“My dear brother Rulf, why have you hidden from me that your eyes have failed you?”
Brother Rulf placed his arm over the parchment and glanced up at the abbot. “What would make you speak out those words? My eyes are in perfect order.”
The abbot pulled his arm from the paper, and said, “Your brothers say that none of the words from your vellum are legible, my old friend.”
Rulf pushed the paper away, throwing over a bottle of ink. He shuffled around the table to pick up the bottle, moaning as each step made his body feel older. He groaned as he moved up again, his hands pressed at his back. “I have failed you. I have failed God. I have failed our most sacred benefactor. I do not deserve my place in our most sacred order.”
He sighed so loud he was convinced God would hear him. “I wish God would call me to him now and save my soul before I damage it further.”
The abbot helped his friend on his stool again. “You have naught to feel shame over, my friend. I am old and my eyes have failed me for a long time.”
He smiled and opened a pouch on his belt. “I have a gift for you.”
Rulf sighed again and wrung his hands, “Oh… I am not worthy of any gift.”
The abbot patted his shoulder. “There now, my friend. Gather your wits. I am going to give it to you. It is called a spectacle.”
He removed a small object from his pouch and handed it over. Rulf eyed it with suspicion. It was a round object with a stem attached to it. The abbot showed him how he could push against the side, so it was two of the round objects. The stems attached to one another at the top.
“Put this on your nose.”
Rulf did as suggested and scrunched his nose so it would not fall off. This would mean a headache, certainly. He looked at his original and smiled. “Oh brother, I can read the words again.”
The abbot smiled and tried not to think of the work he had ahead of him, reading all the work that brother Rulf had produced over the course of the years before. Thankfully most parchments could be used again.
Rulf hastily pushed the vellum he had worked on from his table. His trembling hands sought out a new sheet. He put it in front of him, and said, “A most thoughtful gift.”
He proceeded to write the first word on the page, and the second, and the third. He let his head hang, and said, “Oh, my hand.”
The abbot turned his attention towards him. “Is there trouble, my friend?”
Rulf smiled an insincere smile. “None, abbot.” He watched the abbot with great distrust and sighed in relief when he left.
He wrote the next two lines and then scribbled “Oh, my hand.” in the margin of the page. One day… One day there would be one who would read his words and feel sympathy for his fate.
He sighed dramatically and dipped his pen in ink. There was none left. “Oh, my ink, ‘t is all gone.”
The other scribes groaned collectively. He moved with a speed contrary to his old age. “Oh wait, oh wait, young brothers, when your years advance, you will say, brother Rulf, may the good Lord have mercy on your suffering soul.”
The brothers fell silent as Rulf shuffled by them, on his way to get more ink. As the door closed behind him, one of the other scribes whispered softly, “He is only 31 years old. My heart aches for our suffering in the coming years.”
Laughter greeted Rulf as he returned. He eyed the other scribes with distrust, and then moaned, “Oh, my back, and oh, my hand…”
He sat down on his stool, squinting at the book he was asked to copy as daylight faded from the room.
– medieval complaining: http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/visual/charts-graphs/marginalized.php
– eyeglasses http://blog.aurorahistoryboutique.com/category/medieval-history/page/3/ and http://www.college-optometrists.org/en/knowledge-centre/museyeum/online_exhibitions/spectacles/rivet.cfm