W. V.â€™s Golden Legend
â€œTHE EIGHT HUNDRED HORSEMEN TURNED IN DISMAY.â€
Â¢ AUTHOR: OF: â€”
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+ Full: Page ~ Illustrations + by:
* T-HÂ°- ROBINSON:
DODD MEAD & COâ€œ
___ Â°PUBLISHERS> _~
WT COSTAE Ep S
By Dopp, MEAD AND COMPANY.
Joun Witson anp Son, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.
Al SAINT, whose very name I have for-
gotten, had a vision, in which he saw
Satan standing before the throne of God; and,
listening, he heard the evil spirit say, â€œ Why
hast Thou condemned me, who have offended
Thee but once, whilst Thou savest thousands
of men who have offended Thee many times?â€
God answered him, â€œ Hast thou once asked
pardon of me?â€
Behold the Christian mythology! It ts the
dramatic truth, which has its worth and effect
independently of the literal truth, and which
even gains nothing by being fact. What matter
whether the saint had or had not heard the
sublime words I have just quoted? The great
point is to know that pardon is refused only
to him who does not ask it.
COUNT DE MAISTRE.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
J. In roe Forest or STONE. . - s I
II. Tue Sonc or rHE MinsrrR . . . 14
III. Tue Pircrmm or rHE NicHT . . . . 22
IV. Tue Ancient Gops Pursuing . . . 31
V. Tse Dream or THE Wuite Lark . . 47
VI. Tue Hermir or rHe PuuarR. . . Â«52
VII. Kenacwâ€™s Lirrte Woman . . . Â«~~ 66
VIII. Gotpen Appies anp Roses Rep. . . 77
IX. Tue Seven Years or SEEKING . . . 96
X. Tue Guarpians or THE Door , . . 136
XI. On roe SHores or Loncinc . . . Â» 145
XII. Tue Curupren oF Sprnatunca . . - 156
XIII. Tue Sin or tHe Prince BisHop . . . 168
XIV. Tue Lirrte Bepesman or CuristT . . 174
XV. Tue Burninc or Apgor SpiriDION . . 203
XVI. Tue Countess IrHa . . . . Â«Â© + 213
XVII. Tue Srory or THe Losr BrorHER . . 231
XVIII. Tse Kinc Orcutous . . . . - +) 255
XIX. Tue Journey or RHEINFRID . Â«. - Â« 279
XX. Licutinc rue Lamps . . . . + +) 304
List of Illustrations
Â«Â« The eight hundred horsemen turned in
dismay â€™â€™ (Page 167)
ceWomen lived the life of prayer and
praise and austerityâ€
Â«Â¢ Â«These are the fields in which the shep-
herds watchedâ€™ â€™â€™ .
Â«Â© Hilary wondered and musedâ€?
Â«<Â« Hail, thou queen of the world, red
with the roses of the martyrs and
white with the lilies of the virginsâ€™ â€™â€
Â«Â«<Â«Come not any nearer; turn thy face
to the forest, and go downâ€™ â€â€™
Â«<Â«T am not mad, most noble Sapriciusâ€™ â€
<< They won their long sea-way homeâ€?
seÂ¢ And four good Angels watch my
ce And again in the keen November â€
. Facing page 12
List of Illustrations (Continued)
Â«cÂ¢ Surely in all the world God has no
more beautiful house than thisâ€™â€™â€™ . Facing page 174
St. Francis dâ€™ Assisi
<< Beside him were two radiant child-
Â«Itha rode away with her lordâ€?
Â«eThe sight of that divine figure filled
the priorâ€™s heart with peace and con-
In the Forest of Stone
OOKING down the vista of trees and
houses from the slope of our garden,
W. V. saw the roof and spire of the church
of the Oak-men showing well above the
green huddle of the Forest.
â€œTt isa pretty big church, is nâ€™t it, father?â€
she asked, as she pointed it out to me.
It was a most picturesque old-fashioned
church, though in my thoughtlessness I had
mistaken it for a beech and a tall poplar
growing apparently side by side; but the
moment she spoke I perceived my illusion.
â€œT expect, if we were anywhere about on
a Sunday morning,â€ she surmised, with a
laugh, â€œwe should see hundreds and hun-
dreds of Oak-girls and Oak-boys going in
schools to service.â€
â€œ Dressed in green silk, with bronze boots
and pink feathersâ€” the colours of the new
2 In the Forest of Stone
â€œOh, father, it would be lovely!â€ in a
burst of ecstasy. â€˜Ought nâ€™t we to go and
find the way to their church?â€
We might do something much less amus-
ing. Accordingly we took the bearings of
the green spire with the skill of veteran
explorers. It lay due north, so that if we
travelled by the way of the North Star we
should be certain to find it. Wheeling the
Man before us, we made a North Star track
for ourselves through the underwood and
over last yearâ€™s rustling beech-leaves, till
Guy ceased babbling and crooning, and
dropped into a slumber, as he soon does in
the fresh of the morning. Then we had to
go slowly for fear he should be wakened by
the noise of the dead wood underfoot, for, as
we passed over it with wheels and boots, it
snapped and crackled like a freshly-kindled
fire. It was a relief to get at last to the soft
matting of brown needles and cones under
the Needle-trees, for there we could go pretty
quickly without either jolting him or making
We went as far as we were able that day,
and we searched in glade and lawn, in cop-
pice and dingle, but never a trace could we
In the Forest of Stone 3
find of the sylvan minster where the Oak-
people worship. As we wandered through
the Forest we came upon a number of
notice boards nailed high up on the trunks
of various trees, but when W. V. discovered
that these only repeated the- same stern
legend: â€œ Caution. Persons breaking, climb-
ing upon, or otherwise damaging,â€ she in-
dignantly resented this incessant intrusion
on the innocent enjoyment of free foresters.
How much nicer it would have been if there
had been a hand on one of these repressive
boards, with the inscription: â€˜â€œ This way to
the North Star Church;â€ or, if a caution
was really necessary for some of the people
who entered the Forest, to say: â€œ The pub-
lic are requested not to disturb the Elves,
Birch-ladies, and Oak-men;â€ but of course
the most delightful thing would be to have
a different fairy-tale written up in clear
letters on each of the boards, and a seat
close by where one could rest and read it
I told her there were several forests I had
explored, in which something like that was
really done; only the stories were not fairy-
tales, but legends of holy men and women;
A In the Forest of Stone
and among the branches of the trees were
fixed most beautifully coloured glass pictures
of those holy people, who had all lived and
died, and some of whom had been buried, in
those forests, hundreds of years ago. Most
of the forests were very ancient â€” older than
the thrones of many kingdoms; and men
lived and delighted in them long before
Columbus sailed into unknown seas to dis-
cover America. Many, indeed, had been
blown down and destroyed by a terrible
storm which swept over the world when
Henry VIII. ruled in England, and only
wrecks of them now remained for any one
to see; but others, which had survived the
wild weather of those days, were as wonder-
ful and as lovely asa dream. The tall trees
in them sent out curving branches which
interlaced high overhead, shutting out the
blue sky and making a sweet and solemn
dimness, and nearly all the light that streamed
in between the fair round trunks and the
arching boughs was like that of a splendid
sunset, only it was there all day long and
never faded out till night fell. And in some
of the forests there were great magical roses,
of a hundred brilliant colours crowded to-
In the Forest of Stone 5
gether, and as big as the biggest cart-wheel,
These woods were places of happy quietude
and comfort and gladness of heart; but, in-
stead of Oak-men, there were many Angels.
Here and there, too, in the silent avenues,
mighty warriors, and saintly abbots, and
statesmen bishops, and it might be even a
king or a queen, had been buried; and over
their graves there were sometimes images of
them lying carved in marble or alabaster,
and sometimes there had been built the
loveliest little chapels all sculptured over
with tracery of flowers and foliage.
â€œTrue as true, dear. Some day I shall
take you to see for yourself.â€
We know a dip in a dingle where the
woodcutters have left a log among the
hazels, and here, having wheeled Guy into a
dappling of sunny discs and leaf-shadows in
a grassy bay, we sat down on the log, and
talked in an undertone. Our failure to find
the Oak-menâ€™s church reminded me of the
old legends of lost and invisible churches,
the bells of which are heard ringing under
6 In the Forest of Stone
the snow, or in the depths of the woods, or
far away in burning deserts, or fathom-deep
beneath the blue sea; but the pilgrim or
the chance wayfarer who has heard the music
of the bells has never succeeded in discover-
ing the way that leads to the lost church.
It is on the clear night of St. Johnâ€™s Day,
the longest day of the year, or on the last
hour of Christmas Eve, that these bells are
heard pealing most sweet and clear.
It was in this way that we came to tell
Christian legends and to talk of saints and
hermits, of old abbeys and minsters, of visions
and miracles and the ministry of Angels.
Guy, W. V. thought, might be able, if only
he could speak, to tell us much about
heaven and the Angels; it was so short a
time since he left them. She herself had
quite forgotten, but, then â€” deprecatingly â€”
it was so long and long and long ago; â€œeight
years, a long time for me.â€
The faith and the strange vivid daydreams
of the Middle Ages were a new world into
which she was being led along enchanted
footpaths ; quite different from the worldly
world of the â€œ Old Romansâ€ and of English
history ; more real it seemed and more cred-
In the Forest of Stone 7.
ible, for all its wonders, than the world of
elves and water-maidens. Delightful as it
was, it was scarce believable that fairies ever
carried a little girl up above the tree-tops and
swung her in the air from one to another; but
when St. Catherine of Siena was a little child,
and went to be a hermit in the woods, and got
terribly frightened, and lost her way, and sat
down to cry, the Angels, you know, did
really and truly waft her up on their wings
and carried her to the valley of Fontebranda,
which was very near home. And when she
was quite a little thing and used to say her
prayers going up to bed, the Angels would
come to her and just whip her right up the
stairs in an instant !
Occasionally these legends brought us to
the awful brink of religious controversies and
insoluble mysteries, but, like those gentle
savages who honour the water-spirits by
hanging garlands from tree to tree across the
river, W. V. could always fling a bridge of
flowers over our abysses. â€˜Our sense,â€ she
would declare, â€˜is nothing to Godâ€™s; and
though big people have more sense than
children, the sense of all the big people in
the world put together would be no sense to
8 In the Forest of Stone
His.â€ â€˜We are only little babies to Him;
we do not understand Him at all.â€ Noth-
ing seemed clearer to her than the reason-
ableness of one legend which taught that
though God always answers our prayers, He
does not always answer in the way we would
like, but in some better way than we know.
â€œYes,â€ she observed, â€œ He is just a dear old
Father.â€ Anything about our Lord en-
grossed her imagination; and it was a fre-
quent wish of hers that He would come
again. â€œThen,â€™â€”poor perplexed little
mortal! whose difficulties one could not
even guess atâ€”â€œwe should be quite sure
of things. Miss Catherine tells us from
books; He would tell us from His memory.
People would not be so cruel to Him now.
Queen Victoria would not allow any one to
I donâ€™t think that W. V., in spite of her
confidence in my good faith, was quite con-
vinced of the existence of those old forests
of which I had told her, until I explained
that they were forests of stone, which, if
men did not mar them, would blossom for
centuries unchanged, though the hands that
In the Forest of Stone 9
planted them had long been blown in dust
about the world. She understood all that I
meant when wevisited York and Westminster,
and walked through the long avenues of
stone palms and pines, with their overarch-
ing boughs, and gazed at the marvellous
rose-windows in which all the jewels of the
world seemed to have been set, and saw the
colours streaming through the gorgeous
lancets and high many-lighted casements.
After that it was delightful to turn over en-
gravings and photographs of ruined abbeys
and famous old churches at home and abroad,
and to anticipate the good time when we
should visit them together, and perhaps not
only descend into the crypts but go through
the curious galleries which extend over the
pillars of the nave, and even climb up to the
leaded roof of the tower, or dare the long
windy staircases and ladders which mount
- into the spire, and so look down on the
quaint map of streets, and houses, and
gardens, and squares, hundreds of feet
She liked to hear how some of those mira-
cles of stone had been fashioned and com-
pleted â€” how monks in the days of old had
10 In the Forest of Stone
travelled over the land with the relics of
saints, collecting treasure of all sorts for the
expense of the work; how sometimes the
people came in hundreds dragging great
oaks and loads of quarried stone, and bring-
ing fat hogs, beans, corn, and beer for the
builders and their workmen; how even
queens carried block or beam to the masons,
so that with their own hands they might help
in the glorious labour; and poor old women
gave assistance by cooking food and washing
and spinning and weaving and making and
mending; how when the foundations were
blessed kings and princes and powerful
barons laid each a stone, and when the choir
sang the antiphon, â€œAnd the foundations
of the wall were garnished with all manner of
precious stones,â€ they threw costly rings and
jewels and chains of gold into the trench;
and how years and generations passed away,
and abbots and bishops and architects and .
masons and sculptors and labourers died,
but new men took their places, and still the
vast work went on, and the beautiful pile
rose higher and higher into the everlasting
Then, too, we looked back at the vanished
In the Forest of Stone II
times when the world was all so different
from our world of to-day ; and in green and
fruitful spots among the hills and on warm
river-lawns and in olden cities of narrow
streets and overhanging roofs, there were
countless abbeys and priories and convents ;
and thousands of men and women lived the
life of prayer and praise and austerity and
miracle and vision which is described in
the legends of the Saints. We lingered in
the pillared cloisters where the black-letter
chronicles were written in Latin, and music
was scored and hymns were composed, and
many a rare manuscript was illuminated in
crimson and blue and emerald and gold; and
we looked through the fair arches into the
cloister-garth where in the green sward a
grave lay ever ready to receive the remains
of the next brother who should pass away
from this little earth to the glory of Paradise.
What struck W. V. perhaps most of all was,
that in some leafy places these holy houses
were so ancient that even the blackbirds and
throstles had learned to repeat some of the
cadences of the church music, and in those
places the birds still continue to pipe them,
though nothing now remains of church or
12 In the Forest of Stone
monastery except the name of some field or
street or well, which people continue to use
out of old habit and custom.
It was with the thought of helping the
busy little brain to realise something of that
bygone existence, with its strange modes of
thought, its unquestioning faith in the un-
seen and eternal, its vivid consciousness of the
veiled but constant presence of the holy and
omnipotent God, its stern self-repression and
its tender charity, its lovely ideals and haunt-
ing legends, that I told W. V. the stories
in this little book. It mattered little to her
or to me that that existence had its dark
shadows contrasting with its celestial light :
it was the light that concerned us, not the
Some of the stories were told on the log,
while Guy slept in his mail-cart in the
dappled shelter of the dingle ; others by a
winter fire when the days were short, and the
cry of the wind in the dark made it easy for
one to believe in wolves; others in the
Surrey hills, a year ago, in a sandy hollow
crowned with bloom of the ling, and famous
for a little pool where the martins alight to
â€œ WOMEN LIVED THE LIFE OF PRAYER AND PRAISE
In the Forest of Stone 13
drink and star the mud with a maze of claw-
tracks; and yet again, others, this year, under
the dry roof of the pines of Anstiebury, when
the fosse of the old Briton settlement was drip-
ping with wet, and the woods were dim with
the smoke of rain, and the paths were red
with the fallen bloom of the red chestnuts
and white with the flourish of May and
brown with the catkins of the oak, and the
cuckoo, calling in Mosses Wood, was an-
swered from Redlands and the Warren, and
the pines where we sat (snug and dry) looked
so solemn and dark that, with a little fancy,
it was easy to change the living greenwood
into the forest of stone.
As they were told, under the pressure of
an insatiable listener, so have they been
written, save for such a phrase, here and
there, as slips more readily from the pen than
from the tongue.
Of the stories which were told, but which
have not been written for this book, if W. V.
should question me, I shall answer in the
wise words of the Greybeard of Broce-Liande:
â€œ Flowever hot thy thirst, and however
pleasant to assuage it, leave clear water in
The Song of the Minster
HEN John of Fulda became Prior
of Hethholme, says the old chron-
icle, he brought with him to the Abbey
many rare and costly books â€” beautiful illu-
minated missals and psalters and portions of
the Old and New Testament. And he pre-
sented rich vestments to the Minster; albs
of fine linen, and copes embroidered with
flowers of gold. In the west front he built
two great arched windows filled with mar-
vellous storied glass. The shrine of St.
Egwin he repaired at vast outlay, adorning
it with garlands in gold and silver, but the
colour of the flowers was in coloured gems,
and in like fashion the little birds in the
nooks of the foliage. Stalls and benches of
carved oak he placed in the choir; and
many other noble works he had wrought in
his zeal for the glory of Godâ€™s house.
The Song of the Minster 15
In all the western land was there no more
fair or stately Minster than this of the Black
Monks, with the peaceful township on one
side, and on the other the sweet meadows
and the acres of wheat and barley sloping
down to the slow river, and beyond the
river the clearings in the ancient forest.
But Thomas the Sub-prior was grieved and
troubled in his mind by the richness and the
beauty of all he saw about him, and by the
Priorâ€™s eagerness to be ever adding some new
work in stone, or oak, or metal, or jewels.
â€œSurely,â€ he said to himself, â€œthese
things are unprofitable â€” less to the honour,
of God than to the pleasure of the eye and
the pride of life and the luxury of our house!
Had so much treasure not been wasted on
these vanities of bright colour and carved
stone, our dole to the poor of Christ might
have been four-fold, and they filled with
good things. But now let our almoner do
what best he may, I doubt not many a leper
sleeps cold, and many a poor man goes lean
This. the Sub-prior said, not because his
heart was quick with fellowship for the poor,
but because he was of a narrow and gloomy
16 The Song of the Minster
and grudging nature, and he could conceive
of no true service of God which was not
one of fasting and prayer, of fear and trem-
bling, of joylessness and mottification.
Now you must know that the greatest of
the monks and the hermits and the holy
men were not of this kind. In their love of
God they were blithe of heart, and filled
with a rare sweetness and tranquillity of soul,
and they looked on the goodly earth with
deep joy, and they had a tender care for the
wild creatures of wood and water. But
Thomas had yet much to learn of the beauty
Often in the bleak dark hours of the night
he would leave his cell and steal into the
Minster to fling himself on the cold stones
before the high altar; and there he would
remain, shivering and praying, till his
strength failed him.
It happened one winter night, when the
thoughts I have spoken of had grown very
bitter in his mind, Thomas guided his steps
by the glimmer of the sanctuary lamp to his
accustomed place in the choir. Falling on
his knees, he laid himself on his face with
the palms of his outstretched hands flat on
The Song of the Minster 17
the icy pavement. And as he lay there,
taking a cruel joy in the freezing cold and
the torture of his body, he became gradu-
ally aware of a sound of far-away yet most
He raised himself to his knees to listen,
and to his amazement he perceived that the
whole Minster was pervaded by a faint mys-
terious light, which was every instant grow-
ing brighter and clearer. And as the light
increased the music grew louder and sweeter,
and he knew that it was within the sacred
walls. But it was no mortal minstrelsy.
The strains he heard were the minglings
of angelic instruments, and the cadences of
voices of unearthly loveliness. They seemed
to proceed from the choir about him, and
from the nave and transept and aisles; from
the pictured windows and from the clerestory
and from the vaulted roofs. Under his
knees he felt that the crypt was throbbing
and droning like a huge organ.
Sometimes the song came from one part
of the Minster, and then all the rest of the
vast building was silent; then the music was
taken up, as it were in response, in another
art; and yeta ain voices and instruments
18 The Song of the Minster
would blend in one indescribable volume of
harmony, which made the huge pile thrill
and vibrate from roof to pavement.
As Thomas listened, his eyes became ac-
customed to the celestial light which encom-
passed him, and he saw â€”he could scarce
credit his senses that he sawâ€”the little
carved angels of the oak stalls in the choir
clashing their cymbals and playing their
He rose to his feet, bewildered and half
terrified. At that moment the mighty roll
of unison ceased, and from many parts of
the church there came a concord of clear
high voices, like a warbling of silver trum-
pets, and Thomas heard the words they
sang. And the words were these â€”
Tibi omnes Angeli.
To Thee all Angels cry aloud.
So close to him were two of these voices
that Thomas looked up to the spandrels in
the choir, and he saw that it was the carved
angels leaning out of the spandrels that were
singing. And as they sang the breath came
from their stone lips white and vaporous
into the frosty air.
The Song of the Minster 19
He trembled with awe and astonishment,
but the wonder of what was happening drew
him towards the altar. The beautiful taber-
nacle work of the altar screen contained a
double range of niches filled with the statues
of saints and kings; and these, he saw, were
singing. He passed slowly onward with his
arms outstretched, like a blind man who
does not know the way he is treading.
The figures on the painted glass of the
lancets were singing.
â€œThe winged heads of the baby angels over
the marble memorial slabs were singing.
The lions and griffons and mythical beasts
of the finials were singing.
The effigies of dead abbots and priors
were singing on their tombs in bay and
The figures in the frescoes on the walls
On the painted ceiling westward of the
tower the verses of the Te Deum, inscribed
in letters of gold above the shields of kings
and princes and barons, were visible in the
divine light, and the very words of these
verses were singing, like living things.
And the breath of all these as they sang
20 The Song of the Minster
turned to a smoke as of incense in the
wintry air, and floated about the high pillars
of the Minster.
Suddenly the music ceased, all save the
Then Thomas heard the marvellous
antiphon repeated in the bitter darkness
outside; and that music, he knew, must be
the response of the galleries of stone kings
and queens, of abbots and virgin martyrs,
over the western portals, and of the mon-
strous gargoyles along the eaves.
When the music ceased in the outer dark-
ness, it was taken up again in the interior of
At last there came one stupendous united
cry of all the singers, and in that cry even
the organ-drone of the crypt, and the
clamour of the brute stones of pavement and
pillar, of wall and roof, broke into words
articulate. And the words were these:
Per singulos dies, benedicimus Te.
Day by day: we magnify Thee,
And we worship Thy name: ever world without end.
As the wind of the summer changes into
the sorrowful wail of the yellowing woods, so
The Song of the Minster 21
the strains of joyous worship changed into a
wail of supplication ; and as he caught the
words, Thomas too raised his voice in wild
Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri.
O Lord, have mercy upon us: have mercy upon us.
And then his senses failed him, and he sank
to the ground in a long swoon.
When he came to himself all was still, and
all was dark save for the little yellow flower
of light in the sanctuary lamp.
As he crept back to his cell he saw with
unsealed eyes how churlishly he had grudged
God the glory of manâ€™s genius and the
service of His dumb creatures, the metal of
the hills, and the stone of the quarry, and
the timber of the forest ; for now he knew
that at all seasons, and whether men heard
the music or not, the ear of God was filled by
day and by night with an everlasting song
from each stone of the vast Minster :
We magnify Thee,
And we worship Thy name: ever world without end.
The Pilgrim of the Night
N the ancient days of faith the doors of
the churches used to be opened with
the first glimmer of the dawn in summer,
and long before the moon had set in winter ;
and many a ditcher and woodcutter and
ploughman on his way to work used to enter
and say a short prayer before beginning the
labour of the long day.
Now it happened that in Spain there was
a farm-labourer named Isidore, who went
daily to his early prayer, whatever the weather
might be. His fellow-workmen were sloth-
ful and careless, and they gibed and jeered at
his piety, but when they found that their
mockery had no effect upon him, they spoke
spitefully of him in the hearing of the master,
and accused him of wasting in prayer the time
which he should have given to his work.
When the farmer heard of this he was dis-
pleased, and he spoke to Isidore and bade
The Pilgrim of the Night 23
him remember that true and faithful service
was better than any prayer that could be
uttered in words.
â€œ Master,â€ replied Isidore, â€œ what you say
is true, but it is also true that no time is
ever lost in prayer. Those who pray have
God to work with them, and the ploughshare
which He guides draws as goodly and fruit-
ful a furrow as another.â€
This the master could not deny, but he
resolved to keep a watch on Isidoreâ€™s comings
and goings, and early on the morrow he went
to the fields.
In the sharp air of the autumn morning
he saw this one and that one of his men
sullenly following the plough behind the
oxen, and taking little joy in the work.
Then, as he passed on to the rising ground,
he heard a lark carolling. gaily in the grey
sky, and in the hundred-acre where Isidore
was engaged he saw to his amazement not
one plough but three turning the hoary
stubble into ruddy furrows. And one
plough was drawn by oxen and guided by
Isidore, but the two others were drawn and
guided by Angels of heaven.
When next the master spoke to Isidore it
24 The Pilgrim of the Night
was not to reproach him, but to beg that he
might be remembered in his prayers.
Now the one great longing of Isidoreâ€™s
life was to visit that hallowed and happy
country beyond the sea in which our Lord
lived and died for us. He longed to gaze
on the fields in which the Shepherds heard
the song of the Angels, and to know each
spot named in the Gospels. All that he
could save from his earnings Isidore hoarded
up, so that one day, before he was old, he
might set out on pilgrimage to the Holy
Land. It took many years to swell the
leather bag in which he kept his treasure;
and each coin told of some pleasure, or
comfort, or necessary which he had denied
Now, when at length the bag was grown
heavy, and it began to appear not impossible
that he might yet have his heartâ€™s desire,
there came to his door an aged pilgrim with
staff and scallop-shell, who craved food and
shelter for the night. Isidore bade him wel-
come, and gave him such homely fare as he
mightâ€” bread and apples and cheese and thin
wine, and satisfied his hunger and thirst.
The Pilgrim of the Night 25
Long they talked together of the holy
places and of the joy of treading the sacred
dust that had borne the marks of the feet of
Christ. Then the pilgrim spoke of the long
and weary journey he had yet to go, begging
his way from village to village (for his scrip
was empty) till he could prevail on some
good mariner to give him ship-room and
carry him to the green isle of home, far
away on the edge of sunset. Thinking of
those whom he had left and who might be
dead before he could return, the pilgrim
wept, and his tears so moved the heart of
Isidore that he brought forth his treasure
â€œThis have I saved in the great hope
that one day I might set eyes on what thou
hast beheld, and sit on the shores of the
Lake of Galilee, and gaze on the hill of
Calvary. But thy need is very great. Take
it, and hasten home (ere they be dead) to
those who love thee and look for thy com-
ing; and if thou findest them alive bid them
pray for me.â€
And when they had prayed together Isi-
dore and the pilgrim lay down to sleep.
26 The Pilgrim of the Night
In the first sweet hours of the restful night
Isidore became aware that he was walking
among strange fields on a hillside, and on the
top of a hill some distance away there were
the white walls and low flat-roofed houses of
a little town; and some one was speaking to
him and saying, â€œThese are the fields in
which the Shepherds watched, and that rocky
pathway leads up the slope to Bethlehem.â€
At the sound of the voice Isidore hastily
looked round, and behind him was the pil-
grim, and yet he knew that it was not truly
the pilgrim, but an Angel disguised in pil-
grimâ€™s weeds. And when he would have
fallen at the Angelâ€™s feet, the Angel stopped
him and said, â€œ Be not: afraid; I have been
sent to show thee all the holy places that
thy heart has longed to see.â€
On valley and hill and field and stream
there now shone so clear and wonderful a
light that even a long way off the very
flowers by the roadside were distinctly visi-
ble. Without effort and without weariness
Isidore glided from place to place as though
it were a dream. And I cannot tell the half
of what he saw, for the Angel took him to
the village where Jesus was a little child,
T-H: ROBINSON +
â€œSTHESE ARE THE FIELDS IN WHICH THE SHEPHERDS WATCHED.
The Pilgrim of the Night 27
which is called Nazareth, â€œthe flower-vil-
lage ;â€ and he showed him the River Jordan
flowing through dark green woods, and
Hermon the high mountain, glittering with
snow (and the snow of that mountain is ex-
ceeding old), and the blue Lake of Gen-
nesareth, with its fishing-craft, and the busy
town of Capernaum on the great road to
Damascus, and Nain where Jesus watched
the little children playing at funerals and
marriages in the market-place, and the wil-
derness where He was with the wild beasts,
and Bethany where Lazarus lived and died
and was brought to life again (and in the
fields of Bethany Isidore gathered a bunch
of wild flowers), and Jerusalem the holy city,
and Gethsemane with its aged silver-grey
olive-trees, and the hill of Calvary, where in
the darkness a great cry went up to heaven:
â€œWhy hast Thou forsaken me?â€ and the
new tomb in the white rock among the
myrtles and rose-trees in the garden.
There was no place that Isidore had
desired to see that was denied tohim. And
in all these places he saw the childrenâ€™s chil-
dren of the children of those who had |
looked on the face of the Saviour â€” men
28 The Pilgrim of the Night
and women and little ones â€” going to and
fro in strangely coloured clothing, in the
manner of those who had sat down on the
green grass and been fed with bread and
fishes. And at the thought of this Isidore
â€œWhy dost thou weep?â€ the Angel
â€œT weep that I was not alive to look on
the face of the Lord.â€
Then suddenly, as though it were a dream,
they were on the sea-shore, and it was morn-
ing. And Isidore saw on the sparkling sea.
a fisher-ship drifting a little way from the
shore, but there was no one in it; and on
the shore a boat was aground; and half on
the sand and half in the wash of the sea
there were swathes of brown nets filled with
a hundred great fish which flounced and
glittered in the sun; and on the sand there
was a coal fire with fish broiling on it, and
on one side of the fire seven men â€” one of
them kneeling and shivering in his drenched
fisherâ€™s coat and on the other side of the
fire a benign and majestic figure, on whom
the men were gazing in great joy and awe.
And Isidore, knowing that this was the
The Pilgrim of the Night 29
Lord, gazed too at Christ standing there in
And this was what he beheld: a man of
lofty stature and most grave and beautiful
countenance. His eyes were blue and very
brilliant, his cheeks were slightly tinged with
red, and his hair was of the ruddy golden
colour of wine. From the top of his head
to his ears it was straight and without radi-
ance; but from his ears to his shoulders and
down his back it fell in shining .curls and
Again all was suddenly changed and Isi-
dore and the Angel were alone.
â€œThou hast seen,â€ said the Angel; â€œ give
me thy hand so that thou shalt not forget.â€
Isidore stretched out his hand, and the
Angel opened it, and turning the palm up-
ward, struck it. Isidore groaned with the
sharp pain of the stroke, and sank into un-
When he awoke in the morning the sun
was high in the heavens, and the pilgrim had
departed on his way. But the hut was filled
with a heavenly fragrance, and on his bed
Isidore perceived the wild flowers that he
had. plucked in the fields of Bethany â€” red
30 Â«6 The Pilgrim of the Night
anemones and blue lupins and yellow mari-
golds, with many others more sweet and
lovely than the flowers that grew in the fields
â€œThen surely,â€ he cried, â€œit was not
merely a dream.â€
And looking at his hand, he saw that the
palm bore blue tracings such as one sees on
the arms of wanderers and seafaring men.
These marks, Isidore learned afterwards, were
the Hebrew letters that spelt the name
As long as he lived those letters recalled
to his mind all the marvels that had been
shown him. And they did more than this,
for whenever his eyes fell on them he said,
â€œâ€˜ Blessed be the promise of the Lord the
Redeemer of Israel, who hath us in His
care for evermore!â€
Now these are the words of that promise:
â€œCan a woman forget her sucking child, that
she should not have compassion on the son of
her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I
not forget thee. Behold, I have engraven thee
upon the palms of my hands.â€
Ancient Gods Pursuing
WILL now tell of Hilary and his com-
panions, who came over the snowy
passes of the Alps, and carried the lamp of
faith into the north; and this was in the
days of the ancient gods. Many of their
shrines had Hilary overturned, and broken
their images, and cut down their sacred
trees, and defiled their wells of healing.
Wherefore terrible phantoms pursued him
in his dreams, and in the darkness, and in
the haunted ways of the woods and moun-
tains. At one time it was the brute-god
Pan, who sought to madden him with the
terror of his piping in desolate places; at
another it was the sun-god Apollo, who
threatened him with fiery arrows in the
parching heat of noon; or it was Pallas
32 The Ancient Gods Pursuing
Athene, who appeared to him in visions,
and shook in his face the Gorgonâ€™s head,
which turns to stone all living creatures who
look on it. But the holy Bishop made the
sign of the cross of the Lord, and the right
arm of their power was broken, and their
malice could not harm him.
The holy men traversed the mountains
by that Roman road which climbed up the
icy rocks and among the snowy peaks of the
Mountain of Jove, and at sundown they
came to that high temple of Jove which
had crowned the pass for many centuries.
The statue of the great father-god of Rome
had been hurled down the ravine into the
snow-drift, and his altar had been flung into
_the little wintry mere which shivers in the
pass, and his last priest had died of old age
a lifetime ago; and the temple was now but
a cold harbour for merchants and soldiers
and wandering men.
Here in the freezing air the apostles
rested from their journey, but in the dead
of the night Hilary was awakened by a
clamour of forlorn voices, and opening his
eyes he saw the mighty father-god of Olym-
pus looking down upon him with angry
The Ancient Gods Pursuing 33
brows, and brandishing in his hand red
flashes of lightning. In no way daunted,
the Bishop sprang to his feet, and cried ina
loud voice, â€œIn the name of Him who
was crucified, depart to your torments!â€
And at the sound of that cry the colossal
figure of the god wavered and broke like a
mountain cloud when it crumbles in the
wind, and glimmering shapes of goddesses
and nymphs flitted past, sighing and lament-
ing; and the Bishop saw no longer anything
but the sharp cold stars, and the white peaks
and the ridges of the mountains.
When they had descended and reached
the green valleys, they came at length to a
great lake, blue and beautiful to look upon,
and here they sojourned for awhile. It was
a fair and pleasant land, but the people were
rude and barbarous, and drove them away
with stones when they would enter their
hamlets. So, as they needed food, Hilary
bade his companions gather berries and wild
herbs, and he himself set snares for birds,
and wove a net to cast into the lake, and
made himself a raft of pine-trees, from which
he might cast it the more easily.
One night as he floated on this raft in the
34 The Ancient Gods Pursuing
starlight, he heard the voice of the Spirit of
the Peak calling to the Spirit of the Mere.
And the Spirit of the Mere answered,
â€œSpeak, I am listening.â€ Then the Moun-
tain Spirit cried, â€œ Arise, then, and come to
my aid; alone I cannot chase away these
men who are driving out all the ancient
gods from their shrines in the land.â€ The
Water Spirit answered, â€œ Of what avail is
our strength against theirs? Here on the
starry waters is one whose nets I cannot
break, and whose boat I cannot overturn.
Without ceasing he prays, and never are
his eyes closed in slumber.â€ Then Hilary
arose on his raft, and raising his hand to
heaven cried against the Spirit of the Peak
and the Spirit of the Mere: â€œIn the name
of Him crucified, be silent for evermore,
and leave these hills and waters to the ser-
vants of God.â€ And these creatures of evil
were stricken dumb, and they fled in dismay,
making a great moaning and sobbing, and
the dolorous sound was as that of the wind
in the pines and the water on the rocks.
Then Hilary and his companions fared
away into the north, through the Grey
Waste, which is a wild and deserted coun-
The Ancient Gods Pursuing 35
try where in the olden time vast armies had
passed with fire and sword; and now the
field had turned into wildwood and morass,
and the rich townsteads were barrows of
ruins and ashes overgrown with brambles,
and had been given for a lodging to the
savage beasts. â€˜The name of this waste was
more terrible than the place, for the season
was sweet and gracious, and of birds and fish
and herbs and wild honey there was no
dearth. They were now no longer harassed
by the phantoms of the ancient gods, or by
the evil spirits of the unblessed earth. Thus
for many long leagues was their journey
made easy for them.
Now it chanced, when they had reached
the further edge of this region, that as they
went one night belated along a green riding,
which in the old time had been a spacious
paved causeway between rich cities, they
heard the music of a harp, more marvel-
lously sweet and solacing than any mortal
minstrel may make; and sweet dream-voices
sighed to them â€œ Follow, follow!â€ and they
felt their feet drawn as by enchantment; and
as they yielded to the magical power, a soft
shining filled the dusky air, and they saw
36 The Ancient Gods Pursuing
that the ground was covered with soft deep
grass and brilliant flowers, and the trees were
of the colour of gold and silver. So in
strange gladness, and feeling neither hun-
ger nor fatigue, they went forward through
the hours of the night till the dawn, won-
dering what angelic ministry was thus be-
guiling them of hardship and pain. But
with the first gleam of the dawn the music
ceased amid mocking laughter, the vision
of lovely woodland vanished away, and in
the grey light they found themselves on
the quaking green edges of a deep and dan-
gerous marsh. Hilary, when he saw this,
groaned in spirit and said: â€œO dear sons,
we have deserved this befooling and mis-
guidance, for have we not forgotten the
behest of our Master, â€˜Watch and pray
lest ye enter into temptationâ€™?â€
Now when after much toilsomeness they
had won clear of that foul tract of morass
and quagmire, they came upon vast herds
of swine grubbing beneath the oaks, and
with them savage-looking swineherds scan-
tily clad in skins. Still further north they
caught sight of the squalid hovels and wood
piles of charcoal burners ; and still they pur-
The Ancient Gods Pursuing 37
sued their way till they cleared the dense
forest and beheld before them a long range
of hills blue in the distant air. Towards
sundown they came on a stony moorland,
rough with heather and bracken and tufts
of bent; and when there was but one long
band of red light parting the distant land
from the low sky, they descried a range of
thick posts standing high and black against
the red in the heavens. As they drew near,
these, they discovered, were the huge granite
pillars of a great ring of stone and of an
avenue which led up to it; and in the midst
of the ring was a mighty flat stone borne up
on three stout pillars, so that it looked like
a wondrous stone house of some strong folk
of the beginning of days.
â€œThis, too, companions,â€ said Hilary, â€œis
a temple of false gods. Very ancient gods of
a world gone by are these, and it may be they
have been long dead like their worshippers,
and their names are no more spoken in the
world. Further we may not go this night;
but on these stones we shall put the sign of
the blessed tree of our redemption, and in
its shelter shall we sleep.â€
As they slept that night in the lee of
38 The Ancient Gods Pursuing
the stones Hilary saw in a dream the place
wherein they lay; and the great stones, he
was aware, were not true stones of the rock,
but petrified trees, and in his spirit he knew
that these trees of stone were growths of that
Forbidden Tree with the fruit of which the
Serpent tempted our first mother in Para-
dise. On the morrow when they rose, he
strove to overthrow the huge pillars, but to
this labour their strength was not equal.
This same day was the day of St. John,
the longest in all the year, and they travelled
far, till at last in the long afternoon they
arrived in sight of a cluster of little home-
steads, clay huts thatched with bracken and
fenced about with bushes of poison-thorn,
and of tilled crofts sloping down the hillside
to a clear river wending through the valley.
As Hilary and his companions approached
they saw that it was a day of rejoicing and
merry-making among the people, for they
were all abroad, feasting and drinking from
great mead horns in the open air, and shout-
ing barbarous songs to the noise of rude in-
struments. When it grew to such duskiness
as there may be in a midsummer night
countless fires were lit, near at hand and
The Ancient Gods Pursuing 39
far away, on the hills around; and on the
ridges above the river children ran about
with blazing brands of pine-wood, and
young men and maidens gathered at the
flaming beacon. Wheels, too, wrapped
round tire and spoke with straw and flax
smeared with pine-tree gum, were set alight
and sent rolling down the hill to the river,
amid wild cries and clapping of hands.
Some of the wheels went awry and were
stayed among the boulders; on some the
flames died out; but there were those which
reached the river and plunged into the water
and were extinguished; and the owners of
these last deemed themselves fortunate in
their omens, for these fiery wheels were
images of the sun in heaven, and _ their
course to the river was the forecasting of
his prosperous journey through the year
Thus these outland people held their fes-
tival, and Hilary marvelled to see the many
fires, for he had not known that the land
held so many folk. But now when it was
time for the wayfarers to cast about in their
minds how and where they should pass the
night, there came to them a stranger, a grave
4o The Ancient Gods Pursuing
and seemly man clad in the manner of the
Romans, and he bowed low to them, and
said: â€˜â€œâ€˜O saintly men, the Lady Pelagia
hath heard of your coming into this land,
and she knows that you have come to teach
men the new faith, for she is a great lady,
mistress of vast demesnes, and many mes-
sengers bring her tidings of all that happens.
She bids me greet you humbly and prevail
on you to come and abide this night in her
house, which is but a little way from here.â€
â€œTs your lady of Rome?â€ asked Hilary.
â€œFrom Rome she came hither,â€ said the
messenger, â€œbut aforetime she was of Greece,
and she hath great friendship for all wise and
The wayfarers were surprised to hear of
this lady, but they were rejoiced that, after
such long wandering, there was some one to
welcome them where least they had expected
word of welcome, and they followed the
Horn lantern in hand he led them through
the warm June darkness, and on the way
answered many questions as to the folk of
these parts, and their strange worship of sun
and moon and wandering light of heaven ;
The Ancient Gods Pursuing 41
â€œbut in a brief while,â€ he said, â€œall these
heathen matters will be put by, when you
have taught them the new faith.â€
Up a gloomily wooded rise he guided
them, till they passed into the radiance of a
house lit with many lamps and cressets, and
the house, they saw, was of fair marble such
as are the houses of the patricians of Rome;
and many beautiful slaves, lightly clad and
garlanded with roses, brought them water in
silver bowls and white linen wherewith they
might cleanse themselves from the dust of
In a little the Lady Pelagia received them
and bade them welcome, and prayed them
to make her poor house their dwelling-place
while they sojourned in that waste of heathen-
dom. Then she led them to a repast which
had been made ready for them.
Of all the gracious and lovely women in
the round of the kingdoms of the earth none
is, or hath been, or will be, more marvellous
in beauty or in sweetness of approach than
this lady; and she made Hilary sit beside
her, and questioned him of the Saints in the
Queen, City of the world, and of his labours
and his long wanderings, and the perils
42 The Ancient Gods Pursuing
through which he and his companions had
come. All the while she spoke her starry eyes
shed soft light on his face, and she leaned
towards him her lovely head and fragrant
bosom, drinking in his words with a look of
longing. The companions whispered among
themselves that assuredly this was rather an
Angel of Paradise than a mortal creature of
the dust of the earth, which to-day is as a
flower in its desirableness and to-morrow is
blown about all the ways of menâ€™s feet.
Even the good Bishop felt his heart moved
towards her with a strange tenderness, so
sweet was the thought of her youth and her
beauty and her goodness and humility.
Sitting in this fashion at table and con-
versing, and the talk now veering to this
and now to that, the Lady Pelagia said:
â€œThis longest of the days has been to me
the most happy, holy fathers, for it has
brought you to the roof of a sinful woman,
and you have not disdained the service she
has offered you in all lowliness of heart. A
long and, it may be, a dangerous labour lies
before you, for the folk of this land are fierce
and quick to violence; but here you may
ever refresh yourselves from toil and take
â€œ HILARY WONDERED AND MUSED.â€
The Ancient Gods Pursuing 43
your rest, free from danger. No loving
offices or lowly observance, no, nor aught
you desire is there that you may not have
for the asking â€” or without the asking, if it
be given me to know your wish unspoken.â€
Hilary and the brethren bowed low at
these gracious words, and thought within
themselves: Of a truth this may be a
woman, but she is no less an Angel for our
strength and solacement.
â€œIn the days to come,â€ said the lady,
â€œthere will be many things to ask and learn
from you, but now ere this summer night
draws to end let me have knowledge of
divine things from thee, most holy father,
for thou art wise and canst answer all my
And Hilary smiled gravely, not ill pleased
at her words of praise, and said: â€œ Ask,
â€œFirst tell me,â€ she said, â€œwhich of all
the small things God has made in the world
is the most excellent?â€
Hilary wondered and mused, but could
find no answer; and when he would have
said.so, the voice which came from his lips
spoke other words than those he intended to
A4 The Ancient Gods Pursuing
speak, so that instead of saying â€œThis is a
question I cannot answer,â€ his voice said:
â€œ Of all small things made by God, most
excellent is the face of man and woman; for
among all the faces of the children of Adam
not any one hath ever been wholly like any
other; and there in smallest space God has
placed all the senses of the body; and it is
in the face that we see, as in a glass, darkly,
all that can be seen of the invisible soul
The companions listened marvelling, but
Hilary marvelled no less than they.
â€œ Tt is well answered,â€ said the lady, â€œand
yet it seemed to me there was one thing
more excellent. But let me ask again: What
earth is nearest to heaven?â€
Again Hilary mused and was silent. Then,
once more, the voice which was his voice and
yet spoke words which he did not think to
speak, gave the answer: â€œThe body of Him
who died on the tree to save us, for He was
of our flesh, and our flesh is earth of the
â€œThat too is well answered,â€ said the
lady, who had grown pale and gazed on the
Bishop with great gloomy eyes; â€œand yet I
The Ancient Gods Pursuing 45
had thought of another answer. Once more
let me question you: What is the distance
between heaven and earth?â€
Then for the third time was Hilary unable
to reply, but the voice answered for him, in
stern and menaceful tones: â€˜â€œâ€˜ Who can tell
us that more certainly than Lucifer who fell
With a bitter cry the Lady Pelagia rose
from her seat, and raised her beautiful white
arms above her head; but the voice con-
tinued: â€œ Breathe on her, Hilary â€” breathe
the breath of the name of Christ!â€
And the Bishop, rising, breathed on the
white lovely face the breath of the holy
name; and in an instant the starry eyes were
darkened, and the spirit and flower of life
perished in her sweet body; and the com-
panions saw no longer the Lady Pelagia, but
in her stead a statue of white marble. Ata
glance Hilary knew it for a statue of the
goddess whom men in Rome called Venus
and in Greece Aphrodite, and with a shudder
he remembered that another of her names
was. Pelagia, the Lady of the Sea. But,
swifter even than that thought, it seemed to
them as though the statue were smitten by
46 The Ancient Gods Pursuing
an invisible hand, for it reeled and fell, shat-
tered to fragments; and the lights were ex-
tinguished, and the air of the summer night
blew upon their faces, and in the east, whence
cometh our hope, there was a glimmer of
Praying fervently, and bewailing the brief
joy they had taken in the beauty of that
dreadful goddess, they waited for light to
guide them from that evil place.
When the day broadened they perceived
that they were in the midst of the ruins of
an ancient Roman city, overgrown with bush
and tree. Around them lay, amid beds of
nettles and great dock leaves, and darnel
and tangles of briars, and tall foxgloves and
deadly nightshade, the broken pillars of a
marble temple. This had been the fair
house, lit with lamps, wherein they had sat
at feast. Close beside them were scattered
the white fragments of the image of the
As they turned to depart three grey wolves
snarled at them from the ruins, but an un-
seen hand held these in leash, and Hilary
and his companions went on their way
Dream of the White Lark
HIS was a thing that happened long
and long ago, in the glimmering
morning of the Christian time in Erinn.
And it may have happened to the holy
Maedog of Ferns, or to Enan the Angelic,
or it may have been Molasius of Devenish
â€”I cannot say. But over the windy sea in
his small curragh of bullâ€™s hide the Saint
sailed far away to the southern land; and
for many a month he travelled afoot through
the dark forests, and the sunny corn-lands,
and over the snowy mountain horns, and
along the low shores between the olive-grey
hills and the blue sea, till at last he came in
sight of a great and beautiful city glittering
on the slopes and ridges of seven hills.
â€œWhat golden city may this be?â€ he
asked of the dark-eyed market folk whom
48 The Dream of the White Lark
he met on the long straight road which led
across the open country.
â€œTt is the city of Rome,â€ they answered
him, wondering at his ignorance. But the
Saint, when he heard those words, fell on his
knees and kissed the ground.
â€œHail to thee, most holy city!â€ he cried ;
â€œhail, thou queen of the world, red with the
roses of the martyrs and white with the lilies
of the virgins; hail, blessed goal of my long
And as he entered the city his eyes were
bright with joy, and his heart seemed to lift
his weary feet on wings of gladness.
There he sojourned through the autumn
and the winter, visiting all the great churches
and the burial-places of the early Christians
in the Catacombs, and communing with the
good and wise men in many houses of re-
ligion. Once he conversed with the great
Pope whose name was Gregory, and told
him of his brethren in the beloved isle in
the western waters.
When once more the leaf of the fig-tree
opened its five fingers, and the silvery bud
of the vine began to unfurl, the Saint pre-
pared to return home. And once more he
â€œ* HAIL, THOU QUEEN OF THE WORLD, RED WITH THE ROSES
OF THE MARTYRS AND WHITE WITH THE LILIES OF
THE VIRGINS.â€™ â€ â€˜
The Dream of the White Lark 49
went to the mighty Pope, to take his leave
and to ask a blessing for himself and his
brethren, and to beg that he might bear
away with him to the brotherhood some pre-
cious relic of those who had shed their blood
for the Cross.
As he made that request in the green
shadowy garden on the Hill Czlian, the
Pope smiled, and, taking aclod of common
earth from the soil, gave it to the Saint, say-
ing, â€œThen take this with thee,â€ and when
the Saint expressed his surprise at so strange
a relic, the Servant of the Servants of God
took back the earth and crushed it in his
hand, and with amazement the Saint saw that
blood began to trickle from it between the
fingers of the Pope.
Marvelling greatly, the Saint kissed the
holy pontiffâ€™s hand, and bade him farewell ;
and going to and fro among those he knew,
he collected money, and, hiring a ship, he
filled it with the earth of Rome, and sailed
westward through the Midland Sea, and
bent his course towards the steadfast star in
the north, and so at last reached the beloved
green island of his home.
In the little graveyard about the fair
50 The Dream of the White Lark
church of his brotherhood he spread the
earth which had drunk the blood of the
martyrs, so that the bodies of those who
died in the Lord might await His coming in
a blessed peace.
Now it happened that but a few days after
his return the friend of his boyhood, a holy
brother who had long shared with him the
companionship of the cloister, migrated from
this light, and when the last requiem had
been sung and the sacred earth had covered
in the dead, the Saint wept bitterly for the
sake of the lost love and the unforgotten
And at night he fell asleep, still weeping
for sorrow. And in his sleep he saw, as in
a dream, the grey stone church with its
round tower and the graveyard sheltered by
the woody hills; but behold! in the grave-
yard tall trees sprang in lofty spires from
the earth of Rome, and reached into the
highest heavens; and these trees were like
trees of green and golden and ruddy fire, for
they were red with the blossoms of life, and
every green leaf quivered with bliss, like a
green flame; and among the trees, on a
grassy sod at their feet, sat a white lark,
The Dream of the White Lark 51
singing clear and loud, and he knew that
the lark was the soul of the friend of his
As he listened to its song, he understood
its unearthly music; and these were the
words of its singing: â€œDo not weep any
more for me; it is pity for thy sorrow which
keeps me here on the grass. If thou wert
not so unhappy I should fly.â€
And when the Saint awoke his grief had
fallen from him, and he wept no more for
the dead man whom he loved.
"The Hermit of the Pillar
O* one of the hills near the city of
Ancyra Basil the Hermit stood day
and night on a pillar of stone forty feet high,
praying and weeping for his own sins and
for the sins of the world.
A gaunt, dark figure, far up in the blue
Asian sky, he stood there for a sign and
a warning to all men that our earthly life is
short, whether for wickedness or repentance ;
that the gladness and the splendour of the
world are but a fleeting pageant; that in but
a little while the nations should tremble be-
fore the coming of the Lord in His power
and majesty. Little heed did the rich and
dissolute people of that city give to his cry
of doom; and of the vast crowds who came
about the foot of his pillar, the greater num-
ber thought but to gaze on the wonder of a
day, though some few did pitch their tents
hard by, and spent the time of their sojourn
â€œA GAUNT, DARK FIGURE, FAR UP IN THE BLUE ASIAN SKY.â€
The Hermit of the Pillar 53
in prayer and the lamentation of hearts hum-
bled and contrite.
Now, in the third year of his testimony,
as Basil was rapt in devotion, with hands and
face uplifted to the great silent stars, an
Angel, clothed in silver and the blue-green
of the night, stood in front of him in the air,
and said: â€œDescend from thy pillar, and
get thee away far westward; and there thou
shalt learn what is for thy good.â€
Without delay or doubt Basil descended,
and stole away alone in the hush before the
new day, and took the winding ways of the
hills, and thereafter went down into the low
country of the plain to seaward.
After long journeying among places and
people unknown, he crossed the running seas
which part the eastern world from the world
_ of the west, and reached the City of the
Golden Horn, Byzantium ; and there for four
months he lived on a pillar overlooking the
city and the narrow seas, and cried his cry of
doom and torment. At the end of the fourth
month the Angel once more came to him and
bade him descend and go further.
So.with patience and constancy of soul he
departed between night and light, and pur-
54 The Hermit of the Pillar
sued his way for many months till he had
got to the ancient city of Treves. There,
among the ruins of a temple of the heathen
goddess Diana, he found a vast pillar of
marble still erect, and the top of this he
thought to make his home and holy watch-
tower. Wherefore he sought out the Bishop
of the city and asked his leave and blessing,
and the Bishop, marvelling greatly at his
zeal and austerity, gave his consent.
The people of Treves were amazed at
what they considered his madness; but they
gave him no hindrance, nor did they molest
him in any way. Indeed, in no long time
the fame of his penance was noised abroad,
and multitudes came, as they had come at
Ancyra, to see with their own eyes what there
was of truth in the strange story they had
heard. Afterwards, too, many came out of
sorrow for sin and an ardent desire of
holiness ; and others brought their sick and
maimed and afflicted, in the hope that the
Hermit might be able to cure their ailments,
or give them assuagement of their sufferings.
Many of these, in truth, Basil sent away
cleansed and made whole by the virtue of
his touch or of the blessing he bestowed
The Hermit of the Pillar 55
Now, though there were many pillar-
hermits in the far eastern land, this was the
first that had ever been seen in the west,
and after him there were but few others.
A strange and well-nigh incredible thing it
seemed, to look upon this man on the height
of his pillar, preaching and praying con-
stantly, and enduring night and day the in-
clemency of the seasons and the weariness
and discomfort of his narrow standing-place.
For the pillar, massive as it was, was so
narrow where the marble curved over in big
acanthus leaves at the four corners that he
had not room to lie down at length to sleep ;
and indeed he slept but little, considering
slumber a waste of the time of prayer, and
the dreams of sleep so many temptations to
beguile the soul into false and fugitive pleas-
ures. No shelter was there from the wind,
but he was bare as a stone in the field to
the driving rain and the blaze of the sun at ~
noon; and in winter the frost was bitter to
flesh and blood, and the snow fell like flakes
of white fire. His only clothing was a coat
of sheepskin ; about his neck hung a heavy
chain. of iron, in token that he was a thrall
and bondsman of the Lord Christ, and each
56 The Hermit of the Pillar
Friday he wore an iron crown of thorns, in
painful memory of Christâ€™s passion and His
sorrowful death upon the tree. Once a day
he ate a little rye bread, and once he drank
a little water.
No man could say whether he was young
or aged; and the mother who had borne
him a little babe at her bosom, and had
watched him grow to boyhood, could not
have recognised him, for he had been burnt
black by the sun and the frost, and the
weather had bleached his hair and beard till
they looked like lichens on an ancient forest-
tree, and the crown of thorns had scarred
his brow, and the links of the chain had
galled his neck and shoulders.
For three summers and three winters he
endured this stricken life with cheerful forti-
tude, counting his sufferings as great gain if
through them he might secure the crown
of celestial glory which God has woven for
Flis elect. Remembering all his prayers
and supplications, and the long martyrdom
of his body, it was hard for him, at times,
to resist the assurance that he must have
won a golden seat among the blessed.
â€œFor who, O Lord Christ!â€ he cried,
The Hermit of the Pillar 57
with trembling hands outstretched, and dim
eyes weeping, â€œwho hath taken up Thy
cross as I have done, and the anguish of the
thorns and the nails, and the parched sorrow
of Thy thirst, and the wounding of Thy
blessed body, and borne them for years
twenty and three, and shown them as I have
shown them to the sun and stars and the
four winds, high up between heaven and
earth, that men might be drawn to Thee,
and carried them across the world from the
outmost East to the outmost West? Surely,
Lord God! Thou hast written my name
in Thy Book of Life, and has set for me a
happy place in the heavens. Surely, all I
have and am I have given Thee; and all
that a worm of the earth may do have I
done! If in anything I have failed, show
me, Lord, I beseech Thee, wherein I have
come short. If any man there be more
worthy in Thine eyes, let me, too, set eyes
upon him, that I may learn of him how
I may the better please Thee. Teach me,
Lord, that which I know not, for Thou
alone knowest and art wise!â€
As. Basil was praying thus in the hour
before dawn, once more the Angel, clothed
58 The Hermit of the Pillar
in silver and blue-green, as though it had
been a semblance of the starry night, came
to him, and said: â€œGive me thy hand ;â€
and Basil touched the hand celestial, and
the Angel drew him from his pillar, and
placed him on the ground, and said: â€œThis
is that land of the west in which thou art
to learn what is for thy good. Take for
staff this piece of tree, and follow this road
till thou reachest the third milestone; and
there, in the early light, thou shalt meet
him who can instruct thee. For a sign, thou
shalt know the man by the little maid of
seven years who helpeth him to drive the
geese. But the man, though young, may
teach one who is older than he, and he is
one who is greatly pleasing in Godâ€™s eyes.â€
The clear light was glittering on the dewy
grass and the wet bushes when Basil reached
the third milestone. He heard the distant
sound as of a shepherd piping, and he saw
that the road in front of him was crowded
for near upon a quarter of a mile with a
great gathering of geese â€”fully two thou-
sand they numbered â€” feeding in the grass
and rushes, and cackling, and hustling each
other aside, and clacking their big orange-
The Hermit of the Pillar 509
coloured bills, as they waddled slowly onward
towards the city.
Among them walked a nut-brown little
maiden of seven, clad in a green woollen
tunic, with bright flaxen hair and innocent
blue eyes, and bare brown legs, and feet shod
in shoes of hide. In her hand she carried a
long hazel wand, with which she kept in rule
the large grey and white geese.
As the flock came up to the Hermit, she
gazed at him with her sweet wondering eyes,
for never had she seen so strange and awful
a man as this, with his sheepskin dress and
iron chain and crown of thorns, and skin
burnt black, and bleached hair and dark
brows stained with blood. For a moment
she stood still in awe and fear, but the Her-
mit raised his hand, and blessed her, and
smiled upon her; and even in that worn
and disfigured face the light in the Hermitâ€™s
eyes as he smiled was tender and beautiful ;
and the child ceased to fear, and passed
slowly along, still gazing at him and smiling
In the rear of the great multitude of geese
came a churl, tall and young, and comely
enough for all his embrowning in the sun and
60 The Hermit of the Pillar
wind, and his unkempt hair and rude dress.
It was he who made the music, playing on
panâ€™s-pipes to lighten the way, and quicken-
ing with his staff the loiterers of his flock.
When he perceived the Hermit he stayed
his playing, for he bethought him, Is not
this the saintly man of whose strange pen-
ance and miracles of healing the folk talk in
rustic huts and hamlets far scattered? But
when they drew nigh to each other, the Her-
mit bowed low to the Goose-herd, and ad-
dressed him: â€œGive me leave to speak a
little with thee, good brother; for an Angel
of heaven hath told me of thee, and fain
would I converse with thee. Twenty years
and three have I served the King of Glory
in supplication and fasting and tribulation of
spirit, and yet I lack that which thou canst
teach me. Now tell me, I beseech thee,
what works, what austerities, what prayers
have made thee so acceptable to God.â€
A dark flush rose on the Goose-herdâ€™s
cheeks as he listened, but when he answered
it was in a grave and quiet voice: â€œIt ill
becomes an aged man to mock and jeer at
the young; nor is it more seemly that the
holy should gibe at the poor.â€
The Hermit of the Pillar 61
â€œDear son in Christ,â€ said the Hermit,
â€œTI do not gibe or mock at thee. By the
truth of the blessed tree I was told of thee
by an Angel in the very night which is now
over and gone, and was bidden to question
thee. Wherefore be not wrathful, but an-
swer me truly, I beg of thy charity.â€
The Goose-herd shook his head. â€œ This
is a matter beyond me,â€ he replied. â€œ All
my work, since thou askest of my work,
hath been the tending and rearing of geese
and driving them to market. From the
good marsh lands at the foot of the hills out
west I drive them, and this distance is not
small, for, sleeping and resting by boulder
and tree, for five days are we on the way.
Slow of foot goeth your goose when he
goeth not by water, and it profits neither
master nor herd to stint them of their green
food. And all my prayer hath been that I
might get them safe to market, none missing
or fallen dead by the way, and that I might
sell them speedily and at good price, and
so back to the fens again. What more is
there to say?â€
â€œIn thy humility thou hidest something
from me,â€ said the Hermit, and he fixed
62 The Hermit of the Pillar
his eyes thoughtfully on the young manâ€™s
~ â€œ Nay, I have told thee all that is worth
â€œThen hast thou always lived this life?â€
the Hermit asked.
â€œEver since I was a small lad â€”such a
one as the little maid in front, and she will
be in her seventh year, or it may be a little
older. Before me was my father goose-herd ;
and he taught me the windings of the jour-
ney to the city, and the best resting-places,
and the ways of geese, and the meaning of
their cries, and what pleaseth them and serv-
eth flesh and feather, and how they should
be driven. And now, in turn, I teach the
child, for there be goose-girls as well as
â€œTs she then thy young sister, or may it
be that she is thy daughter ?â€â€™
â€œNeither young sister nor daughter is
she,â€ replied the Herd, â€œand yet in truth
she is both sister and daughter.â€
â€œWilt thou tell me how that may be?â€
asked the Hermit.
â€œTt is shortly told,â€ said the Herd.
â€œRobbers broke into their poor and lonely
The Hermit of the Pillar 63
house by the roadside and slew father and
mother and left them dead, but the babe at
the breast they had not slain, and this was
â€œ* Didst thou find her?â€ asked the Hermit.
â€œAy, on a happy day I found her; a
feeble little thing bleating like a Seals
forlorn beside its dead dam.â€
â€œAnd thy wife, belike, or thy mother,
reared her ?â€â€™
â€œNay,â€ said the Herd, â€œfor. my mother
was dead, and no wife have I. I reared her
myself â€” my little white gooseling; and she
throve and waxed strong of heart and limb,
and merry and brown of favour, as thou hast
â€œThou must have been thyself scantly a
man in those days,â€ said the Hermit.
â€œYounger than to-day,â€ replied the Herd;
â€œbut I was ever big of limb and plentiful of
â€œAnd hath she not been often since a
burthen to thee, and a weariness in the
â€œShe hath been a care in the cold winter,
and a sorrow in her sickness with her teeth
â€” for no man, I wot, can help a small child
64 The Hermit of the Pillar
when the teeth come through the gum, and
she can but cry ah! ah! and hath no words
to tell what she aileth.â€â€™
â€œWhy didst thou do all this?â€ asked the
Hermit. â€œWhat hath been thy reward?
Or for what reward dost thou look?â€â€™
The Goose-herd gazed at him blankly
for a moment; then his face brightened.
â€œSurely,â€ he said, â€œ to see her as she goes
on her way, a bright, brown little living thing,
with her clear hair and glad eyes, is a goodly
reward. And a goodly reward is it to think
of her growth, and to mind me of the days
when she could not walk and I bore her
whithersoever I went; and of the days when
she could but take faltering steps and was
soon fain to climb into my arms and sit upon
my neck; and of the days when we first fared
together with the geese to market and I cut
her her first hazel stick ; and in truth of all
the days that she hath been with me since I
As the Goose-herd spoke the tears rose in
the Hermitâ€™s eyes and rolled slowly down
his cheeks ; and when the young man ceased,
he said: â€œâ€˜O son, now I know why thou art
so pleasing in the eyes of God. Early hast
The Hermit of the Pillar 65
thou learned the love which gives all and
asks nothing, which suffereth long and is
ever kind, and this I have not learned. A
small thing and too common it seemed to
me, but now I see that it is holier than
austerities, and availeth more than fasting,
and is the prayer of prayers. Late have I
sought thee, thou ancient truth ; late have
I found thee, thou ancient beauty; yet even
in the gloaming of my days may there still
be light enough to win my way home. Fare-
well, good brother; and be God tender and
pitiful to thee as thou hast been tender and
pitiful to the little child.â€
â€œ Farewell, holy man!â€ replied the Herd,
regarding him with a perplexed look, for the
life and austerities of the Hermit were a
mystery he could not understand.
Then going on his way, he laid the panâ€™s-
pipes to his lips and whistled a pleasant music
as he strode after his geese.
Kenachâ€™s Little Woman
S the holy season of Lent drew nigh
the Abbot Kenach felt a longing such
as a bird of passage feels in the south when
the first little silvery buds on the willow
begin here to break their ruddy sheaths, and
the bird thinks to-morrow it will be time to
fly over-seas to the land where it builds its
nest in pleasant croft or under the shelter of
homely eaves. And Kenach said, â€œ Levabo
oculos â€”I will lift up mine eyes unto the
hills from whence cometh my helpâ€; for
every year it was his custom to leave his
abbey and fare through the woods to the
hermitage on the mountain-side, so that he
might spend the forty days of fasting and
prayer in the heart of solitude.
Now on the day which is called the Wednes-
day of Ashes he set out, but first he heard
the mass of remembrance and led his monks Â©
~Kenachâ€™s Little Woman 67
to the altar steps, and knelt there in great
humility to let the priest sign his forehead
with a cross of ashes. And on the forehead
of each of the monks the ashes were smeared
in the form of a cross, and each time the
priest made the sign he repeated the words,
â€œ Remember, man, that thou art dust, and
unto dust thou shalt return.â€
_ So with the ashes still on his brow and
with the remembrance of the end of earthly
days in his soul, he bent his steps towards the
hermitage; and as he was now an aged man
and nowise strong, Diarmait, one of the
younger brethren, accompanied him in case
any mischance should befall.
They passed through the cold forest,
where green there was none, unless it were
the patches of moss and the lichens on the
tugged tree-trunks and tufts of last yearâ€™s
grass, but here and there the white blossoms
of the nowdrops peered out. The dead
grey leaves and dry twigs crackled and
snapped under their feet with such a noise
as a wood fire makes when it is newly lighted :
and that was all the warmth they had on
their - wayfaring.
The short February day was closing in as
68 Kenachâ€™s Little Woman
they climbed among the boulders and with-
ered bracken on the mountain-side, and at
last reached the entrance of a cavern hol-
lowed in the rock and fringed with ivy.
This was the hermitage. The Abbot hung
his bell on a thick ivy-bough in the mouth
of the cave; and they knelt and recited ves-
pers and compline; and thrice the Abbot
struck the bell to scare away the evil spirits
of the night; and they entered and lay down
Hard was the way of their sleeping; for
they lay not on wool or on down, neither on
heather or bracken, nor yet on dry leaves,
but their sides came against the cold stone,
and under the head of each there was a stone
for pillow. But being weary with the long
journey they slept sound, and felt nothing
of the icy mouth of the wind blowing down
Within an hour of daybreak, when the
moon was setting, they were awakened by
the wonderful singing of a bird, and they
rose for matins and strove not to listen, but
so strangely sweet was the sound in the keen
moonlight morning that they could not for-
bear. The moon set, and still in the dark
Kenachâ€™s Little Woman 69
sang the bird, and the grey light came, and
the bird ceased; and when it was white day
they saw that all the ground and every stalk
of bracken was hoary with frost, and every
ivy-leaf was crusted white round the edge,
but within the edge it was all glossy green.
â€œWhat bird is this that sings so sweet be-
fore day in the bitter cold?â€ said the Abbot.
â€œSurely no bird at all, but an Angel from
heaven waking us from the death of sleep.â€
â€œTt isthe blackbird, Domine Abbas,â€ said
the young monk; â€œoften they sing thus in
February, however cold it may be.â€
â€œO soul, O Diarmait, is it not wonderful
that the senseless small creatures should praise
God so sweetly in the dark, and in the light
before the dark, while we are fain to lie
warm and forget His praise?â€ And after-
wards he said, â€œâ€˜ Gladly could I have listened
to that singing, even till to-morrow was a
day ; and yet it was but the singing of a little
earth wrapped ina handful of feathers. O
soul, tell me what it must be to listen to the
singing of an Angel, a portion of heaven
wrapped in the glory of Godâ€™s love!â€
Of the forty days thirty went by, and
oftentimes now, when no wind blew, it was
70 ~~ Kenachâ€™s Little Woman
â€˜bright and delightsome among the rocks, for
the sun was gaining strength, and the days
were growing longer, and the brown trees
were being speckled with numberless tiny
buds of white and pale green, and wild flow-
ers were springing between the boulders and
through the mountain turf.
Hard by the cave there was a low wall of
rock covered with ivy, and as Diarmait
chanced to walk near it, a brown bird darted
out from among the leaves. The young
monk looked at the place from which it had
flown, and behold! among the leaves and
the hairy sinews of the ivy there was a nest
lined with grass, and in the nest there were
three eggs â€” pale green with reddish spots.
And Diarmait knew the bird and knew
the eggs, and he told the Abbot, who came
noiselessly, and looked with a great love
at the open house and the three eggs of the
â€œLet us not walk too near, my son,â€ he
said, â€œlest we scare the mother from her
brood, and so silence beforehand some of the
music of the cold hours before the day.â€
And he lifted his hand and blessed the nest
and the bird, saying, â€œAnd He shall bless
Kenachâ€™s Little Woman 71
thy bread and thy water.â€ After that it was
very seldom they went near the ivy.
Now after days of clear and benign weather
a shrill wind broke out from beneath the
North Star, and brought with it snow and
sleet and piercing cold. And the woods
howled for distress of the storm, and the grey
stones of the mountain chattered with dis-
comfort. Harsh cold and sleeplessness were
their lot in the cave, and as he shivered, the
Abbot bethought him of the blackbird in
her nest, and of the wet flakes driving in
between the leaves of the ivy and stinging
her brown wings and patient bosom. And
lifting his head from his pillow of stone he
prayed the Lord of the elements to have
the bird in His gentle care, saying, â€œ How
excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God!
therefore the children of men put their trust
under the shadow of Thy wings.â€
Then after a little while he said, â€œ Look
out into the night, O son, and tell me if yet
the storm be abated.â€
And Diarmait, shuddering, went to the
mouth of the cavern, and stood there gazing
and calling in a low voice, â€œDomine Abbas!
My Lord Abbot! My Lord Abbot!â€
72 Kenachâ€™s Little Woman
Kenach rose quickly and went to him, and
as they looked out the sleet beat on their
faces, but in the midst of the storm there
was a space of light, as though it were moon-
shine, and the light streamed from an Angel,
who stood near the wall of rock with out-
spread wings, and sheltered the blackbirdâ€™s
nest from the wintry blast.
And the monks gazed at the shining love-
liness of the Angel, till the wind fell and the
snow ceased and the light faded away and the
sharp stars came out and the night was still.
Now at sundown of the day that followed,
when the Abbot was in the cave, the young
monk, standing among the rocks, saw ap-
proaching a woman who carried a child in
her arms; and crossing himself he cried a-
loud to her, â€œCome not any nearer; turn
thy face to the forest, and go down.â€
â€œNay,â€ replied the woman, â€œfor we seek
shelter for the night, and food and the solace
of fire for the little one.â€ ;
â€œGo down, go down,â€ cried Diarmait ;
â€œno woman may come to this hermitage.â€
â€œ How canst thou say that, O monk?â€
said the woman. â€˜Was the Lord Christ
any worse thanthou? Christ came to redeem
Peas 7] oANY*
Ms a I oN Ss a
z i Na, NEARER:
ie t g 4 My TURN THY
2 AND: CGOÂ°
Kenachâ€™s Little Woman 73
woman no less than to redeem man. Not
less did He suffer for the sake of woman
than for the sake of man. Women gave
service and tendance to Him and His
Apostles. A woman it was who bore Him,
else had men been left forlorn. It was a
man who betrayed Him with a kiss; a
woman it was who washed His feet with
tears. It was a man who smote Him with
a reed, but a woman who broke the alabaster
box of precious ointment. It was a man
who thrice denied Him; a woman stood by
His cross. It was a woman to whom He
first spoke on Easter morn, but a man thrust
his hand into His side and put his finger in
the prints of the nails before he would believe.
And not less than men do women enter the
heavenly kingdom. Why then shouldst
thou drive my little child and me from thy
Then Kenach, who had heard all that was
said, came forth from the cave, and blessed
the woman. â€˜ Well hast thou spoken, O
daughter; come, and bring the small child
with thee.â€ And, turning to the young
monk, he said, â€œO soul, O son, O Diar-
mait, did not God send His Angel out of
74. Kenachâ€™s Little Woman
high heaven to shelter the mother bird?
And was not that, too, a little woman in
feathers? But now hasten, and gather wood
and leaves, and strike fire from the flint, and
make a hearth before the cave, that the
woman may rest and the boy have the
comfort of the bright flame.â€
This was soon done, and by the fire sat
the woman eating a little barley bread; but
the child, who had no will to eat, came round
to the old man, and held out two soft hands
to him. And the Abbot caught him up
from the ground to his breast, and kissed
his golden head, saying, â€œGod bless thee,
sweet little son, and give thee a good life
and a happy, and strength of thy small body,
and, if it be His holy will, length of glad
days; and ever mayest thou be a gladness
and deep joy to thy mother.â€
Then, seeing that the woman was strangely
clad in an outland garb of red and blue, and
that she was tall, with a golden-hued skin
and olive eyes, arched eyebrows very black,
aquiline nose, and a rosy mouth, he said,
â€œSurely, O daughter, thou art not of this
land of Erinn in the sea, but art come out
of the great world beyond? â€
Kenachâ€™s Little Woman = 75
â€œIndeed, then, we have travelled far,â€
replied the woman ; â€œas thou sayest, out
of the great world beyond. And now the
twilight deepens upon us.â€
â€œThou shalt sleep safe in the cave, O
daughter, but we will rest here by the em-
bers. My cloak of goatâ€™s hair shalt thou
have, and such dry bracken and soft bushes
as may be found.â€
â€œThere is no need,â€™ said the woman,
â€œmere shelter is enough;â€ and she added
in a low voice, â€œOften has my little son had
no bed wherein he might lie.â€
Then she stretched out her arms to the
boy, and once more the little one kissed the
Abbot, and as he passed by Diarmait he put
the palms of his hands against the face of
the young monk, and said laughingly, Sol
do not think thou hadst any ill-will to us,
though thou wert rough and didst threaten
to drive us away into the woods.â€
And the woman lifted the boy on her
arm, and rose and went towards the cavern ;
and when she was in the shadow of the rocks
she turned towards the monks beside the
fire, and said, â€œ My son bids me thank you.â€
They looked up, and what was their aston-
76 = Kenachâ€™s Little Woman
ishment to see a heavenly glory shining Â©
about the woman and her child in the gloom
of the cave. And in his left hand the child
carried a little golden image of the world,
and round his head was a starry radiance,
and his right hand was raised in blessing.
For such a while as it takes the shadow
of a cloud to run across a rippling field of
corn, for so long the vision remained; and
then it melted into the darkness, even as a
rainbow melts away into the rain.
On his face fell the Abbot, weeping for
joy beyond words; but Diarmait was seized
with fear and trembling till he remembered
the way in which the child had pressed warm
palms against his face and forgiven him.
The story of these things was whispered
abroad, and ever since, in that part of Erinn
in the sea, the mother blackbird is called
Kenachâ€™s Little Woman.
And as for the stone on which the fire
was lighted in front of the cave, rain rises
quickly from it in mist and leaves it dry,
and snow may not lie upon it, and even in
the dead of winter it is warm to touch. And
to this day it is called the Stone of Holy
Golden Apples and
N the cruel days of old, when Diocletian
was the Master of the World, and the
believers in the Cross were maimed, and
tortured with fire, and torn with iron hooks,
and cast to the lions, and beheaded with the
sword, Dorothea, a beautiful maiden of
Czesarea, was brought before Sapricius, the
Governor of Cappadocia, and commanded to
forsake the Lord Christ and offer incense to
the images of the false gods.
Though she was so young and so fair and
tender, she stood unmoved by threats and
entreaties, and when, with little pity on her
youth and loveliness, Sapricius menaced her
with the torment of the iron bed over a slow
fire, she replied: â€œ Do with me as you will.
No: pain shall I fear, so firm is my trust in
Him for whom I am ready to die.â€
78 Golden Apples and Roses Red
â€œWho, then, is this that has won thy
love?â€ asked the Governor.
â€œTt is Christ Jesus, the Son of God.
Slay me, and I shall but the sooner be with
Him in His Paradise, where there is no
more pain, neither sorrow, but the tears are
wiped from all eyes, and the roses are in
bloom alway, and for ever the fruit of joy is
on the trees.â€
â€œThy words are but the babbling of mad-
ness,â€™ said the Governor angrily.
â€œI am not mad, most noble Sapricius.â€
â€œ* Here, then, is the incense; sacrifice, and
save thy life.â€
â€œâ€œT will not sacrifice,â€ replied Dorothea.
â€œThen shalt thou die,â€™ said Sapricius ;
and he bade the doomsman take her to
the place of execution and strike off her
Now as she was being led away from the
judgment-seat, a gay young advocate named
Theophilus said to her jestingly: â€œ Farewell,
sweet Dorothea: when thou hast joined thy
lover, wilt thou not send me some of the
fruit and roses of his Paradise?â€
Looking gravely and gently at him,
Dorothea answered: â€œI will send some.â€
â€œ61 AM NOT MAD, MOST NOBLE SAPRICIUS.â€™â€
Golden Apples and Roses Red 79
Whereupon Theophilus laughed merrily,
and went his way homeward.
At the place of execution, Dorothea
begged the doomsman to tarry a little, and
kneeling by the block, she raised her hands
to heaven and prayed earnestly. At that
moment a fair child stood beside her, hold-
ing in his hand a basket containing three
golden apples and three red roses.
â€œTake these to Theophilus, I pray thee,â€
she said to the child, â€œ and tell him Dorothea
awaits him in the Paradise whence they
Then she bowed her head, and the sword
of the doomsman fell.
Mark now what follows.
Theophilus, who had reached home, was
still telling of what had happened and: mer-
rily repeating his jest about the fruit and
flowers of Paradise, when suddenly, while he
was speaking, the child appeared before him
with the apples and the roses. â€œ Dorothea,â€™
he said, â€œ has sent me to thee with these,
and she awaits thee in the garden.â€ And
straightway the child vanished.
The fragrance of those heavenly roses filled
Theophilus with a strange pity and gladness ;
80 Golden Apples and Roses Red
and, eating of the fruit of the Angels, he felt
his heart made new within him, so that he,
also, became a servant of the Lord Jesus,
and suffered death for His name, and thus
attained to the celestial garden.
Centuries after her martyrdom, the body of
Dorothea was laid in a bronze shrine richly
~ inlaid with gold and jewels in the church
built in her honour beyond Tiber, in the
seven-hilled city of Rome.
There it lay in the days when Waldo was
a brother at the Priory of Three Fountains,
among the wooded folds of the Taunus
Hills ; and every seven years the shrine was
opened that the faithful might gaze on the
maiden martyr of Cesarea.
An exceeding great love and devotion
did Waldo bear this holy virgin, whom he
had chosen for his patroness, and one of his
most ardent wishes was that he might some
day visit the church beyond Tiber, and
kneel by the shrine which contained her
precious relics. In summer the red roses, in
autumn the bright apples on the tree, re-
minded him of her ; in the spring he thought
of her youth and beauty joyously surrendered
Golden Apples and Roses Red 81
to Christ, and the snow in winter spoke to
him of her spotless innocence. Thus through
the round of the year the remembrance of
her was present about him in fair sugges-
tions; and indeed had there been any lack
of these every gift of God would have re-
called her to his mind, for was not that â€”
â€œ the gift of Godâ€ â€” her name?
Notwithstanding his youth, Waldo was
ripe in learning, well skilled in Latin and
Greek, and so gifted beyond measure in
poetry and music that people said he had
heard the singing of Angels and had brought
the echo of it to the earth. His hymns and
sacred songs were known and loved all
through the German land, and far beyond.
The children sang them in the processions on
the high feast days, the peasants sang them
at their work in house or field, travellers
sang them as they journeyed over the long
heaths and through the mountain-forests,
fishers and raftsmen sang them on the rivers.
He composed the Song of the Sickle which
cuts at a stroke the corn in its ripeness and
the wild flower in its bloom, and the Song of
the Mill-wheel, with its long creak and quick
clap, and the melodious rush of water from
82 Golden Apples and Roses Red
the bucket of the wheel, and many another
which it would take long to tell of; but that
which to himself was sweetest and dearest
was Golden Apples and Roses Red, the song
in which he told the legend of St. Dorothea
Now when Waldo was in the six and
thirtieth year of his age he was smitten with
leprosy ; and when it was found that neither
the relics of the saints, nor the prayers of holy
men, nor the skill of the physician availed
to cure him, but that it was Godâ€™s will
he should endure to the end, the Prior
entreated him to surrender himself to that
blessed will, and to go forth courageously
to the new life of isolation which awaited
him. For in those days it was not lawful
that a leper should abide in the companion-
ship of men, and he was set apart lest his
malady should bring others to a misery like
Deep was the grief of the brethren of
Three Fountains when they were summoned
to attend the sacred office of demission which
was to shut out Waldo for ever from inter-
course with his fellows. And well might
Golden Apples and Roses Red 83
any good heart sorrow, for this was the
order of that office.
The altar was draped in black, and Mass
for the Dead was sung; and all the things
that Waldo would need in the house of his
exile, from the flint and iron which gave
fire to the harp which should give solace,
were solemnly blessed and delivered to him.
Next he was warned not to approach the
dwellings of men, or to wash in running
streams, or to handle the ropes of draw-wells,
or to drink from the cups of wayside springs.
He was forbidden the highways, and when
he went abroad a clapper must give token
of his coming and going. Nothing that
might be used by others should he touch
except with covered hands.
When after these warnings he had been
exhorted to patience and trust in Godâ€™s
mercy and love, the brethren formed a pro-
cession, with the cross going before, and led
him away to his hermitage among the wooded
hills. On a little wood-lawn, beyond a
brook crossed by stepping-stones, a hut of
boughs had been prepared for him, and the
Prior. bade him mark the grey boulder on
the further side of the brook, for there he
84 Golden Apples and Roses Red
would find left for him, week by week, such
provisions as he needed.
Last rite of all, the Prior entering the hut
strewed over his bed of bracken a handful
of mould from the churchyard, saying, â€œ Sis
mortuus mundoâ€” Dead be thou to the
world, but living anew to God,â€ and turfs
from the churchyard were laid on the roof
of the hut. Thus in his grey gown and
hood was Waldo committed alive to his
grave, and the brethren, chanting a requiem,
returned to the Priory.
The tidings of Waldoâ€™s grievous lot trayv-
elled far and wide through the German land,
and thenceforth when his songs were sung
many a true manâ€™s heart was heavy and many
a good womanâ€™s eyes were filled with tears
as they bethought them of the poor singer
in his hut among the hills. Kindly souls
brought alms and provisions and laid them
on his boulder by the brook, and oftentimes
as they came and went they sang some hymn
or song he had composed, for they said, â€œSo
best can we let him know that we remember
him and love him.â€ Indeed, to his gentle
heart the sound of their human voices in
that solitude was as the warm clasp of a
Golden Apples and Roses Red 85
When Waldo had lived there alone among
the hills for the space of two years and more,
and his malady had grown exceeding hard
to bear, he was seized with a woeful longing
â€” such a longing as comes upon a little child
for its mother when it has been left all alone
in the house, and has gone seeking her in all
the chambers, and finds she is not there.
And as on a day he went slowly down to the
boulder by the stream in the failing light,
thinking of her who had cherished his child-
hood â€” how he had clung to her gown, how
with his little hand in hers he had run by
her side, how she had taken him on her lap
and made his hurts all well with kisses, his
heart failed him, and crying aloud â€œ Mother,
O mother!â€ he knelt by the boulder, and
laid his head on his arms, weeping.
Then from among the trees on the further
side of the brook came a maiden running,
_ but she paused at the stepping-stones when
she saw Waldo, and said, â€œ Was it thy voice
I heard calling â€˜ Motherâ€™ ?â€â€™
The monk did not answer or move.
â€œ Art thou Brother Waldo?â€ she asked.
Raising his head, he looked at her and
replied, â€œI am Brother Waldo.â€
86 Golden Apples and Roses Red
â€œPoor brother, I pity thee,â€ said the
maiden; â€œthere is no man or maid but
pities thee. If thou wilt tell me of thy
mother, I will find her, even were I to
travel far, and bid her come to thee. Well
I wot she will come to thee if she may.â€
For all his manhood and learning and
holiness, Waldo could not still the crying
of the little child within him, and he told
the maiden of his mother, and blessed her,
and asked her name. When she answered
that it was Dorothy, â€œ Truly,â€ said he, â€œ it
is a fair name and gracious, and in thy
coming thou hast been a gift of God to
Thereupon the maiden left him, and
Waldo returned to his hut, comforted and
full of hope.
After a month had gone Dorothy returned.
Crossing the stepping-stones in the clear
light of the early morning, she found Waldo
meditating by the door of his hut.
â€œJT have done thy bidding, brother,â€ she
said in a gentle voice, â€œbut alas! thy
mother cannot come to thee. Grieve not too
much at this, for she is with God. She
must have died about the time thou didst
Golden Apples and Roses Red 87
call for her; and well may I believe that
it was she who sent me to thee in her
â€œ The will of God be done,â€ said Waldo,
and he bowed his head, and spoke no more
for a long while; but the maiden stood
patiently awaiting till he had mastered his
At length he raised his head and saw her.
â€œ Art thou not gone?â€ heasked. â€œI thought
thou hadst gone. Thou art good and gentle,
and I thank thee. Go now, for here thou
mayst not stay.â€
â€œNay, brother,â€ replied Dorothy, â€œthou
hast no mother to come to thee now, no
companion or friend to minister to thee.
This is my place. Do not fear that I shall
annoy or weary thee. I shall but serve and
obey thee, coming and going at thy bidding.
Truly thou art too weak and afflicted to be
left any more alone.â€
â€œTt may not be, dear child. Thy father
and mother or others of thy kinsfolk need
thee at home.â€ )
â€œ All these have been long dead,â€ said
Dorothy, â€œand I am alone. Here in the
wood I will find me a hollow tree, and thou
88 Golden Apples and Roses Red
shalt but call to have me by thee, and but
lift a finger to see me no more.â€
â€œWhy wouldst thou do this for me?â€
asked Waldo, wondering at her persistency.
â€œÂ« Ah, brother, I know thy selling and |
love thy songs.â€™
â€œAnd dost thou not shudder at this hor-
ror that is upon me, and dread lest the like
befall thee too?â€
Then Dorothy laughed low and softly to
herself, and answered only so.
In this wise the maiden came to minister
to the poor recluse, and so gracious was she
and humble, so prudent and yet so tender,
that in his suffering she was great solace to
him, bringing his food from the boulder and
his drink from the brook, cleaning his cell
and freshening it with fragrant herbs; and
about the cell she made a garden of whole-
some plants and wild flowers, and all kindly
service that was within her power she did
So beautiful was she and of such exceed-
ing sweetness, that when his eyes rested
upon her, he questioned in his mind whether
she was a true woman and not an Angel sent
Golden Apples and Roses Red 89
down to console him in his dereliction. And
that doubt perplexed and troubled him, for
so little are we Angels yet that in our aches
and sorrows of the flesh it is not the comfort
of Angels but the poor human pitiful touch
of the fellow-creature that we most yearn for.
Once, indeed, he asked her fretfully, â€œ Tell
me truly in the name of God, art thou a very
woman of flesh and blood?â€
â€œTruly then, brother,â€™ she answered,
smiling, â€œI am of mortal flesh and blood
even as thou art, and time shall be when this
body that thou seest will be mingled with the
dust of the earth.â€
â€œTs it then the way of women to sacrifice
so much for men as thou hast done for
â€œIt is the way of women who love well,â€
â€œThen needs must I thank thy namesake
and my patroness in heaven,â€ rejoiced
â€œYea, and is St. Dorothea thy patron-
ess?â€ asked the maiden.
Waldo told her that so it was, and raptu-
rously he spoke of the young and beautiful
saint done to death in Cesarea, and of the
90 Golden Apples and Roses Red
fruit and flowers of Paradise which she sent
to Theophilus. â€˜â€œ And I would,â€ he sighed
under his breath, â€œâ€˜ that she would send such
a gift to me.â€
â€œ All this I know,â€ said Dorothy, â€œfor I
have learnt thy song of Golden Apples and
Roses Red, and I love it most of all thy
songs, though these be many and sung all
about the world, I think. And this I will
tell thee of thy songs, that I saw in a dream
once how they were not mere words and
melody, but living things. Like the bright
heads of baby Angels were they, and they
were catried on wings as it were of rose-
leaves, and they fluttered about the people
who loved them and sang them, leading
them into blessed paths and whispering to
them holy and happy thoughts.â€
â€œGod be blessed and praised for ever, if
it be so,â€ said Waldo; â€œbut this was no
more than a maidenâ€™s dream.â€
For two winters Dorothy ministered to
the poor leper, and during this while no one
save Waldo knew of her being in the woods,
and no other man set eyes on her. The
fourth year of his exile was now drawing to
Golden Apples and Roses Red 91
a close, and Waldo had fallen into extreme
weakness by reason of his malady, and over
his face he wore a mask of grey cloth, with
two holes for his great piteous eyes. It was
in the springtide, and one night as he lay
sleepless in the dark, listening to the long
murmur of the wind in the swaying pines,
he heard overhead sharp cries and trumpet-
ings, and the creaking and winnowing of
Rising from his bed, he went out of doors,
and looked up into the dark heavens; and
high and spectral among the clouded stars he
saw the home-coming of the cranes. He
sat on the bench beside his door, and watched
them sail past in thousands, filling the night
with a fleeting clamour and eerie sounds.
As he sat he mused on the strange longing
which brought these birds over land and sea
back home, year by year with the returning
spring, and he marvelled that the souls of
men, which are but birds of passage in these
earthly fields, should be so slow to feel that
longing for their true home-land.
That day when Dorothy came to the hut,
he said to her: â€œIt is well to be glad, for,
though the air is still keen, the spring is
92 Golden Apples and Roses Red
here. I heard the cranes returning in the
â€œAnd I too heard them; and I heard
thee rejoicing, playing on thy harp and
â€œThat could not be, sister,â€ said Waldo,
â€œunless ina dream. No longer can I touch
harp-string, as thou knowest.â€â€™
â€œIn truth I was awake and heard,â€ said
Dorothy ; â€œand the song thou wast singing
was of birds of passage, and of the longing
of exiles to go home, arid of the dark where-
through we must pass, with cries and beating
wings, ere we can find our way back to our
â€œNay, it must have been a dream,â€ said
Waldo, â€œ for as I sat with my hands hidden
in my gown I did but play an imaginary
harp, making still music in my heart, and no
song came from my lips.â€
â€œThe more strange that I should hear!â€
replied Dorothy, smiling as she went her
In a little while from this the poor brother
felt that the end of his martyrdom drew nigh;
and as he lay feeble and faint in the shadow
Golden Apples and Roses Red 93
of the hut (for the day was clement), sighing
for the hour of his deliverance, Dorothy
came from the woods. In her hand she
carried a basket, and as she stood over him
she said, â€œSee what I have brought for
Lifting his head weakly, and looking
through the eyelets of his grey mask, Waldo
saw that the basket contained three golden
apples and three red roses, though still it
was but early days in spring. At sight of
them he uttered a cry of gladness (for all it
was a cry hollow and hoarse), and strove to
rise and throw himself at her feet.
â€˜â€œNay, brother,â€ she said, â€œ refrain ; lie
still and breathe the sweetness of the roses
and taste of the fruit.â€
She gave him one of the apples, and put-
ting it to his mouth he tasted it and sighed
deeply. In a moment all pain and suffering
had left him, and his spirit was light and
gladsome. His eyes too were opened, so
that he knew that Dorothy had no way
deceived him, but was truly a living woman
of flesh and blood like himself. Then a
heavenly peace descended upon him like Â©
a refreshing dew, and he closed his eyes for
the great ease he felt.
94 Golden Apples and Roses Red
While these things were happening, came
from Three Fountains the lay-brother who
brought Waldo his provisions. Crossing
the brook to set his budget on the boulder,
he saw the poor recluse lying in the lee of
the hut, and Dorothy leaning over him.
Wherefore he hastened across the wood-lawn,
but in an instant the fair woman vanished
before his eyes, and when he came to the
hut he saw that Waldo was dead. He car-
ried the basket of flowers and fruit to the
Priory, and told what he had seen; and the
Prior, marvelling greatly, came to the place
and gave the poor leper brother a blessed
Now at this time a wondrous strange
occurrence was the talk of Rome.
The year wherein Waldo died was that
seventh year in which the shrine of St.
Dorothea is opened in her church beyond
Tiber; and the day on which it is opened
fell a little while before the death of Waldo.
Behold, then, when on the vigil of that
feast the priests unlocked the shrine, the
place where aforetime the holy body of the
martyr had lainwas empty. Great was the dis-
Golden Apples and Roses Red 95
may, loud the lamentation, grievous the sus-
picion. The custodians of the church and
the shrine were seized and cast into prison,
where they lay till the day of their trial.
On the morning of that day the church of
St. Dorothea was filled with a divine fra-
grance, which seemed to transpire from the
empty shrine as from a celestial flower.
Wherefore once again the shrine was opened,
and there, even such as they had been seen
by many of the faithful seven years before,
lay the relics of the Saint in their old resting-
Now to all poor souls God grant a no less
happy end of days than this which He
vouchsafed to the poor leper-singer Waldo
of the Priory of Three Fountains.
Seven Years of Seeking
ERE begins the chapter of the Seven
Years of Seeking.
For, trying greatly to win sight of that
blessed isle, the Earthly Paradise, the monk
Serapion and his eleven companions hoisted
sail; and for seven years they continued in
that seeking, wandering with little respite
under cloud and star, in all the ways of the
sea of ocean which goeth round the world.
[Now this chapter was read of evenings in
the refectory at supper, in the winter of the
Great Snow. While the drifts without lay
fathom-deep in sheltered places, and the snow
was settling on the weather-side of things in
long slopes like white pent-houses, the com-
munity listened with rapt attention, picturing
Mhie Seven Years of Seeking 97
to themselves the slanting ship, and the red
sail of skins with its yellow cross in the
midst, and the marvellous vision of vast
waters, and the strange islands. Then sud-
denly the Prior would strike the table, and
according to the custom the reader would
close his book with the words, â€œTu autem,
Domine â€” But do Thou, O Lord, have
mercy upon us!â€ and the monks would
rise, with interest still keen in the wander-
ings of the Sea-farers.
Seeing that it would be of little profit to
break up the reading as the Prior was wont
to break it up, I will give the story here
without pause or hindrance, as though it
had all been read in a single evening at
supper, and keep my â€œTu autemâ€ for the
end of all. And truly it is at the end of all
that most there is need of that prayer. So
without more ado.]
Serapion and his.companions were, all save
one, monks of the Abbey of the Holy Face.
Not the first Abbey of that name, in the
warm green woods in the western creek of
Broce-Liande, but the second, which is nearer
to the sunrise. For the site of the first
98 The Seven Years of Seeking
Abbey was most delightful, and so sheltered
from the weary wind of the west, and so open
to the radiance of the morning, that, save it
were Paradise, no man could come at a place
so gracious and delectable. There earliest
broke the land into leaf and blossom; and
there the leaf was last to fall; and there one
could not die, not even the very aged.
Wherefore, in order that the long years
of their pilgrimage might be shortened, the
brethren prevailed on the Abbot to remove
to another site, nearer the spring of the day;
and in this new house, one by one in due
season, they were caught up to the repose
of the heavens, the aged fathers dying first,
as is seemly..
This then was the second Abbey of the
Holy Face, and its pleasant woods ran down
to the shore of the sea. And going east or
going west, where the green billow shades
into blue water, the ships of the mariners
kept passing and repassing day after day;
and their sails seemed to cast an enchanted
shadow across the cloister ; and the monks,
as they watched them leaning over to the
breeze, dreamed of the wondrous Garden of
Eden, which had not been swallowed up by
The Seven Years of Seeking 99
the Deluge, but had been saved as an isle
inviolate amid the fountains of the great
deep; and they asked each other whether
not one of all these Sea-farers would ever
bring back a fruit or a flower or a leaf from
the arbours of delight in which our first
parents had dwelt. They spoke of the voy-
age of Brendan the Saint, and of the exceed-
ing loveliness of the Earthly Paradise, and
of the deep bliss of breathing its air celestial,
till it needed little to set many of them off
on a like perilous adventure.
Of all the brethren Serapion was the most
eager to begin that seeking. And this was
what brought him to it at last.
There came to the Abbey on a day in
spring that youthful Bishop of Arimathea
who in after time made such great fame in
the world. Tall and stately was he, and
black-bearded; a guest pleasant and wise,
and ripe with the experience of distant
travel and converse with many chief men.
Now he was on his way to the great house
of Glastonbury oversea, to bring back with
him, if he might be so fortunate, the body
of the saint of his city who had helped our
100 The Seven Years of Seeking
Lord to bear His cross on the Way Dolo-
rous; or, if that were an issue beyond his
skill, at least some precious memorial of that
Many things worthy of remembrance he
told of what he had seen and heard; and no
small marvel did it seem to speak with one
who had stood on Mount Sinai in the wil-
derness. From the top of that mountain,
he said, one looked down on a region stretch-
ing to the Red Sea, and in the midst of the
plain there is a monastery of saintly recluses,
but no man can discover any track that leads
to it. Faint and far away the bells are heard
tolling for prime, it may be, or vespers, and
it is believed that now and again some weary
traveller has reached it, but no one has ever
returned. The Ishmaelites, who dwell in
the wilderness, have ridden long in search of
it, guided by the sound of the bells, but
never have they succeeded in catching a
gleam of its white walls among the palm-
trees, nor yet of the green palms. The
Abbot of that house, it is said, is none other
than the little child whom our Lord set in
the midst of His Disciples, saying, â€œ Except
ye become as little children,â€ and he will
The Seven Years of Seeking io!
â€˜abide on the earth till our Lordâ€™s return,
and then shall he enter into the kingdom
with Him, without tasting death.
Speaking of the holy places, Calvary, it
might be, or the Garden of Olives and the
sepulchre of the Lord, and of the pilgrims
who visited these, he repeated to us the say-
ing of the saintly Father Hieronymus: â€œ To
live in Jerusalem is not a very holy thing,
but to live a holy life in Jerusalem.â€ And
walking with many of our brethren on the
shore of the sea and seeing the sails of the
ships as they went by, he questioned us of
the wonders of the great waters, and of sea-
faring, and of the last edge of the living
earth, and he said: â€œTell me, you who
abide within sight of so many ships, and
who hear continually the song of the great
creature Sea, how would it fare with one who
should sail westward and keep that one
We said that we knew not; it were like
he would perish of famine or thirst, or be
whelmed in the deep.
â€œ Ay,â€ he said, â€œbut if he were well pro-
visioned, with no lack of food and water,
and the weather held fair?â€
102 The Seven Years of Seeking
That we could not answer, for it seemed
to us that such a one would lose heart and
hope in the roofless waste, with never a
stone or tree, nor any shadow save cloudâ€™s,
and turn back dismayed; but Serapion re-
plied: â€œTo me it appears, your Discretion,
that so bold a mariner, if years failed him
not, might win to the Earthly Paradise.â€
â€œSo have I heard,â€ said the Bishop.
â€œYet here would you be sailing into the
west, and for a certainty the Paradise of God
was in the east. How would you give a
reasonable account of this?â€
But we could make no reply, for we
knew not; nor Serapion more than we.
â€œâ€œ Now, watching the sea,â€ said the Bishop,
â€œyou have marked the ships, how they go.
When they come to you, they first show the
mast-top, then the sail, and last the body of
the ship, and perchance the sweep of the oars ;
reverse-wise when they depart from you, you
first fail to see the body of the ship, and then
the sail, but longest you hold in sight the
mast-top, or it may be a bright streamer flying
therefrom, or a cross glittering in the light â€”
though these be but small things compared
with the body of the ship. Is it not sorâ€
The Seven Years of Seeking 103
We answered, readily enough, that so it
â€œTs it not then even as though one were
to watch a wayfarer on horse-back, going or
coming over the green bulge of a low hill?
Were he coming to you, you would first see
the head of the rider, and last the legs of the
horse, and were he riding away the horse
would first go down over the hill, but still,
for a little, you would see the man waving
his hand in farewell as he sank lower and
Such indeed, we said, was the fashion of a
shipâ€™s coming and going.
â€œ Does it not then seem a likely thing,â€
said his Discretion, â€œthat the sea is in the
nature of a long low hill, down which the
ships go? So have I heard it surmised by
wise men, sages and scholars o the lights of
heaven, in the cities of Greece and Egypt.
For the earth and the ocean-sea, they teach,
is fashioned as a vast globe in the heights of
heaven. And truly, if indeed it be the
shadow of the world which darkens the face
of thÃ© moon in time of eclipse, the earth may
well be round, for that shadow is round.
Thus, then, one holding ever a westward
104. The Seven Years of Seeking
course might sail down the bulge of the sea,
and under the world, and round about even
unto the east, if there be sea-way all along
Silently we listened to so strange a matter,
but the Bishop traced for us on the sand a
figure of the earth. â€œAnd here,â€ said he,
â€œis this land of ours, and here the sea, and
here the bulge of ocean, and here a ship
sailing westward ; and here in the east is the
Earthly Paradise; and mark now how the
ship fareth onward ever on the one course
unchanged, till it cometh to that blessed
Truly this was a wondrous teaching; and
when we questioned how they who sailed
could escape falling out and perishing, they
and indeed their ship, when they came so
far down the round sea that they hung heads
nethermost, his Discretion laughed: â€œ Nay,
if the sea, which the wind breaketh and
lifteth and bloweth about in grey showers,
fall not out, neither will the ship, nor yet
the mariners; for the Lord God hath so
ordered it that wheresoever mariners be,
there the sea shall seem to them no less flat
than a great grass-meadow when the wind
The Seven Years of Seeking 105
swings the grass; and if they hang head
downward they know not of it; but rather,
seeing over them the sun and the clouds,
they might well pity our evil case, deeming it
was we who were hanging heads nethermost.â€
Now this and suchlike converse with the
Bishop so moved Serapion that he lost the
quietude of soul and the deep gladness of
heart which are the portion of the cloister.
Day and night his thought was flying under
sail across the sea towards the Earthly Para-
dise, and others there were who were of one
longing with him. Wherefore at last they
prayed leave of the Abbot to build a ship
and to try the venture.
The Abbot consented, but when they
besought him to go with them and to lead
them, he shook his head smiling, and an-
swered: â€œ Nay, children, I am an aged man,
little fitted for such a labour. Wiser is it
for me to lean my staff against my fig-tree,
and have in mind the eternal years. More-
over, as you know, many are the sons in this
house who look to me for fatherly care.
But if it be your wish one shall go with you.
to be the twelfth of your company. In
hours of peril and perplexity and need, if
106 The Seven Years of Seeking
such should befall you, you shall bid him
pray earnestly, and after he has prayed, heed
what he shall say, even as you would heed
the words of your Abbot. No better Abbot
and counsellor could you have, for he hath
still preserved his baptismal innocence. It
is Ambrose, the little chorister.â€
Serapion and the others wondered at this,
but readily they accepted the Abbotâ€™s choice
of a companion.
Think now of the ship as built â€” a goodly
ship of stout timber frame covered two-ply
with hides seasoned and sea-worthy, well
found in provisions against a long voyage,
fitted with sturdy mast of pine and broad
sail. And think of the Mass as sung, with
special prayer to Him who is the confidence
of them that are afar off upon the sea. And
think of the leave-taking and blessing as
over and done, and of the Sea-farers as all
aboard, eleven brethren and Ambrose the
chorister, a little lad of nine summers.
Now all is cast loose, and the red sail is
drawn up the mast and set puffing, and the
ship goes out, dipping and springing, into
the deep. On the shore the religious stand
â€˜The Seven Years of Seeking 107
watching; and Serapion is at the rudder,
steering and glancing back; and the others
aboard are waving hands landward; and on
a thwart beside the mast stands the little lad,
and at a sign from Serapion he lifts up his
clear sweet voice, singing joyfully the Kyrie
eleison of the Litany. The eleven join in
the glad song, and it is caught up. by the
voices of those on shore, as though it were
by an organ; and as he sings the lad Am-
brose watches the white ruffled wake-water
of the ship, how it streams between the un-
broken green sea on either hand, and it
seems to him most like the running of a
shallow brook when it goes ruffling over the
pebbles in the greenwood.
To those on ship and to those on shore
the song of each grew a fainter hearing as the
distance widened; and the magnitude of the
ship lessened; and first the hull went down
the bulge of the ocean, and next the sail ;
and long ere it was sunset all trace of the
Sea-farers had vanished away.
Now is this company of twelve gone forth
into the great waters; far from the beloved
house of the Holy Face are they gone, and
108 The Seven Years of Seeking
far from the blithesome green aspect of the
good earth; and no man of them knoweth
what bane or blessing is in store for him, or
whether he shall ever again tread on grass or
ground. A little tearfully they think of
their dear cloister-mates, but they are high
of heart nothing the less. Their ship is
their garth, and cloister, and choir, wherein
they praise God with full voices through all
the hours from matins to compline.
Of the bright weather and fresh wind which
carried them westward many days it would
be tedious to tell, and indeed little that was
strange did they see at that time, save it were
a small bird flying high athwart their course,
and a tree, with its branches and green leaves
unlopped, which lay in the swing of the
wave; but whither and whence the bird was
flying, or where that tree grew in soil, they
could not guess.
Of what happened to them in the course
of their seeking, even of that the telling must
be brief, flitting from one event to another,
even as the small Peter-bird flits from the
top of one wave to the top of another, nor
wets foot or feather in the marbled sea
between; else would the story of the seek-
The Seven Years of Seeking 109
ing linger out the full seven years of the
The first trial that befell them was dense
wintry fog, in the dusk of which they lay
with lowered sail on a sullen sea for a day
and a night. When the change came, it
brought with it the blowing ofa fierce gale
with a plague of sleet and hail-stones, and
they were chased out of the fog, and driven
far into the south.
Great billows followed them as they ran,
and broke about the stern of the ship in
fountains of freezing spray which drenched
them to the skin. Little ease had they in
â€˜their sea-faring in that long race with the
north wind, for every moment they looked
to have the mast torn up by the root and
the frame-work of the ship broken asunder.
The salt surf quenched their fire and mingled
their bread with bitterness.
Aching they were and weary, and sorrow-
ful enough to sleep, when the tempest
abated, and the sun returned, and the sea
rolled in long glassy swells.
As the sun blazed out, and the sea glit-
tered over all his trackless ways, Serapion
110 The Seven Years of Seeking
said to the chorister: â€œ Ha, little brother,
"tis good, is it not? to see the bright sun
once more. His face is as the face of an
Angel to us.â€
The lad looked at him curiously, but made
Â« Art thou ailing, or sad, or home-sick,
little one, that thou has nought to say?â€
â€œ Nay, father, I was but thinking of thy
words, that the face of the sun is as the face
of an Angel.â€
â€œAy! And is it not so?â€
â€œNay, father. When I have seen the sun
at sunrise and at sunset I have ever seen a
ring of splendid Angels, and in the midst of
the ring the snow-white Lamb with his red
cross, and the Angels were moving con-
stantly around the Lamb, joyfully glittering ;
and that was the sun. But as it rose into
the heavens the Angels dazzled mine eyes so
that I could see them no more, nor yet the
Lamb, for very brightness. Is the sun then
otherwise than what I see?â€
Then was it Serapionâ€™s turn to muse, and
he answered: â€œTo thy young eyes which be
clear and strongâ€”yet try them not over-
The Seven Years of Seeking 111
much â€”it is doubtless as thou sayest; but
we who are older have lost the piercing
sight, and to us the sun is but a great and
wonderful splendour which dazzles us be-
fore we can descry either the Angels or the
Meanwhile the Sea-farers ate and drank
and spread their raiment to dry, and some
were oppressed by the memory of the hard-
ships they had endured ; but Serapion, going
among them, cheered them with talk of the
Earthly Paradise, and of the joy it would be,
when they had won thither, to think of the
evil chances through which they had passed.
In a low tone he also spoke to them of
their small companion and his vision of the
â€œTruly,â€ he said, â€œit is as our Father
Abbot told us â€”he has not lost his baptis-
mal innocence, nor hath he lost all knowledge
of the heaven from which he came.â€
As he was speaking thus, one of the
brethren rose up with a cry, and, shading his
eyes with his hand, pointed into the west.
Far away in the shimmer of the sea and the
clouds they perceived an outline of land, and
they changed their course a little to come to
112 The Seven Years of Seeking
it. The wind carried them bravely on, and
they began to distinguish blue rounded hills
and ridges, and a little later green woodland,
and still later, on the edge of twilight, the
white gleam of waters, and glimpses of open
lawns tinged with the colour of grasses in
With beating hearts they leaned on the low
bulwark of the ship, drinking in the beauty
of the island.
Then out of a leafy creek shot a boat of
white and gold; and though it was far off,
the air was so crystalline that they saw it
was garlanded with fresh leaves, and red and
yellow and blue blossoms; and in it there
were many lovely forms, clothed in white
and crowned with wreaths rose-coloured and
When the Sea-farers perceived that the
boat glided towards them without sail or oar,
they said among themselves, â€œ These are
assuredly the spirits of the Blessed ;â€ and
when suddenly the boat paused in its course,
and the islanders began a sweet song, and
the brethren caught the words and knew
them for Latin, they were fain to believe
that they had, by special grace and after
The Seven Years of Seeking 113
brief tribulations, got within sight of the
shore they sought.
The song was one of a longing for peace
and deep sleep and dreamful joy and love in
the valleys of the isle; and it bade the Sea-
farers come to them, and take repose after
cold and hunger and toil on the sea. Tears
of gladness ran down the cheeks of several
of the Seekers as_they listened, and one of
them cried aloud: â€œO brothers, we have
come far, but it is worth the danger and
the suffering to hear this welcome of the
Now the small chorister, who was standing
by Serapion at the helm, touched the fatherâ€™s
sleeve, and asked in a low voice: â€œ Have I
leave to sing in answer?â€
â€œSing, little son,â€ Serapion replied.
Then, ringing the blessed bell of the Sea-
farers, the child intoned the evening hymn:
Te lucis ante terminum â€”
Before the waning of the light.
The instant his fresh young voice was
heard singing that holy hymn, the flower-
garlands about the boat broke into ghastly
flames, and wreathed it with a dreadful burn-
114. The Seven Years of Seeking
ing; and the radiant figures were changed
into dark shapes crowned with fire; and the
song of longing and love became a wailing
and gnashing of teeth. The island vanished
away in rolling smoke; and the boat burned
down like a darkening ember; and the Sea-
farers in their ship were once more alone in
the wilderness of waters.
Long they prayed that night, praising God
that they had escaped the snares and enchant-
ments of the fiends. And Serapion, drawing
the lad to him, kissed him, saying: â€˜ God
be with thee, little brother, in thy uprising
and thy down-lying! God be with thee,
After this they were again driven into the
south for many a day, and saw no earthly
shore, but everywhere unending waters. A
great wonderment to them was this immen-
sity of the sea of ocean, wherein the land
seemed a little thing lost for ever. And ever
as they drove onward, the pilot star of the
north was steadfast no longer, but sank lower
and still lower in the heavens, and many of
the everlasting lights, which at home they
had seen swing round it through the livelong
The Seven Years of Seeking 115
night, were now sunken, as it were, in the
â€œTruly,â€ said Serapion, â€œit is even as
his Discretion the Bishop told us; whether
east we sail or west, or cross-wise north and
south, the earth is of the figure of a ball.
In a little while it may be that we shall see
the pilot star no more ;â€ and he was sorely
troubled in his mind as to how they should
steer thereafter with no beacon in heaven to
guide them, and how they would make their
way back to the Abbey of the Holy Face.
In their wandering they set eyes on a
thing well-nigh incredible â€” nothing less
than fishes rising from the depths of the
sea, and flying like birds over the ship, and
diving into the sea again, and yet again
rising into the air and disporting themselves
in the sun. At night, too, they beheld
about the ship trails of fire in the sea, cross-
ing and re-crossing each other, and the fire
marked the ways of huge blue fishes, swift
and terrible; and the Sea-farers prayed that
these malignant searchers of the deep might
not rise into the air and fall ravening upon
them while they slept. In the darkness
strange patches and tangles of light, blue
116 The Seven Years of Seeking
and golden and emerald, floated past them,
and these they discovered were living creat-
ures to which they could give no names.
Often also the sea was alive with fire, which
flashed and ran along the ridges of the waves
when they curled and broke, and many a
night the sides of the ship were washed with
flame, but this fire was wet and cold, and
nowise hurt a hand of those who touched it.
At last on a clear morning the little chor-
ister came hastily to Serapion and said:
â€œ Look, father, is not yon a glimmer of the
heavenly land we seek?â€
â€œ Nay, little son, it is but grey cloud
that has not yet caught the sun,â€ replied
â€œ That, indeed, is cloud ; but look higher,
father. See how white and sharp it shines!â€
Then Serapion lifted up his eyes above
the cloud, and in mid heaven there floated
as it were a great rock of pointed crystal,
white and unearthly. Serapionâ€™s eyes bright-
ened with eagerness, and the Sea-farers gazed
long at the peak, which rather seemed a
star, or a headland on some celestial shore, so
bright and dreamlike was it and so magically
poised in the high air.
The Seven Years of Seeking 117
All day they sailed towards it, and some-
times it vanished from their view, but it re-
turned constantly. On the third day they
came tothat land. Bright and beautiful it was
to their sea-wearied eyes; and of a surety no
land is there that goes so nearly to heaven.
For it rose in green and flowery heights till
it was lost in a ring of dusky sea-cloud; and
through this vast ring of cloud it pierced its
way, and the Sea-farers saw it emerge and
stand clear above the cloud, bluish with
the distance. And higher till it rose, and
entered a second great cloud-ring, but this
ring was white; and once more it emerged
from the cloud-ring, and high over all
towered the pyramid of shining stone.
â€œWell might it be that Angels often
alight on this soaring mountain,â€ said Sera-
pion, â€œand leave it glittering with their foot-
prints. If life and strength be given us,
thither we also shall climb, and praise God
in the lofty places of the earth which He has
They steered the ship into a sunny bay,
and Serapion having blessed the sea and the
shore, they landed right joyfully. Drawing
the ship high on the beach, they chose a
118 The Seven Years of Seeking
little grove of palm-trees beside a shallow
stream for their church and cloister; but
they had not been long in that spot before
they saw the islanders gliding through the
wood and peering out at them in great
amaze. Serapion went forth to them, smil-
ing and beckoning them to approach, but
they fled and would not abide his coming.
So Serapion returned, and the Sea-farers
made themselves such a home as they
might, and rested a little from their toiling.
When the day had come to evening, and
the brethren were chanting vespers, the
islanders returned, many hundreds of them,
men and women, dusky of skin but comely
and bright-eyed, and for all their raiment
they wore garlands of blossoms and girdles
of woven leaves. Close they came to the
Sea-farers, and gazed at them, and the bold-
est touched them, as though to assure them-
selves that these were living mortals like
unto themselves. But when they saw the
little chorister, with his fair white face
and childish blue eyes and sunny hair, they
turned to each other with exclamations and
uncouth gestures of pleasure and wonder-
ment. Then they hurried away and brought
The Seven Years of Seeking 119
strange and delightful fruit â€” berries, and
fruit in a skin yellow and curved like a sickle
moon, and big nuts full of water sweet and
cool, and these they laid before the lad.
Wreaths of flowers, too, they wove for him,
and put them on his head and about his
neck, as though they were rejoiced to see
him and could not make too much of him.
The brethren were light of heart that they
had come to an isle so gracious and a folk
so simple and loving.
Sleep, sweet as dews of Paradise, fell upon
their weariness that night, and they rose
refreshed and glad for matins, which they
chanted by the light of large and radiant
stars flashing down through the palms.
What happened that day, however, the Sea-
farers did not wholly understand till long
afterwards, when they had learned the speech
of the people; but out of their later knowl-
edge I shall here make it plain.
Now in the olden time the mighty moun-
tain of this island had been a burning moun-
tain, and even now, in a huge craggy cup
beneath the glittering peak, thereâ€™ was a vast
well of fire and molten rock; and the peak
and well were the lair of an evil spirit so
120 The Seven Years of Seeking
strong and terrible that each year the island
folk gave him a child to appease him, lest in
his malignant mood he should let the well
overflow and consume them with its waters
Wherefore, as this was the season of the
sacrifice, the islanders seeing the little choris-
ter, how fair and beautiful he was, deemed
he would be a more acceptable offering to
the spirit of evil than one of their children,
whom they were heart-sick of slaying. On
this day, therefore, they came at dawn, and
with many gestures and much strange speech
led away the lad, and with gentle force kept
the brethren apart from him, though they
suffered them to follow.
In a little while the child was clothed with
flowers and leaves, like one of themselves,
and in the midst of a great crowd singing a
barbarous strain, he was borne on a litter of
boughs up the ascent of the mountain.
Many times they paused and rested in the
heat, and the day was far spent when they
reached the foot of the lofty peak. There
they passed the night, but though the breth-
ren strove to force their way to the lad, they
were restrained by the strength of the multi-
The Seven Years of Seeking 121
tude, and they knew that violence was use-
less. Again in the twilight before dawn the
islanders resumed the journey and came to
the edge of the craggy cup, in the depths of
which bubbled the well of fire.
Silently they stood on the brink, looking
towards the east; but the Sea-farers, who
now deemed only too well that their little
brother was about to be sacrificed to Moloch,
cast themselves on their knees, and with
tears running down their faces, raised their
hands in supplication to heaven. But with
a loud voice Serapion cried: â€œFear not,
dear son; for the Lord can save thee from
the mouth of the lion, and hear thee from
the horns of the unicorn.â€ The little chor-
ister answered: â€œ Pray for my soul, Father
Serapion ; for my body I have no fear, even
though they cast me into the pit.â€
In the streaming east the rays of light
were springing ever more brilliantly over
the clear sea; two strong men held the lad
and lifted him from the ground; an aged
islander â€”a priest, it seemed, of that evil
spirit â€” white-haired and crowned with
flowers, watched the sky with dull eyes; and
as the sun came up with a rush of splendour,
122 The Seven Years of Seeking
he called aloud: â€˜â€œâ€˜ God of the mountain-fine,
take this life we give thee, and be good and
friendly to us.â€ i
Then was little Ambrose the chorister
swung twice to and fro, and hurled far out
into the rocky cup of the well of fire. And
a wild cry arose from the crowd: â€œ Take
this life, take this life!â€ â€” but even as that
cry was being uttered the lad was stayed in his
fall, and he stood on the air over the fiery
well, as though the air had been turned to
solid crystal, and he ran on the air across
the abyss to the brethren, and Serapion
caught him in his arms and folded him to
Then fell a deep stillness and dread upon
the people, and what to do they knew â€˜not ;
but the aged priest and the strong men who
had flung the boy into the gulf came to the
brethren, and casting themselves on their
faces before the chorister, placed his foot on
their heads. Wherefore Serapion surmised
that they now took him for a youthful god
or spirit more powerful than the evil spirit
of the fire. Touching them, he signed to
them to arise, and when they stood erect he
pointed to the abyss, and gathering a hand-
The Seven Years of Seeking 123
ful of dust he threw it despitefully into the
well of the fire, and afterwards spat into the
depths. This show of scorn and contumely
greatly overawed the people, and (as was
made known afterwards) they looked on the
Sea-farers as strong gods, merciful and much
to be loved.
Thrice did the Sea-farers hold Easter in
that island, for there they resolved to stay till
they had learned the island speech, and freed
the people from the bondage of demons, and
taught them the worship of the one God who
is in the heavens.
Now though the wind blew with an icy
mouth on that high peak, in the rocks of
the crater it was sheltered, and warm because
of the inner fires of the mountain. So it was
ordered that in turn one brother should abide
on the peak, and one in a cave midway down
the mountain, and one on the slopes where
the palms and orange-trees are rooted among
the white-flowered sweet-scented broom.
And each of these had a great trumpet of
bark, and when the first ray of light streamed
out of the east in the new day, the brother of
the peak cried through his trumpet with a
mighty voice :
124 The Seven Years of Seeking
Laudetur â€˜fesus Christus,
May Christ â€˜esus be praised;
and the brother of the cave, having responded,
In secula seculorum,
World without end,
cried mightily to the brother of the palms,
â€œâ€˜ May Christ Jesus be praised !â€â€ â€” and thus
from the heights in the heavens to the shore
of the sea. So, too, when the last light of
the setting sun burned out on the western
Thus was the reign of the spirit of evil
abolished, and the mountain consecrated to
the praise of Him who made the hills and
the isles of the sea.
In the strong light of the morning sun the
shadow of that mountain is cast over the
great sea of ocean further than a swift ship
may sail with a fair wind in two days and
two nights; and a man placed on the peak
shall see that shadow suddenly rise up from
the sea and stand over against the mountain,
dark and menaceful, like the lost soul of a
mountain bearing testimony against its body
before the judgment-seat of God; and this
is a very awful sight.
The Seven Years of Seeking 125
Now, having preached the Gospel, the
Sea-farers strengthened their ship and
launched into the deep after the third Easter-
tide, and having comforted the people,
because they were grieved and mournful at
their departure, they left them in the keeping
of the risen Lord, and continued their
After this Brother Benedict, the oldest
monk of their company, fell ill with grievous
sickness, and sorely the Sea-farers longed for
some shore where he might feel the good
earth solid and at rest beneath him, and see
the green of growing things, and have the
comfort of stillness and silence.
With astonishing patience he bore his
malady, at no time repining, and speaking
never a word of complaint. When he was
asked if he repented him of the adventure, he
smiled gently. â€˜Fain, indeed,â€ he said,
â€œwould I be laid to rest beneath the grass
of our own garth, where the dear brethren,
passing and repassing in the cloister, might
look where I lay and say an â€˜ Our Fatherâ€™ for
my soul. Yet in no way do I repent of our
sailing, for we have seen the marvellous works
126 The Seven Years of Seeking
of God; and if the Lord vouchsafe to be
merciful to me, it may be that I shall see
the Heavenly Paradise before you find the
Earthly.â€ â€˜God grant it, dear brother,â€
On an afternoon they came to a small
island walled about with high cliffs, red and
brown, and at the foot of the cliff a narrow
beach of ruddy sand; but on the rocks grew
no green thing, lichen or moss or grass or
shrub, and no sweet water came bickering
down into the sea.
On landing they discovered a gully in the
cliffs which led inland, and straightway ex-
plorers were sent to spy what manner of
land it was whereon they had fallen. Within
the very mouth of the narrow pass they
came upon a small ship hollowed out of
a tree gigantic, but it was rotten and dry as
touchwood, and wasting into dust. Within
the ship lay the bones of a man, stretched
out as though he had died in sleep. Out-
side the ship lay the bones of two others.
' The faces of these were turned downward
to the stones whereon they lay, but the man
in the ship had perished with his eyes fixed
on the heavens. The oars and sails and
The Seven Years of Seeking 127
ropes were all dry and crumbling, and the
raiment of the men had mouldered away.
In the length of that narrow pass between
the lofty cliff-walls the Sea-farers found no
vestige of grass or weed, either on the cliff-
sides or on the stones and shingle. Neither
was there any water, save where in the hol-
lows of some of the boulders rain had lodged
and had not yet been drunk up by the sun.
No living creature, great or small, lived in
Within the round of the sea-walls the
island lay flat and low, and it was one bleak
waste of boulder and shingle, lifeless and
waterless save for the rain in the pitted sur-
faces of the stones ; but in the midst of the
waste there stood, dead and leafless, a vast
gaunt tree, which at one time must have
been a goodly show. When the Sea-farers
reached it, they found lying on the dead
turf about its roots the white bones of yet
four other men.
Much they questioned and conjectured
whence these ill-starred wanderers had come
to lay their bones on so uncharitable a soil,
and whether they had perished in seek-
ing, like themselves, for the Earthly Para-
128 The Seven Years of Seeking
dise. â€˜ What,â€ sighed one, â€œif this were
the Earthly Paradise, and yon the Tree of
Life!â€ But the others murmured and
would not have it so.
Yet to the sick man even this Isle of the
Stones of Emptiness was a place of rest and
respite from the seaâ€” â€œIt is still mother-
earth,â€ he said, â€œthough the mother be
grown very old and there be no flesh left
on her bonesâ€ â€” and at first it seemed as
though he was recovering in the motionless
stillness and in the great shadow of the cliffs.
Something of this Serapion said to the little
chorister, but the lad answered: â€˜â€œ Nay,
father, do you not see how the man that
used to look out of his eyes has become a
very little child â€” and of such is the king-
dom ot heaven?â€
â€œ Explain, little brother,â€ said Serapion.
â€œWhy,â€ said the lad, â€œis it not thus with
men when they grow so oid or sick that they
be like to dieâ€” does one not see that the
real selves within them look out of window
with faces grown younger and smaller and
more joyous, till it may be that what was
once a strong man, wise and great, is but a
babbling babe which can scarce walk at all?â€
The Seven Years of Seeking 129
â€œWho told thee these things?â€™ asked
â€œNo one has told me,â€ replied the lad,
â€œbut seeing the little children thus gazing
out, and knowing that all who would enter
into, heaven must become as they are, I
thought it must needs be in this manner that
people change and pass away to God when
the ending of life is come.â€
On this isle the Sea-farers kept a Christ-
mas, and they made such cheer as they might
at that blessed time, speaking of the stony
fields wherein the Shepherds lay about their
flocks, but no fields were ever so stony as
these which were littered with stones fathom-
deep, with never a grain of earth or blade of
grass between. And in this isle it was that
Brother Benedict died, very peaceful, and
without pain at the close. On the feast
of the Three Kings that poor monk was
privileged even more than those Kings
had been, for not only was the Babe
of Heaven made manifest to him, but his
soul, a little child, went forth from him
to be with that benign Babe for evermore.
Under the dead tree the Sea-farers buried
him, and on the trunk of the tree they
130 The Seven Years of Seeking
fastened a crucifix on the side on which
The bones, too, of the dead men they
gathered together and covered with stones
in a hollow which they made.
So they left the island, marvelling whence
all those stones had come, and how they had
been rained many and deep on that one
place. Said one, â€œ It may be that these are
the stones wherewith our Lord and the
prophets and the blessed martyrs were
stoned, laid up as in a treasury to bear wit-
ness on the day of doom.â€ â€œIt may be,â€
said another, â€œâ€˜ that these are the stones which
Satan, tempting the Lord, bade Him turn
into bread, and therefore are they kept for
an evidence against the tempter.â€ â€œ Perad-
venture these be the stony places,â€ said
another, â€œâ€œwhereon the good seed fell and
perished in its first upspringing, and so they
be kept for the admonishment of rash Sea-
farers and such as have no long-continuance in
well-doing.â€ But no man among them was
satisfied as to the mystery of that strange isle.
On many other shores they set foot.
Most were fruitful and friendly; and they
The Seven Years of Seeking 131
rested from their seeking, and repaired the
ship, and took in such stores as they might
gather during their sojourn. Though often
it befell that while they were still afar the wind
wafted them the fragrance of rare spices so
that their eyes brightened and their faces
reddened with joyful anticipation, yet ever
when they landed they found that not yet,
not yet had they reached the island garden
of their quest. Men, too, of the same fash-
ion as themselves they met with on shores
far apart, but strange were these of aspect and
speech and manner of life. With them they
tarried as long as they might, gaining some
knowledge of their tongue, and revealing to
them the true God and the Lord crucified.
In the latter time of their sea-faring they
were blown far over the northern side of the
great sea, in such wise that the pilot star
burned well-nigh overhead in the heavens.
Here they descried tall islands of glittering
rock, white and blue, crowned with minsters
and castles and abbeys of glass, but they
heard no sound of bells or of menâ€™s voices
or of the stir of life.
Once as they were swept along in near
132 The Seven Years of Seeking
peril of wreck, through flying sea-smoke and
plagues of hail, they heard a strange un-
earthly music rising and falling in the blast.
Some said it was Angels sent to strengthen
them; others said it was wild birds which
they had seen flying past in flocks; but
Serapion said, â€œIf it be Angels, blessed be
God ; if it be birds, yet even they are Godâ€™s
Angels lessoning us how we shall praise
Him, and sing Him a new song from the
ends ofthe earth.â€™ Then he raised his voice,
singing the psalm
Laudate Dominum de celis,
Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise Him
in the heights,
and the Sea-farers sang it with earnest voices
and with hearts lifted up, and they were
It was in these latitudes stormy and cold
that, to their thinking, the Sea-farers won
nearest to the Earthly Paradise. For, far
in the sides of the north as, in the red sun-
light, they coasted a lofty land white with
snow-fields and blue with glacier ice, they en-
tered a winding fjord, and found themselves
The Seven Years of Seeking 133
in glassy water slumbering between green
slopes of summer.
Down to the waterâ€™s edge the shores were
wooded with copses of dwarf birch and wil-
low, and the slopes were radiant with wild
flowers â€” harebell and yellow crowfoot, pur-
ple heath and pink azalea and starry saxi-
frage. A rosy light tinged the snow on the
wintry heights ; and over the edge ofa cliff,
far up the fjord, a glacier hung, and from be-
neath the ice a jet of water burst forth and
fell foaming down the precipice to the shore.
When they landed they found the ground
covered thick with berries dark and luscious,
and while they gathered these, a black and
white snow-bunting flitted about them on its
A miraculous thing was this garden of sum-
mer in the icy bosom of winter, but a greater
_ marvel still was the undying sunshine on sea
â€œIn very truth,â€ said Serapion, â€œof all
places we have yet seen is not this most like .
to have been the blessed land, for is not
even â€˜the night light about us,â€™ and is it not
with us as it is written of the Heavenly
Jerusalem, â€˜there shall be no night thereâ€™ ?â€â€™
134 The Seven Years of Seeking
The Sea-farers took away with them many
of the leaves and flowers of this country, and
afterwards the scribes in the Scriptorium
copied them in beautiful colours in the
Golden Missal of the Abbey.
This was the last of the unknown shores
visited by the Sea-farers. Seven years had
they pursued their seeking, and there now
grew on them so strong a craving for home
that they could gainsay it nolonger. Where-
fore it fell out that in the autumn-tide, when
the stubble is brown in the fields and the
apple red on the bough; on the last day of .
the week, when toil comes to end; in the
last light of the day, when the smoke curls
up from the roof, they won their long sea-
O beloved Abbey of the Holy Face,
through tears they beheld thy walls, with
rapture they kissed thy threshold!
â€œIn all the great sea of ocean,â€ said
Serapion, when he had told the story of
their wandering, â€œno such Earthly Paradise
have we seen as this dear Abbey of our
â€œ THEY WON THEIR LONG SEA-WAY HOME.
The Seven Years of Seeking 135
â€œ Dear brethren,â€ said the Abbot, â€œthe
seven years of your seeking have not been
wasted if you have truly learned so much.
Far from home have I never gone, but many
things have come to me. To be ever, and
to be tranquilly, and to be joyously, and to
be strenuously, and to be thankfully and
humbly at one with the blessed will of God
â€”that is the Heavenly Paradise; and each
of us, by Godâ€™s grace, may have that within
him. And whoso hath within him the
Heavenly Paradise, hath here and now,
and at all times and in every place, the
true Earthly Paradise round about him.â€
Here ends the chapter of the Seven Years
[But do Thou, O Lord, have mercy
upon us,â€ chanted the Lector, as he closed
the book. And the Prior struck the board,
and the brethren arose and returned God
thanks for the creatures of food and drink,
and for that Earthly Paradise, ever at their
door, of tranquil and joyous and strenuous
and thankful and humble acceptance of Godâ€™s
â€˜The Guardians of the Door
â€œ| Bearer was once an orphan girl, far
away in a little village on the edge
of the moors. She lived in a hovel thatched
with reeds, and this was the poorest and the
last of all the houses, and stood quite by
itself among broom and whins by the
From the doorway the girl could look
across the wild stretches of the moorland;
and that was pleasant enough on a summer
day, for then the air is clear and golden, and
the moor is purple with the bloom of the
ling, and there are red and yellow patches
of bracken, and here and there a rowan-tree
grows among the big grey boulders with
clusters of reddening berries. But at night,
and especially on a winter night, the dark-
ness was so wide and so lonely that it was
hard not to feel afraid sometimes. The
wind, when it blew in the dark, was full of
The Guardians of the Door 137
strange and mournful voices; and when
there was no wind, Mary could hear the
cries and calls of the wild creatures on the
Mary was fourteen when she lost her
father. He was a rough idle good-for-
nothing, and one stormy night on his way
home from the tavern he went astray and
was found dead in the snow. Her mother
had died when she was so small a child that
Mary could scarcely remember her face. So
it happened that she was left alone in the
world, and all she possessed was a dog, some
fowls, and her motherâ€™s spinning wheel.
But she was a bright, cheerful, courageous
child, and soon she got from the people of
the village sufficient work to keep her wheel
always busy, for no one could look into her
face without liking her. People often won-
dered how so rude and worthless a fellow
could have had such a child; she was as
sweet and unexpected as the white flowers
on the bare and rugged branches of the
Her hens laid well, and she sold all the
eggs she could spare; and her dog, which
had been trained in all sorts of cunning by
138 The Guardians of the Door
her father, often brought her from the
moors some wild thing in fur or feathers
which Mary thought there was no harm in
Her father had been too idle and careless
to teach fer anything, and all that she could
recollect of her motherâ€™s instruction was a
little rhyme which she used to repeat on her
knees beside the bed every night before she
went to sleep.
And this was the rhyme:
God bless this house from thatch to floor,
The twelve Apostles guard the door,
And four good Angels watch my bed,
Two at the foot and two the head.
Though she was all alone in the world,
and had no girl of her own age to make
friends with, she was happy and contented,
for she was busy from morning till night.
And yet in spite of all this, strange stories
began to be whispered about the village.
People who happened to pass by the old
hut late at night declared that they had seen
light shining through the chinks in the
window-shutter when all honest people should
have been asleep. There were others who
The Guardians of the Door 139
said they had noticed strange men standing
in the shadows of the eaves; they might
have been highwaymen, they might have
been smugglers â€”they could not tell, for
no one had cared to run the risk of going
too near â€” but it was quite certain that there
were strange things going on at the hut, and
that the girl who seemed so simple and inno-
cent was not quite so good as the neighbours
When the village gossip had reached the
ears of the white-headed old Vicar, he sent,
for the girl and questioned her closely.
Mary was grieved to learn that such untrue
and unkind stories were told about her.
She knew nothing, she said, of any lights or
of any men. As soon as it was too dusky
to see to work she always fastened her door,
and after she had had her supper, she cov-
ered the fire and blew out the rushlight and
went to bed.
â€œ And you say your prayers, my daughter,
I hope,â€ said the Vicar kindly.
Mary hung down her head and answered
in a low voice, â€œI do not know any proper
prayers, but I always say the words my
mother taught me.â€
140 The Guardians of the Door
And Mary repeated the rhyme:
God bless this house from thatch to floor,
The twelve Apostles guard the door,
And four good Angels watch my bed,
Two at the foot and two the head.
â€œThere could not be a better prayer, dear
child!â€ rejoined the Vicar, with a smile.
â€œGo home now, and do not be troubled by
what idle tongues may say. Every night
repeat your little prayer, and God will take
care of you.â€
Late that night, however, the Vicar lit his
lantern and went out of doors, without a
word to any one. All the village was still
and dark as he walked slowly up the road
towards the moor.
â€œShe is a good girl,â€ he said to himself,
â€œbut people may have observed something
which has given rise to these stories. I will
go and see with my own eyes.â€
The stars were shining far away in the
dark sky, and the green plovers were crying
mournfully on the dark moor. As he passed
along the lantern swung out a dim light
across the road, which had neither walls nor
â€œ*Â¢ AND FOUR GOOD ANGELS WATCH MY
The Guardians of the Door 141
â€œTt is a lonely place for a child to live in
by herself,â€ he thought.
At last he perceived the outline of the old
hovel, among the gorse and broom, and the
next moment he stopped suddenly, for there,
as he had been told, a thread of bright light
came streaming through the shutters of the
small window. He drew his lantern under
his cloak, and approached cautiously. The
road where he stood was now dim, but by
the faint glimmer of the stars he was able to
make out that there were several persons
standing under the eaves, and apparently
The Vicarâ€™s good old heart was filled with
surprise and sorrow. Then it suddenly grew
hot with anger, and throwing aside his cloak
and lifting up the lantern he advanced boldly
to confront the intruders. But they were
not at all alarmed, and they did not make
any attempt to escape him. Then, as the
light fell upon their forms and faces, who but
the Vicar was struck with awe and amaze-
ment, and stood gazing as still as a stone!
The people under the eaves were men of
another age and another world, strangely
clothed in long garments, and majestic in
142 The Guardians of the Door
appearance. One carried a lance, and an-
other a pilgrimâ€™s staff, and a third a battle-
axe; but the most imposing stood near the
docr of the hut, and in his hand he held two
In an instant the Vicar had guessed who
they were, and had uncovered his head and
fallen on his knees; but the strangers melted
slowly away into the darkness, as if they had
been no more than the images of a dream.
And indeed the Vicar might have thought
that he really had been dreaming but for the
light which continued to stream through the
chink in the shutter.
He arose from his knees and moved
towards the window to peep into the hut.
Instantly an invisible hand stretched a naked
sword across his path, and a low deep voice
spoke to him in solemn warning :
â€œTt is the light of Angels. Do not look,
or blindness will fall upon you, even as it
fell upon me on the Damascus road.â€
But the aged Vicar laid his hand on the
sword, and tried to move it away.
â€œLet me look, let me look!â€ he said;
â€œbetter one glimpse of the Angels than a
thousand years of earthly sight.â€
The Guardians of the Door 143
Then the sword yielded to his touch and
vanished into air, and the old priest leaned
forward on the window-sill and gazed
through the chink. And with a cry of joy
he saw a corner of the rude bed, and beside
the corner, one above the other, three great
dazzling wings; they were the left-hand side
wings of one of the Angels at the foot of the
Then all was deep darkness.
The Vicar thought that it was the blind-
ness that had fallen upon him, but the only
regret he felt was that the vision had vanished
so quickly. Then, as he turned away, he
found that not only had he not lost his
sight, but that he could now see with a
marvellous clearness. He saw the road, and
even the foot-prints and grains of sand on
the road; the hut, and the reeds on the hut;
the moor, and the boulders and the rowan-
trees on the moor. Everything was as dis-
tinct as if it had-been â€” not daylight, but as
if the air were of the clear colour of a nut-
brown brook in summer.
Praising God for all His goodness he
returned home, and as he went he looked
back once and again and yet again, and each
144 The Guardians of the Door
time he saw the twelve awful figures in
strange clothing, guarding the lonely thatched
hovel on the edge of the moor.
After this there were no more stories told of
Mary, and no one even dared speak to her
of the wonderful manner in which her prayer
was answered, so that she never knew what
the old Vicar had seen. But late at night
people would rather go a great way round
than take the road which passed by her poor
On the Shores of Longing
T was in the old forgotten days when all
the western coast of Spain was sprinkled
with lonely hermitages among the rocks, and
with holy houses and towers of prayer; and
this west coast was thought to be the last
and outer-most edge of all land, for beyond
there lay nothing. but the vast ocean stream
and the sunset. There, in the west of the
world, on the brink of the sea and the lights
of the day that is done, lived the men of
God, looking for ever towards the east for
the coming of the Lord. Even the dead
were laid in the place of their resurrection
with their feet pointing to the morning, so
that when they should arise their faces would
be turned towards His coming. â€˜Thus it
came to pass that the keen white wind out
of the east was named the wind of the dead
146 On the Shores of Longing
Now in one of these holy houses lived the
monk Bresal of the Songs, who had followed
Sedulius the Bishop into Spain.
Bresal had been sent thither to teach the
brethren the music of the choirs of the Isle
of the Gael and to train the novices in chant
and psalmody, for of all singers the sweetest
was he, and he could play on every instru-
ment of wind or string, and was skilled in all
the modes of minstrelsy. hereto he knew
by heart numberless hymns and songs and
poems, and God had given him the gift to
make songs and hymns, and beautiful airs for
the singing of them. And for these things, so
sweet and gentle was the nature of the man,
he was greatly beloved whithersoever he
A happy and holy life had he lived, but
now he was growing old; and as he looked
from the convent on the cliffs far over the
western waters, he thought daily more and
more of Erinn, and a great longing grew
upon him to see once more that green isle
in which he had been born. And when he
saw, far below, the ships of the sea-farers
dragging slowly away into the north in the
breezy sun-shine or in the blue twilight, his
On the Shores of Longing 147
eyes became dim with the thought that per-
chance these wind-reddened mariners might
be steering for the shores of his longing.
The Prior of the convent noticed his sad-
ness and questioned him of the cause, and
when Bresal told him, â€œWhy should you
go?â€ he asked. â€œDo you not love us any
â€œDearly do I love you, father,â€ replied
Bresal, â€œand dearly this house, and every
rock and tree and flower; but no son of the
Isle of the Gael forgets the little mother-lap
of earth whereon he was nursed, or the smell
of the burning peat, or the song of the robin,
or the drone of the big mottled wild bee, or
the cry of the wild geese when the winter is
nigh. Even Columba the holy pined for the
lack of these things. This is what he says
in one of the songs which he has left us:
Thereâ€™s an eye of grey
Looks back to Erinn far away ;
Big tears wet that eye of grey
Seeking Erinn far away.
Now the Prior loved Bresal as Jonathan
loved David; and though it grieved him to
part with him, he resolved that if it could be
148 On the Shores of Longing
compassed Bresal should go back to his own
country. â€œBut you must never forget us,
and when you are happy, far away from us,
you must think of us and give us your heart
â€œNever shall I forget you, father,â€ the
Singer replied. â€œIndeed, it will not be a
strange thing if I shall long for you then
even as I am longing for my home now;
for in truth, next to my home, most do I love
the brethren of this house, and the very
house itself, and the hills and the sea and
the dying lights of the evening. But I know
that it will not be permitted me ever to
return. The place of my birth will be the
place of my resurrection.â€
The Prior smiled, and laid his hand gently
on the monkâ€™s shoulder: â€œO Bresal, if it
be within my power you shall have your
So he sent messengers to Sedulius the
Bishop; and Sedulius, who also had the
Irish heart with its tears of longing, con-
sented; and not many days after the swal-
lows and martins had gone flashing by into
the north, Bresal of the Songs was free to
follow as speedily as he might.
On the Shores of Longing 149
Long was the way and weary the pilgrim-
age, but at last he reached the beloved green
Isle of the Gael, and fared into the south-
west â€” and this is the land in which it is told
that Patrick the Saint celebrated Mass on
every seventh ridge he passed over. He
came at sunset on the last day of the week
to the place of bells and cells among the
rocks of the coast of Kerry. In that blessed
spot there is ever a service of angels ascend-
ing and descending. And when he saw once
more the turf dyke and the wattled cells and
the rude stone church of the brotherhood
where he had been a son of reading in his
boyhood, and the land all quiet with the
labour of the week done, and the woods red
with the last light of the finished day, the
tears ran down his face, and he fell on the
earth and kissed it for joy at his return. It
was a glad thing for him to be there once
more; to recognise each spot he had loved,
to look on the old stones and trees, the hills
and sparkling sea, the rocky isle and the
curraghs of the fisher-folk ; to smell the reek
of the peat curling up blue in the sweet air ;
for all these things had haunted him in
dreams when he was in a distant land.
150 On the Shores of Longing
Now when the first hunger of longing had
been appeased, and the year wore round,
and the swallows gathered in the autumn,
and every bush and tree was crowded with
them while they waited restlessly for a moon-
light night and a fair wind to take their
flight over sea, Bresal began to think ten-
_derly of the home on the Spanish cliffs over-
hanging the brink of the sunset.
Then in the brown days of the autumn
rains; and again in the keen November
when the leaves were falling in sudden
showers â€” but the highest leaves clung the
longest â€” and puffs of whirling wind set the
fallen leaves flying, and these were full of
sharp sounds and pattering voices; and sixes
of sparrows went flying with the leaves so
that one could not well say which were leaves
and which were birds; and yet again through
the bitter time when the eaves were hung
with icicles and the peaks of the blue slieves
were white with snow, and the low hills and
fields were hoary â€” the memory of the Prior
and of the beloved house prevailed with him
and he felt the dull ache of separation.
As the days passed by his trouble grew the
ereater, for he began to fear that his love of
E KEEN NOVEMBER.â€
â€˜6 AND AGAIN IN TH
On the Shores of Longing 151
the creature was attaching him too closely to
the earth and to the things of this fleeting
life of our exile. In vain he fasted and
prayed and strove to subdue his affections ;
the human heart within him would not suffer
him to rest.
Now it happened on a day when the year
had turned, and a soft wind was tossing the
little new leaves and the shadows of the
leaves and the new grass and the shadows of
the grass, Bresal was sitting on a rock in the
sun on the hillside.
Suddenly there flashed by him, in a long
swift joyous swing of flight, two beautiful
birds with long wings and forked tails and a
sheen of red and green. It was the swallows
that had returned.
For a moment he felt an ascension of the
heart, and then he recollected that nearly a
year had elapsed since he had seen the face
of his friend the Prior for the last time in
this world. And he wondered to himself
how they all fared, whether any one had died,
what this one or that was now doing, whether
they still spoke at times of him, but chiefly
he thought of the Prior, and he prayed for
152 On the Shores of Longing
him with a great love. And thinking thus as
he sat on the rock, Bresal seemed to see once
more the dear house in Spain and the cliffs
overlooking the vast ocean stream, and it
appeared to him as though he were once
again in a favourite nook among the rocks
beside the priory.
In that nook a thread of water trickled
down into a hollow stone and made a little
pool, and around the pool grew an ice-plant
with thick round green leaves set close and
notched on the edge, and a thin russet stalk,
and little stars of white flowers sprinkled with
red. And hard by the pool stood a small
rounded evergreen tree from which he had
often gathered the orange-scarlet berries.
At the sight of these simple and familiar
things the tears ran down Bresalâ€™s cheeks,
half for joy and half for sorrow.
Now at this selfsame moment the Prior
was taking the air and saying his office near
that very spot, and when he had closed his
breviary, he remembered his friend in Erinn
far away, and murmured, â€œ How is it, Lord,
with Bresal my brother? Have him, I pray
Thee, ever in Thy holy keeping.â€
On the Shores of Longing 153
As he spoke the gift of heavenly vision
descended on the Prior, and he saw where
Bresal sat on a rock in the sun gazing
at the evergreen tree and the ice-plant
about the little pool, and he perceived that
Bresal fancied he was looking at these
A great tenderness for Bresal filled the
Priorâ€™s heart, and he prayed: â€œ Lord, if it
be Thy holy will, let Bresal my brother have
near him these things of which he is dream-
ing, as a remembrance of what his soul lov-
eth.â€ Then, turning to the tree and the
plant and the pool, he blessed them and
said: â€œO little tree and starry plant and
cool well and transparent fern, and what-
soever else Bresal now sees, arise in the
name of the Lord of the four winds and of
earth and water and fire, arise and go and
make real the dream that he is dreaming.â€
As he spoke the trickling water and the
tree and the saxifrage, and with them parcels
of soil and rock, and with the pool the blue
light of the sky reflected in it, rose like a
cloud and vanished, and the Prior beheld
them no more.
154 On the Shores of Longing
At last Bresal brushed away his tears,
blaming his weakness and his enslavement
to earthly affections, but the things he had
seen in his happy day-dream did not vanish.
To his great amazement, there at his feet
were the little pool and the ice-plant, and
hard by grew the evergreen tree. He rose
with a cry of joy, â€œO Father Prior, â€™tis thy
prayer hath done this!â€
And care was lifted from him, for now he
knew that in his human love he had in no-
wise sinned against the love of God, but con-
trariwise the love of his friend had drawn
him closer to the love of his Maker. Dur-
ing all the days of the years of his exile this
little parcel of Spain was a solace and a
strength to him.
Many a hundred years have gone by
since this happened, but still if you travel
in that land you may see the ice-plant and
the evergreen tree. And the name of
the evergreen is the Strawberry tree. The
ice-plant, which is also called a saxifrage,
may now be seen in many a garden to
which it has been brought from the Kerry
mountains, and it is known as London
On the Shores of Longing 155
Pride. Botanists who do not know the
story of Bresal of the Songs have been
puzzled to explain how a Spanish tree and
a Spanish flower happen to grow in one
little nook of Erinn.
The Children of Spinalunga
HE piazza or square in front of the
Cathedral was the only open space
in which the children of Spinalunga had
room to play. Spinalunga means a Long
Spine or Ridge of rock, and the castello or
little walled town which bore that name was
built on the highest peak of the ridge, in-
side strong brown stone walls with square
towers. So rough and steep was this por-
tion of the ridge that the crowded houses,
with their red roofs and white gables, were
piled up one behind another, and many of
the streets were narrow staircases, climbing
up between the houses to the blue sky.
On the top the hill was flat, and there the
Cathedral stood, and from her niche above
the great west entrance the beautiful statue
of the Madonna with the Babe in her arms
looked across the square, and over the
huddled red roofs, and far away out to the
The Children of Spinalunga 157
hills and valleys with their evergreen oaks
and plantations of grey olives, and bright
cornfields and vineyards.
On three sides the town was sheltered by
hills, but a very deep ravine separated them
from the ridge, so that on those three sides
it was impossible for an enemy to attack the
town. On the nearest hills great pine woods
grew far up the slopes, and sheltered it from
the east winds which blew over the snowy
Now on the southern side of the square
stood the houses of the Syndic and other
wealthy citizens, with open colonnades of
carved yellow stone ; and all about the piazza
at intervals there were orange-trees and
pomegranates, growing in huge jars of red
This had been the childrenâ€™s playground
as long as any one could remember, but in
the days of the blessed Frate Agnolo the
Syndic was a grim, childless, irascible old
man, terribly plagued with gout, which made
him so choleric that he could not endure the
joyous cries and clatter of the children at
their play. So at last in his irritation he
gave orders that, if the children must play at
158 The Children of Spinalunga
all, it would have to be in their own dull
narrow alleys paved with hard rock, or out-
side beyond the walls of the castello. For
their part the youngsters would have been
glad enough to escape into the green country
among the broom and cypress, the red snap-
dragon and golden asters and blue pimper-
nels, but these were wild and dangerous
times, and at any moment a troop of Free-
lances from Pisa or a band of Lucchese
raiders might have swept down and carried
them off into captivity.
They had therefore to sit about their
own doors, and the piazza of the Cathedral
became strangely silent in the summer even-
ings, and there was a feeling of dulness
and discontent in the little town. Never a
whit better off was the Syndic, for he was
now angry with the stillness and the deserted
look of the square.
In the midst of this trouble the blessed
Brother Agnolo came down from his her-
mitage among the pine woods, and when he
heard of what had taken place, he went
straightway to the Syndic and took him to
task, with soft and gracious words.
â€œ Messer Gianni, pain I know will often
The Children of Spinalunga 159
take all sweetness out of the temper of a
man, but in this you are not doing well.
There is no child in Spinalunga but would
readily forego all his happy-play to give you
ease and solace, but in this way they cannot
help you. By sending them away you do
but cloud their innocent lives, and you are
yourself none the better for their absence.
Were it not wiser for you to seek to distract
yourself in their harmless merry-making? I
may well think that you have never watched
them at their sports; but if you will bid
them come back to-day, and will but walk a
little way with me, you shall see that which
shall give you content and delight so great,
that never again will you wish to banish
them, but will rather pray to have their com-
panionship at all times.â€
Now the Frate so prevailed on the Syn-
dic that he gave consent and bade all the
children, lass and lad, babe and prattler,
come to the square for their games as they
used to do. And leaning with one hand on
his staff, and with the other on the shoulder
of Brother Agnolo, he moved slowly through
the fruit-trees in the great Jars to the steps
of the Cathedral.
160 The Children of Spinalunga
Suddenly the joy-bells began to ring, and
the little people came laughing and singing
and shouting from the steep streets and
staircases and alleys, and they raced and
danced into the piazza like Springtime let
loose, and they chased each other, and
caught hands and played in rings, and
swarmed among the jars, as many and
noisy as swallows when they gather for
their flight over sea in the autumn-tide.
â€œLook well, Messer Gianni,â€™ said the
Frate, â€œand perceive who it is that shares
As the Brother spoke the eyes of the
Syndic were opened; and there, with each
little child, was his Angel, clothed in white,
and white-winged; and as the little folk
contended together, their Angels contended
with each other; and as they ran and danced
and sang, so ran and danced and sang their
Angels. Which was the laughter of the
children, and which that of the Angels, the
Syndic could not tell; and when the plump
two-year-olds tottered and tumbled, their
Angels caught them and saved them from
hurt; and even if they did weep and make
a great outcry, it was because they were
The Children of Spinalunga 161
frightened, not because they were injured,
and straightway they had forgotten what
ailed them and were again merrily trudging
In the midst of this wonderful vision of
young Angels and bright-eyed children
mingling so riotously together, the Syndic
heard an inexpressibly joyous laugh behind
him. Turning his head, he saw that it was
the little marble Babe in the arms of the
Madonna. He was clapping his hands,
and had thrown back his head against his
motherâ€™s bosom in sudden delight.
Did the Syndic truly see this? He was
certain he did â€” for a moment ; and yet in
that same moment he knew that the divine
Babe was once more a babe of stone, with
its sweet grave face and unconscious eyes;
and when the Syndic turned again to watch
the children, it was only the children he
saw; the Angels were no longer visible.
â€œTt is not always given to our sinful eyes
to see them,â€ said Brother Agnolo, answering
the Syndicâ€™s thought, â€œbut whether we see
them or see them not, always they are
162 The Children of Spinalunga
Now it was in the autumn of the same
year that the fierce captain of Free-lances,
the Condottiere Ghino, appeared one moon-
light night before the gates of Spinalunga,
and bade the guard open in the name of
As I have said, the little hill-town could
only be attacked on the western side, on
account of the precipitous ravine which
divided it from the hills; but the ridge
before the gate was crowded with eight
hundred horsemen and two thousand men-
at-arms clamouring to be admitted. Noth-
ing daunted, the garrison on the square
towers cried back a defiance; the war-bell
was sounded; and the townspeople, men
and women, hurried down to defend the
After the first flight of arrows and quar-
rels the Free-lances fell back out of bow-
shot, and encamped for the night, but the
hill-men remained on the watch till day-
break. [Early in the morning Ghino him-
self rode up the ascent with a white flag, and
asked for a parley with the Syndic. .
â€œWe are from Pisa,â€ said the Condot-
tiere ; â€œ Florence is against us; this castello
The Children of Spinalunga 163
we must hold for our safety. If with your
good-will, well and good!â€
â€œWe are bound by our loyalty to Flor-
~ ence,â€ replied the Syndic briefly.
â€œThe sword cuts all bonds,â€ said the
Free-lance, with a laugh; â€œbut we would
gladly avoid strife. Throw in your lot
with us. All we ask is a pledge that in
the hour of need you will not join Florence
â€œWhat pledge do you ask?â€ inquired
â€œLet twenty of your children ride back
with us to Pisa,â€™ said the Free-lance.
â€œThese shall answer for your fidelity.
They shall be cherished and well cared for
during their sojourn.â€
Who but Messer Gianni was the angry
man on hearing this?
â€œ Our children!â€ he cried; â€œare we, then,
slaves, that we must needs send you our
little ones as hostages? Guards, here!
Shoot me down this brigand who bids me
surrender your children:to him!â€
Bolts flew whizzing from the cross-bows ;
the Free-lance shook his iron gauntlet at the
Syndic, and galloped down the ridge un-
164 The Children of Spinalunga
harmed. The Syndic forgot his gout in his
wrath, and bade the hill-men hold their own
till their roofs crumbled about their ears.
Then began a close siege of the castello;
but on the fourth day Frate Agnolo passed
boldly through the lines of the enemy, and
was admitted through the massive stone
gateway which was too narrow for the en-
trance of either cart or wagon. Great was:
the joy of the hill-men as the Brother ap-
peared among them. He, they knew, would
give them wise counsel and stout aid in the
moment of danger.
When they told him of the pledge for
which the besiegers asked, he only smiled
and shook his head. â€œ Be of good cheer,â€
he said, â€œ God and His Angels have us in
Thoughtfully he ascended the steep streets
to the piazza, and, entering the Cathedral,
he remained there for a long while absorbed
in prayer. And as he prayed his face
brightened with the look of one who hears
joyful news, and when he rose from his
knees he went to the house of the Syndic,
and spoke with him long and seriously.
The Children of Spinalunga 165
At sunset that day a man-at-arms went
forth from the gates of the castello with a
white flag to the beleaguering lines, and de-
manded to be taken into the presence of the
captain. To him he delivered this message
from the Syndic: â€˜To-morrow in the morn-
ing the gate of Spinalunga will be thrown
open, and all the children of our town who
are not halt or blind or ailing shall be sent
forth. Come and choose the twenty you
would have as hostages.â€
By the camp-fires that night the Free-
lances caroused loud and long; but in the
little hill-town the children slept sound while
the men and women prayed with pale stern
faces. An hour after midnight all the garri-
son from the towers and all the strong young
men assembled in the square. They were
divided into two bands, and were instructed
to descend cautiously by rope-ladders into
the ravine on the eastern side of the town.
Thence without sound of tongue or foot
they were to steal through the darkness till
they had reached certain positions on the
flanks of the besiegers, where they were
to wait for the signal of onset. Frate
Agnolo gave each of them his blessing, as
166 The Children of Spinalunga
one by one they slid over the wall on to the
rope-ladders and disappeared in the black-
ness of the ravine. Noiselessly they marched
under the walls of the town till they reached
their appointed posts, and there they lay
hidden in the woods till morning.
The Free-lances were early astir. As the
first ray of golden light streamed over the
pine woods on to the ridge and the valley,
the bells of the Cathedral began to ring; the
heavy gate of the castello was flung open,
and the children trooped out laughing and
gay, just as they had burst into the square a
few months ago, for this, they were told, was
to be a great feast and holiday. As they
issued through the deep stone archway they
filed to right or left, and drew up in long
lines across the width of the ridge. Then
raising their childish voices in a simple
hymn, they all moved together down the
rough slope to the lines of the besiegers.
Brother Agnolo, holding a plain wooden
cross high above his head, led the way, sing-
It was a wonderful sight in the clear shin-
ing air of the hills, and hundreds of women
weeping silently on the walls crowded to-
The Children of Spinalunga 167
gether to watch it; and as they watched they
held their breath, for suddenly in the golden
light of the morning they saw that behind
each child there was a great white-winged
Angel with a fiery spear.
Then, as that throng of singing children
and shining spirits swept down upon the
Free-lances, a wild cry of panic arose from
the camp. The eight hundred horsemen
turned in dismay, and plunged through the
ranks of the men-at-arms, and the mercena-
ries fell back in terror and confusion, strik-
ing each other down and trampling the
wounded underfoot in their frantic efforts to
escape. At that moment the hill-men who
were lying in ambush on each flank bore
down on the bewildered multitude, and
hacked and hewed right and left till the
boldest and hardiest of the horsemen broke
and fled, leaving their dead and dying on the
So the little hill-town of Spinalunga was
saved by the children and their Angels, and
even to this day the piazza of the Cathedral
is their very own playground, in which no
one can prevent them from playing all the
The Sin of the Prince Bishop
te Prince Bishop Evrard stood gaz-
ing at his marvellous Cathedral; and
as he let his eyes wander in delight over the
three deep sculptured portals and the double
gallery above them, and the great rose win-
dow, and the ringersâ€™ gallery, and so up to
the massive western towers, he felt as though
his heart were clapping hands for joy within
him. And he thought to himself, Â« Surely
in all the world God has no more beautiful
house than this which I have built with such
long labour and at so princely an outlay of
my treasure.â€ And thus the Prince Bishop
fell into the sin of vainglory, and, though he
was a holy man, he did not perceive that he
had fallen, so filled with gladness was he at
the sight of his completed work.
In the double gallery of the west front
there were many great statues with crowns
and sceptres, but a niche over the central,
ST. FRANCIS Dâ€™ASSISI,
The Sin of the Prince Bishop 169
portal was empty, and this the Prince Bishop
intended to fill with a statue of himself. It
was to bea very small simple statue, as be-
came one who prized lowliness of heart, but
as he looked up at the vacant place it gave
him pleasure to think that hundreds of years
after he was dead people would pause before
his effigy and praise him and his work. And
this, too, was vainglory.
As the Prince Bishop lay asleep that night
a mighty six-winged Angel stood beside him
and bade him rise. â€˜â€˜ Come,â€ he said, â€œâ€˜ and
I will show thee some of those who have
worked with thee in building the great
church, and whose service in Godâ€™s eyes
has been more worthy than thine.â€ And
the Angel led him past the Cathedral and
down the steep street of the ancient city, and
though it was midday, the people going to
and fro did not seem to see them. Beyond
the gates they followed the shelving road till
they came to green level fields, and there in
_ the middle of the road, between grassy banks
covered white with cherry blossom, two great
white oxen, yoked to a huge block of stone,
stood resting before they began the toilsome
170 The Sin of the Prince Bishop
â€œTook!â€ said the Angel; and the Prince
Bishop saw a little blue-winged bird which
perched on the stout yoke beam fastened to
the horns of the oxen, and sang such a heav-
enly song of rest and contentment that the
big shaggy creatures ceased to blow stormily
through their nostrils, and drew long tran-
quil breaths instead.
â€œLook again!â€ said the Angel. And
from a hut of wattles and clay a little peasant
girl came with a bundle of hay in her arms,
and gave first one of the oxen and then the
other a wisp. Then she stroked their black
muzzles, and laid her rosy face against their
white cheeks. Then the Prince Bishop saw
the rude teamster rise from his rest on the
bank and cry to his cattle, and the oxen
strained against the beam and the thick ropes
tightened, and the huge block of stone was
Once more set 1n motion.
And when the Prince Bishop saw that it
was these fellow-workers whose service was
more worthy in Godâ€™s eyes than his own, he
was abashed and sorrowful for his sin, and
the tears of his own weeping awoke him.
So he sent for the master of the sculptors
and bade him fill the little niche over the
The Sin of the Prince Bishop 171
middle portal, not with his own effigy but
with an image of the child; and he bade him
make two colossal figures of the white oxen ;
and to the great wonderment of the people
these were set up high in the tower so that
men could see them against the blue sky.
Â«And as for me,â€ he said, â€œlet my body be
buried, with my face downward, outside the
great church, in front of the middle entrance,
that men may trample on my vainglory and
that I may serve them as a stepping-stone to
the house of God; and the little child shall
look on me when I lie in the dust.â€
Now the little girl in the niche was carved
with wisps of hay in her hands, but the child
who had fed the oxen knew nothing of this,
and as she grew up she forgot her childish
service, so that when she had grown to
womanhood and chanced to see this statue
over the portal she did not know it was her
own self in stone. But what she had done
was not forgotten in heaven.
And as for the oxen, one of them looked
east and one looked west across the wide
fruitful country about the foot of the hill-
city. And one caught the first grey gleam,
and the first rosy flush, and the first golden
172 The Sin of the Prince Bishop
splendour of the sunrise; and the other was
lit with the colour of the sunset long after
the lowlands had faded away in the blue
mist of the twilight. . Weary men and worn
women looking up at them felt that a glad-
ness and a glory and a deep peace had fallen
on the life of toil, And then, when people
began to understand, they said it was well
that these mighty labourers, who had helped
to build the house, should still find a place
of service and honour in the house; and
they remembered that the Master of the
house had once been a Babe warmed in a
manger by the breath of kine. And at the
thought of this men grew more pitiful to
their cattle, and to the beasts in servitude,
and to all dumb animals. And that was one
good fruit which sprang from the Prince
Now over the colossal stone oxen hung
the bells of the Cathedral. On Christmas
Eve the ringers, according to the old custom,
ascended to their gallery to ring in the birth
of the Babe Divine. At the moment of
midnight the master ringer gave the word,
and the great bells began to swing in joyful -
sequence. Down below in the crowded
The Sin of the Prince Bishop 173
church lay the image of the new-born Child
on the cold straw, and at His haloed head
stood the images of the ox and the ass. Far
out across the snow-roofed city, far away
over the white glistening country rang the
glad music of the tower. People who went to
their doors to listen cried in astonishment:
â€œFark! what strange music is that? It
sounds as if the lowing of cattle were mingled
with the chimes of the bells.â€ In truth it
was so. And in every byre the oxen and the
kine answered the strange sweet cadences
with their lowing, and the great stone oxen
lowed back to their kin of the meadow
through the deep notes of the joy-peal.
In the fulness of time the Prince Bishop
Evrard died and was buried as he had willed,
with his face humbly turned to the earth ;
and to this day the weather-wasted figure of
the little girl looks down on him from her
niche, and the slab over his grave serves as
a stepping-stone to pious feet.
Little Bedesman of Christ
HIS is the legend of Francis, the Little
Bedesman of Christ. Seven hundred
years ago was he born in Assisi, the quaint
Umbrian town among the rocks; and for
_ twenty years and more he cherished but one
thought, and one desire, and one hope; and
these were that he might lead the beautiful
and holy and sorrowful life which our Lord
lived on the earth, and that in every way he
might resemble our Lord in the purity and
loveliness of His humanity.
Home and wealth and honour he surren-
dered, and the love of a wife and of little
prattlers on his knees; for none of these
things were the portion of Christ.
No care he took as to how he should be
sheltered by night or wherewith he should
be clothed by day; and for meat and drink
he looked to the hand of God, for these were
â€™ WORLD =
IN: ALL: TH
Artin renters y
The Little Bedesman of Christ 175
to be the daily gift of His giving. So that
when he heard the words of the sacred
Gospel read in the little church of St. Mary
of the Angels â€” â€œ Provide neither gold nor
silver nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for
your journey, neither two coats, neither
shoes, nor yet stavesâ€™â€â€™â€”he went out and
girt his coarse brown dress with a piece of
cord, and cast away his shoes and went bare-
Even to this day the brethren of the great
Order of religious men which he founded
are thus clothed, and girt with a cord,
and shod with nakedness. And this Order
is the Order of the Lesser Brethren, the
Fratres Minores; and often they are called
Franciscans, or the Friars of St. Francis.
But as to the thought he bestowed on his
eating and drinking: once when he and
Brother Masseo sat down on a broad stone
near a fresh fountain to eat the bread which
they had begged in the town, St. Francis
rejoiced in their prosperity, saying, â€œNot
only are we filled with plenty, but our treas-
ure is of Godâ€™s own providing; for consider
this bread which has come to us like manna,
and this noble table of stone fit for the feast-
176 The Little Bedesman of Christ
ing of kings, and this well of bright water
which is beverage from heaven;â€ and he
besought God to fill their hearts with an
ardent love of the affluence of holy poverty.
Even the quiet and blessed peace of the
cloister and the hermitage he denied himself;
for he remembered that though the Lord
Christ withdrew into the hills and went into
the wilderness to refresh His soul with prayer
and communion with His heavenly Father,
it was among the sons of men that He had
His dwelling all His days. So he, too, the
Little Bedesman, often tasted great happiness
among the rocks and trees of solitary places;
and his spirit felt the spell of the lonely hills;
and he loved to pray in the woods, and in
their shadow he was consoled by the visits
of Angels, and was lifted bodily from the
earth in ecstasies of joy. But the work
which he had set his hands to do was among
men, and in villages and the busy streets of
It was not in the first place to save their
own souls and to attain to holiness that he
and his companions abandoned the common
way of life. Long afterwards, when thou-
The Little Bedesman of Christ 177
sands of men had joined his Order of the
Lesser Brethren, he said: â€œGod has gathered
us into this holy Order for the salvation of
the world, and between us and the world He
has made this compact, that we shall give the
world a good example, and the world shall
make provision for our necessities.â€
Yet, though he preached repentance and
sorrow for sin, never was it his wish that men
and women who had other duties should
abandon those duties and their calling to
follow his example. Besides the Order of
the Lesser Brethren, he had founded an Order
of holy women who should pray and _ praise
while the men went forth to teach; but well
he knew that all could not do as these had
done, that the work of the world must be
carried on, the fields ploughed and reaped
and the vines dressed, and the nets cast and
drawn, and ships manned at sea, and markets
filled, and children reared, and aged people
nourished, and the dead laid in their graves ;
and when people were deeply moved by his
preaching and would fain have followed him,
he would say: â€œNay, be in no unwise haste
to leave your homes; there, too, you may
serve God and be devout and holy;â€ and,
178 The Little Bedesman of Christ
promising them a rule of life, he founded the
Third Order, into which, whatever their age
or calling, all who desired to be true followers
of Christ Jesus might be admitted.
Even among those who gave themselves
up wholly to the life spiritual he discouraged
excessive austerity, forbidding them to fast
excessively or to wear shirts of mail and
bands of iron on their flesh, for these not
only injured their health and lessened their
usefulness, but hindered them in prayer and
meditation and delight in the love of God.
Once, too, when it was revealed to him that
a brother lay sleepless because of his weak-
ness and the pinch of hunger, St. Francis
rose, and, taking some bread with him, went
to the brotherâ€™s cell, and begged of him that
they might eat that frugal fare together.
God gave us these bodies of ours, not that
we might torture them unwisely, but that we
might use their strength and comeliness in
So, with little heed to his own comfort,
but full of consideration and gentleness for
the weakness of others, he and his com-
panions with him went about, preaching
and praising God ; cheering and helping the
The Little Bedesman of Christ 179
reapers and vintagers in the harvest time,
and working with the field-folk in the ear-
lier season ; supping and praying with them
afterwards; sleeping, when day failed, in
barns or church porches or leper-hospitals, or
may. be in an old Etruscan tomb or in the
shelter of a jutting rock, if no better chance
befell; till at last they came to be known
and beloved in every village and feudal
castle and walled town among the hills
between Rome and Florence. At first,
indeed, they were mocked and derided and
rudely treated, but in a little while it was
seen that they were no self-seekers crazed
with vanity, but messengers of heaven, and
pure and great-hearted champions of Christ
and His poor.
In those days of luxury and rapacity and
of wild passions and ruthless bloodshed, it
was strange to see these men stripping them-
selves of wealth and power â€” for many of the
brethren had been rich and noble â€” and pro-
claiming the Gospel of the love and gentle-
ness and purity and poverty of Christ. For
not only were the brethren under vow to
possess nothing whatever in the world, and
180 The Little Bedesman of Christ
not only were they forbidden to touch money
on any account, but the Order itself was
bound to poverty. It could not own great
estates or noble abbeys and convents, but
was as much dependent on charity and Godâ€™s
providing as the humblest of its friars.
Was it a wonderful thing that a great affec-
tion grew up in the hearts of the people for
these preachers of the Cross, and especially for
the most sweet andtender of them all, the Lit-
tle Bedesman of Christ, with the delicate and
kindly face worn by fasting, the black eyes
and the soft and sonorous voice? Greatly
the common people loved our Lord, and
gladly they listened to Him; and of all men
who have lived St. Francis was most like our
Lord in the grace and virtue of His humanity.
I do not think that ever at any time did he
say or do anything till he had first asked him-
self, What would my Lord have done or
And certain it seems to me that he must
have thought of the Thief in Paradise and of
the divine words Christ spoke to him on the
cross, when Brother Angelo, the guardian of
a hermitage among the mountains, told him
how three notorious robbers had come beg-
The Little Bedesman of Christ 181
ging ; â€œ but I,â€ said the Brother, â€œquickly
drove them away with harsh and bitter
words.â€ â€˜Then â€˜sorely hast thou sinned
against charity,â€ replied the Saint in a
stern voice, â€œand ill hast thou obeyed the
holy Gospel of Christ, who wins back sinners
by gentleness, and not by cruel reproofs.
Go now, and take with thee this wallet of
bread and this little flask of wine which I
have begged, and get thee over hill and
valley till thou hast found these men; and
when thou comest up with them, give them
the bread and the wine as my gift to them,
and beg pardon on thy knees for thy fault, and
tell them that I beseech them no longer to do
wrong, but to fear and love God; and if this
they will do, I will provide for them so that
all their days they shall not lack food and
drink.â€ Then Brother Angelo did as he was
bidden, and the robbers returned with him
and became Godâ€™s bedesmen and died in His
Not to men alone but to all living things
on earth and air and water was St. Francis
most gracious and loving. They were all
his little brothers and sisters, and he forgot
182 The Little Bedesman of Christ
them not, still less scorned or slighted them,
but spoke to them often and blessed them,
and in return they showed him great love
and sought to be of his fellowship. He
bade his companions keep plots of ground
for their little sisters the flowers, and to
these lovely and speechless creatures he
spoke, with no great fear that they would
not understand his words. And all this was
a marvellous thing in a cruel time, when
human life was accounted of slight worth by
fierce barons and ruffling marauders.
For the bees he set honey and wine in
the winter, lest they should feel the nip of
the cold too keenly; and bread for the birds,
that they all, but especially â€œmy brother
Lark,â€ should have joy of Christmastide ;
and at Rieti a brood of redbreasts were the
guests of the house and raided. the tables
while the brethren were at meals; and when
a youth gave St. Francis the turtle-doves he
had snared, the Saint had nests made for
them, and there they laid their eggs and
hatched them, and fed from the hands of
Out of affection a fisherman once gave
him a great tench, but he put it back into
The Little Bedesman of Christ 183
the clear water of the lake, bidding it love
God; and the fish played about the boat till
St. Francis blessed it and bade it go.
â€œWhy dost thou torment my little broth-
ers the Lambs,â€ he asked of a shepherd,
â€œcarrying them bound thus and hanging
from a staff, so that they cry piteously?â€
And in exchange for the lambs he gave the
shepherd his cloak. And at another time
seeing amid a flock of goats one white lamb
feeding, he was concerned that he had
nothing but his brown robe to offer for it
(for it reminded him of our Lord among the
Pharisees) ; but a merchant came up and paid
for it and gave it to him, and he took it
with him to the city and preached about it
so that the hearts of those hearing him were
melted. Afterwards the lamb was left in
the care of a convent of holy women, and to
the Saintâ€™s great delight, these wove him a
gown of the lambâ€™s innocent wool.
Fain would I tell of the coneys that took
refuge in the folds of his habit, and of the
swifts which flew screaming in their glee
while he was preaching; but now it is â€˜time
' to speak of the sermon which he preached to
a great multitude of birds in a field by the
184 The Little Bedesman of Christ
roadside, when he was on his way to Be-
vagno. Down from the trees flew the birds
to hear him, and they nestled in the grassy
bosom of the field, and listened till he had
done. And these were the words he spoke
* Little birds, little sisters mine, much are
you holden to God your Creator; and at all
times and in every place you ought to praise
Him. Freedom he has given you to fly
everywhere ; and raiment He has given you,
double and threefold. More than this, He
preserved your kind in the Ark, so that
your race might not come to anend. Still
more do you owe Him for the element of
air, which He has made your portion.
Over and above, you sow not, neither do
you reap; but God feeds you, and gives
you streams and springs for your thirst ; the
mountains He gives you, and the valleys for
your refuge, and the tall trees wherein to
build your nests. And because you cannot
sew or spin, God takes thought to clothe
you, you and your little ones. It must be,
then, that your Creator loves you much,
since He has granted you so many benefits.
Be on your guard then against the sin of in-
The Little Bedesman of Christ 185
gratitude, and strive always to give God
And when the Saint ceased speaking, the
birds made such signs as they might, by
spreading their wings and opening their beaks,
to show their love and pleasure ; and when
he had blessed them with the sign of the
cross, they sprang up, and singing songs of
unspeakable sweetness, away they streamed in
a great cross to the four quarters of heaven.
One more story I must tell of the Saint
and the wild creatures.
On a time when St. Francis was dwelling
in the town of Agobio, there appeared in
that countryside a monstrous grey wolf,
which was so savage a man-eater that the
people were afraid to go abroad, even when
well armed. A pity it was to see folk in
such fear and danger; wherefore the Saint,
putting his whole trust in God, went out
with his companions so far as they dared go,
and thence onward all alone to the place
where the wolf lay.
The wild beast rushed out at him from his
lair with open mouth, but St. Francis waited
and made over him the sign of the most holy
cross, and called him to him, saying, â€œCome
186 The Little Bedesman of Christ
hither, Brother Wolf! In the name of Christ
I bid you do no harm, neither to me nor to
any one.â€ And when the wolf closed his
jaws and stopped running, and came at the
Saintâ€™s bidding, as gentle as a lamb, and lay
down at his feet, St. Francis rebuked him
_ for the slaying of Godâ€™s creatures, the beasts,
and even men made in Godâ€™s image. â€œ But
fain would I make peace,â€ he said, â€œ between
you and these townsfolk; so that if you
pledge them your faith that you will do no
more scathe either to man or beast, they will
forgive you all your offences in the past, and
neither men nor dogs shall harry you any
more. And I will look to it that you shall
always have food as long as you abide with
the folk of this countryside.â€
Whereupon Brother Wolf, by movements
of body and tail and bowing of head, gave
token of his good will to abide by that bar-
gain. And in sign that he plighted his troth
to it he gave the Saint his paw, and followed
to the market-place of Agobio, where St.
Francis repeated all that he had said, and
the people agreed to the bargain, and once
more the wolf gave pledge of his faith by
putting his paw in the Saintâ€™s hand.
The Little Bedesman of Christ 187
For two years thereafter Brother Wolf
dwelt in Agobio, going tame and gentle
from house to house and in and out at will,
doing hurt to none, but much loved of the
children and cared for in food and drink
and kindness by the townsfolk, so that no
one lifted stone or stick against him, neither
did any dog bark at him. At the end of
those years he died of old age, and the peo-
ple were grieved that no more should they
see his gentle coming and going.
Such was the courtesy and sweet fellow-
ship of St. Francis with the wild creatures.
It remains yet to say of him that he was
ever gay and joyous as became Godâ€™s glee-
man. Greatly he loved the song of bird and
man, and all melody and minstrelsy. Nor
was it ill-pleasing to God that he should
rejoice in these good gifts; for once lying in
his cell faint with fever, to him came the
thought that the sound of music might ease
his pain; but when the friar whom he asked
to play for him was afraid of causing a
scandal by his playing, St. Francis, left
alone, heard such music that his suffering
ceased and his fever left him. And as he
188 The Little Bedesman of Christ
lay listening he was aware that the sound
kept coming and going; and how could it
have been otherwise? for it was the lute-
playing of an Angel, far away, walking in
Sweet new songs he made in the language
of the common people, folk of field and
mountain, muleteers and vine-dressers, wood-
men and hunters, so that they in turn might
be light of heart amid their toil and sorrow.
One great hymn he composed, and of that I
will speak later; but indeed all his sayings
and sermons were a sort of divine song, and
when he sent his companions from one vil-
lage to another he bade them say: â€œâ€˜ We are
Godâ€™s gleemen. For song and sermon we
ask largesse, and our largesse shall be that
you persevere in sorrow for your sins.â€
Seeing that ladies of the world, great and
beautiful, took pleasure in the songs of the
troubadours sung at twilight. under their
windows, he charged all the churches of his
Order that at fall of day the bells should
be rung to recall the greeting with which
Gabriel the Angel saluted the Virgin Mother
of the Lord: â€œ Hail, full of grace, the Lord
is with thee, blessed art thou among women.â€
The Little Bedesman of Christ 189
And from that day to this the bells have rung
out the Angelus at sunset, and now there is
no land under heaven wherein those bells are
not heard and wherein devout men hearing
them do not pause to repeat that greeting
In like fashion it was great delight to him
(the Pope having given him leave) to make
in the churches of the Order a representation
of the Crib of Bethlehem on the feast of the
Nativity. Of these the first was made at
the hermitage of Greccio. Thither the
peasants flocked on Christmas Eve, with
lanterns and torches, making the forest ring
with their carols; and there in the church
they found a stable with straw, and an ox
and an ass tethered to the manger; and St.
Francis spoke to the folk about Bethlehem
and the Shepherds in the field, and the birth
of the divine Babe, so that all who heard
him wept happy tears of compassion and
And as St. Francis stood sighing for joy
and gazing at the empty manger, behold! a
wondrous thing happened. For the knight
Giovanni, who had given the ox and the ass
and the stable, saw that on the straw in the
190 The Little Bedesman of Christ
manger there lay a beautiful child, which
awoke from slumber, as it seemed, and
stretched out its little hands to St. Francis
as he leaned over it.
Even to this day there is no land in which
you may not see, on Christmas Eve, the
Crib of Bethlehem ; but in those old days
of St. Francis many souls were saved by -
the sight of that lowly manger from the sin
of those heretics who denied that the Word
was made flesh and that the Son of God
was born as a little child for our salvation.
The joy and gaiety of St. Francis were of
two kinds. There was the joy of love, and
there was the joy of suffering for love. And
of this last he spoke a wonderful rhapsody
as he journeyed once with Brother Leo, in
the grievous cold of the early spring, from
Perugia to St. Mary of the Angels. For,
as Brother Leo was walking on before, St.
Francis called aloud to him:
â€œQO Brother Leo, although throughout
the world the Lesser Brethren were mirrors
of holiness and edification, nevertheless write
it down, and give good heed to it, that not
therein is perfect joy.â€
The Little Bedesman of Christ 19I
And again, a little further on, he called
â€œQO Brother Leo, though the Lesser
Brother should give the blind sight, and
make the misshapen straight, and cast out
devils, and give hearing to the deaf, and
make the lame to walk and the dumb to
speak ; yea, should he even raise the four
daysâ€™ dead to life, write it down that not
herein is perfect joy.â€ :
And yet a little further on he cried out:
â€œQO Brother Leo, if the Lesser Brother
should know all languages, and every science,
and all the Scriptures, so that he could fore-
tell not solely the hidden things of the
future but also the secrets of the heart, write
down that not therein is perfect joy.â€
A little further yet, and once again he
â€œOQ Brother Leo, Godâ€™s little sheep,
though the Lesser Brother were to speak
with the tongue of the Angels, and know
the courses of the stars and the virtues
of herbs, and though the treasures of the
earth were discovered to him, and he had
craft and knowledge of birds and fishes and
of all living creatures, and of men, and of
192 The Little Bedesman of Christ
trees and stones, and roots and waters, write
it down that not therein is perfect joy.â€
And once more, having gone a little
further, St. Francis called aloud:
â€œÂ© Brother Leo, even though the Lesser
Brother could by his preaching convert all
the unbelievers to the faith of Christ, write
down that not therein is perfect joy.â€
And when, after St. Francis had spoken
in this manner for the space of two miles,
Brother Leo besought him to reveal wherein
might perfect joy be found, St. Francis
â€œWhen we are come, drenched with rain
and benumbed with cold and bespattered
with mud and aching with hunger, to St.
Mary of the Angels, and knock at the door,
and the porter asks wrathfully, â€˜Who are
you?â€™ and on our answering, â€˜Two of your
brethren are we,â€™ â€˜ Two gangrel rogues,â€™ says
he, â€˜who go about cheating the world and
sorning the alms of the poor; away with
you!â€™ and whips the door to, leaving us till
nightfall, cold and famished, in the snow and
rain; if with patience we bear this injury
and harshness and rejection, nowise ruffled in
our mind and making no murmur of com-
The Little Bedesman of Christ 193
plaint, but considering within ourselves,
humbly and in charity, that the porter
knows well who we are, and that God sets
him up to speak against usâ€”O Brother
Leo, write down that therein is perfect joy.â€
And perfect joy, he added, if, knocking a
second time, they brought the porter out
upon them, fuming, and bidding them betake
themselves to the alms-house, for knaves
and thieves, and nevertheless they bore all
with patience and with gladness and love.
And yet again, he continued, if a third time
they knocked and shouted to him, for pity
of their hunger and cold and the misery of
the night, to let them in, and he came, fierce
with rage, crying, â€œAh, bold and sturdy
vagabonds, now I will pay you,â€ and caught
them by the hood, and hurled them into the
snow, and belaboured them with a knotty
cudgel; and if still, in despite of all pain and
contumely, they endured with gladness,
thinking of the pains of the blessed Lord
Christ, which for love of Him they too
should be willing to bearâ€”then might it
be truly written down that therein was perfect
194 The Little Bedesman of Christ
This was the perfect joy of the Saint most
like to Christ of all the Saints that the world
has seen. And of all joys this was the most
perfect, seeing that it was by the patient way
of tears and tribulation, of bodily pain and
anguish of spirit, of humiliation and rejec-
tion, that a man might come most nearly to
a likeness to Christ.
Through all his gaiety and gladness and
benignity he carried in his heart one sorrow,
and that was the memory of the Passion of
our Lord. Once he was found weeping in
the country, and when he was asked whether
he was in grievous pain that he wept, â€œAh!â€
he replied, â€œit is for the Passion of my Lord
Jesus that I weep; and for that I should
think little shame to go weeping through the
Two years before his death there befell
him that miraculous transfiguration, which,
so far as it may be with a sinful son of Adam,
made perfect the resemblance between him
and the Saviour crucified. And it was after
In the upper valley of the Arno stream
there towers above the pines and giant
beeches of the hills a great basalt rock,
The Little Bedesman of Christ 195
Alvernia, which looks over Italy, east and
west, to the two seas. That rock is acces-
sible by but a single foot-track, and it is
gashed and riven by grim chasms, yet withal
great oaks and beech-trees flourish atop
among the boulders, and there are drifts of
fragrant wild flowers, and legions of birds
and other wild creatures dwell there; and
the lights and colours of heaven play about
the rock, and the winds of heaven visit it
with wholesome air.
Now a great and wealthy gentleman of
Tuscany, Orlando of Chiusi, gave St. Francis
that mountain for a hermitage where he
could be remote from men, and thither, with
three of the brethren most dear to him, the
Saint went to spend the forty days of the
Fast of St. Michael the Archangel.
Two nights they slept on the way, but
on the third day, so worn was St. Francis
with fatigue and illness, that his companions
were fain to beg a poor peasant to lend them
his ass. As they proceeded on their journey
the peasant, walking behind the ass, said to
St. Francis, â€œ Tell me now, art thou Brother
Francis of Assisi?â€ and when St. Francis
said he was, the peasant rejoined, â€œ Look to
196 The Little Bedesman of Christ
it, then, that thou strive to be as good as
folk take thee to be, so that those who have
faith in thee be not disappointed in what
they expect to find in thee.â€ And instantly
St. Francis got down from the ass, and,
kneeling on the ground, kissed the peasantâ€™s
feet, and thanked him for his brotherly
So onward they journeyed up the moun-
tain till they came to the foot of Alvernia,
and there as St. Francis rested him under an
oak, vast flights of birds came fluttering and
blithely singing, and alighted on his shoul-
ders and arms, and on his lap, and about his
feet. â€˜ Not ill-pleased is our Lord, I think,â€
said he, â€œthat we have come to dwell on this
mountain, seeing what glee our little brothers
and sisters the Birds show at our coming.â€
Under a fair beech on the top of the rock
the brethren built him a cell of branches,
and he lived alone in prayer, apart from the
others, for the foreknowledge of his death had
overshadowed him. Once as he stood by
the cell, scanning the shape of the mountain
and musing on the clefts and chasms in the
huge rocks, it was borne in upon him that
the mountain had been thus torn and cloven
The Little Bedesman of Christ 197
in the Ninth Hour when our Lord cried
with a loud voice, and the rocks were rent.
And beside this beech-tree St. Francis was
many times uplifted into the air in rapture,
and many times Angels came to him, and
walked with him for his consolation.
A while later, the brethren laid a tree
across a chasm, and St. Francis hid himself
in a more lonely place, where no one might
hear him when he cried out; and a falcon,
which had its nest hard by his cell, woke
him for matins, and according as he was
more weary or sickly at one time than
another, that feathered brother, having com-
passion on him, woke him later or sooner,
and all the long day was at hand to give him
Here in this wild place, in September, on
Holy Cross Day, early in the morning, be-
fore the dawn whitened, St. Francis knelt
with his face turned to the dark east; and
praying long and with great fervour, he be-
sought the Lord Christ Jesus for two graces
before he died. And the first was this, that,
so far as mortal flesh might bear it, he might
feel in his body the torture which our Lord
suffered in His Passion; and the second,
198 The Little Bedesman of Christ
that he might feel in his heart the exceeding
great love for which He was willing to bear
Now even while he was praying in this
wise a mighty six-winged Seraph, burning
with light unspeakable, came flying towards
him ; and St. Francis saw that the Seraph
bore within himself the figure of a cross, and
thereon the image of a man crucified. Two
of the six wings of the Seraph were lifted up
over the head of the crucified; and two were
spread for flying; and two veiled the whole
of the body on the cross.
Then as the Seraph drew nigh, the eyes of
Christ the crucified looked into the eyes of
St. Francis, piercing and sweet and terrible ;
and St. Francis could scarce endure the rap-
ture and the agony with which that look con-
sumed him, and transfigured him, and burned
into his body, the similitude of Christâ€™s Pas-
sion. For straightway his hands and _ his
feet were pierced through and through with
nails; and the heads of the nails were round
and black, and the points were bent backward
and riveted on the further side of hand and
foot; and his right side was opened with the
deep thrust of the spear; and the gash was red
The Little Bedesman of Christ 199
and blood came dropping from it. Terrible
to bear was the ache of those wounds; and
for the nails in his feet St. Francis scarce
could stand and could not walk at all.
Such was the transfiguration of the Little
Bedesman of Christ into His visible sem-
blance on the holy rock Alvernia.
For two years he sustained the ecstasy and
anguish of that likeness, but of his sayings
and of the wonders he wrought in that time I
will not speak.
In those days he composed the Song of
the Sun, and oftentimes sang it, and in many
a village and market-place was it sung by the
brethren going two by two in their labour
for souls. A mighty hymn of praise to the
Lord God most high and omnipotent was
this Song of the Sun; for in this manner it
was that St. Francis sang :
â€œ Praised be Thou, my Lord; byall Thy
creatures praised; and chiefly praised by
Brother Sun who gives us light of day.
â€œThrough him Thou shinest ; fair is he,
brilliant with glittering fire; and he through
heaven bears, Most High, symbol and sense
200 The Little Bedesman of Christ
â€œ Praised by Sister Moon be Thou; and
praised by all the Stars. These hast Thou
made, and Thou hast made them precious
and beautiful and bright.
â€œ Praised by Brother Wind be Thou; by
Air, and Cloud that lives in air, and all the
Weathers of the world, whereby their keep
Thou dost provide for all the creatures
Thou hast made.
Â«â€œ Praised by Sister Water, Lord, be Thou ;
the lowly water, precious, pure, the gracious
â€œ Praised by Brother Fire, by whom Thou
makest light for us iâ€™ the dark; and fair is
he and jocund, sturdy and strong.
â€œPraised by our Sister Mother-Earth,
which keeps us and sustains, and gives forth
plenteous fruit, and grass, and coloured
â€œPraised be Thou, Lord my God, by
those who for Thy love forgive, and for Thy
love endure; blessed in their patience they ;
by Thee shall they be crowned.â€
As he drew nigh to his end at St.
Mary of the Angels, he cried out, â€œ Wel-
come, Sister Death!â€ and when his breth-
ren, as he had bidden them, sang once
The Little Bedesman of Christ 201
more the Song of the Sun, he added another
â€œPraised by our Sister Death be Thou â€”
that bodily death which no man may escape.
Alas for those who die in mortal sin, but
happy they. conforming to Thy will; for
these the second death shall nowise hurt.â€
In the tenth month, on the fourth day of
the month, in the forty and fifth year of his
age, having recited the Psalm, â€œI cried unto
Thee, O Lord, and said: Thou art my hope
ahd my portion in the land of the living,â€
St. Francis died very joyfully. At the fall
of the night he died, and while still the
brethren were gazing upon his face there
dropped down on the thatch of the cell in
which he lay larks innumerable, and most
sweetly they sang, as though they rejoiced at Â©
the release of their holy kinsman.
He was buried at the great church at
Assisi; but though it is thought he lies be-
neath the high altar, the spot is unknown to
any man, and the hill-folk say that St. Fran-
cis is not dead at all, but that he lives hidden
in a secret crypt far down below the roots of
wall and pillar. Standing there, pale and up-
202 The Little Bedesman of Christ
right, with the blood red in the five wounds
of his crucifixion, he waits in a heavenly
trance for the sound of the last trumpet,
when the nations of the earth shall see in
the clouds Him whom they have pierced.
Long after his death it was the custom for
the brethren of a certain house of his Order
to go chanting in procession at midnight
once in the year to his resting-place. But
the way was long and dark; the weather
often bleak and stormy. Little by little
devotion cooled, and the friars fell away, till
there remained but one old monk willing to
go on this pilgrimage. As he went into the
dark and the storm, the road among the
woods and rocks grew luminous, and in place
of the cross and torches and canticles of the
former days, great flocks of birds escorted
him on his way, singing and keeping him
company. The little feathered brothers and
sisters had not abated in their love of the
Little Bedesman who had caressed and
Burning of Abbot Spiridion
ANY wonderful things are told of the
Abbot Spiridion, who lived a hun-
dred years and four and yet grew never old;
neither was the brightness of his eyes dimmed
nor his hair silvered, nor was his frame bowed
and palsied with the weakness of age.
During the long years in which he ruled
the abbey he had founded, he seemed to live
less in this world than in the communion of
the blessed souls of men redeemed. The
whole earth was as clear to him as though it
had been of crystal, and when he raised his
eyes he saw not solely what other men saw,
but the vision of all that is under the heavens.
And this vision of life was at once his trial
and his consolation. For it was an unspeak-
able sorrow and anguish to see on all sides
the sin and suffering and misery of creation,
and often he wept bitterly when no one
204 The Burning of
dared ask him the reason of his affliction.
Yet oftentimes, on the other hand, he laughed
for lightness of spirit, and bade the brethren
rejoice because of the salvation of some
reprobate soul, or the relief of one oppressed,
or the bestowal of some blessing on the
servants of God.
When it happened that a brother had
been sent on a journey and was long absent,
and the community was talking of him, won-
dering how he had fared and where he might
now be, the Abbot would sometimes break
silence and say: â€œI see our brother resting
in such or such a cell,â€ or â€œ Our brother is
even now singing a psalm as he drifts in his
small boat of skins down this or that river,â€
or, perchance, â€œ Our brother is coming over
the hill and in an hour he will be with us.â€
In the abbey there was a certain lay-
brother, dull and slow of wit, with a hindrance
in his speech; and one of the monks de-
spised him and scoffed at his defect of nature.
This lay-brother had the care of the garden
of pot-herbs and fruit-trees, and as he was
toiling there one day the Abbot called the
uncharitable monk to him, and said: â€˜â€œâ€˜ Come,
let us see what our brother the Fool is doing.â€
Abbot Spiridion 205
The monk trembled when he heard those
words, for he knew that his scornfulness
had been discovered, and he followed the
Abbot in great confusion. In the garden
they found the lay-brother planting cab-
â€œTs our brother the Fool alone?â€ asked
â€œOur brother is alone, father,â€ replied
Then the Abbot touched the monkâ€™s eyes,
and straightway he saw that the lay-brother |
was not alone: beside him were two radiant
child-angels, one of whom held for him a
basket containing the young plants, and the
second walked to and fro playing on a lute
to lighten his labour. Then, overwhelmed
with shame, the monk fell on his knees, con-
fessing his sin and promising amendment.
More strange than this is the story I have
now to tell. It happened through mischance
that fire broke out in the abbey, and the
flames were spreading so fiercely from one
wattled cell to another that there was great
danger of the whole monastery being de-
stroyed. With piteous cries the religious
surrounded the Abbot, and besought him to
206 The Burning of
intercede with God that their home might
Spiridion gently shook his head. â€œ The
mercy of God,â€ he replied, â€œ has given it to
another to intercede for us in our danger this
day. The holy Pontiff, Gregory, has looked
out of Rome and seen usin ourtrouble. At
this moment he is kneeling in prayer for us,
and his supplication on our behalf will
Even while Spiridion was speaking, the
Pope, far away in the Golden City, beheld
the flames rising from the abbey, and called
his household to join him in entreating
heaven; and at once it was seen that the
flames were being beaten to the ground and
extinguished as though invisible hands were
beating them down with invisible branches
Now when the brethren were made aware
that the whole earth was being constantly
shown thus in vision to the Abbot, they
stood in sad dread of him; even the most
pure and lowly-hearted were abashed at this
thought that perchance every act and every
vain fancy of theirs was laid bare to his
knowledge. So it came to pass that out of
â€œ BESIDE HIM WERE TWO RADIANT CHILD-ANGELS.â€
Abbot Spiridion 207
shame and fear their hearts were little by
little estranged from him.
The Abbot was not slow to perceive the
change, and he spoke of it when they met in
â€œTruly it is a grievous and a terrible
thing,â€ he said, â€œthat any man should see
with the eyes of the soul more than it is
given the eye of flesh to see; and I pray
you, brethren, beseech the Lord, if it be His
will, that the vision be withdrawn from me.
But if His will it be not, beseech Him that
I may not sin through seeing. So much for
myself; but as for you, dear children, why
are you grieved? Because it may be that I
see you when you think no man sees you?
Am I then the only one who sees you? Is
there not at least one other â€” even the high
God, from whom the hidden man of the
heart is nowise hidden? If you fear His
holy eyes, little need you fear the eyes of
any sinful man.â€
Such a one was the Abbot Spiridion.
His spirit passed from among men in the
hundred and fifth year of his exile, in the
third month of the year, on the morning
of the resurrection of the Lord Christ, between
208 The Burning of
the white and the red of the morning, when
the brethren were singing prime. As he
listened to them singing, his cheeks suddenly
became flushed with bright colour, and those
who were about him, thinking he was in
pain, asked if in any way they might relieve
him; but he replied in a low voice, â€œ When
the heart is glad the face flowers.â€™ In a
little after that he laughed softly to himself,
and so they knew that his end was gladness.
When he died there were three hundred
religious in that monastery, and in his stead
Samson was made Abbot of Gracedieu.
The body of Spiridion was laid in a stone
coffin hard by the abbey church, and to those
who had known the holy man it seemed
nothing strange that the sick and afflicted
should come and kneel by his grave, in the
hope that by his intercession they might ob-
tain succour in their misery. Certain it is
that the blind were restored to sight, and the
sick to health, and the painful to great ease ;
and the fame of these miracles was noised
abroad in the world till thousands came in
pilgrimage to the spot, and costly gifts â€”
gold and silver and jewels, sheep and cattle,
Abbot Spiridion 209
wine and corn, and even charters of large
demesnes, fruitful fields and woods and
waters â€” were bestowed as thank-offerings to
the saintly man.
Then over his tomb rose a vast and beau-
tiful minster, and the tomb itself was
covered with a shrine, brilliant with blue and
vermilion and gold and sculptured flowers,
and guarded by angels with outspreading
At the beginning Abbot Samson was well
pleased, for the great church rose like a
dream of heaven, but when he perceived
that the constant concourse of people was
destroying the hushed contemplation and
piety of the house, and that the brethren
were distracted with eagerness for gain and
luxury and the pride of life, he resolved to
make an end. Wherefore after High Mass
on the feast of All Saintsâ€™, he bade the reli-
gious walk in procession to the splendid
shrine, and there the Abbot, with the shep-
herdâ€™s staff of rule in his hand, struck thrice
on the stone coffin, and three times he called
aloud: â€œSpiridion! Spiridion ! Spiridion !â€
and begged him as he had been founder and
first father of that monastery, to listen to the
210 The Burning of
grievance which had befallen them in conse-
quence of the miracles he had wrought from
And after an indignant recital of their loss
of humility, of their lukewarmness, of their
desire for excitement and the pageants of the
world, of their lust for buildings of stone
and pillared walks and plentiful living, he
concluded: â€œâ€˜ Make, then, we beseech thee,
no sign from thy sepulchre. Let life and
death, and joy and sorrow, and blindness
and disease, and all the vicissitudes of this
world follow their natural courses. Do not
thou, out of compassion for thy fellow-man,
interpose in the lawful succession of things.
This is what we ask of thee, expecting it of
thy love. But if it be that thou deny us,
solemnly we declare unto thee, by the obe-
dience which once we owed thee, we shall
unearth thy bones and cast them forth from
Now whether it was that for some high
purpose God delayed the answer to that
prayer, or whether it was the folly and super-
stition of men which gave to things natural
the likeness of the miraculous, and even per-
adventure the folk lied out of a mistaken
Abbot Spiridion 211
zeal for the glory of the saints, there was no
abatement of the wonders wrought at Spi-
ridionâ€™s tomb; and when the Abbot would
have forbidden access to the vast crowds of
pilgrims, the people resisted with angry vio-
lence and threatened fire and bloodshed.
So Samson summoned the wigest and holi-
est of the brotherhood, and took them into
â€œThis thing,â€ said he, â€œcannot be of
God, that one of His saints, the founder of
this house, should lead into sloth and luxury
the children of the house he has founded.
Sooner could I believe that this is a malig-
nant snare of the most Evil One, who heals
the bodily ailments of a few that he may
wreck the immortal souls of many.â€
Then arose Dom Walaric, the most aged
of the monks, and said: â€œ Already, Father
Abbot, hast thou spoken judgment. Griev-
ously shall I lament what must be done;
but in one way only can we root out this
corruption. Let the bones of the holy man
be unearthed and cast forth. He in the high
heavens will know that we do not use him
despitefully, but that of two evils this, in-
deed, is scarcely to be spoken of as an evil.â€
212 Burning of Abbot Spiridion
Wherefore, in a grassy bay of the land by
_the river a great pile of faggots was reared,
dry and quick for the touch of flame. And
the Abbot broke down the shrine and
opened the tomb. .
When the stone lid of the coffin had been
lifted, the religious saw that, though it had
been long buried, the body showed no sign
of decay. Fresh and uncorrupted it lay in
the sacred vestments; youthful and comely
of face, despite a marvellous old age and
years of sepulture.
With many tears they raised what seemed
rather a sleeping man than a dead, and bore
him to the river; and when they had heaped
the faggots about him, the Abbot blessed
the body and the fuel, and with his own hand
set fire to the funeral pile.
The brethren restrained not their weeping
and lamentation as they witnessed that hal-
lowed burning; and the Abbot, with heavy
eyes, tarried till the last ember had died out.
Then were all the ashes of the fire swept to-
gether and cast into the fleeting river, which
bore them through lands remote into the
utmost sea that hath no outland limit save the
blue sky and the low light of the shifting stars.
The Countess [tha
N the days of King Coceur-de-Lion the
good Count Hartmann ruled in Kirch-
berg in the happy Swabian land. And never
had that fair land been happier than it was
in those days, for the Count was a devout
Christian, a lover of peace in the midst of
warlike and rapacious barons, and a ruler
just and merciful to his vassals. Among
the green and pleasant hills on his domain
he had founded a monastery for the monks
of St. Benedict, and thither he often rode
with his daughter Itha, the delight of his
heart and the light of the grim old castle of
the Kirchberg ; so that, seeing the piety of
her father, she grew up in the love and fear
of God, and from her gentle mother she
learned to feel a deep compassion for the
poor and afflicted.
No sweeter maid than she, with her blue
eyes and light brown hair, was there in all
214 The Countess Itha
that land of sturdy men and nut-brown
maidens. The people loved the very earth
she stoodon. In their days of trouble and
sorrow she was their morning and their even-
ing star, and they never wearied of praising
her goodness and her beauty.
When Itha was in the bloom of her girl-
hood it befell that the young Count Heinrich
of the Toggenburg, journeying homeward
from the famous tournament at Cologne,
heard of this peerless flower of Swabia, and
turned aside to the Castle of Kirchberg to
see if perchance he might win a good and
lovely wife. He was made welcome, and no
sooner had he looked on Ithaâ€™s fair and loving
face, and marked with what modesty and
courtesy she bore herself, than he heard joy-
bells ringing in his heart, and said, â€œ Now,
by the blessed cross, here is the pearl of price
for me!â€ Promptly he wooed her with ten-
der words, and with eyes that spoke more
than tongue could find words for, and pas-
sionate observance, and all that renders a man
pleasing to a maid.
And Itha was not loth to be won, for the
Count was young and handsome, tall and
strong, and famous for feats of arms, and a
The Countess Itha ZA 6
mighty lord â€” master of the rich straths and
valleys of the Thur River, and of many a
burgh and district in the mountains beyond ;
and yet, despite all this, he, so noble and
beautiful, loved her, even her, the little Swab-
ian maid who had never deemed herself likely
to come to such honour and happiness. Nor
were the kindly father and mother ill-pleased
that so goodly a man and so mighty a lord
should have their dear child.
So in a little while the Count put on Ithaâ€™s
hand the ring of betrothal, and Itha, smiling
and blushing, raised it to her lips and kissed
it. â€œBlissful ring!â€ said the Count jest-
ingly ; â€œand yet, dearest heart, you do well
to cherish it, for it is an enchanted ring, an
old ring of which there are many strange
stories.â€ Even while he was speaking Ithaâ€™s
heart misgave her, and she was aware of a
feeling of doubt and foreboding; but she
looked at the ring and saw how massive was
the gold and how curiously wrought and set
with rare gems, and its brilliancy and beauty
beguiled her of her foreboding, and she asked
no questions of the stories told of it or of the
nature of its enchantment.
Quickly on the betrothal followed the
216 The Countess Itha
marriage and the leave-taking. With tears
in her eyes Itha rode away with her lord,
looking back often to the old castle and
gazing farewell on the pleasant land and the
fields and villages she should not see again
for, it might be, many long years. But by
her side rode the Count, ever gay and
tender, and he comforted her in her sad-
ness, and lightened the way with loving
converse, till she put from her all her regret
and longing, and made herself happy in
So they journeyed through the rocks and
wildwood of the Schwartzwald, and came in
view of the blue waters of the lake of Con-
stance glittering in the sun, and saw the vast
mountain region beyond with its pine forests,
and above the forests the long blue mists on
the high pastures, and far over all, hanging
like silvery summer clouds in the blue
heavens, the shining peaks of the snowy
Alps. And here, at last, they were winding
down the fruitful valley of the Thur, and
yonder, perched on a rugged bluff, rose the
stern walls of Castle Toggenburg, with ban-
ners flying from the turrets, and the rocky
roadway strewn with flowers, and vassals and
AWAY WITH HER LORD.
The Countess Itha 207.
retainers crowding to welcome home the
Now, for all his tenderness and gaiety and
sweetness in wooing, the Count Heinrich
was a hasty and fiery man, quickly stirred to
anger and blind rage, and in his storms of
passion he was violent and cruel. Not long
after their home-coming â€” woe worth the
while!â€”he flashed out ever and anon in
his hot blood at little things which ruffled his
temper, and spoke harsh words which his
gentle wife found hard to bear, and which
in his better moments he sincerely repented.
Very willingly she forgave him, but though
at first he would kiss and caress her, after-
wards her very forgiveness and her meekness
chafed and galled his proud spirit, so that
the first magical freshness of love faded from
their life, even as the dew dries on the flower
in the heat of the morning.
Not far from the castle, in a clearing in
the woods, nestled the little convent and
chapel of Our Lady in the Meadow, and
thither, attended by one of her pages, the
Countess Itha went daily to pray for her
husband, that he might conquer the violence
218 The Countess Itha
of his wild heart, and for herself, that she
might not grow to fear him more than she
loved him. In these days of her trial, and
in the worse days to come, a great consola-
tion it was to her to kneel in the silent
chapel and pour out her unhappiness to her
whose heart had been pierced by seven
swords of sorrow.
Time went by and when no little angel
came from the knees of God to lighten her
burden and to restrain with its small hands
the headlong passion of her husband, the
Count was filled with bitterness of spirit as
he looked forward to a childless old age, and
reflected that all the fruitful straths of the
Toggenburg, and the valleys and townships,
would pass away to some kinsman, and no
son of his would there be to prolong the
memory of his name and greatness. When
this gloomy dread had taken possession of
him, he would turn savagely on the Countess
in his fits of fury, and cry aloud: â€œ Out of
my sight! For all thy meekness and thy
praying and thy almsgiving, God knows it
was an ill day when I set eyes on that fair
face of thine!â€ Yet this was in no way his
true thought, for in spite of his lower nature
The Countess Itha 219
the Count loved her, but it is ever the curse
of anger in a man that it shall wreak. itself
most despitefully on his nearest and best.
And Itha, who had learned this in the school
of long-suffering, answered never a word,
but only prayed the more constantly and
In the train of the Countess there were
two pages, Dominic, an Italian, whom she
misliked for his vanity and boldness, and
Cuno, a comely Swabian lad, who had fol-
lowed her from her fatherâ€™s house. Most
frequently when she went to Our Lady in
the Meadow she dismissed Dominic and
bade Cuno attend her, for in her distress it
was some crumb of comfort to see the face
of a fellow-countryman, and to speak to him
of Kirchberg and the dear land she had left.
But Dominic, seeing that the Swabian was
preferred, hated Cuno, and bore the lady
scant goodwill, and in a little set his brain
to some device by which he might vent his
malice on both. This was no difficult task,
for the Count was as prone to jealousy as he
was quick to wrath, and with crafty hint
and wily jestâ€™ and seemingly aimless chatter
220 The Countess-Itha
the Italian sowed the seeds of suspicion and
watchfulness in his masterâ€™s mind.
Consider, then, if these were not days of
heart-break for this lady, still so young and
so beautiful, so unlovingly entreated, and so
far away from the home of her happy child-
hood. Yet she,bore all patiently and with-
out complaint or murmur, only at times
when she looked from terrace or tower her
gaze travelled beyond the deep pine-woods,
and in a wistful day-dream she retraced, be-
yond the great lake and the Black Forest,
all the long way she had ridden so joyfully
with her dear husband by her side.
One day in the springtime, when the birds
of passage had flown northward, carrying her
tears and kisses with them, she bethought
her of the rich apparel in which she had
been wed, and took it from the carved oaken
coffer to sweeten in the sun. Among her
jewels she came upon her betrothal ring,
and the glitter of it reminded her of what
her lord had said of its enchantment and the
strange stories told of it. â€œAre any of
them so sad and strange as mine?â€ she
wondered with tears in her eyes; then kiss-
ing the ring in memory of that first kiss
The Countess Itha 221
she had given it, she laid it on a table in the
window-bay, and busied herself with the
bridal finery; and while she was so busied
she was called away to some cares of her
household, and left the chamber.
When she returned to put away her mar-
riage treasures, the betrothal ring was miss-
ing. On the instant a cold fear came over
her. In vain she searched the coffer and
the chamber; in vain she endeavoured to
persuade herself that she must have mislaid
the jewel, or that perchance the Count had
seen it, andâ€™partly in jest and partly in re-
buke of her carelessness, had taken it. The
ring had vanished, and in spite of herself she
felt that its disappearance portended some
terrible evil. Too fearful to arouse her hus-
bandâ€™s anger, she breathed no word of her loss,
and trusted to time or oblivion for a remedy.
No great while after this, as the Swabian
page was rambling in the wood near the con-
vent, he heard a great outcry of ravens
around a nest in an ancient fir-tree, and
prompted partly by curiosity to know the
cause of the disquiet, and partly by the wish
to have a young raven for sport in the win-
222 The Countess Itha
ter evenings, he climbed up to the nest.
Looking into the great matted pack of twigs,
heather and lambâ€™s wool, he caught sight of
a gold ring curiously chased and set with
sparkling gems; and slipping it gleefully on
his finger he descended the tree and went
his way homeward to the castle.
A few days later when, the Count by
chance cast his eye on the jewel, he recog-
nised it at a glance for the enchanted ring of
many strange stories. The crafty lies of the
Italian Dominic flashed upon him; and,
never questioning that the Countess had
given the ring to her favourite, he sprang
upon Cuno as though he would strangle him.
Then in a moment he flung him aside, and
in a voice of thunder cried for the wildest
steed in his stables to be brought forth.
Paralysed with fright, the luckless page was
seized and bound by the heels to the tail of
the half-tame creature, which was led out
beyond the drawbridge, and pricked with
daggers till it flung off the men-at-arms and
dashed screaming down the rocky ascent
into the wildwood.
Stung to madness by his jealousy, the
Count rushed to the apartment of the Coun-
The Countess Itha 223
tess. â€œFalse and faithless, false and faith-
less!â€ he cried in hoarse rage, and clutching
her in his iron grasp, lifted her in the air
and hurled her through the casement into
the horrible abyss below.
As she fell Itha commended her soul to
God. The world seemed to reel and swim
around her; she felt as if that long lapse
through space would never have an end, and
then it appeared to her as though she were
peacefully musing in her chair, and she saw
the castle of Kirchberg and the pleasant
fields lying serene in the sunlight, and the
happy villages, each with its great crucifix
beside its rustic church, and men and women
at labour in the fields. How long that
vision lasted she could not tell. Then as
in her fall she was passing through the tops
of the trees which climbed up the lower
ledges of the castle rock, green leafy hands
caught her dress and held her a little, and
strong arms closed about her, and yielded
slowly till she touched the ground; and she
knew that the touch of these was not the
mere touch of senseless things, but a con-
tact of sweetness and power which thrilled
through her whole being.
224 The Countess Itha
Falling on her knees, she thanked God
for her escape, and rising again she went into
the forest, wondering whither she should be-
take herself and what she should do; for
now she had no husband and no home.
She left the beaten track, and plunging
through the bracken, walked on till she was
tired. â€˜Then she sat down on a boulder.
Among the pines it was already dusk, and
the air seemed filled with a grey mist, but
this was caused by the innumerable dry wiry
twigs which fringed the lower branches of
the trees with webs of fine cordage; and
when a ray of the setting sun struck through
the pine trunks, it lit up the bracken with
emerald and brightened the ruddy scales of
the pine bark to red gold. Here it was dry
and sheltered, with the thick carpet of pine-
needles underfoot and the thick roof of
branches overhead ; and but for dread of wild
creatures she thought she might well pass the
night in this place. To-morrow she would
wander further and learn how life might be
sustained in the forest.
The last ray of sunshine died away; the
deep woods began to blacken; a cool air
sighed in the high tops of the trees. It was
The Countess Itha 225
very homeless and lonely. She took heart,
however, remembering Godâ€™s goodness to
her, and placing her confidence in His care.
Suddenly she perceived a glimmering of
lights among the pines. Torches they
seemed, a long way off; and she thought
it must be the retainers of the Count, who,
finding she had not been killed by her fall,
had sent them out to seek for her. The
lights drew nearer, and she sat very still,
resigned. to her fate whatsoever it might be.
And yet nearer they came, till at length by
their shining she saw a great stag with lordly
antlers, and on the tines of the antlers glit-
tered tongues of flame.
Slowly the beautiful creature came up to
her and regarded her with his large soft
brown eyes. â€˜Then he moved away a little
and looked back, as though he were bidding
her follow him. She rose and walked
by his side, and he led her far through the
forest, till they came to.an overhanging rock
beside a brook, and there he stopped.
In this hidden nook of the mountain-
forest she made her home. With branches
and stones and turf she walled in the open
226 The Countess Itha
hollow of the rock. In marshy places she
gathered the thick spongy mosses, yellow
and red, and dried them in the sun for
warmth at night in the cold weather. She
lived on roots and berries, acorns and nuts
and wild fruit, and these in their time of
plenty she stored against the winter. Birdsâ€™
eggs she found in the spring; in due season
the hinds, with their young, came to her and
gave her milk for many days; the wild bees
provided her with honey. With slow and
painful toil she wove the cotton-grass and
the fibres of the bark of the birch, so that
she should not lack for clothing.
In the warm summer months there was a
great tranquillity and hushed joy in this hard
life. A tender magic breathed in the colour
and music of the forest, in its long pauses
of windless day-dreaming, in its breezy frolic
with the sunshine. The trees and boulders
were kindly; and the turf reminded her of
her motherâ€™s bosom.. About her refuge the
wild flowers grew in plentyâ€” primrose and
blue gentian, yellow cinquefoil and pink
geranium, and forget-me-nots, and many
more, and these looked up at her with the
happy faces of little children who were inno-
The Countess Itha 227
cent and knew no care; and over whole
acres lay the bloom of the ling, and nothing
more lovely grows on earthly hills. Through
breaks in the woodland she saw afar the
Alpine heights, and the bright visionary
peaks of snow floating in the blue air like
glimpses of heaven.
But it was a bitter life in the winter-tide,
when the forest fretted and moaned, and
snow drifted about the shelter, and the rocks
were jagged with icicles, and the stones of
the brook were glazed with cold, and the
dark came soon and lasted long. She had
no fire, but, by Godâ€™s good providence, in
this cruel season the great stag came to her
at dusk, and crouched in the hollow of the
rock beside her, and the lights on his antlers
lit up the poor house, and the glow of
his body and his pleasant breath gave her
Here, then, dead to the world, dead to all
she loved most dearly, Itha consecrated her-
self body and soul to God for the rest of her
earthly years. If she suffered as the wild
children of nature suffer, she was free at least
from the cares and sorrows with which men
embitter each otherâ€™s existence. Here she
228 The Countess Itha
would willingly live so long as God willed ;
here she would gladly surrender her soul
when He was pleased to call it home.
The days of her exile were many. For
seventeen years she dwelt thus in her hermi-
tage in the forest, alone and forgotten.
Forgotten, didI say? Notwholly. The.
Count never forgot her. Stung by remorse
( for in his heart of hearts he could not but
believe her true and innocent), haunted by
the recollection of the happiness he had flung
from him, wifeless, childless, friendless, he
could find no rest or forgetfulness except in
the excitement and peril of the battle-field.
But the slaughter of men and the glory of
victory were as dust and ashes in his mouth.
He had lost the joy of life, the pride of race,
the exultation of power. For one look from
those sweet eyes, over which, doubtless, the
hands of some grateful peasant had laid the
earth, he would have joyfully exchanged
renown and lordship, and even life itself.
At length in the fulness of Godâ€™s good
time, it chanced that the Count was hunting
in a distant part of the forest, when he
The Countess Itha 229
started from its covert a splendid stag.
Away through the open the beautiful creat-
ure seemed to float before him, and Hein-
rich followed in hot chase. Across grassy
clearings and through dim vistas of pines,
over brooks and among boulders and through
close underwood, the fleet quarry led him
â€˜without stop or stay, till at last it reached
the hanging rock which was Ithaâ€™s cell, and
there it stood at bay; and alarmed by the
clatter of hoofs, a tall pale woman, rudely
clad in her poor forest garb, came to the en-
Surprised at so strange a sight, the Count
drew rein and stared at the woman. Despite
the lapse of time and her pallor and emacia-
tion, in an instant he recognised the wife
whom he believed dead, and she too recog-
nised the husband she had loved.
How shall I tell of all that was said be-
tween those two by that lonely hermitage in
the depth of the forest? As in the old days,
she was eager to forgive everything; but it
was in vain that the Count besought her to
return to the life which she had forgotten for
so many years. Long had she been dead
and buried, so far as earthly things were con-
230 The Countess Itha
cerned. She would prefer, despite the hard-
ness and the pain, to spend in this peaceful
spot what time was yet allotted to her, but that
she longed once more to hear the music of
the holy bells, to kneel once more before the
altar of God.
What plea could Heinrich use to shake her
resolution ? His shame and remorse, even
his love, held him tongue-tied. He saw
that she was no longer the meek gentle Swa-
bian maiden who had shrunk and wept at
every hasty word and sharp glance of his.
He had slain all human love in her; nothing
survived save that large charity of the Saints
which binds them to all suffering souls on
Wofully he consented to her one wish.
A simple cell was prepared for her in the
wood beside the chapel of Our Lady in
the Meadow, and there she dwelt until, in
a little while, her gentle spirit was called
Story of the Lost Brother
HIS is the story written in the chron-
icle of the Priory of Kilgrimol, which
is in Amounderness. It tells of the ancient
years before that great inroad of the sea
which broke down the high firs of the west-
ern forest of Amounderness, and left behind
it those tracts of sand and shingle that are
now called the Blowing Sands. In those
days Oswald the Gentle was Prior of Kil-
grimol, and he beheld the inroad of the sea;
and afterwards he lived through the suffer-
ing and sorrow of the great plague of which
people now speak as the Black Death.
Of all monks and men he was the sweetest
and gentlest, and long before he was chosen
Prior, when he had charge of the youths
who wished to be monks, he never wearied
of teaching them to feel and care for all
Godâ€™s creatures, from the greatest to the
232 The Story of
least, and to love all Godâ€™s works, and to
take a great joy even in stones and rocks, and
water and earth, and the clouds and the blue
air. â€˜â€œ For,â€ said he, â€œaccording to the flesh
all these are in some degree our kinsfolk, and
like us they come from the hands of God.
Does not Mother Church teach us this,
speaking in her prayers of Godâ€™s creature of
fire, and his creature of salt, and His creature
When some of the brotherhood would
smile at his gentle sayings, he would answer:
â€œAre these things, then, so strange and
childish? Rather, was not this the way of
the Lord Jesus? You have read how He was
in the wilderness forty days, tempted of
Satan, and how He was with the wild beasts?
All that those words may mean we have
not been taught; but well I believe that the
wild things came to Him, even as very little
children will run to a good man without
any doubt of his goodness; and that they
recognised His pitifulness and His power
to help them; and that He read in their
dumb pleading eyes the pain and the travail
under which the whole creation groan-
eth; and that He blessed them, and gave
the Lost Brother 223
them solace, and told them in some myste-
tious way of the day of sacrifice'and redemp-
tion which was drawing near.â€
Once when the brethren spoke of clearing
out the nests from the church tower, because
of the clamour of the daws in the morning
and evening twilight, the Novice-master â€”
for this was Oswaldâ€™s title â€” besought them
to remember the words of the Psalmist, King
David: â€œThe sparrow hath found an house
and the swallow a nest for herself, where she
may lay her young, even thine altars, O
Lord of Hosts.â€
As for the novices, many a legend he told
them of the Saints and holy hermits who
had loved the wild creatures, and had made
them companions or had been served by
them in the lonely places of the hills and
wildwood. And in this, he taught them,
there was nothing strange, for in the book
of Hosea it was written that God would
make, for those who served Him, a treaty of
- peace and a league of love with the beasts and
the birds of heaven and the creeping things
of the earth, and in the book of Job it was
said that even the stones of the field should
be in friendship with them.
234 The Story of
â€œAnd this we see,â€ he would say, â€œin the
life of the blessed Bishop Kieran of Saighir,
who was the first Saint born in green Erinn.
For he wandered away through the land
seeking the little well where he was to found
his monastery. That well was in the depths
of a hoary wood, and when he drew near it
the holy bell which he carried rang clear and
bright, as it had been foretold him. So he
sat down to rest under a tree, when suddenly
a wild boar rushed out of its lair against him ;
but the breath of God tamed it, and the
savage creature became his first disciple, and
helped him to fell small trees and to cut
reeds and willows so that he might build him
a cell. After that there came from brake
and copse and dingle and earth and burrow
all manner of wild creatures; and a fox, a
badger, a wolf, and a doe were among
Kieranâ€™s first brotherhood. We read, too,
that for all his vows the fox made but a
crafty and gluttonous monk, and stole the
Saintâ€™s leather shoes, and fled with them to
his old earth. Wherefore Kieran called the
religious together with his bell, and sent the
badger to bring back the fugitive, and when
this was done the Saint rebuked the fox for
the Lost Brother 235
an unworthy and sinful monk, and laid pen-
ance upon him.â€
When the novices laughed at this adven-
ture, Father Oswald said:
â€œThese things are not matters of faith ;
you may believe them or not as you will.
Perhaps they did not happen in the way in
which they are now told, but if they are not
altogether true, they are at least images and
symbols of truth. But this I have no doubt
is true â€” that when the blessed Columba was
Abbot in Iona, he called one of the brethren
to him and bade him go on the third day to
the western side of the island, and sit on the
sea-shore, and watch for a guest who would
arrive, weary and hungry, in the afternoon.
And the guest would be a crane, beaten by
the stormy winds, and it would fall on the
beach, unable to fly further. â€˜And do thou,â€™
said Columba, â€˜ take it up with gentle hands
and carry it to the house of the guests, and
tend it for three days and three nights, and
when it is refreshed it will fly up into the air,
and after scanning its path through the clouds
it will return to its old sweet home in Erinn;
and if I charge thee so earnestly with this
service, it is because the guest comes from
236 The Story of
our dear land.â€™ And the Brother obeyed;
and on the third day the crane arrived,
storm-beaten and weary, and three days later
it departed. Have you not also heard or
read how our own St. Godrich at Whitby
protected the four-footed foresters, and how
a great stag, which had been saved by him
from the hunters, came year after year at a
certain season to visit him ?â€
Many legends too he told them of birds
as well as beasts, and three of these I will
mention here because they are very pleasant
to listen to. One was of St. Malo and the
wren. The wren, the smallest of all birds,
laid an egg in the hood which St. Malo had
hung up on a branch while he was working
in the field, and the blessed man was so
gentle and loving that he would not disturb
the bird, but left his hood hanging on the
tree till the wrenâ€™s brood was hatched.
Then there was the legend of St. Meinrad,
who lived in a hut made of boughs on
Mount Etzel, and had two ravens for his
companions. Now it happened that two
robbers wandered near the hermitage, and
foolishly thinking that some treasure might
be hidden there, they slew the Saint. After
the Lost Brother 237
a long search, in which they found nothing,
they went down the mountain to Zurich;
but the holy manâ€™s ravens followed them
with fierce cries, whirling about their heads
and dashing at their faces, so that the people
in the valley wondered at the sight. But
one of the dalesmen who knew the ravens
sent his son to the hermitage to see if all was
well, and followed the fellows to the town.
There they took refuge in a tavern, but the
ravens flew round and round the house,
screaming and pecking at the window near
which the robbers had seated themselves.
Speedily the lad came down with the news
of the cruel murder ; the robbers were seized,
and, having confessed their crime, they suf-
fered the torture of death on the wheel.
And lastly there was the legend of St.
Servan, who had a robin which perched on
his shoulder, and fed from his hand, and
joined in with joyful twittering when the
Saint sang his hymns and psalms. Now
the lads in the abbey-school were jealous of
the Saintâ€™s favourite pupil, Kentigern, and out
of malice they killed the robin and threw the
blame on Kentigern. Bitterly the innocent
child wept and prayed over the dead bird;
238 The Story of
and behold! when the Saint came from
singing nones in the minster, the robin flut-
tered up and flew away to meet him, chirrup-
â€˜â€œâ€˜A thoughtless thing of little blame,â€ said
the Novice-master, â€œwas the wickedness of
these boys compared with that of the monks
of the Abbot Eutychus.. The Abbot had a
bear to tend his sheep while he was absent
and to shut them in their fold at sunset, and
when the monks saw that marvel, instead of
praising God they were burned up with envy
and ill-will, and they killed the bear. Ah,
children, it is still possible for us, even in
these days, to kill a Saintâ€™s robin and an
abbotâ€™s bear. Let us beware of envy and
jealousy and uncharitableness.
In those years when Father Oswald was
thus teaching his novices gentleness and
compassion, he had but one trouble in his
life, and that was the remembrance of a com-
panion of his youth, who had fled from the
Priory and disappeared in the noise and
tumult of the worldâ€™s life. As scholars they
had been class-mates, and as novices they had
been so closely drawn together that each
the Lost Brother 239
had pledged to the other that whoever died
first should, under Godâ€™s permission, appear
to the one still left alive, and reveal to his
friend all that may be told of the state of the
departed. Now hardly had they been pro-
fessed monks more than a year when this
brother broke his vows and deserted his
habit, and fled away under cloud of night.
Oswald had never forgotten his friend, and
had never ceased to grieve and pray for him.
It was the great hope and desire of his heart
that, having at last proved the vanity of all
that the world can give, this Lost Brother
would one day return, like the Prodigal Son,
to the house of his boyhood.
As the years went by Prior Anselm grew
old and sickened, and at length what was
mortal of him fell as the leaf that falls and is
trodden into the clay; and the Novice-master
was elected Prior in his stead.
Now one of the first great works which
the new Prior set his hand to was the making
of two large fish-ponds for the monastery.
â€œAnd so,â€ said he, â€œnot only shall we have
other than sea-fish for our table, but in case
of fire we shall have store of water at hand.
240 The Story of
Then, too, it is a pleasant thing to look on
sweet water among trees, and to watch the
many sorts of silvery fish playing in their
clear and silent world. And well it becomes
our state of life that we should have this, for
of our Lordâ€™s Disciples many were fisher-
men, and fish and bread were the last earthly
food our dear Master ate. Now of these
ponds let the larger be our Lake of Genne-
sareth, and surely it shall some time happen
to us that we shall see the Lord when the
bright morning has come, and that our hearts
shall be as a fire of coals upon the shore.â€
Of the earth dug out of the fish pools he
piled up a high mound or barrow, and
stocked it well with saplings of oak and
beech, ash and pine, and flowering bushes;
and about the mound a spiral way wound to
the top, and from the top one saw to the
four winds over the high woods of Amoun-
derness, and on the west, beyond the forest,
the white sands of the shore and the fresh
sea. When the saplings grew tall and stout,
the green leaves shut out all sight of the
Priory ; even the tower of the church; and
above the trees in the bright air it was as
though one had got half-way to heaven.
the Lost Brother 241
Now after a little while the Prior reared
on the high summit a vast cross of oak,
rooted firmly amid huge boulders, and the
face of our Lord crucified was turned to the
west, and His arms were opened wide to the
sea and to the passing ships. And beneath
the flying sails, far away, the mariners and
fisher-folk could see the cross in the sky,
and they bared their heads to the calvary of
Kilgrimol. So the name of our house and
our Christ was known in strange waters and
in distant havens.
All that climbing greenwood of the mound
was alive with wild creatures, winged and
four-footed, and no one was suffered to dis-
quiet or annoy them. To us it seemed that
the Prior was as well known to all the wild
things far and near as he was to us, for the
little birds fluttered about him, and the squir-
rels leaped from tree to tree along the way
he went, and the fawns ran from the covert
to thrust their noses into his hand. And in
the winter time, if the snow lay deep and
there was any dearth, food was made ready
for them and they came in flocks and troops
to the Priory, knowing well, one would think,
that the Prior would be their loving almoner.
242 The Story of
Bee-hives, too, he set up, and grew all
manner of flowers, both for the use of the
little brown toilers and for the joyance of the
brethren; and of the flowers he spoke deep
and beautiful parables too many to be told
of in this book.
Now in the third year of his rule the
Prior heard tidings of the companion he had
never forgotten, and he took into his confi-
dence one of the religious named Bede, in
whom he had great trust, and he told him
the story of their friendship. â€˜And now,
Bede,â€ he said, â€œ I would have thee go ona
long journey, even to the golden city of
London, and seek out my friend. He will
easily be found, for men know his name, and
he hath grown to some repute, and the good
things of this world have not been denied
him. And in this I rejoice, for when he
hath won all his heart may desire, he will the
sooner discover how little is the joy and how
fleeting the content. And tell him that so
long as I am Prior of this house, so long
shall this house be a home waiting for his
home-coming. Bid him come to me â€”if
but for a little while, then for a little while
the Lost Brother 243
be it; but if he longs for rest, this shall be
the place of his rest until the end. And if
these things cannot be now, then let them be
when they may be.â€
And Bede went on his long wayfaring and
found the Lost Brother, a man happy and of
fair fame, and blessed with wife and child.
And the monk sat with the little maid on his
knee, and even while he prayed for her and
her father, he understood how it might be
that the man was well content, and how that
neither to-day nor to-morrow could he re-
turn to that old life of the Priory in the forest.
â€œ Yet,â€ said he, â€œ tell the Prior that surely
some day I shall see his face again, if it be
but for mere love of him; for well I know
there be among the monks those who would
more joyfully rend me or burn me at the
stake than give the hand of fellowship to one
who has cast aside the cowl.â€
When he heard of these things the Prior
only prayed the more earnestly for the home-
coming of his friend.
Now it was in the autumn of that year, at
the season when the days and nights are of
one length, that the great inroad of the sea
244 The Story of
befell. The day had been stormy, with a
brackish wind clamouring out of the sea, and
as the darkness closed in it was with us as it
is with blind men, who hear and feel the
more keenly because of their blindness ; and
all that we heard was the boom of billows
breaking on the long shore and the crying
and groaning of the old oaks and high firs in
the forest. Then in the midmost of the
night we were aroused by so terrible a noise,
mingled with shrieking and wailing, that we
crowded to the Priorâ€™s door. Speedily he
rose, and we followed him out of doors,
wondering what disaster had happened. The
moon was shining brightly; shreds of cloud
were flying across the cold sky ; the air was
full of the taste of salt.
As we gazed about us we saw that the
cloisters and the garth and all the space
within the walls were crowded with wild
birds â€” sea-fowl and crows, pheasant and
blackcock, starlings and thrushes, stonechats
and yellow-hammers, and hundreds of small
winged creatures, cowering for shelter. And
when the Prior bade us throw open the
monastery gates, out of the sombre gloom
of the forest the scared woodlanders came
the Lost Brother 245
crowding, tame and panting. No one had
ever realised that so many strange creatures,
in fur and pelt, housed in the green ways.
Even the names of many of them we did not
know, for we had never set eyes on them
before; but among those that were within
our knowledge were coneys and hares, stoats
and weasels, foxes and badgers, many deer
with their does and fawns, and one huge
grey creature of savage aspect which we took
to be an old wolf.
The Prior ordered that the gates should
be left open for any fugitives that might seek
refuge, and he went among the wild beasts,
calming them with the touch of his hand and
blessing them. Then there came a woman,
with a child at her bosom and a little lad
clinging to her dress, but she was so dis-
tracted with fright that she was unable to say
what had happened.
When he had given directions for the care
of all these strange guests, the Prior climbed
up the mound through the tossing trees, and
when he had reached the summit he saw to
his amazement that the sea had risen in a
â€˜mighty flood and poured for miles into the
forest. The huge oaks and pines of centu-
246 The Story of
ries had gone down in thousands, and over
their fallen trunks and broken branches the
white billows were tumbling and leaping in
clouds of spray in the moonlight. Happily
the land sloped away to the north, so that
unless the wind changed and blew against us
the Priory seemed to be in no present danger.
Overhead the great cross vibrated in the
storm, and the face of the Christ gazed sea-
ward, and the holy arms were opened wide.
The sight of that divine figure filled the
Priorâ€™s heart with peace and confidence.
â€œWhether to live or to die,â€ he murmured,
â€œin Thee, O Lord, have we placed our trust.â€
Such was the terrible inroad of the sea
which broke the western forest of Amounder-
ness. For many a day the land lay in salt
swamp till the sands were blown over it and
buried the fallen timber; and afterwards the
very name of Forest was forgotten, and the
people called all that part the Field-lands.
Now it was in this same year that the
grievous pestilence named the Black Death
raged in England; but it was not till the
winter had gone by that it reached Amoun-
derness. Then were seen those terrible days
â€œTHE SIGHT OF THAT DIVINE FIGURE FILLED THE PRIORâ€™S
HEART WITH PEACE AND CONFIDENCE.â€
the Lost Brother . 247
when ships sailed the seas with crews of dead
men, and when on land there was burying
without sorrow and flight without safety, for
though many fled they could not escape the
evil, and so many died that the wells of sor-
row ran dry. And because of the horror of
so many deaths, it was forbidden to toll the
bells any longer lest men should go mad.
Often no hand could be got for love or for
gold to touch the sick or to carry the departed
to their graves. When the graveyards were
filled, thousands were buried, without a
prayer or a last look, in deep trenches salted
with quicklime, on the commons or in an
open field. Many a street in many a town
fell suddenly silent and deserted, and grass
grew between the stones of the causeway.
Here and there fires were kept burning night
and day to purify the air, but this availed
little. In many a thorpe and village all the
inhabitants were swept away, and even rob-
bers and desperate vagrants were too greatly
in fear of infection to enter the ownerless
houses. Sometimes in the fields one saw
little children, and perchance an aged wo-
man, trying to manage a plough or to lead a
248 The Story of
When this trouble fell upon the people
the Prior sent out various of the brethren to
aid the suffering and to comfort the bereaved ;
but when many of the monks themselves were
stricken down and died within the hour, a
great dread took hold of the others, so that
they were unwilling to expose themselves to
The Prior rebuked them for their lack of
faith and the coldness of their charity.
â€œWhen the beasts and wild creatures suf-
fered we had compassion on them,â€ he said ;
â€œwhat folly is this that we shall have care
for them and yet feel no pity for men and
women in their misery! Do you fear that
you too may be taken off by this pestilence?
Who, then, has told you that you shall not
die if only you can escape the pestilence?
Daily you pray â€˜Thy kingdom come,â€™ and
daily you seek that it shall not come to-
He went abroad himself unweariedly with
one or other of the brethren, doing such
good as he was able, and when he had re-
turned home and taken a little rest he set
out once more. Now one night as he and
Brother Bede returned belated through the
the Lost Brother 249
forest, they were startled as they approached
the gate to hear the weeping and moaning of
one who lay forsaken on the cold earth;
and when the Prior called out through the
darkness, â€œ Be of good cheer, Christian soul,
we are coming to your aid,â€ the sufferer re-
plied by rattling the lid of his clap-dish and
at once they knew it was some poor leper
who had fallen helpless by the way.
â€œ Patience, brother,â€ said the Prior; and
bidding his companion open the wicket, he
lifted the wretched outcast from the ground
and carried him in his arms into the great
hall. â€˜Rest here a little,â€ he said, â€œtill we
can bring you light and fire and food.â€
The Prior and Bede hastened to call the
brethren who had charge of these matters,
but when they returned with the other
monks they found the great hall shining
with a wonderful light and filled with a mar-
vellous fragrance of flowers, and on the seat
where the leper had been placed there lay a
golden rose, but the leper himself had
Then a great joy cast fear out of the hearts
of the brotherhood, and they laboured with-
out ceasing in the stricken villages. Many of
250 The Story of
them died, but it was without sorrow or re-
pining, and the face of each was touched
with the golden rose ere he was laid to his
Now the pestilence of that year was stayed
by a bitter winter, and snow lay deep even
in the forest, and great blocks of ice littered
the shore of the bleak sea. And in the
depth of the winter, when it drew near the
Nativity, there came riding to the monastery
a stranger, who asked to see the Prior.
When the Prior looked into the manâ€™s face
the tears started and ran down his own, and
he opened his arms to him, and drew him
to his breast and kissed him. For this was
indeed the Lost Brother. And when he
had thus given him welcome, the Prior said:
â€œTask no questions; what you can tell me
you shall tell when the fitting time comes,
But this is your home to have or to leave,
for you are as free as the winds of heaven.â€
And the Lost Brother replied : â€œ Wise are
you no less than good. The plague has
bereft me of the child, and of the mother of
the child. More I cannot tell you now.â€
Thus to the Priorâ€™s great happiness the
the Lost Brother 251
companion of his youth returned from wan-
dering the ways of the world.
When the weeks passed, and still he re-
mained a silent and solitary stranger, the
religious spoke sharply among themselves of
the presence of one who had broken vows
and revelled in the joys of life, and had been
received without censure or reproof. Then
the Prior, wrathful now even on account of
his gentleness, rebuked them once again:
â€œO eyes of stone and hearts of water, are
you so slow to learn? Have you who
sheltered the wild creatures no thought for
this man of much sorrow? Have you who
buried the dead no prayer and no tenderness
for this soul of the living?â€
More than once the Lost Brother seemed
to awake from a dream, and spoke of going
forth again from this home of quiet, saying :
â€œTruly this is great peace and solace to me,
but Iam not of you; my thoughts are not
your thoughts, nor is yours my way of life.
Indeed, though I were to will it never so, I
could not repent of what I have done. Let
me go; why should I be an offence and a
stone of stumbling to those who are righteous
252 The Story of
But the Prior silenced him, asking gently:
â€œDo we distress you with any of these
things? God has His times and seasons,
and will not be hastened. At least so long
as you find peace and rest here, remain with
â€œYou are strangely wise and gentle,â€ the
Lost Brother answered. â€˜â€˜ God, I doubt it
not, has His times and seasons; but with
me I know-not at all what He will do.â€
It was no long while after this that the
Prior fell into a grievous illness; and when
he knew that his hour was drawing nigh, he
besought the monks to bear him up to the
foot of the cross on the mound. There, as
he looked far abroad into the earth over the
tree-tops, he smiled with lightness of heart
and said: â€œIf the earth be so beautiful and
so sweet, what must the delight of Paradise
And behold! a small brown squirrel came
down a tree, and ran across and nestled in
the holy manâ€™s bosom, and its eyes were full
of tears. The Prior stroked and caressed
it, and said: â€œGod bless thee, little wood-
lander, and may the nuts never fail thee?â€
Then, gazing up into the blue sky and
the Lost Brother 253
the deep spaces of air above, he murmured
in a low voice: â€œIt is a very awful and lonely
way to go!â€
â€œ Not so awful for you,â€ replied the com-
panion of his youth. â€œThat blue way has
been beaten plain by the Lord Christ, and
the Apostles, and many holy men from the
A long while the Prior lay musing before
he spoke again, and then he said: â€œI re-
member me of an ancient saying which I had
long forgotten. A year for the life of aâ€”
nay, I know not what any longer. But after
that it runs, And three for the life of a field;
and thrice the life of a field for the life ofa
hound; and thrice the life of a hound for
the life of a horse; and thrice the life of a
horse for the life of a man; and thrice the
life of a man for the life of a stag; and thrice
the life of a stag for the life of an ouzel ; and
thrice the life of an ouzel for the life of an
eagle; and thrice the life of an eagle for the
life of a salmon ; and thrice the life of a sal-
mon for the life of a yew; but the Lord God
liveth for everâ€”the Lord God liveth for
The same night the alabaster box was
254 Story of the Lost Brother
broken, and the precious ointment poured
out. And on the Priorâ€™s breast they placed
the golden rose, and under the great red
hawthorne in the midst of the cloister-garth
they laid him, O Lord, beneath the earth
which is Thy footstool.
At the same hour in which he was taken
from us there was a great crying and lamen-
tation of the wild creatures in the forest, and
the tall stags bellowed and clashed their
antlers against the gates of the monastery.
In the place of Prior Oswald Father Bede
was made Prior.
Whether the spirit of Prior Oswald ever
returned to earth the book does not tell, but
the Lost Brother, the companion of his youth,
lived in the house of Kilgrimol to old age,
and in the days of Bedeâ€™s rule he made a
The King Orgulous
O and fro in the open cloister of Essa-
lona walked the monk Desiderius, mus-
ing and musing. Every now and again he
stayed in his paces to feed a tall white stork
and two of her young, which stood on the par-
apet between the pillars of the cloister; and
though for the most part his dole went to
the storklings, the mother was well content
with his stroking of her head and soft white
Then he resumed his slow walk, turning
over and over in his perplexed mind the
questions of grace and nature, and praying
for light in the obscure ways where reason
groped darkling. Meanwhile the storks
stood grave and patient, as if they too had
matter for deep musing.
As in this day, so in the ancient time the
convent of Essalona was perched on a beetling
crag on the nothern side of the Sarras moun-
256 The King Orgulous
tains. There the mighty ridge, with its
belts of virgin pinewood and its stony knolls
and pastoral glens, breaks off suddenly in a
precipitous escarpment; and, a thousand
feet below, the land is an immense green
plain, sweeping away to the blue limits of
the north. It is as though the sea had once
on a time run up to the mountain wall and
torn down the tawny rocks for sand and shin-
gle, and had then drawn back into the north,
leaving the good acres to grow green in the
sun. Through the plain winds a river, bright
and slow; in many places the fruitful level
is ruffled with thicket and coppice; and
among the far fields the white walls of farms
and hamlets glitter amid their boskage.
When the clear sunlight fell on that still
expanse of quiet earth, one might see, in
those days, the stone towers and sparkling
pinnacles of the royal city of Sarras, with a
soft blue feather of smoke floating over it.
Often had Desiderius let his eyes rest on
the smoulder and gleam of that busy city,
which was allso hushed and dreamlike in the
distance, little thinking the while that one day
he should dwell within its walls, and play a
strange part in the deeds that men remember.
The King Orgulous 257
From the brink of the escarpment rises
the rock of Essalona, and the convent is
built on the edge of the rock, in such sort
that, leaning over the parapet of the open
cloister, Desiderius might have dropped a
pebble sheer down to the plain below. A
single path wound up the rock to the gate,
so narrow and steep that one sturdy lay-
brother might have held the way with a
thresherâ€™s flail against a score of men-at-arms.
Here, then, in this solitary house, Desi-
derius dwelt with five other brethren, all good
and faithful men; but he, the youngest and
yet the most learned in philosophy and star-
lore and the sacred Scriptures and the books
of the wise, was the most meek and lowly of
heart. No pains did he spare his body or
his spirit to master the deep knowledge of
divine things. Diligent by day, he eked out
the light of the stars with the lamp of the
firefly, or conned his page by the dim shin-
ing of the glow-worm along the lines.
Now as he mused in the cloister he stopped
short with a deep sigh, and stood before the
storks, and said: â€œ Away, happy birds ; you
have leave. Disport yourselves, soaring very
high in the sunny heavens, or take your rest
258 The King Orgulous
on our roofs. I have appeased you with
food; but to the hunger of my soul who
shall minister? â€â€™
At his word the storks flapped their wings
and rose from the parapet, and went sailing
up into the sunshine ; and Desiderius heard
at his shoulder a most sweet and gracious
voice saying: â€˜ What is thy hunger, and
wherein wouldst thou have me minister to
Turning about, Desiderius saw that it was
an Angel which spoke, and he fell at the
bright spiritâ€™s feet abashed and in great dread.
But the Angel raised him up, and gave him
courage, saying: â€œO Desiderius, most dear
to me(for I am thine Angel Guardian), do
not tremble to tell me; but speak to me
even as thou wouldst speak to a man of thy
Then said Desiderius: â€œ Show to me and
make plain, I pray thee, the mystery of the
grace of God in the heart of man.â€
â€œMany are the mysteries of God,â€ said
the Angel, â€œâ€˜ whereof even the highest of the
Archangels may not sustain the splendour,
and this is one of them. Howbeit, if thou
wilt be patient and prayerful, and wilt repose
The King Orgulous 259
thy trust in the Lord Christ, I will strive to
show thee two pictures of thy very selfâ€”
one, to wit, of the natural Adam in Desi-
derius, and one of the man redeemed by the
blood shed for thee. So in some wise shalt
thou come to some dim light of this mystery
of grace divine. Will that suffice thee?â€
â€œThat, Lord Angel, will suffice,â€ said the
monk, bowing low before the Angel.
â€œâ€˜ Wait then, and watch ; and even in thy
body and before thou diest thou shalt behold
as I have said.â€
Therewith the Angel left him, and Desi-
derius was aware of but the walls and pillars
of the cloister, and the bright vast plain,
and, far away, the city of Sarras glittering,
and the smoke sleeping like a small blue
cloud above it. And the coming and going
of the Angel was after this manner. Desi-
derius perceived him, bright in the brightness
of the sunshine, as one perceives a morsel of
clear ice floating in clear water; and when
Desiderius saw him no more it was as though
the clear ice had melted into the clear water.
Now after the lapse of three short years,
when he was but in his thirtieth summer,
260 The King Orgulous
Desiderius was summoned from his cell on
the lonely mountain, and, despite his tears
and supplications and his protestations of
ignorance and inexperience and extreme
youth, made Archbishop of Sarras. Only
one answer was vouchsafed to him. â€˜â€œ One
of thy vows was entire obedience, and the
grace of God is sufficient for thee.â€
In that same year a horde of the fierce
Avars poured out from the round green
earth-walls of their mysterious stronghold,
which lay beyond Danube, and, crossing the
river, fell on Sarras; and clashing with that
ravening horde, Astulf the King of Sarras
Ill had it then fared with the folk of
Sarras, city and plain alike, but for a certain
Talisso, a free-rider, who from a green knoll
had watched the onset. When he saw the
slaying of the King, he plunged into the
battle, cleaving his way through the ranks of
squat and swarthy Avars ; and heartening the
men of Sarras with his ringing cheer and
battle-laughter, shaped them into wedges of
sharp iron and drove them home through
the knotted wood of their foemen, till the
Avars fled hot-foot to Danube water, and
The King Orgulous 261
through the water, and beyond, andso reached
the strait doorways of their earth-bound
stronghold, the Hring.
Now, seeing that the King of Sarras
had left neither child nor brother to heir-
ship, and that their deliverer was a stalwart
champion, young and nobly statured, and
handsome and gracious as he was valiant,
frank too and open-handed, and that more-
over he seemed a man skilled in the mastery
of men and in affairs of rule, the fighting
men of Sarras thought that no better fortune
could befall them than they should choose
this Talisso for their king. To Sarras there-
fore they carried him with them on their
merry home-going, and having entered the
free town, called the Council of Elders to
say yea or nay. With few words the
Elders confirmed the choice, and the joy-
bells were rung, and great was the rejoicing -
of all men, gentle and simple, that God had
sent them so goodly a man for their ruler
In a week from that the city was dight
and decked for the crowning of Talisso.
Garlands were hung across the streets ;
windows and walls were graced with green
262 The King Orgulous
branches and wreaths of flowers; many-
coloured draperies, variegated carpets and
webs of silk and velvet hung from parapet
and balcony ; once more the joy-bells were
set aswing, and amid a proud array of nobles
and elders and gaily harnessed warriors the
new King walked under a canopy of cloth of
gold to the High Church.
There in solemn splendour the new Arch-
bishop administered to him the kingly oath,
and anointed him with the chrism of con-
secration, and set the gold of power on his
head, and invested him with the mantle of
St. Victor and girt about him the Saintâ€™s
great iron sword set with many jewels on the
apple and the cross. As the Archbishop
was completing these ordinances, he chanced
to look full into the Kingâ€™s face for the first
time, and as the Kingâ€™s eyes met his each
stood still as stone regarding the other for
such a space as it would take one to count
four, telling the numbers slowly. Neither
spoke, and when they who were nearest
looked to learn the cause of the stillness and
the stoppage they saw with amazement that
the new King and the new Archbishop were
as like the one to the other as brothers who
The King Orgulous 263
are twins. With a slow and audible draw-
ing of the breath the Archbishop took up
again the words of the ritual, and neither
looked at the other any more at that time.
Now, having been crowned and conse-
crated, Talisso ascended the steps in front
of the altar, and, drawing the huge blade
from its sheath, lunged with it four times
into the air â€”once to the north and once to
the south, once to the east and once to the
west. Sheathing the sword, he descended,
and walking to the western portal mounted
his war-horse, and paced slowly down the
street, followed by a brilliant cavalcade, to
the Mound of Coronation.
Urging his steed up the ascent, he drew
rein on the summit,:and once more bared
the holy brand, and, wheeling to the four
quarters of heaven, thrust it into the air in
token of lordship and power inalienable ;
and when he rode down the Mound to his
people a great cry was raised in greeting,
and four pigeons were loosed. High they
flew in circles overhead, and, each choosing
his own airt, darted out to the four regions
of the world to bear the news of that
264. The King Orgulous
The first years of the new reign seemed to
be the dawn of a Golden Age in the land of
Sarras, and in those years no man was more
beloved and honoured by the King than was
Archbishop Desiderius. As time passed by,
however, and the evil leaven of unrestrained
power began to ferment in the Kingâ€™s heart,
and the Archbishop opposed and reproved
him, gently and tenderly at first, but ever
more gravely and steadfastly, coldness and
estrangement divided them; and soon that
strange resemblance which gave them the
aspect of twin brothers, became a root of
suspicion and dread in the Kingâ€™s mind, for
he reasoned with himself, â€œWhat more likely
than that this masterful prelate should dream
of wearing the crown, he who so nearly
resembles the King that the mother of
either might well pause ere she should say
which was her son? A foot of iron, and a
sprinkling of earth, and farewell Talisso!
None would guess it was Desiderius who
took his ease in thy chair.â€
Thus by degrees limitless power waxed
into lawlessness, and suspicion and dread
into moroseness and cruelty, and on this
rank soil the red weeds of lust and hate and
The King Orgulous 265
bitter pride sprang up and choked all that
was sweet and gracious and lovable in the
nature of the man.
Then did the wise and gentle folk of
Sarras come to perceive how woefully they
had been deceived in the tyrant they had
crowned, and speedily it came to pass that
when they spoke of King Talisso they breathed
not his name, but using an ancient word to
signify such insane and evil pride as that of
Lucifer and the Fallen Angels, they called
him the King Orgulous. Yet if this was
the mind of the better folk, there was no
lack of base and venomous creatures â€” flat-
terers, time-servers and sycophants â€” to
minister to his wickedness and malignity.
Dark were the days which now fell on
Sarras, and few were those on which some
violence or injustice, some deed of lust or
rapacity was not flaunted in the face of
heaven. The most noble and best men of
the city were attainted and plundered and
driven into exile. Of the meaner sort of
folk many a poor citizen or rustic toiler went
shaven and branded, or maimed of nose and
eyelids, or with black stumps seared with
pitch and an iron hook for hand. Once
266 The King Orgulous
more the torture-chamber of the castle rang
with the screams of poor wretches stretched
on the rack ; and the ancient instruments of
pain, which had rusted through many a long
year of clemency, were once more reddened
with the sweat of human agony.
An insatiable lust of cruelty drove the
King to a sort of madness. With a fiendish
malice he fashioned of wood and iron an en-
gine of torment which bore the likeness of a
beautiful woman, but which opened when a
spring was pressed, and showed within a hid-
eous array of knives; and these pierced the
miserable wight about whom the Image
closed her arms. In blasphemous merriment
the King called this woman of his making
Our Lady of Sorrow, and in mockery of
holy things he kept a silver lamp burning
constantly before her, and crowned her with
Now in the hour in which the King was
left wholly to his wickedness, he doomed to
the Image the young wife of one of the
chief men of Sarras. Little more than a girl
was she in years; sweet and exceeding
lovely; and she still suckled her first babe.
When the tormentors would have haled
The King Orgulous 267
her to the Image, â€œForbear,â€™â€â€™ she said,
â€œthere is no need; willingly I go and cheer-
fully.â€ And with a fearless meekness she
walked before them with her little babe in
her arms into the chamber of agony.
Coming before the Image with its garland
of flowers she knelt down, and prayed to the
Virgin Mother of our Lord, and commended
her soul and the soul of her dear babe to our
Lady and her divine Son; and the babe
stretched out its little hands to the Image,
cooing and babbling in its innocence.
Then, as though this were a spectacle to
make the very stones shriek and to move
the timber of the rack and the iron of the
axe to human tenderness, the Image stepped
down from its pedestal, and lifted up mother
and child, anda wondrous light and fragrance
filled the stone vault, and the tormentors
fled, stricken with a mad terror.
Down from the castle and through the
streets of the hushed and weeping city the
Image led the mother and her babe to their
own door, and when they had entered the
house, and the people stood by sobbing and
praying, the Image burst into flames, and on
the spot where it stood there remained a
268 The King Orgulous
little heap of ashes when that burning was
Judge if the land of Sarras was silent after
this day of divine interposition. Hastily
summoning the Bishops of the realm, and
gathering a body of men-at-arms, the Arch-
bishop Desiderius proclaimed from the Jesus
altar of the High Church the deposition
of the King Orgulous. Talisso was seized
and stripped of his royal robes; a width of
sackcloth was wrapped about his body, and
with a rope round his neck he was led to
the Mound of Coronation. There, on the
height whereon he had thrust his sword into
the four regions of heaven, he received his
Standing erect in a circle on the top of the
Mound the nine Bishops of the realm held
each a lighted torch in his hand. In the
centre stood Desiderius beside the King de-
posed, and holding high his torch uttered
the anathema which was to sever all bonds
of plighted troth and loyalty and service, and
to cast him forth from the pale of Holy
Church, and to debar him from the common
charity of all Christian people. At that mo-
ment the Bishops marked with awe the
The King Orgulous 269
strange resemblance between Desiderius and
the King, and the eyes of these two met,
and each was aware how marvellously like
to himself was the other. But with a clear
unfaltering voice the Archbishop cried aloud
â€œMay he be outcast from the grace of
heaven and the gladness of earth. May the
stones betray him, and the trees of the forest
be leagued against him. In want or in sick-
ness may no hand help him. Accursed may
he be in his house and in his fields, in the
water of the streams and in the fruits of the
earth. Accursed be all things that are his,
from the cock that crows to awaken him to
the dog that barks to welcome him. May
his death be the death of Pilate and of Judas
the betrayer. May no earth be laid on the
earth that was he. May the light of his
life be extinguished thus!â€
And the Archbishop cast down his torch
and trampled it into blackness; and crying
â€œAmen, amen, amen!â€ the Bishops threw
down their torches and trod them under foot
and crushed out every spark of fire.
â€œBegone,â€ said the Archbishop, â€œthou
art banned and banished. If within three
270 The King Orgulous
days thy feet be found on the earth of Sarras,
thou shalt hang from the nearest tree.â€
As he spoke the great bell of the High
Church began to toll as for one whose spirit
has passed away. At the sound Talisso
started ; then taking the rope from his neck
and flinging it on the ground with a mock-
ing laugh, he turned and fled down the
Mound and into the green fields that lie to
Not far had he fled into the open country
before the recklessness of the reiver and
strong-thief fell on Talisso. Entering a
homestead he smote down the master, and
got himself clothing and food and weapons,
and seizing a horse, pushed on apace till he
came to the red field where he had routed
the Avars, and thence onward to Danube
Beyond Danube, some daysâ€™ riding into
the north, lay that mysterious stronghold,
the Hring, the camp-city of the Avar rob-
ber-horde. And thither Talisso was now
speeding, for he said to himself: â€œ They are
raiders and slayers, and this kind is quick to
know a man. They will love me none the
The King Orgulous 271
less that I have stricken and chased them.
Rather will they follow me and avenge me,
if not for my sake for the sake of the fat
fields and rich towns of Sarras.â€
Now the stronghold was a marvel in the
manner of its contrivance, and in its size and
strength; for it was bulwarked with seven
rings, each twenty feet high and twenty feet
wide, and the rings were made of stockades of
oak and beech and pine trunks, filled in with
stones and earth, and covered atop with turf
and thick bushes. â€˜The distance across the
outer ring was thirty miles, and between
each ring and the one within it there were
villages and farms in cry of each other, and
each ring was pierced by narrow gateways
well guarded. In the midst of the inner-
most ring were the tent of the Chagan or
Great Chief, and the House of the Golden
Hoard. Piled high were the chambers of
that house with the enormous treasure of a
century of raiding â€” silken tissues and royal
apparel and gorgeous arms, great vases and
heavy plate of gold and silver, spoil of jewels
and precious stones, leather sacks of coined
money, the bribes and tribute of Greece and
Rome, and I know not what else of rare
272 The King Orgulous
and costly. Long afterwards, when the
Avars were broken and the Hring thrown
down, that hoard filled fifteen great waggons
drawn each by four oxen.
In the very manner in which Talisso had
forecast it, so it fell out with him at the
Hring. The fierce, swart, broad-shouldered
dwarfs with the almond eyes and woven pig-
tails gazed with glee and admiration on the
tall and comely warrior who had swept them
before his sword-edge; and when he spoke
of the rich markets and goodly houses and
fruitful land of Sarras their eyes glistened,
and they swore by fire and water and the
four winds to avenge his wrongs.
Little need is there to linger in telling of
a swift matter. Mounted on their nimble
and hardy ponies, the Avars dashed into
Sarras land two hundred strong, and tarried
neither to slay nor spoil, but outsped the
fleet feet of rumour, till in the grey glimmer
of cock-crow they sighted the towers of
Sarras city. Under cover of a wood they
rested till the gates were flung wide for the
early market folk. Who then but Talisso
laughed his fierce and orgulous laugh as
The King Orgulous 273
he rode at their head and they all hurled
through the gates, and, clattering up the
empty street, carried the castle out of hand?
Not a blow was struck, no drop of blood
reddened iron or stone; and such divinity
doth hedge even a wicked king dethroned
that when the guards saw the tyrant once
more ascending the steps of power they
lowered their points and stood at a loss how
to act. But Talisso, with some touch of his
pristine graciousness, bade no man flee or
fear who was willing to return to his alle-
giance. â€œFirst, however, of all things, bring
me hither the Archbishop; bring with ropes
and horses if need be; but see that not a
hair of his head be injured.â€
Now on this same night that these Hun-
nish folk were pressing forward to Sarras city
Desiderius saw in a dream Talisso standing
before the throne of God. On his head he
wore his crown, but otherwise he was but
such as he stood for sentence on the Mound
of Coronation, to wit, with a rope around his
neck, and naked save for the fold of sack-
cloth about his loins.
Beside him stood an Angel, and the Angel
274 The King Orgulous
was speaking: â€œAll the lusts of the flesh,
and all the lusts of the eyes, and all the lusts
of the will, and the pride of life this man
hath gratified and glutted to surfeiting, yet
is he as restless as the sea and as insatiable
as the grave. Speak, man; is it not so?â€
And Talisso answered, with a peal of
orgulous laughter: â€˜Restless as the sea;
insatiable as the grave.â€
â€˜How then, Lord,â€ said the Angel, â€œshall
this manâ€™s unrest and hunger be stayed?â€
God spoke and said: â€œFill his mouth
Then the Angel took a handful of dust
and said to Talisso: â€œ Open thy mouth and
Talisso cried aloud, â€œI will not eat.â€
â€œOpen thy mouth,â€ said the Angel
â€œMy mouth I will not open,â€ replied
Thereupon the Angel caught him by the
hair, and plucked his head backward till his
throat made a knotted white ridge above the
neck, and as Talisso opened his mouth,
shrieking blasphemies and laughing with
frantic rage, the Angel filled it with dust.
The King Orgulous 275
Talisso fell backwards, thrusting with his
feet and thrashing the ground with his hands;
his crown fell from his head and rolled away ;
his face grew set and white; and then he lay
straight and rigid.
â€œ Hast thou filled his mouth ?â€
â€œ His mouth, Lord, is filled,â€ the Angel
This was the dream of Desiderius.
When citizens came running to the palace,
and the Archbishop learned how the gates
had been surprised and the castle taken,
he lost no time in casting about what he
should do. He sent messengers to summon
the Council of the Elders, and bade his men-
at-arms fall into array. Then he hastened
to the High Church, and, after a brief prayer
before the altar, girt on the great sword of
St. Victor, threw over his purple cassock the
white mantle of the Saint, and putting on
his head a winged helm of iron, made his
way to the castle where Talisso awaited his
â€œStay you here,â€ he said to his men-at-
arms when they reached the portals, â€œand if
by Godâ€™s blessing work fall to your hands
276 The King Orgulous
to do, do it doughtily and with right good
Up the high hall of the castle, through the
groups of lounging Avars he went, with
great strides and eyes burning, to the dais
where Talisso sat apart in the royal chair.
â€œHa! well met, Lord Archbishop,â€ cried
the dethroned King, springing to his feet at
the sight of him.
â€œWell met, Talisso,â€ replied Desiderius
in a loud voice. â€œWith no more ado I
now tell thee that for thee there is but one
end. hy mouth must be filled with dust.â€
As he spoke, Desiderius flung back his
mantle, and drew the holy sword. Heaving
it aloft he struck mightily at Talisso. From
the Kingâ€™s helmet glanced the keen brand,
and descending to the shoulder shore away .
the plates of iron, and bit the flesh.
Once more the great sword was swung up,
for Desiderius neither heard nor heeded the
cry and rush of the Avars; but or ever the
stroke could fall Desiderius saw the Angel
of Essalona by his side and felt his hand
restraining the blade; and at the same
instant the figure before him, the figure of
the King Orgulous, grew dim and hazy,
The King Orgulous 277
and wavered, and broke like smur blown
along a wooded hillside, and vanished from
â€œA little truer stroke,â€ said the Angel,
â€œ and thou hadst slain thyself, for of a truth
the man thou wast slaying was none other
than thyself; as it is, thou art hurt more than
need wasâ€ â€” for the shoulder of the Arch-
bishop was bare, and the blood streamed
Bewildered at these words, Desiderius
gazed about to see if the high hall and the
Avars were but the imagery of a dream.
But there in front of him stood the dwarfish
tribe, with naked brands and_battle-axes.
These, when they looked on his face, raised
a hoarse cry of terror, for they too had
beheld Talisso, how at a blow of the magic
sword he had fallen and perished even from
the vision of men, and now they saw that he
who had slain the King was himself the
King. Howling and clamouring, they broke
from the hall and fled into the street; and
there the men-at-arms did right willingly and
doughtily the work which thus came to their
hands. Of that fierce and uncouth robber
horde, which rode to Sarras two hundred
- 278 The King Orgulous
strong, scarce two score saw Danube water
When Desiderius knew for a surety that
the natural man within him was verily that
King wicked and orgulous, and understood
that the sins of that evil King were the sins he
himself would have committed but for the
saving grace of God, a great awe fell upon
him, and he was abashed with a grievous
dread lest the King Orgulous were not really
dead and done with, but were sleeping still,
like the Kings of old legend, in some dusky
cavern of his nature, ready to awake and
break forth with sword and fire. Gladly
would he have withdrawn to the solitude of
the little convent on the beetling crag, far
from the temptations of power and the
splendour and tumult of life; but the same
answer was given to him now as had been
given to him of old: â€œOne of thy vows
was entire obedience, and the grace of God is
sufficient for thee.â€™
The Journey of Rheinfrid
CG) the green skirts of the Forest of
Arden there was a spot which the
windings of the Avon stream had almost
made into an island, and here in the olden
time the half-savage herdsmen of King
Ethelred kept vast droves of the royal
swine. â€˜The sunny loops of the river cut
clearings on the east and south and west,
but on the north the Forest lay dense and
dark and perilous. For in those ancient
days wolves still prowled about the wattled
folds of the little settlement of Wolverhamp-
ton, and Birmingham was only the rude
homestead of the Beormingas, a cluster of
beehive huts fenced round with a stockade in
the depths of the woods.
Among the swineherds of the King there
was one named Eoves, and one day, while
wandering through the glades of great oaks
on this edge of the Forest, he saw three
280 The Journey of Rheinfrid
beautiful women who came towards him
singing a song more strange and sweet than
he had everheard. He told his fellows, and
the story spread far and wide. Some said
that the three beautiful women were three
goddesses of the old pagan world, and
thought Eoves had acted very foolishly in
not speaking to them. Others said they
might have been the Three Fates, in whose
hands are the lives of men, and the joy of
their lives, and the sorrow they must endure,
and the death which is the end of their
days; and they thought that perhaps Eoves
had been wise to keep silence. :
But when the holy Bishop Egwin heard
the tale, he visited the place alone, and in
the first glimmer of the sunrise, when all wild
creatures are tame and the earth is most
lovely to look upon, he beheld the three
beautiful women, and he saw in a moment
that they were the Virgin Mother Mary and
two heavenly handmaidens. â€œAnd our
Lady,â€ he used afterwards to say, â€œ was
more white-shining than lilies and more
freshly sprung than roses, and the savage
forest was filled with the fragrance of Para-
The Journey of Rheinfrid 281
Straightway the Bishop sent his woodmen
and had the aged oaks felled and the under-
wood cleared away ; andon the spot where the
beautiful women had stood a fair church was
built for the worship of the true God, and
around it clustered the cells of an abbey of
Black Monks. Ina little while people no
longer spoke of the place by its old name, but
called it Eovesholme, because of the vision of
Now, when more than three and a half
centuries had gone by, and Agelwyn the
Great-hearted was Abbot, there was a Saxon
noble, young and dissolute, who had been
stricken by the Yellow Plague, and, after
three daysâ€™ sickness, had been abandoned by
his friends and followers in what seemed to
be his last agony. For the Yellow Plague
was a sickness so ghastly and dreadful that
men called it the Yellow Death, and fled
from it as swiftly as they might. But in the
dead and dark of the third night a beautiful
Child, crowned with roses and bearing in his
hand a rose, had come to the dying thane
and said: â€œâ€˜ Now mayest thou see that the
best the world can give â€” call it by what name
thou wilt and prize it at its utmost worth â€”
282. The Journey of Rheinfrid
is nothing more than these: wind and
smoke and a dream and a flower. But
though all have fled from thee and left thee
to die alone in grievous plight, this night
thou shalt not die.â€
Then he was bidden to rise on the mor-
row â€”â€œâ€˜for strength shall be given thee,â€
said the Childâ€” and travel with the sun
westward till he came to the Abbey of Egwin,
and there he must tell the Abbot all that had
â€œAnd the good Abbot will receive thee
among his sons,â€ said the Child; â€œand after
that, in a little while, thou shalt go on a
journey, and then again in a little while shalt
come to me.â€
On the morrow Rheinfrid the thane rose
from his bed hale and strong, but his whole
nature was changed; and he made no more
account of life and of all that makes life
sweet â€”as honour and wealth and joy and
use and the love of man and woman â€”
than one makes of wind and smoke and a
dream and a flower; and all that he greatly
desired was to undertake the journey which
had been foretold, and to see once more the
Child of the Roses.
The Journey of Rheinfrid 283
Westward he rode with the sun and came
at nightfall to the Abbey of Eovesholme;
and there he told Agelwyn the Abbot the
story of his wild life and his sickness and the
service that had been laid upon him.
The Abbot embraced him, saying, â€œSon,
welcome art thou to our house, and thy
home shall it be till the time comes for thy
For a whole year Rheinfrid was a novice
-in the house, and when the year had gone
by he took the vows. In the presence of
the brotherhood he cast himself on the pave-
ment before the high altar, and the pall of
the dead was laid over him, and the monks
sang the dirge of the dead, for now he was
indeed dying to this world. And from his
head they cut the long hair, and clothed him
in the habit of a monk, and henceforth he
was done with all earthly things and was
one of themselves.
â€œ Surely, now,â€ he thought, â€œ the time of
my journey draws near.â€ But one year and
a second and yet a third passed away, and
there came to him no call, and he grew
wearied with waiting, and weariness begot
sullenness and discontent, and he questioned
284 The Journey of Rheinfrid
himself: â€œWas it not a dream of sickness
which deceived me? An illusion of pain
and darkness? Why should I waste my
life within these walls?â€ But immediately
afterwards he was filled with remorse, and
confessed his thoughts to the Abbot.
â€œFave faith and patience, my son,â€ said
Agelwyn. â€œConsider the many years God
waited for thee, and grew not impatient with
thy delay. When His good time comes thou
shalt of a certainty set out on thy journey.â€
So for a while Rheinfrid ceased to repine,
and served faithfully in the Abbey.
In the years which followed, William the
Norman came into these parts and harried
whole shires on account of the rebels and
broken men who haunted the great roads
which ran through the Forest. Cheshire
and Shropshire, Stafford and Warwick were
wasted with fire and sword. And crowds
naked and starving â€” townsmen and churls,
men young and old, maidens and aged crones,
women with babes in their arms and little
ones at their kneesâ€”came straggling into
Eovesholme, fleeing most sorrowfully from
the misery of want.
The Journey of Rheinfrid 285
In the little town they lay, indoors and
out, and it was now that the Abbot got him-
self the name of the Great-hearted. For he
gave his monks orders that all should be
fed and cared for; and daily from his own
table he sent food for thirty wanderers whom
he named his guests, and daily in memory
of the love of Christ he washed the feet of
twelve others, and never shrank from the
unhappy lepers among them. But for all
his care the people died lamentably from
grief and sicknessâ€”on no day fewer than
five or six between prime and compline;
and these poor souls were buried by the
brethren. Of the little children that were
left to the mothering of the east wind, some
were adopted by the canons and priests of
the Abbey Church, and others by the
In his eagerness to help and solace, the
Abbot even sent forth messengers to bring
in the fugitives to refuge. Now on a. day
that Rheinfrid went out on this work of
mercy, he met at a crossway a number of
peasants fleeing before a dozen Norman
men-at-arms. He raised his-arm and called
to them to make a stand, but they were too
286 The Journey of Rheinfrid
much terrified to heed him. Then he saw
that one of the soldiers had seized by the
hair a fair Saxon woman with a babe at her
bosom, and with a great cry he bade him let
her go, for his blood was hot within him as
he thought of the Saxon woman who had
carried him in her arms and suckled him
when he was but such a little child. But
the Norman only laughed and turned the
point of his sword against the monk.
Then awoke the long line of thanes slum-
bering in wild caves and dark ways of his
soul, and with a mighty drive of his fist he
struck the man-at-arms between the eyes, so
that he fell like a stone. With savage
curses the knaveâ€™s comrades rushed in against
the monk, but Rheinfrid caught up the
Normanâ€™s sword, and with his grip on the
hilt of it his old skill in war-craft came back
to him, and he carried himself like a thane
of the old Sea-wolves, and the joy of battle
danced in his eyes.
Tll was it then for those marauders. One .
of them he clove through the iron cap; the
neck of another he severed with a sweep of
the bitter blade.
And now that he was fighting, he remem-
The Journey of Rheinfrid 287
bered his calling, and with a clear voice he
chanted the great psalm of the man who has
sinned: â€œ Miserere mei Deusâ€” Have mercy
on me, O God, according to Thy loving-
kindness; according unto the multitude of
Thy tender mercies blot out my transgres-
The strength of ten was in his body, and
verse by verse he laid the Normans low, till
of the troop no more than two were left.
These were falling back before him as he
pressed onward chanting his Miserere, when
a body of horsemen rode up and drew rein
to watch the issue.
â€œBy the Splendor of God!â€ cried the
leader, as he glanced at the woman and
scanned the number of the dead tumbled
across the road, â€œit is a Man!â€
Rheinfrid looked up at the new comer,
and saw a gigantic, ruddy-faced man of forty,
clad in chain mail and wearing a circlet of
gold about his massive head. At once he
felt sure that he was face to face with the
Master of England. Still he kept his
swordâ€™s point raised for another attack, and
with a quiet frankness met the Conquerorâ€™s
288 The Journey of Rheinfrid
â€œ Ha, monk! hast thou no fear of me?â€
cried William, frowning.
â€œLord King, hast thou no fear of God?â€
For a moment the Kingâ€™s haughty eyes
blazed with wrath, but William ever loved
a strong man and dauntless, and he laughed
gaily: â€œ Nay, thou hast slain enough for one
day; let us cry truce, and tell me of what
house thou comest.â€
So Rheinfrid spoke to the King about
Eovesholme, and the Abbot, and the har-
bouring of the miserable fugitives, and told
the tale of his own fighting that day. And
the great Norman was well pleased, and
afterwards he gave Agelwyn the custody of
Winchcombe Abbey when the abbot of that
house fell under his displeasure. As for
Rheinfrid, he took the woman and her babe .
into the town; and many others he rescued
and succoured, but he neither slew nor smote
any man thereafter.
Now for eight long years Rheinfrid lived
in the quiet of the cloister, striving to be
patient and to await Godâ€™s own time; and
his daily prayer was that of the Psalmist:
** How long wilt Thou forget me,O Lord?
The Journey of Rheinfrid 289
For ever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy
face from me?â€
In the ninth year, after long sickness, the
soul of Agelwyn passed out of the shadow
of this flesh unto the clemency of God, and
shortly after his death a weariness of well-
doing and a loathing of the dull days of
prayer beset Rheinfrid; and voices of the
joy of life called to him to strip off his cowl
and flee from his living tomb.
As he knelt struggling with the temptation
the little Child crowned with roses stood
beside him, looking at him with sad re-
proachful eyes. â€˜â€œCouldst thou not be pa-
tient a little while?â€ he asked.
A little while!â€ exclaimed Rheinfrid;
â€œsee! twelve, thirteen, long years have gone
by, and is that a little while?â€
But the Child answered gravely: â€œAn
evil thing is impatience with the delays of
God, to whom one day is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day.â€
And Rheinfrid knew not what reply
to make, and as he hesitated the Child
began to fade away. â€œDo not go, do
not go yet,â€ he cried; â€œgrant me at least
one prayerâ€”that I shall see thee again
290 The Journey of Rheinfrid
at the time I shall have most need of
And the Child smiled and answered:
â€œThou shalt see me.â€
And the vision disappeared, but the fra-
grance of the roses lingered long in the little
Then was Walter the Norman made Ab-
bot, and forthwith he began to build a vast
and beautiful minster, the fame of which
should be rumoured through all the land.
Speedily he emptied the five great chests
filled with silver which Agelwyn had left,
and then there set in a dearth of timber and
stone and money, but the Abbot bethought
him of a device for escaping from his difficul-
ties. He took into his council the wise
monks Hereman and Rbheinfrid, because
they had both travelled through many shires,
and he entrusted to them the shrine contain-
ing the relics of St. Egwin, and bade them
go on a pilgrimage from one rich city to
another, making known their need, exhorting
the people to charity, and gathering gifts of
all kind for the building of the minster. So
with lay brothers to serve them and a horse
The Journey of Rheinfrid 291
to carry the holy shrine, the monks began
their journey, and, singing joyful canticles,
the brotherhood accompanied them with
cross and banners and burning tapers, and
set them well on their way beyond the river.
Now think of Rheinfrid and Hereman
traversing the wild England of those olden
times. One day they were wandering in
the depths of the woods; on another they
were moving along some neglected Roman
road, through swamps and quagmires.
Now they were passing hastily through the
ruins of some Saxon thorpe which had been
burned by the Normans, or lodging for the
night as guests at some convent or priory, or
crossing a dangerous river-ford, or making
a brief stay in a busy town to preach and
exhibit the shrine of the saint, so that the
diseased and suffering might be touched by
the miraculous relics. And all along their
journey they gathered the offerings which the
people brought them.
â€œThis, surely,â€ thought Rheinfrid, â€œis
the journey appointed meâ€; and his spirit
was at last peaceful and contented.
Now in the third week of their pilgrimage
they came to a wide moor which they had to
292 The Journey of Rheinfrid
cross. A heavy white mist lay on the lonely
waste, and they had not gone far among the
heath and grey boulders before Rheinfrid,
absorbed in prayer, found himself separated
from his companions. He called aloud to
them by their names, but no one answered
him. This way and that he wandered, still
crying aloud, and hoping to discover some
trace of the faint path which led over the
moor. Suddenly he came to the brink ofa
vast chasm, the depth of which was hidden
by the mist. It was a terrible place, and he
thanked God that he had not come thither
in the darkness of the night. As he gazed
anxiously on all sides, wondering what he
should do next, he perceived through the
vapour a tall dark figure. Approaching it,
he saw that it was a high stone cross, and
he murmured gratefully, â€œHere I am safe.
The foot of Thy cross is an everlasting ref-
uge.â€ As he ascended the rough granite
steps, he noticed how wonderfully the cross
was sculptured, with a vine running up the
shaft, and birds and small wild creatures
among the vine-leaves, and he was able to
read, in the centre, words from a famous old
poem which he knew:
The Journey of Rheinfrid 293
Rood is my name ; long ago I bore a goodly King ;
trembling, dripping with blood.
As he read them he became aware that
some one had come out of the mist and was
standing near him. â€œ In the darkness the
danger is great,â€ said the stranger; â€œanother
step would have carried thee over the brink ;
and none who have fallen therein have ever re-
turned. But the wind is rising, and this
mist will speedily be lifted.â€
While he was yet speaking a great draught
of air drove the mist before it, and shifted
and lifted it, and rolled it like carded wool,
and in front all was clear; but the light was
of an iron-grey transparency, and Rheinfrid
saw into the depths of the chasm into which
he had well-nigh fallen.
Far down below lay the jagged ridges and
ghastly abysses of a gigantic crater, the black
walls of which were so steep that it was im-
possible to climb them. Smoke and steam
rose in incessant puffs from the innermost
pit of the crater and trailed along the floor
and about the rocky spikes and jagged ridges.
Then, as Rheinfrid gazed, his face grew
pale, and he turned to the stranger.
â€œWhat are these,â€™ he asked, â€œmen, or
294. The Journey of Rheinfrid
little statues of men, or strangely-shaped
â€œ They are living men and women,â€ said
â€œThey seem as small as images,â€ said
â€œThey are very far distant from us,â€
replied the stranger, â€œ although we see them
â€œThere seem to be hundreds of them
standing in crowds,â€ said Rheinfrid.
â€œThere are thousands and hundreds of
thousands,â€ said the stranger.
â€œ And they do not move; they are motion-
less as stone; they do not even seem to
â€œThey are waiting,â€ said the stranger.
â€œTheir faces are all turned upward; they
are all staring in one way.â€
â€œThey are watching,â€ said the stranger.
â€œWhy are they watching?â€ asked Rhein-
frid; then looking up into the iron-grey air
in the same direction as the faces of the peo-
ple in the crater; â€œ What huge ball is that
hanging in the sky above them?â€
â€œIt is a globe of polished stone â€”the stone
adamant, which of all stones is the hardest.â€
The Journey of Rheinfrid 295
â€œWhy do they gaze at it so steadfastly?â€
â€œ Not hard to say,â€ replied the stranger.
â€œEvery hundred years a little blue bird
passes by, flying between them and the
globe, and as it passes it touches the stone
with the tip of its wing. On the last day
of the hundredth year the people gather and
watch with eager eyes all day for the passing
of the bird, and while they watch they do
not suffer. Now this is the last hour of the
last day of the hundredth year, and you see
how they gaze.â€
â€œ But why do they watch to see the
â€œFach time the bird passes it touches the
stone, and every hundred years it will thus
touch it, till the stone be utterly worn
â€œTen thousand ages, and yet again ten
thousand, and it will not have been worn
away,â€ said Rheinfrid. â€œBut when it has
been worn away, what then?â€
â€œâ€˜ Why, then,â€ said the stranger, â€œâ€˜ Eternity
will be no nearer to its end than it is now.
But see! see!â€
Rheinfrid looked, and beheld a little blue
bird flash across the huge ball of glimmer-
296 The Journey of Rheinfrid
ing adamant, brush it with the tip of a single
feather, and dart onward.
And down in the crater all the faces were
turned away again, and the crowd fell into
such confusion as an autumn gale makes
among the fallen leaves in a spinney ; and
out of the innermost pit the smoke and
steam rose in clouds, till only the jagged
ridges were visible; and a long cry of a
myriad voices deadened by the deep distance
rose like the terrible ghost of a cry from the
And this was one of the Seven Cries of
For the Seven Cries of the World are
these: the Cry of the Blood of Abel, and
the Cry of the Deluge of Waters, and the
Cry for the First-born of Egypt, and the
Cry of the Cities of the Plain, and the Cry
of Rachel in Rama, and the Cry in the dark-
ness of the ninth hour, and, more grievous
than any of these, the Cry of the Doom of
â€œTruly,â€ said Rheinfrid, shivering, â€œâ€˜ one
day is as a thousand years in the sight of
The Journey of Rheinfrid 297
â€œCome with me, and I will guide thee
from this place,â€ said the stranger. And he
led the way along the brink of the gulf till
they came to a bridge, high and narrow and
fragile, glittering like glass ; but when Rhein-
frid touched it he perceived it was built of
ice, and beneath it ran a fierce river of fire,
and they felt the heat of the river on their
faces, and the ice of the bridge was dissolving
â€œ How shall I pass this without falling ?â€
â€œFollow in my steps,â€ said the stranger,
â€œand all will be well.â€
He led the way on the slippery ice-work
of the bridge, and in great fear and doubt
Rheinfrid followed; but when they reached
the crown of the arch the stranger threw aside
his cloak and spread six mighty wings, and
sprang from the bridge to the peak of a high
mountain far beyond the burning river. The
bridge cracked and swayed, and pieces broke
away from the icy parapet.
With a shriek of terror Rheinfrid sank
down, and called upon God to help him.
Then as he prayed he felt wings growing on
his shoulders, and a terrible eager joy and
298 The Journey of Rheinfrid
dread possessed him, for-he felt the ice of
the bridge melting away, and the water of the
melting ice was splashing like rain on the
river of fire, and as each drop fell a little puff
of white steam arose from the place where it |
fell. So, unable to wait till the wings had
â€˜ grown full, he rose to his feet, and attempted
to follow the Angel. But his wings were
too weak to bear him, and he fell clinging
to the bridge, which shook beneath him.
Once more he prayed; once more his
impatience urged him to rise; and once
more he fell. And the melted ice rained
hissing into the river of fire, and the quick
whiffs of white vapour came up from its
Then he committed himself to Godâ€™s
keeping, and waited in meekness and forti-
tude, saying, â€œ Whether we live or we die
we are in Thy charge,â€ and it seemed to him
that, so long as it was Godâ€™s will, it mattered
not at all what happened -â€” whether the
bridge crumbled away, dissolving like a rain-
bow in the clouds, or whether his body were
engulfed in the torrent of burning.
Then straightway, as he submitted himself
thus, his wings grew large and strong, and he
The Journey of Rheinfrid 299
felt the power of them lifting him to his feet,
and with what seemed no more than the effort
of a wish he sprang from the narrow way of
ice and stood beside the Angel on the moun-
â€œ Hadst thou not been twice impatient in
the cloister,â€™ said the Angel, â€œthy wings
would not have twice failed thee on the
bridge. Now, look around and see!â€
Who shall tell the loveliness of the land
on which Rheinfrid now gazed from the
mountain? To breathe the clear shining air
was in itself beatitude. He saw angelic
figures and heard the singing of angels in the
heavenly gardens glittering far below, and he
longed to fly down to their blessed compan-
ionship. Suddenly over the tree-tops of a
golden glade he descried a starry globe which
shone like chrysoprase, and round and round
it a little blue bird flew joyously. And so
swiftly it flew that hardly had it gone before
it had returned again.
Rheinfrid turned to the Angel to question
him, but the Angel, who was aware of his
thoughts, said, â€œYes, it is the same globe,
only we see it now from the other side.
300 The Journey of Rheinfrid
Each circle that the bird makes is a hundred
years ; for five hundred already have you been
here, but you must now return.â€
- Then the Angel touched the monkâ€™s head,
and Rheinfrid closed his eyes, and in an
instant it seemed to him as though he were
awaking from along sleep. Cold and rigid
were his limbs, and as he tried to sit up each
movement made them ache. He found that
he had been lying under an aged oak. He
rubbed his hands together for warmth, and
a white lichen which had overgrown them
peeled off in long threads. A heavy white
beard, tangled with grey moss, covered his
breast, and the hair of his head, white and
matted with green tendrils, had grown about
Slowly and painfully he moved from tree
to tree till he reached a broad road, and saw
before him a bridge, and beyond the river a
fair town clustered on the higher ground.
So strange a town he had never beheld before
â€”such a town as one sees in a foreign land,
built with quaint roofs and gables and curi-
ously coloured. As he crossed the bridge he
met a woman who stared at him in amaze-
ment. He raised his head to speak, but he
The Journey of Rheinfrid 301
had lost the power of utterance. The
woman waited; and at last with a feeble
stammering speech he asked her the name
of the place. She shook her head and said
she did not understand his words, and with
a look of pity she went on her way.
Then down to the bridge came an urchin,
and Rheinfrid repeated his question.
â€œ This is Eovesholme,â€ said the lad.
â€œThat cannot be,â€ said Rheinfrid, â€œ for it
is little more than twice seven days since I
left Eovesholme, and this place is noway
like the place you name.â€
â€œNay, but it is Eovesholme,â€ replied the
lad, â€œand you are one of the monks who
used to be here before the King pulled down
â€œ Pulled down the Abbey! Hath King
William pulled down the Abbey?â€ Rhein-
frid asked in bewilderment.
â€œNay, it is bluff King Hal who has
pulled the Abbey down. Come, and you
The lad took Rheinfrid by the hand and -
led him through the streets till they came to
the ruins. Only one beautiful sculptured
arch was left standing, but Rheinfrid had
302 The Journey of Rheinfrid
never seen it before. They passed through
and stood among a litter of stones, tumbled
drums of pillars and fragments of carved
mouldings and capitals. Rheinfrid recog-
nised the spot. The land was the same, and
the river, and the far hills, but nearly all the
Forest had been cleared, and the Abbey had
vanished. What had happened to him and
to them ?
â€œ Hast thou where to pass the night, old
father?â€ the lad asked.
Rheinftid shook his head sorrowfully. â€”
â€œThen I will show thee a place,â€ he said.
And again he took Rheinfrid by the hand,
and led him among the ruins till they came
to a flight of stone steps which led down
into the crypt of the minster. These they
descended, and there was a dim light in the
place, and Rheinfridâ€™s heart beat quickly, for
he knew the pillars and vaulted roofs and
walls of this undercroft.
â€œHere you may rest peacefully and sleep
well,â€ said the urchin; â€œno one will venture
here to disturb your slumber.â€
â€œ Sorrow be far from thee, little son,â€ said
Rheinfrid, looking gratefully at his guide;
and lo! while he was speaking he perceived
SAID THE LAD.
6Â¢Â¢THIS IS EOVESHOLME
The Journey of Rheinfrid 303
that it was the Child, and that the Childâ€™s
head was crowned with roses and that he
carried a rose in his hand.
Then the aged monk sank on the cold
stones of his old minster, faint and happy,
for he knew now that he had finished his
, journey. But the Child touched Rheinfridâ€™s
brow with the rose he carried, and the old
man fell asleep, and all the crypt was dark.
Lighting the Lamps
OW that it was the cool of the day
(when God walked in Paradise), and
the straggling leaves of the limes were sway-
ing in the fresh stream of the breeze, and
the book was finished â€”this very book â€”
and at last after many busy â€˜evenings I was
free to do as I pleased, W. V. and I slipped
away on a quiet stroll before bed-time.
It was really very late for a little girl â€”
nearly nine oâ€™clock ; but when one is a little
girl a walk between sunset and dark is like
a ramble in fairyland; and after the heat of
the day the air was sweet and pleasant, and
in the west there still lingered a beautiful
We went a little way in the direction of
the high trees of Caen Wood, where, you
know, William the Conqueror had a hunting
lodge; and as we passed under the green
fringes of the rowans and the birches which
Lighting the Lamps 305
overhung the pathway, it was delightful to
think that perchance over this very ground
on which we were walking the burly Master
of England may have galloped in chase of
the tall deer.
â€œFle loved them as if he were their
father,â€ said W. V., glancing up at me with
a laugh. â€œMy history book says that.
But it wasnâ€™t very nice to kill them if he
loved them, was it, father?â€
We turned down the new road they are
making. It runs quite into the fields for
some distance, and then goes sharp to the
right. A pleasant smell of hay was blow-
ing up the road, and when we reached the
angle we saw two old stacks and the be-
ginning of a new one; and the next field
had been mown and was dotted with hay-
On the half-finished road a steam roller
stood, with its tarpaulin drawn over it for
the night. In the field, along the wooden
fence, some loads of dross had been shot be-
tween the haycocks; lengths of sod had
been stripped off the soil and thrown ina
heap, and planks had been laid down for the
wheelbarrows. A rake, which some hay-
306 Lighting the Lamps
maker had left, stood planted in the ground,
teeth uppermost; beside it a labourerâ€™s bar-
row lay overturned. A few yards away a
thick elderberry bush was growing dim in
the twilight, and its bunches of blossom
looked curiously white and spectral.
I think even W. V. felt it strange to see
this new road so brusquely invading the an-
cient fields. I looked across the frank nat-
ural acres (as if they were a sort of wild
creature), stretching away with their hedge-
rows and old trees to the blue outline of the
hills on the horizon, and wondered how
much longer one might see the rose-red of
sunset showing through interlaced branches,
or the dark knots of coppice silhouetted
against the grey-green breadths of tranquil
When we went a little further we caught
sight among the trees of some out-buildings
of the farm. What a lost, pathetic look
Thinking of the stories in my book, it
seemed to me that the scene before me was
a figure of the change which took place when
the life we know invaded and absorbed the
strange medieval life which we know no
Lighting the Lamps 307
longer, and which it is now so difficult to
Slowly the afterglow faded; when you
looked carefully for a star, here and there a
little speck of gold could be found in the
heavens; the birds were all in their nests,
head under wing; white and grey moths
were beginning to flutter to and fro.
Suddenly over the fields the sound of
church-bells floated to us.
â€œTs that the Angelus, father?â€ asked
â€œ No, dear; I think it must be the ring-
â€œTf it had been the Angelus, would St.
Francis have stood still to say the prayer?â€
â€œ]T think he would have knelt down to
say it. That would be more like St.
â€œ And would William the Conqueror?â€
â€œWhy, no; I fancy he would have taken
it for the curfew bell.â€
â€œThey do still ring the curfew bell in
some places, donâ€™t they, father?â€
â€œOh, yes; in several places; but, of
course, they donâ€™t cover up their fires.â€
308 Lighting the Lamps
â€œ< T like to hear of those old bells; donâ€™t
As we reached the end of the new road
we saw the man lighting the lamp there;
and we watched him going quickly from one
post to another, leaving a little flower of fire
wherever he stopped. All was very quiet,
and, as he went down the street, we could
hear the sound of his footsteps growing
fainter and fainter in the distance. All our
streets, you must know, are lined with trees,
trees both in the gardens and on the side-
walks, and the lamps glittered among the
leaves and branches like so many stars.
When we passed under them we noticed
how the light tinged the foliage that was
nearest with a greenish ash-colour, almost
like the undersides of aspen-leaves.
â€œIsn't it just like a fairy village?â€ asked
On our way down our own street I pointed
silently to the Forest. High over the billowy
outline of the darkened tree-tops the church
of the Oak-men was clear against the weather-
gleam. W. V. nodded: â€œI expect all the
Lighting the Lamps 309
Oak-boys and girls have said, â€˜God bless
this house from thatch to floor,â€™ and gone to
bed long ago.â€ Since she heard the story
of the Guardians of the Door, that has been
her own favourite prayer at bed-time.
Thinking of the lighting of the lamps
after she had been safely tucked in, I tried
to make her a little song about it. I donâ€™t
think she will like it as much as she liked
the actual lighting of the lamps, but in years
to come it may remind her of that delight-
From lamp to lamp, from street to street,
He speeds with faintlier echoing feet.
A pause â€” a glint of light!
And, lamp by lamp, with stars he marks his round.
So Love, when least of Love we dream,
Comes in the dusk with magic gleam.
A pause â€”a touch â€”so slight !
And life with clear celestial lights is crowned.
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