The Age of Erasmus by P. S. Allen

By P. S. Allen

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His accounts were audited satisfactorily, and he was discharged, to what seemed to him a riotous banquet of leisure. 'In the quiet of my cell,' he wrote to his brother, 'I read, I write, I meditate, I pray, I paint, I carve'. His interest in astronomy was resumed, and he set himself to make dials for pocket use, on metal rings or on round wooden sticks. The latter he turned for himself upon a lathe; and for this work John sent him a present of boxwood, juniper, and plane. By the New Year of 1523 he had made two sundials; one which showed the time on five sides at once, he sent to John at Wurtzen, the other to Barbara at Heppach.

At the end of one conversation, the other brother hears the bell ringing for prayers and runs off to chapel; Fernand, being old and lame, will be forgiven if he is a little late, and not fined of his dinner. In other ways consideration was shown to him, and he was often sent to dine in the infirmary, not being expected with his toothless jaws to munch the dry crusts set before the rest of the house. This, it seems, was a custom which had been learnt from St. Justina's at Padua, to put out the stale crusts first, before the new bread, to break appetite upon: just as in the old Quaker schools a hundred years ago, children were set down to suet-pudding, and then broth, before the joint appeared; the order being, 'No ball, no broth; no broth, no beef'.

Abbot and Prior took them round the monastery; the latter a busy little man in whom they could hardly recognize so exalted a dignitary. At the back they found the brethren busy with the week's washing. All crowded round them, full of questions and congratulations and pleasant laughter. For three days they were lodged in the guest-chambers, and then the Prior asked them whether they stood firm in their wish to enter the Order. On their assent he expounded to them the severities of the life, the self-abnegation that would be required of them, bidding them consider whether they could face it; at the same time instructing them in all the customs and practices of the house.

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