Ivanhoe (Chapter 2, page 1 of 11)


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Chapter 2

A Monk there was, a fayre for the maistrie,
An outrider that loved venerie;
A manly man, to be an Abbot able,
Full many a daintie horse had he in stable:
And whan he rode, men might his bridle hear
Gingeling in a whistling wind as clear,
And eke as loud, as doth the chapell bell,
There as this lord was keeper of the cell.

--Chaucer.

Notwithstanding the occasional exhortation and chiding of his companion,
the noise of the horsemen's feet continuing to approach, Wamba could
not be prevented from lingering occasionally on the road, upon every
pretence which occurred; now catching from the hazel a cluster of
half-ripe nuts, and now turning his head to leer after a cottage maiden
who crossed their path. The horsemen, therefore, soon overtook them on
the road.

Their numbers amounted to ten men, of whom the two who rode foremost
seemed to be persons of considerable importance, and the others
their attendants. It was not difficult to ascertain the condition and
character of one of these personages. He was obviously an ecclesiastic
of high rank; his dress was that of a Cistercian Monk, but composed of
materials much finer than those which the rule of that order admitted.
His mantle and hood were of the best Flanders cloth, and fell in ample,
and not ungraceful folds, around a handsome, though somewhat corpulent
person.

His countenance bore as little the marks of self-denial, as his
habit indicated contempt of worldly splendour. His features might have
been called good, had there not lurked under the pent-house of his eye,
that sly epicurean twinkle which indicates the cautious voluptuary.
In other respects, his profession and situation had taught him a ready
command over his countenance, which he could contract at pleasure into
solemnity, although its natural expression was that of good-humoured
social indulgence. In defiance of conventual rules, and the edicts of
popes and councils, the sleeves of this dignitary were lined and turned
up with rich furs, his mantle secured at the throat with a golden
clasp, and the whole dress proper to his order as much refined upon and
ornamented, as that of a quaker beauty of the present day, who, while
she retains the garb and costume of her sect continues to give to its
simplicity, by the choice of materials and the mode of disposing them,
a certain air of coquettish attraction, savouring but too much of the
vanities of the world.

This worthy churchman rode upon a well-fed ambling mule, whose furniture
was highly decorated, and whose bridle, according to the fashion of the
day, was ornamented with silver bells. In his seat he had nothing of the
awkwardness of the convent, but displayed the easy and habitual grace of
a well-trained horseman. Indeed, it seemed that so humble a conveyance
as a mule, in however good case, and however well broken to a pleasant
and accommodating amble, was only used by the gallant monk for
travelling on the road. A lay brother, one of those who followed in the
train, had, for his use on other occasions, one of the most handsome
Spanish jennets ever bred at Andalusia, which merchants used at that
time to import, with great trouble and risk, for the use of persons of
wealth and distinction. The saddle and housings of this superb palfrey
were covered by a long foot-cloth, which reached nearly to the ground,
and on which were richly embroidered, mitres, crosses, and other
ecclesiastical emblems. Another lay brother led a sumpter mule, loaded
probably with his superior's baggage; and two monks of his own order,
of inferior station, rode together in the rear, laughing and conversing
with each other, without taking much notice of the other members of the
cavalcade.

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