The Cloister and the Hearth
Part 13 out of 18
"Did those who spoke to you agree as to what you are to receive?"
"Yes, Signora. 'Tis the full price; and purchases the greater
vendetta: unless of your benevolence you choose to content
yourself with the lesser."
"I understand you not," said the lady.
"Ah; this is the Signora's first. The lesser vendetta, lady, is
the death of the body only. We watch our man come out of a church;
or take him in an innocent hour; and so deal with him. In the
greater vendetta we watch him, and catch him hot from some
unrepented sin, and so slay his soul as well as his body. But this
vendetta is not so run upon now as it was a few years ago."
"Man, silence me his tongue, and let his treasonable heart beat no
more. But his soul I have no feud with."
"So be it, signora. He who spoke to me knew not the man, nor his
name, nor his abode. From whom shall I learn these?"
At this the man, with the first symptoms of anxiety he had shown,
entreated her to be cautious, and particular, in this part of the
"Fear me not," said she. "Listen. It is a young man, tall of
stature, and auburn hair, and dark blue eyes, and an honest face,
would deceive a saint. He lives in the Via Claudia, at the corner
house; the glover's. In that house there lodge but three males:
he; and a painter short of stature and dark visaged, and a young,
slim boy. He that hath betrayed me is a stranger, fair, and taller
than thou art."
The bravo listened with all his ears. "It is enough," said he.
"Stay, Signora; haunteth he any secret place where I may deal with
"My spy doth report me he hath of late frequented the banks of
Tiber after dusk; doubtless to meet his light o' love, who calls
me her rival; even there slay him! and let my rival come and find
him; the smooth, heartless, insolent traitor."
"Be calm, signora. He will betray no more ladies."
"I know not that. He weareth a sword, and can use it. He is young
"Neither will avail him."
"Are ye so sure of your hand? What are your weapons?"
The bravo showed her a steel gauntlet. "We strike with such force
we need must guard our hand. This is our mallet." He then undid
his doublet, and gave her a glimpse of a coat of mail beneath, and
finally laid his glittering stiletto on the table with a flourish.
The lady shuddered at first, but presently took it up in her white
hand and tried its point against her finger.
"Beware, madam," said the bravo.
"What, is it poisoned?"
"Saints forbid! We steal no lives. We take them with steel point,
not drugs. But 'tis newly ground, and I feared for the Signora's
"His skin is as white as mine," said she, with a sudden gleam of
pity. It lasted but a moment. "But his heart is black as soot.
Say, do I not well to remove a traitor that slanders me?"
"The signora will settle that with her confessor. I am but a tool
in noble hands; like my stiletto."
The princess appeared not to hear the speaker. "Oh, how I could
have loved him; to the death; as now I hate him. Fool! he will
learn to trifle with princes; to spurn them and fawn on them, and
prefer the scum of the town to them, and make them a by-word." She
looked up. "Why loiter'st thou here? haste thee, revenge me."
"It is customary to pay half the price beforehand, Signora."
"Ah I forgot; thy revenge is bought. Here is more than half," and
she pushed a bag across the table to him. "When the blow is
struck, come for the rest."
"You will soon see me again, signora."
And he retired bowing and scraping.
The princess, burning with jealousy, mortified pride, and dread of
exposure (for till she knew Gerard no public stain had fallen on
her), sat where he left her, masked, with her arms straight out
before her, and the nails of her clenched hand nipping the table.
So sat the fabled sphynx: so sits a tigress.
Yet there crept a chill upon her now that the assassin was gone.
And moody misgivings heaved within her, precursors of vain
remorse. Gerard and Margaret were before their age. This was your
true mediaeval. Proud, amorous, vindictive, generous, foolish,
cunning, impulsive, unprincipled: and ignorant as dirt.
Power is the curse of such a creature.
Forced to do her own crimes, the weakness of her nerves would have
balanced the violence of her passions, and her bark been worse
than her bite. But power gives a feeble, furious woman, male
instruments. And the effect is as terrible as the combination is
In this instance it whetted an assassin's dagger for a poor
forlorn wretch just meditating suicide.
It happened, two days after the scene I have endeavoured to
describe, that Gerard, wandering through one of the meanest
streets in Rome, was overtaken by a thunderstorm, and entered a
low hostelry. He called for wine, and the rain continuing, soon
drank himself into a half stupid condition, and dozed with his
head on his hands and his hands upon the table.
In course of time the room began to fill and the noise of the rude
guests to wake him.
Then it was he became conscious of two figures near him conversing
in a low voice.
One was a pardoner. The other by his dress, clean but modest,
might have passed for a decent tradesman; but the way he had
slouched his hat over his brows, so as to hide all his face except
his beard, showed he was one of those who shun the eye of honest
men, and of the law. The pair were driving a bargain in the sin
market. And by an arrangement not uncommon at that date, the crime
to be forgiven was yet to be committed - under the celestial
He of the slouched hat was complaining of the price pardons had
reached. "If they go up any higher we poor fellows shall be shut
out of heaven altogether."
The pardoner denied the charge flatly. "Indulgences were never
cheaper to good husbandmen.
The other inquired, "Who were they?"
"Why, such as sin by the market, like reasonable creatures. But if
you will be so perverse as go and pick out a crime the Pope hath
set his face against, blame yourself, not me!"
Then, to prove that crime of one sort or another was within the
means of all but the very scum of society, he read out the scale
from a written parchment.
It was a curious list; but not one that could be printed in this
book. And to mutilate it would be to misrepresent it. It is to be
found in any great library. Suffice it to say that murder of a
layman was much cheaper than many crimes my lay readers would deem
light by comparison.
This told; and by a little trifling concession on each side, the
bargain was closed, the money handed over, and the aspirant to
heaven's favour forgiven beforehand for removing one layman. The
price for disposing of a clerk bore no proportion.
The word assassination was never once uttered by either merchant.
All this buzzed in Gerard's ear. But he never lifted his head from
the table; only listened stupidly.
However, when the parties rose and separated, he half raised his
head, and eyed with a scowl the retiring figure of the purchaser.
"If Margaret was alive," muttered he, "I'd take thee by the throat
and throttle thee, thou cowardly stabber. But she is dead; dead;
dead. Die all the world; 'tis nought to me: so that I die among
When he got home there was a man in a slouched hat walking briskly
to and fro on the opposite side of the way.
"Why, there is that cur again," thought Gerard.
But in this state of mind, the circumstance made no impression
whatever on him.
Two nights after this Pietro Vanucci and Andrea sat waiting supper
The former grew peevish. It was past nine o'clock. At last he sent
Andrea to Gerard's room on the desperate chance of his having come
in unobserved. Andrea shrugged his shoulders and went.
He returned without Gerard, but with a slip of paper. Andrea could
not read, as scholars in his day and charity boys in ours
understand the art; but he had a quick eye, and had learned how
the words Pietro Vanucci looked on paper.
"That is for you, I trow," said he, proud of his intelligence.
Pietro snatched it, and read it to Andrea, with his satirical
"'Dear Pietro, dear Andrea, life is too great a burden.'
"So 'tis, my lad,' but that is no reason for being abroad at
supper-time. Supper is not a burden."
"'Wear my habits!'
"Said the poplar to the juniper bush."
"'And thou, Andrea, mine amethyst ring; and me in both your hearts
a month or two.'
"'For my body, ere this ye read, it will lie in Tiber. Trouble not
to look for it. 'Tis not worth the pains. Oh unhappy day that it
was born oh happy night that rids me of it.
"'The broken-hearted Gerard.'
"Here is a sorry jest of the peevish rogue," said Pietro. But his
pale cheek and chattering teeth belied his words. Andrea filled
the house with his cries.
"O, miserable day! O, calamity of calamities! Gerard, my friend,
my sweet patron! Help! help! He is killing himself! Oh, good
people, help me save him!" And after alarming all the house he ran
into the street, bareheaded, imploring all good Christians to help
him save his friend.
A number of persons soon collected.
But poor Andrea could not animate their sluggishness. Go down to
the river? No. It was not their business. What part of the river?
It was a wild goose chase.
It was not lucky to go down to the river after sunset. Too many
ghosts walked those banks all night.
A lackey, however, who had been standing some time opposite the
house, said he would go with Andrea; and this turned three or four
of the younger ones.
The little band took the way to the river.
The lackey questioned Andrea.
Andrea, sobbing, told him about the letter, and Gerard's moody
ways of late.
That lackey was a spy of the Princess Claelia.
Their Italian tongues went fast till they neared the Tiber.
But the moment they felt the air from the river, and the smell of
the stream in the calm spring night, they were dead silent.
The moon shone calm and clear in a cloudless sky. Their feet
sounded loud and ominous. Their tongues were hushed.
Presently hurrying round a corner they met a man. He stopped
irresolute at sight of them.
The man was bareheaded, and his dripping hair glistened in the
moonlight; and at the next step they saw his clothes were drenched
"Here he is," cried one of the young men, unacquainted with
Gerard's face and figure.
The stranger turned instantly and fled.
They ran after him might and main, Andrea leading, and the
princess's lackey next.
Andrea gained on him; but in a moment he twisted up a narrow
alley. Andrea shot by, unable to check himself; and the pursuers
soon found themselves in a labyrinth in which it was vain to
pursue a quickfooted fugitive who knew every inch of it, and could
now only be followed by the ear.
They returned to their companions, and found them standing on the
spot where the man had stood, and utterly confounded. For Pietro
had assured them that the fugitive had neither the features nor
the stature of Gerard.
"Are ye verily sure?" said they. "He had been in the river. Why,
in the saints' names, fled he at our approach?"
Then said Vanucci, "Friends, methinks this has nought to do with
him we seek. What shall we do, Andrea?"
Here the lackey put in his word. "Let us track him to the water's
side, to make sure. See, he hath come dripping all the way."
This advice was approved, and with very little difficulty they
tracked the man's course.
But soon they encountered a new enigma.
They had gone scarcely fifty yards ere the drops turned away from
the river, and took them to the gate of a large gloomy building.
It was a monastery.
They stood irresolute before it, and gazed at the dark pile.
It seemed to them to hide some horrible mystery.
But presently Andrea gave a shout. "Here be the drops again,"
cried he. And this road leadeth to the river."
They resumed the chase; and soon it became clear the drops were
now leading them home. The track became wetter and wetter, and
took them to the Tiber's edge. And there on the bank a bucketful
appeared to have been discharged from the stream.
At first they shouted, and thought they had made a discovery: but
reflection showed them it amounted to nothing. Certainly a man had
been in the water, and had got out of it in safety; but that man
was not Gerard. One said he knew a fisherman hard by that had nets
and drags. They found the fisherman and paid him liberally to sink
nets in the river below the place, and to drag it above and below;
and promised him gold should he find the body. Then they ran
vainly up and down the river which flowed so calm and voiceless,
holding this and a thousand more strange secrets. Suddenly Andrea,
with a cry of hope, ran back to the house.
He returned in less than half an hour.
"No," he groaned, and wrung his hands.
"What is the hour?" asked the lackey.
"Four hours past midnight."
"My pretty lad," said the lackey solemnly, "say a mass for thy
friend's soul: for he is not among living men."
The morning broke. Worn out with fatigue, Andrea and Pietro went
home, heart sick.
The days rolled on, mute as the Tiber as to Gerard's fate.
It would indeed have been strange if with such barren data as they
possessed, those men could have read the handwriting on the
For there on that spot an event had just occurred, which, take it
altogether, was perhaps without a parallel in the history of
mankind, and may remain so to the end of time.
But it shall be told in a very few words, partly by me, partly by
an actor in the scene.
Gerard, then, after writing his brief adieu to Pietro and Andrea,
had stolen down to the river at nightfall.
He had taken his measures with a dogged resolution not uncommon in
those who are bent on self-destruction. He filled his pockets with
all the silver and copper he possessed, that he might sink the
surer; and so provided, hurried to a part of the stream that he
had seen was little frequented.
There are some, especially women, who look about to make sure
there is somebody at hand.
But this resolute wretch looked about him to make sure there was
And to his annoyance, he observed a single figure leaning against
the corner of an alley. So he affected to stroll carelessly away;
but returned to the spot.
Lo! the same figure emerged from a side street and loitered about.
"Can he be watching me? Can he know what I am here for?" thought
He went briskly off, walked along a street or two, made a detour
and came back.
The man had vanished. But lo! on Gerard looking all round, to make
sure, there he was a few yards behind, apparently fastening his
Gerard saw he was watched, and at this moment observed in the
moonlight a steel gauntlet in his sentinel's hand.
Then he knew it was an assassin.
Strange to say, it never occurred to him that his was the life
aimed at. To be sure he was not aware he had an enemy in the
He turned and walked up to the bravo. "My good friend," said he
eagerly, "sell me thine arm! a single stroke! See, here is all I
have;" and he forced his money into the bravo's hands.
"Oh, prithee! prithee! do one good deed, and rid me of my hateful
life!" and even while speaking he undid his doublet and bared his
The man stared in his face.
"Why do ye hesitate?" shrieked Gerard. "Have ye no bowels? Is it
so much pains to lift your arm and fall it? Is it because I am
poor, and can't give ye gold? Useless wretch, canst only strike a
man behind; not look one in the face. There, then, do but turn thy
head and hold thy tongue!"
And with a snarl of contempt he ran from him, and flung himself
into the water.
At the heavy plunge of his body in the stream the bravo seemed to
recover from a stupor. He ran to the bank, and with a strange cry
the assassin plunged in after the self-destroyer.
What followed will be related by the assassin.
A woman has her own troubles, as a man has his. And we male
writers seldom do more than indicate the griefs of the other sex.
The intelligence of the female reader must come to our aid, and
fill up our cold outlines. So have I indicated, rather than
described, what Margaret Brandt went through up to that eventful
day, when she entered Eli's house an enemy, read her sweetheart's
letter, and remained a friend.
And now a woman's greatest trial drew near, and Gerard far away.
She availed herself but little of Eli's sudden favour; for this
reserve she had always a plausible reason ready; and never hinted
at the true one, which was this; there were two men in that house
at sight of whom she shuddered with instinctive antipathy and
dread. She had read wickedness and hatred in their faces, and
mysterious signals of secret intelligence. She preferred to
receive Catherine and her daughter at home. The former went to see
her every day, and was wrapped up in the expected event.
Catherine was one of those females whose office is to multiply,
and rear the multiplied: who, when at last they consent to leave
off pelting one out of every room in the house with babies, hover
about the fair scourges that are still in full swing, and do so
cluck, they seem to multiply by proxy. It was in this spirit she
entreated Eli to let her stay at Rotterdam, while he went back to
"The poor lass hath not a soul about her, that knows anything
about anything. What avail a pair o' soldiers? Why, that sort o'
cattle should be putten out o' doors the first, at such an a
Need I say that this was a great comfort to Margaret.
Poor soul, she was full of anxiety as the time drew near.
She should die; and Gerard away.
But things balance themselves. Her poverty, and her father's
helplessness, which had cost her such a struggle, stood her in
good stead now.
Adversity's iron hand had forced her to battle the lassitude that
overpowers the rich of her sex, and to be for ever on her feet,
working. She kept this up to the last by Catherine's advice.
And so it was, that one fine evening, just at sunset, she lay weak
as water, but safe; with a little face by her side, and the heaven
of maternity opening on her.
"Why dost weep, sweetheart? All of a sudden?"
"He is not here to see it."
"Ah, well, lass, he will be here ere 'tis weaned. Meantime God
hath been as good to thee as to e'er a woman born; and do but
bethink thee it might have been a girl; didn't my very own Kate
threaten me with one; and here we have got the bonniest boy in
Holland, and a rare heavy one, the saints be praised for't."
"Ay, mother, I am but a sorry, ungrateful wretch to weep. If only
Gerard were here to see it. 'Tis strange; I bore him well enow to
be away from me in my sorrow; but oh, it does seem so hard he
should not share my joy. Prithee, prithee, come to me, Gerard!
dear, dear Gerard!" And she stretched out her feeble arms.
Catherine hustled about, but avoided Margaret's eyes; for she
could not restrain her own tears at hearing her own absent child
thus earnestly addressed.
Presently, turning round, she found Margaret looking at her with a
singular expression. "Heard you nought?"
"No, my lamb. What?"
"I did cry on Gerard, but now."
"Ay, ay, sure I heard that."
"Well, he answered me."
"Tush, girl: say not that."
"Mother, as sure as I lie here, with his boy by my side, his voice
came back to me, 'Margaret!' So. Yet methought 'twas not his happy
voice. But that might be the distance. All voices go off sad like
at a distance. Why art not happy, sweetheart? and I so happy this
night? Mother, I seem never to have felt a pain or known a care."
And her sweet eyes turned and gloated on the little face in
That very night Gerard flung himself into the Tiber. And that very
hour she heard him speak her name, he cried aloud in death's jaws
Account for it those who can. I cannot.
In the guest chamber of a Dominican convent lay a single stranger,
exhausted by successive and violent fits of nausea, which had at
last subsided, leaving him almost as weak as Margaret lay that
night in Holland.
A huge wood fire burned on the hearth, and beside it hung the
A gigantic friar sat by his bedside, reading pious collects aloud
from his breviary.
The patient at times eyed him, and seemed to listen: at others
closed his eyes and moaned.
The monk kneeled down with his face touching the ground and prayed
for him; then rose and bade him farewell. "Day breaks," said he;
"I must prepare for matins."
"Good Father Jerome, before you go, how came I hither?"
"By the hand of Heaven. You flung away God's gift. He bestowed it
on you again. Think on it! Hast tried the world and found its
gall. Now try the Church! The Church is peace. Pax vobiscum."
He was gone. Gerard lay back, meditating and wondering, till weak
and wearied he fell into a doze.
When he awoke again he found a new nurse seated beside him. It was
a layman, with an eye as small and restless as Friar Jerome's was
calm and majestic.
The man inquired earnestly how he felt.
"Very, very weak. Where have I seen you before, messer?"
"None the worse for my gauntlet?" inquired the other, with
considerable anxiety; "I was fain to strike you withal, or both
you and I should be at the bottom of Tiber."
Gerard stared at him. "What, 'twas you saved me? How?"
"Well, signor, I was by the banks of Tiber on-on an errand, no
matter what. You came to me and begged hard for a dagger stroke.
But ere I could oblige you, ay, even as you spoke to me, I knew
you for the signor that saved my wife and child upon the sea."
"It is Teresa's husband. And an assassin?!!?"
"At your service. Well, Ser Gerard, the next thing was, you flung
yourself into Tiber, and bade me hold aloof."
"I remember that."
"Had it been any but you, believe me I had obeyed you, and not
wagged a finger. Men are my foes. They may all hang on one rope,
or drown in one river for me. But when thou, sinking in Tiber,
didst cry 'Margaret!'"
"My heart it cried 'Teresa!' How could I go home and look her in
the face, did I let thee die, and by the very death thou savedst
her from? So in I went; and luckily for us both I swim like a
duck. You, seeing me near, and being bent on destruction, tried to
grip me, and so end us both. But I swam round thee, and (receive
my excuses) so buffeted thee on the nape of the neck with my steel
glove; that thou lost sense, and I with much ado, the stream being
strong, did draw thy body to land, but insensible and full of
water. Then I took thee on my back and made for my own home.
'Teresa will nurse him, and be pleased with me,' thought I. But
hard by this monastery, a holy friar, the biggest e'er I saw, met
us and asked the matter. So I told him. He looked hard at thee. 'I
know the face,' quoth he. ''Tis one Gerard, a fair youth from
Holland.' 'The same,' quo' I. Then said his reverence, 'He hath
friends among our brethren. Leave him with us! Charity, it is our
"Also he told me they of the convent had better means to tend thee
than I had. And that was true enow. So I just bargained to be let
in to see thee once a day, and here thou art."
And the miscreant cast a strange look of affection and interest
Gerard did not respond to it. He felt as if a snake were in the
room. He closed his eyes.
"Ah, thou wouldst sleep," said the miscreant eagerly. "I go." And
he retired on tip-toe with a promise to come every day.
Gerard lay with his eyes closed: not asleep, but deeply pondering.
Saved from death, by an assassin
Was not this the finger of Heaven?
Of that Heaven he had insulted, cursed, and defied.
He shuddered at his blasphemies. He tried to pray.
He found he could utter prayers. But he could not pray.
"I am doomed eternally," he cried, "doomed, doomed."
The organ of the convent church burst on his ear in rich and
Then rose the voices of the choir chanting a full service.
Among them was one that seemed to hover above the others, and
tower towards heaven; a sweet boy's voice, full, pure, angelic.
He closed his eyes and listened. The days of his own boyhood
flowed back upon him in those sweet, pious harmonies. No earthly
dross there, no foul, fierce passions, rending and corrupting the
Peace, peace; sweet, balmy peace.
"Ay," he sighed, "the Church is peace of mind. Till I left her
bosom I ne'er knew sorrow, nor sin.
And the poor torn, worn creature wept.
And even as he wept, there beamed on him the sweet and reverend
face of one he had never thought to see again. It was the face of
The good father had only reached the convent the night before
last. Gerard recognized him in a moment, and cried to him, "Oh,
Father Anselm, you cured my wounded body in Juliers: now cure my
hurt soul in Rome! Alas, you cannot."
Anselm sat down by the bedside, and putting a gentle hand on his
head, first calmed him with a soothing word or two.
He then (for he had learned how Gerard came there) spoke to him
kindly but solemnly, and made him feel his crime, and urged him to
repentance, and gratitude to that Divine Power which had thwarted
his will to save his soul.
"Come, my son," said he, "first purge thy bosom of its load."
"Ah, father," said Gerard, "in Juliers I could; then I was
innocent but now, impious monster that I am, I dare not confess to
"Why not, my son? Thinkest thou I have not sinned against Heaven
in my time, and deeply? oh, how deeply! Come, poor laden soul,
pour forth thy grief, pour forth thy faults, hold back nought! Lie
not oppressed and crushed by hidden sins."
And soon Gerard was at Father Anselm's knees confessing his every
sin with sighs and groans of penitence.
"Thy sins are great," said Anselm. "Thy temptation also was great,
terribly great. I must consult our good prior."
The good Anselm kissed his brow, and left him, to consult the
superior as to his penance.
And lo! Gerard could pray now.
And he prayed with all his heart.
The phase, through which this remarkable mind now passed, may be
summed in a word - Penitence.
He turned with terror and aversion from the world, and begged
passionately to remain in the convent. To him, convent nurtured,
it was like a bird returning wounded, wearied, to its gentle nest.
He passed his novitiate in prayer, and mortification, and pious
reading and meditation.
The Princess Claelia's spy went home and told her that Gerard was
certainly dead, the manner of his death unknown at present.
She seemed literally stunned. When, after a long time, she found
breath to speak at all, it was to bemoan her lot, cursed with such
ready tools. "So soon," she sighed; "see how swift these monsters
are to do ill deeds. They come to us in our hot blood, and first
tempt us with their venal daggers, then enact the mortal deeds we
ne'er had thought on but for them."
Ere many hours had passed, her pity for Gerard and hatred of his
murderer had risen to fever heat; which with this fool was blood
"Poor soul! I cannot call thee back to life. But he shall never
live that traitorously slew thee."
And she put armed men in ambush, and kept them on guard all day,
ready, when Lodovico should come for his money, to fall on him in
a certain antechamber and hack him to pieces.
"Strike at his head," said she, "for he weareth a privy coat of
mail; and if he goes hence alive your own heads shall answer it.',
And so she sat weeping her victim, and pulling the strings of
machines to shed the blood of a second for having been her machine
to kill the first.
One of the novice Gerard's self-imposed penances was to receive
Lodovico kindly, feeling secretly as to a slimy serpent.
Never was self-denial better bestowed; and like most rational
penances, it soon became no penance at all. At first the pride and
complacency, with which the assassin gazed on the one life he had
saved, was perhaps as ludicrous as pathetic; but it is a great
thing to open a good door in a heart. One good thing follows
another through the aperture. Finding it so sweet to save life,
the miscreant went on to be averse to taking it; and from that to
remorse; and from remorse to something very like penitence. And
here Teresa cooperated by threatening, not for the first time, to
leave him unless he would consent to lead an honest life. The good
fathers of the convent lent their aid, and Lodovico and Teresa
were sent by sea to Leghorn, where Teresa had friends, and the
assassin settled down and became a porter.
He found it miserably dull work at first; and said so.
But methinks this dull life of plodding labour was better for him,
than the brief excitement of being hewn in pieces by the Princess
Claelia's myrmidons. His exile saved the unconscious penitent from
that fate; and the princess. balked of her revenge, took to
brooding, and fell into a profound melancholy; dismissed her
confessor, and took a new one with a great reputation for piety,
to whom she confided what she called her griefs. The new confessor
was no other than Fra Jerome. She could not have fallen into
He heard her grimly out. Then took her and shook the delusions out
of her as roughly as if she had been a kitchen-maid. For, to do
this hard monk justice, on the path of duty he feared the anger of
princes as little as he did the sea. He showed her in a few words,
all thunder and lightning, that she was the criminal of criminals.
"Thou art the devil, that with thy money hath tempted one man to
slay his fellow, and then, blinded with self-love, instead of
blaming and punishing thyself, art thirsting for more blood of
guilty men, but not so guilty as thou."
At first she resisted, and told him she was not used to be taken
to task by her confessors. But he overpowered her, and so
threatened her with the Church's curse here and hereafter, and so
tore the scales off her eyes, and thundered at her, and crushed
her, that she sank down and grovelled with remorse and terror at
the feet of the gigantic Boanerges.
"Oh, holy father, have pity on a poor weak woman, and help me save
my guilty soul. I was benighted for want of ghostly counsel like
thine, good father. I waken as from a dream.
"Doff thy jewels," said Fra Jerome sternly.
"I will. I will."
"Doff thy silk and velvet; and in humbler garb than wears thy
meanest servant, wend thou instant to Loretto."
"I will," said the princess faintly.
"No shoes; but a bare sandal.'
"Wash the feet of pilgrims both going and coming; and to such of
them as be holy friars tell thy sin, and abide their admonition."
"Oh, holy father, let me wear my mask."
"Oh, mercy! Bethink thee! My features are known through Italy."
"Ay. Beauty is a curse to most of ye. Well, thou mayst mask thine
eyes; no more."
On this concession she seized his hand, and was about to kiss it;
but he snatched it rudely from her.
"What would ye do? That hand handled the eucharist but an hour
agone: is it fit for such as thou to touch it?"
"Ah, no. But oh, go not without giving your penitent daughter your
"Time enow to ask it when you come back from Loretto."
Thus that marvellous occurrence by Tiber's banks left its mark on
all the actors, as prodigies are said to do. The assassin,
softened by saving the life he was paid to take, turned from the
stiletto to the porter's knot. The princess went barefoot to
Loretto, weeping her crime and washing the feet of base-born men.
And Gerard, carried from the Tiber into that convent a suicide,
now passed for a young saint within its walls.
Loving but experienced eyes were on him.
Upon a shorter probation than usual he was admitted to priest's
And soon after took the monastic vows, and became a friar of St.
Dying to the world, the monk parted with the very name by which he
had lived in it, and so broke the last link of association with
Here Gerard ended, and Brother Clement began,
"As is the race of leaves so is that of men." And a great man
budded unnoticed in a tailor's house at Rotterdam this year, and a
large man dropped to earth with great eclat.
Philip, Duke of Burgundy, Earl of Holland, etc., etc., lay sick at
Bruges. Now paupers got sick and got well as Nature pleased; but
woe betided the rich in an age when, for one Mr. Malady killed
three fell by Dr. Remedy.
The Duke's complaint, nameless then, is now diphtheria. It is, and
was, a very weakening malady, and the Duke was old; so altogether
Dr. Remedy bled him.
The Duke turned very cold: wonderful!
Then Dr. Remedy had recourse to the arcana of science.
"Ho! This is grave. Flay me an ape incontinent, and clap him to
the Duke's breast!"
Officers of state ran septemvious, seeking an ape, to counteract
the bloodthirsty tomfoolery of the human species.
Perdition! The duke was out of apes. There were buffaloes,
lizards, Turks, leopards; any unreasonable beast but the right
"Why, there used to be an ape about," said one. "If I stand here I
So there used; but the mastiff had mangled the sprightly creature
for stealing his supper; and so fulfilled the human precept,
"Soyez de votre siecle!"
In this emergency the seneschal cast his despairing eyes around;
and not in vain. A hopeful light shot into them.
"Here is this," said he, sotto voce. "Surely this will serve: 'tis
altogether apelike, doublet and hose apart"
"Nay," said the chancellor peevishly, "the Princess Marie would
hang us. She doteth on this."
Now this was our friend Giles, strutting, all unconscious, in
cloth of gold.
Then Dr. Remedy grew impatient, and bade flay a dog.
"A dog is next best to an ape; only it must be a dog all of one
So they flayed a liver-coloured dog, and clapped it, yet
palpitating, to their sovereign's breast and he died.
Philip the Good, thus scientifically disposed of, left thirty-one
children: of whom one, somehow or another, was legitimate; and
reigned in his stead.
The good duke provided for nineteen out of the other thirty; the
rest shifted for themselves.
According to the Flemish chronicle the deceased prince was
descended from the kings of Troy through Thierry of Aquitaine, and
Chilperic, Pharamond, etc., the old kings of Franconia.
But this in reality was no distinction. Not a prince of his day
have I been able to discover who did not come down from Troy.
Priam" was mediaeval for "Adam."
The good duke's, body was carried into Burgundy, and laid in a
noble mausoleum of black marble at Dijon.
Holland rang with his death; and little dreamed that anything as
famous was born in her territory that year. That judgment has been
long reversed. Men gaze at the tailor's house, here the great
birth of the fifteenth century took place. In what house the good
duke died "no one knows and no one cares," as the song says.
Dukes Philip the Good come and go, and leave mankind not a
halfpenny wiser, nor better, nor other than they found it.
But when, once in three hundred years, such a child is born to the
world as Margaret's son, lo! a human torch lighted by fire from
heaven; and "FIAT LUX" thunder's from pole to pole.
The Dominicans, or preaching friars, once the most powerful order
in Europe, were now on the wane; their rivals and bitter enemies,
the Franciscans, were overpowering them throughout Europe; even in
England, a rich and religious country, where under the name of the
Black Friars, they had once been paramount.
Therefore the sagacious men, who watched and directed the
interests of the order, were never so anxious to incorporate able
and zealous sons and send them forth to win back the world.
The zeal and accomplishments of Clement, especially his rare
mastery of language (for he spoke Latin, Italian, French, high and
low Dutch), soon transpired, and he was destined to travel and
preach in England, corresponding with the Roman centre.
But Jerome, who had the superior's ear, obstructed this design.
"Clement," said he, "has the milk of the world still in his veins,
its feelings, its weaknesses let not his new-born zeal and his
humility tempt us to forego our ancient wisdom. Try him first, and
temper him, lest one day we find ourselves leaning on a reed for a
"It is well advised," said the prior. "Take him in hand thyself."
Then Jerome, following the ancient wisdom, took Clement and tried
One day he brought him to a field where the young men amused
themselves at the games of the day; he knew this to be a haunt of
Clement's late friends.
And sure enough ere long Pietro Vanucci and Andrea passed by them,
and cast a careless glance on the two friars. They did not
recognize their dead friend in a shaven monk.
Clement gave a very little start, and then lowered his eyes and
said a paternoster.
"Would ye not speak with them, brother?" said Jerome, trying him.
"No brother: yet was it good for me to see them. They remind me of
the sins I can never repent enough."
"It is well," said Jerome, and he made a cold report in Clement's
Then Jerome took Clement to many death-beds. And then into noisome
dungeons; places where the darkness was appalling, and the stench
loathsome, pestilential; and men looking like wild beasts lay
coiled in rags and filth and despair. It tried his body hard; but
the soul collected all its powers to comfort such poor wretches
there as were not past comfort. And Clement shone in that trial.
Jerome reported that Clement's spirit was willing, but his flesh
"Good!" said Anselm; "his flesh is weak, but his spirit is
But there was a greater trial in store.
I will describe it as it was seen by others.
One morning a principal street in Rome was crowded, and even the
avenues blocked up with heads. It was an execution. No common
crime had been done, and on no vulgar victim.
The governor of Rome had been found in his bed at daybreak,
slaughtered. His hand, raised probably in self-defence, lay by his
side severed at the wrist; his throat was cut, and his temples
bruised with some blunt instrument. The murder had been traced to
his servant, and was to be expiated in kind this very morning.
Italian executions were not cruel in general. But this murder was
thought to call for exact and bloody retribution.
The criminal was brought to the house of the murdered man and
fastened for half an hour to its wall. After this foretaste of
legal vengeance his left hand was struck off, like his victim's. A
new-killed fowl was cut open and fastened round the bleeding
stump; with what view I really don't know; but by the look of it,
some mare's nest of the poor dear doctors; and the murderer, thus
mutilated and bandaged, was hurried to the scaffold; and there a
young friar was most earnest and affectionate in praying with him,
and for him, and holding the crucifix close to his eyes.
Presently the executioner pulled the friar roughly on one side,
and in a moment felled the culprit with a heavy mallet, and
falling on him, cut his throat from ear to ear.
There was a cry of horror from the crowd.
The young friar swooned away.
A gigantic monk strode forward, and carried him off like a child.
Brother Clement went back to the convent sadly discouraged. He
confessed to the prior, with tears of regret.
"Courage, son Clement," said the prior. "A Dominican is not made
in a day. Thou shalt have another trial. And I forbid thee to go
to it fasting." Clement bowed his head in token of obedience. He
had not long to wait. A robber was brought to the scaffold; a
monster of villainy and cruelty, who had killed men in pure
wantonness, after robbing them. Clement passed his last night in
prison with him, accompanied him to the scaffold, and then prayed
with him and for him so earnestly that the hardened ruffian shed
tears and embraced him Clement embraced him too, though his flesh
quivered with repugnance; and held the crucifix earnestly before
his eyes. The man was garotted, and Clement lost sight of the
crowd, and prayed loud and earnestly while that dark spirit was
passing from earth. He was no sooner dead than the hangman raised
his hatchet and quartered the body on the spot. And, oh,
mysterious heart of man! the people who had seen the living body
robbed of life with indifference, almost with satisfaction,
uttered a piteous cry at each stroke of the axe upon his corpse
that could feel nought. Clement too shuddered then, but stood
firm, like one of those rocks that vibrate but cannot be thrown
down. But suddenly Jerome's voice sounded in his ear.
"Brother Clement, get thee on that cart and preach to the people.
Nay, quickly! strike with all thy force on all this iron, while
yet 'tis hot, and souls are to be saved."
Clement's colour came and went; and he breathed hard. But he
obeyed, and with ill-assured step mounted the cart, and preached
his first sermon to the first crowd he had ever faced. Oh, that
sea of heads! His throat seemed parched, his heart thumped, his
By-and-by the greatness of the occasion, the sight of the eager
upturned faces, and his own heart full of zeal, fired the pale
monk. He told them this robber's history, warm from his own lips
in the prison, and showed his hearers by that example the
gradations of folly and crime, and warned them solemnly not to put
foot on the first round of that fatal ladder. And as alternately
he thundered against the shedders of blood, and moved the crowd to
charity and pity, his tremors left him, and he felt all strung up
like a lute, and gifted with an unsuspected force; he was master
of that listening crowd, could feel their very pulse, could play
sacred melodies on them as on his psaltery. Sobs and groans
attested his power over the mob already excited by the tragedy
before them. Jerome stared like one who goes to light a stick; and
fires a rocket. After a while Clement caught his look of
astonishment, and seeing no approbation in it, broke suddenly off,
and joined him.
"It was my first endeavour," said he apologetically. "Your behest
came on me like a thunderbolt. Was I? - Did I? - Oh, correct me,
and aid me with your experience, Brother Jerome."
"Humph!" said Jerome doubtfully. He added, rather sullenly after
long reflection, "Give the glory to God, Brother Clement; my
opinion is thou art an orator born."
He reported the same at headquarters, half reluctantly. For he was
an honest friar though a disagreeable one.
One Julio Antonelli was accused of sacrilege; three witnesses
swore they saw him come out of the church whence the candle-sticks
were stolen, and at the very time. Other witnesses proved an alibi
for him as positively. Neither testimony could be shaken. In this
doubt Antonelli was permitted the trial by water, hot or cold. By
the hot trial he must put his bare arm into boiling water,
fourteen inches deep, and take out a pebble; by the cold trial his
body must be let down into eight feet of water. The clergy, who
thought him innocent, recommended the hot water trial, which, to
those whom they favoured, was not so terrible as it sounded. But
the poor wretch had not the nerve, and chose the cold ordeal. And
this gave Jerome another opportunity of steeling Clement.
Antonelli took the sacrament, and then was stripped naked on the
banks of the Tiber, and tied hand and foot, to prevent those
struggles by which a man, throwing his arms out of the water,
sinks his body.
He was then let down gently into the stream, and floated a moment,
with just his hair above water. A simultaneous roar from the crowd
on each bank proclaimed him guilty. But the next moment the ropes,
which happened to be new, got wet, and he settled down. Another
roar proclaimed his innocence. They left him at the bottom of the
river the appointed time, rather more than half a minute, then
drew him up, gurgling and gasping, and screaming for mercy; and
after the appointed prayers, dismissed him, cleared of the charge.
During the experiment Clement prayed earnestly on the bank.
When it was over he thanked God in a loud but slightly quavering
By-and-by he asked Jerome whether the man ought not to be
"For the pain, the dread, the suffocation. Poor soul, he liveth,
but hath tasted all the bitterness of death. Yet he had done no
"He is rewarded enough in that he is cleared of his fault."
"But being innocent of that fault, yet hath he drunk Death's cup,
though not to the dregs; and his accusers, less innocent than he,
do suffer nought."
Jerome replied somewhat sternly -
"It is not in this world men are really punished, Brother Clement.
Unhappy they who sin yet suffer not. And happy they who suffer
such ills as earth hath power to inflict; 'tis counted to them
above, ay, and a hundred-fold."
Clement bowed his head submissively.
"May thy good words not fall to the ground, but take root in my
heart, Brother Jerome."
But the severest trial Clement underwent at Jerome's hands was
unpremeditated. It came about thus. Jerome, in an indulgent
moment, went with him to Fra Colonna, and there "The Dream of
Polifilo" lay on the table just copied fairly. The poor author, in
the pride of his heart, pointed out a master-stroke in it.
"For ages," said he, "fools have been lavishing poetic praise and
amorous compliment on mortal women, mere creatures of earth,
smacking palpably of their origin; Sirens at the windows, where
our Roman women in particular have by lifelong study learned the
wily art to show their one good feature, though but an ear or an
eyelash, at a jalosy,and hide all the rest; Magpies at the door,
Capre n' i giardini, Angeli in Strada, Sante in chiesa, Diavoli in
casa. Then come I and ransack the minstrels' lines for amorous
turns, not forgetting those which Petrarch wasted on that French
jilt Laura, the sliest of them all; and I lay you the whole bundle
of spice at the feet of the only females worthy amorous incense;
to wit, the Nine Muses."
"By which goodly stratagem," said Jerome, who had been turning the
pages all this time, "you, a friar of St. Dominic, have produced
an obscene book." And he dashed Polifilo on the table.
"Obscene? thou discourteous monk!" And the author ran round the
table, snatched Polifilo away, locked him up, and trembling with
mortification, said, "My Gerard, pshaw! Brother What's-his-name
had not found Polifilo obscene. Puris omnia pura."
"Such as read your Polifilo - Heaven grant they may be few - will
find him what I find him."
Poor Colonna gulped down this bitter pill as he might; and had he
not been in his own lodgings, and a high-born gentleman as well as
a scholar, there might have been a vulgar quarrel.
As it was, he made a great effort, and turned the conversation to
a beautiful chrysolite the Cardinal Colonna had lent him; and
while Clement handled it, enlarged on its moral virtues: for he
went the whole length of his age as a worshipper of jewels.
But Jerome did not, and expostulated with him for believing that
one dead stone could confer valour on its wearer, another
chastity, another safety from poison, another temperance.
"The experience of ages proves they do," said Colonna. "As to the
last virtue you have named, there sits a living proof. This Gerard
- I beg pardon, Brother Thingemy - comes from the north, where men
drink like fishes; yet was he ever most abstemious. And why?
Carried an amethyst, the clearest and fullest coloured e'er I saw
on any but noble finger. Where, in Heaven's name, is thine
amethyst? Show it this unbeliever!"
"And 'twas that amethyst made the boy temperate?" asked Jerome
"Certainly. Why, what is the derivation and meaning of amethyst?
negative, and to tipple. Go to, names are but the
signs of things. A stone is not called for two
thousand years out of mere sport, and abuse of language."
He then went through the prime jewels, illustrating their moral
properties, especially of the ruby, the sapphire, the emerald, and
the opal, by anecdotes out of grave historians.
"These be old wives' fables," said Jerome contemptuously. "Was
ever such credulity as thine?"
Now credulity is a reproach sceptics have often the ill-luck to
incur; but it mortifies them none the less for that.
The believer in stones writhed under it, and dropped the subject.
Then Jerome, mistaking his silence, exhorted him to go a step
farther, and give up from this day his vain pagan lore, and study
the lives of the saints. "Blot out these heathen superstitions
from thy mind, brother, as Christianity hath blotted them from the
And in this strain he proceeded, repeating, incautiously, some
current but loose theological statements. Then the smarting
Polifilo revenged himself. He flew out, and hurled a mountain of
crude, miscellaneous lore upon Jerome, of which, partly for want
of time, partly for lack of learning, I can reproduce but a few
"The heathen blotted out? Why, they hold four-fifths of the world.
And what have we Christians invented without their aid? painting?
sculpture? these are heathen arts, and we but pigmies at them.
What modern mind can conceive and grave so god-like forms as did
the chief Athenian sculptors, and the Libyan Licas, and Dinocrates
of Macedon, and Scopas, Timotheus, Leochares, and Briaxis; Chares,
Lysippus, and the immortal three of Rhodes, that wrought Laocoon
from a single block? What prince hath the genius to turn mountains
into statues, as was done at Bagistan, and projected at Athos?
What town the soul to plant a colossus of brass in the sea, for
the tallest ships to sail in and out between his legs? Is it
architecture we have invented? Why, here too we are but children.
Can we match for pure design the Parthenon, with its clusters of
double and single Doric columns? (I do adore the Doric when the
scale is large), and for grandeur and finish, the theatres of
Greece and Rome, or the prodigious temples of Egypt, up to whose
portals men walked awe-struck through avenues a mile long of
sphinxes, each as big as a Venetian palace. And all these
prodigies of porphyry cut and polished like crystal, not rough
hewn as in our puny structures. Even now their polished columns
and pilasters lie o'erthrown and broken, o'ergrown with acanthus
and myrtle, but sparkling still, and flouting the slovenly art of
modem workmen. Is it sewers, aqueducts, viaducts?
"Why, we have lost the art of making a road - lost it with the
world's greatest models under our very eye. Is it sepulchres of
the dead? Why, no Christian nation has ever erected a tomb, the
sight of which does not set a scholar laughing. Do but think of
the Mausoleum, and the Pyramids, and the monstrous sepulchres of
the Indus and Ganges, which outside are mountains, and within are
mines of precious stones. Ah, you have not seen the East, Jerome,
or you could not decry the heathen."
Jerome observed that these were mere material things. True
greatness was in the soul.
"Well then," replied Colonna, "in the world of mind, what have we
discovered? Is it geometry? Is it logic? Nay, we are all pupils of
Euclid and Aristotle. Is it written characters, an invention
almost divine? We no more invented it than Cadmus did. Is it
poetry? Homer hath never been approached by us, nor hath Virgil,
nor Horace. Is it tragedy or comedy? Why, poets, actors, theatres,
all fell to dust at our touch. Have we succeeded in reviving them?
Would you compare our little miserable mysteries and moralities,
all frigid personification, and dog Latin, with the glories of a
Greek play (on the decoration of which a hundred thousand crowns
had been spent) performed inside a marble miracle, the audience a
seated city, and the poet a Sophocles?
"What then have we invented? Is it monotheism? Why, the learned
and philosophical among the Greeks and Romans held it; even their
more enlightened poets were monotheists in their sleeves.
saith the Greek, and Lucan echoes him:
'Jupiter est quod cunque vides quo cunque moveris.'
"Their vulgar were polytheists; and what are ours? We have not
invented 'invocation of the saints.' Our sancti answers to their
Daemones and Divi, and the heathen used to pray their Divi or
deified mortal to intercede with the higher divinity; but the
ruder minds among them, incapable of nice distinctions, worshipped
those lesser gods they should have but invoked. And so do the mob
of Christians in our day, following the heathen vulgar or by
unbroken tradition. For in holy writ is no polytheism of any sort
"We have not invented so much as a form or variety of polytheism.
The pagan vulgar worshipped all sorts of deified mortals, and each
had his favourite, to whom he prayed ten times for once to the
Omnipotent. Our vulgar worship canonized mortals, and each has his
favourite, to whom he prays ten times for once to God. Call you
that invention? Invention is confined to the East. Among the
ancient vulgar only the mariners were monotheists; they worshipped
Venus; called her 'Stella maris,' and 'Regina caelorum.' Among our
vulgar only the mariners are monotheists; they worship the Virgin
Mary, and call her the 'Star of the Sea,' and the 'Queen of
Heaven.' Call you theirs a new religion? An old doubtlet with a
new button. Our vulgar make images, and adore them, which is
absurd; for adoration is the homage due from a creature to its
creator; now here man is the creator; so the statues ought to
worship him, and would, if they had brains enough to justify a rat
in worshipping them. But even this abuse, though childish enough
to be modern, is ancient. The pagan vulgar in these parts made
their images, then knelt before them, adorned them with flowers,
offered incense to them, lighted tapers before them, carried them
in procession, and made pilgrimages to them just to the smallest
tittle as we their imitators do."
Jerome here broke in impatiently, and reminded him that the images
the most revered in Christendom were made by no mortal hand, but
had dropped from heaven.
"Ay," cried Colonna, "such are the tutelary images of most great
Italian towns. I have examined nineteen of them, and made drafts
of them. If they came from the sky, our worst sculptors are our
angels. But my mind is easy on that score. Ungainly statue or
villainous daub fell never yet from heaven to smuggle the bread
out of capable workmen's mouths. All this is Pagan, and arose
thus. The Trojans had Oriental imaginations, and feigned that
their Palladium, a wooden statue three cubits long, fell down from
heaven. The Greeks took this fib home among the spoils of Troy,
and soon it rained statues on all the Grecian cities, and their
Latin apes. And one of these Palladia gave St. Paul trouble at
Ephesus; 'twas a statue of Diana that fell down from Jupiter:
credat qui credere possit."
"What, would you cast your profane doubts on that picture of our
blessed Lady, which scarce a century agone hung lustrous in the
air over this very city, and was taken down by the Pope and
bestowed in St. Peter's Church?"
"I have no profane doubts on the matter, Jerome. This is the story
of Numa's shield, revived by theologians with an itch for fiction,
but no talent that way; not being orientals. The 'ancile' or
sacred shield of Numa hung lustrous in the air over this very
city, till that pious prince took it down and hung it in the
temple of Jupiter. Be just, swallow both stories or neither. The
'Bocca della Verita' passes for a statue of the Virgin, and
convicted a woman of perjury the other day; it is in reality an
image of the goddess Rhea, and the modern figment is one of its
ancient traditions; swallow both or neither.
'Qui Bavium non odit amet tua carmina, Mavi.'
"But indeed we owe all our Palladiuncula, and all our speaking,
nodding, winking, sweating, bleeding statues, to these poor abused
heathens; the Athenian statues all sweated before the battle of
Chaeronea, so did the Roman statues during Tully's consulship,
viz., the statue of Victory at Capua, of Mars at Rome, and of
Apollo outside the gates. The Palladium itself was brought to
Italy by Aeneas, and after keeping quiet three centuries, made an
observation in Vesta's Temple: a trivial one, I fear, since it
hath not survived; Juno's statue at Veii assented with a nod to go
to Rome. Antony's statue on Mount Alban bled from every vein in
its marble before the fight of Actium. Others cured diseases: as
that of Pelichus, derided by Lucian; for the wiser among the
heathen believed in sweating marble, weeping wood, and bleeding
brass - as I do. Of all our marks and dents made in stone by soft
substances, this saint's knee, and that saint's finger, and
t'other's head, the original is heathen. Thus the footprints of
Hercules were shown on a rock in Scythia. Castor and Pollux
fighting on white horses for Rome against the Latians, left the
prints of their hoofs on a rock at Regillum. A temple was built to
them on the spot, and the marks were to be seen in Tully's day.
You may see, near Venice, a great stone cut nearly in half by St.
George's sword. This he ne'er had done but for the old Roman who
cut the whetstone in two with his razor.
'Qui Bavium non odit amet tua carmina, Mavi.'
"Kissing of images, and the Pope's toe, is Eastern Paganism. The
Egyptians had it of the Assyrians, the Greeks of the Egyptians,
the Romans of the Greeks, and we of the Romans, whose Pontifex
Maximus had his toe kissed under the Empire. The Druids kissed the
High Priest's toe a thousand years B.C. The Mussulmans, who, like
you, profess to abhor Heathenism, kiss the stone of the Caaba: a
"The Priests of Baal kissed their idols so.
"Tully tells us of a fair image of Hercules at Agrigentum, whose
chin was worn by kissing. The lower parts of the statue we call
Peter are Jupiter. The toe is sore worn, but not all by Christian
mouths. The heathen vulgar laid their lips there first, for many a
year, and ours have but followed them, as monkeys their masters.
And that is why, down with the poor heathen!
Pereant qui ante nos nostra fecerint.
"Our infant baptism is Persian, with the font and the signing of
the child's brow. Our throwing three handfuls of earth on the
coffin, and saying dust to dust, is Egyptian.
"Our incense is Oriental, Roman, Pagan; and the early Fathers of
the Church regarded it with superstitious horror, and died for
refusing to handle it. Our Holy water is Pagan, and all its uses.
See, here is a Pagan aspersorium. Could you tell it from one of
ours? It stood in the same part of their temples, and was used in
ordinary worship as ours, and in extraordinary purifications. They
called it Aqua lustralis. Their vulgar, like ours, thought drops
of it falling on the body would wash out sin; and their men of
sense, like ours, smiled or sighed at such credulity. What saith
Ovid of this folly, which hath outlived him?
'Ah nimium faciles, qui tristia crimina coedis
Fluminea tolli posse putetis aqua.'
Thou seest the heathen were not all fools. No more are we. Not
Fra Colonna uttered all this with such volubility, that his
hearers could not edge in a word of remonstrance; and not being
interrupted in praising his favourites, he recovered his good
humour, without any diminution of his volubility.
"We celebrate the miraculous Conception of the Virgin on the 2nd
of February. The old Romans celebrated the Miraculous Conception
of Juno on the 2nd of February. Our feast of All Saints is on the
2nd November. The Festum Dei Mortis was on the 2nd November. Our
Candlemas is also an old Roman feast; neither the date nor the
ceremony altered one tittle. The patrician ladies carried candles
about the city that night as our signoras do now. At the gate of
San Croce our courtesans keep a feast on the 20th August. Ask them
why! The little noodles cannot tell you. On that very spot stood
the Temple of Venus. Her building is gone; but her rite remains.
Did we discover Purgatory? On the contrary, all we really know
about it is from two treatises of Plato, the Gorgias and the
Phaedo, and the sixth book of Virgil's Aeneid.
"I take it from a holier source: St. Gregory," said Jerome
"Like enough," replied Colonna drily. "But St. Gregory was not so
nice; he took it from Virgil. Some souls, saith Gregory, are
purged by fire, others by water, others by air.
"Says Virgil -
'Aliae panduntur inanes,
Suspensae ad ventous, aliis sub gurgite vasto
Infectum eluitur scelus, aut exuritur igni.'
But peradventure, you think Pope Gregory I lived before Virgil,
and Virgil versified him.
"But the doctrine is Eastern, and as much older than Plato as
Plato than Gregory. Our prayers for the dead came from Asia with
Aeneas. Ovid tells, that when he prayed for the soul of Anchises,
the custom was strange in Italy.
'Hunc morem Aeneas, pietatis idoneus auctor
Attulit in terras, juste Latine, tuas.'
The 'Biblicae' Sortes,' which I have seen consulted on the altar,
are a parody on the 'Sortes Virgilianae.' Our numerous altars in
one church are heathen: the Jews, who are monotheists, have but
one altar in a church. But the Pagans had many, being polytheists.
In the temple of Pathian Venus were a hundred of them. 'Centum que
Sabaeo thure calent arae.' Our altar's and our hundred lights
around St. Peter's tomb are Pagan. 'Centum aras posuit vigilemque
sacraverat ignem.' We invent nothing, not even numerically. Our
very Devil is the god Pan, horns and hoofs and all; but blackened.
For we cannot draw; we can but daub the figures of Antiquity with
a little sorry paint or soot. Our Moses hath stolen the horns of
Ammon; our Wolfgang the hook of Saturn; and Janus bore the keys of
heaven before St. Peter. All our really old Italian bronzes of the
Virgin and Child are Venuses and Cupids. So is the wooden statue,
that stands hard by this house, of Pope Joan and the child she is
said to have brought forth there in the middle of a procession.
Idiots! are new-born children thirteen years old? And that boy is
not a day younger. Cupid! Cupid! Cupid! And since you accuse me of
credulity, know that to my mind that Papess is full as
mythological, born of froth, and every way unreal, as the goddess
who passes for her in the next street, or as the saints you call
St. Baccho and St. Quirina: or St. Oracte, which is a dunce-like
corruption of Mount Soracte, or St. Amphibolus, an English saint,
which is a dunce-like corruption of the cloak worn by their St.
Alban, Or as the Spanish saint, St. Viar: which words on his
tombstone, written thus, 'S. Viar,' prove him no saint, but a good
old nameless heathen, and 'praefectus Viarum,' or overseer of
roads (would he were back to earth, and paganizing of our
Christian roads!), or as our St. Veronica of Benasco, which
Veronica is a dunce-like corruption of the 'Vera icon,' which this
saint brought into the church. I wish it may not be as unreal as
the donor, Or as the eleven thousand virgins of Cologne, who were
but a couple."
Clement interrupted him to inquire what he meant. "I have spoken
with those have seen their bones."
"What, of eleven thousand virgins all collected in one place and
at one time? Do but bethink thee, Clement. Not one of the great
Eastern cities of antiquity could collect eleven thousand Pagan
virgins at one time, far less a puny Western city. Eleven thousand
Christian virgins in a little, wee, Paynim city!
'Quod cunque ostendis mihi sic incredulus odi.'
The simple sooth is this. The martyrs were two: the Breton
princess herself, falsely called British, and her maid,
Onesimilla, which is a Greek name, Onesima, diminished. This some
fool did mis-pronounce undecim mille, eleven thousand: loose
tongue found credulous ears, and so one fool made many; eleven
thousand of them, an' you will. And you charge me with credulity,
Jerome? and bid me read the Lives of the Saints. Well, I have read
them, and many a dear old Pagan acquaintance I found there. The
best fictions in the book are Oriental, and are known to have been
current in Persia and Arabia eight hundred years and more before
the dates the Church assigns to them as facts. As for the true
Western figments, they lack the Oriental plausibility. Think you I
am credulous enough to believe that St. Ida joined a decapitated
head to its body? that Cuthbert's carcass directed his bearers
where to go, and where to stop; that a city was eaten up of rats
to punish one Hatto for comparing the poor to mice; that angels
have a little horn in their foreheads, and that this was seen and
recorded at the time by St. Veronica of Benasco, who never
existed, and hath left us this information and a miraculous
handkercher? For my part, I think the holiest woman the world ere
saw must have an existence ere she can have a handkercher or an
eye to take unicorns for angels. Think you I believe that a brace
of lions turned sextons and helped Anthony bury Paul of Thebes?
that Patrick, a Scotch saint, stuck a goat's beard on all the
descendants of one that offended him? that certain thieves, having
stolen the convent ram, and denying it, St. Pol de Leon bade the
ram bear witness, and straight the mutton bleated in the thief's
belly? Would you have me give up the skilful figments of antiquity
for such old wives' fables as these? The ancients lied about
animals, too; but then they lied logically; we unreasonably. Do
but compare Ephis and his lion, or, better still, Androcles and
his lion, with Anthony and his two lions. Both the Pagan lions do
what lions never did' but at the least they act in character. A
lion with a bone in his throat, or a thorn in his foot, could not
do better than be civil to a man. But Anthony's lions are asses in
a lion's skin. What leonine motive could they have in turning
sextons? A lion's business is to make corpses, not inter them." He
added, with a sigh, "Our lies are as inferior to the lies of the
ancients as our statues, and for the same reason; we do not study
nature as they did. We are imitatores, servum pecus. Believe you
'the lives of the saints;' that Paul the Theban was the first
hermit, and Anthony the first Caenobite? Why, Pythagoras was an
Eremite, and under ground for seven years; and his daughter was an
abbess. Monks and hermits were in the East long before Moses, and
neither old Greece nor Rome was ever without them. As for St.
Francis and his snowballs, he did but mimic Diogenes, who, naked,
embraced statues on which snow had fallen. The folly without the
poetry. Ape of an ape - for Diogenes was but a mimic therein of
the Brahmins and Indian gymnosophists. Natheless, the children of
this Francis bid fair to pelt us out of the Church with their
snowballs. Tell me now, Clement, what habit is lovelier than the
vestments of our priests? Well, we owe them all to Numa Pompilius,
except the girdle and the stole, which are judaical. As for the
amice and the albe, they retain the very names they bore in Numa's
day. The 'pelt' worn by the canons comes from primeval Paganism.
'Tis a relic of those rude times when the sacrificing priest wore
the skins of the beasts with the fur outward. Strip off thy black
gown, Jerome, thy girdle and cowl, for they come to us all three
from the Pagan ladies. Let thy hair grow like Absolom's, Jerome!
for the tonsure is as Pagan as the Muses."
"Take care what thou sayest," said Jerome sternly. "We know the
very year in which the Church did first ordain it."
"But not invent it, Jerome. The Brahmins wore it a few thousands
years ere that. From them it came through the Assyrians to the
priests of Isis in Egypt, and afterwards of Serapis at Athens. The
late Pope (the saints be good to him) once told me the tonsure was
forbidden by God to the Levites in the Pentateuch. If so, this was
because of the Egyptian priests wearing it. I trust to his
holiness. I am no biblical scholar. The Latin of thy namesake
Jerome is a barrier I cannot overleap. 'Dixit ad me Dominus Dens.
Dixi ad Dominum Deum.' No, thank you, holy Jerome; I can stand a
good deal, but I cannot stand thy Latin. Nay; give me the New
Testament! 'Tis not the Greek of Xenophon; but 'tis Greek. And
there be heathen sayings in it too. For St. Paul was not so
spiteful against them as thou. When the heathen said a good thing
that suited his matter, by Jupiter he just took it, and mixed it
to all eternity with the inspired text."
"Come forth, Clement, come forth!" said Jerome, rising; "and thou,
profane monk, know that but for the powerful house that upholds
thee, thy accursed heresy should go no farther, for I would have
thee burned at the stake." And he strode out white with
Colonna's reception of this threat did credit to him as an
enthusiast. He ran and hallooed joyfully after Jerome. "And that
is Pagan. Burning of men's bodies for the opinions of their souls
is a purely Pagan custom - as Pagan as incense, holy water, a
hundred altars in one church, the tonsure, the cardinal's, or
flamen's hat, the word Pope, the-
Here Jerome slammed the door.
But ere they could get clear of the house a jalosy was flung open,
and the Paynim monk came out head and shoulders, and overhung the
"Affecti suppliciis Chrisitiani, genus hominum
Novas superstitionis ac maleficae,'"
And having delivered this parting blow, he felt a great triumphant
joy, and strode exultant to and fro; and not attending with his
usual care to the fair way (for his room could only be threaded by
little paths wriggling among the antiquities), tripped over the
beak of an Egyptian stork, and rolled upon a regiment of Armenian
gods, which he found tough in argument though small in stature.
"You will go no more to that heretical monk," said Jerome to
Clement sighed. "Shall we leave him and not try to correct him?
Make allowance for heat of discourse! he was nettled, His words
are worse than his acts. Oh 'tis a pure and charitable soul."
"So are all arch-heretics. Satan does not tempt them like other
men. Rather he makes them more moral, to give their teaching
weight. Fra Colonna cannot be corrected; his family is
all-powerful in Rome, Pray we the saints he blasphemes to
enlighten him, 'Twill not be the first time they have returned
good for evil, Meantime thou art forbidden to consort with him,
From this day go alone through the city! Confess and absolve
sinners! exorcise demons! comfort the sick! terrify the
impenitent! preach wherever men are gathered and occasion serves!
and hold no converse with the Fra Colonna!"
Clement bowed his head,
Then the prior, at Jerome's request, had the young friar watched.
And one day the spy returned with the news that Brother Clement
had passed by the Fra Colonna's lodging, and had stopped a little
while in the street, and then gone on, but with his hand to his
eyes and slowly.
This report Jerome took to the prior. The prior asked his opinion,
and also Anselm's, who was then taking leave of him on his return
Jerome. "Humph! He obeyed, but with regret, ay, with childish
Anselm, "He shed a natural tear at turning his back on a friend
and a benefactor, But he obeyed."
Now Anselm was one of your gentle irresistibles, He had at times a
mild ascendant even over Jerome.
"Worthy Brother Anselm," said Jerome, "Clement is weak to the very
bone, He will disappoint thee, He will do nothing, great, either
for the Church or for our holy order. Yet he is an orator, and
hath drunken of the spirit of St. Dominic. Fly him, then, with a
That same day it was announced to Clement that he was to go to
England immediately with Brother Jerome.
Clement folded his hands on his breast, and bowed his head
in calm submission.
A Catherine is not an unmixed good in a strange house. The
governing power is strong in her. She has scarce crossed the
threshold ere the utensils seem to brighten; the hearth to sweep
itself; the windows to let in more light; and the soul of an
enormous cricket to animate the dwelling-place. But this cricket
is a Busy Body. And that is a tremendous character. It has no
discrimination. It sets everything to rights, and everybody. Now
many things are the better for being set to rights. But everything
is not. Everything is the one thing that won't stand being set to
rights; except in that calm and cool retreat, the grave.
Catherine altered the position of every chair and table in
Margaret's house; and perhaps for the better.
But she must go farther, and upset the live furniture.
When Margaret's time was close at hand, Catherine treacherously
invited the aid of Denys and Martin; and on the poor,
simple-minded fellows asking her earnestly what service they could
be, she told them they might make themselves comparatively useful
by going for a little walk. So far so good. But she intimated
further that should the promenade extend into the middle of next
week all the better. This was not ingratiating. The subsequent
conduct of the strong under the yoke of the weak might have
propitiated a she-bear with three cubs, one sickly. They generally
slipped out of the house at daybreak; and stole in like thieves at
night; and if by any chance they were at home, they went about
like cats on a wall tipped with broken glass, and wearing
awe-struck visages, and a general air of subjugation and
But all would not do. Their very presence was ill-timed; and
jarred upon Catherine's nerves.
Did instinct whisper, a pair of depopulators had no business in a
house with multipliers twain?
The breastplate is no armour against a female tongue; and
Catherine ran infinite pins and needles of speech into them. In a
word, when Margaret came down stairs, she found the kitchen swept
Martin, old and stiff, had retreated no farther than the street,
and with the honours of war: for he had carried off his baggage, a
stool; and sat on it in the air,
Margaret saw he was out in the sun; but was not aware he was a
fixture in that luminary. She asked for Denys. "Good, kind Denys;
he will be right pleased to see me about again."
Catherine, wiping a bowl with now superfluous vigour, told her
Denys was gone to his friends in Burgundy. "And high time, Hasn't
been anigh them this three years, by all accounts."
"What, gone without bidding me farewell?" said Margaret, uplifting
two tender eyes like full-blown violets.
Catherine reddened. For this new view of the matter set her
conscience pricking her.
But she gave a little toss and said, "Oh, you were asleep at the
time: and I would not have you wakened."
"Poor Denys," said Margaret, and the dew gathered visibly on the
Catherine saw out of the corner of her eye, and without taking a
bit of open notice, slipped off and lavished hospitality and
tenderness on the surviving depopulator.
It was sudden: and Martin old and stiff in more ways than one -
"No, thank you, dame. I have got used to out o' doors. And I love
not changing and changing. I meddle wi' nobody here; and nobody
meddles wi' me."
"Oh, you nasty, cross old wretch!" screamed Catherine, passing in
a moment from treacle to sharpest vinegar. And she flounced back
into the house.
On calm reflection she had a little cry. Then she half reconciled
herself to her conduct by vowing to be so kind, Margaret should
never miss her plagues of soldiers. But feeling still a little
uneasy, she dispersed all regrets by a process at once simple and
She took and washed the child,
From head to foot she washed him in tepid water; and heroes, and
their wrongs, became as dust in an ocean - of soap and water,
While this celestial ceremony proceeded, Margaret could not keep
quiet. She hovered round the fortunate performer. She must have an
apparent hand in it, if not a real. She put her finger into the
water - to pave the way for her boy, I suppose; for she could not
have deceived herself so far as to think Catherine would allow her
to settle the temperature. During the ablution she kneeled down
opposite the little Gerard, and prattled to him with amazing
fluency; taking care, however, not to articulate like grown-up
people; for, how could a cherub understand their ridiculous
"I wish you could wash out THAT," said she, fixing her eyes on the
little boy's hand.
"What, have you not noticed? on his little finger."
Granny looked, and there was a little brown mole,
"Eh, but this is wonderful!" she cried. "Nature, my lass, y'are
strong; and meddlesome to boot. Hast noticed such a mark on some
one else? Tell the truth, girl!"
"What, on him? Nay, mother, not I."
"Well then he has; and on the very spot. And you never noticed
that much. But, dear heart, I forgot; you han't known him from
child to man as I have, I have had him hundreds o' times on my
knees, the same as this, and washed him from top to toe in
luke-warm water." And she swelled with conscious superiority; and
Margaret looked meekly up to her as a woman beyond competition.
Catherine looked down from her dizzy height and moralized. She
differed from other busy-bodies in this, that she now and then
reflected: not deeply; or of course I should take care not to
"It is strange," said she, "how things come round and about, Life
is but a whirligig. Leastways, we poor women, our lives are all
cut upon one pattern. Wasn't I for washing out my Gerard's mole in
his young days? 'Oh, fie! here's a foul blot,' quo' I; and
scrubbed away at it I did till I made the poor wight cry; so then
I thought 'twas time to give over. And now says you to me,
'Mother,' says you, 'do try and wash you out o' my Gerard's
finger,' says you. Think on't!"
"Wash it out?" cried Margaret; "I wouldn't for all the world, Why,
it is the sweetest bit in his little darling body. I'll kiss it
morn and night till he that owned it first comes back to us three,
Oh, bless you, my jewel of gold and silver, for being marked like
your own daddy, to comfort me."
And she kissed little Gerard's little mole; but she could not stop
there; she presently had him sprawling on her lap, and kissed his
back all over again and again, and seemed to worry him as wolf a
lamb; Catherine looking on and smiling. She had seen a good many
of these savage onslaughts in her day.
And this little sketch indicates the tenor of Margaret's life for
several months, One or two small things occurred to her during
that time which must be told; but I reserve them, since one string
will serve for many glass beads. But while her boy's father was
passing through those fearful tempests of the soul, ending in the
dead monastic calm, her life might fairly be summed in one great
blissful word - Maternity.
You, who know what lies in that word, enlarge my little sketch,
and see the young mother nursing and washing, and dressing and
undressing, and crowing and gambolling with her first-born; then
swifter than lightning dart your eye into Italy, and see the cold
cloister; and the monks passing like ghosts, eyes down, hands
meekly crossed over bosoms dead to earthly feelings.
One of these cowled ghosts is he, whose return, full of love, and
youth, and joy, that radiant young mother awaits.
In the valley of Grindelwald the traveller has on one side the
perpendicular Alps, all rock, ice, and everlasting snow, towering
above the clouds, and piercing to the sky; on his other hand
little every-day slopes, but green as emeralds, and studded with
cows and pretty cots, and life; whereas those lofty neighbours
stand leafless, lifeless, inhuman, sublime. Elsewhere sweet
commonplaces of nature are apt to pass unnoticed; but, fronting
the grim Alps, they soothe, and even gently strike, the mind by
contrast with their tremendous opposites. Such, in their way, are
the two halves of this story, rightly looked at; on the Italian
side rugged adventure, strong passion, blasphemy, vice, penitence,
pure ice, holy snow, soaring direct at heaven. On the Dutch side,
all on a humble scale and womanish, but ever green. And as a
pathway parts the ice towers of Grindelwald, aspiring to the sky,
from its little sunny braes, so here' is but a page between
"the Cloister and the Hearth."
THE new pope favoured the Dominican order. The convent received a
message from the Vatican, requiring a capable friar to teach at
the University of Basle. Now Clement was the very monk for this:
well versed in languages, and in his worldly days had attended the
lectures of Guarini the younger. His visit to England was
therefore postponed though not resigned; and meantime he was sent
to Basle; but not being wanted there for three months, he was to
preach on the road.
He passed out of the northern gate with his eyes lowered, and the
whole man wrapped in pious contemplation.
Oh, if we could paint a mind and its story, what a walking fresco
was this barefooted friar!
Hopeful, happy love, bereavement, despair, impiety, vice, suicide,
remorse, religious despondency, penitence, death to the world,
And all in twelve short months.
And now the traveller was on foot again. But all was changed: no
perilous adventures now. The very thieves and robbers bowed to the
ground before him, and instead of robbing him, forced stolen money
on him, and begged his prayers.
This journey therefore furnished few picturesque incidents. I
have, however, some readers to think of, who care little for
melodrama, and expect a quiet peep at what passes inside a man, To
such students things undramatic are often vocal, denoting the
progress of a mind.
The first Sunday of Clement's journey was marked by this. He
prayed for the soul of Margaret. He had never done so before. Not
that her eternal welfare was not dearer to him than anything on
earth. It was his humility. The terrible impieties that burst from
him on the news of her death horrified my well-disposed readers;
but not as on reflection they horrified him who had uttered them.
For a long time during his novitiate he was oppressed with
religious despair. He thought he must have committed that sin
against the Holy Spirit which dooms the soul for ever, By degrees
that dark cloud cleared away, Anselmo juvante; but deep
self-abasement remained. He felt his own salvation insecure, and
moreover thought it would be mocking Heaven, should he, the deeply
stained, pray for a soul so innocent, comparatively, as
Margaret's. So he used to coax good Anselm and another kindly monk
to pray for her. They did not refuse, nor do it by halves. In
general the good old monks (and there were good, bad, and
indifferent in every convent) had a pure and tender affection for
their younger brethren, which, in truth, was not of this world.
Clement then, having preached on Sunday morning in a small Italian
town, and being mightily carried onward, was greatly encouraged;
and that day a balmy sense of God's forgiveness and love descended
on him. And he prayed for the welfare of Margaret's soul. And from
that hour this became his daily habit, and the one purified tie,
that by memory connected his heart with earth.
For his family were to him as if they had never been.
The Church would not share with earth. Nor could even the Church
cure the great love without annihilating the smaller ones.
During most of this journey Clement rarely felt any spring of life
within him, but when he was in the pulpit. The other exceptions
were, when he happened to relieve some fellow-creature.
A young man was tarantula bitten, or perhaps, like many more,
fancied it. Fancy or reality, he had been for two days without
sleep, and in most extraordinary convulsions, leaping, twisting,
and beating the walls. The village musicians had only excited him
worse with their music. Exhaustion and death followed the disease,
when it gained such a head. Clement passed by and learned what was
the matter. He sent for a psaltery, and tried the patient with
soothing melodies; but if the other tunes maddened him, Clement's
seemed to crush him. He groaned and moaned under them, and
grovelled on the floor. At last the friar observed that at
intervals his lips kept going. He applied his ear, and found the
patient was whispering a tune; and a very singular one, that had
no existence. He learned this tune and played it. The patient's
face brightened amazingly. He marched about the room on the light
fantastic toe enjoying it; and when Clement's fingers ached nearly
off with playing it, he had the satisfaction of seeing the young
man sink complacently to sleep to this lullaby, the strange
creation of his own mind; for it seems he was no musician, and
never composed a tune before or after. This sleep saved his life.
And Clement, after teaching the tune to another, in case it should
be wanted again, went forward with his heart a little warmer. On
another occasion he found a mob haling a decently dressed man
along, who struggled and vociferated, but in a strange language.
This person had walked into their town erect and sprightly, waving
a mulberry branch over his head. Thereupon the natives first gazed
stupidly, not believing their eyes, then pounced on him and
dragged him before the podesta, Clement went with them; but on the
way drew quietly near the prisoner and spoke to him in Italian; no
answer. In French' German; Dutch; no assets. Then the man tried
Clement in tolerable Latin, but with a sharpish accent. He said he
was an Englishman, and oppressed with the heat of Italy, had taken
a bough off the nearest tree, to save his head. "In my country
anybody is welcome to what grows on the highway. Confound the
fools; I am ready to pay for it. But here is all Italy up in arms
about a twig and a handful of leaves."
The pig-headed podesta would have sent the dogged islander to
prison; but Clement mediated, and with some difficulty made the
prisoner comprehend that silkworms, and by consequence mulberry
leaves, were sacred, being under the wing of the Sovereign, and
his source of income; and urged on the podesta that ignorance of
his mulberry laws was natural in a distant country, where the very
tree perhaps was unknown, The opinionative islander turned the
still vibrating scale by pulling' out a long purse and repeating
his original theory, that the whole question was mercantile. "Quid
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