“And what sent he in return?”
“Nothing in writing,” I answered, “but this by my mouth—that the inner scroll was the writing of some foe of other days, who thus strikes at a fallen man.”
The abbot mused in silence at this reply, and took a pace or two beside his lily border. Then he gazed seriously at me for a moment, and bade me walk by his side.
“Thou hast seen to-day, son, one of the world’s schemers, and thou hadst been, as was natural, deceived by him. With ill men first impressions are the true ones. Thou hadst been more than a stripling of the cloister, and we had taught thee over well for thy years, had he, whose power has lain in such arts, not made thee love him in spite of thyself. Son, dost thou know why this Maugher lies here in exile?”
“Ay, Father, was he not like St. John of old, who said, ’Thou shalt not have her:’ to King Herod?” answered I, as I thought aptly.
“Indeed, my son, they said so, and strong were the archbishop’s words when Duke William wedded against God’s law. But thou wilt learn, that words and censures of Holy Church are too oft like daggers and knives in the hands of evil men in high places of the Church—and such was this censure of the marriage of Matilda in the hand of Maugher. He would have cut his way with it—dost thou know whither, son?”
“My son, to the dukedom itself, Churchman though he was.”
I listened in astonishment, and an air of doubt must have shone out from my innocent eyes, that never knew to hide the thought within.
“Wouldst thou have proof of this that I say, and know how even to-day this serpent in our island-grass bites at the heel of princely authority?” the abbot asked.
“Indeed, Father, I would. His words to me so frank, his description of great men so just—his——” I was about to be fervent indeed in the praise of my new-found friend. Abbot Michael drew a scroll from his breast, and held it before my eyes with firm fingers, watching me intently the while. It was like the scroll I had taken to Blanchelande within the other. It was the same scroll, or a cunning copy, for there lay two great hasty blots upon it in one corner, and its signature ran up the page like a ladder against a wall.
“Read here, and here,” said he, “and understand how this cursed man would incite milder men to shed Duke William’s blood!”
Of the coming of the Sarrasins in force, and of the building of their chateau. Of Brother Hugo’s confidence in God, and how I rang the alarm-bell at St. Pierre Port.
Through that journey to Blanchelande I was able to give the first warning to the abbot, and Brother Hugo, our tete d’armee, of the presence of new pirates in the very midst of the isle, through the ugly sight I had seen on my way by what men called the chateau.