Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

forbade him ever to cross his threshold again—a command which, of course, the young man obeyed. I •can only vouch for his keeping his translation of it, which was, to time his visits so that they always occurred when the miser was absent. However,

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft ngee." And so Geofl'ry found it. One day the miser surprised him and Mary sitting over a fire that, thanks to <reoffry's reckless extravagance, was burning as a fire should burn, and not as the vestal flame of a miser is supposed to, viz: three wrcathlets of smoke, proportioned to one heap of ashes. Geofl'ry made his exit under discharge numbertwo; but the discovery of the deceit and extravagance so preyed upon the mind of Over, that for some time he kept constant watch over Mary, and she was unable to exchange one word with her lover.

(ieotfry's affection for Mary was true and steadfast, but of late there had crept into his mind a thought— what if the miser died and Mary inherited the wealth report said he had accumulated! The idea was not unpleasant. If Mary married him, they two would fill the exalted station he had often begrudged the rich.

It was in this mood he at length met Mary one evening, and heard with pleasure her account of the strange moods of her father—how he would sit for hours in deep thought, neither noticing her nor his gold. It was so she had left him now.

"If, Mary." Geofl'ry whispered eagerly," you should wake somemorn and find yourself heiress to your father's bags of gold, you would soon forget Geoffry d'Kspce, the poor Norman esquire."

"Ah! say not so," exclaimed Mary,in tears, "I cannot bear to think of my poor father dying as he has lived, without the help of our holy kith: and if he were, Geofl'ry, think you not it would be a privilege for >as to bestow the wealth he may l«ve me upon you? I only care to please you."

roL. I.

That night Mary sat up late, watching for her father. When at length he returned, he sat for some time, as heretofore, moodily silent, not noticing her pitiful eager gaze; at last he said, abruptly, "Aldred is dead."

"Alas!" cried Mary, and her sweet face became anxious and sorrowful. Over continued, "The household is placed upon short commons, and the strictest propriety observed."

Inwardly Mary was dwelling upon the irreproachable conduct and holy life of their Saxon neighbour, when her father again spoke, fixing his piercing eyes upon her:

"Wouldst observe the same if I were dead, and teach those hungry wolves, mine apprentices, to fast, and spend a whole fortnight in such mourning as the sons and daughters of Aldred are doing?"

Mary was frightened by her father's vehemence, and answered with tears and protestations in the affirmative. The next morning Over lay cold and stiff in his bed, so that Mary, believing him dead, bemoaned her orphanage, and mourned as he never had deserved to be mourned. That he had died unabsolved from his sins, unblessed by the holy fathers of the Church, was a great source of pain to her.

Much as Mary was inclined to observe the promised fast herself, the apprentices, relieved at last from that harsh authority that had controlled, half-starved, and ill-used them, made merry over the event, and organized a feast and revel over the corpse, in the room where, covered with a cloth, the body lay.

In the midst of this carouse Mary heard the welcome entrance of her lover, and, lifting the curtain that divided the rude apartments, beckoned him to come to her.

Geofl'ry d'lispee's face brightly gleamed a', the intelligence of the miser's death, but with praiseworthy assiduity he strove to temper its joy to the tone of Mary's grief.

In the outer room the revel had become loud and boisterous. Two burly apprentices were on the point of quarrelling and fighting over their

A A

cup, when suddenly the youth seated by the bier where lay the miser in Ms shroud, thought he perceived the sheet lifted from underneath. The colour flies the youth's 'cheek, his eyes are dilated. Once again! and now there is no mistake. The miser is living, he raises himself, sits up, and fixes his hollow eyes upon the group of revellers.

Was death but counterfeited, and are they all once more to return to their miserable bondage, their starvation and ill-usage? No! not by every Saxon saint in the calendar, if Godwin can avoid it.

With flashing eye, and brow knit to a determined frown, he raises his pike and strikes Over a blow across the back of his head, which stretches him low in his old position before any one has noticed his resurrection.

The miser was buried after the fashion followed with the irreligious in those days,—unblessed, unpraved for.

His body, bound upon the back of an ass, travelled through many a street of the embryo metropolis of our more civilized days, and where the animal paused, worn-out, there was the body to be buried. In sight of the miser's cottage home, scarcely a stone's throw from the door, the wearied ass drooped and fell exhausted to the earth; on that spot Over's body was buried. * * * *

The marriage feast was spread, and the bride arrayed in her robes of snowy white; the ceremony only awaited the presence of the bridegroom, and he was spurring his trusty steed to its greatest speed as horse and rider flew over hill and dale at the bidding of his mighty love. Mary watched from her cottage window for the first glimpse of the gallant horse and beaming face of her lover, nor heeded the increasing impatience of the priest and the wedding-guests. Geoffry rode

with steady eye fixed upon the point where first the cottage would appear, looking neither to the right nor to the left, urging on his panting steed, casting all shadows behind, seeing only the sunshine of the future.

Nearer and nearer he approaches, the cottage is in view. Now he sees a sweet, pale face at the window, with bridal flowers in her flowing hair. A little white hand waves a bashful greeting, and soft dark eyes dart looks of love as Mary waits for the bridal that never shall be. Even as Geoffry d' Espee's gloved hand returns the distant greeting, a soft spot of earth receives the horse s foot, and the gallant rider is pitched forward on to his head.

Mary's scream makes the whole neighbourhood ring; out rush the guests, the priest, and attendants. They raise him, yet full of warmth and life, but, alas ! Geoffry d' Espee never speaks again. The bridegroom, who should have been there the gayest of the gay, lies before them cold and still. The bridal flowers are withered, and Mary mourns as a widow, though she never was a wife.

The earth had given way above the miser's grave, and it was in that the horse of Geoffry d' Espee had planted his foot and thrown his brave master to meet his death.

Mary Over found balm for her double loss in the consoling aid of religion.

She founded a house, that was erected over the graves of her father and lover, for a number of Holy Sisters, who should chant masses and put up petitions to Heaven for the repose of the souls of gallant Geoffry d' Espee and old Over, the miser.

This was the forerunner of the present structure, now called the Holy Church of St. Saviour, in the borough of Southwark.

Maggie Symington.

A STORY OF WICLIF.

I.

EARLY LIFE.

John Wiclif was born in 1324, at Wyecliffe, a village between Kichrnond and Barnard Castle, Yorkshire. The village does not now contain more than 200 inhabitants, half of whom are Protestants, christened at the same old font that Wiclif was, and half catholics, worshipping as his fathers did, under the shadow of his boyhood's home, the manor house. The present lords of the manor are the Constables, whose ancestors were the Turnstalls, and theirs again the Wiclifs of Wyecliffe, of whom John was one—in fact, the one. For 500 years his family have been the firm adherents of that system, to the roots of which he laid the axe with such a quiet thoughtfulness, and have thus fulfilled the Master's saying, "A prophet is not without honour save in his own country." This is no doubt the main reason why we know Bo little of his early years, and are thrown upon foreign sources for what scanty memorials we can gather of his personal history. His first sixteen years are biographically a blank, except as the manners of the day cast some possible light upon them. Thoonly certain records of this period are his name—through which we trace him to Yorkshire—and some few northern provincialisms in his English. No doubt his boyhood was like others', he went through the proper course of measles and whooping-cough; romped at " Blind Man's Buff," and "Frog-in-the-Hole," with his mates; fished beneath the grey rocks that enclose the Greta; hawked, and hunted rabbits like the rest; put in a paragraph of ninepins, football, or wliipping-top betw een the less lively pages of his Latin grammar; and, since "the child is father to the man," we may be sure that he scorned the young glutton, laughed

at the boy-fop of the village, and thrashed with as much heartiness the sneak, the coward, and the bully, as he pored over his books at the school of a neighbouring monastery, or under the direction of the parish priest. His clerkly habits, and his being a younger son may have induced his parents to send him into the Church. They perhaps thought of giving him the living at Wyeclilfe, dreamt of some fat benefice or college mastership, and afterw ards an abbot's mitre or a bishop's crozier for their John; but never thought nor dreamt that he would cast upon their proud escutcheon the blot of heresy, and be counted by their other sons a family disgrace! In Wriclif B tract on " Wedded Men and Wives," he seems to speak from his own experience when, after censuring the vows by w hich many bind themselves to priesthood and to forsake wives, and condemning such as marry for money and wed their children against their will, he writes *:—

"There are three faults in wedded men and wives. The first is that they make sorrow of their children if they are naked or poor, but they charge it as nothing that they are wanting in virtues. But they rather hinder, and say, 'if the child incline himself to meekness and poverty, that he will never be a man, and never bring them a penny;' and will curse him if he live well and teach other men God's law s to save men's souls; for by so doing, the child getteth many enemies to his elders, and they say that he slandereth all his noble kindred who were ever held true men and worshipful."

He never returned to Wyecliffe after he left it for Oxford in 1840, being cursed for his heresy "by all his noble kindred, who were ever held true men and wrorshipful!"

He was sixteen when he set out for the University. Other youths of gentle blood, the Rokebys and Balliols, would go with him. A right merry party, too, would these youths make when they met at Richmond, and pushed on to York together. Though on horseback their journey would take them four weeks at least, and perhaps more, for they must wait at York for the gathering of a large party, without which they could not travel in safety. One would like to have Wiclifs account of the motley company that met by one of the taverns near the Minster, and started for the South across the Ouse, and through the old gate of the city. A fat and merry friar, balancing his corpulence on a wellfed steed; a thin, hungry-looking Italian priest, whose purse was doubly and trebly lined with ducats; an Abbot on his way to Rome to buy a judgment from the Pope against his bishop; a monk of the better class, who had been employed in the recent improvements of the Minster; knights of the shires and burgesses from the towns, deep in matters of finance—what the King's debts were, and what they should claim for the moneys they should vote him; sons of noblemen and gentry of all grades hastening to the French wars, still ignorant of England's first naval victory at Sluys, but full of their adventures on the Scotch borders: pilgrims to the southern shrines of St. Edmund and St. Thomas; merchants in worsted and cloth discussing the new arrival of weavers from Flanders; pert youths, who have learnt almost nothing, but have decided views on everything ; and an Abbess, ladylike in manner and queenlike in dress, having in charge a bevy of fair damsels, who shall be handmaids to "my lady of Lancaster " or "of Gloster," and whose bright eyes, twinkling and flashing under their wimples, make sad havoc in the ranks of young freshmen, and conquer the hearts of "gentle knights, " to the proper horror of certain "old wives," who have long

* This and all quotations from Wiclifs own writings are taken from Dr. Vaughan's "Tracts and Treatises," or, "Life and Times of Wiclif."

A A a

since lost the power of such execution,—make up the goodly company.

Except near the towns the roads were very bad; the wooden bridges were either washed away or rickety, and boggy places had to be crossed in single file along the narrow ridges of solid ground. The fields and woods abounded in well preserved game, the forests and moors were, infested with robbers,* and when they halted by the ale stakes, or lodged in the monasteries, the legends of the saints were interspersed with accounts of the last robbery and murder on the road; whilst the grim skeletons of criminals, rattling on the gallows in the village, or swinging on a tree by the wayside, served to "point the moral and adorn the tale."

II.

OXFORD AND THE SCHOOLMEN".

In a sermon before the Pope, the Bishop of Armagh declared that the friars entrapped so many youths into their orders, that parents dared not send their sons to Oxford, and the number of students had fallen from thirty to six thousand. The largeness of these numbers may In1 accounted for by the facts that the university was then much more of a school than now, and that many came from the Continent, attracted by the reputation of some scholastic doctor. Though Wiclif found the colleges thinned, "the men" were still split up into nations, and the skirmishes between "North" and "South" in the narrow dirty streets, darkened by the overhanging houses, were more frequent andniore serious than a modern row between " town" and " gown."

There was a nursery rhyme current at this time, for the encouragement of all good young folk, that

"To rise at five, to dine at nine,
To sup at five, to bed at nine,
Makes a man live to ninety-nine."

And so we may infer that students "turned out" not later than five for morning prayers. After "chapel" they crossed to the Latin lecture of some doctor in divinity, who, in a round black gown, " falling as low as his heels, at least, while it was new," would crack with teeth of logic the hardest nuts of theology; and at nine to dinner in the common hall, with slices of bread for plates, fingers for forks, and bones thrown upon the table-cloth. After dinner some Silt down to chess or draughts or cards, which had just been introduced, others went down to the river, over to the skittle-grounds, or out it-hawking: others sang and played; iUid others, Wiclif with them, retired to their studies to injure their digestion by improving their minds. All sorts of men were to be found at Oxford then as now. There was the first man, who curled his hair and made it shine with grease, wore red hose, shoes worked with curious patterns, a coat of finest cloth and latest cut. full of points round the skirt, and over all a surplice, "white as the hawthorn blossom;" who could play, dance, and sing, and knew "the gay tapster" of every tavern in the tow n. And there was the " reading man," " not right fat," who lived in his bed-room, "looked hollow," wore a threadbare cloak, and w ould rather have twenty books, in black and red, than any robes or a fiddle; who spent all his friends gave him in books, prayed heartily for such as helped his studies, spoke little, but always to the point, "and gladly would he learn and gladly teach." Some of the students were very poor, and could neither indulge in the sports of the fast man nor the books of the reading man, but were dependent on the lecturers both for their learning and their support, being ill-clad and worse fed. Wiclif, however, was a commoner, and therefore could not be reduced to such straits, and we must reckon him as a reading muu.

* About this time Lord Berkeley hang a man in Bristol for shooting a hare with ( cross-bow.

The course of study was very simple; neither Hebrew nor Greek was taught; they learnt " bad Latin and worse logic." It was said that if a man went through the threefold course of grammar, logic, and

rhetoric, he could explain all books, but if he added to these the fourfold course of music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, he could answer all questions. The great text-books were a Latin translation of Aristotle, and a wretched compendium of theology, called " The Book of Sentences." Divines were often deeper in Aristotle and Scotus than in John and Paul. Wiclif, however, did not ( online himself to the usual routine, but added the study of the canon and civil law, which was of much use to him afterwards, nor did he fail to pore over the gospels. In a few years he was chosen Fellow of Merton, the best college at that time, and must therefore have already secured a reputation for scholarship. Bradwardine, whose prayers are said to have done more to secure Edward's victories than the trusty bows of his archers and the bravery of his knights, had expounded there that system of doctrine which we call Calvin's, but they Augustin's. Occam, the Nominalist, was of Merton, a heretic in philosophy, but worse still in doctrine, for he even dared to teach the supremacy of the civil over the spiritual power. Duns Scotus, the greatest of schoolmen, was of Merton; he could call in order, and refute one after the other, 200 arguments against the immaculate conception of the Virgin, "snapping the knottiest syllogisms as easily as Samson did the withs of Delilah!" And so, too, was Roger Bacon, the Father of Natural Philosophy, who first stated the principles which Francis Lord Bacon afterwards developed into the inductive pliilosophy; but who has most interest for us in connexion with Wiclif, as having opposed the schoolmen, urged the study of Greek and Hebrew, the careful revision of the Latin Bible, and a more diligent perusal of the Scriptures. From such men "Wiclif learnt, and was soon ranked among them, being, as his enemy confesses, "most eminent in theology, second to none in philosophy, and unequalled in the schools!" Like all of them but Bacon, he was a great schoolman.

« ElőzőTovább »