“Well, be it as thou wilt,” replied the earl, bending his brows, “though he ill deserves such grace. Now, John Paslew, what wouldst thou?”
Thus addressed, the abbot looked up.
“I would have made the same request as my brother, John Eastgate, if he had not anticipated me, my lord,” said Paslew; “but since his petition is granted, I would, on my own part, entreat that mass be said for us in the convent church. Many of the brethren are without the abbey, and, if permitted, will assist at its performance.”
“I know not if I shall not incur the king’s displeasure in assenting,” replied the Earl of Derby, after a little reflection; “but I will hazard it. Mass for the dead shall be said in the church at midnight, and all the brethren who choose to come thither shall be permitted to assist at it. They will attend, I doubt not, for it will be the last time the rites of the Romish Church will be performed in those Walls. They shall have all required for the ceremonial.”
“Heaven’s blessings on you, my lord,” said the abbot.
“But first pledge me your sacred word,” said the earl, “by the holy office you once held, and by the saints in whom you trust, that this concession shall not be made the means of any attempt at flight.”
“I swear it,” replied the abbot, earnestly.
“And I also swear it,” added Father Eastgate.
“Enough,” said the earl. “I will give the requisite orders. Notice of the celebration of mass at midnight shall be proclaimed without the abbey. Now remove the prisoners.”
Upon this the captive ecclesiastics were led forth. Father Eastgate was taken to a strong room in the lower part of the chapter-house, where all acts of discipline had been performed by the monks, and where the knotted lash, the spiked girdle, and the hair shirt had once hung; while the abbot was conveyed to his old chamber, which had been prepared for his reception, and there left alone.
CHAPTER V.—THE MIDNIGHT MASS.
Dolefully sounds the All Souls’ bell from the tower of the convent church. The bell is one of five, and has obtained the name because it is tolled only for those about to pass away from life. Now it rings the knell of three souls to depart on the morrow. Brightly illumined is the fane, within which no taper hath gleamed since the old worship ceased, showing that preparations are made for the last service. The organ, dumb so long, breathes a low prelude. Sad is it to hear that knell—sad to view those gloriously-dyed panes—and to think why the one rings and the other is lighted up.