story 6 story 5 story 8 story 9 story 10 story 11 story 12 story 7 home story I story 2 story 3 story 4 St Anselm College
British Museum MS. Royal 15 A. xx. fo. 163 b - 164 a
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Story X, set in Exeter, tells the tale of a meat thief who in fear of being identified goes to confession. Meanwhile the victim of his theft seeks the thief's identity aided by a necromancer. The thief's confession puts an end to the necromantic vision, just as the thief's identity is about to be revealed.

10. How a repenting robber, after confession, disappeared from the eyes of a spirit. It happened once upon a time in Exeter. That a certain digger, a great laborer and glutton, stayed in a certain apartment of a spacious house which had many apartments with walls interspersed and but by no means one dwelling. Here, however, the hungry digger was frequently accustomed to climb by means of a certain ladder into the dwelling and to cut away meat suspended in the same place and to cook it and thence to eat it even in Lent. In fact the master of the house seeing his meat cut away in this manner questioned his servants about this deed. With everyon denying, however, and clearing themselves through oaths. He threatened that he was willing to go to a certain wicked necromancer and to examine through him this strange deed. When he heard this, the digger strongly dreaded it and he went to the monks and he confessed his crime in secret and was sacramentally absolved. Indeed the aforementioned master of the house, as he threatened, went to the necromancer, and the necromancer annointed the finger nail of a certain little boy and through his incantations he asked the boy what he saw. To whom the boy responded “I see the groom cut from his hair.” To whom the necromancer said “You should conjure him to appear to you in the most beautiful form in which he will be able. And so the boy did. And the little boy declared, “Behold, I see an excedingly handsome horse.”  And after that he saw a certain man in such a form as if it were the aforementioned digger ascending by means of a ladder and cutting away meat together with the horse following. And the priest inquired, “What are they doing now, the man and the horse?” And the child responded “Behold he cooks and eats those meats.” And having questioned further, “And what is he doing now?” And the little boy said “Together they hurry to the church of the monks. But the horse waits before the doors and the man enters and on bent knees he spoke with a certain brother who places his own hand over the man's head.” Once more the priest asked the little boy “What are they doing now?” To whom the boy responded, “Both have vanished at the same time from my eyes and I do not see them further, and I do not know without a doubt where they are.”

This story, although long, does not contain a ghost, but a wizard summoning prophetic spirits.

line 2 Exon probably Exeter, a city in Devonshire, in southwestern England, a long way from North Yorkshire.

lines 4-5 muris intermixtis The house was probably relatively large and had makeshift walls set up as dividers. This setup probably looked something like an office with cubicles.

line 8 Quadrigesima It is a common Catholic practice to fast during Lent. Because this digger, is eating during a time of fasting, theft is not his only sin.

line 11 purgantibus here, is the equivalent to clearing oneself from guilt or coming up with an alibi.

line 12 nigromanticum The threat of necromancy would have been taken very seriously.

line 13 quo audito How the fossor heard about this is unclear. Perhaps he has discovered this news through rumors or word of mouth. He probably heard this through the grapevine (i.e. from the servants whom the master asked about the crime.)

line 14 fratres The monks were probably Benedictine, as there were Benedictine monasteries existed in Exeter at that time.
confitebatur delictum suum This refers to the Catholic sacrament of penance. The sinner (here it is the miner) confesses his sins to a priest (fratres) who will absolve him of the sin(s) usually with an instruction to pray a certain amount of prayers.

line 18 Garcionem- capitalization indicates the beginning of dialogue. Garcionem could be translated as “groom.” It may also be a proper name.

line 21 pulcrum equum the horse is Garcio/the groom in the most beautiful form he can take. Garcio follows the man, allowing the boy to see their movements.

line 24 clericus refers to the nigromaticus.

     Story X does not, as is normal in Byland Abbey Ghost Stories, involve a ghost, in the basic sense of the word, but a necromancer or wizard who tells the future. Ironically, this story occurs in Exeter, England, which is nearly on the opposite side of England from Yorkshire, where most of the Byland Stories occur. This unique location allots for some strange activity within the tale. The main character is an unnamed miner, who happens to be a hard worker, yet also a glutton, who eats even during Lent. Because these stories have strong Benedictine influences, the gluttony plays an interesting role: gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins and, therefore, very frowned upon by Benedictines. His lust for food during Lent emphasizes the sinfulness. This miner even sneakily cuts meat out of his master’s attic in order to satisfy his hunger. Therefore, not only is this man a glutton, but he is a robber. The setup of the house is worth mentioning as well. Based on the story, the house seems to be one large room with dividers setup to separate different rooms for all the members. There also is a ladder—although it is unclear whether this ladder is a permanent structure or a belonging of the miner—which leads to an attic that stores meat. The meat, too, remains unmentioned, although it is probably a pig or cow. When the master of the house realizes someone has been stealing his valued meat, he threatens to go to a necromancer, which, with the strong Catholic background of the tale, is a shocking matter. It is almost humorous and even, some would argue, ironic that the master would go to such great lengths and make such a huge deal out of this matter. The miner appears as a glutton when he steals meat and eats it. However the master becomes angry at his missing food, as well. Luckily for the miner, he has an alibi and cleans any suspicion. Once again, the Catholic influence of the tale takes hold and the miner goes to confess his sins to monks. This penance reflects the other Byland tales where the dead ask to be absolved from sins. The master’s clerk, or assistant, questions a young boy, who seems to have visionary powers.  The boy tells the clerk that he can see a man committing the crime but, for some strange reason, cannot decipher who it is. This probably emphasizes the goodness of the sacrament of confession, as once the miner confesses his sins, he is not reprimanded for them.