Brother Benefice Complains, and Explains

Rhonda Chandler

Rhonda Chandler

Dear Signora Chandler,

I am writing to you because I have just finished reading your manuscript The Fires of Autumn in which I appear to play a small part. Actually, I looked over Kerstan's shoulder while he was reading it, and he was patient enough to allow me to do so.

I was glad to see that you refer a number of times to my large mental collection of proverbs. But you cite so few of them! I have 354 in my collection!

One night at dinner in the friary, I out-quoted that young scribe who works with Prentice. I wish you would have related that triumph in full. Kerstan says that was not the main point of your story.

Did I never tell you why I have such a large collection of proverbs stored in my mind?

I grew up in Pisa, the younger son of a highly respected tutor to the nobility. My older brother is as brilliant as my father. Quick to read. Quick to calculate. Quick to understand. It soon became apparent that I had not even half my brother's skills. 

My father is a fair and kind man, as gracious with his slow students as he is pleased with his sharp ones. And so he was with me.

Yet I longed to make him proud of me in some way.

The answer came to me one afternoon while I was in the garden playing an old nursery tune on my flute.

If I did not have brilliance of my own, I still could collect the brilliance of others. Because, as I had already learned in my young life, "Many troubles have sprung from a foolish tongue."

The next day, while in the marketplace with my mother, I overheard a woman at the herbalist's stall say, "You may paint the flower, but you can't paint its scent." And my collection was born.

In the years since, both my father and my brother have asked for samplings from my store of words, and I have been pleased to supply them.

My brother friars seem to enjoy my proverbs also. On nights when my roommate Cantor has trouble sleeping, I recite them. I start with Artem natura superat sine vi... until I hear him snore.

Of all my proverbs, I think the one Old Leonard quoted to Fabrizio, that late summer day on the hillside, was the best. Don't you?

If I remember right, that was the same day all our troubles began.


Brother Benefice