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Prophetic Presence in the Halls of Power

Here is another quote from Conan Doyle’s, The White Company.

The English knights and company while staying with some French nobility hear from the French nobleman how low he thinks of the common people under his rule.  Doyle, as a good Englishman contrasts this with the free heartiness of Englishmen, but then moves on to a powerful scene where an aged priest openly rebukes the French nobleman. In this day such action could only be done at the risk of one’s life.  While this account is fictional it well represents real incidences which occurred in that era as well as before and since. (chapter 29)

“Perchance, my fair lord, the poor folk are sweeter and of a better countenance in England,” laughed the Lady Rochefort. “Mon Dieu! you cannot conceive to yourself how ugly they are! Without hair, without teeth, all twisted and bent; for me, I cannot think how the good God ever came to make such people. I cannot bear it, I, and so my trusty Raoul goes ever before me with a cudgel to drive them from my path.”

“Yet they have souls, fair lady, they have souls!” murmured the chaplain, a white-haired man with a weary, patient face.

“So I have heard you tell them,” said the lord of the castle; “and for myself, father, though I am a true son of holy Church, yet I think that you were better employed in saying your mass and in teaching the children of my men-at-arms, than in going over the country-side to put ideas in these folks’ heads which would never have been there but for you. I have heard that you have said to them that their souls are as good as ours, and that it is likely that in another life they may stand as high as the oldest blood of Auvergne. For my part, I believe that there are so many worthy knights and gallant gentlemen in heaven who know how such things should be arranged, that there is little fear that we shall find ourselves mixed up with base roturiers and swine-herds. Tell your beads, father, and con your psalter, but do not come between me and those whom the king has given to me!”

“God help them!” cried the old priest. “A higher King than yours has given them to me, and I tell you here in your own castle hall, Sir Tristram de Rochefort, that you have sinned deeply in your dealings with these poor folk, and that the hour will come, and may even now be at hand, when God’s hand will be heavy upon you for what you have done.” He rose as he spoke, and walked slowly from the room.

In what follows the boldest knights in the room bear witness to the courage and righteousness of the old priest who well represented his King. May we also be boldly devoted to the truth of our King regardless of the prevailing mood of our day or of the frowns of the powers of the world.

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