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´╗┐Title: The Complete Short Works
Author: Ebers, Georg, 1837-1898
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Complete Short Works" ***

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THE COMPLETE SHORT WORKS OF GEORG EBERS


CONTENTS:
   In The Blue Pike
   A Question
   The Elixir
   The Greylock
   The Nuts



IN THE BLUE PIKE, Complete

By Georg Ebers


Volume 1.


Translated from the German by Mary T. Safford



CHAPTER I.

"May a thunderbolt strike you!" The imprecation suited the rough fellow
who uttered it. He had pointed out of doors as he spoke, and scarcely
lowered the strange tones of his voice, yet of all the rabble who
surrounded him only two persons understood his meaning--a fading, sickly
girl, and the red-haired woman, only a few years her senior, who led the
swearing man by a chain, like a tame bear.

The Nuremberg magistrates had had Cyriax's tongue cropped for gross
blasphemy, and listeners could scarcely comprehend the words he mangled
in his gasping speech.

The red-haired woman dropped the knife with which she was slicing bread
and onions into a pot, and looked at her companion with an anxious,
questioning glance.

"Nuremberg Honourables," he stammered as fast as he could, snatched his
wife's shawl from her shoulders, and drew it over his unkempt head.

The woman beckoned to their travelling companions--a lame fellow of
middle age who, propped on crutches, leaned against the wall, an older
pock-marked man with a bloated face, and the sickly girl--calling to them
in the harsh, metallic voice peculiar to hawkers and elderly singers at
fairs.

"Help Cyriax hide. You first, Jungel! They needn't recognise him as soon
as they get in. Nuremberg magistrates are coming. Aristocratic
blood-suckers of the Council. Who knows what may still be on the tally
for us?"

Kuni, the pale-faced girl, wrapped her bright-coloured garment tighter
around her mutilated left leg, and obeyed. Lame Jungel, too, prepared to
fulfil red-haired Gitta's wish.

But Raban had glanced out, and hastily drew the cloth jerkin, patched
with green and blue linen, closer through his belt, ejaculating
anxiously:

"Young Groland of the Council. I know him."

This exclamation induced the other vagabonds to glide along the wall to
the nearest door, intending to slip out.

"A Groland?" asked Gitta, Cyriax's wife, cowering as if threatened with a
blow from an invisible hand. "It was he--"

"He?" laughed the chain-bearer, while he crouched beside her, drawing
himself into the smallest space possible. "No, Redhead! The devil dragged
the man who did that down to the lower regions long ago, on account of my
tongue. It's his son. The younger, the sharper. This stripling made
Casper Rubling,--[Dice, in gambler's slang]--poor wretch, pay for his
loaded dice with his eyesight."

He thrust his hand hurriedly into his jerkin as he spoke, and gave Gitta
something which he had concealed there. It was a set of dice, but, with
ready presence of mind, she pressed them so hard into the crumb of the
loaf of bread which she had just cut that it entirely concealed them.

All this had passed wholly unnoticed in the corner of the long, wide
room, for all the numerous travellers whom it sheltered were entirely
occupied with their own affairs. Nothing was understood except what was
said between neighbour and neighbour, for a loud uproar pervaded the
tavern of The Blue Pike.

It was one of the most crowded inns, being situated on the main ferry at
Miltenberg, where those journeying from Nuremberg, Augsburg, and other
South German cities, on their way to Frankfort and the Lower Rhine,
rested and exchanged the saddle for the ship. Just at the present time
many persons of high and low degree were on their way to Cologne, whither
the Emperor Maximilian, having been unable to come in April to Trier on
the Moselle, had summoned the Reichstag.

The opening would take place in a few days, and attracted not only
princes, counts, and knights, exalted leaders and more modest servants of
the Church, ambassadors from the cities, and other aristocrats, but also
honest tradesfolk, thriving money-lenders with the citizen's cloak and
the yellow cap of the Jew, vagrants and strollers of every description,
who hoped to practise their various feats to the best advantage, or to
fill their pockets by cheating and robbery.

This evening many had gathered in the spacious taproom of The Blue Pike.
Now those already present were to be joined by the late arrivals whom
Cyriax had seen ride up.

It was a stately band. Four aristocratic gentlemen at the head of the
troop were followed by an escort of twenty-five Nuremberg mercenaries, a
gay company whose crimson coats, with white slashes on the puffed
sleeves, presented a showy spectacle. Their helmets and armour glittered
in the bright light of the setting sun of the last day of July, as they
turned their horses in front of the wide gateway of The Blue Pike to ride
into Miltenberg and ask lodgings of the citizens.

The trampling of hoofs, the shouts of command, and the voices of the
gentlemen and their attendants outside attracted many guests to the doors
and windows of the long, whitewashed building.

The strollers, however, kept the place at theirs without difficulty; no
one desired to come near them.

The girl with the bandaged foot had now also turned her face toward the
street. As her gaze rested on the youngest of the Nuremberg dignitaries,
her pale cheeks flushed, and, as if unconsciously, the exclamation: "It
is he!" fell from her lips.

"Who?" asked red-haired Gitta, and was quickly answered in a low tone

"I mean Lienhard, Herr Groland."

"The young one," stuttered Cyriax.

Then, raising the shawl, he continued inquisitively:

"Do you know him? For good or for evil?"

The girl, whose face, spite of its sunken cheeks and the dark rings under
the deep-set blue eyes, still bore distinct traces of former beauty,
started and answered sharply, though not very loudly, for speech was
difficult:

"Good is what you call evil, and evil is what you call good. My
acquaintance with Lienhard, Herr Groland, is my own affair, and, you may
be sure, will remain mine." She glanced contemptuously away from the
others out of doors, but Cyriax, spite of his mutilated tongue, retorted
quickly and harshly:

"I always said so. She'll die a saint yet." Then grasping Kuni's arm
roughly, he dragged her down to him, and whispered jeeringly:

"Ratz has a full purse and sticks to his offer for the cart. If you put
on airs long, he'll get it and the donkey, too, and you'll be left here.
What was it about Groland? You can try how you'll manage on your stump
without us, if we're too bad for you."

"We are not under eternal obligations to you on the child's account,"
added red-haired Gitta in a gentler tone. "Don't vex my husband, or he'll
keep his word about the cart, and who else will be bothered with a
useless creature like you?"

The girl lowered her eyes and looked at her crippled limb.

How would she get on without the cart, which received her when the pain
grew too sharp and the road was too hard and long?

So she turned to the others again, saying soothingly:

"It all happened in the time before I fell." Then she looked out of doors
once more, but she did not find what she sought. The Nuremberg travellers
had ridden through the broad gateway into the large square courtyard,
surrounded by stables on three sides. When Cyriax and his wife again
called to her, desiring to know what had passed between her and Groland,
she clasped her hands around her knees, fixed her eyes on the gaystuffs
wound around the stump where her foot had been amputated, and in a low,
reluctant tone, continued:

"You want to learn what I have to do with Herr Groland? It was about six
years ago, in front of St. Sebald's church, in Nuremberg. A wedding was
to take place. The bridegroom was one of the Council--Lienhard Groland.
The marriage was to be a very quiet one--the bridegroom's father lay
seriously ill. Yet there could have been no greater throng at the
Emperor's nuptials. I stood in the midst of the crowd. A rosary dropped
from the belt of the fat wife of a master workman--she was decked out
like a peacock--and fell just in front of me. It was a costly ornament,
pure gold and Bohemian garnets. I did not let it lie there."

"A miracle!" chuckled Cyriax, but the girl was obliged to conquer a
severe attack of coughing before she could go on with her story.

"The chaplet fairly burned my hand. I would gladly have given it back,
but the woman was no longer before me. Perhaps I might have returned it,
but I won't say so positively. However, there was no time to do it; the
wedding party was coming, and on that account But what is the use of
talking? While I was still gazing, the owner discovered her loss. An
officer seized me, and so I was taken to prison and the next day was
brought before the magistrates. Herr Groland was one of them, and, since
it wasn't certain that I would not have restored the property I found, he
interceded in my behalf. When the others still wished to punish me, he
besought my release because it was my first offence. So we met, and when
I admit that I am grateful to him for it, you know all."

"H'm," replied Cyriax, giggling, as he nudged his wife in the side and
made remarks concerning what he had just heard which induced even
red-haired Gitta to declare that the loss of his tongue was scarcely a
misfortune.

Kuni indignantly turned her back upon the slanderer and gazed out of the
window again. The Nuremberg Honourables had disappeared, but several
grooms were unbuckling the knapsacks from the horses and carrying them
into the house. The aristocratic travellers were probably cleansing
themselves from the dust of the road before they entered the taproom.

Kuni thought so, and gazed sometimes into vacancy, sometimes into her own
lap. Her eyes had a dreamy light, for the incident which she had just
related rose before her mind with perfect clearness.

It seemed as though she were gazing a second time at the wedding
procession which was approaching St. Sebald's, and the couple who led it.

Never had she beheld anything fairer than the bride with the myrtle
wreath on her beautifully formed head, whence a delicate lace veil
floated over her long, thick, golden hair. She could not help gazing at
her as if spellbound. When she moved forward, holding her bridegroom's
hand, she appeared to float over the rice and flowers strewn in her path
to the church--it was in February. As Kuni saw the bride raise her large
blue eyes to her lover's so tenderly and yet so modestly, and the
bridegroom thank her with a long joyous look of love, she wondered what
must be the feelings of a maiden who, so pure, so full of ardent love,
and so fervently beloved in return, was permitted to approach the house
of God, accompanied by a thousand pious wishes, with the first and only
man whom she loved, and to whom she wished to devote herself for her
whole life. Again, as at that time, a burning thrill ran through her
limbs. Then a bitter smile hovered around her lips.

She had asked herself whether the heart of one who experienced such joys,
to whom such a fate was allotted, would not burst from sheer joy. Now the
wish, the hope, and every new resolve for good or ill were alike over. At
that hour, before the door of St. Sebald's, she had been capable of all,
all, perhaps even the best things, if any one had cherished her in his
heart as Lienhard Groland loved the beautiful woman at his side.

She could not help remembering the spell with which the sight of those
two had forced her to watch their every movement, to gaze at them, and
them only, as if the world contained nothing else. How often she had
repeated to herself that in that hour she was bewitched, whether by him
or by her she could not decide. As the throng surged forward, she had
been crowded against the woman who lost the rosary. She had not had the
faintest thought of it when the bailiff suddenly snatched her from her
rapturous gazing to stern reality, seizing with a rude grip the hand that
held the jewel. Then, pursued by the reviling and hissing of the
populace, she had been taken to prison.

Now she again saw herself amid the vile rabble assembled there, again
felt how eagerly she inhaled the air as she was led across the courtyard
of the townhall into the presence of the magistrates. Oh, if she could
but take such a long, deep breath of God's pure air as she did then! But
that time was past. Her poor, sunken chest would no longer permit it.
Then she fancied that she was again standing before the judges, who were
called The Five.

Four magistrates sat with the Pfander--[Chief of police]--at the table
covered with a green cloth, but one, who surpassed all the others both in
stature and in manly beauty, was the selfsame Lienhard Groland, who
yesterday had led to the altar the wonderfully lovely girl who had
bewitched her. She felt how the blood had mounted into her cheeks when
she again saw him who could know nothing of her except that she was a
jade, who had stolen another person's property. Yet her glance soon met
his, and he must have been blind had he not read in the radiant lustre of
her blue eyes, which had early learned to woo applause and promise love,
what he was to her, and how gratefully her heart throbbed for him.

After the other gentlemen had treated her harshly, and threatened to put
her in the stocks, he interceded for her, and entreated his brother
magistrates to let mercy, in this instance, take the place of justice,
because she was so young, and perhaps had intended to return the rosary
later. Finally he bent smiling toward his companions and said something
to them in a subdued tone. The voice was so low that his intention to
keep her in ignorance of it was evident. But Kuni's hearing had been as
keen as a bird's, and not a word escaped her. He could not help regarding
it as an evil omen for him and his young wife if a girl, hitherto
unpunished, should be plunged into disgrace and perhaps made miserable
throughout the rest of a long life on account of his wedding procession.

How high her heart had throbbed at this request, and when it was granted,
the discussion closed, and she herself informed that she would be set
free, she hurried after her preserver, who had left the Council chamber
with the other magistrates, to thank him. He permitted her to detain him,
and when she found herself alone in his presence, at first, with
streaming eyes, she was unable to utter a word. He laid his hand kindly
on her shoulder to soothe her, and then listened to her assurance that,
though she was a strolling rope-dancer, she had never taken other
people's property.

Now she closed her eyes to have a clearer vision of the picture evoked by
memory, which rose so vividly before her. Again she saw herself seize his
hand to kiss it humbly, yet with fervent devotion; again she met the
patronizing but friendly smile with which he withdrew it, and a thrill of
happiness ran through every nerve, for she imagined she once more felt
his slender white hand soothingly stroke her black hair and burning
cheeks, as if she were a sick child who needed help. Later years had
never granted her aught more blissful than that moment.

As had often happened before, the memory of it overmastered her with such
power that she could not escape it, but recalled his every look and
movement. Meanwhile, she imagined that she heard his voice, whose deep,
pure tones had pleased her ear, alive to harmony, more than any to which
she had ever listened, counselling her to give up her vagrant life, and
again received his assurance that he pitied her, and it would grieve him
if she, who seemed worthy of a better fate, should be ruined, body and
soul, so young. Thus absorbed, she neither saw nor listened to anything
that was occurring near her or in the large room of the tavern, but stood
gazing into vacancy as if rapt away from earth.

True, Cyriax and the others had lowered their voices, for they were
talking about her and the aristocratic couple on whose wedding day Kuni
had stolen the rosary.

Raban, a tall, lank vagabond with red-rimmed eyes, whose ugly face
bristled with a half-grown black beard, had a few more particulars to
give concerning the bride and bridegroom. He wandered about the world
and, whenever he stretched out his hand to beg, gave the pretext that he
was collecting the price of blood required for a man whom he had killed
in self-defence, that his own head might not fall under the axe of the
executioner. His dead father had heated the furnaces in the smelting
works at Eschenbach, near Nuremberg, and the bride was Katharina, the
eldest of the three daughters of the owner, old Harsdorffer of the
Council. He had been a man of steel and iron, and opposed Lienhard
Groland's father at every point, not excepting even their official
business. When he discovered that the young man was carrying on a love
affair with his daughter, he had summoned him before a court of justice
for a breach of the law which forbade minors to betroth themselves
without parental consent. The magistrates sentenced Lienhard to five
years' exile from the city but, through the Emperor's mediation, he was
spared the punishment. Old Harsdorffer afterward succeeded in keeping the
suitor away from his daughter a long time, but finally relinquished his
opposition.

"The devil came soon enough and broke his stiff neck," added Cyriax, on
whom the vagabond's story had had the same effect as a red rag upon a
bull. Spite of the old slanderer's mutilated tongue, invectives flowed
fast enough from his lips when he thought of young Frau Groland's father.
If the Groland outside resembled his father-in-law, he would like to
drink him a pledge that should burn like the plague and ruin.

He snatched a flask from his pocket as he spoke, and after a long pull
and a still longer "A-ah!" he stammered:

"I've been obliged to bid farewell to my tongue, yet it feels as if it
were sticking in my throat like the dry sole of a shoe. That's what comes
from talking in this dog-day heat."

He looked into the empty bottle and was about to send Kuni out to fill it
again. In turning to do so he saw her pale face, wan with suffering, but
which now glowed with a happy light that lent it a strange beauty. How
large her blue eyes were! When he had picked her up in Spain she was
already a cripple and in sore distress. But Groland probably knew what he
was about when he released her. She must have been a pretty creature
enough at that time, and he knew that before her fall she was considered
one of the most skilful rope-dancers.

An elderly woman with a boy, whose blindness helped her to arouse
compassion, was crouching by Raban's side, and had just been greeted by
Kuni as an old acquaintance. They had journeyed from land to land in
Loni's famous troupe, and as Raban handed Cyriax his own bottle, he
turned from the dreaming girl, whose services he no longer needed, and
whispered to the blind boy's mother--who among the people of her own
calling still went by the name of Dancing Gundel--the question whether
yonder ailing cripple had once had any good looks, and what position she
had held among rope-dancers.

The little gray-haired woman looked up with sparkling eyes. Under the
name of "Phyllis" she had earned, ere her limbs were stiffened by age,
great applause by her dainty egg-dance and all sorts of feats with the
balancing pole. The manager of the band had finally given her the
position of crier to support herself and her blind boy. This had made her
voice so hollow and hoarse that it was difficult to understand her as,
with fervid eloquence, vainly striving to be heard by absent-minded Kuni,
she began: "She surpassed even Maravella the Spaniard. And her feats at
Augsburg during the Reichstag--I tell you, Cyriax, when she ascended the
rope to the belfry, with the pole and without--"

"I've just heard of that from another quarter," he interrupted. "What I
want to know is whether she pleased the eyes of men."

"What's that to you?" interposed red-haired Gitta jealously, trying to
draw him away from Gundel by the chain.

Raban laughed heartily, and lame Jungel, chuckling, rapped on the floor
with his right crutch, exclaiming:

"Good for you!"

Kuni was accustomed to such outbursts of merriment. They were almost
always awakened by some trifle, and this time she did not even hear the
laughing. But Cyriax struck his wife so rudely on the hand that she
jerked furiously at the chain and, with a muttered oath, blew on the
bruised spot. Meanwhile Gundel was telling the group how many
distinguished gentlemen had formerly paid court to Kuni. She was as agile
as a squirrel. Her pretty little face, with its sparkling blue eyes,
attracted the men as bacon draws mice. Then, pleased to have listeners,
she related how the girl had lured florins and zecchins from the purse of
many a wealthy ecclesiastic. She might have been as rich as the Fuggers
if she hadn't met with the accident and had understood how to keep what
she earned. But she could not hold on to her gold. She had flung it away
like useless rubbish. So long as she possessed anything there had been no
want in Loni's company. She, Gundel, had caught her arm more than once
when she was going to fling Hungarian ducats, instead of coppers, to
good-for-nothing beggars. She had often urged her, too, to think of old
age, but Kuni--never cared for any one longer than a few weeks, though
there were some whom she might easily have induced to offer her the
wedding ring.

She glanced at Kuni again, but, perceiving that the girl did not yet
vouchsafe her even a single look, she was vexed, and, moving nearer to
Cyriax, she added in a still lower tone:

"A more inconstant, faithless, colder heart than hers I never met, even
among the most disorderly of Loni's band; for, blindly as the infatuated
lovers obeyed every one of her crazy whims, she laughed at the best and
truest. 'I hate them all,' she would say. 'I wouldn't let one of them
even touch me with the tip of his finger if I could not use their
zecchins. 'With these,' she said, 'she would help the rich to restore to
the poor what they had stolen from them.' She really treated many a
worthy gentleman like a dog, nay, a great deal worse; for she was tender
enough to all the animals that travelled with the company; the poodles
and the ponies, nay, even the parrots and the doves. She would play with
the children, too, even the smallest ones--isn't that so, Peperle?--like
their own silly mothers." She smoothed the blind boy's golden hair as she
spoke, then added, sighing:

"But the little fellow was too young to remember it. The rattle which she
gave him at Augsburg--it was just before the accident--because she was so
fond of him--Saint Kunigunde, how could we keep such worthless jewels in
our sore need?--was made of pure silver. True, the simpletons who were so
madly in love with her, and with whom she played so cruelly, would have
believed her capable of anything sooner than such kindness. There was a
Swabian knight, a young fellow----"

Here she stopped, for Cyriax and the other vagabonds, even the girl of
whom she was speaking, had started up and were gazing at the door.

Kuni opened her eyes as wide as if a miracle had happened, and the
crimson spots on her sunken cheeks betrayed how deeply she was agitated.
But she had never experienced anything of this kind; for while thinking
of the time when, through Lienhard Groland's intercession, she had
entered the house of the wealthy old Frau Schurstab, in order to become
estranged from a vagabond life, and recalling how once, when he saw her
sorrowful there, he had spoken kindly to her, it seemed as if she had
actually heard his own voice. As it still appeared to echo in her ears,
she suddenly became aware that the words really did proceed from his
lips. What she had heard in her dream and what now came from his own
mouth, as he stood at the door, blended into one. She would never have
believed that the power of imagination could reproduce anything so
faithfully.

Listening intently, she said to herself that, during the many thousand
times when she had talked with him in fancy, it had also seemed as if she
heard him speak. And the same experience had befallen her eyes; for
whenever memory reverted to those distant days, she had beheld him just
as he now looked standing on the threshold, where he was detained by the
landlady of The Pike. Only his face had become still more manly, his
bearing more dignified. The pleasant, winning expression of the bearded
lips remained unchanged, and more than once she had seen his eyes sparkle
with a far warmer light than now, while he was thanking the portly woman
for her cordial welcome.

While Kuni's gaze still rested upon him as if spellbound, Cyriax nudged
her, stammering hurriedly:

"They will have to pass us. Move forward, women, in front of me. Spread
out your skirt, you Redhead! It might be my death if yonder Nuremberg
fine gentleman should see me here and recollect one thing and another."

As he spoke he dragged Kuni roughly from the window, flung the sack which
he had brought in from the cart down before him, and made them sit on it,
while he stretched himself on the floor face downward, and pretended to
be asleep behind the women.

This suited Kuni. If Lienhard Groland passed her now he could not help
seeing her, and she had no greater desire than to meet his glance once
more before her life ended. Yet she dreaded this meeting with an
intensity plainly revealed by the passionate throbbing of her heart and
the panting of her weakened lungs. There was a rushing noise in her ears,
and her eyes grew dim. Yet she was obliged to keep them wide open--what
might not the next moment bring?

For the first time since her entrance she gazed around the large, long
apartment, which would have deserved the name of hall had it not been too
low.

The heated room, filled with buzzing flies, was crowded with travellers.
The wife and daughter of a feather-curler, who were on their way with the
husband and father to the Reichstag, where many an aristocratic gentleman
would need plumes for his own head and his wife's, had just dropped the
comb with which they were arranging each other's hair. The shoemaker and
his dame from Nuremberg paused in the sensible lecture they were
alternately addressing to their apprentices. The Frankfort messenger put
down the needle with which he was mending the badgerskin in his knapsack.
The travelling musicians who, to save a few pennies, had begun to eat
bread, cheese, and radishes, instead of the warm meals provided for the
others, let their knives drop and set down the wine-jugs. The traders,
who were hotly arguing over Italian politics and the future war with
Turkey, were silent. The four monks, who had leaned their heads against
the cornice of the wide, closed fireplace and, in spite of the flies
which buzzed around them, had fallen asleep, awoke. The vender of
indulgences in the black cowl interrupted the impressive speech which he
was delivering to the people who surrounded his coffer. This group
also--soldiers, travelling artisans, peasants, and tradesfolk with their
wives, who, like most of those present, were waiting for the vessel which
was to sail down the Main early the next morning--gazed toward the door.
Only the students and Bacchantes,--[Travelling scholars]--who were fairly
hanging on the lips of a short, slender scholar, with keen, intellectual
features, noticed neither the draught of air caused by the entrance of
the distinguished arrivals and their followers, nor the general stir
aroused by their appearance, until Dr. Eberbach, the insignificant,
vivacious speaker, recognised in one of the group the famous Nuremberg
humanist, Wilibald Pirckheimer.



CHAPTER II.

At first Dietel, the old waiter, whose bullet-shaped head was covered
with thick gray hair, also failed to notice them. Without heeding their
entrance, he continued,--aided by two assistants who were scarcely beyond
boyhood,--to set the large and small pine tables which he had placed
wherever he could find room.

The patched tablecloths which he spread over the tops were coarse and
much worn; the dishes carried after him by the two assistants, whose
knees bent under the burden, were made of tin, and marred by many a dent.
He swung his stout body to and fro with jerks like a grasshopper, and in
doing so his shirt rose above his belt, but the white napkin under his
arm did not move a finger's width. In small things, as well as great
ones, Dietel was very methodical. So he continued his occupation
undisturbed till an inexperienced merchant's clerk from Ulm, who wanted
to ride farther speedily, accosted him and asked for some special dish.
Dietel drew his belt farther down and promptly snubbed the young man with
the angry retort; "Everybody must wait for his meal. We make no
exceptions here."

Interrupted in his work, he also saw the newcomers, and then cast a
peevish glance at one corner of the room, where stood a table covered
with fine linen and set with silver dishes, among them a platter on which
early pears and juicy plums were spread invitingly. The landlady of The
Pike had arranged them daintily upon fresh vine leaves an hour before
with her own plump but nimble hands. Of course they were intended for the
gentlemen from Nuremberg and their guests. Dietel, too, now knew them,
and saw that the party numbered a person no less distinguished than the
far-famed and highly learned Doctor and Imperial Councillor, Conrad
Peutinger. They were riding to Cologne together under the same escort.
The citizens of Nuremberg were distinguished men, as well as their guest,
but Dietel had served distinguished personages by the dozen at The Blue
Pike for many years--among them even crowned heads--and they had wanted
for nothing. His skill, however, was not sufficient for these city
demigods; for the landlord of The Pike intended to look after their table
himself. Tomfoolery! There was more than enough for him to do that day
over yonder in the room occupied by the lansquenets and the city
soldiers, where he usually directed affairs in person. It roused Dietel's
ire. The cooking of The Blue Pike, which the landlady superintended,
could vie with any in the Frank country, on the Rhine, or in Swabia, yet,
forsooth, it wasn't good enough for the Nuremberg guests. The Council
cook, a fat, pompous fellow, accompanied them, and had already begun to
bustle about the hearth beside the hostess. They really would have
required no service at all, for they brought their own attendants. It
certainly was not Dietel's usual custom to wish any one evil, but if Gotz
Berlichinger, who had recently attacked a party of Leipsic merchants at
Forchheim, or Hans von Geisslingen had fallen upon them and subdued their
arrogance, it would not have spoiled Dietel's appetite.

At last they moved forward. The others might treat them as they chose;
he, at least, would neither say anything to them nor bow before them as
the ears did before Joseph in Holy Writ. Nevertheless, he looked out of
the corner of his eye at them as he took from the basket of the
round-checked kitchen maid, who had now found her way to him, one fresh
brown roll after another, and placed them beside plate after plate. How
well risen and how crusty they were! They fairly cracked under the
pressure of the thumb, yet wheat rolls had been baked specially for the
Nuremberg party. Was God's good gift too poor for the Honourables with
the gold chains?

Now, even fragile little Dr. Eberbach, and the students and Bacchantes
who had stood around him like disciples, intently listening to his words,
bowed respectfully. The ungodly, insolent fellows who surrounded the
Dominican Jacobus, the vender of indulgences, had turned from him, while
he exhorted them, as if he were an importunate beggar. What did the
merchants, artisans, and musicians know about the godless Greek and Latin
writings which brought the names of Pirckheimer and Peutinger before the
people, yet how reverently many of these folk now bowed before them. Only
the soldiers with swords at their sides held their heads erect. They
proved that they were right in calling themselves "pious lansquenets."
The broad-shouldered knight, with the plumed hat and suit of mail, who
walked beside them, was Sir Hans von Obernitz, the Schultheiss of
Nuremberg. He was said to be a descendant of the ancient Brandenstein
race, and yet--was the world topsy-turvy?--he, too, was listening to
every word uttered by Wilibald Pirckheimer and Dr. Peutinger as if it
were a revelation. The gray-haired leech and antiquary, Hartmann Schedel,
whom Herr Wilibald,--spite of the gout which sometimes forced a slight
grimace to distort his smooth-shaven, clever, almost over-plump
face,--led by the arm like a careful son, resembled, with his long,
silver locks, a patriarch or an apostle.

The young envoy of the Council, Herr Lienhard Groland, lingered behind
the others and seemed to be taking a survey of the room.

What bright, keen eyes he had; how delicately cut was the oval face with
the strong, very slightly hooked nose; how thick were the waving brown
locks that fell upon the slender neck; how well the pointed beard suited
his chin; with what austere majesty his head rose above the broad,
plaited, snow-white ruff, which he must have just donned!

Now his eyes rested upon the vagrants, and Dietel perceived something
which threw him completely off his balance; for the first time he changed
the position of his napkin, jerking it from its place under his left arm
to tuck it beneath the right one. He had known Kuni a long time. In her
prosperous days, when she was the ornament of Loni's band and had
attracted men as a ripe pear draws wasps, she had often been at the
tavern, and both he and the landlord of The Pike had greeted her
cordially, for whoever sought her favour was obliged to order the best
and dearest of everything, not only for her and himself, but for a whole
tableful of hungry guests. When she had met him just now he would never
have recognised her had she not been in Gundel's company. True, the sight
of her in this plight was not unexpected, yet it pierced him to the
heart, for Kuni had been a remarkable girl, and yet was now in far
greater penury than many of much less worth whom he had watched stumbling
along the downward path before her. When he saw Lienhard Groland's glance
rest upon her, he noticed also how strangely her emaciated face changed
colour. Though it had just been as white as the napkin under his arm, it
now flushed as red as the balsam blossoms in the window, and then paled
again. She had formerly gazed around her boldly enough, but now she
lowered her eyes to the floor as modestly as any demure maiden on her way
to church.

And what did this mean?

The honourable member of the Nuremberg Council must be well acquainted
with the girl, for his eyes had scarcely met hers ere a strange smile
flitted over his grave, manly face.

Now--was it in jest or earnest?--he even shook his finger at her. He
stopped in front of her a moment, too, and Dietel heard him exclaim:

"So here you are! On the highway again, in spite of everything?"

The distance which separated them and the loud talking of the guests
prevented the waiter's hearing her reply, "The captive bird can not
endure the cage long, Herr Lienhard," far less the words, added in a
lower tone:

"Yet flight has been over since my fall at Augsburg. My foot lies buried
there with many other things which will never return. I can only move on
wheels behind the person who takes me." Then she paused and ventured to
look him full in the face. Her eyes met his beaming with a radiant light,
but directly after they were dimmed by a mist of tears. Yet she forced
them back, though the deep suffering from which they sprung was
touchingly apparent in the tone of her voice, as she continued:

"I have often wished, Herr Lienhard, that the cart was my coffin and the
tavern the graveyard."

Dietel noticed the fit of coughing which followed this speech, and the
hasty movement with which the Nuremberg patrician thrust his hand into
his purse and tossed Kuni three coins. They did not shine with the dull
white lustre of silver, but with the yellow glitter of gold. The waiter's
eyes were sharp and he had his own ideas about this unprecedented
liberality.

The travelling companions of the aristocratic burgomaster and ambassadors
of the proud city of Nuremberg had also noticed this incident.

After they had taken their seats at the handsomely ornamented table,
Wilibald Pirckheimer bent toward the ear of his young friend and
companion in office, whispering:

"The lovely wife at home whom you toiled so hard to win, might, I know,
rest quietly, secure in the possession of all the charms of foam-born
Aphrodite, yet I warn you. Whoever is as sure of himself as you cares
little for the opinion of others. And yet we stand high, friend Lienhard,
and therefore are seen by all; but the old Argus who watches for his
neighbour's faults has a hundred sharp eyes, while among the gods three
are blind--Justice, Happiness, and Love. Besides, you flung gold to
yonder worthless rabble. I would rather have given it to the travelling
musicians. They, like us humanists, are allied to the Muses and,
moreover, are harmless, happy folk."

Lienhard Groland listened till his older friend had finished. Then, after
thanking him for his well-meant counsel, he answered, turning to the
others also:

"In better days rope-dancing was the profession of yonder poor, coughing
creature. Now, after a severe accident, she is dragging herself through
life on one foot. I once knew her, for I succeeded in saving her from
terrible disgrace."

"And," replied Wilibald Pirckheimer, "we would rather show kindness a
second and a third time to any one on whom we have be stowed a favour
than to render it once to a person from whom we have received one. This
is my own experience. But the wise man must guard against nothing more
carefully than to exceed moderation in his charity. How easily, when
Caius sees Cnejus lavish gold where silver or copper would serve, he
thinks of Martial's apt words: 'Who gives great gifts, expects great
gifts again.'--[Martial, Epigram 5, 59, 3.]--Do not misunderstand me.
What could yonder poor thing bestow that would please even a groom? But
the eyes of suspicion scan even the past. I have often seen you open your
purse, friend Lienhard, and this is right. Whoever hath ought to give,
and my dead mother used to say that: 'No one ever became a beggar by
giving at the proper time.'"

"And life is gladdened by what one gives to another," remarked Conrad
Peutinger, the learned Augsburg city clerk, who valued his Padua title of
doctor more than that of an imperial councillor. "It applies to all
departments. Don't allow yourself to regret your generosity, friend
Lienhard. 'Nothing becomes man better than the pleasure of giving,' says
Terentius.--[Terenz. Ad. 360]--Who is more liberal than the destiny which
adorns the apple tree that is to bear a hundred fruits, with ten thousand
blossoms to please our eyes ere it satisfies our appetite?"

"To you, if to any one, it gives daily proof of liberality in both
learning and the affairs of life," Herr Wilibald assented.

"If you will substitute 'God, our Lord,' for 'destiny,' I agree with
you," observed the Abbot of St. AEgidius in Nuremberg.

The portly old prelate nodded cordially to Dr. Peutinger as he spoke. The
warm, human love with which he devoted himself to the care of souls in
his great parish consumed the lion's share of his time and strength. He
spent only his leisure hours in the study of the ancient writers, in whom
he found pleasure, and rejoiced in the work of the humanists without
sharing their opinions.

"Yes, my dear Doctor," he continued in his deep voice, in a tone of the
most earnest conviction, "if envy were ever pardonable, he who presumed
to feel it toward you might most speedily hope to find forgiveness. There
is no physical or mental gift with which the Lord has not blessed you,
and to fill the measure to overflowing, he permitted you to win a
beautiful and virtuous wife of noble lineage."

"And allowed glorious daughters to grow up in your famous home," cried
little Dr. Eberbach, waving his wineglass enthusiastically. "Who has not
heard of Juliane Peutinger, the youngest of humanists, but no longer one
of the least eminent, who, when a child only four years old, addressed
the Emperor Maximilian in excellent Latin. But when, as in the child
Juliane, the wings of the intellect move so powerfully and so
prematurely, who would not think of the words of the superb Ovid: 'The
human mind gains victories more surely than lances and arrows.'"

But, ere he had finished the verse which, like many another Latin one, he
mingled with his German words, he noticed Lienhard Groland eagerly
motioning to him to stop. The latter knew only too well what had not yet
reached the ears of Eberbach in Vienna. The marvellous child, whose
precocious learning he had just extolled as a noble gift of Providence to
the father, was no longer among the living. Her bright eyes had closed
ere she reached maidenhood.

Dr. Eberbach, in painful embarrassment, tried to apologize for his
heedlessness, but the Augsburg city clerk, with a friendly gesture,
endeavoured to soothe his young fellow-scholar.

"It brought the true nature of happiness very vividly before all our
eyes," he remarked with a faint sigh. "In itself it is not lasting. A
second piece of good fortune is needed to maintain the first. Mine was
indeed great and beautiful enough. But we will let the dead rest. What
more have you heard concerning the first books of the Annales of Tacitus,
said to have been discovered in the Corvey monastery? If the report
should be verified----"

Here Eberbach, delighted to find an opportunity to afford the honoured
man whom he had unwittingly grieved a little pleasure, eagerly
interrupted. Hurriedly thrusting his hand into the breast of his black
doublet, he drew forth several small sheets on which he had succeeded in
copying the beginning of the precious new manuscript, and handed them to
Peutinger, who, with ardent zeal, instantly became absorbed in the almost
illegible characters of his young comrade in learning. Wilibald
Pirckheimer and Lienhard Groland also frequently forgot the fresh salmon
and young partridges, which were served in succession, to share this
brilliant novelty. The Abbot of St. AEgidius, too, showed his pleasure in
the fortunate discovery, and did not grow quieter until the conversation
turned upon the polemical writing which Reuchlin had just finished. It
had recently appeared in Frankfort under the title: The Eye Mirror, and
assailed with crushing severity those who blamed him for opposing the
proposal to destroy the books of the Jews.

"What in the world do we care about the writings of the Hebrews?" the
deep bass voice of Hans von Obernitz here interrupted the conversation.
"A new Latin manuscript--that I value! But has this noble fragment of
Tacitus created half as much stir as this miserable dispute?"

"There is more at stake," said Lienhard Groland positively. "The Jewish
writings merely serve as a pretext for the Cologne inquisitors to attack
the great Reuchlin. He, the most profound and keenest student of the
noble Greek tongue, who also forced the venerable language in which the
Old Testament speaks to discourse to us Germans--"

"The Hebrew!" cried Hans von Obernitz impatiently, passing his napkin
over his thick moustache; "what do we want of it? How can a sagacious man
plunge into such annoyances on its account?"

"Because the excess of liberty which you gentlemen grant to the human
intellect blinds him," observed the abbot. "His learning would throw the
doors wide open to heresy. The Scriptures are true. On them Tungern and
Kollin, whom you mention, rely. In the original Hebrew text they will be
given up to every one who wishes to seek an interpretation----"

"Then a new bridge will be built for truth," declared the little
Thuringian with flashing eyes.

"The Cologne theologians hold a different opinion," replied the abbot.

"Because the Grand Inquisitor and his followers--Tungern, Kollin, and
whatever the rest may be called--are concerned about some thing very
different from the noblest daughter of Heaven," said Lienhard Groland,
and the other gentlemen assented. "You yourself, my lord abbot, admitted
to me on the ride here that it angered you, too, to see the Cologne
Dominicans pursue the noble scholar 'with such fierce hatred and bitter
stings.'"--[Virgil, Aeneid, xi. 837.]

"Because conflict between Christians always gives me pain," replied the
abbot.

But here Dr. Eberbach impetuously broke in upon the conversation:

"For the sake of a fair woman Ilion suffered unspeakable tortures. But to
us a single song of Homer is worth more than all these Hebrew writings.
And yet a Trojan war of the intellect has been kindled concerning them.
Here freedom of investigation, yonder with Hoogstraten and Tungern,
fettering of the mind. Among us, the ardent yearning to hold aloft the
new light which the revival of learning is kindling, yonder superior
force is struggling to extinguish it. Here the rule of the thinking mind,
in whose scales reason and counter-argument decide the matter; among the
Cologne people it is the Grand Inquisitor's jailers, chains, dungeons,
and the stake."

"They will not go so far," replied the abbot soothingly. "True, both the
front and the back stairs are open to the Dominicans in Rome."

"Yet where should humanism find more zealous friends than in that very
place, among the heads of the Church?" asked Dr. Peutinger. "From the
Tiber, I hope----"

Here he paused, for the new guest who had just entered the room attracted
his attention also. The landlord of The Blue Pike respectfully preceded
him and ushered him directly to the Nuremberg party, while he requested
the Dominican monks who accompanied him to wait.

The late arrival was Prof. Arnold von Tungern, dean of the theological
faculty at the University of Cologne. This gentleman had just been
mentioned with the greatest aversion at the table he was now approaching,
and his arrogant manner did little to lessen it.

Nevertheless, his position compelled the Nuremberg dignitaries to invite
him to share their meal, which was now drawing to a close. The Cologne
theologian accepted the courtesy with a patronizing gesture, as if it
were a matter of course. Nay, after he had taken his seat, he ordered the
landlord, as if he were the master, to see that this and that thing in
the kitchen was not forgotten.

Unwelcome as his presence doubtless was to his table companions, as
sympathizers with Reuchlin and other innovators, well as he doubtless
remembered their scornful attacks upon his Latin--he was a man to
maintain his place. So, with boastful self-conceit, allowing no one else
an opportunity to speak, he at once began to complain of the fatigues of
the journey and to mention, with tiresome detail, the eminent persons
whom he had met and who had treated him like a valued friend. The vein on
the little doctor's high forehead swelled with wrath as he listened to
this boastful chatter, which did not cease until the first dish was
served. To brave him, Eberbach turned the conversation to humanism, its
redeeming power over minds, and its despicable foes. His scornful jests
buzzed around his enemy like a swarm of gnats; but Arnold von Tungern
pretended not to hear them. Only now and then a tremor of the mouth, as
he slowly chewed his food, or a slight raising of the eye-brows, betrayed
that one shaft or another had not wholly missed its mark.

The older gentlemen had sometimes interrupted the Thuringian, to try to
change the conversation, but always in vain, and the guest from Cologne
vouchsafed them only curt, dry answers.

Not until a pause occurred between two courses did von Tungern alter his
manner. Then, like an inquisitor who has succeeded in convicting the
person accused, he leaned back in his chair with a satisfied, long-drawn
"So-o," wiped his moist chin, and began:

"You have showed me your state of mind plainly enough, my young Herr
Doctor. Your name is Eberbach, if I am not mistaken. We will remember it
at a fitting opportunity. But, pugnaciously as your loud voice summons to
the strife, it will never destroy the sacred and venerable things which
are worthy to endure. Thanks to the foundation of rock which supports
them, and the watchfulness of their defenders, they will stand firmer
than the walls of Jericho, whose fate you doubtless wish to bestow upon
them. But you, my valued friends"--here he turned to the envoys--"who
stand at the head of communities whose greatness is founded upon their
ancient order and system, beware of opening your ears and your gates to
the siren song and fierce outcries of the innovators and agitators."

"Thanks for the counsel," replied Wilibald Pirckheimer, with repellent
coldness; but Arnold von Tungern pretended to consider the humanist's
reply an assent, and, nodding approvingly, continued:

"How could you help exclaiming, with us and the pagan Ovid, 'We praise
the ancients!' And this is merely saying that what time has tested and
made venerable is the best."--[Ovid. Fast., 1, 225.]

Here Doctor Peutinger tried to interrupt him, but the other cut him short
with an arrogant wave of the hand, and in an instructive tone began
again:

"The honourable Council of Nuremberg--so I am informed--set a
praiseworthy example several years ago. There was a youthful member of
one of your patrician families--an Ebner, I believe, or a Stromer or
Tucher. He had imbibed in Padua mistaken ideas which, unhappily, are held
in high esteem by many from whom we should expect more discernment. So it
chanced that when he returned home he ventured to contract a formal
betrothal with an honourable maiden of noble lineage, against the
explicit desire of her distinguished parents. The rebellious youth was
therefore summoned before a court of justice, and, on account of his
reckless offence and wanton violation of custom and law, banished from
the city and sentenced to pay a fine----"

"A punishment which I endured calmly, Herr Professor," interrupted
Lienhard Groland, "for I myself was that 'rebellious youth.' Besides, it
was by no means the teachings of humanism which led me to an act that
you, learned sir, doubtless regard with sterner eyes than the Christian
charity which your clerical garb made me expect would permit."

These words fell, with the winning earnestness peculiar to him, from the
lips of the young man who, at a time when he cared for no other woman
than his new-made bride, had seen in the poor, endangered rope-dancer a
human being worthy of aid. Only his fiery dark eyes met the professor's
sternly enough.

The latter was still seeking a fitting reply, when the folding doors of
the room were thrown wide open, and a belated party of travellers
entered. They came opportunely, for they afforded a timely excuse to
withhold an answer without attracting notice; yet at the head of the new
guests of The Blue Pike was his Cologne colleague Conrad Kollin, who was
followed, as he himself had been, by a number of Dominican friars.

Tungern, of course, went to greet him, and this made it easy to part from
his table companions in a manner that aroused no comment; for while
Kollin was surrounded and respectfully welcomed by the Dominican friars
and many other travellers, the humanists left the house.



CHAPTER III.

Dietel did not lose sight of the envoys. After whispering together a
short time they had risen and gone out. At the door the Abbot of St.
AEgidius left them to greet Professor Kollin, and, with the easy kindness
characteristic of him, to say that the room had become too warm for the
other gentlemen. They presented their compliments to the distinguished
citizen of Cologne, and placed their table at the service of the
newcomer.

Dietel's sharp ears had enabled him to catch these words; but then he was
obliged to move again, a table had to be set outside the house for the
Nuremberg travellers and their companions, and jugs of wine must be
filled for them.

Then he was called back to the taproom. While the landlord of The Pike
was serving a fresh meal to Professor Kollin at the table vacated by the
Nuremberg dignitaries, and Arnold von Tungern was emptying the full vials
of his wrath upon the little doctor and the whole body of humanists, the
Nuremberg travellers and their guests were now conversing freely, as if
relieved from a nightmare, upon the topics which most deeply interested
them.

Dietel would far rather have served the Cologne theologians, whom he
regarded as the appointed defenders of the true faith, than the
insignificant folk at the other tables who had just finished their meal.

How unmannerly their behaviour was! Better wine had been served before
dessert, and they now shouted and sang so loudly and so out of tune that
the air played by the strolling musicians could scarcely be
distinguished. Many a table, too, groaned under blows from the clinched
fist of some excited reveller. Every one seemed animated by a single
desire-to drink again and again.

Now the last pieces of bread and the cloths were removed from the tables.
The carousers no longer needed Dietel. He could leave the task of filling
the jugs to his young assistants.

What were the envoys outside doing? They were well off. In here the
atmosphere was stifling from the fumes emanating from the throng of
people, the wine, and the food. It seemed to draw all the flies from far
and near. Whence did they come? They seemed to have increased by
thousands since the early morning, when the room was empty. The outside
air appeared delightful to breathe. He longed to fill his lungs again
with the pure wind of heaven, and at the same time catch a few words of
the conversation between the envoys to the Reichstag.

So Dietel hobbled to the open window, where the strollers were resting.

Cyriax was lying on the floor asleep, with the brandy bottle in his arms.
Two of his companions, with their mouths wide open, were snoring at his
side. Raban, who begged for blood-money, was counting the copper coins
which he had received. Red-haired Gitta was sewing another patch of cloth
upon her rough husband's already well-mended jerkin by the dim light of a
small lamp, into which she had put some fat and a bit of rag for a wick.
It was difficult to thread the needle. Had it not been for the yellow
blaze of the pitchpans fastened to the wall with iron clamps, which had
already been burning an hour, she could scarcely have succeeded.

"Make room there," the waiter called to the vagrants, giving the sleeping
Jungel a push with his club foot. The latter grasped his crutch, as he
had formerly seized the sword he carried as a foot soldier ere he lost
his leg before Padua. Then, with a Spanish oath learned in the
Netherlands, he turned over, still half asleep, on his side. So Dietel
found room, and, after vainly looking for Kuni among the others, gazed
out at the starlit sky.

Yonder, in front of the house, beside the tall oleanders which grew in
wine casks cut in halves instead of in tubs, the learned and aristocratic
gentlemen sat around the table with outstretched heads, examining by the
light of the torches the pages which Dr. Eberbach drew forth, one after
another, from the inexhaustible folds of the front of his black robe.

Dietel, the schoolmaster's son, who had once sat on the bench with the
pupils of the Latin class, pricked up his cars; he heard foreign words
which interested him like echoes of memories of his childhood. He did not
understand them, yet he liked to listen, for they made him think of his
dead father. He had always meant kindly, but he had been a morose, deeply
embittered man. How pitilessly he had flogged him and the other boys with
hazel rods. And he would have been still harsher and sterner but for his
mother's intercession.

A pleasant smile hovered around his lips as he remembered her. Instead of
continuing to listen to the Greek sentences which Herr Wilibald
Pirckheimer was reading aloud to the others, he could not help thinking
of the pious, gentle little woman who, with her cheerful kindness, so
well understood how to comfort and to sustain courage. She never railed
or scolded; at the utmost she only wiped her eyes with her apron when the
farmers of his little native town in Hesse sent to the schoolmaster, for
the school tax, grain too bad for bread, hay too sour for the three
goats, and half-starved fowls.

He thoughtfully patted the plump abdomen which, thanks to the fleshpots
of The Blue Pike, had grown so rotund in his fifteen years of service.

"It pays better to provide for people's bodies than for their brains," he
said to himself. "The Nuremberg and Augsburg gentlemen outside are rich
folk's children. For them learning is only the raisins, almonds, and
citron in the cake; knowledge agrees with them better than it did with my
father. He was the ninth child of respectable stocking weavers, but, as
the pastor perceived that he was gifted with special ability, his parents
took a portion of their savings to make him a scholar. The tuition fee
and the boy were both confided to a Beanus--that is, an older pupil, who
asserted that he understood Latin--in order that he might look after the
inexperienced little fellow and help him out of school as well as in.
But, instead of using for his protigee the florins intrusted to him, the
Beanus shamefully squandered the money saved for a beloved child by so
many sacrifices. While he feasted on roast meat and wine, the little boy
placed in his charge went hungry." Whenever, in after years, the old man
described this time of suffering, his son listened with clinched fists,
and when Dietel saw a Beanus at The Blue Pike snatch the best pieces from
the child in his care, he interfered in his behalf sternly enough. Nay,
he probably brought to him from the kitchen, on his own account, a piece
of roast meat or a sausage. Many of the names which fell from the moist
lips of the gentlemen outside--Lucian and Virgil, Ovid and Seneca, Homer
and Plato--were perfectly familiar to him. The words the little doctor
was reading must belong to their writings. How attentively the others
listened! Had not Dietel run away from the monks' school at Fulda he,
too, might have enjoyed the witticisms of these sages, or even been
permitted to sit at the same table with the great lights of the Church
from Cologne.

Now it was all over with studying.

And yet--it could not be so very serious a matter, for Doctor Eberbach
had just read something aloud at which the young Nuremberg ambassador,
Lienhard Groland, could not help laughing heartily. It seemed to amuse
the others wonderfully, too, and even caused the astute Dr. Peutinger to
strike his clinched fist upon the table with the exclamation, "A devil of
a fellow!" and Wilibald Pirckheimer to assent eagerly, praising Hutten's
ardent love for his native land and courage in battling for its
elevation; but this Hutten whom he so lauded was the ill-advised scion of
the knightly race that occupied Castle Steckelberg in his Hessian home,
whom he knew well. The state of his purse was evident from the fact that
the landlord of The Pike had once been obliged to detain him because he
could not pay the bill--though it was by no means large--in any other
coin than merry tales.

But even the best joke of the witty knight would have failed to produce
its effect on the listening waiter just now; for the gentlemen outside
were again discussing the Reuchlin controversy, and in doing so uttered
such odious words about the Cologne theologians, whom Dietel knew as
godly gentlemen who consumed an ample supply of food, that he grew hot
and cold by turns. He was a good man who would not hurt a fly. Yet, when
he heard things and opinions which his mother had taught him to hold
sacred assailed, he could become as angry as a savage brute. The little
impious blasphemer Eberbach, especially, he would have been more than
ready to lash with the best hazel rod which he had ever cut for his dead
father. But honest anger affords a certain degree of enjoyment, so it was
anything rather than agreeable to him to be called away.

The feather curler and his table companions wanted Kitzing wine, but it
was in the cellar, and a trip there would have detained him too long from
his post of listener. So he turned angrily back into the room, and told
the business men that princes, bishops, and counts were satisfied with
the table wine of The Blue Pike, which had been already served to them,
and the sceptre and crozier were of more importance than their twisted
feathers. "Those are not the wisest people," he added sagely, "who
despise what is good to try to get better. So stick to the excellent Blue
Pike wine and say no more about it!"

Without waiting for an answer from the astonished guests, he limped back
to his window to resume his listening. The conversation, however, had
already taken a new turn, for Dr. Peutinger was describing the Roman
monument which he had had put up in the courtyard of his Augsburg house,
but, as this interested Dietel very little, he soon turned his attention
to the high road, whence a belated guest might still come to The Blue
Pike.

The landlady's little kitchen garden lay between it and the river Main,
and there--no, it was no deception--there, behind the low hawthorn hedge,
a human figure was moving.

One of the vagabonds had certainly slipped into the garden to steal fruit
or vegetables, or even honey from the bee hives. An unprecedented
offence! Dietel's blood boiled, for the property of The Blue Pike was as
dear to him as his own.

With prompt decision he went through the entry into the yard, where he
meant to unchain the butcher's dog to help him chase the abominable
robber. But some time was to elapse ere he could execute this
praiseworthy intention; for before he could cross the threshold the
landlord of The Pike appeared, berated him, and ordered him to be more
civil in the performance of his duties. The words were intended less for
the waiter than for the feather dealer and his friends.

The latter had complained of Dietel to the landlord of The Pike, and,
after he had received a reproof, they punished him for his rudeness by
ordering him to fetch one jug of wine from the cellar after another. At
last, when, with many a malediction, he had brought up the fifth, his
tormentors released him, but then the best time was lost. Nevertheless he
continued the pursuit and entered the little garden with the dog, but the
thief had fled.

After assuring himself of this fact he stood still, rubbing his narrow
forehead with the tips of his fingers.

The rogue was most probably one of the vagrants, and like a flash it
entered his mind that the ropedancer, Kuni, who in her prosperous days,
instead of eating meat and vegetables, preferred to satisfy her appetite
with fruits and sweet dainties, might be the culprit. Besides, when he
had looked around among the guests just before, she was no longer with
the other vagabonds.

Certain of having found the right trail, he instantly went to the window
below which the strollers lay, thrust his head into the room from the
outside, and waked the wife of the tongueless swearer. She had fallen
asleep on the floor with the sewing in her hand. The terror with which
she started up at his call bore no favourable testimony to her good
conscience, but she had already recovered her bold unconcern when he
imperiously demanded to know what had become of lame Kuni.

"Ask the other travellers--the soldiers, the musicians, the monks, for
aught I care," was the scornful, irritating answer. But when Dietel
angrily forbade such insolent mockery, she cried jeeringly:

"Do you think men don't care for her because she has lost her foot and
has that little cough? You ought to know better.

"Master Dieter has a sweetheart for every finger, though the lower part
of his own body isn't quite as handsome as it might be."

"On account of my foot?" the waiter answered spitefully. "You'll soon
find that it knows how to chase. Besides, the Nuremberg city soldiers
will help me in the search. If you don't tell me at once where the girl
went--by St. Eoban, my patron----"

Here red-haired Gitta interrupted him in a totally different tone; she
and her companions had nothing good to expect from the city soldiers.

In a very humble manner she protested that Kuni was an extraordinarily
charitable creature. In a cart standing in the meadow by the highroad lay
the widow of a beggar, Nickel; whom the peasants had hung on account of
many a swindling trick. A goose and some chickens had strayed off to his
premises. The woman had just given birth to twins when Nickel was hung,
and she was now in a violent fever, with frequent attacks of convulsions,
and yet had to nurse the infants. The landlady of The Pike had sent her
some broth and a little milk for the children. As for Kuni, she had gone
to carry some linen from her own scanty store to the two babies, who were
as naked as little frogs. He would find her with the sick mother.

All this flowed from Gitta's lips with so much confidence that Dietel,
whose heart was easily touched by such a deed of charity, though he by no
means put full confidence in her, allowed himself to be induced to let
the city soldiers alone for the present and test the truth of her strange
statement himself.

So he prepared to go in search of the cart, but the landlord of The Pike
met him at the door, and, angrily asking what ailed him that day, ordered
him to fetch the Erbach, more of which was wanted inside. Dietel went
down into the cellar again, but this time he was not to leave it so
speedily, for the apprentice of a Nuremberg master shoemaker, whose
employer was going to the Frankfort fair with his goods, and who made
common cause with the feather dealer, stole after Dietel, and of his own
volition, for his own pleasure, locked him in. The good Kitzing wine had
strengthened his courage. Besides, experience taught him that an offence
would be more easily pardoned the more his master himself disliked the
person against whom it was committed.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Arrogant wave of the hand, and in an instructive tone
     Honest anger affords a certain degree of enjoyment
     Ovid, 'We praise the ancients'
     Pays better to provide for people's bodies than for their brains
     Who gives great gifts, expects great gifts again
     Who watches for his neighbour's faults has a hundred sharp eyes



IN THE BLUE PIKE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 2.



CHAPTER IV.

The ropedancer, Kuni, really had been with the sick mother and her babes,
and had toiled for them with the utmost diligence.

The unfortunate woman was in great distress.

The man who had promised to take her in his cart to her native village of
Schweinfurt barely supported himself and his family by the tricks of his
trained poodles. He made them perform their very best feats in the
taverns, under the village lindens, and at the fairs. But the children
who gazed at the four-footed artists, though they never failed to give
hearty applause, frequently paid in no other coin. He would gladly have
helped the unfortunate woman, but to maintain the wretched mother and her
twins imposed too heavy a burden upon the kind-hearted vagabond, and he
had withdrawn his aid.

Then the ropedancer met her. True, she herself was in danger of being
left lying by the wayside; but she was alone, and the mother had her
children. These were two budding hopes, while she had nothing more to
expect save the end--the sooner the better. There could be no new
happiness for her.

And yet, to have found some one who was even more needy than she, lifted
her out of herself, and to have power to be and do something in her
behalf pleased her, nay, even roused an emotion akin to that which, in
better days, she had felt over a piece of good fortune which others
envied. Perhaps she herself might be destined to die on the highway,
without consolation, the very next day; but she could save this unhappy
woman from it, and render her end easier. Oh, how rich Lienhard's gold
coins made her! Yet if, instead of three, there had been as many dozens,
she would have placed the larger portion in the twins' pillows. How it
must soothe their mother's heart! Each one was a defence against hunger
and want. Besides, the gold had been fairly burning her hand. It came
from Lienhard. Had it not been for Cyriax and the crowd of people in the
room, she would have made him take it back--she alone knew why.

How did this happen?

Why did every fibre of her being rebel against receiving even the
smallest trifle from the man to whom she would gladly have given the
whole world? Why, after she had summoned up courage and approached
Lienhard to restore his gift, had she felt such keen resentment and
bitter suffering when the landlord of The Blue Pike stopped her?

As she now seized his gold, it seemed as though she saw Lienhard before
her. She had already told Cyriax how she met the aristocratic Nuremberg
patrician, a member of the ancient and noble Groland family, whom his
native city had now made an ambassador so young. But what secretly bound
her to him had never passed her lips.

Once in her life she had felt something which placed her upon an equal
footing with the best and purest of her sex--a great love for one from
whom she asked nothing, nothing at all, save to be permitted to think of
him and to sacrifice everything, everything for him--even life. So
strange had been the course of this love, that people would have doubted
her sanity or her truthfulness had she described it to them.

While standing before St. Sebald's church in Nuremberg, the vision of the
young Councillor's bride at first made a far stronger impression upon her
mind than his own. Then her gaze rested on Lienhard. As he had chosen the
fairest of women, the bride had also selected the tallest, most stately,
and certainly the best and wisest of men. During her imprisonment the
image of this rare couple had been constantly before her. Not until,
through the young husband's intercession, she had regained her liberty,
after he prevented her kissing his hand and, to soothe her, had stroked
her hair and cheeks in the magistrate's room, did the most ardent
gratitude take possession of her soul. From this emotion, which filled
heart and mind, a glowing wealth of other feelings had blossomed like
buds upon a rosebush. Everything in her nature had attracted her toward
him, and the desire to devote herself to him, body and soul, shed the
last drop of blood in her heart for him, completely ruled her. His image
rose before her day and night, sometimes alone, sometimes with his
beautiful bride. Not only to him, but to her also she would joyfully have
rendered the most menial service, merely to be near them and to be
permitted to show that the desire to prove her gratitude had become the
object of her life.

When, with good counsel for the future, he dismissed her from the chief
magistrate's room, he had asked her where she was to be found in case he
should have anything to say to her. It seemed as though, from mingled
alarm and joy, her heart would stop beating. If her lodgings, instead of
an insignificant tavern, had been her own palace, she would gladly have
opened all its gates to him, yet a feverish thrill ran through her limbs
at the thought that he might seek her among her vagabond companions, and
ask in return for his kindness what he would never have presumed to seek
had she been the child of reputable parents, yet which, with mingled
anger and happiness, she resolved not to refuse.

During the day and the night when she expected his visit, she had become
aware that she, who had never cared for any man save for the gifts he
bestowed, was fired with love for Lienhard. Such ardent yearning could
torture only a loving heart, yet what she felt was very unlike the love
with which she was familiar in songs, and had seen in other girls; for
she by no means thought with jealous rancour of the woman to whom he
belonged, body and soul--his beautiful wife. It rather seemed to her that
she was his, and he would no longer be the same if he were separated from
her, nay, as if her very love was hers also. When she heard a noise
outside of her little room she started, and eagerly as she yearned to see
him, blissful as she thought it must be to sink upon his breast and offer
him her lips to kiss, the bold ropedancer, who never cared for the
opinions of others, could not shake off, even for a moment, the fear of
wronging the fair wife who had a better right to him. Instead of hating
her, or even wishing to share the heart of the man she loved with his
bride, she shrank from the approaching necessity of clouding her young
happiness as though it were the direst misfortune. Yet she felt that its
prevention lay, not in her own hands, but in those of Fate. Should it
please Destiny to lead Lienhard to her and inspire him with a desire for
her love, all resistance, she knew, would be futile. So she began to
repeat several paternosters that he might remain away from her. But her
yearning was so great that she soon desisted, and again and again went to
the window with a fervent wish that he might come.

In the terrible tumult of her heart she had forgotten to eat or to drink
since early morning, and at last, in the afternoon, some one knocked at
the door, and the landlady called her.

While she was hurriedly smoothing her thick black hair and straightening
her best gown, which she had put on for him in the morning, she heard the
hostess say that Herr Groland of the Council was waiting for her
downstairs. Every drop of blood left her glowing cheeks, and the knees
which never trembled on the rope shook as she descended the narrow steps.

He came forward to meet her in the entry, holding out his hand with
open-hearted frankness. How handsome and how good he was! No one wore
that look who desired aught which must be hidden under the veil of
darkness. Ere her excited blood had time to cool, he had beckoned to her
to follow him into the street, where a sedan chair was standing.

An elderly lady of dignified bearing looked out and met her eyes with a
pleasant glance. It was Frau Sophia, the widow of Herr Conrad Schurstab
of the Council, one of the richest and most aristocratic noblewomen in
the city. Lienhard had told her about the charming prisoner who had been
released and begged her to help him bring her back to a respectable and
orderly life. The lady needed an assistant who, now that it was hard for
her to stoop, would inspect the linen closets, manage the poultry
yard-her pride--and keep an eye on the children when they came to visit
their grandmother. So she instantly accompanied Lienhard to the tavern,
and Kuni pleased her. But it would have been difficult not to feel some
degree of sympathy for the charming young creature who, in great
embarrassment, yet joyously as though released from a heavy burden,
raised her large blue eyes to the kind stranger.

It was cold in the street, and as Kuni had come out without any wrap,
Frau Schurstab, in her friendly consideration, shortened the conference.
Lienhard Uroland had helped her with a few words, and when the sedan
chair and the young Councillor moved down the street all the necessary
details were settled. The vagrant had bound herself and assumed duties,
though they were very light ones. She was to move that evening into the
distinguished widow's house, not as a servant, but as the old lady's
assistant.

Loni, the manager of the company of rope-dancers, had watched the
negotiations from the taproom. During their progress each of the three
windows was filled with heads, but no one had been able to hear what was
whispered in the street. Just as the curious spectators were hoping that
now they might perhaps guess what the aristocratic lady wanted with Kuni,
the sedan chair began to move, and the young girl entered the hot room to
tell Loni that she would leave the company that day forever.

"In-de-e-ed?" Loni asked in astonishment, lifting the gold circlet which
rested on his head. Then he passed his hand through the coal-black hair
which, parted in the middle, fell in smooth strands upon his neck, and
exerted all his powers of persuasion to convince her of the folly of her
plan. After his arguments were exhausted he raised his voice louder. As
usual, when excited by anger, he swung his lower right arm to and fro,
feeling the prominent muscles with his left hand. But Kuni remained
resolute, and when he at last perceived that his opposition only
increased her obstinacy, he exclaimed:

"Then rush on to your destruction! The day will come when you will see
where you belong. If only it doesn't arrive too late. A man grows twelve
and a woman thirty-six months older every year."

With these words he turned his back upon her, and the clown brought the
amount of wages which was due.

Many an eye grew dim with tears when Kuni bade farewell to her
companions. Shortly after sunset she was welcomed to Frau Schurstab's
house.

The first greeting was friendly, and she received nothing but kindness
and indulgent treatment afterward. She had a sunny chamber of her own,
and how large and soft her bed was! But while, when on the road with
Loni's band, if they could reach no town, she had often slept soundly and
sweetly on a heap of straw, here she spent one restless night after
another.

During the first a series of questions disturbed her slumber. Was it
really only the desire to take her from her vagabond life which had
induced Lienhard to open this house to her? Did he not perhaps also
cherish the wish to keep her near him? He had certainly come to her with
Frau Schurstab to protect her reputation. Had it not been so he might
have left the matron at home; for Loni and everybody in the company knew
that she never troubled herself about gossip. Last year she had obtained
a leave of absence from Loni, who was making a tour of the little Frank
towns, and spent the carnival season in revelry with a sergeant of the
Nurembreg soldiers. When the booty he had gained in Italy was squandered,
she gave him his dismissal. Her reputation among her companions was
neither better nor worse than that of the other strolling players who,
like her, were born on the highway, yet she was glad that Lienhard had
tried to spare her. Or had he only come with the old noblewoman on
account of his own fair name?

Perhaps--her pulses again throbbed faster at the thought--he had not
ventured to come alone because some feeling for her stirred in his own
heart, and, spite of his beautiful young wife, he did not feel safe from
her. Then Fran Schurstab was to serve as a shield. This conjecture
flattered her vanity and reconciled her to the step which she had taken
and already began to regret.

But suppose he really felt no more for her than the forester who finds a
child lost in the woods, and guides it into the right path? How would she
endure that? Yet, were it otherwise, if he was like the rest of men, if
he profited by what her whole manner must betray to him, how should she
face his wife, who undoubtedly would soon come to call on her aunt?

All these questions roused a tumult of unprecedented violence in her
young, ardent, inexperienced soul, which was renewed each successive
night. It became more and more difficult for her to understand why she
had left Loni's band and entered into relations for which she was not
suited, and in which she could never, never be at ease or feel happy.

Nothing was lacking in this wealthy household, not even kindness and
love. Frau Sophia was indulgent and friendly, even when Kuni, whose heart
and brain were occupied with so many other thoughts, neglected or forgot
anything. The matron's grandchildren, of whom she often had charge, soon
became warmly attached to her. While among the rope-dancers she had been
fond of children, and many a little one who journeyed with the band held
out its arms to her more joyously than to its own mother. There was
something in her nature that attracted them. Besides, her skilful hands
could show them many a rare trick, and she could sing numerous songs new
to the Schurstab boys and girls, which she had picked up here and there.
Then, too, she permitted many a prank which no one else would have
allowed. Her duties connected with the household linen and the poultry
yard, its owner's pride, were so easily performed, that in her leisure
hours she often voluntarily helped the housekeeper. At first the latter
eyed her askance, but she soon won her affection. Both she and her
mistress showed her as much attention as the gardener bestows upon a wild
plant which he has transferred to good soil, where it thrives under his
care.

She kept aloof from the servants, and neither man nor maid molested her.
Perhaps this was due to foolish arrogance, for after they had learned
from rumour that Kuni had danced on the tight rope, they considered
themselves far superior. The younger maids timidly kept out of her way,
and Kuni surpassed them in pride and looked down upon them, because her
free artist blood rebelled against placing herself on the plane of a
servitor. She did not vouchsafe them a word, yet neither did she allow
any of them to render her even the most trivial service. But she could
not escape Seifried, the equerry of her mistress's eldest son. At first,
according to her custom, she had roused the handsome fellow's hopes by
fiery glances which she could not restrain. Now he felt that she cared
for him, and in his honest fashion offered to make her his beloved wife;
but she refused his suit, at first kindly, then angrily. As he still
persisted she begged the housekeeper, though she saw that matchmaking was
her delight, to keep him away.

Even in March Frau Sophia thanked Lienhard for the new inmate of her
household, who far exceeded her expectations. In April her praise became
still warmer, only she regretted that Kuni's pretty face was losing its
fresh colour and her well-formed figure its roundness. She was sorry,
too, that she so often seemed lost in thought, and appeared less merry
while playing with the children.

Lienhard and his young wife excused the girl's manner. Comfortable as she
was now, she was still a prisoned bird. It would be unnatural, nay,
suspicious, if she did not sometimes long for the old freedom and her
former companions. She would also remember at times the applause of the
multitude. The well-known Loni, her former employer, had besought him to
win her back to his company, complaining loudly of her loss, because it
was difficult to replace her with an equally skilful young artist. It was
now evident how mistaken the juggler had been when he asserted that Kuni,
who was born among vagrants, would never live in a respectable family.
He, Lienhard, had great pleasure in knowing that the girl, on the road to
ruin, had been saved by Frau Sophia's goodness.

Lienhard's father had died shortly after Kuni entered her new home. Every
impulse to love dalliance, she felt, must shrink before this great
sorrow. The idea sustained her hopes. She could not expect him to seek
her again until the first bitterness of grief for the loss of this
beloved relative had passed away. She could wait, and she succeeded in
doing so patiently.

But week after week went by and there was no change in his conduct. Then
a great anxiety overpowered her, and this did not escape his notice; for
one day, while his young wife hung on his arm and added a few brief words
of sympathy, he asked Kuni if she was ill or if she needed anything; but
she answered curtly in the negative and hurried into the garden, where
the children, with merry shouts, were helping the gardener to free the
beds of crocuses and budding tulips from the pine boughs which had
protected them from the frosts of winter.

Another sleepless night followed this incident. It was useless to deceive
herself. She might as well mistake black for white as to believe that
Lienhard cared for her. To no one save his fair young wife would he grant
even the smallest ray of the love of which he was doubtless capable, and
in which she beheld the sun that dispensed life and light. She had
learned this, for he had often met her in Frau Sophia's house since his
father's funeral. The child of the highway had never been taught to
conceal her feelings and maintain timid reserve. Her eyes had told him
eloquently enough, first her deep sympathy, and afterward the emotions
which so passionately stirred her heart. Had the feelings which her
glances were intended to reveal passed merely for the ardent gratitude of
an impassioned soul?

Gratitude! For what?

His lukewarm interest had tempted her from a free, gay life, full of
constant excitement, into the oppressive, wearisome monotony of this
quiet house, where she was dying of ennui. How narrow, how petty, how
tiresome everything seemed, and what she had bartered for it was the
world, the whole wide, wide world. As the chicken lured the fox, the hope
of satisfying the fervent longing of her heart, though even once and for
a few brief moments, had brought her into the snare. But the fire which
burned within had not been extinguished. An icy wind had fanned the
flames till they blazed higher and higher, threatening her destruction.

Frau Schurstab had made her attend church and go to the confessional. But
the mass, whose meaning she did not understand, offered no solace to the
soul which yearned for love alone. Besides, it wearied her to remain so
long in the same place, and the confession forced the girl, who had never
shrunk from honestly expressing what she felt, into deception. The priest
to whom she was taken was a frequent visitor at the Schurstab house, and
she would have died ere she would have confided to him the secret of her
heart. Besides, to her the feeling which animated her was no sin. She had
not summoned it. It had taken possession of her against her will and
harmed no one except herself, not even the wife who was so sure of her
husband. How could she have presumed to dispute with her the possession
of Herr Lienhard's love? Yet it seemed an insult that Frau Katharina had
no fear that she could menace her happiness. Could the former know that
Kuni would have been content with so little--a tender impulse of his
heart, a kiss, a hasty embrace? That would do the other no injury. In the
circles whence she had been brought no one grudged another such things.
How little, she thought, would have been taken from the wealthy Katharina
by the trifling gift which would have restored to her happiness and
peace. The fact that Lienhard, though he never failed to notice her,
would not understand, and always maintained the same pleasant,
aristocratic reserve of manner, she sometimes attributed to fear,
sometimes to cruelty, sometimes to arrogance; she would not believe that
he saw in her only a person otherwise indifferent to him, whom he wished
to accustom to the mode of life which he and his friends believed to be
the right path, pleasing in the sight of God. Love, feminine vanity, the
need of approval, her own pride--all opposed this view.

When the last snow of winter had melted, and the spring sunshine of April
was unfolding the green leafage and opening bright flowers in the
meadows, the hedges, the woods, and the gardens, she found the new home
which she had entered during the frosts of February, and whose solid
walls excluded every breath of air, more and more unendurable. A gnawing
feeling of homesickness for the free out-of-door life, the wandering from
place to place, the careless, untrammelled people to whom she belonged,
took possession of her. She felt as though everything which surrounded
her was too small, the house, the apartments, her own chamber, nay, her
very clothing. Only the hope of the first token that Lienhard was not so
cold and unconquerable as he seemed, that she would at last constrain him
to pass the barrier which separated them, still detained her.

Then came the day when, to avoid answering his question whether she
needed anything, she had gone into the garden. Before reaching the
children, who were playing among the crocuses and tulips, she had said to
herself that she must leave this house--it was foolish, nay mad, to
continue to cherish the hope which had brought her hither. She would
suffer keenly in tearing it from her heart, but a wild delight seized her
at the thought that this imprisonment would soon be over, that she would
be free once more, entirely her own mistress, released from every
restraint and consideration. How rapturous was the idea that she would
soon be roving through the fields and woods again with gay, reckless
companions! Was there anything more pleasurable than to forget herself,
and devote her whole soul to the execution of some difficult and
dangerous feat, to attract a thousand eyes by her bewitching grace, and,
sustained by her enthusiasm, force a thousand hearts to throb anxiously
and give loud applause as she flew over the rope?

Never had the children seen her more extravagantly gay than after her
resolve to leave them. Yet when, at a late hour, Kuni went to bed, the
old housekeeper heard her weeping so piteously in her chamber that she
rose to ask what had happened. But the girl did not even open her door,
and declared that she had probably had the nightmare.

During the next few days she sometimes appeared more cheerful and docile,
sometimes more dull and troubled than her household companions had ever
seen her. Frau Schurstab shook her head over her protegee's varying
moods. But when the month of May began, and Lienhard told his aunt that
Loni, who had only remained in Nuremberg during Lent to spend the time
when all public performances were prohibited, had applied to the Council
for permission to give exhibitions with his company Easter week in the
Haller Meadows, the matron was troubled about her protegee's peace of
mind. Her nephew had had the same thought, and advised her to move to her
country estate, that Kuni might see and hear nothing of the jugglers; but
she had noticed the clown with other members of the company, as they
passed through the streets on foot and mounted on horses and donkeys,
inviting the people, with blare of trumpets and beating of drums, to
witness the wonderful feats which Loni's famous band of artists would
perform.

Then Kuni packed her bundle. But when she heard the next morning that,
before going to the country, Frau Schurstab would attend the christening
of her youngest grandson, and spend the whole day with the daughter who
was the little boy's mother, she untied it.

One sunny May morning she was left alone, as she had expected. She could
not be invited to the ceremony with the other guests, and she would not
join the servants. The housekeeper and most of the men and maids had
accompanied their mistress to help in the kitchen and to wait upon the
visitors. Deep silence reigned throughout the great empty house, but
Kuni's heart had never throbbed so loudly. If Lienhard came now, her fate
would be decided, and she knew that he must come. Just before noon, he
really did rap with the knocker on the outer door. He wanted the
christening gift, which Frau Schurstab had forgotten to take for the
infant. The money was in the chest in the matron's room. Kuni led the
way. The house seemed to reel around her as she went up the stairs behind
him. The next moment, she felt, must decide her destiny.

Now he laid his hand upon the doorknob, now he opened the door. The
widow's chamber was before her. Thick silk curtains shut out the bright
May sunshine from the quiet room. How warm and pleasant it was!

She already saw herself in imagination kneeling by his side before the
chest to help him search. While doing so, his fingers might touch hers,
perhaps her hair might brush against his. But, instead of entering, he
turned to her with careless unconcern, saying:

"It is fortunate that I have found you alone. Will you do me a favour,
girl?"

He had intended to ask her to help him prepare a surprise for his aunt.
The day after to-morrow was Frau Sophia Schurstab's birthday. Early in
the morning she must find among her feathered favourites a pair of rare
India fowls, which he had received from Venice.

As Kuni did not instantly assent, because the wild tumult of her blood
paralyzed her tongue, he noticed her confusion, and in an encouraging
tone, gaily continued:

"What I have to ask is not too difficult." As he spoke he passed his hand
kindly over her dark hair, just as he had done a few months before in the
Town Hall.

Then the blood mounted to her brain. Clasping his right hand, beneath
whose touch she had just trembled, in both her own, she passionately
exclaimed:

"Ask whatever you desire. If you wanted to trample my heart under your
feet, I would not stir."

A look of ardent love from her sparkling blue eyes accompanied the words;
but he had withdrawn his hand in astonishment, and raised a lofty barrier
between them by answering coldly and sternly, "Keep the heart and your
dainty self for the equerry Seifried who is an honest man."

The advice, and the lofty austerity with which it was given, pierced Kuni
like the thrust of a dagger. Yet she succeeded controlling herself, and,
without a word reply, preceded the harsh man into the sleeping room and
silently, tearlessly, pointed the chest. When he had taken out the money,
she bowed hastily and ran down the stairs.

Probably she heard him call her name more than three times; doubtless,
afterward she fancied that she remembered how his voice had sounded in
beseeching, tender, at last even imperious tones through the empty
corridors; but she did not turn, and hurried into her room.



CHAPTER V.

When, on the evening of the christening day, Lienhard accompanied his
aunt home, Kuni was nowhere to be found. Frau Sophia discovered in her
chamber every article of clothing which she had obtained for her, even
the beaver cap, the prayer-book, and the rosary which she had given. The
young burgomaster, at her request, went to the manager of the
rope-dancers, Loni, the next morning, but the latter asserted that he
knew nothing about the girl. The truth was that he had sent her to
Wurzburg with part of his company.

From that time she had remained with the ropedancers. At first the master
had watched her carefully, that she might not run away again. But he soon
perceived this to be unnecessary; for he had never found any member of
the company more zealous, or seen one make more progress in the art. Now
the only point was to keep her out of the way of other rope-dancers,
English proprietors of circus companies, as well as the numerous knights
and gentlemen who tried to take her from him. Her name had become famous.
When the crier proclaimed that the "flying maiden" would ascend the rope
to the steeple, Loni was sure of a great crowd of spectators. Among her
own profession she had obtained the nickname of crazy Kuni.

Yet even at that time, and in the midst of the freest intercourse with
German, Spanish, and other officers in Flanders and Brabant, young
knights and light-hearted priests on the Rhine, the Main, the Danube, the
Weser, and the Elbe, whose purses the pretty, vivacious girl, with the
shining raven hair and bright blue eyes, the mistress of her art, seemed
to their owners worthy to empty, she had by no means forgotten Lienhard.
This wrought mischief to many a gay gentleman of aristocratic lineage in
the great imperial and commercial cities; for it afforded Kuni special
pleasure to try her power upon Lienhard's equals in rank. When she went
on with the company, more than one patrician had good reason to remember
her with regret; for she, who shared the lion's portion of her earnings
with her companions or flung it to the poor, was insatiably avaricious
toward these admirers.

The weaker she found many of them, the higher, in her opinion, rose the
image of him who had made her feel his manly strength of resistance so
cruelly. His stern, inexorable nature seemed to her worthy of hate, yet
for three whole years the longing for him scarcely left her heart at
peace an hour.

During this whole period she had not met him. Not until after she had
come to Augsburg, where Loni's company was to give several performances
before the assembled Reichstag, did she see him again. Once she even
succeeded in attracting his gaze, and this was done in a way which
afforded her great satisfaction. His beautiful wife, clad in costly
velvet robes, was walking by his side with eyes decorously downcast; but
he had surely recognised her--there was no doubt of that. Yet he omitted
to inform his wife, even by a look, whom he had met here. Kuni watched
the proud couple a long time, and, with the keen insight of a loving
heart, told herself that he would have pointed her out to Frau Katharina,
if he did not remember her in some way--either in kindness or in anger.

This little discovery had sufficed to transfigure, as it were, the rest
of the day, and awaken a throng of new hopes and questions.

Even now she did not desire to win Frau Katharina's husband from her. She
freely acknowledged that the other's beauty was tenfold greater than her
own; but whether the gifts of love which the woman with the cloudless,
aristocratic composure could offer to her husband were not like the
beggar's pence, compared with the overflowing treasure of ardent passion
which she cherished for Lienhard, was a question to which she believed
there could be but a single answer. Was this lady, restricted by a
thousand petty scruples, as well as by her stiff, heavy gala robes, a
genuine woman at all? Ah! if he would only for once cast aside the
foolish considerations which prevented him also from being a genuine man,
clasp her, whom he knew was his own, in his arms, and hold her as long as
he desired, he should learn what a strong, free, fearless woman, whose
pliant limbs were as unfettered as her heart, could bestow upon him to
whom she gave all the love that she possessed! And he must want something
of her which was to be concealed from the wife. She could not be
mistaken. She had never been deceived in a presentiment that was so
positive. Ever since she reached Augsburg, an inner voice had told
her--and old Brigitta's cards confirmed it--that the destiny of her life
would be decided here, and he alone held her weal and woe in his hand.

Yet she had misinterpreted his conduct to his wife. In spite of the
finery which Kuni owed to the generosity of the Knight of Neckerfels, who
was then a suitor for her favour, Lienhard had recognised her. The sight
recalled their last meeting and its painful termination, and therefore he
had omitted to attract Frau Katharina's attention to her immediately.
But, ere Kuni disappeared, he had repaired the oversight, and both
desired to ascertain the fate of their former charge. True, the wish
could not be instantly fulfilled, for Lienhard's time and strength were
wholly claimed by the mission intrusted to him by the Emperor and the
Council.

The next afternoon Kuni ascended the rope to the steeple in the presence
of many princes and dignitaries. Firmly as ever she moved along the rope
stretched through the wooden stay behind her, holding the balancing pole
as she went. The clapping of hands and shouts of applause with which the
crowd greeted "the flying maiden" led her to kiss her hand to the right
and the left, and bow to the stand which had been erected for the crowned
heads, counts, nobles, and their wives. In doing so, she looked down at
the aristocratic spectators to ascertain whether the Emperor and one
other were among them. In spite of the height of the topmost window of
the steeple where she stood, her keen eyes showed her that Maximilian's
seat was still vacant. As it was hung with purple draperies and richly
garlanded, the monarch was evidently expected. This pleased her, and her
heart throbbed faster as she saw on the stand all the nobles who were
entitled to admittance to the lists of a tournament, and, in the front
row, the man whose presence she most desired. At Lienhard's right sat his
dazzlingly beautiful wife, adorned with plumes and the most superb gold
ornaments; at his left was a maiden of extremely peculiar charm.
According to years she was still a child, but her delicate, mobile
features had a mature expression, which sometimes gave her a precocious
air of superiority. The cut of her white robe and the little laurel
wreath on her brown curls reminded Kuni of the pagan Genius on an ancient
work of marble which she had seen in Verona. Neither the girl's age nor
her light, airy costume harmonized with her surroundings; for the maids
and matrons near her were all far beyond childhood, and wore the richest
holiday costumes of heavy brocades and velvets. The huge puffs on the
upper part of the sleeves touched the cheeks of many of the wearers, and
the lace ruffs on the stiff collars rendered it easy, it is true, to
maintain their aristocratic, haughty dignity, but prevented any free,
swift movement.

The young girl who, as Kuni afterward learned, was the daughter of Conrad
Peutinger, of Augsburg, whom she had again seen that day in The Blue
Pike, was then eleven years old. She was sometimes thought to be fifteen
or even sixteen; her mobile face did not retain the same expression a
single instant. When the smile which gave her a childlike appearance
vanished, and any earnest feeling stirred her soul, she really resembled
a mature maiden. What a brilliant, versatile intellect must animate this
remarkable creature! Lienhard, shrewd and highly educated as he was,
seemed to be completely absorbed in his neighbour; nay, in his animated
conversation with her he entirely forgot the beautiful wife at his side;
at least, while Kuni looked down at him, he did not bestow a single
glance upon her. Now he shook his finger mischievously at the child, but
he seemed to be seeking, in mingled amusement and perplexity, to find a
fitting answer. And how brightly Lienhard's eyes sparkled as he fairly
hung upon the sweet red lips of the little marvel at his left--the heart
side! A few minutes had sufficed to show the ropedancer all this, and
suggest the question whether it was possible that the most faithful of
husbands would thus basely neglect, for the sake of a child, the young
wife whom he had won in spite of the hardest obstacles, on whose account
he had so coldly and cruelly rejected her, the object of so much wooing,
and who, this very day, was the fairest of all the beautiful ladies who
surrounded her.

In an instant her active mind transported her to the soul of the hitherto
favoured wife of the man whom she loved, and her strangely constituted
woman's heart filled with resentment against the young creature below,
who had not even attained womanhood, and yet seemed to gain, without
effort, the prize for which she had vainly striven with painful longing.

She, whose heart had remained free from jealousy of the woman who stood
between her and the man she loved, like a solid bulwark erected by Fate
itself, was now suddenly overmastered by this passion.

Yet she did not turn against the person to whom Lienhard belonged, as he
did to the city, or to his own family, and who was united to him by the
will of Heaven, but against the mysterious young creature at his side,
who changed with every passing moment.

This child--no, this maiden--must be a being of some special nature. Like
the sirens of whom she had heard, she possessed the mysterious, enviable
power of conquering the iron resistance of even the strongest man.

Like a flash of lightning, Kuni, whose kind heart cherished resentment
against few and wished no one any evil, suddenly felt an ardent desire to
drive the little witch from Lienhard's side, even by force, if necessary.
Had she held a thunderbolt instead of a balance pole, she would gladly
have struck down the treacherous child from her height--not only because
this enchantress had so quickly won that for which she had vainly
yearned, alas! how long, but because it pierced her very heart to see
Frau Katharina's happiness clouded, nay, perhaps destroyed. A bitterness
usually alien to her light, gay nature had taken possession of her, as,
with the last glance she cast at Lienhard, she saw him bend low over the
child and, with fiery ardour, whisper something which transformed the
delicate pink flush in her cheeks to the hue of the poppy.

Yes, the ropedancer was jealous of the laurel-crowned child. She, who
cared so little for law and duty, virtue and morality, now felt offended,
wounded, tortured by Lienhard's conduct. But there was no time to ponder
over the reason now. She had already delayed too long ere moving forward.

Yet even calm reflection would not have revealed the right answer to the
problem. How could she have suspected that what stirred her passionate
soul so fiercely was grief at the sight of the man whom she had regarded
as the stronghold of integrity, the possessor of the firmest will, the
soul of inviolable fidelity, succumbing here, before the eyes of all,
like a dissolute weakling, to the seductive arts of an immature kobold?
These two, who gave to her, the orphaned vagrant, surrounded by unbridled
recklessness, physical and mental misery, a proof that there was still in
marriage real love and a happiness secure from every assault, were now,
before her eyes, placing themselves on the same plane with the miserable
couples whom she met everywhere. She could not have expressed her
emotions in words, but she vaguely felt that the world had become poorer,
and that henceforth she must think of something more trivial when she
tried to imagine the pure happiness which mortals are permitted to enjoy.
She had seen the blossoms stripped from the scanty remnant of her faith
in truth and goodness, which had begun to bloom afresh in her heart
through the characters of this pair whose marriage procession she had
watched.

Loni had been beckoning a long time; now he waved his gay handkerchief
still more impatiently, and she moved on.

Her lips forced themselves into the customary smile with difficulty.
Tripping forward was an easy matter for one so free from dizziness. She
only carried the pole because it was customary to begin with the least
difficult feats. Yet, while gracefully placing one foot before the other,
she said to herself--safe as she felt--that, while so much agitated, she
would be wiser not to look down again into the depths below. She did
avoid it, and with a swift run gained the end of the rope without effort,
and went up and down it a second time.

While, on reaching the end of her walk, she was chalking her soles again,
the applause which had accompanied her during her dangerous pilgrimage
still rose to her ears, and came-most loudly of all from the stand where
Lienhard sat among the distinguished spectators. He, too, had clapped his
hands lustily, and shouted, "Bravo!" Never had he beheld any ropedancer
display so much grace, strength, and daring. His modest protegee had
become a magnificently developed woman. How could he have imagined that
the unfortunate young creature whom he had saved from disgrace would show
such courage, such rare skill?

He confided his feelings, and the fact that he knew the artist, to his
young neighbour, but she had turned deadly pale and lowered her eyes.
While looking on she had felt as though she herself was in danger of
falling into the depths. Giddiness had seized her, and her heart, whose
tendency to disease had long awakened the apprehension of the physicians,
contracted convulsively. The sight of a fellow-being hovering in mortal
peril above her head seemed unendurable. Not until she followed
Lienhard's advice and avoided looking up, did she regain her calmness.
Her changeful temperament soon recovered its former cheerfulness, and the
friend at her side to whom the lovely child, with her precocious mental
development, appeared like the fairest marvel, took care, often as he
himself looked upward, that she should be guarded from a second attack of
weakness.

The storm of applause from below, in which Lienhard also joined, fanned
the flames of desire for admiration in Kuni's breast to a fiery glow. She
would show him, too, what she could do--compel him to applaud her. She
would force him away from the little temptress, and oblige him to gaze up
at her whose art--she learned this daily--possessed the power to fix the
attention of spectators like the thrall of the basilisk's eye. When on
the rope she was no insignificant personage. He should tremble for her as
did the gray-haired, scarred captain of the foot soldiers, Mannsbach, the
day before yesterday. He had told her that his heart had throbbed more
anxiously during her daring feats than on the bloodiest field of battle.

She moved forward more swiftly to the time of the lively dancing tune
which the city pipers were playing. Midway along the rope she turned, ran
back to the cross-shaped trestle at the steeple window, handed the
balancing pole to Loni, and received a cage filled with doves. Each one
bore around its neck a note containing an expression of homage to the
Emperor Maximilian, and they were all trained to alight near the richly
decorated throne which was now occupied by the chivalrous monarch. The
clown who, with a comical show of respect, offered her what she needed
for her next feat, told her this.

Loni, sure of being heard by no unbidden ear, called to her from the
window:

"Art is honoured to-day, my girl."

The clown added jocosely:

"Who else was ever permitted to walk over the anointed head of our lord
the Emperor?"

But Kuni would not have needed such encouragement. Doubtless she felt
flattered by the consciousness of attracting even the sovereign's glance,
but what she intended to do immediately was for the purpose of compelling
another person to watch her steps with fear and admiration. Crossing her
feet, she threw back her garlanded head and drew a long breath. Then she
hastily straightened herself, and with the bird cage in one hand and the
winged staff of Mercury, which the clown had handed to her, in the other,
she advanced to the centre of the rope. There she opened the cage as
steadily as if she had been standing on the floor of her own room. The
birds fluttered through the little door and went, with a swift flight,
directly to their goal. Then, below and beside her, from every place
occupied by spectators, and from hundreds of windows, rose thunders of
applause; but it seemed to her as if the roaring of the surging sea was
in her ears. Her heart throbbed under her pink silk bodice like an iron
hammer, and in the proud consciousness of having probably attained
already what she desired, and, besides thousands of other eyes, fixed
Lienhard's upon her as if with chains and bonds, she was seized with the
ambitious desire to accomplish something still more amazing. The man to
whom her heart clung, the Emperor, the countless multitude below, were
all at this time subject to her in heart and mind. They could think and
feel nothing except what concerned her, her art, and her fate. She could
and would show to Lienhard, to the Emperor, to all, what they had never
witnessed. They should turn faint with sympathizing anxiety. She would
make then realize what genuine art, skill, and daring could accomplish.
Everything else, even the desire for applause, was forgotten. Though her
performance might be called only a perilous feat, she felt it to be true,
genuine art. Her whole soul was merged in the desire to execute, boldly
and yet gracefully, the greatest and most perfect performance attainable
by a ropedancer. With beads of perspiration on her brow, and eyes
uplifted, she threw the cage aside, swung her Mercury staff aloft, and
danced along the rope in waltz time, as though borne by the gods of the
wind. Whirling swiftly around, her slender figure darted in graceful
curves from one end of the narrow path to the other. Then the applause
reached the degree of enthusiastic madness which she desired; even Loni
clapped his hands from the steeple window. She had never seen him do this
to any of the company. Yes, she must have accomplished her purpose well;
but she would show him and the others something still more wonderful.
What she had just done was capable of many additional feats; she had
tried it.

With fluttering hands and pulses she instantly loosed from her panting
bosom and her hips the garland of roses and leaves twined about the upper
portion of her body, and swung it around her in graceful curves as she
knelt and rose on the rope.

She had often jumped rope on the low rope, turning completely around so
that she faced the other way. To repeat this performance on the one
stretched to the steeple would certainly not be expected from her or from
any other. Suppose she should use the garland as a rope and venture to
leap over it on this giddy height? Suppose she should even succeed in
turning around? The rope was firm. If her plan was successful, she would
have accomplished something unprecedented; if she failed--if, while
turning, she lost her balance--her scanty stock of pleasure here below
would be over, and also her great grief and insatiable yearning. One
thing was certain: Lienhard would watch her breathlessly, nay, tremble
for her. Perhaps it was too much to hope that he would mourn her
sincerely, should the leap cost her life; but he would surely pity her,
and he could never forget the moment of the fall, and therefore herself.
Loni would tear the gold circlet from his dyed black locks and, in his
exaggerated manner, call himself a son of misfortune, and her the
greatest artist who had ever trodden the rope. All Augsburg, all the
dignitaries of the realm, even the Emperor, would pity her, and the end
of her life would be as proud and as renowned as that of the chivalrous
hero who dies victor on the stricken field. If the early part of her life
had been insignificant and wretched, its close should be grand and
beautiful.

Long consideration was foreign to Kuni's nature. While these thoughts
were darting with the speed of lightning through her excited brain, she
stripped from the garland, with the presence of mind which her calling
teaches even in serious peril, the roses which might have caught her
feet, and swung it in a wide circle above her. Then nimbly, yet careful
to maintain in every movement the grace without which the most difficult
feat would have seemed to her valueless, she summoned all the strength
and caution she possessed, went forward at a run, and--she did not know
herself just how it was done--dared the leap over the rope once, twice,
and the third and fourth time even accomplished the turn successfully. It
had not once cost her an effort to maintain her balance.

Again she saw Loni clapping his hands at the window, and the acclamations
of the crowd, which echoed like peals of thunder from the lofty,
gable-roofed houses, informed her that the boldness of the venture and
the skill with which she had performed it were appreciated by these
spectators. True, she could not distinguish the voice of any individual,
but she thought she knew that Lienhard was one of those who shouted
"Bravo!" and clapped most loudly. He must have perceived now that she was
something more than a poor thief of a rosary, a useless bread-eater in
the Schurstab household.

She straightened the garland again and, while preparing to take another
run, repeat the feat, and, if her buoyancy held out, try to whirl around
twice, which she had never failed to accomplish on the low rope, she
could not resist the temptation of casting a hasty glance at Lienhard;
she had never ascended to the steeple without looking at him.

Secure of herself, in the glad conciousness of success, she gazed down.

There sat the illustrious Maximilian, still clapping his hands.
Gratefully, yet with a passionate desire for fresh applause, the resolve
to show him the very best which she could accomplish was strengthened.
But the next moment the blood faded from her slightly rouged cheeks, for
Lienhard--was it possible, was it imaginable?--Lienhard Groland was not
looking up at her! Without moving his hands or vouchsafing her a single
glance, he was gazing into the face of the little wearer of the laurel
wreath, with whom he was eagerly talking. He was under her thrall, body
and soul. Yet it could not be, she could not have seen distinctly. She
must look down once more, to correct the error. She did so, and a
torturing anguish seized her heart. He was chatting with the child as
before; nay, with still more warmth. As he now saw nothing which was
happening upon the rope, he had probably also failed to heed what she had
performed, dared, accomplished, mainly for his sake, at the peril of her
life, on the dizzy height. His wife was still clapping her hands at his
side, but Lienhard, as though deaf and blind to everything else, was
gazing at the page which the miserable little elf was just giving him.
There was certainly writing on it--perhaps a charm which rendered him
subject to her. How else could he have brought himself to overlook so
unkindly herself and her art--the best she had to bestow--for the sake of
this child?

Then, besides the keenest sorrow, a fierce, burning hate took possession
of her soul.

She had not appealed to her saint for years; but now, in a brief,
ejaculatory prayer, she besought her to drive this child from Lienhard,
punish her with misery, suffering, and destruction. A sharp pang which
she had never before experienced pierced her to the heart. The pure,
sunny air which she inhaled on her lofty height seemed like acrid smoke,
and forced tears into the eyes which had not wept for many a long day.

As, not knowing exactly what she was doing, with her ears deafened by the
shouts of the crowd, among whom Lienhard now, with anxious suspense,
watched her every movement, she again raised the rope and prepared to
spring, she fancied that her narrow path rose higher and higher. One more
step, and suddenly, with Loui's shriek of horror and the clown's
terrified "Jesus and Mary, she is falling!" ringing on the air, she felt
as if the rope had parted directly in front of her. Then a hurricane
appeared to howl around her, bearing her away she knew not whither. It
seemed as though the tempest had seized the ends of the rope, and was
dealing terrible blows with them upon her shoulders, her back, and her
feet. Meanwhile the little wearer of the wreath was lying on a black
cloud opposite to her at Lienhard's feet.

She still held the sheet in her hand, and was shouting to the angry
elements the magic formulas which it contained. Their power Kuni knew
it--had unchained them. Lienhard's deep voice mingled with her furious
cries until the roar of the sea, on whose rocky shore the hurricane must
have dashed her, drowned every other sound, and rolled over her,
sometimes in scorching crimson, sometimes in icy crystal waves. Then, for
a long time, she saw and heard nothing more.

When her deadened imagination again began to stir, she fancied that she
was struggling with a huge crab, which was cutting her foot with shears.
The little elf was urging it on, as the huntsmen cheer the hounds. The
pain and hate she felt would have been intolerable if Lienhard had made
common cause with the terrible child. But he reproved her conduct, and
even struggled with the kobold who tried to prevent his releasing her
from the crab. The elf proved stronger than he. The terrible shears
continued to torture her. The more she suffered, the more eagerly
Lienhard seemed trying to help her, and this soothed her and blended a
sweet sense of comfort with the burning pain.



CHAPTER VI.

Kuni remained under the spell of these delusions for many days and
nights. When she at last regained her senses, she was lying on a plain
couch in a long, whitewashed hall. The well-scoured floor was strewn with
sand and pine needles. Other beds stood beside hers. On one wall hung a
large wooden crucifix, painted with glaring colours; on the other a
touching picture of the Mater Dolorosa, with the swords in her heart,
looked down upon her.

Beside Kuni's pallet stood a Gray Sister and an elderly man, evidently a
physician. His long black robe, tall dark cap, and gold headed cane bore
witness to it. Bending forward, with eyeglasses on his prominent nose, he
gazed intently into her face.

Her return to consciousness seemed to please him, and he showed himself
to be a kind, experienced leech. With tireless solicitude he strove to
cure the numerous injuries which she had received, and she soon learned
through him and the nun, that she had fallen from the rope and escaped
death as if by a miracle. The triumphal arch under her, and the garlands
which decorated the wooden structure, had caught her before she touched
the pavement. True, her right leg was broken, and it had been necessary
to amputate her left foot in order to save her life. Many a wound and
slash on her breast and head also needed healing, and her greatest
ornament, her long, thick, dark hair, had been cut off.

Why had they called her, the ropedancer, back to a life which
henceforward could offer her nothing save want and cruel suffering? She
uttered this reproach to her preservers very indignantly; but as the
physician saw her eating a bunch of grapes with much enjoyment, he asked
if this pleasure did not suffice to make her rejoice over the
preservation of her existence. There were a thousand similar gifts of
God, which scarcely seemed worthy of notice, yet in the aggregate
outweighed a great sorrow which, moreover, habit daily diminished.

The Sister tried, by other arguments, to reconcile her to the life which
had been preserved, but the words her devout heart inspired and which
were intended for a pious soul, produced little influence upon the
neglected child of the highroad. Kuni felt most deeply the reference to
the sorely afflicted Mother of God. If such sorrow had been sent to the
noblest and purest of mortals, through whom God had deigned to give his
divine Son to the world, what grief could be too great for her, the
wandering vagabond? She often silently repeated this to herself; yet only
too frequently her impetuous heart rebelled against the misery which she
felt that she would encounter. But many weeks were to pass before she
recovered; a severe relapse again endangered her life.

During the first days of illness she had talked to Lienhard in her
fevered visions, called him by name, and warned him against the spiteful
elf who would ruin him. Frequently, too, oaths and horrible, coarse
imprecations, such as are heard only from the mouths of the vagrants
among whom she had grown to womanhood, fell from her burning lips. When
she improved, the leech asked in the jesting tone which elderly men are
fond of using to young women whose heart secrets they think they have
detected, what wrong her lover had done her. The Sister, nay, even the
abbess, wished to learn what she meant by the wicked witch whom she had
mentioned with such terrible curses during the ravings of the fever, but
she made no reply. In fact, she said very little, and her nurses thought
her a reserved creature with an obdurate nature; for she obstinately
rejected the consolations of religion.

Only to her confessor, a kind old priest, who knew how to discover the
best qualities in every one, did she open her heart so far as to reveal
that she loved the husband of another and had once wished evil, ay, the
very worst evil, to a neighbour. But since the sin had been committed
only in thought, the kindly guardian of her conscience was quickly
disposed to grant her absolution if, as a penance, she would repeat a
goodly number of paternosters and undertake a pilgrimage. If she had had
sound feet, she ought to have journeyed to Santiago di Compostella; but,
since her condition precluded this, a visit to Altotting in Bavaria would
suffice. But Kuni by no means desired any mitigation of the penance. She
silently resolved to undertake the pilgrimage to Compostella, at the
World's End,--[Cape Finisterre]--in distant Spain, though she did not
know how it would be possible to accomplish this with her mutilated foot.
Not even to her kind confessor did she reveal this design. The girl who
had relied upon herself from childhood, needed no explanation, no
confidante.

Therefore, during the long days and nights which she was obliged to spend
in bed, she pondered still more constantly upon her own past. That she
had been drawn and was still attracted to Lienhard with resistless power,
was true; yet whom, save herself, had this wounded or injured? On the
other hand, it had assuredly been a heavy sin that she had called down
such terrible curses upon the child. Still, even now she might have had
good reason to execrate the wearer of the wreath; for she alone, not
Lienhard, was the sole cause of her misfortune. Her prayer on the rope
that the saints would destroy the hated child, and the idea which then
occupied her mind, that she was really a grown maiden, whose elfin
delicacy of figure was due to her being one of the fays or elves
mentioned in the fairy tales, had made a deep impression upon her memory.

Whenever she thought of that supplication she again felt the bitterness
she had tasted on the rope. Though she believed herself justified in
hating the little mischief-maker, the prayer uttered before her fall did
not burden her soul much less heavily than a crime. Suppose the Sister
was right, and that the saints heard every earnest petition?

She shuddered at the thought. The child was so young, so delicate. Though
she had caused her misfortune, the evil was not done intentionally. Such
thoughts often induced Kuni to clasp her hands and pray to the saint not
to fulfil the prayer she uttered at that time; but she did not continue
the petition long, a secret voice whispered that every living
creature--man and beast--felt the impulse to inflict a similar pang on
those who caused suffering, and that she, who believed the whole world
wicked, need not be better than the rest.

Meanwhile she longed more and more eagerly to know the name of the little
creature that had brought so much trouble upon her, and whether she was
still forcing herself between Lienhard and his beautiful wife.

As soon as she was able to talk again, she began her inquiries. The
Sister, who was entirely absorbed in her calling and never left the scene
of her wearisome toil, had little to tell; but the leech and the priest,
in reply to her questions concerning what had happened during the period
of her unconsciousness, informed her that the Emperor had ordered that
she should receive the most careful nursing, and had bestowed a donation
upon the convent for the purpose. He had thought of her future, too. When
she recovered, she would have the five heller pounds which the generous
sovereign had left for her as a partial compensation for the injuries
sustained while employing her rare skill for the delight of the multitude
and, above all, himself. A wealthy Nuremberg Honourable, Lienhard
Groland, a member of the Council, had also interested himself in her and
deposited the same amount with the abbess, in case she should recover the
use of her limbs and did not prefer to spend the remainder of her life
here, though only as a lay sister. In that case he would be ready to
defray the cost of admission.

"That the lofty convent walls might rise between him and the sight of
me!" Kuni said to herself at this information, with a bitter smile. On
the--other hand, her eyes filled with tears of genuine emotion and
sincere shame, when she learned from the leech that Herr Lienhard
Groland's lovely wife had come daily to the convent to inquire about her,
and had even honoured her couch with a visit several times. She did not
remain absent until one day, in the noble lady's presence, Kuni, when her
fever was fiercest, loaded the wearer of the wreath, whom her delirium
often brought before her as a nightmare, with the most savage and
blasphemous curses. The gracious young wife was overwhelmed with horror,
which had doubtless prevented her return, unless her absence was due to
departure from the city. Besides, she had committed the care of inquiring
about her convalescence to an aristocratic friend in Augsburg, the wife
of the learned city clerk, Doctor Peutinger, a member of the famous
Welser family of Augsburg. The latter had often inquired for her in
person, until the illness of her own dear child had kept her at home.
Yet, in spite of this, her housekeeper had appeared the day before to
inform the abbess that, if the injured girl should recover and wished to
lead a respectable life in future, she might be sure of a welcome and
easy duties in her own household. This surely ought to be a great comfort
to Kuni, the physician added; for she could no longer pursue
rope-dancing, and the Peutingers were lavishly endowed with worldly goods
and intellectual gifts, and, besides, were people of genuine Christian
spirit. The convent, too, would be ready to receive her--the abbess had
told him so--if Herr Groland, of Nuremberg, kept his promise of paying
her admission dues.

All these things awakened a new world of thoughts and feelings in the
convalescent. That they ought, above all, to have aroused sincere
gratitude, she felt keenly, yet she could not succeed in being especially
thankful. It would be doing Lienhard a favour, she repeated to herself,
if she should enter a convent, and she would rather have sought shelter
in a lion's den than under the Peutinger roof. She had been informed the
day before that the city clerk's wife was the mother of the child upon
whom she had called down misfortune and death.

The keeper of an Augsburg bath-house, who had burned herself with boiling
water, occupied the next bed. She was recovering, and was a talkative
woman, whose intrusive loquacity at first annoyed Kuni, nay, when she
could not silence it, caused her pain. But her conversation soon revealed
that she knew every stick and stone in her native city. Kuni availed
herself of this, and did not need to ask many questions to learn
everything that she desired to know about the little beggar-landed elf.

She was Juliane, the young daughter of Herr Conrad Peutinger, the city
clerk--a girl of unusual cleverness, and a degree of learning never
before found in a child eleven years old. The bath-house keeper had many
wonderful stories to relate of her remarkable wisdom, with which even
highly educated men could not vie. In doing so, she blamed the father and
mother, who had been unnatural parents to the charming child; for to make
the marvel complete, and to gratify their own vanity, they had taxed the
little girl's mind with such foolish strenuousness that the frail body
suffered. She had heard this in her own bath-house from the lips of the
child's aunt and from other distinguished friends of the Welsers and
Peutingers. Unfortunately, these sensible women proved to have been
right; for soon after the close of the Reichstag, Juliane was attacked by
a lingering illness, from which rumour now asserted that she would never
recover. Some people even regarded the little girl's sickness as a just
punishment of God, to whom the constant devotion of the father and his
young daughter to the old pagans and their ungodly writings must have
given grave offence.

This news increased to the utmost the anxiety from which Kuni had long
suffered. Often as she thought of Lienhard, she remembered still more
frequently that it was she, who had prayed for sickness to visit the
child of a mother, who had so kindly offered her, the strolling player,
whom good women usually shunned, the shelter of her distinguished house.

The consciousness of owing a debt of gratitude to those, against whom she
had sinned so heavily, oppressed her. The kind proposal of the sick
child's mother seemed like a mockery. It was painful even to hear the
name of Peutinger.

Besides, the further she advanced toward recovery, the more unendurable
appeared the absence of liberty. The kind efforts of the abbess to keep
her in the cloister, and teach her to make herself useful there by
sewing, were unsuccessful; for she could not turn the spinning wheel on
account of her amputated foot, and she had neither inclination nor
patience for the finer branches of needlework.

Those who charged her with a lamentable lack of perseverance were right;
the linen which she began to hem fell into her lap only too soon. When
her eyes--which could see nothing here except a small walled yard--closed
while she was working, the others thought that she was asleep; but her
mind remained awake, though she had lowered her lids, and it wandered
restlessly over valleys rivers, and mountains through the wide, wide
world. She saw herself in imagination travelling along the highway with
nimble jugglers merry musicians, and other care-free vagrant folk,
instead of plying the needle. Even the whirling dust, the rushing wind,
and the refreshing rain outside seemed desirable compared with the heavy
convent air impregnated by a perpetual odour of lavender.

When at last, in the month of March, little Afra, the fair-haired niece
of the portress, brought her the first snowdrop, and Kuni saw a pair of
starlings enter the box on the budding linden before her window, she
could no longer bear her imprisonment in the convent.

Within these walls she must fade, perhaps die and return to dust. In
spite of all the warnings, representations, entreaties, and promises of
those who--she gratefully perceived it--meant well toward her, she
persisted in her desire to be dismissed, to live out of doors as she had
always done. At last they paid her what was due, but she accepted only
the Emperor's bounty, proudly refusing Lienhard Groland's money,
earnestly as she was urged to add it to the other and to the viaticum
bestowed by the nuns.



CHAPTER VII.

The April sun was shining brightly when the convent gates closed behind
Kuni. The lindens in the square were already putting forth young leaves,
the birds were singing, and her heart swelled more joyously than it had
done for many years.

True, the cough which had tormented her all winter attacked her in the
shady cloister, but she had learned to use her wooden foot, and with a
cane in one hand and her little bundle in the other she moved sturdily
on. After making her pilgrimage to Compostella, she intended to seek her
old employer, Loni. Perhaps he could give her a place as crier, or if the
cough prevented that, in collecting the money or training the children.
He was a kind-hearted man. If he were even tolerably prosperous he would
certainly let her travel with the band, and give the girl who was injured
in his service the bit of food she required. Besides, in former days,
when she scattered gold with lavish hands, he had predicted what had now
befallen her, and when he left Augsburg he had asked the nuns to tell her
that if she should ever be in want she must remember Loni.

With the Emperor's five heller pounds, and the two florins which she had
received as a viaticum from the convent, she could journey a long
distance through the world; for there were plenty of carriers and
travellers with carts and wagons who would take her for a trifle, and the
vagabonds on the highway rarely left people like her in the lurch.

Probably, in former days, she had looked forward to the future with
greater strength and different expectations, yet, even as it was, in
spite of the cough and the painful pricking in her scars, she found it
pleasant so long as she was free and could follow whatever way she chose.
She knew the city, and limped through the streets and alleys toward the
tavern where the strolling players usually lodged.

On the way she met a gentleman in a suit of light armour, whom she
recognised in the distance as the Knight of Neckerfels, who had been
paying court to her before her fall. He was walking alone and looked her
directly in the face, but he did not have the slightest idea that he had
met madcap Kuni. It was only too evident that he supposed her to be a
total stranger. Yet it would have been impossible for any one to
recognise her.

Mirrors were not allowed in the convent, but a bright new tin plate had
showed her her emaciated face with the broad scar on the forehead, the
sunken eyes, and the whole narrow head, where the hair, which grew out
again very slowly, was just an ugly length. Now the sight of the bony
hand which grasped the cane brought a half-sorrowful, half-scornful,
smile to her lips. Her arm had been plump and round, but was now little
larger than a stick. Pretty Kuni, the ropedancer, no longer existed; she
must become accustomed to have the world regard her as a different and
far less important personage, whom Lienhard, too--and this was
fortunate--would not have deemed worthy of a glance.

And yet, if the inner self is the true one, there was little change in
her. Her soul was moved by the same feelings, only there was now a touch
of bitterness. One great advantage of her temperament, it is true, had
vanished with her physical beauty and strength--the capacity to hope for
happiness and joy. Perhaps it would never return; an oppressive feeling
of guilt, usually foreign to her careless nature, had oppressed her ever
since she had heard recently in the convent that the child on whom she
had called down death and destruction was lying hopelessly ill, and would
scarcely live till the joyous Whitsuntide.

This now came back to her mind. The jubilant sense of freedom deserted
her; she walked thoughtfully on until she reached the neighbourhood of
Jacob Fugger's house.

A long funeral procession was moving slowly toward her. Some very exalted
and aristocratic person must be taking the journey to the grave, for it
was headed by all the clergy in the city. Choristers, in the most
elaborate dress, swinging incense holders by delicate metal chains and
bearing lanterns on long poles, surrounded the lofty cross.

Every one of distinction in Augsburg, all the children who attended
school, and all the members of the various ecclesiastical orders and
guilds in the city marched before the bier. Kuni had never seen such a
funeral procession. Perhaps the one she witnessed in Milan, when a great
nobleman was buried, was longer, but in this every individual seemed to
feel genuine grief. Even the schoolboys who, on such solemn occasions,
usually play all sorts of secret pranks, walked as mournfully as if each
had lost some relative who was specially dear to him. Among the girls
there were few whose rosy cheeks were not constantly wet with tears.

From the first Kuni had believed that she knew who was being borne to the
grave. Now she heard several women whispering near her mention the name
of Juliane Peutinger. A pale-faced gold embroiderer, who had recently
bordered a gala dress with leaves and tendrils for the dead girl's
sister, described, sobbing, the severe suffering amid which this fairest
blossom of Augsburg girlhood had withered ere death finally broke the
slender stem.

Suddenly she stopped; a cry of mingled astonishment, lamentation, and
delight, sometimes rising, sometimes falling, ran through the crowd which
had gathered along the sides of the street.

The bier was in sight.

Twelve youths bore the framework, covered with a richly embroidered blue
cloth, on which the coffin rested. It was open, and the dead girl's couch
was so high that it seemed as though the sleeper was only resting lightly
on the white silk pillow. A wreath again encircled her head, but this
time blossoming myrtles blended with the laurel in the brown curls that
lay in thick, soft locks on the snowy pillows and the lace-trimmed
shroud.

Juliane's eyes were closed. Ah! how gladly Kuni would have kissed those
long-lashed lids to win even one look of forgiveness from her whom her
curse had perhaps snatched from the green spring world!

She remembered the sunny radiance with which this sleeper's eyes had
sparkled as they met Lienhard's. They were the pure mirror of the keen,
mobile intellect and the innocent, loving soul of this rare child. Now
death had closed them, and Juliane's end had been one of suffering. The
pale embroiderer had said so, and the sorrowful droop of the sweet little
mouth, which gave the wondrously beautiful, delicate, touching little
face so pathetic an expression, betrayed it. If the living girl had
measured her own young intellect with that of grown people, and her face
had worn the impress of precocious maturity, now it was that of a
charming child who had died in suffering.

Kuni also felt this, and asked herself how it had been possible for her
heart to cherish such fierce hatred against this little one, who had
numbered only eleven years.

But had this Juliane resembled other children?

No, no! No Emperor's daughter of her age would have been accompanied to
the churchyard with such pageantry, such deep, universal grief.

She had been the jewel of a great city. This was proclaimed by many a
Greek and Latin maxim on tablets borne by the friends of the great
humanist who, with joyful pride, called her his daughter.

Kuni could not read, but she heard at least one sentence translated by a
Benedictine monk to the nun at his side: "He whose death compels those
who knew him to weep, has the fairest end."--[Seneca, Hippol., 881.]

If this were true, Juliane's end was indeed fair; for she herself, whom
the child had met only to inflict pain, had her eyes dimmed by tears, and
wherever she turned she saw people weeping.

Most of those who lined the street could have had no close relations with
the dead girl. But yonder black-robed mourners who followed the bier were
her parents, her brothers and sisters, her nearest relatives, the members
of the Council, and the family servants. And she, the wretched, reckless,
sinful, crippled strolling player, for whom not a soul on earth cared,
whose death would not have drawn even a single tear from any eye, to whom
a speedy end could be only a benefit, was perhaps the cause of the
premature drying up of this pure fountain of joy, which had refreshed so
many hearts and animated them with the fairest hopes.

The tall lady, whose noble face and majestic figure were shrouded in a
thick veil, was Juliane's mother--and she had offered the sick ropedancer
a home in her wealthy household.

"If she had only known," thought Kuni, "the injury I was inflicting upon
her heart's treasure, she would rather have hunted me with dogs from her
threshold."

In spite of the veil which floated around the stately figure of the
grieving mother, she could see her bosom rise and fall with her sobs of
anguish. Kuni's compassionate heart made it impossible for her to watch
this sorrow longer, and, covering her face with her hands, she turned her
back upon the procession and, weeping aloud, limped away as fast as her
injured foot would let her. Meanwhile she sometimes said to herself that
she was the worst of all sinners because she had cursed the dead girl and
called down death and destruction upon her head, sometimes she listened
to the voice within, which told her that she had no reason to grieve over
Juliane's death, and completely embitter her already wretched life by
remorse and self-accusations; the dead girl was the sole cause of her
terrible fall. But the defiant rebellion against the consciousness of
guilt, which moved her so deeply, always ceased abruptly as soon as it
raised its head; for one fact was positive, if the curse she had called
down upon the innocent child, who had done her no intentional wrong, had
really caused Juliane's end, a whole life was not long enough to atone
for the sin which she had committed. Yet what atonement was still in her
power, after the death which she had summoned had performed its terrible
work of executioner?

"Nothing, nothing at all!" she said to herself angrily, resolving, as she
had so often done with better success, to forget what had happened, cast
the past into oblivion, and live in the present as before. But ere she
could attempt to fulfil this determination, the image of the tall,
grief-bowed figure of the woman who had called Juliane her dear child
rose before her mind, and it seemed as if a cold, heavy hand paralyzed
the wings of the light-hearted temperament which had formerly borne her
pleasantly over so many things. Then she told herself that, in order not
to go to perdition herself, she must vow, sacrifice, undertake everything
for the salvation of the dead girl and of her own heavily burdened soul.
For the first time she felt a longing to confide her feelings to some
one. If Lienhard had been within reach and disposed to listen to her, he
would have understood, and known what course to advise.

True, the thought that he was not looking at her when she took the fatal
leap still haunted her. He could not have showed more offensively how
little he cared for her--but perhaps he was under the influence of a
spell; for she must be something to him. This was no vain self-deception;
had it not been so, would he have come in person to her couch of pain, or
cared for her so kindly after the accident?

In the convent she had reached the conviction that it would be degrading
to think longer of the man who, in return for the most ardent love,
offered nothing but alms in jingling coin; yet her poor heart would not
cease its yearning.

Meanwhile she never wearied of seeking motives that would place his
conduct in a more favourable light. Whatever he might have withheld from
her, he was nevertheless the best and noblest of men, and as she limped
aimlessly on, the conviction strengthened that the mere sight of him
would dispel the mists which, on this sunny spring day, seemed to veil
everything around and within her.

But he remained absent, and suddenly it seemed more disgraceful to seek
him than to stand in the stocks.

Yet the pilgrimage to Compostella, of which the confessor had spoken? For
the very reason that it had been described to her as unattainable, it
would perhaps be rated at a high value in heaven, and restore to her
while on earth the peace she had lost.

She pondered over this thought on her way to the tavern, where she found
a corner to sleep, and a carrier who, on the day after the morrow, would
take her to the sea for a heller pound. Other pilgrims had also engaged
passage at Antwerp for Corunna, the harbour of Compostella, and her means
were sufficient for the voyage. This assurance somewhat soothed her while
she remained among people of her own calling.

But she spent a sleepless night; for again and again the dead child's
image appeared vividly before her. Rising from the soft pillows in the
coffin, she shook her finger threateningly at her, or, weeping and
wailing, pointed down to the flames--doubtless those of purgatory--which
were blazing upward around her, and had already caught the hem of her
shroud.

Kuni arose soon after sunrise with a bewildered brain. Before setting out
on her pilgrimage she wished to attend mass, and--that the Holy Virgin
might be aware of her good intentions--repeat in church some of the
paternosters which her confessor had imposed.

She went out with the simple rosary that the abbess had given her upon
her wrist, but when she had left the tavern behind she saw a great crowd
in front of the new St. Ulrich's Church, and recognised among the throngs
of people who had flocked thither her companion in suffering at the
convent, the keeper of the bath-house, who had been cured of her burns
long before.

She had left her business to buy an indulgence for her own sins, and to
purchase for the soul of her husband--whose death-bed confession, it is
true, had been a long one--for the last time, but for many centuries at
once, redemption from the fires of purgatory. The Dominican friar Tetzel,
from Nuremberg, was here with his coffer, and carried written promises
which secured certain remission of punishment for all sins, even those
committed long ago, or to be committed in the future. The woman had
experienced the power of his papers herself. Tetzel had come to Augsburg
about a year after her husband's death, and, as she knew how many sins he
had committed, she put her hand into her purse to free him from the
flames. They must have burned very fiercely; for, while awake at night
and in her dreams, she had often heard him wailing and complaining
piteously. But after she bought the paper he became quiet and, on the
third night, she saw him with her own eyes enter the room, and heard him
promise her a great happiness in return for her faithful remembrance.

The very next Sunday, Veit Haselnuss, the bath-house proprietor, a
well-to-do man who owned another house besides the one where he lived,
invited her to take a walk with him. She knew instantly that her late
husband was beginning to pay his debt of gratitude with this visitor and,
in fact, a short time after, the worthy man asked her to be his wife,
though she had three little children, and his oldest daughter by his
first wife was already able to look after the housekeeping. The wedding
took place on Whitsunday, and she owed this great happiness entirely to
the dispensation which had released the dead man's soul from the fires of
purgatory and induced him to show his thankfulness.

Kuni listened to her companion's rapid flood of talk, until she herself
enjoined silence to hear the black-robed priest who stood beside the
coffer.

He was just urging his hearers, in a loud voice, to abandon the base
avarice which gathers pence. There was still time to gain, in exchange
for dead florins, living salvation.

Let those who repented sin listen, and they would hear the voices of
wailing parents, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, and children, who
had preceded them to the other world. Whose heart was so utterly turned
to stone, whose parsimony, spite of all his love of money, was so strong
that he would allow these tortured souls to burn and suffer in the
flames, when it was in his power, by putting his hand into his purse, to
buy a dispensation which would as surely redeem them from the fires of
purgatory as his Imperial Majesty's pardon would release an imprisoned
thief from jail?

Scales seemed to fall from Kuni's eyes. She hastily forced her way to the
Dominican, who was just wiping the perspiration from his brow with the
hem of the white robe under his black cowl.

Coughing and panting, he was preparing his voice for a fresh appeal,
meanwhile opening the iron-bound box, and pointing out to the throng the
placard beside his head, which announced that the money obtained by the
indulgences was intended for the Turkish war. Then, in fluent language,
he explained to the bystanders that this meant that the Holy Father in
Rome intended to drive the hereditary foe of Christianity back to the
steppes and deserts of the land of Asia, where he belonged. In order to
accomplish this work, so pleasing to the Lord, the Church was ready to
make lavish use of the treasures of mercy intrusted to her. Deliverance
from the flames of purgatory would never be more cheaply purchased than
at this opportunity. Then he thrust his little fat hand, on which several
valuable rings glittered, into the box, and held out to the bystanders a
small bundle of papers like an open pack of cards.

Kuni summoned up her courage and asked whether they would also possess
the power to remove a curse. Tetzel eagerly assented, adding that he had
papers which would wash the soul as white from every sin as soap would
cleanse a sooty hand, even though, instead of "curse," its name was
"parricide."

The most costly had the power to transfer scoundrels roasting in the
hottest flames of purgatory to the joys of paradise, as yonder sparrow
had just soared from the dust of the street to the elm bough.

Kuni timidly asked the price of an indulgence, but the Dominican
unctuously explained that they were not sold like penny rolls at the
baker's; the heavier the sin, the higher the fine to be paid. First of
all, she must confess sincere contrition for what had been done and
inform him how, in spite of her youth, she had been led into such heinous
guilt. Kuni replied that she had long mourned her error most deeply, and
then began to whisper to Tetzel how she had been induced to curse a
fellow-mortal. She desired nothing for herself. Her sole wish was to
release the dead girl from the flames of purgatory, and the curse which,
by her guilt, burdened her soul. But the Dominican had only half
listened, and as many who wanted indulgences were crowding around his
box, he interrupted Kuni by offering her a paper which he would make out
in the name of the accursed Juliane Peutinger--if he had heard correctly.

Such cases seemed to be very familiar to him, but the price he asked was
so large that the girl grew pale with terror.

Yet she must have the redeeming paper, and Tetzel lowered his price after
her declaration that she possessed only five heller pounds and the
convent viaticum. Besides, she stated that she had already bargained with
the carrier for the journey to the sea.

This, however, had no influence upon the Dominican, as the indulgence
made the pilgrimage to Compostella unnecessary. Since it would redeem the
accursed person from the fires of purgatory, she, too, was absolved from
the vow which drew her thither.

With stern decision he therefore insisted upon demanding the entire sum
in her possession. He could only do it so cheaply because her face and
her lost foot showed that she was destined to suffer part of the eternal
torture here on earth.

Then Kuni yielded. The paper was made out in the name of Juliane, she
gave up her little store, and returned to the inn a penniless beggar, but
with a lighter heart, carrying the precious paper under the handkerchief
crossed over her bosom. But there the carrier refused her a seat without
the money which she had promised him, and the landlord demanded payment
for her night's lodging and the bit of food she had eaten.

Should she go back to the convent and ask for the little sum which
Lienhard had left there for her?

The struggle was a hard one, but pride finally conquered. She renounced
the kindly meant gift of her only friend. When the abbess returned the
money to him, he could not help perceiving that she was no beggar and
scorned to be his debtor. If he then asked himself why, he would find the
right answer. She did not confess it to herself in plain words, but she
wished to remain conscious that, whether he desired it or not, she had
given her heart's best love to this one man without reward, merely
because it was her pleasure to do it. At last she remembered that she
still possessed something valuable. She had not thought of it before,
because it had been as much a part of herself as her eyes or her lips,
and it would have seemed utterly impossible to part with it. This article
was a tolerably heavy gold ring, with a sparkling ruby in the centre. She
had drawn it from her father's finger after he had taken his last leap
and she was called to his corpse. She did not even know whether he had
received the circlet as a wedding ring from the mother of whom she had no
remembrance, or where he obtained it. But she had heard that it was of
considerable value, and when she set off to sell the jewel, she did not
find it very hard to gave it up. It seemed as if her father, from the
grave, was providing his poor child with the means she needed to continue
to support her life.

She had heard in the convent of Graslin, the goldsmith, who had bestowed
on the chapel a silver shrine for the relics, and went to him.

When she stood before the handsome gableroofed house which he occupied
she shrank back a little. At first he received her sternly and
repellantly enough, but, as soon as she introduced herself as the
ropedancer who had met with the accident, he showed himself to be a
kindly old gentleman.

After one of the city soldiers had said that she told the truth and had
just been dismissed from the convent, he paid her the full value of the
ring and added a florin out of sympathy and the admiration he felt for
the charm which still dwelt in her sparkling blue eyes.

But Compostella was indeed far away. Her new supply of money was
sufficient for the journey there, but how could she return? Besides, her
cough troubled her very seriously, and it seemed as though she could not
travel that long distance alone. The dealer in indulgences had said that
the paper made the pilgrimage unnecessary, and the confessor in the
convent had only commanded her to go to Altotting. With this neighbouring
goal before her, she turned her back upon Augsburg the following morning.

Her hope of meeting on the way compassionate people, who would give her a
seat in their vehicles, was fulfilled. She reached Altotting sooner than
she had expected. During the journey, sometimes in a peasant's cart,
sometimes in a freight wagon, she had thought often of little Juliane,
and always with a quiet, nay, a contented heart. In the famous old
church, at the end of her pilgrimage, she saw a picture in which the
raked souls of children were soaring upward to heaven from the flames
blazing around them in purgatory.

The confessor had sent her to the right place.

Here a fervent prayer had the power to rescue a child's soul from the
fires of purgatory. Many other votive pictures, the pilgrims at the inn,
and a priest whom she questioned, confirmed it. She also heard from
various quarters that she had not paid too high a price for the
indulgence. This strengthened her courage and henceforward, nay, even
during the time of sore privation which she afterward endured, she
blessed a thousand times her resolve to buy the ransoming paper from
Tetzel, the Dominican; for she thought that she daily experienced its
power.

Whenever Juliane appeared, her face wore a friendly expression--nay,
once, in a dream, she floated before her as if she wished to thank her,
in the form of a beautiful angel with large pink and white wings. She no
longer needed to fear the horrible curse which she had called down upon
the little one, and once more thought of Lienhard with pleasure. When he
learned in the other world how she had atoned for the wrong which she had
done his little favourite, she would be sure of his praise.

To be held in light esteem, nay, even despised, was part of her calling,
like her constant wandering. She had longed for applause in her art, but
for herself she had desired nothing save swift draughts of pleasure,
since she had learned how little she was regarded by the only person
whose opinion she valued. She could never have expected that he would
hold her in high esteem, since he was so indifferent to her art that he
did not even think it worth while to lift his eyes to the rope. Yet the
idea that he placed her in the same rank with others in her profession
seemed unendurable. But she need grieve over this no longer, and when she
remembered that even the sorest want had not been able to induce her to
touch his alms, she could have fairly shouted for joy amid all her
misery. The conviction that one man, who was the best and noblest of his
sex, might deem her a poor, unfortunate girl, but never a creature who
deserved contempt, was the beam to which she clung, when the surges of
her pitiable, wandering life threatened to close over her and stifle her.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Buy indugence for sins to be committed in the future
     Mirrors were not allowed in the convent



IN THE BLUE PIKE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 3.



CHAPTER VIII.

As Kuni's troubled soul had derived so much benefit from the short
pilgrimage to Altotting, she hoped to obtain far more from a visit to
Santiago di Compostella, famed throughout Christendom.

True, her old master, Loni, whom she had met at Regensburg, permitted her
to join his band, but when she perceived that he was far less prosperous
than before, and that she could not be useful to him in any way, she left
him at Cologne because a kindhearted captain offered to take her to
Vlissingen without pay. Thence she really did set out upon the pilgrimage
to Santiago di Compostella; but St. James, the patron saint of the
Spaniards, whose untiring mercy so many praised, did not prove specially
favourable to her. The voyage to Compostella, the principal place where
he was reverenced, which annually attracted thousands of pilgrims, cost
her her last penny, and the cold nights which she was obliged to spend on
deck increased her cough until it became almost unendurably violent.

In Santiago di Compostella both her means and her strength were
exhausted. After vainly expecting for a long time some token of the
saint's helpful kindness, only two courses were left: either she must
remain in Compostella and join the beggars in the crowded road to the
place of pilgrimage, or she must accept the proposal made by tongueless
Cyriax and go back with him to Germany. At first she had been afraid of
the brutal fellow, who feigned insanity and was led about by his wife
with a chain; but once, when red-haired Gitta was seized by the
Inquisition, and spent two days and two nights in jail, and Kuni nursed
her child in her place, she had found him more friendly. Besides, in
Compostella, the swearer had been in his most cheerful mood. Every day
had filled his purse, because there was no lack of people and he
understood how to extort money by the terror which horrible outbreaks of
his feigned malady inspired among the densely crowded pilgrims. His wife
possessed a remedy which would instantly calm his ravings, but it was
expensive, and she had not the money to buy it. Not only in Compostella,
but also on the long journey from Bavaria through the Swiss mountains,
France, Navarre, and the whole of northern Spain, there were always
kind-hearted or timid people from whom the money for the "dear
prescription" could be obtained.

A cart drawn by a donkey conveyed the child of this worthy couple. When
Kuni met her at Compostella she was a sickly little girl about two years
old, with an unnaturally large head and thin, withered legs, who seemed
to be mute because she used her mouth only to eat and to make a movement
of the lips which sounded like "Baba." This sound, Cyriax explained, was
a call that meant "papa." That was the name aristocratic children gave
their fathers, and it meant him alone, because the little girl resembled
him and loved him better than she did any one else. He really believed
this, and the stammering of the fragile child's livid lips won the rough
fellow's tender love.

The man who, when drunk, beat his wife till the blood came, and committed
plenty of cruel deeds, trembled, wept, and could even pray with fervent
piety, when--which often happened--the frail little creature, shaken by
convulsions, seemed at the point of death. He had undertaken the long
journey to the "world's end," not only because the pilgrimage to
Compostella promised large profits, but also to urge St. James to cure
his child. For his "sweet little Juli's" sake, and to obtain for her a
cheap nurse who would be entirely dependent upon him, he burdened himself
with the lame ropedancer. But he had no reason to repent this; Gitta had
enough to do to lead him by the chain and answer the questions of the
people, while Kuni nursed her charge with rare fidelity, mended the
clothing of the father, mother, and child, as well or as badly as she
could, and also helped Gitta with the cooking. The sickly, obstinate
little girl certainly did not deserve the name of a "sweet" child, yet
Kuni devoted herself to it with warm, almost passionate affection.

The vagabond couple did not fail to notice this, and, on the whole, it
pleased them. If Cyriax was vexed when little Juli began to show plainly
enough that she preferred her nurse even to him, he submitted because the
lame girl watched the child through severe attacks of convulsions and
fever as if it were her own, and willingly sacrificed her night's rest
for its sake. True, he often talked loudly enough in Kuni's presence of
the witch potion which the lame girl mixed in the porridge of his child,
who loved him better than anything in the world, to estrange it from him
and win it to herself.

Kuni paid little heed to these offensive words; she knew that she had
gained the child's love by very different means from the "black art."
With far more reason, she dimly felt, the sick child might have been
reproached for exerting a secret spell upon her. Her name, "Julie," which
she owed to her patron saint, Kuni supposed was the same as "Juliane."
Besides, the daughter of the vagabond with the mutilated tongue was born
a few days after the death of little Fraulein Peutinger, and this
circumstance, when Kuni knew it, seemed significant. Soon after meeting
the vagrant pair she had listened to a conversation between two
travelling scholars, and learned some strange things. One believed that
the old sages were right when they taught that the soul of a dead person
continued its existence in other living creatures; for instance, the
great Pythagoras had known positively, and proved that his own had dwelt,
in former ages, in the breast of the hero Palamedes.

The ropedancer remembered this statement, questioned other Bacchantes
about these things, and heard the doctrine of the transmigration of the
soul confirmed. Hence, during many a solitary ride, while the cart rolled
slowly along, she pondered over the thought that Juliane's soul had lived
again in foolish Julie. How? Why? She did not rack her brains on those
points. What had been a fancy, slowly became a fixed belief in the mind
thus constantly dwelling upon one idea. At last she imagined that
whatever she did for Cyriax's child benefited the soul of the little
Augsburg girl, whose life had been shortened by her wicked prayer on the
rope.

Yet she had not bought the indulgence in vain. But for that, she believed
that Juliane's soul would still be burning in the flames of purgatory.
The indulgence of the "Inquisitor" Tetzel had proved its power, and
rescued her from the fire. To demonstrate this fact she devised many a
proof. For instance, one day the idea entered her mind that foolish
Juli's brain was so weak because Juliane, during her brief existence, had
used more of hers than was fair.

At first this had been a mere fancy; but, true to her nature, she
reverted to it again and again, while in the cart which she alone shared
with the child, until it had matured to an immovable conviction. During
her changeful, wandering life, she had had no fixed religious principles.
But, since the notion had entered her mind that Lienhard would reward her
for her love by giving her a share, even though a very small one, of his
heart, she had clung tenaciously to it, in spite of all rebuffs and the
offensive indifference with which he had treated her. On her sick bed and
during her convalescence, she had dwelt upon the fear that her sinful
prayer had killed the little wearer of the laurel wreath, until she could
say to herself that events had proved it. With the same firmness she now
held to the belief that she had found the right idea concerning little
Juli's soul.

With the passionate desire to atone to the patrician's daughter for the
wrong which she had inflicted upon her, she clasped the vagabond's child
to her heart with the love of the most faithful mother, and her
affectionate care seemed to benefit herself as well as the ailing little
one. Juli was as devoted to her Kuni as a faithful dog. The kindness
which the lame ropedancer showed to the fragile child was lavishly
returned to her by a thousand proofs of the warmest attachment.

So Kuni had found one heart which kept its whole treasure of love for her
alone, one creature who could not do without her, one fragile human plant
to which she could be useful and helpful day and night.

Under the care of a faithful nurse little Juli gradually grew stronger,
both physically and mentally. The little girl's wan cheeks began to be
rosy, the convulsions and fever attacked her less frequently. Besides the
faint "Baba," she learned to babble "Duni," (instead of Kuni) and
afterward "Mother," and many other words. At last she talked nearly as
well as other children of her age. All this afforded the lame girl a
wealth of sweet joys wholly new to her, which afforded her heart such
warmth and solace that, in spite of the cough which tormented her during
many an hour of the day and night, she felt happier during her homeward
journey with the fierce blasphemer Cyriax, from whom she expected the
worst things, than in the brilliant days of her fame as an artist.
Doubtless, as they approached Germany, she often wondered what Lienhard
would think of her, if he should meet her amid such surroundings, as the
companion of so worthless a couple; but the terror that overpowered her
was transformed into pleasant satisfaction at the thought that he would
approve, nay, praise her conduct, when she could show him the child, and
tell him what she had done for it.

This state of affairs had continued until two months before. Then, at
Schaffhausen, her darling had suddenly been attacked with violent
convulsions, and the feeble intellect, which her love had so toilsomely
and faithfully waked from its slumber, only too soon attained eternal
peace. In all Kuni's sorrowful life she had scarcely experienced any
grief so bitter. When she closed the little eyes which had gazed into her
pale face so often and so tenderly, it seemed as if the sun, moon, and
stars had lost their light, and henceforth she was condemned to live in
dreary gloom.

What terrible days had followed the child's death! Cyriax raved as if he
had really been seized with the lunacy whose pretence helped him to beg
his bread. Besides, he gave himself up to unbridled indulgence in brandy,
and, when drunk, he was capable of the most brutal acts. The dead Juli's
mother, who, spite of an evil youth and a lenient conscience, was by no
means one of the worst of women, had to endure the harshest treatment
from her profligate companion.

The blow which had fallen upon him filled him with savage rage, and he
longed to inflict some pain upon all who came in his way that they, too,
might feel what it was to suffer.

The death of his "sweet little Juli" appeared to have hardened the last
tender spot in his brutal soul.

Kuni was the only person toward whom at first he imposed some restraint
upon himself. True, without any consideration for the girl's presence, he
sometimes asked Gitta why they still burdened themselves with the useless
hobbler and did not sell the cart and the donkey. But though there was no
lack of good offers for the excellent Spanish beast of burden, he allowed
matters to remain as before. If the rage seething in his heart led him,
in his drunken frenzy, to make Kuni feel its effects, too, the pleading
glance of the blue eyes, still large and expressive, with which she had
so often hushed the wailing child, sufficed to soothe him.

Yesterday, for the first time, he had seriously threatened to drive the
ropedancer away, and she knew that Cyriax was capable of anything. True,
his wife was attached to Kuni, but she had little influence over her
vicious husband. So the sick cripple might only too easily find herself
left on the highway.

Still, she had given Cyriax cause for the threat. All day and during the
night she had been busy with the unfortunate mother and her twins, and
therefore had frequently neglected to fill his brandy bottle. But this
could not be helped, and she was not accustomed to think of the future.
Whatever her heart urged she did, no matter what might happen. If Cyriax
left her in the lurch, she must beg or starve unless chance, which so
often mingled in her existence, willed otherwise.

With the child's life the modest happiness which Kuni had enjoyed during
the last few months had vanished, not only because the tongueless
blasphemer had become a different person, and she sorely missed the
delicate little creature who had filled and cheered her heart, but she
had also lost the peace of mind which she enjoyed during the existence of
her charge.

The young Augsburg maiden, whom she thought she had bought out of the
flames of purgatory, did not appear to her again, but the vagrant's child
came all the more frequently, and whenever she showed herself she wailed
and wept bitterly. Sweet little Juli's soul must now--whether it had been
Juliane's or not--endure the tortures of purgatory, and this pierced
Kuni's heart the more deeply the more affectionately she remembered the
sickly-child.

Ever since she had used a black plaster, given to her at Singen by a
quack, the stump of her foot had become sore again, and sharp pain
tortured her so cruelly that, especially when the cough racked her
emaciated body and she was jolted to and fro in the springless cart over
stony roads, she was afraid that she should lose her reason.

At Pforzheim a barber had examined the wound and, shaking his head,
pronounced the black plaster a malignant blood poisoner, and when she
refused to have the leg amputated, applied a yellow one, which proved no
better. When Cyriax counted up his receipts in the evening, called to
red-haired Gitta his favourite maxim, "Fools never die," and handed to
her--Kuni--the larger brandy bottle to fill, she had often summoned up
her courage and begged him to buy an indulgence for his sweet little
Juli. The result was certain--she knew it from her own experience.

Shortly after the child's death he had thrust his hand into his purse
more than once at such an appeal and given money for a few candles, but
it had not been possible to persuade him to purchase the paper.

This refusal was by no means due to mere parsimony. Kuni knew what
induced him to maintain his resistance so obstinately, for in her
presence he had told pock-marked Ratz that he would not take the
indulgence gratis. Wherever he might be, his family ought to go, and he
did not wish to be anywhere that he would not find Juli.

He did not doubt the continued life of the soul after death, but
precisely because he was sure that the gates of paradise would remain
closed to him throughout eternity he would not help to open them for the
dead child. When his imagination tortured him with fancies that mice and
beetles were leaping and running out of his pockets and the breast of his
doublet, he thought that his end was drawing near. If the devil then had
power over his soul, his imps might drag him wherever they pleased, if
only he might see little Juli there and hear her call "Baba" and
"Father." It would lessen the tortures of hell, however severe they might
be. Was it possible for him to conceive of any greater folly than to rob
himself of this consolation by transporting the child, through the
indulgence, to the kingdom of heaven, where he could never see her again.
He had accumulated a goodly sum by begging, it is true, but, strangely
enough, he did not think of purchasing salvation for himself in order to
meet his child again in heaven, instead of amid the flames of purgatory.
Though he had become as rich as the Fuggers, paradise, he knew, would
still be closed to him. He was not fit for it.

He hated everybody who was rich and respectable. He would rather be with
his child in the mire of hell than to go with her to a magnificent garden
of paradise where swearing was forbidden, where there was no brandy and
no highroad, and which offered only pleasures which were none to him.

So Kuni was forced to see the child remain in the fires of purgatory,
which hurt her little less than her aching limb.

At her entrance into The Blue Pike pain and mental suffering had driven
her to the verge of despair. But the day which began so sorrowfully was
followed by an evening of delight--she owed to it her new meeting with
Lienhard.

From childhood she had been homeless, and every quarter of the globe to
which a highroad led was her native land. Yet in Spain and during the
journey back she had felt a gnawing longing for Germany, nay, nothing had
troubled her more than the thought of dying and being buried outside of
its frontier. Her mother, a native of the Rhine country, had given her
birth during the fair at Cologne on the Spree; but, whenever homesickness
assailed her, it was always the steeples of St. Sebald and St. Ulrich
which beckoned to her, and she had longed for the Frank country, the
Main, or the richly wooded banks of the Pegnitz. Was this because, in
Nuremberg, for the only time in her life, she had been a member of a
decorous household, or had the love which, wherever Cyriax's cart and
donkey carried her, always drew her heart back to the same ancient city,
made it so dear to her?

Probably the latter, for yesterday she had yearned ardently to reach
Nuremberg; but since she had seen Lienhard again, she rejoiced that she
was in Miltenberg and at The Blue Pike.

Never had he seemed to her so handsome, so manly. Besides, he had spoken
to her, listened to her reply, and even given her money with lavish
generosity. It was like him! No one else would have been capable of it.

She could live a long time on his three gold florins, if Cyriax abandoned
her; yet the unexpected wealth burned in her hand and perplexed her. Did
Lienhard no longer know that she would not accept money from him? Had she
robbed herself of the certainty that beautified existence; had she failed
to show him her superiority to other vagrant girls? Yet no! What he gave
her was more, far more, than even a prince bestowed upon an ordinary
mendicant. He must measure her by a special standard. If he had only
given her the gold with a kind word, not flung it silently into her lap.
This half destroyed her pleasure in the present, and the ample supply of
money clouded her already disturbed peace of mind still more. Had it been
possible, she would have returned the gift as she did the alms at
Augsburg. But how was this to be accomplished in the over-crowded inn?

Yet, if she kept the florins, the sacrifice at the convent would lose a
large portion of its value, and the good opinion which her act at
Augsburg must have inspired might be shadowed.

For some time before leaving the room in the tavern she had turned the
coins restlessly over and over under her kerchief, and meanwhile, as if
in a dream, made but evasive answers to the questions and demands of
Cyriax and Gitta.

Then she glided nearer to the gentlemen at the table, intending to return
Lienhard's gift; but the landlord of The Pike followed her suspiciously,
and drove her back to her companions.

Thence she had been called to the sick woman and went out of doors. She
found the mother of the twins in the meadow by the Main and eagerly
devoted herself to them.

The widow's burning head and gasping breath were no favourable symptoms.
She herself felt that her end was approaching. Her tongue was parched.
The water in the jug was warm and flat, yet she longed for a cool drink.
During the day Kuni had noticed a well in the kitchen garden, and, in
spite of her aching foot, hastened to it at once to draw the cool water.
While doing so, the red and white pinks which she had noticed at noon
again caught her eye in the starlight night. The sick woman could enjoy
their fragrance now, and to-morrow, feast her eyes upon their bright
colours.

From childhood she had always been fond of flowers. Stealing was
prohibited by her father as wicked and dangerous, and she had never
transgressed his commands. When she picked up the costly rosary in
Nuremberg, she had intended to return it to the owner. But to pluck the
flowers and fruit which the Lord caused to grow and ripen for every one
was a different thing, and had never troubled her conscience. So she
carelessly gathered a few pinks. Three should go to the sick woman, but
Lienhard Groland would have the largest and finest. She would try to slip
the flowers into his hand, with the money, as a token of her gratitude.
But even while saying to herself that these blossoms should be her last
greeting to him, she felt the red spots burning more hotly on her cheeks.
Ah, if only he would accept the pinks! Then the most cruel things might
happen, she could bear them.

While kneeling before the bed, the waiter, Dietel, noticed her. As she
saw him also, she hurried back to the suffering mother as fast as her
lame limb would carry her, and raised the jug of fresh water to her
parched lips.

This had been a delicious refreshment to the sick woman, and when Kuni
saw how much comfort her little service afforded the invalid, her heart
grew lighter. Had it been possible she, who was of no importance to any
one, would willingly have lain down on the heap of straw in the place of
the mother upon whom two young lives depended.

How delightful it was to bring aid! And she possessed the means of being
helpful.

So, with sparkling eyes, she pressed the three gold coins into the
sufferer's burning hand, and told her that the village authorities would
rear the twins for such a sum. Then the parched lips of the fevered woman
lauded the merciful kindness bestowed by the lame ropedancer--who at that
moment seemed to her as powerful as a queen--so warmly and tenderly that
Kuni felt the blood again mount into her cheeks--this time with shame at
the praise which she deserved so little, yet which rendered her so happy.
Finally, the sufferer expressed a desire for a priest, that she might not
pass from earth without a sacrament. Her sins oppressed her sorely. She,
and she alone, was to blame for Nickel's being hanged. Never in all her
life had she been a glutton; but before the birth of the twins the devil
had tormented her with a strange longing for roast fowl, which she had
been unable to repress and keep to herself. Solely for her gratification,
Nickel stole the goose and the hens. In spite of many a bad business in
which his reckless nature had involved him, he was a good fellow, with a
loving heart.

For her sake he would have tried to steal the ring from the executioner's
finger. Now he had gone into the other world unshriven, with the rope
about his neck, for though the benefit of the sacrament was usually
granted even to the worst criminals, the peasants strung Nickel up to the
nearest tree as soon as they caught him, without heeding his entreaties.
This made death even harder for her than the thought of the poor little
creatures yonder in the bundle of rags. Kuni's charity had provided for
the orphans, but her Nickel would find no mercy from the heavenly Judge
throughout eternity.

She had sobbed aloud as she spoke, and then writhed in such violent
convulsions that Kuni with difficulty prevented her from throwing herself
out of the hot straw in the cart upon the damp meadow.

When she grew somewhat calmer, she repeated Nickel's name again and again
till it was heartrending to hear her.



CHAPTER IX.

As soon as the sufferer's condition would permit, Kuni left her, went to
the window of the taproom in The Blue Pike, and surveyed its inmates.

Most of them were already asleep on heaps of straw, which were raised at
the head by chairs turned upside down. The richer guests had gone to the
bedrooms, which, however, they were obliged to share with several others.
Some of the strollers were lying on the floor with their knapsacks under
their heads. A few of the musicians were still lingering over the wine
which the travelling merchants and artisans had ordered for them. Others
had gone with some of the vagrants into the little wood beyond the
meadow, where they danced, fiddled, and sang.

Their loud shouts were borne by the cool night breeze to the sufferer in
the cart. The gentlemen from Cologne, without troubling themselves about
the boisterous merriment of the burghers or the transformation of the
room into a sleeping apartment, were still sitting at the table talking
together eagerly.

The dealer in the indulgences, too, had not yet gone to rest. A tall,
broad-shouldered sergeant belonging to the escort had just purchased--for
the larger part of the zecchins won as his share of the booty in the
Italian war--the indulgence which he thought would secure him from the
tortures of the fire of purgatory. Before opening the door, he struck his
broad breast as though relieved of a heavy burden.

The ropedancer looked after him thoughtfully. The paper had now lightened
the sergeant's heart as it had formerly done her own. Would she not have
been wiser to give her money for the redemption of Nickel's lost soul
than for the orphans, whom the charity of the people would perhaps have
succoured without her? Probably, too, it would have afforded still
greater consolation to the poor dying woman, whom nothing troubled so
sorely as her guilt for the doom of her unfortunate husband.

Yet, even thus she had succeeded in making the dying mother's departure
easier, and what she had commenced she intended to complete at once.

With a tender smile that lent strange beauty to her pallid, grief-worn
face she continued her survey.

She had previously noticed an old priest, whose countenance bore the
impress of genuine kindness of heart. She soon found him again among the
travellers sleeping on the straw; but the old man's slumber was so sound
that she felt reluctant to wake him. Among the Dominicans from Cologne,
most of whom were also asleep, there were none she would have trusted,
nay, she even thought that one was the very person who, shortly before
her fall from the rope, had pursued her with persistent importunity. But
the Abbot of St. AEgidius in Nuremberg, who had dined with the
ambassadors from his native city, was also a man of benevolent, winning
expression. His cheeks were flushed, either by the heat or the wine which
he had drunk, but there was a look of attractive kindness upon his
well-formed features. When he went through the room a short time before,
Kuni had seen him pass his hand caressingly over the fair hair of the
pretty little son of a potter's wife from Reren on the Rhine, whose cart
was standing outside in the meadow by the Main. He was scarcely of the
same mind as the gentleman from Cologne, for he had just waved his plump
hand in protest.

Perhaps she might even do him a favour by summoning him. But dared she, a
poor vagabond, disturb so distinguished a gentleman at his wine?

Yet there was danger in delay. So she resolved to ask the assistance of
the landlady of The Pike, coughed with her handkerchief pressed over her
lips, in order not to disturb the sleepers, and turned to leave the room.

But Gitta had just been to see the sick mother, and told Cyriax that
Kuni, silly, softhearted thing, had wasted her gold coins on the dying
woman.

The blasphemer flew into a great rage, muttered a few words to
pock-marked Ratz, and then staggered toward their lame travelling
companion to bar her passage across the threshold, and ask, in angry,
guttural tones, how much of the Groland gold she had flung into the dying
woman's grave.

"Is it any business of yours?" was the reply, uttered with difficulty
amid her coughing.

"Mine, mine--is it any business of mine?" gasped the tongueless man. Then
he raised his heavy fist threateningly and stammered jeeringly: "Not--not
a red heller more nor less than my cart--in the name of all the
fiends--than my cart is of yours. Four heller pounds, Ratz, and the
donkey and cart are yours."

"Done!" cried the vagrant, who already had his money ready; but the
tongueless blasphemer chuckled with malicious pleasure:

"Now you have it, fool! Whoever doesn't share with me--you know
that--doesn't ride with me."

Then he staggered back to Gitta.

The girl watched him silently for a while. At last she passed her hand
quickly across her brow, as if to dispel some unpleasant thought, and
shook her burning head, half sadly, half disapprovingly.

She had done a good deed--and this, this--But she had not performed it
for the sake of reward, she had only desired to aid the sufferer.

Straightening herself proudly, she limped toward the kitchen.

Here, frequently interrupted by fits of coughing, she told the landlady
of The Pike in touching words that the sick mother, whom she had so
kindly strengthened with nice broth, desired the sacrament, as her life
would soon be over. The Lord Abbot of St. AEgidius in Nuremberg was still
sitting over his wine.

She went no further. The landlady, who, while Kuni was talking, had wiped
her pretty flushed face with her apron, pulled the rolled up white linen
sleeves farther down over her plump arms, and gazed with mingled surprise
and approval into the girl's emaciated face, interrupted her with the
promise to do what she could for the poor woman.

"If it were any one else," she continued, significantly, "I would not
venture to try it. But the Abbot of St. AEgidius, in his charity,
scarcely asks, when help is needed, whence did you come, who are you, or
what do you possess? I know him. Wait here a little while. If he
condescends to do it, you can take him to the poor creature at once."

While speaking she smoothed, with two swift motions of her hands, the
brown hair which had become a little disordered while bustling to and fro
to attend to the business, dipped her hands into the water pail, dried
them quickly on her apron, untied it, and tossed it to the maid. Then she
cleared her throat vigorously and left the kitchen.

In reply to the anxious question of her husband, whom she met on the
threshold of the room, as to what she was seeking there, she answered
firmly, "What is right and pious"; then modestly whispered her request to
the abbot.

Her wish was fulfilled without delay, nay, it might really have been
supposed that the interruption was very opportune to the distinguished
prelate; for, with the brief exclamation, "Imperative official duty!" he
rose from the table, and went first with the landlady to Kuni and
afterward with the latter to the cart beside the laden potter's wain,
whose white tilt gleamed in the darkness.

The landlady had undertaken to send to the sexton, whose house was near,
that he might immediately obtain everything the abbot needed for the
dying woman's viaticum.

Kuni told the sufferer what an exalted servant of the Church was ready to
receive her confession and give her the sacrament.

Then she whispered that she might mention Nickel's burdened soul to the
abbot. Whatever happened, she could now depart from earth in peace.

Reserving for herself half of the flowers she had gathered in the garden
she glided away, in order not to disturb the dying woman's confession.



CHAPTER X.

At the edge of the meadow Kuni paused to reflect. She would gladly have
flung herself down on the dewy grass to rest, stretched at full length on
the cool turf. She was worn out, and her foot ached and burned painfully
after her long walk in the warm August night; but something else exerted
a still stronger attraction over her poor longing heart; the desire to
see Lienhard again and give him the pinks as a token of gratitude for so
much kindness.

He was still sitting with the other gentlemen at the table in front of
the tavern. One of the torches threw its light full on his manly face.
Kuni knew that he could not see her in the darkness surrounding her
figure, yet it seemed as though she was meeting the gaze of his sparkling
dark eyes. Now he was speaking. How she longed to know what he said.
Summoning up her courage, she glided along in the shadow of the wall and
sat down behind the oleander bush on the sharp edge of the tub. No one
noticed her, but she was afraid that a fit of coughing might betray her
presence, so she pressed her apron firmly over her lips and sat straining
her ears to listen. In spite of the violent aching of her foot and the
loud rattling in her chest, she thought it a specially favourable
dispensation of Providence that she had found her way here just at this
moment; for Lienhard was still speaking. The others had asked him to tell
them connectedly how the beautiful Katharina Harsdtirffer had become his
wife, in spite of the opposition of her stern father and though the
Honourable Council had punished him for such insubordination with
imprisonment and exile.

He had already related this in detail when Kuni came to listen. Now,
pointing to Wilibald Pirckheimer, who sat opposite, he went on with his
story, describing how, thanks to the mediation of the latter and of the
great artist, Albrecht Durer, he had obtained an audience at Innsbruck
with the Emperor Maximilian, how the sovereign had interceded personally
in behalf of himself and his betrothal, and how, in consequence of this
royal intervention, he had attained the goal of his wishes.

"Our Honourables," he concluded, "now willingly permitted me to return
home, and Hans Harsdtirffer, Katharina's father-Heaven rest his
soul--relinquished his opposition to our marriage. Perhaps he would have
done so earlier, but for the keen antagonism which, owing to their
totally different natures, had arisen between the stern man and my
lighthearted father, and displayed itself in the Council as well as in
all the affairs of life. Not until his old opponent, to whom I owed my
existence, was on his death-bed, did Herr Hans clasp hands with him in
reconciliation, and consent to our betrothal."

"And I know," Wilibald Pirckheimer interrupted, "that among the many
obstacles which his foes placed in his path, and which clouded his active
life, you two, and your loyal love, gave him more light and greater
consolation than anything else. I have often heard him gladly acknowledge
this, and as for you, friend Lienhard."

"I know," replied the young Honourable modestly, checking him, "that he
was right in deeming the immature youth, which I was at the time of my
first wooing, unworthy of his daughter."

"Though you had been the peer in strength and beauty of the valiant
Achilles, and in wisdom of the subtle Ulysses, son of Laertes, I would
not contradict you," interrupted Pirckheimer; "for, gentlemen, this
gallant husband's wife is a jewel of a peculiar kind. Nuremberg is proud
of calling Frau Katharina her daughter. Far as the German language is
spoken, her equal would be sought in vain."

"You are an enviable man," said little Dr. Eberbach, turning to Lienhard.
"But probably you will permit me one question. Even when a boy,--as we
heard, you loved the child Katharina. As a youth, you took this love
across the Alps to Padua and Bologna. But when, like the noble Virgil, I
perceive that 'Nowhere is there aught to trust-nowhere,'--[Virg. AEn. iv,
373.]--and find that the esteemed Catullus's words, 'No man passes
through life without error,'--[Catull. Dist. I, 5.]--are verified, I
would fain learn whether in Italy also you held fast, in small things as
well as great ones, to the--among us men--rare bird of the fidelity sworn
to the woman whom we love. I, who compared to you, am like a faun with
pointed ears beside the handsome Ares, nevertheless know by experience
how easily the glowing eyes of that country kindle conflagrations. Was
the armour of a former love really strong enough to guard your heart from
every flame, even before any vow bound you to the child whom you chose so
early for the companion of your life"?

"It was the same before the priest's consecration as afterward," replied
the young Councillor, gravely and firmly.

Then, changing his manner, he held out his brimming glass toward the
Thuringian and gaily continued:

"It ought not to seem so amazing to a man of your learning, my
incredulous Herr Doctor. Surely your far-famed Propertius says, 'Love is
benefited by many things, a faithful nature and resolute persistence.'
Believe me, doctor, even without the counsel of your experienced Roman, I
should have kept faith with the lovely child at home. From my boyhood,
Katharina was to me the woman, the one above all others, the worthy
Tryphon, my teacher of Greek in Bologna, would have said. My heart's
darling has always been my light, as Helios was that of the Greeks,
though there were the moon and so many planets and stars besides."

"And the vagrant we saw just now, on whom you bestowed a golden shower of
remembrance as Father Zeus endowed the fair Danae?" asked Doctor
Peutinger of Augsburg, shaking his finger mischievously at his young
friend. "We humanists follow the saying of Tibullus: 'Whoever confesses
let him be forgiven,' and know the world sufficiently to be aware that
within the walls of Ilium and without enormities are committed."
--[Horace, Epist. 1, 2, 16.]

"A true statement," replied Lienhard. "It probably applies to me as much
as to the young girl, but there was really nothing between us which bore
the most distant resemblance to a love intrigue. As a magistrate, I
acquitted her of a trivial misdemeanour which she committed while my
wedding procession was on its way to the altar. I did this because I was
unwilling to have that happy hour become a source of pain to any one. In
return, she grew deeply attached to me, who can tell whether from mere
gratitude, or because a warmer feeling stirred her strange heart? At that
time she was certainly a pretty, dainty creature, and yet, as truly as I
hope to enjoy the love of my darling wife for many a year, there was
nothing, absolutely nothing, between me and the blue-eyed, dark-haired
wanderer which the confessor might not have witnessed. I myself wonder at
this, because I by no means failed to see the ropedancer's peculiar
changeful charms, and the tempter pointed them out to me zealously
enough. Besides, she has no ordinary nature. She had accomplished really
marvellous feats in her art, until at Augsburg, during the Reichstag,
when in the Emperor's presence, she risked the most daring ventures--"

"Could it be the same person who, before our poor Juliane's eyes, had the
awful fall which frightened the child so terribly?" asked Doctor
Peutinger earnestly.

"The very same," replied Lienhard in a tone of sincere pity; but the
Augsburg doctor continued, sighing:

"With that sudden fright, which thrilled her sensitive nature to its
inmost depths, began the illness of the angel whose rich, loving heart
throbbed so tenderly for you also, Herr Lienhard."

"As mine did for the peerless child," replied the young Councillor with
eager warmth. "While Juliane, who sickened at the sight of the girl
dancing on the edge of the grave, was pointing out to me some pages in
the manuscript of Lucian, which I was to take from you to Herr Wilibald
yonder, the unfortunate performer met with the terrible accident. We
thought that she was killed, but, as if by a miracle, she lived.
Ropedancing, of course, was over forever, as she had lost a foot. This,
we supposed, would tend to her welfare and induce her to lead a regular,
decorous life; but we were mistaken. In spite of her lameness, Kuni's
restless nature drove her back to the highroad. Yet she would have been
at liberty to remain in the convent as a lay sister without taking the
vows."

"My wife, too, had opened our house to her for Juliane's sake," added
Doctor Peutinger. "The sick child could not get the fall which had
frightened her so terribly out of her head. Her compassionate heart was
constantly occupied with the poor girl, and when she urged her mother to
provide for her, she willingly gratified her wish and often inquired
about the sufferer's health. How Juliane rejoiced when she heard that the
bold and skilful dancer's life would be saved! But when, through the
abbess, my wife offered her a situation in our home, the vagabond
disdained what the mother and daughter had planned for her, Heaven knows
how kindly."

"She treated the gift which we--my wife and I--left in the convent for
her in the same way," added Lienhard. "Why did she refuse the aid I
offered no less willingly? Probably because she was too proud to accept
alms from a man from whom her ardent heart vainly desired something
better."

Here Lienhard Groland hesitated, and it sounded like a confession as he
eagerly continued:

"And, gentleman, she often seemed to me well worthy of a man's desire.
Why should I deny it? Within and without the walls of Troy--we have just
heard it--sin is committed, and had not the image of another woman stood
between us, as the Alps rise between Germany and Italy-perhaps--But of
what avail are conjectures? Will you believe that there were hours when I
felt as though I ought to make some atonement to the poor girl?"

"In your place I should have done it long ago, for the benefit of both,"
protested little Doctor Eberbach merrily. "The commands of conscience
should be obeyed, even when, by way of exception, it requires something
pleasant. But how grave you look, sir. No offence! You are one of the
rare specimens of featherless birds endowed with reason, who unite to the
austerity of Cato the amiability of Titus."

"All due honour to Cato," added Wilibald Pirckheimer with a slight bend
of his stately head; "but in my young days we had a better understanding
of the art of reconciling stern duty with indulgent compassion, when
dealing with a beautiful Calypso whom our sternness threatened to wound.
But everything in the good old days was not better than at the present
time, and that you, whom I honour as the most faithful of husbands, may
not misunderstand me, Lienhard: To bend and to succumb are two different
things."

"Succumb!" Sir Hans von Obernitz, the Nuremberg magistrate, here
interposed indignantly. "A Groland, who, moreover, is blessed with a
loyal, lovely wife, succumb to the sparkling eyes of a vagabond wanton!
The Pegnitz would flow up the castle cliff first. I should think we might
have less vulgar subjects to discuss."

"The daring, skilful ropedancer certainly does not belong to the latter,"
Doctor Peutinger eagerly retorted. "Besides, who would not desire to know
how the free, hot-blooded daughter of the highway settled the account
with you, friend Lienhard? Love disdained is said to be the mother of
hatred, and from the days of Potiphar's wife has often caused cruel
vengeance. Had this girl whom Sir Hans holds in such light esteem really
possessed an evil nature, like others of her class--"

"That she does not," Lienhard Groland here warmly interrupted the
Augsburg guest.

"Whatever Kuni may lack, and whatever errors she may have committed, she
is, and will remain a rare creature, even among the few whose lofty
spirit can not be bowed or broken by the deepest calamity. When I met her
here again at The Blue Pike, among the most corrupt vagabonds, ill and
poor, perhaps already the victim of death, I thought it a fitting time to
renew the gift which she had refused. I would gladly do more for the poor
girl, and my wife at home certainly would not be vexed; she, too, is fond
of Kuni, and--I repeat it--this girl has a good, nay, the best nature.
If, instead of among vagabonds, she had been born in a respectable
household--"

Here the young envoy was suddenly interrupted. His table companions also
raised their heads in surprise--a strange noise echoed through the night
air.

Little Doctor Eberbach started up in affright, Hans von Obernitz, the
Nuremberg magistrate, grasped the hilt of his sword, but Doctor Schedel
instantly perceived that the sound which reached his aged ears was
nothing but a violent, long-repressed fit of coughing. He and the other
gentlemen were gazing at the oleander tree whence, before any one
approached it, a groan of pain was heard.

The experienced physician shook his white locks gravely and said:

"Whoever uttered that is near the end of his sufferings."

He made a movement to rise as he spoke; he felt that his help was needed.

But another incident diverted the attention of his companions and
himself.



CHAPTER XI.

Dietel, the waiter, had at last been released from his confinement in the
cellar, and instantly began the search for the thief in the garden with
twofold zeal.

Without considering how long a time had passed since he first tried to
bring the culprit into the clutches of the law, he had resumed the
pursuit where it was interrupted. As a thoughtless child whose bird has
flown from the cage looks into the water jug to find it, he had turned
the light of his lantern upon places where a kitten could not have hidden
itself, and had even been to the meadow on the bank of the Main to seek
Kuni with the widow of the thief Nickel; but here the sacrament was just
being given to the sufferer, and to interrupt such a ceremony would have
been a great crime. His eyes were keen, and the red pinks had gleamed
from the straw on which the dying woman lay in the light of the lantern,
whose long pole the sexton had thrust into the soft earth of the meadow.
Those flowers must have come from the garden of the landlady of The Pike,
and she valued her pinks more than anything else. The ropedancer had
gathered them for the sick woman, and certainly had not stopped at that
one act of theft. How far these vagabonds' impudence went! But he, whose
duty it was to look after the property of The Blue Pike, would spoil
their pleasure in thieving.

The dog Phylax had soon put him on the trail, and before any of the
gentlemen could reach the groaning person Dietel's triumphant shout rang
from behind the oleander:

"Now we've caught the pilferer, and we'll make an example of her!"

His first glance had fallen on the little bunch of pinks in the girl's
hand, and the vein on his forehead swelled with wrath at this damage to
his mistress's favourite flowers.

But when he shook the culprit by the shoulder and, to his surprise, met
with no resistance, he threw the light of the lantern upon her face, and
what he saw there suddenly troubled him, for the girl's lips, chin, and
dress were covered with bright blood, and her head drooped on one side as
if it had lost its support.

This frightened him, and instead of continuing to boast of his success,
he called for help.

The Nuremberg gentlemen soon surrounded Kuni, and Doctor Hartmann Schedel
told the waiter to carry her, with the aid of his assistants, summoned by
his shout, into the house and provide her with a comfortable bed.

Dietel obeyed the command without delay--nay, when he heard the famous
leech whisper to the other gentlemen that the sufferer's life was but a
failing lamp, his feelings were completely transformed. All the charity
in his nature began to stir and grew more zealous as he gazed at Kuni's
face, distorted by pain. The idea of giving up to her his own neat little
room behind the kitchen seemed like a revelation from St. Eoban, his
patron. She should rest in his bed. The wanderer who, a few years ago,
had scattered her gold so readily and joyously for the pleasure of others
certainly would not poison it. Her misery seemed to him a touching proof
of the transitory nature of all earthly things. Poor sufferer! Yet she
ought to find recovery on his couch, if anywhere; for he had surrounded
it with images of the saints, pious maxims, and little relics, bought
chiefly from the venders who frequented the tavern. Among them was a
leather strap from St. Elizabeth's shoe, whose healing power he had
himself tested during an attack of bilious fever.

The burden which he shared with his assistants was a light one, but he
was not to reach his destination without delay--the little bunch of pinks
fell from the hand of the unconscious girl, and Dietel silently picked up
the stolen property which had just roused his wrath to such a degree, and
placed it carefully on the senseless sufferer's bosom.

The second hinderance was more serious. Cyriax had heard that Kuni was
dying, and fearing that he might be obliged to pay the funeral expenses
he stuttered to the bystanders, with passionate gestures, that an hour
ago he had discharged the cripple whom he had dragged about with him, out
of sheer sympathy, long enough. She was nothing more to him now than the
cock in the courtyard, which was crowing to greet the approach of dawn.

But the landlord of The Pike and others soon forced Cyriax out of the
way. Kuni was laid on Dietel's bed, and the gray-haired leech examined
her with the utmost care.

The landlady of The Pike helped to undress her, and when the good woman,
holding her apron to her eyes from which tears were streaming, opened the
door again and the Abbot of St. AEgidius approached the couch, to render
aid to the dying for the second time that night, he saw by Hartmann
Schedel's face that he had not come too soon.

The ropedancer had recovered consciousness, and the kind prelate's
presence was a solace to her. The confession lasted a long time, and the
story which she had to confide to the priest must have been as strange as
it was interesting, for the abbot listened eagerly and with evident
emotion. When he had performed the duties of his office he remained alone
for a time; he could not immediately regain a mood in which he cared to
rejoin the others. He did not ask for the gentlemen from Cologne; those
from Nuremberg, whom he sought, had returned to the table in front of the
tavern long before.

The waves of the Main were now reflecting the golden light of the morning
sun. Dewdrops glittered on the grass and flowers in the meadow with the
cart, and in the landlady's little garden. Carriers' men were harnessing
the freshly groomed bays to the pole. The brass rings on the high collars
of the stallions jingled loudly and merrily, and long whiplashes cracked
over the four and six-horse teams which were beginning the day's journey
along the highroad.

But even the rattling of the carts and the trampling of the horses' hoofs
could not rouse the Cologne professors, who, with their clerical
companions, had gone to rest, and slept in darkened rooms until late into
the morning. Most of the humbler guests had already left their straw
beds.

Cyriax was one of the first who followed the road. He had sold his cart
and donkey, and wanted to burden his red-haired wife with his
possessions, but as she resolutely refused he had taken the bundle on his
own lazy shoulders. Now he dragged himself and his new load onward,
swearing vehemently, for Ratz had remained with the cart in Miltenberg,
where the sham lunatic no longer found it safe to stay. This time it was
he who was obliged to pull his wife along by the chain, for she had long
refused, as if fairly frantic, to desert the dying girl who had nursed
her child so faithfully. Again and again the doubly desolate woman looked
back toward the companion whom she had abandoned in her suffering until
they reached Frankfort. There Gitta left Cyriax and accompanied Ratz. The
cart in which her child had lived and died, not its repulsive owner,
induced her to sever the bond which, for nine years, had bound her to the
blasphemer.

The travelling scholars set off singing merrily; but the strolling
musicians waited for the ship to sail down the Main, on whose voyage they
could earn money and have plenty to drink.

The vagrants tramped along the highway, one after another, without
troubling themselves about the dying ropedancer.

"Everybody finds it hard enough to bear his own cross," said Jungel,
seizing his long crutches. Only "Dancing Gundel" lingered in Miltenberg
through sympathy in the fate of the companion who had reached the height
of fame, while she, the former "Phyllis," had gone swiftly downhill. It
was a Christian duty, she said to the blind boy who begged their bread,
not to let Kuni, who had once held so lofty a position, take the last
journey without a suitable escort. When she heard that her former
companion had received the sacrament, she exclaimed to her blind son,
while slicing garlic into the barley porridge: "She will now be at rest.
We shall earn a pretty penny at the mass in Frankfort if you can only
manage to look as sorrowful when you hold out your hand as you do now!"

The monks, the dealer in indulgences, the burghers and artisans who were
just preparing to embark for the voyage down the Main, gazed in
bewilderment at the distinguished gentlemen who, incredible as it seemed,
had actually--for Dietel said so--foregone their morning nap for the sake
of a vagabond girl. The feather-curler shook his head as if something
marvellous had happened when he heard the ambassador of the Honourable
Council of his own native city, the distinguished Herr Lienhard Groland,
say to old Doctor Schedel:

"I will wait here with you, my venerable friend. Since the poor girl can
live only a few hours longer, I can join the others, if I hurry, before
they leave Frankfort."

"That's right, Lienhard," cried Wilibald Pirckheimer, and the Abbot of
St. AEgidius added approvingly:

"You will thereby do something which is pleasing in the sight of Heaven.
Yes, gentlemen, I repeat it: there are few deathbeds beside which I have
found so little reason to be ashamed of the fate of being a mortal as by
the humble couch of this vagabond girl. If, before the judgment seat
above, intention and faith are weighed with the same scales as works, few
who close their eyes behind silken curtains will be so sure of a
favourable sentence as this poorest of the poor."

"Did the girl really keep no portion of Herr Lienhard's rich gift for
herself?" asked the Nuremberg imperial magistrate.

"Nothing," replied the abbot. "She gave the whole, down to her last
copper, to the stranger, though she herself must remain here, poor, lame,
and deserted--and she had only met the sick woman by accident upon the
highway. My duty forbids me to repeat the details, and how she bore
herself even while at Augsburg, but, thanks to the confession which I
have just received, I shall count this morning among those never to be
forgotten. O gentlemen, death is a serious matter, and intercourse with
the dying is the best school for the priest. Then the inmost depths of
the soul are opened to him."

"And," observed Wilibald Pirckheimer, "I think the psychologist would
then learn that, the deeper we penetrate the human breast, the darker is
the spectacle."

"Yes, my learned friend," the abbot answered, "but we also perceive that
the deepest and darkest shafts contain the purest specimens of gold and
silver ore."

"And were you really permitted to find such in this neglected vagabond,
reverend sir?" asked Doctor Eberbach, with an incredulous smile.

"As certainly," answered the prelate with repellent dignity, "as that the
Saviour was right when he called those who were pure in heart blessed
above those who were wise and overflowing with knowledge!"

Then, without waiting for the Thuringian's answer, he hastily turned to
the young ambassador and begged him to grant the dying girl, who clung to
him with tender devotion, a brief farewell.

"Willingly," replied Lienhard, requesting the physician to accompany him.

The latter had just beckoned Doctor Peutinger to his side, to examine
with him the indulgence which he had found under the kerchief crossed
over the sick girl's bosom. It did not secure redemption from the flames
of purgatory for the ropedancer's soul, as the gentlemen expected, but
for another, and that other--the learned humanist and Imperial Councillor
would not believe his own eyes--was his beloved, prematurely lost child.
There, in large letters, was "Juliane Peutinger of Augsburg."

Astonished, almost bewildered, the usually quiet statesman expressed his
amazement.

The other gentlemen were preparing to examine the paper with him, when
the abbot, without betraying the secret of Kuni's heart, which she had
confided to him in her confession, told Juliane's father that the
ropedancer had scarcely left the convent ere she gave up both the
Emperor's gift and the viaticum--in short, her whole property, which
would have been large enough to support her a long time--in order to do
what she could for the salvation of the child for whom her soul was more
concerned than for her own welfare.

The astonished father's eyes filled with tears of grateful emotion, and
when Lienhard went with the gray-haired leech to the dying girl Doctor
Peutinger begged permission to accompany them. The physician, however,
requested him to remain away from the sufferer, who would be disturbed by
the sight of a strange face. Then Peutinger charged his young friend to
give Kuni his kind greetings and thank her for the love with which she
had remembered his dear child.

The young Councillor silently followed the physician to the sick bed, at
whose head leaned a Gray Sister, who was one of the guests of The Blue
Pike and had volunteered to nurse the patient.

The nun shook her head sorrowfully as the two men crossed the threshold.
She knew how the dying look, and that the hand of death already touched
this sufferer. Yet her kind, colourless face, framed by the white sides
of her cap, quickly regained its usual quiet, placid expression.

The regular features, now slightly flushed with the fever, of the patient
in her charge, on the contrary, were constantly varying in expression.
She had noticed the entrance of the visitors, and when she opened her
sparkling blue eyes and saw the person to whom her poor heart clung with
insatiable yearning they were filled with a sunny radiance, and a smile
hovered round her lips.

She had known that he would come, that he would not let her die without
granting her one more glance.

Now she would fain have nodded to him and expressed in very, very
appropriate words the delight, the embarrassment, the gratitude which
filled her soul, but her panting chest could give no breath for
utterance. Nay, extreme exhaustion even prevented the movement of her
lips. But her heart and brain were by no means inactive. A wealth of
internal and external experiences, long since forgotten, rose before her
mind. First she fancied that she saw Lienhard, as at their first meeting,
approaching the garlanded door of St. Sebald's with his beautiful bride,
arrayed in her wedding robes. Then she was transported to the court room
and felt his hand stroke her hair. The hours at Frau Schurstab's when she
had awaited his visits with an anxious heart came back to her memory.
Then she again saw herself upon the rope. Lienhard was toying with the
little elf below. But what she beheld this time was far from awakening
new wicked wishes, for Juliane once more wore her laurel crown and
beckoned kindly to her like a dear, familiar friend. Finally, pale little
Juli appeared, as if shrouded in mists. Last of all, she saw herself
filling the jug for the sick woman and gathering the red pinks for her
and Lienhard in the landlady's little garden by the shimmering starlight.
The flowers, whose fragrance was too strong, yet which she had not the
strength to remove, lay on the coverlet before her. They were intended
for Lienhard, and as she stretched her slender fingers toward them and
tried to clasp them she succeeded. She even found strength to hold out
her right hand to him with a beseeching glance. And lo! ere her arm fell
again the proud man had seized the flowers. Then she saw him fasten the
pinks on the breast of his dark doublet, and heard the thrill of deep
emotion in his voice, as he said:

"I thank you, dear Kuni, for the beautiful flowers. I will keep them.
Your life was a hard one, but you have borne the burden bravely. I saw
this clearly, and not I alone. I am also to thank you and give you very
friendly remembrances in the name of Doctor Peutinger, of Augsburg,
little Juliane's father. He will think of you as a mistress of your art,
a noble, high-minded girl, and I--I shall certainly do so."

He clasped her burning hand as he spoke; but at these words she felt as
she had probably done a few hours before, when, hidden behind the
oleander, she listened to the conversation in which he mentioned her
kindly. Again a warm wave of joy seemed to surge upward in her breast,
and she fancied that her heart was much too small for such a wealth of
rapture, and it was already overflowing in hot waves, washing all grief
far, far away.

Her gift had been accepted.

The red pinks looked at her from his doublet, and she imagined that
everything around was steeped in rosy light, and that a musical tinkling
and singing echoed in her ears.

Never had she experienced such a feeling of happiness.

Now she even succeeded in moving her lips, and the man, who still held
her little burning hand clasped in his first heard his own name very
faintly uttered; then her parched lips almost inaudibly repeated the
exclamation: "Too late!" and again, "Too late!"

The next instant she pressed her left hand upon her panting breast. The
rosy hue around her blended with the red tint of the pinks, and another
haemorrhage bore the restless wanderer to that goal where every mortal
journey ends.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Repeated the exclamation: "Too late!" and again, "Too late!



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS FOR THE ENTIRE "IN THE BLUE PIKE":

     Arrogant wave of the hand, and in an instructive tone
     Buy indugence for sins to be committed in the future
     Honest anger affords a certain degree of enjoyment
     Mirrors were not allowed in the convent
     Ovid, 'We praise the ancients'
     Pays better to provide for people's bodies than for their brains
     Repeated the exclamation: "Too late!" and again, "Too late!
     Who watches for his neighbour's faults has a hundred sharp eyes
     Who gives great gifts, expects great gifts again



A QUESTION

By Georg Ebers

Translated from the German by Mary J. Safford
PRELUDE.

     In the Art-Palace on green Isar's strand,
     Before one picture long I kept my seat,
     It held me spellbound by some magic band,
     Nor when my home I sought, could I forget.

     A year elapsed, came winter's frost and snow,
     'Twas rarely now we saw the bright sun shine,
     I plucked up courage and cried: "Be it so!"
     Then southward wandered with those I call mine.

     Like birds of passage built we there a nest
     On a palm-shaded shore, all steeped in light,
     Life was a holiday, enjoyed with zest
     And grateful hearts, the while it winged its flight.

     Oft on the sea's wide purplish-blue expanse,
     With ever new delight I fixed my eyes,
     Alma Tadema's picture, at each glance
     Recalled to mind, a thousand times would rise.

     Once a day dawned, glad as a bride's fair face,
     Perfume, and light, and joy it did enfold,
     Then-without search, flitted from out of space
     Words for the tale that my friend's picture told.
A QUESTION



CHAPTER I.

THE HOUSE-KEEPER AND THE STEWARD.

"Salt sea-water or oil, it's all the same to you! Haven't I put my lamp
out long ago? Doesn't the fire on the hearth give light enough? Are your
eyes so drowsy that they don't see the dawn shining in upon us more and
more brightly? The olives are not yet pressed, and the old oil is getting
toward the dregs. Besides, you know how much fruit those abominable
thieves have stolen. But sparrows will carry grain into the barn before
you'll try to save your master's property!"

So Semestre, the ancient house-keeper of Lysander of Syracuse, scolded
the two maids, Chloris and Dorippe, who, unheeding the smoking wicks of
their lamps, were wearily turning the hand-mills.

Dorippe, the younger of the two, grasped her disordered black tresses,
over which thousands of rebellious little hairs seemed to weave a veil of
mist, drew from the mass of curls falling on her neck a bronze arrow,
with which she extinguished the feeble light of both lamps, and, turning
to the house-keeper, said:

"There, then! We can't yet tell a black thread from a white one, and I
must put out the lamps, as if this rich house were a beggar's hut. Two
hundred jars of shining oil were standing in the storehouses a week ago.
Why did the master let them be put on the ship and taken to Messina by
his brother and Mopsus?"

"And why isn't the fruit gathered yet?" asked Chloris. "The olives are
overripe, and the thieves have an easy task, now the watchmen have gone
to Messina as rowers. We must save by drops, while we own more gnarled
olive-trees than there are days in the year. How many jars of oil might
be had from the fruit that has dropped on the ground alone! The harvest
at neighbor Protarch's was over long ago, and if I were like Lysander--"

"There would probably be an end of saving," cried the house-keeper,
interrupting the girl. "Well, I confess it wasn't easy for me to part
with the golden gift of the gods, but what could I do? Our master's
brother, Alciphron, wanted it, and there was a great barter. Alciphron is
clever, and has a lucky hand, in which the liquid gold we press from the
olives with so much toil, and keep so carefully, becomes coined metal.
He's like my own child, for I was his nurse. Here in the country we
increase our riches by care, patience and frugality, while the city
merchant must have farseeing eyes, and know how to act speedily. Even
when a boy, my Alciphron was the wisest of Dionysius's three sons, and,
if there was anything sweet to be divided, always knew how to get the
largest share. When his mother was alive, she once told the lad to give
her the best of some freshly-baked cakes, that she might take it to the
temple for an offering, and what was his answer? 'It will be well for me
to taste them all, that I may be certain not to make a mistake;' and when
Clytemnestra--"

"Is Alciphron younger than our poor master?" interrupted Dorippe.

"They were sesame cakes with honey," replied the house-keeper, whose
hearing was impaired by age, and who therefore frequently misunderstood
words uttered in a low tone. "Is the linen ready for the wash?"

"I didn't ask about the cakes," replied Dorippe, exchanging a mischievous
glance with Chloris; "I only wanted to know--"

"You girls are deaf; I've noticed it a long time," interrupted the
house-keeper. "You've grown hard of hearing, and I know why. Hundreds of
times I've forbidden you to throw yourselves on the dewy grass in the
evening, when you were heated by dancing. How often I get absurd answers,
when I ask you anything!"

The girls both laughed merrily.

The higher voice of one mingled harmoniously with the deeper tones of her
companion, and two pairs of dark eyes again met, full of joyous mirth,
for they well knew who was deaf, and who had quicker hearing than even
the nightingale, which, perched on the green fig-tree outside, was
exultingly hailing the sunrise, now with a clear, flute-like warble, now
with notes of melancholy longing.

The house-keeper looked with mingled astonishment and anger at the two
laughing girls, then clapped her hands loudly, exclaiming:

"To work, wenches! You, Chloris, prepare the morning meal; and you,
Dorippe, see if the master wants anything, and bring fresh wood for the
fire. Stop your silly giggling, for laughing before sunrise causes tears
at evening. I suppose the jests of the vineyard watchmen are still
lingering in your heads. Now go, and don't touch food till you've
arranged your hair."

The girls, nudging each other, left the women's apartment, into which the
dawn was now shining more brightly through the open roof.

It was a stately room, surrounded by marble columns, which bore witness
to the owner's wealth, for the floor was beautifully adorned with
bright-hued pictures, mosaic work executed in colored stones by an artist
from Syracuse. They represented the young god Dionysius, the Hyades
surrounding him, and in colored groups all the gifts of the divinities
who watch over fields and gardens, as well as those of the Nysian god.
Each individual design, as well as the whole picture, was inclosed in a
framework of delicate lines. The hearth, over which Semestre now bent, to
fan the glimmering embers with a goose-wing, was made of yellow marble.

Dorippe now returned, curtly said that the master wanted to be helped
into the open air, when the sun was higher, and brought, as she had been
ordered, a fresh supply of gnarled olive-branches, and pinecones, which,
kindling rapidly, coaxed the wood to unite its blaze with theirs.

Glittering sparks flew upward from the crackling branches toward the open
roof, and with them a column of warm smoke rose straight into the pure,
cool morning air; but as the door of the women's apartment now opened,
the draught swept the gray, floating pillar sideways, directly toward
Semestre, who was fanning the flames with her goose-wing.

Coughing violently, she wiped her eyes with the edge of her blue peplum,
and glanced angrily at the unbidden guest who ventured to enter the
women's apartment at this hour.

As soon as she recognized the visitor she nodded pleasantly, though with
a certain touch of condescension, and rose from her stool, but instantly
dropped back on it again, instead of going forward to meet the new-comer.
Then she planted herself still more firmly on her seat, and, instead of
uttering a friendly greeting, coughed and muttered a few unintelligible
words.

"Give me a little corner by your fire, it's a cold morning," cried the
old man in a deep voice. "Helios freezes his people before he comes, that
they may be doubly grateful for the warmth he bestows."

"You are right," replied Semestre, who had only understood a few of the
old man's words; "people ought to be grateful for a warm fire; but why,
at your age, do you go out so early, dressed only in your chiton, without
cloak or sandals, at a season when the buds have scarcely opened on the
trees. You people yonder are different from others in many respects, but
you ought not to go without a hat, Jason; your hair is as white as mine."

"And wholly gone from the crown," replied the old man, laughing. "It's
more faithful to you women; I suppose out of gratitude for the better
care you bestow. I need neither hat, cloak, nor sandals! An old
countryman doesn't fear the morning chill. When a boy, I was as white as
your master's little daughter, the fair-faced Xanthe, but now head, neck,
arms, legs, every part of me not covered by the woolen chiton, is brown
as a wine-skin before it's hung up in the smoke, and the dark hue is like
a protecting garment, nay better, for it helps me bear not only cold, but
heat. There's nothing white about me now, except the beard on my chin,
the scanty hair on my head, and, thank the gods, these two rows of sound
teeth."

Jason, as he spoke, passed his hard, brown finger over the upper and then
the under row of his teeth; but the housekeeper, puckering her mouth in
the attempt to hide many a blemish behind her own lips, answered:

"Your teeth are as faithful to you as our hair is to us, for men know how
to use them more stoutly than women. Now show what you can do. We have a
nice curd porridge, seasoned with thyme, and some dried lamb for
breakfast. If the girl hurries, you needn't wait long. Every guest, even
the least friendly, is welcome to our house."

"I didn't come here to eat," replied the old man; "I've had my breakfast.
There's something on my mind I would like to discuss with the clever
house-keeper, nay, I ought to say the mistress of this house, and
faithful guardian of its only daughter."

Semestre turned her wrinkled face towards the old man, opened her eyes to
their widest extent, and then called eagerly to Dorippe, who was busied
about the hearth, "We want to be alone!"

The girl walked slowly toward the door, and tried to conceal herself
behind the projecting pillars to listen, but Semestre saw her, rose from
her seat, and drove her out of doors with her myrtle-staff, exclaiming:

"Let no one come in till I call. Even Xanthe must not interrupt us."

"You won't stay alone, for Aphrodite and all the Loves will soon join
such a pair," cried the girl, as she sprang across the threshold, banging
the door loudly behind her.

"What did she say?" asked Semestre, looking suspiciously after the
maiden. "The vexations one has to endure from those girls, Jason, can't
be described, especially since they've grown deaf."

"Deaf?" asked the old man in astonishment.

"Yes, they scarcely understand a word correctly, and even Xanthe, who has
just reached her seventeenth year, is beginning to be hard of hearing."

A smile flitted over Jason's face, and, raising his voice to a louder
tone, he said, flatteringly:

"Every one can't have senses as keen as yours, Semestre; have you time to
listen to me?"

The house-keeper nodded assent, leaned against the column nearest the
hearth, rested both hands on her staff, and bent forward to intimate that
she would listen attentively, and did not wish to lose a single word.

Jason stood directly opposite, and, while thus measuring each other with
their eyes, Semestre looked like a cautious cat awaiting the attack of
the less nimble but stronger shepherd's dog.

"You know," Jason began, "that when, long ago, we two, you as nurse and I
as steward, came to this place, our present masters' fine estates
belonged undivided to their father. The gods gave the old man three sons.
The oldest, Alciphron, whom you nursed and watched through his boyhood,
went to a foreign land, became a great merchant in Messina, and, after
his father's death, received a large inheritance in gold, silver and the
city house at the port. The country estates were divided between Protarch
and Lysander. My master, as the elder of the two, obtained the old house;
yours built this new and elegant mansion. One son, the handsome Phaon,
has grown up under our roof, while yours shelters the lovely Xanthe. My
master has gone to Messina, not only to sell our oil and yours, but to
speak to the guardian of a wealthy heiress, of whom his brother had
written. He wants her for Phaon's wife; but I think Phaon was created for
Xanthe and Xanthe for him. There's nothing lacking, except to have
Hymen--"

"To have Hymen unite them," interrupted Semestre. "There's no hurry about
heiresses; they don't let themselves be plucked like blackberries. If she
has scorned her country suitor, it may well seem desirable to Protarch
and all of you that Xanthe should prove more yielding, for then our
property would be joined with yours."

"It would be just the same as during Dionysius's lifetime."

"And you alone would reap the profit."

"No, Semestre, it would be an advantage to both us and you; for, since
your master had that unlucky fall from the high wall of the vineyard, the
ruler's eye is lacking here, and many things don't go as they ought."

"People see what they want to see," cried Semestre. "Our estates are no
worse managed than yours."

"I only meant to say--"

"That your Phaon seems to you well fitted to supply my master's place. I
think differently, and, if Lysander continues to improve, he'll learn to
use his limbs again."

"An invalid needs rest, and, since the deaths of your mistress and mine,
quarrelling never ceases--"

"We never disturb the peace."

"And quarrelling is even more unpleasant to us than to you; but how often
the shepherds and vine-dressers fight over the spring, which belongs to
us both, and whose beautiful wall and marble bench are already damaged,
and will soon be completely destroyed, because your master says mine
ought to bear the expense of the work--"

"And I daily strengthen him in this belief. We repaired the inclosing
wall of the spring, and it's only fair to ask Protarch to mend the
masonry of the platform. We won't yield, and if you--"

"If we refuse to do Lysander's will, it will lead to the quarrelling I
would fain prevent by Phaon's marriage with your Xanthe. Your master is
in the habit of following your advice, as if you were his own mother. You
nurse the poor invalid like one, and if you would only--"

"Lysander has other plans, and Phaon's father is seeking an heiress for
his son in Messina."

"But surely not for the youth's happiness, nor do I come to speak to you
in Protarch's name."

"So you invented the little plan yourself--I am afraid without success,
for I've already told you that my master has other views."

"Then try to win him to our side--no, not only to us, but to do what is
best for the prosperity of this house."

"Not for this house; only for yourselves. Your plan doesn't please me."

"Why not?"

"I don't wish what you desire."

"'I don't wish;' that's a woman's most convincing reason.

"It is, for at least I desire nothing I haven't carefully considered. And
you know Alciphron, in Syracuse, our master's oldest brother, did not ask
for the heiress, who probably seemed to him too insignificant for his own
family, but wanted our girl for his son Leonax. We joyfully gave our
consent, and, within a few days, perhaps to-morrow, the suitor will come
from Messina with your master to see his bride."

"Still, I stick to it: your Xanthe belongs to our Phaon, and, if you
would act according to Dionysius's wishes, like fair-minded people--"

"Isn't Alciphron--the best and wisest of men--also Dionysius's child? I
would give his first-born, rather than any one else, this fruitful soil,
and, when the rich father's favorite, when Leonax once rules here by
Xanthe's side, there'll be no lack of means to rebuild the platform and
renew a few marble benches."

Angered by these words, the old man indignantly exclaimed:

"You add mockery to wrong. We know the truth. To please Alciphron, your
foster-child, you would make us all beggars. If Lysander gives his
daughter to Leonax it will be your work, yours alone, and we will--"

Semestre did not allow herself to be intimidated, but, angrily raising
her myrtle-staff, interrupted Jason by exclaiming in a loud, tremulous
voice:

"You are right. This old heart clings to Alciphron, and throbs more
quickly at the mere mention of its darling's name; but verily you have
done little to win our affection. Last autumn the harvest of new wine was
more abundant than we expected. We lacked skins, and when we asked you to
help us with yours--"

"We said no, because we ourselves did not know what to do with the
harvest."

"And who shamefully killed my gray cat?"

"It entered Phaon's dove-cote and killed the young of his best pair of
cropper pigeons."

"It was a marten, not the good, kind creature. You are unfriendly in all
your acts, for when our brown hen flew over to you yesterday she was
driven away with stones. Did Phaon mistake her for a vulture with sharp
beak and powerful talons?"

"A maid-servant drove her away, because, since your master has been ill
and no longer able to attend to business, your poultry daily feeds upon
our barley."

"I'm surprised you don't brand us as robbers!" cried Semestre. "Yes, if
you had beaten me yourself with a stick, you would say a dry branch of a
fig or olive tree had accidentally fallen on my back. I know you well
enough, and Leonax, Alciphron's son, not your sleepy Phaon, whom people
say is roaming about when he ought to be resting quietly in the house,
shall have our girl for his wife. It's not I who say so, but Lysander, my
lord and master."

"Your will is his," replied Jason. "Far be it from me to wound the sick
man with words, but ever since he has been ill you've played the master,
and he ought to be called the house-keeper. Ay, you have more influence
under his roof than any one else, but Aphrodite and Eros are a thousand
times more powerful, for you rule by pans, spits, and soft pillows--they
govern hearts with divine, irresistible omnipotence."

Semestre laughed scornfully, and, striking the hard stone floor with her
myrtle-staff, exclaimed:

"My spit is enough, and perhaps Eros is helping it with his arrows, for
Xanthe no longer asks for your Phaon, any more than I fretted for a
person now standing before me when he was young. Eros loves harder work.
People who grow up together and meet every day, morning, noon, and night,
get used to each other as the foot does to the sandal, and the sandal to
the foot, but the heart remains untouched. But when a handsome stranger,
with perfumed locks and costly garments, suddenly meets the maiden,
Aphrodite's little son fits an arrow to his golden bow."

"But he doesn't shoot," cried Jason, "when he knows that another shaft
has already pierced the maiden's heart. Any man can win any girl, except
one whose soul is filled with love for another."

"The gray-headed old bachelor speaks from experience," retorted Semestre,
quickly. "And your Phaon! If he really loved our girl, how could he woo
another or have her wooed for him? It comes to the same thing. But I
don't like to waste so many words. I know our Xanthe better than you, and
she no more cares for her playfellow than the column on the right side of
the hearth yearns toward the one on the left, though they have stood
together under the same roof so long."

"Do you know what the marble feels?"

"Nothing, Jason, nothing at all; that is, just as much as Xanthe feels
for Phaon. But what's that noise outside the door?"

The house-keeper was still talking, when one of the folding doors opened
a little, and Dorippe called through the crack:

"May we come in? Here's a messenger from Protarch."

"Admit him," cried Semestre, eagerly. The door flew wide open, and the
two girls entered the women's apartment with Mopsus, the brother of the
lively Chloris. The latter was clinging to his arm, and as he came into
the hall removed the broad-brimmed travelling-hat from his brown locks,
while dark-skinned Dorippe went behind him and pushed the hesitating
youth across the threshold, as a boat is launched into the sea.

In reply to the house-keeper's excited questions, he related that
Protarch had sold his master's oil at Messina for as high a price as his
own, bought two new horses for his neighbor Cleon, and sent Mopsus
himself forward with them. If the wind didn't change, he would arrive
that day.

While speaking, he drew from the girdle which confined his blue chiton,
bordered with white, around his waist, a strip of papyrus, and handed it
to Semestre with a greeting from his master.

The house-keeper looked at both sides of the yellow sheet, turned it over
and over, held it close to her eyes, and then glanced hesitatingly at
Jason. He would know that she could not read; but Xanthe could decipher
written sentences, and the young girl must soon appear at breakfast.

"Shall I read it?" asked the old man.

"I could do so myself, if I chose," replied the house-keeper, drawing her
staff over the floor in sharp and blunt angles, as if she were writing.
"I could, but I don't like to hear news on an empty stomach, and what is
said in this letter concerns myself, I should suppose, and nobody else.
Go and call Xanthe to breakfast, Dorippe."

"I know what is in it," cried the girl, reluctant to part from her
companion's brother, whom she loved, and who still had a great deal to
tell her about his journey to Messina. "Mopsus has told us. Our master's
nephew, Leonax, Alciphron's son, will accompany his uncle and stay for a
week or longer as a guest, not over yonder with Protarch, but here in our
house. He is a handsome youth, even taller than Phaon, and Mopsus says
Alciphron's wife, by our master's request, dipped deep into his purse at
Messina, and bought from her husband's merchant friends gold bracelets
and women's garments, such as matrons wear."

At these words a smile of joy and hope flitted over Semestre's wrinkled
face, like a spring breeze sweeping across a leafless garden. She no
longer thought of the harm a piece of news might do her empty stomach,
and, while mentally seeing the flutter of a matron's beautiful blue
garment and the flash of Xanthe's rich dowry, eagerly asked the welcome
messenger:

"Does she speak the truth? And what is this about the robes?"

"I brought the clothes myself," replied Mopsus, "and packed them in a
beautiful chest inlaid with ivory, like those newlywedded youths receive
with the bridal dowry. Praxilla, the handsome sister of Alciphron's wife,
also gave--"

"Go and call Xanthe!" cried Semestre, interrupting the messenger. She had
laughed softly several times while listening to his tale, and, when the
girls hastily withdrew with Mopsus, cast a triumphant glance at Jason.

Then, remembering how much was to be done to make fitting preparation for
the young suitor Leonax, she called loudly:

"Dorippe--Chloris! Chloris--Dorippe!" Neither of the maidens seemed to
hear, and, when obliged to resign all hope of an answer, she shrugged her
shoulders, and turning to Jason said:

"So young and so deaf; it is sad. Poor girls!"

"They like Mopsus better than you, and don't wish to hear," replied
Jason, laughing. "They can't," said Semestre, angrily. "Mopsus is a bold,
good-for-nothing fellow, whom I've often wanted to drive out of the
house, but I should like to see the person who refused me obedience. As
for your proposal, you have now heard distinctly enough that our girl is
intended for Leonax."

"But suppose Xanthe doesn't want Leonax, and prefers Phaon to the
stranger?"

"Alciphron's son a 'stranger' on the estates of his ancestors!" exclaimed
Semestre. "What don't we hear? But I must go to work to prepare the best
possible reception for Leonax, that he may feel from the first he is no
stranger here, but perfectly at home. Now go, if you choose, and offer
sacrifices to Aphrodite, that she may join the hearts of Xanthe and
Phaon. I'll stick to my spit."

"Then you'll be in the right place," cried Jason, "but you're not yet
turning it for Leonax's wedding-feast."

"And I promise you I'll prepare the roast for Phaon's," retorted
Semestre, "but not until the sacrifice of an animal I'm fattening myself
induces the foam-born goddess to kindle in Xanthe's heart sweet love for
Leonax."



CHAPTER II.

XANTHE.

"Xanthe, Xanthe!" called Semestre, a short time after. "Xanthe! Where is
the girl?"

The old woman had gone into the garden. Knowing how to use time to
advantage, and liking to do two things at once, while looking for her
nursling and repeatedly shouting the girl's name, she was gathering
vegetables and herbs, on which the dew of early morning still glittered
brightly.

While thus occupied, she was thinking far more of her favorite's son and
the roast meats, cakes, and sauces to be prepared for him, than of
Xanthe.

She wanted to provide for Leonax all the dishes his father had specially
liked when a child, for what a father relishes, she considered, will
please his children.

Twenty times she had stooped to pluck fresh lavender, green lettuce, and
young, red turnips, and each time, while straightening herself again by
her myrtle-staff, as well as a back bent by age would allow, called
"Xanthe, Xanthe!"

Though she at last threw her head back so far that the sun shone into her
open mouth, and the power of her lungs was not small, no answer came.
This did not make her uneasy, for the girl could not be far away, and
Semestre was used to calling her name more than once before she obeyed.

True, to-day the answer was delayed longer than usual. The maiden heard
the old woman's shrill, resounding voice very clearly, but heeded it no
more than the cackling of the hens, the screams of the peacocks, and the
cooing of the doves in the court-yard.

The house-keeper, she knew, was calling her to breakfast, and the bit of
dry bread she had taken with her was amply sufficient to satisfy her
hunger. Nay, if Semestre had tempted her with the sweetest cakes, she
would not have left her favorite nook by the spring now.

This spring gushed from the highest rock on her father's estate. She
often went there, especially when her heart was stirred, and it was a
lovely spot.

The sparkling water rushed from a cleft in the rocks, and, on the left of
the little bench, where Xanthe sat, formed a clear, transparent pool,
whose edges were inclosed by exquisitely-polished, white-marble blocks.
Every reddish pebble, every smooth bit of snowy quartz, every point and
furrow and stripe on the pretty shells on its sandy bottom, was as
distinctly visible as if held before the eyes on the palm of the hand,
and yet the water was so deep that the gold circlet sparkling above the
elbow on Xanthe's round arm, nay, even the gems confining her peplum on
the shoulder, would have been wet had she tried to touch the bottom of
the basin with the tips of her fingers.

The water was green and clear as crystal, into which, while molten, bits
of emeralds had been cast to change them into liquid drops.

Farther on it flowed through a channel choked with all kinds of plants.
Close by the edges of the rivulet, which rushed swiftly down to the
valley, drooped delicate vines, that threw their tendrils over the stones
and flourished luxuriantly in the rocks amid thick, moist clumps of moss.
Dainty green plants, swayed to and fro by the plashing water, grew
everywhere on the bottom of the brook, and, wherever on its course it
could flow more smoothly, ferns, nodding gracefully, surrounded it like
ostrich-feathers waving about the cradle of a royal babe.

Xanthe liked to watch the stream disappear in the myrtle-grove.

When, sitting in her favorite nook, she turned her eyes downward, she
overlooked the broad gardens and fields of her father and uncle,
stretching on the right and left of the stream along the gentle slope of
the mountain, and the narrow plain by the sea.

The whole scene resembled a thick woolen carpet, whose green surface was
embroidered with white and yellow spots, or one of the baskets young
maidens bear on their heads at the feast of Demeter, and in which, piled
high above the edge, light and dark-hued fruit gleams forth from leaves
of every tint.

Groves of young pomegranate and myrtletrees, with vigorous shoots, stood
forth in strong relief against the silvery gray-green foliage of the
gnarled olive-trees.

Fragrant roses, glowing with a scarlet hue, as if the sun's fiery kiss
had called them to life, adorned bushes and hedges, while, blushing
faintly, as if a child's lips had waked them from slumber, the blossoms
of the peach and almond glimmered on the branches of the trees.

Tiny young green leaves were growing from the oddly-interwoven branches
of the fig-trees, to which clung the swelling pouches of the fruit.
Golden lemons glittered amid their strong, brilliant foliage, which had
survived the winter season; and long rows of blackish-green cypresses
rose straight and tall, like the grave voices of the chorus amid the
joyous revel. To Xanthe, gazing downward, her father's pine-wood seemed
like a camp full of arched, round tents, and, if she allowed her eyes to
wander farther, she beheld the motionless sea, whose broad surface, on
this pleasant morning, sparkled like polished sapphire, and everywhere
seemed striving to surpass with its own blue the color of the clear sky.
Ever and anon, like a tiny silver cloud floating across the firmament,
white sails glided by.

Pleasant green hills framed this lovely view. On their well-cultivated
slopes appeared here the white, glimmering walls of a temple; yonder
villages, houses, and cottages, like the herds and single sheep that he
half concealed by dense foliage.

Garlands of flowers surround the heads of happy mortals, and here the
house of every wealthy land-owner was inclosed by a hedge or garden.

Behind the hills rose the sharply-cut outlines of the naked cliffs of the
lofty, distant mountains, and the snowy head of sleeping Mount Etna
gleamed brightly through the mist.

Now, in the early morning, sea and garden, hills and distant mountains
were covered with a delicate veil of indescribable hue. It seemed as if
the sea had furnished the warp of this fabric, and the golden sun the
woof.

The scene was wondrously beautiful, but Xanthe had not gone to the spring
to gaze at the landscape; nay, she scarcely knew that it was lovely.

When the sea shone with the hue of the sky and lay motionless, as it did
to-day, she thought Glaucus, the god of the blue sea, was sunning himself
in pleasant slumber.

On other bright days when the waves and surges swelled, white foam
crowned their crests, and a never-ending succession of breakers dashed
upon the shore, she believed the fifty daughters of Nereus were pursuing
their sports under the clear water.

They were all lovely women, and full of exuberant gayety.

Some rocked quietly on the gleaming waves, others boldly swung themselves
on the backs of the bearded Tritons, and merrily urged them through the
flood.

When the surf beat roaring on the strand, Xanthe thought she could hear
these creatures guiding their course with their scaly tails and blowing
into shells, and many a glimmering foam-crest on a deep-blue wave was no
transparent bubble-no, the girl distinctly saw that it was the white
neck, the gleaming arm, or the snowy foot of one of Nereus's daughters.
She believed that she clearly distinguished them sporting joyously up and
down through the azure water, now plunging into the depths with their
feet, and now with their heads foremost, anon floating gently on the
surface of the waves. One held out her hand to another, and in so doing
their beautiful, rounded arms often gleamed beneath the crest of a surge.

Every day they practised new games, as the sea never looks precisely the
same; each hour it changed its hue, here, there, and everywhere, Light
streaks, like transparent bluish-green gauze, often ran through the
darker surface, which resembled a purplish-blue mantle of some costly
Phoenician stuff; the waves could flash black as the eye of night, and
white as Leucothea's neck.

Then Amphitrite appeared, with floating hair and resonant voice, and
beside her Poseidon with his four steeds.

Frowning sullenly, he struck them sharply with his lash, which whistled
through the air, and angrily thrust his trident deep into the sea.
Instantly the waves took hues of lighter brown, deeper yellow, and cloudy
gray, and the sea wore the aspect of a shallow pond with muddy bottom,
into which workmen hurl blocks of stone. The purity of the water was
sadly dimmed, and the billows dashed foaming toward the sky, threatening
in their violent assault to shatter the marble dike erected along the
shore. The Nereids, trembling, took refuge in the ever-calm depths, the
Tritons no longer used their hollow shells to blow gentle harmonies; nay,
they sent forth crashing war-songs, as if some hostile citadel were to be
assailed; while Amphitrite thrust both hands into her long, fluttering
hair, and with out-stretched head uttered her furious roar.

But to-day the sea was calm, and when Xanthe had reached the spring the
edges of the milk-white, light, fleecy clouds, towering one above another
on the summits of the loftier mountains, were still glowing with a rosy
light. It was the edge of the garment of the vanishing Eos, the leaves of
the blossoms scattered by the Hours in the pathway of the four steeds of
Helios, as they rose from the waves.

To day and at this hour the morning sunlight fell serenely on the tall
cypresses upon the hill, the trees in the garden swayed in the soft
breath of the morning breeze, and Xanthe nodded to them, for she thought
the beautiful Dryads living in the trees were greeting each other.

Often, with a brief prayer, she laid flowers or a round cake on the altar
that stood beside her seat, and which her ancestor had erected to the
nymph of the spring--but today she had not come for this.

Then what brought her to the hill so early? Did she visit the spring to
admire her own image in its mirror-like surface?

At home she was rarely permitted such an indulgence, for, whenever she
looked in the polished metal-disk, Semestre used to say:

"If a girl often peers into such useless things, she'll certainly see a
fool's image in them."

Forbidden things are charming, yet Xanthe rarely looked into this liquid
mirror, though she might have enjoyed gazing at it frequently, for her
figure was tall and slender as the trunk of a cypress, her thick fair
hair glittered like gold, the oval of her face was exquisitely rounded,
long lashes shaded the large blue eyes that could conceal no emotion
which stirred her soul, and when she was alone seemed to ask: "What have
the gods allotted for my future?" Yet in their gaze might often be read
the answer "Something delightful, surely."

And yet Xanthe did not come to the spring to paint pictures of her
future; on the contrary, she came to be sad, and shed tears unrebuked.
She did not weep passionately, but the big salt drops welled slowly from
her eyes and ran down her young cheeks, as drop after drop of shining sap
flows down the trunk of a wounded birch-tree.

Yes, Xanthe felt very sorrowful, yet everything that surrounded her was
so bright, and at her home laughter was rarely silent, while her own
often rang out no less merrily than that of lively Chloris and
dark-skinned Dorippe.

Her sick father, now slowly recovering, could refuse her nothing, and, if
Semestre tried to do so, Xanthe usually succeeded in having her own way.
There was no lack of festivals and joyous dances, and to none of her
companions did the youths present more beautiful ribbons, to no one in
the circle did they prefer to offer their hands. She was the fairest of
all the maidens far and near, and Ismene, Phryxus's wife, had said that
her laughter was gay enough to make a cripple dance. Ismene had a
daughter herself just Xanthe's age, so it must probably have been true.

Then why, in the name of all the gods, was Xanthe sad?

Is any cause required to explain it?

Must a maiden have met with misfortune, to make her feel a longing to
weep? Certainly not.

Nay, the gayest rattle-brain is the least likely to escape such a desire.

When the sky has long shone with unclouded splendor, and the air is so
wonderfully clear that even the most distant mountain-peaks are
distinctly visible, rain is not long delayed; and who can laugh heartily
a long time without finally shedding tears like a mourner?

Whoever endures a severe though not the deepest affliction, whoever is
permitted to reach the topmost summit of joy, and a girl who feels
love-these three Heaven favors with the blessing of tears.

Had Eros's arrow struck Xanthe's young heart too?

It was possible, though she would not confess it even to herself, and
only yesterday had denied it, without the quiver of an eyelash.

Yet, if she did love a youth, and for his sake had climbed to the spring,
he must doubtless dwell in the reddish house, standing on a beautiful
level patch of ground on the right of the brook, between the sea and the
pool; for she glanced toward it again and again, and, except the
servants, no one lived under its roof save the aged steward Jason, and
Phaon, her uncle's son. Protarch himself had gone to Messina, with his
own and her father's oil.

To age is allotted the alms of reverence, to youth the gift of love, and,
of the three men who lived in the house on Xanthe's right-hand, only one
could lay claim to such a gift, and he had an unusually good right to do
so.

Xanthe was thinking of Phaon as she sat beside the spring, but her brow
wore such a defiant frown that she did not bear the most distant
resemblance to a maiden giving herself up to tender emotions.

Now the door of the reddish house opened, and, rising hastily, she looked
toward it. A slave came cautiously out, bearing a large jar with handles,
made of brown clay, adorned with black figures.

What had the high-shouldered graybeard done, that she stamped her foot so
angrily on the ground, and buried the upper row of her snow-white teeth
deep in her under-lip, as if stifling some pang?

No one is less welcome than the unbidden intruder, who meets us in the
place of some one for whom we ardently long, and Xanthe did not wish to
see the slave, but Phaon, his master's son.

She had nothing to say to the youth; she would have rushed away if he had
ventured to seek her by the spring, but she wanted to see him, wanted to
learn whether Semestre had told the truth, when she said Phaon intended
to marry a wealthy heiress, whose hand his father was seeking in Messina.
The house-keeper had declared the night before that he only wooed the
ugly creature for the sake of her money, and now took advantage of his
father's absence to steal out of the house evening after evening, as soon
as the fire was lighted on the hearth. And the fine night-bird did not
return till long past sunrise, no doubt from mad revels with that crazy
Hermias and other wild fellows from Syracuse. They probably understood
how to loosen his slow tongue.

Then the old woman described what occurred at such banquets, and when she
mentioned the painted flute-players, with whom the dissipated city youths
squandered their fathers' money, and the old house-keeper called
attention to the fact that Phaon already wandered about as stupidly and
sleepily as if he were a docile pupil of the notorious Hermias, Xanthe
fairly hated her, and almost forgot the respect she owed to her gray
hair, and told her to her face she was a liar and slanderer.

But the girl had been unable to speak, for Phaon's secret courtship of
the Messina heiress had deeply wounded her pride, and he really did look
more weary and dreamy than usual.

Semestre's praises of her cousin, the young Leonax, Xanthe had heard as
little as the chirping of the crickets on the hearth, and before the
house-keeper had finished speaking she rose, and, without bidding her
good-night, turned her back and left the women's apartment.

Ere lying down to rest in her own room, she paced up and down before her
couch, then began to loosen her thick hair so carelessly that the violent
pulling actually hurt her, and tied so tightly under her chin the pretty
scarlet kerchief worn over her golden tresses at night to prevent them
from tangling, that she was obliged to unfasten it again to keep from
stifling.

The sandals, from which she had released her slender feet, and which,
obedient to her dead mother's teaching, she usually placed beside the
chair where her clothes lay smoothly folded, she flung into a corner of
the room, still thinking of Phaon, the Messina heiress, and her
playfellow's shameful conduct. She had intended to discover whether
Semestre spoke the truth, and in the stillness of the night consider what
she must do to ascertain how much Phaon was concerned in his father's
suit.

But the god Morpheus willed otherwise, for scarcely had Xanthe laid down
to rest, extinguished her little lamp, and wrapped herself closely in the
woolen coverlet, when sleep overpowered her.

The young girl waked just before sunrise, instantly thought of Phaon, of
the heiress, and of Semestre's wicked words, and hastily went out to the
spring.

From there she could see whether her uncle's son returned home from the
city with staggering steps, or would, as usual, come out of the house
early in the morning to curry and water his brown steeds, which no slave
was ever permitted to touch.

But he did not appear, and, in his place, the high-shouldered servant
entered the court-yard.

If the young girl was usually sad here, because she liked to be
melancholy, to-day grief pierced her heart like a knife, and the bit of
white bread she raised to her lips because, with all her sorrow, she was
hungry, tasted bitter, as if dipped in wormwood.

She had no need to salt it; the tears that fell on it did that.

Xanthe heard the house-keeper's calls, but did not obey immediately, and
perhaps would not have heeded them at all if she had not noticed--yes,
she was not mistaken--that, in the full meaning of the words, she had
begun to weep like a chidden child.

She was weeping for anger; and soon it vexed her so much to think that
she should cry, that fresh tears streamed down her cheeks.

But not many, for, ere her beautiful eyes grew red, they were dry again,
as is the custom of eyes when they are young and see anything new.

Two children, a vineyard-watchman's son and a herdsman's little daughter,
approached the spring, talking loudly together.

They had decked themselves with fresh, green vines twined about their
necks and bosoms, and were now going to sail a little boat made of bark
in the tiny, walled pool into which the spring flowed.

The boy had been the owner of the boat, but had given it to the little
girl the day before, and now refused to deliver it, unless she would give
him in exchange the shining shells her big brother had found, cleaned,
and fastened around her little brown arm with a string. The boy persisted
in his demand, stretching out his hand for the shells, while the little
girl, with sobs and tears, defended herself.

Xanthe, unobserved by the children, became a witness of this contest
between might and right, hastily stepped between the combatants, gave the
boy a blow on the shoulder, took the boat away, handed it to the little
maiden, and, turning to the latter, said:

"Now, play quietly together, and, if Syrus doesn't let you keep the boat
and the shells, come to me, poor Stephanion."

So saying, she wiped the little girl's eyes with her own skirt, seized
her by the shoulder, grasped the boy's black curls, pressed the two
little ones toward each other with gentle violence, and commanded:

"Now, kiss each other!"

The little girl dutifully obeyed the bidding, but the kiss the boy gave
his playmate strongly resembled a blow with the mouth.

Xanthe laughed merrily, turned her back on the children, and went slowly
down into the valley.

During her walk all sorts of little incidents flashed through her mind
with the speed of lightning; memories of the days when she herself was a
little girl and Phaon had played with her daily, as the curly-headed
Syrus now did with the herdsman's daughter.

But all the scenes swiftly conjured up before her mental vision were very
different from that just witnessed.

Once, when she had said that the brook couldn't bear to the sea all the
leaves and flowers she tossed in, Phaon only smiled quietly, but the next
day she found, fastened to an axis, a wooden cross he had carved himself
and fixed between some stones The stream swept against the broad surfaces
of the spokes and forced it to turn constantly.

For weeks both enjoyed the successful toy, but he did not ask a word of
thanks, nor did she utter any, only eagerly showed her pleasure, and that
was enough for Phaon.

If she began to build a house of sand and stones with him, and it was not
finished at once, when they went to play next day she found it roofed and
supplied with a little garden, where twigs were stuck in the sand for
trees, and red and blue buds for flowers. He had made the seat by the
spring for her, and also the little steps on the seashore, by whose aid
it was possible to enter dryshod the boat her playfellow had painted with
brilliant hues of red and blue, because a neighbor's gay skiff had
pleased her fancy.

She now thought of these and many similar acts, and that he had never
promised her anything, only placed the finished article before her as a
matter of course.

It had never entered his mind to ask compensation for his gifts or thanks
for his acts, like curly-headed Syrus. Silently he rendered her service
after service; but, unfortunately, at this hour Xanthe was not disposed
to acknowledge it.

People grow angry with no one more readily than the person from whom they
have received many favors which they are unable to repay; women, no
matter whether young or old, resemble goddesses in the fact that they
cheerfully accept every gift from a man as an offering that is their due,
so long as they are graciously disposed toward the giver, but to-day
Xanthe was inclined, to be vexed with her playmate.

A thousand joys and sorrows, shared in common, bound them to each other,
and in the farthest horizons of her recollections lay an event which had
given her affection for him a new direction. His mother and hers had died
on the same day, and since then Xanthe had thought it her duty to watch
over and care for him, at first, probably, only as a big live doll,
afterward in a more serious way. And now he was deceiving her and going
to ruin. Yet Phaon was so entirely different from the wild fellows in
Syracuse.

From a child he had been one of those who act without many words. He
liked to wander dreamily in lonely paths, with his large, dark eyes fixed
on the ground.

He rarely spoke, unless questioned. Never did he boast of being able to
accomplish, or having successfully performed, this or that feat.

He was silent at his work, and, even while engaged in merry games, set
about a task slowly, but completed whatever he undertook.

He was welcome in the wrestling-ring and at the dance, for the youths
respected his strength, grace, dexterity, and the quiet way in which he
silenced wranglers and boasters; while the maidens liked to gaze into the
handsome dreamer's eyes, and admired him, though even in the maddest
whirl of the dance he remained passionless, moving lightly in perfect
time to the measures of the tambourine and double flute.

True, many whom he forgot to notice railed at his silent ways, and even
Xanthe had often been sorely vexed when his tongue failed to utter a
single word of the significant stories told by his eyes. Ay, they under
stood how to talk! When his deep, ardent gaze rested upon her,
unwavering, but glowing and powerful as the lava-stream that sweeps every
obstacle from its still, noiseless course, she believed he was not silent
from poverty of mind and heart, but because the feelings that moved him
were so mighty that no mortal lips could clothe them in words.

Nevertheless, to-day Xanthe was angry with her playfellow, and a maiden's
wrath has two eyes--one blind, the other keener than a falcon's.

What she usually prized and valued in Phaon she now did not see at all,
but distinguished every one of his defects.

True, he had shown her much affection without words, but he was certainly
as mute as a fish, and would, doubtless, have boasted and asked for
thanks like anybody else, if indolence had not fettered his stiff tongue.

Only a short time ago she was obliged to give her hand to lanky Iphis,
because Phaon came forward too slowly. He was sleepy, a foolish dreamer,
and she would tell him it would be better for him to stretch himself
comfortably on his couch and continue to practise silence, rather than
woo foreign maidens and riot all night with dissipated companions.



CHAPTER III.

LYSANDER.

As Xanthe approached her father's house, Semestre's call and the gay
notes of a monaulus--[A musical instrument, played like our flageolet or
clarinet]--greeted her.

A conjurer had obtained admittance, and was showing his laughing audience
the tricks of his trained cocks and hens.

He was a dwarfish, bow-legged little man, with a short neck, on which
rested a big head with a very prominent forehead, that shaded his small
piercing eyes like a balcony.

The feathered actors lived in a two-wheeled cart, drawn from village to
village, and city to city, by a tiny, gayly-decked donkey.

Three cocks and four hens were now standing on the roof of the cart,
looking very comical, for their clever owner, who doubtless knew what
pleases the eyes of children and peasants, had colored their white
feathers, here and there, with brilliant red and glaring yellow.

Beside the cart stood a pale, sorrowful-looking boy, playing a merry tune
on the monaulus. Lysander, Xanthe's father, had been helped out of the
house into the sunlight, and, seated in his arm-chair of polished
olive-wood, was gazing at the show.

As soon as he saw his daughter, he beckoned to her, and stroking her
hair, while she pressed her lips to his forehead, said:

"An amusing sight! The two hens obey the little man as if they were
dutiful children. I'm glad he came, for a person like me, forbidden by
fate to enjoy the comical things to be seen out of doors, must be
grateful when they come in his way. Your feet are twitching, Dorippe.
Whenever a flute raises its voice, it moves young girls' limbs, as the
wind stirs the leaves of the poplars. You would doubtless like to begin
to dance at once."

At these words, Mopsus, keeping time to the music, advanced toward his
sweetheart, but Semestre stepped before him, exclaiming half to the lad
and half to her master:

"There must be no jumping about now. Whoever dances in the morning will
break a leg at night."

Lysander nodded assent.

"Then go into the house, Chloris, and fetch this king of hens a jug of
wine, some bread, and two cheeses."

"How many cheeses?" asked the housekeeper.

"Two," replied Lysander.

"One will be more than enough," cried Semestre--"Bring only one,
Chloris." The invalid smilingly shrugged his shoulders, clasped Xanthe's
hand as she stood beside him, and said in so low a tone that the old
woman could not hear:

"Haven't I grown like little thick-skull's hens? Semestre commands and I
must obey. There she goes after Chloris, to save the second cheese."

Xanthe smiled assent. Her father raised his voice and called to the
juggler:

"Well, my little friend, show what your actors can do.--You young people,
Mopsus and Dorippe, for aught I care, can dance as long as the monaulus
sounds, and Semestre stays in the house."

"We want first to see what the hens can do," cried the dark-haired girl,
clinging to her lover's arm, and turning with Mopsus toward the
exhibition, which now began again.

There was many an exclamation of astonishment, many a laugh, for, when
the little man ordered his largest cock to show its skill in riding, it
jumped nimbly on the donkey's back; when he ordered it to clean its
horse, it pulled a red feather out of the ornaments on the ass's head;
and finally proved itself a trumpeter, by stretching its neck and
beginning to crow.

The hens performed still more difficult feats, for they drew from a
wooden box for each spectator a leaf of a tree, on which certain
characters were visible.

The scrawl was intelligible only to the conjurer, but was said to contain
infallible information about the future, and the little man offered to
interpret the writing to each individual.

This trainer of hens was a clever dwarf, with very quick ears. He had
distinctly understood that, through Semestre, he was to lose a nice
cheese, and, when the housekeeper returned, ordered a hen to tell each
person present how many years he or she had lived in the world.

The snow-white bird, with the yellow head, scratched seventeen times
before Xanthe, and, on reaching Mopsus, twenty-three times, which was
perfectly correct.

"Now tell us this honorable lady's age too," said the conjurer to the
hen.

Semestre told Chloris to repeat what the little man had said, and was
already reflecting whether she should not let him have the second cheese,
in consideration of the "honorable lady," when the hen began to scratch
again.

Up to sixty she nodded assent, as she watched the bird's claw; at
sixty-five she compressed her lips tightly, at seventy the lines on her
brow announced a coming storm, at eighty she struck the ground violently
with her myrtle-staff, and, as the hen, scratching faster and faster,
approached ninety, and a hundred, and she saw that all the spectators
were laughing, and her master was fairly holding his sides, rushed
angrily into the house.

As soon as she had vanished behind the doors, Lysander threw the man half
a drachm, and, clapping his hands, exclaimed:

"Now, children, kick up your heels; we sha'n't see Semestre again
immediately. You did your business well, friend: but now come here and
interpret your hen's oracles."

The conjurer bowed, by bending his big head and quickly raising it again,
for his short back seemed to be immovable, approached the master of the
house, and with his little round fingers grasped at the leaf in
Lysander's hand; but the latter hastily drew it back, saying:

"First this girl, then I, for her future is long, while mine--"

"Yours," interrupted the dwarf, standing before Lysander--"yours will be
a pleasant one, for the hen has drawn for you a leaf that means peaceful
happiness."

"A violet-leaf!" exclaimed Xanthe. "Yes, a violet-leaf," repeated the
conjurer. "Put it in my hand. There are--just look here--there are seven
lines, and seven--everybody knows that--seven is the number of health.
Peaceful happiness in good health, that is what your oracle says." "The
gods owe me that, after suffering so long," sighed Lysander. "At any
rate, come back here in a year, and if your cackling Pythia and this
little leaf tell the truth, and I am permitted to bring it to you without
support or crutch, I'll give you a stout piece of cloth for a new cloak;
yet nay, better try your luck in six months, for your chiton looks sicker
than I, and will hardly last a whole year."

"Not half a one," replied the conjurer, with a sly smile. "Give me the
piece of stuff to-day, that, when I come back in a month, I may have
suitable garments when I amuse the guests at the feast given for your
recovery. I'm no giant, and shall not greatly impair your store."

"We'll see what can be done," replied Lysander, laughing, "and if, when
you return in a month, I don't turn you from the door as a bad prophet,
in spite of your fine clothes, your flute-player shall have a piece of
linen for his thin limbs. But now foretell my daughter's future, too."

The dwarf took Xanthe's leaf from her hand, and said:

"This comes from an olive-tree, is particularly long, and has a light and
dark side. You will live to a great age, and your life will be more or
less happy as you shape it."

"As you shape it," repeated the girl. "That's a real hen's oracle. 'As
people do, so things will be,' my nurse used to say every third word."
Disappointed and angry, she threw the leaf on the ground, and turned her
back on the little man.

The conjurer watched her keenly and searchingly, as not without
difficulty he picked up the leaf. Then glancing pleasantly at her father,
he called her back, pointed with his finger to the inner surface, and
said:

"Just look at these lines, with the little strokes here at the end.
That's a snail with horns. A slow creature! It warns people not to be
over-hasty. If you feel inclined to run, check your steps and ask where
the path will lead."

"And move through life like a cart creaping down into the valley with
drags on the wheels," interrupted Xanthe. "I expected something unlike
school-masters' lessons from the clever hen that loaded Semestre with so
many years."

"Only question her about what is in your heart," replied the little man,
"and she won't fail to answer."

The young girl glanced irresolutely at the conjurer, but repressed the
desire to learn more of the future, fearing her father's laughter. She
knew that, when Lysander was well and free from pain, nothing pleased him
so much as to tease her till she wept.

The invalid guessed what was passing in his little daughter's mind, and
said, encouragingly:

"Ask the hen. I'll stop both ears while you question the oracle. Yes,
yes, one can scarcely hear his own voice for the monaulus and the shouts
of the crazy people yonder.

"Such sounds lure those who are fond of dancing, as surely as a
honey-comb brings flies. By the dog! there are four merry couples
already! Only I miss Phaon. You say the couch in my brother's house has
grown too hard for him, and he has found softer pillows in Syracuse. With
us the day began long ago, but in the city perhaps they haven't quite
finished with yesterday. I'm sorry for the fine fellow."

"Is it true," asked Xanthe, blushing, "that my uncle is seeking a rich
bride for him in Messina?"

"Probably, but in courtship one does not always reach the desired goal.
Has Phaon told you nothing about his father's wishes? Question the
conjurer, or he'll get his new clothes with far too little trouble. Save
me the reproach of being a spendthrift."

"I don't wish to do so; what is the use of such folly?" replied Xanthe,
with flushed cheeks, preparing to go into the house.

Her father shrugged his shoulders, and, turning his head, called after
her:

"Do as you please, but cut a piece from the brown woolen cloth, and bring
it to the conjurer."

The young girl disappeared in the house. The tune which the boy drew from
the monaulus again and again sounded monotonous, but the young people
constantly grew more mirthful; higher and higher sprang the bounding
feet.

The ribbons fluttered as if a storm had seized them; many a gay garment
waved; and there was no end to the shouts and clapping of hands in time
with the music.

When Mopsus, or any other lad, raised his voice unusually loud, or a
young girl laughed in the overflowing joy of her heart, Lysander's eyes
sparkled like sunshine, and he often raised his hands and swayed merrily
to and fro to the measure of the music.

"Your heart really dances with the young people," said the conjurer.

"But it lacks feet," replied Lysander, and then he told him about his
fall, and the particulars of his sufferings, the danger in which he had
been, the remedies used, and the final convalescence. He did this with
great pleasure, for it always relieved his mind when he was permitted to
tell the story of his life to a sympathizing auditor, and few had
listened more attentively than did the conjurer, partly from real
interest, partly in anticipation of the cloth.

The little man frequently interrupted Lysander with intelligent
questions, and did not lose patience when the speaker paused to wave his
hand to the merry group.

"How they laugh and enjoy themselves!" the invalid again exclaimed. "They
are all young, and before I had this fall--"

The sentence was not finished, for the notes of the monaulus suddenly
ceased, the dancers stopped, and, instead of the music and laughter,
Semestre's voice was heard; but at the same time Xanthe, carrying a small
piece of brown cloth over her arm, approached the sick man. The latter at
first looked at his daughter's flushed face with some surprise, then
again glanced toward the scene of the interrupted dance, for something
was happening there which he could not fully approve, though it forced
him to laugh aloud.

The young people, whose sport had been interrupted, had recovered from
their fright and joined in a long chain.

Mopsus led the saucy band.

A maiden followed each youth, and the whole party were united, for each
individual grasped the person in front with both hands.

Singing a rhythmical dancing-tune, with the upper portion of the body
bent forward, and executing dainty steps with their feet, they circled
faster and faster around the furious house-keeper.

The latter strove to catch first Chloris, then Dorippe, then some other
maiden, but ere she succeeded the chain separated, joining again behind
her ere she could turn. Mopsus and his dark-haired sweetheart were again
the leaders. When the ring broke the youths and maidens quickly grasped
each other again, and the chain of singing, laughing lads and lasses once
more whirled around the old woman.

For some time the amused master of the house could not succeed in shaking
his head disapprovingly; but when the old housekeeper, who had never
ceased scolding and shaking her myrtle-staff, began to totter from anger
and excitement, Lysander thought the jest was being carried too far, and,
turning to his daughter, exclaimed:

"Go, rescue Semestre and drive those crazy people away. Fun must not go
beyond proper bounds."

Xanthe instantly obeyed the command the chain parted, the youths hurrying
one way, the maidens another; the lads escaped, and so did all the girls
except dark-haired Dorippe, who was caught by Semestre and driven into
the house with angry words and blows.

"There will be tears after the morning dance," said Lysander, "and I
advise you, friend, if you want to avoid a scolding yourself, to leave
the place at once with your feathered artists. Give the man the cloth,
Xanthe."

Xanthe handed the brown woolen stuff to the conjurer.

She blushed faintly as she did so, for, while attempting to cut from the
piece a sufficient quantity, Semestre had snatched the knife from her
hand, exclaiming rudely:

"Half that is twice too much for the insolent rascal."

The little man took the scanty gift, spread it out to its full extent,
and, turning to Lysander, said:

"At our age people rarely experience new emotions, but to-day, for the
first time since I stopped growing, I wish I was still smaller than I am
now."

The invalid had shaken his head discontentedly at sight of the tiny
piece, and, as the conjurer was refolding it over his knee, loosed from
his shoulders the chlamys he himself wore, saying gravely:

"Take this cloak, for what Lysander promises he does not perform by
halves."

The last words were addressed to Semestre as well as the dwarf, for the
old house-keeper, with panting breath and trembling hands, now approached
her master.

Kind words were not to be expected from her mouth now, but even more
bitter and vehement reproaches sprang to her lips as she saw her master
give his scarcely-worn chlamys to a strolling vagrant, and also presume
to reward her economy with taunts.

She had carefully woven the cloak with her own hands, and that, she
cried, was the way her labor was valued! There was plenty of cloth in the
chests, which Lysander could divide among the buffoons at the next fair
in Syracuse. In other countries, even among wild barbarians, white hairs
were honored, but here the elders taught the young people to insult them
with jeers and mockery.

At these words the invalid's face turned pale, a dark shadow appeared
under his eyes, and an expression of pain hovered around his mouth. He
looked utterly exhausted.

Every feature betrayed how the old woman's shrill voice and passionate
words disturbed him, but he could not silence her by loud rebukes, for
his voice failed, and he therefore sought to make peace by the soothing
gestures of his thin hands and his beseeching eyes.

Xanthe felt and saw that her father was suffering, and exclaimed in a
fearless, resolute tone:

"Silence, Semestre! your scolding is hurting my father."

These words increased the house-keeper's wrath instead of lessening it.
In a half-furious, half-whining tone, she exclaimed:

"So it comes to this! The child orders the old woman. But you shall know,
Lysander, that I won't allow myself to be mocked like a fool. That
impudent Mopsus is your freed-woman's child, and served this house for
high wages, but he shall leave it this very day, so surely as I hope to
live until the vintage. He or I! If you wish to keep him, I'll go to
Agrigentum and live with my daughter and grandchildren, who send to me by
every messenger. If this insolent fellow is more to you than I am, I'll
leave this place of ingratitude. In Agrigentum--"

"It is beautiful in Agrigentum!" interrupted the conjurer, pointing with
his finger impressively in the direction of this famous city.

"It is delightful there," cried the old woman, "so long as one doesn't
meet pygmies like you in the streets."

The house-keeper was struggling for breath, and her master took advantage
of the pause to murmur beseechingly, like a child who is to be deprived
of something it loves:

"Mopsus must go--merry Mopsus? Nobody knows how to lift and support me so
well."

These words softened Semestre's wrath, and, lowering her voice, she
replied:

"You will no longer need the lad for that purpose; Leonax, Alciphron's
son, is coming to-day. He'll lift and support you as if you were his own
father. The people in Messina are friendly and honor age, for, while you
jeer at me, they remember the old woman, and will send me a beautiful
matron's-robe for the future wedding."

The invalid looked inquiringly at his daughter, and the latter answered,
blushing:

"Semestre has told me. She informed me, while I was cutting the cloth,
that Leonax would come as a suitor."

"May he fare better than Alkamenes and the others, whom you sent home!
You know I will not force your inclinations, but, if I am to lose Mopsus,
I should like a pleasant son. Why has Phaon fallen into such foolish,
evil ways? The young Leonax--"

"Is of a different stamp," interrupted Semestre--"Now come, my dove, I
have a thousand things to do."

"Go," replied Xanthe. "I'll come directly.--You will feel better, father,
if you rest now. Let me help you into the house, and lie down on the
cushion for a time."

The young girl tried to lift her father, but her strength was too feeble
to raise the wearied man. At last, with the conjurer's help, he succeeded
in rising, and the latter whispered earnestly in his ear:

"My hens tell me many things, but another oracle behind my forehead says,
you are on the high-road to recovery, but you won't reach the goal,
unless you treat the old woman, who is limping into the house yonder, as
I do the birds I train."

"And what do you do?"

"Teach them to obey me, and if I see that they assert their own wills,
sell them and seek others."

"You are not indebted to the stupid creatures for anything?"

"But I owe so much the more to the others, who do their duty."

"Quite true, and therefore you feed and keep them."

"Until they begin to grow old and refuse obedience."

"And then?"

"Then I give them to a peasant, on whose land they lay eggs, eat and die.
The right farmer for your hens lives in Agrigentum."

Lysander shrugged his shoulders; and, as, leaning on his daughter, he
tottered slowly forward, almost falling on the threshold, Xanthe took a
silent vow to give him a son on whom he could firmly depend--a stalwart,
reliable man.



CHAPTER IV.

THE TWO SUCKING-PIGS.

Fifteen minutes had passed, and the old house-keeper's face still
glowed--no longer from anger, but because, full of zeal, she now moulded
cakes before the bright flames on the hearth, now basted the roast on the
spit with its own juices.

Beside her stood old Jason, who could not give up his young master's
cause for lost, and exposed himself once more to the arrows of Semestre's
angry words, because he bitterly repented having irritated instead of
winning her.

Unfortunately, his soothing speeches fell on hard ground, for Semestre
scarcely vouchsafed a reply, and at last distinctly intimated that he
interrupted her.

"Attention," she said, "is the mother of every true success. It is even
more needful in cooking than in weaving; and if Leonax, for whom my hands
are busy, resembles his father, he knows how to distinguish bad from
good."

"Alciphron," replied Jason, "liked the figs on our arbor by the house
better than yours."

"And while he was enjoying them," cried the old woman, "you beat him with
a hazel rod. I can hear him cry now, poor little dear."

"Too many figs are bad for the stomach," replied the old man, very slowly
and distinctly, but not too loud, that he might not remind her of her
deafness. Then seeing Semestre smile, he drew nearer, and with winning
cheerfulness continued: "Be sensible, and don't try to part the children,
who belong to each other. Xanthe, too, is fond of figs, and, if Leonax
shares his father's taste, how will the sweet fruit of your favorite
trees fare, if Hymen unites them in marriage? Phaon doesn't care for
sweet things. But seriously: though his father may seek twenty brides for
him, he himself wants no one but Xanthe. And can you deny that he is a
handsome, powerful fellow?"

"So is the other," cried Semestre, wholly unmoved by these words. "Have
you seen your favorite this morning? No! Do you know where he slept last
night and the night before?"

"On his couch, I suppose."

"In your house?"

"I don't run after the youth, now he is grown up."

"Neither shall we! You are giving yourself useless trouble, Jason, and I
earnestly beg you not to disturb me any longer now, for a dark spot is
already appearing on the roast. Quick, Chloris--lift the spit from the
fire!"

"I should like to bid Lysander good-morning."

"He is tired, and wants to see no one. The servants have vexed him."

"Then I'll stay awhile in the garden."

"To try your luck with Xanthe? I tell you, it's trouble wasted, for she's
dressing her hair to receive our guest from Messina; and, if she were
standing where those cabbage-leaves be, she wouldn't contradict me if I
were to repeat what you heard from my lips this morning at sunrise. Our
girl will never become Phaon's wife until I myself offer a sacrifice to
Aphrodite, that she may fill Xanthe's heart with love for him."

Jason shrugged his shoulders, and was preparing to turn his back on the
old woman, when Dorippe entered and approached the hearth. Her eyes were
red with weeping, and in her arms she carried a round, yellowish-white
creature that, struggling and stretching it's little legs in the air,
squealed in a clear, shrill voice, even more loudly and piteously than a
hungry babe.

It was a pretty, well-fattened sucking pig.

Jason looked at it significantly, but Semestre snatched it out of the
girl's arms, pressed it to her own bosom, turned her back upon the old
man with resolute meaning, and said, just loud enough for him alone to
hear:

"A roast for the banquet."

As soon as Jason had left the room, she put the nicely-washed pig on a
little wooden bench, ordered Chloris to see that it did not soil itself;
drew from a small box, standing beside the loom, one blue ribbon and two
red ones; tied the former carefully around the little creature's curly
tail, and the latter about its cars; lifted the pig again, looked at it
as a mother gazes at her prettily-dressed darling, patted its fattest
parts with her right-hand, and ordered Dorippe to carry it to Aphrodite's
temple immediately.

"It's a beautiful creature, absolutely faultless, and the priest must slay
it at once in Honor of the gracious goddess. I will come myself, as soon
as everything is ready here; and, after such a gift, foam-born Cypris
will surely grant my petition. Hide the little treasure carefully under
your robe, that no one may see it."

"It struggles and squeals when I carry it," replied the girl.

"Yes, it does squeal," said the old woman. "Wait, I'll look for a
suitable basket."

The house-keeper went out, and, when she returned, cried:

"Mopsus is standing outside with our donkey, to carry bag and baggage to
his mother's house, but he's still in Lysander's service to-day. Let him
put the creature in a basket on the donkey's back, and then he can
quickly carry it to the temple--at once and without delay, for, if I
don't find it on the goddess's altar in an hour, you shall answer for it!
Tell him this, and then get some rosemary and myrtle to garland our
hearth."

Mopsus did not hasten to perform the errand. He had first to help Dorippe
cut the green branches, and, while thus engaged, sought pleasant gifts
not only on the ground, but from his sweetheart's red lips, then moved up
the mountain with his donkey, very slowly, without urging the animal. The
latter carried one basket on the right and one on the left of its saddle,
wore bright cock's feathers on its head, and had a fiery-red bridle. It
looked gay enough in its finery, yet hung its head, though far less
sorrowfully than its young driver, whom Semestre had exiled from his
master's house and the girl he loved.

He spent half an hour in reaching the sanctuary.

Old Jason, at the same time, was standing before the little grove beside
the steps leading to the cella.

The worthy man cradled in his arms, as Dorippe had just done in
Lysander's house, a little squealing creature, and this, too, was a pig;
but it wore no ribbon around its little tail and ears, was not
particularly fat, and had numerous black spots under its scanty bristles
and on its sharp snout.

The old man was gazing at the innocent creature by no means tenderly, but
with the utmost indignation. He had good reason to be angry, for the
priest had not thought it fit for a sacrifice to the goddess, it was so
poor in fat and full of bad marks.

Alas, and Jason had no second pig, and was so eager to win the goddess to
Phaon's cause.

As soon as he saw Semestre's offering, he had hurried home to anticipate
her with his own, and first win the goddess's heart for his young master.

Now he stood considering whether he should strangle the unlucky creature,
or carry it back to its mother.

Like a frugal steward, he decided upon the latter course, and, just as he
was comparing the image of the lean, spotted animal with its future
well-rounded condition, he heard the hoofs of the donkey driven by
Mopsus, the heavy thud of a stick on the elastic flesh, and after every
blow, the shout, "Semestre!"

Directly after Mopsus and his donkey reached the old man, and as the
youth, without looking to the right or left, dealt the animal another
thwack, again uttering the house-keeper's name, and in connection with it
a succession of harsh, abusive words, Jason looked at the young man with
approval, nay, almost tenderly.

The latter usually shouted a loud "Joy be with you!" whenever he met the
old man, but to-day answered his greeting only with a sorrowful nod and
low murmur.

The steward had stepped in front of him, laid his hard hand on the
donkey's head, and asked:

"Do you call your ass Semestre?" Mopsus blushed, and answered:

"In future I shall call all she-asses that, but the old Megaera named
this one Jason."

"Why, see," cried the steward, "how kindly the worthy woman remembers me!
But she, too, was not forgotten, for, whenever you lifted your stick, you
thought, I should suppose, of her."

"Indeed I did!" cried Mopsus; then, while stroking the stripes on the
donkey's flanks, added kindly:

"Poor Jason, you too have nothing for which to thank the old woman. If
you only knew how abominable this woman is--"

"I do know," the steward interrupted, "but she is an old woman, and it
does not beseem you to abuse her; she represents the house under its
invalid ruler."

"I'd willingly lay both these hands under his feet," cried the youth,
"but Semestre has driven me out of his service for nothing, away from
here and Dorippe, and where can I find a place in the neighborhood?"

The almost whining tone of the complaint contrasted oddly with the
appearance of the tall, broad-shouldered Mopsus, yet tears filled his
eyes, as he now told the steward about the juggler, the dance, Semestre's
anger, his banishment from Lysander's house, and the house-keeper's
commission to carry a sucking-pig to Aphrodite's temple for her.

Jason listened with only partial attention, for the low grunting of a
pig, that reached his ears from one of the baskets on the donkey, seemed
to him far more interesting than the poor fellow's story. He knew the
ways of every domestic animal, and such sounds were only uttered by a
little pig that felt comfortably fat, and lived under favorable
circumstances.

A great thought awoke in his mind, and must have pleased him hugely, for
his eyes began to sparkle, his mouth puckered in a smile, and he looked
exactly like a satyr thrusting his thick lips toward the largest and
ripest bunches of grapes in the vineyard.

When Mopsus paused, he angrily noticed what an enlivening influence his
sorrowful story had had upon the old man, but soon laughed too; for, ere
he could give expression to his dissatisfaction, Jason had opened the
basket on the left of the donkey, taken out Semestre's gayly-decked pig,
put his own lanky animal in its place, and said, giggling with pleasure:

"After what Semestre has done to a poor fellow like you, she doesn't
deserve the favor of our goddess. Let me offer Aphrodite this most
charming of pigs, and you offer my little beast in the house-keeper's
name; then her petition will certainly find no hearing."

At these words Mopsus's broad face brightened, and, after laughing
loudly, he struck his fist in the palm of his left hand, turned on the
heel of his right foot, and exclaimed:

"Yes, that will be just right."

True, directly after, he looked as doubtful as if an invisible
myrtle-staff had been swung over his back, and asked:

"But if she notices it?"

"I know how we'll manage it," replied the old man, and, putting
Semestre's pig in Mopsus's arms, took the ribbons from its ears and curly
tail.

Meantime, the little animal grunted as piteously as if it noticed that
its finery was being stolen and its beauty impaired.

And when Jason, with Mopsus's assistance, put the same ribbons on his own
lank pig, it looked neither better nor prouder than before, for it was no
lucky animal and did not appreciate beautiful gifts.



CHAPTER V.

THE WALK TO THE SEA.

While the priest of Aphrodite received Jason's gift, praised the pig's
beauty, and promised to slay it immediately, but said he would only
accept the lean animal Mopsus offered in Semestre's name for the sake of
its ornaments and the giver, Xanthe came out of her father's house. She
wore her handsomest garments, and had carefully arranged her beautiful
fair hair reflecting as she did so on many different things, for maidens
are fond of thinking when seated at the loom or spinning-wheel, or
quietly occupied in adorning their tresses.

Semestre followed close behind, and gave her a small knife, saying:

"It is seemly to decorate the door of a welcome guest with flowers. The
bushes are full of roses now, so go and cut as many as will be needed for
a handsome garland, but gather only red or yellow flowers, no white ones,
for they bring no good fortune. You will find the largest below near the
bench by the sea."

"I know."

"Wait and hear me out."

"Well?"

"The weather is delightful, there was a light breeze from the north
during the night, so it may happen that the ship from Messina will arrive
before noon."

"Then let me go down."

"Go and watch for the sails. If you see ours, hurry back and tell Chloris
to call me, for I must go to the temple of Cypris."

"You?" asked Xanthe, laughing.

"I, and you are the last person who should sneer at the errand; nay, you
can accompany me."

"No! I will cut the roses."

These words were uttered in a tone the house-keeper knew well. Whenever
Xanthe used it, she insisted upon having her own way, and did what she
pleased, while Semestre, who usually never admitted that her hearing was
no longer so keen as in former clays, in such cases willingly pleaded her
deafness, in order to avoid a retreat.

To-day she particularly shrank from irritating the easily-excited girl,
and therefore replied:

"What did you say? Wouldn't it be better for you to go and cut the roses
immediately, my dove? Make haste, for the vessel for which you are to
watch bears your happiness. How beautiful the ornaments Leonax is
bringing will look! We have never yet seen the like, I imagine. The
people in Messina haven't forgotten poor me either, for I heard whispers
about a robe such as matrons wear. It is--it might be--well, we shall
see."

Tittering, and almost embarrassed, she fixed her eyes upon the ground,
reminded Xanthe once more to have her called as soon as the ship from
Messina appeared, and then, leaning on her myrtle-staff, tottered up the
path leading to the temple of the goddess.

Xanthe did not go directly down to the sea, but approached her uncle's
house to seek Phaon with her eyes.

As she could not see him, either in the stables, or the walk lined with
fig-trees trained upon espaliers beside the house, she turned quickly
away, repressing out of pride her desire to call him.

On her way to the sea she met her uncle's high-shouldered slave. Xanthe
stopped and questioned him.

Semestre had told no lie. Phaon had not yet returned from a nocturnal
excursion, and for several days had not reached home until just before
sunrise.

No, he was not the man to offer support to her sick father. He was
looking for a wealthy heiress, and forgot his relatives for the sake of
dissolute young men and worthless wenches.

This thought hurt her sorely, so sorely that she wanted to weep as she
had done by the spring.

But she forced back her tears; not one wet her cheeks, yet it seemed as
if her poor heart had obtained eyes to shed them.

The little knife in her hand reminded her of her task of cutting roses,
and watching for the ship which was to bring her uncle's son from
Messina.

If Leonax was what Semestre described him, she would not repel him like
the other suitors, whom she had rejected with laughing lips.

Yes, she would become his wife, not only for her father's sake, but to
punish Phaon.

Sorrow and pain never felt before filled her heart after making this
resolution. Wholly engrossed by these conflicting emotions, instead of
going down to the sea, she walked straight on till she reached the great
gate that led to her own home. There she remembered the object of her
errand, and was just turning back, when the conjurer, who was resting
outside the gate with his cart in the shadow of the fence, called:

"You are obeying my advice, beautiful Xanthe, and move as thoughtfully as
a sophist."

"Then you must not disturb me," cried the girl, raising her head
defiantly. "Pardon me if I do so," replied the other, "but I wanted to
tell you that I might perhaps know of aid for your father. In my home--"

"Where is your home?"

"In Messina."

"Messina!" exclaimed Xanthe, eagerly.

"A very experienced physician lives there," interrupted the conjurer.

"No one has helped my father."

"Yet!"

"Then come in and speak to him."

"I'm afraid of the cross old woman."

"She has gone out, and you will find father alone."

"Then I'll go to him."

"Did you say you were from Messina?"

"That is my home."

"Do you know my uncle Alciphron, the merchant?"

"Certainly. He owns the most ships in the place."

"And his son Leonax, too?"

"I often saw him, for my hut stands opposite to the landing-place of your
uncle's vessels, and the youth always superintends the loading and
unloading. He, if any one, belongs to those spoiled children of fortune
who disgust poor dwarfs like me with life, and make us laugh when people
say there are just gods above."

"You are blaspheming."

"I only say what others think."

"Yet you too were young once."

"But I was a dwarf, and he resembles Achilles in stature; I was poor and
he does not know what to do with his wealth; maidens fled from me as they
seek him; I was found in the streets; and a father still guides, a loving
mother kisses him. I don't envy him, for whoever enters life an orphan is
spared the pain of becoming one afterward."

"You speak bitter words."

"He who is beaten does not laugh."

"So you envy Leonax his prosperity?"

"No, for, though I might have such excellent cause to complain, I envy no
king, for there is but one person whose inmost heart I know thoroughly,
and that one stands before you.

"You revile Fate, and yet believe it possible that we may all have more
sorrow to bear than you."

"You have understood me rightly."

"Then admit that you may be happier than many."

"If only most of the contented people were not stupid. However, this
morning I am pleased, because your father gave me this new garment, and I
rarely need despair; I earn enough bread, cheese, and wine with the aid
of my hens, and am not obliged to ask any man's favor. I go with my cart
wherever I choose."

"Then you ought to thank the gods, instead of accusing them."

"No, for absence of suffering is not happiness."

"And do you believe Leonax happy?"

"Hitherto he seems to be, and the fickle goddess will perhaps remain
faithful to him longer than to many others, for he is busy from early
till late, and is his father's right-hand. At least he won't fall into
one of the pits Fate digs for mortals."

"And that is--?"

"Weariness. Thousands are worse, and few better, than your cousin; yes,
the maiden he chooses for his wife may rejoice." Xanthe blushed, and the
dwarf, as he entered the gate, asked:

"Is Leonax wooing his little cousin?"

"Perhaps."

"But the little cousin has some one else in her mind."

"Who told you so?"

"My hens."

"Then remember me to them!" cried Xanthe, who left the juggler and ran
straight toward the path leading to the sea.

Just at the point where the latter branched off from the broader road
used by carts as well as foot-passengers, stood a singular monument,
before which the young girl checked her steps.

The praise the conjurer had lavished on Leonax afforded her little
pleasure; nay, she would rather have heard censure of the Messina suitor,
for, if he corresponded with the dwarf's portrait, he would be the right
man to supply a son's place to her father, and rule as master over the
estate, where many things did not go on as they ought. Then she must
forget the faithless night-reveller, Phaon--if she could.

Every possession seems most charming at the time we are obliged to resign
it, and never in all her life had Xanthe thought so tenderly and
longingly of Phaon as now and on this spot.

The monument, overgrown with blossoming vines, before which she paused,
was a singular structure, that had been built of brick between her own
and her uncle's garden.

It was in the form of a strong wall, bounded by two tall pillars. In the
wall were three rows of deep niches with arched ceilings, while on the
pillars, exquisitely painted upon a brownish-red ground, were the Genius
of Death lowering his torch before an offering-altar, and Orpheus, who
had released his wife from the realm of shadows and was now bearing her
to the upper world.

Many of the niches were still empty, but in some stood vases of
semi-transparent alabaster.

The newest, which had found a place in the lowest row, contained the
ashes of the young girl's grandfather, Dionysius, and his wife, and
another pair of urns the two mothers, her own and Phaon's.

Both had fallen victims on the same day to the plague, the only
pestilence that had visited this bright coast within the memory of man.
This had happened eight years ago.

At that time Xanthe was still a child, but Phaon a tall lad.

The girl passed this place ten times a day, often thought of the beloved
dead, and, when she chanced to remember them still more vividly, waved a
greeting to the dear ashes, because some impulse urged her to give her
faithful memory some outward expression.

Very rarely did she recall the day when the funeral-pile had cooled, and
the ashes of the two mothers, both so early summoned to the realm of
shadows, were collected, placed in the vases, and added to the other
urns. But now she could not help remembering it, and how she had sat
before one of the pillars of the monument weeping bitterly, and asking
herself again and again, if it were possible that her mother would never,
never come to kiss her, speak caressing words, arrange her hair and pet
her; nay, for the first time, she longed to hear even a sharp reproof
from the lips now closed forever.

Phaon was standing by the other pillar, his eyes covered with his right
hand.

Never before or since had she seen him look so sad, and it cut her to the
heart when she noticed that he trembled as if a chill had seized him,
and, drawing a long breath, pushed back the hair, which like a coalblack
curtain, covered half his forehead. She had wept bitterly, but he shed no
tears. Only a few poor words were exchanged between them in that hour,
but each one still echoed in her ears to-day, as if hours instead of
years intervened between that time and now.

"Mine was so good," Xanthe had sobbed; but he only nodded, and, after
fifteen minutes had passed, said nothing but, "And mine too."

In spite of the long pause that separated the girl's words from the
boy's, they were tenderly united, bound together by the thought, dwelling
uninterruptedly in both childish hearts, "My mother was so good."

It was again Xanthe who, after some time, had broken the silence by
asking "Whom have I now?"

Again it was long ere Phaon, for his only answer, could repeat softly:

"Yes, whom?"

They were trivial words, but they expressed the deep wretchedness which
only a child's heart can feel.

Scarcely had they found their way over the boy's lips when he pressed his
left hand also over his eyes, his breast heaved convulsively, and a
torrent of burning tears coursed down his cheeks.

Both children still had their fathers, but they forgot them in this hour.

Who, if the warm sun were extinguished, would instantly remember that the
moon and stars remain?

As Phaon wept so violently, Xanthe's tears began to flow more slowly, and
she gazed at him a long time with ardent sympathy, unperceived by the
lad, for he still covered his eyes with his hands.

The child had met a greater grief than her own, and, as soon as she felt
that she was less sorrow-stricken than her playfellow, a desire to soothe
his sorrow arose.

As the whole plant, with its flowers and fruit, is contained in the
sprouting seed, so, too, in the youngest girl lives the future mother,
who dries all tears, cheers and consoles.

As Phaon remained in the same attitude, Xanthe rose, approached him,
timidly pulled his cloak, and said:

"Come down to our house; I will show you something pretty: four young
doves have come out of the shell; they have big, wide bills, and are very
ugly."

Her playmate removed his hands from his eyes and answered kindly:

"No, let me alone, please."

Xanthe now took his hand and drew him away, saying:

"Yes, you must come; the pole of my cart is broken."

Phaon had been so accustomed to be always called upon whenever there were
any of the little girl's playthings to mend that he obeyed, and the next
day allowed her to persuade him to do many things for which he felt no
inclination.

He yielded in order not to grieve her, and, as he became more cheerful
and even joined in her merry laugh, Xanthe rejoiced as if she had
released him from his sorrow. From that time she claimed his services as
eagerly as before, but in her own heart felt as if she were his little
mother, and watched all his actions as though specially commissioned to
do so.

When she had grown up she did not hesitate to encourage or blame him,
nay, was often vexed or grieved about him, especially if in the games or
dances he paid more attention than she deemed reasonable to other girls,
against whom there was much or little objection, nay, often none at all.
Not on her own account, she said to herself, it could make no difference
to her, but she knew these girls, and it was her duty to warn him.

She willingly forgave many things, but on this point was extremely rigid,
and even allowed anger to carry her to the verge of rudeness.

Now, as she stood beside the sepulchre, she thought of the hour when she
had comforted him, of her care for him and how it had all been vain, for
he spent his nights in rioting with flute-playing women. Yes, Semestre
had said so. He seemed to Xanthe lost, utterly lost.

When she wept in the morning beside the spring, it was not, she now
thought, because of the heiress from Messina; no, the tears that had
sprung to her eyes were like those a mother sheds for her erring son.

She seemed to herself extremely venerable, and would have thought it only
natural if gray hair instead of golden had adorned the head over which
scarcely seventeen years had passed.

She even assumed the gait of a dignified matron, but it was hardly like a
mother, when, on her way to the rose-bushes by the sea, she studiously
strove to misunderstand and pervert everything good in Phaon, and call
his quiet nature indolence, his zeal to be useful to her weakness, his
taciturn manner mere narrow-mindedness, and even his beautiful, dreamy
eyes sleepy.

With all this, the young girl found little time to think of the new
suitor; she must first shatter the old divine image, but every blow of
the hammer hurt her as if it fell upon herself.



CHAPTER VI.

The rose-bush to which Xanthe went grew on the dike that belonged in
common to her father and uncle, beside a bench of beautifully-polished
white marble.

Many a winter had loosened the different blocks, and bordered them with
yellow edges.

Even at a distance the girl saw that the seat was not vacant. The brook
that flowed from the spring to the sea ran beneath it, and the
maid-servants were in the habit of washing the household linen in its
swift current.

Were they now using the bench to spread out the garments they had rinsed?

No! A man lay on the hard marble, a man who had drawn his light cloak
over his face to protect himself from the rays of the sun, now rising
higher and higher.

His sandaled feet and ankles, bandaged as if for journeying, appeared
beneath the covering.

By these feet Xanthe quickly recognized the sleeping youth.

It was Phaon. She would have known him, even if she had seen only two of
his fingers.

The sun would soon reach its meridian height, and there he lay asleep.

At first it had startled her to find him here, but she soon felt nothing
but indignation, and again the image of the flute-playing women, with
whom he must have revelled until thus exhausted, rose before her mind.

"Let him sleep," she murmured proudly and contemptuously; she passed him,
cut a handful of roses from the bushes covered with crimson and yellow
blossoms, sat down on the vacant space beside his head, watched for the
ship from Messina, and, as it did not come, began to weave the garland.

She could do the work here as well as anywhere else, and told herself
that it was all the same to her whether Phaon or her father's linen lay
there. But her heart belied these reflections, for it throbbed so
violently that it ached.

And why would not her fingers move; why could her eyes scarcely
distinguish the red roses from the yellow ones?

The garden was perfectly still, the sea seemed to slumber, and, if a wave
lapped the shore, it was with a low, almost inaudible murmur.

A butterfly hovered like a dream over her roses, and a lizard glided
noiselessly, like a sudden thought, into a chink between the stones at
her feet. Not a breath of air stirred, not a leaf or a twig fell from the
trees.

Yonder, as if slumbering under a blue veil, lay the Calabrian coast,
while nearer and more distant, but always noiselessly, ships and boats,
with gently swelling sails, glided over the water. Even the cicadas
seemed to sleep, and everything around was as still, as horribly still,
as if the breath of the world, blooming and sparkling about her, was
ready to fail.

Xanthe sat spellbound beside the sleeper, while her heart beat so rapidly
and strongly that she fancied it was the only sound audible in this
terrible silence.

The sunbeams poured fiercely on her head, her cheeks glowed, a painful
anxiety overpowered her, and certainly not to rouse Phaon, but merely to
hear some noise, she coughed twice, not without effort. When she did so
the third time, the sleeper stirred, removed from his face the end of the
cloak that had covered his head, slowly raised himself a little, and,
without changing his recumbent posture, said simply and quietly, in an
extremely musical voice:

"Is that you; Xanthe?"

The words were low, but sounded very joyous.

The girl merely cast a swift glance at the speaker, and then seemed as
busily occupied with her roses as if she were sitting entirely alone.

"Well?" he asked again, fixing his large dark eyes upon her with an
expression of surprise, and waiting for some greeting.

As she remained persistently silent, he exclaimed, still in the same
attitude:

"I wish you a joyful morning, Xanthe." The young girl, without answering
this greeting, gazed upward to the sky and sun as long as she could
endure the light, but her lips quivered, and she flung the rose she held
in her hand among its fellows in her lap.

Phaon had followed the direction of her look, and again broke the
silence, saying with a smile, no less quietly than before:

"Yes, indeed, the sun tells me I've been sleeping here a long time; it is
almost noon."

The youth's composure aroused a storm of indignation in Xanthe's breast.
Her excitable blood fairly seethed, and she was obliged to put the utmost
constraint upon herself not to throw her roses in his face.

But she succeeded in curbing her wrath, and displaying intense eagerness,
as she shaded her eyes with her hand and gazed toward some ships that
appeared in view.

"I don't know what is the matter with you," said Phaon, smoothing with
his right hand the black hair that covered half his forehead. "Do you
expect the ship from Messina and my father already?"

"And my cousin Leonax" replied the girl, quickly, putting a strong
emphasis upon the last name.

Then she again gazed into the distance. Phaon shook his head, and both
remained silent for several minutes. At last he raised himself higher,
turned his full face toward the young girl, gazed at her as tenderly and
earnestly as if he wished to stamp her image upon his soul for life,
gently pulled the long, floating sleeve of her peplum, and said:

"I didn't think it would be necessary--but I must ask you something."

While he spoke, Xanthe rested her right elbow on her knee, drummed on her
scarlet lips with her fingers, and clasped the back of the marble bench
with her out-stretched left arm.

Her eyes told him that she was ready to listen, though she still uttered
no word of reply.

"I have a question to ask you, Xanthe!" continued Phaon.

"You?" interrupted the girl, with visible astonishment.

"I, who else? Jason told me yesterday evening that our uncle Alciphron
had wooed you for his son Leonax, and was sure of finding a favorable
reception from old Semestre and your poor father. I went at once to ask
you if it were true, but turned back again, for there were other things
to be done, and I thought we belonged to each other, and you could not
love any one so well as you loved me. I don't like useless words, and
cannot tell you what is in my heart, but you knew it long ago. Now you
are watching for your cousin Leonax. We have never seen him, and I should
think--"

"But I know," interrupted the girl, rising so hastily that her roses fell
unheeded on the ground--"but I know he is a sensible man, his father's
right-hand, a man who would disdain to riot all night with flute-playing
women, and to woo girls only because they are rich."

"I don't do that either," replied Phaon. "Your flowers have dropped on
the ground--"

With these words the youth rose, bent over the roses, gathered them
together, and offered them to Xanthe with his left hand, while trying to
clasp her fingers in his right; but she drew back, saying:

"Put them on the bench, and go up to wash the sleep from your eyes."

"Do I look weary?"

"Of course, though you've lain here till noon."

"But I have scarcely slept for several days."

"And dare you boast of it?" asked Xanthe, with glowing cheeks. "I am not
your mother, and you must do as you choose, but if you think I belonged
to you because we played with each other as children, and I was not
unwilling to give you my hand in the dance, you are mistaken. I care for,
no man who turns day into night and night into day."

At the last words Xanthe's eyes filled with tears, and Phaon noticed it
with astonishment.

He gazed at her sadly and beseechingly, and then fixed his eyes on the
ground. At last he began to suspect the cause of her anger, and asked,
smiling:

"You probably mean that I riot all night?"

"Yes!" cried Xanthe; she withdrew her hand for the second time, and half
turned away.

"Oh!" he replied, in a tone of mingled surprise and sorrow, "you ought
not to have believed that."

"Xanthe turned, raised her eyes in astonishment, and asked

"Then where have you been these last nights?"

"Up in your olive-grove with the three Hermes."

"You?"

"How amazed you look!"

"I was only thinking of the wicked fellows who have robbed many trees of
their fruit. That savage Korax, with his thievish sons, lives just beside
the wall."

"For your sake, Xanthe, and because your poor father is ill and unable to
look after his property, while Mopsus and your fishermen and slaves were
obliged to go in the ship to Messina, to handle the oars and manage the
sails, I always went up as soon as it grew dark."

"And have you kept watch there?"

"Yes."

"So many nights?"

"One can sleep after sunrise."

"How tired you must be!"

"I'll make up my sleep when my father returns."

"They say he is seeking the rich Mentor's only daughter for your wife."

"Not with my will, certainly."

"Phaon!"

"I am glad you will give me your hand again."

"You dear, good, kind fellow, how shall I thank you?"

"Anything but that! If you hadn't thought such foolish things about me, I
should never have spoken of my watch up yonder. Who could have done it
except myself, before Mopsus came back?"

"No one, no one but you! But now--now ask your question at once."

"May I? O Xanthe, dear, dear Xanthe, will you have me or our cousin
Leonax for your husband?"

"You, you, only you, and nobody else on earth!" cried the girl, throwing
both arms around him. Phaon clasped her closely, and joyously kissed her
brow and lips.

The sky, the sea, the sun, everything near or distant that was bright and
beautiful, was mirrored in their hearts, and it seemed to both as if they
heard all creatures that sing, laugh, and rejoice. Each thought that, in
the other, he or she possessed the whole world with all its joy and
happiness. They were united, wholly united, there was nothing except
themselves, and thus they became to each other an especially blissful
world, beside which every other created thing sank into nothingness.

Minute after minute passed, nearly an hour had elapsed, and, instead of
making garlands, Xanthe clasped her arms around Phaon's neck; instead of
gazing into the distant horizon, she looked into his eyes; instead of
watching for approaching steps, both listened to the same sweet words
which lovers always repeat, and yet never grow weary of speaking and
hearing.

The roses lay on the ground, the ship from Messina ran into the bay
beside the estate, and Semestre hobbled down to the sea to look for
Xanthe, and in the place of the master of the house receive her
favorite's son, who came as a suitor, like a god.

She repeatedly called the girl's name before reaching the marble bench,
but always in vain.

When she had at last reached the myrtle grove, which had concealed the
lovers from her eyes, she could not help beholding the unwelcome sight.

Xanthe was resting her head on Phaon's breast, while he bent down and
kissed her eyes, her mouth, and at last--who ever did such things in her
young days?--even her delicate little nose.

For several minutes Semestre's tongue seemed paralyzed, but at last she
raised both arms, and a cry of mingled indignation and anguish escaped
her lips.

Xanthe started up in terror, but Phaon remained sitting on the marble
bench, held the young girl's hand in his own, and looked no more
surprised than if some fruit had dropped from the tree beside him.

The youth's composure increased the old woman's fury, and her lips were
just parting to utter a torrent of angry words, when Jason stepped as
lightly as a boy between her and the betrothed lovers, cast a delighted
glance at his favorites, and bowing with comic dignity to Semestre cried,
laughing:

"The two will be husband and wife, my old friend, and ought to ask your
blessing, unless you wickedly intend to violate a solemn vow."

"I will--I will! When did I--" shrieked the house-keeper.

"Didn't you," interrupted Jason, raising his voice--"didn't you vow this
morning that you would prepare Phaon's wedding-feast with your own hands
as soon as you yourself offered a sacrifice to the Cyprian goddess to
induce her to unite their hearts?"

"And I'll stick to it, so surely as the gracious goddess--"

"I hold you to your promise!" exclaimed Jason. "Your sucking-pig has just
been offered to Aphrodite. The priest gladly accepted it and slaughtered
it before my eyes, imploring the goddess with me, to fill Xanthe's heart
with love for Phaon."

The house-keeper clenched her hands, approached Jason, and so plainly
showed her intention of attacking him that the steward, who had assailed
many a wild-boar, retreated--by no means fearlessly.

She forced him back to the marble bench, screaming:

"So that's why the priest found no word of praise for my beautiful pig!
You're a thief, a cheat! You took my dear little pig, which all the other
gods might envy the mother of Eros, put in its place a wretched animal
just like yourself, and falsely said it came from me. Oh, I see through
the whole game! That fine Mopsus was your accomplice; but so true as I--"

"Mopsus has entered our service," replied Jason, laughing; "and, if our
Phaon's bride will permit, he wants to wed the dark-haired Dorippe.
Henceforth our property is yours."

"And ours yours," replied Xanthe--"Be good-natured, Semestre; I will
marry no man but Phaon, and shall soon win my father over to our side,
rely upon that."

The house-keeper was probably forced to believe these very resolute
words, for, like a vanquished but skilful general, she began to think of
covering her retreat, saying:

"I was outwitted; but, what I vowed in a moment of weakness. I have now
sworn again. I am only sorry for your poor father, who needed a
trustworthy son, and the good Leonax--"

At this moment, as if he had heard his name and obediently appeared at
her call, the son of Alciphron, of Messina, appeared with Phaon's father,
Protarch, from the shadow of the myrtle-grove.

He was a gay, handsome youth, richly and carefully dressed. After many a
pressure of the hand and cordial words of welcome, Phaon took the young
girl's hand and led her to the new-comers, saying:

"Give me Xanthe for a wife, my father. We have grown up together like the
ivy and wild vine on the wall, and cannot part."

"No certainly not," added Xanthe, blushing and nestling closely to her
lover's side, as she gazed beseechingly first at her uncle, and then at
the young visitor from Messina.

"Children, children!" cried Protarch, "you spoil my best plans. I had
destined Agariste, the rich Mentor's only child, for you, foolish boy,
and already had come to terms with the old miser. But who can say I will,
or this and that shall happen to-morrow? You are very sweet and charming
my girl, and I don't say that I shouldn't be glad, but--mighty Zeus! what
will my brother Alciphron say--and you, Leonax?"

"I?" asked the young man, smiling. "I came here like a dutiful son, but I
confess I rejoice over what has happened, for now my parents will hardly
say 'No' a second time, when I beg them to give me Codrus's daughter,
Ismene, for my wife."

"And there stands a maiden who seems to like to hear such uncivil words
better than Helen loved Paris's flattering speeches!" exclaimed Phaon's
father, first kissing his future daughter's cheek and then his son's
forehead.

"But now let us go to father," pleaded Xanthe.

"Only one moment," replied Protarch, "to look after the boxes the people
are bringing.--Take care of the large chest with the Phoenician dishes
and matron's robes, my lads."

During the first moments of the welcome, Semestre had approached her
darling's son, told him who she was, received his father's messages of
remembrance, kissed his hand, and stroked his arm.

His declaration that he wished another maiden than Xanthe for his wife
soothed her not a little, and when she now heard of matrons' dresses, and
not merely one robe, her eyes sparkled joyously, and, fixing them on the
ground, she asked:

"Is there a blue one among them? I'm particularly fond of blue."

"I've selected a blue one, too," replied Protarch. "I'll explain for what
purpose up yonder. Now we'll go and greet my brother."

Xanthe, hand in hand with her lover, hurried on in advance of the
procession, lovingly prepared her father for what had happened, told him
how much injustice he, old Semestre, and she herself had done poor Phaon,
led the youth to him, and, deeply agitated, sank on her knees before him
as he laid her hand in her playfellow's, exclaiming in a trembling voice:

"I have always loved you, curly-head, and Xanthe wants you for her
husband. Then I, too, should have a son!--Hear, lofty Olympians, a good,
strong, noble son! Help me up, my boy. How well I feel! Haven't I gained
in you two stout legs and arms? Only let the old woman come to me to-day!
The conjurer taught me how to meet her."

Leaning on Phaon's strong shoulder he joyously went out of the house,
greeted his handsome young nephew as well as his brother, and said:

"Let Phaon live with Xanthe in my house, which will soon be his own, for
I am feeble and need help."

"With all my heart," cried Protarch, "and it will be well on every
account, for, for--well, it must come out, for I, foolish graybeard--"

"Well?" asked Lysander, and Semestre curved her hand into a shell and
held it to her ear to hear better.

"I--just look at me--I, Protarch, Dionysius's son, can no longer bear to
stay in the house all alone with that silent youth and old Jason, and so
I have--perhaps it is a folly, but certainly no crime--so I have chosen a
new wife in Messina."

"Protarch!" cried Lysander, raising his hands in astonishment; but Phaon
nodded to his father approvingly, exchanging a joyous glance with Xanthe.

"He has chosen my mother's younger sister," said Leonax.

"The younger, yes, but not the youngest," interrupted Protarch. "You must
have your wedding in three days, children. Phaon will live here in your
house, Lysander, with his Xanthe, end I in the old one yonder with my
Praxilla. Directly after your marriage I shall go back to Messina with
Leonax and bring home my wife."

"We have long needed a mistress in the house, and I bless your bold
resolution!" exclaimed Jason.

"Yes, you were always brave," said the invalid.

"But not so very courageous this time as it might seem," answered
Protarch, smiling. "Praxilla is an estimable widow, and it was for her I
purchased in Messina the matron's robes for which you asked, Semestre."

"For her?" murmured the old woman. "There is a blue one among them too,
which will be becoming, for she has light brown hair very slightly mixed
with gray. But she is cheerful, active, and clever, and will aid Phaon
and Xanthe in their young house-keeping with many a piece of good
advice."

"I shall go to my daughter in Agrigentum," said Semestre, positively.

"Go," replied Lysander, kindly, "and enjoy yourself in your old age on
the money you have saved."

"Which my father," added Leonax, "will increase by the sum of a thousand
drachmae.

"My Alciphron has a heart!" cried the house-keeper.

"You shall receive from me, on the day of your departure, the same sum
and a matron's blue robe," said Lysander.

Shortly after the marriage of Xanthe and Phaon, Semestre went to live
with her daughter.

The dike by the sea was splendidly repaired without any dispute, for the
estate once more belonged to the two brothers in common, and Xanthe found
in Praxilla a new, kind mother.

The marble seat, on which the young people's fate was decided, was called
by the grandchildren of the wedded pair, who lived to old age in love and
harmony, "the bench of the question."



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Absence of suffering is not happiness
     Laughing before sunrise causes tears at evening
     People see what they want to see
     Seems most charming at the time we are obliged to resign it
     Wrath has two eyes--one blind, the other keener than a falcon's



THE ELIXIR.

By Georg Ebers

Every Leipziger knows well the tall gabled house in the Katherinenstrasse
which I have in mind. It stands not far from the Market Place, and is
particularly dear to the writer of this true story because it has been in
the possession of his family for a long time. Many curious things have
happened there worthy of being rescued from oblivion, and though my
relatives would now like to relieve me of this task, because I have found
it necessary to point out to certain ingenuous ones among them the truth
which they were endeavoring to conceal, I rejoice that I have sufficient
leisure to chronicle for future generations of Ueberhells the wonderful
life and doings of their progenitor as I learned them from my grandmother
and other good people.

So here, then, begins my story.

Of old, the aforementioned house was known as "The Three Kings," but in
no otherwise was it distinguished from its neighbours in the street save
through the sign of the Court apothecary on the ground floor; this hung
over the arched doorway, and gay with bright colour and gilding
represented the three patron Saints of the craft: Caspar, Melchior, and
Balthasar.

This house in the Katherinenstrasse continued to be called "The Three
Kings," although, soon after the death of old Caspar Ueberhell, the sign
was removed, and the shop closed. And many things happened to it and the
house which ran counter to the usual course of events and the wishes of
the worthy burghers.

Gossip there had been in plenty even during the lifetime of the old Court
apothecary whose only son Melchior had left his father's house and
Leipsic not merely to spend a few years in Prague, or Paris or Italy like
any other son of well-to-do parents who wished to perfect himself in his
studies, but, as it would seem, for good and all.

Both as school-boy and student Melchior had been one of the most gifted
and most brilliant, and many a father, whose son took a wicked delight in
wanton and graceless escapades, had with secret envy congratulated old
Ueberhell on having such an exceptionally talented, industrious and
obedient treasure of a son and heir. But later not one of these men would
have exchanged his heedless scrapegrace of a boy for the much bepraised
paragon of the Court apothecary, since, after all, a bad son is better
than none at all.

Melchior, in fact, came not home, and that this weighed on the mind of
the old man and hastened his death was beyond doubt; for although the
stately Court apothecary's rotund countenance remained as round and
beaming as the sun for three years after the departure of his boy, it
began gradually to lose its plumpness and radiance until at length it was
as faded and yellow as the pale half moon, and the cheeks that had once
been so full hung down on his ruff like little empty sacks. He also
withdrew more and more from the weighing house and the Raths-keller where
he had once so loved to pass his evenings in the company of other worthy
burghers, and he was heard to speak of himself now and then as a "lonely
man." Finally he stayed at home altogether, perhaps because his face and
the whites of his eyes had turned as yellow as the saffron in his shop.
There he left Schimmel, the dispenser, and the apprentice entirely in
charge, so that if any one wished to avoid the Court apothecary that was
the surest place. When, in the end, he died at the age of fifty-six, the
physicians stated that it was his liver--the seat of sorrow as well as of
anger--which had been overtaxed and abused.

It is true that no one ever heard a word of complaint against his son
pass his lips, indeed it was certain that to the very last he was well
acquainted with his son's whereabouts; for when he was asked for news, he
answered at first: "He is finishing his studies in Paris," later:--"He
seems to have found in Padua what he is seeking," and towards the end: "I
think that he will be returning very soon now from Bologna."

It was also noticeable that instead of taking advantage of such
questioning to give vent to his displeasure he would smile contentedly
and stroke his chin, once so round, but then so peaked, and those who
thought that the Court apothecary would diminish his legacy to his truant
son, learned to know better, for the old man bequeathed in an elaborate
will, the whole of his valuable possessions to Melchior, leaving only to
the widow Vorkel, who had served him faithfully as housekeeper after the
death of his wife, and to Schimmel, the dispenser, in the event of the
shop being closed, a yearly stipend to be paid to the end of their days.
To his beloved daughter-in-law, the estimable daughter of the learned Dr.
Vitali, of Bologna, the old man left his deceased wife's jewels, together
with the plate and linen of the house, mentioning her in the most
affectionate terms.

All of which surprised the legal gentlemen and the relatives and
connections and their wives and feminine following not a little, and what
put the finishing stroke to the disgust of these good folk, especially to
such of them as were mothers, was that this son and heir of an honoured
and wealthy house had married a foreigner, a frivolous Italian, and that
too without so much as an intimation of his intention.

With the will there was a letter from the dead man to his son and one to
the worthy lawyer. In the latter he requested his counsellor to notify
his son, Melchior Ueberhell, of his death, and, in case of his son's
return home, to see him well and fairly established in the position which
belonged to him as the heir of a Leipsic burgher and as Doctor of the
University of Padua.

These letters were sent by the first messenger going south over the Alps,
and that they reached Melchior will be seen from the fresh surprises
contained in his answer.

He commissioned Anselmus Winckler, an excellent notary, and formerly his
most intimate school friend, to close the apothecary shop and to sell
privately whatever it contained. But a small quantity of every drug was
to be reserved for his own personal use. He also, in his carefully chosen
diction begged the honourable notary to allow the Italian architect
Olivetti, who would soon present himself, to rebuild the old house of
"The Three Kings" throughout, according to the plan which they had agreed
upon in Bologna. The side of the house that faced the street would not,
be hoped, prove unpleasing, as for the arrangement of the interior, that
was to be made in accordance with his own taste and needs, and to please
himself alone.

These wishes seemed reasonable enough to the lawyer, and as the Italian
architect, who arrived a few weeks later in Leipsic, laid before him a
plan showing the facade of a burgher's house finished with a stately
gable which rose by five successive steps to its peak crowned by a statue
of the armed goddess Minerva with the owl at her feet, no objection could
be made to such an addition to the city, although some of the clergy did
not hesitate to express their displeasure at the banishment of the Three
Saints in favor of a heathen goddess, and at the height of the middle
chimney which seemed to have entered the lists against the church towers.
However, the rebuilding was put in hand, and, of course, the business had
to be wound up and the shop closed before the old front was torn down.

Schimmel, the gray-haired dispenser, married the widow Vorkel, who had
kept house for the late Herr Ueberhell. These two might have related many
strange occurrences to the cousins and kin had they chosen, but he was a
reserved man, and she had been so sworn to silence, and had lived through
such an agitating experience before the death of the old man that she
repulsed all questioners so sharply that they dared not return to the
charge.

The old housekeeper as she watched the deserted father grow indifferent
to what he had to eat and drink--though he had once been so quick to
appreciate the dishes which she prepared so deftly--and neglectful of the
attentions which he had been wont to pay to the outside world, became
embittered towards Melchior whom she had carried in her arms and loved
like her own child. In former times Herr Ueberhell had been accustomed
now and then to invite certain friends to dine with him, and these guests
had praised her cooking, but later, and more especially after the death
of his cousin and colleague, Blumentrost, who had also been his master,
he had asked no one into his well-appointed house.

This retirement of the dignified and hospitable burgher was undoubtedly
caused by the absence of his son, but in a very different way to what
people supposed; for although the old man longed for his only child, he
was very far from resenting his absence; indeed the widow Vorkel herself
knew that it was the father who had dissuaded the son from returning from
Italy until he had reached the goal for which he was striving with
unwearied energy.

She also knew that Melchior gave the old man precise information of his
progress in every letter, and that when her master turned over the care
of the shop to Schimmel, the dispenser, it was only because he had
arranged a laboratory for himself on the first floor, where, following
the directions received in his son's letters, he worked with his
crucibles and retorts, pots and tubes, early and late before the fire.
Yet despite this, the housekeeper saw that the longing for his son was
gnawing at the old man's heart, and had she been able to write she would
have let Melchior know how things stood and begged him to return to
Leipsic. "But there ought to be no need to tell him," she would reflect
in her leisure moments, "he must know it himself," and for this reason
she would force herself as well as she could to be angry with him.

Thus the years passed. Nevertheless, her anger flew to the winds when one
day a messenger arrived bringing a little package from Italy and the
master called her into the laboratory. Then the old withered love
suddenly came to life once more and put forth new leaves and buds, for
what she saw was indeed something wonderful; the Court apothecary held
out to her in his carefully washed hands a sheet of gray paper on which
in red crayon was an exquisite drawing of a beautiful young woman with a
lovely child on her lap. Then, having charged her not to speak of it to
any one, he confided to her that this beautiful woman was Melchior's
young wife, and the little boy their first-born and his grandchild who
would carry on the name of Ueberhell. He had given his consent to his
son's marriage with the daughter of his master in Bologna and now he--old
Caspar Ueberhell--was the happiest of men, and when the doctor returned
to him with wife and child and the thing for which he was so earnestly
searching, why, he would not envy the emperor on his throne. When the
widow Vorkel noticed the tears that were streaming down the old man's
sunken cheeks, her eyes too began to overflow, and after that she often
crept to the chest where the portrait was kept to gaze on the little one
and to press her lips on the same spot whence the grandfather's had
already worn away some of the red crayon.

Herr Ueberhell's joy had been so great that now the longing for his son
took deeper hold of him, and he lost strength day by day, yet Frau Vorkel
could not persuade him to see a physician. He often, however, inhaled
deep draughts of a concoction that he had made in the laboratory with his
son's letter before him, and as he seemed to derive no benefit from it he
would distil it again and mix with it new drugs.

One evening-after having spent the whole day in the laboratory--he
retired unusually early, and when Frau Vorkel went into his room to carry
him his "nightcap" he forgot his usual amiable and suave manner and
growled out at her angrily: "After all these years, can't you prepare my
bed for the night without making me burn myself? Must you be inattentive
as well as stupid?"

Never had she heard such a speech as this from her kindly master, and
when from fright she tipped the tray which she was carrying and spilled
some of the mulled wine over her gown, he cried sharply: "Where are your
wits! First you forget to take the red hot warming-pan out of the bed and
now you old goose you spill my good drink onto the floor."

He stopped, for Frau Vorkel had set down the tray on the table in order
to wipe her eyes with her apron; then he thrust his feet out of the
bed-which was entirely contrary to his usual decorous behavior--and
demanded with flashing eyes: "Did you hear what I just said?"

The widow, greatly shocked, retreated and answered sobbing: "How could I
help hearing, and how can you bring yourself to insult an unprotected
widow who has served you long and faithfully. . . ."

"I have done it, I have done it," the old man cried, his eyes glistening
with joy and pride as if he had just accomplished an heroic undertaking.
"I am sorry I called you a goose, and as for your lack of brains, well
you might have a few more, but, and this I can assure you, you are honest
and true and understand your business, and if you will only be as good to
me as I have always been to you. . . ."

"Oh, Herr. . . ." Widow Vorkel interrupted him, and covered her face with
her apron; but he would not let her finish her sentence, so great was his
excitement and continued in a hoarse voice: "You must grant what I ask,
Vorkel, after all these years, and if you will, you must take that little
phial there and inhale its contents, and when you have done so you must
let me ask you some questions."

After much persuasion, the housekeeper yielded to the wishes of her
master, and while she still held the little bottle from which the ether
escaped, to her nose, the Court apothecary questioned her hastily: "Do
you think that I have always acted like a man, diligently striving for
the good of himself and his house?"

Some strange change seemed to take place in Frau Vorkel; she planted her
hands on her hips most disrespectfully--a thing she never did except
perhaps when she was scolding the maid or the butcher boy--and laughed
loud and scornfully: "My, what a question! You may, perhaps, have a
larger stock of useless information than an old woman like me,--though
strictly speaking I cannot be called an old woman yet--but despite my
being stupid and a 'goose,' I have always been wiser than you, and I know
which side one's bread is buttered on. Bless me! And is there anything
more idiotic than that you, the father of the best son in the world,
should sit here alone, fretting yourself yellow and lean until from a
stately looking man you grow to be a scarecrow, when one word from you
would bring your only child back again and with him the wife and sweet
grandchild, that you might all enjoy life together! If that isn't sheer
folly and a sin and a shame. . . ."

Here she checked herself, for her habitually decorous master stood before
her in his night shirt, barefooted, and laughed loud and merrily,
clapping himself boisterously on his wasted ribs and on the shrunken
thighs that carried his thin body. The precise widow was very much upset,
she was also horrified at the insolent answer which,--she knew not
how,--had just passed her lips. She endeavored to find some words of
excuse but they were not necessary, for the Court apothecary called out,
"Magnificent! Glorious! May all the saints be praised, we have found it."
And before the worthy woman knew what he was about the gray-haired
invalid had caught her in his arms and kissed her heartily on both
cheeks. But the happy excitement had been too much for him and with a low
groan he sank down on the edge of the bed and sobbed bitterly.

Frau Vorkel was greatly disturbed for she guessed--and it would seem with
reason--that her good master had gone out of his mind. But she presently
changed her opinion, for after he had cried unrestrainedly until he was
exhausted, Herr Ueberhell gave her a prompt proof of his sanity and
returning health. In his kindly and polite manner of former times, he
begged her to set out in the kitchen a bottle of the oldest and best
Bacharacher. There he bade her bring a second glass and invited her to
drink, and clink glasses with him because the greatest piece of good luck
had happened to him that day that it was in the power of the blessed
saints to grant to mortal man. He, the father, had discovered in Leipsic
what his son had sought in vain at all the most famous Universities of
Italy, and if he should succeed in one remaining step, the fame of the
Ueberhells, like that of the Roman Horatii, would reach to the skies.

Then he became more serious and confessed that he was very weak and
broken, and that when he had gone to bed earlier in the evening he had
felt that his last hour was not far distant. Death itself sometimes
floats 'twixt cup and lip, as has been remarked by a heathen philosopher,
and if he should be called away before he had seen Melchior again, then
must she be his messenger and tell his son that he had found that part of
the White Lion, of the white tincture of argentum potabile or potable
silver, which his letter had put him on the track of. His son would know
what he meant, and to-morrow he would write down the particulars if he
should succeed that night in finding again the substance through which he
had attained to the greatest wonder that science had achieved since the
days of Adam.

He emptied bumper after bumper and clinked glasses at least a dozen times
with Frau Vorkel, who was immensely tickled with the unwonted honour.

After that he drew his chair closer to hers that he might better impress
upon her what she was to say to Melchior. He began by telling her that
she could never understand the full meaning of what had happened but that
she must take his word for it, he had discovered an elixir whose effect
was most wonderful and would change the whole course of events. From now
onwards, lying would be impossible, the reign of truth was at hand and
deceit had been routed from its last stronghold.

As she, however, shrank back from him, still somewhat fearful, he
demanded loftily if she ever would have dared to announce to him, her old
master, so candidly what she thought of him, as she had done an hour ago,
if she had not inhaled the contents of the phial. And Frau Vorkel had to
admit that she had been forced by some occult power to utter those
disrespectful speeches. She looked with awed wonder, first at her master,
then at the little bottle, and suddenly broke out with: "My! My What will
be left for the judges to do when everyone can be forced to speak out
boldly and disclose his smallest sin. My! My! But then we shall hear
pretty tales! From the Burgomaster down, everyone in Leipsic will have to
get a new pair of ears, for what one hears will be as outrageous and
unseemly as among the savages."

These observations showed the Court apothecary that Frau Vorkel had,
despite her want of intelligence, grasped to a certain extent the
importance of his discovery; while this pleased him in a way, it also
made him uneasy, therefore he made her swear on the crucifix that so long
as she lived she would never impart to any living soul, his son excepted,
what she had that evening experienced.

Then Herr Ueberhell went back to his search for the unknown element which
had given to his son's elixir the power that had been exhibited in such
wonderful fashion. But he did not succeed in finding the right
ingredient, for as often as he called Frau Vorkel to come and inhale the
new mixture, she gave such plausible and politic answers to his dangerous
questions that he could be by no means sure of her absolute truthfulness.
Then too the operations progressed slowly because that day at noon his
finger had been badly cut by the bursting of a glass retort. So presently
he ceased work for a while and insisted that Frau Vorkel should take the
phial in her own hand and inhale its contents once more, because it
pleased him to try the power of the elixir.

With an amused smile he asked her if she used the great quantities of
wool, which she so constantly demanded, for no other purpose than to knit
socks for him.

The phial trembled in the hand of the housekeeper, and before she could
help it her response had passed her lips:

"You have all the socks that you need and it is surely no great crime for
me to knit a few pairs to warm the feet of your assistant, that poor,
silent worm who stands downstairs the livelong day in the cold shop."

Despite this reply Herr Ueberhell only laughed and continued the
inquisition gaily. He next wished to know who was dearer to the heart of
the housekeeper, the assistant or her late husband, to which she rejoined
"Why should I lament Vorkel? He was a bully, who never could learn how to
cut out a coat, and always stole his customers' cloth." At that moment
there was an ominous crash on the floor, and a powerful odour filled the
laboratory; the phial had slipped from the hands of the frightened woman.

What happened after that Frau Vorkel even in her old age shuddered to
recall. How it could have been possible for the amiable and pious Court
apothecary to give utterance to such objurgations and invectives, such
sacrilegious curses and anathemas, and how she, a respectable and proper
woman, of good Leipsic people, ever could have allowed herself to attack
any one, least of all her excellent master, in such abusive language were
problems she could never solve.

Yet they must not be censured for their use of Billingsgate, for the
strong aroma of the elixir forced them to tear aside the veil which in
Leipsic, as elsewhere, clothes the ugly truth as with a pleasing garment,
and to lay bare all the rancour that filled their hearts.

Later when she thought about the breaking of the phial, the conviction
grew upon her limited intelligence that this accident would perhaps prove
in the end to be the best thing that could have happened, not only for
her but for all mankind. To her excellent master, at least, the Elixir of
Truth proved fatal all too soon; the intense excitement of that night had
shaken him so cruelly that before the day dawned the feeble flame of his
life had flickered out.

Frau Vorkel found him dead the next morning in his laboratory. He must
have gone thither to seek once more for the lost substance after she had
helped him to bed. Before he had begun his work he must have wished to
encourage himself by a glance at the portrait of his grandchild, for as
she opened the door the sheet of paper with the red crayon drawing was
wafted from the open chest, beside which her master had fallen, and like
a butterfly, fluttered down upon the heart that had ceased to beat
several hours before.

Six months after the death of the Court apothecary, Melchior Ueberhell
returned home and Frau Vorkel or, as she must now be called, Frau
Schimmel, was the only person to whom he wrote to announce the hour of
his arrival in Leipsic.

In his letter the young doctor begged her to undertake the responsibility
of engaging a man servant and a kitchen maid for him, and of seeing that
there was a fire laid on his hearth to welcome him. He also asked "his
faithful old friend" to nail up before the furnace of the laboratory on
the first floor the brass triangle which the messenger, who brought the
letter, would give to her. It was to be hung with the face, bearing the
numerals and the figures of animals, towards the outside.

This news threw Frau Schimmel into a great state of excitement and at the
appointed hour everything stood ready for the reception of the future
occupants of the Ueberhell house.

Doctor Melchior and his family waited in Connewitz for the sun to set
that he might enter his native town after it was dark and yet before the
city gates were closed; for it was characteristic of his retiring nature
to wish to avoid exposing himself and his beautiful wife and child to the
vulgar curiosity of the people. These two had made the journey in a
litter carried by mules.

As it was just the time for the Easter fair and many strangers were
arriving in Leipsic the travellers passed through the Peterstrasse,
across the market-place and entered their newly built house without
attracting any attention.

It was too dark for them to see the statue of Minerva on the peak of the
high gable and the sun-dial on its face with the circle of animals, but
the lighted windows on the ground-floor and in the first story gave the
house a hospitable air.

Frau Schimmel who had long been awaiting their arrival went out to meet
them and the new man servant held the lantern so that they could see her
curtseys.

"May the holy saints bless your homecoming!" the old lady called out, and
Melchior felt himself choke at the host of sweet memories evoked by this
greeting--of how his mother used to fold his hands and teach him to pray
to the holy patrons of the house, of the sad hour when he had received
the news of his father's death--and to his astonishment he felt the warm
tears running down his cheeks, the first he had shed for many years and
almost before he knew it himself, he had caught Frau Schimmel to his
heart and kissed her tenderly.

Then he turned to his slim young wife, who with the boy was standing
behind him, and presented her to the old housekeeper: "The dearest
treasure that I won in Italy! I commend her to your love."

Frau Schimmel raised the beautiful Italian's hand to her lips and lifted
the little boy and hugged him. Melchior in the mean while hurried to the
entrance door, there he bowed three times and solemnly lifted aloft his
arms toward the evening-star that was just showing itself above the roof
of a house across the market-place.

The old housekeeper noticed this, and rejoiced for she thought that
Melchior was returning thanks to the holy saints for a safe journey, but
she was disillusioned when she heard him open his lips and cry towards
heaven an invocation which was neither German nor Latin, for she knew the
sound of the latter tongue, having heard it so often at mass, but a
combination of strange sounding words more like those that she used to
hear her late master muttering over his work in the laboratory, with his
son's letter before him. It was certainly no Christian prayer and her
heart sank within her. When the doctor had ended the ceremony which for
all she knew might be an invocation of evil spirits, and entered the
house with his wife and child, she went up to him and without a moment's
indecision made the sign of the cross on his breast and another on the
curly head of the child. Melchior laughed at her but did not rebuff her.
Soon the travellers were seated about the neatly laid table in their own
house and Frau Schimmel had her reward in seeing Melchior enjoy the
home-made dishes. And little Zeno--for that was the name of the Court
apothecary's grandchild--drink the good milk and munch the butter cakes
which she had baked to celebrate their arrival. But the young wife hardly
tasted anything.

Did not the food please her? Perhaps she was accustomed in Italy to a
different way of cooking? "Other nations, other customs."

But who could feel annoyed with that heavenly creature?

Frau Schimmel was of the opinion that she had never seen any one to equal
her, and could not bear to take her eyes off her. Yet the appearance of
the wife of her old favorite filled her with forebodings, and suddenly,
though she was by no means superstitious or given to presentiments, she
seemed to see Frau Bianca--so the young Italian was called--lying on her
bier, a light veil over her, and a wreath of lilies-of-the-valley on her
raven hair. A sad quiet face!

Frau Schimmel's vision must have been caused by the young wife's
excessive paleness. "White as snow, black as ebony" fitted her, as well
the beauty of the fairy tale, only "red as blood" was wanting. She was
also as tall and slender as the lilies in the little garden that the
Court apothecary had owned outside the Petersthor.

After supper Frau Schimmel helped the mother to bathe the little Zeno and
to put him to bed, and Melchior also assisted at the performance. As the
old lady looked from mother to child a great pity filled her heart for
the dear son of her late master who had staked his happiness on a
creature so ethereal that the first wind might blow her away; such
delicate perfection as that, if her experience did not deceive her, was
hardly adapted to the needs of an everyday German husband. But then did
Melchior look like such an one? No.

Again she felt a cold shiver go down her back, for Melchior had taken the
bath sheet and was holding it in front of him waiting to wrap the child
in it as it was taken out of its tub, and it seemed to her as if he had
on a shroud and his bloodless emaciated face with his black hair and
moustache looked ghostly over the top of it.

It annoyed her that she should have these stupid, sad thoughts on the
occasion of such a happy home coming!

She did her best to drive them away and the child helped her, for it, at
least, looked lively enough as it sat in the warm water, and kicked, and
splashed, and laughed, and cooed, calling to its parents and then to Frau
Schimmel. When it tried to pronounce her name, her heart overflowed and
she answered absently, for she was saying a silent Paternoster for the
health and welfare of this blessed child who somehow seemed even lovelier
than Melchior had once been, though in his time she had considered him
"the sweetest baby that had ever lived."

When the child was in bed the mother folded its hands and murmured what
Frau Schimmel knew to be a prayer, but the father touched, its forehead
and the place about the heart with an essence, speaking at the same time
some incomprehensible words. Whatever they meant, they seemed to agree
well enough with the incomparable child.

The young wife was tired after her long journey and went early to bed,
and when the housekeeper was finally left alone with Melchior, he begged
her to tell him how things had gone with his father, after his departure.

The son of her late master had, then, brought back from Italy his tender
and affectionate heart, however stern and anxious his long and colourless
face might seem; and when he heard of the old man's longing to see him,
and death, his eyes were wet with tears.

He interrupted the course of her narrative but seldom; when she came to
his father's last hours, however, and the success of the experiment which
had been made on her with the elixir, he plied her with question upon
question until he was satisfied as to what he wished to know. Then he
suddenly stood still in the middle of the room and lifting his eyes and
arms on high cried aloud, like one in an ecstasy:

"Eternal Truth, holy Truth! Thy kingdom come!"

These words went through Frau Schimmel like a knife, and as Melchior
stood there looking up at the ceiling as if he expected it to open and
disclose to him a sight of Heaven, he seemed so great, and
unapproachable, and apart, that she feared him, though in years gone by
she had tucked his luncheon into his knapsack before sending him off to
school, and tremblingly she yielded to his will as she had done before to
his father's and swore again a solemn oath never to reveal what she might
see or hear concerning the elixir.

This vow oppressed Frau Schimmel and she breathed more freely when he
began to talk about things within the range of her comprehension, about
the details of the housekeeping, and the laboratory on the second floor
with the big furnace. He must find an assistant who would be silent and
discreet and Frau Schimmel knew of one whom she could recommend, for her
husband did not enjoy his newly acquired leisure; he had been so used to
blowing a furnace and decocting medicines that he could not give up the
occupation and consequently she could not roast so much as a pigeon
without having his grim and blear-eyed visage peering over her shoulder.

The sensible woman foresaw that idleness would soon render the old
bridegroom discontented, and Doctor Melchior, who remembered the silent
man and his skilful hands, was very easily persuaded to give him a trial.
At the back of the house there was a cheerful suite of rooms where the
housekeeper and the apprentices had formerly lived. Melchior now put this
apartment at the disposition of the old couple. Frau Schimmel would lend
her aid to his wife, for Frau Bianca understood neither German nor the
management of a German household, while from Herr Schimmel he anticipated
the best particularly as he--the doctor--meant to devote himself at first
entirely to the discovery of a remedy for his wife, whose condition
filled him with the deepest apprehension.

The new laboratory was presently the scene of the most zealous labours,
and Herr Schimmel was delighted with his new position, for no apothecary
and chemist had ever before had such a well-fitted furnace and such
delicate scales and instruments to work with; and if he did not
understand what was the end of so much weighing and fusing and
distilling, or what the remedies were that the doctor was always
decanting from the boiling liquids, yet the occupation made the long
summer days pass most pleasantly, for he had none of that love of the
open air that most Leipzigers bring into the world with them.

Since his apprenticeship, and a whole lifetime had passed since then, he
had left the apothecary shop only twice a year to take a holiday, and on
none of these occasions had he ever seen green trees, for his "outings"
as he called them, fell, according to his own wish, on the festival of
the "Three Kings" in January, and on the twenty-seventh of March which
was his saint's day, his name being Rupert.

Of the eighty holidays that lay behind him--all of which he had spent in
going to see a sister who was married to a miller and lived in
Gohlis--nine and thirty times it had rained, and forty-one times it had
snowed. In consequence of this "a walk in the fresh air" always suggested
to his mind, damp clothes, wet feet, ruined shoes, a cold in the head,
and an attack of indigestion--the result of his sister's greasy cooking.
His wife, too, preferred the inside of the city walls, "where" as she was
so fond of saying, "you know where you are."

Thus even in summer Herr Schimmel was always on hand to help the doctor,
nor had he cause to complain of being over worked, for the master seemed
as fond of a walk in the open air as the assistant was averse to one, and
when May came and the fruit trees were in blossom, when the delicate
green leaves of the beeches burst from the bud, and the oaks shed their
dry brown foliage in order to deck themselves out in young green, and the
dandelions embroidered the fields with gold and then sprinkled them over
with silver tissue, when the cowslips and daisies and violets and their
spring companions in purple and yellow appeared, and the larches on the
banks of the Pleisse turned green, when the nightingale sang and rejoiced
in the woods, then Doctor Melchior Ueberhell rarely spent a sunny
afternoon at home.

With his beautiful young wife on his arm he wandered through the lovely
Laubwald--that precious possession of the city--and though he had often
said while in Italy, where it is dryer and the foliage sparser than in
Germany, that there was nothing so beautiful as the abounding brooks and
the dense greenery of his native forests, it gave him sincere joy, that
spring, to have his opinion confirmed and to see that his dearly loved
wife cared as much for the German woods as he did.

When in their walks they encountered other burghers, all eyes rested on
the handsome pair, for if Melchior were thin, his figure was tall and his
features good, and there was a strange charm in his big, dark, eyes that
seemed to find more in the woods than was visible to others, moreover the
black clothes of his profession sat as well upon him as did his wife's
white dresses and kerchiefs of costly stuffs upon her. These she was fond
of relieving by a bit of light blue, her favourite colour. The slim young
Italian, with her bowed head and beautiful pale face framed in its black
hair, seemed like an elf who had gone out in her light dress to dance the
May dance in the moonlight and had decked herself with forget-me-not and
gentian.

Whoever saw her felt glad, for it seemed to him as if he had met with a
piece of good fortune, but no one sought to make her acquaintance,
although the doctor had not omitted to take her, soon after their
arrival, to call upon his relatives and the dignitaries of the city.
People had asked them at first to dine, but as Melchior always refused
because of his wife's delicate health, they did not press the matter; for
no one could talk with her as she understood no German, while all who
heard her light cough felt that the doctor was right to guard his fragile
treasure so carefully.

When the few matrons who visited her called upon her, instead of finding
her in the kitchen or the cellar, they found her lying upon the sofa with
a book or her guitar in her hands, or perhaps playing with her little
boy, and the amiable ones among them explained it by her pale face and
delicate air, but the severer ones said that such idleness was the
Italian custom and they pitied the doctor.

What the feminine relatives of the doctor chiefly resented was the fact
that the young couple seemed to get on so perfectly well without them.
Happiness indeed shone in their eyes, and the silent doctor seemed to
find his tongue when he walked in the woods and fields with his beloved
wife. The notary Anselmus Winckler was also loud in his praises of both
of them. He was the only person who ever joined them in their walks
through the woods, and as he had been for several years Melchior's
companion at school in Bologna, and had there learned to speak the sweet
Italian tongue, he could talk with Frau Blanca like one of her own
countrymen. He was a convivial person, and when he was in the tavern, or
dining with a friend, he would expatiate on how learned the doctor was in
all the secrets of nature and how well Dr. Vitali, Frau Bianca's father,
had known how to cultivate her appreciation of the good and the
beautiful. To hear her questions and her husband's tender and wise
replies was a pleasure unspeakable.

If the weather were fine the doctor would sometimes go out in the
mornings also, and then he liked best to take his young wife to the
Ueberhell garden outside the Petersthor, and show her what rare herbs and
fruit-trees his father and grandfather had planted, and Frau Bianca
amused herself by gathering the flowers, or helping her child to pick the
ripe cherries and early pears.

In Bologna she had found it difficult to entice her husband away from his
work, indeed her own father, his master, had held him back, and now she
rejoiced that in the new home he was willing to give her so many hours of
his time, moreover--he had confessed it to her--instead of the elixir,
which she had been taught from childhood to regard as the worthiest
object of research, he was seeking for a medicine that should cure her.

Autumn came, and the starlings assembled on the Thomaskirche, the storks
in the village, and the swallows on the roof of the neighbour's house to
prepare for their flight towards the south; heavy storms tore the leaves
from the trees, one dull rainy day followed another, and when at last the
mountain-ash berries and the barberries were shining in all their
brightest scarlet, the rosy flush that had been coaxed into the young
wife's cheeks during the long, dry, happy summer changed to a crimson
spot, her eyes acquired a strained, longing, mournful expression, and
after she had had an attack of coughing she would sink together as if the
autumn winds had broken her as they had the stems of the mallow which
were hanging from the trellis in the little garden outside.

Then a day came when the Court physician Olearius found his way into "The
Three Kings." It was in the middle of December and straw was strewn in
the street in front of the Ueberhell house. Those who had held aloof from
the young couple in their happy hours now drew near in their misfortune.
It seemed as if the young Italian had suddenly become the idol of the
inhabitants of Leipsic, so many were the inquiries about her condition,
so numerous the friendly offers of service, the kindly gifts of hot-house
flowers and rare wines. Just as the Christmas bells rang out along the
streets of the city the joyful tidings "Christ is born" a sharp cry rang
through the rooms of The Three Holy Kings and Melchior knelt beside his
blighted flower that now was whiter even than the lily, for the last
shimmer of red had faded forever from her wan cheeks, and he wrung his
hands in utter despair.

The funeral train that followed the young Italian, who had appeared among
them like a fleeting vision of Paradise, would have done honour to the
wife of the Chief Justice.

Every one who was respectable and aristocratic in Leipsic followed her,
as well as many humbler folk on whom Bianca's glance had rested but once.
People were now so open-hearted, and seemed to wish to give to the dead
what they had withheld from the living. Hot tears were shed, for though
not one of all the mourners had ever really known Bianca, they felt that
they had lost something beautiful.

The only member of the family of Ueberhell who did not make part of the
funeral train was the chief mourner, the bereaved Doctor Melchior
himself.

Alone and tearless he paced the chamber that Bianca had occupied. He
denied himself to all who wished to see him or to comfort him, he even
refused to admit the notary Winckler.

That the flower of his life was crushed, and that he carried a
death-wound in his heart was all that he felt or thought.

Frau Schimmel began at last to fear that he too would die. If the vision
that showed her Frau Bianca on her death-bed had come true, why should
not the other one concerning the doctor? He ate and drank less than a
Carthusian on a fast-day, he offended all the good people who had shown
his wife such honour, he went neither to mass nor to his work in the
laboratory, and consequently her husband, too, was idle and threatened to
become unbearable once more.

How would it all end?

The burghers exhibited great indulgence towards him. He had received a
terrible blow, and one must forgive him for not having followed the
coffin, particularly, as nothing else was wanting that was necessary to
an imposing and expensive funeral: Frau Schimmel had taken care of that,
having arranged it on her own responsibility. When the great healer,
Time, had comforted him, then would he draw near to them again, most of
his friends thought, yes even nearer than before, now that he had lost
his invalid wife who had hindered him from joining their gay circles.

We are so willing to be lenient to the unfortunate, for a Greater than we
has visited them with sorrow such as man could not inflict.

But it ended otherwise than his friends anticipated. The Three Kings lay
there like a deserted house, and although the tall chimney on the roof
began to belch forth streams of smoke by night, as well as by day, hardly
four weeks after the death of Bianca, it was commonly supposed that the
place was unoccupied. Commonly supposed: for once in a while the knocker
was heard when Herr Winckler called, happy childish laughter floated out
from the open window, or Frau Schimmel was seen with her basket on her
arm going to market.

But no one ever met the doctor, neither at mass nor in the street, and
yet he did not always remain at home.

In summer at sunrise he went to the churchyard, and from there into the
woods; in winter, when the first stars appeared, he wrapped himself in
his black cloak and went to Bianca's grave, and thence to one of the
neighbouring villages, but he never entered anywhere, and only the sexton
who admitted him to the graveyard, and the gate watchman, who opened the
burgher's wicket to him, ever exchanged greetings with him.

At home he wandered around no longer, idle and fasting, but ate his meals
regularly, and threw himself into his work with such passionate energy,
that even the industrious Schimmel found it too much, and Frau Schimmel
grew anxious. The latter, too, knew what the doctor hoped to accomplish
by his hard work, for she had spied upon him, but she must not be blamed
as it had been with the most praiseworthy intention.

Four weeks after Bianca's death, and after he had shed many hot and
heart-felt tears, Melchior turned for the first time to his work again.

It happened late in the evening, and before he went into the laboratory
he uttered such strange words over the sleeping child that Frau Schimmel,
who was watching beside it, was frightened, especially as Schimmel had
not been called to aid the doctor, and what might happen to the
distraught man, if he were left to work alone, passed in gloomy visions
before the old lady. So she concealed herself behind the bellows that
were attached to the furnace, and there she was witness of events that
sent cold shivers down her back whenever she thought of them.

In his best holiday costume of black velvet puffed with silk he entered
the laboratory, holding himself very erect. The high, arched room was
only dimly lighted by a hanging-lamp, but when Frau Schimmel heard his
steps she shrank together till, as she fancied, she must have become
smaller and less easily discoverable. What she feared was that he might
start the furnace and she should be obliged to reveal herself because of
the heat.

But to her great relief he walked straight into the middle of the
laboratory and stopped directly under the lamp, which was suspended from
the point where the ribs of the vaulting intersected. There he waved a
fresh laurel branch towards every side of the room and called out the
same words and names that he had murmured by the bed-side of his son,
only louder and more imperiously.

To the listener it was perfectly clear that this was an invocation of
spirits, and her knees trembled under her, and her teeth chattered so
audibly that she feared he must hear her. Though she closed her eyes
tightly in order not to see the hellish brood that was about to pervade
that Christian house, fearing that she might be strangled by them or go
mad; yet the unholy creatures must have entered the laboratory obedient
to their master's call for she distinctly heard him greet one of them
solemnly.

As she did not smell any sulphur fumes nor see any dancing flames when
she peeped out from under her half-closed lids, she gathered sufficient
courage to look about her. But she saw nothing save the doctor on his
knees talking into the corner of the laboratory, where there was nothing
but the broom with which she had swept the stone floor that morning, and
the shabby old brown peruke that Herr Schimmel was in the habit of
putting on in the winter when he crossed the court-yard.

These apparitions she knew so intimately that she began to be reassured,
and her confidence once restored she reflected that either the spirits
must have held her unworthy of a sight of them and have been visible only
to the master, or else that the doctor had gone completely out of his
mind. Of her own sanity she had no doubts for her mind was made of
sterner stuff and would therefore be less easily affected.

Whether Doctor Melchior were holding converse with the broom, or the
peruke, or a spectre whom he, and no one else could see Frau Schimmel
could not tell, but she had then recovered herself sufficiently to be
able to listen attentively.

She crossed herself several times for the sake of greater safety, and
what she heard from the doctor's own mouth remained a secret between her
and Schimmel.

Not a word did she lose till Melchior went into the library next the
laboratory, and then she thought it expedient to leave her hiding-place
and hurry to her room.

Schimmel had long been in bed, and his snoring greeted her as she
entered, but she wakened him to tell him breathlessly what she had just
seen and heard.

After she had explained her anxiety about the doctor and its
consequences, she continued that the apparition which the doctor had
invoked was the Spirit of Truth. Whether it had been obedient to the call
she could not say, but, at any rate it had been no demon of hell-God be
praised--bringing a reek of the pit, and besides Satan was the Prince of
Lies and would consider himself insulted if he were called the Spirit of
Truth, moreover the spirit who had appeared to the doctor had behaved in
the most exemplary manner.

The master, too, had confessed with true Christian humility and self
reproach that he had sinned against the Spirit of Truth, to whom none the
less he had dedicated his body and soul, inasmuch as, influenced by his
great love for his wife, he had devoted himself to finding a remedy which
would cure her, and had thus become a traitor to the object of his life.

After this he had sprung up and held aloft his hand with the forefinger
extended and sworn to the spirit that nothing here after would seduce him
from the pursuit of the elixir which was to render Truth triumphant in
the world.

Fran Schimmel described how the doctor's eyes had glowed at these words,
and how he had looked as if an invisible hand had written "Truth" in
large letters upon his forehead. He would be as certain to reach his goal
as she would be to pray the holy saints for a peaceful death.

After a long silence and much consideration the only thing that Herr
Schimmel found to say in answer to these important revelations was: "It
is all the same to me," to which his dear wife, with like brevity, and
sincere disgust replied: "You fool!"

The next morning the doctor began work afresh and with redoubled zeal.

Every drug that had been reserved from the laboratory of the late Court
apothecary was brought, mixed with the elixir and fused; and he tried
each new mixture on himself, for Frau Schimmel was not to be persuaded to
smell any more elixirs.

She, however, was more studious than ever of the necessities of the
household, and of the material comfort of the doctor and his child, and
when she noticed that her master began to cough as his dead wife had
done, she entreated him to take better care of himself, and not to leave
his son an orphan she also instigated Herr Winckler to beg him to
consider his own welfare and that of the child.

There was yet another thing that made her unhappy.

Her whole heart was wrapped up in little Zeno, and when he was dressed in
his best on feast-days a prettier and nobler looking child than he was
not to be seen.

But the doctor did not seem to have much affection for him; yet in the
evenings when the little one was in bed he went through the same
performance that had been customary during the lifetime of its mother,
and once in a while he would lift the child out of the cradle and press
it to his heart so passionately that the boy, in a fright would struggle
to get away from him and would cry for Frau Schimmel. Finally the child
became so afraid of its father that it would not go near him and this the
old housekeeper could bear no longer, so she took her courage in her
hands and spoke to her master about it.

She began by saying she had not forgotten that, according to his dead
father the saints had endowed her with a very limited intelligence, but
that she knew enough to be certain that it could be neither wise, nor
right for a man who had been blessed with such a fine son, to be
indifferent to his treasure and indeed to estrange it.

The extraordinary man looked at her with his sad eyes and answered
thoughtfully: "I demand nothing from the boy be cause I have no other
idea than to give him all I have and am. For his benefit I am seeking
something higher than the world has yet known, and I shall find it."

The lofty words silenced Frau Schimmel, but she thought to herself: "With
my few brains I am yet wiser than you. A heartfelt, willing kiss from
your child would make you happier than all the learning that you make so
much fuss about, and a caress or a spank from you--each at the proper
time--would do little Zeno more good than all the world-improving
discoveries in search of which you embitter your days and nights."

One beautiful afternoon in June on her return from the graveyard, whither
she regularly took the boy, and where she herself carefully tended the
white roses on Bianca's grave, she found the doctor stretched on the
sofa, instead of being in the laboratory as usual, and as he sighed
heavily when she entered, she asked him respectfully what it was that
oppressed him.

At first he shook his head as if he wished to be left alone, but when
she, in spite of this, remained and he noticed that her gray eyes were
full of tears, he suddenly remembered that by the side of his mother's
coffin, and more recently at Bianca's death-bed they had wept together,
then his full heart overflowed, and gasping and shaken by his cough he
burst forth with: "It will soon be over--I feel it within me, and yet I
am no nearer to the goal. All the elements of nature I have called to my
aid--all the spirits 'twixt Heaven and Earth over whom necromancy has any
power have I made subject to my will and have commanded them to help
me--to what end? There stands the elixir and is hardly more valuable than
the small beer with which the servant down-stairs quenches his thirst,
indeed it is less useful for who derives any benefit from it? I shall
quit this world an unhappy man who has wasted his life and talents in
untold efforts from his school-days until now--and yet, if the spirit
would only reveal to me the missing substance which should give to this
liquid in my hand the power that it once possessed, gladly would I
sacrifice twenty lives! Oh! you faithful old soul, you can never
understand it, I know. But this world, where lying and deceit flourish,
would be changed into a Paradise, and it would be an Ueberhell whom
mankind would have to thank for the great blessing. And now--now!"

Here he buried his face in his hands like one in despair. Frau Schimmel
regarded the sorrowful man with deep sympathy, and as it was in her
nature to try and comfort those who wept rather than to join in their
lamentations, she cast about her for something that would console him.

She had not far to seek, for there in the bay-window was perched little
Zeno, carefully picking the green leaves off a rose bough that he had
been told to gather from his mother's grave to take home to his father.
The whole stem was now bare but the white blossom at the end was
untouched, and still beautiful.

She beckoned to the boy, and in a low voice bade him rouse his father and
give him the rose from the churchyard; little Zeno obeyed and walked
straight towards Melchior; opposite the sofa his courage failed him for a
moment, but he took heart again and laying his little hand on the
prematurely gray hair of the disheartened sage said, with all the sweet
charm peculiar to a child when it speaks to comfort one who is its
natural guardian and support:

"Father, little Zeno brings you a rose. It comes from the churchyard.
Mamma sent it to you with her love."

The doctor, deeply touched, sat up suddenly, grasped the child's hand
that held out the rose to him and tried to draw the boy towards him in
order to embrace him. But Zeno, instead of answering the loving words
addressed to him, struggled and cried out sharply, for the strong
pressure of his father's hand had driven a big thorn into his finger, and
the blood from the wound was running down onto his light blue dress.

The doctor was distracted. He had hurt the one creature for whose future
greatness he had sacrificed his waning strength.

There flowed the blood of his son who had come as messenger from his wife
On her he had lavished the one great love of his life and the white rose
that she had sent him lay at his feet!

As his gaze fell upon the flower that she had loved better than all
others, and then rested upon the crying child, a great tenderness filled
his soul and for the first time he felt deep remorse that he had not
dedicated his whole life to his love. To devote the remainder of his time
on earth, which he felt would be but short, to the child who stood there
crying, seemed to him at that moment his holiest duty; yet the passion of
the investigator within him could not be subdued, for as he looked about
in search of a cloth to stanch the blood that flowed from the boy's
finger his eyes fell upon the bottle of elixir on the table, and then on
the rose at his feet and the thought flashed across him that Bianca who
had sent him the rose might have indicated to him by the hand of their
offspring the substance which he needed to achieve the object of his
life.

Of every element found in water or in air, in the earth or fire, he had
added a portion to the elixir, save only the blood of a child.

Breathless he caught the hand of his son and held it over the phial,
speaking coaxingly to him while drop after drop of the red life blood
trickled into the elixir.

Then he put the child in Frau Schimmel's arms and hurried into the
laboratory as fast as his tired feet could carry him. There he blew the
bellows so violently that the housekeeper looked at him with silent
indignation. When all was prepared he poured the liquid into a crucible,
set it among the glowing and sparkling coals and murmured strange words
and spells over the seething fluid until it boiled up and the hissing
bubbles ran over the rim of the crucible. Then he stood the hot vessel in
cold water, pronounced one more incantation over it, held it before a
mirror--the symbol of the Spirit of Truth and the emblem which she is
always represented as carrying in her right hand--and poured the liquid
back into the phial. Beads of perspiration stood on his forehead, his
eyes gleamed with excitement, and he breathed heavily as he approached
his son to try the power of the new elixir on him.

But something most unexpected happened: Frau Schimmel, usually so timid,
pressed the boy's face against her breast and, her good gray eyes
flashing with her angry determination to resist, cried out "Do with your
elixir what you will, only leave me the child in peace! Little Zeno
speaks the truth without any of your mixtures. A child's mind is a holy
thing, so his mother who is now an angel would tell you, and I--I will
not permit you to misuse it, in order to try your arts upon it!"

And stranger yet! The doctor accepted this rebuff and did not even
reprove the old lady for her disrespectful opposition, he only answered.
with calm certainty: "Neither the child nor any one else is needed to
make the experiment."

He inhaled the contents of the phial himself, in long breaths, staring
for some time thoughtfully at the floor and then at the arches of the
ceiling. His chest rose and fell heavily, and he wiped the perspiration
now and then from his damp brow. Frau Schimmel watched him anxiously, and
she could not say whether he looked more like a madman or a saint as he
finally lifted his arms towards heaven and cried: "I have found it,
Father, Bianca!--I have found it!"

Frau Schimmel left him alone and put the child to bed. When she returned
to the laboratory and found the doctor in the same place where she had
left him, she said modestly: "Here I am and if it pleases the Herr Doctor
to try the elixir on so humble a person as myself, I am at his service.
Only one favour would I ask: would the Herr Doctor be so kind as not to
ask questions about Schimmel and myself or any member of the honoured
Ueberhell family."

But the doctor hesitated awhile before accepting this offer, for he had
not forgotten the defiant words with which she had withheld his child
from him only a short time before, and moreover the trial which he had
made on himself had assured him of the success of his discovery; having
inhaled the essence it had seemed to him as if the burden of oppression
had been suddenly lifted from his mind. And when he turned to the
introspection of himself, and questioned his own heart, he found so many
spots and defects on what he had hitherto considered faultless, that he
was confirmed in the belief that he had seen the true reflection of his
own personality for the first time.

Yes, he might well be certain of his success!

And yet the joy of the discovery was clouded. How often had he dreamed of
the manifold effects that would be produced by the elixir! At such
moments the hope had sprung up within him that it would possess the power
to enlighten him concerning his own nature and existence; would enable
him to pierce the veil that hides the mystery of the future from mortal
eyes; that it would reveal to the mind of man the true nature of things,
and solve the problem of life.

Yet all the questions directed to that end, which he asked himself,
remained unanswered, and for this reason he was desirous of seeing
whether the essence might not perhaps enable others to grasp the real
nature of that which until then had been unfathomable by man.

Consequently he could not resist the temptation, of letting Frau Schimmel
inhale the elixir. Then he asked her why every one who was born was
destined to die, and disappear?

To which she only answered: "Such things you must ask of the good God,
who has so willed it."

When he wished further to know how, and of what ingredients the human
blood was made, the old lady laughed, and replied lightly that it was
red, and more than that she had not learned from the "Schoolmaster with
the Children," from which she had acquired all that she knew.

Then the doctor cried: "And so my hard-earned discovery is of less value
than I hoped!"

But these words had scarcely escaped him before he smiled to himself, for
it was the elixir that had forced him to this outbreak, otherwise he
would never have confessed to any one, be he who he might, that his
wonderful discovery was in any way incomplete.

Being satisfied with his experiences for that day he no longer hindered
the old lady from going to rest.

On his own bed he lay and pondered over the limitations of his discovery.

To reveal the truth, wholly and absolutely, was not within the power of
the elixir, nor unfortunately did it possess the efficacy to lead one to
a perfect knowledge of oneself; on the other hand it was capable of
forcing any one who used it to be absolutely honest in his dealings with
his neighbours, and that surely was no small gain. Indeed it was enough
to place him among the most famous discoverers in all ages, and to
inscribe his name beside those of the noblest benefactors of man in the
whole round world.

Sleepless, yet filled with triumphant joy, like a general who has won a
glorious victory, he watched through the night. When Frau Schimmel came
to the house on the following morning she found him with the little Zeno
between his knees.

Her suspicion was immediately aroused that the father had misused the
child in order to try the effect of the elixir upon it, and she stood at
the door and listened.

But the little bottle tightly corked peered from the doctor's
breast-pocket and, instead of questioning Zeno, he was talking to him
earnestly:

"Your mother," he was saying, "was more precious to me than life or aught
else, and you, my little one, are dear to me, too, chiefly because it was
she who gave you to me, but who knows if I might not have sacrificed you
if the success of the work, to which I have devoted so many years, had
depended upon it. Now I have reached the goal, and I tell you, my boy,
there are only two joys here below so great as to give a foretaste of the
bliss that awaits us in Paradise: one is the sweet rapture of true love,
and the other, the transport of the inventor when his experiment is
successful. I have known both."

During this speech, which the doctor had made under the influence of the
elixir, the boy stared at his father with open mouth, undecided whether
to be afraid, or to consider it all a jest and laugh.

Frau Schimmel made an end of his doubt, for she could not bring herself
to stand by patiently and have the child confused by such extraordinary
sentiments. She interrupted the doctor: "Little Zeno finds his pleasure
in very different ways, don't you, my lamb? You would rather have your
father send you to market with Frau Schimmel who buys cherries for you,
wouldn't you? Cherries are better for children than 'true love,' and all
the other nonsense that men worry themselves about."

The doctor only laughed and said "One day he will learn for himself what
his father meant, and if you wish to buy him cherries, you good old soul,
take him along with you and pick out the finest. You might also go to the
Nuremberg shop and let him choose the most beautiful horse, and whatever
else among the toys that he wishes for, no matter how expensive it may
be; for I owe it in part to my boy that I have attained my object, and I
must hurt him a bit more. But don't be afraid! He will hardly feel it."

What did that remarkable man have in mind? Certainly, no good!

As Frau Schimmel felt that she stood in the place of a mother to her
darling, she demanded respectfully what the doctor meant to do to the
child.

He answered in some embarrassment, and without looking at the old lady;
"It is because I have need of a larger quantity of the elixir. If I were
to bleed another child--and bleeding is good for every one, big or
little--they would accuse me of practising the black arts and perhaps,
after their fashion of making a mountain out of a molehill, would
denounce me as an infanticide. Therefore the boy must spare a few more
drops of his blood, and he will do so gladly if he receives something
pretty as a reward. I am very skilful and can draw the blood without
hurting him."

When, however, Frau Schimmel clasped her hands, and Zeno, whimpering, hid
his face in her skirts, the doctor hastened to add: "There, there, I am
not going to do it at once, and perhaps it is just as well that I should
experiment with my own blood first. So take the boy out and buy him the
finest plaything you can find, and leave a message at Herr Winckler's; he
is to come to-day to The Three Kings, for I have something very important
to communicate to him."

The old lady was very glad to get the child beyond the reach of his
father. His happiness was as incomprehensible to her, as his design on
the blood of his child was dreadful, and she led the boy forth quickly.
The doctor, however, went into the laboratory with wavering steps, and in
the next half hour prepared more of the elixir into which he mixed some
of his own blood.

The effect was the same as if he had used the blood of his child.

This delighted him so much that he fairly beamed with pleasure. But even
then he gave himself no rest. He took the elixir which he had made the
day before into the library, and there he wrote and wrote.

At noon he allowed a morsel of food to be brought to him, and ate it
seated at his desk. When he had finished he continued his work with his
pen, sealing-wax and seal, until the notary, Herr Winckler, called
towards evening.

For the first time in the course of their long friendship he fell on the
notary's neck, and told him with wet eyes, and broken voice that he had
reached the happiest hour of his life, for the great work to which he had
already dedicated himself while yet in Padua and Bologna, was completed,
and that only the preceding evening he had achieved the most marvellous
discovery of all times.

One of whose effects would be that a new epoch would dawn for the
profession to which Herr Winckler belonged--that of the law.

Here his friend interrupted him to inquire what this discovery might be,
but Melchior had the force to keep his secret, and only handed over to
him the phial of the elixir, which he had previously packed carefully in
a jewel casket of Bianca's, of Italian workmanship, and then wrapped in
parchment, and tied, and fastened, with many seals.

He also entrusted his school companion with the letters which he had
written, saying that his days were numbered, and giving him many
instructions. Finally he made the notary swear to be a faithful guardian
and second father to Zeno if he should be taken away.

At midnight the friends parted, deeply moved, and Herr Winckler told his
wife that he had never seen any man, let alone the solemn Melchior, so
bubbling over and beaming with happiness, and if one could judge by the
radiance of his glance, and the fire of his youthful enthusiasm, his
friend had many more good years to live.

But what had pleased him in the appearance of the doctor was, alas! only
the expiring flicker of the burnt-out candle.

The intense excitement of the last few days had exhausted the sick man,
and before dawn Frau Schimmel was roused by his bell. When she entered
his room she found him sitting up in bed with burning cheeks and coughing
violently. He called for something to drink, saying that he was dying of
thirst.

When he was refreshed by a glass of wine mixed with water, which in Italy
had grown to be his favourite drink, he said to the old housekeeper that
he would not need to use his son's blood, as his own was equally
efficacious. He also asked her if perchance his father had wounded his
hand before he had discovered the elixir, and when Frau Schimmel stated
that he had, for she remembered the broken glass retort which had cut the
Court apothecary's finger the day before his death, he smiled and said:
"Now the wonderful fact of his discovery is explained. A drop of the
paternal blood must have found its way into the mixture. Thus one riddle
after another is solved, and soon the last mystery that remains will
become clear to me."

Then he added that having brought Truth into the world he was glad to
depart to that region where it was always day, where there were no
deceits and no uncertainties, and where the star of his life that had set
would arise for him once more.

He murmured Bianca's name and closed his eyes, while a happy smile lit up
his worn, thin face. His breast rose and fell with his irregular
breathing, shaken now and then by his cough and feverish shivering, and
often he cried out like one inspired: "Infinite labour, measureless
reward! All, all fulfilled!"

Frau Schimmel realised that the end had come. After he had received the
sacrament, the old lady laid his hand upon the curly head of his son.
Melchior gazed fondly into the sweet face of his child, and quietly
closed his eyes.

The priest who administered extreme unction to him was fond of telling
the story of this last sacrament, for he had never seen any dying man
exhibit greater confidence and faith.

Frau Schimmel cried herself nearly blind.

On the third day after the death of Doctor Melchior Ueberhell, his mortal
remains were carried to rest with great ceremony, and buried in the place
that he himself had chosen during his lifetime.

Between his wife and his mother, rose the little mound that marked his
resting-place, and later many who visited the churchyard used to stop
beside the graves of Bianca and Melchior, perhaps because of the creeping
roses which had been planted beneath the cross of his beloved, and which
spread so luxuriantly that they soon covered the husband's grave as well
as the wife's, and in the month of June decked them both with a wondrous
wealth of blossom.

In the letter which the doctor handed to Herr Winckler, the guardian of
his son, shortly before his death, he desired the notary, or his
successor, to give to his son Zeno, on the morning of his twenty-fifth
birthday, the sealed package containing the phial, together with the
accompanying manuscript.

In a second letter on which was written: "To be opened in case my son
Zeno should die before reaching his twenty-fifth birth day," he informed
the notary of the power that dwelt within the phial, and charged him to
employ it for the benefit of mankind.

Both letters--the one to Zeno and the other to the notary--contained
precise directions for the making of the elixir, and also the
recommendation that it should be sent to all universities and faculties,
as well as to the spiritual and temporal authorities of his beloved
fatherlands, Saxony and Germany, that it might become the common property
of the whole world.

To Frau Schimmel the doctor entrusted the worldly welfare of little Zeno,
and to the notary the responsibility of his education, and both of these
people not only fulfilled their duties, but gave the child a large share
of their love, so that the orphan throve both in mind and body.

That he was neither wiser nor duller, stronger nor weaker than his school
companions pleased Frau Schimmel, for as she loved to say: "Those people
over whom one exclaims when one meets them, either because of their
exceptional goodness or badness, are destined to be unhappy in this
world."

The old lady also took great pleasure in dressing the boy very finely,
and as he would one day be rich, she had no fear for his future, save
that on his twenty-fifth birthday he was to receive his father's elixir,
concerning which, loyal to her oath, she maintained silence towards
everyone.

But even this anxiety was, she thought, to be removed when one day there
was an alarm of fire, and she learned that a conflagration had broken out
in the oil cellar of the Winckler house, and that the notary's quarters
had been entirely destroyed by the flames.

But she rejoiced too soon, for only Doctor Melchior's letters to his son
and to the notary were burned, and the strange old lady could hardly
bring herself to forgive the brave and conscientious guardian of her
favourite, because at great personal risk he had saved the casket
containing the phial.

Of Zeno there is very little to tell, except that from a child he grew to
be a fine youth, with the great dark eyes of his mother, and that he
cared much about his elegant clothes, and was devoted to his noble horse.

In his twenty-third year he became a doctor of ancient and modern
jurisprudence, in his twenty-fourth he gained admission to the famous
Leipsic "Schoppen" court of justice, and now the venerable Frau Schimmel
as well as his guardian, the notary, whose housekeeper had died in the
meanwhile, were strongly urging him to choose a helpmate for life.

As the wishes of his guardians coincided with his own in this particular,
he hastened to fulfil them, and his choice fell upon the daughter of an
officer of high rank, who had been noticeable at the Rathhaus balls on
account of the elegance of her costume.

Frau Schimmel was apprehensive, for according to her ideas, an honourable
young woman of good burgher family was better suited to the heir of The
Three Kings; yet in reality she considered nothing too good or too
beautiful for Zeno, and after she had learned from the officer's servants
that their mistress was of a cheerful disposition, and was able with her
own skilful hands to dress herself well on very small means, and to keep
up an appearance of elegance in her father's house which swarmed with
children, she came to the conclusion that Zeno's choice was a wise one.

She therefore gave her consent to his wooing, and at the end of three
months the wedding took place with great magnificence, to the sound of
drums and trumpets. The young husband went about as if he were borne on
wings.

Surely there was no bride in all Saxony so lovely and so beautiful, and
when she refused flatly to have Frau Schimmel invited to the wedding
feast, he excused her, thinking that her refusal was the result of her
aristocratic surroundings and training. The question did not give rise to
any open quarrel, for Frau Schimmel of her own accord announced that it
was enough for her to pray for the happiness of the young couple in
church.

For four weeks after the wedding-day, Zeno continued to wonder that such
exquisite bliss could fall to the lot of any mortal in this world, which
so many people regarded as a vale of sorrow, and when his passionate dark
eyes were reflected in the cooler blue ones of his wife, and she returned
his caresses sweetly but without laying aside her distinctive and
reserved manner, which he laid to the account of maidenly bashfulness, he
felt that no one could be more blessed, and that he was the most enviable
of men. So the time passed, and his twenty-fifth birthday was
approaching. The young Frau Ueberhell awaited with even greater curiosity
than her husband, the disclosure of the contents of the sealed package
which Herr Winckler had in charge for his ward.

On the morning of the birthday Frau Rosalie dismissed the housekeeper,
whom she kept at a distance, and herself admitted the notary when she saw
him approach The Three Kings, which by her wish had been richly decorated
with stucco and gilding, and furnished with stable room for Zeno's horse
and her two ponies.

The old gentleman brought with him the parcel, as the young couple
expected and after saying that unfortunately the written instructions,
which Doctor Melchior had given him at the same time with the box, had
fallen a victim to the flames, he broke the seals that had fastened the
package for so many years, and Rosalie clapped her hands when the
beautiful casket of carved ivory mounted in gold came to view.

It was opened with great care, and Zeno took from it a paper which lay on
a rose-coloured silk pad and on which Doctor Melchior had written in
large Roman characters: "To my son Zeno Ueberhell. To be used according
to the directions found in the letter accompanying the casket, afterwards
to be given to his eldest son on his twenty-fifth birthday, and thus
always to be handed down from first-born to first-born, to the last one,
which, please Heaven, will be to the end of Time, in order that the
phial, destined to change the aspect of human life, and lead it to its
true salvation, may remain forever a priceless heirloom in the Ueberhell
family. By means of the accompanying prescription every experienced
chemist will be able to make the elixir in any desired quantity. My
blessing rest upon you, my son, and upon every Ueberhell who, on his
twenty-fifth birthday--that is having reached maturity--shall receive
this little bottle and regard it as the most precious of all his
possessions."

This inscription Melchior's son read with trembling voice, and he was so
deeply moved by the solemnity of his father's words that he did not
perceive his young wife lift the cushion from the casket, examine the
phial with curiosity, and then, having removed the glass stopper with
difficulty, hold the bottle to her dainty little nose.

But she closed the phial as quickly as she had opened for she experienced
so strange a sensation, her blood beat through her veins so oddly, that,
impelled by some inner force, and regardless of the presence of Herr
Winckler, and the tact which she usually displayed, she cried out: "So
that, then, is your inheritance! A bit of coloured glass which one could
buy in the street for a trifle, and a few brown drops of some stuff which
no one knows the use of, now that the directions are burned."

As Zeno, surprised at these shrill notes which he now heard for the first
time, in his wife's voice, tried to pacify her, saying that no doubt the
liquid possessed marvellous properties, and that they could not blame his
sainted father because an unlucky accident had destroyed his elucidation
of them, and sought to draw her to him, she pushed him away roughly, and
answered with angry scorn: "Sainted, you call the old man! As if I didn't
know that he was a master of all sorts of hellish arts and black magic! A
fig for such saintship!"

They were bitter words, and, like one who has been wandering in sunshine
and suddenly finds himself overwhelmed by blackest night, Zeno felt
himself deprived of strength, the floor seemed to rise, and his knees
trembled.

He grasped the phial, hoping to recover himself by aid of the pungent
odour that escaped from it, and even as he inhaled the contents, light
seemed once more to flood the darkness, and very erect, and with a
dignity of which he had not hitherto thought himself capable, he listened
to Rosalie's further words.

He grew very pale, and it was with difficulty that he restrained himself,
but he did not interrupt her as, forced by the power of the elixir, she
went on to declare, that she had accepted his offer of marriage merely
because he was sufficiently presentable, notwithstanding his humble
origin, to enable her to walk or ride with him about the city without
feeling humiliated; that she had hoped and expected to find great wealth
by means of which as his wife, she could lead the life that she enjoyed,
and be able also to help her father to bring up her younger brothers and
sisters in a fashion befitting their rank; that on the contrary she had
found him only rich enough to secure her own comfortable existence, and
for this she had chained herself to a turtle dove whose eternal cooing
was beginning to weary her beyond endurance; that now her last hope of
the riches, which one had a right to expect in the house of a magician,
had vanished, and that if it were not for the gossip of the townsfolk,
she would return to her father's house.

With this statement Rosalie stopped and looked around her, frightened by
her own frankness, which she now recognized as unwise and fatal to the
last degree.

The unlooked-for and dignified reserve of her injured husband, together
with his ghastly paleness disturbed her, and her inquietude grew to
painful anxiety as he maintained silence. At length he said "I have
learned to love you truly and passionately, my wife, and now you show me
how you have returned the affection which my heart bestowed upon you. You
are right when you accuse me of having laid too much stress upon vain
trifles. For that very fault I have been most severely punished, for had
I wooed you in woollen, instead of in velvet, I should never have had the
misfortune to be bound to a woman like you. Nor was it love that led me
to you, but the miserable ambition to bring a nobleman's daughter into my
burgher home. So we both deceived each other, and now if you wish to
return whence I took you--you may leave my home unhindered."

The young wife buried her face in her hands and answered: "No, no, life
is too miserable and poverty-stricken at home and I have suffered too
much in the long struggle to keep up appearances. And then what would
people say? No, no,--I will do everything that I can to please you."

"Very well, you may stay," he replied gloomily.

Frau Schimmel, who had been in the room for some time, turned to the
notary and said: "The Court apothecary used to say that I was stupid, but
thirty years ago I foretold what has happened here today."

She then implored Zeno to throw the elixir into the Pleisse, but for the
first time he exhibited a will of his own. He put the phial and the
document in his father's writing into his breast pocket, and tucking the
gray-haired notary under his arm, he left the room.

Frau Schimmel followed his example. Having reached the ground-floor she
stopped and, shaking her gray head, murmured: "Doctor Melchior was such a
wise man, I wonder he did not order that each of his successors should
make the girl of his choice inhale the elixir before he proposed to her.
The life I led with Vorkel, and with my second husband Schimmel, who lies
beside the first in the churchyard, was hardly perfect, but Zeno's
existence will be hell upon earth."

But this time Frau Schimmel was a little wide of the mark in her
prophesy. The two young people, for a time, treated each other distantly
and coldly, but Fran Rosalie learned to regard her husband with a timid
respect that sat well upon her. As for him he was transformed into a
stern man since he had inhaled the elixir, and his severe dress seemed
but an outward sign of his earnestness. Before the year was out a boy was
given to them, and when Rosalie saw him take the little one in his arms
and kiss it, she called him to her bedside and whispered: "Forgive me."

He made a sign of pardon, and stooping, kissed her white face, that was
still the dearest in the world to him. Then he went to his own room and
inhaled the elixir whose properties and effect he had long before learned
from Frau Schimmel. He called aloud, as if speaking to another person:
"If she be good to the child, I will no longer make her feel how she hurt
me, though I can never forget it."

But it was not granted to him to show by his actions that he had forgiven
her, for during the night fever supervened, and before morning she died.

Her hot hand had lain in his, just before her heart ceased to beat, and
had pressed it, as if in farewell.

Frau Schimmel followed her darling's unfortunate wife shortly afterwards.
Her death was a peaceful and happy one, for Zeno held her withered hand,
and talked to her of the days when she had dressed him in his beautiful
light-blue frocks. He closed her eyes himself, and followed her coffin to
the churchyard.

Only Herr Winckler remained to the widower, who lived alone with his son
in The Three Kings, and like a father, more than a friend, aided him in
his researches concerning the elixir.

They discovered that it produced its effect only on those who were
connected with the Ueberhell family. This was a great disappointment to
Zeno, for he set a high value upon truth, and had heard from his father's
friend what great blessings for mankind the dead man had anticipated from
his discovery. All his hopes of using it in his profession to make
hardened sinners confess their misdeeds, were therefore, vain. For this
purpose it was certainly useless and Zeno and Herr Winckler concluded
that the reason why its effect was so limited was because it owed its
power to the blood of a child of the Ueberhell race.

That its potency extended to those who married into the Ueberhell house
was proved by its effect upon Frau Rosalie. As it had also once
vanquished Frau Schimmel, they argued that the Court apothecary must have
used other blood beside his own, for he certainly had never been
connected with his housekeeper by marriage. What had been intended to
benefit the whole world, exercised its influence only in one direction,
and on the members of one small family; this grieved the old notary when
he recalled the happy and triumphant death-bed of his friend.

The elixir had undoubtedly changed Melchior's son to an incredible
extent; from an easily-led, pleasure-loving youth, Zeno became a
self-contained man--almost a recluse--and he won for himself the
reputation of being one of the severest judges on the Leipsic bench.

High and low doffed their hats to him with respect, but he was not
popular.

After he had worked at the Rathhaus long after hours, he would go home
alone, and no one sought him out to pass an hour in his company, for
everyone feared the rough and brutal frankness of his speech. The
gregarious and friendly notary used to wince when he heard his adopted
son spoken of as "the hard Ueberhell," or "the sinner's scourge," and he
tried his best to make him more human, and to draw him within his circle
of friends.

When death overtook Herr Winckler, from whose mouth Zeno used to hear
many bitter tirades against the elixir, and Melchior's son found himself
entirely alone, and making always more enemies by his irrepressible
instinct to speak out what he thought to be the truth, he would sometimes
ask himself if it were not better to destroy the elixir, which had
brought him nothing but misery, and thus to spare his son and succeeding
generations.

But the stern upholder of the law did not feel that he had the right to
disobey the instructions of his father. And so the elixir descended to
his son, and was given to him on his twenty-fifth birthday by his
guardian, for Zeno died before his only child reached that age.

What happened to this second Melchior Ueberhell whose unfortunate
history. . . . Here the story broke off. The son of one of my friends had
found it in an old chest, when he was playing in the attic of The Three
Kings. It was written in a discoloured blank-book, which had escaped the
devastations of the mice and insects, because it had lain under a pile of
aromatic herbs and drugs that had probably belonged to the shop of the
Court apothecary.

Between the last page and the cover of the blank-book, which was confided
to me, I found a continuation by a later Ueberhell.

This appendix could hardly have been written earlier than towards the end
of the last century, to judge by the paper, the stiff, old-fashioned
handwriting and, more surely still, by the fact that the writer mentions
vaccination as a new discovery. Inoculation was first tried in 1796, and
three years later an institution was opened in London where a Leipsic
professor of medicine gave lectures.

This communication is signed: "Doctor Ernst Ueberhell, Professor of
Medicine." And runs as follows:

Several centuries have passed since the time of the ancestor to whom we
owe the wonderful history of the elixir as written in this book, and
preserved from generation to generation in our family.

Many Ueberhells have closed their eyes forever, since then, and even the
graves of Dr. Melchior and his beautiful wife Bianca have disappeared,
owing to the removal of the burying-ground.

On the other hand the portrait in red crayon of Frau Bianca and the
little Zeno is still carefully preserved as a most precious heirloom, and
was the picture that inspired my sainted father with the desire to become
an artist.

Our forebear Dr. Melchior devoted the best of his energies to the
benefit, as he thought, of his race, perhaps indeed of all mankind, and
yet his efforts were unavailing, for to my sorrow must I acknowledge that
much of the enmity felt towards our family, and the disrepute into which
our good old name fell, was caused by the elixir. The majority of
Ueberhells were accused of presumption and arrogance, of opiniativeness
and pugnacity. Many had made themselves disagreeable to their neighbours
by their caustic criticisms and ill-natured complaints, at the same time
bringing misfortune upon themselves by a most curious exhibition of their
own faults.

The whole race degenerated so rapidly through their unbridled license and
lack of consideration for others, that they ceased to be received by the
members of the better circles, and there came to be an offensive saying
that in Leipsic there were men, women, and Ueberhells.

This dislike and animosity were visited upon one generation after another
until finally it affected the worldly prosperity of the family. Even The
Three Kings in the Katharinenstrasse which, by the way, had long ceased
to be known by that name, was lost to us, and so remained for many years
until my sainted father recovered it again, and that the Ueberhells did
not fall into even greater distress was due largely to the timidity, nay
absolute terror, with which they inspired many people.

From several of my relatives--and they without exception made use of the
elixir when they received it on their twenty fifth birthday--I have heard
many particulars concerning the experience, but there was only one who
ever said that he had been happier and more contented because of it, and
that was my sainted father, the painter, Johannes Ueberhell.

He lost his father very early, and was brought up and educated in poverty
and distress by his good mother who remained a widow. It was she who sold
the last of the jewels and plate that had come down to her from earlier
and more prosperous days, in order to make it possible for Johannes to go
to Dresden and study under a good master.

He was a virtuous youth, with a simple heart, and a disposition so gay
that the unfortunate forgot their sorrow whenever he appeared.

Even as a child--so I have heard my grandmother say--he was so cheerful
and contented despite their bitter poverty, that he made up a little
prayer for himself in which he used to thank God for having created him.

This man, then, grew up to be truehearted and sincere without the elixir,
but he made use of it, none the less, when it came into his possession,
and it proved a great blessing to him. As a light-hearted and modest
youth--so diffident that he was timid in his intercourse with older
persons--he wandered over the Alps, with only fifty thalers in his pocket
and a small knapsack on his back, to Rome where he was received into the
studio of one of the most distinguished painters, as apprentice. This
latter very soon became jealous of the great talent exhibited by my
father and a competition occurring, exerted all his influence to keep the
prizes from the German competitors and have them awarded to Italian
artists of much less merit.

My father, unable to overcome his fatal shyness by any effort of will,
had not the courage to withstand this unfairness until he was called home
by his mother for his twenty-fifth birthday, and made use of the elixir.

This not only gave him the resolution, but forced him to proclaim the
truth aloud, and to call injustice by its right name.

Owing to his accusations there was a thorough investigation of the
affair, a new judge was appointed who awarded the first prize at once to
Johannes Ueberhell, the said prize consisting of a magnificent
commission. Having thus achieved an opportunity of proving his worth, he
rose quickly to eminence in his profession, and came to be a famous
master while he was still a young man.

In later life also he owed nothing but good to the elixir, for his soul
was as pure as crystal, and his thoughts of others were so kindly that he
could safely speak out everything that was in his mind.

His eyes perceived only the beautiful in the universe; and the beautiful
and the true were one with him; so that he made others see and hear
nothing save what was lovely and ennobling. Whenever any debasing or evil
influence approached him he would trample upon it with all the fierceness
of a true Ueberhell; but such conflicts seldom occurred, for his nature
was so exalted that it carried him unconscious through the depravity and
pollution of this world.

Yes, my father was a happy man, and I cannot deny that the elixir had
much to do with his good fortune, for it forced him to reveal his
innermost thoughts and to show people frankly what was passing in his
mind, thus opening up to them a sunny, pure, and beautiful world which
their dull eyes would never have discovered for themselves.

Therefore the best sought him out and made friends with him, and the more
he prospered the wiser and better he grew.

One would imagine that the man to whom the elixir had been so beneficial
would set a greater value upon it than others, and would be more careful
to preserve it for his children and grandchildren. Not so.

After I had finished my studies at the High School and matriculated at
the medical schools of the Leipsic University, my father sent for me to
come during my vacation to Rome, where he still lived, and a few weeks
before my twenty-fifth birthday I rode through the Porta del Popolo.

The evening before that anniversary my father took out the phial, showed
it to me, and asked me what I thought of the verses that he had written
on a label and attached to the bottle.

I read them, and they ran as follows:

        In hearts alone where modesty resides
        Is found the priceless treasure of Pure Truth.
        If pride within you secretly abides
        That, forced by the elixir's charm, The Sooth
        You needs must speak--be wholly pure in thought,
        Despising not the teachings wise, of old;
        When Truth with equal earnestness was sought
        If speech be silver, silence then is gold!

The scales seemed to fall from my eyes, and I realised why the Ueberhells
had borne such an evil and dreaded name among their fellow-citizens.

The day after I, too, was to use the elixir and I asked my father: "What
shall I do if the power of the essence forces me to speak out everything
that is true, simply because it is true, even when it is against my wish
and will tend to my own annoyance and distress, as well as to that of
others?"

And he replied solemnly: "The truth? Has any one yet found the right
answer to the old question: 'What is Truth?' Can you be sure that the
noble and mighty Goddess corresponds to your puny and individual
conception of her?"

This very idea had disturbed me during my ride over the Alps, and I
exclaimed: "Therein lies the dangerous power of the elixir! It kindles in
our minds the confidence that we know the truth by means of a charm,
whereas we can only possess the desire to seek for it. Our certainty also
misleads us to constrain others to think as we think, and to despise them
and persecute them when they differ from us. The elixir made you happy,
my father, because you are good and pure, and because the beautiful, to
the pursuit of which you have dedicated your life, ennobles everyone and
makes every thing harmonious that comes from you.

"But many generations had to pass before you appeared to do honour to the
powers of the elixir. I myself have been cast in a less heroic mould, and
who can prophesy what my children, if I ever have any, will be like. In
this world where every thing is deceitful, and no one is outspoken, the
man who alone is under the necessity of proclaiming what he considers the
truth, is like a warrior who opposes himself without shield or harness to
a fully armed foe. Therefore, my dear father, I am very reluctant to make
use of the elixir to-morrow."

The old gentleman smiled and replied: "Inhale it in peace, my Ernst, for
I will confide to you that I have poured the elixir into the Tiber, on
whose banks the battle for the Truth has been so often joined, and where
so many factions have imagined that they possessed the elixir of Truth. I
have filled the phial with water and a drop of aromatic myrrh. The water
I took from the fountain of Trevi, which, you know, is supposed to
possess the power of inspiring longing--only for the Eternal City, I
believe--but perhaps in our phial it may awaken a desire for the Eternal
Truth. Let us leave the little bottle to our successors. It will not hurt
them to use it while they are young, and they can commit to memory, at
the same time, the maxim which is attached to it. Then if the harmless
liquid which it contains, together with the adage and the example of
their parents, arouse a craving for truth within them we shall have cared
better for them than Doctor Melchior did for our ancestors."

"I think so, too," I answered gratefully. "But," I added, "when you
poured the elixir into the river did you not sacrifice a valuable aid to
yourself in remaining loyal to the Truth in your creations?"

"The old gentleman shook his head. Let the essence flow away!" he
answered. "The verity of the Ueberhells, that is what each one thought to
be true, was a thing of naught, and, if you consider it closely, a
dangerous thing. Only the mind which is capable of comprehending the laws
of Nature can escape the danger of mistaking the fortuitous, and ever
changing reality, for the eternal and unchangeable truth. Therefore I do
not regret what I have done. If one of my grandsons should wish to become
a painter I have obviated the risk of his falling into the error of
believing that he has succeeded when he has only slavishly imitated all
the imperfections in the objects he sees around him. Nature reflected in
a mirror, would be what his pictures under the influence of our elixir,
would have been like, and for a true work of art, in the highest
acceptation of the term, something further is needed."

These words of my father removed my last regret for the loss of the
elixir, and my sons and grandsons who are now grown men have, with God's
help, brought it to pass that the burghers of Leipsic are willing once
again to associate with the Ueberhells.

I have only one thing more to say before I close this story.

I have already mentioned the fact that I am a physician. When recently
from England came the news of the discovery of vaccination and I saw how
a small drop could penetrate through a man's entire system, then I
regretted that my father had thrown away the elixir. If I still possessed
it I would, despite my advanced age, try the experiment of inoculating
myself with it. The exhalation of the elixir acted only on the tongue,
and hence its fatal effect, if, however, it had been possible to
infiltrate a desire for truth into the whole man, then, ah then! it might
have been possible for a man really to know himself, which is the
beginning of his salvation. One thought occurs to me for my consolation:

A race that has felt itself forced, generation after generation, to serve
the truth must finally have acquired an instinct to do so, like the races
of pearl-divers who by inheritance can hold their breath a phenomenally
long time.



POSTSCRIPT.

At this point my granddaughter Bianca came in to see me. Three days
before she had been betrothed to young Karl Winckler, a descendant of the
notary Anselmus.

As I had fallen asleep over my writing she read through undisturbed the
book that had fallen from my hands onto the floor.

And so the secret was betrayed, for of course she told the story to her
lover.

She expressed her thankfulness that the elixir was out of the world, but
asserted impertinently, that if a drop of blood had been drawn from Frau
Bianca--whose features as well as name she had inherited--instead of from
the little Zeno, or if the women of the Ueberhell family had been allowed
to inhale the elixir the consequences might have been entirely different.

"Woman," she said, "is ruler in the kingdom of the affections, and in
Leipsic as well as elsewhere, the austere Goddess of Truth will find
devoted and loving worshippers, as well as dutiful subjects, only when
she exhibits goodness of heart combined with grace of manner as does my
grandfather."

Perhaps she is not altogether wrong, though women. . . .

And yet both Greeks and Romans represented Truth under the guise of a
woman.


FINIS.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Caress or a spank from you--each at the proper time
     Clothes the ugly truth as with a pleasing garment
     Couple seemed to get on so perfectly well without them
     Death itself sometimes floats 'twixt cup and lip'
     Exceptional people are destined to be unhappy in this world
     If speech be silver, silence then is gold!



THE GREYLOCK

By Georg Ebers

A FAIRY TALE.

Once upon a time there was a country, more beautiful than all other lands
and the castle of the Duke, its ruler, lay beside a lake that was bluer
than the deepest indigo. A long time ago the Knight Wendelin and his
squire George chanced upon this lake, but they found nothing save waste
fields and bleak rocks around it, yet the shores must formerly have borne
a different aspect, for there were shattered columns and broken-nosed
statues lying on the ground. Against the hillside there were remains of
ancient walls that once, undoubtedly, had supported terraces of vines,
but the rains had long washed the soil from the rocks, and among the
caves and crannies of the fallen stonework, and ruined cellars, foxes,
bats, and other animals had found a home.

The knight was no antiquary, but as he looked about him his curiosity was
excited: "What can have happened here?" he said, and his squire wondered
also, and followed his master. The latter led his horse to the edge of
the water to let him drink, for though he had seen many watercourses in
the land, he had found nothing in them save stones, and boulders, and
sand.

"What if this lake should be salt, like the Dead Sea in the Holy Land?"
the knight asked, and the squire answered:

"Ugh, that would be a thousand pities!" As the former raised his hand to
his mouth to taste the water, wishing indeed that it were wine, he
suddenly heard a strange noise. It was mournful and complaining, but very
soft and sweet. It seemed to be the voice of an unhappy woman, and this
pleased the knight, for he had ridden forth in search of adventures. He
had already been successful in several encounters, and from George's
saddle hung the tail-tips of seven dragons which his master had killed.
But a woman with a musical, appealing voice, in great danger, offered a
rare opportunity to a knight. Wendelin had not yet had any such
experience. The squire saw his master's eyes sparkle with pleasure, and
scratched his head thinking: "Distress brings tears to most peoples'
eyes, but there is no knowing what will delight a knight like him!"

The waters of the lake proved to be not salt, but wonderfully sweet.

When Wendelin reached the grotto from which the complaining notes came,
he found a beautiful young woman, more lovely than any one the
grey-haired George had ever seen. She was pale, but her lips shone moist
and red like the pulp of strawberries, her eyes were as clear and blue as
the sky over the Holy Land, and her hair glistened as if it had been spun
of the sunbeams. The knight's heart beat fast at the sight of her
loveliness; he could not speak, but he noticed that her hands and feet
were bound with chains, and that her beautiful hair was entwined about a
circle of emeralds that hung by a chain from the ceiling. She marked
neither the knight nor the squire, who stood shading his eyes with his
hand in order to see her the better.

Hot rage took possession of the heart of Wendelin when he saw the tears
rain down from the lady's large eyes onto her gown, which was already as
wet as if she had just been drawn from the lake.

When the knight noticed this, an overwhelming pity chased the anger from
his heart, and George, who was a soft-hearted man, sobbed aloud at her
pitiful appearance. The voice of the knight, too, was unsteady as he
called to the fair prisoner that he was a German, Wendelin by name, and
that he had set out on a knightly quest to kill dragons, and to draw his
sword for all who were oppressed. He had already conquered in many
combats, and nothing would please him better than to fight for her.

At this she ceased to weep, but she shook her head gently--her hair being
chained impeded her motion,--and answered sadly. "My enemy is too
powerful. You are young and beautiful, and the darling, perhaps, of a
loving mother at home, I cannot bear that you should suffer the same fate
as the others. Behold that nut-tree over there! What seem to be white
gourds hanging on its naked branches are their skulls! Go your way
quickly, for the evil spirit that keeps me prisoner, and will not release
me until I have sworn an oath to become his wife, will soon return. His
name is Misdral, he is very fierce and mighty, and lives among the waste
rocks over there on the north shore of the lake. You have my thanks for
your good intention, and now proceed on your journey." The knight,
however, did not follow her advice, but approached the beautiful woman
without more words, and caught hold of her hair to unbind it from the
ring. No sooner had he touched the emeralds than two brown snakes came
hissing towards him.

"Oho!" exclaimed Sir Wendelin. With one hand he caught their two necks
together in his powerful grip, with the other he grasped their tails,
tore them in two, and threw them out onto the cliffs above the lake.

When the imprisoned lady saw this, she heaved a deep sigh of relief and
spoke: "Now I believe that you will be able to liberate me. Draw this
ring from my finger!"

The knight obeyed and as he touched the lady's fingers, which were
slender and pointed, he felt his heart warm within him, and he would
gladly have kissed her. But he only withdrew the ring. As he forced it
onto the end of his own little finger the lady said to him: "Whenever you
turn it round you will be changed to a falcon; for you must know. . . .
But woe to us! There, where the water is lashed into foam, is the monster
swimming towards us!"

She had hardly finished before a hideous creature drew itself out of the
lake. It looked as if it were covered with mouldering pumice-stone. Two
toads peeped from the cavities of the eyes, brown eel-grass hung dripping
and disordered over its neck and forehead, and in place of teeth there
were long iron spikes in its jaws which protruded and crossed one another
over its lips.

"A fine wooer, indeed!" thought the squire. "If the stone-clad fellow
should not possess a vulnerable spot somewhere on his body I shall
certainly lose my position!"

Similar thoughts passed through the knight's mind, and consequently he
did not attack it with his sword, but lifting a huge piece of granite
from the ground he hurled it at the monster's head. The creature only
sneezed, and passed its hand over its eyes as if to brush away a fly.
Then it looked round and, perceiving the knight, bellowed aloud, and
changed itself into a dragon spouting fire. Herr Wendelin rejoiced at
this, for his favourite pastime was to kill that sort of beast. He had no
sooner, however, plunged his good sword into a soft part of the monster,
and seen the blood flow from the wound, than his opponent changed itself
into a griffin, and raising itself from the ground swooped upon him. His
defence now became more difficult, as the evil spirit continued to attack
him in ever changing forms, but Sir Wendelin was no coward, and knew well
how to use his arm and sword. At length, however, the knight began to
feel that his strength was deserting him; his sword seemed to grow
heavier and heavier in his hand, and his legs felt as if an hundredweight
had been attached to them. His squire, noting his fatigue, grew faint,
and began to think the best thing for him would be to ride off, for the
fight was likely to end badly for his master. The knight's knees were
trembling under him, and as the monster, in the form of a unicorn,
charged against his shield he fell to the ground.

The creature shrank suddenly together and in the guise of a black, agile
rat shot towards him.

Sir Wendelin felt that he was losing consciousness, he heard faintly a
voice from the grotto where the lady was imprisoned calling to him: "The
ring, remember the ring!"

He was just able to turn with his thumb the ring on his little finger.
Immediately he felt himself lighter and freer than he had ever felt
before, and his heart seemed to harden to a steel spring, while a gay and
reckless mood came over him. A wild desire to fly took possession of him
at the same time, and it seemed as if he were only fourteen years old
once more. Some strange force impelled him aloft into the air, to which
he yielded, spreading the two large wings, that he suddenly found himself
in possession of, as naturally as if he had used them all his life. He
soon felt the feathers on his back stroked by the clouds, and yet he saw
everything below him on the earth more distinctly than ever before. Even
the smallest things appeared perfectly clear to his sharpened eyes, and
yet he seemed to see them as if reflected in a brilliant mirror. He could
distinguish even the hairs on the rat and suddenly another impulse came
over him--the impulse to stoop down and catch the long-tailed vermin in
his beak and claws. Wendelin had been changed into a falcon, and the rat
struggled in vain to escape his powerful attack.

The prisoner had followed the combat first with anxiety, then with joy.
While the falcon held the rat in his claws and struck him with his beak
again and again, she called the squire to her, and bade him free her from
her chains. This was no distasteful task for George, indeed it gave him
so much pleasure that he was in no hurry to finish.

When at last all her bonds were loosened, she stood very erect, and
lifted her arms, and each moment seemed to make her more lovely and more
beautiful. Then she grasped the circle of emeralds, about which the
enchanter had wound her golden hair, and waving it high in the air,
cried: "Falcon, return to the shape you were before. Misdral, hear thy
sentence!"

Wendelin assumed immediately his knightly guise, which seemed very clumsy
to him after having been a falcon. The rat lengthened itself and expanded
until it was once more the giant covered with pumicestone; it walked no
longer erect, however, but crawled along the ground at the feet of the
beautiful woman, whimpering and howling like a whipped cur. She then said
to it: "At last I possess the emerald circlet, in which resides your
power over me. I can destroy you, but my name is Clementine and so I will
grant you mercy. I will only banish you to your rocks. There you shall
remain until the last hour of the last day. Papaluka, Papaluka,--Emerald,
perform thy duty!"

The giant of pumice-stone immediately glowed like molten iron. Once he
raised his clenched fist towards Wendelin, and then plunged into the lake
where the hissing and foaming waters closed over him. The lady and the
knight were left alone together. When she asked him what reward he
desired, he could only answer that he wished to have her for his wife,
and to take her to his home in Germany; but she blushed and answered
sadly: "I may not leave this country, and it is not permitted to me to
become the wife of any mortal man. But I know how heroes should be
rewarded, and I offer you my lips to kiss."

He knelt down before her and she took his head between her slim hands and
pressed her mouth against his.

George, the squire, saw this, sighed deeply, and wondered: "Why was my
father only a miller? What favours are granted to a knight like that! But
I hope the kiss won't be the end of it all; for, unless she is a miserly
fairy, there ought to be much more substantial pay for his services in
store for him."

But Clementine bestowed even a richer reward than he had expected upon
her rescuer. When she discovered that a lock of the brown hair on
Wendelin's left temple had turned grey during the conflict with the evil
monster, she said to him: "All this land shall belong to you henceforth,
and because you have grown grey in your courageous fight with evil, you
shall be known from this time forward as Duke Greylock. Every prince,
yea, even the Emperor himself, will recognize the title which I confer
upon you as my saviour, and when the race, of which you are to be the
progenitor, is blessed with offspring, I will stand godmother to every
first-born. All the sons of your house from first to last, whether they
be dark or fair, or brown, shall bear the grey lock. It will be a sign
unto your posterity that much good fortune awaits them. My authority,
however, is limited, and if at any time a higher power should hinder me
from exerting my influence in behalf of one of your grandsons, then will
the grey lock be missing from his head, and it will depend altogether on
himself how his life unfolds itself. One thing more. Give me back my ring
and take instead this mirror, which will always show to you and yours
whatever you hold most dear, even when you are far away from it."

"Then it will ever be granted to me to bring your face before my eyes,
oh! lovely lady!" the knight exclaimed.

The fairy laughed and answered: "No, Duke Greylock--the mirror can only
reflect the forms of mortals. I know a wife awaiting you, whom you will
rather see than any picture in the glass, even were it that of a fairy.
Receive my thanks once more! you are duke, enter now into your dukedom!"

With these words she disappeared. A gentle rustling and tinkling was
heard through the air, the waste ground covered itself with fresh green,
the dry river beds filled with clear running water, and on their banks
appeared blooming meadows, shady groves and forests. The broken walls
against the hillsides fitted themselves together, rose higher and
supported once more the terraces covered with vine stocks and
fruit-trees. Villages and cities grew into form and lay cradled in the
landscape. Beautiful gardens bloomed forth, full of gay flowers,
olive-trees, orange-trees, citron, and fig, and pomegranate-trees, each
covered with its golden fruit of many-seeded apples. In the neighbourhood
of the grotto in which the fairy had been imprisoned a park of
incomparable beauty grew into view, where brooks whispered and fountains
played, and shady pergolas appeared, formed of gold and silver trellises,
over which a thousand luxuriant creepers clambered, holding by their
little tendril hands.

The fallen columns stood up again, the mutilated marble statues found new
noses and arms, and in the background of all this growing magnificence
the young duke perceived-at first dimly, as if obscured by mists, then
more distinctly-the outline of a palace with loggia, balconies, columned
halls, and statues in bronze and marble around the cornice of its flat
roof.

George, the squire, gazed in openmouthed wonder, and his mouth remained
open until he entered the fore-court of the palace. Then he only closed
it to give his jaws a little rest before their future labours began, for
such a good smell from the kitchen greeted him that he ordered the
willing cook to satisfy immediately the demands of his appetite, as his
hunger was greater than his curiosity.

Sir Wendelin continued his way through the passages, chambers, halls, and
courts. Everywhere servants, guards, and heyducks swarmed, and from the
stables he heard the stamping of many horses, and the jingle of their
halter chains as they rattled them against their well-filled mangers.
Choruses of trumpeters played inspiriting fanfares, and from the
assembled people in the forecourt a thousand voices shouted again and
again: "Hail to his Grace Duke Greylock, Wendelin the First! Long may he
live!"

The knight bowed graciously to his good people, and when the Chancellor
stepped forward, and after a deep reverence set forth in a carefully
prepared speech the great services which the duke had rendered to the
country, Wendelin listened with polite attention, though he himself was
quite ignorant of what the old man was talking about.

Sir Wendelin had lived through so many adventures that it pleased him now
to sit peacefully on his throne, and he did his best to be worthy of the
honours which the fairy had conferred upon him. After he had learned the
duties of a ruler from A to Z, he returned to Germany to woo his cousin
Walpurga. He led her back to his palace, and for many years they governed
the beautiful land together. All of the five sons which his wife bore to
him, came into the world with the grey lock. They all grew to be brave
men and loyal subjects of their father, whom they served faithfully in
war, holding fraternally together and greatly enlarging the boundaries of
his dukedom by their prowess.

A long time passed and generation after generation of the descendants of
the worthy Sir Wendelin followed one another. The first-born son always
bore the name of the progenitor of the family, and the fairy Clementine
always appeared at the baptism. No one ever saw her; but a gentle
tinkling through the palace betrayed her presence, and when that ceased,
the grey lock on the infant's temple was always found to have twisted
itself into a curl.

At the end of five hundred years, Wendelin XV. was carried to his grave.
No Greylock had ever possessed a more luxuriant grey curl than his, and
yet he had died young. The wise men of the land said that even to the
most favoured only a fixed measure of happiness and good luck was
granted, and that Wendelin XV. had enjoyed his full share in the space of
thirty years.

Certain it is that from childhood everything had prospered with this
duke. His people had expected great things of him when he was only crown
prince, and he did not disappoint them when he came to the throne. Every
one had loved him. Under his leadership the army had marched from one
victory to another. While he held the sceptre one abundant harvest
followed another, and he had married the most beautiful and most virtuous
daughter of the mightiest prince in the kingdom.

In the midst of a hot conflict, and at the moment that his own army sent
up a shout of victory, he met his death. Everything that the heart of man
could desire had been accorded to him, except the one joy of possessing a
son and heir. But he had left the world in the hope that that wish, too,
would be fulfilled.

Black banners floated from the battlements of the castle, the columns at
its entrance were wreathed in crape, the gold state-coaches were painted
black, and the manes and tails of the duke's horses bound with ribbons of
the same sombre hue. The master of the hunt had the gaily-colored birds
in the park dyed, the schoolmaster had the copy-books of the boys covered
with black, the merry minstrels in the land sang only sad strains, and
every subject wore mourning. When the ruby-red nose of the guardian of
the Court cellar gradually changed to a bluish tint during this time, the
Court marshal thought it only natural. Even the babies were swaddled in
black bands. And besides all this outward show, the hearts too were sad,
and saddest of all was that of the young widowed duchess. She also had
laid aside all bright colours, and went about in deepest mourning, only
her eyes, despite the Court orders in regard to sombre hues, were bright
red from weeping.

She would have wished to die that she might not be separated from her
husband, save for a sweet, all-powerful hope which held her to this
world; and the prospect of holy duties, like faint rays of sunshine,
threw their light over her future, which would otherwise have seemed as
dark as the habits of the Court about her.

Thus five long months passed. On the first morning of the sixth month
cannon thundered from the citadel of the capital. One salvo followed
another, making the air tremble, but the firing did not waken the
citizens, for not one of them had closed an eye the foregoing night,
which, according to the oldest inhabitants, had been unprecedented. From
the rocky district on the north shore of the lake, where Misdral lived, a
fearful thunder-storm had arisen, and spread over the city and ducal
palace. There was a rolling and rumbling of thunder and howling of wind,
such as might have heralded the Day of judgment. The lightning had not,
as usual, rent the darkness with long, jagged flashes, but had fallen to
the ground as great fiery balls which, however, had set nothing aflame.
The watchmen on the towers asserted that above the black clouds a
silver-white mist had floated, like a stream of milk over dark wool, and
that in the midst of the rumbling and crashing of the thunder they had
heard the sweet tones of harps. Many of the burghers said that they too
had heard it, and the ducal Maker of Musical Instruments declared that
the notes sounded as if they had come from a fine harpsichord--though not
from one of the best--which some one had played between heaven and earth.

As soon as the firing of cannon began, all the people ran into the
streets, and the street-cleaners, who were sweeping up the tiles and
broken bits of slate that the storm had torn from the roofs, leaned on
their brooms and listened. The Constable was using a great deal of
powder; the time seemed long to the men and women who were counting the
number of reports, and there seemed no end to the noise. Sixty guns meant
a princess, one hundred and one meant a prince. When the sixty-first was
heard, there was great rejoicing, for then they knew that the duchess had
borne a son; when, however, another shot followed the one hundred and
first, a clever advocate suggested that perhaps there were two
princesses. When one hundred and sixty-one guns had been fired, they said
it might be a boy and a girl; when the one hundred and eightieth came,
the schoolmaster, whose wife had presented him with seven daughters,
exclaimed: "Perhaps there are triplets, 'feminini generis!" But this
supposition was confuted by the next shot. When the firing ceased after
the two hundred and second gun, the people knew that their beloved
duchess was the mother of twin boys.

The city went crazy with joy. Flags bearing the national colours were
hoisted in place of the mourning banners. In the show-windows of the
drapers' shops red, blue, and yellow stuffs were exhibited once more, and
the courtiers smoothed the wrinkles out of their brows, and practised
their smiles again.

Every one was delighted, with the exception of the Astrologer, and a few
old women and wise men, who drew long faces, and said that children born
in such a night had undoubtedly come into the world under inauspicious
signs. In the ducal palace itself the joy was not unclouded, and it was
precisely the most faithful and devoted of the servants who seemed most
depressed, and who held long conferences together.

Both of the boys were well formed and healthy, but the second-born lacked
the grey curl which heretofore had never failed to mark each new-born
Greylock.

Pepe, the Major-domo, who was a direct descendant of George, the squire,
and who knew the history of the ducal family better than any one else,
for he had learned it from his grandfather, was so dejected that one
would have imagined a great misfortune had befallen him, and in the
evenings, when he sat over his wine in company with the Keeper of the
Cellar, the Keeper of the Plate and the Decker of the Table, he could not
resist giving expression to his presentiments. His conviction that Bad
Luck had knocked at the door of the hitherto fortunate Greylocks was
finally shared by his companions.

That an unhappy future awaited the second boy was the firm belief, not
only of the servants, but of the whole Court. The unlucky horoscope cast
by the Astrologer was known to all, the wise men of the land confirmed it
by their predictions, and soon it was proved that even the fairy
Clementine was powerless to avert the misfortune that threatened the
youngest prince. On the day of the baptism, neither the gentle tinkling
sound, nor the sweet perfume, which had heretofore announced her
presence, were perceptible. That she had not deserted the ducal house
altogether was shown by the fact that the lock on the temple of the
first-born twined itself into a perfect curl. The lock on the left temple
of the second son remained brown, and not a sign of grey could be
discovered even with a magnifying glass. The heart of the young mother
was filled with alarm, and she called the old nurse who had taken care of
her dead husband when he was a baby, to ask her what had happened at his
baptism, and the old woman burst into tears, and ended by betraying the
gloomy forecasts of the Astrologer and wise men. That a Greylock should
go through life without the white curl was unheard of, was awful! And the
old nurse called the poor little creature, "an ill-starred child, a dear
pitiable princeling."

Then the mother recalled her last dream, in which she had seen a dragon
attack her youngest boy. A great fear possessed her heart, and she bade
them bring the child to her. When they laid him naked before her, she
stroked the little round body, the straight back, and well-shaped legs
with her weak hands, and felt comforted. He was a beautifully-formed,
well-developed child, her child, her very own, and nothing was lacking
save the grey lock. She never wearied of looking at him; at last she
leaned over him and whispered: "You sweet little darling, you are just as
good, and just as much of a Greylock as your brother. He will be duke,
but that is no great piece of luck, and we will not begrudge it to him.
His subjects will some day give him enough anxiety. He must grow to be a
mighty man for their sakes, and I doubt not that his nurse gives him
better nourishment to that end than I could who am only a weak woman. But
you, you poor, dear, little ill-omened mite, I shall nourish you myself,
and if your life is unhappy it shall not be because I have not done my
best."

When the Chief Priest came to her, to ask her what name she had chosen
for the second boy--the first, of course, was to be Wendelin XVI--she
remembered her dream, and answered quickly: "Let him be named George, for
it was he who killed the dragon."

The old man understood her meaning, and answered earnestly: "That is a
good name for him."

Time passed, and both of the princes flourished. George was nourished by
his own mother, Wendelin by a hired nurse. They learned to babble and
coo, then to walk and talk, for in this respect the sons of dukes with
grey locks are just like other boys. And yet no two children are alike,
and if any schoolmaster tried to write an exhaustive treatise on the
subject of education, it would have to contain as many chapters as there
are boys and girls in the world, and it would not be one of the thinnest
books ever published.

The ducal twins from the beginning exhibited great differences.
Wendelin's hair was straight and, save for the grey lock, which hung over
his left temple like a mark of interrogation, jet black; George, on the
contrary, had curly brown hair. Their size remained equal until their
seventh year, when the younger brother began to outstrip the older. They
loved one another very fondly, but the amusements that pleased one failed
to attract the other; even their eyes seemed to have been made on
different patterns, for many things that seemed white to George appeared
black to his brother.

Both received equal care and were never left alone. The older brother
found this but natural, and he liked to lie still, and be fanned, or have
the flies brushed away from him, and to have some one read fairy stories,
which he loved, aloud to him until he dozed off to sleep. It was
astonishing how long and how soundly he could sleep. The courtiers said
that he was laying up a store of strength, to meet the demands that would
be made upon him when he came to the throne.

Even before he could speak plainly, he had learned to let others wait
upon him, and would never lift his little finger to do anything for
himself. His passive face and large melancholy eyes were wonderfully
beautiful, and inspired even his mother with a feeling of awe and
respect. She never had cause to feel anxious about him, for there was no
better, nor more obedient child in the whole land.

The ill-omened boy, George, was the exact opposite of his brother. He, on
the contrary, had to be watched and tended, for his veins seemed to run
quicksilver. One would have been justified in saying that he went out to
meet the misfortune which was so surely awaiting him. Whenever it was
possible he gave his nurses and attendants the slip. He planned dangerous
games, and incited the children of the castle servants and gardeners to
carry out the mischief which he had contrived.

But his favorite pastime was building. Sometimes he would erect houses of
red stone, often he would dig great caves of many chambers and halls in
the sand. At this work he was much more energetic than his humbler
playfellows, and he would be dirty and dripping with perspiration when he
returned to the castle. The courtiers would shake their heads over him in
disapprobation, and then look approvingly at Wendelin, who was a true
royal child and never got his white hands dirty.

There was no doubt but that George was cast in a less aristocratic mould
than his brother. When Wendelin complained of the heat, George would
spring into the lake for a swim, and when Wendelin was freezing, George
would praise the fresh bracing air. The duchess often sighed for a
thousand eyes that she might the better look after him, and she
constantly had to scold and reprove him, whereas her other son never
heard anything but soft words from her. But then George would fly into
her arms in a most unprincely manner, and she would kiss him and hug him,
as if she never wanted to let him go, while her caresses of her elder son
were restricted to a kiss on his forehead, or to stroking his hair.
George was by no means so beautiful as his brother; he had only a fresh
boyish face, but his eyes were exceptionally deep and truthful, and his
mother always found in them a perfect reflection of what was in her own
heart.

The two boys were as happy as is every child who grows up in the sunshine
of its mother's love, but the lords and ladies about the Court, and the
castle-servants felt that misfortune had already begun to dog the
footsteps of the younger prince. How constantly he was in disgrace with
the duchess! And the accidents that had already happened in the eleven
years of his life were too numerous to count. While bathing he had
ventured too far out into the lake and had been nearly drowned; once,
while riding in the ring, he had been thrown over the barriers by an
unmanageable horse; indeed the Court-physician was certain to be called
from his night's rest at least once a month, to bind up bloody wounds in
the young prince's bead, or bruises on his body.

No one, save the Seneschal of the Royal Household, and the Master of
Ceremonies bore the unruly boy any malice, but every one pitied him as an
ill-starred child. With what relentlessness his evil destiny pursued him
was first made clear when a stone house, which he, together with some
other boys, had built, fell down on top of him. When they drew him out
from under the blocks and stones he was unconscious, and the Major-domo,
who had been attracted by the cries of George's companions, carried him
into the prince's room, laid him on the bed, and watched by him until the
physician was called.

The old nurse, Nonna, aided the Majordomo, and these two faithful souls
confided their anxiety to one another. They recalled the unlucky signs
that had accompanied his entrance into the world, and Pepe expressed his
fear that the unfortunate child would not come to life again.

"'Tis very sad," he continued, "but I doubt not it would be better for
the ducal family if Heaven were now to remove him, for an early death is,
after all, preferable to a long life of vexation and misery."

The boy heard this conversation word for word, for, although he could
move neither hand nor foot, and kept his eyes closed, his hearing and
understanding were wide awake.

Old Nonna had shed many tears during good Pepe's speech, and he was
trying to comfort her when George suddenly sat up, rubbed his eyes with
the back of his hands, stretched himself, and then, agile as a brook
trout, sprang out of bed.

The two old people screamed in their astonishment, then laughed louder in
their joy; but the Court physician, who was just entering the room,
looked very much disgusted and disappointed, for he saw the beautiful
prospect of saving the life of one of the royal children dissolve before
his very eyes.

At the time of this accident the Duchess was away from home. On her
return she forced herself to reprove George for his recklessness before
she yielded fully to her motherly affection. When George threw his arms
around her neck and asked her if it were really true that he was an
ill-starred child, and would never have anything but bad luck as long as
he lived, she nearly burst into tears. But she restrained herself, called
Pepe and Nouna a couple of old geese, and the "signs," which they had
talked about, stupid nonsense. Then she left the room hurriedly and
George thought that he heard her crying outside. He had gathered from her
tone that she was not convinced of what she was saying, and was only
trying to quiet his fears, and from that hour he, too, regarded himself
as a child destined to adversity. This was indeed unfortunate, yet it had
its compensation, for each morning he anticipated an unhappy day, and
when in the evening he looked back on nothing but pleasure and sunshine,
he went to bed with a heart full of gratitude for the good which he had
enjoyed but which did not rightfully belong to him. From this time his
mother had him more carefully guarded than before, she herself even
followed him about anxiously, like a hen who has hatched a duckling, and
forbade him to build any more stone-houses.

The noble Duchess was just then weighed down with other cares. One of her
neighbors, a king, who had often been defeated in battle by her husband
and her husband's father, thought it an excellent opportunity, while the
duchy of the Greylocks was ruled only by a woman and her Councillors, to
invade the land, and win back some of the provinces which he had formerly
lost. Moustache, her Field-marshal, had led forth the army, and a battle
was now imminent, which like all other battles, must end either in
victory or defeat.

One day a messenger came from the camp, bringing a letter from the brave
marshal, who demanded more troops, saying that the enemy far out-numbered
him. Then the Prime Minister called the Great Council together, from
which, of course, the Duchess could not be absent, and during the time
that she presided over the Councillors' meeting, she lost sight of George
for the first time for many weeks.

The naughty boy was delighted. He slipped out of the castle, whence his
older brother would not move, on account of the bad weather, went down to
the shore of the lake, and finding that it was unusually rough, he,
together with the son of the head-gondolier, sprang into a small boat,
and drove it with powerful strokes out among the waves. The wind lifted
the brown curls of the boy, and whenever a large wave bore the skiff
aloft on its crest, he shouted with joy. Hitherto he had only been
allowed to go on the lake in a well manned, safe boat, and then the
sailors were under orders to keep to the southern half of the lake.
Consequently an excursion on the water had seemed but a mild amusement;
but to be his own master, and to fight thus untrammelled against the
winds and waves was pleasure such as he had never before experienced.

He had never yet visited the northern part of the lake, there where it
was so dark, and mysterious, and where--as old Nonna used to relate--evil
spirits dwelt, and a giant covered with pumice-stone was compelled by a
curse to live. Perhaps, if he could only get to the other shore, he might
see a ghost! That was a tempting prospect! So he turned the bow of the
boat towards the north, and bidding his companion to row hard, did the
same himself.

As they got further north, the waves increased in size, a storm arose and
blew fiercely in their faces; but the rougher the lake became, the gayer
and more boisterous grew George's mood.

His companion began to be afraid, and begged that they might return, but
George, though it was not his custom, made his princely authority felt,
and sternly commanded the boy to do as he was bid.

All at once it became dark around them, and it seemed as if a powerful
sea-horse must have got under the skiff and lifted it with his back, for
George was hurled into the air. Then he felt himself caught by a rushing
whirlpool which sucked him in its circles to the bottom. He lost breath
and consciousness. When he came to himself again, he found himself in a
closed cave, amidst strange forms of grey-brown, dripping stalactites.
Above the arches of the roof he heard a loud, grunting laugh, and a
voice, that sounded like the hoarse howl of a dog, cried several times:
"Here we have the Wendelin brood! At last I have the Greylock!"

Then George remembered all that he had overheard Pepe and Nonna relate,
and all that he had coaxed out of them by his questions. He had fallen
into the hands of the evil spirit, Misdral, and now the real misfortune,
which had threatened him ever since his birth, was to begin. He was
freezing cold, and very hungry, and as he thought of the beautiful
gardens at home, of the well-spread table in his father's castle, at
which he used to sit so comfortably in his high-backed chair, and of the
well-fed lackeys, he felt quite faint.

He also realized what terrible anxiety his absence would cause his
mother. He could see her running about, weeping, with her hair in
disorder, seeking him every where.

When he was smaller she had often taken him into her bed and played
"Little Red Riding Hood" with him, and he said to himself that for that
and many succeeding nights she would find no rest on her silken cushions,
but would wet them with her tears. These recollections brought him to the
verge of weeping, but the next instant he stamped his foot angrily, in
rage against his weakness.

He was only thirteen years old, but he was a true Greylock, and fear and
cowardice were as unknown to him as to his ancestor, Wendelin I. So when
he heard the voice of the wicked Misdral again, and listened to the
curses which it heaped upon his family, George's anger grew so hot that
he picked up a stone, as the first Wendelin had done five hundred years
before, to hurl it in the monster's wrinkled face. But Misdral did not
show himself, and George had to give up the expectation of seeing him,
for he gathered from the conversation between the two spirits that, owing
to an oath which he had given to the fairy, Misdral dared not lay hands
on a Wendelin, and that, therefore, he had planned to starve him (George)
to death. This prospect seemed all the more dreadful to the boy because
of his hunger at that moment.

The cave was lighted by a hole in the roof of rocks, and as George could
cry no more, and had raged enough against himself and the wicked Misdral,
there was nothing further for him to do but to look about his prison, and
examine the stalactites which surrounded him on all sides. One of them
looked like a pulpit, a second like a camel, a third made him laugh, for
it had a face with a bottle-nose, like that of the chief wine cooper at
the castle. On one of the columns he thought he discerned the figure of a
weeping woman, and this made his eyes fill with tears again. But he did
not mean to cry any more, so he turned his attention to the ceiling. Some
of the stalactites that hung from it looked like great icicles, and some
of them looked like damp, grey clothes hung out to dry. This recalled the
appearance of the wash hanging in the garden behind the palace--a long
stocking, or an unusually large shirt descending below the rest of the
clothes--and he remembered how, in the fall, after the harvest, the
clothes-lines used to be tied to the plum-trees, and the ends decorated
with branches still bearing the blue, juicy fruit, and then his hunger
became so ravenous that he buckled his belt tighter round his waist and
groaned aloud.

Night fell. The cave grew dark, and he tried to sleep, but could not,
although the drops of water splashed soothingly, and monotonously from
the roof into the pools below.

The later it grew, the more he was tormented by his hunger, and the
flapping of the bats, which he could not see in the dark. He longed for
it to be morning, and more than once, in his great need, he lifted his
hands and prayed for deliverance, and yet more passionately for a piece
of bread, and the coming of day. Then he sat lost in thought, and bit his
nails, for the sake of having something to chew. He was aroused by a
splash in one of the puddles on the Hoor. It must be a fish! He sat up to
listen, and it seemed as if some one called to him gently. He pricked up
his ears sharply, and then!--no, he had not deceived himself, for the
friendly words came distinctly from below: "George, my poor boy, are you
awake?"

How they comforted him, and how quickly he sprang up in answer to the
question! At last he was saved. That was as certain to him as that twice
two makes four, although it might have been otherwise.

Over the pool, from which the small voice had sounded, appeared now a dim
light, a beautiful goldfish lifted its head out of the water, opened its
round mouth, and said, in a scarcely audible tone,--for a real fish finds
it difficult to speak, because it has no lungs,--that George's godmother,
the fairy Clementine, had sent it. Its mistress was by no means pleased
with George's disobedience; but, as he was otherwise a good boy, and she
was pledged to aid the Greylocks, she would help him out of his
difficulty this time.

The boy cried: "Take me home take me home, take me to my mother!"

"That would indeed be the simplest thing to do," replied the fish, "and
it lies in our power to fulfil your wish; but, if my mistress frees you
from the power of the wicked Misdral, she must promise him in exchange
that another ill shall befall your house. Your army is in the field, and
if you return to your family, then will the giant help your enemies; they
will defeat you, will capture your capital, and possibly something evil
might befall your mother."

George sprang up and waved his hand in negation. Then his curly head
fell, and he said sadly, but decisively: "I will stay here and starve."

The fish in his delight slapped the water with his tail until it splashed
high, and continued, although his first speech had already made him
hoarse:

"No, no; it need not be so bad as that. If you are willing to go into the
world as a poor boy, and never to tell any one that you are a prince, nor
what your name is, nor whence you come, then no enemy will be able to do
your army or the lady duchess any harm."

"And shall I never see my mother and Wendelin again?" George asked, and
the tears poured down over his cheeks like the water over the
stalactites.

"Oh yes!" the fish replied, "if you are courageous, and do something good
and great, then you may return to your home."

"Something good and great," George repeated, "that will be very
difficult; and, if I should succeed in doing something that I thought
good and great, how could I know whether the fairy considered it so?"
"Whenever the grey lock grows on your head, you may declare yourself to
be the son of a duke and go home;" the fish whispered. "Follow me. I will
light the way for you. It is lucky that you have run about so much and
are so thin, otherwise you might stick fast on the way. Now pay
attention. This pool drains itself, through a passage under the mountain,
into the lake. I shall swim in front of you until we come to the big
basin into which the springs of these mountains empty their waters. After
that I must keep to the right, in order to get back into the lake, but
you must take the left passage, and let the current carry you along for
an hour, when it will join the head of the great Vitale river, and flow
out into the open air. Continue with the stream until it turns towards
the east, then you must climb over the mountains, and keep ever
northwards. Hold your hand under my mouth that I may give you money for
your journey."

George did as he was bid, and the fish poured forty shining groschen into
his hand. Each one of them would pay for a day's nourishment and a
night's lodging.

The fish then dived under, George plunged after it into the pool, and
followed the shimmering light that emanated from his scaly guide.
Sometimes the rocky passages, through which he crawled on his stomach in
shallow water, became so small that he bumped his head, and had to press
his shoulders together in order to pass, and often he thought that he
would stick fast among the rocks, like a hatchet in a block of wood. He
always managed to free himself, however, and finally reached the big
basin, where a crowd of maidens with green hair and scaly tails were
sporting, and they invited him to come and play tag with them. But the
fish advised him not to stop with the idle hussies, and then parted from
him.

George was alone once more, and he let himself be borne along on the
rushing subterranean stream. At length it poured out into the open air,
as the Vitale river, and the boy fell with it over a wall of rock into a
large pool surrounded by thick greenery. There was a great splash, the
trout were frightened to death, a dog began to bark, and a shepherd, who
was sitting on the bank, sprang up, for the coloured bundle that had just
shot over the falls, now arose from the water and bore the form of a
pretty boy of thirteen years.

This apparition soon stood before him, puffing, and dripping, and
regarding, with greedy eyes, the bread and cheese which the old man was
eating. The shepherd was very, very old, and deaf, but he understood the
language of the boy's eyes, and as he had just milked the goats, he held
out a cup of the milk to him with a friendly gesture, and broke off a
piece of bread for him. Then he invited George to sit down beside him in
the sun, which had been up for an hour.

The prince had never before eaten such a meal, but as he sat there in the
sun, munching the bread, and drinking goats' milk, he would have thought
any one a fool who called him an ill-fated child.

After he had satisfied his hunger, he thanked the shepherd, and offered
him one of the groschen which the fish had given him, but the old man
refused it.

George insisted, for it hurt his pride to take anything as a gift from a
man clad in rags, but the shepherd still declined, and added, after he
had noticed the fine clothes of the little prince, which the water had
not entirely spoiled: "What the poor man gives gladly, no gold can repay.
Keep your groschen."

George blushed scarlet, put his money in his pocket, and replied: "Then
may God reward you." The words sprang naturally and easily to his lips,
and yet they were the very ones that the beggars in the duchy of the
Greylocks always used.

He ran along by the side of the stream quite fast, in order to dry his
clothes, until it was noon, and many thoughts passed through his mind,
but so rapidly that he could hardly remember whether they were gay or
sad. When at last he sat down to rest under a flowering elder bush, he
thought of his mother, and of the great sorrow that he was causing her,
of his brother, and Norma, and old Pepe, and his heart failed him, and he
wept. He might never see them again, for how could he ever accomplish
anything that was good and great, and yet the fish had demanded it of
him! For three days he continued to be very dejected, and whenever he
passed boys at play, or boys and maidens dancing and singing under the
trees, he would say to himself: "You are happy, for you were not born
under an evil star as I was."

The first night he slept in a mill, the second in an inn, the third in a
smithy. Just as he was leaving in the early morning a horseman rode
rapidly past, and called out to the smith, who was standing in front of
the shop: "The battle is lost. The King is flying. The Greylocks are
marching on the capital."

George laughed aloud, and the messenger hearing him, made a cut at him
with his riding-whip, but missed him, and the boy ran away. George felt
as if some one had removed the burden that had been weighing him down
during his wanderings, and he reflected that, if he had remained a
prince, and had been at that moment comfortably at home, instead of
wandering until he was footsore along the highways, Moustache, the
Field-marshal, would have lost the battle.

It was still early when he reached the spot where the river turned to the
east. From this point he was to go northwards. He found a path that led
from the bank of the river, through the woods, across the mountain chain.
The dew still hung on the grass, and above in the oaks and beeches, it
seemed as if all the birds were holding high festival, there was such a
fluttering, and calling, and chirping, and trilling, and singing, while
the woodpecker beat time. The sunshine played among the branches, and
fell through onto the flowery earth, where it lay among the shadows of
the leaves like so many round pieces of gold. Although George was
climbing the mountain, his breath came freely, and all at once, without
any reason, he burst into song. He sang a song at the top of his voice,
there in the woods, that he had learned from the gardeners. At noon he
thought he had reached the top of the mountain, but behind again a yet
higher peak arose, and so, after he had eaten the bread and butter which
the blacksmith's wife had given him, he continued his way and, as the sun
was setting, attained the summit of the second mountain, which was the
highest far and near.

Once more he beheld the river which, sparkling and bright, wound through
the green plain like a silver snake. Smaller hills covered with forests
fell away on all sides and the tops of the trees caught the radiance of
the sinking sun. Over the snow-fields of the further mountain-ranges, a
rosy shimmer spread that made him think of the peach blossoms at home; a
purple mist obscured the rocky peaks behind him and there, far away to
the south, was a tiny speck of blue. That might be his own dear lake,
which he was never to see again. It was all so wonderfully beautiful and
his heart filled to overflowing with memories and hopes. Neither to the
right nor to the left, whither he turned his eyes, were there any
boundaries to be seen. How wide, how immeasurably wide was the world
which, in the future, was to be his home, in the place of the small
walled garden of the castle. Two eagles were floating round in circles
under the softly-glowing fleecy clouds, and George said to himself that
he was as free and untrammelled on the earth as they were in the air;
suddenly a feeling of delight in his liberty overcame him, he snatched
his cap from his head and, waving it aloft, tore down the mountain, as if
he were running for a wager. That night he found hospitable housing in
the cell of a hermit.

After this he derived much pleasure from his wanderings. He was a child
born to bad luck--no denial could change that--nevertheless a child
destined to good fortune could hardly have been more contented than he.
On the thirtieth day of his journeying he met with a travelling companion
in the lower countries, which he had reached some time before. This was a
stone-mason's son, who was much older than George, but who accepted the
gay young vagabond as his comrade. The youth was returning home after his
wanderings as a journeyman and, as he soon discovered that George was a
clever, trustworthy boy with all his wits about him, he persuaded him to
offer himself as apprentice to the stone-mason, who was an excellent
master in his business. His name was Kraft, and he gladly received his
son's companion as apprentice, George having spent his last groschen that
very day, and thus the little prince was turned into a stone-mason's
apprentice.

In the castle of the Greylocks, meanwhile, there was sorrow and
lamentation. The boy who had ventured onto the lake with George, managed
to save his life and returned home the following morning, and to repeated
questionings he had only the one answer to make--that he had seen the
prince drown before his very eyes. With this information the Court had to
content itself; but not the duchess, for a king will give up his throne
sooner than a mother the hope of seeing her child again. She possessed
indeed one means by which she could know beyond doubt whether her darling
were alive or dead, namely the magic mirror which the fairy had given to
the first Wendelin, and in which, ever since, the Greylocks had been able
to see what they held most dear. In this glass she had seen her husband
fall from his horse and die. Once again she took it out of the ivory
casket in which it was kept; but so long as George sat imprisoned in the
cave of the evil spirit, nothing was to be seen on its smooth surface.
That was ominous, yet she ceased not to hope, and thought: "If he were
dead, I should see his corpse." She sat the whole night staring in the
mirror. In the morning a messenger from the army of the Greylocks
arrived, bringing word that the enemy was pressing upon them and that a
battle would have to be fought before the fresh troops, which Moustache,
the field-marshal, had asked for, could arrive.

The issue was doubtful, and the duchess would better have everything
ready for her flight and that of the princes, and, in case of the worst,
to carry with her the crown jewels, the royal seal and a store of gold.

The chancellor ordered all of these things to be packed in chests and
warned the servants not to forget to add his dressing-gown. Then he
begged the noble widow to look into the glass and to let him know as soon
as there was any reflection of the battle.

Presently she saw the two armies fall upon each other, but her longing to
see her son overcame her immediately, and behold, there in the glass he
appeared, seated by the side of an old ragged shepherd and eating bread
and cheese, his clothes were soaked and there was no possibility of his
changing them. This worried her and she at once pictured him with a cold
or lying helpless in the open air, stricken down by fever or inflammation
of the lungs. Henceforth she thought no more about the decisive battle,
and forgot all else during the hours that she sat and followed George's
movements. Then she sent for huntsmen, for messengers and for all the
professors who studied geography, botany, or geology, and bade them look
into the mirror, and asked them if they knew where those mountains were,
of which they saw the reflection. The smooth surface showed only the
immediate surroundings of the boy, and no one could tell what the
district was where George wandered. Thereupon she sent messengers towards
all points of the compass to seek him.

Thus half the day passed, and when the chancellor came again in the
afternoon to inquire after the fortunes of the battle, the duchess was
frightened, for she had entirely forgotten the conflict.

She therefore commanded the mirror to show her again the army and
Moustache, the field-marshal, who was a cousin of her late husband. She
beheld with dismay that the ranks of her soldiers were wavering. The
chancellor saw it, too; he put his hand to his narrow forehead and cried:

"Everything is lost! My office, your Highness, and the land! I must to
the treasury, to the stables! The enemy--flight--our brave soldiers--I
pray your Highness to keep a watch over the battle! More important
duties. . . ."

He withdrew, and when half an hour later he returned, very red in the
face from all the orders that he had given, and looked over the duchess'
shoulder, unperceived into the mirror, he started back and cried out
angrily, as no true courtier ought ever to allow himself to do in the
presence of his sovereign: "By the blood of my ancestors! A boy climbing
a mountain. And there is such dire need to know . . ."

The duchess sighed and called the battle once more into view. During the
time that she had been watching her son, things had taken a better turn.
This pleased her greatly, and the chancellor exclaimed: "Did I not
prophesy this to your Highness. The circumstances were such that the
victory was bound to be ours. Brave Moustache! I had such confidence in
him that I saw the caravans bearing the treasure depart, without a pang
of uneasiness. Will your Highness be good enough to have them recalled."

After this the duchess had no further opportunity to see the reflection
of her boy until the battle was decided and the victory theirs beyond a
doubt; then she could use the mirror to gratify the desire of her heart.

When George walked along dejectedly, she thought: "Is that my heedless
boy?" and when he looked about him gaily once more to see what mischief
he could get into, she rejoiced, yet it troubled her, too, to have him
appear so free from all grief, she feared that he might have entirely
forgotten her.

All the expeditions that she sent in search of him were fruitless; but
she knew from the glass that he had become apprentice to a stone-mason
and had hard work to do. This made her very sad. He was indeed a child
born to misfortune, and when she saw him eat out of the same bowl with
his companions, food so coarse, that her very dogs would have despised
it, she felt that the misery into which he had fallen was too deep, too
awful. Yet, strange to relate, he always seemed gay, despite these ills,
whereas Wendelin, the heir to the throne, grew more peevish every day.

The duchy of this fortunate youth had been enlarged by the late
successful war, and the assembly of the states of the empire was debating
whether it should not be made a kingdom. He possessed everything that it
was in the power of man to desire, and yet, with each new month, he
seemed to become more unhappy and dejected.

When the heir to the throne drove out in his gilt coach and the duchess
heard of the enthusiasm exhibited by the people, or saw him sitting at a
feast of pheasants, smacking his lips and drawing the asparagus between
his teeth, she reflected on his brother's hard lot and could not help
feeling angry with her fortunate son for possessing all the gifts that
Destiny refused to her poor outcast George.

Once when the duchess looked in the mirror, she saw George who had
carefully taken a clock to pieces, trying to put it together again. A
moment later the chancellor and the master of ceremonies came up behind
her in order to look into the glass also. No sooner had they done so than
they set up a loud outcry, and behaved as if the enemy had invaded the
land again.

"The poor, miserable, pitiable, ill-starred princeling!" one of them
exclaimed. "A Greylock, it is unheard of, abominable, sacrilegious," the
other moaned. They had indeed beheld a dreadful sight, for they had seen
the son of Wendelin XV. beaten over the back by a common workman with a
stick. The duchess had to witness many similar outrages later when she
saw George in the school to which the stone-mason sent his promising
apprentice. Alas! how long the poor child had to bend over his
drawing-board and his slate doing dreadful sums, whereas Wendelin only
studied two hours a day under a considerate tutor who gently coaxed him
along the paths of learning. Everything that seemed difficult was
carefully removed from his way, and everything that was unpalatable was
coated with sugar before being presented to him. Thus even in school the
fortunate child trod a path strewn with roses without thorns, and if he
yawned now and then in his tutor's face, the latter could flatter himself
that the young prince yawned much more frequently over what other people
considered pleasures and amusements.

When he attained his sixteenth birthday, he was declared to be of age,
for princes mature earlier than other men. Soon afterwards he was
crowned, not duke, but king, and it was remarked that he held his lace
handkerchief oftener than ever to his mouth.

The state prospered under his government; for his mother and councillors
knew how to choose men who understood their work and did it well. These
men acted as privy council to the king. One of them was put in charge of
the army, a second of the Executive, a third of the customs and taxes, a
fourth of the schools, a fifth exercised the king's right of pardon, a
sixth, who bore the title the Chancellor of the Council, was obliged to
do the king's thinking. To this experienced man was also confided the
responsibility of choosing a wife for the young king. He acquitted
himself wonderfully well of this duty, for the princess whom Wendelin
XVI. espoused on his twentieth birthday, was the daughter of a powerful
king, and so beautiful that it seemed as if the good God must have made a
new mould in which to form her. No more regular features were to be seen
in any collection of wax figures; the princess also possessed the art of
keeping her face perfectly unmoved. If anything comic occurred, she
smiled slightly, and where others would have wept, and thus distorted
their features, she only let her eyelids fall. She was moreover very
virtuous and, though but seventeen, was already called "learned." She
never said anything silly, and also, no doubt out of modesty, refrained
from expressing her wise thoughts. Wendelin approved of her silence, for
he did not like to talk; but his mother resented it. She would have liked
to pour her heart out to her daughter-in-law, and to make her son's wife
her friend and confidante. But such a relationship was impossible; for,
when she tried to share with her daughter the emotions which crowded upon
her, they rolled off the queen like water off the breast of a swan.

The people adored the royal pair. They were both so beautiful, and looked
so noble and princely as they leaned back in the corners of their gilt
coach during their drives and gazed into vacancy, as if their interests
were above those of ordinary mortals.

Years passed, and the choice of the Chancellor of the Council did not
turn out to be so fortunate as had at first appeared, for the queen gave
her husband no heir, and the house of Greylock was threatened with the
danger of dying out with Wendelin XVI. This troubled the duchess indeed,
but not so much as one would have supposed, for she knew that yet another
Greylock lived, and the mother's heart ceased not to hope that he would
return one day, and hand down the name of her husband.

She therefore persisted in sending messengers to those lands where, to
judge by the costume of the people, the appearance of the country and
buildings, as shown in the magic mirror, George was most likely to be
found.

Once she allowed her daughter-in-law to look into the smooth glass with
her; but never again, for it happened that the queen chanced upon a time
when George, poorly dressed, and with great beads of perspiration on his
forehead, sat hard at work over his drawing in a miserable room under the
roof; her delicate nostrils sniffed the air disdainfully, as if afraid
that they might be insulted by any odour of poverty, and she said coldly:
"And you wish me to believe that person is a brother of my highbred
husband? Impossible!"

After this the duchess permitted no one save old Nonna to look into the
glass; she, however, spent many hours each clay in following the
miserable experiences of her unfortunate child. Sometimes indeed it
seemed to her as if a little happiness were mixed with the misery of his
existence, and it also struck her that her little imp of a George was
gradually growing to be a tall, distinguished-looking man with a noble
forehead and flashing eyes, whereas Wendelin, despite his beauty and his
grey lock, had become fat and red in the face, and looked like a common
farmer.

Great was her solicitude for him, and her heart bled when she saw him
suffer, which was not seldom; but then, on the other hand, she often had
to laugh with him and be merry, when he gave himself up to the strange
illusion of being happy. And had she ever seen a face so beaming as his
was when one day, in a splendid hall, a stately grey-haired man in a long
gown embraced him and laid a laurel wreath on the design for a building,
at which she had seen George work. And then he seemed to have gone to
another country, and to be living in the midst of the direst poverty, yet
somehow the world must have been turned upside down, for he was as
lighthearted and gay as if Dame Fortune had poured the entire contents of
her cornucopia over him.

He lived in a little white-washed room, which was not even floored, but
only paved with common tiles. In the evening he ate nothing save a piece
of bread, with some goat-cheese and figs, and quenched his thirst with a
draught of muddy wine which he diluted with water. A squalid old woman
brought him this wretched supper, and it cut the duchess to the heart to
see him hunt about for coppers enough to pay for it. One day he seemed to
have exhausted his store, for he turned his purse upside down and shook
it, but not the smallest coin fell out.

This grieved her sorely, and she wept bitterly, thinking of the ease of
her other son, and resenting the injustice with which blind and cruel
Fortune had bestowed her gifts.

When she had dried her eyes sufficiently to be able to see the picture in
the mirror once more, she beheld a long low house by the side of which
there was a large space roofed over with lattice work. This was covered
by a luxuriant growth of fig-branches and grape-vine. The moon shed its
silver radiance over the leaves and stems, while beneath it a fire cast
its golden and purple lights on the house, the trellis roof, and the gay
folk supping under it.

Young men in strange garb sat at the small tables. Their faces were
wonderfully animated and gay. Before each one stood a long-necked bottle
wound with straw, cups were filled, emptied, waved aloft or clinked. With
every moment the eyes of the drinkers grew brighter, their gestures freer
and more lively; finally one of them sprang up on a table, he was the
handsomest of them all,--her own George, and he looked as if he were in
Paradise instead of on this earth, and had been blessed by a sight of God
and his Heavenly host. He spoke and spoke, while the others listened
without moving until he raised a large goblet and took such a long
draught that the duchess was frightened. Then what a wild shout the
others sent up! They jumped to their feet, as if possessed, and one of
them tossed his cup through the lattice work and vines overhead.

When George got down again, young and old surrounded him, a few of them
embraced him, and then the whole gay company began to sing. Later the
duchess saw her son whirling madly in the dance with a girl dressed in
many colours, who, though beautiful, was undoubtedly only the daughter of
a swineherd, for she was barefoot, and kiss her red lips--which indeed no
Greylock ought to have done, yet his mother did not begrudge him the
amusement.

It looked as if that were happiness, but true happiness it could not be,
for such was not granted to a child born to misfortune. Yet what else
could it be? At any rate, he had the appearance of being the most blessed
of mortals.

He was in Italy; of that she became more and more assured, and yet none
of her messengers could find him. A year later, however, her son began to
busy himself with matters that would certainly give some clue to her more
recent envoys.

George had left his poverty-stricken room and dwelt now in a handsome
vaulted chamber. Each day dressed in a fine robe and with a roll of
parchment in his hand, he superintended a great number of builders. Often
she saw him standing on such high scaffolding that he seemed to be
perched between heaven and earth, and she would be overcome by giddiness,
though he seemed proof against it.

Once in a while a tall princely-looking man, with a beautiful young woman
and a train of courtiers and servants, came to inspect the building.
George would be sent for to show the gentleman and the young woman, who
seemed to be his daughter, the plans, and they had long conversations
together. At these interviews George was not at all servile; and his
gestures were so manly and graceful, his eyes shone so frankly, yet so
sweetly and modestly, that his mother yearned to draw him to her heart
and kiss him; but that, alas! could not be, and little by little it
dawned upon her that he longed for other lips than hers, for the glances
that he bestowed upon the maiden bespoke his admiration, which, the
duchess noticed, did not seem to displease her.

Once, during an interview with George, she dropped a rose, and when he
picked it up, she must have allowed him to keep it, for she gave no sign
of disapproval when he kissed it and hid it inside the breast of his
doublet. The large architectural drawing had screened this little comedy
from curious eyes.

One evening, in the moonlight, the duchess saw him climb a garden wall,
with a lute in his hand, then the sky became overcast, and she could
distinguish him no more; she could only see a lighted window where a
beautiful girl was standing. The maiden charmed her beyond measure, and
she grew hot and cold with the pleasurable anticipation that George might
win her for his wife some day and bring her home. But then she reflected
that he was a child born to ill-luck, and as such would never be blessed
with the love of so exquisite a creature.

What she saw in the next few weeks confirmed this opinion. His manner was
usually decisive, abrupt and self-reliant, but now he seemed to her like
a clock that points to one hour while it strikes another. At the works he
gave his orders as firmly and decidedly as ever; but as soon as he was
alone, he looked like a criminal sentenced to death, and either sat bowed
down and miserable or else paced up and down the floor restlessly,
gesticulating wildly. Often when he beat his forehead with the palm of
his hand or struck his breast with his fist, his mother was frightened.

Once, after a garden party, where he had been fortunate enough to walk
alone for a full hour under a shady pergola with the daughter of the
gentleman who owned the building in progress, and to kiss her hand many
times, he burst into tears as soon as he was in his own room, and behaved
so wildly that his mother feared for his reason and wept bitterly also.
just at this time she ought to have felt nothing but joy, joy, heart-felt
and unadulterated, for it appeared that the chief of the councillors had
in truth been more far-sighted, than other people and had not made a
mistake in his choice of a queen, for she had just borne a son, and,
moreover, one that was a true Greylock. His grey lock was indeed somewhat
thin and lacked the firm curl of the former ones; but every one who was
not colour-blind must acknowledge that it was grey.

The duchess would have liked to rejoice sincerely in her grandchild, but
her affections were divided, and even when she held it in her arms, she
yearned for the magic glass and a sight of her unlucky son.

Wendelin XVI., who had long been satiated with the pleasures which his
position offered him, finding them all flat and insipid, experienced for
the first time in twelve years a sensation of delight, like any one else,
when he heard the faint cry of the infant and learned the good news that
his child was a son. Hitherto his greatest satisfaction had been to hear
the clock strike five when he had imagined that it was only four.

The child, however, was something entirely new, and his heart, which
usually beat as slowly as a clock that is running down, quickened its
pulsations whenever he thought of his son. During the first weeks of its
life he sat for hours at a time beside the gilt cradle, staring
thoughtfully through his eye-glass at the future Wendelin XVII. Soon this
occupation ceased to interest him, and he drifted along once more on the
sluggish waves of his former existence, from minute to minute, from hour
to hour.

The queen, his companion on this placid journey, had grown to be like him
in many ways. The two yawned as other people breathe. They knew no
desires, for as everything they possessed was always the best that could
be had, to-morrow could give them nothing better than to-day. Their life
was like a long poplar alley through which they wandered lazily side by
side.

Pepe, the major-domo, after Wendelin came to the throne, was made
body-servant to the king; he, above all others, was inclined to regard
his master, born under a lucky star and possessing everything that one
could desire, as a person favoured by Fortune; yet, after he had listened
to his sighs and murmurs through many a quiet night, he reflected: "I am
better off in my own shoes."

Pepe kept his own counsel and confided to no one save old Nonna what he
knew. She, too, had learned to be discreet and consequently did not
repeat his confidences even to the duchess, who had enough to bear
without that additional burden.

How pale her darling seemed to her when she saw him in the glass! Yet,
even on the worst days, he was busy at his place in the piazza, where the
cathedral, which he had been building for three years, was nearing
completion. The greatest energy at that moment was being expended on the
dome, which rose proudly over the crossing of the nave and transepts.
Whenever Nonna looked over the duchess' shoulder to get a glimpse of
George, he was always seen there so long as the sun was in the heavens.
Many times the hearts of the two women stood still when they saw him
climb to the highest point of the scaffolding in order to direct the work
from there. Fate had only to make his foot slip one little inch or decree
that a wasp should sting him on the finger to put an end to his
existence. The poor mother was doubly anxious because he seemed so
unconscious of the risk he ran up there and looked about him even more
boldly and self-reliantly than usual.

The dome was already perfectly round. Why wasn't it finished, and why
must he go on climbing again and again that frightful scaffolding?

"Nonna, Nonna, you must look, I can stand it no longer," she cried one
day after she had been regarding the glass for a long time. "Hold me--he
is going to jump. Nonna, is he safe? I can no longer see." And the glass
shook in her hand.

"Oh!" the old woman answered, heaving a sigh of relief, "there he stands
as solidly and firmly as the statue of Wendelin I. in the market-place.
See. . . ."

"Yes, yes, there he is," the duchess cried and fell on her knees to thank
Heaven.

The nurse continued to look in the glass. Suddenly she shrieked aloud and
her mistress sank together and covered her face with her hands. "Has he
fallen? Is he dead?" she groaned.

But Nonna, despite her gout, sprang up and ran to her mistress with the
mirror in her hand and stammering, half laughing and half crying, like
one drunk yet possessed of his senses: "George, our George, look. Our
prince has the grey lock. Here, before my very eyes I saw it grow."

The duchess jumped up, cast one glance into the glass, saw the grey lock
distinctly, and then forgetting that she was a princess and Nonna but a
humble servant, threw her arms about her and kissed her on the mouth,
above which grew so luxuriant a moustache that many a page would gladly
have exchanged his young upper lip for her older one. Then the duchess
reached once more for the mirror to assure herself that her eyes had not
been deceived, but her fingers trembled so with excitement that the glass
slipped from her hand and fell to the floor where it broke in a thousand
pieces.

What a fright it gave them! Fortunately Nonna, after a lifetime spent in
the care of babies, had laid aside what we call nerves, else she had
certainly fallen in a swoon like her mistress; she was consequently able
to support the duchess and soothe her with gentle words.

In the meanwhile the young architect from the staging inspected the stone
which crowned the dome and found that it had been well set. But he had no
suspicion that the grey lock had grown on his head. Older architects came
and absorbed his attention. They pressed his hand, praised him and said
that he had just finished a marvellous work of art. They examined, with
him, the interior of the cathedral, and then appeared the prince for whom
George had built the church, and to him the architects explained how
solid and well proportioned was the dome which had been finished a few
hours before. The noble prince listened with comprehension; after he was
satisfied he drew George to his breast and said: "I thank, you my friend.
Despite your youth I entrusted you with a great undertaking and you have
more than fulfilled my most sanguine expectations. At my age we count it
gain not to be disappointed, and the day when our expectations are not
only fulfilled, but surpassed we number among our festivals. Your work
will be an ornament to the city and state, and will insure you undying
fame. Take this from a man who wishes you well."

The prince took the golden chain from his own neck, hung it about
George's, and continued:

"Art is easy, some say; others, that it is difficult. Both are right. It
must be delightful and ennobling to design such a work but the carrying
out must be laborious and attended with many perplexities. I can see that
you have found it so, for only yesterday I remarked with pleasure the
youthful glint of your brown hair and today,--no doubt while you were
superintending the laying of the dome's crown,--a lock of hair above your
left temple has turned grey, Master Peregrinus."

George reeled at this sudden and unexpected fulfilment of the dearest
wish of his soul. He had gone out into the world under this name of
Peregrinus and had never betrayed the fact that he was a prince's son.
For several years his heart had been overflowing with love for the
daughter of the prince and he had known that she reciprocated his
affection sincerely, yet for the sake of his own family he had battled
bravely with his passion and had borne his heartache and longing in
silence.

Proofs had not been wanting to show hint how devoted the prince was to
him, and if he had been able to say to his patron, "I am a Greylock," no
doubt his lord would gladly have accorded his daughter's hand to him.
George had repeated this to himself a thousand times, but he had remained
firm, had kept his counsel and had not ceased to hope that by righteous
energy and industry he might accomplish the "great and good task" which
had been required of him in Misdral's cave. When his grey lock grew, the
fairy Clementine's fish had said to him, then would he know that he had
achieved something great and good, and that he might bear once more the
name of his proud race and return home without exposing his family to any
danger. He had reached the goal, the task was completed, he might call
himself a Greylock once more, for the curl which was the pride of his
race now adorned his head too.

The prince watched him turn very red then very pale and finally said
inquiringly "Well, my Peregrinus?" The architect fell upon his knee,
kissed the prince's hand and cried:

"I am not Peregrinus. Henceforth I am a Greylock, I am George, the second
son of the Duke Wendelin, of whom you have heard, and I must confess to
you, my noble lord, that I love your daughter Speranza, and I would not
exchange places with any god if you would but give us your blessing."

"A Greylock!" the prince exclaimed. "Truly, truly this day should not be
reckoned among the feast-days but should be regarded as the best day in
all the year. Come to my arms, my dear, my worthy son!"

An hour later the architect held the princess in his arms. What a wedding
they had! George did not return immediately to his own home. He wrote to
his mother that he was alive and well and intended to visit her in
company with his young bride as soon as he had finished a great work with
which he was occupied. He sent with the letter a portrait of his wife and
when the duchess saw it and read the letter she grew ten years younger
from pure delight, and old Nonna at least five. When Wendelin XVI. was
informed that his brother still lived, he smiled and the queen followed
his example, but as soon as they were alone she cried: "The land of the
Greylocks will be smaller than ever now and even before it was not so
great as my father's."

When Speranza presented her husband with a son the duchess and her
faithful attendant Nonna went to Italy, and the meeting between mother
and son was beyond all measure joyful. Two months she spent with her dear
children and then she returned home, George and his wife having promised
to visit her the following year in the capital of the Greylocks.

The cathedral was finished. There was no finer building under the sun and
artists and connoisseurs flocked from all parts of the world to see it.
George received the commendations of the most critical and his name was
ranked among those of the greatest architects.

Proud of his work, yet ever modest, he together with his wife and child
returned to his home.

He found great rejoicings in progress when he crossed the frontiers, for
Moustache, the field-marshal, had just conquered another enemy, and by
the conditions of the treaty of peace another province came into the
possession of the Greylocks, making their kingdom then as large as that
of the queen's father.

When George entered the capital he found flags flying, heard bells
pealing, the explosions of mortars and firing of cannon, sometimes one
shot after another, sometimes a deafening salvo of many guns together,
and a thousand voices shouting "Hurrah, hurrah! Long live Wendelin the
Lucky!"

The Assembly of States had decided the day before that the king by whom
the land had been so wonderfully extended, and whose government had been
so prosperous that not even a shadow of misfortune had fallen across it,
should be called: "Wendelin the Lucky."

This title of honour was to be seen on all the flags, triumphal arches,
transparencies, and even on the ginger-bread cakes in the cook-shops.

George and his lovely wife rejoiced with the other jubilant people, but
they were happiest when they were alone with his mother.

Wendelin XVI. received his brother and his brother's wife in the great
reception room, and even went further forward to meet him than the point
prescribed by the master of ceremonies; the queen made good this
violation of etiquette by remaining herself well within the boundaries
laid down. After the feast Wendelin went with his brother onto the
balcony, and as he stood opposite to George and looked at him more
closely he let his languid eyelids droop, for it seemed to him that his
brother was a man of iron, and he suddenly felt as if his own backbone
were made of dough.

In the evening the lake was beautifully illuminated, and the day was to
end with a boating party on the water enlivened with music and fireworks.

In the first boat, on cushions of velvet and ermine, sat Wendelin XVI.
and his queen, in the second George and his beloved wife. His mother
could not bear to be separated from these two, or to miss for even an
hour the happiness of having them with her.

The weather for the festivals was as perfect as they could have wished.
The full moon shone more brilliantly than usual, as if to congratulate
the king on his new title, the bells pealed forth their chimes again, a
chorus of maidens and boys in skiffs followed the state gondola of the
royal pair, singing the new song which had just been composed in their
honour, and which consisted of twenty-four stanzas, each one ending with
the lines:

   "The luck and glory let us sing Of lucky Wendelin, our king!"

By his side sat his wife, who continued her complaints against the
newly-found brother, and urged her husband to make investigations as to
whether or not this architect were a true Greylock, "To be sure, both he
and his son have the grey lock," she said, "but then they both have light
hair, and the barber's craft has made great strides lately; and certainly
that fat-cheeked baby looks as if it belonged in the cradle of a peasant
rather than in that of a prince." Wendelin XVI did not listen to what she
said; his heart was very heavy, and every time one of the bells rang out
above the others, or the chorus sang, "lucky Wendelin, our king,"
particularly distinctly and enthusiastically, he felt as if he were being
jeered at and ridiculed. He longed to cry aloud in his shame and pain,
and to fly for comfort to his sympathetic mother and strong brother in
the other boat. When he stared into the water it seemed as if the fish
made fun of him, and if he looked at the sky he imagined the moon made a
mocking grimace at him, and looked down scornfully at the wretched man
whom they called "fortunate." He knew not where to gaze, he withdrew
within himself, and tried to shut his ears, while he wished to Heaven
that he could change places with the active sailor opposite who was
setting the purple sail with his brawny arms.

A light breeze wafted the royal gondola towards the island where the
fireworks were to be displayed. The second boat followed at a short
distance. George held his mother's hand and his wife's in his own, few
words were spoken, but their very silence betrayed the great treasure of
their love and happiness, and spoke more plainly than long discourses how
dear these three persons were to one another.

The royal gondola floated quietly past the cliff that separated the
southern from the northern part of the lake; no sooner had the second
boat approached it, however, than an unexpected and fearful gust of wind
blew suddenly from the clefts of the rocks and struck the boat, and
before the sailors had time to lower the sail threw it onto its beam
ends. George sprang forward instantly to help the sailors right her, but
a second gust tore away the flapping sail, and capsized the gondola,
which was caught and carried to the bottom by a rushing eddy. Both of the
women rose from the waves at George's side. He grasped his mother, and
struggled bravely against the wind and current until he laid her on the
beach at the foot of the cliff. Then he swam back as rapidly as he could
to the place of the accident. His mother was safe, but his wife, his
beloved, his all? To rescue her, or to drown with her was his sole idea.

At that moment he perceived a long golden streak rising and falling with
the waves. It was a lock of her hair, her wonderful silken hair. With
mighty strokes he sped towards it, reached it, grasped it, then his
trembling hands felt her body and lifted her up. She breathed, she lived,
and it depended on him to save her from the evil spirit, from death. With
one arm he held her to him, with the other he parted the waters; but the
lake seemed to turn to a mighty torrent that bore down upon him with its
heavy waves. He struggled, he fought with panting breast, yet in vain,
always in vain. He felt that his strength was being exhausted. If no one
came to his aid, he was lost; he raised his head to look for help.

He saw his brother's gondola sailing as peacefully and undisturbed from
storm or accident as a swan in the moonlight, and the bitter thought
passed through his mind, that Wendelin was the lucky one, and that he had
been born to misfortune.

His arm was struggling with the tide once more, and this time more
successfully. Then Speranza opened her eyes, recognized him, and, kissing
him on the forehead, murmured: "My own love, how good you are!"

From the cliff the duchess called to him: "George, my best, my only son!"
His heart warmed within him, all his bitterness disappeared, and the
waves seemed to rock him and the burden in his arms as in a cradle. The
picture of his mother floated before his vision, that of his child, and
of his beautiful work, the great indestructible cathedral, which he had
erected to the honour of God. He reflected what sweet joy each new spring
had brought him, how he had been blessed in his work, what exquisite
delight he derived from all that was beautiful in the world. No, no, no.
Of all the men on this earth, he, the child destined to misfortune, was
the happiest. Overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude, he returned his
wife's kiss. Saved! She was saved! He felt firm ground beneath his feet;
he lifted her on high; but, just as he laid her in the strong arms that
reached down from the cliff to receive her, a high wave caught him and
dragged him back into the deep, and the waters closed over him.

The next morning a fisherman found his body. George's wife and mother
were saved. The wise men of the land said that the ill-starred child had
perished, as they had foreseen, and the people echoed their words.

In the mausoleum of the Greylocks only two places remained empty, and
these had to be kept for Wendelin the Lucky and his queen, consequently
the ill-omened son might not even rest in the grave of his fathers, and
George was buried on a green hillside, whence there was a beautiful view
of the lake and distant landscape.

King Wendelin the Lucky and his wife lived to a good old age. After the
king became childish, he ceased to groan and whimper in the night, as he
had formerly done. When he died, he was interred next to Queen Isabella,
in the coldest corner of the marble mausoleum, and no ray of sun ever
rested on his stone sarcophagus. His son, Wendelin XVII., visited his
father's grave once a year, on All Saints' Day, and laid a dry wreath of
immortelles on the lid of the coffin.

George's resting-place was surrounded by bushes and flowers. His mother
and wife and child visited it and cared for it. When the spring came,
nightingales, redbreasts, finches and thrushes without number sang their
merry notes above the head of the unfortunate one who lay there. His son
George grew to be the pride of his mother, and became a noble prince in
beautiful Italy. Centuries have passed since then, yet to-day
enthusiastic artists still make pilgrimages to the hillside where the sun
shines so brightly, to lay wreaths on the grave of the great architect
George Peregrinus of the princely house of the Greylocks.

They at least do not regard him who lies there as one born to misfortune.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     At my age we count it gain not to be disappointed
     Had laid aside what we call nerves
     Like a clock that points to one hour while it strikes another
     To-morrow could give them nothing better than to-day



THE NUTS

A Christmas Story for my Children and Grandchildren

By Georg Ebers

The wounded colonel, whom we were nursing back to health in our house,
was not allowed to walk long, and in the after noon, after he had
pottered about a little, he was obliged to rest in the comfortable old
easy-chair, which was known as grandfather's chair.

When twilight fell, our dear guest lighted the last of the three pipes,
which the doctor permitted him to smoke every day, and made a sign to the
children, which the young people obeyed gladly, for they loved to listen
to his stories.

The convalescent was under orders not to talk for more than half an hour
at a time, for his wounds were so severe that our experienced physician
declared it to be contrary to the laws of nature and quite phenomenal
that he should be among the living at all.

As for his stories, they had never failed to hold the attention of his
audience; this was partly due to the fact that he usually had to break
them off at the point where the interest had reached its climax.
Moreover, the deep voice of the narrator was much gentler than one would
have expected, after looking at the broad-shouldered, heavy figure, and
there lay in his suppressed, and often whispered tones a secret charm,
which the children were not the only ones to feel; besides which his eyes
produced their share of the profound impression, for every emotion that
disturbed his easily-excited soul found a reflection therein.

That the colonel openly preferred our six-year-old Hermy to his brothers
and sisters was due to the circumstance that the child had once burst
into tears at a look from the officer, which the latter employed to call
the children to order, if they were inattentive, or exhibited signs of
unbelief when he had not expected it. After this Hermy was so evidently
his darling that there was no further chance for Hermy's younger sister,
who had at first promised to be the favourite, and I shall never forget
the soft, almost motherly, caressing tones that came from that
grey-bearded man with the large round head and strong face, when he
sought to comfort the child.

It was remarkable to see how easily this man, who was accustomed to
obedience, and famous for his bravery and keen energy, could become a
child among children. He had lost a beloved wife, a little son, about
Hermy's age, and a young daughter, and no doubt our numerous family
reminded him of these departed ones. As for his tales, he separated them
into distinct categories. Some of them he began with the words: "Here I
am," and then he held himself strictly to the truth. Others began: "Once
upon a time." While the former were drawn mostly from his own full and
eventful life, the latter were fairy stories, pure and simple, sometimes
already well known, sometimes made up, wherein fairies, ghosts, elves,
gnomes, goblins and dragons, will-o'-the-wisps, nixies, kelpies and
dwarfs disported themselves.

Christmas was approaching, and the next day, Christmas-eve, the tree was
to be lighted. On the twenty-third of December, a little while before the
hour for story-telling, Hermy came home, and exhibited to his brothers
the trifling presents, which he had chosen: an eraser for his father, a
lead-pencil for his mother, a bag of nuts for his grandmother, and
similar trifles which, though insignificant in themselves, had
nevertheless exhausted his little store of savings. His elder brothers,
to whom he had exhibited with great pride these purchases, expressed none
of the admiration which he had expected, but began to tease him by
calling the things "trash," as indeed they were, and poking fun at the
"wonderful presents" of their small brother; they would have been less
cruel, perhaps, had he been one of their sisters.

Karl wanted to know what their father, who never was known to make a
drawing, would do with an eraser, and Kurt added that he did not see the
use of giving their grandmother nuts, when she had more in her own garden
than all of them put together would receive on ten Christmas-eves.

Bright tears gathered in the eyes of the little one, and he cast a
troubled look at his despised treasures, in which he had rejoiced so
heartily only a short time before.

He began to sob quietly, and saying dejectedly: "But I hadn't any more
money!" he stuffed his gifts, shorn of their glamour into his pockets.

The colonel had watched the scene in silence; now, however, he drew his
favourite to him, kissed him, and caressed his fair curls. Then he
invited him gaily to sit right close to him on the footstool, and bade
the other children to sit down, too, and told Karl and Kurt to keep their
ears wide open.

My wife and I entered at this moment--we heard later of what had
happened--and begged the colonel to allow us to listen also. The
permission was willingly granted; after the lamp was brought, for it was
later than usual, and we had settled ourselves on the sofa, the colonel
stroked his moustache for some time, and began, after he had gazed
quietly before him for a moment: "To-day my story shall be called, 'The
Nuts.' Does that please you, Hermy?"

The little one smiled at him expectantly and nodded his head. The colonel
continued:

"You believe, no doubt, children, that no one ever came back from the
dead, and that therefore no mortal knows what Heaven looks like, nor
Hell. But I--look at me well--I can tell you something about it."

Here he made a short pause while my wife handed him his pipe and a match.
The children looked at one another in doubt and suspicion, for this was
the first story of the colonel which had not begun with, "Here I am," or,
"Once upon a time," and they were consequently uncertain whether it was a
true story or one that he had made up. Wolfgang, who is thirteen and my
oldest boy, and who already calls his younger brothers, "the young
ones,"--and promises to be a true child of the times, inclined to believe
it the latter, but even he sat up straighter and looked puzzled as the
colonel continued:

"The two balls that I have in here, and the sabre cut on my
shoulder,--but you know how and where I received them--to be brief, I
sank from my horse onto the grass in the afternoon, and not until the
following morning was I found by the ambulance corps and carried to the
hospital. There they brought me to life again. In the interim--which
lasted for the half of a day and one whole night--I was certainly not
alive like one of you, or any other two-legged creature endowed with five
senses."

With these words his penetrating eyes glanced from Karl to Kurt; the
girls caught hold of one another's hands and one could plainly read in
their expressions that they considered it rash to be in such close
proximity to a person who had erstwhile been dead. It was fortunate for
them that the resuscitated colonel was so good, and that there was no
doubt about his actual existence, which was proved by his voice and the
smoke that he puffed into the air during every pause.

"Yes, children," he began anew, "a great wonder was worked on me, an old
man. This long body here lay on the bloody ground among groaning men,
dying horses, broken gun-carriages, ammunition wagons, exploded
bombshells, and discarded weapons; but my soul--I cannot have been too
hardened a sinner in this world--my soul was permitted to soar to Heaven.
One, two, three, as fast as you can say, 'That is an apple,' or 'The fair
Ina has a pretty doll in her lap,' and it had arrived. And now--I can see
it in your eyes--you would like to know how it seems in Heaven, and God
knows I cannot blame you, for it is beautiful, marvellously beautiful,
only unfortunately I am not allowed even to attempt its description. That
must ever remain a mystery to the living because--but that is no matter,
and evil would befall me if I were to chatter."

At this point the colonel was interrupted by many expressions of
disappointment, but he was resolute, and continued in a peremptory tone:

"That will do. Description indeed is forbidden to me; but there are
certain of my experiences about which I may tell you. So listen! That
Hell lies underneath Heaven you have doubtless heard from some one or
other. Naturally the holy dead see and hear nothing of the pains of the
lost, for that would entirely spoil the joys of Paradise for them; but
now and then--I believe once a year--it is given to the blessed to look
down into Hell. There is, however, one condition in particular attached
to this privilege. When the dome which conceals Hell from the sight of
the angels is opened, it is for the relief of the condemned. God in his
mercy has decreed that the saints shall look down into the abyss in order
to tell St. Peter if they see among the damned any one from whom they
have received any benefit, or of whom they have even heard any good. If
the keeper of Heaven's gate is pleased with the generous action which the
lost soul performed while on earth, he has the power of shortening the
time of punishment, or can even pardon it altogether, and bid it enter
into Paradise.

"As for me, I arrived in Paradise on a day when Hell was open to view,
and came to know, thereby, many strange things. Ah! That was the hardest
part of my story; I trust that you have understood it?"

The narrator's glance sought the children's eyes once more; but this time
questioningly rather than peremptorily. When the young lips all cried
"yes," and "of course," he smiled, nodded his massive head amiably, and
continued:

"That the angels are full of pity, and glad to relieve the misery of the
unfortunate, whoever they are, and wherever they may be, goes without
saying, and it will not be necessary to tell you how diligently they
sought to remember some one good deed that might redound to the credit of
one of the lost. But St. Peter is a mild and just judge, and the gleaning
yielded but a small return, for only a few of the angels could recall any
act that was worth mentioning. It was also granted to me to look into the
place of torment, and the things I saw there were too awful. Picture it
to yourself as you will! When I recovered from the horror that fell upon
me, I recognized many men and women whom I had known on earth. Among them
were many whom I had been accustomed to consider pious and virtuous, and
whom I had expected to find in a high place in Heaven, rather than there
below, and yet of those very persons the Elect could recall the fewest
deeds that had been done from purely generous motives. An act was
mentioned of this one or that, which on the surface seemed good,
sometimes even great,--but there on high the springs of human actions are
open to view, as well as the real end, which the author had in mind, and
these were always such that those who had performed the best deeds could
be accredited with the least charitable intention. Their pious works had
always been executed in order to make them conspicuous in the eyes of
men, or to attain for themselves some distinction, or to flatter their
vanity, or to arouse the envy of their neighbours, or to contribute in
some indirect way to the increase of their riches. Perhaps you may not
altogether understand what I mean; but no matter, your mother may explain
as much as she thinks good for you.

"The poor things who were disappointed, as well as the unfortunate ones
for whom no voice was raised, made me very unhappy; but I could do
nothing for them.

"Among the latter I noticed a woman whom I had known well on earth, and
who deserved to be among the lost, I thought. I had never anticipated any
other sentence for her. You do not understand, children, what a cold
heart is; but hers had been either ice or stone. Although she had
possessed more than was needed to gratify her own wants, she could never
be moved by the most touching appeals of the poorest to relieve their
distress. She had used other people to satisfy her selfish desires and
then discarded them ruthlessly. She had gone through life without loving
one single soul--of that I felt convinced--and no one had loved her, and
she had died unregretted. She must have been as wretched on earth as she
was there in Hell; for which of us can be happy here, if we do not love
and are not loved?

"'There is no chance of a voice being raised in her favour,' I said to
myself. But I was wrong; for at that moment a lovely angel-child flew
past me on its blue and white wings. Without any sign of fear it flew
direct to St. Peter, who looked formidable enough with his long beard and
great keys, and, pointing with its little forefinger to the hard-hearted
woman, cried: 'She once gave me a handful of nuts.'

"'Really,' answered the keeper of Heaven. 'That was not much, and yet I
am surprised; for that woman would not part with so much as a pin, during
her life. But you little one, who were you on earth?'

"'Little Hannele was my name,' answered the angel. 'I died of starvation,
and only once did any one give me anything in my life to make me happy,
and that was that woman yonder.'

"'Marvellous,' answered Peter, stroking his white beard. 'No doubt the
nuts were given as a miserly payment of some service you did her.'

"'No, no,' the angel answered decidedly.

"'Well, tell us how it happened then,' the apostle commanded, and the
dear little soul obeyed:

"'My sick mother and I lived in the city all alone, for father was dead.
Just before Christmas we had nothing more to eat. So mother, though she
lay in bed and her head and hands were burning, made some little sheep of
bits of wood and cotton and I carried them to the Christmas market. There
I sat on some steps and offered them for sale to the passers-by; but
nobody wanted them. Hours passed, and it was very cold; the open wound in
my knee, which no one saw, pained me so, and the frost in my fingers and
toes burned and itched dreadfully. Evening came, the lamps were lighted,
but I dared not go home; for only one person had thrown a copper into my
lap, and I needed more to buy a bit of bread and a few coals. My own
pangs hurt me, but that mother lay at home alone, with no one to hand her
anything, or support her when her breathing became difficult, hurt me
still more. I could hardly bear to sit on the cold steps any longer, and
my eyes were blind with tears. A barrel was set down in front of the
house, and while a clerk was rolling it over the sidewalk into the shop,
the stream of passers was stopped. That woman there--I remember her
well--stood still in front of me. I offered her one of my sheep, and
looked at her through my tears. She seemed so hard and stern, that I
thought: 'She won't give me anything.' But she did. It seemed suddenly as
if her face grew softer, and her eyes kinder. She glanced at me, and
before I knew it, she had put her hand in the bag which she carried on
her arm, and thrown the nuts into my lap. The cask had been rolled into
the shop by this time, and the throng of people carried her along. She
tried to stop. It was not easy, and she only did it to toss me a second,
third, and fourth handful of the most beautiful walnuts. I can still see
it all, as if it were to-day! Then she felt in her pocket, probably to
get some money for me, but the press of people was too strong for her to
stand against it longer. I doubt if she heard that I thanked her.'

"Here the angel broke off, and threw a kiss to the condemned woman, and
St. Peter asked her how it happened that she, who had been so deaf to all
appeals from the poor, had been so sweetly generous to the child.

"The tormented woman answered amid her loud sobs: 'The tearful eyes of
the little one reminded me of my small sister, who died a painful death
before I had grown to be hard and wicked, and a strange sensation--I know
not how it happened myself--overpowered me. It seemed as if my heart
warmed within me, and something seemed to say to me that I would never
forgive myself as long as I lived, and would be even unhappier than I
was, if I did not give the child something to rejoice over at Christmas
time. I longed to draw her towards me and kiss her. After I had tossed
her half of the nuts, which I had just bought, I felt happier than I had
for many a day, and I would certainly have given her some money, though
only a little . . . .'

"But Peter interrupted her. He had heard enough, and as he knew that it
was impossible for any one in Heaven or Hell to tell an untruth, he
nodded to her, saying: 'That was, beyond dispute, a good deed, but it is
too small to counterbalance the great weight of your bad deeds. Perhaps
it may lighten your punishment. Still great riches were meted out to you
on earth, and what were a few nuts to you! The motive that urged you to
bestow them is pleasing in the sight of the Lord, I acknowledge; but as I
said before, your charity was too paltry for you to be released from your
pains because of it.'

"He turned to go, but a clear voice of wonderful sweetness held him back.
It was that of the Saviour, who advanced with majestic dignity towards
the apostle and spoke: 'Let us first hear if the alms-giving of which we
have just learned was really too small to plead for leniency towards this
sinning soul. Let us hear'--turning to the angel--'what became of the
nuts.'

"'O dear Saviour,' answered the angel, 'I ate half of them, and I was
grateful to you, for I felt that I owed them to your bounty as they were
my 'little Christ child' as the people in the city where we lived called
a Christmas present.'

"'You see, Peter,' the Saviour interrupted the angel. 'Do we not owe it
to the nuts of that woman that a pure child's soul was led to us? That in
itself is no small thing! Tell what further happened to you?'

"'I ate most of them,' the little girl answered, but I had still more to
eat by Christmas-eve; for the people who had looked at me when the woman
threw something into my lap were interested in my suffering, and soon I
had sold all six sheep, and besides many pennies and groschen, one big
thaler had flown into my lap. With these I was able to buy mother many
things that she stood in sore need of, and, though she died on New Year's
morning, she had had many little comforts during her last days.'

"The Anointed cast another look full of meaning at Peter, when a large
and beautiful angel, the spirit of the mother of the cherub, began: 'If
you will permit me, O, holy Jesus, I, too, would like to say a word in
favor of the condemned. Before Hannele came home with the nuts, I lay in
bed without hope, or help in my great suffering. I had lost all faith,
for my prayers had not been heard, and in the bitterness of my heart, it
seemed that you, who were said to be the friend of the poor on earth, and
God the Father, had forgotten us in our misery, in order to overwhelm the
rich with greater gifts. In my distress, and that of the child; I had
learned to curse the day on which we were born. Oh! how wild were my
thoughts during the time that Hannele was trying to sell the sheep, and
did not come home; though I needed her so sorely. I was often so thirsty
that my mouth burned as with fire, and the moments when I gasped for
breath were frequent, and almost unbearable when no one was there to lift
me up. I called those people liars who would persuade the poor that they
had a merciful Father in Heaven, who looked upon them as his children,
and cared for them. But when Hannele came home, and lighted the little
lamp, and I saw her tiny face, where for a long time I had seen no smile,
but only pain and grief, now beaming with joy, when I saw the nuts and
the other good things which she had brought, and saw her pleasure in
them, my belief in thee, O Lord, and in the kind Father returned, and I
ceased not to be grateful to the end. If now, in the glory of thy
magnificence, I know bliss unutterable, I owe it to that woman, and to
the fact that she was good enough to throw the nuts into Hannele's
apron.'

"Peter nodded affirmatively. Then he bowed before the Saviour and said:
'The little gift of the condemned soul has indeed borne better fruit than
I imagined; yet when I tell you what a great sinner she was on
earth. . . .'

"'I know,' the Son of God interrupted him. 'Before we decide upon the
fate of this woman, let us hear what the child did with the rest of the
nuts, for we know that she did not eat them all. Now my little angel,
what became of the last of them? Speak on. Gladly will I listen to you.'

"Hannele began anew: 'After they had buried mother, they sent me into the
country among the mountains, for they said it was not the duty of the
city to care for me, but that of the village parish, where my parents
were born. So I was taken there. The six nuts that I had saved I took
with me to play with. This I most enjoyed doing in the spring, alone on
the little strip of grass behind the Poor-house, in which I was the only
child. Besides me there were but three old women 'being fed to death,' as
the peasants used to say. Two of my companions were blind, and the third
was dull-witted and gazed ever straight before her. Not one of them
noticed anything that happened around them, but my heart used to grow
light when everything about me budded, and sprouted, and burst into
bloom. My body was always aching but my pains could not lessen my
enjoyment of the spring. Wherever I looked, men were sowing and planting.
It was the first time that I had ever seen it, and the wish came over me
to confide something to the good earth that would take root, and sprout,
and grow green and high for me.

"'So I stuck four of my nuts into the ground. I put them as far apart in
the small space as I could, so that if big trees came from my seeds they
might not stand in one another's way, but might all enjoy the air and the
sunshine that I was so thankful for. I saw my seeds sprout, but what
became of them afterwards I did not live to see. Two years after I sowed
them a famine fell upon us. The poor weavers who lived in the mountain
village had all they could do to nourish wife and child. There was little
left for the Poor-house. As I was already ill I could not stand the
misery, and I was the first to die of the dreadful fever caused by
hunger. Only one of the blind women, and the dull-witted one followed the
sack in which I was buried--for who would have paid for a coffin? The
last two nuts I divided with the old women. Each one of us had a half,
and how gladly we ate the little morsel, for even a taste of any dainty
seemed good to us, after we had lived on nothing but bread and potatoes.
From here I watched the other nuts grow to be trees. All four had
straight stems and thick crowns. Under one of them that stood near a
spring, which is now called the Fresh Spring, an old carpenter who came
to the Poor-house built a bench.'

"Here another angel interrupted the little narrator with the question:
'Do you mean the nut-tree in Dorbstadt?' and, receiving an answer in the
affirmative, he cried: 'I, Master, I am that old carpenter, and during my
last summers, I had no greater pleasure than to sit by the Fresh Spring
under the nut-tree, and while I smoked my pipe to think of my old wife,
whom I was soon to find again with you. In the autumn, too, many a dry
brown leaf found its way among the more expensive tobacco ones.'

"'And I,' cried a former peddler, breaking into the carpenter's story, 'I
assuredly have not forgotten the nut-tree, where I always set down my
pack when my shoulders were nearly broken, and under whose shade I used
to rest my weary limbs before entering the village.'

"'I, too! How often have I stopped under the spreading branches of that
tree on a hot summer day and found refreshment!' cried a former
post-messenger of Dorbstadt. A porter who had also lived there added his
praises.

"'But the nut-trees were cut down many years ago,' the latter added.

"'I saw it,' cried the spirit of little Hannele, and one heard from her
tone how she deplored it. 'They were felled when the Poor-house was given
up. 'But the great Son of God has now heard what he wished to know.'

"'No, no,' the Saviour answered, 'I should still like to know what became
of the wood of these trees.'

"The voices of several angels were heard at the same moment, for many of
the poor weavers of Dorbstadt were to be found in the Heavenly Kingdom.
St. Peter, however, bade them to be quiet, and permitted only the one who
had last entered the Abode of the Blessed to speak.

"'I was the village doctor,' this one began, 'and I quitted the earth
because I, too, fell a victim to the pestilence of which many of the poor
people were dying, and against which I fought with all my powers, but
with small success. I can tell you all that you wish to know, my Master,
for, during forty-five years, I devoted my humble services to the sick
poor there. When Hannele died in our Poor-house--it happened before my
time--the misery was even greater than at present. The weavers were
ground down by the large manufacturers, until an energetic man built a
factory in our village, and paid them better wages. As the population
then increased, and consequently the number of patients, space was
wanting in which to house them, for the dilapidated Poor-house--whither
they were carried--was no longer large enough to accommodate them all.
Therefore the parish, aided by the owner of the factory, built a hospital
for the whole district, and the site of the old Poor-house was chosen for
it. The beautiful nut-trees which Hannele had planted had to be
destroyed. I was sorry to be obliged to give the order, but we needed the
ground where they stood. As we had to be economical in everything, big
and little, we had planks sawn out of the trees for our use.'

"At this point another spirit interrupted the physician. 'I have lain in
one of the beds made from the wood. At home I slept on a bundle of straw,
and very uncomfortable it was when I was shaken by the fever. In the
hospital all was different, and when I lay in my comfortable bed, I felt
as if I were already in Heaven.'

"'And I,' cried another broad-winged angel, 'for ten years I walked with
the crutches that were made for me from the nut-tree by the Fresh Spring,
and old Conrad, below on the earth, is still using them.'

"'And mine also,' another continued, 'were of the same wood. I had lain
for a long time on my back; but after I got them, I learned to walk with
them and they enabled me to stand before the loom, and to earn bread once
more for my family. That man yonder from Hochdorf has had the same
experience, and the wooden leg of William, the toll-gate keeper, who
entered here shortly before me, was made of wood from the nut-tree.'

"'I owe it a debt of gratitude, too, but for an entirely different
service,' said a beautiful angel, as it bowed its crowned head reverently
before the Son of God. 'My lot below was a very hard one. I was early
left a widow, and I supported my children entirely by the work of my
hands. By dint of great effort I brought them up well, and my three sons
grew to be brave men, who took care of themselves, and helped their
mother. But all three, my Master, were lost to me, taken away by the
unfathomable wisdom of the Father. Two fell in war, the third was killed
by the machinery while at his work. That broke my strength, and when they
brought me to the hospital I was on the verge of despair, and life seemed
a greater burden than I could bear. Your image, my Saviour, had just been
finished by a sculptor, who had carved it from the wood of the nut-tree
by the Fresh Spring. They put it up opposite to my bed. It represented
you, my Lord, on the cross, and your head bowed in agony, with its crown
of thorns, was a very sorrowful sight. Yet I paid but small heed to it.
One morning, however--it was the anniversary of the death of my two dear
sons, who had lost their lives, fighting bravely side by side for their
Fatherland--on that morning the sun fell upon your sad face, and bleeding
hands pierced by the nails, and then I reflected how bitterly you had
suffered, though innocent, that you might redeem us, and how your mother
must have felt to lose such a child. Then a voice asked me if I had any
right to complain, when the Son of God himself had willingly endured such
torments for our sake, and I felt compelled to answer no, and determined
then to bear patiently whatever might be laid upon me, a poor, sinful
woman. Thenceforth, my Lord, was your image my consolation and, since the
wood of which it was made came from the tree planted by Hannele near the
Fresh Spring, I owe beyond doubt the better years that followed, and the
joy of being with you in Paradise, my Saviour, to the nuts which that
condemned woman gave to the child.'

"Humbly she bowed her head again. The Son of God turned to St. Peter,
saying: 'Well, Peter?'

"The latter called to the guardians of Hell: 'Let her go free, the gates
of Heaven are open to her. How rich and manifold, O Lord! is the fruit
that springs from the smallest gift offered in true love!'

"'You are right,' answered the Saviour, gently, and turned away."

The colonel had talked for a longer time than was allowed him by his
doctor, and he needed rest. When he appeared again at supper time, in
order to help us eat our Christmas carps, he found little Hermy standing
with Karl and Kurt before the fire, and he noticed how his favourite's
eyes rested with pleasure on the nuts which he had bought for his
grandmother; and how the older boys, who were only too prone to tease
their younger brother, treated him with a certain tenderness, as if they
had something to make up for.

At table we overheard Kurt say to Karl: "Little Hermy's present for
grandmother was not a bad idea," to which Karl answered quickly: "I am
going to put away some of my nuts to-morrow, and plant them in the
spring."

"To make a pair of crutches for me, or in order that you may go to
Heaven?" asked the colonel.

The boy blushed, and could find no answer; but I came to his rescue, and
replied: "No, his trees shall remind us of you, Colonel, and of your
stories. When we give, we will, in remembrance of you, give in all love
and willingness, and when we receive, even the smallest gift, we will
only ask in what spirit it was offered."


THE END



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS FOR THE ENTIRE SHORT WORKS OF GEORG EBERS:

     Absence of suffering is not happiness
     Arrogant wave of the hand, and in an instructive tone
     At my age we count it gain not to be disappointed
     Buy indugence for sins to be committed in the future
     Caress or a spank from you--each at the proper time
     Clothes the ugly truth as with a pleasing garment
     Couple seemed to get on so perfectly well without them
     Death itself sometimes floats 'twixt cup and lip'
     Exceptional people are destined to be unhappy in this world
     Had laid aside what we call nerves
     Honest anger affords a certain degree of enjoyment
     If speech be silver, silence then is gold!
     Laughing before sunrise causes tears at evening
     Like a clock that points to one hour while it strikes another
     Mirrors were not allowed in the convent
     Ovid, 'We praise the ancients'
     Pays better to provide for people's bodies than for their brains
     People see what they want to see
     Repeated the exclamation: "Too late!" and again, "Too late!
     Seems most charming at the time we are obliged to resign it
     To-morrow could give them nothing better than to-day
     Who watches for his neighbour's faults has a hundred sharp eyes
     Who gives great gifts, expects great gifts again
     Wrath has two eyes--one blind, the other keener than a falcon's





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