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Title: In The Fire Of The Forge, Volume 4.

Author: Georg Ebers

Release Date: April, 2004  [EBook #5546]
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[This file was first posted on July 26, 2002]

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[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
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IN THE FIRE OF THE FORGE

A ROMANCE OF OLD NUREMBERG

By Georg Ebers

Volume 4.



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.




ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Deem every hour that he was permitted to breathe as a gift





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