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Title: Specimens of German Romance - Vol. I. The Patricians
Author: Velde, C. F. van der (Carl Franz), 1779-1824
Language: English
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                                VOL. I.


                            THE PATRICIANS.

                         _From the German of_

                          C. F. VAN DER VELDE.



                               SPECIMENS

                                   OF

                            GERMAN ROMANCE.



                      SELECTED AND TRANSLATED FROM
                            VARIOUS AUTHORS.



                           IN THREE VOLUMES.

                                VOL. I.



                                LONDON:
                     PRINTED FOR GEO. B. WHITTAKER,
                            AVE-MARIA-LANE.

                               MDCCCXXVI.



                            THE PATRICIANS.


It was in the year 1568, on the 17th of May, old style, that Althea,
the widow of Netz of Bogendorf, sate in her apartments at Schweidnitz.
The mourning veil still flowed about her pale beautiful face, while her
blue eyes gazed through their tears with melancholy tenderness on the
only pledge of a brief yet happy union, the four years' old Henry, who
sate upon her knees, and in childish sport was trying to pull the
golden locks of his mother from under her widows' cap. Before her stood
her old uncle, Seifried von Schindel, and, while he held the full
goblet in his hand, exhausted himself in consolations to lessen the
anguish of his beloved niece. With good-humoured rebuke he exclaimed,
"It is, no doubt, praise-worthy in your zeal to grieve for the loss of
your husband; I myself can't bear those widows, who, like green wood,
weep at one end, and burn at the other; but even good may be carried to
excess, and this utter surrender of yourself to grief is as contrary to
reason as it is to the word of God."

"How can I help it?" said Althea, with calm; and patient sorrow: "How
can I help it, when all that surrounds me is an inexhaustible source of
tears? Do I see my husband's sword hanging against the wall, I must
weep--do I hear his war-horse neighing in the stable, I must weep--does
my sight fall upon this fatherless child alas!"--tears stifled her
words.

"A child who will soon be motherless too," exclaimed her uncle, "if you
go on thus destroying your health by such unchristian want of
fortitude. Every thing has its season; your year of widowhood is past,
and as you are no longer entitled to wear black, so your mind too must
cast off the mourning in which it has been too closely enveloped, and
you must begin again to live for the world, to which, after all, you
belong. If you were a papist, you might bury your grief in a cloister,
for ought I should care; but that won't do now; and, besides, you have
important and sacred duties upon you. The property that you have to
preserve for the son of a beloved husband requires a stout protector in
these stormy times. A woman's bringing up, too, will not be sufficient
for him, and you'll not like to let him go from you so soon; therefore
you must give him a father who, with all love and earnestness, will
make an honourable knight out of him. In a word, you must marry again."

"Spare me such language, uncle," cried Althea, rising and putting down
the child.

But with gentle violence he forced her back into the chair again,
saying, "It becomes youth to listen to the well-meant admonitions of
age, even though it should not happen to relish them: I keep to my
position. You least of all have occasion to complain of the want of
wooers. There is Hans Hund of Ingersdorf, Adam von Schweinicher of
Wenigmoknau; then there is your own cousin: all of whom would with
pleasure break their necks for a kind look from you, and are besides
brave knights and in good circumstances."

"How can you, even in jest, propose to sacrifice me to these rude
companions, who have no enjoyment except in hunting, gambling,
drinking, and quarrelling; and who would only make me miss so much the
more painfully the mild pious disposition of my Henry?"

"Why to be sure our knights are somewhat tough and knotty, but so are
our oaks, and they afford a glorious wood for lasting. Mill-wheels are
not to be cut out of poplars. For the rest, a shrewd handsome woman
must know how to tame a rake, and every one will respect the female
slipper when it is wielded merely for a man's benefit."

"God deliver me from such a castigatory office; I should soon sink
under it."

--"Or if you long for a great fortune, you have but to give the sign: I
have observed how Christopher Friend, whom you have drawn hither,
circles about you at a distance. He is a brisk widower, who was rich
from the first, and to that has inherited much from his late wife, the
Lauterbachin from Jauer. You would be able to bury yourself under your
gold bags."

"Shame on me if that could ever determine my choice!"

"Nor has honour any thing to say against it. Christopher's father is
burgomaster of Schweidnitz, where he rules it bravely, almost like a
little king. The Friends belong to the Patricians of the city, and are
therefore nearly as good as half nobles; in Augsburg or Nuremberg they
would be reckoned nobles, and admissible to the tournay; moreover they
are already allied to the family of Schindel by marriage."

"If you love me, uncle; cease to speak for the sycophant. If, to save
my son's life, I were compelled to choose between this Christopher and
his brother the wild Francis, by heavens I would choose the latter! I
do indeed fear the bear that roars and rushes on me with uplifted paws,
but the gliding serpent is a horror to my inmost soul."

"Well, the comparison is not particularly flattering to either of the
brothers," exclaimed Schindel, laughing. But on the sudden he was
silent, for there was a knocking at the door, and the two Friends
entered the apartment.

"We come in our father's service, noble lady," said Christopher, with a
courteous inclination: "He gives a ball and banquet the day after
tomorrow, and most kindly requests you to grace the festival with your
presence."

"I have not yet put off the mourning weeds for my husband; at the same
time I set as much value by the intended honour as if it had been in my
power to accept it."

"Your year of widowhood is already over, and my father would deem it a
very worthy proof of his kinswoman's friendship, if out of regard to
him she were to lay aside her mourning. Much as it may become you, it
is still only a useless remembrance of a loss, the greatness of which
you feel but too deeply without that."

"My brother is in the right," roared Francis: "Throw the black rags
into the store-chest, and trim yourself up again in the colours that
suit you so well. You must not think of leaving life yet; 'twould be
pity of such a handsome thing. Nor would we Schweidnitzers allow it,
and you are within our walls now, and under our jurisdiction. Come
along, then, to the dance. We'll waltz it bravely with each other; and
if your cap should happen to get awry in it, and point to the widower,
there may be a remedy for that too. My house-plague, besides, is always
ill; and if she loves heaven better than I do, there may chance to be a
pair of you and me."

"Your mouth is a sluice," exclaimed the old Schindel, wrathfully,
"which, once opened, overwhelms every thing with its mire."

"Good God, Frank! how can you indulge in such unseemly language?" cried
Christopher; while Althea bent down to her child as if she had heard
nothing; Francis turned upon his brother.

"Don't you play the governor, Kit! In your heart you mean just as I do,
only you go winding about the porridge: but that's not my way, and
therefore I say plainly, Cousin Althea, I am horribly thirsty with
you."

"There stand the flask and goblet," replied Althea, shortly--"help
yourself;" and she turned away with her boy to the window.

"You don't stand on much ceremony with your kinsfolk," muttered
Francis, going to the table and filling up a bumper, while Christopher
went up to the widow.

"I hope you will not make me suffer for my brother's rashness, but will
give me a favourable answer."

"I have already told you the reason why I must decline the invitation."

"And you really, then, will put off my father with this poor excuse?"

"Agree to go," whispered the uncle: "It is a family festival, and all
the Schindels of the neighbourhood are invited. It is better not to be
singular and offend any one."

"I will come," said Althea, after a moment's hesitation.

"I have to thank you, Schindel, for this _yes_," returned Christopher,
mortified: "The former _no_ was intended for me alone; which cannot but
grieve me, however handsome the lips that pronounced it."

He went; and Francis, filling the goblet for the third time, cried out
after him, "The wine is good; I shall stop a little longer."

There was now a clattering on the stairs, as if a whole troop were
coming up, and in rushed Althea's brother-in-law, Anselm of Netz, with
his Pylades, Frederick of Reichenbach, surnamed Bieler.

"God be with you, fair sister-in-law," exclaimed the wild Netz, shaking
Althea's white hand with no very gentle cordiality.

"What brings you so soon again to the city?" returned Althea
displeasedly, and drew back her hand.

"Rasselwitz treats us to-day with a dozen flasks of old Hungary, at
Barthel Wallach's," replied Netz: "You know that when once I get into
the old den I can't set off again without having seen you. God forgive
you, lady, but you must have bewitched me; and I shall yet denounce you
to the council of Schweidnitz."

"How willingly would I undo the spell of which you complain! Truly, it
gives me no pleasure."

"Tush! you are not in earnest. We all know that women like to be
courted, that their value may be the greater."

Here he began to whistle and clatter up and down the room, when his
eyes suddenly fell upon Francis, who had not yet been able to separate
himself from the goblet.

"The devil! you too, Friend! What wind has blown you hither?"

"If any one should ask you," said Francis roughly, "tell him you don't
know."

"And how is it with your lucky horse-swop?" asked Netz, in a mocking
tone: "Have you settled with Rasselwitz?"

"Long ago," replied Francis, dryly, and poured out the drainings of the
flask.

"It must be allowed," exclaimed Netz, with a loud laugh--"you know how
to manage things admirably. He has got the bay, then?"

"If I were an ass! I was drunk at the time I made the bargain, and
therefore am bound to nothing."

"Rasselwitz will show you that, my fine fellow! You have had his horse,
and must keep your word."

"He may fetch his mare, then, from the hangman. The beast fell down
with me at the Bresslauer gate. I should deserve to be breeched if I
suffered myself to be cheated in this manner."

"You'll have a stout tussle of it with him. In such matters he does not
jest, and least of all with you."

"Let him come, then, and fight it out with me. I have already shown the
Turks in Hungary that I am not afraid. When I have got my cold iron at
my side, I am a match for a whole stable-full of such younkers."

And with this he emptied the last goblet and drained it, while Netz bit
his lips, and drawing Bieler aside, asked in a whisper, "If they should
not throw the braggart out of window?" To this the other replied by a
friendly nod of assent; but Althea, who had overheard the question,
exclaimed, "For God's sake do not trouble the quiet of this widowed
house!"

"And think, besides," said the old Schindel, warningly, "that you are
at Schweidnitz, in his father's jurisdiction." At the same time he went
up to Francis, and observed, "I have yet a visit to make to the old
doctor Heidenreich, who has removed, and I do not know his present
quarters. Will you have the kindness, cousin Friend, to show me the way
thither?"

"Why not?" said Francis, seizing his cap; "though I well know whence
the request comes. You want me away, that I may not get into a row with
these nobles here. Isn't it so? Ay, ay, Frank may be a wild companion,
but he is no fool. Well, you are a good old gentleman, and for this
time I'll comply with your wishes. Good morning, lady Althea."

He went with the old Schindel to the door, and then turned back
again--"What I have said of Rasselwitz you may boldly repeat to him; I
stand to my words."

The two went away together. Netz looked indignantly after Francis, and
exclaimed, "That such a fellow should give himself so many airs, merely
because he is rich and his father is a burgomaster!"

"You should not have irritated him," replied Althea, with mild rebuke:
"Why do you meddle with him, if he does not please you?"

"You do not understand it, cousin. 'Tis in the blood of me, I cannot
let him rest in quiet. Nothing is more delightful than jeering a cit,
who would fain play the noble, and has not the stuff for it in him."

"Then you ought not to complain if he pays you in your own coin. I
cannot comprehend, either, what satisfaction you men can find in
fleering and flouting at any one who, in your opinion, is beneath you.
If the person so mocked is patient enough to bear it, your victory is
easy and inglorious; if he parries the attack with similar weapons,
then there arise unnecessary quarrels: and in any case it shows an
unchristian want of charity, to hunt out the foibles of a neighbour
only to ridicule them for your amusement."

"The most lovely preacher that I ever heard," said Bieler, gallantly.

"You defend the rascal most nobly," muttered Netz. "If he were single I
should suspect something; but as it is, I believe you do it merely that
you may always contradict me."

"To what subterfuges will the consciousness of injustice turn itself
rather than confess to truth she is in the right!"

She was interrupted by a gentle knocking at the door, and went hastily
herself to open it, when there entered a tall stately man, about thirty
years of age, in a plain knightly costume, and decorated with the sable
scarf of Austria. Black locks hung about his clear forehead, while
power and gentleness spoke out from his large dark eyes, that sparkled
with friendly glances at the handsome widow.

"Am I so fortunate as to greet in you the wife of Henry von Netz?" he
asked, with a dignified inclination to all present, which forced a
similar courtesy from the two wild nobles.

"I was so," replied Althea; and a tear forced itself from her eye.

"Was!" said the stranger,--"and this habit! You are a widow, then?
Heavens! So early has my good Henry gone! and, as the appearance
teaches me, from the bosom of a most happy marriage. That does, indeed,
grieve me!"

"You knew my husband?" asked Althea, drying her eyes.

"Knew him?" rejoined the stranger, in the enthusiasm of
recollection--"We made our first essay in arms together. Has he never
talked to you of Caspar the Sparrenberger, surnamed Tausdorf?"

"Often, and with warm friendship. But he deemed you dead."

"I joined the campaign against the Turks, and lay dangerously wounded
in Transylvania.----That is your son?" he asked, in sudden emotion; and
lifting up the little Henry, he kissed him heartily--"His true eye
betrays the father--."

He set the boy down again, and paced hastily up and down the room to
collect himself.

"We are both too much agitated," he resumed, "to carry on this
conversation any longer. Permit me now to deliver a letter to you,
which your friend Sternberg, of Gitschin, requested me to take with me,
when she understood that I was going to Schweidnitz."

"You know my Thekla, then?"

"We are near neighbours and good friends. My father lives at
Tirschkokrig, not far from Gitschin, and I was frequently with the
Sternberg family. The lady Thekla has talked so much of you, and so
much in your praise, that I knew, before I saw, you."

"I doubt whether she has shown me truly, for friendship is a partial
painter."

"Forgive me if I contradict you. Such, as you now stand before me, has
your beautiful and friendly form long floated before my imagination."

Althea cast down her eyes in confusion; but the little Henry relieved
her from the answer to this embarrassing discourse. He had grown as
weary of the conversation as the two gaping nobles, and now began to
twitch his mother's gown, and teaze for his evening meal; upon which
she said, "Excuse me if I retire for a moment; I will but satisfy the
little tormentor here, and read through my Thekla's letter, while, in
the meantime, my brother-in-law, Netz, will be happy to grow more
intimately acquainted with you. Hereafter I will at leisure welcome you
to Schweidnitz, and you shall tell me all about our friends at
Gitschin."

She left the room with her son. Tausdorf looked after for awhile, and
then seemed lost in thought. After a short pause, Netz renewed the
conversation by saying, "You are a native of Bohemia, then?"

Tausdorf courteously replied, "My father settled some years ago in the
hereditary domains of Austria as an imperial feodatory. I have the
honour to be a native of Silesia."

"Does any business call you back to your native land?" asked Netz, with
increasing cordiality: "If I can serve you in any thing, you have only
to say so; I know from my brother's own mouth that you were his very
good friend."

"I thank you for your kind proffers. For the present I have only to
commend myself to your neighbourly good-will, for I think of settling
shortly in the vicinity of Schweidnitz."

"You will be heartily welcome to us, though you will find but sorry
comfort now in this country."

Tausdorf was astonished.--"How so?"

"Oh, the burghers have got the upper hand of us nobles. Their wealth,
their absurd privileges, have made them arrogant. A pitiful burgomaster
of Schweidnitz will think himself greater than the emperor; and as to
us, the whole mob of them look upon us with contempt. They need us not,
they fear us not, and where they can do us any annoyance, they do it
with delight."

"The purse-pride of the citizens is, no doubt, particularly disgusting;
but to be candid, we should not too severely judge the industrious
mechanic, the clever merchant, the dexterous artist, or the man of
learning, even though the consciousness and the satisfaction of their
hardly-earned property should lead them too far. Our pride of birth,
when carried to excess, is also a hateful vice; and we have much less
to advance in its defence, because that on which we pride ourselves is
only _inherited_, and not _earned_. For the rest, I have always thought
that in these eternal feuds between the nobles and the citizens, the
wrong was to be found on both sides; the right is always in the middle,
and both parties can attain it only by mutual forbearance."

"There you judge wrongly of these Silesian pedlers," exclaimed the wild
Bieler: "If a noble were only to yield a finger to them, they would
seize the whole man, and clap him into a pepper-bag. No, no, you must
keep a tight hand over the people, and hardly let them breathe, or
there will one day be an end of our old customs and sacred privileges."

"So thought the nobles before the unlucky war of the peasants," said
Tausdorf, "and Germany was turned into a desert by it."

"Don't take it ill, Tausdorf," returned Netz; "in other respects you
may be a brave knight; but if we were to follow your maxims, we should
all be forced to fly the cities."

Tausdorf shrugged up his shoulders at their incorrigible stubbornness,
when Rasselwitz burst into the room, his face glowing with rage, and
asked furiously, "Is not Francis Friend here?"

"He was here a quarter of an hour ago," replied Netz; "perhaps you may
yet find him at doctor Heidenreich's."

"I am in no humour to hunt after the rascal any longer," roared
Rasselwitz. "This is the day whereon he promised to give up the horse
to me. I have already beat up his quarters, but found him abroad, and
the stable locked."

"He does not intend to give up the horse to you. He has openly and
loudly declared as much here."

"We'll soon see that," cried Rasselwitz furiously. "I'll ask his wife
for the stable-key, and if she refuses it, I'll break the door open,
and fetch out the animal by force. Will you join me?"

"Of course," replied Netz and Bieler.

"And you, Herr von Tausdorf?" said Netz. "A brave companion like you,
will you not run the hazard with us?"

"I do not like such disputes," replied Tausdorf, gravely: "they too
often degenerate into frays, wherein more honour is to be lost than
gained. Besides, it seems to me that the right is not on your side. If
you really have any well-grounded pretensions to the horse, an appeal
to the courts would be a better way of proceeding than this forcible
violation of another's property, which sets you in the class of
feud-makers and agitators."

"To the courts?" shouted Rasselwitz, with a wild laugh--"And the
burgomaster is the father of the perjured rascal that I am to complain
of! He would do me admirable justice, no doubt! No! no! we shall get on
much better with our hands. Come, comrades; there's still enough of us
for these pedlers."

They rushed out; and Tausdorf, shaking his head, exclaimed, "It is an
evil spirit that is prevailing in this country."

After a short time Althea returned with her uncle, and presented the
two guests to each other, when the old man said, "I have already heard
so much worthy talk of you, Herr von Tausdorf, that I heartily rejoice
in your more intimate acquaintance. You are in the imperial service?"

"Captain in the emperor's life-guard," replied Tausdorf, with military
dignity.

"As the Frau von Sternberg informs my niece, you intend settling in our
good Silesia. I am glad to hear it, and whatever I can do for you,
either in act or counsel, I offer you with great sincerity; but it
surprises me that you should think of leaving Bohemia. I understand you
are in favour with the emperor, and, since the imperial diet at Prague
has given independence to the protestants, it must be comfortable
living for them in the Bohemian territory."

"This favour little profits us Utraquists. In reality the bull of Pius
the Fourth is already recalled. Strict catholics still hold us for
sectaries and half heretics: add to this, the new society of Jesuits
already lifts up its serpent-head, and hisses out its threats at us.
Our religious freedom has almost come to an end."

"Yes, the Jesuits! the Jesuits!" exclaimed Schindel, and for a while
was silent; then looking sadly at Tausdorf, he continued--"So, you are
no thorough-paced Lutheran, Herr von Tausdorf?--only a Utraquist?"

The latter bowed assentingly, and Schindel added, as if to soften his
first expression, "The Utraquists too are honourable people."

"I hope so," replied Tausdorf, smiling at the intolerance which lurked
in the well-intended affirmation.

"But keep that a secret here as long as it can be done; at least till
the people know you better. The town, as well as the whole country, is
zealously Lutheran."

"Pardon me; in the field I have learnt neither simulation nor
dissimulation, and I deem them besides contrary to my honour as a
knight. He who, on account of the Utraquist, overlooks the man in me,
is only an object of my pity, and I set little value on his opinion."

A tumult in the street interrupted this conversation.

"What is the matter below?" said Schindel to the servant, who just then
brought in a fresh flask of wine.

"A violent fray," he replied, "in the house of the widow Fox, in the
market-place. Francis Friend quarrelled with Rasselwitz about a bay
horse, and from words they drew their swords upon each other. The
police have already interfered to put an end to the tumult."

"Gracious heavens!" cried Schindel, clasping his hands, "will this
disorder never have an end?"

"The crime," returned Tausdorf, "was settled in this room by the
violent young nobles. I immediately suspected the evil that would come
of it, and warned them, but in vain."

"God reward you for the good intent," said Schindel, and he proffered
his hand to him with unfeigned cordiality: "There is, indeed, a
necessity for rational people interfering in these mad affairs, which
are now unceasing between the nobles and the citizens; one fray always
creates a multitude, and in the end both parties will be ruined by
them."

As he spoke the door was violently thrown open, and in rushed the
breathless Netz, sword in hand.

"For heaven's sake, what has happened?" cried Althea, anxiously.

"Under favour, sister," panted Netz, sheathing his sword: "Allow your
servant to fetch my horse directly. He will find it in the stable at
Barthel Wallach's. I must be off this hour from Schweidnitz, or I am
lost."

At a sign from his mistress the servant hurried out.

"But what is really the matter?" asked Schindel, pressingly: "You have
no doubt been again doing in your wrath what is not right before God."

"We went," said Netz, binding his pocket-handkerchief about his
bleeding arm, "to fetch the horse which Francis had promised
Rasselwitz. In the house we stumbled on him and some fellows of his own
stamp. From words it soon came to blows. The fray grew hot; my servant
was flung into the well: still, however, we stood our ground fairly;
but then came the police upon us with the whole tribe of city officers,
and we were overwhelmed by numbers; Bieler was killed; Rasselwitz
wounded and taken; I saw that standing out would lead to nothing but
death or a dungeon, laid about me like a boar at bay, and fortunately
cut my way through."

"Men, men!--how will you answer for that which you have done?"
exclaimed Schindel, sorrowfully.

"What! are we to take any thing and every thing of these citizens? It
may perhaps be Christian-like when one cheek is smitten to hold the
other; but to strike again is human, and I do not wish to be any thing
better than a man."

"The son of the worthy intendant killed!--and his murderer the son of
the all-powerful Erasmus!" exclaimed Schindel--"It will be a war of the
Guelphs and Ghibellines!"

"Your horse stands below," said the servant, returning: "Your lad saved
himself in good time from his cold bath, and brought it hither."

"My horse waits below too," cried Tausdorf, taking up his gloves and
hat: "With your permission, Herr von Netz, I will accompany you beyond
the boundaries. The irritated citizens may mean evil to you if they
find you yet within their jurisdiction."

"I accept your offer with thanks," replied Netz, hurrying out. Tausdorf
kissed Althea's hand and said--"I thank you heartily for your friendly
welcome; it seemed to me as if my dear native land greeted me with your
lips, and I only grieve that our first meeting should be so brief and
so unkindly interrupted; but I purpose repeating my visit, if the widow
of my deceased friend will allow it."

"You will always be welcome to me," replied the beautiful widow, in
embarrassment; and the hands, which had been joined seemed to grow
together, while her uncle called out from the window, "Haste! haste!
Netz is already mounted, and the police are coming up the streets from
the market with a whole rabble of armed citizens."

"Farewell!" said Tausdorf, hastily, and disappeared; and Althea,
darting to the window, cried out after him to be careful of himself.
The armed multitude approached; Netz, forgetting his companion, gave
his horse the spurs and galloped off. In the meantime Tausdorf came out
of the house, sprang lightly and nimbly into the saddle, and sent up a
last friendly greeting to the window. In the same moment he was
surrounded by the rabble. Several rough hands seized his horse's reins,
while about him crowded a threatening array of pikes, maces, and
firelocks; and a wild shout arose of--"Another of the murderers!--tear
the scoundrel from his horse!"

"What would you with me?" said Tausdorf, sternly:--"I have had no share
in this unhappy quarrel."

"Found together, bound together!" shouted the rough rabble: "You must
ornament the town-jail."

With this the boldest amongst them seized the knight's legs to pull him
from the saddle.

"Respect to the imperial colours, ye citizens of Schweidnitz!"
exclaimed Tausdorf, and gave his horse the spur and the curb at the
same time. The noble beast reared and struck about him with his
fore-hoofs, to the sore dismay of those who held the reins, and who
immediately let them go; and the knight, thundering out to the mob to
make way, now struck the rowels into his horse's flanks. In an instant
two powerful plunges freed him from his enemies. A loud cry of mingled
joy and terror echoed from Althea's window, while Tausdorf sprang over
the rabble that were rolling upon each other in confusion, and rushed
out of the gates at full speed.

"God be praised!" said Althea, as she left the window, exhausted by her
feelings: "I was in terror for the brave knight."

"In terror?--already in terror?" asked her uncle mockingly, and, going
up to her, he seized her hand--"Look me fairly in the face, niece."

For a moment she cast her eyes down, then raised them up to him with
difficulty; but the effort to keep a steady gaze on her uncle's brow
kindled a rosy glow upon her own. He went on, however, without mercy--

"And now, niece, as plain an answer: if this Bohemian should ever ask
you to become his wife, would you in that case declare yourself as
roughly as you have done this day to your other suitors?"

"You torment me," said Althea, with gentle reproach. Her hand slipped
from his, and she fled out of the room.

"'Tis a clear thing!" said the uncle to himself--"Well, I have nothing
to say against it; the man pleases me--I wish he were not a Utraquist!"

                           *   *   *   *   *

The lovely Agatha, the daughter of the city messenger, Onophrius
Goldmann, sat at the window in her humble chamber. The spindle rested
in her hand; on her lap lay an open volume of the songs and tales of
the master-bards, but her hazel eyes wandered from the book to the
darkening street, and her bosom heaved beneath its drapery. "Twilight,"
she exclaimed, "twilight is already coming on, and still my father does
not return. O that no accident has happened to Francis!" At this
moment, some one burst open the street door, and rushed into the
chamber;--it was Francis Friend.

"I have had a glorious row with the vagabond nobles," he cried,
embracing the maiden roughly, "and the mad Netz has flayed my arm, but
I think I have paid him for it, in a way that will make him remember
me. Bind up the wound, Agatha."

"Wicked man," replied Agatha chidingly, as she stripped off the sleeve
through which the blood was welling; "you are always running wantonly
into danger, and care not for the anxiety which I suffer on your
account."

"What, am I to let those vagabonds steal the horse from my stable? In
the end they'll quarter themselves upon me, and drive me out of house
and home."

"You hate the nobles so violently, and yet have married the daughter of
a noble!"

"Unfortunately! And I do believe it is on that very account she is such
an abomination to me; but I shan't be such a fool again. My wife won't
be much longer on her feet, and when she is unharnessed, my next choice
is soon settled; a girl of low rank, when she is as beautiful as my
Agatha, is dearer to me than a dozen countesses."

"Flatterer," murmured Agatha, winding her arms about his neck, while
her kisses burnt upon his lips.

"Gracious Heaven!" cried a deep-base voice, and the lovers started from
each other in terror.--Onophrius Goldmann stood at the open door, his
left hand hid in his doublet, and supporting himself with the right,
for he was exhausted almost to fainting; but his eyes shot lightning at
the delinquents. Francis in vain sought to recover from the shame of
surprise to his usual braving tone, and Agatha wrung her hands and
wept.

"So you have at last succeeded, master Friend, in seducing my child,"
said the wretched father. "May God reckon with you for it!--and you,
obstinate girl, have I not warned, prayed, threatened? Did you not
swear to me to shun the man who makes you thus unhappy? How have you
deceived me!--a long time deceived me, with your wicked artifices; for,
from what I now see, your sin is not of to-day. These are the
consequences of the infernal love-songs and romances, which ought to be
utterly forbidden to women; their place is at the hearth and the
spindle. The mad trash, invented by the dry brains of the poetasters to
tickle your nobles, is for them poison. There it is they learn to build
up air-castles in the midst of reality--there it is that they find
every passion painted in fine colours, and, before they dream of it,
their honour is gone, and--God deliver us!--their eternal salvation
also."

"I give you my word," at length stammered Francis, "that Agatha's
honour shall one day be redeemed before the world."

"You!" cried Onophrius,--"a husband! Heaven have mercy on us! Would you
send your wife after the murdered Netz, or, like count Gleichen, get a
dispensation at Rome for a double wedlock?"

"Not so rough, old man," exclaimed Francis in a tone of menace; "I
don't like to hear such language, nor does it become the servant
towards his master's son."

"That is the curse which rests upon the poor and lowly," exclaimed
Onophrius, crawling to the nearest chair, and sinking down upon it,
exhausted. "It is our curse that we are powerless, and weaponless, and
lawless, against the great who wrong us, while, over and above all, we
must spill our blood for our tyrants. Maimed in your defence, I return
to my hovel, find you in the arms of my seduced child, and when my just
anguish pours itself forth in words, you meanly appeal to your father's
rank, and close my mouth by despicable threats."

"Maimed!" cried Friend in alarm, and Agatha flew with loud lamentations
to her father, who, drawing his left arm from his doublet, showed the
stump, bound up in bloody cloths.

"Eternal mercy! your hand!" shrieked Agatha.

"It lies before the house of the widow Fox, in the market," said
Onophrius gloomily; "Netz hewed it from the arm just before you killed
him."

"It grieves me; but on my honour I will make all good again."

"That is more than you can do: though you were to empty out all your
gold-bags into this room, yet would no hand grow again upon this stump;
though you were to dress my child in brocade, and adorn her with pearls
and diamonds, still she would be your strumpet, over whom I must tear
the grey locks from this aged head. Gracious Heavens! how little must
you gentlemen think of us poor people, that you fancy all is to be
satisfied with gold,--all, life and limb, honour and conscience! Well;
God is just, and will one day weigh you in even scales, and find you
too light for his heaven."

"Only let two eyes be closed first," protested Francis, "and if I do
not then take home your Agatha as my wife, and make you a man of
consequence in the city, you may call me villain in the public
market-place."

"My good Francis," exclaimed Agatha, affectionately, and gave him her
hand, even before the eyes of her stern parent.

"If we both live," said Onophrius, with peculiar emphasis, "if we both
live, I will remind you of your promise; but I fear that we shall not
get so far; I fear that this day's tumult will have worse consequences
than you imagine. That Bieler has been killed is a sad misfortune. The
nobles will be mad, and I already begin to shudder at the idea of the
jail and the scaffold."

"Is Bieler, then, really dead?" asked Francis anxiously, after a long
silence.

"I saw him carried as a corpse to the Guildhall," replied Onophrius.
"The thing, too, happened naturally enough. As my left hand flew off, I
cut at his head with my right, and you soon after made an end of him."

"Upon all this we'll be silent to every one," said Francis, who had
again collected himself. "For the rest, the whole business is of no
great consequence. I was acting in self-defence; and you were only
doing your duty. If any ill have grown out of it, Rasselwitz, who began
the strife by breaking into my house, must be the sufferer."

"That won't satisfy the nobles," said Onophrius, shaking his head.

"Let them bite away their anger upon their nails," exclaimed Francis
boastfully. "My father is master here in Schweidnitz, and will not let
them hurt a hair upon my head."

"_You_ are safe,--but _I_!" replied Onophrius, thoughtfully.

"You stand and fall with me, old friend. If I ever forget you, or what
you have this day done and suffered for me, may God forget me in my
dying hour!"

"Amen!" murmured Onophrius with failing voice, and, swooning with the
loss of blood, he dropped from his seat.

"He is dying!" sobbed Agatha, as she caught her father in her arms.

"This is a day of evil," shouted Francis, gazing for a moment on the
mischief he had wrought, and striking his forehead wildly with his
clenched hands, he dashed away.

                           *   *   *   *   *

It was two days after this when the tumult of voices, the stamp of
steeds, and the clatter of iron, woke Althea from a morning sleep,
which had been troubled, yet beautified, by delightful visions. In her
thin night garments she hastened to the window, and saw the streets
full of horses, which were led by armed knights. The clang of harness,
in the meantime, resounded up the stairs, and a party of knights
entered the room in complete armour and closed vizors. The leader of
them threw up his beaver; it was the wild Netz.

"Under favour, sister, I bring you a whole bevy of cousins, nobles, and
good friends, who are all dying with desire to kiss your fair hand, and
would, moreover, beg a breakfast of you."

"What brings you, gentlemen, so early to Schweidnitz?" asked Althea in
alarm--"in such warlike guise too!"

"The lord bishop, Caspar, visits the city today," replied Netz, "to
speak a few serious words, as prince palatine[1], with our council
here, on the score of Bieler's murder. Now, as we know by experience
that the citizens have hard heads, and are easily excited to uproar and
all sorts of mischief, we have come to give the proper weight to the
bishop's words with our steel, if need should be. The strongest party
of us have quartered themselves at Barthel Wallach's, because we did
not wish to fill your house too full, and we have sent out a watch to
give us immediate notice of the bishop's coming, till when we would
rest with you, and enjoy ourselves."

At his signal every vizor rattled up, and from every helmet looked a
well-known face, that greeted Althea with respect, and amongst them she
recognised Tausdorf.

"How! you here, Tausdorf?" she cried, with a vivacity that confounded
her own self.

"That surprises you, does it not?" exclaimed Netz. "Troth, when he so
bluntly refused to join us in fetching the bay, I had no idea that he
would enter upon such an adventure as the present one. But he offered
himself of his own accord, which indeed has made me wonder not a
little."

"In that there is nothing for wonder," said Tausdorf, gravely. "I have
always remained the same. With justice I refused to take part in an
action which I deemed illegal; but I hold it for my knightly duty to be
in the saddle when it is to defend the authorities of the land, and
support them in their sacred office against factions and those who
would take the law into their own hands."

"Let that be, my worthy countryman," said Netz; "we'll not dispute
about our principles. It is enough for me that we have got you, that
you belong to us, and hold the pedlers in the wrong."

"Not so unconditionally as you imagine. The evil originated with the
nobles. Whether upon this the citizens too did not go beyond their
bounds, that must be inquired into by the palatine, and punished
accordingly. We nobles are a party in the matter, and have therefore no
voice in the decision."

"In the name of Heaven, Tausdorf, whence have you borrowed this
lamb-like patience? Did not the rascals wish to fling you into jail,
though you were more innocent of the whole transaction than a new-born
babe? Did they not seize your bridle, and try to pull you from your
horse?"

"That was long ago forgiven and forgotten."

"Eh! What! The hounds must not venture to fall upon a knight! The
bishop must obtain for you a brilliant satisfaction."

"Satisfaction to the law, not to me. The bishop has disputes of higher
import to settle, and I should be ashamed to trouble him with this
trifle."

"You are a brave knight!" exclaimed the old Schindel, who had been
sent to them by Althea, and, having entered unnoticed, had overheard
the conversation--"Happy were our principality if all these gentlemen
were like you! Then again might grow and flourish the tender olive-tree
of civil peace, which the hand of Maximilian so lovingly planted, but
at which both the nobles and citizens are pulling and dragging with
equal violence, so that in the end it is likely to perish, to the grief
of all those who mean it fairly with the land."

"The old man," cried Netz to his companions, "will often say things
that we do not like to hear; but one can't be angry with him, because
he means it so well with us."

"And because, alas! he is always right in his rebukes," added Schindel,
as two servants entered the room with flasks and goblets.

"God be thanked!" exclaimed Netz, and immediately filled himself a
goblet. "I was beginning to feel faint about the stomach, and then one
is in poor plight for a fray. Fall to, comrades."

The knights complied, and each stood with a goblet in his iron
hand:--"But, not to forget the main point," continued Netz; "we have
not yet talked of who is to be our leader in this business, which yet
is necessary in case it should come to blows. That must be settled
directly on the spot."

"Why, who but yourself, brother Netz?" exclaimed Hans Ecke of Viehau:
"You have been riding about, and sending round your messengers through
the whole principality, till you have whistled us all up to this
expedition."

"No, I am not fit for it," said Netz frankly; "I am a better hand at
blows than at leading. I should be for hammering away upon the mob at
once, and might do you a mischief.--What say you to it, old gentleman?"
he added, turning to Schindel.

"You must excuse me. I am about to settle in quiet at Schweidnitz, and
must not quarrel with the council and the citizens; but if my opinion
have any weight with you, elect Tausdorf. He has vigour and courage for
it, and moreover the requisite discretion, which you shatter-brains are
deficient in, one and all, and which will be most especially needed in
a matter that is intrinsically evil. Besides, he is an imperial
officer, whom you may all boldly follow without casting a blot upon
your nobility."

"The old one must always give us a rap on the knuckles," said Netz,
laughing; "he can't go less; but in the main he seems to me to be
right; therefore, whoever amongst you thinks the same, let him draw his
sword."

"Tausdorf shall be our leader!" shouted the whole band of knights, and
fifty swords glittered in the air. In the same moment Netz's squire
rushed in, exclaiming, "Two of the bishop's equerries have dismounted
before the Guildhall; he will be here himself in a quarter of an hour."

"Halloah! To horse! To horse!" cried Netz, rushing to the door with his
drawn sword. The rest were about to follow him with unsheathed weapons,
when Tausdorf thundered out, "Halt!" At the word the knights stood
still.

"Put up your swords before you mount," he said, in a tone of stern
command.

"Wherefore?" asked Netz, returning angrily.

"You have chosen me for your leader in this business," answered
Tausdorf, with all the dignity of command, "and it is your duty,
therefore, to obey me; but I am not bound to account to you for every
thing I may order. For this time, however, I am content to tell you my
motives. Should we ride with drawn swords, the citizens and magistrates
might take it for a hostile incursion, or, if they are evilly disposed,
might merely pretend to do so, and oppose us with arms, in which case,
when the bishop entered the city, he would find the civil war already
kindled, which it was the purpose of his coming to avert. Will you
answer for the bloodshed that may arise from such a trifle?"

Netz silently sheathed his sword; his brothers in arms followed his
example.

"And now, with God, to horse, gentlemen," added Tausdorf, kissed
Althea's hand in silent fervour, and strode out. The knights hastened
after him.

"What a man! exclaimed Althea, as in the overflow of feeling she sank
upon her uncle's breast.

"You are right, niece," replied Schindel, with emotion: "Let him be ten
times an Utraquist, yet he is a noble, strong-minded man, and with
pleasure should I one day lay your hand in his."

                           *   *   *   *   *

The old burgomaster, Erasmus Friend, paced up and down the large arched
chamber of his stately stone mansion, in his official insignia, his
hands behind his back, and gloom upon his wrinkled forehead. Just then
crept in the doctor of law, Esaias Heidenreich, a thin little man, with
a face of cunning.

"Well!" exclaimed the burgomaster, "have you found it out? What would
the bishop?"

"Just what I prophesied," replied the doctor, shrugging his shoulders;
"he would inquire into this bad business himself, and submit the
decision to the emperor."

"That is against our privileges," cried the burgomaster, indignantly.
"The penal jurisdiction belongs exclusively to our city in all cases."

"I would not affirm that so unconditionally. Besides, that is no longer
the question. His grace, the right reverend bishop, chooses to look at
the affair in his own way: the only point then is--_quæritur_--whether
you will submit to the authority of the prince palatine, or not? And
upon this you must make up your mind speedily, for in a few minutes he
rides into our good city."

"The priest need not be always poking his nose into what is not his
business. I won't submit."

"Will you then entirely break with the noble old man, who entertains
such favourable and tolerant opinions towards all _Acatholicos_? And
if, after all, he should choose to maintain his authority by force?"

"Then I order our civil troops to mount, and the corporation to be
under arms. Within my walls I am master, and no other."

"But whether the common weal will gain any thing by the measure? I must
submit that to your wisdom. Think of the evils which the Smalcald
league brought on us eighteen years ago--of the shameful contribution
which the town was forced to pay--of the imprisonment which the _consul
dirigens_, Furstenhau, had to suffer in the White Tower, at Prague, and
here in the Hildebrand. This time, too, it may turn out still worse.
Your opposition may be construed into open rebellion: what the penalty
of that is, you know as well as I do, and also that Schweidnitz is
compassed about by enemies. The land-nobles hate us violently, and the
emperor's wrath would find a thousand willing and lusty hands."

"Should I now begin to be afraid of these lordlings, in good truth I
were neither worthy nor able to fill this my place of honour. Only let
them come. We will so receive them, that they shall think of the old
Erasmus all their life long."

"The lord bishop has just dismounted from his horse before the
Guildhall," announced the city servant, Rudolph, while his teeth
chattered. "The council is already assembled, and all wait for your
worship."

"Ring out the alarm-bell," shouted Francis Friend, following close upon
his heels. "The land-nobles have rode up to the market-place, in
complete armour, near five hundred strong."

"Have they committed any disturbance?" asked Erasmus, hastily.

"No," replied Francis, "nor have they even drawn a sword. They only
stand in the market-place, quite still and orderly, as is by no means
their way at other times; if you ask what they want, they give
themselves out for the retinue of the prince palatine."

"Who leads them?" inquired Erasmus with smothered wrath.

"That I know not," replied Francis; "they have all got their visors
down."

"I heard," said Heidenreich, "that their leader is a certain
Sparrenberger, surnamed Tausdorf. He has lately come hither from
Bohemia, and intends settling in this country."

"Sparrenberger, surnamed Tausdorf," repeated Erasmus bitterly, taking
out his memorandum-book and writing in it: "I shall recollect the name
again at a fitter season."

"Shall I have the alarm rung?" asked Francis urgently.

Again the old Erasmus began to pace up and down the chamber with long
strides. The passion for resistance struggled mightily with the sense
of its danger in the breast of the vigorous despot. This was perceived
by Heidenreich, who approached him and said with anxious warmth: "If
the advice of an old lawyer have yet any weight with you,--and one too
who means it fairly with you and the city,--submit yourself for this
once, master burgomaster. That, which Francis proposes to you, leads
directly to feud with the emperor and the empire, and ruins yourself,
and your family, and the town which is entrusted to your providence."

"You will keep yourself quiet, Francis," at length said the old man,
after a heavy sigh of self-control. He then turned to Heidenreich--"You
will accompany me to the sessions."

With dignified pride he stalked out, and Heidenreich, following him,
exclaimed, "Heaven be praised!"--while Francis stamped with his feet,
and rushed out after them like a maniac.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The burgomaster, Erasmus Friend, had just taken his place at the
council-table amidst many long pale faces, when the attendants in
servile haste and anxiety threw open the folding-doors, and the bishop
of Breslaw entered, Caspar von Logau, a venerable and hale old man;
with him came the hauptmann of the principality, Mathias von Logan. The
members of the council rose respectfully from their seats, while
Erasmus coldly advanced to the first authority in Silesia. The bishop
addressed him with dignified earnestness:

"There have been evil doings in your city, Mr. Burgomaster. I take it
for granted you have, as a first step, adopted fitting measures that
the state of facts may not be concealed, and that the culprits may not
escape punishment by flight."

"The beginner of the fray is arrested," replied Erasmus, "and the body
of the deceased is in our care."

"Whom do you understand by the beginner of the fray?" asked the bishop,
looking keenly at Erasmus.

"Rasselwitz," replied the burgomaster with eagerness, "Rasselwitz, who
broke into my son's dwelling like a common robber."

"You will render up the prisoner to my delegate, which ought to have
been done immediately on his arrest. The body of Netz we will presently
view together, and then deliver it over to his relations for burial."

"You seem, my lord bishop, as if you would bring this case under the
emperor's jurisdiction: but, according to our privileges, the trial and
the sentence belong to us, and I must give up nothing of the city's
charter."

"There is danger in delay, and therefore we will not waste the time in
legal disputations. I will answer for what I do, and the emperor
himself shall decide upon the competence of the tribunal. Against this,
I presume, you can have nothing to object, Mr. Burgomaster."

"No!" replied Erasmus, with heavy heart and suppressed indignation.

"How is it with the answer on the part of the citizens?" continued the
bishop, bringing forth a roll of papers, from which he read--"According
to the charge of the Bieler family, there were present and active
in the fray, your son, Francis,--the city-messenger, Onophrius
Goldmann,--the city-servant, George Rudolph, and a cutler's
apprentice.--All these too are, of course, under arrest."

Erasmus was silent, for he felt his error, and was too proud to justify
it.

"No!" exclaimed the bishop. "Immediately take measures for bringing
them hither under a secure guard. _All_--do you hear me? _all_, not
excepting your own son."

The burgomaster was silent, and did not stir, while in his breast
rekindled the strife that had scarcely been subdued.

"Well, gentlemen, am I to be obeyed?" cried the bishop, advancing with
indignant majesty to the sessions-table, by Erasmus' upper place.

At this there started out of the hall, as if actuated by one spirit,
the aldermen, Peter Treutler and Balthasar Albrecht, to fulfil the
commands of the bishop, who continued to Erasmus--

"I am almost displeased with you, Mr. Burgomaster, and I hardly know
what the emperor, to whom I must communicate this unhappy affair, will
say to your proceedings. You Lutherans are constantly harping upon the
holy Scriptures, and will be judged only after their words. Well, then,
have you not read what the wise king Solomon says, 'Love justice, ye
rulers of the earth, for injustice lays waste all lands, and evil life
overthrows the seats of the mighty?' But what is to be thought of the
equity of a judge, who imprisons the party of the murdered, and suffers
the assassins to be at liberty, because his own son is at their head?"

This reproach touched exactly on the sore place, and cut so much the
deeper into the soul of the proud elder; he was just about to burst
forth in all the vigour of his mind, and with indignant zeal for the
authority of his office; but then doctor Heidenreich advanced to him
and whispered soothingly, "Since you have determined to submit, do it
with a good grace, and make not a bad matter still worse by
unseasonable passion." Upon this Erasmus collected himself by a violent
effort, champed down the words which he had just been going to hurl
against the bishop, and, retreating to the window, gazed indignantly at
the nobles, who kept watch on horseback before the Guildhall, in close
compact ranks, like so many colossuses of iron. In the mean time, the
bishop seated himself in the burgomaster's arm-chair, reading over his
papers, while so profound a silence reigned, that one might have heard
the buzzing of the flies in the room and the heavy breathing of the
anxious aldermen.

At length Treutler returned, followed by Rasselwitz, his arm in a
sling, the poor one-handed Goldmann, and the rest of the accused. Armed
city-mercenaries brought up the rear.

The bishop rose from his seat to observe the comers, and exclaimed to
them authoritatively, "You are prisoners of the emperor and king of
Bohemia, and of his chief tribunal at Prague. Give up your arms!"

"We recognize only the assize at Schweidnitz as our judges in this
matter," retorted the wild Francis defyingly, in the name of all.

"Is that the respect, Mr. Burgomaster," asked the irritated bishop--"is
that the respect which you show to your prince and his laws? I had
heard much of the arrogance of the patricians here, and of the Friend
family in particular; but this audacity even exceeds my expectations."

"Give up your sword, Frank," said Erasmus with broken voice.

"Sacred heavens!" cried Francis, painfully alarmed--"do you yourself
command it, father? Then, indeed, I must obey:"--And he unbuckled his
sword, laid it on the council-table, and returned to his companions,
who followed his example. The alderman Albrecht now announced that the
body of Bieler was brought into the custom-house below.

"We will inspect the corse and confront with it the accused," said the
bishop to Erasmus: "you will then separate all parties, and bring them
into safe custody. I give them over to you--you alone; but you shall
answer for them to the emperor and myself with your head."

He went out with Matthias and Rasselwitz. The council with their
prisoners and retinue followed; only the burgomaster remained behind,
and grasped Heidenreich firmly by the hand, so that the latter could
not join the cavalcade.

"Now, thou prince of peace!" he exclaimed, gnashing his teeth--"had I
not done better by causing the alarm to be rung?"

"If you are convinced that such a measure will tend to the general
weal," replied Heidenreich, "you may take it still. I would have you
weigh, however, that five hundred warriors are drawn up yonder, well
armed, and ready to support the bishop's orders. The result of the fray
is uncertain, and even if we were to conquer, what would be the fate of
all of us?"

"Ah! these nobles!" cried Erasmus furiously. "Well! some opportunity of
revenge will yet offer itself, and, by God and his holy Gospel, I will
seize it by the forelock--it shall not escape me."

                           *   *   *   *   *

On the Friday after George, in the year 1571, sate Francis Friend, with
broken spirits, in the Hildebrand of Schweidnitz, his constant quarters
since the time of his arrest. It was already late in the evening, and a
melancholy lamp partially illumined the sad chamber. The long durance
had subdued the wild refractory mood of the prisoner: even the wine no
longer relished. He leaned with his head in his hands upon the table by
the side of the full flask, and took all the pains imaginable not to
think, that he might escape from the recollections and forebodings
which tormented him. The door now gently opened, and doctor
Heidenreich, creeping in, roused him out of his gloomy meditation.

"Your worshipful father sends me to you, master Friend. You fate seems
to be approaching its decision; and I am come, therefore, once again to
speak to you alone about this awkward business of yours."

"Make me no long prefaces, master doctor," cried Francis, starting up
wildly, "but speak it out plainly. My sentence is pronounced; I am to
die. Well, then, I am content. I have often before this looked death
boldly in the face, and would rather perish at once than pine away any
longer in this damned hole."

"Always so hasty and impetuous!" said Heidenreich, and sate down
quietly by his side. "The question is not yet of the final sentence;
but, as a preliminary measure, the rack, in all its degrees, is
adjudged to Onophrius Goldmann, and to that they proceed this very
night. The delegates of the council will also be present. It is,
therefore, above all things requisite to know for certain how deeply
you are implicated in the Bieler murder, that the necessary precautions
may be taken. Your answers at the examination have by no means
satisfied the lords commissioners, nor, to be candid, myself either.
Now, therefore, I come to put to you a couple of questions, which you
must answer me, but honestly as a son to a father; for, look you, I am
to defend you when the examination is over, so that I should be
considered, _in jure_, as your physician and confessor, to whom you
must speak the truth if you wish to be radically healed. First, then,
tell me, did you in the fray actually strike Bieler upon the head with
your sword?"

"There you ask more than I can answer," replied Francis with vexation.
"The row was all wildness and confusion; I was half drunk too, and rage
made my intoxication still madder. I came up roundly to my opponent;
but whether I hit Bieler, or whether I did not hit him, that the devil
knows best."

"You don't answer me honestly," said Heidenreich with lifted finger,
"and thus without occasion impede my colloquy. You must not, therefore,
take it ill, if I put my second question as though I were already
convinced of your guilt. Did Goldmann see you strike Bieler? or at
least does he pretend to have seen it?"

"He chattered something of the sort to me a little after the fray,"
replied Francis in confusion.

"That's an awkward circumstance. How in other respects do you stand
with the man?"

"Well, I think."

"There was a talk in the city of your intriguing with his daughter, and
having promised her marriage when your wife should die?"

"Likely enough. In need or in pleasure men make all sorts of promises
that they are not inclined to keep afterwards."

"Well, as in the meantime your wife is really dead, we might try with
this bait to stop the mouth of Onophrius, so that he may leave you out
of question altogether when he is put to the rack. I will go to the old
man directly and reason the matter with him. If I can make it clear to
him that your misfortune will do him no service, he may, perhaps, take
good advice. Meanwhile don't let the time in prison hang heavy on your
hands, and be of stout heart. I hope to God that I shall this once also
draw you out of your anxiety and suffering.

"Could not you save Goldmann too?" asked Francis good-naturedly: "It
would grieve me for the poor devil if he should have to pay the piper."

"That would be rather difficult. Some victim the nobles must have, and
you may rejoice if they will be satisfied with the old messenger.
However, I will see what is to be done for him, if he stand the torture
without confession. God be with you!"

He went, and Francis continued sitting gloomily at the table. The
peril, which with every moment approached nearer and nearer to him,
straightened his breast sorely. His confidence in the all-powerful
protection of his father had already sunk to a very low ebb, and the
comfort left him by the doctor did not go a great way either.--"The
infernal bay!" he muttered at last, glad to have found something on
which he could lay the consequences of his own action--"the infernal
bay!"--and he relapsed into a long melancholy silence.

Suddenly there arose below a loud noise and trampling; halberds
clattered against each other; doors were opened and shut; and then
again a deep awful stillness prevailed.

"What is the matter below?" he anxiously asked the jailer, who then
brought in his supper to him.

"Logan Oppersdorf and the other commissioners have just arrived,
together with several gentlemen of the council. Goldmann leads up the
dance to-day!"

"God support the poor fellow!" groaned the agonized Francis, and ran
about the chamber, goaded by all the pangs of hell. Quick footsteps
were heard approaching the door: it flew open, and in burst Agatha with
dishevelled locks, despair upon her pale, tearless face, and flung
herself at the feet of her lover.

"Save, save my unhappy father!" she cried, in tones that rent the
heart.

"Collect yourself, my poor girl," said Francis, and raised up the
wretched creature: "what would you from me?"

"The dreadful tale has reached even my hovel!" she exclaimed
shuddering: "this night my father is to be put upon the rack. He is old
and feeble; he will sink under the torture, and confess to deeds of
which his soul knows nothing: therefore help, Frank, help, before it is
too late. Your hand plunged us into this abyss; your hand must snatch
us from it. You have solemnly sworn it to us, and must redeem your
word, that God may one day not forget you in your dying hour."

"Leave us alone," said Francis to the jailer; and when the latter had
gone, he exclaimed to Agatha, "What would you have of me? You ask help
of one who is himself most helpless. Would I be here, if I had the
influence which you attribute to me?"

"Your father is all-powerful in this city," cried Agatha, wringing her
hands. "It is a trifle for him to help the man who is now to suffer for
having saved your life."

"My father's hands are bound by the bishop and the furious nobles.
Could he govern at his pleasure, he had surely saved his own son from
the grief and shame of a prison. But I have done what I could, and your
father's cause is commended to good hands."

"I will believe it," said Agatha, suppressing her feelings, "though I
find you terribly cold to a sorrow that concerns you so nearly."

She was henceforth silent, leaning her head on the shoulder of Francis,
who embraced her in indescribable anxiety, while the silence of death
prevailed in the dungeon. On a sudden, through the nightly stillness
broke a hollow shriek from the lower chambers. Francis had a foreboding
of what it meant, and shuddered; Agatha listened intently to the
groans, which with every moment sounded sharper and more agonized.

"Eternal mercy!" she suddenly cried in wild horror; "that is my
father's voice!"

"Perhaps we deceive ourselves," said Francis, endeavouring to soothe
her.

"That is my father's voice," screamed Agatha; "I should know it amidst
thousands. It must be the pangs of hell that can extort such cries from
the iron old man. Gracious heavens! And I hear his shrieks and cannot
help him!"

"Cease," cried Francis, beside himself; "you torture yourself and me
with more bitter cruelty than any he can suffer on the rack; and you
torture us in vain, for by the Almighty I cannot help, though with my
own blood I would purchase his!"

Agatha fixed her eyes upon him with a cold piercing gaze of inquiry,
and said, "Are you in earnest, Frank? Would you really purchase his
life with your own? Well then, call in the jailers; let the judges be
requested to suspend awhile the torture: confess yourself the assassin
of Netz, and my father is saved."

"And I lost!" exclaimed Francis. "You ask of me more than is
reasonable!"

"I was not in earnest," said Agatha contemptuously. "I knew beforehand
that your own wretched life was dearer to you than any thing else, and
I merely wished to shame the boaster who affected a magnanimity to
which his miserable heart can never elevate itself. Father, I _cannot_
save you; this man _will_ not I can do nothing, therefore, but pray for
you in the hour of your suffering, that the All-merciful may comfort
your soul and preserve it from despair."--And she sank upon her knees;
her lips moved softly, and her eyes, turned up to heaven, overflowed
with gentle tears, while the cries of agony from below grew fainter and
fainter, and at length were silent altogether.

The maiden arose and stood again before the trembling Francis; with
awful calmness she said, "A horrid light is beginning to dawn upon me.
It seems to me as if my poor father suffered for your crime, the wild
vengeance of the nobles absolutely exacting blood in atonement for the
blood which has been spilt. It seems, too, as if you were well content
to buy yourself free with this expiatory sacrifice. Once again,
therefore, I conjure you, Francis, exert yourself for us. If you could
not rescue your saviour from the pangs of the rack, at least preserve
his life. Save it not merely for me, save it for yourself! For I swear
to you, by the agonies of this dreadful hour, if my father perishes,
you too are lost! I will bend all the energies of my soul to your
destruction; I will steal after you through life as your evil demon,
till at last I reach you and hurl the lightnings of vengeance upon your
guilty head!"

She rushed out.

"This is a night of hell!" groaned Francis, and dropt back, as if
annihilated, into his seat.

                     *   *   *   *   *

It was about the same time of the year, that Althea was sitting in
her chamber by the open window, through which played the gentle
spring-breezes. Her little Henry drew about the room, on a wheeled
platform, a stately knight, proudly mounted, in the full equipments of
the tournay, Tausdorf's present to him from Nuremberg. With this he
kept up an intolerable clatter, but his mother did not heed him. Before
her stood the embroidery frame, in which she had stretched a scarf, but
she did not work; and, lost in fairy visions, she listened to the
humming of the bees that swarmed in the blossoms of an apple-tree
before her window. Then on a sudden echoed the sweet song of the
nightingale from the topmost branch, and Althea's bosom swelled in
gentle heavings; her eyes became moist, she folded her hands, and with
pious looks to heaven, exclaimed mournfully, "Forgive me, Eternal
Benevolence! if this feeling be a sin against the memory of my Henry."

"Where now does Herr Tausdorf tarry?" interrupted the child. "He
promised to be here early to-day."

"Was the speech of innocence an answer to my prayer?" whispered Althea;
and, beckoning the child to her, she took him on her lap, caressed him
with fervour, and softly asked him, "Are you then fond of Herr
Tausdorf, dear boy?"

"Yes, indeed, from my very heart," replied the little one. "He is
always so kind to me, brings me pretty things, and has often let me
ride upon his gray horse. I love him more than uncle Netz and all the
other knights who visit you. He does not swear and curse so terribly as
they do, nor drink such monstrous quantities of wine. I have never
either seen him drunk, like uncle Netz, who often cuts a vile figure
with the fiery face and glassy eyes. Then he is always so kind and
sedate; and I do not know how he manages it, but when he bids or
forbids me any thing, I cannot help obeying him, however great my
inclination to be froward."

"But you are fond of uncle Schindel?" said Althea, to conceal her
delight in the child's answer.

"Oh yes! but then he is a little too old for me. I always think of him
as of my grandfather: while Herr Tausdorf is still so handsome, and
full of life and energy. It is so I fancy my father must have looked.
Oh, if Herr Tausdorf were my father! I would follow him at his nod, and
love him--almost as much as yourself, dear mother."

"Sweet boy!" cried Althea transported, and hid her burning forehead in
the golden locks of the child.

Three slow, orderly raps were given at the door, but occupied with
other matters, she paid no attention to them; at last in walked
Christopher Friend, in splendid doublet and rich pantaloons of sky-blue
velvet, slashed with green, and trussed with gold points, and a broad
collar about his neck of real Brabant lace. With great courteousness
and much dignity, he waved his richly feathered cap in salutation. The
first glance, that Althea cast upon his crafty knavish face,
extinguished every spark of joy in her breast, and with icy coldness
she asked what was Master Friend's pleasure?

"Noble lady, I have lived long enough in the dreary state of widowhood
to know all its inconveniences, and to desire a change. I want a wife
of good person, good birth, and gentle manners; and, considering the
great wealth with which the Lord has blest me, I believe myself well
worthy of such a one. Worthiest Althea, my choice has fallen upon you.
It has, indeed, cost me no little eloquence to wring from my father his
consent to this match, of which he would not hear at first, on account
of the violent quarrels between the nobility and citizens and the
mutual bitterness that has grown out of them. At last, however, I
succeeded in bending his obstinacy, and chiefly through the faithful
picture of your excellent virtues; and here I am, with his blessing, to
woo solemnly for your fair hand."

"I value your courtship as I ought," replied Althea, hastily; "but with
my conviction that we are in no respect suited to each other, I answer
with a candid _no_."

"_No!_" repeated Christopher, dropping from the clouds. "With such
proposals, it is the custom, although the lady have a negative in her
pocket, at least to ask time for consideration, from mere courtesy.
Your _no_, therefore, is almost too candid."

"I could not prevail upon myself to let you believe in the possibility
of our union, even for a moment."

"I should think, though, that the petty estate which you hold at
Bogendorf in your widow's right can be no reason for your rejecting so
splendid an establishment thus scurvily."

"Then you thought to buy me of my poverty?--Another sign how little we
are suited to each other, for I have never regarded wealth."

"That shows your fancy for the Bohemian ragamuffin!" retorted
Christopher, whose wrath had burst every curb of manners. "I always
wished to persuade myself out of the idea of your caring for the
vagabond, but now it is on the sudden clear to me that I am sacrificed
for him."

"Have the goodness yourself to repeat your aspersions to him," cried
Althea warmly; "but this room you will quit instantly."

"Why should we mutually incense each other without occasion?" said
Christopher, quickly composed again, and courteous. "You have rejected
my love, which must, indeed, grieve me; but, at least, you cannot
prevent me from wooing your friendship; and rest assured I will show
you mine so thoroughly, that you shall yet one day rue your harshness."

He bowed himself profoundly, and departed.

"That is an abominable man," said the little Henry. "Had you married
him, I do believe I should have run away from you."

"My horizon grows more and more cloudy," sighed Althea. "I fear there
will be no staying for me much longer in the old Schweidnitz, for the
hatred of these Friends is terrible, from their wealth and their
enormous power."

"Oh, if they ill-treat you," cried the little one warmly, "only call
Tausdorf to your help, he'll soon send them about their business! And I
too am a nobleman: let me once be capable of bearing arms, and I'll
maul this rabble of citizens that it shall do your heart good to see
it."

Althea hastily set down the little nettle which began to sting thus
early, and asked in anger, "Did you ever hear such words from me or
from the knight Tausdorf, whose name is always in your mouth?"

"No," stammered the terrified child, already struggling with his tears;
"but uncle Netz, and the rest of the knights, call the Schweidnitzers
by no other name when they talk of them."

"Have these then so suddenly become your models? Formerly you were of a
different opinion; but shame upon you for so soon forgetting the
lessons of your mother. What have I told you of the different classes
in the world?"

"They are all established by God," repeated the boy, amidst a flood of
tears, "and therefore the high should never despise the low, for he is
his brother."

"And what did I say to you of the citizens and peasants?"

"They are for the whole more useful and indispensable than the noble,
who in reviling them disgraces himself."

"You, then, have disgraced the nobility which you are so proud of. Go
to your own room, and reflect with yourself seriously upon your
injustice, and pray to God to forgive you such want of charity. That
you may have leisure for this, you shall neither play nor eat till the
evening."

"Dear mother!" said the little one imploringly, and raised his folded
hands.

"I am fixed," she replied with great earnestness; and the poor boy left
the room slowly and with loud sobbings.

"God grant me strength to banish this evil spirit, the last in the pure
mind of my child," prayed Althea fervently, as her brother-in-law,
Netz, rushed into the room with wild unceasing laughter. Vexed at this
interruption of her better thoughts, she exclaimed, "What have you been
about now?"

"Oh, I have been enjoying a fine piece of sport. Since we were here
with the bishop, your cits have had a little respect for us, because
they see that we hang together manfully. So we touch them up now and
then, till they are ready to run against the walls from terror."

"Alas! I have already heard much of this kind of exploits, but in truth
they do you little honour."

Netz, passing over the remark, continued: "Just now I amused myself
with riding on my war-horse into a publican's house, and even into the
tap-room on the ground floor. The old witch of a hostess crept forward
immediately, and, quaking and trembling, begged of me to dismount; but
I cut as furious a grimace as I could, and roared out, 'Pity on the
noble blood that has been spilt! let any one of the Schweidnitzers come
abroad, be he who he may, and he shall have a warm reception; ten of us
have sworn to avenge the murder.' Zounds! you should have seen how the
old one's knees tottered, and three citizens, who had been sitting
behind the table, crept into a corner with their cups. Then turning
round my horse, I dashed out, while the windows clattered again."

"And you would palm off this adventure upon me for a chivalrous
achievement?" said Althea with cold mockery.

"How perverse you are," replied Netz; "it was only a little joke of
mine with the rabble. They'll tell it again in the city, which will be
in a proper fright; and, whenever a chuff creeps out of his hole from
necessity, it will be with fear and trembling."

"What would you say, brother, if one of the people were to ride into
your hall, as you did with those honest men, who had in nowise offended
you?"

"God confound him! I would hang him up by the legs."

"Would it have been wrong, then, if the citizens had taken courage, and
done as much to you?"

"Zounds! that's a different thing," said Netz, stroking his whiskers.

"How, different? Perhaps the citizens of Schweidnitz are your serfs,
without any rights against their master?"

"You catechize me too closely," replied Netz, confused, "tell me
rather--to come to something else--what is the matter between you and
Christopher Friend? As I was riding up the streets to your house, he
met me, tricked out wonderfully, but with a face more horrible even
than that I made in the tap-room. What did the money-bag want with
you?"

"He asked my hand," returned Althea, going on calmly with her
embroidery.

"And you sent him off with the willow? By my word as a knight, that
does you honour, for the pitiful scoundrel has gold enough to buy half
the principality; and there is many an honest woman, before this, has
made herself over to the devil, for the sake of wretched mammon. You
have not only acted like a noble lady, but like a prudent woman, who
well weighs every thing. It was not out of love that he sought your
hand, but to make peace between his kin and the nobility through you,
and afterwards you would have found his house a hell."

"What evil thoughts does hatred put into the minds of men! I did not
dream a syllable of any such secondary objects, but refused him simply
because I felt no inclination for him."

"Nay, that of itself is a poor reason, with which you have already put
off many honourable men, and even lusty knights too. Don't you intend
to marry again at all?"

Althea turned away in silence to get another ball of silk from her
work-basket, and at the same time to hide the colour which this
question had brought upon her cheek. Netz, having long listened for a
reply, exclaimed, "I understand! no answer is often a very decided one.
Now I am at home. You intend sure enough to marry, and I already know
the bridegroom. Shall I name him to you?"

"Spare me your thoughtless gossiping," said Althea, with anger, that
did not seem to be too seriously intended.

"You defy me? Well, then, I should be a fool to spare you any longer.
The lucky chosen one is called--"

At this moment Tausdorf entered the room.

"When one talks of the wolf," added Netz, laughing, "he is already
looking over the hedge. That is my man."

"Oh, you are the most intolerable tattler that I know of!" said Althea,
rising, and offering her hand to Tausdorf with a confused smile.

"Intolerable!" muttered Netz; "that again is somewhat strong, as indeed
your phrases towards me generally are. You think I don't understand
without rough language; yet in truth you ought to handle me quite
tenderly, and thank God that I look at the matter on the merry side:
were I disposed to take it up seriously, and quarrel with my fortunate
rival, you might sooner be a widow than a bride, or else have to cry
your bright eyes red over the corpse of your poor brother-in-law. But
compose yourself; it shall not be so bad as that I have at last learnt
to see that you are in the right with your negative. Every creature of
the field would be mated with its like. Now you are as tender as the
sensitive plant in the park green-house; you would be touched only
lightly with the finger-tips; while I love to grasp with my whole hand,
and don't always even draw the gauntlet off first. In any case, we
should make a strange couple. It is better, therefore, that the whole
business should be let alone, and, if I can yield you to any one
without grudging, it is to Tausdorf, who seems to have been made by
Heaven expressly for your wilfulness; and who, moreover, is such a
lusty knight. Your hands, then, my dear friends:--In the name and in
the spirit of my good brother Henry, I give and pledge you to each
other, and you shall exchange the troth-rings before my eyes."

"I pray you at length be silent," said Althea, whose confusion was at
its height; and with unfeigned emotion she added, "it has not yet
entered into Herr von Tausdorf's head to be a suitor for my hand."

"So, then, I have again missed my aim! That you will never make me
believe. It is only a sort of feint, that your womanly affectation
would yet use as a parting farewell. Strike at the very core of it with
your good sword, Tausdorf; I will be your faithful brother in arms."

"I could only accuse myself, if I had not understood this noble heart,"
said the knight tenderly, kissing Althea's hand. "But this letter of my
father's will show you that I have understood it, my dear friend;
still, I owed it to your repose and my honour to shut up the ardent
longing in my own breast, until every barrier was forced that lay in
the path of my happiness. That is done. The weightiest obstacle was the
difference of our creeds: but rational arguments and filial entreaties
have subdued my father's strictness of belief, and he now participates
in my wishes, and sends us his paternal blessing."

With trembling hand Althea took the letter and read it, while her eyes
sparkled with joy.

"Strange that the old gentleman should make objections for a little
difference in religion!" said Netz: "Why, if Althea cared about
priestly feuds, she might with better reason object to your Utraquism.
But I see it well, it is in this case just as if a fair maiden were
smitten with a Moor. Love levels all, and before him there is neither
creed nor complexion."

"The Moor returns his thanks," replied Tausdorf laughing, and followed
Althea to the window, where she stood with folded hands in deep
thought.

"Have I understood your heart?" he asked gently and tenderly.

"Only too well," she murmured; "and yet in this decisive moment an
anxious doubt falls on me, whether I do right in listening to it, and
whether it is compatible with my duties towards my child."

"Fire and fury, sister!" shouted Netz, impatiently, "I believe you are
still coquetting it: by my faith! even the best women can't leave that
alone. I fancy when you one day come to the gates of heaven, you'll
stand courtesying to St. Peter, and protesting that you don't think it
polite to enter, till he hales you in by force. What new difficulty
have you been spinning and weaving on the instant?"

"My little Henry," lisped Althea, with downcast eyes.

"Whose interest, you think, is against this marriage?" said Netz,
laughing: "Now that, in good truth, is a little out of reason, for to
me it seems as if it would exactly tend to his advantage. But I'll do
as though I believed you in it. Where is the boy?"

"A prisoner in his room till bed-time."

"The devil! Yours is a strict government! But wherefore?"

"He spoke contemptuously of the respectable state of citizenship."

"Death and hell! By that I see the blood of our family flows in
him--And 'tis therefore you have imprisoned the noble fellow! Zounds! I
can fancy, then, how you would have managed me, if you had given me
your fair hand in marriage: I should never again have got out of the
cellar into daylight. No, that won't do; I'll not stand it. I am the
boy's uncle, and have also a word to say in his education."

He rushed out, but at the door was met by the old Herr von Schindel, to
whom he exclaimed, "Your niece has grown restive, and positively won't
enter the stall of matrimony; do you teach her better--I go for help:"

With two springs he was up the stairs and at Henry's door, while
Schindel entered to the lovers.

"Do you then doubt my having a father's feeling for Althea's child?"
said Tausdorf to the widow, deeply mortified.

"It is not that alone," she stammered; "it seems to me as if a second
marriage would be a treachery to my first husband; and that one day, in
a better world, I should not be able to come before his eyes, if I
contracted a fresh union here below."

"Fie! fie! niece," cried Schindel, gravely; "so good a Christian, and
so little versed in the Bible? Have you not read in the holy
scriptures, what sort of answer was given to a similar doubt, and who
gave that answer? 'there will no one marry, nor be given in marriage?'
and your departed lord will thank Tausdorf, with a brother's love, for
having made his Althea happy in the time of her earthly pilgrimage,
when he himself was no longer able."

"Heaven reward you for these words, my dear uncle," exclaimed Tausdorf
joyfully, grasping the old knight's hand, when Netz burst in, the
little Henry in his arms, and setting him between the lovers, on the
ground, cried, "Stand here, boy, and decide: your mother is going to
marry again; whom would you like to have for your father-in-law?"

With a loud cry of joy the child sprang up to Tausdorf, and clasped his
knees, looking up to him with a sweet smile of affection.

"My son!" exclaimed Tausdorf, in emotion; and he lifted up the little
one in his arms, and kissed him warmly.

"Then join your mother's hand with his," continued Netz.--The boy
stretched out his hand after Althea's, and said, in a sweet soothing
tone, "Dear mother!"--She remained, however, timidly at the window, and
did not move; upon this Tausdorf carried to her the little Henry, who
seized her arm with gentle violence, and joined the feebly-resisting
hand with the extended right-hand of the lover, at the same time
exclaiming, "Always so! always so!" and covering the two hands with
kisses.

"My Henry!" stammered Althea, and inclined her face to his.

"Is he not _our_ Henry?" asked Tausdorf, hastily putting down the
child, and with his arms clasping the tender body of Althea.

"In the name of Heaven!" she replied, scarcely audible, while his lips
sank upon hers.

"What Heaven does is well done!" said the old Schindel, with folded
hands.

Netz shouted out aloud, "_Victoria!_"--In the next moment he passed his
mailed hand across his eyes, and, unmanned by keen and sudden agony,
rushed out of the apartment.

                     *   *   *   *   *

Eight days after the Whitsuntide of the same year, the morning twilight
lit up the horizon with a dusky red, and painted with blood the walls
of the Hildebrand, in which Francis was still quietly slumbering on his
couch. Before him stood the old Heidenreich, who seized his hand, and
called upon his name to wake him. At the call he started up wildly, and
inquired peevishly and sleepily why the old man disturbed him at such
an hour? "Sleep is precisely the best thing that one can enjoy in a
dungeon."

"I bring you weighty, and in some sort pleasant, news. That I come with
it thus early is to prepare you for the events of the morning.
Yesterday arrived the emperor's final sentence--your life is saved. The
imprisonment which you have already suffered will be reckoned in part
of your incurred penance; and, _mense Septembris anni currentis_, you
may expect your freedom."

"Am I to rot then so long in a dungeon? That is an unjust severity, as
I neither confessed the fact, nor have been convicted of it; and one
may easily see that the emperor deems himself the first nobleman in the
principality, by his siding thus with the lordlings."

"Not yet contented? Thank God, on the contrary, that the sentence has
turned out so exceedingly mild. I can assure you, when the sentence was
read in the sessions-room, the impertinent alderman, Treutler,
observed, _Dat veniam corvis vexat censura columbas!_ You were heavily
accused: had not Onophrius been silent on the rack, had not your father
subdued his old pride, and made most suppliant petitions to the emperor
himself, and, lastly, had I not managed your cause in a veritable
masterpiece of defence, you would have had a serious business of it
to-day."

"And how has it gone with the old Goldmann?" asked Francis anxiously.

"Faith," replied Heidenreich, shrugging his shoulders, "his head will
be off in an hour."

"Gracious heavens!" cried Francis, starting up from his couch, "it is
not possible! The old man acted only in his office; and if he did kill
Bieler, his life cannot be touched for it."

"The imperial council have seen the affair in a different light,"
replied Heidenreich coldly. "They think his office had been to separate
and arrest both parties, you as well as Rasselwitz; and not, out of
partiality to the burgomaster's son, to kill his adversary."

"But I entreated you for the poor man!--and you, too, promised."

"I did to the utmost of my power whatever could be done, and as far as
it could be done without your injury: your father, too, the same.
Thrice did the council apply to the emperor in Goldmann's behalf, and
the last time was dismissed ignominiously for their pains, and
forbidden farther interference. Defendant was not to be saved. Some one
must have killed Bieler: Goldmann confessed upon the rack that he had
struck at the young man's head; about you he was honestly silent, and
thus, therefore, devoted himself for an atonement."

"Horrible!" cried Francis, and paced about the room, wringing his
hands. On a sudden the clang of the funeral bells vibrated hollowly and
slowly from the tower of the guildhall; when, in obedience to the
signal, from every turret throughout the city, the metal heralds lifted
up their solemn voices, producing a singularly sad and awful echo in
the silence of the morning twilight.

"What means this tolling of the bells so early?" asked Francis, with a
fearful foreboding.

"It is the funeral toll of the poor Goldmann," replied Heidenreich,
leaning himself against the window. "To show publicly that the council
deems the imperial sentence too severe, it has allowed this last honour
to the condemned; the body, too, will be followed by the whole college
to the burial-ground of our Lady _im Walde_."

"A melancholy kindness!" exclaimed Francis, shuddering; and after
awhile he added, "first the hand, then the rack, and at last the head.
Oh, it is horrible!"

"See, there comes the procession!" cried Heidenreich from the window;
and in spite of the horror that seized him at the news, Francis yet
felt himself irresistibly attracted to look on that which he dreaded.
Just then the old Onophrius was passing before the window. Free and
unfettered, he walked with calm confidence between the city soldiers
who accompanied him, while no marks of the fear of death were to be
seen upon his venerable, pale, cheerful countenance; and a garland of
white roses adorned his silver locks, which were fluttered by the
morning breeze.

Loud weeping was heard from the assembled people; even the iron Francis
sobbed bitterly. At this moment the old man lifted up his eyes and
maimed arm to him, and cried out with a strong voice, "I have forgiven
you all! Only make good as much as you are yet able, and you shall not
find me amongst your accusers before the judgment-seat of God." With
this he went on cheerfully to the place of execution, while Francis
howled and pressed his face against the iron grating of the window.

The sufferer's head had fallen. The noise of the people returning from
the burial, and the sudden silence of the bells, awoke Francis from his
mental lethargy. He looked up, and found himself alone.

"It was an evil hour!" he cried, rousing himself; "God be praised that
it is over.--How! not yet torture enough?" he added the instant after,
seeing Agatha, who just then closed the prison door behind her.

In deep mourning, with hollow eyes staring out of a pale, meagre
face;--in her hand the garland of white roses which her father had worn
on his last travel, she stood for a long time at the door, a
threatening Nemesis. She then glided nearer with a light step, and
planted herself close before the terrified Francis, whose hair began to
stand on end.

"My father is no more," she murmured in the tones of death. "I have
even now seen him to his final place of rest, and am come hither to
execute his last commission. He has been silent: he has died to save
you; and he has saved you that you may restore to his only child the
honour of which you robbed her by crafty seduction. In his last
farewell he said, 'I will believe that, with the best inclination,
Francis had it not in his power to rescue me; but let him take you home
as his wedded wife, which is his duty, and which he has promised me
with deep oaths: thus he will at least have made good as much as he was
able, and my shadow is reconciled.' Now, then, I am here to remind you
of your oath."

With infinite confusion Francis stammered out, "Yes,--that,--dearest
Agatha--for the present, at least, that cannot be done. I do not depend
upon myself alone."

"You are a widower, and childless," said Agatha, with great composure.

"But my proud stern father will never consent to such an alliance,"
objected Francis.

"You have long been of age and wealthy, and therefore independent,"
said Agatha, in the former unimpassioned tone; "give me better reasons
for your perjury."

"I suppose I can't be married to you in the Hildebrand!" cried Francis,
with the angry impatience of mental agony.

"Oh father! what you have asked of me is hard," sighed Agatha,
struggling with her feelings; "but I must obey." And, as in that
dreadful night, she flung herself before Francis, and embracing his
knees, besought him--"Give me your hand, and with it give me back my
honour."

"Let go of me, woman!" he cried, tearing himself with violence from the
kneeling Agatha. "By heavens, I cannot do what you desire!"

"You cannot?" she returned in a terrible tone, and rose up; "You swear
by Heaven that you cannot?--You are right. What does a perjury, more or
less, signify to you? It is quite well so, perhaps better than if I had
softened you for the moment. Now then I may confess it to you: it was
only obedience to the martyr that compelled me to this measure. I had
other intentions with you; but my father's command tied up my hands,
which your utter unworthiness has again unfettered. Think of what I
told you in the night of torture. My father has now really died for
you--you have rejected the atonement which he offered you through me,
and vengeance can now take her course, softly, slowly, and securely.
May this thought scare sleep from your bed and drop wormwood into
the cup of your joy, till you one day see me again adorned with this
blood-besprinkled garland, as your bride for the life yonder in the
torments that have no end."

She glided out of the room; Francis stood there for a long time as if
petrified, when, collecting himself, he called out for the guard.

"Goldmann's daughter," he said to the city servitor, who then entered,
"has been uttering dangerous threats out of rage for the execution of
her father. Every thing is to be feared from her malice,--fire and
murder, poison and uproar! for who knows what abettors she may have
already gained by her strumpet artifices? Arrest her, therefore,
immediately, and announce it to the council. I take upon myself all
responsibility with my father."

The servitor ran off; but in a little time returned with information
that Agatha, after quitting the Hildebrand, had disappeared so quickly,
that no one knew which way to follow her; her dwelling was quite
deserted, and it was probable she had turned her back upon the city.

"That's bad," said Francis thoughtfully; but his old, daring
recklessness soon returned, and he exclaimed, "What does it signify?
the malicious wench will take good care, I should hope, not to come
back to a city in which my father governs: no one yet ever died of mere
threats, and I doubt not to reconcile to my conscience the not having
allowed the daughter of the beheaded city messenger to talk herself
into the honourable family of the Friends."

                           *   *   *   *   *

It was in the beginning of the July 1572, that Althea sate at a
splendid dinner-table with her uncle Schindel, her brother-in-law Netz,
and a few ladies of distinction; but the rich dishes seemed to be there
merely for show, for the sun was already low in the west, and still the
meal had not yet begun.

"Your betrothed stays long," said Netz, gaping, and tapping with his
knife upon the silver goblet before him. "He was to have been with us
about the middle of the day, and now the evening will soon be here. You
must break him in better for the holy state of matrimony."

"His protracted absence begins to alarm me," replied Althea. "I trust
no accident has happened to him on his long journey."

"Who would begin fearing the worst so soon?" admonished Schindel.
"Recollect, niece, how much he had to do at Tirschkokrig, and Prague,
and Vienna. Such a change of habitation for life brings with it a heap
of business. The explanations with a beloved father, whom one would not
pain, the quitting of the service of a powerful master, who unwillingly
parts with the true servant--all these are things that are not easily
got over. It is very possible that he may yet have to stay a day or two
over."

"Well, God be thanked!" cried Netz--"He has been a year in Bohemia, and
so has had time to manage his removal to Silesia."

"Only a year?" sighed Althea; "to me the time has seemed much longer."

"Not a complete year yet," interrupted Schindel. "It was in the
September of the foregoing year that Francis Friend was released from
his confinement, and it was the very day before that Tausdorf went to
Bohemia."

"Don't mention a word to me about these Friends," growled Netz, dashing
the goblet on the table. "You drive the gall into my stomach, and then
the wine does not prosper with me. It will stick with me all my life
long, that this villain, who alone was cause of the mischief, should
have crept, with a whole skin, from under the sword of the
executioner!"

"It must have been because they could prove nothing against him in
respect to Bieler's death," objected Schindel, "or else the emperor had
made a severe example of him also."

"I have ever heard," said Netz, "that in such investigations all
depends upon the manner of questioning; and the judge, if he rightly
understands it, can interrogate a rogue into an honest man, and an
honest man into a rogue. With me Francis will always be Bieler's
murderer, and if I had not given my knightly word and hand to the lord
bishop to let the matter rest, I would yet call him to account for it."

"Still Tausdorf comes not!" interrupted Althea with affectionate
anxiety.

"And in the mean time," said Schindel, "we have lost the guests who
were invited for his reception. Rasselwitz and Seidlitz were to be gone
for an hour only, and neither of them is returned yet."

"I wish Rasselwitz may not be dangling after the fair Netherlander,"
replied Netz, "and have forgotten Tausdorf and his welcome!"

"You must always be wagging your tongue at me," cried Rasselwitz, who
just then entered, and had caught the last words.

"Well, and do I lie?" asked Netz: "Are you not led in a string by the
fair stranger?"

"Would to Heaven she only thought it worth her while to lead me! but at
present she cares little about me."

"And yet you are always dangling after her, and paying court to her
when and how she pleases. What a great fool should I be if I were to
suffer myself to be so trotted about, and all to no purpose! Love's pay
must follow love's service, or else I care nothing for love, or all the
women of the earth."

"Time brings roses. I don't yet give up all hope."

"Holloa, gentlemen!" cried Schindel; "this is a conversation for the
tavern when you can no longer tell Hungary from Rhenish. How can you
think of amusing the noble ladies here present with your courtesans?"

"You are in a gross error, Herr von Schindel," said Netz warmly. "The
lady, of whom we speak, by no means belongs to that loose craft. Since
she has lodged with the Dutch nurseryman at the Park, she has led so
still and retired a life, that she may well be set up as a model for
other women. Besides, the splendour of her clothes and furniture
betokens great wealth, as her dignified manners are a sign of her high
birth."

"And yet lodges at the Park?" retorted Schindel; "and allows the young
men free access to her? That is strange! But who is she, and what would
she here? It does not at all please me, when a handsome female wanders
about the world in this way without protection."

"Thus much she has confessed to me," said Rasselwitz; "her abode here
has a mighty object; but what that object is she does not as yet hold
me fit to be entrusted with."

"If the girl should have some evil design towards you?" said Schindel
thoughtfully. "We have many a warning-tale from the olden time of young
libertines having been allured by some beautiful unknown, and, when at
last they fancied themselves at the goal of their wishes, they grasped
in their arms a hellish monster. At all events you will do well to be
cautious with your new acquaintance."

He was interrupted by the slow approach of footsteps. Supported by
Seidlitz, Tausdorf tottered into the room, and with a friendly smile
upon his pale features, stretched out his arms towards Althea, who
instantly hastened to the man of her affections, exclaiming, "Gracious
Heavens! what has happened to you, Tausdorf?"

"A slight accident, not worth talking of. As I was entering the
town-gate my horse shied and would not go forward, and, when I
attempted to force him on, he reared so high that he fell over with
me."

"And you have been wounded by the dreadful fall?"

"Oh, no. I did, indeed, strike my head against the pavement in falling,
but my hat broke the force of the blow."

"Has your horse ever shown such vice before?" asked Schindel.

"No," replied Tausdorf. "You know my old gray: he was the most docile
beast that I ever rode."

"Then this accident strikes me as something singular," rejoined
Schindel, "as if it were an omen intended by Providence to warn you of
some great evil at hand."

"Don't say that with so much earnestness, my good uncle," exclaimed
Tausdorf, laughing, "or you will terrify my Althea unnecessarily; and
if she should fall sick upon it, the mischief which my bay's
restiveness is supposed to prophesy would then have really come to
pass."

"I should like you as well again if you had a little more faith,"
replied Schindel angrily. "Animals have often a sharper insight into
the realm of spirits than your overwise men. Think on Balaam's awful
history. It would not be the first time that a horse shied when he was
bearing his master to his ruin. Who knows whether it is well that you
have just now rode into the town?"

"Herr von Schindel is the faithful Eckart, and warns every one," cried
Rasselwitz with forced laughter, and seized the goblet to wash down his
anxiety, while Netz exclaimed--"Are we not at last, then, to sit down
regularly, and fetch up our lost dinner-time?"

"Do so, good cousin, and take my place," replied Tausdorf, who since
Schindel's last words had grown unusually grave and gloomy: "My
honoured guests will easily excuse me if I leave them for my bed: I
should make a sorry host to-day, for my head is somewhat stunned and
dizzy from the fall, and repose will be the best thing for me."

He bowed, and left the company. The faithful Althea anxiously followed
him.

"A tedious melancholy feast for a welcome," muttered Netz.

The guests looked at each other with disturbed countenance. A painful
silence spread over the whole party, and the old Schindel put his
finger to his nose, and said, "I keep to it still; this adventure is a
very doubtful omen: God turn all to the best!"

                           *   *   *   *   *

The two brothers, Christopher and Francis, had come to see the splendid
aloe, which was at the Dutch nurseryman's in the park, and was then
unfolding all the glory of its blossoms. Both were not a little
astonished at meeting here, for at other times the way of the one was
regularly not that of the other. Bareheaded, and with all the respect
due to the rich Patricians, the gardener opened to them the door of the
particular green-house, in which stood the giant plant. From the midst
of enormous prickly leaves the stem rose up like a tree, to almost
three times a man's height; from that again a multitude of branches had
sprouted perpendicularly, each of which bore a multitude of colossal
flower-tufts, so that many thousand flowers showed themselves together,
offering to the astonished eye the appearance of an immense nosegay.

"This splendid aloe, called also _Agave Americana_," said the gardener,
haranguing in a monotonous tone, and repeating the same thing for the
hundredth time,--"this splendid aloe has come to Germany from the new
world through Spain; it reaches a very great age, sometimes a hundred
years, flowers only once in its long vegetable life, but that once, as
we see here, with such an extravagant prodigality of its best strength
and noblest juices, that it thereby draws on its own death, perishing
entirely after it has completed its time of blooming: on this account
it is a great rarity, whenever we can get to this wonderful sight in
our climate, which in fact is not over favourable to this miraculous
and beautiful plant."

The brothers had soon satiated themselves with looking at this
wonder-work of nature, and had scarcely paid any attention to the
gardener's set speech. At last Christopher said,

"This aloe must have brought you many a fair half-crown, master
gardener?"

But Francis had long been peeping between the leaves after a handsome
female, who sate at the end of the green-house under a blooming
oleander, and seemed to be reading diligently in an old manuscript. Her
brows were shadowed by white ostrich feathers that rose from a bonnet
of the same colour; her auburn locks rolled down in luxuriant abundance
upon a closely-fitting dress of purple velvet, girdled by a rich gold
band; while a chain of gold-chased emeralds heaved up and down upon the
laced kerchief which veiled her fair voluptuous bosom.

"Master, who is that handsome woman?" said Francis to the gardener, in
a low eager tone.

"Bona van der Noot," whispered the man in reply; "the widow of a rich
Netherlander, who for four weeks has lodged in the upper floor of my
house."

"The widow of a _rich_ Netherlander?" asked Christopher, who now began
to look after her, and in whom, to the natural delight in a beautiful
figure, awoke also the calculating spirit of the man of wealth,
desirous of heaping up still more to his collected money-bags--"Have
the kindness, master, to help us to a nearer intimacy."

"She has once for all forbidden such things," replied the gardener;
"but what would I not do to please you, Mr. Christopher?"

And going up to the fair stranger, he said respectfully, "Permit me,
noble lady, to give way to the wishes of these gentlemen, and present
to you the sons of our worshipful burgomaster."

"You are acting contrary to our agreement, master," replied Bona, with
gentle reproach. "My society has so little worth, and I feel so little
desire to form new acquaintances, that neither party will thank you
much for your mediation."

In the meantime Francis and Christopher had approached with profound
inclinations; in doing this the former had got a full view of her, when
he suddenly stood still with open mouth and staring eyes, and no sooner
had he heard her voice, than he cried out at once, "That is Agatha, or
the Devil!"

"What ails you now, brother?" cried Christopher in alarm; and Bona
anxiously asked the gardener whether the young man had not sometimes
paroxysms of madness.

"No; it cannot be she, however;" stammered Francis, retreating in
confusion. "The rich clothes, the cheerful countenance--no, that cannot
be the pale, haggard spectre that tormented me so cruelly in the
Hildebrand--and now, too, the beautiful long auburn locks with the
auburn eye-brows!--Agatha had dark brown hair. Pardon me, noble lady,
my mistake and rudeness; your great likeness to a girl, whom I knew
only too well, had deceived me."

"Sir," replied Bona proudly, "you must yourself allow that this
assimilation to some old flame of yours cannot be particularly
flattering to me. To spare myself any farther such unpleasantnesses,
nothing remains for me but to withdraw, and leave it to your own
reflection whether it became you to insult an unblemished female, who
sought the hospitality of your father's town."

She walked away with great dignity.

"God confound you!" cried Christopher to his brother. "This is now the
second time that your madness has come between me and my object, when I
was trying to weave a love affair. Had it not been for your senseless
fray with Rasselwitz, I should have had leisure and opportunity to win
the widow. It was your fault alone that the banquet was put off, from
which I had promised myself so much. The refusal too, which the silly
woman gave me in the end, I owe to the fear of your relationship. No
one would willingly have any thing to do with you, for wherever you
come you make mischief, and that not merely from natural awkwardness,
but from evil intentions. If, therefore, you frighten away my bird this
time, I shall believe you do it on purpose, and have good reasons of
your own for preventing my second marriage; in which case I shall speak
a word in earnest with our father, and you will gain nothing by your
tricks."

Thus scolding and grumbling, he went off, and the gardener went with
him. Francis, however, had not listened to his lecture, but remained
there gloomily, and with the sheath of his sword beheaded the valuable
foreign plants that stood in their clay vases, in rows, upon a range of
steps. At last he cried, "I was mistaken; but the likeness was
surprising and really terrible. A horrid shuddering came over me as the
well-known features menaced me from out the strange form; I felt as if
some evil spirit stretched out his claws after me from the beautiful
face. The devil take conscience! It has often embittered my life, and
now, since the affair in the Hildebrand, it will no longer let me have
any real satisfaction."

There was a sudden rustling behind the glass door, through which Bona
had disappeared, and to which Francis had turned his back. Glancing
round fearfully to the place whence the noise came, he saw the magic
image of the fair stranger, and he shook and shuddered as if in the
frosts of fever.--"Heaven be merciful to me!" he cried,--clapped his
hands before his eyes, and rushed out through another door into the
garden.

No sooner had Francis left the green-house than Bona entered it through
the side-door. For some time she looked after him as he ran along the
principal alley of the garden, while her beautiful eyes sparkled with
silent wrath, her right hand pressed itself violently on her throbbing
bosom, as if she wished to keep down its heavings by force, and
thoughts of evil seemed to furrow her lovely forehead. At this instant
came tripping along from a side walk the knight, Rasselwitz, in all his
bravery, as with hope and desire on his face he bent his way towards
the green-house. The moment Bona perceived him, the furrows smoothed
themselves upon her brow, her eyes lost their fierceness, a gentle
longing spread over her features, and she flung herself in a
picturesque attitude on the garden-seat beneath the oleander.
Rasselwitz entering, said in the softest tone, "I owe it to my good
fortune, noble lady, that I find you here in this confidential
loneliness, and can paint the feelings which glow towards you in my
heart, without being interrupted by troublesome witnesses."

With angelic kindness Bona presented her hand to him, and drew him down
beside her, gently murmuring, "You have often before protested your
love to me, Herr von Rasselwitz, and I would willingly believe in it,
but mens' hearts are more treacherous than the treacherous waves of the
sea: Who would trust to them? who would answer to me for the
continuance of the inclination which you fancy you feel for me--perhaps
really feel at the present moment?"

Rasselwitz felt himself transported into the third heaven by this
accost, for she had never addressed him so before; and kissing her hand
with fervour, he cried, "O that you would honour me so far, beautiful
Bona, as to demand of me some proof of my sincerity!"

"Take care that I don't keep you to your word," replied Bona with a
lovely smile. "I might ask something of serious difficulty, and you
would then come off with disgrace."

"No, fair lady; you don't escape me so this time," protested Rasselwitz
with great animation. "You must rather allow me to keep _you_ to your
word. Demand any proof of my love, as hard and earnest as you can
devise, and, if I deny it to you, banish me from your presence for
ever."

"Do you know the man who just now left the garden?" asked Bona with
apparent calmness.

"Why should I not?" replied Rasselwitz. "It was Francis Friend, the
wild son of the old burgomaster."

"Challenge him for life or death," said Bona, "and I am yours."

Rasselwitz stared at the blood-thirsty beauty, and at length said with
a confused smile, "You must be jesting, noble lady? What good could you
get by egging us on to murder each other?"

"There are many gates through which hatred may enter the human breast,"
replied Bona with piercing looks; "and, if that be true which has been
told me, you also cannot possibly be a friend to this Francis."

"By heavens! I detest him as my worst sins, but I cannot challenge
him."

Upon this Bona started up and demanded with a look of scorn and
contempt, "Do you want the courage for it?"

"Only _you_ dare ask me that," replied Rasselwitz, starting up in his
turn; "and to you only could I give a cool answer. I have never shunned
the game of swords; but my knightly word binds me; I pledged it to the
prince palatine on the settling of that awkward business the other day,
and, if the monster does not begin again himself, he will have quiet
for me as long as he lives."

"Does not then the wish of your beloved weigh more with you than this
promise?" asked Bona in soul-melting tones; and, laying her hand upon
his shoulder, she gazed on him with a look that glowed through his
pulses and gave wings to them.

"You have not understood me, noble lady," replied Rasselwitz earnestly.
"We are talking here of my knightly word, on which depends my honour,
and consequently my earthly being. If this adamantine chain were to
hold no longer, what tie in the world could be relied on?"

"A clever brain would know how to manage a quarrel, and yet throw the
appearance of the first aggression upon his adversary. Rough and
violent as this Friend appears to me, it must be easy to irritate him
to unseemly language and vulgar action, and then you fight only in
self-defence, which the bishop cannot take amiss."

"That would be bad work, lady, with which I cannot meddle. To evade a
promise is to break a promise, and I am an honourable Silesian."

"Well answered," cried Bona with loud laughter, and reseated herself.
"Take your place again by my side, Herr von Rasselwitz; it was not so
evilly intended. I excuse you from the combat for life and death, to
which you seem to have so little inclination, and do you, on the other
hand, excuse me for the future from your love-protests which you cannot
prove. You have stood the first trial badly; I spare you the others."

"How! Your strange instigation was no more than a trial?"

"And a very badly contrived one too. How could I expect that you would
believe me, in this deadly hatred against a man whom I saw to-day for
the first time in my life, and who could not have ever injured me?--me,
a Netherlandress, who have lived but a few weeks at Schweidnitz? You
would have caught me finely, and put me into an awkward plight, had you
made as if you were willing to comply with my desire. I must then have
prayed you, for God's sake, to let poor Friend live, and you would have
had the pleasure of laughing at me soundly for my unsuccessful
project."

"Fool that I am!--and yet I rejoice from my heart that it was only a
joke. I could not, however, suspect you of such a trick."

"Did you have a long merry-making on Monday at the widow's?" asked
Bona, with a careless transition of the subject.

"Unfortunately, no; the bridegroom, whom we expected, had an accident
with his horse, and arrived late only to go to bed directly. This
untuned us all, and we separated at an early hour."

"I have already heard much of this bridegroom; but tell me more about
him; he is said to be a handsome man."

"A perfect model of manly beauty!"

"That is saying much; yet since a man of your appearance allows it, why
it must needs be so.--Brave?--that is understood of itself;--but I
suppose just as hot and violent, just as easy to be irritated, which
you gentlemen often wish to pass upon us for courage?"

"Nothing less. He is coolness and reflection personified, and on that
account seems as if born to be a general. If he had not been the leader
of the nobles on that decisive day which freed me from arrest, it had
unavoidably come to a battle in the city; the upshot was uncertain, and
in any case Bieler's murderers had escaped punishment."

A flash of anger quivered through Bona's beautiful features, and the
little pearl-teeth within her rosy lips were ground together firmly.
But the external calm was soon regained, and she asked with her former
indifference,--"Is this mirror of virtue and honour quite faithful to
his Althea?"

"It is perilous to answer for any thing of this sort; but in his case I
would almost venture it. He dwells on his bride with infinite
affection."

"That proves nothing; you men may love warmly, and yet be false withal.
Will you do me a favour, Herr von Rasselwitz?"

"Command me; I fly."

"Always supposing it is not for life and death," interposed Bona with
light mockery. "But I have a desire to become personally acquainted
with this Tausdorf, who is so much talked of. Besides I want to inquire
of him after a relation, who lives at Prague. Bring him hither with the
first opportunity."

"It is asking much," said Rasselwitz jestingly, "to expect that I
should myself introduce to you so dangerous a rival; but I build upon
his fore-praised fidelity."

"If, however, you cannot, or like not, it is of no consequence. It was
only a passing whim, which I can just as lightly give up again."

"By no means; and it is precisely to-morrow morning that your wish can
be most easily accomplished, for the lady Althea then goes to
Bogendorf, whence she does not return till the day afterwards, and she
leaves Tausdorf behind that he may have leisure to recover from his
fall. The singular plant, which is shown in this garden, shall be the
bait to bring him. He will come to admire a blooming aloe, and will be
agreeably surprised when the floweret of beauty unfolds to him the
splendour of its colours."

He imprinted a fiery kiss upon Bona's hand and departed. The maiden
looked after him with a bitter smile, then rose up, and walked slowly
into the green-house, where stood the aloe, which she considered for a
long time, and at length said, "Yes, proud aloe, you are the image of
my revenge. Your blossom requires years to break from the bud, but it
does at last break forth in vigour that will not be restrained; and
though you perish in the very moment of perfection, you have yet gained
your object; he who has done that has lived long enough."

                           *   *   *   *   *

Beamless, yet with splendid glow, hung the evening sun, like a bright
burning ruby in the horizon over the violet-coloured mountains. Purple
clouds, edged with gold, shot a glory about it, while the whole western
heavens shone in a sea of flame, and the blaze melted away farther on
into a lovely sea-green, which again in the east was lost in the dark
blue of night. Before the aloe, whose flowers seemed to burn in the
evening red, stood Tausdorf, sunk in its contemplation.--"The plant is
to be envied," he said to Rasselwitz; "he dies well, who, like it, dies
at the moment of reaching the pinnacle of strength and beauty; and I
could almost wish that such a death might one day be to myself."

"How earnestly and gravely you take every thing," replied
Rasselwitz--"nay gloomily too! For my part, it is precisely when I got
to the pinnacle that I should feel most eager to live on, because it is
then that life is gayest. When one is gone, the best pleasure is over;
and in good truth we shall always be dead long enough afterwards."

"In the ten years of experience, which I have beyond you, lies the
difference of our views. Throughout nature nothing stands still. He who
does not go forward goes backward. From the summit the road only leads
down again, and every retracing of our steps has something disconsolate
about it, which I would willingly buy off with a few years of
existence."

He turned about to depart, but Rasselwitz held him back:--"I cannot let
you go thus; you may, perhaps, have got over your accident, but you
still look pale, and the evening wind blows cursedly cool from the
mountains. Let us first, therefore, if agreeable to you, empty a flask
of tokay against the bad air, and then I will myself accompany you home
again."

"You gentlemen can't do without the wine-cup," said Tausdorf jestingly.
"If, however, it is really to be but a single flask, I am contented."

They went accordingly into the larger greenhouse, where at the end,
under an oleander-tree, a little table was neatly set out, covered with
a crimson silk cloth. Upon this was a dish of foreign salad between two
handsome flasks with handles, semi-transparent and edged with silver,
and two glass goblets, ready filled, in which the tokay sparkled like
blood in the last rays of the setting sun. By the table sat Bona in all
the fulness of her charms, seeming to enjoy with silent transport the
splendour of the evening heavens, whose crimson fire gave all the glory
of a seraph to her head and face.

"We interrupt here," said Tausdorf to Rasselwitz, struck by her
appearance, "and must seek some other place."

"You do not interrupt me, gentlemen," said Bona, rising with graceful
kindness. "A woman, who knows how to maintain her female dignity, has
no occasion to be afraid of men. But perhaps you wish to have a private
conversation with your companion, in which case I give way to you,
although I should have willingly enjoyed this splendid evening for a
quarter of an hour longer."

"You love then the charms of nature?" asked Tausdorf, whose sympathy
had been won by the first words of the stranger, and who now thought no
more of going.

"What being of head and heart but must love them?" replied Bona warmly.
"Nature ever reflects herself, and yet is ever new, nor has any mortal
hitherto succeeded in imitating the least of her wonders: so has she
gone on for centuries, silent and beautiful, clear and sublime,
benevolent in creating and maintaining as in destroying."

"Nature," said Tausdorf with warmth, "has always seemed to me like a
perfect woman in the arms of the all-powerful--in the arms of a
beneficent master and loving husband."

"You are probably married, sir knight," observed Bona roguishly, "by
this image in particular striking your fancy?"

"Not yet," replied Tausdorf, colouring.

"But already promised and bound by indissoluble chains," interrupted
Rasselwitz, to whom this brief conversation grew much too animated.
"You have become so rapidly acquainted with the knight, fair Bona, that
I must hasten to inform you, you are talking with the Herr
Sparrenberger von Tausdorf, the betrothed of the Frau von Netz; and now
take your place, my old friend, that the noble wine may not grow vapid,
and pledge me to the health of your fair intended."

"I regret to-day, for the first time, that I have for ever renounced
wine," said Bona, while the knights touched their glasses. "A toast to
the health of so noble a lady would be well in place now."

"You know my Althea?" asked Tausdorf.

"No," replied Bona with lovely frankness; "but I have heard so much
good of you, sir knight, that I believe you could have chosen none but
a noble being for the companion of your life."

"Pray, lady," said Rasselwitz, breaking in upon them with
vexation,--"did you not tell me to-day that you had a relation in
Prague, of whom you had long heard nothing? Herr Tausdorf lived there a
considerable time, and perhaps will be able to give you satisfaction."

"I thank you, dear Rasselwitz, for reminding me of it," replied Bona;
"but it has already grown dark," she continued, looking round; "we had
better order a light at the gardener's."

"Admirable!" muttered Rasselwitz; "she sends me away that she may be
alone with him in the dark;"--and he hurried off with the speed of an
arrow, to be back so much the sooner. In Tausdorf the same idea was
stirring; but when he secretly asked himself the question, whether he
did or did not like it, he could obtain no decided answer.

After all, the fears of the one and the imaginings of the other were
alike idle. The fair Bona kept at her old distance from Tausdorf, and
entered into the most indifferent talk in the world with him, inquiring
after a multitude of Prague ladies, whom he, indeed, knew by name, but
of whom he could give no farther information. In addition to this,
as Tausdorf could hear, she was playing with the silver lids of the
wine-flagons, as the hands are accustomed to do when the mind is
absent. This was all but an annoyance to the knight, and if he had not
found some pleasure in listening to the melodious voice of the
questioner, he would have experienced a real tediousness even in the
familiar darkness and in the neighbourhood of such a captivating
creature.

At length Rasselwitz appeared with the gardener, who hung a large
mirror-lamp of Venetian glass upon a branch of the oleander, and again
retired. The glasses were filled afresh, while Bona wound about the
good Tausdorf with the finest arts of conversation, and contrived to
flatter him so sweetly, and at the same time to inspire him with such
respect, that he was unable to break from the magic circle, although
his correctness of feeling warned him betimes to fly from the danger
before he was lost in it.

During this delightful talk, the wine, like a balmy oil, glided down
the knights' throats, sweet and powerful; but its effects were
manifested in the two with a very striking difference. While Rasselwitz
grew continually sulkier and charier of his words, and at last became
downright sleepy, Tausdorf's spirits were more and more awakened and
joyful. A flippant coquetry, at other times hateful to him and foreign
to his disposition, now prevailed in his manners to the fair stranger,
who knew how to turn the well-polished diamond of her spirit so nimbly
to and fro, that from its hundred points the flashes struck blindingly
upon Tausdorf's eyes, and flung into shadow the image of the lovely,
but simple and grave Althea. To complete the impression which she had
visibly made upon him, the Circe, at a fitting turn of the
conversation, took up a harp which lay beside her, and sang,
accompanying herself a lullaby to her heart, than which nothing could
be sweeter or more alluring. While now Tausdorf kindled more and more
at her burning looks, the soft tones of her song, instead of the heart
which should have been lulled, soothed the good Rasselwitz into a sound
slumber. The knight considered the sleeper with approving eyes, and
then cast them, full of voluptuous desire, on the fair stranger.

"Cease, beautiful siren!" he exclaimed at last, seizing her white hand,
and holding it firmly upon the strings; "your magic song disturbs me in
my gazing on you. A woman, created for love, as you are, cannot lull
her heart to sleep without committing a deadly sin against my sex."

With a heavenly smile, in which, however, lurked a strange glance, Bona
looked at him, and her hand returned a gentle pressure. Then casting a
look of inquiry at the sleeping Rasselwitz, she on a sudden sighed out
softly and anxiously--"Oh, heavens!"

"What is the matter, noble lady?" cried Tausdorf, starting up, and
caught her in his arms as she fell.

"A sickly oppression which will soon pass over," stammered Bona, while
her bosom heaved mightily against his breast. "Help me up to my
chamber, dear Tausdorf."

Alarmed, anxious, thrilled through by strange forebodings, he obeyed
her mandate; and half gliding, half carried, the lady reached her room
with the knight. A dull lamp burnt on a table by the bed, around which
flowed curtains of green silk, flinging a secret mysterious shadow. He
let her down softly on the couch, and would have withdrawn, to call the
maid to her assistance, but she raised herself up again, and winding
her fair arms about his neck, murmured softly--"Dear man!"--and her
kisses quivered on his lips like a kindling flash of lightning.

"Fairest creature!" he stammered, in the double intoxication of wine
and passion. Wildly throbbed his pulses as if they would burst their
veins,--and the lamp went out.

                           *   *   *   *   *

It was towards the morning when Tausdorf awoke from a heavy slumber.
When on opening his eyes he found the sleeping Bona by his side, his
recollection returned with the consciousness, and he sprang up in
horror.

"Then it was not merely a wild dream," he exclaimed painfully. "How
could I so forget myself! Never shall I forgive myself this error!"

He paced up and down the room with vehemence for a time, and then
paused before the fair sleeper.

"The sin is beautiful which has seduced me from the right path; but
that does not excuse a man from whom principles are to be expected, and
who has taken upon himself important duties. Poor Althea! is this the
reward of your love and truth? I never could have believed that to be
possible which now rises to my revolted senses in disgusting reality.
Ah! let no one boast of his virtue! It is often the prey of the most
involuntary accident!--Of _accident_?--Was indeed all that happened to
me yesterday no more than accident? I can answer for myself--my soul
was pure when I entered this house; and not till I was allured by the
siren's song, and the voluptuous spirits of the wine had painted her
fair form in glowing colours, not till then was the evil passion
kindled in me. Could a few glasses have changed me so much? Could they
have lighted up the wild glow that raged in my veins, and the dregs of
which still lie heavy on my head and heart? The advances too of the
stranger and her feigned sickness, which tightened the noose about my
neck,--at the bottom of all this is some secret plan which I must
unravel."

He left the room quickly, and soon returned with horror in his looks,
and in his hands two half-full goblets, which he placed on the table by
the bed, and had already raised his arm to wake the sleeper. At this
moment the first sunbeams flamed through the darkness of the green
curtains, and cast a warm glow upon her lovely features. Bona opened
her eyes, which immediately sought and found her beloved, and rested
upon him with bewitching tenderness; but she soon perceived the cold
disdain that flashed from his, and she started up from the bed in
terror.

"For heaven's sake," she exclaimed, "what has happened to you? What do
you mean by these fierce looks?"

"To ask you how we so soon became familiar with each other--how you so
soon succeeded in seducing an honourable knight into disgraceful
infidelity towards the mistress of his heart."

"This is a common injustice of you men to lay on the weaker sex the
blame of the evil caused by your sensuality, that you may afterwards
despise your victim, and so have a pretence for denying all
satisfaction."

"You are right, but it does not apply here. We will not, however, say
any more about which of us is the victim; only I must know whether some
hellish arts were not employed in the adventures of last night, and
therefore you must give me an account of these goblets."

"Gracious heavens! I am lost!" exclaimed Bona, without looking at the
goblets, and clasping her hands together. Tausdorf went on:--

"This, with the white sediment at the bottom, stood before Rasselwitz,
who still lies motionless on the seat, bound up in a death-like
slumber. This, with the black dregs, I emptied, and I can now well
explain the ebullition which threw me into your arms. Strumpet! have we
drank poison at your hands?"

The beautiful sinner started up proudly, glanced at the knight with
noble anger, and exclaimed, "Contemptible suspicion!" and snatched at
the goblet with intent to empty it; but Tausdorf put back her hand--

"No! I would not place any soul before the judgment-seat ere the
Creator calls for it."

He took the goblet from the table, and having flung it out of the
window, walked up and down the room in silence; Bona wept.

"You would drink of it?" he continued. "There was then no poison in the
goblet? But what else? For, by heaven, all is not right with this
wine."

Bona hid her face in the pillows of the bed, and was silent.

"A love-draught, perhaps, for the chosen victim of your desires, and an
opiate for the troublesome witness--is it not so?"

Bona started as if a blow had struck her heart, and was still silent.

"In the name of heaven, woman, what made you seek out me in particular?
You are fair enough, unfortunately, to be able to dispense with such
means with thousands of my sex. Why must you fling into my breast the
scorpion--which must poison the peace of my future days?"

"I loved you, as I now abhor you," was hollowly murmured from beneath
the pillows.

"Profane not the sacred word," retorted Tausdorf indignantly; "I
cannot, besides, rest contented with this answer. What you did
yesterday, the way in which you prepared and accomplished it, the
danger to which you exposed yourself if discovered, all this points to
something very different. You had some great, and, as my warning angel
tells me, some terrible, design upon me, and that it is which you must
confess this very hour."

At this Bona started up with wild looks, and her long auburn locks hung
down in disorder, like so many living snakes, about her fair pale face,
and gave it the convulsed appearance of a raging Medusa. "Kill me," she
cried, defyingly, "or accuse me at the tribunal as a poisoner--I am
silent."

Tausdorf could not refrain from shuddering as her figure stood up thus
before him, like some horrid spectre,--that figure which but a few
hours since had appeared so kind and graceful: he turned away from her,
and at length said--

"You understand us German knights badly, in thinking us capable of such
wretched measures. If you do not choose to unburthen your heart by a
frank confession of your evil intentions, persist then in your
obduracy. I leave you to your conscience; and however late may come the
moment in which you hear its voice, yet the moment will come. If in
such an hour you repent of the evil you have already done me, and of
that which you yet purpose, may heaven not remember against you your
heavy sin in abusing the fair body it has given you--abusing it
as a bait for vice, and to the destruction of the souls of your
fellow-creatures. I for my part forgive you now as becomes a Christian;
but we never see each other again."

He went. With the rolling eyes of a lioness, whose prey has escaped,
Bona watched after him.

"So then, this sin has been in vain. I have not even earned the fruits
of the evil harvest. My machines have been in play to no purpose. The
awkward footsteps of this rough man have crushed to pieces the
artificial wheelwork. Let it go. I meant it better with you than you
deserved. The assailant has always the advantage, because he can choose
time and place. If you will not be set upon my victim, he must be set
upon you, that self-defence may force the sword of vengeance into your
hand. May you both perish in it!"

The old gardener thrust his head in at the door with a crafty,
inquiring laugh. Bona called out to him--"I am alone, Sylvester. What
is Rasselwitz doing?"

"Awake at last!" replied the gardener, coming into the room. "He
complained of head-ache, begged of me to excuse him to you, and
tottered off. But in his place some one else has come again--Mr.
Christopher Friend, splendidly tricked out, and dressed in sky-blue
velvet, waits below in the green-house, and begs for a morning
audience."

"So early?" asked Bona, surprised. "What can he want?"

"He inquired of me so circumstantially about your fortune," replied the
gardener, "and looked withal so smart and gay, and made such little
twinkling eyes, that I think in a short time you may expect proposals
of marriage."

Bona smiled scornfully. After a brief consideration she replied--"He
does indeed mistake, but he comes in good time. Beg of him to excuse me
till I am dressed."

"Number three, in so short a period!" said the gardener smirking. "If
this goes on, you'll soon draw after you the core of the Schweidnitz
male population, as Punch does the children with his trumpet."

"Think you so?" rejoined Bona, with self-satisfaction.

"And yet," continued the old man, "you don't altogether understand it.
You entice the birds in a masterly way, but you forget to pluck them,
which yet is the principal part of the business. With the exception of
the easy fool of a Spaniard, your love-affairs have brought you in
marvellously little. The handsome pagan courtesans of the old time were
much wiser. Though you may not exactly wish to build pyramids of the
oblations of your adorers, yet a comfortable house for a refuge to your
old age is in truth not to be despised."

"I hope never to be old to need it," said Bona hastily.

"But don't reckon without your host," rejoined the gardener. "The
quantum of wealth from the new world, left you by Don Alonzo, has
melted away confoundedly in the old world, as must naturally be the
case with your passion for appearing as a rich heiress. If this is to
last long, you will be forced to sell the rich jewels with which you
blind the eyes of people. What then is to become of you if you do not
betimes think of some new acquisition?"

"He who follows _much_ at once," replied Bona, "attains _nothing_. I
follow _one_ object only, but that one I follow so stedfastly, with
such inflexible purpose, that I _must_ gain it, and when I have gained
it, I need nothing more in this world."

"And this _one_?" asked the gardener with sly importunity.

"I pay you as my servant, not as my confessor," replied Bona with angry
pride, and pointed to the door.

"Good troth, a princess has been spoiled in you," muttered the old man;
"but there is no helping one who will not be advised."

So saying he went. Bona laid her hand upon her forehead, and looked
down gloomily in earnest meditation.

"The poison of Althea's refusal is still rankling in this Christopher,"
she said, after a long pause, "and the brothers are not friends. If the
one were to perish through the other, that might at last reach the
stony heart of Erasmus, and, conquered or conquer, still my victims
would fall. The vindictive spirit of his adversaries is my pledge for
that. Francis, think of your reckoning on the other side. The avenger
of blood is already breathing within these walls."

She went up to a great mirror between the windows to arrange her hair.
The sun, veiled in mist, cast a red light through the panes, and shone
in wondrous way upon the fair and angry features, so that they seemed
to glow with an inward fire. At the first look in the glass Bona
started back in horror.

"Are the old tales of my childhood coming back upon me?" she exclaimed
with fixed gaze. "It was, indeed, as if an evil spirit grinned at me
from the mirror."

But by degrees she came to her recollection, and began to chide her
folly with a laugh, though her lips were still quivering--"Fool, it was
yourself. Revenge never beautifies a female face; that I might have
well known."

And with firm step the strong-minded woman went up again to the glass,
and looked in it defyingly, as if to challenge forth the monster that
was hid behind its crystal. Although her hands trembled in arranging
her locks, she yet accomplished the task with her eyes stedfastly fixed
upon the mirror.

"Now, then," she cried with a horrid laugh, "I am armed. Hold
yourselves in readiness, my beloved! The Norna is sitting at her task,
and with sharp-edged swords weaves the bloody web of the decisive
combat. Up! to complete the work!"

She turned hastily to the door, which even then opened. Christopher
Friend, whose tender impatience would not suffer him to remain any
longer below, walked in, and with a sweet smile the beautiful fury
stepped forward to meet him.

                           *   *   *   *   *

In Althea's rooms at Tausdorf, silent and anxious, expecting the return
of his intended bride. Meantime, at a little table, sat Henry, looking
over a large volume of copper-plates, which, according to its title,
depicted "The strange Forms of the Metamorphoses of the ingenious
heathen Poet, Ovid."

"The insupportable Latin!" cried the boy, stamping with his feet; and
then jumping up to Tausdorf with the folio, he said, "Pray, now, help
me out of this difficulty. The stupid pictures are so singular that it
makes one quite curious to learn what they mean; and when one looks
after the explanation, the fool of an engraver has written Latin
underneath."

"Do not find fault with the engraver," said Tausdorf; "he with justice
believed that such pictures were not fit for a boy who does not yet
understand Latin."

"But you told us lately that you understood it a little," persevered
the boy, "so translate me the subscription. I should like to know what
the mad picture means. Only look, now, there stands a stately knight in
a circle of dead men's bones and strange signs, holding a goblet in his
hand, and a beautiful woman touches him with a wand, and a mist spreads
over the country, and the knight has already got a horrid snout, as if
he were just being changed into an abominable beast, and below is
written:

            "In turpes abiere feras quicunque biberunt
               Dulcia Circæa pocula mixtu manu."

"Pray, now, tell me what it means?"

And Tausdorf, confused, translated it: "All were turned into vile brutes
who drank of the sweet cup that was mixed by the hand of Circe."

"Now I am as wise as before," rejoined the boy. "Who was this Circe?
She is right handsome here in the picture; but then she looks at the
poor knights with such hateful eyes that I can't bear her."

"She was a wicked enchantress of the old heathen time," said Tausdorf.
"To all voyagers who visited her island, she offered a rich draught,
and when they drank of it, she touched them with her magic rod, and
they became beasts."

"But why did the foolish people drink of it?"

"They knew not the evil consequences," replied Tausdorf, leaning his
heavy head in his hand, "or they had not done so."

"Ah! they should have been more on their guard with strange cunning
women," rejoined Henry. "You certainly would not have drank of it, Herr
Tausdorf!"

"Who knows, my child?" said Tausdorf, the innocent remark going to his
heart: "Perhaps I might."

"Wicked witch!" cried the boy, and threatened the picture with his
fist. "But did she not at last find her master?"

"Oh yes," said Tausdorf, turning over the leaf. "On this Ulysses was
depicted, holding his sword to the breast of the enchantress, without
fear of her powerful wand, or of the devil-masks that surrounded him,
grinning and menacing."

"Heaven be praised!" cried Henry; "there's a German subscription again.
He read,

"Ulysses compels her to disenchant his companions."

"That's right!" he cried--"who was Ulysses?"

"A Greek hero," replied Tausdorf. "The heathen god, Mercury, had
supplied him with a herb, called _moy_, that protected him against the
enchantment."

"Or he too had been metamorphosed?" asked Henry with vexation.

"No doubt," replied the knight mournfully. "He, whom God does not
uphold in the hour of temptation, falls, and falls deeply."

"But it is not all really true?" added the boy, after some reflection.

"There is a good wholesome truth in the story," returned Tausdorf;
"only the painter has veiled it in images. The beautiful, wicked Circe
is intended to prefigure the human passions, the impulse of the senses.
Whoever empties her cup, she robs him of reason, and makes him like the
beasts in the wood. Recollect, Henry, how you were wrath, not long ago,
with your play-fellow for some trifle, and screamed, and struck about
you, and would not be satisfied,--then you had become a little wild
beast in your anger."

"I will not do so again," said Henry, ashamed and kissed the knight's
hand.

"But what is the meaning of the herb moly, which protected the great
hero from this enchantress?"

"It is religion," replied Tausdorf, embracing the boy in deep emotion.
"If in every purpose you remember that God looks on; if you ask
yourself whether it would be acceptable to him; and if in the slightest
doubt of this you abandon it, then you have got the right talisman
against sin."

"I will be truly good, Herr Tausdorf; I will, indeed," said the boy,
and gently rested his auburn head against the knight's breast, when the
sound of horses' feet was heard before the window.

"That is my mother!" he shouted, wiping away his tears, and running out
of the room. Tausdorf started from his seat--"Air! the child has made
me warm with his questions. It is hard to teach good to others, when
one has to accuse one's self of evil. Oh Circe! Circe!"

Again he looked at the picture of Ulysses.

"With armed hand the hero broke the mighty spell which held his
companions prisoners. He did his duty. Have I too done mine? I have
redeemed myself from the magic circle, but is that enough? Should I not
have taken the power of evil from this woman, who seems to have come
here to weave the meshes for some net of mischief, heaven only knows
what? If I did not choose to denounce the creature, should I not at
least have called the attention of the council to her, that no one
might come to harm? Yet no. In what she has done she has only wronged
myself. The ill that my denunciation might cause her would be revenge,
and that does not become a man towards frail woman. Let her do as she
pleases, we are all in God's hand."

"My dear friend!" exclaimed Althea, who then entered, and immediately
let go of Henry's hand to fly into the arms of her intended husband.
The old Schindel followed. Tausdorf hastened to welcome him with the
knightly pledge, that he might not have at once to meet the look of his
bride, towards whom he knew his heart was not perfectly at ease.

"Are you quite recovered?" asked Althea affectionately; "you look pale,
as if you had slept but little last night."

This innocent appeal to the past night covered poor Tausdorf with a
burning blush, which, as an estimable rarity in a man of his age, gave
a double charm to his features. He turned away, however, to hide the
treacherous colour, and Schindel addressed his niece:

"Will it please you, niece, to give me an answer? The poor fool waits
below in the corner of the street, and stays for permission to come
up."

"You love to torment people, uncle. I have a deadly aversion to this
family, and of all of them, the avaricious, spiteful Christopher is the
most abhorrent to me."

"Shame! shame, niece! What good Christian would recollect an injury so
long? Know you not from the Scriptures, that you are to forgive your
brother seventy times, and again seven times seventy?"

"It is not that alone; but a secret dread possesses me whenever the
creeper comes near me. I always feel as if my evil angel stood at my
side, ready to plunge me into destruction."

"Psha! Superstitious fancies, which do not become so sensible a woman.
Your intended shall decide."

"Well," cried Althea; "decide, dear Tausdorf. You know that a year ago
Christopher Friend solicited my hand and was rejected. Now I may add,
what I before concealed; in the vexation of his disappointment, he
spoke of you most unbecomingly. But he now perceives his injustice, and
seeks for a reconciliation."

"Forgive, and you shall be forgiven," said Tausdorf good-naturedly.

"My own words!" cried Schindel.

"Oh, for that," said Althea impatiently, "I am as prompt as willing;
but he requires a formal reconciliation, and as the seal of it would
have our presence at his banquet to-morrow; this I deem as superfluous
as it would be disagreeable to me."

"Who says A must say B too," retorted Schindel. "Christopher will not
believe in the sincerity of your forgiveness, and thinks that you scorn
him if you refuse to appear at his banquet. You owe some compliance,
besides, to his rich and powerful family, to which in addition you are
allied."

"Still the untiring peacemaker and mediator! and inexhaustible in
arguments, where the point is to reconcile the nobility and citizens!"

"I can't help it, niece, since, as a nobleman and a proprietor at
Schweidnitz, I have become a sort of doubtful thing, and don't well
know whether I am a bird or a mouse. I am compelled, therefore, to
speak in the way of reconciliation on both sides, lest a feud should
break out, and it should eventually fare with me as with the
flittermouse in the fable. May I call up the petitioner?"

"Call him in God's name, uncle," said Tausdorf: "I read my Althea's
_yes_ in her lovely and peaceful countenance."

"Excellently spoken!" cried the uncle, and hurried out.

"Heaven grant that we may never repent this _yes_," said Althea with
heavy heart. "I only wish the wild Francis were not of the party!"

"Why is he so terrible to you?" asked Tausdorf, smiling.

"Because he is so rough, so fond of frays and drinking, and because he
detests the nobles so irreconcilably. Since too he has been forced to
submit to the long imprisonment, on account of the late unlucky affair,
there is no managing with him."

"I have never seen him; but I should not like to subscribe to the
damnatory sentence pronounced against him by the nobles of our
acquaintance. Hot-headed men are frequently the best. As I have heard
from good authority, this Francis fought bravely against the Turks, and
I find it natural and pardonable that a soldier should not willingly
suffer himself to be played upon. His late misfortune grieved me much.
As he was absolved after all, he certainly did not belong to Bieler's
murderers; and to suffer a year's undeserved imprisonment must embitter
even the heart of a lamb."

"Heaven grant that you may never come in contact with this lamb; you
would find in him a furious wolf. I tremble at the thoughts of it, for
I think fire and water could not meet more hostilely than your
dispositions. Your person would show him a true mirror of what he
ought to be and is not; that would shame him, and shame exasperates
vulgar minds. His roughness and your cultivation, his furious violence
and your noble calmness, his inclination to every excess and your
purity----"

"Still! still!" interrupted Tausdorf, ashamed, and gently pressing his
hand upon the lips of the animated eulogist. "Do not forget that I also
am no more than a frail man, and that exaggerated praise from an
estimable mouth can corrupt even better than I am."

"Come along," cried Schindel, dragging in the sky-blue Christopher.

With a pitiful sinner-face he approached Tausdorf, and timidly
stretched out his hand to him.

"All is forgotten and forgiven," cried the knight, shaking him by the
hand; "only as a first proof of friendship, do me the favour not to
speak a single syllable of the past."

"You are too good, sir," replied Christopher, smiling; "but I will not
fail to requite so great a favour to the best of my power."

He then went to Althea, and, kissing her hand, said--"You owe me some
reparation, noble lady, for the banquet which was put off four years
ago on account of that murderous history. I may, therefore, the more
boldly presume that you will this time favour me with your invaluable
company at a feast, which, please God, I intend giving to-morrow, at
Barthel Wallach's, for my own house is just undergoing a thorough
repair."

"Will your brother, Francis, be there?" asked Althea hastily.

"Heaven forbid!" rejoined Christopher; "We do not want this quarreller
and roarer. I have taken good care not to invite him. At first I feared
that he might intrude himself, unasked; but to my great delight I have
learnt that he goes on this day to a drinking-party at Freiburg, so
that we are quite safe from him. I have asked but a small party, a few
quiet nobles, and two or three honest citizens of the first class.
After the cloth is taken off, we'll have a little dance amongst
ourselves."

"We will come," said Althea with lightened heart.

"Excellent!" cried Christopher, rubbing his hands, while a singular
piercing glance of triumph fell from his eyes upon the fair widow, who
immediately changed colour. "Now I can set about the preparations for
my feast with a right joyful heart. I thank my dear friends for their
courtesy, and commend myself to their recollection."

He made a profound bow and departed, accompanied out by Schindel and
Tausdorf; but Althea looked after them anxiously, and sighed--"Oh that
I could recall my word!"

                           *   *   *   *   *

The morrow of the 27th of July was come. In Barthel Wallach's great
room on the ground floor, just before the entrance, sat Christopher
Friend with his guests at the epicurean banquet, while the upper seat
was graced by the betrothed pair. The first course was removed; the
strong dark Hungary went unremittingly about the table in the great
cups; and while the females, according to the good old custom, seemed
only to kiss the goblet, the men drained it frequently till their faces
glowed, and many a broad jest cast the reflection of this red upon the
delicate cheeks of the ladies. Tausdorf only sat still and wrapt up in
himself, and with his fork scratched letters on the pewter-dish before
him.

"What ails you?" said the mild Althea sportively, and passed her white
hand across his eyes. "You are not yourself, and cannot plead in excuse
that your thoughts are absent with the object of your passion, for she
sits by you in her honoured person, and you trouble yourself but little
about her."

"My good Althea!" sighed Tausdorf, and with a mournful smile kissed the
hand that caressed him.

"And what are you graving so earnestly upon the plate? I must see it,
and woe betide you if it should be the name of a fortunate rival."

She bent down more closely to read what he had written.

"_Memento mori!_ For God's sake, how is it that you are seized on a
sudden with these death-thoughts at a pleasure-banquet?"

"It is a way of mine to think on death in the midst of enjoyment. I
deem it pardonable at least, as in return one can blend with death the
thought of the eternal joy that waits us in the world beyond."

"My worthy Herr von Tausdorf," interrupted Christopher with a
disagreeable laugh, "I do not doubt your oratorical powers, or your
piety, and am convinced that you could, if you pleased, make an
excellent funeral sermon extempore; but that would be too dull an
entertainment with the full goblet: therefore take up the glass before
you, and pledge me as fairly as I pledge you to the health of your
noble bride."

Tausdorf seized the goblet, but again lost himself in a sea of thought,
and forgot to pledge.

"Well, dreamer," said the intended bride with good-humoured reproach,
"do you hesitate to drink the health of your Althea?"

He raised the cup mechanically, drank, and set it down again. Schindel,
who sat near him, was surprised.

"What is the matter with you, Tausdorf? I never saw you thus before?"

"I do not comprehend myself. An anxiety has possessed me, as if I were
to commit a murder. It must have been so that the poor king, Saul, felt
when the evil spirit was upon him. I am ashamed of this childish
feeling, and yet I can so little master it, that I shudder every time
the door opens, thinking that some great misfortune must enter under a
dreadful form."

"All this comes only of thick blood," replied Schindel; "you must be
bled."

As he spoke the word, the door was flung open, and Francis Friend burst
into the room with his usual impetuosity.

"Ah, woe!" cried Althea.

Schindel clasped his hands in terror, while Christopher asked
piteously, "Why, whence do you come, brother? I thought you were long
ago at Freiburg, and enjoying yourself?"

"He is a fool," replied Francis, "who hunts after pleasure miles off,
when he knows where to find it at once. I heard yesterday of your
present feasting, upon which I thought directly of surprising you, and
put off mine."

"Well, all that's true," said Christopher; "you have surprised us all,
and most agreeably: so let us draw together. Set yourself here at my
right hand, and enjoy with us the meat and drink that God has sent us."

"Spare all this idle talk," cried Francis, "I'll find out a good place
for myself;" and he carried his chair to the upper part of the room,
seating himself between Tausdorf and Schindel, and saying to the
former, "I see by your place near my cousin that you are the knight
Tausdorf. I'm glad to have an opportunity of knowing you, for though I
do not in general care much about the nobles, you please me well. There
is a command and intelligence about you such as one does not usually
see in your knights. For the rest, I am the wild Frank Friend, of whom
no doubt you have heard all manner of stories, and more bad than good.
In troth, I am a mad companion, but I mean it fairly with him who means
it fairly with me, and I now heartily wish you joy of your marriage
with my handsome cousin Althea here."

Tausdorf returned a fitting compliment, while Schindel, who had got
behind Althea's chair, whispered to her, "The bear does not seem in one
of his worst bear-moods to-day. Heaven help us farther."

In the mean time the second course was served up. Francis ate little,
but stuck so much the more diligently to the wine, and kept up a
constant talk with Tausdorf, in a tone of frank importunity, which did
not sit amiss upon him. Soon the conversation turned upon the Turkish
war; and he was ready to leap out of his skin for joy on finding that
Tausdorf had served against the infidels in Transylvania, at the very
time he had been fighting with them in Hungary.

"Heaven confound me!" he cried, while his face glowed with drinking;
and holding up the goblet--"Why, you please me better and better,
comrade, and therefore we'll now pledge each other in a brave draught,
and swear eternal friendship and brotherhood."

Tausdorf hesitated at this unexpected proposal, and was about to
decline it courteously, when Althea pressed his hand under the table,
and in low brief words requested him to accede for her sake; upon which
he took up the crystal goblet, and Francis did the same to pledge him;
but in the moment that the glasses touched, both rang hollowly, and
burst with a sharp jarring sound, which echoed lamentably through the
wide hall, while the noble wine poured down in streams upon the floor,
to the indignation of the avaricious Christopher, who called out, "You
are, and always will be, Frank the clumsy, and do nothing like rational
people; all with noise and fury. You have broken now my beautiful
crystal cups with your rough pledging."

"Yes, every thing is to be laid to me," growled Francis: "I pledged my
goblet as neatly as possible; it was not till afterwards that both
broke, and how that chanced, the devil only knows."

"It is not your brother's fault," said Tausdorf, drying the wine from
his doublet. "I do not myself understand how it happened."

"We have examples," observed Schindel thoughtfully, "that empty glasses
have broken upon people calling out loudly in the same key to which
they were tuned; but these goblets were full, and all was still in the
room. God grant that this accident may not prognosticate the rupture of
your new-formed friendship as early as the glasses!"

"No fear of rupture," cried Francis, shaking Tausdorf's hand cordially.
"We must both agree to that first, but our hearts have been amalgamated
and hardened together in the same war-fire, and will hold together for
life and death."

"Gentlemen," said the butler, entering with a respectful bow, "there
are some well-dressed personages--masks,--standing without, before the
door, who would ask of the honourable company through me whether they
may come in to amuse you with song and dance, and other allowable
pleasantries."

"They are welcome," cried the restless Francis, starting up. "This
tedious sitting at table has long been abominable to me."

He ran to the door and opened it. Three gipsies danced in, playing with
pipe, triangle, and tambourine: these were followed by three females in
black clothes, slashed with red, and wearing black masks.

"Trim wenches, brother," said Francis, with eager look, to Tausdorf,
upon whose chair he was leaning. "So slim, and at the same time so
full! By heavens! it makes one wish to become a gipsy for the pleasure
of possessing them."

"This masking is not to my taste," replied Tausdorf. "The burning eyes
that sparkle from the fixed black faces have to me something almost
supernatural. The open brow, and an open heart whether in joy or grief,
are what I love."

"I understand you, my poor knight," said Francis mockingly. "You are
already in the cage, and dare no longer take any pleasure in a handsome
face, at least not _show_ it, lest your lady wife should be angry, and
hold a criminal court upon her faithless shepherd."

"Do you know any of the party?" asked Althea, to interrupt this
conversation.

"Not I," answered Francis. "The devil knows where stupid Kit has picked
up the handsome wenches; but my acquaintance with them shall soon be
made, and then I'll let you know more about them."

With this he would have forced himself upon the masks, but the gipsy
with the triangle, an old gray-beard, waved him back, and gave the
women a sign to begin their revels. The music immediately struck up,
and the three gipsies commenced a wild fantastic dance, in which the
twines of their round well-formed arms, the turnings and bendings of
their slim, delicate figures, the springing and agility of their feet,
were shown off in full perfection. One of them, whose auburn hair was
adorned with coloured ribbons and Bohemian stones, particularly
distinguished herself by the gracefulness of her movements; and
Francis, after having looked on for some time, tore open his doublet,
exclaiming, "Zounds! what a figure! It warms an honest fellow who has
got a few bottles of Tokay in him."

"This mad springing may please you," said Althea contemptuously; "it is
just calculated for the taste of a drunkard; but to me it seems like
the wild dance of fiends about a lost soul. It grates me to see that a
woman can so far forget the female dignity as to expose herself thus."

"Heaven deliver me from a tribunal where you preside," said Francis
laughing; "why, it must be worse than that of the emperor at Prague.
Your virtue is of so fierce a nature, there's no reasoning with it.
That which is to please must be a little free: your decorum and modesty
are the most tedious things on the face of the earth."

The trio was at an end. The gipsies fanned themselves with their
motley-coloured handkerchiefs, but they would not move their masks, and
on that account rejected the wine which was proffered to them by the
master of the feast.

"These girls seem to be buttoned up to their chins," said Francis, "but
for all that I'll have a peep behind their black masks, or die for it.
Above all, I must try the fair-haired witch." And in the delirium of
the moment, he dashed his goblet through the window, and leaped upon a
chair, shouting "Huzza! huzza! away with the tables; we have had enough
of eating, and will dance you one till the floor shakes, and the
rafters crack again."

"Man! are you alone here?" exclaimed Tausdorf indignantly; but in his
frenzy, Francis heard him not, and, springing from the chair over the
table with a neck-breaking leap, alighted again just before the mask
with the auburn hair.

"Take away," said Christopher with vexation. "When once he breaks out,
there is no managing with him."

The tables were removed, the seats placed close to the walls, and the
guests made room for the dancers. Passing over the usual forms of
courtesy, Francis seized his chosen one with a rude grasp, and shouted
to the musicians, "A waltz! a waltz! but quick! quick!"

The music began, and the feet of the dancers kept pace with its
rapidity. The space about them grew wider and wider, for the spectators
could hardly get their feet out of the way in time from the stamping of
the intoxicated Francis, who kept clapping his hands, and shouting,
"Faster! faster! I can stand it, and so can she." At last the piper
stopped from want of breath; in a little time too the triangle was
unable to follow; and now only the tambourine gave a fit measure to
this bacchanalian revel.

"And this is called pleasure?" said Althea to Tausdorf, who had
retreated to a bow-window.

"Where the soul is incapable of enjoyment," he replied, "pleasure must
be sensual, or the vulgar mind would have no joy on earth whatever."

At last the sprightly bacchanal was exhausted, and danced off with his
female into the next room. There he threw himself into a chair, forced
his companion into the seat beside him, and panted out, "You dance as
gracefully as lightly, and only so much the more stimulate my desire to
see your face. It certainly won't have to be ashamed of the feet. Come,
take off the damnable Moor's visor."

"It is not yet time," replied the gipsy in a low tone, that sounded
still more hollowly from the mask.

"Not yet?" said Francis, with a rough grasp of her hand; "but soon?
to-day?"

"If all goes as it should, perhaps," was the answer.

"Then I must have patience, however little I am used to it; so let us,
in the mean time, have a friendly chat together. You are so sparing of
words. I only wish your tongue had half the nimbleness of your feet."

"I am not fond of talking," replied the gipsy with cutting coldness;
"there is little pleasure in it."

"And yet you are a woman," cried Francis, merrily. "For Heaven's sake,
how could you have so degenerated? Only think, if every one were to be
as you are, what a poor sort of entertainment we should have in the
world."

"The world would gain by it," retorted the mask. "How much foolish, how
much evil, talk would be spared! How much falsehood and deceit! How
much perjury!"

"Oh, this is dull gossip," exclaimed Francis, struck by her words.
"Rather tell me my fortune; you have visited us as a gipsy, and should
keep up the character."

"Do not ask it," she replied, in a warning tone: "you might hear
something that would not please you."

"Yes, if I were fool enough to believe such nonsense. Prophesy away,
and be it at my peril. Here is my hand."

The gipsy hastily seized it. Her bosom heaved violently, and her eyes
darted piercing looks from out the mask.--At length she said, "These
lines do not please me; you are like to use your sword this very day."

"That would be the devil," cried Francis; and looked about with an air
of defiance, as if seeking for his adversary.--"But I have no
objection: to my mind the best of a feast is wanting if there is not
something of a row to wind it up."

"So much for the future," said the gipsy, releasing his hand. "The past
you will be contented to leave alone."

"By no means," exclaimed Francis. "Of the future you can lie as much
as you please, because no one can peep behind the curtain; but in the
past your art is put to the proof of fire, and if it does not come well
out of it, I shall mock you soundly."

Again the gipsy took his hand, examined it; but shuddered and
retreated, saying, "For the last time I warn you."

"That, by my troth, sounds like earnest," cried Francis,
mockingly.--"But go on, at my peril."

"You have murder on your soul!" said a voice hollowly from beneath the
mask.

Francis drew back, shuddering, but in the next moment he collected
himself, as he replied, "In the Turkish war I helped more than one
infidel to hell; but I pride myself upon it, and do not reckon it for a
murder."

"I speak of that which happened four years since, and of which you were
acquitted at the royal tribune of Prague."

Francis uttered a cry of terror, and would have started up, but the
gipsy grasped his hand firmly, and he sank back upon his seat as if
paralysed.

"Properly speaking," continued the gipsy, "you have two souls to answer
for above. An honest old man was sacrificed for your safety. You
deceived him by an oath to marry his daughter, whom you had seduced:
justice gave way before the son of the all-powerful patrician, and, to
save vice, innocence went out to die."

Francis sate pale and motionless. The fumes of the wine were for a
short time dissipated by strong horror; and, though he saw that nothing
would do here save bold denial either in wrath or ridicule, yet he was
not sufficiently master of his tongue; and the moment in which
impudence would have been in place passed by unemployed. The music from
the next room sounded merrily, as if in mockery of his anguish. At
length he stammered out with difficulty, "Avenging Nemesis, who are
you?"

"You may, perhaps, learn to-day," replied the gipsy, "as I have already
given you to hope. But that you may not send me to the stake for a
witch," she added, passing over to a tone of jest, "I must confess that
I had my information from a sure hand. The stately knight yonder, who
is conversing so familiarly at the window with that handsome lady, told
the strange tale a little time ago to a noble Hungarian. I listened to
him unseen, and heard him calling you a pitiful boy, who did not know
when death became a man more than life."

With the passion thus excited, returned intoxication also in the wild
brain of Francis. His face became a dark red. He started from his seat,
and snatching up his sword from the corner, girded it on with trembling
hands, as he exclaimed, "For the first time I have trusted a noble, but
never again.--And the scoundrel caught me so with his knightly bearing
and open manners, was so frank and friendly with me, and yet attacked
my honour behind my back like a hired murderer!--Perhaps at the very
moment he drank to our brotherhood, he was plotting to rake up old
forgotten stories from their oblivion, that he might capitally denounce
me to the furious emperor, with whom he has so much weight. Now it is
clear why the goblets broke in pledging. But, by the infernal hosts, I
will do myself right upon this hypocrite!"

"You will do well," said the gipsy, still firmly grasping his hand;
"but if it imports you to accomplish your revenge, don't begin the feud
here. All would take part against you, and he would be warned. Entice
him out, and then let your swords decide in the battle-ordeal."

"That is hard," exclaimed Francis; "hard that I am to speak the
scoundrel fair, when I should like to fall upon him at once, tooth and
nail. But you are right. I am called the wild Frank, and, as I should
not dare to tell the real cause, I should be thought by every one in
the wrong. I'll look out, therefore, for a quiet spot where I may right
myself without any interruption or disturbance. But where shall I find
you afterwards to thank you for your information?"

"When all is done, you will see me again, unmasked," replied the gipsy
with peculiar emphasis. "My word upon it! I shall keep that word better
than many a man his oath!"

"You are a strange being," cried Francis, struck by the word as if by a
secret blow from a dagger. For several moments he stared at her fixedly
and thoughtfully with large and drunken eyes, and then stammered, "I
don't altogether know what to make of you. Sometimes you appear so
familiar to me that my hair stands on end; at others, you sit by me
like my evil conscience, and torture me at your own good-will. Again,
you seem to be a sort of fiend, who would tempt me to some sin, and
then laugh me to scorn when I had done your pleasure. If I had not so
much Tokay in my brain, I should be able to unravel all this, and find
out upon what footing we were. But that won't do now, and so let my
first resolution abide, in the devil's name! Chalk your soles well,
Tausdorf; I fetch you to a merry dance of death."

He hurried back into the ball-room.

"I am almost sorry that I must hound on this beast against the noble
Tausdorf; but no choice was left me. He may defend himself. On one side
blind wrath and drunkenness; on the other, sober courage. It cannot
fail. Good night, Francis!"

In the meanwhile Althea and Tausdorf were gliding round in the
graceful[2] German dance, and about them stood the guests, looking with
delight on the pair that seemed to be made for each other. Christopher,
indeed, eyed them maliciously, and at times cast a troubled glance at
the side-chamber. At last Francis came out, death in his looks: his
worthy brother immediately beckoned to him, and proffered a full
goblet, which he seized and hastily swallowed.

"I have drunk this glass to the devil's brotherhood!" he whispered to
Christopher, and then mixed amongst the spectators.

Schindel, who had overheard him, exclaimed to Christopher, "What means
the libertine by those impious words?"

"The heathen god, Bacchus, can best tell that," replied Christopher,
while with a quiet laugh he filled the goblet again. "To explain what a
drunkard means one must be drunk one's self, and I, thank God, have
kept myself sober, to be able to see that all goes on right."

"That last glass was one too much," said Schindel reproachfully. "You
should not have given him any thing more to drink. If now he should do
any mischief in his drunkenness?"

"I know my brother better. When he is half drunk, he is always ready to
quarrel; but with a full lading he soon grows sleepy, and one gets a
respite from him. I gave him the glass purposely as a sleeping
draught."

"I have no faith in your expedient," said Schindel, looking for his
cap; "and, as the sun is setting, you must allow me to take my leave."

"Not yet, not yet, cousin," entreated Christopher, trying to persuade
the old knight to sit down again. "I'll not let you go till we have
emptied this flask of Tokay to the bottom."

"I must put it off till another time: your brother's face does not
please me again to-day, and _better prevented than lamented_. Do you
see and get him to bed."

During this, the betrothed pair had finished their dance, and,
observing Schindel's farewell, took it for a signal to follow, and bade
adieu to their host accordingly. Francis came up to them: "What means
this breaking-up, old man? It is bad enough that you leave us so early,
but it would be a downright wrong to rob us of such sprightly dancers."

"We must, indeed, go," anxiously insisted Althea, perceiving the state
of Francis. "I have a messenger to send to-day to our steward at
Bogendorf, and it is on business that admits of no delay."

"Well, if you go, the best of the pleasure goes," said Francis
gallantly. "I had rather not stay either, and will pay an hour's visit
to the bowling-green: they bowl there to-day for a bacon-hog. Come with
me, brother Tausdorf; it is still far from evening, and _you_ have not
got a messenger to send to Bögendorf."

"I am no player," said the knight, excusing himself.

"Nor I, brother," replied Francis, and took Tausdorf's arm familiarly
in his; "at least I don't love this push-pin work. It is another thing
when one can stake life and limb upon the hazard; then, indeed, I am
for you. But we'll not bowl, only look on and see how the poor devils
fag themselves for a paltry stake. Come along."

"Do as he wishes, to avoid strife," whispered Althea; "but get away
from him as soon as you can."

"So be it then," said Tausdorf to Francis, and shook hands with Althea.
In the mean time, Schindel had taken his leave of the other guests, and
now first perceived what was going on. Alarmed, he drew Tausdorf to the
window:--"You are not going to walk with Francis?"

"Why not?" replied the knight calmly: "He has asked me in a friendly
manner, and Althea, too, wishes it."

"For God's sake don't get too familiar with the drunkard; above all, go
not with him alone. He has no good intentions to-day."

"You carry your foresight too far, dear uncle," returned Tausdorf,
girding on his sword; "Francis is an honest soldier, and, I can plainly
see, well inclined to me. It is impossible he should have any design
against me. Besides, I have already promised him my company, and
therefore it must be so at all events."

"I have spoken and discharged my conscience," cried Schindel. "God
avert all accidents!"

"Come then, brother, come," urged Francis, pulling the knight's arm.

"Adieu, dear Althea," said Tausdorf, and again shook the hand of his
intended bride, who looked at him with a loving farewell. On a sudden
the tears burst from her eyes, and, forgetful of those about them, she
fell upon his neck.

"Farewell!" she cried, with stifled voice:--"God grant that I may see
you again!"

"Without doubt before evening," said Francis laughing, and hurried out
his companion.

"I don't like his going," observed Schindel, as he took his niece's arm
and led her away.

"They are gone then!" said Christopher to himself: "As for the rest,
that will come in time too."

Tausdorf and Francis went out together towards the Peter's-thor, the
city gate, followed at a distance by Martin Heubert, Tausdorf's boy,
and his page, Schmidt, who had waited for their master at the door of
the banqueting-house. In the heart of Francis fermented the poison
which the gipsy had poured into it, but he still restrained his wrath,
and walked in silence by the side of Tausdorf. In this way they came to
the Park, between the two gates--the Peter's-thor and Nieder-thor,--in
the way to the bowling-green, when Tausdorf, tired of the silent walk,
and with the view of showing a friendly sympathy with Francis, said to
him, "You are a soldier like myself, Frank; you too, therefore, must
have found that the pains and dangers of a campaign are often less than
the evils with which life threatens us in the profoundest peace. As I
hear, you have gone through much misfortune, and at last come off
triumphantly!"

These well intended, but unlucky, words made the crater overflow. The
drunken Francis, prepared as he was by an evil hand, could see nothing
in them but the bitterest scorn, and became mad with wrath. For a while
he was silent, because he did not know with what language to hurl his
contempt and rage in the face of his adversary. At last he thundered
out, "Yes, indeed! And, as they tell me, you have so acted that an
honest man cannot drink out of the same cup with you."

Surprised by this insult, which came upon him like a lightning flash
from a clear sky, Tausdorf started back. With an awful sternness he
asked, "How could you drink to our eternal friendship but a few hours
since, if you knew this of me? In truth, you must be worse than I am in
your opinion. But now you will say who it is that has spread this
slander against me?"

"I had it from a good friend," retorted Francis defyingly.

"You will name him to me this very hour, and on this very spot!" cried
Tausdorf, with flashing eyes.

The drunkard gazed on the knight, who stood before him like an angry
Mars; and it seemed to him for a moment in his intoxication as if he
had gone too far.

"I will tell you at a fitter time," he stammered out: "I have it from a
woman."

The contradiction between this and the earlier statement enraged
Tausdorf still more.

"Do not stir!" he called out to his people, and led Francis impetuously
a few steps farther.

"Now, name the slanderer!"

Instead of reply Francis grasped at him, but with gigantic strength the
latter caught his opponent by the breast and flung him to the ground,
where he held him fast.

"If you are an honourable nobleman," groaned Francis under him, "let me
betake myself to my sword."

Tausdorf hastily let him loose, and went back a few paces. The latter
sprang up, frantic with rage, and tore his sword from the scabbard;
and, looking after the knight's people furiously, cried out, "Don't let
your servants help!"

Tausdorf called to them in Bohemian, "Whichever of you moves a hand, my
sword strikes him!"

"Draw!" roared Francis, with foaming mouth.

"Only in self-defence," said Tausdorf, and held out his blade.

Francis pressed upon him with furious blows. He merely defended
himself. During this the auburn-haired gipsy looked over the wall of
the garden; she was now without a mask, and her face betrayed agony and
repentance.

"Why don't you part them?" she cried to Tausdorf's people, wringing her
hands.

"It is forbidden to us," replied the faithful Martin sadly.

Tausdorf cast a glance from the combat to the place whence the
well-known voice came; and, taking advantage of this, Francis lunged
fiercely at his heart, but the thrust did not succeed.

"My life, then, is intended?" cried Tausdorf indignantly, and he cut
his adversary over the right hand. As the arm sank, his sword went into
the breast of Francis, who fell to earth.

"Gracious Heavens! such was not my purpose," exclaimed Tausdorf, when
he saw the blood flowing; and, sheathing his sword, he gazed for a
while with looks of compassion on his fallen adversary. Then turning to
his servant, he bade him hasten for his carriage:--"I feel myself too
weak for long and speedy riding, and this brooks no delay."

Heubert and Schmidt hurried back to the town.

"By God's holy word it was not my purpose!" repeated Tausdorf; and
sighing "Poor Althea!" he followed his people.

While this was passing, the gipsy had quitted the wall, opened a little
gate in it, and approached Francis, who lay in death-throes on the
ground. Having come up to him, she shook the auburn locks from her
head, and the long brown hair fell about her face as she put on a
withered coronet of roses.

"Do you know me, Francis? Do you know this bridal ornament?" she asked,
with a mixture of grief and anger.

"Agatha!" sighed Francis; and with difficulty turned away his head,
that he might not see the fearful apparition.

"I have revenged your crime," she exclaimed, "and by a greater crime.
But there is no joy in vengeance; the grave knows no hatred, and I
forgive you. Your guilt is atoned; and you may appear confidently
before the throne of Heaven. Pray for me yonder, that I too may be
forgiven when I have ended here in penitence and agony!"

She rushed away. Again he sighed!--Again!--and his soul fleeted with
the last beams of the setting sun, and darkness and the silence of eve
were upon the blood-besprinkled earth.

                            *  *   *   *   *

Althea was reclining in the window and impatiently expecting the
knight's return, when at length she saw Martin and Schmidt come running
breathlessly through the Peter's-gate. An evil foreboding thrilled
through her bosom. She called out to them,--"What now? Has any accident
happened?"

"We are to fetch our master's carriage immediately," replied Heubert;
"you will learn the rest by and by."

"Gracious Heavens! What is the meaning of this?" she exclaimed, and
leaning out of the window to look after Tausdorf, she saw him coming,
pale and in disorder.

"Something dreadful has occurred--I have never seen him thus before."

She hurried down, but Tausdorf was already at the street door, and,
seizing his hand with increasing anxiety, she said,--"Dear friend, what
has happened to you?"

"My poor Althea! You were right with your foreboding when we parted.
Such as I left you I never shall see you again, for then no murder was
upon my soul!"

"Good Heavens! Francis Friend!" cried Althea, whose terror divined the
truth at once.

"He lies in the Park, killed by my sword!"

"You are lost, then, if you do not instantly fly from Schweidnitz. You
should not have returned, for moments here are of more worth than
gold."

"My people are putting to the horses," replied Tausdorf, and went with
Althea into the court, where Schmidt was just drawing out the carriage
from the coach-house, and Martin was cursing in the stable because he
could not find the harness.

"This is too long about," said Althea; "besides you will go more slowly
in your carriage, and not be able to use the footpaths. Let them saddle
my palfrey for you."

"The creature is good, but too slight. He'll not stand out a hard
ride."

"Let him, then, drop under you, so as you but reach your goal. Only
hasten, for Heaven's sake, before the deed is spread abroad!"

"Then saddle the palfrey," said Tausdorf to his servant; "and lead him
on before to the Striegauer gate. I will come straight after you."

The servant obeyed.

"But how was it possible," said Althea, "that with all your coolness
and moderation, you could suffer yourself to be provoked by the
wretched drunkard to this rash act, the consequences of which are so
evident?"

"Woman," replied Tausdorf, with gloomy looks, "were an angel from
heaven to come down in a corporeal form, he could not remain in peace
if the evil-minded seriously set about involving him in quarrels!
Believe me on my knightly word, I was forced to draw the sword. My life
and honour were both at stake; and if I am no longer to defend these
with my knightly hand, I may bid adieu to the world, and creep into a
cloister. The thrust did, indeed, go deeper than it should, but who, in
the heat of battle, can command his steel? God be my judge!"

The palfrey was saddled and brought out. Tausdorf again bade Althea
farewell, pressed her to his heart with the convulsive energy of grief,
and rushed away. With slow steps she reascended the stairs, and placed
herself again in the stone seat in the window. The tears flowed hotly
down her cheeks, while her anxious heart swelled her bosom with strong
and frequent heavings.

She had sate thus for some time, when with anxious speed her uncle
entered the apartment.

"Have you heard it, niece? Francis Friend has been found dead in the
Park, not far from the bowling-green, and report names our Tausdorf for
his murderer."

"Alas! alas!" sobbed Althea; "this misfortune will cost me too my
life."

"Gracious Heavens! It is true, then? But the unlucky man has
fled?--for, if they catch him here, he is lost. He might rather hope to
find mercy from the Spanish inquisition, or from the prince of darkness
himself, than from the old Erasmus."

"He has fled upon my palfrey, and if he only gets a good start of them
I deem him saved."

"God grant it! but as I hurried hither the prefects of the quarter were
running about like mad. To a certainty they will raise a hue and cry
after him. Has he been long gone?"

Althea remained without answering, for the hurried trot of many horses
had caused her to look out of the window. A party of the city police
were riding by, well armed and with speed, over the market-place to the
Striegauer gate.

"Gracious Heavens! Too soon!" sighed the poor Althea, and sank in a
swoon to the ground.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The night had come on, and the moon threw her first beams over the
silent country. Tausdorf just then rode his panting horse into
Salzbrunn, with many a glance behind to see if he could yet discover
any of his pursuers. Unfortunately he heard from the town the snorting
and the tramp of many horses.

"Hold out but this once, poor beast!" he exclaimed to his horse, and
again plunged the spurs into his bleeding flanks. But the weary animal
made only a few weak efforts, and fell back again into his short trot,
interrupted by frequent stumbles, while the sound of horses' feet kept
constantly nearing.

"It is then a struggle for life or death!" cried Tausdorf; drew his
sword, and his left hand grasped his holster-pistols.

"Stop, murderer, stop!" cried the first horseman, springing forward.
"You are our prisoner. Follow us to Schweidnitz."

"Keep yourselves out of harm's way, good people," cried Tausdorf,
turning round his horse: "I am well armed, and have nothing to do with
you."

"You have slain the son of our burgomaster, and are therefore forfeited
to our criminal law," retorted two of the marshalmen, waving their
swords, while the others came up and surrounded the knight.

"Surrender!" exclaimed the chief of them, "that we may not have to use
force, by which you are sure to come off worst."

"Not alive!" cried Tausdorf. "I am here in the Fürstentein territory,
and to the Fürstentein tribunal will I surrender myself, that the
_Oberlandeshauptmann_ may try me for my deed. To the sentence of the
court of Schweidnitz I never will submit."

"By no means," replied the marshal. "Where you have committed the
crime, there must you be judged. Therefore, yield yourself immediately,
or I'll have you rode down, and the damage is your own."

In the meantime the tumult, the cry of murder, and the loud parley, had
brought the peasants of Saltzbrunn thither. They came with poles and
spears, and stared at the parties, whom they surrounded.

"Help us to seize the murderer!" cried the marshalman, who had but
little inclination to venture on the single man with his whole troop.

"Not at all," replied the village magistrate. "You are here, gentlemen,
upon the imperial fief of Saltzbrunn; and, as I understand, the knight
is willing to give himself up to our tribunal. That is law, and so it
must be. In the meantime I answer for the prisoner till I have informed
our gracious mistress, the Lady of Hochberg, and afterwards right will
be done to all parties."

"That I should have to dispute thus with a village magistrate about
obeying the commands of the council at Schweidnitz!" exclaimed the
marshal indignantly. "Peasants, I again warn you to help us seize the
murderer, as good and true neighbours. You expose yourselves to a heavy
responsibility if he escapes us through your fault; while, on the
contrary, I promise you a rich reward for your services from the noble
council."

"Here's an opportunity of gaining something," whispered one peasant to
the other; and soon the whole party cried out in chorus, with lifted
poles, "Surrender yourself, Sir knight."

"For God's sake, do not compel me to murder!" said Tausdorf earnestly,
and waved his sword.

"Forwards!" commanded the marshal, and rushed with his horsemen upon
Tausdorf; who instantly fired his pistol, but the ball only struck one
of the horses. The knight now used his sword gallantly, but his enemies
were too powerful, and his steed was too much exhausted for him to
wheel about amongst them with the skill and tricks of horsemanship.
During this, too, the peasants had come on with courage, and struck at
him from a distance with their long poles. The opposition of the honest
magistrate was lost, amidst this murderous uproar. At last a pole
struck Tausdorf's head: he fell senseless from his horse, and the crowd
rushed upon him with rude shouts of scorn and laughter. Bound with
disgraceful bonds, they set him upon a horse, and the police returned
in triumph with him to Schweidnitz.

                           *   *   *   *   *

In the hour of midnight the council was collected in the senate-house
at Schweidnitz. The two tall candles which stood on the table lighted
the high and gloomy Sessions'-room but sparingly. The council had
collected in single groups, and conversed in low and troubled whispers.
Alone, and with his hands behind his back, as was his custom, paced
Erasmus, up and down, slow and silent; but on his old and venerable
face the storm of the most violent passions was throwing up its waves.

"Tausdorf is just brought in and placed in the Hildebrand," announced
the Marshal Clement Kernichen.

"God be praised!" said Erasmus, with a dreadful look towards heaven,
and went to his seat.

"_Ad loca_, gentlemen!" he exclaimed to the counsellors; and when they
had taken their places, he said with proud dignity, "The murderer is in
our power; it is time, then, for us to do our duty. Let double watches
be placed at the door. These will remain closed against every one till
justice is satisfied. At the break of day the judges shall hold a
criminal court; and as the murdered person was my son, Doctor Jacob
Grenwitz will preside in my place. I do not conceal from you,
colleagues, that the criminal has a strong party here, and that all the
nobles will be on his side. Therefore, that justice may have its
course, unchecked of human fears, I herewith declare the town in
danger, and the council permanent. The horse-police shall be
collectively summoned, and mount guard before the Sessions'-house
completely armed; the gens d'armes shall be at their alarm-posts; the
various guilds be warned to hold themselves in readiness with their
weapons, that they may come forward at the first sound of the
alarm-bell. Put all this into execution immediately, Mr. Marshalman,
and then return to our sessions to report progress and receive our
farther orders."

"God deliver us! how will all this end?" sighed Kernichen, and left the
room; in which a deadly silence prevailed, as each of the council was
sufficiently occupied with his own thoughts, and yet hesitated to
impart them to another. In the midst of this the city-serjeant,
Rudolph, announced Doctor Heidenreich, who wished to speak in private
with the burgomaster.

"In the little room by the judges' chamber," said Erasmus, whither he
went himself. The doctor was already waiting for him, and by his dress
it might be seen that he had just jumped out of bed, and flung them on
in a hurry.

"Let my hurry excuse the carelessness of my attire, Mr. Burgomaster;
necessity knows no law. A report runs through the town, that Tausdorf
has been seized at Saltzbrunn by your servants, and now lies a prisoner
in the Hildebrand."

"Such is the truth," replied Erasmus calmly.

"That is a great misfortune for the town," sighed Heidenreich.

"Are you out of your senses? If you have nothing more rational to bring
forward, you had better have remained in bed and slept off your
wonderful dreams."

"Mr. Burgomaster!" cried Heidenreich firmly, and seized the old man's
hand; "you know me for an honest citizen of this town, and a true
friend to your family. The last, in particular, I should think I proved
to you not very long ago. I, therefore, of all others, may well speak
out to you boldly and plainly; and now entreat you, by the ancient
honour of your office, do not this time give way to your love of
vengeance, however alluring may seem the opportunity."

"What are you dreaming of?" cried Erasmus, tearing away his hand from
him. "Do I intend sitting in judgment myself on the murderer of my own
son? Doctor Grenwitz will preside, in my place, over the criminal
tribunal."

"--Through whose mouth he will only echo your sentence! I must pray you
to take off the mask before so old and faithful an acquaintance. You
wish to destroy Tausdorf. That you have more than one reason for
wishing it is plain to me; that in so doing you will preserve the forms
of law is no more than I expect from your prudence; but you are wrong
in the main point. The criminal jurisdiction over this man does not
belong to the town."

"How! Does not the emperor Wenceslaus' charter of 1384 give us full
authority and power to seek, take, judge and execute, with imperial
privilege, all offenders, when and in whatever place they may be found,
and for whatever offences?"

"The charter applies to thieves and robbers that may be apprehended
within your jurisdiction. You cannot apply it to a nobleman and officer
of his imperial majesty, whom you have arrested, contrary to all right,
in the Fürstentein territory, and against the decree of king Wladislaus
and the Convention of forty-five."

"Tausdorf is a vagabond Bohemian and adventurer, with whom there is no
occasion for using much ceremony."

"By no means, Mr. Burgomaster; I have inquired narrowly into the
matter. He is a native Silesian vassal. The father was possessed and
settled in the hereditary principality, and the son is about to
purchase an estate in Bögendorf. This affair comes under the
jurisdiction of the prince palatine."

"--That he may again do us such excellent justice as in the case of
Bieler's murder?--or as in those violent assaults which the nobles,
since that time, have indulged in against the citizens? No; once I have
given way to the arrogance of the priest, but never again so long as I
am burgomaster in Schweidnitz."

"If, then, you could hope to obtain strict justice from the lord
bishop, you would leave the farther proceedings to him?"

Erasmus was about to answer at once, but again bethought himself, and
said wrathfully, "You are an old fox, with whom one must not use too
many words, lest you should turn them into snares. It does not become a
counsellor to talk of what he would do if things stood otherwise.
Enough if we know what we have to do '_rebus sic stantibus_.' We owe an
account of our proceedings only to the emperor, next under God; and we
will account for them when it is demanded of us, either on earth, or
before the Eternal judgment-seat."

"You have spoken a word of deep import, Mr. Burgomaster: God grant that
you may be able one day to stand by it. I would only once again impress
this upon you; Tausdorf is universally beloved; all will take part with
him and against you; and if you were as right in your proceeding, as,
by Heavens! you are wrong, you would still plunge this town into
unutterable grief and ruin."

"_Fiat justitia et pereat mundus!_" cried the burgomaster, and left
him.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The first gray of morning contended strangely with the yellow light of
the candles in the room wherein the judges had assembled to hold a
criminal court. The city serjeant was just leading out Martin
Heubert, Tausdorf's boy, whom they had been interrogating, and the
town-advocate, Kernicher, entered with Melchior Lange and Paul Reimann,
who had been viewing the wounds of the body. The advocate laid before
the chief-judge, in silence, the book in which was entered the result
of his inquiry. Behind him came Tausdorf in chains, surrounded by
gens-d'armes; his face was pale, and his clothes soiled and torn by the
violence at Saltzbrunn, but still he bore himself with knightly
dignity. The procurator arose and lifted up the accusation of blood
against him; and he was summoned once--and again twice--after the
ancient custom. Upon this the examination began, and Tausdorf related
the unfortunate affair frankly and honestly as it had really happened.

"Francis Friend," he said in conclusion, "enticed me to the place where
the misfortune occurred, reviled me, and at last fell upon me with his
naked sword. Hereupon I defended myself as a soldier, to save my
honour, my body, my life,--and that which then happened I was forced to
do. I understand not the law, and therefore be not precipitate, but
allow me an advocate to conduct my cause: I will reward him richly."

The chief judge rang his bell. "The procurator, Hans Reimann!" he
exclaimed to the serjeant who answered the summons. The latter went
out, and the procurator appeared.

"We have given you to the accused as his defender," said the judge.
"Consult with him."

"Your pardon, gentlemen," replied the procurator; "I have no
inclination for the task. Francis Friend was always on a good footing
with me: and besides, I should not like to plead for a manifest
assassin."

"The council will be hardly satisfied with this. Such defence belongs
to your office, and you cannot refuse it without giving up the office
itself. But come with me to the gentlemen of the council; you may have
their answer from themselves."

He went away with the procurator. The silence of expectation prevailed
through the room. Tausdorf went to the window, leaned upon the
breast-work, and, gazing upon the dark gray clouds, which had already
received golden edges from the rising sun, he sighed "Althea!"

At last the two returned.

"You submit, then?" said the judge to the procurator, as they retired.

"What one must, one must!" replied the procurator.

Tausdorf went up to him, and said with friendly dignity, "I pray you,
sir, conduct my defence truly; I do not understand this matter, and
will reward your labour. If the business were the ordering of a battle,
I should know better what I was about."

"Say on, then," replied the procurator, gaping: "how am I to defend
you?"

"In God's name!" cried Tausdorf angrily, "how should I, who have been
devoted to arms from my youth, teach you what you are to say for me
before the tribunal? The little Latin which I learnt at Gitschin is of
no use here. But you are a studied man, well informed in the law, and
must best know what will conduce to my advantage."

"It will all be of no use," muttered the procurator; "but relate the
tale to me circumstantially, that I may thoroughly comprehend it."

Again poor Tausdorf undertook the sad labour of narrating the tale of
blood. The procurator listened to him, gaping, and then briefly
repeated what he had heard to the tribunal, concluding with, "You have
now heard Tausdorf's statement of the affair, gentlemen, and I submit
it to your decision."

"Is that your whole defence?" cried the knight indignantly, while this
statement was being protocolled. "May our Saviour one day speak for
your sins before the judgment-seat of God, as you have spoken for me in
this hour before the tribunal of man!"

"Have you any thing else to advance?" said the judge to the accused and
his defender; and as they were silent, he rang the bell, saying, "The
audit is closed.--Let the knight be conveyed back again to the
Hildebrand," he added to the serjeant, who then entered.

"Gentlemen," said Tausdorf, with manly firmness, "I do not believe that
you have a right to pronounce judgment on me; but if you do hold
yourselves so empowered, I warn you honestly, when you give your votes,
to keep your conscience and your dying hour before your eyes. It is an
easy thing for you to slay me, for I am in your power; but innocent
blood cries with a thousand voices to Heaven, and God is just."

He went away with his guard, followed by his model of a defender, and
the judges laid their heads together in anxious whisperings.

                           *   *   *   *   *

In the meantime the day had fully broken, and a bright July sun shone
upon the overwatched faces of the council, who were still collected in
the Sessions'-chamber, and had reclined themselves against the windows
to prevent their going to sleep. The iron old Erasmus alone sat at the
green table with bright wakeful eyes, and played with the golden medal
appended to his chain of honour. By his side stood the vice-consul,
Christopher Drescher, behind a chair, which he rocked to and fro
impatiently.

"The judges must have come to a decision by this time," said Erasmus,
as if to himself.

"If they only come to a right one," replied Drescher emphatically.

"No fear of that; although parties may at times run high amongst
ourselves, yet against the outward enemy we all stand as one man; and
if----Then we are at the goal, brother."

"I only wish you had not forced poor Reimann to defend him. If he
should happen to bring forward things which we can't answer?"

"Some defender Tausdorf could not but have; the forms of the law
demanded so much, and to forms we must strictly adhere on this
occasion. Between ourselves, too, could you in all Schweidnitz have
hunted out a worse advocate than this Reimann?"

"You have seen farther than I have," cried the vice-consul, after a
pause: "_Concedo_."

A servant now brought in a letter to the burgomaster, which he opened
and read--

"An _Intercessionale_ in favour of the prisoner by the Herr von
Schindel, resident of this place, and now laid up with the gout," said
Erasmus to the council. "The petitioner presumes to defend the accused,
uncalled for, and to impugn the competency of our tribunal. _Ad acta!_"

"The Frau von Netz, too, waits below in great trouble," added the
servitor, "and implores, in Heaven's name, a secret audience of your
excellency."

"The proud nobles can now stoop themselves to entreaties," exclaimed
the burgomaster triumphantly; "but it's all of no use."

He went out. The poor Althea stood there, her face in a veil wet with
tears, and she approached him with clasped and uplifted hands.

"Will it please you to walk in?" asked Erasmus with cold politeness,
and opened the door of the little audience-chamber.

She tottered after him. He placed a chair f motioned to her to sit
down, and placed himself opposite.

"What is your pleasure, noble lady?" he asked, after a short time,
during which she was unable to speak from sobbing. "Our time is
peculiarly valuable to-day."

"Mercy!" at length cried the poor petitioner in the most moving tones
of anguish; "Mercy for my intended husband!"

"That is with God!" replied Erasmus. "In my weighty office I recognize
but the duty of justice. If such a crime were to remain unpunished, I
should have to account hereafter to the Highest for the innocent
victims, which might in future be sacrificed to the arrogance of the
nobles."

"I do not pray for the absolution of the unfortunate one; I only pray
that the business may be brought before the bishop or the emperor, and
I offer to be his security till then with my whole property."

"The murder has been committed within our jurisdiction, and must be
punished by our tribunal."

"And do you call it a murder that Tausdorf, to defend his own life,
slew your son against his will?"

"It is not for us two to decide upon this point, Frau von Netz; for I
am the father of the murdered, and you are the intended of the
murderer. The judges will settle it upon their oaths."

"Mr. Burgomaster, we are alone; I would not--by Heavens I would not,
offend you; but the terrors of death give me courage for the question;
can money save Tausdorf? My uncle, von Schindel, is rich; we have
friends amongst the nobles of the country. Fix the sum."

"If you were not a woman," exclaimed the burgomaster furiously; "if you
were not a woman, you should fare ill with this twofold insult,--to the
dignity of my office, and to my heart as a father. Gold for blood! That
is one of the maxims of you nobles, when the question, is of a
citizen's life. But the Polish times are over, when the high-born
murderer had only to fling the price of blood upon the corse of the
murdered, and thus remain free from all retribution. When the nobleman
of Siegwitz shot the citizen's daughter, his drinking companions
thought that such a girl might well be paid for; but the council there
did not think so, and the head of the assassin fell."

"Oh my heart!" sighed Althea, and stood for a time struck with grief
and horror at these words of wrath; then on a sudden, collecting her
spirits, she flung herself before the burgomaster and embraced his
knees.

"Mercy!" she cried, and lifted up her beautiful blue eyes to the
inexorable one with so much fervour, that in spite of his iron
resolution an unpleasant feeling oppressed his heart, and he was
leaning down to her with pity, when the marshal entered to announce
that the judges had presented themselves to the council and waited for
the worshipful burgomaster. At this the old evil spirit returned in
him. He started up with vehemence, and sought to disengage Althea's
hands from his knees.

"For Heaven's sake, what will you do?" cried the unhappy victim.

"My duty!" replied the man of the stony heart, and walked away with
firm and echoing steps.

The sufferer breathed a deep and piercing sigh, as if in that moment
the tender thread of her life was broken, and her head fell in a kind
swoon upon the seat of the chair before which she had been kneeling.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The criminal court had laid its sentence before the council. Its
adoption and immediate execution were unanimously resolved upon, the
judges were again collected in their sessions' chamber, and the pale,
fettered Tausdorf stood before them with his guard, while the chief of
the court read thus:--

"As the noble and honourable Kaspar Sparrenberger, surnamed Tausdorf,
hath stabbed, and thus brought from life to death the in like manner
noble and honourable Francis Friend,--and as this deed is open and
manifest,--and he himself cannot, and does not, deny it,--therefore the
imperial town-court of Schweidnitz adjudges that Tausdorf,
notwithstanding his defence, has forfeited his life for such murder,
and consequently, according to the law and custom of the land, shall be
executed with the sword."

With this the provost took up a white-peeled willow wand which lay
before him on the table, broke it in two, and throwing the pieces at
the feet of the condemned, cried,

           "The sentence is spoken,
            The staff is broken."

"You must die, and the Lord have mercy on your soul!" exclaimed the
provosts, and overturned their seats with a heavy clatter.

"I appeal from this unjust sentence to the prince palatine of Silesia
and the emperor," cried Tausdorf in a loud voice unshaken by this
horrid ceremony.

"Such appeal cannot be made according to our privileges and customs,"
replied the chief provost. "The execution follows here upon the heels
of the sentence."

"Then I appeal to the tribunal of God," said Tausdorf, without losing
his presence of mind--"to the tribunal of God, before which we must one
day all meet again. When am I to die?"

"In two hours."

"You are very quick, you gentlemen of Schweidnitz. But I suppose I may
see my bride again?"

"The council has forbidden it, as well on account of the loss of time
connected with it as of the unavoidable lamentation and disturbance."

"Ay, indeed! You gentlemen have true hangmen's hearts, with room
therein for barbarity as well as injustice. Yet I hope the time will be
just sufficient to prepare me fittingly for my departure. I wish to
confess first, and receive the holy sacrament. Have the goodness to
send me a priest of my persuasion, and afterwards a notary to draw up
my last will."

"Both shall be done," replied the provost, and made a sign to the
city-marshal, who went out.

"Moreover I was put into a bad plight in my arrest at Salzbrunn by your
runners, and their rabble," continued Tausdorf, surveying his person
indignantly; "and it is not fitting that a knight should die publicly
in so unworthy a state, as a mockery to your people; therefore send to
the Frau von Netz, that she may forward to me my red velvet suit of
ceremony for my last travel."

"It shall be done according to your desire," said the chief provost,
confounded by the proud calmness of the condemned.

"The chaplain is ready for you below, Herr von Tausdorf, in my little
room below the custom-house," announced the city-marshal.

"Then I must first reconcile myself with my enemies according to the
duty of a Christian. I pray you, therefore, gentlemen, to forgive me
for having through my unlucky deed given you occasion for the sin of
injustice. On my part I willingly and freely pardon you my death. God
favour you with an early repentance! May my blood be the last which
shall flow in this unhappy feud betwixt the nobility and citizens."

He departed with the city-marshal; the gens-d'armes followed.
The provosts looked at each other sadly troubled, and from the
provost-chief escaped the exclamation, "The business will not be over
with the head that is to fall here. Heaven turn all to the best!"

                           *   *   *   *   *

The burgomaster had for a short time betaken himself to his house to
give orders for the burial of his son. He had just dismissed the
church-servants, and looked from the bow-window of his audience-chamber
with silent anguish on the black-mantled undertakers who were carrying
out Francis's coffin to the customhouse, where the body still lay, when
doctor Heidenreich came in unsummoned. Erasmus received him with angry
exclamations.

"So, you will not cease to torment me? I thought that the contested
point had been sufficiently discussed between us last night; as to any
change, that is past all question now, since the sentence has been
pronounced."

"I know it," said Heidenreich, troubled. "You have condemned Tausdorf
to the sword!"

"Not I," interrupted Erasmus vehemently; "but the provost's court at
Schweidnitz. The council has, indeed, approved the sentence; but in
regard to that personal interest which I take in the affair, I did not
even deem it proper to subscribe my name."

"I neither ask of you generosity nor favour. But I demand justice of
you for your own sake; you are on the point of committing a crying act
of injustice, and of thereby rending the honourable garland that a long
active life has wound about your brows. Your sentence is not only
against all equity, but against the laws."

"Against the laws? Mr. Doctor, put a guard upon your tongue, that it
may not bring your body into trouble."

"I have heard the murderous story from Tausdorf's servant. Your son was
killed by the accused in his just defence. Does not the penal code of
Charles the Fifth expressly state, that if any one falls upon,
assaults, or strikes another with deadly weapons, and the person so
attacked cannot escape without risk and jeopardy to his body, life,
honour, or good report, he may then peril life and limb in his just
defence without incurring any punishment--and if, moreover, he kills
the aggressor, he is not to be, therefore, deemed guilty, nor is he
bound to delay with his defence till he is struck, although otherwise
against written laws and usages?"

"You have long been known to me as a shrewd advocate," answered Erasmus
with mockery; "but the _Carolina_[3] has not yet been formally
published to us, and above all things the act of self-defence should
have been proved. The mouth of my poor son is shut, the declaration of
the accused and of his servant proves nothing."

"There was also a page of Tausdorf's present; and a woman saw the
battle from the garden-wall. In the testimony of three witnesses
consists truth."

"The witnesses of whom you speak," replied the burgomaster, confused,
"did not present themselves for examination. It was, besides, for the
judges to decide whether their examination was requisite."

"But I think, Mr. Burgomaster, it was for your own honour to seek out
these witnesses, and to defer the execution of the sentence till then,
that it might not be said you wished to destroy the accused from a
wretched spirit of revenge."

"I am weary of your insolence; instantly take yourself out of my four
walls, Mr. Doctor, or I shall give you lodgings in the Hildebrand as a
malcontent and fomenter of discord; they are just now vacant."

"You thrust your better angel from your side," replied Heidenreich
sadly. "I have not spoken out of favour to the accused, whom I do not
know, but from old friendship to yourself. You will not listen to me,
and I wash my hands in innocence. But I tell you a day will come when
you will think of my words and of this hour with repentance, alas, too
late!"

He left the room. Erasmus went to the window to cool the angry glow
upon his face in the fresh air, when he saw the gouty Schindel, who was
being carried in a chair by servants towards the burgomaster's house.

"Nothing was wanting but the old gossip with his tedious conciliatory
efforts," exclaimed Erasmus, and running out he gave the servant strict
orders to show the door to Schindel.

The servant went, and when the burgomaster returned to his room, the
preacher Samuel, of St. Mary's church, a gloomy zealot, forced himself
upon him to condole with the powerful regent on the death of his son.
With infinite unction he groaned out, "If, worthy sir, it is sad,
mournful, pitiable, and most grievous to lose a dear, beloved child by
a natural death, how much more sad, mournful, pitiable, and grievous
must it be for a father when a healthful son is snatched from him
through God's severe, though wise and gracious dispensation, by so
sudden, violent, and horrid a death, without first having time to
confess and repent his errors, so that in the full flower of his sins
he is hurried away before the eternal judgment-seat!"

"For God's sake, comfort better, Mr. Preacher," cried Erasmus angrily:
"You pour aqua-fortis instead of balsam into the wounds of a father's
heart."

"The heart of man is an obstinate thing," replied the preacher; "it
must be utterly torn and crushed that it may become truly sensible of
the consolation of the Gospel; and if you will only allow me a short
time, I will undertake so to work upon you, that you shall with
pleasure kiss the hand which has struck you thus hardly, and, like a
true Christian, shall attune a rejoicing Hosannah on the grave of your
murdered son."

During this harangue the brow of Erasmus grew mightily wrinkled, and he
was about to answer the wretched comforter in no very friendly way,
when the door opened, and Althea entered, leading her boy.

"This is not to be borne!" he exclaimed to her. "We have nothing more
to say to each other, Frau von Netz, and I consider it highly indecent
that you should force yourself upon me in this way, unannounced, only
to burthen me with entreaties, which my oath forbids my hearkening to."

"Misfortune has its peculiar privileges," replied Althea in a faint and
tuneless voice; "I was prepared for all harshness when I resolved to
come here, and you can treat me as seems good and proper to yourself;
but you must hear me once again; I will not stir from this spot first."

"Speak, then, that I may at last get quit of this torment."

"My intended husband is condemned to die. I will no longer contend with
you whether he has deserved death, or whether you have a right to
inflict it; but the power of pardon belongs incontestably to the
emperor. I, therefore, only implore you to defer the execution of the
sentence till the return of a messenger whom I will despatch to Vienna
with my supplication. That cannot militate against your office. On the
contrary, it would become you not to anticipate the clemency of your
master in a business wherein you must yourself confess you are a party.
In the meantime let the condemned remain in your power, and if the
emperor pronounces the dreadful NO, we must submit to what cannot be
avoided."

"Let the Herr von Tausdorf live, dear burgomaster," said the little
Henry, at other times so defying, but now in tears, and kissed the hand
of Erasmus with humility. "I am a fatherless orphan, and he would be so
good a father to me!"

But the burgomaster withdrew his hand from the child, and eyed now him,
now Althea, with piercing glances.

"Take our share in Bogendorf for the brief respite," cried Althea,
observing the inveteracy in the eyes of Erasmus. "I will readily make
it over to you this very day, and support myself and my son by the
labour of my hands, if by that I can only purchase the slightest hope
for the safety of the man whom my soul loves."

"You are a fair and a wise lady, Frau von Netz," said the burgomaster
at last; "but the old Erasmus is yet too wise for you. You will not
find in him the fool you seek."

"Let mercy prevail!" cried Althea in despair, and embraced his knees
with wild energy. "Let mercy prevail, as you would that God should one
day be merciful to you!"

"Back!" exclaimed the burgomaster indignantly, and pushed her from him.
"My son is dead. Neither your wealth nor your tears can make him alive
again. Blood demands blood, and Tausdorf must die!"

"Not another word of supplication," cried the little Henry to his
mother, who was exhausted by her agony; "tis a pity you offered any to
the wicked man. Has not uncle Netz told you a hundred times that the
rich burgomaster is as cold and as hard as the dollars of which he is
always boasting so much? Come, mother; we cannot beg the good man free,
and therefore we will weep for him as long as we have eyes. But this
house is not worthy of your tears;"--and then turning to Erasmus, he
said, with a dignity and spirit beyond his years, "You have heavily
vexed and offended the Frau von Netz, Mr. Burgomaster, and it is the
duty of a good son to avenge every insult which his mother has had to
endure. At present my arm is not strong enough for my inclination; but,
please God, I shall grow every day larger and stouter, and I think to
be able to wield the sword shortly. For this time I denounce feud
against you, and whatever may come of it, murder or fire, I shall have
set my honour above your impeachment."

He pulled away his mother with him, and Erasmus said to the preacher,
"Do you hear how the young snake can hiss already? But follow the lady,
if you will be so good, comfort her by virtue of your holy office, and
exhort her to betake herself to her own house, that she may not excite
the people by her lamentations in the streets, and force me to send her
home by a couple of gens-d'armes."

"Well advised!" replied the preacher, and hastened after Althea, whom
he found at the street-door, her head leaning against one of the stone
columns of the portal, while Henry stroked her hand consolingly, and
wet it with his tears.

"Submit yourself to the will of Heaven," he began; "and this must be
the easier to you when you weigh the justice of the sentence pronounced
upon the culprit, who was once dear to you. Such assassins and
bloodhounds must be forfeit to the executioner as a warning to others,
and for their own well-earned punishment. Had not the council done
justice in this way, I had never endured to abide in the town; and, if
I could not have walked out, I should have crept out, with wife and
children, from this pit of murder, in which no honest man could have
been secure of his life any longer."

Althea lifted up to him her heavy eyes, that were red and swollen with
weeping, and merely saying, "May God comfort you as you have comforted
me!" she sunk back into her old position. Still, however, the preacher
continued in the same strain for a time; but when he perceived that the
sufferer no longer even listened to his splendid grounds of
consolation, he suddenly broke off, and removed himself, with a look in
which was couched an anathema.

In the mean time Christopher Friend came out of the street-door and
gazed tenderly on Althea.

"Poor lady!" he at last said with a voice of as much pity as he could
force into it--"No doubt you would go up to my father to implore him
for the life of your betrothed; or you have already been with him, and
received an unfavourable answer. Yes! I could have told you that
before. You would more easily move the lions of granite that rest upon
these columns than my father in this neck-breaking business. Would that
I were the reigning burgomaster in his place, to be able to serve you,
for I am not very angry with your Tausdorf. My late brother was an evil
man, who probably brought this affair upon himself; and it is a pity
that so brave a knight should, on his account, fall under the hands of
the executioner. I have, indeed, some influence with my father,
especially since I am his only son; and, if I were to run the risk of
his anger and put in a good word, I might at least, perhaps, gain you a
short delay, and time gained, all is gained."

"Comfort often comes from where it is least expected," stammered
Althea, looking at him with anxious doubt. "You, Mr. Christopher,--you
have a heart for my sorrows?"

"What man of my years would not have a heart for so fair a lady?"
replied Christopher, smiling; "but it is only death that can be had for
nothing; life is expensive. Time presses, and therefore I will open my
mind to you briefly. Herr Tausdorf is lost to you for ever; if his life
even should be saved,--which I hold for a half impossibility,--still he
would not get off without a long imprisonment and perpetual exile from
this country. Therefore give me your fair hand, for which I have
already sued without success, and I will try what influence I have over
my father's heart."

Althea started back in horror, and laid her right hand thoughtfully
upon her forehead, her left upon her poor heart, in which anguish was
working convulsively. But the inward struggle was soon over, and with
the calmness of resignation she turned towards her ungenerous wooer.

"It would, indeed, be hard for me," she said, "to follow a man who
makes a trade of his humanity, and to give this boy a father whom he
could not respect; still I would make even this sacrifice for him I
love, if I could believe that he would accept it. But I am convinced
that he would sooner die a thousand times than let me slowly pine away
under the tortures of a wretched marriage. Therefore let him and me
perish, in God's name; I can never be yours."

She took her child by the hand, and departed slowly with him up the
street, towards the market-place.

"Again nothing!" grumbled Christopher to himself; "the Netherlandress,
too, won't have me now. Had I known that it would have been the same
here, I hardly think that I should have helped to play this trick. But
a woman would, at any time, talk over God himself, and make him sin
against his own commandments. How have I burthened my conscience, and
at least one-half to no purpose!--The Devil take all women! If it were
not for the housekeeping, and the tricks of servants, I would not ask
after them, but remain a widower all my life long. In the unmarried
state one can lay out so much upon one's self, and save into the
bargain; and when at last I have buried my father--who can't hold out
much longer with his constant passions--I shall be a substantial man,
and laugh at every one.--Good Heavens!"

With this cry he broke off his noble soliloquy; for before him, on a
sudden, stood the town-executioner, in his red cloak of office, and,
from his thin yellow face, the dark eyes gleamed on Christopher with a
savage joy appropriate to this day of horror. All this was in itself
quite natural, but Christopher's conscience smote him hardly at the
sight, and he felt as if the hideous being had taken the trouble to
come there only on his account.

"Is the worshipful burgomaster above?" asked the executioner, with
infinite courteousness and his hat off to the son of his superior. From
sheer fright, Christopher was unable to reply; he simply pointed to the
steps, stammered out, "Above!" and, creeping out of the street-door by
him with as much speed as if he felt the sword at his neck, he hurried
off.

                           *   *   *   *   *

In the city-marshal's room, below the custom-house, the noble Tausdorf
was still kneeling before the chaplain, who administered the sacrament
to him, and blessed him for death. The priest then retired, but his
clerk, instead of following, barred the door behind him again, advanced
to Tausdorf, who just then was rising from the ground, and asked, in a
familiar voice, "Do you know me?"

"Rasselwitz!" cried Tausdorf, surprised. "You have crept in, thus
disguised, to bid me farewell for this world. That is bravely done of
you, and I thank you heartily for your love."

"I have something more important in my thoughts," replied Rasselwitz
quickly and softly. "I would save you. Wrap my black cloak about you,
take the cap in your hand, follow the chaplain as his clerk through the
gens-d'armes; he is still talking without to the city-marshal. The holy
man is in the secret, and goes from here to the farthest end of the
Striegauer suburb to a sick person, and thence you may easily escape."

"And _you_?" asked Tausdorf, in deep emotion.

"I!" replied Rasselwitz; "why I remain here in the mean time, and laugh
at the serjeants, when they come and find the nest empty."

"That laugh would cost you dear," said Tausdorf; "Heaven be praised
that I have more forethought than yourself. The council and the
provosts thirst after my blood like hungry tigers. They would be mad on
finding me snatched from them, and your head would fall instead of
mine."

"Not so," insisted Rasselwitz. "They would fling me into the
Hildebrand, which I already know full well, and there I will abide
patiently till the bishop frees me."

"It might this time easily turn out otherwise, and I dare not set the
life of my preserver on such possibilities, not to speak of the abuse
of the holy sacrament which you would persuade me to. I thank you for
your noble offer, but I remain."

"Pray take it, Herr von Tausdorf," cried Rasselwitz, urgently. "I
should delight in hazarding something for you, more especially as it
seems to me as if I were half the cause of your misfortune, although
with no evil intention. I have unconsciously drawn you into the snare
which, in the end, has closed destructively about you, and therefore I
owe you an atonement. Pray you now accept it."

"I do not understand your words, my young friend, but only the good
heart that speaks in them. You may, however, spare them in my case; for
by my knightly word I stir not from this room till my hour strikes. If
you have done me any wrong, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive you
with all my heart, even without atonement; for, _that_ our Saviour has
offered for us all by his death upon the cross."

"I cannot let you die," cried Rasselwitz, wildly; "if you will not save
yourself as I propose, I will call together as many brave nobles, and
their people, as may be collected in the town. Unfortunately Netz is
wanting, with his adherents; and, as the gates are closed, I can send
no message to him; but still I will undertake to muster fifty heads. We
set fire to the nest in twenty places, and in the confusion we break
through to you, and snatch you, by force, from the teeth of the
dragon."

"Heaven defend me from such a saving! It would cost much noble and
innocent blood, which, in truth, would be too high a price for this
head. Were I to accept it, I should deserve the fate which awaits me.
Leave me at least the conviction that I die innocently: it is my best
consolation in this hour,--and now depart, my friend, for my moments
are numbered."

"You are a saint," cried Rasselwitz, in tears, and kissing Tausdorf's
hand before he could prevent it. "You do well to leave this world, for
it is much too bad for you. I obey your will, but I must find out the
spider which lurked in the centre of this hellish web that has wound
about you to your ruin, and, when I have found it, I will crush it
under my feet, though your spirit should call down from Heaven, 'have
mercy!'"

He rushed out, and Tausdorf again fell upon his knees, while his looks
flew through the iron bars with burning enthusiasm to the seat of
everlasting freedom. "You have highly favoured me in life, eternal
Father!" he exclaimed. "Unspotted honour, pure love, and true
friendship, have adorned, with their noblest garlands, this head, which
I must now lay down in the long sleep of the grave. Now, then, crown
thy work of mercy through a good death. Grant that I may depart with
courage, and without bitterness against my enemies, so that I may
appear before thy throne, not unworthy of thy immortal son."

The gens-d'armes had drawn a triple circle of spears about the stone
columns before the sessions-house cellars. Within, by a heap of strewed
sand, waited the executioner with his sword beneath his red cloak. On
the other side of the circle the people thronged in a dense mass. All
the windows of the marketplace swarmed with spectators, while the roofs
and the chimney-tops were covered with men, all expecting, with anxious
curiosity and a strange painful pleasure, the victim which they yet
lamented.

The bells of the parish church began to toll, and the death-procession
approached slowly from the custom-house. By the side of the
city-marshal, surrounded by spearmen, walked the noble Tausdorf, free
from fetters, and with his accustomed nobleness. The tight red suit of
velvet sate handsomely upon his well-formed limbs, and in his raven
locks was woven a coronet of flowers. The features of the pale face
were calm and cheerful, and in the glance of his large black eye beamed
a light that no longer seemed to be of this world. With friendly
greetings to the by-standers, he entered the circle.

"I die innocent," he exclaimed in a loud clear voice, that sounded far
beyond the market-place. "But what earthly son shall dare to boast
himself free from all earthly failings? I therefore humbly pray to
Heaven for pardon for any acknowledged and unacknowledged sins, and
hope also, from your Christian charity, that you will forgive me such,
and put up your prayers in my behalf, that I may have a blessed end!"

A general sobbing answered this address, and amidst it, from the
distance, sounded the lamenting voice of the poor Althea.--

"If I could but see you once again!"

"This is more bitter than death," sighed Tausdorf half to himself, and,
turning to the quarter whence her voice had come, he cried, "My dear
Althea, that can no more be in this world, but we shall meet again in
life everlasting!"

The sobbing of the people grew louder, and here and there were heard
single words of discontent. But the marshal gave a sign to two of the
gens-d'armes, who went with their spears to that part whence the voice
of Althea had come. Then advancing to Tausdorf, he said earnestly, "It
is time!"

Tausdorf immediately undid his doublet with his own hands, and flung it
amongst the people; then, loosening his ruff, he did the same with
that.--And now he knelt upon the sand-heap, with unbound eyes, looked
up to Heaven, and exclaimed joyfully, "To thee, my Saviour, I commend
myself--Amen!"

With the _amen_, the sword glittered behind him, and his head fell.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The council was still assembled in their sessions-chamber. Erasmus sate
again at the green-covered table, with deep sorrow in his iron
features, for now that the spirit of vengeance was satisfied, pain had
found more room in his hard heart. The city-marshal entered.

"All is done as you ordered, worshipful Mr. Burgomaster. Your son and
von Tausdorf have been solemnly interred, with the attendance of the
whole college, the preachers, and a considerable train of mourners, and
I caused the bodies to be laid in ONE grave, according to your order,
and in the family burial-place. I have also had the town gates
re-opened."

"You have done well," replied the burgomaster, with a hollow voice, and
made him a sign with his hand to depart.

"Moreover," continued the marshal, "all the noble inquilines[4] of the
city wait without, and request admittance to the honourable council."

"Be it granted, then," said the burgomaster with a heavy heart, and the
city-marshal left the room.

In a short time he returned, conducting a train of sable figures. First
came the gouty old Schindel, leaning on Rasselwitz and Netz; Althea,
holding her child by the hand, followed next. Many old nobles, male and
female, who had settled at Schweidnitz, brought up the procession. All
were in deep mourning, the women veiled in long black veils. When they
had reached the council-table, Netz fetched a chair from the wall, and
respectfully placed it before von Schindel. The latter, with
difficulty, seated himself, and then, looking up to Netz and
Rasselwitz, said, "You remember your promise, knights? You leave me
alone to speak, is it not so?"

"Have no fear, uncle," replied Netz, grinding his teeth. "The affair,
besides, cannot be ended with words. We will be silent as the grave,
that swallowed up our Tausdorf."

"Gentlemen," began the old man, with a trembling voice, "you have done
that which is not right before God. The innocent blood has flowed; to
save and repair is no longer possible. I will, therefore, spare you and
myself the sorrow of explaining how much you have erred, and on what
grounds. I do not come to find fault or dispute with you; I come only
to take leave of you for this life, and, at the same time, to bid you
farewell in the name of all those nobles who have hitherto lived in
peace under the shelter of your walls. You must yourselves find it
natural, that none of them deem their life safe in a town that could
let so noble a head fall under the sword of the executioner! Fear,
indeed, has no longer any influence with me; I am too old for that,
although I openly avow that I myself should not like to die here now,
as I would not have my grave amongst you. A higher purpose compels me
hence. My poor niece, whom you have made a widow, intends going, with
her orphaned child, to Bohemia, to the old father of her betrothed,
that she may console him for the loss of his only son, and wait there
in patience till death shall free her from her sufferings, and re-unite
her with the beloved of her heart. I go with her, and remain with her,
for she needs a paternal friend in that foreign land. There will we sit
alone together in our sorrow, and weep and comfort each other; and on
my knightly word, we will never curse you. Heaven bless you! Heaven
bring you to the consciousness of that which you have done, and awake
in you a forgiving heart through holy penitence, that henceforth no
more innocent victims may be sacrificed to the discord that is between
you and us. If this wish should be fulfilled, if the blood shed in
yonder grave should ripen into the fruit of peace, hail! thrice hail to
the dust of the martyr!"

The speaker was silent; his companions wept aloud, and those of the
council turned away to dry their eyes unmarked. Only the old Erasmus
stared before him, tearless, gloomy, and full of thought.

"I am ready," said Schindel, looking up to his two guides, who took him
by the arms, and helped him to rise. Supported by them, he bowed to the
council, and was led away.

The mourning procession followed him; the door closed behind them,
while the council looked in silence at each other, and then gloomily at
the old burgomaster, who, surprised by this measure, was not master of
his speech.

"The young Lord Hochberg of Fürstentein," announced the city-servant.

"He, too, must have little that is consolatory to say to us," exclaimed
Alderman Trentler; and Erasmus, almost lost in insensibility, signed to
the servant to admit him.

The youth entered in complete armour, lifted up his visor before the
council-table, and, leaning on his sword, cast fierce and burning
glances amongst the troubled faces about the table.

"You have caused Tausdorf to be seized by your people within the
Fürstentein jurisdiction," he began with bitterness; "you have murdered
him by a mockery under the name of a trial, and thus have invaded the
jurisdiction of his imperial majesty as lord paramount, and of my
mother as holder of the fief. The rascally peasants at Saltzbrunn who
abetted your people in this crime are already in prison, and shall be
severely punished in body and goods. We have sent a messenger to the
emperor with the relation of the business. What he may determine upon
your conduct, as far as concerns himself, is for you to look to; we,
however, are resolved to defend our own rights in particular, and not
to lay down our heads in peace till this monstrous crime is punished
and atoned for. But since his imperial majesty has strictly forbidden
private feud, we shall, in our just anger, better observe the will of
our sovereign than you the aggressors have done; and you shall answer
us before the court of fiefs: and to that I cite you herewith, for the
first,--second,--and third time."

"The emperor's town is not bound to appear before the feudal court,"
replied Erasmus sullenly. "Rather have we a right to summon the nobles,
who, from the time of Bieler's murder up to the present day, have
tormented us without stint or measure."

"You will not, then, appear?" said the nobleman warmly.

"Never, my young squire," cried the stout old man, striking his
breast--"Never, while I govern in Schweidnitz!"

"Well then," retorted the noble indignantly, "you have forfeited all
right and all honour, and I herewith pronounce you outlawed and
infamous; and disclaim you in the name of the nobles of this
principality. We will not make war upon you without the emperor's
order, but your Schweidnitz shall henceforth be like a town, in which
the pest rages. Woe to our serfs if they dare to bring you provisions;
woe to your citizens if they dare to go beyond their walls; woe to
yourselves if you are caught upon our land and soil. You shall see with
terror that we know how to administer justice in our way: as a pledge
of it I leave you my gauntlet. Whichever of you has courage enough may
bring it after me. I will wait an hour for the messenger on the borders
of your territory."

And he hurled the iron gauntlet upon the table with a violence that
upset the inkstands and sandboxes, and then rushed out.

Erasmus foamed in silent indignation. On a sudden he thrice pulled the
bell-handle which hung over the table, and at the summons three
city-servants immediately hastened into the room.

"Take four of the horse-police to your assistance," he exclaimed to
them. "Seize me the young lord of Hochberg, and fling him into the
Hildebrand until farther orders."

But at this there arose a murmur of contradiction amongst the aldermen,
who stood up from their seats and shook their heads; and Martin, the
youngest amongst them, found courage to speak out his sentiments.

"Under favour, worshipful Mr. Burgomaster. The young lord was indeed
somewhat too rough here, but in the main point he was unfortunately
right; and if we would imprison all those who blame our this day's
proceedings, we shall soon have to convert our sessions-room into a
Hildebrand. I vote against the arrest."

"And I!" cried Miller and Trentler, as if from one mouth.

"Have you a wish for another execution?" said Kaspar Franz to the
gloomy despot.

"We are already deep in the mire through Tausdorf," observed Doctor
Grenwitz, shrugging his shoulders:--and the vice-consul Drescher
whispered to the burgomaster,--"Recall your order!"

Erasmus bit his lips till they bled.

"What are you standing for, idiots?" he exclaimed to the three servants
who remained at the door in anxious uncertainty as to which command
they were to obey. "Don't you know that the majority of voices decides
in our sittings? The arrest of Von Hochberg may remain."

The servants left the room; Erasmus, rising from his chair, said, "The
sitting is over, gentlemen; but we will, with your good pleasure, have
a meeting extraordinary to-morrow, to weigh maturely what farther is to
be done in this matter."

"If in this extraordinary sitting," said Kaspar, as he broke up, to his
neighbour, "we do not find the art of replacing heads that have been
chopped off, we shall descend from the Sessions-house as wise as we
went up."

The other aldermen said nothing, but saluted the burgomaster in
silence; and the old man soon stood alone before the council-table in
the empty chamber.

"Yes," he muttered; "I must no longer conceal it from myself; it is
coming to an end with the old lion. Teeth and claws grow blunted. The
brutes, that once shook at his roar, now renounce their obedience, and
mock the feeble monarch; even the ass must give his kick. Die,
therefore, Erasmus, die soon, that you may not outlive yourself."

"A new misfortune has happened, Mr. Burgomaster," cried the
city-marshal, entering hastily. "The gardener in the park, who
exhibited the aloe for some time past, has suddenly disappeared; but
the Netherlandress, who lodged with him, was found dead in her room an
hour ago. I went thither with two officers to seal up every thing, and
took the town-physician with me; for the flight of the host, and the
lady's death, seem to stand in a doubtful connexion. The people of the
house talked of poison. I found the woman lying on the floor, in an
upper room, horribly disfigured; and on the table was a cup, the dregs
of which the physician positively declared to be poison. In her stark
right hand the corse held fast this writing. It is addressed to you,
Mr. Burgomaster, and sealed moreover."

"To me!" said Erasmus, in alarm; tore the writing away from the
marshal, and broke it open. A quantity of dry leaves fell out of it
towards him--"Strange!" he murmured, and began to read; and, as he
read, the hand in which he held the letter trembled more and more, till
at last he grew so faint that he sunk back into his chair. But he
forced himself to read it to the end, and then burnt the letter in the
flame of the expiring candle, waiting with great patience till the
paper was entirely converted into ashes. He then turned to the
marshal:--"Let the body be watched by six gens d'armes till night; then
let it be carried behind the wall to the churchyard, and there silently
interred. I will myself take an inventory of all that is left, and you
will be silent as to the whole transaction--on your oath of office."

The old man's voice broke at the conclusion of his discourse, and with
tottering steps he left the Sessions-chamber.

                           *   *   *   *   *

Three years had passed since Tausdorfs death. Christopher Friend had
remained a widower, and by all means, just as well as unjust, had
considerably increased his mammon. He was asleep in his own bedroom, on
a beautiful summer's night, when he was awakened by a grasp at his
throat, and, on opening his eyes in terror, there sat upon the bed two
men, fearfully illuminated by the moon. They were enveloped in dark
cloaks, with black masks on their faces, and held two daggers
glittering at his breast, in the pale yellow light. The one figure had
his hand about Christopher's throat, and seemed ready to close it at
the slightest motion of his victim.

"Gracious Heavens! what does this mean?" groaned Christopher; but at
the instant he felt a tighter pressure of the hand about his throat,
and the daggers pricked him in the region of the heart.

"Still!" whispered one of the masks. "A loud word, a cry for help,
sends you in the same moment to hell. We are here to sit in judgment on
you, though, indeed, in a fairer way than your father used three years
since. It has cost no little time, and trouble, and gold--nay, even two
journies to Bohemia--to penetrate your tricks and blinds; but at last
all has become clearer to us than the day. We had paid you a visit long
before this, but that the noble Althea prayed so irresistibly for you,
that during her life we could not undertake any thing against you. Now
at last she has sunk under the grief for her betrothed: Tausdorf's old
father has to weep for his daughter, and the last chain is snapped in
which our revenge lay bound. Your father has to answer to the emperor
for his notorious crimes; but you have done and concealed your deed
with equal cunning, and no earthly court of justice will ever be able
to convict you of it. You must, therefore, answer to our _secret
tribunal_, of which we are ourselves the chief and the judges, the
accuser and the executioner. You have had intercourse with the
Netherlandress at the nurseryman's in the park; and this very woman
wanted to hound me on to your brother's murder."

"By Heavens! I know nothing of it," whined Christopher.

"Still!" continued the mask. "Failing in that, she has a long
conversation with you in private. Upon this you invite Tausdorf to your
murderous banquet, and, while you promise Althea that your brother
shall not be present, you secretly induce him, through a third hand, to
appear: then comes the Netherlandress, masked, to your party. After a
conversation with her, the most violent wrath is perceived on the face
of Francis. You pour him out another glass of wine, like oil in the
flame, upon which he allures into the park Tausdorf, whom he had never
seen before, and that event takes place which thousands of honest
people lament. Now then answer for yourself, but with a low voice, or
we strike you down on the spot."

"How can I answer for all the unlucky events, the chain of which has
cost me a beloved brother?" whispered Christopher, in a voice which,
from fear of the daggers, was scarcely audible. "What motives could I
have to destroy Tausdorf, who had never offended me? Why, too, should I
particularly fix on my brother as the instrument of my evil purpose? By
the----"

"Still!" said the mask again. "I hate you as the serpent that stung my
friend to death, but I would not send you to the devil with perjury
upon your tongue; you have without that enough of old sin posted in the
great reckoning-book above.--You ask, why you should wish to destroy
Tausdorf? Because Althea refused your hand for his sake.--Why you chose
your brother for the instrument? Because, with true brotherly
affection, you hoped the instrument might be broken on the occasion,
that so you might stand as the ONLY son of the rich Erasmus. Recollect
your former calumnies against Tausdorf; recollect what you said to
Althea at your father's door on the morning after the misfortune, and
deny no longer. You will not lie yourself out of our hands again, and a
frank repentant confession of your sins may propitiate the wrath of the
judge before whom you will stand ere the morning breaks."

"Mercy!" murmured Christopher in low, piteous tones. "Only spare my
life, and I will confess all. The woman seduced me into bringing
Tausdorf together with my brother that they might quarrel, but it was
not so evilly intended as it turned out."

"The woman seduced you?" exclaimed the mask. "It was so our
grandfather, Adam, excused himself, and the seducer laid it all upon
the serpent; but the angel with the fiery sword drove them all out of
Paradise, to which they no more belonged, as you no more belong to
life. Therefore pray a short farewell prayer, for we are Christians."

"Mercy!" groaned Christopher piteously. "I cannot pray. Take half my
wealth as an atonement, but do not kill me."

"Ay!" retorted the mask, with cold sternness. "You and your whole race,
with all your gold, would not outweigh the single head of the noble
Tausdorf, whom your iniquity has slaughtered. There can be no talk
between us of mercy or atonement, but of well-earned retribution:
therefore, away with you, scoundrel! away to death!"

And he flung a noose about Christopher's neck, and dragged him from the
bed.

"Heaven be thanked!" said the other mask, pulling strongly at the rope.
"At last we come from words to deeds."

Like vultures upon a lamb, they pounced upon the unhappy Christopher
with murderous hands, and dragged him out of the door in spite of his
impotent strugglings;--fainter and fainter sounded his half-stifled
cries--at last there was a heavy fall in the distance, and a sound as
of the splash of water from a depth: then another short, low groan; and
the old silence of night resumed her reign, and the clock of the
Sessions-house struck the third hour.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The next morning when the old Erasmus entered the Sessions-chamber, he
found the assembled provosts standing with gloomy faces about the
butcher, George Heymann, master of the shambles, who was showing a
bloody wound in his neck, and took on most piteously.

"Things cannot go on in this way any longer, Mr. Burgomaster," cried
the Alderman Kaspar Franz, in a tone that the old man had not been
accustomed to hear in Schweidnitz. "It is inconceivable what our good
city suffers from your violence and blunders. It is not enough that we
must frequently submit to a scarcity of provisions, because the vassals
of the nobles no longer dare to come to market here, but our citizens
are no more secure of their lives if they venture beyond the walls. As
this poor man was driving sheep to town, Hans Ecke of Viehau, and Hans
Hund of Ingersdorf, fell upon him with naked weapons, struck at his
neck, and when he stood on his defence, wounded him severely with a
dagger. In this manner things go on daily; they already level their
guns at our watchmen upon the walls, and we shall soon be forced to put
on armour when we go to the sessions-house. For all this evil we have
to thank no one but you; and do you, therefore, find a remedy. You have
cooked this bitter broth for us, and do you now help in eating it, that
we may at last have clean dishes."

"Lead the wounded man to the nearest surgeon," said Erasmus to the
servant in waiting. "He shall be dressed at my expense."

The servant obeyed. The burgomaster crept up to his seat of honour, and
sat himself down exhausted, as he turned to the last speaker.--"It is
hard of you, colleague, to lay to my charge the consequences of
measures which were adopted by the general consent of the council.
Besides, the affair is not yet settled, and your reproaches, therefore,
in any case, are too early. If the emperor should receive our answer as
valid, we shall then assuredly not be denied satisfaction for the
waylayings of these knightly robbers. From Ingolstadt, too, the legal
opinion has been sent in reply to our inquiries, that we proceeded well
with Tausdorf, and I still, therefore, entertain good hopes."

"If these hopes should not happen to be built on sand," exclaimed
Alderman Franz; "the Emperor will hardly decide on us by the opinion of
the gentlemen of Ingolstadt. The whole investigation was of so hostile
a nature, and so humiliating in the forms for us, that we may thence
infer a severe sentence with tolerable certainty. Besides, I have heard
a bird whistle on this subject, whose tune by no means pleases me."

The burgomaster stared in alarm at his colleague, when the door opened,
and the servant announced, "The delegates returning from Prague."

"Returned already!" exclaimed Erasmus, and the last blood-drops forsook
his face, so that he looked quite awful, like the alabaster-bust of
some evil old Roman emperor.

And the old Christopher Drescher, the Alderman Melchior Lange, the
Syndic Dr. Lange, entered slowly, with downcast eyes, and in silence
took their places at the sessions-table. They were followed by the
Secretary Jonas, who, with a heavy sigh, laid down his leathern
portfolio on a side-table and opened it.

"You bring us nothing good?" asked Erasmus, after a long pause; and
the Syndic exclaimed, "What is the use of delaying, for you must know
it at last? You sowed the seed by handfuls, and therefore the harvest
cannot much surprise you. The wrath of Heaven lies heavy on us; the
sentence could not be more severe. The city is declared to have
forfeited its right of jurisdiction, and of electing its own council,
the fief and land-court of the principality is removed to Jauer, and
the punishment of the council, and others, for the execution of
Tausdorf, the Emperor has reserved to himself peculiarly. In a short
time we may expect the Emperor's delegate, who, in his name, will
annul our council, and conduct the further proceedings against us."

In silence they listened to these evil tidings, in silence they
remained sitting, when the Syndic had ceased to speak, all equally
overwhelmed by the heavy fate that was hurrying upon them. Their eyes
only, which were fixed on the burgomaster, expressed the reproaches
they intended him. In the meantime the secretary had drawn from his
portfolio the imperial decree, and taking it from its double envelope,
now laid it with a condoling gesture on the table before Erasmus, who
first glanced hastily below at the Emperor's seal and subscription, and
then attempted to read. But he could not accomplish it; he still
gazed on the first side, and soon his eyes stared vacantly from the
paper on the air. The Vice-Consul was on the point of wakening him from
this lethargy of the spirit, when the city-marshal rushed into the room
with a face of horror. And now Erasmus started up from his
stupefaction.--"Another Job's post," he exclaimed; "I read it in your
countenance: but speak it out; we have already heard the worst; what is
still to come cannot much affect us."

"Would to heaven it were so!" replied the bailiff. "My tidings concern
you in particular, Mr. Burgomaster. Your son Christopher has been found
dead in his night-clothes, in the well of his garden."

A cry of horror burst from the lips of all present, and the old Erasmus
clasped his long thin hands.--"My last!" he exclaimed piteously--then
suddenly, in a louder voice, he added, "Thou art just, O God!" and his
head, with its silver locks, fell back, so that it hung over the elbow
of his chair.

The council crowded about him in terror. The vice-consul looked at the
old man's broken eyes, felt his pulse, and cried with deep emotion, "He
is dead!"

"He who does not walk in fear, does not please God!" cried Caspar, in
his dark fanaticism, with the words of Sirach.

"De mortuis nil nisi bene, collega," admonished the vice-consul. "The
deceased, with all his failings, was yet a MAN, in the full sense of
the word, and therefore always estimable. If he has erred, he has
severely suffered. Peace be with his ashes!"

He went to the head of the corse, and folded his hands in prayer. The
others stood around and did the same; and from every lip trembled a low
and devout supplication for the dead.


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: The title of Prince Palatine is far from being a correct
translation of the original, for which, indeed, we have no
corresponding phrase, the political organization of this country
supplying no corresponding authority. In such a dilemma nothing is left
to a translator but to choose between two evils; either to retain the
original term, or to adopt from his own language any word that may
convey something of a similar idea. Perhaps I have been wrong in my
choice.--Certamen est de paupere regno.]

[Footnote 2: This German dance is the Waltz, though it certainly has no
claim to the title, being neither more nor less than the English
Lavolta, so constantly referred to by the old dramatists. But our
German neighbours are remarkable for the organ of appropriation, and
not less so for the organ of impudence. The one leads them to steal,
and the other to deny or abuse articles stolen. There is a very pretty
instance of this in Kotzebue, who cut down the comedy of the Jealous
Wife into a farce, and protested that the other three acts were good
for nothing.]

[Footnote 3: The _Carolina_ is a criminal law published by Charles the
Fifth, called Lex Carolina, or simply as here _Carolina_.]

[Footnote 4: The reader must forgive me the coining of a very useful
word, which will be easily understood by reference to the Latin
_inquilinus_.]



                             END OF VOL. I.



                                LONDON:
                PRINTED BY THOMAS DAVISON, WHITEFRIARS.





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