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shortened, and the grave alone remaineth unto
That aid, which, timely supplied, perchance might have restored my strength, will do but little for me now. Let the will of God be done !yet have I thought, Plantagenet, that if thou hadst not left me, or if any of our Christain Faith had been near me, peradventure I had even at this time had hope of life: but as it is, abandoned by the Jew, and
Holy Saints !” exclaimed I in terror and wonder, for now mine amazement had suddenly increased much more than before, “ what mean you, my good Lord ? hath Israel indeed deserted you, or done aught to call forth your anger ?"
” “That," replied the Viscount, “ I may not truly aver, seeing that I am now at the point to die, and have long known him faithful ; so that perchance I should rather lament for some calamity having befallen him through his fidelity unto me. Yet may I tell thee, good Richard, that since the night of thy departure hath he never returned hither!”
In very sooth, I could scarcely think that mine ears heard aright as the Lord Lovel thus spake, or when he continued, in such terms as moved both mine heart and eyes to pity him, to relate unto me how he had been left wholly without sustenance throughout five of the days which had passed away since I left him! I then hastened to take from my pouch some food which I provided at the hostel where I last stopped, and placing it before the Viscount entreated him to eat thereof; telling him that I would efstoons go forth for more and to inquire what I might touching Israel of
Castile. But unto this the Lord Lovel replied with a sad smile, declaring that he would no more taste of food on earth, having taken his last morsel as the blessed viaticum, which should prepare him for his departure from the flesh: he added, moreover, that he would not have me quit him again, for that he had much desired to see me ere his death, and he would fain speak unto me whilst utterance was left him.
He then related unto me, albeit with much difficulty of speech, how that, when his food was nigh spent, and after long waiting, he found that Israel returned not unto him with more at his wonted hour,-he began, in impatient mood, to lament that he had intrusted his life to the keeping of an infidel Jew: since he did well believe that he had wantonly left him to die. His infirmities had also much increased from his sickness, so that he might in-nowise have gone forth himself; and, as his little store of provision lessened, he looked forward unto a lingering death, without human creature near him to aid him in his last hours. Deeming that he had now no hope of escape from such sad fate, he bethought him of addressing himself unto the holy duties proper unto that solemn time; thereupon taking up one of those tomes, which, as I have noted, lay scattered about the cell, thinking it to be some pious hours or offices, or other book of Christian prayers. But it was, in truth, a full and devout and ghostly Treatise of the Imitation and Following of the blessed Life of our merciful Saviour Christ Jesus, and of the contemning of the World: the which godly book was written first in Latin by that
most learned and Christian doctor, Johannes Gersenus, abbot of the Benedictine monastery of St. Stephen at Verceil, albeit it hath been falsely attributed unto other authors. * The Lord Lovel now remembered him that it had been done into English at his command, by Master Bernard de Chadlington, sometime his chaplain, and vicar of St. Kenelm's Church at Minster-Lovel ; who was greatly enamoured of that divine treatise.
In the time of the Viscount's prosperity he little recked for aught of book-lore, since I wot that both his heart and his treasure were in camp and court; and therefore the pious tome of the Abbot Gersenus was cast aside for sword or charger, hawk or hound, or, in brief, for aught of worldly pastime or employment. But in the day of his adversity and hiding, long after the good chaplain had gone unto his
rest, when his labours were all forgotten, lo! his little book came forth in wondrous wise to awaken the soul of him for whom it was first penned, even at the eleventh hour. As the Lord Lovel sate in that lonely cell, thinking upon death, and I ween well nigh spent with famine, he takes me up this holy treatise deeming it to be a missal ; and, presently opening it, he lights upon these blesséd words, which seemed to speak unto him with the voice of an angel.
* It will doubtless be remembered that the very celebrated Imitation of Christ, has been assigned to Thomas à Kempis, John Gerson, Chancellor of Paris University, and the Abbot Gersen mentioned above; beside some other authors of far less probability. For several reasons, perhaps Gersen may be most safely regarded as the real writer of the treatise ; but his claim being strenuously supported by the Benedictine monks, against the advocates of Kempis, who was of the Order of St. Augustine --was probably the reason for the assertion in the text, Richard Plantagenet having been educated in the Benedictine monastery at Ely. The passage subsequently cited from the Imitation of Christ will be found in Book 1. Chap. sxv.
“Oh! if we myght contynue in thys lyfe wythoute bodyly refecyon, as eatyng and drynkyng, sleepyng, or any other corporeal wants; and take heede only unto holy medytacyons, and ghostly feedyng and refreshyng of our souls: then shoulde we be muche more happye, than we be now, in serving and attendyng more for bodyly good than spyrytual profyte. When man once cometh unto thys perfecyon, then seeketh he consolacyon of no creature; then begynneth he to have a spyrytual ayde in God, when that he is contente wyth every fortune, as well wyth adversyte as prosperyte, conforming and referrying all hys worschype unto God, to serve and to obey hys wyll.”
" As I read over these devout sentences,” continued the dying Viscount, “a new light suddenly brake in upon my benighted spirit, and showed me that I was in the condition of that soul; being freed from all the cares of this world, and almost launched away into the next. I was now regarded as one dead, or as a fugitive in the camp and a traitor in the court, and all too much shaken by sickness ever again to appear in either; yet did I know full little how to turn me unto a holy life and the service of God. Oh! good Plantagenet, had I but fought against the fiend in mine own heart, but half so stoutly as I have done battle in mortal strife,—had I but showed unto the King of kings but half the duteous loyalty which I ever gave unto thy father, I had not now been left thus desolate, defamed, and out of suits with fortune; I had not now had all my ghostly labours to do, when that I have neither strength nor space wherein to perform them!"
“Good, my Lord,” responded I,“ you should yet be of good cheer, since I have heard it spoken from holy St. Austin, that we read of one man who was saved at the last hour, that none may despair; though but of one, that none should presume."
"Truly, young Plantagenet," hereunto replied the Viscount, I “ am of good cheer, nay, I am full merry; for albeit I have fasted long and sadly, yet do I trust this night to banquet most richly in Paradise ! Howbeit, as the time when I shall speak and thou shalt hear it hastily passing away, let me go on whilst life is left unto me.--Hunger. had now assailed me like a mighty foe, and sleeping and waking, night and day, I vainly looked around and clamoured for food; almost maddened at finding it came not, or that what I saw and ate of in my dreams was not real and substantial. I held Israel to be a savage and unfeeling traitor, deeming that only one of his abhorred race would have left his ancient benefactor, alone and powerless upon a bed of sickness, without some effort to administer unto his sorrow.”
“In good sooth, my Lord,” interposed I at this place, “I would not offend you, but yet I wot well
I that you
erred in this matter: since that man hath too deeply felt the shaft of calamity and persecution himself, not to have compassion upon others. I was left wounded, and, perchance, dying upon