thairefter the constable of the castell come down thairfra, and he
with the said maisters treatet betwix the said pties in this
maner:--That the said provost and baillies sall remit to the said
craftischilder, all actioun, cryme, and offens that thai had committit
aganes thame in any tyme bygane; and band and oblast thame never to
pursew them thairfor; and als commandit thair maisters to resaue them
agane in thair services, as thai did befoir. And this being proclainit
at the mercat cross, thai scalit, and the said provest and bailies
come furth of the same tolbouyth." &c. &c. &c.
John Knox, who writes at large upon this tumult, informs us it was
inflamed by the deacons of craftes, who, resenting; the superiority
assumed over them by the magistrates, would yield no assistance to put
down the tumult. "They will be magistrates alone," said the recusant
deacons, "e'en let them rule the populace alone;" and accordingly they
passed quietly to take _their four-hours penny_, and left the
magistrates to help themselves as they could. Many persons were
excommunicated for this outrage, and not admitted to church ordinances
till they had made satisfaction.]
--the best representation exhibited at the time; and no great wonder,
since most of the actors were, by profession, the banished men and
thieves whom they presented. Other masqueraders there were, of a less
marked description. Men were disguised as women, and women as
men--children wore the dress of aged people, and tottered with
crutch-sticks in their hands, furred gowns on their little backs, and
caps on their round heads--while grandsires assumed the infantine tone
as well as the dress of children. Besides these, many had their faces
painted, and wore their shirts over the rest of their dress; while
coloured pasteboard and ribbons furnished out decorations for others.
Those who wanted all these properties, blacked their faces, and turned
their jackets inside out; and thus the transmutation of the whole
assembly into a set of mad grotesque mummers, was at once completed.
The pause which the masqueraders made, waiting apparently for some
person of the highest authority amongst them, gave those within the
Abbey Church full time to observe all these absurdities. They were at
no loss to comprehend their purpose and meaning.
Few readers can be ignorant, that at an early period, and during the
plenitude of her power, the Church of Rome not only connived at, but
even encouraged, such Saturnalian licenses as the inhabitants of
Kennaquhair and the neighbourhood had now in hand, and that the
vulgar, on such occasions, were not only permitted but encouraged by a
number of gambols, sometimes puerile and ludicrous, sometimes immoral
and profane, to indemnify themselves for the privations and penances
imposed on them at other seasons. But, of all other topics for
burlesque and ridicule, the rites and ceremonial of the church itself
were most frequently resorted to; and, strange to say, with the
approbation of the clergy themselves.
While the hierarchy flourished in full glory, they do not appear to
have dreaded the consequences of suffering the people to become so
irreverently familiar with things sacred; they then imagined the laity
to be much in the condition of the labourer's horse, which does not
submit to the bridle and the whip with greater reluctance, because, at
rare intervals, he is allowed to frolic at large in his pasture, and
fling out his heels in clumsy gambols at the master who usually drives
him. But, when times changed--when doubt of the Roman Catholic
doctrine, and hatred of their priesthood, had possessed the reformed
party, the clergy discovered, too late, that no small inconvenience
arose from the established practice of games and merry-makings, in
which they themselves, and all they held most sacred, were made the
subject of ridicule. It then became obvious to duller politicians than
the Romish churchmen, that the same actions have a very different
tendency when done in the spirit of sarcastic insolence and hatred,
than when acted merely in exuberance of rude and uncontrollable
spirits. They, therefore, though of the latest, endeavoured, where
they had any remaining influence, to discourage the renewal of these
indecorous festivities. In this particular, the Catholic clergy were
joined by most of the reformed preachers, who were more shocked at the
profanity and immorality of many of these exhibitions, than disposed
to profit by the ridiculous light in which they placed the Church of
Rome and her observances. But it was long ere these scandalous and
immoral sports could be abrogated;--the rude multitude continued
attached to their favourite pastimes, and, both in England and
Scotland, the mitre of the Catholic--the rochet of the reformed
bishop--and the cloak and band of the Calvinistic divine--were, in
turn, compelled to give place to those jocular personages, the Pope of
Fools, the Boy-Bishop, and the Abbot of Unreason. [Footnote: From the
interesting novel entitled Anastasius, it seems the same burlesque
ceremonies were practised in the Greek Church. ]
It was the latter personage who now, in full costume, made his
approach to the great door of the church of St. Mary's, accoutred in
such a manner as to form a caricature, or practical parody, on the
costume and attendants of the real Superior, whom he came to beard on
the very day of his installation, in the presence of his clergy, and
in the chancel of his church. The mock dignitary was a stout-made
under-sized fellow, whose thick squab form had been rendered grotesque
by a supplemental paunch, well stuffed. He wore a mitre of leather,
with the front like a grenadier's cap, adorned with mock embroidery,
and trinkets of tin. This surmounted a visage, the nose of which was
the most prominent feature, being of unusual size, and at least as
richly gemmed as his head-gear. His robe was of buckram, and his cope
of canvass, curiously painted, and cut into open work. On one shoulder
was fixed the painted figure of an owl; and he bore in the right hand
his pastoral staff, and in the left a small mirror having a handle to
it, thus resembling a celebrated jester, whose adventures, translated
into English, were whilom extremely popular, and which may still be
procured in black letter, for about one sterling pound per leaf.
The attendants of this mock dignitary had their proper dresses and
equipage, bearing the same burlesque resemblance to the officers of
the Convent which their leader did to the Superior. They followed
their leader in regular procession, and the motley characters, which
had waited his arrival, now crowded into the church in his train,
shouting as they came,--"A hall, a hall! for the venerable Father
Howleglas, the learned Monk of Misrule, and the Right Reverend Abbot
The discordant minstrelsy of every kind renewed its din; the boys
shrieked and howled, and the men laughed and hallooed, and the women
giggled and screamed, and the beasts roared, and the dragon wallopped
and hissed, and the hobby-horse neighed, pranced, and capered, and the
rest frisked and frolicked, clashing their hobnailed shoes against the
pavement, till it sparkled with the marks of their energetic
It was, in fine, a scene of ridiculous confusion, that deafened the
ear, made the eyes giddy, and must have altogether stunned any
indifferent spectator; the monks, whom personal apprehension and a
consciousness that much of the popular enjoyment arose from the
ridicule being directed against them, were, moreover, little comforted
by the reflection, that, bold in their disguise, the mummers who
whooped and capered around them, might, on slight provocation, turn
their jest into earnest, or at least proceed to those practical
pleasantries, which at all times arise so naturally out of the
frolicsome and mischievous disposition of the populace. They looked to
their Abbot amid the tumult, with such looks as landsmen cast upon the
pilot when the storm is at the highest--looks which express that they
are devoid of all hope arising from their own exertions, and not very
confident in any success likely to attend those of their Palinurus.
The Abbot himself seemed at a stand; he felt no fear, but he was
sensible of the danger of expressing his rising indignation, which he
was scarcely able to suppress. He made a gesture with his hand as if
commanding silence, which was at first only replied to by redoubled
shouts, and peals of wild laughter. When, however, the same motion,
and as nearly in the same manner, had been made by Howleglas, it was
immediately obeyed by his riotous companions, who expected fresh food
for mirth in the conversation betwixt the real and mock Abbot, having
no small confidence in the vulgar wit and impudence of their leader.
Accordingly, they began to shout, "To it, fathers--to it I"--"Fight
monk, fight madcap--Abbot against Abbot is fair play, and so is reason
against unreason, and malice against monkery!"
"Silence, my mates!" said Howleglas; "cannot two learned Fathers of
the Church hold communion together, but you must come here with your
bear-garden whoop and hollo, as if you were hounding forth a mastiff
upon a mad bull? I say silence! and let this learned Father and me
confer, touching matters affecting our mutual state and authority."
"My children"-said Father Ambrose.
"_My_ children too,--and happy children they are!" said his
burlesque counterpart; "many a wise child knows not its own father,
and it is well they have two to choose betwixt."
"If thou hast aught in thee, save scoffing and ribaldry," said the
real Abbot, "permit me, for thine own soul's sake, to speak a few
words to these misguided men."
"Aught in me but scoffing, sayest thou?" retorted the Abbot of
Unreason; "why, reverend brother, I have all that becomes mine office
at this time a-day--I have beef, ale, and brandy-wine, with other
condiments not worth mentioning; and for speaking, man--why, speak
away, and we will have turn about, like honest fellows."
During this discussion the wrath of Magdalen Graeme had risen to the
uttermost; she approached the Abbot, and placing herself by his side,
said in a low and yet distinct tone-"Wake and arouse thee, Father--the
sword of Saint Peter is in thy hand--strike and avenge Saint Peter's
patrimony!--Bind them in the chains which, being riveted by the
church on earth, are riveted in Heaven--"
"Peace, sister!" said the Abbot; "let not their madness destroy our
discretion--I pray thee, peace, and let me do mine office. It is the
first, peradventure it may be the last time, I shall be called on to
"Nay, my holy brother!" said Howleglas, "I rede you, take the holy
sister's advice--never throve convent without woman's counsel."
"Peace, vain man!" said the Abbot; "and you, my brethren--"
"Nay, nay!" said the Abbot of Unreason, "no speaking to the lay
people, until you have conferred with your brother of the cowl. I
swear by bell, book, and candle, that no one of my congregation shall
listen to one word you have to say; so you had as well address
yourself to me who will."
To escape a conference so ludicrous, the Abbot again attempted an
appeal to what respectful feelings might yet remain amongst the
inhabitants of the Halidome, once so devoted to their spiritual
Superiors. Alas! the Abbot of Unreason had only to nourish his mock
crosier, and the whooping, the hallooing, and the dancing, were
renewed with a vehemence which would have defied the lungs of Stentor.
"And now, my mates," said the Abbot of Unreason, "once again dight
your gabs and be hushed-let us see if the Cock of Kennaquhair will
fight or flee the pit."
There was again a dead silence of expectation, of which Father Ambrose
availed himself to address his antagonist, seeing plainly that he
could gain an audience on no other terms. "Wretched man!" said he,
"hast thou no better employment for thy carnal wit, than to employ it
in leading these blind and helpless creatures into the pit of utter
"Truly, my brother," replied Howleglas, "I can see little difference
betwixt your employment and mine, save that you make a sermon of a
jest, and I make a jest of a sermon."
"Unhappy being," said the Abbot, "who hast no better subject of
pleasantry than that which should make thee tremble--no sounder jest
than thine own sins, and no better objects for laughter than those who
can absolve thee from the guilt of them!"
"Verily, my reverend brother," said the mock Abbot, "what you say
might be true, if, in laughing at hypocrites, I meant to laugh at
religion.--Oh, it is a precious thing to wear a long dress, with a
girdle and a cowl--we become a holy pillar of Mother Church, and a
boy must not play at ball against the walls for fear of breaking a
"And will you, my friends," said the Abbot, looking round and speaking
with a vehemence which secured him a tranquil audience for some
time,--"will you suffer a profane buffoon, within the very church of
God, to insult his ministers? Many of you--all of you, perhaps--have
lived under my holy predecessors, who were called upon to rule in this
church where I am called upon to suffer. If you have worldly goods,
they are their gift; and, when you scorned not to accept better
gifts--the mercy and forgiveness of the church--were they not ever at
your command?--did we not pray while you were jovial--wake while you
"Some of the good wives of the Halidome were wont to say so," said the
Abbot of Unreason; but his jest met in this instance but slight
applause, and Father Ambrose, having gained a moment's attention,
hastened to improve it.
"What!" said he; "and is this grateful--is it seemly--is it honest--to
assail with scorn a few old men, from whose predecessors you hold all,
and whose only wish is to die in peace among these fragments of what
was once the light of the land, and whose daily prayer is, that they
may be removed ere that hour comes when the last spark shall be
extinguished, and the land left in the darkness which it has chosen
rather than light? We have not turned against you the edge of the
spiritual sword, to revenge our temporal persecution; the tempest of
your wrath hath despoiled us of land, and deprived us almost of our
daily food, but we have not repaid it with the thunders of
excommunication--we only pray your leave to live and die within the
church which is our own, invoking God, our Lady, and the Holy Saints
to pardon your sins, and our own, undisturbed by scurril buffoonery
This speech, so different in tone and termination from that which the
crowd had expected, produced an effect upon their feelings
unfavourable to the prosecution of their frolic. The morris-dancers
stood still--the hobby-horse surceased his capering--pipe and tabor
were mute, and "silence, like a heavy cloud," seemed to descend on the
once noisy rabble. Several of the beasts were obviously moved to
compunction; the bear could not restrain his sobs, and a huge fox was
observed to wipe his eyes with his tail. But in especial the dragon,
lately so formidably rampant, now relaxed the terror of his claws,
uncoiled his tremendous rings, and grumbled out of his fiery throat in
a repentant tone, "By the mass, I thought no harm in exercising our
old pastime, but an I had thought the good Father would have taken it
so to heart, I would as soon have played your devil, as your dragon."
In this momentary pause, the Abbot stood amongst the miscellaneous and
grotesque forms by which he was surrounded, triumphant as Saint
Anthony, in Callot's Temptations; but Howleglas would not so resign
"And how now, my masters!" said he, "is this fair play or no? Have you
not chosen me Abbot of Unreason, and is it lawful for any of you to
listen to common sense to-day? Was I not formally elected by you in
solemn chapter, held in Luckie Martin's change-house, and will you now
desert me, and give up your old pastime and privilege? Play out the
play--and he that speaks the next word of sense or reason, or bids us
think or consider, or the like of that, which befits not the day, I
will have him solemnly ducked in the mill-dam!"
The rabble, mutable as usual, huzzaed, the pipe and tabor struck up,
the hobby-horse pranced, the beasts roared, and even the repentant
dragon began again to coil up his spires, and prepare himself for
fresh gambols. But the Abbot might still have overcome, by his
eloquence and his entreaties, the malicious designs of the revellers,
had not Dame Magdalen Graeme given loose to the indignation which she
had long suppressed.
"Scoffers," she said, "and men of Belial--Blasphemous heretics, and
"Your patience, my sister, I entreat and I command you!" said the
Abbot; "let me do my duty--disturb me not in mine office!"
But Dame Magdalen continued to thunder forth her threats in the name
of Popes and Councils, and in the name of every Saint, from St.
"My comrades!" said the Abbot of Unreason, "this good dame hath not
spoken a single word of reason, and therein may esteem herself free
from the law. But what she spoke was meant for reason, and, therefore,
unless she confesses and avouches all which she has said to be
nonsense, it shall pass for such, so far as to incur our statutes.
Wherefore, holy dame, pilgrim, or abbess, or whatever thou art, be
mute with thy mummery or beware the mill-dam. We will have neither
spiritual nor temporal scolds in our Diocese of Unreason!"
As he spoke thus, he extended his hand towards the old woman, while
his followers shouted, "A doom--a doom!" and prepared to second his
purpose, when lo! it was suddenly frustrated. Roland Graeme had
witnessed with indignation the insults offered to his old spiritual
preceptor, but yet had wit enough to reflect he could render him no
assistance, but might well, by ineffective interference, make matters
worse. But when he saw his aged relative in danger of personal
violence, he gave way to the natural impetuosity of his temper, and,
stepping forward, struck his poniard into the body of the Abbot of
Unreason, whom the blow instantly prostrated on the pavement.