It was a very fierce fire, which appeared to have begun in the dormitories, whence, even at that distance, they saw half-clad monks escaping through the windows, some by means of bed-coverings tied together and some by jumping, notwithstanding the height. Presently the roof of the building fell in, sending up showers of glowing embers, which lit upon the thatch of the farm byres and sheds, and upon the ricks built and building in the stackyard, so that all these caught also, and before dawn were utterly consumed.
One by one the watchers in the Nunnery wearied of the lamentable sight, and muttering prayers, departed terrified to their beds. But Emlyn sat on at the open casement till the rim of the splendid September sun showed above the hills. There she sat, her head resting on her hand, her strong face set like that of a statue. Only her dark eyes, in which the flames were reflected, seemed to smile hardly.
“Thomas is a great tool,” she muttered to herself at length, “and the first cut has bitten to the bone. Well, there shall be worse to come. You will live to beg Emlyn’s mercy yet, Clement Maldonado.”
THE BLOSSHOLME WITCHINGS
On the afternoon of that day the Abbot came again to visit the Nunnery, and sent for Cicely and Emlyn. They found him alone in the guest-hall, walking up and down its length with a troubled face.
“Cicely Foterell,” he said, without any form of greeting, “when last we met you refused to sign the deed which I brought with me. Well, it matters nothing, for that purchaser has gone back upon his bargain.”
“Saying that he liked not the title?” suggested Cicely.
“Aye; though who taught you of titles and the ins and outs of law? But what need to ask——?” and he glowered at Emlyn. “Well, let it pass, for now I have a paper with me that you must sign. Read it if you will. It is harmless—only an instruction to the tenants of the lands your father held to pay their rents to me this Michaelmas, as warden of that property.”
“Do they refuse, then, seeing that you hold it all, my Lord Abbot?”
“Aye, some one has been at work among them, and the stubborn churls will not without instruction under your hand and seal. The farms your father worked himself I have reaped, but last night every grain of corn and every fleece of wool were burned in the fire.”
“Then I pray you keep account of them, my Lord, that you may pay me their value when we come to settle our score, seeing that I never gave you leave to shear my sheep and harvest my corn.”
“You are pleased to be saucy, girl,” he replied, biting his lip. “I have no time to bandy words—sign, and do you witness, Emlyn Stower.”
Cicely took the document, glanced at it, then slowly tore it into four pieces and threw it to the floor.
“Rob me and my unborn child if you can and will, at least I’ll be no thief’s partner,” she said quietly. “Now, if you want my name, go forge it, for I sign nothing.”