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so rich that they could, at any time, bribe the great lords who had castles near, to help them and espouse their cause; and they could afford to subscribe such large sums to the church when they were applied to, that no superior ever took notice of the numerous complaints made by those whom they had injured.
The abbot of the convent was a young man and very handsome, and he did not live in any way like a churchman, nor observe any of the ordinances of his order. He would sometimes be absent for weeks together, and it was thought he went to the king's court, and lived in great luxury and splendour, and then disappeared as suddenly as he came, no one knowing who or what he was. It was suspected that he possessed a secret to renew his youth, for the oldest monk in the convent had never seen any change in his appearance.
At some distance from this valley, on one of the numerous heights, formerly stood a castle, which belonged to Sir Theobald Vernon, a brave old knight, who had two lovely daughters, Barbara and Alice, who were the pride of the whole country, and sought in marriage far and near neither of them, however, seemed to wish to enter into the state of matrimony; and Alice, on the co rary, had a vocation for the church, which her father regretted, as he did not wish to part with either. The confessor of the castle was considered a very holy man; but he had formerly belonged to the convent of Thorp Cloud, and those who knew that community were suspicious of all who came from it. He, however, had quitted the brotherhood for some reason, and was permitted to reside in Sir Theobald's house, where he was almost wholly a recluse, and the fame of his sanctity was extreme. His learning was also very great, and the stars and heavens were to him an open book, in which he could read the destiny of others.
Late one winter evening, when the snow was falling, and the bleak wind howled over the rocky moors, a traveller rung at the castle bell, and entreated shelter for the night. He was admitted, and found to be a knight of graceful and prepossessing appearance, and evidently, by his bearing, of gentle birth.
He represented that he had been benighted on his way, and knew not whither he had strayed; but when Sir Theobald came to converse with him, it appeared that it was to his castle that he was on his journey, in order to deliver letters from his father, an old companion in arms of Sir Theobald.
The meeting was very cordial-the more so from being unexpected; and the young knight was detained as a visitor for several days, during which time he had opportunities of seeing the two ladies frequently, and it was evident that Barbara had made a deep impression on him; in fact he was not long before he demanded her in marriage of her father, who was pleased with the project, for he was a person of great wealth and condition. The fair object of his attachment was far from insensible to his attentions, and gave her free consent to the wishes of her father and lover. It was agreed that the young knight, who was called Sir Everard De Clare, should return with a proper retinue, in a short time, and claim his bride: certain arrangements were entered into and preliminaries settled, after which Sir Everard took his leave.
A few weeks only had elapsed, when he returned
with a great many followers, splendidly attired: he brought letters from his father, regretting his illness, which prevented him from coming in person to be present at his son's marriage, but sending his blessing and a magnificent present.
Father Laurence, the confessor, performed the nuptial ceremony, and Sir Everard and his beautiful bride departed from the castle, followed by a numerous train, all brilliancy and gaiety.
They had been gone but twelve days, when Sir Theobald arose one morning very ill at ease, having had a dream of a strange nature, which greatly disturbed him. He thought he saw his daughter Barbara chained to the wall of a dungeon, and weeping bitterly, clasping her hands, and calling to him for help. He named this dream only to Alice, who endeavoured to reassure him, but in vain : he resolved to follow his daughter, and ascertain if any ill had befallen her.
Accordingly he quitted his castle, determined to go at once to the abode of Sir Everard, which was at a considerable distance. It was more than sixteen years since he had visited his old friend, who had been last to him about five years before, and at that time they had spoken of the alliance of their children: he had not seen young Everard since he was a boy till they had lately met, and the wishes of both fathers were accomplished in the manner related.
He travelled without attendants and in a gloomy mood, for he could not divest his mind of a certain terror respecting his daughter. When he came at length within sight of Thorp Cloud, at the entrance of the Valley of the Dove, suddenly his bridle was seized by no civil hand, and he was ordered to pay the accustomed toll; but, while he searched for his purse to comply with the demand, a voice near exclaimed, "It is the man we expected," and he was instantly dragged from his horse and carried off he knew not whither.
Meantime many days had elapsed, and the Lady Alice heard no news of her father; and still as time wore on he returned not, until her fears amounted to terror, and she imparted her alarm to Father Laurence, entreating his advice and assistance.
"Some evil, doubtless, has happened to your father," said he; "would that prayers might avert it! I will consult the stars, and endeavour to gain some clue to the mystery."
After some time the confessor informed the lady that he found by his art that danger hung over both Sir Theobald and his daughter Barbara, and that the only hope of their being rescued from it was for Alice to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Well, beneath the rocks of the Twelve Apostles, in Dove Dale, there to offer up her prayers and entreaties to be enlightened as to their fate. The holy man offered to accompany her on her expedition; and, impatient as she was to attempt the relief of those so dear to her, Alice immediately made ready for her journey.
The evening before their intended departure, just as she was preparing to retire to her chamber, a ring at the castle bell announced a visitor. On the portal being opened, a knight appeared, who desired that his name should be announced to Sir Theobald as Sir Everard de Clare. Alice received the announcement with an exclamation of delight, as she expected to hear news of her father; but great was her amaze
Alice remained transfixed to the spot with amazement, while the doors flew open, and the father of Sir Everard appeared, and approaching her, repeated his son's regrets for Sir Theobald's absence.
"Alas!" said Alice, "what is the meaning of this? -what fatal mistake has occurred! It is but a month since my sister was married in this castle to Sir Everard de Clare, and is now departed with her husband to his domain. My father's anxious care for her, excited by a fearful dream, caused him to follow them ;-what vision is this which so bewilders me?"
centre of the River Dove, which was there so shallow as to be easily forded. Alice knelt by the side of the water and offered up her prayers.
"Stay here, my child," said Father Laurence, "while I absent myself for a little space and offer my prayers at the chapel of Our Lady on yonder height. Remain you in meditation, imploring the Divine aid till I return."
The daughter of Sir Theobald obeyed his injunctions, and, with tears and sobs, uttered her entreaties to the Holy Apostles to enlighten her on the subject most interesting to her heart.
Suddenly she lifted up her head at a sound near her, and beheld, close at her side, the false Sir Everard who had married her sister.
"Be not alarmed, lovely Alice," said he calmly, as she faintly shrieked, "you are the victim of delusion-I know all-Barbara and myself, as well as our father, have been nearly sacrificed to a base plot, but we are all safe. Follow me, if you would behold those for whom your prayers have just arisen, and see them happy and in security."
Bewildered and amazed, Alice knew not what to believe, or how to act: the young man continued to assure her of his and begged her to have confidence in him; and, taking her hand, drew her from the fountain. Hardly, however, had they crossed the little ford when, from a projecting rock, a party rushed down and seized the supposed Sir Everard, while he who had proclaimed himself the true one, appeared with his father at a little distance.
The false knight defended himself vigorously, and called loudly for assistance, at the same time the chapel bell above rung violently, making the valley echo with the sound; and while he was still resisting odds, a large party of the soldiers of the Convent of Thorp Cloud suddenly appeared, and hurrying forward, engaged with the men of the castle. They speedily rescued their friend and chief, for such the false Everard appeared to be; and, after a long struggle, their superior numbers were found too much for the supporters of Alice, and the latter, carrying the lady with them, were obliged to fly.
Arrived at the castle, they held consultation as to what had better be done it was now evident to both father and son, that the impostor was no other than the redoubted Abbot of Thorp Cloud; and it seemed but too plain that the Lady Barbara and Sir Theobald had both fallen his victims. Father Laurence's disappearance also included him in their suspicion.
But though they were aware of all this, yet the difficulty was to know where to look for redress. The Abbot's wealth and power made him the terror of the country far and near, and his supporters were numerous and much more influential than Sir Everard or any of his friends. An appeal to royal justice was the only chance left them, and that they at length resolved on.
King John was then monarch of England, and though a prince without religion or morality, he was avaricious to a degree which caused him to stop at nothing likely to replenish his coffers; it was true that the Abbot's friendship might be useful in supplying him with treasure, but not to the amount that the confiscation of his monastery and the obtaining all the ill-gotten wealth of the community was sure to do.
The church, however, always ready to screen her sons, would doubtless step forward in the Abbot's defence; but all the nobles in the land would be likely to espouse their quarrel, as the outrage they complained of had been committed on one of the privileged class, and not merely on a peasant or yeoman, whose wrongs would scarcely have interested them. It was a long and perilous journey to Eltham Palace, where King John then resided; but the father and son resolved to set out, the Lady Alice being in their company, as they felt her safety could not be secured if she were left behind.
Some weeks had passed away, and the Valley of the Dove was restored to all its original tranquillity: the clear beautiful stream ran gushing along its rocky bed, now hiding itself beneath the overhanging trees, now spreading its shallow waves across the weedy expanse amongst flowers and grass, for at that time no dams kept it within bounds, and formed artificial cataracts, as now. Few travellers passed through, for the reputation of this quiet retreat had become suspected, and none but strangers ventured into its recesses, enthusiasts alone, who believed in the miraculous power of the healing well, and the intercession of the Twelve Apostles, came to the spot, and the tyrants of Thorp Cloud found that their revenues were diminishing.
Enormous wealth, however, was theirs, and their power proportionably great. The Abbot was seated at his sumptuous board with several of his favourite friends of the monastery, and a churchman of high rank from a distant convent in the South, in whose honour a feast was held. Music, wine, and mirth prevailed, and nothing that could recall the gloom of the cloister was to be traced in their demeanour. At length a pause ensued: one by one the guests retired, and the Abbot and his friend were left alone to commune, when the following dialogue ensued :
"It is true, then, that King John intends to take up the quarrel of this foolish knight, Sir Everard de Clare; and that he believes the wild ravings of this silly girl?"
"So true," replied his friend, "that by to-morrow's dawn the valley will be filled with his troops, and you will be summoned to give up the prisoners supposed to be in your custody, or your monastery will be besieged."
"Has the King weighed well the consequences of such an act?" said the Abbot. "I imagine not: he thinks to gain easy possession of all my wealth, but he knows not my resources. This paper will put him in possession of many facts he is not aware of, and will teach him better policy. Be it your care to present it to his Majesty, at the same time that you invite him, in my name, to visit my humble cell, where I will give him a royal reception, and show him such reasons as shall make him altogether change his intentions, or I have miscalculated his character. You see yonder tun, it is supposed to contain choice wine -open the lid, which is unfastened, and behold its quality."
The priest obeyed, and, with the Abbot's help, removed the cover of a huge barrel, which stood on one end in a corner of the apartment, and saw wi tonishment that it was filled with broad gold pieces.
"This paper informs the King of what vintage this wine is," said the Abbot, smiling; "it is not the first time he has tasted it, and he will not resist it now. But for your timely warning, it might not have been prepared, and one of somewhat smaller dimensions shall forthwith be dispatched to your convent at Eltham, as a token of my gratitude.'
The friends, after this conversation, returned to the table, and as the Abbot had a fine judgment in wine of all sorts, he assisted his friend in perfecting his own, which was little inferior, and it was nearly morning when they separated to their respective cells. By daybreak, however, every altar in the chapel of the monastery blazed with gems and gold and glittering lights
all the precious relics were displayed, and gorgeous preparation was made as for some important occasion. Scarcely had the sun risen, when, advancing from the further end of the valley, was seen a procession, escorted by a military guard, such as was always attached to religious establishments in those troublous times. The banners and ensigns which waved on high, proclaimed that the Abbot of the rich and important Abbey of Beauchief, and the Superior of the White Canons of Dale Abbey, near Derby, were on their way to the monastery of Thorp Cloud, on a friendly visit.
The procession had advanced to the foot of the pyramidal mountain, and was beginning its progress of ascent, when clarions were heard at a distance, and another party, numerous and well armed, appeared advancing in the opposite direction; these carried the royal flag of England, and foremost of them all rode a knight, who was easily recognized as the King. Their intent was evidently hostile; but, when they beheld the religious procession which preceded them, there was a pause, and a short parley between the leader and his immediate followers. At the same time a party of monks, headed by the priest, who had lately held converse with the Abbot of Thorp Cloud, were seen hastening down the hill, and in a short time reached the spot where King John stood. The monarch started on beholding him.
"How!" he exclaimed; "good Prior, this is, indeed, an unexpected meeting-I thought you safe in your cell at Eltham, and now I see you in my path."
"The church, Sire," said the Prior, "is always vigilant, and always prompt to serve its sovereign and its country. Be pleased to read this paper, and you will perceive that the Abbot of yonder monastery has your good in view: he was apprised of your intended visit to these parts, and has deputed me to entreat you will not pass his humble walls without partaking of the poor hospitality he can offer. Two prelates from neighbouring convents have, at his summons, arrived with the hope of being in time to offer their homage to your Majesty, and all is prepared to receive your visit, should you deign to honour this mean place with your presence."
The King smiled-took the paper, and as he read it his face flushed, and his eyes sparkled. He cast a hasty glance along the line of his followers, which, though numerous, were unequal to those his quick eye discerned upon the mountain-road above. He muttered to a knight near him, "I am fairly caught by this wily priest he is supported by the whole clergy of the country, and I shall gain little but blows by at
tacking his eagle's nest. It is best to put on a face of friendship-we must get rid of these peevish knights-be it your care to divert them, while I, with some stout followers, will repair to the monastery and partake of the repast that awaits me. This keen mountain air has awakened my appetite. A tun of gold !-to be renewed every year-the Abbot is not a friend with whom to be too severe."
The King was feasted in the monastery that day in a manner worthy of the richest potentate of Europe, and frequently did he afterwards allude to the unrivalled cheer which he there enjoyed. When he departed, amongst other presents with which his followers were laden, an enormous tun of choice wine was with difficulty conveyed to the foot of the mountain by the domestics of the establishment, and placed in a wagon, prepared for it by the provident care of
King John went merrily away, followed by his train, and took the road to the South, while Sir Everard de Clare, his son, and the Lady Alice, returned mournfully to the castle of the former, at a considerable distance from the Valley the Dove.
Nothing was ever heard more of Sir Theobald or his daughter Barbara, and, after a lapse of a short period, Lady Alice became the wife of the young Sir Everard. In the wars of the Barons, which ensued before many years had passed, both the father and son distinguished themselves in arms against the King, and became his most determined foes, affording great assistance to the patriotic knights who forced him to do that justice which his evil nature resisted.
But nothing seemed to shake the stability of the monastery of Thorp Cloud: its Abbot grew richer and more powerful, and derived enormous wealth from the fame of the Holy Well, where miracles increased to such a degree that it became a place of the greatest resort in the kingdom.
He was late one evening in summer returning from an expedition which had caused his absence several days from his monastic retreat, when as his horse entered the dreary pass which opens into the valley, he suddenly started and reared, and refused to go on. The Abbot gazed around him, but could perceive nothing to cause alarm, and urged the animal to advance, but in vain; he therefore dismounted and tried to lead him along, when, in the deep shade of a high pointed rock, he saw a tall figure standing motionless, just in his path. An unusual tremor took possession of him, and he paused, unable to conquer his alarm;—at length he said
"Stranger, remove, I pray, from my path; you obstruct my way-let me pass.
The figure moved on without speaking, and continued to proceed the way he was going: the horse would not move, but trembled violently in every limb, and stood as if rooted to the spot. The Abbot, therefore, let go his bridle, and left him where he was, intending to send some of his people to lead him
home, and he himself stepped onwards towards the monastery. The dark figure was still before him, though at moments he could not distinguish any person; and again the form, which was that of a knight in armour, covered with a large mantle, was clearly visible. It stalked on and the Abbot followed: it ascended the mountain; still he continued his way, though his nerves were shaken, and an unearthly dread made him shudder as he felt compelled to fix his eyes on the stranger. Just as he gained a turn in the precipitous road where the dark turrets of the monastery were visible crowning the steep, a low hollow roar of thunder swept along the air, and seemed to shake the ground beneath his feet.
It was then the figure turned, and with a menacing gesture pointed first to the Abbot, and then upwards to the convent ;-it remained motionless, and the Abbot found that he must pass it before he could continue his way. He felt that his courage was hardly equal to the task, but he summoned all his resolution and advanced;-he reached the spot where the dark figure had halted; he made a spring to avoid his vicinity, and hurried forward, when his waist was suddenly encompassed by a powerful arm, which compressed him as if he had been in the coil of a serpent-and he was hurled from the rock on which he stood into the chasm below. At the moment he fell, a shock as of an earthquake shivered the mountain;-lightnings fell on every pinnacle of the convent, and their forked darts pierced every recess, while the wind and thunder roared and howled louder than the human shrieks which the universal destruction smothered.
On the top of Thorp Cloud, the single mass of stone which is so remarkable, is the sole vestige left of what was once the famous monastery of the robber Abbot destroyed by a sudden convulsion of nature; and beneath that wonderful pyramid all the ill-gotten treasures he and his band had amassed for years, lie buried.
There is a singular rock in the valley, just above the deepest part of the stream, which, at a distance, bears a strange resemblance to a female in the attitude of flight, as if she were about to precipitate herself from the height. It is called "The Lady's Rock." Further on there is one which imagination can easily shape into the semblance of a knight in armour, covered with a mantle; and in the lowest part of the valley, beneath the steepest side of Thorp Cloud, a mass of rocks bears some resemblance to a prostrate figure in robes, the head covered with a cowl. One of these is called "The Knight's," the other "The Monk's Rock."
READER, tarry with us awhile in this old sea-side town of Deal; it has its associations-and some of them are pleasing, if not instructive. According to ancient writers, it was once called Dola, and afterwards Dale, which by an easy corruption became Deal,-taking its name from its situation, a low open plain on the sea-shore.
After being repulsed by the Britons at Dover, Julius Cæsar here made his landing good, a fact inferred from his Commentaries; and if further proof be needed, ntrenchments are still visible. A hoary old boatman points the spot to the inquiring visitor,-so old, he seems old enough to have witnessed the event."
The first objects which arrest the attention, are the well appointed boats ranged on the beach, and the skilful men who man them; and in proposing to pass a short time in reflecting on the hazardous vocation of the mariners, it will be necessary to describe the position of the neighbouring seas, the scene of their dangerous exploits.
The channel of the sea adjoining the shore is known as the Downs, noted as a safe and commodious roadstead, large enough for the navies of all the world. Though the anchorage here is considered good for shipping, yet in strong gales from the westward of south, it is the reverse-that wind blowing direct on the Goodwin Sands; and in one instance it happened most disastrous to the Royal Navy, when thirteen menof-war were lost, together with their crews, with the exception of seventy men.
On the opposite side of this channel, in a parallel line with Deal, are the Goodwin Sands,-of the origin of which there are various opinions,-consisting of a softer, more spongy, and yet tenacious matter withal, than the neighbouring sands; they are consequently of a more voracious property, so that a ship of the largest size, striking on them, is swallowed up in a
brief space of time: however, when the water is off them, they become exceedingly hard and firm, and parties in the summer land on them; but upon the rising of the tide, they become fluid, and float to and fro with the waves.
Since the peace, Deal has been deserted; the immense fleets of men-of-war, which used to rendezvous in the Downs, afforded occupation to the boatmen, but now grass grows in the streets. The Deal man may be said to live in strife, not of his own seeking, but strife brought to his doors by others. Calms are as fatal to his prosperity, as a long continued peace. There must be gales of wind, or bursts of war; without them he is nothing-and this from position alone.
It is no uncommon sight in Deal to see men who have saved fifty human lives-one individual counts a hundred-the majority taken from the Goodwin Sands, during violent gales of wind. Looking at the clusters of boats which here and there appear between the houses on the beach, I could but regard them as so many little arks; each, doubtless, had borne many freights of suffering humanity, snatching them from the deluge of waters, and landing them in safety.
From this rapid sketch of the town of Deal, and its position in respect to the Goodwin Sands, the nature of the Deal boatman's occupation will be readily understood; his calling is connected with the channel lying between them, in attending upon the wants of the shipping at anchor there, and assisting those whom accident has forced upon the dreaded Goodwins. In the performance of this duty, he faces the sea in its most terrible moods, and accomplishes some of the most daring feats that come within the scope of human action.
Here, frequently, may be seen the proudest of human triumphs-a triumph over the wild sea, when whipped into its maddest fury by the winds; and the