Frank Wakeley Gunsaulus.

Monk and knight; an historical study in fiction online

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I must tell him again that I cannot go to France. That
fiend Ami will upset his plans if he knows I have to do
with them. I could not go. Would you explain it to
.race? Fra Noglini, who knows the knight, avows
that his jealousy of me is so great that he would join the
heretic William Farel, and go body and soul with the
Reformers themselves, had he not learned that you and
Master Erasmus were my friends, that I loved to read
the ' Praise of Folly,' and that if he became a heretic,
he might find myself in the crowd."

>u are in politics now, and out of church quarrels,"
said (iiovanni.

' Yes. But I want to feel free in my thought and faith,
nevertheless ; and he, the hypocritical Waldensian sucking
sweets at the court of Francis I., pretends to have a con-
science. He is an infernal scoundrel, but he hates the in-
dulgences as much as does any true saint. He would break
! ijesty's realm to pieces to defeat me. I want to
be true to my Lord Cardinal, good friends, and I refuse to
go to France on any mission for the sake of his Grace.
I beg you explain to his Grace where I am. I did not
try to steal the affections of the girl Astre"e. I want no
woman's love. My philosophy prevents my loving any


man's beloved. Pythagoras teaches that woman is man
who has done wrong in some previous life. I prefer men.
But oh, I had a vision once "

More thought he saw that the monk was on the verge
of madness. He was standing, or trying to stand, where
hurricanes were meeting.

" Perhaps you would better amuse yourself with helping
his Grace to build and adorn Hampton Court," said
Giovanni, full of sympathy.

This touched Vian's soul. He hated the life he had
been living. He hated the struggle through which he
had been led. He hated, most of all, the thought that
he must actually abuse a mind made for higher things, by
amusing it in this crisis with the magnificence of the
court of Henry VIII. and the splendors of Wolsey's
.country palace. The society of one great truth, held
honestly and defended with heroism, would have compen-
sated him for the loss of all; but he was hedged on
every side.

"It is all amusing," said he, a to have a mind un-
moved with the greater facts of this life. I have a cer-
tain faculty of hearing the lies of kings and popes and
cardinals, and arranging them so that my Lord Cardinal
can beat them all at lying. I am here so long as the
falsities of men are valuable to one another. I want the
truth. No pageant can hide that desire." Then he
added in a long laugh : " We had a pageant ludicrous
enough here at Hampton Court. My Lord Cardinal was
giving a dinner to an ambassador. He sat in the centre
of the high table. Around him were the guests. Two
ladies were very near to his Grace. Gold and silver
vases stood where we could find room. The minstrels
played ; and the dinner being over, the maskers waited
in the chamber for the procession. Everybody was dis-
guised. The hoods had been made in France, Spain,
and Italy. The laces of gold and the embroidered green


satin came from Flanders. The waiters upon those who
wished to gamble held the bowls full of ducats and dice,
while the dance went on. Suddenly the king him^lf
rushed in, masked and picture^ [tie. 1 orty others followed
attired as the hideous crew of a pirate. Consternation
seized every one. The torch-bearers dropped their torches,
the drums thundered, and the fifes screamed, until all was
confusion. Then the king himself pulled down his visor,
and laughed at my Lord Cardinal, whereat the king sat
down and played on the harpsichord while he sang a
laughable song. It was all very amusing ; but I would
rather have an hour with Erasmus. Then there are
serious questions of statecraft here. Charles V. swears
and breaks his oath; the Pope promises and forgets;
Francis I. embraces his Majesty, my king and yours, and
both of them have their ministers arranging another farce.
It is all serious and amusing, good friends ; but I have
ion, as you know. That vision I have buried
in philosophy; but I do not think that Pythagoras or
even the Pope can bury the noisy demand of the Reform-
ers. What think you?"

More said nothing. He was charmed, astonished,
perplexed ; and he rested not until, on the return of
was allowed two or three days as a



All things are but altered, nothing dies,
And here and there th' embodied spirit flies
By time and force and sickness dispossessed,
And lodges where it lights in man or beast.

PYTHAGORAS in OVID (Dryderi 's translation).

" TT is a battle between a vision and a philosophy
J- then," said More, looking upon Vian with his
placid gray eyes.

" Alas ! I am torn to shreds with the contest, what-
ever it may be," answered the Pythagorean monk, as he
shook his head aimlessly.

They were standing together in the home which has
become renowned in history for its refinement and af-
fection. Hours were gliding by on wings of gold. It
was impossible for Vian to escape the charm of the family
life which made that house so heavenly. The intellectual
impulse which was generated there moved Vian's mind
toward love. He yearned for such mental and spiritual
companionship as made the atmosphere ideal. Heart-
hunger never appeared so irrepressible. He remembered
that More had once been pledged to the life of a monk.
He could not avoid contrasting what would have been
the loneliness and thirst of his soul with the delicious in-
terchange of thought and feeling, the bright and glowing
fires of mutual devotion, which characterized that home.


Love had made her sacred temple there. The altars
of affection were covered with costly sacrifices so freely
given. The fire from on high was consuming the offer-
ing. The incense-cloud of affection ascended to the
great white throne.

" I have been pledged to a monastic life ; I am an
oath-bound celibate," thought Vian with a sigh, as the
wife of More came near and placed her hand upon the
shoulder of her illustrious companion.

They had a delicate topic to talk upon. More was
anxious to deal with one problem at a time, and his wife
was conscious that her presence would interfere seriously
with the full expansion of a conversation on celibacy.
One such beauteous planet suddenly coming into such a
gloomy sky would unduly irradiate and might confuse a
soul so embarrassed with the limitations which annoyed
Vian. She soon found another task of love elsewhere.

" But your devotion to Pythagoras has more to do just
now toward putting out the fires of love, than your attach-
ments to the monastic life," said the wise friend.

" Alas, oftentimes my vision of my mate plays havoc
with my philosophy, good sir ! " observed Vian, painfully

More was determined to test him.

"You have had a beautiful vision, Vian; and Saint
Paul, when he explains the glory of his own career, has
said, ' I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.' "

" But, good friend ! " urged Vian, " mine began as the
vision of a child."

" Samuel's vision, so the Scripture tells us, was a child's
vision. It must not be forgotten that the Saviour of the
oldest of sinners makes him return to his childhood be-
fore he is saved. Except we become as little children,
we cannot be saved," replied More.

"Yes; but," Vian said, as he felt the vision steal
upon him again, and command him with its pristine


charm, " yes ; but I have been taught that these desires
for love and for being loved, this thirst for the one above
all others whom I must love, whom I have never really
seen, I have had it all held before me as a temptation
of the Devil. Against something of this sort saint after
saint has struggled. To escape that pitfall, some of the
more holy have cut their bodies with flints and rolled in
tangled patches of briers, penetrated their flesh with
thorns, and frozen their limbs in caves of ice. Oh, it
seems so strange that this beautiful one, whom I never
have lost out of my vision, should be the only power in
my life to keep me pure and to make me hope for saint-
liness ; and yet that all the custodians of religion should
tell me, from the words of the Fathers and the lives of
the saints, that the dream I have had of her is the Devil's
own invention to drag me to hell ! "

" It cannot be," said More, firmly.

Vian, long hours before, had told the story. In spite
of this vow, it had haunted him ; and now, in spite of
Pythagoreanism, which had been a sort of substitute for
that faith in the Church which he had lost and which
degraded woman, the vision came back upon his soul
with a celestial beauty. He had an affectionate faith
that Thomas More would get him into no difficulties.
He had always been thankful that he had obeyed the
statesman on that dusty roadway, when he followed him
and Erasmus, and that he went back obediently to Glas-
tonbury Abbey. He had told but three men of the
vision which had followed him since childhood. He had
told the sub-prior, on an occasion forever memorable to
Vian, in explanation of his difficulties with the monastic
life. He had related the story of his ideal love for his
unseen mate to Fra Giovanni and Thomas More. Each
had met him with a characteristic prescription. Monas-
ticism, in the person of the sub-prior, regarded his vision
as a Satanic device to damn him. Fra Giovanni looked


upon it with the contempt inspired by a philosophy which
made a woman to be but a man who had behaved badly
in some other life, and was therefore punished in having
to appear on earth as a female. Thomas More, looking
out from the experiences of love itself, pitied the yearn-
ing heart of Vian, and being a Churchman who feared a
little the revolutions which he had helped to incite, tried
to be cautious even in his use of truth.

Everything was against his making such an impression
upon Vian as would serve to abolish that passionate love.
Here was a living woman of whom her husband had
written an epigram, which has inspired an archbishop to
translate it thus :

" With books she Ml time beguile,
And make true bliss her own,
Unbuoyed by Fortune's smile,
Unbroken by her ;

So left all meaner things,
Thou 'It on her breast recline,
While to her lyre he ri
Strains, Philomel, like thine."

Vian was a lover, a musician, and a man of literary
talent. His ardor was not cooling in the presence of a
beautiful woman, whose husband, by educating her in
literature and particularly in music, had made the Pythag-
orean philosophy so ineffective in so far as it threw a
shadow upon such womanhood. Not Holbein's famous
picture in oil, nor those of Erasmus's " Colloquies " in
words, so sympathetically reflected the love at the home
of Sir Thomas More, as did Vian's growing thir>t.

More shrugged his shoulder Erasmus tells us that
" his right shoulder always had the look of being higher
than the left" when Vian, fully intent on keeping his
faith in the transmigration of souls, proceeded to tell him
of a few of his Pythagorean experiences.


" I am sure that in some other life I have met our sov
ereign Henry VIII."

"Where did you encounter him? " queried the host.

" In Rome, on the Appian Way. Yesterday I caught
in his words the same tones with which he spoke to his
charioteer. In his laugh I know there is the guffaw of
one of the Caesars."

" Do you recognize anybody else about the throne or
court as belonging to that age ? Has anybody else's soul
transmigrated ? "

" Now, good sir," said Vian, trustfully, " you will grant
me forgiveness. Master Erasmus would not find fault.
I love him. The chains which bound me once to worn-
out traditions he has partially broken for me. "I am too
thankful to do him dishonor. I know that he wrote the
' Praise of Folly,' or at least completed it, in this house.
You need not blame me "

" Vian, you need not be anxious ; we both love Eras-
mus," said More, wistfully.

" Then let me say I do not doubt that Erasmus or
the man we know as Erasmus of Rotterdam is really
Lucian of Samostata. He has his old satire ; his mind
is keen with the same weapons of wit and irony ; and
he knows that the priests now require his sarcasms, as
did the gods in the time of his previous existence."

" Well," said More, laughingly, " that is a bright and
just literary judgment, at all events. Erasmus himself
would appreciate that."

" So," said Vian, " I am sure that one of the sisters at
the nunnery is one of the vestal virgins of Rome come
again. She acknowledged to me that at night by the cru-
cifix she finds her way back to Rome. The old Roman
religion has begun to decay ; a new faith breathes like a
spring-time upon the altars, and a fresh enthusiasm glows
in the eyes of the priests. She says it all seems to be re-


enacted again. Just as she stood, herself being one of
the last of the vestal virgins, at altars from whence the
mind of ancient Rome had been led by the decay of faith
and the rise of a novel worship; so here on earth, in
this new time, she beholds the attack on the papacy
and the influence of ' the new learning,' with an ominous
atmosphere around it all, indicating that a great trans-
formation has come."

" You must live in a very strange world, Vian," said
More, reflectively.

" Yes ; I do indeed. The ghosts of the past are every-
where. I myself am one. If I knew all previous history,
I could find out people and tell them their past. I could
also tell whether they had done well or badly in their
other lives. The very animals are but the incarnate souls
of very vicious people. The saints and heroes are those
who had done well and have been re- incarnate at a higher
point in the scale. When I recognize a man, I can al-
ways see what his tendency is, downward or upward.
One thing is a worry to me "

" Ah ! " said More, " only one ? "

" No ; would it were so ! Woman is a problem, that
is, some women are problems."

"Woman has always been a problem," said the pleas-
ant host.

" Yes ; but women that is, all women do not take
their places in my philosophy as they ought, if they are
what they seem to be, or if love is not a snare, or if Py-
thagorean doctrines of metempsychosis be true."

" That is a fierce trilemma. Each point is a spear,"
said More, with a smile.

<4 Well, what I mean is just this," pointing to the
monkey which appears in Holbein's famous canvas, " The
Household of Sir Thomas More," an animal which
there nestles in the robes of Dame Alice Middleton, but
which in actual life and at the moment spoken of was


climbing upon the table before Vian, " that monkey is
doubtless the re- incarnation of some court-jester "

" Or philosopher," whispered More.

"And Pythagoras teaches that he is what he is now
because he was so bad in the other life. But Fra Gio-
vanni has so explained Pythagoras that woman "

"And you are a Pythagorean, having lost your faith
in much that the Church teaches?" inquired More,

" I believe in God, in the Blessed Son our Lord, in the
Holy Virgin "

Vian hesitated with the words " Holy Virgin ; " and then
he said : " I believe the teachings of Pythagoras to be
true. Some day they will be harmonized with true

" But," said More, " you find it hard to think that such
a woman as Dame Alice " and just then Alice Middle-
ton, who in no small measure had taken the place of
" the gentle girl " whom More had lost, came near to
them, and appeared, as she was, a most beautiful and
affectionate woman "you do not believe that she " -
More placed his hand upon her white forehead " is
only a bad man reborn into a twenty fifth or sixth life."

Vian said, " No," with decision.

" What shall we say about your vision of that lovely
maiden, your little mate at Lutterworth? It seems that
if Pythagoras has spoken truth she must have been a

" Never ! Not at all ! " cried Vian. " I would annihi-
late all philosophies before I could believe that. She is
as real to me as ever, I believe that I love her."

"You are a sworn celibate too," observed Sir Thomas
More, gravely.

" He is a beautiful lover," broke in Dame Alice.

"You are a Pythagorean," said More, with evident
knowledge of the difficulties of Vian's heart and brain.


" I am nothing," replied the monk, " nothing, if I
do not love that vision of my soul's mate."

" Vian," More began slowly, as they both stood up,
and Dame Alice put her hands upon the gesticulating
hand of Vian and that of her husband, " you may
know that when I was younger than I am now, I played
at farces which I myself did compose. If I had to write
one now, it would be simply the record of an imaginative
young monk who has had a rapturous vision which has
been too powerful to allow him contentment as a monk,
and which is now too strong to let him remain a Pythag-
orean, believing in the transmigration of the soul. As I
said to you, the battle is between a vision and a philosophy ;
and this sweet woman knows philosophy will not win the
victory when love is in the vision."

" Oh ! " said Vian, as he walked to the window and
looked out where the children of Sir Thomas were learn-
ing the Greek alphabet by shooting arrows at the letters,
" I am confident that it was a child's vision. I shall find
myself always a Pythagorean and a Christian. I have
believed that I should some day behold that same lovely
face which has haunted my eye. But the abbot assured
me that it is the temptation of the Devil ; and I was once
flogged when I spoke of it to a prior who had thought me
heretical. Later on, as I lost my ability to have faithful
care for the relics and fasts and feast-days at Glastonbnry,
the vision came back. I thought I should find her
O God, how often this unseen companion of my spirit
has kept me from mortal sin ! Then the first truths
of Pythagorean philosophy became my meat and drink,
instead of monks' tales and the exploits of saints. I
accept that philosophy to-day."

" Of course it involves the doctrine of the soul's trans-
migration," said More.

" Yes," hesitated Vian. " I believed that this doctrine
did shed a fair iight upon the sweet face in my vision.


I thought that I must have known my mate in another
life. I think that, beautiful as she is in my dream, she
has been compelled to work out a ransom for herself
somewhere. She lives probably in some corner of this
big world. Oh, I dread, and yet I yearn to meet her
if but for a moment ! I will I must be a Pythago-
rean. It is the only philosophy to harmonize with, our
holy religion. I will not I cannot believe that this
affection is born of Satan. That vision has kept me, I
say, good friends, it has kept me pure. I am glad
enough to be away from Glastonbury, where the prior
asked me daily if I did not want to be flogged because
the face of my soul's mate still haunted me."

Dame Alice stood near him, wondering, breathing a
prayer for Vian. It was at an hour when the currents of
thought which preceded the Reformation swept before
her, mingling, in this unique experience, the driftwood of
the past with gleams which lay upon a tossing flood set
toward the future.


" Lost ! an army in the hills of Genoa ! The finder shall have a reward."

HARDLY had Pope Adrian VI. been enthroned by
the intrigues of Charles V. through Don Manuel,
before Don Manuel himself began to share the con-
tempt which Rome expressed after the election.

His Holiness offended the men of the Renaissance,
as he entered the Vatican. He remarked, as he saw the
statuary, " Sunt idola Antiquorum ! " and refused to enter
the Belvedere, which he afterward walled up.

" The Holy Ghost," said the Spaniard, " was with the
cardinals in the conclave, but the Devil has been with
them since they came out."

His Holiness was not ready to hand over the tiara to
the custody of the emperor ; Adrian VI. even contended
that Don Manuel had tried to prevent his election.

Charles V. and Cardinal Wolsey were soon beholding
at Windsor a play, in which " Amity " (which they were
expected to constitute) had sent " Prudence " and "Pol-
icy," who broke the horse " Force," or France, bitting
him severely and reining him most carefully. France
must be invaded ; and the Pope, England, and the em-
peror were against her.

Grave as was the peril to Francis I., it had grown more
terrible, when one morning Ami came to him and re-
peated the words of Bourbon : " It is too late."


" Where is his sword? " cried out the French monarch,
who was wrathful beyond expression, as he looked into
the calm face of Ami, who so often had' urged him to be
just with Bourbon, " where is his sword ? "

"Sire," answered Ami, with dignity and a graceful
courtesy which tangled the king's thoughts, " he bids us
say to your Majesty that his sword was taken away when
his command was given to the husband of your darling
sister Marguerite."

" The collar of Saint Michael? "

" Here, my gracious sovereign," said Ami, producing
it. " It was under the head of his bed at Chantelle."

" Oh, Ami," said the king, whose heart was bursting
with pain and foreboding, " forgive my tears, forgive my
insults ! I would give Duprat and Bonnivet, Lautrec and
Lorraine, all of them would I give for him, for Bourbon,
if he had never fallen to be a traitor."

Ami knew that this was no time for reminding the
king of his previously expressed anxieties and protests.
No true knight ever said, in word or deed, " I told you
so." He was sure that, if ever, the king needed his
friendship now. Bourbon had been mistreated by the
king, the Chancellor Duprat, and above all, by Louise of
Savoy ; but now Bourbon was a traitor. That fact was
sufficient to warm Ami's spirit to enthusiasm against

Charles V. did not intend the conquest of France ; he
was simply making Henry VIII. pay for an army which
would persuade Francis I. to give up Milan. Bourbon,
in his flight, had eluded the eye of Francis ; and soon
Francis was again growing weary of Ami's pleas that
Duprat' s schemes for the capture of Bourbon should be
superseded, when the item of news came, Ami had to
break it to his king, " The Emperor Charles V. has
made Bourbon Lieutenant-General."

While Francis I. and Mme. de Chateaubriand were


arranging all sorts of plans to tarnish the love of Astree
and Ami, and thus to reduce it to the level of their own,
the young knight was gathering from the luminous dark-
ness of Astree's eyes, and from the soft pressure of her
lovely hand, the courage and tenderness with which next
day, having followed the king into his Majesty's chamber,
he adjured him to prevent the sacrifice of Bayard to the
ignorance of Admiral Bonnivet.

" He will not complain," said the king, who was full of
spite over the failure of Mme. de Chateaubriand's latest

'* / do not complain, Sire."

The rich divan upon which the king lay, was half
hidden with the splendid garments which gave beauty to
the sinewy strength of his Majesty's form. As the king
rose to say, " The astrologer said it ! " Ami's eyes fell upon
a jewel-box which he and Astree had observed in the
hands of Mme. de Chateaubriand ; and the knight turned

April 30, 1524. A stone sang through the air. Yon-
der was a puff of smoke from an arquebusier.

" Jesus, my God, I am slain ! "

" No," said the dying man later, to those who came up
to hope against despair, " no ; it is done." His
trembling hand lowered his sword, and the glassy eyes
were fixed upon the shining cross in its hilt.

" Let us carry him hence," exclaimed Ami.

" No ! In death I will not turn my back on the
enemy. Charge ye ! "

It was Chevalier Bayard's last word of command.
" Miserere mei, Deus Secundum magnam misericordiam
tuam," murmured he again, as they gently placed him,
the knight sans peur et sans reproche, under the whisper-
ing tree around which ran a clinging vine.

Through his tears Ami saw the dust-cloud. The


enemy was near. Mid the clatter of hoofs, Bayard was
confessing to a young man, Jacques,

" All I regret is not having done my duty as I ought to
have done," he said.

"A quart of my blood were nothing ! " said Pescara,
the foe, as he commanded that Bayard's enemies should
raise a tent above the agonizing man.

Online LibraryFrank Wakeley GunsaulusMonk and knight; an historical study in fiction → online text (page 31 of 48)