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Thus sang the cobbler at his work;
And with his gestures marked the time,
Closing together with a jerk
Of his waxed thread the stitch and rhyme.
Meanwhile his quiet little dame
Was leaning o'er the window-sill,
Eager, excited, but mouse-still,
Gazing impatiently to see
What the great throng of folk might be
That onward in procession came,
Along the unfrequented street,
With horns that blew, and drums that beat,
And banners flying, and the flame
Of tapers, and, at times, the sweet
Voices of nuns; and as they sang
Suddenly all the church-bells rang.
In a gay coach, above the crowd,
There sat a monk in ample hood,
Who with his right hand held aloft
A red and ponderous cross of wood,
To which at times he meekly bowed.
In front three horsemen rode, and oft,
With voice and air importunate,
A boisterous herald cried aloud :
“ The grace of God is at your gate!”
So onward to the church they passed.
The cobbler slowly turned his last,
And, wagging his sagacious head,
Unto his kneeling housewife said :
66 'T is the monk Tetzel. I bave heard
The cawings of that reverend bird.
Don't let him cheat
your gold; Indulgence is not bought and sold.”
The church of Hagenau, that night,
Was full of people, full of light;
An odor of incense filled the air,
The priest intoned, the organ groaned
Its inarticulate despair ;
The candles on the altar blazed,
And full in front of it upraised
The red cross stood against the glare.
Below, upon the altar-rail
Indulgences were set to sale,
Like ballads at a country fair.
A heavy strong-box, iron-bound
And carved with many a quaint device,
Received, with a melodious sound,
The coin that purchased Paradise.
Then from the pulpit overhead,
Tetzel the monk, with fiery glow,
Thundered upon the crowd below. “Good people all, draw near!” he said ; “Purchase these letters, signed and sealed,
By which all sins, though unrevealed
And unrepented, are forgiven !
Count but the gain, count not the loss !
Your gold and silver are but dross,
And yet they pave the way to heaven.
I I hear your mothers and your sires
Cry from their purgatorial fires,
And will ye not their ransom pay?
O senseless people ! when the gate
Of heaven is open, will ye wait?
Will ye not enter in to-day?
To-morrow it will be too late;
I shall be gone upon my way.
Make haste! bring money while ye may!"
The women shuddered, and turned pale ;
Allured by hope or driven by fear,
With many a sob and many a tear,
All crowded to the altar-rail.
Pieces of silver and of gold
Into the tinkling strong-box fell
Like pebbles dropped into a well;
And soon the ballads were all sold.
The cobbler's wife among the rest
Slipped into the capacious chest
A golden florin; then withdrew,
Hiding the paper in her breast;
And homeward through the darkness went
Comforted, quieted, content ;
She did not walk, she rather flew,
A dove that settles to her nest,
When some appalling bird of prey
That scared her has been driven away.
The days went by, the monk was gone,
The summer passed, the winter came;
Though seasons changed, yet still the same
The daily round of life went on ;
The daily round of household care,
The narrow life of toil and prayer.
But in her heart the cobbler's dame
Had now a treasure beyond price,
A secret joy without a name,
The certainty of Paradise.
Alas, alas! Dust unto dust!
Before the winter wore away,
Her body in the churchyard lay,
Her patient soul was with the Just !
After her death, among the things
That even the
Some little trinkets and cheap rings,
A locket with her mother's hair,
Her wedding gown, the faded flowers
She wore upon her wedding day,
Among these memories of past hours,
That so much of the heart reveal,
Carefully kept and put away,
The Letter of Indulgence lay
Folded, with signature and seal.
Meanwhile the Priest, aggrieved and pained,
Waited and wondered that no word
Of mass or requiem he heard,
As by the Holy Church ordained :
Then to the Magistrate complained,
That as this woman had been dead
A week or more, and no mass said,
It was rank heresy, or at least
Contempt of Church; thus said the Priest;
And straight the cobbler was arraigned.
He came, confiding in his cause,
But rather doubtful of the laws.
The Justice from his elbow-chair
Gave him a look that seemed to say: “ Thou standest before a Magistrate,
Therefore do not prevaricate!”
Then asked him in a business way,
Kindly but cold : “Is thy wife dead ?”
The cobbler meekly bowed his head ;
“She is," came struggling from his throat
Scarce audibly. The Justice wrote
The words down in a book, and then
Continued, as he raised his pen ;
“She is; and hath a mass been said
For the salvation of her soul ? Come, speak the truth! confess the whole !" The cobbler without pause replied : “Of mass or prayer there was no need ; For at the moment when she died Her soul was with the glorified ! ” And from his pocket with all speed He drew the priestly title-deed, And prayed the Justice he would read.
The Justice read, amused, amazed ;
And as he read his micth increased ;
At times his shaggy brows he raised,
Now wondering at the cobbler gazed,
Now archly at the angry Priest.
“From all excesses, sins, and crimes
Thou hast committed in past times
Thee I absolve! And furthermore,
Purified from all earthly taints,
To the communion of the Saints
And to the sacraments restore !
All stains of weakness, and all trace