The Cloister and the Hearth, by Charles Reade

Chapter 71

“As is the race of leaves so is that of men.” And a great man budded unnoticed in a tailor’s house at Rotterdam this year, and a large man dropped to earth with great eclat.

Philip, Duke of Burgundy, Earl of Holland, etc., etc., lay sick at Bruges. Now paupers got sick and got well as Nature pleased; but woe betided the rich in an age when, for one Mr. Malady killed three fell by Dr. Remedy.

The Duke’s complaint, nameless then, is now diphtheria. It is, and was, a very weakening malady, and the Duke was old; so altogether Dr. Remedy bled him.

The Duke turned very cold: wonderful!

Then Dr. Remedy had recourse to the arcana of science.

“Ho! This is grave. Flay me an ape incontinent, and clap him to the Duke’s breast!”

Officers of state ran septemvious, seeking an ape, to counteract the bloodthirsty tomfoolery of the human species.

Perdition! The duke was out of apes. There were buffaloes, lizards, Turks, leopards; any unreasonable beast but the right one.

“Why, there used to be an ape about,” said one. “If I stand here I saw him.”

So there used; but the mastiff had mangled the sprightly creature for stealing his supper; and so fulfilled the human precept, “Soyez de votre siecle!”

In this emergency the seneschal cast his despairing eyes around; and not in vain. A hopeful light shot into them.

“Here is this,” said he, sotto voce. “Surely this will serve: ’tis altogether apelike, doublet and hose apart.”

“Nay,” said the chancellor peevishly, “the Princess Marie would hang us. She doteth on this.”

Now this was our friend Giles, strutting, all unconscious, in cloth of gold.

Then Dr. Remedy grew impatient, and bade flay a dog.

“A dog is next best to an ape; only it must be a dog all of one colour.”

So they flayed a liver-coloured dog, and clapped it, yet palpitating, to their sovereign’s breast and he died.

Philip the Good, thus scientifically disposed of, left thirty-one children: of whom one, somehow or another, was legitimate; and reigned in his stead.

The good duke provided for nineteen out of the other thirty; the rest shifted for themselves.

According to the Flemish chronicle the deceased prince was descended from the kings of Troy through Thierry of Aquitaine, and Chilperic, Pharamond, etc., the old kings of Franconia.

But this in reality was no distinction. Not a prince of his day have I been able to discover who did not come down from Troy. “Priam” was mediaeval for “Adam.”

The good duke’s, body was carried into Burgundy, and laid in a noble mausoleum of black marble at Dijon.

Holland rang with his death; and little dreamed that anything as famous was born in her territory that year. That judgment has been long reversed. Men gaze at the tailor’s house, here the great birth of the fifteenth century took place. In what house the good duke died “no one knows and no one cares,” as the song says.

And why?

Dukes Philip the Good come and go, and leave mankind not a halfpenny wiser, nor better, nor other than they found it.

But when, once in three hundred years, such a child is born to the world as Margaret’s son, lo! a human torch lighted by fire from heaven; and “FIAT LUX” thunder’s from pole to pole.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59