“When I sat in that stall, my lord,” pursued Paslew, pointing to the abbot’s chair; “when I was head of this church, it was my thought to rest here among my brother abbots.”
“You have forfeited the right,” replied the earl, sternly. “All the abbots, whose dust is crumbling beneath us, died in the odour of sanctity; loyal to their sovereigns, and true to their country, whereas you will die an attainted felon and rebel. You can have no place amongst them. Concern not yourself further in the matter. I will find a fitting grave for you,—perchance at the foot of the gallows.”
And, turning abruptly away, he gave the signal for general departure.
Ere the clock in the church tower had tolled one, the lights were extinguished, and of the priestly train who had recently thronged the fane, all were gone, like a troop of ghosts evoked at midnight by necromantic skill, and then suddenly dismissed. Deep silence again brooded in the aisles; hushed was the organ; mute the melodious choir. The only light penetrating the convent church proceeded from the moon, whose rays, shining through the painted windows, fell upon the graves of the old abbots in the presbytery, and on the two biers within the adjoining chapel, whose stark burthens they quickened into fearful semblance of life.
CHAPTER VI.—TETER ET FORTIS CARCER.
Left alone, and unable to pray, the abbot strove to dissipate his agitation of spirit by walking to and fro within his chamber; and while thus occupied, he was interrupted by a guard, who told him that the priest sent by the Earl of Derby was without, and immediately afterwards the confessor was ushered in. It was the tall monk, who had been standing between the biers, and his features were still shrouded by his cowl. At sight of him, Paslew sank upon a seat and buried his face in his hands. The monk offered him no consolation, but waited in silence till he should again look up. At last Paslew took courage and spoke.
“Who, and what are you?” he demanded.
“A brother of the same order as yourself,” replied the monk, in deep and thrilling accents, but without raising his hood; “and I am come to hear your confession by command of the Earl of Derby.”
“Are you of this abbey?” asked Paslew, tremblingly.
“I was,” replied the monk, in a stern tone; “but the monastery is dissolved, and all the brethren ejected.”
“Your name?” cried Paslew.
“I am not come here to answer questions, but to hear a confession,” rejoined the monk. “Bethink you of the awful situation in which you are placed, and that before many hours you must answer for the sins you have committed. You have yet time for repentance, if you delay it not.”