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?"
"But have sworn no vow of constancy or chastity?"
"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."
"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."
"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.