The Baldw-n Ubrsry
AND OTHER STORIES.
HaTTo Rons FOLxO OF HIS BUTTER AND CHEESE.
AND OTHER STORIES.
MARY C. ROWSELL,
Author of "Traitor or Patriot?" Tie Pedlar and his Dog;" "Fisherman Grim;'
"Sepperl the Drummer Boy;" &c.
BLACKIE & SON, LIMITED,
LONDON, GLASGOW, EDINBURGH, AND DUBLIN.
HATTO'S TOWER, ... .. . 7
KING HARRY AND THE ABBOT OF READING, 49
THE OPAL RING . . ... 101
HERE was once a bishop whose name was Hatto.
He was not a good man. He professed, of
course, to follow the example of his master,
Jesus Christ; but he did not really do so, for Christ
spent all His life in doing good, especially to the poor
and oppressed, and Bishop Hatto never troubled him-
self about them, excepting indeed to make their lot a
little harder. He used to say quite openly that he
could not see the use of poor people. They were
dreadfully troublesome, and interfered with well-to-do
folks' comfort. The worst of all their sins was that
habit of getting hungry, for all the world like their
"betters," as Hatto called himself and rich people
like himself; and not content with that, they dared
sometimes to get even hungrier, because the hard
work they did brought them an appetite. To be sure
they were not dainty, and would eat broken victuals,
and crumbs from rich men's tables; but the victuals
they got from Bishop Hatto's table were so very
broken that they were difficult to pick up at all; and
then, as Bishop Hatto always complained, they were
not satisfied if they got something to eat of a Sunday,
but must be wanting again on Monday, just exactly
as if they were lords, or kings, or bishops. Then they
were not agreeable to look at in their coarse clothes,
or even their rags and tatters; and their hands and
faces begrimed with the dust and mud of their hard
toil. Bishop Hatto loved purple and fine linen, and
velvet and silk raiment. He had been used to it all
his life. When he was a little baby he had worn
long clothes of gold brocade and loveliest lace, and
been fed with a silver spoon out of a golden pap
basin, and when the faintest breath of heaven's
breezes blew, lie had been wrapped in costly furs.
From September to May the chimneys of his palace
roared with the big fires that were kept burning in its
chambers; and he would laugh when he saw some poor
man pass shiveringly along the street, and say lie could
not comprehend how people liked to make themselves
so ugly and ridiculous, with their faces all manner of
colours, and shaking like a piece of jelly. It was all
"papperlapapp," for Hatto was a German bishop, and
"papperlapapp" is the best German for "fiddlesticks."
The city Hatto was set in charge of was Mentz.
It stood on the borders of the river Rhine, with a
beautiful cathedral in its midst, beside which was the
bishop's palace, and a very lordly dwelling-place it
was. But for all its grandeur, it did not content
Hatto; he liked change, and possessed two or three
more residences round about, to which he would go
when he felt bored or dull, which was rather often,
as he troubled himself vastly little about anything,
and so had next to nothing to do; and naturally,
caring so little for anybody, hardly anybody cared for
One of these residences was a tower which stood
on a little green island right in the middle of the
Rhine, a mile or two from Mentz. It was very strong,
and had massive gray walls of immense thickness
pierced with a few grated windows; and underground,
or rather half under water, were dungeons in which
Hatto used to imprison persons who had offended
him or owed him any money. It was not a cheerful
place inside; even in the upper part the grated
windows were so small, that it was not worth while
to put glass in them, and they were set very high, so
that if the tower were attacked by an enemy, and
shot entered, it would pass above the heads of those
On one side of the tower, about a foot or two above
high-water mark, was a low narrow door, at which
night and day sat one of Hatto's people to collect the
toll from the boats passing up and down the river;
and all the money thus paid went into Hatto's coffers.
Hatto was very fond of his little tower on the Rhine;
and though it was infested with rats and mice, and
slugs, and snails, and toads, and newts crawled about
the damp stones of its dungeons, and even made
frequent excursions to its upper chambers, there was
nothing he more enjoyed than spending a day in it.
The view was so pleasant, he would tell his acquain-
tance; and certainly no spot in the world could be
fairer than those green vine-clothed hills reaching
upward to the blue sunlit sky, and washed by the
wavelets of the winding sparkling river, but far oftener
than upward or onward, Bishop Hatto's gaze was
fixed on that little dark door, watching the gleam of
the toll money as it dropped into the collector's open
palm; and the clink of it made his little greedy eyes
gleam and glisten, as never the music of his cathedral
organ or the sweet hymns of his chorister lads could
do. It is doubtful, indeed, whether he ever even so
much as heard the singing of the thousand birds in
the trees fringing the river banks, so intent was he
on counting the passing boats.
The birds had, however, of late been very silent;
truly for one reason, because summer-such a summer
as it had been-was quite gone, and the last days of
autumn were come, and there had been a light fall of
snow even, and the birds were in very bad case indeed.
They shared each day more deeply in all the suffer-
ings going on around; and sat forlorn and bedraggled
on the boughs, which had long been naked, until they
were covered with the snow, which was snow in
harvest; for such corn as there was, a mere patch
here and there, still remained uncut, waiting for
warm sun-rays that could now no longer come.
There had been scarcely one dry sunshiny day ever
since spring. From morning till night it had been
rain, rain, rain, drip, drip, drip. The little children
had stood at their doors and said:
Rain, rain, go away,
Come again another day;"
but it had not been of the slightest use. To be sure
it had come again another day, but then that day
had been the next, and the next; and now at last
winter was close at hand, and there was no bread to
be had for love-or for money, I was going to say, but
by paying a great deal of money the rich people were
able to get some flour from other countries, and even
from distant parts of Germany, where the weather
had been less wet. That, however, did not much
help the poor, though there were many charitable-
hearted rich folks who did their best to spare from
their own small supply of grain. Bishop Hatto, how-
ever, was not one of these, though he had a splendid
store of corn in his granaries. The way he got it was
by never having given away a grain of what he had
obtained from the preceding year. It was, of course,
very thrifty of him, and he was always praising him-
self in his own mind for his carefulness. It was so
pleasant, he thought, to feel rich and comfortable,
and to know that he could lay his hand upon sack on
sack of corn up in his granaries and barns, while the
foolish people about him had given theirs away, and
now were in want themselves.
"I," he would say boastfully, "have laid up for a
rainy day; and see, it has come;" and with a mocking
finger he would point up at the leaden sky, and down
on the fields, sodden through and through, where the
corn lay rotting in the mud
There was a poor carpenter in Mentz named Folko.
He had a large family of little children; he was very
hard-working and industrious, and would put his
hand to anything that might be given him to do, to
earn money for their support, and had hitherto
managed to live without help from anybody-to keep,
as people say, his head above water; but, like his
neighbours, he could now no longer do this. Nobody
gave him any work, because they had no money,
which all went in buying meal at a ruinous price,
and their houses and fences, and chairs and tables,
had to lie broken till. better times came, of which,
indeed, everybody began to despair.
One day, after many hours' work, for which he
knew he would not earn a penny, because he had done
it for a neighbour at least as poor as himself, Folko
sat tired out, with his sad eyes fixed on the gloomy
prospect; but his day's work had also saddened him
cruelly. The job he had been over, was the mending
of a roof in which the incessant dropping of the rain
had worn a big hole. Folko's friend's old bed-ridden
mother occupied the room, and as there was only one
other room in the cottage there was nowhere else to
put her; and pelt, pelt, slop, slop, in had come the
rain, and there, racked with pain from the damp, the
poor creature lay and moaned.
The cottage stood a little way from Hatto's palace;
and from the windows of his magnificent hall the hole
in the roof could be seen quite plainly; and Hatto did
see it, and he used to say a very offensive sight it was,
and people had no business to let holes come in their
roofs; but though the cottage was Hatto's own pro-
perty, he refused to have anything to do with its mend-
ing until its tenant should pay him his rent, which was
owing for some weeks past. "Mend the roof forsooth!
A week or so more of that owing, and he intended
turning the fellow and his troublesome old mother out
into the street. These were times to mend roofs!"
And so Folko had given a helping hand; but it was
only a grain amidst the ever-growing heap of trouble;
the damp had brought, not starvation only, but fever
and agues and cramps, and sickness of all kinds, and
Folko felt maddened to think of the misery crowding
thicker and thicker each day as it broke.
So, till it was almost dark, Fdlko sat and pondered;
but the more he thought of it all, the worse it seemed;
and having to be astir very early in the morning he
ate his scanty supper of half-mouldy bread and dry
cheese-parings, thankful even for that, and went to
bed; not, however, for all things were so bad, quite
out of heart, because the errand he was bound on
next morning was a pleasant one. In the next
chapter you shall learn what it was.
8.OME way down the river, a mile or two beyond
i, Hatto's tower, Folko had an old friend living
named Conrad. Conrad was a farmer; he was
as kind and generous-hearted a man as ever lived.
Like his neighbours he had suffered terribly from the
rain floods; but he hlad not lost all his grain, for some
of his fields lay on high ground, from which the wet
drained down, and they were well exposed to the few
ripening sun-rays which had shone. So one day when
Conrad came to Mentz, he said to Folko:
"If you can bring your boat up as far as my house
I will give you three sacks of corn and as many of
rye to carry home in it; and I daresay my wife will
have a pot of butter or so, and a cheese or two.
Come one of these fine days when you have nothing
better to do; and, by the way, the cow-house wants
new thatching, and there are one or two other odd
jobs of carpentering require doing."
Folko was only too glad to hear all this. "But,"
thought he to himself, "if I wait for a fine day, as
Conrad calls it, I may wait a pretty long spell; and
so I will go on Wednesday."
And so, after a night's rest, which was, however,
full of dreams of how he should best turn Conrad's
promised gift to account, Folko rose almost before
it was light, and dressed himself, and left his cottage,
where his wife was trying to make a morsel of bread
go as far as a big loaf among her hungry little ones.
"Half is better than none," he said, doing his best to
"None is all you have had, Folko," she said tear-
fully. "You will faint with hunger by the way."
"Oh, no!" he replied; "I am not a bit hungry."
And away he went before she could add a word.
Now Folko, in honest truth and fact, was as hungry
as a hunter; and some people say that when folks
speak untruths the clouds fall on them likely as not.
That certainly is what happened to Folko. Down
they came, soaking him through and through all the
way to the little landing-stage where he kept his
boat; but as that was now nothing new, having
happened day after day for weeks past, he took no
"I am glad I am not afraid of a ducking," he
thought to himself as he jumped into the boat, and
steered into deep water. And I do believe yonder
big cloud, for all its blackness," he went on, looking
upward at the pale lavender-coloured sky, has a bit
of a silver lining."
Then actually whistling to himself now and again
as he went, his boat presently glided past Bishop
"Hi!" shouted the man, who was already at his
post at the toll-door. Whither so fast this morning,
friend Folko? Where's your toll-money?"
"I haven't a groat," replied poor Folko; "but I
shall have it when I come back this afternoon."
"Then's not now," said the toll-taker grimly.
"No, truly," said Folko; "but I'm on my way to
do a few jobs of carpentering for Farmer Conrad
yonder, at Andernach; and lie has promised to pay
me well for them, and then I will pay the toll."
Promises are like pie-crust," said the toll-taker,
whose name was Kunz, shaking his head, but looking
a trifle less grim.
"Well, mine won't be broken, if that's what you're
driving at," said Folko. "You know that. Don't
stop me," he continued imploringly, "for it's life or
death to me and mine."
"And as much as my place is worth to let you go
on," said Kunz, but hesitatingly, for he was not a bad
fellow at heart. "But pass on. You are a man of
your word, I know that, and if you say you'll pay,
or do anything else, do it you will; but it's a fine risk
for me, mind you; because," then he jerked his head
in the direction of one of the upper loophole casemates
of the tower, "a certain person slept here last night;
and if it wasn't so early, and he was about there, I
durs'n't do it. But go on, and quick as you can too."
"You'll not repent of your kindness," said Folko
gratefully, as he sped his boat forward swift as an
Folko, however, was wrong, Kunz did repent of it
very sorely; for Bishop Hatto, who could not sleep-
for one reason, because he had eaten such a heavy
supper of venison pasty and drunk a great deal of rich
wine, and for another, because there was such a nasty
fidgeting sound in the wainscot of his sleeping chamber,
as if something was trying to gnaw it through-was
looking out of his window to see what sort of a morn-
ing it was; and when he saw Folko pass on without
paying toll he flew into a terrible rage, and seizing
his huge grand gold-headed stick which stood in a
corner of the room, he trundled with its help as fast
as he could down the winding stairs, and stealing up
behind Kunz laid the stick about his shoulders, blow
upon blow, belabouring him with all his strength.
"Is that the way you collect my money, you
scoundrel you?" he shrieked, as the blows came
showering down. "I'll break every bone of your
miserable body. I'll-;" then all of a minute snap-
whish-went the stick into the water, broken in two,
the end half first, and the gold-headed one after it.
That made Hatto ten times more furious, particularly
when a big dog, who happened to be swimming about,
snapped up the floating end and swam with it
proudly to the opposite bank, where his master was
landing from a little skiff, while the gold knob sank
with its own weight to the bottom of the river.
"Ha! look out there!" he shouted to the people
on the bank. "Jump in this instant to the bottom
of the river and fetch it out, do you hear? Hi! ha!
I'm Bishop Hatto. Hi! ha!"
"IHi! ha! ha!" echoed the walls of the tower
mockingly; but the people on the bank did not or
would not hear, but went their way; and there where
it fell at the bottom of the Rhine still lies the grand
gold-knobbed stick, for all anyone has ever tried to
fetch it out.
Purple with rage, Hatto now seized Kunz by the
shoulder and dragged him down to the dungeons
below, where he flung him in, double bolting the door
"That will bring him to his senses," chuckled
Hatto to himself, as he laboured up-stairs again after
his exertions. It did, however, quite the contrary;
it took them entirely away for some time. And
when Kunz did come to himself he could say nothing,
as he sat rubbing his sore shoulders, but: It's the first
kind action I ever did, and it shall be the last if ever
I get out of this hole alive. Hu! and it's all toads
and rats too." And all day he sat shiveringly listen-
ing to the endless gnawing and croaking duet, while
above, Bishop Hatto seated himself at the toll-door,
and collected the toll himself, so that there were no
more mistakes made that day.
If you want a thing well done, do it yourself," he
chuckled as lie turned the money over in his pockets;
and as it was certainly a very pretty penny by the
time the sun began to get low the scowl on his face
gradually cleared, though it darkened again whenever
he thought of Folko; and he sat watching-watching
for his return.
OLKO nad meanwhile arrived at the farm, but
he could not see Conrad about as he walked up
to the house, where Conrad's wife came to the
"Ah!" said she, "is that you, Folko? Now, I am
sorry; you have chosen an unfortunate day for coming,
for Conrad has had to go to Cologne on particular
business; and he will not be able to show you what lie
wants done to the cow-house, and the barn door, and
the pig-stye, and the pigeon-cot, and I don't know
"Couldn't you tell me?" asked Folko, woefully
"Oh no!" said the good woman. "You know
what Conrad is. It must all be just so with him, or
it won't do at all. Can't you manage to come one
day soon again? when he will take care to be at
"Why, of course I can," replied Folko. "Only-
only-" then a choking feeling in his throat stopped
him, for he was terribly disappointed. Bread is a
great thing, the staff of life and all that, but it is not
blankets, and warm petticoats, and other such odds
and ends as he had been hoping to buy with the money
Conrad would have paid him for his work.
"In the meantime," continued Conrad's wife, "my
husband bade me tell you the sacks of grain he pro-
mised you are all ready at the barn door for you to
take back at any time you should come. And here
is a little tub of butter for your wife, from me, and
two curd cheeses, which are a bit hard and heavy to
carry, but they are good eating."
"Indeed yes," said Folko gratefully, and almost
forgetting his disappointment in his joy at such
generous help. "And thank you kindly."
Then when Conrad's wife had invited him into the
farm kitchen to dine, and he was refreshed and rested,
she sent one of the farm servants with him to the
barn, and together they carried the sacks of grain
down to the boat and packed them in a neat pile, and
in another corner Folko put the butter tub and the
two curd cheeses.
A pleasant journey home to you!" said the servant-
man, as he gave the boat a good parting push and sent
Folko on his homeward way, feeling, to be sure, just a
little downcast, but still greatly cheered and warmed
by the kindness of his friends. "And as for the
work, it is only put off," he said to himself, "and
everything comes to those who wait; and it is only
waiting till next week. Ah, ha! there is toll-taker
Kunz at his door," he went on, as the walls of Hatto's
tower appeared in sight, all aglow in the red light of
the setting sun. No, that is never Kunz neither,"
he said to himself, as the boat sped on close towards
the banks of the island. Kunz is as lean as a thread-
paper; and that fellow there is as fat as-Bishop
Hatto himself!" ejaculated Folko in dismay, for he
thought he really would rather have come upon old
Bogey. Now, what is to be done? for I haven't a
groat any more than I had this morning. Well, no
matter, eating bread is eating money nowadays, as
people say; and bread is made of flour, and flour is only
grain ground, so I'll pay in grain. I suppose a measure
of it will be enough, but I haven't got a measure-"
Hullo there!" cried Bishop Hatto, interrupting
Folko's cogitations. Not quite so fast, my man.
You won't escape scot-free this time."
"I did not intend to try, my lord," said Folko
calmly. But since I have no monev I must ask you
to take the toll in kind."
"In what?" scowled Hatto.
"In kind," said Folko. That is to say, will you
take the payment in this grain which I have on board
No," said Hatto, certainly not. I am half
smothered in grain, rye, oats, corn,-all of it. I have
more than I know what to do with."
"That is what few people can say," sighed Folko.
"Come, where is your money?" persisted Hatto,
pretending not to hear.
"I tell you, my lord, I have none, and you must
take it in kind."
"Well," said Hatto, looking very cross, "must be
must, I suppose. What have you under that cloth?"
"I like fresh butter," said Hatto. Hand it up,
and let me look at it, my son. H'm," he went on,
when Folko had done as he was bidden, and Hatto
had inspected it, "it might be better."
"As we all might," grunted Folko, not annoyed by
Hatto's remark. Will you please to hand it down
again, my lord?" he added in more respectful tones.
"And what have you there?" went on Hatto,
pointing to the other little pile
"Cheeses, as you see; so please you."
"How can I tell if they will, all that way off?
Hand them up, my son."
"Please to hand down the butter," said Folko,
holding up the cheeses, since you do not want it."
"Oh!" said Hatto, turning over the cheeses, and
balancing them in his hands, far more as if he was a
cheesemonger than a bishop, "the butter will pass,
leave it alone. This cheese isn't much, though."
"It's a great deal to me, my lord," said Folko,
getting a little out of patience, for it was growing
late, and he was anxious to be home: "but maybe
you have more cheese than you know what to do
with, like you have corn."
Malapert!" frowned Hatto, "who told you that?"
"Who but yourself this moment? Though, to be
sure, other folks say so too."
"What next, forsooth?" angrily said Hatto.
Why," said Folko, who thought Hatto was asking
for information, "they wish they had some of it in
their barns, which are all empty."
"Ah, ha!" laughed Hatto; "you can't eat your
cake and have it too. I have kept mine, and want
for nothing now."
"While your flock is starving around you."
"You don't go bare for want of asking," haughtily
"My neighbours do, for all their asking," boldly
Ha!" said Hatto. "What do you mean?"
"You know right well what I mean. You know
that every day as it comes brings crowds of starving
poor to your doors clamouring for bread."
"Yes. It's extremely disagreeable," said Hatto.
"I never can eat my buttered roll in peace now. I
never knew such a noisy lot as you common people
are. Heaven knows what is the use of you."
"No doubt, my lord, since it has placed us here, as
it has you," said Folko.
You are an impertinent fellow. I'll punish you
for this," said Hatto, an ugly gleam beginning to
shine in his little dull eyes. "I'll teach you to know
"I would I could do you the same good turn, my
lord, and teach you to know yours," said Folko boldly,
but first taking the precaution to paddle his boat
beyond arm's reach of the banks. "I would," he
went on, standing tall and erect, "that I could hear
the blessings of the poor rise up around you, instead
of their curses, to the God who made them and you.
Oh, my lord, be warned in time! Have mercy on
them, as one day you will need it."
"By my faith!" muttered Hatto, looking curiously
on Folko. I should not have believed such im-
pudence existed if my own ears had not heard it.
You shall pay for this, my man."
Please to give me back my cheese and butter, my
lord, for I must be getting on," said Folko
"YouR cheese and butter!" said Hatto, feigning
the greatest astonishment. MY cheese and butter,
if you please."
"Why, if you've taken a fancy to it," said Folko,
"you're welcome to it. You shall have it a bargain."
"Very good," said Hatto; "it shall cover the toll
you owe me, and you can pass on."
"What!" shouted Folko; "all that for the worth
of a few pence? Robber!" and he sprang forward to
the stern of his boat. "Give me back my property!"
"Dare to lay a hand on it," said Hatto, "and my
servants shall carry you in to keep company with the
water-rats down in my dungeons here. They've
already one guest-Kunz, whom I've sent there for
letting you pass free this morning."
Folko paused, aghast to think of the trouble he
had brought on another.
"You see?" said Hatto. "Touch it, and I will
have Kunz hanged from the castle turret there. It
will be one mouth less to feed. One less of the rats
about;" and Hatto laughed loudly.
"Rats!" echoed the bewildered Folko; "you call
poor people rats?"
"Yes, rats that only consume the corn."
"Be careful, my lord," said Folko, beside himself
with indignation. "Those who trample on the poor
will be punished sooner or later. He who forgets
them is likely to be forgotten."
"I' faith!" sneered Hatto; "how can one forget
them, when they make such a pother? I would they
had all but one mouth, so that one stroke would
silence it." Then Hatto stopped short, and his eyelids
blinked, and his hands clenched together. "I've a
bright thought, a most brilliant thought," he said-
then he laughed till the tower walls resounded his
loud Ha! ha! again and again, and Folko stood staring
in amazement at such a sudden outburst of good-
humour. "Hark ye, Folko," he continued; "do you
want to do your neighbours a good turn? Well, it's
time they had one, I grant you."
"Quite time, my lord," said Folko, well pleased in
spite of his hard bargain.
"See, now, I've taken a liking to your butter and
cheese here; and as I have told you, I'll take it this
once instead of money, if you'll do me a favour in
"I will do anything in reason for you, my lord,"
"Reason enough," muttered Hatto. "Good!" he
added aloud; "you shall take a message back to
Mentz with you, my son. A message to all the poor
people in the city, and for five miles round. You
know the big barn that stands in the meadow outside
"Yes, yes," said Folko joyfully; "'tis stacked full
of grain sacks."
You know a vast deal," said Hatto. No matter,
it is a big place, and will hold a number of people."
"A thousand-near a thousand; yes, my lord."
"So I calculate. Good! Tell your friends to be
there-let me think-yes, the morning after to-morrow,
at mid-day, and they shall have something."
"I promise. Bid them all repair thither-tag-rag,
bobtail, men, women, babies-one and all. I shall
be there; and they shall have food for the whole
winter, more than they want."
"God bless you, my lord!" said Folko, with a heart
too full of gratitude to remember his cheese and
butter; or, if he did, only to think how well it was
bestowed. "May you find your reward!" and off he
rowed, to carry his glad news to Mentz, where it flew
round like wildfire.
Meanwhile Bishop Hatto called to his servants,
"Carry that cheese to the empty chamber next my
bed-chamber. It will improve by keeping. Well,
what are you mumbling and mouthing about? Speak!"
"It will not keep long, my lord," replied the man
thus invited. The rats infest that room, and-"
"Then put the cat in it. What are cats made for?
The creature does nothing for its living but eat me
out of house and home."
I think, my lord," ventured another serving-man,
"poor puss would soon be eaten, instead of eating.
The rats are so big and fierce."
"H'm!" said Hatto; "two-legged rats, perhaps.
Don't stand parleying with me. Carry the cheese up
as I bid you. Fling in the cat after them. Lock
the door, and bring me the key."
Then Bishop Hatto, fatigued with his long day's
exertions, sat down to supper, and went to his downy
bed, and would have slept pretty well had it not
been for that unpleasant gnawing sound at the
OLKO had a strange tale indeed to tell his
wife when he got home. He had quite two
minds at first whether he should tell it all,
because he was afraid she might be angry at losing
the cheese and butter; and so in truth she was.
The tears rushed to her eyes as she thought of her
little children, who had gone supperless to bed.
"And you had to part with such kind gifts all for
the want of a little ready money," she said.
":Why, that is true," argued Folko. "Still, if it
is after all the means of bringing good to so many
starving people, our little loss will be their great
"I hope it may be so, Folko," sighed she.
"Why, woman, it must be so, mustn't it?" said
Folko impatiently. "My ears didn't deceive me, I
"Oh, no, of course not!" said she; but she looked
very thoughtful as she set the kettle over the scanty
embers and bits of damp spluttering sticks. One
never yet plucked figs from thistles, any more than
Bishop Hatto did a kindness ever since he has lived
"It's never too late to mend," said Folko.
"Why, no; as you say, Folko." Then she said no
more, but her thoughts were very busy; and in spite
of herself, they persisted in running on that picture
she had seen on the cathedral walls of the Lord Christ
driving forth the money-changers from the temple.
It seemed to her so puzzling how one who was called
their pastor should sit haggling for money. Surely
that was not doing his Father's business-the dear
God who was merciful and kind! Still she felt very
glad next morning when the news went from mouth
to mouth that Hatto had returned to his palace.
"It is true after all, wife," said Folko, "though
you did think it too good to be so."
"Well, well, seeing's believing, as you say," she
replied good-humouredly. "And with my own eyes
I've been watching him passing to and fro the barn,
carrying sacks in and carrying them out, all with his
own hands. What can he be doing?"
"Nay, making room for the people to stand, no
doubt. But what is that to us, so long only as he
does what he promises?"
And next morning, ere scarce day had dawned, the
poor folks began to flock into the city. Here a father
and his fine stalwart sons-there a poor lonely widow
woman-there a beggar with his rags scarcely covering
his shivering body-now a young mother with a baby
at her breast, and little toddling children holding on
to her skirt-now a young couple-now a grandfather
leaning heavily on his stick-and so on, and so on-
all carrying bags, and pails, and baskets to receive
the gift of Bishop Hatto; and all their pale half-
starved faces bright with a glad expectant light, for
if now they came empty, home richly laden with the
golden grain they would go. Foot-sore and weary,
but glad and eager, they pressed on, crowding into
the barn till it overflowed at the doors.
"Are you not going in, Folko?" asked his wife, as
they stood watching.
Nay, no. In the first place I have a job of work
to do across the river; and besides, Conrad's gift has
set us above want for the present, and I should be
taking from those whose need is greater than ours.
Good-bye! I must be off." And kissing his wife and
little ones, he shouldered his tools and away he went,
calling as he passed for the neighbour whose roof he
had mended, and who was going to work with him
on the other side of the river.
"If I had not promised to be punctual at this job,"
said the neighbour as they trudged along, "I should
have gone to the barn. But earning is better than
gifts any day of the week."
"So I think," said Folko; "and though I am not
ungrateful, I hope, I own that a penny I earn by the
sweat of my brow is sweeter to me than a gold piece
that is an alms." And having arrived at the spot
where they were going to work, they fell to with a
"By my faith!" presently said Folko in the midst
of the wood-chopping he was over, "I never saw such
a sight as that barn. Just as I came by they were
closing the doors, and it was so crammed there wasn't
room to drop a pin between the people. It was-
Ha! what's that?"
"What's what?" said the neighbour, looking up in
the direction across the river, where Folko's eyes were
"It's smoke!" said Folko, flinging aside his hatchet,
and jumping on the pile of wood to see better.
"Nonsense, man! it's only the mist on the river
meadows. It's always thick and brown like that
It's smoke, I tell you," insisted Folko, and
dense smoke too. And see, see, there is flame! and
it comes from the barn meadows. Hark! hark!
What is that noise?"
And while they stood staring in dismay at each
other there rose up from amidst the ever-thickening,
flaring, crackling mass of smoke and flame, the most
fearful shrieks and cries ever heard.
"The barn is on fire! the barn is on fire!" shouted
Folko; and away, followed by a gathering crowd, they
rushed down to the river-side, jumping into the boats
pell-mell in terror for their own little homesteads-
but those stood safe and sound. The barn, and the
barn alone, with all it contained-men, women, and
children-was on fire, and already reduced to a
smouldering heap of cinder and charred wood; and
by the time Folko and his friend reached the spot
there were no more cries, only a fearsome silence in
the white-faced crowd standing gazing on the terrible
sight. Not a creature in the barn had escaped, for
the doors had been fast locked, and all were burned
And Hatto; where was le?
Well, if anyone had had time to look, just as the
first little puff of smoke whiffed up from the barn
thatch, he might have been seen creeping round,
stealthy as a snake or a thief, beneath the shadow
of the bushes, and in at a little low postern door of
his palace. In a minute or two he was seated at
dinner, for which the fashionable hour in those days
was eleven o'clock. Common folks, as Hatto called
them, dined at ten. Even eleven o'clock may seem
early to us nowadays, but Bishop Hatto was quite
ready for his dinner. Impatient for it, in fact; and
he rapped sharply with the handle of his knife on the
table to call his servants to order, for they were
crowded round the windows staring with wide open
eyes and mouths away towards the barn meadows.
"What now, you loons?" cried he. "Have you
never seen a posse of beggarly creatures before, that
you must forget your duty? Fetch the roast beef
"My lord, my lord!" cried the men, "the barn is
"You don't say so!" said Hatto, filling himself a
goblet of wine.
"Yes, yes. Fire! fire!" and out they rushed; and
there was nothing but for the bishop to go into the
kitchen and dish up his own dinner and bring it in;
for cook, and scullion, and all had rushed out to see
what had happened.
'I' faith!" said he, as at last he sat down and
spared a good long look from his plate towards the
blazing barn, and an excellent bonfire it is too. A
big flare from the few little sparks I set to it.
Really, considering times are so hard, the country
ought to subscribe to put up a statue to me for thus
ridding it of these-rats that devour all the corn."
Then, when he had quite finished his dinner, he
strolled up to the meadow.
"And to think," Folko was saying to his wife, as
he passed near them, "of all the good corn burnt,
Hatto laughed, for he had been busy all the day
before, removing the sacks of corn to another big
barn, and putting a few sacks of hay and chaff in
their places. No, his corn was safe enough, he
"How could it have happened?" mused Folko's
wife; and so, indeed, said everybody.
"Be off with you all, you idle lot!" said Hatto, as
he came among them. "It has happened; and you'll
have to build it up again, or pay for it's being done.
Clear off-do you hear? It has happened-that's
enough. Quantum suffocate "
"Suffocate, indeed; yes," muttered Folko's wife,
looking angrily after him as he turned in again at
his door. "Much you care. And though you be
HATTO S TOWER.
innocent as babe unborn, I'd sooner be standing in
these old wooden clogs than in your golden slippers-
that I would! I'd sooner be dead like yonder poor
creatures, than dream the dreams, my lord, that must
come to you this night!"
OLKO'S wife was, however, for once in the
wrong. Bishop Hatto spent an unusually
comfortable night, and slept late on the follow-
ing morning in his grand soft bed, which was every
whit as good as the emperor's own.
He was obliged, notwithstanding, to get up at last,
because some grand lords were coming in the afternoon
to call upon him; and he wished everything to be
spick and span for their reception, and that there
should be plenty of nice white rolls, and cake and jelly,
and all that, for them to eat. A big fire was always
lighted on these occasions in the great banqueting hall
of the palace, and Hatto went in to see whether it
was burning properly; but as yet he found it had not
been lighted, nor the tables laid for the banquet. In
fact, the place looked strangely desolate and dreary,
for not a soul had yet entered it but himself that day;
and yet, unless it was Hatto's fancy, he had heard
as he came away a scuffling and rushing sound at the
farther end of the hall, where the walls were covered
with portraits of kings and emperors, and just beneath
these hung a row of all the bishops of Mentz for
hundreds of years past.
In one massive and richly ornamented frame, ex-
actly in the middle of these, hung a portrait of Hatto
himself; that is to say, ever since he had been a bishop
it had hung there. Most of the other bishops had
been painted simply in their everyday habits of brown,
or gray, or black serge; but Hatto was represented
all attired in his high-day and holiday vesture of red
satin and embroidered cloth of gold, and the picture
was such a brilliant one that people always cast their
eyes up at it almost without being aware of doing so
directly they entered the hall. Bishop Hatto himself
especially had the habit of it; for he immensely
admired the portrait, and when he heard that queer
scuffling sound, which had seemed to come from the
wall where the pictures hung, he looked up in some
haste and alarm. His picture was not there! The
frame was there, indeed, but it was quite empty of
anything save a few shreds of canvas sticking to its
"Nay," thought Hatto, "what is amiss with my
eyes this morning? Or is it the shadow of the great
dark clouds?" Then he rubbed his eyes and looked
again, but there was nothing to be seen except the
canvas shreds all nibbled and bitten about, and hun-
dreds and hundreds of little dents in the frame, which
Hatto knew to be scored by rats' teeth. Rats' teeth,"
muttered he with a pale face, and his own teeth
chattering a little. "Rats' teeth, and nothing else!"
"My lord, my lord," cried a man, bursting into
the hall, while he was still standing staring in mute
dismay at the empty frame. "Your corn! your
corn that we put away in the new big barn yester-
"Well, what of it?" demanded Hatto, turning
sharply on the man, who was his steward.
"It is all gone. The rats have eaten every grain
Too terrified to speak, Hatto sank down speechless
on a chair. Scarcely had he done so than another
rush of footsteps sounded without, and a crowd of
pale-faced men and women rushed in.
"Fly, my lord bishop, fly!" cried the foremost man,
who was Folko. "The rats are coming this way-
swarming-hundreds on hundreds."
"Impossible!" said Hatto, trying to smile.
"It is too true," cried Folko's wife. "Fly, my
lord, if only to rid us of the plague. Fly! and the
Lord forgive you for yesterday."
Hatto rose from his seat, looked for one moment
into the woman's face, and then he was gone.
"What do you mean?" said Folko to her; but she
did not stay to reply, but ran home at full speed to
shut her cottage windows and door against the rats,
as everybody was doing.
Meanwhile Hatto had flown to the stables, and
springing on to the back of a fleet-footed horse, who
was standing ready saddled, he rushed off by highways
and by-ways, through brake and briar, up hill and
down dale, till he found himself on the banks of the
Rhine, overlooking the tower.
"Twenty gold pieces to him who rows me across!"
he cried as he sprang from the saddle and into a small
boat moored alongside.
"Here, my lord!" cried the owner of the boat,
hardly believing his own ears. Am I to row you to
"Ay, to the tower. Quick! quick! to the tower.
'Tis the safest place in Germany. They would be rats
indeed which could scale its walls or swim this current."
"Rats!" said the boatman, gazing in astonishment
at the bishop's white scared face, and wondering
whether he had lost his senses.
"Ay. Have you seen any hereabouts to-day?"
breathlessly inquired Hatto.
As many as I do every day of the week, my lord,"
replied he. "We never run short of them; and, now
I think of it, one of your servants was telling me last
night he couldn't sleep for their scuffling and noise in
the wainscot. He laid it to some cheese and butter
your lordship had ordered to be stored away in one
of the chambers up aloft."
"A murrain seize it!" cried Hatto, springing to the
tower steps as the boat touched them, and slamming
the door in the boatman's face.
Hi! where are my twenty golden pieces?" cried he;
but though he knocked till he could knock no longer
there was no answer, for nobody was in the tower but
poor Kunz down in his dungeon, and Prowler the cat.
The servants who ought to have been in charge of the
tower were not fond of the duty, and often used to
leave it to take care of itself, if they thought their
master was safe a long way off, and for the last two
nights, ever since poor Folko's cheese had been in the
place, the rats and mice scrunching and squeaking in
all directions had rendered it still more dismal and
Hatto, however, did not pause to inquire who was
about. He rushed to his bed-chamber in the topmost
story and barred himself in; then lie thrust his head
out of the window, and shouted his orders to stuff
up every grated window and every doorway and
loophole with hay, and old rag, and anything hands
could be laid on.
"Ha! hi!" called lie. "Ha! hi! ha! hi!" echoed
the walls; but there was no other answer, because
no one was there, excepting, indeed, poor Kunz, who
could not get out to give any help.
"Now," thought Hatto, "I shall be safe enough
when I have fastened this shutter here over the
grating;" and he stretched out his hand to pull it to;
but his fingers came upon nothing but the bare stone
wall, and the iron hinges, with just a jagged splint or
two left in them, for the wood was all eaten away!
[H ATTO stood for a moment, pausing to think
what was to be done, and peeping cautiously
out. Evening was drawing on apace now,
such an evening as there had not been for many a
week past. Overhead light fleecy pure white clouds,
tipped crimson and golden here and there by the set-
ting sun's reflections, sailed high in the pale greenish-
blue sky; and the moon, clear and bright as molten
silver, was beginning to shine on the swiftrushing
river, whose ripples seemed unwontedly restless, and
stirring strangely round the grass-grown banks of the
tower. Was it the breeze that so tossed them?
Hatto listened and looked, but scarce a puff of wind
blew. The few brown leaves on the trees hung
almost motionless; and yet from below and ever nearer
and nearer came up a hot stifling breath, and a rush-
ing, scuffling sound that quickly seemed to spread on
every side, from the roof above, and the walls around,
and the floor beneath his feet, and the wainscoted
walls. Scratch, scratch-scrunch, scrunch-squeak,
Then, for the first time in his life, Hatto repented
of robbing the poor. Rats, and rats only, could
make those hideous sounds. They would be balked
by no barriers till they had got at that cheese he had
forced Folko to give up, and which lay stowed away
in the empty room, next the room he was in. If
only he could lay hands on the hateful things, he
would pitch them into the Rhine; and it was but a
step from one room to the other, but Hatto dared not
take it. Scratch-scrunch. Could not he hear the
dreadful little teeth of the creatures filing at the fast-
closed door! They would be upon him directly. He
glanced round in wild terror. What if he escaped
up the chimney to the roof! But no, for overhead
the scuffling to and fro was deafening. He would
try the casement, but it was so narrow, and he was
so broad and burly; and to wrench away the iron
bars was utterly beyond his strength, and even had
it been possible, one stolen glance was enough to
show the tower walls covered with swiftly upward-
moving black patches.
He tore his satin cloak from his shoulders, and was
about to plunge it between the bars when a loud
scream sent him starting back, and something sprang
past his shoulder into the recesses of the vaulted roof.
It was only Prowler, the cat, wild with terror at
the army of the advancing foe. For what was one
cat, however strong and valiant, among hundreds of
rats, or perhaps thousands? for the walls were black
One moment to stuff with all the strength of his
trembling hands the thick folds of his cloak between
the bars, and then down on his knees Hatto fell.
"Mercy! mercy!" he cried in an agonized voice,
But in this world there was to be no mercy for
him who had shown none. No help for the miserable
tyrant who had never stretched out his hand to the
poor but to snatch their hard-earned money from them;
and when, some hour or so later, his unfaithful servants
returned, and mounted to that upper chamber of the
tower in search of him, they heard not a sound.
Half afraid-for they thought he must be asleep,
and they dreaded the wrath their stolen absence must
have roused in him when he should waken-at last
they opened the door, but they found nothing but a
few bare bones lying scattered amidst a heap of shreds
of satin and fine linen in the calm light of the moon
streaming in through the grated casement, about
which also fluttered a few red satin tatters in the up-
rising night breeze.
In horror they were about to turn away, when a
low, piteous cry from the vaulted roof made them
pause and look up, to see two spots gleaming fire-
bright in the black shadow. Terrified they turned
and fled helter-skelter downstairs, believing that one
of these terrible visitants was lingering about.
"Nay," said Kunz, to whom they rushed for pro-
tection down in his dungeon, and released in double-
quick time, for he was the only brave fellow among
them, and they looked to him to take care of them; "I
warrant 'tis no rat, for they prefer to come and go in
companies when they have business in hand." Then
all alone Kunz went up, and called out, "Who's there?"
No one spoke; but with a low, glad cry, far more
full of grateful meaning than the choicest words, poor
Prowler sprang into his arms and crouched down in
"So ho!" thought Kunz, as he soothed and stroked
the trembling creature. "An thou couldst speak,
poor cat, thou couldst tell a tale. But, mayhap, 'tis
better thou canst not, for wouldd be an ugly one
And carrying him in his arms, for Prowler declined
to leave them, Kunz immediately left the tower, and
went to live in his own snug little cottage, some
distance up the river; and purses of gold and oceans
of cream would never have tempted Kunz or Prowler
ever again to set foot in the tower for the rest of
their lives, which were exceedingly happy ones; for
Kunz, who was a faithful fellow, and deserved a good
master, found one who made a right hand of him to
help the poor, instead of compelling him to extort
blackmail from them. And when Prowler sat blink-
ing of winter nights in the firelight, Kunz used to
wonder whether he remembered that marvellous
escape of his, when the rats turned aside from their
natural enemy to do judgment on the wicked Hatto
-for judgment it surely seemed.
Of Folko and of his neighbour and of all the good
people of Mentz, I have only to tell you that better
times were at hand for them all. The new bishop
who came to live among them was as good as his
predecessor had been bad; and spared nothing to help
all those who were in need, till sunny days and dry
weather brought a good harvest, when autumn came
Some people will tell you this tale is not true;
perhaps, being so sad, it is to be hoped it is not.
1ut perhaps also, since it is said to have happened
such a long time ago, nobody quite knows; but, at
all events, there stands the tower, right in the middle
of the Rhine, beneath the vine-clad hills, almost as
sturdy and strong as the day it was built. And it is
also quite certain, that those who forget or oppress
the poor will sooner or later themselves be forgotten
and forsaken by Him whose law is love and kindness;
and even yet more certain than all is it, that he who
is merciful and pitiful to all living creatures will find
his reward-if in nothing else-in a happy heart,
whicl is better than gold or diamonds.
THE ABBOT OF READING.
T fell upon a day, and a glorious fine day it was,
when King Henry the Eighth, whom people are
fond of calling "Bluff King Hal," ruled this
land, and was staying at his castle at Windsor, that
he went a-hunting in Windsor Forest with a large
retinue of lords and attendants. A mighty hunter
in that word's widest sense the king was, for he loved
the sport dearly; and, as everybody knows by the
portraits of him, he was as big and burly a fellow as
one of his own yeomen of the guard.
The royal party had had what it was pleased to
call "good sport" that day. That is to say, that the
noble beast they had been giving chase to since soon
after daybreak had been driven to bay at last; and
his beautiful antlered head and sleek russet body lay
all blood-stained and lifeless at last on the soft velvety
greensward under the forest oaks.
The king and his. merry company having surveyed
the result of their morning's work with infinite satis-
faction, now found leisure to mark how exceedingly
hungry, ay, and thirsty too, they were; for neither
bit nor sup had touched their lips since they had left
the castle; and now the sun was high.
Real perils and miseries are not perhaps the only
trials royal folks have to endure; if we may judge from
the number of kings and caliphs and emperors who
have doffed their own fine clothes for a little while,
and, putting on just ordinary folks' habiliments, or
even regular workaday ones, have gone about among
their subjects like common mortals. One would guess
that it may be a little fatiguing to be always royal;
and that you can be "your highness," or "your
majesty," or "mighty potentate," or whatever you are,
till you long to be just nothing at all, or at all events,
to pretend to yourself that you are nobody; and, in
any case, to feel safe from all your flatterers, and bores,
and best friends, and worst enemies, and instead of
listening to their eternal wish that your shadow may
never be less," you would give half a king's ransom to
be rid of that. To return to King Hal, his shadow
AND THE ABBOT OF -READING.
was now, however, dwindling to next to nothing, so
directly in mid-sky was the sun getting, as presently
he found himself in a broad clearing of the forest.
He dropped his gaze from the scorching glare over-
head, to the stretch of rather brownish turf beneath
his horse's feet.
"By Gis and Saint Charity!" lie said to himself,
'I guess it to be close on-" then he stopped; he had
been about to say eleven o'clock, but some inward
sensation prompted him to substitute "dinner-time."
And then the king, giving his mare's bridle rein a
little twitch, trotted slowly onward till he reached a
sortof broad grass-grown path, which presently widened
and cleared into a winding road; but, save for the
lazy chirruping of the birds, and the twee-twee, huzz-
buzz of the grasshoppers, and bees, and myriad insects,
all was silent and solitary, and not a human creature
or habitation were to be seen.
Hitherto the king's little cunning eyes and round
face had been all agleam with unmixed content and
amusement at the dexterity with which he had given
his people the slip, and at thus finding his company in
only his own agreeable society. Now, however, he was
every instant growing hungrier and hungrier, and the
coarsest brown bread his poorest subjects dined on,
and a cup of the thinnest fleet milk would have been
welcomed by him, and the amused smile was all fast
fading into a rueful seriousness, while the round face
began to lengthen with repentance over that clever
step he had taken. through an apparently impenetrable
thicket of the forest which had so entirely hidden him
from his retinue, that he had chuckled again and again
over the discomfiture they must be suffering at their
inability to find him.
This, however, was not precisely the case with
them; and if they had tried very hard indeed to run
him to earth-as hard, for instance, as they had
hunted down that poor brave monarch of the forest-
no doubt they might have succeeded in finding him;
but they all knew his majesty's liking for this sort of
hide-and-seek game, and they knew, too, that he liked to
be the winner of it. These good lords and gentlemen,
therefore, just laughed in their sleeves every whit as
heartily as his majesty on his part did, over their
cleverness in allowing him to lose himself; and, well
persuaded that when it suited him he would come
back, like a bad crown piece, they all rode merrily
King Hal, however, looked, as we have said, any-
thing but merry. He gazed far and near, and still
saw nothing but the long dusty roadway winding on
like a snake till it lost itself in a dark clump of trees
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
some distance on ahead; and directly over him the
hot sun poured his pitiless beams upon his green velvet
cap, with nothing but its white feather for protection,
for the forest trees had grown few and far between,
dwindling into high, trim-shaven hedges on either
side of the way. The old toad, who goggled his
bright eyes and stared at him from the brink of a
pond as he ambled past, knew a vast deal better
where he was than the king did.
That pond, however, afforded him something like
a gleam of hope; for as he came close up to it, he
could see that it was none of your gloomy, still, duck-
weed grown, mid-forest pools, but as round, pretty well,
as the great gold signet-ring on his own royal finger,
and its grassy banks were neat and trim, while its
silvery surface rippled slightly, as if a world of life
were astir beneath it.
"'Tis a fish-pond, if we know a fish-pond when we
see it," thought the king to himself as he looked at it,
the gloom lifting by a shade from his face. "And a
rarely pretty one too! Who is the owner, we wonder,
of that pretty pond?" And gathering heart of grace
he rode on a little faster, trying as he went to see
what lay on the other side of the hedges; but they
were not so easily to be seen through, for they were
thickset and plump as feather-beds, and higher than his
horse's head, and it was only by raising himself in his
stirrups that King Hal could see over them. The sight
was worth the exertion; for there, dotted about ever so
plentifully all over the fair green grass they inclosed,
were the finest, fattest, biggest horned oxen ever seen,
flapping their long tails to keep off the teasing flies
while they grazed along with their friends the sheep,
which were white as snowballs, and pretty nearly the
same shape, for you could not tell their heads from
their tails, they were so fat.
Beyond these pastures, away as far as eye could
reach, stretched slope after slope of rye and corn fields,
swaying in the gentle breeze like the broad billows
of the sea.
"A fair sight," quoth the king, dropping back into
his saddle and lightly urging on his horse, "and fairer
still if only we could find where the lord of this
goodly domain-our most wealthy subject-himself
dwells. He must be a happy man, and we grudge
him nought of his good fortune, but would right
heartily pray fair ever befall him, if only we had a
seat at his board this dinner-time, for we are famish-
ing. But soft!" and in hopeful anticipation the king
stayed his horse for a moment, and taking off his cap
and plucking from it the sweeping plume, drawing his
signet-ring from his finger, and unfastening the jewelled
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
collar from his neck, he thrust them all into his
pocket well out of sight. "So," murmured he then,
as he ambled on again. "Now look we like anybody
else. Not that we-"
"Quack! quack!" screeched a posse of geese who
were dabbling in a delightfully green, muddy, wayside
Not that we can altogether help our distinguished
air; but we are not dull at making believe to be any-
thing it suits us to be for the moment, and if we are
circumspect we shall be able to-"
"Gobble! gobble!" clucked a brood of turkeys,
arranging their black fans on the opposite bank.
"To enjoy ourselves, sans c6r6monie."
Quack! quack! gobble!" screeched the ill-graced
birds, who, perhaps, had never heard the French
tongue before, and did not much care for it now they
had. "Gobble! gobble!"
Here, at all events, thought the king as he hastened
on in good right earnest now, were fish, flesh, and
fowl. The very horse's hoofs, as they resounded on
the dusty road, seemed to say: "Fishaty! fleshaty!
fowl! Fishaty! fleshaty! clang! Dong-ding! clang!!
Hark! Twelve o'clock. Unmistakably yes. Dong-
ding! Ay, and if King Henry the Eighth knew a
monastery bell, and to his life's end he was apt to
hold himself specially gifted that way, a monastery
bell that was.
Once you had heard one, so his majesty declared,
you could tell it from a score of other sorts of bells,
especially about mid-day, when it usefully combined
the ringing of the Angelus with the summons to
Clang!! Dong-ding! but the king tarried not to
count the strokes. No need now to inform him of
his whereabouts; for had not his eye, even as his ear
caught the bell's first sound, caught sight of the well-
known roof-tops of Reading. town? and yonder,
through the clump of trees, gleamed the gray walls of
WO minutes more and the king had dismounted,
Sand was ringing a lusty peal at the huge bell
which hung beside the massive oak, iron-clamped
gate of the monastery.
"Who goes there?" demanded a voice through the
small grating, which slid back in the gate's stout
"A hungry, an exceeding hungry man," answered
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
"God save you, friend!" returned the other, who
wore a monk's habit, as he opened a wicket and
signed to the stranger to enter the court-yard within.
"You are welcome, exceeding welcome," he added,
as he glanced at the new-comer's rich garb.
"We are much beholden for your hospitality,"
courteously said the king, as he obeyed the invitation
of the lay brother, who stared and gave another look
through the wicket.
"Are there any more of you?" he asked.
"Pardon me?" said the king.
"You said we," said the lay brother.
"Did I?" said the king, colouring a little and
biting his lip. "Ah! well, it's a way I've got of
"Perhaps you were thinking of your mare?"
suggested the lay brother, who had a kind face.
"Perhaps I was," said the king, who ought to have
coloured crimson for shame, at having very nearly
forgotten all about the poor tired beast in his eagerness
to take care of himself. Can you give her a feed?"
"She shall be as well cared for as you shall be,"
answered the lay brother, beckoning a youth, clad in
the same sort of brown frock as he himself wore, to
take the mare and lead her to the stables.
"When do you dine?" asked the newly-arrived
guest almost before the monk had finished giving his
"Now," answered he. "Grace was just going to
begin as you rang."
"And beslrew me, then, for my unmannerly inter-
ruption," said the king. "Come, let us go in at once,
that it may be concluded with all fair speed."
And without more ado he turned and almost took
the lead of the lay brother, for he was well acquainted
with every twist and turn of the grand old monastery,
and knew perfectly well that the deep arched door-
way facing them was the chief entrance to the dining-
hall, or refectory, as it was called.
"A stranger, who asks rest and entertainment,
reverend father," said the lay brother as they entered,
and looking, as he spoke, towards the upper end of
the long table, bordered on either side with a row
of brown-habited, rope-girdled, shaven-crowned men,
young, old, middle-aged, tall and lean as thread-
papers, broad and bulky, as two rolled into one.
Rather broader than any of the rest, and decidedly
bulkier, was the presiding monk whom the lay brother
had addressed as Father Abbot.
"You are welcome to Reading Abbey, friend," he
said in mild and courteous tones, and rising at the
same time, but with manifest difficulty, and leaning
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
heavily with one hand on the arm of his capacious
chair, while with the other he motioned the guest to
a seat beside him, "and to such poor fare-"
Then he stopped, as if he had not strength to say
more, and sinking back among the downy cushions of
the chair, sat, or rather lay there, panting with half-
closed lack-lustre eyes, while the rest of the brethren
resumed their interrupted grace.
Scarcely had the last echo of the sweet chanted
music died away in the fair vaulted roof, than
Boniface, for so the abbot was named, grasped a
crystal silver-mounted flagon, and filling a goblet
with its contents, drank it almost at a gulp. This
seemed to afford him strength to continue the little
speech he had begun. "You are welcome, fair sir,"
he said, turning to his guest, "to such poor meat and
drink as our house has to offer. Fall to, I pray you."
And as the king complied, nothing loth, it seemed
to him that, although he was accustomed to the
greatest luxuries at his own table, and his chief cook
was a master of the craft, the abbey cook could be
no mean rival to him; and certainly he would have
thought it no hardship if every day of his life he
could have eaten such sturgeon stuffed with parsley
as that he was engaged upon now, nor such snowy
wheaten manchets and puff-paste that melted in your
mouth, not to speak of countless little next-to-nothings
in the way of sauces, and salads, and sweetmeats.
Then that nut-brown ale-well, the king had ridden
fast and far, and the day was sultry, and it seemed
to him that such nut-brown ale had never frothed
from black-jack. And as for the jack, from which the
abbot's own hands courteously poured out for him as
well as he could, for his hands were a bit shaky, why,
nectar could be nothing to it. Assuredly the larder
and the cellar of Reading Abbey were equally per-
Right well the hungry king did all these good things
justice. Nothing came amiss to him, and everything
went the same way. Above all, the beef, and a right
royal sirloin it certainly was, seemed to his taste.
"You find it good?" asked Abbot Boniface, wist-
fully watching his guest's attack upon a second supply
"He'd be a knave or a fool who could find fault
with it," answered King Hal, with his mouth rather
full, considering he was the first gentleman in the
The abbot smiled sadly. He was very little of a
knave, and still less a fool, and yet he could no more
have made havoc into that plate of beef than he could
have skipped on the slack-rope.
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
"And then, too," added the king, "'tis ages since
I broke fast. Why, I haven't tasted a crumb since
breakfast. Five hours ago-five hours and twenty-
three minutes, all counted."
"Yes. And then-but you ought to know all
about that here. You understand what fasting is.
I've been told that there's not a monastery in England
keeps the festivals-"
"The fasts, you mean."
"The fasts, of course, I mean-more carefully
than Reading Abbey."
"Oh, yes!" said the abbot; "we are exceedingly
particular about them. We have nothing but fried
soles, with slices of lemon, and cucumber salad, and
boiled turbot, or salmon, or whatever may be in
season, with shrimp sauce, and oyster sauce, and the
rest of it, for those who prefer boiled. And there's
three hours' penance and flagellation for those who
refuse to eat it. Our rule is most strict."
"And with your fine example-" began the king.
The abbot sighed. "Alas! my health forces me to
be an exception to our rule. I am obliged to have an
And never, indeed, thought King Hal, as he
despatched his last mouthful of beef and wiped his
tawny beard with the satin soft damask napkin, had
he seen petted child trifle and toy with good food as
Abbot Boniface was doing with the morsel that lay
on his plate; and when lie looked again-yes!-no!
-could it be possible!-yes, it really was the same
identical scrap of chicken wing which had been
placed before him at the beginning of dinner, and not
three mouthfuls of it appeared to have been eaten.
The king looked in blank astonishment from his
entertainer's plate to his face, and, forgetful of all
his good manners, stared hard at it. Then he saw
that the party-hued, puffy features had not a particle
of colour in them, excepting something approaching
a pale pinkish violet tinge about the handsome nose;
and if it had not been for the kindly good-nature
hovering about the lips, they would have been posi-
tively ugly on account of their deadly-lively hues.
"Aren't you going to have any beef?" said the
king a trifle shamefacedly, as the abbot, chancing to
look up just at the moment, caught him staring.
Don't you like beef?"
Abbot Boniface turned paler than ever, and shud-
dered, for all the world as if you had asked him if he
liked rhubarb and magnesia, and the smile he con-
trived to summon to his sickly lips was all of a twist;
but being a man of courage he took just a sip or two
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
of some cordial stuff which he poured out of a little
phial that looked as if it might have come out of
an apothecary's shop, and shaking his head, said with
I liked it as well as you do-once. But my beef
days are gone for ever."
"IHow is that?" inquired the king, quite interested
and sorry looking.
"I'm so queazy."
"What's that?" demanded his guest, knitting his
"Don't you know? Squeamish. Not a bit of
"Oh, to be sure!" said the king, who had seen as
much as that for himself. But that's very wrong
"Eh?" said the abbot rather sharply.
"I mean it-it's not right of-of persons like you--"
and King Hal stammered a little, "to quarrel with
your bread and butter. You ought to be thankful."
"Yes, I know all that," interrupted Boniface in
tones more regretful than penitent. But I can't be.
Butter? the saints forgive us! I can't touch it. I've
"No what?" asked the king, who had not quite
caught the word amid the clash of spoons and platters.
"Ah! now Heaven help the man!" impatiently
muttered Boniface to himself. "When you've lost it
you'll know," he added aloud with a rueful smile.
"But beef," urged the king-" beef like that!" and
he sent a parting glance of admiration after all that
was left of the sirloin as the servers bore the dish out
of the hall. "Why, it would tempt a dead man to
"That's as it may be," laughed the abbot, well
content to think of his guest's enjoyment. But one
mouthful of it would be my death."
How in the world did you come to such a pass?"
said the king.
I can't conceive," said the abbot. Sometimes I
think there must be something wrong about the
"I should think there must," said the king, screw-
ing up his eyes and lips meditatively. "Are you the
only sufferer from the-from this-h'm-complaint?"
I am the worst. Though some of my children
get an attack of it now and again."
"It ought to be looked into. It's a thing that
must be put a stop to. We-the king-" here a
slight huskiness interrupted the speaker.
"God bless him!" said the abbot. "What business
is it of his?"
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
"It behoves him to make it so," said the stranger
gravely. "Why, you'd never do to live with us,
reverend father. We-I-my master that is, rarely
eats anything but beef."
"And well fare his heart, and yours!" said the
abbot brightening up, till his face was quite good to
look at. "Long may he live to do it! And here, in
this cup of sack," and filling his cup to its brim, he
rose almost briskly to his feet, "I remember his grace."
The bead-like eyes of his guest twinkled and grew
round with something like annoyance.
"You know me then?" he said under his breath.
"Ay. Right well I know the cut of you. One
of his majesty's own body-guard, are you not?" said
Abbot Boniface, glancing, not for the first time, at
his guest's rich attire.
Why-something of the sort, to be sure," answered
the king, heaving a sigh of relief. "But now tell
me, father, how may I, who am beholden to you for
such good cheer, discharge me of my reckoning?"
We know no reckonings here, nor distinctions,"
proudly returned the abbot. "Had you been the
king's grace himself, or the humblest wayfarer at our
gates, you would have found the like entertainment.
We are brethren all, and share and share alike."
"And you have such beef every day of the week?"
said the guest, thinking lie might make it convenient
some fine time or other to pass that way again.
The abbot nodded. Save only Wednesdays and
Fridays" he said, "as I told you just now." Then
they left the table.
"May the day be not far off," said the king, as after
a good two hours' rest lie drew on his buff gloves to
depart, "when you may enjoy a slice out of a sirloin
as I have done this day!"
For your courtesy, boundless thanks," sighed Abbot
Boniface, smiling in spite of himself. But I take
it, yonder westering sun will sooner be made a foot-
ball of for our school urchins than your good wish for
"Who knows?" said the king, setting foot in the
stirrup of his mare, who stood awaiting him in the
court-yard, refreshed with her rest and good feed, and
curry-combed to a hair. "Who knows?"
"I would give an hundred crowns to be able to do
it," said the abbot with a shrug and another faint
smile. "But we talk idly."
Would you?" said the king.
"By my faith and honour would I."
"Fare you well, my lord abbot!"
Fare you well, friend! I pray you commend me
in all loyalty to his royal grace."
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
Then with a parting wave of his hand the stranger
clattered out of the court-yard.
T was night, but all was clear as day, for the
moon was at the full, and London city lay
flooded in her light. On church spire and
gabled house-top it fell, and on the ripples of the
swift-flowing river, where it hurried down to the
great sea, past the fine noblemen's mansions, with
their fair gardens dipping to the water's brink, away
under the arches of London Bridge, and washing the
walls of the hoary old Tower of London.
Her beams penetrated even into the grim fortress's
very interior, shining with such brilliancy through
the narrow gratings of one small upper chamber of
the "White Tower"-which is said to be the oldest
and most massive walled part of the building-that
it put to shame the light of the small oil lamp flicker-
ing and sputtering on the wretched old deal table,
which, with the exception of two tarnished gilt leather
chairs and a truckle-bed up in one corner, made all
the furniture the room contained.
On the edge of this bed sat a man with shaven
crown, and a rope-girdle fastening his brown monk's
gown, which was muddy and travel-stained, about
his portly waist.
With eyes fixed and dilated like one startled by a
'thunder-clap, Abbot Boniface-for he and no less a
person it was-sat there, staring at the blank wall
He had barely moved a finger since yonder iron-
clamped door clanged double-locked upon him full
two hours ago; and there the miserable man had sat,
cudgelling his aching brains to think what it all could
possibly mean, and how he had come into this terrible
plight. He knew, of course, in a sort of way-
though even that was less like reality than one of the
ugly nightmares he sometimes suffered from-in what
manner he had been brought thither; in fact, if he
lived to be a hundred, he felt he never should forget
the hateful journey. First of all, very early indeed
that same morning, when he was still dozing in his
soft bed, there had resounded a loud knocking at the
great gate of the abbey, followed by the tones of a
stern commanding voice, which seemed only to grow
more imperious in response to the gentle expostula-
tions of the gate-keeper.
With all the haste he was capable of, Abbot Boniface
rose from his bed, and hurrying on his habit de-
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
scended the stairs to inquire into the cause of the
unseemly disturbance. For all his answer, the fore-
most of the two men, dressed in the king's own
livery, whom he perceived at the staircase foot,
advanced and laid his hand on his shoulder.
"In the king's name we arrest you," said he.
"For what?" indignantly cried Boniface.
"What for?" still more indignantly demanded the
monks in a breath.
The two pursuivants, as the king's messengers were
always called, shrugged their embroidered shoulders,
and glanced at each other with a queer look, which
was curiously like a grimace.
'What for?" again impatiently challenged the
monks, for few sons better loved their father than his
monk sons loved Boniface.
"We are here," sulkily replied one of the pursui-
vants, and every vestige of his impertinent grin fading
out, like the flame of a candle under an extinguisher,
for he was sorely upset at not being immediately
bowed down to by all these shaven crowns, "to carry
out his majesty's orders, not to fiddle-faddle and be
questioned. So come along, and with all convenient
"But it is not convenient," boldly objected one of
the chief monks, who represented the abbot himself
when he happened to be very ill or temporarily
absent. "To begin with, we have not breakfasted
"Oh, we did, ages ago!" said the pursuivants in a
breath. Come, we can't stand here all day," added
"And, moreover," said the abbot himself thought-
fully, "to-day is the feast of-"
"You can keep that where you're going," rudely
laughed the pursuivant. "And feast or fast, you
must come, reverend father. Those are our orders,
given with the king's own lips."
"God prosper him!" said Abbot Boniface with
dignity. "In all things his grace is to be obeyed.
So come, let us to him at once and have this question
of my offence cleared. Is his majesty still at Windsor,
as of late he was?"
"Nay, at Greenwich; though that can but little
concern your reverence; since our commands are to
carry you straight to the Tower, where you are to lie
"Now the saints preserve me!" inwardly murmured
"Are you ready?" said the pursuivants.
"I am at his royal grace's disposal," answered the
abbot, who loved truth before all things, and knew
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
that he should never feel ready, if he waited a lifetime,
to bid adieu to the dear familiar scene. Man and
boy he had lived within those monastery walls, upon
which the soft crimson and golden glow of the newly-
risen sun was shining now more beautifully, so it
seemed to him, than ever he could remember. The
gems in the silver-gilt cups of the chapel gleamed
never so gloriously, he thought, as the dewdrops glist-
ened on the green leaves of the gently waving beechen
boughs overhead. Fairer too, and dearer than all,
were the faces of his children, as he called his monks,
looking so anxious and tearful as he bade them fare-
well, perhaps for ever in this life; for once you had
been honoured by Bluff King Hal's special notice,
even if you were as innocent as an unborn babe-and
though Abbot Boniface was a good man as times
went, and a loyal, he was not precisely that-once, I
say, you had come under King Hal's notice you could
not be quite certain that your head was perfectly safe
on your shoulders.
And so, as the chapel bell was ringing its summons
to early prayer-and rarely sweet its music sounded
in the abbot's ears-Boniface had himself assisted on
to the horse the pursuivants had waiting at the porch
for his accommodation, and rode forth out of the court-
yard, from amid the crowd of pale sad-faced monks,
and the tears and lamentations of the poor bedes-
men, and women and little children gathered at the
gate for their daily dole-and began his dreary journey.
A short distance down the road an additional guard
awaited him, but there was not the slightest necessity
for their amiable attentions, since their prisoner
neither desired nor was able to resist. It was every
whit as much as he could do to sit his horse at all
for those three long hours'jolt, jolt, jolt; and when at
the end of that time the party came to a halt, he just
looked for all the world like a huge bundle of brown
clothes, and the pursuivants hauled him, but not so
roughly as he feared they might, down from the
saddle more dead than alive. He recovered a little,
however, by the time he found himself seated in a
barge moored up alongside a wooden landing-place,
which bore on its prow the royal arms, and was
waiting to receive him and his escort.
ROUBLED and ill at ease with his aching bones
as Boniface was, he almost enjoyed the first
hour or two of that soft smooth gliding along
the silvery Thames, and watching the plash of the
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
oars as the six lusty rowers dipped them regularly, as
one, into the sunlit water. It was all pretty well as
new to him, and pleasantly strange, as if he was a
school-boy out for a holiday, for from week's end to
week's end, one might say almost year's end to year's
end, he never went abroad; and thought he had done
a mighty fine thing if he so much as took half an
hour's turn round the monastery garden, or into the
orchard just to see how the onions and cabbages, and
apples and pears, were ripening, and sometimes even
he had an idea that those little bits of stretches had
made him feel none the worse, and thought he would
go again to-morrow, but that hardly ever got beyond
the thinking about.
As it was getting on to dinner-time, when they had
been afloat a little more than half an hour or so, the
guards soon brought out cold beef and ale and bread,
and after having regaled themselves heartily upon it,
they handed over what was left to the rowers, who
shipped their oars, wiped their damp shiny faces,
and turned to upon it with mighty gusto, till there
was barely a crumb left to throw to the birds who
were piping so cheerily along the banks; but never a
scrap did anybody offer to Abbot Boniface. When,
however, the barge was once more gliding onward, the
pursuivant who seemed to have the most command,
opened a little shabby wallet lying under one of the
benches, and took from it a piece of white bread, stale
enough, however, to throw over the moon, and gave
it to him, explaining that it was his dinner. And
was he dry?
Now, dry was not the word for the parched con-
dition of Abbot Boniface's mouth. His tongue was
so cloven to the roof of it that he could not even
speak, and only nodded his head; whereupon the
pursuivant obligingly whipped a little rusty tin can
over the sides of the barge into the water, and bring
ing it up dripping over, it was so full, he set it beside
"It's Thames water," he said. "You never tasted
anything like it in your life."
Abbot Boniface quite agreed with him when he
had sipped at it.
"That's flavour for you, eh?" said the pursuivant,
looking hard at him when he had drunk again as
sparingly as his burning thirst permitted; but Boni-
face was apparently lost in calm admiring contem-
plation of the surrounding prospect, and made no
"Aren't you going to eat, father?" continued his
tormentor. "It's not right, you know, to drink
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
I have no appetite," answered Boniface freezingly.
"Hey-day! To think of that, now! Such excellent
good bread as it is too! Out of the king's own bake-
house. Why, there was some of the self-same batch
on his table only the day before yesterday; and he
bade us bring this specially for your eating."
"I am truly beholden to his grace's consideration
-but such-ahem-wholesome food would be lost
upon me, who am such a poor eater; and since you
can so highly recommend it, what say you, friend, to
concealing my shortcoming, and eating it for me?"
"I have dined," grunted the sulky pursuivant.
"Nay, need I to be told that?" said the abbot.
"Keep it, I mean, for your supper." And as the
other made no reply, he resumed undisturbedly his
contemplation of the view for the rest of the way.
And on and on, all the long summer afternoon,
glided the barge, till towards sundown it hove in
sight of Hampton and its goodly palace, which my
Lord Cardinal of York had recently made a present
of to the king. And so on and on again, till day's
last gleam faded; and with it, somehow, faded all the
lingering brightness of the abbot's heart, and it grew
chill and heavy as the evening mists spread over the
marshy low-lying ground. Here and there, as they
neared Lambeth, distant oil-lamps glimmered, and
the gigantic outline of the Lollard's Tower rose heavy
against the deep-blue sky; while across the river the
compline bell of Westminster Abbey bade folks say
their evening prayers. Then slowly, as the rising
moon broke forth in all her glory, they came in sight
"By'r lady!" drearily smiled the abbot, gazing
towards St. Paul's towers, "now would I liefer sup
this night with Duke Humphrey, than with the
shadow of Julius Ccesar, as I am bidden." And he
shivered from top to toe, as, almost before he had
done speaking, the pursuivant called a halt to the
rowers, and the barge, turning lumberingly aside,
came to a stand-still between two high walls.
"Who goes there?" challenged a voice above.
"By order of the king, a prisoner for the White
Tower," went up the answer. And then after moving
on a few yards the barge came to a second stand-still
in the gloomy ditch before a grim wooden heavily-
barred gate, whose base lay hidden in the inky water;
but after a brief delay and much clanking of chains
and bars it fell back, and the barge, having passed
through, closed again immediately with a harsh grat-
ing noise; and here, at the foot of a flight of water
steps, slippery with ooze and mud, just within the
inclosure, the long journey ended.
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
Scarcely had the prisoner time to gaze round at
the frowning battlemented walls surrounding him
before he was conducted across a flagged court-yard
to a small postern door, and hurried through it, up
an apparently endless flight of winding stone steps,
so narrow that he could only ascend with difficulty,
however his conductors, headed by a solemn person
dressed in black velvet who received them at the
gate, might have managed to squeeze up two abreast.
"In here," said the solemn personage, speaking
now for the first time and addressing the abbot, who
stood panting for breath on the topmost stair. Then
selecting one from the bunch of ponderous keys he
carried in his hand, he inserted it in the lock of a
nail-studded, iron-bound door deeply sunken in the
wall facing them.
"In there?" gasped the unfortunate abbot. And
before he could say another word he found himself
gently, but firmly, assisted inside
The next moment he was alone, and only the echo
of departing footsteps broke the silence, until a bell,
which seemed to be close over his head, and startled
him with its deafening clang, boomed out whatever
hour it might be, but that Abbot Boniface was far
too confused to count. Where he had sunk down on
the edge of the bed he sat like a stunned creature,
till a knock at the door recalled him a little to him-
"Come in," he faltered, starting to his feet more
briskly than he believed himself able to do. What,
thought he, if it should be the headsman's self come
to summon him to his doom on that terrible "hill"
lying not a hundred yards off? Come in," lie cried
again in more courageous tones.
That, however, seemed to be an affair of some
difficulty and delay, judging from the hideous clatter
of loosening bolts and bars which now took place. At
last, however, the door opened, and his visitor appeared.
"I have brought you your supper, reverend father,"
Abbot Boniface felt not a little reassured as he
looked at the speaker, who was quite a young man,
with a pleasant good-natured face.
Setting on the table a platter full of something or
other, with a brown pitcher and a mug, which he also
carried, the young man drew up beside it one of the
old chairs, and having stolen a glance at the prisoner
was about to retire.
"Stay an instant," said Abbot Boniface rather
beseechingly. "Who are you?"
"Your jailer, reverend father," respectfully answered
the young man.
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
"That's not your Christian name," said Boniface
with a faint smile. "You've a better one than
"Stephen," said the jailer, smiling all over his face;
and the smile struck like a ray of real bodily warmth
to the prisoner's chilled and troubled heart.
"And what have you brought me for my supper?"
asked Boniface, as he sat down in the chair which
Stephen had placed for him and began to inspect the
contents of the platter. Not, of course, because he
was the least scrap in the world hungry, but because
he preferred Stephen's company to only his own, and
tried to detain him as long as possible. "Bread-
dry bread. Why, that's what I had for dinner!
And this?" he went on, peering into the pitcher.
"No, father," said the young man, glancing with
rather mystified eyes at the pitcher. "Water. Ah!"
he went on, taking it up himself and looking into it.
"Now, beshrew that wife of mine for her carelessness
-going putting water into a beery jug!"
"Then it is small beer," said the abbot. "Very
"My orders were for bread and water," said
Stephen, half laughing, half vexed; "but it was to
be good and pure of its sort. I will go and fetch you
some fresh." And taking the pitcher he turned to
"No, no. It is not of the slightest consequence,"
said the abbot, lifting his finger to detain him. I
don't suppose if you brought me all the Thames from
Reading to Gravesend I should touch a drop of it."
"You're not thirsty" said Stephen, feeling a little
at a loss for something better to say.
"I do not know whether I am or not," answered
Boniface; "but I've had enough water, and bread too,
for to-day. Bread and water for dinner, and bread
and water for supper again, is monotonous. You can
take it all away."
"But you may be hungry-inclined for it presently,"
I trow wouldd be a long day before I could be
inclined for that," said Boniface, contemptuously eye-
ing the discarded food. "I who can't so much as
enjoy a chicken wing. Ah!" and he sighed. He
had not, of course, the ghost of an appetite, but he
did not feel so unkindly towards chicken wings as
sometimes he did. "Good-night, my son!" he added
in chillier tones; "do not let an unfortunate man like
me detain you from your friends and-your supper.
It is no doubt a nice one."
"Porridge," concisely answered Stephen.
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
"Porridge!" echoed the abbot, lifting his eyebrows
and attentively considering Stephen's rosy face.
"Why, that's not so very much richer than bread
"We're not rich, and we have to be content with
what we can get," said Stephen cheerfully.
"It agrees with you, at all events."
"What's that, reverend father-agrees with me?"
"Suits your digestion. Makes you feel comfortable
after you've eaten it," explained Abbot Boniface,
recalling his difficulty with that dunderheaded yeoman
of the royal guard only a day or two previously, on
the same identical question.
"Oh, yes! very comfortable indeed," answered
Stephen, his face clearing, "till we get hungry again.
That's the worst of it. It's not so long first," he
added, with a faint sigh.
"You can go, my son," said Boniface, leaning his
head back and looking meditatively up round the
dreary stone walls.
Stephen, however, still lingered, and after a mo-
ment's hesitation said, "Will you not give me your
"With all my heart, my son," answered the abbot,
"if the blessing of such an ill-starred man as I bring
you not ill luck."
"Father Boniface's. blessing can bring me nothing
but good," answered Stephen confidently; "and for
the ill luck which has brought you here-who knows?
As honey came out of the lion's carcass, so fair
fortune ofttimes breeds of ill."
"Then good-night, my son; and peace be with you
"Good-night, father!" and bending his head rever-
ently, the kind-hearted jailer took his departure.
In spite of his anxiety of heart a faint smile stole
over the abbot's face at Stephen's parting words. It
was balm to his wounds to feel that, come what
might, there was one in that vast grim prison who
felt, not only kindly towards him, but treated him with
the respect and honour to which he had always been
accustomed; but it is no new thing that the works of
a man follow him, and the charity and good deeds
of Abbot Boniface of Reading Abbey came like kind
angels to cheer him now
Whether it was this, or the effect of the fatigues of
his long day's journey, or both, it is quite certain that
when next the great tower bell struck, Abbot Boniface
did not hear it, for the very good reason that he was
lying on his hard truckle-bed fast asleep, not in the
land of dreams, but leagues beyond it, sleeping the
sweetest, restfullest slumber he had known for many
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
a month-ay, many a year-and by hours also the
longest, for he did not waken till morning was far
He did not even hear the entrance of Stephen
when he came in soon after daylight, with a fresh
supply of bread and water for the prisoner's breakfast.
The young man was just going to explain to him that
this time the water was crystal clear and undiluted,
when he perceived that he was still asleep; and seeing
how comfortably he rested, he just stole out again on
tiptoe, and did his best to bolt up the door outside
noiselessly, "For," said he to himself, "poor prison
wights are best off when they are asleep."
And truly it was a sad moment for Abbot Boniface
when at last he awoke, and gradually all the remem-
brance of what had happened the previous day came
back. When first he opened his eyes he fancied he
was in his own snug sleeping-chamber, through whose
lattice, all twined about with fragrant honeysuckle
and old man's beard, you could see the broad-stretch-
ing meadows and the fair green trees of the forest;
but when he grew quite awake, and opened his eyes
wider, and they saw nothing, look which way he
would, but dreary stone walls pierced with two small
holes closely iron-grated, his heart sank indeed.
How many had met a cruel death within that same
prison! Somewhere under one of its flights of stairs
-perhaps the very ones he had ascended-the tale
had long gone that those two poor little princes were
buried whom Crookbacked Richard of Gloucester had
caused to be murdered as they lay sleeping in their
bed. Sure they in all conscience were guiltless
enough of any wrong-doing! And hardly less so had
been mild King Henry the Sixth, and many besides,
gentle and simple and royal, yet they had perished
there, asking, many of them, with their latest breath,
for what offence they were thus punished. Answer
was rarely vouchsafed them; but had it been, it
generally would have sounded but the self-same notes,
to wit, that they were either inconveniently near the
throne, and had as much right to it as the person
who happened to be occupying it, or else they were
accused of wishing harm to the reigning king; and so
there was nothing for them but to be despatched by
the headsman's axe, or to be shut up all their lives in
Abbot Boniface, however, could accuse himself of
neither of these things. He was, on the contrary,
one of those few wise people who are content with
their position in life. It certainly was a very honour-
able one; and he would not have changed it for any
king's throne he had ever read or heard of, and,
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
rightly or wrongly, he, perhaps above all Henry the
Eighth's other subjects believed him to be a born and
perfect ruler; and that there never was, and never
would be again, a king like Bluff King Hal."
Right gladly would he have laid down his life for
him in a fair and becoming manner; but to be
dragged without rhyme or reason out of his home
and cast into this den of a place at the command of
one he so dearly loved and held in honour, it cut him
to the heart. And as he pondered this over and
over and over, Abbot Boniface fairly broke down in
his bitter grief; and in this way the miserable day
crept slowly on, only varied by the visit of Stephen
at mid-day with the eternal plate and pitcher full of
the same eternal dry bread and cold water, of which
Boniface only took notice to turn away and bethink
himself that it was not on such poor, miserable fare
he had entertained his royal master's hungry servant
barely a week before.
HE days crept on, and beforeverymany had passed,
his own monks would scarcely have recognized
their abbot, he had shrunk to such a skeleton-
by comparison, of course, as everything goes in this
world. But there was still something left of him-
the best part, in fact. He had not yet come to be
like the naughty boy who would not eat his soup,
and consequently dwindled and shrivelled to a mere
thread. Still there was undoubtedly in his face just
the idea of a look like the second of a pair of comical
pictures which a clever wag of an artist monk of
Reading Monastery once made of a certain Master
BONIFACE, and his brother, as he called him, Master
There was as much, and more, difference between
the two than there is even between an i and a y; and
the abbot's face had grown to be just a shade like
the one with the y in it. Somehow, however, this
was an improvement rather than the contrary, be-
cause whereas the abbot's cheeks had been fat enough,
they were not to be called healthful looking; while
now, despite his griefs and confinement, and something
like starvation-for the big bell struck many a time
before he touched the water, and hours and hours
more before he swallowed a crumb of the bread-
there had come to be the faintest tinge of colour in
his cheeks, delicate and clear as apple-bloom, and not
in the least like the purplish-pink which had once
rather interfered with the perfect beauty of his hand-
some nose. No one with the least eye for colour, let
AND TIE ABBOT OF READING.
them be as ill-natured as they pleased, could say the
tint had been borrowed from the tip of that nose;
for it was quite of a different tone, and told another
sort of tale altogether.
As to Stephen, he began to think that his prisoner
was growing handsomer every time lie saw him.
"Though," as he said to himself in explanation of the
notion, "one is so apt to think people one loves good
looking;" and he was beginning to love Abbot Boniface
as entirely as everyone did love him who ever had
anything to do with him
Somehow you look quite a different man, father,"
he said one day, when Boniface happened to look up
and caught his eyes fixed on him; "I can't help look-
ing at you. Beshrew my ill-manners, but I can't help
it, you look so very well."
The abbot gave a little grunt for answer. As to
feeling well or ill, that was nobody's concern, he
thought, but his own; and besides, lie was not a little
puzzled about what he did feel, only, that he felt not
a bit the same man as he felt a week ago was as true
as the sun was shining in through his prison bars;
but being so very uncertain about his own sensations
lie just gave that little half-pleased half-cross grunt.
"Will you have any more bread?" asked Stephen,
changing the conversation. "The platter's empty," he
added apologetically, when Boniface looked up with
rather a displeased look.
"Ah! yes; I gave it to the sparrows-some of it,"
he said. "Poor things, they're as lean as you make
your prisoners here."
Now that the abbot had given the bread-some of
it-to the birds was the truth, and nothing but the
truth; for it was only what he had been in the habit
of doing all his life, so dearly he loved all living
things, great and small, of God's earth, and he never
forgot the little feathered creatures-certainly he
thought of them specially in this dolorous time,
when they made the only comfort and distraction he
had, watching them hopping about in the dreary
court-yard far below, and flitting in and out of the
battlemented tower roof-but that he told the whole
truth could not be said. As I have already explained,
he was of the opinion that everybody in the world
has a right to keep silence over his own feelings if
he chooses; and he did not consider it absolutely
necessary to inform Stephen of all the particulars of
that strange feeling which had come over him this
last day or two. Remarkable, curious, unusual, odd,
queer-no, not queer, that is just precisely what you
could not call it-queer, nor queazy neither. He
knew very well what that was. That is, he had
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
known; and his dire experience taught him that this
was as different as cheese is from chalk, or white
from black, or sack from Thames water, or chicken
or beef or mutton are from mere dry bread.
Not that he misprized or despised dry bread. Dear
heart, no! For had he not discovered its extremely
useful qualities in keeping under this odd, novel
sensation of his, which sometimes almost amounted to
pain, and would have got most troublesome had he not
applied the water and bread like a poultice internally?
That positively seemed the only cure for it; and very
eagerly he began to watch the door, three times a
day, at sunrise and mid-day and sundown, when
Stephen arrived with the materials for the poultice;
which, however, he made up after a recipe of his own
invention. First, he just swallowed several good
mouthfuls of the bread, then a sip of water, as little
as possible, because a little went a long way; and
when it got there, he left it to arrange itself with the
bread. And very well it did so; not the least trouble
in the world about it.
Sometimes Abbot Boniface wondered whether
chicken wing, or perhaps more than one, half a
dozen of them say, well wrapped in melted butter,
with chopped parsley, or, perchance, even beef-roast
beef, if it was particularly well basted and done to
a turn, and full of gravy, would have answered the
purpose, and then Abbot Boniface sighed, as poor
mortals do sigh, who know that what they think would
be good for them is the very last thing likely to come
their way, and fell to upon the bread and water, and
after that lie fell into a comfortable but dreamful
slumber upon the hard truckle-bed; and his dreams
were all about the beloved faces of his children, the
monks, and his poor bedesmen, and the little children
who asked shyly for his blessing as he came out of
chapel, and faithful old Tudor, the monastery watch-
dog; and though it was but late summertime, he fancied
it was Christmas, and the bells were ringing, and
mummers were dragging in the Yule-log to the broad
refectory hearth, and behind pranced my Lord of
Misrule bearing a huge baron of beef, and then-
alack! then-Abbot Boniface awoke and found it was
a dream, and high time for all who were not slug-
abeds to be up.
HIOW THE KING CLAIMS HIS GUERDON,
ND yet not all a dream; for hark! the chapel
3 bell across the yard is ringing a merry peal,
altogether a contrast to its ordinary dolorous drone,
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
drone, drone, drone. And yes-no-yes-would
wonders never cease? Yes, there is a smell of roast
Impossible! well, but if that particular fragrance
had been strange to you for such a long time as it
had to Abbot Boniface, you would not have mistaken
it any more than he did.
He sat up; then he got up, and all the while lie
was making his very simple toilet, stronger and more
unmistakably than ever, the savoury odour stole upon
the chill mildewy air of the prison room, and insisted
on saluting the senses of Abbot Boniface. It was of
no use whatever his attempting, as he did, to exorcise
it and bid it begone for a terrible temptation, for that
indeed it was. It seemed to him that he would well-
nigh have given his brown frock and rope, which
were the most valued things he owned, for a good
dinner of roast beef. That was the one thing he had
come to fancy able to cure the strange empty sensa-
tion which had taken possession of him.
"I really cannot make it out," he said to Stephen,
quite unable to keep silence about it any longer, when
next the jailer entered, which was a great deal later
than usual. I have the oddest feeling anybody ever
What is it like?" inquired Stephen, rather alarmed.
A sort of fancy as if I could eat a horse, or-you
-or any trifle that came in my way. What do you
think it can be?"
"I should call it being hungry," said Stephen, who
had known the same sort of feeling.
"But I am never hungry," said the abbot, drawing
up his head and shaking it. Then he glanced at the
table, but there was nothing on it; Stephen had come
"Are you not going to give me anything to eat
this morning?" demanded Boniface, looking up open-
Stephen hesitated. "Those were my orders," he
answered at last.
"I am to starve, then?" bitterly rejoined Boniface.
Stephen bit his lip and smiled uneasily, but made
Abbot Boniface turned hurriedly away. If his
faith in Bluff King Hal ever could have been shaken,
that must have been the moment for it. He knew
the king was not particular about cutting off a head
or two which lie might not want, but this was the
first time he had ever heard of his starving those who
had had the misfortune to offend his royal grace.
Whatever he felt, however, he said nothing, and only
stood gazing with dimmed eyes through the grating,
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
which afforded a glimpse of the river. "The king,
they say, can do no wrong," he thought to himself as
his absent gaze fell on a gaily-painted barge drawn
up alongside the Tower water-steps, whose gilded prow
was decorated with a device, which, as perception
came back into the abbot's eyes, he saw was the king's
own cognizance, while its coloured pennons fluttered
gaily in the sunlit air.
"What is that?" gasped the abbot, beckoning
Stephen beside him, and pointing to the river.
"His majesty's barge," said Stephen, looking out.
"His grace, then, is here?"
"Arrived an hour ago from Greenwich."
The abbot turned away and sank down in a chair.
I trow my last hour has come," he murmured.
"Almost, I do think," nodded Stephen, who had
caught what the prisoner said, and then clapped his
hand over his mouth as if he repented having spoken.
"Well, I trust I know how to die as I have
known how to live," said Boniface with much com-
posure and dignity; "but ere I went I would fain
have known when and how I have incurred his grace's
displeasure. Does his majesty stay long?" he added,
again addressing the jailer.
I think not," answered he. "The barge is bidden
to wait his majesty's pleasure, and it is to proceed to
Windsor when it leaves here. So I heard the order
given," added Stephen, who seemed somehow to be
totally unable to keep a still tongue in his head.
The abbot sighed as he heard the word Windsor, for
Windsor neighboured his beloved Reading; and now
all his thoughts were there.
"Surely, however, the king remains here to dine?"
he said, in the forlorn hopeful tones of a man ready
to die, but greatly preferring if it were only one little
hour more of this life.
"I know not," said Stephen.
"Oh, but I do," said the abbot, "for I smell roast
"But other people like roast beef," said Stephen
feelingly, "besides kings."
I do not deny you they may, my son; but I have
been in this hateful place since Tuesday se'en-night,
and 'tis the first time the odour has saluted my senses;
or any other roastings or boiling either, for that
'Well, it isn't bad," said Stephen, scenting the air
like a war-horse. Do you like it, father?" he added.
"I do not find it disagreeable, my son," said the
abbot, rising again from beside the bare table, and again
approaching the grating he stood and gazed wistfully
up at the blue sky and the sunny air. "Stephen,"
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
he said presently, turning round; but Stephen was
gone, with a smile-the heartless fellow-not to say
a grin, all over his face.
Even as the abbot stood, the bell began to strike
mid-day. "One, two, three-where shall I be," he
said to himself, as he counted the strokes, when
next-four, five, six-that bell-seven, eight, nine,
ten, eleven-strikes twelve?"
Before the sound had died away the door fell wide
open. The abbot looked up.
Entirely filling in the space stood a-thin, tall,
pale man dressed in black, carrying an axe? Nothing
of the kind: a stout, short, rosy-cheeked man, clothed
from foot to head, upon which also he wore a sort of
nightcap, in spotless white, and bearing aloft-and
both arms it took to do it-a huge dish covered with
a shining metal cover half as big as the dome of
St. Paul's. There was, however, hardly time to look
at it before the man in white stepped lightly forward,
set his load upon the table, and whipping off the
cover with a flourish stepped out again, to leave room
for Stephen, who now entered with a platter, a silver
goblet, a knife and fork, a manchet of white bread,
and a long-necked crystal flagon.
"Will it please you to have a little roast beef,
reverend father?" inquired the young man, as he
spread the table with a snowy damask cloth, and
arranged these things upon it.
"Roast beef!" ejaculated Abbot Boniface. Then
he stood as if bereft of speech, gazing at the smoking
joint. This, however, only lasted a few seconds, and
before you could say much more than Jack Robinson
he was seated at the table, knife and fork in hand.
All this time the door had been open; not wide
open, but quite wide enough for any desperate
prisoner to try to make his escape through it. One
would have supposed that it was no more a prison
door than Abbot Boniface's own snug parlour door
away at Reading. The abbot, however, had no eyes
but for the sirloin smoking so savorily before him,
and his very ears heard nothing of certain low, half-
smothered laughter somewhere outside in the lobby.
Then Stephen and the cook retired, leaving the
door ajar, for all they made such a vast pretence of
slamming it; and for quite twenty minutes not a sound
was to be heard but the light click of the abbot's
knife and fork upon his platter. No farmer of his
grange nor ploughman of his broad acres ever ate his
well-earned meal with such appetite and thorough
enjoyment as Abbot Boniface of Reading enjoyed his
dinner that day. Even the cup of sack-such splendid
sack as it was too-was little regarded till he had
AND THE ABBOT OF READING.
taken his fill. In that great enjoyment all his fears
and tremors were temporarily forgotten. "Truly,"
he said to himself when at last he laid down his
knife and fork, and wiped his lips with the dainty
damask napkin, "I hope I may not have dined too
plentifully; but 'tis a wise proverb, I trow, that says,
' Two hungry meals make the third a glutton.' And
-by'r Lady!" he cried, interrupting himself, and
starting to his feet as once more the door opened and
in sprang the king-" His Majesty!"
"Ay," said Henry, throwing himself into the other
arm-chair, which he filled right royally. And how
liked you your dinner, my lord abbot?"
"Excellent; never enjoyed anything better in all
my life, your majesty," said the abbot.
A well-amused smile beamed in King Hal's face;
and as he tugged at his golden beard, and nodded his
head up and down, he cast a twinkling merry glance
at Abbot Boniface, who stood blinking his eyes and
rubbing his brow like a slowly awakening dreamer.
Then, my lord," continued the king, as he stretched
out his hand, "pay me my fee."
"F-fee!" stammered Boniface, "did your royal
"Fee. Ay, marry did we! A hundred pounds in
"A hundred pounds!"
Ay, the sum was of your own fixing;" and again
the king laughed heartily. "Do you not remember
-'tis but two weeks since-that there came a hungry
stranger to your gates-"
"We have so many of 'em," said the abbot, still a
"This one," went on the king, "was a-well, a
fair and personable fellow. Such a one as you don't
see every day of the week. A-ahem, one of my
own bodyguard. And-"
"My lord," interrupted the abbot, making a step
forward, and a light breaking all over his face.
Right hospitably you entertained him. Had it
been ourself-Well, what now?" for again the abbot
essayed to speak.
"It was yourself!" and he fell on one knee before
the king. Idiot that I was, not to recognize you as
I do now! Truly we may entertain angels unawares."
Or kings," laughed his royal master. But come,
kneel not to me, my lord abbot," he went on, raising
him; "such show of homage will in no wise satisfy
me, who am your physician."
"I do not understand," faltered the abbot.
Down with your dust," went on the king.
"Your majesty, I do not understand."