The father answered: "The Lord brought us with a strong hand out of the Egyptian bondage."
As he drank from the second cup, he said, "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." They then all sang the 115th Psalm, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give the praise, for Thy truth and mercy's sake. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?"
Thereupon a blessing was pronounced on the unleavened bread and the roasted lamb, and they sat down to eat, in a state of contentment and with harmless talk. The old Eleazar spoke of past times, and contrasted them with them the present: "Man born of a woman lives but a short time, and is full of trouble; he cometh up like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth hence like a shadow, and continueth not. A stranger and a sojourner is he upon earth, and therefore he should be always ready for his journey as we are, this holy evening."
The eldest son Jacob, who had come home in the evening after a journey, seemed to wish to say something, but did not venture to do so, till the fourth and last cup was drunk.
"But, my children," continued Eleazar, "not only is Israel unsettled and roaming on the earth, but all nations are in a state of wandering. The difference between them and us is that their gods are mortal, while Israel's God lives. Where is Zeus, the god of the Greeks? Where is the Romans' Jupiter? Where are the Egyptians' Isis, Osiris, and Ptha? Where is the Woutan of the Germans, the Teutates of the Gauls? They are all dead, but Israel's God lives; He cannot die. We are at any rate in Canaan, in our fathers' land, even if Zion is no longer ours, and we cannot forget the goodness which the Lord has shown us."
The last cup was drunk, and after another psalm the festival was at an end.
"Now, Jacob," said Eleazar, "you want to talk. You come from a journey, though somewhat late, and have something new to tell us. Hush! I hear steps in the garden!"
All hurried to the window, for they lived in troublous times; but, as no one was to be seen outside, they sat down again at the table.
"Speak, Jacob," Eleazar said again.
"I come from Antioch, where the Crusaders are besieged by Kerboga, the Emir of Mosul. Famine has raged among them, and of three hundred thousand Goyim, [Footnote: Gentiles.] only twenty thousand remain."
"What had they to do here?"
"Now, on the roads, they are talking of a new battle which the Goyim have won, and they believe that the Crusaders will march straight on Jerusalem."
"Well, they won't come here."
"They won't find the way, unless there are traitors."
"Moslems or Christians, they are all alike, but Moslems could be our friends, because they are of Abraham's seed. 'God is One!' Had their Prophet stood by that, there would have been nothing between us, but he fell through pride and coupling his own name with that of the Highest—'Muhammed is His Prophet.' Perhaps, but he should not be named in the same breath with the Eternal. The Christians call him a 'false prophet,' but that he was not."
"The Christians could rather...."
"The Christians are misguided, and their doctrine is folly. They believe the Messiah has come, although the world is like a hell, and men resemble devils! And it ever gets worse...."
Then the door was flung open, and on the threshold appeared a little man, emaciated as a skeleton, with burning eyes. He was clothed in rags, carried a cross in his hand, and bore a red cross-shaped sign on his shoulder.
"Are you Christians?" he asked, "since you drink of the cup and eat the bread, as our Lord Jesus Christ did on the night of his betrayal?"
"No," answered Eleazar, "we are of Israel."
"Then you have eaten and drunk your own damnation, and misused the Holy Sacrament for purposes of witchcraft! Out with you!—down to the lake and be baptized, or you will die the death!"
Then Eleazar turned to the Hermit, and cried "No! I and my house will serve the Lord, as we have done this holy evening according to the law of our fathers. We suffer for our sins, that is true, but you, godless, cursed man, pride not yourself on your power, for you have not yet escaped the judgment of Almighty God. I will give my life and shed my blood for the law of my fathers, but God's justice will punish you, as your pride has deserved."
The Hermit had gone out to his followers. Those within the house closed the window-shutters and the door.
There was a cry without: "Fire the house!"
"Let us bless God, and die!" said Eleazar, and none of them hesitated.
All fell on their knees. Eleazar spoke: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He will stand at the latter day upon the earth. And when I am free from my flesh, I shall see God. Him shall I see and not another, and for that my soul and my heart cry out."
The mother had taken the youngest son in her arms, as though she wished to protect him against the fire which now seized on the wall.
Then Eleazar began the Song of the Three Children in the fire, and when they came to the words,
"O Thank the Lord, for He is good, And His mercy endureth for ever,"
their voices were choked, and they ended their days like the Maccabees.
On 16th July 1069, Peter the Hermit entered Jerusalem through the same Jaffa Gate before which he had sat as a beggar. When Godfrey of Bouillon became King of Jerusalem, Peter was appointed Governor. After he had seen his dream fulfilled, he returned to his own country, entered the convent Neufmoustier, near Lttich, and remained there till his death.
The Kingdom of Jerusalem soon came to an end. The Muhammedans re-occupied it, and remain there to this day.
The remarkable thing about these predatory expeditions—the Crusades—was that they were led by the Normans, and were curiously like the raids of the Vikings. The indirect results of the Crusades are still treated of in students' essays, which generally close with the moral, "there is nothing evil which does not bring some good with it." Voltaire and Hume, on the other hand, regard the Crusades as the enterprises of lunatics. It is a difficult matter to decide!
On the Esquiline Hill in Rome, on a spring day in 1506, Signer de Fredis was walking in his vineyard. The day before, his workmen had been digging a pit to seek water, but found none. Signer de Fredis stood by it, and asked himself whether it was not a pity that so much earth had been thrown out, and whether it could not be utilised in the vineyard. He felt about with his stick in the upper part of the pit to ascertain how deep the soil was. The stick sank in the earth up to its handle without meeting with any resistance.
"There must be a hollow under the ground," he said to himself. He first thought of calling the workmen, but since it was better to make the discovery himself, he took a mattock and spade and set to work. By noon he had made a hole large enough to get through, but since it was pitch-black inside, he first went to fetch a lantern. Carrying this, he went down into the earth, and came into a vaulted room. He went through five rooms and found no treasures, but in the sixth he saw a sight that startled him.
Two enormous snakes had enfolded in the coils a bearded man of heroic stature and his two boys.
One snake had already bitten the man in the right side, and the other had bitten one of the boys in the left. The apparition was a statue of Pentelic marble, and might therefore possess as much value as a treasure. Signor de Fredis went at once to the Prefect of the City, who followed him in company with the Aedile and some learned antiquaries. The work of art was brought to the light, and inspected. Its subject was seen to be the Trojan priest Laocoon, against whom Apollo had sent two snakes because he had warned his countrymen against receiving the dangerous Greek gift of the Trojan horse, in which warriors lay concealed.
It was not an edifying story, nor a comforting one, since it illustrated the sad lot of a prophet in this world. The Romans, however, did not think of that, but greeted the statue as a sign of the Renaissance, a memorial of the classical period, and an omen of better times to come.
Pope Julius II bought the Laocoon for the Vatican, after Michael Angelo had declared it was the greatest work of art in the world, and Signor de Fredis received a pension for life. The excavation and cleaning of the statue took a considerable time. But when at last it was ready, it was decorated with flowers, and carried in procession though the streets of Rome, while all the church-bells rang for a whole hour.
As the procession passed up the Via Flaminia, an Augustinian monk came down it from the northern gate of the city. In front of Hadrian's triumphal arch, he met the crowd carrying their beloved Laocoon. The monk did not immediately understand the matter. He thought, it is true, that the statue was that of a martyr, but could not think of any martyr who had died in a pit of snakes. He therefore turned to a citizen, and asked in Latin, "Which of the holy Church martyrs is it?"
The citizen laughed as at a good jest, but did not think it necessary to answer.
Now came the crowd singing about the Trojan horse, and jesting about priests. The fact that it was a priest on whom the snakes had fastened seemed to afford especial delight to the sceptical and priest-hating rabble.
The Augustinian monk thought of his Virgil, when he heard the word Troy, and, as the statue came nearer, he could read the name Laocoon, the celebrated priest of Apollo. "Are the church-bells ringing for that?" he asked his neighbour again.
The latter nodded.
"Are the people mad?" he asked, and this time he received an answer: "No, they are wise; but you are somewhat stupid; probably you come from Germany."
At the dawn of this day, the monk had seen the Holy City at sunrise, and had fallen on his knees in the high road to thank God for the great favour vouchsafed to him of at last treading the soil which had been hallowed by the footprints of Apostles and martyrs. But now he felt depressed, for he understood nothing of this heathenish business, and, wandering through the streets of the city, he tried to find the Scala Santa in the southern quarter, where all pilgrims first paid their devotions when they came to Rome.
Here, in the square by the Lateran, Constantine's wife, Helena, had caused the staircase of Pilate's Palace to be erected, and it was customary to ascend it kneeling, and not in an erect attitude.
The monk approached the holy spot with all the reverence with which his pious spirit inspired him. He hoped to feel the same ecstasy which he had felt before other sanctuaries and relics, for the Redeemer Himself had trodden these marble steps heavily as he went to His doom.
The monk's astonishment was therefore great when he saw street-urchins playing on them with buttons and little stones, and he could hardly contain himself when young priests came running and sprang up the eight and twenty steps in a few bounds.
He paid his devotions in the usual way, but without feeling the ecstasy which he had hoped for.
Then he went into the Church of the Lateran and heard a mass. He had imagined that he would find a cathedral in the genuine Gothic style, something like that of Cologne, but he found a Basilica or Roman hall, where in heathen times a market had been held, and it looked very worldly.
At the High Altar there stood two priests before the Epistle and the Gospel. However, they neither read nor sang; they only gossiped with each other, and pretended to turn the leaves; sometimes they laughed, and when it was over they went their way, without giving a blessing or making the sign of the cross.
"Is this the Holy City?" he asked himself, and went out into the streets again.
His business in Rome was to interview the Vicar-General of the Augustinians, about a matter which concerned his convent, but he first wished to look about him. As he went along he came to a little church on the outer wall. In the open space in front of it a pagan festival was being held: Bacchus was represented sitting on a barrel, scantily clothed nymphs rode on horses, and behind them were satyrs, fauns, Apollo, Mercury, Venus.
The monk hastened into the church to escape the sight of the abomination. But in the sacred place he came upon another scandal. Before the altar stood an ass with an open book before it; below the ass stood a priest and read mass. Instead of answering "Amen," the congregation hee-hawed like asses, and everyone laughed.
That was the classical "Asses' Festival," which had been forbidden in the previous century, but which, during the Carnival, had been again resumed. The monk did not understand where he was, but thought he was in the hell of the heathen; but it was still worse when a priest disguised as Bacchus, his face smeared with dregs of wine, entered the pulpit, and, taking a text from Boccaccio's Decameron, preached an indecent discourse, presently, with a skilful turn, going on to narrate a legend about St. Peter. It began in a poetical way, like other legends, but then made Peter come to an alehouse and cheat the innkeeper about the reckoning.
The monk rushed out of the church, and through the streets till he reached the Convent of the Augustines which he sought. He rang, was admitted, and led into the refectory, where the Prior sat at a covered table surrounded by priests who were entertained in the convent in order to make their confessions, and to take the communion during the fast. Before them were pheasants, with truffles and hard-boiled eggs, salmon and oysters, eels and heads of wild boar—above all, quantities of wine in pitchers and glasses.
"Sit down, little monk!" was the Prior's greeting. "You have a letter: good! Put it under the table-cloth. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!"
The monk sat down, but it was Friday, and he could not bring himself to eat flesh on that day. It pained him also to see the licence which prevailed here; still they were his superiors, and the rule of his order forbade him to reprove them.
The Prior, who had just been speaking with some special guest, continued to talk volubly, although conversation was forbidden.
"Yes, worthy friend, we have come as far as this now in Rome. This is Christ's Kingdom as it was announced at the first Christmas, 'One Shepherd, One Sheepfold.' The Holy Father rules over the whole Roman Empire as it was under Caesar and Augustus. But mark well! this empire is a spiritual one, and all these earthly princes lie at the feet of Christ's representative. This is the crown of all epochs of the world's history. 'One Shepherd, One Sheepfold!' Bibamus!"
On the little platform, where formerly a reader used to read out of holy books while the meal was going on, some musicians now sat with flutes and lutes. They struck up an air, and the cups were emptied.
"Now," continued the Prior to the monk, "you have come from far; what news have you brought?"
"Anything new under the sun? Yes," answered a slightly inebriated prelate, "Christopher Columbus is dead, and buried in Valladolid. He died poor, as was to be expected."
"Pride comes before a fall. He was not content with his honours, but wished to be Viceroy and to levy taxes."
"Yes, but at any rate he got to India, to East India, after he had sailed westward. It is enough to make one crazy when one tries to understand it. Sailing west in order to go east!"
"Yes, it is all mad, but the worst is that he has brought the cursed sickness, lues"—(here he whispered). "It has already attacked Cardinal John de Medici. You know he is said to be the Pope's successor."
"As regards the Holy Father, our great Julius II, he is a valiant champion of the Lord, and now the world has seen what this basilisk-egg, France, has hatched. Fancy! they want to come now and divide our Italy among them! As if we did not have enough with the Germans."
"The French in Naples! What the deuce have we to do with them?"
The Prior now felt obliged to attend to his guest, the monk.
"Eat, little monk," he said. "He who is weak, eateth herbs, and all flesh is grass, ergo...."
"I never eat meat on Friday, the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died!"
"Then you are wrong! But you must not speak so loud, you understand, for if you sin, you must go in your room, and hold your mouth! Practise obedience and silence, the first virtues of our Order."
The monk turned first red, then pale, and his cheekbones could be seen through his thin cheeks. But he kept silence, after he had taken a spoonful of salt in his mouth to help him to control his tongue.
"He is a Maccabee," whispered the prelate.
"Conventual disciple is decaying," continued the Prior, jocosely; "the young monks do not obey their superiors any more, but we must have a reformation! Drink, monk, and give me an answer!"
"We must obey God rather than man," answered the monk. There was an embarrassed pause, and the prelate who had to communicate in the evening declined to drink any more. But this vexed the Prior, who felt the implied reproof.
"You are from the country, my friend," he said to the monk, "and know not the time, nor the spirit of the time. You must have a licence for me—it must be paid for of course—and then the day is not dishonoured. Besides—panis es et esto. Here you have wine and bread—with butter on it. More wine, boy!"
The monk rose to go; the Prior seemed to wake to recollection.
"What is your name, monk?"
"My name is Martin, Master of Philosophy, from Wittenberg."
"Yes, yes, thank you. But don't go yet! Give me your letter." The monk handed over the letter, which the Prior opened and glanced through.
"The Kurfrst of Saxony! Master Martin Luther, go if you wish to your chamber. Rest till the evening, then we will go together to the assembly at Chigi. There we shall meet elegant people like Cardinal John de Medici, great men like Raphael, and the Archangel Michael himself. Do you know Michael Angelo, who is building the new Church of St. Peter and painting the Sistine Chapel? No! then you will learn to know him. Vale, brother, and sleep well."
Master Martin Luther went, sorely troubled, but resolved to see more of the state of affairs before judging too hastily.
Cards were now brought out, and the Prior shuffled them.
"That is an unpleasant fellow, whom the Kurfrst had sent to us. A hypocrite, who does not drink wine and crosses himself at the sight of a pheasant!"
"There was an ill-omened look about the man."
"He looked something like the Trojan horse, and Beelzebub only knows what he has in his belly."
* * * * *
When Luther came into his lonely cell, he wept with a young man's boundless grief when reality contradicts his expectations, and he finds that all which he has learnt to prize is only contemptible and common.
He was not, however, allowed to be alone long, for there was a knock at the door, and there entered a young Augustinian monk, who seemed, with a confidential air, to invite his acquaintance.
"Brother Martin, you must not be solitary, but open your heart to sympathetic friends."
He took Martin's hands. "Tell me," he said, "what troubles you, and I will answer you."
Luther looked at the young monk, and saw that he was a swarthy Italian with glowing eyes. But he had been so long alone that he felt the necessity of speech.
"What do you think," he said, "our Lord Christ would say if he now arose and came into the Holy City?"
"He would rejoice that His churches, His three hundred and sixty-five churches, are built on the foundations of the heathen temples. You know that since Charles the Great dragged the great marble pillars to Aachen in order to build his cathedral, our Popes have also gone to work, and the heathen and their houses have been literally laid at the feet of Christ. That is grand and something to rejoice at! Ecclesia Triumphans! Would not Christ rejoice at it? How well Innocent III has expressed the 'Idea' of the conquering Church, as Plato would call it. You know Plato—the Pope has just paid five thousand ducats for a manuscript of the Timoeus. Pope Innocent says: 'St Peter's successors have received from God the commission not only to rule the Church but the whole world. As God has set two great lights in the sky, he has also set up two great powers on earth, the Papacy, which is the higher because the care of souls is committed to it, and the Royal power which is the lower, and to which only the charge of the bodies of men is committed.' If you have any objection to make to that, brother, speak it out."
"No, not against that, but against everything which I have seen and heard."
"For example? Do you mean eating and drinking?"
"Yes, that also."
"How petty-minded you are! I speak of the highest things, and you talk about eating and drinking. Fie! Martin! you are a meat-rejector and a wine-eschewing Turk! But I accept your challenge. Our Lord Christ allowed His disciples to pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath; that was against the law of Moses, and was disapproved of by the Pharisees.... You are a Pharisee. But now I will also remind you of what Paul writes to the Romans—the Romans among whom we count ourselves; perhaps as a German subject, you have not the right to do that. Well, Paul writes: 'You look on the outside.'"
"Pardon me, that is the Epistle to the Corinthians."
"Oh, you look on the outside too. But Paul says further, 'All things are lawful to me, but all things are not profitable. All that is sold in the market-place, that eat and ask nothing for conscience' sake; for the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof.' Those are clear words, and a Frenchman would call them liberal-minded. But you come here like a Pharisee, and wish to rebuke your superiors for trifles; and the ordinances of men are more to you than God's command. Fie! Martin! Remember your own words: 'We should obey God rather than men!' You conceited slave of the letter, you should read Paul."
Luther was not yet so familiar with the Holy Scriptures as he afterwards became, for in the convent he had chiefly studied the Corpus Juris, Aristotle, Virgil, and the comedies of Plautus, and was somewhat depressed after his severe inward conflicts. Therefore he gave no answer, but chafed internally.
"Have you any other question for me?" began the Augustinian again, with an affected air of sympathy which irritated Luther still more. "I can understand that our national customs have annoyed you as a —foreigner. Every country has its own customs, and we keep our Roman Carnival by making ridicule of the dead gods of the old heathen, if one can call them gods! I believe you do the same in Germany, though in a coarser way. You must put up with that. As regards the 'Festival of the Ass,' that had originally a beautiful significance, since the poor animal was honoured with the task of carrying our Saviour and His mother into Egypt. But, as you know, the common people drag everything that is great and beautiful into the dust. Can we help it? Can I do you any service? Do you want anything?"
"Nothing; but I thank you!" Luther was again alone, and the fiends of doubt were again let loose upon him. The man was certainly right from his own point of view, and he had strengthened his assertions by arguments and by citations from Paul. But his point of view was false;—that was the matter. How, then, was one to alter one's point of view? That was only the effect of faith through grace, and therefore not the work of man.
Then his introspective mind, which had been trained in the Aristotelian dialectic, began to examine his opponent's point of view. A merciful loving Heavenly Father might very well smile at the follies and weaknesses of His human children; why, then, should we not be able to do the same? Why should we be stricter than He? As long as we live in the flesh, we must think according to the flesh, but that does not prevent the spirit obtaining its due rights.
Did not Paul himself say, "So then we hold that man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law"?
Yes, but were these drunken and licentious ecclesiastics really believers? The Prior had blasphemed the Sacrament, and given the prelate a dispensation from hearing confession and celebrating mass in consideration of a fee. That was monstrous, heathenish, and a Satanic abomination. Certainly, but faith itself was a gift bestowed by grace, and if these men had not obtained grace they were guiltless. But they were hardened sinners! Paul again gave the answer to this: "The Lord receives whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth." If God had hardened them, as He hardened Pharaoh's heart, then they were guiltless; and if so, why should we venture to judge and condemn them. A mill-wheel seemed to go round in his head, and he blamed Aristotle the heathen, who had seduced him in his youth, and taught him to split hairs about simple matters. He felt also that Paul could not help him, since such was his teaching. Feeling quite crushed, he knelt down again on his praying stool, and implored God to take him out of this world of lying deceit and uncertainty. In this world one was surrounded by darkness without being able to kindle a light; in this life one was driven to battle without having received weapons. So he prayed and struggled with himself till the evening.
Then the Prior came and fetched him. "My son," he said, "my dear brother, you must not make a paramour of religion; you must not practise it as a daily task or a bad habit. You must live your life and regard it as a melody, while religion is a gentle accompaniment to it. Work is for every day, rest and festival for Sundays. But if you keep your Sabbath on the week-day you sin.... Come! now I will show you Rome!"
Martin followed him, but unwillingly. The streets were illuminated, and the people were amusing themselves with dancing, music, and jugglers' feats.
"You must know where we are going," said the Prior. "This Agostino Chigi is a banker, almost as rich as the House of Fugger in Augsburg, and he looks after the Pope's business affairs. Moreover, he is a Maecenas, who patronises the fine arts. His especial protg is Raphael, who has just painted some beautiful large pictures in his villa, which we will now see."
They reached the Tiber, followed the right bank, went over a bridge, and stood before a garden which was enclosed by marble pillars and a—gilded iron fence. It was now dark, and the garden was illuminated by lanterns which hung on the boughs of the orange-trees, and so lit up the ripe fruits that they gleamed like gold. 'White marble statues stood among the dark-leaved trees; fountains sent up jets of perfumed spray; among the shrubberies one saw ladies with their gallants; here a singer was accompanying himself on the lute; there a poet was reading his verses.
In the midst of the park stood the villa which resembled that of Maecenas in the Sabine Hills or Cicero's Tusculum, and was adorned with statues' of heathen gods. The doors stood open, and there was a sound of music within. "People are not introduced to the host here," said the Prior, "for he does not like ceremony; therefore I leave you alone now, and you must find acquaintances for yourself; surprises are always pleasant."
Luther found himself alone, and turned irresolutely to the right, where he saw a row of illuminated rooms. They were full of guests drinking and chatting, but no one noticed the poor monk, who could listen undisturbed to their conversation. In the first room a group had formed round a man who was distributing specimens of a printed book, the leaves of which people were eagerly turning.
"Hylacompus? is that a pseudonym?" asked one of them.
"He is a—printer called Waldseemller in Saint-Di."
"Cosmographies Introductio—a description of the New World."
"We shall at last get information about these fables of Columbus."
"Columbus will not travel any more."
"Columbus has travelled to—hell! Now it is Amerigo Vespucci's turn."
"He is a Florentine and a fellow-countrymen."
"Well, Columbus was a Genoese."
"Look you! Rome rules the world, the known and the unknown alike! Urbs est urbs! And nowadays you can meet all the nations of the world at the house of the Roman Chigi. I have, as a matter of fact, seen Turks, Mongols, Danes, and Russians here this evening."
"I should like to see a Turk! I like the Turks especially, because they have blown that rotten Byzantium to pieces—Byzantium which dared to call itself the 'Eastern Rome.' Now there is only one Rome!"
"Do you know that our Holy Father is treating with Sultan Bajazet regarding help against Venice."
"Yes, but that is diabolical! We must at any rate act as though we were Christians."
"Act—yes; for I am not a Christian, nor are you."
"If one must have a religion, give me Islam! God is One! That is the whole of its theology; a prayer-mat is its whole liturgy."
"You have to have a washing-basin besides."
"And a harem."
"Things are certainly in a bad way with our religion. If one reads its history, it is a history of the decay of Christianity. That has been continually going on for fifteen hundred years since the days of the Apostles; soon the process of degeneration must be complete."
"And if one reads the history of the Papacy, it is the same."
"No, hush!" said a fat Cardinal, "you must let the papal throne remain till I have sat in it."
"After a Borgia, it would suit as well to have a Medici like you, and especially a son of Lorenzo the Magnificent."
"Will not the cardinals dance?" asked one, who seemed to be Chigi himself.
"Yes, after supper, in the pavilion, and behind closed doors," answered the Cardinal de Medici, "and after I have hung up the red hat."
So much was clear to Luther from the foregoing conversation,—that he had seen and heard the representatives of the highest ranks of the priesthood, and that the stout man was John de Medici, the candidate for the papal chair.
He went quickly through several other rooms where half-intoxicated women were coquetting with their paramours. At last he came into the great banqueting hall. There stood groups of ambassadors and pilgrims, representing all nations of the world. They were looking at the ceiling and admiring the paintings on it. Luther followed their example, while he listened to their remarks.
"This is like looking at the sky; one has to lie on one's back."
"I know nothing more beautiful than sunrise and the nude."
"Raphael is indeed a divine painter." "What luck that Savonarola is burnt, else he would have burnt these paintings."
At the mention of Savonarola's name the monk awoke from the state of aesthetic intoxication into which the pictures had brought him, and rushed out into the night. Savonarola, the last of the martyrs, who had sought to save Christendom and had been burnt! All were burnt who tried to serve Christ—by way of encouraging them.
How could one expect people to believe in Christianity? What added to his trouble of mind was the fact that this painter who had the name of an angel, and looked like an angel, painted Jupiter and nude women! Nothing kept what it promised; all was dust and ashes. Vanitas! But this heathenism which sprang from the earth, what was its object?
Even the divine Dante had chosen a heathen Roman poet, Virgil, as his guide through Hell, and a beautiful maiden as his companion on the way to heaven. That was foolishness and blasphemy.
The end of the world must be approaching, for Antichrist was come and ruled in Rome. But an Antichrist had always sat on the Papal throne, which was itself an evil, for Paul had taught that in Christ's Church we are all priests and should form a priesthood.
So he reached his cell again, and recovered himself and his God in solitude.
* * * * *
The next morning he went out in order to see the Church of St. Peter and the Vatican, which had become the residence of the Popes after their return from Avignon. Since he did not know his way about the town, he happened to come into the Forum. There were several bodies of troops collected for review, and on a great black stallion sat an old man, armed from top to toe in steel. The troops passed in review before him, and he seemed to be the commander.
"He looks like a Rabbi," said a citizen, "and he must be quite five and sixty now."
"He seems to me to resemble the prophet Muhammed. And he began as a tradesman."
"Yes, and he has bought the papal chair."
"Well, let it go! But his summoning Charles VIII with the French to Naples was a betrayal of his country. Now he goes against Venice, and leads the troops himself."
"And expects help from the Turks."
"They ought not to play with the Turks, who are already in Hungary and mean to get to Vienna."
"We have forgotten the Crusades, and tolerance is a fine quality."
"Yes, the last thing they did was to undertake a crusade against the Christian Albigenses, while they tried to conciliate the Muhammedans in Sicily."
"The world is a madhouse."
This, then, was Pope Julius II, who had overcome the monster Alexander VI, and now led his army against Venice, His kingdom was quite obviously of this world, and Luther lost all desire for an audience with him.
He went now to the Leonine quarter, where the new Church of St. Peter's was to be built in place of the one which had been pulled down. This, in its turn, was a successor of Nero's Circus, in which the first Christian martyrs had suffered. He found the site enclosed by a iron fence, but at the entrance stood two Dominican monks, and a civilian who looked like a clerk. Between them was a great iron chest, and the monks called aloud the scale of prices for the forgiveness of sins. All who entered, and wished to see the building, threw money to the clerk, who counted and entered it in his book. This functionary had been appointed by Hans Fugger, who farmed the sale of indulgences.
Luther also wished to see the building, and without thinking put down some silver pieces. As a receipt, he received a piece of paper on which was written the formula of forgiveness for some trifling sins.
When he had read the paper, he returned it to the clerk, and burst out, "I don't buy forgiveness of sins, but I gladly pay the entrance fee."
He entered the site, but now noticed the dark-eyed Augustinian monk following him.
"Are you dissatisfied, brother?" said the latter. "Do you think that the forgiveness of sins is bought? Who ever said so? Don't you know that the Civil Law exacts fines for certain trespasses? Why should not the Ecclesiastical Law do the same? Tell me any reason. What nonsense you talk? What is buying? You pay out money, and by doing so deprive yourself of certain enjoyments! Instead of buying wine and women, you give this money to the Church. Good! By doing so, you renounce the sin with which you would otherwise have polluted yourself."
"Who taught you such arguments?"
"We learn in the schools here to think, you see; we read Cicero and Aristotle."
"Do you read the Bible also?"
"Yes, certainly. The Epistle always lies beside the Gospel on the altar-desk."
"Do you understand what you read?"
"Now you are impolite, Martin, but you are also proud, and you must not be that. Look now at the new church. What we see is only the foundation, but we can go in the architect's cottage, and see the designs there."
The designs were hung up in a little pavilion, and another fee was charged for entrance.
"Now what does my critical brother say?"
"That is simply a Roman bath-house," answered Luther after a glance. "Caracalla's Thermae, I should say."
"It is a heathen building, then!"
"Yes, if you like, but everything is heathenish here, although baptized. The heathen were not so stupid.... I won't see any more."
"But look at those two great men there, before you go. The tall man with the patriarchal beard is Michael Angelo, and that slim youth with the long neck and feminine features is Raphael."
"Is that Raphael?"
"Yes; he looks like an angel, but is not so dangerous. He is a very good man; they talk of getting him married. He does not want to, however, for his eye is on a cardinal's hat, which they have promised him."
"Yes, he is spiritually-minded, although he paints worldly objects."
"I remember, but I want to forget them."
"Listen, Martin!" the monk interrupted him, with an insulting air of familiarity; "when you go away from here, and get home, don't forget to curb your tongue! Think of what I say: there are eyes and ears which follow you where you go, and when you least suspect it."
"If the Lord is with me, what can men do against me?"
"Are you sure that the Lord is with you? Do you know His ways and His will?—You only? Can you interpret His meaning when He speaks?"
"Yes, I can; for I hear his voice in my conscience. Get thee hence, Satan, or I shall pray that heaven's lightning may smite thee! I came here as a believing child, but I shall depart as a believing man, for your questions have only evoked my silent answers which you have not heard, but which some day you will hear. You have killed Savonarola, but I am young and strong, and I shall live. Mark that!"
* * * * *
Luther did not stay long in Rome, but he took the opportunity of learning Hebrew, and attended the lectures of the Jew Elia Levi ben Asher, surnamed Bachur or Elias Levita.
There he met Cardinal Viterbo, the patron of the Jews, and many other celebrities, for Oriental languages were then in fashion after the Turks had established themselves in Constantinople.
Luther enjoyed the friendship of the old Jew, for Elias was the only "Christian" whom he found in Rome. It was a pity, to be sure, that he lived under the Law, and was not acquainted with the Gospel, but he knew no better.
In the year 1483, the same year in which Luther was born, Docter Coctier sat in his laboratory at Paris, and carried on a philosophical discussion with a chemical expert who was passing through the city.
The laboratory was in the same building as his observatory, in the Marais quarter of the town, a site occupied to-day by the Place des Vosges. Not far away is the Bastille, the magnificent Htel de Saint-Pol, and the brilliant Des Tournelles, the residence of the Kings before the Louvre was built. Here Louis XI had given his private physician, chancellor, and doctor of all the sciences, Coctier, a house which lay in a labyrinth-like park called the Garden of Daedalus. The doctor was speaking, and the expert listened: "Yes, Plato in his Timaeus calls gold one of the densest and finest substances which filters through stone. There is a metal derived from gold which is black, and that is iron. But a substance more akin to gold is copper, which is composed of shining congealed fluids, and one of whose minor constituents is green earth. Now I ask, 'Why cannot copper be freed from this last, and refined to gold?'"
"Yes," answered the expert, "it can, if one uses atramentum or the philosopher's stone."
"What is that?"
"Atramentum is copperas."
"Ventre-saint-gris! that is Plato's iron! Now I see! Who taught you that?"
"I learnt it from the greatest living magician in Wittenberg. His name is Dr. Faustus, and he has studied magic in Krakau."
"He is alive, then! Tell me! Tell me!"
"This man, according to many witnesses, has done miracles like Christ; he has undertaken to restore the lost comedies of Plautus and Terence; his mind can soar on eagle's wings and discover secrets of the heights and depths."
"Has he also found the elixir of life?"
"Yes, since gold can be resolved into its elements."
"If gold can be resolved, then it has constituents. What are they?"
"Gold can be easily dissolved in oil of vitriol, salts of ammonia, and saltpetre."
"What do you say?"
The Doctor jumped up; the stove had heated the room and made him uncomfortable.
"Let us go for a little walk," he said; "but I must first make a note of what you say, for, when I wish to remember something important, the devil makes confusion in my head. These, then, are means of dissolving gold—oil of vitriol, salts of ammonia, and saltpetre!"
The expert, whose name was Balthasar, now first noticed that he had given his information without obtaining a receipt or any equivalent for it, and, since he was not one of the unselfish kind, he threw out a feeler.
"How is our gracious King?"
The question revealed his secret and his wish, and put Doctor Coctier on his guard. "Ah," he said to himself, "you have your eye on the King with your elixir of life." And then he added aloud, "He is quite well."
"Oh! I had heard the opposite!"
"Then they have lied."
Then there was silence in the room, and the two men tried to read each other's thoughts. It was so terribly still that they felt their hatred germinate, and had already begun a fight to the death. Doctor Coctier's thoughts ran as follows: "You come with an elixir to lengthen the life of the monster who is our King; you wish thereby to make your own fortune and to bring trouble on me; and you know that he who has the King's life in his hands, has the power."
Quick as lightning he had taken his resolve, coolly and cruelly, as the custom of the time was. He resumed the conversation, and said, "Now you must see my 'Daedalus' or labyrinth. Since the time of the Minotaur, there has been none like it."
The labyrinth was a thicket threaded by secret passages, bordered by hornbeam-hedges, four ells high, and so dense that one did not notice the thin iron balustrade which ran along them. Artistically contrived and impenetrable, the labyrinth meandered in every direction. It seemed to be endlessly long, and was so arranged that its perspectives deceived the eye. It also contained secret doors and underground passages, and a visitor soon grew aware that it had not been constructed as a joke, but in deadly earnest. Only the King and Doctor Coctier possessed the key to this puzzle.
When the two men had walked for a good time, admired statues and watched fountains play, Balthasar wished to sit upon a bench, whether it was that he was tired or suspected some mischief.
But the Doctor prevented him: "No, not on that seat," he said. They continued their walk. But now the Doctor quickened his steps, and, after a while, his guest felt again weary and confused in his head from the perpetual turning round. Therefore he threw himself on the first seat which he saw, and drew a deep breath.
"You run the life out of me, Doctor," he said.
"No, you are not so short-lived," answered the Doctor; "I see a long line of life on your forehead, and the bar between your eyes shows that you were born under the planet Jupiter. Besides, you possess the elixir of life, and can prolong your existence as much as you like, can't you?"
The expert noticed a cruel smile on the Doctor's face, and, feeling himself in danger, tried to spring up, but the arms of the chair had closed around him, and he was held fast. The next moment Doctor Coctier seemed to be seeking for something in the sand with his left foot, and, when he had found it, he pressed with all his weight on the invisible object.
"Farewell, young man," he said; "loquacious, conceited young man, who wanted to lord it over Doctor Coctier. Now I will settle the King for you."
The seat disappeared in the earth with the expert. It was an oubliette—a pit with a trap-door, which drew the veil of oblivion over the man who had vanished.
When he had finished the affair, the Doctor sought to leave the labyrinth, but could not find the way at once, for he was deep in thought, and kept on repeating the formula for the elixir which he had just learnt, to impress it on his mind, in case the recipe should be lost—"oil of vitriol, salts of ammonia, saltpetre." Suddenly he found himself in a round space where many paths converged, and to his great astonishment saw a body lying on the ground. It looked like that of a large brown watchdog, but limp and lifeless.
"It is not the first who has been caught in this crab-pot," he thought, and came nearer. But as the brown mass moved, he saw that it was a man with torn clothes and a shabby fur cap.
It was the King—Louis XI in the last year of his life.
"Sire, in the name of all the saints, what is the matter with you?" exclaimed the Doctor.
"Wretch!" answered the King, "why do you construct such traps that one cannot find the way out of them?"
Now it was Louis himself who, in his youth, had constructed the maze, but the Doctor could not venture to tell him so. Therefore he spoke soothingly.
"Sire, you are ill. Why do you not remain in Tours? How have you come here?"
"I cannot sleep, and I cannot eat. The last few days I have passed in Vincennes, in Saint-Pol, in the Louvre, but I find peace nowhere. At last I came here, in order to be safe in the place which only you and I know; I came yesterday morning, and would have stayed longer, but I was hungry, and when I wanted to get out, I could not find the way. I have been here, freezing, last night. Take me away; I am ill; feel my pulse, and see whether it is not the quartan ague." The Doctor tried to feel his pulse, but did so with difficulty for it was hardly beating at all; but he dared not tell the King so.
"Your pulse is regular and strong, sire; let us get home!"
"I will eat at your house; you only can prepare food properly; all the rest spoil it with their everlasting condiments; they spice all my dishes, and the spices are bad. Jacob, help me to get away from here—help me. Did you see the star last night? Is there anything new in the sky? There is certain a comet approaching. I feel it before it comes."
"No, sire; no comet is approaching...."
"Do you answer impertinently? Then you believe I am sick—perhaps incurably."
"No, sire, you are healthier than ever; but follow me—I will make you a bed, and prepare you a meal."
The King rose and followed the Doctor. The latter, however, wished the monarch to go before him but the King mistrusted his only last friend, who certainly did not love him, and would have gladly seen him dead.
"Beware of the seats, sire," he cried. "Do not go too near to the hedge; keep in the middle of the path."
"Your seats themselves should.... Forgive me my sins." He crossed himself.
When they came out of the labyrinth, the King fell in a rage at the recollection of what he had suffered, and, instead of being grateful towards his rescuer, he burst into abuse: "How could you let me go astray in your garden, and let me sleep on the bare ground in the open air? You are an ass." They entered the laboratory, where it was warm, and the King, who was observant, noticed at once the recipe which the Doctor had left there.
"What are you doing behind my back? What recipe have you been writing? Is it poison or medicine? Oil of vitriol is poison, salts of ammonia are only for dysentery, saltpetre produces scurvy. For whom have you made this mixture?"
"It is for the gardener's cow, which has calved," answered the Doctor, who certainly did not wish to prolong the tyrant's life.
The King laid down on a sofa. "Jacob," he said, "you must not go away; I will not eat, but I will sleep, and you must sit here by me. I have had to sleep for eight nights. But put out the fire; it hurts my eyes. Don't let down the blinds; I want to see the sun; otherwise I cannot sleep."
He seemed to fall asleep, but it was only a momentary nap. Then he grew wide awake again, and sat up in bed.
"Why do you keep starlings in your garden, Jacob?"
"I have no starlings," answered the Doctor impatiently, "but if you have heard them whistling, sire, they must be there with your permission."
"Don't you hear them, then?"
"No! but what are they singing?"
"Yes, you know! After the shameful treaty of Peronne, when I had to yield to Charles of Burgundy, the Parisians taught their starlings to cry 'Peronne!' Do you know what they are saying now?"
The Doctor lost patience, for he had heard these old stories thousands of times: "They are not saying 'Guienne,' are they?" he asked.
There was an ugly reference to fratricide in the question, for the King was suspected of having murdered his brother, the Duke of Guienne. He started from the sofa in a pugnacious attitude. "What! You believe in this fable? But I have never committed murder, though I would certainly like to murder you...."
"Better leave it alone!" answered the Doctor cynically; "you know what the starshave said—eight days after my death, follows yours."
The King had an attack of cramp, for he believed this fable, which Coctier had invented to protect his own life. But when he recovered consciousness, he continued to wander in his talk.
"They also say that I murdered my father, but that is a lie. He starved himself to death for fear of being poisoned."
"Of being poisoned by you! You are a fine fellow! But your hour will soon come."
"Hush!... I remember every thing now. My father was a noodle who let France be overrun by the English, and when the Maid of Orleans saved him, gave her up to the English. I hate my father who was false to my mother with Agnes Sorel, and had his legitimate children brought up by his paramour. When he left the kingdom to itself, I and the nobles took it in hand. That you call 'revolt,' but I have never stirred up a revolt! That is a lie."
"Listen!" the Doctor broke in; "if you wish to confess, send for your father confessor."
"I am not confessing to you; I am defending myself."
"Who is accusing you, then? Your own bad conscience."
"I have no bad conscience, but I am accused unjustly."
"Who is accusing you? The starling?"
"My wife and children accuse me, and don't wish to see me."
"No; if you have sent them to Amboise, they cannot see you, and, as a matter of fact, they do not wish to."
"To think that I, the son of King Charles VII, must hear this sort of thing from a quack doctor! I have always liked people of low rank; Olivier the barber was my friend."
"And the executioner Tristan was your godfather."
"He was provost-marshal, you dog!"
"The tailor became a herald."
"And the quack doctor a chancellor! Put that to my account and praise me, ingrate! for having protected you from the nobles, and for only having regard to merit."
"That is certainly a redeeming feature."
Just then a man appeared in the doorway with his cap in his hand.
"Who is there?" cried the King. "Is it a murderer?"
"No, it is only the gardener," the man answered.
"Ha! ha! gardener!—your cow has calved, hasn't she?"
"I possess no cow, sire, nor have I ever had one."
The King was beside himself, and flew at Coctier's throat.
"You have lied to me, scoundrel; it is not medicine you were preparing, but poison."
The gardener disappeared. "If I wished to do what I should," said Coctier, "I would treat you like Charles the Bold did when you cheated him."
"What did he do? What do people say that he did?"
"People say that he beat you with a stick."
The King was ashamed, went to bed again, and hid his face in the pillow. The Doctor considered this a favourable moment for preferring a long-denied request.
"Will you now liberate the Milanese?" he asked.
"But he cannot sit any more in his iron cage!"
"Then let him stand!"
"Don't you know that when one has to die, one good deed atones for a thousand crimes?"
"I will not die!"
"Yes, sire, you will die soon."
"No, before me."
"That is also a lie of yours."
"All have lied to you, liar. And your four thousand victims whom you have had executed...."
"They were not victims; they were criminals."
"Those four thousand slaughtered will witness it the judgment seat against you."
"Lengthen my life; then I will reform myself."
"Liberate the Milanese."
"Then go to perdition—and quickly. Your pulse is so feeble that your hours are numbered."
The King jumped up, fell on his knees before the physician, and prayed, "Lengthen my life."
"No! I should like to abbreviate it, were you not the anointed of the Lord. You ought to have rat-poison."
"Mercy! I confess that I have acted from bad motives; that I have only thought of myself; that I have never loved the people, but used them in order to put down the nobles; I grant that I made agreements and treaties with the deliberate purpose of breaking them; that I ... Yes, I am a poor sinful man, and my name will be forgotten; all that I have done will be obliterated...."
A stranger now appeared in the open door. It was a young man in the garb of the Minorites.
"Murderer!" screamed the King, and sprang up.
"No," answered the monk, "I am he whom you called Vincent of Paula."
"My deliverer! say a word—a single word of comfort."
"Sire," answered Vincent, "I have heard your confession, and will give you absolution in virtue of my office."
"Very well. Your motives were not pure, as you yourself confess, but your work will not perish, for He who guides the destinies of men and nations uses all and each for His purposes. Not long ago it was a pure virgin who saved France; now it is not quite so blameless a man. But your work, sire, was in its result of greater importance than that of the Maid, for you have completed what the Roman Caesar began. The hundred-year war with England is over, the Armagnacs and Burgundians quarrel no more, the Jacquerie war has ceased, and the peasants have returned to their ploughs. You have united eleven provinces, France has become one land, one people, and will now take the place of Rome, which will disappear and be forgotten for centuries, perhaps some day to rise again. France will guide the destinies of Europe, and be great among the crowned heads, so long as it does not aim at empire like the Rome of the Caesars, for then it will be all over with it. Thank God that you have been able to be of service, though in ignorance of the will and purposes of your Lord, when you thought you were only going your own way!"
"Montjoie Saint Denis!" exclaimed the King. "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace."
"But not here," broke in the Doctor, who was tired of the whole business. "Travel back to Tours, take the priest with you, and leave me in peace!"
The King returned to Plessis-les-Tours, where he ended his days after severe sufferings. He did not obtain peace, but he did obtain death.
"Now the rod is thrown into the fire," said Doctor Coctier, "let it burn; the children have grown up, and can look after themselves. Executioners also have their uses, as Tristan L'Ermite and his master Louis XI know. Peace be with them."
OLD MERRY ENGLAND
Cardinal Wolsey's oared galley pushed off from the Tower Bridge, below the iron gateway. It gleamed with red and gold; flags and sails flapped lazily in a gentle breeze. The Cardinal sat on the stern-deck surrounded by his little court; most of his attendants he had left at home in York Palace, later known as Whitehall. His face was red both from the reflection of his red dress as from the wine which he had been drinking at noon with King Henry VIII in the Tower, and also from the new French sickness, which was very fashionable, as everything French was.
He was in a cheerful mood, for he had just received fresh proofs of the King's favour.
At his side stood the King's secretary, Thomas Cromwell. Both were parvenus. Wolsey was the son of a butcher, Cromwell the son of a smith, and that was probably one of the causes of their friendship, although the Cardinal was by twenty years the elder of the two.
"This is a happy day," said Wolsey joyfully, and cast a glance up at the Tower, which was still a royal residence, though it was soon to cease to be one. "I have obtained the head of Buckingham, that fool who believed he had a right of succession to the crown."
"Who has the right of succession," asked Cromwell, "since there is no male heir, and none is expected?"
"I will soon see to that! Katherine of Aragon is weak and old, but the King is young and strong."
"Remember Buckingham," said Cromwell; "it is dangerous to meddle with the succession to the throne."
"Nonsense! I have guided England's destiny hitherto, and will guide it further."
Cromwell saw that it was time to change the topic.
"It is a good thing that the King is leaving the Tower. It must be depressing for him to have only a wall between himself and the prisoners, and to see the scaffold from his windows."
"Don't talk against our Tower! It is a Biblia Pauperum, an illustrated English History comprising the Romans, King Alfred, William the Conqueror, and the Wars of the Roses. I was fourteen years old when England found its completion at the battle of Bosworth, and the thirty years' War of the Roses came to an end with the marriage between York and Lancaster...."
"My father used to talk of the hundred years' war with France, which ended in the same year in which Constantinople was taken by the Turks—i.e. 1453."
"Yes, all countries are baptized in blood; that is the sacrament of circumcision, and see what fertility follows this manuring with blood! You don't know that apple-trees bear most fruit after a blood-bath."
"Yes I do; my father always used to bury offal from butchers' shops at the root of fruit-trees."
Here he stopped and coloured, for he had made a slip with his tongue. In the Cardinal's presence no one dared to speak of slaughter or the like, for he was hated by the people, and often called "The Butcher." Cromwell, however, was above suspicion, and the Cardinal did not take his remark ill, but saved the situation.
"Moreover," he continued, "my present was well received by the King; Hampton Court is also a treasure, and has the advantage of being near Richmond and Windsor, but can naturally not bear comparison with York Place."
The galley was rowed up the river, on whose banks stood the most stately edifices which existed at the time. They passed by customhouses and warehouses, fishmarkets, and fishers' landing-places; the pinnacles of the Guildhall or Council House; the Convent of Blackfriars, the old Church of St. Paul's; the Temple, formerly inhabited by the Templars, now a court of justice; the Hospital of St. James, subsequently appropriated by Henry VIII and made a palace. Finally they reached York Place (Whitehall) by Westminster, where Wolsey, the Cardinal and Papal Legate, Archbishop of York and Keeper of the Great Seal, dwelt with his court, comprising about eight hundred persons, including court ladies.
Then they disembarked after conversing on ordinary topics; for the Cardinal preferred discussing trifles when he had great schemes in hand, and that which occupied him especially just now was his candidature for the papacy.
* * * * *
Sir Thomas More, the King's Treasurer and Privy Councillor, sat in his garden at Chelsea above Westminster. He was correcting proofs, for he was a great scholar, and wrote on all the controversial questions of the day, religious and political, though he was essentially a man of peace, living in this suburb an idyllic life with his family.
He wore his best attire, although in the house and at work. He also showed signs of disquietude, looking now and then towards the door, for at an early hour of the day no one less than the King had sent an intimation of his intention to pay him a visit. He knew from experience how dangerous it was to be on intimate terms with the King and to share his secrets. His sovereign had the bad habit of asking for advice which he did not follow, and of imparting secrets the knowledge of which often cost his confidants their heads. The most dangerous thing of all was to undertake to act as intermediary between Henry and anyone else, for then one fell between two millstones.
With a mind prepared for the worst, More tried to quiet himself by reading his proofs, but his efforts were vain. He rose and began to walk up and down the garden path, went over in his mind all possible causes of the King's coming, rehearsed answers to objections, refutations of arguments, and ways of modifying the King's too strong views without causing offence.
Henry was certainly a learned man, who had a respect for knowledge, but he had a savage nature which he tried to tame with the scourge of religion, though without success.
The clank of armour and tramp of horses was now audible, and the Treasurer hastened, cap in hand, to the garden gate.
The King had already dismounted from his horse, and hastened towards his friend, carrying a portfolio in his hand.
"Thomas," he said without any preface, "take and read! He has answered me! Who? Luther, of course! He—the man whose mind reeks like carrion, and whose practices are damnable—has answered my book, The Babylonish Captivity. Take and read what he says, and tell me if you have ever seen anything like it."
He gave the Treasurer a printed pamphlet. "And then this devil of a liar says I have not written my book myself. Take and read it, and give me your advice."
More began to read Luther's answer to Henry's attack. He read it to himself, and often found it hard to remain serious, although the King kept his eyes fixed on his face in order to read his thoughts.
Among other things, Luther had written: "It matters nothing to me whether King Heinz or Kunz, the Devil or Hell itself, has composed this book. He who lies is a liar—therefore I fear him not. It seems to me that King Henry has provided an ell or two of coarse stuff for this mantle, and that the poisonous fellow Leus (Leo X), who wrote against Erasmus, or someone of his sort, has cut and lined the hood. But I will help them—please God—by ironing it and attaching bells to it."
More felt that he must say something or lose his head, so he said: "That is monstrous! That is quite monstrous!"
"Go on!" exclaimed Henry.
After saying that he postponed the discussion of the other six sacraments, Luther added: "I am busy in translating the Bible into German, and cannot stir up Heinz's dirt any more."
The Treasurer was nearly choking with suppressed laughter, but he felt the sword suspended over his head, and continued: "But I will give the poisonous liar and blasphemer, King Heinz, once for all, a complete answer, and stop his mouth.... Therefore he thinks to hang on to the Pope and play the hypocrite before him.... Therefore they mutually caress and tickle each other like a pair of mule's ears...."
"No, sire," More broke off, "I cannot go on; it is high treason to read it."
"I will read," said the King, and took the pamphlet from him:
"'I conquer and defy Papists, Thomists, Henrys, Sophists, and all the swine of hell!' He calls us swine!"
"He is a madman who ought to be beaten to death with iron bars or hunted in a forest with bloodhounds."
"Yes, he ought! But imagine!—this scoundrel gives himself out for a prophet and servant of Christ. And he has married a nun. That is incest! But he has been punished for it. The Kurfrst of Saxony has abandoned him, and none of his so-called friends went to the wedding...."
"What is his object? What is his new teaching? Justification through faith. If one only believes, one may live like a swine!"
"And his doctrine about the Communion. The Church says the Elements are changed by consecration, but this materialist says they actually are Christ's Body and Blood. Then the corn in the field and the grapes in the vineyard are already Christ's Body and Blood! He is an ass! And the world is mad."
"And the consequence,—sin with impunity! Sire, allow me to read some lines, which I have written as an answer, not to these but to his other follies—only some lines which I hope to add to."
"Read! I listen when you speak, for I have learnt to listen, and, through that, I know something."
The King sat down astride on a chair, as though he would ride against his formidable foe.
"Honourable brother," read More, "father, drinker runaway from the Augustinian Order, clumsy tipsy reveller of the worldly and spiritual kingdoms, ignorant teacher of sacred theology."
"Good, Thomas; he knows no theology!"
"And this is the way he composed his book against King Henry, the Defender of Our Faith: he collected his stable-companions, and commissioned them to collect all manner of abuse and bad language, each in his own department. One of them among carters and boatmen; another in baths and gaming-houses; a third in barbers' shops and restaurants; a fourth in mills and brothels. They wrote down in their note-books the most daring, dirtiest, and vulgarest expressions which they heard, brought home all that was coarse and nasty, and emptied it into a disgusting drain, called Luther's soul."
"Good! Very good! But what shall we do now?"
"Burn the rubbish, sire, and make an end of the matter."
"Yes, I will have his heresies burnt to-morrow at St. Paul's Cross in the City."
* * * * *
In the great library of the Temple sat the King and Cardinal Wolsey, examining collections of laws and precedents. Outside in the garden the Queen was walking with some of the court ladies. This garden —really a large rose-garden—had been preserved as a promenade for the royal personages who could not sleep in the Tower, because it was haunted, and did not retain their health in the insignificant Bride-well in the City; it was also preserved as a place of historical interest, for here the adherents of Lancaster and York were said to have plucked the red and white roses as their respective badges.
Queen Katherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, the patrons of Christopher Columbus, had now, after twenty years' marriage with Henry VIII, reached a certain age. She had borne him several sons, but all had died: only one, a daughter, lived, known later on as Queen, under the title "Bloody Mary." Katherine had aged early, and sought comfort in religion; she used to rise at night and attend mass in the garb of a Franciscan nun. She knew of the King's unfaithfulness, but accepted it quietly; she had heard the name of Elizabeth Blunt, but ignored it.
Now she sat on a seat, and watched her young attendants playing, while she turned over the pages of her prayer book. One pair especially her eyes followed with pleasure—the uncommonly beautiful Anna of Norfolk and young Henry Algernon Percy of Northumberland, Hotspur's descendant. The pair were playing with roses; the youth had an armful of white and the girl an armful of red roses, which they threw at each other, singing as they lid so.
It was a beautiful sight, but the Queen became sad: "Don't play like that, children," she said; "it awakens memories which ought to sleep in the Tower, where Only the dead can sleep quietly. Besides, the King, and consequently the Cardinal, will be vexed; they sit there in the library. Play something else!"
The two young people seemed not to understand. Accordingly the Queen continued: "The Wars of the Roses, children, did not end altogether at Bosworth but—in the Tower happened much that is best forgotten. Take a book and read something."
"We have been reading all the morning," answered Anne surnamed Boleyn or Bullen.
"What are you reading then?
"The Canterbury Tales? Those are not for children: Chaucer was a jester. You had better take my book. It has beautiful pictures." The young Percy took the little breviary, and, going down the path as though they sought the shade, they both quietly disappeared from the Queen's eyes.
But from the library four eyes had followed them, those of the King and the Cardinal, while they turned over the folios.
The King was uneasy, and spoke more for the sake of speaking than because he had something to say, and so did the Cardinal.
"You ought to aim at the Papacy, Cardinal, as Hadrian's successor."
"Yes, so they say."
"What about the votes?"
"They are controlled by the Emperor Charles V and King Francis I."
"How can one bring such a discordant pair into harmony?"
"That is just what requires diplomatic skill, sire."
"You cannot stand on good terms with both."
"Who knows? The Emperor has taken Rome, and placed the Pope in the Castle of St. Angelo ... that was a droll stroke! Then the soldiers in jest, under the windows of the Castle, called out for Martin Luther as Pope."
"Name not his cursed name," growled the King, but more in anger at what he saw in the rose-garden than at the mention of Luther.
The Cardinal understood him. "I do not like a union between Northumberland and Norfolk," he said.
"What do you say?" asked the King. He was angry that Wolsey had read his thoughts, but did not wish to betray himself.
"Anne is really too good for a Percy, and I find it improper of the Queen to act as a match-maker, and let them go alone in the shrubbery. No, that must have an end!"
"Sire, it is already at an end; I have written to Anne's father to call her home to Hever."
"You did well in that, by heaven! Two such families, who both aim at the succession, ought not to unite."
"Who is there that does not aim at the throne? Just now it was Buckingham, now it is Northumberland, and only because there is no proper heir. Sire, you must consider the country, and your people, and name a successor."
"No! I will not have anyone waiting for my decease."
"Then we shall have the Wars of the Roses again, which cost England a million men and eighty of our noblest families."
The King smiled. "Our noblest!" Then he rose and stepped to the window: "I must now accompany the Queen home," he said. "She has gone to sleep outside, and this damp is not good for her in her weak condition."
"At her Majesty's age one must be very careful," replied the Cardinal. He emphasized the word age, for Katherine was forty, and gave no more hopes of an heir to the throne. Her daughter Mary might certainly be married, but one did not know to whom.
"Sire," he continued, "do not be angry, but I have just now opened the Holy Scripture.... It may be an accident—will you listen?"
"In the third Book of Moses, the twentieth and twenty-first chapters, I read the following—but you will not be angry with your servant?"
"These are the Lord's solemn words: 'If any man take his brother's wife, it is evil; they shall be childless.'"
The King was excited, and approached the Cardinal.
"Is that there? Yes, truly! God has punished me by taking my sons one after the other. What a wonderful book, in which everything is written! That is the reason then! But what says Thomas Aquinas, the 'Angel' of the Schoolmen?"
"Yes, sire, if you wish the matter elucidated, we must consult the learned."
"Let us do so,—but quietly and cautiously. The Queen is blameless, and nothing evil must happen to her. Quietly and cautiously, Wolsey! But I must know the truth."
* * * * *
In a room near the "Bloody Tower," the Cardinal and More were carrying on a lively conversation.
"What is happening now in Germany?" asked the Cardinal.
"While Luther was in the Wartburg, his pupil Karlstadt came to Wittenberg, and turned everything upside down. Citing the prohibition of images in the Old Testament, he stirred up students and the rabble to attack the churches and throw all sacred objects outside."
"That's the result of the Bible! To give it into the hands of the unlearned means letting hell loose,"
"What did Luther say to that?"
"He hurried down from the Wartburg and denounced Karlstadt and his followers, but I cannot say that he confuted them. A councillor quoted the book of Moses, 'Thou shalt not make to thee any image nor likeness.' And a shoemaker answered, 'I have often taken off my hat before images in a room or in the street; but that is idolatry, and robs God of the glory which belongs to Him alone.'"
"What did Luther say?"
"That then, on account of occasional misuse, one must kill all the women, and pour all the wine into the streets."
"That was a stupid saying; but that is the result of disputing with shoemakers. Besides, it is degrading to compare women to wine! He is a coarse fellow who sets his wife on the same level with a beer-barrel."
"Logic is not his strong point, and his comparisons halt on crutches. In his answer to the Pope's excommunication, he writes, among other things: 'If a hay-cart must move out of the way of a drunken man, how much more must Peter and Jesus Christ keep out of the way of the Pope?'"
"That is a pretty simile! Let us return to James Bainham."
"But let me tell you a little more about the fanatics in Germany. Besides Karlstadt and his followers, other enthusiasts, quoting the Bible and Luther, have had themselves rebaptized; their leader has taken ten wives, supporting his action by the example of David, Solomon, and even Abraham."
"The Bible again!—Call in Bainham, and then we will hear how the matter stands! He was a lawyer in the Temple, you say, and has been spreading Luther's teaching. Have we not had enough of Wycliffe and the Lollards? Must we have the same thing again, grunted out by this German plagiariser?"
"I am not an intolerant man," said More, "but a State must be homogeneous, or it will fall to pieces. Ignoramuses and lunatics must not come forward and sniff at the State religion, be it better or worse."
"Let Bainham come, and we will hear him."
More went to a door which was guarded on the outside by soldiers, and gave an order.
"You examine him, and I will listen," said the Cardinal.
After a time Bainham was brought into the room in chains.
More sat at the end of a table, and commenced.
"James Bainham, can you declare your belief in a few words?"
"I believe in God's Word—i.e. the whole of Holy Scripture."
"Do you really—in the Old as well as the New Testament?"
"In the Old also?"
"Very well, then, you believe in the Old Testament. Now, you have had yourself baptized again, for the Bible says, 'Go, and teach all nations and baptize them.' Good. But have you had yourself circumcised, as the Bible commands?"
Bainham looked confounded, and the Cardinal had to turn his head, in order not to smile.
"I am not an Israelite," answered Bainham.
"No! but Nathanael, who sought our Saviour and believed on him, was called by John 'an Israelite indeed.' If you are not an 'Israelite indeed,' you are not a Christian."
"I cannot answer that."
"No, you cannot answer, but you can preach and talk rubbish. Are you a Lutheran?"
"But Luther is against the Anabaptists; therefore he is against you, and he has asked the princes to kill the Anabaptists like wild dogs. Are you still a Lutheran?"
"Yes, according to his early teaching."
"You mean justification by faith. What do you believe?"
"I believe in God the Father...."
"Who is the Father? In Luther's catechism it is written, 'Thou shalt have none other Gods but me.' But that is the Law of Moses, and it is Jehovah who is intended there. If you believe in Jehovah, then you are a Jew, are you not?"
"I believe also on Christ the Son of God."
"Then you are a Jew-Christian! So you have admitted that you are a Lutheran, Anabaptist, Jew, and Christian—all this together. You are a fool, and you don't know what you are. But that may be passed over, if you do not seduce others."
"Give him a flogging," said the Cardinal, who did not like the turn the conversation had taken, especially the challenging of the Bible, which just now he wished to use for his own purposes.
"He has already had that," answered More, "but besides his doctrine, this conceited man, who wants to make himself popular, belongs to a society which circulates a bad translation of the Bible." "You see yourself," he continued, turning to Bainham, "what Bible reading leads to, and I demand that you give up the names of your fellow-criminals."
"That I will never do! The just shall live by his faith."
"Will you call yourself just, when there is no one just? Read the Book of Job, and you will see. And your belief is really too eccentric to be counted to you for righteousness."
"Send him down in the cellar to Master Mats! Must one listen to such nonsense! Away with him!"
More pointed to the door, and Bainham went out.
"Yes," said Wolsey, "what is there in front of us? Schisms, sectarianism, struggles. If we only had an heir to the throne."
"We cannot get the King divorced."
"You yourself have spoken the word. There is no need for divorce, because his marriage is null."
"Is it? How do you prove that?"
"From the third book of Moses, the twentieth and twenty-first chapters: 'If any one taketh his brother's wife, it is evil.'"
"Yes, but in the fifth book of Moses, five and twentieth chapter, fifth verse, it is commanded."
"What, in Christ's name, are you saying?"
"Certainly it is: 'If brothers dwell together, and one die without children, his brother shall take his wife and raise up seed to his brother."
"Damnation! This cursed book."
"Moreover: Abraham married his half-sister; Jacob married two sisters: Moses' father married his aunt."
"That is the Bible, is it? Thank you! Then I prefer the Decretals and the Councils. The Pope must dissolve the marriage."
"Is it then to be dissolved?"
"Didn't you know? Yes, it is. If Julius II could grant a dispensation, Clement VII can grant an absolution."
"It is not just towards the Queen."
"The country demands it—the kingdom—the nation! The King's conscience...."
"Oh! is it the fair Anne?"
"No, not she!"
"Don't ask any more."
"Then I answer, Margaret of Valois."
"I give no answer at all, but I am not responsible for your life, if you talk out of season! The Bible won't help you there."
"It would be a useful reform, if we could cancel the Old Testament as a Jewish book."
"But we cannot cancel the Psalms of David, which are our only Church canticles. Luther himself has taken his hymns from the Psalter, and 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott' from the Proverbs of Solomon; he has borrowed the melody from the Graduale Romanum."
"But we must relegate the law of Moses to the Apocrypha, otherwise we are Pharisees and Jewish Christians. What have we to do with circumcision, the paschal lamb, and levitical marriage? Wait till I am Pope."
"Must we really wait so long?"
"Hush! The noon-bell is ringing. Do not let us neglect our duties. The flesh must have its due, in order not to burn. Come with me to Westminster; then you can go on to Chelsea afterwards."
* * * * *
Henry VIII was twelve years old when he was engaged to the widow of his brother Arthur. At fourteen he protested against the marriage, which was distasteful to him, but at eighteen he married Katherine, the aunt of the Emperor Charles V. Cardinal Wolsey would have gladly brought about a divorce, for he wished for a successor to the throne in order to keep the power in his own hands. This power he had misused to such an extent that the fact that there was such a thing as Parliament had almost been forgotten. Wolsey wished to have the King married to a powerful princess, and thought for a time of Margaret of Valois, but under no circumstances did he wish to take a wife for him from the English nobility. But when he aroused the King's conscience with regard to his marriage with Katherine, he had let loose a storm which he could not control, much less guide in the desired direction, for the King's passion for Anne Boleyn was now irresistible.
Then the Cardinal had recourse to plotting, and this brought about his downfall. For six years negotiations went on, and the King was true to Anne. He wrote letters which can still be read and which display a great and honourable love. Most of them were signed "Henry Tudor, Rex, your true and constant servant," and began "My mistress and friend." Anne answered coldly, but her love to Percy was nipt in the bud by a marriage being arranged for him. After all the learned authorities had been consulted, and much controversy had taken place regarding the third and the fifth books of Moses, the Pope sent a Nuncio with secret instructions to get rid of the whole matter by postponing it. But Henry did not yield, though his feelings for Katherine, whom he respected, cost him a terrible struggle. The trial began in the chapter-house of Blackfriars in the presence of the King and Queen. But Katherine stood up, threw herself at the King's feet, and found words which touched the tyrant. She challenged the right of the court to try her, appealed to the Pope, and returned to Bridewell. It is there that we find her in Shakespeare's Henry VIII, singing sorrowfully a beautiful song:
"Orpheus with his lute made trees And the mountain tops that freeze Bow themselves when he did sing."
The divorce proceedings had gone on for some years; people had sided alternately with the King and with the Queen, and often sympathised with both, when suddenly rumour announced the outbreak of a pestilence.
It was not the Black Death or the boil-pest, but the English "sweating-sickness." This hitherto unknown disease had first broken out in the same year when the wars of the Roses ended on the field of Bosworth; but it was entirely confined to England, passing neither to Scotland nor Ireland. It was so mysteriously connected with English blood, that in Calais only Englishmen and no Frenchmen were attacked by it. Since then the sickness had twice appeared among the English. Now it returned and broke out in London.
The King, who had said that "no one but God could separate him from Anne," was alarmed, and did not know what to think—whether it was a warning or a trial. The symptoms of the sickness were perspiration and a desire to sleep; but if one yielded to the desire, one might be dead in three hours. In London the citizens died like flies: Sir Thomas More lost a daughter; the Cardinal, who had come to preside at Hampton Court, had his horses put to the carriage again, and hurried away. Finally one of Anne's ladies-in-waiting was attacked. Then the King lost all presence of mind, sent Anne home to her father, and fled himself from place to place, from Waltham to Hunsdon. He reconciled himself to Katherine, lived in a tower without a servant, prepared his will, and was ready for death.
Then there came the news that Anne herself had been seized by the sickness. The King had lost his chamberlain, and now wrote letter after letter. Then he fled again to Hatfield and Tittenhanger.
But Anne recovered, the pestilence ceased, and Henry resumed the divorce proceedings. The Cardinal and the Nuncio wavered, and in the seventh year the King lost patience. He had now found the man he sought for. Sir Thomas More would not declare Katherine's marriage null. The new man was Thomas Cranmer, who hated the Pope and the monks, and dreamt of a free England—free, that is, from Rome. The King and his new friend worked in secret at something which Cardinal Wolsey did not know, and one day the preliminaries were settled, the papers were in order, and the mine exploded.
* * * * *
The King's galley pushed off from the Tower. It did not look so brilliant as the Cardinal's had once been. Cranmer sat by the King.
"I shall not sleep in the Tower any more," said the King. "I am leaving it now, Thomas; this is my removal. I move to Whitehall, for that will be the name of York Palace; because I, as a Lancastrian, hate York, and because my white rose shall dwell in my castle. Now, you will sit in the Tower, my hell-dog! To think that this Satan of a Cardinal has deceived me for six years. What troubles his plotting has caused me! Six years! I have always hated the man, but I needed him, for he was clever."
The King glanced at the north side of the Thames. "And I have lived in the city which has not been my own; Rome possesses a third of it. I have lived like a beggar, but now—London is mine. The Temple, St. James's, Whitehall, Westminster to begin with; then the rest."
The galley reached York Palace, and the King hastened in with his body-guard, without giving the password or answering the chamberlain's questions. He went straight to the Cardinal's room, and laid some letters before him: "Read! you snake! your lying letters behind my back."
The Cardinal's face seemed to shrink to half its size, and resembled a death's-head. He did not, however, fall on his knees, but raised his head for the last time: "I appeal to the Pope."
"There is no Pope in England! Nay, I am the Pope, and therefore you are no longer Cardinal! Accordingly, I have granted myself a dispensation, and married Anne Boleyn yesterday! In a few days I shall have her crowned. And then we will dwell here! Here! But you will live in the Tower. Go, or I throw you out."
Thus England became free; a third part of London, which had belonged to the monks, reverted to the Crown, and afterwards the whole country followed.
The King had obtained his beloved Anne, but after three years she was beheaded, for having dishonoured the King by adultery. After that the King married four times. Cardinal Wolsey died before he came to the scaffold; Sir Thomas More was beheaded; and Cromwell, who at first defended Wolsey, but afterwards became a "malleus monachorum," was also beheaded. All this seems very confused and tragic, but from this confusion a free, independent, and powerful England emerged. When the Germans were preparing to cast off the yoke of Rome in the Thirty Years' War, England had already completed her task.