Imágenes de página


the field at Bosworth, unknown and disregarded of all, since mine only friend lay a bloody corse thereon :-and, but for the humanity of Israel and his late virtuous spouse, I had not now lived to stand by the couch of another, or to speak in vindication of my benefactor. And think not, I pray you, good my Lord, that if he be not illumined by the Christian faith, he is therefore abandoned for ever; since we who adore a God who will not that any should perish, may not rashly condemn even a Jew, of virtuous life and warm and charitable heart.”

“ Thou hast a generous and kindly soul, Richard Plantagenet,” rejoined the Lord Lovel,“ and unto somewhat of this did mine own thoughts arrive, after that my spirit had been softened and purified by much reading in that holy book of the Imitation of Our Lord; and another little tome of certain texts of the Sacred Scriptures, translated into English by Master John de Trevisa.* In the pondering upon these, I seemed, as it were, to forget time and to lose mine infirmity; and they so wrought within me, that first came sorrow and penitence into mine heart, and tears from mine eyes, such as I had never shed before. And anon came a godly joy and illumination, which made me almost to leap as I read when I began to un* This collection was made towards the close of the fourteenth century, and is sometimes said to have included the whole of the Scriptures ; though it more probably contained only a few_texts which were painted on the walls of the Chapel in Berkeley Castle, executed by command of Lord Thomas de Berkeley. Trevisa was a celebrated translator of numerous works, and Vicar of Berkeley in the county of Gloucester.

derstand how true were the words, which I had heard spoken from the blessed 'Vangil

, · Non in solo pane vivit homo, sed in omni verbo qui procedit dei ore Dei: man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word which cometh forth of the mouth of God. For albeit I was still shrewdly an hungered, yet had I now good store of the Bread of Life; and feeding upon that I freely forgave my death unto the Hebrew, and thought me already at the gate of Heaven !-But now my strength indeed faileth,—and I must hasten to elose. On the morning of yesterday, I chanced to find a crust, full hard and mouldy and black with age, such as in the days of my pride I would not have cast unto a hound that I held in any favour; on the which, howbeit, I now seized with thankfulness and joy, eating it with much devotion, as the Blessed Sacrament sent unto me before my death: for I say unto thee, Richard, that until I partake of the food of angels, there shall no other pass between my dying lips!"

" Albeit I saw that it was now altogether in vain, I could not but essay as I might to support the sinking Lord Lovel ; still declaring mine earnest hope that he was not yet so shrewdly distempered as he judged of himself, nor that food and the remedies which I bore, might not render him good service.

Nay," answered he again, “ that cannot be; for the cold damp of my former lodging, and that which I took upon my first coming hither, hath stricken unto my very heart, and brought on a fever of such consuming fierceness, that nothing now can allay it. The wise in physic do indeed tell, that much fasting will pre


sently starve a fever out of man's frame, but it hath not been so with me; though, peradventure, my sinful anger against Israel when I deemed that he had so foully deserted me, hạth shaken me as shrewdly as lack of sustenance. Yet be this as it will, my sickness hath now risen unto a height as no medicines can stay it; albeit I bless God

; that I have found a sure and faithful Physician for

my soul."

[ocr errors]

Hereupon I did urge unto him hope of life no longer, seeing that his pallid and sunken cheek suddenly turned paler, showing that he was now nigh unto the death, for which he was so well fitted: but, that his worldly desires should be fulfilled in as much as they might, I demanded of him, in great sorrow, if there were aught where I could yet serve him.

“Mourn not for me, noble youth,” responded he," though thou hast so gentle and kindly a heart, that I feel

much sadness that I cannot guerdon thy love towards me; or give thee aught but thanks for thy many and courteous services. Yet, to be still more thy debtor, there is one thing,--and that of some hazard, which I would fain have thee do for me when I am departed; the which, only my long-increasing infirmity hath kept me from braving

for myself. It is to ascend the secret stair out of this cell, which will lead thee into a broad fire-place in mine own chamber above; wherein, beneath the middle window, thou wilt find a panel in the wall

, sculptured with the devices of my house.—Firmly press down the body of the ramping lion on the 'scutcheon, and a spring will be loosened that holds up the shield, which, falling




down, will discover unto thee a little secret closet. Therein is a steel casket containing some gold, and divers letters from certain partisans of the house of York, who are now living and unsuspected, touching a rising against Harry of Lancaster. These I charge thee to take forth, and destroy as surely and as speedily as thou mayest, that none may hereafter find them, and bring others into infamy or death. For the gold which is in the casket, take it unto thyself, good Richard, I give it thee all, and would it were far greater. Now-Farewell !—may the blessing of a dying friend rest


thee!_and I lack only a confessor, that I too might have absolution and benediction."

Unto this I replied, that I would assuredly undertake his trust, and, if he so desired, would go forth to seek him a confessor; but he answered

а. me that he might not then permit it, for that death was dealing so shrewdly with him, that he should eftsoons depart. “And thou forgettest,” added he, " that by thus doing thou wouldest hazard thine own safety; and, perchance, that of the holy man who should come unto me. And in sooth,” he faintly continued, “ though I would fain be shriven and absolved by the church, that so my spirit might be the better fitted to appear at the throne of God, yet do I well trust that I am so accounted in heaven, unto which I have devoutly confessed; and so may pass away in hope, albeit unhouselled and unannealed with the sacraments of confession or extreme-unction."

“In truth, my good Lord," answered I, who was inwardly praying for him upon my rosary, “I do well believe it, and my poor orisons shall not be


wanting that your spirit may rise speedily unto glory.”

“ Thanks, thanks, good Richard, returned the Viscount, “and if no other prayers be heard for me whilst my soul is parting from her clay, if no dirge be sung over my corse, yet will I not faint even in the shadow of death; nor fear that the lack of priestly rites, all sacred though they be, shall mar my joyful entrance into Paradise.”

Upon this, as it were exhausted by so much speaking, he gradually sank back, grasping my hand, and closing his eyes: so that I drew in my breath with anxious dread, thinking that his last moment was indeed come. Yet whilst I thus bent sorrowfully over him, his spirit came unto him again, and he reared him with even more seeming strength than before: but from the glazed look of his eyes,

I well deemed that it was but the last brief and sudden kindling up of the taper of life, which was speedily to sink down into an immortal darkness.

Howbeit, for some short space he was again himself, and said unto me, “'Tis in vain, Plantagenet, 'tis in vain; not all thy kind offices can now

.; save thy dying friend, or even give him a sepulchre when he shall be no more. Yet, though God hath willed it thus, I pray thee help me to don my grave-clothes, the which thou wilt find in yonder chest; being the knightly suit I ever wore both at court and in the battle. So,—'tis well-good Richard, but haste thee, for even now I feel my blood ceasing to flow-there,—my surcoat of arms, and my helm upon my headthat thus apparelled, as Lovel was wont to be in the day of

[ocr errors][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »