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Title: In the Fire of the Forge: A Romance of Old Nuremberg — Volume 06
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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IN THE FIRE OF THE FORGE

A ROMANCE OF OLD NUREMBERG

By Georg Ebers

Volume 6.



CHAPTER V.

The Minorite had gone.  Biberli had noticed with delight that his master
had not sought as usual to detain him.  The iron now seemed to him hot,
and he thought it would be worth while to swing the hammer.

The danger in which Heinz stood of being drawn into the monastery made
him deeply anxious, and he had already ventured several times to oppose
his design.  Life was teaching him to welcome a small evil when it barred
the way to a greater one, and his master's marriage, even with a girl of
far lower station than Eva Ortlieb, would have been sure of his favour,
if only it would have deterred him from the purpose of leaving the world
to which he belonged.

"True," the servitor began, "in such heat it is easier to walk in the
thin cowl than in armour.  The holy Father is right there.  But when it
is necessary to be nimble, the knight has his dancing dress also.  Oh, my
lord, what a sight it was when you were waltzing with the lovely Jungfrau
Eva!  Look at Heinz Schorlin, the brave hero of Marchfield, and the girl
with the angel face who is with him!' said those around me, as I was
gazing down from the balcony.  And just think--I can't help speaking of
it again--that now respectable people dare to point their fingers at the
sisters and join in the base calumny uttered by a scoundrel!"

Then Heinz fulfilled Biberli's secret longing to be questioned about the
Es and the charges against them, and he forged the iron.

Not from thirst, he said, but to ascertain what fruit had grown from the
hellish seeds sown by Siebenburg, and probably the still worse ones of
the Eysvogel women, he went from tavern to tavern, and there he heard
things which made him clench his fists, and, at the Red Ox, roused him to
such violent protest that he went out of the tap-room faster than he
entered it.

Thereupon, without departing far from the truth, he related what was said
about the beautiful Es in Nuremberg.

It was everywhere positively asserted that a knight belonging to the
Emperor's train had been caught at the Ortlieb mansion, either in a
nocturnal interview or while climbing into the window.  Both sisters were
said to be guilty.  But the sharpest arrows were aimed at Els, the
betrothed bride of the son of a patrician family, whom many a girl would
have been glad to wed.  That she preferred the foreigner, whether a
Bohemian, a Swabian, or even a Swiss, made her error doubly shameful in
the eyes of most persons.

Whenever Biberli had investigated the source of these evil tales, he had
invariably found it to be Seitz Siebenburg, his retainers, the Eysvogel
butler, or some man or maidservant in their employ.

The Vorchtels, who, as he knew from Katterle, would have had the most
reason to cherish resentment against the Ortliebs, had no share in these
slanders.

The shrewd fellow had discovered the truth, for after Seitz Siebenburg
had wandered about in the open air during the storm, he again tried to
see his wife.  But the effort was vain.  Neither entreaties nor threats
would induce her to open the door.  Meanwhile it had grown late and, half
frantic with rage, he went to the Duke of Pomerania's quarters in the
Green Shield to try his luck in gaming.  The dice were again moving
rapidly, but no one grasped the box when he offered a stake.  No more
insulting rebuff could be imagined, and the repulse which he received
from his peers, and especially the duke, showed him that he was to be
excluded from this circle.

He was taught at the same time that if he answered the challenge of the
Swiss he would not be permitted to enter the lists.  Thus he confronted
the impossibility of satisfying a demand of honour, and this terrible
thought induced him to declare war against everything which honour had
hitherto enjoined, and with it upon its guardians.

If they treated him as a robber and a dishonoured man, he would behave
like one; but those who had driven him so far should suffer for it.

During the rest of the night and on the following day, until the gate was
closed, he wandered, goblet in hand, only half conscious of what he was
doing, from tavern to tavern, to tell the guests what he knew about the
beautiful Es; and at every repetition of the accusations, of whose
justice he was again fully convinced, his hatred against the sisters, and
those who were their natural defenders and therefore his foes, increased.
Every time he repeated the old charges an addition increasing the slander
was made and, as if aided by some mysterious ally, it soon happened that
in various places his own inventions were repeated to him by the lips of
others who had heard them from strangers.  True, he was often
contradicted, sometimes violently but, on the whole, people believed him
more readily than would have happened in the case of any other person;
for every one admitted that, as the brother-in-law of the older E, he had
a right to express his indignation in words.

Meanwhile his twins often returned to his memory.  The thought ought to
have restrained him from such base conduct; but the idea that he was
avenging the wrong inflicted upon their father's honour, and thus upon
theirs, urged him further and further.

Not until a long ride through the forest had sobered him did he see his
conduct in the proper light.

Insult and disgrace would certainly await him in the city.  His brothers
would receive him kindly.  They were of his own blood and could not help
welcoming his sharp sword.  Side by side with them he would fight and, if
it must be, die.  A voice within warned him against making common cause
with those who had robbed the family of which he had become a member, yet
he again used the remembrance of his innocent darlings to palliate his
purpose.  For their sakes only he desired to go to his death, sword in
hand, like a valiant knight in league with those who were risking their
lives in defence of the ancient privilege of their class.  They must not
even suspect that their father had been shut out from the tournament, but
grow up in the conviction that he had fallen as a heroic champion of the
cause of the lesser knights to whom he belonged, and on whose neck the
Emperor had set his foot.

The assurance which Biberli brought Heinz Schorlin that Seitz Siebenburg
had joined those whom he was ordered to punish, placed the task assigned
him by the Emperor in a new and attractive light; but the servant's
report, so far as it concerned the Ortlieb sisters, pierced the inmost
depths of his soul.  He alone was to blame for the disgrace which had
fallen upon innocent maidens.  By the destruction of the calumny he would
at least atone for a portion of his sin.  But this did not suffice.  It
was his duty to repair the wrong he had done the sisters.  How?  That he
could not yet determine; for whilst wielding the executioner's sword in
his master's service all these thoughts must be silenced; he could
consider nothing save to fulfil the task confided to him by his imperial
benefactor and commander in chief, according to his wishes, and show him
that he had chosen wisely in trusting him to "crack the nut" which he
himself had pronounced a hard one.  The yearning and renunciation, the
reproaches and doubts which disturbed his life, until recently so easy,
had disgusted him with it.  He would not spare it.  Yet if he fell he
would be deprived of the possibility of doing anything whatever for those
who through his imprudence had lost their dearest possession--their good
name.  Whenever this picture rose before him it sometimes seemed as if
Eva was gazing at him with her large, bright eyes as trustingly as during
the pause in the dancing, and anon he fancied he saw her as she looked at
her mother's consecration in her deep mourning before the altar.  At that
time her grief and pain had prevented her from noticing how his gaze
rested on her; yet never had she appeared more desirable, never had he
longed more ardently to clasp her in his arms, console her, and assure
her that his love should teach her to forget her grief, that she was
destined to find new happiness in a union with him.

This had happened to him just as he commenced the struggle for a new
life.  Startled, he confessed it to his grey-haired guide, and used the
means which the Minorite advised him to employ to attain forgetfulness
and renunciation, but always in vain.  Had he, like St. Francis, rushed
among briers, his blood would not have turned into roses, but doubtless
fresh memories of her whose happiness his guilt had so suddenly and
cruelly destroyed.

For her sake he had already begun to doubt his vocation on the very
threshold of his new career, and did not recover courage until Father
Benedictus, who had communicated with the Abbess Kunigunde, informed him
that Eva was wax in her hands, and within the next few days she would
induce her niece to take the veil.

This news had exerted a deep influence upon the young knight's soul.  If
Eva entered the cloister before him, the only strong tie which united him
to the world would be severed, and nothing save the thought of his mother
would prevent his following his vocation.  Yet vehement indignation
seized him when he heard from Biberli that the slanderer's malice would
force Eva to seek refuge with the Sisters.

No, a thousand times no!  The woman whom he loved should need to seek
refuge from nothing for which Heinz Schorlin's desire and resolve alike
commanded him to make amends.

He must succeed in proving to the whole world that she and her sister
were as pure as they lived in his imagination, either by offering in the
lists the boldest defiance to every one who refused to acknowledge that
both were the most chaste and decorous ladies in the whole world, and
Eva, at the same time, the loveliest and fairest, or by the open
interference of the Emperor or the Burggravine in behalf of the
persecuted sisters, after he had confessed the whole truth to his
exalted patrons.

But when Biberli pointed out the surest way of restoring the endangered
reputation of the woman he loved, and begged him to imagine how much more
beautiful she would look in the white bridal veil than in her mourning
Riese--[Kerchief of fine linen, arranged like a veil]--he ordered him to
keep silence.

The miracle wrought in his behalf forbade him to yearn for happiness and
joy here below.  It was intended rather to open his eyes and urge him to
leave the path which led to eternal damnation.  It pointed him to the
kingdom of heaven and its bliss, which could be purchased only by severe
sacrifice and the endurance of every grief which the Saviour had taken
upon Himself.  But he could at least pay one honour to the maiden to whom
he was so strongly attracted, and whose happiness for life was menaced by
his guilt.  When he had assembled his whole force at Schwabach, he would
go into battle with her colour on his helmet and shield.  The Queen of
Heaven would not be angry with him if he wore her light blue to atone to
the pure and pious Eva, who was hers even more fully than he himself, for
the wrong inflicted upon her by spiteful malice.

Heinz Schorlin's friends thought the change in his mood a natural
consequence of the events which had befallen him; young Count Gleichen,
his most intimate companion, even looked up to him since his "call" as a
consecrated person.

His grey-haired cousin, Sir Arnold Maier, of Silenen, was a devout man
whose own son led a happy life as a Benedictine monk at Engelberg.  The
sign by which Heaven had signified its will to Heinz had made a deep
impression upon him, and though he would have preferred to see him
continue in the career so auspiciously begun, he would have considered it
impious to dissuade him from obeying the summons vouchsafed by the Most
High.  So he offered no opposition, and sent by the next courier a letter
to Lady Wendula Schorlin, his young cousin's mother, in which, with
Heinz's knowledge-nay, at his request--he related what her son had
experienced, and entreated her not to withhold him from the vocation of
which God deemed him worthy.

Meanwhile, Biberli wrote to his master's mother in a different strain,
and did not desist from expressing his opinion, to Heinz, and assuring
him that his place was on a battle charger, with his sword in its sheath
or in his hand, rather than in a monastery with a rosary hanging from a
hempen girdle.

This had vexed Heinz--nay, made him seriously angry with the faithful
fellow; and when in full armour he prepared to mount his steed to receive
the last directions of his imperial master, and Biberli asked him on
which horse he should follow, he answered curtly that this time he would
go without him.

Yet when he saw tears fill the eyes of his "true and steadfast"
companion, he patted the significant St. on his cap, and added kindly:
"Never mind, Biber, everything will be unchanged between us till I obey
my summons, and you build your own nest with Katterle."

So Biberli had remained in Nuremberg whilst Heinz Schorlin, after the
Emperor with fatherly kindness had dismissed him, granting him full
authority, set forth at the head of his troops as their commander, to
take the field against the Siebenburgs and their allies.

The servant was permitted to attend him only to the outskirts of the
city.

Before the Spitalthor, Countess Cordula, though she was returning from a
ride into the country, had wheeled her spirited dappled horse and joined
him as familiarly as though she belonged to him.  Heinz, who would have
liked best to be alone, and to whom any other companion would have been
more welcome, showed her this plainly enough, but she did not seem to
notice it, and during the whole of their ride together gave her tongue
free rein and, though he often indignantly interrupted her, described
with increasing warmth what the Ortlieb sisters had suffered through his
fault.  In doing so she drew so touching a picture of Eva's silent sorrow
that Heinz sometimes longed to thank her, but more frequently to have her
driven away by his men at arms; for he had mounted his horse with the
intention of dividing the time of his ride between pious meditations and
plans for the arrangement of the expedition.  What could be more
unwelcome than the persistent loquacity of the countess, who filled his
heart and mind with ideas and wishes that threatened most seriously to
imperil his design?

Cordula plainly perceived how unwillingly he listened.  Nay, as Heinz
more and more distinctly, at last even offensively, showed her how little
he desired her society, it only increased the animation of her speech,
which seemed to her not to fail wholly in the influence she desired to
exert in Eva's favour; therefore she remained at his side longer than she
had at first intended.  She did not even turn back when they met the
young Duchess Agnes, who with her train was returning to the city from a
ride.

The Bohemian princess had known that Heinz would ride through the
Spitalthor at this hour to confront his foe, and had intended that the
meeting with her should seem like a good omen.  The thought of wishing
him success on his journey had been a pleasant one.  True, Cordula's
presence did not prevent this, but it disturbed her, and she was vexed
to find the countess again at Heinz Schorlin's side.

She showed her displeasure so plainly that her Italian singing mistress,
the elderly spinster Caterina de Celano, took sides with her, and
scornfully asked the countess whether she had brought her curling irons
with her.

But she bit her lips at Cordula's swift retort "O no!  Malice meets us on
every road, but in Germany we do not pull one another's hair on the
highway over every venomous or foolish word."

She turned her back on her as she spoke until the duchess had taken leave
of Heinz, and then rode on with him; but as soon as a portion of the road
intervened between her and the countess the young Bohemian exclaimed: "We
must certainly try to save Sir Heinz from this disagreeable shrew!"

"And the saints will aid the good work," the Italian protested, "for they
themselves have a better right to the charming knight.  How grave he
looked!  Take care, your Highness, he is following, as my nimble cousin
Frangipani did a short time ago, in the footsteps of the Saint of
Assisi."

"But he must not, shall not, go into the monastery!" cried the young
duchess, with childish refractoriness.  "The Emperor is opposed to it,
and he, too, does not like the von Montfort's boisterous manner.  We will
see whether I cannot accomplish something, Caterina."

Here she stopped.  They had again reached the village of Rottenpach, and
in front of the newly built little church stood its pastor, with the
dignitaries of the parish, and the children were scattering flowers in
the path.  She checked her Arabian, dismounted, and graciously inspected
the new house of God, the pride of the congregation.

On the way home, just beyond the village, her horse again shied.  The
animal had been startled by an old Minorite monk who sat under a crab
apple tree.  It was Father Benedictus, who had set out early to
anticipate Heinz and surprise him in his night quarters by his presence.
But he had overestimated his strength, and advanced so slowly that Heinz
and his troopers, from whom he had concealed himself behind a dusty
hawthorn bush, had not seen him.  From Schweinau the walk had become
difficult, especially as it was contrary to the teaching of the saint to
use a staff.  Many a compassionate peasant, many a miller's lad and
Carter, had offered him a seat on the back of his nag or in his waggon
but, without accepting their friendly offers, he had plodded on with his
bare feet.

Perhaps this journey would be his last, but on it he would redeem the
promise which he had made his dying master, to go forth according to the
command of the Saviour, which Francis of Assisi had made his own and that
of his order, to preach and to proclaim, "The kingdom of heaven is at
hand!"

"Without price," ran the words, "have ye received, without price give."
He had no regard for earthly reward, therefore he yearned the more
ardently for the glad knowledge that he had saved a soul for heaven.

He had learned to love Heinz as the saint had formerly loved him, and he
did not grudge him the happiness which, at the knight's age, had fallen
to the lot of the man whose years now numbered eighty.  How long he had
been permitted to enjoy this bliss!  True, during the last decades it had
been clouded by many a shadow.

He had endured much hardship in the service of his sacred cause, but the
greater the sacrifice he offered the more exquisite was the reward reaped
by his soul.  Oh, if this pilgrimage might yield him Heinz Schorlin's vow
to follow his saint and with him the Saviour!--if he might be permitted,
clasping in his the hand of the beloved youth he had saved, to exchange
this world for eternal bliss!

Earth had nothing more to offer; for he who was one of the leaders of his
brotherhood beheld with grief their departure from the paths of their
founder.  Poverty, which secures freedom to the body, which knows nothing
of the anxieties of this world and the burden of possession, which
permits the soul to soar unfettered far above the dust--poverty, the
divine bride of St. Francis, was forsaken in many circles of his brother
monks.  With property, ease and the longing for secular influence had
stolen into many a monastery.  Many shunned the labour which the saint
enjoined upon his disciples, and the old jugs were often filled with new
wine, which he, Benedictus, never tasted, and which the saint rejected as
poison.
He was no longer young and strong enough to let his grief and indignation
rage like a purifying thunderstorm amidst these abuses.

But Heinz Schorlin!

If this youth of noble blood, equally gifted in mind and person, whom
Heaven itself had summoned with lightning and thunder, devoted himself
from sincere conviction, with a heart full of youthful enthusiasm, to his
sacred cause--if Heinz, consecrated by him, and fully aware of the real
purposes of the saint, who, also untaught and rich only in knowledge of
the heart, had begun a career so momentous in consequences, announced
himself as a fearless champion of St. Francis's will, then the St. George
had been found who was summoned to slay the dragon, and with his blood
instil new life at last into the monasteries of Germany, then perhaps the
fresh prosperity which he desired for the order was at hand.  The larger
number of its recruits came from the lower ranks of the people.  Sir
Heinz Schorlin's example would perhaps bring it also, as an elevating
element, the sons of his peers.

So, bathed in perspiration, and often on the point of fainting, he
followed Heinz through the dust of the highway.

Often, when his strength failed, and he sat down by the roadside to take
breath, his soul-life gained a loftier aspiration.

After Heinz rode by without seeing him he continued his way until his
feet grew so heavy that he was forced to sit down beside the road.  Then
he imagined that the Saviour Himself came towards him, gazed lovingly
into his face, and turned to beckon some one, Benedictus did not know
whom, heavenward.  Suddenly the clouds that had covered the sky parted,
and the old man fancied he heard the song of the troubadour whose soul
had been subdued by love for God, which his friend and master had
addressed to his Redeemer.  It must come from the lips of his angels on
high, but he longed to join in the strain.  True, his aged lips, rapidly
as they moved, uttered no sound, but he fancied he was sharing in this
song of the soul, glowing with fervent, consuming flames of love,
dedicated to the Saviour, the source of all love:

              "Love's flames my kindling heart control,
               Love for my Bridegroom fair,
               When on my hand he placed the ring,
               The Lamb whose fervent love I share
               Did pierce my inmost soul,"

the fiery song began, and an absorbing yearning for death and the beloved
Redeemer, whose form had vanished in the sea of flames surging before his
dilated eyes, moved the very depths of his soul as he commenced the
second verse:

              "My heart amidst Love's tortures broke,
               Slain by the might of Love's keen stroke,
               To earth my senseless body sank,
               Love's flames my life-blood drank."

With flushed cheeks, utterly borne away from the world and everything
which surrounded him, he raised his arms towards heaven, then they
suddenly fell.  Starting up, he passed his hand over his dazzled eyes and
shook his head sorrowfully.  Instead of the angels' song, he heard the
beat of horses' hoofs coming nearer and nearer.  The open heavens had
closed again; he lay a poor exhausted mortal, with burning brow, beside
the road.

Duchess Agnes, after visiting the new church at Rottenpach, rode past him
on her return to Nuremberg.

Neither she nor her train heeded the old monk.  But the Italian who, as
she rode by, had been attracted by the noble features of the aged man,
whose eyes still sparkled with youthful enthusiasm, gazed at him
enquiringly.  Her glance met his, and the Minorite's wrinkled features
wore a look of eager enquiry.  He longed to rise and ask the name of the
black-eyed lady at the duchess's side.  But ere he could stand erect, the
party had passed on.

Disturbed in mind, and scarcely able to set one sore foot before the
other, he dragged himself forward.

Before he reached Rottenpach he met one of the duchess's pages who had
remained at the village forge and was now riding after his mistress.
Father Benedictus called to him, and the boy, awed by the grey-haired
monk, answered his questions, and told him that the lady on the horse
with the white star on its face was the duchess's Italian singing
mistress, Caterina de Celano.

Every drop of blood receded from the Minorite's fever-flushed cheeks, and
the page was about to spring from his saddle to support him, but the monk
waved him back impatiently, and by the exertion of all his strength of
will forced himself to stagger on.

He had just felt happy in the heart of eternal love; but now the
expression of his countenance changed, and his dark, sunken eyes flashed
angrily.

The faded woman beside the duchess bore the name of the lady whose
faithlessness had first induced him to seek rest and forgetfulness
in the peace of the cloister, and led him to despise her whole sex.

The horsewoman must be a granddaughter, daughter, or niece of the woman
who had so basely betrayed him.  How much she resembled the traitress,
but she did not understand how to hide her real nature as well; her faded
features wore a somewhat malicious expression.  The resentment which he
thought he had conquered again awoke.  He would have liked to rush after
her and call her to her face----.  Yet what would that avail?  How was
she to blame for the treachery of another person, whom perhaps she did
not even know?

Yet he longed to follow her.

His fevered blood urged him on, but his exhausted, aching limbs refused
to serve him.  One more violent effort, and sparks flashed before his
eyes, his lips were wet with blood, and he sank gasping on the ground.

After some time he succeeded in dragging himself to the side of the road,
where he lay until a Nuremberg carrier, passing with his team of four
horses, lifted him, with the help of his servant, into his cart and took
him on.

At Schweinau the jolting of the vehicle became unendurable to the
sufferer, and the carrier willingly fulfilled his wish to be taken to
the hospital where mangled criminals, tortured by the rack, were nursed.

There, however, they instantly perceived that his place was not in this
house dedicated to criminal misfortune, and the kind Beguines of
Schweinau took charge of him.

On the way the old monk suffered severely in both soul and body.  It
seemed like treason, like a rejection of his pure and pious purposes,
that Heaven itself barred the path along which he was wearily wandering
to win it a soul.



CHAPTER VI.

The entombment of the magnificent coffin of Frau Maria Ortlieb under the
pavement of the family chapel was over.  The little group of sympathising
friends had left the church.  Only the widower and his daughters
remained, and when he knew that he could no longer be seen by the few who
still lingered in the house of God, he clasped the two girls to his heart
with a suppressed sob.

Never had he experienced such deep sorrow, such anguish of soul.  He had
not even been permitted to take leave of his beloved companion with
unmixed grief; fierce resentment had mingled with his trouble.

To remain alone in the house with his daughters after the burial and
answer their questions seemed to him impossible.

The meeting of the Council, which would soon begin, served as a pretence
for leaving them.  Eva was to blame for what he had just suffered; but he
knew everything concerning the rumours about the inexperienced girl and
Heinz Schorlin, and there fore was aware that her fault was trivial.  To
censure her seemed as difficult as to discuss calmly with her and the
sensible Els what could be done under existing circumstances; besides, he
was firmly convinced that Eva had nothing left except to take, without
delay, the veil for which she had longed from childhood.  His sister, the
Abbess Kunigunde, was keeping the door of the convent open.  She had
promised the girl to await her at home.  In taking leave of his
daughters, he begged them not to wait for him, because the Council were
to decide the fate of the Eysvogel business, and the session might last
a long while.

Then his Els gazed at him with a look of such earnest entreaty that he
nodded, and in a tone of the warmest compassion began: "I shall be more
than glad to aid your Wolff, my dear girl, but he himself told you how
the case stands.  What would it avail if I beggared myself and you for
the Eysvogels and their tottering house?  I must remain hard now, in
order later to smooth the path for Wolff and you, Els.  If Berthold
Vorchtel would make up his mind to join me, it might be different, but he
summoned the Council as a complainant, and if he is the one to overthrow
the reeling structure, who can blame him?  We shall see.  Whatever I can
reasonably do for the unfortunate family shall be accomplished, my girl."

Then he kissed his older daughter on the forehead, hastily gave the
younger the same caress, and left the chapel.  But Els detained him,
whispering: "Whatever wrong was inflicted upon us yesterday, do not let
it prejudice you, father.  It was meant neither for her whose peace
nothing can now disturb, nor for you.  We alone----"

"You  certainly," Herr Ernst interrupted bitterly, "were made to feel how
far superior in virtue they considered themselves to you, who are better
and purer than all of them.  But keep up Eva's courage.  I have been
talking with your Uncle Pfinzing and your Aunt Christine.  You yourself
took them into your confidence, and we will consult together how the
serpent's head is to be crushed."

He turned away as he spoke, but Els went back to her sister, and after a
brief prayer they left the church with bowed heads.

The sedan-chairs were waiting outside.  Each was to be borne home
separately, but both preferred, spite of the bright summer weather, to
draw the curtains, that unseen they might weep, and ask themselves how
such wrongs could have been inflicted upon the dead woman and themselves.

The respect of high and low for the Ortlieb family had been most
brilliantly displayed when the body of the son, slain in battle, had been
interred in the chapel of his race.  And their mother?  How many had held
her dear! to how many she had been kind, loving, and friendly!  How great
a sympathy the whole city had shown during her illness, and how many of
all classes had attended the mass for her soul!  And the burial which had
just taken place?

True, on her father's account all the members of the Council were
present, but scarcely half the wives had appeared.  Their daughters--Els
had counted them--numbered only nine, and but three were included among
her friends.  The others had probably come out of curiosity.  And the
common people, the artisans, the lower classes, who in countless numbers
had accompanied her brother's coffin to its resting place, and during the
mass for the dead had crowded the spacious nave of St. Sebald's?  There
had been now only a scanty group.  The nuns from the convent were
present, down to the most humble lay Sister; but they were under great
obligations to her mother, and their abbess was her father's sister.
There were few other women except the old crones from the hospitals and
nurseries, who were never absent when there was an opportunity to weep or
to backbite.  In going through the nave of the church into the chapel the
sisters had passed a group of younger lads and maidens, who had nudged
one another in so disrespectful a way, whispering all sorts of things,
that Els had tried to draw Eva past them as swiftly as possible.

Her wish to keep her more sensitive sister from noticing the disagreeable
gestures and insulting words of the cruel youths and girls was gratified.
True, Eva also felt with keen indignation that far too little honour was
paid to her beloved dead; that the blinded people believed the slanderers
who repeated even worse things of her Els than of herself, and made their
poor mother, who had lived and suffered like a saint, atone for what they
imagined were the sins of her daughters; but the jeers and scorn which
had obtruded themselves upon her father and sister from more than one
quarter, in many a form, had entirely escaped her notice.  She had
accustomed herself from childhood to indulge in reflections and emotions
apart from the demands of the world.  Whatever occupied her mind or soul
absorbed her completely; here she had been wholly engrossed in this
silent intercourse with the departed, and a single glance at the group
assembled in the church had showed her everything which she desired to
know of her surroundings.

Heinz had gone to the field the day before yesterday.  Her silent
colloquy concerned him also.  How difficult he made it for her to
maintain the resolution which she had formed during the mass for the
dead, since he remained aloof, without giving even the slightest token of
remembrance.  True, an inward voice constantly repeated that he could not
part from her any more easily than she from him;  but her maidenly pride
rebelled against the neglect with which he grieved her.  The defiant
desire to punish him for departing without a word of farewell urged her
back to the convent.  She had spent many hours there daily, and in its
atmosphere of peace felt better and happier than in her father's house or
any other spot which she visited.  The close association with her aunt,
the abbess, was renewed.  True, she had not urged Eva to a definite
statement by so much as a single word, yet she had made her feel plainly
how deeply it would wound her if her pupil should resolve to disappoint
the hopes which she herself had fostered.  If Eva refused to take the
veil, would not her kind friend be justified in charging her with
unequalled ingratitude? and whose opinion did she value even half as
much, if she excepted her lover's, whose approval was more to her than
that of all the rest of the world?

He was better than she, and who could tell what important motive kept him
away?  Countless worldly wishes had blended with the devotion which she
felt in the convent; and had not the abbess herself taught her to obey,
without regard to individuals or their opinion, the demands of her own
nature, which were in harmony with the will of the Most High?  and how
loudly every voice within commanded her to be loyal to her love!  She had
made her decision, but offended pride, the memory of the happy, peaceful
hours in the convent and, above all, the fear of grieving the beloved
guide of her childhood, withheld her from the firm and irrevocable
statement to which her nature, averse to hesitation and delay, impelled
her.

The nearer the sedan-chair came to the Ortlieb mansion the faster her
heart beat, for that very day, probably within the next few hours, the
abbess would compel her to choose between her father's house and the
convent.

She was panting for breath and deadly pale when, just after Els's
arrival, she stepped from the chair.  It had become intensely hot.
Within the vaulted corridor with its solid, impenetrable walls, a cooler
atmosphere received her, and she hoped to find in her own chamber
fresher, purer air, and--at least for the next few hours--undisturbed
peace.

But what was the meaning of this scene?  At her entrance, the
conversation which Els had evidently just commenced with several other
women at the door of the office suddenly ceased.  It must be due to
consideration for her; for she had not failed to notice the significant
glance with which her sister looked at her and then removed her finger
from her lips.

The abbess, who had been concealed by a wall of chests piled one above
another, now came forward and laid her hand upon the shoulder of a little
elderly woman, who must have been disputing vehemently with the old
housekeeper, Martsche, for she was flushed with excitement, and the
housekeeper's chin still quivered.

Usually Eva paid little heed to the quarrels of the servants, but this
one appeared to have some connection with herself, and the cause could be
no trivial one, since Aunt Kunigunde took part in it.

But she had no sooner approached the other women than the abbess drew
her aside and asked her a few unimportant questions.  They were probably
intended to keep her away from the disputants.  But Eva knew the little
woman, and wished to learn what offence had been given modest, humble
Widow Vorkler.  Her husband had been employed by the Ortlieb firm as a
carrier, who had driven his team of six horses to Milan faithfully until
killed in the Tyrol during an attack by robber knights in the lawless
period before the coronation of the Emperor Rudolph.

With the aid of Herr Ernst Ortlieb, the widow had then set up a little
shop for the sale of wax candles, images of the saints, rosaries, and
modest confirmation gifts, by which means she gained an honest livelihood
for her seven children and herself.  Her oldest son, who on account of
hip disease was not fit for hard work, helped her, and the youngest was
Ortel, who had carried Eva's basket on the day of her dead mother's
consecration.  Her daughter Metz was also in the Ortlieb's service as
assistant to the chief cook.

When Frau Vorkler had come to see her children, she had scarcely
been able to find words which sufficiently expressed her grateful
appreciation, but to-day she seemed like a different person.

The brief colloquy between the abbess and Eva already appeared to her too
long, and when the former bade her finish her business later with Els and
old Martsche, she angrily declared that, with all due reverence for the
Lady Abbess, she must inform Jungfrau Eva also what compelled her, a
virtuous woman with a grateful heart, to take her children from the
service of the employer for whom her husband had sacrificed his life.

Els, who was eager to conceal the woman's insulting errand from Eva,
tried to silence Frau Vorkler, but she defiantly persisted, and with
redoubled zeal protested that speak she must or her heart would break.
Then she declared that she had been proud to place her children in so
godly a household, but now everything was changed, and though it grieved
her to the soul, she must insist upon taking Metz and Ortel from its
service.  She lived by the piety of people who bought candles for the
dear saints and rosaries for praying; but even the most devout had eyes
everywhere, and if it were known that her young children were serving in
a house where such things happened, as alas!  were reported through the
whole city concerning the daughters of this family----

Here old Martsche with honest indignation interrupted the excited woman;
but Fran Vorkler would not be silenced, and asked what a poor girl like
her Metz possessed except her good name.  How quickly suspicion would
rest on a lass whose respectability was questioned!  People had begun to
do so ever since the Ortlieb sisters were called the "beautiful" instead
of the pious and virtuous Es.  This showed how such notice of the face
and figure benefited Christian maidens.  Yesterday and to-day she had
given a three-farthing candle to her saint as a thank offering that this
horror had not reached their mother's ears.  The dead woman had been a
truly devout and noble lady, and her soul would be grateful to her for
impressing upon the minds of her motherless daughters that the path which
they had recklessly entered----

This was too much for Ortel, who, concealed behind a heap of sacks, had
listened to the discussion, and clasping his hands beseechingly, he now
went up to his mother and entreated her to beware of repeating the
slanders of evil-minded people who had dared to cast stones at the
gracious maidens, who were as pure and innocent as their saint herself.

Poor Ortel!  His kind young eyes  streaming with tears might have
softened a rock; but the enraged candle-dealer misinterpreted his honest
emotion, and he certainly would not have been allowed to go on so far had
not rage and amazement kept her silent.  But Frau Vorkler never lost the
use of her tongue long, and what a flood of abuse of the degenerate
children of the time, who forgot the respect and gratitude due to their
own mother, she began to pour forth!  But when faithful Endres, who had
grown grey in the Ortlieb service, and under whose orders Ortel was
placed to help in unpacking, commanded her to be silent or leave the
house, and told her son, instead of following her, to stay with his old
employer, Frau Vorkler proceeded to lament over the corruption of the
whole world, and did not fail to deal a few side-thrusts at the two
daughters of the house.

But here also she made little progress, for the abbess led Eva up the
stairs, and the two old family servants, Martsche representing the
guiding mind and Endres the rude strength, made common cause.  The latter
upheld Ortel in his refusal to leave the house, and the former declared
that Metz must remain the usual time after giving notice.  She would not
help Frau Vorkler to force the poor child into an unequal, miserable
marriage with the old miser to whom she wanted to give her.

This remark was aimed at the master-tailor Seubolt, the guardian of the
Vorkler children, who, though forty years her senior, wanted to make
pretty Metz his wife, and who had also promised the widow to obtain for
his future brother-in-law Ortel an excellent place in the stables of the
German order of military monks.  Not outraged morality, but the guardian
and suitor in one person, had induced the candle-dealer to take her
children from their good places in the Ortlieb household.  The widow's
fear of having her real motive detected spared the necessity of using
force.  But whilst slowly retiring backwards, crab fashion, she shrieked
at her antagonists the threat that her children's guardian, no less a
personage than master-tailor Nickel Seubolt, was a man who would help her
gain her just rights and snatch the endangered souls of Ortel and her
poor young Metz from temporal and eternal destruction in this Sodom and
Gomorrah----

The rest of the burden which oppressed her soul she was forced to confide
to the street.  Endres closed the heavy door of the house behind her with
a strength and celerity marvellous in a man of his years.

Ortel was terribly agitated.  Soon after his mother's departure he went
with his sister to the woodhouse, where both wept bitterly; for Metz had
given her heart to a young carrier who was expected to return from a trip
to Frankfort the first of July, and would rather have thrown herself into
the Pegnitz than married the rich old tailor to whom she knew her mother
had promised her pretty daughter; whilst her brother, like many youths of
his station, thought that the place of driver of a six-horse wain was the
most delightful calling in the world, and both were warmly attached to
their employer and the family whom they served.  And yet both felt that
it was a heavy sin to refuse to obey their mother.



CHAPTER VII.

Eva was spared witnessing the close of this unpleasant incident.  The
abbess had led her up the stairs into the sitting-room.  St. Clare
herself, she thought, had sent Fran Vorkler to render the choice she
intended to place before her niece that very day easier for Eva.

Even whilst ascending the broad steps she put her arm around her, but in
the apartment, whence the noonday sun had been shut out and they were
greeted with a cool atmosphere perfumed with the fragrance of the
bouquets of roses and mignonette which Eva and the gardener had set in
jars on the mantelpiece early in the morning, the abbess drew her darling
closer to her side, saying, "The world is again showing you its most
disagreeable face, my poor child, ere you bid it farewell."

She kissed her brow and eyes tenderly as she spoke, expecting Eva, as
she had often done when anything troubled her young soul, to return the
caress impulsively, and accept with grateful impetuosity the invitation
to the shelter which she offered; but the vile assault of the coarse
woman who brought to her knowledge what people were thinking and saying
about her produced upon the strange child, who had already given her many
a surprise, an effect precisely opposite to her expectations.  No, Eva
had by no means forgotten the pain inflicted by Frau Vorkler's base
accusations; but if whilst in the sedan-chair she had feared that she
should lack courage to inflict upon her beloved aunt and friend so great
a disappointment, she now felt that this dread had been needless, and
that her offended maidenly pride absolved her from consideration for
any person.

With cautious tenderness she released herself from the arms of the
abbess, gazed sorrowfully at her with her large eyes as if beseeching
forgiveness then, as she saw her aunt look at her with pained surprise,
again threw herself on her breast.

Instead of being protectingly embraced by the elder woman, the young girl
clasped her closely to her heart, kissed and patted her with caressing
love, and with the winning charm peculiar to her besought her forgiveness
if she denied herself and her that which she had long desired as the
fairest and noblest goal.

When the abbess interrupted her to represent what awaited her in the
world and in the convent, Eva listened, nestling closely to her side
until she had finished, then sighing as deeply as if her own resolve
caused her the keenest suffering, threw her head back, exclaiming,
"Yet, in spite of everything, I cannot, must not enter the convent now."
Clasping the abbess's hand, she explained what prevented her from
fulfilling the wish of her childhood's guide, which had so long been her
own, extolling with warm, sincere gratitude the quiet happiness and sweet
anticipations enjoyed with her beloved nuns ere love had conquered her.

During the recent days of sorrow she had again sought the path to her
saints and found the greatest solace in prayer; but whenever she uplifted
her heart to the Saviour, whose bride she had once so fervently vowed to
become, the Redeemer had indeed appeared as usual before the eyes of her
soul, but he resembled in form and features Sir Heinz Schorlin, and,
instead of turning her away from the world to divine love, she had
surrendered herself completely to earthly affection.  Prayer had become
sin.  The saint's song:

                   "O Love, Love's reign announcing,
                        Why dost thou wound me so?
                    Into thy fiercest flames I fling
                        My heart, my life below."

no longer invited her to give herself up to be fused into divine love,
but merely rendered the need of her own soul clearer, and expressed in
words the yearning of her heart for her lover.

Here her aunt interrupted her with the assurance that all this--she had
had the same experience when, renouncing the love of the noblest and best
of men, she took the veil--would be different, wholly different, when
with St. Clare's aid she had again found the path on which she had
already once so nearly reached heaven.  Even now she beheld in
imagination the day when Eva would look back upon the world she had left
as if it were a mere formless mass of clouds.  These were no idle words.
The promise was something derived from her own experience.

On her pilgrimage to Rome she had gazed from an Alpine peak and beheld at
her feet nothing save low hills, forests, valleys, and flashing streams,
with here and there a village; but she could distinguish neither human
beings nor animals; a light mist had veiled everything, converting it
into one monotonous surface.  But above her head the sky, like a giant
dome free from cloud and mist, arched in a beautiful vault, blue as
turquoise and sapphire.  It seemed so close that the eagle soaring near
her might reach it with a few strokes of his pinions.  She was steeped in
radiance, and the sun shone down upon her with overpowering brilliancy
like the eye of God.

Close at her side a gay butterfly hovered about the solitary little
white flower which grew from a bare rock on the topmost summit.  In the
brilliant light and amidst the solemn silence that butterfly seemed like
a transfigured soul, and aroused the question, Who that was permitted to
live on this glowing height, so near the Most High, could desire to
return to the grey mist below?

So the human soul which soared to the shining height where it was so near
heaven, would blissfully enjoy the purity of the air and the un shadowed
light which bathed it, and all that was passing in the world below would
blend into a single vanquished whole, whose details could no longer be
distinguished.  Thus Heinz Schorlin's image would also mingle with the
remainder of the world, lying far below her, to which he belonged.  It
should merely incite her to rise nearer and nearer to heaven, to the
radiant light above, to which her soul would mount as easily as the eagle
that before the pilgrim's eyes had vanished in the divine blue and the
golden sunshine.

"So come and dare the flight!" she concluded with warm enthusiasm.
"The wings you need have grown from your soul, you chosen bride of
Heaven.  Use them.  That which now most repels you from the goal will
fall away as the snake sheds its skin.  Like the phoenix rising from its
ashes, the destruction of the little earthly love which even now causes
you more pain than pleasure, will permit the ascent of the great love for
Him Who is Love incarnate, the love which encompasses the lonely
butterfly on the white blossom in the silent, deserted mountain solitude,
which lacks no feather on its wings, no tiniest hair on its feelers, as
warmly and carefully as the vast, unlimited universe whose duration ends
only with eternity."

Eva, with labouring breath, had fairly hung upon the lips of the revered
woman, who at last gazed upwards with dilated eyes like a prophetess.

When she paused the young girl nodded assent.  Her teacher and friend
seemed to have crushed her resistance.

Like the eagle which had disappeared before the pilgrim's eyes in the
azure vault of heaven, the radiant light on the pure summit summoned her
pure soul to dare the flight.

The abbess watched with delight the influence of her words upon the soul
of her darling, who, gazing thoughtfully at the floor, now seemed to be
pondering over what she had urged.

But suddenly Eva raised her bowed head, and her eyes, sparkling with a
brighter light, sought those of the abbess.

Her quick intellect had attentively considered what she had heard, and
her vivid power of imagination had enabled her to transfer to reality the
picture which had already half won her over to her friend's wishes.

"No, Aunt Kunigunde, no!" she began, raising her hands as if in repulse.
"Your radiant height strongly allures me also, yet, gladly as I believe
that, for many the world would be easily forgotten above, where no sound
from it reaches us and the mist conceals individual figures from our
eyes, for me, now that love has filled my heart, it would be impossible
to ascend the peak alone and without him.

"Hear me, aunt!

"What was it that attracted me so powerfully from the beginning?  At
first, as you know, the hope of making him a combatant for the
possessions which I have learned through you to regard as the highest and
most sacred.  Then, when love came, when a new power, heretofore unknown,
awoke within me and--everything must be told--I longed for his wooing and
his embrace, I also felt that our union could take root and put forth
blossoms only in the full harmony of our mutual love for God and the
Saviour.  And though since the mass for the dead was celebrated for my
mother--it wounded me, and defiance and the wish to punish him urged me
to put the convent walls between us--no further token of his love has
come, though I know as well as you that he desired to quit the world,
this by no means impairs--nay, it only strengthens--the confidence I feel
that our souls belong to one another as inseparably as though the
sacrament had hallowed our union.

"Therefore I should never succeed in coming so near heaven as you, the
lonely, devout pilgrim, attained on the summit of your mountain peak,
unless he accompanied me in spirit, unless his soul joined mine in the
ascent or the flight.  It rests in mine as mine rests in his, and were
they separated both would bleed as if from severed veins.  For this
reason, aunt, he can never blend into a uniform mass with the rest of the
world below me; for if I gained the radiant height, he would remain at my
side and gaze with me at the mist-veiled world beneath.  He can never
vanish from the eyes of my soul, and so, dear aunt, because I owe it to
him to avoid even the semblance----"

Here she hesitated; for from the adjoining room they heard a man's deep
voice telling Els something in loud, excited tones.

This interruption was welcome to the abbess; she had as yet found no
answer to her niece's startling objection.

Eva answered her questioning glance with the exclamation, "Uncle
Pfinzing!"

"He?" replied the abbess dejectedly.  "His opinion has some weight with
you, and this very day, during the burial, he told me how glad he should
be to see you sheltered in the convent from the hateful calumnies caused
by your imprudence!"

"Yet--you will see it directly," the girl declared, "he will surely
understand me when I explain that I would rather endure the worst than
appear to seek refuge from evil tongues in flight.  Whoever has expected
Eva Ortlieb to shelter herself from malice behind strong walls will be
mistaken.  Heinz is certainly aware of the shameful injustice which has
pursued us, and if he returns he must find me where he left me.  I am now
encountering what my dead mother called the forge fire of life, and I
will not shun it like a coward.  Heinz, I know, will overthrow the man
who unchained this generation of vipers against us; but if he does not
return, or can bring himself to cast the love that unites us behind him
with the world from which he would fain turn, then, aunt"--and Eva's eyes
flashed brightly with passionate fire, and her clear voice expressed the
firm decision of a vigorous will--"then I will commit our cause to One
who will not suffer falsehood to conquer truth or wrong to triumph over
right.  Then, though it should be necessary to walk over red-hot
ploughshares, let the ordeal bear witness for us."

The abbess, startled, yet rejoicing at the fulness of faith flaming in
her darling's passionate speech, approached Eva to soothe her; but
scarcely had she begun to speak when the door opened and Berthold
Pfinzing entered with his older niece.

He was holding Els by the hand, and it was evident that some sorrowful
thought occupied the minds of both.

"Has any new horror happened?" fell in tones of anxious enquiry from
Eva's lips before she even greeted her dearest relative.

"Think of something very bad," was her sister's reply, in a tone so
dejected and mournful, that Eva, with a low cry--"My father!"--pressed
her hand upon her heart.

"Not  dead,  darling,"  said  the  magistrate, stroking her head
soothingly with his short, broad hand, "by all the saints, not even
wounded or ill.  Yet the daughter has guessed aright, and I have kept the
'Honourables' waiting, that I might tell you the news myself; for what
may not such tidings become whilst passing from lip to lip!  It is a
toad, a very ugly toad, and I would not permit a dragon to be brought
into the house to you poor things in its place."

He poured all this forth very rapidly, for, notwithstanding the intense
heat, and the burden of business at the Town Hall, he had left it, though
only to do his dear Es a kindness, lie and his worthy wife Christine, the
sister of Herr Ernst Ortlieb and of the abbess, had long been familiar
with all the tales which slander had called to life, and had striven
zealously enough to refute them.  What he had now to relate filled him
with honest indignation against the evil tongues, and he knew how deeply
it would excite and grieve Eva, his godchild, who stood especially near
his heart.  He would gladly have said a few kind words to her before
beginning his story, but he was obliged to return to the Town Hall
immediately to open the important conference concerning the fate of the
Eysvogel business.

His appearance showed how rapidly he had hurried to the house through
the burning sunshine, for drops of perspiration were trickling down his
broad, low forehead over his plump, smoothshaven cheeks and thick red
neck, in which his small chin vanished as if it were a cushion.  Besides,
he constantly raised a large linen handkerchief to his face, and his huge
chest laboured for breath as he hastily repeated to Eva and the abbess
what he had just announced to Els in a few rapid words.

Herr Ernst Ortlieb had gone to the Town Hall, where he attended an
examination in his character as magistrate, and had entered the court
yard to enjoy the cool air for a short time with a few other
"Honourables," in the shady walk near the main gate.

Just then master-tailor Seubolt, the guardian of Ortel and his sister,
who were in service at the Ortlieb mansion, approached the Town Hall.
No one could have supposed that the tall, grey-headed man with the bowed
back, who was evidently nearing sixty, really meant to make a young girl
like Metz Vorkler his wife.  Besides, he assumed a very humble, modest
demeanour when, passing through the vaulted entrance of the Town Hall,
which stood open to every citizen, he approached Herr Ernst to ask, with
many bows and humble phrases, for the permission, which he had been
refused at the Ortlieb house, to remove his wards from a place which
their mother, as well as he himself, felt sure--he had supposed that the
"Honourable" would have no objection--would  be harmful to them in both
body and soul.

Surprised and indignant, but perfectly calm, Herr Ernst had requested him
to tell him whatever he had to say at a more convenient time.  But as the
tailor insisted that the matter would permit no delay, he invited him to
step aside with him, in order not to make the councillors who were with
him witnesses of the unpleasant discussion.

Seubolt, however, seemed to have no greater desire than to be heard by as
many people as possible.  Raising his voice to a very loud tone, though
he still maintained an extremely humble manner, he began to give the
reasons which induced him, spite of his deep regret, to remove his wards
from the Ortlieb house.  And now, sheltering himself behind frequent
repetitions of "As people say" and "Heaven forbid that I should believe
such things," he began to relate what the most venomous slander had dared
to assert concerning the beautiful Es.

For a time Herr Ernst had forced himself to listen quietly to this
malicious abuse of those whom he held dearest, but at last it became too
much for the quick-tempered man.  The tailor had ventured to allude to
Jungfrau Els "who certainly had scarcely given full cause for such evil
slander" in words which caused even the councillors standing near to
contradict him loudly, and induced Herr Pfinzing, who had just come up,
to beckon to the city soldiers.  At that instant the blood mounted to the
insulted father's brain, and the misfortune happened; for as the tailor,
with an unexpected gesture of the arm he was flourishing, brushed Herr
Ernst's cap, the latter, fairly insane with rage, snatched the pike from
one of the men who, obeying Herr Pfinzing's signal, were just approaching
the tailor, and with a wild cry struck down the base traducer.

Herr Pfinzing, with the presence of mind characteristic of him, instantly
ordered the beadles to carry the wounded man into the Town Hall, and thus
prevented the luckless deed of violence from creating any excitement.

The few persons in the courtyard had been detained, and perhaps
everything might yet be well.  Herr Ernst had instantly delivered himself
up to justice, and instead of being taken to prison like a common
criminal, had been conveyed in a closed sedan-chair to the watch-tower.

The pike had pierced the tailor's shoulder, but the wound did not seem to
be mortal, and Herr Ernst's rash deed might be made good by the payment
of blood-money, though, it is true, on account of the tailor's position
and means, this might be a large sum.

"My horse," said Herr Berthold in conclusion, "was waiting for me, and
brought me here as swiftly as he must carry me back again.  But, you poor
things!  as for you, my Els, you have a firm nature, and if you insist
upon refusing the invitation to our house, why, wait here to learn
whether your father needs you.  You, my little goddaughter Eva, are
provided for.  This sorrow, of course, will throw the veil over your fair
head."

The worthy man, as he spoke, laid his hand on her shoulder and looked at
her with a glance which seemed to rely on her assent, but she interrupted
him with the exclamation, "No, uncle!  Until you have convinced yourself
that no one will dare assail Eva Ortlieb's honour, do not ask her again
if she desires the protection of the convent."

The magistrate hurriedly passed his huge handkerchief over his face; then
taking Eva's head between his hands, kissed her brow, and--turning the
shrewd, twinkling eyes, which were as round as everything else about his
person, towards the others, said: "Did any one suggest this, or did the
'little saint' have the sensible idea herself?"

When Eva, smiling, pointed to her own forehead, he exclaimed: "My
respects, child.  They say that what stirs up there descends from
godfather to godchild, and I'll never put goblet to my lips again if I--"

Here he stopped, and called after Els that he had not meant to hint, for
she was hurrying out to get her uncle something to drink.  But ere the
door closed behind her he went on eagerly:

"But to you, my saintly child, I will say: your piety soars far too high
for me to follow with my heavy body; yet on the ride here I, old sinner
that I am, longed--no offence, sister-in-law abbess!--to warn you against
the convent, for the very reason which keeps you away from your saint.
We'll find the gag to stop the mouths of these accursed slanderers
forever, and then, if you want to enter the convent, they shall not say,
when you take the veil, 'Eva Ortlieb is hiding from her own shame and the
tricks with which we frightened her out of the world.'  No! All Nuremberg
shall join in the hosanna!"

Then taking the goblet which Els had just filled, he drained it with
great satisfaction, and rushing off, called back to the sisters: "I'll
soon see you again, you brave little Es.  My wife is coming to talk over
the matter with you.  Don't let that worthless candle-dealer's children
leave the house till their time is up.  If you wish to visit your father
in the watch-tower there will be no difficulty.  I'll tell the warder.
Only the drawbridge will be raised after sunset.  You can provide for his
bodily needs, too, Els.  We cannot release him yet; the law must take its
course."

At the door he stopped again and called back into the room: "We can't be
sure.  If Frau Vorkler and the tailor's friends make an outcry and molest
you, send at once to the Town Hall.  I'll keep my eyes open and give the
necessary orders."

A few minutes after he trotted through the Frauenthor on his clumsy
stallion.



CHAPTER VIII.

The watch-tower was in the northern part of the city, in the corn
magazine of the fortress, and the whole width of Nuremberg must be
traversed to reach it.  Even before Herr Pfinzing had left the house the
sisters determined to go to their father, and the abbess approved the
plan.  She invited the girls to spend the night at the convent, if they
found the deserted house too lonely, but they did not promise to do so.

Countess Cordula, who was on friendly terms with Eva, also emptied the
vials of her wrath with all the impetuosity of her nature upon Sir Seitz
Siebenburg and the credulity and malice of the people.  From the
beginning she had been firmly convinced that the "Mustache," as she now
called the knight in a tone of the most intense aversion, had contrived
this base conspiracy, and her opinion was strengthened by Biberli.  Now
she would gladly have torn herself into pieces to mitigate the sisters'
hard lot.  She wanted to accompany them to the watch-tower, to have them
taken there in her sedan-chair carried by horses, which had room for
several persons, and at last begged for the favour of being allowed to
spend the night in the room adjoining theirs.  If the girls, amidst all
these base suspicions, should find Nuremberg unendurable, she would leave
the scene of the Reichstag with them to-morrow, if necessary, and take
them to her castle in the Vorarlberg.  She had other plans for them, too,
in her mind, but lacked time now to explain them to the sisters; they
could not obtain admittance to their father's prison after sundown, and
in a few hours the long summer day would be over.

It was not advisable to use their sedan-chairs adorned with the Ortlieb
coat of arms, which every one knew, so they went on foot with their faces
shrouded by the 'Reise' which was part of their mourning dress; and, in
order not to violate usage, were accompanied by two servants, old
Martsche and Katterle.

From the Fleischbrucke they might have avoided the market-place, but Els
wanted to enquire whether the Eysvogel matter was being discussed.  One
of the "Honourables"--all of whom she knew--was always to be found near
the Town Hall, and Eva understood her sister's anxiety and went with her
willingly.

But when they were passing the prison she became frightened.

Through the squares formed by the iron grating in front of the broad
window of the largest one, head after head, hand after hand, was thrust
into the street.  The closely cropped heads of the prisoners, many of
which showed mutilations by the hand of the executioner, which had barely
healed, formed, as separated only by the iron bars, they protruded above,
below, and beside one another into the open air, a mosaic picture,
startlingly repulsive in appearance; for savage greed glittered in the
eyes of most, and showed itself in the movements of the long, thin hands
extended for gifts.  Bitter need and passionate longing gazed defiantly,
beseechingly, and threateningly at the people who crowded round the
window.  Few were silent; they implored the curious and pitying men,
women, and children, who in the presence of their misery rejoiced in
their more favoured lot, for aid in their distress, and rarely in vain;
for many a mother gave her children a loaf to hand to the unfortunates,
and meanwhile impressed on their minds the lesson that they would fare as
badly as the most horrible of the mutilated prisoners unless they were
good and obedient to their parents and teachers.

Street boys held out an apple or a bit of bread, to snatch it away just
as they touched it with their finger-tips, thus playing with them for
their own amusement, but the tribulation of the wretched captives.  Then
some man who had seen better days, or a criminal whom sudden passion had
made a murderer, would burst into a rage and, seizing the iron bars,
shake them savagely, whilst the others, shrieking, drew in their heads.
Then fierce curses, threats, and invectives echoed over the market-place
and, screaming aloud, the boys ran back; but they soon resumed their
malicious sport.

Often, it is true, a mother came who placed her gift in the hands of her
child, or a modest old woman, tradesman, or soldier, from motives of
genuine compassion, offered the prisoners a jug of new milk or
strengthening wine.  Nor was there any lack of priests or monks who
desired to give the consolations of religion to the pitiable men behind
the bars, but most of them reaped little gratitude; only a few listened
to their exhortations with open hearts, and but too frequently they were
silenced by insults and rude outcries.

Whilst the sisters, attended by their maidservants, were passing these
pitiable people, Frau Tucher, whose daughter had been very ill, sent, for
the love of God, a large basket of freshly baked bread to the prisoners.
One of her servants was distributing it, and they greedily snatched the
welcome gift from his hand.  A woman, who was about to give one of the
rolls to the hollow-eyed child in her arms just as a rude fellow who had
lost his ears snatched it, scratched his dirty, freckled face with her
sharp nails, and the sight of the blood which dripped from his lip over
his chin upon the roll was so hideous a spectacle that Eva clung closer
to her sister, who had just put her hand into the pocket hanging from her
belt to give the unfortunates a few shillings, and drew her away with
her.

Both, followed by the two maids, made their way as fast as possible
through the people who had flocked hither in great numbers for a purpose
which the sisters were to learn only too soon.

It was a long time since they had been here, and a few weeks previously
the "Honourables" had had the pillory moved from the other side of the
Town Hall to this spot.  Katterle's warning was not heard in the din
around them.

The crowd grew denser every moment, and Eva had already asked her sister
to turn back, when Els saw the man who brought to her father the summons
to the meetings of the Council, and requested him to accompany them
through the throng to the courtyard; but amidst the uproar of shouts and
cries he misunderstood her, and supposing that she wished to witness the
spectacle which had attracted so many, forced a way for the sisters into
the very front rank.

The person who had just been bound in this place of shame was the
barber's widow from the Kotgasse, who had already been here once for
giving lovers an opportunity for secret meetings, and to whom Katterle
had fled for shelter.  Bowed by the weight of the stone which had been
hung around her neck, the woman, with outstretched head, looked furiously
around the circle of her tormentors like a wild beast crouched to spring,
and scarcely had the messenger brought the sisters and their servants to
a place near her when, recognising Katterle, she shrieked shrilly to the
crowd that there were the right ones, the dainty folk who, if they did
not belong to a rich family, would be put in the place where, in spite of
the Riese over their faces, with which they mourned for their lost good
name, they had more reason to be than she, who was only the lowly widow
of a barber.

Overwhelmed with horror the girls pressed on, and at Eva's terrified
exclamation, "Let us, O let us go!" the man did his best.  But they made
slow progress through the crowd, whose yells, hisses, and catcalls
pursued them to the entrance of the neighbouring Town Hall.

Here the guard, with crossed halberds, kept back the people who were
crowding after the insulted girls, and it was fortunate, for Eva's feet
refused to carry her farther, and her older sister's strength to support
her failed.

Sighing deeply, Els led her to a bench which stood between two pillars,
and then ordered old Martsche, and Katterle, who was trembling in every
limb, to watch Eva till her return.

Before they went on, her sister must have some rest, and Martin Schedel,
the old Clerk of the Council, was the man with whom to obtain it.

She went in search of him as fast as her feet would bear her, and by a
lucky accident met the kind old man, whom she had known from childhood,
on the stairs leading to the Council chamber and the upper offices.

Ernst Ortlieb's unhappy deed, and the story of the base calumnies in
circulation about the unfortunate man's daughters, which he had just
heard from Herr Pfinzing, had filled the worthy old clerk's heart with
pity and indignation; so he eagerly embraced the opportunity afforded to
atone to the young girls for the wrongs committed against them by their
fellow-citizens.  Telling the maidservants to wait in the antechamber of
the orphan's court-room, he led the sisters to his own office, helping
Eva up the long flight of stairs with an arm which, though aged, was
still vigorous.  After insisting that she should sit in the armchair
before the big desk, and placing wine and water before her, he begged the
young girls to wait until his return.  He was obliged to be present at
the meeting, which had probably already begun.  The matter in question
was the Eysvogel business, and if Els would remain he could tell her the
result.  Then he left them.

Eva, deadly pale, leaned back with closed eyes in the clerk's high
chair.  Els bathed her brow with a wet handkerchief, consoling her by
representing how foolish it would be to suffer the lowest of the populace
to destroy her happiness.

Her sister nodded assent, saying: "Did you notice the faces of those
people behind the bars?  Most of them, I thought, looked stupid rather
than evil."  Here she hesitated, and then added thoughtfully: "Yet they
cannot be wise.  These poor creatures seldom obtain any great sum by
thieving and cheating.  To what terrible punishments they expose
themselves both in this world and the next!  And conscience!"

"Yes, conscience!" Els eagerly repeated.  "So long as we can say that we
have done nothing wrong, we can suffer even the worst to be said of us
without grieving."

"Still," sighed Eva, "I feel as if that horrible woman's insults had
sullied me with a stain no water can wash away.  What sorrows have come
upon us since our mother died, Els!"

Her sister nodded, and added mournfully: "Our father, my Wolff, your
poor, stricken heart, and below in the Council chamber, Eva, perhaps
whilst we are talking, those who are soon to be my kindred are being
doomed.  That is harder to bear, child, than the invectives with which a
wicked woman slanders us.  Often I do not know myself where I get the
strength to keep up my courage."

She turned away as she spoke to wipe the tears from her eyes without
being seen; but Eva perceived it, and rose to clasp her in her arms and
whisper words of cheer.  Ere she had taken the first step, however, she
started; in rising she had upset the clerk's tin water-pail, which fell
rattling on the floor.

"The water!" she exclaimed sadly, "and my tongue is parched."

"I'll fetch more," said Els consolingly; "Herr Martin brought it from
over yonder."

Opening the door to which she had pointed, she entered a low, spacious
anteroom, in which was a brass fire engine, ladders, pails, and various
other utensils for extinguishing a fire in the building, hung on the
rough plastered wall which separated this room from the office of the
city clerk.  The centre of the opposite wall was occupied by two small
windows surmounted by a broad, semicircular arch, and separated by a
short Roman pillar.  The sashes of both, whose leaden casings were filled
with little round horn panes, stood wide open.  This double window was in
the upper part of the Council chamber, which occupied two stories.  To
create a draught this hot day it had been flung wide open, and Els could
distinguish plainly the words uttered below.  The first that reached her
was the name: "Wolff Eysvogel."

A burning sensation thrilled her.  If she went nearer to the window she
could hear what the Honourables decided concerning the Eysvogel house;
and, overpowered by her ardent desire not to lose a single word of the
discussion which was to determine the happiness of Wolff's life, and
therefore hers, she instantly silenced the voice which admonished her
that listening was wrong.  Yet the habit of caring for Eva was so dear to
her, and ruled her with such power, that before listening to what was
passing in the Council chamber below she looked for the water, which she
speedily found, took it to the thirsty girl, and hurriedly told her what
she had discovered in the next room and how she intended to profit by it.

In spite of Eva's entreaty not to do it, she hastened back to the open
window.

The younger sister, though she shook her head, gazed after her with a
significant smile.

To Eva this was no accident.

Perhaps it was her saint herself who, when her sister went to seek
refreshment for her, had guided her to the window.  Eva deemed it a boon
to be permitted to find here in solitude the rest needful for her body
which, though usually so strong, had been shaken by horror, and to
struggle and pray for a clear understanding of the many things which
troubled her; for to her prayer was far more than the petition for a
spiritual or earthly blessing; nay, she prayed far less frequently to
implore anything than from yearning for the Most High to whose presence
the wings of prayer raised her.  So long as she was absorbed in it, she
felt removed from the world and borne into the abode of God.

Now also, whilst Els was listening, she brought no earthly matter to the
Power who guided the universe as well as her own little individual life,
but merely lost herself in supplication and in her intercourse with the
Omnipotent One, who seemed to her a familiar friend; she forgot what
grieved and troubled her and how she had been pained.  But meanwhile the
prediction she had made to the abbess was verified; she felt as if her
lover's soul rose with hers to the pure height where she dwelt, and that
the earthly love which filled her heart and his was but an effluence of
the Eternal Love, whose embodiment to her was God and the Saviour.

The union of herself and Heinz seemed imaged by two streams flowing from
the same great inexhaustible, pure, and beneficent fountain, which, after
having run through separate channels, meet to traverse as a single river
the blooming meadows and keep them fresh and green.  God's love, her own,
and his were each separate and yet the same, portions of the great fount
which animated, saved, and blessed her, him, and the whole vast universe.
The spring gushing from her love and his was eternal, and therefore
neither could be exhausted, no matter how much it gave.

But both were still in the world.  As he would certainly put forth all
his might to show himself worthy of the confidence placed in him by his
Emperor and master, she too must test her youthful strength in the
arduous conflict which she had begun.  Her recent experiences were the
flames of the forge fire of life of which her mother had spoken--and how
pitifully she had endured their glow!  This must be changed.  She had
often proved that when the body is wearied the soul gains greater power
to soar.  Should she not begin to avail herself of this to make her
feeble body obey her will?  With compressed lips and clenched hand she
resolved to try.



CHAPTER IX.

Whilst Eva, completely absorbed in herself, was forming this resolution,
Els, panting for breath, stood at the open window under the ceiling of
the Council chamber, gazing down and listening to the sounds from
beneath.

Directly opposite to her was the inscription

"Feldt Urtel auf erden, als ir dort woldt geurtheilt werden," in the
German and Latin languages, and below this motto, urging the magistrates
to justice, was a large fresco representing the unjust judge Sisamnes
being flayed by an executioner in the costume of the Nuremberg Leben--
[Executioner's assistant.  Really "Lowen."]--before the eyes of King
Cambyses, in order to cover the judgment seat with his skin.  Another
picture represented this lofty throne, on which sat the ruler of Persia
dispensing justice.  The subject of a third was the Roman army
interrupted in its march by the order of the Emperor Trajan, that he
might have time to hear a widow's accusation of the murderer of her son
and to punish the criminal.

Els did not bestow a single glance upon these familiar pictures, but
gazed down at the thirteen elderly and the same number of much younger
men, who in their high-backed chairs were holding council together at her
left hand far below her.  These were the burgomasters of the city, of
whom an elder and a younger one directed for the space of a month, as
"Questioner," the government of the public affairs of the city and the
business of the "Honourable Council."

At this time the office was filled by Albert Ebner and Jorg Stromer,
whilst in the secret council formed by seven of the older gentlemen, as
the highest executive authority, Hans Schtirstab as the second and
Berthold Vorchtel as first Losunger filled the chief offices.

So this year the deeply offended father held the highest place in the
Council, and in the whole community of Nuremberg he, more than any one
else, would decide the fate of the Eysvogels.

Els knew this, and with an anxious heart saw him gaze earnestly and sadly
at the papers which Martin Schedel, the city clerk, had just brought to
him from a special desk.  At his side, in the centre of the table covered
with green cloth, sat the listener's uncle, the magistrate Berthold
Pfinzing, who in the Emperor's name presided over the court of justice.

He also appeared in his character of protector of the Jews, and Samuel
Pfefferkorn, a Hebrew usurer, had just left the hall after an
examination.

Casper Eysvogel was gazing after him with a face white as death.  His
handsome head shook as the imperial magistrate, turning to Berthold
Vorchtel, the chief Losunger, said in a tone loud enough to be heard by
all present, "So this is also settled.  Herr Casper contracted the great
debt to the Jew without the knowledge of his son and partner, and this
explains to a florin the difference between the accounts of the father
and son.  The young man was intentionally kept in the dark about the
greatest danger which threatened the business.  To him the situation of
the house must have appeared critical, but by no means hopeless.  But for
the Siebenburgs and the other bandits, who transformed the last important
and promising venture of the firm into a great loss, and with the sale of
the landed property, it might perhaps have speedily risen, and under
prudent and skilful management regained its former prosperity.  The
enormous sum to which the debt to Samuel Pfefferkorn increased gives the
position of affairs a different aspect.  Since, as protector of the Jew,
I must insist upon the payment of this capital with the usual interest,
the old Eysvogel firm will be unable to meet its obligations--nay, its
creditors can be but partially paid.  Therefore nothing remains for us to
do save to consider how to protect as far as possible our city and the
citizens who are interested.  Yet, in my opinion, the entire firm does
not deserve punishment--only the father, who concealed from his upright
son his own accounts and those of Samuel Pfefferkorn, and--it is hard for
me to say this in Herr Casper's presence;--also, when the peril became
urgent, illegally deprived his business partner of the possibility of
obtaining a correct view of the real situation of affairs.  So, in the
Emperor's name, let justice take its course."

These words pronounced the doom of the ancient, great, and wealthy
Eysvogel firm; yet the heart of Els throbbed high with joy when, after
a brief interchange of opinions between the assembled members of the
Council, the imperial magistrate, turning to Herr Vorchtel, again began:
"As Chief Losunger, it would be your place, Herr Berthold, to raise your
voice on the part of the Honourable Council in defence of the accused;
but since we are all aware of the great grief inflicted upon you by the
son of the man in whose favour you would be obliged to speak, we should,
I think, spare you this duty, and transfer it to Herr Hans Schtirstab,
the second Losunger, or to Herr Albert Ebner, the oldest of the governing
burgomasters, who, though equally concerned in this sad case, are less
closely connected with the Eysvogels themselves."

Els uttered a sigh of relief, for both the men named were friendly to
Wolff; but Herr Vorchtel had already risen and began to speak, turning
his wise old head slowly to and fro, and drawing his soft grey beard
through his hand.

He commenced his address as quietly as if he were talking with friends at
his own table, and the tones of his deep voice, as well as the expression
of his finely moulded aged features, exerted a soothing influence upon
his listeners.

Els, with a throbbing heart, felt that nothing which this man advocated
could be wrong, and that whatever he recommended would be sure of
acceptance; for he stood amongst his young and elderly fellow directors
of the Nuremberg republic like an immovably steadfast guardian of duty
and law, who had grown grey in the atmosphere of honesty and honour.
Thus she had imagined the faithful Eckart, thus her own Wolff might look
some day when age had bleached his hair and labour and anxiety had lined
his lofty brow with wrinkles; Berthold Vorchtel, and other "Honourables"
who resembled him; grey-haired Conrad Gross; tall, broad-shouldered
Friedrich Holzschuher, whose long, snow-white hair fell in thick waves to
his shoulders; Ulrich Haller, in whose locks threads of silver were just
appearing, princely in form and bearing; stately Hermann Waldstromer, who
had the keen eyes of a huntsman; the noble Ebner brothers, who would have
attracted attention even in an assembly of knights and counts--nay, the
Emperor Rudolph was probably thinking of the men below when he said that
the Nuremberg Council reminded him of a German oak wood, where firm
reliance could be placed on every noble trunk.

Herr Berthold Vorchtel was just such a noble, reliable tree.  Els told
herself so, and though she knew how deeply he was wounded when Wolff
preferred her to his daughter Ursula, and how sorely he mourned his son
Ulrich's death, she was nevertheless convinced that this man would bear
the Eysvogels no grudge for the grief suffered through them, for no word
which was not just and estimable would cross his aged lips.

She was not mistaken; for after Herr Berthold had insisted upon his right
to raise his voice, not in behalf of Herr Casper but for his business
firm and its preservation, he remarked, by way of introduction, that for
the sake of Nuremberg he would advise that the Eysvogel house should not
be abandoned without ceremony to the storm which its chief had aroused
against the ancient, solid structure.

Then he turned to the papers and parchments, to which the city clerk had
just added several books and rolls.  His address, frequently interrupted
by references to the documents before him, sounded clear and positive.
The amount of the sums owed by the Eysvogel firm, as well as the names of
its creditors in Nuremberg, Augsburg, Ulm, and Regensburg, Venice, Milan,
Bruges, and other German and foreign cities, formed the most important
portion of his speech.  During its progress he frequently seized a bit of
chalk and blackboard, writing rapidly on the green table whole rows of
figures, and the young burgomasters especially exchanged admiring smiles
as the experienced old merchant added and subtracted in an instant sums
for which they themselves would have needed twice as much time.

The figures and names buzzed in the ears of the listener at the window
like the humming of a swarm of gnats.  To understand and remember them
was impossible, and she gazed in astonishment at the old man who so
clearly comprehended the confused tangle and drew from it so readily just
what he needed for his purpose.

When he closed, and with a loud "Therefore" began to communicate the
result, she summoned all the mental power she possessed in order to
understand it.  She succeeded, but her knees fairly trembled when she
heard the sum which the house was obliged to repay to others.

Yet, when Herr Berthold lastly gave the estimate of the Eysvogel property
in merchandise, buildings, and estates, she was again surprised.  She had
not supposed that Wolff's proud family was so wealthy; but the close of
this report brought fresh disappointment, for including the sum which
Herr Casper had borrowed from the Jew Pfefferkorn, the debts of the firm
exceeded its possessions far more than Els had expected from the amount
of its riches.

She was wholly ignorant of the condition of her own father's property;
but she thought she knew that it was far from being enough to suffice
here.  And this appeared to be the case, for when Berthold Vorchtel
resumed his speech he alluded to Ernst Ortlieb.  In words full of
sympathy he lamented the unprecedented insult which had led him to commit
the deed of violence that prevented his sharing in this consultation.
But before his removal he had given him an important commission.  Upon
certain conditions--but only upon them--he would place a considerable
portion of his fortune at his disposal for the settlement of this affair.
Still, large as was the promised sum, it would by no means be sufficient
to save the Eysvogel business from ruin.  Yet he, Berthold Vorchtel, was
of the opinion that its fall must be prevented at any cost.  The
sincerity of this conviction he intended to prove by the best means
at a merchant's command-the pledge of his own large capital.

These words deeply moved the whole assembly, and Els saw her uncle glance
at the old gentleman with a look which expressed the warm appreciation of
a man of the same mind.

Casper Eysvogel, who, lost in thought, had permitted the statements of
the Losunger, which were mingled with many a bitter censure of his own
conduct, to pass without contradiction--nay, apparently in a state
of apathy in which he was no longer capable of following details--
straightened his bowed figure and gazed enquiringly into Herr Berthold's
face as if he did not venture to trust his own ears; but the other looked
past him, as he added that what he was doing for the Eysvogel business
was due to no consideration for the man who had hitherto directed it, or
his family, but solely on account of the good city whose business affairs
the confidence of the Council had summoned him to direct, and her
commerce, whose prosperity was equally dear to most of the Honourables
around him.

Cries and gestures of assent accompanied the last sentence; but Berthold
Vorchtel recognised the demonstration by remarking that it showed him
that the Council, in the name of the city, would be disposed to do its
share in raising the amount still lacking.

This statement elicited opposition, expressed in several quarters in low
tones, and from one seat loudly, and Herr Berthold heard it.  Turning to
Peter Ammon, one of the Eysvogels' principal creditors, who was making
the most animated resistance, he remarked that no one could be more
unwilling than himself to use the means of the community to protect from
the consequences of his conduct a citizen whose own errors had placed him
in a perilous position, but, on the other hand, he would always--and in
this case with special zeal--be ready to aid such a person in spite of
the faults committed, if he believed that he could thus protect the
community from serious injury.

Then he asked permission to make a digression, and being greeted with
cries of "Go on!" from all sides, began in brief, clear sentences to show
how the commerce of Nuremberg from small beginnings had reached its
present prosperity.  Instead of the timid, irregular exchange of goods
as far as the Rhine, the Main, and the Danube, regular intercourse with
Venice, Milan, Genoa, Bohemia, and Hungary, Flanders, Brabant, and the
coast of the Baltic had commenced.  Trade with the Italian cities, and
through them, even with the Levant, had made its first successful opening
under the Hohenstaufen rule; but during the evil days when the foreign
monarchs had neglected Germany and her welfare, it sustained the most
serious losses.  By the election of Rudolph of Hapsburg who, with vigour,
good-will, and intelligence, had devoted his attention to the security of
commerce in the countries over which he reigned, better days for the
merchant had returned, and it was very evident what his work required,
what injured and robbed it of its well-earned reward.  Confidence at home
and abroad was the foundation of prosperity, not alone of the Nuremberg
merchant but of trade in general.  Under the Hohenstaufen rule their
upright ancestors had so strengthened this confidence that wherever he
went the Nuremberg merchant received respect and confidence above many--
perhaps all others.  The insecurity of the roads and of justice in the
lawless times before the election of the Hapsburgs might have impaired
this great blessing; but since Rudolph had wielded the sceptre with
virile energy, made commerce secure, and administered justice, confidence
had also returned, and to maintain it no sacrifice should be too great.
As for him, Berthold Vorchtel, he would not spare himself, and if he
expected the city to imitate him he would know how to answer for it.

Here he was interrupted by loud shouts of applause; but, without heeding
them, he quietly went on: "And it is necessary to secure confidence in
the Nuremberg merchant in two directions: his honesty and the capital at
his command.  Our business friends, far and near, must be permitted to
continue to rely upon our trustworthiness as firmly as upon rock and
iron.  If we brought the arrogant Italian to say of us that, amongst the
German cities who were blind, Nuremberg was the one-eyed, we ought now to
force them to number us amongst those who see with both eyes, the honest,
trust-inspiring blue eyes of the German.  But to attain this goal we need
the imperial protection, the watchful power of a great and friendly
ruler.  The progress which our trade owed to the Hohenstaufen proves
this; the years without an Emperor, on the contrary, showed what
threatens our commerce as soon as we lack this aid.  Rights and
privileges from sovereigns smoothed the paths in which we have surpassed
others.  To obtain new and more important ones must be our object.  From
the first Reichstag which the Emperor Rudolph held here, he has shown
that he esteems us and believes us worthy of his confidence.  Many
valuable privileges have revealed this.  To maintain this confidence,
which is and will remain the source of the most important favours to
Nuremberg, is enjoined upon us merchants by prudence, upon us directors
of the city by regard for its prosperity.  But, my honourable friends,
reluctantly as I do so, I must nevertheless remind you that this
confidence, here and there, has already received a shock through the
errors of individuals.  Who could have forgotten the tale of the
beautiful cap of the unhappy Meister Mertein, who has preceded us into
the other world?  Doubtless it concerned but one scabby sheep, yet it
served to bring the whole flock into disrepute.  Perhaps the fact that it
occurred so soon after Rudolph's election to the sovereignty, during the
early days of his residence in our goodly city, imprinted it so deeply
upon our imperial master's memory.  A few hours ago he asked for some
information concerning the sad affair which now occupies our attention,
and when I represented that the public spirit and honesty of my
countrymen, fellow-citizens, and associate members of the Council would
prevent it from injuring our trade at home or abroad, he alluded to that
story, by no means in the jesting way with which he formerly mentioned
the vexatious incident that redounded to the honour of no one more than
that of his own shrewdness, which at that time--seven years ago--was so
often blended with mirth."

When the speaker began to allude to this much-discussed incident a smile
had flitted over the features of his listeners, for they remembered it
perfectly, and the story of Emperor Rudolph and the cap was still related
to the honour of the presence of mind of the wise Hapsburg judge.

During the period of the assembly of the princes a Nuremberg citizen had
taken charge of a bag containing two hundred florins for a foreign
merchant who had lodged with him, but when he was asked for the property
entrusted to him denied that he had received it.

This disgraceful occurrence was reported to the Emperor, but he
apparently paid no heed to it, and received Master Mertein, amongst other
citizens who wished to be presented to him.  The dishonest man appeared
in a rich gala dress and as, embarrassed by the Emperor's piercing gaze,
he awkwardly twirled his cap--a magnificent article bordered with costly
fur; the sovereign took it from his hand, examined it admiringly and,
with the remark that it would suit even a king, placed it on his own
royal head.  Then he approached one after another to exchange a few words
and, as if forgetting that he wore the head-gear, left the apartment to
order a messenger to take the cap at once to its owner's wife, show it to
her as a guarantee of trustworthiness, and ask her to bring the bag which
the foreign merchant had given him to the castle.  The woman did so and
the cheat was unmasked.

Everyone present, like Els, was familiar with this story, which wrongly
cast so evil a light upon the uprightness of the citizens of Nuremberg.
Who could fail to be painfully affected by the thought that Rudolph,
during his present stay amongst them, must witness the injury of others
by a Nuremberg merchant?  Who could have now opposed Herr Berthold, when
he asked, still more earnestly than before, that the community would do
its share to maintain confidence in the reliability of the Nuremberg
citizens, and especially of the Honourable Council and everyone of its
members?

But when he mentioned the large sum which he himself, and the other which
Ernst Ortlieb intended on certain conditions to devote to the settlement
of this affair, Peter Ammon also withdrew his opposition.  The First
Losunger's proposal was unanimously accepted, and also the condition made
by his associate, Ernst Ortlieb.  Casper Eysvogel, on whom the resolution
bore most heavily, submitted in silence, shrugging his shoulders.

How high Els's heart throbbed, how she longed to rush down into the
Council chamber and clasp the hand of the noble old man at the green
table, when he said that in consequence of Ernst Ortlieb's condition--
which he also made--the charge of the newly established Eysvogel business
must be transferred from Herr Casper's hands to those of his son, Herr
Wolff, as soon as the imperial pardon permitted him to leave his hiding-
place.  He, Berthold Vorchtel, would make no complaint against him, for
he knew that Wolff had been forced to cross swords with his Ulrich.  He
had formed this resolution after a severe struggle with himself; but as a
Christian and a fair-minded man he had renounced the human desire for
revenge, and as God had wished to give him a token of his approval, he
had sent to his house a substitute for his dead son.  Fresh cries of
approval interrupted this communication, whose meaning Els did not
understand.

Not a word of remonstrance was uttered when the imperial magistrate at
last proposed that Casper Eysvogel and the women of his family should
leave the city and atone for his great offence by ten years in exile.
One of his estates, which he advised the city to buy, could be assigned
him as a residence.  Herr Casper's daughter, Frau Isabella Siebenburg,
had already, with her twin sons, found shelter at the Knight Heideck's
castle.  Her husband, who had joined his guilty brothers, would speedily
fall into the hands of justice and reap what he had sowed.  For the final
settlement of this affair he begged the Honourable Council to appoint
commissioners, whom he would willingly join.

Then Herr Vorchtel again rose and requested his honourable friends to
treat the new head of the house with entire confidence; for from the
books of the firm and the statements which he had made in his hiding-
place and sent to the Council, both he and the city clerk had become
convinced that he was one of the most cautious and upright young
merchants in Nuremberg.  Their opinion was also shared by the most
prominent business acquaintances of the house.

This pleased the listener.  But whilst the speaker sat down amidst the
eager assent of his associates in office, and Herr Casper Eysvogel,
leaning on the arm of his cousin, Conrad Teufel, left the hall with
tottering steps, utterly crushed, she saw the city clerk Schedel, after a
hasty glance upwards, approach the side door, through which he could
reach the staircase leading to his rooms.

He evidently intended to tell the result of the discussion.  But the old
gentleman would need considerable time to reach her, so she again
listened to what was passing below.

She heard her uncle, the magistrate, speak of her father's unfortunate
deed, and tell the Council how the name of Herr Ernst's daughters, who
were held in such honour, had become innocently, through evil gossip, the
talk of the people.  Just at that moment the old man's shuffling step
sounded close by the door.

Els stopped listening to hasten towards the messenger of good tidings,
and the old gentleman could scarcely believe his own eyes when he saw the
happiness beaming in the girl's beautiful fresh face, whose anxiety and
pallor had just roused his deep sympathy.

It was scarcely possible that anyone could have anticipated him with the
glad news, and spite of his seventy-two years the city clerk had retained
the keen eyes of youth.  When he entered the anteroom with Els and saw
the open window and beside it the white Riese which she had removed in
order to hear better, he released himself from the arm she had passed
around his shoulders, shook his finger threateningly at her, and cried:
"It's fortunate that I find only the Riese, and not the listener,
otherwise I should be compelled to deliver her to the jailer, or even the
torturer, for unwarranted intrusion into the secrets of the honourable
Council.  I can hardly institute proceedings against a bit of linen!"



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Welcome a small evil when it barred the way to a greater one





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