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The Bells of Speyer

     The German Emperor, Henry IV, had much trouble to bear under his purple mantle. Through his own and through stranger's faults the crown which he wore was set with thorns, and even into the bosom of his family this unhappy spirit of dissension had crept. The excommunication of the Pope, his powerful enemy, was followed by the revolt of the princes, and lastly by the conspiracy of his own sons. His eldest son, Conrad, openly rebelled against him, and treated his father most scornfully. When this prince died suddenly, the second son, Henry, attempted the deposition of his father and made intrigues against him. Thus forced to abdicate his throne the broken-down emperor fled to Liege, accompanied by one faithful servant, Kurt, and there lay down to his last rest.

    His body was left for five years in unconsecrated ground in a foreign country. Kurt remained faithful, and prayed incessantly at the burial-place of his royal master.

     At last the Pope at Henry's request consented to recall the ban. Henry ordered his father's remains to be brought to Speyer and solemnly interred with the royal family. Kurt was allowed to follow the procession to Speyer, but wearied out by this long watching the old man died a few days afterwards. Just at the moment of his death the bells in the cathedral at Speyer tolled without any human hand putting them in motion, as they always did when an imperial death took place. Years passed.

     The German emperor Henry V. lay dying on his luxurious couch at Speyer. His bodily sufferings were intense, but the agony of his mind was even greater; he had obtained the crown which now pressed so heavily on his head, by shameful treacherous means. The apparition of his father dying in misery appeared to him, and no words of the flatterers at his bed-side could still the voice of his conscience. At last death freed him from all his torments, and at the same hour the bells which were always rung when a poor sinner was led to execution, tolled, set in motion by no human hand.

     Thus were the bells the instrument of that Hand which wisely and warningly wrote .... "Honour thy father and thy mother ..."

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