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CHAPTER V.

Didst thou not share? —hadst thou not fifteen pence?

Merry Wives of Windsor.

As this strange visitor crossed the hall, the abbot threw himself into his chair with an air sullen and dissatisfied, but inquisitive and anxious withal. The visitor, seeming nothing to regard his looks, strode across the hall with firm but light steps, till he stood right opposite the abbot. He was a man apparently of middle age, formed like a Hercules, and with a strongly marked, but not unpleasant physiognomy. Yet, though the general contour of his features was good, and such as a shallow and hasty observer would have deemed handsome, there were lines of cunning and ferocity in his countenance, and a hard brow, and a sneering lip, and a look of defiance, with a forced gleam of insolent jocularity playing over it, that bespoke a character at war with itself, where, though the worse struggled potently with the better part, and was ultimately sure of the victory, yet still the better was not wholly subdued, nor as yet inactive.

His dress was as singular as his figure; his tunic and hose were of the woollen cloth worn by peasants (probably adopted for disguise); over his broad shoulders was spread a cloak of wolf-skin; a cap of the same material was on his head, and in its front uncouthly sparkled a gem of price; his feet were covered with strong buskins, plaited with leathern straps. But what appeared to strike most the abbot's eye, was the richly-jewelled dagger that was stuck in his coarse belt; the spear, too, in his hand, which gleamed brightly in the reflected glow of the dying embers, had a certain share of the dignitary's uneasy attention. Such was the figure who now confronted the abbot of Normoutier, and who seated himself, sans invitation, on the first bench that offered itself.

The lord abbot clasped and unclasped his hands, rich with many a ring, poised himself in his chair, and then, with looks averted, demanded—" Now, thou naughty knave, as I before demanded when the arrival of the crusaders interrupted us, whence comest thou?"

"From the rat-hole where I hid me till the visit was overpast—marry, let me taste a cup of wine to wash down the cobwebs I swallowed there, and their musty recollection that is even now rising in my throat." And as he spoke, he knocked off the head of a flagon of wine with his dagger-hilt, and drained its contents at a draught.

"A truce with thy tricks of foolish wit," said the abbot doggedly, "and answer me roundly whence comest thou r"

"From my palace, dormitory, and fortalice of L'Aigle sur la Roche," said the outlaw, for such he was.

"I deemed no better," said the abbot sullenly; "it were a rare sight to see thee come full-handed from the plunder of a castle (I mean a hamlet) of the heretics, or the disburdening of a band of pilgrims richly gifted, or of merchants wealthily laden travelling towards some town of mart, as Nismes or Beaucaire; marry, the heretics have left nought to be plundered in Toulouse — and for Beziers, it is as empty as — thy purse, I trow. And what may be thy errand here at this time, fellow?"

"To win absolution for all sins for the time forepast, and indulgence for those that may be committed for forty days to come," quoth the outlaw. "You wot well that the season for adventures is approaching; autumn hath set in sharp and early; but my knaves will not break up the capon till the lord abbot hath said grace. Marry, if you could strain courtesy, and stretch the indulgence to twice that period, we should be much your debtors."

"Debtors!" rejoined the abbot —" ay, and our debtors ye would remain till doomsday. Hear ye me, sir outlaw, sir robber !— thou hast exhausted the exchequer of the church; thou hast drawn upon her indulgence till there remains not enough to save a soul of thine excommunicated fraternity from purgatory, far less from another place you wot of; thou ever comest craving for indulgence when the saints have not one to spare—and worse, thou bringest nothing to purchase it with. Where be the silver lamps for the shrines, the plate for the altar, the rich robes for thesaints?— where be all that thou hast promised for years, and lacking which our abbey shows like the cell of an eremite,or a chapel hewed by miners out of the bare rock ?—An' I am not ashamed to say mass in our church before the crusaders to-morrow, I am no mitred abbot."

The outlaw muttered something about hard and perilous times, and about the country being overspread by the crusading armies, or by bands of the Albigeois, who were as poor as mendicants, and ended by urging his former petition for indulgence.

,, "Indulgence me no indulgences," quoth the abbot, "but come roundly to the matter in hand. What hast thou to offer for the boon thou seekest of the church?—Hast thou hot had absolution already for rapine, murder, and conflagration, beyond all modest count and computation?—Did I not annul for thy sake

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