The Unexpected Reply by Anonymous

'Tis now a few years since there were two eminent and worthy lawyers, the one was named Alano, and the other Piero; in fact, there were not in Christendom two greater men than these two, who were invariably in opposition to one another. Alano, however, always came off conqueror, being by much the greatest rhetorician then known, and one whose principles were of a sounder kind than those of Piero, who was something of a heretic, and would often have inflicted a severe blow on religion, had it not ever been defended by Alano, who knocked down all his arguments. Alano determined to go to Rome to visit the holy relics, the pope, and his court: in consequence, taking several servants with him, clothes, and other baggage, he departed for Rome and visited the pope and his court; observed its elegance and grandeur, and wondered much, considering that it ought to be the foundation of Christianity and holy faith, at seeing it so corrupted and full of simony. He was so ashamed of this, he determined to forsake the world and give himself up entirely to the service of his Maker. He therefore departed from Rome with all his servants, and when he came near Saint Chirico of Rosana, he told them to go forward towards the inn, and leave him to himself. When Alano saw them gone forward, he turned towards the mountain and galloped off, and arrived in the evening at a shepherd's cottage. Alano dismounted, and stopped that night with him; the next morning he said to the shepherd, "I will leave thee my clothes and my horse, and do thou give me thine." The shepherd thought he was in jest, and said, "Sir, I have entertained you in the best manner I am able; I pray you do not mock me." Messer Alano stripped off his clothes, and made the shepherd do the same, which he put on; left him his horse and his clothes; put on the shepherd's shoes; took his cash and stick, and set forward at a venture. His servants perceiving he did not come, after looking out for him, began to think that as it was rather an unsafe road, that he might have been, robbed and murdered; and, after remaining a day or two, returned to Paris.

Alano, when he had left the shepherd, travelling on, arrived at an abbey at Maremma, and, begging some bread, the abbot asked him if he would stay and live with them. Alano answered, that he would willingly do so. "What can you do?" said the abbot. "Sir," replied Alano, "I shall do whatever you bid me." The abbot thought that he seemed a good fellow, and took him into the house, and began by sending him to fetch wood. He behaved so well, that all who were in the abbey were delighted with him, for he would willingly do any thing they asked him; neither did he seem ashamed nor reluctant. In consequence of this good behaviour, the abbot gave him a place in the monastery, and called him Don Beneditto; the life he used to lead was to fast four days in the week; never undress, and spend great part of the night in prayer; and whatever might be said or done to him, he never complained, but praised the Lord. Thus had he determined to live and serve his Maker, so that the abbot loved him extremely.

His servants, on their return to Paris, having given it out that he was dead, every body lamented the loss of so great a man, and so able a lawyer. Now, Messer Giulio Piero hearing that Messer Alano was dead, rejoiced much at it. "Now," said he, "I shall be able to compass that which I have long meditated." So he prepared himself and went to Rome, and there proposed, in open consistory, a question which was greatly injurious to our faith, and, by his craft, endeavoured to introduce heresy in our church. Upon which the pope called the college of cardinals together, where it was determined to send for all the greatest men in Italy to attend a consistory, for the purpose of answering the questions which Messer Giulio Piero had proposed against our faith. Of course, all the bishops, abbots, and other great prelates who were canonists, were summoned to the court. Among others, this very abbot with whom Alano was living was called upon, and he prepared himself for his departure. Alano, being informed of the business he was going upon, entreated the abbot to let him go with him. "What would you do there?" said the abbot; "you, who do not even know how to read, what would you do there among all the greatest men of the church? They will speak nothing but Latin, so that thou wilt not understand one word."

"I shall at least see the pope," answered Alano, "whom I never yet beheld, nor do I know what sort of a thing he be." The abbot, perceiving how earnestly he wished it, said, "Well, I will allow thee to come with me, but wilt thou know how to ride?"

"Yes, sir," replied Alano. At the proper time the abbot departed, and Alano with him. Being arrived at Rome, and the day being fixed when the consistory was to meet, upon hearing that any one might go and hear what was discussed, Messer Alano begged the abbot most earnestly to allow him to go to the said consistory. "Art thou beside thyself?" said the abbot; "how dost thou think I could take thee there, where the pope, cardinals, and all the greatest lords are?"

"I will get under your cloak," said Alano; "then I shall not be seen, for I am very short, as well as very thin."

"Take care," said the abbot, "the porter and servants do not give thee a good beating."

"Let me alone for that," said Alano; "I warrant I'll take care of myself." When the abbot went in, there being a great crowd, Alano popped under the abbot's cloak, and went in with the rest. The abbot took his proper seat with the other abbots. Alano stood between his legs under the abbot's cloak, and peeped through the arm-hole of his robe, attentively listening to hear the question proposed. A short time after, Piero entered, mounted the tribune in presence of the pope, cardinals, and all the others, and proposed his question, which he argued with his usual artfulness. Alano immediately recognised him, and seeing that no one answered him, or argued with him, he popped his head through the arm-hole of the abbot's cloak, and cried out "Giube." The abbot raised his hand, and gave him a good box on the ear, saying, "hold your tongue, and the devil take you! wilt thou shame me?" Of course, all those near looked at one another with wonder, saying, "Whence came that voice?" A few minutes afterwards, Alano put out his head again, and said, "hear me, holy father!" which made the abbot much ashamed and confused; for every one stared at him, and cried out, "Who is that you have got under your cloak?" The abbot said it was one of his lay brothers, who was insane. Upon which they abused him, and said, "What! do you bring a madman into the consistory?" and the guards came forth to beat and drive him away. Alano, fearing he should get some hard blows, made off from under the abbot's cloak; and rushing in among the bishops and cardinals, made his way till he got at the feet of the pope, which caused a burst of laughter among them all, throughout the consistory. The abbot was on the point of being turned out, for having brought the fellow there, but Alano being at the pope's feet, he entreated he might be allowed to give his opinion on the case, and the pope granted his petition. Alano then mounted the tribune with alacrity, and all were gaping to hear what the madman would say. Alano opened his mouth, and began by recapitulating all his opponent had advanced, and separately answered the different parts of the question with a mild and natural, but vigorous eloquence. The whole college were in the utmost astonishment at hearing the elegant Latin he spoke, and the fine arguments which he produced against his adversary. Every one cried out, "why truly, this is the Lamb of God that appears to us." The pope hearing his eloquence, thanked heaven at every instant. Alano having thus confuted Piero in every argument, the latter was sorely vexed and humbled, and said, "truly thou art the spirit of Messer Alano, or that of the devil himself." Alano answered, "I am the very Alano who many times have put to flight your conceit; but thou! thou art the true malignant spirit who wishest to fill our church with heresy." Piero replied, "indeed, if I had known thou hadst been alive, I should never have ventured here." The pope became anxious to know who this Alano was, and called the abbot to know how he came by this man. "Most holy father!" said the abbot, "I have had him with me a long time, and I really thought he could not even read, nor have I ever found any man possessed of so much humility as he is. He is always employed in cutting and bringing home fire-wood; sweeping the rooms; making beds; attending the sick, and taking care of the horses. He always appeared to me a very simple fellow."

The pope hearing what a holy and virtuous life he led, and what he had formerly been, wished to create him cardinal, and paid him every mark of honour, saying to him, "Had it not been for thee, our church must have suffered serious injury, therefore I wish thee to remain at our court." Alano replied, "Most holy father, I wish to live and die in this solitary life, and never more go back to the world. Nay, I mean to return with my good abbot to his abbey, and follow up the life I have entered upon, and thus serve God." The abbot fell on his knees, praying him to pardon him, for he had not known him, and particularly for the box on the ear which he had given him. Messer Alano said, "there is no occasion for such a thing; the father has an undoubted right to chastise his child." They afterwards took leave of his holiness and the cardinals, and returned to the abbey. The abbot ever after paid him the greatest respect, and he lived with him a holy life. He compiled and wrote several works on religion, and whilst he lived here, conducted himself in so virtuous a manner as to ensure to himself an eternal life hereafter.