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Chapter 2 HOW ALLEYNE EDRICSON CAME OUT INTO THE WORLD.

  • Never had the peaceful atmosphere of the old Cistercian house been so rudel_uffled. Never had there been insurrection so sudden, so short, and s_uccessful. Yet the Abbot Berghersh was a man of too firm a grain to allow on_old outbreak to imperil the settled order of his great household. In a fe_ot and bitter words, he compared their false brother's exit to the expulsio_f our first parents from the garden, and more than hinted that unless _eformation occurred some others of the community might find themselves in th_ame evil and perilous case. Having thus pointed the moral and reduced hi_lock to a fitting state of docility, he dismissed them once more to thei_abors and withdrew himself to his own private chamber, there to see_piritual aid in the discharge of the duties of his high office.
  • The Abbot was still on his knees, when a gentle tapping at the door of hi_ell broke in upon his orisons.
  • Rising in no very good humor at the interruption, he gave the word to enter; but his look of impatience softened down into a pleasant and paternal smile a_is eyes fell upon his visitor.
  • He was a thin-faced, yellow-haired youth, rather above the middle size, comel_nd well shapen, with straight, lithe figure and eager, boyish features. Hi_lear, pensive gray eyes, and quick, delicate expression, spoke of a natur_hich had unfolded far from the boisterous joys and sorrows of the world. Ye_here was a set of the mouth and a prominence of the chin which relieved hi_f any trace of effeminacy. Impulsive he might be, enthusiastic, sensitive, with something sympathetic and adaptive in his disposition; but an observer o_ature's tokens would have confidently pledged himself that there was nativ_irmness and strength underlying his gentle, monk-bred ways.
  • The youth was not clad in monastic garb, but in lay attire, though his jerkin, cloak and hose were all of a sombre hue, as befitted one who dwelt in sacre_recincts. A broad leather strap hanging from his shoulder supported a scri_r satchel such as travellers were wont to carry. In one hand he grasped _hick staff pointed and shod with metal, while in the other he held his coi_r bonnet, which bore in its front a broad pewter medal stamped with the imag_f Our Lady of Rocamadour.
  • "Art ready, then, fair son?" said the Abbot. "This is indeed a day of coming_nd of goings. It is strange that in one twelve hours the Abbey should hav_ast off its foulest weed and should now lose what we are fain to look upon a_ur choicest blossom."
  • "You speak too kindly, father," the youth answered. "If I had my will I shoul_ever go forth, but should end my days here in Beaulieu. It hath been my hom_s far back as my mind can carry me, and it is a sore thing for me to have t_eave it."
  • "Life brings many a cross," said the Abbot gently. "Who is without them? You_oing forth is a grief to us as well as to yourself. But there is no help. _ad given my foreword and sacred promise to your father, Edric the Franklin, that at the age of twenty you should be sent out into the world to see fo_ourself how you liked the savor of it. Seat thee upon the settle, Alleyne, for you may need rest ere long."
  • The youth sat down as directed, but reluctantly and with diffidence. The Abbo_tood by the narrow window, and his long black shadow fell slantwise acros_he rush-strewn floor.
  • "Twenty years ago," he said, "your father, the Franklin of Minstead, died, leaving to the Abbey three hides of rich land in the hundred of Malwood, an_eaving to us also his infant son on condition that we should rear him unti_e came to man's estate. This he did partly because your mother was dead, an_artly because your elder brother, now Socman of Minstead, had already give_ign of that fierce and rude nature which would make him no fit companion fo_ou. It was his desire and request, however, that you should not remain in th_loisters, but should at a ripe age return into the world."
  • "But, father," interrupted the young man "it is surely true that I am alread_dvanced several degrees in clerkship?"
  • "Yes, fair son, but not so far as to bar you from the garb you now wear or th_ife which you must now lead. You have been porter?"
  • "Yes, father."
  • "Exorcist?"
  • "Yes, father."
  • "Reader?"
  • "Yes, father."
  • "Acolyte?"
  • "Yes, father."
  • "But have sworn no vow of constancy or chastity?"
  • "No, father."
  • "Then you are free to follow a worldly life. But let me hear, ere you start, what gifts you take away with you from Beaulieu? Some I already know. There i_he playing of the citole and the rebeck. Our choir will be dumb without you.
  • You carve too?"
  • The youth's pale face flushed with the pride of the skilled workman. "Yes, holy father," he answered. "Thanks to good brother Bartholomew, I carve i_ood and in ivory, and can do something also in silver and in bronze. Fro_rother Francis I have learned to paint on vellum, on glass, and on metal, with a knowledge of those pigments and essences which can preserve the colo_gainst damp or a biting air. Brother Luke hath given me some skill in damas_ork, and in the enamelling of shrines, tabernacles, diptychs and triptychs.
  • For the rest, I know a little of the making of covers, the cutting of preciou_tones, and the fashioning of instruments."
  • "A goodly list, truly," cried the superior with a smile. "What clerk o_ambrig or of Oxenford could say as much? But of thy reading—hast not so muc_o show there, I fear?"
  • "No, father, it hath been slight enough. Yet, thanks to our good chancellor, _m not wholly unlettered. I have read Ockham, Bradwardine, and other of th_choolmen, together with the learned Duns Scotus and the book of the hol_quinas."
  • "But of the things of this world, what have you gathered from your reading?
  • From this high window you may catch a glimpse over the wooden point and th_moke of Bucklershard of the mouth of the Exe, and the shining sea. Now, _ray you Alleyne, if a man were to take a ship and spread sail across yonde_aters, where might he hope to arrive?"
  • The youth pondered, and drew a plan amongst the rushes with the point of hi_taff. "Holy father," said he, "he would come upon those parts of France whic_re held by the King's Majesty. But if he trended to the south he might reac_pain and the Barbary States. To his north would be Flanders and the countr_f the Eastlanders and of the Muscovites."
  • "True. And how if, after reaching the King's possessions, he still journeye_n to the eastward?"
  • "He would then come upon that part of France which is still in dispute, and h_ight hope to reach the famous city of Avignon, where dwells our blesse_ather, the prop of Christendom."
  • "And then?"
  • "Then he would pass through the land of the Almains and the great Roma_mpire, and so to the country of the Huns and of the Lithuanian pagans, beyon_hich lies the great city of Constantine and the kingdom of the unclea_ollowers of Mahmoud."
  • "And beyond that, fair son?"
  • "Beyond that is Jerusalem and the Holy Land, and the great river which hat_ts source in the Garden of Eden."
  • "And then?"
  • "Nay, good father, I cannot tell. Methinks the end of the world is not fa_rom there."
  • "Then we can still find something to teach thee, Alleyne," said the Abbo_omplaisantly. "Know that many strange nations lie betwixt there and the en_f the world. There is the country of the Amazons, and the country of th_warfs, and the country of the fair but evil women who slay with beholding, like the basilisk. Beyond that again is the kingdom of Prester John and of th_reat Cham. These things I know for very sooth, for I had them from that piou_hristian and valiant knight, Sir John de Mandeville, who stopped twice a_eaulieu on his way to and from Southampton, and discoursed to us concernin_hat he had seen from the reader's desk in the refectory, until there was man_ good brother who got neither bit nor sup, so stricken were they by hi_trange tales."
  • "I would fain know, father," asked the young man, "what there may be at th_nd of the world?"
  • "There are some things," replied the Abbot gravely, "into which it was neve_ntended that we should inquire. But you have a long road before you. Whithe_ill you first turn?"
  • "To my brother's at Minstead. If he be indeed an ungodly and violent man, there is the more need that I should seek him out and see whether I canno_urn him to better ways."
  • The Abbot shook his head. "The Socman of Minstead hath earned an evil nam_ver the country side," he said. "If you must go to him, see at least that h_oth not turn you from the narrow path upon which you have learned to tread.
  • But you are in God's keeping, and Godward should you ever look in danger an_n trouble. Above all, shun the snares of women, for they are ever set for th_oolish feet of the young. Kneel down, my child, and take an old man'_lessing."
  • Alleyne Edricson bent his head while the Abbot poured out his heartfel_upplication that Heaven would watch over this young soul, now going fort_nto the darkness and danger of the world. It was no mere form for either o_hem. To them the outside life of mankind did indeed seem to be one o_iolence and of sin, beset with physical and still more with spiritual danger.
  • Heaven, too, was very near to them in those days. God's direct agency was t_e seen in the thunder and the rainbow, the whirlwind and the lightning. T_he believer, clouds of angels and confessors, and martyrs, armies of th_ainted and the saved, were ever stooping over their struggling brethren upo_arth, raising, encouraging, and supporting them. It was then with a lighte_eart and a stouter courage that the young man turned from the Abbot's room, while the latter, following him to the stair-head, finally commended him t_he protection of the holy Julian, patron of travellers.
  • Underneath, in the porch of the Abbey, the monks had gathered to give him _ast God-speed. Many had brought some parting token by which he shoul_emember them. There was brother Bartholomew with a crucifix of rare carve_vory, and brother Luke with a white-backed psalter adorned with golden bees, and brother Francis with the "Slaying of the Innocents" most daintily se_orth upon vellum. All these were duly packed away deep in the traveller'_crip, and above them old pippin-faced brother Athanasius had placed a parce_f simnel bread and rammel cheese, with a small flask of the famous blue- sealed Abbey wine. So, amid hand-shakings and laughings and blessings, Alleyn_dricson turned his back upon Beaulieu.
  • At the turn of the road he stopped and gazed back. There was the wide-sprea_uilding which he knew so well, the Abbot's house, the long church, th_loisters with their line of arches, all bathed and mellowed in the evenin_un. There too was the broad sweep of the river Exe, the old stone well, th_anopied niche of the Virgin, and in the centre of all the cluster of white- robed figures who waved their hands to him. A sudden mist swam up before th_oung man's eyes, and he turned away upon his journey with a heavy heart and _hoking throat.