Part 5 out of 6
whether it was that he was tired or suspected some mischief.
But the Doctor prevented him: "No, not on _that_ seat," he said.
They continued their walk. But now the Doctor quickened his steps,
and, after a while, his guest felt again weary and confused in his
head from the perpetual turning round. Therefore he threw himself on
the first seat which he saw, and drew a deep breath.
"You run the life out of me, Doctor," he said.
"No, you are not so short-lived," answered the Doctor; "I see a long
line of life on your forehead, and the bar between your eyes shows
that you were born under the planet Jupiter. Besides, you possess
the elixir of life, and can prolong your existence as much as you
like, can't you?"
The expert noticed a cruel smile on the Doctor's face, and, feeling
himself in danger, tried to spring up, but the arms of the chair had
closed around him, and he was held fast. The next moment Doctor
Coctier seemed to be seeking for something in the sand with his left
foot, and, when he had found it, he pressed with all his weight on
the invisible object.
"Farewell, young man," he said; "loquacious, conceited young man,
who wanted to lord it over Doctor Coctier. Now I will settle the
King for you."
The seat disappeared in the earth with the expert. It was an
oubliette--a pit with a trap-door, which drew the veil of oblivion
over the man who had vanished.
When he had finished the affair, the Doctor sought to leave the
labyrinth, but could not find the way at once, for he was deep in
thought, and kept on repeating the formula for the elixir which he
had just learnt, to impress it on his mind, in case the recipe
should be lost--"oil of vitriol, salts of ammonia, saltpetre."
Suddenly he found himself in a round space where many paths
converged, and to his great astonishment saw a body lying on the
ground. It looked like that of a large brown watchdog, but limp and
"It is not the first who has been caught in this crab-pot," he
thought, and came nearer. But as the brown mass moved, he saw that
it was a man with torn clothes and a shabby fur cap.
It was the King--Louis XI in the last year of his life.
"Sire, in the name of all the saints, what is the matter with you?"
exclaimed the Doctor.
"Wretch!" answered the King, "why do you construct such traps that
one cannot find the way out of them?"
Now it was Louis himself who, in his youth, had constructed the
maze, but the Doctor could not venture to tell him so. Therefore he
"Sire, you are ill. Why do you not remain in Tours? How have you
"I cannot sleep, and I cannot eat. The last few days I have passed
in Vincennes, in Saint-Pol, in the Louvre, but I find peace nowhere.
At last I came here, in order to be safe in the place which only you
and I know; I came yesterday morning, and would have stayed longer,
but I was hungry, and when I wanted to get out, I could not find the
way. I have been here, freezing, last night. Take me away; I am ill;
feel my pulse, and see whether it is not the quartan ague."
The Doctor tried to feel his pulse, but did so with difficulty for
it was hardly beating at all; but he dared not tell the King so.
"Your pulse is regular and strong, sire; let us get home!"
"I will eat at your house; you only can prepare food properly; all
the rest spoil it with their everlasting condiments; they spice all
my dishes, and the spices are bad. Jacob, help me to get away from
here--help me. Did you see the star last night? Is there anything
new in the sky? There is certain a comet approaching. I feel it
before it comes."
"No, sire; no comet is approaching...."
"Do you answer impertinently? Then you believe I am sick--perhaps
"No, sire, you are healthier than ever; but follow me--I will make
you a bed, and prepare you a meal."
The King rose and followed the Doctor. The latter, however, wished
the monarch to go before him but the King mistrusted his only last
friend, who certainly did not love him, and would have gladly seen
"Beware of the seats, sire," he cried. "Do not go too near to the
hedge; keep in the middle of the path."
"Your seats themselves should.... Forgive me my sins." He crossed
When they came out of the labyrinth, the King fell in a rage at the
recollection of what he had suffered, and, instead of being grateful
towards his rescuer, he burst into abuse: "How could you let me go
astray in your garden, and let me sleep on the bare ground in the
open air? You are an ass." They entered the laboratory, where it was
warm, and the King, who was observant, noticed at once the recipe
which the Doctor had left there.
"What are you doing behind my back? What recipe have you been
writing? Is it poison or medicine? Oil of vitriol is poison, salts
of ammonia are only for dysentery, saltpetre produces scurvy. For
whom have you made this mixture?"
"It is for the gardener's cow, which has calved," answered the
Doctor, who certainly did not wish to prolong the tyrant's life.
The King laid down on a sofa. "Jacob," he said, "you must not go
away; I will not eat, but I will sleep, and you must sit here by me.
I have had to sleep for eight nights. But put out the fire; it hurts
my eyes. Don't let down the blinds; I want to see the sun; otherwise
I cannot sleep."
He seemed to fall asleep, but it was only a momentary nap. Then he
grew wide awake again, and sat up in bed.
"Why do you keep starlings in your garden, Jacob?"
"I have no starlings," answered the Doctor impatiently, "but if you
have heard them whistling, sire, they must be there with your
"Don't you hear them, then?"
"No! but what are they singing?"
"Yes, you know! After the shameful treaty of Peronne, when I had to
yield to Charles of Burgundy, the Parisians taught their starlings
to cry 'Peronne!' Do you know what they are saying now?"
The Doctor lost patience, for he had heard these old stories
thousands of times: "They are not saying 'Guienne,' are they?" he
There was an ugly reference to fratricide in the question, for the
King was suspected of having murdered his brother, the Duke of
Guienne. He started from the sofa in a pugnacious attitude. "What!
You believe in this fable? But I have never committed murder, though
I would certainly like to murder you...."
"Better leave it alone!" answered the Doctor cynically; "you know
what the starshave said--eight days after my death, follows yours."
The King had an attack of cramp, for he believed this fable, which
Coctier had invented to protect his own life. But when he recovered
consciousness, he continued to wander in his talk.
"They also say that I murdered my father, but that is a lie. He
starved himself to death for fear of being poisoned."
"Of being poisoned by you! You are a fine fellow! But your hour will
"Hush!... I remember every thing now. My father was a noodle who
let France be overrun by the English, and when the Maid of Orleans
saved him, gave her up to the English. I hate my father who was
false to my mother with Agnes Sorel, and had his legitimate children
brought up by his paramour. When he left the kingdom to itself, I
and the nobles took it in hand. That you call 'revolt,' but I
have never stirred up a revolt! That is a lie."
"Listen!" the Doctor broke in; "if you wish to confess, send for
your father confessor."
"I am not confessing to you; I am defending myself."
"Who is accusing you, then? Your own bad conscience."
"I have no bad conscience, but I am accused unjustly."
"Who is accusing you? The starling?"
"My wife and children accuse me, and don't wish to see me."
"No; if you have sent them to Amboise, they cannot see you, and, as
a matter of fact, they do not wish to."
"To think that I, the son of King Charles VII, must hear this sort
of thing from a quack doctor! I have always liked people of low
rank; Olivier the barber was my friend."
"And the executioner Tristan was your godfather."
"He was provost-marshal, you dog!"
"The tailor became a herald."
"And the quack doctor a chancellor! Put that to my account and
praise me, ingrate! for having protected you from the nobles, and
for only having regard to merit."
"That is certainly a redeeming feature."
Just then a man appeared in the doorway with his cap in his hand.
"Who is there?" cried the King. "Is it a murderer?"
"No, it is only the gardener," the man answered.
"Ha! ha! gardener!--your cow has calved, hasn't she?"
"I possess no cow, sire, nor have I ever had one."
The King was beside himself, and flew at Coctier's throat.
"You have lied to me, scoundrel; it is not medicine you were
preparing, but poison."
The gardener disappeared. "If I wished to do what I should,"
said Coctier, "I would treat you like Charles the Bold did when you
"What did he do? What do people say that he did?"
"People say that he beat you with a stick."
The King was ashamed, went to bed again, and hid his face in the
pillow. The Doctor considered this a favourable moment for
preferring a long-denied request.
"Will you now liberate the Milanese?" he asked.
"But he cannot sit any more in his iron cage!"
"Then let him stand!"
"Don't you know that when one has to die, one good deed atones for
a thousand crimes?"
"I will not die!"
"Yes, sire, you will die soon."
"No, before me."
"That is also a lie of yours."
"All have lied to you, liar. And your four thousand victims whom you
have had executed...."
"They were not victims; they were criminals."
"Those four thousand slaughtered will witness it the judgment seat
"Lengthen my life; then I will reform myself."
"Liberate the Milanese."
"Then go to perdition--and quickly. Your pulse is so feeble that
your hours are numbered."
The King jumped up, fell on his knees before the physician, and
prayed, "Lengthen my life."
"No! I should like to abbreviate it, were you not the anointed of
the Lord. You ought to have rat-poison."
"Mercy! I confess that I have acted from bad motives; that I have
only thought of myself; that I have never loved the people, but used
them in order to put down the nobles; I grant that I made agreements
and treaties with the deliberate purpose of breaking them; that I
... Yes, I am a poor sinful man, and my name will be forgotten; all
that I have done will be obliterated...."
A stranger now appeared in the open door. It was a young man in the
garb of the Minorites.
"Murderer!" screamed the King, and sprang up.
"No," answered the monk, "I am he whom you called Vincent of Paula."
"My deliverer! say a word--a single word of comfort."
"Sire," answered Vincent, "I have heard your confession, and will
give you absolution in virtue of my office."
"Very well. Your motives were not pure, as you yourself confess, but
your work will not perish, for He who guides the destinies of men
and nations uses all and each for His purposes. Not long ago it was
a pure virgin who saved France; now it is not quite so blameless a
man. But your work, sire, was in its result of greater importance
than that of the Maid, for you have completed what the Roman Caesar
began. The hundred-year war with England is over, the Armagnacs
and Burgundians quarrel no more, the Jacquerie war has ceased, and
the peasants have returned to their ploughs. You have united eleven
provinces, France has become one land, one people, and will now take
the place of Rome, which will disappear and be forgotten for
centuries, perhaps some day to rise again. France will guide the
destinies of Europe, and be great among the crowned heads, so long
as it does not aim at empire like the Rome of the Caesars, for then
it will be all over with it. Thank God that you have been able to be
of service, though in ignorance of the will and purposes of your
Lord, when you thought you were only going your own way!"
"Montjoie Saint Denis!" exclaimed the King. "Lord, now lettest Thou
Thy servant depart in peace."
"But not here," broke in the Doctor, who was tired of the whole
business. "Travel back to Tours, take the priest with you, and leave
me in peace!"
The King returned to Plessis-les-Tours, where he ended his days
after severe sufferings. He did not obtain peace, but he did obtain
"Now the rod is thrown into the fire," said Doctor Coctier, "let it
burn; the children have grown up, and can look after themselves.
Executioners also have their uses, as Tristan L'Ermite and his
master Louis XI know. Peace be with them."
OLD MERRY ENGLAND
Cardinal Wolsey's oared galley pushed off from the Tower Bridge,
below the iron gateway. It gleamed with red and gold; flags and
sails flapped lazily in a gentle breeze. The Cardinal sat on the
stern-deck surrounded by his little court; most of his attendants he
had left at home in York Palace, later known as Whitehall. His face
was red both from the reflection of his red dress as from the wine
which he had been drinking at noon with King Henry VIII in the
Tower, and also from the new French sickness, which was very
fashionable, as everything French was.
He was in a cheerful mood, for he had just received fresh proofs of
the King's favour.
At his side stood the King's secretary, Thomas Cromwell. Both were
parvenus. Wolsey was the son of a butcher, Cromwell the son of a
smith, and that was probably one of the causes of their friendship,
although the Cardinal was by twenty years the elder of the two.
"This is a happy day," said Wolsey joyfully, and cast a glance up at
the Tower, which was still a royal residence, though it was soon to
cease to be one. "I have obtained the head of Buckingham, that fool
who believed he had a right of succession to the crown."
"Who has the right of succession," asked Cromwell, "since there is
no male heir, and none is expected?"
"I will soon see to that! Katherine of Aragon is weak and old, but
the King is young and strong."
"Remember Buckingham," said Cromwell; "it is dangerous to meddle
with the succession to the throne."
"Nonsense! I have guided England's destiny hitherto, and will guide
Cromwell saw that it was time to change the topic.
"It is a good thing that the King is leaving the Tower. It must be
depressing for him to have only a wall between himself and the
prisoners, and to see the scaffold from his windows."
"Don't talk against our Tower! It is a Biblia Pauperum, an
illustrated English History comprising the Romans, King Alfred,
William the Conqueror, and the Wars of the Roses. I was fourteen
years old when England found its completion at the battle of
Bosworth, and the thirty years' War of the Roses came to an end
with the marriage between York and Lancaster...."
"My father used to talk of the hundred years' war with France, which
ended in the same year in which Constantinople was taken by the
"Yes, all countries are baptized in blood; that is the sacrament
of circumcision, and see what fertility follows this manuring with
blood! You don't know that apple-trees bear most fruit after a
"Yes I do; my father always used to bury offal from butchers' shops
at the root of fruit-trees."
Here he stopped and coloured, for he had made a slip with his
tongue. In the Cardinal's presence no one dared to speak of
slaughter or the like, for he was hated by the people, and often
called "The Butcher." Cromwell, however, was above suspicion, and
the Cardinal did not take his remark ill, but saved the situation.
"Moreover," he continued, "my present was well received by the King;
Hampton Court is also a treasure, and has the advantage of being
near Richmond and Windsor, but can naturally not bear comparison
with York Place."
The galley was rowed up the river, on whose banks stood the most
stately edifices which existed at the time. They passed by
customhouses and warehouses, fishmarkets, and fishers'
landing-places; the pinnacles of the Guildhall or Council House;
the Convent of Blackfriars, the old Church of St. Paul's; the Temple,
formerly inhabited by the Templars, now a court of justice; the
Hospital of St. James, subsequently appropriated by Henry VIII and
made a palace. Finally they reached York Place (Whitehall) by
Westminster, where Wolsey, the Cardinal and Papal Legate, Archbishop
of York and Keeper of the Great Seal, dwelt with his court,
comprising about eight hundred persons, including court ladies.
Then they disembarked after conversing on ordinary topics; for the
Cardinal preferred discussing trifles when he had great schemes in
hand, and that which occupied him especially just now was his
candidature for the papacy.
* * * * *
Sir Thomas More, the King's Treasurer and Privy Councillor, sat in
his garden at Chelsea above Westminster. He was correcting proofs,
for he was a great scholar, and wrote on all the controversial
questions of the day, religious and political, though he was
essentially a man of peace, living in this suburb an idyllic life
with his family.
He wore his best attire, although in the house and at work. He also
showed signs of disquietude, looking now and then towards the door,
for at an early hour of the day no one less than the King had sent
an intimation of his intention to pay him a visit. He knew from
experience how dangerous it was to be on intimate terms with the
King and to share his secrets. His sovereign had the bad habit
of asking for advice which he did not follow, and of imparting
secrets the knowledge of which often cost his confidants their
heads. The most dangerous thing of all was to undertake to act as
intermediary between Henry and anyone else, for then one fell
between two millstones.
With a mind prepared for the worst, More tried to quiet himself by
reading his proofs, but his efforts were vain. He rose and began to
walk up and down the garden path, went over in his mind all possible
causes of the King's coming, rehearsed answers to objections,
refutations of arguments, and ways of modifying the King's too
strong views without causing offence.
Henry was certainly a learned man, who had a respect for knowledge,
but he had a savage nature which he tried to tame with the scourge
of religion, though without success.
The clank of armour and tramp of horses was now audible, and the
Treasurer hastened, cap in hand, to the garden gate.
The King had already dismounted from his horse, and hastened towards
his friend, carrying a portfolio in his hand.
"Thomas," he said without any preface, "take and read! He has
answered me! Who? Luther, of course! He--the man whose mind reeks
like carrion, and whose practices are damnable--has answered my
book, _The Babylonish Captivity_. Take and read what he says, and
tell me if you have ever seen anything like it."
He gave the Treasurer a printed pamphlet. "And then this devil of a
liar says I have not written my book myself. Take and read it, and
give me your advice."
More began to read Luther's answer to Henry's attack. He read it to
himself, and often found it hard to remain serious, although the
King kept his eyes fixed on his face in order to read his thoughts.
Among other things, Luther had written: "It matters nothing to me
whether King Heinz or Kunz, the Devil or Hell itself, has composed
this book. He who lies is a liar--therefore I fear him not. It seems
to me that King Henry has provided an ell or two of coarse stuff for
this mantle, and that the poisonous fellow Leus (Leo X), who wrote
against Erasmus, or someone of his sort, has cut and lined the hood.
But I will help them--please God--by ironing it and attaching bells
More felt that he must say something or lose his head, so he said:
"That is monstrous! That is quite monstrous!"
"Go on!" exclaimed Henry.
After saying that he postponed the discussion of the other six
sacraments, Luther added: "I am busy in translating the Bible into
German, and cannot stir up Heinz's dirt any more."
The Treasurer was nearly choking with suppressed laughter, but he
felt the sword suspended over his head, and continued: "But I will
give the poisonous liar and blasphemer, King Heinz, once for all, a
complete answer, and stop his mouth.... Therefore he thinks to hang
on to the Pope and play the hypocrite before him.... Therefore they
mutually caress and tickle each other like a pair of mule's ears...."
"No, sire," More broke off, "I cannot go on; it is high treason to
"I will read," said the King, and took the pamphlet from him:
"'I conquer and defy Papists, Thomists, Henrys, Sophists, and all
the swine of hell!' He calls us swine!"
"He is a madman who ought to be beaten to death with iron bars or
hunted in a forest with bloodhounds."
"Yes, he ought! But imagine!--this scoundrel gives himself out for a
prophet and servant of Christ. And he has married a nun. That is
incest! But he has been punished for it. The Kurfurst of Saxony has
abandoned him, and none of his so-called friends went to the
"What is his object? What is his new teaching? Justification through
faith. If one only believes, one may live like a swine!"
"And his doctrine about the Communion. The Church says the Elements
are changed by consecration, but this materialist says they actually
_are_ Christ's Body and Blood. Then the corn in the field and the
grapes in the vineyard are already Christ's Body and Blood! He is an
ass! And the world is mad."
"And the consequence,--sin with impunity! Sire, allow me to read
some lines, which I have written as an answer, not to these but to
his other follies--only some lines which I hope to add to."
"Read! I listen when you speak, for I have learnt to listen, and,
through that, I know something."
The King sat down astride on a chair, as though he would ride
against his formidable foe.
"Honourable brother," read More, "father, drinker runaway from the
Augustinian Order, clumsy tipsy reveller of the worldly and
spiritual kingdoms, ignorant teacher of sacred theology."
"Good, Thomas; he knows no theology!"
"And this is the way he composed his book against King Henry, the
Defender of Our Faith: he collected his stable-companions, and
commissioned them to collect all manner of abuse and bad language,
each in his own department. One of them among carters and boatmen;
another in baths and gaming-houses; a third in barbers' shops and
restaurants; a fourth in mills and brothels. They wrote down in
their note-books the most daring, dirtiest, and vulgarest
expressions which they heard, brought home all that was coarse and
nasty, and emptied it into a disgusting drain, called Luther's
"Good! Very good! But what shall we do now?"
"Burn the rubbish, sire, and make an end of the matter."
"Yes, I will have his heresies burnt to-morrow at St. Paul's Cross
in the City."
* * * * *
In the great library of the Temple sat the King and Cardinal Wolsey,
examining collections of laws and precedents. Outside in the garden
the Queen was walking with some of the court ladies. This garden
--really a large rose-garden--had been preserved as a promenade for
the royal personages who could not sleep in the Tower, because it
was haunted, and did not retain their health in the insignificant
Bride-well in the City; it was also preserved as a place of
historical interest, for here the adherents of Lancaster and
York were said to have plucked the red and white roses as their
Queen Katherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella,
the patrons of Christopher Columbus, had now, after twenty years'
marriage with Henry VIII, reached a certain age. She had borne him
several sons, but all had died: only one, a daughter, lived, known
later on as Queen, under the title "Bloody Mary." Katherine had aged
early, and sought comfort in religion; she used to rise at night and
attend mass in the garb of a Franciscan nun. She knew of the
King's unfaithfulness, but accepted it quietly; she had heard the
name of Elizabeth Blunt, but ignored it.
Now she sat on a seat, and watched her young attendants playing,
while she turned over the pages of her prayer book. One pair
especially her eyes followed with pleasure--the uncommonly beautiful
Anna of Norfolk and young Henry Algernon Percy of Northumberland,
Hotspur's descendant. The pair were playing with roses; the youth
had an armful of white and the girl an armful of red roses, which
they threw at each other, singing as they lid so.
It was a beautiful sight, but the Queen became sad: "Don't play like
that, children," she said; "it awakens memories which ought to sleep
in the Tower, where Only the dead can sleep quietly. Besides, the
King, and consequently the Cardinal, will be vexed; they sit there
in the library. Play something else!"
The two young people seemed not to understand. Accordingly the Queen
continued: "The Wars of the Roses, children, did not end altogether
at Bosworth but--in the Tower happened much that is best forgotten.
Take a book and read something."
"We have been reading all the morning," answered Anne surnamed
Boleyn or Bullen.
"What are you reading then?
"_The Canterbury Tales_? Those are not for children: Chaucer was a
jester. You had better take my book. It has beautiful pictures."
The young Percy took the little breviary, and, going down the path
as though they sought the shade, they both quietly disappeared from
the Queen's eyes.
But from the library four eyes had followed them, those of the King
and the Cardinal, while they turned over the folios.
The King was uneasy, and spoke more for the sake of speaking than
because he had something to say, and so did the Cardinal.
"You ought to aim at the Papacy, Cardinal, as Hadrian's successor."
"Yes, so they say."
"What about the votes?"
"They are controlled by the Emperor Charles V and King Francis I."
"How can one bring such a discordant pair into harmony?"
"That is just what requires diplomatic skill, sire."
"You cannot stand on good terms with both."
"Who knows? The Emperor has taken Rome, and placed the Pope in the
Castle of St. Angelo ... that was a droll stroke! Then the soldiers
in jest, under the windows of the Castle, called out for Martin
Luther as Pope."
"Name not his cursed name," growled the King, but more in anger at
what he saw in the rose-garden than at the mention of Luther.
The Cardinal understood him. "I do not like a union between
Northumberland and Norfolk," he said.
"What do you say?" asked the King. He was angry that Wolsey had read
his thoughts, but did not wish to betray himself.
"Anne is really too good for a Percy, and I find it improper of the
Queen to act as a match-maker, and let them go alone in the
shrubbery. No, that must have an end!"
"Sire, it is already at an end; I have written to Anne's father to
call her home to Hever."
"You did well in that, by heaven! Two such families, who both aim at
the succession, ought not to unite."
"Who is there that does _not_ aim at the throne? Just now it was
Buckingham, now it is Northumberland, and only because there is no
proper heir. Sire, you must consider the country, and your people,
and name a successor."
"No! I will not have anyone waiting for my decease."
"Then we shall have the Wars of the Roses again, which cost England
a million men and eighty of our noblest families."
The King smiled. "Our noblest!" Then he rose and stepped to the
window: "I must now accompany the Queen home," he said. "She has
gone to sleep outside, and this damp is not good for her in her weak
"At her Majesty's age one must be very careful," replied the Cardinal.
He emphasized the word _age_, for Katherine was forty, and gave no
more hopes of an heir to the throne. Her daughter Mary might certainly
be married, but one did not know to whom.
"Sire," he continued, "do not be angry, but I have just now opened
the Holy Scripture.... It may be an accident--will you listen?"
"In the third Book of Moses, the twentieth and twenty-first
chapters, I read the following--but you will not be angry with your
"These are the Lord's solemn words: 'If any man take his brother's
wife, it is evil; they shall be childless.'"
The King was excited, and approached the Cardinal.
"Is that there? Yes, truly! God has punished me by taking my sons
one after the other. What a wonderful book, in which everything is
written! That is the reason then! But what says Thomas Aquinas, the
'Angel' of the Schoolmen?"
"Yes, sire, if you wish the matter elucidated, we must consult the
"Let us do so,--but quietly and cautiously. The Queen is blameless,
and nothing evil must happen to her. Quietly and cautiously, Wolsey!
But I must know the truth."
* * * * *
In a room near the "Bloody Tower," the Cardinal and More were
carrying on a lively conversation.
"What is happening now in Germany?" asked the Cardinal.
"While Luther was in the Wartburg, his pupil Karlstadt came to
Wittenberg, and turned everything upside down. Citing the
prohibition of images in the Old Testament, he stirred up students
and the rabble to attack the churches and throw all sacred objects
"That's the result of the Bible! To give it into the hands of the
unlearned means letting hell loose,"
"What did Luther say to that?"
"He hurried down from the Wartburg and denounced Karlstadt and his
followers, but I cannot say that he confuted them. A councillor
quoted the book of Moses, 'Thou shalt not make to thee any image nor
likeness.' And a shoemaker answered, 'I have often taken off my hat
before images in a room or in the street; but that is idolatry, and
robs God of the glory which belongs to Him alone.'"
"What did Luther say?"
"That then, on account of occasional misuse, one must kill all the
women, and pour all the wine into the streets."
"That was a stupid saying; but that is the result of disputing with
shoemakers. Besides, it is degrading to compare women to wine! He
is a coarse fellow who sets his wife on the same level with a
"Logic is not his strong point, and his comparisons halt on
crutches. In his answer to the Pope's excommunication, he writes,
among other things: 'If a hay-cart must move out of the way of a
drunken man, how much more must Peter and Jesus Christ keep out of
the way of the Pope?'"
"That is a pretty simile! Let us return to James Bainham."
"But let me tell you a little more about the fanatics in Germany.
Besides Karlstadt and his followers, other enthusiasts, quoting the
Bible and Luther, have had themselves rebaptized; their leader has
taken ten wives, supporting his action by the example of David,
Solomon, and even Abraham."
"The Bible again!--Call in Bainham, and then we will hear how the
matter stands! He was a lawyer in the Temple, you say, and has been
spreading Luther's teaching. Have we not had enough of Wycliffe and
the Lollards? Must we have the same thing again, grunted out by this
"I am not an intolerant man," said More, "but a State must be
homogeneous, or it will fall to pieces. Ignoramuses and lunatics
must not come forward and sniff at the State religion, be it better
"Let Bainham come, and we will hear him."
More went to a door which was guarded on the outside by soldiers,
and gave an order.
"You examine him, and I will listen," said the Cardinal.
After a time Bainham was brought into the room in chains.
More sat at the end of a table, and commenced.
"James Bainham, can you declare your belief in a few words?"
"I believe in God's Word--_i.e._ the whole of Holy Scripture."
"Do you really--in the Old as well as the New Testament?"
"In the Old also?"
"Very well, then, you believe in the Old Testament. Now, you have
had yourself baptized again, for the Bible says, 'Go, and teach
all nations and baptize them.' Good. But have you had yourself
circumcised, as the Bible commands?"
Bainham looked confounded, and the Cardinal had to turn his head,
in order not to smile.
"I am not an Israelite," answered Bainham.
"No! but Nathanael, who sought our Saviour and believed on him, was
called by John 'an Israelite indeed.' If you are not an 'Israelite
indeed,' you are not a Christian."
"I cannot answer that."
"No, you cannot answer, but you can preach and talk rubbish. Are you
"But Luther is against the Anabaptists; therefore he is against you,
and he has asked the princes to kill the Anabaptists like wild dogs.
Are you still a Lutheran?"
"Yes, according to his early teaching."
"You mean justification by faith. What do you believe?"
"I believe in God the Father...."
"Who is the Father? In Luther's catechism it is written, 'Thou shalt
have none other Gods but me.' But that is the Law of Moses, and it
is Jehovah who is intended there. If you believe in Jehovah, then
you are a Jew, are you not?"
"I believe also on Christ the Son of God."
"Then you are a Jew-Christian! So you have admitted that you are a
Lutheran, Anabaptist, Jew, and Christian--all this together. You are
a fool, and you don't know what you are. But that may be passed
over, if you do not seduce others."
"Give him a flogging," said the Cardinal, who did not like the turn
the conversation had taken, especially the challenging of the Bible,
which just now he wished to use for his own purposes.
"He has already had that," answered More, "but besides his doctrine,
this conceited man, who wants to make himself popular, belongs to a
society which circulates a bad translation of the Bible." "You see
yourself," he continued, turning to Bainham, "what Bible reading
leads to, and I demand that you give up the names of your
"That I will never do! The just shall live by his faith."
"Will you call yourself just, when there is no one just? Read the
Book of Job, and you will see. And your belief is really too
eccentric to be counted to you for righteousness."
"Send him down in the cellar to Master Mats! Must one listen to such
nonsense! Away with him!"
More pointed to the door, and Bainham went out.
"Yes," said Wolsey, "what is there in front of us? Schisms,
sectarianism, struggles. If we only had an heir to the throne."
"We cannot get the King divorced."
"You yourself have spoken the word. There is no need for divorce,
because his marriage is null."
"Is it? How do you prove that?"
"From the third book of Moses, the twentieth and twenty-first
chapters: 'If any one taketh his brother's wife, it is evil.'"
"Yes, but in the fifth book of Moses, five and twentieth chapter,
fifth verse, it is commanded."
"What, in Christ's name, are you saying?"
"Certainly it is: 'If brothers dwell together, and one die without
children, his brother shall take his wife and raise up seed to his
"Damnation! This cursed book."
"Moreover: Abraham married his half-sister; Jacob married two
sisters: Moses' father married his aunt."
"That is the Bible, is it? Thank you! Then I prefer the Decretals
and the Councils. The Pope must dissolve the marriage."
"Is it then to be dissolved?"
"Didn't you know? Yes, it is. If Julius II could grant a
dispensation, Clement VII can grant an absolution."
"It is not just towards the Queen."
"The country demands it--the kingdom--the nation! The King's
"Oh! is it the fair Anne?"
"No, not she!"
"Don't ask any more."
"Then I answer, Margaret of Valois."
"I give no answer at all, but I am not responsible for your life, if
you talk out of season! The Bible won't help you there."
"It would be a useful reform, if we could cancel the Old Testament
as a Jewish book."
"But we cannot cancel the Psalms of David, which are our only Church
canticles. Luther himself has taken his hymns from the Psalter, and
'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott' from the Proverbs of Solomon; he has
borrowed the melody from the Graduale Romanum."
"But we must relegate the law of Moses to the Apocrypha, otherwise
we are Pharisees and Jewish Christians. What have we to do with
circumcision, the paschal lamb, and levitical marriage? Wait till I
"Must we really wait so long?"
"Hush! The noon-bell is ringing. Do not let us neglect our duties.
The flesh must have its due, in order not to burn. Come with me to
Westminster; then you can go on to Chelsea afterwards."
* * * * *
Henry VIII was twelve years old when he was engaged to the widow of
his brother Arthur. At fourteen he protested against the marriage,
which was distasteful to him, but at eighteen he married Katherine,
the aunt of the Emperor Charles V. Cardinal Wolsey would have gladly
brought about a divorce, for he wished for a successor to the throne
in order to keep the power in his own hands. This power he had
misused to such an extent that the fact that there was such a thing
as Parliament had almost been forgotten. Wolsey wished to have the
King married to a powerful princess, and thought for a time of
Margaret of Valois, but under no circumstances did he wish to take a
wife for him from the English nobility. But when he aroused the
King's conscience with regard to his marriage with Katherine, he had
let loose a storm which he could not control, much less guide in the
desired direction, for the King's passion for Anne Boleyn was
Then the Cardinal had recourse to plotting, and this brought about
his downfall. For six years negotiations went on, and the King was
true to Anne. He wrote letters which can still be read and which
display a great and honourable love. Most of them were signed "Henry
Tudor, Rex, your true and constant servant," and began "My mistress
and friend." Anne answered coldly, but her love to Percy was nipt in
the bud by a marriage being arranged for him. After all the learned
authorities had been consulted, and much controversy had taken place
regarding the third and the fifth books of Moses, the Pope sent a
Nuncio with secret instructions to get rid of the whole matter by
postponing it. But Henry did not yield, though his feelings for
Katherine, whom he respected, cost him a terrible struggle. The
trial began in the chapter-house of Blackfriars in the presence of
the King and Queen. But Katherine stood up, threw herself at the
King's feet, and found words which touched the tyrant. She
challenged the right of the court to try her, appealed to the Pope,
and returned to Bridewell. It is there that we find her in
Shakespeare's _Henry VIII_, singing sorrowfully a beautiful song:
"Orpheus with his lute made trees
And the mountain tops that freeze
Bow themselves when he did sing."
The divorce proceedings had gone on for some years; people had sided
alternately with the King and with the Queen, and often sympathised
with both, when suddenly rumour announced the outbreak of a
It was not the Black Death or the boil-pest, but the English
"sweating-sickness." This hitherto unknown disease had first broken
out in the same year when the wars of the Roses ended on the field
of Bosworth; but it was entirely confined to England, passing
neither to Scotland nor Ireland. It was so mysteriously connected
with English blood, that in Calais only Englishmen and no Frenchmen
were attacked by it. Since then the sickness had twice appeared
among the English. Now it returned and broke out in London.
The King, who had said that "no one but God could separate him from
Anne," was alarmed, and did not know what to think--whether it was a
warning or a trial. The symptoms of the sickness were perspiration
and a desire to sleep; but if one yielded to the desire, one might
be dead in three hours. In London the citizens died like flies: Sir
Thomas More lost a daughter; the Cardinal, who had come to preside
at Hampton Court, had his horses put to the carriage again, and
hurried away. Finally one of Anne's ladies-in-waiting was attacked.
Then the King lost all presence of mind, sent Anne home to her
father, and fled himself from place to place, from Waltham to
Hunsdon. He reconciled himself to Katherine, lived in a tower
without a servant, prepared his will, and was ready for death.
Then there came the news that Anne herself had been seized by the
sickness. The King had lost his chamberlain, and now wrote letter
after letter. Then he fled again to Hatfield and Tittenhanger.
But Anne recovered, the pestilence ceased, and Henry resumed the
divorce proceedings. The Cardinal and the Nuncio wavered, and in
the seventh year the King lost patience. He had now found the man he
sought for. Sir Thomas More would not declare Katherine's marriage
null. The new man was Thomas Cranmer, who hated the Pope and the
monks, and dreamt of a free England--free, that is, from Rome. The
King and his new friend worked in secret at something which
Cardinal Wolsey did not know, and one day the preliminaries were
settled, the papers were in order, and the mine exploded.
* * * * *
The King's galley pushed off from the Tower. It did not look so
brilliant as the Cardinal's had once been. Cranmer sat by the King.
"I shall not sleep in the Tower any more," said the King. "I am
leaving it now, Thomas; this is my removal. I move to Whitehall, for
that will be the name of York Palace; because I, as a Lancastrian,
hate York, and because my white rose shall dwell in my castle. Now,
_you_ will sit in the Tower, my hell-dog! To think that this Satan
of a Cardinal has deceived me for six years. What troubles his
plotting has caused me! Six years! I have always hated the man, but
I needed him, for he was clever."
The King glanced at the north side of the Thames. "And I have lived
in the city which has not been my own; Rome possesses a third of it.
I have lived like a beggar, but now--London is mine. The Temple, St.
James's, Whitehall, Westminster to begin with; then the rest."
The galley reached York Palace, and the King hastened in with his
body-guard, without giving the password or answering the
chamberlain's questions. He went straight to the Cardinal's room,
and laid some letters before him: "Read! you snake! your lying
letters behind my back."
The Cardinal's face seemed to shrink to half its size, and resembled
a death's-head. He did not, however, fall on his knees, but raised
his head for the last time: "I appeal to the Pope."
"There is no Pope in England! Nay, I am the Pope, and therefore you
are no longer Cardinal! Accordingly, I have granted myself a
dispensation, and married Anne Boleyn yesterday! In a few days I
shall have her crowned. And then we will dwell here! _Here!_ But you
will live in the Tower. Go, or I throw you out."
Thus England became free; a third part of London, which had belonged
to the monks, reverted to the Crown, and afterwards the whole
The King had obtained his beloved Anne, but after three years she
was beheaded, for having dishonoured the King by adultery. After
that the King married four times. Cardinal Wolsey died before he
came to the scaffold; Sir Thomas More was beheaded; and Cromwell,
who at first defended Wolsey, but afterwards became a "_malleus
monachorum_," was also beheaded. All this seems very confused
and tragic, but from this confusion a free, independent, and
powerful England emerged. When the Germans were preparing to cast
off the yoke of Rome in the Thirty Years' War, England had already
completed her task.
THE WHITE MOUNTAIN
While the peace negotiations were being carried on in Osnabruck and
Munster, the Thirty Years' War still flamed up here and there, more
perhaps to keep the troops in practice, to provide support for the
soldiers, and to have booty at command, than to defend any faith or
the adherents of it.
All talk of religion had ceased, and the powers now played with
their cards exposed. Protestant Saxony, the first State to support
Lutheranism, worked in conjunction with Catholic Austria, and
Catholic France with Protestant Sweden. In the battle of
Wolfenbuttel, 1641, French Catholics fought against German
Catholics, the latter of whom, however, later on carried the body
of Johan Baner in their ranks.
The Swedish Generals thought little of peace, but when the
negotiations dragged on to the seventh year, they thought the time
had come to have some regard to it. "He who takes something, has
something," Wrangel wrote to his son.
Hans Christoph von Konigsmarck, who continued Johan Baner's
traditions, had lately been with him at Zusmarshausen, and was now
sent eastward in the direction of Bohemia. Since, besides cavalry,
he had only five hundred foot-soldiers, he did not know what to do,
but wandered about at random, and looked for booty. But nothing was
to be found, for Johan Baner had already laid the district waste.
"Then they marched farther," like Xenophon, and found the woods
which bordered the highways' cut down; the fields were covered with
weeds, and in the trees hung corpses; the churches had been burnt,
but watch was kept in the churchyards in order that the corpses
should not be eaten.
One night Konigsmarck himself was leading a small detachment in
search of provisions. They rode into a wood where they saw a light
burning. But it was only a red glow as if from a charcoal pile or a
smithy. They dismounted from their horses, and stole on foot to the
place. When they reached it, they heard voices singing a "Miserere"
in low tones, and they saw men, women, and children sitting round an
oven, the last remains of a village.
Konigsmark went forward alone, and, hidden behind a young fir-tree,
he beheld a spectacle.... He had seen such sights before, but not
under such circumstances. In an iron scoop on the oven some game was
being roasted; it might have been an enormous hare, but was not.
Like a hare, it was very spindle-shanked and lean over back and
breast; only the hinder-parts seemed well developed; the head was
placed, between the two fore-paws.... No! they were not fore-paws,
but two five-fingered hands, and round the neck a charred rope was
knotted. It was a man who had been hung, and whom they had cut down
in order to eat him.
The General was not squeamish by nature, and had in his life passed
through many experiences, but this went beyond all bounds. He was at
first angry, and wished to interrupt the cannibals' meal, but when
he saw the little children sitting on their mothers' knees with
tufts of grass in their mouths, he was seized with compassion. The
cannibals themselves looked like corpses or madmen, and the eyes and
expectations of all were fastened on the oven. At the same time they
sang "Lord, have mercy," and prayed for pardon for the grievous sin
which they were obliged to commit. "What does it really matter to
me?" said the General to himself; "I only wish I had not seen it."
He returned to his men, and they marched on.
The wood became thinner, and they came to an open place where was
something resembling a heap of stones, out of which there arose a
single pillar. In the half-twilight which reigned they could not see
distinctly, but on the pillar something seemed to be moving. The
"something" resembled a man, but had only one arm.
"It is not a man, for he would have two arms," said one of the
"It would be strange, if a man could not have an arm missing."
"Strange indeed! Perhaps it is a pillar-saint."
"Give him a charge of powder, and we shall soon see."
At the rattle of arms which was now heard there, rose a howl so
terrible and multitudinous, that no one thought it came from the
pillar-saint. At the same time the apparent heap of stones moved
and became a living mass.
"They are wolves! Aim! Fire!"
A volley was fired, and the wolves fled. Konigsmarck rode through
the smoke, and now saw a one-armed Imperialist standing on the
chimney, which was all that was left of a burnt cottage. "Come down,
and let us look at you," he said.
The maimed man clambered down with his single arm, showing
incredible agility. "We ought to have him to scale the wall with a
storming-party," said the General to himself.
Then the examination commenced.
"Are you alone?"
"Alone _now_--thanks to your grace, for the wolves have been round
me for six hours."
"What is your name? Where do you come from? Whither do you wish to
"My name is Odowalsky; I come from Vienna; and I shall go to hell,
if I don't get help."
"Will you go with us?"
"Yes, as sure as I live! With anybody, if only I can live. I have
lost my arm; I was given a house; they burnt it, and threw me out on
the highway--with wife and child, of course!"
"Listen; do you know the way to Prague?"
"I can find the way to Prague, to the Hradschin and the Imperial
treasure-house, Wallenstein's palace, the royal castle,
Wallenstein's dancing-hall, and the Loretto Convent. There there
is _multum plus Plurimum_."
"What is your rank in the army?"
"That is something different. Come with me, and you shall have a
horse, Mr. First Lieutenant, and then let us see what you are good
Odowalsky received a horse, and the General bade him ride beside
him. He talked confidentially with him the whole night till they
again rejoined the main body of the army.
* * * * *
Some days later Konigsmarck stood with his little troop on the White
Mountain left of Prague--"Golden Prague," as it was called. It was
late in the evening of the fifteenth of June. He had Odowalsky at
his side, and seemed to be particularly good friends with him. But
the troop knew nothing of the General's designs, and, as they saw
that he went towards Prague, his officers were astounded, for the
town was well fortified, and defended by a strong body of armed
"One can at any rate look at the show," Konigsmarck answered to all
objections; "that costs nothing."
They halted on the White Mountain, without, however, pitching a
camp. They saw nothing of the beautiful town, for it was dark, but
they heard the church and convent bells.
"This, then, is the White Mountain, where the war broke out just
thirty years ago," said Konigsmarck to Odowalsky.
"Yes," answered the Austrian. "It was then the Bohemian revolt broke
out, your King Frederick V of the Palatinate was slain here, and
there was great rejoicing at his death."
"If you forget who you are, forget not who I am."
"We will not quarrel about something that happened so long ago! But,
as a matter of fact, the revolt was crushed, and the Protestants had
to withdraw. What did they get by their trouble--the poor Bohemians?
Hussites, Taborites, Utraquists sacrificed their lives, but Bohemia
is still Catholic! It was all folly!"
"Do you belong to the Roman Church, First Lieutenant?"
"I don't belong to any Church at all; I belong to the army. And now
we will take Prague with a _coup de main_."
So it fell out. At midnight the foot-soldiers clambered over the
wall, threw the sentinels into the moat, cut down the guards at the
gates, and took that side of the town.
For three days the part of the city which lay on the left bank of
the Moldau was plundered, and Konigsmarck is said to have sent five
waggons laden with gold and silver to the north-west through
Germany, as his own share of the spoil. Odowalsky received six
thousand thalers for his trouble, and later on was raised to the
Swedish House of Peers with the title of "Von Streitberg."
But the right bank had not been captured. It was defended by ten
thousand citizens, assisted by students, monks, and Jews. From
ancient times there had been a large Jewish colony in Prague; the
Jews were said to have escaped thither direct from Jerusalem during
the last German crusade, and for that reason the island in the
Moldau is still called Jerusalem. On this occasion the Jews so
distinguished themselves that they received as a token of honour
from the Emperor Ferdinand III a great flag, which can be still seen
in their synagogue. Konigsmarck could not take the Old Town, but had
to send for help to Wittenberg. The latter actually plundered Tabor
and Budweis, but Prague, which had been plundered, did not attract
him. Then the Count Palatine Karl Gustav had to come, and formally
besieged the eastern portion of the town.
Konigsmarck dwelt in the Castle, where he could see the old hall of
the States-General, from the window of which Count Thurn had thrown
the Imperial governors Martiniz and Slavata; the Protestants say
that they fell on a dungheap, but the Catholics maintain that it was
Meanwhile Count Karl Gustav, who was a cousin of Frederick V, had as
little success before Prague as the former. He became ill, and was
sure that he had been poisoned. But he recovered, and was about to
be reinforced by Wrangel, when news arrived that the Peace of
Westphalia had been concluded.
With that the Thirty Years' War was at an end. Sweden received two
million thalers and some places of importance; these were enfeoffed
to Germany, and in exchange Sweden had three votes in the German
But Germany's population was only a quarter of what it had been,
and, while it had formerly been one State under the Emperor, it was
now split up into three hundred little States. However, the liberty
of faith affirmed in the Confession of Augsburg, 1555, was
recovered, and extended to the reformed districts. It was dearly
bought, but with it North Germany had also obtained freedom from
Rome, and that could not be too dearly purchased.
Out of chaos comes creation and new creation. From the Germanic
chaos emerged North Germany, the seed of which was Brandenberg,
later on developing into Prussia, and finally the German Empire,
which received the imperial crown at Versailles, but not from the
hands of Rome.
THE GREAT CZAR
On the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland lay the little village
Strelna, halfway between Petersburg and the half-completed Peterhof.
At the end of the village, on the edge of the Strelka stream, stood
a simple country-house under oaks and pines. It was painted green
and red, and the window-shutters were still fastened, for it was
only four o'clock on a summer morning.
The Gulf of Finland lay smooth under the rays of the rising sun. A
Dutch trading vessel, which had wished to enter the harbour and
reach the Admiralty House, now furled its sails and dropped anchor.
It carried a flag at its main-top which hung down idly.
Near the red and green country-house stood an ancient lime-tree with
a split trunk; in the cleft a wooden platform with a railing had
been fitted, and a flight of steps led up to this arbour. In this
early morning hour there sat a man in the tree at an unpainted,
unsteady table, writing letters. The table was covered with papers,
but there was still room for a clock without a glass, a compass, a
case of drawing instruments, and a large bell of bronze.
The man sat in his shirt-sleeves; he wore darned stockings which
were turned down, and large shoes; his head seemed incredibly large,
but was not so in reality; his neck was like that of an ox, and his
body that of a giant; the hand which was now writing was coarse, and
stained with tar; he wrote carelessly, with lines somewhat slanting,
but quickly. The letters were short and to the point, with no
introductions and no conclusions, merely signed "Pe ter," the name
divided in two, as though it had been split by the heavy hand which
There were probably about a million men bearing that name in Russia;
but this Peter was the only one of importance, and everyone
recognised the signature.
The lime-tree was alive with bees, the little Strelka brook bubbled
and fretted like a tea-kettle, and the sun rose gloriously; its rays
fell between the leaves of the lime-tree, and threw patches of light
on the strange face of one of the strangest and most incomprehensible
men who have ever lived.
Just now this handsome head, with its short hair, looked like that
of a wild boar; and when the writer licked his goose-quill like a
school-boy, he showed teeth and a tongue like those of a memorial
lion. Sometimes his features were convulsed with pain, as though he
were being tortured or crucified. But then he took a new sheet, and
began a new letter; his pen ran on; his mouth smiled till his eyes
disappeared, and the terrible man looked roguish. Still another
sheet, and a little note which was certainly directed to a lady; now
the face changed to that of a satyr, melted so to speak, into
harmonious lines, and finally exploded in a loud laugh which was
His morning correspondence was now ended. The Czar had written fifty
letters. He left them unsealed. Kathia, his wife, would collect and
The giant stretched himself, rose with difficulty, and cast a glance
over the bay. With his spy-glass he saw Petersburg and his fleet,
the Fort of Kronstadt, which had been commenced, and finally
discovered the trading-vessel. "How did that come in without
saluting?" he thought, "and dare to anchor immediately before my
He rang, and a valet-de-chambre came at once, running from the row
of tents which stood concealed behind the pines-trees, and where
both soldiers and servants lodged.
"Take five men in a boat," he ordered, "and hail that brig! Can you
see what country it belongs to?"
"It is Dutch, your Majesty!"
"Dutch! Bring the captain here, dead or alive. At once! On the spot!
But first my tea!"
"The household is asleep, most gracious lord."
"Then wake it up, you ass! Knock at the shutters! Break the door in!
Asleep in broad daylight!"
He rang again. A second servant appeared.
"Tea! and brandy--plenty of brandy!"
The servants ran, the household was aroused, and the Czar occupied
the interval by making notes on slate tablets. When he became
impatient, he got down, and knocked at all the shutters with his
stick. Then a voice was heard from within: "Wait a moment."
"No! that I won't; I am not born to wait. Hurry! or I will set the
house on fire!"
He went into his gardens, cast a glance at his medicinal plants,
plucked up some weeds, and watered here and there. He went into the
cattle-sheds, and looked at some merino sheep which he himself had
introduced. Here he found a trave which had been broken; he took a
saw and plane, and mended it. He threw some oats in the manger of
his favourite trotting-horse. He drove for the most part, when
he did not go on foot; riding seemed to him unworthy of a seaman,
and it was as a seaman that the Czar chiefly wished to be regarded.
Then he went into the lathe-shop, sat for a while on the
turning-bench, and worked. At the window stood a table with a
copper-engraver's tools; with the graving-tool he drew some lines
which were wanting in the map plate. He was about to proceed to
the smithy, when a woman's voice called him under the lime-tree.
On the platform stood his wife the Czarina, in her morning dress.
She had massive limbs and large feet; her face was stout and plain,
her eyes were not level, but had a steady expression.
"How early you are up this morning, Little Father?" she said.
"Is it early? It is six at any rate!"
"It is only just five."
"Five? Then it shall be six."
He pushed the hand of the clock an hour forward. His wife smiled a
little superciliously, but took care not to irritate him, for she
knew how dangerous it was to do so. Then she gave him his tea.
"There is some occupation for you," said Peter, pointing to his
"But how many there are!"
"If there are too many I can get help."
The Czarina, did not answer, but began to look through the letters.
The Czar liked that, for then there would be occasion for
quarrelling; and he always wished for a quarrel in order to keep
his energies active.
"Pardon me, Peter," said his wife, "but is it right that you should
apply to the Swedish Government about the Dutch ships?"
"Yes, it is! All that I do is right!"
"I don't understand it. Our Russians fired by mistake at friendly
Dutch vessels, and you demand indemnity from the Swedes because the
mischance occurred in Swedish waters."
"Yes, according to Roman law, the injury must be made good in the
land where it happened...."
"It is all the same anyhow: he who can pay, pays; I cannot, and the
Dutch will not, therefore the Swedes must! Do you understand?"
"The Swedes have incited the Turks against me; they must pay for
"May be! But why do you write so harshly to the Dutch Government
since you like the Dutch?"
"Why! Because since the Peace of Utrecht, Holland is on the decline.
It is all over with Holland; on to the rubbish-heap with it! I hold
on to England, since France is also declining."
"Should one abandon one's old friends?..."
"Certainly, when they are no more good. Moreover, there is no
friendship in love and in politics. Do you think I like this
wretched August of Poland? No! I am sure you don't. But I must go
with him through thick and thin, for my country, for Russia. He who
cannot sacrifice his little humours and passions for his country is
a Don Quixote, like Charles the Twelfth. This fool, with his mad
hatred against August and myself, has worked for Sweden's overthrow
and Russia's future. But that this Christian dog should incite the
Turks against us was a crime against Europe, for Europe needs Russia
as a bulwark against Asia. Did not the Mongol sit for two hundred
years on our frontier and threaten us? And when our ancestors had at
last driven him away, there comes a fellow like this and brings the
heathen from Constantinople upon us. The Mongols were once in
Silesia, and would have destroyed Western Europe if we Russians had
not saved it. Charles XII is dead, but I curse his memory, and I
curse everyone who seeks to hinder me in my laudable endeavour to
raise Russia from a Western Asiatic power to an Eastern European
one. I shall beat everyone down, whoever he may be, who interferes
with my work, even though it were my own son."
There was silence for some moments. The last words referred to the
Delicate topic of Alexis, Peter's son by his first marriage, who was
now a prisoner awaiting his death-sentence in the Peter-Paul
Fortress. He was accused of having endeavoured to hinder his
father's work in the civilisation of Russia, and was suspected of
having taken part in plots of rebellion. The Czar's first
divorced wife Eudoxia was confined in the convent of Suzdal.
Katharina naturally did not love Alexis, since he stood in the way
of her children, and she would have been glad of his death, but did
not wish to incur the guilt of it. Since Peter also did not wish to
take the responsibility for it, he had appointed a court of a
hundred and twenty-seven persons to try his son.
The topic therefore was an unwelcome one, and, with his
extraordinary facility for quick changes of thought and feeling,
Peter broke the silence with the prosaic question, "Where is the
"You will get no brandy so early, my boy."
"Kathrina!" said Peter in a peculiar tone, while his face began to
"Be quiet, Lion!" answered his wife, and stroked his black mane,
which had begun to bristle. She took a bottle and a glass out of a
The Lion cheered up, swallowed the strong drink, smiled, and stroked
his spouse's expansive bust.
"Will you see the children?" asked Katherine, in order to bring him
into a milder mood.
"No, not to-day! Yesterday I beat them, and they would think I was
running after them. Keep them at a distance. Keep them under, or
they will get the better of you!"
Katherine had taken the last letter, as though absent-mindedly, and
began to read it. Then she coloured, and tore it in two. "You must
not write to actresses. That is too great an honour for them, and
can only disgrace us."
The Czar smiled, and was not angry. He had not intended to send the
letter, but only scribbled it in order to excite his wife, perhaps
also to show off.
There was a sound of approaching footsteps underneath.
"See! there is my friend, the scoundrel!"
"Hush!" said Katherine, "Menshikoff is your friend."
"A fine friend! Already once I have condemned him to death as a
thief and deceiver; but he lives still, thanks to your friendship."
Menshikoff (he was a great soldier, an able statesman, an
indispensable favourite, enormously rich) came hurrying up the
wooden stairs. It was in his house that the Czar had found his
Katherine. He was handsome, looked like a Frenchman, dressed well,
and had polished manners. He greeted the Czar ceremoniously, and
kissed Katherine's hand.
"Now they are there again," he commenced.
"The Strelitzil? [Footnote: a Russian body-guard first established by
Ivan the Terrible.] Have I not rooted them out?"
They grow like the dragon's seed, and now they want to deliver
"Have you any more exact information?"
"The conspirators meet this evening at five o'clock."
"Number fourteen the Strandlinje, at an apparently harmless meal."
"Strand--14," wrote the Czar on his tablets. "Any more?"
"To-night at two o'clock they fire the city."
"At two o'clock?" The Czar shook his head, and his face twitched.
"I build up, and they pull down. But now I will extirpate them root
and branch. What do they say?"
"They look back to Holy Moscow, and regard the building of
Petersburg as a piece of godlessness or malice. The workmen die,
like flies, of marsh fever, and they regard your Majesty's building
in the midst of a marsh as an act of bravado a la Louis Quatorze,
who built Versailles on the site of a swamp."
"Asses! My town is to command the mouth of the river, and to be the
Key to the sea, therefore it must be there. The marsh shall be
drained off into canals, which will carry boats like those of
Amsterdam. But so it is when monkeys judge!"
He rang; a servant appeared; "Put the horses to the cabriolet"; he
called down, "and now, goodbye, Katherine; I shall not be home till
to-morrow. It will be a hot day. But don't forget the letters.
Alexander can help you."
"Will you not dress, little son?" answered Katherine.
"Dress? I have my sabre."
"Put at least your coat on."
The Czar put on his coat, drew the belt which held the sabre some
holes tighter, and sprang at one bound from the platform.
"Now it will come off," whispered Menshikoff to Katherine.
"You have not been lying, Alexander?"
"A few lies adorn one's speech. The chief point is gained.
To-morrow, Katherine, you can sleep quietly in the nursery with
the heirs to the throne."
"Can any misfortune happen to him?"
"No! he never has misfortune."
* * * * *
The Czar ran down to the seashore; he never walked, but always ran.
"Life goes fast," he was wont to say, "and there is much to do."
When he reached the gravel bank he found a boat landing, with five
men and the Dutch prisoner. The latter sat stolidly by the rudder,
and smoked his pipe. But when he saw the Czar, he took off his cap,
threw it in the air, and cried, "Hurrah!"
Czar Peter shaded his eyes, and, when he recognised his old teacher
and friend, Jaen Scheerborck from Amsterdam, he jumped into the boat
over the rowers' shoulders and knees, rushed into Jaen's arms and
kissed him, so that his pipe broke and the seaman's great grey beard
was full of smoke and nearly took fire. Then the Czar lifted the old
man up, and carried him in his arms like a child to the shore.
"At last, you old rascal! I have you here with me! Now you shall see
my city and my fleet, which I have built myself, for you have taught
me. Bring the cabriolet here, boy! and a grapnel from the boat; we
will go, and tack about. Quickly!"
"Dear heart alive!" said the old man, picking the tobacco-ashes out
of his beard, "to think that I have seen the Carpenter-Czar before I
die; that is...."
"Into the cabriolet, old fellow! Boy, hang the grapnel behind. Where
are you to sit? On my knees, of course!"
The cabriolet had only room for one person, and the captain actually
had to sit on the Czar's lap. Three horses were yoked to it
tandem-fashion, and a fourth ran beside the leader. The whip
cracked, and the Czar played being at sea. "A good wind, isn't it?
Twelve knots! Furl the sheet! so!"
A toll-gate appeared, and the captain, who knew the Czar's wild
tricks but also his skill, began to cry "There is a toll-gate!
But the Czar, who had found again his youth with his old friend of
former times, and with his indestructible boyishness, liked
practical jokes and dangers, whipped on the horses, whistled and
shouted, "Let her go! Clear for action! Jump!"
The toll-gate was burst clean open, and the old man laughed so that
he swayed on the Czar's knees. And so they drove along the shore.
At the town gate the sentinels presented arms and saluted; on the
streets people cried "Hurrah!" and when they reached the Admiralty,
cannon were fired and the yards manned. But the Czar seriously or in
play, as though he were on the sea, shouted "Anchor!"
So saying, he so threw the grapnel towards the wall, that it caught
in a torch-holder, which bent but did not break. But the horses,
which were still running, were suddenly forced back, and sank on
their knees. The first of the three rose no more; it had been
fatally injured by bursting in the toll-gate.
Three hours later, when the fleet and docks had been inspected, the
Czar and Jaen Scheerborck sat in a seamen's tavern. The cabriolet
stood without, and was "anchored" to a thatched roof. Brandy was on
the table, and their pipes had filled the room with smoke. The two
friends had discussed serious matters. The Czar had paid six visits,
one to his staff of generals, from which he returned in a very
excited state to the waiting captain. But, with his extraordinary
capacity for shaking off what was unpleasant and for changing his
moods, he now beamed with hilarity.
"You ask whence I shall get the inhabitants for my new town. I first
brought fifty thousand workmen here. That was the nucleus. Then I
commanded all officials, priests, and great landowners to build
houses--each of them, one--whether they intended to live in it or
not. Now I have a hundred thousand. I know they talk and say that I
build towns, but don't dwell in them myself. No! I build not for
myself, but for the Russians. I hate Moscow, which smells of the
Khan of the Tartars, and would prefer to live in the country. That
is no one else's affair. Drink, old man! We have the whole day
before us till five o'clock. Then I must be sober."
The old man drank cautiously, and did not know exactly how to behave
in this grand society, which was at the same time so nautical.
"Now you must tell me some of the stories which the people relate
about me. You know lots of them, Jaen."
"I know some certainly, but it is not possible...."
"Then I will tell some," said Peter, "Do you know the story of the
pair of compasses and the cheese? No? Well, it runs thus: 'The Czar
is so covetous that he always carries a box of drawing instruments
in his pocket. With a pair of compasses he measures his cheese, to
see whether any of it has been stolen since the last meal!' That is
a good story! Here is another! 'The Czar has a Tippler's Club. Once
they determined to hold a festival, and the guests were shut up
three days and three nights in order to drink. Each guest had a
bench behind him, on which to sleep off his intoxication, besides
two tubs, one for food and one for ... you understand?'"
"No, that is too absurd!"
"Such are the stories they like to tell in Petersburg. Have you not
heard that I also extract teeth? In my palace, they say, there is a
sack full of them. And then I am said to perform operations in
hospital. Once I drew off so much water from a dropsical woman that
"Do the people believe that?"
"Certainly they do. They are so stupid, you see; but I will cut off
their asses' ears and singe their tongues...."
His eyes began to sparkle, and it was plain what direction his
thoughts were taking. But however confidential he might be, there
always seemed to be secret checks at work, so that, even when
intoxicated, he always kept his great secrets though he told
Just then an adjutant came in, and whispered something to the Czar.
"Exactly at five o'clock," answered the Czar in a loud voice. "Sixty
grenadiers, with loaded guns and cutlasses! Adieu! Jaen," continued
the Czar, giving a sudden turn to his thoughts, "I will buy your
loom, but I will not give more than fifty roubles for it."
"You Satan of a Dutchman! You skinflint! If I offer fifty, that is
an honour for you! Indeed it is!"
The Czar's anger rose, but it was connected with the adjutant's
message, not with the loom. The pot was boiling, and the cover had
to fly. "You miserable peddlers of groceries! Always fleecing
people! But your time is past! Now come the English! They are
Jaen the seaman became gloomy, and that annoyed the Czar still more.
He wanted to enjoy Jaen's company, and therefore sought to divert
his thoughts. "Landlord," he cried, "bring champagne!"
The landlord came in, fell on his knees, and begged for mercy, for
he had not the luxurious drink in his store-cellar. This superfluous
word "store-cellar" might sound ironical and provocative, though
unintentionally. Still it was welcome as an occasion for using the
"Have you a store-cellar, you rascal? Will you tell me that the
keeper of a seaman's alehouse has a cellar of spirits!" And now the
stick danced. But as the Dutchman turned away with a gesture of
disapproval, the Czar's fury broke loose. From time to time his
disposition necessitated such outbreaks. His sabre flew out of its
sheath; like a madman, he broke all the bottles on the dresser
and cut all the legs off the chairs and tables. Then he made a pile
out of the fragments, and prepared to burn the landlord on it.
Then a door opened, and a woman entered with a little child on her
arm. When the child saw its father prostrate with his neck stretched
out, it began to scream. The Czar paused, quieted down, went to the
woman, and accosted her. "Be easy, mother; no mischief is going on;
we are only playing at sailors."
Then he turned to the landlord: "Send the account to Prince
Menshikoff; he will pay. But if you scratch me.... Well, I forgive
you this time.... Now let us go, Jaen. Up with the anchor, and stand
by the sheet!"
Then they drove into the town. The Czar ran up into various houses
and came down again, until it was noon. They then halted before
Menshikoff's palace. "Is dinner ready?" asked the Czar from the
"Yes, your Majesty," answered a lackey.
"Serve up for two! Is the Prince at home?"
"No, your Majesty."
"Never mind. Serve up for two."
It was the Czar's habit thus to make himself a guest in his friends'
houses, whether they were at home or not, and he is said once to
have thus quartered himself upon somebody, with two hundred of his
After a splendid dinner, the Czar went into an ante-room and laid
down to sleep. The captain had already gone to sleep at the table.
But the Czar laid a watch beside him; he could wake whenever he
When he awoke, he went into the dining-room, and found Jaen
Scheerborck sleeping at the table.
"Bring him out!" commanded the Czar.
"Is he not to accompany your Majesty any more?" the chamberlain, who
was a favourite, ventured to ask.
"No! I have had enough of him; one should not meet people more than
once in a lifetime. Carry him to the pump--that will sober him, and
then take him to his ship"--and with a contemptuous glance he added,
"You old beast!"
Then he felt whether his sabre was secure, and went out.
After his sleep, Peter was again the Emperor--lofty, upright,
dignified. He went along the promenade, serious and sedate, as
though to a battle. When he had found Number 14, he entered at once,
sure of finding his fifty men there. On the right hand ground-floor
towards the courtyard, all the windows stood open. There he saw the
conspirators sitting at a long table and drinking wine. He stepped
into the room, saw many of his friends there, and felt a stab at his
"Good-day, comrades!" was his cheery greeting.
The whole company rose like one man. They exchanged looks and put on
faces for the occasion.
"Let us drink a glass together, friends!" Peter threw himself on a
chair; then he looked at a clock in the room, and saw it was only
half-past four. He had made a mistake of half an hour. Was it his
own error, or was Menshikoff's clock wrong?
"Half an hour!" he thought to himself, but in the next second he had
emptied a huge glass, and began to sing a very popular soldiers'
song, keeping time by knocking the glass against the table.
The effect of the song was magical. They had sung it as victors at
Pultowa; they had marched to the accompaniment of its strains; it
carried their memories to better, happier times, and they all joined
in. Peter's strong personality, the winning amiable air he could
assume when he liked, had an attractive power for all. One song led
to another, and singing relieved the terrible embarrassment. It was
the only possible way of avoiding a conversation. Between the songs
the Czar proposed a health, or drank to an old friend, reminding him
of some experience which they had shared in common. He dared not look
at the clock lest he should betray himself, but he found the half
hour in this den of murderers intolerably long.
Several times he saw two exchanging glances, but then he threw in a
jesting word and the thread was broken. He was playing for his life,
and he played well, for he misled them with his cheerfulness and
naivete, so that they could not tell whether he knew anything or not.
He played with their irresolution.
At last he heard the rattle of arms in the courtyard, and with one
bound he was out of the window.
"Massacre!" was his only word of command, and then the blood-bath
began. He himself stood at the window, and when any one tried to
jump out, the Czar struck off his head. "Alles tot!" he exclaimed in
German, when it was all over. Then he went his way in the direction
of the Peter-Paul Fortress.
He was received by the Commandant, and had himself conducted to
Prince Alexis, his only surviving and eldest son, on whom he had
built his hope and Russia's destiny.
With the key in his hand, he remained standing before the cell, made
the sign of the cross and prayed half-aloud:--"O Eternal God of
armies, Lord of Hosts, who hath put the sword into the hands of
rulers that they may guide and protect, reward and punish, enlighten
thy poor servant's understanding that he may deal righteously. Thou
hast demanded from Abraham his son, and he obeyed. Thou hast
crucified Thine own Son in order to redeem mankind. Take my
sacrifice, O Terrible One, if Thou requirest it. Yet not my will be
done, but Thine. May this cup pass if it be Thy will. Amen! in the
name of Christ, Amen!"
He entered the cell, and remained there an hour. When he came out
again, he looked as though he had been weeping; but he said nothing,
handed the key to the Commandant, and departed. There are many
varying rumours regarding what passed that evening between father
and son. But one thing is certain: Alexis was condemned to death by
a hundred and twenty-seven judges, and the verdict was entered on
the State records. But the Crown Prince died before the execution
of the sentence.
* * * * *
The same evening, about eight o'clock, the Czar entered his
country-house and sought Katherine. "The old has passed away," he
said. "Now we will begin the new--you and I and our children."
The Czarina asked no questions, for she understood. But the Czar was
so tired and exhausted, that she feared lest he should have one of
the attacks which she knew so well. And the only way of quieting him
was the old customary one.
She sat down in the corner of the sofa; he laid down resting his
head on her capacious bosom; then she stroked his hair till he fell
asleep. But she had to sit for three hours without moving.
A giant child on a giant bosom, the great champion of the Lord lay
there, his face looked small, his high brow was hidden by his long
hair; his mouth was open, and he snored like a little child asleep.
When at last he awoke, he looked up at first astonished, to find
himself where he was. Then he smiled, but did not say Thank you, and
did not fondle her.
"Now we will have something to eat," was the first thing he said.
"Then something to drink, and then a great firework. I will light it
myself down on the shore. But Jaen Scheerborck must be present."
"You have thrown him out."
"Have I? He was drunk, the fellow. Send for him at once."
"You are so strange, Peter! Never the same for two minutes
"I will not be the same; it would be too monotonous. Always
something new! And I am always new. What! I do not weary you with
His orders were carried out. Jaen was brought, but had to be bound
first; he was angry with Peter because of his ducking at the pump,
and refused to come. But when he landed, he was embraced and kissed
on the mouth, and then his wrath blew over.
They ate and drank and had their firework display, which was a great
pleasure for the Czar.
So ended the fateful day which secured the succession to the throne
to the house of Romanoff. And such was the man who termed himself
"the Great, the Self-ruler, the Emperor of All the Russias."
The Barbarian, who civilised his Russia; who built towns and did not
dwell in them himself; who beat his wife, and allowed extensive
liberty to women,--his life was great, copious, and useful on the
public side of it; in private, as it might chance to be. But he had
a beautiful death, for he died in consequence of an illness
contracted when saving a life from shipwreck--he who, with his
own hand, had taken the lives of so many!
THE SEVEN GOOD YEARS
Monsieur Voltaire, gentleman-in-waiting to Frederick the Great,
possessor of the much prized Order Pour Le Merite, Academician, and
many other things besides, had been for three years a guest at
Sans-Souci, near Potsdam. He was sitting this beautiful evening in
the wing of the castle where he lived, busy writing a letter. The
air was still and warm, so that the sensitive Frenchman, who was
always shivering, could leave the window open.
His letter, only half written, was directed to the Marquise, the
friend of Cardinal Fleury, who carried on a sort of superior
spy-service by means of correspondence with foreign countries....
"Everything is transitory," he wrote, "and it was plain that this
would not last. I have to act as a tutor and correct his bad verses,
though he knows neither German nor French properly. Malicious as an
ape he has written satires on all the ruling heads of Europe which
are certainly not fit for printing, but are quite vulgar and unjust.
With a view to the future dear friend, I have caused his pamphlet to
be copied, and at the moment when he strikes, I shall strike back.
If you only knew what this Prussia is, and threatens to become! It
is an eagle sketched in outline with the tip of one wing resting on
the Rhine, and the other on the Russian frontier. There are gaps
here and there in the outline, but when they are filled up the whole
of North Germany will hang like a vulture over Austria's two-headed
imperial eagle. France must control her hatred against the House of
Hapsburg, and not compromise with the Hohenzollerns, for you know
not what you do. One hears much talk of plans here, but I dare not
write them all down, for he is not to be jested with."
At this point there was heard from the castle the penetrating sound
of a flute, which executed trills and shakes. The old man (for he
was now in his sixtieth year) first put his fingers in his ears, but
then continued to write.... "And then his confounded flute! He is
playing on it just now ... that means we are all to dance to his
piping. But still worse than the flute is something which they call
a fugue; I do not know whether one can call it music, but yesterday
Sebastian Bach was here--'the great Bach' of course--and had his son
Philipp Emanuel with him. The whole afternoon they played so-called
fugues, so that I had to go to bed and take medicine. As regards his
plans, I will only indicate some of them. One plan is to divide
Austria between France and Prussia, but he is too cunning to do so,
for he needs Austria to help him against France. A second plan is,
to divide Prussia between Russia and Austria, and I have heard
rumours of a third to divide Poland between Russia, Prussia, and
Austria. (The flute is silent, and a heavenly stillness spreads over
Sans-Souci, which for the future I shall write 'Cent-Soucis,' for a
hundred petty vexations threaten to shorten my life here.) Our Round
Table, which hitherto only consisted of men of talent, Maupertuis,
La Mettrie, Algarotti, D'Argens, and their like, is now recruited by
guardsmen from Potsdam, and is in course of degenerating into a
tobacco-club. Ziethen and his Dessauers wear greasy leather boots,
and brag of their 'five victories.' The day before yesterday they
took liberties, silenced all intelligent conversation, and finally
tried to make me the butt of their jests. What annoyed me the most
was that _he_ could not hide his pleasure at it. Altogether, the
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