Frank Wakeley Gunsaulus.

Monk and knight; an historical study in fiction online

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the French cavalry and killed."

"The boy was killed?" a n. "Salmani, did

you say the name was Perrin? It seems to take hold of
some memory within me. I know a man by that name
who desires my hurt. But Caspar Perrin's boy was

" He was killed ; and only a daughter was left to him.
I told you that this man was a printer at Venice for
He knew all the scholars ; and when he came from
ice he brought many books with him. He was over-
proud of the girl, and taught her every page of his Latin
and (ireek books."

" Caspar Perrin ! that is the man to whom Luther
wrote the letter which I saw," broke in Vian.

" The same, the same, I assure you. He is the leader
of the Waldensian mind in this region. The prior has
letters which William Farel and Ulric Zwingli of Geneva
have sent to him. They have been intercepted, and they
show that he is in their secrets. Farel and Zwingli rely
on the Waldensians here to help them, if the affair should
come to war."

"And the maiden and the manuscript? "

"Yes," resumed Salmani, "our law provided that the
monastery should keep, if it obtained, the children of the


heretics, and educate them in the Catholic faith. I was
commanded to attire myself as a Waldensian youth, to
watch the girl's paths, and to engage her in conversation
until my fellows could seize her. When I found her
learning, and saw her beauty, my heart was gone. She
was Oh, she is a lovely creature."

"Oh," said Vian, with kindled eye, "only a Pythago-
rean is safe in this wicked world. The Devil can catch a
monk at any time ; but go on, go on ! Even a Pythago-
rean likes such a tale."

" I tried the patience of the prior, for I saw her often.
I told him the time to seize her had not come. She did
not think that I belonged to the monastery, for she often
spoke of the wicked priests, and sang her hymns to me.
As she grew older, she became more scholarly and beau-
tiful. Once in a long while I would see her afar, and
steal near, when Gaspar had gone, and she would read
from Erasmus and Plato. Oh, such a celestial maiden ! "

" And " interrupted Vian, who was more excited
than Fra Salmani.

" And at last I .brought her a manuscript. I took it
from the treasury of the monastery. It was not missed
until Christmas Day. She had kept it secretly for months.
It was a manuscript of Virgil."

" From the monastery of Turin? " cried Vian. " And
Erasmus? "

" Yes," said Fra Salmani ; " she told me of Eras-

" This all seems stranger still," mused Vian. " I have
heard Erasmus say that he was hoping to get a manuscript
of Virgil from Turin. It seems a dream. And "

" And I resolved to offer her my own soul and life ;
but she said she loved only the Lord. I am sure she
did not love me as I did her."

" For," added Vian, dryly, " you are sure you loved
her more than you loved the Lord? "


" No ; I have been a true monk and faithful to all vows,
except '

" When you stole the manuscript and loved her."

"Al ; i she had loved me! She was truthful,

and she did not love i

A tear was glistening in 1-V.i Salmani's eye, as he
" I am sure the French knights would not kill a defence-
less maiden, if they should chance to attack Ga

Vian was thinking sadly of this wreck of love, while
Fra Salmani did all he could to make him acquainted
with the mountain passes and the safe path to the convent
of the Rcollets in I*i Torre. Vian's interest was not
roused, however, until the Italian priest began to describe
to him the morals of this persecuted people. As the
earnest man, clad in garments which disguised the monk
and identified him with these suffering mountaineers, stood
out in the clear light and told the enchanted Englishman
of their simple ways, the virtue, the honor, the heroism,
and righteousness of their hearts and cause, it seemed
impossible for Vian to take another step toward murder-
ing them.

" What can I do," said he, " to make these noble
people safe in the hands of his Holiness?"

" Francis I. has no nobler subject than Caspar Per-
rin "

Vian saw him stagger.

" O God ! "

Fra Salmani, pierced with a single shot, fell at the feet
of the English monk, writhed in pain for a brief moment,
and, while Vian sought to bring the wine to his dying
lips, in an agony which made him toss his body to the
edge, Salmani fell into the chasm below.

" The heretic is dead ! An arquebusier for heretics ! "
shouted a man with an ugly face, who had been posted
at the defile to kill the Waldensian Barbe' who was ex-


pected at that moment. As he looked down the chasm,
he saw the pale face of Fra Salmani. He had murdered
a monk of Turin, instead ! As the Barbe' by another path
wended his way toward La Torre, the most cultivated
and honorable of unrequited lovers breathed his last
amid the rocks and pines.

In a moment Vian saw that he could not reach the
bruised body of his new-found friend. Flying from
before him now was that wicked emissary of the Church,
who had thought to kill an heretical Waldensian, but had
killed only an heretical Catholic.

" Oh, the crime of killing him for speaking words of
truth and mercy ! " thought the troubled agent of the
Pope, as he concealed himself between two rocks and
opened his soul in simple prayer.



Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realized.


VIAN was not a man of deep religious nature.
I 'raver was not as easy to him as thought. The
revolutions in which his life found its transformations were
all approached on the intellectual side. His interest in
the Reformation had been wakened by the Renaissance.
He sought an unfettered mind rather than a clear con-
science. But now he prayed to God, as never before.

" How reasonable is prayer like this ! " Mid the ration-
alistic monk, as he rose from his knees, and sought a
place in which the night might be passed. He had no
thought of going to Fenestrelle, at least at present. He
would rather die in that melancholy place. In the
moonlit night he rose and peered over the rock into
the white face of Fra Salmani far below him, and came
back to wait until dawn, with bitterest curses on his lips.

" The Devil is tempting thee, Vian ! " said his ambi-
tion and his regard for Wolsey.

If that were true, before two days of wandering
amid the rocks and over the barriers had gone, Vian
had in some measure vanquished the Devil, and regained
his loyalty to the cause which he represented. Fortune


favored him, when he resolved to be true to the cardi-
nal, and when he reflected that he could not go back to
England in shame. He found food, whenever he ac-
cepted a mission which he did not love ; otherwise he
was hungry and in peril.

Oh, Vian, on the night of the sixth day thou art ready
even to persecute ! The flesh is weak.

Through the early hours of the next day Vian hurried
at a rapid pace toward some goal, he knew not what.
At last a glimmer of hope came.

From the priest whose body we left at the foot of the
wall over which he had fallen into the clump of pines
below, Vian had obtained such information of the
country through which he was now to wander alone,
as he had unduly calculated upon. For days he had
been a lost man; but now he felt that at last he had
come into the presence of what he recognized. As he
approached Angrogna, he was at first puzzled at what he
saw ; then he found his mind quieted by the reflection
that though he had without doubt travelled in almost an
entire circuit around the spot from which he was to send
back information to the French cavalry, and although
he was not at all sure of the points of the compass, he
was surely in sight of the Torrent of Angrogna. From
one of the heights which he had just left, could be ob-
served the mountain stream watering a charming nest
of valleys, and running into the Felice. Surely, the
clump of buildings just above was La Torre !

For a moment he stood half astonished and half as-
sured by the presence of two strong but carelessly built
forts, which were so located at the entrance of the passes
to Angrogna as to be worth to their occupants a thousand

"This," said he, as he nervously toiled along, "this
is what the priest called ' La Barricade.' Yonder is the
broad wall of sword-like flints which, he told me, left


but one gateway for ; And yonder I see

yonder! it is that break in the mountains the opening
for them. Through that they can easily escape to the

He listened, as he looked up where crag piled itself
upon crag to create a perfect fortification for recalcitrant He heard nothing but some sweet human
sounds and the bleating of herds, and his own soul
saying, " A grand race of fearless men must feed on
all this grandeur." The thought seemed so near the
borders of heresy that he tried to suppress it, but in

He stopped an instant beneath the mingled shadows
of two trees, one of which was a twisted and ancient
chestnut whose limbs ran far toward a branching walnut
of equal strength and antiquity ; he paused to listen
again, not, as he himself fancied, for a band of Wai
densians, but for the human tones which came out from
the billowing of the noisy torrent, like stars in a stormy


" It is so long since I have heard a human tone that I
could even listen to a \Valdensian. Who knows but that
the soul of some ancient Sappho has transmigrated hither,
and now pays delightful penalties in these rocky fast-
nesses?" said the Pythagorean. "But I must not phi-
losophize now ; for I am the chosen ambassador and
agent of his Holiness."

Vian straightened himself to his whole height, and tried
to grow murderous-looking, as he thought of his task,
to plan the utter destruction of the Waldensian leaders.

He concluded to try the height above ; a safer path for
him was surely there, and he could see more of the
country. He toiled upward, thinking of La Barricade,
its strategic importance, the utter impossibility of a hun-
dred French knights fighting successfully any kind of
heresy which might occupy it and hurl rocks from its


heights upon its invaders. He also thought of the deli-
cious sounds which again reached his ear.

" It is no time for music. If Saint Cecilia were here,
I could not stop. I am the favorite messenger of Thomas
Wolsey, Cardinal ; and I must see to it that heresy is
extirpated. Oh, how I wish these heretics did not believe
so many things which those Wycliffe letters have taught
me to tolerate at Glastonbury ! This thought entangles
me. How quickly I would forget, if I -could, that really
the priest himself, Salmani, and what I have seen make
me think that Louis XII. of France knew them best !
He must have been heretical. Did he not say to his
advisers, 'By the holy Mother of God, these heretics
whom you urge me to destroy are better men than you,
or myself, or any of my subjects ' ? "

Soon the eye of the messenger was following a strong
bouquetin which leaped across a chasm before him with
surprising agility. He had now reached a height from
which could be seen the fortress of La Torre, whose
dilapidation and romance still have their charm. The
priests had told him how often blood had flowed down the
sides of the knoll into the stream below. The thought
came upon him that perhaps the best of this blood flowed
from the veins of men who were guilty of simply asserting
their right to their own thoughts.

Then the monk in him said, "That is heretical.'*
At the next breath the Pythagorean wondered whose soul
had been re- incarnated in the bouquetin, which Vian
immediately guessed was a cross between a goat and a
deer. What a Pythagorean problem was here ! Whose
soul was it? He must brush these contending thoughts
from his brain, even if his heart were sick at the prospect
of helping to butcher Waldensians.

Green spots surrounded with trees in richest foliage
lay below him. The glistening snow was a living fire on
the mountain-sides above him. Everything was sublime
or lovely but his own purpose.


" These Barbetti or dogs, as we would rail them in
Hampton Court do not appreciate the grandeur of light


and gloom in this varied landscape," said he to
and then, like a sweet dream, there floated to him. again
a song. It was like a bouquet floating upon a stream, -
a cluster of mellow tones.

" No dog is that ! " added the lover of music ; and
looking into the distance : " Ah ! that is the college of
the Barbetti yonder; that is the Satanic source of the
heresies of this valley of Lucerne. There, in that cottage
of Angrogna, live these foul Waldensian birds who fly out
on this clear air with the heretical notions which thn
trouble for the Church." He was repeating the pric-t
Torraneo's description, and he himself instantly qualified
it by musing thus: "Perhaps that is the Oxford of this
poor region without Oxford's tyranny. John Colet and
Erasmus would be more welcome by its chancellor than
yonder " He looked toward England, and farther.
even toward Lutterworth.

La Vachera, from whose inaccessible heights perse-
cuted Waldensians had never been driven, rose sublimely
as the lofty central point of the summits guarding the
three valleys, and caught his eye, as he dreamed of
Lutterworth, Wycliflfe's letters, his childhood's vision.

That dear vision had strengthened itself in his mind
as he told it to the enraptured priest Salmani. The very
purity of the air, the limpid translucence of the streams,
the unaffected genuineness of the awful heights, drove out
the sounds of the bell which was tolling in the convent
of Re" collets, at which he must soon present himself; and
then he welcomed instead the vision of his boyhood, and
the softly penetrative tones of what now he knew was the
voice of a woman.

That convent bell was to sound again, as the priest
had told him, when the French knights were ready at
the fortress of La Torre to sally forth to exterminate
Waldensians. He had begun to hate its souu


" From San Giovanni to Valaro, if necessary, give no
mercy to heretics ! "

He read this order again. So also said the convent

Vian tried to rid himself of the vision of his boyhood
by repeating those bellicose words. The vision now
perplexed him strangely ; but it remained as firm as
yonder Monte Viso. It was far more imperious than the
solid-looking residence of the Count of La Torre, which
he saw standing in the Place de la Torre, far in another
direction. It had ruled the fresh daytime to the exclu-
sion of Wolsey, Pope, and Pythagoras.

He would lie down to sleep. Night had been his
salvation. The Devil came to other men when asleep ;
he attacked Vian's waking hours.

" And this is the Devil," he mused, as reaching the
crag overlooking the valley he crawled upon the only
path to a spot less rugged than all the region near ; and
there he tried to sleep himself into courage and safety.

The sun never looked down upon a more wisely clad
sleeper. What he should wear that he might not be
apprehended, and instead be successful in his task,
this had perplexed Hampton Court, Vian, and last of all,
the guiding monk whose death at the foot of the preci-
pice had left him now without any advice. He had
taken up a gayly decorated hat, feathered, laced, and
jewelled, and thrown it aside at Whitehall. As a monk
he had never thought of making his appearance. He
had not obeyed the Saint Paul's condemnation of 1487 ;
and his hair, which had now grown so long as to entirely
hide the tonsure, did not fit him to take a place at the
convent of Recollets in La Torre, in the habit there
used. Stole, chimere, rochette, cassock, alb, cope, and
surplice, even if he had been bishop of London, these
would have been rejected. He had chosen to appear at
Lyons as a legal functionary ; but cap and coif, narrow
VOL. ir 14


ruff and cape, long and ample sleeves, linen girdle and
gown, had then been cast aside. The wide sleeves and
slashed and puffed bonnet, plumed and ornamented,
which for a day on the " Field of the Cloth of Gold " he-
had worn, made only a sickening memory as he tried to
catch a brief deliverance in sleep. Luttenvorth his
father came upon his memory as he lay there, rbd as
his father would have been as a country gentleman. An
easy velvet cap was now his pillow ; bright and ruddy
hose half covered his legs, which were constantly finding
a vigorous thorn-bush too near ; his laced sturtops en-
closed a pair of weary feet ; his doublet was close-fitting,
made of silk and velvet, girdled about the w.iist with a
bright ceinture of satin and leather, and ornamented
with a few onyx stones, to which were affixed the pouch
presented to him by the queen, and a dagger which
had a jewelled haft, and was enclosed in a richly
ornamented sheath.

Sleep brought to him only a dream which concluded
in a revelation.

For a long hour in that dream did he wander over the
hills of his childhood. Lollards preached to him. His
father's name, hated at Glastonbury and Rome, became
the synonym for honor, freedom, and the ever-living
future. Priests blasphemed, raved, cursed ; and the holy
meeting-places of his father's companions found in him
an orator struggling to the front in mobs of persecutors,
eloquent in his championship of the right of untram-
melled thought. Wycliffe's letters were in his hand,
Wycliffe's arguments upon his tongue. The dreamer was
a fetterless proclaimer of a great Reform which lighted
up the whole sky. Amid it all, the one imperial centre
of it all, was his little mate. Again he kissed the sweet
lips, again she pushed back his flowing hair, again she
spoke to him, again he saw her unrivalled loveliness.

The dream melted away.


"There!" said the dream-ruled, yet half-awakened
man, as he looked over the crag upon a graceful form
whose face he could not see, " I have left childhood,
hers and mine, behind ! This is manhood ; that yonder,
that is womanhood. Yes; but what " and then,
after a solemn pause in the solution of his mental
problem, he whispered, " Is it she ? "

Dream, an earlier vision, a reality, were confounding

As the returning consciousness of Vian began to make
him realize that he had a dagger upon him, and that
he was only a monk and a Pythagorean who had tried to
sleep, he saw it all, he thought he saw it all.

" The Devil seeks my soul. This is a Satanic tempta-
tion. Oh for the flogging-room of Glastonbury ! Oh for
the frown of .Cardinal Wolsey ! "

He was sure only of this, that a form of unrivalled
loveliness stood before him on the pasture below ; and
that he had heard, perhaps only in his dream, some
sounds which seemed full of delicious wine, or tones
which had once been heart-beats.



Yet still that life awakens, brings again

Its airy anthems, resonant and long,
Till earth and sky transfigured fill my brain

With rhythmic sweeps of song.


WHAT could this strange yet enchanting creature
be doing ? She was trying her voice, playing
with its possibilities, singing for the very joy of singing,
not as some court-born damsel in some tapestried room
in Windsor Castle, but as a child of sky and mountain,
flower and ice-floe, in the spacious opening in the
mountain-chain, where the Architect of the universe had
taxed omniscient energies to make a perfect audience-
room in which that wonderful voice might utter itself.

Did the Devil choose this supreme test for the music-
loving, vision-seeing monk? He had passed all other
such tests triumphantly ; but now he began to feel that
in the vicinity of this matchless instrument on which this
careless creature's breath seemed to play, so great was
the contrast that they had not prepared him to meet
this crisis successfully, nay, they had somehow con-
spired to make this attraction resistless instead. Vian
thought of the whining and mumbling which had been


called music in the palace of the cardinal and at the
court of the king, as these notes burst forth from that
deep and yet many-toned organ ; and the tired head of
the young monk fairly ached to lay itself upon the breast
which now filled itself with the fragrant air and breathed
out roses, anemones, violets of dulcet sound.

He was, nevertheless, half disgusted with the senti-
mental instability which he at that moment discovered in
himself. Was not this a female ? He had never felt in
that way toward an actual living woman. He caught his
mind, as he divined with conceited wisdom, in the very
act of falling in love. He lay there reproving himself,
chastening his mind. It was easier to catch and chastise
than to hold.

Where under heaven were some of the wise saws of
Pythagoras that would annihilate such feelings as made
him forget the thorn-bush which his leg had again touched
vigorously? He knew perfectly well that he could have
remembered them if only he could have stood upon
his feet ; but somehow he did not want to frighten this
innocent nightingale away, for her sake. He could not
rally to service any of the numerous advices of Abbot
Richard Beere, who once helped him to get rid of that

He remembered that Giovanni said once : " The
Pythagorean view of woman is safer in the mind of a
man who was never born for love than in the heart of
Pythagoras himself, if he is accessible to the sentimental

It was only a milestone. Vian's soul was running
away rapidly; and he could only observe swiftly this
and all other milestones, as he passed on.

One thing above all others had haunted Vian with
possible peril, the vision of his childhood. If only he
could so fill his soul with Pythagorean philosophy and the
recollection of his vows as a monk that this early a.nd


most beautiful vision might not obtrude itself, he could
probably succeed in vanquishing the Devil.

" But why should I fight anything which has kept my
character stainless? Only the vision of my little mate,
only this has kept me pure," thought he, truly.

Vian was glad that it must be impossible that he
should meet her at this critical moment in his life, and
especially was he glad to think that this strange attrac-
tive appearance should be only a poor peasant girl whom
he could never really love.

This might be his soul's mate ?

" But I have seen many women at court and on great
occasions like that of the ' Field of the Cloth of Gold,' "
he was compelled to remember, " and I have then been
sure that I should never see her in such circumstances
as they were."

Uncomfortable as was Vian's position, the thorn
so close to his leg, and the sharp stones penetrating
his knees and elbows, he was now being made more
uncomfortable by the vision of that never- forgotten child,
who had grown with his own growth, who lived in his
heart and life as sweet in her fragrant influence as the
flower which blossomed under his dilating nostrils, a
vision which had been law and gospel to his spirit, and
which now grew more and more definite as he tried to
fight against it.

" That vision of yours has survived your reverence for
monastic institutions ! " Giovanni had said to him, long
months since. " The only thing which will destroy it is
our philosophy ; and you will be a poor Pythagorean when
you find your little mate."

Vian remembered that old Giovanni had made his
heart burn often with the story which he told him of a
black-eyed Italian girl whom he once loved, whose broken
heart had long ago dissolved into dust beneath the sunny
sky of Rome. In the tears which the old monk would


try to hide as he told that tale of his own love, the career
of a friar and the philosophy of Pythagoras were appar-
ently washed away in the very presence of Vian.

" It 'seems that the Devil wants me to recollect all such
things in this, my hour of trial," whispered Vian to his
faltering heart.

Then the home of Thomas More its companionship,
its serene loveliness, its intellectual atmosphere came
swinging by ; and he could see himself and his little
mate keeping house together. "And Thomas More was
teaching his mate music?" thought he.

As that fascinating reflection came and went, Vian
found himself hurled, as by a tender but omnipotent
energy, back to that June day at Lutterworth, when he
gathered flowers for his invisible and adored one, and

Online LibraryFrank Wakeley GunsaulusMonk and knight; an historical study in fiction → online text (page 39 of 48)