Here to return to
TALES FROM THE GESTA ROMANORUM.
WHEN Titus was Emperor of Rome, he made a decree that the natal day of his first-born son should be held sacred, and that whosoever violated it by any kind of labour should be put to death. Then he called Virgil to him, and Said, “Good friend, I have made a certain law; We desire you to frame some curious piece of art which may reveal to us every transgressor of the law.” Virgil constructed a magic statue, and caused it to be set up in the midst of the city. By virtue of the secret powers with which it was invested, it told the emperor Whatever was done amiss. And thus by the accusation of the statue, an infinite number of persons were convicted and punished.
Now there was a certain carpenter, called Focus, who pursued his occupation every day alike. Once, as he lay in bed, his thoughts turned upon the accusations of the statue, and the multitudes which it had caused to perish. In the morning he clothed himself, and proceeded to the statue, which he addressed in the following manner: “O statue! statue! because of thy informations, many of our citizens have been taken and slain. I vow to my God, that if thou accusest me, I will break thy head.” Having so said, he returned home.
About the first hour, the emperor, as he was wont, despatched sundry messengers to the statue, to inquire if the edict had been strictly complied with. After they had arrived, and delivered the emperor’s pleasure, the statue exclaimed: “Friends, look up; what see ye written upon my forehead?” They looked, and beheld three sentences which ran thus: “TIMES ARE ALTERED. MEN GROW WORSE. HE WHO SPEAKS TRUTH HAS HIS HEAD BROKEN.” “GO,” said the statue, “declare to his majesty what you have seen and read.” The messengers obeyed, and detailed the circumstances as they had happened.
The emperor therefore commanded his guard to arm, and march to the place on which the statue was erected; and he further ordered, that if any one presumed to molest it, they should bind him hand and foot, and drag him into his presence.
The soldiers approached the statue and said, “Our emperor wills you to declare the name of the scoundrel who threatens you.”
The statue made answer, “It is Focus the carpenter. Every day he violates the law, and, moreover, menaces me with a broken head, if I expose him.”
Immediately Focus was apprehended, and conducted to the emperor, who said, “Friend, what do I hear of thee? Why hast thou broken my law?”
“My lord,” answered Focus, “I cannot keep it; for I am obliged to obtain every day eight pennies, which, without incessant work, I have not the means of getting.”
“And why eight pennies?” said the emperor.
“Every day through the year,” returned the carpenter, “I am bound to repay two pennies which I borrowed in my youth; two I lend; two I lose; and two I spend.”
“For what reason do you this?” asked the emperor.
“My lord,” he replied, “listen to me. I am bound each day to repay two pennies to my father; for, when I Was a boy, my father expended upon me daily the like sum. Now he is poor, and needs my assistance, and therefore I return what I borrowed formerly. Two other pennies I lend to my son, who is pursuing his studies; in order, that if by any chance I should fall into poverty, he may restore the loan, just as I have done to his grandfather. Again, I lose two pennies every day on my wife; for she is contradictious, wilful, and passionate. NoW, because of this disposition, I account Whatsoever is given to her entirely lost. Lastly, two other pennies I expend upon myself in meat and drink. I cannot do with less, nor can I earn them Without unremitting labour. You now know the truth; and, I pray you, judge dispassionately and truly.”
“Friend,” said the emperor, “thou hast answered well. Go, and labour earnestly in thy calling.”
Soon after this the
emperor died, and Focus the carpenter, on account of his singular wisdom, Was
elected in his stead by the unanimous choice of the whole nation. He governed
as Wisely as he had lived; and at his death, his picture, bearing on the head
eight pennies, was reposited among the effigies of the deceased emperors.
A CERTAIN king, named Asmodeus, established an ordinance, by which every malefactor taken and brought before the judge, should distinctly declare three truths, against Which no exception could be taken, or else be hanged. If, however, he did this, his life and property should be safe. It chanced that a certain soldier transgressed the law and fled. He hid himself in a forest, and there committed many atrocities, despoiling and slaying whomsoever he could lay his hands upon. When the judge of the district ascertained his haunt, he ordered the forest to be surrounded, and the soldier to be seized, and brought bound to the seat of judgment.
“You know the law,” said the judge.
“I do,” returned the other. “If I declare three unquestionable truths I shall be free; but if not, I must die.”
“True,” replied the judge; “take then advantage of the law’s clemency, or undergo the punishment it awards without delay.”
“Cause silence to be kept,” said the soldier undauntedly.
His wish being complied with, he proceeded in the following manner: “The first truth is this. I protest before ye all, that from my youth up, I have been a bad man.”
The judge, hearing this, said to the bystanders, “He says true?” They answered: “Else he had not now been in this situation.” . “Go on, then,” said the judge. “What is the second truth?”
“I like not,” exclaimed he, “the dangerous situation in which I stand.”
“Certainly,” said the judge, “we may credit thee. Now then for the third truth, and thou hast saved thy life.”
“Why,” he replied, “if I once get out of this confounded place, I will never willingly re-enter it.”
“Amen,” said the
judge, “thy wit hath preserved thee; go in peace.” And thus he was saved.
IN Rome some time dwelt a mighty emperor named Philo-minus, who had one only daughter, who was fair and gracious in the sight of every man, who had to name Aglaes. There was also in the emperor’s palace a gentle knight that loved dearly this lady. It befell after on a day, that this knight talked with this lady, and secretly uttered his desire to her. Then she said courteously, “Seeing you have uttered to me the secrets of your heart, I will likewise for your love utter to you the secrets of my heart: and truly I say, that above all other I love you best.” Then said the knight, “I purpose to visit the Holy Land, and therefore give me your troth, that this seven years you shall take no other man, but only for my love to tarry for me so long, and if I come not again by this day seven years, then take what man you like best. And likewise I promise you that within this seven years I will take no wife.” Then said she, “This covenant pleaseth me well.” When this was said, each of them was betrothed to other, and then this knight took his leave of the lady, and went to the Holy Land.
Shortly after the emperor treated with the king of Hungary for the marriage of his daughter. Then came the king of Hungary to the emperor’s palace, and when he had seen his daughter, he liked marvellous well her beauty and her behaviour, so that the emperor and the king were accorded in all things as touching the marriage, upon the condition that the damsel would consent. Then called the emperor the young lady to him, and said, “O, my fair daughter, I have provided for thee, that a king shall be thy husband, if thou list consent; therefore tell me what answer thou wilt give to this.” Then said she to her father, “It pleaseth me well; but one thing, dear father, I entreat of you, if it might please you to grant me: I have vowed to keep my virginity, and not to marry these seven years; therefore, dear father, I beseech you for all the love that is between your gracious fatherhood and me, that you name no man to be my husband till these seven years be ended, and then I shall he ready in all things to fulfil your will.” Then said the emperor, “Sith it is so that thou hast thus vowed, I will not break thy vow; but when these seven years be expired, thou shalt have the king of Hungary to thy husband.”
Then the emperor sent forth his letters to the king of Hungary, praying him if it might please him to stay seven years for the love of his daughter, and then he should speed without fail. Herewith the king was pleased and content to stay the prefixed day.
And when the seven years were ended, save a day, the young lady stood in her chamber window, and wept sore, saying, “Woe and alas, as to-morrow my love promised to be with me again from the Holy Land; and also the king of Hungary tomorrow will be here to marry me, according to my father’s promise; and if my love comes not at a certain hour, then am I utterly deceived of the inward love I bear to him.”
When the day came, the king hasted toward the emperor, to marry his daughter, and was royally arrayed in purple. And while the king was riding on his way, there came a knight riding on his way, who said, “I am of the empire of Rome, and now am lately come from the Holy Land, and I am ready to do you the best service I can.” And as they rode talking by the way, it began to rain so fast that all the king’s apparel was sore wet. Then said the knight, “My lord, ye have done foolishly, for as much as ye brought not with you your house.” Then said the king: “Why speakest thou so? My house is large and broad, and made of stones and mortar, how should I bring then with me my house? Thou speakest like a fool.” When this was said, they rode on till they came to a great deep water, and the king smote his horse with his spurs, and leapt into the water, so that he was almost drowned. When the knight saw this, and was over on the other side of the water without peril, he said to the king, “Ye were in peril, and therefore ye did foolishly, because ye brought not with you your bridge.” Then said the king, “Thou speakest strangely: my bridge is made of lime and stone, and containeth in quality more than half a mile; how should I then bear with me my bridge? therefore thou speakest foolishly.” “Well,” said the knight, “my foolishness may turn you to wisdom.” When the king had ridden a little further, he asked the knight what time of day it was. Then said the knight, “If any man hath list to eat, it is time of the day to eat. Wherefore, my lord, pray take a modicum with me, for that is no dishonour to you, but great honour to me before the states of this empire.” Then said the king, “I will gladly eat with thee.” They sat both down in a fair vine garden, and there dined together, both the king and the knight. And when dinner was done, and that the king had washed, the knight said unto the king, “My lord, ye have done foolishly, for that ye brought not with you your father and mother.” Then said the king, “What sayest thou? My father is dead, and my mother is old, and may not travel; how should I then bring them with me? Therefore, to say the truth, a foolisher man than thou art did I never hear.” Then said the knight, “Every work is praised at the end.”
When the knight had ridden a little further, and nigh to the emperor’s palace, he asked leave to go from him; for he knew a nearer way to the palace, to the young lady, that he might come first, and carry her away with him. Then said the king, “I pray thee tell me by what place thou purposest to ride?” Then said the knight, “I shall tell you the truth. This day seven years I left a net in a place, and now I purpose to visit it, and draw it to me, and if it be whole, then will I take it to me, and keep it as a precious jewel; if it be broken, then will I leave it.” And when he had thus said, he took his leave of the king, and rode forth; but the king kept the broad highway.
When the emperor heard of the king’s coming, he went towards him with a great company, and royally received him, causing him to shift his wet clothes, and to put on fresh apparel. And when the emperor and the king were set at meat, the emperor welcomed him with all the cheer and solace that he could. And when he had eaten, the emperor asked tidings of the king. “My lord,” said he, “I shall tell you what I have heard this day by the way: there came a knight to me, and reverently saluted me; and anon after there fell a great rain, and greatly spoiled my apparel. And anon the knight said, ‘Sir, ye have done foolishly, for that ye brought not with you your hose.’” Then said the emperor, “What clothing had the knight on?” “A cloak,” quoth the king. Then said the emperor, “Sure that was a wise man, for the house whereof he spake was a cloak, and therefore he said to you that you did foolishly, because had you come with your cloak, then your clothes had not been spoiled with rain.” Then said the king, “When he had ridden a little further, we came to a deep water, and I smote my horse with my spurs, and I was almost drowned, but he rid through the water without any peril. Then said he to me, ‘You did foolishly, for that you brought not with you your bridge.’” “Verily,” said the emperor, “he said truth, for he called the squires the bridge, that should have ridden before you, and assayed the deepness of the water.” Then said the king, “We rode further, and at the last he prayed me to dine with him. And when he had dined, he said, I did unwisely, because I brought not with me my father and mother.” “Truly,” said the emperor, “he was a wise man, and saith wisely: for he called your father and mother, bread and wine, and other victual.” Then said the king, “We rode further, and anon after he asked me leave to go from me, and I asked earnestly whither he went; and he answered again, and said, ‘This day seven years I left a net in a private place, and now I will ride to see it; and if it be broken and torn, then will I leave it, but if it be as I left it, then shall it be unto me right precious.’ “
When the emperor
heard this, he cried with a loud voice, and said, “O ye my knights and
servants, come ye with me speedily unto my daughter’s chamber, for surely that
is the net of which he spake.” And °forthwith his knights and servants went
unto his daughter’s chamber, and found her not, for the aforesaid knight had
taken her with him. And thus the king was deceived of the damsel, and he went
home again to his own country ashamed.
SOME time dwelt in Rome a mighty emperor, named Anselm, who had married the king’s daughter of Jerusalem, a fair lady, and gracious in the sight of every man, but she was long time with the emperor ere she bare him any child; wherefore the nobles of the empire were very sorrowful, because their lord had no heir of his own body begotten: till at last it befell, that this Anselm walked after supper, in an evening, into his garden, and bethought himself that he had no heir, and how the king of Ampluy warred on him continually, for so much as he had no son to make defence in his absence; therefore he was sorrowful, and went to his chamber and slept. Then he thought he saw a vision in his sleep, that the morning was more clear than it was wont to be, and that the moon was much paler on the one side than on the other. And after he saw a bird of two colours, and by that bird stood two beasts, which fed that little bird with their heat. And after that came more beasts, and bowing their breasts toward the bird, went their way. Then came there divers birds that sung sweetly and pleasantly: with that the emperor awaked.
In the morning early this Anselm remembered his vision, and wondered much what it might signify; wherefore he called to him his philosophers, and all the states of the empire, and told them his dream, charging them to tell him the signification thereof on pain of death, and if they told him the true interpretation thereof, he promised them good reward. Then said they, “Dear lord, tell us your dream, and we shall declare to you what it betokens.” Then the emperor told them from the beginning to the ending, as is aforesaid. When the philosophers heard this, with glad cheer they answered, and said, “Sir, the vision that you saw betokeneth good, for the empire shall be clearer than it is.
“The moon that is more pale on the one side than on the other, betokeneth the empress, that hath lost part of her colour, through the conception of a son that she hath conceived. The little bird betokeneth the son that she shall bare. The two beasts that fed this bird betoken the wise and rich men of the empire which shall obey the son. These other beasts that bowed their breasts to the bird betoken many other nations that shall do him homage. The bird that sang so sweetly to this little bird betokeneth the Romans, who shall rejoice and sing because of his birth. This is the very interpretation of your dream.”
When the emperor heard this, he was right joyful. Soon after that, the empress travailed in childbirth, and was delivered of a fair son, at whose birth there was great and wonderful joy made.
When the king of Ampluy heard this, he thought in himself thus: “Lo, I have warred against the emperor all the days of my life, and now he hath a son who, when he cometh to full age, will revenge the wrong I have done against his father; therefore it is better that I send to the emperor and beseech him of truce and peace, that the son may have nothing against me when he cometh to manhood.” When he had thus said to himself, he wrote to the emperor, beseeching him to have peace. When the emperor saw that the king of Ampluy wrote to him more for fear than for love, he wrote again to him, that if he would find good and sufficient sureties to keep the peace, and bind himself all the days of his life to do him service and homage, he would receive him to peace.
When the king had read the tenor of the emperor’s letter, he called his council, praying them to give him counsel how he best might do, as touching this matter. Then Said they, “It is good that ye obey the emperor’s will and commandment in all things. For first, in that he desired of you surety for the peace; to this we answer thus: Ye have but one daughter, and the emperor one son, wherefore let a marriage be made between them, and that may be a perpetual covenant of peace. Also he asketh homage and tribute, which it is good to fulfil.” Then the king sent his messengers to the emperor, saying, that he would fulfil his desire in all things, if it might please his highness that his son and the king’s daughter might be married together. All this well pleased the emperor, yet he sent again, saying, “If his daughter were a pure maid from her birth unto that day, he would consent to that marriage.” Then was the king right glad, for his daughter was a pure maid.
Therefore, when the letters of covenant and compact were sealed, the king furnished a fair ship, wherein he might send his daughter, with many noble knights, ladies, and great riches, unto the emperor, for to have his son in marriage.
And when they were sailing in the sea, towards Rome, a storm arose so extremely and so horribly that the ship brake against a rock, and they were all drowned save only the young lady, which fixed her hope and heart so greatly on God, that she was saved, and about three of the clock the tempest ceased, and the lady drove forth over the waves in that broken ship which was cast up again. But a huge whale followed after, ready to devour both the ship and her. Wherefore this young lady, when night came, smote fire with a stone, wherewith the ship was greatly lightened, and then the whale durst not adventure toward the ship for fear of that light. At the cock-crowing, this young lady was so weary of the great tempest and trouble of sea, that she slept, and within a little while after the fire ceased, and the whale came and devoured the virgin. And when she awaked and found herself swallowed up in the whale’s belly, she smote fire, and with a knife wounded the whale in many places, and when the whale felt himself wounded, according to his nature he began to swim to land.
There was dwelling at that time in a country near by a noble earl named Pirris, who for his recreation walking on the sea-shore, saw the whale coming towards the land; wherefore he turned home again, and gathered a great many of men and women, and came thither again, and fought with the whale, and wounded him very sore, and as they smote, the maiden that was in his belly cried with a high voice, and said: “O gentle friends, have mercy and compassion on me, for I am a king’s daughter, and a true maid from the hour of my birth unto this day.” When the earl heard this he wondered greatly, and opened the side of the whale, and found the young lady, and took her out. And when she was thus delivered, she told him forthwith whose daughter she was, and how she had lost all her goods in the sea, and how she should have been married unto the emperor’s son. And when the earl heard this, he was very glad, and comforted her the more, and kept her with him till she was well refreshed. And in the meantime he sent messengers to the emperor, letting him to know how the king’s daughter was saved.
Then was the emperor right glad of her safety, and coining, had great compassion on her, saying, “Ah, good maiden, for the love of my son thou hast suffered much woe; nevertheless, if thou be worthy to be his wife, soon shall I prove.” And when he had thus said, he caused three vessels to be brought forth. The first was made of pure gold, well beset with precious stones without, and within full of dead men’s bones, and thereupon was engraven this posie: “WHOSO CHOOSETH ME, SHALL FIND THAT HE DESERVETH.” The second vessel was made of fine silver, filled with earth and worms, the superscription was thus
“WHOSO CHOOSETH ME, SHALL FIND THAT HIS NATURE DESIRETH.” The third vessel was made of lead, full within of precious stones, and thereupon was insculpt this posie: “WHOSO CHOOSETH ME, SHALL FIND THAT GOD HATH DISPOSED FOR HIM.” These three vessels the emperor showed the maiden, and said: “Lo, here daughter, these be rich vessels. If thou choose one of these, wherein is profit to thee and to others, then shalt thou have my son. And if thou choose that wherein is no profit to thee, nor to any other, soothly thou shalt not marry him.”
When the maiden heard this, she lift up her hands to God, and said, “Thou Lord, that knowest all things, grant me grace this hour so to choose, that I may receive the emperor’s son.” And with that she beheld the first vessel of gold, which was engraven royally, and read the superscription, “Whoso chooseth me, shall find that he deserveth;” saying thus, “Though this vessel be full precious, and made of pure gold, nevertheless I know not what is within, therefore, my dear lord, this vessel will I not choose.”
And then she beheld the second vessel, that was of pure silver, and read the superscription, “Whoso chooseth me, shall find that his nature desireth.” Thinking thus within herself, “If I choose this vessel, what is within I know not, but well I know, there shall I find that nature desireth, and my nature desireth the lust of the flesh, and therefore this vessel will I not choose.”
When she had seen these two vessels, and had given an answer as touching them, she beheld the third vessel of lead, and read the superscription, “Whoso chooseth me, shall find that God hath disposed.” Thinking within herself, “This vessel is not very rich, nor outwardly precious, yet the superscription saith, ‘Whoso chooseth me, shall find that God hath disposed:’ and without doubt God never disposeth any harm, therefore, by the leave of God, this vessel will I choose.”
When the emperor
heard this, he said, “O fair maiden, open thy vessel, for it is full of
precious stones, and see if thou hast well chosen or no.” And when this young
lady had opened it, she found it full of fine gold and precious stones, as the
emperor had told her before. Then said the emperor, “Daughter, because thou
hast well chosen, thou shalt marry my son.” And then he appointed the
wedding-day; and they were married with great solemnity, and with much honour
continued to their lives’ end.
A CERTAIN carpenter, in a city near the sea, very covetous, and very wicked, collected a large sum of money, and placed it in the trunk of a tree, which he set by his fire-side, and never lost sight of. A place like this, he thought, no one could suspect: but it happened, that while all his household slept, the sea overflowed its boundaries, broke down that side of the building where the log was placed, and carried it away. It floated many miles, and reached, at length, a city in which there lived a person who kept open house. Arising early in the morning, he perceived the trunk of a tree in the water, and thinking it would be of use to him, he brought it home. He was a liberal, kind-hearted man; and a great benefactor to the poor. It one day chanced that he entertained some pilgrims in his house; and the weather being extremely cold, he cut up the log for firewood. When he had struck two or three blows with the axe, he heard a rattling sound; and cleaving it in twain, the gold pieces rolled out and about. Greatly rejoiced at the discovery, he put them by in a safe place, until he should ascertain who was the owner.
Now the carpenter, bitterly lamenting the loss of his money, travelled from place to place in pursuit of it. He came, by accident, to the house of the hospitable man who had fond the trunk. He failed not to mention the object of his search; and the host, understanding that the money was his, reflected whether his title to it were good. “I will prove,” said he to himself, “if God will that the money should be returned to him.”
Accordingly, he made three cakes, the first of which he filled with earth; the second with the bones of dead men; and in the third he put a quantity of the gold which he had discovered in the trunk.
“Friend,” said he, addressing the carpenter, “we will eat three cakes made of the best meat in my house. Choose which you will have.”
The carpenter did as he was directed; he took the cakes and weighed them in his hand, one after another, and finding that with the earth weigh heaviest, he chose it. “And if I want more, my worthy host,” added he, “I will have that” — laying his hand upon the cake containing the bones. “You may keep the third cake yourself.”
“I see clearly,”
murmured the host, “I see very clearly that God does not will the money to be
restored to this wretched man.” Calling therefore the poor and the infirm, the
blind and the lame, he opened the cake of gold in the presence of the
carpenter, to whom he spoke, “Thou miserable varlet; this is thine own gold.
But thou preferredst the cake of earth, and dead men’s bones. I am persuaded,
therefore, that God wills not that I return thee thy money.” Without delay, he
distributed it all amongst the poor, and drove the carpenter away.
THERE once lived a hermit, who in a remote cave passed day and night in God’s service. Not far from his cell there was a flock kept by a shepherd, who one day fell into a deep sleep, when a robber, seeing him careless, carried off his sheep. When the keeper awoke, he began to swear in good set terms that he had lost his sheep; and where they were gone to he knew not. But the lord of the flock bade him be put to death. This gave to the hermit great offence. “O heaven,” said he to himself, “seest thou this deed? The innocent suffers for the guilty: Why permittest thou such things? If thus injustice triumph, why do I remain here? I will again enter the world, and do as other men do.”
And so he left his hermitage, and went again into the world; but God willed not that he should be lost: an angel in the form of a man was sent to join him. And so, crossing the hermit’s path, he said to him, “Whither bound, my friend ?’’ “I go,” said he, “to yonder city.” “I will go with you,” replied the angel; “I am a messenger from heaven, come to be your companion on the way.”
So they walked on together to the city. When they had entered, they begged for the love of God harbourage during the night, at the house of a certain soldier, who received them cheerfully and entertained them nobly. The soldier had an only and most dear son lying in the cradle. After supper, their bed-chamber was sumptuously adorned for them; and the angel and the hermit went to rest. But about the middle of the night the angel rose, and strangled the sleeping infant. The hermit, horror-struck at what he witnessed, said within himself, “Never can this be an angel of God. The good soldier gave us everything that was necessary; he had but this poor innocent, and he is strangled.” Yet he was afraid to reprove him.
In the morning both arose and went forward to another city, in which they were honourably entertained at the house of one of the inhabitants. This person had a rich gold cup, which he highly valued; and of which, during the night, the angel robbed him. But still the hermit held his peace, for great was his fear.
On the morrow they went forward; and as they walked they came to a certain river, over which was a bridge. They went on the bridge, and about midway a poor pilgrim met them. “My friend,” said the angel to him, “show us the way to yonder city.” The pilgrim turned, and pointed with his finger to the road they were to take; but as he turned the angel seized him by the shoulders, and hurled him into the Stream below. At this the terror of the hermit became greater. “It is the devil,” he said to himself; “it is the devil, and no good angel! What evil had the poor man done that he should be drowned?”
He would now have gladly gone alone; but was afraid to speak his mind. About the hour of vespers they carne to a city, in which they again sought shelter for the night; but the master of the house where they applied sharply refused it. “For the love of heaven,” said the angel, “give us shelter, lest we fall prey to the wolves.” The man pointed to a sty. “That,” said he, “has pigs in it; if it please you to lie there you may, but to no other place will I admit you.” “If we can do no better,” said the angel, “we must accept your ungracious offer.” They did so; and next morning the angel calling their host, said, “My friend, I give you this cup;” and he gave him the gold cup he had stolen. The hermit, more and more amazed at what he saw, said to himself, “Now I am sure this is the devil. The good man who received us with all kindness he despoiled, and now he gives the plunder to this fellow who refused us a lodging.”
Turning therefore to the angel, he cried, “I will travel with you no more. I commend you to God.” “Dear friend,” the angel said, “first hear me, and then go thy way.”
“When thou wert in thy hermitage, the owner of the flock unjustly put to death his servant. True it is he died innocently, and therefore was in a fit state to enter another world. God permitted him to be slain, foreseeing, that if he lived he would commit a sin, and die before repentance followed. But the guilty man who stole the sheep will suffer eternally; while the owner of the flock will repair, by alms and good works, that which he ignorantly committed. As for the son of the hospitable soldier whom I strangled in the cradle, know, that before the boy was born he performed numerous works of charity and mercy; but afterwards grew parsimonious and covetous in order to enrich the child, of which he was inordinately fond. This was the cause of its death; and now its distressed parent is again become a devout Christian. Then for the cup which I purloined from him who received us so kindly, know, that before the cup was made, there was not a more abstemious person in the world; but afterwards he took such pleasure in it, and drank from it so often, that he was intoxicated twice or thrice during the day.. I took away the cup, and he has returned to his former sobriety. Again I cast the pilgrim into the river; and know that he whom I drowned was a good Christian, but had he proceeded much further, he would have fallen into a mortal sin. Now he is saved, and reigns in celestial glory. Then, that I bestowed the cup upon the inhospitable citizen, know nothing is done without reason. He suffered us to occupy the swine-house and
I gave him a valuable consideration. But he will hereafter reign in hell. Put a guard, therefore, on thy lips, and detract not from the Almighty. For He knoweth all things.”
The hermit, hearing
this, fell at the feet of the angel and entreated pardon. He returned to his
hermitage, and became a good and pious Christian.
A CERTAIN tyrannical and cruel knight retained in his service a very faithful servant. One day, when he had been to the market, he returned with this servant through a grove; and by the way lost thirty silver marks. As soon as he discovered the loss, he questioned his servant about it. The man solemnly denied all knowledge of the matter, and he spoke truth. But when the money was not to be found, he cut off the servant’s foot, and leaving him in that place, rode home. A hermit, hearing the groans and cries of the man, went speedily to his help. He confessed him; and being satisfied of his innocence, conveyed him upon his shoulders to his hermitage.
Then entering the oratory, he dared to reproach the All-just with want of justice, inasmuch as he had permitted an innocent man to lose his foot.
For a length of time he continued in tears, and prayers, and reproaches; until at last an angel of the Lord ‘appeared to him, and said, “Hast thou not read in the Psalms, ‘God is a just judge, strong and patient?’”
“Often,” answered the hermit meekly, “have I read and believed it from my heart; but to-day I have erred. That wretched man, Whose foot has been cut off, perhaps under the veil of confession deceived me.”
“‘Tax not the Lord
with injustice,” said the angel; “His way is truth, and His judgments
equitable. Recollect how often thou hast read, ‘The decrees of God are
unfathomable.’ Know that he who lost his foot, lost it for a former crime. With
the same foot he maliciously spurned his mother, and cast her from a
chariot--for which eternal condemnation overtook him. The knight, his master,
was desirous of purchasing a war-horse, to collect more wealth, to the
destruction of his soul; and therefore, by the just sentence of God, the money
which he had provided for the purchase was lost. Now hear; there is a very poor
man with his wife and little ones, who daily supplicate heaven, and perform
every religious exercise. He found the money, when otherwise he would have
starved, and therewith procured for himself and family the necessaries of
life, entrusting a portion to his confessor to distribute to the poor. But
first he diligently endeavoured to find out the right owner. Not accomplishing
this, the poor man applied it to its proper use. Place then a bridle upon thy
thoughts; and no more upbraid the righteous Disposer of all things, as thou but
lately didst. For he is just, and strong, and patient.”
IN the reign of Trajan there lived a knight named Placidus, who was commander-in-chief of the emperor’s armies. He was very merciful, but a worshipper of idols. His wife too was an idolater. They had two sons, brought up in all magnificence, and from the kindness and goodness of their hearts, they deserved a revelation of the way of truth.
As he was one day following the chase, Placidus discovered a herd of deer, amongst which was one remarkable for size and beauty. Separating itself from the rest, it plunged into the thickest part of the brake. While the hunters, therefore, occupied themselves with the remainder of the herd, Placidus swiftly followed this deer’s track. The stag scaled a lofty precipice, and Placidus, approaching as near as he could, considered how it might be followed yet. But as he regarded it with fixed attention, there appeared upon the centre of the brow, the form of the cross, which glittered with more splendour than the noonday sun. Upon this cross an image of Jesus Christ was suspended; and the stag thus addressed the hunter: “Why dost thou persecute me, Placidus? For thy sake have I assumed the shape of this animal. I am Christ, whom thou ignorantly worshippest. Thine alms have gone up before me, and therefore I come; but as thou hast hunted this stag, so will I hunt thee.”
Some indeed assert that the image, hanging between the deer’s antlers, said these things. However that may be, Placidus, filled with terror, fell from his horse; and in about an hour, returning to himself, arose from the earth and said, “Declare what thou wouldst have, that I may believe in thee.”
“I am Christ, O Placidus! I created heaven and earth; I caused the light to arise, and divided it from the darkness. I appointed days, and seasons, and years. I formed man out of the dust of the earth; and I became incarnate for the salvation of mankind. I was crucified, and buried; and on the third day I rose again.”
When Placidus understood these sublime truths, he fell again upon the earth, and exclaimed: “I believe, O Lord, that thou hast done all this; and that thou art He who bringest back the wanderer.”
The Lord answered: “If thou believest this, go into the city and be baptized.”
“Wouldst thou, O Lord, that I tell what has befallen me to my wife and children, that they also may believe?”
“Do so; tell them, that they also may be cleansed from their iniquities. And on the morrow return hither, where I will appear again, and show you of the future.”
Placidus, therefore, went to his own home, and told all that had passed to his wife. But she too had had a revelation; and in like manner had been enjoined to believe in Christ, together with her children. So they hastened to the city of Rome, where they were entertained and baptized with great joy. Placidus was called Eustacius, and his wife, Theosbyta; the two sons, Theosbytus and Agapetus.
In the morning, Eustacius, according to custom, went out to hunt, and coming with his attendants near the place, he dispersed them, as if for the purpose of discovering the prey. Immediately the vision of yesterday reappeared, and prostrating himself, he said, “I implore thee, 0 Lord, to manifest thyself according to thy word.”
“Blessed art thou, Eustacius, because thou hast received the laver of my grace, and thereby overcome the devil. Now hast thou trod him to dust, who beguiled thee. Now will thy fidelity appear; for the devil, whom thou hast deserted, will rage against thee in many ways. Much must thou undergo ere thou possessest the crown of victory. Much must thou suffer from the dignified vanity of the world; and much from spiritual intolerance. Fail not, therefore; nor look back upon thy former condition. Thou must be as another Job; but from the very depth of thy humiliation, I will restore thee to the height of earthly splendour. Choose, then, whether thou wouldst prefer thy trials at the end of life.”
Eustacius replied: “If it become me, O Lord, to be exposed to trials, let them presently approach; but do thou uphold me, and supply me with patient strength.”
“Be bold, Eustacius: my grace shall support your souls.” Saying thus, the Lord ascended into heaven. After which Eustacius returned home to his wife, and explained to her what had been decreed.
In a few days a pestilence carried off the whole of their men-servants and maid-servants; and before long the sheep, horses, and cattle also perished. Robbers plundered their habitation, and despoiled them of every ornament; while he himself, together with his wife and sons, fled naked and in the deepest distress. But devoutly they worshipped God; and apprehensive of an Egyptian redness, went secretly away. Thus were they reduced to utter poverty. The king and the senate, greatly afflicted with their general’s calamities, sought for, but found not the slightest trace of him.
In the meantime this unhappy family approached the sea; and finding a ship ready to sail, they embarked in it. The master of the vessel observing that the Wife of Eustacius was very beautiful, determined to secure her; and when they had crossed the sea, demanded a large sum of money for their passage, which, as he anticipated, they did not possess. Notwithstanding the vehement and indignant protestations of Eustacius, he seized upon his wife; and beckoning to the mariners, commanded them to cast the unfortunate husband headlong into the sea. Perceiving, therefore, that all opposition was useless, he took up his two children, and departed with much and heavy sorrow. “Merciful heaven,” he exclaimed, as he wept over his bereaved offspring, “your poor mother is lost; and, in a strange land, in the arms of a strange lord, must lament her fate.”
Travelling along, he came to a river, the water of which ran so high, that it appeared hazardous in an eminent degree to cross with both the children at the same time. One, therefore, he placed carefully upon the bank, and then passed over with the other in his arms. This effected, he laid it upon the ground, and returned immediately for the remaining child. But in the midst of the river, accidentally glancing his eye back, he beheld a wolf hastily snatch up the child, and run with it into an adjoining wood. Half maddened at a sight so truly afflicting he turned to rescue it from the destruction with which it was threatened; but at that instant a huge lion approached the child he had left; and seizing it, presently disappeared. To follow was useless, for he was in the middle of the water. Giving himself up, therefore, to his desperate situation, he began to lament and to pluck away his hair, and would have cast himself into the stream, had not Divine Providence preserved him.
Certain shepherds, however, observing the lion carrying off the child in his teeth, pursued him with dogs, and by the peculiar dispensation of heaven it was dropped unhurt. As for the other, some ploughmen witnessing the adventure, shouted lustily after the wolf, and succeeded in liberating the poor victim from its jaws. Now it happened that both the shepherds and ploughmen resided in the same village, and brought up the children amongst them. But Eustacius knew nothing of this, and his affliction was so poignant that he was unable to control his complaints. “Alas!” he would say, “once I flourished like a luxuriant tree, but now I am altogether blighted. Once I was encompassed with military ensigns and bands of armed men; now I am a single being in the universe. I have lost all my children and everything that I possessed. I remember, O Lord, that thou saidst my trials should resemble Job’s; behold they exceed them. For although he was destitute, he had a couch, however vile, to repose upon; I, alas! have nothing. He had compassionating friends; while I, besides the loss of my children, am left a prey to the savage beasts. His wife remained, but mine is forcibly carried off. Assuage my anguish, O Lord, and place a bridle upon my lips, lest I utter foolishness, and stand up against thee.” With such words he gave free course to the fulness of his heart; and after much travel, entered a village, where he abode. In this place he continued for fifteen years, as the hired servant of one of the villagers.
To return to the two boys. They were educated in the same neighbourhood, but had no knowledge of their consanguinity. And as for the wife of Eustacius, she preserved her purity, and suffered not the infamous usage which she had to fear. After some time her persecutor died.
In the meanwhile the Roman emperor was beset by his enemies, and recollecting how valiantly Placidus had behaved himself in similar straits, his grief at the deplorable change of fortune was renewed. He despatched soldiers through various parts of the world in pursuit of them; and promised to the discoverer infinite rewards and honours. It happened that some of the emissaries, being of those who had attended upon the person of Placidus, came into the country in which he laboured, and one of them he recognized by his gait. The sight of these men brought back to the exile’s mind the situation of wealth and honour which he had once possessed; and being filled With fresh trouble at the recollection — “O Lord!” he exclaimed, “even as beyond expectation I have seen these people again, so let me be restored to my beloved wife. of my children I speak not; for I know too well that they are devoured by wild beasts.”
At that moment a voice whispered, “Be faithful, Eustacius, and thou wilt shortly recover thy lost honours, and again look upon thy wife and offspring.”
Now when the soldiers met Placidus they knew not who he was; and accosting him, they asked if he were acquainted with any foreigner named Placidus, With his wife and two sons. He replied that he did not, but requested that they would rest in his house. And so he took them home, and waited on them. And here, as before, at the recollection of his former splendour, his tears flowed. Unable to contain himself, he went out of doors, and when he had washed his face he re-entered, and continued his service. By-and-by one said to the other, “Surely this man bears great resemblance to him we inquire after.” “Of a truth,” answered his companion, “you say well. Let us examine if he possess a sabre-mark on his head, which he received in action.” They did so, and finding a scar which indicated a similar wound, they leaped up and embraced him, and inquired after his wife and sons.
He told his adventures; and the neighbours coming in, listened with wonder to the account delivered by the soldiers of his military achievements and former magnificence. Then, obeying the command of the emperor, they clothed him in sumptuous apparel. On the fifteenth day they reached the imperial court, and the emperor, apprised of his coming, went out to meet him, and saluted him with great gladness. Eustacius told all that had befallen him. He was then invested with the command of the army, and restored to every office that he had held before his departure.
He now therefore prepared with energy to encounter their enemies. He drew together from all parts the young men of the country; and it fell to the lot of the village where his own children were educated, to send two to the army; and these very youths were selected by the inhabitants as the best and bravest of their number. They appeared before the general, and their elegant manners, so much above their station, united to a singular propriety of conduct, won his esteem. He placed them in the van of his troops, and began his march against the enemy. Now the spot on which he pitched his tent was near his wife’s abode; and, strange to say, the sons themselves, in the general distribution of the soldiers, were quartered with their own mother, but all the while ignorant with whom they were stationed.
About mid-day, the lads sitting together, related the various chances to which their infancy had been subject; and the mother, who was at no great distance, became an attentive listener. “Of what I was while a child,” said the elder of the brothers, “I remembers nothing, except that my beloved father was a leader of a company of soldiers; and that my mother, who was very beautiful, had two sons, of whom I was the elder. We left home with our parents during the night, and embarking on board a vessel that immediately put to sea, sailed I know not whither. Our mother remained in the ship, but wherefore I am also ignorant. In the meantime, our father carried my brother and myself in his arms, and me he left upon the nearer bank of a river, until he had borne the younger of us across. But when he was returning to me, a wolf darted from a thicket and bore him off in his mouth. Before he could hasten back to him, a prodigious lion seized upon me, and carried me into a neighbouring wood. But shepherds delivered me, and brought me up amongst them.”
The younger brother here burst into a flood of tears, and exclaimed, “Surely I have found my brother; for they who brought me up frequently declared that I was saved from the jaws of a wolf.” They exchanged embraces, and the mother, who listened, felt a strong conviction that they were her own children. She was silent, however, and the next day went to the commander of the forces, and begged leave to go into her own country. “I am a Roman woman,” said she, “and a stranger in these parts.”
As she uttered these words, her eye fixed with an earnest and anxious gaze upon the countenance of him she addressed. 1t was her husband, whom she now for the first time recollected; and she threw herself at his feet, unable to contain her joy. “My lord,” cried the glad woman, “I entreat you to tell something of your past life; for unless I greatly mistake, you are Placidus, the master of the soldiery, since known by the name of Eustacius, whom our blessed Saviour converted and tried by temptations. I am his wife, taken from him at sea by a wretch, who yet spared me from the worst. I had two sons, Agapetus and Theosbytus.”
These words recalled Eustacius to himself. Time and sorrow had made much change in both, but the recognition was full of happiness. They embraced and wept, giving glory to God as the God of all consolation. The wife then said, “My lord, what has become of our children?” “Alas!” replied he, “they were carried off by wild beasts; “and he told the manner of their loss. “Give thanks,” said his wife, “give manifold thanks to the Lord; for as His Providence bath revealed our existence to each other, so will He give us back our beloved offspring.” “Did I not tell you,” returned he, “that wild beasts had devoured them?”
“True; but yesternight as I sat in the garden I overheard two young men tell of their childhood, and whom I believe to be our sons. Ask them, and they will tell you.”
Messengers were immediately despatched for this purpose, and a few questions convinced Eustacius of the full completion of his happiness. They fell upon each other’s neck and wept aloud. It was a joyful occasion; the whole army shared the joy of their general. A splendid victory ensued. Before their return the Emperor Trajan died, and was succeeded by Adrian, more wicked even than his predecessor. However, he received the conqueror and his family with great magnificence, and sumptuously entertained them at his own table. But the day following the emperor would have proceeded to the temple of his idols to sacrifice, in consequence of the late victory, and desired his guests to accompany him. “My lord,” said Eustacius, “I worship the God of the Christians; and Him only do I serve and propitiate with sacrifice.”
Enraged at an
opposition he had not contemplated, he placed the man who had freed Rome from a
foreign yoke, with his whole family, in the arena, and let loose a ferocious
lion upon them. But the lion, to the astonishment of all, held down his head
before them, as if in reverence. On which the ungrateful emperor ordered a
brazen ox to be fabricated, and heated to the highest degree. In this his
victims were cast alive; but with prayer and supplication they commended
themselves to the mercy of God, and three days after, being taken out of the
furnace in the presence of the emperor, it appeared as if they had died tranquilly
in bed. Not a hair of their heads was scorched, nor was there the smallest
perceptible change, more than the easiest transition from life occasions. The
Christians buried their corpses in the most honourable manner, and over them
constructed an oratory. They perished in the first year of Adrian, A.D. 120, in
the kalends of November; or, as some write, the 12th of the kalends of October.
WE read, that at
the death of Alexander a golden sepulchre was constructed, and that a number of
philosophers assembled round it. One said: “Yesterday, Alexander made a
treasure of gold, and now gold makes a treasure of him.” Another observed:
“Yesterday, the whole world was not enough to satiate his ambition; to-day,
three or four ells of cloth are more than sufficient.” A third said:
“Yesterday, Alexander commanded the people; to-day, the people command him.”
Another said: “Yesterday, Alexander could enfranchise thousands; to-day, he
cannot free himself from the bonds of death.” Another remarked: “Yesterday, he
pressed the earth; to-day, it oppresses him.” “Yesterday,” continued another,
“all men feared Alexander; to-day, men repute him nothing.” Another said:
“Yesterday, Alexander had a multitude of friends; to-day, nOt one.” Another
said: “Yesterday, Alexander led on an army; today that army bears him to the
VALERIUS tells us,
that a man named Paletinus one day burst into tears; and calling his son and
his neighbours around him, said, “Alas! alas! I have now growing in my garden a
fatal tree, on which my first poor wife hung herself, then my second, and after
that my third. Have I not therefore cause for wretchedness?” “Truly,” said one
who was called Arrius, “I marvel that you should weep at such unusual good fortune!
Give me, I pray you, two or three sprigs of that gentle tree, which I will
divide with my neighbours, and thereby enable every man to indulge his spouse.”
Paletinus complied with his friend’s request; and ever after found this tree
the most productive part of his estate.
JOSEPHUS mentions that Tiberius Cæsar, inquiring why the governors of provinces remain so long in office, was answered by an example. “I have seen,” said the respondent, “an infirm man covered with ulcers, grievously tormented by a swarm of flies. When asked why he did not use a flap and drive off his tormentors, he answered, ‘The very circumstance which you think would relieve me would, in effect, cause tenfold suffering. For by driving away the flies now saturated with my blood, I should afford an opportunity to those that were empty and hungry to supply their place. And who doubts that the biting of a hungry insect is ten thousand times more painful than that of one completely gorged, unless the person attacked be stone, and not flesh.’“
WHEN Jovinian was emperor, he had very great power, and as he lay in bed reflecting upon the extent of his dominions, his heart was elated.
“Is there,” he impiously asked, “is there any other god than me?” Amid such thoughts he fell asleep.
In the morning, he reviewed his troops, and said, “My friends, after breakfast we will hunt.”
Preparations being made accordingly, he set out with a large retinue. During the chase, the emperor felt such extreme oppression from the heat, that he believed his very existence depended upon a cold bath. As he anxiously looked around, he discovered a sheet of water at no great distance. “Remain here,” said he to his guard, “until I have refreshed myself in yonder stream.” Then spurring his steed, he rode hastily to the edge of the water. Alighting, he stripped off his clothes, and experienced the greatest pleasure from its invigorating freshness and coolness. But whilst he was thus employed, a person similar to him in every respect — in countenance and gesture — arrayed himself unperceived in the emperor’s dress, and then mounting his horse, rode off to the attendants. The resemblance to the sovereign was such, that no doubt was entertained of the reality; and straightway command Was issued for their return to the palace.
Jovinian, however, having quitted the water, sought in every possible direction for his horse and clothes, and to his utter astonishment, could find neither. Vexed beyond measure at the circumstance (for he was completely naked, and saw no one near to assist him) he began to reflect upon what course he should pursue. “Miserable man that I am,” said he, “to what a strait am I reduced!
There is, I remember, a knight who lives close by; I will go to him, and command his attendance and service. I will then ride on to the palace and strictly investigate the cause of this extraordinary conduct. Some shall smart for it.”
Jovinian proceeded, naked and ashamed, to the castle of the aforesaid knight, and beat loudly at the gate. The porter, without unclosing the wicket, inquired the cause of the knocking. “Open the gate,” said the enraged emperor, “and you will see who I am.” The gate was opened; and the porter, struck with the strange appearance he exhibited, replied, “In the name of all that is marvellous, what are you?” “I am,” said he, “Jovinian, your emperor; go to your lord, and command him from me to supply the wants of his sovereign. I have lost both horse and clothes.” “Infamous ribald!” shouted the porter, “just before thy approach, the Emperor Jovinian, accompanied by the officers of his household, entered the palace. My lord both went and returned with him; and but even now sat with him at meat. But because thou hast called thyself the emperor, however madly, my lord shall know of thy presumption.” The porter entered, and related what had passed. Jovinian was introduced, but the knight retained not the slightest recollection of his master, although the emperor remembered him. “Who are you?” said the knight, “and what is your name?” “I am the Emperor Jovinian,” rejoined he; “canst thou have forgotten me? At such a time I promoted thee to a military command.” “Why, thou most audacious scoundrel,” said the knight, “darest thou call thyself the emperor? I rode with him myself to the palace, from whence I am this moment returned. But thy impudence shall not go without its reward. Flog him,” said he, turning to his servants. “Flog him soundly, and drive him away.”
This sentence was immediately executed, and the poor emperor, bursting into a convulsion of tears, exclaimed, “Oh, my God, is it possible that one whom I have so much honoured and exalted should do this? Not content with pretending ignorance of my person, he orders these merciless villains to abuse me! However, it will not be long unavenged. There is a certain duke, one of my privy councillors, to whom I will make known my calamity. At least, he will enable me to return decently to the palace.” To him, therefore, Jovinian proceeded, and the gate was opened at his knock. But the porter, beholding a naked man, exclaimed in the greatest amaze, “Friend, who are you, and why come you here in such a guise?” He replied, “I am your emperor; I have accidentally lost my clothes and my horse, and I have come for succour to your lord. Inform the duke, therefore, that I have business with him.” The porter, more and more astonished, entered the hall, and told of the man outside. “Bring him in,” said the duke. He was brought in, but neither did he recognize the person of the emperor. “What art thou?” was again asked, and answered as before. “Poor mad wretch,” said the duke, “a short time since, I returned from the palace, where I left the very emperor thou assumest to be. But ignorant whether thou art more fool or knave, we will administer such remedy as may suit both. Carry him to prison, and feed him with bread and water.” The command was no sooner delivered, than obeyed; and the following day his naked body was submitted to the lash, and again cast into the dungeon.
Thus afflicted, he gave himself up to the wretchedness of his untoward condition. In the agony of his heart, he said: “What shall I do? Oh! what will be my destiny? I am loaded with the coarsest contumely, and exposed to the malicious observation of my people. It were better to hasten immediately to my palace, and there discover myself — my.. wife will know me; surely, my wife will know me!” Escaping, therefore, from his confinement, he approached the palace and beat upon the gate. The same questions were repeated, and the same answers returned. “Who art thou?” said the porter. “It is strange,” replied the aggrieved emperor, “it is strange that thou shouldst not know me; thou, who hast served me so long!” “Served thee!” returned the porter indignantly; “thou liest abominably. I have served none but the emperor.” “Why,” said the other, “thou knowest that I am he. Yet, though you disregard my words, go, I implore you, to the empress; communicate what I will tell thee, and by these signs, bid her send the imperial robes, of which some rogue has deprived me. The signs I tell thee of are known to none but to ourselves.” “In verity,” said the porter, “thou art specially mad; at this very moment my lord sits at table with the empress herself. Nevertheless, out of regard for thy singular merits, I will intimate thy declaration within; and rest assured thou wilt presently find thyself most royally beaten.” The porter went accordingly, and related what he had heard. But the empress became very sorrowful, and said: “Oh, my lord, what am I to think? The most hidden passages of our lives are revealed by an obscene fellow at the gate, and repeated to me by the porter, on the strength of which he declares himself the emperor, and my espoused lord!” When the fictitious monarch was apprised of this, he commanded him to be brought in. He had no sooner entered, than a large dog, which couched upon the hearth, and had been much cherished by him, flew at his throat, and, but for timely prevention, would have killed him. A falcon also, seated upon her perch, no sooner beheld him than she broke her jesses and flew out of the hall. Then the pretended emperor, addressing those who stood about him, said: “My friends, hear what I will ask of yon ribald. Who are you? and what do you want?” “These questions,” said the suffering man, “are very strange. You know I am the emperor and master of this place.” The other, turning to the nobles who sat or stood at the table, continued: “Tell me, on your allegiance, which of us two is your lord and master?” “Your majesty asks us an easy thing,” replied they, “and need not to remind us of our allegiance. That obscene wretch cannot be our sovereign. You alone are he, whom we have known from childhood; and we intreat that this fellow may be severely punished as a warning to others how they give scope to their mad presumption.” Then turning to the empress, the usurper said: “Tell me, my lady, on the faith you have sworn, do you know this man who calls himself thy lord and emperor?” She answered: “My lord, how can you ask such a question? Have I not known thee more than thirty years, and borne thee many children? Yet, at one thing I do admire. How can this fellow have acquired so intimate a knowledge of what has passed between us?”
The pretended emperor made no reply, but addressing the real one, said: “Friend, how Barest thou to call thyself emperor? We sentence thee, for this unexampled impudence, to be drawn, without loss of time, at the tail of a horse. And if thou utterest the same words again, thou shalt be doomed to an ignominious death.” He then commanded his guards to see the sentence put in force, but to preserve his life. The unfortunate emperor was now almost distracted; and urged by his despair, wished vehemently for death. “Why Was I born?” he exclaimed. “My friends shun me, and my wife and children will not acknowledge me. But there is my confessor, still. To him will I go; perhaps he will recollect me, because he has often received my confessions.” He went accordingly, and knocked at the window of his cell. “Who is there?” said the confessor. “The Emperor Jovinian,” was the reply; “open the window and I will speak to thee.” The window was opened; but no sooner had he looked out than he closed it again in great haste. “Depart from me,” said he, “accursed thing: thou art not the emperor, but the devil incarnate.” This completed the miseries of the persecuted man; and he tore his hair, and plucked up his beard by the roots. “Woe is me,” he cried, “for what strange doom am I reserved?” At this crisis, the impious words which, in the arrogance of his heart, he had uttered, crossed his recollection. Immediately he beat again at the window of the confessor’s cell, and exclaimed: “For the love of Him who was suspended from the cross, hear my confession.” The recluse opened the window, and said, “I will do this with pleasure; “and then Jovinian acquainted him with every particular of his past life; and principally how he had lifted himself up against his Maker.
made, and absolution given, the recluse looked out of his window, and directly
knew him. “Blessed be the most high God,” said he, “now I do know thee. I have
here a few garments: clothe thyself, and go to the palace. I trust that they
also will recognize thee.” The emperor did as the confessor directed. The
porter opened the gate, and made a low obeisance to him. “Dost thou know me?”
said he. “Very well, my lord!” replied the menial; “but I marvel that I did not
observe you go out.” Entering the hall of his mansion, Jovinian was received by
all with a profound reverence. The strange emperor was at that time in another
apartment with the queen; and a certain knight going to him, said, “My lord,
there is one in the hall to whom everybody bends; he so much resembles you,
that we know not which is the emperor.” Hearing this, the usurper said to the
empress, “Go and see if you know him.” She went, and returned greatly surprised
at what she saw. “Oh, my lord,” said she, “I declare to you that I know not
whom to trust.” “Then,” returned he, “I will go and determine you.” And taking
her hand he led her into the hall and placed her on the throne beside him.
Addressing the assembly, he said, “By the oaths you have taken, declare which
of us is your emperor.” The empress answered: “It is incumbent on me to speak
first; but heaven is my witness, that I am unable to determine which is he.”
And so said all. Then the feigned emperor spoke thus: “My friends, hearken!
That man is your king and your lord. He exalted himself to the disparagement of
his Maker; and God, therefore, scourged and hid him from your knowledge. But
his repentance removes the rod; he has now made ample satisfaction, and again
let your obedience wait upon him. Commend yourselves to the protection of
heaven.” So saying, he disappeared. The emperor gave thanks to God, and
surrendering to Him all his soul, lived happily and finished his days in peace.
Two physicians once lived in a city, who were admirably skilled in medicine, insomuch that all the sick who took their prescriptions were healed; and it thence became a question with the inhabitants, which of them was the best. After a while, a dispute arose between them upon this point.
Said one, “My friend, why should discord or envy or anger separate us; let us make the trial, and whosoever is inferior in skill shall serve the other.”
“But how,” replied his friend, “is this to be brought about?”
The first physician answered: “Hear me. I will pluck out your eyes without doing you the smallest injury, and lay them before you on the table; and when you desire it I will replace them as perfect and serviceable as they were before. If, in like manner, you can perform this, we will then be esteemed equal, and walk as brethren through the world. But, remember, he who fails in the attempt shall become the servant of the other.”
“I am well pleased,” returned his fellow, “to do as you say.” Whereupon he who made the proposition took out his instruments and extracted the eyes, besmearing the sockets and the outer part of the lids with a certain rich ointment.
“My dear friend,” said he, “what do you perceive?”
“Of a surety,” cried the other, “I see nothing. I want the use of my eyes, but I feel no pain from their loss. I pray you, however, restore them to their places as you promised.”
“Willingly,” said his friend. He again touched the inner and outer part of the lids with the ointment, and then, with much precision, inserted the balls into their sockets. “How do you see now?” asked he.
“Excellently,” returned the other, “nor do I feel the least pain.” “Well, then,” continued the first, “it now remains for you to treat me in a similar manner.” “I am ready,” he said. And accordingly taking the instruments, as the first had done, he smeared the upper and under parts of the eye with a peculiar ointment, drew out the eyes and placed them upon the table. The patient felt no pain, but added, “I wish you would hasten to restore them.” The operator cheerfully complied; but as he prepared his implements, a crow entered by an open window, and seeing the eyes upon the table, snatched one of them up, and flew away with it. The physician, vexed at what had happened, said to himself, “If I do not restore the eye to my companion, I must become his slave.” At that moment a goat, browsing at no great distance, attracted his observation. Instantly he ran to it, drew out one of his eyes, and put it into the place of the lost one.
“My dear friend,” exclaimed the operator, “how do things appear to you?”
“Neither in extracting nor in replacing,” he answered, “did I suffer the least pain; but — bless me! — one eye looks up to the trees!”
“Ah!” replied the first, “this is the very perfection of medicine. Neither of us is superior; henceforward we will be friends, as we are equals; and banish far off that spirit of contention which has destroyed our peace.” The goat-eyed man of physic acquiesced; they lived from this time in the greatest amity.
IN the reign of Pompey there lived a fair and amiable lady, and near to her dwelt a handsome, noble soldier. He often visited her, and professed much honourable love. The soldier coming once to see her, observed a falcon upon her wrist, which he greatly admired. “Dear lady,” said he, “if you love me, give me that beautiful bird.” “I consent,” returned she, “but on one condition, that you do not attach yourself so much to it as to rob me of your society.” “Far be such ingratitude from your servant,” cried the soldier, “I would not forsake you on any account; and believe me, this generosity binds me more than ever to love you.”
The lady presented the falcon to him; and bidding her farewell, he returned to his own castle. But he liked the bird so much, that he forgot his promise to the lady, and never thought of her except when he sported with the falcon. She sent messengers to him, but it was of no use; he came not: and at last she wrote a very urgent letter, entreating him, without the least delay, to hasten to her and bring the falcon along with him.
He acquiesced; and the lady, after salutation, asked him to let her touch the bird. But when she had it in her hands, she wrenched its head from the body. “Madam,” said the vexed soldier, “what have you done?” To which the lady answered, “Be not offended, but rather rejoice at what I have done. That falcon was the cause of your absence, and I killed him that I might enjoy your company as I was wont.” The soldier, satisfied with the reason, became once more faithful in his love.
My beloved, the
king is our heavenly Father; the lady, our human nature joined to the divinity
in Christ. The soldier is any Christian, and the falcon, temporal prosperity.
THE Emperor Pliny had three sons, to whom he was very indulgent. He wished to dispose of his kingdom, and calling the three into his presence, spoke thus: “The laziest of you shall reign after my death.”
“Then,” answered the elder, “the kingdom must be mine; for I am so lazy, that sitting once by the fire, I burnt my legs, because I was too slothful to withdraw them.”
The second son said, “The kingdom should properly be mine, for if I had a rope round my neck, and held a sword in my hand, my idleness is such, that I should not put forth my hand to cut the rope.”
“But I,” said the
third son, “ought to be preferred to you both; for I outdo both in sloth. While
I lay upon my bed, water dropped from above upon my eyes; and though, from the
nature of the water, I was in danger of becoming blind, I neither could nor
would turn my head ever so little to the right hand or to the left.” The
emperor, hearing this, bequeathed the kingdom to him, thinking him the laziest
of the three.
DOMITIAN was a very wise and just prince, and suffered no offender to escape. It happened that as he once sat at table, a certain merchant knocked at the gate. The porter opened it, and asked what he pleased to want.
“I have brought some useful things for sale,” answered the merchant. The porter introduced him, and he very humbly made obeisance to the emperor.
“My friend,” said the emperor, “what merchandise have you to dispose of?”
“Three maxims of especial wisdom and excellence, my lord.”
“And how much will you take for your maxims?”
“A thousand florins.”
“And so,” said the king, “if they are of no use to me I lose my money?”
“My lord,” answered the merchant, “if the maxims do not stand you in stead, I will return the money.”
“Very well,” said the emperor. “Let us hear your maxims.”
“The first, my lord, is this: ‘Whatever you do, do wisely; and think of the consequences.’ The second is: ‘Never leave the highway for a byway.’ And, thirdly: ‘Never stay all night as a guest in that house where you find the master an old man and his wife a young woman.’ These three maxims, if you attend to them, will be extremely serviceable.”
The emperor, being of the same opinion, ordered him to be paid a thousand florins; and so pleased was he with the first, that he commanded it to be inscribed in his court, in his bed-chamber, and in every place where he was accustomed to walk, and even upon the table-cloths from which he ate.
Now the rigid justice of the emperor occasioned a conspiracy among the vicious and refractory of his subjects; and finding the means of accomplishing their purposes somewhat difficult, they engaged a barber, by large promises, to cut his throat as he shaved him.
When the emperor, therefore, was to be shaved, the barber lathered his beard, and began to operate upon it; but casting his eyes over the towel which he had fastened round the royal neck, he perceived woven thereon, “Whatever you do, do wisely, and think of the consequences.” The inscription startled the tonsor, and he said to himself, “I am to-day hired to destroy this man. If I do it, my end will be ignominious; I shall be condemned to the most shameful death. Therefore, whatsoever I do, it is good to consider the end, as the writing testifies.” These cogitations disturbed the barber so much that his hand trembled, and the razor fell to the ground. The emperor, seeing this, inquired the cause.
“Oh, my lord,” said the barber, “have mercy upon me: I was hired this day to destroy you; but accidentally, or rather by the will of God, I read the inscription on the towel, ‘Whatever you do, do wisely, and think of the consequences.’ Whereby, considering that, of a surety, the consequence would be my own destruction, my hand trembled so much, that I lost all command over it.”
“Well,” thought the emperor, “this first maxim bath assuredly saved my life: in a good hour was it purchased. My friend,” said he to the barber, “on condition that you be faithful hereafter, I pardon you.”
The noblemen who had conspired against the emperor, finding that their project had failed, consulted with one another what they were to do next.
“On such a day,” said one, “he journeys to a particular city; we will hide ourselves in a bypath, through which, in all probability, he will pass, and so kill him.”
The counsel was approved.
The king, as had been expected, prepared to set out; and riding on till he came to a cross-way, much less circuitous than the high road, his knights said, “My lord, it will be better for you to go this way, than to pass along the broad road; it is considerably nearer.”
The king pondered the matter within himself. “The second maxim,” thought he, “admonishes me never to forsake the highway for a byway. I will adhere to that maxim.”
Then turning to his soldiers, “I shall not quit the public road; but you, if it please you, may proceed by that path, and prepare for my approach.” Accordingly a number of them went; and the ambush, imagining that the king rode in their company, fell upon them and put the greater part to the sword. When the news reached the king, he secretly exclaimed, “My second maxim hath also saved my life.”
Seeing, therefore, that by cunning they were unable to slay their lord, the conspirators again took counsel, and it was observed, that on a certain day he would lodge in a particular house, “because,” said they, “there is no other fit for his reception. Let us then agree with the master of that hose, and his wife, for a sum of money to kill the emperor as he lies in bed.”
This was agreed to.
But when the emperor had come into the city, and had been lodged in the house to which the conspirators referred, he commanded his host to be called into his presence. Observing that he was an old man, the emperor said, “Have you not a wife?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“I wish to see her.”
The lady came; and when it appeared that she was very young — not eighteen years of age — the king said hastily to his chamberlain, “Away, prepare me a bed in another house. I will remain here no longer.”
“My lord,” replied he, “be it as you please. But they have made everything ready for you: were it not better to lie where you are, for in the whole city there is not so, commodious a place.”
“I tell you,” answered the emperor, “I will sleep elsewhere.”
The chamberlain, therefore, removed; and the king went privately to another residence, saying to the soldiers about him, “Remain here, if you like; but join me early in the morning.”
Now while they slept, the old man and his wife arose, and not finding the king, put to death all the soldiers who had remained. In the morning, when the murder was discovered, the emperor gave thanks to God for his escape. “Oh,” cried he, “if I had continued here, I should have been destroyed. So the third maxim bath also preserved me.”
But the old man and
his wife, with the whole of their family, were crucified. The emperor retained
the three maxims in memory during life, and ended his days in peace.
THERE were once three friends who agreed to make a pilgrimage together. It happened that their provisions fell short, and having but one loaf between them, they were nearly famished.
“Should this loaf,” they said to each other, “be divided amongst us, there will not be enough for any one. Let us then take counsel together, and consider how the bread is to be disposed of.”
“Suppose we sleep upon the way,” replied one of them; “and whosoever hath the most wonderful dream shall possess the loaf.”
The other two acquiesced, and settled themselves to sleep.
But he who gave the advice, arose while they were sleeping, and ate up the bread, not leaving a single crumb for his companions. When he had finished he awoke them.
“Get up quickly,” said he, “and tell us your dreams.”
“My friends,” answered the first, .” I have had a very marvellous vision. A golden ladder reached up to heaven, by which angels ascended and descended. They took my soul from my body, and conveyed it to that blessed place where I beheld the Holy Trinity; and where I felt such an overflow of joy, as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. This is my dream.”
“And I,” said the second, “beheld the devils with iron instruments, by which they dragged my sol from the body, and plunging it into hell flames, most grievously tormented me, saying, ‘As long as God reigns in heaven this will be your portion.’”
“Now then,” said
the third, who had eaten the bread, “hear my dream. It appeared as if an angel
came and addressed me in the following manner: ‘My friend, would you see what
is become of your companions?’ I answered, ‘Yes, Lord. We have but one loaf
among us, and I fear that they have run off with it.’ ‘You are mistaken,’ he
rejoined, ‘it lies beside us; follow me.’ He immediately led me to the gate of
heaven, and by his command I put in my head and saw you; and I thought that
you were snatched up into heaven and sat upon a throne of gold, while rich
wines and delicate meats stood around you. Then said the angel, ‘Your
companion, you see, has an abundance of good things, and dwells in all
pleasures. There he will remain for ever; for he has entered a celestial
kingdom, and cannot return. Come now where your other associate is placed.’ I
followed, and lie led me to hell-gates, where I beheld you in torment, as you
just now said. Yet they furnished you, even there, with bread and wine in
abundance. I expressed my sorrow at seeing you in misery, and you replied, ‘As
long as God reigns in heaven here I must remain, for I have merited it. Do you
then rise up quickly, and eat all the bread, since you will see neither me nor
my companion again.’ I complied with your wishes; arose, and ate the bread.”
IN the reign of a certain king there lived a proud and oppressive seneschal. Now near the royal palace was a forest well stocked with game; and by the direction of this person various pits were dug there, and covered with leaves, for the purpose of entrapping the beasts. It happened that the seneschal himself went into this forest, and with much exaltation of heart exclaimed internally, “Lives there a being in the empire more powerful than I am?” This braggart thought was scarcely formed, ere lie rode upon one of his own pitfalls, and immediately disappeared.
The same day had been taken a lion, a monkey, and a serpent. Terrified at the situation into which fate had thrown him, he cried out lustily; and his noise awoke a poor man called Guido, who had come with his ass into that forest for firewood, by the sale of which he got his bread. Hastening to the mouth of the pit, and finding the cause of the noise, he was promised great wealth if he would lift the seneschal out.
“My friend,” answered Guido, “I have no means of obtaining a livelihood except by the faggots which I collect; if I neglect this for one day, I shall starve.”
The seneschal renewed his promises of enriching him. Guido went back to the city, and returned with a long cord, which he let down into the pit, and bade the seneschal bind it round his waist. But before he could do so, the lion leaped forward, and seizing upon the cord, was drawn up in his stead. Immediately, in high glee, the beast ran off into the wood. The rope again descended, and the monkey having noticed the success of the lion, vaulted above the man’s head, and shaking the cord, was in like manner set at liberty. Without staying to return thanks, he hurried off to his haunts. A third time the cord was let down, and the serpent twining around it, was drawn up, and escaped.
“O my good friend,” said the seneschal, “the beasts are gone, now draw me up quickly, I pray you.”
Guido complied, and afterwards succeeded in drawing up his horse, which the seneschal instantly mounted and rode back to the palace.
Guido returned home; and his wife observing that he had come without wood, was very dejected, and inquired the cause. He related what had occurred, and the riches he was to receive for his service. The wife’s countenance brightened, and early in the morning she posted off her husband to the palace. But the seneschal denied all knowledge of him, and ordered him to be whipped for his presumption. The porter executed the directions, and beat him so severely that lie left him half dead. As soon as Guido’s wife understood this, she saddled their ass, and brought him home. The sickness which ensued, consumed the whole of their little property; but as soon as he had recovered, he went back to his usual occupation in the wood.
Whilst he was thus employed, he saw afar off ten asses laden with packs, and a lion by the last of them, coming along the path. On looking narrowly at this beast, he remembered that it was the same which he had freed from its imprisonment in the pit. The lion signified with his foot that he should take the loaded asses, and go home. This Guido did, and the lion followed. When he had come to his own door, the noble beast fawned upon him, and wagging his tail as if in triumph, ran back to the woods. Guido caused proclamation to be made in different churches,1 that if any asses had been lost, the owners should come to him; but no one appearing to demand them, he opened the packages, and to his great joy discovered them full of money.
On the second day Guido returned to the forest, but forgot an iron instrument to cleave the wood. He looked up, and saw the monkey whom he had set free; and the animal, by help of teeth and nails, worked for him. Guido then loaded his asses and went home.
The next day he renewed his visit to the forest; and sitting down to prepare his axe, discerned the serpent, whose escape he had aided, carrying a stone in its mouth of three colours; the one white, another black, and the third red. It opened its mouth and let the stone fall into Guido’s lap. Having done this, it departed. Guido took the stone to a skilful lapidary, who had no sooner inspected it than he knew its virtues, and would willingly have paid him a hundred florins for it. But Guido refused; and by means of that singular stone, obtained great wealth, and was promoted to a military command.
The emperor having heard of the extraordinary qualities which it possessed, desired to see it. Guido went accordingly; and the emperor was so struck with its uncommon beauty, that he wished to purchase it at any rate; and threatened, if Guido refused compliance, to banish him the kingdom.
“My lord,” answered he, “I will sell the stone; but let me say one thing — if the price be not given, it shall be presently restored to me.”
He demanded three hundred florins, and then taking it from a small coffer, put it into the emperor’s hands. Full of admiration, he exclaimed, “Tell me where you procured this beautiful stone?”
This he did; and related from the beginning the seneschal’s accident and subsequent ingratitude. He told how severely he had been whipped by his command; and the benefits he had received from the lion, the monkey, and serpent.
1 “Per ecclesias proclamare fecit.”
This may either mean that a notice was fastened to the church door, or given
out from the pulpit. The last is most probable.
A CERTAIN king had an only son whom he much loved. The young man was desirous of travelling, and obtained his father’s leave to travel. After an absence of seven years he returned, and his father, overjoyed at his arrival, asked what friends he had made. “Three,” said the son “the first of whom I love more than myself; the second, as much as myself; and the third, little or nothing.”
“You say well,” returned the father; “but it is a good thing to prove them before you need their help. Therefore kill a pig, put it into a sack, and go at night to the house of him whom you love best, and say that you have accidentally killed a man, and if the body should be found I shall condemn you to an ignominious death. Intreat him if he ever loved you, to give his help in this extremity.” The son did so; and the friend answered, “Since you have rashly destroyed a man, you must needs be crucified. Now because you were my friend, I will bestow upon you three or four ells of cloth to wrap your body in.”
The youth hearing this, went in much indignation to the second of his friends, and told the same story. He received him like the first, and said, “Do you believe me mad, that I should expose myself to such peril? But since I have called you my friend, I will accompany you to the cross, and console you as much as possible upon the way.”
proposal not meeting the prince’s approbation, he went to the third, and said,
“I am ashamed to speak what I have done; but alas! I have accidentally slain a
man.” “My friend,” answered the other, “I will readily lay down my life in your
defence; and should you be condemned to expiate your misfortune on the cross, I
will be crucified either for you or with you.” This
man, therefore, proved that he was his friend.
A KING issued a proclamation, that whosoever would come to him should obtain all they asked. The noble and the rich desired dukedoms, or counties, or knighthood; and some treasures of silver and gold. But whatsoever they desired they had. Then came the poor and the simple, and solicited a like boon.
“Ye come late,” said the king, “the noble and the rich have already been, and have carried away all I possess.” This reply troubled them exceedingly; and the king, moved by their concern, said, “My friends, though I have given away all my wealth, I have still the sovereign power; no one asked for that. I appoint you, therefore, to be their judges and masters.”
When this came to the ears of the rich, they were extremely disturbed, and said to the king, “My lord, we are greatly troubled at your appointing these poor wretches our rulers; it were better for us to die than admit such servitude.”
the king, “I do you no wrong: whatever you asked I gave; insomuch that nothing
remains to me but the supreme power. Nevertheless, I will give you counsel.
Whosoever of you has enough to support life, let him bestow the superfluity
upon these poor people. They will then live honestly and comfortably, and upon
these conditions I will resume the sovereignty and keep it, while you avoid the
servitude you fear.” And thus it was done.
A THIEF went one night to the house of a rich man, and scaling the roof, peeped through a hole to See whether any part of the family were vet stirring. The master of the house, suspecting something, said secretly to his wife, “Ask me in a loud voice how I got my property, and do not stop until I bid you.”
The woman complied, and began to shout, “My dear husband, pray tell me, since you never were a merchant, how you came by all the wealth you have.”
“My love,” answered her husband, “do not ask such foolish questions.”
But she persisted in her inquiries; and at length, as if overcome by her urgency, he said, “Keep what I am going to tell you a secret, and you shall know.”
“Oh! trust me.”
“Well, then, you must know that I was a thief, and got what I now enjoy by nightly depredations.”
“It is strange,” said the wife, “that you were never taken.”
“Why,” he replied, “my master, who was a skilful clerk, taught me a particular word, which, when I went on the tops of people’s houses, I pronounced, and thus escaped detection.”
“Tell me, I conjure you,” returned the lady, “what that powerful word was.”
“Hear, then; but never mention it again, or we shall lose all our property.”
“Be sure of that,” said the lady; “it shall never be repeated.”
“It was — is there no one within hearing ? — the mighty word was ‘FALSE.’”
apparently quite satisfied, fell asleep; and her husband feigned it. He snored
lustily, and the thief above, who had heard their conversation with much
pleasure, aided by the light of the moon, descended, repeating seven times the
cabalistic sound. But being too much occupied with the charm to mind his
footing, he stepped through the window into the house; and in the fall
dislocated his leg and arm, and lay half dead upon the floor. The owner of the
mansion, hearing the noise, and well knowing the reason, though he pretended
ignorance, asked “What was the matter?” “Oh!” groaned the suffering thief, “False falls.” In the morning he was taken
before the judge, and afterwards suspended on a cross.
ALEXANDER the Great was lord of the whole world. He once collected a large army, and besieged a certain city, around which many knights and others were killed without any visible wound. Much surprised at this, he called together his philosophers, and said, My masters, how is this? My soldiers die, and there is no apparent wound!” “No wonder,” replied they; “under the walls of the city is a basilisk, whose look infects your soldiers, and they die of the pestilence it creates.” “And what remedy is there for this?” said the king.
“Place a glass in a high place between the army and the wall under which the basilisk cowers; and no sooner shall he behold it, than his own figure, reflected in the mirror, shall return the poison upon himself, and kill him.” Alexander took their advice, and thus saved his followers.
My beloved, look
into the glass of reflection, and
by remembrance of human frailty destroy the vices which time breeds.
A KING made a law, by which whosoever was suddenly to be put to death, in the morning, before sunrise should be saluted with songs and trumpets; and, arrayed in black garments, should receive judgment. This king made a great feasts; and convoked all the nobles of his kingdom, who appeared accordingly. The most skilful musicians were assembled, and there was much sweet melody.
But the king was discontented and out of humour; his countenance expressed intense sorrow, and sighs and groans rose from his heart. The courtiers were all amazed; but none dared ask the cause of his sadness. At last, the king’s brother whispered to him the surprise of his guests, and intreated that he might understand the cause of his grief. “Go home now,” answered the king; “to-morrow you shall know.” This was done.
Early in the morning the king caused the trumpets to sound before his brother’s house, and the guards to bring him to the court. The brother, greatly alarmed at the sounding of the trumpets, arose, and put on black. When he came before the king, the king commanded a deep pit to be dug, and a rotten chair, with four decayed feet, to be slightly suspended over it. In this chair he made his brother sit; above his head he caused a sword to hang, attached to one silk thread; and four men, each armed with a very sharp sword, to stand near him, one before and one behind; a third on the right hand, and the fourth on the left. When they were thus placed, the king said, “The moment I give the word, strike him to the heart.”
Trumpets, and all other kind of musical instruments, were brought; and a table, covered with various dishes, was set before him. “My dear brother,” said the king, “what is the cause of your sorrow? Here are the greatest delicacies, the most enrapturing harmony; why do you not rejoice?”
“How can I rejoice?” answered he. “In the morning, trumpets sounded for my death; and I am now placed upon a frail chair, in which, if I move ever so little, I shall probably be thrown upon the pointed sword beneath. If I raise my head, the weapon above will pierce to my brain. Besides this, the four torturers around stand ready to kill me at your bidding. These things considered, were I lord of the universe I could not rejoice.”
“Now, then,” answered the king, “I will reply to your question of yesterday. I am, on my throne, as you on that frail chair. For my body is its emblem, supported by four decayed feet, that is, by the four elements. The pit below me is hell. Above my head is the sword of divine justice, ready to take life from my body. Before me is the sword of death; behind, the sword of sin, ready to accuse me at the tribunal of God. The weapon on the right hand is the devil; and that on the left, is the worms which after death shall gnaw my body. And, considering all these circumstances, how can I rejoice? If you to-day feared me, who am mortal, how much more ought I to dread my Creator and my Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ? Go, dearest brother, and be careful that you do not again ask such questions.”
The brother rose
from his unpleasant seat, and rendering thanks to the king for the lesson he
had given him, firmly resolved to amend his life. All who were present commended
the ingenuity of the royal reproof.
AUGUSTINE tells us
in his book, “De Civitate Dei,” that Diomedes, in a piratical galley, for a
long time infested the sea, plundering and sinking many ships. Being captured
by command of Alexander, before whom he was brought, the king inquired how he
dared to molest the seas. “How darest thou,”
replied he, “molest the earth? Because I am master only of a single galley, I
am termed a robber; but you, who oppress the world with huge squadrons, are
called a king and a conqueror. Would my fortune change I might become better;
but as you are the more fortunate, so much are you the worse.” “I will change
thy fortune,” said Alexander, “lest fortune should be blamed by thy malignity.”
Thus he became rich; and from a robber was made a prince and a dispenser of
THERE was an emperor whose porter was very shrewd. He earnestly besought his master that he might have the custody of a city for a single month, and receive, by way of tax, one penny from every crook-backed, one-eyed, scabby, leprous, or ruptured person. The emperor admitted his request, and confirmed the gift under his own seal.
Accordingly, the porter was installed in his office; and as the people entered the city he took note of their defects, and charged them in accordance with the grant. It happened that a hunch-backed fellow one day entered, and the porter made his demand. Hunch-back protested that he would pay nothing.
The porter immediately laid hands upon him, and accidentally raising his cap, discovered that he was one-eyed also. He demanded two pennies forthwith.
The other still more vehemently opposed, and would have fled.; but the porter catching hold of his head, the cap came off, and disclosed a bald scab; whereupon he required three pennies.
Hunch-back, very much enraged, persisted in his refusal, and began to struggle with the porter. This caused an exposure of his arms, by which it became manifest that he was leprous. The fourth penny was therefore laid claim to; and the scuffle continuing, revealed a rupture, which made a fifth.
Thus, a fellow
unjustly refusing to pay a rightful demand of one penny, was necessitated, much
against his inclination, to pay five.
GERVASE of Tilbury relates a very remarkable occurrence, but at the same time full of excellent caution and prudent exhortation.
During the reign of the Roman emperor Otto, there was, in the bishopric of Girona, in Catalonia, a very high mountain, whose ascent was extremely arduous, and, except in one place, inaccessible. On the summit was an unfathomable lake of black water. Here also stood, as it is reported, a palace of demons, with a large gate, continually closed; but the palace itself, as well as its inhabitants, existed in invisibility. 1f any one cast a stone or other hard substance into this lake, the demons exhibited their anger by furious storms. In one part of the mountain was perpetual snow and ice, with abundance of crystal. At its foot flowed a river, whose sands were of gold; and the precious metal thus obtained, was denominated, by the vulgar, its cloak. The mountain itself and the parts adjacent, furnished silver; and its inexhaustible fertility was not the least surprising.
Not far from hence lived a certain farmer, who was much occupied with domestic matters, and troubled exceedingly by the incessant squalling of his little girl; insomuch, that at length wearied out by the torment, in a moment of fretfulness he wished his infant at the devil. This incautious desire was scarcely uttered, ere the girl was seized by an invisible hand, and carried off. Seven years afterwards, a person journeying at the foot of the mountain near the farmer’s dwelling, distinguished a man hurrying along at a prodigious rate, and uttering the most doleful complaints. He stopped to inquire the occasion; and was told, that for the space of seven years last passed, he had been committed to the custody of the demons upon that mountain, who daily made use of him as of a chariot, in consequence of an unwary exclamation to that effect. The traveller startled at an assertion so extraordinary, and a little incredulous, was informed that his neighbour had suffered in a similar degree; for that having hastily committed his daughter to their power, they had instantly borne her off. He added, that the demons, weary of instructing the girl, would willingly restore her, provided the father presented himself on the mountain and there received her.
The auditor, thunder-struck at this communication, doubted whether he should conceal things so incredible, or relate them as he had heard. He determined, at last, to declare the girl’s situation to her father; and hastening, accordingly, found him still bewailing the lengthened absence of his daughter. Ascertaining the cause, he went on to state what he had heard from the man whom the devils used as a chariot. “Therefore,” said he, “I recommend you, attesting the divine name, to demand of these devils the restitution of your daughter.” Amazed at what was imparted to him, the father deliberated upon the best method of proceeding; and finally, pursued the counsel of the traveller. Ascending the mountain, he passed forward to the lake, and adjured the demons to restore the girl whom his folly had committed to them. Suddenly a violent blast swept by him, and a girl of lofty stature stood in his presence. Her eyes were wild and wandering, and her bones and sinews were scarcely covered with skin. Her horrible countenance discovered no sign of sensibility; and, ignorant of all language, she scarcely could be acknowledged for a human being. The father, wondering at her strange appearance, and doubtful whether she should be taken to his own home or not, posted to the bishop of Girona, and with a sorrowful aspect detailed what had befallen him; at the same time requesting his advice. The bishop, as a religious man, and one entrusted with a charge of so much importance, narrated every circumstance respecting the girl to his diocese. He warned them against rashly committing their fortunes to the power of concealed demons; and showed that our adversary the devil, as a raging lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour; that he will slay those who are given to him, and hold them in eternal bonds.
The man who was
used by the devils as a chariot, a long time remained in this miserable
situation. But his subsequent faith and discretion emancipated him. He stated
that near the above-mentioned place there was an extensive subterranean palace,
whose entrance was by a single gate, enveloped in the thickest darkness.
Through this portal the devils, who had been on embassies to various parts of
the world, returned, and communicated to their fellows what they had done. No
one could tell of what the palace was constructed, save themselves, and those
who passed under their yoke to eternal damnation. From all which, my beloved,
we may gather the dangers we are exposed to, and how cautious we should be of
invoking the devil to our assistance, as well as of committing our family to
his power. Let us guard our hearts, and beware that he catch not up the sinful
soul, and plunge it into the lake of everlasting misery; where there is snow
and ice unthawed; crystal, that reflects the awakened and agonized conscience
perpetually burning with immortal fire.
ALEXANDER had an only son called Celestinus, whom he loved with the utmost tenderness. He desired to have him well instructed; and sending for a certain philosopher, said, “Sir, instruct my son, and I will pay you bountifully.” The philosopher agreed, and took the boy home with him.
He diligently performed his duty; and it happened, that one day entering a meadow with his pupil, they saw a horse lying on the ground, grievously affected with the mange. Near the animal two sheep were tied together, which busily cropped the grass that grew around them. It so chanced that the sheep were on each side of the horse, and the cord with which they were bound passed over his back, and chafing the sores, galled him exceedingly. Disturbed by this, he got up; but the cord, then loaded with the weight of the sheep, afflicted him more and more; and filled with fury, he began to run off at a great speed, dragging along the unfortunate sheep. And in equal proportion to their resistance was the increase of the horse’s suffering, for the cord, having worn itself into a hollow, sunk, at every struggle, deeper into the wound.
Adjoining the meadow was the house of a miller, toward which the horse, impelled by the anguish of his wound, galloped, and entered, with the sheep hanging as we have said. The house was then unoccupied; but there was a fire burning upon the hearth; and the horse plunging and striking his hoofs, so scattered the fire, that the flame caught hold of the building, and burnt all to ashes, together with the horse and the sheep. “Young man,” said the preceptor to his pupil, “you have witnessed the beginning, the middle, and the end of this incident: make me some correct verses upon it; and show me why the house was burnt. Unless you do this, I promise I will punish you severely.”
Celestinus, during the absence of his master, applied himself diligently to study, but he was unable to do his task. This much troubled him; and the devil, ever on the alert, met him in the likeness of a man, and said, “My son, what has made you so sorrowful?”
Celest. “Never mind; it is no use telling you.”
Devil. “You know not that; tell me, and I will help you.”
Celest. “I am charged, under a heavy punishment, to make some verses about a scabby horse and two sheep, and I don’t know how.”
Devil. “Young man, I am the devil in a human form, and the best poet going; care nothing about your master, but promise to serve me faithfully, and I will compose such delectable verses for you that they shall excel those of your pedagogue himself.”
Celestinus, tempted by this insidious proposal, gave his word to serve him faithfully if he fulfilled his engagement. The devil then produced the following verses: —
The boy, made happy by the present, returned home.
Master. “My child, have you stolen your verses, or made them?”
Celest. “I made them, sir.”
He then read what we have given above; and the master, struck with the greatest astonishment at their uncommon beauty, exclaimed, “My dear boy, tell me if any one made these verses for you?”
Celest. “No, sir; no one did.”
Master. “Unless you tell me the truth, I will flog you till the blood run.”
1 As these are probably the only verses on record of the devil’s composition (at least, so well authenticated), I transcribe them for the information of the curious.
“Nexus ovem binam,
per spinam traxit equinam; Læsus surgit equus, pendet utrumque pecus. Ad
molendinum, pondus portabat equinum, Dispergendo focum, se cremat atque locum.
Custodes aberant; singula damna ferant.”
THERE reigned some time in Rome a wise and mighty emperor, named Anselm, who did bear in his arms a shield of silver with five red roses. This emperor had three sons, whom he loved much. He had also continual war with the king of Egypt, in which war he lost all his temporal goods except a precious tree. It fortuned after on a day that he gave battle to the same king of Egypt, wherein he was grievously wounded; nevertheless, he obtained the victory, notwithstanding he had his deadly wound. Wherefore, while he lay at point of death, he called unto his eldest son, and said: “My dear and well-beloved son, all my temporal riches are spent, and almost nothing is left me but a precious tree, the which stands in the midst of my empire. I give to thee all that is under the earth and above the earth of the same tree.” “O my reverend father,” quoth he, “I thank you much.”
Then said the emperor, “Call to me my second son.” Anon the eldest son, greatly joying of his father’s gift, called in his brother. And when he came, the emperor said, “My dear son, I may not make my testament, forasmuch as I have spent all my goods, except a tree which stands in the midst of mine empire, of the which tree, I bequeath to thee all that is great and small.” Then answered he and said, “My reverend father, I thank you much.”
Then said the emperor, “Call to me my third son.” And so it was done. And when he was come the emperor said, “My dear son, I must die of these wounds, and I have only a precious tree, of which I have given thy brethren their portion, and to thee I bequeath thy portion; for I will that thou have of the said tree all that is wet and dry.” Then said his son, “Father, I thank you.”
Soon after the emperor had made his bequest, he died. And the eldest son took possession of the tree. Now when the second son heard this, he came to him, saying, “My brother, by what law or title occupy you this tree?
“Dear brother,” quoth he, “I occupy it by this title: my father gave me all that is under the earth, and above of the said tree, by reason thereof the tree is mine.” “Unknowing to thee,” quoth the second brother, “he gave unto me all that is great and small of the said tree, and therefore I have as great right in the tree as you.” This hearing, the third son he came to them and said, “My well-beloved brethren, it behoved you not to strive for this tree, for I have as much right in the tree as ye, for by the law ye wot that the last will and testament ought to stand, for of truth he gave me of the said tree all that is wet and dry, and therefore the tree by right is mine; but forasmuch as your words are of great force and mine also, my counsel is that we be judged by reason, for it is not good nor commendable that strife or dissension should be among us. Here beside dwelleth a king full of reason; therefore, to avoid strife, let us go to him, and each of us lay his right before him, and as he shall judge, let us stand to his judgment.” Then said his brethren, “Thy counsel is good.” Wherefore they went all three unto the king of reason, and each of them severally showeth forth his right unto him, as it is said before.
When the king had heard the titles, he rehearsed them all again severally, first saying to the eldest son thus: “You say,” quoth the king, “that your father gave you all that is under the earth and above the earth of the said tree. And to the second brother he bequeathed all that is great and small of that tree. And to the third brother he gave all that is wet and dry.”
And with that he laid the law to them, and said that this will ought to stand.
“Now, my dear friends, briefly I shall satisfy all your requests; “and when he had thus said, he turned him unto the eldest brother, saying, “My dear friend, if you list to abide the judgment of right, it behoveth you to be letten blood of the right arm.” “My lord,” quoth he, “your will shall be done.” Then the king called for a discreet physician, commanding him to let him blood.
When the eldest son
was letten blood, the king said unto them all three, “My dear friends, where is
your father buried?” Then answered they, and said, “Forsooth, my lord, in such
a place.” Anon the king commanded to dig in the ground for the body, and to
take a bone out of his breast, and to bury the body again: and so it was done.
And when the bone was taken out, the king commanded that it should be laid in
the blood of the elder brother, and it should lie till it had received kindly
the blood, and then to be laid in the sun and dried, and after that it should
be washed with clear water. His servants fulfilled all that he had commanded:
and when they began to wash, the blood vanished clean away; when the king saw this,
he said to the second son, “1t behoveth that thou be letten blood, as thy
brother was.” Then said he, “My lord’s will shall be fulfilled,” and anon he
was done unto like as his brother was in all things, and when they began to
wash the bone, the blood vanished away. Then said the king to the third son,
“It behoveth thee to be letten blood likewise.” He answered and said, “My lord,
it pleaseth me well so to be.” When the youngest brother was letten blood, and
done unto in all things as the two brethren were before, then the king’s
servants began to wash the bone, but neither for washing nor rubbing might they
do away the blood of the bone, but it ever appeared bloody: when the king saw
this, he said, “It appeareth openly now that this blood is of the nature of the
bone, thou art his true son, and the other two are bastards. I judge thee the
tree for evermore.”
IN Rome some time dwelt a mighty emperor named Martin, which for entire affection kept with him his brother’s son, whom men called Fulgentius. With this Martin dwelt also a knight that was steward of the empire, and uncle unto the emperor, which envied this Fulgentius, studying day and night how he might bring the emperor and this youth at debate. Wherefore the steward on a day went to the emperor, and said, “My lord,” quoth he, “I that am your true servant, am bound in duty to warn your highness, if I hear anything that toucheth your honour, wherefore I have such things that I must needs utter it in secret to your majesty between us two.” Then said the emperor, “Good friend, say on what thee list.”
“My most dear lord,” quoth the steward, “Fulgentius, your cousin and your nigh kinsman, hath defamed you wonderfully and shamefully throughout all your whole empire, saying that your breath stinketh, and that it is death to him to serve your cup.” Then the emperor was grievously displeased, and almost beside himself for anger, and said unto him thus: “I pray thee, good friend, tell me the very truth, if that my breath stinketh as he saith?” “My lord,” quoth the steward, “ye may believe me, I never perceived a sweeter breath in my days than yours is.” “Then,” said the emperor, “I pray thee, good friend, tell me how I may bring this thing to good proof.”
The steward answered and said: “My lord,” quoth he, “ye shall right well understand the truth; for to-morrow next when he serveth you of your cup, ye shall see that he will turn away his face from you, because of your breath, and this is the most certain proof that may be had of this thing.” “Verily,” quoth the emperor, “a truer proof cannot be had of this thing.’’ Therefore anon, when the steward heard this, he went straight to Fulgentius, and took him aside, saying thus: “Dear friend, thou art near kinsman and also nephew unto my lord the emperor, therefore if thou wilt be thankful unto me, I will tell thee of a fault whereof my lord the emperor complaineth oft, and thinks to put thee from him, except it be the sooner amended, and that will be a great reproof to thee.” Then said this Fulgentius: “Ah, good sir, for his love that died upon the cross, tell me why my lord is so sore moved with me, for I am ready to amend my fault in all that I can or may, and for to be ruled by your discreet counsel.”
“Thy breath,” quoth the steward, “stinketh so sore, that his drink doth him no good, so grievous unto him is the stinking breath of thy mouth.” Then said Fulgentius unto the steward: “Truly; that perceived I never till now. But what think ye of my breath? I pray you tell me the very truth.” “Truly,” quoth the steward, “it stinketh greatly and foul.” And this Fulgentius believed all that he had said, and was right sorrowful in his mind, and prayed the steward of his counsel and help in this woeful case. Then said the steward unto him, “If that thou wilt do my counsel, I shall bring this matter to a good conclusion; wherefore do as I shall tell thee.
“I counsel thee for the best, and also warn thee that when thou servest my lord the emperor of his cup, that thou turn thy face away from him, so that he may not smell thy stinking breath, until the time that thou hast provided thee of some remedy therefore.”
Then was Fulgentius right glad, and sware to him that he would do by his counsel.
Not long after it befell that this young man Fulgentius served his lord as he was wont to do, and therewith suddenly he turned his face from the lord the emperor, as the steward had taught him.
And when the emperor perceived the avoiding of his head, he smote this young Fulgentius on the breast with his foot, and said to him thus: “O thou lewd varlet; now I see well it is true that I have heard of thee, and therefore go thou anon out of my sight, that I may see thee no more in this place.” And with that this young Fulgentius wept full sore, and avoided the place, and Went out of his sight.
And when this was done, the emperor called unto him his steward, and said, “How may I rid this varlet from the world, that thus bath defamed me?” “My most dear lord,” quoth the steward, “right well you shall have your intent.
“For here beside, within these three miles, ye have brick-makers, which daily make great fire, for to burn brick, and also they make lime; therefore, my lord, send to them this night, charge them upon pain of .death, that whosoever cometh to them first in the morning, saying to them thus,
My lord commandeth them to fulfil his will,’ that they take him and cast him into the furnace and burn him: and this night command you this Fulgentius, that he go early in the morning to your workmen, and that he ask them whether they have fulfilled your will which they were commanded, or not; and then shall they, according to your commandment, cast him into the fire, and thus shall he die an evil death.”
“Surely,” quoth the emperor, “thy counsel is good; therefore call to me that varlet Fulgentius.” And when the young man was come to the emperor’s presence, he said to him thus: “I charge thee upon pain of death, that thou rise early in the morning, and go to the burners of lime and brick, and that thou be with them early before the sun rise, three miles from this house, and charge them in my behalf, that they fulfil my commandment, or else they shall die a most shameful death.”
Then spake this Fulgentius: “My lord, if God send me my life, I shall fulfil your will, were it that I go to the world’s end.”
When Fulgentius had this charge, he could not sleep for thought, that he must rise early to fulfil his lord’s commandment. The emperor about midnight sent a messenger on horseback unto his brickmakers, commanding, that upon pain of death, that whosoever came to them first in the morning, saying unto them (as is before rehearsed) they should take him and bind him, and cast him into the fire, and burn him to the bare bones.
The brickmakers answered and said, it should be done. Then the messenger returns home again, and told the emperor that his commandment should be diligently fulfilled.
Early in the morning following, Fulgentius arose and prepared him towards his way, and as he went, he heard a bell ring to service, wherefore he went to hear service, and after the end of service he fell asleep, and there slept a long while so soundly, that the priest, nor none other, might awake him.
The steward desiring inwardly to hear of his death, about two of the clock he went to the workmen, and said unto them thus: “Sirs,” quoth he, “have ye done the emperor’s commandment or not?”
The brickmakers answered him and said: “No, truly, we have not yet done his commandment, but it shall be done,” and with that they laid hands on him. Then cried the steward, and said, “Good sirs, save my life, for the emperor commanded that Fulgentius should be put to death.” Then said they, “The messenger told us not so, but he bade us, that whosoever came first in the morning, saying, as you have said, that we should take him, and cast him into the furnace; and burn him to ashes.” And with that they threw him into the fire.
And when he was burnt, Fulgentius came to them and said, “Good sirs, have you done my lord’s commandment?” “Yea, soothly,” said they, “and therefore go ye again to the emperor, and tell him so.” Then said Fulgentius, “For Christ’s love, tell me that commandment?”
“We had in commandment,” said they, “upon pain of death, that whosoever came to us first in the morning, and said like as thou hast said, that we should take him and cast him into the furnace. But before thee came the steward, and therefore on him have we fulfilled the emperor’s commandment; now he is burnt to the bare bones.”
When Fulgentius heard this, he thanked God that he had so preserved him from death; therefore he took his leave of the workmen, and went again to the palace.
When the emperor saw him, he was almost distract of his wits for anger, and thus he said, “Hast thou been with the brickmakers, and fulfilled my commandment?” “Soothly, my gracious lord, I have been there, but ere I am there, your commandment was fulfilled.” “How may that be true,” quoth the emperor.
“Forsooth,” said Fulgentius, “the steward came to them afore me, and said that I should have said, so they took him and threw him into the furnace; and if I had come any earlier, so would they have done to me, and therefore I thank God that he hath preserved me from death.”
Then said the emperor, “Tell me the truth of such questions as I shall demand of thee.” Then said Fulgentius to the emperor, “You never found me in any falsehood, and therefore I greatly wonder why ye have ordained such a death for me; for well ye know that I am your own brother’s son.” Then said the emperor to Fulgentius: “It is no wonder, for that death I ordained for thee, through counsel of the steward, because thou didst defame me throughout all my empire, saying, that my breath did stink so grievously, that it was death to thee, and in token thereof thou turnedst away thy face when thou servedst me of my cup, and that I saw with mine eyes; and for this cause I ordained for thee such a death; and yet thou shalt die, except I hear a better excuse.”
Then answered Fulgentius, and said, “Ah, dear lord, if it might please your highness for to hear me, I shall show you a subtle and deceitful imagination.” “Say on,” quoth the emperor.
“The steward,” quoth Fulgentius, “that is now dead, came to me and said, that ye told unto him that my breath did stink, and thereupon he counselled me, that when I served you of your cup, I should turn my face away; I take God to witness, I lie not.”
When the emperor
heard this, he believed him, and said, “O my nephew, now I see, through the
right wise judgment of God, the steward is burnt, and his own wickedness and
envy is fallen on himself, for he ordained this malice against thee, and
therefore thou art much bound to Almighty God that hath preserved thee from
A LAW was made at Rome, that no man should marry for beauty, but for riches only; and that no woman should be united to a poor man, unless he should by some means acquire wealth equal to her own. A certain poor knight solicited the hand of a rich lady, but she reminded him of the law, and desired him to use the best means of complying with it, in order to effect their union. He departed in great sorrow; and after much inquiry, was informed of a rich duke, who had been blind from the day of his birth. Him he resolved to murder, and obtain his wealth; but found that he was protected in the daytime by several armed domestics, and at night by the vigilance of a faithful dog. He contrived, however, to kill the dog with an arrow, and immediately afterwards the master; with whose money he returned to the lady. He informed her that he had accomplished his purpose; and being asked how this had been done in so short a space of time, he told all that had happened.
The lady desired, before the marriage should take place, that he would go to the spot where the duke was buried, lay himself on his tomb, listen to what he might hear, and then report it to her. The knight armed himself, and went accordingly. In the middle of the night he heard a voice saying, “O duke, that liest here, what askest thou that I can do for thee?” The answer was, “O Jesus, thou upright judge, all that I require is vengeance for my blood unjustly spilt.” The voice rejoined, “Thirty years from this time thy wish shall be fulfilled.” The knight, extremely terrified, returned with the news to the lady. She reflected that thirty years were a long time, and resolved on the marriage. During the whole thirty years the parties remained in perfect happiness.
When the thirty
years were nearly passed, the knight built a strong castle, and over one of the
gates, in a conspicuous place, caused the following verses to be written —
Interrogated as to the meaning of these enigmatical lines, the knight at once explained them, by relating his own story, and added, that in eight days time the thirty years would expire.
He invited all his friends to a feast at that date, and when the day was arrived, the guests placed at table, and the minstrels attuning their instruments of music, a beautiful bird flew in at the window, and began to sing with uncommon sweetness. The knight listened attentively and said, “I fear this bird prognosticates misfortune.” He then took his bow, and shot an arrow into it, in presence of all the company. Instantly the castle divided into two parts, and, with the knight, his wife, and all who were in it, was precipitated to the lowest depth of the infernal regions. The story adds, that on the spot where the castle stood, there is now a spacious lake, on which no substance whatever floats, but is immediately plunged to the bottom.