Nostradamus, the Man Who Saw Through Time, by Lee McCann , at sacred-texts.com
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Etching made by a woman of Salon, from the portrait bust by César Nostradamus, son of the prophet.
THE NEW FREEDOM which had lured Doctor de Nostradame from Montpellier's halls was providing the kind of activity he liked best. His success had made him the rage throughout southern France. People were clamoring for him, requesting his attendance on their ills, inviting him to be their guest, for months if he would. Important doors were invitingly open. Everyone wanted to know the current sensation because he was charming, modest and had a great future. Besides, plagues had a way of returning, it was well to stand in with the only man who could cope with them. So Doctor de Nostradame, combining business with pleasure, travelled about from city to city, attending a patient in Avignon, stopping off for a visit in Salon, and moving on to Marseilles to answer new calls.
Everywhere he went he found men disturbed over the international unrest. His own native interest in internal and foreign affairs, dormant since the curiosity of his childhood, responded quickly to the incessant, exciting talk. Some of his new patients were men
in a position to tell him inside facts and give him informed opinions. They enjoyed talking over these matters with the keen, witty young scientist, who listened so eagerly. These conversations bred in Nostradamus a dawning sense of political perspective that led eventually to his study of natural destinies on a plane of perception beyond the senses. Just now his picture of the great, warring forces of power politics was confused, incomplete. Too, he had been for so long in out-of-the-way pest-ridden districts where the only news was a tolling bell, that he was seriously behind on his history, for much had happened in those years.
The high noon of the Renaissance was now shedding its dazzling sunlight upon the most transcendent period-piece ever played by man. Chivalry, antiquity, and the beginnings of a different social order were mingling in a new civilization that was already ornamented with every splendor and blackened with every crime. Conquerors, alchemists, poets, lovers and heretics played their fiery roles in velvets and gems, plumes and armor, scholar's robe and monkish gown, against a background of deep, sensual reds, primeval greens and the blue of Mary's mantle. Chaos, war, unrest drove the scenes forward with climax topping climax. And always wine of violence and the scent of blood flavored the graces, the wit, and the etiquette of courts.
The initial impulse of the Renaissance had united an inherited physical dynamism, an ancestral hardihood, with a fresh, powerful increase in the electric
potential of brain and spirit. The vigor was still earthy, and its forces, though far from the primitive, were still natural. It was this new electric urge of the Renaissance, expanding all horizons, which was responsible for the triumphs and tragedies of the grand age of the sword, the lyre, and the printing-press.
The costumes, armor and weapons, so different from ours, seem remote as we read of them. But the political set-up of the age had amazing similarities to what the world is enduring today. If a file of current newspapers could be handed back through time to a man of the sixteenth century, he would be astonished, not because our methods are so different, but because we bring them to bear on the same old situations as of his day. "Persecutions of Jews," "Fresh Axis Threats," "Books Banned," "Massacre of Religious Orders," "New Invention by Scientist," "Communism Gains Ground," "Parliament Asked for More Money"--such headlines would be quite familiar to a gentleman of the Renaissance. Nostradamus knew them all.
Martin Luther was making his bid for power with the new ideology of the Reformation. Sir Thomas More was publishing Utopia, the ancestor of Communism. Indeed, Nostradamus in writing of modern Communism calls it "the doctrine of the camel, More." Leonardo was playing with designs for aircraft and hydraulic pumps; Rabelais and other liberal scholars were fighting the ban on their books; and a new star of first magnitude, the Hitler of his day, had risen on the political horizon.
It would perhaps be unfair to call Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, the first totalitarian, since he was without benefit of national socialism. But he certainly thought that Europe should belong totally to him, and he got his hands on more of it than did anyone else before Hitler. In the matter of real estate, Charles, like Browning's Last Duchess, liked whate’er he looked on and his looks went everywhere.
Trouble between France and Spain had started about the time that Michel was entering Montpellier. Francis I had quickly transformed the easy-going government of Louis XII into a cast-iron autocracy. He had flouted Parliament, and lie had made the offices of the clergy into a crown benefice, a situation which continued until the Revolution. Francis hoped soon to apply these tactics to the international scene, pick up some spare parts of Italy, and eventually get the best of Spain. But the curtain went up before Francis was ready, on a drama he had not planned.
A Bourbon and a woman opened the scene. They were the Constable of France and Louise of Savoy, mother of Francis. In a short fifty years more, the duel between another Bourbon and another queen-mother, Henry of Bourbon-Navarre and Catherine de’ Medici, would ring down the curtain upon the Valois dynasty. Two hundred and fifty years later, the Revolution would begin its drama with the blood of a Bourbon and "the Austrian woman." And shortly, within our own years--so the prophet has foretold--the last and
greatest of the Bourbons shall arise to lead France back to power. His reign is to close the cycle of this dynasty which has alternately troubled or glorified France since the time of Nostradamus.
It was a Frenchman, Balzac, who wrote: "To the heart there are no little events. Love magnifies everything. It places in the same scale the fate of an empire and the dropping of a woman's glove. Almost always the glove outweighs the empire." This has been tragically true of France, where passion and politics have gone together from the distant yesterday of Louise and Bourbon to the recent yesterday of Daladier, Reynaud and their plotting loves.
The court drama of the queen-mother's infatuation and revenge which brought the Spaniards on French soil and opened the long conflict between the houses of Valois and Bourbon began while Michel, the student, was listening to Doctor Rondelet lecture on bones and muscles. Except for cynical Paris, the French people had little understanding of what it was all about, nor did most of them ever find out. Palamides Tronc de Condoulet told the story to Doctor de Nostradame over a glass of ripe Provençal wine, in de Condoulet's house at Salon.
"While I was fighting the plague," Nostradamus had said, "I used to think, when I had a moment to think at all, that when it was all over, I would be an old man in a strange world. Such tricks does our time-sense play us that it seemed to me eons must have passed before I returned to the cities. I have still but
little knowledge of what happened besides the plague, for at Montpellier they talk naught except science. I saw something of the passing of Spanish troops, before the plague struck. I know that our Duc de Bourbon, Constable of France, turned traitor and brought them here to seize the Crown of France for himself. But why did treachery tempt so great a man? You, my friend, who have news from everywhere, perhaps you can tell me?"
The Sieur de Condoulet, who became a lifelong friend of Nostradamus, was a good gossip. The stories he left about the prophet show that. He was a prosperous Provençal merchant who enjoyed and dealt in the good things of life. He was equipped to bring the physician up-to-date, for merchants often got news ahead of others, and in greater detail, through travelling salesmen and peddlers who went with their wares all over the country. A good salesman's best introduction to a prospective purchaser was a fresh budget of exciting, though not always reliable, news picked up at the inns along his route. Often he displayed his merchandise in châteaux and palaces, the lords and ladies making their own selections. Then the salesman had a chance to talk to the help, and many a juicy morsel was gleaned in this way.
"Bourbon's troops," said de Condoulet, "looted my warehouses and ruined my business. Then the King carne rampaging down to drive him out, and his men destroyed the little I had left."
"'That which the palmerworm hath left hath the
locust eaten,'" quoted the doctor, who was ever partial to the Book of Joel.
"Palmerworm or locust, whichever of the two is the hungrier, that was the Spaniards. You'd think they'd never seen food till they came to Provence."
"A conqueror's appetite is always worse than his guns. An invader brings an empty belly. But you have not answered my question," Nostradamus reminded him.
"Cherchez la femme--in this case the King's mother."
"Madame Louise!" exclaimed the doctor. "But, she must be all of--?"
"--forty-five," de Condoulet told him, "and Bourbon was but turned thirty. Some tell it that Madame Louise is arrogant, grasping, but still beautiful. Others say she is arrogant, grasping and fat. The latter insist that of her twin gods, Cupid and Cupidity, the second is so strong that even her flesh seeks gain."
"She sent Milord Chancellor to Bourbon with the offer of her hand. I had that straight from the palace. Bourbon told him he would never marry an immodest i woman, to take back that word to her."
"Hé, Dieu! What insult to a royal lady."
"Insult, but understatement. The lady has looked on many a man, and one way or another usually gotten him. But not Bourbon."
"And then--?" asked Nostradamus interestedly. "Why, then, she wanted revenge. His Grace of
[paragraph continues] Bourbon, besides being the handsomest man in France, had committed a more serious mistake, he was the richest. His coffers held more gold than the King's. His gentlemen wore three gold chains about the neck, and the King's but one."
"But would the King lend himself to such evil?"
"Madame Louise put the King up to it, but he was willing enough," de Condoulet said cynically. "First they took away from the Duc his command of the armies, which was cutting off France's nose to spite Francis’ face. Bourbon was the best general in Europe. Then they stripped him of his last gold écu and most of his land."
"How could even the King do so?" Nostradamus asked, shocked. "There are courts of justice as well as courts of royalty."
"And the chancellor used them. He is a smart man and the queen-mother's creature. It was put over with a nice pretense of legality. And done quietly. Why, people in Bourbon's own domain didn't know what was happening."
"A tale of shame!"
"’Twas then, they say, that the Duc, with his back to the wall, wrote a letter and dispatched it by secret courier to Spanish Charles. Bourbon's friends deny this, but I had it from a peddler who heard it from a man who is cousin to the courier that carried the letter."
"I pity the Duc," Nostradamus remarked, "but I
still say it was treachery to expose the country to invasion--for a personal grudge."
"It was more than a grudge, it was a man's life. Madame Louise and the King had done Bourbon too great injury to let him live. When the King got wind of that letter, he speeded up plans already made. His soldiers hunted the Duc like a wild boar through the forest. But he got away over the German border."
The physician lifted his wine-glass and quaffed deeply, as if to take away an unpleasant taste.
"King Francis and Emperor Charles had been aching for a crack at each other," de Condoulet continued. "This gave both of them an excuse. The Emperor gave Bourbon a Spanish army and backed him for a try at the French Crown. So, we had Spanish troops and their plague on French soil. And a plague on them all, I say.
"King Francis, whatever his faults, is God's anointed, and the power of Heaven protects him," said the doctor a bit sententiously.
Tronc de Condoulet eyed his friend humorously. "Heaven doesn't always protect its anointed, doctor. The same bishops would have anointed Bourbon quickly enough--if he had won."
"Why did he not, if he was such a great general?"
"The Spaniards fought badly. Their generals were jealous of him, they objected to serving under a Frenchman."
"Why, after the King had driven off Bourbon and the Spaniards, didn't he finish the job?"
"He thought he had. Why, when they fled into the Italian mountains, the Romans put up placards reading: 'Lost--an army in the mountains of Genoa. If anybody knows what became of it, let him come forward and say. He will be well rewarded.'"
"The King should have claimed the reward," the doctor murmured.
"He tried to," de Condoulet smiled. "Our King Francis, is a hero; none doubts that, but glory is too much his god. He thought the way lay open to capture Milaness and Naples, incurable madness of French kings. Hé Dieu! he almost did it. He shouted in the midst of the battle at Pavia: 'Now at last I can call myself Duke of Milan!'"
"The cup and the lip," sighed the doctor.
"True. Bourbon had a whole new army. Germans, Savoyards and Spaniards. In a few short hours our King was not Duke of Milan. He was captive of Charles V, taken by one of Bourbon's own men. He got free of Charles’ dungeon about the time you left Montpellier, when you were in the very midst of the plague."
"That was one of the few pieces of news that penetrated to me," Nostradamus said, "that of the King's return to France after two years’ captivity. The thought of it made even the sick feel cheerful. But to me ’twas tempered by the sadness of his two small sons having to take their father's place as hostages to Spain. Even though the Spaniards treat them not unkindly, they are too young to be taken from their home. The Spaniards are a dour, stern people, of rigid custom. Who
knows what mark such enforced residence will leave upon the tender youth of the future King of France?"
One of those little boys, the younger, grew up to be Henry II, the King of France who honored the prophet Nostradamus. The sympathy and understanding with which the prophet won the friendship of the monarch had its roots in the pity he had always felt for Henry's forlorn childhood. The cold reserve, the almost shy quality of Henry's matured personality, has been attributed to the influence of those early prisoning years in Spain.
"I need not, I suppose, bring you up-to-date as to the sack of Rome by Bourbon's men," de Condoulet said. "All the world knows of that."
"Yes, horrible. I can only surmise that after enduring so much, the Duc fell into a madness."
"Not at all. He was stuck in Italy with a great army, and no gold to pay them. The Emperor promised, but he didn't send it. He, like the others, was afraid of the Duc. He wanted to use him, but keep him poor. Bourbon wouldn't have it. The Emperor had himself just held the Pope up for a mighty sum. There was more where that came from, Bourbon thought."
"He met the fate such an impious act deserved."
"Maybe. ’Tis said that from boyhood he had the prescience of an early death. Before the battle, he told his officers that he had consulted an astrologer who told him that if he went to Rome he would surely die there."
"Why is it people never take the advice of those they consult?" Nostradamus asked reflectively.
"Because they don't like the advice," his friend answered. "Almost the last words of the Duc were that he cared but little for dying there, if but his corpse be left with endless glory throughout the world."
"Ah, glory--tragic mirage."
"And he didn't die in glory. He died of a shot from the arquebus of a common brawler. But perhaps not so common, since he is a metal worker to whom I hear both the King and His Holiness give commissions. A man named Cellini."
"And now, after all that treachery, we have a Spaniard for our queen, the Emperor's sister."
"Power politics," de Condoulet shrugged. "But that too was a cruel jest on Bourbon. She was his affianced, and King Francis took her away from him while he was in jail. Ye God, but our King is ever a great one with women. Another glass of this heartening wine, mon ami."
"No more. The hour grows late."
"What of it? And speaking of women, there are pretty girls in Salon, well dowered too. Let me find a wife for you who will keep you with us always in this town."
"Your wish is dear to me, my friend. Perhaps, some day--I like this town, and the country hereabout is pleasing. Perhaps I shall come back to you. Now, the road still beckons. But my thoughts are lingering on all that you have told me. The House of Bourbon is
puissant and able. The Duc is dead, but the Bourbons still remember. A Bourbon may yet one day displace a Valois."
"I never saw such a man for always thinking toward the future. Come, come, you shall take one more glass." And the friends drank a final toast.
It was some time later that Doctor de Nostradame received a call that took him travelling to the haunts of his first school-days, Avignon. The papal legate there, Cardinal de Claremont, had been ill and wished the services of the rising star of medicine. Many were the welcomes and congratulations which greeted the doctor's return to this town where he was so well remembered as a boyhood prodigy.
The prelate gave him his blessing, and brightened up at his visit, as did most of his patients.
"It seems only yesterday," Cardinal de Claremont told him, "that I was hearing tales of how you talked about the stars like an old astronomer. But alas, it is more than yesterday, and my old bones tell me so. Each year I feel the cold of the mistral more. I hope you are not going to bleed me."
"I wouldn't think of it," the doctor replied. "There is altogether too much of that, and purging too. I am going to give you a strengthening remedy in which I have great confidence."
"Good," the legate relaxed with a relieved sigh. "We hear great things of what you can do. Certainly next to the salvation of souls comes the saving of their
earthly tenements. I think mine is in considerable need of repair."
"Perhaps. But surely the ivy of Christ's spirit grows ever greener on its walls."
"I would like to think so, especially in these troubled times. Draw your chair nearer to my bedside that we may talk the better. I want to hear something of your experience."
It was inevitable that in the course of the conversation the subject of the Lutheran heresy should come up. The frightening gains of "the religion," as it was called, were agitating the minds of all Catholic churchmen.
"That renegade monk, that Martin Luther, is at the bottom of every piece of trouble that afflicts the world," the legate railed, propping himself up straighter on his pillows. "Reform, Luther calls it. May the Holy Son of God preserve us from such evil kind."
"And does not Your Grace think that the disturbed state of politics and warring sovereigns play overwell into the hands of Luther?" the doctor asked.
"Of course they do. When rulers lose all godliness in pursuit of power, shall ignorant common people do less than follow them!"
"That is what I mean. Take the sack of Rome, the most grievous horror the Church has faced since the Caesars. The army of assault was made up of German Lutherans, I am told. But they were led by our French Duc de Bourbon, of the Roman faith, who commanded for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles. That is what
shocks me so deeply. That men sworn to uphold the Church--"
"Kings and princes are putting lust for power before the love of God," the prelate broke in. "Power politics cares not with what bedfellow it couches, let it be Christian, heretic or Moslem infidel."
"It is that very thing which makes me question the sincerity of these Lutherans. Numbers are no doubt sincere though deluded. But most of them seem as willing to fight under a Catholic banner, if it suits their ambition, as are Catholic kings to employ them."
"Ay. You put your finger on it. Those of the religion are already making their bid for power. It is the kingdoms of earth they want, and already they are tools for leaders of unscrupulous ambition. Proof of this lies in the fact that if the Church had its faults it has gone a long way to cleanse them, but still the Protestants will have none of it."
"Has His Holiness recovered from the dreadful experience of the siege?"
"You don't recover from a shock like that," the legate said feelingly. "He is as well as may be. Know you that George Freundsberg, Bourbon's Protestant general, had got himself made a great gold chain--and I quote--'to hang and strangle the Pope with his own hand, because since the Pope called himself premier in Christendom, he must be deferred to somewhat more than others.'"
The sack of Rome by the Lutheran landesknechten of Bourbon had occurred some two years previously,
during the plague. It still holds a record in military savagery unequalled except perhaps by Hitler at Warsaw. The Catholic world had not yet recovered from the horror of this crime against their holy city. The troops, while en route to the assault on Rome, had stopped briefly before Florence where, in the quiet of the Dominican Nunnery, a little nine-year-old girl had heard and trembled at the thunder of their passing. Later she had listened to the nuns tell of the massacre, the looting, rape and burning of Rome. She heard of the terror that drove her own uncle, Pope Clement VII, narrowly escaping death, to barricade himself in the old Castel San Angelo. The little girl was Catherine de’ Medici. In a few short years she would be Queen of France. Another span of years would see her also queen of Saint Bartholomew's.
"And yet," marveled the doctor, "men call the Emperor, under whose banner this took place, devout."
"Devout he is," the prelate said bitterly. "Asked his confessor if it was a sin for him to take any thought to his personal life. But his very title of Holy Roman Emperor is in my opinion a trouble breeder when borne by a temporal ruler. The Church is the only Holy Empire."
"Temporal power lasts not long in any man's hands," the physician observed thoughtfully, "but the Church endures. It is the rock. The spread of heresy is a cankerous growth of another sort, far more serious. How menacing are its proportions, thinks Your Grace?"
"Look how its forest fire has swept all Germany!
[paragraph continues] The sparks are falling now on France. If this fire be not extinguished and quickly, by any means, our country may be next. The intellectuals, the very men who should know better, are taking it up, spreading false doctrine with the aid of the printing-press, which I sometimes think was an invention of the Devil. The king is vacillating. He will adopt no strong policy of extermination of the heretics. Their impudence is even shielded by the King's own sister, Marguerite, a royal daughter of France."
"Strange that there should be so many converts among people strictly trained in the true faith."
"It is all this new freedom that they are demanding. Nobody is willing to submit to authority any more, not even to the discipline of God's Church. They must be free to think for themselves, whether they have any brains to think with or not. They must be free to act as they please, and free to spend their money instead of giving the Church her righteous tithes."
"It sounds as if it were the worst danger since the Great Schism."
"It is more serious." The legate sat upright in his zeal. "Then, at least, there was no argument over the right of the papacy to exist. Luther, if he dared, would deny us even that."
"The seal of Divine authority received from the hand of Saint Peter--Luther has not that."
"True, and the Church will fight to keep that authority. With fire and sword, faggot and rack, the Church will struggle with Satan's armies. 'Blow ye the
trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain.'"
"But," argued the doctor gently, "is not the special glory of the Church those early martyrs who did not fight back? Was it not the blood of martyrs which made the perpetuation of the Church secure?"
The churchman regarded him frowningly. "That was different. The Christians had not then come into their power. Had a Christian sat where Nero sat, then had Nero been lion's meat as he should have been."
The Church of France drew its descent from prelates who wielded their broadswords beside Charlemagne, and from the embattled bishops who aided Hugh Capet. Sword-clanging lines of Archbishop Turpin in the Chanson de Roland flashed across the doctor's memory:
"This time," the cardinal continued, "the Church has the power to fight, and she will use it to the extermination of the last heretic."
"You will be giving Luther the martyrs," Doctor de Nostradame told the churchman shrewdly.
"Not all of them I fear," the cardinal answered grimly. This young man was a bit too free-spoken. Cardinal de Claremont opened his mouth to rebuke him. Then he bethought himself of his rheumatic bones, and how much he hoped for from the ministrations of the doctor. Curbing his speech, he pursed his lips and sat glumly silent.
Doctor de Nostradame made his patient comfortable and left with him a tincture and directions for its use. Promising to look in again shortly, he took his leave, his mind full of the cardinal's conversation.
Power! He was beginning to get the picture. They were all playing the same game, inside the Church and outside. He could see that. Still it had to be admitted that right was on the side of King and Church who held their offices from God. Doctor de Nostradame's religion and politics were mediaeval to the marrow, and he had no more tolerance for a heretic than had Archbishop Turpin. His quatrains on the deaths of Coligny and Condé show that. But he was essentially a man of peace, and his life was dedicated to the saving of life. He saw with horror the gentle name of Christ become a trumpet call to violence. And he was too much the mystic not to realize that the true function of the Church must lie in keeping the open road to the house not built by hands. This could not be done in an enlightened age by choking that road with the slain, tortured
bodies of victims, heretics though they were. Better a thousand times that the Church should suffer fresh martyrdom than confer that crown upon its enemies.
Yet he could see and sympathize with the point of view of the Church--his church. The pattern of Christianity, he reflected, had been a violent one. The forcible conversion of Europe's hordes, the Crusades with their religious orders militant, the constant persecution of Jews, all these had made it natural for the Church to turn in its new hour of peril to the violent methods which had served her so well for so long.
He could appreciate, too, how the Church felt about the uninhibited spread of the new learning. Even while he himself reached eagerly for the long-lost treasures of ancient culture, reclaimed by the printing-press, though he thrilled to the beauty and mirage of the budding knowledge which promised to every man the kingdoms of the intellect, he was alive to its dangers. The influx and spread of knowledge would bring a glory, but already he could perceive how it might also breed a slow madness and frost of disillusion in men's minds. And what would the stake and the rack breed? For the competition of these with the new freedom grew daily more claimant for fresh victims. What tragedies might not all this be setting in train for the unsullied future? Where on the time-road would it end?
Nostradamus later lamented:
Near the time of these two conversations, occurred another which interested the doctor even more because it concerned the East, of which he knew little. This came as the result of a call to attend a celebrated patient, which gave him a boyish thrill of anticipation. It would be, he told himself, like meeting a hero out of an old romaunt.
The dying flame of chivalry was fast being smothered under ideas of the new order. But there were two brilliant sparks, the last, which lighted its final ashes, two soldiers whom history recalls as the last knight and the last Crusader. The former, Chevalier Bayard, the parfait, gentil knight, was gone, struck down not by a noble lance or sword, but killed by a shot, a modern insult, while commanding Francis' troops against the Constable de Bourbon. Nostradamus had never known Bayard, except by reputation, but he had mourned with all France at the news of his passing. Only in written romances would his like be met again.
But that other valiant soldier, the Crusader, still lived and fought for the glory of God and France. He it was, the famous, colorful Villiers de L’Isle Adam, who needed the services of Doctor Nostradamus. His
name had recently rung through Christendom as the hero of the siege of Rhodes, the last important outpost of all that the Crusaders had won for Europe. The sword of Villiers de L’Isle Adam, some three centuries later, was given by Napoleon to Czar Alexander. After the Emperor had returned to Paris from the session on the raft at Tilsit, he sent the ancient steel as his imperial compliment to the ruler of Russia in token that the Czar, as defender of Christianity against the Turks, was worthy of it.
William Stearns Davis, in his History of the Near East, calls Adam and his soldiers at Rhodes, "a little band of military monks clinging to a ruined cliff," and tells how that little band fought off twenty assaults by the army of Solyman the Great, and killed a hundred thousand of the flower of the Turkish Army in one of the greatest defenses recorded in history. Of course Rhodes fell to the Sultan in the end, for Solyman's resources were unlimited, and no single galley went from Christendom to help Adam.
The Grand Commander of Rhodes and his fighting monks, for all their courage, appear to have been virtually pirates. At Rhodes they had lived by forays against the Moslem coast, and done themselves so well that the Turks put up loud squawks to Solyman. The Sultan needed the island, anyway, to complete his defenses and further threaten the Western Mediterranean. Solyman, though not a Christian, was something of a parfait, gentil knight himself. When Rhodes fell to him, he permitted Adam and his remnant of men to
withdraw with honor. More, he expressed his regret at dislodging such brave men from the island they had for so long called their home.
The Western world, feeling perhaps a little conscience stricken, gave to the returning hero and his order the island of Malta as a permanent home. This was, however, with the understanding that he would earn his board and keep by helping the powers resist the serious encroachments of pirates preying on their shipping.
It was on one of Commander Adam's visits to the mainland of France that he heard of the new medical celebrity and requested his services.
The doctor saw, when he made his call, a powerful man, of the old Burgundian type, grizzled, darkened, and weathered like oaken timber exposed to many suns and seas. His eyes, cold and keen as a blade, were brushed unfathomably with a brooding quality which only long association with the East can give.
"The old wounds ache me, Doctor," the old soldier said. "Days when the wind blows damply with mist, the scars of Solyman's scimitars plague me like fresh wounds."
"That can be helped, though I fear not cured," was the reply. "You have been too hard a taskmaster to your body these many years."
"Do your best. I hear great things of you, sir. By Saint John, my patron, I never envied Solyman his soldiers. ’Twas the other way round. But many's the time I envied him his physicians. The infidels have
rare skill in medicine, especially in the poulticing and healing of wounds."
"So my grandfathers held, and taught me something of Eastern methods, which, as I am about to use them in your behalf, may seem familiar. But first, an examination."
The doctor's eye, straying momentarily from his skillful, probing hands, lighted upon the lean, wicked length of an extraordinarily long sword that lay upon the near walnut table. It was the type known technically as bastard, from its unusual proportions.
"Is that, Sir Knight, the sword to which, in your hands, Christendom owes so much?"
"Right, Sir Medic, that is my trusty Durandal. Perhaps it has not drunk the blood of as many paynim as did the sword of Roland, but it has not gone thirsty."
"Well I know. I wish, sir, that you would tell me something of the Turks, if you would be so kind as to enlighten my ignorance. What of menace do you think the Turks hold for western Europe?"
"In Solyman they have an abler leader than Christian Europe can boast," the Commander said. "And he has at his beck numbers enough to overflow the continent. Numbers, that was what did for me. And mark you, though Holy Writ may say that the battle is not always to the strong, if the disproportion is enough, any fighting-man knows that numbers do win."
"But surely Europe has men enough for that." "The trouble is Europe can't, or won't, pull together.
[paragraph continues] And Solyman is banking on it. Look what has just happened in these last few years. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charles, takes captive The Most Christian King Francis, and fights Christ's Vicar, the Pope, at the same time. The Most Christian Francis then writes post haste to infidel Solyman to protect him against Holy Charles. Solyman, whose ancestors were skewered by mine before the walls of Jerusalem, writes back that the petition of The Most Christian King has reached the foot of his, Solyman's, throne! And so Frenchmen put up with the humiliation of being protected by the infidel Sultan of Turkey against other Christians."
Nostradamus, as he worked with bandages, hummed to himself:
"And don't think that the Turk hasn't a proper sense of humor," the Commander continued. "He has laughs a-plenty out of the Christians and he will have more. His pirates have almost ruined commerce in the Mediterranean, and he may defeat the navy of Venice before he is through. What sort of madness is it that grips Europe so that it does not see what lies ahead of its peoples?"
"The common people know naught of it," the doctor told him. "They have no way to learn, and needs
must trust the guidance of their leaders. But surely heads of state should know if there is really peril?"
"The Turk," said Adam emphatically, "waits until the Christian armies are weakened with slaughtering each other. Then he will attack with all his forces. Europe does not know the Camel of the East, but I have lived beside him long as friend, and fought him as foe. I do know him. Beyond him lie the elephantine hordes of Asia, and there is Africa, which sleeps now, but may some day wake to our sorrow. The one thing that can save Europe is to stop this insane strife, and unite against the common foe. You would think the Pope, as head of Christendom, would be working for this, but he is no better than the rest."
"How soon do you think the Turks will try their hand at conquering Europe?" Nostradamus asked.
"I don't know," the soldier said thoughtfully. "But I would say that there will be a showdown in the next twenty-five years or so. Solyman is still consolidating his gains in his own waters. The East has patience and endless time. They will wait for opportunity to favor them."
"But are not the Turks poor fighters? Judging from the toll you took of them, I would suppose so?"
"No, they are fierce and excellent fighters, though their military science is not yet so good as ours. As for courage, the Moslems rush to welcome death in battle, and why not with their infidel beliefs? Eighty houris, with their keep and jewels guaranteed by Allah, reward each Moslem warrior who falls in battle. ’Tis
enough to tempt a Christian, if he could depend on Allah's promises."
"That is all more disturbing than I dreamed of," the doctor told him.
"You cannot shave the Turk so fine but what his beard will grow again," the warrior pronounced. "The West cannot hold the East in final check. Ay, if it takes a thousand years there will come a day--a day of victory for them."
The faultless memory of Doctor de Nostradame registered for the future every detail and impression gleaned from this dynamically interesting, completely informed patient. Later, his vision searching the hinterlands of time for Moslem ambitions, he wrote many prophecies concerning them. A number of these have been brilliantly fulfilled. Not yet has history recorded this one.