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- Hyperion - 40/43 -


In half an hour they were at the village of Saint Wolfgang, threading a narrow street, above which the roofs of quaint, picturesque old houses almost met. It led them to a Gothic church; a magnificent one for a village;--in front of which was a small court, shut in by Italian-looking houses, with balconies, and flowers at the windows. Here a bronze fountain of elaborate workmanship was playing in the shade. On its summit stood an image of the patron Saint of the village; and, running round the under lip of the water-basin below, they read this inscription in old German rhymes;

"I am in the honor of Saint Wolfgang raised. Abbot Wolfgang Habel of Emensee, he hath made me for the use and delight of poor pilgrim wight. Neither gold nor wine hath he; at this water shall he merry be. In the year of the Lord fifteen hundred and fifteen, hath the work completed been. God be praised!"

As they were deciphering the rude characters of this pious inscription, a village priest came down a high flight of steps from the parsonage near the church, and courteously saluted the strangers. After returning the salutation, the mad Englishman, without preface, asked him how many natural children were annually born in the parish. The question seemed to astonish the good father, but he answered it civilly, as he did several other questions, which Flemming thought rather indiscreet, to say the least.

"You will excuse our curiosity," said he to the priest, by way of apology. "We are strangersfrom distant countries. My friend is an Englishman and I an American."

Berkley, however, was not so easily silenced. After a few moments' conversation he broke out into most audacious Latin, in which the only words clearly intelligible were;

"Plurimum reverende, in Christo religiosissime, ac clarissime Domine, necnon et amice observandissime! Petrus sic est locutus; 'Nec argentum mihi, nec aurum est; sed quod habeo, hoc tibi do; surge et ambula.'"

He seemed to be speaking of the fountain. The priest answered meekly,

"Non intellexi, Domine!"

But Berkley continued with great volubility to speak of his being a stranger in the land, and all men being strangers upon earth, and hoping to meet the good priest hereafter in the kingdom of Heaven. The priest seemed confounded, and abashed. Through the mist of a strange pronunciation he could recognise only here and there afamiliar word. He took out his snuff-box; and tried to quote a passage from Saint Paul;

"Ut dixit Sanctus Paulus; qui bene facit--"

Here his memory failed him, or, as the French say, he was at the end of his Latin, and, stretching forth his long forefinger, he concluded in German;

"Yes;--I don't--so clearly remember--what he did say."

The Englishman helped him through with a moral phrase; and then pulling off his hat, exclaimed very solemnly;

"Vale, domine doctissime et reverendissime!"

And the Dominie, as if pursued by a demon, made a sudden and precipitate retreat down a flight of steps into the street.

"There!" said Berkley laughing, "I beat him at his own weapons. What do you say of my Latin?"

"I say of it," replied Flemming, "what Holophernes said of Sir Nathaniel's; 'Priscian a little scratched; 't will serve.' I think I have heardbetter. But what a whim! I thought I should have laughed aloud."

They were still sitting by the bronze fountain when the priest returned, accompanied by a short man, with large feet, and a long blue surtout, so greasy, that it reminded one of Polilla's in the Spanish play, which was lined with slices of pork. His countenance was broad and placid, but his blue eyes gleamed with a wild, mysterious, sorrowful expression. Flemming thought the Latin contest was to be renewed, with more powder and heavier guns. He was mistaken. The stranger saluted him in German, and said, that, having heard he was from America, he had come to question him about that distant country, for which he was on the point of embarking. There was nothing peculiar in his manner, nor in the questions he asked, nor the remarks he made. They were the usual questions and remarks about cities and climate, and sailing the sea. At length Flemming asked him the object of his journey to America. Thestranger came close up to him, and lowering his voice, said very solemnly;

"That holy man, Frederick Baraga, missionary among the Indians at Lacroix, on Lake Superior, has returned to his father-land, Krain; and I am chosen by Heaven to go forth as Minister Extraordinary of Christ, to unite all nations and people in one church!"

Flemming almost started at the singular earnestness, with which he uttered these words; and looked at him attentively, thinking to see the face of a madman. But the modest, unassuming look of that placid countenance was unchanged; only in the eyes burned a mysterious light, as if candles had been lighted in the brain, to magnify the daylight there.

"It is truly a high vocation," said he in reply. "But are you sure, that this is no hallucination? Are you certain, that you have been chosen by Heaven for this great work?"

"I am certain," replied the German, in a tone of great calmness and sincerity; "and, if Saint Peter and Saint Paul should come down from Heaven to assure me of it, my faith would be no stronger than it now is. It has been declared to me by many signs and wonders. I can no longer doubt, nor hesitate. I have already heard the voice of the Spirit, speaking to me at night; and I know that I am an apostle; and chosen for this work."

Such was the calm enthusiasm with which he spoke, that Flemming could not choose but listen. He felt interested in this strange being. There was something awe-inspiring in the spirit that possessed him. After a short pause he continued;

"If you wish to know who I am, I can tell you in few words. I think you will not find the story without interest."

He then went on to relate the circumstances recorded in the following chapter.

CHAPTER VII. THE STORY OF BROTHER BERNARDUS.

"I was born in the city of Stein, in the land of Krain. My pious mother Gertrude sang me psalms and spiritual songs in childhood; and often, when I awoke in the night, I saw her still sitting, patiently at her work by the stove, and heard her singing those hymns of heaven, or praying in the midnight darkness when her work was done. It was for me she prayed. Thus, from my earliest childhood, I breathed the breath of pious aspirations. Afterwards I went to Laybach as a student of theology; and after the usual course of study, was ordained a priest. I went forth to the care of souls; my own soul filled with the faith, that ere long all people would be united in one church. Yet attimes my heart was heavy, to behold how many nations there are who have not heard of Christ; and how those, who are called Christians, are divided into numberless sects, and how among these are many who are Christians in name only. I determined to devote myself to the great work of the one church universal; and for this purpose, to give myself wholly up to the study of the Evangelists and the Fathers. I retired to the Benedictine cloister of Saint Paul in the valley of Lavant. The father-confessor in the nunnery of Laak, where I then lived, strengthened me in this resolve. I had long walked with this angel of God in a human form, and his parting benediction sank deep into my soul. The Prince-Abbot Berthold, of blessed memory, was then head of the Benedictine convent. He received me kindly, and led me to the library; where I gazed with secret rapture on the vast folios of the Christian Fathers, from which, as from an arsenal, I was to draw the weapons of holy warfare. In the study of these, the year of my noviciate passed. I becamea Franciscan friar; and took the name of Brother Bernardus. Yet my course of life remained unchanged. I seldom left the cloister; but sat in my cell, and pored over those tomes of holy wisdom. About this time the aged confessor in Laak departed this life. His death was made known to me in a dream. It must have been after midnight, when I thought that I came into the church, which was brilliantly lighted up. The dead body of the venerable saint was brought in, attended by a great crowd. It seemed to me, that I must go up into the pulpit and pronounce his funeral oration; and, as I ascended the stairs, the words of my text came into my mind; 'Blessed in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.' My funeral sermon ended in a strain of exultation; and I awoke with 'Amen!' upon my lips. A few days afterwards, I heard that on that night the old man died. After this event I became restless and melancholy. I strove in vain to drive from me my gloomy thoughts. I could no longer study. I was no longer contented in the cloister. I even thought of leaving it.

"One night I had gone to bed early, according to my custom, and had fallen asleep. Suddenly I was awakened by a bright and wonderful light, which shone all about me, and filled me with heavenly rapture. Shortly after I heard a voice, which pronounced distinctly these words, in the Sclavonian tongue; 'Remain in the cloister!' It was the voice of my departed mother. I was fully awake; yet saw nothing but the bright light, which disappeared, when the words had been spoken. Still it was broad daylight in my chamber. I thought I had slept beyond my usual hour. I looked at my watch. It was just one o'clock after midnight. Suddenly the daylight vanished, and it was dark. In the morning I arose, as if new-born, through the wonderful light, and the words of my mother's voice. It was no dream. I knew it was the will of God that I should stay; and I could again give myself up to quiet study. I read the whole Bible through once more in theoriginal text; and went on with the Fathers, in chronological order. Often, after the apparition of the light, I awoke at the same hour; and though I heard no voice and saw no light, yet was refreshed with heavenly consolation.

"Not long after this an important event happened in the cloister. In the absence of the deacon of the Abbey, I was to preach the


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