Historical Miniatures
August Strindberg

Part 4 out of 6

foot of the cliff, and the conquest of Spain by the Moors began.
Mussa ibn Nazir came on the following day with the chief body.
The King of the West Goths assembled as rapidly as possible a
hundred thousand men, and, believing himself invincible, marched
thither to view the victory. Clothed in silk and gold, like a
Byzantine Emperor, he lay in a chariot of ivory drawn by two white
mules, and followed by his attendants and the women of his harem.

For three days all went well, but on the fourth day, something
unexpected happened.

Shut in between the mountains and rivers of Andalusia, his troops
could hardly move, and the King had encamped on the bank of the

Then he saw his people pouring down like a stream from the heights
--one division under Archbishop Oppas, the other under Count Julius.

Roderick, who believed that they were fleeing from the enemy, broke
up his camp. He could not, however, turn round, but was forced into
the stream. He tried to reach the other side by swimming, but there
he was met by archers. An Amazon came galloping along the bank on a
red roan, and directed her bow against the drowning man in the
middle of the stream. On the one bank he saw his troops, who had
halted, signal with white flags as a sign of peace to the enemy on
the opposite bank. When he saw that he was betrayed, he sank, and
with him the whole kingdom of the West Goths. Mussa marched at once
to Toledo, before a new king could be chosen. Thereby Islam became
domiciled in Spain, and remained there till 1492. The Jews, who had
especially helped the Moors, were at once emancipated, and in every
town of Spain a Jew was appointed governor.


EASTER, A.D. 843,

The Benedictine Convent in Seligenstadt on the Main.

To my dear wife and present sister in Christ,

Emma, from Eginhard, formerly secretary to Charles the Great, now a
monk in Seligenstadt on the Main:

Passion-week is at an end, and the Resurrection days are here;
spring has melted the frost; mind and memory have woken, and the
past rises up again.

Yesterday, on Easter Eve, I walked in the convent garden, and
thought of my vanished five and seventy years. I thought of the fine
things which were said in the learned circle or academy of the Great
Unforgettable, when we played with words and thoughts, like
chess-players with their pieces.

"What is man?" asked our teacher, our wisest, Alcuin, whom we called

Angilbert, the Emperor's son-in-law, the husband of the beautiful
Bertha, answered, "Man is the slave of death, a flying traveller, a
guest in his own dwelling."

"Yes, truly," I said to myself, "a guest; and soon I will pack my
knapsack, pay my account, and journey on."

I went along the river-bank and thought, "The same river, always the
same river, but always new water; the same water never runs twice
past. Such is life, such is the river of time, the heroes and events
of history--the panorama of time, the years and the glory of them,
all pass and perish."

I then wished to pluck the first Easter lilies to send to you, who
were once my wife, and went to the gardener down by the carp-pond.
Whom did I meet on the path under the ivy, this plant of eternity,
which only knows of death and birth, but not the changes of the
seasons? I met the last survivor of the great days, of the Emperor's
Round Table, Thiodolf the Goth, now Bishop of Orleans. I cannot
describe to you my joy at meeting him again, nor depict my feelings
when I read in the face of the old man the whole history of our life.

It was six o'clock in the evening, and after we had sung Vespers,
our fast was at an end. I had a large round table placed in the
refectory, only for us two, but with twelve chairs and twelve places
laid. From the Bishop's guest-room I had the largest armchair
brought, and decorated it with leaves and flowers; it was that of
the Emperor of blessed memory, who now rests in the cathedral
at Aachen, the cathedral which I had the favour and honour of
building. The other chairs I assigned to absent friends, first
Alcuin, then the poet Angilbert-Homerus, the Irishman Clement, the
Bavarian Leidrade, and others whom you knew, but have forgotten.

What an evening, what a night, we passed by the open garden window!
We spoke naturally of the Great Unforgettable, and lived his rich
and varied life again in our thoughts. We followed him against the
Longobards and Saracens, against the Hungarians and other Slavs. But
we did not like to linger over his thirty years' war against the
Saxons, chiefly out of reverence for his memory, for he ought to
have used only spiritual weapons in his campaign of conversion.
Remember the Frankish King who sent our friend Anschar to the wild
Swedes. He had no armed men, but only God's Holy Word. Certainly
he was robbed by thieves like St. Paul, but when once he had
arrived he won the King and the nobles of the country by his
gentle bearing and preaching.

On the other hand, we lingered gladly in our conversation over the
great Christmas Day of 800 A.D. in Rome, when the Western Roman
Empire was restored, and the crown was bestowed on Germany. This had
been prophesied by Tacitus, and Hermann in the Teutoburger Wald had
shed his martyr's blood for it. Rome and Germany! A spiritual and a
worldly kingdom! Inscrutable are the ways of the Lord!

When we drank to the strong and gentle Carolus Magnus Augustus, we
both rose, Thiodolf and I, and bowed before the empty chair, as
though he sat there in bodily presence. Where is he now, the
departed of blessed memory--where is his great kingdom, which only
his powerful spirit could hold together? What he united has now been
scattered by his successors! You know, after the last treaty at
Verdun, the kingdom of Karl the Great has ceased to exist; in its
place we now have three--Germany, France, and Italy. Perhaps it
must be so, and perhaps a single man cannot rule so great an empire.
But it is sad to perceive in history that every great achievement
carries within it the seeds of decay, and that the heights are
always bordered by deep abysses. Brother Thiodolf brought
disquieting news from France. The Saxons, who were finally
overthrown with their powerful chief Widukind, have devised a
terrible revenge. They have invited Danish and Swedish pirates,
called Vikings, into the country. These have sailed up the Rhine, up
the Seine as far as Rouen, and up the Loire. These Scandinavians are
of German stock, and are therefore of kin to us Franks, but are more
nearly related to the Goths, Heruli, Rugieri, and Longobards, of
whom the last three are Scandinavian. Odovacer, who overthrew the
Western Roman Empire, and deposed the last Emperor Romulus
Augustulus, was a Rugier from the Danish island Rugen. These men
from the North seem to be now about to step on the stage. Possibly
they are the Gog and Magog concerning whom the Old Testament
prophesied that they should come from the North. We did not end
our conversation till midnight, Thiodolf and I; then we walked up
and down in the garden till early mass, for we could not sleep.

Now I close this letter, dear wife, by wishing you happy days far
from all the tumult of the world. I only wait for my departure, for
life has lost its relish for me, since my lord and Emperor has
passed into the great silence. Greet the brethren and the few who
still survive from the time of the Great Emperor, and accept, dear
Emma, the greeting of your dead husband, whom you will not see
before the Day of Resurrection, the great Easter, when we shall
all meet again. Till then, "Be of one mind, live in peace, and the
God of Jove and of peace shall be with you."


In the year 998 A.D. Rome had become a German Empire and the
German Emperor had become a Roman. Otto III, brought up by his
Graeco-Byzantine mother Theofano, had inherited her love of the
southern lands, and therefore generally occupied his palace on the
Aventine, installed himself as Emperor, and cherished a plan of
converting Rome into the capital of the German Empire. He was now
twenty years old, ambitious, crochety, pious, and cruel.

During one of his absences, the old Roman spirit had revived, and
the high-born senator Crescentius had set up himself as Tribune of
the people, freed Rome from the Germans, driven away Pope Gregory V,
and installed John XVI in his place. The Emperor returned quickly to
Rome, took Crescentius and his Pope prisoner, and then presented the
Romans with a vivid spectacle, the like of which they had not seen,
though their fathers had.

The Leonine quarter, which embraced the Vatican Hill, with the
oldest St. Peter's Church and a papal palace, was connected with
the town by the Pons Aelius or Bridge of Hadrian. At the head of
the bridge, on the right side, was the sepulchre of Hadrian, a
tower-shaped building in which the Emperors up to the time of
Caracalla had been buried. When the Goths took Rome, the sepulchre
became a fortress, and remained so for a long time.

When the Romans woke up on that memorable morning of the year 998
A.D., they saw twelve wooden crosses erected on Hadrian's Tower
terrace. Right above them was to be seen the image of the Archangel
Michael, with his drawn sword, which had been erected by Gregory the
Great. Many people were assembled on the Aelian Bridge to see the
spectacle, and among them were a French merchant and a Gothic
pilgrim who had come from the west across the Leonine quarter.
The sword of the Archangel flamed in the beams of the sun, which
was now high.

"What are those crosses for?" asked the pilgrim, shading his eyes.

"There are twelve! Perhaps they are intended to represent the
twelve Apostles."

"No, they have finished their sufferings, and the pious Emperor does
not crucify the disciples of the Lord anew."

"Yes, the Emperor! The Saxon! Neither the Goth, nor the Longobard,
nor the Frank were to have Rome, but the Saxon--one of the cursed
nation whom Charles the Great thought that he had extirpated. He
sent ten thousand to Gaul, in order to make a present of these
savages to the enemy, and he beheaded four thousand five hundred in
a single day, without its costing him a sleepless night.
Wonderful are the ways of the Lord!"

"The last are often the first."

"O Lord Jesus, Redeemer of the world! there is something moving on
the crosses! Do you see?"

"Yes, by heaven! No, I cannot look! They are crucified men!"

Two Romans stood by the strangers: "Hermann, you are avenged," said

"Was Hermann a Saxon?" objected the other.

"Probably, since he lived in the Harz district."

"A thousand years ago Thusnelda passed through the streets in the
triumph-train of Germanicus, and carried the unborn Thumelicus under
her heart! To think that a thousand years had to pass before she was

"A thousand years are as a day! But are not these our Roman brothers
on the cross martyrs for Rome's freedom?"

"Martyrs for our cause! But this time they were wrong, because the
gods so willed it."

Now there was a change in the scene. Under the tower a band of
soldiers made a passage through the crowd of people. Pope John XVI
came riding backwards on an ass. His ears and nose had been cut
off, and his eyes had been dug out. It was a gruesome sight. A
wine-bladder, waving over his head in the wind, made it worse. The
people were silent, and shuddered simultaneously, for he was, after
all, Christ's representative and St. Peter's successor, although no

A Sicilian stood on the bridge close to a Jew.

The Sicilian was a Muhammedan, for Sicily was then in the possession
of the Saracens, and had been so for about two hundred years.

"He must be suffering for his predecessors' sins," said the Jew;
"that is the Christian belief: _satisfactio vicaria_."

"Suffering is necessary," answered the Moslem; "and I do not grieve
at such an end to the pornocracy. For a hundred years the Popes have
lived like cannibals. You remember Sergius III, who lived with the
harlot Theodora and her daughters. John X continued with Marozia,
who with her own hand first killed her brother and then suffocated
the Pope with a cushion. John XII was only nineteen when he became
Pope. He took bribes, and consecrated a ten year-old boy as bishop
in a stable. He committed incest, and turned the Lateran into a
brothel. He played cards, drank and swore by Jupiter and Venus....
You know it well."

"Yes," answered the Jew, "the Christians live in hell since they
have abandoned the one true God. The fools have, however, stolen
from us the Messianic promise; but the promise to Abraham we still
possess. Rome is a mad-house, Germany a slaughter-house, and France
a brothel. It is a matter to rejoice at, to see how they destroy
each other."

He placed himself by the balustrade of the bridge, in order to be
able to see better what now followed.

Between the twelve patriots, who writhed on their crosses like worms
on hooks, appeared five men dressed in red, who began to construct a

"Those are the executioners--on the Emperor's grave!" said the Jew.
"Against Crescentius I have nothing; he was a noble man who fought
for the Roman State. But there is one Christian the less!"

"The Christians have always two ways of explaining a man's
sufferings. If he is innocent, his suffering is a test, and if he is
guilty, well! he deserved his fate. There he comes!"

Crescentius, the last Roman, was led forth. His head fell, and
thereby Rome became German, or Germany Roman--till 1806! In the
afternoon the nomination of the new Pope (for one could not call it
an election) took place, and Gerbert of Auvergne was made Pope, with
the title of Silvester II.

* * * * *

The Emperor sat in his palace on the Aventine, and did not venture
to go out, for the Romans hated him. In the little hermitage on the
slope of the hill, where his friend Adalbert of Prague, the
missionary martyr recently killed by the Saxons, used to live, the
Emperor shut himself up with his teacher, the new Pope, Silvester

The latter--a Frenchman--had studied in Cordova, where the Caliph
had built a university, where Arabian philosophy, itself derived
from Greece and India, was taught. In Rheims Silvester has also
studied philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, and chemistry. He had
been Abbot of Bobbio, Archbishop of Rheims and Ravenna, and, after
protesting in many ecclesiastical assemblies against the
corruption of the Papacy, had himself become Pope.

The excitement caused by the execution of Crescentius compelled him
to seek refuge on the Aventine with his pupil, the Emperor. From the
cell of the little convent, near Adalbert's chapel, he guided the
destinies of Europe, while at leisure moments he devoted himself to
his favourite sciences. For this reason he was reported to be a

One night as he sat, sunk in thought, at his table, which was
covered with letters, the Emperor entered unannounced. He was a tall
young man, dressed in an extraordinary garb, a dalmatica adorned
with symbols from the Book of the Apocalypse, the Wild Beast and the
Harlot, the Book of Seven Seals, and so on.

"Let me talk," he said; "I cannot sleep."

"What has happened, my son?"

"Letters have come--warnings--dreams."

"Tell me."

"Yes; you listen to me, but you don't believe me, when I tell you
the truth, and you are afraid of all new thoughts."

"What is new under the sun? Does not St. Augustine say regarding our
holy faith, 'What is called in our days Christianity, already existed
since the creation of mankind to the birth of Christ. It was then
that they began to call Christianity the true religion, which had
already existed before. The truths taught by Christ are the same as
the ancient ones, only more developed'?"

"Heretic, beware! You do not know what is taking place in the

"Let me hear."

"Pilgrims from many lands have been here, and tell of prodigies,
visions, and wonders. In the south of France there are pestilence
and famine, and human flesh has been sold in the butchers' shops; in
Germany a fiery iron rod has been seen in the sky, and here in Italy
these endless pilgrimages have recommenced. In Jerusalem the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre has been plundered, and the temple of the
False Prophet erected. The whole of Christendom is trembling, for in
the immoral Popes of the last century they have seen the Antichrist.
Christ's ambassador is murdered; yes, my friend Adalbert was the
last up there in Poland: the heathen have reconquered all Christ's
conquests in Asia and Africa. The followers of the False Prophet
are in Spain, Sicily, and Naples, and threaten Rome. This can mean
nothing less than the Last Judgment and destruction of the world,
as announced in the Apocalypse."

"So it is the old story again?"

"Story! Get thee hence Satan, for thou savourest not the things
which be of God, but those which be of men."

"Do you call me Satan?"

"Yes, when you deny the Word. Is it not written in John's Apocalypse,
'And when the thousand years are accomplished, Satan will be let
loose from his prison. And he shall go to deceive the nations which
are in the four ends of the earth, Gog and Magog'? There you have the
northern peoples who are now in England, Normandy, and Sicily. Is not
Theodora the great Babylonian Harlot? Is not the deceiver Muhammed
the Wild Beast?"

"Wait, my son! I might quote a verse from the same chapter: 'He who
hath part in the first resurrection shall reign with Christ a
thousand years.' So that the Millennium is _beginning_ now, and
cannot end forthwith."

"The old one ends, and the new begins."

"Just so! The old dark age is past, and we await Christ's second
coming on earth. If you retained the hope, you would see the new era

"I do not believe a word of what you say. The last year of the
thousand years is here, and now I go out in the desert to await,
with fasting, prayer, and penance, the day of the Lord, and the
coming of my Redeemer. I will pray for you, my father, but here our
ways part, and you will see me no more."

The Emperor departed, and Silvester remained alone.

"I wait!" he said to himself, "but meanwhile I look after our
worldly affairs." And he unfolded a map of the then known world.
With a piece of red chalk he drew crosses and crowns, for the most
part in the North. But above Jerusalem he drew a flag with a lance.

* * * * *

The year 999 approached its end, and the Christians lived in a state
of deadly anxiety. In Rome and its neighbourhood, all the active
business of life had ceased. The fields were not sown, but lay
covered with weeds; trade was at a stand-still; the shops were
closed. Those who had anything gave it away, and had difficulty in
finding anyone to take it. The churches stood open day and night for
three months, and each day was like Sunday. People wore their best
clothes, for there was no object in keeping them, and they wished to
be well dressed in order to meet the Redeemer on His arrival.
Christmas had been kept with unwonted solemnity, and men lived at
peace with one another. The guards of the city had nothing to do,
for the fear of what was coming sufficed to maintain order. People
slept with open doors, and no one dared to steal or to deceive.
There was no need to do so, for everyone received what he asked
for; bakers distributed bread gratis, and innkeepers allowed
unlimited credit; the payment of debts was not exacted. The churches
were crowded day and night; there was a ceaseless round of
confessions, absolutions, masses and communions.

It was the day before New Year's Eve. Views were divided as to the
nature of the coming catastrophe--whether it would come as a flood
or as an earthquake. Most of the people remained outside their
houses, some on the plain, others on the hills; all with their eyes
directed towards heaven.

In the morning, the Plain of Mars was full of men, and a crowd
formed a circle round a pile of wood. A madman stood on the pile and
spoke, with a quantity of papers and parchments in his hand. He was
a rich citizen who for three months had practised fasting and
penance, and now, reduced to a skeleton, wished to escape the wrath
to come. He had collected a large quantity of dry wood under the
pretext of giving warmth to all passing beasts of burthen. Since
nobody troubled about what others did, he was allowed to do as he

Near the pile of wood stood the remains of an old orator's pulpit,
and in that he took his stand after he had kindled the pile. "In the
name of the Eternal God," he said, "so surely as I burn these
bonds, will God the Lord erase my sins from His Book. For all
sufferings which I have caused others, I will now suffer myself.
Purifying fire, burn my wretched body with all its sins! Mounting
flames, let me follow you upwards! Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"
He leaped from the pulpit, and fell in the midst of the flames,
where he remained on his knees with folded hands till he was

In the Forum a man was seen working with a miner's iron bar at a
rubbish-heap which should cover him: "Say to the mountains, Cover
us," he sang.

From the Pons Sublicius a young couple sprang into the river, locked
in an embrace which death could not loosen.

At mid-day the prisons were opened, and the prisoners were received
as heroes and martyrs. They were taken to the houses of the
nobility, made to sit at table, and senators and their wives washed
their feet.

"We are all sinners," people said, "and have nothing to boast of.
These prisoners have endured their punishment while we went about

Never had there been such a display of philanthropy and mercy since
the early days of Christianity.

The sick in the hospitals wanted to come outside, and their beds
were carried into the streets and market-places. Everyone, in fact,
wanted to be in the open air, and families brought their furniture
into the streets. Birds were liberated from their cages, and horses
from their stables. At first the latter ran about in the town, but
as they scented the fresh air and reached the town gates they
galloped off to the Campagna, to seek green pasture. Many, however,
remained in the town, and lay about here and there, while children
clambered on their backs. The children were the only ones who felt
no fear. They jumped about and played as usual, rejoicing in their
freedom and the unusual aspect of things. No one wanted to restrain
them, and as they did not understand what was the matter, they
remained free from anxiety and went on playing.

New Year's Eve had arrived, and the universal alarm rose to a great
height. Masters and servants were seen embracing each other and
weeping, the former lamenting their severity--the latter, their
dishonesty. Old enemies, who met each other on the street, grasped
hands and led each other about like children, singing hymns of
praise. It was something like the Golden Age as imagined by the
Fathers of the early Church.

The air was as mild as that of a spring day, and the sky was clear
till noon. Then it became overclouded. No one ate or drank, but all
bathed and put on their festal attire. During the afternoon
processions of priests and monks marched through the town, and sang
litanies, in which the people joined. Their Kyrie Eleison, "Christ,
have mercy upon us," rang all over the town. All Rome was preparing
for its own judgment and execution.

There were, however, a number of unbelieving and profligate persons
who expected nothing new; they had assembled themselves in the
catacombs and ruins, where they celebrated Bacchanalian feasts and
orgies. In the ruins of Nero's Golden House a banquet on a large
scale had been arranged. In the centre on the ground there burned a
fire, surrounded by tables and seats. There was abundance of victuals
and wine, for which they only needed to go to the store-room and
cellar. There were music, dancing, and singing, and between whiles
they amused themselves by watching the bats and owls, which flitted
about, scorch and singe themselves in the fire.

Their hilarity was loud, but not unforced. Here, too, philosophising
and prophecy were in evidence.

"There is not going to be any Last Judgment to-day," said a young
man, who looked as though he were a descendant of the Emperor Nero.

"Anyhow, if it comes, death cannot introduce us to anything worse
than we have had in life."

"It has always seemed to me that we are in hell. Headaches every
morning, debts and disgrace, varied by occasional imprisonments."

"The Emperor sits naked in a grotto at the foot of Soracte."

"Vides ut alta stet nive candidum, Soracte."

"As we are speaking, life the envious flits away. Enjoy the present
day, nor trust the morrow!"

"And the Pope is going to hold a midnight mass--he who has no faith
in it himself."

"But he must put a good face on it, and go through with it."

"I know one woman who will not go to mass to-day."

"That is the beautiful Stephania, the widow of Crescentius."

"But she watches for vengeance."

"What have these Germans to do in Rome? I wish the owner of this
Golden House could rise from the dead. He was the last Roman!"

"He was a man who did not caress his enemies. He feared nothing
between heaven and earth, not even the lightning. Once there was
a lightning-flash in his dining-hall as he reclined at table. What
do you think he said? 'To your health!' and raised his goblet."

At this moment a heated stone fell from the vaulted roof into the
fire, and caused a shower of sparks. The night wind rushed through
the hole thus formed, and blew the smoke into the feasters faces. At
first they were amused at the occurrence, but were soon obliged to
leave the vault.

"Let us go out and witness the end of the world!" cried one of the
youths. They formed a procession of Bacchanals and Maenads, one in
front carrying a filled wineskin. There were flute-players among
them, and all carried goblets in their hands.

* * * * *

Below, in the old Basilica of St. Peter, stood the Pope before the
altar, and performed in silence the midnight mass. The church was
crowded, and everyone was on his knees. The silence was so deep that
the rustle of the white sleeve of the officiant could be heard when
he elevated the cup. But another sound was audible, which seemed to
be measuring out the last moments of the Millennium. It beat like
the pulse in the ear of a feverish man, and at the same rate. The
door of the sacristy stood open, and the great clock which hung
there ticked calmly and steadfastly, once in a second.

The Pope, who was outwardly just as calm, had probably left the door
open in order to produce the utmost effect at the great moment, for
his face was pale with emotion, but he did not move, and his hands
did not tremble.

The mass was over, and a death-like silence ensued. The people
expected the Lord's servant at the altar to speak a few words of
comfort. But he said nothing; he seemed absorbed in prayer, and had
stretched out his hands towards heaven.

The clock ticked, the people sighed, but nothing happened. Like
children afraid of the dark, the congregation lay with their faces
towards the ground, and dared not look up. A cold sweat of anxiety
dropped from many brows, knees which had gone to sleep caused pain,
or were numb, and felt as though they had been amputated.

Then the clock suddenly ceased ticking.

Had the works run down? Was it an omen? Was everything going to
stand still, time to be at an end, and eternity begin? From the
congregation rose some stifled cries, and, lifeless with terror,
some bodies dropped on the stone pavement.

Then the clock began to strike--One, Two, Three, Four.... The
twelfth stroke sounded, and the echoes died away. A fresh death-like
silence ensued.

Then Silvester turned round, and, with the proud smile of a victor,
he extended his hands in blessing. At the same moment all the bells
in the tower rang out joyfully, and from the organ-loft a choir of
voices began to sing, somewhat unsteadily at first, but soon firmly
and clearly, "Te Deum Laudamus!"

The congregation joined in, but it was some time before they could
straighten their stiffened backs, and recover from the spectacle of
those who had died of fright. When the hymn was over, the people
fell in each other's arms, weeping and laughing like lunatics, as
they gave each other the kiss of peace.

So ended the first Millennium after the birth of Christ.

In the little castle Paterno on Mount Soracte, the Emperor had spent
the Christmas week and New Year's Eve in the strictest fast and
penance. But when New Year's Day was come, and nothing had happened,
he returned to Rome to meet Silvester and take measures for the
future. The Emperor's friend and teacher received him with a smile
which was easy to interpret. But the monarch was still so much under
the effect of his fit of alarm that he did not venture to be angry.

"Will you now return to earth, my son, and look after your mundane
affairs?" said Silvester.

"I will, but I must first fulfil two vows which I made in the hour
of need."

"Fulfil them certainly."

"I go to the grave of my friend Adalbert in Gnesen, and I must visit
the funeral vault of Charles the Great in Aachen."

"Do so, but you must at the same time fulfil some commissions which
I give you for the journey."

So they parted.

* * * * *

Two years had passed, when, one day in January, Pope Silvester was
summoned to Paterno, the little castle on Soracte, where the
Roman-German Emperor dwelt, and now lay ill.

When Silvester entered the sick-room, the Emperor sat upright, but
looked troubled. "You are ill," said Silvester: "is it the soul or

"I am tired."

"Already, at twenty-two years of age."

"I am despondent."

"You are despondent although you saw the world awake from its
nightmare. Consider, ungrateful man, all that these two years have
brought, what triumphs for Christ, who really seems to have
returned. I will enumerate them: listen! Bohemia has received its
Duke, who has eradicated heathenism; Austria has concentrated itself
as a Danube-state the heathen Magyar has allowed himself to be
baptized, and received the crown from our own hand as Stephen the
First; Boleslaw in Poland has also received a crown and an
archbishop; the new kingdom of Russia has accepted baptism and
Vladimir the Great protects us against the Saracens, who are on the
decline, and Seljuks or Turks, who are in the ascendant; Harold of
Denmark and Olaf of Sweden have established Christianity in their
dominions; so has Olaf Tryggveson in Norway and Iceland, in the
Faroe Island, in Shetland and Greenland; and the Dane Sven Tveskagg
has secured Britain for Christianity. France is under the pious
Robert II, of the new race of the Capets, but also of Saxon descent
like you. In Spain, the northern States Leon, Castille, Aragon,
Navarre, have at last united, and protect us from the Moors in
Cordova. All this in five years, and under the aegis of Rome! Is
not all this the return of Christ, and do you understand now what
Providence means by the Millennium? Those who are alive at the end
of another thousand years will perhaps see the ripe fruits, while we
have only seen the blossoms. The world is certainly not a paradise,
but it is better than when we had savages in the North and East. And
all kings receive the crown and the pallium from Rome. You are a
ruler over the nations, my Emperor."

"I? You rule their minds, not I, and I will not rule."

"So I have heard, for you have accepted the rule of a woman."

"Who is that?"

"They say, and you know the report as well as I do, that it is the
widow of Crescentius, the beautiful Stephania. Well, that is your
own affair, but Solomon says,--'Beware of your enemies, but be wary
with your friends.'"

The Emperor looked as though he wished to defend himself, but could
not, and so the conversation was at an end.

Some days after, Otto III was dead, poisoned, so ran the report, in
some way or other, by the beautiful Stephania.

A year later Silvester II died also.


Christendom had awoken to new life after the great and terrible New
Year's Eve of 999. Nearly a hundred more years had passed when a
ragged barefooted pilgrim wandered out of the gate of Caesarea, on
the shore of the Mediterranean. This was the town from which Paul
had sailed for Rome in order to spread Christianity, which had now
conquered all Europe, but had not been able to maintain a hold upon
its birthplace, the Land of Promise, in which Christ had lived,
suffered, and been buried.

The "False Prophet" had been the last possessor of Palestine. But
when his kingdom, like all others, fell to pieces, quite a new race
had issued from the unknown parts of Central Asia and now the
Seljuks ruled in Syria. The last Fatimide Caliphs had been very
indifferent in matters of belief, and the renowned Al Asis, who had
married a Christian wife and was himself a sceptic, had made his
wife's brothers Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Alexandria. Everything
was altered since the time when the terrible Al Hakim had
persecuted Christians as well as Jews, and destroyed the Church of
the Resurrection in Jerusalem. And when the Seljuk Melikscha had at
last captured the town, matters looked almost hopeless for the
Christians, who still made pilgrimages to the Holy Sepulchre.

The pilgrim we spoke of above pursued his journey in a south-eastern
direction, and now on the first day he saw the lovely Plain of
Sharon spread out before him like a carpet or rather a sea of
flowers--crocuses, narcissi, ranunculi, anemones, and especially the
tall white Sharon lilies.

It was the Promised Land indeed! The whole of the morning he waded
in flowers; at last he reached a village at the foot of a hill.
There were waving corn-crops, climbing vines, flourishing olive and
fig trees; well-fed cattle were watered at the spring, cows and
goats were milked. The pilgrim, who possessed nothing in the world
except his rags, asked for a bowl of milk, but obtained none. He
went begging from door to door, but was hunted away. Every time that
he received a refusal he seemed to be surprisingly cheerful. The
fact was, he had come hither from a distant land in order to be able
to realise how his Saviour had suffered, and now he was graciously
allowed to experience it on the holy soil itself. He passed through
the village, and found another sea of flowers outside it. He bathed
his feet in a brook, and felt refreshed. But now at mid-day a wind
from the sea arose, and clouds passed over the land. The violent
rain beat down the fragile lilylike plants, the wind rooted them up
or tore them in two, and collected them in heaps, which rolled along
increasing in size as they went, and crushing other flowers in their

Towards evening the rain ceased, but the wind continued to blow, and
the darkness came. The weary and hungry traveller prepared himself a
bed with a heap of flowers which he kept in its place with some
stones. After he had hollowed out the heap till it looked like an
eagle's nest, he spread another pile of flowers over himself, and
went to sleep, pleasantly narcotised by all the sweet scents. For
several years he had tasted no wine and never been intoxicated,
but this was a good substitute for it. He did not know whether he
was asleep or awake; sometimes he felt as though he were rolling
away like a wave; sometimes he lay still and listened to a
scratching going on in his nest; there was a blowing and a roaring,
a murmur in his ears and flashing before his eyes. Finally all was
still; he believed he had gone to sleep, for he dreamt.

In his dream he was walking on the Mediterranean Sea; that he found
quite natural, but there followed him knights on horseback, troops
of armed men, whole races of people. They reached the land, they
marched towards the East, and finally saw Jerusalem crowning the
heights. Walls, battlements, and towers were crowded with heathen
warriors, and the Christian knights halted in order to take counsel.
But he, the poor pilgrim, spoke to them, and they listened to him.

"Why do you fear?" he said, "why do you fear these heathen and their
walls? Look at me! I take my staff, ascend Mount Zion, strike the
gate of David with my staff, and the city opens all her gates!"

He did so--in his dream, and Jerusalem was taken. It was a very
simple matter; the knights and the armies honoured him, and he
became governor of Jerusalem. When he awoke on the morrow, he got
out of his nest, and when he looked round, he found himself before
the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem. He asked himself whether the wind had
blown him all that long way, or whether he had traversed it in
sleep. But his dream had been so vivid, that he found everything
natural and simple.

He knocked with his staff at the door. And behold! it really opened,
but only by the space of a hand-breadth, and a soldier asked what he

He wished, he said, to visit the Holy Sepulchre.

He could do so, was the answer, if he paid thirty silver zecchines.

As he had not so much, the gate was again closed.

The pilgrim, however, not to be frightened, struck again with his
staff, certain that he would get in. Get in he did, quickly enough,
and, after he had been well thrashed, was thrown out again and fell
on a rubbish-heap on which dogs hunted for bones. This reception was
not encouraging, but for the pilgrim it was exactly what he had
expected and wished. He had been beaten in the same city where his
Master Christ had been beaten and tortured.

What an honour! What undeserved grace!

But the thirty silver pieces! Why was the price just thirty? Because
it was the traitor's reward for betraying the Beloved. He would try
to collect them by begging, even if it took him ten years to do so.

He exhorted himself to patience, and went southward into the valley
of Hinnom or the valley of Hell, where all the rubbish of the city
was thrown. There was filth and an evil smell there, but the pilgrim
did not notice it, for he only sought to catch a glimpse of the
walls of the Holy City. When he came to the south end of the valley,
he really beheld Mount Zion with David's Sepulchre. Then he fell on
his knees and praised God in song:

"Lauda Sion Salvatorem
Lauda Ducem et pastorem
In hymnis et canticis."

Strengthened by prayer, he went on. He knew the topography of the
place well, and when he came on a piece of waste ground underneath
the Hill of Evil Counsel, he knew that it was Aceldama, or the Field
of the Dead, which had been purchased with the traitor's blood-money
to bury strangers in. But he had no thoughts of death, for he knew
that he would live till he had taken the City. On the other hand, he
was hungry. How bitterly he regretted now that he had not accustomed
himself in his youth, like other famous eremites, to eat grass.
Weary, but not depressed, he sat down on a rubbish heap which seemed
quite fresh.

As he sat there, a dog came--a mangy famished creature--and laid his
head on the pilgrim's knee.

"I have nothing to give you, poor thing," said the pilgrim, and
wiped the dog's eyes with the flaps of its ears, for it looked as
though it had wept. But when the dog heard what the pilgrim said, it
understood, for animals understood all languages merely by the tone.
It then began to rummage in the rubbish heap. And behold! there lay,
between two cabbage leaves, a pomegranate and a piece of white
bread. The pilgrim, who was accustomed to all kinds of miracles,
praised God, and ate. And when he had eaten, he thanked God the
Merciful. The dog stood by the whole time, and watched him.
"Ungrateful wretch that I am to have forgotten thee!" said the
pilgrim; "now I will try my fortune!" He began to dig with his
staff, and see! there lay a fresh bone, which he gave to the dog,
his benefactor. They became friends, and kept together. They now
went round the southern end of the city, and turned northward
towards the Kedron. They followed the brook, having the city wall on
their left and the Mount of Olives on their right. From the bottom
of the valley he saw the place where the Temple had been, but no
Temple was there now--only the dome of the Muhammedan mosque. Of the
Holy Sepulchre there was nothing visible, for it lay within the City
and was inconspicuous. He came to Gethsemane, where Christ had
suffered, and he climbed the Mount of Olives, from whence he could
look over Jerusalem. He did so, and wept. After he had paid his
devotions in the ruins of the Church of the Resurrection, he went
on northwards round the city, and came again to the Jaffa Gate,
where he sat down, firmly resolved to wait till some Christian
pilgrims came, for they came hither from all countries of the
world. He wanted to beg from them till he had collected the thirty
zecchines. So he sat through the first night without anybody coming.
Towards morning the door was opened for the peasants who brought in
provisions, and the bold idea occurred to him of trying to get in
with them, but he was immediately detected and thrashed again. This,
however, did not frighten him; he repeated the attempt every morning,
though unsuccessfully. He slept on the ground, and ate from the
rubbish heaps; he was jeered at by the children, beaten by the
adults, and took everything quietly, convinced that some day his
dream would be fulfilled. For thirty days he sat at the gate and
received no money, but on the thirty-first he got up in order to
take some exercise. He wandered down into the Valley of Hinnom, and
his dog "Trusty" ran in front of him.

After he had walked for a while he noticed that his companion had
vanished. When he called him, the dog answered by barking. The
pilgrim followed the sound, and presently he saw the dog standing by
a hole in the wall. There was an entrance, and, following his guide,
he came without hindrance right into the town. The first thing he
did was to visit the Holy Sepulchre, but it was closed. Then he
remembered that there was a Patriarch of Jerusalem, who in some
degree acted as a protector of the Christians. But where did he
live? "Perhaps you know," he said to the dog.

The dog understood, pricked up his ears, and ran through a labyrinth
of crooked streets till he stood at a little door, with a bell-cord
hanging by it. The pilgrim pulled it, the door opened, and an old
white-bearded man came out, reached the new-comer his hand, led him
like a friend into the house, and bade him sit down. "I have waited
long for you, Peter," he said. "Yes, I recognise you, for I have
seen you for a year in my dreams, but I know not who you are, and
whence you come. Tell me your history."

"My history! I am from Amiens in France. I am now called Peter; was
formerly a soldier, followed William the Conqueror to Hastings, and
took part in the invasion of England. I returned to my own country,
and became a school teacher. I could, however, obtain no peace in my
soul, but entered a convent. In the solitude of my cell, I reflected
on what I heard from my brother monks in the chapter. It was the
time when Henry IV began the conflict with Gregory VII. The Pope was
right, for Europe ought to be governed from Rome, and Gregory,
who wished to set up Christ's Kingdom in spirit and in truth, had
united all Christian States together; he imposed tribute from
Scandinavia to the Pillars of Hercules. The Emperor was a
schismatic, and worked only in the interests of Germany. The matter
ended at Canossa, as you know, when the Emperor had to kiss the
Pope's foot. And that was right at that time, for the spiritual head
is higher than the worldly one. But Canossa was not the end.
Gregory, the mighty champion of the Lord, fell into the same sin as
David. In the first place, he summoned the Norman Guiscard from
Sicily to his aid. Guiscard came with a horde of Turks and heathen,
pillaged Rome, and set it on fire. That was shameful of the Pope,
who now fled with Guiscard to Salerno--which was _his_ Canossa.
But he was also still cruel enough to stir up Henry's sons against
their father. Then the great Gregory died in banishment, and Rome
was extinct. Rome is no more, but Jerusalem shall be. The chief
city of Christendom shall be born again, and rise from its ruins."

The Patriarch had listened, and, though he smiled at first, he was
finally serious. "Your faith is great, my son," he said. "But who
will take the lead? Who will collect the people?"

"I," answered the Hermit--"I will open the Holy Sepulchre; I will
drive out the heathen, and I will have the first Christian King of
Jerusalem crowned!"

"With two empty hands?"

"With my rock-like faith."

There was silence.

"Say something, Patriarch!" resumed Peter. "Try to damp my courage
if you can; confront me with objections, and rob me of confidence.
You cannot! There, I will go now to Rome and speak with Urban II.
But give me a letter to confirm my statements when I describe the
behaviour of the heathen in the city of Christ. I ask nothing else
of you; the rest I will do myself."

"Whoever you are, you shall have the letter, but rest first for a
few days."

"No! I have gone three hundred and fifty miles and rested for thirty
days. Give me something to eat in the kitchen, while you write the
letter, and I start before sunset. When I come again, I shall not be
alone, but my name will be Legion. And you will see the
accomplishment of my words and your dreams, for God wills it."

* * * * *

The Hermit Peter walked a hundred and fifty miles to Piacenza, and
there met Pope Urban II, who was holding a council. He received no
encouragement, for the idea of a crusade was no novelty. Gregory VII
had collected fifty thousand men for that purpose, but could not
carry out his plan. With a true Christian spirit, the Hermit took
this failure as a warning to redouble his efforts.

He went to France, preached and stirred up the people, with the
result that all France was aflame with crusading fervour when Urban
II came to Clermont to hold another council. Then the Crusade was
determined on. Peter could not wait, but, together with Walter
Pexejo and Walter von Habenichts, he collected a host which finally
reached forty thousand in number, including old men, women, and
children. There were no soldiers however, but only adventurers
who wanted to run away, slaves who sought freedom, and malcontents
who wished for change.

They followed the Rhine towards its source, and then the Danube,
along whose banks the great road to the East ran. As they approached
the frontier of Hungary their number had increased to sixty thousand.
The King of Hungary, Kolowan, was not exactly hospitable, and not a
person whom it was safe to jest with. The Crusaders received a hint
that they were not very welcome, and therefore sent their only
mounted men,--exactly six in number--as ambassadors to the King.

Kolowan was in Pesth, with a well-equipped army, and his country was
enjoying the blessings of peace, when the envoys arrived. "What do
you want?" he asked.

"We seek a free passage to Constantinople."

"How many of you are there?"

"Exactly sixty thousand."

"Although I feel honoured by the visit, I cannot entertain
grasshoppers. I have heard of your wild enterprise; I know that you
have no provisions with you, and that you beg and steal. Return
therefore to your country, or I will treat you as enemies!"

The envoys rode back with the King's answer. But Peter would not
turn back.

"Forward! forward! Crusaders and Christians!" he cried, and the
whole host crossed the frontier. The Hermit rode on an ass at the
head of them, and knew not what went on behind him--robbery,
drunkenness, and licence.

The King learned what had happened, and rode out with all his
knights. When he saw this mass of ragged rascals, drunk and savage,
but all wearing the red cross, he fell in a rage and attacked them.
Those who did not fly were trampled underfoot and sabred down so
mercilessly, that, out of the sixty thousand, only three thousand
reached Constantinople, among whom was the Hermit.

"We have sown our blood," he said; "our successors will reap."

The Emperor of Constantinople had certainly for a long time waited
for help from the West against the wild Seljuks, but he had expected
armed men. When he now received a rabble of three thousand beggars
and vagabonds, many of them wounded, he resolved to get rid of these
guests as honourably as possible. He set them in flat-bottomed
boats, and shipped them across to Asia Minor. "Thence you have a
straight road to Jerusalem," he said. But he did not say that
the Seljuks were encamped on the opposite coast. Accordingly, the
rest of them were massacred by the wild hordes near Nicasa--in the
same town in which, during the early days of Christianity, so many
fateful debates had taken place.

But the Hermit escaped, and returned to Constantinople, where he
waited for the great army of the Crusaders. He waited a whole year,
just as confident of victory and undismayed as before.

* * * * *

In the little town Tiberias, on the shore of the Lake of Gennesareth
sat the old Jew Eleazar, with his family, prepared to celebrate the
Passover, or the Exodus from Egypt. It was the tenth day of the
month Nisan of the year 1098. The lake shone clear, and its banks
were green; the oleanders were in blossom, the lilies had sprung up
in the pleasant season when the earth rejoices.

It was evening; all members of the family were dressed as though for
a journey, with shoes on their feet and staves in their hands. They
stood round the covered table on which the roasted lamb smoked in a
dish surrounded by bitter lettuce. The ancestral wine-cup was filled
with wine, and white unleavened bread laid on a plate close by.

After the head of the family had washed his hands, he blessed the
gifts of God, drank some wine, returned thanks, and invited the
others to drink. Then he took some of the bitter herbs, and ate and
gave to the others. Then he read from the book of Moses a passage
concerning the significance of the feast. After that, the second cup
of wine was served, and the youngest son of the house stepped forward
and asked, according to the sacred custom, "What is the meaning of
this feast?"

The father answered: "The Lord brought us with a strong hand out of
the Egyptian bondage."

As he drank from the second cup, he said, "Praise the Lord, O my
soul, and forget not all His benefits." They then all sang the 115th
Psalm, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give the
praise, for Thy truth and mercy's sake. Wherefore should the heathen
say, Where is now their God?"

Thereupon a blessing was pronounced on the unleavened bread and the
roasted lamb, and they sat down to eat, in a state of contentment
and with harmless talk. The old Eleazar spoke of past times, and
contrasted them with them the present: "Man born of a woman lives
but a short time, and is full of trouble; he cometh up like a
flower, and is cut down; he fleeth hence like a shadow, and
continueth not. A stranger and a sojourner is he upon earth, and
therefore he should be always ready for his journey as we are, this
holy evening."

The eldest son Jacob, who had come home in the evening after a
journey, seemed to wish to say something, but did not venture to do
so, till the fourth and last cup was drunk.

"But, my children," continued Eleazar, "not only is Israel unsettled
and roaming on the earth, but all nations are in a state of wandering.
The difference between them and us is that their gods are mortal,
while Israel's God lives. Where is Zeus, the god of the Greeks?
Where is the Romans' Jupiter? Where are the Egyptians' Isis, Osiris,
and Ptha? Where is the Woutan of the Germans, the Teutates of the
Gauls? They are all dead, but Israel's God lives; He cannot die.
We are at any rate in Canaan, in our fathers' land, even if Zion is
no longer ours, and we cannot forget the goodness which the Lord has
shown us."

The last cup was drunk, and after another psalm the festival was at
an end.

"Now, Jacob," said Eleazar, "you want to talk. You come from a
journey, though somewhat late, and have something new to tell us.
Hush! I hear steps in the garden!"

All hurried to the window, for they lived in troublous times; but,
as no one was to be seen outside, they sat down again at the table.

"Speak, Jacob," Eleazar said again.

"I come from Antioch, where the Crusaders are besieged by Kerboga,
the Emir of Mosul. Famine has raged among them, and of three hundred
thousand Goyim, [Footnote: Gentiles.] only twenty thousand remain."

"What had they to do here?"

"Now, on the roads, they are talking of a new battle which the Goyim
have won, and they believe that the Crusaders will march straight on

"Well, they won't come here."

"They won't find the way, unless there are traitors."

"Moslems or Christians, they are all alike, but Moslems could be our
friends, because they are of Abraham's seed. 'God is One!' Had their
Prophet stood by that, there would have been nothing between us, but
he fell through pride and coupling his own name with that of the
Highest--'Muhammed is His Prophet.' Perhaps, but he should not be
named in the same breath with the Eternal. The Christians call him a
'false prophet,' but that he was not."

"The Christians could rather...."

"The Christians are misguided, and their doctrine is folly. They
believe the Messiah has come, although the world is like a hell, and
men resemble devils! And it ever gets worse...."

Then the door was flung open, and on the threshold appeared a little
man, emaciated as a skeleton, with burning eyes. He was clothed in
rags, carried a cross in his hand, and bore a red cross-shaped sign
on his shoulder.

"Are you Christians?" he asked, "since you drink of the cup and eat
the bread, as our Lord Jesus Christ did on the night of his

"No," answered Eleazar, "we are of Israel."

"Then you have eaten and drunk your own damnation, and misused the
Holy Sacrament for purposes of witchcraft! Out with you!--down to
the lake and be baptized, or you will die the death!"

Then Eleazar turned to the Hermit, and cried "No! I and my house
will serve the Lord, as we have done this holy evening according to
the law of our fathers. We suffer for our sins, that is true, but
you, godless, cursed man, pride not yourself on your power, for you
have not yet escaped the judgment of Almighty God. I will give my
life and shed my blood for the law of my fathers, but God's justice
will punish you, as your pride has deserved."

The Hermit had gone out to his followers. Those within the house
closed the window-shutters and the door.

There was a cry without: "Fire the house!"

"Let us bless God, and die!" said Eleazar, and none of them

All fell on their knees. Eleazar spoke: "I know that my Redeemer
liveth, and that He will stand at the latter day upon the earth. And
when I am free from my flesh, I shall see God. Him shall I see and
not another, and for that my soul and my heart cry out."

The mother had taken the youngest son in her arms, as though she
wished to protect him against the fire which now seized on the wall.

Then Eleazar began the Song of the Three Children in the fire, and
when they came to the words,

"O Thank the Lord, for He is good,
And His mercy endureth for ever,"

their voices were choked, and they ended their days like the

On 16th July 1069, Peter the Hermit entered Jerusalem through the
same Jaffa Gate before which he had sat as a beggar. When Godfrey
of Bouillon became King of Jerusalem, Peter was appointed Governor.
After he had seen his dream fulfilled, he returned to his own
country, entered the convent Neufmoustier, near Luttich, and
remained there till his death.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem soon came to an end. The Muhammedans
re-occupied it, and remain there to this day.

The remarkable thing about these predatory expeditions--the
Crusades--was that they were led by the Normans, and were curiously
like the raids of the Vikings. The indirect results of the Crusades
are still treated of in students' essays, which generally close with
the moral, "there is nothing evil which does not bring some good
with it." Voltaire and Hume, on the other hand, regard the Crusades
as the enterprises of lunatics. It is a difficult matter to decide!


On the Esquiline Hill in Rome, on a spring day in 1506, Signer de
Fredis was walking in his vineyard. The day before, his workmen had
been digging a pit to seek water, but found none. Signer de Fredis
stood by it, and asked himself whether it was not a pity that so
much earth had been thrown out, and whether it could not be utilised
in the vineyard. He felt about with his stick in the upper part of
the pit to ascertain how deep the soil was. The stick sank in
the earth up to its handle without meeting with any resistance.

"There must be a hollow under the ground," he said to himself. He
first thought of calling the workmen, but since it was better to
make the discovery himself, he took a mattock and spade and set to
work. By noon he had made a hole large enough to get through, but
since it was pitch-black inside, he first went to fetch a lantern.
Carrying this, he went down into the earth, and came into a vaulted
room. He went through five rooms and found no treasures, but in
the sixth he saw a sight that startled him.

Two enormous snakes had enfolded in the coils a bearded man of
heroic stature and his two boys.

One snake had already bitten the man in the right side, and the
other had bitten one of the boys in the left. The apparition was a
statue of Pentelic marble, and might therefore possess as much value
as a treasure. Signor de Fredis went at once to the Prefect of the
City, who followed him in company with the Aedile and some learned
antiquaries. The work of art was brought to the light, and
inspected. Its subject was seen to be the Trojan priest Laocoon,
against whom Apollo had sent two snakes because he had warned his
countrymen against receiving the dangerous Greek gift of the Trojan
horse, in which warriors lay concealed.

It was not an edifying story, nor a comforting one, since it
illustrated the sad lot of a prophet in this world. The Romans,
however, did not think of that, but greeted the statue as a sign of
the Renaissance, a memorial of the classical period, and an omen of
better times to come.

Pope Julius II bought the Laocoon for the Vatican, after Michael
Angelo had declared it was the greatest work of art in the world,
and Signor de Fredis received a pension for life. The excavation and
cleaning of the statue took a considerable time. But when at last it
was ready, it was decorated with flowers, and carried in procession
though the streets of Rome, while all the church-bells rang for a
whole hour.

As the procession passed up the Via Flaminia, an Augustinian monk
came down it from the northern gate of the city. In front of
Hadrian's triumphal arch, he met the crowd carrying their beloved
Laocoon. The monk did not immediately understand the matter. He
thought, it is true, that the statue was that of a martyr, but could
not think of any martyr who had died in a pit of snakes. He therefore
turned to a citizen, and asked in Latin, "Which of the holy Church
martyrs is it?"

The citizen laughed as at a good jest, but did not think it
necessary to answer.

Now came the crowd singing about the Trojan horse, and jesting about
priests. The fact that it was a priest on whom the snakes had
fastened seemed to afford especial delight to the sceptical and
priest-hating rabble.

The Augustinian monk thought of his Virgil, when he heard the word
Troy, and, as the statue came nearer, he could read the name
Laocoon, the celebrated priest of Apollo. "Are the church-bells
ringing for _that_?" he asked his neighbour again.

The latter nodded.

"Are the people mad?" he asked, and this time he received an answer:
"No, they are wise; but you are somewhat stupid; probably you come
from Germany."

At the dawn of this day, the monk had seen the Holy City at sunrise,
and had fallen on his knees in the high road to thank God for the
great favour vouchsafed to him of at last treading the soil which
had been hallowed by the footprints of Apostles and martyrs. But now
he felt depressed, for he understood nothing of this heathenish
business, and, wandering through the streets of the city, he tried
to find the Scala Santa in the southern quarter, where all pilgrims
first paid their devotions when they came to Rome.

Here, in the square by the Lateran, Constantine's wife, Helena, had
caused the staircase of Pilate's Palace to be erected, and it was
customary to ascend it kneeling, and not in an erect attitude.

The monk approached the holy spot with all the reverence with which
his pious spirit inspired him. He hoped to feel the same ecstasy
which he had felt before other sanctuaries and relics, for the
Redeemer Himself had trodden these marble steps heavily as he went
to His doom.

The monk's astonishment was therefore great when he saw
street-urchins playing on them with buttons and little stones,
and he could hardly contain himself when young priests came running
and sprang up the eight and twenty steps in a few bounds.

He paid his devotions in the usual way, but without feeling the
ecstasy which he had hoped for.

Then he went into the Church of the Lateran and heard a mass. He had
imagined that he would find a cathedral in the genuine Gothic style,
something like that of Cologne, but he found a Basilica or Roman
hall, where in heathen times a market had been held, and it looked
very worldly.

At the High Altar there stood two priests before the Epistle and the
Gospel. However, they neither read nor sang; they only gossiped with
each other, and pretended to turn the leaves; sometimes they laughed,
and when it was over they went their way, without giving a blessing
or making the sign of the cross.

"Is this the Holy City?" he asked himself, and went out into the
streets again.

His business in Rome was to interview the Vicar-General of the
Augustinians, about a matter which concerned his convent, but he
first wished to look about him. As he went along he came to a little
church on the outer wall. In the open space in front of it a pagan
festival was being held: Bacchus was represented sitting on a
barrel, scantily clothed nymphs rode on horses, and behind them were
satyrs, fauns, Apollo, Mercury, Venus.

The monk hastened into the church to escape the sight of the
abomination. But in the sacred place he came upon another scandal.
Before the altar stood an ass with an open book before it; below the
ass stood a priest and read mass. Instead of answering "Amen," the
congregation hee-hawed like asses, and everyone laughed.

That was the classical "Asses' Festival," which had been forbidden
in the previous century, but which, during the Carnival, had been
again resumed. The monk did not understand where he was, but thought
he was in the hell of the heathen; but it was still worse when a
priest disguised as Bacchus, his face smeared with dregs of wine,
entered the pulpit, and, taking a text from Boccaccio's _Decameron_,
preached an indecent discourse, presently, with a skilful turn,
going on to narrate a legend about St. Peter. It began in a poetical
way, like other legends, but then made Peter come to an alehouse
and cheat the innkeeper about the reckoning.

The monk rushed out of the church, and through the streets till he
reached the Convent of the Augustines which he sought. He rang, was
admitted, and led into the refectory, where the Prior sat at a
covered table surrounded by priests who were entertained in the
convent in order to make their confessions, and to take the
communion during the fast. Before them were pheasants, with truffles
and hard-boiled eggs, salmon and oysters, eels and heads of wild
boar--above all, quantities of wine in pitchers and glasses.

"Sit down, little monk!" was the Prior's greeting. "You have a
letter: good! Put it under the table-cloth. Eat, drink, and be
merry, for tomorrow we die!"

The monk sat down, but it was Friday, and he could not bring himself
to eat flesh on that day. It pained him also to see the licence
which prevailed here; still they were his superiors, and the rule of
his order forbade him to reprove them.

The Prior, who had just been speaking with some special guest,
continued to talk volubly, although conversation was forbidden.

"Yes, worthy friend, we have come as far as this now in Rome. This
is Christ's Kingdom as it was announced at the first Christmas, 'One
Shepherd, One Sheepfold.' The Holy Father rules over the whole Roman
Empire as it was under Caesar and Augustus. But mark well! this
empire is a spiritual one, and all these earthly princes lie at the
feet of Christ's representative. This is the crown of all epochs of
the world's history. 'One Shepherd, One Sheepfold!' Bibamus!"

On the little platform, where formerly a reader used to read out of
holy books while the meal was going on, some musicians now sat with
flutes and lutes. They struck up an air, and the cups were emptied.

"Now," continued the Prior to the monk, "you have come from far;
what news have you brought?"

"Anything new under the sun? Yes," answered a slightly inebriated
prelate, "Christopher Columbus is dead, and buried in Valladolid. He
died poor, as was to be expected."

"Pride comes before a fall. He was not content with his honours, but
wished to be Viceroy and to levy taxes."

"Yes, but at any rate he got to India, to East India, after he had
sailed westward. It is enough to make one crazy when one tries to
understand it. Sailing west in order to go east!"

"Yes, it is all mad, but the worst is that he has brought the cursed
sickness, lues"--(here he whispered). "It has already attacked
Cardinal John de Medici. You know he is said to be the Pope's

"As regards the Holy Father, our great Julius II, he is a valiant
champion of the Lord, and now the world has seen what this
basilisk-egg, France, has hatched. Fancy! they want to come now
and divide our Italy among them! As if we did not have enough with
the Germans."

"The French in Naples! What the deuce have we to do with them?"

The Prior now felt obliged to attend to his guest, the monk.

"Eat, little monk," he said. "He who is weak, eateth herbs, and all
flesh is grass, _ergo_...."

"I never eat meat on Friday, the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ
suffered and died!"

"Then you are wrong! But you must not speak so loud, you understand,
for if you sin, you must go in your room, and hold your mouth!
Practise obedience and silence, the first virtues of our Order."

The monk turned first red, then pale, and his cheekbones could be
seen through his thin cheeks. But he kept silence, after he had
taken a spoonful of salt in his mouth to help him to control his

"He is a Maccabee," whispered the prelate.

"Conventual disciple is decaying," continued the Prior, jocosely;
"the young monks do not obey their superiors any more, but we must
have a reformation! Drink, monk, and give me an answer!"

"We must obey God rather than man," answered the monk. There was an
embarrassed pause, and the prelate who had to communicate in the
evening declined to drink any more. But this vexed the Prior, who
felt the implied reproof.

"You are from the country, my friend," he said to the monk, "and
know not the time, nor the spirit of the time. You must have a
licence for me--it must be paid for of course--and then the day is
not dishonoured. Besides--_panis es et esto_. Here you have wine and
bread--with butter on it. More wine, boy!"

The monk rose to go; the Prior seemed to wake to recollection.

"What is your name, monk?"

"My name is Martin, Master of Philosophy, from Wittenberg."

"Yes, yes, thank you. But don't go yet! Give me your letter." The
monk handed over the letter, which the Prior opened and glanced

"The Kurfurst of Saxony! Master Martin Luther, go if you wish to
your chamber. Rest till the evening, then we will go together to the
assembly at Chigi. There we shall meet elegant people like Cardinal
John de Medici, great men like Raphael, and the Archangel Michael
himself. Do you know Michael Angelo, who is building the new Church
of St. Peter and painting the Sistine Chapel? No! then you will
learn to know him. _Vale_, brother, and sleep well."

Master Martin Luther went, sorely troubled, but resolved to see more
of the state of affairs before judging too hastily.

Cards were now brought out, and the Prior shuffled them.

"That is an unpleasant fellow, whom the Kurfurst had sent to us. A
hypocrite, who does not drink wine and crosses himself at the sight
of a pheasant!"

"There was an ill-omened look about the man."

"He looked something like the Trojan horse, and Beelzebub only knows
what he has in his belly."

* * * * *

When Luther came into his lonely cell, he wept with a young man's
boundless grief when reality contradicts his expectations, and he
finds that all which he has learnt to prize is only contemptible and

He was not, however, allowed to be alone long, for there was a knock
at the door, and there entered a young Augustinian monk, who seemed,
with a confidential air, to invite his acquaintance.

"Brother Martin, you must not be solitary, but open your heart to
sympathetic friends."

He took Martin's hands. "Tell me," he said, "what troubles you, and
I will answer you."

Luther looked at the young monk, and saw that he was a swarthy
Italian with glowing eyes. But he had been so long alone that he
felt the necessity of speech.

"What do you think," he said, "our Lord Christ would say if he now
arose and came into the Holy City?"

"He would rejoice that His churches, His three hundred and
sixty-five churches, are built on the foundations of the heathen
temples. You know that since Charles the Great dragged the great
marble pillars to Aachen in order to build his cathedral, our Popes
have also gone to work, and the heathen and their houses have been
literally laid at the feet of Christ. That is grand and something
to rejoice at! _Ecclesia Triumphans!_ Would not Christ rejoice
at it? How well Innocent III has expressed the 'Idea' of the
conquering Church, as Plato would call it. You know Plato--the Pope
has just paid five thousand ducats for a manuscript of the
_Timoeus_. Pope Innocent says: 'St Peter's successors have
received from God the commission not only to rule the Church but
the whole world. As God has set two great lights in the sky, he has
also set up two great powers on earth, the Papacy, which is the
higher because the care of souls is committed to it, and the Royal
power which is the lower, and to which only the charge of the bodies
of men is committed.' If you have any objection to make to that,
brother, speak it out."

"No, not against that, but against everything which I have seen and

"For example? Do you mean eating and drinking?"

"Yes, that also."

"How petty-minded you are! I speak of the highest things, and you
talk about eating and drinking. Fie! Martin! you are a meat-rejector
and a wine-eschewing Turk! But I accept your challenge. Our Lord
Christ allowed His disciples to pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath;
that was against the law of Moses, and was disapproved of by the
Pharisees.... You are a Pharisee. But now I will also remind you of
what Paul writes to the Romans--the Romans among whom we count
ourselves; perhaps as a German subject, you have not the right
to do that. Well, Paul writes: 'You look on the outside.'"

"Pardon me, that is the Epistle to the Corinthians."

"Oh, you look on the outside too. But Paul says further, 'All things
are lawful to me, but all things are not profitable. All that is
sold in the market-place, that eat and ask nothing for conscience'
sake; for the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof.' Those
are clear words, and a Frenchman would call them liberal-minded. But
you come here like a Pharisee, and wish to rebuke your superiors for
trifles; and the ordinances of men are more to you than God's
command. Fie! Martin! Remember your own words: 'We should obey
God rather than men!' You conceited slave of the letter, you should
read Paul."

Luther was not yet so familiar with the Holy Scriptures as he
afterwards became, for in the convent he had chiefly studied the
Corpus Juris, Aristotle, Virgil, and the comedies of Plautus, and
was somewhat depressed after his severe inward conflicts. Therefore
he gave no answer, but chafed internally.

"Have you any other question for me?" began the Augustinian again,
with an affected air of sympathy which irritated Luther still more.
"I can understand that our national customs have annoyed you as a
--foreigner. Every country has its own customs, and we keep our Roman
Carnival by making ridicule of the dead gods of the old heathen, if
one can call them gods! I believe you do the same in Germany, though
in a coarser way. You must put up with that. As regards the
'Festival of the Ass,' that had originally a beautiful significance,
since the poor animal was honoured with the task of carrying our
Saviour and His mother into Egypt. But, as you know, the common
people drag everything that is great and beautiful into the dust.
Can we help it? Can I do you any service? Do you want anything?"

"Nothing; but I thank you!" Luther was again alone, and the fiends
of doubt were again let loose upon him. The man was certainly right
from his own point of view, and he had strengthened his assertions
by arguments and by citations from Paul. But his point of view was
false;--that was the matter. How, then, was one to alter one's point
of view? That was only the effect of faith through grace, and
therefore not the work of man.

Then his introspective mind, which had been trained in the
Aristotelian dialectic, began to examine his opponent's point of
view. A merciful loving Heavenly Father might very well smile at the
follies and weaknesses of His human children; why, then, should we
not be able to do the same? Why should we be stricter than He? As
long as we live in the flesh, we must think according to the flesh,
but that does not prevent the spirit obtaining its due rights.

Did not Paul himself say, "So then we hold that man is justified by
faith without the deeds of the law"?

Yes, but were these drunken and licentious ecclesiastics really
believers? The Prior had blasphemed the Sacrament, and given the
prelate a dispensation from hearing confession and celebrating mass
in consideration of a fee. That was monstrous, heathenish, and a
Satanic abomination. Certainly, but faith itself was a gift bestowed
by grace, and if these men had not obtained grace they were
guiltless. But they were hardened sinners! Paul again gave the
answer to this: "The Lord receives whom He will, and whom He will He
hardeneth." If God had hardened them, as He hardened Pharaoh's
heart, then they were guiltless; and if so, why should we venture to
judge and condemn them. A mill-wheel seemed to go round in his head,
and he blamed Aristotle the heathen, who had seduced him in his
youth, and taught him to split hairs about simple matters. He felt
also that Paul could not help him, since such was his teaching.
Feeling quite crushed, he knelt down again on his praying stool,
and implored God to take him out of this world of lying deceit and
uncertainty. In this world one was surrounded by darkness without
being able to kindle a light; in this life one was driven to battle
without having received weapons. So he prayed and struggled with
himself till the evening.

Then the Prior came and fetched him. "My son," he said, "my dear
brother, you must not make a paramour of religion; you must not
practise it as a daily task or a bad habit. You must live your life
and regard it as a melody, while religion is a gentle accompaniment
to it. Work is for every day, rest and festival for Sundays. But if
you keep your Sabbath on the week-day you sin.... Come! now I will
show you Rome!"

Martin followed him, but unwillingly. The streets were illuminated,
and the people were amusing themselves with dancing, music, and
jugglers' feats.

"You must know where we are going," said the Prior. "This Agostino
Chigi is a banker, almost as rich as the House of Fugger in
Augsburg, and he looks after the Pope's business affairs. Moreover,
he is a Maecenas, who patronises the fine arts. His especial protege
is Raphael, who has just painted some beautiful large pictures in
his villa, which we will now see."

They reached the Tiber, followed the right bank, went over a bridge,
and stood before a garden which was enclosed by marble pillars and
a--gilded iron fence. It was now dark, and the garden was
illuminated by lanterns which hung on the boughs of the
orange-trees, and so lit up the ripe fruits that they gleamed like
gold. 'White marble statues stood among the dark-leaved trees;
fountains sent up jets of perfumed spray; among the shrubberies one
saw ladies with their gallants; here a singer was accompanying
himself on the lute; there a poet was reading his verses.

In the midst of the park stood the villa which resembled that of
Maecenas in the Sabine Hills or Cicero's Tusculum, and was adorned
with statues' of heathen gods. The doors stood open, and there was a
sound of music within. "People are not introduced to the host here,"
said the Prior, "for he does not like ceremony; therefore I leave
you alone now, and you must find acquaintances for yourself;
surprises are always pleasant."

Luther found himself alone, and turned irresolutely to the right,
where he saw a row of illuminated rooms. They were full of guests
drinking and chatting, but no one noticed the poor monk, who could
listen undisturbed to their conversation. In the first room a group
had formed round a man who was distributing specimens of a printed
book, the leaves of which people were eagerly turning.

"Hylacompus? is that a pseudonym?" asked one of them.

"He is a--printer called Waldseemuller in Saint-Die."

"_Cosmographies Introductio_--a description of the New World."

"We shall at last get information about these fables of Columbus."

"Columbus will not travel any more."

"Columbus has travelled to--hell! Now it is Amerigo Vespucci's

"He is a Florentine and a fellow-countrymen."

"Well, Columbus was a Genoese."

"Look you! Rome rules the world, the known and the unknown alike!
_Urbs est urbs!_ And nowadays you can meet all the nations of the
world at the house of the Roman Chigi. I have, as a matter of fact,
seen Turks, Mongols, Danes, and Russians here this evening."

"I should like to see a Turk! I like the Turks especially, because
they have blown that rotten Byzantium to pieces--Byzantium which
dared to call itself the 'Eastern Rome.' Now there is only one

"Do you know that our Holy Father is treating with Sultan Bajazet
regarding help against Venice."

"Yes, but that is diabolical! We must at any rate act as though we
were Christians."

"Act--yes; for I am not a Christian, nor are you."

"If one must have a religion, give me Islam! God is One! That is
the whole of its theology; a prayer-mat is its whole liturgy."

"You have to have a washing-basin besides."

"And a harem."

"Things are certainly in a bad way with our religion. If one reads
its history, it is a history of the decay of Christianity. That has
been continually going on for fifteen hundred years since the days
of the Apostles; soon the process of degeneration must be complete."

"And if one reads the history of the Papacy, it is the same."

"No, hush!" said a fat Cardinal, "you must let the papal throne
remain till I have sat in it."

"After a Borgia, it would suit as well to have a Medici like you,
and especially a son of Lorenzo the Magnificent."

"Will not the cardinals dance?" asked one, who seemed to be Chigi

"Yes, after supper, in the pavilion, and behind closed doors,"
answered the Cardinal de Medici, "and after I have hung up the red

So much was clear to Luther from the foregoing conversation,--that
he had seen and heard the representatives of the highest ranks of the
priesthood, and that the stout man was John de Medici, the
candidate for the papal chair.

He went quickly through several other rooms where half-intoxicated
women were coquetting with their paramours. At last he came into the
great banqueting hall. There stood groups of ambassadors and
pilgrims, representing all nations of the world. They were looking
at the ceiling and admiring the paintings on it. Luther followed
their example, while he listened to their remarks.

"This is like looking at the sky; one has to lie on one's back."

"I know nothing more beautiful than sunrise and the nude."

"Raphael is indeed a divine painter."
"What luck that Savonarola is burnt, else he would have burnt these

At the mention of Savonarola's name the monk awoke from the state of
aesthetic intoxication into which the pictures had brought him, and
rushed out into the night. Savonarola, the last of the martyrs, who
had sought to save Christendom and had been burnt! All were burnt
who tried to serve Christ--by way of encouraging them.

How could one expect people to believe in Christianity? What added
to his trouble of mind was the fact that this painter who had the
name of an angel, and looked like an angel, painted Jupiter and nude
women! Nothing kept what it promised; all was dust and ashes.
_Vanitas!_ But this heathenism which sprang from the earth, what was
its object?

Even the divine Dante had chosen a heathen Roman poet, Virgil, as
his guide through Hell, and a beautiful maiden as his companion on
the way to heaven. That was foolishness and blasphemy.

The end of the world must be approaching, for Antichrist was come
and ruled in Rome. But an Antichrist had always sat on the Papal
throne, which was itself an evil, for Paul had taught that in
Christ's Church we are all priests and should form a priesthood.

So he reached his cell again, and recovered himself and his God in

* * * * *

The next morning he went out in order to see the Church of St. Peter
and the Vatican, which had become the residence of the Popes after
their return from Avignon. Since he did not know his way about the
town, he happened to come into the Forum. There were several bodies
of troops collected for review, and on a great black stallion sat an
old man, armed from top to toe in steel. The troops passed in review
before him, and he seemed to be the commander.

"He looks like a Rabbi," said a citizen, "and he must be quite five
and sixty now."

"He seems to me to resemble the prophet Muhammed. And he began as a

"Yes, and he has bought the papal chair."

"Well, let it go! But his summoning Charles VIII with the French to
Naples was a betrayal of his country. Now he goes against Venice,
and leads the troops himself."

"And expects help from the Turks."

"They ought not to play with the Turks, who are already in Hungary
and mean to get to Vienna."

"We have forgotten the Crusades, and tolerance is a fine quality."

"Yes, the last thing they did was to undertake a crusade against the
Christian Albigenses, while they tried to conciliate the Muhammedans
in Sicily."

"The world is a madhouse."

This, then, was Pope Julius II, who had overcome the monster
Alexander VI, and now led his army against Venice, His kingdom was
quite obviously of this world, and Luther lost all desire for an
audience with him.

He went now to the Leonine quarter, where the new Church of St.
Peter's was to be built in place of the one which had been pulled
down. This, in its turn, was a successor of Nero's Circus, in which
the first Christian martyrs had suffered. He found the site enclosed
by a iron fence, but at the entrance stood two Dominican monks, and
a civilian who looked like a clerk. Between them was a great iron
chest, and the monks called aloud the scale of prices for the
forgiveness of sins. All who entered, and wished to see the
building, threw money to the clerk, who counted and entered it in
his book. This functionary had been appointed by Hans Fugger, who
farmed the sale of indulgences.

Luther also wished to see the building, and without thinking put
down some silver pieces. As a receipt, he received a piece of paper
on which was written the formula of forgiveness for some trifling

When he had read the paper, he returned it to the clerk, and burst
out, "I don't buy forgiveness of sins, but I gladly pay the entrance

He entered the site, but now noticed the dark-eyed Augustinian monk
following him.

"Are you dissatisfied, brother?" said the latter. "Do you think that
the forgiveness of sins is bought? Who ever said so? Don't you know
that the Civil Law exacts fines for certain trespasses? Why should
not the Ecclesiastical Law do the same? Tell me any reason. What
nonsense you talk? What is buying? You pay out money, and by doing
so deprive yourself of certain enjoyments! Instead of buying wine
and women, you give this money to the Church. Good! By doing so,
you renounce the sin with which you would otherwise have polluted

"Who taught you such arguments?"

"We learn in the schools here to think, you see; we read Cicero and

"Do you read the Bible also?"

"Yes, certainly. The Epistle always lies beside the Gospel on the

"Do you understand what you read?"

"Now you are impolite, Martin, but you are also proud, and you must
not be that. Look now at the new church. What we see is only the
foundation, but we can go in the architect's cottage, and see the
designs there."

The designs were hung up in a little pavilion, and another fee was
charged for entrance.

"Now what does my critical brother say?"

"That is simply a Roman bath-house," answered Luther after a
glance. "Caracalla's Thermae, I should say."

"It is a heathen building, then!"

"Yes, if you like, but everything is heathenish here, although
baptized. The heathen were not so stupid.... I won't see any more."

"But look at those two great men there, before you go. The tall man
with the patriarchal beard is Michael Angelo, and that slim youth
with the long neck and feminine features is Raphael."

"Is that Raphael?"

"Yes; he looks like an angel, but is not so dangerous. He is a very
good man; they talk of getting him married. He does not want to,
however, for his eye is on a cardinal's hat, which they have promised

"Cardinal's hat?"

"Yes, he is spiritually-minded, although he paints worldly objects."

"I remember, but I want to forget them."

"Listen, Martin!" the monk interrupted him, with an insulting air
of familiarity; "when you go away from here, and get home, don't
forget to curb your tongue! Think of what I say: there are eyes and
ears which follow you where you go, and when you least suspect it."

"If the Lord is with me, what can men do against me?"

"Are you sure that the Lord is with you? Do you know His ways and
His will?--You only? Can you interpret His meaning when He speaks?"

"Yes, I can; for I hear his voice in my conscience. Get thee hence,
Satan, or I shall pray that heaven's lightning may smite thee! I
came here as a believing child, but I shall depart as a believing
man, for your questions have only evoked my silent answers which
you have not heard, but which some day you will hear. You have
killed Savonarola, but I am young and strong, and I shall live.
Mark that!"

* * * * *

Luther did not stay long in Rome, but he took the opportunity of
learning Hebrew, and attended the lectures of the Jew Elia Levi ben
Asher, surnamed Bachur or Elias Levita.

There he met Cardinal Viterbo, the patron of the Jews, and many
other celebrities, for Oriental languages were then in fashion after
the Turks had established themselves in Constantinople.

Luther enjoyed the friendship of the old Jew, for Elias was the only
"Christian" whom he found in Rome. It was a pity, to be sure, that
he lived under the Law, and was not acquainted with the Gospel, but
he knew no better.


In the year 1483, the same year in which Luther was born, Docter
Coctier sat in his laboratory at Paris, and carried on a
philosophical discussion with a chemical expert who was passing
through the city.

The laboratory was in the same building as his observatory, in the
Marais quarter of the town, a site occupied to-day by the Place des
Vosges. Not far away is the Bastille, the magnificent Hotel de
Saint-Pol, and the brilliant Des Tournelles, the residence of the
Kings before the Louvre was built. Here Louis XI had given his
private physician, chancellor, and doctor of all the sciences,
Coctier, a house which lay in a labyrinth-like park called the
Garden of Daedalus. The doctor was speaking, and the expert
listened: "Yes, Plato in his _Timaeus_ calls gold one of the densest
and finest substances which filters through stone. There is a metal
derived from gold which is black, and that is iron. But a substance
more akin to gold is copper, which is composed of shining congealed
fluids, and one of whose minor constituents is green earth. Now I
ask, 'Why cannot copper be freed from this last, and refined to

"Yes," answered the expert, "it can, if one uses atramentum or the
philosopher's stone."

"What is that?"

"Atramentum is copperas."

"Ventre-saint-gris! that is Plato's iron! Now I see! Who taught you

"I learnt it from the greatest living magician in Wittenberg. His
name is Dr. Faustus, and he has studied magic in Krakau."

"He is alive, then! Tell me! Tell me!"

"This man, according to many witnesses, has done miracles like
Christ; he has undertaken to restore the lost comedies of Plautus
and Terence; his mind can soar on eagle's wings and discover secrets
of the heights and depths."

"Has he also found the elixir of life?"

"Yes, since gold can be resolved into its elements."

"If gold can be resolved, then it has constituents. What are they?"

"Gold can be easily dissolved in oil of vitriol, salts of ammonia,
and saltpetre."

"What do you say?"

The Doctor jumped up; the stove had heated the room and made him

"Let us go for a little walk," he said; "but I must first make a
note of what you say, for, when I wish to remember something
important, the devil makes confusion in my head. These, then, are
means of dissolving gold--oil of vitriol, salts of ammonia, and

The expert, whose name was Balthasar, now first noticed that he had
given his information without obtaining a receipt or any equivalent
for it, and, since he was not one of the unselfish kind, he threw
out a feeler.

"How is our gracious King?"

The question revealed his secret and his wish, and put Doctor
Coctier on his guard. "Ah," he said to himself, "you have your eye
on the King with your elixir of life." And then he added aloud, "He
is quite well."

"Oh! I had heard the opposite!"

"Then they have lied."

Then there was silence in the room, and the two men tried to read
each other's thoughts. It was so terribly still that they felt their
hatred germinate, and had already begun a fight to the death. Doctor
Coctier's thoughts ran as follows: "You come with an elixir to
lengthen the life of the monster who is our King; you wish thereby
to make your own fortune and to bring trouble on me; and you know
that he who has the King's life in his hands, has the power."

Quick as lightning he had taken his resolve, coolly and cruelly, as
the custom of the time was. He resumed the conversation, and said,
"Now you must see my 'Daedalus' or labyrinth. Since the time of the
Minotaur, there has been none like it."

The labyrinth was a thicket threaded by secret passages, bordered
by hornbeam-hedges, four ells high, and so dense that one did not
notice the thin iron balustrade which ran along them. Artistically
contrived and impenetrable, the labyrinth meandered in every
direction. It seemed to be endlessly long, and was so arranged that
its perspectives deceived the eye. It also contained secret doors
and underground passages, and a visitor soon grew aware that it had
not been constructed as a joke, but in deadly earnest. Only the King
and Doctor Coctier possessed the key to this puzzle.

When the two men had walked for a good time, admired statues and
watched fountains play, Balthasar wished to sit upon a bench,


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