Part 3 out of 6
softened for a few moments at the birth of the children, with
satisfaction at obtaining twice as much as she had hoped; but the
frustration of her vengeance upon Kasimir of Adlerstein Wildschloss
had renewed all her hatred, and she had no scruple in abusing "the
burgher-woman" to the whole household for her artful desire to
captivate another nobleman. She, no doubt, expected that degenerate
fool of a Wildschlosser to come wooing after her; "if he did he
should meet his deserts." It was the favourite reproach whenever she
chose to vent her fury on the mute, blushing, weeping young widow,
whose glance at her babies was her only appeal against the cruel
On Midsummer eve, Heinz the Schneiderlein, who had all day been
taking toll from the various attendants at the Friedmund Wake, came
up and knocked at the door. He had a bundle over his shoulder and a
bag in his hand, which last he offered to her.
"The toll! It is for the Lady Baroness."
"You are my Lady Baroness. I levy toll for this my young lord."
"Take it to her, good Heinz, she must have the charge, and needless
strife I will not breed."
The angry notes of Dame Kunigunde came up: "How now, knave
Schneiderlein! Come down with the toll instantly. It shall not be
tampered with! Down, I say, thou thief of a tailor."
"Go; prithee go, vex her not," entreated Christina.
"Coming, lady!" shouted Heinz, and, disregarding all further
objurgations from beneath, he proceeded to deposit his bundle, and
explain that it had been entrusted to him by a pedlar from Ulm, who
would likewise take charge of anything she might have to send in
return, and he then ran down just in time to prevent a domiciliary
visit from the old lady.
From Ulm! The very sound was joy; and Christina with trembling hands
unfastened the cords and stitches that secured the canvas covering,
within which lay folds on folds of linen, and in the midst a rich
silver goblet, long ago brought by her father from Italy, a few of
her own possessions, and a letter from her uncle secured with black
floss silk, with a black seal.
She kissed it with transport, but the contents were somewhat chilling
by their grave formality. The opening address to the "honour-worthy
Lady Baroness and love-worthy niece," conveyed to her a doubt on good
Master Gottfried's part whether she were still truly worthy of love
or honour. The slaughter at Jacob Muller's had been already known to
him, and he expressed himself as relieved, but greatly amazed, at the
information he had received from the Baron of Adlerstein Wildschloss,
who had visited him at Ulm, after having verified what had been
alleged at Schloss Adlerstein by application to the friar at
Freiherr von Adlerstein Wildschloss had further requested him to make
known that, feud-briefs having regularly passed between Schlangenwald
and Adlerstein, and the two Barons not having been within the peace
of the empire, no justice could be exacted for their deaths; yet, in
consideration of the tender age of the present heirs, the question of
forfeiture or submission should be waived till they could act for
themselves, and Schlangenwald should be withheld from injuring them
so long as no molestation was offered to travellers. It was plain
that Sir Kasimir had well and generously done his best to protect the
helpless twins, and he sent respectful but cordial greetings to their
mother. These however were far less heeded by her than the coldness
of her uncle's letter. She had drifted beyond the reckoning of her
kindred, and they were sending her her property and bridal linen, as
if they had done with her, and had lost their child in the robber-
baron's wife. Yet at the end there was a touch of old times in
offering a blessing, should she still value it, and the hopes that
heaven and the saints would comfort her; "for surely, thou poor
child, thou must have suffered much, and, if thou wiliest still to
write to thy city kin, thine aunt would rejoice to hear that thou and
thy babes were in good health."
Precise grammarian and scribe as was Uncle Gottfried, the lapse from
the formal Sie to the familiar Du went to his niece's heart.
Whenever her little ones left her any leisure, she spent this her
first wedding-day in writing so earnest and loving a letter as, in
spite of mediaeval formality, must assure the good burgomaster that,
except in having suffered much and loved much, his little Christina
was not changed since she had left him.
No answer could be looked for till another wake-day; but, when it
came, it was full and loving, and therewith were sent a few more of
her favourite books, a girdle, and a richly-scented pair of gloves,
together with two ivory boxes of comfits, and two little purple silk,
gold-edged, straight, narrow garments and tight round brimless lace
caps, for the two little Barons. Nor did henceforth a wake-day pass
by without bringing some such token, not only delightful as
gratifying Christina's affection by the kindness that suggested them,
but supplying absolute wants in the dire stress of poverty at Schloss
Christina durst not tell her mother-in-law of the terms on which they
were unmolested, trusting to the scantiness of the retinue, and to
her own influence with the Schneiderlein to hinder any serious
violence. Indeed, while the Count of Schlangenwald was in the
neighbourhood, his followers took care to secure all that could be
captured at the Debateable Ford, and the broken forces of Adlerstein
would have been insane had they attempted to contend with such
superior numbers. That the castle remained unattacked was attributed
by the elder Baroness to its own merits; nor did Christina undeceive
her. They had no intercourse with the outer world, except that once
a pursuivant arrived with a formal intimation from their kinsman, the
Baron of Adlerstein Wildschloss, of his marriage with the noble
Fraulein, Countess Valeska von Trautbach, and a present of a gay
dagger for each of his godsons. Frau Kunigunde triumphed a good deal
over the notion of Christina's supposed disappointment; but the
tidings were most welcome to the younger lady, who trusted they would
put an end to all future taunts about Wildschloss. Alas! the handle
for abuse was too valuable to be relinquished.
The last silver cup the castle had possessed had to be given as a
reward to the pursuivant, and mayhap Frau Kunigunde reckoned this as
another offence of her daughter-in-law, since, had Sir Kasimir been
safe in the oubliette, the twins might have shared his broad lands on
the Danube, instead of contributing to the fees of his pursuivant.
The cup could indeed be ill spared. The cattle and swine, the dues
of the serfs, and the yearly toll at the wake were the sole resources
of the household; and though there was no lack of meat, milk, and
black bread, sufficient garments could scarce be come by, with all
the spinning of the household, woven by the village webster, of whose
time the baronial household, by prescriptive right, owned the lion's
These matters little troubled the two beings in whom Christina's
heart was wrapped up. Though running about barefooted and
bareheaded, they were healthy, handsome, straight-limbed, noble-
looking creatures, so exactly alike, and so inseparable, that no one
except herself could tell one from the other save by the medal of Our
Lady worn by the elder, and the little cross carved by the mother for
the younger; indeed, at one time, the urchins themselves would feel
for cross or medal, ere naming themselves "Ebbo," or "Friedel." They
were tall for their age, but with the slender make of their foreign
ancestry; and, though their fair rosy complexions were brightened by
mountain mists and winds, their rapidly darkening hair, and large
liquid brown eyes, told of their Italian blood. Their grandmother
looked on their colouring as a taint, and Christina herself had hoped
to see their father's simple, kindly blue eyes revive in his boys;
but she could hardly have desired anything different from the
dancing, kindling, or earnest glances that used to flash from under
their long black lashes when they were nestling in her lap, or
playing by her knee, making music with their prattle, or listening to
her answers with faces alive with intelligence. They scarcely left
her time for sorrow or regret.
They were never quarrelsome. Either from the influence of her
gentleness, or from their absolute union, they could do and enjoy
nothing apart, and would as soon have thought of their right and left
hands falling out as of Ebbo and Friedel disputing. Ebbo however was
always the right hand. THE Freiherr, as he had been called from the
first, had, from the time he could sit at the table at all, been put
into the baronial chair with the eagle carved at the back; every
member of the household, from his grandmother downwards, placed him
foremost, and Friedel followed their example, at the less loss to
himself, as his hand was always in Ebbo's, and all their doings were
in common. Sometimes however the mother doubted whether there would
have been this perfect absence of all contest had the medal of the
firstborn chanced to hang round Friedmund's neck instead of
Eberhard's. At first they were entirely left to her. Their
grandmother heeded them little as long as they were healthy, and
evidently regarded them more as heirs of Adlerstein than as
grandchildren; but, as they grew older, she showed anxiety lest their
mother should interfere with the fierce, lawless spirit proper to
One winter day, when they were nearly six years old, Christina,
spinning at her window, had been watching them snowballing in the
castle court, smiling and applauding every large handful held up to
her, every laughing combat, every well-aimed hit, as the hardy little
fellows scattered the snow in showers round them, raising their merry
fur-capped faces to the bright eyes that "rained influence and judged
By and by they stood still; Ebbo--she knew him by the tossed head and
commanding air--was proposing what Friedel seemed to disapprove; but,
after a short discussion, Ebbo flung away from him, and went towards
a shed where was kept a wolf-cub, recently presented to the young
Barons by old Ulrich's son. The whelp was so young as to be quite
harmless, but it was far from amiable; Friedel never willingly
approached it, and the snarling and whining replies to all advances
had begun to weary and irritate Ebbo. He dragged it out by its
chain, and, tethering it to a post, made it a mark for his snowballs,
which, kneaded hard, and delivered with hearty good-will by his
sturdy arms, made the poor little beast yelp with pain and terror,
till the more tender-hearted Friedel threw himself on his brother to
withhold him, while Matz stood by laughing and applauding the Baron.
Seeing Ebbo shake Friedel off with unusual petulance, and pitying the
tormented animal, Christina flung a cloak round her head and hastened
down stairs, entering the court just as the terrified whelp had made
a snap at the boy, which was returned by angry, vindictive pelting,
not merely with snow, but with stones. Friedel sprang to her crying,
and her call to Ebbo made him turn, though with fury in his face,
shouting, "He would bite me! the evil beast!"
"Come with me, Ebbo," she said.
"He shall suffer for it, the spiteful, ungrateful brute! Let me
alone, mother!" cried Ebbo, stamping on the snow, but still from
habit yielding to her hand on his shoulder.
"What now?" demanded the old Baroness, appearing on the scene. "Who
is thwarting the Baron?"
"She; she will not let me deal with yonder savage whelp," cried the
"She! Take thy way, child," said the old lady. "Visit him well for
his malice. None shall withstand thee here. At thy peril!" she
added, turning on Christina. "What, art not content to have brought
base mechanical blood into a noble house? Wouldst make slaves and
cowards of its sons?"
"I would teach them true courage, not cruelty," she tried to say.
"What should such as thou know of courage? Look here, girl: another
word to daunt the spirit of my grandsons, and I'll have thee scourged
down the mountain-side! On! At him, Ebbo! That's my gallant young
knight! Out of the way, girl, with thy whining looks! What,
Friedel, be a man, and aid thy brother! Has she made thee a puling
woman already?" And Kunigunde laid an ungentle grasp upon Friedmund,
who was clinging to his mother, hiding his face in her gown. He
struggled against the clutch, and would not look up or be detached.
"Fie, poor little coward!" taunted the old lady; "never heed him,
Ebbo, my brave Baron!"
Cut to the heart, Christina took refuge in her room, and gathered her
Friedel to her bosom, as he sobbed out, "Oh, mother, the poor little
wolf! Oh, mother, are you weeping too? The grandmother should not
so speak to the sweetest, dearest motherling," he added, throwing his
arms round her neck.
"Alas, Friedel, that Ebbo should learn that it is brave to hurt the
"It is not like Walther of Vogelwiede," said Friedel, whose mind had
been much impressed by the Minnesinger's bequest to the birds.
"Nor like any true Christian knight. Alas, my poor boys, must you be
taught foul cruelty and I too weak and cowardly to save you?"
"That never will be," said Friedel, lifting his head from her
shoulder. "Hark! what a howl was that!"
"Listen not, dear child; it does but pain thee."
"But Ebbo is not shouting. Oh, mother, he is vexed--he is hurt!"
cried Friedel, springing from her lap; but, ere either could reach
the window, Ebbo had vanished from the scene. They only saw the
young wolf stretched dead on the snow, and the same moment in burst
Ebbo, and flung himself on the floor in a passion of weeping.
Stimulated by the applause of his grandmother and of Matz, he had
furiously pelted the poor animal with all missiles that came to hand,
till a blow, either from him or Matz, had produced such a howl and
struggle of agony, and then such terrible stillness, as had gone to
the young Baron's very heart, a heart as soft as that of his father
had been by nature. Indeed, his sobs were so piteous that his mother
was relieved to hear only, "The wolf! the poor wolf!" and to find
that he himself was unhurt; and she was scarcely satisfied of this
when Dame Kunigunde came up also alarmed, and thus turned his grief
to wrath. "As if I would cry in that way for a bite!" he said. "Go,
grandame; you made me do it, the poor beast!" with a fresh sob.
"Ulrich shall get thee another cub, my child."
"No, no; I never will have another cub! Why did you let me kill it?"
"For shame, Ebbo! Weep for a spiteful brute! That's no better than
thy mother or Friedel."
"I love my mother! I love Friedel! They would have withheld me.
Go, go; I hate you!"
"Peace, peace, Ebbo," exclaimed his mother; "you know not what you
say. Ask your grandmother's pardon."
"Peace, thou fool!" screamed the old lady. "The Baron speaks as he
will in his own castle. He is not to be checked here, and thwarted
there, and taught to mince his words like a cap-in-hand pedlar.
Pardon! When did an Adlerstein seek pardon? Come with me, my Baron;
I have still some honey-cakes."
"Not I," replied Ebbo; "honey-cakes will not cure the wolf whelp.
Go: I want my mother and Friedel."
Alone with them his pride and passion were gone; but alas! what
augury for the future of her boys was left with the mother!
CHAPTER X: THE EAGLE'S PREY
"It fell about the Lammas tide,
When moor men win their hay,"
that all the serfs of Adlerstein were collected to collect their
lady's hay to be stored for the winter's fodder of the goats, and of
poor Sir Eberhard's old white mare, the only steed as yet ridden by
the young Barons.
The boys were fourteen years old. So monotonous was their mother's
life that it was chiefly their growth that marked the length of her
residence in the castle. Otherwise there had been no change, except
that the elder Baroness was more feeble in her limbs, and still more
irritable and excitable in temper. There were no events, save a few
hunting adventures of the boys, or the yearly correspondence with
Ulm; and the same life continued, of shrinking in dread from the old
lady's tyrannous dislike, and of the constant endeavour to infuse
better principles into the boys, without the open opposition for
which there was neither power nor strength.
The boys' love was entirely given to their mother. Far from
diminishing with their dependence on her, it increased with the sense
of protection; and, now that they were taller than herself, she
seemed to be cherished by them more than ever. Moreover, she was
their oracle. Quick-witted and active-minded, loving books the more
because their grandmother thought signing a feud-letter the utmost
literary effort becoming to a noble, they never rested till they had
acquired all that their mother could teach them; or, rather, they
then became more restless than ever. Long ago had her whole store of
tales and ballads become so familiar, by repetition, that the boys
could correct her in the smallest variation; reading and writing were
mastered as for pleasure; and the Nuremberg Chronicle, with its
wonderful woodcuts, excited such a passion of curiosity that they
must needs conquer its Latin and read it for themselves. This World
History, with Alexander and the Nine Worthies, the cities and
landscapes, and the oft-repeated portraits, was Eberhard's study; but
Friedmund continued--constant to Walther of Vogelweide. Eberhard
cared for no character in the Vulgate so much as for Judas the
Maccabee; but Friedmund's heart was all for King David; and to both
lads, shut up from companionship as they were, every acquaintance in
their books was a living being whose like they fancied might be met
beyond their mountain. And, when they should go forth, like Dietrich
of Berne, in search of adventures, doughty deeds were chiefly to fall
to the lot of Ebbo's lance; while Friedel was to be their
Minnesinger; and indeed certain verses, that he had murmured in his
brother's ear, had left no doubt in Ebbo's mind that the exploits
would be worthily sung.
The soft dreamy eye was becoming Friedel's characteristic, as fire
and keenness distinguished his brother's glance. When at rest, the
twins could be known apart by their expression, though in all other
respects they were as alike as ever; and let Ebbo look thoughtful or
Friedel eager and they were again undistinguishable; and indeed they
were constantly changing looks. Had not Friedel been beside him,
Ebbo would have been deemed a wondrous student for his years; had not
Ebbo been the standard of comparison, Friedel would have been in high
repute for spirit and enterprise and skill as a cragsman, with the
crossbow, and in all feats of arms that the Schneiderlein could
impart. They shared all occupations; and it was by the merest shade
that Ebbo excelled with the weapon, and Friedel with the book or
tool. For the artist nature was in them, not intentionally excited
by their mother, but far too strong to be easily discouraged. They
had long daily gazed at Ulm in the distance, hoping to behold the
spire completed; and the illustrations in their mother's books
excited a strong desire to imitate them. The floor had often been
covered with charcoal outlines even before Christina was persuaded to
impart the rules she had learnt from her uncle; and her carving-tools
were soon seized upon. At first they were used only upon knobs of
sticks; but one day when the boys, roaming on the mountain, had lost
their way, and coming to the convent had been there hospitably
welcomed by Father Norbert, they came home wild to make carvings like
what they had seen in the chapel. Jobst the Kohler was continually
importuned for soft wood; the fair was ransacked for knives; and even
the old Baroness could not find great fault with the occupation, base
and mechanical though it were, which disposed of the two restless
spirits during the many hours when winter storms confined them to the
castle. Rude as was their work, the constant observation and choice
of subjects were an unsuspected training and softening. It was not
in vain that they lived in the glorious mountain fastness, and saw
the sun descend in his majesty, dyeing the masses of rock with purple
and crimson; not in vain that they beheld peak and ravine clothed in
purest snow, flushed with rosy light at morn and eve, or contrasted
with the purple blue of the sky; or that they stood marvelling at ice
caverns with gigantic crystal pendants shining with the most magical
pure depths of sapphire and emerald, "as if," said Friedel, "winter
kept in his service all the jewel-forging dwarfs of the motherling's
tales." And, when the snow melted and the buds returned, the ivy
spray, the smiling saxifrage, the purple gentian bell, the feathery
rowan leaf, the symmetrical lady's mantle, were hailed and loved
first as models, then for themselves.
One regret their mother had, almost amounting to shame. Every
virtuous person believed in the efficacy of the rod, and, maugre her
own docility, she had been chastised with it almost as a religious
duty; but her sons had never felt the weight of a blow, except once
when their grandmother caught them carving a border of eagles and
doves round the hall table, and then Ebbo had returned the blow with
all his might. As to herself, if she ever worked herself up to
attempt chastisement, the Baroness was sure to fall upon her for
insulting the noble birth of her sons, and thus gave them a triumph
far worse for them than impunity. In truth, the boys had their own
way, or rather the Baron had his way, and his way was Baron
Friedmund's. Poor, bare, and scanty as were all the surroundings of
their life, everything was done to feed their arrogance, with only
one influence to counteract their education in pride and violence--a
mother's influence, indeed, but her authority was studiously taken
from her, and her position set at naught, with no power save what she
might derive from their love and involuntary honour, and the sight of
the pain caused her by their wrong-doings.
And so the summer's hay-harvest was come. Peasants clambered into
the green nooks between the rocks to cut down with hook or knife the
flowery grass, for there was no space for the sweep of a scythe. The
best crop was on the bank of the Braunwasser, by the Debateable Ford,
but this was cut and carried on the backs of the serfs, much earlier
than the mountain grass, and never without much vigilance against the
Schlangenwaldern; but this year the Count was absent at his Styrian
castle, and little had been seen or heard of his people.
The full muster of serfs appeared, for Frau Kunigunde admitted of no
excuses, and the sole absentee was a widow who lived on the ledge of
the mountain next above that on which the castle stood. Her son
reported her to be very ill, and with tears in his eyes entreated
Baron Friedel to obtain leave for him to return to her, since she was
quite alone in her solitary hut, with no one even to give her a drink
of water. Friedel rushed with the entreaty to his grandmother, but
she laughed it to scorn. Lazy Koppel only wanted an excuse, or, if
not, the woman was old and useless, and men could not be spared.
"Ah! good grandame," said Friedel, "his father died with ours."
"The more honour for him! The more he is bound to work for us. Off,
junker, make no loiterers."
Grieved and discomfited, Friedel betook himself to his mother and
"Foolish lad not to have come to me!" said the young Baron. "Where
is he? I'll send him at once."
But Christina interposed an offer to go and take Koppel's place
beside his mother, and her skill was so much prized over all the
mountain-side, that the alternative was gratefully accepted, and she
was escorted up the steep path by her two boys to the hovel, where
she spent the day in attendance on the sick woman.
Evening came on, the patient was better, but Koppel did not return,
nor did the young Barons come to fetch their mother home. The last
sunbeams were dying off the mountain-tops, and, beginning to suspect
something amiss, she at length set off, and half way down met Koppel,
who replied to her question, "Ah, then, the gracious lady has not
heard of our luck. Excellent booty, and two prisoners! The young
Baron has been a hero indeed, and has won himself a knightly steed."
And, on her further interrogation, he added, that an unusually rich
but small company had been reported by Jobst the Kohler to be on the
way to the ford, where he had skilfully prepared a stumbling-block.
The gracious Baroness had caused Hatto to jodel all the hay-makers
together, and they had fallen on the travellers by the straight path
down the crag. "Ach! did not the young Baron spring like a young
gemsbock? And in midstream down came their pack-horses and their
wares! Some of them took to flight, but, pfui, there were enough for
my young lord to show his mettle upon. Such a prize the saints have
not sent since the old Baron's time."
Christina pursued her walk in dismay at this new beginning of
freebooting in its worst form, overthrowing all her hopes. The best
thing that could happen would be the immediate interference of the
Swabian League, while her sons were too young to be personally held
guilty. Yet this might involve ruin and confiscation; and, apart
from all consequences, she bitterly grieved that the stain of robbery
should have fallen on her hitherto innocent sons.
Every peasant she met greeted her with praises of their young lord,
and, when she mounted the hall-steps, she found the floor strewn with
bales of goods.
"Mother," cried Ebbo, flying up to her, "have you heard? I have a
horse! a spirited bay, a knightly charger, and Friedel is to ride him
by turns with me. Where is Friedel? And, mother, Heinz said I
struck as good a stroke as any of them, and I have a sword for
Friedel now. Why does he not come? And, motherling, this is for
you, a gown of velvet, a real black velvet, that will make you fairer
than our Lady at the Convent. Come to the window and see it, mother
The boy was so joyously excited that she could hardly withstand his
delight, but she did not move.
"Don't you like the velvet?" he continued. "We always said that, the
first prize we won, the motherling should wear velvet. Do but look
"Woe is me, my Ebbo!" she sighed, bending to kiss his brow.
He understood her at once, coloured, and spoke hastily and in
defiance. "It was in the river, mother, the horses fell; it is our
"Fairly, Ebbo?" she asked in a low voice.
"Nay, mother, if Jobst DID hide a branch in midstream, it was no
doing of mine; and the horses fell. The Schlangenwaldern don't even
wait to let them fall. We cannot live, if we are to be so nice and
"Ah! my son, I thought not to hear you call mercy and honesty mere
"What do I hear?" exclaimed Frau Kunigunde, entering from the
storeroom, where she had been disposing of some spices, a much
esteemed commodity. "Are you chiding and daunting this boy, as you
have done with the other?"
"My mother may speak to me!" cried Ebbo, hotly, turning round.
"And quench thy spirit with whining fooleries! Take the Baron's
bounty, woman, and vex him not after his first knightly exploit."
"Heaven knows, and Ebbo knows," said the trembling Christina, "that,
were it a knightly exploit, I were the first to exult."
"Thou! thou craftsman's girl! dost presume to call in question the
knightly deeds of a noble house! There!" cried the furious Baroness,
striking her face. Now! dare to be insolent again." Her hand was
uplifted for another blow, when it was grasped by Eberhard, and, the
next moment, he likewise held the other hand, with youthful strength
far exceeding hers. She had often struck his mother before, but not
in his presence, and the greatness of the shock seemed to make him
cool and absolutely dignified.
"Be still, grandame," he said. "No, mother, I am not hurting her,"
and indeed the surprise seemed to have taken away her rage and
volubility, and unresistingly she allowed him to seat her in a chair.
Still holding her arm, he made his clear boyish voice resound through
the hall, saying, "Retainers all, know that, as I am your lord and
master, so is my honoured mother lady of the castle, and she is never
to be gainsay'ed, let her say or do what she will."
"You are right, Herr Freiherr," said Heinz. "The Frau Christina is
our gracious and beloved dame. Long live the Freiherrinn Christina!"
And the voices of almost all the serfs present mingled in the cry.
"And hear you all," continued Eberhard, "she shall rule all, and
never be trampled on more. Grandame, you understand?"
The old woman seemed confounded, and cowered in her chair without
speaking. Christina, almost dismayed by this silence, would have
suggested to Ebbo to say something kind or consoling; but at that
moment she was struck with alarm by his renewed inquiry for his
"Friedel! Was not he with thee?"
"No; I never saw him!"
Ebbo flew up the stairs, and shouted for his brother; then, coming
down, gave orders for the men to go out on the mountain-side, and
search and jodel. He was hurrying with them, but his mother caught
his arm. "O Ebbo, how can I let you go? It is dark, and the crags
are so perilous!"
"Mother, I cannot stay!" and the boy flung his arms round her neck,
and whispered in her ear, "Friedel said it would be a treacherous
attack, and I called him a craven. Oh, mother, we never parted thus
before! He went up the hillside. Oh, where is he?"
Infected by the boy's despairing voice, yet relieved that Friedel at
least had withstood the temptation, Christina still held Ebbo's hand,
and descended the steps with him. The clear blue sky was fast
showing the stars, and into the evening stillness echoed the loud
wide jodeln, cast back from the other side of the ravine. Ebbo tried
to raise his voice, but broke down in the shout, and, choked with
agitation, said, "Let me go, mother. None know his haunts as I do!"
"Hark!" she said, only grasping him tighter.
Thinner, shriller, clearer came a far-away cry from the heights, and
Ebbo thrilled from head to foot, then sent up another pealing
mountain shout, responded to by a jodel so pitched as to be plainly
not an echo. "Towards the Red Eyrie," said Hans.
"He will have been to the Ptarmigan's Pool," said Ebbo, sending up
his voice again, in hopes that the answer would sound less distant;
but, instead of this, its intonations conveyed, to these adepts in
mountain language, that Friedel stood in need of help.
"Depend upon it," said the startled Ebbo, "that he has got up amongst
those rocks where the dead chamois rolled down last summer; then, as
Christina uttered a faint cry of terror, Heinz added, "Fear not,
lady, those are not the jodeln of one who has met with a hurt. Baron
Friedel has the sense to be patient rather than risk his bones if he
cannot move safely in the dark."
"Up after him!" said Ebbo, emitting a variety of shouts intimating
speedy aid, and receiving a halloo in reply that reassured even his
mother. Equipped with a rope and sundry torches of pinewood, Heinz
and two of the serfs were speedily ready, and Christina implored her
son to let her come so far as where she should not impede the others.
He gave her his arm, and Heinz held his torch so as to guide her up a
winding path, not in itself very steep, but which she could never
have climbed had daylight shown her what it overhung. Guided by the
constant exchange of jodeln, they reached a height where the wind
blew cold and wild, and Ebbo pointed to an intensely black shadow
overhung by a peak rising like the gable of a house into the sky.
"Yonder lies the tarn," he said. "Don't stir. This way lies the
cliff. Fried-mund!" exchanging the jodel for the name.
"Here!--this way! Under the Red Eyrie," called back the wanderer;
and steering their course round the rocks above the pool, the
rescuers made their way towards the base of the peak, which was in
fact the summit of the mountain, the top of the Eagle's Ladder, the
highest step of which they had attained. The peak towered over them,
and beneath, the castle lights seemed as if it would be easy to let a
stone fall straight down on them.
Friedel's cry seemed to come from under their feet. "I am here! I
am safe; only it grew so dark that I durst not climb up or down."
The Schneiderlein explained that he would lower down a rope, which,
when fastened round Friedel's waist, would enable him to climb safely
up; and, after a breathless space, the torchlight shone upon the
longed-for face, and Friedel springing on the path, cried, "The
mother!--and here!" -
"Oh, Friedel, where have you been? What is this in your arms?"
He showed them the innocent face of a little white kid.
"Whence is it, Friedel?"
He pointed to the peak, saying, "I was lying on my back by the tarn,
when my lady eagle came sailing overhead, so low that I could see
this poor little thing, and hear it bleat."
"Thou hast been to the Eyrie--the inaccessible Eyrie!" exclaimed
Ebbo, in amazement.
"That's a mistake. It is not hard after the first" said Friedel. "I
only waited to watch the old birds out again."
"Robbed the eagles! And the young ones?"
"Well," said Friedmund, as if half ashamed, "they were twin eaglets,
and their mother had left them, and I felt as though I could not harm
them; so I only bore off their provisions, and stuck some feathers in
my cap. But by that time the sun was down, and soon I could not see
my footing; and, when I found that I had missed the path, I thought I
had best nestle in the nook where I was, and wait for day. I grieved
for my mother's fear; but oh, to see her here!"
"Ah, Friedel! didst do it to prove my words false?" interposed Ebbo,
"Thou knowest. Make me not speak them again."
"Oh, those!" said Friedel, only now recalling them. "No, verily;
they were but a moment's anger. I wanted to save the kid. I think
it is old mother Rika's white kid. But oh, motherling! I grieve to
have thus frightened you."
Not a single word passed between them upon Ebbo's exploits. Whether
Friedel had seen all from the heights, or whether he intuitively
perceived that his brother preferred silence, he held his peace, and
both were solely occupied in assisting their mother down the pass,
the difficulties of which were far more felt now than in the
excitement of the ascent; only when they were near home, and the boys
were walking in the darkness with arms round one another's necks,
Christina heard Friedel say low and rather sadly, "I think I shall be
a priest, Ebbo."
To which Ebbo only answered, "Pfui!'
Christina understood that Friedel meant that robbery must be a
severance between the brothers. Alas! had the moment come when their
paths must diverge? Could Ebbo's step not be redeemed?
Ursel reported that Dame Kunigunde had scarcely spoken again, but had
retired, like one stunned, into her bed. Friedel was half asleep
after the exertions of the day; but Ebbo did not speak, and both soon
betook themselves to their little turret chamber within their
Christina prayed long that night, her heart full of dread of the
consequence of this transgression. Rumours of freebooting castles
destroyed by the Swabian League had reached her every wake day, and,
if this outrage were once known, the sufferance that left Adlerstein
unmolested must be over. There was hope indeed in the weakness and
uncertainty of the Government; but present safety would in reality be
the ruin of Ebbo, since he would be encouraged to persist in the
career of violence now unhappily begun. She knew not what to ask,
save that her sons might be shielded from evil, and might fulfil that
promise of her dream, the star in heaven, the light on earth. And
for the present!--the good God guide her and her sons through the
difficult morrow, and turn the heart of the unhappy old woman below!
When, exhausted with weeping and watching, she rose from her knees,
she stole softly into her sons' turret for a last look at them.
Generally they were so much alike in their sleep that even she was at
fault between them; but that night there was no doubt. Friedel, pale
after the day's hunger and fatigue, slept with relaxed features in
the most complete calm; but though Ebbo's eyes were closed, there was
no repose in his face--his hair was tossed, his colour flushed, his
brow contracted, the arm flung across his brother had none of the
ease of sleep. She doubted whether he were not awake; but, knowing
that he would not brook any endeavour to force confidence he did not
offer, she merely hung over them both, murmured a prayer and
blessing, and left them.
CHAPTER XI: THE CHOICE IN LIFE
"Is it day?" said Friedel, slowly wakening, and crossing himself as
he opened his eyes. "Surely the sun is not up--?"
"We must be before the sun!" said Ebbo, who was on his feet,
beginning to dress himself. "Hush, and come! Do not wake the
mother. It must be ere she or aught else be astir! Thy prayers--I
tell thee this is a work as good as prayer."
Half awake, and entirely bewildered, Friedel dipped his finger in the
pearl mussel shell of holy water over their bed, and crossed his own
brow and his brother's; then, carrying their shoes, they crossed
their mother's chamber, and crept down stairs. Ebbo muttered to his
brother, "Stand thou still there, and pray the saints to keep her
asleep;" and then, with bare feet, moved noiselessly behind the
wooden partition that shut off his grandmother's box-bedstead from
the rest of the hall. She lay asleep with open mouth, snoring
loudly, and on her pillow lay the bunch of castle keys, that was
always carried to her at night. It was a moment of peril when Ebbo
touched it; but he had nerved himself to be both steady and
dexterous, and he secured it without a jingle, and then, without
entering the hall, descended into a passage lit by a rough opening
cut in the rock. Friedel, who began to comprehend, followed him
close and joyfully, and at the first door he fitted in, and with some
difficulty turned, a key, and pushed open the door of a vault, where
morning light, streaming through the grated window, showed two
captives, who had started to their feet, and now stood regarding the
pair in the doorway as if they thought their dreams were multiplying
the young Baron who had led the attack.
"Signori--" began the principal of the two; but Ebbo spoke.
"Sir, you have been brought here by a mistake in the absence of my
mother, the lady of the castle. If you will follow me, I will
restore all that is within my reach, and put you on your way."
The merchant's knowledge of German was small, but the purport of the
words was plain, and he gladly left the damp, chilly vault. Ebbo
pointed to the bales that strewed the hall. "Take all that can be
carried," he said. "Here is your sword, and your purse," he said,
for these had been given to him in the moment of victory. "I will
bring out your horse and lead you to the pass."
"Give him food," whispered Friedel; but the merchant was too anxious
to have any appetite. Only he faltered in broken German a proposal
to pay his respects to the Signora Castellana, to whom he owed so
"No! Dormit in lecto," said Ebbo, with a sudden inspiration caught
from the Latinized sound of some of the Italian words, but colouring
desperately as he spoke.
The Latin proved most serviceable, and the merchant understood that
his property was restored, and made all speed to gather it together,
and transport it to the stable. One or two of his beasts of burden
had been lost in the fray, and there were more packages than could
well be carried by the merchant, his servant, and his horse. Ebbo
gave the aid of the old white mare--now very white indeed--and in
truth the boys pitied the merchant's fine young bay for being put to
base trading uses, and were rather shocked to hear that it had been
taken in payment for a knight's branched velvet gown, and would be
sold again at Ulm.
"What a poor coxcomb of a knight!" said they to one another, as they
patted the creature's neck with such fervent admiration that the
merchant longed to present it to them, when he saw that the old white
mare was the sole steed they possessed, and watched their tender
guidance both of her and of the bay up the rocky path so familiar to
"But ah, signorini miei, I am an infelice infelicissimo, ever
persecuted by le Fate."
"By whom? A count like Schlangenwald?" asked Ebbo.
"Das Schicksal," whispered Friedel.
"Three long miserable years did I spend as a captive among the Moors,
having lost all, my ships and all I had, and being forced to row
their galleys, gli scomunicati."
"Galleys!" exclaimed Ebbo; "there are some pictured in our World
History before Carthage. Would that I could see one!"
"The signorino would soon have seen his fill, were he between the
decks, chained to the bench for weeks together, without ceasing to
row for twenty-four hours together, with a renegade standing over to
lash us, or to put a morsel into our mouths if we were fainting."
"The dogs! Do they thus use Christian men?" cried Friedel.
"Si, si--ja wohl. There were a good fourscore of us, and among them
a Tedesco, a good man and true, from whom I learnt la lingua loro."
"Our tongue!--from whom?" asked one twin of the other.
"A Tedesco, a fellow-countryman of sue eccellenze."
"Deutscher!" cried both boys, turning in horror, "our Germans so
treated by the pagan villains?"
"Yea, truly, signorini miei. This fellow-captive of mine was a
cavaliere in his own land, but he had been betrayed and sold by his
enemies, and he mourned piteously for la sposa sua--his bride, as
they say here. A goodly man and a tall, piteously cramped in the
narrow deck, I grieved to leave him there when the good confraternita
at Genoa paid my ransom. Having learnt to speak il Tedesco, and
being no longer able to fit out a vessel, I made my venture beyond
the Alps; but, alas! till this moment fortune has still been adverse.
My mules died of the toil of crossing the mountains; and, when with
reduced baggage I came to the river beneath there--when my horses
fell and my servants fled, and the peasants came down with their
hayforks--I thought myself in hands no better than those of the Moors
"It was wrongly done," said Ebbo, in an honest, open tone, though
blushing. "I have indeed a right to what may be stranded on the
bank, but never more shall foul means be employed for the overthrow."
The boys had by this time led the traveller through the Gemsbock's
Pass, within sight of the convent. "There," said Ebbo, "will they
give you harbourage, food, a guide, and a beast to carry the rest of
your goods. We are now upon convent land, and none will dare to
touch your bales; so I will unload old Schimmel."
"Ah, signorino, if I might offer any token of gratitude--"
"Nay," said Ebbo, with boyish lordliness, "make me not a spoiler."
"If the signorini should ever come to Genoa," continued the trader,
"and would honour Gian Battista dei Battiste with a call, his whole
house would be at their feet."
"Thanks; I would that we could see strange lands!" said Ebbo. "But
come, Friedel, the sun is high, and I locked them all into the castle
to make matters safe."
"May the liberated captive know the name of his deliverers, that he
may commend it to the saints?" asked the merchant.
"I am Eberhard, Freiherr von Adlerstein, and this is Freiherr
Friedmund, my brother. Farewell, sir."
"Strange," muttered the merchant, as he watched the two boys turn
down the pass, "strange how like one barbarous name is to another.
Eberardo! That was what we called il Tedesco, and, when he once told
me his family name, it ended in stino; but all these foreign names
sound alike. Let us speed on, lest these accursed peasants should
wake, and be beyond the control of the signorino."
"Ah!" sighed Ebbo, as soon as he had hurried out of reach of the
temptation, "small use in being a baron if one is to be no better
"Thou art glad to have let that fair creature go free, though," said
"Nay, my mother's eyes would let me have no rest in keeping him.
Otherwise--Talk not to me of gladness, Friedel! Thou shouldst know
better. How is one to be a knight with nothing to ride but a beast
old enough to be his grandmother?"
"Knighthood of the heart may be content to go afoot," said Friedel.
"Oh, Ebbo, what a brother thou art! How happy the mother will be!"
"Pfui, Friedel; what boots heart without spur? I am sick of being
mewed up here within these walls of rock! No sport, not even with
falling on a traveller. I am worse off than ever were my
"But how is it? I cannot understand," asked Friedel. "What has
changed thy mind?"
"Thou, and the mother, and, more than all, the grandame. Listen,
Friedel: when thou camest up, in all the whirl of eagerness and glad
preparation, with thy grave face and murmur that Jobst had put forked
stakes in the stream, it was past man's endurance to be baulked of
the fray. Thou hast forgotten what I said to thee then, good
"Long since. No doubt I thrust in vexatiously."
"Not so," said Ebbo; "and I saw thou hadst reason, for the stakes
were most maliciously planted, with long branches hid by the current;
but the fellows were showing fight, and I could not stay to think
then, or I should have seemed to fear them! I can tell you we made
them run! But I never meant the grandmother to put yon poor fellow
in the dungeon, and use him worse than a dog. I wot that he was my
captive, and none of hers. And then came the mother; and oh,
Friedel, she looked as if I were slaying her when she saw the spoil;
and, ere I had made her see right and reason, the old lady came
swooping down in full malice and spite, and actually came to blows.
She struck the motherling--struck her on the face, Friedel!"
"I fear me it has so been before," said Friedel, sadly.
"Never will it be so again," said Ebbo, standing still. "I took the
old hag by the hands, and told her she had ruled long enough! My
father's wife is as good a lady of the castle as my grandfather's,
and I myself am lord thereof; and, since my Lady Kunigunde chooses to
cross me and beat my mother about this capture, why she has seen the
last of it, and may learn who is master, and who is mistress!"
"Oh, Ebbo! I would I had seen it! But was not she outrageous? Was
not the mother shrinking and ready to give back all her claims at
"Perhaps she would have been, but just then she found thou wast not
with me, and I found thou wast not with her, and we thought of nought
else. But thou must stand by me, Friedel, and help to keep the
grandmother in her place, and the mother in hers."
"If the mother WILL be kept," said Friedel. "I fear me she will only
plead to be left to the grandame's treatment, as before."
"Never, Friedel! I will never see her so used again. I released
this man solely to show that she is to rule here.--Yes, I know all
about freebooting being a deadly sin, and moreover that it will bring
the League about our ears; and it was a cowardly trick of Jobst to
put those branches in the stream. Did I not go over it last night
till my brain was dizzy? But still, it is but living and dying like
our fathers, and I hate tameness or dullness, and it is like a fool
to go back from what one has once begun."
"No; it is like a brave man, when one has begun wrong," said Friedel.
"But then I thought of the grandame triumphing over the gentle
mother--and I know the mother wept over her beads half the night.
She SHALL find she has had her own way for once this morning."
Friedel was silent for a few moments, then said, "Let me tell thee
what I saw yesterday, Ebbo."
"So," answered the other brother.
"I liked not to vex my mother by my tidings, so I climbed up to the
tarn. There is something always healing in that spot, is it not so,
Ebbo? When the grandmother has been raving" (hitherto Friedel's
worst grievance) "it is like getting up nearer the quiet sky in the
stillness there, when the sky seems to have come down into the deep
blue water, and all is so still, so wondrous still and calm. I
wonder if, when we see the great Dome Kirk itself, it will give one's
spirit wings, as does the gazing up from the Ptarmigan's Pool."
"Thou minnesinger, was it the blue sky thou hadst to tell me of?"
"No, brother, it was ere I reached it that I saw this sight. I had
scaled the peak where grows the stunted rowan, and I sat down to look
down on the other side of the gorge. It was clear where I sat, but
the ravine was filled with clouds, and upon them--"
"The shape of the blessed Friedmund, thy patron?"
"OUR patron," said Friedel; "I saw him, a giant form in gown and
hood, traced in grey shadow upon the dazzling white cloud; and oh,
Ebbo! he was struggling with a thinner, darker, wilder shape bearing
a club. He strove to withhold it; his gestures threatened and
warned! I watched like one spell-bound, for it was to me as the
guardian spirit of our race striving for thee with the enemy."
"How did it end?"
"The cloud darkened, and swallowed them; nor should I have known the
issue, if suddenly, on the very cloud where the strife had been,
there had not beamed forth a rainbow--not a common rainbow, Ebbo, but
a perfect ring, a soft-glancing, many-tinted crown of victory. Then
I knew the saint had won, and that thou wouldst win."
"I! What, not thyself--his own namesake?"
"I thought, Ebbo, if the fight went very hard--nay, if for a time the
grandame led thee her way--that belike I might serve thee best by
giving up all, and praying for thee in the hermit's cave, or as a
"Thou!--thou, my other self! Aid me by burrowing in a hole like a
rat! What foolery wilt say next? No, no, Friedel, strike by my
side, and I will strike with thee; pray by my side, and I will pray
with thee; but if thou takest none of the strokes, then will I none
of the prayers!"
"Ebbo, thou knowest not what thou sayest."
"No one knows better! See, Friedel, wouldst thou have me all that
the old Adlersteinen were, and worse too? then wilt thou leave me and
hide thine head in some priestly cowl. Maybe thou thinkest to pray
my soul into safety at the last moment as a favour to thine own
abundant sanctity; but I tell thee, Friedel, that's no manly way to
salvation. If thou follow'st that track, I'll take care to get past
the border-line within which prayer can help."
Friedel crossed himself, and uttered an imploring exclamation of
horror at these wild words.
"Stay," said Ebbo; "I said not I meant any such thing--so long as
thou wilt be with me. My purpose is to be a good man and true, a
guard to the weak, a defence against the Turk, a good lord to my
vassals, and, if it may not be otherwise, I will take my oath to the
Kaiser, and keep it. Is that enough for thee, Friedel, or wouldst
thou see me a monk at once?"
"Oh, Ebbo, this is what we ever planned. I only dreamed of the other
when--when thou didst seem to be on the other track."
"Well, what can I do more than turn back? I'll get absolution on
Sunday, and tell Father Norbert that I will do any penance he
pleases; and warn Jobst that, if he sets any more traps in the river,
I will drown him there next! Only get this priestly fancy away,
Friedel, once and for ever!"
"Never, never could I think of what would sever us," cried Friedel,
"save--when--" he added, hesitating, unwilling to harp on the former
string. Ebbo broke in imperiously,
"Friedmund von Adlerstein, give me thy solemn word that I never again
hear of this freak of turning priest or hermit. What! art slow to
speak? Thinkest me too bad for thee?"
"No, Ebbo. Heaven knows thou art stronger, more resolute than I. I
am more likely to be too bad for thee. But so long as we can be
true, faithful God-fearing Junkern together, Heaven forbid that we
"It is our bond!" said Ebbo; "nought shall part us."
"Nought but death," said Friedmund, solemnly.
"For my part," said Ebbo, with perfect seriousness, "I do not believe
that one of us can live or die without the other. But, hark! there's
an outcry at the castle! They have found out that they are locked
in! Ha! ho! hilloa, Hatto, how like you playing prisoner?"
Ebbo would have amused himself with the dismay of his garrison a
little longer, had not Friedel reminded him that their mother might
be suffering for their delay, and this suggestion made him march in
hastily. He found her standing drooping under the pitiless storm
which Frau Kunigunde was pouring out at the highest pitch of her
cracked, trembling voice, one hand uplifted and clenched, the other
grasping the back of a chair, while her whole frame shook with rage
too mighty for her strength.
"Grandame," said Ebbo, striding up to the scene of action, "cease.
Remember my words yestereve."
"She has stolen the keys! She has tampered with the servants! She
has released the prisoner--thy prisoner, Ebbo! She has cheated us as
she did with Wildschloss! False burgherinn! I trow she wanted
another suitor! Bane--pest of Adlerstein!"
Friedmund threw a supporting arm round his mother, but Ebbo
confronted the old lady. "Grandmother," he said, "I freed the
captive. I stole the keys--I and Friedel! No one else knew my
purpose. He was my captive, and I released him because he was foully
taken. I have chosen my lot in life," he added; and, standing in the
middle of the hall, he took off his cap, and spoke gravely:- "I will
not be a treacherous robber-outlaw, but, so help me God, a faithful,
loyal, godly nobleman."
His mother and Friedel breathed an "Amen" with all their hearts; and
"And thou, grandame, peace! Such reverence shalt thou have as befits
my father's mother; but henceforth mine own lady-mother is the
mistress of this castle, and whoever speaks a rude word to her
offends the Freiherr von Adlerstein."
That last day's work had made a great step in Ebbo's life, and there
he stood, grave and firm, ready for the assault; for, in effect, he
and all besides expected that the old lady would fly at him or at his
mother like a wild cat, as she would assuredly have done in a like
case a year earlier; but she took them all by surprise by collapsing
into her chair and sobbing piteously. Ebbo, much distressed, tried
to make her understand that she was to have all care and honour; but
she muttered something about ingratitude, and continued to exhaust
herself with weeping, spurning away all who approached her; and
thenceforth she lived in a gloomy, sullen acquiescence in her
Christina inclined to the opinion that she must have had some slight
stroke in the night, for she was never the same woman again; her
vigour had passed away, and she would sit spinning, or rocking
herself in her chair, scarcely alive to what passed, or scolding and
fretting like a shadow of her old violence. Nothing pleased her but
the attentions of her grandsons, and happily she soon ceased to know
them apart, and gave Ebbo credit for all that was done for her by
Friedel, whose separate existence she seemed to have forgotten.
As long as her old spirit remained she would not suffer the approach
of her daughter-in-law, and Christina could only make suggestions for
her comfort to be acted on by Ursel; and though the reins of
government fast dropped from the aged hands, they were but gradually
and cautiously assumed by the younger Baroness.
Only Elsie remained of the rude, demoralized girls whom she had found
in the castle, and their successors, though dull and uncouth, were
meek and manageable; the men of the castle had all, except Matz, been
always devoted to the Frau Christina; and Matz, to her great relief,
ran away so soon as he found that decency and honesty were to be the
rule. Old Hatto, humpbacked Hans, and Heinz the Schneiderlein, were
the whole male establishment, and had at least the merit of
attachment to herself and her sons; and in time there was a shade of
greater civilization about the castle, though impeded both by dire
poverty and the doggedness of the old retainers. At least the court
was cleared of the swine, and, within doors, the table was spread
with dainty linen out of the parcels from Ulm, and the meals served
with orderliness that annoyed the boys at first, but soon became a
subject of pride and pleasure.
Frau Kunigunde lingered long, with increasing infirmities. After the
winter day, when, running down at a sudden noise, Friedel picked her
up from the hearthstone, scorched, bruised, almost senseless, she
accepted Christina's care with nothing worse than a snarl, and
gradually seemed to forget the identity of her nurse with the
interloping burgher girl. Thanks or courtesy had been no part of her
nature, least of all towards her own sex, and she did little but
grumble, fret, and revile her attendant; but she soon depended so
much on Christina's care, that it was hardly possible to leave her.
At her best and strongest, her talk was maundering abuse of her son's
low-born wife; but at times her wanderings showed black gulfs of
iniquity and coarseness of soul that would make the gentle listener
tremble, and be thankful that her sons were out of hearing. And thus
did Christina von Adlerstein requite fifteen years of persecution.
The old lady's first failure had been in the summer of 1488; it was
the Advent season of 1489, when the snow was at the deepest, and the
frost at the hardest, that the two hardy mountaineer grandsons
fetched over the pass Father Norbert, and a still sturdier, stronger
monk, to the dying woman.
"Are we in time, mother?" asked Ebbo, from the door of the upper
chamber, where the Adlersteins began and ended life, shaking the snow
from his mufflings. Ruddy with exertion in the sharp wind, what a
contrast he was to all within the room!
"Who is that?" said a thin, feeble voice.
"It is Ebbo. It is the Baron," said Christina. "Come in, Ebbo. She
is somewhat revived."
"Will she be able to speak to the priest?" asked Ebbo.
"Priest!" feebly screamed the old woman. "No priest for me! My lord
died unshriven, unassoilzied. Where he is, there will I be. Let a
priest approach me at his peril!"
Stony insensibility ensued; nor did she speak again, though life
lasted many hours longer. The priests did their office; for,
impenitent as the life and frantic as the words had been, the
opinions of the time deemed that their rites might yet give the
departing soul a chance, though the body was unconscious.
When all was over, snow was again falling, shifting and drifting, so
that it was impossible to leave the castle, and the two monks were
kept there for a full fortnight, during which Christmas solemnities
were observed in the chapel, for the first time since the days of
Friedmund the Good. The corpse of Kunigunde, preserved--we must say
the word--salted, was placed in a coffin, and laid in that chapel to
await the melting of the snows, when the vault at the Hermitage could
be opened. And this could not be effected till Easter had nearly
come round again, and it was within a week of their sixteenth
birthday that the two young Barons stood together at the coffin's
head, serious indeed, but more with the thought of life than of
CHAPTER XII: BACK TO THE DOVECOTE
For the first time in her residence at Adlerstein, now full half her
life, the Freiherrinn Christina ventured to send a messenger to Ulm,
namely, a lay brother of the convent of St. Ruprecht, who undertook
to convey to Master Gottfried Sorel her letter, informing him of the
death of her mother-in-law, and requesting him to send the same
tidings to the Freiherr von Adlerstein Wildschloss, the kinsman and
godfather of her sons.
She was used to wait fifty-two weeks for answers to her letters, and
was amazed when, at the end of three, two stout serving-men were
guided by Jobst up the pass; but her heart warmed to their flat caps
and round jerkins, they looked so like home. They bore a letter of
invitation to her and her sons to come at once to her uncle's house.
The King of the Romans, and perhaps the Emperor, were to come to the
city early in the summer, and there could be no better opportunity of
presenting the young Barons to their sovereign. Sir Kasimir of
Adlerstein Wildschloss would meet them there for the purpose, and
would obtain their admission to the League, in which all Swabian
nobles had bound themselves to put down robbery and oppression, and
outside which there was nothing but outlawry and danger.
"So must it be?" said Ebbo, between his teeth, as he leant moodily
against the wall, while his mother was gone to attend to the fare to
be set before the messengers.
"What! art not glad to take wing at last?" exclaimed Friedel, cut
short in an exclamation of delight.
"Take wing, forsooth! To be guest of a greasy burgher, and call
cousin with him! Fear not, Friedel; I'll not vex the motherling.
Heaven knows she has had pain, grief, and subjection enough in her
lifetime, and I would not hinder her visit to her home; but I would
she could go alone, nor make us show our poverty to the swollen city
folk, and listen to their endearments. I charge thee, Friedel, do as
I do; be not too familiar with them. Could we but sprain an ankle
over the crag--"
"Nay, she would stay to nurse us," said Friedel, laughing; "besides,
thou art needed for the matter of homage."
"Look, Friedel," said Ebbo, sinking his voice, "I shall not lightly
yield my freedom to king or Kaiser. Maybe, there is no help for it;
but it irks me to think that I should be the last Lord of Adlerstein
to whom the title of Freiherr is not a mockery. Why dost bend thy
brow, brother? What art thinking of?"
"Only a saying in my mother's book, that well-ordered service is true
freedom," said Friedel. "And methinks there will be freedom in
rushing at last into the great far-off!"--the boy's eye expanded and
glistened with eagerness. "Here are we prisoners--to ourselves, if
you like--but prisoners still, pent up in the rocks, seeing no one,
hearing scarce an echo from the knightly or the poet world, nor from
all the wonders that pass. And the world has a history going on
still, like the Chronicle. Oh, Ebbo, think of being in the midst of
life, with lance and sword, and seeing the Kaiser--the Kaiser of the
holy Roman Empire!"
"With lance and sword, well and good; but would it were not at the
cost of liberty!"
However Ebbo forbore to damp his mother's joy, save by the one
warning--"Understand, mother, that I will not be pledged to anything.
I will not bend to the yoke ere I have seen and judged for myself."
The manly sound of the words gave a sweet sense of exultation to the
mother, even while she dreaded the proud spirit, and whispered, "God
direct thee, my son."
Certainly Ebbo, hitherto the most impetuous and least thoughtful of
the two lads, had a gravity and seriousness about him, that, but for
his naturally sweet temper, would have seemed sullen. His
aspirations for adventure had hitherto been more vehement than
Friedel's; but, when the time seemed at hand, his regrets at what he
might have to yield overpowered his hopes of the future. The fierce
haughtiness of the old Adlersteins could not brook the descent from
the crag, even while the keen, clear burgher wit that Ebbo inherited
from the other side of the house taught him that the position was
untenable, and that his isolated glory was but a poor mean thing
after all. And the struggle made him sad and moody.
Friedel, less proud, and with nothing to yield, was open to blithe
anticipations of what his fancy pictured as the home of all the
beauty, sacred or romantic, that he had glimpsed at through his
mother. Religion, poetry, learning, art, refinement, had all come to
him through her; and though he had a soul that dreamt and soared in
the lonely grandeur of the mountain heights, it craved further
aliment for its yearnings for completeness and perfection. Long ago
had Friedel come to the verge of such attainments as he could work
out of his present materials, and keen had been his ardour for the
means of progress, though only the mountain tarn had ever been
witness to the full outpouring of the longings with which he gazed
upon the dim, distant city like a land of enchantment.
The journey was to be at once, so as to profit by the escort of
Master Sorel's men. Means of transport were scanty, but Ebbo did not
choose that the messengers should report the need, and bring back a
bevy of animals at the burgher's expense; so the mother was mounted
on the old white mare, and her sons and Heinz trusted to their feet.
By setting out early on a May morning, the journey could be performed
ere night, and the twilight would find them in the domains of the
free city, where their small numbers would be of no importance. As
to their appearance, the mother wore a black woollen gown and mantle,
and a black silk hood tied under her chin, and sitting loosely round
the stiff frame of her white cap--a nun-like garb, save for the soft
brown hair, parted over her brow, and more visible than she sometimes
thought correct, but her sons would not let her wear it out of sight.
The brothers had piece by piece surveyed the solitary suit of armour
remaining in the castle; but, though it might serve for defence, it
could not be made fit for display, and they must needs be contented
with blue cloth, spun, woven, dyed, fashioned, and sewn at home,
chiefly by their mother, and by her embroidered on the breast with
the white eagle of Adlerstein. Short blue cloaks and caps of the
same, with an eagle plume in each, and leggings neatly fashioned of
deerskin, completed their equipments. Ebbo wore his father's sword,
Friedel had merely a dagger and crossbow. There was not a gold
chain, not a brooch, not an approach to an ornament among the three,
except the medal that had always distinguished Ebbo, and the coral
rosary at Christina's girdle. Her own trinkets had gone in masses
for the souls of her father and husband; and though a few costly
jewels had been found in Frau Kunigunde's hoards, the mode of their
acquisition was so doubtful, that it had seemed fittest to bestow
them in alms and masses for the good of her soul.
"What ornament, what glory could any one desire better than two such
sons?" thought Christina, as for the first time for eighteen years
she crossed the wild ravine where her father had led her, a trembling
little captive, longing for wings like a dove's to flutter home
again. Who would then have predicted that she should descend after
so long and weary a time, and with a gallant boy on either side of
her, eager to aid her every step, and reassure her at each giddy
pass, all joy and hope before her and them? Yet she was not without
some dread and misgiving, as she watched her elder son, always
attentive to her, but unwontedly silent, with a stern gravity on his
young brow, a proud sadness on his lip. And when he had come to the
Debateable Ford, and was about to pass the boundaries of his own
lands, he turned and gazed back on the castle and mountain with a
silent but passionate ardour, as though he felt himself doing them a
wrong by perilling their independence.
The sun had lately set, and the moon was silvering the Danube, when
the travellers came full in view of the imperial free city, girt in
with mighty walls and towers--the vine-clad hill dominated by its
crowning church; the irregular outlines of the unfinished spire of
the cathedral traced in mysterious dark lacework against the pearly
sky; the lofty steeple-like gate-tower majestically guarding the
bridge. Christina clasped her hands in thankfulness, as at the
familiar face of a friend; Friedel glowed like a minstrel introduced
to his fair dame, long wooed at a distance; Ebbo could not but
exclaim, "Yea, truly, a great city is a solemn and a glorious sight!"
The gates were closed, and the serving-men had to parley at the
barbican ere the heavy door was opened to admit the party to the
bridge, between deep battlemented stone walls, with here and there
loopholes, showing the shimmering of the river beneath. The slow,
tired tread of the old mare sounded hollow; the river rushed below
with the full swell of evening loudness; a deep-toned convent-bell
tolled gravely through the stillness, while, between its
reverberations, clear, distinct notes of joyous music were borne on
the summer wind, and a nightingale sung in one of the gardens that
bordered the banks.
"Mother, it is all that I dreamt!" breathlessly murmured Friedel, as
they halted under the dark arch of the great gateway tower.
Not however in Friedel's dreams had been the hearty voice that
proceeded from the lighted guard-room in the thickness of the
gateway. "Freiherrinn von Adlerstein! Is it she? Then must I greet
my old playmate!" And the captain of the watch appeared among
upraised lanterns and torches that showed a broad, smooth, plump face
beneath a plain steel helmet.
"Welcome, gracious lady, welcome to your old city. What! do you not
remember Lippus Grundt, your poor Valentine?"
"Master Philip Grundt!" exclaimed Christina, amazed at the breadth of
visage and person; "and how fares it with my good Regina?"
"Excellent well, good lady. She manages her trade and house as well
as the good man Bartolaus Fleischer himself. Blithe will she be to
show you her goodly ten, as I shall my eight," he continued, walking
by her side; "and Barbara--you remember Barbara Schmidt, lady--"
"My dear Barbara?--That do I indeed! Is she your wife?"
"Ay, truly, lady," he answered, in an odd sort of apologetic tone;
"you see, you returned not, and the housefathers, they would have it
so--and Barbara is a good housewife."
"Truly do I rejoice!" said Christina, wishing she could convey to him
how welcome he had been to marry any one he liked, as far as she was
concerned--he, in whom her fears of mincing goldsmiths had always
taken form--then signing with her hand, "I have my sons likewise to
"Ah, on foot!" muttered Grundt, as a not well-conceived apology for
not having saluted the young gentlemen. "I greet you well, sirs,"
with a bow, most haughtily returned by Ebbo, who was heartily wishing
himself on his mountain. "Two lusty, well-grown Junkern indeed, to
whom my Martin will be proud to show the humours of Ulm. A fair good
night, lady! You will find the old folks right cheery."
Well did Christina know the turn down the street, darkened by the
overhanging brows of the tall houses, but each lower window laughing
with the glow of light within that threw out the heavy mullions and
the circles and diamonds of the latticework, and here and there the
brilliant tints of stained glass sparkled like jewels in the upper
panes, pictured with Scripture scene, patron saint, or trade emblem.
The familiar porch was reached, the familiar knock resounded on the
iron-studded door. Friedel lifted his mother from her horse, and
felt that she was quivering from head to foot, and at the same moment
the light streamed from the open door on the white horse, and the two
young faces, one eager, the other with knit brows and uneasy eyes. A
kind of echo pervaded the house, "She is come! she is come!" and as
one in a dream Christina entered, crossed the well-known hall, looked
up to her uncle and aunt on the stairs, perceived little change on
their countenances, and sank upon her knees, with bowed head and
"My child! my dear child!" exclaimed her uncle, raising her with one
hand, and crossing her brow in benediction with the other. "Art thou
indeed returned?" and he embraced her tenderly.
"Welcome, fair niece!" said Hausfrau Johanna, more formally. "I am
right glad to greet you here."
"Dear, dear mother!" cried Christina, courting her fond embrace by
gestures of the most eager affection, "how have I longed for this
moment! and, above all, to show you my boys! Herr Uncle, let me
present my sons--my Eberhard, my Friedmund. O Housemother, are not
my twins well-grown lads?" And she stood with a hand on each, proud
that their heads were so far above her own, and looking still so
slight and girlish in figure that she might better have been their
sister than their mother. The cloud that the sudden light had
revealed on Ebbo's brow had cleared away, and he made an inclination
neither awkward nor ungracious in its free mountain dignity and
grace, but not devoid of mountain rusticity and shy pride, and far
less cordial than was Friedel's manner. Both were infinitely
relieved to detect nothing of the greasy burgher, and were greatly
struck with the fine venerable head before them; indeed, Friedel
would, like his mother, have knelt to ask a blessing, had he not been
under command not to outrun his brother's advances towards her
"Welcome, fair Junkern!" said Master Gottfried; "welcome both for
your mother's sake and your own! These thy sons, my little one?" he
added, smiling. "Art sure I neither dream nor see double! Come to
the gallery, and let me see thee better."
And, ceremoniously giving his hand, he proceeded to lead his niece up
the stairs, while Ebbo, labouring under ignorance of city forms and
uncertainty of what befitted his dignity, presented his hand to his
aunt with an air that half-amused, half-offended the shrewd dame.
"All is as if I had left you but yesterday!" exclaimed Christina.
"Uncle, have you pardoned me? You bade me return when my work was
"I should have known better, child. Such return is not to be sought
on this side the grave. Thy work has been more than I then thought
"Ah! and now will you deem it begun--not done!" softly said
Christina, though with too much heartfelt exultation greatly to doubt
that all the world must be satisfied with two such boys, if only Ebbo
would be his true self.
The luxury of the house, the wainscoted and tapestried walls, the
polished furniture, the lamps and candles, the damask linen, the rich
array of silver, pewter, and brightly-coloured glass, were a great
contrast to the bare walls and scant necessaries of Schloss
Adlerstein; but Ebbo was resolved not to expose himself by
admiration, and did his best to stifle Friedel's exclamations of
surprise and delight. Were not these citizens to suppose that
everything was tenfold more costly at the baronial castle? And truly
the boy deserved credit for the consideration for his mother, which
made him merely reserved, while he felt like a wild eagle in a
poultry-yard. It was no small proof of his affection to forbear more
interference with his mother's happiness than was the inevitable
effect of that intuition which made her aware that he was chafing and
ill at ease. For his sake, she allowed herself to be placed in the
seat of honour, though she longed, as of old, to nestle at her
uncle's feet, and be again his child; but, even while she felt each
acceptance of a token of respect as almost an injury to them, every
look and tone was showing how much the same Christina she had
In truth, though her life had been mournful and oppressed, it had not
been such as to age her early. It had been all submission, without
wear and tear of mind, and too simple in its trials for care and
moiling; so the fresh, lily-like sweetness of her maiden bloom was
almost intact, and, much as she had undergone, her once frail health
had been so braced by the mountain breezes, that, though delicacy
remained, sickliness was gone from her appearance. There was still
the exquisite purity and tender modesty of expression, but with
greater sweetness in the pensive brown eyes.
"Ah, little one!" said her uncle, after duly contemplating her; "the
change is all for the better! Thou art grown a wondrously fair dame.
There will scarce be a lovelier in the Kaiserly train."
Ebbo almost pardoned his great-uncle for being his great-uncle.
"When she is arrayed as becomes the Frau Freiherrinn," said the
housewife aunt, looking with concern at the coarse texture of her
black sleeve. "I long to see our own lady ruffle it in her new gear.
I am glad that the lofty pointed cap has passed out; the coif becomes
my child far better, and I see our tastes still accord as to
"Fashion scarce came above the Debateable Ford," said Christina,
smiling. "I fear my boys look as if they came out of the
Weltgeschichte, for I could only shape their garments after my
remembrance of the gallants of eighteen years ago."
"Their garments are your own shaping!" exclaimed the aunt, now in an
accent of real, not conventional respect.
"Spinning and weaving, shaping and sewing," said Friedel, coming near
to let the housewife examine the texture.
"Close woven, even threaded, smooth tinted! Ah, Stina, thou didst
learn something! Thou wert not quite spoilt by the housefather's
books and carvings."
"I cannot tell whose teachings have served me best, or been the most
precious to me," said Christina, with clasped hands, looking from one
to another with earnest love.
"Thou art a good child. Ah! little one, forgive me; you look so like
our child that I cannot bear in mind that you are the Frau
"Nay, I should deem myself in disgrace with you, did you keep me at a
distance, and not THOU me, as your little Stina," she fondly
answered, half regretting her fond eager movement, as Ebbo seemed to
shrink together with a gesture perceived by her uncle.
"It is my young lord there who would not forgive the freedom," he
said, good-humouredly, though gravely.
"Not so," Ebbo forced himself to say; "not so, if it makes my mother
He held up his head rather as if he thought it a fool's paradise, but
Master Gottfried answered: "The noble Freiherr is, from all I have
heard, too good a son to grudge his mother's duteous love even to
There was something in the old man's frank, dignified tone of grave
reproof that at once impressed Ebbo with a sense of the true
superiority of that wise and venerable old age to his own petulant
baronial self-assertion. He had both head and heart to feel the
burgher's victory, and with a deep blush, though not without dignity,
he answered, "Truly, sir, my mother has ever taught us to look up to
you as her kindest and best--"
He was going to say "friend," but a look into the grand benignity of
the countenance completed the conquest, and he turned it into
"father." Friedel at the same instant bent his knee, exclaiming, "It
is true what Ebbo says! We have both longed for this day. Bless us,
honoured uncle, as you have blessed my mother."
For in truth there was in the soul of the boy, who had never had any
but women to look up to, a strange yearning towards reverence, which
was called into action with inexpressible force by the very aspect
and tone of such a sage elder and counsellor as Master Gottfried
Sorel, and he took advantage of the first opening permitted by his
brother. And the sympathy always so strong between the two quickened
the like feeling in Ebbo, so that the same movement drew him on his
knee beside Friedel in oblivion or renunciation of all lordly pride
towards a kinsman such as he had here encountered.
"Truly and heartily, my fair youths," said Master Gottfried, with the
same kind dignity, "do I pray the good God to bless you, and render
you faithful and loving sons, not only to your mother, but to your
He was unable to distinguish between the two exactly similar forms
that knelt before him, yet there was something in the quivering of
Friedel's head, which made him press it with a shade more of
tenderness than the other. And in truth tears were welling into the
eyes veiled by the fingers that Friedel clasped over his face, for
such a blessing was strange and sweet to him.
Their mother was ready to weep for joy. There was now no drawback to
her bliss, since her son and her uncle had accepted one another; and
she repaired to her own beloved old chamber a happier being than she
had been since she had left its wainscoted walls.
Nay, as she gazed out at the familiar outlines of roof and tower, and
felt herself truly at home, then knelt by the little undisturbed
altar of her devotions, with the cross above and her own patron saint
below in carved wood, and the flowers which the good aunt had ever
kept as a freshly renewed offering, she felt that she was happier,
more fully thankful and blissful than even in the girlish calm of her
untroubled life. Her prayer that she might come again in peace had
been more than fulfilled; nay, when she had seen her boys kneel
meekly to receive her uncle's blessing, it was in some sort to her as
if the work was done, as if the millstone had been borne up for her,
and had borne her and her dear ones with it.
But there was much to come. She knew full well that, even though her
sons' first step had been in the right direction, it was in a path
beset with difficulties; and how would her proud Ebbo meet them?
CHAPTER XIII: THE EAGLETS IN THE CITY
After having once accepted Master Gottfried, Ebbo froze towards him
and Dame Johanna no more, save that a naturally imperious temper now
and then led to fitful stiffnesses and momentary haughtiness, which
were easily excused in one so new to the world and afraid of
compromising his rank. In general he could afford to enjoy himself
with a zest as hearty as that of the simpler-minded Friedel.
They were early afoot, but not before the heads of the household were
coming forth for the morning devotions at the cathedral; and the
streets were stirring into activity, and becoming so peopled that the
boys supposed that it was a great fair day. They had never seen so
many people together even at the Friedmund Wake, and it was several
days before they ceased to exclaim at every passenger as a new
The Dome Kirk awed and hushed them. They had looked to it so long
that perhaps no sublunary thing could have realized their
expectations, and Friedel avowed that he did not know what he thought
of it. It was not such as he had dreamt, and, like a German as he
was, he added that he could not think, he could only feel, that there
was something ineffable in it; yet he was almost disappointed to find
his visions unfulfilled, and the hues of the painted glass less pure
and translucent than those of the ice crystals on the mountains.
However after his eye had become trained, the deep influence of its
dim solemn majesty, and of the echoes of its organ tones, and chants
of high praise or earnest prayer, began to enchain his spirit; and,
if ever he were missing, he was sure to be found among the mysteries
of the cathedral aisles, generally with Ebbo, who felt the spell of
the same grave fascination, since whatever was true of the one
brother was generally true of the other. They were essentially
alike, though some phases of character and taste were more developed
in the one or the other.
Master Gottfried was much edified by their perfect knowledge of the
names and numbers of his books. They instantly, almost resentfully,
missed the Cicero's Offices that he had parted with, and joyfully
hailed his new acquisitions, often sitting with heads together over
the same book, reading like active-minded youths who were used to
out-of-door life and exercise in superabundant measure, and to study
as a valued recreation, with only food enough for the intellect to
awaken instead of satisfying it.
They were delighted to obtain instruction from a travelling student,
then attending the schools of Ulm--a meek, timid lad who, for love of
learning and desire of the priesthood, had endured frightful tyranny
from the Bacchanten or elder scholars, and, having at length attained
that rank, had so little heart to retaliate on the juniors that his
contemporaries despised him, and led him a cruel life until he
obtained food and shelter from Master Gottfried at the pleasant cost
of lessons to the young Barons. Poor Bastien! this land of quiet,
civility, and books was a foretaste of Paradise to him after the hard
living, barbarity, and coarse vices of his comrades, of whom he now
and then disclosed traits that made his present pupils long to give
battle to the big shaggy youths who used to send out the lesser lads
to beg and steal for them, and cruelly maltreated such as failed in
Lessons in music and singing were gladly accepted by both lads, and
from their uncle's carving they could not keep their hands. Ebbo had
begun by enjoining Friedel to remember that the work that had been
sport in the mountains would be basely mechanical in the city, and
Friedel as usual yielded his private tastes; but on the second day
Ebbo himself was discovered in the workshop, watching the magic touch
of the deft workman, and he was soon so enticed by the perfect
appliances as to take tool in hand and prove himself not unadroit in
the craft. Friedel however excelled in delicacy of touch and grace
and originality of conception, and produced such workmanship that
Master Gottfried could not help stroking his hair and telling him it
was a pity he was not born to belong to the guild.
"I cannot spare him, sir," cried Ebbo; "priest, scholar, minstrel,
artist--all want him."
"What, Hans of all streets, Ebbo?" interrupted Friedel.
"And guildmaster of none," said Ebbo, "save as a warrior; the rest
only enough for a gentleman! For what I am thou must be!"
But Ebbo did not find fault with the skill Friedel was bestowing on
his work--a carving in wood of a dove brooding over two young eagles-
-the device that both were resolved to assume. When their mother
asked what their lady-loves would say to this, Ebbo looked up, and
with the fullest conviction in his lustrous eyes declared that no
love should ever rival his motherling in his heart. For truly her
tender sweetness had given her sons' affection a touch of romance,
for which Master Gottfried liked them the better, though his wife
thought their familiarity with her hardly accordant with the
patriarchal discipline of the citizens.
The youths held aloof from these burghers, for Master Gottfried
wisely desired to give them time to be tamed before running risk of
offence, either to, or by, their wild shy pride; and their mother
contrived to time her meetings with her old companions when her sons
were otherwise occupied. Master Gottfried made it known that the
marriage portion he had designed for his niece had been intrusted to
a merchant trading in peltry to Muscovy, and the sum thus realized
was larger than any bride had yet brought to Adlerstein. Master
Gottfried would have liked to continue the same profitable
speculations with it; but this would have been beyond the young
Baron's endurance, and his eyes sparkled when his mother spoke of
repairing the castle, refitting the chapel, having a resident
chaplain, cultivating more land, increasing the scanty stock of
cattle, and attempting the improvements hitherto prevented by lack of
means. He fervently declared that the motherling was more than equal
to the wise spinning Queen Bertha of legend and lay; and the first
pleasant sense of wealth came in the acquisition of horses, weapons,
and braveries. In his original mood, Ebbo would rather have stood
before the Diet in his home-spun blue than have figured in cloth of
gold at a burgher's expense; but he had learned to love his uncle, he
regarded the marriage portion as family property, and moreover he
sorely longed to feel himself and his brother well mounted, and
scarcely less to see his mother in a velvet gown.
Here was his chief point of sympathy with the housemother, who,
herself precluded from wearing miniver, velvet, or pearls, longed to
deck her niece therewith, in time to receive Sir Kasimir of
Adlerstein Wildschloss, as he had promised to meet his godsons at
Ulm. The knight's marriage had lasted only a few years, and had left
him no surviving children except one little daughter, whom he had
placed in a nunnery at Ulm, under the care of her mother's sister.
His lands lay higher up the Danube, and he was expected at Ulm
shortly before the Emperor's arrival. He had been chiefly in
Flanders with the King of the Romans, and had only returned to
Germany when the Netherlanders had refused the regency of Maximilian,
and driven him out of their country, depriving him of the custody of
Pfingsttag, or Pentecost-day, was the occasion of Christina's first
full toilet, and never was bride more solicitously or exultingly
arrayed than she, while one boy held the mirror and the other
criticized and admired as the aunt adjusted the pearl-bordered coif,
and long white veil floating over the long-desired black velvet
dress. How the two lads admired and gazed, caring far less for their
own new and noble attire! Friedel was indeed somewhat concerned that
the sword by his side was so much handsomer than that which Ebbo
wore, and which, for all its dinted scabbard and battered hilt, he
was resolved never to discard.
It was a festival of brilliant joy. Wreaths of flowers hung from the
windows; rich tapestries decked the Dome Kirk, and the relics were
displayed in shrines of wonderful costliness of material and beauty
of workmanship; little birds, with thin cakes fastened to their feet,
were let loose to fly about the church, in strange allusion to the
event of the day; the clergy wore their most gorgeous robes; and the
exulting music of the mass echoed from the vaults of the long-drawn
aisles, and brought a rapt look of deep calm ecstasy over Friedel's
sensitive features. The beggars evidently considered a festival as a
harvest-day, and crowded round the doors of the cathedral. As the
Lady of Adlerstein came out leaning on Ebbo's arm, with Friedel on
her other side, they evidently attracted the notice of a woman whose
thin brown face looked the darker for the striped red and yellow silk
kerchief that bound the dark locks round her brow, as, holding out a
beringed hand, she fastened her glittering jet black eyes on them,
and exclaimed, "Alms! if the fair dame and knightly Junkern would
hear what fate has in store for them."
"We meddle not with the future, I thank thee," said Christina, seeing
that her sons, to whom gipsies were an amazing novelty, were in
extreme surprise at the fortune-telling proposal.
"Yet could I tell much, lady," said the woman, still standing in the
way. "What would some here present give to know that the locks that
were shrouded by the widow's veil ere ever they wore the matron's
coif shall yet return to the coif once more?"
Ebbo gave a sudden start of dismay and passion; his mother held him
fast. "Push on, Ebbo, mine; heed her not; she is a mere Bohemian."
"But how knew she your history, mother?" asked Friedel, eagerly.
"That might be easily learnt at our Wake," began Christina; but her
steps were checked by a call from Master Gottfried just behind.
"Frau Freiherrinn, Junkern, not so fast. Here is your noble
A tall, fine-looking person, in the long rich robe worn on peaceful
occasions, stood forth, doffing his eagle-plumed bonnet, and, as the
lady turned and curtsied low, he put his knee to the ground and
kissed her hand, saying, "Well met, noble dame; I felt certain that I
knew you when I beheld you in the Dome."
"He was gazing at her all the time," whispered Ebbo to his brother;
while their mother, blushing, replied, "You do me too much honour,
"Once seen, never to be forgotten," was the courteous answer: "and
truly, but for the stately height of these my godsons I would not
believe how long since our meeting was."
Thereupon, in true German fashion, Sir Kasimir embraced each youth in
the open street, and then, removing his long, embroidered Spanish
glove, he offered his hand, or rather the tips of his fingers, to
lead the Frau Christina home.
Master Sorel had invited him to become his guest at a very elaborate
ornamental festival meal in honour of the great holiday, at which
were to be present several wealthy citizens with their wives and
families, old connections of the Sorel family. Ebbo had resolved
upon treating them with courteous reserve and distance; but he was
surprised to find his cousin of Wildschloss comporting himself among
the burgomasters and their dames as freely as though they had been
his equals, and to see that they took such demeanour as perfectly
natural. Quick to perceive, the boy gathered that the gulf between
noble and burgher was so great that no intimacy could bridge it over,
no reserve widen it, and that his own bashful hauteur was almost a
sign that he knew that the gulf had been passed by his own parents;
but shame and consciousness did not enable him to alter his manner
but rather added to its stiffness.
"The Junker is like an Englishman," said Sir Kasimir, who had met
many of the exiles of the Roses at the court of Mary of Burgundy; and
then he turned to discuss with the guildmasters the interruption to
trade caused by Flemish jealousies.
After the lengthy meal, the tables were removed, the long gallery was
occupied by musicians, and Master Gottfried crossed the hall to tell
his eldest grandnephew that to him he should depute the opening of
the dance with the handsome bride of the Rathsherr, Ulrich Burger.
Ebbo blushed up to the eyes, and muttered that he prayed his uncle to
"So!" said the old citizen, really displeased; "thy kinsman might
have proved to thee that it is no derogation of thy lordly dignity.
I have been patient with thee, but thy pride passes--"
"Sir," interposed Friedel hastily, raising his sweet candid face with
a look between shame and merriment, "it is not that; but you forget
what poor mountaineers we are. Never did we tread a measure save now
and then with our mother on a winter evening, and we know no more
than a chamois of your intricate measures."
Master Gottfried looked perplexed, for these dances were matters of
great punctilio. It was but seven years since the Lord of Praunstein
had defied the whole city of Frankfort because a damsel of that place
had refused to dance with one of his Cousins; and, though "Fistright"
and letters of challenge had been made illegal, yet the whole city of
Ulm would have resented the affront put on it by the young lord of
Adlerstein. Happily the Freiherr of Adlerstein Wildschloss was at
hand. "Herr Burgomaster," he said, "let me commence the dance with
your fair lady niece. By your testimony," he added, smiling to the
youths, "she can tread a measure. And, after marking us, you may try
your success with the Rathsherrinn."
Christina would gladly have transferred her noble partner to the
Rathsherrinn, but she feared to mortify her good uncle and aunt
further, and consented to figure alone with Sir Kasimir in one of the
majestic, graceful dances performed by a single couple before a
gazing assembly. So she let him lead her to her place, and they
bowed and bent, swept past one another, and moved in interlacing
lines and curves, with a grand slow movement that displayed her quiet
grace and his stately port and courtly air.
"Is it not beautiful to see the motherling?" said Friedel to his
brother; "she sails like a white cloud in a soft wind. And he stands
grand as a stag at gaze."
"Like a malapert peacock, say I," returned Ebbo; "didst not see,
Friedel, how he kept his eyes on her in church? My uncle says the
Bohemians are mere deceivers. Depend on it the woman had spied his
insolent looks when she made her ribald prediction."
"See," said Friedel, who had been watching the steps rather than
attending, "it will be easy to dance it now. It is a figure my
mother once tried to teach us. I remember it now."
"Then go and do it, since better may not be."
"Nay, but it should be thou."
"Who will know which of us it is? I hated his presumption too much
to mark his antics."
Friedel came forward, and the substitution was undetected by all save
their mother and uncle; by the latter only because, addressing Ebbo,
he received a reply in a tone such as Friedel never used.
Natural grace, quickness of ear and eye, and a skilful partner,
rendered Friedel's so fair a performance that he ventured on sending
his brother to attend the councilloress with wine and comfits; while
he in his own person performed another dance with the city dame next
in pretension, and their mother was amused by Sir Kasimir's remark,
that her second son danced better than the elder, but both must
The remark displeased Ebbo. In his isolated castle he knew no
superior, and his nature might yield willingly, but rebelled at being
put down. His brother was his perfect equal in all mental and bodily
attributes, but it was the absence of all self-assertion that made
Ebbo so often give him the preference; it was his mother's tender
meekness in which lay her power with him; and if he yielded to
Gottfried Sorel's wisdom and experience, it was with the inward
consciousness of voluntary deference to one of lower rank. But here
was Wildschloss, of the same noble blood with himself, his elder, his
sponsor, his protector, with every right to direct him, so that there
was no choice between grateful docility and headstrong folly. If the
fellow had been old, weak, or in any way inferior, it would have been
more bearable; but he was a tried warrior, a sage counsellor, in the
prime vigour of manhood, and with a kindly reasonable authority to
which only a fool could fail to attend, and which for that very
reason chafed Ebbo excessively.
Moreover there was the gipsy prophecy ever rankling in the lad's
heart, and embittering to him the sight of every civility from his
kinsman to his mother. Sir Kasimir lodged at a neighbouring hostel;
but he spent much time with his cousins, and tried to make them
friends with his squire, Count Rudiger. A great offence to Ebbo was
however the criticisms of both knight and squire on the bearing of
the young Barons in military exercises. Truly, with no instructor
but the rough lanzknecht Heinz, they must, as Friedel said, have been
born paladins to have equalled youths whose life had been spent in
"See us in a downright fight," said Ebbo; "we could strike as hard as
any courtly minion."
"As hard, but scarce as dexterously," said Friedel, "and be called
for our pains the wild mountaineers. I heard the men-at-arms saying
I sat my horse as though it were always going up or down a precipice;
and Master Schmidt went into his shop the other day shrugging his
shoulders, and saying we hailed one another across the market-place
as if we thought Ulm was a mountain full of gemsbocks."
"Thou heardst! and didst not cast his insolence in his teeth?" cried
"How could I," laughed Friedel, "when the echo was casting back in my
teeth my own shout to thee? I could only laugh with Rudiger."
"The chief delight I could have, next to getting home, would be to
lay that fellow Rudiger on his back in the tilt-yard," said Ebbo.
But, as Rudiger was by four years his senior, and very expert, the
upshot of these encounters was quite otherwise, and the young
gentlemen were disabused of the notion that fighting came by nature,
and found that, if they desired success in a serious conflict, they
must practise diligently in the city tilt-yard, where young men were
trained to arms. The crossbow was the only weapon with which they
excelled; and, as shooting was a favourite exercise of the burghers,
their proficiency was not as exclusive as had seemed to Ebbo a
baronial privilege. Harquebuses were novelties to them, and they
despised them as burgher weapons, in spite of Sir Kasimir's assurance
that firearms were a great subject of study and interest to the King
of the Romans. The name of this personage was, it may be feared,
highly distasteful to the Freiherr von Adlerstein, both as
Wildschloss's model of knightly perfection, and as one who claimed
submission from his haughty spirit. When Sir Kasimir spoke to him on
the subject of giving his allegiance, he stiffly replied, "Sir, that
is a question for ripe consideration."
"It is the question," said Wildschloss, rather more lightly than
agreed with the Baron's dignity, "whether you like to have your
castle pulled down about your ears."
"That has never happened yet to Adlerstein!" said Ebbo, proudly.
"No, because since the days of the Hohenstaufen there has been
neither rule nor union in the empire. But times are changing fast,
my Junker, and within the last ten years forty castles such as yours
have been consumed by the Swabian League, as though they were so many
"The shell of Adlerstein was too hard for them, though. They never
"And wherefore, friend Eberhard? It was because I represented to the
Kaiser and the Graf von Wurtemberg that little profit and no glory
would accrue from attacking a crag full of women and babes, and that
I, having the honour to be your next heir, should prefer having the
castle untouched, and under the peace of the empire, so long as that
peace was kept. When you should come to years of discretion, then it
would be for you to carry out the intention wherewith your father and
grandfather left home."
"Then we have been protected by the peace of the empire all this
time?" said Friedel, while Ebbo looked as if the notion were hard of
"Even so; and, had you not freely and nobly released your Genoese
merchant, it had gone hard with Adlerstein."
"Could Adlerstein be taken?" demanded Ebbo triumphantly.
"Your grandmother thought not," said Sir Kasimir, with a shade of
irony in his tone. "It would be a troublesome siege; but the League
numbers 1,500 horse, and 9,000 foot, and, with Schlangenwald's
concurrence, you would be assuredly starved out."
Ebbo was so much the more stimulated to take his chance, and do
nothing on compulsion; but Friedel put in the question to what the
oaths would bind them.
"Only to aid the Emperor with sword and counsel in field or Diet, and
thereby win fame and honour such as can scarce be gained by carrying
prey to yon eagle roost."
"One may preserve one's independence without robbery," said Ebbo
"Nay, lad: did you ever hear of a wolf that could live without
marauding? Or if he tried, would he get credit for so doing?"
"After all," said Friedel, "does not the present agreement hold till
we are of age? I suppose the Swabian League would attempt nothing
against minors, unless we break the peace?"