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INTRODUCTION OF SILK INTO EUROPE,
sold to the Persian merchants, who sold it again at higher rates to the Romans.
This trade would have been very successful had the people who lived in the interior of Asia been peaceable, honest, and industrious. A nation of robbers, however, called the Tartars, were continually plundering the caravans, and making the trade hazardous and dangerous. The Romans were vexed to think that they could not get their silk without it first passed through the hands of the Persians, the greatest enemies they had. So in the reign of the Emperor Justinian, a wise and prudent monarch, various attempts were made to obtain silk by other means than the caravans passing through the midst of Asia.
To escape the Tartar robbers and the Persian tyrants, sometimes the silk caravans, when they left China, took a route more to the south of Asia, across the mountains of Thibet, and waited at the Indian ports for vessels that sailed for the countries of the West. Ceylon was used by the Chinese merchants as a convenient place for selling their silk to the Romans. They also brought with them aloes, cloves, nutmegs, and sandalwood. Aloes is a famous drug, which is used in the making-up of medicines, and is also noted for its perfume.
Up to this time no one had seriously proposed to obtain silk for the Roman empire by breeding silkworms in its dominions. Some Christian missionaries, however, who had gone to China to preach the gospel to the people, soon discovered that it was possible to carry the eggs of the silkworm to Europe, from which a number of worms could be reared. Animated with this idea they went to Constantinople (then the capital of the Roman empire), told the Emperor Justinian their
scheme, and were liberally rewarded by that monarch for the trouble they had taken. The missionaries returned to China, deceived the people by concealing the eggs of the silkworm in a hollow cane, and returned to Europe in triumph with the spoils of the East.
Under their direction, the eggs were hatched at the proper season by the artificial heat of dung; the worms were fed with mulberry leaves; they lived and laboured in a foreign climate, and a sufficient number of butterflies was saved to propagate the race. Mulberry trees were also planted to supply nourishment for the increasing number of silkworms. Various difficulties were met with in this manufacture at first; but in the next reign it was acknowledged that the Romans were not inferior to the natives of China in the manufacture of silk. From Constantinople the manufacture of silk has extended into the western countries of Europe, and it now furnishes employment for vast numbers of people in France, the town of Lyons being the centre of the trade. It is also manufactured in England in the following towns : Manchester, Macclesfield, Coventry, and Spitalfields, a part of London.
THE HEART OF ROBERT BRUCE. When the valiant King Robert of Scotland saw his end approaching, he called to him the brave Lord James Douglas, and said to him : “My dear friend, you know that I have had much to do, and have suf fered many troubles during my life to support the rights of my crown.
“At the time I was most occupied, I made a vow, which being not accomplished, gives me much uneasi
ness. I vowed that if I could finish my wars in such a manner that I might obtain quietness in my kingdom, and govern peaceably, I would go and make war against the enemies of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the adversaries of the Christian faith.
“ To this point my heart has always leaned ; but our Lord was not willing, and gave me so much to do in my life-time, and this last expedition has lasted so long, followed by this heavy sickness, that, since my body cannot accomplish what my heart wishes, I will send my heart instead of my body to fulfil my vow.
“And as I do not know any one knight so gallant or enterprising, or so well formed to complete my intentions as yourself, I beg and entreat of you, dear and special friend, as earnestly as I can, that you would have the goodness to undertake this expedition for the love of me. For I have that opinion of your nobleness and loyalty, that if you undertake it, it cannot fail of success; and I shall die more contented.
" But it must be executed as follows: I will that as soon as I shall be dead, you take my heart from my body, and have it well embalmed. You will also take as much money from my treasury as will appear to you sufficient to perform your journey, as well as for all those you may choose to have with you. You shall thus take my heart to Jerusalem, and deposit it at the Holy Sepulchre of our Lord, where He was buried, since my body cannot go there.
“You must not be sparing of expense : and must provide yourself with such company and things as are suitable to your rank: and wherever you pass, you must let it be known that you bear the heart of King Robert of Scotland, which you are carrying beyond seas by his command, since his body cannot go thither.”
All those present began bitterly wailing, and when the Lord James could speak, he said : “ Gallant and noble king, I return you a hundred thousand thanks for the high honour you do me, and for the valuable and dear treasure with which you entrust me; and I will most willingly do all that you command me, with the utmost loyalty in my power, however I may feel myself unworthy of such a high distinction."
The king replied : “Gallant knight, I thank you; you promise it me then ?"
“Certainly, sir, most willingly," answered the knight. He then gave his promise upon his knighthood.
The king said : “ Thanks be to God! for I shall die in peace, since I know that the most valiant and accomplished knight in my kingdom will perform that for me that I am unable to do myself.”
Soon after, the valiant Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, departed this life on the 7th November, 1327. His heart was embalmed, and his body buried in the monastery of Dunfermline.
The Lord Douglas immediately set about the accomplishment of his honourable mission. Hearing that Alphonso, King of Spain, was waging war against the Saracen King of Grenada, he thought if he should go thither, he should employ his time and journey according to the late king's wishes ; designing when he had assisted to subdue the Saracens of Grenada to proceed forthwith to complete the duty with which he was charged.
He departed from Scotland accordingly with a splendid retinue, landed at Valentia, and joined the Spanish king, who was with his army on the frontiers of Grenada. It happened, soon after his arrival, that the King of Spain went into the field to make his
approaches nearer to the enemy, and the King of Grenada did the same. Each king could easily distinguish the other's banners, and they both began to set their armies in array.
The Lord James Douglas placed himself and his company on one side, to make better work and a more powerful effect. When he perceived that the battalions on each side were fully arranged, and the army of the King of Spain in motion, he imagined they were about to begin the onset. As he always wished to be among the first rather than the last on such occasions, he and all his company struck their spurs into their horses, until they were in the midst of the King of Grenada's army, and made a furious attack upon the Saracens.
The Saracens, dismayed by this furious assault from unknown enemies, turned and fled ; and Douglas, with his companions, eagerly pursued them. Taking the casket from his neck, which contained the heart of Bruce, he threw it before him, and cried, “Now pass thee onward, as thou wert wont, and Douglas will follow thee, or die!" The fugitives rallied, and surrounded by superior numbers, Douglas fell. His few surviving companions found his body on the field, together with the casket, and reverently conveyed them to Scotland. The remains of Douglas were interred in the sepulchre of his fathers in the church of Douglas; and the heart of Bruce was deposited at Melrose, leaving the dying wishes of King Robert still unaccomplished.
STORY OF THE CRAZÉD KNIGHT.
Had blended with the lights of eve ·
My own dear Genevieve.