THE WONDERFUL ADVENTURES
PHRA THE PHOENICIAN.
It was with indescribable sensations of mingled pain and satisfaction
life dawned again in my mind and body after the drowsy ending of the last
chapter. To me the process was robbed of wonder -- no idea crossed my
mind but that I had slept an ordinary sleep; but to you, knowing the
strange fate to which I am liable, will at once occur suspicion and
expectation. Both these feelings will be gratified, yet I must tell my
my simple fashion, as it occurred.
This time, then, wakefulness came upon me in a prolonged gray and
crimson vision; and for a long spell -- now I think of it closely -- probably
for days, I was wrestling to unravel a strange web of light and gloom,
which all sorts of dreamy colors shone alternate in a misty blending upon
the blank field of my mind. These colors were now and again swallowed
up by an episode of deep obscurity, and the longer I studied them in an
unwitting, listless way the more pronounced and definite they became,
until at last they were no more a tinted haze of uncertain tone, but a
chequered plan, silently passing over my shut eyelids at slow, measured
intervals. Well, upon an afternoon -- which, you will understand, I shall
readily forget -- my eyes were suddenly opened, and, with a deep sigh,
like one who wakes after a good night's repose, existence came back upon
me, and, all motionless and dull, but very consciously alive and observant,
I was myself again.
My first clear knowledge on that strange occasion was of the strains of
merle singing somewhere near; and, as those seraphic notes thrilled into
the dry, unused channels of my hearing, the melody went through me to
my utmost fiber. Next I felt, as a strong tonic elixir, a draught of cool
spring air, full of the taste of sunshine and rich with the scent of a
earth, blowing down upon me and dissipating, with
its sweet breath, the last mists of my sleepfuless. While these soft
ministrations of the good nurse Nature put my blood into circulation
again, filling me with a gentle vegetable pleasure, my newly opened eyes
were astounded at the richness and variety of their early discoverings.
To the inexperience of my long forgetfulness everything around was
quaint and grotesque. Everything, too, was gray and crimson and green.
As I stared and speculated, with the vapid artlessness of a baby novice,
new world into which I was thus born slowly took form and shape. It
opened out into unknown depths, into aisles and corridors, into a wooden
firmament overhead, chequered with clouds of timber work and endless
mazes (to my poor untutored mind) of groins and buttresses. Long gray
walls -- the same that had been the groundwork of my fancy -- opened on
either side, a great bare sweep of pavement was below them, and a
hundred windows letting in the comely daylight above, but best of all was
that long one by me which the crimson sun smote strongly upon its varied
surface, and, gleaming through the gorgeous patchwork of a dozen
parables in colored glasses, fell on the ground below in pools of many-
colored brightness. As I, inertly, watched these shifting beams, I perceived
in them the cause of those gray mosaics with which the outer light had
amused my sleeping fancies.
All these things in time appeared distinct enough to me, and tempted a
trial of whether my physical condition equaled the apparent soundness of
my senses. I had hardly had leisure as yet to wonder how I had come into
this strange position, or to remember -- so strong were the demands of
surrounding circumstances on my attention -- the last remote pages of my
adventures -- remote, I now began to entertain a certain consciousness,
they were -- I was so fully taken up with the matter of the moment, that
never occurred to me to speculate beyond, but the pressing question was
in what sort of a body were those sparks of sight and sense burning.
It was pretty clear I was in a church, and a greater one than I had ever
entered before. My position, I could tell, spoke of funeral rites, or rather
the stiff comfort of one of those marble effigies with which sculptors
from the earliest times decorated tombs. And yet I was not entombed, nor
did I think I was marble, or even the plaster of more frugal monumenters.
My eyes served little purpose in the deepening light, while as yet I had
moved a muscle. As I thought and speculated, the dreadful fancy came
across me that, if I were not stone, possibly I was the other extreme --
thin tissue of dry dust
held together by the leniency of long silence and repose, and perhaps --
dreadful consideration! -- the sensations of life and pleasure now felt
threading those thin wasted tissues, as I have seen the red sparks
reluctantly wander in the black folds of a charred scroll, and finally
out one by one for pure lack of fuel. Was I such a scroll? The idea was
to be borne, and, pitting my will against the stiffness of I knew not what
interval, I slowly lifted my right arm and held it forth at length.
My chief sentiment at the moment was wonderment at the limb thus held
out in the dim cathedral twilight, my next was a glow of triumph at this
achievement, and then, as something of the stress of my will was taken
and the arm flew back with a jerk to its exact place by my side, a flood
pain rushed into it, and with the pain came slowly at first, but quickly
deepening and broadening, a remembrance of my previous sleeps and
those other awakenings of mine attended by just such thrills.
I will not weary you with repetitions or recount the throes that I endured
in attaining flexibility. I have, by Heaven's mercy, a determination within
me of which no one is fit to speak but he who knows the extent and
number of its conquests. A dozen times, so keen were these griefs, I was
tempted to relinquish the struggle, and as many times I triumphed, the
unquenched fire of my mind but burning the brighter for each opposition.
At last, when the painted shadows had crept up the opposite wall inch by
inch and lost themselves in the upper colonnades, and the gloom around
me had deepened into blackness, I was victorious, and weak and faint and
tingling, but, respirited and supple, I lay back and slept like a child.
The rest did me good. When I opened my eyes again it was with no special
surprise (for the capacity of wonder is very volatile) that I saw the chancel
where I lay had been lighted up, and that a portly abbot was standing
near, clad in brown fustian, corded round his ample middle, and picking
his teeth with a little splinter of wood, as he paced up and down muttering
to himself something, of which I only caught such occasional fragments
"fat capons," "spoiled roasts" (with a sniff in the direction of the side
the abbey), and a malison on "unseemly hours" (with a glance at an empty
confessional near me), until he presently halted opposite -- Whereon I
immediately shut my eyes -- and regarded me with dull complacency.
As he did so an acolyte, a pale, grave recluse, on whose face
vigils and abnegation had already set the lines of age, stepped out from
shadow, and, standing just behind his superior, also gazed upon me with
"That blessed saint, Ambrose," said the fat abbot, pointing at me with
toothpick apparently for want of something better to speak about, "is
nearly as good to us as the miraculous cruse was to the woman of Sarepta;
what this holy foundation would do just now, when all men's minds are
turned to war, without the pence we draw from pilgrims who come to
kneel to him, I can not think."
"Indeed, sir," said the sad-eyed youth, "the good influence of that holy
knows no limit; it is as strong in death as no doubt it was in life. 'Twas
this morning that by leave of our prior I brought out the great missals,
there found something, but not much, that concerned him."
"Recite it, brother," quoth the abbot, with a yawn, "and if you know
anything of him beyond the pilgrim pence he draws, you know more than
"Nay, my lord, 'tis but little I learned. All the entries save the first
journals are of slight value, for they but record from year to year how
sum and that were spent in due keeping and care of the sleeping wonder,
and how many pilgrims visited this shrine, and by how much Mother
Church benefited by their dutiful generosity."
"And the first entry? What said it?"
"All too briefly, sir, it recorded in a faded passage that when the saintly
Baldwin -- may God assoil him!" quoth the friar, crossing himself -- "when
Baldwin, the first Norman bishop in your holiness's place, came here, he
found yon martyr laid on a mean and paltry shelf among the brothers'
cells. All were gone who could tell his life.and history, but your
predecessor, says the scroll, judging by the outward marvel of his
suspended life, was certain of that wondrous body's holy beatitude, and,
reflecting much, had him meetly robed and washed, and placed him here.
'Twas a good deed," sighed the studious boy.
"Ah! and it has told to the advantage of the monastery," responded his
senior, and he came close up and bent low over me, so that I heard him
mutter, "Strange old relic! I wonder how it feels to go so long as that
indeed, he lives -- without food. It was a clever thought of my predecessor
to convert the old mummy bundle of swaddles into a Norman saint.
Baldwin was almost too good a man for the cloisters; with so much
shrewdness, he should have been a courtier."
"Oh!" I thought, "that is the way I came here, is it, my
fat friend?" and I lay as still as any of my comrade monuments while the
old abbot bent over me chuckling to himself a bibulous chuckle, and
pressing his short, thick thumb into my sides as though he were sampling
a plump pigeon or a gosling at a village fair.
"By the forty saints that Augustine sent to this benighted island, he takes
his fasting wonderfully well! He is firm in gammon and brisket -- and,
that saintly band, he has even a touch of color in his cheeks, unless these
flickering lights play my eyes a trick!" whereupon his reverence regarded
me with lively admiration, little wotting it was more than a breathless
marvel, a senseless body, he was thus addressing.
In a moment he turned again, "Thou didst not tell me the date of this old
fellow's -- Heaven forgive me! -- of this blessed martyr's sleep. How long
ago said the chronicles since this wondrous trance began?"
"My lord, I computed the matter, and here, by that veracious,
unquestionable record, he has lain three hundred years and more."
At this extraordinary statement the portly abbot whistled as though he
were on a country green, and I, so startling, so incredulous was it,
involuntarily turned my head toward them, and gathered my breath to
cast back that audacious lie. But neither movement nor sign was seen, for
at that very moment the quiet novice laid a finger upon the monk's full
sleeve and whispered, hurriedly, "Father! -- the earl -- the earl!" and
looked down the chancel.
At the bottom the door swung open, giving a brief sight of the pale-blue
evening beyond, and there entered a tall and martial figure who advanced
in warlike harness to the altar steps, and, placing down the helm decked
with plumes that danced black and visionary in the dim cresset light, he
upon one knee.
"Pax vobiscum, my son!" murmured the abbot, extending his hands in
"Et vobis," answered the gallant, "da mihi, domine reverendissime,
misericordiam vestram." And at the sound of their voices I raised me to
my elbow, for the young warlike earl, as he bent him there, was sheathed
and armed in a way that I, though familiar with many camps, had never
Over his fine gold hauberk was a wondrous tabard, a magnificent
emblazoned surtout, and, as he knelt, the light of the waxen altar tapers
twinkled upon his steel vestments; they touched his yellow curls and
sparkled upon the joweled links
of the chain he had about his neck; they gleamed from breastplate and
from belt; they illuminated the thick-sown pearls and sapphires of his
sword-hilt, and glanced back in subdued radiance, as befitted that holy
place, from gauntlets and gorget, from warlike furniture and lordly gems,
down to the great rowels of the golden spurs that decked his knightly
The acolyte had shrunk into the shadows, and the earl had had his
blessing, when the abbot drew him into the recess where I lay in the
moonbeams, that he might speak him the more privately -- that
churchman little guessing what a good listener the stern, cold saint, so
and prone upon his marble shrine, could be.
"Ah, noble Codrington," quoth the monk, "truly we will to the confessional
at once, since thou art in so much haste, and thou shalt certainly travel
lighter for leaving thy load of transgressions to the holy forgiveness
Mother Church; but first, tell me true, dost thou really sail for France
"Holy father, at this very moment our vessels are waiting to be gone, and
all my good companions chafe and vex them for this my absence."
"What! and dost thou start for hostile shores and bloody feuds with half
thy tithes and tolls unpaid to us? Noble earl, wert thou to meet with any
mischance yonder -- which Heaven prevent -- and didst thou stand ill with
our exchequer in this particular, there were no hope for thee. I tell thee
thou wert as surely damned if thou diest, owing this holy foundation
aught of the poor contributions it asks of those to whom it ministers,
thy life were one long count of wickedness! I will not listen -- I will
shrive thee until thou hast comported thyself duly in this most important
"Good father, thy warmth is unnecessary," replied the earl. "My worldly
matters are set straight, and my steward has orders to pay thee in full
that may be owing between us; 'twas spiritual settlement I came to seek."
"Oh!" quoth his reverence, in an altered tone. "Then thou art free at once
follow the promptings of thy noble instinct, and serve thy king and
country as thou listest. I fear this will be a bloody war you go to."
"'Tis like to be," said the soldier, brightening up and speaking out boldly
a subject he loved, his fine eyes flashing with martial fire -- "already
yellow sun of Picardy flaunts on Edward's royal lilies!"
"Ah," put in the monk, "and no doubt ripens many butt of noble malmsey."
"Already the red soil of Flanders is redder by the red blood of our gallant
"Yet even then not half so red, good earl, as the ripe brew of Burgundy
jolly mellow brew that has stood in the back part of the cellar, secure
loving forbearance of twenty masters. Talk of renown -- talk of thy leman
-- talk of honor and the breaking of spears -- what are all those to such
vat of beaded pleasures? I tell thee, Codrington, not even the fabled pool,
wherein the rhymers say the cursed Paynim looks to foretaste the delights
of his sinful heaven, reflects more joy than such a cobwebbed tub! Would
that I had more of them!" added the bibulous old priest after a pause,
sighing deeply. As he did so an idea occurred to him, for he exclaimed,
"Look thee, my gallant boy! Thou art bound whither all this noble stuff
doth come from, and 'tis quite possible in the rough and tumble of bloody
strife thou mayest be at the turning inside out of many a fat roost and
many a well-stocked cellar. Now, if this be so, and thou wilt remember
when thou seest the gallant drink about to be squandered on the loose
gullets of base, scullion troopers, why then 'tis a bargain, and, in paternal
acknowledgment of this thy filial duty, I will hear thy confession now,
thy penance, I promise, shall not be such as will inconvenience thine active
The knight bent his head, somewhat coldly, I thought, and then they
turned and went over to the oriel confessional, where the moonlight was
throwing from the window above a pallid pearly transcript of the mother
and her sweet Nazarene baby, all in silver and opal tints, upon the sacred
woodwork, and as the priest's black shadows blotted the tender picture
out I heard him say:
"But mind, it must be good and ripe -- 'tis that vintage with the two white
crosses down by the vent that I like best -- and thou sendest me any sour
Calais layman-tipple, thou art a foreworn heretic, with all thy sin afresh
upon thee -- so discriminate;" and the worthy churchman entered to shrive
and forgive, and as the casement closed upon him the sweet, silent,
indifferent shadows from above blossomed again upon the door-way.
Dreamy and drowsy I lay back and thought and wondered, for how long I
know not, but for long -- until the dim aisles had grown midnight silent
and the moon had set, and then an
owl hooted on the ledges outside, and at that sound, with a start and a
sigh, I awoke once more.
"Fools!" I muttered, thinking over what I had heard with dreamy
insequence -- "fools, liars, to set such a date upon this rest of mine!
Drunken churls! I will go at once to my fair Saxon, to my sweet nestlings
that is, if they be not yet to bed -- and to-morrow I will give that meager
acolyte such a lesson in the misreading of his missal-margins as shall
him till doomsday. By St. Dunstan! he shall play no more pranks with me;
and yet, and yet, my heart misgives me; my soul is loaded with
foreboding, my spirit is sick within me. Where have I come to? Who am I?
Gods! Hapi, Amenti, of the golden Egyptian past; Skogula, Mista, of the
Saxon hills and woods, grant that this be not some new mischance ~ some
other horrible lapse!" And I sat up there on the white stone, and bowed
head and dangled my apostolic heels against my own commemorative
marbles below, while gusts of alternate dread and indignation swept
through the leafless thickets of remembrance.
Presently these meditations were disturbed by some very different
outward sensations. There came stealing over the consecrated pavements
of that holy pile the sound of singing, and it did not savor of angelic
harmony: it was rough and jolly, and warbled and tripped about the
columns and altar steps in most unseemly sprightliness. "Surely never did
St. Gregory pen such a rousing chorus as that," I thought to myself, as,
with ears pricked, I listened to the dulcet harmonies. And along with the
music came such a merry odor as made me thirsty to smell of it. 'Twas not
incense -- 'twas much more like cinnamon and nutmegs; and never did
censer, never did myrrh and galbanum smell so much of burned sack and
roasted crab-apples as that unctuous, appetizing taint.
I got down at once off my slab, and, being mighty hungry, as I then
discovered, I followed up that trail like a sleuth-hound on a slot. It
reverent, it did not suit my saintship, but down the steps I went hot and
hungry, and passed the reredos and crossed the apse, and round the
pulpit, and over the curicula, and through the aisles, and by many a shrine
where the tapers dimly burned I pressed, and so, with the scent breast-
high, I flitted through an open archway into the chequered cloisters. Then,
tripping heedlessly over the lettered slabs that kept down the dust of
many a roistering abbot, I -- the latest hungry one of the countless hungry
children of time -- followed down that jolly trail, my apostolic linens
under my arm, jeweled miter on a head more
accustomed to soldier wear, and golden crook carried, alas! like a hunter
lance "at trail" in my other hand, till I brought the quest to bay. At
of the cloisters was a door set ajar, and along by the jamb a mellow streak
of yellow light was streaming out, rich with those odors I had smelled
laden with laughter and the sound of wine-soaked voices noisy over the
end, it might be, of what seemed a goodly supper. I advanced to the light,
listened a moment, and then in my imperious way pushed wide the panel
It was the refectory of the monastery, and a right noble hall, wherein
ostentation and piety struggled for dominion. Overhead the high-peaked
ceiling was a maze of cunningly wrought and carved woodwork, dark
with time and harmonized with the assimilating touches of age. Round by
the ample walls right and left ran a corridor into the dim far distance,
crucifix and golden ewer, cunning saintly image, and noble-branching
silver candlesticks, gleamed in the dusk against the ebony and polish of
balustrade and paneling. Under the heavy glow of all these things the
brothers' bare wooden tables extended in long demure lines; but wooden
platters and black leathern mugs were now all deserted and empty.
It was from the upper end came the light and jollity. Here a wider table
was placed across the breadth of the hall, and upon it all was sumptuous
magnificence -- holy poverty here had capitulated to priestly arrogance.
Silver and gold, and rare glasses from cunning Italian molds, enriched
about with shining enamels wherein were limned many an ancient
heathen fancy, shone and sparkled on that monkish board. On either side,
in mighty candelabra, bequeathed by superstition and fear, there twinkled
a hundred waxon candles, and up to the flames of these steamed, as I
looked, many a costly dish uncovered, and many a mellow brew beaded
and shining to the very brim of those jeweled horns and beakers that were
chief accessories to that pleasant spread.
They who sat here seemed, if a layman might judge, right well able to do
justice to these things. Half a dozen of them, jolly, rosy priors and prelates,
were round that supper-table, rubicund with wine and feeding, and in the
high carved chair, coif thrown back from head, his round ruddy face aflush
with liquor, his fat red hand asprawl about his flagon, and his small eyes
glazed and stupid in his drunkenness, sat my friend the latest abbot of
He had been singing, and, as I entered, the last distich died away upon
lips, his round, close-cropped head, o'erwhelmed with the wine he loved
so much, sunk down upon the table,
the red vintage ran from the overturned beaker in a crimson streak, and
while his boon companions laughed long and loud, his holiness slept
unmindful. It was at this very moment that I entered, and stood there in
my ghostly linen, stern and pale with fasting, and frowning grimly upon
those godless revelers. Jove! it was a sight to see them blanch; to see
terror leap from eye to eye as each in turn caught sight of me; to see
jolly jaws drop down, and watch the sickly pallor sweeping like icy wind
across their countenances. So grim and silent did we face each other in
stern moment that not a finger moved -- not a pulse. I think, there beat
all their bodies -- and in that mighty hall not a sound was heard save
drop of the abbot's malmsey upon the floor and his own husky snoring as
he lay asleep amid the costly litter of his swinish meal.
Stern, inflexible, there by the black backing of the portal, I frowned
them -- I, whom they only deemed of as a saint dead three hundred years
before -- I, whom lifeless they knew so well, now stood vengeful upon
their threshold, scowling scorn and contempt from eyes where no life
should have been. Can you doubt but they were sick at heart, with pallid
cheeks answering to coward consciences? For long we remained so, and
then with a wild yell of terror they were all on foot, and, like homing
by a cavern mouth, were scrambling and struggling into the gloom of the
opposite door-way. I let them escape, then, stalking over to the archway,
thrust the wicket to upon the heels of the last flyer, and, glad to be
so rid of
them, shot the bolt into the socket and barred that entry.
Then I went back to my friend the abbot, and stood, reflective, behind
wondering whether it were not a duty to humanity to rid it of such a
knave even as he slept there. But while I stood at his elbow contemplating
him, the unwonted silence told upon his dormant faculties, and presently
the heavy head was raised, and, after an inarticulate murmur or two, he
smiled imbecilely, and, picking up the thread of his revelry, hiccoughed
out, "The chorus, good brothers! the chorus -- and all together!
"Die we must, but let us die drinking at an inn.
Hold the wine-cup to our lips sparkling from the bin!
So, when the angels flutter down to take us from our sin
'Ah! God have mercy on these sots!' the cherubs will begin."
Why, you rogues!" he said, as his drunken melody found no echo in the
great hall --"why, you sleepy villains! am I a strolling troubadour that
should sing thus alone to you?"
And then, as his bleared and dazzled eyes wandered round the empty
places, the spilled wine and overturned trestles, he smiled again with
drunken cunning. "Ah!" he muttered, "then they must be all under the
tables. I thought that last round of sack would finish them. Halloo! there!
Ambrose! Dos Veeux! Jervaulx! Jolly comrades -- sleepy dogs! Come forth!
Fy on ye! to call yourselves good monks, and yet to leave thy simple
kindly prior thus to himself!" and he pulled up the table linen and peered
below. Sorely was the churchman perplexed to see nothing, and first he
glared up among the oaken rafters, as though by chance his fellows had
flown thither, and then he stared at the empty places, and so his gaze
wandered round, until, in a minute or two, it had made the complete circle
of the place, and finally rested on me, standing, immovable, a pace from
At first he stared upon me with vapid amazement, and then with stupid
wonder. But 'twas not more than a second or two before the truth dawned
upon that hazy intellect, and then I saw the thick, short hands tighten
the carving of his priestly throne, I saw the wine-flush pale upon his
cheeks, and the drunken light in his eyes give place to the glare of terror
and consternation. Just as they had done before him, but with infinite
more intensity, he blanched and withered before my unrelenting gaze, he
turned in a moment before my grim, imperious frown, from a jolly,
rubicund old bibber, rosy and quarrelsome with his supper, into a
cadaverous, sober-minded confessor, lantern-jawed and yellow -- and then
with a hideous cry he was on foot and flying for the door-way by which
his friends had gone. But I had need of that good confessor, and ere he
could stagger a yard the golden apostolic crook was about the ankle of
errant sheep, and the prior of St. Olaf's rolled over headlong upon the
I sat down to supper, and as I helped myself to venison pasty and
malmsey I heard the beads running through the recumbent abbot's fingers
quicker than water runs from a spout after a summer thunder-shower.
"Misericordia Domine, nobis!" murmured the old sinner, and I let him
grovel and pray in his abject panic for a time, and then bade him rise.
Now, the fierceness of this command was somewhat marred, because my
mouth was very full just then of pasty crust, and the accents appeared
carry less consternation into my friend's heart than I had intended. The
pater-noster began to run with more method and coherence, and, soon
finding he was not yet half-way to that nether abyss he had seen opening
before him, he plucked up a little heart of grace.
besides, the avenger was at supper, and making mighty inroads into the
provender the abbot loved so well; this took off the rough edge of terror,
and was in itself so curious a phenomenon that, little by little, with
utmost circumspection, the monk raised his head and looked at me. I kept
my baleful eyes turned away, and busied me with my loaded platter --
which, by the way, was far the most interesting item of the two -- and
by degrees he gained confidence, and came into a sitting position, and
gazed at the hungry, saint, so active with the victuals, wonder and awe
playing across his countenance. "I see, Sir Priest," I said, "you have
cook yonder in the buttery;" but the abbot was as yet too dazed to answer,
so I went on to put him more at his ease (for I designed to ask him some
questions later on): "Now, where I come from, the great fault of the cooks
is, they appreciate none of your Norman niceties -- they broil and roast
forever, as though every one had a hunter appetite, and thus I have often
been weary of their eternal messes of pork and kine."
"Holy saints!" quoth the abbot. "I did not dream you had any cooks at all."
"No cooks! Thou fat wine-rat, what, didst thou think we eat our viands
"Heaven forbid!" the abbot gasped. "But, truly, your sanctity's experiences
astound me. 'Tis all against the canons. And if they be thus, as you say,
their trenchers, may I ask, in all humbleness and humility, how your
blessed friends are at their flagons?"
"Ah, sir, good fellows enough my jolly comrades, but caring little for
red and purple vintages, liking better the merry ale that autumn sends,
and the honeyed mead, yet in their way as merry roisterers, for the most
part, as though they were all Norman abbots," I said, glancing askance
By this time the prior was on his feet, as sober as could be, but apparently
infinitely surprised and perplexed at what he saw and heard. He cogitated,
and then he diffidently asked, "An it were not too presumptive, might I
if your saintship knows the blessed Oswald?"
"Nor yet the holy Sewall de Monteign?" he queried, with a sigh -- "once
head of these halls and cells."
"Never heard of him in my life."
"Nor yet of Grindal? or Gerard of Bayeux? or the saintly Anselm, my
predecessor in that chair you fill?" groaned the jolly confessor.
"I tell you, priest, I know none of them -- never heard their names or
of them till now. ~
"Alas, alas!" quoth the monk, "then if none of these have won to heaven,
none of these are known to thee so newly thence, there can be but small
hope for me!" And his fat round chin sunk upon his ample chest, and he
heaved a sigh that set the candles all a-flickering half-way down the table.
"Why, priest, what art thou talking of? Paradise and long-dead saints?
'Twas of the Saxons -- Harold's Saxons -- my jolly comrades and allies
arms when last in life I spoke."
"Ho, ho! Was that so? Why, I thought thou wert talking of things celestial
all this while, though, in truth, thy speech sorted astounding ill with
had heard before."
"I think, father," I responded, "there is more burned sack under thy ample
girdle than wit beneath thy cowl. But never mind, we will not quarrel.
down, fill yon tankard, for dryness will not, I fancy, improve thy
eloquence, and tell me soberly something of this nap of mine."
"Ah, but, sir, I was never very good at such studious work," the monk
replied, seating himself with uneasy obedience; "if I might but fetch in
clerk -- though, in truth, I can not imagine why and whither he has gone
he is one who has by heart the things thou wouldst know."
"Stir a foot, priest," I said, with feigned anger, "and thou art but a
abbot! Tell me so much as your muddled brain can recall. Now, when I
supped here before that yellow-skinned Norman, William, sat upon the
English throne --"
"Saints in Paradise! what, he who routed Harold, and founded yonder
Abbey of Battle -- impossible!"
"What, dost thou bandy thy 'impossible' with me? Slave, if thou cast again
but one atom of doubt, one single iota of thy heretic criticism here, thou
shalt go thyself to perdition and seek Sewall de Monteign and Gerard of
Bayeux;" and I laid my hand upon my crook.
"Misericordia! misericordia!" stammered the abbot. "I meant no ill
whatever, but the extent of thy holiness's astounding abstinence
"Why, then to your story. But I am foolish to ask. You can not, you dare
not, tell me again that lie of thy acolyte, that three hundred years have
passed since then. Look up, say 'twas false, and that single word shall
and I struck my breast, "a soul of a load of dread and far heavier than
was lifted by priestly absolution before."
But still he hung his face, and I heard him mutter that fifty white-boned
abbots lay in the cloisters, heel to head, and the first one was a kinsman
William's, and the last was his own predecessor.
"Then, if thou darest not answer this question, who reigns above us now?
Has the Norman star set, as I once hoped it might, behind the red cloud
rebellion? or does it still shine to the shame of all Saxons?"
"Sir Saint," answered the monk, with a little touch of the courage and
of his race gleaming for a moment through his drunken humility,
"rebellion never scared the Norman power -- so much I know for certain;
and Saxon and Norman are one by the grace of God, linked in
brotherhood under the noble Edward. Expurgate thy divergences; erase
'invaders and invaded' from thy memory, and drink as I drink -- if, indeed,
all this be news to thee -- for the first time to 'England and the English!'"
"Waes hael, Sir Monk -- 'England and the English!'"
"Drink hael, good saint," he answered, giving me the right acceptance of
my flagon challenge, "and I do hereby receive thee most paternally into
the national fold. Nevertheless, thou art the most perplexing martyr that
ever honored this holy fane" -- and he raised the great silver cup to his
and took a mighty pull. Then he gazed reflectively for a moment into the
capacious measure, as though the pageantry of history were passing
across the shining bottom in fantastic sequence, and looked up and said:
"Most wonderful -- most wonderful, Why, then, you know nothing of
William the Red?"
"The William I knew was red enough in the hands."
"Ah! but this other one who followed him was red on the head as well, and
an Anselm was archbishop while he reigned."
"Well, and who came next in thy preposterous tale?"
"Henry Plantagenet -- unless all this sack confuses my memory -- I have
told thee, good saint, I am better at mass and breviary than at missals
"And better, no doubt, than either at thy cellar score-book, priest. But
befell your Henry?"
"Frankly, I am not very certain; but he died eventully."
"'Tis the wont of kings no less than of lesser folk. Pass me yon bread-
platter, and fill thy flagon. So much history, I see, makes thee husky
"Well, then came Stephen de Blois, the son of Adeliza, who was daughter
to the Conqueror."
"Foreworn priest!" I exclaimed at that familiar name, leaping to my feet
and swinging the great gold flail in the air, "that is a falser lie than
The noble Adelia was troth to Harold, and had no children; unsay it, or"
and here the crook poised ominously over the shrieking abbot's head.
"I lied, I lied!" yelled the monk, cowering under the swing of my weapon
like a partridge beneath a falcon's circlings, and then, as the crook was
thrown down on the table again, he added: "'Twas Adela I meant; but what
it should matter to thee whether it were Adeliza or Adela passes my
comprehension;" and the monk smoothed out his ruffled feathers.
"Proceed. It is not for thee to question. Wrought Stephen anything more
notable to thy mind than Henry?"
"Well, sir, I recall, now thou puttest me to it, that he laid rough hands
the sacred persons of our bishops once or twice, yet was he much indebted
to them. Didst ever draw sword in a good quarrel, Sir Saint?"
"Didst ever put thy fingers into a venison pasty, Sir Priest? Because,
hast, as often, and oftener, have I done according to thy supposition."
"Why, then, I wonder you lay still upon yonder white marble slab while
the northern bishops were up in arms for Stephen, and on bloody
Northallerton Moor broke the power of the cruel Northmen forever. That
day, sir, the sacred flags of St. Cuthbert of Durham, St. Peter of York,
John of Beverley, St. Wilfred of Ripon, not to mention the holy Thurstan's
ruddy pennon, led the van of battle. 'Tis all set out in a pretty scroll
have over the priory fire-place, else, as you will doubtless guess, I have
never remembered so much of detail."
"Anyhow, it is well recalled. Who came next?"
"Another Henry, and he made the saintly Thomas Becket archbishop in the
year of grace 1162, and afterward the holy prelate was gathered to bliss."
"Thy history is mostly exits and entries, but perhaps it is none the less
accurate for all that. And now thou wilt say this Henry was no more
lasting than his kinsman -- he too died."
"Completely and wholly, sir, so that the burly Richard Coeur de Lion
reigned in his stead; and then came John, who was at best but a wayward
vassal of St. Peter's chair."
"Down with him, jolly abbot! And mount another on the
shaky throne of thy fantastic narrative. I am weary of the succession
already, and since we have come so far away from where I thought we
were, I care for no great niceties of detail. Put thy sovereigns to the
make them trot across the stage of thy hazy recollection, or thou wilt
asleep before thou cast stall and stable half of them."
"Well, then, a Henry came after John, and an Edward followed him; then
another of the name, and then a third -- that noble Edward in whose sway
the realm now is, and in whom (save some certain exactions of rent and
taxes), Mother Church perceives a glorious and a warlike son. But it is
long muster roll from the time of thy Norman monarch to this year of
"A long roll!" I muttered to myself, turning away from my empty plate,
"horrible, immense, and vast! Good Lord! what shadows are these men
who come and go like this! Wonderful and dreadful; that all those tinseled
puppets of history, those throbbing epitomes of passion and god-like
hopes, should have budded and decayed and passed out into the void,
finding only their being, to my mind, in the shallow vehicle of this base
churchman's wine-vault breath. Dreadful, quaint, abominable! to think that
all these flickering human things have paced across the sunny white screen
of life -- like the colored fantasies yonder stained windows threw upon
sleeping eyes -- and yet I only but wake hungry and empty, unchanged,
unmindful, careless. Priest!" I said aloud, so sudden and fiercely that
monk leaped to his feet with a startled cry from the drunken sleep into
which he had fallen, "priest, dost fear the fires of thy purgatory?"
"Ah, glorious miracle! but -- but surely thou wouldst not --"
"Why, then, answer me truly; swear by that great crucified form there
shining in the taper light above thy throne, swear by Him to whom thou
nightly offerest the hyssop incense of thy beastly excesses -- swear, I
"I do -- I do!" exclaimed St. Olaf's priest in extravagant terror, as I
before him with all my old Phrygian fire emphasized by the sanctity of
extraordinary repute. "I swear!" he said; but, seeing me hesitate, he added,
"what wouldst thou of thy poor, unworthy servant?"
'Twas not so easy to answer him, and I hung my head for a moment; then
said: "When I died -- in the Norman time, thou rememberest -- there was
woman here, and two sunny little ones, blue in the eyes and comely to
look upon -- There, shut thy stupid mouth, and look not so astounded! I
tell thee they were here -- here, in St. Olaf's Hall -- here, at this very
table between me and St. Olaf's abbot -- three tender flowers. old man,
in the black framing of a hundred of thy corded wondering brotherhood.
Now, tell me -- tell me the very simple truth -- is there such a woman
tall and fair, and melancholy gracious? Are there such babies in thy
cloisters or cells?"
"It is against the canons of our order."
"A malison on thee and thy order! Is there, then, no effigy in yon chancel,
no tablet, no record of her -- I mean of that noble lady and those comely
"I know of none, Sir Saint."
"Think again. She was a franklin, she had wide lands; she reverenced thy
church, and in her grief, being woman, she would turn devout. Surely she
built some shrine, or made thee a portico, or blazoned a window to shame
rough Fate with the evidence of her gentleness?"
"There is none such in St. Olaf's. But, now thou speakest of shrines, I
remember one some hours' ride from here, unroofed and rotten, but,
nevertheless, such as you suggest, and in it there is a cenotaph and a
woman laid out straight. She is cracked across the middle and mossy, and
there be two small kneeling figures by her head, but I never looked nicely
to determine whether they were blessed-cherubim or but common
children. The shepherds who keep their flocks there and shelter from the
showers under the crumbling walls call the place Voewood."
"Enough, priest," I said, as I paced hither and thither across the hall
gloomy grief, and then, taking my hasty resolution, I turned to him
sternly: "Make what capital thou list of to-night's adventure, but remember
the next time thou seest a saint may Heaven pity thee if thou art not in
better sort! Turn thy face to the wall."
The frightened abbot obeyed; I shed in a white heap upon the floor my
saintly vestments, my miter and crook on top, and then, stepping lightly
down the hall, mounted upon a bench, unfastened and threw open a
lattice, and, placing my foot upon the sill, sprung out into the light
open world again.
I walked and ran until the day came, southward constantly, now and again
asking my way of an astonished hind, but for the most part guided by
some strange instinct, and before the following noon I was at my old
But could it be Voewood? Not a vestige of a house anywhere in that wide
grassy glade where Voewood stood, not a
sign of life, not a sound to break the stillness. Near by there ran a little
brook, and against it, just as the monk had said, were the four gray walls
of a lonely roofless shrine. Over the shrine, on the very spot where
Voewood stood -- alas! alas! -- was a long grassy knoll, crowned with
hawthorns and little flowers shining in the sunlight. I went into the ruined
chapel, and there, stained and lichened and broken, in the thorny embrace
of the brambles lay the marble figure of my sweet Saxon wife, and by the
pillow -- green-velveted with the tapestry of nature -- knelt her little
on either side. I dropped upon my knee and buried my face in her
crumbling bosom and wept. What mattered the eclipse while I slept of all
those kingly planets that had shone in the English firmament, compared
the setting of this one white star of mine? I rushed outside to the mound
that hid the forgotten foundations of my home, and, as the passion swept
up and ingulfed my heart, I buried my head in my arms and hurled myself
upon the ground, and cursed that tender green moss that should have
been so hard -- cursed that golden English sunlight that suited so ill
my sorrows -- and cursed again and again in my bitterness those lying
blossoms overhead that showered down their petals on me, saying it was
spring, when it was the blackest winter of desolation, the night-time of
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