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"every thing in your hermitage is miraculous, Holy Clerk! for I would have been sworn that the fat buck which furnished this venison had been running on foot within the week."
The hermit was somewhat discountenanced by this observation; and, moreover, he made but a poor figure while gazing on the diminution of the pasty, on which his guest was making desperate inroads; a warfare in which his previous professions of abstinence left him no pretext for joining.
"I have been in Palestine, Sir Clerk," said the knight, stopping short of a sudden, " and I bethink me it is a custom there that every host who entertains a guest shall assure him of the wholesomeness of his food, by partaking of it along with him. Far be it from me to suspect so holy a man of aught inhospitable; nevertheless I will be highly bound to you would you comply with this eastern custom."
"To ease your unnecessary scruples, Sir Knight, I will for once depart from my rule," replied the hermit. And as there were no forks in those days, his clutches were instantly in the bowels of the pasty.
The ice of ceremony being once broken, it seemed matter of rivalry between the guest and the entertainer which should display the best appetite; and although the former had probably fasted longest, yet the hermit fairly surpassed him.
"Holy Clerk," said the knight, when his hunger was appeased, "I would gage my good horse yonder against a zeechin, that that same honest keeper to whom we are obliged for the venison has left thee a stoup of wine, or a runlet of canary, or some such trifle, by way of ally to this noble pasty. This would be a circumstance, doubtless, totally unworthy to dwell in the memory of so rigid an anchorite; yet, I think, were you to search yonder crypt once more, you would find that I am right in my conjecture."
The hermit only replied by a grin; and, returning to the hutch, he produced a leathern bottle, which might contain about four quarts. He also brought forth two large drinking cups, made out of the horn of the urus, and hooped with silver. Having made this goodly provision for washing down the supper, he seemed to think no farther ceremonious scruple necessary on his part; but, filling both cups, and saying, in the Saxon fashion, "Waes hael, Sir Sluggish Knight!" he emptied his own at a draught.
"Drink hael! Holy Clerk of Copmanhurst," answered the warrior, and did his host reason in a similar brimmer.
"Holy Clerk," said the stranger, after the first cup was thus swallowed, " I cannot but marvel that a man, possessed of such thews and sinews as thine, and who therewithal shows the talents of so goodly a trencherman, should think of abiding by himself in this wilderness. In my judgment, you are fitter to keep a castle or a fort, eating of the fat and drinking of the strong, than to live here upon pulse and water, or even upon the charity of the keeper. At least, were I as thou, I should find myself both disport and plenty out of the king's deer. There is many a goodly herd in these forests, and a buck will never be missed that goes to the use of St. Dunstan's chaplain."
"Sir Sluggish Knight," replied the Clerk, "these are dangerous words, and I pray you to forbear them. I am true hermit to the king and law; and were I to spoil my liege's game, I should be sure of the prison, and, an my gown saved me not, were not in some peril of hanging."
"Nevertheless, were I as thou," said the knight, " I would take my walk by moonlight, when foresters and keepers were warm in bed, and ever and anon, as I pattered my prayers, I would let fly a shaft among the herds of dun deer that feed in the glades. Resolve me, Holy Clerk, hast thou never practised such a pastime?"
"Friend Sluggard," answered the hermit, "thou hast seen all that can concern thee of my housekeeping, and something more than he deserves who takes up his quarters by violence. Credit me, it is better to enjoy the good which God sends thee, than to be impertinently curious how it comes. Fill thy cup, and welcome; and do not, I pray thee, by further impertinent inquiries, put me to show that thou couldst hardly have made good thy lodging had I been in earnest to oppose thee."
"By my faith," said the knight, "thou makest me more curious than ever! Thou art the most mysterious hermit I ever met; and I will know more of thee ere we part. As for thy threat, know, holy man, thou speakest to one whose trade it is to find out danger wherever it is to be met with."
"Sir Sluggish Knight, I drink to thee," said the hermit; "respecting thy valour much, but deeming wondrous slightly of thy discretion. If thou wilt take equal arms with me, I will give thee, in all friendship and brotherly love, such sufficing penance and complete absolution, that thou shalt not for the next twelve months sin the sin of excess of curiosity." The knight pledged him, and desired him to name his weapon.
"There is none," replied the hermit, " from the scissars of Dalilah and the tenpenny nail of Jael, to the scymitar of Goliath, at which I am not a match for thee. But, if I am to make the election, what say'st thou, good friend, to these trinkets?"
Thus speaking, he opened another hutch, and took out from it a couple of broad-swords and bucklers, such as were used by the yeomanry of the period. The knight, who watched his motions, observed that the second place of concealment was furnished with two or three good long bows, a crossbow, abundle of bolts for the latter, and half a dozen sheaves of arrows for the former. A harp, and other matters of a very uncanonical appearance, were also visible when this dark recess was opened.
"I promise thee, brother clerk," said he, "I will ask thee no more offensive questions. The contents of that cupboard are an answer to all my inquiries; and I see a weapon there (here he stooped and took out the harp) on which I would more gladly prove my skill with thee, than at the sword and buckler."
"I hope, Sir Knight," said the hermit, "thou hast given no good reason for thy surname of the Sluggard. I do promise thee I suspect thee grievously. Nevertheless, thou art my guest, and I will not put thy manhood to the proof without thine own free will. Sit thee down then, and fill thy cup; let us drink, sing, and be merry. If thou knowest ever a good lay, thou shalt be welcome to a nook of pasty at Copmanhurst so long as I serve the chapel of St. Dunstan, which, please God, shall be till I change my gray covering for one of green turf. But come, fill a flagon, for it will crave some time to tune the harp; and nought pitches the voice and sharpens the ear like a stoup of wine. For my part, I love to feel the grape at my very finger-ends before they make the harp-strings tingle.
SIR WALTER SCOTT.
THE MISADVENTURE OF GOOSE GIBBIE AT THE REVIEW.
The sheriff of the county of Lanark was holding the wappen-shaw of a wild district, called the Upper Ward of Clydesdale, on a haugh, or level plain, near to the royal borough, the name of which is in no way essential to my story, upon the morning of the fifth of May, 1679, when our narrative commences. When the musters had been made, and duly reported, the young men, as was usual, were to mix in various sports, of which the chief was to shoot at the popinjay, an ancient game formerly practised with archery,