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Three Friends Of God by Frances Bevan


I would bear in my body the dying,

Of Him who has died for me --

Here share, O my Lord, Thy rejection,

Ere I sit on Thy throne with Thee.

I see Thee alone, broken-hearted,

Of comforters findest Thou none;

Yet Thine was the gladness of heaven,

The love and the glory Thine own.

The gall and the vinegar only,

The thirst of Thine agony stills;

Yet Thine were the streams and the fountains,

Of Thine everlasting hills.

In sorrow, in want, in dishonour,

How dear are Thy footsteps to me;

The fountain is sweet to the thirsty,

But sweeter is thirsting with Thee.

Thus to show to the world that rejects Thee --

To show to the angels above,

How blessed Thy yoke and Thy burden,

To him who has tasted Thy love.

The maiden who gathereth roses,

Another, another would find,

So sweet are the tracks of Thy sorrow

To him who would follow behind.

Thus would I press on to the glory,

A knight in the army of God,

Whose march will be onward and forward,

Because of the foes on the road.

Before me the guerdon Thou givest,

My glorious eternal reward,

And with me Thy peace and Thy wisdom,

Because of the Cross of the Lord. -- Henry Suso

IT was no doubt the case that during his years of penance, be had won much praise and honour from his brother monks. For men will admire the works which come from man, and the monks had been taught that torments, and fastings, and uncleanliness, were marks of holiness well-pleasing to God. But Henry Suso found that times were altered now. His reputation for sanctity disappeared with his leathern gloves and his belt and cross. He found himself very speedily scorned and despised by those who had been his friends.

It so happened that some thieves broke into a little chapel, in which were hung up waxen legs and arms, as now we see in Roman Catholic countries, being the offerings of lame or disabled people, who believed that they had been cured by the image or the crucifix around which they were hung. The thieves carried off all the wax, and made their escape. But a little child, who had seen Father Henry praying in this chapel the day before, assured the mayor of the town that he was the thief, and all men believed the child.

Very soon other stories were spread abroad concerning him. And not long after, when he made a journey to the Netherlands, he was brought up before a council of priests, who charged him with writing books that were full of evil teaching, and of poisoning the whole country with his heresies.

Then was he visited with sickness, and a violent fever, and it was a comfort to him that |a blessed Friend of God| came to visit him and cheer him.

But when he had recovered, other troubles came upon him, for his sister, who was a nun, betook herself to worldly company, and fell into grievous sin, so that she was cast out of the convent, and she fled, none knowing whither she was gone. But after many a weary journey in search of her, he found her in a cottage in a distant town. He arrived wet to the skin, having fallen into a stream, but he regarded it not, when he saw his sister ill and broken-hearted, and utterly cast down by disgrace and shame. He stayed with her for a while, for he loved her deeply, and he spoke to her of the love of Christ for sinners, and the Lord, he says, found His sheep that was lost, and carried her in His arms, so that she turned to Him, and walked in the ways of holiness, till she departed to be with Christ.

Soon after this another sore trouble came upon Father Henry. He was sent to a town where the yearly fair was going on, in order to do some business for the convent. A lay-brother, who was not quite right in his mind, was given him as a companion, which he did not like, but he dared not complain. On the way to the town a shower came on, and they both became very wet.

When they reached the town it was still early, just before dinner time. The lay-brother went into a hostelry where there was a good fire, and said he would dry his clothes, and that Father Henry should go to the fair, and buy all that was needed.

Scarcely had Father Henry left the house, than the lay-brother sat down at the table, where there was a large and noisy party of merchants and peddlers, who had come to the fair, and were now going to dine, having ordered a large supply of wine. The lay-brother enjoyed their company, and drank freely, so that the wine went to his head, and he staggered out of the hostelry into the fresh air.

But some of the guests followed him, and declared that he had stolen a cheese from the dinner table, and as he vainly endeavoured to prove his innocence, a crowd collected at the door of the hostelry, and the cry arose that the monk was one of the well-poisoners, of whom there was much talk in those days. For the sickness of the black death was spreading through the land, and many said it was because the wells were poisoned by evil men.

|And they shouted at the monk, and seized him, and held him fast. And when he saw he could not escape from them, he turned to them and said: Be still, and let me speak, and I will confess everything.'

|Then they were quiet, and hearkened to him, and he said, Look, all of you, you see well that I am a poor fool and have lost my wits, you need fear nothing from such as I am, but my comrade, he is a wise man with all his wits about him, and the Order have given him a little bag of poison, with which he is to poison all the wells between here and Alsatia, and he is on his way now to poison the well in this town. Look to it that you catch him before he murders any of you with his poison, for he has just been to throw it into the fountain in the market-place, so that all who come to the fair may drink the water and die. And that was the reason I stayed in the hostelry, and would not go with him, for it grieves me to see him do such evil things. And as a proof that I am telling the truth, you will see that he carries a great bag, as if he had his books therein. But in truth he has in the bag the little bag of poison, and a number of crown pieces, which he and the Order have received from the Jews, on condition they should poison the wells.'

|And when the wild rabble heard all these things, they were furious and shouted, Hie after the murderer, that he may not escape us!' And one seized a pike, and another an axe, each man what he could lay hold of, and they ran yelling and shouting, and forced their way into the houses and cottages, where they thought he was hidden, and thrust their pikes and swords into the beds and stacks, so that the whole fair ran together to see what was the matter.|

Then came there some strangers, who were honest people, and who knew Father Henry, and when they heard that it was he who was thought to be a murderer, they would have stopped the riot, saying, |He is a godly man, and would do harm to none.| But they hearkened not, and as they could not find him, they took his comrade before the mayor, who shut him up in a prison.

Of all this Father Henry was in happy ignorance, for having remembered it was dinner-time, and thinking that by this time his comrade must have dried his clothes, he had gone back to the hostelry in order to dine. When he came into the hostelry, he was told the mournful tale of all that had happened.

Then in grief and terror he ran to the house of the mayor where his comrade was locked up, and entreated the mayor to set him free. But the mayor said the man had raised a riot, and he should send him to safe keeping in a tower, as a punishment for his crime. Then went Father Henry hither and thither, seeking for some to befriend him, but finding no man, he offered the mayor some money of his own, and he consented to let the lay-brother go free.

|Then thought he that his troubles were over, but he found they were yet to begin. For when at last, after all his trouble and expense, he had released his comrade, it was vesper time, and he had yet far to go. And as soon as he came out of the mayor's house, the rabble ran together, and the boys called after him, There goes the poisoner!' And they pursued him, one and all, calling Murder! Murder!' so that he knew not how to make his way out of the town.

|Stop him!' they cried, he has the bag of poison! he shall not escape us! He shall be killed on the spot! He shall not get off by his pence, as he got away from the mayor!'

|And when he began to run, they ran the faster. And some of them said, We will drown him in the Rhine!' but others said, No, the poisonous man will poison all the water of the river, it were better to burn him!'

|Then rushed forward a stalwart peasant with a red waistcoat, and he seized a pike, and forced his way through the crowd, till he was ahead of them all, and he shouted: Hear me, gentlemen! we can gut this heretic to no more shameful death, than by running him through with this pike of mine! That is the way they kill venomous toads! Let me run my pike through his body, and stick him up on this good fence, so surely, that there he shall remain till his vile corpse is dried by the wind, that all the world may know that he is a wicked murderer, and curse him after his death, as he well deserves!'|

Father Henry heard these words with fear and lamentation, and there were some who would have saved him, and who wept bitterly when they saw that the peasant was close upon him, but they dared not make their way through the furious mob to deliver him out of their hands.

It was now beginning to get dark, and he fled before his enemies, and would have taken refuge in one house and another, but everywhere he was driven forth with bitter words. Some kind-hearted women would have taken him in, but they durst not do so.

And when he saw that death was close upon him, and that there was no help to be looked for from man, he fell on his knees beside a hedge, and lifted his eyes to his Heavenly Father, and said: |O Father of all mercy, wilt Thou not come for my deliverance in this my need! O Father, tender and faithful Father, help me, Thy poor child, in this great extremity, for I know not which death would be most grievous, to be drowned, or to be burnt, or to be run through with a pike, and one death or another must I suffer! Lord, unto thee I commend my spirit, for they are close upon me who will take my life!|

And these words were heard by a priest, who ran forward with strength and goodwill, and saved him out of their hands, and took him home to his house, and lodged him for the night, so that no harm came to him, and in the morning he set him forward on his way to his convent.

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