Page images

ever bred in Andalusia, which merchants used at that time to import, with great trouble and risk, for the use of persons of wealth and distinction. The saddle and housings of this superb palfrey were covered by a long footcloth, which reached nearly to the ground, and on which were richly embroidered, mitres, crosses, and other ecclesiastical emblems. Another lay brother led a sumpter mule, loaded probably with his superior's baggage; and two monks of his own order, of inferior station, rode together in the rear, laughing and conversing with each other, without taking much notice of the other members of the cavalcade.

The companion of the church dignitary was a man past forty, thin, strong, tall, and muscular; an athletic figure, which long fatigue and constant exercise seemed to have left none of the softer part of the human form, having reduced the whole to brawn, bones, and sinews, which had sustained a thousand toils, and were ready to dare a thousand more. His head was covered with a scarlet cap, faced with fur, of that kind which the French call mortier, from its resemblance to the shape of an inverted mortar. His countenance was therefore fully displayed, and its expression was calculated to impress a degree of awe, if not of fear, upon strangers. High features, naturally strong and powerfully expressive, had been burnt almost into negro blackness by constant exposure to the tropical sun, and might, in their ordinary state, be said to slumber after the storm of passion had passed away; but the projection of the veins of the forehead, the readiness with which the upper lip and its thick black mustachios quivered upon the slightest emotion, plainly intimated that the tempest might be again and easily awakened. His keen, piercing, dark eyes told in every glance a history of difficulties subdued, and dangers dared, and seemed to challenge opposition to his wishes, for the pleasure of sweeping it from his road by a determined exertion of courage and of will; a deep scar on his brow gave additional sternness to his countenance, and a sinister expression to one of his eyes, which had been slightly injured upon the same occasion, and of which the vision, though perfect, was in a slight and partial degree distorted.

The upper dress of this personage resembled that of his companion in shape, being a long monastic mantle, but the colour being scarlet, showed that he did not belong to any of the four regular orders of monks. On the right shoulder of the mantle there was cut, in white cloth, a cross of a peculiar form. This upper robe concealed what at first view seemed rather inconsistent with its form, a shirt, namely, of linked mail, with sleeves and gloves of the same, curiously plaited and interwoven, as flexible to the body as those which are now wrought in the stocking loom, and of less obdurate materials. The fore part of his thighs, where the folds of his mantle permitted them to be seen, were also covered with linked mail; the knees and feet were defended by splints, or thin plates of steel, ingeniously jointed upon each other; and mail hose reaching from the ankle to the knee, effec

tually protected the legs, and completed the rider's defensive armour. In his girdle he wore a long and double edged dagger, which was the only offensive weapon about his person.

He rode not a mule, like his companion, but a strong hackney for the road, to save his gallant war-horse, which a squire led behind, fully accoutred for battle, with a chain from a plaited headpiece upon his head, having a short spike projecting from the front. On one side of the saddle hung a short battleaxe, richly inlaid with Damascene carving; on the other the rider's plumed headpiece and hood of mail, with a long two-handed sword, used by the chivalry of the period. A second squire held aloft his master's lance, from the extremity of which fluttered a small banderole, or streamer, bearing a cross of the same form with that embroidered upon his cloak. He also carried his small triangular shield, broad enough at the top to protect the breast, and from thence diminishing to a point. It was covered with a scarlet cloth, which prevented the device from being seen.

These two squires were followed by two attendants, whose dark visages, white turbans, and the oriental form of their garments, showed them to be natives of some distant eastern country. The whole appearance of this warrior and his retinue was wild and outlandish; the dress of his squires was gorgeous, and his eastern attendants wore silver collars round their throats, and bracelets of the same metal upon their swarthy arms and legs, of which the former were naked from the elbow, and the latter from mid-leg to ankle. Silk and embroidery distinguished their dresses, and marked the wealth and importance of their master; forming, at the same time, a striking contrast with the martial simplicity of his own attire. They were armed with crooked sabres, having the hilt and baldrick inlaid with gold, and matched with Turkish daggers of yet more costly workmanship. Each of them bore at his saddle bow a bundle of darts or javelins, about four feet in length, having sharp steel heads, a weapon much in use among the Saracens, and of which the memory is yet preserved in the martial exercise called El Jerrid, still practised in the eastern countries.

The singular appearance of this cavalcade not only attracted the curiosity of Wamba, but excited even that of his less volatile companion. The monk he instantly knew to be the Prior of Jorvaulx Abbey, well known for many miles around as a lover of the chase, of the banquet, and, if fame did him not wrong, of other worldly pleasures still more inconsistent with his monastic vows. Sir w. SCOTT.



The clouds, rising slowly above the Killina hills, soon spread far south; Bray-Head was enveloped from its summit to its base; and the long sweeping folds of leaden-coloured vapour passed from hill to hill southward, like giant spectres gliding over their summits, and leaving the folds of their mysterious mantles lingering and darkening on the track of their progress. Sometimes they were suddenly withdrawn; and the startling gleam of sudden sun-light that broke on the green summits made even a frightful contrast to the darkness that was blackening and deepening in the background; the sugar-loaf hills, alternately covered and concealed for some time, were at last completely hid, and the ascending clouds hovered in a thick mass over the woods of the Dargle. The wind sunk; the trees were motionless; the birds flew low; and a few thick drops pattered among the upper leaves with a melancholy sound.

The moss-house of the Dargle afforded them shelter, till their carriages could be summoned; but at the first peal of thunder, the Miss Longwoods declared they would rather die, nay, they would die on the spot, sooner than encounter the short walk to the gate while there was thunder, or even a shadow of thunder in the air. So they all paused to learn their fate from the elements. The gentlemen looked grave and anxious; the ladies crowded together, pale, with up-glancing eyes, and murmurs of terror; among which the fate of pellisses, bonnets, and kid-leather shoes, had honourable mention and audible share.

Soon all these pretty murmurers W£re hushed. The thunder that rolled among the distant hills burst in peals over their shrinking heads, prolonged, redoubled, aggravated by the echoes of the mountains; the clouds that had flung their fairy picturesque shrouds over the surrounding hills, now formed a dense, livid-coloured mass

« PreviousContinue »