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Title: In the Blue Pike — Volume 01
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Blue Pike — Volume 01" ***

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IN THE BLUE PIKE

By Georg Ebers

Volume 1.


Translated from the German by Mary T. Safford



CHAPTER I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I mean Lienhard, Herr Groland."

"The young one," stuttered Cyriax.

Then, raising the shawl, he continued inquisitively:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So she turned to the others again, saying soothingly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Good for you!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER II.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what did this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER III.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now it was all over with studying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

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





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