The Abbot’s face grew very evil.
“Do you remember, woman,” he asked, “that here you are in my power? Do you not know that rebellious sinners such as you are can be shut in a dark dungeon and fed on the bread and water of affliction and beaten with the rods of penance? Will you do my bidding, or shall these things fall on you?”
Cicely’s beautiful face flushed up, and for a moment her blue eyes filled with the tears of shame and terror. Then they cleared again, and she looked at him boldly and answered—
“I know that a murderer can be a torturer also. Why should not he who butchered the father scourge the daughter too? But I know also that there is a God who protects the innocent, though sometimes He is slow to lift His hand, and to Him I appeal, my Lord Abbot. I know, moreover, that I am Foterell and Carfax, and that no man or woman of my blood has ever yet yielded to fear or pain. I sign nothing,” and, turning, she left the room.
Now the Abbot and Emlyn were alone. Suddenly, before she could speak, for her tongue was tied with rage, he began to rate and curse her and to threaten horrible things against her and her mistress, such things as only a cruel Spaniard could imagine. At length he paused for breath, and she broke in—
“Peace, wicked man, lest the roof fall on you, for I am sure that every cruel word you speak shall become a snake to strike you. Will you not take warning by what befell you last night, or must there be more such lessons?”
“Oho!” he answered; “so you know of that, do you? As I thought, your witchcraft was at work there.”
“How can I help knowing what the whole sky blazoned? The fat monks of Blossholme must draw their girdles tight this winter. Those stolen lands bring no luck, it seems, and John Foterell’s blood has turned to fire. Be warned, I say, be warned. Nay, I’ll hear no more of your foul tongue. Lay a finger on that poor lady if you dare, and pay the price,” and she too turned and went.
Ere he left the Nunnery the Abbot had an interview with Mother Matilda.
Cicely must be disciplined, he said; gently at first, afterwards with roughness, even to scourging, if need were—for her soul’s sake. Also her servant Emlyn must be kept away from her—for her soul’s sake, since without doubt she was a dangerous witch. Also, when the time of the birth of the child came on, he would send a wise woman to wait upon her, one who was accustomed to such cases—for her body’s sake and that of her child. In the midst of the great trouble that had fallen upon them through the terrible fire at the Abbey, which had cost them such fearful loss, to say nothing of the lives of two of the servants and others burned and maimed, he had not much time to talk of such small things; but did she understand?
Then it was that Mother Matilda, the meek and gentle, brought pain and astonishment to the heart of the Lord Abbot, her spiritual superior.