As you would expect, many other members of the Church were among our company. The Monk was a manly fellow who loved hunting and good living. Many a horse he had in his stables, and many greyhounds for hunting the hare. A fat swan was his favourite dish. His looks told of his ample fare, for he was fat and rosy, and rode merrily along with his bridle bells jingling clearly in the wind. “Some say that hunters can’t be holy men,” he said, “but I can’t agree with those that would make monks madden themselves with study and tire themselves with labour. What good comes of it all?” “What good indeed?” said I.
The Friar, Hubert, was a gay fellow too. I daresay that in all the Four Orders of Friars you would not find a more pleasing talker—especially in matters of love. He sang lustily, played the harp, and kept us merry with his jesting.
Not so the Clerk from Oxford. He was a serious student. For many years he had devoted himself to logic and philosophy, yet little gold had got thereby! His horse was lean as a rake, and he himself was by no means fat. His threadbare cloak hung limply on his shoulders. Had he been more worldly-minded, he might have gained a rich benefice; but all his treasure was in the twenty red and black books at his bedside, where he found the rich thought of Aristotle—more satisfying to the Clerk than gold, or robes or sweet music. All the money he was given he spent on books, praying eagerly for the souls of them that helped him to buy more. He spoke but little. His speech then was quick and packed with thought, and he loved best to talk of moral virtue. Glad he was to learn, and glad to teach.
One man among the company was terrible to look upon. His face was fiery red with black brows and scabbed skin. He had crowned himself with a great garland. It was no wonder that even children were afraid of him. This man, I learned, was a Summoner, who brought up offenders before the Church courts.
His friend was the Pardoner—just arrived from the court of Rome with his wallet packed full of pardons and relics. You shall hear what he did with these later. He had long straight oily yellow hair, spread thinly around his shoulders. He had packed his hood in his wallet, for it seemed more festive to him to ride bare-headed. His eyes shone like a hare’s. He had no beard, and his small, piping, goat-like voice made him seem very youthful.
He was said to be a very successful Pardoner; for he could not only read and sing delightfully (especially when asking for the offertory), but his manner was so persuasive that in one day he could win more silver than the parson earned in two or three months. A fine Pardoner, this! No wonder he sang so merrily and loud!