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Produced by Charles Keller





MAID MARIAN


by Thomas Love Peacock




MAID MARIAN




CHAPTER I


Now come ye for peace here, or come ye for war?
- SCOTT.


"The abbot, in his alb arrayed," stood at the altar in the abbey-chapel
of Rubygill, with all his plump, sleek, rosy friars, in goodly lines
disposed, to solemnise the nuptials of the beautiful Matilda Fitzwater,
daughter of the Baron of Arlingford, with the noble Robert Fitz-Ooth,
Earl of Locksley and Huntingdon. The abbey of Rubygill stood in a
picturesque valley, at a little distance from the western boundary of
Sherwood Forest, in a spot which seemed adapted by nature to be
the retreat of monastic mortification, being on the banks of a fine
trout-stream, and in the midst of woodland coverts, abounding with
excellent game. The bride, with her father and attendant maidens,
entered the chapel; but the earl had not arrived. The baron was amazed,
and the bridemaidens were disconcerted. Matilda feared that some evil
had befallen her lover, but felt no diminution of her confidence in his
honour and love. Through the open gates of the chapel she looked down
the narrow road that wound along the side of the hill; and her ear was
the first that heard the distant trampling of horses, and her eye was
the first that caught the glitter of snowy plumes, and the light of
polished spears. "It is strange," thought the baron, "that the earl
should come in this martial array to his wedding;" but he had not long
to meditate on the phenomenon, for the foaming steeds swept up to the
gate like a whirlwind, and the earl, breathless with speed, and followed
by a few of his yeomen, advanced to his smiling bride. It was then
no time to ask questions, for the organ was in full peal, and the
choristers were in full voice.

The abbot began to intone the ceremony in a style of modulation
impressively exalted, his voice issuing most canonically from the roof
of his mouth, through the medium of a very musical nose newly tuned for
the occasion. But he had not proceeded far enough to exhibit all the
variety and compass of this melodious instrument, when a noise was heard
at the gate, and a party of armed men entered the chapel. The song of
the choristers died away in a shake of demisemiquavers, contrary to all
the rules of psalmody. The organ-blower, who was working his musical
air-pump with one hand, and with two fingers and a thumb of the other
insinuating a peeping-place through the curtain of the organ-gallery,
was struck motionless by the double operation of curiosity and fear;
while the organist, intent only on his performance, and spreading all
his fingers to strike a swell of magnificent chords, felt his harmonic
spirit ready to desert his body on being answered by the ghastly rattle
of empty keys, and in the consequent agitato furioso of the internal
movements of his feelings, was preparing to restore harmony by the segue
subito of an appoggiatura con foco with the corner of a book of anthems
on the head of his neglectful assistant, when his hand and his attention
together were arrested by the scene below. The voice of the abbot
subsided into silence through a descending scale of long-drawn melody,
like the sound of the ebbing sea to the explorers of a cave. In a few
moments all was silence, interrupted only by the iron tread of the armed
intruders, as it rang on the marble floor and echoed from the vaulted
aisles.

The leader strode up to the altar; and placing himself opposite to the
abbot, and between the earl and Matilda, in such a manner that the four
together seemed to stand on the four points of a diamond, exclaimed, "In
the name of King Henry, I forbid the ceremony, and attach Robert Earl of
Huntingdon as a traitor!" and at the same time he held his drawn sword
between the lovers, as if to emblem that royal authority which laid its
temporal ban upon their contract. The earl drew his own sword instantly,
and struck down the interposing weapon; then clasped his left arm round
Matilda, who sprang into his embrace, and held his sword before her with
his right hand. His yeomen ranged themselves at his side, and stood with
their swords drawn, still and prepared, like men determined to die in
his defence. The soldiers, confident in superiority of numbers,
paused. The abbot took advantage of the pause to introduce a word of
exhortation. "My children," said he, "if you are going to cut each
other's throats, I entreat you, in the name of peace and charity, to do
it out of the chapel."

"Sweet Matilda," said the earl, "did you give your love to the Earl
of Huntingdon, whose lands touch the Ouse and the Trent, or to Robert
Fitz-Ooth, the son of his mother?"

"Neither to the earl nor his earldom," answered Matilda firmly, "but to
Robert Fitz-Ooth and his love."

"That I well knew," said the earl; "and though the ceremony be
incomplete, we are not the less married in the eye of my only saint, our
Lady, who will yet bring us together. Lord Fitzwater, to your care, for
the present, I commit your daughter. - Nay, sweet Matilda, part we must
for a while; but we will soon meet under brighter skies, and be this the
seal of our faith."

He kissed Matilda's lips, and consigned her to the baron, who glowered
about him with an expression of countenance that showed he was mortally
wroth with somebody; but whatever he thought or felt he kept to himself.
The earl, with a sign to his followers, made a sudden charge on the
soldiers, with the intention of cutting his way through. The soldiers
were prepared for such an occurrence, and a desperate skirmish
succeeded. Some of the women screamed, but none of them fainted; for
fainting was not so much the fashion in those days, when the ladies
breakfasted on brawn and ale at sunrise, as in our more refined age of
green tea and muffins at noon. Matilda seemed disposed to fly again to
her lover, but the baron forced her from the chapel. The earl's bowmen
at the door sent in among the assailants a volley of arrows, one of
which whizzed past the ear of the abbot, who, in mortal fear of being
suddenly translated from a ghostly friar into a friarly ghost, began
to roll out of the chapel as fast as his bulk and his holy robes would
permit, roaring "Sacrilege!" with all his monks at his heels, who were,
like himself, more intent to go at once than to stand upon the order of
their going. The abbot, thus pressed from behind, and stumbling over
his own drapery before, fell suddenly prostrate in the door-way that
connected the chapel with the abbey, and was instantaneously buried
under a pyramid of ghostly carcasses, that fell over him and each other,
and lay a rolling chaos of animated rotundities, sprawling and bawling
in unseemly disarray, and sending forth the names of all the saints
in and out of heaven, amidst the clashing of swords, the ringing of
bucklers, the clattering of helmets, the twanging of bow-strings, the
whizzing of arrows, the screams of women, the shouts of the warriors,
and the vociferations of the peasantry, who had been assembled to the
intended nuptials, and who, seeing a fair set-to, contrived to pick a
quarrel among themselves on the occasion, and proceeded, with staff and
cudgel, to crack each other's skulls for the good of the king and the
earl. One tall friar alone was untouched by the panic of his brethren,
and stood steadfastly watching the combat with his arms a-kembo, the
colossal emblem of an unarmed neutrality.

At length, through the midst of the internal confusion, the earl, by the
help of his good sword, the staunch valour of his men, and the blessing
of the Virgin, fought his way to the chapel-gate - his bowmen closed him
in - he vaulted into his saddle, clapped spurs to his horse, rallied his
men on the first eminence, and exchanged his sword for a bow and arrow,
with which he did old execution among the pursuers, who at last thought
it most expedient to desist from offensive warfare, and to retreat into
the abbey, where, in the king's name, they broached a pipe of the best
wine, and attached all the venison in the larder, having first carefully
unpacked the tuft of friars, and set the fallen abbot on his legs.

The friars, it may be well supposed, and such of the king's men as
escaped unhurt from the affray, found their spirits a cup too low,
and kept the flask moving from noon till night. The peaceful brethren,
unused to the tumult of war, had undergone, from fear and discomposure,
an exhaustion of animal spirits that required extraordinary refection.
During the repast, they interrogated Sir Ralph Montfaucon, the leader of
the soldiers, respecting the nature of the earl's offence.

"A complication of offences," replied Sir Ralph, "superinduced on the
original basis of forest-treason. He began with hunting the king's deer,
in despite of all remonstrance; followed it up by contempt of the king's
mandates, and by armed resistance to his power, in defiance of all
authority; and combined with it the resolute withholding of payment of
certain moneys to the abbot of Doncaster, in denial of all law; and has
thus made himself the declared enemy of church and state, and all for
being too fond of venison." And the knight helped himself to half a
pasty.

"A heinous offender," said a little round oily friar, appropriating the
portion of pasty which Sir Ralph had left.

"The earl is a worthy peer," said the tall friar whom we have already
mentioned in the chapel scene, "and the best marksman in England."

"Why this is flat treason, brother Michael," said the little round
friar, "to call an attainted traitor a worthy peer."

"I pledge you," said brother Michael. The little friar smiled and filled
his cup. "He will draw the long bow," pursued brother Michael, "with any
bold yeoman among them all."

"Don't talk of the long bow," said the abbot, who had the sound of the
arrow still whizzing in his ear: "what have we pillars of the faith to
do with the long bow?"

"Be that as it may," said Sir Ralph, "he is an outlaw from this moment."

"So much the worse for the law then," said brother Michael. "The law
will have a heavier miss of him than he will have of the law. He will
strike as much venison as ever, and more of other game. I know what I
say: but basta: Let us drink."

"What other game?" said the little friar. "I hope he won't poach among
our partridges."

"Poach! not he," said brother Michael: "if he wants your partridges,
he will strike them under your nose (here's to you), and drag your
trout-stream for you on a Thursday evening."

"Monstrous! and starve us on fast-day," said the little friar.

"But that is not the game I mean," said brother Michael.

"Surely, son Michael," said the abbot, "you do not mean to insinuate
that the noble earl will turn freebooter?"

"A man must live," said brother Michael, "earl or no. If the law takes
his rents and beeves without his consent, he must take beeves and rents
where he can get them without the consent of the law. This is the lex
talionis."

"Truly," said Sir Ralph, "I am sorry for the damsel: she seems fond of
this wild runagate."

"A mad girl, a mad girl," said the little friar.

"How a mad girl?" said brother Michael. "Has she not beauty, grace, wit,
sense, discretion, dexterity, learning, and valour?"

"Learning!" exclaimed the little friar; "what has a woman to do with
learning? And valour! who ever heard a woman commended for valour?
Meekness and mildness, and softness, and gentleness, and tenderness, and
humility, and obedience to her husband, and faith in her confessor,
and domesticity, or, as learned doctors call it, the faculty of
stayathomeitiveness, and embroidery, and music, and pickling, and
preserving, and the whole complex and multiplex detail of the noble
science of dinner, as well in preparation for the table, as in
arrangement over it, and in distribution around it to knights, and
squires, and ghostly friars, - these are female virtues: but valour - why
who ever heard - - ?"

"She is the all in all," said brother Michael, "gentle as a ring-dove,
yet high-soaring as a falcon: humble below her deserving, yet deserving
beyond the estimate of panegyric: an exact economist in all superfluity,
yet a most bountiful dispenser in all liberality: the chief regulator of
her household, the fairest pillar of her hall, and the sweetest blossom
of her bower: having, in all opposite proposings, sense to understand,
judgment to weigh, discretion to choose, firmness to undertake,
diligence to conduct, perseverance to accomplish, and resolution to
maintain. For obedience to her husband, that is not to be tried till
she has one: for faith in her confessor, she has as much as the law
prescribes: for embroidery an Arachne: for music a Siren: and for
pickling and preserving, did not one of her jars of sugared apricots
give you your last surfeit at Arlingford Castle?"

"Call you that preserving?" said the little friar; "I call it
destroying. Call you it pickling? Truly it pickled me. My life was saved
by miracle."

"By canary," said brother Michael. "Canary is the only life preserver,
the true aurum potabile, the universal panacea for all diseases, thirst,
and short life. Your life was saved by canary."

"Indeed, reverend father," said Sir Ralph, "if the young lady be half
what you describe, she must be a paragon: but your commending her for
valour does somewhat amaze me."

"She can fence," said the little friar, "and draw the long bow, and play
at singlestick and quarter-staff."

"Yet mark you," said brother Michael, "not like a virago or a hoyden,
or one that would crack a serving-man's head for spilling gravy on her
ruff, but with such womanly grace and temperate self-command as if
those manly exercises belonged to her only, and were become for her sake
feminine."

"You incite me," said Sir Ralph, "to view her more nearly. That madcap
earl found me other employment than to remark her in the chapel."

"The earl is a worthy peer," said brother Michael; "he is worth any
fourteen earls on this side Trent, and any seven on the other." (The
reader will please to remember that Rubygill Abbey was north of Trent.)

"His mettle will be tried," said Sir Ralph. "There is many a courtier
will swear to King Henry to bring him in dead or alive."

"They must look to the brambles then," said brother Michael.

"The bramble, the bramble, the bonny forest bramble,
Doth make a jest
Of silken vest,
That will through greenwood scramble:
The bramble, the bramble, the bonny forest bramble."


"Plague on your lungs, son Michael," said the abbot; "this is your old
coil: always roaring in your cups."

"I know what I say," said brother Michael; "there is often more sense in
an old song than in a new homily.

The courtly pad doth amble,
When his gay lord would ramble:
But both may catch
An awkward scratch,
If they ride among the bramble:
The bramble, the bramble, the bonny forest bramble."


"Tall friar," said Sir Ralph, "either you shoot the shafts of your
merriment at random, or you know more of the earl's designs than beseems
your frock."

"Let my frock," said brother Michael, "answer for its own sins. It is
worn past covering mine. It is too weak for a shield, too transparent
for a screen, too thin for a shelter, too light for gravity, and too
threadbare for a jest. The wearer would be naught indeed who should
misbeseem such a wedding garment.

But wherefore does the sheep wear wool?
That he in season sheared may be,
And the shepherd be warm though his flock be cool:
So I'll have a new cloak about me."




CHAPTER II


Vray moyne si oncques en feut depuis que le monde moynant
moyna de moynerie. - RABELAIS.


The Earl of Huntingdon, living in the vicinity of a royal forest, and
passionately attached to the chase from his infancy, had long made as
free with the king's deer as Lord Percy proposed to do with those of
Lord Douglas in the memorable hunting of Cheviot. It is sufficiently
well known how severe were the forest-laws in those days, and with
what jealousy the kings of England maintained this branch of their
prerogative; but menaces and remonstrances were thrown away on the earl,
who declared that he would not thank Saint Peter for admission into
Paradise, if he were obliged to leave his bow and hounds at the gate.
King Henry (the Second) swore by Saint Botolph to make him rue his
sport, and, having caused him to be duly and formally accused, summoned
him to London to answer the charge. The earl, deeming himself safer
among his own vassals than among king Henry's courtiers, took no notice
of the mandate. King Henry sent a force to bring him, vi et armis, to
court. The earl made a resolute resistance, and put the king's force to
flight under a shower of arrows: an act which the courtiers declared to
be treason. At the same time, the abbot of Doncaster sued up the payment
of certain moneys, which the earl, whose revenue ran a losing race with
his hospitality, had borrowed at sundry times of the said abbot: for the
abbots and the bishops were the chief usurers of those days, and, as the
end sanctifies the means, were not in the least scrupulous of employing
what would have been extortion in the profane, to accomplish the pious
purpose of bringing a blessing on the land by rescuing it from the
frail hold of carnal and temporal into the firmer grasp of ghostly
and spiritual possessors. But the earl, confident in the number and
attachment of his retainers, stoutly refused either to repay the money,
which he could not, or to yield the forfeiture, which he would not: a
refusal which in those days was an act of outlawry in a gentleman, as
it is now of bankruptcy in a base mechanic; the gentleman having in our
wiser times a more liberal privilege of gentility, which enables him to
keep his land and laugh at his creditor. Thus the mutual resentments and
interests of the king and the abbot concurred to subject the earl to the
penalties of outlawry, by which the abbot would gain his due upon the
lands of Locksley, and the rest would be confiscate to the king. Still
the king did not think it advisable to assail the earl in his own
strong-hold, but caused a diligent watch to be kept over his motions,
till at length his rumoured marriage with the heiress of Arlingford
seemed to point out an easy method of laying violent hands on the
offender. Sir Ralph Montfaucon, a young man of good lineage and of an
aspiring temper, who readily seized the first opportunity that offered
of recommending himself to King Henry's favour by manifesting his zeal
in his service, undertook the charge: and how he succeeded we have seen.

Sir Ralph's curiosity was strongly excited by the friar's description
of the young lady of Arlingford; and he prepared in the morning to visit
the castle, under the very plausible pretext of giving the baron an
explanation of his intervention at the nuptials. Brother Michael and the
little fat friar proposed to be his guides. The proposal was courteously
accepted, and they set out together, leaving Sir Ralph's followers at
the abbey. The knight was mounted on a spirited charger; brother Michael
on a large heavy-trotting horse; and the little fat friar on a plump
soft-paced galloway, so correspondent with himself in size, rotundity,
and sleekness, that if they had been amalgamated into a centaur, there
would have been nothing to alter in their proportions.

"Do you know," said the little friar, as they wound along the banks of
the stream, "the reason why lake-trout is better than river-trout, and
shyer withal?"

"I was not aware of the fact," said Sir Ralph.

"A most heterodox remark," said brother Michael: "know you not, that
in all nice matters you should take the implication for absolute, and,
without looking into the FACT WHETHER, seek only the reason why? But the
fact is so, on the word of a friar; which what layman will venture to
gainsay who prefers a down bed to a gridiron?"

"The fact being so," said the knight, "I am still at a loss for the
reason; nor would I undertake to opine in a matter of that magnitude:
since, in all that appertains to the good things either of this world
or the next, my reverend spiritual guides are kind enough to take the
trouble of thinking off my hands."

"Spoken," said brother Michael, "with a sound Catholic conscience. My
little brother here is most profound in the matter of trout. He has
marked, learned, and inwardly digested the subject, twice a week at
least for five-and-thirty years. I yield to him in this. My strong
points are venison and canary."

"The good qualities of a trout," said the little friar, "are firmness
and redness: the redness, indeed, being the visible sign of all other
virtues."

"Whence," said brother Michael, "we choose our abbot by his nose:

The rose on the nose doth all virtues disclose:
For the outward grace shows
That the inward overflows,
When it glows in the rose of a red, red nose."


"Now," said the little friar, "as is the firmness so is the redness, and
as is the redness so is the shyness."

"Marry why?" said brother Michael. "The solution is not
physical-natural, but physical-historical, or natural-superinductive.
And thereby hangs a tale, which may be either said or sung:

The damsel stood to watch the fight
By the banks of Kingslea Mere,
And they brought to her feet her own true knight
Sore-wounded on a bier.

She knelt by him his wounds to bind,
She washed them with many a tear:
And shouts rose fast upon the wind,
Which told that the foe was near.

"Oh! let not," he said, "while yet I live,
The cruel foe me take:
But with thy sweet lips a last kiss give,
And cast me in the lake."

Around his neck she wound her arms,
And she kissed his lips so pale:
And evermore the war's alarms
Came louder up the vale.

She drew him to the lake's steep side,
Where the red heath fringed the shore;
She plunged with him beneath the tide,
And they were seen no more.

Their true blood mingled in Kingslea Mere,
That to mingle on earth was fain:
And the trout that swims in that crystal clear
Is tinged with the crimson stain.


"Thus you see how good comes of evil, and how a holy friar may fare
better on fast-day for the violent death of two lovers two hundred
years ago. The inference is most consecutive, that wherever you catch
a red-fleshed trout, love lies bleeding under the water: an occult
quality, which can only act in the stationary waters of a lake, being
neutralised by the rapid transition of those of a stream."

"And why is the trout shyer for that?" asked Sir Ralph.

"Do you not see?" said brother Michael. "The virtues of both lovers
diffuse themselves through the lake. The infusion of masculine valour
makes the fish active and sanguineous: the infusion of maiden modesty
makes him coy and hard to win: and you shall find through life, the fish
which is most easily hooked is not the best worth dishing. But yonder
are the towers of Arlingford."

The little friar stopped. He seemed suddenly struck with an awful
thought, which caused a momentary pallescence in his rosy complexion;
and after a brief hesitation, he turned his galloway, and told his
companions he should give them good day.

"Why, what is in the wind now, brother Peter?" said Friar Michael.

"The lady Matilda," said the little friar, "can draw the long-bow. She
must bear no goodwill to Sir Ralph; and if she should espy him from her
tower, she may testify her recognition with a cloth-yard shaft. She is
not so infallible a markswoman, but that she might shoot at a crow and
kill a pigeon. She might peradventure miss the knight, and hit me, who
never did her any harm."

"Tut, tut, man," said brother Michael, "there is no such fear."

"Mass," said the little friar, "but there is such a fear, and very
strong too. You who have it not may keep your way, and I who have it
shall take mine. I am not just now in the vein for being picked off at a
long shot." And saying these words, he spurred up his four-footed better
half, and galloped off as nimbly as if he had had an arrow singing
behind him.

"Is this lady Matilda, then, so very terrible a damsel?" said Sir Ralph
to brother Michael.

"By no means," said the friar. "She has certainly a high spirit; but it
is the wing of the eagle, without his beak or his claw. She is as gentle
as magnanimous; but it is the gentleness of the summer wind, which,
however lightly it wave the tuft of the pine, carries with it the


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