Julian's father and mother dwelt in a castle built on the slope of
a hill, in the heart of the woods.
The towers at its four corners had pointed roofs covered with
leaden tiles, and the foundation rested upon solid rocks, which
descended abruptly to the bottom of the moat.
In the courtyard, the stone flagging was as immaculate as the
floor of a church. Long rain-spouts, representing dragons with
yawning jaws, directed the water towards the cistern, and on each
window-sill of the castle a basil or a heliotrope bush bloomed, in
A second enclosure, surrounded by a fence, comprised a
fruit-orchard, a garden decorated with figures wrought in
bright-hued flowers, an arbour with several bowers, and a mall
for the diversion of the pages. On the other side were the kennel,
the stables, the bakery, the wine-press and the barns. Around
these spread a pasture, also enclosed by a strong hedge.
Peace had reigned so long that the portcullis was never lowered;
the moats were filled with water; swallows built their nests in
the cracks of the battlements, and as soon as the sun shone too
strongly, the archer who all day long paced to and fro on the
curtain, withdrew to the watch-tower and slept soundly.
Inside the castle, the locks on the doors shone brightly; costly
tapestries hung in the apartments to keep out the cold; the
closets overflowed with linen, the cellar was filled with casks of
wine, and the oak chests fairly groaned under the weight of
In the armoury could be seen, between banners and the heads of
wild beasts, weapons of all nations and of all ages, from the
slings of the Amalekites and the javelins of the Garamantes, to
the broad-swords of the Saracens and the coats of mail of the
The largest spit in the kitchen could hold an ox; the chapel was
as gorgeous as a king's oratory. There was even a Roman bath in a
secluded part of the castle, though the good lord of the manor
refrained from using it, as he deemed it a heathenish practice.
Wrapped always in a cape made of fox-skins, he wandered about the
castle, rendered justice among his vassals and settled his
neighbours' quarrels. In the winter, he gazed dreamily at the
falling snow, or had stories read aloud to him. But as soon as the
fine weather returned, he would mount his mule and sally forth
into the country roads, edged with ripening wheat, to talk with
the peasants, to whom he distributed advice. After a number of
adventures he took unto himself a wife of high lineage.
She was pale and serious, and a trifle haughty. The horns of her
head-dress touched the top of the doors and the hem of her gown
trailed far behind her. She conducted her household like a
cloister. Every morning she distributed work to the maids,
supervised the making of preserves and unguents, and afterwards
passed her time in spinning, or in embroidering altar-cloths. In
response to her fervent prayers, God granted her a son!
Then there was great rejoicing; and they gave a feast which lasted
three days and four nights, with illuminations and soft music.
Chickens as large as sheep, and the rarest spices were served; for
the entertainment of the guests, a dwarf crept out of a pie; and
when the bowls were too few, for the crowd swelled continuously,
the wine was drunk from helmets and hunting-horns.
The young mother did not appear at the feast. She was quietly
resting in bed. One night she awoke, and beheld in a moonbeam that
crept through the window something that looked like a moving
shadow. It was an old man clad in sackcloth, who resembled a
hermit. A rosary dangled at his side and he carried a beggar's
sack on his shoulder. He approached the foot of the bed, and
without opening his lips said: "Rejoice, O mother! Thy son shall
be a saint."
She would have cried out, but the old man, gliding along the
moonbeam, rose through the air and disappeared. The songs of the
banqueters grew louder. She could hear angels' voices, and her
head sank back on the pillow, which was surmounted by the bone of
a martyr, framed in precious stones.
The following day, the servants, upon being questioned, declared,
to a man, that they had seen no hermit. Then, whether dream or
fact, this must certainly have been a communication from heaven;
but she took care not to speak of it, lest she should be accused
The guests departed at daybreak, and Julian's father stood at the
castle gate, where he had just bidden farewell to the last one,
when a beggar suddenly emerged from the mist and confronted him.
He was a gipsy--for he had a braided beard and wore silver
bracelets on each arm. His eyes burned and, in an inspired way, he
muttered some disconnected words: "Ah! Ah! thy son!--great
bloodshed--great glory--happy always--an emperor's family."
Then he stooped to pick up the alms thrown to him, and disappeared
in the tall grass.
The lord of the manor looked up and down the road and called as
loudly as he could. But no one answered him! The wind only howled
and the morning mists were fast dissolving.
He attributed his vision to a dullness of the brain resulting from
too much sleep. "If I should speak of it," quoth he, "people would
laugh at me." Still, the glory that was to be his son's dazzled
him, albeit the meaning of the prophecy was not clear to him, and
he even doubted that he had heard it.
The parents kept their secret from each other. But both cherished
the child with equal devotion, and as they considered him marked
by God, they had great regard for his person. His cradle was lined
with the softest feathers, and lamp representing a dove burned
continually over it; three nurses rocked him night and day, and
with his pink cheeks and blue eyes, brocaded cloak and embroidered
cap he looked like a little Jesus. He cut all his teeth without
even a whimper.
When he was seven years old his mother taught him to sing, and his
father lifted him upon a tall horse, to inspire him with courage.
The child smiled with delight, and soon became familiar with
everything pertaining to chargers. An old and very learned monk
taught him the Gospel, the Arabic numerals, the Latin letters, and
the art of painting delicate designs on vellum. They worked in the
top of a tower, away from all noise and disturbance.
When the lesson was over, they would go down into the garden and
study the flowers.
Sometimes a herd of cattle passed through the valley below, in
charge of a man in Oriental dress. The lord of the manor,
recognising him as a merchant, would despatch a servant after him.
The stranger, becoming confident, would stop on his way and after
being ushered into the castle-hall, would display pieces of velvet
and silk, trinkets and strange objects whose use was unknown in
those parts. Then, in due time, he would take leave, without
having been molested and with a handsome profit.
At other times, a band of pilgrims would knock at the door. Their
wet garments would be hung in front of the hearth and after they
had been refreshed by food they would relate their travels, and
discuss the uncertainty of vessels on the high seas, their long
journeys across burning sands, the ferocity of the infidels, the
caves of Syria, the Manger and the Holy Sepulchre. They made
presents to the young heir of beautiful shells, which they carried
in their cloaks.
The lord of the manor very often feasted his brothers-at-arms, and
over the wine the old warriors would talk of battles and attacks,
of war-machines and of the frightful wounds they had received, so
that Julian, who was a listener, would scream with excitement;
then his father felt convinced that some day he would be a
conqueror. But in the evening, after the Angelus, when he passed
through the crowd of beggars who clustered about the church-door,
he distributed his alms with so much modesty and nobility that his
mother fully expected to see him become an archbishop in time.
His seat in the chapel was next to his parents, and no matter how
long the services lasted, he remained kneeling on his _prie-dieu,_
with folded hands and his velvet cap lying close beside him on the
One day, during mass, he raised his head and beheld a little white
mouse crawling out of a hole in the wall. It scrambled to the
first altar-step and then, after a few gambols, ran back in the
same direction. On the following Sunday, the idea of seeing the
mouse again worried him. It returned; and every Sunday after that
he watched for it; and it annoyed him so much that he grew to hate
it and resolved to do away with it.
So, having closed the door and strewn some crumbs on the steps of
the altar, he placed himself in front of the hole with a stick.
After a long while a pink snout appeared, and then whole mouse
crept out. He struck it lightly with his stick and stood stunned
at the sight of the little, lifeless body. A drop of blood stained
the floor. He wiped it away hastily with his sleeve, and picking
up the mouse, threw it away, without saying a word about it to
All sorts of birds pecked at the seeds in the garden. He put some
peas in a hollow reed, and when he heard birds chirping in a tree,
he would approach cautiously, lift the tube and swell his cheeks;
then, when the little creatures dropped about him in multitudes,
he could not refrain from laughing and being delighted with his
One morning, as he was returning by way of the curtain, he beheld
a fat pigeon sunning itself on the top of the wall. He paused to
gaze at it; where he stood the rampart was cracked and a piece of
stone was near at hand; he gave his arm a jerk and the well-aimed
missile struck the bird squarely, sending it straight into the
He sprang after it, unmindful of the brambles, and ferreted around
the bushes with the litheness of a young dog.
The pigeon hung with broken wings in the branches of a privet
The persistence of its life irritated the boy. He began to
strangle it, and its convulsions made his heart beat quicker, and
filled him with a wild, tumultuous voluptuousness, the last throb
of its heart making him feel like fainting.
At supper that night, his father declared that at his age a boy
should begin to hunt; and he arose and brought forth an old
writing-book which contained, in questions and answers, everything
pertaining to the pastime. In it, a master showed a supposed pupil
how to train dogs and falcons, lay traps, recognise a stag by its
fumets, and a fox or a wolf by footprints. He also taught the best
way of discovering their tracks, how to start them, where their
refuges are usually to be found, what winds are the most
favourable, and further enumerated the various cries, and the
rules of the quarry.
When Julian was able to recite all these things by heart, his
father made up a pack of hounds for him. There were twenty-four
greyhounds of Barbary, speedier than gazelles, but liable to get
out of temper; seventeen couples of Breton dogs, great barkers,
with broad chests and russet coats flecked with white. For
wild-boar hunting and perilous doublings, there were forty
boarhounds as hairy as bears.
The red mastiffs of Tartary, almost as large as donkeys, with
broad backs and straight legs, were destined for the pursuit of
the wild bull. The black coats of the spaniels shone like satin;
the barking of the setters equalled that of the beagles. In a
special enclosure were eight growling bloodhounds that tugged at
their chains and rolled their eyes, and these dogs leaped at men's
throats and were not afraid even of lions.
All ate wheat bread, drank from marble troughs, and had
Perhaps the falconry surpassed the pack; for the master of the
castle, by paying great sums of money, had secured Caucasian
hawks, Babylonian sakers, German gerfalcons, and pilgrim falcons
captured on the cliffs edging the cold seas, in distant lands.
They were housed in a thatched shed and were chained to the perch
in the order of size. In front of them was a little grass-plot
where, from time to time, they were allowed to disport themselves.
Bag-nets, baits, traps and all sorts of snares were manufactured.
Often they would take out pointers who would set almost
immediately; then the whippers-in, advancing step by step, would
cautiously spread a huge net over their motionless bodies. At the
command, the dogs would bark and arouse the quails; and the ladies
of the neighbourhood, with their husbands, children and hand-maids,
would fall upon them and capture them with ease.
At other times they used a drum to start hares; and frequently
foxes fell into the ditches prepared for them, while wolves caught
their paws in the traps.
But Julian scorned these convenient contrivances; he preferred to
hunt away from the crowd, alone with his steed and his falcon. It
was almost always a large, snow-white, Scythian bird. His leather
hood was ornamented with a plume, and on his blue feet were bells;
and he perched firmly on his master's arm while they galloped
across the plains. Then Julian would suddenly untie his tether and
let him fly, and the bold bird would dart through the air like an
arrow, One might perceive two spots circle around, unite, and then
disappear in the blue heights. Presently the falcon would return
with a mutilated bird, and perch again on his master's gauntlet
with trembling wings.
Julian loved to sound his trumpet and follow his dogs over hills
and streams, into the woods; and when the stag began to moan under
their teeth, he would kill it deftly, and delight in the fury of
the brutes, which would devour the pieces spread out on the warm
On foggy days, he would hide in the marshes to watch for wild
geese, otters and wild ducks.
At daybreak, three equerries waited for him at the foot of the
steps; and though the old monk leaned out of the dormer-window and
made signs to him to return, Julian would not look around.
He heeded neither the broiling sun, the rain nor the storm; he
drank spring water and ate wild berries, and when he was tired, he
lay down under a tree; and he would come home at night covered
with earth and blood, with thistles in his hair and smelling of
wild beasts. He grew to be like them. And when his mother kissed
him, he responded coldly to her caress and seemed to be thinking
of deep and serious things.
He killed bears with a knife, bulls with a hatchet, and wild boars
with a spear; and once, with nothing but a stick, he defended
himself against some wolves, which were gnawing corpses at the
foot of a gibbet.
* * * * *
One winter morning he set out before daybreak, with a bow slung
across his shoulder and a quiver of arrows attached to the pummel
of his saddle. The hoofs of his steed beat the ground with
regularity and his two beagles trotted close behind. The wind was
blowing hard and icicles clung to his cloak. A part of the horizon
cleared, and he beheld some rabbits playing around their burrows.
In an instant, the two dogs were upon them, and seizing as many as
they could, they broke their backs in the twinkling of an eye.
Soon he came to a forest. A woodcock, paralysed by the cold,
perched on a branch, with its head hidden under its wing. Julian,
with a lunge of his sword, cut off its feet, and without stopping
to pick it up, rode away.
Three hours later he found himself on the top of a mountain so
high that the sky seemed almost black. In front of him, a long,
flat rock hung over a precipice, and at the end two wild goats
stood gazing down into the abyss. As he had no arrows (for he had
left his steed behind), he thought he would climb down to where
they stood; and with bare feet and bent back he at last reached
the first goat and thrust his dagger below its ribs. But the
second animal, in its terror, leaped into the precipice. Julian
threw himself forward to strike it, but his right foot slipped,
and he fell, face downward and with outstretched arms, over the
body of the first goat.
After he returned to the plains, he followed a stream bordered by
willows. From time to time, some cranes, flying low, passed over
his head. He killed them with his whip, never missing a bird. He
beheld in the distance the gleam of a lake which appeared to be of
lead, and in the middle of it was an animal he had never seen
before, a beaver with a black muzzle. Notwithstanding the distance
that separated them, an arrow ended its life and Julian only
regretted that he was not able to carry the skin home with him.
Then he entered an avenue of tall trees, the tops of which formed
a triumphal arch to the entrance of a forest. A deer sprang out of
the thicket and a badger crawled out of its hole, a stag appeared
in the road, and a peacock spread its fan-shaped tail on the
grass--and after he had slain them all, other deer, other stags,
other badgers, other peacocks, and jays, blackbirds, foxes,
porcupines, polecats, and lynxes, appeared; in fact, a host of beasts
that grew more and more numerous with every step he took. Trembling,
and with a look of appeal in their eyes, they gathered around
Julian, but he did not stop slaying them; and so intent was he on
stretching his bow, drawing his sword and whipping out his knife,
that he had little thought for aught else. He knew that he was
hunting in some country since an indefinite time, through the very
fact of his existence, as everything seemed to occur with the ease
one experiences in dreams. But presently an extraordinary sight
made him pause.
He beheld a valley shaped like a circus and filled with stags
which, huddled together, were warming one another with the vapour
of their breaths that mingled with the early mist.
For a few minutes, he almost choked with pleasure at the prospect
of so great a carnage. Then he sprang from his horse, rolled up
his sleeves, and began to aim.
When the first arrow whizzed through the air, the stags turned
their heads simultaneously. They huddled closer, uttered plaintive
cries, and a great agitation seized the whole herd. The edge of
the valley was too high to admit of flight; and the animals ran
around the enclosure in their efforts to escape. Julian aimed,
stretched his bow and his arrows fell as fast and thick as
raindrops in a shower.
Maddened with terror, the stags fought and reared and climbed on
top of one another; their antlers and bodies formed a moving
mountain which tumbled to pieces whenever it displaced itself.
Finally the last one expired. Their bodies lay stretched out on
the sand with foam gushing from the nostrils and the bowels
protruding. The heaving of their bellies grew less and less
noticeable, and presently all was still.
Night came, and behind the trees, through the branches, the sky
appeared like a sheet of blood.
Julian leaned against a tree and gazed with dilated eyes at the
enormous slaughter. He was now unable to comprehend how he had
On the opposite side of the valley, he suddenly beheld a large
stag, with a doe and their fawn. The buck was black and of
enormous size; he had a white beard and carried sixteen antlers.
His mate was the color of dead leaves, and she browsed upon the
grass, while the fawn, clinging to her udder, followed her step by
Again the bow was stretched, and instantly the fawn dropped dead,
and seeing this, its mother raised her head and uttered a
poignant, almost human wail of agony. Exasperated, Julian thrust
his knife into her chest, and felled her to the ground.
The great stag had watched everything and suddenly he sprang
forward. Julian aimed his last arrow at the beast. It struck him
between his antlers and stuck there.
The stag did not appear to notice it; leaping over the bodies, he
was coming nearer and nearer with the intention, Julian thought,
of charging at him and ripping him open, and he recoiled with
inexpressible horror. But presently the huge animal halted, and,
with eyes aflame and the solemn air of a patriarch and a judge,
repeated thrice, while a bell tolled in the distance: "Accursed!
Accursed! Accursed! some day, ferocious soul, thou wilt murder thy
father and thy mother!"
Then he sank on his knees, gently closed his lids and expired.
At first Julian was stunned, and then a sudden lassitude and an
immense sadness came over him. Holding his head between his hands,
he wept for a long time.
His steed had wandered away; his dogs had forsaken him; the
solitude seemed to threaten him with unknown perils. Impelled by a
sense of sickening terror, he ran across the fields, and choosing
a path at random, found himself almost immediately at the gates of
That night he could not rest, for, by the flickering light of the
hanging lamp, he beheld again the huge black stag. He fought
against the obsession of the prediction and kept repeating: "No!
No! No! I cannot slay them!" and then he thought: "Still,
supposing I desired to?--" and he feared that the devil might
inspire him with this desire.
During three months, his distracted mother prayed at his bedside,
and his father paced the halls of the castle in anguish. He
consulted the most celebrated physicians, who prescribed
quantities of medicine. Julian's illness, they declared, was due
to some injurious wind or to amorous desire. But in reply to their
questions, the young man only shook his head. After a time, his
strength returned, and he was able to take a walk in the
courtyard, supported by his father and the old monk.
But after he had completely recovered, he refused to hunt.
His father, hoping to please him, presented him with a large
Saracen sabre. It was placed on a panoply that hung on a pillar,
and a ladder was required to reach it. Julian climbed up to it one
day, but the heavy weapon slipped from his grasp, and in falling
grazed his father and tore his cloak. Julian, believing he had
killed him, fell in a swoon.
After that, he carefully avoided weapons. The sight of a naked
sword made him grow pale, and this weakness caused great distress
to his family.
In the end, the old monk ordered him in the name of God, and of
his forefathers, once more to indulge in the sport's of a nobleman.
The equerries diverted themselves every day with javelins and
Julian soon excelled in the practice.
He was able to send a javelin into bottles, to break the teeth of
the weather-cocks on the castle and to strike door-nails at a
distance of one hundred feet.
One summer evening, at the hour when dusk renders objects
indistinct, he was in the arbour in the garden, and thought he saw
two white wings in the background hovering around the espalier.
Not for a moment did he doubt that it was a stork, and so he threw
his javelin at it.
A heart-rending scream pierced the air.
He had struck his mother, whose cap and long streams remained
nailed to the wall.
Julian fled from home and never returned.
He joined a horde of adventurers who were passing through the
He learned what it was to suffer hunger, thirst, sickness and
filth. He grew accustomed to the din of battles and to the sight
of dying men. The wind tanned his skin. His limbs became hardened
through contact with armour, and as he was very strong and brave,
temperate and of good counsel, he easily obtained command of a
At the outset of a battle, he would electrify his soldiers by a
motion of his sword. He would climb the walls of a citadel with a
knotted rope, at night, rocked by the storm, while sparks of fire
clung to his cuirass, and molten lead and boiling tar poured from
Often a stone would break his shield. Bridges crowded with men
gave way under him. Once, by turning his mace, he rid himself of
fourteen horsemen. He defeated all those who came forward to fight
him on the field of honour, and more than a score of times it was
believed that he had been killed.
However, thanks to Divine protection, he always escaped, for he
shielded orphans, widows, and aged men. When he caught sight of
one of the latter walking ahead of him, he would call to him to
show his face, as if he feared that he might kill him by mistake.
All sorts of intrepid men gathered under his leadership, fugitive
slaves, peasant rebels, and penniless bastards; he then organized
an army which increased so much that he became famous and was in
He succoured in turn the Dauphin of France, the King of England,
the Templars of Jerusalem, the General of the Parths, the Negus of
Abyssinia and the Emperor of Calicut. He fought against
Scandinavians covered with fish-scales, against negroes mounted on
red asses and armed with shields made of hippopotamus hide,
against gold-coloured Indians who wielded great, shining swords
above their heads. He conquered the Troglodytes and the cannibals.
He travelled through regions so torrid that the heat of the sun
would set fire to the hair on one's head; he journeyed through
countries so glacial that one's arms would fall from the body; and
he passed through places where the fogs were so dense that it
seemed like being surrounded by phantoms.
Republics in trouble consulted him; when he conferred with
ambassadors, he always obtained unexpected concessions. Also, if a
monarch behaved badly, he would arrive on the scene and rebuke
him. He freed nations. He rescued queens sequestered in towers. It
was he and no other that killed the serpent of Milan and the
dragon of Oberbirbach.
Now, the Emperor of Occitania, having triumphed over the Spanish
Mussulmans, had taken the sister of the Caliph of Cordova as a
concubine, and had had one daughter by her, whom he brought up in
the teachings of Christ. But the Caliph, feigning that he wished
to become converted, made him a visit, and brought with him a
numerous escort. He slaughtered the entire garrison and threw the
Emperor into a dungeon, and treated him with great cruelty in
order to obtain possession of his treasures.
Julian went to his assistance, destroyed the army of infidels,
laid siege to the city, slew the Caliph, chopped off his head and
threw it over the fortifications like a cannon-ball.
As a reward for so great a service, the Emperor presented him with
a large sum of money in baskets; but Julian declined it. Then the
Emperor, thinking that the amount was not sufficiently large,
offered him three quarters of his fortune, and on meeting a second
refusal, proposed to share his kingdom with his benefactor. But
Julian only thanked him for it, and the Emperor felt like weeping
with vexation at not being able to show his gratitude, when he
suddenly tapped his forehead and whispered a few words in the ear
of one of his courtiers; the tapestry curtains parted and a young
Her large black eyes shone like two soft lights. A charming smile
parted her lips. Her curls were caught in the jewels of her
half-opened bodice, and the grace of her youthful body could be
divined under the transparency of her tunic.
She was small and quite plump, but her waist was slender.
Julian was absolutely dazzled, all the more since he had always
led a chaste life.
So he married the Emperor's daughter, and received at the same
time a castle she had inherited from her mother; and when the
rejoicings were over, he departed with his bride, after many
courtesies had been exchanged on both sides.
The castle was of Moorish design, in white marble, erected on a
promontory and surrounded by orange-trees.
Terraces of flowers extended to the shell-strewn shores of a
beautiful bay. Behind the castle spread a fan-shaped forest. The
sky was always blue, and the trees were swayed in turn by the
ocean-breeze and by the winds that blew from the mountains that
closed the horizon.
Light entered the apartments through the incrustations of the
walls. High, reed-like columns supported the ceiling of the
cupolas, decorated in imitation of stalactites.
Fountains played in the spacious halls; the courts were inlaid
with mosaic; there were festooned partitions and a great profusion
of architectural fancies; and everywhere reigned a silence so deep
that the swish of a sash or the echo of a sigh could be distinctly
Julian now had renounced war. Surrounded by a peaceful people, he
remained idle, receiving every day a throng of subjects who came
and knelt before him and kissed his hand in Oriental fashion.
Clad in sumptuous garments, he would gaze out of the window and
think of his past exploits; and wish that he might again run in
the desert in pursuit of ostriches and gazelles, hide among the
bamboos to watch for leopards, ride through forests filled with
rhinoceroses, climb the most inaccessible peaks in order to have a
better aim at the eagles, and fight the polar bears on the
icebergs of the northern sea.
Sometimes, in his dreams, he fancied himself like Adam in the
midst of Paradise, surrounded by all the beasts; by merely
extending his arm, he was able to kill them; or else they filed
past him, in pairs, by order of size, from the lions and the
elephants to the ermines and the ducks, as on the day they entered
Hidden in the shadow of a cave, he aimed unerring arrows at them;
then came others and still others, until he awoke, wild-eyed.
Princes, friends of his, invited him to their meets, but he always
refused their invitations, because he thought that by this kind of
penance he might possibly avert the threatened misfortune; it
seemed to him that the fate of his parents depended on his refusal
to slaughter animals. He suffered because he could not see them,
and his other desire was growing well-nigh unbearable.
In order to divert his mind, his wife had dancers and jugglers
come to the castle.
She went abroad with him in an open litter; at other times,
stretched out on the edge of a boat, they watched for hours the
fish disport themselves in the water, which was as clear as the
sky. Often she playfully threw flowers at him or nestling at his
feet, she played melodies on an old mandolin; then, clasping her
hands on his shoulder, she would inquire tremulously: "What
troubles thee, my dear lord?"
He would not reply, or else he would burst into tears; but at
last, one day, he confessed his fearful dread.
His wife scorned the idea and reasoned wisely with him: probably
his father and mother were dead; and even if he should ever see
them again, through what chance, to what end, would he arrive at
this abomination? Therefore, his fears were groundless, and he
should hunt again.
Julian listened to her and smiled, but he could not bring himself
to yield to his desire.
One August evening when they were in their bed-chamber, she having
just retired and he being about to kneel in prayer, he heard the
yelping of a fox and light footsteps under the window; and he
thought he saw things in the dark that looked like animals. The
temptation was too strong. He seized his quiver.
His wife appeared astonished.
"I am obeying you," quoth he, "and I shall be back at sunrise."
However, she feared that some calamity would happen. But he
reassured her and departed, surprised at her illogical moods.
A short time afterwards, a page came to announce that two
strangers desired, in the absence of the lord of the castle, to
see its mistress at once.
Soon a stooping old man and an aged woman entered the room; their
coarse garments were covered with dust and each leaned on a stick.
They grew bold enough to say that they brought Julian news of his
parents. She leaned out of the bed to listen to them. But after
glancing at each other, the old people asked her whether he ever
referred to them and if he still loved them.
"Oh! yes!" she said.
Then they exclaimed:
"We are his parents!" and they sat themselves down, for they were
But there was nothing to show the young wife that her husband was
They proved it by describing to her the birthmarks he had on his
body. Then she jumped out of bed, called a page, and ordered that
a repast be served to them.
But although they were very hungry, they could scarcely eat, and
she observed surreptitiously how their lean fingers trembled
whenever they lifted their cups.
They asked a hundred questions about their son, and she answered
each one of them, but she was careful not to refer to the terrible
idea that concerned them.
When he failed to return, they had left their château; and had
wandered for several years, following vague indications but
without losing hope.
So much money had been spent at the tolls of the rivers and in
inns, to satisfy the rights of princes and the demands of
highwaymen, that now their purse was quite empty and they were
obliged to beg. But what did it matter, since they were about to
clasp again their son in their arms? They lauded his happiness in
having such a beautiful wife, and did not tire of looking at her
and kissing her.
The luxuriousness of the apartment astonished them; and the old
man, after examining the walls, inquired why they bore the coat-of-arms
of the Emperor of Occitania.
"He is my father," she replied.
And he marvelled and remembered the prediction of the gipsy, while
his wife meditated upon the words the hermit had spoken to her.
The glory of their son was undoubtedly only the dawn of eternal
splendours, and the old people remained awed while the light from
the candelabra on the table fell on them.
In the heyday of youth, both had been extremely handsome. The
mother had not lost her hair, and bands of snowy whiteness framed
her cheeks; and the father, with his stalwart figure and long
beard, looked like a carved image.
Julian's wife prevailed upon them not to wait for him. She put
them in her bed and closed the curtains; and they both fell
asleep. The day broke and outdoors the little birds began to
Meanwhile, Julian had left the castle grounds and walked nervously
through the forest, enjoying the velvety softness of the grass and
the balminess of the air.
The shadow of the trees fell on the earth. Here and there, the
moonlight flecked the glades and Julian feared to advance, because
he mistook the silvery light for water and the tranquil surface of
the pools for grass. A great stillness reigned everywhere, and he
failed to see any of the beasts that only a moment ago were
prowling around the castle. As he walked on, the woods grew
thicker, and the darkness more impenetrable. Warm winds, filled
with enervating perfumes, caressed him; he sank into masses of
dead leaves, and after a while he leaned against an oak-tree to
rest and catch his breath.
Suddenly a body blacker than the surrounding darkness sprang from
behind the tree. It was a wild boar. Julian did not have time to
stretch his bow, and he bewailed the fact as if it were some great
misfortune. Presently, having left the woods, he beheld a wolf
slinking along a hedge.
He aimed an arrow at him. The wolf paused, turned his head and
quietly continued on his way. He trotted along, always keeping at
the same distance, pausing now and then to look around and
resuming his flight as soon as an arrow was aimed in his
In this way Julian traversed an apparently endless plain, then
sand-hills, and at last found himself on a plateau, that dominated
a great stretch of land. Large flat stones were interspersed among
crumbling vaults; bones and skeletons covered the ground, and here
and there some mouldy crosses stood desolate. But presently,
shapes moved in the darkness of the tombs, and from them came
panting, wild-eyed hyenas. They approached him and smelled him,
grinning hideously and disclosing their gums. He whipped out his
sword, but they scattered in every direction and continuing their
swift, limping gallop, disappeared in a cloud of dust.
Some time afterwards, in a ravine, he encountered a wild bull,
with threatening horns, pawing the sand with his hoofs. Julian
thrust his lance between his dewlaps. But his weapon snapped as if
the beast were made of bronze; then he closed his eyes in
anticipation of his death. When he opened them again, the bull had
Then his soul collapsed with shame. Some supernatural power
destroyed his strength, and he set out for home through the
forest. The woods were a tangle of creeping plants that he had to
cut with his sword, and while he was thus engaged, a weasel slid
between his feet, a panther jumped over his shoulder, and a
serpent wound itself around the ash-tree.
Among its leaves was a monstrous jackdaw that watched Julian
intently, and here and there, between the branches, appeared
great, fiery sparks as if the sky were raining all its stars upon
the forest. But the sparks were the eyes of wild-cats, owls,
squirrels, monkeys and parrots.
Julian aimed his arrows at them, but the feathered weapons lighted
on the leaves of the trees and looked like white butterflies. He
threw stones at them; but the missiles did not strike, and fell to
the ground. Then he cursed himself, and howled imprecations, and
in his rage he could have struck himself.
Then all the beasts he had pursued appeared, and formed a narrow
circle around him. Some sat on their hindquarters, while others
stood at full height. And Julian remained among them, transfixed
with terror and absolutely unable to move. By a supreme effort of
his will-power, he took a step forward; those that perched in the
trees opened their wings, those that trod the earth moved their
limbs, and all accompanied him.
The hyenas strode in front of him, the wolf and the wild boar
brought up the rear. On his right, the bull swung its head and on
his left the serpent crawled through the grass; while the panther,
arching its back, advanced with velvety footfalls and long
strides. Julian walked as slowly as possible, so as not to
irritate them, while in the depth of bushes he could distinguish
porcupines, foxes, vipers, jackals, and bears.
He began to run; the brutes followed him. The serpent hissed, the
malodorous beasts frothed at the mouth, the wild boar rubbed his
tusks against his heels, and the wolf scratched the palms of his
hands with the hairs of his snout. The monkeys pinched him and
made faces, the weasel tolled over his feet. A bear knocked his
cap off with its huge paw, and the panther disdainfully dropped an
arrow it was about to put in its mouth.
Irony seemed to incite their sly actions. As they watched him out
of the corners of their eyes, they seemed to meditate a plan of
revenge, and Julian, who was deafened by the buzzing of the
insects, bruised by the wings and tails of the birds, choked by
the stench of animal breaths, walked with outstretched arms and
closed lids, like a blind man, without even the strength to beg
The crowing of a cock vibrated in the air. Other cocks responded;
it was day; and Julian recognised the top of his palace rising
above the orange-trees.
Then, on the edge of a field, he beheld some red partridges
fluttering around a stubble-field. He unfastened his cloak and
threw it over them like a net. When he lifted it, he found only a
bird that had been dead a long time and was decaying.
This disappointment irritated him more than all the others. The
thirst for carnage stirred afresh within him; animals failing him,
he desired to slaughter men.
He climbed the three terraces and opened the door with a blow of
his fist; but at the foot of the staircase, the memory of his
beloved wife softened his heart. No doubt she was asleep, and he
would go up and surprise her. Having removed his sandals, he
unlocked the door softly and entered.
The stained windows dimmed the pale light of dawn. Julian stumbled
over some garment's lying on the floor and a little further on, he
knocked against a table covered with dishes. "She must have
eaten," he thought; so he advanced cautiously towards the bed
which was concealed by the darkness in the back of the room. When
he reached the edge, he leaned over the pillow where the two heads
were resting close together and stooped to kiss his wife. His
mouth encountered a man's beard.
He fell back, thinking he had become crazed; then he approached
the bed again and his searching fingers discovered some hair which
seemed to be very long. In order to convince himself that he was
mistaken, he once more passed his hand slowly over the pillow. But
this time he was sure that it was a beard and that a man was
there! a man lying beside his wife!
Flying into an ungovernable passion, he sprang upon them with his
drawn dagger, foaming, stamping and howling like a wild beast.
After a while he stopped.
The corpses, pierced through the heart, had not even moved. He
listened attentively to the two death-rattles, they were almost
alike, and as they grew fainter, another voice, coming from far
away, seemed to continue them. Uncertain at first, this plaintive
voice came nearer and nearer, grew louder and louder and presently
he recognised, with a feeling of abject terror, the bellowing of
the great black stag.
And as he turned around, he thought he saw the spectre of his wife
standing at the threshold with a light in her hand.
The sound of the murder had aroused her. In one glance she
understood what had happened and fled in horror, letting the
candle drop from her hand. Julian picked it up.
His father and mother lay before him, stretched on their backs,
with gaping wounds in their breasts; and their faces, the
expression of which was full of tender dignity, seemed to hide
what might be an eternal secret.
Splashes and blotches of blood were on their white skin, on the
bed-clothes, on the floor, and on an ivory Christ which hung in
the alcove. The scarlet reflection of the stained window, which
just then was struck by the sun, lighted up the bloody spots and
appeared to scatter them around the whole room. Julian walked
toward the corpses, repeating to himself and trying to believe
that he was mistaken, that it was not possible, that there are
often inexplicable likenesses.
At last he bent over to look closely at the old man and he saw,
between the half-closed lids, a dead pupil that scorched him like
fire. Then he went over to the other side of the bed, where the
other corpse lay, but the face was partly hidden by bands of white
hair. Julian slipped his finger beneath them and raised the head,
holding it at arm's length to study its features, while, with his
other hand he lifted the torch. Drops of blood oozed from the
mattress and fell one by one upon the floor.
At the close of the day, he appeared before his wife, and in a
changed voice commanded her first not to answer him, not to
approach him, not even to look at him, and to obey, under the
penalty of eternal damnation, every one of his orders, which were
The funeral was to be held in accordance with the written
instructions he had left on a chair in the death-chamber.
He left her his castle, his vassals, all his worldly goods,
without keeping even his clothes or his sandals, which would be
found at the top of the stairs.
She had obeyed the will of God in bringing about his crime, and
accordingly she must pray for his soul, since henceforth he should
cease to exist.
The dead were buried sumptuously in the chapel of a monastery
which it took three days to reach from the castle. A monk wearing
a hood that covered his head followed the procession alone, for
nobody dared to speak to him. And during the mass, he lay flat on
the floor with his face downward and his arms stretched out at his
After the burial, he was seen to take the road leading into the
mountains. He looked back several times, and finally passed out of
He left the country and begged his daily bread on his way.
He stretched out his hand to the horsemen he met in the roads, and
humbly approached the harvesters in the fields; or else remained
motionless in front of the gates of castles; and his face was so
sad that he was never turned away.
Obeying a spirit of humility, he related his history to all men,
and they would flee from him and cross themselves. In villages
through which he had passed before, the good people bolted the
doors, threatened him, and threw stones at him as soon as they
recognised him. The more charitable ones placed a bowl on the
window-sill and closed the shutters in order to avoid seeing him.
Repelled and shunned by everyone, he avoided his fellow-men and
nourished himself with roots and plants, stray fruits and shells
which he gathered along the shores.
Often, at the bend of a hill, he could perceive a mass of crowded
roofs, stone spires, bridges, towers and narrow streets, from
which arose a continual murmur of activity.
The desire to mingle with men impelled him to enter the city. But
the gross and beastly expression of their faces, the noise of
their industries and the indifference of their remarks, chilled
his very heart. On holidays, when the cathedral bells rang out at
daybreak and filled the people's hearts with gladness, he watched
the inhabitants coming out of their dwellings, the dancers in the
public squares, the fountains of ale, the damask hangings spread
before the houses of princes; and then, when night came, he would
peer through the windows at the long tables where families
gathered and where grandparents held little children on their
knees; then sobs would rise in his throat and he would turn away
and go back to his haunts.
He gazed with yearning at the colts in the pastures, the birds in
their nests, the insects on the flowers; but they all fled from
him at his approach and hid or flew away. So he sought solitude.
But the wind brought to his ears sounds resembling death-rattles;
the tears of the dew reminded him of heavier drops, and every
evening, the sun would spread blood in the sky, and every night,
in his dreams, he lived over his parricide.
He made himself a hair-cloth lined with iron spikes. On his knees,
he ascended every hill that was crowned with a chapel. But the
unrelenting thought spoiled the splendour of the tabernacles and
tortured him in the midst of his penances.
He did not rebel against God, who had inflicted his action, but he
despaired at the thought that he had committed it.
He had such a horror of himself that he took all sorts of risks.
He rescued paralytics from fire and children from waves. But the
ocean scorned him and the flames spared him. Time did not allay
his torment, which became so intolerable that he resolved to die.
One day, while he was stooping over a fountain to judge of its
depth, an old man appeared on the other side. He wore a white
beard and his appearance was so lamentable that Julian could not
keep back his tears. The old man also was weeping. Without
recognising him, Julian remembered confusedly a face that
resembled his. He uttered a cry; for it was his father who stood
before him; and he gave up all thought of taking his own life.
Thus weighted down by his recollections, he travelled through many
countries and arrived at a river which was dangerous, because of
its violence and the slime that covered its shores. Since a long
time nobody had ventured to cross it.
The bow of an old boat, whose stern was buried in the mud, showed
among the reeds. Julian, on examining it closely, found a pair of
oars and hit upon the idea of devoting his life to the service of
He began by establishing on the bank of the river a sort of road
which would enable people to approach the edge of the stream; he
broke his nails in his efforts to lift enormous stones which he
pressed against the pit of his stomach in order to transport them
from one point to another; he slipped in the mud, he sank into it,
and several times was on the very brink of death.
Then he took to repairing the boat with debris of vessels, and
afterwards built himself a hut with putty and trunks of trees.
When it became known that a ferry had been established, passengers
flocked to it. They hailed him from the opposite side by waving
flags, and Julian would jump into the boat and row over. The craft
was very heavy, and the people loaded it with all sorts of
baggage, and beasts of burden, who reared with fright, thereby
adding greatly to the confusion. He asked nothing for his trouble;
some gave him left-over victuals which they took from their sacks
or worn-out garments which they could no longer use.
The brutal ones hurled curses at him, and when he rebuked them
gently they replied with insults, and he was content to bless
A little table, a stool, a bed made of dead leaves and three
earthen bowls were all he possessed. Two holes in the wall served
as windows. On one side, as far as the eye could see, stretched
barren wastes studded here and there with pools of water; and in
front of him flowed the greenish waters of the wide river. In the
spring, a putrid odour arose from the damp sod. Then fierce gales
lifted clouds of dust that blew everywhere, even settling in the
water and in one's mouth. A little later swarms of mosquitoes
appeared, whose buzzing and stinging continued night and day.
After that, came frightful frosts which communicated a stone-like
rigidity to everything and inspired one with an insane desire for
meat. Months passed when Julian never saw a human being. He often
closed his lids and endeavored to recall his youth;--he beheld the
courtyard of a castle, with greyhounds stretched out on a terrace,
an armoury filled with valets, and under a bower of vines a youth
with blond curls, sitting between an old man wrapped in furs and a
lady with a high cap; presently the corpses rose before him, and
then he would throw himself face downward on his cot and sob:
"Oh! poor father! poor mother! poor mother!" and would drop into a
fitful slumber in which the terrible visions recurred.
One night he thought that some one was calling to him in his
sleep. He listened intently, but could hear nothing save the
roaring of the waters.
But the same voice repeated: "Julian!"
It proceeded from the opposite shore, fact which appeared
extraordinary to him, considering the breadth of the river.
The voice called a third time: "Julian!"
And the high-pitched tones sounded like the ringing of a
Having lighted his lantern, he stepped out of his cabin. A
frightful storm raged. The darkness was complete and was
illuminated here and there only by the white waves leaping and
After a moment's hesitation, he untied the rope. The water
presently grew smooth and the boat glided easily to the opposite
shore, where a man was waiting.
He was wrapped in a torn piece of linen; his face was like a chalk
mask, and his eyes were redder than glowing coals. When Julian
held up his lantern he noticed that the stranger was covered with
hideous sores; but notwithstanding this, there was in his attitude
something like the majesty of a king.
As soon as he stepped into the boat, it sank deep into the water,
borne downward by his weight; then it rose again and Julian began
With each stroke of the oars, the force of the waves raised the
bow of the boat. The water, which was blacker than ink, ran
furiously along the sides. It formed abysses and then mountains,
over which the boat glided, then it fell into yawning depths
where, buffeted by the wind, it whirled around and around.
Julian leaned far forward and, bracing himself with his feet, bent
backwards so as to bring his whole strength into play. Hail-stones
cut his hands, the rain ran down his back, the velocity of the
wind suffocated him. He stopped rowing and let the boat drift with
the tide. But realising that an important matter was at stake, a
command which could not be disregarded, he picked up the oars
again; and the rattling of the tholes mingled with the clamourings
of the storm.
The little lantern burned in front of him. Sometimes birds
fluttered past it and obscured the light. But he could distinguish
the eyes of the leper who stood at the stern, as motionless as a
And the trip lasted a long, long time.
When they reached the hut, Julian closed the door and saw the man
sit down on the stool. The species of shroud that was wrapped
around him had fallen below his loins, and his shoulders and chest
and lean arms were hidden under blotches of scaly pustules.
Enormous wrinkles crossed his forehead. Like a skeleton, he had a
hole instead of a nose, and from his bluish lips came breath which
was fetid and as thick as mist.
"I am hungry," he said.
Julian set before him what he had, a piece of pork and some crusts
of coarse bread.
After he had devoured them, the table, the bowl, and the handle of
the knife bore the same scales that covered his body.
Then he said: "I thirst!"
Julian fetched his jug of water and when he lifted it, he smelled
an aroma that dilated his nostrils and filled his heart with
gladness. It was wine; what a boon! but the leper stretched out
his arm and emptied the jug at one draught.
Then he said: "I am cold!"
Julian ignited a bundle of ferns that lay in the middle of the
hut. The leper approached the fire and, resting on his heels,
began to warm himself; his whole frame shook and he was failing
visibly; his eyes grew dull, his sores began to break, and in a
faint voice he whispered:
Julian helped him gently to it, and even laid the sail of his boat
over him to keep him warm.
The leper tossed and moaned. The corners of his mouth were drawn
up over his teeth; an accelerated death-rattle shook his chest and
with each one of his aspirations, his stomach touched his spine.
At last, he closed his eyes.
"I feel as if ice were in my bones! Lay thyself beside me!" he
commanded. Julian took off his garments; and then, as naked as on
the day he was born, he got into the bed; against his thigh he
could feel the skin of the leper, and it was colder than a serpent
and as rough as a file.
He tried to encourage the leper, but he only whispered:
"Oh! I am about to die! Come closer to me and warm me! Not with
thy hands! No! with thy whole body."
So Julian stretched himself out upon the leper, lay on him, lips
to lips, chest to chest.
Then the leper clasped him close and presently his eyes shone like
stars; his hair lengthened into sunbeams; the breath of his
nostrils had the scent of roses; a cloud of incense rose from the
hearth, and the waters began to murmur harmoniously; an abundance
of bliss, a superhuman joy, filled the soul of the swooning
Julian, while he who clasped him to his breast grew and grew until
his head and his feet touched the opposite walls of the cabin. The
roof flew up in the air, disclosing the heavens, and Julian
ascended into infinity face to face with our Lord Jesus Christ,
who bore him straight to heaven.
And this is the story of Saint Julian the Hospitaller, as it is
given on the stained-glass window of a church in my birthplace.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.