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

A ROMANCE OF OLD NUREMBERG

By Georg Ebers


Translated from the German by Mary J. Safford



IN THE FIRE OF THE FORGE--PART I.



CHAPTER I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is the matter really so serious? Won’t the monster grant you even a
good-night kiss?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER II.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And the Hapsburg,” Biberli added, “had kept his word.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER III.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the knight bowed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER IV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In the ballroom!” again fell from her sister’s lips in the same tone of
amazement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Gladly, dearest,” replied the other. “But it is really quite time to
say ‘good-morning.”’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER V.

As her father had ordered the servants not to disturb the young girls,
Els did not wake till the sun was high in the heavens. Eva’s place at
her side was empty. She had already left the room. For the first time
it had been impossible to sleep even a few short moments, and when she
heard from the neighbouring cloister the ringing of the little bell that
summoned the nuns to prayers, she could stay in bed no longer.

Usually she liked to dress slowly, thinking meanwhile of many things
which stirred her soul. Sometimes while the maid or Els braided her hair
she could read a book of devotion which the abbess had given her. But
this morning she had carried the clothes she needed into the next room
on tiptoe, that she might not wake her sister, and urged Katterle, who
helped her dress, to hurry.

She longed to see her aunt at the convent. While kneeling at the
prie-dieu, she had reached the certainty that her patron saint had led
Heinz Schorlin to her. He was her knight and she his lady, so he must
render her obedience, and she would use it to estrange him from the
vanity of the world and make him a champion of the holy cause of the
Church of Christ, the victorious conqueror of her foes. Sky-blue, the
Holy Virgin’s colour, should be hers, and thus his also, and every
victory gained by the knight with the sky-blue on his helmet, under St.
Clare’s protection, would then be hers.

Heinz Schorlin was already one of the boldest and strongest knights; her
love must render him also one of the most godly. Yes, her love! If St.
Francis had not disdained to make a wolf his brother, why might she not
feel herself the loving sister of a youth who would obey her as a noble
falcon did his mistress, and whom she would teach to pursue the right
quarry? The abbess would not forbid such love, and the impulse that
drew her so strongly to the convent was the longing to know how her aunt
would receive her confession.

The night before when, after her conversation with Els, she began to
pray, she had feared that she had fallen into the snare of earthly love,
and dreaded the confession which she had to make to her aunt Kunigunde.
Now she found that it was no fleshly bond which united her to the
knight. Oh, no! As St. Francis had gone forth to console, to win souls
for the Lord, to bring peace and exhort to earnest labour in the service
of the Saviour, as his disciples had imitated him, and St. Clare had
been untiring in working, in his spirit, among women, she, too, would
obey the call which had come to her saint in Portiuncula, and prove
herself for the first time, according to the Scripture, “a fisher of
souls.”

Now she gladly anticipated the meeting; for though her sister did not
understand her, the abbess must know how to sympathise with what was
passing in her mind. This expectation was fulfilled; for as soon as
she was alone with her aunt she poured forth all her hopes and feelings
without reserve, eagerly and joyfully extolling her good fortune that,
through St. Clare, she had been enabled to find the noblest and most
valiant knight, that she might win him for the Holy War under her
saint’s protection and to her honour.

The abbess, who knew women’s hearts, had at first felt the same fear
as Els; but she soon changed her opinion, and thought that she might be
permitted to rejoice over the new emotion in her darling’s breast.

No girl in love talked so openly and joyously of the conquest won, least
of all would her truthful, excitable niece, whom she had drawn into her
own path, speak thus of the man who disturbed her repose. No sensitive
girl, unfamiliar with the world and scarcely beyond childhood, would
decide with such steadfast firmness, so wholly free from every selfish
wish, the future of the man dearest to her heart. No, no! Eva had
already attained her new birth, and was not to be compared with other
girls She had already once reached that ecstatic rapture which followed
only a long absorption in God and an active sympathy with the deep human
love of the Saviour and the unspeakable sufferings which he had taken
upon himself. Little was to be feared from earthly love for one who
devoted herself with all the passion of her fervid nature to the divine
Bridegroom. Among the many whom Kunigunde received into the convent as
novices, she was most certainly “called.” If she felt something which
resembled love for the young knight--and she made no concealment of
it--it was only the result of the sweet joy of winning for the Lord, the
faith, and her saint a soul which seemed to her worthy of such grace.

Dear, highly gifted child!

She, the abbess Kunigunde, was willing it should be so, and that Eva
should surpass herself. She should prove that genuine piety conquers
even the yearning of a quickly throbbing heart.

True, she must keep her eyes open in order to prevent Satan, who is
everywhere on the watch, from mingling in a game not wholly free from
peril. But, on the other hand, the abbess intended to help her beloved
niece to reap the reward of her piety.

It was scarcely to be doubted that Heinz Schorlin was fired with ardent
love for Eva; but, for that very reason, he would be ready to yield her
obedience, and therefore it was advisable to tell her exactly to what
she must persuade him. She must win him to join the Order of Malta, and
if the famous champion of Marchfield performed heroic deeds with the
white cross on his black mantle, or in war on his red tunic, he, the
Emperor’s favourite, would be sure of a high position among the military
members of the order.

The young girl listened eagerly, but the elderly abbess herself became
excited while encouraging the young future “Sister” to her noble task.
The days when, with the inmates of the convent, she had prayed that the
Emperor Rudolph might fulfil the Pope’s desire, and in a new crusade
again wrest the Holy Land from the infidels, came back to her memory,
and Heinz Schorlin, guided by the nuns of St. Clare, seemed the man to
bring the fulfilment of this old and cherished wish.

It appeared like a leading of the saints and a sign from God that Heinz
had been dubbed a knight, and commenced his glorious career at Lausanne
while the Emperor Rudolph pledged himself to a new crusade.

She detained Eva so long that dinner was over at the Ortlieb mansion,
and her impatient father would have sent for her had not the invalid
mother urged him to let her remain.

True, she longed to have a talk with her darling, who for the first time
in her life had attended a great entertainment, and doubtless it grieved
her to think that Eva did not feel the necessity of pouring out her
heart to her own mother rather than to any one else, and sharing with
her all the new emotions which undoubtedly had thrilled it; but she knew
her child, and would have considered it selfish to place any obstacle in
the pathway to eternal salvation of the elect whom God summoned with so
loud a voice. Formerly she would rather have seen the young girl, whose
charms were developing into such rare beauty, wedded to some good man;
but now she rejoiced in the idea that Eva was summoned to rule over the
nuns in the neighbouring cloister some day as abbess, in the place of
her sister-in-law Kunigunde. Her own days, she knew, were numbered, but
where could her child more surely find the happiness she desired for
her than with the beloved sisters of St. Clare, whose home she and her
husband had helped to build?

Els had concealed from her parents what she fancied she had discovered,
for any anxiety injured the invalid, and no one could anticipate how her
irritable father might receive the information of her fear. On the
other hand, she could confide her troubles without anxiety to Wolff, her
betrothed husband. He was wise, prudent, loved Eva like a sister, and in
exchanging thoughts with him she always discovered the right course to
pursue; but though she expected him so eagerly and confidently, he did
not come.

When, in the afternoon, Eva returned home, her whole manner expressed
such firm, cheerful composure that Els began to hope she might have been
mistaken. The undemonstrative yet tender affection with which she met
her mother, too, by no means harmonised with her fears.

How lovely the young girl looked as she sat on a low stool at the head
of the invalid’s couch and, with her mother’s emaciated hand clasped in
hers, told her all that she had seen and experienced the evening before!
To please the beloved sufferer, she dwelt longer on the description of
the gracious manner of the Emperor Rudolph and his sister to her and her
father, the conversation with which the Burgrave had honoured her, and
his son’s invitation to dance. Then for the first time she mentioned
Heinz Schorlin, whom she had found a godly knight, and finally spoke
briefly of the distinguished foreign nobles and ladies whom he had
pointed out and named.

All this reminded the mother of former days and, in spite of the warning
of watchful Els not to talk too much, she did not cease questioning or
recalling the time when she herself attended such festivals, and as one
of the fairest maidens received much homage.

It had been a good day, for it was long since she had enjoyed so much
quiet in her own home. The von Montforts, she told Eva, had set
off early, with a great train of knights and servants, to ride to
Radolzburg, the castle of the Burgrave von Zollern. Her father thought
they would probably have a dance there, for the young sons of the
Burgrave would act as hosts.

Eva asked carelessly who rode with Cordula this time to submit to her
whims, but Els perceived by her sister’s flushed cheeks and the tone of
her voice what she desired to know, and answered as if by accident that
Sir Heinz Schorlin certainly was not one of her companions, for he had
ridden through the Frauenthor that afternoon in the train of the Emperor
Rudolph and his Bohemian daughter-in-law.

Twilight was already beginning to gather, and Els could not see whether
this news afforded Eva pleasure or annoyance, for her mother had taken
too little heed of her weakness, and one of the attacks which the
physician so urgently ordered her to avoid by caution commenced.

Els and the convent Sister Renata, who helped her nurse the invalid,
were now completely absorbed in caring for her, but Eva turned away from
the beloved sufferer--her sensitive nature could not endure the sight of
her convulsions.

As soon as her mother again lay weak but quiet on the pillows which Els
had rearranged for her, Eva obeyed her entreaty to go away, and went
to her own chamber. When another attack drew her back to the invalid,
a sign from her sister as she reached the threshold bade her keep away
from the couch. Should it prove necessary, she whispered, she would call
her. If Wolff came, Eva was to tell him that she could not leave her
mother, but he must be sure to return early the next morning, as she had
a great deal to say to him.

Eva then went to her father, who was dressing to attend a banquet at
the house of Herr Berthold Vorchtel, the first Losunger--[Presiding
Officer]--in the Council, from which he would be loath to absent himself
for the very reason that his host’s family had been hostile to him ever
since the rumour of the betrothal of Wolff Eysvogel, whom the Vorchtels
had regarded as their daughter Ursula’s future husband.

Nevertheless, Herr Ernst would not have gone to the entertainment had
his wife’s condition given cause for anxiety. But he was familiar with
these convulsions which, it is true, weakened the invalid, but produced
no other results; so he permitted Eva to help him put the last touches
to his dress, on which he lavished great care. Spick and span as if he
were just out of a bandbox, the elderly man, before leaving the house,
went once more to the sick-room, and Eva stood near as, after many
questions and requests, he whispered something to Els which she did not
hear. With excited curiosity she asked what he had said so secretly,
but he only answered hurriedly, “The name of the Man in the Moon’s dog,”
 kissed her cheek, and ran downstairs.

At the foot he again turned to Eva and told her to send for him if her
mother should grow worse, for these entertainments at the Vorchtels
usually lasted a long time.

“Will the Eysvogels be there too?” asked the girl.

“Who knows,” replied her father. “I shall be glad if Wolff comes.”

The tone in which he uttered the name of his future son-in-law
distinctly showed how little he desired to meet any other member of
the family, and Eva said sympathisingly, “Then I hope you will have an
opportunity to remember me to Wolff.”

“Shall I say nothing to Ursel?” asked the father, pressing a good-night
kiss upon the young girl’s forehead.

“She would not care for it,” was the reply. “It cannot be easy to forget
a man like Wolff.”

“I wish he had stuck to Ursel, and let Els alone,” her father answered
angrily. “It would have been better for both.”

“Why, father,” interrupted Eva reproachfully, “do not our lovers seem
really created for each other?”

“If the Eysvogels were only of the same opinion,” exclaimed Ernst
Ortlieb, shrugging his shoulders with a faint sigh. “Whoever marries,
child, weds not only a man or a woman; all their kindred, unhappily,
must be taken into the bargain. However, Els did not lack earnest
warning. When your time comes, girl, your father will be more careful.”

Smiling tenderly, he passed his hand over the little cap which covered
her thick, fair hair, and went out.

Eva returned to her room and sat down at the spinning-wheel in the bow
window, where Katterle had just drawn the curtains closely and lighted
the hanging lamp. But the distaff remained untouched, and her thoughts
wandered swiftly to the evening before and the ball at the Town Hall.
Heinz Schorlin’s image rose more and more distinctly before her mind,
and this pleased her, for she fancied that he wore on his helm the blue
favour which she had chosen, and it led her to consider against what
foe she should first send him in the service of his lady and the Holy
Church.



CHAPTER VI.

Eva had gazed into vacancy a long time, and beheld a succession of
pleasing pictures, in every one of which, Heinz Schorlin appeared. Once,
in imagination, she placed a wreath on his helmet after a great victory
over the infidels.

Why should not this vision become a reality? Doubtless it owed its
origin to a memory, for Wolff Eysvogel had been fired with love for her
sister while Els was winding laurel around his helmet.

After the Honourable Council had resolved that the youths belonging to
noble families, who had fought in the battle of Marchfield and returned
victorious, should be adorned with wreaths by the maidens of their
choice, Fate had appointed her sister to crown Eysvogel.

At that time Wolff had but recently recovered from the severe wounds
with which he had returned from the campaign. But while he knelt before
Els and his eyes met hers, love had overmastered him so swiftly and
powerfully, that at the end of a few days he determined to woo her.

Meanwhile his own family resolutely opposed his choice. The father
declared that he had made an agreement with Berthold Vorchtel to marry
him to his daughter Ursula, and withdrawal on his son’s part would
embarrass him. His grandmother, the arrogant old Countess Rotterbach,
agreed with him, and declared that Wolff ought to wed no one except
a lady of the most aristocratic birth or an heiress like Ursula. Her
daughter Rosalinde Eysvogel, as usual, was the echo of her mother.

Herr Ernst Ortlieb, too, would far rather have seen his Els marry
into another home; but Wolff himself was a young man of such faultless
honour, and the bride he had chosen was so eager to become his, that he
deemed it a duty to forget the aversion inspired by the suitor’s family.

As for Wolff, he had so firmly persisted in his resolve that his parents
at last permitted him to ask for his darling’s hand, but his father had
made it a condition that the betrothal, on account of the youth of
the lovers, should not be announced till after Wolff had returned from
Milan, where he was to finish the studies commenced in Venice. True,
everyone had supposed that they were completed long ago, but Eysvogel
senior insisted upon his demand, and afterwards succeeded in deferring
the announcement of the betrothal, until the resolute persistence of
Wolff, who meanwhile had entered the great commercial house, and the
wish of his own aged mother, a sensible woman, who from the first had
approved her grandson’s choice and to whom Herr Casper was obliged
to show a certain degree of consideration, compelled him to give it
publicity.

A few days later Herr Casper’s brother died, and soon after his
estimable old mother. He used these events as a pretext for longer
delay, saying that both he and his wife needed at least six months’
interval ere they could forget their mourning in a gay wedding festival.
Besides, he would prefer not to have the marriage take place until after
Wolff’s election to the Council, which, in all probability, would occur
after Walpurgis of the coming year.

Ernst Ortlieb had sullenly submitted to all this. Nothing but his love
for his child and respect for Herr Casper’s dead mother, who had taken
Els to her heart like a beloved granddaughter, would have enabled him
to conquer his hasty temper in his negotiations with the man whom
he detested in his inmost soul, and not hurl back the consent so
reluctantly granted to his son.

The friends who knew him admired the strength of will with which he
governed his impetuous nature in this transaction. Some asserted that
secret obligations compelled him to yield to the rich Eysvogel; for
though the Ortlieb mercantile house was reputed wealthy, the business
prudence of its head resulted in smaller profits, and people had not
forgotten that it had suffered heavy losses during the terrible period
of despotism which had preceded the Emperor Rudolph’s accession to the
throne.

The insecurity of the high-roads had injured every merchant, but in
trying to find some explanation for Herr Ortlieb’s submission the
attacks which had cost him one and another train of wares were regarded
as specially disastrous.

Finally, the dowry which Els was to bring bore no comparison to the
large sums Ernst Ortlieb had lavished upon the erection of the St.
Clare Convent, and hence it was inferred that the wealth of the firm had
sustained considerable losses. This found ready credence, owing to the
retired life led by the Ortliebs,--whose house had formerly been one
of the most hospitable in the city,--ever since the wife had become an
invalid and Eva had grown up with an aversion to the world. Few took the
trouble to inquire into the very apparent causes for the change.

Yet this view of the matter was opposed by many-nay, when the
conversation turned upon these subjects, Herr Berthold Vorchtel, perhaps
the richest and most distinguished man in Nuremberg, who rented the
imperial taxes, made comments from which, had it not been so difficult
to believe, people might have inferred that Casper Eysvogel was indebted
to Ernst Ortlieb rather than the latter to him.

Yet the cautious, prudent man never explained the foundation of his
opinion, for he very rarely mentioned either of the two firms; yet prior
to the battle of Marchfield he had believed that his own daughter Ursula
and Wolff Eysvogel would sooner or later wed. Herr Casper, the young
man’s father, had strengthened this expectation. He himself and his
wife esteemed Wolff, and his “Ursel” had shown plainly enough that she
preferred him to the other friends of her elder brother Ulrich.

When he returned home the two met like brother and sister, and the
parents of Ursula Vorchtel had expected Wolff’s proposal until the day
on which the wreaths were bestowed had made them poorer by a favourite
wish and destroyed the fairest hope of their daughter Ursula.

The worthy merchant, it is true, deemed love a beautiful thing, but in
Nuremberg it was the parents who chose wives and husbands for their sons
and daughters; yet, after marriage, love took possession of the newly
wedded pair. A transgression of this ancient custom was very rare,
and even though Wolff’s heart was fired with love for Els Ortlieb, his
father, Herr Vorchtel thought, should have refused his consent to the
betrothal, especially as he had already treated Ursel as his future
daughter. Some compulsion must have been imposed upon him when he
permitted his son to choose a wife other than the one selected.

But what could render one merchant dependent upon another except
business obligations?--and Berthold Vorchtel was sharp-sighted. He knew
the heavy draft which Herr Casper had made upon the confidence reposed
in the old firm, and thought he had perceived that the great splendour
displayed by the women of the Eysvogel family, the liberality with which
Herr Casper had aided his impoverished noble relatives, and the lavish
expenditure of his son-in-law, the debt-laden Sir Seitz Siebenburg, drew
too heavily upon the revenues of the ancient house.

Even now Casper Eysvogel’s whole conduct proved how unwelcome was his
son’s choice. To him, Ursula’s father, he still intimated on many
an occasion that he had by no means resigned every hope of becoming,
through his son, more nearly allied to his family, for a betrothal was
not a wedding.

Berthold Vorchtel, however, was not the man to enter into such
double-dealing, although he saw plainly enough how matters stood with
his poor child. She had confided her feelings to no one; yet, in
spite of Ursula’s reserved nature, even a stranger could perceive that
something clouded her happiness. Besides, she had persistently refused
the distinguished suitors who sought the wealthy Herr Berthold’s pretty
daughter, and only very recently had promised her parents, of her own
free will, to give up her opposition to marriage.

Ever since the betrothal, to the sincere sorrow of Els, she had
studiously avoided Wolff’s future bride, who had been one of her dearest
friends; and Ulrich, Herr Vorchtel’s oldest son, took his sister’s part,
and at every opportunity showed Wolff--who from a child, and also in the
battle of Marchfield, had been a favourite comrade--that he bore him a
grudge, and considered his betrothal to any one except Ursula an act of
shameful perfidy.

The fair-minded father did not approve of his son’s conduct, for his
wife had learned from her daughter that Wolff had never spoken to her of
love, or promised marriage.

Therefore, whenever Herr Berthold Vorchtel met Els’s father--and this
often happened in the Council--he treated him with marked respect, and
when there was an entertainment in his house sent him an invitation,
as in former years, which Ernst Urtlieb accepted, unless something of
importance prevented.

But though the elder Vorchtel was powerless to change his children’s
conduct, he never wearied of representing to his son how unjust and
dangerous were the attacks with which, on every occasion, he irritated
Wolff, whose strength and skill in fencing were almost unequalled in
Nuremberg. In fact, the latter would long since have challenged his
former friend had he not been so conscious of his own superiority, and
shrunk from the thought of bringing fresh sorrow upon Ursula and her
parents, whom he still remembered with friendly regard.

Eva was fond of her future brother-in-law, and it had not escaped her
notice that of late something troubled him.

What was it?

She thoughtfully gave the wheel a push, and as it turned swiftly she
remembered the Swiss dance the evening before, and suddenly clenched her
small right hand and dealt the palm of her left a light blow.

She fancied that she had discovered the cause of Wolff’s depression, for
she again saw distinctly before her his sister Isabella’s husband, Sir
Seitz Siebenburg, as he swung Countess Cordula around so recklessly that
her skirt, adorned with glittering jewels, fluttered far out from her
figure. In the room adjacent to the hall he had flung himself upon his
knees before the countess, and Eva fancied she again beheld his big,
red face, with its long, thick, yellow mustache, whose ends projected on
both sides in a fashion worn by few men of his rank. The expression of
the watery blue eyes, with which he stared Cordula in the face, were
those of a drunkard.

To-day he had followed her to the Kadolzburg, and probably meant to
spend the night there. So Wolff had ample reason to be anxious about his
sister and her peace of mind. That must be it!

Perhaps he would yet come that evening, to give Els at least a greeting
from the street. How late was it?

She hastily tried to draw the curtains aside from the window, but this
was not accomplished as quickly as she expected--they had been care
fully fastened with pins. Eva noticed it, and suddenly remembered her
father’s whispered words to Els.

They were undoubtedly about the window. According to the calendar,
the moon would be full that day, and she knew very well that it had a
strange influence upon her. True, within the past year it appeared
to have lost its power; but formerly, especially when she had devoted
herself very earnestly to religious exercises, she had often, without
knowing how or why, left her bed and wandered about, not only in her
chamber but through the house. Once she had climbed to the dovecot in
the courtyard, and another time had mounted to the garret where, she did
not know in what way, she had been awakened. When she looked around,
the moon was shining into the spacious room, and showed her that she
was perched on one of the highest beams in the network of rafters which,
joined with the utmost skill, supported the roof. Below her yawned
a deep gulf, and as she looked down into it she was seized with such
terror that she uttered a loud shriek for help, and did not recover her
calmness until the old housekeeper, Martsche, who had started from her
bed in alarm, brought her father to her.

She had been taken down with the utmost care. No one was permitted to
help except white-haired Nickel, the old head packer, who often let a
whole day pass without opening his lips; for Herr Ernst seemed to lay
great stress upon keeping the moon’s influence on Eva a secret. There
was indeed something uncanny about this night-walking, for even now it
seemed incomprehensible how she had reached the beam, which was at least
the height of three men above the floor. A fall might have cost her
life, and her father was right in trying to prevent a repetition of such
nocturnal excursions. This time Els had helped him.

How faithfully she cared for them all!

Yes, she had barred out even the faintest glimmer. Eva smiled as she saw
the numerous pins with which her sister had fastened the curtain, and
an irresistible longing seized her to see once more the wonderful light
that promoted the growth of the hair if cut during its increase, and
also exerted so strange an influence upon her.

She must look up at the moon!

Swiftly and skilfully, as if aided by invisible hands, her dainty
fingers opened curtain and window.

Drawing a deep breath, with an emotion of pleasure which she had not
experienced for a long time, she gazed at the linden before the house
steeped in silvery radiance, and upward to the pure disk of the full
moon sailing in the cloudless sky. How beautiful and still the night
was! How delightful it would be to walk up and down the garden, with her
aunt the abbess, with Els, and perhaps--she felt the blood crimson her
cheeks--with Heinz Schorlin!

Where was he now?

Undoubtedly with the Emperor and his ladies, perhaps at the side of the
Bohemian princess, the young Duchess Agnes, who yesterday had so plainly
showed her pleasure in his society.

Just then the watch, marching from the Marienthurn to the Frauenthor,
gave her vagrant thoughts a new turn. The city guard was soon followed
by a troop of horse, which probably belonged to the Emperor’s train.

It was delightful to gaze, at this late hour, into the moonlit street,
and she wondered that she had never enjoyed it before. True, it would
have been still pleasanter had Els borne her company; and, besides, she
longed to tell her the new explanation she had found for Wolff’s altered
manner.

Perhaps her mother was asleep, and she could come with her.

How still the house was!

Cautiously opening the door of the sick-room, she glanced in. Els was
standing at the head of the bed, supporting her mother with her
strong young arms, while Sister Renata pushed the cushions between the
sufferer’s back and the bedstead.

The old difficulty of breathing had evidently attacked her again.

Yes, yes, the dim light of the lamp was shining on her pale face, and
the large sunken eyes were gazing with imploring anguish at the image of
the Virgin on the opposite wall.

How gladly Eva would have afforded her relief! She looked with a faint
sense of envy at her sister, whose skilful, careful hands did everything
to the satisfaction of the beloved sufferer, while in nursing she failed
only too often in giving the right touch. But she could pray--implore
the aid of her saint very fervently; nay, she was more familiar with
her, and might hope that she would fulfil a heartfelt wish of hers more
quickly than for her sister. It would not do to call Els to the window.
She closed the door gently, returned to her chamber, knelt and implored
St. Clare, with all the fervour of her heart, to grant her mother a good
night. Then she again drew the curtains closely over the window, and
went to call Katterle to help her undress.

But the maid was just entering with fresh water. What was the matter
with her?

Her hand trembled as she braided her young mistress’s hair and
sometimes, with a faint sigh, she stopped the movement of the comb.

Her silence could be easily explained; for Eva had often forbidden
Katterle to talk, when she disturbed her meditation. Yet the girl must
have had some special burden on her mind, for when Eva had gone to bed
she could not resolve to leave the room, but remained standing on the
threshold in evident embarrassment.

Eva encouraged her to speak, and Katterle, so confused that she often
hesitated for words and pulled at her ribbons till she was in danger of
tearing them from her white apron, stammered that she did not come
on her own account, but for another person. It was well known in the
household that her betrothed husband, the true and steadfast Walther
Biberli, served a godly knight, her countryman.

“I know it,” said Eva with apparent composure, “and your Biberli
has commissioned you to bear me the respectful greeting of Sir Heinz
Schorlin.”

The girl looked at her young mistress in surprise. She had been prepared
for a sharp rebuke, and had yielded to her lover’s entreaties to under
take this service amid tears, and with great anxiety; for if her act
should be betrayed, she would lose, amid bitter reproaches, the place
she so greatly prized. Yet Biberli’s power over her and her faith in him
were so great that she would have followed him into a lion’s den; and it
had scarcely seemed a more desirable venture to carry a love-greeting
to the pious maiden who held men in such disfavour, and could burst into
passionate anger as suddenly as her father.

And now?

Eva had expected such a message. It seemed like a miracle to Katterle.

With a sigh of relief, and a hasty thanksgiving to her patron saint, she
at once began to praise the virtue and piety of the servant as well as
his lord; but Eva again interrupted, and asked what Sir Heinz Schorlin
desired.

Katterle, with new-born confidence, repeated, as if it were some trivial
request, the words Biberli had impressed upon her mind.

“By virtue of the right of every good and devout knight to ask his lady
for her colour, Sir Heinz Schorlin, with all due reverence, humbly prays
you to name yours; for how could he hold up his head before you and
all the knights if he were denied the privilege of wearing it in your
honour, in war as well as in peace?”

Here her mistress again interrupted with a positive “I know,” and, still
more emboldened, Katterle continued the ex-schoolmaster’s lesson to the
end:

“His lord, my lover says, will wait here beneath the window, in all
reverence, though it should be till morning, until you show him your
sweet face. No, don’t interrupt me yet, Mistress Eva, for you must know
that Sir Heinz’s lady mother committed her dear son to my Biberli’s
care, that he might guard him from injury and illness. But since his
master met you, he has been tottering about as though he had received a
spear-thrust, and as the knight confessed to his faithful servitor that
no leech could help him until you permitted him to open his heart to you
and show you with what humble devotion----”

But here the maid was interrupted in a manner very different from her
expectations, for Eva had raised herself on her pillows and, almost
unable to control her voice in the excess of her wrath, exclaimed:

“The master who presumes to seek through his servant----And by what
right does the knight dare thus insolently----But no! Who knows what
modest wish was transformed in your mouth to so unprecedented a demand?
He desired to see my face? He wanted to speak to me in person, to
confess I know not what? From you--you, Katterle, the maid--the knight
expects----”

Here she struck her little hand angrily against the wood of the bedstead
and, panting for breath, continued:

“I’ll show him!----Yet no! What I have to answer no one else----From me,
from me alone, he shall learn without delay. There is paper in yonder
chest, on the very top; bring it to me, with pen and ink.”

Katterle silently hurried to obey this order, but Eva pressed her hand
upon her heaving bosom, and gazed silently into vacancy.

The manservant and the maid whom Heinz Schorlin had made his messengers
certainly could have no conception of the bond that united her to him;
even her own sister had misunderstood it. He should now learn that
Eva Ortlieb knew what beseemed her! But she, too, longed for another
meeting, and this conduct rendered it necessary.

The sooner they two had a conversation, the better. She could
confidently venture to invite him to the meeting which she had in view;
her aunt, the abbess, had promised to stand by her side, if she needed
her, in her intercourse with the knight.

But her colour?

Katterle had long since laid the paper and writing materials before
her, but she still pondered. At last, with a smile of satisfaction, she
seized the pen. The manner in which she intended to mention the colour
should show him the nature of the bond which united them.

She was mistress of the pen, for in the convent she had copied the
gospels, the psalms, and other portions of the Scriptures, yet her hand
trembled as she committed the following lines to the paper:

“I am angered--nay, even grieved--that you, a godly knight, who knows
the reverence due to a lady, have ventured to await my greeting in front
of my father’s house. If you are a true knight, you must be aware that
you voluntarily promised to obey my every glance. I can rely upon this
pledge, and since I find it necessary to talk with you, I invite you to
an interview--when and where, my maid, who is betrothed to your servant,
shall inform him. A friend, who has your welfare at heart as well as
mine, will be with me. It must be soon, with the permission of St.
Clare, who, since you have chosen her for your patron saint, looks down
upon you as well as on me.

“As for my colour, I know not what to name; the baubles associated with
earthly love are unfamiliar to me. But blue is the colour of the pure
heaven and its noble queen, the gracious Virgin. If you make this colour
yours and fight for it, I shall rejoice, and am willing to name it
mine.”

At the bottom of the little note she wrote only her Christian name
“Eva,” and when she read it over she found that it contained, in apt and
seemly phrases, everything that she desired to say to the knight.

While folding the paper and considering how she could fasten it, as
there was no wax at hand, she thought of the narrow ribbons with which
Els tied together, in sets of half a dozen, the fine kerchiefs worn over
the neck and bosom, when they came from the wash. They were sky-blue,
and nothing could be more suitable for the purpose.

Katterle brought one from the top of the chest. Eva wound it swiftly
around the little roll, and the maid hastily left the room, sure of the
gratitude of the true and steadfast Biberli.

When Eva was again alone, she at first thought that she might rejoice
over her hasty act; but on asking herself what Els would say, she felt
certain that she would disapprove of it and, becoming disconcerted,
began to imagine what consequences it might entail.

The advice which her father had recently given Wolff, never to let any
important letter pass out of his hands until at least one night had
elapsed, returned to her memory, and from that instant the little note
burdened her soul like a hundred-pound weight.

She would fain have started up to get it back again, and a strong
attraction drew her towards the window to ascertain whether Heinz
Schorlin had really come and was awaiting her greeting.

Perhaps Katterle had not yet delivered the note. What if she were
still standing at the door of the house to wait for Biberli? If, to
be absolutely certain, she should just glance out, that would not be
looking for the knight, and she availed herself of the excuse without
delay.

In an instant she sprang from her bed and gently drew the curtain aside.
The street was perfectly still. The linden and the neighbouring houses
cast dark, sharply outlined shadows upon the light pavement, and from
the convent garden the song of the nightingale echoed down the quiet
moonlit street.

Katterle had probably already given the note to Heinz Schorlin who,
obedient to his lady’s command, as beseemed a knight, had gone away.
This soothed her anxiety, and with a sigh she went back to bed.

But the longing to look out into the street again was so strong that she
yielded to the temptation; yet, ere she reached the window, she summoned
the strength of will which was peculiar to her and, lying down, once
more closed her lids, with the firm resolve to see and hear nothing. As
she had not shut her eyes the night before and, from dread of the ball,
had slept very little during the preceding one, she soon, though the
moon was shining in through the parted curtains, lapsed into a
condition midway between sleep and waking. Extreme fatigue had deadened
consciousness, yet she fancied that at times she heard the sound of
footsteps on the pavement outside, and the deep voices of men.

Nor was what she heard in her half-dozing state, which was soon followed
by the sound slumber of youth, any delusion of the senses.



CHAPTER VII.

The moon found something in front of the Ortlieb house worth looking at.
Rarely had she lighted with purer, brighter radiance the pathway of the
mortals who excited her curiosity, than that of the two handsome young
men who, at a moderate interval of time, passed through the Frauenthor,
and finally entered the courtyard of the Ortlieb residence almost at the
same instant.

Luna first saw them pace silently to and fro, and delighted in the
resentful glances they cast at each other. This joy increased as the one
in the long coat, embroidered on the shoulder with birds, and then the
other, whose court costume well became his lithe, powerful limbs, sat
down, each on one of the chains connecting the granite posts between the
street and the courtyard.

The very tall one, who looked grave and anxious, was Wolff Eysvogel; the
other, somewhat shorter, who swung gaily to and fro on the chain as if
it afforded him much amusement, Heinz Schorlin.

Both frequently glanced up at the lighted bow-window and the smaller
one on the second story, behind which Eva lay half asleep. This was the
first meeting of the two men.

Wolff, aware of his excellent right to remain on this-spot, would have
shown the annoying intruder his displeasure long before, had he not
supposed that the other, whom at the first glance he recognised as a
knight, was one of Countess Cordula von Montfort’s admirers. Yet he soon
became unable to control his anger and impatience. Yielding to a hasty
impulse, he left the chain, but as he approached the stranger the latter
gave his swaying seat a swifter motion and, without vouchsafing him
either greeting or introductory remark, said carelessly, “This is a
lovely night.”

“I am of the same opinion,” replied Wolff curtly. “But I would like
to ask, sir, what induced you to choose the courtyard of this house to
enjoy it?”

“Induced?” asked the Swiss in astonishment; then, looking the other in
the face with defiant sharpness, he added scornfully:

“I am warming the chain because it suits me to do so.”

“You are allowed the pleasure,” returned Wolff in an irritated tone;
“nay, I can understand that night birds of your sort find no better
amusement. Still, it seems to me that a knight who wishes to keep iron
hot might attain his object better in another way.”

“Why, of course,” cried Heinz Schorlin, springing swiftly to his feet
with rare elasticity. “It gives a pleasant warmth when blade strikes
blade or the hot blood wets them. I am no friend to darkness, and it
seems to me, sir, as if we were standing in each other’s light here.”

“There our opinions concur for the second time this lovely night,”
 quietly replied the patrician’s son, conscious of his unusual strength
and skill in fencing, with a slight touch of scorn. “Like you, I am
always ready to cross blades with another; only, the public street is
hardly the fitting place for it.”

“May the plague take you!” muttered the Swiss in assent to Wolff’s
opinion. “Besides, sir, who ever grasps iron so swiftly is worth a
parley. To ask whether you are of knightly lineage would be useless
trouble, and should it come to a genuine sword-dance.

“You will find a partner in me at any time,” was the reply, “as I, who
wear my ancient escutcheon with good right, would gladly give you a
crimson memento of this hour--though you were but the son of a cobbler.
But first let us ascertain--for I, too, dislike darkness--whether we
are really standing in each other’s light. With all due respect for
your fancy for warming chains, it would be wise, ere Sir Red Coat--[The
executioner]--puts his round our ankles for disturbing the peace, to
have a sensible talk.”

“Try it, for aught I care,” responded Heinz Schorlin cheerily.
“Unluckily for me, I live in a state of perpetual feud with good sense.
One thing, however, seems certain without any serious reflection: the
attraction which draws me here, as well as you, will not enter the
cloister as a monk, but as a little nun, wears no beard, but braids her
hair. Briefly, then, if you are here for Countess Cordula von Montfort’s
sake, your errand is vain; she will sleep at Kadolzburg to-night.”

“May her slumber be sweet!” replied Wolff calmly. “She is as near to me
as yonder moon.”

“That gives the matter a more serious aspect,” cried the knight angrily.
“You or I. What is your lady’s name?”

“That, to my mind, is asking too much,” replied Wolff firmly.

“And the law of love gives you the right to withhold an answer. But,
sir, we must nevertheless learn for the sake of what fairest fair we
have each foregone sleep.”

“Then tell me, by your favour, your lady’s colour,” Wolff asked the
Swiss.

The latter laughed gaily: “I am still putting that question to my
saint.”

Then, noticing Wolff’s shake of the head, he went on in a more serious
tone: “If you will have a little patience, I hope I may be able to tell
you, ere we part.”

This assurance also seemed to Wolff an enigma. Who in the wide world
would come from under the respectable Ortlieb roof, at this hour, to
tell a stranger anything whatsoever concerning one of its daughters?
Neither could have given him the right to regard her as his lady, and
steal at night, like a marten, around the house which contained his
dearest treasure. This obscurity was an offence to Wolff Eysvogel, and
he was not the man to submit to it. Yonder insolent fellow should learn,
to his hurt, that he had made a blunder.

But scarcely had he begun to explain to Heinz that he claimed the right
to protect both the daughters of this house, the younger as well as the
older, since they had no brother, when the knight interrupted:

“Oho! There are two of them, and she, too, spoke of a sister. So, if it
comes to sharing, sir, we need not emulate the judgment of Solomon. Let
us see! The colour is uncertain, but to every Christian mortal a name
clings as closely as a shadow and, if I mention the initial letter of
the one which adorns my lady, I believe I shall commit no offence that
a court of love could condemn. The initial, which I like because it is
daintily rounded and not too difficult to write-mark it well--is ‘E.’”

Wolff Eysvogel started slightly and gripped the dagger in his belt,
but instantly withdrew his hand and answered with mingled amusement
and indignation: “Thanks for your good will, Sir Knight, but this, too,
brings us no nearer our goal; the E is the initial of both the Ortlieb
sisters. The elder who, as you may know, is my betrothed bride, bears
the name of Elizabeth, or Els, as we say in Nuremberg.”

“And the younger,” cried Heinz joyously, “honours with her gracious
innocence the name of her through whom sin came into the world.”

“But you, Sir Knight,” exclaimed Wolff fiercely, “would do better not to
name sin and Eva Ortlieb in the same breath. If you are of a different
opinion----”

“Then,” interrupted the Swiss, “we come back to warming the iron.”

“As you say,” cried Wolff resolutely. “In spite of the peace of the
country, I will be at your service at any time. As you see, I went out
unarmed, and it would not be well done to cross swords here.”

“Certainly not,” Heinz assented. “But many days and nights will follow
this moonlight one, and that you may have little difficulty in finding
me whenever you desire, know that my name is Heinrich--or to more
intimate friends, among whom you might easily be numbered if we don’t
deprive each other of the pleasure of meeting again under the sun--Heinz
Schorlin.”

“Schorlin?” asked Wolff in surprise. “Then you are the knight who, when
a beardless boy, cut down on the Marchfield the Bohemian whose lance had
slain the Emperor’s charger, the Swiss who aided him to mount the steed
of Ramsweg of Thurgau--your uncle, if I am not mistaken--and then took
the wild ride to bring up the tall Capeller, with his troops, who so
gloriously decided the day.”

“And,” laughed Heinz, “who was finally borne off the field as dead
before the fulfilment of his darling wish to redden Swiss steel with
royal Bohemian blood. This closed the chronicle, Herr--what shall I call
you?”

“Wolff Eysvogel, of Nuremberg,” replied the other.

“Aha! A son of the rich merchant where the Duke of Gulich found
quarters?” cried the Swiss, lifting his cap bordered with fine miniver.
“May confusion seize me! If I were not my father’s son, I wouldn’t
mind changing places with you. It must make the neck uncommonly stiff,
methinks, to have a knightly escutcheon on door and breast, and yet be
able to fling florins and zecchins broadcast without offending the devil
by an empty purse. If you don’t happen to know how such a thing looks, I
can show you.”

“Yet rumour says,” observed Wolff, “that the Emperor is gracious to you,
and knows how to fill it again.”

“If one doesn’t go too far,” replied Heinz, “and my royal master, who
lacks spending money himself only too often, doesn’t keep his word
that it was done for the last time. I heard that yesterday morning, and
thought that the golden blessing which preceded it would last the dear
saints only knew how long. But ere the cock had crowed even once this
morning the last florin had vanished. Dice, Herr Wolff Eysvogel--dice!”

“Then I would keep my hands off them,” said the other meaningly.

“If the Old Nick or some one else did not always guide them back! Did
you, a rich man’s son, never try what the dice would do for you?”

“Yes, Sir Knight. It was at Venice, where I was pursuing my studies,
and tried my luck at gambling on many a merry evening with other sons of
mercantile families from Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Cologne.”

“And your feathers were generously plucked?”

“By no means. I usually left a winner. But after they fleeced a dear
friend from Ulm, and he robbed his master, I dropped dice.”

“And you did so as easily as if it were a short fast after an abundant
meal?”

“It was little more difficult,” Wolff asserted. “My father would have
gladly seen me outdo my countrymen, and sent me more money than I
needed. Why should I deprive honest fellows who had less?”

“That’s just the difficulty,” cried his companion eagerly. “It was easy
for you to renounce games of chance because your winnings only added
more to the rest, and you did not wish to pluck poorer partners. But I!
A poor devil like me cannot maintain armour-bearer, servants, and steeds
out of what the dear little mother at home in her faithful care can
spare from crops and interest. How could we succeed in making a fair
appearance at court and in the tournament if it were not for the dice?
And then, when I lose, I again become but the poor knight the saints
made me; when I win, on the contrary, I am the great and wealthy lord I
would have been born had the Lord permitted me to choose my own cradle.
Besides, those who lose through me are mainly dukes, counts, and
gentlemen with rich fiefs and fat bourgs, whom losing doubtless
benefits, as bleeding relieves a sick man. What suits the soldier does
not befit the merchant. We live wholly amid risks and wagers. Every
battle, every skirmish is a game whose stake is life. Whoever reflects
long is sure to lose. If I could only describe, Herr Eysvogel, what it
is to dash headlong upon the foe!”

“I could imagine that vividly enough,” Wolff eagerly interposed. “I,
too, have broken many a lance in the lists and shed blood enough.”

“What a dunce I am!” cried Heinz in amazement, pressing his hand upon
his brow. “That’s why your face was so familiar! By my saint! I am no
knight if I did not see you then, before the battle waxed hot. It
was close beside your Burgrave Frederick, who held aloft the imperial
banner.”

“Probably,” replied Wolff in a tone of assent. “He sometimes entrusted
the standard to me, when it grew too heavy for his powerful arm,
because I was the tallest and the strongest of our Nuremberg band. But,
unluckily, I could not render this service long. A scimitar gashed my
head. The larger part of the little scar is hidden under my hair.”

“The little scar!” repeated Heinz gaily. “It was wide enough, at any
rate, for the greatest soul to slip through it. A scar on the head
from a wound received four years ago, and yet distinctly visible in the
moonlight!”

“It should serve as a warning,” replied Wolff, glancing anxiously up the
street. “If the patrol, or any nocturnal reveller should catch sight
of us, it would be ill for the fair fame of the Ortlieb sisters, for
everybody knows that only one--Els’s betrothed lover--has a right to
await a greeting here at so late an hour. So follow me into the shadow
of the linden, I entreat you; for yonder--surely you see it too--a
figure is gliding towards us.”

Heinz Schorlin’s laugh rang out like a bell as he whispered to the
Nuremberg patrician: “That figure is familiar to me, and neither we nor
our ladies need fear any evil from it. Excuse me moment, and I’ll wager
twenty gold florins against yonder linden leaf that, ere the moonlight
has left the curbstone, I can tell you my lady’s colour.”

As he spoke he hastened towards the figure, now, standing motionless
within the shadow of the door post beside the lofty entrance.

Wolff Eysvogel remained alone, gazing thoughtfully upon the ground.



CHAPTER VIII.

The silent wanderer above had expected to behold a scene very unlike
an interview between two men. The latter required neither her purest,
fullest light, nor the shadow of a blossoming linden.

Now Luna saw the young Nuremberg merchant gaze after the Swiss with an
expression of such deep anxiety and pain upon his manly features that
she felt the utmost pity for him. He did not look upward as usual to
the window of his beautiful Els, but either fixed his eyes upon the spot
where his new acquaintance was conversing with another person, or bent
them anxiously upon the ground.

As Wolff thought of Heinz Schorlin, it seemed as if Fate had thrown him
into the way of the Swiss that he might feel with twofold anguish the
thorns besetting his own life path. The young knight was proffered the
rose without the thorn. What cares had he? The present threw into his
lap its fairest blessings, and when he looked into the future he beheld
only the cheering buds of hope.

Yet this favourite of fortune had expressed a desire to change places
with him. The thought that many others, too, would be glad to step into
his shoes tortured Wolff’s honest heart as though he himself were to
blame for the delusion of these short-sighted folk.

Apart from his strength and health, his well-formed body, his noble
birth, his faith in the love of his betrothed bride--at this hour he
forgot how much these things were--he found nothing in his lot which
seemed worth desiring.

He might not even rejoice in his stainless honesty with the same perfect
confidence as in his betrothal.

Yes, he had cared for noble old Berthold Vorchtel’s daughter as if she
were his sister. He had even found pleasure in the thought that Ursula
was destined to become his wife, yet no word either of love or allusion
to future marriage had been exchanged between them. He had felt free,
and had a right to consider himself so, when love for Els Ortlieb
overwhelmed him so swiftly and powerfully.

Yet Ursula and her oldest brother treated him as if he had been guilty
of base disloyalty. His pure conscience, however, enabled him to endure
this more easily than the other burden, of which he became aware on the
long-anticipated day when his father made him a partner in the old
firm and gave him an insight into the condition of the property and the
course of the business.

Then he had learned the heavy losses which had been sustained recently,
and the sad disparity existing between the great display by which his
father and mother, as well as his grandmother, the countess, maintained
the appearance of their former princely wealth, and the balances of the
last few years.

When he had just boasted to the reckless young knight that he had given
up gaming, he told but half the truth, for though since his period of
study in Venice, and later in Milan, he had not touched dice, he had
been forced to consent to a series of enterprises undertaken by his
father, whose stakes were far different from the gambling of the knights
and nobles at the Green Shield or in the camp.

Yet he intended to bind the fate of the woman he loved to his own, for
Els, spite of the opposition of his family, would have been already
indissolubly united to him, had not one failure after another destroyed
his courage to take her hand. Finally, he deemed it advisable to await
the result of the last great enterprise, now on the eve of decision. It
might compensate for many of the losses of recent years. Should it be
favourable, the heaviest burden would be lifted from his soul; in the
opposite case the old house would be shaken to its foundations. Yet
even its fall would have been easier for him to endure than this cruel
uncertainty, to which was added the torturing anxiety of bearing the
responsibility of things for which he was not to blame, and of which,
moreover, he was even denied a clear view. Yet he felt absolutely
certain that his father was concealing many things, perhaps the worst,
and often felt as if he were walking in the darkness over a mouldering
bridge. Ah, if it could only be propped up, and then rebuilt! But if it
must give way, he hoped the catastrophe would come soon. He knew that
he possessed the strength to build a new home for Els and himself. Even
were it small and modest, it should be erected on a firm foundation and
afford a safe abode for its inmates.

What did the young, joyous-hearted fellow who was wooing Eva know
of such cares? Fate had placed him on the sunny side of life, where
everything flourished, and set him, Wolff, in the shade, where grass and
flowers died.

There is a magic in fame which the young soul cannot easily escape, and
the name of Heinz Schorlin was indeed honoured and on every lip. The
imagination associated with it the cheerful nature which, like a loyal
comrade, goes hand in hand with success, deserved and undeserved good
fortune, woman’s favour, doughty deeds, the highest and strongest traits
of character.

An atmosphere like sunshine, which melts all opposition, emanated from
Heinz. Wolff had experienced it himself. He had seriously intended to
make the insolent intruder feel his strong arm, but since he had learned
the identity of the Swiss his acts and nature appeared in a new light.
His insolence had gained the aspect of self-confidence which did not
lack justification, and when a valiant knight talked to him so frankly,
like a younger brother to an older and wiser one, it seemed to the
lonely man who, of late, completely absorbed in the course of business,
had held aloof from the sports, banquets, and diversions of the
companions of his own age, that he had experienced something unusually
pleasant. How tender and affectionate it sounded when Heinz alluded to
the “little mother” at home! He, Wolff, on the contrary, could think
only with a shade of bitterness of the weak woman to whom he owed his
existence, and whom filial duty and earnest resolution alike commanded
him to love, yet who made it so difficult for him to regard her with
anything save anxiety or secret disapproval.

Perhaps the greatest advantage which the Swiss possessed over him was
his manner of speaking of his family. How could it ever have entered
Wolff Eysvogel’s mind to call the tall, stiff woman, who was the feeble
echo of her extravagant, arrogant mother, and who rustled towards him,
even in the early morning, adorned with feathers and robed in rich
brocade, his “dear little mother”?

Whoever spoke in the warm, loving tones that fell from the lips of Sir
Heinz when he mentioned his relatives at home certainly could have no
evil nature. No one need fear, though his usual mode of speech was so
wanton, that he would trifle with a pure, innocent creature like Eva.

How Heinz had succeeded in winning so speedily the devout child, who
was so averse to the idle coquetries of the companions of her own age,
seemed incomprehensible, but he had no time to investigate now.

He must go, for he had long been burning with impatience to depart. The
declaration of peace had taken effect only a few hours before, and the
long waggon trains from Italy, of which he had told Els yesterday, were
still delayed. The freight of spices and Levantine goods, Milan velvets,
silks, and fine Florentine cloths, which they were bringing from the
city of St. Mark, represented a large fortune. If it arrived in time,
the profits would cover a great portion of the losses of the past two
years, and the house would again be secure. If the worst should befall,
how would his family submit to deprivation, perhaps even to penury? He
had less fear of his grandmother’s outbursts of wrath, but what would
become of his feeble mother, who was as dependent as a child on her own
mother? Yet he loved her; he felt deeply troubled by the thought of the
severe humiliation which menaced her. His sister Isabella, too, was dear
to him, in spite of her husband, the reckless Sir Seitz Siebenburg, in
whose hands the gold paid from the coffers of the firm melted away, yet
who was burdened with a mountain of debts.

Wolff had left orders at home to have his horse saddled. He had intended
only to wave a greeting to his Els and then ride to Neumarkt, or, if
necessary, as far as Ingolstadt, to meet the wains.

A word of farewell to the new acquaintance, who was probably destined
to be his brother-in, law, and then--But just at that moment Heinz
approached, and in reply to Wolff’s low question “And your lady’s
colour?” he answered joyously, pointing to the breast of his doublet: “I
am carrying the messenger which promises to inform me, here on my heart.
In the darkness it was silent; but the bright moonlight yonder will
loose its tongue, unless the characters here are too unlike those of the
prayer-book.”

Drawing out Eva’s little roll as he spoke, he approached a brightly
lighted spot, pointed to the ribbon which fastened it, and exclaimed:
“Doubtless she used her own colour to tie it. Blue, the pure, exquisite
blue of her eyes! I thought so Forget-me-not blue! The most beautiful of
colours. You must pardon my impatience!”

He was about to begin to read the lines; but Wolff stopped him by
pointing to the Ortlieb residence and to two drunken soldiers who
came out of the tavern “For Thirsty Troopers,” and walked, singing and
staggering, up the opposite side of the street. Then, extending his
hand to Heinz in farewell, he asked in a low tone, pointing to Biberli’s
figure just emerging from the shade, who was the messenger of love who
served him so admirably.

“My shadow,” replied the knight. “I loosed him from my heels and bade
him stand there. But no offence, Herr Wolff Eysvogel; you’ll make the
queer fellow’s acquaintance if, like myself, it would be agreeable to
you to meet often, not only on iron chains, but on friendly terms with
each other.”

“Nothing would please me more,” replied the other. “But how in the world
could it happen that this well-guarded fortress surrendered to you after
so short a resistance?”

“Heinz Schorlin rides swiftly,” he interrupted; but Wolff exclaimed:

“A swift ride awaits me, too, though of a different kind. When I
return, I shall expect you to tell me how you won our ‘little saint,’ my
sister-in-law Eva. The two beautiful Ortlieb ‘Es’ are one in the eyes
of the townsfolk, so we also will be often named in the same breath, and
shall do well to feel brotherly regard for each other. There shall be no
fault on my part. Farewell, till we meet again, an’ it please God in and
not outside of our ladies’ dwelling.”

While speaking he clasped the knight’s hand with so firm a grasp that
it seemed as if he wished to force him to feel its pressure a long time,
and hastened through the Frauenthor.

Heinz Schorlin gazed thoughtfully after him a short time, then beckoned
to Biberli and, though the interval required for him to reach his
master’s side was very brief, it was sufficient for the bold young
lover, tortured by his ardent longing, to form another idea.

“Look yonder, Biberli!” he exclaimed. “The holy-water basin on the
door-post, the escutcheon on the lintel above, the helmet, which would
probably bear my weight. From there I can reach the window-sill with my
hand, and once I have grasped it, I need only make one bold spring and,
hurrah! I’m on it.”

“May our patron saint have mercy on us!” cried the servant in horror.
“You can get there as easily as you can spring on your two feet over
two horses; but the coming down would certainly be a long distance lower
than you would fancy--into the ‘Hole,’ as they call the prison here,
and, moreover, though probably not until some time later, straight to
the flames of hell; for you would have committed a great sin against a
noble maiden rich in every virtue, who deemed you worthy of her love.
And, besides, there are two Es. They occupy the same room, and the house
is full of men and maid servants.”

“Pedagogue!” said the knight, peevishly.

“Ay, that was Biberli’s calling once,” replied the servant, “and, for
the sake of your lady mother at home, I wish I were one still, and you,
Sir Heinz, would have to obey me like an obedient pupil. You are well
aware that I rarely use her sacred name to influence you, but I do so
now; and if you cherish her in your heart and do not wish to swoop down
on the innocent little dove like a destroying hawk, turn your back upon
this place, where we have already lingered too long.”

But this well-meant warning seemed to have had brief influence upon the
person to whom it was addressed. Suddenly, with a joyous: “There she
is!” he snatched his cap from his head and waved a greeting to the
window.

But in a few minutes he replaced it with a petulant gesture of the hand,
saying sullenly: “Vanished! She dared not grant me a greeting, because
she caught sight of you.”

“Let us thank and praise a kind Providence for it,” said his servitor
with a sigh of relief, “since our Lord and Saviour assumed the form of a
servant, that of a scarecrow, in which he has done admirable service, is
far too noble and distinguished for Biberli.”

As he spoke he walked on before the knight, and pointing to the tavern
beside the Frauenthurm whose sign bore the words “For Thirsty Troopers,”
 he added: “A green bush at the door. That means, unless the host is a
rogue, a cask fresh broached. I wonder whether my tongue is cleaving to
my palate from dread of your over-hasty courage, or whether it is really
so terribly sultry here!”

“At any rate,” Heinz interrupted, “a cup of wine will harm neither of
us; for I myself feel how oppressive the air is. Besides, it is light in
the tavern, and who knows what the little note will tell me.”

Meanwhile they passed the end of St. Klarengasse and went up to the
green bush, which projected from the end of a pole far out into the
street.

Soldiers in the pay of the city, and men-at-arms in the employ of the
Emperor and the princes who had come to attend the Reichstag, were
sitting over their wine in the tavern. From the ceiling hung two crossed
iron triangles, forming a six-pointed star. The tallow candles burning
low in their sockets, which it contained, and some pitch-pans in the
corners, diffused but a dim light through the long apartment.

Master and man found an empty table apart from the other guests, in a
niche midway down the rear wall.

Without heeding the brawling and swearing, the rude songs and disorderly
shouts, the drumming of clenched fists upon the oak tables, the wild
laughter of drunken soldiers, the giggling and screeching of bar-maids,
and the scolding and imperious commands of the host, they proved that
the green bush had not lied, for the wine really did come from a freshly
opened cask just brought up from the cellar. But as the niche was
illumined only by the tiny oil lamp burning beneath the image of the
Virgin, bedizened with flowers and gold and silver tinsel, fastened
against the wall, Biberli asked the weary bar-maid for a brighter light.

When the girl withdrew he sighed heavily, saying: “O my lord, if you
only knew! Even now, when we are again among men and the wine has
refreshed me, I feel as if rats were gnawing at my soul. Conscience, my
lord-conscience!”

“You, too, are usually quite ready to play the elf in the rose-garden
of love,” replied Heinz gaily. “Moreover, I shall soon need a T and an
S embroidered on my own doublet, for----Why don’t they bring the light?
Another cup of wine, the note, and then with renewed vigour we’ll go
back again.”

“For God’s sake,” interrupted Biberli, “do not speak, do not even think,
of the bold deed you suggested! Doesn’t it seem like a miracle that not
one of the many Ortlieb and Montfort servants crossed your path? Even
such a child of good luck as yourself can scarcely expect a second one
the same evening. And if there is not, and you go back under the window,
you will be recognised, perhaps even seized, and then--O my lord,
consider this!--then you will bear throughout your life the reproach of
having brought shame and bitter sorrow upon a maiden whom you yourself
know is lovely, devout, and pure. And I, too, who serve you loyally in
your lady mother’s behalf, as well as the poor maid who, to pleasure me,
interceded for you with her mistress, will run the risk of our lives
if you are caught climbing into the window or committing any similar
offence; for in this city they are prompt with the stocks, the stone
collar, the rack, and the tearing of the tongue from the mouth whenever
any one is detected playing the part of go-between in affairs of love.”

“Usually, old fellow,” replied Heinz in a tone of faint reproach, “we
considered it a matter of course that, though we took the most daring
risks in such things, we were certain not to be caught. Yet, to be
frank, some incomprehensible burden weighs upon my soul. My feelings
are confused and strange. I would rather tear the crown from the head
of yonder image of the Virgin than do aught to this sweet innocence for
which she could not thank me.”

Here he paused, for the bar-maid brought a two-branched candelabrum, in
which burned two tallow candles.

Heinz instantly opened the little roll.

How delicate were the characters it contained! His heart’s beloved had
committed them to the paper with her own hand, and the knight’s blood
surged hotly through his veins as he gazed at them. It seemed as though
he held in his hand a portion of herself and, obeying a hasty impulse,
he kissed the letter.

Then he eagerly began to study the writing; he had never seen anything
so delicate and peculiar in form.

The deciphering of the first lines in which, it is true, she called him
a godly knight, but also informed him that his boldness had angered her,
caused him much difficulty, and Biberli was often obliged to help.

Would she have rebuffed him so ungraciously with her lips as with the
pen? Was it possible that, on account of a request which every lover
ventured to address to his lady, she would withdraw the favour which
rendered him so happy? Oh, yes, for innocence is delicate and sensitive.
She ought to have repelled him thus. He was secretly rejoiced to see the
sweet modesty which had so charmed him again proved. He must know what
the rest of the letter contained, and the ex-schoolmaster was at hand to
give the information at once.

True, the hastily written sentences presented some difficulties even for
Biberli, but after glancing through the whole letter, he exclaimed with
a satisfied smile: “Just as I expected! At the first look one might
think that the devout little lady was wholly unlike the rest of her
sex, but on examining more closely she proves as much like any other
beautiful girl as two peas. With good reason and prudent caution she
forbids the languishing knight to remain beneath her window, yet she
will risk a pleasant little interview in some safe nook. That is wise
for so young a girl, and at the same time natural and womanly. I don’t
know why you knit your brows. Since the first Eve came from a crooked
rib, all her daughters prefer devious ways. But first hear what she
writes.” Then, without heeding his master’s gloomy face, he began to
read the note aloud.

Heinz listened intently, and after he had heard that the lady of his
love did not desire to meet him alone, but only under the protection of
a friend and her saint, when he heard her name her colour, it is true,
but also express the expectation that, as a godly knight, he would fight
for her sake in honour of the gracious Virgin, his face brightened.

During Biberli’s scoffing comments he had felt as if a tempest had
hurled her pure image in the dust. But now that he knew what she asked
of him, it returned as a matter of course to its old place and, with
a sigh of relief, he felt that he need not be ashamed of the emotions
which this wonderful young creature had awakened in his soul. She had
opened her pious heart like a trusting sister to an older brother, and
what he had seen there was something unusual--things which had appeared
sacred to him even when a child. Since he took leave of her in the
ball-room he had felt as though Heaven had loaned this, its darling,
to earth for but a brief space, and her brocade robe must conceal angel
wings. Should it surprise him that the pure innocence which filled her
whole being was expressed also in her letter, if she summoned him, not
to idle love-dalliance but to a covenant of souls, a mutual conflict for
what was highest and most sacred? Such a thing was incomprehensible to
Biberli; but notwithstanding her letter--nay, even on its account--he
longed still more ardently to lead her home to his mother and see her
receive the blessing of the woman whom he so deeply honoured.

He had Eva’s letter read for the second and the third time. But when
Biberli paused, and in a few brief sentences cast fresh doubts upon the
writer, Heinz angrily stopped him. “The longing of the godly heart of a
pure maiden--mark this well--has naught in common with that diabolical
delight in secret love--dalliance for which others yearn. My wish to
force my way to her was sinful, and it was punished severely enough, for
during your rude scoffs I felt as though you had set fire to the house
over my head. But from this I perceive in what a sacred, inviolable spot
her image had found a place. True, it is denied you to follow the lofty,
heavenward aspiration of a pure soul--”

“O my lord,” interrupted the servitor with hands uplifted in defence,
“who besought you not to measure this innocent daughter of a decorous
household, who was scarcely beyond childhood, by the standard you
applied to others? Who entreated you to spare her fair fame? And if you
deem the stuff of which the servant is made too coarse to understand
what moves so pure a soul, you do Biberli injustice, for, by my patron
saint, though duty commanded me to interpose doubts and scruples between
you and a passion from which could scarcely spring aught that would
bring joy to your mother’s heart I, too, asked myself the question
why, in these days, a devout maiden should not long to try her skill in
conversion upon a valiant knight who served her. Ever since St. Francis
of Assisi appeared in Italy, barefooted monks and grey-robed nuns, who
follow him, Franciscans and Sisters of St. Clare stream hither as water
flows into a mill-race when the sluice-gates are opened. With what
edification we, too, listened to the old Minorite whom we picked up by
the wayside, at the tavern where we usually found pleasure in nothing
but drinking, gambling, shouting, and singing! Besides, I know from
my sweetheart with what exemplary devotion the lovely Eva follows St.
Clare.”

“Who is now and will remain my patron saint also, old Biber,”
 interrupted Heinz with joyful emotion, as he laid his hand gratefully
on his follower’s shoulder; then rising and beckoning to the bar-maid,
added: “The stuff of which you are made, old comrade, is inferior to
no man’s. Only now and then the pedagogue plays you a trick. Had you
uttered your real opinion in the first place, the wine would have tasted
better to us both. Let Eva try the work of conversion on me! What, save
my lady’s love, is more to me than our holy faith? It must indeed be a
delight to take the field for the Church and against her foes!” While
speaking, he paid the reckoning and went out with Biberli.

The moon was now pouring her silver beams, with full radiance, over the
quiet street, the linden in front of the Ortlieb house, and its lofty
gable roof. Only a single room in the spacious mansion was still
lighted, the bow-windowed one occupied by the two sisters.

Heinz, without heeding Biberli’s renewed protest, looked upward,
silently imploring Eva’s pardon for having misjudged her even a moment.
His gaze rested devoutly on the open window, behind which a curtain was
stirring. Was it the night breeze that almost imperceptibly raised and
lowered it, or was her own dear self concealed behind it?

Just at that moment he suddenly felt his servant’s hand on his arm, and
as he followed his horror-stricken gaze, a chill ran through his own
veins. From the heavy door of the house, which stood half open, a
white-robed figure emerged with the solemn, noiseless footfall of a
ghost, and advanced across the courtyard towards him.

Was it a restless spirit risen from its grave at the midnight hour,
which must be close at hand? Through his brain, like a flash of
lightning, darted the thought that Eva had spoken to him of her invalid
mother. Had she died? Was her wandering soul approaching him to drive
him from the threshold of the house which hid her endangered child?

But no!

The figure had stopped before the door and now, raising its head, gazed
with wide eyes upward at the moon, and--he was not mistaken--it was
no spectre of darkness; it was she for whom every pulse of his heart
throbbed--Eva!

No human creature had ever seemed to him so divinely fair as she in
her long white night-robe, over which fell the thick waves of her
light hair. The horror which had seized him yielded to the most ardent
yearning. Pressing his hand upon his throbbing heart, he watched her
every movement. He longed to go forward to meet her, yet a supernatural
spell seemed to paralyse his energy. He would sooner have dared clasp in
his arms the image of a beautiful Madonna than this embodiment of pure,
helpless, gracious innocence.

Now she herself drew nearer, but he felt as if his will was broken, and
with timid awe he drew back one step, and then another, till the chain
stopped him.

Just at that moment she paused, stretched out her white arm with a
beckoning gesture, and again turned towards the house, Heinz following
because he could not help it, her sign drew him after her with magnetic
power.

Now Eva entered the dimly lighted corridor, and again her uplifted hand
seemed to invite him to follow. Then--the impetuous throbbing of his
heart almost stifled him--she set her little white foot on the first
step of the stairs and led the way up to the first landing, where she
paused, lifting her face to the open window, through which the moonbeams
streamed into the hall, flooding her head, her figure, and every
surrounding object with their soft light.

Heinz followed step by step. It seemed as if the wild surges of a sea
were roaring in his ears, and glittering sparks were dancing before his
yearning, watchful eyes.

How he loved her! How intense was the longing which drew him after
her! And yet another emotion stirred in his heart with still greater
power-grief, sincere grief, which pierced his in, most soul, that she
could have beckoned to him, permitted him to follow her, granted him
what he would never have ventured to ask. Nay, when he set his foot on
the first step, it seemed as if the temple which contained his holiest
treasure fell crashing around him, and an inner voice cried loudly:
“Away, away from here! Would you exchange the purest and loftiest things
for what tomorrow will fill you with grief and loathing?” it continued
to admonish. “You will relinquish what is dearest and most sacred to
secure what is ready to rush into your arms on all the high-roads.

“Hence, hence, you poor, deluded mortal, ere it is too late!”

But even had he known it was the fair fiend Venus herself moving before
him under the guise of Eva, the spell of her unutterable beauty would
have constrained him to follow her, though the goal were the Horselberg,
death, and hell.

On the second landing she again stood still and, leaning against a
pillar, raised her arms and extended them towards the moon, in whose
silvery light they gleamed like marble. Heinz saw her lips move, heard
his own name fall from them, and all self-control vanished.

“Eva!” he cried with passionate fervor, holding out his arms to clasp
her; but, ere he even touched her, a shriek of despairing anguish echoed
loudly back from the walls.

The sound of her own name had broken the threads with which the
mysterious power of the moonlight had drawn her from her couch, down
through the house, out of doors, and again back to the stairs.

Sleep vanished with the dream which she had shared with him and,
shuddering, she perceived where she was, saw the knight before her,
became conscious that she had left her chamber in her night-robe, with
disordered hair and bare feet; and, frantic with horror at the thought
of the resistless might with which a mysterious force constrained her to
obey it against her own will, deeply wounded by the painful feeling that
she had been led so far across the bounds of maidenly modesty, hurt and
angered by the boldness of the man before her, who had dared to follow
her into her parents’ house, she again raised her voice, this time to
call her from whom she was accustomed to seek and find help in every
situation in life.

“Els! Els!” rang up the stairs; and the next moment Els, who had already
heard Eva’s first scream, sprang down the few steps to her sister’s
side.

One glance at the trembling girl in her nightrobe, and at the moonlight
which still bathed her in its rays, told Els what had drawn Eva to the
stairs.

The knight must have slipped into the house and found her there. She
knew him and, before Heinz had time to collect his thoughts, she said
soothingly to her sister, who threw her arms around her as though
seeking protection, “Go up to your room, child!--Help her, Katterle.
I’ll come directly.”

While Eva, leaning on the maid’s arm, mounted the stairs with trembling
knees, Els turned to the Swiss and said in a grave, resolute tone: “If
you are worthy of your escutcheon, Sir Knight, you will not now fly like
a coward from this house across whose threshold you stole with shameful
insolence, but await me here until I return. You shall not be detained
long. But, to guard yourself and another from misinterpretation, you
must hear me.”

Heinz nodded assent in silence, as if still under the spell of what he
had recently experienced. But, ere he reached the entry below, Martsche,
the old housekeeper, and Endres, the aged head packer, came towards
him, just as they had risen from their beds, the former with a petticoat
flung round her shoulders, the latter wrapped in a horse-blanket.

Eva’s shriek had waked both, but Els enjoined silence on everyone and,
after telling them to go back to bed, said briefly that Eva in her
somnambulism had this time gone out into the street and been brought
back by the knight. Finally, she again said to Heinz, “Presently!” and
then went to her sister.



CHAPTER IX.

When Biberli bade farewell to his sweetheart, who gave him Eva’s little
note, he had arranged to meet her again in an hour or, if his duties
detained him longer, in two; but after the “true and steadfast” fellow
left her, her heart throbbed more and more anxiously, for the wrong
she had done in acting as messenger between the young daughter of her
employers and a stranger knight was indeed hard to forgive.

Instead of waiting in the kitchen or entry for her lover’s return, as
she had intended, she had gone to the image of the Virgin at the gate of
the Convent of St. Clare, before which she had often found consolation,
especially when homesick yearning for the mountains of her native
Switzerland pressed upon her too sorely. This time also it had been
gracious to her, for after she had prayed very devoutly and vowed to
give a candle to the Mother of God, as well as to St. Clare, she
fancied that the image smiled upon her and promised that she should go
unpunished.

On her return the knight had just followed Eva into the house, and
Biberli pursued his master as far as the stairs. Here Katterle met her
lover, but, when she learned what was occurring, she became greatly
enraged and incensed by the base interpretation which the servant placed
upon Eva’s going out into the street and, terrified by the danger into
which the knight threatened to plunge them all, she forgot the patience
and submission she was accustomed to show the true and steadfast
Biberli. But--resolved to protect her young mistress from the
presumptuous knight-scarcely had she angrily cried shame upon her lover
for this base suspicion, protesting that Eva had never gone to seek a
knight but, as she had often done on bright moonlight nights, walked in
her sleep down the stairs and out of doors, when the young girl’s shriek
of terror summoned her to her aid.

Biberli looked after her sullenly, meanwhile execrating bitterly enough
the wild love which had robbed his master of reason and threatened to
hurl him, Biberli, and even the innocent Katterle, whose brave defence
of her mistress had especially pleased him, into serious misfortune.

When old Endres appeared he had slipped behind a wall formed of bales
heaped one above another, and did not stir until the entry was quiet
again.

To his amazement he had then found his master standing beside the door
of the house, but his question--which, it is true, was not wholly devoid
of a shade of sarcasm--whether the knight was waiting for the return of
his sleep-walking sweetheart, was so harshly rebuffed that he deemed it
advisable to keep silence for a time.

Though Heinz Schorlin had perceived that he had followed an unconscious
somnambulist, he was not yet capable of calmly reflecting upon what had
occurred or of regarding the future with prudence. He knew one thing
only: the fear was idle that the lovely creature whose image, surrounded
by a halo of light, still hovered before him like a vision from a
higher, more beautiful world, was an unworthy person who, with a face
of angelic innocence, transgressed the laws of custom and modesty. Her
shriek of terror, her horror at seeing him, and the cry for help which
had brought her sister to her aid and roused the servants from their
sleep, gave him the right to esteem her as highly as ever; and this
conviction fanned into such a blaze the feeling of happiness which love
had awakened and his foolish distrust had already begun to stifle, that
he was firmly resolved, cost what it might, to make Eva his own.

After he had reached this determination he began to reflect more
quietly. What cared he for liberty and a rapid advance in the career
upon which he had entered, if only his future life was beautified by her
love!

If he were required to woo her in the usual form, he would do so. And
what a charming yet resolute creature was the other E, who, in her
anxiety about her sister, had crossed his path with such grave, firm
dignity! She was Wolff Eysvogel’s betrothed bride, and it seemed to
him a very pleasant thing to call the young man, whom he had so quickly
learned to esteem, his brother-in-law.

If the father refused his daughter to him, he would leave Nuremberg and
ride to the Rhine, where Hartmann, the Emperor Rudolph’s son, whom he
loved like a younger brother, was now living. Heinz had instructed the
lad of eighteen in the use of the lance and the sword, and Hartmann had
sent him word the day before that the Rhine was beautiful, but without
him he but half enjoyed even the pleasantest things. He needed him.
Hundreds of other knights and squires could break in the new horses for
the Emperor and the young Bohemian princess, though perhaps not quite
so skilfully. Hartmann would understand him and persuade his imperial
father to aid him in his suit. The warmhearted youth could not bear to
see him sorrowful, and without Eva there was no longer joy or happiness.

He was roused from these thoughts and dreams by his own name called in a
low tone.

Katterle had gone with Eva to the chamber, whither the older sister
followed them. Tenderly embracing the weeping girl, she had kissed
her wet eyes and whispered in an agitated voice, with which, however,
blended a great deal of affectionate mischief: “The wolf who forced his
way into the house does not seem quite so harmless as mine, whom I have
succeeded in taming very tolerably. Go to mother now, darling. I’ll be
back directly.”

“What do you intend to do?” asked Eva timidly, still unable, under the
influence of her strange experiences, to regain her self-control.

“To look around the house,” replied her sister, beckoning to Katterle to
accompany her.

In the entry she questioned the maid with stern decision, and the
trembling girl owned, amid her tears, that Eva had sent a little note to
the knight in reply to his request that she would name her colour, and
whatever else her anxious mistress desired hastily to learn.

After a threatening “We will discuss your outrageous conduct later,” Els
hurried down-stairs, and found in the entry the man whose pleasure in
the pursuit of the innocent child whom she protected she meant to spoil.
But though she expressed her indignation to the knight with the utmost
harshness, he besought a hearing with so much respect and in such seemly
words, that she requested him, in a gentler tone, to speak freely. But
scarcely had he begun to relate how Eva, at the ball, had filled his
heart with the purest love, when the trampling of horses’ hoofs, which
had come nearer and nearer to the house, suddenly ceased, and Biberli,
who had gone into the court-yard, came hurrying back, exclaiming in a
tone of warning, “The von Montforts!”

At the same moment two men-servants threw back both leaves of the door,
torchlight mingled with the moonbeams in the courtyard, and the next
instant a goodly number of knights and gentlemen entered the hall.

Biberli was not mistaken. The von Montforts had returned home, instead
of spending the night at Kadolzburg, and neither Els nor the Swiss had
the time or disposition to seek concealment.

The intruders were preceded by men-servants, whose torches lighted the
long, lofty storehouse brilliantly. It seemed to Els as if her heart
stopped beating and she felt her cheeks blanch.

Here she beheld Count von Montfort’s bronzed face, the countenance of a
sportsman and reveller; yonder the frank, handsome features of the young
Burgrave, Eitelfritz von Zollern, framed by the hood of the Knights of
St. John, drawn up during the night-ride; there the pale, noble visage
of the quiet knight Boemund Altrosen, far famed for his prowess with
lance and sword; beyond, the scarred, martial countenance of Count
Casper Schlick, set in a mass of tangled brown locks; and then the
watery, blue eyes of Sir Seitz Siebenburg, the husband of her future
sister-in-law Isabella.

They had pressed in, talking eagerly, laughing, and rejoicing that the
wild night ride proposed by Cordula von Montfort, which had led over
dark forest paths, lighted only by a stray moonbeam, and often across
fields and ditches and through streams, had ended without mischance to
man or beast.

Now they all crowded around the countess, Seitz Siebenburg bending
towards her with such zeal that the ends of his huge mustache brushed
the plumes in her cap, and Boemund Altrosen, who had just been gazing
into the flushed face of the daring girl with the warm joy of true love,
cast a look of menace at him.

Els, too, greatly disliked “the Mustache,” as her future brother-in-law
was called because the huge ornament on his upper lip made him
conspicuous among the beardless knights. She was aware that he returned
the feeling, and had left no means untried to incite Wolff Eysvogel’s
parents to oppose his betrothal. Now he was one of the first to notice
her and, after whispering with a malicious smile to the countess and
those nearest to him, he looked at her so malevolently that she could
easily guess what interpretation he was trying to put upon her nocturnal
meeting with the Swiss in the eyes of his companions.

Her cheeks flamed with wrath, and like a flash of lightning came the
thought of the pleasure it would afford this wanton company, whose
greatest delight was to gloat over the errors of their neighbours, if
the knight who had brought her into this suspicious situation, or she
herself, should confess that not she, but the devout Eva, had attracted
Heinz hither. What a satisfaction it would be to this reckless throng to
tell such a tale of a young girl of whom the Burgravine von Zollern had
said the evening before to their Uncle Pfinzing, that purity and piety
had chosen Eva’s lovely face for a mirror!

What if Heinz Schorlin, to save her, Els, from evil report, should
confess that she was here only to rebuke his insolent intrusion into a
decorous household?

This must be prevented, and Heinz seemed to understand her; for after
their eyes had met, his glance of helpless enquiry told her that he
would leave her to find an escape from this labyrinth.

The merry party, who now perceived that they had interrupted the
nocturnal tryst of lovers, did not instantly know what to do and, as
one looked enquiringly at another, an embarrassed silence followed their
noisy jollity.

But the hush did not last long, and its interruption at first seemed to
Els to bode the worst result; it was a peal of gay, reckless laughter,
ringing from the lips of the very Cordula von Montfort, into whose eyes,
as the only one of her own sex who was present, Els had just gazed with
a look imploring aid.

Had Eva’s aversion to the countess been justified, and was she about to
take advantage of her unpleasant position to jeer at her?

Had the two quarreled at the ball the night before, and did Cordula now
perceive an opportunity to punish the younger sister by the humiliation
of the older one?

Yet her laugh sounded by no means spiteful--rather, very gay and
natural. The pleasant grey eyes sparkled with the most genuine mirth,
and she clapped her little hands so joyously that the falcon’s chain on
the gauntlet of her riding glove rattled.

And what was this?

No one looks at a person whom one desires to wound with an expression of
such cheerful encouragement as the look with which Cordula now gazed at
Els and Heinz Schorlin, who stood by her side. True, they were at first
extremely perplexed by the words she now shouted to those around her in
a tone of loud exultation, as though announcing a victory; but from the
beginning they felt that there was no evil purpose in them. Soon they
even caught the real meaning of the countess’s statement, and Els was
ashamed of having feared any injury from the girl whose defender she had
always been.

“Won, Sir Knight--cleverly won!” was her first sentence to Heinz.

Then, turning to Els, she asked with no less animation: “And you, my
fair maid and very strict housemate, who has won the wager now? Do you
still believe it is an inconceivable thought that the modest daughter
of a decorous Nuremberg race, entitled to enter the lists of a tourney,
would grant a young knight a midnight meeting?” And addressing her
companions, she continued, in an explanatory yet still playful tone:
“She was ready to wager the beautiful brown locks which she now hides
modestly under a kerchief, and even her betrothed lover’s ring.
It should be mine if I succeeded in leading her to commit such an
abominable deed. But I was content, if I won the wager, with a smaller
forfeit; yet now that I have gained it, Jungfrau Ortlieb, you must pay!”

The whole company listened in astonishment to this speech, which no
one understood, but the countess, nodding mischievously to her nearest
neighbours, went on:

“How bewildered you all look! It might tempt me to satisfy your
curiosity less speedily, but, after the delightful entertainment you
gave us, my Lord Burgrave, one becomes merciful. So you shall hear how
I, as wise as the serpent, craftily forced this haughty knight”--she
tapped Heinz Schorlin’s arm with her riding whip--“and you, too,
Jungfrau Ortlieb, whose pardon I now entreat, to help me win the bet. No
offence, noble sirs! But this bet was what compelled me to drag you all
from Kadolzburg and its charms so early, and induce you to attend me on
the reckless ride through the moonlit night. Now accept the thanks of
a lady whose heart is grateful; for your obedience helped me win
the wager. Look yonder at my handsome, submissive knight, Sir Heinz
Schorlin, so rich in every virtue. I commanded, him, on pain of my
anger, to meet me at midnight at the entrance of our quarters--that is,
the entry of the Ortlieb mansion; and to this modest and happy betrothed
bride (may she pardon the madcap!) I represented how it troubled me and
wounded my timid delicacy to enter so late at night, accompanied only
by gentlemen, the house which so hospitably sheltered us, and go to my
sleeping room, though I should not fear the Sultan and his mamelukes,
if with this in my hand”--she motioned to her riding whip--“and my dear
father at my side, I stood on my own feet which, though by no means
small, are well-shod and resolute. Yet, as we are apt to measure others
by our own standard, the timid, decorous girl believed me, and poor
Cordula, who indeed brought only her maids and no female guardian, and
therefore must dispense with being received on her return by a lady
capable of commanding respect, did not appeal in vain to the charitable
feelings of her beautiful housemate. She promised faithfully to come
down into the entry, when the horses approached, to receive the poor
lamb, surrounded by lynxes, wild-cats, foxes, and wolves, and lead it
into the safe fold--if one can call this stately house by such a name.
Both Sir Heinz Schorlin and Jungfrau Elizabeth Ortlieb kept their
word and joined each other here--to their extreme amazement, I should
suppose, as to my knowledge they never met before--to receive me, and
thus had an interview which, however loudly they may contradict it, I
call a nocturnal meeting. But my wager, fair child, is won, and tomorrow
you will deliver to me the exquisite carved ivory casket, while I shall
keep my bracelet.”

Here she paused, paying no heed to the merry threats, exclamations of
amazement, and laughter of her companions.

But while her father, striking his broad chest, cried again and again,
with rapturous delight, “A paragon of a woman!” and Seitz Siebenburg, in
bitter disappointment, whispered, “The fourteen saintly helpers in time
of need might learn from you how to draw from the clamps what is not
worth rescue and probably despaired of escape,” she was trying to
give time to recover more composure her young hostess, to whom she
was sincerely attached, and who, she felt sure, could have met Heinz
Schorlin, who perhaps had come hither on her own account, only by
some cruel chance. So she added in a quieter tone: “And now, Jungfrau
Ortlieb, in sober earnest I will ask your protection and guidance
through the dark house, and meanwhile you shall tell me how Sir Heinz
greeted you and what passed between you, either good or bad, during the
time of waiting.”

Els summoned up her courage and answered loud enough to be heard by
all present: “We were speaking of you, Countess Cordula, and the knight
said:

“I ventured to remark, Countess,” said Heinz, interrupting the new ally,
“that though you might understand how to show a poor knight his folly,
no kinder heart than yours throbbed under any bodice in Switzerland,
Swabia, or France.” Cordula struck him lightly on the shoulder with her
riding whip, saying with a laugh: “Who permits you to peep under women’s
bodices through so wide a tract of country, you scamp? Had I been
in Jungfrau Ortlieb’s place I should have punished your entry into a
respectable house:

“Oh, my dear Countess,” Heinz interrupted, and his words bore so
distinctly the stamp of truth and actual experience that even Sir Seitz
Siebenburg was puzzled, “though I am always disposed to be grateful to
you, I cannot feel a sense of obligation for this lady’s reception of
me, even to the most gracious benefactress. For, by my patron saint, she
forbade me the house as if I were a thief and a burglar.”

“And she was right!” exclaimed the countess. “I would have treated you
still more harshly. Only you would have spared yourself many a sharp
word had you confessed at once that it was I who summoned you here. I’ll
talk with you tomorrow, and am I not right, Jungfrau Elsyou won’t make
him suffer for losing the wager, but exercise your domestic authority
after a more gentle fashion?”

While speaking, she looked at Els with a glance so full of meaning that
the young girl’s cheeks crimsoned, and the longing to put an end to this
deceitful game became almost uncontrollable. The thought of Eva alone
sealed her lips.



CHAPTER X.

One person only besides Sir Seitz Siebenburg had not been deceived--the
young knight Boemund Altrosen, whose love for Cordula was genuine, and
who, by its unerring instinct, felt that she had invented her tale and
for a purpose which did honour to her kindness of heart. So his calm
black eyes rested upon the woman he loved with proud delight, while
Seitz Siebenburg twisted his mustache fiercely. Not a look or movement
of either of the two girls had escaped his notice, and Cordula’s bold
interference in behalf of the reckless Swiss knight, who now seemed
to have ensnared his future sister-in-law also, increased the envy and
jealousy which tortured him until he was forced to exert the utmost
self-restraint in order not to tell the countess to her face that he, at
least, was far from being deceived by such a fable. Yet he succeeded in
controlling himself. But as he forced his lips to silence he gazed with
the most open scorn at the bales of merchandise heaped around him. He
would show the others that, though the husband of a merchant’s daughter,
he retained the prejudices of his knightly rank.

But no one heeded the disagreeable fellow, who had no intimate friends
in the group. Most of the company were pressing round Heinz Schorlin
with jests and questions, but bluff Count von Montfort warmly clasped
Els’s hand, while he apologised for the bold jest of his young daughter
who, in spite of her recklessness, meant kindly.

Nothing could have been more unwelcome to a girl in so unpleasant a
situation than this delay. She longed most ardently to get away but,
ere she succeeded in escaping from the friendly old noble, two gentlemen
hastily entered the brightly lighted entry, at sight of whom her heart
seemed to stop beating.

The old count, who noticed her blanched face, released her, asking
sympathisingly what troubled her, but Els did not hear him.

When she felt him loose her hand she would fain have fled up the stairs
to her mother and sister, to avoid the discussions which must now
follow. But she knew into what violent outbursts of sudden anger her
usually prudent father could be hurried if there was no one at hand to
warn him.

There he stood in the doorway, his stern, gloomy expression forming a
strange contrast to the merry party who had entered in such a jovial
mood.

His companion, Herr Casper Eysvogel, had already noticed his future
daughter-in-law, recognised her by an amazed shrug of the shoulders
which was anything but a friendly greeting, and now eyed the excited
revellers with a look as grave and repellent as that of the owner of the
house. Herr Casper’s unusual height permitted him to gaze over the heads
of the party though, with the exception of Count von Montfort, they were
all tall, nay, remarkably tall men, and the delicacy of his clear-cut,
pallid, beardless face had never seemed to Els handsomer or more
sinister. True, he was the father of her Wolff, but the son resembled
this cold-hearted man only in his unusual stature, and a chill ran
through her veins as she felt the stately old merchant’s blue eyes,
still keen and glittering, rest upon her.

On the day of her betrothal she had rushed into his arms with a warm and
grateful heart, and he had kissed her, as custom dictated; but it was
done in a strange way--his thin, well-cut lips had barely brushed her
brow. Then he stepped back and turned to his wife with the low command,
“It is your turn now, Rosalinde.” Her future mother-in-law rose quickly,
and doubtless intended to embrace her affectionately, but a loud cough
from her own mother seemed to check her, for ere she opened her arms to
Els she turned to her and excused her act by the words, “He wishes it.”
 Yet Els was finally clasped in Frau Rosalinde’s arms and kissed more
warmly than--from what had previously occurred--she had expected.

Wolff’s grandmother, old Countess Rotterbach, who rarely left the huge
gilt armchair in her daughter’s sitting-room, had watched the whole
scene with a scornful smile; then, thrusting her prominent chin still
farther forward, she said to her daughter, loud enough for Els to hear,
“This into the bargain?”

All these things returned to the young girl’s memory as she gazed at the
cold, statuesque face of her lover’s father. It seemed as if he held his
tall, noble figure more haughtily erect than usual, and that his plain
dark garments were of richer material and more faultless cut than ever;
nay, she even fancied that, like the lion, which crouches and strains
every muscle ere it springs upon its victim, he was summoning all his
pride and sternness to crush her.

Els was innocent; nay, the motive which had brought her here to defend
her sister could not fail to be approved by every well-disposed person,
and certainly not last by her father, and it would have suited her
truthful nature to contradict openly Countess Cordula’s friendly
falsehood had not her dread of fatally exposing Eva imposed silence.

How her father’s cheeks glowed already! With increasing anxiety, she
attributed it to the indignation which overpowered him, yet he was only
heated by the haste with which, accompanied by his future son-in-law’s
father, he had rushed here from the Frauenthor as fast as his feet would
carry him. Casper Eysvogel had also attended the Vorchtel entertainment
and accompanied Ernst Ortlieb into the street to discuss some business
matters.

He intended to persuade him to advance the capital for which he had just
vainly asked Herr Vorchtel. He stood in most urgent need for the next
few days of this great sum, of which his son and business partner must
have no knowledge, and at first Wolff Eysvogel’s future father-in-law
saw no reason to refuse. But Herr Ernst was a cautious man, and when his
companion imposed the condition that his son should be kept in ignorance
of the loan, he was puzzled. He wished to learn why the business partner
should not know what must be recorded in the books of the house; but
Casper Eysvogel needed this capital to silence the Jew Pfefferkorn, from
whom he had secretly borrowed large sums to conceal the heavy losses
sustained in Venice the year before at the gaming table.

At first courteously, then with rising anger, he evaded the questions
of the business man, and his manner of doing so, with the little
contradictions in which the arrogant man, unaccustomed to falsehood,
involved himself, showed Herr Ernst that all was not as it should be.

By the time they reached the Frauenthor, he had told Casper Eysvogel
positively that he would not fulfil the request until Wolff was informed
of the matter.

Then the sorely pressed man perceived that nothing but a frank
confession could lead him to his goal. But what an advantage it would
give his companion, what a humiliation it would impose upon himself!
He could not force his lips to utter it, but resolved to venture a last
essay by appealing to the father, instead of to the business man; and
therefore, with the haughty, condescending manner natural to him,
he asked Herr Ernst, as if it were his final word, whether he had
considered that his refusal of a request, which twenty other men would
deem it an honour to fulfil, might give their relations a form very
undesirable both to his daughter and himself?

“No, I did not suppose that a necessity,” replied his companion firmly,
and then added in an irritated tone: “But if you need the loan so much
that you require for your son a father-in-law who will advance it to you
more readily, why, then, Herr Casper--”

Here he paused abruptly. A flood of light streamed into the street
from the doorway of the Ortlieb house. It must be a fire, and with
the startled cry, “St. Florian aid us! my entry is burning!” he rushed
forward with his companion to the endangered house so quickly that the
torchbearers, who even in this bright night did good service in the
narrow streets, whose lofty houses barred out the moonlight, could
scarcely follow.

Thus Herr Ernst, far more anxious about his invalid, helpless wife than
his imperilled wares, soon reached his own door. His companion crossed
the threshold close behind him, sullen, deeply incensed, and determined
to order his son to choose between his love and favour and the daughter
of this unfriendly man, whom only a sudden accident had prevented from
breaking the betrothal.

The sight of so many torches blazing here was an exasperating spectacle
to Ernst Ortlieb, who with wise caution and love of order insisted that
nothing but lanterns should be used to light his house, which contained
inflammable wares of great value; but other things disturbed his
composure, already wavering, to an even greater degree.

What was his Els doing at this hour among these gentlemen, all of whom
were strangers?

Without heeding them or the countess, he was hastening towards her to
obtain a solution of this enigma, but the young Burgrave Eitelfritz von
Zollern, the Knight of Altrosen, Cordula von Montfort, and others barred
his way by greeting him and eagerly entreating him to pardon their
intrusion at so late an hour.

Having no alternative, he curtly assented, and was somewhat soothed
as he saw old Count von Montfort, who was still standing beside Els,
engaged in an animated conversation with her. His daughter’s presence
was probably due to that of the guests quartered in his home, especially
Cordula, whom, since she disturbed the peace of his quiet household
night after night, he regarded as the personification of restlessness
and reckless freedom. He would have preferred to pass her unnoticed, but
she had clung to his arm and was trying, with coaxing graciousness, to
soften his indignation by gaily relating how she had come here and
what had detained her and her companions. But Ernst Ortlieb, who would
usually have been very susceptible to such an advance from a young and
aristocratic lady, could not now succeed in smoothing his brow. In his
excitement he was not even able to grasp the meaning of the story she
related merrily, though with well-feigned contrition. While listening
to her with one ear, he was straining the other to catch what Sir Seitz
Siebenburg was saying to his father-in-law, Casper Eysvogel.

He gathered from Countess Cordula’s account that she had succeeded in
playing some bold prank in connection with Els and the Swiss knight
Heinz Schorlin, and the words “the Mustache” was whispering to his
father-in-law-the direction of his glance betrayed it--also referred to
Els and the Swiss. But the less Herr Ernst heard of this conversation
the more painfully it excited his already perturbed spirit.

Suddenly his pleasant features, which, on account of the lady at his
side, he had hitherto forced to wear a gracious aspect, assumed an
expression which filled the reckless countess with grave anxiety, and
urged the terrified Els, who had not turned her eyes from him, to a
hasty resolution. That was her father’s look when on the point of an
outbreak of fury, and at this hour, surrounded by these people, he must
not allow himself to yield to rage; he must maintain a tolerable degree
of composure.

Without heeding the young Burgrave Eitelfritz or Sir Boemund Altrosen,
who were just approaching her, she forced her way nearer to her father,
He still maintained his self-control, but already the veins on his brow
had swollen and his short figure was rigidly erect. The cause of
his excitement--she had noticed it--was some word uttered by Seitz
Siebenburg. Her father was the only person who had understood it, but
she was not mistaken in the conjecture that it referred to her and the
Swiss knight, and she believed it to be base and spiteful.

In fact, after his father-in-law had told him that Ernst Ortlieb thought
his house was on fire, “the Mustache,” in reply to Herr Casper’s enquiry
how his son’s betrothed bride happened to be there, answered scornfully:
“Els? She did not hasten hither, like the old man, to put the fire
out, but because one flame was not enough for her. Wolff must know it
to-morrow. By day the slender little flame of honourable betrothed love
flickers for him; by night it blazes more brightly for yonder Swiss
scoundrel. And the young lady chooses for the scene of this toying with
fire the easily ignited warehouse of her own father!”

“I will secure mine against such risks,” Casper Eysvogel answered; then,
casting a contemptuous glance at Els and a wrathful one at the Swiss
knight, he added with angry resolution: “It is not yet too late. So long
as I am myself no one shall bring peril and disgrace upon my house and
my son.”

Then Herr Ernst had suddenly become aware of the suspicion with which
his beautiful, brave, self-sacrificing child was regarded. Pale as
death, he struggled for composure, and when his eyes met the imploring
gaze of the basely defamed girl, he said to himself that he must
maintain his self-control in order not to afford the frivolous revellers
who surrounded him an entertaining spectacle.

Wolff was dear to him, but before he would have led his Els to the
house where the miserable “Mustache” lived, and whose head was the
coldhearted, gloomy man whose words had just struck him like a poisoned
arrow, he, whom the Lord had bereft of his beloved, gallant son, would
have been ready to deprive himself of his daughters also and take both
to the convent. Eva longed to go, and Els might find there a new and
beautiful happiness, like his sister, the Abbess Kunigunde. In the
Eysvogel house, never!

During these hasty reflections Els extended her hand toward him, and
the shining gold circlet which her lover had placed on her ring finger
glittered in the torchlight. A thought darted through his brain with
the speed of lightning, and without hesitation he drew the ring from
the hand of his astonished daughter, whispering curtly, yet tenderly, in
reply to her anxious cry, “What are you doing?”

“Trust me, child.”

Then hastily approaching Casper Eysvogel, he beckoned to him to move a
little aside from the group.

The other followed, believing that Herr Ernst would now promise the sum
requested, yet firmly resolved, much as he needed it, to refuse.

Ernst Ortlieb, however, made no allusion to business matters, but with a
swift gesture handed him the ring which united their two children. Then,
after a rapid glance around had assured him that no one had followed
them, he whispered to Herr Casper: “Tell your Wolff that he was, and
would have remained, dear to us; but my daughter seems to me too good
for his father’s house and for kindred who fear that she will bring
injury and shame upon them. Your wish is fulfilled. I hereby break the
betrothal.”

“And, in so doing, you only anticipate the step which I intended to take
with more cogent motives,” replied Casper Eysvogel with cool composure,
shrugging his shoulders contemptuously. “The city will judge to-morrow
which of the two parties was compelled to sever a bond sacred in the
sight of God and men. Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to give
your daughter the good opinion you cherish of my son.”

Drawing his stately figure to its full height as he spoke, he gazed at
his diminutive adversary with a look of haughty contempt and, without
vouchsafing a word in farewell, turned his back upon him.

Repressed fury was seething in Ernst Ortlieb’s breast, and he would
scarcely have succeeded in controlling himself longer but for the
consolation afforded by the thought that every tie was sundered between
his daughter and this cold, arrogant, unjust man and his haughty, evil
disposed kindred. But when he again looked for the daughter on whom
his hasty act had doubtless inflicted a severe blow, she was no longer
visible.

Directly after he took the ring she had glided silently, unnoticed by
most of the company, up the stairs to the second story. Cordula von
Montfort told him this in a low tone.

Els had made no answer to her questions, but her imploring, tearful
eyes pierced the young countess to the heart. Her quick ear had caught
Siebenburg’s malicious words and Casper Eysvogel’s harsh response and,
with deep pity, she felt how keenly the poor girl must suffer.

The happiness of a whole life destroyed without any fault of her own!
From their first meeting Els had seemed to her incapable of any careless
error, and she had merely tried, by her bold, interference, to protect
her from the gossip of evil tongues. But Heinz Schorlin had just
approached and whispered that, by his knightly honour, Els was a total
stranger to him, and he only wished he might find his own dear sister at
home as pure and free from any fault.

Poor child! But the countess knew who had frustrated her intervention
in behalf of Els. It was Sir Seitz Siebenburg, “the Mustache,” whose
officious homage, at first amusing, had long since become repulsive. Her
heart shrank from the thought that, merely from vain pleasure in having
a throng of admirers, she had given this scoundrel more than one glance
of encouragement. The riding whip fairly quivered in her right hand
as, after informing Ernst Ortlieb where Els had gone, she warned the
gentlemen that it was time to depart, and Seitz Siebenburg submissively,
yet as familiarly as if he had a right to her special favour, held out
his hand in farewell.

But Countess Cordula withdrew hers with visible dislike, saying in a
tone of chilling repulse: “Remember me to your wife, Sir Knight. Tell
her to take care that her twin sons resemble their father as little as
possible.”

“Then you want to have two ardent admirers the less?” asked Siebenburg
gaily, supposing that the countess’s remark was a jest.

But when she did not, as he expected, give these insulting words an
interpretation favourable to him, but merely shrugged her shoulders
scornfully, he added, glancing fiercely at the Swiss knight:

“True, you would doubtless be better pleased should the boys grow up
to resemble the lucky Sir Heinz Schorlin, for whose sake you proved
yourself the inventor of tales more marvellous, if not more credible,
than the most skilful travelling minstrel.”

“Perhaps so,” replied the countess with contemptuous brevity. “But I
should be satisfied if the twins--and this agrees with my first wish
should grow up honest men. If you should pay me the honour of a visit
during the next few days, Sir Seitz, I could not receive it.”

With these words she turned away, paying no further heed to him, though
he called her name aloud, as if half frantic.



CHAPTER XI.

It was after midnight when the servants closed the heavy door of the
Ortlieb mansion. The late guests had left it, mounted their horses, and
ridden away together through the Frauenthor into the city.

The moon no longer lighted their way. A sultry wind had swept from
the southwest masses of grey clouds, which constantly grew denser and
darker. Heinz Schorlin did not notice it, but his follower, Biberli,
called his attention to the rising storm and entreated him to choose the
nearest road to the city. To remain outside the gate in such darkness
would be uncomfortable, nay, perhaps not without peril, but the knight
merely flung him the peevish answer, “So much the better,” and, to
Biberli’s surprise, turned into St. Klarengasse, which brought him by no
means nearer to his distant lodgings in the Bindergasse.

It was unfortunate to be warmly devoted to a master who had no fear,
whom he was obliged to serve as a messenger of love, and who now
probably scarcely knew himself whither this love would lead him.

But true and steadfast Biberli would really have followed Sir Heinz, not
only in a dangerous nocturnal ramble, but through all the terrors of.
hell. So he only glanced down at his long, lean legs, which would be
exposed here to the bites of the dogs, with whom he stood on especially
bad terms, raised his long robe higher, as the paths over which they
must pass were of doubtful cleanliness, and deemed it a good omen
when his foot struck against a stout stick, which his patron saint
had perhaps thrown in his way as a weapon. Its possession was somewhat
soothing, it is true, yet he did not regain the pleasant consciousness
of peace in which his soul had rejoiced a few short hours before.

He knew what to expect from the irritable mood into which recent events
appeared to have thrown his master. Heinz usually soon forgot any such
trivial disappointment, but the difficulty threatening himself and
Katterle was far worse--nay, might even assume terrible proportions.

These alarming thoughts made him sigh so deeply that Heinz turned
towards him.

He would gladly have relieved his own troubled breast in the same way.
Never before had the soul of this light-hearted child of good fortune
served as the arena for so fierce a struggle of contending emotions.

He loved Eva, and the image of her white, supernaturally beautiful
figure, flooded by the moonlight, still stood before him as distinctly
as when, after her disappearance, he had resolved to plead his suit
for her to her sister; but the usually reckless fellow asked himself,
shuddering, what would have happened had he obeyed Eva’s summons and
been found with her, as he had just been surprised with her sister. She
was not wholly free from guilt, for her note had really contained an
invitation to a meeting; yet she escaped. But his needless impetuosity
and her sudden appearance before the house had placed her modest,
charming sister, the betrothed bride of the gallant fellow who had
fought with him in the Marchfield, in danger of being misunderstood and
despised. If the finger of scorn were pointed at her, if a stain rested
on her fair fame, the austere Wolff Eysvogel would hardly desire to make
her his wife, and then this also would be his fault.

His kind, honest heart suffered keenly under these self-accusations, the
first which he had ever heeded.

Hitherto the volatile young fellow, who had often gaily risked his life
in battle and his last penny at the gaming table, had never thought of
seriously examining his own soul, battling by his own strength of will
against some secret longing and shunning its cause. On the contrary,
from childhood he had accustomed himself to rely on the protection and
aid of the Virgin and the saints; and when they passed the image
with the ever-burning lamp, where Katterle had just sought and found
consolation, he implored it not to let his bold intrusion into the home
of the maiden he loved bring evil upon her and her sister. He also vowed
to the convent and its saint--which, come what might, should also be
his--a rich gift whenever the Emperor or the gaming table again filled
his purse.

The thought of being burdened his whole life long with the reproach
of having made two such charming, innocent creatures miserable seemed
unendurable. He would gladly have given gold and blood to remove it.

It was too late that day, but he resolved to go to the confessional on
the morrow, for absolution had always relieved and lightened his
heart. But how trivial his errors had been! True, the wrong he had now
committed was not a mortal sin, and would hardly impose a severe penance
upon him, yet it burdened him like the most infamous crime. He did not
understand himself, and often wondered why he, reckless Heinz, thus
made a mountain out of a molehill. Yet when, after this reflection, he
uttered a sigh of relief, it seemed as if a voice within commanded him
not to think lightly of what had passed, for on that evening he had
ceased to bestow pleasure on every one, and instead of, as usual,
being helpful and agreeable, he had plunged others who had done him no
wrong--nay, perhaps a whole household, whose daughter had given him
the first love of her young heart-into misery and disgrace. Had he
considered the consequences of his act, he would still be merry Heinz.
Then he remembered how, when a boy, playing with other lads high up
among the mountains just as it was beginning to thaw, he had hurled the
work they had finished with so much toil, a snow man, down the slope,
rejoicing with his playfellows over its swift descent towards the
valley, until they noticed with what frightful speed its bulk increased
as it sped over its snowy road, till at last, like a terrible avalanche,
it swept away a herdsman’s hut--fortunately an empty one. Now, also, his
heedlessness had set in motion a mass which constantly rolled onward,
and how terrible might be the harm it would do!

If Hartmann, the Emperor’s son, were only there! He confided everything
to him, for he was sure of his silence. Both his duty as a knight and
his conscience forbade him to relate his experiences and ask counsel
from any one else.

He was still absorbed in these gloomy thoughts when, just before
reaching the Walch, he heard Biberli’s deep sigh. Here, behind and
beside the frames of the cloth weavers, stood the tents before which the
followers and soldiers of the princes and dignitaries who had come to
the Reichstag were still sitting around the camp fire, carousing and
laughing.

Any interruption was welcome to him, and to Biberli it seemed like a
deliverance to be permitted to use his poor endangered tongue, for his
master had asked what grief oppressed him.

“If you desired to know what trouble did not burden my soul I could find
a speedier answer,” replied Biberli piteously. “Oh, this night, my lord!
What has it not brought upon us and others! Look at the black clouds
rising in the south. They are like the dark days impending over us poor
mortals.”

Then he confided to Heinz his fears for himself and Katterle. The
knight’s assurance that he would intercede for him and, if necessary,
even appeal to the Emperor’s favour, somewhat cheered his servitor’s
drooping spirits, it is true, but by no means restored his composure,
and his tone was lugubrious enough as he went on:

“And the poor innocent girl in the Ortlieb house! Your little lady, my
lord, broke the bread she must now eat herself, but the other, the older
E.”

“I know,” interrupted the knight sorrowfully. “But if the gracious
Virgin aids us, they will continue to believe in the wager Cordula von
Montfort----”

“She! she!” Biberli exclaimed, enthusiastically waving his stick aloft.
“The Lord created her in a good hour. Such a heart! Such friendly
kindness! And to think that she interposed so graciously for you--you,
Sir Heinz, to whom she showed the favour of combing your locks, as if
you were already her promised husband, and who afterwards, for another’s
sake, left her at the ball as if she wore a fern cap and had become
invisible. I saw the whole from the musician’s gallery. True, the
somnambulist is marvellously beautiful.”

But the knight interrupted him by exclaiming so vehemently: “Silence!”
 that he paused.

Both walked on without speaking for some distance ere Heinz began again:

“Even though I live to grow old and grey, never shall I behold aught
more beautiful than the vision of that white-robed girlish figure on the
stairs.”

True and steadfast Biberli sighed faintly. Love for Eva Ortlieb held
his master as if in a vise; but a Schorlin seemed to him far too good a
match for a Nuremberg maiden who had grown up among sacks of pepper and
chests of goods and, moreover, was a somnambulist. He looked higher for
his Heinz, and had already found the right match for him. So, turning to
him again, he said earnestly:

“Drive the bewitching vision from your mind, Sir Heinz. You don’t
know--but I could tell you some tales about women who walk in their
sleep by moonlight.”

“Well?” asked Heinz eagerly.

“As a maiden,” Biberli continued impressively, with the pious intention
of guarding his master from injury, “the somnambulist merely runs the
risk of falling from the roof, or whatever accident may happen to a
sleepwalker; but if she enters the estate of holy matrimony, the evil
power which has dominion over her sooner or later transforms her at
midnight into a troll, which seizes her husband’s throat in his sleep
and strangles him.”

“Nursery tales!” cried Heinz angrily, but Biberli answered calmly:

“It can make no difference to you what occurs in the case of such
possessed women, for henceforward the Ortlieb house will be closed
against you. And--begging your pardon--it is fortunate. For, my lord,
the horse mounted by the first Schorlin--the chaplain showed it to you
in the picture--came from the ark in which Noah saved it with the other
animals from the deluge, and the first Lady Schorlin whom the family
chronicles mention was a countess. Your ancestresses came from citadels
and castles; no Schorlin ever yet brought his bride from a tradesman’s
house. You, the proudest of them all, will scarcely think of making such
an error, though it is true--”

“Ernst Ortlieb, spite of his trade, is a man of knightly lineage, to
whom the king of arms opens the lists at every tournament!” exclaimed
Heinz indignantly.

“In the combat with blunt weapons,” replied Biberli contemptuously.

“Nay, for the jousts and single combat,” cried Heinz excitedly. “The
Emperor Frederick himself dubbed Herr Ernst a knight.”

“You know best,” replied Biberli modestly. But his coat of arms, like
his entry, smells of cloves and pepper. Here is another, however,
who, like your first ancestress, has a countess’s title, and who has a
right--My name isn’t Biberli if your lady mother at home would not be
more than happy were I to inform her that the Countess von Montfort and
the darling of her heart, which you are:

“The name of Montfort and what goes with it,” Heinz interrupted, “would
surely please those at home. But the rest! Where could a girl be found
who, setting aside Cordula’s kind heart, would be so great a contrast to
my mother in every respect?”

“Stormy mornings merge into quiet days,” said the servant. “Everything
depends, my lord, upon the heart of which you speak so slightingly--the
heart and, even above that, upon the blood. ‘Help is needed there,’
cried the kind heart just now, and then the blood did its ‘devoir’. The
act followed the desire as the sound follows the blow of the hammer,
the thunder the flash of lightning. Well for the castle that is ruled by
such a mistress! I am only the servant, and respect commands me to curb
my tongue; but to-day I had news from home through the Provost Werner,
of Lucerne, whom I knew at Stansstadt. I meant to tell you of it
over the wine at the Thirsty Troopers, but that accursed note and the
misfortune which followed prevented. It will not make either of us more
cheerful, but whoever is ordered by the leech to drink gall and wormwood
does wisely to swallow the dose at one gulp. Do you wish to empty the
cup now?”

The knight nodded assent, and Biberli went on. “Home affairs are not
going as they ought. Though your uncle’s hair is already grey, the
knightly blood in his veins makes him grasp the sword too quickly. The
quarrel about the bridge-toll has broken out again more violently than
ever. The townsfolk drove off our cattle as security and, by way of
punishment, your uncle seized the goods of their merchants, and they
came to blows. True, the Schorlin retainers forced back the men from
town with bloody heads, but if the feud lasts much longer we cannot hold
out, for the others have the money, and since the war cry has sounded
less frequently there has been no lack of men at arms who will serve any
one who pays. Besides, the townsfolk can appeal to the treaty of peace,
and if your uncle continues to seize the merchant’s wares they will
apply to the imperial magistrate, and then:

“Then,” cried Heinz eagerly, “then the time will have come for me to
leave the court and return home to look after my rights.”

“A single arm, no matter how strong it may be, can avail nothing there,
my lord,” Biberli protested earnestly. “Your Uncle Ramsweg has scarcely
his peer as a leader, but even were it not so you could not bring
yourself to send the old man home and put yourself in his place.
Besides, it would be as unwise as it is unjust. What is lacking at home
is money to pay the town what it demands for the use of the bridge, or
to increase the number of your men, and therefore:

“Well?” asked Heinz eagerly.

“Therefore seek the Countess von Montfort, who favours you above every
one else,” was the reply; “for with her all you need will be yours
without effort. Her dowry will suffice to settle twenty such bridge
dues, and if it should come to a fray, the brave huntress will ride to
the field at your side with helmet and spear. Which of the four Fs did
Countess Cordula von Montfort ever lack?”

“The four Fs?” asked Heinz, listening intently. “The Fs,” explained the
ex-pedagogue, “are the four letters which marriageable knights should
consider. They are: Family, figure, favour, and fortune. But hold your
cap on! What a hot blast this is, as if the storm were coming straight
from the jaws of hell. And the dust! Where did all these withered
leaves come from in the month of June? They are whirling about as if the
foliage had already fallen. There are big raindrops driving into my face
too B-r-r! You need all four Fs. No rain will wash a single one of them
away, and I hope it won’t efface the least word of my speech either.
What, according to human foresight, could be lacking to secure the
fairest happiness, if you and the countess--”

“Love,” replied Heinz Schorlin curtly.

“That will come of itself,” cried Biberli, as if sure of what he was
saying, “if the bride is Countess Cordula.”

“Possibly,” answered the knight, “but the heart must not be filled by
another’s image.”

Here he paused, for in the darkness he had stumbled into the ditch by
the road.

The whirlwind which preceded the bursting of the storm blew such
clouds of dust and everything it contained into their faces that it was
difficult to advance. But Biberli was glad, for he had not yet found a
fitting answer. He struggled silently on beside his master against the
wind, until it suddenly subsided, and a violent storm of rain streamed
in big warm drops on the thirsty earth and the belated pedestrians.
Then, spite of Heinz’s protestations, Biberli hurriedly snatched the
long robe embroidered with the St from his shoulders and threw it over
his master, declaring that his shirt was as safe from injury as his
skin, but the rain would ruin the knight’s delicate embroidered doublet.

Then he drew over his head the hood which hung from his coat, and
meanwhile must have decided upon an answer, for as soon as they moved on
he began again: “You must drive your love for the beautiful sleepwalker
out of your mind. Try to do so, my dear, dear master, for the sake
of your lady mother, your young sister who will soon be old enough to
marry, our light-hearted Maria, and the good old castle. For your own
happiness, your lofty career, which began so gloriously, you must hear
me! O master, my dear master, tear from your heart the image of the
little Nuremberg witch, tempting though it is, I admit. The wound will
bleed for a brief time, but after so much mirthful pleasure a fleeting
disappointment in love, I should think, would not be too hard to bear
if it will be speedily followed by the fairest and most enduring
happiness.”

Here a flash of lightning, which illumined the hospital door close
before them, and made every surrounding object as bright as day,
interrupted the affectionate entreaty of the faithful fellow, and at the
same time a tremendous peal of thunder crashed and rattled through the
air.

Master and servant crossed themselves, but Heinz exclaimed:

“That struck the tower yonder. A little farther to the left, and all
doubts and misgivings would have been ended.”

“You can say that!” exclaimed Biberli reproachfully while passing with
his master through the gate which had just been opened for an imperial
messenger. “And you dare to make such a speech in the midst of this
heavenly wrath! For the sake of a pair of lovely eyes you are ready to
execrate a life which the saints have so blessed with every gift
that thousands and tens of thousands would not give it up from sheer
gratitude and joy, even if it were not a blasphemous crime!”

Again the lightning and thunder drowned his words. Biberli’s heart
trembled, and muttering prayers beseeching protection from the avenging
hand above, he walked swiftly onward till they reached the Corn Market.
Here they were again stopped, for, notwithstanding the late hour,
a throng of people, shouting and wailing, was just pouring from the
Ledergasse into the square, headed by a night watchman provided with
spear, horn, and lantern, a bailiff, torchbearers, and some police
officers, who were vainly trying to silence the loudest outcries.

Again a brilliant flash of lightning pierced the black mass of clouds,
and Heinz, shuddering, pointed to the crowd and asked, “Do you suppose
the lightning killed the man whom they are carrying yonder?”

“Let me see,” replied Biberli, among whose small vices curiosity was by
no means the least. He must have understood news gathering thoroughly,
for he soon returned and informed Heinz, who had sought shelter from the
rain under the broad bow window of a lofty house, that the bearers were
just carrying to his parents’ home a young man whose thread of life had
been suddenly severed by a stab through the breast in a duel. After the
witnesses had taken the corpse to the leech Otto, in the Ledergasse,
and the latter said that the youth was dead, they had quickly dispersed,
fearing a severe punishment on account of the breach of the peace. The
murdered man was Ulrich Vorchtel, the oldest son of the wealthy Berthold
Vorchel, who collected the imperial taxes.

Again Heinz shuddered. He had seen the unfortunate young man the
day before yesterday at the fencing school, and yesterday, full of
overflowing mirth, at the dance, and knew that he, too, had fought in
the battle of Marchfield. His foe must have been master of the art of
wielding the sword, for the dead man had been a skilful fencer, and was
tall and stalwart in figure.

When the servant ended his story Heinz stood still in the darkness for a
time, silently listening. The bells had begun to ring, the blast of the
watchman’s horn blended with the wailing notes summoning aid, and in
two places--near the Thiergartenthor and the Frauenthor--the sky was
crimsoned by the reflection of a conflagration, probably kindled by some
flash of lightning, which flickered over the clouds, alternately rising
and falling, sometimes deeper and anon paler in hue. Throngs of people,
shouting “Fire!” pressed from the cross streets into the square. The
stillness of the night was over.

When Heinz again turned to Biberli he said in a hollow tone:

“If the earth should swallow up Nuremberg tonight it would not surprise
me. But over yonder--look, Biber, the Duke of Pomerania’s quarters in
the Green Shield are still lighted. I’ll wager that they are yet at
the gaming table. A plague upon it! I would be there, too, if my purse
allowed. I feel as if yonder dead man and his coffin were burdening my
soul. If it was really good fortune in love that snatched the zecchins
from my purse yesterday:

“Then,” cried Biberli eagerly, “to-night is the very time, ere Countess
Cordula teaches you to forget what troubles you, to win them back. The
gold for the first stake is at your disposal.”

“From the Duke of Pomerania, you think?” asked Heinz; then, in a quick,
resolute tone, added: “No! Often as the duke has offered me his purse,
I never borrow from my peers when the prospect of repayment looks so
uncertain.”

“Gently, my lord,” returned Biberli, slapping his belt importantly.
“Here is what you need for the stake as your own property. No miracles
have been wrought for us, only I forgot But look! There are the black
clouds rolling northward over the castle. That was a frightful storm!
But a spendthrift doesn’t keep house long-and the thunder has not yet
followed that last flash of lightning. There is plenty of uproar without
it. It’s hard work to hear one’s self speak amid all the ringing,
trumpeting, yelling, and shrieking. It seems as if they expected to put
out the fire with noise. The fathers of the city can attend to that.
It doesn’t appear to disturb the duke and his guests at their dice;
and here, my lord, are fifty florins which, I think, will do for the
beginning.”

Biberli handed the knight a little bag containing this sum, and when
Heinz asked in perplexity where he obtained it, the ex-schoolmaster
answered gaily: “They came just in the nick of time. I received them
from Suss, the jockey, while you were out riding this afternoon.”

“For the black?” Heinz enquired.

“Certainly, my lord. It’s a pity about the splendid stallion. But, as
you know, he has the staggers, and when I struck him on the coronet he
stood as if rooted to the earth, and the equerry, who was there, said
that the disease was proved. So the Jew silently submitted, let the
horse be led away, and paid back what we gave him. Fifty heavy florins!
More than enough for a beginning. If I may advise you, count on the two
and the five when fixed numbers are to be thrown or hit. Why? Because
you must turn your ill luck in love to advantage: and those from whom
it comes are the two beautiful Ortlieb Es, as Nuremberg folk call the
ladies Els and Eva. That makes the two. But E is the fifth letter in
the alphabet, so I should choose the five. If Biberli did not put things
together shrewdly--”

“He would be as oversharp as he has often been already,” Heinz
interrupted, but he patted Biberli’s wet arm as he spoke, and added
kindly “Yet every day proves that my Biberli is a true and steadfast
fellow; but where in the wide world did you, a schoolmaster, gain
instruction in the art of throwing the dice?”

“While we were studying in Paris, with my dead foster brother,” replied
the servant with evident emotion. “But now go up, my lord, before
the fire alarm, and I know not what else, makes the people upstairs
separate. The iron must be forged during this wild night. Only a few
drops of rain are falling. You can cross the street dry even without my
long garment.”

While speaking he divested the knight of his robe, and continued
eagerly: “Now, my lord, from the coffin, or let us say rather the leaden
weight, which oppresses your soul, let a bolt be melted that will strike
misfortune to the heart. Glittering gold has a cheering colour.”

“Stop! stop!” Heinz interrupted positively. “No good wishes on the eve
of hunting or gaming.

“But if I come bounding down the stairs of the Green Shield with a purse
as heavy as my heart is just now--why, Biberli, success puts a new face
on many things, and yours shall again look at me without anxiety.”



CHAPTER XII.

The thunderclouds had gathered in the blackest masses above the
Frauenthor and the Ortlieb mansion. Ere the storm burst the oppressive
atmosphere had burdened the hearts within as heavily as it weighed
outside upon tree, bush, and all animated creation.

In the servants’ rooms under the roof the maids slept quietly and
dreamlessly; and the men, with their mouths wide open, snored after the
labour of the day, unconscious of what was passing outside in the sky or
the events within which had destroyed the peace of their master and his
family.

The only bed unoccupied was the one in the little room next to the
stairs leading to the garret, which was occupied by Katterle. The Swiss,
kneeling before it with her face buried in the coarse linen pillow case,
alternately sobbed, prayed, and cursed herself and her recklessness.

When the gale, which preceded the thunderstorm, blew leaves and straws
in through the open window she started violently, imagining that Herr
Ortlieb had come to call her to account and her trial was to begin. The
barber’s widow, whom she had seen a few days before in the pillory,
with a stone around her neck, because she had allowed a cloth weaver’s
heedless daughter to come to her lodging with a handsome trumpeter who
belonged to the city musicians, rose before her mental vision. How the
poor thing had trembled and moaned after the executioner’s assistant
hung the heavy stone around her neck! Then, driven frantic by the jeers
and insults of the people, the missiles flung by the street boys, and
the unbearable burden, she could control herself no longer but, pouring
forth a flood of curses, thrust out her tongue at her tormentors.

What a spectacle! But ere she, Katterle, would submit to such disgrace
she would bid farewell to life with all its joys; and even to the
countryman to whom her heart clung, and who, spite of his well-proven
truth and steadfastness, had brought misery upon her.

Now the memory of the hateful word which she, too, had called to the
barber’s widow weighed heavily on her heart. Never, never again would
she be arrogant to a neighbour who had fallen into misfortune.

This vow, and many others, she made to St. Clare; then her thoughts
wandered to the city moat, to the Pegnitz, the Fischbach, and all the
other streams in and near Nuremberg, where it was possible to drown and
thus escape the terrible disgrace which threatened her. But in so doing
she had doubtless committed a heavy sin; for while recalling the Dutzen
Pond, from whose dark surface she had often gathered white water lilies
after passing through the Frauenthor into the open fields, and wondering
in what part of its reedy shore her design could be most easily
executed, a brilliant flash of lightning blazed through her room, and
at the same time a peal of thunder shook the old mansion to its
foundations.

That was meant for her and her wicked thoughts. No! For the sake of
escaping disgrace here on earth, she dared not trifle with eternal
salvation and the hope of seeing her dead mother in the other world.

The remembrance of that dear mother, who had laboured so earnestly to
train her in every good path, soothed her. Surely she was looking down
upon her and knew that she had remained upright and honest, that she
had not defrauded her employers of even a pin, and that the little fault
which was to be so grievously punished had been committed solely out
of love for her countryman, who in his truth and steadfastness meant
honestly by her. What Biberli requested her to do could be no heavy sin.

But the powers above seemed to be of a different opinion; for again a
dazzling glare of light illumined the room, and the crash and rattle of
the thunder of the angry heavens accompanied it with a deafening din.
Katterle shrieked aloud; it seemed as if the gates of hell had opened
before her, or the destruction of the world had begun.

Frantic with terror, she sprang back from the window, through which
the raindrops were already sprinkling her face. They cooled her flushed
cheeks and brought her back to reality. The offence she had just
committed was no trivial one. She, whom Herr Ortlieb, with entire
confidence, had placed in the service of the fair young girl whose
invalid mother could not care for her, had permitted herself to be
induced to persuade Eva, who was scarcely beyond childhood, to a
rendezvous with a man whom she represented to the inexperienced maiden
as a godly, virtuous knight, though she knew from Biberli how far the
latter surpassed his master in fidelity and steadfastness.

“Lead us not into temptation!” How often she had repeated the words
in the Lord’s Prayer, and now she herself had become the serpent that
tempted into sin the innocent child whom duty should have commanded her
to guard.

No, no! The guilt for which she was threatened with punishment was by no
means small, and even if her earthly judge did not call her to account,
she would go to confession to-morrow and honestly perform the penance
imposed.

Moved by these thoughts, she gazed across the courtyard to the convent.
Just at that moment the lightning again flashed, the thunder pealed, and
she covered her face with her hands. When she lowered her arms she
saw on the roof of the nuns’ granary, which adjoined the cow-stable,
a slender column of smoke, followed by a narrow tongue of flame, which
grew steadily brighter.

The lightning had set it on fire.

Sympathy for the danger and losses of others forced her own grief and
anxiety into the background and, without pausing to think, she slipped
on her shoes, snatched her shawl from the chest, and ran downstairs,
shouting: “The lightning has struck! The convent is burning!”

Just at that moment the door of the chamber occupied by the two sisters
opened, and Ernst Ortlieb, with tangled hair and pallid cheeks, came
toward her.

Within the room the dim light of the little lamp and the fiery glare of
the lightning illumined tear-stained, agitated faces.

After Heinz Schorlin had called to her, and Els had hurried to her aid,
Eva, clad in her long, plain night robe, and barefooted, just as she
had risen from her couch, followed the maid to her room. What must the
knight, who but yesterday, she knew, had looked up to her as to a saint,
think of her now?

She felt as if she were disgraced, stained with shame. Yet it was
through no fault of her own, and overwhelmed by the terrible conviction
that mysterious, supernatural powers, against which resistance was
hopeless, were playing a cruel game with her, she had felt as if the
stormy sea were tossing her in a rudderless boat on its angry surges.

Unable to seek consolation in prayer, as usual, she had given herself up
to dull despair, but only for a short time. Els had soon returned, and
the firm, quiet manner with which her prudent, helpful friend and sister
met her, and even tried to raise her drooping courage by a jest ere
she sent her to their mother’s sick room, had fallen on her soul
like refreshing dew; not because Els promised to act for her--on the
contrary, what she intended to do roused her to resistance.

She had been far too guilty and oppressed to oppose her, yet indignation
concerning the sharp words which Els had uttered about the knight,
and her intention of forbidding him the house, perhaps forever, had
stimulated her like strong acid wine.

Not until after her sister had left her did she become capable
of clearly understanding what she had felt during her period of
somnambulism.

While her mother, thanks to a narcotic, slept soundly, breathing
quietly, and in the entry below something, she knew not what, perhaps
due to her father’s return, was occurring, she sat thinking, pondering,
while an impetuous throng of rebellious wishes raised their voices,
alternately asking and denying, in her agitated breast.

How she had happened to rise from her couch and go out had vanished
utterly from her memory, but she was still perfectly conscious of her
feelings during the night walk. If hitherto she had yearned to drain
heavenly bliss from the chalice of faith, during her wanderings through
the house she had longed for nothing save to drink her fill from the cup
of earthly joy. Ardent kisses, of which she had forbidden herself even
to think, she awaited with blissful delight. Her timorous heart, held
in check by virgin modesty, accustomed to desire nothing save what she
could have confessed to her sister and the abbess, seemed as if it had
cast off every fetter and boldly resolved to risk the most daring deeds.
The somnambulist had longed for the moment when, after Heinz Schorlin’s
confession that he loved her, she could throw her arms around his neck
with rapturous gratitude.

If, while awake, she had desired only to speak to him of her saint and
of his duty to overthrow the foes of the Church, she had wished while
gazing at the moon from the stairs, and in front of the house door,
to whisper sweet words of love, listen to his, and in so doing forget
herself, the world, and everything which did not belong to him, to her,
and their love.

And she remembered this longing and yearning in a way very unlike a mere
dream. It seemed rather as if, while the moon was attracting her by its
magic power, something, which had long slumbered in the depths of her
soul, had waked to life; something, from which formerly, ere her heart
and mind had been able rightly to understand it, she had shrunk with
pious horror, had assumed a tangible form.

Now she dreaded this newly recognised sinful part of her own nature,
which she had imagined a pure vessel that had room only for what was
noble, sacred, and innocent.

She, too--she knew it now--was only a girl like those on whose desire
for love she had looked down with arrogant contempt, no bride of heaven
or saint.

She had not yet taken the veil, and it was fortunate, for what would
have become of her had she not discovered until after her profession
this part of her nature, which she thought every true nun, if she
possessed it, must discard, like the hair which was shorn from her head,
before taking the vow of the order.

During this self-inspection it became more and more evident that she was
not one person, but two in one--a twofold nature with a single body and
two distinct souls; and this conviction caused her as much pain as if
the cut which had produced the separation were still bleeding.

Just at that moment her eyes fell upon the image of the Virgin opposite,
and the usual impulse to lift her soul in prayer took possession of her
even more powerfully than a short time before.

With fervent warmth she besought her to release her from this newly
awakened nature, which surely could not be pleasing in the sight of
Heaven, and let her once more become what she was before the unfortunate
ramble in the moonlight.

But the composure she needed for prayer was soon destroyed, for the
image of the knight rose before her again and again, and it seemed as
if her own name, which he had called with such ardent longing, once more
rang in her ears.

Whoever thus raises his voice in appeal to another loves that person.
Heinz Schorlin’s love was great and sincere and, instead of heeding the
inner voice that warned her to return to prayer, she cried defiantly, “I
will not!”

She could not yet part from the man for whom her heart throbbed with
such passionate yearning, who was so brave and godly, so ardently
devoted to her.

True, it had been peacefully beautiful to dream herself into the bright
glory of heaven, yet the stormy rapture she had felt while thinking of
him and his love seemed richer and greater. She could not, would not
part from him.

Then she remembered her sister’s intention of driving Heinz--Eva already
called the knight by that name in her soliloquy--from her presence, and
the thought that she might perhaps wound him so keenly that knightly
honour would forbid his return alarmed and incensed her.

What right had Els to distrust him? A godly knight played no base game
with the chosen lady of, his heart, and that, yes, that she certainly
was, since she had named her colour to him. Nothing should separate
them. She needed him for her happiness as much as she did light and air.
Hitherto she had longed for bliss in another world, but she was so young
she probably had a long life before her, and what could existence on
earth offer if robbed of the hope of his possession?

The newly awakened part of her nature demanded its rights. It would
never again allow itself to be forced into the old slumber.

If her sister came back and boasted of having driven away the dangerous
animal forever, she would show her that she had a different opinion
of the knight, and would permit no one to interpose between them. But,
while still pondering over this plan, the door of the sick-room was
softly opened and her father beckoned to her to follow him.

Silently leading the way through the dusky corridor, no longer illumined
by the moonlight, he entered his daughter’s room before her. The lamp,
still burning there, revealed the agitated face of her sister who,
resting her chin on her hand, sat on the stool beside the spinning
wheel.

Eva’s courage, which had blazed up so brightly, instantly fell again.

“Good heavens! What has happened?” she cried in terror; but her father
answered in a hollow tone:

“For the sake of your noble sister, to whom I pledged my word, I will
force myself to remain calm. But look at her! Her poor heart must be
like a graveyard, for she was doomed to bury what she held dearest. And
who,” he continued furiously, so carried away by grief and indignation
as to be unmindful of his promise to maintain his composure, “who is to
blame for it all, save you and your boundless imprudence?”

Eva, with uplifted hands, tried to explain how, unconscious of her acts,
she had walked in her sleep down the stairs and out of the house, but he
imperiously cut her short with:

“Silence! I know all. My daughter gave a worthless tempter the right
to expect the worst from her. You, whom we deemed the ornament of this
house, whose purity hitherto was stainless, are to blame if people
passing on the street point at it! Alas! alas! Our honour, our ancient,
unsullied name!”

Groaning aloud, the father struck his brow with his clenched hand; but
when Els rose and passed her arm around his shoulders to speak words
of consolation, Eva, who hitherto had vainly struggled for words, could
endure no more.

“Whoever says that of me, my father,” she exclaimed with flashing eyes;
scarcely able to control her voice, “has opened his ears to slander;
and whoever terms Heinz Schorlin a worthless tempter, is blinded by a
delusion, and I call him to his face, even were it my own father, to
whom I owe gratitude and respect--”

But here she stopped and extended her arms to keep off the deeply
angered man, for he had started forward with quivering lips, and--she
perceived it clearly--was already under the spell of one of the terrible
fits of fury which might lead him to the most unprecedented deeds.
Els, however, had clung to him and, while holding him back with all her
strength, cried out in a tone of keen reproach, “Is this the way you
keep your promise?”

Then, lowering her voice, she continued with loving entreaty: “My dear,
dear father, can you doubt that she was asleep, unconscious of her acts,
when she did what has brought so much misery upon us?”

And, interrupting herself, she added eagerly in a tone of the firmest
conviction: “No, no, neither shame nor misery has yet touched you, my
father, nor the poor child yonder. The suspicion of evil rests on me,
and me alone, and if any one here must be wretched it is I.”

Then Herr Ernst, regaining his self-control, drew back from Eva, but the
latter, as if fairly frantic, exclaimed: “Do you want to drive me out of
my senses by your mysterious words and accusations? What, in the name
of all the saints, has happened that can plunge my Els into misery and
shame?”

“Into misery and shame,” repeated her father in a hollow tone, throwing
himself into a chair, where he sat motionless, with his face buried in
his hands, while Els told her sister what had occurred when she went
down into the entry to speak to the knight.

Eva listened to her story, fairly gasping for breath. For one brief
moment she cherished the suspicion that Cordula had not acted from pure
sympathy, but to impose upon Heinz Schorlin a debt of gratitude which
would bind him to her more firmly. Yet when she heard that her father
had given back his daughter’s ring to Herr Casper Eysvogel and broken
his child’s betrothal she thought of nothing save her sister’s grief
and, sobbing aloud, threw herself into Els’s arms.

The girls held each other in a close embrace until the first flash of
lightning and peal of thunder interrupted the conversation.

The father and daughters had been so deeply agitated that they had
not heard the storm rising outside, and the outbreak of the tempest
surprised them. The peal of thunder, which so swiftly followed the
lightning, also startled them and when, soon after, a second one shook
the house with its crashing, rattling roar, Herr Ernst went out to wake
the chief packer. But old Endres was already keeping watch among the
wares entrusted to him and when, after a brief absence, the master of
the house returned, he found Eva again clasped in her sister’s arms,
and saw the latter kissing her brow and eyes as she tenderly strove to
comfort her.

But Eva seemed deaf to her soothing words. Els, her faithful Els, was no
longer the betrothed bride of her Wolff; her great, beautiful happiness
was destroyed forever. On the morrow all Nuremberg would learn that Herr
Casper had broken his son’s betrothal pledge, because his bride, for the
sake of a tempter, Sir Heinz Schorlin, had failed to keep her troth with
him.

How deeply all this pierced Eva’s heart! how terrible was the torture
of the thought that she was the cause of this frightful misfortune!
Dissolved in an agony of tears, she entreated the poor girl to forgive
her; and Els did so willingly, and in a way that touched her father to
the very depths of his heart. How good the girls must be who, spite of
the sore suffering which one had brought upon the other, were still so
loving and loyal!

Convinced that Eva, too, had done nothing worthy of punishment, he went
towards them to clasp both in his arms, but ere he could do so the clap
of thunder which had frightened Katterle so terribly shook the whole
room. “St. Clare, aid us!” cried Eva, crossing herself and falling upon
her knees; but Els rushed to the window, opened it, and looked down the
street. Nothing was visible there save a faint red glow on the distant
northern horizon, and two mailed soldiers who were riding into the city
at a rapid trot. They had been sent from the stables in the Marienthurm
to keep order in case a fire should break out. Several men with hooks
and poles followed, also hurrying to the Frauenthor.

In reply to the question where the fire was and where they going, they
answered: “To the Fischbach, to help. Flames have burst out apparently
under the fortress at the Thiergartenthor.”

The long-drawn call for help from the warder’s horn, which came at the
same moment, proved that the men were right.

Herr Ernst hastened out of the room just as Katterle’s shriek, “The
lightning struck! the convent is burning!” rung from the upper step of
the stairs.

He had already pronounced her sentence, and the sight of her roused his
wrath again so vehemently that, spite of the urgent peril, he shouted to
her that, whatever claimed his attention now, she certainly should not
escape the most severe punishment for her shameful conduct.

Then he ordered old Endres and two of the menservants to watch the
sleeping-room of his invalid wife, that in case anything should happen
the helpless woman might be instantly borne to a place of safety.

Ere he himself went to the scene of the conflagration he hurried back to
his daughters.

While the girls were giving him his hat and cloak he told them where the
fire had broken out, and this caused another detention of the anxious
master of the house, for Eva seized her shoes and stockings and, kicking
her little slippers from her feet, declared that she, too, would not
remain absent from the place when her dear nuns were in danger. But her
father commanded her to stay with her mother and sister, and went to the
door, turning back once more on the threshold to his daughters with the
anxious entreaty: “Think of your mother!”

Another peal of thunder drowned the sound of his footsteps hurrying down
the stairs. When Els, who had watched her father from the window a short
time, went back to her sister, Eva dried her eyes and cheeks, saying:
“Perhaps he is right; but whenever my heart urges me to obey any warm
impulse, obstacles are put in my way. What a weak nonentity is the
daughter of an honourable Nuremberg family!”

Els heard this complaint with astonishment. Was this her Eva, her
“little saint,” who yesterday had desired nothing more ardently than
with humble obedience, far from the tumult of the world, to become
worthy of her Heavenly Bridegroom, and in the quiet peace of the convent
raise her soul to God? What had so changed the girl in these few hours?
Even the most worldly-minded of her friends would have taken such an
impeachment ill.

But she had no time now to appeal to the conscience of her misguided
sister. Love and duty summoned her to her mother’s couch. And then!
The child had become aware of her love, and was she, Els, who had been
parted from Wolff by her own father, and yet did not mean to give him
up, justified in advising her sister to cast aside her love and the hope
of future happiness with and through the man to whom she had given her
heart?

What miracles love wrought! If in a single night it had transformed the
devout future Bride of Heaven into an ardently loving woman, it could
accomplish the impossible for her also.

While Eva was gazing out of the window Els returned to her mother. She
was still asleep and, without permitting either curiosity or longing
to divert her from her duty, Els kept her place beside the couch of the
beloved invalid, spite of the fire alarm which, though somewhat subdued,
was heard in the room.



CHAPTER XIII.

Eva was standing at the open window. The violence of the storm seemed
exhausted. The clouds were rolling northward, and the thunder followed
the flashes of lightning at longer and longer intervals. Peace was
restored to the heavens, but the crowd and noise in the city and the
street constantly increased.

The iron tongues of the alarm bells had never swung so violently, the
warder’s horn had never made the air quiver with such resonant appeals
for aid.

Nor did the metallic voices above call for help in vain, for while a
roseate glow tinged the linden in front of her window and the houses
on the opposite side of the street with the hues of dawn, the crowds
thronging from the Frauenthor to St. Klarengasse grew denser and denser.

The convent was not visible from her chamber, but the acrid odor of
the smoke and the loud voices which reached her ear from that direction
proved that the fire was no trivial one. While she was seeking out the
spot from which Heinz must have looked up to her window, the Ortlieb
menservants, with some of the Montfort retainers, came out of the house
with pails and ladders.

A female figure glided into the dark street after them. A black shawl
concealed her head and the upper part of her figure, and she held a
bundle in her hand.

It must be Katterle.

Where was she going at this hour? As she was carrying the package, she
could scarcely intend to help in putting out the fire. Was she stealing
away from fear of punishment? Poor thing! Even the maid was hurled into
misfortune through her guilt.

It pierced her very heart. But while she called to Katterle to stop
her, something else, which engrossed her still more, diverted her
attention--the loud voice of Countess Cordula reached her from the
street door. With whom was she talking? Did the girl, who ventured upon
so many things which ill-beseemed a modest maiden, intend to join the
men? Eva forgot that she, too, would have hurried to the nuns had
not her father prevented it. The countess was already standing in the
courtyard.

After Eva had given her a hasty glance she again looked for the maid,
but Katterle had already vanished in the darkness. This grieved her; she
had neglected something which might have saved the girl, to whom she
was warmly attached, from some imprudent act. But while attracted by the
strange appearance of the countess she had forgotten the other.

Cordula had probably just left her couch, for she wore only a plain
dress tucked up very high, short boots, which she probably used in
hunting, and a shawl crossed over her bosom; another was wound round
her head in the fashion of the peasant women who brought their goods to
market on cold winter days. No farmer’s wife could be more simply clad,
and yet--Eva was forced to admit it--there was something aristocratic in
her firm bearing.

Her companions were her father’s chaplain and the equerry who had
grown grey in his service. Both were trying to dissuade her. The former
pointed to a troop of women who were following the chief of police and
some city constables, and said warningly: “Those are all wanton queans,
whom the law of this city compels to lend their aid in putting out
fires. How would it beseem your rank to join these who shame their
sex----No, no! It would be said to-morrow that the ornament of the house
of Montfort had----”

“That Countess Cordula had used her hands in extinguishing the fire,”
 she interrupted with gay self-confidence. “Is there any disgrace in
that? Must my noble birth debar me from being numbered among those who
help their neighbours so far as lies in their power? If any good is
accomplished here, those poor women yonder will make it no worse by
their aid. If people here believe that they do, it will give me double
pleasure to ennoble it by working with them. Putting out the flames will
not degrade me, and will make the women better. So, forward! See how the
fire is blazing yonder! Help is needed there and, thank Heaven, I am no
weakling. Besides, there are women who want assistance and, to women in
peril, the most welcome aid is woman’s.”

The old equerry, his eyes glittering with tears, nodded assent, and
led the way into the street; but the countess, instead of following
instantly, glanced back for the page who was to carry the bandages which
she had learned to use among her retainers at home. The agile boy did
not delay her long; but while his mistress was looking to see that he
had forgotten nothing of importance, he perceived at the window
Eva, whose beauty had long since fired his young heart, and cast a
languishing glance at her. Then Cordula also noticed her and called a
pleasant greeting. Eva was on the point of answering in the same tone,
when she remembered that Cordula had spoken of Heinz Schorlin in the
presence of others as if he were awaiting her in all submission. Anger
surged hotly in her breast, and she drew back into the room as if she
had not heard the salutation.

The countess perceived it, and shrugged her shoulders pityingly.

Eva, dissatisfied with herself, continued to gaze down into the street
long after the crowds of people flocking from the city had concealed
Cordula from her eyes. It seemed as though she would never again succeed
in anything that would bring contentment. Never had she felt so weak, so
ill-tempered, so devoid of self-reliance. Yet she could not, as usual,
seek consolation with her saint. There was so much here below to divert
her attention.

The roseate glow on the linden had become a crimson glare, the
flickering light on the opposite walls a dazzling illumination. The
wind, now blowing from the west, bore from St. Klarengasse burning
objects which scattered sparks around them--bundles of hay caught by the
flames--from the convent barn to the Marienthurm opposite, and into the
street. Besides, the noise above and behind, before and below her, grew
louder and louder. The ringing of the bells and the blare of trumpets
from the steeples continued, and with this constant ringing, pealing,
and crashing from above, mingled the high, clear voices of the choir of
nuns in the convent, beseeching in fervent litanies the help of their
patron saint. True, the singing was often drowned by the noise from the
street, for the fire marshals and quartermasters had been informed
in time, and watchmen, soldiers in the pay of the city, men from the
hospital, and the abandoned women (required by law to help put out
the fires) came in little groups, while bailiffs and servants of the
Council, barbers (who were obliged to lend their aid, but whose surgical
skill could find little employment here), members of the Council,
priests and monks arrived singly. The street also echoed with the
trampling of many steeds, for mounted troopers in coats of mail first
dashed by to aid the bailiffs in maintaining order, then the inspector
of water works, with his chief subordinate, trotted along to St.
Klarengasse on the clumsy horses placed at their disposal by the
Council in case of fire. He was followed by the millers, with brass fire
engines. While their well-fed nags drew on sledges, with little noise,
through the mire of the streets now softened by the rain, the heavy
wooden water barrels needed in the work of extinguishing the flames,
there was a loud rattling and clanking as the carts appeared on which
the men from the Public Works building were bringing large and small
ladders, hooks and levers, pails and torches, to the scene of the
conflagration.

Besides those who were constrained by the law, many others desired to
aid the popular Sisters of St. Clare and thereby earn a reward from God.
A brewer had furnished his powerful stallions to convey to the scene
of action, with their tools, the eight masons whose duty it was to use
their skill in extinguishing the flames. All sorts of people--men and
women--followed, yelling and shrieking, to seek their own profit during
the work of rescue. But the bailiffs kept a sharp eye on them, and made
way when the commander of the German knights, with several companions on
whose black mantles the white cross gleamed, appeared on horseback, and
at last old Herr Berthold Vorchtel trotted up on his noble grey, which
was known to the whole city. He still had a firm seat in the saddle,
but his head was bowed, and whoever knew that only one hour before
the corpse of his oldest son, slain in a duel, had been brought home,
admired the aged magistrate’s strength of will. As First Losunger and
commander in chief he was the head of the Council, and therefore of the
city also. Duty had commanded him to mount his steed, but how pale and
haggard was his shrewd face, usually so animated!

Just in front of the Ortlieb mansion the commander of the German knights
rode to his side, and Eva saw how warmly he shook him by the hand, as if
he desired to show the old man very cordially his deep sympathy in some
sore trouble which had assailed him.

Ever since Wolff’s betrothal to Els had been announced the Vorchtels
had ceased to be on terms of intimacy with the Ortliebs; but old Herr
Berthold, though he himself had probably regarded young Eysvogel as his
“Ursel’s” future husband, had always treated Eva kindly, and she was
not mistaken--tears were glittering on his cheeks in the torchlight. The
sight touched the young girl’s inmost heart. How eagerly she desired to
know what had befallen the Vorchtels, and to give the old man some token
of sympathy! What could have caused him so much sorrow? Only a few hours
before her father had returned from a gay entertainment at his house.
It could scarcely concern Herr Berthold’s wife, his daughter Ursula, or
either of his two vigorous sons. Perhaps death had only bereft him of
some more distant, though beloved relative, yet surely she would have
known that, for the Ortliebs were connected by marriage both with the
old gentleman and his wife.

Tortured by a presentiment of evil, Eva gazed after him, and also
watched for Heinz Schorlin among the people in the street. Must not
anxiety for her bring him hither, if he learned how near her house the
fire was burning?

Whenever a helmet or knight’s baret appeared above the crowd she thought
that he was coming. Once she believed that she had certainly recognised
him, for a tall young man of knightly bearing appeared, not mounted, but
on foot, and stopped opposite to the Ortlieb house. That must be he! But
when he looked up to her window, the reflection of the fire showed that
the man who had made her heart beat so quickly was indeed a young and
handsome knight, but by no means the person for whom she had mistaken
him. It was Boemund Altrosen, famed as victor in many a tournament,
who when a boy had often been at the house of her uncle, Herr Pfinzing.
There was no mistaking his coal-black, waving locks. It was said that
the dark-blue sleeve of a woman’s robe which he wore on his helmet in
the jousts belonged to the Countess von Montfort. She was his lady, for
whom he had won so many victories.

Heinz Schorlin had mentioned him at the ball as his friend, and told
her that the gallant knight would vainly strive to win the reckless
countess. Perhaps he was now looking at the house so intently on
Cordula’s account. Or had Heinz, his friend, sent him to watch over her
while he was possibly detained by the Emperor?

But, no; he had just gone nearer to the house to question a man in the
von Montfort livery, and the reply now led him to move on towards the
convent.

Were the tears which filled Eva’s eyes caused by the smoke that
poured from the fire more and more densely into the street, or to
disappointment and bitter anguish?

The danger which threatened her aunt and her beloved nuns also increased
her excitement. True, the sisters themselves seemed to feel safe, for
snatches of their singing were still audible amid the ringing of the
bells and the blare of the trumpets, but the fire must have been very
hard to extinguish. This was proved by the bright glow on the linden
tree and the shouts of command which, though unintelligible, rose above
every other sound.

The street below was becoming less crowded. Most of those who had
left their beds to render aid had already reached the scene of the
conflagration. Only a few stragglers still passed through the open gate
towards the Marienthurm. Among them were horsemen, and Eva’s heart again
throbbed more quickly, but only for a short time. Heinz Schorlin was far
taller than the man who had again deceived her, and his way would hardly
have been lighted by two mounted torch bearers. Soon her rosy lips even
parted in a smile, for the sturdy little man on the big, strong-boned
Vinzgau steed, whom she now saw distinctly, was her dearest relative,
her godfather, the kind, shrewd, imperial magistrate, Berthold Pfinzing,
the husband of her father’s sister, good Aunt Christine.

If he looked up he would tell her about old Herr Vorchtel. Nor did he
ride past his darling’s house without a glance at her window, and when
he saw Eva beckon he ordered the servants to keep back, and stopped
behind the chains.

After he had briefly greeted his niece and she had enquired what had
befallen the Vorchtels, he asked anxiously: “Then you know nothing yet?
And Els--has it been kept from her, too?”

“What, in the name of all the saints?” asked Eva, with increasing alarm.

Then Herr Pfinzing, who saw that the door of the house was open, asked
her to come down. Eva was soon standing beside her godfather’s big
bay, and while patting the smooth neck of the splendid animal he said
hurriedly, in a low tone: “It’s fortunate that it happened so. You
can break it gradually to your sister, child. To-night Summon up your
courage, for there are things which even a man--To make the story short,
then: Tonight Wolff Eysvogel and young Vorchtel quarreled, or rather
Ulrich irritated your Wolff so cruelly that he drew his sword--”

“Wolff!” shrieked Eva, whose hand had already dropped from the horse.
“Wolff! He is so terribly strong, and if he drew his sword in anger----”

“He dealt his foe one powerful thrust,” replied the imperial magistrate
with an expressive gesture. “The sword pierced him through. But I must
go on Only this one thing more: Ulrich was borne back to his parents as
a corpse. And Wolff Where is he hiding? May the saints long be the only
ones who know! A quarrel with such a result under the Emperor’s eyes,
now when peace has just been declared throughout the land! Who knows
what sentence will be pronounced if the bailiffs show themselves
shrewder this time than usual! My office compelled me to set the pack
upon him. That is the reason I am so late. Tell Els as cautiously as
possible.”

He bowed gallantly and trotted on, but Eva, as if hunted by enemies,
rushed up the staircase, threw herself on her knees before the prie
dieu, and sobbed aloud.

Young Vorchtel had undoubtedly heard of the events in the entry, taunted
Wolff with his betrothed bride’s nocturnal interview with a knight, and
thus roused the strong man to fury. How terrible it all was! How could
she bear it! Her thoughtlessness had cost a human life, robbed parents
of their son! Through her fault her sister’s betrothed husband, whom
she also loved, was in danger of being placed under ban, perhaps even of
being led to the executioner’s block!

She had no thought of any other motive which might have induced the
hot-blooded young men to cross swords and, firmly convinced that her
luckless letter had drawn Heinz Schorlin to the house and thus led to
all these terrible things, she vainly struggled for composure.

Sometimes she beheld in imagination the despairing Els; sometimes the
aged Vorchtels, grieving themselves to death; sometimes Wolff, outlawed,
hiding like a hunted deer in the recesses of the forest; sometimes the
maid, fleeing with her little bundle into the darkness of the night;
sometimes the burning convent; and at intervals also Heinz Schorlin,
as he knelt before her and raised his clasped hands with passionate
entreaty.

But she repelled every thought of him as a sin, and even repressed the
impulse to look out into the street to seek him. Her sole duty now
was to pray to her patron saint and the Mother of God in behalf of her
sister, whom she had hurled into misfortune, and her poor heart bleeding
from such deep wounds; but the consolation which usually followed the
mere uplifting of her soul in prayer did not come, and it could not
be otherwise, for amid her continual looking into her own heart and
listening to what went on around her no real devotion was possible.

Although she constantly made fresh efforts to collect her thoughts,
and continued to kneel with clasped hands before the prie dieu, not a
hoof-beat, not a single loud voice, escaped her ear. Even the alternate
deepening and paling of the reflection of the fire, which streamed
through the window, attracted her attention, and the ringing of bells
and braying of trumpets, which still continued, maintained the agitation
in her soul.

Yet prayer was the sole atonement she could make for the wrong she had
done her sister; so she did not cease her endeavours to plead for her to
the Great Helper above, but her efforts were futile. Yet even when she
heard voices close by the house, among which she distinguished Countess
Cordula’s and--if she was not mistaken--her father’s, she resisted the
impulse to rise from her knees.

At last the vain struggle was ended by an interruption from without.
After unusually loud voices exclaiming and questioning had reached her
from the entry, the door of her chamber suddenly opened and old Martsche
looked in. The housekeeper was seeking something; but when she found the
devout child on her knees she did not wish to disturb her, and contented
herself with the evidence of her eyes. But Eva stopped her, and learned
that she was searching for Katterle, who could neither be found in her
room, or anywhere else. Herr Ortlieb had brought Countess von Montfort
home severely burned, and there were all sorts of things for the maid to
do.

Eva clung shuddering to the back of the prie dieu, for the certainty
that the unfortunate girl had really fled was like strewing salt on her
wounds.

When Martsche left her and Els entered, her excitement had risen to such
a pitch that she flung herself before her, as if frantic and, clinging
to her knees, heaping self-accusations upon herself with passionate
impetuosity, she pleaded, amid her sobs, for pardon and mercy.

Meanwhile Els had been informed by her father of her lover’s fatal deed,
and as soon as she perceived what tortured her sister she relieved her,
with loving words of explanation, from the reproach of being the cause
of this misfortune also, for the quarrel had taken place so early that
no tidings of the meeting in the entry could have reached young Vorchtel
when he became involved in the fray with Wolff.

Nor was it solely to soothe Eva that she assured her that, deeply as she
mourned the death of the hapless Ulrich and his parents’ grief, Wolff’s
deed could not diminish either her love or her hope of becoming his.

Eva listened to this statement with sparkling eyes. The love in her
sister’s heart was as immovably firm as the ancient stones of her native
stronghold, which defied every storm, and on which even the destroying,
kindling lightning could inflict no injury. This made her doubly
dear, and from the depths of dull despair her soul, ever prone to soar
upwards, rose swiftly to the heights of hopeful exaltation.

When Els at last entreated her to go to rest without her, she willingly
consented, for her mother was comfortable, and Sister Renata was
watching at her bedside.

Eva kept her promise, after Els, who wanted to see the Countess von
Montfort, had satisfied her concerning the welfare of the nuns and
promised to go to rest herself as soon as possible.

The stopping of the alarm bells proved that the fire was under control.
Even its reflection had disappeared, but the eastern sky was beginning
to be suffused with a faint tinge of rose colour.

When her sister left her Eva herself drew the curtains before the
window, and sleep soon ended her thoughts and yearnings, her grief and
her hope.



CHAPTER XIV.

Countess Cordula von Montfort’s room faced the east and looked out into
the garden. The sun of the June morning had just risen, filling it with
cheerful light.

The invalid’s maid had wished to deny Els admittance, but the countess
called eagerly to her, and then ordered the windows to be opened,
because she never felt comfortable unless it was light around her and
she could breathe God’s pure air.

The morning breeze bore the smoke which still rose from the fire in
another direction, and thus a refreshing air really entered the room
from the garden, for the thunderstorm had refreshed all nature, and
flower beds and grass, bush and tree, exhaled a fresh odour of earth and
leafage which it was a delight to breathe.

The leech Otto, to whom the severely wounded Ulrich Vorchtel had been
carried, had just left the countess. The burns on her hands and arms had
been bandaged--nay, the old gentleman had cut out the scorched portions
of her tresses with his own hand. Cordula’s energetic action had made
the famous surgeon deem her worthy of such care. He had also advised her
to seek the nursing of the oldest daughter of her host, whose invalid
wife he was attending, and she had gladly assented; for Els had
attracted her from their first meeting, and she was accustomed to begin
the day at sunrise.

“How does it happen that you neither weep nor even hang your head after
all the sorrow which last night brought you?” asked Cordula, as the
Nuremberg maiden sat down beside her bed. “You are a stranger to the
Swiss knight, and when we surprised you with him you had not come to a
meeting--I know that full well. But if so true and warm a love unites
you to young Eysvogel, how does it happen that your joyous courage is so
little damped by his father’s denial and his own unhappy deed, which at
this time could scarcely escape punishment? You do not seem frivolous,
and yet--”

“Yet,” replied Els with a pleasant smile, “many things have made a
deeper impression. We are not all alike, Countess, yet there is much
in your nature which must render it easy for you to understand me; for,
Countess----”

“Call me Cordula,” interrupted the girl in a tone of friendly entreaty.
“Why should I deny that I am fond of you? and at the risk of making you
vain, I will betray----”

“Well?” asked Els eagerly.

“That the splendid old leech described you to me exactly as I had
imagined you,” was the reply. “You were one of those, he said, whose
mere presence beside a sick-bed was as good as medicine, and so you are;
and, dear Jungfrau Els, this salutary medicine benefits me.”

“If I am to dispense with the ‘Countess,’” replied the other, “you must
spare me the ‘Jungfrau.’ Nursing you will give me all the more pleasure
on account of the warm gratitude----”

“Never mind that,” interrupted Cordula. “But please look at the bandage,
beneath which the flesh burns and aches more than is necessary, and then
go on with your explanation.”

Els examined the countess’s arm, and then applied a household remedy
whose use she had learned from the wife of Herr Pfinzing, her Aunt
Christine, who was familiar with the healing art. It relieved the pain,
and when Cordula told her so, Els went on with her explanation.
“When all these blows fell upon me, they at first seemed, indeed,
unprecedented and scarcely possible to endure. When afterwards my
Wolff’s unhappy deed was added, I felt as though I were standing in a
dense, dark mist, where each step forwards must lead me into a stifling
morass or over a precipice. Then I began to reflect upon what had
happened, as is my custom; I separated, in my thoughts, the evil
menacing in the future from the good, and had scarcely made a little
progress in this way when morass and abyss lost their terrors; both, I
found, could be left to take care of themselves, since neither Wolff nor
I lack love and good will, and we possess some degree of prudence and
caution.”

“Yes, this thinking and considering!” cried the countess, with a faint
sigh. “It succeeds in my case, too, only, unluckily, I usually don’t
begin until it is too late and the folly has been committed.”

“Then, henceforth, you must reverse the process,” answered Els cheerily.
But directly after she changed her tone, which sounded serious enough as
she added: “The sorrow of the poor Vorchtels and the grief my betrothed
husband must endure, because the dead man was once a dear friend,
certainly casts a dark shadow upon many things; but you, who love the
chase, must surely be familiar with the misty autumn mornings to which
I allude. Everything, far and near, is covered by a thick veil, yet
one feels that there is bright sunshine behind it. Suddenly the mist
scatters----”

“And mountain and forest, land and water, lie before us in the radiant
sunlight!” cried the countess. “How well I know such scenes! And how I
should rejoice if a favourable wind would sweep the grey mist away for
you right speedily! Only--indeed, I am not disposed to look on the dark
side--only, perhaps you do not know how resolute the Emperor is that the
peace of the country shall be maintained. If your lover allowed himself
to be carried away----”

“This was not the first time,” Els eagerly interrupted, “that young
Vorchtel tried to anger him in the presence of others; and he believed
that he was justified in bearing a grudge against his former friend--it
was considered a settled thing that Wolff and his sister Ursula were to
marry.”

“Until,” Cordula broke in, “he gazed into your bright eyes.”

“How could you know that?” asked Els in confusion.

“Because, in love and hate, as well as in reckoning, two and three
follow one,” laughed the countess. “As for your Wolff, in particular, I
will gladly believe, with you, that he can succeed in clearing himself
before the judges. But with regard to old Eysvogel, who looks as though,
if he met our dear Lord Himself, he would think first which of the two
was the richer, your future brother-in-law Siebenburg, that disagreeable
‘Mustache,’ and his poor wife, who sits at home grieving over her
dissolute husband--what gratitude you can expect from such kindred--”

“None,” replied Els sadly. Yet a mischievous smile hovered around her
lips as, bending over the invalid, she added in a whisper: “But the
good I expect from all the evil is, that we and the Eysvogels will be
separated as if by wall and moat. They will never cross them, but Wolff
would find the way back to me, though we were parted by an ocean, and
mountains towering to the sky divided----”

“This confidence, indeed, maintains the courage,” said the countess, and
with a faint sigh she added: “Whatever evil may befall you, many might
envy you.”

“Then love has conquered you also?” Els began; but Cordula answered
evasively:

“Let that pass, dear Jungfrau. Perhaps love treats me as a mother deals
with a froward child, because I asked too much of her. My life has
become an endless battue. Much game of all kinds is thus driven out
to be shot, but the sportsman finds true pleasure only in tracking the
single heathcock, the solitary chamois. Yet, no,” and in her eagerness
she flung her bandaged hand so high into the air that she groaned with
pain and was forced to keep silence. When able to speak once more, still
tortured by severe suffering, she exclaimed angrily: “No, I want neither
driving nor stalking. What do I care for the prey? I am a woman, too. I
would fain be the poor persecuted game, which the hunter pursues at the
risk of breaking his bones and neck. It must be delightful; one would
willingly bear the pain of a wound for its sake. I don’t mean these
pitiful burns, but a deep and deadly one.”

“You ought to have spared yourself these,” said Els in a tone of
affectionate warning. “Consider what you are to your father, and how
your suffering pains him! To risk a precious human life for the sake of
a stupid brute--”

“They call it a sin, I know,” Cordula burst forth. “And yet I would
commit the same tomorrow at the risk of again--Oh, you cautious city
people, you maidens with snow-white hands! What do you know of a girl
like me? You cannot even imagine what my child life was; and yet it is
told in a single word--motherless! I was never permitted to see her, to
hear her dear, warning voice. She paid with her own life for giving
me mine. My father? How kind he is! He meant to supply his dead wife’s
place by anticipating my every wish. Had I desired to feast my eyes on
the castle in flames, it would, perhaps, now lie in ashes. So I became
what I am. True--and this is something--I grew to be at least one
person’s joy--his. No, no, at home there are others also, though they
dwell in wretched hovels, who would gladly welcome me back. But except
these, who will ask about the reckless countess? I myself do not care to
linger long when the mirror shows me my image. Do you wish to know what
this has to do with the fire? Much; for otherwise I should scarcely have
been wounded. The lightning had struck only the convent barn; the cow
stable, when we arrived, was still safe, but the flames soon reached
it also. Neither the nuns nor the men had thought of driving the cattle
out. Poor city cattle! In the country the animals have more friendly
care. When the work of rescue was at last commenced the cows naturally
refused to leave their old home. Some prudent person had torn the door
off the hinges that they might not stifle. Just in front of it stood a
pretty red cow with a white star on her face. A calf was by her side,
and the mother had already sunk on her knees and was licking it in
mortal terror. I pitied the poor thing, and as Boemund Altrosen, the
black-haired knight who entered your house with the rest after the ride
to Kadolzburg, had just come there, I told him to save the calf. Of
course he obeyed my wish, and as it struggled he dragged it out of the
stable with his strong arms. The building was already blazing, and the
thatched roof threatened to fall in. Just at that moment the old cow
looked at me so piteously and uttered such a mournful bellow that it
touched me to the heart. My eyes rested on the calf, and a voice within
whispered that it would be motherless, like me, and miss during the
first part of its life God’s best gift. But since, as you have heard,
I act before I think, I went myself--I no longer know how--into the
burning stable. It was hard to breathe in the dense smoke, and fiery
sparks scorched my shawl and my hair, but I was conscious of one
thought: You must save the helpless little creature’s mother! So I
called and lured her, as I do at home, where all the cows are fond of
me, but it was useless; and just as I perceived this the thatched roof
fell in, and I should probably have perished had not Altrosen this time
carried my own by no means light figure out of the stable instead of the
calf.”

“And you?” asked Els eagerly.

“I submitted,” replied the countess.

“No, no,” urged Els. “Your heart throbbed faster with grateful joy,
for you saw the desire of your soul fulfilled. A hunter, and one of
the noblest of them all, risked his life in the pursuit of your love.
O Countess Cordula, I remember that knight well, and if the dark-blue
sleeve which he wore on his helm in the tournament was yours--”

“I believe it was,” Cordula interrupted indifferently. “But, what was
of more importance, when I opened my eyes again the cow was standing
outside, licking her recovered calf.”

“And the knight?” asked Els. “Whoever so heroically risks his life for
his lady’s wish should be sure of her gratitude.”

“Boemund can rely on that,” said Cordula positively. “At least, what
he did this time for my sake weighs more heavily in the scale than
the lances he has broken, his love songs, or the mute language of
his longing eyes. Those are shafts which do not pierce my heart. How
reproachfully you look at me! Let him take lessons from his friend Heinz
Schorlin, and he may improve. Yes, the Swiss knight! He would be the
man for me, spite of your involuntary meeting with him and your devout
sister, for whom he forgot every one else, and me also, in the dancing
hall. O Jungfrau Els, I have the hunter’s eyes, which are keen-sighted!
For his sake your beautiful Eva, with her saintly gaze, might easily
forget to pray. It was not you, but she, who drew him to-night to your
house. Had this thought entered my head downstairs in the entry I
should probably, to be honest, have omitted my little fairy tale and let
matters take their course. St. Clare ought to have protected her future
votary. Besides, it pleases the arrogant little lady to show me as
plainly as possible, on every occasion, that I am a horror to her. Let
those who will accept such insults. My Christianity does not go far
enough to offer her the right cheek too. And shall I tell you something?
To spoil her game, I should be capable, in spite of all the life
preservers in the world, of binding Schorlin to me in good earnest.”

“Do not!” pleaded Els, raising her clasped hands beseechingly, and
added, as if in explanation: “For the noble Boemund Altrosen’s sake, do
not.”

“To promise that, my darling, is beyond my power,” replied Cordula
coolly, “because I myself do not know what I may do or leave undone
tomorrow or the day after. I am like a beech leaf on the stream. Let us
see where the current will carry it. It is certain,” and she looked
at her bandaged hands, “that my greatest beauty, my round arms, are
disfigured. Scars adorn a man; on a woman they are ugly and repulsive.
At a dance they can be hidden under tight sleeves, but how hot that
would be in the ‘Schwabeln’ and ‘Rai’! So I had better keep away from
these foolish gaieties in future. A calf turns a countess out of a
ballroom! What do you think of that? New things often happen.”

Here she was interrupted; the housekeeper called Els. Sir Seitz
Siebenburg, spite of the untimely hour, had come to speak to her about
an important matter. Her father had gone to rest and sleep. The knight
also enquired sympathisingly about Countess von Montfort and presented
his respects.

“Of which I can make no use!” cried Cordula angrily. “Tell him so,
Martsche.”

As the housekeeper withdrew she exclaimed impatiently: “How it burns!
The heat would be enough to convert the rescued calf into an appetising
roast. I wish I could sleep off the pain of my foolish prank! The
sunlight is beginning to be troublesome. I cannot bear it; it is
blinding. Draw the curtain over the window.”

Cordula’s own maid hastened to obey the order. Els helped the countess
turn on her pillows, and as in doing so she touched her arm, the
sufferer cried angrily: “Who cares what hurts me? Not even you!”

Here she paused. The pleading glance which Els had cast at her must have
pierced her soft heart, for her bosom suddenly heaved violently and,
struggling to repress her sobs, she gasped, “I know you mean kindly,
but I am not made of stone or iron either. I want to be alone and go to
sleep.”

She closed her eyes as she spoke and, when Els bent to kiss her, tears
bedewed her cheeks.

Soon after Els went down into the entry to meet her lover’s
brother-in-law. He had refused to enter the empty sitting-room. The
Countess von Montfort’s unfriendly dismissal had vexed him sorely,
yet it made no lasting impression. Other events had forced into the
background the bitter attack of Cordula, for whom he had never felt any
genuine regard.

The experiences of the last few hours had converted the carefully
bedizened gallant into a coarse fellow, whose outward appearance bore
visible tokens of his mental depravity. The faultlessly cut garment was
pushed awry on his powerful limbs and soiled on the breast with wine
stains. The closely fitting steel chain armour, in which he had ridden
out, now hung in large folds upon his powerful frame. The long mustache,
which usually curled so arrogantly upwards, now drooped damp and limp
over his mouth and chin, and his long reddish hair fell in dishevelled
locks around his bloated face. His blue eyes, which usually sparkled so
brightly, now looked dull and bleared, and there were white spots on his
copper-coloured cheeks.

Since Countess Cordula gave him the insulting message to his wife he had
undergone more than he usually experienced in the course of years.

“An accursed night!” he had exclaimed, in reply to the housekeeper’s
question concerning the cause of his disordered appearance.

Els, too, was startled by his looks and the hoarse sound of his voice.
Nay, she even drew back from him, for his wandering glance made her fear
that he was intoxicated.

Only a short time before, it is true, he had scarcely been able to stand
erect, but the terrible news which had assailed him had quickly sobered
him.

He had come at this unwontedly early hour to enquire whether the
Ortliebs had heard anything of his brother-in-law Wolff. There was not a
word of allusion to the broken betrothal.

In return for the promise that she would let the Eysvogels know as
soon as she received any tidings of her lover, which Els gave unasked,
Siebenburg, who had always treated her repellently or indifferently,
thanked her so humbly that she was surprised. She did not know how
to interpret it; nay, she anticipated nothing good when, with urgent
cordiality, he entreated her to forget the unpleasant events of the
preceding night, which she must attribute to a sudden fit of anger
on Herr Casper’s part. She was far too dear to all the members of the
family for them to give her up so easily. What had occurred--she
must admit that herself--might have induced even her best friend to
misunderstand it. For one brief moment he, too, had been tempted to
doubt her innocence. If she knew old Eysvogel’s terrible situation she
would certainly do everything in her power to persuade her father to
receive him that morning, or--which would be still better--go to his
office. The weal and woe of many persons were at stake, her own above
all, since, as Wolff’s betrothed bride, she belonged to him inseparably.

“Even without the ring?” interrupted Els bitterly; and when Siebenburg
eagerly lamented that he had not brought it back, she answered proudly
“Don’t trouble yourself, Sir Seitz! I need this sacred pledge as little
as the man who still wears mine. Tell your kinsfolk so. I will inform my
father of Herr Casper’s wish; he is asleep now. Shall I guess aright
in believing that the other disasters which have overtaken you are
connected with the waggon trains Wolff so anxiously expected?”

Siebenburg, twirling his cap in confusion, assented to her question,
adding that he knew nothing except that they were lost and, after
repeating his entreaty that she would accomplish a meeting between the
two old gentlemen, left her.

It would indeed have been painful for him to talk with Els, for a
messenger had brought tidings that the waggons had been attacked and
robbed, and the perpetrators of the deed were his own brothers and their
cousin and accomplice Absbach. True, Seitz himself had had no share in
the assault, yet he did not feel wholly blameless for what had occurred,
since over the wine and cards he had boasted, in the presence of the
robbers, of the costly wares which his father-in-law was expecting, and
mentioned the road they would take.

Seitz Siebenburg’s conscience was also burdened with something quite
different.

Vexed and irritated by the countess’s insulting rebuff, he had gone to
the Green Shield to forget his annoyance at the gaming table in the Duke
of Pomerania’s quarters. He had fared ill. There was no lack of fiery
Rhine wine supplied by the generous host; the sultry atmosphere caused
by the rising thunderstorm increased his thirst and, half intoxicated,
and incensed by the luck of Heinz Schorlin, in whom he saw the preferred
lover of the lady who had so suddenly withdrawn her favour, he had been
led on to stakes of unprecedented amount. At last he risked the lands,
castle, and village which he possessed in Hersbruck as his wife’s dower.
Moreover, he was aware of having said things which, though he could not
recall them to memory in detail, had roused the indignation of many of
those who were present. The remarks referred principally to the Ortlieb
sisters.

Amid the wild uproar prevailing around the gaming table that night the
duel which had cost young Vorchtel his life was not mentioned until
the last dice had been thrown. In the discussion the victor’s betrothed
bride had been named, and Siebenburg clearly remembered that he had
spoken of the breaking of his brother-in-law’s engagement, and connected
it with accusations which involved him in a quarrel with several of the
guests, among them Heinz Schorlin.

Similar occurrences were frequent, and he was brave, strong, and skilful
enough to cope with any one, even the dreaded Swiss; only he was vexed
and troubled because he had disputed with the man to whom he had lost
his property. Besides, his father-in-law had so earnestly enjoined it
upon him to put no obstacle in the way of his desire to make peace with
the Ortliebs that he was obliged to bow his stiff neck to them.

The arrogant knight’s position was critical, and real inward dignity was
unknown to him. Yet he would rather have been dragged with his brothers
to the executioner’s block than humbled himself before the Swiss. But he
must talk with him for the sake of his twin sons, whose heritage he
had so shamefully gambled away. True, the utmost he intended was the
confession that, while intoxicated, he had staked his property at
the gaming table and said things which he regretted. Heinz Schorlin’s
generosity was well known. Perhaps he might offer some acceptable
arrangement ere the notary conveyed his estate to him. He did not yet
feel that he could stoop so low as to receive a gift from this young
upstart.

If his father-in-law, who supported him, was really ruined, as he had
just asserted, he would indeed be plunged into beggary, with his wife,
whose stately figure constantly rose before him, with a look of mute
reproach, his beautiful twin boys, and his load of debt.

The gigantic man felt physically crushed by the terrible blows of fate
which had fallen upon him during this last wakeful night. He would fain
have gone to the nearest tavern and there left it to the wine to bring
forgetfulness. To drink, drink constantly, and in the intervals sleep
with his head resting on his arms, seemed the most tempting prospect.
But he was obliged to return to the Eysvogels. There was too much at
stake. Besides, he longed to see the twins who resembled him so closely,
and of whom Countess Cordula had said that she hoped they would not be
like their father.



CHAPTER XV.

The city gates were already open. Peasants and peasant women bringing
vegetables and other farm produce to market thronged the streets, wains
loaded with grain or charcoal rumbled along, and herds of cattle and
swine, laden donkeys, the little carts of the farmers and bee keepers
conveying milk and honey to the city, passed over the dyke, which was
still softened by the rain of the preceding night.

The thunderstorm had cooled the air, but the rays of the morning sun
were already scorching. A few heavy little clouds were darkly relieved
against the blue sky, and a peasant, driving two sucking pigs before
him, called to another, who was carrying a goose under each arm, that
the sun was drawing water, and thundershowers seldom came singly.

Yet the city looked pleasant enough in the freshness of early June. The
maidservants who were opening the shutters glanced gaily out into the
streets, and arranged the flowers in front of the windows or bowed
reverently as a priest passed by on his way to mass. The barefooted
Capuchin, with his long beard, beckoned to the cook or the tradesman’s
wife and, as she put something into his beggar’s sack and he thanked
her kindly with some pious axiom, she felt as if she herself and all her
household had gained a right to the blessing of Heaven for that day, and
cheerily continued her work.

The brass counter in the low, broad bow window of the baker’s house
glittered brightly, and the pale apprentice wiped the flour from his
face and gave his master’s rosy-cheeked daughter fresh warm cakes to set
on the shining shelves. The barber’s nimble apprentice hung the towel
and basin at the door, while his master, wearied by the wine-bibbing
and talk at the tavern or his labour at the fire, was still asleep. His
active wife had risen before him, strewed the shop with fresh sand, and
renewed the goldfinch’s food.

The workshops and stores were adorned with birch branches, and the
young daughters of the burghers, in becoming caps, the maid servants and
apprentices, who were going to market with baskets on their arms, wore a
flower or something green on their breasts or in their caps.

The first notes of the bells, pealing solemnly, were summoning
worshippers to mass, the birds were singing in the garden, and the cocks
were crowing in the yards of the houses. The animals passing in the
street lowed, grunted, and cackled merrily in the dawn of the young day.

Gay young men, travelling students who had sought cheap quarters in
the country, now entered the city with a merry song on their lips just
shaded by the first down of manhood, and when a maiden met them she
lowered her eyes modestly before the riotous fellows.

The terrors of the frightful thunderstorm seemed forgotten. Nuremberg
looked gladsome; a carpet hung from many a bow-window, and flags and
streamers fluttered from roofs and balconies to honour the distinguished
guests. Many signs of their presence were visible, squires and
equerries, in their masters’ colours, were riding spirited horses, and
a few knights who loved early rising were already in the saddle, their
shining helmets and coats of mail flashing brightly in the sunshine.

The gigantic figure of Sir Seitz Siebenburg moved with drooping head
through the budding joy of this June day towards the Eysvogel dwelling.

His gloomy, haggard face and disordered attire made two neatly dressed
young shoemaker’s apprentices, on their way to their work, nudge each
other and look keenly at him.

“I’d rather meet him here in broad daylight among houses and people than
in the dusk on the highway,” remarked one of them.

“There’s no danger,” replied the other. “He wears the curb now. He moved
from the robber nest into the rich Eysvogel house opposite. That’s Herr
Casper’s son-in-law. But such people can never let other folks’ property
alone. Only here they work in another way. The shoes he wears were made
in our workshop, but the master still whistles for his pay, and he owes
everybody--the tailor, the lacemaker, the armourer, the girdlemaker, and
the goldsmith. If an apprentice reminds him of the debt, let him beware
of bruises.”

“The Emperor Rudolph ought to issue an edict against such injustice!”
 wrathfully exclaimed the other and taller youth, the handsome son of a
master of the craft from Weissenburg on the Sand, who expected soon to
take his father’s place. “Up at Castle Graufels, which is saddled on our
little town, master and man would be going barefoot but for us; yet for
three years we haven’t seen so much as a penny of his, though my father
says times have already improved, since the Hapsburg, as a just man----”

“Things have not been so bad here for a long while, the saints be
praised!” his companion broke in. “Siebenburg, or some of his wife’s
rich kindred, will at last be compelled to settle matters. We have
the law and the Honourable Council to attend to that. Look up! Yonder
stately old house gave its daughter to the penniless knight. She is one
of our customers too; a handsome woman, and not one of the worst either.
But her mother, who was born a countess--if the shoe doesn’t make a foot
small which Nature created big, there’s such an outcry! True, the old
woman, her mother, is worse still; she scolds and screams. But look up
at the bow window. There she stands. I’m only a poor brewer’s son, but
before I----”

“You don’t say so!” the other interrupted. “Have you seen the owl in the
cage in front of the guardhouse at the gate of the hospital? It is her
living image; and how her chin projects and moves up and down, as though
she were chewing leather!”

“And yet,” said the other, as if insisting upon something difficult to
believe, “and yet the old woman is a real countess.”

The Weissenburg apprentice expressed his astonishment with another: “You
don’t say so!” but as he spoke he grasped his companion’s arm, adding
earnestly: “Let us go. That ugly old woman just looked at me, and if it
wasn’t the evil eye I shall go straight to the church and drive away the
misfortune with holy water.”

“Come, then,” answered the Nuremberg youth, but continued thoughtfully:
“Yet my master’s grandmother, a woman of eighty, is probably older than
the one up there, but nobody could imagine a kinder, pleasanter dame.
When she looks approvingly at one it seems as if the dear God’s blessing
were shining from two little windows.”

“That’s just like my grandmother at home!” exclaimed the Weissenburg
apprentice with sparkling eyes.

Turning from the Eysvogel mansion as they spoke, they pursued their way.

Siebenburg had overtaken the apprentices, but ere crossing the threshold
of the house which was now his home he stopped before it.

It might, perhaps, be called the largest and handsomest in Nuremberg;
but it was only a wide two-story structure, though the roof had been
adorned with battlements and the sides with a small bow-windowed turret.
At the second story a bracket, bearing an image of the Madonna, had been
built out on one side, and on the other the bow window from which old
Countess Rotterbach had looked down into the street.

The coat of arms was very striking and wholly out of harmony with the
simplicity of the rest of the building. Its showy splendour, visible for
a long distance, occupied the wide space between the door of the house
and the windows of the upper story. The escutcheon of the noble family
from which Rosalinde, Herr Casper’s wife, had descended rested against
the shield bearing the birds. The Rotterbach supporters, a nude man
and a bear standing on its hind legs, rose on both sides of the double
escutcheon, and the stone cutter had surmounted the Eysvogel helmet with
a count’s coronet.

This elaborate decoration of the ancient patrician house had become
one of the sights of the city, and had often made Herr Casper, at the
Honourable Council and elsewhere, clench his fist under his mantle, for
it had drawn open censure and bitter mockery upon the arrogant man, but
his desire to have it replaced by a more modest one had been baffled by
the opposition of the women of his family. They had had it put up, and
would not permit any one to touch it, though Wolff, after his return
from Italy, had strenuously urged its removal.

It had brought the Eysvogels no good fortune, for on the day of its
completion the business received its first serious blow, and it also
served to injure the commercial house externally in a very obvious
manner. Whereas formerly many wares which needed to be kept dry had been
hoisted from the outer door and the street to the spacious attic, this
was now prevented by the projecting figures of the nude men and the
bears. Therefore it became necessary to hoist the goods to be stored in
the attic from the courtyard, which caused delay and hindrances of many
kinds. Various expedients had been suggested, but the women opposed them
all, for they were glad that the ugly casks and bales no longer found
their way to the garret past their windows, and it also gratified their
arrogance that they were no longer visible from the street.

Siebenburg now looked up at the huge escutcheon and recalled the day
when, after having been specially favoured by Isabella Eysvogel at a
dance in the Town Hall, he had paused in the same place. A long line of
laden waggons had just stopped in front of the door surmounted by the
double escutcheon, and if he had previously hesitated whether to profit
by the favour of Isabella, whose haughty majesty, which attracted him,
also inspired him with a faint sense of uneasiness, he was now convinced
how foolish it would be not to forge the iron which seemed aglow in
his favour. What riches the men-servants were carrying into the vaulted
entry, which was twice as large as the one in the Ortlieb mansion!
Besides, the escutcheon with the count’s coronet had given the knight
assurance that he would have no cause to be ashamed, in an assembly of
his peers, of his alliance with the Nuremberg maiden. Isabella’s hand
could undoubtedly free him from the oppressive burden of his debts, and
she was certainly a magnificent woman! How well, too, her tall figure
would suit him and the Siebenburgs, whose name was said to be derived
from the seven feet of stature which some of them measured!

Now he again remembered the hour when she had laid her slender hand in
his. For a brief period he had been really happy; his heart had not
felt so light since early childhood, though at first he had ventured to
confess only one half his load of debt to his father-in-law. He had
even assumed fresh obligations to relieve his brothers from their most
pressing cares. They had attended his brilliant wedding, and it had
flattered his vanity to show them what he could accomplish as the
wealthy Eysvogel’s son-in-law.

But how quickly all this had changed! He had learned that, besides
the woman who had given him her heart and inspired him with a passion
hitherto unknown, he had wedded two others.

Now, as the image of old Countess Rotterbach, Isabella’s grandmother,
forced itself upon his mind, he unconsciously knit his brow. He had not
heard her say much, but with every word she bestowed upon him he was
forced to accept something bitter. She rarely left her place in the
armchair in the bow window in the sitting-room, but it seemed as if her
little eyes possessed the power of piercing walls and doors, for she
knew everything that concerned him, even his greatest secrets, which he
believed he had carefully concealed. More on her account than on that of
his mother-in-law, who did nothing except what the former commanded,
he had repeatedly tried to remove with his wife to the estate of
Tannenreuth, which had been assigned to him on the day of the marriage,
that its revenues might support the young couple, but the mother and
grandmother detained his wife, and their wishes were more to her than
his. Perhaps, however, he might have induced her to go with him had not
his father-in-law made his debts a snare, which he drew whenever it
was necessary to stifle his wishes, and he, too, wanted to retain his
daughter at home.

Since Wolff’s return from Italy he had become aware that the stream of
gold from the Eysvogel coffers flowed more sparingly, or even failed
altogether to satisfy his extravagant tastes. Therefore his relations
with his brother-in-law, whose prudent caution he considered avarice,
and whose earnest protests against his often unprecedented demands
frequently roused his ire, became more and more unfriendly.

The inmates of the Eysvogel house rendered his home unendurable, and
from the experiences of his bachelor days he knew only too well where
mirth reigned in Nuremberg. So he became a rare guest at the Eysvogels,
and when Isabella found herself neglected and deceived, she made him
feel her resentment in her own haughty and--as soon as she deemed
herself injured--harsh manner.

At first her displeasure troubled him sorely, but the ardent passion
which had absorbed him during the early days of their marriage had died
out, and only flamed up with its old fervour occasionally; but at such
times the haughty, neglected wife repulsed him with insulting severity.

Yet she had never permitted any one to disparage her husband behind his
back. True, Siebenburg did not know this, but he perceived more and more
plainly that both the Eysvogels, father and son, were oppressed by some
grave anxiety, and that the sums which Wolff now paid him no longer
sufficed to hold his creditors in check. He was not accustomed to impose
any restraint upon himself, and thus it soon became known throughout the
city that he did not live at peace with his wife and her family.

Yet five weeks ago matters had appeared to improve. The birth of the
twins had brought something new into his life, which drew him nearer to
Isabella.

The children at first seemed to him two lovely miracles. Both boys,
both exactly like him. When they were brought to him on their white,
lace-trimmed pillows, his heart had swelled with joy, and it was his
greatest delight to gaze at them.

This was the natural result.

He, the stalwart Siebenburg, had not become the father of one ordinary
boy, but of two little knights at once. When he returned home--even if
his feet were unsteady--his first visit was to them, and he had often
felt that he was far too poor and insignificant to thank his neglected
wife aright for so precious a gift.

Whenever this feeling took possession of him he expressed his love to
Isabella with tender humility; while she, who had bestowed her hand
upon him solely from love, forgot all her wrongs, and her heart throbbed
faster with grateful joy when she saw him, with fatherly pride, carry
the twins about with bent knees, as if their weight was too heavy for
his giant arms to bear.

The second week after their birth Isabella fell slightly ill. Her mother
and grandmother undertook the nursing, and as the husband found them
both with the twins whenever he came to see the infants and their
mother, the sick-room grew distasteful to him. Again, as before their
birth, he sought compensation outside of the house for the annoyance
caused by the women at home; but the memory of the little boys haunted
him, and when he met his companions at the tavern he invited them to
drink the children’s health in the host’s best wine.

So life went on until the Reichstag brought the von Montforts, whom he
had met at a tournament in Augsburg, to the city of Nuremberg.

Mirth reigned wherever Countess Cordula appeared, and Siebenburg needed
amusement and joined the train of her admirers--with what evil result he
now clearly perceived for the first time.

He again stood before the stately dwelling where he had hoped to find
luxury and wealth, but where his heart now throbbed more anxiously than
those of his kinsmen had formerly done in the impoverished castle of his
father, who had died so long ago.

The Eysvogel dwelling, with its showy escutcheon above the door, was
threatened by want, and hand in hand with it, he knew, the most hideous
of all her children--disgrace.

Now he also remembered what he himself had done to increase the peril
menacing the ancient commercial house. Perhaps the old man within was
relying upon the estate of Tannenreuth, which he had assigned to him, to
protect some post upon which much depended, and he had gambled it away.
This must now be confessed, and also the amount of his own debts.

An unpleasant task confronted him but, humiliating and harassing as was
the interview awaiting him beyond the threshold before which he still
lingered, at least he would not find Wolff there. This seemed a boon,
since for the first time he would have felt himself in the wrong in the
presence of his unloved brother-in-law. Even the burden of his debts
weighed less heavily on his conscience than the irritating words with
which he had induced his father-in-law to break off Wolff’s betrothal to
Els Ortlieb. The act was base and malicious. Greatly as he had erred,
he had never before been guilty of such a deed, and with a curse upon
himself on his bearded lips he approached the door; but when half way
to it he stopped again and looked up to the second-story windows behind
which the twins slept. With what delight he had always thought of
them! But this time the recollection of the little boys was spoiled by
Countess Cordula’s message to his wife to rear them so that they would
not be like him, their father.

An evil wish! And yet the warmest love could have devised no better one
in behalf of the true welfare of the boys.

He told himself so as he passed beneath the escutcheon through the heavy
open door with its iron ornaments. He was expected, the steward told
him, but he arched his broad breast as if preparing for a wrestling
match, pulled his mustache still longer, and went up the stairs.



CHAPTER XVI.

The spacious, lofty sitting-room which Seitz Siebenburg entered looked
very magnificent. Gay Flanders tapestries hung on the walls. The ceiling
was slightly vaulted, and in the centre of each mesh of the net designed
upon it glittered a richly gilded kingfisher from the family coat of
arms. Bear and leopard skins lay on the cushions, and upon the shelf
which surrounded three sides of the apartment stood costly vases,
gold and silver utensils, Venetian mirrors and goblets. The chairs and
furniture were made of rare woods inlaid with ebony and mother of pearl,
brought by way of Genoa from Moorish Spain. In the bow window jutting
out into the street, where the old grandmother sat in her armchair, two
green and yellow parrots on brass perches interrupted the conversation,
whenever it grew louder, with the shrill screams of their ugly voices.

Siebenburg found all the family except Wolff and the twins. His wife was
half sitting, half reclining, on a divan. When Seitz entered she raised
her head from the white arm on which it had rested, turned her oval face
with its regular features towards him, and gathered up the fair locks
which, released from their braids, hung around her in long, thick
tresses. Her eyes showed that she had been weeping violently, and as her
husband approached she again sobbed painfully.

Her grandmother seemed annoyed by her lamentations for, pointing to
Isabella’s tears, she exclaimed sharply, glancing angrily at Siebenburg:

“It’s a pity for every one of them!”

The knight’s blood boiled at the words, but they strengthened his
courage. He felt relieved from any consideration for these people, not
one of whom, except the poor woman shedding such burning tears, had
given him occasion to return love for love. Had they flowed only for
the lost wealth, and not for him and the grief he caused Isabella, they
would not have seemed “a pity” to the old countess.

Siebenburg’s breath came quicker.

The gratitude he owed his father-in-law certainly did not outweigh the
humiliations with which he, his weak wife, and ill-natured mother-in-law
had embittered his existence.

Even now the old gentleman barely vouchsafed him a greeting. After he
had asked about his son, called himself a ruined man, and upbraided the
knight with insulting harshness because his brothers--the news had been
brought to him a short time before--were the robbers who had seized his
goods, and the old countess had chimed in with the exclamation, “They
are all just fit for the executioner’s block!” Seitz could restrain
himself no longer; nay, it gave him actual pleasure to show these hated
people what he had done, on his part, to add to their embarrassments. He
was no orator, but now resentment loosened his tongue, and with swift,
scornful words he told Herr Casper that, as the son-in-law of a house
which liked to represent itself as immensely rich, he had borrowed from
others what--he was justified in believing it--had been withheld through
parsimony. Besides, his debts were small in comparison with the vast
sums Herr Casper had lavished in maintaining the impoverished estates
of the Rotterbach kindred. Like every knight whose own home was not
pleasant, he sometimes gambled; and when, yesterday, ill luck pursued
him and he lost the estate of Tannenreuth, he sincerely regretted the
disaster, but it could not be helped.

Terror and rage had sealed the old countess’s lips, but now they parted
in the hoarse cry: “You deserve the wheel and the gallows, not the
honourable block!” and her daughter, Rosalinde Eysvogel, repeated in a
tone of sorrowful lamentation, “Yes, the wheel and the gallows.”

A scornful laugh from Siebenburg greeted the threat, but when Herr
Casper, white as death and barely able to control his voice, asked
whether this incredible confession was merely intended to frighten the
women, and the knight assured him of the contrary, he groaned aloud:
“Then the old house must succumb to disgraceful ruin.”

Years of life spent together may inspire and increase aversion instead
of love, but they undoubtedly produce a certain community of existence.
The bitter anguish of his aged household companion, the father of his
wife, to whom bonds of love still unsevered united him, touched even
Seitz Siebenburg. Besides, nothing moves the heart more quickly than the
grief of a proud, stern man. Herr Casper’s confession did not make him
dearer to the knight, but it induced him to drop the irritating tone
which he had assumed, and in an altered voice he begged him not to give
up his cause as lost without resistance. For his daughter’s sake old
Herr Ortlieb must lend his aid. Els, with whom he had just spoken, would
cling firmly to Wolff, and try to induce her father to do all that was
possible for her lover’s house. He would endeavour to settle with his
own creditors himself. His sharp sword and strong arm would be welcome
everywhere, and the booty he won----Here he was interrupted by the
grandmother’s query in a tone of cutting contempt: “Booty? On the
highway, do you mean?”

Once more the attack from the hostile old woman rendered the knight’s
decision easier, for, struggling not to give way to his anger, he
answered: “Rather, I think, in the Holy Land, in the war against
the infidel Saracens. At any rate, my presence would be more welcome
anywhere than in this house, whose roof shelters you, Countess. If,
Herr Casper, you intend to share with my wife and the twins what is left
after the old wealth has gone, unfortunately, I cannot permit you to do
so. I will provide for them also. True, it was your duty; for ever
since Isabella became my wife you have taken advantage of my poverty and
impaired my right to command her. That must be changed from this very
day. I have learned the bitter taste of the bread which you provide.
I shall confide them to my uncle, the Knight Heideck. He was my dead
mother’s only brother, and his wife, as you know, is the children’s
godmother. They are childless, and would consider it the most precious
of gifts to have such boys in the castle. My deserted wife must stay
with him, while I--I know not yet in what master’s service--provide that
the three are not supported only by the charity of strangers---”

“Oh, Seitz, Seitz!” interrupted Isabella, in a tone of urgent entreaty.
She had risen from her cushions, and was hurrying towards him. “Do not
go! You must not go so!”

Her tall figure nestled closely against him as she spoke, and she threw
her arms around his neck; but he kissed her brow and eyes, saying, with
a gentleness which surprised even her: “You are very kind, but I cannot,
must not remain here.”

“The children, the little boys!” she exclaimed again, gazing up at him
with love-beaming eyes. Then his tortured heart seemed to shrink, and,
pressing his hand on his brow, he paused some time ere he answered
gloomily: “It is for them that I go. Words have been spoken which
appeal to me, and to you, too, Isabella: ‘See that the innocent little
creatures are reared to be unlike their unhappy father.’ And the person
who uttered them----”

“A sage, a great sage,” giggled the countess, unable to control her
bitter wrath against the man whom she hated; but Siebenburg fiercely
retorted:

“Although no sage, at least no monster spitting venom.”

“And you permit this insult to be offered to your grandmother?” Frau
Rosalinde Eysvogel wailed to her daughter as piteously as if the injury
had been inflicted on herself. But Isabella only clung more closely
to her husband, heeding neither her mother’s appeal nor her father’s
warning not to be deluded by Siebenburg’s empty promises.

While the old countess vainly struggled for words, Rosalinde Eysvogel
stood beside the lofty mantelpiece, weeping softly. Before Siebenburg
appeared, spite of the early hour and the agitating news which she had
just received, she had used her leisure for an elaborate toilette. A
long trailing robe of costly brocade, blue on the left side and yellow
on the right, now floated around her tall figure. When the knight
returned she had looked radiant in her gold and gems, like a princess.
Now, crushed and feeble, she presented a pitiable image of powerless yet
offensively hollow splendour. It would have required too much exertion
to assail her son-in-law with invectives, like her energetic mother;
but when she saw her daughter, to whom she had already appealed several
times in a tone of anguished entreaty, rest her proud head so tenderly
on her husband’s broad breast, as she had done during the first weeks
of their marriage, but never since, the unhappy woman clearly perceived
that the knight’s incredible demand was meant seriously. What she had
believed an idle boast he actually requested. Yonder hated intruder
expected her to part with her only daughter, who was far more to her
than her unloved husband, her exacting mother, or the son who restricted
her wishes, whom she had never understood, and against whom her heart
had long been hardened. But it could not be and, losing all self-control
and dignity, she shrieked aloud, tore the blue headband from her hair
and, repeating the “never” constantly as if she had gone out of her
senses, gasped: “Never, never, never, so long as I live!”

As she spoke she rushed to her startled husband, pointed to her
son-in-law, who still held his wife in a close embrace, and in a
half-stifled voice commanded Herr Casper to strike down the gambler,
robber, spendthrift, and kidnapper of children, or drive him out of the
house like some savage, dangerous beast. Then she ordered Isabella to
leave the profligate who wanted to drag her down to ruin; and when her
daughter refused to obey, she burst into violent weeping, sobbing and
moaning till her strength failed and she was really attacked with one of
the convulsions she had often feigned, by the advice of her own mother,
to extort from her husband the gratification of some extravagant wish.

Indignant, yet full of sincere sympathy, Herr Casper supported his wife,
whose queenly beauty had once fired his heart, and in whose embrace
he had imagined that he would be vouchsafed here below the joys of the
redeemed. As she rested her head, with its long auburn tresses, still so
luxuriant, upon his shoulder, exquisite pictures of the past rose before
the mental vision of the elderly man; but the spell was quickly broken,
for the kerchief with which he wiped her face was dyed red from her
rouged cheeks.

A bitter smile hovered around his well-formed, beardless lips, and the
man of business remembered the vast sums which he had squandered to
gratify the extravagant wishes of the mother and daughter, and show
these countesses that he, the burgher, in whose veins ran noble blood,
understood as well as any man of their own rank how to increase the
charm of life by luxury and splendour.

While he supported his wife, and the old countess was seeking to relieve
her, Isabella also prepared to hasten to her mother’s assistance, but
her husband stopped her with resistless strength, whispering: “You know
that these convulsions are not dangerous. Come with me to the children.
I want to bid them farewell. Show me in this last hour, at least, that
these women are not more to you than I.” He released her as he spoke,
and the mental struggle which for a short time made her bosom heave
violently with her hurried breathing ended with a low exclamation, “I
will come.”

The nurse, whom Isabella sent out of the room when she entered with her
husband, silently obeyed, but stopped at the door to watch. She saw the
turbulent knight kneel beside the children’s cradle before the wife
whom he had so basely neglected, raise his tearful eyes to the majestic
woman, whose stature was little less than his own and, lifting his
clasped hands, make a confession which she could not hear; saw her draw
him towards her, nestle with loving devotion against his broad breast,
and place first one and then the other twin boy in his arms.

The young mother’s cheeks as well as the father’s were wet, but the eyes
of both sparkled with grateful joy when Isabella, in taking leave of her
husband, thanked him with a last loving kiss for the vow that, wherever
he might go, he would treasure her and the children in his heart, and do
everything in his power to secure a fate that should be worthy of them.

As Siebenburg went downstairs he met his father-in-law on the
second-story landing. Herr Casper, deadly pale, was clinging with his
right hand to the baluster, pressing his left on his brow, as he vainly
struggled for composure and breath. He had forgotten to strengthen
himself with food and drink, and the terrible blows of fate which had
fallen upon him during these last hours of trial crushed, though but
for a short time, his still vigorous strength. The knight went nearer
to help him, but when he offered Herr Casper his arm the old merchant
angrily thrust it back and accepted a servant’s support.

While the man assisted him upstairs he repented that he had yielded
to resentment, and not asked his son-in-law to try to discover Wolff’s
hiding place, but no sooner had food and fiery wine strengthened him
than his act seemed wise. The return of the business partner, without
whose knowledge he had incurred great financial obligations, would have
placed him in the most painful situation. The old gentleman would have
been obliged to account to Wolff for the large sum which he owed to the
Jew Pfefferkorn, the most impatient of his creditors, though he need
not have told him that he had used it in Venice to gratify his love of
gaming. How should he answer his son if he asked why he had rejected his
betrothed bride, and soon after condescended to receive her again as his
daughter and enter into close relations with her father? Yet this must
be done. Ernst Ortlieb was the only person who could help him. It had
become impossible to seek aid from Herr Berthold Vorchtel, the man whose
oldest son Wolff had slain, and yet he possessed the means to save the
sinking ship from destruction.

When the news of the duel reached him the messenger’s blanched face had
made him believe that Wolff had fallen. In that moment he had perceived
that his loss would have rendered him miserable for the rest of his
life. This was a source of pleasure, for since Wolff had extorted his
consent to the betrothal with Els Ortlieb, and thus estranged him from
the Vorchtels, he had seriously feared that he had ceased to love him.
Nay, in many an hour when he had cause to feel shame in the presence of
his prudent, cautious, and upright partner, it had seemed as if he hated
him. Now the fear of the judge whom he saw in Wolff was blended with
sincere anxiety concerning his only son, whose breach of the peace
menaced him with banishment--nay, if he could not pay the price of blood
which the Vorchtels might demand, with death. Doubtless he had done many
things to prejudice Wolff against his betrothed bride, yet he who had
cast the first stone at her now felt that, in her simple purity, she
would be capable of no repudiation of the fidelity she owed her future
husband. However strongly he had struggled against this conviction, he
knew that she, if any one, could make his son happy--far happier than
he had ever been with the tall, slender, snow-white, unapproachable
countess, who had helped bring him to ruin.

While consuming the food and drink, he heard his wife, usually a most
obedient daughter, disputing with her mother. This was fortunate; for,
if they were at variance, he need not fear that they would act as firm
allies against him when he expressed the wish to have Wolff’s marriage
solemnised as soon as circumstances would permit.

It was not yet time to discuss the matter with any one. He would first
go to the Jew Pfefferkorn once more to persuade him to defer his
claims, and then, before the meeting of the Council, would repair to the
Ortliebs, to commit to Herr Ernst the destiny of the Eysvogel firm
and his partner Wolff, on which also depended the welfare of the young
merchant’s betrothed bride. If the father remained obdurate, if he
resented the wrong he had inflicted yesterday upon him and his daughter,
he was a lost man; for he had already availed himself of the good will
of all those whose doors usually stood open to him. Doubtless the news
of his recent severe losses were in every one’s mouth, and the letter
which he had just received threatened him with an indictment.

The luckless Siebenburg’s creditors, too, would now be added to his own.
It was all very well for him to say that he would settle his debts him
self. As soon as it was rumoured abroad that he had gambled away the
estate of Tannenreuth, whose value gave the creditors some security,
they would rise as one man, and the house assailed would be his, Casper
Eysvogel’s.

The harried man’s thoughts of his son-in-law were by no means the most
kindly.

Meanwhile the latter set out for the second distasteful interview of the
morning.

His purpose was to make some arrangement with Heinz Schorlin about the
lost estate and obtain definite knowledge concerning his quarrel
with him, of which he remembered nothing except that intoxication and
jealousy had carried him further than would have happened otherwise.
He had undoubtedly spoken insultingly of Els; his words, when uttered
against a lady, had been sharper than beseemed a knight. Yet was not
any one who found a maiden alone at night with this man justified
in doubting her virtue? In the depths of his soul he believed in her
innocence, yet he avoided confessing it. Why should not the Swiss,
whom Nature had given such power over the hearts of women, have also
entangled his brother-in-law’s betrothed bride in a love affair? Why
should not the gay girl who had pledged her troth to a grave, dull
fellow like Wolff, have been tempted into a little love dalliance with
the bold, joyous Schorlin?

Not until he had received proof that he had erred would he submit to
recall his charges.

He had left his wife with fresh courage and full of good intentions. Now
that he was forced to bid her farewell, he first realised what she had
been to him. No doubt both had much to forgive, but she was a splendid
woman. Though her father’s storehouses contained chests of spices and
bales of cloth, he did not know one more queenly. That he could have
preferred, even for a single moment, the Countess von Montfort, whose
sole advantage over her was her nimble tongue and gay, bold manners, now
seemed incomprehensible. He had joined Cordula’s admirers only to forget
at her feet the annoyances with which he had been wearied at home. He
had but one thing for which to thank the countess--her remark concerning
the future of the twins.

Yet was he really so base that it would have been a disgrace for his
darlings to resemble him? “No!” a voice within cried loudly, and as the
same voice reminded him of the victories won in tournaments and sword
combats, of the open hand with which, since he had been the rich
Eysvogel’s son-in-law, he had lent and given money to his brothers, and
especially of the manly resolve to provide for his wife and children as
a soldier in the service of some prince, another, lower, yet insistent,
recalled other things. It referred to the time when, with his brothers,
he had attacked a train of freight waggons and not cut down their armed
escort alone. The curse of a broad-shouldered Nordlinger carrier, whose
breast he had pierced with a lance though he cried out that he was a
father and had a wife and child to support, the shriek of the pretty boy
with curling brown hair who clung to the bridle of his steed as he rode
against the father, and whose arm he had cut off, still seemed to ring
in his ears. He also remembered the time when, after a rich capture on
the highway which had filled his purse, he had ridden to Nuremberg
in magnificent new clothes at the carnival season in order, by his
brothers’ counsel, to win a wealthy bride. Fortune and the saints had
permitted him to find a woman to satisfy both his avarice and his
heart, yet he had neither kept faith with her nor even showed her proper
consideration. But, strangely enough, the warning voice reproached him
still more sharply for having, in the presence of others, accused and
disparaged his brother-in-law’s betrothed bride, whose guilt he believed
proved. Again he felt how ignoble and unworthy of a knight his conduct
had been. Why had he pursued this course? Merely--he admitted it now--to
harm Wolff, the monitor and niggard whom he hated; perhaps also because
he secretly told himself that, if Wolff formed a happy marriage, he and
his children, not Siebenburg’s twin boys, would obtain the larger share
of the Eysvogel property.

This greed of gain, which had brought him to Nuremberg to seek a wife,
was probably latent in his blood, though his reckless accumulation of
debts seemed to contradict it. Yesterday, at the Duke of Pomerania’s, it
had again led him into that wild, mad dice-throwing.

Seitz Siebenburg was no calm thinker. All these thoughts passed singly
in swift flashes through his excited brain. Like the steady monotone of
the bass accompanying the rise and fall of the air, he constantly heard
the assurance that it would be a pity if his splendid twins should
resemble him.

Therefore they must grow up away from his influence, under the care of
his good uncle. With this man’s example before their eyes they would
become knights as upright and noble as Kunz Heideck, whom every one
esteemed.

For the sake of the twins he had resolved to begin a new and worthier
life himself. His wife would aid him, and love should lend him strength
to conduct himself in future so that Countess von Montfort, and every
one who meant well by his sons, might wish them to resemble their
father.

He walked on, holding his head proudly erect. Seeing the first
worshippers entering the Church of Our Lady, he went in, too, repeated
several Paternosters, commended the little boys and their mother to
the care of the gracious Virgin, and besought her to help him curb the
turbulent impulses which often led him to commit deeds he afterwards
regretted.

Many people knew Casper Eysvogel’s tall, haughty son-in-law and
marvelled at the fervent devotion with which, kneeling in the first
place he found near the entrance, beside two old women, he continued
to pray. Was it true that the Eysvogel firm had been placed in a very
critical situation by the loss of great trains of merchandise? One of
his neighbours had heard him sigh, and declared that something must
weigh heavily upon the “Mustache.” She would tell her nephew Hemerlein,
the belt-maker, to whom the knight owed large sums for saddles and
harnesses, that he would be wise to look after his money betimes.

Siebenburg quitted the church in a more hopeful mood than when he
entered it.

The prayers had helped him.

When he reached the fruit market he noticed that people gazed at him
in surprise. He had paid no heed to his dress since the morning of the
previous day, and as he always consumed large quantities of food and
drink he felt the need of refreshment. Entering the first barber’s shop,
he had the stubble removed from his cheeks and chin, and arranged his
disordered attire, and then, going to a taproom close by, ate and drank,
without sitting down, what he found ready and, invigorated in body and
mind, continued his walk.

The fruit market was full of busy life. Juicy strawberries and early
cherries, red radishes, heads of cabbages, bunches of greens, and long
stalks of asparagus were offered for sale, with roses and auriculas,
balsams and early pinks, in pots and bouquets, and the ruddy peasant
lasses behind the stands, the stately burgher women in their big round
hats, the daughters of the master workmen with their long floating locks
escaping from under richly embroidered caps, the maidservants with
neat little baskets on their round arms, afforded a varied and pleasing
scene. Everything that reached the ear, too, was cheery and amusing, and
rendered the knight’s mood brighter.

Proud of his newly acquired power of resistance, he walked on, after
yielding to the impulse to buy the handsomest bouquet of roses offered
by the pretty flower girl Kuni, whom, on Countess Cordula’s account,
during the Reichstag he had patronised more frequently than usual.
Without knowing why himself, he did not tell the pretty girl, who had
already trusted him very often, for whom he intended it, but ordered it
to be charged with the rest.

At the corner of the Bindergasse, where Heinz Schorlin lodged, he found
a beggar woman with a bandaged head, whom he commissioned to carry the
roses to the Eysvogel mansion and give them to his wife, Fran Isabella
Siebenburg, in his--Sir Seitz’s--name.

In front of the house occupied by the master cloth-maker Deichsler,
where the Swiss had his quarters, the tailor Ploss stopped him. He
came from Heinz Schorlin, and reminded Siebenburg of his by no means
inconsiderable debt; but the latter begged him to have patience a little
longer, as he had met with heavy losses at the gaming table the night
before, and Ploss agreed to wait till St. Heinrich’s day--[15th July].

How many besides the tailor had large demands! and when could Seitz
begin to cancel his debts? The thought even darted through his mind that
instead of carrying his good intentions into effect he had not paid for
the roses--but flowers were so cheap in June!

Besides, he had no time to dwell upon this trifle, for while quieting
the tailor he had noticed a girl who, notwithstanding the heat of the
day, kept her face hidden so far under her Riese--[A kerchief for the
head, resembling a veil, made of fine linen.]--that nothing but her eyes
and the upper part of her nose were visible. She had given him a hasty
nod and, if he was not mistaken, it was the Ortlieb sisters’ maid, whom
he had often seen.

When he again looked after the muffled figure she was hurrying up the
cloth-maker’s stairs.

It was Katterle herself.

At the first landing she had glanced back, and in doing so pushed the
kerchief aside. What could she want with the Swiss? It could scarcely
be anything except to bring him a message from one of her mistresses,
doubtless Els.

So he had seen aright, and acted wisely not to believe the countess.

Poor Wolff! Deceived even when a betrothed lover! He did not exactly
wish him happiness even now, and yet he pitied him.

Seitz could now stand before Heinz Schorlin with the utmost confidence.
The Swiss must know how matters stood between the older E and him
self, though his knightly duty constrained him to deny it to others.
Siebenburg’s self-reproaches had been vain. He had suspected no innocent
girl--only called a faithless betrothed bride by the fitting name.

The matter concerning his estate of Tannenreuth was worse. It had been
gambled away, and therefore forfeited. He had already given it up in
imagination; it was only necessary to have the transfer made by the
notary. The Swiss should learn how a true knight satisfies even the
heaviest losses at the gaming table. He would not spare Heinz Schorlin.
He meant to reproach the unprincipled fellow who by base arts had
alienated the betrothed bride of an honest man--for that Wolff certainly
was--when adverse circumstances prevented his watching the faithless
woman himself. Twisting the ends of his mustache with two rapid motions,
he knocked at the young knight’s door.



CHAPTER XVII.

Twice, three times, Siebenburg rapped, but in vain. Yet the Swiss was
there. His armour-bearer had told Seitz so downstairs, and he heard his
voice within. At last he struck the door so heavily with the handle of
his dagger that the whole house echoed with the sound. This succeeded;
the door opened, and Biberli’s narrow head appeared. He looked at the
visitor in astonishment.

“Tell your master,” said the latter imperiously, recognising Heinz
Schorlin’s servant, “that if he closes his lodgings against dunning
tradesfolk--”

“By your knock, my lord,” Biberli interrupted, “we really thought the
sword cutler had come with hammer and anvil. My master, however, need
have no fear of creditors; for though you may not yet know it, Sir
Knight, there are generous noblemen in Nuremberg during the Reichstag
who throw away castles and lands in his favour at the gaming table.”

“And hurl their fists even more swiftly into the faces of insolent
varlets!” cried Siebenburg, raising his right hand threateningly. “Now
take me to your master at once!”

“Or, at any rate, within his four walls,” replied the servitor,
preceding Seitz into the small anteroom from which he had come. “As to
the ‘at once,’ that rests with the saints, for you must know----”

“Nonsense!” interrupted the knight. “Tell your master that Siebenburg
has neither time nor inclination to wait in his antechamber.”

“And certainly nothing could afford Sir Heinz Schorlin greater pleasure
than your speedy departure,” Biberli retorted.

“Insolent knave!” thundered Seitz, who perceived the insult conveyed in
the reply, grasping the neck of his long robe; but Biberli felt that he
had seized only the hood, swiftly unclasped it, and as he hurried to a
side door, through which loud voices echoed, Siebenburg heard the low
cry of a woman. It came from behind a curtain spread over some clothes
that hung on the wall, and Seitz said to himself that the person must be
the maid whom he had just met. She was in Els Ortlieb’s service, and he
was glad to have this living witness at hand.

If he could induce Heinz to talk with him here in the anteroom it
would be impossible for her to escape. So, feigning that he had noticed
nothing, he pretended to be much amused by Biberli’s nimble flight.
Forcing a laugh, he flung the hood at his head, and before he opened the
door of the adjoining room again asked to speak to his master.
Biberli replied that he must wait; the knight was holding a religious
conversation with a devout old mendicant friar. If he might venture to
offer counsel, he would not interrupt his master now; he had received
very sad news, and the tailor who came to take his measure for his
mourning garments had just left him. If Seitz had any business with the
knight, and expected any benefit from his favour and rare generosity----

But Siebenburg let him get no farther. Forgetting the stratagem which
was to lure Heinz hither, he burst into a furious rage, fiercely
declaring that he sought favour and generosity from no man, least of
all a Heinz Schorlin and, advancing to the door, flung the servant who
barred his passage so rudely against the wall that he uttered a loud cry
of pain.

Ere it had died away Heinz appeared on the threshold. A long white
robe increased the pallor of his face, but yesterday so ruddy, and his
reddened eyes showed traces of recent tears.

When he perceived what had occurred, and saw his faithful follower,
with a face distorted by pain, rubbing his shoulder, his cheeks flushed
angrily, and with just indignation he rebuked Siebenburg for his
unseemly intrusion into his quarters and his brutal conduct.

Then, without heeding the knight, he asked Biberli if he was seriously
injured, and when the latter answered in the negative he again turned
to Seitz and briefly enquired what he wanted. If he desired to own
that, while in a state of senseless intoxication he had slandered modest
maidens, and was ignorant of his actions when he staked his castle and
lands against the gold lying before him, Heinz Schorlin, he might keep
Tannenreuth. The form in which he would revoke his calumny to Jungfrau
Ortlieb he would discuss with him later. At present his mind was
occupied with more important matters than the senseless talk of a
drunkard, and he would therefore request the knight to leave him.

As Heinz uttered the last words he pointed to the door, and this
indiscreet, anything but inviting gesture robbed Siebenburg of the last
remnant of composure maintained with so much difficulty.

Nothing is more infuriating to weak natures than to have others expect
them to pursue a course opposite to that which, after a victory over
baser impulses, they have recognised as the right one and intended to
follow. He who had come to resign his lost property voluntarily was
regarded by the Swiss as an importunate mendicant; he who stood here
to prove that he was perfectly justified in accusing Els Ortlieb of
a crime, Schorlin expected to make a revocation against his better
knowledge. And what price did the insolent fellow demand for the
restored estate and the right to brand him as a slanderer? The pleasure
of seeing the unwelcome guest retire as quickly as possible. No greater
degree of contempt and offensive presumption could be imagined, and as
Seitz set his own admirable conduct during the past few hours far
above the profligate behaviour of the Swiss, he was fired with honest
indignation and, far from heeding the white robe and altered countenance
of his enemy, gave the reins to his wrath.

Pale with fury, he flung, as it were, the estate the Swiss had won from
him at his feet, amid no lack of insulting words.

At first Heinz listened to the luckless gambler’s outbreak of rage
in silent amazement, but when the latter began to threaten, and even
clapped his hand on his sword, the composure which never failed him in
the presence of anything that resembled danger quickly returned.

He had felt a strong aversion to Siebenburg from their first meeting,
and the slanderous words with which he had dragged in the dust the good
name of a maiden who, Heinz knew, had incurred suspicion solely through
his fault, had filled him with scorn. So, with quiet contempt, he let
him rave on; but when the person to whom he had just been talking--the
old Minorite monk whom he had met on the highroad and accompanied to
Nuremberg--appeared at the door of the next room, he stopped Seitz with
a firm “Enough!” pointed to the old man, and in brief, simple words,
gave the castle and lands of Tannenreuth to the monastery of the
mendicant friars of the Franciscan order in Nuremberg.

Siebenburg listened with a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders, then he
said bitterly: “I thought that a life of poverty was the chief rule in
the order of St. Francis. But no matter! May the gift won at the gaming
table profit the holy Brothers. For you, Sir Knight, it will gain the
favour of the Saint of Assisi, whose power is renowned. So you have
acted wisely.”

Here he hesitated; he felt choked with rage. But while the Minorite was
thanking Heinz for the generous gift, Siebenburg’s eyes again rested on
the curtain behind which the maid was concealed.

It was now his turn to deal the Swiss a blow. The old mendicant friar
was a venerable person whose bearing commanded respect, and Heinz seemed
to value his good opinion. For that very reason the Minorite should
learn the character of this patron of his order.

“Since you so earnestly desire to be rid of my company, Sir Heinz
Schorlin,” he continued, “I will fulfil your wish. Only just now you
appeared to consider certain words uttered last night in reference to a
lady--”

“Let that pass,” interrupted Heinz with marked emphasis.

“I might expect that desire,” replied Siebenburg scornfully; “for as you
are in the act of gaining the favour of Heaven by pious works, it will
be agreeable to you--”

“What?” asked the Swiss sharply.

“You will surely desire,” was the reply, “to change conduct which is an
offence to honourable people, and still more to the saints above. You
who have estranged a betrothed bride from her lover and lured her to
midnight interviews, no doubt suppose yourself safe from the future
husband, whom the result of a duel--as you know--will keep from her
side. But Wolff happens to be my brother-in-law, and if I feel disposed
to take his place and break a lance with you----”

Heinz, pale as death, interrupted him, exclaiming in a tone of the
deepest indignation: “So be it, then. We will have a tilt with lances,
and then we will fight with our swords.”

Siebenburg looked at him an instant, as if puzzled by his adversary’s
sharp assault, but quickly regained his composure and answered: “Agreed!
In the joust--[single combat in the tourney]--with sharp weapons it will
soon appear who has right on his side.”

“Right?” asked Heinz in astonishment, shrugging his shoulders
scornfully.

“Yes, right,” cried the other furiously, “which you have ceased to
prize.”

“So far from it,” the Swiss answered quietly, “that before we discuss
the mode of combat with the herald I must ask you to recall the insults
with which yesterday, in your drunkenness, you injured the honour of a
virtuous maiden in the presence of other knights and gentlemen.”

“Whose protector,” laughed Seitz, “you seem to have constituted
yourself, by your own choice, in her bridegroom’s place.”

“I accept the position,” replied Heinz with cool deliberation. “Not you,
nay, I will fight in Wolff Eysvogel’s stead--and with his consent, I
think. I know him, and esteem him so highly----”

“That you invite his plighted bride to nocturnal love dalliance, and
exchange love messages with her,” interrupted the other.

This was too much for Heinz Schorlin and, with honest indignation, he
cried: “Prove it! Or, by our Lord’s blood!--My sword, Biberli!--Spite of
the peace proclaimed throughout the land, you shall learn, ere you open
your slandering lips again----”

Here he paused suddenly, for while Biberli withdrew to obey the command
which, though it probably suited his wishes, he was slow in executing,
doubtless that he might save his master from a reckless act, Siebenburg,
frantic with fury, rushed to the curtain. Ere Heinz could interfere,
he jerked it back so violently that he tore it from the fastenings and
forced the terrified maid, whose arm he grasped, to approach the knight
with him.

Heinz had seen Katterle only by moonlight and in the twilight, so
her unexpected appearance gave him no information. He gazed at her
enquiringly, with as much amazement as though she had risen from the
earth. Siebenburg gave him no time to collect his thoughts, but dragged
the girl before the monk and, raising his voice in menace, commanded:
“Tell the holy Brother who you are, woman!”

“Katterle of Sarnen,” she answered, weeping. “And whom do you serve?”
 the knight demanded.

“The Ortlieb sisters, Jungfrau Els and Jungfrau Eva,” was the reply.

“The beautiful Es, as they are called here, holy Brother,” said
Siebenburg with a malicious laugh, “whose maid I recognise in this girl.
If she did not come hither to mend the linen of her mistress’s friend--”

But here Biberli, who on his return to the anteroom had been terrified
by the sight of his sweetheart, interrupted the knight by turning to
Heinz with the exclamation: “Forgive me, my lord. Surely you know
that she is my betrothed bride. She came just now--scarcely a dozen
Paternosters ago-to talk with me about the marriage.”

Katterle had listened in surprise to the bold words of her true and
steadfast lover, yet she was not ill pleased, for he had never before
spoken of their marriage voluntarily. At the same time she felt the
obligation of aiding him and nodded assent, while Siebenburg rudely
interrupted the servant by calling to the monk: “Lies and deception,
pious Brother. Black must be whitened here. She stole, muffled, to her
mistress’s gallant, to bring a message from the older beautiful E, with
whom this godly knight was surprised last night.”

Again the passionate outbreak of his foe restored the Swiss to
composure. With a calmness which seemed to the servant incomprehensible,
though it filled him with delight, he turned to the monk, saying
earnestly and simply: “Appearances may be against me, Pater Benedictus.
I will tell you all the circumstances at once. How this maid came here
will be explained later. As for the maiden whom this man calls the older
beautiful E, never--I swear it by our saint--have I sought her love or
received from her the smallest token of her favour.”

Then turning to Siebenburg he continued, still calmly, but with menacing
sternness: “If I judge you aright, you will now go from one to another
telling whom you found here, in order to injure the fair fame of the
maiden whom your wife’s valiant brother chose for his bride, and to
place my name with hers in the pillory.”

“Where Els Ortlieb belongs rather than in the honourable home of a
Nuremberg patrician,” retorted Siebenburg furiously. “If she became too
base for my brother-in-law, the fault is yours. I shall certainly take
care that he learns the truth and knows where, and at what an hour, his
betrothed bride met foreign heartbreakers. To open the eyes of others
concerning her will also be a pleasant duty.”

Heinz sprang towards Biberli to snatch the sword from his hand, but
he held it firmly, seeking his master’s eyes with a look of warning
entreaty; but his faithful solicitude would have been futile had not
the monk lent his aid. The old man’s whispered exhortation to his young
friend to spare the imperial master, to whom he was so deeply indebted,
a fresh sorrow, restored to the infuriated young knight his power of
self-control. Pushing the thick locks back from his brow with a hasty
movement, he answered in a tone of the most intense contempt:

“Do what you will, but remember this: Beware that, ere the joust begins,
you do not ride the rail instead of the charger. The maidens whose pure
name you so yearn to sully are of noble birth, and if they appear to
complain of you----”

“Then I will proclaim the truth,” Siebenburg retorted, “and the Court of
Love and Pursuivant at Arms will deprive you, the base seducer, of the
right to enter the lists rather than me, my handsome knight!”

“So be it,” replied Heinz quietly. “You can discuss the other points
with my herald. Wolff Eysvogel, too--rely upon it--will challenge you,
if you fulfil your base design.”

Then, turning his back upon Seitz without a word of farewell, he
motioned the monk towards the open door of the antechamber, and letting
him lead the way, closed it behind them.

“He will come to you, you boaster!” Siebenburg shouted contemptuously
after the Swiss, and then turned to Biberli and the maid with a
patronising question; but the former, without even opening his lips in
reply, hastened to the door and, with a significant gesture, induced the
knight to retire.

Seitz submitted and hastened down the stairs, his eyes flashing as if he
had won a great victory. At the door of the house he grasped the hilt
of his sword, and then, with rapid movements, twisted the ends of his
mustache. The surprise he had given the insolent Swiss by the discovery
of his love messenger--it had acted like a spell--could not have
succeeded better. And what had Schorlin alleged in justification?
Nothing, absolutely nothing at all. Wolff Eysvogel’s herald should
challenge the Swiss, not him, who meant to open the deceived lover’s
eyes concerning his betrothed bride.

He eagerly anticipated the joust and the sword combat with Heinz. The
sharper the herald’s conditions the better. He had hurled more powerful
foes than the Swiss from the saddle, and from knightly “courtoisie” not
even used his strength without consideration. Heinz Schorlin should feel
it.

He gazed around him like a victor, and throwing his head back haughtily
he went down the Bindergasse, this time past the Franciscan monastery
towards the Town Hall and the fish market. Eber, the sword cutler, lived
there and, spite of the large sum he owed him, Seitz wished to talk with
him about the sharp weapons he needed for the joust. On his way he gave
his imagination free course. It showed him his impetuous onset, his
enemy’s fall in the sand, the sword combat, and the end of the joust,
the swift death of his hated foe.

These pictures of the future occupied his thoughts so deeply that he
neither saw nor heard what was passing around him. Many a person for
whom he forgot to turn aside looked angrily after him. Suddenly he found
his farther progress arrested. The crier had just raised his voice to
announce some important tidings to the people who thronged around him
between the Town Hall and the Franciscan monastery. Perhaps he might
have succeeded in forcing a passage through the concourse, but when he
heard the name “Ernst Ortlieb,” in the monotonous speech of the city
crier, he followed the remainder of his notice. It made known to the
citizens of Nuremberg that, since the thunderstorm of the preceding
night, a maid had been missing from the house of the Honourable Herr
Ernst Ortlieb, of the Council, a Swiss by birth, Katharina of Sarnen,
called Katterle, a woman of blameless reputation. Whoever should learn
anything concerning the girl was requested to bring the news to the
Ortlieb residence.

What did this mean?

If the girl had vanished at midnight and not returned to her employers
since, she could scarcely have sought Heinz Schorlin as a messenger of
love from Els. But if she had not come to the Swiss from one of the Es,
what proof did he, Seitz, possess of the guilt of his brother-in-law’s
bride? How should he succeed in making Wolff understand that his beloved
Els had wronged him if the maid was to play no part in proving it?
Yesterday evening he had not believed firmly in her guilt; that very
morning it had even seemed to him a shameful thing that he had cast
suspicion upon her in the presence of others. The encounter with the
maid at the Swiss knight’s lodgings had first induced him to insist on
his accusation so defiantly. And now? If Heinz Schorlin, with the help
of the Ortliebs, succeeded in proving the innocence of those whom he had
accused, then--ah, he must not pursue that train of thought--then, at
the lady’s accusation, he might be deprived of the right to enter the
lists in the tournament; then all the disgrace which could be inflicted
upon the slanderous defamer of character threatened him; then Wolff
would summon him to a reckoning, as well as Heinz Schorlin. Wolff, whom
he had begun to hate since, with his resistless arm of iron, he had
exposed him for the first time to the malicious glee of the bystanders
in the fencing hall.

Yet it was not this which suddenly bowed his head and loudly admonished
him that he had again behaved like a reckless fool. Cowardice was his
least fault. He did not fear what might befall him in battle. Whether
he would be barred out from the lists was the terrible question which
darkened the bright morning already verging towards noon. He had charged
Els with perfidy in the presence of others, and thereby exposed her, the
plighted bride of a knight, to the utmost scorn. And besides--fool
that he was!--his brothers had again attacked a train of waggons on
the highway and would soon be called to account as robbers. This would
certainly lead the Swiss and others to investigate his own past, and
the Pursuivant at Arms excluded from joust and tourney whoever “injured
trade or merchant.” What would not his enemy, who was in such high
favour with the Emperor, do to compass his destruction? But--and at the
thought he uttered a low imprecation--how could he ride to the joust if
his father-in-law closed his strong box which, moreover, was said to
be empty? If the old man was forced to declare himself bankrupt
Siebenburg’s creditors would instantly seize his splendid chargers and
costly suits of armour, scarcely one half of which were paid for. How
much money he needed as security in case of defeat! His sole property
was debts. Yet the thought seemed like an illumination--his wife’s
valuable old jewels could probably still be saved, and she might be
induced to give him part of the ornaments for the tournament. He need
only make her understand that his honour and that of the twins were at
stake. Would that Heaven might spare his boys such hours of anxiety and
self-accusation!

But what was this? Was he deluding himself? Did his over-excited
imagination make him hear a death knell pealing for his honour and his
hopes, which must be borne to their grave? Yet no! All the citizens and
peasants, men and women, great and small, who thronged the salt market,
which he had just entered, raised their heads to listen with him; for
from every steeple at once rang the mournful death knell which announced
to the city the decease of an “honourable” member of the Council, a
secular or ecclesiastical prince. The mourning banner was already
waving on the roof of the Town Hall, towards which he turned. Men in the
service of the city were hoisting other black flags upon the almshouse,
and now the Hegelein--[Proclaimer of decrees]--in mourning garments,
mounted on a steed caparisoned with crepe, came riding by at the head of
other horsemen clad in sable, proclaiming to the throng that Hartmann,
the Emperor Rudolph’s promising son, had found an untimely end. The
noble youth was drowned while bathing in the Rhine.

It seemed as if a frost had blighted a blooming garden. The gay bustle
in the market place was paralysed. The loud sobs of many women blended
with exclamations of grief and pity from bearded lips which had just
been merrily bargaining for salt and fish, meat and game. Messengers
with crepe on their hats or caps forced a passage through the throng,
and a train of German knights, priests, and monks passed with bowed
heads, bearing candles in their hands, between the Town Hail and St.
Sebald’s Church towards the corn magazine and the citadel.

Meanwhile dark clouds were spreading slowly over the bright-blue vault
of the June sky. A flock of rooks hovered around the Town Hall, and then
flew, with loud cries, towards the castle.

Seitz watched them indifferently. Even the great omnipotent sovereign
there had his own cross to bear; tears flowed in his proud palace also,
and sighs of anguish were heard. And this was just. He had never wished
evil to any one who did not injure him, but even if he could have
averted this sore sorrow from the Emperor Rudolph he would not have
stirred a finger. His coronation had been a blow to him and to his
brothers. Formerly they had been permitted to work their will on the
highways, but the Hapsburg, the Swiss, had pitilessly stopped their
brigandage. Now for the first time robber-knights were sentenced and
their castles destroyed. The Emperor meant to transform Germany into a
sheepfold, Absbach exclaimed. The Siebenburg brothers were his faithful
allies, and though they complained that the joyous, knightly clank of
arms would be silenced under such a sovereign, they themselves took care
that the loud battle shouts, cries of pain, and shrieks for aid were not
hushed on the roads used for traffic by the merchants. But this was not
Seitz’s sole reason for shrugging his shoulders at the expressions of
the warmest sympathy which rose around him. The Emperor was tenderly
attached to Heinz Schorlin, and the man who was so kindly disposed
to his foe could never be his friend. Perhaps to-morrow Rudolph might
behead his brothers and elevate Heinz Schorlin to still greater honors.
Seitz, whose eyes had overflowed with tears when the warder of his
native castle lost his aged wife, who had been his nurse, now found no
cause to grieve with the mourners.

So he continued his way, burdened with his own anxieties, amid the tears
and lamentations of the multitude. The numerous retinue of servants in
the Eysvogel mansion were moving restlessly to and fro; the news of the
prince’s death had reached them. Herr Casper had left the house. He was
probably at Herr Ernst Ortlieb’s. If the latter had already learned
what he, Seitz Siebenburg, had said at the gaming table of his daughter,
perhaps his hand had dealt the first decisive blow at the tottering
house where, so long as it stood, his wife and the twins would under any
circumstances find shelter. Resentment against the Swiss, hatred,
and jealousy, had made him a knave, and at the same time the most
shortsighted of fools.

As he approached the second story, in which the nursery was situated and
where he expected to find his wife, it suddenly seemed as if a star had
risen amid the darkness. If he poured out his heart to Isabella and let
her share the terrible torture of his soul, perhaps it would awaken a
tender sympathy in the woman who still loved him, and who was dearer to
him than he could express. Her jewels were certainly very valuable, but
far more precious was the hope of being permitted to rest his aching
head upon her breast and feel her slender white hand push back the hair
from his anxious brow. Oh, if misfortune would draw her again as near to
him as during the early months of their married life and directly before
it, he could rise from his depression with fresh vigour and transform
the battle, now half lost, into victory. Besides, she was clever and had
power over the hearts of her family, so perhaps she might point out
the pathway of escape, which his brain, unused to reflection, could not
discover.

His heart throbbed high as, animated by fresh hope, he entered the
corridor from which opened the rooms which he occupied with her. But his
wish to find her alone was not to be fulfilled; several voices reached
him.

What was the meaning of the scene?

Isabella, her face deadly pale, and her tall figure drawn up to its
full height, stood before the door of the nursery with a stern, cold
expression on her lovely lips, like a princess pronouncing sentence upon
a criminal. She was panting for breath, and before her, her mother, and
her grandmother, Countess Cordula’s pretty page, whom Siebenburg knew
only too well, was moving to and fro with eager gestures. He held in his
hand the bunch of roses which Seitz had sent to his newly-won wife and
darling as a token of reconciliation, and Siebenburg heard his clear,
boyish tones urge: “I have already said so and, noble lady, you may
believe me, this bouquet, which the woman brought us, was intended for
my gracious mistress, Countess von Montfort. It was meant to give her
a fair morning greeting, and--Do not let this vex you, for it was done
only in the joyous game of love, as custom dictated. Ever since we came
here your lord has daily honoured my countess with the loveliest
flowers whose buds unfold in the region near the Rhine. But my gracious
mistress, as you have already heard, believes that you, noble lady, have
a better right to these unusually beautiful children of the spring than
she who last evening bade your lord behold in you, not in her, fair
lady, the most fitting object of his homage. So she sent me hither, most
gracious madam, to lay what is yours at your feet.”

As he spoke, the agile boy, with a graceful bow, tried to place the
flowers in Isabella’s hand, but she would not receive the bouquet, and
the abrupt gesture with which she pushed them back flung the nosegay on
the floor. Paying no further heed to it, she answered in a cold, haughty
tone: “Thank your mistress, and tell her that I appreciated her kind
intention, but the roses which she sent me were too full of thorns.”
 Then, turning her back on the page, she advanced with majestic pride to
the door of the nursery.

Her mother and grandmother tried to follow, but Siebenburg pressed
between them and his wife, and his voice thrilled with the anguish of a
soul overwhelmed by despair as he cried imploringly: “Hear me, Isabella!
There is a most unhappy misunderstanding here. By all that is sacred to
me, by our love, by our children, I swear those roses were intended for
you, my heart’s treasure, and for you alone.”

But Countess Rotterbach cut him short by exclaiming with a loud chuckle:
“The unripe early pears will probably come from the fruit market to
the housewife’s hands later; the roses found their way to Countess von
Montfort more quickly.”

The malicious words were followed like an echo by Frau Rosalinde’s
tearful “It is only too true. This also!”

The knight, unheeding the angry, upbraiding woman, hastened in pursuit
of his wife to throw himself at her feet and confess the whole truth;
but she, who had heard long before that Sir Seitz was paying Countess
Cordula more conspicuous attention than beseemed a faithful husband, and
who, after the happy hour so recently experienced, had expected, until
the arrival of the page, the dawn of brighter, better days, now felt
doubly abased, deceived, betrayed.

Without vouchsafing the unfortunate man even a glance or a word, she
entered the nursery before he reached her; but he, feeling that he must
follow her at any cost, laid his hand on the lock of the door and tried
to open it. The strong oak resisted his shaking and pulling. Isabella
had shot the heavy iron bolt into its place. Seitz first knocked with
his fingers and then with his clenched fist, until the grandmother
exclaimed: “You have destroyed the house, at least spare the doors.”

Uttering a fierce imprecation, he went to his own chamber, hastily
thrust into his pockets all the gold and valuables which he possessed,
and then went out again into the street. His way led him past Kuni, the
flower girl from whom he had bought the roses. The beggar who was
to carry them to his wife did not hear distinctly, on account of her
bandaged head, and not understanding the knight, went to the girl from
whom she had seen him purchase the blossoms to ask where they belonged.
Kuni pointed to the lodgings of the von Montforts, where she had
already sent so many bouquets for Siebenburg. The latter saw both the
flower-seller and the beggar woman, but did not attempt to learn how the
roses which he intended for his wife had reached Countess Cordula. He
suspected the truth, but felt no desire to have it confirmed. Fate meant
to destroy him, he had learned that. The means employed mattered little.
It would have been folly to strive against the superior power of such an
adversary. Let ruin pursue its course. His sole wish was to forget his
misery, though but for a brief time. He knew he could accomplish this
by drink, so he entered the Mirror wine tavern and drained bumper after
bumper with a speed which made the landlord, though he was accustomed to
marvellous performances on the part of his guests, shake the head set on
his immensely thick neck somewhat suspiciously.

The few persons present had gathered in a group and were talking sadly
about the great misfortune which had assailed the Emperor. The universal
grief displayed so hypocritically, as Seitz thought, angered him, and he
gazed at them with such a sullen, threatening look that no one ventured
to approach him. Sometimes he stared into his wine, sometimes into
vacancy, sometimes at the vaulted ceiling above. He harshly rebuffed the
landlord and the waiter who tried to accost him, but when the peasant’s
prediction was fulfilled and the thunderstorm of the preceding night
was followed at midnight by one equally severe, he arose and left the
hostelry. The rain tempted him into the open air. The taproom was so
sultry, so terribly sultry. The moisture of the heavens would refresh
him.



CHAPTER XVIII.

The fury of the tempest had ceased, but the sky was still obscured by
clouds. A cool breeze blew from the northeast through the damp, heavy
air.

Heinz Schorlin was coming from the fortress, and after crossing the
Diligengasse went directly towards his lodgings. His coat of mail,
spurs, and helmeted head were accoutrements for the saddle, yet he
was on foot. A throng of men, women, and children, whispering eagerly
together, accompanied him. One pointed him out to another, as if there
was something unusual about him. Two stalwart soldiers in the pay of the
city followed, carrying his saddle and the equipments of his horse, and
kept back the boys or women who boldly attempted to press too near.

Heinz did not heed the throng. He looked pale, and his thick locks,
falling in disorder from under his helmet, floated around his face. The
chain armour on his limbs and his long surcoat were covered with mire.
The young knight, usually so trim, looked disordered and, as it were,
thrown off his balance. His bright face bore the impress of a horror
still unconquered, as he gazed restlessly into vacancy, and seemed to be
seeking something, now above and now in the ground.

The pretty young hostess, Frau Barbara Deichsler, holding her little
three-year-old daughter by the hand, stood in front of the house in the
Bindergasse where he lodged. The knight usually had a pleasant or merry
word for her, and a gay jest or bit of candy for Annele. Nay, the young
noble, who was fond of children, liked to toss the little one in his
arms and play with her.

Frau Barbara had already heard that, as Heinz was returning from the
fortress, the lightning had struck directly in front of him, killing his
beautiful dun charger, which she had so often admired. It had happened
directly before the eyes of the guard, and the news had gone from man
to man of the incredible miracle which had saved the life of the young
Swiss, the dearest friend of the Emperor’s dead son.

When Heinz approached the door Frau Barbara stepped forward with Annele
to congratulate him that the dear saints had so graciously protected
him, but he only answered gravely: “What are we mortals? Rejoice in the
child, Frau Barbara, so long as she is spared to you.”

He passed into the entry as he spoke, but Frau Deichsler hastily
prepared to call his armour-bearer, a grey-bearded Swiss who had served
the knight’s father and slept away the hours not devoted to his duties
or to the wine cup. He must supply the place of Biberli, who had left
the house a long time before, and for the first time in many years was
keeping his master waiting. But Heinz knew where he was, and while the
armour-bearer was divesting him, awkwardly enough, of his suit of mail
and gala attire, he was often seized with anxiety about his faithful
follower, though many things with which the morning had burdened his
soul lay nearer to his heart.

Never had he been so lucky in gambling as last night in the Duke of
Pomerania’s quarters. Biberli’s advice to trust to the two and five had
been repeatedly tested, and besides the estate of Tannenreuth, which
Siebenburg had staked against all his winnings, he had brought home more
gold than he had ever seen before.

Yet he had gone to rest in a mood by no means joyous. It was painful
to him to deprive any one of his lands and home. He had even resisted
accepting Siebenburg’s reckless stake, but his obstinate persistence and
demand could not be opposed. The calumnies by which the “Mustache” had
assailed the innocent Els Ortlieb haunted him, and many others had shown
their indignation against the traducer. Probably thirty gentlemen at the
gaming table had been witnesses of these incidents, and if, to-morrow,
it was in everybody’s mouth that he, Heinz, had been caught at mid-night
in an interview with the elder beautiful Ortlieb E, the fault was his,
and he would be burdened with the guilt of having sullied the honour and
name of a pure maiden, the betrothed bride of an estimable man.

And Eva!

When he woke in the morning his first thought had been of her. She had
seemed more desirable than ever. But his relatives at home, and the
counsel Biberli had urged upon him during their nocturnal wandering,
had constantly interposed between him and the maiden whom he so ardently
loved. Besides, it seemed certain that the passion which filled his
heart must end unhappily. Else what was the meaning of this unexampled
good luck at the gaming table? The torture of this thought had kept him
awake a long time. Then he had sunk into a deep, dreamless sleep. In the
morning Biberli, full of delight, roused him, and displayed three large
bags filled with florins and zecchins, the gains of the night before.

The servant had begged to be permitted to count the golden blessing,
which in itself would suffice to buy the right to use the bridge from
the city of Luzerne twice over, and the best thing about which was
that it would restore the peace of mind of his lady mother at Schorlin
Castle.

Now, in the name of all the saints, let him continue his life of
liberty, and leave the somnambulist to walk over the roofs, and suffer
Altrosen, who had worn her colour so patiently, to wed the countess.

But how long the servitor’s already narrow face became when Heinz, with
a grave resolution new to Biberli, answered positively that no ducats
would stray from these bags to Schorlin Castle. If, last night, anxiety
had burdened his mind like the corpse of a murdered man, these gains
weighed upon his soul like the loathsome body of a dead cat. Never
in his whole life had he felt so poor as with this devil’s money. The
witch-bait which Biberli had given him with the two and the five had
drawn it out of the pockets of his fellow gamblers. He would be neither
a cut-purse nor a dealer in the black arts. The wages of hell should
depart as quickly as they came. While speaking, he seized the second
largest bag and gave it to the servant, exclaiming: “Now keep your
promise to Katterle like an honest man. The poor thing will have a hard
time at her employer’s. I make but one condition: you are to remain in
my service. I can’t do without you.”

While the armour-bearer, in the agile Biberli’s place, was handing him
the garments to be worn in the house, Heinz again remembered how the
faithful fellow had thrown himself on his knees and kissed his master’s
hands and arms in the excess of his joyful surprise, and yet he had felt
as if a dark cloud was shadowing the brightness of his soul. The morning
sun had shone so radiantly into his window, and Annele had come with
such bewitching shyness to bring him a little bunch of lilies of the
valley with a rose in the centre, and a pleasant morning greeting from
her mother, that the cloud could not remain, yet it had only parted
occasionally to close again speedily, though it was less dense and dark
than before.

Yet he had taken the child in his arms and looked down into the narrow
street to show her the people going to market so gaily in the early
morning. But he soon put her down again, for he recognised in a horseman
approaching on a weary steed Count Curt Gleichen, the most intimate
friend of young Prince Hartmann and himself, and when he called to him
he had slid from his saddle with a faint greeting.

Heinz instantly rushed out of the house to meet him, but he had found
him beside his steed, which had sunk on its knees, and then, trembling
and panting, dragged itself, supported by its rider’s hand, into the
entry. There it fell, rolled over on its side, and stretched its limbs
stiffly in death. It was the third horse which the messenger had killed
since he left the Rhine, yet he was sure of arriving too soon; for he
had to announce to a father the death of his promising son.

Heinz listened, utterly overwhelmed, to the narrative of the
eye-witness, who described how Hartmann, ere he could stretch out a hand
to save him, had been dragged into the depths by the waves of the Rhine.

In spite of the sunny brightness of the morning the young Swiss had had
a presentiment of some great misfortune, and had told himself that he
would welcome it if it relieved him from the burden which had darkened
his soul since the disgraceful good luck of the previous night. Now
it had happened, and how gladly he would have continued to bear the
heaviest load to undo the past. He had sobbed on his friend’s breast
like a child, accusing Heaven for having visited him with this
affliction.

Hartmann had been not only his friend but his pupil--and what a pupil!
He had instructed him in horsemanship and the use of the sword, and
during the last year shared everything with him and young Count Gleichen
as if they were three brothers and, like a brother, the prince had
constantly grown closer to his heart. Had he, Heinz, accompanied
Hartmann to the Rhine and been permitted to remain with him, neither or
both would have fallen victims to the river! And Hartmann’s aged father,
the noble man to whom he owed everything, and who clung with his whole
soul to the beloved youth, his image in mind and person--how would the
Emperor Rudolph endure this? But a few months ago death had snatched
from him his wife, the love of his youth, the mother of his children,
the companion of his glorious career! The thought of him stirred Heinz
to the depths of his soul, and he would fain have hastened at once to
the castle to help the stricken father bear the new and terrible burden
imposed upon him. But he must first care for the messenger of
these terrible tidings who, with lips white from exhaustion, needed
refreshment.

Biberli, who saw and thought of everything, had already urged the
hostess to do what she could, and sent the servant to the tailor that,
when Heinz rode to the fortress, he might not lack the mourning--a
tabard would suffice--which could be made in a few hours.

Frau Barbara had just brought the lunch and promised to obey the command
to keep the terrible news which she had just heard a secret from every
one, that the rumor might not reach the fortress prematurely, when
another visitor appeared--Heinz Schorlin’s cousin, Sir Arnold Maier of
Silenen, a tall, broad-shouldered man of fifty, with stalwart frame and
powerful limbs.

His grave, bronzed countenance, framed by a grey beard, revealed that
he, too, brought no cheering news. He had never come to his young
cousin’s at so early an hour.

His intelligent, kindly grey eyes surveyed Heinz with astonishment. What
had befallen the happy-hearted fellow? But when he heard the news which
had wet the young knight’s eyes with tears, his own lips also quivered,
and his deep, manly tones faltered as he laid his heavy hands on the
mourner’s shoulders and gazed tearfully into his eyes. At last he
exclaimed mournfully: “My poor, poor boy! Pray to Him to whom we owe all
that is good, and who tries us with the evil. Would to God I had less
painful tidings for you!”

Heinz shrank back, but his cousin told him the tidings learned from a
Swiss messenger scarcely an hour before. The dispute over the bridge
toll had caused a fight. The uncle who supplied a father’s place to
Heinz and managed his affairs--brave old Walther Ramsweg--was killed;
Schorlin Castle had been taken by the city soldiery and, at the command
of the chief magistrate, razed to the ground. Wendula Schorlin, Heinz’s
mother, with her daughter Maria, had fallen into the hands of the city
soldiers and been carried to the convent in Constance, where she and her
youngest child now remained with the two older daughters.

Heinz, deeply agitated by the news, exclaimed: “Uncle Ramsweg, our kind
second father, also in the grave without my being able to press his
brave, loyal hand in farewell! And Maria, our singing bird, our nimble
little squirrel, with those grave, world-weary Sisters! And my mother!
You, too, like every one, love her, Cousin--and you know her. She who
has been accustomed to command, and to manage the house and the
lands, who like a saint dried tears far and near amid trouble and
deprivation--she, deprived of her own strong will, in a convent! Oh,
Cousin, Cousin! To hear this, and not be able to rush upon the rabble
who have robbed us of the home of our ancestors, as a boy crushes a
snail shell! Can it be imagined? No Castle Schorlin towering high above
the lake on the cliff at the verge of the forest. The room where we all
saw the light of the world and listened to our mother’s songs destroyed;
the sacred chamber where the father who so lovingly protected us closed
his eyes; the chapel where we prayed so devoutly and vowed to the Holy
Virgin a candle from our little possessions, or, in the lovely month of
May, brought flowers to her from our mother’s little garden, the cliff,
or the dark forest. The courtyard where we learned to manage a steed and
use our weapons, the hall where we listened to the wandering minstrels,
in ruins! Gone, gone, all gone! My mother and Maria weeping prisoners!”

Here his cousin broke in to show him that love was leading him to look
on the dark side. His mother had chosen the convent for her daughter’s
sake; she was by no means detained there by force. She could live
wherever she pleased, and her dowry, with what she had saved, would be
ample to support her and Maria, in the city or the country, in a style
suited to their rank.

This afforded Heinz some consolation, but enough remained to keep his
grief alive, and his voice sounded very sorrowful as he added: “That
lessens the bitterness of the cup. But who will re build the ancient
castle? Who will restore our uncle? And the Emperor, my beloved,
fatherly master, dying of grief! Our Hartmann dead! Washed away like a
dry branch which the swift Reuss seizes and hurries out of our sight!
Too much, too hard, too terrible! Yet the sun shines as brightly as
before! The children in the street below laugh as merrily as ever!”

Groaning aloud, he covered his face with his hands, and those from whom
he might have expected consolation were forced to leave him in the midst
of the deepest sorrow; for the Swiss mail, which had come to Maier
of Silenen as the most distinguished of his countrymen, was awaiting
distribution, and Count Gleichen was forced to fulfill his sorrowful
duty as messenger. His friend Heinz had lent him his second horse, the
black, to ride to the fortress.

While Heinz, pursued by grief and care, sometimes paced up and down the
room, sometimes threw himself into the armchair which Frau Barbara, to
do him special honour, had placed in the sitting-room, the Minorite monk
Benedictus, whom he had brought to Nuremberg, had come uninvited
from the neighbouring monastery to give him a morning greeting. The
enthusiasm with which St. Francis had filled his soul in his early years
had not died out in his aged breast. He who in his youth had borne the
escutcheon of his distinguished race in many a battle and tourney, as a
knight worthy of all honour, sympathised with his young equal in rank,
and found him in the mood to provide for his eternal salvation. On the
ride to Nuremberg he had perceived in Heinz a pious heart and a keen
intellect which yearned for higher things. But at that time the joyous
youth had not seemed to him ripe for the call of Heaven; when he found
him bowed with grief, his eyes, so radiant yesterday, swimming in tears,
the conviction was aroused that the Omnipotent One Himself had taken him
by the hand to lead the young Swiss, to whom he gratefully wished the
best blessings, into the path which the noble Saint of Assisi himself
had pointed out to him, and wherein he had found a bliss for which in
the world he had vainly yearned.

But his conversation with his young friend had been interrupted, first
by the tailor who was to make his mourning garb, then by Siebenburg, and
even later he had had no opportunity to school Heinz; for after Seitz
had gone Biberli and Katterle had needed questioning. The result of this
was sufficiently startling, and had induced Heinz to send the servant
and his sweetheart on the errand from which the former had not yet
returned.

When the young knight found himself alone he repeated what the monk had
just urged upon him. Then Eva’s image rose before him, and he had asked
himself whether she, the devout maiden, would not thank her saint when
she learned that he, obedient to her counsel, was beginning to provide
for his eternal salvation.

Moved by such thoughts, he had smiled as he told himself that the
Minorite seemed to be earnestly striving to win him for the monastery.
The old man meant kindly, but how could he renounce the trade of arms,
for which he was reared and which he loved?

Then he had been obliged to ride to the fortress to wait upon the
Emperor and tell him how deeply he sympathised with his grief. But he
was denied admittance. Rudolph desired to be alone, and would not see
even his nearest relatives.

On the way home he wished to pass through the inner gate of the
Thiergartnerthor into Thorstrasse to cross the milk market. The violence
of the noonday thundershower had already begun to abate, and he had
ridden quietly forward, absorbed in his grief, when suddenly a loud,
rattling crash had deafened his ears and made him feel as if the earth,
the gate, and the fortress were reeling. At the same moment his horse
leaped upward with all four feet at once, tossed its clever head
convulsively, and sank on its knees.

Half blinded by the dazzling light he saw, and bewildered by the
sulphurous vapour he noticed, Heinz nevertheless retained his presence
of mind, and had sprung from the saddle ere the quivering steed fell
on its side. Several of the guard at the gate quickly hastened to his
assistance, examined the horse with him, and found the noble animal
already dead. The lightning had darted along the iron mail on its
forehead and the steel bit, and struck the ground without injuring Heinz
himself. The soldiers and a Dominican monk who had sought shelter from
the rain in the guardhouse extolled this as a great miracle. The
people who had crowded to the spot were also seized with pious awe, and
followed the knight to whom Heaven had so distinctly showed its favour.

Heinz himself only felt that something extraordinary had happened. The
world had gained a new aspect. His life, which yesterday had appeared so
immeasurably long, now seemed brief, pitifully brief. Perhaps it would
end ere the sun sank to rest in the Haller meadows. He must deem every
hour that he was permitted to breathe as a gift, like the earnest money
he, placed in the trainer’s hand in a horse trade. According to human
judgment the lightning should have killed him as well as the horse. If
he still lived and breathed and saw the grey clouds drifting across the
sky, this was granted only that he might secure his eternal salvation,
to which hitherto he had given so little concern. How grateful he ought
to be that this respite had been allowed him--that he had not been
snatched away unwarned, like Prince Hartmann, in the midst of his sins!

Would not Eva feel the same when she learned what had befallen him?
Perhaps Biberli would come back soon--he had been gone so long--and
could tell him about her.

Even before the thunderbolt had stirred the inmost depths of his being,
when he was merely touched by his deep grief and the monk’s admonition,
he had striven to guide the servant and his sweetheart into the right
path, and the grey-haired monk aided him. The monastic life, it is true,
would not have suited Biberli, but he had shown himself ready to atone
for the wrong done the poor girl who had kept her troth for three long
years and, unasked, went back with her to her angry master.

Ere Heinz set forth on his ride to the fortress he had gone
out declaring that he would prove the meaning of his truth and
steadfastness, thereby incurring a peril which certainly gave him a
right to wear the T and St on his long robe and cap forever. He must
expect to be held to a strict account by Ernst Ortlieb. If the incensed
father, who was a member of the Council, used the full severity of the
law, he might fare even worse than ill. But he had realised the pass
to which he had brought his sweetheart, and the Minorite led his honest
heart to the perception of the sin he would commit if he permitted
her to atone for an act which she had done by his desire--nay, at his
command.

With the gold Heinz had given him, and after his assurance that he would
retain him in his service even when a married man, he could, it is true,
more easily endure being punished with her who, as his wife, would soon
be destined to share evil with him as well as good. He had also secured
the aid of both his master and the Minorite, and had arranged an account
of what had occurred, which placed his own crime and the maid’s in a
milder light. Finally--and he hoped the best result from this--Katterle
would bring the Ortliebs good news, and he was the very man to make it
useful to Jungfrau Els.

So he had committed his destiny to his beloved master, behind whom was
the Emperor himself, to the Minorite, who, judging from his great age
and dignified aspect, might be an influential man, St. Leodogar, and his
own full purse and, with a heart throbbing anxiously, entered the street
with the closely muffled Katterle, to take the unpleasant walk to the
exasperated master and father.

The morning had been rife with important events to Biberli also. The
means of establishing a household, the conviction that it would be hard
for him to remain a contented man without the idol of his heart, and the
still more important one that it would not be wise to defer happiness
long, because, as the death of young Prince Hartmann had shown, and
Pater Benedictus made still more evident, the possibility of enjoying
the pleasures of life might be over far too speedily.

He had been within an ace of losing his Katterle forever, and through no
one’s guilt save that of the man on whose truth and steadfastness she so
firmly relied. After Siebenburg’s departure she had confessed with tears
to him, his master, and the monk, what had befallen her, and how she had
finally reached the Bindergasse and Sir Heinz Schorlin’s lodgings.

When, during the conflagration, fearing punishment, she had fled, she
went first to the Dutzen pond. Determined to end her existence,
she reached the goal of her nocturnal and her life pilgrimage. The
mysterious black water with its rush-grown shore, where ducks quacked
and frogs croaked in the sultry gloom, lay before her in the terrible
darkness. After she had repeated several Paternosters, the thought that
she must die without receiving the last unction weighed heavily on her
soul. But this she could not help, and it seemed more terrible to stand
in the stocks, like the barber’s widow, and be insulted, spit upon
by the people, than to endure the flames of purgatory, where so many
others--probably among them Biberli, who had brought her to this
pass--would be tortured with her.

So she laid down the bundle which--she did not know why herself--she had
brought with her, and took off her shoes as if she were going into
the water to bathe. Just at that moment she suddenly saw a red light
glimmering on the dark surface of the water. It could not be the
reflection of the fires of purgatory, as she had thought at first. It
certainly did not proceed from the forge on the opposite shore, now
closed, for its outlines rose dark and motionless against the moon.
No--a brief glance around verified it--the light came from the burning
of the convent. The sky was coloured a vivid scarlet in two places, but
the glow was brightest towards the southeastern part of the city,
where St. Klarengasse must be. Then she was overpowered by torturing
curiosity. Must she die without knowing how much the fire had injured
the newly built convent, on whose site she had enjoyed the springtime
of love, and how the good Sisters fared? It seemed impossible, and her
greatest fault for the first time proved a blessing. It drew her back
from the Dutzen pond to the city.

On reaching the Marienthurm she learned that only a barn and a cow
stable had b@en destroyed by the flames. For this trivial loss she had
suffered intense anxiety and been faithless to her resolution to seek
death, which ends all fears.

Vexed by her own weakness, she determined to go back to her employer’s
house and there accept whatever fate the saints bestowed. But when
she saw a light still shining through the parchment panes in the room
occupied by the two Es, she imagined that Herr Ernst was pronouncing
judgment upon Eva. In doing so her own guilt must be recalled, and the
thought terrified her so deeply that she joined the people returning
from the fire, for whom the Frauenthor still stood open, and allowed
the crowd to carry her on with them to St. Kunigunde’s chapel in St.
Lawrence’s church; and when some, passing the great Imhof residence,
turned into the Kotgasse, she followed.

Hitherto she had walked on without goal or purpose, but here the
question where to seek shelter confronted her; for the torchbearers who
had lighted the way disappeared one after another in the various houses.
Deep darkness suddenly surrounded her, and she was seized with terror.
But ere the last torch vanished, its light fell upon one of the brass
basins which hung in front of the barbers’ shops.

The barber! The woman whom she had seen in the stocks was the widow of
one, and the house where she granted the lovers the meeting, on whose
account she had been condemned to so severe a punishment, was in the
Kotgasse, and had been pointed out to her. It must be directly opposite.
The thought entered her mind that the woman who had endured such a
terrible punishment, for a crime akin to her own, would understand
better than any one else the anguish of her heart. How could the widow
yonder refuse her companion in guilt a compassionate reception!

It was a happy idea, but she would never have ventured to rouse the
woman from her sleep, so she must wait. But the first grey light of dawn
was already appearing in the eastern horizon on the opposite side of
the square of St. Lawrence, and perhaps Frau Ratzer would open her house
early.

The street did honour to the name of Kotgasse--[Kot or koth-mire].
Holding her dress high around her, Katterle waded across to the northern
row of houses and reached the plank sidewalk covered with mud to her
ankles; but at the same moment a door directly in front of her opened,
and two persons, a man and a woman, entered the street and glided by;
but they came from Frau Ratzer’s--she recognised it by the bow-window
above the entrance. The maid hurried towards the door, which still stood
open, and on its threshold was the woman to whom she intended to pay her
early visit.

Almost unable to speak, she entreated her to grant a poor girl, who
did not know where to seek shelter at this hour, the protection of her
house.

The widow silently drew Katterle into the dark, narrow entry, shut the
door, and led her into a neat, gaily ornamented room. A lamp which was
still burning hung from the ceiling, but Frau Ratzer raised the tallow
candle she had carried to the door, threw its light upon her face, and
nodded approvingly. Katterle was a pretty girl, and the flush of shame
which crimsoned her cheeks was very becoming. The widow probably thought
so, too, for she stroked them with her fat hand, promising, as she
did so, to receive her and let her want for nothing if she proved an
obedient little daughter. Then she pinched the girl’s arm with the tips
of her fingers so sharply that she shrank back and timidly told the
woman what had brought her there, saying that she was and intended
to remain a respectable girl, and had sought shelter with Frau Ratzer
because she knew what a sore disgrace she had suffered for the same
fault which had driven her from home.

But the widow, starting as if stung by a scorpion, denounced Katterle as
an impudent hussy, who rightfully belonged in the stocks, to which the
base injustice of the money-bags in the court had condemned her. There
was no room in her clean house for anyone who reminded her of this
outrage and believed that she had really committed so shameful an act.
Then, seizing the maid by the shoulders, she pushed her into the street.

Meanwhile it had grown light. The sun had just risen in the east above
the square of St. Lawrence and spread a golden fan of rays over
the azure sky. The radiant spectacle did not escape the eyes of the
frightened girl, and she rejoiced because it gave her the assurance that
the terrifying darkness of the night was over.

How fresh the morning was, how clear and beautiful the light of the
young day! And it shone not only on the great and the good, but on the
lowly, the poor, and the wicked. Even for the horrible woman within the
sky adorned itself with the exquisite blue and glorious brilliancy.

Uttering a sigh of relief she soon reached the Church of St. Lawrence,
which the old sexton was just opening. She was the first person who
entered the stately house of God that morning and knelt in one of the
pews to pray.

This had been the right thing for her to do. Dear Lord! Where was there
any maid in greater trouble, yet Heaven had preserved her from the death
on a red-hot gridiron which had rendered St. Lawrence, whose name the
church bore, a blessed martyr. Compared with that, even standing in the
pillory was not specially grievous. So she poured out her whole soul to
the saint, confessing everything which grieved and oppressed her, until
the early mass began. She had even confided to him that she was from
Sarnen in Switzerland, and had neither friend nor countryman here in
Nuremberg save her lover, the true and steadfast Biberli. Yet no! There
was one person from her home who probably would do her a kindness, the
wife of the gatekeeper in the von Zollern castle, a native of Berne,
who had come to Nuremberg and the fortress as the maid of the Countess
Elizabeth of Hapsburg, the present Burgravine. This excellent woman
could give her better counsel than any one, and she certainly owed the
recollection of Frau Gertrude to her patron saint.

After a brief thanksgiving she left the church and went to the fortress.

As she expected, her countrywoman received her kindly; and after
Katterle had confided everything to her, and in doing so mentioned Wolff
Eysvogel, the betrothed husband of the elder of her young mistresses,
Frau Gertrude listened intently and requested her to wait a short time.

Yet one quarter of an hour after another elapsed before she again
appeared. Her husband, the Bernese warder, a giant of a man to whom the
red and yellow Swiss uniform and glittering halberd he carried in his
hand were very becoming, accompanied his wife.

After briefly questioning Katterle, he exacted a solemn promise of
secrecy and then motioned to her to follow him. Meanwhile the maid had
been informed how the duel between Wolff Eysvogel and Ulrich Vorchtel
had ended, but while she still clasped her hands in horror, the Swiss
had opened the door of a bright, spacious apartment, where Els Ortlieb’s
betrothed husband received her with a kind though sorrowful greeting.
Then he continued his writing, and at last gave her two letters. One, on
whose back he drew a little heart, that she might not mistake it for
the other, was addressed to his betrothed bride; the second to Heinz
Schorlin, whom Wolff--no, her ears did not deceive her--called the
future husband of his sister-in-law Eva. At breakfast, which she shared
with her country people and their little daughter, Katterle would
have liked to learn how Wolff reached the fortress, but the gatekeeper
maintained absolute silence on this subject.

The maid at last, without hindrance, reached the Deichsler house and
found Biberli (not) at home. She ought to have returned to the Ortliebs
in his company long before, but the knight still vainly awaited his
servant’s appearance. He missed him sorely, since it did not enter his
head that his faithful shadow, Biberli, knew nothing of the thunderbolt
which had almost robbed him of his master and killed his pet, the dun
horse. Besides, he was anxious about his fate and curious to learn how
he had found the Ortlieb sisters; for, though Eva alone had power to
make Heinz Schorlin’s heart beat faster, the misfortune of poor Els
affected him more deeply as the thought that he was its cause grew more
and more painful.

Wolff’s letter, which Katterle delivered to him, revealed young
Eysvogel’s steadfast love for the hapless girl. In it he also alluded to
his nocturnal interview with Heinz, and in cordial words admitted that
he thought he had found in him a sincere friend, to whom, if to any one,
he would not grudge his fair young sister-in-law Eva. Then he described
how the unfortunate duel had occurred.

After mentioning what had excited young Ulrich Vorchtel’s animosity,
he related that, soon after his interview with Heinz, he had met young
Vorchtel, accompanied by several friends. Ulrich had barred his way,
loading him with invectives so fierce and so offensive to his honour,
that he was obliged to accept the challenge. As he wore no weapon save
the dagger in his belt, he used the sword which a German knight among
Ulrich’s companions offered him. Calm in the consciousness that he had
given his former friend’s sister no reason to believe in his love, and
firmly resolved merely to bestow a slight lesson on her brother, he took
the weapon. But when Ulrich shouted to the crusader that the blade he
lent was too good for the treacherous hand he permitted to wield it, his
blood boiled, and with his first powerful thrust all was over.

The German knight had then introduced himself as a son of the Burgrave
von Zollern and taken him to the castle, where, with his father’s
knowledge, the noble young Knight Hospitaller concealed him, and the
point now was to show the matter, which was undoubtedly a breach of the
peace, to the Emperor Rudolph in the right light. The young Burgrave
thought that he, Heinz Schorlin, could aid in convincing the sovereign,
who would lend him a ready ear, that he, Wolff, had only drawn his sword
under compulsion. So truly as Heinz himself hoped to be a happy man
through Eva’s love, he must help him to bridge the chasm which, by his
luckless deed, separated him from his betrothed bride.

Heinz had had this letter read aloud twice. Then when Biberli had gone
and he rode to the fortress, he had resolved to do everything in his
power for the young Nuremberg noble who had so quickly won his regard,
but the sorely stricken imperial father had refused to see him, and
therefore it was impossible to take any step in the matter.

Yet Wolff’s letter had showed that he believed him in all earnestness to
be Eva’s future husband, and thus strengthened his resolve to woo her as
soon as he felt a little more independent.

After the thunderbolt had killed the horse under him, and the old
Minorite had again come and showed him that the Lord Himself, through
the miracle He had wrought, had taken him firmly and swiftly by the hand
as His chosen follower, it seemed to his agitated mind, when he took up
the letter a second time, as though everything Wolff had written about
him and Els’s sister was not intended for him.

Eva was happiness--but Heaven had vouchsafed a miracle to prove the
transitoriness of earthly life, that by renunciation here he might
attain endless bliss above. Sacrifice and again sacrifice, according to
the Minorite, was the magic spell that opened the gates of heaven, and
what harder sacrifice could he offer than that of his love? “Renounce!
renounce!” he heard a voice within cry in his ears as, with much
difficulty, he himself read Wolff’s letter, but whatever he might cast
away of all that was his, he still would fail to take up his cross as
Father Benedictus required; for even as an unknown beggar he would have
enjoyed--this he firmly believed--in Eva’s love the highest earthly
bliss. Yet divine love was said to be so much more rapturous, and how
much longer it endured!

And she? Did not the holy expression of her eyes and the aspiration of
her own soul show that she would understand him, approve his sacrifice,
imitate it, and exchange earthly for heavenly love? Neither could
renounce it without inflicting deep wounds on the heart, but every drop
of blood which gushed from them, the Minorite said, would add new and
heavy weight to their claim to eternal salvation.

Ay, Heinz would try to resign Eva! But when he yielded to the impulse
to read Wolff’s letter again he felt like a dethroned prince whom some
stranger, ignorant of his misfortune, praises for his mighty power.

The visions of the future which the greyhaired monk conjured up, all
that he told hint of his own regeneration, transformation, and the
happiness which he would find as a disciple of St. Francis in poverty,
liberty, and the silent struggle for eternal bliss, everything which
he described with fervid eloquence, increased the tumult in the young
knight’s deeply agitated soul.



IN THE FIRE OF THE FORGE--PART II.



CHAPTER I.

The vesper bells had already died away, yet Heinz was still listening
eagerly to the aged Minorite, who was now relating the story of St.
Francis, his breach with everything that he loved, and the sorrowful
commencement of his life. The monk could have desired no more attentive
auditor. Only the young knight often looked out of the window in search
of Biberli, who had not yet returned.

The latter had gone to the Ortlieb mansion with Katterle.

The runaway maid, whose disappearance, at old Martsche’s earnest
request, had already been “cried” in the city, had no cause to complain
of her reception; for the housekeeper and the other servants, who knew
nothing of her guilt, greeted her as a favourite companion whom they had
greatly missed, and Biberli had taken care that she was provided with
answers to the questions of the inquisitive. The story which he had
invented began with the false report that a fire had broken out in the
fortress. This had startled Katterle, and attracted her to the citadel
to aid her countrywoman and her little daughter. Then came the statement
that she spent the night there, and lastly the tale that in the morning
she was detained in the Swiss warder’s quarters by a gentleman of
rank--perhaps the Burgrave himself--who, after he had learned who she
was, wished to give her some important papers for Herr Ernst Ortlieb.
She had waited hours for them and finally, on the way home, chanced to
meet Biberli.

At first the maid found it difficult to repeat this patchwork of truth
and fiction in proper order, but the ex-schoolmaster impressed it so
firmly on his sweetheart’s mind that at last it flowed from her lips as
fluently as his pupils in Stanstadt had recited the alphabet.

So she became among the other servants the heroine of an innocent
adventure whose truth no one doubted, least of all the housekeeper, who
felt a maternal affection for her. Some time elapsed ere she could reach
the Es; they were still with their mother, who was so ill that the leech
Otto left the sick-room shaking his head.

As soon as he had gone Biberli stopped Els, who had accompanied the
physician outside the door of the sufferer’s chamber, and earnestly
entreated her to forgive him and Katterle--who stood at his side with
drooping head, holding her apron to her eyes and persuade her father
also to let mercy take the place of justice.

But kind-hearted Els proved sterner than the maid had ever seen her.

As her mother had been as well as usual when she woke, they had told her
of the events of the previous night. Her father was very considerate,
and even kept back many incidents, but the invalid was too weak for
so unexpected and startling a communication. She was well aware of her
excitable daughter’s passionate nature; but she had never expected that
her little “saint,” the future bride of Heaven, would be so quickly
fired with earthly love, especially for a stranger knight. Moreover, the
conduct of Eva who, though she entreated her forgiveness, by no means
showed herself contritely ready to resign her lover, had given her so
much food for thought that she could not find the rest her frail body
required.

Soon after these disclosures she was again attacked with convulsions,
and Els thought of them and the fact that they were caused by Eva’s
imprudence, instigated by the maid, when she refused Biberli her
intercession with her father in behalf of him and his bride, as he now
called Katterle.

The servitor uttered a few touching exclamations of grief, yet meanwhile
thrust his hand into the pocket of his long robe and, with a courteous
bow and the warmest message of love from her betrothed husband, whom
Katterle had seen in perfect health and under the best care in the
Zollern castle, delivered to the indignant girl the letter which Wolff
had entrusted to the maid. Els hurried with the missive so impatiently
expected to the window in the hall, through which the sun, not yet
reached by the rising clouds, was shining, and as it contained nothing
save tender words of love which proved that her betrothed husband firmly
relied upon her fidelity and, come what might, would not give her up,
she returned to the pair, and hurriedly, but in a more kindly tone,
informed them that her father was greatly incensed against both, but
she would try to soften him. At present he was in his office with Herr
Casper Eysvogel; Biberli might wait in the kitchen till the latter went
away.

Els then entered the sick-chamber, but Biberli put his hand under his
sweetheart’s chin, bent her head back gently, and said: “Now you see how
Biberli and other clever people manage. The best is kept until the last.
The result of the first throw matters little, only he who wins the last
goes home content. To know how to choose the bait is also an art. The
trout bites at the fly, the pike at the worm, and a yearning maiden at
her lover’s letter. Take notice! To-day, which began with such cruel
sorrow, will yet have a tolerable end.”

“Nay,” cried Katterle, nudging him angrily with her elbow, “we never
had a day begin more happily for us. The gold with which we can set up
housekeeping--”

“Oh, yes,” interrupted Biberli, “the zecchins and gold florins are
certainly no trifle. Much can be bought with them. But Schorlin Castle
razed to the ground, my master’s lady mother and Fraulein Maria held as
half captives in the convent, to say nothing of the light-hearted Prince
Hartmann and Sir Heinz’s piteous grief--if all these things could be
undone, child, I should not think the bag of gold, and another into
the bargain, too high a price to pay for it. What is the use of a house
filled with fine furniture when the heart is so full of sorrow? At home
we all eat together out of a cracked clay dish across which a tinker had
drawn a wire, with rude wooden spoons made by my father, yet how we all
relished it!--what more did we want?”

As he spoke he drew her into the kitchen, where he found a friendly
reception.

True, the Ortlieb servants were attached to their employers and
sincerely sorry for the ill health of the mistress of the house, but
for several years the lamentations and anxiety concerning her had been
ceaseless. The young prince’s death had startled rather than saddened
them. They did not know him, but it was terrible to die so young and
so suddenly. They would not have listened to a merry tale which stirred
them to laughter, but Biberli’s stories of distant lands, of the court,
of war, of the tournament, just suited their present mood, and the
narrator was well pleased to find ready listeners. He had so many things
to forget, and he never succeeded better than when permitted to use his
tongue freely. He wagged it valiantly, too, but when the thunderstorm
burst he paused and went to the window. His narrow face was blanched,
and his agile limbs moved restlessly. Suddenly remarking, “My master
will need me,” he held out his hand to Katterle in farewell. But as the
zigzag flash of lightning had just been followed by the peal of thunder,
she clung to him, earnestly beseeching him not to leave her. He yielded,
but went out to learn whether Herr Casper was still in the office, and
in a short time returned, exclaiming angrily: “The old Eysvogel seems to
be building his nest here!”

Then, to the vexation of the clumsy old cook, whom he interrupted by his
restless movements in the Paternosters she was repeating on her rosary,
he began to stride up and down before the hearth.

His light heart had rarely been so heavy. He could not keep his thoughts
from his master, and felt sure that Heinz needed him; that he, Biberli,
would have cause to regret not being with him at this moment. Had the
storm destroyed the Ortlieb mansion he would have considered it only
natural; and as he glanced around the kitchen in search of Katterle,
who, like most of the others, was on her knees with her rosary in her
hand, old Martsche rushed in, hurried up to the cook, shook her as if to
rouse her from sleep, and exclaimed: “Hot water for the blood-letting!
Quick! Our mistress--she’ll slip through our hands.”

As she spoke, the young kitchen maid Metz helped the clumsy woman up,
and Biberli also lent his aid.

Just as the jug was filled, Els, too, hastened in, snatched it from the
hand of Martsche, whose old feet were too slow for her, and hurried with
it into the entry and up the stairs, passing her father, to whom she had
called on the way down.

Casper Eysvogel stood at the bottom of the steps, and called after her
that it would not be his fault, but her father’s, if everything between
her and his son was over.

She probably heard the words, but made no answer, and hastened as fast
as her feet would carry her to her mother’s bed.

The old physician was holding the gasping woman in his arms, and Eva
knelt beside the high bedstead sobbing, as she covered the dry, burning
hand with kisses.

When Ernst Ortlieb entered the chamber of his beloved wife a cold chill
ran down his back, for the odour of musk, which he had already inhaled
beside many a deathbed, reached him.

It had come to this! The end which he had so long delayed by tender love
and care was approaching. The flower which had adorned his youth and,
spite of its broken stem, had grown still dearer and was treasured
beyond everything else that bloomed in his garden, would be torn from
him.

This time no friendly potion had helped her to sleep through the noise
of the thunderstorm. Soon after the attack of convulsions the agitated,
feeble sufferer had started up in terror at the first loud peal of
thunder. Fright followed fright, and when the leech came voluntarily to
enquire for her, he found a dying woman.

The bleeding restored her to consciousness for a short time, and she
evidently recognised her husband and her children. To the former
she gave a grateful, tender glance of love, to Els an affectionate,
confidential gesture, but Eva, her pride and joy, whom the past night
had rendered a child of sorrow, claimed her attention most fully.

Her kind, gentle eyes rested a long time upon her: then she looked
toward her husband as if beseeching him to cherish this child with
special tenderness in his heart; and when he returned the glance with
another, in which all the wealth of his great and loyal love shone
through his tears, her fever-flushed features brightened. Memories of
the spring of her love seemed to irradiate her last moments and, as her
eyes again rested on Eva, her lips once more smiled with the bewitching
expression, once her husband’s delight, which had long deserted them.

It seemed during this time as if she had forgotten the faithful nurse
who for years had willingly sacrificed the pleasures of her days and the
sleep of her nights, to lavish upon the child of her anxiety all that
her mother-heart still contained, which was naught save love.

Els doubtless noticed it, but with no bitter or sorrowful thoughts. She
and the beloved dying woman understood one another. Each knew what she
was to the other. Her mother need not doubt, nor did she, that, whatever
obstacles life might place in her pathway, Els would pursue the right
course even without counsel and guidance. But Eva needed her love and
care so much just now, and when the sufferer gave her older daughter
also a tender glance and vainly strove to falter a few words of thanks,
Els herself replaced in Eva’s the hand which her mother had withdrawn.

Fran Maria nodded gently to Els, as if asking her sensible elder
daughter to watch over her forsaken sister in her place.

Then her eyes again sought her husband, but the priest, to whom she had
just confessed, approached her instead.

After the holy man had performed the duties of his office, she again
turned her head toward Eva. It seemed as though she was feasting her
eyes on her daughter’s charms. Meanwhile she strove to utter what more
she desired to say, but the bystanders understood only the words--they
were her last: “We thought--should be untouched--But now Heaven----”

Here she paused and, after closing her eyes for a time, went on in a
lower but perfectly distinct tone: “You are good--I hope--the forge-fire
of life--it is fortunate for you The heart and its demands The
hap--pi--ness--which it--gave--me----It ought--it must--you, too----”

Whilst speaking she had again glanced towards her husband, then at the
Abbess Kunigunde, who knelt beside him, and as the abbess met the look
she thought, “She is entrusting the child to me, and desires Eva to
be happy as one of us and the fairest of the brides of Heaven!” Ernst
Ortlieb, wholly overpowered by the deepest grief, was far from enquiring
into the meaning of these last words of his beloved dying wife.

Els, on the contrary, who had learned to read the sufferer’s features
and understood her even without words when speech was difficult, had
watched every change in the expression of her features with the utmost
attention. Without reflecting or interpreting, she was sure that the
movements of her dying mother’s lips had predicted to Eva that the
“forge fire of life” would exert its purifying and moulding influence on
her also, and wished that in the world, not in the convent, she might be
as happy as she herself had been rendered by her father’s love.

After these farewell words Frau Maria’s features became painfully
distorted, the lids drooped over her eyes, there was a brief struggle,
then a slight gesture from the physician announced to the weeping group
that her earthly pilgrimage was over.

No one spoke. All knelt silently, with clasped hands, beside the couch,
until Eva, as if roused from a dream, shrieked, “She will never come
back again!” and with passionate grief threw herself upon the lifeless
form to kiss the still face and beseech her to open her dear eyes once
more and not leave her.

How often she had remained away from the invalid in order to let her
aunt point out the path for her own higher happiness whilst Els nursed
her mother; but now that she had left her, she suddenly felt what she
had possessed and lost in her love. It seemed as if hitherto she had
walked beneath the shadow of leafy boughs, and her mother’s death
had stripped them all away as an autumn tempest cruelly tears off
the foliage. Henceforth she must walk in the scorching sun without
protection or shelter. Meanwhile she beheld in imagination fierce flames
blazing brightly from the dark soot--the forge fire of life, to which
the dead woman’s last words had referred. She knew what her mother had
wished to say, but at the present time she lacked both the desire and
the strength to realise it.

For a time each remained absorbed by individual grief. Then the father
drew both girls to his heart and confessed that, with their mother’s
death life, already impoverished by the loss of his only son, had been
bereft of its last charm. His most ardent desire was to be summoned soon
to follow the departed ones.

Els summoned up her courage and asked: “And we--are we nothing to you,
father?”

Surprised by this rebuke, he started, removed his wet handkerchief from
his eyes, and answered: “Yes, yes--but the old do not reckon Ay, much is
left to me. But he who is robbed of his best possession easily forgets
the good things remaining, and good you both are.”

He kissed his daughter lovingly as he spoke, as if wishing to retract
the words which had wounded her; then gazing at the still face of the
dead, he said: “Before you dress her, leave her alone with me for a
time----There is a wild turmoil here and here”--he pointed to his breast
and brow--“and yet The last hours----There is so much to settle and
consider in a future without her With her, with her dear calm features
before my eyes----”

Here a fresh outburst of grief stifled his voice; but Els pointed to the
image of the Virgin on the wall and beckoned to her sister.

Wholly engrossed by her own sorrow, Eva had scarcely heeded her father’s
words, and now impetuously refused to leave her mother. Herr Ernst,
pleased by this immoderate grief for the one dearest to him, permitted
her to remain, and asked Els to attend to the outside affairs which a
death always brought with it.

Els accepted the new duty as a matter of course and went to the door;
but at the threshold she turned back, rushed to the deathbed, kissed the
pure brow and closed eyelids of the sleeper, and then knelt beside her
in silent prayer. When she rose she clasped Eva, who had knelt and risen
with her, in a close embrace, and whispered: “Whatever happens, you may
rely on me.”

Then she consulted her father concerning certain arrangements which must
be made, and also asked him what she should say to the maid’s lover, who
had come to beseech his forgiveness.

“Tell him to leave me in peace!” cried Herr Ernst vehemently. Els tried
to intercede for the servant, but her father pressed both hands over his
ears, exclaiming: “Who can reach a decision when he is out of his senses
himself? Let the man come to-morrow, or the day after. Whoever may call,
I will see no one, and don’t wish to know who is here.”

But the peace and solitude for which he longed seemed denied him. A few
hours after he left the chamber of death he was obliged to go to the
Town Hall on business which could not be deferred; and when, shortly
before sunset, he returned home and locked himself into his own room,
old Eysvogel again appeared.

He looked pale and agitated, and ordered the manservant--who denied
him admittance as he had been directed--to call Jungfrau Els. His voice
trembled as he entreated her to persuade her father to see him again.
The matter in question was the final decision of the fate of his ancient
house, of Wolff, and also her own and her marriage with his son. Perhaps
the death of his beloved wife might render her father’s mood more
gentle. He did not yet know all Now he must learn it. If he again said
“No,” it would seal the ruin of the Eysvogel firm.

How imploringly he could plead! how humbly the words fell from the old
merchant’s lips, moving Els to her inmost heart as she remembered the
curt inflexibility with which, only yesterday, this arrogant man, in
that very spot, had refused any connection with the Ortliebs! How much
it must cost him to bow his stiff neck before her, who was so much
younger, and approach her father, whose heart he had so pitilessly
trampled under foot, in the character of a supplicant for aid, perhaps a
beggar!

Besides, Wolff was his son!

Whatever wrong the father had done her she must forget it, and the task
was not difficult; for now--she felt it--no matter from what motive,
he honestly desired to unite her to his son. If her lover now led her
through the door adorned with the huge, showy escutcheon, she would
no longer come as a person unwillingly tolerated, but as a welcome
helper-perhaps as the saviour of the imperilled house. Of the women of
the Eysvogel family she forbade herself to think.

How touching the handsome, aristocratic, grey-haired man seemed to her
in his helpless weakness! If her father would only receive him, he would
find it no easier than she to deny him the compassion he so greatly
needed.

She knocked at the lonely mourner’s door and was admitted.

He was sitting, with his head bowed on his hands, opposite to the
large portrait of her dead mother in her bridal robes. The dusk of the
gathering twilight concealed the picture, but he had doubtless gazed
long at the lovely features, and still beheld them with his mental
vision.

Els was received with a mournful greeting; but when Herr Ernst heard
what had brought her to him, he fiercely commanded her to tell Herr
Casper that he would have nothing more to do with him.

Els interceded for the unfortunate man, begging, pleading, and assuring
her father that she would never give up Wolff. The happiness of her
whole life was centred in him and his love. If he refused the Eysvogels
the aid besought by the old merchant who, in his humility, seemed a
different man----

Here her father indignantly broke in, ordering her to disturb him no
longer. But now the heritage of his own nature asserted itself in Els
and, with an outburst of indignation, she pointed to the picture of
her mother, whose kind heart certainly could not have endured to see
a broken-hearted man, on whose rescue the happiness of her own child
depended, turned from her door like an importunate beggar.

At this the man whose locks had long been grey sprang from his chair
with the agility of a youth, exclaiming in vehement excitement: “To
embitter the hours devoted to the most sacred grief is genuine Eysvogel
selfishness. Everything for themselves! What do they care for others?
I except your Wolff; let the future decide what concerns him and you. I
will stand by you. But to hope for happiness and peace-nay, even a life
without bitter sorrow for you from the rest of the kin--is to expect to
gather sweet pears from juniper bushes. Ever since your betrothal your
mother and I have had no sleep, disturbed whenever we talked to each
other about your being condemned to live under the same roof with that
old devil, the countess, her pitiable daughter, and that worthless
Siebenburg. But within the past few hours all this has been changed.
The table-cloth has been cut between the Eysvogels and the Ortliebs.
No power in the world can ever join it. I have not told you what has
happened. Now you may learn that you----But first listen, and then
decide on whose side you will stand.

“Early this morning I went to the session of the Council. In the
market-place I met first one member of it, then a second, third, and
fourth; each asked me what had happened to the beautiful E, my lovely
little daughter. Gradually I learned what had reached their ears.
Yesterday evening, on his way home from here, the man outside, Casper
Eysvogel, sullied your--our--good name, child, in a way I have just
learned the particulars. He boasted, in the presence of those estimable
old gentlemen, the Brothers Ebner, that he had flung at my feet the ring
which bound you to his son. You had been surprised at midnight, he said,
in the arms of a Swiss knight, and that base scoundrel Siebenburg,
his daughter’s husband, dared at the gaming-table, before a number of
knights and gentlemen--among them young Hans Gross, Veit Holzschuher,
and others-to put your interview with the Swiss in so false a light that
No, I cannot bring my lips to utter it----

“You need hear only this one thing more: the wretch said that he thanked
his patron saint that they had discovered the jade’s tricks in time. And
this, child, was the real belief of the whole contemptible crew! But now
that the water is up to their necks, and they need my helping hand to
save them from drowning-now they will graciously take Ernst Ortlieb’s
daughter if he will give them his property into the bargain, that they
may destroy both fortune and child. No--a thousand times no! It is not
seemly, at this hour, to yield to the spirit of hate; but she who is
lying in her last sleep above would not have counselled me by a single
word to such suicidal folly. I did not learn the worst until I went to
the Council, or I would have turned the importunate fellow from the door
this morning. Tell the old man so, and add that Ernst Ortlieb will have
nothing more to do with him.”

Here the deeply incensed father pointed to the door.

Els had listened with eyes dilating in horror. The result surpassed her
worst fears.

She had felt so secure in her innocence, and the countess had interceded
for her so cleverly that, absorbed by anxieties concerning Eva,
Cordula, and her mother, she had already half forgotten the disagreeable
incident.

Yet, now that her fair name was dragged through the mire, she could
scarcely be angry with those who pointed the finger of scorn at her; for
faithlessness to a betrothed lover was an offence as great as infidelity
to a husband. Nay, her friends were more ready to condemn a girl who
broke her vow than a wife who forgot her duty.

And if Wolff, in his biding-place in the citadel, should learn what was
said of his Els, to whom yesterday old and young raised their hats in
glad yet respectful greeting, would he not believe those who appealed to
his own father?

Yet ere she had fully realised this fear, she told herself that it was
her duty and her right to thrust it aside. Wolff would not be Wolff if
even for a moment he believed such a thing possible. They ought not,
could not, doubt each other. Though all Nuremberg should listen to the
base calumny and turn its back upon her, she was sure of her Wolff. Ay,
he would cherish her with twofold tenderness when he learned by whom
this terrible suffering had been inflicted upon her.

Drawing a long breath, she again fixed her eyes upon her mother’s
portrait. Had she now rushed out to tell the old man who had so cruelly
injured her--oh, it would have lightened her heart!--the wrong he
had done and what she thought of him, her mother would certainly have
stopped her, saying: “Remember that he is your betrothed husband’s
father.” She would not forget it; she could not even hate the ruined
man.

Any effort to change her father’s mood now--she saw it plainly--would
be futile. Later, when his just anger had cooled, perhaps he might be
persuaded to aid the endangered house.

Herr Ernst gazed after her sorrowfully as, with a gesture of farewell,
she silently left the room to tell her lover’s father that he had come
in vain.

The old merchant was waiting in the entry, where the wails of the
servants and the women in the neighbourhood who, according to custom,
were beating their brows and breasts and rending their garments, could
be heard distinctly.

Deadly pale, as if ready to sink, he tottered towards the door.

When Els saw him hesitate at the top of the few steps leading to the
entry, she gave him her arm to support him down. As he cautiously put
one foot after the other on the stairs, she wondered how it was possible
that this man, whose tall figure and handsome face were cast in so noble
a mould, could believe her to be so base; and at the same moment she
remembered the words which old Berthold Vorchtel had uttered in her
presence to his son Ulrich: “If anything obscure comes between you and a
friend, obtain a clear understanding and peace by truth.”

Had the young man who had irritated his misjudged friend into crossing
swords with him followed this counsel, perhaps he would have been alive
now. She would take it herself, and frankly ask Wolff’s father what
justified him in accusing her of so base a deed.

The lamps were already lighted in the hall, and the rays from the
central one fell upon Herr Casper’s colourless face, which wore an
expression of despair. But just as her lips parted to ask the question
the odour of musk reached her from the death-chamber, whose door Eva
had opened. Her mother’s gentle face, still in death, rose before her
memory, and she was forced to exert the utmost self-control not to
weep aloud. Without further reflection she imposed silence upon herself
and--yesterday she would not have ventured to do it--threw her arm
around Herr Casper’s shoulders, gazed affectionately at him, and
whispered: “You must not despair, father. You have a faithful ally in
this house in Els.”

The old man looked down at her in astonishment, but instead of drawing
her closer to him he released himself with courteous coldness, saying
bitterly: “There is no longer any bond between us and the Ortliebs,
Jungfrau Els. From this day forth I am no more your father than you
are the bride of my son. Your will may be good, but how little it can
accomplish has unfortunately been proved.”

Shrugging his shoulders wearily as he spoke, he nodded a farewell and
left the house.

Four bearers were waiting outside with the sedan-chair, three servants
with torches, and two stout attendants carrying clubs over their
shoulders. All wore costly liveries of the Eysvogel colours, and when
their master had taken his seat in the gilded conveyance and the men
lifted it, Els heard a weaver’s wife, who lived near by, say to her
little boy: “That’s the rich Herr Eysvogel, Fritzel. He has as much
money to spend every hour as we have in a whole year, and he is a very
happy man.”



CHAPTER II.

Els went back into the house.

The repulse which she had just received caused her bitter sorrow. Her
father was right. Herr Casper had treated her kindly from a purely
selfish motive. She herself was nothing to him.

But there was so much for her to do that she found little time to grieve
over this new trouble.

Eva was praying in the death-chamber for the soul of the beloved dead
with some of the nuns from the convent, who had lost in her mother a
generous benefactress.

Els was glad to know that she was occupied; it was better that her
sister should be spared many of the duties which she was obliged to
perform. Whilst arranging with the coffin-maker and the “Hegelein,”
 the sexton and upholsterer, ordering a large number of candles
and everything else requisite at the funeral of the mistress of an
aristocratic household, she also found time to look after her father
and Countess Cordula, who was better. Yet she did not forget her own
affairs.

Biberli had returned. He had much to relate; but when forced to admit
that nothing was urgent, she requested him to defer it until later, and
only commissioned him to go to the castle, greet Wolff in her name, and
announce her mother’s death; Katterle would accompany him, in order to
obtain admittance through her countryman, the Swiss warder.

Els might have sent one of the Ortlieb servants; but, in the first
place, the fugitive’s refuge must be concealed, and then she told
herself that Biberli, who had witnessed the occurrence of the previous
evening, could best inform Wolff of the real course of events. But when
she gave him permission to tell her betrothed husband all that he had
seen and heard the day before at the Ortlieb mansion, Biberli replied
that a better person than he had undertaken to do so. As he left his
master, Sir Heinz was just going to seek her lover. When she learned all
that had befallen the knight, she would understand that he was no longer
himself. Els, however, had no time to listen, and promised to hear his
story when he returned; but he was too full of the recent experience
to leave it untold, and briefly related how wonderfully Heaven had
preserved his master’s life. Then he also told her hurriedly that the
trouble which had come upon her through Sir Heinz’s fault burdened his
soul. Therefore he would not let the night pass without at least showing
her betrothed husband how he should regard the gossip of idle tongues if
it penetrated to his hiding-place.

Els uttered a sigh of relief. Surely Wolff must trust her! Yet what
viciously coloured reports might reach him from the Eysvogels! Now that
he would learn the actual truth from the most credible eye-witnesses she
no longer dreaded even the worst calumny.

No one appeared at supper except her father. Eva had begged to be
excused. She wished to remain undisturbed; but the world, with rude yet
beneficent hand, interrupted even her surrender to her grief for her
mother.

The tailor, who protested that, owing to the mourning for young Prince
Hartmann, he had fairly “stolen” this hour for the beautiful Ortlieb
sisters, came with his assistant, and at the same time a messenger
arrived from the cloth-house in the market-place bringing the packages
of white stuffs for selection. Then it was necessary to decide upon
the pattern and material; the sisters must appear in mourning the next
morning at the consecration, and later at the mass for the dead.

Eva had turned to these worldly matters with sincere repugnance, but Els
would not release her from giving them due attention.

It was well for her tortured soul and the poor eyes reddened by weeping.
But when she again knelt in the chamber of death beside her dear nuns
and saw the grey robe, which they all wore, the wish to don one, which
she had so often cherished, again awoke. No other was more pleasing to
her Heavenly Bridegroom, and she forbade herself in this hour to think
of the only person for whose sake she would gladly have adorned herself.
Yet the struggle to forget him constantly recalled him to her mind,
no matter how earnestly she strove to shut out his image whenever it
appeared. But, after her last conversation, must not her mother have
died in the belief that she would not give up her love? And the dead
woman’s last words? Yet, no matter what they meant, here and now nothing
should come between her and the beloved departed. She devoted herself
heart and soul to the memory of the longing for her.

Grief for her loss, repentance for not having devoted herself faithfully
enough to her, and the hope that in the convent her prayers might obtain
a special place in the world beyond for the beloved sleeper, now revived
her wish to take the veil. She felt bound to the nuns, who shared her
aspirations. When her father came to send her to her rest and asked
whether, as a motherless child, she intended to trust his love and care
or to choose another mother who was not of this world, she answered
quietly with a loving glance at the picture of St. Clare, “As you wish,
and she commands.”

Herr Ernst kindly replied that she still had ample time to make her
decision, and then again urged her to leave the watch beside the dead
to the women who had been appointed to it and the nuns, who desired to
remain with the body; but Eva insisted so eagerly upon sharing it that
Els, by a significant gesture to her father, induced him to yield.

She kept her sister away whilst the corpse was being laid out and the
women were performing their other duties by asking Eva to receive their
Aunt Christine, the wife of Berthold Pfinzing, who had hurried to the
city from Schweinau as soon as she had news of her sister-in-law’s
death.

Nothing must cloud the memory of the beloved sufferer in the mind of her
child, and Els knew that Frau Christine had been a dear friend of the
dead woman, that Eva clung to her like a second mother, and that nothing
could reach her sister from her honest heart which would not benefit
her. Nor was she mistaken, for the warm, affectionate manner in which
the matron greeted the young girl restored her composure; nay, when Fran
Christine was obliged to go, because her time was claimed by important
duties, she would gladly have detained her.

When Eva, in a calmer mood than before, at last entered the hall where
her mother’s body now lay in a white silk shroud on the snowy satin
pillows, as she was to be placed before the altar for the service of
consecration on the morrow, she was again overwhelmed with all the
violence of the deepest grief; nay, the burning anguish of her soul
expressed itself so vehemently that the abbess, who had returned whilst
the sisters were still taking leave of their Aunt Christine, did
not succeed in soothing her until, drawing her aside, she whispered:
“Remember our saint, child. He called everything, even the sorest
agony, ‘Sister Sorrow’. So you, too, must greet sorrow as a sister,
the daughter of your heavenly Father. Remember the supreme, loving hand
whence it came, and you will bear it patiently.”

Eva nodded gratefully, and when grief threatened to overpower her she
thought of the saint’s soothing words, “Sister Sorrow,” and her heart
grew calmer.

Els knew how much the emotions of the previous nights must have wearied
her, and had permitted her to share the vigil beside the corpse only
because she believed that she would be unable to resist sleep. She had
slipped a pillow between her back and that of the tall, handsome chair
which she had chosen for a seat, but Eva disappointed her expectation;
for whatever she earnestly desired she accomplished, and whilst Els
often closed her eyes, she remained wide awake. When sleep threatened
to overpower her she thought of her mother’s last words, especially one
phrase, “the forge fire of life,” which seemed specially pregnant with
meaning. Yet, ere she had reached any definite understanding of its
true significance, the cocks began to crow, the song of the nightingale
ceased, and the twittering of the other birds in the trees and bushes in
the garden greeted the dawning day.

Then she rose and, smiling, kissed Els, who was sleeping, on the
forehead, told Sister Renata that she would go to rest, and lay down on
her bed in the darkened chamber.

Whilst praying and reflecting she had thought constantly of her mother.
Now she dreamed that Heinz Schorlin had borne her in his strong arms out
of the burning convent, as Sir Boemund Altrosen had saved the Countess
von Montfort, and carried her to the dead woman, who looked as fresh and
well as in the days before her sickness.

When, three hours before noon, she awoke, she returned greatly refreshed
to her dead mother. How mild and gentle her face was even now; yet the
dear, silent lips could never again give her a morning greeting and,
overwhelmed by grief, she threw herself on her knees before the coffin.

But she soon rose again. Her recent slumber had transformed the
passionate anguish into quiet sorrow.

Now, too, she could think of external things. There was little to
be done in the last arrangement of the dead, but she could place the
delicate, pale hands in a more natural position, and the flowers which
the gardener had brought to adorn the coffin did not satisfy her. She
knew all that grew in the woods and fields near Nuremberg, and no one
could dispose bouquets more gracefully. Her mother had been especially
fond of some of them, and was always pleased when she brought them home
from her walks with the abbess or Sister Perpetua, the experienced old
doctress of the convent. Many grew in the forest, others on the brink of
the water. The beloved dead should not leave the house, whose guide and
ornament she had been, without her favourite blossoms.

Eva arranged the flowers brought by the gardener as gracefully as
possible, and then asked Sister Perpetua to go to walk with her, telling
her father and sister that she wished to be out of doors with the nun
for a short time.

She told no one what she meant to do. Her mother’s favourite flowers
should be her own last gift to her.

Old Martsche received the order to send Ortel, the youngest manservant
in the household, a good-natured fellow eighteen years old, with a
basket, to wait for her and Sister Perpetua at the weir.

After the thunderstorm of the day before the air was specially fresh and
pure; it was a pleasure merely to breathe. The sun shone brightly from
the cloudless sky. It was a delightful walk through the meadows and
forest over the footpath which passed near the very Dutzen pool, where
Katterle the day before had resolved to seek death. All Nature seemed
revived as though by a refreshing bath. Larks flew heavenward with a
low sweet song, from amidst the grain growing luxuriantly for the winter
harvest, and butterflies hovered above the blossoming fields. Slender
dragon-flies and smaller busy insects flitted buzzing from flower to
flower, sucking honey from the brimming calyxes and bearing to others
the seeds needed to form fruit. The songs of finches and the twitter of
white-throats echoed from many a bush by the wayside.

In the forest they were surrounded by delightful shade animated by
hundreds of loud and low voices far away and close at hand. Countless
buds were opening under the moss and ferns, strawberries were ripening
close to the ground, and the delicate leafy boughs of the bilberry
bushes were full of juicy green oared fruit.

Near the weir they heard a loud clanking and echoing, but it had a
very different effect from the noise of the city; instead of exciting
curiosity there was something soothing in the regularity of the blows of
the iron hammer and the monotonous croaking of the frogs.

In this part of the forest, where the fairest flowers grew, the morning
dew still hung glittering from the blossoms and grasses. Here it was
secluded, yet full of life, and amidst the wealth of sounds in which
might be heard the tapping of the woodpecker, the cry of the lapwing,
and the call of the distant wood-pigeon, it was so still and peaceful
that Eva’s heart grew lighter in spite of her grief.

Sister Perpetua spoke only to answer a question. She sympathised with
Eva’s thought when she frankly expressed her pleasure in every new
discovery, for she knew for whom and with what purpose she was seeking
and culling the flowers and, instead of accusing her of want of feeling,
she watched with silent emotion the change wrought in the innocent child
by the effort to render, in league with Nature, an act of loving service
to the one she held dearest.

True, even now grief often rudely assailed Eva’s heart. At such times
she paused, sighing silently, or exclaimed to her companion, “Ah, if she
could be with us!” or else asked thoughtfully if she remembered how her
mother had rejoiced over the fragrant orchid or the white water-lily
which she had just found.

Sister Perpetua had taken part of the blossoms which she had gathered;
but Ortel already stood waiting with the basket, and the house-dog,
Wasser, which had followed the young servant, ran barking joyously to
meet the ladies. Eva already had flowers enough to adorn the coffin as
she desired, and the sun showed that it was time to return.

Hitherto they had met no one. The blossoms could be arranged here in the
forest meadow under the shade of the thick hazel-bushes which bordered
the pine wood.

After Eva had thrown hers on the grass, she asked the nun to do the same
with her own motley bundle.

Between the thicket and the road stood a little chapel which had
been erected by the Mendel family on the spot where a son of old Herr
Nikolaus had been murdered. Four Frank robber knights had attacked
him and the train of waggons he had ridden out to meet, and killed the
spirited young man, who fought bravely in their defence.

Such an event would no longer have been possible so near the city. But
Eva knew what had befallen the Eysvogel wares and, although she did not
lack courage, she started in terror as she heard the tramp of horses’
hoofs and the clank of weapons, not from the city, but within the
forest.

She hastily beckoned to her companion who, being slightly deaf had heard
nothing, to hide with her behind the hazel-bushes, and also told the
young servant, who had already placed the basket beside the flowers, to
conceal himself, and all three strained their ears to catch the sounds
from the wood.

Ortel held the dog by the collar, silenced him, and assured his mistress
that it was only another little band of troopers on their way from
Altdorf to join the imperial army.

But this surmise soon proved wrong, for the first persons to appear were
two armed horsemen, who turned their heads as nimbly as their steeds,
now to the right and now to the left, scanning the thickets along the
road distrustfully. After a somewhat lengthy interval the tall figure
of an elderly man followed, clad in deep mourning. Beneath his cap,
bordered with fine fur, long locks fell to his shoulders, and he was
mounted on a powerful Binzgau charger. At his side, on a beautiful
spirited bay, rode a very young woman whose pliant figure was extremely
aristocratic in its bearing.

As soon as the hazel-bushes and pine trees, which had concealed the
noble pair, permitted a view of them, Eva recognised in the gentleman
the Emperor Rudolph, and in his companion Duchess Agnes of Austria, his
young daughter-in-law, whom she had not forgotten since the dance at the
Town Hall. Behind them came several mailed knights, with the emblems
of the deepest mourning on their garments and helmets, and among those
nearest to the Emperor Eva perceived--her heart almost stood still--the
person whom she had least expected to meet here--Heinz Schorlin.

Whilst she was gathering the flowers for her mother’s coffin his image
had almost vanished from her mind. Now he appeared before her in person,
and the sight moved her so deeply that Sister Perpetua, who saw her turn
pale and cling to the young pine by her side, attributed her altered
expression to fear of robber knights, and whispered, “Don’t be troubled,
child; it is only the Emperor.”

Neither the first horsemen-guards whom the magistrate, Berthold
Pfinzing, Eva’s uncle, had assigned to the sovereign without his
knowledge, to protect him from unpleasant encounters during his early
morning ride--nor the Emperor and his companions could have seen Eva
whilst they were passing the chapel; but scarcely had they reached it
when the dog Wasser, which had escaped from Ortel’s grasp, burst through
the hazel copse and, barking furiously, dashed towards the duchess’s
horse.

The spirited animal leaped aside, but a few seconds later Heinz Schorlin
had swung himself from the saddle and dealt the dog so vigorous a kick
that it retreated howling into the thicket. Meanwhile he had watched
every movement of the bay, and at the right instant his strong hand had
grasped its nostrils and forced it to stand.

“Always alert and on the spot at the right time!” cried the Emperor,
then added mournfully, “So was our Hartmann, too.”

The duchess bent her head in assent, but the grieving father pointed
to Heinz, and added: “The boy owed his blithe vigour partly to the
healthful Swiss blood with which he was born, but yonder knight, during
the decisive years of life, set him the example. Will you dismount,
child, and let Schorlin quiet the bay?”

“Oh, no,” replied the duchess, “I understand the animal. You have not
yet broken the wonderful son of the desert of shying, as you promised.
It was not the barking cur, but yonder basket that has dropped from the
skies, which frightened him.”

She pointed, as she spoke, to the grass near the chapel where, beside
Eva’s flowers, stood the light willow basket which was to receive them.

“Possibly, noble lady,” replied Heinz, patting the glossy neck of the
Arabian, a gift to the Emperor Rudolph from the Egyptian Mameluke Sultan
Kalaun. “But perhaps the clever creature merely wished to force his
royal rider to linger here. Graciously look over yonder, Your Highness;
does it not seem as if the wood fairy herself had laid by the roadside
for your illustrious Majesty the fairest flowers that bloom in field and
forest, mere and moss?”

As he spoke he stooped, selected from the mass of blossoms gathered by
Eva those which specially pleased his eye, hastily arranged them in a
bouquet, and with a respectful bow presented them to the duchess.

She thanked him graciously, put the nosegay in her belt, and gazed at
him with so warm a light in her eyes that Eva felt as if her heart was
shrinking as she watched the scene.

Even princesses, who were separated from him by so wide a gulf, could
not help favouring this man. How could she, the simple maiden whom he
had assured of his love, ever have been able to give him up?

But she had no time to think and ponder; the Emperor was already riding
on with the Bohemian princess, and Heinz went to his horse, whose bridle
was held by one of the troopers who followed the train.

Ere he swung himself into the saddle again, however, he paused to
reflect.

The thought that he had robbed some flower or herb-gatherer of a portion
of the result of her morning’s work had entered his mind and, obeying a
hasty impulse, he flung a glittering zecchin into the basket.

Eva saw it, and every fibre of her being urged her to step forward, tell
him that the flowers were hers, and thank him in the name of the poor
for whom she destined his gift; but maidenly diffidence held her
in check, although he gave her sufficient opportunity; for when he
perceived the image of the Virgin in the Mendel chapel, he crossed
himself, removed his helmet, and bending the knee repeated, whilst the
others rode on without him, a silent prayer. His brown locks floated
around his head, and his features expressed deep earnestness and glowing
ardour.

Oh, how gladly Eva would have thrown herself on her knees beside him,
clasped his hands, and--nay, not prayed, her heart was throbbing too
stormily for that-rested her head upon his breast and told him that
she trusted him, and felt herself one with him in earthly as well as
heavenly love!

Whoever prayed thus in solitude had a soul yearning for the loftiest
things. Others might say what they chose, she knew him better. This man,
from the first hour of their meeting, had loved her with the most ardent
but also with the holiest passion; never, never had he sought her merely
for wanton amusement. Her mother’s last wish would be fulfilled. She
need only trust him with her whole soul, and leave the “forge fire of
life” to strengthen and purify her.

Now she remembered where the dying woman had heard the phrase.

Her Aunt Christine had used it recently in her mother’s presence. Young
Kunz Schurstab had fallen into evil ways in Lyons. Every one, even
his own father, had given him up for lost; but after several years he
returned home and proved himself capable of admirable work, both in his
father’s business and in the Council. In reply to Frau Ortlieb’s enquiry
where this transformation in the young man had occurred, her aunt
answered:

“In the forge fire of life.” Eva told herself that she had intentionally
kept aloof from its flames, and in the convent, perhaps, they would
never have reached her. Yesterday they had seized upon her for the first
time, and henceforward she would not evade them, that she might obey her
mother and become worthy of the man praying silently yonder. He owed to
his heroic courage and good sword a renowned name; but what had she ever
done save selfishly to provide for her own welfare in this world and
the next? She had not even been strong enough to hold the head of the
mother, to whom she owed everything and who had loved her so tenderly,
when the convulsions attacked her.

Even after she closed her eyes in death--she had noticed it--she had
been kept from every duty in the household and for the beloved dead,
because it was deemed unsuitable for her, and Els and every one avoided
putting the serious demands of life between the “little saint” and her
aspirations towards the bliss of heaven. Yet Eva knew that she could
accomplish whatever she willed to do, and instead of using the strength
which she felt stirring with secret power in her fragile body, she had
preferred to let it remain idle, in order to dwell in another world from
that in which she had been permitted to prove her might. The fire of
the forge, by whose means pieces of worthless iron were transformed into
swords and ploughshares, should use its influence upon her also. Let
it burn and torture her, if it only made her a genuine, noble woman, a
woman like her Aunt Christine, from whom her mother had heard the phrase
of “the forge fire of life,” who aided and pointed out the right path
to hundreds, and probably, at her age, had needed neither an Els nor an
Abbess Kunigunde to keep her, body and soul, in the right way. She loved
both; but some impulse within rebelled vehemently against being treated
like a child, and--now that her mother was dead--subjecting her own will
to that of any other person than the man to whom she would have gladly
looked up as a master.

Whilst Heinz knelt in front of the chapel without noticing Sister
Perpetua, who was praying before the altar within, these thoughts darted
through Eva’s brain like a flash of lightning. Now he rose and went to
his horse, but ere he mounted it the dog, barking furiously, again broke
from the thicket close at her side.

Heinz must have seen her white mourning robes, for her own name reached
her ears in a sudden cry, and soon after--she herself could not have
told how--Heinz was standing beside the basket amidst the flowers, with
her hand clasped in his, gazing into her eyes so earnestly and sadly
that he seemed a different person from the reckless dancer in the Town
Hall, though the look was equally warm and tender. Whilst doing so, he
spoke of the deep wound inflicted upon her by her mother’s death. Fate
had dealt him a severe blow also, but grief taught him to turn whither
she, too, had directed him.

Just at that moment the blast of the horn summoning the Emperor’s train
to his side echoed through the forest.

“The Emperor!” cried Heinz; then bending towards the flowers he seized
a few forget-me-nots, and, whilst gazing tenderly at them and Eva,
murmured in a low tone, as if grief choked his utterance: “I know you
will give them to me, for they wear the colour of the Queen of Heaven,
which is also yours, and will be mine till my heart and eyes fail me.”

Eva granted his request with a whispered “Keep them”; but he pressed his
hand to his brow and, as if torn by contending emotions, hastily added:
“Yes, it is that of the Holy Virgin. They say that Heaven has summoned
me by a miracle to serve only her and the highest, and it often seems to
me that they are right. But what will be the result of the conflicting
powers which since that flash of lightning have drawn one usually so
prompt in decision as I, now here, now there? Your blue, Eva, the hue
of these flowers, will remain mine whether I wear it in honour of the
Blessed Virgin, or--if the world does not release me--in yours. She
or you! You, too, Eva, I know, stand hesitating at the crossing of two
paths--which is the right one? We will pray Heaven to show it to you and
to me.”

As he spoke he swung himself swiftly into the saddle and, obeying the
summons, dashed after his imperial master.

Eva gazed silently at the spot where he had vanished behind a group of
pine trees; but Ortel, who had gathered a few early strawberries for
her, soon roused her from her waking dream by exclaiming, as he clapped
his big hands: “I’ll be hanged, Jungfrau Eva, if the knight who spoke to
you isn’t the Swiss to whom the great miracle happened yesterday!”

“The miracle?” she asked eagerly, for Els had intentionally concealed
what she heard, and this evidently had something to do with the
“wonderful summons” of which Heinz had spoken without being understood.

“Yes, a great, genuine miracle,” Ortel went on eagerly. “The
lightning--I heard it from the butcher boy who brings the meat, he
learned it from his master’s wife herself, and now every child in the
city knows it--the lightning struck the knight’s casque during the
thundershower yesterday; it ran along his armour, flashing brightly; the
horse sank dead under him without moving a limb, but he himself escaped
unhurt, and the mark of a cross can be seen in the place where the
lightning struck his helmet.”

“And you think this happened to the very knight who took the flowers
yonder?” asked Eva anxiously.

“As certainly as I hope to have the sacrament before I die, Jungfrau
Eva,” the youth protested. “I saw him riding with that lank Biberli,
Katterle’s lover, who serves him, and such noblemen are not found by
the dozen. Besides, he is one of those nearest to the Emperor Rudolph’s
person. If it isn’t he, I’ll submit to torment----”

“Fie upon your miserable oaths!” Eva interrupted reprovingly. “Do you
know also that the tall, stately gentleman with the long grey hair----”

“That was the Emperor Rudolph!” cried Ortel, sure he was right. “Whoever
has once seen him does not forget him. Everything on earth belongs to
him; but when the knight took our flowers so freely just now as if
they were his own, I thought But there--there--there! See for yourself,
Jungfrau! A heavy, unclipped yellow zecchin!”

As he spoke he took the coin in his hand, crossed himself, and
added thoughtfully: “The little silver coin, or whatever he flung
in here--perhaps to pay for the flowers, which are not worth five
shillings--has been changed into pure gold by the saint who wrought the
miracle for him. My soul! If many in Nuremberg paid so high for forage,
the rich Eysvogel would leave the Council and go in search of wild
flowers!”

Eva begged the man to leave the zecchin, promising to give him another
at home and half a pound in coppers as earnest money. “This is what I
call a lucky morning!” cried Ortel. But directly after he changed his
tone, remembering Eva’s white mourning robe and the object of their
expedition, and his fresh voice sounded very sympathetic as he added:
“If one could only call your lady mother back to life! Ah, me! I’d spend
all my savings to buy for the saints as many candles as my mother has in
her little shop, if that would change things.”

Whilst speaking he filled the basket with flowers, and the nun helped
him. Eva walked before them with bowed head.

Could she hope to wed the man for whom Heaven had performed such a
miracle? Was it no sin to hope and plead that he would wear their common
colour, not in honour of the Queen of Heaven, but of the lowly Eva, in
whom nothing was strong save the desire for good? Was not Heinz forcing
her to enter into rivalry with one the most distant comparison with whom
meant defeat? Yet, no! Her gracious Friend above knew her and her heart.
She knew with what tender love and reverence she had looked up to her
from childhood, and she now confided the love in her heart to her who
had shown herself gracious a thousand times when she raised her soul to
her in prayer.

Eva was breathing heavily when she emerged from the forest and stopped
to wait until Sister Perpetua had finished her prayer in the chapel and
overtook her. Her heart was heavy, and when, in the meadow beyond the
woods, the heat of the sun, which was already approaching the zenith,
made itself felt, it seemed as if she had left the untroubled happiness
of childhood behind her in the green thicket. Yet she would not have
missed this forest walk at any price. She knew now that she had no rival
save the one whom Heinz ought to love no less than she. Whether they
both decided in favour of the world or the cloister, they would remain
united in love for her and her divine Son.



CHAPTER III.

Outside the courtyard of the Ortlieb mansion Eva saw Biberli going
towards the Frauenthor. He had been with Els a long time, giving a
report as frankly as ever. The day before he said to Katterle: “Calm
yourself, my little lamb. Now that the daughters need you and me to
carry secret messages, the father will leave us in peace too. A member
of the Council would be like the receiver of stolen goods if he allowed
a man whom he deemed worthy of the stocks to render him many services.”

And Herr Ernst Ortlieb really did let him alone, because he was forced
to recognise that Biberli and Katterle were indispensable in carrying on
his daughter’s intercourse with Wolff.

Els had forgiven the clever fellow the more willingly the more consoling
became the tidings he brought her from her betrothed bridegroom.
Besides, she regarded it as specially fortunate that she learned through
him many things concerning Heinz Schorlin, which for her sister’s sake
she was glad to know.

True, it would have been useless trouble to try to extort from the true
and steadfast Biberli even a single word which, for his master’s
sake, it would have been wiser to withhold, yet he discussed
matters patiently, and told her everything that he could communicate
conscientiously. So, when Eva returned, she was accurately informed of
all that had befallen and troubled the knight the day before.

She listened sympathisingly to the servant’s lamentation over the
marvellous change which had taken place in Heinz since his horse was
killed under him. But she shook her head incredulously at Biberli’s
statement that his master seriously intended to seek peace in the
cloister, like his two older sisters; yet at the man’s animated
description of how Father Benedictus had profited by Sir Heinz’s mood to
estrange him from the world, the doubt vanished.

Biberli’s assurance that he had often seen other young knights rush into
the world with specially joyous recklessness, who had suddenly halted
as if in terror and known no other expedient than to change the coat of
mail for the monk’s cowl, reminded her of similar incidents among her
own acquaintances. The man was right in his assertion that most of them
had been directed to the monastery by monks of the Order of St. Francis,
since the name of the Saint of Assisi and the miracles he performed had
become known in this country also. Whoever believed it impossible to see
the gay Sir Heinz in a monk’s cowl, added the experienced fellow, might
find himself mistaken.

He had intentionally kept silence concerning Sir Seitz Siebenburg’s
challenge and his master’s other dealings with the “Mustache.” On the
other hand, he had eagerly striven to inform Els of the minutest details
of the reception he met with from her betrothed lover. With what zealous
warmth he related that Wolff, like the upright man he was, had rejected
even the faintest shadow of doubt of her steadfastness and truth, which
were his own principal virtues also.

Even before Sir Heinz Schorlin’s visit young Herr Eysvogel had known
what to think of the calumnies which, it is true, were repeated to him.
His calm, unclouded courage and clear mind were probably best shown by
the numerous sheets of paper he had covered with estimates, all relating
to the condition of the Eysvogel business. He had confided these
documents also to him to be delivered to his father, and after
discharging this duty he had come to her. According to his custom, he
had reserved the best thing for the last, but it was now time to give it
to her.

As he spoke he drew from the breast pocket of his long coat a
wrought-iron rose. Els knew it well; it had adorned the clasp of her
lover’s belt, and the unusual delicacy of the workmanship had often
aroused her admiration. What the gift was to announce she read on the
paper accompanying it, which contained the following simple lines:

     “The iron rude, when shaped by fire and blows,
     Delights our eyes as a most beauteous rose.
     So may the lies which strove to work us ill
     But serve our hearts with greater love to fill.”

Biberli withdrew as soon as he had delivered the gift; his master was
awaiting him on his return from his early ride with the Emperor; but
Els, with glowing cheeks, read and reread the verse which brought such
cheering consolation from her lover. It seemed like a miracle that they
recalled the words of her dying mother concerning the forge fire which,
in her last moments, she had mentioned in connection with Eva’s future.
Here it had formed from rude iron the fairest of flowers. Nothing
sweeter or lovelier, the sister thought, could be made from her darling.
But would the fire also possess the power to lead Eva, as it were, from
heaven to earth, and transform her into an energetic woman, symmetrical
in thought and deed? And what was the necessity? She was there to guide
her and remove every stone from her path.

Ah, if she should renounce the cloister and find a husband like her
Wolff! Again and again she read his greeting and pressed the beloved
sheet to her lips. She would fain have hastened to her mother’s corpse
to show it to her. But just at that moment Eva returned. She must
rejoice with her over this beautiful confirmation of her hope, and as,
with flushed cheeks and brow moist with perspiration, she stood before
her, Els tenderly embraced her and, overflowing with gratitude, showed
her her lover’s gift and verse, and invited her to share the great
happiness which so brightly illumined the darkness of her grief. Eva,
who was so weary that she could scarcely stand thought, like her sister,
as Els read Wolff’s lines aloud, of her mother’s last words. But the
forge fire of life must not transform her into a rose; she would become
harder, firmer, and she knew why and for whose sake. Only yesterday, had
she been so exhausted, nothing would have kept her, after a few brief
words to prevent Els’s disappointment, from lying down, arranging her
pillows comfortably, and refreshing herself with some cooling drink; but
now she not only succeeded in appearing attentive, but in sympathising
with all her heart in her sister’s happiness. How delightful it was,
too, to be able to give something to the person from whom hitherto she
had only received.

She succeeded so fully in concealing the struggle against the claims of
her wearied body that Els, after joyously perceiving how faithfully her
sister sympathised with her own delight, continued to relate what
she had just heard. Eva forced herself to listen and behave as if her
account of Heinz Schorlin’s wonderful escape and desire to enter a
monastery was news to her.

Not until Els had narrated the last detail did she admit that she needed
rest; and when the former, startled by her own want of perception, urged
her to lie down, she would not do so until she had put the flowers she
had brought home into water. At last she stretched herself on the couch
beside her sister, who had so long needed sleep and rest, and a few
minutes after the deep dreamless slumber of youth chained both, until
Katterle, at the end of an hour, woke them.

Both used the favourable moments which follow the awakening from a sound
sleep to cherish the best thoughts and most healthful resolutions. When
Eva left her chamber she had clearly perceived what the last hours
had taken and bestowed, and found a positive answer to the important
question which she must now confront.

Els, like her lover, would cling fast to her love, and strive with
tireless patience to conquer whatever obstacles it might encounter,
especially from the Eysvogel family.

Before leaving home Eva adorned the beloved dead with the flowers,
leaves, and vines which the gardener had brought and she herself had
gathered, and at the church she put the last touches to this work so
dear to her heart. She gave the preference to the flowers which had been
her mother’s favourites, but the others were also used. With a light
hand and a delicate appreciation of harmony and beauty she interwove
the children of the forest with those of the garden. She could not be
satisfied till every one was in the right place.

Countess Cordula had insisted upon attending the consecration, but she
had not known who cared for its adornment. Yet when she stood in the
church by the side of the open coffin she gazed long at the gentle face
of the quiet sufferer, charming even in death, who on her bright couch
seemed dreaming in a light slumber. At last she whispered to Els: “How
wonderfully beautiful! Did you arrange it?”

The latter shook her head, but Cordula added, as if soliloquising: “It
seems as though the hands of the Madonna herself had adorned a sleeping
saint with garden flowers, and child-angels had scattered over her the
blossoms of the forest.”

Then Els, who hitherto had refused to talk in this place and this solemn
hour, broke her silence and briefly told Cordula who had artistically
and lovingly adorned her mother.

“Eva?” repeated the countess, as if surprised, gazing at her friend’s
younger sister who, as the music of the organ and the alternate
chanting had just begun, had already risen from her knees. Cordula felt
spellbound, for the young girl looked as fresh as a May rose and so
touchingly beautiful in the deep, earnest devotion which filled her
whole being, and the white purity of her mourning robes, that the
countess did not understand how she could ever have disliked her. Eva,
with her up lifted eyes, seemed to be gazing directly into the open
heavens.

Cordula paid little attention to the sacred service, but watched the
Es, as she liked to call the sisters, all the more closely. The elder,
though so overwhelmed with grief that she could not help sobbing aloud,
did not cease to think of her dear ones, and from time to time gazed
with tender sympathy at her father or with quiet sorrow at her sister.
Eva, on the contrary, was completely absorbed by her own anguish and
the memory of her to whom it was due. The others appeared to have no
existence for her. Whilst the large tears rolled slowly down her cheeks,
she sometimes gazed tenderly at the face of the beloved dead; sometimes,
with fervent entreaty, at the image of the Virgin. The pleading
expression of the large blue eyes seemed to the countess to express such
childlike need of help that the impetuous girl would fain have clasped
her to her heart and exclaimed:

“Wait, you lovely, obstinate little orphan; Cordula, whom you dislike,
is here, and though you don’t wish to receive any kindness from her, you
must submit. What do I care for all the worshippers of a very poor idol
who call themselves my ‘adorers’? I need only detain wandering pilgrims,
or invite minnesingers to the castle, to shorten the hours. And he for
whom yonder child-angel’s heart yearns--would he not be a fool to prefer
a Will-o’-the-wisp like me? Besides, it is easy for the peasant to give
his neighbour the cloud which hangs over his field. True, before the
dance----But the past is past. Boemund Altrosen is the only person who
is always the same. One can rely upon him, but I really need neither. If
I could only do without the open air, the forest, horses, and hunting,
I should suit convent walls far better than this Eva, whom Heaven itself
seems to have created to be the delight of every man’s heart. We will
see what she herself decides.”

Then she recognised Sir Boemund Altrosen in the congregation and pursued
her train of thought. “He is a noble man, and whoever thus makes himself
miserable about me I ought to try to cure. Perhaps I will yet do so.”

Similar reflections occupied her mind until she saw Heinz Schorlin
kneeling, half concealed by a pillar, behind Boemund Altrosen. He had
learned from Biberli at what hour the consecration would take place, and
his honest heart bade him attend the service for the dead woman who had
so much to forgive him.

The Ortlieb sisters did not see him, but Cordula unconsciously shook her
head as she gazed. Was this grave man, so absorbed in devotion that he
did not vouchsafe those who surrounded him even a single glance, the
Heinz whose delightful gaiety had captivated her heart? The linden, with
foliage withered by the autumn blasts, was more like the same tree
in the spring when the birds were singing in its boughs, than yonder
absorbed supplicant resembled the bold Heinz of a few days ago. The
old mocker, Chamberlain Wiesenthau, was right when he told her and
her father that morning that the gay Swiss had been transformed by
the miracle which had befallen him, like the Saul of holy writ, in
the twinkling of an eye, into a Paul. The calendar-makers were already
preparing to assign a day to St. Schorlin.

But she ought not to have joined in the boisterous laugh with which her
father rewarded the old slanderer’s news. No! The knight’s experience
must have made a deeper impression than the others suspected.

Perhaps little Eva’s love would result in her seeking with the sisters
of St. Clare, and Heinz with the Franciscans, peace and a loftier
passion. She was certainly to be pitied if love had taken as firm a hold
upon her heart as Cordula thought she had perceived.

Again her kind heart throbbed with tender sympathy, and when the sisters
left the sedan chairs which had brought them back to the house, and
Cordula met Eva in the corridor, she held out her hand with frank
cordiality, saying, “Clasp it trustingly, girl. True, you do not value
it much, but it is offered to no one to whom Cordula does not mean
kindly.”

Eva, taken by surprise, obeyed her request. How frank and kindly her
grey eyes were! Cordula herself must be so, too, and, obeying a hasty
impulse, she nodded with friendly warmth; then, as if ashamed of her
change of mood, hurried past her up the stairs.

The following day had been appointed for the mass for the dead in St.
Sebald’s Church.

Els had told Eva that the countess had seen Heinz Schorlin at the
consecration. The news pleased her, and she expressed her joy so
animatedly and spoke so confidently of the knight’s love that Els felt
anxious. But she did not have courage to disturb her peace of mind, and
her father’s two sisters, the abbess, and Herr Pfinzing’s wife, also
said nothing to Eva concerning the future as they helped Els to arrange
the dead woman’s clothing, which was to be given to the poor, decide to
what persons or charitable institutions it should be sent, and listened
to her account of the facts that formed the foundation of the slanders
against her, which were being more loudly and universally discussed
throughout the city.

Eva felt painfully how incapable of rendering assistance the others
considered her, and her pride forbade her to urge it upon them. Even her
Aunt Kunigunde scarcely asked her a question. It seemed to the abbess
that the right hour for a decisive enquiry had not yet come, and wise
Aunt Christine never talked with her younger niece upon religious
subjects unless she herself requested her to do so.

The mass for the dead was to be celebrated at an unusually early hour,
for another, which would be attended by the whole city and all
the distinguished persons, knights, and nobles who had come to the
Reichstag, was to begin four hours before noon. This was for Prince
Hartmann, who had been snatched away so prematurely.

The Ortliebs, with all their kindred and servants, the members of the
Council with their wives and daughters, and many burghers and burgher
women, assembled soon after sunrise in St. Sebald’s Church.

Those present were almost lost in the spacious, lofty interior with its
three naves. At first there was little appearance of devotion, for the
early arrivals had many things to ask and whisper to one another. The
city architect lowered his loud voice very little as he discussed with
a brother in the craft from Cologne in what way the house of God, which
originally had been built in the Byzantine style, could be at least
partly adapted to the French pointed arch which was used with such
remarkable success in Germany, at Cologne and Marburg. They discussed
the eastern choir, which needed complete rebuilding, the missing
steeples, and the effect of the pointed arch which harmonised so
admirably with the German cast of character, and did not cease until the
music began. Now the great number of those present showed how much love
the dead woman had sowed and reaped. The sisters, when they first looked
around them, saw with grateful joy the father of the young man who had
fallen in the duel with Wolff, old Herr Berthold Vorchtel, his wife,
and Ursula. On the other hand, the pew adorned with the Eysvogel coat of
arms was still empty. This wounded Els deeply; but she uttered a sigh
of relief when--the introitus had just begun--at least one member of the
haughty family to which she felt allied through Wolff appeared,
Isabella Siebenburg, her lover’s sister. It was kind in her to come
notwithstanding the absence of the others, and even her own husband. Els
would return it to her and her twins.

The music, whose heart-stirring notes accompanied the solemn service,
deeply moved the souls of both sisters; but when, after the Gloria in
excelsis Deo, the Cum Sancto Spiritu pealed forth, Eva, who, absorbed
in devotion, had long since ceased to gaze around her, felt her sister’s
hand touch her arm and, following the direction of her glance, saw at
some distance the man for whom her heart yearned, and the grave, devout
knight yonder seemed far nearer to her than the gay companion who, in
the mazes of the dance, had gazed so boldly into the faces of the men,
so tenderly into those of the fair women. How fast her heart throbbed!
how ardently she longed for the moment when he would raise his head and
look across at her! But when he moved, it was only to follow the sacred
service and with it Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross.

Then Eva reproached herself for depriving her dead mother, to the repose
of whose soul this hour was dedicated, of her just due, and she strove
with all her power to regain the spirit of devotion which she had lost.
But her lover sat opposite and, though she lowered her eyes, her earnest
endeavour to concentrate her thoughts was futile.

Her struggle was interrupted by the commencement of the Credo, and
during this confession, which brings before the Christian in a fixed
form what it is incumbent upon him to believe, the thought entered her
mind of beseeching her whose faithful love had always guided her safely
and for her good--the Queen of Heaven, to whom Heinz was as loyally
devoted as she herself--that she might give her a sign whether she might
continue to believe in his love and keep faith with him, or whether she
should return to the path which led to a different form of happiness.

During the singing of the Credo the heavenly Helper, for whose aid she
hoped, made known to her that if, before the end of the Sanctus, which
immediately followed the Credo, Heinz looked over at her and returned
her glance, she might deem it certain that the Holy Virgin would
permit her to hope for his love. If he omitted to do so, then she would
consider it decided that he renounced his earthly for his heavenly
love, and try herself to give up the earthly one, in which, however, she
believed she had recognised something divine. The Credo closed and died
away, the resonant harmonies of the Sanctus filled the wide space, and
the knight, with the same devout attention, followed the sacred service
in which, in the imagination of believers, the bread and wine is
transformed into the body and blood of Christ, and a significant,
painless ceremony represents the Saviour’s bloody death upon the cross.

Eva told herself that she ought to have followed with the same
intentness as Heinz the mass celebrated for the soul of her own mother,
but she could no longer succeed in doing so. Besides, she was denied
the privilege of looking freely and often at him upon whose movements
depended the fate of her life. Many glances were undoubtedly directed at
her, the daughter of the dead woman in whose memory so many citizens
had gathered; many, perhaps, had come solely to see the beautiful Es.
Therefore propriety and modesty forbade her to watch Heinz. She only
ventured to cast a stolen glance at him.

Every note of the Sanctus was familiar to her, and when it drew near the
end Heinz retained the same position. The fairest hope of her life must
be laid with the flowers in her mother’s coffin.

Now the last bars of the Sanctus were commencing. He had scarcely had
time to change his attitude since her last secret glance at him, yet she
could not resist the temptation, though it was useless, of looking at
him once more. She felt like the prisoner who sees the judge rise and
does not know whether he intends to acquit or condemn him. The city
lute-player who led the choir was just raising his hands again to let
them fall finally at the close of the Sanctus, and as she turned her
eyes from him in the direction whence only too soon she was to be
deprived of the fairest of rights, a burning blush suddenly crimsoned
her cheeks. Heinz Schorlin’s eyes had met hers with a full, clear gaze.

Eva pressed her clasped hands, as if beseeching aid, upon her bosom,
which rose and fell beneath them with passionate emotion; and No, she
could not be mistaken; he had understood her, for his look expressed
a wealth of sympathy, the ardent, sorrowful sympathy which only love
knows. Then the eyes of both fell. When their glances met again, the
hosanna of the choir rang out to both like a shout of welcome with which
liberated Nature exultingly greets the awakening spring; and to the
deeply agitated knight, who had resolved to fly from the world and its
vain pleasures, the hosanna which poured its waves of sound towards
him, whilst the eyes of the woman he loved met his for the second
time, seemed to revive the waning joy of existence. The shout which had
greeted the Saviour on his entry into Jerusalem reached the “called” man
like a command from love to open wide the gate of the heart, and whether
he willed it or not, love, amidst the solemn melody of the hosanna,
made a new and joyous entrance into his grateful soul. But during
the Benedictus he was already making the first attempt to resist
this emotion; and whilst Eva, first offering thanks for the cheering
decision, and then earnestly striving to enter with her whole soul into
the sacred service, modestly denied herself the pleasure of looking
across at her lover, Heinz was endeavouring to crush the hopes which had
again mastered the soul resolved on renunciation.

Yet he found the conflict harder than he expected and as, at the close
of the mass, the Dona nobis pacem (grant us peace) began, he joined
beseechingly in the prayer.

It was not granted, for even during the high mass for the soul of his
dearest friend, which also detained the Ortliebs in church, he sought
Eva’s glance only too often, but always in vain. Once only, when the
Dona nobis pacem pealed forth again, this time for the prince, his eyes
met those of the woman he loved.

The young Duchess Agnes noticed whither he looked so often, but when
Countess Cordula knelt beside the Ortliebs, cordially returned every
glance of the knight’s, and once even nodded slightly to him, the young
Bohemian believed the report that Heinz Schorlin and the countess were
the same as betrothed, and it vexed her--nay, spoiled the whole of the
day which had just begun.

When Heinz left the church Eva’s image filled his heart and mind. He
went directly from the sanctuary to his lodgings; but there neither Frau
Barbara, his pretty young hostess, nor Biberli would believe their eyes
or ears, when the former heard in the entry, the latter in the adjoining
room, the lash of a scourge upon naked limbs, and loud groans. Both
sounds were familiar to Barbel through her father, and to Biberli from
the time of penance after his stay in Paris, and his own person.

Heinz Schorlin, certainly for the first time in his life, had scourged
himself.

It was done by the advice of Father Benedictus but, although he followed
the counsel so earnestly that for a long time large bloody stripes
covered his back and shoulders, this remedy for sinful thoughts produced
an effect exactly opposite to the one expected; for, whenever the places
where the scourge had struck him so severely smarted under his armour,
they reminded him of her for whose sake he had raised his hand against
himself, and the blissful glance from her eyes.



CHAPTER IV.

During the days which succeeded the mass for the dead the Ortlieb
mansion was very silent. The Burgrave von Zollern, who still gladly
concealed in his castle the brave companion in arms to whom he had
entrusted the imperial standard on the Marchfield, when his own strong
arm needed rest, had permitted Herr Ernst, as the young man’s future
father-in-law, to visit him. Both were now in constant communication, as
Els hoped, for the advantage of the Eysvogel business.

Biberli did not cease acting as messenger between her and her future
bridegroom; nay, he could now devote the lion’s share of his days to
it; his master, for the first time since he had entered his service, had
left him.

The Emperor had been informed of the great shock experienced by the
young knight, but it was unnecessary; an eye far less keen would not
have failed to note the change in Heinz Schorlin.

The noble man who, even as a sovereign, retained the warmth of heart
which had characterised him in his youth as a count, sincerely loved his
blithe, loyal, brave young countryman, whose father he had valued, whose
mother he highly esteemed, and who had been the dearest friend of the
son whom death had so early snatched from him.

He knew him thoroughly, and had watched his development with increasing
warmth of sympathy, the more so as many a trait of character which he
recognised in Heinz reminded him of his own nature and aspirations at
his age.

At the court of Frederick II he too had not always walked in the
paths of virtue but, like Heinz, he had never let this merge into
licentiousness, and had maintained the chivalrous dignity of his station
even more strictly than the former.

Neither had he at any time deviated from the sincere piety which he
had brought from his home to the imperial court, and this was far more
difficult in the train of the bold and intellectual Hohenstaufen, who
was prone to blaspheme even the holiest things, than for Heinz.
Finally he, too, had lapsed into the mood which threatened to lead the
light-hearted Schorlin into a monastery.

The mighty impulse which, at that time, owing to the example and
teachings of St. Francis in Italy, had taken possession of so many
minds, also left its impress on his young soul, already agitated by
sympathy with many an extravagant idea, many an opinion condemned by
the Church. But ere he had taken even the first decisive step he was
summoned home. His father had resolved to obtain on the sacred soil of
Palestine the mercy of Heaven which was denied to the excommunicated
Emperor, and desired his oldest son, Rudolph, to represent him at home.

Before his departure he confided to his noble son his aspirations for
the grandeur and enlargement of his house, and the youth of twenty-one
did not venture to tell the dignified, far-sighted man, whom his
subjects rightly surnamed “the Wise,” his ardent desire to live
henceforth solely for the salvation of his endangered soul.

The sense of duty inherited from father and mother, which both had
imprinted deeply upon his soul, and also the ambition that had been
sedulously fostered at the court of the Emperor Frederick, had given
him courage to repress forever the wish with which he had left the
Hohenstaufen court. The sacrifice was hard, but he made it willingly
as soon as it became apparent to his reflective mind that not only his
earthly but his heavenly Father had appointed the task of devoting the
full wealth of his talents and the power of his will to the elevation of
the house of Hapsburg.

The very next year he stood in the place of his father who fell at
Ascalon, deeply lamented.

The arduous labour imposed by the management of his own great
possessions, and the ceaseless endeavour to enlarge them, in accordance
with the dead man’s wishes, gave him no time to cherish the longing for
the peace of the cloister.

After his election as King of Germany, which had long been neglected
under the government of sham emperors, increased the burden of his
duties the more seriously he took them, and the more difficult the
Bohemian king Ottocar, especially, rendered it for him to maintain the
crown he had won, the more eagerly he strove, particularly after the
victory of Marchfield had secured his sovereignty, to increase the power
of his house.

A binding duty, a difficult task, must also withhold Heinz Schorlin from
the wish for whose fulfilment his fiery young soul now fervently longed,
and which he knew was receiving powerful sustenance from a worthy and
eloquent Minorite.

Rudolph’s own brother had died in peace as canon of Basel and
Strasbourg; his sister was happy in her convent as a modest Dominican;
but the young knight over whose welfare he had promised his mother to
watch, and whom he loved, was not fitted for the monastic life.

However earnest might be his intention--after the miracle which seemed
to have been wrought specially for him--of renouncing the world, sooner
or later the time must come when Heinz would long to return to it and
the profession of arms, for which he was born and reared. But if he
could not be deterred from entering the modest order of the mendicant
monks, who proudly called poverty their beloved bride, and should become
the head of a bishopric while young, he would inevitably be one of
those fighting prelates who seemed to the Emperor--who disliked halfway
measures--neither knight nor priest, and with whom he had had many a
quarrel.

Opposition would merely have sharpened the young knight’s desire;
therefore his imperial patron had treated him as if he were ignorant of
what was passing in his mind. Without circumlocution, he commanded him,
at the head of several bodies of Frank, Swabian, and Swiss troopers,
whom he placed at his orders, to attack the brothers Siebenburg and
their allies, and destroy their castle. If possible, he was to bring
them alive before the imperial judgment seat, and recover for the
Eysvogels the merchandise of which they had been robbed.

When Heinz, after the Emperor Rudolph had mentioned the latter name,
earnestly entreated him to prevent Wolff’s persecution, the sovereign
promised to fulfil the wish as soon as the proper time came. He himself
desired to be gracious to the brave champion of Marchfield, who under
great irritation had drawn his sword. But when Heinz also asked the
Emperor to send his friend Count Gleichen with him, the request was
refused. He must have the entire responsibility of the expedition which
he commanded; for nothing except an important duty that no one would
help him bear, gave promise of making him forget everything that usually
engrossed his attention, and thus his new object of longing. Besides, if
he returned victorious his fame and reward would be undivided.

The Hapsburg wished to try upon his young favourite the means which had
availed to keep his own footsteps in the path which he desired to see
Heinz follow: constant occupation associated with heavy responsibility,
the success which brings with it the hope of future achievement and
thereby rouses ambition.

The wisdom and kindness of heart of the Emperor Rudolph, whom the
grey-haired ruler’s friends called “Wisdom,” had certainly chosen the
right course for Heinz. But he who had always regarded every opportunity
of drawing his sword for his master as a rare piece of good fortune,
shrank in dismay from this, the most important and honourable charge
that had ever been bestowed upon him. It drew him away from the new
path in which he did not yet feel at home, because the love he could not
abjure constantly thrust him into the world, into the midst of the life
and tumult from which Heaven itself commanded him to turn aside.

The Minorite had scarcely been right in the assertion that only the
first rounds of the ladder which leads to heavenly bliss were hard to
climb.

How quickly he had set his foot on the first step; but each upward
stride was followed by one that dragged him down-nay, it had seemed
advisable wholly to renounce the effort to ascend them, when the monk
expected him to sever the bond which united him to the Emperor, and to
tell the sovereign that he had entered the service of a greater Master,
who commanded him to fight with other weapons than the sword and lance.

Heinz had regarded this demand as a summons to turn traitor. It did not
seem to be the call of the devout, experienced director of souls to the
disciples, but the Guelph to the Ghibelline, for Ghibelline he meant to
remain. Gratitude was a Christian virtue, too, and to refuse his service
to the Emperor, who had been a father to him, to whom he had sworn
fealty, and who had loaded him with benefits, could not be pleasing
in the sight of any God. He could never become a Guelph, he told his
venerable friend. The Emperor Rudolph was his beloved master, from whom
he had received nothing but kindness. He might as well be required to
refuse obedience to his own father.

“What Guelph? What Ghibelline?” cried the Minorite in a tone of grave
rebuke. “The question is submission to the Most High, or to the world
and its claims. And why should not Heaven require, as you term it, that
you should obey the Lord more willingly than your earthly father--you,
whom the mercy of God summoned amidst thunder and lightning in the
presence of thousands? When Francis, our beloved model, the son of Pier
Bernardone, was threatened with his father’s curse if he did not turn
back from the path which led to the highest goal, Francis restored all
that he had received from him, except his last garment, and with the
exclamation, ‘Our Father who art in heaven, not Pier Bernardone,’ he
made the choice between his earthly and his heavenly Father. From the
former he would have received in abundance everything that the heart
of a child of the world desires-wealth, paternal love, and the blessing
which is said to build houses on earth. But Francis preferred poverty
and contempt, nay, even his father’s curse and the reproach of
ingratitude, receiving in exchange possessions of a nobler nature and
more lasting character. You have heard their names. To obtain them,
means to share the bliss of heaven. And you”--he continued loudly,
adopting for the first time a tone of authoritative severity--“if you
really yearned for the greatest possessions, go to the fortress this
very hour, and with the cry in your heart, though not on your lips,
‘Our Father who art in heaven, not my gracious master and benefactor
Rudolph,’ inform the Emperor what higher Lord you have vowed to serve.”

This kindled a fierce conflict in Heinz Schorlin’s soul, which perhaps
might have ended in favour of a new career and St. Francis, had not
Biberli, ere he reached a conclusion, rushed into the room shouting:
“Seitz Siebenburg, the Mustache, has joined his brothers, and the Knight
of Absbach, with several others--von Hirsdorf, von Streitberg, and
whatever their names may be--have made common cause with them! It is
said that they also expected reinforcements from the Main, in order that
the right to the road----”

“Gossip, or positive news?” interrupted Heinz, drawing himself up to his
full height with the cool composure which he attained most easily when
any serious danger threatened him.

“As positive,” replied his follower eagerly, “as that Siebenburg is the
greatest rascal in Germany. You will be robbed of your joust with him,
for he’ll mount the block instead of the steed, just as you predicted.
The ladies will drive him from the lists with pins and rods, to say
nothing of the scourging by which knight and squire will silence him.
Oh, my lord, if you only knew!”

“Well?” asked the knight anxiously.

Then Biberli, paying no further heed to his master’s orders never
to mention the Ortlieb sisters again in his presence, burst forth
indignantly: “It might move a stone to pity to know the wrong the
monster has done Jungfrau Eva and her pure and virtuous sister, the
loyal betrothed bride of a brave man--and the abominable names bestowed
on the young ladies, whom formerly young and old, hat in hand, called
the beautiful Es.”

Heinz stamped his foot on the floor and, half frantic, impetuously
exclaimed, his blood boiling with honest indignation: “May the air he
breathes destroy the slandering scoundrel! May I be flayed on the rack
if----”

Here he was interrupted by a low exclamation of warning from the
Minorite, who perceived in the knight’s fierce oaths a lamentable
relapse. Heinz himself felt ashamed of the ungodly imprecations; yet he
could by no means succeed in regaining his former composure as, drawing
a long breath, he continued: “And those city hypocrites, who call
themselves Christians, and build costly cathedrals for the good of their
souls, are not ashamed--yes, holy Father, it is true--basely to deny
our Lord and Saviour, who is Love itself, and deemed even the Magdalen
worthy of His mercy, and rub their hands in fiendish malignity when
unpunished they can sully the white robe of innocence, and drag pious,
lovely simplicity to the pillory.”

“That is the very reason, my son,” the monk interrupted soothingly,
“that we disciples of the Saint of Assisi go forth to show the deluded
what the Lord requires of them. Therefore leave behind you the dust of
the world, which defiles both body and soul, join us, who did so before
you, and help, as one of our order, to make those who are perishing
in sin and dishonouring the name of Christ better and purer, genuine
Christians. In this hour of stress lay the sword out of your hand, and
leave the steed----”

“I shall ride forth, rely upon it, holy Father,” Heinz burst forth
afresh. “With the sky-blue of the gracious Virgin, whom I love, on
my shield and helmet, I will dash like the angel Michael amongst the
Siebenburgs and their followers. And let me tell you, holy Father--you
who were once a knight also--if the Mustache, weltering in his blood at
my feet, prays for mercy, I’ll teach him----”

“Son! son!” interrupted the monk again, this time raising his hands
imploringly; but Heinz, paying no heed, exclaimed hoarsely:

“Where did you get this news?”

“From our Berne countryman at the fortress,” replied the servant
eagerly; “Brandenstein, Schweppermann, and Heidenab brought the tidings.
The Emperor received them at the gate of the citadel, where he was
keeping watch ere he mounted his steed. He heard him call to the
messengers, ‘So our Heinz Schorlin will have a hard nut to crack.’”

“Which he will crush after his own heart!” cried Heinz, with flashing
eyes.

Then, forcing himself to be calm, he exclaimed in broken sentences,
whilst Biberli was helping him put on his armour: “Your wish, reverend
Father, is also mine. The world--the sooner I can rid myself of it the
better; yet what you describe in the most alluring terms is the peace in
your midst, I--I--Never, never will my heart be calm until----”

Here he paused suddenly, struck his breast swiftly and repeatedly with
his fists, and continued eagerly: “Here, Father Benedictus, here are old
and strong demands, which you, too, must once have known ere you offered
the other cheek to the foe. I know not what to call them, but until they
are satisfied I shall never be yours. They must be fulfilled; then,
if in battle and bloodshed I can also forget the love which ever rises
again when I think I have given it the deathblow, if Heaven still
desires poor, heartsick Heinz Schorlin, it shall have him.”

The Minorite received the promise with a silent bend of the head. He
felt that he might seriously endanger the fulfilment of his ardent wish
to gain this soul for heaven if he urged Heinz further now. Patiently
awaiting a more fitting season, he therefore contented himself with
questioning him carelessly about the foe and his castles.

The day was hot, and as Biberli laced the gambeson--the thick, quilted
undergarment over which was worn the heavy leather coat covered with
scales and rings--the monk exclaimed: “When the duty which you believe
you owe to the world has been fulfilled, you will gratefully learn, as
one of our order, how pleasant it is to walk with liberated soul in our
light-brown cowl.”

But he ought to have repressed the remark, for Heinz cast a glance at
him which expressed his astonishment at being so misunderstood, and
answered with unyielding resolution: “If I long for anything in your
order, reverend Father, it is not for easy tasks, but for the most
difficult burden of all. Your summons to take our Redeemer’s cross upon
me pleases me better.”

“And I, my son, believe that your words will be inscribed amongst those
which are sure of reward,” the monk answered; then with bowed head added
“At that moment you were nearer the kingdom of heaven than the aged
companion of St. Francis.”

But perceiving how impatiently Heinz shrugged his shoulders, and
convinced that it would be advisable to leave him to himself for a time,
the old man blessed him with paternal affection and went his way. When
the fiery youth had performed the task which now claimed all his powers,
he hoped to find him more inclined to allow himself to be led farther
along the path which he had entered.



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!”



CHAPTER X.

A few minutes later the sisters left the Town Hall. Their white Rieses
were wound so closely about their faces that their features were
completely hidden, but the thin material permitted them to see Herr
Vorchtel, leaning upon the arm of the young burgomaster, Hans Nutzel,
leave the Council chamber, where the other Honourables were still
deliberating. Pointing to the old man, the city clerk told Els with
a significant smile that Ursula Vorchtel was engaged to the talented,
attractive young merchant now walking with her father, and that he had
promised Herr Vorchtel to aid him and his younger son in the management
of his extensive business. This was a great pleasure to the noble old
merchant, and when he, the city clerk, met Ursula that morning, spite
of her deep mourning, she again looked out upon the world like the happy
young creature she was. Her new joy had greatly increased her beauty,
and her lover was the very person to maintain it. Herr Schedel thought
it would be pleasant news to Els, too. The young girl pressed his hand
warmly; for these good tidings put the finishing touch to the glad
tidings she had just heard. The reproach which, unjust as it might be,
had spoiled many an hour for Wolff and entailed such fatal consequences,
was now removed, and to her also “Ursel’s” altered manner had often
seemed like a silent accusation. She felt grateful, as if it were a
personal joy, for the knowledge that the girl who had believed herself
deserted by Wolff, her own lover, was now a happy betrothed bride.

Ursula’s engagement removed a burden from Eva’s soul, too, only she did
not understand how a girl whose heart had once opened to a great love
could ever belong to anyone else. Els understood her; nay, in Ursula’s
place she would have done the same, if it were only to weave a fresh
flower in her afflicted father’s fading garland of joy.

The city clerk accompanied them to the great entrance door of the Town
Hall.

Several jailers and soldiers in the employ of the city were standing
there, and whilst their old friend was promising to do his utmost to
secure Ernst Ortlieb’s liberation and recommending the girls to the
protection of one of the watchmen, Eva’s cheeks flushed; for a messenger
of the Council had just approached the others, and she heard him utter
the name of Sir Heinz Schorlin and his follower Walther Biberli. Els
listened, too, but whilst her sister in embarrassment pressed her hand
upon her heart, she frankly asked the city clerk what had befallen the
knight and his squire, who was betrothed to her maid. She heard that at
the last meeting of the Council an order had been issued for Biberli’s
arrest.

His name must have been brought up during the discussions of the
slanders which had so infamously pursued the Ortlieb sisters, but she
could not enquire how or in what connection, for the sun was already low
in the western sky, and if the girls wished to see their father there
was no time to lose.

Yet, though Katterle had just said that Countess von Montfort was
waiting outside in her great sedan-chair for the young ladies, they were
still detained, for they would not leave the Town Hall without thanking
the city clerk and saying farewell to him. He was still near, but the
captain of the city soldiers had drawn him aside and was telling him
something which seemed to permit no delay, and induced the old gentleman
to glance at the sisters repeatedly.

Eva did not notice it; for Biberli’s arrest, which probably had some
connection with Heinz and herself, had awakened a series of anxious
thoughts associated with her lover and his faithful follower. Els
troubled herself only about the events occurring in her immediate
vicinity, and felt perfectly sure that the captain’s communications
referred not only to the four itinerant workmen and the three women who
had just been led across the courtyard to the “Hole,” and to whom the
speaker pointed several times, but especially to her and her sister.

When the city clerk at last turned to them again, he remarked carelessly
that a disagreeable mob in front of the Ortlieb mansion had been
dispersed, and then, with urgent cordiality, invited the two girls to
spend the night under the protection of his old housekeeper. When they
declined, he assured them that measures would be taken to guard them
from every insult. He had something to tell their uncle, and the
communication appeared to permit no delay, for with a haste very unusual
in the deliberate old gentleman he left the two sisters with a brief
farewell.

Meanwhile Countess Cordula had become weary of waiting in the
sedan-chair. She came striding to meet her new friends, attired in a
rustling canary-green silk robe whose train swept the ground, but it
was raised so high in front that the brown hunting-boots encasing her
well-formed feet were distinctly visible. She was swinging her heavy
riding-whip in her hand, and her favourite dogs, two black dachshunds
with yellow spots over their eyes, followed at her heels.

As it was against the rules to bring dogs into the Town Hall, the
doorkeeper tried to stop her, but without paying the slightest attention
to him, she took Els by the hand, beckoned to Eva, and was turning to
leave the path leading to the market-place.

In doing so her eyes fell upon the courtyard, where, just after the Ave
Maria, a motley throng had gathered. Here, guarded by jailers, stood
vagabonds and disreputable men and women, sham blind beggars and
cripples, swindlers, and other tatterdemalions, who had been caught
in illegal practices or without the beggar’s sign. In another spot,
dark-robed servants of the Council were discussing official and other
matters. Near the “Hole” a little party of soldiers were resting,
passing from hand to hand the jug of wine bestowed by the Honourable
Council. The “Red Coat”--[Executioner]--was giving orders to his
“Life”--[Executioner’s assistant (“Lion”)]--as they carried across the
courtyard a new instrument of torture intended for the room adjoining
the Council chamber, where those who refused to make depositions were
forced to it. In a shady corner sat old people, poorly clad women, and
pale-faced children, the city poor, who at this hour received food from
the kitchen of the Town Hall. A few priests and monks were going into
the wing of the building which contained the “Hole,” with its various
cells and the largest chamber of torture, to give the consolations of
religion to the prisoners and those tortured by the rack who had not yet
been conveyed to the hospital at Schweinau.

The countess’s keen glance wandered from one to another. When they
reached the group of paupers they rested upon a woman with deadly pale,
hollow cheeks, pressing a pitifully emaciated infant to her dry breast,
and her eyes swiftly filled with tears.

“Here,” she whispered to old Martsche, taking several gold coins from
the pocket that hung at her belt, “give these to the poorest ones. You
are sensible. Divide it so that several will have a share and the money
will reach the right hands. You can take your time. We need neither you
nor Katterle. Go back to the house. I will carry your young mistresses
to their father and home again. Where I am you need have no fear that
harm will befall them.”

Then she turned again towards the “Hole,” and seeing the people yelling
and shouting while awaiting imprisonment, she pointed to them with her
whip, saying, “That’s a part of the pack which was set upon you. You
shall hear about it presently. But now come.”

As she spoke she went before the girls and urged them to step quickly
into the large, handsome sedan-chair, around which an unusual number
of people had assembled, for she wished to avoid any recognition of the
sisters by the curious spectators. The gilded box, borne between two
powerful Brabant horses in such a way that it hung between the tail of
the first and the head of the second, would have had room for a fourth
occupant.

When it moved forward, swaying from side to side, Cordula pointed to the
curtained windows, and said: “Shameful, isn’t it? But it is better so,
children. That arch-rascal Siebenburg robbed the people of the little
sense they possessed, and that cat of a candle-dealer, with her mate,
the tailor, or rather his followers, poisoned the minds of the rest.
How quickly it worked! Goodness, it seems to me, acts more slowly. True,
your hot-tempered father spoiled the old rascal’s inclination to
woo pretty Metz for a while; but his male and female gossips, aunts,
cousins, and work-people apparently allowed themselves to be persuaded
by his future mother-in-law to the abominable deed, which caused the
brawling rabble you saw in the Town Hall court to content themselves
with a hard couch in the ‘Hole’ overnight.”

“They have done everything bad concerning us, though I don’t know
exactly what,” cried Els indignantly.

“Wished to do, Miss Wisdom,” replied the countess, patting Els’s arm
soothingly. “We kept our eyes open, and I helped to put a stop to their
proceedings. The rabble gathered in front of your house, yelling and
shrieking, and when I stepped into your bow-window there was as great
an outcry as if they were trying to bring down the walls of Jericho a
second time. Some boys even flung at me everything they could find
in the mire of the streets. The most delightful articles! There was
actually a dead rat! I can see its tail flying now! Our village lads
know how to aim better. Before the worst came, by the advice of the
equerry and our wise chaplain, whom I consulted, we had done what was
necessary, and summoned the guard at the Frauenthor to our assistance.
But the soldiers were in no great haste; so when matters were going too
far, I stepped into the breach myself, called down to tell them my name,
and also showed my crossbow with an arrow on the string. This had an
effect. Only a few women still continued to load me with horrible abuse.
Then the chaplain came to the window and this restored silence; but, in
spite of his earnest words, not a soul stirred from the spot until the
patrol arrived, dispersed the rabble, and arrested some of them.”

Els, who sat by Cordula’s side, drew her towards her and kissed her
gratefully; but Eva’s eyes had filled with tears of grief at the
beginning of the countess’s report of this new insult, and the hostility
of so many of the townsfolk; yet she succeeded in controlling herself.
She would not weep. She had even forced herself to gaze, without the
quiver of an eyelash, at the sorrowful and horrible spectacle outside
of the “Hole.” She must cease being a weak child. How true her dying
mother’s words had been! To be able to struggle and conquer, she must
not withdraw from life and its influences, which, if she did not spare
herself, promised to transform her into the resolute woman she desired
to become.

She had listened with labouring breath to the speaker’s last words,
and when Els embraced Cordula, she raised her little clenched hand,
exclaiming with passionate emotion: “Oh, if I had only been at home with
you! You are brave, Countess, but I, too, would not have shrunk from
them. I would voluntarily have made myself the target for their
malice, and called to their faces that only miserably deluded people or
shameless rascals could throw stones at my Els, who is a thousand times
better than any of them!”

“Or at you, you dear, brave child,” added Cordula in an agitated tone.

From the day following the burning of the convent the countess had given
up her whim of winning Heinz Schorlin. She now knew that all her nobler
feelings spoke more loudly in favour of the quiet man who had borne her
out of the flames. Sir Boemund Altrosen’s love had proved genuine,
and she would reward him for it; but the heart of the pretty creature
opposite to her was also filled with deep, true love, and she would
do everything in her power for Eva, whom she had loved ever since her
affliction had touched her tender heart.

Both sisters were now aware of Cordula’s kind intentions, and the
warm pleasure she displayed when Els told her what the Council had
determined, showed plainly enough that the motherless young countess,
who had neither brother nor sister, clung to the daughters of her host
like a third sister. Old Herr Vorchtel’s treatment of the man who had
inflicted so deep a sorrow upon him touched her inmost soul. It was
grand, noble; the Saviour himself would have rejoiced over it. “If it
would only please the good old man,” she exclaimed, “I would rather
offer him my lips to kiss than the handsomest young knight.”

Though two of Count von Montfort’s mounted huntsmen and several
constables accompanied the unusually large and handsome sedan-chair, a
curious crowd had followed it; but the opinion probably prevailed that
the countess’s companions were some of her waiting-women. When they
alighted in front of the watch-tower, however, an elderly laundry-maid
who had worked for the Ortliebs recognised the sisters and pointed them
out to the others, protesting that it was hard for a woman of her chaste
spirit to have served in a house where such things could have happened.
Then a tailor’s apprentice, who considered the whole of the guild
insulted in the wounded Meister Seubolt, put his fingers to his wide
mouth and emitted a long, shrill whistle; but the next instant a blow
from a powerful fist silenced him. It was young Ortel, who had come to
the watch-tower to seek Herr Ernst and tell him that he and his sister
Metz, spite of their mother and guardian, meant to stay in his service.
His heart’s blood would not have been too dear to guard Eva, whom he
instantly recognised, from every insult; but he had no occasion to use
his youthful strength a second time, for the soldiers who guarded the
tower and the city mercenaries drove back the crowd and kept the square
in front of the tower open.

The countess would not be detained long, for the sun had already sunk
behind the towers and western wall of the fortress, and the reflection
of the sunset was tinging the eastern sky with a roseate hue. The warden
really ought to have refused them admittance, for the time during which
he was permitted to take visitors to the imprisoned “Honourable” had
already passed. But for the daughters of Herr Ernst Ortlieb, to whom
he was greatly indebted, he closed his eyes to this fact, and only
entreated them to make their stay brief, for the drawbridge leading to
the tower must be raised when darkness gathered.

The young girls found their father, absorbed in grief as if utterly
crushed, seated at a table on which stood a leaden inkstand with several
sheets of paper. He still held the pen in his hand.

He received his daughters with the exclamation, “You poor, poor
children!” But when Els tried to tell him what had given her so much
pleasure, he interrupted her to accuse himself, with deep sorrow, of
having again permitted sudden passion to master him. Probably this was
the last time; such experiences would cool even the hottest blood. Then
he began to relate what had induced him to raise his hand against
the tailor, and as, in doing so, he recalled the insolent hypocrite’s
spiteful manner, he again flew into so violent a rage that the blow
which he dealt the table made the ink splash up and soil both the
paper lying beside it and his own dress, still faultlessly neat even in
prison. This caused fresh wrath, and he furiously crushed the topmost
sheet, already half covered with writing, and hurled it on the floor.

Not until Els stooped to pick it up did he calm himself, saying, with
a shrug of the shoulders, “Who can remain unmoved when the whirlwind
of despair seizes him? When a swarm of hornets attacks a horse, and it
rears, who wonders? And I--What stings and blows has Fate spared me?”
 Els ventured to speak soothingly to him, and remind him of God, and
the saints to whom he had made such generous offerings in building the
convent; but this awakened an association, and he asked if it were true
that Eva had refused to take the veil.

She made a silent gesture of assent, expecting another outburst of
anger; but her father only shook his head sorrowfully, clasped her right
hand in both his, and said sadly: “Poor, poor child! But she, she--your
mother--would probably----The last words her dear lips bestowed upon us
concerned you, child, and I believe their meaning----”

Here the warden interrupted him to remind the girls that it was time to
depart; but whilst Els was begging the man for a brief delay, Herr Ernst
looked first at the paper and writing materials, then at his daughters,
and added with quiet decision: “Before you go, you must hear that, in
spite of everything, I did not wholly lose courage, but began to act.”

“That is right, dear father,” exclaimed Els, and told him briefly and
quickly what the Council had decided, how warmly old Berthold Vorchtel
had interceded for Wolff, and that the management of the business was to
be confided solely to him.

These tidings swiftly and powerfully revived the fading hopes of the
sorely stricken man. He drew up his short figure as if the vigour of
youth had returned, declaring that he now felt sure that this first star
in the dark night would soon be followed by others. “It will now be your
Wolff’s opportunity,” he exclaimed, “to make amends for much that Fate
But I was commencing something else. Give me that bit of crumpled paper.
I’ll look at it again early to-morrow morning; it is a letter to the
Emperor I was composing. Your brother ought not to have given up
his young life on the battlefield for the Crown in vain. He owes
me compensation for the son, you for the brother. He is certainly a
fair-minded man, and therefore will not shut his ears to my complaint.
Just wait, children! And you, my devout Eva, pray to your saint that the
petition, which concerns you also, may effect what I expect.”

“And what is that?” asked Eva anxiously. “That the wrong done you,
you poor, deceived child, shall be made good,” replied Herr Ernst with
imperious decision.

Eva clasped his hand, pleading warmly and tenderly: “By all that you
hold dear and sacred, I beseech you, father, not to mention me and
Sir Heinz Schorlin in your letter. If he withdrew his love from me, no
imperial decree--”

The veins on the Councillor’s brow again swelled with wrath, and though
he did not burst into a passion, he exclaimed in violent excitement:
“A nobleman who declares his love to a chaste Nuremberg maiden of noble
birth assumes thereby a duty which, if unfulfilled, imposes a severe
punishment upon him. This just punishment, at least, the tempter shall
not escape. The Emperor, who proclaimed peace throughout the land and
cleared the highways of the bands of robbers, will consider it his first
duty--”

Here the warden interrupted him by calling from the threshold of the
room that the draw-bridge would be raised and the young ladies must
follow him without delay.

Eva again besought her father not to enter an accusation against the
knight, and Els warmly supported her sister; but their brief, ardent
entreaty produced no effect upon the obstinate man except, after he
had pressed a farewell kiss upon the brows of both, to tell them with
resolute dignity that the night would bring counsel, and he was quite
sure that this time, as usual, he should pursue the right course for the
real good of his dear children.

Hitherto Herr Ernst had indeed proved himself a faithful and prudent
head of his family, but this time his daughters left him with heavy,
anxious hearts.

Fear of her father’s intention tortured Eva like a new misfortune, and
Els and the countess also hoped that the petition would go without the
accusation against Heinz.

Whilst the sedan-chair was bearing the girls home few words were
exchanged. Not until they approached the Frauenthor did they enter into
a more animated conversation, which referred principally to Biberli
and the question whether the Honourable Council would call Katterle
to account also, and what could be done to save both from severe
punishment. Cordula had drawn aside the curtain on the right and was
gazing into the street, apparently from curiosity, but really with great
anxiety. But Herr Pfinzing had done his part, and with the exception of
several soldiers in the pay of the city there were few people in sight
near the Ortlieb mansion.

A horse was being led up and down on the opposite side of the courtyard,
and behind the chains stood a sedan-chair with several men, to whom Metz
had just brought from the kitchen a coal of fire to light their torches.
The pretty girl looked as bright as if she felt small concern for the
severe wound of the grey-haired tailor who had chosen her for his wife.



CHAPTER XI.

As the young girls were getting out of their sedan-chair, the
Frauenthor, which was closed at nightfall, opened to admit another whose
destination also seemed to be the Ortlieb mansion.

Katterle was standing in the lower entry with her apron raised to her
face. She had learned that her true and steadfast lover had been carried
to the “Hole,” and was waiting here for her mistresses and also for
Herr Pfinzing and his wife, whom old Martsche had conducted to the
sittingroom in the second story. Herr Pfinzing, in her opinion, had as
much power as the Emperor, and his wife was famed all over the city
for her charitable and active kindness. When the noble couple came down
Katterle meant to throw herself on her knees at their feet and beseech
them to have mercy on her betrothed husband. The sisters and Cordula
comforted her with the promise that they would commend Biberli’s cause
to the magistrate; but as they went upstairs they again expressed to one
another the fear that Katterle herself would sooner or later follow the
man she loved to prison.

They found Herr Pfinzing and his wife in the sitting-room.

Katterle was not wrong in expecting kindly help from this lady, for a
more benevolent face than hers could scarcely be imagined, and, more
over, Fran Christine certainly did not lack strength to do what
she deemed right. Though not quite so broad as her short, extremely
corpulent husband, she surpassed him in height by several inches, and
time had transformed the pretty, slender, modest girl into a majestic
woman. The slight arch of the nose, the lofty brow, the light down on
the upper lip, and the deep voice even gave her a somewhat imperious
aspect. Had it not been for the kind, faithful eyes, and an extremely
pleasant expression about the mouth, one might have wondered how she
could succeed in inspiring everyone at the first glance with confidence
in her helpful kindness of heart.

Her grey pug had also been brought with her. How could an animal supply
the place of beloved human beings? Yet the pug had become necessary
to her since her son, like so many other young men who belonged to
patrician Nuremberg families, had fallen in the battle of Marchfield,
and her daughter had accompanied her husband to his home in Augsburg.
The onerous duties of her husband’s office compelled him to leave her
alone a great deal, and even in her extremely active life there were
lonely hours when she needed a living creature that was faithfully
devoted to her.

She was often overburdened with work, for every charitable institution
sought her as a “fosterer.” True, in many cases their request was vain.
Whatever she undertook must be faultlessly executed, and the charge of
the orphan children in the city, the Beguines, and the hospital at her
summer residence occupied her sufficiently. During the winter she lived
with her husband at his official quarters in the castle, but as soon as
spring came she longed for her little manor at Schweinau, for she
had taken into the institution erected there for the widows of noble
crusaders, but in which only the last four of these ladies were now
supported, a number of Beguines. These were godly girls and women who
did not wish to submit to convent rules, or did not possess the favour
or the money required for admission.

Without pledging themselves to celibacy or any of the other restrictions
imposed upon the nuns, they desired only, in association with others of
the same mind, to lead a life pleasing in the sight of God and devoted
to Christian charity. Schweinau afforded abundant opportunity for
charitable women to aid suffering fellow-mortals, since it was here that
the unfortunates who had been mutilated by the hands of the executioner
and his assistants, or wounded on the rack, often nearly unto death,
were brought to be bandaged, and as far as possible healed. The Beguines
occupied themselves in nursing them, but had many a conflict with the
spiritual authorities, who preferred the monks and nuns bound by a
monastic vow. The order of St. Francis alone regarded them with favour,
interceded for them, and watched over them with kindly interest, taking
care that they were kept aloof from everything which would expose them
to reproach or blame.

Frau Christine, the Abbess Kunigunde’s sister, aided her in this effort,
and the Beguines, to whom the magistrate’s wife in no way belonged,
but who had given them a home on her own estate, silently rendered her
obedience when she wished to see undesirable conditions in their common
life removed.

Els, as well as Eva, had long since told Frau Christine, who was equally
dear to both, everything that afforded ground for the shameful calumnies
which had now urged their father to a deed for which he was atoning in
prison.

When, a few hours before, a messenger from her husband informed her of
what had occurred, she had instantly come to the city to see that the
right thing was done, and take the girls thus bereft of their father
from the desolate Ortlieb mansion to her own house. Herr Pfinzing had
warmly approved this plan, and accompanied her to the “Es,” as he, too,
was fond of calling his nieces.

When she had been told what motives induced Eva not to confide herself
just now to the protection of the convent, Frau Christine struck her
broad hips, exclaiming, “There’s something in blood! The young creature
acts as if her old aunt had thought for her.”

Her invitation sounded so loving and cordial, her husband pressed it
with such winning, jovial urgency, and the pug Amicus, whose attachment
to Eva was especially noticeable, supported his mistress’s wish
with such ardent zeal, that she called the sisters’ attention to his
intercession.

Meanwhile the girls had already expressed to each other, with the mute
language of the eyes, their inclination to accept the invitation so
affectionately extended. Els only made the condition that they were not
to go to Schweinau until early the following morning, after their
visit to their father; Eva, on the other hand, desired to go as soon
as possible, gladly and gratefully confessing to her aunt how much more
calmly she would face the future now that she was permitted to be under
her protection.

“Just creep under the old hen’s wings, my little chicken; she will keep
you warm,” said the kind-hearted woman, kissing Eva. But, as she
began to plan for the removal of the sisters, more visitors were
announced--indeed, several at once; first, Albert Ebner, of the Council,
and his wife, then Frau Clara Loffelholz, who came without her husband,
and the two daughters of the imperial ranger Waldstromer, Els’s most
intimate friends. They had come in from the forest-house the day
before to attend Frau Maria Ortlieb’s burial. Now, with their mother’s
permission, they came to invite the deserted girls to the forest. The
others also begged the sisters to come to them, and so did Councillors
Schurstab, Behaim, Gross, Holzschuher, and Pirckheimer, who came, some
with their wives and some singly, to look after the daughters of their
imprisoned colleague.

The great sitting-room was filled with guests, and the stalwart figures
and shrewd, resolute faces of the men, the kind, good, and usually
pleasing countenances of the women, whose blue eyes beamed with
philanthropic benevolence, though they carried their heads high enough,
afforded a delightful spectacle, and one well calculated to inspire
respect. There could be no doubt that those whose locks were already
grey represented distinguished business houses and were accustomed to
manage great enterprises. There was not a single one whom the title
“Honour of the Family” could not have well befitted; and what cheerful
self-possession echoed in the deep voices of the men, what maternal
kindness in those of the elder women, most of whom also spoke in
sonorous tones!

Els and Eva often cast stolen glances at each other as they greeted the
visitors, thanked them, answered questions, gave explanations, accepted
apologies, received and courteously declined invitations. They did not
comprehend what had produced this sudden change of feeling in so many of
their equals in rank, what had brought them in such numbers at so late
an hour, as if the slightest delay was an offence, to their quiet house,
which that very day had seemed to Frau Vorkler too evil to permit her
children to remain in its service.

The old magistrate and his wife, on the contrary, thought that they
knew. They had helped the sisters to receive the first callers; but when
Frau Barbara Behaim, a cousin of the late Frau Maria, had appeared, they
gave up their post to her, and slipped quietly into the next room to
escape the throng.

There they retired to the niche formed by the deep walls of the broad
central window of the house, and Herr Berthold Pfinzing whispered to his
wife: “There was too much philanthropy and kindness for me in there. A
great deal of honey at once cloys me. But you, prophetess, foresaw what
is now occurring, and I, too, scarcely expected anything different. So
long as one still has a doublet left compassion is in no haste, but
when the last shirt is stripped from the body charity--thank the
saints!--moves faster. We are most ready to help those who, we feel very
sure, are suffering more than they deserve. There are many motherless
children; but young girls who have lost both parents, exposed to every
injustice----”

“Are certainly rare birds,” his wife interrupted, “and this will
undoubtedly be of service to the children. But if they are now invited
to the houses of the same worthy folk who, a few hours ago, thought
themselves too good to attend the funeral of their admirable mother, and
anxiously kept their own little daughters away from them, they probably
owe it especially to the right mediators, noble old Vorchtel and
another.”

“To-day, if ever, certainly furnished evidence how heavily the testimony
and example of a really estimable man weighs on the scale. The First
Losunger interceded for the children as if they were his own daughters,
attacked the slanderers, and of course I didn’t leave him in the lurch.”

“Peter Holzschuher declared that you defended them like the Roman
Cicero,” cried Frau Christine merrily. “But don’t be vexed,
dear husband; no matter how heavily the influence of the two
Bertholds--Vorchtel’s and yours--weighed in the balance, nay, had that
of a third and a fourth of the best Councillors been added, what is now
taking place before our eyes and ears would not have happened, if---”

“Well?” asked the magistrate eagerly.

“If,” replied the matron in a tone of the firmest conviction, “they
had not all been far from believing, even for a moment, in their inmost
souls the shameful calumny which baseness dared to cast upon those
two--just look more closely.”

“Yet if that was really the case--” her husband began to object, but she
eagerly continued: “Many did not utter their better knowledge or faith
because the evil heart believes in wickedness rather than virtue,
especially if their own house contains something--we will say a young
daughter--whose shining purity is thereby brought into a clearer light.
Besides, we ourselves have often been vexed by--let us do honour to
the truth!--by the defiant manner in which your devout godchild--yonder
‘little saint’--held aloof in her spiritual arrogance from the
companions of her own age----”

“And then,” the corpulent husband added, “two young girls cannot be
called ‘the beautiful Es’ unpunished in houses which contain a less
comely T, S, and H. Just think of the Katerpecks. There--thank the
saints!--they are taking leave already.”

“Don’t say anything about them!” said Frau Christine, shaking her finger
threateningly. “They are good, well-behaved children. It was pretty
Ermengarde Muffel yonder by the fireplace who, after the dance at the
Town Hall, assailed your godchild most spitefully with her sharp tongue.
My friend Frau Nutzel heard her.”

“Ah, that dance!” said the magistrate, sighing faintly. “But the child
was certainly distinguished in no common way. The Emperor Rudolph
himself looked after her as if an angel had appeared to him. You
yourself heard his sister’s opinion of her. Her husband, the old
Burgrave, and his son, handsome Eitelfritz--But you know all that. Half
would have been enough to stir ill-will in many a heart.”

“And to turn her pretty little head completely,” added his wife.

“That, by our Lady, Christine,” protested the magistrate, “that, at
least, did not happen. It ran off from her like water from an oil jar. I
noticed it myself, and the abbess--”

“Your sister,” interrupted the matron thoughtfully, “she was the very
one who led her into the path that is not suited for her.”

“No, no,” the magistrate eagerly asserted. “God did not create a girl,
the mere sight of whom charms so many, to withdraw her from the gaze of
the world.”

“Husband! husband!” exclaimed Frau Christine, tapping his arm gaily.
“But there go the Schurstabs and Ebners. What a noise there is in the
street below!”

Her husband looked out of the bow window, pointed down, and asked her to
come and stand beside him. When she had risen he passed his arm around
the slenderest part of her waist, which, however, he could not quite
clasp, and eagerly continued: “Just look! One would think it was a
banquet or a dance. The whole street is filled with sedan-chairs,
servants, and torch-bearers. A few hours ago the constables had hard
work to prevent the deluded people from destroying the house of
the profligate Es, and now one half of the distinguished honourable
Councillors come to pay their homage. Do you know, dear, what pleases
the most in all this?”

“Well?” asked Frau Christine, turning her face towards him with a look
of eager enquiry, which showed that she expected to hear something good.
But he nodded slightly, and answered:

“We members of patrician families cling to old customs; each wants to
keep his individuality, as he would share or exchange his escutcheon
with no one. Then, when one surpasses the rest in external things,
whatever name they may bear, no one hastens to imitate him. We men are
independent, rugged fellows. But if the heart and mind of any one of us
are bent upon something really good and which may be said to be pleasing
in the sight of God, and he successfully executes it, then, Christine,
then--I have noticed it in a hundred instances--then the rest rush after
him like sheep after the bellwether.”

“And this time you, and the other Berthold, were the leaders,” cried
Fran Christine, hastily pressing a kiss upon her old husband’s cheek
behind the curtain.

Then she turned back into the dusky chamber, pointed to the open door
of the sitting-room, and said, “just look! If that isn’t----There comes
Ursula Vorchtel with her betrothed husband, young Hans Nutzel! What
a fine-looking man the slender youth has become! Ursel--her visit is
probably the greatest pleasure which Els has had during this blessed
hour.”

The wise woman was right; for when Ursel held out her hands to her
former friend, whom she had studiously avoided so long, the eyes of both
girls were moist, and Els’s cheeks alternately flushed and paled, like
the play of light and shadow on the ground upon a sunny morning in a
leafy wood when the wind sways the tree tops.

What did they not have to say to each other! As soon as they were
unnoticed a moment Ursel kissed her newly regained friend, and
whispered, pointing to her lover, with whom Fran Barbara Behaim was
talking: “He first taught me to know what true love is, and since then I
have realised that it was wrong and foolish for me to be angry with you,
my dear Els, and that Wolff did right to keep his troth, hard as his
family made it for him to do so. Had my Hans met me a little sooner, we
should not now have to mourn our poor Ulrich. I know--for I have tried
often enough to soothe his resentment--how greatly he incensed your
lover. Oh, how sad it all is! But your aunt, the abbess, was right when
she told us before our confirmation, ‘When the cross that is imposed
upon us weighs too heavily, an angel often comes, lifts it, and twines
it with lovely roses!’ That has been my experience, dear Els; and what
great injustice I did you when I kept out of your way so meanly! I
always felt drawn to you. But when that evil gossip began I turned
against them all and bade them be silent in my presence, for it was all
false, base lies. I upheld your Eva, too, as well as you, though she had
been very ungracious whenever we met.”

How joyously Els opened her heart to these confessions! How warmly she
interceded for her sister! The girls had passed their arms around each
other, as if they had returned to the days of their childhood, and
when Ursel’s lover glanced at his betrothed bride, who, spite of her
well-formed figure and pleasant face, could not be classed amongst the
most beautiful of women, he thought she might compare in attractiveness
with the loveliest maidens, but no one could equal her in kindness of
heart. She saw this in the warm, loving look with which he sought her
pleasant grey eyes, as he approached to remind her that it was time to
go; but beckoning to him, she begged him to wait just a moment longer,
which she employed in whispering to Els: “You should find shelter with
us, and no one else, if my father----Don’t think he refused to let me
invite you on account of poor Ulrich, or because he was angry with you.
It’s only because----After the session to-day they all praised his noble
heart, and I don’t know what else, so loudly and with such exaggeration
that it was too much to believe. If he interceded for the Eysvogel firm
and you poor children, it was only because, as a just man, he could not
do otherwise.”

“Oh, Ursel!” Els here interrupted, wishing to join in her father’s
praise; but the latter would not listen and eagerly continued:

“No, no, he really felt so. His modesty made him unwilling to awaken the
belief that he asked the betrothed bride of the man--you understand
and her sister into his house, to set an example of Christian
reconciliation. False praise, he says, weighs more heavily than
disgrace. He has already heard more of it than he likes, and therefore,
for no other reason, he does not open his house to you, but upon his
counsel and his aid, he bids me tell you, you can confidently rely.”

Then the friends took leave of each other, and Ursula also embraced Eva,
who approached her with expressions of warm gratitude, kissed her, and
said, as she went away, “When next we meet, Miss Ungracious, I hope we
shall no longer turn our backs on each other.”

When Ursel had gone with her lover, and most of the others had followed,
Els felt so elated by thankfulness that she did not understand how her
heart, burdened with such great and heavy anxieties, could be capable of
rising to such rapturous delight.

How gladly she would have hastened to Wolff to give him his share of
this feeling! But, even had not new claims constantly pressed upon her,
she could on no account have sought his hiding-place at this hour.

When the last guest and the abbess also had retired, Aunt Christine
asked Els to pack whatever she and her sister needed for the removal to
Schweinau, for Eva was to go there with her at once.

Countess Cordula, who, much as she regretted the necessity of being
separated from her companions, saw that they were right to abandon the
house from which their father had been torn, wanted to help Els,
but just as the two girls were leaving the room a new visitor
arrived--Casper Teufel, of the Council, a cousin of Casper Eysvogel,
who had leaned on his arm for support when he left the session that
afternoon.

Els would not have waited for any other guest, but this one, as his
first words revealed, came from the family to which she felt that she
belonged, and the troubled face of the greyhaired, childless widower,
who was usually one of the most jovial of men, as well as the unusually
late hour of his call, indicated so serious a reason for his coming that
she stopped, and with anxious urgency asked what news he had brought.

It was not unexpected, yet his brief report fell heavily on the heart of
Els, which had just ventured to beat gaily and lightly.

Her uncle and aunt, Eva and the countess, also listened to the story.

He had accompanied Casper Eysvogel to his home and remained with him
whilst, overflowing with resentment and vehement, unbridled complaints
of the injustice and despotism to which--owing specially to the
hostility and self-conceit of old Berthold Vorchtel--he had fallen a
victim, he informed Fran Rosalinde and her mother what the Council had
determined concerning his own future and that of his family.

When he finally reported that he himself and the ladies must leave the
house and the city, Countess Rotterbach, with a scornful glance at her
deeply humiliated son-in-law, exclaimed, “This is what comes of throwing
one’s self away!” The unfortunate man, already shaken to the inmost
depths of his being, sank on his knees.

Conrad Teufel had instantly placed him in bed and sent for the leech;
but even after they had bathed his head with cold water and bled him he
did not regain consciousness. His left side seemed completely paralysed,
and his tongue could barely lisp a few unintelligible words.

At the leech’s desire a Sister of Charity had been sent for. Isabella
Siebenburg, the sufferer’s daughter, had already gone with her twin
sons, in obedience to her husband’s wish, to Heideck Castle.

She had departed in anger, because she had vainly endeavoured to induce
her mother and grandmother, who opposed her, to speak more kindly of her
husband. When they disparaged the absent man with cruel harshness, she
felt--she had told her cousin so--as if the infants could understand the
insult offered to their father, and, to protect the children even more
than herself, from her husband’s feminine foes, she left the falling
house, in spite of the entreaties and burning tears with which, in the
hour of parting, her mother strove to detain her.

Ere her departure she gave her jewels and the silver which her
grandfather had bequeathed to her to Conrad Teufel, to satisfy the most
urgent demands of her husband’s creditors. Her father and she had parted
kindly, and he made no attempt to oppose her.

No one except the Sister of Charity was now in attendance upon the old
gentleman; for his wife wept and wailed without finding strength to do
anything, and even reproached her own mother, whom she accused of having
plunged them all into misfortune, and caused the stroke of paralysis
from which her husband was suffering.

The grey-haired countess, the cousin went on, had passed from one attack
of convulsions into another, and when he approached her had shrieked
the words “ingratitude” and “base reward” so shrilly at him, in various
tones, that they were still ringing in his ears.

Everything in the luckless household was out of gear, and its noble
guest, the Duke von Gulich, would feel the consequences, for the
servants had lost their wits too. Spite of the countless men and maids,
he had been obliged to go himself to the pump to get a glass of water
for the sick man, and the fragments of the vase which the grandmother
had flung at him with her own noble hand were still lying on the floor.
His name was Teufel--[devil]--but even in his home in Hades things could
scarcely be worse.

When Herr Teufel at last paused, the magistrate and his wife exchanged a
significant glance, while Eva gazed with deep suspense, and Cordula with
earnest pity, at Els, who had listened to the story fairly panting for
breath.

When she raised her tearful eyes to Herr Pfinzing and Frau Christine,
saying mournfully, “I must beg you to excuse me, my dear aunt and uncle;
you have heard how much my Wolff’s father needs me,” all saw their
expectations fulfilled.

“Hard, hard!” said the magistrate, patting her on the shoulder. “Yet the
lead with which we burden ourselves from kindly intentions becomes wood,
or at last even feathers.”

But Frau Christine was not content with uttering cheering words; she
offered to accompany Els and secure the place to which she was entitled.
Frau Rosalinde had formerly often visited the matron to seek counsel,
and had shown her, with embarrassing plainness, how willingly she
admitted her superior ability. She disliked the old countess--but with
whom would not the self-reliant woman, conscious of her good intentions,
have dared to cope? Since the daughter of the house had left her
relatives, the place beside his father’s sick-bed belonged to the son’s
future wife. Frau Rosalinde was weak, but not the worst of women. “Just
wait, child,” Aunt Christine concluded, “she will see soon enough what
a blessing enters the house and the sick-room with you. We will try to
erect a wall against the old woman’s spite.”

Conrad Teufel confessed that he had come with the hope of inducing Els,
who had nursed her own mother so skilfully and patiently, to make so
praiseworthy a resolution. In taking leave he promised to keep a sharp
lookout for her rights, and, if necessary, to show the old she-devil his
own cloven foot.

After he, too, had gone, the preparations for the sisters’ departure
were commenced. Whilst Cordula was helping Eva to select the articles
she wished to take to Schweinau, and her older sister, with Katterle’s
assistance, was packing the few pieces of clothing she needed as a nurse
in the Eysvogel family, the countess offered to visit Herr Ernst in the
watch-tower early the following morning and tell him what detained
his daughters. Towards evening Eva could come into the city under the
protection of her aunt, who had many claims upon her the next day, and
see the prisoner.

This time, to the surprise of her sister, who had always relieved her of
such cares, Eva herself did the packing. When she had finished she led
the weeping Katterle to her uncle, that she might beg for mercy upon her
lover.

The magistrate was thoroughly aware of the course of affairs, and talked
to the maid with the gentle manner, pervaded with genuine kindness of
heart, which was one of his characteristics. Biberli had already been
subjected to an examination by torture; but even on the rack he had
not said one word about his betrothed bride, and had resolutely denied
everything which could criminate his master. A second trial awaited him
on the morrow, but the magistrate promised to do all in his power to
obtain the mildest possible sentence for him. At any rate, like all
whose blood was shed by a legal sentence, he would be sent to Schweinau
to be cured, and as Katterle would accompany Eva there, she could find
an opportunity of nursing her betrothed husband herself.

With these words he dismissed the girl, but when again alone with
his wife he admitted to her that the poor fellow might easily fare
badly--nay, might even lose his tongue--if on the rack, which was one
of the instruments of torture to which he must again be subjected, he
confessed having forced his way into the house of an “Honourable” at
night. True, the fact that in doing so he had only followed his master,
would mitigate the offence. He must bind the judges to secrecy, should
it prove impossible to avoid the necessity of informing them of Eva’s
somnambulism. If the sentence were very severe, he might perhaps be
able to delay its execution. Sir Heinz Schorlin, who stood high in the
Emperor’s favour, would then be asked to apply to the sovereign to annul
it, or at any rate to impose a lighter punishment.

Here he was interrupted by his nieces and Cordula, and soon after
Frau Christine went out with Els to go to the Eysvogels. Herr Pfinzing
remained with the others.

A personage of no less distinction than the Duchess Agnes had complained
to him of the reckless countess. Only yesterday she had ridden into the
forest with her father, and when the young Bohemian princess met her,
Cordula’s dogs had assailed her skittish Arabian so furiously that it
would have been difficult for a less practised rider to keep her seat
in the saddle. This time the docile animals had refused to obey their
mistress, and the duchess expressed the suspicion that she had not
intended to call them off; for, though she had carelessly apologised,
she asked, as if the words were a gibe, if there was anything more
delightful than to curb a refractory steed. She had an answer ready for
Cordula, however, and retorted that the disobedience of her dogs proved
that, if she understood how to obtain from horses what she called the
greatest delight, she certainly failed in the case of other living
creatures. She therefore offered her royal condolence on the subject.

Then she remarked to the magistrate that the incident had occurred in
the imperial forest where, as she understood, the unrestricted wandering
of strange hunting dogs was prohibited. Therefore, in future, Countess
von Montfort might be required to leave hers at home when she rode to
the woods.

The magistrate now brought the complaint to the person against whom it
was made, adopting a merry jesting tone, in which Cordula gaily joined.

When the old gentleman asked whether she had previously angered the
irritable princess, she answered laughing, “The saints have hitherto
denied to the wife of the Emperor’s son, as well as to other girls of
thirteen or fourteen, the blessing of children, so she likes to play
with dolls. She chanced to prefer the same one for which she saw me
stretch out my hands.”

The old magistrate vainly sought to understand this jest; but Eva knew
whom the countess meant by the doll, and it grieved her to see two women
hostile to each other, seeking to amuse themselves with one who bore
so little resemblance to a toy, and to whom she looked up with all the
earnestness of a soul kindled by the deepest passion.

While the magistrate and the countess were gaily arguing and jesting
together she sat silent, and the others did not disturb her.

After a long time Frau Christine returned. Traces of tears were plainly
visible, though she had tried, whilst in the sedan-chair, to efface
them. The scenes which Els had experienced at the Eysvogels’ had
certainly been far worse than she had feared--nay, the old countess’s
attack upon her was so insulting, Frau Rosalinde’s helpless grief and
Herr Casper’s condition were so pitiable, that she had thought seriously
of bringing the poor girl back with her, and removing her from these
people who, she was sure, would make Els’s life a torment as soon as she
herself had gone.

The grandmother’s enquiry whether Jungfrau Ortlieb expected to find her
Swiss gallant there, and similar insolent remarks, seemed fairly steeped
with rancour.

What a repulsive spectacle the old woman, utterly bereft of dignity,
presented as with solemn mockery she courtesied to Els again and again,
as if announcing herself her most humble servant; but the poor child
kept silence until Frau Christine herself spoke, and assigned her niece
to the place beside Herr Casper’s sick-bed, which no one else could fill
so well.

Stillness reigned in this chamber, and Els scarcely had occasion to
dread much disturbance, for the countess had been strictly forbidden to
enter the sufferer’s room. Frau Rosalinde seemed to fear the sight
of the helpless man, and the Sister of Charity was a strong, resolute
woman, who welcomed Els with sincere cordiality, and promised Frau
Christine to let no evil befall her.

The sedan-chairs were already waiting outside, and the lady would have
gladly deferred her account of these sorrowful events until later, but
Cordula so affectionately desired to learn how her friend had fared in
her lover’s home, that she hurriedly and swiftly gratified her wish.
Speaking of the matter relieved her heart, and in a somewhat calmer mood
she was carried to Schweinau.



CHAPTER XII.

The little Pfinzing castle in Schweinau was neither spacious nor
splendid, but it was Fran Christine’s favourite place of abode.

The heat of summer found no entrance through the walls--three feet in
thickness--of the ancient building. Early in the morning and at evening
it was pleasant to stay in the arbour, a room open in the front,
extending the whole length of the edifice, where one could breathe the
fresh air even during rainy weather. It overlooked the herb garden,
which was specially dear to its mistress, for it contained roses,
lilies, pinks, and other flowers; and part of the beds, after being dug
by the gardener, who had charge of the kitchen garden in the rear, were
planted and tended by her own hand.

The hour between sunrise and mass was devoted to this work, in which Eva
was to help her, and it would afford her much information; for her aunt
raised many plants which possessed healing power. Some of the seeds
or bulbs had been brought from foreign lands, but she was perfectly
familiar with the virtues of all. Schweinau afforded abundant
opportunity to use them, and the nurses in the city hospital, and the
leech Otto, and other physicians, as well as many noble dames in the
neighbourhood who took the place of a physician among their peasants and
dependents, applied to Fran Christine when they needed certain roots,
leaves, berries, and seeds for their sick. Nor did the monks and nuns,
far and near, ever come to her for such things in vain.

True, the life at Castle Schweinau was by no means so quiet as the one
which Eva had hitherto loved.

When she accepted the invitation she knew that, if she shared all her
aunt’s occupations, she would not have even a single half hour of her
own; but this was not her first visit here, and she had learned that
Frau Christine allowed her entire liberty, and required nothing which
she did not offer of her own free will.

When she saw the matron, after the mass and the early repast which her
husband shared with her before going to the city, visit the aged widows
of the crusaders in the little institution behind the kitchen garden and
inspect and regulate the work of the Beguines, she often wondered where
this woman, whose age was nearer seventy than sixty, found strength for
all this, as well as the duties which followed. First there were orders
to give in the kitchen that the principal meal, after the vesper bells
had rung, should always win from the master of the house the “Couldn’t
be better,” which his wife heard with the same pleasure as ever. Then,
after visiting the wash-house, the bleachcry, the linen presses, the
cellar, the garret, and even the beehives to see that everything was
in order, and emerging from the hands of the maid as a well-dressed
noblewoman, she received visit after visit. Members of the patrician
families of Nuremberg arrived; monks and nuns on various errands for
their cloisters and their poor; gentlemen and ladies from ecclesiastical
and secular circles, in both city and country, among them frequently
the most aristocratic attendants of the Reichstag; for she numbered the
Burgrave and his wife among her friends, and when questioned about the
Nuremberg women, the Burgrave Frederick mentioned her as second to none
in ability, shrewdness, and kindness of heart.

Both he and his worthy wife sometimes sought her in the sphere of
occupation which consumed the lion’s share of her time and strength--the
superintendence of the Schweinau hospital. True, she often let
days elapse without entering it; but if anything went wrong and her
assistance was desirable or necessary in serious cases, she remained
there until late at night, or even until the following morning.

At such times even the most distinguished visitors were sent home with
the message that Frau Christine could not leave the sick.

The Burgrave and his wife were the only persons permitted to follow
her into the hospital, and they had probably gained the privilege
of speaking to her there because they were among its most liberal
supporters, and three of their sons wore the cross of the Knights
Hospitaller, and often spent weeks there, as the rule of the order
prescribed, in nursing the sufferers.

Women also had the right to enter the hospital to be cured of the wounds
inflicted by the scourge or the iron of the executioner.

Each sufferer was to be nursed there only three days, but Frau Christine
took care that no one to whom such treatment might be harmful should be
put out. The Honourable Council was obliged, willing or unwilling, to
defray the necessary expense. The magistrate had many a battle to fight
for these encroachments, but he always found a goodly majority on the
side of the hospital and his wife. If the number of those who required
longer nursing increased too rapidly they did not spare their own fine
residence.

The hospital and the hope of being allowed to help within its walls had
brought Eva to Schweinau. The experiences of the past few days had swept
through the peace of her young soul like a tempest, overthrowing firmly
built structures and fanning glimmering sparks to flames. Since her
quiet self-examination in the room of the city clerk, she had known what
she lacked and what duty required her to become. The bond which united
her to her saint and the Saviour still remained, but she knew what was
commanded by him from whom St. Clare’s mission also came, what Francis
of Assisi had enjoined upon his followers whose experiences had been
like hers.

They were to strive to restore peace to their perturbed souls by
faithful toil for their brothers and sisters; and what toil better
suited a feeble girl like herself than the alleviation of her unhappy
neighbour’s suffering? The harder the duties imposed upon her in the
service of love, the better. She would set to work in the hope of making
herself the true, resolute woman which her mother, with the eyes of the
soul, had seen her fragile child become; but she could imagine nothing
more difficult than the tasks to be fulfilled here. This was the real
fierce heat of the forge fire to which the dead woman had wished to
entrust her purification and transformation. She would not shun, but
hasten to it. While her lover was wielding the sword she, too, had a
battle to fight. She had heard from Biberli that Heinz wished to undergo
the most severe trials. This was noble, and her enthusiastic nature,
aspiring to the loftiest goal, was filled with the same desire. Eager to
learn how they would bear the test, she scanned her young shoulders and
gazed at the burden which she intended to lay upon them.

When, the year before, her aunt took her to the hospital for the first
time, she had returned home completely unnerved. She had not even had
the slightest suspicion that there was such suffering on earth, such
pain amongst those near her, such depravity amongst those of her own
sex. What comparison was there between what Els had done for her gentle,
patient mother, or what she would do for old Herr Casper, who lay in a
soft bed--it had been shown to her as something of rare beauty, of ebony
and ivory--and the task of nursing these infamous gallows-birds bleeding
from severe wounds, and these depraved sick women? But if God’s own Son
gave up His life amidst the most cruel suffering for sinful humanity,
how dared she, the weak, erring, slandered girl, who had no goodness
save her passionate desire to do what was right, shrink from helping the
most pitiable of her neighbours? Here in the hospital at Schweinau lay
the heavy burden which she wished to take upon herself.

She desired it also in order to maintain the bond which had united her
to the Saviour. She would be constantly reminded here of his own words,
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me.” To become a bride of Jesus Christ and, closely
united to Him in her inmost soul, await the hour when He would open
His divine arms to her, had seemed the fairest lot in life. Now she had
pledged herself in the world to another, and yet she did not wish to
give up her Saviour. She desired to show Him that though she neither
could nor would resign her earthly lover, her heart still throbbed
for the divine One as tenderly as of yore. And could He who was Love
incarnate condemn her, when He saw how, without even being permitted
to hope that her lover would find his way back to her, she clung with
inviolable steadfastness to her troth, though no one save He and His
heavenly Father had witnessed her silent vow?

She belonged to Heinz, and he--she knew it--to her. Even though later,
after all the world had acknowledged her innocence, the walls of convent
and monastery divided them, their souls would remain indissolubly
united. If there should be no meeting for them here below, in the other
world the Saviour would lead them to each other the more surely, the
more obediently they strove to fulfil His divine command. As Heinz
desired to take up the cross in imitation of Christ she, too, would
bear it. It was to be found beside the straw pallets of the wounded
criminals. The fulfilment of every hard duty which she voluntarily
performed seemed like a step that brought her nearer to the Saviour,
and at the same time to the union with her lover, even though in another
world.

The first request she made to her aunt on the way to mass, early in the
morning of the first day of her stay in Schweinau, was an entreaty for
permission to work in the hospital. It was granted, but not until the
eyes of the experienced woman, ever prompt in decision, had rested with
anxious hesitation upon the beautiful face and exquisite lithe young
figure. The thought that it would be a pity for such lovely, pure,
stainless girlish charms to be used in the service of these outcasts had
almost determined her to utter a resolute “No”; but she did not do it;
nay, a flush of shame crimsoned her face as her eyes rested on the image
of the crucified Redeemer which stood beside the road leading to the
little village church; for whom had He, the Most High, summoned to
His service and deemed specially worthy of the kingdom of heaven? The
simple-hearted, the children, the adulterers, the sinners and publicans,
the despised, and the poor! No, no, it would not degrade the lovely
child to help the miserable creatures yonder, any more than it did the
rarest plant which she raised in her herb garden when she used it to
heal the hurts of some abandoned wretch.

And besides, with what deep loathing she herself had gone to the
hospital at first, and how fully conscious of her own infinite
superiority she had returned from amongst these depraved beings to the
outdoor air.

Yet how this feeling, which had stirred within her heart, gradually
changed!

During her closer acquaintance with the poor and the despised, the
nature and work of Christ first became perfectly intelligible to her;
for how many traits of simple, self-sacrificing readiness to help,
what touching contentment and grateful joy in the veriest trifle,
what childlike piety and humble resignation even amidst intolerable
suffering, these unfortunates had shown! Nay, when she had become
familiar with the lives of many of her protegees and learned how they
had fallen into the hands of the executioner and reached Schweinau, she
had asked herself whether, under similar circumstances, the majority of
those who belonged to her own sphere in life would not have found the
way there far more speedily, and whether they would have endured the
punishment inflicted half so patiently or with so much freedom from
bitterness and rebellion against the decrees of the Most High. She had
discovered salutary sap in many a human plant that had at first seemed
absolutely poisonous; where she had shrunk from touching such impurity,
violets and lilies had bloomed amidst the mire. Instead of holding her
head haughtily erect, she had often left the hospital with a sense of
shame, and it was long since she had ceased to use the proud privilege
of her rank to despise people of lower degree. If sometimes tempted to
exercise it, the impulse was roused far more frequently by those of her
own station, who were base in mind and heart, than by the sufferers in
the hospital.

She had become very modest in regard to herself, why should she wake to
new life the arrogance now hushed in Eva’s breast?

Much secret distress of mind and anguish of soul had been endured by the
poor child, who yesterday had opened her whole heart to her, when she
went to rest in her chamber. How lowly she felt, how humble was the
little saint who recently had elevated herself above others only too
quickly and willingly! It would do her good to descend to the lowest
ranks and measure her own better fate by their misery. She who felt
bereaved could always be the giver in the hospital, and she felt with
subtle sympathy what attracted Eva to her sufferers.

The magistrate’s wife was a religious matron, devoted to her Church, but
in her youth she had been by no means fanatical. The Abbess Kunigunde,
her younger sister, however, had fought before her eyes the conflict of
the soul, which had finally sent the beautiful, much-admired girl within
convent walls. No one except her quiet, silent sister Christine had
been permitted to witness the mental struggle, and the latter now saw
repeated in her young niece what Kunigunde had experienced so many years
before. Difficult as it had then been for her to understand the future
abbess, now, after watching many a similar contest in others, it was
easy to follow every emotion in Eva’s soul.

During a long and happy married life, in which year by year mutual
respect had increased, the magistrate and his wife had finally attained
the point of holding the same opinions on important questions; but when
Herr Berthold returned from the city, and finding Eva already at the
hospital, told his wife, at the meal which she shared with him, that
from his point of view she ought to have strenuously opposed her niece’s
desire, and he only hoped that her compliance might entail no disastrous
consequences upon the excitable, sensitive child, the remarkable thing
happened that Frau Christine, without as usual being influenced by him,
insisted upon her own conviction.

So it happened that this time the magistrate was robbed of the little
nap which usually followed the meal, and yet, in spite of the best will
to yield, he could not do his wife the favour of allowing himself to be
convinced. Still, he did not ask her to retract the consent which she
had once given, so Eva was permitted to continue to visit the hospital.

The nurse, a woman of estimable character and strong will, would
faithfully protect her whatever might happen. Frau Christine had placed
the girl under her special charge, and the Beguine Hildegard, a woman of
noble birth and the widow of a knight who had yielded his life in Italy
for the Emperor Frederick, received her with special warmth because she
had a daughter whom, just at Eva’s age, death had snatched from her.

Yet the magistrate would not be soothed. Not until he saw from the
arbour, whilst the dessert still remained on the table; Cordula riding
up on horseback did he cease recapitulating his numerous objections and
go to meet the countess.

To his straightforward mind and calm feelings the most incomprehensible
thing had been Frau Christine’s description of the soul-life of her
sister and her niece. He knew the terrible impressions which even a man
could not escape amongst the rabble in the hospital, and had used the
comparison that what awaited Eva there was like giving a weak child
pepper.

As Countess Cordula, aided by the old man’s hand, swung herself from the
saddle of her spirited dappled steed, he thought: “If it were she who
wanted to tend our sick rascals instead of the delicate Eva, I wouldn’t
object. She’d manage Satan himself whilst my little godchild was holding
intercourse with her angels in heaven.”

In the arbour Cordula explained why she had not come before; but her
account told the elderly couple nothing new.

When she went to see Ernst Ortlieb in the watch-tower that morning he
had already been taken to the Town Hall. No special proceedings were
required, since he was his own accuser, and many trustworthy witnesses
deposed that he had been most grossly irritated--nay, as his advocate
represented, had wounded the tailor in self-defence. Yet Ernst Ortlieb
could not be dismissed from imprisonment at once, because the tailor’s
representative demanded a much larger amount of blood-money than the
court was willing to grant. The wound was not dangerous to life, but
still prevented his leaving his bed and appearing in person before
his judges. The candle-dealer was nursing him in his own house and
instigating him to make demands whose extravagance roused the judges’
mirth. As after a tedious discussion Meister Seubolt still insisted
upon them, the magistrates from the Council and the Chief of Police, who
composed the court, advised Herr Ernst to have the sentence deferred
and recognise the tailor’s claim that his case belonged to the criminal
court. Out of consideration for the citizens and the excited state of
the whole guild of tailors, it seemed advisable to avoid any appearance
of partiality, yet in that case the self-accuser must submit to
imprisonment until the sentence was pronounced. This delay, however, was
of trivial importance; for Herr Pfinzing had promised his brother-in-law
that his cause should be considered and settled on the following day.

Herr Berthold had told his wife all this soon after his return, and
added, with much admiration of the valiant fellow’s steadfastness, that
Biberli, Sir Heinz Schorlin’s servant, had again been subjected to an
examination by torture and was racked far more severely than justice
could approve.

The countess reported that after her friend’s father had been taken back
to the watch-tower a few hours before, she had found him in excellent
spirits.

True, the Burgrave von Zollern had not come to visit him in person, like
many “Honourables” and gentlemen, but he had sent his son Eitelfritz to
enquire how he fared, and the prisoner was occupied with the petition
which he wished to send the sovereign the next day through Meister
Gottlieb von Passau, the Emperor Rudolph’s protonotary. He had told
Cordula, with a resolute air, that it contained the charge that Sir
Heinz Schorlin had found his way into his house at night, and would
not even suffer her to finish her entreaty to omit the accusation. “And
now,” the countess added mournfully, “I urge you, to whom the young girl
is dear, to consider the pitiable manner in which, by her own father’s
folly, Eva’s name will be on the tongues of the whole court, and
what the gossips throughout the city will say about the poor child in
connection with such an accusation.”

Frau Pfinzing sighed heavily, and rose, but her husband, who perceived
her intention, stopped her with the remark that it would be useless
to go that day, for the sun was already setting and the watchtower was
closed at nightfall.

This induced the matron to return to her seat; but she had scarcely
touched the easy-chair ere she again rose and told the servant to saddle
the big bay. She would ride to the city on horseback this time; the
bearers moved too slowly. Then turning to her husband, she said gaily:

“I thank you for the excuse you have made for me, but I cannot use it in
this case. My foolish brother must on no account make the charge which
will expose his daughter; it would be a serious misfortune were I to
arrive too late. What is the use of being the wife of the imperial
magistrate, if a Nuremberg drawbridge cannot be raised for me even after
sunset? If the petition has already gone, I must see Meister Gottlieb.
True, it was not to be sent until to-morrow, but there is nothing
of which we are more glad to rid ourselves than the disagreeable
transactions from which we shrink. Give me a pass for the warder,
Pfinzing; and you, Countess, excuse me; it is you who send me away.”

Whilst the maid brought her headkerchief and her cloak, and the
magistrate in a low tone told he servant to have his horse ready, too,
Frau Christine asked Cordula to bring Eva from the hospital, if she felt
no disgust at the sight of common people suffering from wounds.

“The huts of our wood-cutters, labourers, and fishermen look cleaner,
it is true, than the hovels of the charcoal burners and quarrymen in
the Montfort forests and mountains; yet none of them are perfumed with
sandal-wood and attar of roses, and the blow of the axe which gashes one
of our wood-cutter’s flesh presents a similar spectacle to the wounds
which your criminals bring with them to Schweinau. And let me tell you,
I am the leech in Montfort, and unless death is near, and the chaplain
accompanies me bearing the sacrament, I often go alone with the
manservant, the maid, or the pages who carry my medicines. Since I
grew up I have attended to our sick, and I cannot tell you how many
fractures, wounds, hurts, and fevers I have cured or seen progress to
a fatal end. I stand godmother to nearly all the newborn infants in our
villages and hamlets. The mothers whom I nurse insist upon it. There are
almost as many Cordulas as girls on the Montfort estates, and in many a
hut there are two or three of them. Michel the fisherman has a Cordula,
a Cordel, and a Dulla. Therefore it follows that I am accustomed to
severe wounds, though my heart often aches at the sight of them. I know
how to bandage as well as a barber, and, if necessary, can even use the
knife.”

“I thought so,” cried the magistrate, much comforted. “Set my delicate
little Eva an example if her courage fails; or, what would be still
better, if you see that the horrible business goes too much against the
grain, persuade her to give up work which requires stronger hands and a
less sensitive nature. But there are the horses already. I want to go to
the city, too, Christel, and it’s lucky that I don’t have to go alone at
night.”

“So said the man who jumped in to save somebody from drowning,” replied
Fran Christine laughing: “It’s lucky it happened, because I was
just going to take a bath!” But it pleased her to have her husband’s
companionship, and she did not approach her horse until he had examined
the saddle-girth and the bridle with the utmost care.

Before putting her foot in the stirrup, she told the old housekeeper
to take Countess von Montfort to the hospital and commend her to the
special care of Sister Hildegard. She would call for Cordula and Eva
on her return from the city; but they must not wait for her should the
strength of either fail. She had ordered a sedan-chair to be kept ready
for her niece at the hospital. A second one would be at the countess’s
disposal.

“That’s what I call foresight!” cried the magistrate laughing. “Only,
my dear countess, see that our little saint doesn’t attempt anything
too hard. Her pious heart would run her little head against the wall if
matters came to that and, like the noble Moorish steeds, she would drop
dead in her tracks rather than stop. Such a delicate creature is like a
lute. When the key is raised higher and higher the string snaps, and we
want to avoid that. With you, my young heroine----”

“There is no danger of that kind,” Cordula gaily protested. “This
instrument is provided with metal strings; the tone is neither sweet nor
musical, but they are durable.”

“Good, firm material, such as I like,” the magistrate declared. Then
he helped his wife mount her horse, placed the bridle in her left hand,
looked at the saddle-girth again, and, spite of his corpulence, swung
himself nimbly enough on his strong steed. Then, with Frau Christine, he
trotted after the torch-bearers towards the city.



CHAPTER XIII.

The drawbridge before the watch-tower was promptly lowered for the
imperial magistrate and his wife. He would have dissuaded Frau Chris the
from the ride and come alone, had not experience taught him that Ernst
Ortlieb was more ready to listen to her than to him. But they came too
late; just before sunset Herr Ernst had availed himself of the visit of
the imperial forester, Waldstromer, to give him the petition to convey
to the protonotary, by whom it was to reach the Emperor. Nor did he
regret this decision, but insisted that his duty as a father and a
Nuremberg “Honourable” would not permit the wrong done to his child and
his household by a foreign knight to pass unpunished.

True, Fran Christine exerted all her powers of persuasion to change his
opinion, and her husband valiantly supported her, but they accomplished
nothing except to gain the prisoner’s consent that if the paper had not
yet reached the Emperor the protonotary might defer its presentation
until he was asked for it.

Herr Ernst had made this concession after the magistrate’s
representation that Sir Heinz Schorlin had been subjected to an
experience which had stirred the inmost depths of his soul, and soon
after had been unexpectedly sent in pursuit of the Siebenburgs. Hence
he had found no time to speak to the father. If he persisted in his
intention of entering a monastery, the petition would be purposeless.
If it proved that he was merely trifling with Eva, there would be time
enough to call upon the Emperor to punish him. Besides, he knew from
Maier of Silenen that the knight had firmly resolved to renounce the
world.

But the magistrate and his wife did not take their nocturnal ride in
vain, for after leaving the watch-tower they met the protonotary at St.
Sebald’s. He had received the petition, but had not yet delivered it to
his royal master, and promised to withhold it for a time.

Rejoicing over this success, Herr Pfinzing accompanied Fran Christine,
who wanted to visit Els, to the Eysvogel residence.

The din of many voices and loud laughter greeted them from the spacious
entry. Three mendicant friars, with overflowing pouches, pressed
past them, and two others were still standing with the men and the
maidservants assembled in the light of the lanterns. They had filled the
barefooted monks’ bags, for the salvation of their own souls, with the
provisions of the house, and were talking garrulously, already half
intoxicated by the jugs of wine which the butler willingly filled to
earn a sweet reward from the young maids, who eagerly sought the favour
of the rotund bachelor whose hair was just beginning to turn grey.

The magistrate’s entrance startled them, and the butler vainly strove
to hide a large jar whose shape betrayed that it came from Sicily and
contained the noble vintage of Syracuse. Two of the maids slid under
their aprons the big hams and pieces of roast meat with which they had
already begun to regale themselves.

Herr Berthold, smiling sadly, watched the conduct of the masterless
servants; then raising his cap, bowed with the utmost respect to the
disconcerted revellers, and said courteously, “I hope it will agree with
you all.”

The startled group looked sheepishly at one another. The butler was
the only person who quickly regained his composure, came forward to
the magistrate cap in hand, and said obsequiously that he and his
fellow-servants were in evil case. The house had no master. No one
knew from whom he or she was to receive orders. Most of them had been
discharged by the Honourable Councillor, but no one knew when he was to
leave or whom to ask for his wages.

The magistrate then informed them that Herr Wolff Eysvogel had the right
to give orders, and during his absence his betrothed bride, Jungfrau
Els Ortlieb. The next morning a member of the Council would examine the
claims of each, pay the wages, and with Frau Rosalinde and Jungfrau Els
determine the other matters.

The butler had imbibed a goodly share of the noble wine. His fat cheeks
glowed, and at the magistrate’s last remark he laughed softly: “If we
wait for the folk upstairs to agree we shall stay here till the Pegnitz
flows up the valley. Just listen to their state of harmony, sir!”

In fact the shrill, angry accents of a woman’s loud voice, with which
mingled deeper tones that were very familiar to Herr Berthold, echoed
down into the entry. It certainly looked ill for the concord of the
women of the house; yet the magistrate could not permit the unprincipled
servant’s insolence to pass unpunished, so he answered quietly:

“You are right, fellow. One can put a stop to this shameful conduct more
quickly than several, and by virtue of my office I will therefore be the
one to command here. You will leave this house and service to-morrow.”

But when the angry butler, with the hoarse tones of a drunkard, declared
that in Nuremberg none save rascals were turned out of doors directly
after a discharge, the magistrate, with grave dignity, cut him short by
remarking that he would do better not to bring before the magistrates
the question of what beseemed the servant who wasted the valuable
property entrusted to his care, as had been done here.

With these words he pointed to the spot where the jug of wine which he
had plainly seen was only half concealed, and the threat silenced the
man, whose conscience reproached him far more than Herr Pfinzing could
imagine.

Meanwhile quiet had not been restored upstairs. Frau Christine had
released Els from a store-room in which the old countess, after
persuading her daughter to this spiteful and childish trick, had locked
her. A serious discussion amongst the women followed, which was closed
only by the interposition of the magistrate. Perhaps this might have
been accomplished less quickly had not the leech Otto appeared as a
welcome aid.

Frau Rosalinde penitently besought forgiveness, her mother was again
forbidden to come to the lower story, and threatened, if she approached
the sick-room, with immediate removal from the house.

This strictness was necessary to render it possible for Els to maintain
her difficult position.

The day had been filled with painful incidents and shameful
humiliations. The old countess had summoned two relatives, both elderly
canonesses, to aid her in her assault upon the intruder, and perhaps
they were the persons who advised locking up Sir Casper’s nurse, to whom
they denied the right of still calling herself the bride of the young
master of the house.

Frau Christine had arrived at the right time. Els was beginning to lose
courage. She had found nothing which could aid her to sustain it.

Since Biberli had been deprived of his liberty she had rarely heard from
Wolff, and his invalid father, for whose sake she remained in the house,
seemed to view her with dislike. At first he had tried neither to speak
to nor look at her, but that morning, while raising a refreshing cup to
his parched lips, he had cast at her from the one eye whose lid still
moved a glance whose enmity still haunted her.

Even the priest who visited him several times was by no means kindly
disposed towards her. He belonged to the Dominican order, and was
the confessor of the old countess and Frau Rosalinde. They must have
slandered her sorely to him; and as the order of St. Francis, to which
the Sisters of St. Clare belonged, was a thorn in his flesh, he bore her
a grudge because, as the Abbess Kunigunde’s niece, she stood by her and
her convent, and threatened to win the Eysvogel household over to the
Franciscans.

Before the magistrate and his wife left their niece, Herr Berthold
ordered the men and maidservants to stand in separate rows, then, in the
physician’s presence, introduced Els to them as the mistress whom they
were to obey, and requested her to choose those whose services she
wished to retain. The rest would be compensated at the Town Hall the
next day for their abrupt dismissal.

Els had never found it harder to say good-by to her relatives; but the
leech Otto remained with her some time, and was soon joined by Conrad
Teufel, thereby rendering it a little easier for her to persist in the
performance of her difficult duty. On the way home to Schweinau the
magistrate and his wife talked together as eagerly as if they had just
met after a long separation. They had gone back to the query how nursing
the wounded criminals would affect Eva, and both hoped that Cordula’s
presence and encouragement would strengthen her power of resistance.

But what did this mean?

As they approached the little castle they saw from the road in the
arbour, which was lighted with links, the figure of the countess. She
was sitting in Frau Christine’s easy chair, but Eva was nowhere in view.
Had her strength failed, and was Cordula awaiting their return after
putting her more delicate friend to bed? And Boemund Altrosen, who stood
opposite to her, leaning against one of the pillars which supported the
arched ceiling of the room, how came he here? The Pfinzings had known
him from early childhood, for his father had been a dear friend and
brother in arms of the magistrate; and--whilst Boemund, as a boy, was
enjoying the instruction of the Benedictines in the monastery of St.
AEgidius, he had been a favourite comrade of Frau Christine’s son,
who had fallen in battle, and always found a cordial reception in his
parents’ house.

With what tender anxiety the knight gazed into Cordula’s pale face!
Something must have befallen the blooming, vigorous huntress and daring
horsewoman, and both Herr Berthold and his wife feared that it concerned
Eva.

The young couple now perceived their approach, and Cordula, rising,
waved her handkerchief to them. Yet how slowly she rose, how feebly the
vivacious girl moved her hand.

Herr Berthold helped his wife from the saddle as quickly as possible,
and both hurried anxiously towards the arbour. Frau Christine did not
remain in the winding path, but though usually she strictly insisted
that no one should tread on the turf, hastily crossed it to reach her
goal more quickly. But ere she could put the question she longed to ask,
Cordula sorrowfully exclaimed: “Don’t judge me too severely. ‘He who
exalts himself shall be humbled,’ says the Bible, and also that the
first shall be last, and the last first; but I have been forced to sit
upon the ground whilst Eva occupies the throne. I belong at the end of
the last rank, whilst she leads the foremost.”

“Please explain the riddle at once,” pleaded Frau Christine.

Sir Boemund Altrosen came forward, held out his hand to his old friend,
and spoke for Cordula “The horror and loathsomeness were too much for
her, whilst Jungfrau Ortlieb endured them.”

“Eva remained at the hospital,” the countess added dejectedly, “because
a dying woman would not let her go; whilst I--the knight is right--could
bear it no longer.”

Frau Christine glanced triumphantly at her husband, but when she saw
Cordula’s pale cheeks she exclaimed: “Poor child! And there was no one
here to----One moment, Countess!”

Throwing down her riding-whip and gloves as she spoke, she was hurrying
towards the sideboard on which stood the medicine-case, to prepare a
strengthening drink; but Cordula stopped her, saying: “The housekeeper
has already supplied the necessary stimulant. I will only ask to have my
horse brought to the door, or my father will be anxious. I was obliged
to await your return, because----Well, my flight from the hospital
certainly was not praiseworthy, and it affords me no special pleasure
to confess it. But you must not think me even more pitiful than I proved
myself, so I stayed to tell you myself----”

“That it is one thing,” interrupted Sir Boemund, “to nurse worthy
wood-cutters, gamekeepers, fishermen, and charcoal-burners, who, when
wounded and ill, look up to their gracious mistress as if she were an
angel of deliverance, and quite a different matter to mingle with the
miserable rabble yonder. The bloody stripes which the executioner’s
lash cuts in the criminal’s back do not render him more gentle; the
mutilation which he curses, and the disgrace with which an abandoned
woman----”

“Stop!” interrupted Cordula, whose lips and cheeks had again grown
colourless. “Do not mention those scenes which have poisoned my soul.
It was too hideous, too terrible! And how the woman with the red band
around her neck, the mark of the rope by which she carried the stone,
rushed at the other whose eye had been put out! how they fought on the
floor, scratching, biting, tearing each other’s hair----”

Here the tender-hearted girl, covering her convulsed face with her
hands, sobbed aloud.

Frau Christine drew her compassionately to her heart, pressed the
motherless child’s head to her bosom, and let her weep her fill there,
whilst the magistrate said to Sir Boemund: “And Eva Ortlieb also
witnessed this hideous scene, yet the delicate young creature endured
it?”

Altrosen nodded assent, adding eagerly, as if some memory rose
vividly before him: “She often looked distressed by these horrors, but
usually--how shall I express it?--usually calm and content.”

“Content,” repeated the magistrate thoughtfully. Then, suddenly
straightening his short, broad figure, he thrust his little fat hand
into a fold of the knight’s doublet, exclaiming: “Boemund, do you want
to know the most difficult riddle that the Lord gives to us men to
solve? It is--take heed--a woman’s soul.”

“Yes,” replied Altrosen curtly; the word sounded like a sigh.

While speaking, his dark eye was bent on Cordula, whose head still
rested on Frau Christine’s breast.

Then, adjusting the bandage which since the fire had been wound around
his forehead and his dark hair, he continued in a tone of explanation:
“Count von Montfort sent me, when it grew dark, to accompany his
daughter home. From your little castle I was directed to the hospital,
where I found her amongst the horrible women. She had struggled
faithfully against her loathing and disgust, but when I arrived her
power of resistance was already beginning to fail. Fortunately the
sedan-chair was there, for she felt that her feet would scarcely carry
her back. I ordered one to be prepared for Jungfrau Ortlieb, though I
remembered the dying woman who kept her. As if the matter were some easy
task, she begged the countess to excuse her, and remained beside the
wretched straw pallet.”

The deeply agitated girl had just released herself from the matron’s
embrace, and begged the knight to have her Roland saddled; but Frau
Christine stopped him, and entreated Cordula, for her sake, to use her
sedan-chair instead of the horse.

“If it will gratify you,” replied the countess smiling; “but I should
reach home safely on the piebald.”

“Who doubts it?” asked the matron. “Give her your arm, husband. The
bearers are ready, and you will soon overtake them on your horse,
Boemund.”

“The walk through the warm June night will do me good,” the latter
protested.

Soon after the sedan-chair which conveyed Cordula, lighted by several
torch-bearers on foot and on horseback, began to move towards the city.

At St. Linhard, Boemund Altrosen, who walked beside it, asked the
question, “Then I may hope, Countess? I really may?”

She nodded affectionately, and answered under her breath: “You may; but
we must first try whether the flower of love which blossomed for you out
of my weakness is the real one. I believe it will be.”

He joyously raised her hand to his lips, but a torch-bearer’s
shout--“Count von Montfort and his train!”--urged him back from the
sedan chair. A few seconds after Cordula welcomed her father, who had
anxiously ridden forth to meet his jewel.



CHAPTER XIV.

“I can hardly do more, and yet I must,” groaned Frau Christine, as
she gazed after the torch-bearers who preceded Cordula. Her husband,
however, tried to detain her, offering to go to their young guest in her
place.

But the effort was vain. The motherless child, whom the captive father
probably believed to be in safety with her sensible sister, was at a
post of danger, and only a woman’s eye could judge whether it would
do to yield to Eva’s wish, which the housekeeper had just told her
mistress, and allow her--it was already past midnight-to remain longer
at the hospital.

She would not have hesitated to require her niece’s return home had not
maternal solicitude urged her to deprive her of nothing which could aid
her troubled soul to regain its poise. If possible at all, it would be
through devotion to an arduous work of charity that she would understand
her own nature, and find an answer to the question whether, when the
slanderers were silenced, she would take the veil or cling firmly to the
hopeless love which had mastered her young heart.

If she succeeded in remaining steadfast here and, in spite of the glad
consciousness of having conquered by the sign of the cross, was still
loyal to her worldly love, then the latter was genuine and strong, and
Eva did not belong to the convent; then her sister, the abbess, was
mistaken in the girl whose soul she had guided from early childhood.

Frau Christine, who usually formed an opinion quickly and resolutely,
had not dared to give Eva a positive answer the previous evening.

With sympathising emotion the matron had heard her confess that during
her nocturnal wanderings a new feeling, which she could no longer still,
had awakened in her breast. When she also told her the image of true
love which she had formed, she could not bring herself to undeceive her.

The abbess had made a somewhat similar confession to her, the older
sister, when her young heart--how long ago it seemed!--had also been
mastered by love. The object of its ardent passion was no less a
personage than the Burgrave von Zollern.

Frau Christine had seen his marriage with the Hapsburg princess awaken
her sister’s desire to renounce the world. Kunigunde was then a maiden
of rare, majestic beauty, and only the Burgrave’s exalted station had
prevented his wedding “Eva,” as she was called before she took the veil.

As a husband and father, he had found deep happiness in the love of
the Countess Elizabeth, the future Emperor Rudolph’s sister, yet he had
remained a warm friend of the abbess; and when he treated Eva with such
marked distinction at the dance, she owed it not only to her own charms
but also to the circumstance that, like the girl whom he had loved in
his youth, she bore the name of “Eva Ortlieb,” and the expression of her
eyes vividly recalled the happiest time in his life.

The abbess, after a still more severe renunciation, had attained even
greater happiness in the convent. Her sister could not blame her for
wishing the same lot for the devout young niece, whose fate seemed to
bear a closer and closer resemblance to her own; but yesterday she had
argued with her, for Kunigunde had insisted firmly that if the girl did
not voluntarily knock at the convent door she should be forced to enter,
not only for her own sake but also Sir Heinz Schorlin’s. Nothing could
rouse the ire of every true Christian more than the thought that a noble
knight, for whose conversion Heaven had wrought a miracle, could turn
a deaf ear to the summons for the sake of a girl scarcely beyond
childhood. To place convent walls between the pair would therefore be a
work pleasing in the sight of God-nay, necessary for the example.

This statement sounded so resolute and imperative that Frau Christine,
who knew her sister’s gentle nature, had been convinced that she was
obeying the mandate of a superior. Soon afterward she learned that
Kunigunde had followed the dictates of the zealous prior of the
Dominicans, who was regarded as the supreme judge in religious affairs.
At a chance meeting she had imprudently asked this man, who had never
been friendly to her or her order, to give his opinion concerning this
matter, which gave her no rest.

Frau Christine had eagerly opposed her. The case of Heinz Schorlin
was different from that of the Burgrave Frederick, who could never be
permitted to wed the daughter of a Nuremberg merchant. If the Swiss
renounced his intention of entering the monastery, there was nothing
to prevent his wooing Eva. It should by no means be as the prior of the
Dominicans had said: “They must both renounce the world,” but, “They
must test themselves, and if the world holds them firmly, and the
Emperor, who is a fatherly friend to Heinz, makes no objection, it would
be a duty to unite the pair.”

The decisive hour for Eva was now at hand, and Fran Christine, eager to
learn in what condition she should find her niece, had herself carried
to the hospital.

Her husband and several men-servants accompanied her, for at this late
hour the neighbourhood, where so many criminals were nursed for a short
time, was by no means safe. Companions, friends, and relatives of
the criminals were often attracted thither by sympathy, curiosity, or
business affairs. Whoever had occasion to shun appearing by daylight
in a place which never lacked bailiffs and city soldiers, slunk to the
hospital at night.

As a heavy rain had just begun to fall, the short distance to be
traversed by the magistrate and his wife was empty. Ample provision
also seemed to have been made to guard the place of healing, for several
armed troopers belonging to the city guard were pacing up and down
before he board fence which surrounded it, and the approach of the late
visitors was heralded by the deep baying of large hounds.

The magistrate was well known here, and the doorkeeper, roused from his
sleep, hastened to light the way for him and his wife with a lantern. In
spite of the planks which had been placed in he courtyard, the task of
crossing it was by no means easy; for the night was intensely dark, and
the foot passed beyond the boards, it plunged into the mire, on which
they floated rather than lay.

At first the barking of the dogs had drowned very other sound, but as
they approached the house thatched with straw, where the wounded men
were nursed, harsh voices, interrupted at times by the angry oaths of
some patient roused from sleep, or the watchman’s command to keep quiet,
reached them in a loud uproar.

A narrow passage dimly lighted by a lantern led to the women’s quarters,
where Eva had remained. The magistrate entered the men’s dormitory to
make an inspection, while his wife, needing no guidance, passed on to
the women, meeting no one on her way except a Sister of Charity and two
men-servants who, under the guidance of a sleepy Dominican monk, were
bearing out the corpse of some one who had just passed away.

Sister Hildegard, who was sitting at the door of the dormitory, half
asleep, started up as Frau Christine crossed the threshold.

The knight’s widow, a vigorous matron, whose hair had long been grey,
pointed with the rosary in her hand to the end of the long, dimly
lighted apartment, and said in a low tone: “The sick woman seems to be
asleep now. The prior sent the old Dominican to whom Eva is talking. He
is said to be the most learned and eloquent member of the order. If I am
right, he came here to appeal to your niece’s conscience. At least his
first question was for her, and you see how eagerly he is speaking. When
yonder sick woman seemed to be drawing near her end she asked for the
sacrament, which was administered by the Dominican. It was a sorrowful
farewell on account of her children, but the barber thinks we may
perhaps save her yet. Father Benedictus, the old Minorite, who was found
on the road and brought to us, seems, on the other hand, to be dying. We
will gladly keep him in the Beguines home until the angel summons him.
Unfortunately, yonder poor woman’s third day will end tomorrow. We are
not permitted to shelter her here any longer, and if we turn her out--”

“What is the matter with the woman?” interrupted Frau Christine, but
the other gazed into her face with warm sympathising affection and such
tender entreaty that the magistrate’s wife, before she began her reply,
exclaimed: “So it is the old, pitiful story! But let her stay! Yes, even
though, instead of every pound of farthings, she cost us ten times as
much in gold! But we will spare what is necessary for her. I see by your
face that it will not be wasted.”

“Certainly not,” replied Sister Hildegard gratefully. “Oh, how she came
here! Now, it is true, she has more than she needs. Your dear niece--she
is an angel of charity--sent her Katterle out to get what was wanted.
But where is the girl?” She gazed around the spacious chamber as she
spoke, but could not find Katterle.

True, a dim light pervaded the whole apartment, and Sister Hildegard,
referring to it, added “The light keeps many of the patients awake, and
we have a better use for the pennies which the oil and chips cost. When
there are brilliant entertainments to be given, or works of mercy done
which the whole world sees, the Honourables let their gold flow freely
enough, but who beholds the abodes of horror? We look best in the dark,
and no one will miss what we save in light.”

Certainly no one present incurred any danger of seeing at this hour
the pitiable spectacles visible by day; for what was occurring at the
opposite end of the room could not be perceived from the door. So when
it closed Eva could not distinguish who had entered.

But this was agreeable to Frau Christine; for before going to her niece
she wished to inquire about the woman by whom she had been detained.

Like the others, she was lying upon the board platform which surrounded
the four walls of the room, interrupted only by the door through which
she had just passed. It rose in a slanting direction towards the wall,
that the sufferers’ heads might be higher than their feet. Instead of
cushions, it was covered with a thick layer of straw, the beds of the
patients who were nursed here. It seemed to be changed very rarely, for
especially near the door at which the two women were still standing
a damp, unpleasant odour emanated from the straw. It belonged here,
however, as feathers are a part of birds, and the people who were nursed
within its walls were accustomed to nothing better. When, fifteen years
before, the oversight of the hospital was entrusted to Frau Christine,
she had found the condition of affairs still worse, and the idea of
procuring beds for the injured persons to be cured here was as far
from her thoughts, or those of the rest of the world, as cushioning the
stable.

That was the way things were at Schweinau. Straw of all sorts might be
expected to be found here, not only on the wooden platform but on the
floor, in the yard, and everywhere else, as surely as leaves upon the
ground of a wood in the autumn. To leave the house without taking stalks
in the hair and garments was as impossible as for any person accustomed
to better conditions, who did not wish to faint from discomfort, to do
without a scent bottle.

Formerly Frau Christine had endeavoured to obtain better air, but even
her kind-hearted husband had laughed at the foolish idea, because such
things would benefit only herself and some of the nurses. In the taverns
usually frequented by the inmates of the hospital they learned to endure
a different atmosphere, which was stifling to him.

After contagious diseases certain precautions were always taken. On
Sunday morning it was even fumigated with juniper-berries on hot tin and
boiling vinegar.

Frau Christine had introduced this disinfectant herself by the advice of
Otto the leech, when all who had been brought hither with open wounds,
among them vigorous young men, had died like flies. At that time the
distinguished physician had even succeeded in getting the Honourable
Council to defray the cost of having the walls newly white washed and
fresh clay stamped on the floor. He had also directed that the old straw
should be replaced by clean every Sunday morning, and now matters were
better still, for the rule was that every sick person should have a
fresh layer. True, it was not always fulfilled, and many a person was
forced to be content with his predecessor’s couch.

In the women’s room, however, the change of straw was more rigidly
required. The nurse herself attended to it, and Sister Hildegard gave
her energetic assistance.

In difficult cases the influence of the leech Otto was called to her
aid, but he had grown old and no longer came to Schweinau. Two barbers
now cared for the bandaging and healing of the wounds, and if they were
at a loss the younger city physician was summoned.

Sister Hildegard now pointed to the couch beside which the Dominican was
talking to Eva, and said: “She is the widow of a carrier and the child
of worthy people; her father was the sexton of St. Sebald’s. True,
he died long ago, at the same time as her mother. It was twelve years
since, during the plague.

“Reicklein, yonder, had no other relatives here--her parents were from
Bamberg--but she was well off, and her husband, Veit, earned enough by
his travels through the country. But on St. Blaise’s day, early in the
month of February, during a trip to Vogtland, it was at Hof, he was
overtaken by a snowstorm, and the worthy man was found frozen under a
drift, with his staff and pouch. The sad news reached her just after the
birth of a little boy, and there were two other mouths to feed besides.
Her savings went quickly enough, and she fell into dire poverty, for she
had not yet recovered her strength, and could not do housework. During
Passion Week she sold her bed to pay what she had borrowed and to feed
the children. It was cold, she had not a copper, nor any possibility
of earning anything. Then the rest went, too, and there was no way of
getting food enough for the children and herself.

“But as her father had been in the employ of the city and was an honest
man, by the advice of the provost of St. Sebald’s, who had been her
confessor from childhood, she applied to the Honourable Council, and
received the answer that old Hans Schab was by no means forgotten, and
therefore, to relieve her need, she was referred to the beadle, who
would give her the permit which enabled her to ask alms from those who
went to St. Sebald’s Church, and had already afforded many a person
ample support.

“For her children’s sake she crushed the pride which rebelled against
it, and stood at the church door, not once, but again and again. The
other mendicants, however, treated her so roughly, and the cruel
enmity with which they tried to crowd her out of her place seemed so
unbearable, that she could not hold out. Once, when they insulted her
too much, and again thrust her back so spitefully that not even one
of the many churchgoers noticed her, she, fled to her children in the
little room, determined to stop this horrible begging. This happened the
Saturday before Whitsuntide, and as she had gone out hoping this time
to bring something back, she had promised the children food enough to
satisfy their hunger. They should have some Whitsuntide cakes, too,
as they did years ago. When she reached the house and little
Walpurga--you’ll see her presently, a pretty child six years old--ran
to meet her, asking for the cakes and the bread to satisfy her hunger,
while Annelein, who is somewhat older, but less bright and active, did
the same, she felt as if she should die, and carrying the baby, which
she had held in her arms while begging at the church door, back into the
room, she told Walpurga to watch it, as she had long been in the habit
of doing, until she came back with the bread.

“For the children’s sake she would try begging once more, but she could
not go to St. Sebald’s.

“So she went from house to house, asking alms; but she was a well-formed
woman, who did not show her serious illness. She kept herself tidy, too,
and looked better in her poor rags than many who were better off. Had
she carried her nursing infant, perhaps she might have succeeded better,
but even the most compassionate housewives either turned her from their
doors or offered her work at the wash-tub, or in cleaning or gardening.
The weakness from which she had suffered since the birth of her child
made stooping so painful that she could not do what they required.

“When she was at last obliged to turn homeward, because the baby had
probably been screaming for her a long time, she had only one small
copper coin, with which she went to the baker Kilian’s, in the
Stopfelgasse, to ask for a penny’s worth of bread. The baker’s wife
was not there, and her spinster sister-in-law, an elderly, ill-natured
woman, was serving the customers in her place.

“As she turned to cut the bit of bread, and all sorts of nice sweet
cakes lay on the shining counters before poor Riecklein, the children
seemed to stand before her, headed by Walpurga, asking for the cakes
and the bread she had promised them to eat their fill; and as no one
was passing in the quiet street, Satan stirred within her for the first
time, and a sweet jumble slid into the little basket on her arm. Had
she stopped there she might have escaped unpunished; but there were two
hungry little beaks agape in the nest, and she saw a pretty lamb with
a little red flag on its back. If Walpurga could only have it! And with
the clumsiness due to her inexperience in such matters she seized that,
too, and put it with the other.

“Meanwhile the sister-in-law had turned, and instead of enquiring at a
time so near the holy feast what had induced her to commit such a crime,
she shrieked, ‘Stop thief!’ and similar cries.

“So the widow was taken to the Hole, and as she had hitherto borne an
unsullied reputation and was the child of a good man, justice allowed
itself to be satisfied with having her scourged with rods privately
instead of in public. So she came here. But as her poor body was too
fragile to withstand all the trouble which had come upon her, she had
a violent attack of fever, and a few hours ago death stretched its hand
towards her.”

“And the children?” asked Frau Christine, deeply moved.

“She was allowed to have the baby,” answered Sister Hildegard, “but she
told us about the others and their desolate condition. In the delirium
of fever she saw them stealing and the constable seizing them. Then your
Eva encouraged me to send for them by promising to provide their food.
So they came here. The worker on cloth from whom she rented her little
room had helped them, and it was from her that Sister Pauline, whom I
sent there, first learned that Walpurga, for whose sake she had so sadly
forgotten her duty, was not even her own child, but an adopted one
whom her late husband, on one of his trips, had found abandoned on the
highroad at Vierzehnheiligen, beside an image of the Virgin, and brought
home with him.”

Here Sister Hildegard paused, and Frau Christine also remained silent a
long time.

Yet, it was horrible here, and the air was impure; but had Countess
Cordula looked more closely she would probably have seen one of
the beautiful flowers which often bloomed amidst all the weeds, the
poisonous and parasitic vegetation.

Eva was right to pity this woman, and if her life could be saved she
herself would relieve her necessities and secure her children’s future.
She silently made this resolve whilst the Sister led the way to the
couch of the scourged thief. The unfortunate woman should learn that
God often compels us to traverse the roughest and stoniest paths in the
wilderness ere he leads us into the Promised Land.

Eva was so deeply absorbed in her conversation with the Dominican that
she did not see her aunt until she stood before her.

They greeted each other with a silent nod, and a smile of satisfaction
flitted over the girl’s face as she motioned to the sleeper whose
slumber she was watching.

The young mother’s pretty face still glowed with the flush of fever. One
arm clasped the baby, which lay amidst the white linen Katterle had just
brought. He was a pretty child, who showed no traces of the poverty in
which he had been reared. Beside the widow were two little girls about
six years old. The one at the left was sound asleep, with her head
resting on her little fat arm. The other, at the sick woman’s right,
pressed her fair head upon her breast. Her slumber was very light, and
she often opened her large, blue eyes and gazed with touching anxiety at
the sick woman. This was the adopted child, Walpurga, and never had the
matron beheld amongst the poor and suffering so lovely a human flower
as this little six-year-old child, struggling with sleep in her
affectionate desire to render aid. The other little girl’s free hand
also touched her mother, and thus these four, united in poverty
and sorrow, but also in love, seemed to form a single whole. What a
peaceful, charming picture!

Frau Christine gazed with earnest sympathy at each member of this group.
How well-formed was every one! how pure and innocent the features of the
children looked! how kind and loving those of the suffering mother,
who was a thief, and whose tender back had felt the scourge of the
executioner!

The thought made her shudder. But when little Walpurga, half asleep,
raised her tiny hand and lovingly stroked the wounded shoulder of her
adopted mother, the matron, as usual when anything pleasant moved her
heart, longed to have her husband at her side. How easily, since he
was so near, she could afford him a sight of this touching picture! It
should prove that she had been right to let Eva remain here.

Faithful to her custom of permitting no delay in the execution of a good
resolution, she wanted to send Katterle to call her husband, but the
girl could not be found.

Then Frau Christine went herself, beckoning to Eva to follow; but
they had scarcely reached the centre of the room when a peal of shrill
laughter greeted them from a couch on the left.

The person from whom it came was the barber’s widow, whose attack had
alarmed Eva so terribly the day before in front of the pillory. It
pealed loudly and shrilly through the stillness of the night, and when
the matron turned angrily to reprove the person who so inconsiderately
disturbed the rest of the others, the woman clapped her hands and
instantly a chorus of sharp, screaming voices rose around her.
The barber’s widow, who knew everybody who lived in Nuremberg, had
recognised the magistrate’s wife at her entrance, and secretly incited
her neighbours to follow her example and, as soon as she gave the
signal, demand better fare and make Frau Christine, the patroness of the
hospital, feel what they thought of the cruelty of her husband, who had
delivered them to the executioner.

The female thieves and swindlers-in short, all the reprobate women
around Frau Ratzer, whose feet had just been tied on account of her
unruly behaviour in the Countess von Montfort’s presence--obeyed her
signal, and the fierce voices raised in demand and invective woke those
who were sleeping farther away. Weeping, wailing, and screaming they
started up, clamouring to know what danger threatened them, whilst Frau
Ratzer and her fellow-conspirators shrieked for beer or wine instead of
water, for meat with the black bread and wretched broth and, yelling
and howling, bade the patroness tell her husband that they thought him a
brute and a bloodhound.

There was a hideous, confused, ear-splitting din, which threatened
serious consequences, for some of the women, leaving their straw beds,
hastened towards the door or surrounded Frau Christine and Eva with
uplifted fists and threatening nails.

The warning voices of the matrons, to whose aid the Beguines had
hastened, were drowned by the uproar, but the danger which specially
threatened Eva, whom the barber’s widow pointed out to her neighbour
who had stolen a child to train it to beg, was soon ended, for the wild
cries had reached the men’s building, from which Herr Berthold Pfinzing
came hurrying in, accompanied by the superintendent, his assistants, and
several monks.

If the women reproached the magistrate, who in reality was a lenient
judge, with being a cruel tyrant, they were now to learn that he
certainly did not lack uncompromising energy. The unpleasant position in
which he found his wife and his beloved godchild did not incline him
to gentleness. He would have liked to have tied the hands of all these
women, most of whom had forfeited the consideration due their sex. This
was really done to the most unruly, while the barber’s widow was carried
to the prison-chamber, which the hospital did not lack.

After quiet was at last restored and Frau Christine had told her husband
that she had been attacked while on her way to show him a delightful
scene in the midst of all this terrible misery, he angrily exclaimed:
“A magnificent picture! Balm for the eyes and ears of your own brother’s
virginal daughter! The saints be praised that you both escaped so
easily. Can there be in the worst hell anything more horrible than what
has just been witnessed here? Really, where a Countess Cordula cannot
endure----”

Here Frau Christine soothingly interrupted her irate husband, and so
great was her influence over him, that his tone sounded like friendly
encouragement as he added: “You wanted to show me something special,
but I was detained over there. Though it was late, I wanted to see
the worthy fellow again. What a man he is! I mean Sir Heinz Schorlin’s
squire.”

“Poor Biberli?” asked Eva eagerly; and there was a faint tone of
reproach in her voice as she continued, “You promised to look after
him.”

“So I did, child,” the magistrate protested. “But justice must take its
course, and the rack is part of the examination by torture. He might
easily have lost his tongue, and if his master doesn’t return soon and
another accuser should appear, who knows what will happen!”

“But that must not, shall not be!” cried Eva, the old defiance echoing
imperiously in her voice. “Heinz Schorlin--you said so yourself--would
not plead in vain for mercy to the Emperor; and before I will see the
faithful fellow----”

“Gently, child,” whispered Frau Christine to her niece, laying her hand
on her arm, but the magistrate, shaking his finger at her, answered
soothingly: “Jungfrau Ortlieb would rather thrust her own little feet
into the Spanish boot. Be comforted! The three pairs we have are all too
large to squeeze them.”

Eva lowered her eyes in embarrassment, and exclaimed in a modest,
beseeching tone: “But, uncle, do not you, too, feel that it would be
cruel and unjust to make this honest fellow a cripple in return for his
faithful services?”

“I do feel it,” answered Herr Berthold, his face assuming an expression
of regret; “and for that very reason I ventured to take a girl over whom
I have no authority out of her service.”

“Katterle?” asked Eva anxiously.

Her uncle nodded assent, adding: “First hear what interested me so
quickly in the strange fellow. At the first charge, which merely accused
him of having carried a message of love from his master to Jungfrau
Ortlieb, I interceded for him, and yesterday the other magistrates, to
whom I had explained the case, joined me. So he escaped with a sentence
of exile from the city for five years. I hoped it would not be necessary
to present the second accusation, for it was signed by no name, but
merely bore three crosses, and for a long time most of the magistrates,
following my example, have considered such things as treacherous attacks
made by cowards who shun the light of day; but it was impossible
to suppress it entirely, because the law commands me to withhold no
complaint made to the court. So it was read aloud, and Hans Teufel’s
motion to let it drop without any action met with no approval, warmly as
I supported it.

“We must not blame the gentlemen. They all wish to act for your benefit,
and desire nothing except a clear understanding of this vexatious
business. But in that indictment Biberli was charged with having forced
his way into an Honourable’s house at night to obtain admittance for
his master. In collusion with a maid-servant he was also said to have
maintained the love correspondence between Herr Ernst Ortlieb’s two
daughters, a Swiss knight, and Boemund Altrosen.”

“Infamous!” cried Eva. “What, in the name of all the saints, have we to
do with Altrosen?”

“You certainly have very little,” replied Frau Christine, “but the
Ortlieb mansion has all the more. To-night he will again be seen before
its door, and if still later he appears with his lute under Countess
Cordula’s windows and is heard singing to her, it wouldn’t surprise me.”

“And people,” exclaimed Eva with increasing indignation, “will add
another link to the chain of slander. If a Vorkler and her companions
repeat the calumny, who can wonder? But that the magistrates
should believe such shameful things about the brothers of their own
fellow-member----”

“It was precisely because they do not believe it and wish to keep you
away from the court,” her uncle interrupted, “that they insisted upon
the examination. They desired to show the people by their verdict and
the severity of the procedures how thoroughly in earnest they were.
But whilst I was compelled to absent myself an hour because the Emperor
wished to inspect the new towers on the city wall, and I had to attend
him in the character of showman, they sentenced the poor fellow, since
his loose tongue had brought the whole rout and rabble against him, to
torture so severe that I shuddered when told of it.”

“And Biberli?” asked Eva, trembling with suspense.

“All honour is due the man!” cried Herr Berthold, raising his cap. “The
rods scourged his fettered limbs, his thumbs were pressed in the screws,
bound to the ladder, he was dragged over the larded hare---”

“Oh, hush!” cried Fran Christine with uplifted hands, and her husband
nodded understandingly. Then, with a faint sigh, he added:

“Why should I torture you with these horrors? Nothing was spared him.
Yet the worthy fellow stuck to his statement that he had accompanied his
master to your house in the full moonlight to take a somnambulist
who had wandered out of the open door back to her friends. Sir Heinz
Schorlin had met Jungfrau Ortlieb only once--at the dance in the Town
Hall. Though he had sometimes appeared before her father’s house, it was
not on account of Herr Ernst’s daughters, but--and this was an allusion
to Cordula von Montfort--for the sake of another lady.

“After the lightning had killed his master’s horse under him he had
avoided every woman, because he wished to enter a monastery. He could
prove all these statements by many witnesses. Yesterday he named them,
and Count Gleichen and his retainers appeared with several others. The
Minorite Benedictus was vainly sought at the Franciscans.”

“He is here in the house of the Beguines,” replied Frau Christine, “and
weak as he is, he will have strength enough to make a deposition in the
knight’s favour.”

The magistrate said that this might be necessary if a new charge were
brought against the servitor, Katterle, and perhaps even Sir Heinz
Schorlin himself. Rarely had he seen a bad cause maintained with so much
obstinacy. The complainants had witnesses who testified under oath what
they had heard in taverns and tap-rooms from Sir Seitz Siebenburg and
those who repeated his tales. Their examination had lasted a long time,
and what they alleged was as absurd as possible, yet for that very
reason difficult to refute. These depositions had aided the cause of the
accused, but in consequence of such numerous charges many questions
of course were put to Biberli, and thus the torture had been cruelly
increased and prolonged.

Here Eva interrupted the speaker with another outburst of indignation,
but he only shrugged his shoulders pityingly, saying: “Gently, child! A
shoemaker who recently upbraided the ‘Honourables’ for something similar
was publicly scourged, and if cruelties have been practised here it is
the fault of the law, not of the judges. But worse yet may come, if the
pack is not silenced by a higher will.”

“The Emperor?” asked the girl with quivering lips.

“Yes, child,” was the reply, “and your old godfather had thought of
bringing this evil cause before our royal master. He gladly exercises
mercy, but only after carefully investigating the pros and cons. In this
case there is but one person in whom he has full confidence, and who is
also in a position to tell him the exact truth.”

“Heinz Schorlin!” cried Eva. “He must be informed at once, without
delay.”

“Certainly,” replied Herr Pfinzing quietly. “And since, as the uncle and
godfather of Jungfrau Eva, who would have gladly undertaken the ride,
I could not order her horse to be saddled, I sent some one else whose
heart also will point out the way.”

“Uncle!” Eva eagerly interrupted, raising her clasped hands in
gratitude. “But whom can you----”

Here she hesitated, then suddenly exclaimed as if sure of her point:
“Oh, I know the messenger, Countess von Montfort----”

“You’ve aimed too high,” replied Herr Berthold smiling, “yet I think the
choice was no worse. Your maid, child, the poor fellow’s sweetheart.”

Frau Christine and Eva, in the same breath, uttered an exclamation of
surprise and assent, and both asked how the magistrate had chanced to
select her.

A waggon from Schwabach, which happened opportunely to be on its way to
Siebenburg, had brought Biberli to Schweinau on its homeward trip, just
before the magistrate and his wife reached the hospital.

Katterle had been present when the tortured man was brought out and laid
upon his couch of straw.

She did not recognise him until, with pathetic reproach, he called her
by name and, horrified by the spectacle he presented, she fell upon her
knees. But the couch at her side had already been prepared for him, and
she did not need to rise again in order to stroke him, comfort him, and
promise not to desert him, even if he should be a miserable cripple for
life.

When the magistrate approached the couple, to offer Biberli his friendly
aid, the latter faltered that he had only one desire--to see his beloved
master once more. Besides, his case was hopeless unless the knight
obtained a pardon for him from the Emperor Rudolph, for his persecutors
would not cease their pursuit of him, and he could not endure the
torture a second time.

Here the magistrate paused in his narrative, for he thought of an
incident which he was reluctant to mention in the presence of the
Dominican who had administered the sacrament to the suffering widow
and now joined the group of listeners. This was, that a member of the
latter’s order had approached Biberli and exhorted him not to fear
another examination by torture, for the Lord gave the innocent strength
to maintain the truth even under the keenest suffering. A peculiar smile
hovered around the lips of the poor tortured fellow, which Herr Berthold
fully understood; for the brave servitor had by no means stuck to the
truth during the pangs inflicted upon him.

“Oh, my dear ones,” Herr Pfinzing continued, “a harder heart than mine
would have been touched by what I saw and heard beside that couch of
straw when I was left alone with poor Biberli and his sweetheart. If you
could have seen how Katterle threw herself upon her lover after I had
told her that even the most agonizing torture could not force him to
confirm the charge which had been brought against her! Rarely does one
mortal pour forth such a flood of ardent gratitude upon another; and
when Biberli repeated that his dear master’s help would be necessary
to protect her and him from another examination, she offered to go in
search of him at once, notwithstanding the rain and the darkness.

“Then I thought that no messenger could be found who was more familiar
with the course of affairs, and at the same time inspired with more
loving zeal. So, as the waggon in which Biberli had come was still
waiting outside, I spoke to the carter, who had brought a load of wheat
to Nuremberg, and now, on his way home, had ample room under the tilt.
I knew the man, and we soon came to an agreement. From Schwabach, his
brother, who knows every foot of the road, will take her to the imperial
troops who are fighting with the Siebenburgs. I undertook to arrange
with you for her absence. She is now rolling along in the old carter
Apel’s waggon towards Schwabach and Sir Heinz Schorlin.”

Hitherto the magistrate had maintained his composure, but now his
deep voice lost its firmness, and it was neither the loving words of
appreciation whispered by his wife nor the gratitude which Eva tenderly
displayed that checked his speech, but the remembrance of the parting
between the man so cruelly tortured and his sweetheart.

Biberli had hoped that she would nurse him; the sight of her would
have cheered his eyes and heart, yet he sent her out into darkness and
danger. Gratitude and love, the consciousness that just now she could
be of infinite importance to him and do much for him, bound her to his
couch like so many fetters, yet she had gone, and had even assumed the
appearance of doing so willingly and being confident of success.

How their faces had brightened when the magistrate told them that his
wife and Eva would take charge of him, and he himself would see that he
had a better bed!

Biberli murmured sadly: “Straw and I have been used to each other in
many a tavern, but now a somewhat softer couch might be of service, for
wherever my racked body was touched I believe there would be something
out of joint.”

Herr Berthold had no reason to be ashamed of his emotion, for he
had learned from the barber that the poor fellow had by no means
exaggerated, and, as a witness of part of the torture, he knew that even
the most cruel anguish had not conquered the faithful Biberli’s firm
resolve to bring neither his master nor his sweetheart before the judge.

In recalling this noble act of the lowly servitor he grew eloquent, and
described minutely what the poor fellow had suffered, and how, after
Katterle had left him, he lay motionless, with his thin, pale face
irradiated by a grateful smile.

The women, too, and the monk AEgidius, an old Minorite, who had been
watching beside the aged Brother of his order, Benedictus, and had just
joined them, shed tears at his story; but Eva, from the very depths of
her soul, exclaimed aloud, “Happy is he who is permitted to endure such
tortures for love’s sake!”

The others gazed in surprise at the young girl who, with her clasped
hands pressed upon her heaving bosom, and her large eyes uplifted,
looked as if she beheld heaven opening before her.

The old Minorite’s heart swelled at this confession and the sight of
the maiden. Thus, though far less richly endowed with the divine gift of
beauty, he had seen St. Clare absorbed in prayer. The words uttered by
the fresh lips of this favoured girl, whom he beheld for the first time,
expressed a feeling which might guide her into the path of the Holy
Martyrs and, filled with pious enthusiasm, he approached, drew her
clasped hands away from her breast, pressed them in his own and,
remembering what the Abbess Kunigunde had told him yesterday beside the
couch of Benedictus concerning her severe conflict, exclaimed:

“Whoever said that, knows the words of Holy Writ which promise the crown
of eternal life to those who are faithful unto death. Obey the voice,
my child, which unites you to those who are called. St. Clare herself
summons you to her heavenly home.”

The others listened to the old monk in silence. Eva slightly shook her
head. But when the disappointed Minorite released her hands she clasped
his thin one, saying modestly: “How could I be worthy of so sublime
a promise? The poor servant on his straw bed, with his T and St
embroidered on cap and cloak, of whom my uncle told us, has a tenfold
greater claim, I think, to the crown of life, for which, as yet, I have
been permitted to do so little. But I hope to win it, and the saint
who calls everything that breathes and lives brothers and sisters, as
children of the same exalted Father, cannot teach that the fidelity
shown in the world deserves less reward than that of the chosen ones in
the convent.”

“That is a foolish and sacrilegious opinion,” answered the Dominican
sternly. “We will take care, my dear daughter, to guide your soul from
pathless wandering into the right path which Holy Church has marked out
for you.”

He turned his back upon the group as he spoke, but the grey-haired
Minorite, smiling sadly, turned to Eva, saying: “I cannot contradict
him. Fidelity to those whom we love, my child, is far less meritorious
than that which we show to Heaven. To you, daughter, its doors have
already opened. How strong must be the pleasure felt by the children of
the world in this brief earthly happiness, since they are so ready to
sacrifice for it the certainty of eternal bliss! Your error will grieve
the abbess and Father Benedictus.”

With these words he, too, took his leave, but Frau Christine whispered
to her niece: “These monks are not the Holy Church to which we both
belong as obedient daughters. To my poor mind and heart it seems as if
the Saviour would deem you right.”

“Amen,” added the magistrate, who had heard his wife’s murmured words.



CHAPTER XV.

Day followed day, a week elapsed, and no message had reached Schweinau
from Heinz Schorlin or Katterle.

The magistrate had learned that the Siebenburg brothers, with the robber
knights who had joined them, were obstinately defending their castles
and making it difficult for Heinz Schorlin to perform his task. The day
before news had come that the Absbach’s strong mountain fortress
had fallen; that the allied knights, in a sortie which merged into a
miniature battle, had been defeated, and the Siebenburgs could not hold
out much longer; but in the stress of his duties the knight seemed to
have forgotten to make the slightest effort in behalf of his faithful
servant. At least the protonotary Gottlieb, a friend of Herr Berthold,
through whose hands passed all letters addressed to the Emperor,
positively assured them that, though plenty of military reports had
arrived, in not a single one had the young commander mentioned his
servant even by a word. He, the protonotary, had taken advantage of a
favourable hour to urge his royal master, as a reward for Biberli’s rare
fidelity, to protect him from further persecution by the citizens of
Nuremberg; but the Emperor Rudolph did not even allow him to finish,
because, as a matter of principle, he refrained from interference in
matters whose settlement rightfully pertained to the Honourable Council.

When soon after Herr Pfinzing availed himself of a report which he had
to deliver to the Emperor to intercede himself for the valiant fellow,
the Hapsburg, with the ruler’s strong memory, recalled the protonotary’s
plea and referred Herr Berthold to the answer the former had received,
remarking, less graciously than usual, that the imperial magistrate
ought to know that he would be the last to assail the privileges which
he had himself bestowed upon the city.

Finally even Burgrave Frederick, whose sympathy had been enlisted in
Biberli’s behalf by Herr Berthold, fared no better.

His interests were often opposed to those of the Council and, kindly
as was his disposition, disputes concerning many questions of law were
constantly occurring between him and the Honourables. When he began
to persuade the Emperor to prevent by a pardon the cruelty which the
Council intended to practise upon a servant of Sir Heinz Schorlin, who
was doing such good service in the field, the sovereign told even him,
his friend and brother-in-law, who had toiled so energetically to secure
him the crown, that he would not interfere, though it were in behalf
of a beloved brother, with the decrees of the Council, and the noble
petitioner was silenced by the reasons which he gave. The Burgrave
deemed the Emperor’s desire to maintain the Honourables’ willingness to
grant the large loan he intended to ask to fill his empty treasury still
more weighty than those with which he had repulsed Herr Pfinzing.

On the other hand, the pardon granted to Ernst Ortlieb and Wolff
Eysvogel could only tend to increase the good will of the Council. The
former was given at once, the latter only conditionally after the First
Losunger of the city, with several other Honourables, had recommended
it. The Emperor thought it advisable to defer this act of clemency. A
violation of the peace of the country committed under his own eyes ought
not to be pardoned during his stay in the place where the bloody deed
was committed. It would have cast a doubt upon the serious intent of
the important measure which threatened with the severest punishment any
attempt upon the lives and property of others.

So long as the Emperor held his court at Nuremberg, Wolff, against whom
no accuser had yet appeared, must remain concealed. When the sovereign
had left the city he might again mingle with his fellow-citizens. An
imperial letter alluding to the gratitude which Rudolph owed to the
soldiers of Marchfield, to whose band the evildoer belonged, and the
whole good city of Nuremberg for the hospitable reception tendered to
him and his household, should shield from punishment the young patrician
who had only drawn his sword in self-defence, and fulfil the petition of
the Council for Wolff Eysvogel’s restoration to the rights which he had
forfeited.

The news of this promise gave Els the first happy hour after long days
of discomfort and the most arduous mental conflict. True, the measures
adopted by her friends seemed to have guarded her from the attacks of
the old Countess Rotterbach; but Fran Rosalinde, since she had been
allowed more freedom to move about than her mother, who had been
confined to the upper story, felt like a boat drifting rudderless down
the stream. She needed guidance and, as Els now ruled the house, asked
direction from her for even the most simple matters. Clinging to her
like a child deserted by its nurse, she told her the most hostile and
spiteful remarks which the countess never failed to make whenever it
suited her daughter to bear her company. During the last few days the
old lady had again won Rosalinde over to her side, and in consequence an
enmity towards Els had sprung up, which was often very spiteful in its
manifestations, and was the more difficult to bear, the more rigidly her
position as daughter of the house forbade energetic resistance.

But most painful of all to the volunteer nurse was the sick man’s
manner; for though Herr Casper rarely regained perfect consciousness, he
showed his unfriendly disposition often enough by glances, gestures, and
words stammered with painful effort.

Yet the brave girl’s patience seemed inexhaustible, and she resolutely
performed even the most arduous tasks imposed by nursing the sufferer.
Nay, the thought that Wolff owed his life to him aided her always to
be kind to her father-in-law, no matter how much he wounded her, and to
tend him no less carefully than she had formerly cared for her invalid
mother.

So she had held out valiantly until, at the end of a long, torturing
week, something occurred which destroyed her courage. On returning from
an errand in the city, she was received at the door of the sick-room by
her future mother-in-law with the statement that she would take charge
of her husband herself, and no longer allow the intruder to keep her
from the place which belonged to her alone. The old countess’s power of
persuasion had strengthened her courage, and the unwonted energy of the
weak, more than yielding woman, exerted so startling and at the same
time disheartening an effect upon the wearied, tortured young creature
that she attempted no resistance. The entreaties of the leech and kind
Herr Teufel, however, induced her to persist a short time longer.

But when, soon after, the same incident occurred a second time, it
seemed impossible to remain in their house even another day.

Without opposing her lover’s mother, she retired to her chamber and,
weeping silently, spite of the earnest entreaties of the Sister of
Charity, packed the few articles she had brought with her and prepared
to leave the post maintained with so much difficulty. To be again with
Eva under the protection of her uncle and aunt now seemed the highest
goal of her longing. She did not wish to go home; for after his
liberation from the tower her father had had a long conversation with
Wolff and old Berthold Vorchtel, and then, at the desire of the Council,
had ridden to Augsburg and Ulm to arrange the affairs of the Eysvogel
firm. He had felt that he could be spared by his family, knowing that
his younger daughter was safe at Schweinau, and having heard that
Wolff’s pardon would not be long delayed.

Eva, too, had experienced toilsome days and many an anxious night. True,
Biberli and the carrier’s widow, with her children, had been moved to
the Beguines’ house, where she could pursue her charitable work safe
from the rude attacks of the criminal inmates of the hospital; but what
heavy cares had burdened her concerning the two patients for whom she
was battling with death! how eagerly she watched for tidings from the
neighbourhood of the Siebenburgs! what hours of trouble were caused by
the prior of the Dominicans and his envoys, who strove to convince her
that her intention of renouncing her conventual life was treason to
God, and that the boldness with which she had released herself from the
former guides of her spiritual life and sought her own way would lead
her to heresy and perdition! How painful, too, was the feeling that
she was being examined to discover whether the Abbess Kunigunde had any
share in her change of purpose!

The torture to which stronger men rarely succumbed seemed to threaten
the life of the more delicate ex-schoolmaster. At first the leech Otto,
who, to please Els and Fran Christine, and touched by the brave spirit
of this humble man, had daily visited Biberli, believed that he could
not save him. On the straw pallet, and with the incompetent nursing
at the hospital, he would have died very speedily, and what would have
befallen his poor mangled toes and fingers in the hands of the barbers
who managed affairs there?

At the Beguines the kindly, skilful old physician had bandaged his hands
and feet as carefully as if he had been the most aristocratic gentleman,
and no prince could have been more tenderly and patiently watched by
trained nurses; for, wonderful to relate, Eva, who had so willingly
left her sick mother to her sister’s care, and had often been vexed with
herself because she could not even remotely equal Els beside the couch
of the beloved invalid, rendered the mangled squire every service with
a touch so light and firm that the old physician often watched her with
glad astonishment.

Caution, the quality she most lacked, seemed to have suddenly waked from
a long slumber with doubly clear, far-seeing eyes. If it was necessary
to turn the sick man, she paid special heed to every aching spot in his
tortured body, and invented contrivances which she arranged with patient
care to save him pain.

Her own bed had been placed in the widow’s chamber next to Biberli’s,
and from the night that her Aunt Christine had permitted her to remain
in the Beguine house, she, who formerly had loved sleep and slumbered
soundly, had been beside the sick woman at the least sign. On the third
day she rendered her, with her own hands, every service for which she
had formerly needed a Beguine’s aid. She had possessed the gift of
uttering words of cheer and comfort even to her invalid mother better
than any one else, and often gave new courage to the suffering man when
almost driven to despair by the anguish of pain assailing him in ten
places at once. How kindly she taught him what comfort the sufferer
finds who not only moves his lips and turns his rosary in prayer, as he
had hitherto done, but commends himself and his pain to Him who endured
still worse agonies on the cross! What a smile of content rested on the
lips of the man who, in the ravings of fever, had so often repeated the
words “steadfast and true,” when she told him that he had done honour
most marvellously to his favourite virtue, represented by the T and St,
and might expect his master’s praise and gratitude!

All these things fell from her lips more warmly the more vividly she
conjured up the image of the man for whose sake the gallant fellow had
endured this martyrdom, the happier it made her to help Heinz, though
without his knowledge, to pay the great debt of gratitude which he owed
the faithful servitor. She was not aware of it, but the strongest of
all educational powers--sorrow and love--were transforming the unsocial,
capricious “little saint” into a noble, self-sacrificing woman. She was
training herself to be what she desired to become to her lover, and the
secret power whose influence upon her whole being she distinctly felt
at each success, she herself called--remembering the last words of her
dying mother--“the forge fire of life.”

At first it had been extremely painful for Biberli to allow himself to
be nursed with such devoted, loving care by the very person from whom he
had earnestly endeavoured to estrange his master; but soon the warmest
gratitude cast every other feeling into the shade, and when he woke from
the light slumber into which he frequently fell and saw Eva beside his
bed, his heart swelled and he often felt as if Heaven had sent her to
him to restore the best gifts for which he was struggling--life and
health. When he began to recover, the faithful fellow clung to her with
the utmost devotion; but this by no means lessened his love for his
master and his absent sweetheart. On the contrary, the farther his
convalescence progressed the more constantly and anxiously he thought of
Heinz and Katterle, the more pleasure it afforded him to talk about them
and to discuss with Eva what could have befallen both.

It was impossible--Biberli believed this as firmly as his nurse--that
Heinz could coldly forget his follower or Katterle neglect what she had
undertaken. So both agreed in the conjecture that the messengers sent by
the absent ones had been prevented from reaching their destination.

The supposition was correct. Two troopers despatched by Heinz had been
captured by the Siebenburgs, and the maid’s messenger had cheated her
by pocketing the small fee which she paid him and performing another
commission instead of going to Schweinau. Of the knight’s letters which
had fallen into the wrong hands, one had besought the Emperor Rudolph
to pardon the loyal servant, the other had thanked Biberli, and informed
him that his master remembered and was working for him.

Katterle had reached Heinz, had been required to tell him everything she
knew about Eva and Biberli down to the minutest detail and had then been
commissioned to repeat to the latter what had been also contained in the
letter. On the way home, however, she only reached Schwabach, for the
long walk in the most terrible anxiety, drenched by a pouring rain,
whilst enquiring her way to Heinz, and especially the terrible
excitements of the last few days, had been too much even for her
vigorous constitution. Her pulse was throbbing violently and her brow
was burning when she knocked at the door of Apel, the carrier, who had
taken her into his waggon at Schweinau, and the good old man and his
wife received and nursed her. The fever was soon broken, but weakness
prevented her journeying to Schweinau on foot, and, as Apel intended to
go to Nuremberg the first of the following week, she had been forced
to content herself with sending the messenger who had betrayed her
confidence.

How hard it was for Katterle to wait! And her impatience reached its
height when, before she could leave, some of the imperial troopers
stabled their horses at the carrier’s and reported that Castle
Siebenburg and the robber stronghold of the Absbachs were destroyed. Sir
Heinz Schorlin had fought like St. George. Now he was detained only by
the fortresses of the knights Hirschhorn and Oberstein, whose situation
on inaccessible crags threatened long to defy the imperial power.

The thought that the strong Swiss girl might be ill never entered the
mind of Biberli or Eva, but in quiet hours he asked himself which it
would probably grieve him most to miss forever--his beautiful young
nurse or his countrywoman and sweetheart. His heart belonged solely
to Katterle, but towards Eva he obeyed the old trait inherent in his
nature, and clung with the same loyalty hitherto evinced for his master
to her whom he now regarded as his future mistress.

This she must and should be, because already life seemed to him no
longer desirable without her voice. Never had he heard one whose pure
tones penetrated the heart more deeply. And had Heinz been permitted to
hear her talk with the Dominicans, he would have given up his wish to
renounce the world and, instead of entering a monastery, striven with
every power of his being to win this wonderful maiden, for whom his
heart glowed with such ardent love. When she persisted in her refusal to
take the veil because she had learned that it is possible in the world
to live at peace with one’s self, feel in harmony with God, and follow
in love and fidelity the footsteps of the Saviour, she had heard many
a kindly word of admonition, many a sharp reproof, and many a fierce
threat from the Dominicans, but she did not allow herself to be led
astray, and understood how to defend herself so cleverly and forcibly
that his heart dilated, and he asked himself how a girl of eighteen
could maintain her ground so firmly, so shrewdly, and with such thorough
knowledge of the Scriptures, against devout, highly educated men--nay,
the most learned and austere.

The Abbess Kunigunde had also appeared sometimes at his bedside, and
Eva’s conversations with her revealed to him that she had obtained her
armour against the Dominicans from the Sisters of St. Clare. True, at
first the former had laboured with the utmost earnestness to win her
back to the convent, but two days before she had met two Dominicans, and
the evident efforts of one who seemed to hold a distinguished position
among his brother monks to gain Eva for his own order and withdraw her
from the Sisters of St. Clare, whom he believed to be walking in paths
less pleasing to God, had so angered the abbess that she lost the power,
and perhaps also the will, to maintain her usual composure. Therefore,
yesterday she had opposed her niece’s wish to remain in the world less
strongly than before; nay, on parting with her she had clasped her in
her arms and, as it were, restored her freedom by admitting that various
paths led to the kingdom of heaven.

This was balm to the convalescent’s wounds; for he cherished no wish
more ardent than to accompany his master to the marriage altar, where
Eva would give her hand to Heinz Schorlin as her faithful husband, and
the abbess’s last visit seemed to favour this desire. Besides, he who
had gazed at life with open eyes had never yet beheld a brave young
warrior, soon after reaping well-earned renown, yearn for the monk’s
cowl. Doubt, suffering, and a miraculous escape from terrible peril had
inspired the joyous-hearted Heinz with the desire to renounce the world.
Now, perhaps, Heaven itself was showing him that he had not received the
boon of life to bury himself in a monastery, but to be blessed with the
fairest and noblest of gifts, the love of a woman who, in his opinion,
had not her equal beneath the wide vault of the azure sky.

Countess Cordula was not suited for his master. During the long hours
that he lay quietly on his pallet a hundred reasons strengthened this
opinion. The man for whom he had steadfastly endured such severe agony,
and was suffering still, was worthy of a more beautiful, devout, and
calm companion-nay, the very loveliest and best--and that, in his eyes,
was the girl for whom Heinz had felt so overmastering a passion just
before his luckless winnings at the gaming table. This potent fire
of love might doubtless be smothered with sand and ashes, but never
extinguished.

Such were Biberli’s thoughts as he recalled the events of the previous
day. He had found Eva less equable in her tender management than usual.
Some anxiety concerning something apart from her patients seemed to
oppress her. True, she had not wished to reveal it, but his eyes were
keen.

Soon after sunrise that morning she had carefully rebandaged his crushed
thumb, which was not yet healed. Then she had gone away, as she assured
him, for only a few hours. Now the sun was already high in the heavens,
yet she did not return, though it was long past the time for the
bandages to be renewed, and the drops to be given which sustained the
life of the dying Minorite in the adjoining room. It made him uneasy,
and when anxiety had once taken root in his heart it sent its shoots
forward and backward, and he remembered many things in which Eva had
been different the day before. Why had she whispered so long with Herr
Pfinzing and then looked so sorrowfully at him, Biberli? Why had Frau
Christine come not less than three times yesterday afternoon, and again
in the evening? She had some secret to discuss with the surgeon Otto.
Had any change taken place in his condition? and did the leech intend
to amputate his thumb, or even his hand? But, no! only yesterday he had
been assured that he could save all five fingers, and his sorely
mangled left foot too. The widow was better, and all hope of saving the
Minorite’s life had been relinquished two days ago. Eva’s anxiety must
have some other cause, and he asked himself, in alarm, whether she could
have received any bad news from his master or Katterle?

A terrible sense of uneasiness overpowered him, and the necessity of
confiding it to some one took such possession of the loquacious man that
he called little Walpurga from the next room. But instead of running to
his bedside, she darted forward with the joyful cry, “She is coming!”
 towards the door and Eva.

Soon after the latter, leading the child by the hand, entered the room.
Biberli felt as if the sun were rising again. How gay her greeting
sounded! The expression of her blue eyes seemed to announce something
pleasant. Whoever possessed this maiden would be sure to have no lack of
light in his home, no matter how dark the night might be.

He must have been mistaken concerning the anxiety which had seemed to
oppress her on his account. Instead of bad news, she was surely bringing
good tidings. Nay, she had the best of all; for Katterle, Eva told him,
would soon arrive. But his future wife had been ill too. Her cheeks had
not yet regained their roundness or their bright colour.

Sharp-sighted Biberli noticed this, and exclaimed: “Then she is here
already! For, my mistress, how else could you know how her cheeks look?”

Soon afterwards the maid was really standing beside her lover’s couch.

Eva allowed them to enjoy the happiness of meeting undisturbed, and went
to her other two patients. When she returned to the couple, Katterle
had already related what she had experienced in Schwabach. It was little
more than Eva had already heard from her uncle and others.

That Seitz Siebenburg, whom he bitterly hated, had fallen in a sword
combat by his master’s own hand, afforded Biberli the keenest delight.
No portion of the narrative vexed him except the nonarrival of the
messengers, and the probability that some time must yet elapse ere Heinz
could sheathe his sword.

Eva’s cheeks flushed with joy and pride as she heard how nobly her lover
had justified the confidence of his imperial patron. But it seemed to be
impossible to follow Biberli’s flood of eloquence to the end. She was in
haste, and he had been right concerning the cares which oppressed her.

She had stood beside his couch the day before with a heavy heart, and
it required the exercise of all her strength to conceal the anxiety with
which her mind was filled, for if she did not intercede for him that
very day; if his pardon could not be announced early the following
morning during the session of the court in the Town Hall, then the
half-recovered man must be surrendered to the judges again, and Otto
believed that the torture would be fatal to his enfeebled frame.

The tailor and his adherents, as Eva knew from Herr Pfinzing, were
making every effort to obtain his condemnation and prove to the city
that they had not censured the proceedings of the Ortlieb household as
mere reckless slanderers. Eva and her sister would be again mentioned in
the investigation, and were even threatened with an examination.

At first this had startled her, but she believed her uncle’s assurance
that this examination would fully prove her innocence before the eyes
of the whole world. For her own sake Eva surely would not have suffered
herself to be so tortured by anxiety night and day, or undertaken and
resolved to dare so much. The thought that the faithful follower whom
her patient nursing had saved from death and to whom she had become
warmly attached must now lose his life, and Heinz Schorlin be robbed of
the possibility of doing anything for him, had cast every other fear in
the shade, and had kept her constantly in motion the evening before and
this morning.

But all that she and her Aunt Christine had attempted in behalf of the
imperilled man had been futile. To apply to the Emperor again every one,
including the magistrate, had declared useless, since even the Burgrave
had been refused.

The members of the Council and the judges in the court had already, at
Aunt Christine’s solicitation, deferred the proceedings four days, but
the law now forbade longer delay. Though individuals would gladly
have spared the accused the torture, its application could scarcely be
avoided, for how many accusers and witnesses appeared against him, and
if there were weighty depositions and by no means truthful replies on
the part of the prisoner, the torture could not be escaped. It legally
belonged to the progress of the investigation, and how many who had by
no means recovered from the last exposure to the rack were constantly
obliged to enter the torture chamber? Besides, the judges would be
charged with partiality by the tailor and his followers, and to show
such visible tokens of favour threatened to prejudice the dignity of the
court.

She had found good will everywhere, but all had withheld any positive
promise. It was so easy to retreat behind the high-sounding words
“justice and law,” and then: who for the sake of a squire--who,
moreover, was in the service of a foreign knight--would awaken the
righteous indignation of the artisans, who made the tailor’s cause their
own.

Whatever the aunt and niece tried had failed either wholly or partially.
Besides, Eva had been obliged to keep in the background in order not to
expose herself to the suspicion of pleading her own cause. Many probably
thought that Frau Christine herself was talking ostensibly in behalf of
the servant and really for her brother’s slandered daughter.

When Eva met Katterle in front of the hospital, she had passed without
noticing her, so completely had sorrow, anxiety, and the effort to think
of some expedient engrossed her attention.

It had been very difficult to meet Biberli with an untroubled manner,
yet she had even succeeded in showing a bright face to the carrier’s
widow, as well as to Father Benedictus, whose hours seemed to be
numbered, and who only yesterday had wounded her deeply.

When she returned from the Minorite’s room to Biberli’s the lovers were
no longer alone. The fresh, pleasant face of a vigorous woman, who
had already visited the sufferer several times, greeted her beside his
couch.

When, in the exchange of salutations, her eyes met Eva’s the latter
suddenly found the plan of action she had vainly sought. Gertrude of
Berne could help her take the chance which, in the last extremity,
she meant to risk, for she was the wife of the Swiss warder in the
Burgrave’s castle. It certainly would not be difficult for her to
procure her an interview with the Burgravine Elizabeth. If the noble
lady could not aid herself, she could--her cheeks paled at the thought,
yet she resolutely clung to it--present her to her brother, the Emperor.

When Eva, in a low tone, told Frau Gertrude what she hoped to accomplish
at the castle, she learned that the Emperor had ridden with the
Archduchess Agnes and a numerous train to the imperial forest, to show
his Bohemian daughter-in-law the beekeeper’s hives, and would scarcely
return before sunset; but the Burgravine had remained at home on account
of a slight illness.

Nevertheless Eva wished to go to the castle, and, whatever reception the
noble lady bestowed upon her, she would return to Schweinau as soon as
possible. Father Benedictus was so ill that she could not remain away
from him long.

If the Burgravine could do nothing for Biberli, she would undertake the
risk which made her tremble, because it compelled her, the young girl,
to appear alone at the court with all its watchful eyes and sharp
tongues. She would go to the fortress to beseech the Emperor herself for
pardon.

She could act with entire freedom to-day, for her uncle had ridden to
the city and, Frau Gertrude said, was one of the party who accompanied
the Emperor to the beekeeper’s, whilst her aunt had just gone to
Nuremberg to see Els, who had besought her, in a despairing letter, to
let her come to Schweinau, for her power of endurance was exhausted.

How gladly Eva would have accompanied her aunt to her sister to exhort
her to take courage! What a strange transformation of affairs! Ever
since she could think Els had sustained her by her superior strength and
perseverance. Now she was to be the stronger, and teach her to exercise
patience.

She thought she had gained the right to do so. Whilst Eva was still
explaining her plan to Frau Gertrude, she herself perceived that she had
taken no account of time.

It was nearly noon, and if she ordered a sedan-chair to convey her to
the city and back again to Schweinau, it would be too late to approach
the Emperor as a petitioner. She could fulfil her design only by
riding; but the warder’s wife reminded her that it would be contrary to
custom--nay, scarcely possible--to appear before the Emperor, or even
his sister, in a riding habit.

But the young girl speedily found a way to fulfil her ardent wish to
aid. On her swift palfrey, which her uncle had sent to Schweinau long
before that she might refresh herself, after her arduous duties, by a
ride, she would go to the city, stop at her own home, and have her
new expensive mourning clothes taken to the castle. The only doubt was
whether she could change her garments in the quarters of the Swiss, and
whether Frau Gertrude would help her do so.

The latter gladly assented. There was no lack of room in her apartments,
nor did Frau Gertrude, who had served the Burgravine as waiting maid
many years before her marriage, lack either skill or good will.

So she went directly home on her mule; but Eva, after promising her
patients to return soon, hastened to her uncle’s residence.

There she mounted the palfrey and reached the city gate a long time
before the Swiss. The clothes she needed were soon found in the Ortlieb
mansion, and she was then carried in a sedan-chair to the castle with
her wardrobe, whilst the groom led her palfrey after her. Countess
Cordula was not at home; she, too, had ridden to the forest with the
Emperor.

The Burgravine Elizabeth willingly consented to receive the charming
child whose fate had awakened her warm interest. She had just been
hearing the best and most beautiful things about Eva, for the leech Otto
had been called to visit her in her attack of illness, and the old man
was overflowing with praises of both sisters. He indignantly mentioned
the vile calumnies with which Heinz Schorlin’s name was associated, and
which base slander had fixed upon the innocent girls whose pure morality
he would guarantee.

The great lady, who probably remembered having directed Heinz’s
attention to Eva at the dance, understood very clearly that they could
not fail to attract each other. Of all the knights in her imperial
brother’s train, none seemed to the Burgravine more worthy of her favour
than her gay young countryman, whose mother had been one of the friends
of her youth. She would gladly have rendered him a service and, in this
case, not only for his own sake but still more on account of the rare
fidelity of his servant, who was also a native of her beloved Swiss
mountains. Yet, notwithstanding all this, it seemed impossible to bring
this matter again before the Emperor. She knew her husband, and after
the rebuff he had received on account of the tortured man he would be
angry if she should plead his cause with her royal brother.

But her kind heart, and the regard which both Eva and Heinz Schorlin had
inspired, strengthened her desire to aid, as far as lay in her power,
the brave maiden who urged her suit with such honest warmth, and the
petitioner’s avowal of her intention, as a last resort, of appealing
to the Emperor in person showed her how to convert her kind wishes into
deeds.

Let Eva’s youth and beauty try to persuade the Emperor to an act of
clemency which he had refused to wisdom and power.

After supper her brother received various guests, and she could present
the daughter of a Nuremberg patrician whom he already knew, and whose
rare charms had attracted his notice.

Though she had been compelled to forego the ride to the forest, she was
well enough to appear at supper in the Emperor’s residence, which was
close to her own castle. When the meal was over she would take Eva
herself to her royal brother.

She told her this, and the gratitude which she received was so warm and
earnest that it touched her heart, and as she bade the beautiful, brave
child farewell she clasped her in her arms and kissed her.



CHAPTER XVI.

Encouraged and hopeful, Eva again mounted her palfrey, and urged the
swift animal outside the city to so rapid a pace that the old groom
on his well-fed bay was left far behind. But the change of dress, the
waiting, and the numerous questions asked by the Burgravine had consumed
so much time that the poplars were already casting long shadows when she
dismounted before the hospital.

Sister Hildegard received her with an embarrassment by no means usual,
but which Eva thought natural when the former told her that the dying
Father Benedictus had asked for her impatiently. The widow was doing
well, and Biberli would hardly need her; for the wife of a Swabian
knight in whose service he had formerly been was sitting by his couch
with her young daughter, and their visit seemed to please him.

Eva remarked in surprise that she thought the sick man had never served
any one except the Schurlins, but she was in too much haste for further
questions, and entered the room where Biberli lay.

Her face was flushed by the rapid ride; her thick, fair hair, which
usually fell loosely on her shoulders, had been hastily braided before
she mounted her horse, but the long, heavy braids had become unfastened
on the way, and now hung in tresses round her face and pliant figure.

She waved her hand gaily from the threshold to the patient for whom she
had done and dared so much; but ere approaching his couch she modestly
saluted the stately matron who was with Biberli, and nodded a pleasant
welcome to her daughter, whose pretty, frank face attracted her. After
the Swabians had cordially returned her greeting, she briefly excused
herself, as an urgent duty would not permit her to yield to her desire
to remain with them.

Lastly, she addressed a few hasty questions to the squire about his
health, kissed little Walpurga, who had nestled to her side, bade her
tell her another that she would come to her later, and entered the next
room.

“Well?” Biberli asked his visitors eagerly, after the door had closed
behind her.

“Oh, how beautiful she is!” cried the younger lady quickly, but her
mother’s voice trembled with deep emotion as she answered: “How I
objected to my son’s marriage with the daughter of a city family! Nay,
I intended to cast all the weight of my maternal influence between Heinz
and the Nuremberg maiden. Yet you did not say too much, my friend, and
what your praise began Eva’s own appearance has finished. She will be
welcome to me as a daughter. I have scarcely ever seen anything more
lovely. That she is devout and charitable and, moreover, has a clear
intellect and resolute energy, can be plainly perceived in spite of the
few minutes which she could spare us. If Heaven would really suffer our
Heinz to win the heart of this rare creature----”

“Every fibre of it is his already,” interrupted Biberli. “The
rub--pardon me, noble lady!--is somewhere else. Whether he--whether
Heinz can be induced to renounce the thought of the monastery, is the
question.”

He sighed faintly as he gazed into the still beautiful, strong, and yet
kindly face of the Lady Wendula Schorlin, Sir Heinz’s mother, for she
was the older visitor.

“We ought not to doubt that,” replied the matron firmly. “As the last
of his ancient race, it is his duty to provide for its continuance, not
solely for his own salvation. He was always a dutiful son.”

“Yet,” replied Biberli thoughtfully, “‘Away with those who gave us
life!’ was the exhortation of Father Benedictus in the next room. ‘Away
with the service of sovereign and woman!’ he cried to our knight. ‘Away
with everything that stands in the way of your own salvation!’ And,”
 Biberli added, “St. Francis was not the first to devise that. Our Lord
and Saviour commanded His disciples to leave father and mother and to
follow Him.”

“Who will prevent his walking in the paths of Jesus Christ?” replied the
Lady Wendula? “Yet, though he follows His footsteps, he must and can
do so as a scion of a noble race, as a knight and the brave soldier
and true servant of his Emperor, which he is, as a good son and, God
willing, as a husband and father. He is sure of my blessing if he wields
his sword as a champion of his holy faith. When my two daughters took
the veil I submissively yielded. They can pray for heavenly bliss for
their brother and ourselves. My only son, the last Schorlin, I neither
can nor will permit to renounce the world, in which he has tasks to
perform which God Himself assigned him by his birth.”

“And how could Heinz part from this angel,” cried Maria--to whom, next
to her mother, her brother was the dearest person on earth--“if he is
really sure of her love!”

She herself had not yet opened her heart to love. To wander through
forest and field with the aged head of her family, assist her mother in
housekeeping, and nurse the sick poor in the village, had hitherto been
the joy and duty of her life. Gaily, often with a song upon her lips,
she had carelessly seen one day follow another until Schorlin Castle
was besieged and destroyed, and her dear uncle, the Knight Ramsweg, was
slain in the defence of the fortress confided to his care. Then she and
her mother were taken to the convent at Constance. Both remained there
in perfect freedom, as welcome guests of the nuns, until the mounted
courier brought a letter from the Knight Maier of Silenen, her cousin,
who wrote from Nuremberg that Heinz, like his sisters, intended to
renounce the world.

Lady Schorlin set out at once, and with an anxious heart rode to
Nuremberg with her daughter as fast as possible.

They had arrived a few hours before and gone to their cousin from
Silenen. From him the Lady Wendula learned what her maternal love
desired to know. Biberli’s fate brought her, after a brief rest, to the
hospital, and how it comforted the faithful fellow’s heart to see the
noble lady who had confided his master to his care, and in whose house
the T and St had been embroidered on his long coat and cap!

Lady Wendula had remembered these letters, and when she spoke of them
he replied that since he had partially verified what the T and St had
announced to people concerning his character, and to which the letters
had themselves incited him, he no longer needed them.

Then he lapsed into silence, and at last, as the result of his
meditations, told his mistress that there was something unusual about
his insignificant self, because he earnestly desired to practise the
virtues whose possession he claimed before the eyes of the people. He
had usually found the worst wine in the taverns with showy signs, and
when the Lady Wendula’s daughter had embroidered those letters on the
cloth for him, what he furnished the guests was also of very doubtful
quality. On his sick bed he had been obliged to place no curb upon his
proneness to reflection, and in doing so had discovered that there was
no virtue which can be owned like a house or a steed, but that each must
be constantly gained anew, often amidst toil and suffering. One thing,
however, was now firmly established in his belief: that his favourite
virtues were really the fairest of all, because--one will answer for
all--man never felt happier than when he had succeeded in keeping his
fidelity inviolate and maintaining his steadfastness. He had learned,
too, from Fraulein Eva that the Redeemer Himself promised the crown of
eternal life to those who remain faithful unto death. In this confidence
he awaited the jailers, who perhaps would come very soon to lead him
into the most joyless of all apartments--the Nuremberg torture chamber.

Then he told the ladies what he knew of the love which united Heinz
and Eva. The four Fs which he had advised his master to heed in his
wooing--Family, Figure, Favor, and Fortune--he no longer deemed the
right touch-tones. Whilst he was forced to lie idly here he had
found that they should rather be exchanged for four Ss--Spirituality,
Steadfastness, Stimulation, and Solace--for the eyes and the heart.

All these were united in Eva and, moreover, there could be no objection
to the family to which she belonged.

Thereupon he had commenced so enthusiastic a eulogy of his beloved nurse
and preserver that more than once Lady Wendula, smiling, stopped him,
accusing him of permitting his grateful heart to lead him to such
exaggeration that the maiden he wished to serve would scarcely thank
him.

Yet Eva’s personal appearance had disappointed neither the experienced
mother nor the easily won daughter. Nay, when Maria Schorlin gazed at
her through the half-open door of the Minorite’s room, because she did
not want to lose sight of the girl who had already attracted her on
account of her hard battle in the cause of love, and who specially
charmed her because it was her Heinz whom she loved, she thought no
human being could resist the spell which emanated from Eva.

With her finger on her lip she beckoned to her mother, and she, too,
could not avert her eyes from the wonderful creature whom she hoped soon
to call daughter, as she saw Eva standing, with eyes uplifted to heaven,
beside the old man’s couch, and heard her, in compliance with his wish,
as she had often done before, half recite, half sing in a low voice the
Song of the Sun, the finest work of St. Francis.

The words were in the Italian language, in which this song had flowed
from the poet heart of the Saint of Assisi, so rich in love to God and
all animate nature; for she had learned to speak Italian in the Convent
of St. Clare, to which several Italians had been transferred from their
own home and that of their order and its founder.

Lady Wendula and her daughter could also follow the song; for the mother
had learned the beautiful language of the Saint of Assisi from the
minnesingers in her youth, and in the early years of her marriage had
accompanied the Emperor Frederick, with her husband, across the Alps. So
she had taught Maria.

As Lady Schorlin approached the door Eva, with her large eyes uplifted,
was just beginning the second verse:

     “Praised by His creatures all
     Praised be the Lord my God
     By Messer Sun, my brother, above all,
     Who by his rays lights us and lights the day.
     Radiant is he, with his great splendour stored,
     Thy glory, Lord, confessing.

     “By sister Moon and stars my Lord is praised,
     Where clear and fair they in the heavens are raised.

     “By brother Wind, my Lord, thy praise is said,
     By air and clouds, and the blue sky o’erhead,
     By which thy creatures all are kept and fed.

     “By one most humble, useful, precious, chaste,
     By sister Water, O my Lord, thou art praised.

     “And praised is my Lord
     By brother Fire-he who lights up the night;
     Jocund, robust is he, and strong and bright.

     “Praised art Thou, my Lord, by mother Earth,
     Thou who sustainest her and governest,
     And to her flowers, fruit, herbs, dost colour give and birth.

     “And praised is my Lord
     By those who, for Thy love, can pardon give
     And bear the weakness and the wrongs of men.

     “Blessed are those who suffer thus in peace,
     By Thee, the Highest, to be crowned in heaven.

     “Praised by our sister Death, my Lord, art Thou,
     From whom no living man escapes.
     Who die in mortal sin have mortal woe,
     But blessed are they who die doing Thy will;
     The second death can strike at them no blow.

     “Praises and thanks and blessing to my Master be!
     Serve ye Him all, with great humility.”

How God was loved by this saint, who beheld in everything the Most High
had created kindred whom he loved and held intercourse with as with
brother and sister! Whatever the divine Father’s love had formed--the
sun, the moon and stars, the wood, water and fire, the earth and her
fair children, the various flowers and plants--he made proclaim, each
for itself and all in common, like a mighty chorus, the praise of God.
Even death joins in the hymn, and all these sons and daughters of the
same exalted Father call to the minds of men the omnipotent, beneficent
rule of the Lord. They help mortals to appreciate God’s majesty, fill
their hearts with gratitude, and summon them to praise His sublimity
and greatness. In death, whom the poet also calls his sister, he sees
no cruel murderer, because she, too, comes from the Most High. “And
what sister,” asks the saint, “could more surely rescue the brother from
sorrow and suffering?” Whoever, as a child of God, feels like the loving
Saint of Assisi, will gratefully suffer death to lead him to union with
the Father.

Benedictus had followed the magnificent poem with rapture. At the lines,

     “But blessed are they who die doing Thy will;
     The second death can strike at them no blow,”

he nodded gently, as if sure that the close of his earthly pilgrimage
meant nothing to him except the beginning of a new and happy life; but
when Eva ended with the command to serve the Lord with great humility,
he lowered his eyes to the floor hesitatingly, as if not sure of
himself.

But he soon raised them again and fixed them on the young girl. They
seemed to ask the question whether this noble hymn did not draw his
nurse also to him who had sung it; whether, in spite of it, she still
persisted, with sorrowful blindness, in her refusal to join the
Sisters of St. Clare, whom the saintly singer also numbered amongst his
followers. Yet he felt too feeble to appeal to her conscience now, as
he had often done, and bear the replies with which this highly gifted,
peculiar creature, in every conversation his increasing weakness
permitted him to share with her, had pressed him hard and sometimes even
silenced him.

True, they fought with unequal weapons. Pain and illness paralysed his
keen intellect, and difficulty of breathing often checked the eloquent
tongue, both of which had served him so readily in his intercourse
with Heinz Schorlin. She contended with the most precious goal of youth
before her eyes, fresh and healthy in mind and body, conscious, in the
midst of the struggle, against doubt and suffering, for what she held
dearest of her own vigorous energy, panoplied by the talisman of the
last mandate from the lips of her dying mother.

Benedictus, during a long life devoted to the highest aims, had battled
enough. He already saw Sister Death upon the threshold, and he wished
to depart in peace and reap the reward for so much conflict, pain,
and sacrifice. The Lord Himself had broken his weapons. The Minorite
Egidius, his friend and companion in years, must carry on with Eva,
Father Ignatius, the most eloquent member of the order in Nuremberg,
with Heinz Schorlin, the work which he, Benedictus, had begun. Though
he himself must retire from the battlefield, he was sure that his post
would not remain empty.

The chant had placed him in the right mood to take leave of the
Brothers, whose arrival Sister Hildegard had just announced.

Since yesterday he had seen the Saviour constantly before his mental
vision. Sometimes he imagined that he beheld Him beckoning to him;
sometimes that He extended His arms to him; sometimes he even fancied
that he heard His voice, or that of St. Francis, and both invited him to
approach.

To-day-the leech had admitted it, and he himself felt it by his fevered
brow, the failing pulsations of the heart, and the chill in the cold
feet, perhaps already dead--he might expect to leave the dust of the
world and behold those for whom he longed face to face in a purer light.

He wished to await the end surrounded only by the Brothers, who were
fighting the same battle, reminded by nothing of the world, as if in the
outer court of heaven.

Eva, the beautiful yet perverse woman, was one of the last persons whom
he would have desired to have near him when he took the step into the
other world.

Speech was difficult. A brief admonition to renounce her earthly love
in order to share the divine one whose rich joys he hoped to taste that
very day was the farewell greeting he vouchsafed Eva. When she tried to
kiss his hand he withdrew it as quickly as his weakness permitted.

Then she retired, and Father AEgidius led the Brothers of the order in
Nuremberg into the room. Meanwhile it had grown dark, and the Beguine
Paulina brought in a two-branched candelabrum with burning candles. Eva
took it from her hand and placed it so that the light should not dazzle
her patient; but he saw her and, by pointing with a frowning brow to the
door, commanded her to leave the room.

She gladly obeyed. When she had passed the Brothers, however, she paused
on the threshold before going into the entry and again gazed at the old
man’s noble, pallid features illumined by the candlelight.

She had never seen him look so. He was gazing, radiant with joy, at the
monks, who were to give him the benediction at his departure. Then he
raised his dark eyes as if transfigured; he was thanking Heaven for so
much mercy, but the other Minorites fell on their knees beside the bed
and prayed with him.

How lovingly the old man looked into each face! He had never favoured
her with such a glance. Yet no other nursing had been so difficult and
often so painful. At first he had shown a positive enmity to her,
and even asked Sister Hildegard for another nurse; but no suitable
substitute for Eva could be found. Then he had earnestly desired to be
removed to the Franciscan monastery in Nuremberg; this, however, could
not be done because it would have hastened his death. So he was forced
to remain, and Eva felt that her presence was not the least thing which
rendered the hospital distasteful.

Yet, as his aged eyes refused their service and he liked to have someone
read aloud from the gospels which he carried with him, or from notes
written by his own hand, which also comprised some of the poems of St.
Francis, and no one else in the house was capable of performing this
office, he at last explicitly desired to keep her for his nurse.

To anoint and bandage, according to the physician’s prescription, his
sore feet and the deep scars made on his back by severe scourging,
which had reopened, became more difficult the more plainly he showed his
aversion to her touch, because she--he had told her so himself--was
a woman. She certainly had not found it easy to keep awake and wear a
pleasant expression when, after a toilsome day, he woke her at midnight
and forced her to read aloud until the grey dawn of morning. But hardest
of all for Eva to bear were the bitter words with which he wounded her,
and which sounded specially sharp and hostile when he reproached her for
standing between Heinz Schorlin and the eternal salvation for which the
knight so eagerly longed. He seemed to bear her a grudge like that
which the artist feels towards the culprit who has destroyed one of his
masterpieces.

Often, too, a chance word betrayed that he blamed Heaven for having
denied him victory in the battle for the soul of Heinz. Schorlin which
he had begun to wage in its name. True, such murmuring was always
followed by deep repentance. But in every mood he still strove to
persuade Eva to renounce the world.

When she confessed what withheld her from doing so, he at first tried to
convince her by opposing reasons, but usually strength to continue the
interchange of thought soon failed him. Then he confined himself to
condemning with harsh words her perverse spirit and worldly nature, and
threatening her with the vengeance of Heaven.

Once, after repeating the Song of the Sun, as she had done just now, he
asked whether she, too, felt that nothing save the peace of the cloister
would afford the possibility of feeling the greatness and love of the
Most High as warmly and fully as this majestic song commands us to do.

Then, summoning her courage, she assured him of the contrary. Though but
a simple girl, she, who had often been the guest of the abbess, felt the
grandeur and glory of God as much more deeply in the world and during
the fulfilment of the hardest duties which life imposed than with the
Sisters of St. Clare, as the forests and fields were wider than the
little convent garden.

The old man, in a rage, upbraided her with being a blinded fool,
and asked her whether she did not know that the world was finite and
limited, whilst what the convent contained was eternal and boundless.

Another time he had wounded her so deeply by his severity that she had
found it impossible to restrain her tears. But he had scarcely perceived
this ere he repented his harshness. Nothing but love ought to move
his heart on the eve of a union with Him whom he had just called Love
itself, and with earnest and tender entreaties he besought Eva to
forgive him for the censure which was also a work of love. Throughout
the day he had treated her with affectionate, almost humble, kindness.

All these things returned to Eva’s thoughts as she left her grey-haired
patient.

He was standing on the threshold of the other world, and it was easy for
her to think of him kindly, deeply as he had often wounded her. Nay,
her heart swelled with grateful joy because she had been so patient
and suffered nothing to divert her from the arduous duty which she had
undertaken in nursing the old man, who regarded her with such disfavour.

A light had been brought into Biberli’s room too. When Eva entered with
glowing cheeks she found the Swabians still sitting beside his couch.
The door leading into the chamber of the dying man had been closed long
before, yet the notes of pious litanies came from the adjoining room.
Lady Schorlin noticed her deep emotion with sympathy, and asked her to
sit down by her side. Maria offered her own low stool, but Eva declined
its use, because she would soon be obliged to ride back to the city. She
pressed her hand upon her burning brow, sighing, “Now, now--after such
an hour, at court!”

Lady Wendula urged her with such kindly maternal solicitude to take a
little rest that the young girl yielded.

The matron’s remark that she, too, was invited to the reception at the
imperial residence that evening brought an earnest entreaty from Eva to
accept the invitation for her sake, and the Swabian promised to gratify
her if nothing occurred to prevent. At any rate, they would ride to the
city together.

Biberli’s astonished enquiry concerning the cause of Eva’s visit to the
fortress was answered evasively, and she was glad when the singing in
the next room led the Swabian to ask whether it was true that the master
of her suffering friend on the couch, who intended to devote himself to
a monastic life, meant to enter the order of the Minorite whom she had
just left and become a mendicant friar. When Eva assented, the lady
remarked that members of this brotherhood had rarely come to her castle;
but Biberli said that they were quiet, devout men who, content with the
alms they begged, preached, and performed other religious duties. They
were recruited more from the people than from the aristocratic classes.
Many, however, joined them in order to live an idle life, supported by
the gifts of others.

Eva eagerly opposed this view, maintaining that true piety could be most
surely found in the order of St. Francis. Then, with warm enthusiasm,
she praised its founder, asserting that, on the contrary, the Saint of
Assisi had enjoined labour upon his followers. For instance, one of
his favourite disciples was willing to shake the nuts from the rotten
branches of a nut tree which no one dared to climb if he might have
half the harvest. This was granted, but he made a sack of his wide brown
cowl, filled it with the nuts, and distributed them amongst his poor.

This pleased the mother and daughter; yet when the former remarked
that work of this kind seemed to her too easy for a young, noble, and
powerful knight, Eva agreed, but added that the saint also required
an activity in which the hands, it is true, remained idle, but which
heavily taxed even the strongest soul. St. Francis himself had set the
example of performing this toil cheerfully and gladly.

Whilst giving this information she had again risen. Sister Hildegard had
announced that her palfrey and the horses of the guests had been led up.

Finally Eva promised to mount at the same time as the Swabians, bade
farewell to Biberli, who looked after her with surprise, yet silently
conjectured that this errand to the Emperor was in his behalf, and
then went into the entry, where Sister Hildegard told her that Father
Benedictus had just died.

The monks were still chanting beside his deathbed. Brother AEgidius,
the friend and comrade of the dead man, however, had left them and
approached Eva.

Deeply agitated, he struggled to repress his sobs as he told her that
the old man’s longing was fulfilled and his Saviour had summoned him. To
die thus, richly outweighed the many sacrifices he had so willingly made
here below during a long life. If Eva had witnessed his death she would
have perceived the aptness of the saying that a monk’s life is bitter,
but his death is sweet. Such an end was granted only to those who cast
the world aside. Let her consider this once more, ere she renounced the
eternal bliss for which formerly she had so devoutly yearned.

Eva’s only answer was the expression of her grief for his friend’s
decease. But whilst passing out into the darkness she thought: the
holy Brother certainly had a beautiful and happy death, yet how gently,
trusting in the mercy of her Redeemer, my mother also passed away,
though during her life and on her deathbed she remained in the world.
And then--whilst Father Benedictus was closing his eyes--what concern
did he probably have for aught save his own salvation, but my mother
forgot herself and thought only of others, of those whom she loved,
whilst the Saviour summoned her to Himself. Her eyes were already dim
and her tongue faltered when she uttered the words which had guided her
daughter until now. The forge fire of life burns fiercely, yet to it my
gratitude is due if the resolutions I formed in the forest after I had
gathered the flowers for her and saw Heinz kneeling in prayer have not
been vain, but have changed the capricious, selfish child into a woman
who can render some service to others.

If Heinz comes now and seeks me, I think I can say trustingly, “Here
I am!” We have both striven for the divine Love and recognised its
glorious beauty. If later, hand in hand, we can interweave it with the
earthly one, why should it not be acceptable to the Saviour? If Heinz
offers me his affection I will greet it as “Sister Love,” and it will
certainly summon me with no lower voice to praise the Father from whom
it comes and who has bestowed it upon me, as do the sun, the moon and
stars, the fire and water.

Whilst speaking she went out, and after learning that Frau Christine and
her husband had not yet returned, she rode with the Swabians towards the
city.

In order not to pass through the whole length of Nuremberg, Eva guided
her friends around the fortifications. Their destination was almost the
same, and they chose to enter at the Thiergartnerthor, which was in the
northwestern part of the city, under the hill crowned by the castle,
whilst the road to Schweinau usually led through the Spitalthor.

On the way Lady Wendula induced Eva to tell her many things about
herself, urging her to describe her father and her dead mother. Her
daughter Maria, on the other hand, was most interested in her sister
Els, who, as she had heard from Biberli, was the second beautiful E.

Eva liked to talk about her relatives, but her depression continued
and she spoke only in reply to questions, for the Minorite’s death had
affected her, and her heart throbbed anxiously when she thought of the
moment that she must appear amongst the courtiers and see the Emperor.

Would her errand be vain? Must poor Biberli pay for his resolute
fidelity with his life? What pain it would cause her, and how heavily it
would burden his master’s soul that he had failed to intercede for him!

Not until Lady Schorlin questioned her did Eva confess what troubled
her, and how she dreaded the venture which she had undertaken on her own
responsibility.

They were obliged to wait outside the Thiergartnerthor, for it had just
been opened to admit a train of freight waggons.

Whilst Eva remained on the high-road, with the castle before her eyes,
she sighed from the depths of her troubled heart: “Why should the
Emperor Rudolph grant me, an insignificant girl, what he refused his
sister’s husband, the powerful Burgrave, to whom he is so greatly
indebted? Oh, suppose he should treat me harshly and bid me go back to
my spinning wheel!”

Then she felt the arm of the dignified lady at her side pass round her
and heard her say: “Cheer up, my dear girl. The blessing of a woman who
feels as kindly towards you as to her own daughter will accompany
you, and no Emperor will ungraciously rebuff you, you lovely, loyal,
charitable child.”

At these words from her kind friend Eva’s heart opened as if the dear
mother whom death had snatched from her had inspired her with fresh
courage, and from the very depths of her soul rose the cry, “Oh, how I
thank you!”

She urged her nimble palfrey nearer the lady’s horse to kiss her left
hand, which held the bridle, but Lady Wendula would not permit it and,
drawing her towards her, exclaimed, “Your lips, dear one,” and as her
red mouth pressed the kind lady’s, Eva felt as if the caress had sealed
an old and faithful friendship. But this was not all. Maria also wished
to show the affection she had won, and begged for a kiss too.

Without suspecting it, Eva, on the way to an enterprise she dreaded,
received the proof that her lover’s dearest relatives welcomed her with
their whole hearts as a new member of the family.

On the other side of the gate she was obliged to part from the Swabians.

Lady Wendula bade her farewell with an affectionate “until we meet
again,” and promised positively to go to the reception at the castle.

Eva uttered a sigh of relief. It seemed like an omen of success that
this lady, who had so quickly inspired her with such perfect confidence,
was to witness her difficult undertaking. She felt like a leader who
takes the field with a scanty band of soldiers and is unexpectedly
joined by the troops of a firm friend.



CHAPTER XVII.

When Arnold, the warder from Berne, helped Eva from the saddle, a blaze
of light greeted her from the imperial residence. The banquet was just
beginning.

Frau Gertrude had more than one piece of good news to tell while
assisting the young girl. Among the sovereign’s guests was her uncle the
magistrate, who had accompanied the Emperor to the beekeeper’s, and
with his wife, whom she would also find there, had been invited to the
banquet. Besides--this, as the best, she told her last--her father,
Herr Ernst Ortlieb, had returned from Ulm and Augsburg, and a short
time before had come to the fortress to conduct Jungfrau Els, by the
Burgrave’s gracious permission, to her betrothed husband’s hiding place.
Fran Gertrude had lighted her way, and a long separation might be borne
for such a meeting.

The ex-maid was obliged to bestir herself that Eva might have a few
minutes for her sister and Wolff, yet she would fain have spent a much
longer time over the long, thick, fair hair, which with increasing
pleasure she combed until it flowed in beautiful waving tresses over the
rich Florentine stuff of her plain white mourning robe.

The Swiss had also provided white roses from the Burgrave’s garden to
fasten at the square neck of Eva’s dress. The latter permitted her to
do this, but her wish to put a wreath of roses on the young girl’s head,
according to the fashion of the day, was denied, because Eva thought
it more seemly to appear unadorned, and not as if decked for a festival
when she approached the Emperor as a petitioner. The woman whose life
had been spent at court perceived the wisdom of this idea, and at last
rejoiced that she had not obtained her wish; for when her work was
finished Eva looked so bewitching and yet so pure and modest, that
nothing could be removed or--even were it the wreath of roses--added
without injuring the perfect success of her masterpiece.

Lack of time soon compelled the young girl to interrupt the exclamations
of admiration uttered by the skilful tiring woman herself, her little
daughter, the maidservant, and the friend whom Fran Gertrude had invited
to come in as if by accident.

While following the warder’s wife through various corridors and rooms,
Eva thought of the hour in her own home before the dance at the Town
Hall, and it seemed as if not days but a whole life intervened, and she
was a different person, a complete contrast in most respects to the Eva
of that time.

Before the dance she had secretly rejoiced in the applause elicited by
her appearance; now she was indifferent to it--nay, the more eagerly the
spectators expressed their delight the more she grieved that the only
person whom she desired to please was not among them.

How easy it had been to be led to the dance, and how hard was the errand
awaiting her! Her heart shrank before the doubt awakened by the flood
of light pouring from the windows of the imperial residence; the
doubt whether her lover would not avoid her if--ah, had it only been
possible!--if he should meet her among the guests yonder; whether the
eloquent Father Ignatius, who had followed him, might not already have
won from the knight a vow compelling him to turn from her and summon all
his strength of will to forget her.

But, no! He could no more renounce his love than she hers. She would
not, dare not, let such terrible thoughts torture her now.

Heinz was far away, and the fate of her love would be decided later.
The cause of her presence here was something very different, and
the conviction that it was good, right, and certain of his approval,
dispelled the pain that had overpowered her, and raised her courage.

Unspeakably hard trials lay behind her, and harder ones must, perhaps,
yet be vanquished. But she no longer needed to fear them, for she
felt that the strength which had awakened within her after she became
conscious of her love was still sustaining and directing her, and would
enable her to govern matters which she could not help believing that she
herself would be too weak to guide to their goal. She felt freed from
her former wavering and hesitation, and as formerly in the modest house
of the Beguines, now in the stately citadel she realised that, in sorrow
and severe trial, she had learned to assert her position in life by her
own strength. Her father, whom she was to meet presently, would
find little outward change in her, but when he had perceived the
transformation wrought in the character of his helpless “little saint”
 it would please him to hear from her how wonderfully her mother’s last
prophetic words were being fulfilled.

She was emerging from the forge fire of life, steeled for every
conflict, yet those would be wrong who believed that, trusting to her
own newly won strength, she had forgotten to look heavenward. On the
contrary, never had she felt nearer to her God, her Saviour, and the
gracious Virgin. Without them she could accomplish nothing, yet for the
first time she had undertaken tasks and sought to win goals which were
worthy of beseeching them for aid. Love had taught her to be faithful
in worldly life, and she said to herself, “Better, far better I can
certainly become; but firmer faith cannot be kept.”

Wolff’s hiding place was a large, airy room, affording a view of the
Frank country, with its meadows, fields, and forests. Eva saw there
by the light of the blazing pine chips her father, sister, and
brother-in-law.

Yet the meeting between all these beloved ones after a long separation
partook more of sorrow than of joy. Els had really resolved to leave the
Eysvogel mansion, yet she met her Aunt Christine with the joyful cry: “I
shall stay! Wolff’s father and I have become good friends.”

In fact, a few hours before Herr Casper had looked at her kindly and
gratefully, and when she showed him how happy this rendered her, warmly
entreated her in a broken voice not to leave him. She had proved herself
to be his good angel, and the sight of her was the only bright spot in
his clouded life. Then she had gladly promised to stay, and intended to
keep her word. She had only accompanied her father, who had unexpectedly
returned for a short time, because she could trust the nun who shared
her nursing of the paralysed patient, and he rarely recognised his
watcher at night.

How long Els had been separated from her lover! When Eva greeted the
reunited pair they had already poured forth to each other the events
which had driven them to the verge of despair, and which now once more
permitted them with budding hope to anticipate new happiness.

Eva had little time, yet the sisters found an opportunity to confide
many things to each other, though at first their father often
interrupted them by opposing his younger daughter’s intention of going
to the Emperor as a supplicant.

The girl whose wishes but a short time ago he had refused or gratified,
according to the mood of the moment, like those of a child, had since
gained, even in his eyes, so well founded a claim to respect, she
opposed him in her courteous, modest way with such definiteness of
purpose, Biberli’s fate interested him so much, and the prospect of
seeing his daughters brought before the court was so painful, that
he admitted the force of Eva’s reasons and let her set forth on her
difficult mission accompanied by his good wishes.

Els had dropped her maternal manner; nay, she received her sister as
her superior, and began to describe her work in the hospital to Wolff in
such vivid colours that Eva laid her hand on her lips and hurried out of
the room with the exclamation, “If you insist upon our changing places,
we will stand in future side by side and shoulder to shoulder! Farewell
till after the battle!”

She could not have given much more time to her relatives under any
circumstances, for the Burgravine’s maid of honour who was to attend
her to the reception was already waiting somewhat impatiently in Frau
Gertrude’s room, and took her to the castle without delay.

The place where they were to stay was the large apartment adjoining the
dining hall.

The confidence which Eva had regained on her way to her relatives
vanished only too quickly in the neighbourhood of the sovereign and the
sight of the formal reception bestowed on all who entered. Her heart
throbbed more and more anxiously as she realised for the first time
how serious a step she had taken; nay, it was long ere she succeeded in
calming herself sufficiently to notice the clatter of the metal vessels
and the Emperor’s deep voice, which often drowned the lower tones of the
guests. Reverence for royalty was apparent everywhere.

How much quieter this banquet was than those of the princes and nobles!
The guests knew that the Emperor Rudolph disliked the boisterous manners
of the German nobility. Besides, the sovereign’s mourning exerted a
restraint upon mirth and recklessness. All avoided loud laughter, though
the monarch was fond of gaiety and heroically concealed the deep grief
of his own soul.

When the lord high steward announced to the maid of honour who had
brought Eva here that dessert was served, the latter believed that the
dreaded moment when she would be presented to the Emperor was close at
hand, but quarter of an hour after quarter of an hour passed and she
still heard the clanking of metal and the voices of the guests, which
now began to grow louder, and amidst which she sometimes distinguished
the strident tones of the court fool, Eyebolt, and the high ones of the
Countess Cordula.

Time moved at a snail’s pace, and she already fancied her heart could
no longer endure its violent throbbing, when at last--at last--the heavy
oak chairs were pushed noisily back over the stone floor of the dining
hall.

From the balcony of the audience chamber a flourish of trumpets echoed
loudly along the arches of the lofty, vaulted ceiling of the apartment,
and the Emperor, leading the company, crossed the threshold attended by
several dignitaries, the court jesters, and some pages.

His august sister, the Burgravine Elizabeth, leaned on his arm. The
papal ambassador, Doria, in the brilliant robe of a cardinal, followed,
escorting the Duchess Agnes, but he parted from her in the hall. Among
many other secular and ecclesiastical princes and dignitaries appeared
also Count von Montfort and his daughter, the old First Losunger of
Nuremberg, Berthold Vorchtel, and Herr Pfinzing with his wife.

Several guests from the city entered at the same time through another
door, among whom, robed in handsome festal garments, were Eva’s new
Swabian acquaintances. How gladly she would have hastened to them! But
a grey-haired stately man of portly figure, whose fur-trimmed cloak hung
to his ankles--Sir Arnold Maier of Silenen, led them to a part of the
hall very distant from where she was standing.

To make amends, Count von Montfort and Cordula came very near her; but
she could not greet them. Each person--she felt it--must remain in his
or her place. And the restraint became stronger as the Duchess Agnes,
giving one guest a nod, another a few words, advanced nearer and nearer,
pausing at last beside Count von Montfort.

The old huntsman advanced respectfully towards the Bohemian princess,
and Eva heard the fourteen-year-old wife ask, “Well, Count, how fares
your wish to find the right husband for your wilful daughter?”

“Of course it must be fulfilled, Duchess, since your Highness deigned to
approve it,” he answered, with his hand upon his heart.

“And may his name be known?” she queried with evident eagerness, her
dark eyes sparkling brightly and a faint flush tingeing the slight shade
of tan on her child face.

“The duty of a knight and paternal weakness unfortunately still seal my
lips,” he answered. “Your Highness knows best that a lady’s wish--even
if she is your own child--is a command.”

“You are praised as an obedient father,” replied the Bohemian with
a slight shrug of the shoulders. “Yet you probably need not conceal
whether the happy man, who is not only encouraged, but this time also
chosen by the charming huntress of many kinds of game, is numbered among
our guests.”

“Unfortunately he is denied the pleasure, your Highness,” replied the
count; but Cordula, who had noticed Eva, and had heard the Duchess
Agnes’s last words, approached her royal foe, and with a low,
reverential bow, said: “My poor heart must imagine him far away from
here amid peril and privation. Instead of breaking ladies’ hearts, he is
destroying the castles of robber knights and disturbers of the peace of
the country.”

The duchess, in silent rage, clenched her white teeth upon her quivering
lips, and was about to make an answer which would scarcely have
flattered Cordula, when the Emperor, who had left his distinguished
attendants, approached Eva, with the Burgravine still leaning on his
arm.

She did not notice it; she was vainly trying to interpret the meaning of
Cordula’s words. True, she did not know that when no messenger brought
Heinz Schorlin’s intercession for Biberli, in whose fate the countess
felt a sincere interest, she had commanded her own betrothed husband
to ride his horse to death in order to tell the master of the sorely
imperilled man what danger threatened his faithful servant, and remind
him, in her name, that gratitude was one of the virtues which beseemed a
true knight, even though the matter in question concerned only a servant
Boemund Altrosen had obeyed, and must have overtaken Heinz long ago
and probably aided him to rout the Siebenburgs and their followers.
But Cordula read the young Bohemian’s child heart, and it afforded
her special pleasure to deal her a heavy blow in the warfare they were
waging, which perhaps might aid another purpose.

The surprise and bewilderment which the countess’s answer had aroused in
Eva heightened the spell of her beauty.

Had she heard aright? Could Heinz really have sued for the countess’s
hand and been accepted? Surely, surely not! Neither was capable of such
perfidy, such breach of faith. Spite of the testimony of her own ears,
she would not believe it. But when she at last saw the Emperor’s tall
figure before her, and he gazed down at her with a kind, fatherly
glance, she answered it with her large blue eyes uplifted beseechingly,
and withal as trustilly, as if she sought to remind him that, if he only
chose to do so, his power made it possible to convert everything which
troubled and oppressed her to good.

The tearful yet bright gaze of those resistless eyes pierced the
Emperor’s very soul, and he imagined how this lovely vision of purity
and innocence, this rare creature, of whom he had heard such marvellous
things from Herr Pfinzing during their ride through the forest, would
have fired the heart of his eighteen-year-old son, so sensitive to every
impression, whom death had snatched from him so suddenly. And whilst
remembering Hartmann, he also thought of his dead son’s most loyal and
dearest friend, Heinz Schorlin, who was again showing such prowess in
his service, and had earned a right to recognition and reward.

He did not know his young favourite’s present state of mind concerning
his desire for a monastic life, but he had probably become aware that
his swiftly kindled, ardent love for yonder lovely child had led him
into an act of culpable imprudence. Besides, that very day many things
had reached his ears concerning these two who suited each other as
perfectly as Heinz Schorlin seemed--even to the Hapsburg, who was
loyally devoted to the Holy Church--unfit for a religious life.

The Emperor could do much to further the union of this pair, yet he too
was obliged to exercise caution. If he joined them in wedlock as though
they were his own children he might be sure of causing loud complaints
from the priesthood, and especially the Dominicans, who were very
influential at the court of Rome--nay, he must be prepared for
opposition directed against himself as well as the young pair. The prior
of the order had already complained to the nuncio of the lukewarmness
of the Superior of the Sisters of St. Clare, who idly witnessed the
estrangement from the Church of the soul of a maiden belonging to a
distinguished family; and Doria had told the sovereign of this provoking
matter, and expressed the prior’s hope that Sir Heinz Schorlin, who
enjoyed the monarch’s favour, would be won for the monastic life.
Opposition to this marriage, which he approved, and therefore desired to
favour, was also to be expected from another quarter. Therefore he must
act with the utmost caution, and in a manner which his antagonists could
not oppose.

At this reflection a peculiar smile, familiar to the courtiers as an
omen of a gracious impulse, hovered around his lips, which during the
past month had usually revealed by their expression the grief that
burdened his soul and, raising his long forefinger in playful menace, he
began:

“Aha, Jungfrau Eva Ortlieb! What have you been doing since I had the
boon of meeting so rare a beauty at the dance? Do you know that you have
caused a turmoil amongst both ecclesiastical and secular authorities,
and that many a precious hour has been shortened for me on your account?
You have disturbed both the austere Dominican Fathers and the devout
Sisters of St. Clare. The former think the gentle nuns treat you too
indulgently, and the latter charge the zealous followers of St. Domingo
with too much strictness concerning you.

“And, besides, if you were not so well aware of it yourself, you would
scarcely believe it: for the sake of an insignificant serving man, who
is under your special protection, I, who carry the burden of so many
serious and weighty affairs, am beset by those of high and low degree.
How much, too, I have also suffered on account of his master, Sir Heinz
Schorlin--again in connection with you, you lovely disturber of the
peace! To say nothing of the rest, your own father brings a charge
against him. The accusation is made in a letter which Meister Gottlieb,
our protonotary, was to withhold by Herr Ortlieb’s desire, but through a
welcome accident it fell into my hands. This letter contains statements,
my lovely child, which I--Nay, don’t be troubled; the roses on your
cheeks are glowing enough already, and for their sake I will not
mention its contents; only they force me to ask the question--come
nearer--whether, though it caused you great annoyance that a certain
young Swiss knight forced his way into your father’s house under cover
of the darkness, you do not hope with me, the more experienced friend,
that this foolhardy fellow, misguided by ardent love, with the aid of
the saints to whom he is beginning to turn, may be converted to greater
caution and praiseworthy virtue? Whether, in your great charity--which I
have heard so highly praised--you would be capable”--Here he paused and,
lowering his voice to a whisper, added:

“Do me the favour to lend your ear--what a well-formed little thing
it is!--a short time longer, to confide to the elderly man who feels
a father’s affection for you whether you would be wholly reluctant to
attempt the reformation of the daring evil-doer yourself were he to
offer, not only his heart, but the little ring with--I will guarantee
it--his honourable, knightly hand?”

“Oh, your Majesty!” cried Eva, gazing at the gracious sovereign with an
expression of such imploring entreaty in her large, tearful blue eyes
that, as if regretting his hasty question, he added soothingly:

“Well, well, we will reach the goal, I think, at a slower pace. Such a
confession will probably flow more easily from the lips when sought
by the person for whom it means happiness or despair, than when a
stranger--even one as old and friendly as I--seeks to draw it from a
modest maiden.”

Here he paused; he had just recognised Lady Wendula Schorlin. Waving his
hand to her in joyous greeting, he ordered a page to conduct her to him
and, again turning to Eva, said: “Look yonder, my beautiful child: there
is someone in whom you would confide more willingly than in me. I think
Sir Heinz’s mother, who is worthy of all reverence and love--”

Here surprise and joy forced from Eva’s lips the question, “His mother?”
 and there was such amazement in the tone that, as the Lady Wendula,
bowing low, approached the Emperor, after exchanging the first greetings
which pass between old friends who have been long separated, he asked
how it happened that though Eva seemed to have already met the matron,
she heard with such surprise that she was the mother of his brave
favourite.

Lady Wendula then confessed the name she had given herself, that she
might study the young girl without being known; and again that peculiar
smile flitted across the Emperor Rudolph’s beardless face, and lingered
there, as he asked the widow of his dead companion in arms whether,
after such an examination, she believed she had found the right wife for
her son; and she replied that a long life would not give her time enough
to thank Heaven sufficiently for such a daughter.

The maiden who was the subject of this whispering, whose purport only a
loving glance from the Lady Wendula revealed, pressed her hand upon her
heart, whose impetuous throbbing stifled her breath. Oh, how gladly she
would have hastened to the mother of the man she loved and his young
sister, who stood at a modest distance, to clasp them in her arms,
and confide to them what seemed too great, too much, too beautiful for
herself alone, yet which might crumble at a single word from her lover’s
lips like an undermined tower swept away by the wind! But she was forced
to have patience, and submit to whatever might yet be allotted to her.

Nor was she to lack agitating experiences, for the Emperor’s murmured
question whether she desired to hear herself called “daughter” by this
admirable lady had scarcely called forth an answer, which, though mute,
revealed the state of her heart eloquently enough, than he added in a
louder tone, though doubtfully: “Then, so far, all would be well; but,
fair maiden, my young friend, unfortunately, was by no means satisfied,
if I heard aright, with knocking at the door of a single heart. Things
have reached my ears--But this, too, must be----”

Here he suddenly paused, for already during this conversation with
the ladies there had been a noise at the door of the hall, and now the
person whom the Emperor had just accused entered, closely followed by
the chamberlain, Count Ebenhofen, whose face was deeply flushed from his
vain attempts to keep Sir Heinz Schorlin back.

Heinz’s cheeks were also glowing from his struggle with the courtier,
who considered it a grave offence that a knight should dare to appear
before the Emperor at a peaceful social assembly clad in full armour.

His appearance created a joyful stir among the other members of the
court--nay, in spite of the sovereign’s presence, cordial expressions of
welcome fell from the lips of ladies and nobles. The Bohemian princess
alone cast an angry glance at the blue ribbon which adorned the helmet
of the returning knight; for “blue” was Countess von Montfort’s colour,
and “rose red” her own.

The ecclesiastics whom Heinz passed whispered eagerly together. The
Duchess Agnes’s confessor, an elderly Dominican of tall stature, was
listening to the provost of St. Sebald’s, a grey-haired man a head
shorter than he, of dignified yet kindly aspect, who, looking keenly at
Heinz, remarked: “I fear that your prior hopes too confidently to win
yonder young knight. No one walks with that bearing who is on the eve of
renouncing the world. A splendid fellow!”

“To whom armour is better suited than the cowl,” observed the Bishop of
Bamberg, a middleaged prelate of aristocratic appearance, approaching
the others. “Your prior, my dear brothers, would have little pleasure,
I think, in the fish he is so eagerly trying to drag from the Minorite’s
net into his own. He would leap ashore again all too quickly. He is not
fit for the monastery. He would do better for a priest, and I would bid
him welcome as a military brother in office.”

“Bold enough he certainly is,” added the Dominican. “I would not
advise every one to enter the Emperor’s presence and this distinguished
gathering in such attire.”

In fact, Heinz showed plainly that he had come directly from the
battlefield and the saddle, for a suit of stout chain armour, which
covered the greater part of his tolerably long tunic, encased his limbs,
and even the helmet which he bore on his arm, spite of the blue ribbon
that adorned it, was by no means one of the delicate, costly ones worn
in the tournament. Besides, many a bruise showed that hard blows and
thrusts had been dealt him.



CHAPTER XVIII.

At Heinz Schorlin’s quarters the day before his young hostess, Frau
Barbel, had had the costly armour entrusted to her care, and the
trappings belonging to it, cleaned and put in order, but her labour
was vain; for Heinz Schorlin had ridden directly to the fortress from
Schweinau, without stopping at his lodgings in the city.

Only a short time before he had learned that his two messengers had been
captured and failed to reach their destination. He owed this information
to Sir Boemund Altrosen--and many another piece of news which Cordula
had given him.

The main portion of Heinz Schorlin’s task was completed when the
countess’s ambassador reached him, so he set out on his homeward way
at once, and this time his silent friend had been eloquent and told him
everything which had occurred during his absence.

He now knew that Boemund and Cordula had plighted their troth, what the
faithful Biberli had done and suffered for him, and lastly--even to the
minutest detail--the wonderful transformation in Eva.

When he had ridden forth he had hoped to learn to renounce her whom he
loved with all the might of his fervid soul, and to bring himself to
close his career as a soldier with this successful campaign; but whilst
he destroyed castles and attacked the foe, former wishes were stilled,
and a new desire and new convictions took their place. He could not give
up the profession of arms, which all who bore the name of Schorlin had
practised from time immemorial, and to resign the love which united
him to Eva was impossible. She must become his, though she resembled
an April day, and Biberli’s tales of the danger which threatened the
husband from a sleep-walking wife returned more than once to his memory.

Yet what beautiful April days he had experienced, and though Eva might
have many faults, the devout child, with her angel beauty, certainly did
not lack the will to do what was right and pleasing to God. When she was
once his she should become so good that even his mother at home would
approve his choice.

He had wholly renounced the idea of going into the monastery. The
Minorite Ignatius, whom Father Benedictus had sent after him that he
might finish the work which the latter had begun, was a man who lacked
neither intellect nor eloquence; but he did not possess the fiery
enthusiasm and aristocratic confidence of the dead man. Yet when the
zealous monks, whom the prior of the Dominicans had despatched to
complete Heinz’s conversion, opposed him, the former entered into such
sharp and angry arguments with them that the young knight, who witnessed
more than one of their quarrels, startled and repelled, soon held aloof
from all three and told them that he had resolved to remain in the
world, and his onerous office gave him no time to listen to their
well-meant admonitions.

He was not created for the monastery. If Heaven had vouchsafed him a
miracle, it was done to preserve his life that--as Eva desired--he might
fight to the last drop of his blood for the Church, his holy faith, and
the beloved Emperor. But if he remained in the world, Eva would do the
same; they belonged to each other inseparably. Why, he could not have
explained, but the voice which constantly reiterated it could not lie.

After he had slain Seitz Siebenburg in the sword combat, and destroyed
his brother’s castle, his resolve to woo Eva became absolutely fixed.

His heart dictated this, but honour, too, commanded him to restore to
the maiden and her sister the fair fame which his passionate impetuosity
had injured.

During the rapid ride which he and Boemund Altrosen took to Nuremberg
he had stopped at Schweinau hospital, and found in Biberli, Eva’s former
enemy, her most enthusiastic panegyrist. Heinz also heard from him how
quickly she had won the hearts of his mother and Maria, and that he
would find all three at the fortress.

Lastly, Sister Hildegard had informed him of the great peril threatening
his beloved faithful servant and companion, “old Biber,” which had led
Eva there to appeal to the Emperor.

Beside the body of Father Benedictus he learned how beautiful had been
the death of the old man who had so honestly striven to lead him into
the path which he believed was the right one for him to tread. In a
brief prayer beside his devout friend Heinz expressed his gratitude, and
called upon him to witness that, even in the world, he would not forget
the shortness of this earthly pilgrimage, but would also provide for
the other life which endured forever. True, Heinz had but a few short
moments to devote to this farewell, the cause of the faithful follower
who, unasked, had unselfishly endured unutterable tortures for him, took
precedence of everything else and would permit no delay.

When the knight, with his figure drawn up to its full height, strode
hastily into the royal hall, he beheld with joyful emotion those who
were most dear to him, for whose presence he had longed most fervently
during the ride--his mother, Eva, his sister, and the imperial friend he
loved so warmly.

Overwhelmed by agitation, he flung himself on his knees before his
master, kissing his hand and his robe, but the Emperor ordered him to
rise and cordially greeted him.

Before speaking to his relatives, Heinz informed the monarch that he
had successfully executed his commission and, receiving a few words of
thanks and appreciation, modestly but with urgent warmth entreated the
Emperor, if he was satisfied with his work, instead of any other reward,
to save from further persecution the faithful servant who for his sake
had borne the most terrible torture.

The face of the sovereign, who had welcomed Heinz as if he were a
long-absent son, assumed a graver expression, and his tone seemed to
vibrate with a slight touch of indignation, as he exclaimed: “First, let
us settle your own affairs. Serious charges have been made against you,
my son, as well as against your servant, on whose account I have been so
tormented. A father, who is one of the leading men in this city, accuses
you of having destroyed his daughter’s good name by forcing yourself
into his house after assuring his child of your love.”

Heinz turned to Eva, to protest that he was here to atone for the wrong
he had done her, but the Emperor would not permit him to speak. It was
important to silence at once any objection which could be made against
the marriage by ecclesiastical and secular foes; therefore, eagerly as
he desired to enjoy the happiness of the young pair, he forced himself
to maintain the expression of grave dissatisfaction which he had
assumed, and ordered a page to summon the imperial magistrate, the First
Losunger of the city, and his protonotary, who were all amongst the
guests, and, lastly, the Duchess Agnes.

He could read the latter’s child eyes like the clear characters of
a book, and neither the radiant glow on her face at Heinz Schorlin’s
entrance nor her hostile glance at the Countess von Montfort had escaped
his notice. Both her affection and her jealous resentment should serve
him.

The young Bohemian now thought herself certain that Heinz Schorlin, and
no other, was Cordula’s chosen knight; the countess, at his entrance,
had exclaimed to her father loudly enough, “Here he is again!”

When the princess stood before the Emperor, with the gentlemen whom he
had summoned, he asked her to decide the important question.

“Yonder knight--he motioned towards Heinz--had been guilty of an act
which could scarcely be justified. Though he had wooed the daughter of a
noble Nuremberg family, and even forced his way into her father’s house,
he had apparently forgotten the poor girl.

“And,” cried the young wife indignantly, “the unprincipled man has
not only made a declaration of love to another, but formally asked her
hand.”

“That would seem like him,” said the Emperor. “But we must not close our
ears to the charge of the Nuremberg Honourable. His daughter, a lovely,
modest maiden of excellent repute, has been seriously injured by
Heinz Schorlin, and so I beg you, child, to tell us, with the keen
appreciation of the rights and duties of a lady which is peculiar to
you, what sentence, in your opinion, should be imposed upon Sir Heinz
Schorlin to atone for the wrong he has done to the young Nuremberg
maiden.”

He beckoned to the protonotary, as he spoke, to command him to show
Ernst Ortlieb’s accusation to the duchess, but she seemed to have
practised the art of reading admirably; for, more quickly than it would
otherwise have appeared possible to grasp the meaning of even the first
sentences, she exclaimed, drawing herself up to her full height and
gazing at Cordula with haughty superiority: “There is but one decision
here, if the morality of this noble city is to be preserved and the
maiden daughters of her patrician families secured henceforward from the
misfortune of being a plaything for the wanton levity of reckless heart
breakers. But this decision, on which I firmly and resolutely insist, as
lady and princess, in the name of my whole sex and of all knightly men
who, with me, prize the reverence and inviolable fidelity due a lady,
is: Sir Heinz Schorlin must ask the honourable gentleman who, with
full justice, brought this complaint to your imperial Majesty, for his
daughter’s hand and, if the sorely injured maiden vouchsafes to accept
it, lead her to the marriage altar before God and the world.”

“Spoken according to the feelings of my own heart,” replied the Emperor
and, turning to the citizens of Nuremberg, he added: “So I ask you,
gentlemen, who are familiar with the laws and customs of this good
city and direct the administration of her justice, will such a marriage
remove the complaint made against Sir Heinz Schorlin and his servant?”

“It will,” replied old Herr Berthold Vorchtel, gravely and firmly.

Herr Pfinzing also assented, it is true, but added earnestly that an
unfortunate meeting had caused another to suffer even more severely
than Eva from the knight’s imprudence. This was her older sister, the
betrothed bride of young Eysvogel. For her sake, as well as to make the
bond between Sir Heinz Schorlin and the younger Jungfrau Ortlieb valid,
the father’s consent was necessary. If his imperial Majesty desired
to bring to a beautiful end, that very day, the gracious work so
auspiciously commenced there was no obstacle in the way, for Ernst
Ortlieb was at the von Zollern Castle with the daughter who had been so
basely slandered.

The Emperor asked in surprise how they came there, and then ordered
Eva’s father and sister to be brought to him. He was eager to make the
acquaintance of the second beautiful E.

“And Wolff Eysvogel?” asked the magistrate.

“We agreed to release him after we had turned our back on Nuremberg,”
 replied the sovereign. “Much as we have heard in praise of this young
man, gladly as we have shown him how gratefully we prize the blood a
brave man shed for us upon the Marchfield, no change can be made in
what, by virtue of our imperial word----”

“Certainly not, little brother,” interrupted the court fool, Eyebolt,
“but for that very reason you must open the Eysvogel’s cage as quickly
as possible and let him fly hither, for on the ride to the beekeeper’s
you crossed in your own seven-foot tall body the limits of this good
city, whose length does not greatly surpass it--your imperial person, I
mean. So you as certainly turned your back upon it as you stand in front
of things which lie behind you. And as an emperor’s word cannot have
as much added or subtracted as a fly carries off on its tail, if it
has one, you, little brother, are obliged and bound to have the strange
monster, which is at once a wolf and a bird, immediately released and
summoned hither.”

“Not amiss,” laughed the Emperor, “if the boundaries of Nuremberg saw
our back for even so brief a space as it needs to make a wise man a
fool.

“We will follow your counsel, Eyebolt.--Herr Pfinzing, tell young
Eysvogel that the Emperor’s pardon has ended his punishment. The breach
of the country’s peace may be forgiven the man who so heroically aided
the battle for peace.”

Then turning to Meister Gottlieb, the protonotary, he whispered so low
that he alone could hear the command, that he should commit to paper a
form of words which would give the bond between Heinz Schorlin and Eva
Ortlieb sufficient legal power to resist both secular authority and that
of the Dominicans and Sisters of St. Clare.

During this conference court etiquette had prevented the company from
exchanging any remarks. Whatever one person might desire to say to
another he was forced to entrust to the mute language of the eyes, and
a sportive impulse induced Emperor Rudolph to maintain the spell which
held apart those who were most strongly attracted to each other.

Meantime, whilst he was talking with the protonotary, the bolder guests
ventured to move about more freely, and of them all Cordula imposed the
least restraint upon herself.

Ere Heinz had found time to address a word to Eva or to greet his mother
she glided swiftly to his side and, with an angry expression on her
face, whispered: “If Heaven bestowed the greatest happiness upon the
most deserving, you must be the most favoured of mortals, for a more
exquisite masterpiece than your future wife--I know her--was never
created. But now open your ears and follow my advice: Do not reveal the
state of your heart until you have left the castle so far behind that
you are out of sight of the Bohemian princess, or your ship of happiness
may be wrecked within sight of port.”

Then, with a well-assumed air of indignation, she abruptly turned her
back upon him.

After moving away, she intentionally remained standing near the duchess,
with drooping head. The latter hastily approached her, saying with
admirably simulated earnestness: “You, Countess, will probably be the
last to refuse your approval of my interference against our knightly
butterfly and in behalf of the poor inexperienced girl, his victim.”

“If that is your Highness’s opinion,” replied Cordula, shrugging her
shoulders as if it were necessary to submit to the inevitable, “for my
part I fear your kind solicitude may send me behind convent walls.”

“Countess von Montfort a nun!” cried the child wife, laughing. “If it
were Sir Heinz Schorlin to whom you just alluded, you, too, are among
the deluded ones whom we must pity, yet with prudent foresight you
provided compensation long ago. Instead of burying yourself in a
convent, you, whom so many desire, would do better to beckon to one of
your admirers and bestow on him the happiness of which the other was not
worthy.”

Cordula fixed her eyes thoughtfully on the floor a short time, then,
as if the advice had met with her approval, exclaimed: “Your Royal
Highness’s mature wisdom has found the right expedient this time also.
I am not fit for the veil. Perhaps you may hear news of me to-morrow.
By that time my choice will be determined. What would you say to the
dark-haired Altrosen?”

“A brave champion!” replied the Bohemian, and this time the laugh which
accompanied her words came from the heart. “Try him, in the name of all
the saints! But look at Sir Heinz Schorlin! A gloomy face for a happy
man! He does not seem quite pleased with our verdict.”

She beckoned, as she spoke, to her chamberlain and the high steward,
took leave of her imperial father-in-law and, with her pretty little
head flung proudly back, rustled out of the hall.

Soon after Herr Pfinzing ushered Ernst Ortlieb, his daughter, and Wolff
into the presence of the sovereign, who gazed as if restored to youth
at the handsome couple whose weal or woe was in his hands. This
consciousness afforded him one of the moments when he gratefully felt
the full beauty and dignity of his responsible position.

With friendly words he restored Wolff’s liberty, and expressed the
expectation that, with such a companion, he would raise the noble house
of his ancestors to fresh prosperity.

When he at last turned to Heinz again he asked in a low tone: “Do you
know what this day means to me?”

“Nineteen years ago it gave you poor Hartmann,” replied the knight, his
downcast eyes resting sadly on the floor.

The kind-hearted sovereign nodded significantly, and said, “Then it must
benefit those who, so long as he lives, may expect his father’s favour.”

He gazed thoughtfully into vacancy and, faithful to his habit of fixing
his eye on a goal, often distant, and then carefully carrying out the
details which were to ensure success, ere he turned to the next one, he
summoned the imperial magistrate and the First Losunger to his side.

After disclosing to them his desire to allow the judges to decide and,
should the verdict go against Biberli, release him from punishment by
a pardon, both undertook to justify the absence of the accused from
the trial. The wise caution with which the Emperor Rudolph avoided
interfering with the rights of the Honourable Council afforded old Herr
Berthold Vorchtel great satisfaction. Both he and the magistrate, sure
of the result, could promise that this affair, which had aroused so
much excitement, especially among the artisans, would be ended by the
marriage of the two Ortlieb sisters and the payment of the blood money
to the wounded tailor. Any new complaint concerning them would then be
lawfully rejected by both court and magistrate.

Never had Heinz thanked his imperial benefactor more warmly for
any gift, but though the Emperor received his gallant favourite’s
expressions of gratitude and appreciation kindly, he did not yet permit
him to enjoy his new happiness.

There were still some things which must be decided, and for the third
time his peculiar smile showed the initiated that he was planning some
pleasant surprise for those whom it concerned.

The mention of the blood money which Herr Ernst Ortlieb owed the
slandering tailor, who had not yet recovered from his wound, induced the
Emperor to look at the father of the beautiful sisters.

He knew that Herr Ernst had also lost a valiant son in the battle of
Marchfield, and Eva’s father had been described as an excellent man, but
one with whom it was difficult to deal. Now, spite of the new happiness
of his children, the sovereign saw him glance gloomily, as if some
wrong had been done him, from his daughters to Heinz, and then to Lady
Schorlin and Maria, to whom he had not yet been presented. He doubtless
felt that the Emperor had treated him and his family with rare
graciousness, and was entitled to their warmest gratitude yet, as a
father and a member of the proud and independent Honourable Council
of the free imperial city of Nuremberg, he considered his rights
infringed--nay, it had cost him a severe struggle not to protest against
such arbitrary measures. He had his paternal rights even here--Els and
Eva were not parentless orphans.

The noble monarch and shrewd judge of human nature perceived what was
passing in the Nuremberg merchant’s mind, but the pleasant smile still
rested on his lips as, with a glance at the ill-humoured Honourable, he
exclaimed to his future son-in-law: “I have just remembered something,
Heinz, which might somewhat cool your warm expressions of gratitude.
Yonder lovely child consented to become yours, it is true, but that does
not mean very much, for it was done without the consent of her father,
by which the compact first obtains signature and seal. Herr Ernst
Ortlieb, however, seems to be in no happy mood. Only look at him! He is
certainly mutely accusing me of vexatious interference with his paternal
rights, and yet he may be sure that I feel a special regard for him. His
son’s blood, which flowed for his Emperor’s cause, gives him a peculiar
claim upon our consideration, and we therefore devoted particular
attention to his complaint. In this he now demands, my son, that you
restore to him, Herr Ernst Ortlieb, the two hundred silver marks which
are awarded to the tailor as blood money and he must pay to the injured
artisan. The prudent business man can scarcely be blamed for making this
claim, for the wound he inflicted upon the ill-advised tradesman who
so basely, insulted those dearest to him would certainly not have been
dealt had not your insolent intrusion into the Ortlieb mansion unchained
evil tongues. So, Heinz, you caused his hasty act, and therefor, are
justly bound to answer for the consequence; If he brings the accusation,
the judges will condemn you to pay the sum. I therefore ask whether you
have it ready.”

Here Herr Ernst attempted to explain that, in the present state of
affairs, there could be no further mention of a payment which was only,
intended to punish the disturber of his domestic peace more severely;
but the Emperor stopper him and bade Heinz speak.

The latter gazed in embarrassment at the helmet he held in his hand, and
had not yet found; fitting answer when the Emperor cried: “What am I
to think? Was the Duke of Pomerani; wrong when he told me of a heap of
gold----”

“No, Your Majesty,” Heinz here interrupter without raising his eyes.
“What was left of the money would have more than sufficed to cover the
sum required----”

“I thought so!” exclaimed the sovereign with out letting him finish;
“for a young knight who like a great lord, bestows a fine estate upon
the pious Franciscans, certainly need only command his treasurer to open
the strong box----”

“You are mocking me, Your Majesty,” Heinz quietly interposed. “You are
doubtless well aware whence the golden curse came to me. I thrust it
aside like noxious poison, and if I am reluctant to use it to buy, as it
were, what is dearest and most sacred to me, indeed it does not spring
from parsimony, for I had resolved to offer the two remaining purses to
the devout Sisters of St. Clare and the zealous Minorite Brothers, one
of the best of whom laboured earnestly for the salvation of my soul.”

“That is right, my son,” fell from the Emperor’s lips in a tone of warm
approval. “If the gold benefits the holy poverty of these pious Brothers
and Sisters, the devil’s gift may easily be transformed into a divine
blessing. You both--” he gazed affectionately at Heinz and Eva as
he spoke--“have, as it were, deserted the cloister, and owe it
compensation. But your depriving yourself of your golden treasure,
my friend--for two hundred silver marks are no trifle to a young
knight--puts so different a face upon this matter that--that----” Here
he lowered his voice and continued with affectionate mirthfulness--“that
a friend must determine to do what he can for him. True, my gallant
Heinz, I see that your future father-in-law, the other Nuremberg
Honourables, and even your mother, are ready to pay the sum; but he who
is most indebted to you holds fast this privilege, and that man am I,
my brave champion! What you did for your Emperor and his best work, the
peace of the country, deserves a rich reward and, thanks to the saints,
I have something which will discharge my debt. The Swabian fief of
Reichenbach became vacant. It has a strong citadel, from which we
command you to maintain the peace of the country and overthrow robber
knights. This fief shall be yours. You can enjoy it with your dear wife.
It must belong to your children and children’s children forever; for
that a Schorlin should be born who would be unworthy of such a fief and
faithless to his lord and Emperor seems to me impossible. Three villages
and broad forests, with fields and meadows, pertain to the estate. As
lord of Reichenbach, it will be easy for you to pay the blood money, if
your father-in-law is not too importunate a creditor.”

The latter certainly would not be that, and it cost Ernst Ortlieb no
effort to bend the knee gratefully before the kindly monarch.

The Emperor Rudolph accepted the homage, but he clasped the young lord
of Reichenbach to his heart like a beloved son, and as he placed Eva’s
hand in his, and she raised her beautiful face to him, he stooped and
kissed her with fatherly kindness.

When Wolff entreated him to bless his alliance in the place of his
suffering father, he did so gladly; and Els also willingly offered him
her lips; when he requested the same favour her sister had granted him,
that he might boast of the kisses bestowed on him by the two beautiful
Es, Nuremberg’s fairest maidens.



CHAPTER XIX.

Heinz heeded Cordula’s warning. In the royal hall every one would have
been justified in believing him a very cool lover, but during the walk
with Eva to the lodgings of his cousin Maier of Silenen, where the
Schurlins, Ortliebs, Wolff, and Herr Pfinzing and his wife were to meet
to celebrate the betrothal, the moon, whose increasing crescent was
again in the sky, beheld many things which gave her pleasure.

The priest soon united Heinz and Eva, but the celestial pilgrim
willingly resigned the power formerly exerted over the maiden to the
husband, who clasped her to his heart with tender love.

Luna was satisfied with Wolff and Els also. She afterwards watched
the fate of both couples in Swabia and Nuremberg, and when the showy
escutcheon was removed from the Eysvogel mansion, and a more modest one
put in its place, she was gratified.

She soon saw that a change had also been made in the one above the door
of the Ortlieb house, for the Ortlieb coat of arms, in accordance with
the family name, had borne the figure of a cat, the animal which loves
the place,--[Ort, place.]--the house to which it belongs, but on the
wedding day of the two beautiful Es the Emperor Rudolph had commanded
that, in perpetual remembrance of its two loveliest daughters, the
Ortliebs should henceforward bear on their escutcheon two linden leaves
under tendrils, the symbol of loyal steadfastness.

When, a few months after Wolff’s union with his heart’s beloved, the
coffin of old Countess Rotterbach, adorned with a handsome coronet upon
the costly pall, was borne out of the house at the quiet evening hour,
she thought there was no cause to mourn.

On the other hand, she grieved when, for a long time, she did not see
old Casper Eysvogel, whose tall figure she had formerly watched with
pleasure when, at a late hour, he returned from some banquet, his
bearing erect, and his step as firm as if wine could not get the better
of him. But suddenly one warm September noon, when her pale, waxing
crescent was plainly visible in the blue sky by daylight, she beheld
him again. He was less erect than before, but he seemed content with
his fate; for, as a cooler breeze waved the light cobwebs in the little
garden, into which he had been led, his daughter-in-law Els with loving
care wrapped his feet in the rug which she had embroidered for him with
the Eysvogel coat of arms, and he gratefully kissed her brow.

It was fully ten years later that Luna saw him also borne to the grave.
Frau Rosalinde, his son, and his beautiful wife followed his coffin
with sincere sorrow. The three gifted children whom Els had given to her
Wolff remained standing in front of the house with Frau Rickel, their
nurse. The carrier’s widow, who had long since regained her health in
the Beguine House at Schweinau, had been taken into Frau Eysvogel’s
service. Her little adopted daughter Walpurga, scarcely seventeen years
old, had just been married to the Ortlieb teamster Ortel. The moon heard
the nurse tell what a pleasant, quiet man Herr Casper had been, and how,
away from his own business affairs and those of the Council, his sole
effort had seemed to be to interfere with no one.

The moon had forgotten to look at Frau Rosalinde. Besides, after her
mother’s death she was rarely seen even by the members of her own
household, but when Els desired to seek her she was sure of finding her
with the children. The parents willingly afforded her the pleasure she
derived from the companionship of the little ones, but they were often
obliged to oppose her wish to dress her grandchildren magnificently.

Frau Rosalinde rarely saw the twin sons of her daughter Isabella,
who took the veil after her husband’s death to pray for his sorely
imperilled soul.

The Knight Heideck, the uncle and faithful teacher of the boys, was
unwilling to let them go to the city. He ruled them strictly until
they had proved that Countess Cordula’s wish had been fulfilled and,
resembling their unfortunate father only in figure and beauty, strength
and courage, they had grown into valiant, honourable knights.

Wolff justified the expectations of Berthold Vorchtel and the Honourable
Council concerning his excellent ability. When, eight years after he
undertook the sole guidance of the business, the Reichstag again met
in Nuremberg, it was the house of Eysvogel which could make the largest
loan to the Emperor Rudolph, who often lacked necessary funds.

At the Reichstag of the year 1289, whose memory is shadowed by many a
sorrowful incident, most of the persons mentioned in our story met once
more.

Countess Cordula, now the happy wife of Sir Boemund Altrosen, had also
come and again lodged in the Ortlieb house. But this time the only
person whose homage pleased her was the grey-haired, but still vigorous
and somewhat irascible Herr Ernst Ortlieb.

The Abbess Kunigunde alone was absent. When, after many an arduous
conflict, especially with the Dominicans, who did not cease to accuse
her of lukewarmness, she felt death approaching, she had summoned her
darling Eva from Swabia, and the young wife’s husband, who never left
her save when he was wielding his sword for the Emperor, willingly
accompanied her to Nuremberg.

With Eva’s hand clasped in hers, and supported by Els, the abbess died
peacefully, rich in beautiful hopes. How often she had described such
an end to her pupil as the fairest reward for the sacrifices in which
convent life was so rich! But the memory of her mother’s decease had
brought to Eva, while in Schweinau, the firm conviction that dwellers in
the world were also permitted to find a similar end. The Saviour Himself
had promised the crown of eternal life to those who were faithful unto
death, and she and her husband maintained inviolable fidelity to the
Saviour, to each other, and to every duty which religion, law, and love
commanded them to fulfil. Therefore, why should they not be permitted to
die as happily and confidently as her aunt, the abbess?

Her life was rich in happiness, and though Heinz Schorlin as a husband
and father, as the brave and loyal liegeman of his Emperor, and the
prudent manager of his estate, regained his former light-heartedness,
and taught his wife to share it, both never forgot the painful conflict
by which they had won each other.

When Eva passed the village forge and saw the smith draw the glowing
iron from the fire and, with heavy hammer strokes, fashion it upon the
anvil as he desired, she often remembered the grievous days after her
mother’s death, which had made the “little saint”--she did not admit it
herself, but the whole Swabian nobility agreed in the opinion--the most
faithful of wives and mothers, the Providence of the poor, the zealous
promoter of goodness, the most simply attired of noblewomen far and
near, yet the most aristocratic and distinguished in her appearance of
them all.

Hand in hand with her husband she devoted the most faithful care
to their children, and if Biberli, the castellan of the castle, and
Katterle his wife, who had remained childless, were too ready to read
the wishes of their darlings in their eyes, she exclaimed warningly to
the loyal old friend, “The fire of the forge!” He and Katterle knew what
she meant, for the ex-schoolmaster had explained it in the best possible
way to his docile wife.


     ETEXT EDITOR’S BOOKMARKS:

     Abandoned women (required by law to help put out the fires)
     Deem every hour that he was permitted to breathe as a gift
     False praise, he says, weighs more heavily than disgrace
     His sole effort had seemed to be to interfere with no one
     No virtue which can be owned like a house or a steed
     Retreat behind the high-sounding words “justice and law”
      Shipwrecked on the cliffs of ‘better’ and ‘best’
     Strongest of all educational powers--sorrow and love
     The heart must not be filled by another’s image
     Usually found the worst wine in the taverns with showy signs
     Welcome a small evil when it barred the way to a greater one





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