"There can be no doubt that Old Legion conspires to hinder the great work," he considered.
"And what is the great work, father?" Kennaston asked him.
"To find the secret of eternal life, my son. What else is lacking? Man approaches to God in all things save this, Imaginis imago, created after God's image. But as yet, by reason of his mortality, man shudders in a world that is arrayed against him. Thus, the heavens threaten with winds and lightnings, with plague-breeding metors and the unfriendly aspect of planets; the big seas molest with waves and inundations, stealthily drowning cities overnight, and sucking down tall navies as a child gul ps sugarplums; whereas how many plants and gums and seeds bear man's destruction in their tiny hearts! what soulless beasts of the field and of the wood are everywhere enleagued in endless feud against him, with tusks and teeth, with nails and claws and venomous stings, made sharp for man's demolishment! Thus all struggle miserably, like hunted persons under a sentence of death that may at best be avoided for a little while. And manifestly, this is not as it should be."
"Yet I much fear it is so ordered, father." The old man said testily: "I repeat, for your better comfort, there can be no doubt that Satan alone conspires to hinder the great work. No; it would be abuse of superstition to conceive, as would be possible for folk of slender courage, that the finger of heaven has to-day unloosed this destruction, to my bodily hurt and spiritual admonition." Kennaston could see, though, that the speaker half believed this might be exactly what had happened. "For I am abo ut no vaunting trangression of man's estate; I do but seek to recover his lost heritage. You will say to me, it is written that never shall any man be one day old in the sight of God?--yet it is likewise written that unto God a thousand years are but one day. For one thousand years, then, may each man righteously hope to have death delay to enact the midwife to his second birth. It advantages not to contend that even in the heyday of patriarchs few approached to such longevity; for Moses, relinquishing to silence all save the progeny of Seth, nowhere directly tells us that some of the seed of Cain did not outlive Methuselah. Yea, and our common parent, Adam, was created in the perfect age of man, which then fell not short of the antediluvian fathers b eget issue, as did Adam in the same year breath was given him; whereby it is a reasonable conceit of learned persons to compute him to have exceded a thousand years in age, if not in duration of existence. Now, it is written that we shall all die as Ada m died; and caution should not scruple to affirm this is an excellent dark saying, prophetic of that day when no man need outdo Adam in celerity to put by his flesh."
Then Kennaston found the alchemist had been compounding nitrum of Memphis with sulpher, mixing in a little willow charcoal to make the whole more friable, and that the powder had exploded. The old man was now interested, less in the breakage, than in the horrible noise this accident had occasioned.
"The mixture might be used in court-pagents and miracle-plays, "he estimated, "to indicate the entrance of Satan or the fall of Sodom, or Herod's descent into the Pit, and so on. Yes, I shall thriftily sell this secert, and so get money to go on with the great work."
Seeking to find the means of making life perpetual, he had accidently discovered gunpowder.
Then at Valladolid an age-striken seaman, wracked with gout, tossed in a mean bed and grumbled to bare walls. He, "the Admiral," was neglected by King Phillip, the broth was unfit for a dog's supper, his son Diego was a laggard fool. Thus the old fellow mumbled.
Ingratitude everywhere! and had not he, "the Admiral"--"the Admiral of Mosquito Land," as damnable street-songs miscalled him, he whimpered, in a petulant gust of self-pity--had not he found out at last a way by sea to the provinces of the Great Khan an d the treasures of Cipango? Give him another fleet, and he would demonstrate what milignant fools were his enemies. He would convert the Khan from Greek heresies; or else let the Holy Inquisition be established in Cipango, the thumbscrew and the stake b e fittingly utilized there ad majorem Dei gloriam--all should redound to the credit of King Philip, both temporal and celestial. And what wealth, too, a capable emissary would bring back to his Majesty--what cargoes of raw silks, of gold and preci ous gems, ravished from Kanbalu and Taidu, those famed marvelous cities!... But there was only ingratitude and folly everywhere, and the broth was cold....
Thus mumbled the broken adventuurer, Cristoforo Colombo. He had doubled the world's size and resouurces, in his attempts to find some defenseless nation which could be plundered with impunity; and he was dying in ignorance of what his endeavors had achie ved.
br> And Kennaston was at Blickling Hall when King Henry read the Pope's letter which threatened excummunication. "Nan, Nan," the King said, "this is a sorry business."
"Sire," says Mistress Boleyn, saucily, "and am I not worth a little abuse?"
"You deserve some quite certainly," he agrees; and his bright lecherous pig's eyes twinkled, and he guffawed.
"Defy the Pope, then, sire, and marry your true love. Let us snap fingers at Giulio de Medici--"
"Faith, and not every lass can bring eleven fingers to the task," the King put in.
She tweaked his fine gold beard, and Kennaston saw that upon her left hand there was really an extra finger.
"My own sweetheart," says she, "if you would have my person as much at your disposal as my heart is, we must part company with Rome. Then, too, at the cost of a few Latin phrases, some foolish candle-snuffing and a little bell-ringing, you may take for y our own all the fat abbey-lands in these islands, and sell them for a great deal of money," she pointed out.
So, between lust and greed, the King was persuaded. In the upshot, "because"--as was duly set forth to his lieges--"a virtuous monarch ought to surround his throne with many peers of the worthiest of both sexes," Mistress Anne Boleyn was created Marchio ness of Pembroke, in her own right, with a reversion of the title and estates to her offspring, whether such might happen to be legitimate or not. A pension of 1,000 per annum, with gold, silver and parcel-gilt plate to the value of 1,188, was likewise a warded her: and the King, by thus piously defying Romish error, earned the abbey-lands as well as the key of a certain bed-chamber, and the eternal approbation of zealous Protestants, for thus inaugurating religious liberty.