Arthur Conan Doyle.

The White company. Pictures by N.C. Wyeth online

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I How THE Black Sheep came Forth from the Fold . i

II How Alleyne Edricson came Out into the World . 10

III How "Iordle John cozened the Fuller of Lymington 15

IV How the Bailiff of Southampton Slew the Two

Masterless Men 20

V How A Strange Company Gathered at the " Pied

Merlin" 31

VI How Samkin Aylward Wagered his Feather-bed . . 43

VII How the Three Comrades Journeyed through the

Woodlands 54

VIII The Three Friends 64

IX How Strange Things Befell in Minstead Wood . . 73

X How Hordle John Found a Man whom he Might

Follow 89

XI How A Young Shepherd had a Perilous Flock . . 106




XII How Alleyne Learned More Than he Could Teach ii8

XIII How the White Company set Forth to the Wars . 127

XIV How Sir Nigel Sought for a Wayside Venture . . i34
XV How THE Yellow Cog sailed Forth from Lepe . . i44

XVI How THE Yellow Cog Fought the Two Rover Galleys 156

XVII How THE Yellow Cog Crossed the Bar of Gironde . 163

XVIII How Sir Nigel Loring put a Patch upon his Eye . 170

XIX How there was a Stir at the Abbey of St. Andrew's 180

XX How Alleyne Won his Place in an Honorable Guild 191

XXI How Agostino Pisano Risked his Head .... 200

XXII How the Bowmen held Wassail at the " Rose de

Guienne " 209

XXIII How England held the Lists at Bordeaux . . . 216

XXIV How A Champion came Forth from the East . . 225
XXV How Sir Nigel wrote to Twynham Castle . . . 234

XXVI How the Three Comrades Gained a Mighty Treasure 240

XXVII How Roger Club-foot was Passed into Paradise . . 253



XXVIII How THE Comrades came over the Marches of France 261

XXIX How THE Blessed Hour of Sight Came to the Lady

Tiphaine 272

XXX How THE Brushwood Men came to the Chateau of

Villefranche 282

XXXI How Five Men held the Keep of Villefranche . . 290

XXXII How THE Company took Counsel Round the Fallen

Tree 300

XXXIII How the Army made the Passage of Roncesvalles . 307

XXXIV How the Company Made Sport in the Vale of Pam-

peluna 314

XXXV How Sir Nigel Hawked at an Eagle . . . .324

XXXVI How Sir Nigel Took the Patch from his Eye . . 336

XXXVII How the White Company came to be Disbanded . 348

XXXVIII Of the Home-coming to Hampshire 356




"By the black rood of Waltham!" he roared, "if any knave
among you lays a finger-end upon the edge of my gown, I will
crush his skull like a filbert!" 15


// would have been hard that night, through the whole length of
England, to set up a finer pair in face of each other ... 50


The bowman sang snatches of French love songs in a voice which
might have scared the most stout-hearted maiden .... 83


'' This tuay!" the woman whispered. "Into the stream to throw
the dog off, though I think it is but a common cur, like its
master . . . . . . . . . . , .114


The breeze blew, the sail bellied, over heeled the portly vessel, and
away she plunged through the smooth blue rollers .... 147




" It is very fitting," said Chandos, " that we should be companions,
Nigel, for since you have tied up one of your eyes, we have but a
pair between us" 178


Back and back gave Tranter, ever seeking time for a last cut.

On and on came Alley ne 21 1


Up and doum went the long, shining blades with flash of sparks at
every parry 242


High and strong the chateau, lowly and weak the brushwood hut;
but God help the seigneur and his lady when the men of the
brushwood set their hands to the work of revenge! . . . 275


"My God!" cried Alleyne, shaking in every limb. "What
devil's deed is this?" 306


Day was already breaking in the east, and Sir 'Nigel's Company,
three hundred strong, were on their way for the defile . . -339




He was dizzy, sick, faint, but he must not die, and he must not
tarry, for his life meant many lives that day 348


Her foot is on the very lintel of the church, and yet he bars the
way — ^361

HOTE: The paintings by Mr. N. C. Wyeth, reproduced in
this volume, are fully protected by copyright.



Chapter I


THE great bell of Beaulleu was ringing. Far away through the
forest might be heard its musical clangor and swell. Peat-cutters
on Blackdown and fishers upon the Exe heard the distant throbbing
rising and falling upon the sultry summer air. It was a common sound
In those parts — as common as the chatter of the jays and the booming
of the bittern. Yet the fishers and the peasants raised their heads and
looked questions at each other, for the angelus had already gone and
vespers was still far off. Why should the great bell of Beaulleu toll
when the shadows were neither short nor long?

All round the Abbey the monks were trooping in. Under the long
green-paved avenues of gnarled oaks and of llchened beeches the white-
robed brothers gathered to the sound. From the vineyard and the
vine-press, from the bouvary or ox-farm, from the marl-pits and salterns,
even from the distant iron-works of Sowley and the outlying grange of
St. Leonard's, they had all turned their steps homewards. It had been
no sudden call. A swift messenger had the night before sped round
to the outlying dependencies of the Abbey, and had left the summons
for every monk to be back in the cloisters by the third hour after noon-
tide. So urgent a message had not been issued within the memory of
old lay-brother Athanasius, who had cleaned the Abbey knocker since
the years after the Battle of Bannockburn.

A stranger who knew nothing either of the Abbey or of its immense
resources might have gathered from the appearance of the brothers
some conception of the varied duties which they were called upon to
perform, and of the busy, wide-spread life which centered in the old
monastery. As they swept gravely in by twos and by threes, with bended


heads and muttering lips, there were few who did not bear upon them
some signs of their daily toil. Here were two with wrists and sleeves
all spotted with the ruddy grape juice. There again was a bearded
brother with a broad-headed axe and a bundle of faggots upon his shoul-
ders, while beside him walked another with the shears under his arm
and the white wool still clinging to his whiter gown. A long, straggling
troop bore spades and mattocks, while the two rearmost of all staggered
along under a huge basket of fresh-caught carp, for the morrow was
Friday, and there were fifty platters to be filled and as many sturdy
trenchermen behind them. Of all the throng there was scarce one who
was not labor-stained and weary, for Abbot Berghersh was a hard man
to himself and to others.

Meanwhile, in the broad and lofty chamber set apart for occasions
of import, the Abbot himself was pacing impatiently backwards and
forwards, with his long white nervous hands clasped in front of him.
His thin, thought-worn features and sunken, haggard cheeks bespoke
one who had indeed beaten down that inner foe whom every man must
face, but had none the less suffered sorely in the contest. In crushing
his passions he had well-nigh crushed himself. Yet, frail as was his
person, there gleamed out ever and anon from under his drooping brows
a flash of fierce energy, which recalled to men's minds that he came of
a fighting stock, and that even now his twin-brother, Sir Bartholomew
Berghersh, was one of the most famous of those stern warriors who
had planted the Cross of St. George before the gates of Paris. With
lips compressed and clouded brow, he strode up and down the oaken
floor, the very genius and impersonation of asceticism, while the great
bell still thundered and clanged above his head. At last the uproar
died away in three last, measured throbs, and ere their echo had ceased
the Abbot struck a small gong which summoned a lay-brother to his

"Have the brethern come?" he asked in the Anglo-French dialect
used in religious houses.

" They are here," the other answered, with his eyes cast down and
his hands crossed upon his chest.


" Two and thirty of the seniors and fifteen of the novices, most holy
father. Brother Mark of the Spicarium is sore smitten with a fever
and could not come. He said that — "


" It boots not what he said. Fever or no, he should have come at
my call. His spirit must be chastened, as must that of many more in
this Abbey. You yourself, brother Francis, have twice raised your
voice, so it hath come to my ears, when the reader in the refectory
hath been dealing with the lives of God's most blessed saints. What
hast thou to say? "

The lay-brother stood meek and silent, with his arms still crossed in
front of him.

" One thousand aves and as many credos, said standing with arms
outstretched before the shrine of the Virgin, may help thee to remember
that the Creator hath given us two ears and but one mouth, as a token
that there is twice the work for the one as for the other. Where is the
master of the novices? "

" He is without, most holy father."

•' Send him hither."

The sandaled feet clattered over the wooden floor, and the iron-bound
door creaked upon its hinges. In a few moments it opened again to
admit a short square monk with a heavy, composed face and an authori-
tative manner.

" You have sent for me, holy father? "

" Yes, brother Jerome, I wish that this matter be disposed of with
as little scandal as may be, and yet it is needful that the example should
be a public one." The Abbot spoke in Latin now, as a language which
was more fitted by its age and solemnity to convey the thoughts of
two high dignitaries of the order.

*' It would, perchance, be best that the novices be not admitted,"
suggested the master. " This mention of a woman may turn their minds
from their pious meditations to worldly and evil thoughts."

" Woman ! woman ! " groaned the Abbot. " Well has the holy Chrys-
ostom termed them radix malorum. From Eve downwards, what good
hath come from any of them? Who brings the plaint?"

" It Is brother Ambrose."

" A holy and devout young man."

" A light and a pattern to every novice."

" Let the matter be brought to an issue then according to our old-
time monastic habit. Bid the chancellor and the sub-chancellor lead In
the brothers according to age, together with brother John, the accused,
and brother Ambrose, the accuser."


"And the novices?"

" Let them bide in the north alley of the cloisters. Stay I Bid the
sub-chancellor send out to them Thomas the lector to read unto them
from the ' Gesta beati Benedicti.' It may save them from foolish and
pernicious babbling."

The Abbot was left to himself once more, and bent his thin gray
face over his illuminated breviary. So he remained while the senior
monks filed slowly and sedately into the chamber, seating themselves
upon the long oaken benches which lined the wall on either side. At
the further end, in two high chairs as large as that of the Abbot, though
hardly as elaborately carved, sat the master of the novices and the
chancellor, the latter a broad and portly priest, with dark mirthful eyes
and a thick outgrowth of crisp black hair all round his tonsured head.
Between them stood a lean, white-faced brother who appeared to be ill
at ease, shifting his feet from side to side and tapping his chin nervously
with the long parchment roll which he held in his hand. The Abbot,
from his point of vantage, looked down on the two long lines of faces,
placid and sun-browned for the most part, with the large bovine eyes
and unlined features which told of their easy, unchanging existence.
Then he turned his eager fiery gaze upon the pale-faced monk who
faced him.

" This plaint is thine, as I learn, brother Ambrose," said he. " May
the holy Benedict, patron of our house, be present this day and aid
us in our findings 1 How many counts are there?"

" Three, most holy father," the brother answered in a low and quav-
ering voice.

*' Have you set them forth according to rule?"

" They are here set down, most holy father, upon a cantle of sheep-

" Let the sheep-skin be handed to the chancellor. Bring in brother
John, and let him hear the plaints which have been urged against him."

At this order a lay-brother swung open the door, and two other lay-
brothers entered leading between them a young novice of the order.
He was a man of huge stature, dark-eyed and red-headed, with a peculiar
half-humorous, half-defiant expression upon his bold, well-marked fea-
tures. His cowl was thrown back upon his shoulders, and his gown,
unfastened at the top, disclosed a round, sinewy neck, ruddy and corded
like the bark of the fir. Thick, muscular arms, covered with a reddish


down, protruded from the wide sleeves of his habit, while his white
skirt, looped up upon one side, gave a glimpse of a huge knotty leg,
scarred and torn with the scratches of brambles. With a bow to the
Abbot, which had in it perhaps more pleasantry than reverence, the
novice strode across to the carved prie-dieu which had been set apart
for him, and stood silent and erect with his hand upon the gold bell
which was used in the private orisons of the Abbot's own household.
His dark eyes glanced rapidly over the assembly, and finally settled
with a grim and menacing twinkle upon the face of his accuser.

The chamberlain rose, and having slowly unrolled the parchment-
scroll, proceeded to read it out in a thick and pompous voice, while
a subdued rustle and movement among the brothers bespoke the interest
with which they followed the proceedings.

" Charges brought upon the second Thursday after the Feast of
the Assumption, in the year of our Lord thirteen hundred and sixty-
six, against brother John, formerly known as Hordle John, or John of
Hordle, but now a novice in the holy monastic order of the Cistercians.
Read upon the same day at the Abbey of Beaulieu in the presence of
the most reverend Abbot Berghersh and of the assembled order.

" The charges against the said brother John are the following,
namely, to wit:

" First, that on the above-mentioned Feast of the Assumption, small
beer having been served to the novices in the proportion of one quart
to each four, the said brother John did drain the pot at one draught to
the detriment of brother Paul, brother Porphyry and brother Ambrose,
who could scarce eat their none-meat of salted stock-fish on account of
their exceeding dryness."

At this solemn indictment the novice raised his hand and twitched
his lip, while even the placid senior brothers glanced across at each other
and coughed to cover their amusement. The Abbot alone sat gray and
immutable, with a drawn face and a brooding eye.

" Item, that having been told by the master of the novices that he
should restrict his food for two days to a single three-pound loaf of
bran and beans, for the greater honoring and glorifying of St. Monica,
mother of the holy Augustine, he was heard by brother Ambrose and
others to say that he wished twenty thousand devils would fly away
with the said Monica, mother of the holy Augustine, or any other saint
who came between a man and his meat. Item, that upon brother Am-


brose reproving him for this blasphemous wish, he did hold the said
brother face downwards over the piscatorium or fish-pond for a space
during which the said brother was able to repeat a pater and four aves
for the better fortifying of his soul against impending death."

There was a buzz and murmur among the white-frocked brethren at
this grave charge; but the Abbot held up his long quivering hand.
"What then? "said he.

" Item, that between nones and vespers on the feast of James the
Less the said brother John was observed upon the Brockenhurst road,
near the spot which is known as Hatchett's Pond, in converse with a
person of the other sex, being a maiden of the name of Mary Sowley,
the daughter of the King's verderer. Item, that after sundry japes and
jokes the said brother John did lift up the said Mary Sowley and did
take, carry, and convey her across a stream, to the infinite relish of the
devil and the exceeding detriment of his own soul, which scandalous and
willful falling away was witnessed by three members of our order."

A dead silence throughout the room, with a rolling of heads and
upturning of eyes, bespoke the pious horror of the community. The
Abbot drew his gray brows low over his fiercely questioning eyes.

" Who can vouch for this thing? " he asked.

" That can I," answered the accuser. " So too can brother Porphyry,
who was with me, and brother Mark of the Splcarlum, who hath been
so much stirred and inwardly troubled by the sight that he now lies in
a fever through it."

"And the woman?" asked the Abbot. "Did she not break into
lamentation and woe that a brother should so demean himself?"

" Nay, she smiled sweetly upon him and thanked him. I can vouch
it and so can brother Porphyry."

" Canst thou ? " cried the Abbot, in a high, tempestuous tone. " Canst
thou so? Hast forgotten that the five-and-thlrtleth rule of the order
is that in the presence of a woman the face should be ever averted and
the eyes cast down? Hast forgot it, I say? If your eyes were upon
your sandals, how came ye to see this smile of which ye prate? A week
in your cells, false brethren, a week of rye-bread and lentils, with double
lauds and double matins, may help ye to remembrance of the laws under
which ye live."

At this sudden outflame of wrath the two witnesses sank their faces
on to their chests, and sat as men crushed. The Abbot turned his angry


eyes away from them and bent them upon the accused, who met his
searching gaze with a firm and composed face.

" What hast thou to say, brother John, upon these weighty things
which are urged against you?"

" Little enough, good father, little enough," said the novice, speaking
English with a broad West Saxon drawl. The brothers, who were Eng-
lish to a man, pricked up their ears at the sound of the homely and yet
unfamiliar speech ; but the Abbot flushed red with anger, and struck his
hand upon the oaken arm of his chair.

" What talk is this? " he cried. " Is this a tongue to be used within
the walls of an old and well- famed monastery? But grace and learning
have ever gone hand in hand, and when one is lost it is needless to
look for the other."

" I know not about that," said brother John. " I know only that the
words come kindly to my mouth, for it was the speech of my fathers
before me. Under your favor, I shall either use it now or hold my

The Abbot patted his foot and nodded his head, as one who passes
a point but does not forget it.

" For the matter of the ale," continued brother John, " I had come
in hot from the fields and had scarce got the taste of the thing before
mine eye lit upon the bottom of the pot. It may be, too, that I spoke
somewhat shortly concerning the bran and the beans, the same being
poor provender and unfitted for a man of my inches. It is true also
that I did lay my hands upon this jack-fool of a brother Ambrose,
though, as you can see, I did him little scathe. As regards the maid, too,
it is true that I did heft her over the stream, she having on her hosen
and shoon, whilst I had but my wooden sandals which could take no
hurt from the water. I should have thought shame upon my manhood,
as well as my monkhood, if I had held back my hand from her." He
glanced around as he spoke with the half-amused look which he had
worn during the whole proceedings.

" There is no need to go further," said the Abbot. " He has con-
fessed to all. It only remains for me to portion out the punishment
which is due to his evil conduct."

He rose, and the two long lines of brothers followed his example,
looking sideways with scared faces at the angry prelate.

*' John of Hordle," he thundered, " you have shown yourself during


the two months of your novitiate to be a recreant monk, and one who
is unworthy to wear the white garb which is the outer symbol of the
spotless spirit. That dress shall therefore be stripped from thee, and
thou shalt be cast into the outer world without benefit of clerkship, and
without lot or part in the graces and blessings of those who dwell under
the care of the Blessed Benedict. Thou shalt come back neither to
Beaulieu nor to any of the granges of Beaulieu, and thy name shall be
struck off the scrolls of the order."

The sentence appeared a terrible one to the older monks, who had
become so used to the safe and regular life of the Abbey that they would
have been as helpless as children in the outer world. From their pious
oasis they looked dreamily out at the desert of life, a place full of storm-
Ings and strivings — comfortless, restless, and overshadowed by evil.
The young novice, however, appeared to have other thoughts, for his
eyes sparkled and his smile broadened. It needed but that to add fresh
fuel to the fiery mood of the prelate.

" So much jfor thy spiritual punishment," he cried. " But it is to
thy grosser feelings that we must turn in such natures as thine, and as
thou art no longer under the shield of holy Church there is the less
difficulty. Ho there ! lay-brothers — Francis, Naomi, Joseph — seize
him and bind his arms ! Drag him forth, and let the foresters and the
porters scourge him from the precincts ! "

As these three brothers advanced towards him to carry out the
Abbot's direction, the smile faded from the novice's face, and he glanced
right and left with his fierce brown eyes, like a bull at a baiting. Then,
with a sudden deep-chested shout, he tore up the heavy oaken prie-dieu
and poised it to strike, taking two steps backward the while, that none
might take him at a vantage.

" By the black rood of Waltham ! " he roared, " if any knave among
you lays a finger-end upon the edge of my gown, I will crush his skull
like a filbert ! " With his thick knotted arms, his thundering voice,
and his bristle of red hair, there was something so repellent in the
man that the three brothers flew back at the very glare of him; and
the two rows of white monks strained away from him like poplars
in a tempest. The Abbot only sprang forward with shining eyes; but
the chancellor and the master hung upon either arm and wrested him
back out of danger's way.

" He is possessed of a devil 1 " they shouted. " Run, brother Am-


brose, brother Joachim! Call Hugh of the Mill, and Woodman Wat,
and Raoul with his arbalest and bolts. Tell them that we are in fear
of our lives ! Run, run ! for the love of the Virgin ! "

But the novice was a strategist as well as a man of action. Springing
forward, he hurled his unwieldy weapon at brother Ambrose, and, as
desk and monk clattered on to the floor together, he sprang through
the open door and down the winding stair. Sleepy old brother Atha-
naslus, at the porter's cell, had a fleeting vision of twinkling feet and
flying skirts; but before he had time to rub his eyes the recreant had
passed the lodge, and was speeding as fast as his sandals could patter
along the Lyndhurst Road.

Chapter II


NEVER had the peaceful atmosphere of the old Cistercian house
been so rudely ruffled. Never had there been insurrection so
sudden, so short, and so successful. Yet the Abbot Berghersh was a
man of too firm a grain to allow one bold outbreak to imperil the settled
order of his great household. In a few hot and bitter words, he com-
pared their false brother's exit to the expulsion of our first parents
from the garden, and more than hinted that unless a reformation
occurred some others of the community might find themselves in the
same evil and perilous case. Having thus pointed the moral and re-
duced his flock to a fitting state of docility, he dismissed them once

Online LibraryArthur Conan DoyleThe White company. Pictures by N.C. Wyeth → online text (page 1 of 34)