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Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of Justice and Equity




A certain tyrannical and cruel knight retained in his service a very faithful servant. One day, when he had been to the market, he returned with this servant through a grove; and by the way lost thirty silver marks. As soon as he discovered the loss, he questioned his servant about it. The man solemnly denied all knowledge of the matter, and he spoke truth. But when the money was not to be found, he amputated the servant's foot, and leaving him in that place, rode home. A hermit, hearing the groans and exclamations of the man, went speedily to his assistance. He confessed him; and being satisfied of his innocence, conveyed him upon his shoulders to his hermitage. Then entering the oratory, (32) he dared to reproach the All-just with want of justice, inasmuch as he had permitted an innocent man to lose his foot. For a length of time, he continued in tears, and prayers, and reproaches; until at last an angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said, "Hast thou not read in the Psalms, 'God is a just judge, strong and patient?'"  "Often," answered the hermit meekly, "have I read and believed it from my heart; but to-day I have erred. That wretched man, whose foot has been amputated, perhaps under the veil of confession deceived me." "Tax not the Lord with injustice," said the angel; "His way is truth, and His judgments equitable. Recollect how often thou hast read, 'The decrees of God are unfathomable.' Know that he who lost his foot, lost it for a former crime. With the same foot he maliciously spurned his mother, and cast her from a chariot—for which eternal condemnation overtook him. The knight, his master, was desirous of purchasing a war-horse, to collect more wealth, to the destruction of his soul; and therefore, by the just sentence of God, the money which he had provided for the purchase was lost. Now hear; there is a very poor man with his wife and little ones, who daily supplicate heaven, and perform every religious exercise. He found the money, when otherwise he would have starved, and therewith procured for himself and family, the necessaries of life, entrusting a portion to his confessor to distribute to the poor. But first he diligently endeavoured to find out the right owner. Not accomplishing this, the poor man applied it to its proper use. Place then a bridle upon thy thoughts; and no more upbraid the righteous Disposer of all things, as thou but lately didst. For he is true, and strong, and patient[1]."


My beloved, the knight is a prelate; the amputation of the servant's foot is the cutting off rebellion from the church. The hermit is a prudent confessor. The angel is a pure conscience. The poor man is Christ.


  1. This story has some resemblance to Tale LXXX. Vol. 1.; and it contains a beautiful lesson.


Note 32.Page 174.

"Oratorie; a closet, or private chappell to pray in." Cotgrave.