Anne of Geierstein (3)

(…) The English merchant hesitated a moment. He had no fancy for any new companion on the road, and although the countenance of the priest was rather handsome, considering his years, yet the expression was such as by no means invited confidence. On the contrary, there was something mysterious and gloomy which clouded his brow, though it was a lofty one, and a similar expression gleamed in his cold gray eye, and intimated severity and even harshness of disposition. But notwithstanding this repulsive circumstance, the priest had lately rendered Philipson a considerable service, by detecting the treachery of his hypocritical guide, and the merchant was not a man to be startled from his course by any imaginary prepossessions against the looks or manners of any one, or apprehension of machinations against himself. He only revolved in his mind the singularity attending his destiny, which, while it was necessary for him to appear before the Duke of Burgundy in the most conciliatory manner, seemed to force upon him the adoption of companions who must needs be obnoxious to that prince; and such, he was too well aware, must he the case with the Priest of St. Paul’s. Having reflected for an instant, he courteously accepted the offer of the priest to guide him to some place of rest and entertainment, which must be absolutely necessary for his horse before he reached Strassburg, even if he himself could have dispensed with it.”

The party being thus arranged, the novice brought forth the priest’s steed, which he mounted with grace and agility, and the neophyte, being probably the same whom Arthur had represented during his escape from La Ferette, took charge, at his master’s command, of the baggage-horse of the English man; and, crossing himself, with a humble inclination of his head, as the priest passed him, he fell into the rear, and seemed to pass the time, like the false brother Bartholemew, in telling his beads, with an earnestness which had perhaps more of affected than of real piety. The Black Priest of St. Paul’s, to judge by the glance which he cast upon his novice, seemed to disdain the formality of the young man’s devotion. He rode upon a strong black horse, more like a warrior’s charger than the ambling palfrey of a priest, and the manner in which he managed him was entirely devoid of awkwardness and timidity. His pride, whatever was his character, was not certainly of a kind altogether professional, but had its origin in other swelling thoughts which arose in his mind, to mingle with and enhance the self-consequence of a powerful ecclesiastic.

As Philipson looked on his companion from time to time, his scrutinizing glance was returned by a haughty smile, which seemed to say, “You may gaze on my form and features, but you cannot penetrate my mystery.”

The looks of Philipson, which were never known to sink before mortal man, seemed to retort, with equal haughtiness, “Nor shall you, proud priest, know that you are now in company with one whose secret is far more important than thine own can be.”

At length the priest made some advance towards conversation, by allusion to the footing upon which, by a mutual understanding, they seemed to have placed their intercourse.

“We travel then,” he said, like two powerful enchanters, each conscious of his own high and secret purpose; each in his own chariot of clouds, and neither imparting to his companion the direction or purpose of his journey.”

“Excuse me, father,” answered Philipson, “I have neither asked your purpose, nor concealed my own, so far as it concerns you. I repeat, I am bound to the presence of the Duke of Burgundy, and my object, like that of any other merchant, is to dispose of my wares to advantage.”

“Doubtless it would seem so,” said the Black Priest, “from the extreme attention to your merchandise which you showed not above half an hour since, when you knew not whether your bales had crossed the river with your son, or were remaining in your own charge. Are English gentlemen usually so indifferent to the sources of their traffic?”

“When their lives are in danger,” said Philipson, “they are sometimes negligent of their fortunes.”

“It is well,” replied the priest, and again resumed his solitary musings; until another half-hour’s travelling brought them to a dorff, or village, which the Black Priest informed Philipson was that where he proposed to stop for the night.

“The novice,” he said, “will show you the inn, which is of good reputation, and where you may lodge with safety. For me, I have to visit a penitent in this village, who desires my ghostly offices; — perhaps I may see you again this evening, perhaps not till the next morning; — at any rate, adieu for the present.”

So saying, the priest stopped his horse, while the novice, coming close up to Philipson’s side, conducted him onward through the narrow street of the village, whilst the windows exhibited here and there a twinkling gleam, announcing that the hour of darkness was arrived. Finally he led the Englishman through an archway into a sort of courtyard, where there stood a car or two of a particular shape, used occasionally by women when they travel, and some other vehicles of the same kind. Here the young man threw himself from the sumptor-horse, and placing the rein in Philipson’s hand disappeared in the increasing darkness, after pointing to a large but dilapidated building, along the front of which not a spark of light was to be discovered from any of the narrow and numerous windows, which were dimly visible in the twilight.

(aus: Walter Scott – Anne of Geierstein, or The Maiden of the Mist, Kapitel 18, Edinburgh 1829)

Anne of Geierstein (2)

(…) Here he was interrupted by the door of the chapel suddenly opening, when an ecclesiastic appeared on the threshold. Philipson instantly knew the Priest of Saint Paul’s, whom he had seen that morning at La Ferette. Bartholomew also knew him, as it would seem; for his officious hypocritical eloquence failed him in an instant, and he stood before the priest with his arms folded on his breast, like a man who waits for the sentence of condemnation.

“Villain,” said the ecclesiastic, regarding the guide with a severe countenance, “dost thou lead a stranger into the houses of the Holy Saints, that thou mayst slay him, and possess thyself of his spoils? But Heaven will no longer bear with thy perfidy. Back, thou wretch, to meet thy brother miscreants, who are hastening hitherward. Tell them thy arts were unavailing, and that the innocent stranger is under MY protection — under my protection, which those who presume to violate will meet with the reward of Archibald de Hagenbach?”

The guide stood quite motionless, while addressed by the priest in a manner equally menacing and authoritative; and no sooner did the latter cease speaking, than, without offering a word either in justification or reply, Bartholomew turned round, and retreated at a hasty pace by the same road which had conducted the traveller to the chapel.

“And do you, worthy Englishman,” continued the priest, “enter into this chapel and perform in safety those devotions, by means of which yonder hypocrite designed to detain you until his brethren in iniquity came up. But first, wherefore are you alone? I trust naught evil hath befallen your young companion?”

“My son,” said Philipson, “crosses the Rhine at yonder ferry, as we had important business to transact on the other side.”

As he spoke thus, a light boat, about which two or three peasants had been for sonic time busy, was seen to push from the shore, and shoot into the stream, to which it was partly compelled to give way, until a sail stretched along the slender yard, and supporting the bark against the current, enabled her to stand obliquely across the river.

“Now, praise be to God!” said Philipson, who was aware that the bark he looked upon must be in the act of carrying his son beyond the reach of the dangers by which he was himself surrounded.

“Amen!” answered the priest, echoing the pious ejaculation of the traveller. “Great reason have you to return thanks to Heaven.”

“Of that I am convinced,” replied Philipson; “but yet from you I hope to learn the special cause of danger from which I have escaped?”

“This is neither time nor place for such an investigation,” answered the priest of Saint Paul’s. “it is enough to say, that yonder fellow, well known for his hypocrisy and his crimes, was present when the young Switzer, Sigismund, reclaimed from the executioner the treasure of which you were robbed by Hagenbach. Thus Bartholomew’s avarice was awakened. He under-took to be your guide to Strassburg, with the criminal intent of detaining you by the way till a party came up, against whose numbers resistance would have been in vain. But his purpose has been anticipated. — And now, ere giving vent to other worldly thoughts, whether of hope or fear, — to the chapel, sir, and join in orisons to Him who hath been your aid, and to those who have interceded with Him in your behalf.”

Philipson entered the chapel with his guide, and joined in returning thanks to Heaven and the tutelary power of the spot, for the escape which had been vouchsafed to him.
Here a novice appeared from the vestiary of the chapel at his call, and received commands to inquire at the hamlet whether Philipson’s bales, with the horse which transported them, had been left there, or ferried over along with his son.

The novice, being absent a few minutes, presently returned with the baggage-horse, which, with its burden, Arthur, from regard to his father’s accommodation, had left on the western side of the river. The priest looked on attentively, while the elder Philipson, mounting his own horse, and taking the rein of the other in his hand, bade the Black Priest adieu in these words, — “And now, father, farewell! I must pass on with my hales, since there is little wisdom in travelling with them after nightfall, else would I gladly suit my pace, with your permission, so as to share the way with you.”

“If it is your obliging purpose to do so, as indeed I was about to propose,” said the priest, “know I will be no stay to your journey. I have here a good horse; and Melchior, who must otherwise have gone on foot, may ride upon your sumptor-horse. I rather propose this course, as it will be rash for you to travel by night. I can conduct you to an hostelry about five miles off, which we may reach with sufficient daylight, and where you will be lodged safely for your reckoning.” (…)

(aus: Walter Scott – Anne of Geierstein, or The Maiden of the Mist, Kapitel 18, Edinburgh 1829)