“When the prior has done questioning you,” brother Austin said, “return hither at once. I will set about preparing supper for you, for I warrant me you must need food as well as drink. Fear not but, however great your appetite may be, I will have enough to satisfy it ready by the time you return.”
“Welcome to Colonsay!” the prior said, as the four men entered his apartment; “but stay — I see you are drenched to the skin; and it were poor hospitality, indeed, to keep you standing thus even to assure you of your welcome. Take them,” he said to the monk, “to the guest chamber at once, and furnish them with changes of attire. When they are warm and comfortable return with them hither.”
In ten minutes Archie and his companions re-entered the prior’s room. The prior looked with some astonishment at Archie; for in the previous short interview he had not noticed the difference in their attire, and had supposed them to be four fishermen. The monk, however, had marked the difference; and on inquiry, finding that Archie was a knight, had furnished him with appropriate attire. The good monks kept a wardrobe to suit guests of all ranks, seeing that many visitors came to the holy priory, and that sometimes the wind and waves brought them to shore in such sorry plight that a change of garments was necessary.
“Ah!” the prior said, in surprise; “I crave your pardon sir knight, that I noticed not your rank when you first entered. The light is somewhat dim, and as you stood there together at the door way I noticed not that you were of superior condition to the others.”
“That might well be, holy prior,” Archie said, “seeing that we were more like drowned beasts than Christian men. We have had a marvellous escape from the tempest — thanks to God and his saints! — seeing that we were blown off Rathlin, and have run before the gale down past Islay and through the Straits of Jura. Next to the protection of God and His saints, our escape is due to the skill and courage of my brave companions here, who were as cool and calm in the tempest as if they had been sitting by the ingle fires at home.”
“From Rathlin!” the prior said in surprise, “and through the strait `twixt Islay and Jura! Truly that was a marvellous voyage in such a gale — and as I suppose, in an open boat. But how comes it, sir knight — if I may ask the question without prying into your private affairs — that you, a knight, were at Rathlin? In so wild and lonely an island men of your rank are seldom to be found.”
“There are many there now, holy prior, far higher in rank than myself,” Archie replied, “seeing that Robert the Bruce, crowned King of Scotland, James Douglas, and others of his nobles and knights, are sheltering there with him from the English bloodhounds.”
“The Bruce at Rathlin!” the prior exclaimed, in surprise. “The last ship which came hither from the mainland told us that he was a hunted fugitive in Lennox; and we deemed that seeing the MacDougalls of Lorne and all the surrounding chiefs were hostile to him, and the English scattered thickly over all the low country, he must long ere this have fallen into the hands of his enemies.”