Now it seemed to Mark, for many days, that the visit to the turret-room had brought a kind of shadow down between them. Roland was peevish and ill-at-ease; and ever the longing grew upon Mark, so strongly that it seemed to him that something drew him to the room, some beckoning of a hand or calling of a voice.
Now one bright and sunshiny morning it happened that Mark was left alone within the house. Roland had ridden out early, not saying where he was bound. And Mark sat, more listlessly than was his wont, and played with the ears of his great dog, that sat with his head upon his master's knee, looking at him with liquid eyes, and doubtless wondering why Mark went not abroad.
Suddenly Sir Mark's eye fell upon the key of the upper room, which lay on the window-ledge where he had thrown it; and the desire to go up and pluck the heart from the little mystery came upon him with a strength that he could not resist; he rose twice and took up the key, and fingering it doubtfully, laid it down again; then suddenly he took it up, and went swiftly into the turret-stair, and up, turning, turning, till his head was dizzy with the bright peeps of the world through the loophole windows. Now all was green, where a window gave on the down; and now it was all clear air and sun, the warm breeze coming pleasantly into the cold stairway; presently Mark heard the pattering of feet on the stair below, and knew that the old hound had determined to follow him; and he waited a moment at the door, half pleased, in his strange mood, to have the company of a living thing. So when the dog was at his side, he stayed no longer, but opened the door and stepped within the room.
The room, for all its faded look, had a strange air about it, and though he could not say why, Mark felt that he was surely expected. He did not hesitate, but walked to the shutter and considered it for a moment; he heard a sound behind him. It was the old hound who sat with his head aloft, sniffing the air uneasily; Mark called him and held out his hand, but the hound would not move; he wagged his tail as though to acknowledge that he was called, and then he returned to his uneasy quest. Mark watched him for a moment, and saw that the old dog had made up his mind that all was not well in the room, for he lay down, gathering his legs under him, on the threshold, and watched his master with frightened eyes, quivering visibly. Mark, no lighter of heart, and in a kind of fearful haste, pulled the great staple off the shutter and set it on the ground, and then wrenched the shutters back; the space revealed was largely filled by old and dusty webs of spiders, which Mark lightly tore down, using the staple of the shutters to do this; it was with a strange shock of surprise that he saw that the window was dark, or nearly so; it seemed as though there were some further obstacle outside; yet Mark knew that from below the leaded panes of the window were visible. He drew back for a moment, but, unable to restrain his curiosity, wrenched the rusted casement open. But still all was dark without; and there came in a gust of icy wind from outside; it was as though something had passed him swiftly, and he heard the old hound utter a strangled howl; then turning, he saw him spring to his feet with his hair bristling and his teeth bare, and next moment the dog turned and leapt out of the room.
Mark, left alone, tried to curb a tide of horror that swept through his veins; he looked round at the room, flooded with the southerly sunlight, and then he turned again to the dark window, and putting a strong constraint upon himself, leaned out, and saw a thing which bewildered him so strangely that he thought for a moment his senses had deserted him. He looked out on a lonely dim hillside, covered with rocks and stones; the hill came up close to the window, so that he could have jumped down upon it, the wall below seeming to be built into the rocks. It was all dark and silent, like a clouded night, with a faint light coming from whence he could not see. The hill sloped away very steeply from the tower, and he seemed to see a plain beyond, where at the same time he knew that the down ought to lie. In the plain there was a light, like the firelit window of a house; a little below him some shape like a crouching man seemed to run and slip among the stones, as though suddenly surprised, and seeking to escape. Side by side with a deadly fear which began to invade his heart, came an uncontrollable desire to leap down among the rocks; and then it seemed to him that the figure below stood upright, and began to beckon him. There came over him a sense that he was in deadly peril; and, like a man on the edge of a precipice, who has just enough will left to try to escape, he drew himself by main force away from the window, closed it, put the shutters back, replaced the staple, and, his limbs all trembling, crept out of the room, feeling along the walls like a palsied man. He locked the door, and then, his terror overpowering him, he fled down the turret-stairs. Hardly thinking what he did, he came out on the court, and going to the great well that stood in the centre of the yard, he went to it and flung the key down, hearing it clink on the sides as it fell. Even then he dared not re-enter the house, but glanced up and down, gazing about him, while the cloud of fear and horror by insensible degrees dispersed, leaving him weak and melancholy.
Presently Roland returned, full of talk, but broke off to ask if Mark were ill. Mark, with a kind of surliness, an unusual mood for him, denied it somewhat sharply. Roland raised his eyebrows, and said no more, but prattled on. Presently after a silence he said to Mark, "What did you do all the morning?" and it seemed to Mark as though this were accompanied with a spying look. An unreasonable anger seized him. "What does it matter to you what I did?" he said. "May not I do what I like in my own house?"
"Doubtless," said Roland, and sate silent with uplifted brows; then he hummed a tune, and presently went out.
They sate at dinner that evening with long silences, contrary to their wont, though Mark bestirred himself to ask questions. When they were left alone, Mark stretched out his hand to Roland, saying, "Roland, forgive me! I spoke to you this morning in a way of which I am ashamed; we have lived so long together—and yet we came nearer to quarrelling to-day than we have ever done before; and it was my fault."
Roland smiled, and held Mark's hand for a moment. "Oh, I had not given it another thought," he said; "the wonder is that you can bear with an idle fellow as you do." Then they talked for awhile with the pleasant glow of friendliness that two good comrades feel when they have been reconciled. But late in the evening Roland said, "Was there any story, Mark, about your grandfather's leaving any treasure of money behind him?"
The question grated somewhat unpleasantly upon Mark's mood; but he controlled himself and said, "No, none that I know of—except that he found the estate rich and left it poor—and what he did with his revenues no one knows—you had better ask the old men of the village; they know more about the house than I do. But, Roland, forgive me once more if I say that I do not desire Sir James's name to be mentioned between us. I wish we had not entered his room; I do not know how to express it, but it seems to me as though he had sate there, waiting quietly to be summoned, and as though we had troubled him, and—as though he had joined us. I think he was an evil man, close and evil. And there hangs in my mind a verse of Scripture, where Samuel said to the witch, 'Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up?' Oh," he went on, "I do not know why I talk wildly thus"; for he saw that Roland was looking at him with astonishment, with parted lips; "but a shadow has fallen upon me, and there seems evil abroad."
From that day forward a heaviness lay on the spirit of Mark that could not be scattered. He felt, he said to himself, as though he had meddled light-heartedly with something far deeper and more dangerous than he had supposed—like a child that has aroused some evil beast that slept. He had dark dreams too. The figure that he had seen among the rocks seemed to peep and beckon him, with a mocking smile, over perilous places, where he followed unwilling. But the heavier he grew the lighter-hearted Roland became; he seemed to walk in some bright vision of his own, intent upon a large and gracious design.
One day he came into the hall in the morning, looking so radiant that Mark asked him half enviously what he had to make him so glad. "Glad," said Roland, "oh, I know it! Merry dreams, perhaps. What do you think of a good grave fellow who beckons me on with a brisk smile, and shows me places, wonderful places, under banks and in woodland pits, where riches lie piled together? I am sure that some good fortune is preparing for me, Mark—but you shall share it." Then Mark, seeing in his words a certain likeness, with a difference, to his own dark visions, pressed his lips together and sate looking stonily before him.
At last, one still evening of spring, when the air was intolerably languid and heavy for mankind, but full of sweet promises for trees and hidden peeping things, though a lurid redness of secret thunder had lain all day among the heavy clouds in the plain, the two dined together. Mark had walked alone that day, and had lain upon the turf of the down, fighting against a weariness that seemed to be poisoning the very springs of life within him. But Roland had been brisk and alert, coming and going upon some secret and busy errand, with a fragment of a song upon his lips, like a man preparing to set off for a far country, who is glad to be gone. In the evening, after they had dined, Roland had let his fancy rove in talk. "If we were rich," he said, "how we would transform this old place!"
"It is fair enough for me," said Mark heavily; and Roland had chidden him lightly for his sombre ways, and sketched new plans of life.
Mark, wearied and yet excited, with an intolerable heaviness of spirit, went early to bed, leaving Roland in the hall. After a short and broken sleep, he awoke, and lighting a candle, read idly and gloomily to pass the heavy hours. The house seemed full of strange noises that night. Once or twice came a scraping and a faint hammering in the wall; light footsteps seemed to pass in the turret—but the tower was always full of noises, and Mark heeded them not; at last he fell asleep again, to be suddenly awakened by a strange and desolate crying, that came he knew not whence, but seemed to wail upon the air. The old dog, who slept in Mark's room, heard it too; he was sitting up in a fearful expectancy. Mark rose in haste, and taking the candle, went into the passage that led to Roland's room. It was empty, but a light burned there and showed that the room had not been slept in. Full of a horrible fear, Mark returned, and went in hot haste up the turret steps, fear and anxiety struggling together in his mind. When he reached the top, he found the little door broken forcibly open, and a light within. He cast a haggard look round the room, and then the crying came again, this time very faint and desolate.
Mark cast a shuddering glance at the window; it was wide open and showed a horrible liquid blackness; round the bar in the centre that divided the casements, there was something knotted. He hastened to the window, and saw that it was a rope, which hung heavily. Leaning out he saw that something dangled from the rope below him—and then came the crying again out of the darkness, like the crying of a lost spirit.
He could see as in a bitter dream the outline of the hateful hillside; but there seemed to his disordered fancy to be a tumult of some kind below; pale lights moved about, and he saw a group of forms which scattered like a shoal of fish when he leaned out. He knew that he was looking upon a scene that no mortal eye ought to behold, and it seemed to him at the moment as though he was staring straight into hell.
The rope went down among the rocks and disappeared; but Mark clenched it firmly and using all his strength, which was great, drew it up hand over hand; as he drew it up he secured it in loops round the great oak table; he began to be afraid that his strength would not hold out, and once when he returned to the window after securing a loop, a great hooded thing like a bird flew noiselessly at the window and beat its wings.
Presently he saw that the form which dangled on the rope was clear of the rocks below; it had come up through them, as though they were but smoke; and then his task seemed to him more sore than ever. Inch by painful inch he drew it up, working fiercely and silently; his muscles were tense, and drops stood on his brow, and the veins hammered in his ears; his breath came and went in sharp sobs. At last the form was near enough for him to seize it; he grasped it by the middle and drew Roland, for it was Roland, over the window-sill. His head dangled and drooped from side to side; his face was dark with strangled blood and his limbs hung helpless. Mark drew his knife and cut the rope that was tied under his arms; the helpless limbs sank huddling on the floor; then Mark looked up; at the window a few feet from him was a face, more horrible than he had supposed a human face, if it was human indeed, could be. It was deadly white, and hatred, baffled rage, and a sort of devilish malignity glared from the white set eyes, and the drawn mouth. There was a rush from behind him; the old hound, who had crept up unawares into the room, with a fierce outcry of rage sprang on to the window-sill; Mark heard the scraping of his claws upon the stone. Then the hound leapt through the window, and in a moment there was the sound of a heavy fall outside. At the same instant the darkness seemed to lift and draw up like a cloud; a bank of blackness rose past the window, and left the dark outline of the down, with a sky sown with tranquil stars.
The cloud of fear and horror that hung over Mark lifted too; he felt in some dim way that his adversary was vanquished; he carried Roland down the stairs and laid him on his bed; he roused the household, who looked fearfully at him, and then his own strength failed; he sank upon the floor of his room, and the dark tide of unconsciousness closed over him.
Mark's return to health was slow. One who has looked into the Unknown finds it hard to believe again in the outward shows of life. His first conscious speech was to ask for his hound; they told him that the body of the dog had been found, horribly mangled as though by the teeth of some fierce animal, at the foot of the tower. The dog was buried in the garden, with a slab above him, on which are the words:—
EUGE SERVE BONE ET FIDELIS
A silly priest once said to Mark that it was not meet to write Scripture over the grave of a beast. But Mark said warily that an inscription was for those who read it, to make them humble, and not to increase the pride of what lay below.
When Mark could leave his bed, his first care was to send for builders, and the old tower of Nort was taken down, stone by stone, to the ground, and a fair chapel built on the site; in the wall there was a secret stairway, which led from the top chamber, and came out among the elder-bushes that grew below the tower, and here was found a coffer of gold, which paid for the church; because, until it was found, it was Mark's design to leave the place desolate. Mark is wedded since, and has his children about his knee; those who come to the house see a strange and wan man, who sits at Mark's board, and whom he uses very tenderly; sometimes this man is merry, and tells a long tale of his being beckoned and led by a tall and handsome person, smiling, down a hillside to fetch gold; though he can never remember the end of the matter; but about the springtime he is silent or mutters to himself: and this is Roland; his spirit seems shut up within him in some close cell, and Mark prays for his release, but till God call him, he treats him like a dear brother, and with the reverence due to one who has looked out on the other side of Death, and who may not say what his eyes beheld.
There was once a great Lord of Yorkshire, the Baron de Benoit, who had two sons named Henry and Christopher. Their mother was long dead; Henry was a bold and careless boy, courageous and fearless, outspoken to every one, yet loving none; fond of the chase, restless, and never weary; but Christopher was a timid and weakly child, with a heart for all; dreaming of great deeds which he feared to do; while Henry dreamed not, but did whatever he undertook, great things or small. Christopher sate much with the old priest, or with the women; when the minstrels played in the hall, his heart was lifted up within him; and he loved to loiter alone in the woods in springtime, to look in the open faces of the flowers, and to listen for the songs of birds. The Baron was a rough good-natured man, who ruled his estates diligently; and he loved Henry well, but Christopher he despised in his heart, and often said that he was a girl spoiled in the making.
Now how different were the boys in character let the following tale witness:
Once the huntsmen caught a wolf, and brought it to the castle yard to make sport; the wolf blinked and snarled in the pen where they put it; and the boys were called to kill it. Christopher bent over to look at it, and thought that the wolf was doubtless wondering why men wished it evil, and was longing for the deep woods and for its warm lair. Henry thrust a spear into Christopher's hand and bade him slay it. The wolf rose at his approach, hobbling on his pinioned feet, hating to die, thought Christopher, among laughter and jests. And he threw the spear down and said, "I will not." "Nay, you dare not," said Henry; and he thrust the spear into the wolf's side; the wolf struggled hard, and as Henry pushed close, tore his hand; but Henry only laughed and thrust again; and then he daubed Christopher's face with the blood that ran from his hand, and said, "Go and tell the maidens that you have slain a wolf in single combat."
But, for all that, Christopher loved his brother exceedingly, and thought him the brightest and goodliest treasure in the world.
There came to stay at the castle an Abbot, a wise and brave man, before whom even the Baron was awed; and he had much talk with Christopher, who opened his heart to him. The Abbot found that he could read, and knew the stories of the saints and the answers of the Mass, and had discernment of good and evil. So the Abbot sought out the Baron, and told him that Christopher would make a very wise priest, and that he was apt to be ruled, and therefore, said he, he will be apt to rule; and he added that he thought that the boy would make a great counsellor, and even bishop; and then the Baron said that Christopher had no courage and endurance. The Abbot replied that he believed he had both, but that they were of a different nature to the courage and endurance of a man-at-arms; that he was of the stuff of which holy men, martyrs and saints, were made; but that it was ill to nurture a dove in the nest of an eagle. So the Baron said that he should take Christopher, and make a priest of him, if the boy would.
Then Christopher was called, and the Baron asked him bluntly whether he would be a priest; and Christopher, seeing the Abbot's kind glance upon him, took courage and said that he would obey his father in all things. But he looked so wan and gentle, and so like his mother, that the Baron put his arm about him and said kindly that he would have him choose for himself, and kissed his cheek. But Christopher burst out weeping and hid his face on his father's shoulder; and then he said, "I will go." And the Abbot said, "Baron, you are a man of war, and yet shall you be proud of this your son; he shall win victories indeed, but in his own field—nay, I doubt not that he will do your house great service and honour." And so it was arranged that the Abbot, who was on a journey, should return in a week and take the boy.
So Christopher had a week to make his farewells, and he made them faithfully and tenderly, though he thought his heart would break. But the Abbot had told him on parting that God indeed called men, when He would have them to serve Him, and that he too was surely bidden. And Christopher, young though he was, felt that he was like a boat that must battle through a few breakers to reach a quiet haven; and he spake with all and each, and said farewell, until even the roughest were sorry that the boy should go. But the last night was the sorest, for he must part with his brother; the boys slept together in a great bed in a room in the tower; and Christopher dared that night to encircle his brother with his arms, and tell him that he loved him, and that he wished there were something small or great that he could do for him. And Henry, who loved not caresses, said laughing, that he should not need his services for a long time. "But when I am old and weary and have done many deeds of blood, then you may pray for me if you will." Then Christopher would have had him talk awhile, but Henry said he was weary and must sleep, and turned away, adding that he would wake betimes in the morning and that they would talk then. And Christopher lay and heard him breathe softly, and at last, wearied out, he slept. But Henry woke in the dawn, and thinking of a stag that came down to pull the hay from the ricks, and half fearing, too, his brother's tears and sighs, dressed himself quietly and stole away while Christopher slept, thinking that he would return to see him go. And when Christopher woke and found his brother gone, he fell into such a passion of grief that he heeded nothing else, but went through his farewells so stonily and dumbly that the Baron made haste to set him on his journey; and Henry did not return.
So Christopher passed into the holy life, but choosing not to be a priest, he became a monk of the strictest discipline, so that the monks wondered at his holiness. But they at the Castle soon forgot him and thought no more of the frail child.
Then it happened that the Baron rode one day in the sun, and coming home, dismounted, and fell dizzily upon his face; they laid him in his chamber, but he never spoke, only breathed heavily; and that night he died. And Henry, who was now of age, thought but little of his father's death because of the respect that all paid him, and of the wealth and power that thus flowed suddenly into his hands. And he married a fair maiden called the Lady Alice, who bore him a son; and he ruled diligently in his lands, and rode to battle, and lived such a life as he best loved.
But one day there fell upon him a heaviness of limb and a loathing for food; and though they daily tended him, he grew no better; soon he could not even sit upon his horse, but became so pale and wasted that he could hardly rise from his chair. And some thought that a spell was cast upon him, but that mended not matters at all; the king's own leech came to visit him, and shook his head, saying that no art could avail, since the spring of life was somehow broken within him and he must die unless God were good to him and healed him.
Now the Lady Alice feared God, and knew what wonders were wrought by Him at the prayers of saints, so she took counsel with the priests of the Castle, but said no word of it to the Lord Henry, because he jested at sacred things; and the priest told her that three days' journey away was a house of holy monks, where many miracles of healing were wrought, and he advised her to go secretly and ask counsel of the Prior. So under pretence of seeking for another leech, the Lady Alice rode south, and on the third day she came to the place. The monastery stood very solitary in a valley with much wood about it; the walls rose fair and white, with a tall church in the midst, all lit with a heavenly light of evening. And the Lady Alice felt in her burdened heart that God would be gracious and hear her prayers.
They rode to the gate, and Alice asked that she might see the Prior; she would not tell her name, but the porter seeing her attended by two men-at-arms, admitted her; and presently the Lady Alice was had into a small bare room, and in a moment the Prior stood before her. He was an old man, very lean and grim, but with a kindly face; she told him that her husband, a great knight, was sick unto death, but she told him not her name, and the Prior spared to ask her; when she had done her story, the Prior said that there was in the monastery a young monk, Brother Lawrence, of such steadfast life and holiness that his prayers would almost avail to give life to the dead; and that he would dispense him leave, if he were willing to go with her awhile; for the Prior saw that she was a great lady, and he was moved by her grief and purity.
So Brother Lawrence was fetched, and soon stood before them; and the Prior told the lady's tale, and Brother Lawrence said that he would go, if he was permitted. So in the morning they rode away. Then the Lady Alice told him all the tale, saying that the sick man was the Baron de Benoit, and that he loved not God, though he served him faithfully, though knowing not that it was God whom he served. And the monk said, "Ay, and there be many such;" but she wondered that he grew so strangely pale, yet thought that it was his long fasting, and the bitter morning air. Then the monk questioned her very nearly about all her life, saying that in such cases it was needful to know all things, "that our prayers," he said, "beat not in vain against a closed gate." And she told him of all she knew.
Then at last, in a still twilight, they drew near to the Castle, and the lady saw that the monk kept his eyes fixed on the ground, and looked not to left nor right, like a man in a sore conflict; and she knew that he prayed.
That night the monk was laid in a chamber in the tower; and all night his lamp burned, till the dawn came up. And the watchman thought he prayed late; but if they could have seen the monk they would have wondered that he paced softly up and down, looking lovingly about him, the tears welling to his eyes; once he kissed the bedpost of the bed; and then he knelt and wrestled in prayer, until the priest called him to the Mass. And there seemed such a radiance about him, worn and thin though he was, that the priest marvelled to see him.
Then the Lady Alice came to fetch him in a great fearfulness, for she knew that the Lord Henry hated monks; but the monk said to her that she need not fear; and she took comfort.
Then she brought him to the great room where the Baron lay; and she went in, and said, "Henry, I have brought one who works many wonders of healing—and dear husband, be not angry, though he is a monk; for the monks know many things; and perhaps God will be gracious, and give my dear one back to me, to cherish me and our son."
The Lord Henry looked at her very sternly; but the pale and tearful face of his wife, and her loving grief moved him, and he said, "Well, I will see him; and let it testify in how evil a case I am, that monks are brought to my bedside, and I have not even the strength to say them nay." He spoke roughly, but he took the Lady Alice's hand in his own and said to her, "Dear one, make haste. I will not refuse you this, for I think it is the last request that I shall have power to grant—I am past the help of man."
For since the Lady Alice's departure, the Lord Henry had been in very evil case; till then he had hoped; but his sleep had gone from him, and a great blackness came over him, and seemed to part his life, as with a dark chasm, from what lay before him. There in those lonely hours he went through the scenes of his past life; he saw himself a bright and bold boy, and all the joy of his early years came before him, and he saw that his joy had been the greater because he had not known he was more glad than others. He thought of his father and of his frail brother Christopher; and he wished he had been kinder to both; then he had the thought of his wife and his helpless child, and all that might befall them. And he thought, too, of God, whom he must now meet, who seemed to sit like a Judge, in a pavilion of clouds at a ladder's fiery head, with no smile or welcome for him.
So the Lady Alice went out and brought Brother Lawrence to the chamber; and at the door he prayed for strength that he might comfort him that was sick; and Lady Alice pulled the door to and departed; and the two were left alone.
Then Brother Lawrence murmured a Latin salutation, as the custom of his order was; and Henry fixed his eyes, large with sickness, on him, and made a reverence of the head. Then he said, "I wish, sir, I could give you a better welcome; but I am sick, as you see; indeed, I think I am very near my end. The Lady Alice would have me see you, for she says you have wrought wonderful cures. Well, here is a man who is more than willing to be cured; but I am no saint. I believe in God and Holy Church; but—I will speak openly—not much in monks and priests."
"As though," said the monk with a smile, "a man should say 'I believe in food, but not in the eating of it'—yet let that pass, my Lord Baron; I am no foe to plain speaking—it was ever the mark of Christ and the holy saints; but let me ask you first about your disease, for that is my duty now."
Henry was well pleased with the shrewdness of the monk's words; and he answered the Brother's questions about his illness with a good grace. When he had done, the monk shook his head. "I must warn you," he said, "that it is a sore case; but I have known such recover. I would have time to consider; let me abide to-night under your roof, and I will tell you to-morrow what shall be given to me to say;" and the monk made as though he would have withdrawn.
But Henry said, "One question I would ask of you. I had a brother, Christopher by name; he is a monk—but he hath sent me no word of himself for many years—indeed, he may be dead. Can you give me tidings of him?"
The other grew pale to the lips; then he said, as with an effort, "I know your brother, my Lord Baron, but the rules of our order—he is of the same order indeed as myself—are strict, and it is forbidden us to speak of our brethren to those that are without. Be assured, however, that he is alive and well; and perhaps you shall have tidings from himself anon."
Then he went out; and presently the Lady Alice came in to see her husband. Henry seemed to her a little brighter already, and a hope flickered up in her heart. He smiled at her and said, "My Alice, I think well of your monk; he is a shrewd fellow, and knows his trade. I think somewhat better of his kind—he seems to me, indeed, in some way familiar, or reminds me of one that I know; let him be well bestowed, and to-morrow he will tell me, as he said, what he thinks of my case."
But the monk went to the chapel, and there he wrestled sore in prayer; and then he fasted and watched; but at last, wearied out, he fell asleep just before the dawn, and there came a dream to him. He dreamed that he stood in the castle yard, and he had in his hand two pots of flowers, one of lilies and one of roses; and there came to him a tall and strange man, with a look of command in his face, yet full of love; and the monk thought that he turned to the stranger and offered him the flowers, and the man laid his hand upon the roses; but the monk said, "Nay, my lord, rather take the lilies;" and the other said, "The roses are mine and the lilies are mine; one will I take and leave the other awhile; but at thy prayer I will take the lilies first, because thou hast been faithful in a few things." Then the monk gave him the lilies, but with a sore pang; and the other laid his hand upon them, and the lilies withered away. Then the monk said, "And now, my lord, they are not worthy to be given thee," but the other said, "They shall revive and bloom," and then he smiled.
Then the monk awoke, and the dawn came faintly in at the east: and he shivered in his vigil, and fell to pondering on his dream; for he doubted not that it came from God. So, when he had pondered a little, he was amazed and said in his prayer, "Woe is me that I cannot see light." And as he said the words the sun brightened up the sky, and in a moment the monk saw what the Lord would have him to do.
Then, when it was day, he sought the Lady Alice, and she came and stood before him, and he said, "Lady, God will give back your lord to you—for a time; only believe!" Then she fell to weeping for joy, and the monk checked her not, but said, "These be gracious tears." Then he said, "And now I must return in haste; I must not linger." And she prayed him to go with her to the Baron; but he said he must not; but one thing he said he would have her promise, that if it were needful for him to see the Baron, when he should be healed of his disease, he would come to his summons; and the Lady Alice promised and pledged her word. Then he blessed her and departed and rode away, looking neither to left nor right. And the Lady Alice went to her husband, and the Baron said, wondering, that he was better already, and he called for food and ate with appetite; and from that day he revived, climbing back slowly into life again. And there was great rejoicing in the Castle.
And when he was nearly well, and could walk and ride, and his strength increased day by day, giving him exceeding joy, there rode a monk in haste to the Castle, and said to the Lady Alice that Brother Lawrence would see the Baron; and he added that he must not fail to come speedily if he would see him alive, for he was in sore case. Then the Lady Alice asked how it was with him, and the monk said that ever since he had visited the Castle he had been in the chastening of God; his strength ebbed from him day by day. Then the Lady Alice told her husband of his promises, and he said, "Right gladly will I go and see the Brother, for he hath brought me back to life again, and he is a true man."
So the Baron rode away, and as he rode the spring was coming in all the lanes; the trees stood in a cloud of green; the woods were sweet with flowers, and the birds sang loud and clear, and the Baron had such joy in his heart as he had not believed a heart could hold; and he found it in his spirit to thank God for the gift of life restored to him, and as he went he sang softly to himself.
And he came to the house, and because he was a great Baron, the Prior came out to do him honour, and the Baron lighted off his horse and did him great reverence, saying, "Lord Prior, I have lived carelessly and thought little of God and served Him little; but He hath rewarded me though I am unworthy; and now I will serve Him well." Then the Prior rejoiced, and said, "Lord Baron, thou speakest wisely, and the Lord shall increase thee mightily."
Then the Prior led him to the infirmary, for he said that the Brother Lawrence was near to death; and the Baron found him lying in a little bed in a corner of the great room which was all full of light. There stood two monks beside him; but when the Baron entered, Brother Lawrence, who lay in a swoon, raised himself up, and said smiling, "So thou hast come, my brother." And the Baron kneeled down beside him, and said, "Yes, Brother, I have come to show my thanks to you for your prayers and good offices. For God has heard them and given me life." Then Brother Lawrence said, "Give the glory to God, my brother," and the baron said, "Ay, I do that!" and Brother Lawrence smiled and bade the monks depart from him and leave him with the Baron alone. And then Brother Lawrence looked upon him for a while in silence, and his eyes were full of a heavenly light and great joy. And presently he said, "I have a thing that I must tell you, my brother. You asked of me whether I knew your brother Christopher, and I answered you shortly enough, but now I have leave to tell you; and I am he."
Then there was a long silence, and the Baron drew near and kissed him on the cheek.
Then Brother Lawrence said, "And now, dear brother, I will tell you all the truth; for the hand of God is laid upon me, and to-day I must depart;" and then he told him of the vision and interpreted it saying, "The Lord was merciful and let me give my life for thine; and I give it, O how gladly; and I tell you not this for your pity or for your praise, but that you may know that your life is not given you for nought; God had good works prepared for me to walk in, and now must you walk in them—and be not dismayed. He calls you not to the life of prayer; but be loving and just and merciful to the poor and the oppressed; for God has deeds fit for all to do; and though I could have served Him faithfully in the cloister, you will serve Him better in the world; only remember this, that life is lent you, and not given, and you must increase it, that you may give it back more worthily."
Then the Baron was full of heaviness, and said that he could not take life on these terms; that both should live, or that if his brother must die, he would die too. Then Brother Lawrence rebuked him lovingly; and then began to talk of their childish days, saying with a smile, "When I last saw you, dear brother, you promised me that you would talk with me in the morning, and the morning is come now, and you will keep your promise." And then presently he said, "Henry, we are frail things, and it is a pitiful thing that so much of vanity is mingled with our flesh; but I used to think as a child that I would compel you some day to think me brave, and would make you grateful to me for a service done you—and I think of this now and am glad; but now I grow weak and can speak no more; but tell me of your life and of all that I loved in the old days, that I may have you in my mind when I sleep beneath the altar, if God will have one so unworthy to sleep there." And the Baron told him all things, struggling with his tears.
Then said Brother Lawrence: "The hour is come; call my brethren and let me go; He calleth me."
Then the monks came in and made the cross of ashes, and did the rites of death; and Brother Lawrence smiled with closed eyes, but opened them once again upon his brother, who stood to see the end. And presently Brother Lawrence sighed like a weary child and died.
Many years have passed since that day; the Baron is a grey-haired man and has his grandchildren about him; and he has done worthily, knowing that life is lent him for this end. And every year he rides with a man-at-arms or two to stand beside the grave of Christopher, and to renew the vow which he made when his brother died.
THE TEMPLE OF DEATH
It was late in the afternoon of a dark and rainy day when Paullinus left the little village where he had found shelter for the night. The village lay in a great forest country in the heart of Gaul. The scattered folk that inhabited it were mostly heathens, and very strange and secret rites were still celebrated in lonely sanctuaries. Christian teachers, of whom Paullinus was one, travelled alone or in little companies along the great high roads, turning aside to visit the woodland hamlets, and labouring patiently to make the good news of the Word known.
They were mostly unmolested, for they travelled under the powerful name of Romans, and in many places they were kindly received. Paullinus had been for months slowly faring from village to village, without any fixed plan of journeying, but asking his way from place to place, as the Spirit led him. He was a young man, a very faithful Christian, and with a love of adventure and travel which stood him in good stead. He carried a little money, but he had seldom need to use it, for the people were simple and hospitable; he did not try to hold assemblies, for he believed that the Gospel must spread like leaven from quiet heart to quiet heart. Indeed he did not purpose to proclaim the Word, but rather to prepare the way for those that should come after. He was of a strong habit, spare and upright; when he was alone he walked swiftly, looking very eagerly about him. He loved the aspect of the earth, the green branching trees, the wild creatures of the woodland, the voices of birds and the sound of streams. And he had too a great and simple love for his own kind, and though he had little eloquence he had a plentiful command of friendly and shrewd talk, and even better than he loved to speak he loved to listen. He had a sweet and open smile, that drew the hearts of all whom he met to him, especially of the children. And he loved his wandering life in the free air, without the daily cares of settled habit.
He had spent the night with an old and calm man, who had been a warrior in his youth, but who could now do little but attend to his farm. Paullinus had spoken to him of the love of the Father and the tender care that Jesus had to His brothers on earth; the old man had listened courteously, and had said that it sounded fair enough, but that he was too old to change, and must stand in the ancient ways. Paullinus did not press him; his custom was never to do that. In the morning he had gone to and fro in the village, and it was late before he thought of setting out; the old man had pressed him to stay another night, but something in Paullinus' heart had told him that he must not wait, for it seemed to him that there was work to be done. The old man came with him to the edge of the forest, and gave him very particular directions to the village he was bound for, which lay in the heart of the wood. "Of one thing I must advise you," he said. "There is, in the wood, some way off the track, a place to which I would not have you go—it is a temple of one of our gods, a dark place. Be certain, dear sir, to pass it by. No one would go there willingly, save that we are sometimes compelled." He broke off suddenly here and looked about him fearfully; then he went on in a low voice: "It is called the Temple of the Grey Death, and there are rites done there of which I may not speak. I would it were otherwise, but the gods are strong—and the priest is a hard and evil man, who won his office in a terrible way, and shall lose it no less terribly. Oh, go not there, dear stranger;" and he laid his hand upon his arm.
"Dear brother," said Paullinus, "I have no mind to go there—but your words seem to have a dark meaning behind them. What are these rites of which you speak?" But the old man shook his head.
"I may not speak of them," he said, "it is better to be silent."
Then they took a kind leave of each other, and Paullinus said that he would pass again that way to see his friend, "for we are friends, I know." And so he went into the wood. It was a wood of very ancient trees, and the dark leaves roofed over the grassy track making a tunnel. The heavens too grew dark above, and Paullinus heard the drops patter upon the leaves. Generally he loved well enough to walk in the woodways, but here it seemed different. He would have liked a companion. Something sinister and terrible seemed to him to hide within those gloomy avenues, and the feeling grew stronger every moment. But he said to himself some of the simple hymns with which he often cheered his way, and felt again that he was in the hands of God.
Presently he passed a little forest pool that was one of the marks of his way. Upon the further bank he was surprised to see a man sitting, with a rod or spear in his hand, looking upon the water. He was glad to see another man in this solitude, and hailed him cheerfully, asking if he was in the right way. The man looked up at the sound. Paullinus saw that he was of middle age, very strong and muscular—but undoubtedly he had an evil face. He scowled, as though he were vexed to be interrupted, and with an odd and angry gesture of the hand he stepped quickly within the wood and disappeared. Paullinus felt in his mind that the man wished him evil, and went on his way somewhat heavily. And now the sun began to go down and it was darker than ever in the forest; Paullinus came to a place where the road forked, and thinking over his note of the way, struck off to the left, but as he did so he felt a certain misgiving which he could not explain. He now began to hurry, for the light failed every moment, and the colour was soon gone out of the grass beneath his feet, leaving all a dark and indistinguishable brown. Soon the path forked again, and then came a road striking across the one that he had pursued of which he did not think he had been told. He went straight forward, but it was now grown so dark that he could no longer see his way, and stumbled very sadly along the wet path, feeling with his hand for the trees. He thought that he must by this time have gone much further than the distance between the villages, and it was clear to him that he had somehow missed the road.
He at last determined that he would try to return, and went slowly back the way that he had come, till at last the night came down upon him. Then Paullinus was struck with a great fear. There were wolves in those forests he knew, though they lived in the unvisited depths of the wood and came not near the habitations of men unless they were fierce with famine. But he had heard several times a strange snarling cry some way off in the wood, and once or twice he had thought he was being softly followed. So he determined to go no further, but to climb up into a tree, if he could find one, and there to spend an uneasy night.
He felt about for some time, but could discover nothing but small saplings, when he suddenly saw through the trees a light shine, and it came across him that he had stumbled as it were by accident upon the village. So he went forward slowly towards the light—there was no track here—often catching his feet among brambles and low plants, till the gloom lifted somewhat and he felt a freer air, and saw that he was in a clearing in the wood. Then he discerned, in front of him, a space of deeper darkness against the sky, what he thought to be the outline of the roofs of buildings; then the light shone out of a window near the ground; but presently he came to a stop, for he saw the light flash and gleam in the ripples of a water that lay in his path and blocked his way.
Then he called aloud once or twice; something seemed to stir in the house, and presently the light in the window was obscured by the head and shoulders of a man, who pressed to the opening; but there was no answer. Then Paullinus spoke very clearly, and said that he was a Roman, a traveller who had lost his way. Then a harsh voice told him to walk round the water to the left and wait awhile; which Paullinus did.
Soon he heard steps come out of the house and come to the water's edge. Then he heard sounds as though some one were walking on a hollow board—then with a word of warning there fell the end of a plank near him on the bank, and he was bidden to come across. He did so, though the bridge was narrow and he was half afraid of falling; but in a moment he was at the other side, a dark figure beside him. He was bidden to wait again, and the figure went out over the water and seemed to pull in the plank that had served as a bridge; and then the man returned and bade him to come forward. Paullinus followed the figure, and in a moment he could see the dark eaves of a long, low house before him, very rudely but strongly built; then a door was opened showing a lighted room within, and he was bidden to step forward and enter.
He found himself in a large, bare chamber, the walls and ceiling of a dark wood. A pine torch flared and dripped in a socket. There were one or two rough seats and a table spread with a meal. At the end of the room there were some bricks piled for a fireplace with charred ashes and a smouldering log among them, for though it was still summer the nights began to be brisk. On the walls hung some implements; a spade and a hoe, a spear, a sword, some knives and javelins. He that inhabited it seemed to be part a tiller of the soil and part a huntsman; but there were other things of which Paullinus could not guess the use—hooks and pronged forks. There were skins of beasts on the floor, and on the ceiling hung bundles of herbs and dried meats. The air was pungent with pine-smoke. He recognised the man at once as the same that he had seen beside the pool; and he looked to Paullinus even stranger and more dangerous than he had seemed before. He seemed too to be on his guard against some terror, and held in his hand a club, as though he were ready to use it.
Presently he said a few words in a harsh voice: "You are a Roman," he asked; "how may I know it?" "I do not know," said Paullinus, trying to smile, "unless you will believe my word." "What is your business here?" said the man; "are you a merchant?" "No," said Paullinus, "I have no business, I travel, and I talk with those I meet—perhaps I am a teacher—a Christian teacher." At this the man's sternness seemed a little to relax. "Oh, the new faith?" he said, rather contemptuously; "well, I have heard of it—and it will never spread; but I am curious to know what it really is, and you shall tell me of it." But suddenly his angry terrors came upon him again, and he said, with a frown, "But where were you bound, and whence come you?"
Paullinus, with such calmness as he could muster, for he felt himself to be in some danger, he scarcely knew what, mentioned the names of the villages. "Well, you have missed your way," said the man. "Why did you come here to the Temple of Death?" Paullinus had a sudden access of dread at the words. "Is this the Temple?" he said; "it is the place I was bidden to avoid." At this the man gave a fearful kind of smile, like a flash of lightning out of a sombre cloud, and he said, with a certain dark pride, "Ay, there are few that come willingly; but now you must abide with me to-night—unless," he added, with a savage look, "you have a mind to be eaten by wolves." "I will certainly stay," said Paullinus, "I am not afraid—I serve a very mighty God myself, who guards his servants if they guard themselves." "Ay, does He?" said the man, with a flash of anger, "then He must needs be strong;—but I wish you no evil," he added in a moment. "I think you are a brave man, perhaps a good one—I fear you not." "There is no need for you to fear me," said Paullinus, "my God is a God of peace and love—and indeed," he added with a smile, looking at the man's great frame, "I should have thought there was little need for you to fear any one." This last word seemed to dissolve the man's evil mood all at once, for he put away the club he held, in a corner of the room, and bade Paullinus eat and drink, which he did gladly. The meat was a strongly flavoured kind of venison, and there was a rough bread, and a drink that seemed both sweet and strong, and had the taste of summer flowers. He praised the food, and the man said to him, "Ay, I have learnt to suit it to my taste. I live here in much loneliness, and there is none to help me."
After the meal the man asked him to tell him something of the new faith, and Paullinus very willingly told him as simply as he could of the Way of Christ.
The man listened with a sort of gloomy attention. "So it is this," he said at last, "which is taking hold of the world! well, it is pretty enough—a good faith for such as live in ease and security, for women and children in fair houses; but it suits not with these forests. The god who made these great lonely woods, and who dwells in them, is very different,"—he rose and made a strange obeisance as he talked. "He loves death and darkness, and the cries of strong and furious beasts. There is little peace here, for all that the woods are still—and as for love, it is of a brutish sort. Nay, stranger, the gods of these lands are very different; and they demand very different sacrifices. They delight in sharp woes and agonies, in grinding pains, in dripping blood and death-sweats and cries of despair. If these woods were all cut down, and the land ploughed up, and peaceful folk lived here in quiet fields and farms, then perhaps your simple, easy-going God might come and dwell with them—but now, if he came, he would flee in terror."
"Nay," said Paullinus, but somewhat sadly, for the man's words seemed to have a fearful truth about them, "the Father waits long and is kind; the victory of love is slow, but it is sure."
"It is slow enough!" said the man; "these forests have grown here beyond the memory of man, and they will stand long after you and I have been turned to a handful of dust—and so I will serve my gods while I live. But you are weary," he added, "and may sleep; fear not any hurt from me; and as for the way you speak of, well, I will say that I should be content if it had the victory. I am sick at heart of the hard rule of these gods—but I fear them, and will serve them faithfully till I die."
And then he brought some skins of beasts and heaped them in a corner of the room for Paullinus, who lay down gladly, and from mere weariness fell asleep. But the priest sat long before the fire in thought; and twice he went to the door and looked out, as if he were waiting for some tidings.
Once the opening of the door aroused Paullinus; and he saw the dark figure of the priest stand in the doorway, and over his head and shoulders a dark still night, pierced with golden stars; and once again, when he opened the door a second time, the pure gush of air into the close room woke Paullinus from a deep sleep; again he saw the priest stand silent in the door, with his hands clasped behind him; and through the door Paullinus could see the dim ring of dewy woods, that seemed to sleep in quiet dreams; and over the woods a great pale light of dawn that was coming slowly up out of the east.
But Paullinus fell back into sleep again from utter weariness, as a man might dive into a pool. And when at last he opened his eyes, he saw that day was come with an infinite sweetness and freshness; the birds called faintly in the thickets; and the priest was going slowly about his daily task, preparing food; and Paullinus, from where he lay, smiled at him, and the priest smiled back, as though half ashamed, and presently said, "You have slept deeply, sir; and to sleep as you have done shows that a man is brave and innocent."
Then Paullinus rose, and would have helped him, but the man said, "Nay, you are my guest; and besides, I do things in a certain order, as all do who live alone, and I would not have any one to meddle with me." He spoke gruffly, but there was a certain courtesy in his manner.
Presently the priest asked him to come and eat, and they sat together eating in a friendly way. The priest was silent, but Paullinus talked of many things—and at last the priest said, "I thought I loved my loneliness, but it seems that I am pleased to have a companion. I believe," he added, "that I would be content if you would dwell with me." And Paullinus smiled in answer, and said, "Ay, it is not good to live alone."
A little while after Paullinus said that he must set out on his way, and that he was very grateful for so gentle a welcome; but the priest said, "Nay, but you must see the sights of my house and of the temple. Few folk have seen it, and never a foreign man. It is not a merry place," he added, "but it will do to make a traveller's tale."
So he led him to the door, and they went out. Paullinus saw that the house where he had spent the night stood on a little square island, with a deep moat all round it, filled with water; the island was all overgrown with bushes and tall plants, except that in one place there were some pens where sheep and goats were kept; and a path led down to the landing-place where he had crossed it the night before. But what at once seized and held the eyes and mind of Paullinus was the temple. He thought he had never seen so grim a place; it rose above the bushes and above the house. It was of very rough stone, all blank of windows, with a roof of stone; the blocks were very large, and Paullinus wondered how they had been brought there. In front there was a low door, and over it a hideous carving, that seemed to Paullinus to be the work of devils. Apart from the temple, rising among the bushes, stood a rude sculptured figure, with a leering evil face, very roughly but vigorously cut, with an arm raised as though beckoning people to the temple. This figure, of a kind of reddish stone, seemed horrible beyond words to Paullinus. It seemed to him like a servant of Satan, if not Satan himself, frozen into stone.
The priest looked at Paullinus, who could not help showing his horror, with a kind of pride. Then he said, "Will you go further? Will you enter the temple with me, and see what is therein? Perhaps you will after all bow your head to the gods of the forest." And Paullinus said, "Yes, I will go," and he said a silent prayer to the Lord Christ that He would guard him well. Another path paved with stone led from the landing-place to the temple, along which they went slowly; the priest leading. Arrived at the door, the priest made another strange obeisance, lifting his hands slowly above his head and closing his eyes; then he opened the door into the temple itself. There came out a foul and heavy smell that shuddered in the nostrils of Paullinus and left him gasping somewhat for breath. The priest looked at him with a sort of curious wonder, which made Paullinus determine to go further.
The temple itself was large and dark, a sickly light only filtering in through a hole in the roof. The floor was paved, and the roof was supported by great wooden columns, the trunks of large forest trees. The greater part of the building was shut off by a large wooden screen, about the height of a man, close to them, so that they stood in a kind of vestibule. The whole of the building, walls, roof, and floor, had been painted at some time or other a black colour, which was now faded and looked a dark slaty grey. Over the screen in the centre was seen the head of what seemed an image, very great and horrible. The light, which came from an opening immediately above the image, showed a horned and bearded head, misshapen and grotesque. Possibly at another time and place Paullinus might have smiled at the ugly thing; but here, peering at them over the screen, in the fetid gloom, it froze the blood in his veins.
And now behind the screen were strange sounds as well, a kind of heavy breathing or snorting, and what seemed the scratching of some beast. The priest went up to the screen and opened a sort of panel in it; this was followed by a hoarse and hideous outcry within, half of fear and half of rage. The priest took from an angle of the wall a long pole shod with iron, and leaned within the opening, saying in a stern tone some words that Paullinus did not understand. Presently the noises ceased, and the priest, using a great effort, seemed to pull or push at something with the pole, and there was the sound as of a great gate turning on its hinges. Then he drew his head and arms out, and said to Paullinus, "We may enter." He then threw a door open in the middle of the screen and went in. Paullinus followed.
In front of them stood a great statue on a pedestal; the figure of a thing, half-man half-goat, crouched as though to spring. The smell was still more horrible within, and it became clear to Paullinus that he was in the lair of some ravenous and filthy beast. There lay a mess of bones underneath the statue. To the left, in the wall, there was a strong oaken door, made like a portcullis, which seemed to close the entrance of a den; something seemed to move and stir in the blackness, and Paullinus heard the sound of heavy breathing within. The priest, still holding the pole in his hand, led the way round to the back of the statue. Here, set into the wall, were a number of stone slabs, with what seemed to be a name upon each, rudely carved.
The priest pointed to these and said, "Those are the names of the priests of this shrine. And now," he went on, "I will tell you a thing which is in my mind—I know not why I should wish to say it—but it seems to me that I have a great desire to tell you all and keep nothing back; and I tell you this, though you may turn from me with shame and horror. We have a law that if a man be condemned to death for a certain crime—if he have slain one of his kin—he is bound to a tree in the forest to be devoured piecemeal by the wolves. But if there seem to be cause or excuse for the deed that he has done, then he is allowed to purchase his life on one condition—he may come to this place and slay the priest who serves here, if he can, or himself be slain. And if he slay him he reigns in his stead until he himself be slain. And the rites of this place are these: all of this tribe who may be guilty of the slaying of a man by secret or open violence without due cause are offered here a sacrifice to the god—and that is the task that I have done and must do till I am myself slain. And here in a den dwells a savage beast—I know not its name and its age is very great—that slays and devours the guilty. What wonder if a man's heart grows dark and cruel here; I can only look into my own heart, black as it is, and wonder that it is not blacker. But the gods are good to me, and have not cursed me utterly.
"And now I will tell you that when I saw you by the pool, and when you called to me in the night, I thought that perchance you had come to slay me—and then I saw that you were alone, and not guarded as a prisoner would be; but even then my heart was dark, because the god has had no sacrifice for many a month, and seems to call upon me for a victim—so I had it in my heart to slay you here. And now," he said, "I have opened the door of my heart, and you have seen all that is to be seen."
And then he looked upon Paullinus as if to know his judgment; and Paullinus, turning to the priest, and seeing that in his heart he desired what was better, and abode not willingly in the ways of death, said, "Brother, with all my heart I am sorry for you—and I would have you turn your heart away from these dark and evil gods—who are indeed, I think, the very spirits of hell—and turn to the Father of mercy of whom I spoke, with whom there is forgiveness and love for all His sons, when once they turn to Him and ask His help."
The priest looked very gently at Paullinus as he spoke; but there came a horrible roaring out of the den, and the beast flung himself against the bars as if in rage.
Then the priest said, "For twenty years I have heard no speech like this; for twenty years I have lived with death and done wickedness, and all men turn from me with fear and loathing, and speak not any word to me: I have never looked in a kindly human eye, nor felt the hand of a friend within my own. Judge between me and my sin. I had a brother, an evil man, who made it his pleasure to trouble me. I was stronger than he, and he feared me. I loved a maiden of our tribe, and she loved me; and when my brother knew it he went about to do her a hurt, that it might grieve me. One day she went through the forest alone, and never returned, and I, in madness ranging the wood to find her, found the mangled bones of her body. I knew it by the poor torn hair—she had been devoured by wolves—but burying the bones I saw that the feet were tied together with a cord, and then I knew that some one had bound her by violence and left her to be devoured.
"Then as I returned from burying her, I came upon my brother in a glade of the wood; and he looked upon me with an evil smile, and said, 'Hast thou found her?' And I knew in my heart what he had done, and I slew him where he stood—and then I returned and said what I had done. Then they imprisoned me—for my brother was older than myself, and my enemies said that I had done it to win his inheritance—and at last, after long consulting, they gave me the choice to be devoured of wolves or to become the priest of Death. I chose the latter, because I was mad and hated all mankind. I came to this place at sundown, and my guards left me. I swam the ditch, and knocked at the priest's door; he was an old man and piteous, who abhorred his trade—and there I seized him and slew him with my hands—he was weak and made no resistance—and I flung his body to the beast and carved his name. That is my bitter story—and since then I have lived, accursed and dreaded. These gods are hard taskmasters." He made a wild gesture of the hand and turned his bright eyes upon Paullinus, who stood aghast.
"The tale is told," said the priest. "I who have kept silence all these years have babbled my story to a stranger. Why did I tell you? I thought that with all your talk of mercy and forgiveness you might have a message for my bitter and tired heart—but you shrink from me, and are silent."
"Nay," said Paullinus, "shrink from you!—not so—nay, I cling to you more than ever; come and claim your part in the forgiveness that waits for all—you have suffered, you have repented—and the God whom I serve has comfort and peace for you and for all; His love is wide and deep—claim your share in it." And he took the priest's hand in both of his own.
There was a horrible roaring behind them as they stood: the great beast behind them struck at the bars, but the priest took no heed.
"If I could," he said, with his eyes fixed on Paullinus' face.
"Nay then," said Paullinus, "if you would it is done already, for He reads the very secrets of the heart."
There broke out a loud fierce crashing sound behind them; the great oaken gate heaved and splintered, and a monstrous beast as huge as a horse appeared at the mouth of the den; his small head was laid back on his hairy shoulders, his little eyes gleamed wickedly, and his red mouth opened snarling fiercely. The priest turned, and met the rush of the beast full. In a moment he was flung to the ground with a dreadful rending sound. "Save yourself!" he cried. The huge brute glared, with his foot upon the fallen form, and seemed to hesitate whether to attack his second foe. Paullinus, hardly knowing what he did, seized the great iron-pointed pole, and with a firmness of strength which he had not known himself to possess drove it full into the monster's great throat as it opened its mouth towards him. It made a wild and sickening cry; it raised one foot as though to strike, then it beat the air and struck once at the head of the prostrate form; then, with a gurgling sound, spitting out a flood of hot blood, it collapsed, rolled slowly on one side. Paullinus, watching it intently and still holding the pole, thrust it further in with all his might. It quivered all over, and in a moment lay still. Paullinus made haste to drag the priest out from beneath—but he saw that all was over; the last blow of the beast had battered in the skull—and besides that the body was horribly mangled and crushed. The limbs of the priest were heavy and relaxed; his hands were folded together as though in prayer, and he drew one or two little fluttering breaths, but never opened his eyes.
Paullinus was like one in a dream at this sudden horror; but he kept his senses; once or twice the great beast moved, and drummed on the pavement with a horny paw. So Paullinus drew the prostrate body of the priest outside the screen and closed the door. Then he went with swift steps out of the temple and to the water's edge; he drew up a little water in his hand, looking into the dark and cool moat. Then he came back with a purpose in his mind. He sprinkled the water on the poor mangled brow; and then, choosing the name of the Apostle whom Jesus most loved, he said, "John, I baptize thee, in nomine, &c." It was like a prisoner's release; the straining hands relaxed, and with a sigh the new-made Christian presently died. "I doubt I have done right," said Paullinus to himself. "He was coming to the Saviour very swiftly, and I think was at His feet; and if he was not in heart a Christian, the Lord will know when he meets Him in the heavenly places."
When Paullinus went back to the hut he found a rough mattock. First he dug a great hole; the earth was black and soft, and water oozed soon into the depths; then with much painful labour he dragged the great beast thither, and covered him in from the eye of day; and then he toiled to dig a grave for the priest—once he stopped to eat a little food, but he worked with unusual ease and lightness. But the night came down on the forest as he finished the grave—for he did not wish that the priest should lie within the dreadful temple.
Then he went back, very weary but not sad; his terrors and distresses had drawn slowly off from his mind, as he worked in the still afternoon, under the clear sky, all surrounded by woods; the earth seemed like one who had come from a bath, washed through and through by the drench of wholesome rains, and the smell of the woods was sharp and sweet.
Paullinus slept quietly that night, feeling very close to God; but in the morning, when the dawn was coming up, he was awakened by a shouting outside. His sleep had been so deep and still that he hardly knew at first where he was, but it all came swiftly back to him; and then the shouting was repeated. Paullinus rose to his feet and went slowly out.
On the edge of the water, where the causeway crossed it, he saw two men standing, that from their dress seemed to be great chiefs. Behind them, with his hands bound, and attached by a rope held in the hand of one of the chiefs, was a young man of a wild and fierce aspect, in the dress of a serf, a rough tunic and leggings. His head was bare, and he looked around him in dismay, like a beast in a trap. Behind, at the edge of the clearing, stood four soldiers silent, with bows strung and arrows fitted to the string. Over the whole group there seemed to be the shadow of a stern purpose. At the appearance of Paullinus, the two chiefs hurriedly bent together in talk, and looked at him with astonishment. Paullinus came down to the water's edge, when one of the chiefs said, "We have come for the priest; where is he? For he must do his office upon this man, who hath slain one of his kin by stealth."
"It is too late," said Paullinus; "he is dead, and waits for burial."
Then the chiefs seemed again to confer together, and one of them, with a strange reverence, said, "Then you are the new priest of the temple? And yet it seems strange, for you are not of our nation."
"Nay," said Paullinus, "I am a wanderer, a Roman. It was not I who slew him—it was the great beast who lived in the den yonder; and the beast have I slain—but come over and let me tell you all the tale."
So he made haste to put out the bridge, and the two chiefs came over in silence, leaving the prisoner in the hands of the guards who surrounded him. Paullinus led them to the temple, which he could hardly prevail upon them to enter, and showed them the dead body, which was a fearful sight enough; then he showed them the broken gate and the empty den, and then he led them to the mound where the beast lay buried, and offered if they would to uncover the body. "Nay, we would not see him," said the elder chief in a low voice; "it is enough."
Paullinus then led them to the hut and told them the story from beginning to end. The chiefs looked at him with surprise when he told them of the beast's death, and one of them said, "I doubt, sir, you slew him by Roman magic—for he was exceedingly strong, and you look not much of a warrior." "Nay," said Paullinus, smiling, "I doubt he was his own death, as is often the end of evil—he leapt upon the pole: I did but hold it, and the Lord made my hand strong."
When he had done the story the chiefs spoke together a little in a low tone. Then one of them said, "This is a strange tale, sir. And it seems to us that you must be a man whom the gods love, for you stayed here a night with the priest—who was a fierce man and no friend of strangers—and received no hurt. And then you have slain the Hound of Death, unarmed. But we will ask you to go with us, for we cannot decide so grave a matter until we have taken counsel with our tribe. Be assured that you shall be used courteously."
"I will go very willingly," said Paullinus. "My God did indeed send me hither to do a work which He had prepared for me to do, and I would serve His will in all things."
So they first buried the body of the priest in his grave, and then they went together to the village, and messages were sent to the chiefs of the tribe, who came in haste, ten great warriors; and they sat and debated long in low voices. And Paullinus sat without wondering that he could feel so calm, for he knew that he was in jeopardy.
So when they had talked a long while they called Paullinus into the council, and the oldest chief, an ancient warrior with silver hair, much bowed with age, told him that they saw that he was a man favoured of God. "I hide it not from you," he said, "that some of my brethren here would have it that death should be your portion, because you have meddled with sacred and secret things. But I think that it is clear that you have done no wrong, or otherwise you would have been slain; you spoke but now of the God you serve, and we would hear of Him; for now that the priest is dead and the beast dead, we say with reverence that a cloud is lifted from us, and that we have served dark gods too long."
So Paullinus spoke of the Father's love and the coming of the Saviour on to the earth; and when he had finished the chiefs thanked him very courteously, and then they asked him to abide with them and speak again of the matter. So Paullinus abode there and made many friends, as his manner was.
Then came a day when the chiefs again held council, and they told Paullinus that if he would, he should be the priest of the temple and teach what he would there, and that the temple should be cleansed; and they said that they would not ask him to be the slayer of such as had killed a man, for that, they said, seems to belong rather to a warrior than a priest.
So Paullinus said that he would abide with them, but that he must first go and be made a priest after his own order; and he departed, but soon returned, and the Temple of Death was made a Church of Christians.
Paullinus is an old man now; you may see him walk at evening beside the water, under the shadow of the church. The images have been broken and defaced; but Paullinus often stops beside a mound, and thinks of the bones of the great beast that lie whitening below—and then he stands beside a grave which bears the name of John, and knows that his brother, that did evil in the days of his ignorance, but that suffered sore, will be the first to meet him in the heavenly country, with the light of God about him; "and perhaps," says Paullinus to himself, "he will bear a palm in his hand."
THE TOMB OF HEIRI
In the old days, when the Romans were taking Britain for their own, there lived in Cambria a great prince called Heiri. He was forty summers old; he had long been wed, but had no son to reign after him. Many times had he fought with the Romans, but his tribe had been driven slowly backward to the northern mountains; here for a time he dwelt in some peace, but the Romans crept ever nearer; and Heiri, who was a brave and generous prince and a great warrior, was sore afflicted, seeing the end that must come. He dwelt in a high valley of moorland, where his tribe kept such herds as yet remained to them. Heiri often asked himself in what he and his people had wronged the gods, that they should be thus vexed; for he was, as it seemed, like a wild beast with his back to a wall, fighting with innumerable foes; to the north and east and south and west lay great mountains, and behind them to west and north lay the sea; to south and east the Romans held the land, so that the Cambrians were penned in a corner.
One day heavy news came; a great army of the Romans had come by sea to the estuary in the south. The next day the scouts saw them marching up the pass, like ants, in countless numbers, with a train of baggage; and the day after, when the sun went down, the watch-fires burnt in a long line across the southern moorland, and the sound of the horns the Romans blew came faintly upon the wind; all day the tribesmen drove in their cattle up to the great camp, that lay on a low hill in the centre of the vale. Heiri held a council with his chiefs, and it was determined that next day they should give them battle.
That night, when Heiri was sitting in his hut, his beloved wife beside him, there came to see him the chief priest of the tribe; he was an old man, hard and cruel, and Heiri loved him not; and he hated Heiri secretly, being jealous of his power; he came in, his white priestly robe bound about the waist with a girdle of gold; and Heiri rose to do him honour, making a sign to his wife that she should leave them. So she withdrew softly; then the priest sat down. He asked first of Heiri whether it was determined to fight on the morrow; and Heiri said that it was so determined. Then the priest said, "Lord Heiri, to-morrow is the feast of the God of Death; and he claims a victim, if we are to be victorious." Now Heiri hated the sacrifice of men, and the priest knew it; and so for a while Heiri sat in silence, frowning, and beating his foot upon the ground, while the priest watched him with bright and evil eyes. Then Heiri said, "To-morrow must many men, both valiant and timid, die; surely that were enough for the god!" But the priest said, "Nay, my lord, it is not enough; the law saith that unless a victim should offer himself, the priests should choose a victim; and the victim must be goodly; for we are in an evil case." Then Heiri looked at the priest and said, "Whom have ye chosen?" for he saw that the priests had named a victim among themselves. So the priest said, "We have named Nefri—be content."
Now Nefri was a lad of fifteen summers, cousin to Heiri; his father was long dead, and Heiri loved the boy, who was brave and gracious, and had hoped in his heart that Nefri would succeed him as prince of the tribe. Then Heiri was very wroth, and said, "Lord priest, that may not be; Nefri is next of kin to myself, and will grow up a mighty warrior; and he shall be chief after me, if the gods grant him life; look you, to-morrow we shall lose many mighty men; and it may be that I shall myself fall; for I have been heavy-hearted for many days, and I think that the gods are calling me—and Nefri we cannot spare."
Then the priest said, "Lord Heiri, the gods choose whom they will by the mouth of their priests; it were better that Nefri should perish than that the people should be lost; and, indeed, the gods have spoken; for I prayed that the victim should be shown me, hoping that it might be some common man; but hardly had I done my prayer, when Nefri came to my hut to bring an offering; and my heart cried out, 'Arise, for this is he.' The gods have chosen him, not I; and Nefri must die for the people."
Then Heiri was grievously troubled; for he reverenced the gods and feared the priests. And he rose up, with anger and holy fear striving within him; and he said, "Prepare then for the sacrifice; only tell not Nefri—I myself will bring him—it may be that the gods will provide another victim." For he hoped within his heart that the Romans might attack at dawn, so that the sacrifice should tarry.
Then the priest rose up and said, "Lord Heiri, I would it were otherwise; but we must in all things obey the gods; the sacrifice is held at dawn, and I will go and set all things in order." So Heiri rose and bowed to the priest; but he knew in his heart that the priest sorrowed not, but rather exulted in the victim he had chosen. Then Heiri sent word that Nefri should come to him, and presently Nefri came in haste, having risen from his bed, with the warm breath of sleep about him. And there went as it were a sword through Heiri's heart, to see the boy so fair and gracious and so full of love and bravery.
Then Heiri made the boy sit beside him, and embraced him with his arm; and then he said, "Nefri, I have sent for you in haste, for there is a thing that I must tell you; to-morrow we fight the Romans, and something tells me in my heart that it will be our last fight; whether we shall conquer or be conquered I know not, but it is a day of doom for many—and now hearken. I have prayed many times in my heart for a son, but no son is given me; but I hoped that you would reign after me, if indeed there shall be any people left to rule; and if it so fall out, remember that I spoke with you to-night, and bade you be brave and just, loving your people and fearing the gods; and forget not that I loved you well."
And Nefri, half in awe and half in eager love for the great prince his cousin, said, "I will not forget." Then Heiri kissed him on the cheek and said, "Dear lad, I know it. And now you must sleep, for there is a sacrifice at dawn, and you must be there with me; but before you sleep—and I would have you sleep here in my hut to-night—pray to the father of the gods to guide and strengthen me—for we are as naught in his hands, and I have a grievous choice to make—a choice between honour and love—and I know not which is the stronger."
Then Heiri spread a bearskin on the floor and bade Nefri sleep, and he himself sat long in thought looking upon the embers. And it was quiet in the hut—only he saw by the firelight the boy's bright eye watching him, till he chid him lovingly, saying, "Sleep, Nefri, sleep." And Heiri himself lay down to sleep, for he knew that a weary day of fighting lay before him.
But the priest went to the other chiefs and spake with each of them, saying that the gods had chosen Nefri for the victim of the sacrifice, but that Heiri would fain forbid it. But the priest did worse than that, for he told many of the tribesmen the same story, and though they were sorry that Nefri should die, yet they feared the gods exceedingly, and did not think to dispute their will.
About an hour before the dawn, when there was a faint light in the air, and the breeze began to blow chill from the hills, and the stars went out one by one, the chiefs began to gather their men; and there was sore discontent in the camp; all night had the rumour spread beside the fires and in the huts that Heiri would resist the will of the gods and save Nefri from death; and many of the soldiers told the chiefs that if this were so they would not fight; so the chiefs assembled in silence before the hut of Heiri, for they feared him greatly, but they feared the gods more, and they had resolved that Nefri should die.
While they stood together Heiri came suddenly out among them. He carried a brand in his hand, which lit up his pale face and bright armour; and he came like a man risen from the dead.
Then the oldest chief, by name Gryf, drew near, and Heiri asked him of the Romans; and the chief said that they were not stirring yet. Then Heiri held up his hand; every now and then came the crying of cocks out of the camp, but in the silence was heard the faint sound of trumpets from the moorland, and Heiri said, "They come."
Then Gryf, the chief, said, "Then must the sacrifice be made in haste," and he turned to Heiri and said, "Lord Heiri, it is rumoured in the camp that Nefri is the chosen victim, but that you seek to save him." And Heiri looked sternly at him and said, "And wherefore are the purposes of the gods revealed? Lo, I will bring Nefri myself to the sacrifice, and we shall see what will befall."
Then the chiefs were glad in their hearts and said, "Lord Heiri, it is well. The ways of the gods are dark, but they rule the lives of men, and who shall say them nay?" And Heiri said, "Ay, they are dark enough."
Then he made order that the scouts should go forth from the camp; and while he yet spake the procession of priests in their white robes passed like ghosts through the huts on their way to the temple. And Heiri said, "We must follow," and he called to Nefri; but the boy did not answer. Then Heiri went within and found him sleeping very softly, with his face upon his hand; and he looked upon him for a moment, and then he put his hand upon his head; and the boy rose up, and Heiri said, "It is time, dear Nefri—and pray still for me, for the gods have not showed me light." So Nefri marvelled, and tried to make a prayer; but he was filled with wonder at the thought of the sacrifice, for he had never been present at a sacrifice before—and he was curious to see a man slain—for the sight of death in those grievous years of battle had lost its terrors even for children. So Nefri rose up; and Heiri smiled upon him and took the boy's hand, and the two went out together.
Then they came with the chiefs through the camp. The precinct of the goddess was at the upper end, to the north; it was a thick grove of alders, through which no eye could pierce; and it was approached by a slanting path so that none could see into the precinct.
So presently they came to the place and entered in; and Heiri felt the boy's hand cold within his own; but it was not fear, for Nefri was fearless, but only eagerness to see what would be done.
They passed inside the precinct; none was allowed to enter except the priests and the chiefs and certain captains. It was a dolorous place in truth. All round ran a wall of high slabs of slate. At the upper end, on a pedestal, stood the image of the god, a rude and evil piece of handiwork. It was a large and shapeless figure, with hands outspread; in the head of it glared two wide and cruel eyes, painted with paint, red-rimmed and horrible. The pedestal was stained with rusty stains; and at the foot lay a tumbled heap that was like the body of a man, as indeed it was—for the victim was left lying where he fell, until another victim was slain. All around the body sprouted rank grasses out of the paved floor. The priests stood round the image; the chief priest in front holding a bowl and a long thin knife. Two of them held torches which cast a dull glare on the image. The chiefs arranged themselves in lines on each side; and Heiri, still holding Nefri by the hand, walked up to within a few feet of the image, and there stood silent.
Then the chief priest made a sign, and at that two other priests came out with a large box of wood and shovels; and they took the bones of the victim up and laid them in the box, in which they clattered as they fell—and Nefri watched them curiously, but shuddered not; and when the poor broken body was borne away, then Nefri began to look round for the victim, but the priests began a hymn; their loud sad voices rang out very strangely on the chilly air—and the tribesmen without, hearing the sound, trembled for fear and cast themselves upon the ground.
Then there was a silence; and the chief priest came forward, and made signs to Heiri to draw near, and Heiri advanced, and said to Nefri as he did so, "Now, child, be brave." And Nefri looked up at Heiri with parted lips; and then it came suddenly into his mind that he was indeed to be the victim; but he only looked up with a piteous and inquiring glance at Heiri; and Heiri drew him to the pedestal. Then there was a terrible silence, and the hearts of the chiefs beat fast for fear and horror; and some of them turned away their faces, and the tears came to their eyes.
Then the priest raised his knife, while Nefri watched him; but Heiri stepped forward and said, "Lord priest, I have chosen. Hold thy hand. The law saith that a victim must die, and that one may offer himself to die; ye have chosen Nefri, for none has offered himself. But I bid thee hold; for here I offer myself as a victim to the god."
Then there was an awful silence, and the priest looked fiercely and evilly upon Nefri, and made as though he would have smitten him; but Heiri seized the priest's hand in both his own, and with great strength drove the knife into his own breast, stood for a moment, then swayed and fell. And as he lay he said, "My father, I come, the last victim at the shrine;" and then he drew out the knife, sobbed and died. But the chiefs crowded round to look upon him; and Gryf said, "We are undone; our king is dead, and who shall lead us?"
Then he scowled evilly upon the priests, and said, "This is your work, men of blood—and as ye have slain our king, ye shall fight for us to-day, and see if the god will protect you; then, if he saves you, we shall know that you have spoken truly—and if he saves you not then ye are false priests." And the chiefs cried assent; and Gryf, the eldest chief, commanded that weapons should be given them, and that they should be guarded and fight with the vanguard. But Nefri cast himself upon the body of Heiri and wept sore. But while they stood came a scout in terror, and told them that the Romans were indeed advancing. So the temple was emptied in a moment; and Nefri sat by the body of the dead and looked upon it. But the chiefs hastened to the wall of the camp; and it was now day; in the light that fell pale and cold from the eastern hills they saw the Romans creeping across the moor, in black dots and patches, and the sound of the horns drew nearer.
Then they arrayed themselves, and went out in the white morning; and the women watched from the wall. But Heiri's wife was told the tale, and went to the temple, but dared not enter, for no woman might set foot therein; and she wailed sitting at the gate, calling upon Heiri to come forth; but Heiri lay on his back before the image, the blood flowing from his breast, while Nefri held his head upon his knee.
Then went the battle very evilly for the tribe; little by little they were driven back upon the camp; and they were like sheep without a shepherd—and still the chiefs hoped in the help of the god; but the priests were smitten down one by one, and last of all the chief priest fell, his bowels gushing from a wound in his side, and cursed the god and died cursing.
Then the heavens overclouded: blacker and blacker the clouds gathered, with a lurid redness underneath like copper; till a mighty storm fell upon them, just as the Cambrians broke and fled back to the camp, and watched the steady advance of the Roman line, with the eagles bowing and nodding as they swept over the uneven moor.
Then suddenly they were aware of a strange thing. Whence it came they knew not, but suddenly under the camp wall there appeared the figure of a man in armour, on a white horse; it was the form of Heiri as they had often seen him ride forth on his white charger to battle; and behind him seemed to be a troop of dark and shadowy horsemen. Heiri seemed to turn round, and raise his sword in the air, as he had often done in life; and then, with a great rending of the heavens, and a mighty crash of thunder, the troop of horse swept down upon the Roman line. Then came a fearful sound from the moorland; and those who gazed from the wall saw the Romans waver and turn; and in a moment they were in flight, melting away in the moor, as stones that roll from a cliff after a frost; and all men held their breath in silence; for they saw the Romans flying and none to pursue, except that some thought that they saw the white horse ride hither and thither, and the flash of the waving sword of Heiri.
There followed a strange and dreadful night; the list of warriors was called and many were absent; from hour to hour a few wounded men crawled in; and in the morning, seeing that the Romans were not near at hand, they sent out a party with horses to bring in the wounded and the dead; all the priests were among the slain; those of the chiefs that were alive held a meeting and resolved that the camp must now be held, for the Romans would attack the next day; and they sent the women and children, with the herds, away to a secret place in the mountains, all but Heiri's wife, who would not leave the camp.
Then the other chiefs would have made Gryf, the old chief, prince of the tribe; but he refused it, saying that Heiri had wished Nefri to be chief, and that none but Nefri should succeed. So search was made for Nefri, and he was found in Heiri's hut with Heiri's wife; he had stayed beside the body till it grew stiff and cold and the eyes had glazed; and then he had feared to be alone with it, and had crept away. So they put a crown upon Nefri's head, and each of the chiefs in turn knelt before him and kissed his hand; and Nefri bore himself proudly but gently, as a prince should, rising as each chief approached; and then he was led out before the people, and they were told that Nefri was prince by the wish of Heiri; and no one disputed the matter.
Then in the grey dawn a scout came in haste and said that three Romans were approaching the camp, and that one was a herald; and the old chief asked Nefri what his will was; and the boy looked him in the face, and said, "Let them be brought hither." So the chiefs were again summoned, and the Romans came slowly into the camp. The herald came in front, and he was followed by an officer of high rank, as could be seen from his apparel and the golden trappings of the horse that bore him; and another officer followed behind; and the herald, who knew something of the Cambrian language, said that this was the Lord Legate himself, and that he was come to make terms.
The chiefs looked at each other in silence, for they knew that the Romans must needs have taken the camp that day if they had assaulted it. The Legate was a young man with a short beard, very much burnt by the sun, and bearing himself like a great gentleman. He looked about him with a careless and lordly air; and when they came into the presence of the chiefs, the three dismounted; and the Legate looked round to see which was the prince; then the old chief put Nefri forward, and said to the herald, "Here is our king." And the Legate bowed to Nefri, and looked at him in surprise; and the herald said in the Cambrian language to Nefri that the Legate was fain to arrange a truce, or indeed a lasting peace, if that were possible.
Then the old chief said to Nefri, "My lord, ask him wherefore the Legate has come;" and Nefri asked the herald, and the herald asked the Legate; then the Legate said, smiling, to the herald, "Tell him anything but the truth—say that it is our magnanimity;" and then he added in a lower tone, turning to the other officer, "though the truth is that the men will not dare to attack the place after the rout of yesterday;" and the Legate added to the herald, "Say that the Romans respect courage, and have seen that the Cambrians are worthy foes, and we would not press them hard; it is a peaceful land of allies that we desire, and not a land conquered and made desolate." So the herald repeated the words.
Then the old chief bade Nefri say that they must have time to consider, adding that it would not be well to seem eager for peace. Then he said to the other chiefs, "Yet this is our salvation." So they conferred together, and at last it was decided to tell the Legate that they would be friends and allies, but that the boundaries of the land must be respected, and that the Romans must withdraw beyond the boundaries. And this the Legate accepted, and it was determined that all the land that could be seen from the camp should be left to the Cambrians, and that the mountains should be as a wall to them; and this too the Legate approved.
So in the space of an hour the Cambrians were relieved of their foes, and were in peace in their own land. And the Legate was royally entertained; but before he went he asked, through the herald, where the great warrior was who had led the last charge on the day before, for he had taken him to be the prince of the land. Then the old chief said, "He is sick and may not come forth." Then the Legate rode away, and Nefri rode a little way with him to do him honour, and after courteous greetings they departed.