“Thanks to Heaven’s protection,” Archie said devoutly, “the king with a few followers escaped and safely reached Rathlin!”
“Thou shouldst not speak of Heaven’s protection,” the prior said, sternly, “seeing that Bruce has violated the sanctuary of the church, has slain his enemy within her walls, has drawn down upon himself the anathema of the pope, and has been declared excommunicated and accursed.”
“The pope, holy father,” Archie replied, “although supreme in all holy things, is but little qualified to judge of the matter, seeing that he draws his information from King Edward, under whose protection he lives. The good Bishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow, with the Abbot of Scone, and many other dignitaries of the Scottish church, have condoned his offense, seeing that it was committed in hot blood and without prior intent. The king himself bitterly regrets the deed, which preys sorely upon his mind; but I can answer for it that Bruce had no thought of meeting Comyn at Dumfries.”
“You speak boldly, young sir,” the prior said, sternly, “for one over whose head scarce two-and-twenty years can have rolled; but enough now. You are storm staid and wearied; you are the guests of the convent. I will not keep you further now, for you have need of food and sleep. Tomorrow I will speak with you again.”
So saying, the prior sharply touched a bell which stood on a table near him. The monk re-entered. The prior waved his hand: “Take these guests to the refectory and see that they have all they stand in need of, and that the bed chambers are prepared. In the morning I would speak to them again.
Chapter XV A Mission to Ireland
Father Austin was as good as his word, and it was long indeed since Archie had sat down to such a meal as that which was spread for him. Hungry as he was, however, he could scarce keep his eyes open to its conclusion, so great was the fatigue of mind and body; and on retiring to the chamber which the monks had prepared for him, he threw himself on a couch and instantly fell asleep. In the morning the gale still blew violently, but with somewhat less fury than on the preceding evening. He joined the monks at their morning meal in the refectory, and after their repast they gathered round him to listen to his news of what was doing in Scotland; for although at ordinary times pilgrims came not unfrequently to visit the holy isle of Colonsay, in the present stormy times men stirred but little from home, and it was seldom that the monks obtained news of what was passing on the mainland. Presently a servitor brought word that the prior would see Archie.
“It was ill talking last night,” the prior said, “with a man hungry and worn out; but I gathered from what you said that you are not only a follower of Bruce, but that you were with him at that fatal day at Dumfries when he drew his dagger upon Comyn in the sanctuary.”