BLACK MAGIC IN THE TEMPLE
No one could say just how it came to be whispered that the Templars of Temple Assheton dealt in black magic. Travelers told strange tales of France, where the Order was stronger than it was in England—tales of unhallowed processionals and midnight incantations learned from the infidels of Syria. A Preceptor, Gregory of Hildesheim, was said to possess writings of a wizard who had suffered death some years before, and to have used them for the profit of the Order.
Swart the drover, who had sold many good horses to the Templars and expected to sell more, laughed at these uncanny rumors. Wealthy the Order was, to be sure, but that was no miracle. Its vaults, being protected not only by the consecration of the building but by its trained body of military monks, often held the treasure of princes. Moreover, this powerful military Order attracted many men of high birth. Their estates became part of the common fund, since no individual Templar could own anything.
Unfortunately, Swart’s facts were so much less romantic than the tales of enchantment that they made very little impression. The grasping arrogance of the Templars caused them to be hated and feared, and if they were really wizards it was just as well not to investigate them too closely. And if they had in truth learned the art of making gold, it was only another proof of that old and well-tried rule, “He who has, gets.”
Gregory had not, however, discovered that secret as yet. He had had great hopes of certain formulae bought at a large price of a clerk named Simon, who stole them from the reputed wizard; but when he tried them, there was always some little thing which would not work. At last he bethought him of one Tomaso of Padua, who had been a friend of the dead man and might possibly have some some valuable knowledge. The physician was at the time in a market-town about twelve miles off, resting for a few days before proceeding to London. He was an old man and journeys were fatiguing to him. Gregory sent a company of men-at-arms to invite him to come to Temple Assheton. The request was made on a lonely path in a forest, along which Tomaso was riding to visit a sick child on a remote farm. It would have been impossible for him to refuse it.
Rain was dripping from the drenched bare boughs of half-fledged trees, clouds hung purple-gray over the bleak moors; the river had overflowed the meadows, and the horses floundered flank-deep over the paved ford. Few travelers were abroad. Those who saw the black and white livery of the Temple, and the old man in the long dark cloak who rode beside the leader, looked at one another, and wondered.
When the cavalcade rode in at the great gate, where the round Temple crouched half-hidden among its grim and stately halls, the physician was taken at once to Gregory’s private chamber. The Preceptor greeted him urbanely. “Master Tomaso,” he said, “men say that you have learned to make gold.”