“It is well avouched,” said the elder peasant, “that after Athelstane of Coningsburgh had been dead four weeks—”

“That is impossible,” said the Minstrel; “I saw him in life at the Passage of Arms at Ashby-de-la-Zouch.”

“Dead, however, he was, or else translated,” said the younger peasant; “for I heard the monks of St. Edmund’s singing the death’s hymn for him; and, moreover, there was a rich death-meal and dole at the castle of Coningsburgh, as right was; and thither had I gone, but for Mabel Parkins, who—”

“Ay, dead was Athelstane,” said the old man, shaking his head, “and the more pity it was, for the old Saxon blood—”

“But, your story, my masters—your story,” said the Minstrel, somewhat impatiently.

“Ay, ay—construe us the story,” said a burly friar, who stood beside them, leaning on a pole that exhibited an appearance between a pilgrim’s staff and a quarter-staff, and probably acted as either when occasion served—“your story,” said the stalwart churchman; “burn not daylight about it—we have short time to spare.”

“An please your reverence,” said Dennet, “a drunken priest came to visit the Sacristan at St. Edmund’s—”

“It does not please my reverence,” answered the churchman, “that there should be such an animal as a drunken priest, or, if there were, that a layman should so speak him. Be mannerly, my friend, and conclude the holy man only wrapped in meditation, which makes the head dizzy and foot unsteady, as if the stomach were filled with new wine—I have felt it myself.”

“Well, then,” answered Father Dennet, “a holy brother came to visit the Sacristan at St. Edmund’s—a sort of hedge-priest is the visitor, and kills half the deer that are stolen in the forest, who loves the tinkling of a pint-pot better than the sacring-bell, and deems a flitch of bacon worth ten of his breviary; for the rest, a good fellow and a merry, who will flourish a quarter-staff, draw a bow, and dance a Cheshire round, with e’er a man in Yorkshire.”

“That last part of thy speech, Dennet,” said the Minstrel, “has saved thee a rib or twain.”

“Tush, man, I fear him not,” said Dennet; “I am somewhat old and stiff, but when I fought for the bell and ram at Doncaster—”

“But the story—the story, my friend,” again said the Minstrel.

“Why, the tale is but this—Athelstane of Coningsburgh was buried at St. Edmund’s.”

“That’s a lie, and a loud one,” said the Friar, “for l saw him borne to his own castle of Coningsburgh.”

“Nay, then, e’en tell the story yourself, my masters,” said Dennet, turning sulky at these repeated contradictions; and it was with some difficulty that the boor could be prevailed on, by the request of his comrade and the Minstrel, to renew his tale.—“These two sober friars,” said he at length, “since this reverend man will needs have them such, had continued drinking good ale, and wine, and what not, for the best part of a summer’s day, when they were aroused by a deep groan, and a clanking of chains, and the figure of the deceased Athelstane entered the apartment, saying, ‘Ye evil shepherds!—”’

“It is false,” said the Friar hastily; “he never spoke a word.”

“So ho! Friar Tuck,” said the Minstrel, drawing him apart from the rustics; “we have started a new hare, I find.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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