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Happily, the trustees of the fund were law-wolves. They managed to break the will, and then they showed the court that the child was a waif, and absolutely devoid of legal rights of any and every kind. He was then committed to an orphan asylum to be given “a right religious education.” It’s a queer old world, Terese, and what would have become of Gerhard Gerhards had he fallen heir to his father’s titles and estate, no man can say. He might have accumulated girth and become an honored burgomaster. As it was he became powder-monkey to a monk, and scrubbed stone floors and rushed the growler for cowled and pious prelates.

Then he did copying for the Abbe, and proved himself a boy from Missouri Valley.

He was small, blue-eyed, fair-haired, slender, slight, with a long nose and sharp features. “With this nose,” said Albrecht Durer, many years later, “he successfully hunted down everything but heresy.”

At eighteen he became a monk and proudly had his flaxen poll tonsured. His superior was fond of him, and prophesied that he would become a bishop or something.

Children do not suffer much, nor long. God is good to them. They slide into an environment and accept it. This child learned to dodge the big bare feet of the monks–got his lessons, played a little, worked his wit against their stupidity, and actually won their admiration–or as much of it as men who are alternately ascetics and libertines can give.

It was about this time that the lad was taunted with having no name. “Then I’ll make one for myself,” was his proud answer.

Having entered now upon his novitiate, he was allowed to take a new name, and being dead to the world, the old one was forgotten.

They called him Brother Desiderius, or the Desired One. He then amended this Latin name with its Greek equivalent, Erasmus, which means literally the Well-Beloved. As to his pedigree, or lack of it, he was needlessly proud. It set him apart as different. He had half-brothers and half-sisters, and these he looked upon as strangers. When they came to see him, he said, “There is no relationship between souls save that of the spirit.”

His sense of wit came in when he writes to a friend: “Two parents are the rule; no parents the exception; a mother but no father is not uncommon; but I had a father and never had a mother. I was nursed by a man, and educated by monks, all of which shows that women are more or less of a superfluity in creation. God Himself is a man. He had one son, but no daughters. The cherubim are boys. All of the angels are masculine, and so far as Holy Writ informs us, there are no women in heaven.”

That it was a woman, however, to whom Erasmus wrote this, lets him out on the severity of the argument. He was a joker. And while women did not absorb much of his time, we find that on his travels he often turned aside to visit with intellectual women–no other kind interested him, at all.

* * * * *

To belong to a religious order is to be owned by it. You trade freedom for protection. The soul of Erasmus revolted at life in a monastery. He hated the typical monks–their food, their ways of life, their sophistry, their stupidity. To turn glutton and welcome folly as a relief from religion, he said, was the most natural thing in the world, when men had once started in to lead an unnatural life. Good food, daintily served, only goes with a co-ed mental regimen. Men eat with their hands, out of a pot, unless women are present to enforce the decencies. Women alone are a little more to be pitied than men alone, if ‘t were possible.