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Title: In the Fire of the Forge: A Romance of Old Nuremberg — Volume 01
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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IN THE FIRE OF THE FORGE

A ROMANCE OF OLD NUREMBERG

By Georg Ebers

Volume 1.

Translated from the German by Mary J. Safford



CHAPTER I.

On the eve of St. Medard's Day in the year 1281, the moon, which had just
risen, was shining brightly upon the imperial free city of Nuremberg; its
rays found their way into the street leading from the strong Marienthurm
to the Frauenthor, but entrance to the Ortlieb mansion was barred by a
house, a watchtower, and--most successfully of all--by a tall linden
tree.  Yet there was something to be seen here which even now, when
Nuremberg sheltered the Emperor Rudolph and so many secular and
ecclesiastical princes, counts, and knights, awakened Luna's curiosity.
True, this something had naught in common with the brilliant spectacles
of which there was no lack during this month of June; on the contrary, it
was very quiet here.  An imperial command prohibited the soldiery from
moving about the city at night, and the Frauenthor, through which during
the day plenty of people and cattle passed in and out had been closed
long before.  Very few of the worthy burghers--who went to bed betimes
and rose so early that they rarely had leisure to enjoy the moonlight
long--passed here at this hour.  The last one, an honest master weaver,
had moved with a very crooked gait.  As he saw the moon double--like
everything else around and above him--he had wondered whether the man up
there had a wife.  He expected no very pleasant reception from his own at
home.  The watchman, who--the moon did not exactly know why--lingered a
short time in front of the Ortlieb mansion, followed the burgher.  Then
came a priest who, with the sacristan and several lantern bearers, was
carrying the sacrament to a dying man in St. Clarengasse.

There was usually more to be seen at this hour on the other side of the
city--the northwestern quarter--where the fortress rose on its hill,
dominating the Thiergartenthor at its foot; for the Emperor Rudolph
occupied the castle, and his brother-in-law, Burgrave Friedrich von
Zollern, his own residence.  This evening, however, there was little
movement even there; the Emperor and his court, the Burgrave and his
train, with all the secular and ecclesiastical princes, counts, and
knights, had gone to the Town Hall with their ladies.  High revel was
held there, and inspiring music echoed through the open windows of the
spacious apartment, where the Emperor Rudolph also remained during the
ball.  Here the moonbeams might have been reflected from glittering steel
or the gold, silver, and gems adorning helmets, diadems, and gala robes;
or they might surely have found an opportunity to sparkle on the ripples
of the Pegnitz River, which divided the city into halves; but the
heavenly wanderer, from the earliest times, has preferred leafy hidden
nooks to scenes of noisy gaiety, a dim light to a brilliant glare.  Luna
likes best to gaze where there is a secret to be discovered, and mortals
have always been glad to choose her as a confidante.  Something exactly
suited to her taste must surely be going on just now near the linden
which, in all the splendour of fullest bloom, shaded the street in front
of the Ortlieb mansion; for she had seen two fair girls grow up in the
ancient dwelling with the carved escutcheon above the lofty oak door, and
the ample garden--and the younger, from her earliest childhood, had been
on especially intimate terms with her.

Now the topmost boughs of the linden, spite of their dense foliage,
permitted a glimpse of the broad courtyard which separated the patrician
residence from the street.

A chain, which with graceful curves united a short row of granite posts,
shut out the pedestrians, the vehicles and horsemen, the swine and other
animals driven through the city gate.  In contrast with the street, which
in bad weather resembled an almost impassable swamp, it was always kept
scrupulously clean, and the city beadle might spare himself the trouble
of looking there for the carcasses of sucking pigs, cats, hens, and rats,
which it was his duty to carry away.

A young man with an unusually tall and powerful figure was standing in
this yard, gazing up at a window in the second story.  The shadow of the
linden concealed his features and his dress, but the moon had already
seen him more than once in this very spot and knew that he was a handsome
fellow, whose bronzed countenance, with its prominent nose and broad
brow, plainly indicated a strong will.  She had also seen the scar
stretching from the roots of his long brown locks across the whole
forehead to the left cheek-bone, that lent the face a martial air.  Yet
he belonged to no military body, but was the son of a noble family of
Nuremberg, which boasted, it is true, of "knightly blood" and the right
of its sons to enter the lists of the tournament, but was engaged in
peaceful pursuits; for it carried on a trade with Italy and the
Netherlands, and every male scion of the Eysvogel race had the birthright
of being elected a member of the Honourable Council and taking part in
the government of Nuremberg.

The moon had long known that the young man in the courtyard was an
Eysvogel, nor was this difficult to discover.  Every child in Nuremberg
was familiar with the large showy coat of arms lately placed above the
lofty doorway of the Eysvogel mansion; and the nocturnal visitor wore a
doublet on whose left breast was embroidered the same coat of arms, with
three birds in the shield and one on the helmet.

He had already waited some time in vain, but now a young girl's head
appeared at the window, and a gay fresh voice called his Christian name,
"Wolff!"

Waving his cap, he stepped nearer to the casement, greeted her warmly,
and told her that he had come at this late hour to say good-night, though
only from the front yard.

"Come in," she entreated.  "True, my father and Eva have gone to the
dance at the Town Hall, but my aunt, the abbess, is sitting with my
mother."

"No, no," replied Wolff, "I only stopped in passing.  Besides, I am
stealing even this brief time."

"Business?" asked the young girl.  "Do you know, I am beginning to be
jealous of the monster which, like an old spider, constantly binds you
closer and closer in its web.  What sort of dealing is this?--to give the
whole day to business, and only a few minutes of moonlight to your
betrothed bride!

"I wish it were otherwise," sighed Wolff.  "You do not know how hard
these times are, Els!  Nor how many thoughts beset my brain, since my
father has placed me in charge of all his new enterprises."

"Always something new," replied Els, with a shade of reproach in her
tone.  "What an omnivorous appetite this Eysvogel business possesses!
Ullmann Nutzel said lately: 'Wherever one wants to buy, the bird--
[vogel]--has been ahead and snapped up everything in Venice and Milan.
And the young one is even sharper at a bargain,' he added."

"Because I want to make a warm nest for you, dearest," replied Wolff.

"As if we were shopkeepers anxious to secure customers!" said the girl,
laughing.  "I think the old Eysvogel house must have enough big stoves to
warm its son and his wife.  At the Tuckers the business supports seven,
with their wives and children.  What more do we want?  I believe that we
love each other sincerely, and though I understand life better than Eva,
to whom poverty and happiness are synonymous, I don't need, like the
women of your family, gold plates for my breakfast porridge or a bed of
Levantine damask for my lapdog.  And the dowry my father will give me
would supply the daughters of ten knights."

"I know it, sweetheart," interrupted Wolff dejectedly; "and how gladly I
would be content with the smallest--"

"Then be so!" she exclaimed cheerily.  "What you would call 'the
smallest,' others term wealth.  You want more than competence, and I--the
saints know-would be perfectly content with 'good.'  Many a man has been
shipwrecked on the cliffs of 'better' and 'best.'"

Fired with passionate ardour, he exclaimed, "I am coming in now."

"And the business?" she asked mischievously.  "Let it go as it will," he
answered eagerly, waving his hand.  But the next instant he dropped it
again, saying thoughtfully: "No, no; it won't do, there is too much at
stake."

Els had already turned to send Katterle, the maid, to open the heavy
house door, but ere doing so she put her beautiful head out again, and
asked:

"Is the matter really so serious?  Won't the monster grant you even a
good-night kiss?"

"No," he answered firmly.  "Your menservants have gone, and before the
maid could open----There is the moon rising above the linden already.
It won't do.  But I'll see you to-morrow and, please God, with a lighter
heart.  We may have good news this very day."

"Of the wares from Venice and Milan?" asked Els anxiously.

"Yes, sweetheart.  Two  waggon trains will meet at Verona.  The first
messenger came from Ingolstadt, the second from Munich, and the one from
Landshut has been here since day before yesterday.  Another should have
arrived this morning, but the intense heat yesterday, or some cause--at
any rate there is reason for anxiety.  You don't know what is at stake."

"But peace was proclaimed yesterday," said Els, "and if robber knights
and bandits should venture----But, no!  Surely the waggons have a strong
escort."

"The strongest," answered Wolff.  "The first wain could not arrive before
to-morrow morning."

"You see!"  cried the girl gaily.  "Just wait patiently.  When you are
once mine I'll teach you not to look on the dark side.  O Wolff, why is
everything made so much harder for us than for others?  Now this evening,
it would have been so pleasant to go to the ball with you."

"Yet, how often, dearest, I have urged you in vain----" he began, but she
hastily interrupted "Yes, it was certainly no fault of yours, but one of
us must remain with my mother, and Eva----"

"Yesterday she complained to me with tears in her eyes that she would be
forced to go to this dance, which she detested."

"That is the very reason she ought to go," explained Els.  "She is
eighteen years old, and has never yet been induced to enter into any of
the pleasures other girls enjoy.  When she isn't in the convent she is
always at home, or with Aunt Kunigunde or one of the nuns in the woods
and fields.  If she wants to take the veil later, who can prevent it, but
the abbess herself advises that she should have at least a glimpse of the
world before leaving it.  Few need it more, it seems to me, than our
Eva."

"Certainly," Wolff assented.  "Such a lovely creature!  I know no girl
more beautiful in all Nuremberg."

"Oh! you----," said his betrothed bride, shaking her finger at her lover,
but he answered promptly,

"You just told me that you preferred 'good' to 'better,' and so doubtless
'fair' to 'fairer,' and you are beautiful, Els, in person and in soul.
As for Eva, I admire, in pictures of madonnas and angels, those wonderful
saintly eyes with their uplifted gaze and marvellously long lashes, the
slight droop of the little head, and all the other charms; yet I gladly
dispense with them in my heart's darling and future wife.  But you, Els--
if our Lord would permit me to fashion out of divine clay a life
companion after my own heart, do you know how she would look?"

"Like me--exactly like Els Ortlieb, of course," replied the girl
laughing.

"A correct guess, with all due modesty," Wolff answered gaily.  "But take
care that she does not surpass your wishes.  For you know, if the little
saint should meet at the dance some handsome fellow whom she likes better
than the garb of a nun, and becomes a good Nuremberg wife, the excess of
angelic virtue will vanish; and if I had a brother--in serious earnest--
I would send him to your Eva."

"And," cried Els, "however quickly her mood changes, it will surely do
her no harm.  But as yet she cares nothing about you men.  I know her,
and the tears she shed when our father gave her the costly Milan
suckenie, in which she went to the ball, were anything but tears of joy."

     [Suckenie--A long garment, fitting the upper part of the body
     closely and widening very much below the waist, with openings for
     the arms.]

"I only wonder," added Wolff, "that you persuaded her to go; the pious
lamb knows how to use her horns fiercely enough."

"Oh, yes," Els assented, as if she knew it by experience; then she
eagerly continued, "She is still just like an April day."

"And therefore," Wolff remarked, "the dance which she began with tears
will end joyously enough.  The young knights and nobles will gather round
her like bees about honey.  Count von Montfort, my brother-in-law
Siebenburg says, is also at the Town Hall with his daughter."

"And  the comet Cordula was followed, as usual, by a long train of
admirers," said Els.  "My father was obliged to give the count lodgings;
it could not be avoided.  The Emperor Rudolph had named him to the
Council among those who must be treated with special courtesy.  So he was
assigned to us, and the whole suite of apartments in the back of the
house, overlooking the garden, is now filled with Montforts, Montfort
household officials, menservants, squires, pages, and chaplains.
Montfort horses and hounds crowd our good steeds out of their stalls.
Besides the twenty stabled here, eighteen were put in the brewery in the
Hundsgasse, and eight belong to Countess Cordula.  Then the constant
turmoil all day long and until late at night!  It is fortunate that they
do not lodge with us in the front of the house!  It would be very bad for
my mother!"

"Then you can rejoice over the departure all the more cordially,"
observed Wolff.

"It will hardly cause us much sorrow," Els admitted.  "Yet the young
countess brings much merriment into our quiet house.  She is certainly a
tireless madcap, and it will vex your proud sister Isabella to know that
your brother-in-law Siebenburg is one of her admirers.  Did she not go to
the Town Hall?"

"No," Wolff answered; "the twins have changed her wonderfully.  You saw
the dress my mother pressed upon her for the ball--Genoese velvet and
Venetian lace!  Its cost would have bought a handsome house.  She was
inclined, too, to appear as a young mother at the festival, and I assure
you that she looked fairly regal in the magnificent attire.  But this
morning, after she had bathed the little boys, she changed her mind.
Though my mother, and even my grandmother, urged her to go, she insisted
that she belonged to the twins, and that some evil would befall the
little ones if she left them."

"That is noble!" cried Els in delight, "and if I should ever---.  Yet no,
Isabella and I cannot be compared.  My husband will never be numbered
among the admirers of another woman, like your detestable brother-in-law.
Besides, he is wasting time with Cordula.  Her worldliness repels Eva,
it is true, but I have heard many pleasant things about her.  Alas! she
is a motherless girl, and her father is an old reveller and huntsman,
who rejoices whenever she does any audacious act.  But he keeps his purse
open to her, and she is kind-hearted and obliging to a degree----"

"Equalled by few," interrupted Wolff, with a sneer.  "The men know how
to praise her for it.  No paternoster would be imposed upon her in the
confessional on account of cruel harshness."

"Nor for a sinful or a spiteful deed," replied Els positively.  "Don't
say anything against her to me, Wolff, in spite of your dissolute
brother-in-law.  I have enough to do to intercede for her with Eva and
Aunt Kunigunde since she singed and oiled the locks of a Swiss knight
belonging to the Emperor's court.  Our Katterle brought the coals.  But
many other girls do that, since courtesy permits it.  Her train to the
Town Hall certainly made a very brave show; the fifty freight waggons you
are expecting will scarcely form a longer line."

The young merchant started.  The comparison roused his forgotten anxiety
afresh, and after a few brief, tender words of farewell he left the
object of his love.  Els gazed thoughtfully after him; the moonlight
revealed his tall, powerful figure for a long time.  Her heart throbbed
faster, and she felt more deeply than ever how warmly she loved him.
He moved as though some heavy burden of care bowed his strong shoulders.
She would fain have hastened after him, clung to him, and asked what
troubled him, what he was concealing from her who was ready to share
everything with him, but the Frauenthor, through which he entered the
city, already hid him from her gaze.

She turned back into the room with a faint sigh.  It could scarcely be
solely anxiety about his expected goods that burdened her lover's mind.
True, his weak, arrogant mother, and still more his grandmother, the
daughter of a count, who lived with them in the Eysvogel house and still
ruled her daughter as if she were a child, had opposed her engagement to
Wolff, but their resistance had ceased since the betrothal.  On the other
hand, she had often heard that Fran Eysvogel, the haughty mother,
dowerless herself, had many poor and extravagant relations besides her
daughter and her debt-laden, pleasure-loving husband, Sir Seitz
Siebenburg, who, it could not be denied, all drew heavily upon the
coffers of the ancient mercantile house.  Yet it was one of the richest
in Nuremberg.  Yes, something of which she was still ignorant must be
oppressing Wolff, and, with the firm resolve to give him no peace until
he confessed everything to her, she returned to the couch of her invalid
mother.



CHAPTER II.

Wolff had scarcely vanished from the street, and Els from the window,
when a man's slender figure appeared, as if it had risen from the earth,
beside the spurge-laurel tree at the left of the house.  Directly after
some one rapped lightly on the pavement of the yard, and in a few minutes
the heavy ironbound oak doors opened and a woman's hand beckoned to the
late guest, who glided swiftly along in the narrow line of shadow cast by
the house and vanished through the entrance.

The moon looked after him doubtfully.  In former days the narrow-
shouldered fellow had been seen near the Ortlieb house often enough, and
his movements had awakened Luna's curiosity; for he had been engaged in
amorous adventure even when work was still going on at the recently
completed convent of St. Clare--an institution endowed by the Ebner
brothers, to which Herr Ernst Ortlieb added a considerable sum.  At that
time--about three years before--the bold fellow had gone there to keep
tryst evening after evening, and the pretty girl who met him was
Katterle, the waiting maid of the beautiful Els, as Nuremberg folk called
the Ortlieb sisters, Els and Eva.  Many vows of ardent, changeless love
for her had risen to the moon, and the outward aspect of the man who made
them afforded a certain degree of assurance that he would fulfil his
pledges, for he then wore the long dark robe of reputable people, and on
the front of his cap, from which a net shaped like a bag hung down his
back, was a large S, and on the left shoulder of his long coat a T, the
initials of the words Steadfast and True.  They bore witness that the
person who had them embroidered on his clothing deemed these virtues the
highest and noblest.  It might have been believed that the lean fellow,
who scarcely looked his five-and-thirty years, possessed these lofty
traits of character; for, though three full years had passed since his
last meeting with Katterle at the building site, he had gone to his
sweetheart with his wonted steadfastness and truth immediately after the
Emperor Rudolph's entry.

He had given her reason to rely upon him; but the moon's gaze reaches
far, and had discovered the quality of Walther Biberli's "steadfastness
and truth."

In one respect it proved the best and noblest; for among thousands of
servitors the moon had not seen one who clung to his lord with more loyal
devotion.  Towards pretty young women, on the contrary, he displayed his
principal virtues in a very singular way; for the pallid nocturnal
wanderer above had met him in various lands and cities, and wherever he
tarried long another maid was added to the list of those to whom Biberli
vowed steadfastness and truth.

True, whenever Sir Long Coat's travels led him back to any one to whom he
had sworn eternal love, he went first to her, if she, too, retained the
old affection.  But Katterle had cause to care for him most, for he was
more warmly devoted to her than to any of the others, and in his own
fashion his intentions were honest.  He seriously intended, as soon as
his master left the imperial court--which he hoped would not happen too
soon--and returned to his ancestral castle in his native Switzerland, to
establish a home of his own for his old age, and no one save Katterle
should light the hearth fire.  Her outward circumstances pleased him, as
well as her disposition and person.  She was free-born, like himself--the
son of a forest keeper--and, again like him, belonged to a Swiss family;
her heritage (she was an orphan), which consisted of a house and arable
land in her home, Sarnen, where she still sent her savings, satisfied his
requirements.  But above all she believed in him and admired his
versatile mind and his experience.  Moreover, she gave him absolute
obedience, and loved him so loyally that she had remained unwedded,
though a number of excellent men had sought her in marriage.

Katterle had met him for the first time more than three years before
when, after the battle of Marchfield, he remained several weeks in
Nuremberg.  They had sat side by side at a tournament, and, recognising
each other as Swiss-born by the sharp sound of the letters "ch" and the
pronunciation of other words, were mutually attracted.

Katterle had a kind heart; yet at that time she almost yielded to the
temptation to pray Heaven not to hasten the cure of a brave man's wounds
too quickly, for she knew that Biberli was a squire in the service of the
young Swiss knight Heinz Schorlin, whose name was on every lip because,
in spite of his youth, he had distinguished himself at the battle of
Marchfield by his rare bravery, and that the young hero would remain in
Nuremberg only until his severe injuries were completely healed.  His
departure would bring to her separation from his servant, and sometimes
when homesickness tortured her she thought she would be unable to survive
the parting.  Meanwhile Biberli nursed his master with faithful zeal, as
if nothing bound him to Nuremberg, and even after his departure Katterle
remained in good health.

Now she had him again.  Directly after the Emperor Rudolph's entrance,
five days before, Biberli had come openly to the Ortlieb house and
presented himself to Martsche,--[Margaret]--the old house keeper, as the
countryman and friend of the waiting maid, who had brought her a message
from home.

True, it had been impossible to say anything confidential either in the
crowded kitchen or in the servants' hall.  To-night's meeting was to
afford the opportunity.

The menservants, carrying sedan chairs and torches, had all gone out with
their master, who had taken his younger daughter, Eva, to the dance.
They were to wait in front of the Town Hall, because it was doubtful
whether the daughter of the house, who had been very reluctant to go to
the entertainment, might not urge an early departure.  Count von
Montfort, whose quarters were in the Ortlieb mansion, and his whole train
of male attendants, certainly would not come back till very late at night
or even early morning, for the Countess Cordula remained at a ball till
the close, and her father lingered over the wine cup till his daughter
called him from the revellers.

All this warranted the lovers in hoping for an undisturbed interview.
The place of meeting was well chosen.  It was unsatisfactory only to the
moon for, after Biberli had closed the heavy door of the house behind
him, Luna found no chink or crevice through which a gliding ray might
have watched what the true and steadfast Biberli was saying to Katterle.
There was one little window beside the door, but it was closed, and the
opening was covered with sheepskin.  So the moon's curiosity was not
gratified.

Instead of her silver rays, the long entry of the Ortlieb house, with its
lofty ceiling, was illumined only by the light of three lanterns, which
struggled dimly through horn panes.  The shining dots in a dark corner of
the spacious corridor were the eyes of a black cat, watching there for
rats and mice.

The spot really possessed many advantages for the secret meeting of two
lovers, for as it ran through the whole width of the house, it had two
doors, one leading to the street, the other into the yard.  In the right
wall of the entry there were also two small doors, reached by a flight of
steps.  At this hour both closed empty rooms, for the office and the
chamber where Herr Ernst Ortlieb received his business friends had not
been occupied since sunset, and the bathroom and dressing-room adjoining
were used only during the day.

True, some unbidden intruder might have come down the long broad
staircase leading to the upper story.  But in that case the lovers had
the best possible hiding-place close at hand, for here large and small
boxes, standing side by side and one above another, formed a protecting
wall; yonder heaps of sacks and long rows of casks afforded room for
concealment behind them.  Rolls of goods packed in sacking leaned against
the chests, inviting a fugitive to slip back of them, and surely no one
would suspect the presence of a pair of lovers in the rear of these
mountains of hides and bales wrapped in matting.  Still it would scarcely
have been advisable to remain near them; for these packages, which the
Ortlieb house brought from Venice, contained pepper and other spices that
exhaled a pungent odor, endurable only by hardened nerves.

Valuable goods of various kinds lay here until they could be placed in
cellars or storehouses or sold.  But there was many an empty space, too,
in the broad corridor for, spite of Emperor Rudolph's strictness, robbery
on the highroads had by no means ceased, and Herr Ernst Ortlieb was still
compelled to use caution in the transportation of costly wares.

After Biberli and his sweetheart had assured themselves that the ardour
of their love had by no means cooled, they sat down on some bags filled
with cloves and related to each other the experiences through which they
had passed during the period of separation.

Katterle's life had flowed on in a pleasant monotony.  She had no cause
to complain of her employers.

Fran Maria Ortlieb, the invalid mistress of the house, rarely needed her
services.

During a ride to visit relatives in Ulm, the travellers, who were under
the same escort of men at arms as a number of Nuremberg freight waggons,
had been attacked by the robber knights Absbach and Hirschhorn.  An arrow
had struck Frau Ortlieb's palfrey, causing the unfortunate woman a severe
fall, which produced an internal injury, from which she had not yet
recovered.  The assault resulted unfortunately for young Hirschhorn, who
led it; he met with a shameful death on the gallows.

The information enraged Biberli.  Instead of feeling any sympathy for the
severely injured lady, he insisted that the Nuremberg burghers had dealt
with Hirschhorn in a rascally fashion; for he was a knight, and
therefore, as honest judges familiar with the law, they ought to have put
him to death by the sword instead of with the rope.  And Katterle agreed
with him; she never contradicted his opinions, and surely Biberli must
know what treatment befitted a knight, since he was the foster-brother of
one.

Nor did the maid, who was in the personal service of the daughters of the
house, make any complaint against them.  Indeed, she could not praise
Els, the elder, sufficiently.  She was very just, the careful nurse of
her invalid mother, and always unvarying in her cheerful kindness.

She had no fault to find with Eva either, especially as she was more
religious than any one in the whole house.  Spite of her marvellous
beauty--Katterle knew that there was nothing false about it--she would
probably end by joining the nuns in the convent.  But her mood changed
with every breath, like the weathercock on the steeple.  If she got out
of bed the wrong way, or one did not guess her wishes before they were
uttered, she would fly into a rage at the least trifle.  Then she
sometimes used very unkind words; but no one could cherish anger against
her long, for she had an indescribably lovely manner of trying to atone
for the offences which her hasty young blood made her commit.  She had
gone to the ball that night as if it were a funeral; she shunned men like
poison, and even kept out of the way of her sister's friends.

Biberli laughed, as if there could be no doubt of his opinion, and
exclaimed: "Just wait a while!  My master will meet her at the Town Hall
tonight, and if the scrawny little squirrel I saw three years ago has
really grown up into such a beauty, if he does not get on her track and
capture her, my name isn't Biberli."

"But  surely,"  replied  Katterle  doubtfully, "you told me that you had
not yet succeeded in persuading him to imitate you in steadfastness and
truth."

"But he is  a knight," replied  the servant, striking himself pompously
under the T on his shoulder, as if he, too, belonged to this favoured
class, "and so he is as free to pursue a woman as to hunt the game in the
forest.  And my Heinz Schorlin!  You saw him, and admitted that he was
worth looking at.  And that was when he had scarcely recovered from his
dangerous wounds, while now----The French Knight de Preully, in Paris,
with whom my dead foster-brother, until he fell sick-----"  Here he
hesitated; an enquiring look from his sweetheart showed that--perhaps for
excellent reasons--he had omitted to tell her about his sojourn in Paris.

Now that he had grown older and abandoned the wild revelry of that period
in favour of truth and steadfastness, he quietly related everything she
desired to know.

He had acquired various branches of learning while sharing the studies of
his foster-brother, the eldest son of the old Knight Schorlin, who was
then living, and therefore, when scarcely twenty, was appointed
schoolmaster at Stansstadt.  Perhaps he might have continued to teach--
for he promised to be successful--had not a vexatious discovery disgusted
him with his calling.

He was informed that the mercenaries in the Schnitzthurm guard were paid
five shillings a week more than he, spite of the knowledge he had gained
by so much toil.

In his indignation he went back to Schorlin Castle, which was always open
to him, and he arrived just at the right time.

His present master's older brother, whose health had always been
delicate, being unable to follow the profession of arms, was on the eve
of departing to attend the university at Paris, accompanied by the
chaplain and an equerry.  When the Lady Wendula, his master's mother,
learned what an excellent reputation Biberli had gained as a
schoolmaster, she persuaded her husband to send him as esquire
with their sickly son.

In Paris there was at first no lack of pleasures of every description,
especially as they met among the king's mercenaries many a dissolute
Swiss knight and man at arms.  His foster-brother, to his sorrow, was
unable to resist the temptations which Satan scatters in Paris as the
peasants elsewhere sow rye and oats, and the young knight was soon
attacked, by a severe illness.  Then Biberli's gay life ended too.
For months he did not leave his foster-brother's sick bed a single hour,
by day or night, until death released him from his suffering.

On his return to Castle Schorlin he found many changes; the old knight
had been called away from earth a few days before his son's death, and
Heinz Schorlin, his present master, had fallen heir to castle and lands.
This, however, was no great fortune, for the large estates of the
Schorlin family were burdened by heavy debts.

The dead lord, as countryman, boon companion, and brother in arms of the
Emperor Rudolph, had been always ready to place his sword at his service,
and whenever a great tournament was held he never failed to be present.
So the property had been consumed, and the Lady Wendula and her son and
three daughters were left in moderate circumstances.  The two older girls
had taken the veil, while the youngest, a merry little maiden, lived with
her mother.

But the Emperor Rudolph had by no means forgotten the Lady Wendula and
her dead husband, and with the utmost kindness requested her to send him
her only son as soon as he was able to wield a sword and lance.  He
intended to repay Heinz for the love and loyalty his father had shown him
through his whole life.

"And the Hapsburg," Biberli added, "had kept his word."

In a few years his young lord was ready for a position at court.

Gotthard von Ramsweg, the Lady Wendula's older brother, a valiant knight,
went to his sister's home after her husband's death to manage the estate
and instruct his nephew in all the exercises of knighthood.  Soon the
strong, agile, fearless son of a brave father, under the guidance of such
a teacher, excelled many an older youth.  He was barely eighteen when the
Lady Wendula sent him to his imperial master.  She had given him, with
her blessing, fiery horses, the finest pieces of his father's suits of
mail, an armour bearer, and a groom to take with him on his journey; and
his uncle had agreed to accompany him to Lausanne, where the Emperor
Rudolph was then holding his court to discuss with Pope Gregory--the
tenth of the name--arrangements for a new crusade.  But nothing had yet
been said about Biberli.  On the evening before the young noble's
departure, however, a travelling minstrel came to the castle, who sang
of the deeds of former crusaders, and alluded very touchingly to the
loneliness of the wounded knight, Herr Weisenthau, on his couch of pain.
Then the Lady Wendula remembered her eldest son, and the fraternal
tendance which Biberli had given him.

"And so," the servant went on, "in the anxiety of a mother's heart she
urged me to accompany Heinz, her darling, as esquire; and watch over his
welfare."

"Since I could use a pen, I was to write now and then what a mother
desires to hear of a son.  She felt great confidence in me, because she
believed that I was true and steadfast.  And I have kept in every respect
the vow I then made to the Lady Wendula--that she should not find herself
mistaken in me.  I remember that evening as if it were only yesterday.
To keep constantly before my eyes the praise my mistress had bestowed
upon me, I ventured to ask my young master' sister to embroider the T and
the S on the cap and the new coat, and the young lady did so that very
night.  Since that time these two initials have gone with me wherever our
horses bear us, and as, after the battle of Marchfield, Biberli nursed
his master back to health with care and toil, he thinks he can prove to
you, his sole sweetheart, that he wears his T and S with good reason."

In return for these words Katterle granted her friend the fitting reward
with such resignation that it was robbing the moon not to permit her to
look on.  Her curiosity, however, was not to remain wholly ungratified;
for when Biberli found that it was time for him to repair to the Town
Hall to learn whether his master, Heinz Schorlin, needed his services,
Katterle came out of the house door with him.

They found much more to say and to do ere they parted.

First, the Swiss maid-servant wished to know how the Emperor Rudolph had
received Heinz Schorlin; and she had the most gratifying news.

During their stay at Lausanne, where he won the victory in a tournament,
Heinz was knighted; but after the battle of Marchfield he became still
dearer to the Emperor, especially when a firm friendship united the young
Swiss to Hartmann, Rudolph's eighteen-year-old son, who was now on the
Rhine.  That very day Heinz had received a tangible proof of the imperial
favour, on account of which he had gone to the dance in an extremely
cheerful mood.

This good news concerning the knight, whom her young mistress had perhaps
already met, awakened in the maid, who was not averse to the business of
matchmaking, so dear to her sex, very aspiring plans which aimed at
nothing less than a union between Eva and Heinz Schorlin.  But Biberli
had scarcely perceived the purport of Katterle's words when he anxiously
interrupted her and, declaring that he had already lingered too long, cut
short the suggestion by taking leave.

His master's marriage to a young girl who belonged to the city nobility,
which in his eyes was far inferior in rank to a Knight Schorlin, should
cast no stone in the pathway of fame that was leading him so swiftly
upward.  Many things must happen before Biberli could honestly advise him
to give up his present free and happy life and seek rest in his own nest.

If Eva Ortlieb were as lovely as the Virgin herself, and Sir Heinz's
inflammable heart should blaze as fervently as it always did, she should
not lure him into the paralysing bondage of wedlock so long as he was
there and watched over him.

If he must be married, Biberli had something else in view for him--
something which would make him a great lord at a single stroke.  But it
was too soon even for that.

When he crossed the Fleischbrucke in the market place and approached the
brilliantly lighted Town Hall, he had considerable difficulty in moving
forward, for the whole square was thronged with curious spectators,
servants in gala liveries, sedan chairs, richly caparisoned steeds, and
torchbearers.  The von Montfort retinue, which had quarters in the
Ortlieb house, was one of the most brilliant and numerous of all, and
Biberli's eyes wandered with a look of satisfaction over the gold-mounted
sedan chair of the young countess.  He would rather have given his master
to her than to the Nuremberg maiden whom Katterle compared to a
weathercock, and who therefore certainly did not possess the lofty virtue
of steadfastness.



CHAPTER III.

Sir Heinz Schorlin's servant was on intimate terms with many of the
servitors of the imperial family, and one of them conducted him to the
balcony of the city pipers, which afforded a view of the great hall.
The Emperor sat there at the head of the banquet table, and by his side,
on a lower throne, his sister, the Burgravine von Zollern.  Only the most
distinguished and aristocratic personages whom the Reichstag attracted to
Nuremberg, with their ladies, shared the feast given by the city in their
honour.

But yonder, at a considerable distance from them, though within the space
enclosed by a black and yellow silk cord, separated from the glittering
throng of the other guests, he perceived--he would not trust his own
eyes--the Knight Heinz Schorlin, and by his side a wonderfully charming
young girl.

Biberli had not seen Eva Ortlieb for three years, yet he knew that it was
no other than she.  But into what a lovely creature the active, angular
child with the thin little arms had developed!

The hall certainly did not lack superb women of all ages and every style
of figure and bearing suited to please the eye.  Many might even boast of
more brilliant, aristocratic beauty, but not one could vie in witchery
with her on whom Katterle had cast an eye for his master.  She had only
begun a modest allusion to it, but even that was vexatious; for Biberli
fancied that she had thereby "talked of the devil," and he did not wish
him to appear.

With a muttered imprecation, by no means in harmony with his character,
he prepared to leave the balcony; but the scene below, though it
constantly filled him with fresh vexation, bound him to the spot
as if by some mysterious spell.

Especially did he fancy that he had a bitter taste in his mouth when his
gaze noted the marvellous symmetry of Heinz Schorlin's powerful though
not unusually tall figure, his beautiful waving locks, and the
aristocratic ease with which he wore his superb velvet robe-sapphire blue
on the left side and white on the right, embroidered with silver falcons-
or perceived how graciously the noblest of the company greeted him after.
the banquet; not, indeed, from envy, but because it pierced his very
heart to think that this splendid young favourite of fortune, already so
renowned, whom he warmly loved, should throw himself away on the daughter
of a city merchant, though his motley wares, which he had just seen, were
adorned by the escutcheon of a noble house.

But Heinz Schorlin had already been attracted by many more aristocratic
fair ones, only to weary of them speedily enough.  This time, also,
Biberli would have relied calmly on his fickleness had Katterle's foolish
wish only remained unuttered, and had Heinz treated his companion in the
gay, bold fashion which usually marked his manner to other ladies.  But
his glance had a modest, almost devout expression when he gazed into the
large blue eyes of the merchant's daughter.  And now she raised them!
It could not fail to bewitch the most obdurate woman hater!

Faithful, steadfast Biberli clenched his fists, and once even thought
of shouting "Fire!", into the ballroom below to separate all who were
enjoying themselves there wooing and being wooed.

But those beneath perceived neither him nor his wrath--least of all his
master and the young girl who had come hither so reluctantly.

At home Eva had really done everything in her power to be permitted to
stay away from the Town Hall.  Herr Ernst Ortlieb, her father, however,
had been inflexible.  The chin of the little man with beardless face and
hollow cheeks had even begun to tremble, and this was usually the
precursor of an outburst of sudden wrath which sometimes overpowered him
to such a degree that he committed acts which he afterwards regretted.

This time he had been compelled not to tolerate the opposition of his
obstinate child.  Emperor Rudolph himself had urged the "honourable"
members of the Council to gratify him and his daughter-in-law Agnes, whom
he wished to entertain pleasantly during her brief visit, by the presence
of their beautiful wives and daughters at the entertainment in the Town
Hall.

Herr Ortlieb's invalid wife could not spare Els, her older daughter and
faithful nurse, so he required Eva's obedience, and compelled her to give
up her opposition to attending the festival; but she dreaded the vain,
worldly gaiety--nay, actually felt a horror of it.

Even while still a pupil at the convent school she had often asked
herself whether it would not be the fairest fate for her, like her Aunt
Kunigunde, the abbess of the convent of St. Clare, to vow herself to the
Saviour and give up perishable joys to secure the rapture of heaven,
which lasted throughout eternity, and might begin even here on earth, in
a quiet life with God, a complete realisation of the Saviour's loving
nature, and the great sufferings which he took upon himself for love's
sake.  Oh, even suffering and bleeding with the Most High were rich in
mysterious delight!  Aye, no earthly happiness could compare with the
blissful feeling left by those hours of pious ecstasy.

Often she had sat with closed eyes for a long time, dreaming that she was
in the kingdom of heaven and, herself an angel, dwelt with angels.  How
often she had wondered whether earthly love could bestow greater joy than
such a happy dream, or the walks through the garden and forest, during
which the abbess told her of St. Francis of Assisi, who founded her
order, the best and most warmhearted among the successors of Christ, of
whom the Pope himself said that he would hear even those whom God would
not!  Moreover, there was no plant, no flower, no cry of any animal in
the woods which was not familiar to the Abbess Kunigunde.  Like St.
Francis; she distinguished in everything which the ear heard and the eye
beheld voices that bore witness to the goodness and greatness of the Most
High.  The abbess felt bound by ties of sisterly affection to every one
of God's creatures, and taught Eva to love them, too, and, as a person
who treats a child kindly wins the mother's heart also, to obtain by love
of his creatures that of the Creator.

Others had blamed her because she held aloof from her sister's friends
and amusements.  They were ignorant of the joys of solitude, which her
aunt and her saint had taught her to know.

She had endured interruptions and reproaches, often humbly, oftener
still, when her hot blood swept away her self-control, with vehement
indignation and tears; but meanwhile she had always cherished the secret
thought that the time would come when she, too, would be permitted, at
one with God and the Saviour, to enjoy the raptures of eternal bliss.
She loved her invalid mother and, often as his sudden fits of passion
alarmed her, she was tenderly attached to her father; yet it would have
seemed to her an exquisite delight to be permitted to imitate the saints
and sever all bonds which united her to the world and its clogging
demands.  She had long been yearning for the day when she would be
allowed to entreat the abbess to grant her admittance to the convent,
whose doors would be flung wide open for her because, next to the
brothers Ebner, who founded it, her parents had contributed the largest
sum for its support.

But she was obliged to wait patiently, for Els, her older sister, would
probably soon marry her Wolff, and then it would be her turn to nurse her
invalid mother.  Her own heart dictated this, and the abbess had said:
"Let her enter eternity clasping your hand before you begin, with us, to
devote all your strength to securing your own salvation.  Besides, you
will thereby ascend a long row of steps nearer to your sublime goal."

But Eva would far rather have given her hand now, aloof from the world,
to the Most High in an inviolable bond.  What marvel that, with such a
goal in view, she was deeply reluctant to enter the gay whirl of a noisy
ball!

With serious repugnance she had allowed Katterle and her sister to adorn
her, and entered the sedan chair which was to convey her to the Town
Hall.  Doubtless her own image, reflected in the mirror, had seemed
charming enough, and the loud expressions of delight from the servants
and others who admired her rich costume had pleased her; but directly
after she realized the vanity of this emotion and, while approaching the
ballroom in her chair, she prayed to her saint to help her conquer it.

Striving honestly to vanquish this error, she entered the hall soon after
the Emperor and his young daughter-in-law; but there she was greeted from
the balcony occupied by the city pipers and musicians, long before
Biberli entered it, with the same fanfare that welcomed the illustrious
guests of the city, and with which blended the blare of the heralds'
trumpets.  Thousands of candles in the chandeliers and candelabra
diffused a radiance as brilliant as that of day and, confused by the
noise and waves of light which surged around her, she had drawn closer
to her father, clinging to him for protection.  She especially missed
her sister, with whom she had grown up, who had become her second self,
and whom she needed most when she emerged from her quiet life of
introspection into the gay world.

At first she had stood with downcast lashes, but soon her eyes wandered
over the waving plumes and flashing jewels, the splendour of silk and
velvet, the glitter of gold and glimmer of pearls.

Sometimes the display in church had been scarcely less brilliant, and
even without her sister's request she had gazed at it, but how entirely
different it was!  There she had rejoiced in her own modest garb, and
told herself that her simplicity was more pleasing to God and the saints
than the vain splendour of the others, which she might so easily have
imitated or even surpassed.  But here the anxious question of how she
appeared among the rest of the company forced itself upon her.

True, she knew that the brocade suckenie, which her father had ordered
from Milan, was costly; that the sea-green hue of the right side
harmonised admirably with the white on the left; that the tendrils and
lilies of the valley wrought in silver, which seemed to be scattered over
the whole, looked light and airy; yet she could not shake off the feeling
that everything she wore was in disorder--here something was pulled awry,
there something was crushed.  Els, who had attended to her whole toilet,
was not there to arrange it, and she felt thoroughly uncomfortable in the
midst of this worldly magnificence and bustle.

Notwithstanding her father's presence, she had never been so desolate as
among these ladies and gentlemen, nearly all of whom were strangers.

Her sister was intimate with the other girls of her age and station,
few of whom were absent, and if Eva could have conjured her to her side
doubtless many would have joined them; but she knew no one well, and
though many greeted her, no one lingered.  Everybody had friends with
whom they were on far more familiar terms.  The young Countess von
Montfort, a girl of her own age and an inmate of her own home, also gave
her only a passing word.  But this was agreeable to her--she disliked
Cordula's free manners.

Many who were friends of Els had gathered around Ursula Vorchtel, the
daughter of the richest man in the city, and she intentionally avoided
the Ortliebs because, before Wolff Eysvogel sued for Els's hand, he and
Ursula had been intended for each other.

Eva was just secretly vowing that this first ball should also be the
last, when the imperial magistrate, Herr Berthold Pfinzing, her
godfather, came to present her to the Emperor, who had requested to see
the little daughter of the Herr Ernst Ortlieb whose son had fallen in
battle for him.  His "little saint," Herr Pfinzing added, looked no less
lovely amid the gay music of the Nuremberg pipers than kneeling in prayer
amid the notes of the organ.

Every tinge of colour had faded from Eva's cheeks, and though a few hours
before she had asked her sister what the Emperor's greatness signified in
the presence of God that she should be forced, for his sake, to be
faithless to the holiest things, now fear of the majesty of the powerful
sovereign made her breath come quicker.

How, clinging to her godfather's hand, she reached the Emperor Rudolph's
throne she could never describe, for what happened afterwards resembled a
confused dream of mingled bliss and pain, from which she was first
awakened by her father's warning that the time of departure had come.

When she raised her downcast eyes the monarch was standing before the
throne placed for him.  She had been compelled to bend her head backward
in order to see his face, for his figure, seven feet in height, towered
like a statue of Roland above all who surrounded him.  But when, after
the Austrian duchess, his daughter-in-law, who was scarcely beyond
childhood, and the Burgrave von Zollern, his sister, had graciously
greeted her, and Eva with modest thanks had also bowed low before the
Emperor Rudolph, a smile, spite of her timidity, flitted over her lips,
for as she bent the knee her head barely reached above his belt.  The
Burgravine, a vivacious matron, must have noticed it, for she beckoned to
her, and with a few kind words mentioned the name of the young knight who
stood behind her, between her own seat and that of the young Duchess
Agnes of Austria, and recommended him as an excellent dancer.  Heinz
Schorlin, the master of the true and steadfast Biberli, had bowed
courteously, and answered respectfully that he hoped he should not
prove himself unworthy of praise from such lips.

Meanwhile his glance met Eva's, and the Burgravine probably perceived
with what, ardent admiration the knight's gaze rested on the young
Nuremberg beauty, for she had scarcely stepped back after the farewell
greeting when the noble lady said in a low tone, but loud enough for
Eva's quick ear to catch the words, "Methinks yonder maiden will do well
to guard her little heart this evening against you, you unruly fellow!
What a sweet, angelic face!"

Eva's cheeks crimsoned with mingled shame and pleasure at such words from
such lips, and she would have been only too glad to hear what the knight
whispered to the noble lady.

The attention of the young Duchess Agnes, daughter of King Ottocar of
Bohemia and wife of the Emperor's third son, who also bore the name of
Rudolph, had been claimed during this incident by the Duke of Nassau, who
had presented his ladies to her, but they had scarcely retired when she
beckoned to Heinz Schorlin, and while talking with him gazed into his
eyes with such warm, childlike pleasure that Eva was incensed; she
thought it unseemly for a wife and a duchess to be on such familiar terms
with a simple knight.  Nay, her disapproval of the princess's conduct
must have been very deep, for during the whole time of her conversation
with the knight there was a loud singing in the young girl's ears.  The
Bohemian's face might be considered pretty; her dark eyes sparkled
brightly, animating the immature features, now slightly sunburnt; and
although four years younger than Eva, her figure, though not above middle
height, was well developed and, in spite of its flexibility, aristocratic
in bearing.  While conversing with Heinz Schorlin she seemed joyously
excited, unrestrainedly cordial, but her manner expressed disappointment
and royal hauteur as another group of ladies and gentlemen came forward
to be presented, compelling her to turn her back upon the young Swiss
with a regretful shrug of her shoulders.

The counts and countesses, knights and ladies who thronged around her
concealed her from Eva's eyes, who, now that Heinz Schorlin had left the
Bohemian, again turned her attention to the Emperor, and even ventured to
approach him.  What paternal gentleness Rudolph's deep tones expressed!
How much his face attracted her!

True, it could make no pretensions to beauty--the thin, hooked nose was
far too large and long; the corners of the mouth drooped downward too
much; perhaps it was this latter peculiarity which gave the whole face so
sorrowful an aspect.  Eva thought she knew its source.  The wound dealt a
few months before by the death of his faithful wife, the love of his
youth, still ached.  His eyes could not be called either large or bright;
but how kindly, how earnest, shrewd and, when an amusing thought passed
through his mind, how mischievous they could look!  His light-brown hair
had not yet turned very grey, spite of his sixty-three years, but the
locks had lost their luxuriance and fell straight, except for a slight
curl at the lower ends, below his neck.

Eva's father, when a young man, had met Frederic II, of the Hohenstaufen
line, in Italy, and was wont to call this a special boon of fate.  True,
her aunt, the abbess, said she did not envy him the honour of meeting the
Antichrist; yet that very day after mass she had counselled Eva to
impress the Emperor Rudolph's appearance on her memory.  To meet noble
great men elevates our hearts and makes us better, because in their
presence we become conscious of our own insignificance and the duty of
emulating them.  She would willingly have given more than a year of her
life to be permitted to gaze into the pure, loving countenance of St.
Francis, who had closed his eyes seven years after her birth.

So Eva, who was accustomed to render strict obedience to her honoured
aunt, honestly strove to watch every movement of the Emperor; but her
attention had been continually diverted, mainly by the young knight, from
whom--the Emperor's sister, Burgravine Elizabeth, had said so herself--
danger threatened her heart.

But the young Countess Cordula von Montfort, the inmate of her home,
also compelled her to gaze after her, for Heinz Schorlin had approached
the vivacious native of the Vorarlberg, and the freedom with which she
treated him--allowing herself to go so far as to tap him on the arm with
her fan--vexed and offended her like an insult offered to her whole sex.
To think that a girl of high station should venture upon such conduct
before the eyes of the Emperor and his sister!

Not for the world would she have permitted any man to talk and laugh with
her in such a way.  But the young knight whom she saw do this was again
the Swiss.  Yet his bright eyes had just rested upon her with such devout
admiration that lack of respect for a lady was certainly not in his
nature, and he merely found himself compelled, contrary to his wish, to
defend himself against the countess and her audacity.

Eva had already heard much praise of the great valour of the young knight
Heinz Schorlin.  When Katterle, whose friend and countryman was in his
service, spoke of him--and that happened by no means rarely--she had
always called him a devout knight, and that he was so, in truth, he
showed her plainly enough; for there was fervent devotion in the eyes
which now again sought hers like an humble penitent.

The musicians had just struck up the Polish dance, and probably the
knight, whom the Emperor's sister had recommended to her for a partner,
wished by this glance to apologise for inviting Countess Cordula von
Montfort instead.  Therefore she did not need to avoid the look, and
might obey the impulse of her heart to give him a warning in the language
of the eyes which, though mute, is yet so easily understood.  Hitherto
she had been unable to answer him, even by a word, yet she believed that
she was destined to become better acquainted, if only to show him that
his power, of which the Burgravine had spoken, was baffled when directed
against the heart of a pious maiden.

And something must also attract him to her, for while she had the honour
of being escorted up and down the hall by one of the handsome sons of the
Burgrave von Zollern to the music of the march performed by the city
pipers, Heinz Schorlin, it is true, did the same with his lady, but he
looked away from her and at Eva whenever she passed him.

Her partner was talkative enough, and his description of the German order
which he expected to enter, as his two brothers had already done, would
have seemed to her well worthy of attention at any other time, but now
she listened with but partial interest.

When the dance was over and Sir Heinz approached, her heart beat so
loudly that she fancied her neighbours must hear it; but ere he had
spoken a single word old Burgrave Frederick himself greeted her, inquired
about her invalid mother, her blithe sister, and her aunt, the abbess,
who in her youth had been the queen of every dance, and asked if she
found his son a satisfactory partner.

It was an unusual distinction to be engaged in conversation by this
distinguished gentleman, yet Eva would fain have sent him far away, and
her replies must have sounded monosyllabic enough; but the sweet shyness
that overpowered her so well suited the modest young girl, who had
scarcely passed beyond childhood, that he did not leave her until the
'Rai' began, and then quitted her with the entreaty that she would remove
the cap which had hitherto rendered her invisible, to the injury of
knights and gentlemen, and be present at the dance which he should soon
give at the castle.

The pleasant old nobleman had scarcely left her when she turned towards
the young man who had just approached with the evident intention of
leading her to the dance, but he was again standing beside Cordula von
Montfort, and a feeling of keen resentment overpowered her.

The young countess was challenging his attention still more boldly,
tossing her head back so impetuously that the turban-like roll on her
hair, spite of the broad ribbon that fastened it under her chin, almost
fell on the floor.  But her advances not only produced no effect, but
seemed to annoy the knight.  What charm could he find in a girl who, in a
costume which displayed the greatest extreme of fashion, resembled a Turk
rather than a Christian woman?  True, she had an aristocratic bearing,
and perhaps Els was right in saying that her strongly marked features
revealed a certain degree of kindliness, but she wholly lacked the spell
of feminine modesty.  Her pleasant grey eyes and full red lips seemed
created only for laughter, and the plump outlines of her figure were
better suited to a matron than a maiden in her early girlhood.  Not the
slightest defect escaped Eva during this inspection.  Meanwhile she
remembered her own image in the mirror, and a smile of satisfaction
hovered round her red lips.

Now the knight bowed.

Was he inviting the countess to dance again?  No, he turned his back to
her and approached Eva, whose lovely, childlike face brightened as if a
sun beam had shone upon it.  The possibility of refusing her hand for the
'Rai' never entered her head, but he told her voluntarily that he had
invited Countess Cordula for the Polish dance solely in consequence of
the Burgravine's command, but now that he was permitted to linger at her
side he meant to make up for lost time.

He kept his word, and was by no means content with the 'Rai'; for, after
the young Duchess Agnes had summoned him to a 'Zauner', and during its
continuance again talked with him far more confidentially than the modest
Nuremberg maiden could approve, he persuaded Eva to try the 'Schwabeln'
with him also; and though she had always disliked such dances she
yielded, and her natural grace, as well as her quick ear for time, helped
her to catch the unfamiliar steps without difficulty.  While doing so he
whispered that even the angels in heaven could have no greater bliss than
it afforded him to float thus through the hall, clasping her in his arm,
while she glanced up at him with a happy look and bent her little head in
assent.  She would gladly have exclaimed warmly: "Yes, indeed!  Yet the
Burgravine says that danger threatens me from you, you dear, kind fellow,
and I should do well to avoid you."

Besides, she felt indebted to him.  What would have befallen her here in
his absence!  Moreover, it gave her a strange sense of pleasure to gaze
into his eyes, allow herself to be borne through the wide hall by his
strong arm, and while pressed closely to his side imagine that his
swiftly throbbing heart felt the pulsing of her own.  Instead of injuring
her, wishing her evil, and asking her to do anything wrong, he certainly
had only good intentions.  He had cared for her as if he occupied the
place of her own brother who fell in the battle of Marchfield.  It would
have given him most pleasure--he had said so himself--to dance everything
with her, but decorum and the royal dames who kept him in attendance
would not permit it.  However, he came to her in every pause to exchange
at least a few brief words and a glance.  During the longest one, which
lasted more than an hour and was devoted to the refreshment of the
guests, he led her into a side room which had been transformed into a
blossoming garden.

Seats were placed behind the green birch trees--amid whose boughs hung
gay lamps--and the rose bushes which surrounded a fountain of perfumed
water, and Eva had already followed the Swiss knight across the threshold
when she saw among the branches at the end of the room the Countess
Cordula, at whose feet several young nobles knelt or reclined, among them
Seitz Siebenburg, the brother-in-law of Wolff Eysvogel, her sister's
betrothed bridegroom.

The manner of the husband and father whose wife, only six weeks before,
had become the mother of twin babies--beautiful boys--and who for
Cordula's sake so shamefully forgot his duties, crimsoned her cheeks with
a flush of anger, while the half-disapproving, half-troubled look that
Sir Boemund Altrosen cast, sometimes at the countess, sometimes at
Siebenburg, showed her that she herself was on the eve of doing something
which the best persons could not approve; for Altrosen, who leaned
silently against the wall beside the countess, ever and anon pushing back
the coal-black hair from his pale face, had been mentioned by her
godfather as the noblest of the younger knights gathered in Nuremberg.
A voice in her own heart, too, cried out that this was no fitting place
for her.

If Els had been with her, Eva said to herself, she certainly would not
have permitted her to enter this room, where such careless mirth
prevailed, alone with a knight, and the thought roused her for a short
time from the joyous intoxication in which she had hitherto revelled, and
awakened a suspicion that there might be peril in trusting herself to
Heinz Schorlin without reserve.

"Not here," she entreated, and he instantly obeyed her wish, though the
Countess Cordula, as if he were alone, instead of with a lady, loudly and
gaily bade him stay where pleasure had built a hut under roses.

Eva was pleased that her new friend did not even vouchsafe the young
countess an answer.  His obedience led her also to believe that her
anxiety had been in vain.  Yet she imposed greater reserve of manner upon
herself so rigidly that Heinz noticed it, and asked what cloud had dimmed
the pure radiance of her gracious sunshine.

Eva lowered her eyes and answered gently: "You ought not to have taken
me where the diffidence due to modesty is forgotten."  Heinz Schorlin
understood her and rejoiced to hear the answer.  In his eyes, also,
Countess Cordula this evening had exceeded the limits even of the liberty
which by common consent she was permitted above others.  He believed that
he had found in Eva the embodiment of pure and beautiful womanhood.

He had given her his heart from the first moment that their eyes met.
To find her in every respect exactly what he had imagined, ere he heard a
single word from her lips, enhanced the pleasure he felt to the deepest
happiness which he had ever experienced.

He had already been fired with a fleeting fancy for many a maiden, but
not one had appeared to him, even in a remote degree, so lovable as this
graceful young creature who trusted him with such childlike confidence,
and whose innocent security by the side of the dreaded heart-breaker
touched him.

Never before had it entered his mind concerning any girl to ask himself
the question how she would please his mother at home.  The thought that
she whom he so deeply honoured might possess a magic mirror which showed
her her reckless son as he dallied with the complaisant beauties whose
graciousness, next to dice-playing, most inflamed his blood, had
sometimes disturbed his peace of mind when Biberli suggested it.  But
when Eva looked joyously up at him with the credulous confidence of a
trusting child, he could imagine no greater bliss than to hear his
mother, clasping the lovely creature in her arms, call her her dear
little daughter.

His reckless nature was subdued, and an emotion of tenderness which he
had never experienced before thrilled him as she whispered, "Take me to
a place where everybody can see us, but where we need not notice anyone
else."

How significant was that little word "we"!  It showed that already she
united herself and him in her thoughts.  To her pure nature nothing could
be acceptable which must be concealed from the light of the sun and the
eyes of man.  And her wish could be fulfilled.

The place where Biberli had discovered them, and where refreshments had
just been served to the Emperor and the ladies and gentlemen nearest to
his person, who had been joined by several princes of the Church, was
shut off by the bannerets, thus preventing the entrance of any uninvited
person; but Heinz Schorlin belonged to the sovereign's suite and had
admittance everywhere.

So he led Eva behind the black and yellow rope to two vacant chairs at
the end of the enclosed space where the banquet had been swiftly arranged
for the Emperor and the other illustrious guests of Nuremberg.

These seats were in view of the whole company, yet it would have been as
difficult to interrupt him and his lady as any of the table companions of
the imperial pair.  Eva followed the knight without anxiety, and took her
place beside him in the well-chosen seat.

A young cup-bearer of noble birth, with whom Heinz was well acquainted,
brought unasked to him and his companion sparkling Malvoisie in
Venetian glasses, and Heinz began the conversation by inviting Eva to
drink to the many days brightened by her favour which, if the saints
heard his prayer, should follow this, the most delightful evening of his
life.  He omitted to ask her to pour the wine for him, knowing that many
of the guests in the ballroom were watching them; besides the saucy
little count came again and again to fill his goblet, and he wished to
avoid everything which might elicit sarcastic comment.  The young cup-
bearer desisted as soon as he noticed the respectful reserve with which
Heinz treated his lady, and the youth was soon obliged to leave the hall
with his liege lord, Duke Rudolph of Austria, who was to set out for
Carinthia early the following morning, and withdrew with his wife without
sharing the banquet.  The latter accompanied her husband to the castle,
but she was to remain in Nuremberg during the session of the Reichstag
with the lonely widowed Emperor, who was especially fond of the young
Bohemian princess.  Before and during the dance with Heinz the latter had
requested him to use the noble Arabian steed, a gift from the Sultan
Kalaun to the Emperor, who had bestowed it upon her, and also expressed
the hope of meeting the knight frequently.

In the conversation which Heinz began with Eva he was at first obliged to
defend himself, for she had admitted that she had heard the Burgravine's
warning to beware of him.

At the same time she had found opportunity to tell him that her heart
yearned for something different from worldly love, and that she felt safe
from every one because St. Clare was constantly watching over her.

He replied that he had been reared in piety, that he knew the close
relations existing between her patron saint and the holy Francis of
Assisi, and that he, too, had experienced many things from this man of
God.  Eva, with warm interest, asked when and where, and he willingly
told her.

On the way from Augsburg to Nuremberg, while riding in advance of the
imperial court, he had met an old barefooted man who, exhausted by the
heat of the day, had sunk down by the side of the road as if lifeless,
with his head resting against the trunk of a tree.  Moved with
compassion, he dismounted, to try to do something for the greybeard.
A few sips of wine had restored him to consciousness, but his weary,
wounded feet would carry him no farther.  Yet it would have grieved the
old man sorely to be forced to interrupt his journey, for the Chapter
General in Portiuncula, in Italy, had sent him with an important message
to the brothers of his order in Germany, and especially in Nuremberg.

The old Minorite monk was especially dignified in aspect, and when he
chanced to mention that he had known St. Francis well and was one of
those who had nursed him during his last illness, a dispute had arisen
between Heinz Schorlin, the armor bearer, and his servant Walther
Biberli, for each desired to give up his saddle to the old man and pursue
his journey on foot for his sake and the praise of God.

But the Minorite could not be persuaded to break his vow never again to
mount a knight's charger and, even had it not been evident from his
words, Heinz asserted that the aristocratic dignity of his bearing would
have shown that he belonged to a noble race.

Biberli's eloquence gained the victory in this case also, and though the
groom led by the bridle another young stallion which the ex-schoolmaster
might have mounted, he had walked cheerily beside the old monk, sweeping
up the dust with his long robe.  At the tavern the knight and his
attendants had been abundantly repaid for their kindness to the Minorite,
for his conversation was both entertaining and edifying; and Heinz
repeated to his lady, who listened attentively, much that the monk had
related about St. Francis.

Eva, too, was also on the ground dearest and most familiar to her.  Her
little tongue ran fast enough, and her large blue eyes sparkled with an
unusually bright and happy lustre as she completed and corrected what the
young knight told her about the saint.

How much that was lovable, benevolent, and wonderful there was to relate
concerning this prophet of peace and good-will, this apostle of poverty
and toil who, in every movement of nature, perceived and felt a summons
to recognise the omnipotence and goodness of God, an invitation to devout
submission to the Most High!

How many amusing, yet edifying and touching anecdotes, the Abbess
Kunigunde had narrated of him and the most beloved of his followers!
Much of this conversation Eva repeated to the knight, and her pleasure in
the subject of the conversation increased the vivacity of her active
mind, and soon led her to talk with eager eloquence.  Heinz Schorlin
fairly hung on her lips, and his eyes, which betrayed how deeply all that
he was hearing moved him, rested on hers until a flourish of trumpets
announced that the interval between the dances was over.

He had listened in delight and, he felt, was forever bound to her.  When
duty summoned him to attend the Emperor he asked himself whether such a
conversation had ever been held in the midst of a merry dance; whether
God, in his goodness, had ever created a being so perfect in soul and
body as this fair saint, who could transform a ballroom into a church.

Aye, Eva had done so; for, ardent as was the knight's love, something
akin to religious devotion blended with his yearning desire.  The last
words which he addressed to her before leading her back to the others
contained the promise to make her patron saint, St. Clare, his own.

The Princess of Nassau had invited him for the next dance, but she found
Heinz Schorlin, whom the young Duchess Agnes had just said was merry
enough to bring the dead to life, a very quiet partner; while young Herr
Schurstab, who danced with Eva and, like all the members of the
Honourable Council, knew that she desired to take the veil, afterwards
told his friends that the younger beautiful E would suit a Carthusian
convent, where speech is prohibited, much better than a ballroom.

But after this "Zauner" Heinz Schorlin again loosed her tongue.  When he
had told her how he came to the court, and she had learned that he had
joined the Emperor Rudolph at Lausanne just as he took the vow to take
part in the crusade, there was no end to her questions concerning the
reason that the German army had not already marched against the infidels,
and whether he himself did not long to make them feel his sword.

Then she asked still further particulars concerning Brother Benedictus,
the old Minorite whom he had treated so kindly.  Heinz told her what he
knew, and when he at last enquired whether she still regretted having met
him whom she feared, she gazed frankly into his eyes and, smiling
faintly, shook her head.

This increased his ardour, and he warmly entreated her to tell him where
he could meet her again, and permit him to call her his lady.  But she
hesitated to reply, and ere he could win from her even the faintest
shadow of consent, Ernst Ortlieb, who had been talking with other members
of the council in the room where the wine was served, interrupted him to
take his daughter home.

She went reluctantly.  The clasp of the knight's hand was felt all the
way to the house, and it would have been impossible and certainly
ungracious not to return it.

Heinz Schorlin had obtained no assent, yet the last glance from her eyes
had been more eloquent than many a verbal promise, and he gazed after her
enraptured.

It seemed like desecration to give the hand in which hers had rested to
lead any one else to the dance, and when the rotund Duke of Pomerania
invited him to a drinking bout at his quarters at the Green Shield he
accepted; for without Eva the hall seemed deserted, the light robbed of
its brilliancy, and the gay music transformed to a melancholy dirge.

But when at the Green Shield the ducal wine sparkled in the beakers, the
gold shone and glistened on the tables, and the rattle of the dice
invited the bystanders to the game, he thought that whatever he undertook
on such a day of good fortune must have a lucky end.

The Emperor had filled his purse again, but the friendly gift did not
cover his debts, and he wanted to be rid of them before he told his
mother that he had found a dear, devout daughter for her, and intended to
return home to settle in the ancestral castle, his heritage, and share
with his uncle the maintenance of his rights and the management of fields
and forests.

Besides, he must test for the first time the power of his new patroness,
St. Clare, instead of his old one, St. Leodegar.  But the former served
him ill enough--she denied him her aid, at any rate in gambling.  The
full purse was drained to its last 'zecchin' only too soon, and Heinz,
laughing, turned it inside out before the eyes of his comrades.  But
though the kind-hearted Duke of Pomerania, with whom Heinz was a special
favourite, pushed a little heap of gold towards him with his fat hands,
that the Swiss might try his luck again with borrowed money, which brings
good fortune, he remained steadfast for Eva's sake.

On his way to the Green Shield he had confessed to Biberli--who, torch in
hand, led the way--that he intended very shortly to turn his back on the
court and ride home, because this time he had found the right chatelaine
for his castle.

"That means the last one," the ex-schoolmaster answered quietly,
carefully avoiding fanning the flame of his young master's desire by
contradiction.  Only he could not refrain from entreating him not to
burn his fingers with the dice, and, to confirm it, added that luck in
gambling was apt to be scanty where fortune was so lavish in the gifts
of love.

Heinz now remembered this warning.  It had been predicted to his darling
that meeting him would bring her misfortune, but he was animated by the
sincere determination to force the jewel of his heart to remember Heinz
Schorlin with anything but sorrow and regret.

What would have seemed impossible to him a few hours before, he now
realised.  With a steady hand he pushed back the gold to the duke, who
pressed it upon him with friendly glances from his kind little eyes and
an urgent whispered entreaty, and took his leave, saying that to-night
the dice and he were at odds.

With these words he left the room, though the host tried to detain him
almost by force, and the guests also earnestly endeavoured to keep the
pleasant, jovial fellow.  The loss, over which Biberli shook his head
angrily, did, not trouble him.  Even on his couch Heinz found but a short
time to think of his empty purse and the lovely maid who was to make the
old castle among his beloved Swiss mountains an earthly paradise, for
sleep soon closed his eyes.

The next morning the events of the evening seemed like a dream.  Would
that they had been one!  Only he would not have missed, at any cost, the
sweet memories associated with Eva.  But could she really become his own?
He feared not; for the higher the sun rose the more impracticable his
intentions of the night before appeared.  At last he even thought of the
religious conversation in the dancing hall with a superior smile, as if
it had been carried on by some one else.  The resolve to ask from her
father the hand of the girl he loved he now rejected.  No, he was not yet
fit for a husband and the quiet life in the old castle.  Yet Eva should
be the lady of his heart, her patron saint should be his, and he would
never sue for the love of any other maiden.  Hers he must secure.  To
press even one kiss on her scarlet lips seemed to him worth the risk of
life.  When he had stilled this fervent longing he could ride with her
colour on helm and shield from tourney to tourney, and break a lance for
her in every land through which he passed with the Emperor.  What would
happen afterwards let the saints decide.  As usual, Biberli was his
confidant, and declared himself ready to use Katterle's services in his
master's behalf.

He had his own designs in doing this.  He could rely upon the waiting
maid's assistance, and if there were secret meetings between Eva Ortlieb
and his lord, which would appease the knight's ardour, even in a small
degree, the task of disgusting Heinz with his luckless idea of an early
marriage would not prove too difficult.



CHAPTER IV.

Eva Ortlieb had been borne home from the ball in her sedan chair with a
happy smile hovering round her fresh young lips.

It still lingered there when she found her sister in their chamber,
sitting at the spinning wheel.  She had not left her suffering mother
until her eyes closed in slumber, and was now waiting for Eva, to hear
whether the entertainment had proved less disagreeable than she feared,
and--as she had sent her maid to bed--to help her undress.

One glance at Eva told her that she had perhaps left the ballroom even
more reluctantly than she entered it; but when Els questioned her so
affectionately, and with maternal care began to unfasten the ribbon which
tied her cap, the young girl, who in the sedan chair had determined to
confess to no one on earth what so deeply moved her heart, could not
resist the impulse to clasp her in her arms and kiss her with impetuous
warmth.

Els received the caress with surprise for, though both girls loved each
other tenderly, they, like most sisters, rarely expressed it by tangible
proofs of tenderness.  Not until Eva released her did Els exclaim in
merry amazement: "So it was delightful, my darling?"

"Oh, so delightful!" Eva protested with hands uplifted, and at the same
time met her sister's eyes with a radiant glance.

Yet the thought entered her mind that it ill beseemed her to express so
much pleasure in a worldly amusement.  Her glance fell in shame, and she
gently continued in that tone of self-compassion which was by no means
unfamiliar to the members of her family.  "True, though the Emperor is so
noble, and both he and the Burgravine were so gracious to me, at first--
and not only for a brief quarter of an hour, but a very long time I could
feel no real pleasure.  What am I saying? Pleasure!  I was indescribably
desolate and alone among all those vain, bedizened strangers.  I was like
a shipwrecked sailor washed ashore by the waves and surrounded by people
whose language is unfamiliar."

"But half Nuremberg was at the ball," her sister interrupted.  "Now you
see the trouble, darling.  Whoever, like you, remains in seclusion and
mounts a tall tree to be entirely alone, will be deserted; for who would
be kind-hearted enough to learn to climb for your sake?  But it seems
that afterwards one and another----"

"Oh!" Eva interrupted, "if you think that any of your friends gave me
more than a passing greeting, you are mistaken.  Not even Barbel, Ann,
or Metz took any special notice of your sister.  They kept near Ursel
Vorchtel, and she and her brother Ulrich, of course, behaved as if I wore
a fern cap and had become invisible.  I cannot tell you how uncomfortable
I felt, and then--yes, Els, then I first realised distinctly what you are
to me.  Obstinate as I often am, in spite of all your kindness and care,
ungraciously as I often treat you, to-night I clearly perceived that we
belong together, like a pair of eyes, and that without you I am only half
myself--or, at any rate--not complete.  And--as we are speaking in
images--I felt like a sapling whose prop has been removed; even your
Wolff can never have longed for you more ardently.  My father found
little time to give me.  As soon as he saw me take my place in the Polish
dance he went with Uncle Pfinzing to the drinking room, and I did not see
him again till he came to bring me home.  He had asked Fran Nutzel to
look after me, but her Kathrin was taken ill, as I heard when we were
leaving, and she disappeared with her during the first dance.  So I moved
forlornly here and there until he--Heinz Schorlin--came and took charge
of me."

"He?  Sir Heinz Schorlin?" asked Els in surprise, a look of anxious
suspense clouding her pretty, frank face.  "The reckless Swiss, whom
Countess Cordula said yesterday was the pike in the dull carp pond of
the court, and the only person for whom it was worth while to bear the
penance imposed in the confessional?"

"Cordula von  Montfort!" cried  Eva scornfully.  "If she speaks to me I
shall not answer her, I can tell you.  My cheeks crimson when I think of
the liberty----"

"Never mind her," said her sister soothingly.  "She is a motherless
child, and therefore unlike us.  As for Heinz Schorlin, he is certainly a
gallant knight; but, my innocent lambkin, he is a wolf nevertheless."

"A wolf?" asked Eva, opening her large eyes as wide as if they beheld
some terrible object.  But she soon laughed softly, and added quietly:
"But a very harmless wolf, who humbly changes his nature when the right
hand strokes him.  How you stare at me!  I am not thinking of your
beloved Wolff, whom you have tamed tolerably well, but the wolf of
Gubbio, which did so much mischief, and to which St. Francis went forth,
accosted him as Brother Wolf, and reminded him that they both owed their
lives to the goodness of the same divine Father.  The animal seemed to
understand this, for it nodded to him.  The saint now made a bargain with
the wolf, which gave him its paw in pledge of the oath; and it kept the
promise, for it followed St. Francis into the city, and never again
harmed anyone.  The citizens of Gubbio fed the good beast, and when it
died sincerely mourned it.  If you wish to know from whom I heard this
edifying story--which is true, and can be confirmed by some one now in
Nuremberg who witnessed it--let me tell you that it was the wicked wolf
himself; not the Gubbio one, but he from Switzerland.  An old Minorite
monk, to whom he compassionately gave his horse, is the witness I
mentioned.  At the tavern the priest told him what he had beheld with his
own eyes.  Do you still inveigh against the dangerous beast, which acts
like the good Samaritan, and finds nothing more delightful than hearing
or speaking of our dear saint?"

"And this in the Town Hall during the dance?"  asked Els, clasping her
hands as if she had heard something unprecedented.

Eva, fairly radiant with joy, nodded assent; and Els heard the ring of
pleasure in her clear voice, too, as she exclaimed: "That was just what
made the ball so delightful.  The dancing!  Oh, yes, it is easy enough to
walk and turn in time to the music when one has such a knight for a
partner; but that was by no means the pleasantest part of it.  During the
interval--it seemed but an instant, yet it really lasted a considerable
time--we first entered into conversation."

"In one of the side rooms?" asked Els, the bright colour fading from her
cheeks.

"What are you thinking of?" replied Eva in a tone of offence.  "I believe
I know what is seemly as well as anybody else.  True, your Countess
Cordula did not set the most praiseworthy example.  She allowed the whole
throng of knights to surround her in the ante-room, and your future
brother-in-law, Siebenburg, outdid them all.  We--Heinz Schorlin and I--
sat near the Emperor's table in the great hall, where everybody could see
us.  There the conversation naturally passed from the old Minorite to the
holy founder of his order, and remained there.  And if ever valiant
knight possessed a devout mind, it is Heinz Schorlin.  Whoever goes into
battle without relying upon God and his saints,' he said, 'will find his
courage lack wings, and his armour the surest defensive 'weapon.'"

"In the ballroom!" again fell from her sister's lips in the same tone of
amazement.

"Where else?" asked Eva angrily.  "I never met him except there.  What do
you other girls talk about at such entertainments, if it surprises you?
Besides, St. Francis was by no means our only subject; we spoke of the
future crusade, too.  And oh!--you may believe me--we would have been
glad to talk of such things for hours.  He knew many things about our
saint; but the precise one which makes him especially great and lovable,
and withal so powerful that he attracted all whom he deemed worthy to
follow him, he had not understood, and I was permitted to be the first
person to bring it clearly before his mind.  Ah! and his wit is as keen
as his sword, and his heart is as open to all that is noble and sacred as
it is loyal to his lord and Emperor.  If we meet again I shall win him
for the white cross on the black mantle and the battle against the
enemies of the faith."

"But, Eva," interrupted her sister, still under the spell of
astonishment, "such conversation amid the merry music of the pipers!"

"'Wherever three Christians meet, even though they are only laymen, there
is a church,' says Tertullian," Eva answered impressively.  "One need not
go to the house of God to talk about the things which ought to be the
highest and dearest to every one; and Heinz Schorlin--I know it from his
own lips--is of the same opinion, for he told me voluntarily that he
would never forget the few hours which we had enjoyed together."

"Indeed!" said her sister thoughtfully.  "But whether he does not owe
this pleasure more to the dancing than to the edifying conversation----"

"Certainly not!" replied Eva, very positively.  "I can prove it, too;
for later, after he had heard many things about St. Clare, the female
counterpart of Francis, he vowed to make her his patron saint.  Or do you
suppose that a knight changes his saints, as he does his doublet and coat
of mail, without having any great and powerful motive?  Do you think it
possible that the idle pleasure of the dance led him to so important a
decision?"

"Certainly not.  Nothing led him to it except the irresistible zeal of my
devout sister," answered Els, smiling, as she continued to comb her fair
hair.  "She spoke with tongues in the ballroom, as the apostles did at
Pentecost, and thus our 'little saint' performed her first miracle: the
conversion of a godless knight during the dancing."

"Call it so, if you choose," replied Eva, her red lips pouting
scornfully, as if she felt raised above such pitiful derision.  "How you
hurt, Els!  You are pulling all the hair out of my head!"

The object of this rebuke had used the comb with the utmost care, but
the great luxuriance of the long, fair, waving locks had presented many
an impediment, and Eva seemed unusually sensitive that night.  Els
thought she knew why, and made no answer to the unjust charge.  She knew
her sister; and as she wound the braids about her head, and then, in the
maid's place, hung part of her finery on hooks, and laid part carefully
in the chest, she asked her numerous questions about the dance, but was
vouchsafed only monosyllabic replies.

At last Els knelt before the prie-dieu.  Eva did the same, resting her
head so long upon her clasped hands that the patient older sister could
not wait for the "Amen," but, in order not to disturb Eva's devotion,
only pressed a light kiss upon her head and then carefully drew the
curtains closely over the windows which, instead of glass, contained
oiled parchment.

Eva's excitement filled her with anxiety.  She knew, too, what a powerful
influence the bright moonlight sometimes exerted upon her while she
slept, and cast another glance at the closely curtained window before she
went to her own bed.  There she lay a long time, with eyes wide open,
pondering over her sister's words, and in doing so perceived more and
more clearly that love was now knocking at the heart of the child
kneeling before the prie-dieu.  Sir Heinz Schorlin, the wild butterfly,
desired to sip the honey from this sweet, untouched flower, and then
probably abandon her like so many before her.  Love and anxiety made the
girl, whose opinion was usually milder than her sister's, a stern and
unwise judge, for she assumed that the Swiss--whose character in reality
was far removed from base hypocrisy--the man whom she had just termed a
wolf, had donned sheep's clothing to make her poor lambkin an easier
prey.  But she was on guard and ready to spoil his game.

Did Eva really fail to understand the new feeling which had seized her
so swiftly and powerfully?  Did she lull herself in the delusion that
she cared only for the welfare of the soul of the pious young knight?

Yes, it might be so, and prudent Els, who had watched her own little
world intently enough, said to herself that it would be pouring oil upon
the flames to tease Eva about the defeat which she, the "little saint,"
had sustained in the battle against the demands of the world and of the
feminine heart.  Besides, her sister was too dear for her to rejoice in
her humiliation.  Els resolved not to utter a word about the Swiss unless
compelled to do so.

Eva's prayers before retiring were often very long, but to-night it
seemed as if they would never end.

"She is not appealing to St. Clare for herself alone, but for another,"
thought Els.  "I spend less time in doing it.  True, a Heinz Schorlin
needs longer intercession than my Eva, my Wolff, and my poor pious
mother.  But I won't disturb her yet."

Sighing faintly, she changed her position, but remained sitting propped
against the white pillows in order not to allow herself to be overcome by
sleep.  But it was a hard struggle, and her lids often fell, her head
drooped upon her breast.

Dawn was already glimmering without when the supplicant at last rose and
sought her couch.  Her sister let her lie quietly for a while, then she
rose and put out the lamp which Eva had forgotten to extinguish.  The
latter noticed it, turned her face towards her and called her gently.
"To think that you should have to get up again, my poor Els!  Give me
a good-night kiss."

"Gladly, dearest," replied the other.  "But it is really quite time to
say 'good-morning."'

"And you have kept awake so long!" replied Eva compassionately, as she
threw her arms gratefully around her sister's neck, kissed her tenderly,
and then pressed her hot cheek to hers.

"What is this?" cried Els, with sincere anxiety.  "Are you hurt, child?
Surely you are weeping?"

"No, no," was the reply.  "I am only--I only thought that I had adorned
myself, decked myself out with idle finery, although I know how many poor
people are starving in want and misery, and how much more pleasing in the
sight of the Lord is the grey robe of the cloistered nun.  I could
scarcely leave the hall in my overweening pleasure, and yet it would have
beseemed me far better to share the sufferings of the crucified Saviour."

"But, child," replied Els, striving to soothe her sister, "how often I
have heard from you and our aunt, the abbess, that no one was so cheerful
and so glad to witness the enjoyment of human beings and animals as your
St. Francis!"

"He--he!" groaned Eva, "he who attained the highest goal, who heard the
voice of the Lord wherever he listened; he who chose poverty as his
beloved bride, who scorned show and parade and the trappings of wealth,
as he disdained earthly love; he who celebrated in song the love of the
soul glowing for the highest things, as no troubadour could do--oh, how
ardently he knew how to love, but to love the things which do not belong
to this world!"

Els longed to ask what Eva knew about the ardent fire of love; but she
restrained herself, darkened the bed as well as she could with the
movable curtain which hung from the ceiling on both sides above the
double couch, and said: "Be sensible, child, and put aside such thoughts.
How loudly the birds are twittering outside!  If our father is obliged to
breakfast alone there may be a storm, and I should be glad to have an
hour's nap.  You need slumber, too.  Dancing is tiresome.  Shut your eyes
and sleep as long as you can.  I'll be as quiet as a mouse while I am
dressing."

As she spoke she turned away from her sister and no longer resisted the
sleep which soon closed her weary eyes.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Shipwrecked on the cliffs of 'better' and 'best'





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