The History of Richard Raynal, Solitary
by Robert Hugh Benson
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But Master Richard did not observe them closely at that time; for he was looking upon the King.

The King sat very upright in his chair; his hands rested on the carved arms; and his face and eyes were as if made of Caen stone, chalky and hard. He was looking out from the room, Master Richard said; and Master Richard knew at once what it was that he was seeing. It was that of which the holy youth had spoken; and was nothing else than the passion and death that came upon him afterwards. The words that the King had heard had opened the eyes of his soul, and he was now seeing for himself.

Before that any could speak or hinder, Master Richard was on his knees by the King, and had laid his lips to the white right-hand, seeing as he did so the red ring on the first finger. My lord cardinal sprang forward to tear him off, but the King turned his stony eyes; and my lord fell back.

Then Master Richard knew that he had not given the whole message; and that our Lord had not intended it at first. The message of the passion and death was to be first; and the second, second—first the wound, and then the balm.

So he began to speak; and these were the words as he told them to me.

"My lord King," he said, "Our Lord does not leave us comfortless when He sends us sorrow. This is a great honour, greater than the crown that you bear, to bear the crown of thorns. That bitter passion of Christ that He bore for our salvation is wrought out in the Body which is His Church, and especially in those members, which, like His sacred hands and feet, receive the nails into themselves. Happy are those members that receive the nails; they are the more honourable; it was on His feet that He went about to do good; and with His hands that He healed and blessed and gave His precious body; and with His burning heart that He loves us.

"My lord King; men will name you fool and madman and crowned calf; it is to their shame that they do so, and to your honour. For so they named our Saviour. All who set not their minds on this world are accounted fools; but who will be the merrier in the world that is to come?

"And, last, our Lord has bestowed on your highness an honour that He bestows upon few, but which Himself suffered; and that, the knowledge of what is to be. In this manner the passion is borne a thousand times a day, by foreknowledge; and for every such pain there is a joy awarded. It is for this reason that you may bear yourself rightly, and that He may crown you more richly that our Lord has sent me to you, and bidden me tell you this."

* * * * *

All this while Master Richard was looking upon the King's face, but there was no alteration in his aspect. It was as the colour of ashes, and his eyes like stone; and yet Master Richard knew very well that his grace heard what was said, but could not answer it. (It was so with him often afterwards: he would sit thus without speaking or answering what was said to him: he would go thus to mass and dinner and to bed, as pale as a spirit: he would even ride thus among his army, with his crown on his head, and his sword in his hand, dumb but not deaf; and looking upon what others could not see: and all, as those about him knew very well, began from the hearing of the message that Master Richard Raynal brought to him from God's Majesty).

While Master Richard was speaking the rest kept silence: for I think that somewhat held them for pity of those two young men—for the one that sat in such stiff agony, and for the other near as pale, and red with his own blood, that spoke so eloquently. But when he had done and had kissed the white hand again, my lord cardinal came forward, pushed him aside, and himself began to speak in a voice that was at once pitiful and angry, crying upon the King to answer, telling him that he was bewitched and under the power of Satan through the machinations of Master Richard, and blessing him again and again.

Master Richard stood aside watching, and wondering that my lord could speak so, and not understand the truth; and he looked round at the others to see if any there understood. But they were all dumb, except for muttering, and gave him black looks, and blessed themselves as their eyes met his; so he committed himself to prayer. [Sir John preaches a little sermon here on internal recollection, and the advantages of the practice.]

It was of no avail; the King could not speak; and presently the physician, Master Blytchett, [this is an extraordinary name, and is obviously a corruption of some English name, but I do not know what it can be, nor why it was retained, when all others were erased.] came and whispered in my lord's ear as he knelt at the King's knees. My lord turned his head and nodded, and Master Richard was seized from behind and pulled through the door. The man who had pulled him was one of the servants. I saw him afterwards and spoke with him, when he was sorry for what he had done; but now he spat on Master Richard fiercely, for the door was shut; and blessed himself mightily meanwhile.

Then he spoke to the man that kept the door; and said that Master Richard was to be taken down and kept close, until there was need of him again; for that the King was no better.

So Master Richard was brought downstairs, and through the guard-room into one of the little cells: and as he went he was thinking on the words of our Saviour.

Si male locutus sum, testimonium perhibe de malo: si autem bene, quid me caedis? ["If I have spoken ill, give testimony of the evil, but if well, why strikest thou me?" (John xviii. 23.)]

Of the Parson's Disquisition on the whole matter

In columna nubis loquebatur ad eos.

He spoke to them in the pillar of the cloud.—Ps. xcviii. 7.


{At this point of the narrative, in consideration of what has preceded and what is yet to follow, Sir John Chaldfield thinks it proper to enlarge at great length upon the threefold nature of man, and the various characters and functions that emerge from the development of each part.

For the sake of those who are more interested in the adventures of Master Richard and the King than in a medieval priest's surmises as to their respective psychological states, I shall take leave to summarise a few of his remarks and omit the rest. The whole section, in fact, might be omitted without any detriment to the history; and may be ignored by those who have arrived as far as this point in the reading of the book.

Sir John is somewhat obscure; and I suspect that he does not fully understand the theory that he attempts to state, which I suppose was taught him originally by Richard Raynal himself, and subsequently illustrated by the priest's own studies. He instances several cases as examples of the classes of persons to which he refers; but his obscurity is further deepened by the action of the zealous and discreet scribe, who, as I have said in the preface, has been careful to omit nearly all the names in Sir John's original manuscript.

Briefly, his theory is as follows—at least so far as I can understand him.

* * * * *

It is at once man's glory and penalty that he is a mixed being. By the possession of his complex nature he is capable of both height and depth. He can devote himself to God or Satan; and there are two methods by which he can attain to proficiency in either of those services. He can issue forth through his highest or lowest self, according to his own will and predispositions.

Most men are predisposed to act through the lower or physical self; and by an interior intention direct their actions towards good or evil. Those that serve God in this manner are often incapable of high mystical acts; but they refrain generally from sin; and when they sin return through Penance. Those who so serve Satan sin freely, and make no efforts at reformation. A few of these, by a wholehearted devotion to evil, succeed in establishing a relation between themselves and physical nature, and gain a certain control over the lower powers inherent in it. To this class belong the less important magicians and witches; and even some good Christians possess such powers (which we now call psychical) which, generally speaking, they are at a loss to understand. Such persons can blast or wither by the eye; they have a strange authority over animals; [I append a form of words which Sir John quotes, and which, he says, may be used sometimes lawfully even by christened men. It is to be addressed in necessity to a troublesome snake. "By Him who created thee I adjure thee that thou remain in the spot where thou art, whether it be thy will to do so or otherwise. And I curse thee with the curse wherewith the Lord hath cursed thee."] and are able to set up a connection between inanimate material objects and organic beings. [He instances the wasting of an enemy by melting a representation of him fashioned in wax.] But such magic, even when malevolent, need not be greatly feared by Christian men living in grace: its physical or psychical influence can be counteracted by corresponding physical acts: such things as the sign of the cross, the use of sacramentals, the avoidance of notoriously injurious follies such as beginning work on Friday, the observance of such matters as wearing Principium Evangelii secundum Joannem on the person, and the paying of ocular deference to Saint Christopher on rising—these precautions and others like them are usually a sufficient safeguard. [I am afraid it is impossible to clear Sir John wholly of the charge of superstition. The "Beginning of the Gospel according to John" was the fourteen verses read as the last Gospel after mass. A copy of this passage was often carried, sewn into the clothes, to protect from various ills. The image of St. Christopher usually stood near the door of the church to ensure against violent death all who looked on it in the morning.]

But all this is a very different matter from the high mysticism of contemplatives, ascetics, and Satanic adepts.

These are persons endowed with extraordinary dispositions, who have resolved to deal with invisible things through the highest faculty of their nature. The Satanic adepts are greatly to be feared, even in matters pertaining to salvation, for, although their power has been vastly restricted by the union of the divine and human natures in the Incarnation of the Son of God, yet they are capable by the exercise of their power, of obscuring spiritual faculties, and bringing to bear grievous temptations, as well as of afflicting by sickness, misfortune and death.

These select souls are the great mages of all time; and their leader, since the year of redemption, Simon Magus himself, could be dealt with by none other than the Vicar of Christ and prince of apostles.

It is not every man, even with the worst will in the world, who is capable of rising to this sinister position: for it is not enough to renounce the faith, to make a league with Satan, to insult the cross and to commit other enormities: there must also be resident in the aspirant a peculiar faculty, corresponding to, if not identical with, the glorious endowment of the contemplative. If, however, all these and other conditions are fulfilled, the initiated person is severed finally from the Body of Christ and incorporated into that of Satan, through which mysterious regeneration it receives supernatural powers corresponding to those of the baptised soul.

Finally Sir John considers those whom he calls "God's adepts," and among those, though in different classes, he places Richard Raynal and the King. [A little later on he also mentions King Solomon as an eminent pre-Christian adept, and Enoch.] These adepts, he says, are of every condition and character, but that which binds them together is the fact that they all alike deal directly with invisible things, and not, as others do, through veils and symbols. Since the Incarnation, however, all baptized persons who frequent the sacraments are in a certain degree adepts, for in those sacraments they may be truly said to see, handle, hear and taste the Word of Life. Other powers, however, are still reserved to those who are the masters of the spiritual life;—for not all persons, however holy, are contemplatives, ecstatics, or seers.

Now contemplation is an arduous labour; it is not, as some ignorant persons think, a process of idle absorption; it is rather a state of strenuous endeavour, aided at any rate in its first stages by acts of steady detachment from the world of sense. Richard Raynal had passed through the first rigour of that purgative stage in the short period of one year, and although he still lived a detached life, and practised various austerities, he was so far free of danger that he was able, as has been already remarked, to dig and talk without interrupting the exercise of his higher faculties. He had then passed to the illuminative stage, and had remained, again for one year, in the process of being informed, taught and kindled in preparation for the third and last stage of union with the Divine—elsewhere named the Way of Perfection. He had been rewarded by various sensible gifts, particularly by that of Ecstasy, by which the soul passes, as fully as an embodied soul can pass, into the state of eternity. Here mysteries are seen plainly, though they seldom can be declared in words, or at least only haltingly and under physical images that are not really adequate to that which they represent. [That which Richard calls Calor, or Warmth, appears to be one of these.]

With the King, however, it was different. By the exigencies of his vocation he was unable to live the properly contemplative life; solitude, an essential to that life, was impossible to him: but he had done what he could by asceticism and the habit of recollection; and, further, his soul had been naturally one of those which had the necessary endowments of the contemplative.

The purgative, illuminative and unitive stages had therefore been confused, and had come upon him simultaneously, though gradually; and this as was to be expected, had resulted in intense suffering. There was for him no gradation by which he passed slowly upwards from detachment to union. Richard Raynal's words to him had coincided with the struggling emergence of his own soul on to the higher plane; and he had opened his spiritual eyes on to a terrible future for which he had had but little preparation. The result had been a kind of paralysis of his whole nature, and henceforward the rest of his life, Sir John maintains, had been darkened by his first definite experience in the mystical region. If indeed this King was none other than Henry the Sixth, Sir John's explanation is an interesting commentary on that melancholy personage. Richard then, according to this hypothesis, found joy in his contemplation because he had been trained to look for it; and Henry had found sorrow because he had been overwhelmed by the suddenness of the revelation and his men unpreparedness. Sir John adds that it is difficult to know which of the two lives would be more pleasing to God Almighty.

As regards his whole statement I feel it is impossible to say more than to quote the opinion of a modern mystic to whom I submitted the original; which was to the effect that it contains a little nonsense, a good deal of truth, and a not intolerable admixture of superstition. He added further that Sir John must not be judged hardly; for he was limited by an inadequate vocabulary and an ignorance of many of the terms that his scanty reading enabled him to employ.}

How Master Richard took his meat: and of Master Lieutenant's whipping of him

Domine, ante te omne desiderium meum; et gemitus meus a te non est absconditus.

Lord, all my desire is before Thee: and my groaning is not hidden from Thee.—Ps. xxxvii. 10.


It was a little cell in which Master Richard found himself that afternoon, after he had passed through the guardroom and heard the anger and laughter of the men-at-arms, and sustained their blows, and when he had looked about it, at the little narrow window high up upon the wall, and the water that dripped here and there from the stones, and the strong door shut upon him, the first thing that he did was to go down upon his knees in the puddle, and thank God for solitude.

(There be two kinds of men in the world, those that love solitude, and those that hate it; for there be two kinds of souls, the full and the empty. Those that be full have enough to occupy them with, and those that be empty are for ever seeking somewhat wherewith to occupy them.)

When he had done that he looked round again upon the walls and the ceiling and the floor, and sitting down upon the wood that was to be his pillow, first girding up his kirtle that it might not be fouled, he sought to unite himself with all that he saw, that it might be his friend and not his foe. So he told me when I asked him, but I do not know if I understood him aright.

There he sat then a great while, communing with God, and the saints, with his cell and with his soul, and after a little time his interior quiet was again restored. Then, as he knew he would have no light that night, and that the cell would grow dark early, for his window looked eastwards, and was a very little one, he made haste to say the rest of his office from the book that he had with him. But he said it slowly, as the Carthusians use, sucking the sweetness out of every word, and saying Jesu or Mary at every star [the break in each verse of the psalter is marked with an asterisk], and after a while the sweetness was so piercing that he could scarcely refrain from crying out.

When he had done he looked again at his window, and saw that the strip of sky was becoming green with evening light, and he thought upon his hazels at home.

Half an hour afterwards a fellow came with his bread and water for supper, on a wooden plate and in a great jug, set them down and went out without speaking.

* * * * *

Now I will tell you all that Master Richard did; it was his custom when he was at home, and he observed it here too.

He first poured water upon his hands, saying the psalm lavabo, and he dried them upon the sleeves of his habit, for he had no napkin; then he set the second stool before him, and broke the bread upon it into five parts, in memory of the five wounds, setting two portions here and two there, and the fifth in the middle. Then he blessed the food, looking upon it a great while, and seeing with the eyes of his soul his Saviour's body stretched upon the rood. Then he began to eat, dipping each morsel into its proper wound, so that it tasted to him sweet as wine, and last of all he ate that which lay in the middle, thinking on the heart that was pierced for love of him. Then he drank water, blessed himself, and gave thanks to God, and last of all poured water once more upon his hands.

Master Richard has often told me that there is no such sweet food to be found anywhere—(save only the sacrament of the altar)—as that which is so blessed and so eaten, and indeed I have found it so myself, when I have had patience to do so with it. [Sir John makes here a few rather trite remarks upon holy bread and ashes and upon various methods of devotion. His words are quite irrelevant, therefore I omit them. He is careful, however, to warn his flock that not every form of devotion is equally suitable for every soul.]....

Now God was preparing three trials for Master Richard, and the first came on the following morning very early.

He had not slept very well; the noise from the guard-room without was too great, and when that was quiet there was still the foulness of the place to keep him awake, for all the floor was strewn with rotten rags and straw and bones, as it were a kennel. His wounds, besides, had not been tended, and he was very sick when he awoke, and for a while scarce knew where he was. I think, perhaps, he had taken the fever then.

He heard presently steps in the way that led to his cell, and talking, and immediately his door was unlocked and opened. There came in a lieutenant of the King's guard, richly dressed, and in half-armour, with his sword at his side. He had a heavy, hairy face, and as Master Richard sat up on his blanket he perceived that the man was little better than an animal—gross-bodied and gross-souled. I saw the fellow later, though I did not speak with him, and I judge as Master Richard judged. There were four men behind him.

Master Richard stood up immediately to salute the King's officer, and stood awaiting what should follow, but he swayed with sickness as he stood.

The officer said a word to his men, and they haled Master Richard forth, pulling him roughly, although he went willingly, as well he was able for his sickness, through the passage and into the guard-room.

There was a table set there on a step at the upper end with a chair behind it; and at the lower end was a couple of men cleaning their harness beneath a gallery that was held up by posts; the rest were out changing guard. The door into the court was wide at first, and the sweet air streamed in, refreshing Master Richard like wine after the stench that was in his nostrils, and making him think upon the country again and running water and birds, but Master-Lieutenant, when he had taken his seat, bade them close it, and to set Master Richard before him; all of which they did, and so held him.

Then he began to speak.

"Now, sir," he said roughly, "my lord King is at the point of death, and I am here to examine you. What is it that you have done to his grace?"

Now Master Richard knew that the King could not die, else where were the passion he was to undergo? And if the officer could lie in this matter, why should he not lie in other matters?

"Where is your authority," he said "to examine me?"

"What sir! do you question that? You shall see my authority by and bye."

"I am willing to answer you as one man to another" said Master Richard softly, "but not to plead, until I have seen your authority."

"Oh! you are willing to answer!" said the officer, smiling like an angry dog. "Very well, then. What have you done to his grace?"

"I have done nothing," said Master Richard, "save give the message that our Lord bade me give."

Master-Lieutenant laughed short and sharp at that, and the two men that held Master Richard laughed with him. (The other two men were gone to the other end of the hall, and Master Richard could not see what they were doing.)

"Oho!" said the officer, "that is all that you have done to his grace! I would advise you, sir, not to play the fool with me. We know very well what you have done; but we would know from you how and when you did it."

Master Richard said nothing to that. He felt very light in the head, what with his wounds and the bad air, and the strangeness of the position. He knew that he was smiling, but he could not prevent it. His smiling angered the man.

"You dare smile at me, sir!" he cried. "I will teach you to smile!"—and he struck the table with his hand, so that the ink-horn danced upon it.

"I cannot help smiling," said Master Richard. "I think I am faint, sir."

One of the men shook him by the arm, and Master Richard's sense came back a little.

When he could see again clearly (for just now the face of the officer and the woodwork behind him swam like images seen in water), Master-Lieutenant had a little bottle in his hand. He bade Master Richard look upon it and asked him what it was.

"I think it to be my Quinte Essence" said Master Richard.

"You acknowledge that then!" cries the man. "And what is Quinte Essence?"

"It is distilled of blood" said Master Richard.

The officer set the bottle down again upon the table.

"Now sir" he said, "that is enough to cast you. None who was a Christian man would have such a thing. Say paternoster." [This seems to have been one of the tests in trials for witchcraft.]

"Paternoster ..." began Master Richard.

Now, my children, I cannot explain what this signified, but Master Richard could get no further than that. I know that I myself cannot say any of the prayers of mass when I am away from the altar, and other priests have told me the same of themselves, but it seems to me very strange that a man should not at any time be able to say paternoster. Whether it was that Master Richard was sick, or that the officer's face troubled him, or whether that God Almighty desired to put him to a grievous test, I know not. But he could not say it. He repeated over and over again, Paternoster ... Paternoster, and swayed as he stood.

The officer's face grew dark and a little afraid; he blessed himself three or four times, and breathed through his nostrils heavily. Master Richard felt himself smiling again, and presently fell to laughing, and as he laughed he perceived that the men who held him drew away from him a little, and blessed themselves too.

"I cannot help it," sobbed Master Richard presently, "to think that I cannot say paternoster!"

When he had recovered himself somewhat, he perceived that the two other men were come up behind him.

Then the officer bade him turn and look, and he did so, with the tears of that dreadful laughter still upon his cheeks.

The two men were standing there; one had a great hangman's whip of leather in his hand, and the other a rope.

"Now, sir;" said the officer behind him, "here is enough authority for you and me. Shall I bid them begin, or will you tell us what it is that you have done to the King?"

Now, Master Richard had nothing to tell, as you know; he could not have saved himself in any case from the torment, but our Lord allowed him to have this trial, to see how he would bear himself. He might have cried out for mercy, or told a false tale as men so often have done, but he did neither of these things. The laughter again rose in his throat, but he drove it down, and after looking upon the men's faces and the arms of the man that held the whip, he turned once more to the officer.

"I have scourged myself too often," he said, "to fear such pain; and our Saviour bore stripes for me."

Then (for the men had released him that he might turn round) he undid the button at his throat, and threw back the kirtle, knotting the sleeves about his waist, and so stood, naked to his middle, awaiting the punishment.

He told me afterwards that never had he felt such lightness and freedom as he felt at this time. His body yearned for the pain, as it yearned for the sting and thrill of cold water on a cold day. When he was telling me, I understood better how it was that the holy martyrs were so merry in the midst of their torments. [Sir John relates at considerable length the Acts of St. Laurence and St. Sebastian.]....

When the officer had looked on him a moment, he bade him turn round, and so, I suppose, sat staring upon the youth's holy shoulders that were covered with the old stripes that he had given himself. At last Master Richard faced about again; and again, as he looked upon the solemn face of the man, he began to laugh. It seemed a marvellous jest, he thought, that so long a consideration should be given to so small a matter as a whipping. I am glad I was not there to bear that laughter; I think it would quite have broken my heart.

* * * * *

Well, my children, I cannot write what followed, but the end of it was that the post to which Master Richard's hands were tied, and the face of Master-Lieutenant standing behind it, and the wall behind him with the weapons upon it, grew white and frosted to the young man's eyes, and began to toss up and down, and a great roaring sounded in his ears. He thought, he told me afterwards, that he was on Calvary beneath the rood, and that the rocks were rending about him.

So he swooned clean away, and was carried back again to his prison.

* * * * *

Now I learned afterwards that the officer had no authority such as he pretended, but that he had sworn to his fellows that he could find out the truth by a pretence of it, thinking Master Richard to be a poor crazed fool who would cry out and confess at the touch of the whip.

But Master Richard did not cry out for mercy. And I hold that he passed this first trial bravely.

Of the Second Temptation of Master Richard: and how he overcame it

Exacuerunt ut gladium linguas suas: interderunt arcum rem amaram: ut sagittent in occultis immaculatum.

They have whetted their tongues like a sword: they have bent their bow a bitter thing, to shoot in secret the undefiled.—Ps. lxiii, 4, 5.


As Master Richard had striven to serve God in the trinity of his nature, so was he to be tried in the trinity of his nature. It was first in his body that he was tempted, by pain and the fear of it; and his second trial came later in the same day—which was in his mind.

He lay abed that morning till his dinner was brought to him, knowing sometimes what passed—how a rat came out and looked on him awhile, moving its whiskers; how the patch of sunlight upon the wall darkened and passed; and how a bee came in and hummed a great while in the room; and sometimes conscious of nothing but his own soul. He could make no effort, he told me, and he did not attempt it. He only lay still, committing himself to God Almighty.

He could not eat the meat, even had he wished it, but he drank a little broth and ate some bread, and then slept again.

* * * * *

He did not know what time it was when he awoke and found one by his bed, looking down on him, he thought, compassionately. It was growing towards evening, for it way darker, or else his eyes were heavy and confused with sickness, but he could not see very clearly the face of the man who stood by him.

The man presently kneeled down by the bed, murmuring with pity as it seemed, and Master Richard felt himself raised a little, and then laid down again, and there was something soft at the nape of his neck over the wooden pillow and against his torn shoulders. There was something, too, laid across his body and legs, as if to keep him from chill.

He said nothing for a while; he did not know what to say, but he looked steadily at the face that looked on him, and saw that it was that of a young man, not five years older than himself, shaven clean like a clerk, and the eyes of him seemed pitiful and loving.

"Laudetur Jesus Christus!" said Master Richard presently, as his custom was when he awoke.

"Amen," said the man beside the bed.

That comforted Master Richard a little—that the man should say Amen to his praise of Jesu Christ, so he asked him who he was and what he did there.

The young man said nothing to that, but asked him instead how he did, and his voice was so smooth and tender that Master Richard was further encouraged.

"I do far better than our Lord did," he answered. "He had none to minister to Him."

It seemed that the young man was moved at that, for he hid his face in his hands a moment.

Then he began to pity Master Richard, saying that it was a shame that he had been so evilly treated, and that Master-Lieutenant should smart for it if it ever came to his grace's ears. But he said this so strangely that Master Richard was astonished.

"And how does the King do?" he asked.

"The King is at the point of death," said the young man solemnly.

"It is no more than the point then," said Master Richard confidently, "and a point that will not pierce him, else what of the passion that he must suffer?"

The young man seemed to look on him very steadily and earnestly at that.

"Why do you look at me like that?" he asked him. "I have done nothing to his grace save give my tidings."

"Master Hermit," said the young man very gravely, "I entreat you not to speak like that."

"How should I speak then?" he asked.

The young man did not answer immediately, but he moved on his knees a little closer to the bed, and took Master Richard's hand softly between his own, and so held it, caressing it. Master Richard told me that this action moved him more than all else; he felt the tears rise to his eyes, and he gave a sob or two. It is always so with noble natures after great pain. [Sir John relates here the curious history of a girl who was nearly burned as a witch, and that when she was reprieved she yielded at once to the solicitations of marriage from a man whom she had always hated, but who was the first to congratulate her on her escape. But the story sadly interrupts the drama of the main narrative, and therefore I omit it.]....

Then the young man spoke very sweetly and kindly.

"Master Hermit," he said, "you must bear with me for bringing sad tidings to you. But will you hear them now or to-morrow?"

"I will hear them now," said Master Richard.

So the young man proceeded.

"One came back to-day from your home in the country. He was sent there yesterday night by my lord cardinal. He spoke with your parson, Sir John, and what he heard from him he has told to my lord, and I heard it."

(This was a lie, my children. No man from London had spoken with me. But you shall see what follows.)

"And what did Sir John tell him," asked Master Richard quietly. "Did he say he knew nothing of me?"

Now he asked this, thinking that perhaps this was a method of tempting him. And so it was, but worse than he thought it.

"No, poor lad," said the young man very pitifully, "Sir John knew you well enough. The messenger saw your little house, too, and the hazels about it; and the stream, and the path that you have made; and there were beasts there, he said, a stag and pig that looked lamentably out from the thicket."

Now observe the Satanic guile of this! For at the mention of all his little things, and his creatures that loved him, Master Richard could not hold back his tears, for he had thought so often upon them, and desired to see them again. So the young man stayed in his talk, and caressed his hand again, and murmured compassionately.

Presently Master Richard was quiet, and asked the young man to tell him what the parson had said.

"To-morrow," said the young man, making as if to rise.

"To-day," said Master Richard.

So the young man went on.

"He went to the parsonage with Sir John, and talked with him there a long while—"

"Did he see my books?" said Master Richard in his simplicity.

"Yes, poor lad; he saw your books. And then Sir John told him what he thought."

"And what was that?" said Master Richard, faint with the thought of the answer.

The young man caressed his hand again, and then pressed it as if to give him courage.

"Sir John told him that you were a good fellow; that you injured neither man nor beast; and that all spoke well of you."

Then the young man stayed again.

"Ah! tell me," cried Master Richard.

"Well, poor lad; as God sees us now, Sir John told the messenger that he thought you to be deluded; that you deemed yourself holy when you were not, and that you talked with the saints and our Lord, but that these appearances were no more than the creations of your own sick brain. He said that he humoured you; for that he feared you would be troublesome if he did not, and that all the folk of the village said the same thing to you, to please you and keep you quiet.—Ah! poor child!"

The young man cried out as if in sorrow, and lifted Master Richard's hand and kissed it.

Master Richard told me that when he heard that it was as a blow in the face to him. He could not answer, nor even think clearly. It was as if a gross darkness, full of wings and eyes and mocking faces pressed upon him, and he believed that he cried out, and that he must have swooned, for when he came to himself again his face was all wet with water that the young man had thrown upon it.

It was a minute or two more before he could speak, and during that time it appeared to him that he did not think himself, but that ideas moved before his eyes, manifesting themselves. At first there was a doubt as to whether the young man had spoken the truth, and whether any messenger had been to the village at all, but the mention of the hazels, the stag and the pig, and his books, dispelled that thought.

Again it did not seem possible that the young man should have lied as to what it was that I was said to have answered; if they had wished to lie, surely they would have lied more entirely, and related that I had denied all knowledge of him. But the falsehood was so subtle an one; it was so well interwoven with truth that I count it to have been impossible for Master Richard in his sickness and confusion to have disentangled the one from the other. I have heard a physician say, too, that the surest manner to perplex a man is to suggest to him that his brain is clouded; at such words he often loses all knowledge of self; he doubts his own thoughts, and even his senses.

This, then, was Master Richard's temptation—that he should doubt himself, his friends, and even our Lord who had manifested Himself so often and so kindly to the eyes of his soul.

Yet he did not yield to it, although he could not repel it. He cried upon Jesu in his heart, and then set the puzzle by.

He looked at the young man once more.

"And why do you tell me this?" he asked.

The clerk (if he were a clerk) answered him first by another Judas-caress or two, and then by Judas-words.

"Master Hermit," he said, "I am but a poor priest, but my words have some weight with two or three persons of the court; and these again have some weight with my lord cardinal. I asked leave to come and tell you this as kindly as I could, and to see what you would say. I observed you in the hall the other day, and I have a good report of your reasonableness from the monastery. I conceived, too, a great love for you when I saw you, and wish you well; and I think I can do you a great service, and get you forth from this place that you may go whither you will,—to your house by the stream or to some other place where none know you. Would it not be pleasant to you to be in the country again, and to serve God with all your might in some sweet and secret place where men are not?"

"I can serve God here as there," answered Master Richard.

"Well—let that be. But what if God Almighty wishes you to be at peace? We must not rush foolishly upon death. That is forbidden to us."

"I do not seek death," said Master Richard.

The clerk leaned over him a little, and Master Richard saw his eyes bent upon him with great tenderness.

"Master Hermit," he said, "I entreat you not to be your own enemy. You see that those that know you best love you, but they do not think you to be what you think you are—-"

"I am nothing but God's man, and a sinner," said the lad.

"Well, they think your visions and the rest to be but delusions. And if they be delusions, why should not other matters be delusions too?"

"What matters?" asked Master Richard.

"Such matters as the tidings that you brought to the King."

"And what is it you would have me to do?" asked Master Richard again after a silence.

"It is only a little thing, poor lad—such a little thing! and then you will be able to go whither you will."

"And what is that little thing?"

"It is to tell me that you think them delusions too."

"But I do not think them so," said Master Richard.

"Think as you will then, Master Hermit; but, you know, when folks are sick we may tell them anything without sin. And the King is sick to death. I do not believe that you have bewitched him: you have too good a face and air for that—and for the matter of the paternoster I do not value it at a straw. The King is sick with agony at what he thinks will come upon him after your words. He will not listen to my lord cardinal: he sits silent and terrified, and has taken no food to-day. But if you will but tell him, Master Hermit, that you were mistaken in your tidings—that it was but a fancy, and that you know better now—all will be well with him and with you, and with us all who love you both."

So the clerk spoke, tempting him, and leaned back again on his heels; and Master Richard lay a great while silent.

* * * * *

Now, I do not know who was this young man, whether he were a clerk or whether he were not a devil in form of a man. I could hear nothing of him at Court when I went there. It may be that he was one of those idle fellows that had come to Master Richard from time to time to ask him to make them hermits with him, else how did he know the matters of the stag and the pig and the stream and the rest? But it does not greatly matter whether his soul were a devil's or a man's, for in any case his words were Satan's. If I had not heard what came after I should have believed this temptation to be the most subtle ever devised in hell and permitted from heaven. He spoke so tenderly and so sweetly; he commanded his features so perfectly; he seemed to speak with such love and reasonableness.

Yet I would have you know that Master Richard did not yield by a hair's breadth in thought. He examined the temptation carefully, setting aside altogether the question as to whether I had spoken as this young man had said that I had. Whether I had spoken so or not made no difference. It was this that he was bidden to do, to say that he had erred in his tidings, to confess that they were not from God; to be a faithless messenger to our Lord.

He examined this, then, looking carefully at all parts of the temptation. [Sir John appends at this point two or three paragraphs, distinguishing between the observing of a temptation of thought and the yielding to it. He instances Christ's temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane.]....

At the end Master Richard opened his eyes and looked steadily upon the young man's face.

"Take this answer," he said, "to those that sent you. I will neither hear nor consider such words any more. If I yield in this matter, and say one word to the King or to any other, by which any may understand that my message was a delusion, or that I spoke of myself and not from our Lord, then I pray that our Lord may blot my name out of the Book of Life."

* * * * *

So Master Richard answered and closed his eyes to commune with God. And the young man went away sighing but speaking no word.

Of the Dark Night of the Soul

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: Domine exaudi vocem meam.

Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice.—Ps. cxxix. 1, 2.


The third temptation was so fierce and subtle, that I doubt whether I wholly understood it when Master Richard tried to tell it to me. He did not tell me all, and he could answer but few questions, and I fear that I am not able to tell even all that I heard from him. It was built up like a house, he said, stone by stone, till it fenced him in, but he did not know what was all its nature till he saw my lord cardinal.

A soul such as was Master Richard's must have temptations that seem as nothing to coarser beings such as myself: as a bird that lives in the air has dangers that a crawling beast cannot have. There are perils in the height that are not perils on the earth. A bird may strike a tree or a tower; his wings may fail him; he may fly too near the sun till he faint in its heat; he cannot rest; if he is overtaken by darkness he cannot lie still. [Sir John enumerates at some length other such dangers to bird life.]....

* * * * *

Now Master Richard described the state into which he fell under a curious name that I cannot altogether understand. He said that there be three nights through which the contemplative soul must pass or ever it come to the dawn. The first two he had gone through during his life in the country; the first is a kind of long-continued dryness, when spiritual things have no savour; the second is an affection of the mind, when not even meditation [This is an exercise distinct from contemplation apparently. I include this passage, in spite of its technicalities, for obvious reasons.] appears possible; the mind is like a restless fly that is at once weary and active. This second is not often attained to by ordinary souls, though all men who serve God have a shadow of it. It is a very terrible state. Master Richard told me that before he suffered it he had not conceived that such conflict was possible to man. It was during this time that the fiend came to him in form of a woman. The imagination that cannot fix itself upon the things of God is wide-awake to all other impressions of sense. [I do not think that Sir John understands what he is writing about, though he does his best to appear as if he did. I have omitted a couple of incoherent paragraphs.]....

Now, these two first nights I think I understand, for he told me that what he suffered during his whipping in the hall and the strife of his mind with the clerk were each a kind of symbol of them. But the third, which he called the Night of the Soul I do not understand at all. [It is remarkable that this phrase frequently occurs in the writings of St. John of the Cross, though he treats it differently. Until I came across it in this MS. I had always thought that the Spanish mystic was the first to use it.] This only can I say of the state itself: that Master Richard said that it was in a manner what our Lord suffered upon the rood when he cried to His Father Eloi, Eloi, etc.

But I can tell you something of the signs of that affliction, as they shewed themselves to Master Richard. Of the interior state of his soul I cannot even think without terror and confusion. Compared with the darkness of it, the other nights, he said, are but as clouds across the sun on a summer's day compared with a moonless midnight in winter. He had suffered a shadow of it before, when he was entering the contemplative state, or the prefect Way of Union. Now it fell upon him. Before I tell you how it came, I must tell you that this night, as he explained it, takes its occasion from some particular thought, and the thought from which it sprang you shall hear presently.

When the clerk had left him, sighing, as I said, as if with a kindly weariness (to encourage the other to call for him, I suppose), Master Richard committed himself again to God and lay still.

A fellow came in soon with his supper (for it was now growing dark), set it by him and went out. Master Richard took a little food, and after a while, as his custom was after repeating the name of Jesu, began to think on God, on the Blessed and Holy Trinity, and on His Attributes, numbering them one by one and giving thanks for each, and marking the colour and place of each in the glory of the throne. He was too weary to say vespers or compline, and presently he fell asleep, but whether it was common sleep or not I do not know.

In his sleep it seemed to him that he was walking along a path beneath trees, as he had walked on his way to London; but it was twilight, and he could not see clearly. There was none with him, and he was afraid, and did not know what he feared. He was afraid of what lay behind, and on all sides, and he was yet more afraid of what lay before him, but he knew that he could not stay nor turn. He went swiftly, he thought, and with no sound, towards some appointed place, and the twilight darkened as he went; when he looked up there was no star nor moon to be seen, and what had been branches when he set out seemed now to be a roof, so thick they were. There was no bray of stag, nor rustle of breeze, nor cry of night-bird. He tried to pray, but he could remember no prayer, and not even the healthful name of Jesu came to his mind. He could do nought but look outwards with his straining eyes, and inwards at his soul; and the one was now as dark as the other. He thought of me then, my children, and longed to have me there, but he knew that I was asleep in my bed and far away. He thought of his mother whom he had loved so much, but he knew that she was gone to God and had left him alone. And still, through all, his feet bore him on swiftly without sound or fatigue, though the terror and the darkness were now black as ink. He felt his hair rising upon his head, and his skin prickle, and the warmth was altogether gone from his heart, but he could not stay.

And at the last his feet ceased to move, and he stood still, knowing that he was come to the place.

Now, I do not understand what he said to me of that place. He told me that he could see nothing; it was as if his eyes were put out, yet he knew what it was like.

It was a little round place in the forest, with trees standing about it, and it was trampled hard with the footsteps of those who had come there before him. But that was no comfort to him now; for he did not know how these persons had fared, nor where were their souls.

So he stood in the black darkness, knowing that he could not turn, with the horror on him so heavy that he sweated as he told me of it, and with the knowledge that something was approaching under the trees without sound of step or breathing—he did not know whether it was man or beast or fiend, he only knew that it was approaching. Yet he could not pray or cry out.

Then he was aware that it had entered the little space where he stood, and was even now within a hand's grasp. Yet he could not lift his hands to ward it off, or to pray to God, or to bless himself.

Then he perceived that the thing—negotium perambulans in tenebris ["the Business that walketh about in the dark" (Ps. xc. 6.)]—was formless, without hands to strike or mouth to bite him with, and that it was all about him now, closing upon him. If there had been aught to touch his body, wet lips to kiss his face, or fiery eyes to look into his own, he would not have feared it with a thousandth part of the fear that he had. It was that there was no shape or face, and that it sought not his body but his soul. And when he understood that he gave a loud cry and awoke, and knew, as in a mystery, that it was no dream, but that he was indeed come to the place that he had seen, and that this negotium was at his soul's heart. [There is either an omission here in the translation of Sir John's original MS., or else the transcriber has dashed his pen down in horror, or sought to produce an impression of it.]....

I find it impossible, my children, to make you understand in what state he was; he could not make even me understand. I can only set down a little of what he said.

First, he knew that he had lost God. It was not that there was no God, but that he had lost Him of his own fault and sin. He was aware that in all other places there was God and that the blessed reigned with Him, but not in the place where he was, nor in his heart. In all men that ever I have met there was a certain presence of God. As the apostle told the men of Athens, Ipsius enim et genus suum; ["For we are also His offspring" (Acts xvii. 28.)] and, again, Non longe est ab unoquoque nostrum; ["He is not far from every one of us" (Acts xvii. 27.)] and again, In ipso vivimus, et movemur, et sumus. ["In Him we live, and we move, and we are" (Acts xvii. 28.)] I have not seen a man who had not this knowledge, though maybe some, such as Turks and pagans, may call it by another name. But until death, I think, all men, whatever their sins or ignorance, live and move in God's Majesty. Hell, Master Richard told me, is nothing less than the withdrawal of that presence, with other torments superadded, but this is chief. Master Richard told me that that black fire of hell rages wherever God is not; and that the worm gnaws in all hearts that have lost Him, and know it to be by their own fault—maxima culpa. ["the very great fault."]

There be a few men in this world—the Son of God derelict is their prince—who are called to this supreme torment while they yet live—if indeed that man may be said to live who is without God—and of this company Master Richard was now made one.

It was with him now as he had dreamed. Where God is not, there can be no communion with man, for the only reason by which one perceives another's soul, or understands that it is the soul of a man and has a likeness to his own, is that both are, in some measure, in God. If we were more holy and wise we should understand for ourselves that this is so, and see, too, why it is so, for He is eyes to the blind and ears to the deaf. [I do not understand this at all. I wonder whether Sir John did as he wrote it; I am quite sure that his flock did not.]

For Master Richard, then, there was no other person in the world. There was that that fenced him from all living. Our Saviour Christ upon the rood spoke to His Blessed Mother before His dereliction, but not again afterwards. There was no more that He might say to her, or to His cousin, John.

This, then, was the state in which Master Richard lay—that specialissimus of God Almighty, to whom the Divine Love and Majesty was as breath to his nostrils, meat to his mouth, and water to his body. I an say no more on that point.

As to the fault by which it seemed that he had come to that state, it was the most terrible of all sins, which is Presumption. Holy Church sets before us Humility as the chief of virtues, to shew us that Presumption is the chief of vices. A man may be an adulterer or a murderer or a sacrilegious person, and yet by Humility may find mercy. But a man may be chaste and stainless in all his works, and a worshipper of God, but without Humility he cannot come to glory. [Sir John proceeds in this strain for several pages, illustrating his point by the cases of Lucifer, Nabuchodonosor, Judas Iscariot, King Herod, and others.]....

Now the matter in which it seemed to Master Richard that he had sinned the sin of Presumption was the old matter of the tidings he had borne to the King. It was not that the tidings were false, for he knew them for true; but yet that he had been presumptuous in bearing them. It was as though a stander-by had overheard tidings given by a king to his servant, and had presumed to hear them himself, as it were Achimaas the son of Sadoc. [I supposed that this obscure reference is to 2 Kings xviii. 19.] And more than that, that he had presumed in thinking that he could be such a man as our Lord would call to such an office. He had set himself, it appeared, far above his fellows in even listening to our Saviour's voice; he should rather have cried with saint Peter, Exi a me quia homo peccator sum Domine. ["Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke v. 8.)]

It was this sin that had driven him from God's Presence. Our Lord had bestowed on him wonderful gifts of grace. He had visited him as He visits few others and had led him in the Way of Union, and he had followed, triumphing in this, giving God the glory in words only, until he had fallen as it seemed from the height of presumption to the depth of despair, and lay here now, excluded from the Majesty that he desired.

* * * * *

Now, here is a very wonderful thing, and I know not if I can make it clear.

You understand, my children, a little of what I heard from Master Richard's lips—of what it was that he suffered. But although all this was upon him, he perceived afterwards, though not at the time, that there was something in him that had not yielded to the agony. His body was broken, and his mind amazed, and his soul obscured in this Night, yet there was one power more, that we name the Will (and that is the very essence of man, by which he shall be judged), that had not yet sunk or cried out that it was so as the fiend suggested.

There was within him, he perceived afterwards, a conflict without movement. It was as when two men wrestle, their limbs are locked, they are motionless, they appear to be at rest, but in truth they are striving with might and main.

So he remained all that night in this agony, not knowing that he did aught but suffer; he saw the light on the wall, and heard the cocks crow—at least he remembered these things afterwards. But his release did not come until the morning; and of that release, and its event, and how it came about, I will now tell you.

How Sir John went again to the cell: and of what he saw there

Ecce audivimus eam in Ephrata: invenimus eam in campis silvae.

Behold we have heard of it in Euphrata: we have found it in the fields of the wood.—Ps. cxxxi. 6.


It is strange to think that other men went about their business in the palace, and knew nothing of what was passing. It is more strange that that morning I said mass in the country and did not faint for fear or sorrow. But it is always so, by God's loving-kindness, for no man could bear to live if he knew all that was happening in the world at one time. [Sir John adds some trite reflections of an obvious character.]....

There was a little heaviness upon me that morning, but I think no more than there had been every day since Master Richard had left us. It was not until noon that a strange event happened to me. This day was Wednesday after Corpus Christi, the sixth day since he was gone.

There was only one man that knew aught of what was passing in the interior world, and that was the ankret in the cell against the abbey, but of that you shall hear in the proper place.

Of what fell on that day I heard from an old priest whom I saw afterwards, and who was in the palace at that time. He was chaplain to my lord cardinal and his name was....

He told me that very early in the morning my lord sent for him and told him that he would hold an examination of Master Richard that day after dinner, to see if he should be put on his trial for bewitching the King. There were none who doubted that he had bewitched the King, for his grace had sat in a stupor for two days, ever since he had heard the tidings from the holy youth. He heard his masses each morning with a fallen countenance, and took a little food in private, and slept in his clothes sitting in his chair; and spoke to none, and, it seemed, heard none. Though he had been always of a serious and quiet mind, loving to pray and to hear preaching more than to talk, yet this was the first of those strange visitations of God that fell upon him so frequently in his later years. Those then (and especially my lord cardinal) who now saw him in such a state, did not doubt that there was sorcery in the matter, and that Master Richard was the sorcerer; for the tale of the Quinte Essence—of which at that time men knew nothing—and how that he could not say paternoster when it was put to him;—all this was run about the court like fire.

But the tale of the clerk who went to him and sought to shake him, I heard nothing of, save from Master Richard's own lips. None knew of what had happened, and some afterwards thought that it was the fiend who went to Master Richard, but some others that it was indeed one of the clerks of the court who had perhaps stolen the keys, and gone in to get credit to himself by persuading Master Richard to confess that all was a delusion. For myself, I do not know what to think. [I suspect that Sir John was inclined to think it was the devil, for at this point he discusses at some length various cases in which Satan so acted. He seems to imply that it was a peculiar and cynical pleasure to the Lord of Evil to disguise himself as an ecclesiastic.]....

Now, old Master ... said mass before my lord cardinal at seven o'clock, and then went to his own chamber, but he was immediately sent for again to my lord, who appeared to be in a great agitation. My lord told him that one had come from the ankret to bid him let Master Richard go, for that it was not the young man who was afflicting the King, but God Almighty.

"But he shall not play Pilate's wife with me," said my lord in a great fury, "I shall go through with this matter. See that you be with me, Master Priest, at noon, and we will see justice done. I doubt not that the young man must go for his trial."

He told the clerk, too, that Master Blytchett was greatly concerned about his grace, and that the court would be in an uproar if somewhat were not done at once. He had sat three hours last night with ... and ... and ... and ..., [It would be interesting to know who were these persons.] and they had all declared the same thing. But he said nothing of the whipping of Master Richard, and I truly believe that he knew nothing of it.

So the hour for the questioning was fixed at noon, and the place to be in my lord cardinal's privy parlour.

* * * * *

Now that morning, as I told you, I was no more than usually heavy. I remembered Master Richard's name before God upon the altar, and at ten o'clock I went to dinner in the parsonage. It was a very bright hot day, and I had the windows wide, and listened to the bees that were very busy in the garden. I remember that I wondered whether they knew aught of my dear lad, for I hold that they are very near to God, more so than perhaps any of His senseless creatures, and that is why Holy Church on Easter Eve says such wonderful things about them, and the work that they do. [This refers to the Exultet sung by the deacon in the Roman rite on Holy Saturday.]

For they fashion first wax and then honey. It is the wax that in the church gives light and honour to God, and it is to the honey-comb that God's Word is compared by David. [Sir John continues in this strain for a page or two.]....

It is not strange then that I thought about the bees, and the knowledge that they have.

After I had done dinner, I slept a little as my custom is, and the last sound that I heard, and the first upon awaking, was the drone of the bees. When I awakened I thought that I would walk down to Master Richard's house and see how all fared. So I took my staff and set out.

It was very cool and dark in the wood, through which I had come up six days before walking in the summer night with the young man, and all was very quiet. I could hear only the hum of the flies, and, as I drew nearer, the running of the water over the stones of the road, where it crosses it beside the little bridge.

Then I came out beside the gate into the meadow, and my eyes were dazzled by the hot light of the sun after the darkness of the wood.

I stood by the gate a good while, leaning my arms upon it (for I felt very heavy and weary), and looking across the meadow yellow with flowers to the green hazels beyond, and between me and the wood the air shook as if in terror or joy, I knew not which. I could see, too, the open door of the hut, and its domed roof of straw, and the wicket leaning against the wall as he had left it, and on either side the may-trees lifted their bright heads.

My children, I am not ashamed to tell you that I could not see all this very clearly, for my eyes were dim at the thought that the master of it was not here, and that I knew not where he was nor how he fared. I prayed saint Giles with all my might that I might see him here again, and walk with him as I had walked so often. And then at the end, a little after I had heard the Angelus ring from over the wood, and had saluted our Lady and entreated her for Master Richard, I thought that I would go up and see the hut.

As I went I perceived that here, too, the bees were busy in the noon of the day, going to and fro intently, but I was to see yet more of them, for I heard a great droning about me. At first I could not perceive whence it came, but presently I saw a great ball of them gathering on the doorway of the hut, as their custom is in summer-time. I was astonished at that, I do not know why, but it seemed to me that bees were all about me, semitam meam et funiculum meum investigantes; omnes vias meas praevidentes. ["searching out my path and my line; foreseeing all my ways" (from Ps. cxxxviii. 3,4.)] Well, I looked on them awhile, but they seemed as if they would do me no harm, yet I did not wish to go into the house while they hung there, so I was content with looking in from where I stood. I could not see very much, my eyes were too weary with the sunshine that beat on my head, and it was, perhaps, God's purpose that I should not go in to see what I was not worthy to see.

I had, too, something of fear in my heart; it was like the fear that I had had when I looked on Master Richard six days before as he prayed. So I stood a little distance from the door and observed it and the bees. Of the inside of the but I could see no more than the beaten mud floor for a little space within, and through the veil of bees that swung this way and that working their mysteries, the green light of the window looking upon the hazel wood, above which was the image of the Mother of God.

Then on a sudden my fear came on me strongly, and I cried out what I think was Master Richard's name for I thought that he was near me, but there was no answer, and after I had looked a little more, I turned back by the way I had come.

Now, here, my children, happened a marvellous thing.

When I reached the gate and had gone through it, I turned round again towards the hut, ashamed of the terror that had lain on me as I walked down, for I had walked like one in a nightmare, not daring to turn my head.

And as I turned, for one instant I saw Master Richard himself, in his brown kirtle and white sleeves standing at the door of his hut, with his arms out as if to stretch himself, or else as our Saviour stretched them on the rood. I could not observe his face, for in an instant he was gone, before I had time to see him clearly, but I am sure that his face was merry, for it was at this hour that he found his release before my lord cardinal, and cried out, as you shall hear in the proper place.

I stood there a long while, stretching out my own hands and crying on him by name, but there was no more to be seen but the hut and its open door, and the may-trees on either side, and the wood behind, and the yellow-flowered meadow before me, and no sound but the drone of the bees and the running of the water. And I dared not go up again, or set foot in the meadow.

* * * * *

So I went home again, and told no man, for I thought that the vision was for myself alone, and as night fell the messenger came to bid me come to town, and to deliver to me the letter from the old priest of whom I have spoken.

How one came to Master Priest: how Master Priest came to the King's Bedchamber: and of what he heard of the name of Jesus

Dum anxiaretur cor meum: in petra exaltasti me.

When my heart was in anguish: Thou hast exalted me on a rock. —Ps. lx. 3.


This was the letter that I read in my parlour that night, as the man in his livery stood beside me, dusty with riding. I have it still (it is in the mass-book that stands beside my desk; you can find it there after I am gone to give my account.)....


"There is a young man here named Master Richard Raynal, who tells us that you are his friend. He desires to see you before his death, for he has been set upon and will not live many days. His grace has ordered that you shall be brought with speed, for he loves this young man and counts him a servant of God. He is with Master Raynal as I write. I fear this may be heavy news for you, Sir John, so I will write no more, but I recommend myself to you, and pray that you may be comforted and speeded here by the grace of God, which ever have you in His keeping.

"Written at Westminster, the Wednesday after Corpus Xti.



I asked the fellow who brought the letter whether he could tell me any more, but all that he could say was that he was in the court outside my lord cardinal's privy stairs—where the people were assembled to see Master Richard come out, and that he had seen a confusion, and blows struck, and the glaivemen run in to help him. Then he had seen no more, but he thought Master Richard had been taken back again to the palace, and heard that he had been sore wounded and beaten, and was not like to live.

* * * * *

I will not tell you, my children, of my ride to London that night, save that I do not think I ceased praying from the instant that I set out to the instant when I came up as the dawn began behind Lambeth House, and we went over in the ferry. I cried in my heart with David, Fili mi, Fili mi; quis mihi tribuat ut ego moriar pro te, fili mi, fili mi? ["My son, my son! Who would grant that I might die for thee, my son, my son?"—2 Kings xviii. 33.] And I prayed two things—that God might forgive me for having allowed the lad to go, and that I might find him alive. More than that I dared not pray, and I know not even now if I should have prayed the first.

It was a wonderful dawn that I saw as I crossed over, with a mist coming up from the water as a promise of great heat, and above it the high roofs and towers like the lovely city of God, and over all the sky was of a golden colour with lines of pearl across it. It comforted me a little that I should come to Master Richard so.

Even at that hour there were many awake. There was one great fellow by the ferry, that was looking across towards the palace; and I think it must have been he who had taken Master Richard over for love of saint Giles and saint Denis, but I did not know that part of the tale at that time, and I never saw him again.

In the court and passages, too, that we went along there were persons going to and fro. One told me afterwards that never had he seen such a movement at that hour since the night that the King's mother died. They were all waiting for tidings of the lad, and they eyed me very narrowly, and I heard my name run before me as I went.

At the last we came to a great door, and we were let through, and I was in the King's bed-chamber.

It was a quiet room, and I will describe it to you now, although I saw little of it at that time.

* * * * *

In the centre, with its head against the wall, stood a tall bed, with a canopy over it, and four posts of twisted wood, carved very cunningly with little shields that bore the instruments of our Saviour's passion. On the tapestry beneath the canopy, above the pillow, were the arms of the King, wrought in blue and red and gold. The hangings on the walls were all of a dark blue, wrought with devices of all kinds, and they were hanged from a ledge of wood beneath the ceiling such as I have never seen before or since. The ceiling was of painted wood, divided into deep squares, and in the centre of each was a coat. The floor was all over rushes, the cleanest and the most fragrant that I have ever smelled. I think that there must have been herbs and bay leaves mixed with them.

I saw all this afterwards, for when I came in the curtains were all drawn against the windows, save against one that let in the cool air from the river and a little pale light of morning, and two candles burned on a table beside the bed. The room was very dark, but I could see that a dozen persons stood against the walls, and one by every door.

But I had no eyes for them, and went quickly across the rushes, and as I came round the foot of the bed, I heard my name whispered again, and the King stood up from where he had been kneeling.

I have already described to you his appearance at that time, so I will say no more here than that he was in all his clothes which were a little disordered, and that his head was bare. He had been weeping, too, for his eyes were red and swollen, and his lips shook as he put out his hand. But he could not speak.

I kneeled down and kissed his hand quickly and stood up immediately. Master Richard who was lying on his left side, turned away from me, so that I could not see his face, but I knew he was not yet dead, else he would have been laid upon his back, but he was as still as death. His head was all in a bandage, except on this side where his long hair hung across his cheek, and his bare arm lay across the rich coverlet, brown to the elbow with his digging, and white as milk at the shoulder.

When I saw that I kneeled down too, and hid my face in my hands, and although I felt the King lay his fingers on my shoulder I could not look up. But it was not all for sorrow that I wept; I was thanking God Almighty who permitted me to see Master Richard alive once more.

I do not know how long it was before I looked up, but all the folks were gone from the room save the King, and Master Blytchett, the physician, who sat on the other side of the bed.

I went round presently to the other side, the King going with me, and there I saw Master Richard's face. I cannot tell you all that I saw in it, for there are no words that can tell of its peace; his eyes were closed below the little healed scar that he had taken in the monastery, and his lips were open and smiling; they moved two or three times as I looked, as if he were talking with some man, and then they ceased and smiled again. But all was very little, as if the soul were far down in some secret chamber with company that it loved.

I asked presently if he had received his Maker, and the King told me Yes, and shrift too, and anointing—all the night before when he had come to himself for a while and called for a priest. He had spoken my name, too, at that time and they had told him that one was gone to bring me and at that he seemed content.

Master Blytchett told me soon that I could be gone for a while, to take some meat, and that he would send for me if Master Richard awoke. But I said No to that; until the King bade me go, saying that he, too, would remain, and pledging his word that I should be called.

So I went away into a parlour, and washed myself, and took some food, and after a while the old clerk that had written the letter to me, came in and saluted me.

I was desirous to know how all had come about, so we sat there a great while in the window seat, with the door a little open into the bed-chamber, and he told me the tale. I did not speak one word till he had done.

This was how it came about.

* * * * *

Master Richard was sent for from his cell to the parlour of my lord cardinal, but my lord was not ready for him, and he had to stand a great while in the court to wait his pleasure. The rumour ran about as to who it was, and a great number of persons assembled from all parts, some from the palace, and some from the streets. These had so cried out against the young man, that the billmen were sent for from the guard-room to keep him from their violence. This priest had looked out from a window at the noise, and seeing the crowd, had entreated my lord to have the prisoner in without any more delay. So he was brought in, and one was left to keep the little door that led to the privy stairs up which he came.

It was then that this priest had seen him face to face, and I will try to write down his words as he told them me.

"I came into the parlour," he said, "through the door behind my lord's chair, as Master Raynal was brought in by the other door.

"I have never seen such a sight, Sir John, as I saw then. He was in his white kirtle only, with the five wounds upon his breast, and he had on his sandals. But his face was as that of a dead man: his eyelids were sunk upon his cheek, and his lips hung open so that I could see his bare teeth.

"There were two men who led him by the arms, and he would have fallen but for their assistance, and I immediately whispered to my lord to let him sit down. But my lord was busy and anxious at that time, for he had but just come from the King, who was no better and would take no meat nor speak at all. So he paid no heed to me, and presently began to ask questions of Master Raynal, urging him to confess what it was that he had done, and threatening him with this and that if he would not speak.

"But Master Raynal did not speak or lift his eyes; it seemed as if he did not hear one word.

"My lord told him presently that if temporal pains did not move him, perhaps, it was that he desired spiritual—for my lord was very angry, and scarce knew what he was saying. But Master Richard made no answer. I will tell you, Sir John, plainly, that I thought he was but a fool to anger my lord so by his silence, for it could not be that he did not hear: my lord bawled loud enough to awaken the dead, and I saw the folk behind, some laughing and some grave.

"It would be full half an hour after noon before my lord had done his questions, and lay back in his chair wrathful at getting no answer, though the men that held Master Raynal shook him from side to side.

"Then it was that the end came.

"I was observing Master Raynal very closely, wondering whether he were mad or deaf, and on a sudden he lifted his eyes, and his lips closed. He appeared to be looking at my lord, but it was another that he saw.

"I cannot describe to you, Sir John, what that change was that came to him, save by saying that I think Lazarus must have looked like that, as he heard our Saviour Christ's voice calling to him as he lay in the tomb. It was no longer the face of a dead man, but of a living one, and as that change came, I perceived that my lord cardinal had raised himself in his chair, and was staring, I suppose, at the young man too. But I could not take my eyes off Master Raynal's face.

"Then on a sudden Master Raynal smiled and drew a great breath and cried out. It was but one word; it was the holy Name of JESUS.

"I perceived immediately that my lord cardinal had stood up at that cry, but then he sat down again, and he made a motion with his hand, and the men that held Master Raynal wheeled him about, and they went through the crowd towards the door.

"My lord cardinal turned to me, and I have never seen him so moved, but still he could not speak, and while we looked upon one another there was a great uproar everywhere—in the court and in the palace.

"I stood there, not knowing what to do, and my lord pushed past to the window. He, too, cried out as he looked down, and then ran from the room, and as I was following there broke in one by the door behind the chair.

"'Where is my lord cardinal?' he cried; 'The King has sent for him.'

"Well, the end of the matter was that they brought Master Raynal back again, wounded and battered near to death. The crowd that had been attendant for him had set on him as he came out—they should have sent more bill-men before to keep the road, and the King met him in the way (for he had come to his senses again), and turned as white as ashes once more, crying out that his own craven heart had slain one more [If this king was Henry VI, the reference may be to Joan of Arc. But Henry was only a child at the time of her death. At the best this can be only conjecture.] servant of God, but I know not what he meant by that. Master Raynal was taken to the King's bed-chamber, and my lord came after. And the King has been with him, praying and moaning ever since."

Then I put one question to the priest.

"My lord cardinal?" I said.

"No man but the King has seen my lord cardinal since yesterday."

* * * * *

We sat a while longer in silence, and then Master Blytchett came in to see me.

Of Sir John's Meditations in Westminster Palace

Et existimabam cognoscere hoc: labor est ante me

And I desired that I might know this thing: labour in my sight.-Ps. lxxii. 16.


Master Blytchett told me that Master Richard was still asleep. He had blooded him last night, and reduced the fever, but God only could save his life. For himself, he thought that the young man would die before night, and he did not know whether he would speak again.

I was drawn towards Master Blytchett; he seemed a sour fellow with sweetness beneath; and I love such souls as that. I loved him more than I did the King either at that time or afterward. The King appeared to me at that time a foolish fellow—God forgive me!—for I had not then heard what Master Richard had to say of him; nor that such opinion was to be all part of his passion.

I thanked Master Blytchett for what he had done for my lad; but he burst out upon me.

"I was all against him," he said, "at the beginning. I thought him a crack-brained fool, and a meddler. But now—" And he would say no more.

It seemed that many were like that at the Court. They were near all against him at first; but when they knew that he was wounded to death; and had heard what the King had said of him; and seen my lord cardinal's rosy face running with tears of pity and anger as he tore the lad out of their hands; and gossipped a little with the porter of the monastery; and listened to the holy ankret roaring out in his cell against Hierusalem that slew the prophets;—and, most of all, remembered, or told one another of Master Richard's face as he came out from the privy staircase before he was struck down—like the Melitenses—convertentes se dicebant eum esse deum. ["Changing their minds, they said he was a god" (Acts xxviii. 6.)]

* * * * *

I talked with many that morning (for I could do nothing for my lad), who came in to see one who knew him so well, and had been his friend in the country.

And after dinner my lord cardinal came in to see me, and I was brought back to the parlour.

His ruddy face was all blotched and lined with sorrow or age, and for a while he could say nothing. He went up and down with his sanguine robes flying behind him, and stayed to look out of the window at the boats that went by until I thought that he had forgotten me. And at the last he spoke.

"I do not know what to say to you, Sir John, or what to say to God Almighty on this matter. It appears to me that we have all been blind and deaf adders, and with the venom of adders, too, beneath our tongues—except one or two rude fellows, and my lord King who knew him for a prophet, and the ankret, who tells us we shall all be damned for what we have done, and yourself. There be so many of these wild asses that bray and kick, that when he came we did not distinguish him to be the colt on which our Lord came to town—and now, as it was then, Dominus eum necessarium habet." ["The Lord hath need of him" (Luke xix. 34.)]

"But I know what I wish to be said to him, though I dare not say it myself, or set eyes on him—and that is that I pray him to forgive us, and to speak our names before the Lord God when he comes before His Majesty."

"I will tell him that, my lord," I said softly, for I did not doubt that Master Richard would speak before he died.

After a while longer my lord cardinal asked how he did, and I told him that he had lain very quiet all day without speaking or moving, and then, for I knew what my lord wanted, I bade him in Jesu's name to come in and look on him. For a while he would not, and then he came, and knelt down beside the King.

Master Richard was lying now upon his back, with his hands hidden and clasped upon his breast, and his lips were moving a little without sound. I think that he had never had so long and so heavenly a colloquy as he was enjoying then. I do not know whether it were the cardinal's presence that disturbed him, or whether in that secret place where his soul was retired he heard what had been said by us, but he spoke aloud for the first time that day, and this is what he said:—

"Et dimitte nobis debita nostra; sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris." ["And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us."]

I saw my lord's face go down upon his hands, and the King's face rise and look at him. And presently my lord went out.

* * * * *

I cannot tell you, my children, how that day passed, for it was like no day that I have ever spent. It appeared to me that there was no time, but that all stood still. Without, the palace was as still as death on the one side—for the King had ordered it so—and on the other there was the noise from the river, little and clear and distinct, of the water washing in the sedges and against the stones, and the cries of the boatmen on the further shore, and the rattle of their oars as they took men across.

Once, as I stood by the window saying my office, a boat went by with folk talking in it, and I heard enough of what they said to know that they were speaking of Master Richard, and I heard one telling the tale to another, and saw him point to the windows of the palace. But when they saw me look out they gave over talking.

A little after the evening bell Master Blytchett took the King out to his supper, and I was left alone with Master Richard, but I knew that there were servants in the passage whom I might call if I needed them.

So I sat down by the pillow and looked at him a great while.

I will tell you, my children, something of what I thought at this time, for it is at such times when the eyes are washed clean by tears that the soul looks out upon truth and sees it as it is. [I have omitted a great number of Sir John's reflections. Many of them are too trite even for this work, and others are so much confused that it is useless to transcribe them. Sir John seems to have been dearly fond of sermonizing. Even these that I have retained and set within brackets can be omitted in reading by those who prefer to supply their own comment.]....

* * * * *

{I thought of the ironia that marks our Lord's dealings. Master Richard had come to bring tidings of another's passion, and he found his own in the bringing of it. It was as when children play at the hanging of a murderer or a thief, and one is set to play the part of prisoner and another to hang him, and then at the end when all is prepared they turn upon the hangman and bid him prepare himself for whipping and death instead of the other, or maybe both are to be hanged. But our Lord is not cruel, like such children, but kind, and I think that He acts so to shew us that life is nothing but a play and a pretence, and that His will must be done, however much we rebel at it. He teaches us, too, that the blows we receive and even death itself are only seeming, though they hurt us at the time, but that we must play in a gallant and merry spirit, and be tender, too, and forgive one another easily, and that He will set all right and allot to each his reward at the end of the playing. And, since it is but a play, we are none of us kings or cardinals or poor men in reality; we are all of us mere children of our Father, and upon one is set a crown for a jest, and another is robed in sanguine, and another in a brown kirtle or a white; and at the end the trinkets are all put back again in the press, ready for another day and other children, and we all go to bed as God made us.

But you must not think, my children, that our life is a little thing because of this; I only mean that one thing is as little and as great as another, and that maids maying in the country are as much about God's business as kings and cardinals who strive in palaces, and who give to this man a collar of Saint Spirit, and to that man a collar of hemp. It was for this reason, maybe, that our Lord did all things when He was upon earth. He rode upon His colt as a King; He reigned upon the rood; He sat at meat with sinners; He wrought tables and chairs at the carpenter's; He fashioned sparrows, as some relate, out of clay, and made them fly; and He said that not a sparrow falls without His love and intention; and He did all and said all in the same spirit and mind, and at the end He smiled and put on His crown again, and sat down for ever ad dexteram Dei, that He might let us do the same, and help us by His grace, especially in the sacraments, to be merry and confident. [This is a very puzzling philosophy. It is surely either very profound or very shallow. But it certainly is not cynical. Sir John is incapable of such a feeble emotion as that.]....

* * * * *

This then, too, I thought at that time.

It is marvellous how our Lord sets His seal upon all that we do, if we will but attend to His working, and not think too highly upon what we do ourselves. He had caused Master Richard to wear His five wounds until he loved them, and to set his meat, too, in their order, and then He had bidden His servant tell him that he did not need the piece of linen, for that he should bear the wounds upon his body. And this He fulfilled; for, as Master Blytchett told me, there were neither more nor less than five wounds upon the young man's body, which he had received from the crowd that set on him, besides the bruises and the stripes. He had caused Master Richard, too, to be haled from judge to judge, as Himself was haled; to be deemed Master by some, and named fool by others; to be borne in a boat by one who loved him; to be arrayed in a white robe to be judged without justice; to be dumb sicut ovis ad occisionem ... et quasi agnus coram tondente se ["as a sheep to the slaughter ... as a lamb before his shearer" (Is. liii. 7.)], with many other points and marks, besides that which fell afterwards, when a rich man, like him of Arimathy, cared for his burying, and strewed herbs and bay leaves and myrtle upon his body.

There was the matter, too, of the bees that I had seen. [Sir John lays great stress upon the bees; I cannot understand why. He says that they betokened great wealth and happiness.]....

* * * * *

And again there was the matter of the seven days that Master Richard fulfilled from the time of his setting out from his house, to the time that he entered into his heavenly mansion. Seven days are the time of perfection; it was in seven days that God Almighty made the world and all that is in it; there were seven years of famine in Egypt in which Joseph gathered store, and seven years of plenty. [I cannot bring myself to follow Sir John through the whole of the Old and New Testaments.].... And it was in seven days that Master Richard Raynal completed his course, from the sowing of the wheat and wine on Corpus Xti, to his joyful harvest in heaven....}

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