Part 4 out of 6
"Probably not; I will do my utmost to give the Freiherr there time to
grow beyond his grandmother's maxims," said Wildschloss. "If
Schlangenwald do not meddle in the matter, he may have the next five
years to decide whether Adlerstein can hold out against all Germany."
"Freiherr Kasimir von Adlerstein Wildschloss," said Eberhard, turning
solemnly on him, "I do you to wit once for all that threats will not
serve with me. If I submit, it will be because I am convinced it is
right. Otherwise we had rather both be buried in the ruins of our
castle, as its last free lords."
"So!" said the provoking kinsman; "such burials look grim when the
time comes, but happily it is not coming yet!"
Meantime, as Ebbo said to Friedel, how much might happen--a
disruption of the empire, a crusade against the Turks, a war in
Italy, some grand means of making the Diet value the sword of a free
baron, without chaining him down to gratify the greed of hungry
Austria. If only Wildschloss could be shaken off! But he only
became constantly more friendly and intrusive, almost paternal. No
wonder, when the mother and her uncle made him so welcome, and were
so intolerably grateful for his impertinent interference, while even
Friedel confessed the reasonableness of his counsels, as if that were
not the very sting of them.
He even asked leave to bring his little daughter Thekla from her
convent to see the Lady of Adlerstein. She was a pretty, flaxen-
haired maiden of five years old, in a round cap, and long narrow
frock, with a little cross at the neck. She had never seen any one
beyond the walls of the nunnery; and, when her father took her from
the lay sister's arms, and carried her to the gallery, where sat
Hausfrau Johanna, in dark green, slashed with cherry colour, Master
Gottfried, in sober crimson, with gold medal and chain, Freiherrinn
Christina, in silver-broidered black, and the two Junkern stood near
in the shining mail in which they were going to the tilt yard, she
turned her head in terror, struggled with her scarce known father,
and shrieked for Sister Grethel.
"It was all too sheen," she sobbed, in the lay sister's arms; "she
did not want to be in Paradise yet, among the saints! O! take her
back! The two bright, holy Michaels would let her go, for indeed she
had made but one mistake in her Ave."
Vain was the attempt to make her lift her face from the black serge
shoulder where she had hidden it. Sister Grethel coaxed and scolded,
Sir Kasimir reproved, the housemother offered comfits, and
Christina's soft voice was worst of all, for the child, probably
taking her for Our Lady herself, began to gasp forth a general
confession. "I will never do so again! Yes, it was a fib, but
Mother Hildegard gave me a bit of marchpane not to tell--" Here the
lay sister took strong measures for closing the little mouth, and
Christina drew back, recommending that the child should be left
gradually to discover their terrestrial nature. Ebbo had looked on
with extreme disgust, trying to hurry Friedel, who had delayed to
trace some lines for his mother on her broidery pattern. In passing
the step where Grethel sat with Thekla on her lap, the clank of their
armour caused the uplifting of the little flaxen head, and two wide
blue eyes looked over Grethel's shoulder, and met Friedel's sunny
glance. He smiled; she laughed back again. He held out his arms,
and, though his hands were gauntleted, she let him lift her up, and
curiously smoothed and patted his cheek, as if he had been a strange
"You have no wings," she said. "Are you St. George, or St. Michael?"
"Neither the one nor the other, pretty one. Only your poor cousin
Friedel von Adlerstein, and here is Ebbo, my brother."
It was not in Ebbo's nature not to smile encouragement at the fair
little face, with its wistful look. He drew off his glove to caress
her silken hair, and for a few minutes she was played with by the two
brothers like a newly-invented toy, receiving their attentions with
pretty half-frightened graciousness, until Count Rudiger hastened in
to summon them, and Friedel placed her on his mother's knee, where
she speedily became perfectly happy, and at ease.
Her extreme delight, when towards evening the Junkern returned, was
flattering even to Ebbo; and, when it was time for her to be taken
home, she made strong resistance, clinging fast to Christina, with
screams and struggles. To the lady's promise of coming to see her
she replied, "Friedel and Ebbo, too," and, receiving no response to
this request, she burst out, "Then I won't come! I am the
Freiherrinn Thekla, the heiress of Adlerstein Wildschloss and
Felsenbach. I won't be a nun. I'll be married! You shall be my
husband," and she made a dart at the nearest youth, who happened to
"Ay, ay, you shall have him. He will come for you, sweetest
Fraulein," said the perplexed Grethel, "so only you will come home!
Nobody will come for you if you are naughty."
"Will you come if I am good?" said the spoilt cloister pet, clinging
tight to Ebbo.
"Yes," said her father, as she still resisted, "come back, my child,
and one day shall you see Ebbo, and have him for a brother."
Thereat Ebbo shook off the little grasping fingers, almost as if they
had belonged to a noxious insect.
"The matron's coif should succeed the widow's veil." He might talk
with scholarly contempt of the new race of Bohemian impostors; but
there was no forgetting that sentence. And in like manner, though
his grandmother's allegation that his mother had been bent on
captivating Sir Kasimir in that single interview at Adlerstein, had
always seemed to him the most preposterous of all Kunigunde's forms
of outrage, the recollection would recur to him; and he could have
found it in his heart to wish that his mother had never heard of the
old lady's designs as to the oubliette. He did most sincerely wish
Master Gottfried had never let Wildschloss know of the mode in which
his life had been saved. Yet, while it would have seemed to him
profane to breathe even to Friedel the true secret of his repugnance
to this meddlesome kinsman, it was absolutely impossible to avoid his
most distasteful authority and patronage.
And the mother herself was gently, thankfully happy and unsuspicious,
basking in the tender home affection of which she had so long been
deprived, proud of her sons, and, though anxious as to Ebbo's
decision, with a quiet trust in his foundation of principle, and
above all trusting to prayer.
CHAPTER XIV: THE DOUBLE-HEADED EAGLE
One summer evening, when shooting at a bird on a pole was in full
exercise in the tilt-yard, the sports were interrupted by a message
from the Provost that a harbinger had brought tidings that the
Imperial court was within a day's journey.
All was preparation. Fresh sand had to be strewn on the arena. New
tapestry hangings were to deck the galleries, the houses and
balconies to be brave with drapery, the fountain in the market-place
was to play Rhine wine, all Ulm was astir to do honour to itself and
to the Kaisar, and Ebbo stood amid all the bustle, drawing lines in
the sand with the stock of his arblast, subject to all that
oppressive self-magnification so frequent in early youth, and which
made it seem to him as if the Kaisar and the King of the Romans were
coming to Ulm with the mere purpose of destroying his independence,
and as if the eyes of all Germany were watching for his humiliation.
"See! see!" suddenly exclaimed Friedel; "look! there is something
among the tracery of the Dome Kirk Tower. Is it man or bird?"
"Bird, folly! Thou couldst see no bird less than an eagle from
hence," said Ebbo. "No doubt they are about to hoist a banner."
"That is not their wont," returned Sir Kasimir.
"I see him," interrupted Ebbo. "Nay, but he is a bold climber! We
went up to that stage, close to the balcony, but there's no footing
beyond but crockets and canopies."
"And a bit of rotten scaffold," added Friedel. "Perhaps he is a
builder going to examine it! Up higher, higher!"
"A builder!" said Ebbo; "a man with a head and foot like that should
be a chamois hunter! Shouldst thou deem it worse than the Red Eyrie,
"Yea, truly! The depth beneath is plainer! There would be no
climbing there without--"
"Without what, cousin?" asked Wildschloss.
"Without great cause," said Friedel. "It is fearful! He is like a
fly against the sky."
"Beaten again!" muttered Ebbo; "I did think that none of these town-
bred fellows could surpass us when it came to a giddy height! Who
can he be?"
"Look! look!" burst out Friedel. "The saints protect him! He is on
that narrowest topmost ledge--measuring; his heel is over the
parapet--half his foot!"
"Holding on by the rotten scaffold pole! St. Barbara be his speed;
but he is a brave man!" shouted Ebbo. "Oh! the pole has broken."
"Heaven forefend!" cried Wildschloss, with despair on his face unseen
by the boys, for Friedel had hidden his eyes, and Ebbo was straining
his with the intense gaze of horror. He had carried his glance
downwards, following the 380 feet fall that must be the lot of the
adventurer. Then looking up again he shouted, "I see him! I see
him! Praise to St. Barbara! He is safe! He has caught by the
upright stone work."
"Where? where? Show me!" cried Wildschloss, grasping Ebbo's arm.
"There! clinging to that upright bit of tracery, stretching his foot
out to yonder crocket."
"I cannot see. Mine eyes swim and dazzle," said Wildschloss.
"Merciful heavens! is this another tempting of Providence? How is it
with him now, Ebbo?"
"Swarming down another slender bit of the stone network. It must be
easy now to one who could keep head and hand steady in such a shock."
"There!" added Friedel, after a breathless space, "he is on the lower
parapet, whence begins the stair. Do you know him, sir? Who is he?"
"Either a Venetian mountebank," said Wildschloss, "or else there is
only one man I know of either so foolhardy or so steady of head."
"Be he who he may," said Ebbo, "he is the bravest man that ever I
beheld. Who is he, Sir Kasimir?"
"An eagle of higher flight than ours, no doubt," said Wildschloss.
"But come; we shall reach the Dome Kirk by the time the climber has
wound his way down the turret stairs, and we shall see what like he
Their coming was well timed, for a small door at the foot of the
tower was just opening to give exit to a very tall knight, in one of
those short Spanish cloaks the collar of which could be raised so as
to conceal the face. He looked to the right and left, and had one
hand raised to put up the collar when he recognized Sir Kasimir, and,
holding out both hands, exclaimed, "Ha, Adlerstein! well met! I
looked to see thee here. No unbonneting; I am not come yet. I am at
Strasburg, with the Kaisar and the Archduke, and am not here till we
ride in, in purple and in pall by the time the good folk have hung
out their arras, and donned their gold chains, and conned their
speeches, and mounted their mules."
"Well that their speeches are not over the lykewake of his kingly
kaisarly highness," gravely returned Sir Kasimir.
"Ha! Thou sawest? I came out here to avoid the gaping throng, who
don't know what a hunter can do. I have been in worse case in the
Tyrol. Snowdrifts are worse footing than stone vine leaves."
"Where abides your highness?" asked Wildschloss.
"I ride back again to the halting-place for the night, and meet my
father in time to do my part in the pageant. I was sick of the
addresses, and, moreover, the purse-proud Flemings have made such a
stiff little fop of my poor boy that I am ashamed to look at him, or
hear his French accent. So I rode off to get a view of this notable
Dom in peace, ere it be bedizened in holiday garb; and one can't stir
without all the Chapter waddling after one."
"Your highness has found means of distancing them."
"Why, truly, the Prior would scarce delight in the view from yonder
parapet," laughed his highness. "Ha! Adlerstein, where didst get
such a perfect pair of pages? I would I could match my hounds as
"They are no pages of mine, so please you," said the knight; "rather
this is the head of my name. Let me present to your kingly highness
the Freiherr von Adlerstein."
"Thou dost not thyself distinguish between them!" said Maximilian, as
Friedmund stepped back, putting forward Eberhard, whose bright,
lively smile of interest and admiration had been the cause of his
cousin's mistake. They would have doffed their caps and bent the
knee, but were hastily checked by Maximilian. "No, no, Junkern, I
shall owe you no thanks for bringing all the street on me!--that's
enough. Reserve the rest for Kaisar Fritz." Then, familiarly taking
Sir Kasimir's arm, he walked on, saying, "I remember now. Thou
wentest after an inheritance from the old Mouser of the Debateable
Ford, and wert ousted by a couple of lusty boys sprung of a peasant
"Nay, my lord, of a burgher lady, fair as she is wise and virtuous;
who, spite of all hindrances, has bred up these youths in all good
and noble nurture."
"Is this so?" said the king, turning sharp round on the twins. "Are
ye minded to quit freebooting, and come a crusading against the Turks
"Everywhere with such a leader!" enthusiastically exclaimed Ebbo.
"'What? up there?" said Maximilian, smiling. "Thou hast the tread of
"Friedel has been on the Red Eyrie," exclaimed Ebbo; then, thinking
he had spoken foolishly, he coloured.
"Which is the Red Eyrie?" good-humouredly asked the king.
"It is the crag above our castle," said Friedel, modestly.
"None other has been there," added Ebbo, perceiving his auditor's
interest; "but he saw the eagle flying away with a poor widow's kid,
and the sight must have given him wings, for we never could find the
same path; but here is one of the feathers he brought down"--taking
off his cap so as to show a feather rather the worse for wear, and
sheltered behind a fresher one.
"Nay," said Friedel, "thou shouldst say that I came to a ledge where
I had like to have stayed all night, but that ye all came out with
men and ropes."
"We know what such a case is!" said the king. "It has chanced to us
to hang between heaven and earth; I've even had the Holy Sacrament
held up for my last pious gaze by those who gave me up for lost on
the mountain-side. Adlerstein? The peak above the Braunwasser?
Some day shall ye show me this eyrie of yours, and we will see
whether we can amaze our cousins the eagles. We see you at our
father's court to-morrow?" he graciously added, and Ebbo gave a ready
bow of acquiescence.
"There," said the king, as after their dismissal he walked on with
Sir Kasimir, "never blame me for rashness and imprudence. Here has
this height of the steeple proved the height of policy. It has made
a loyal subject of a Mouser on the spot."
"Pray Heaven it may have won a heart, true though proud!" said
Wildschloss; "but mousing was cured before by the wise training of
the mother. Your highness will have taken out the sting of
submission, and you will scarce find more faithful subjects."
"How old are the Junkern?"
"Some sixteen years, your highness."
"That is what living among mountains does for a lad. Why could not
those thrice-accursed Flemish towns let me breed up my boy to be good
for something in the mountains, instead of getting duck-footed and
muddy-witted in the fens?"
In the meantime Ebbo and Friedel were returning home in that sort of
passion of enthusiasm that ingenuous boyhood feels when first brought
into contact with greatness or brilliant qualities.
And brilliance was the striking point in Maximilian. The Last of the
Knights, in spite of his many defects, was, by personal qualities,
and the hereditary influence of long-descended rank, verily a king of
men in aspect and demeanour, even when most careless and simple. He
was at this time a year or two past thirty, unusually tall, and with
a form at once majestic and full of vigour and activity; a noble,
fair, though sunburnt countenance; eyes of dark gray, almost black;
long fair hair, a keen aquiline nose, a lip only beginning to
lengthen to the characteristic Austrian feature, an expression always
lofty, sometimes dreamy, and yet at the same time full of acuteness
and humour. His abilities were of the highest order, his purposes,
especially at this period of his life, most noble and becoming in the
first prince of Christendom; and, if his life were a failure, and his
reputation unworthy of his endowments, the cause seems to have been
in great measure the bewilderment and confusion that unusual gifts
sometimes cause to their possessor, whose sight their conflicting
illumination dazzles so as to impair his steadiness of aim, while
their contending gleams light him into various directions, so that
one object is deserted for another ere its completion. Thus
Maximilian cuts a figure in history far inferior to that made by his
grandson, Charles V., whom he nevertheless excelled in every personal
quality, except the most needful of all, force of character; and, in
like manner, his remote descendant, the narrow-minded Ferdinand of
Styria, gained his ends, though the able and brilliant Joseph II. was
to die broken-hearted, calling his reign a failure and mistake.
However, such terms as these could not be applied to Maximilian with
regard to home affairs. He has had hard measure from those who have
only regarded his vacillating foreign policy, especially with respect
to Italy--ever the temptation and the bane of Austria; but even here
much of his uncertain conduct was owing to the unfulfilled promises
of what he himself called his "realm of kings," and a sovereign can
only justly be estimated by his domestic policy. The contrast of the
empire before his time with the subsequent Germany is that of chaos
with order. Since the death of Friedrich II. the Imperial title had
been a mockery, making the prince who chanced to bear it a mere mark
for the spite of his rivals; there was no centre of justice, no
appeal; everybody might make war on everybody, with the sole
preliminary of exchanging a challenge; "fist-right" was the
acknowledged law of the land; and, except in the free cities, and
under such a happy accident as a right-minded prince here and there,
the state of Germany seems to have been rather worse than that of
Scotland from Bruce to the union of the Crowns. Under Maximilian,
the Diet became an effective council, fist-right was abolished,
independent robber-lords put down, civilization began to effect an
entrance, the system of circles was arranged, and the empire again
became a leading power in Europe, instead of a mere vortex of
disorder and misrule. Never would Charles V. have held the position
he occupied had he come after an ordinary man, instead of after an
able and sagacious reformer like that Maximilian who is popularly
regarded as a fantastic caricature of a knight-errant, marred by
avarice and weakness of purpose.
At the juncture of which we are writing, none of Maximilian's less
worthy qualities had appeared; he had not been rendered shifty and
unscrupulous by difficulties and disappointments in money matters,
and had not found it impossible to keep many of the promises he had
given in all good faith. He stood forth as the hope of Germany, in
salient contrast to the feeble and avaricious father, who was felt to
be the only obstacle in the way of his noble designs of establishing
peace and good discipline in the empire, and conducting a general
crusade against the Turks, whose progress was the most threatening
peril of Christendom. His fame was, of course, frequently discussed
among the citizens, with whom he was very popular, not only from his
ease and freedom of manner, but because his graceful tastes, his love
of painting, sculpture, architecture, and the mechanical turn which
made him an improver of fire-arms and a patron of painting and
engraving, rendered their society more agreeable to him than that of
his dull, barbarous nobility. Ebbo had heard so much of the
perfections of the King of the Romans as to be prepared to hate him;
but the boy, as we have seen, was of a generous, sensitive nature,
peculiarly prone to enthusiastic impressions of veneration; and
Maximilian's high-spirited manhood, personal fascination, and
individual kindness had so entirely taken him by surprise, that he
talked of him all the evening in a more fervid manner than did even
Friedel, though both could scarcely rest for their anticipations of
seeing him on the morrow in the full state of his entry.
Richly clad, and mounted on cream-coloured steeds, nearly as much
alike as themselves, the twins were a pleasant sight for a proud
mother's eyes, as they rode out to take their place in the procession
that was to welcome the royal guests. Master Sorel, in ample gown,
richly furred, with medal and chain of office, likewise went forth as
Guildmaster; and Christina, with smiling lips and liquid eyes,
recollected the days when to see him in such array was her keenest
pleasure, and the utmost splendour her fancy could depict.
Arrayed, as her sons loved to see her, in black velvet, and with
pearl-bordered cap, Christina sat by her aunt in the tapestried
balcony, and between them stood or sat little Thekla von Adlerstein
Wildschloss, whose father had entrusted her to their care, to see the
procession pass by. A rich Eastern carpet, of gorgeous colouring,
covered the upper balustrade, over which they leant, in somewhat
close quarters with the scarlet-bodiced dames of the opposite house,
but with ample space for sight up and down the rows of smiling
expectants at each balcony, or window, equally gay with hangings,
while the bells of all the churches clashed forth their gayest
chimes, and fitful bursts of music were borne upon the breeze.
Little Thekla danced in the narrow space for very glee, and wondered
why any one should live in a cloister when the world was so wide and
so fair. And Dame Johanna tried to say something pious of worldly
temptations, and the cloister shelter; but Thekla interrupted her,
and, clinging to Christina, exclaimed, "Nay, but I am always naughty
with Mother Ludmilla in the convent, and I know I should never be
naughty out here with you and the barons; I should be so happy."
"Hush! hush! little one; here they come!"
On they came--stout lanzknechts first, the city guard with steel
helmets unadorned, buff suits, and bearing either harquebuses,
halberts, or those handsome but terrible weapons, morning stars.
Then followed guild after guild, each preceded by the banner bearing
its homely emblem--the cauldron of the smiths, the hose of the
clothiers, the helmet of the armourers, the bason of the barbers, the
boot of the sutors; even the sausage of the cooks, and the shoe of
the shoeblacks, were re-presented, as by men who gloried in the
calling in which they did life's duty and task.
First in each of these bands marched the prentices, stout, broad,
flat-faced lads, from twenty to fourteen years of age, with hair like
tow hanging from under their blue caps, staves in their hands, and
knives at their girdles. Behind them came the journeymen, in
leathern jerkins and steel caps, and armed with halberts or cross-
bows; men of all ages, from sixty to one or two and twenty, and many
of the younger ones with foreign countenances and garb betokening
that they were strangers spending part of their wandering years in
studying the Ulm fashions of their craft. Each trade showed a large
array of these juniors; but the masters who came behind were
comparatively few, mostly elderly, long-gowned, gold-chained
personages, with a weight of solid dignity on their wise brows--men
who respected themselves, made others respect them, and kept their
city a peaceful, well-ordered haven, while storms raged in the realm
beyond--men too who had raised to the glory of their God a temple,
not indeed fulfilling the original design, but a noble effort, and
grand monument of burgher devotion.
Then came the ragged regiment of scholars, wild lads from every part
of Germany and Switzerland, some wan and pinched with hardship and
privation, others sturdy, selfish rogues, evidently well able to take
care of themselves. There were many rude, tyrannical-looking lads
among the older lads; and, though here and there a studious, earnest
face might be remarked, the prospect of Germany's future priests and
teachers was not encouraging. And what a searching ordeal was
awaiting those careless lads when the voice of one, as yet still a
student, should ring through Germany!
Contrasting with these ill-kempt pupils marched the grave professors
and teachers, in square ecclesiastic caps and long gowns, whose
colours marked their degrees and the Universities that had conferred
them--some thin, some portly, some jocund, others dreamy; some
observing all the humours around, others still intent on Aristotelian
ethics; all men of high fame, with doctor at the beginning of their
names, and "or" or "us" at the close of them. After them rode the
magistracy, a burgomaster from each guild, and the Herr Provost
himself--as great a potentate within his own walls as the Doge of
Venice or of Genoa, or perhaps greater, because less jealously
hampered. In this dignified group was Uncle Gottfried, by complacent
nod and smile acknowledging his good wife and niece, who indeed had
received many a previous glance and bow from friends passing beneath.
But Master Sorel was no new spectacle in a civic procession, and the
sight of him was only a pleasant fillip to the excitement of his
Here was jingling of spurs and trampling of horses; heraldic
achievements showed upon the banners, round which rode the mail-clad
retainers of country nobles who had mustered to meet their lords.
Then, with still more of clank and tramp, rode a bright-faced troop
of lads, with feathered caps and gay mantles. Young Count Rudiger
looked up with courteous salutation; and just behind him, with
smiling lips and upraised faces, were the pair whose dark eyes, dark
hair, and slender forms rendered them conspicuous among the fair
Teutonic youth. Each cap was taken off and waved, and each pair of
lustrous eyes glanced up pleasure and exultation at the sight of the
lovely "Mutterlein." And she? The pageant was well-nigh over to
her, save for heartily agreeing with Aunt Johanna that there was not
a young noble of them all to compare with the twin Barons of
Adlerstein! However, she knew she should be called to account if she
did not look well at "the Romish King;" besides, Thekla was shrieking
with delight at the sight of her father, tall and splendid on his
mighty black charger, with a smile for his child, and for the lady a
bow so low and deferential that it was evidently remarked by those at
whose approach every lady in the balconies was rising, every head in
the street was bared.
A tall, thin, shrivelled, but exceedingly stately old man on a gray
horse was in the centre. Clad in a purple velvet mantle, and bowing
as he went, he looked truly the Kaisar, to whom stately courtesy was
second nature. On one side, in black and gold, with the jewel of the
Golden Fleece on his breast, rode Maximilian, responding gracefully
to the salutations of the people, but his keen gray eye roving in
search of the object of Sir Kasimir's salute, and lighting on
Christina with such a rapid, amused glance of discovery that, in her
confusion, she missed what excited Dame Johanna's rapturous
admiration--the handsome boy on the Emperor's other side, a fair,
plump lad, the young sovereign of the Low Countries, beautiful in
feature and complexion, but lacking the fire and the loftiness that
characterized his father's countenance. The train was closed by the
Reitern of the Emperor's guard--steel-clad mercenaries who were
looked on with no friendly eyes by the few gazers in the street who
had been left behind in the general rush to keep up with the
attractive part of the show.
Pageants of elaborate mythological character impeded the imperial
progress at every stage, and it was full two hours ere the two youths
returned, heartily weary of the lengthened ceremonial, and laughing
at having actually seen the King of the Romans enduring to be
conducted from shrine to shrine in the cathedral by a large
proportion of its dignitaries. Ebbo was sure he had caught an archly
Ebbo had to dress for the banquet spread in the town-hall. Space was
wanting for the concourse of guests, and Master Sorel had decided
that the younger Baron should not be included in the invitation.
Friedel pardoned him more easily than did Ebbo, who not only resented
any slight to his double, but in his fits of shy pride needed the aid
of his readier and brighter other self. But it might not be, and Sir
Kasimir and Master Gottfried alone accompanied him, hoping that he
would not look as wild as a hawk, and would do nothing to diminish
the favourable impression he had made on the King of the Romans.
Late, according to mediaeval hours, was the return, and Ebbo spoke in
a tone of elation. "The Kaisar was most gracious, and the king knew
me," he said, "and asked for thee, Friedel, saying one of us was
nought without the other. But thou wilt go to-morrow, for we are to
"Already!" exclaimed Friedel, a bright glow rushing to his cheek.
"Yea," said Ebbo. "The Romish king said somewhat about waiting to
win our spurs; but the Kaisar said I was in a position to take rank
as a knight, and I thanked him, so thou shouldst share the honour."
"The Kaisar," said Wildschloss, "is not the man to let a knight's fee
slip between his fingers. The king would have kept off their grip,
and reserved you for knighthood from his own sword under the banner
of the empire; but there is no help for it now, and you must make
your vassals send in their dues."
"My vassals?" said Ebbo; "what could they send?"
"The aid customary on the knighthood of the heir."
"But there is--there is nothing!" said Friedel. "They can scarce pay
meal and poultry enough for our daily fare; and if we were to flay
them alive, we should not get sixty groschen from the whole."
"True enough! Knighthood must wait till we win it," said Ebbo,
"Nay, it is accepted," said Wildschloss. "The Kaisar loves his iron
chest too well to let you go back. You must be ready with your round
sum to the chancellor, and your spur-money and your fee to the
heralds, and largess to the crowd."
"Mother, the dowry," said Ebbo.
"At your service, my son," said Christina, anxious to chase the cloud
from his brow.
But it was a deep haul, for the avaricious Friedrich IV. made
exorbitant charges for the knighting his young nobles; and Ebbo soon
saw that the improvements at home must suffer for the honours that
would have been so much better won than bought.
"If your vassals cannot aid, yet may not your kinsman--?" began
"No!" interrupted Ebbo, lashed up to hot indignation. "No, sir!
Rather will my mother, brother, and I ride back this very night to
unfettered liberty on our mountain, without obligation to any living
"Less hotly, Sir Baron," said Master Gottfried, gravely. "You broke
in on your noble godfather, and you had not heard me speak. You and
your brother are the old man's only heirs, nor do ye incur any
obligation that need fret you by forestalling what would be your just
right. I will see my nephews as well equipped as any young baron of
The mother looked anxiously at Ebbo. He bent his head with rising
colour, and said, "Thanks, kind uncle. From YOU I have learnt to
look on goodness as fatherly."
"Only," added Friedel, "if the Baron's station renders knighthood
fitting for him, surely I might remain his esquire."
"Never, Friedel!" cried his brother. "Without thee, nothing."
"Well said, Freiherr," said Master Sorel; "what becomes the one
becomes the other. I would not have thee left out, my Friedel, since
I cannot leave thee the mysteries of my craft."
"To-morrow!" said Friedel, gravely. "Then must the vigil be kept to-
"The boy thinks these are the days of Roland and Karl the Great,"
said Wildschloss. "He would fain watch his arms in the moonlight in
the Dome Kirk! Alas! no, my Friedel! Knighthood in these days
smacks more of bezants than of deeds of prowess."
"Unbearable fellow!" cried Ebbo, when he had latched the door of the
room he shared with his brother. "First, holding up my inexperience
to scorn! As though the Kaisar knew not better than he what befits
me! Then trying to buy my silence and my mother's gratitude with his
hateful advance of gold. As if I did not loathe him enough without!
If I pay my homage, and sign the League to-morrow, it will be purely
that he may not plume himself on our holding our own by sufferance,
in deference to him."
"You will sign it--you will do homage!" exclaimed Friedel. "How
rejoiced the mother will be."
"I had rather depend at once--if depend I must--on yonder dignified
Kaisar and that noble king than on our meddling kinsman," said Ebbo.
"I shall be his equal now! Ay, and no more classed with the court
Junkern I was with to-day. The dullards! No one reasonable thing
know they but the chase. One had been at Florence; and when I asked
him of the Baptistery and rare Giotto of whom my uncle told us, he
asked if he were a knight of the Medici. All he knew was that there
were ortolans at Ser Lorenzo's table; and he and the rest of them
talked over wines as many and as hard to call as the roll of AEneas's
comrades; and when each one must drink to her he loved best, and I
said I loved none like my sweet mother, they gibed me for a simple
dutiful mountaineer. Yea, and when the servants brought a bowl, I
thought it was a wholesome draught of spring water after all their
hot wines and fripperies. Pah!"
"The rose-water, Ebbo! No wonder they laughed! Why, the bowls for
our fingers came round at the banquet here."
"Ah! thou hast eyes for their finikin manners! Yet what know they of
what we used to long for in polished life! Not one but vowed he
abhorred books, and cursed Dr. Faustus for multiplying them. I may
not know the taste of a stew, nor the fit of a glove, as they do, but
I trust I bear a less empty brain. And the young Netherlanders that
came with the Archduke were worst of all. They got together and
gabbled French, and treated the German Junkern with the very same
sauce with which they had served me. The Archduke laughed with them,
and when the Provost addressed him, made as if he understood not,
till his father heard, and thundered out, 'How now, Philip! Deaf on
thy German ear? I tell thee, Herr Probst, he knows his own tongue as
well as thou or I, and thou shalt hear him speak as becomes the son
of an Austrian hunter.' That Romish king is a knight of knights,
Friedel. I could follow him to the world's end. I wonder whether he
will ever come to climb the Red Eyrie."
"It does not seem the world's end when one is there," said Friedel,
with strange yearnings in his breast.
"Even the Dom steeple never rose to its full height," he added,
standing in the window, and gazing pensively into the summer sky.
"Oh, Ebbo! this knighthood has come very suddenly after our many
dreams; and, even though its outward tokens be lowered, it is still a
holy, awful thing."
Nurtured in mountain solitude, on romance transmitted through the
pure medium of his mother's mind, and his spirit untainted by contact
with the world, Friedmund von Adlerstein looked on chivalry with the
temper of a Percival or Galahad, and regarded it with a sacred awe.
Eberhard, though treating it more as a matter of business, was like
enough to his brother to enter into the force of the vows they were
about to make; and if the young Barons of Adlerstein did not perform
the night-watch over their armour, yet they kept a vigil that
impressed their own minds as deeply, and in early morn they went to
confession and mass ere the gay parts of the city were astir.
"Sweet niece," said Master Sorel, as he saw the brothers' grave,
earnest looks, "thou hast done well by these youths; yet I doubt me
at times whether they be not too much lifted out of this veritable
world of ours."
"Ah, fair uncle, were they not above it, how could they face its
"True, my child; but how will it be when they find how lightly others
treat what to them is so solemn?"
"There must be temptations for them, above all for Ebbo," said
Christina, "but still, when I remember how my heart sank when their
grandmother tried to bring them up to love crime as sport and glory,
I cannot but trust that the good work will be wrought out, and my
dream fulfilled, that they may be lights on earth and stars in
heaven. Even this matter of homage, that seemed so hard to my Ebbo,
has now been made easy to him by his veneration for the Emperor."
It was even so. If the sense that he was the last veritable FREE
lord of Adlerstein rushed over Ebbo, he was, on the other hand,
overmastered by the kingliness of Friedrich and Maximilian, and was
aware that this submission, while depriving him of little or no
actual power, brought him into relations with the civilized world,
and opened to him paths of true honour. So the ceremonies were gone
through, his oath of allegiance was made, investiture was granted to
him by the delivery of a sword, and both he and Friedel were dubbed
knights. Then they shared another banquet, where, as away from the
Junkern and among elder men, Ebbo was happier than the day before.
Some of the knights seemed to him as rude and ignorant as the
Schneiderlein, but no one talked to him nor observed his manners, and
he could listen to conversation on war and policy such as interested
him far more than the subjects affected by youths a little older than
himself. Their lonely life and training had rendered the minds of
the brothers as much in advance of their fellows as they were behind
them in knowledge of the world.
The crass obtuseness of most of the nobility made it a relief to
return to the usual habits of the Sorel household when the court had
left Ulm. Friedmund, anxious to prove that his new honours were not
to alter his home demeanour, was drawing on a block of wood from a
tinted pen-and-ink sketch; Ebbo was deeply engaged with a newly-
acquired copy of Virgil; and their mother was embroidering some
draperies for the long-neglected castle chapel,--all sitting, as
Master Gottfried loved to have them, in his studio, whence he had a
few moments before been called away, when, as the door slowly opened,
a voice was heard that made both lads start and rise.
"Yea, truly, Herr Guildmaster, I would see these masterpieces. Ha!
What have you here for masterpieces? Our two new double-ganger
knights?" And Maximilian entered in a simple riding-dress, attended
by Master Gottfried, and by Sir Kasimir of Adlerstein Wildschloss.
Christina would fain have slipped out unperceived, but the king was
already removing his cap from his fair curling locks, and bending his
head as he said, "The Frau Freiherrinn von Adlerstein? Fair lady, I
greet you well, and thank you in the Kaisar's name and mine for
having bred up for us two true and loyal subjects."
"May they so prove themselves, my liege!" said Christina, bending
"And not only loyal-hearted," added Maximilian, smiling, "but ready-
brained, which is less frequent among our youth. What is thy book,
young knight? Virgilius Maro? Dost thou read the Latin?" he added,
in that tongue.
"Not as well as we wish, your kingly highness," readily answered
Ebbo, in Latin, "having learnt solely of our mother till we came
"Never fear for that, my young blade," laughed the king. "Knowst not
that the wiseacres thought me too dull for teaching till I was past
ten years? And what is thy double about? Drawing on wood? How now!
An able draughtsman, my young knight?"
"My nephew Sir Friedmund is good to the old man," said Gottfried,
himself almost regretting the lad's avocation. "My eyes are failing
me, and he is aiding me with the graving of this border. He has the
knack that no teaching will impart to any of my present journeymen."
"Born, not made," quoth Maximilian. "Nay," as Friedel coloured
deeper at the sense that Ebbo was ashamed of him, "no blushes, my
boy; it is a rare gift. I can make a hundred knights any day, but
the Almighty alone can make a genius. It was this very matter of
graving that led me hither."
For Maximilian had a passion for composition, and chiefly for
autobiography, and his head was full of that curious performance, Der
Weisse Konig, which occupied many of the leisure moments of his life,
being dictated to his former writing-master, Marcus Sauerwein. He
had already designed the portrayal of his father as the old white
king, and himself as the young white king, in a series of woodcuts
illustrating the narrative which culminated in the one romance of his
life, his brief happy marriage with Mary of Burgundy; and he
continued eagerly to talk to Master Gottfried about the mystery of
graving, and the various scenes in which he wished to depict himself
learning languages from native speakers--Czech from a peasant with a
basket of eggs, English from the exiles at the Burgundian court, who
had also taught him the use of the longbow, building from architects
and masons, painting from artists, and, more imaginatively, astrology
from a wonderful flaming sphere in the sky, and the black art from a
witch inspired by a long-tailed demon perched on her shoulder. No
doubt "the young white king" made an exceedingly prominent figure in
the discourse, but it was so quaint and so brilliant that it did not
need the charm of royal condescension to entrance the young knights,
who stood silent auditors. Ebbo at least was convinced that no
species of knowledge or skill was viewed by his kaisarly kingship as
beneath his dignity; but still he feared Friedel's being seized upon
to be as prime illustrator to the royal autobiography--a lot to
which, with all his devotion to Maximilian, he could hardly have
consigned his brother, in the certainty that the jeers of the ruder
nobles would pursue the craftsman baron.
However, for the present, Maximilian was keen enough to see that the
boy's mechanical skill was not as yet equal to his genius; so he only
encouraged him to practise, adding that he heard there was a rare
lad, one Durer, at Nuremburg, whose productions were already
wonderful. "And what is this?" he asked; "what is the daintily-
carved group I see yonder?"
"Your highness means, 'The Dove in the Eagle's Nest,'" said Kasimir.
"It is the work of my young kinsmen, and their appropriate device."
"As well chosen as carved," said Maximilian, examining it. "Well is
it that a city dove should now and then find her way to the eyrie.
Some of my nobles would cut my throat for the heresy, but I am safe
here, eh, Sir Kasimir? Fare ye well, ye dove-trained eaglets. We
will know one another better when we bear the cross against the
The brothers kissed his hand, and he descended the steps from the
hall door. Ere he had gone far, he turned round upon Sir Kasimir
with a merry smile
"A very white and tender dove indeed, and one who might easily nestle
in another eyrie, methinks."
"Deems your kingly highness that consent could be won?" asked
"From the Kaisar? Pfui, man, thou knowst as well as I do the golden
key to his consent. So thou wouldst risk thy luck again! Thou hast
no male heir."
"And I would fain give my child a mother who would deal well with
her. Nay, to say sooth, that gentle, innocent face has dwelt with me
for many years. But for my pre-contract, I had striven long ago to
win her, and had been a happier man, mayhap. And, now I have seen
what she has made of her sons, I feel I could scarce find her match
among our nobility."
"Nor elsewhere," said the king; "and I honour thee for not being so
besotted in our German haughtiness as not to see that it is our free
cities that make refined and discreet dames. I give you good speed,
Adlerstein; but, if I read aright the brow of one at least of these
young fellows, thou wilt scarce have a willing or obedient stepson.'
CHAPTER XV: THE RIVAL EYRIE
Ebbo trusted that his kinsman of Wildschloss was safe gone with the
Court, and his temper smoothed and his spirits rose in proportion
while preparations for a return to Adlerstein were being completed--
preparations by which the burgher lady might hope to render the
castle far more habitable, not to say baronial, than it had ever
The lady herself felt thankful that her stay at Ulm had turned out
well beyond all anticipations in the excellent understanding between
her uncle and her sons, and still more in Ebbo's full submission and
personal loyalty towards the imperial family. The die was cast, and
the first step had been taken towards rendering the Adlerstein family
the peaceful, honourable nobles she had always longed to see them.
She was one afternoon assisting her aunt in some of the duties of her
wirthschaft, when Master Gottfried entered the apartment with an air
of such extreme complacency that both turned round amazed; the one
exclaiming, "Surely funds have come in for finishing the spire!" the
other, "Have they appointed thee Provost for next year, house-
"Neither the one nor the other," was the reply. "But heard you not
the horse's feet? Here has the Lord of Adlerstein Wildschloss been
with me in full state, to make formal proposals for the hand of our
"For Christina!" cried Hausfrau Johanna with delight; "truly that is
well. Truly our maiden has done honour to her breeding. A second
nobleman demanding her--and one who should be able richly to endow
"And who will do so," said Master Gottfried. "For morning gift he
promises the farms and lands of Grunau--rich both in forest and corn
glebe. Likewise, her dower shall be upon Wildschloss--where the soil
is of the richest pasture, and there are no less than three mills,
whence the lord obtains large rights of multure. Moreover, the
Castle was added to and furnished on his marriage with the late
baroness, and might serve a Kurfurst; and though the jewels of
Freiherrinn Valeska must be inherited by her daughter, yet there are
many of higher price which have descended from his own ancestresses,
and which will all be hers."
"And what a wedding we will have!" exclaimed Johanna; "it shall be
truly baronial. I will take my hood and go at once to neighbour
Sophie Lemsberg, who was wife to the Markgraf's Under Keller-Meister.
She will tell me point device the ceremonies befitting the espousals
of a baron's widow."
Poor Christina had sat all this time with drooping head and clasped
hands, a tear stealing down as the formal terms of the treaty sent
her spirit back to the urgent, pleading, imperious voice that had
said, "Now, little one, thou wilt not shut me out;" and as she
glanced at the ring that had lain on that broad palm, she felt as if
her sixteen cheerful years had been an injury to her husband in his
nameless bloody grave. But protection was so needful in those rude
ages, and second marriages so frequent, that reluctance was counted
as weakness. She knew her uncle and aunt would never believe that
aught but compulsion had bound her to the rude outlaw, and her habit
of submission was so strong that, only when her aunt was actually
rising to go and consult her gossip, she found breath to falter,
"Hold, dear aunt--my sons--"
"Nay, child, it is the best thing thou couldst do for them. Wonders
hast thou wrought, yet are they too old to be without fatherly
authority. I speak not of Friedel; the lad is gentle and pious,
though spirited, but for the baron. The very eye and temper of my
poor brother Hugh--thy father, Stine--are alive again in him. Yea, I
love the lad the better for it, while I fear. He minds me precisely
of Hugh ere he was 'prenticed to the weapon-smith, and all became
"Ah, truly," said Christina, raising her eyes "all would become
bitterness with my Ebbo were I to give a father's power to one whom
he would not love."
"Then were he sullen and unruly, indeed!" said the old burgomaster
with displeasure; "none have shown him more kindness, none could
better aid him in court and empire. The lad has never had restraint
enough. I blame thee not, child, but he needs it sorely, by thine
"Alas, uncle! mine be the blame, but it is over late. My boy will
rule himself for the love of God and of his mother, but he will brook
no hand over him--least of all now he is a knight and thinks himself
a man. Uncle, I should be deprived of both my sons, for Friedel's
very soul is bound up with his brother's. I pray thee enjoin not
this thing on me," she implored.
"Child!" exclaimed Master Gottfried, "thou thinkst not that such a
contract as this can be declined for the sake of a wayward Junker!"
"Stay, house-father, the little one will doubtless hear reason and
submit," put in the aunt. "Her sons were goodly and delightsome to
her in their upgrowth, but they are well-nigh men. They will be away
to court and camp, to love and marriage; and how will it be with her
then, young and fair as she still is? Well will it be for her to
have a stately lord of her own, and a new home of love and honour
springing round her."
"True," continued Sorel; "and though she be too pious and wise to
reck greatly of such trifles, yet it may please her dreamy brain to
hear that Sir Kasimir loves her even like a paladin, and the love of
a tried man of six-and-forty is better worth than a mere kindling of
"Mine Eberhard loved me!" murmured Christina, almost to herself, but
her aunt caught the word.
"And what was such love worth? To force thee into a stolen match,
and leave thee alone and unowned to the consequences!"
"Peace!" exclaimed Christina, with crimson cheek and uplifted head.
"Peace! My own dear lord loved me with true and generous love! None
but myself knows how much. Not a word will I hear against that
"Yes, peace," returned Gottfried in a conciliatory tone,--"peace to
the brave Sir Eberhard. Thine aunt meant no ill of him. He truly
would rejoice that the wisdom of his choice should receive such
testimony, and that his sons should be thus well handled. Nay,
little as I heed such toys, it will doubtless please the lads that
the baron will obtain of the Emperor letters of nobility for this
house, which verily sprang of a good Walloon family, and so their
shield will have no blank. The Romish king promises to give thee
rank with any baroness, and hath fully owned what a pearl thou art,
mine own sweet dove! Nay, Sir Kasimir is coming to-morrow in the
trust to make the first betrothal with Graf von Kaulwitz as a
witness, and I thought of asking the Provost on the other hand."
"To-morrow!" exclaimed Johanna; "and how is she to be meetly clad?
Look at this widow-garb; and how is time to be found for procuring
other raiment? House-father, a substantial man like you should
better understand! The meal too! I must to gossip Sophie!"
"Verily, dear mother and father," said Christina, who had rallied a
little, "have patience with me. I may not lightly or suddenly
betroth myself; I know not that I can do so at all, assuredly not
unless my sons were heartily willing. Have I your leave to retire?"
"Granted, my child, for meditation will show thee that this is too
fair a lot for any but thee. Much had I longed to see thee wedded
ere thy sons outgrew thy care, but I shunned proposing even one of
our worthy guildmasters, lest my young Freiherr should take offence;
but this knight, of his own blood, true and wise as a burgher, and
faithful and God-fearing withal, is a better match than I durst hope,
and is no doubt a special reward from thy patron saint."
"Let me entreat one favour more," implored Christina. "Speak of this
to no one ere I have seen my sons."
She made her way to her own chamber, there to weep and flutter.
Marriage was a matter of such high contract between families that the
parties themselves had usually no voice in the matter, and only the
widowed had any chance of a personal choice; nor was this always
accorded in the case of females, who remained at the disposal of
their relatives. Good substantial wedded affection was not lacking,
but romantic love was thought an unnecessary preliminary, and found a
vent in extravagant adoration, not always in reputable quarters.
Obedience first to the father, then to the husband, was the first
requisite; love might shift for itself; and the fair widow of
Adlerstein, telling her beads in sheer perplexity, knew not whether
her strong repugnance to this marriage and warm sympathy with her son
Ebbo were not an act of rebellion. Yet each moment did her husband
rise before her mind more vividly, with his rugged looks, his warm,
tender heart, his dawnings of comprehension, his generous forbearance
and reverential love--the love of her youth--to be equalled by no
other. The accomplished courtier and polished man of the world might
be his superior, but she loathed the superiority, since it was to her
husband. Might not his one chosen dove keep heart-whole for him to
the last? She recollected that coarsest, cruellest reproach of all
that her mother-in-law had been wont to fling at her,--that she, the
recent widow, the new-made mother of Eberhard's babes, in her grief,
her terror, and her weakness had sought to captivate this suitor by
her blandishments. The taunt seemed justified, and her cheeks burned
with absolute shame "My husband! my loving Eberhard! left with none
but me to love thee, unknown to thine own sons! I cannot, I will not
give my heart away from thee! Thy little bride shall be faithful to
thee, whatever betide. When we meet beyond the grave I will have
been thine only, nor have set any before thy sons. Heaven forgive me
if I be undutiful to my uncle; but thou must be preferred before even
him! Hark!" and she started as if at Eberhard's foot-step; then
smiled, recollecting that Ebbo had his father's tread. But her
husband had been too much in awe of her to enter with that hasty
agitated step and exclamation, "Mother, mother, what insolence is
"Hush, Ebbo! I prayed mine uncle to let me speak to thee."
"It is true, then," said Ebbo, dashing his cap on the ground; "I had
soundly beaten that grinning 'prentice for telling Heinz."
"Truly the house rings with the rumour, mother," said Friedel, "but
we had not believed it."
"I believed Wildschloss assured enough for aught," said Ebbo, "but I
thought he knew where to begin. Does he not know who is head of the
house of Adlerstein, since he must tamper with a mechanical
craftsman, cap in hand to any sprig of nobility! I would have soon
silenced his overtures!"
"Is it in sooth as we heard?" asked Friedel, blushing to the ears,
for the boy was shy as a maiden. "Mother, we know what you would
say," he added, throwing himself on his knees beside her, his arm
round her waist, his cheek on her lap, and his eyes raised to hers.
She bent down to kiss him. "Thou knewst it, Friedel, and now must
thou aid me to remain thy father's true widow, and to keep Ebbo from
Ebbo checked his hasty march to put his hand on her chair and kiss
her brow. "Motherling, I will restrain myself, so you will give me
your word not to desert us."
"Nay, Ebbo," said Friedel, "the motherling is too true and loving for
us to bind her."
"Children," she answered, "hear me patiently. I have been communing
with myself, and deeply do I feel that none other can I love save him
who is to you a mere name, but to me a living presence. Nor would I
put any between you and me. Fear me not, Ebbo. I think the mothers
and sons of this wider, fuller world do not prize one another as we
do. But, my son, this is no matter for rage or ingratitude.
Remember it is no small condescension in a noble to stoop to thy
"He knew what painted puppets noble ladies are," growled Ebbo.
"Moreover," continued Christina, "thine uncle is highly gratified,
and cannot believe that I can refuse. He understands not my love for
thy father, and sees many advantages for us all. I doubt me if he
believes I have power to resist his will, and for thee, he would not
count thine opposition valid. And the more angry and vehement thou
art, the more will he deem himself doing thee a service by overruling
"Come home, mother. Let Heinz lead our horses to the door in the
dawn, and when we are back in free Adlerstein it will be plain who is
"Such a flitting would scarce prove our wisdom," said Christina, "to
run away with thy mother like a lover in a ballad. Nay, let me first
deal gently with thine uncle, and speak myself with Sir Kasimir, so
that I may show him the vanity of his suit. Then will we back to
Adlerstein without leaving wounds to requite kindness."
Ebbo was wrought on to promise not to attack the burgomaster on the
subject, but he was moody and silent, and Master Gottfried let him
alone, considering his gloom as another proof of his need of fatherly
authority, and as a peace-lover forbearing to provoke his fiery
But when Sir Kasimir's visit was imminent, and Christina had refused
to make the change in her dress by which a young widow was considered
to lay herself open to another courtship, Master Gottfried called the
"My young lords," he said, "I fear me ye are vexing your gentle
mother by needless strife at what must take place."
"Pardon me, good uncle," said Ebbo, "I utterly decline the honour of
Sir Kasimir's suit to my mother."
Master Gottfried smiled. "Sons are not wont to be the judges in such
cases, Sir Eberhard."
"Perhaps not," he answered; "but my mother's will is to the nayward,
nor shall she be coerced."
"It is merely because of you and your pride," said Master Gottfried.
"I think not so," rejoined the calmer Friedel; "my mother's love for
my father is still fresh."
"Young knights," said Master Gottfried, "it would scarce become me to
say, nor you to hear, how much matter of fancy such love must have
been towards one whom she knew but for a few short months, though her
pure sweet dreams, through these long years, have moulded him into a
hero. Boys, I verily believe ye love her truly. Would it be well
for her still to mourn and cherish a dream while yet in her fresh
age, capable of new happiness, fuller than she has ever enjoyed?"
"She is happy with us," rejoined Ebbo.
"And ye are good lads and loving sons, though less duteous in manner
than I could wish. But look you, you may not ever be with her, and
when ye are absent in camp or court, or contracting a wedlock of your
own, would you leave her to her lonesome life in your solitary
Friedel's unselfishness might have been startled, but Ebbo boldly
answered, "All mine is hers. No joy to me but shall be a joy to her.
We can make her happier than could any stranger. Is it not so,
"It is," said Friedel, thoughtfully.
"Ah, rash bloods, promising beyond what ye can keep. Nature will be
too strong for you. Love your mother as ye may, what will she be to
you when a bride comes in your way? Fling not away in wrath, Sir
Baron; it was so with your parents both before you; and what said the
law of the good God at the first marriage? How can you withstand the
nature He has given?"
"Belike I may wed," said Ebbo, bluntly; "but if it be not for my
mother's happiness, call me man-sworn knight."
"Not so," good-humouredly answered Gottfried, "but boy-sworn paladin,
who talks of he knows not what. Speak knightly truth, Sir Baron, and
own that this opposition is in verity from distaste to a stepfather's
"I own that I will not brook such rule," said Ebbo; "nor do I know
what we have done to deserve that it should be thrust on us. You
have never blamed Friedel, at least; and verily, uncle, my mother's
eye will lead me where a stranger's hand shall never drive me. Did I
even think she had for this man a quarter of the love she bears to my
dead father, I would strive for endurance; but in good sooth we found
her in tears, praying us to guard her from him. I may be a boy, but
I am man enough to prevent her from being coerced."
"Was this so, Friedel?" asked Master Gottfried, moved more than by
all that had gone before. "Ach, I thought ye all wiser. And spake
she not of Sir Kasimir's offers?--Interest with the Romish king?--
Yea, and a grant of nobility and arms to this house, so as to fill
the blank in your scutcheon?"
"My father never asked if she were noble," said Ebbo. "Nor will I
barter her for a cantle of a shield."
"There spake a manly spirit," said his uncle, delighted. "Her worth
hath taught thee how little to prize these gewgaws! Yet, if you look
to mingling with your own proud kind, ye may fall among greater
slights than ye can brook. It may matter less to you, Sir Baron, but
Friedel here, ay, and your sons, will be ineligible to the choicest
orders of knighthood, and the canonries and chapters that are
Friedel looked as if he could bear it, and Eberhard said, "The order
of the Dove of Adlerstein is enough for us."
"Headstrong all, headstrong all," sighed Master Gottfried. "One
romantic marriage has turned all your heads."
The Baron of Adlerstein Wildschloss, unprepared for the opposition
that awaited him, was riding down the street equipped point device,
and with a goodly train of followers, in brilliant suits. Private
wooing did not enter into the honest ideas of the burghers, and the
suitor was ushered into the full family assembly, where Christina
rose and came forward a few steps to meet him, curtseying as low as
he bowed, as he said, "Lady, I have preferred my suit to you through
your honour-worthy uncle, who is good enough to stand my friend."
"You are over good, sir. I feel the honour, but a second wedlock may
not be mine."
"Now," murmured Ebbo to his brother, as the knight and lady seated
themselves in full view, "now will the smooth-tongued fellow talk her
out of her senses. Alack! that gipsy prophecy!"
Wildschloss did not talk like a young wooer; such days were over for
both; but he spoke as a grave and honourable man, deeply penetrated
with true esteem and affection. He said that at their first meeting
he had been struck with her sweetness and discretion, and would soon
after have endeavoured to release her from her durance, but that he
was bound by the contract already made with the Trautbachs, who were
dangerous neighbours to Wildschloss. He had delayed his distasteful
marriage as long as possible, and it had caused him nothing but
trouble and strife; his children would not live, and Thekla, the only
survivor, was, as his sole heiress, a mark for the cupidity of her
uncle, the Count of Trautbach, and his almost savage son Lassla;
while the right to the Wildschloss barony would become so doubtful
between her and Ebbo, as heir of the male line, that strife and
bloodshed would be well-nigh inevitable. These causes made it almost
imperative that he should re-marry, and his own strong preference and
regard for little Thekla directed his wishes towards the Freiherrinn
von Adlerstein. He backed his suit with courtly compliments, as well
as with representations of his child's need of a mother's training,
and the twins' equal want of fatherly guidance, dilating on the
benefits he could confer on them.
Christina felt his kindness, and had full trust in his intentions.
"No" was a difficult syllable to her, but she had that within her
which could not accept him; and she firmly told him that she was too
much bound to both her Eberhards. But there was no daunting him, nor
preventing her uncle and aunt from encouraging him. He professed
that he would wait, and give her time to consider; and though she
reiterated that consideration would not change her mind, Master
Gottfried came forward to thank him, and express his confidence of
bringing her to reason.
"While I, sir," said Ebbo, with flashing eyes, and low but resentful
voice, "beg to decline the honour in the name of the elder house of
He held himself upright as a dart, but was infinitely annoyed by the
little mocking bow and smile that he received in return, as Sir
Kasimir, with his long mantle, swept out of the apartment, attended
by Master Gottfried.
"Burgomaster Sorel," said the boy, standing in the middle of the
floor as his uncle returned, "let me hear whether I am a person of
any consideration in this family or not?"
"Nephew baron," quietly replied Master Gottfried, "it is not the use
of us Germans to be dictated to by youths not yet arrived at years of
"Then, mother," said Ebbo, "we leave this place to-morrow morn." And
at her nod of assent the house-father looked deeply grieved, the
house-mother began to clamour about ingratitude. "Not so," answered
Ebbo, fiercely. "We quit the house as poor as we came, in homespun
and with the old mare."
"Peace, Ebbo!" said his mother, rising; "peace, I entreat, house-
mother! pardon, uncle, I pray thee. O, why will not all who love me
let me follow that which I believe to be best!"
"Child," said her uncle, "I cannot see thee domineered over by a
youth whose whole conduct shows his need of restraint."
"Nor am I," said Christina. "It is I who am utterly averse to this
offer. My sons and I are one in that; and, uncle, if I pray of you
to consent to let us return to our castle, it is that I would not see
the visit that has made us so happy stained with strife and
dissension! Sure, sure, you cannot be angered with my son for his
love for me."
"For the self-seeking of his love," said Master Gottfried. "It is to
gratify his own pride that he first would prevent thee from being
enriched and ennobled, and now would bear thee away to the scant--
Nay, Freiherr, I will not seem to insult you, but resentment would
make you cruel to your mother."
"Not cruel!" said Friedel, hastily. "My mother is willing. And
verily, good uncle, methinks that we all were best at home. We have
benefited much and greatly by our stay; we have learnt to love and
reverence you; but we are wild mountaineers at the best; and, while
our hearts are fretted by the fear of losing our sweet mother, we can
scarce be as patient or submissive as if we had been bred up by a
stern father. We have ever judged and acted for ourselves, and it is
hard to us not to do so still, when our minds are chafed."
"Friedel," said Ebbo, sternly, "I will have no pardon asked for
maintaining my mother's cause. Do not thou learn to be smooth-
"O thou wrong-headed boy!" half groaned Master Gottfried. "Why did
not all this fall out ten years sooner, when thou wouldst have been
amenable? Yet, after all, I do not know that any noble training has
produced a more high-minded loving youth," he added, half relenting
as he looked at the gallant, earnest face, full of defiance indeed,
but with a certain wistful appealing glance at "the motherling,"
softening the liquid lustrous dark eye. "Get thee gone, boy, I would
not quarrel with you; and it may be, as Friedel says, that we are
best out of one another's way. You are used to lord it, and I can
scarce make excuses for you."
"Then," said Ebbo, scarce appeased, "I take home my mother, and you,
sir, cease to favour Kasimir's suit."
"No, Sir Baron. I cease not to think that nothing would be so much
for your good. It is because I believe that a return to your own old
castle will best convince you all that I will not vex your mother by
further opposing your departure. When you perceive your error may it
only not be too late! Such a protector is not to be found every
"My mother shall never need any protector save myself," said Ebbo;
"but, sir, she loves you, and owes all to you. Therefore I will not
be at strife with you, and there is my hand."
He said it as if he had been the Emperor reconciling himself to all
the Hanse towns in one. Master Gottfried could scarce refrain from
shrugging his shoulders, and Hausfrau Johanna was exceedingly angry
with the petulant pride and insolence of the young noble; but, in
effect, all were too much relieved to avoid an absolute quarrel with
the fiery lad to take exception at minor matters. The old burgher
was forbearing; Christina, who knew how much her son must have
swallowed to bring him to this concession for love of her, thought
him a hero worthy of all sacrifices; and peace-making Friedel, by his
aunt's side, soon softened even her, by some of the persuasive
arguments that old dames love from gracious, graceful, great-nephews.
And when, by and by, Master Gottfried went out to call on Sir
Kasimir, and explain how he had thought it best to yield to the hot-
tempered lad, and let the family learn how to be thankful for the
goods they had rejected, he found affairs in a state that made him
doubly anxious that the young barons should be safe on their mountain
without knowing of them. The Trautbach family had heard of
Wildschloss's designs, and they had set abroad such injurious reports
respecting the Lady of Adlerstein, that Sir Kasimir was in the act of
inditing a cartel to be sent by Count Kaulwitz, to demand an
explanation--not merely as the lady's suitor, but as the only
Adlerstein of full age. Now, if Ebbo had heard of the rumour, he
would certainly have given the lie direct, and taken the whole
defence on himself; and it may be feared that, just as his cause
might have been, Master Gottfried's faith did not stretch to
believing that it would make his sixteen-year-old arm equal to the
brutal might of Lassla of Trautbach. So he heartily thanked the
Baron of Wildschloss, agreed with him that the young knights were not
as yet equal to the maintenance of the cause, and went home again to
watch carefully that no report reached either of his nephews. Nor
did he breathe freely till he had seen the little party ride safe off
in the early morning, in much more lordly guise than when they had
entered the city.
As to Wildschloss and his nephew of Trautbach, in spite of their
relationship they had a sharp combat on the borders of their own
estates, in which both were severely wounded; but Sir Kasimir, with
the misericorde in his grasp, forced Lassla to retract whatever he
had said in dispraise of the Lady of Adlerstein. Wily old Gottfried
took care that the tidings should be sent in a form that might at
once move Christina with pity and gratitude towards her champion, and
convince her sons that the adversary was too much hurt for them to
attempt a fresh challenge.
CHAPTER XVI: THE EAGLE AND THE SNAKE
The reconciliation made Ebbo retract his hasty resolution of
relinquishing all the benefits resulting from his connection with the
Sorel family, and his mother's fortune made it possible to carry out
many changes that rendered the castle and its inmates far more
prosperous in appearance than had ever been the case before.
Christina had once again the appliances of a wirthschaft, such as she
felt to be the suitable and becoming appurtenance of a right-minded
Frau, gentle or simple, and she felt so much the happier and more
A chaplain had also been secured. The youths had insisted on his
being capable of assisting their studies, and, a good man had been
found who was fearfully learned, having studied at all possible
universities, but then failing as a teacher, because he was so dreamy
and absent as to be incapable of keeping the unruly students in
order. Jobst Schon was his proper name, but he was translated into
Jodocus Pulcher. The chapel was duly adorned, the hall and other
chambers were fitted up with some degree of comfort; the castle court
was cleansed, the cattle sheds removed to the rear, and the serfs
were presented with seed, and offered payment in coin if they would
give their labour in fencing and clearing the cornfield and vineyard
which the barons were bent on forming on the sunny slope of the
ravine. Poverty was over, thanks to the marriage portion, and yet
Ebbo looked less happy than in the days when there was but a bare
subsistence; and he seemed to miss the full tide of city life more
than did his brother, who, though he had enjoyed Ulm more heartily at
the time, seemed to have returned to all his mountain delights with
greater zest than ever. At his favourite tarn, he revelled in the
vast stillness with the greater awe for having heard the hum of men,
and his minstrel dreams had derived fresh vigour from contact with
the active world. But, as usual, he was his brother's chief stay in
the vexations of a reformer. The serfs had much rather their lord
had turned out a freebooter than an improver. Why should they sow
new seeds, when the old had sufficed their fathers? Work, beyond the
regulated days when they scratched up the soil of his old enclosure,
was abhorrent to them. As to his offered coin, they needed nothing
it would buy, and had rather bask in the sun or sleep in the smoke.
A vineyard had never been heard of on Adlerstein mountain: it was
clean contrary to his forefathers' habits; and all came of the bad
drop of restless burgher blood, that could not let honest folk rest.
Ebbo stormed, not merely with words, but blows, became ashamed of his
violence, tried to atone for it by gifts and kind words, and in
return was sulkily told that he would bring more good to the village
by rolling the fiery wheel straight down hill at the wake, than by
all his new-fangled ways. Had not Koppel and a few younger men been
more open to influence, his agricultural schemes could hardly have
begun; but Friedel's persuasions were not absolutely without success,
and every rood that was dug was achieved by his patience and
Next came home the Graf von Schlangenwald. He had of late inhabited
his castle in Styria, but in a fierce quarrel with some of his
neighbours he had lost his eldest son, and the pacification enforced
by the King of the Romans had so galled and infuriated him that he
had deserted that part of the country and returned to Swabia more
fierce and bitter than ever. Thenceforth began a petty border
warfare such as had existed when Christina first knew Adlerstein, but
had of late died out. The shepherd lad came home weeping with wrath.
Three mounted Schlangenwaldern had driven off his four best sheep,
and beaten himself with their halberds, though he was safe on
Adlerstein ground. Then a light thrown by a Schlangenwald reiter
consumed all Jobst's pile of wood. The swine did not come home, and
were found with spears sticking in them; the great broad-horned bull
that Ebbo had brought from the pastures of Ulm vanished from the Alp
below the Gemsbock's Pass, and was known to be salted for winter use
Still Christina tried to persuade her sons that this might be only
the retainers' violence, and induced Ebbo to write a letter,
complaining of the outrages, but not blaming the Count, only begging
that his followers might be better restrained. The letter was
conveyed by a lay brother--no other messenger being safe. Ebbo had
protested from the first that it would be of no use, but he waited
anxiously for the answer.
Thus it stood, when conveyed to him by a tenant of the Ruprecht
"Wot you, Eberhard, Freiherr von Adlerstein, that your house have
injured me by thought, word, and deed. Your great-grandfather
usurped my lands at the ford. Your grandfather stole my cattle and
burnt my mills. Then, in the war, he slew my brother Johann and
lamed for life my cousin Matthias. Your father slew eight of my
retainers and spoiled my crops. You yourself claim my land at the
ford, and secure the spoil which is justly mine. Therefore do I
declare war and feud against you. Therefore to you and all yours, to
your helpers and helpers' helpers, am I a foe. And thereby shall I
have maintained my honour against you and yours.
WOLFGANG, Graf von Schlangenwald.
HIEROM, Graf von Schlangenwald--his cousin."
&c. &c. &c.
And a long list of names, all connected with Schlangenwald, followed;
and a large seal, bearing the snake of Schlangenwald, was appended
"The old miscreant!" burst out Ebbo; "it is a feud brief."
"A feud brief!" exclaimed Friedel; "they are no longer according to
"Law?--what cares he for law or mercy either? Is this the way men
act by the League? Did we not swear to send no more feud letters,
nor have recourse to fist-right?"
"We must appeal to the Markgraf of Wurtemburg," said Friedel.
It was the only measure in their power, though Ebbo winced at it; but
his oaths were recent, and his conscience would not allow him to
transgress them by doing himself justice. Besides, neither party
could take the castle of the other, and the only reprisals in his
power would have been on the defenceless peasants of Schlangenwald.
He must therefore lay the whole matter before the Markgraf, who was
the head of the Swabian League, and bound to redress his wrongs. He
made his arrangements without faltering, selecting the escort who
were to accompany him, and insisting on leaving Friedel to guard his
mother and the castle. He would not for the world have admitted the
suggestion that the counsel and introduction of Adlerstein
Wildschloss would have been exceedingly useful to him.
Poor Christina! It was a great deal too like that former departure,
and her heart was heavy within her! Friedel was equally unhappy at
letting his brother go without him, but it was quite necessary that
he and the few armed men who remained should show themselves at all
points open to the enemy in the course of the day, lest the
Freiherr's absence should be remarked. He did his best to cheer his
mother, by reminding her that Ebbo was not likely to be taken at
unawares as their father had been; and he shared the prayers and
chapel services, in which she poured out her anxiety.
The blue banner came safe up the Pass again, but Wurtemburg had been
formally civil to the young Freiherr; but he had laughed at the fend
letter as a mere old-fashioned habit of Schangenwald's that it was
better not to notice, and he evidently regarded the stealing of a
bull or the misusing of a serf as far too petty a matter for his
attention. It was as if a judge had been called by a crying child to
settle a nursery quarrel. He told Ebbo that, being a free Baron of
the empire, he must keep his bounds respected; he was free to take
and hang any spoiler he could catch, but his bulls were his own
affair: the League was not for such gear.
And a knight who had ridden out of Stuttgard with Ebbo had told him
that it was no wonder that this had been his reception, for not only
was Schlangenwald an old intimate of the Markgraf, but Swabia was
claimed as a fief of Wurtemburg, so that Ebbo's direct homage to the
Emperor, without the interposition of the Markgraf, had made him no
object of favour.
"What could be done?" asked Ebbo.
"Fire some Schlangenwald hamlet, and teach him to respect yours,"
said the knight.
"The poor serfs are guiltless."
"Ha! ha! as if they would not rob any of yours. Give and take,
that's the way the empire wags, Sir Baron. Send him a feud letter in
return, with a goodly file of names at its foot, and teach him to
"But I have sworn to abstain from fist-right."
"Much you gain by so abstaining. If the League will not take the
trouble to right you, right yourself."
"I shall appeal to the Emperor, and tell him how his League is
"Young sir, if the Emperor were to guard every cow in his domains he
would have enough to do. You will never prosper with him without
some one to back your cause better than that free tongue of yours.
Hast no sister that thou couldst give in marriage to a stout baron
that could aid you with strong arm and prudent head?"
"I have only one twin brother."
"Ah! the twins of Adlerstein! I remember me. Was not the other
Adlerstein seeking an alliance with your lady mother? Sure no better
aid could be found. He is hand and glove with young King Max."
"That may never be," said Ebbo, haughtily. And, sure that he should
receive the same advice, he decided against turning aside to consult
his uncle at Ulm, and returned home in a mood that rejoiced Heinz and
Hatto with hopes of the old days, while it filled his mother with
dreary dismay and apprehension.
"Schlangenwald should suffer next time he transgressed," said Ebbo.
"It should not again be said that he himself was a coward who
appealed to the law because his hand could not keep his head."
The "next time" was when the first winter cold was setting in. A
party of reitern came to harry an outlying field, where Ulrich had
raised a scanty crop of rye. Tidings reached the castle in such good
time that the two brothers, with Heinz, the two Ulm grooms, Koppel,
and a troop of serfs, fell on the marauders before they had effected
much damage, and while some remained to trample out the fire, the
rest pursued the enemy even to the village of Schlangenwald.
"Burn it, Herr Freiherr," cried Heinz, hot with victory. "Let them
learn how to make havoc of our corn."
But a host of half-naked beings rushed out shrieking about sick
children, bed-ridden grandmothers, and crippled fathers, and falling
on their knees, with their hands stretched out to the young barons.
Ebbo turned away his head with hot tears in his eyes. "Friedel, what
can we do?"
"Not barbarous murder," said Friedel.
"But they brand us for cowards!"
"The cowardice were in striking here," and Friedel sprang to withhold
Koppel, who had lighted a bundle of dried fern ready to thrust into
"Peasants!" said Ebbo, with the same impulse, "I spare you. You did
not this wrong. But bear word to your lord, that if he will meet me
with lance and sword, he will learn the valour of Adlerstein."
The serfs flung themselves before him in transports of gratitude, but
he turned hastily away and strode up the mountain, his cheek glowing
as he remembered, too late, that his defiance would be scoffed at, as
a boy's vaunt. By and by he arrived at the hamlet, where he found a
prisoner, a scowling, abject fellow, already well beaten, and now
held by two serfs.
"The halter is ready, Herr Freiherr," said old Ulrich, "and yon rowan
stump is still as stout as when your Herr grandsire hung three
lanzknechts on it in one day. We only waited your bidding."
"Quick then, and let me hear no more," said Ebbo, about to descend
the pass, as if hastening from the execution of a wolf taken in a
"Has he seen the priest?" asked Friedel.
The peasants looked as if this were one of Sir Friedel's
unaccountable fancies. Ebbo paused, frowned, and muttered, but
seeing a move as if to drag the wretch towards the stunted bush
overhanging an abyss, he shouted, "Hold, Ulrich! Little Hans, do
thou run down to the castle, and bring Father Jodocus to do his
The serfs were much disgusted. "It never was so seen before, Herr
Freiherr," remonstrated Heinz; "fang and hang was ever the word."
"What shrift had my lord's father, or mine?" added Koppel.
"Look you!" said Ebbo, turning sharply. "If Schlangenwald be a
godless ruffian, pitiless alike to soul and body, is that a cause
that I should stain myself too?"
"It were true vengeance," growled Koppel.
"And now," grumbled Ulrich, "will my lady hear, and there will be
feeble pleadings for the vermin's life."
Like mutterings ensued, the purport of which was caught by Friedel,
and made him say to Ebbo, who would again have escaped the
disagreeableness of the scene, "We had better tarry at hand. Unless
we hold the folk in some check there will be no right execution.
They will torture him to death ere the priest comes."
Ebbo yielded, and began to pace the scanty area of the flat rock
where the need-fire was wont to blaze. After a time he exclaimed:
"Friedel, how couldst ask me? Knowst not that it sickens me to see a
mountain cat killed, save in full chase. And thou--why, thou art
white as the snow crags!"
"Better conquer the folly than that he there should be put to
needless pain," said Friedel, but with labouring breath that showed
how terrible was the prospect to his imaginative soul not inured to
death-scenes like those of his fellows.
Just then a mocking laugh broke forth. "Ha!" cried Ebbo, looking
keenly down, "what do ye there? Fang and hang may be fair; fang and
torment is base! What was it, Lieschen?"
"Only, Herr Freiherr, the caitiff craved drink, and the fleischerinn
gave him a cup from the stream behind the slaughter-house, where we
killed the swine. Fit for the like of him!"
"By heavens, when I forbade torture!" cried Ebbo, leaping from the
rock in time to see the disgusting draught held to the lips of the
captive, whose hands were twisted back and bound with cruel
tightness; for the German boor, once roused from his lazy good-
nature, was doubly savage from stolidity.
"Wretches!" cried Ebbo, striking right and left with the back of his
sword, among the serfs, and then cutting the thong that was eating
into the prisoner's flesh, while Friedel caught up a wooden bowl,
filled it with pure water, and offered it to the captive, who drank
"Now," said Ebbo, "hast ought to say for thyself?"
A low curse against things in general was the only answer.
"What brought thee here?" continued Ebbo, in hopes of extracting some
excuse for pardon; but the prisoner only hung his head as one
stupefied, brutally indifferent and hardened against the mere trouble
of answering. Not another word could be extracted, and Ebbo's
position was very uncomfortable, keeping guard over his condemned
felon, with the sulky peasants herding round, in fear of being balked
of their prey; and the reluctance growing on him every moment to
taking life in cold blood. Right of life and death was a heavy
burden to a youth under seventeen, unless he had been thoughtless and
reckless, and from this Ebbo had been prevented by his peculiar life.
The lion cub had never tasted blood.
The situation was prolonged beyond expectation.
Many a time had the brothers paced their platform of rock, the
criminal had fallen into a dose, and women and boys were murmuring
that they must call home their kine and goats, and it was a shame to
debar them of the sight of the hanging, long before Hans came back
between crying and stammering, to say that Father Jodocus had fallen
into so deep a study over his book, that he only muttered "Coming,"
then went into another musing fit, whence no one could rouse him to
do more than say "Coming! Let him wait."
"I must go and bring him, if the thing is to be done," said Friedel.
"And let it last all night!" was the answer. "No, if the man were to
die, it should be at once, not by inches. Hark thee, rogue!"
stirring him with his foot.
"Well, sir," said the man, "is the hanging ready yet? You've been
long enough about it for us to have twisted the necks of every
Adlerstein of you all."
"Look thee, caitiff!" said Ebbo; "thou meritest the rope as well as
any wolf on the mountain, but we have kept thee so long in suspense,
that if thou canst say a word for thy life, or pledge thyself to
meddle no more with my lands, I'll consider of thy doom."
"You have had plenty of time to consider it," growled the fellow.
A murmur, followed by a wrathful shout, rose among the villagers.
"Letting off the villain! No! No! Out upon him! He dares not!"
"Dare!" thundered Ebbo, with flashing eyes. "Rascals as ye are,
think ye to hinder me from daring? Your will to be mine? There,
fellow; away with thee! Up to the Gemsbock's Pass! And whoso would
follow him, let him do so at his peril!"
The prisoner was prompt to gather himself up and rush like a hunted
animal to the path, at the entrance of which stood both twins, with
drawn swords, to defend the escape. Of course no one ventured to
follow; and surly discontented murmurs were the sole result as the
peasants dispersed. Ebbo, sheathing his sword, and putting his arm
into his brother's, said: "What, Friedel, turned stony-hearted?
Hadst never a word for the poor caitiff?"
"I knew thou wouldst never do the deed," said Friedel, smiling.
"It was such wretched prey," said Ebbo. "Yet shall I be despised for
this! Would that thou hadst let me string him up shriftless, as any
other man had done, and there would have been an end of it!"
And even his mother's satisfaction did not greatly comfort Ebbo, for
he was of the age to feel more ashamed of a solecism than a crime.
Christina perceived that this was one of his most critical periods of
life, baited as he was by the enemy of his race, and feeling all the
disadvantages which heart and conscience gave him in dealing with a
man who had neither, at a time when public opinion was always with
the most masterful. The necessity of arming his retainers and having
fighting men as a guard were additional temptations to hereditary
habits of violence; and that so proud and fiery a nature as his
should never become involved in them was almost beyond hope. Even
present danger seemed more around than ever before. The estate was
almost in a state of siege, and Christina never saw her sons quit the
castle without thinking of their father's fate, and passing into the
chapel to entreat for their return unscathed in body or soul. The
snow, which she had so often hailed as a friend, was never more
welcome than this winter; not merely as shutting the enemy out, and
her sons in, but as cutting off all danger of a visit from her
suitor, who would now come armed with his late sufferings in her
behalf; and, moreover, with all the urgent need of a wise and
respected head and protector for her sons. Yet the more evident the
expediency became, the greater grew her distaste.
Still the lonely life weighed heavily on Ebbo. Light-hearted Friedel
was ever busy and happy, were he chasing the grim winter game--the
bear and wolf--with his brother, fencing in the hall, learning Greek
with the chaplain, reading or singing to his mother, or carving
graceful angel forms to adorn the chapel. Or he could at all times
soar into a minstrel dream of pure chivalrous semi-allegorical
romance, sometimes told over the glowing embers to his mother and
brother. All that came to Friedel was joy, from battling with the
bear on a frozen rock, to persuading rude little Hans to come to the
Frau Freiherrinn to learn his Paternoster. But the elder twin might
hunt, might fence, might smile or kindle at his brother's lay, but
ever with a restless gloom on him, a doubt of the future which made
him impatient of the present, and led to a sharpness and hastiness of
manner that broke forth in anger at slight offences.
"The matron's coif succeeding the widow's veil," Friedel heard him
muttering even in sleep, and more than once listened to it as Ebbo
leant over the battlements--as he looked over the white world to the
gray mist above the city of Ulm.
"Thou, who mockest my forebodings and fancies, to dwell on that gipsy
augury!" argued Friedel. "As thou saidst at the time, Wildschloss's
looks gave shrewd cause for it."
"The answer is in mine own heart," answered Ebbo. "Since our stay at
Ulm, I have ever felt as though the sweet motherling were less my
own! And the same with my house and lands. Rule as I will, a
mocking laugh comes back to me, saying: 'Thou art but a boy, Sir
Baron, thou dost but play at lords and knights.' If I had hung yon
rogue of a reiter, I wonder if I had felt my grasp more real?"
"Nay," said Friedel, glancing from the sparkling white slopes to the
pure blue above, "our whole life is but a play at lords and knights,
with the blessed saints as witnesses of our sport in the tilt-yard."
"Were it merely that," said Ebbo, impatiently, "I were not so galled.
Something hangs over us, Friedel! I long that these snows would
melt, that I might at least know what it is!"
CHAPTER XVII: BRIDGING THE FORD
The snow melted, the torrent became a flood, then contracted itself,
but was still a broad stream, when one spring afternoon Ebbo showed
his brother some wains making for the ford, adding, "It cannot be
rightly passable. They will come to loss. I shall get the men
together to aid them."
He blew a blast on his horn, and added, "The knaves will be alert
enough if they hope to meddle with honest men's luggage."
"See," and Friedel pointed to the thicket to the westward of the
meadow around the stream, where the beech trees were budding, but not
yet forming a full mass of verdure, "is not the Snake in the wood?
Methinks I spy the glitter of his scales."
"By heavens, the villains are lying in wait for the travellers at our
landing-place," cried Ebbo, and again raising the bugle to his lips,
he sent forth three notes well known as a call to arms. Their echoes
came back from the rocks, followed instantly by lusty jodels, and the
brothers rushed into the hall to take down their light head-pieces
and corslets, answering in haste their mother's startled questions,
by telling of the endangered travellers, and the Schlangenwald
ambush. She looked white and trembled, but said no word to hinder
them; only as she clasped Friedel's corslet, she entreated them to
take fuller armour.
"We must speed the short way down the rock," said Ebbo, "and cannot
be cumbered with heavy harness. Sweet motherling, fear not; but let
a meal be spread for our rescued captives. Ho, Heinz, 'tis against
the Schlangenwald rascals. Art too stiff to go down the rock path?"
"No; nor down the abyss, could I strike a good stroke against
Schlangenwald at the bottom of it," quoth Heinz.
"Nor see vermin set free by the Freiherr," growled Koppel; but the
words were lost in Ebbo's loud commands to the men, as Friedel and
Hatto handed down the weapons to them.
The convoy had by this time halted, evidently to try the ford. A
horseman crossed, and found it practicable, for a waggon proceeded to
make the attempt.
"Now is our time," said Ebbo, who was standing on the narrow ledge
between the castle and the precipitous path leading to the meadow.
"One waggon may get over, but the second or third will stick in the
ruts that it leaves. Now we will drop from our crag, and if the
Snake falls on them, why, then for a pounce of the Eagle."
The two young knights, so goodly in their bright steel, knelt for
their mother's blessing, and then sprang like chamois down the ivy-
twined steep, followed by their men, and were lost to sight among the
bushes and rocks. Yet even while her frame quivered with fear, her
heart swelled at the thought what a gulf there was between these days
and those when she had hidden her face in despair, while Ermentrude
watched the Debateable Ford.
She watched now in suspense, indeed, but with exultation instead of
shame, as two waggons safely crossed; but the third stuck fast, and
presently turned over in the stream, impelled sideways by the efforts
of the struggling horses. Then, amid endeavours to disentangle the
animals and succour the driver, the travellers were attacked by a
party of armed men, who dashed out of the beechwood, and fell on the
main body of the waggons, which were waiting on the bit of bare
shingly soil that lay between the new and old channels. A wild melee
was all that Christina could see--weapons raised, horses starting,
men rushing from the river, while the clang and the shout rose even
to the castle.
Hark! Out rings the clear call, "The Eagle to the rescue!" There
they speed over the meadow, the two slender forms with glancing
helms! O overrun not the followers, rush not into needless danger!
There is Koppel almost up with them with his big axe--Heinz's broad
shoulders near. Heaven strike with them! Visit not their
forefathers' sin on those pure spirits. Some are flying. Some one
has fallen! O heavens! on which side? Ah! it is into the
Schlangenwald woods that the fugitives direct their flight. Three--
four--the whole troop pursued! Go not too far! Run not into
needless risk! Your work is done, and gallantly. Well done, young
knights of Adlerstein! Which of you is it that stands pointing out
safe standing-ground for the men that are raising the waggon? Which
of you is it who stands in converse with a burgher form? Thanks and
blessings! the lads are safe, and full knightly hath been their first
A quarter of an hour later, a gay step mounted the ascent, and
Friedel's bright face laughed from his helmet: "There, mother, will
you crown your knights? Could you see Ebbo bear down the chief
squire? for the old Snake was not there himself. And whom do you
think we rescued, besides a whole band of Venetian traders to whom he
had joined himself? Why, my uncle's friend, the architect, of whom
he used to speak--Master Moritz Schleiermacher."
"Moritz Schleiermacher! I knew him as a boy."
"He had been laying out a Lustgarten for the Romish king at
Innspruck, and he is a stout man of his hands, and attempted defence;
but he had such a shrewd blow before we came up, that he lay like one
dead; and when he was lifted up, he gazed at us like one moon-struck,
and said, 'Are my eyes dazed, or are these the twins of Adlerstein,
that are as like as face to mirror? Lads, lads, your uncle looked
not to hear of you acting in this sort.' But soon we and his people
let him know how it was, and that eagles do not have the manner of
"Poor Master Moritz! Is he much hurt? Is Ebbo bringing him up
"No, mother, he is but giddied and stunned, and now must you send
down store of sausage, sourkraut, meat, wine, and beer; for the wains
cannot all cross till daylight, and we must keep ward all night lest
the Schlangenwalden should fall on them again. Plenty of good cheer,
mother, to make a right merry watch."
"Take heed, Friedel mine; a merry watch is scarce a safe one."
"Even so, sweet motherling, and therefore must Ebbo and I share it.
You must mete out your liquor wisely, you see, enough for the credit
of Adlerstein, and enough to keep out the marsh fog, yet not enough
to make us snore too soundly. I am going to take my lute; it would
be using it ill not to let it enjoy such a chance as a midnight
So away went the light-hearted boy, and by and by Christina saw the
red watch-fire as she gazed from her turret window. She would have
been pleased to see how, marshalled by a merchant who had crossed the
desert from Egypt to Palestine, the waggons were ranged in a circle,
and the watches told off, while the food and drink were carefully
Freiherr Ebbo, on his own ground, as champion and host, was far more
at ease than in the city, and became very friendly with the merchants
and architect as they sat round the bright fire, conversing, or at
times challenging the mountain echoes by songs to the sound of
Friedel's lute. When the stars grew bright, most lay down to sleep
in the waggons, while others watched, pacing up and down till Karl's
waggon should be over the mountain, and the vigil was relieved.
No disturbance took place, and at sunrise a hasty meal was partaken
of, and the work of crossing the river was set in hand.
"Pity," said Moritz, the architect, "that this ford were not spanned
by a bridge, to the avoiding of danger and spoil."
"Who could build such a bridge?" asked Ebbo.
"Yourself, Herr Freiherr, in union with us burghers of Ulm. It were
well worth your while to give land and stone, and ours to give labour
and skill, provided we fixed a toll on the passage, which would be
willingly paid to save peril and delay."
The brothers caught at the idea, and the merchants agreed that such a
bridge would be an inestimable boon to all traffickers between
Constance, Ulm, and Augsburg, and would attract many travellers who
were scared away by the evil fame of the Debateable Ford. Master
Moritz looked at the stone of the mountain, pronounced it excellent
material, and already sketched the span of the arches with a view to
winter torrents. As to the site, the best was on the firm ground
above the ford; but here only one side was Adlerstein, while on the
other Ebbo claimed both banks, and it was probable that an equally
sound foundation could be obtained, only with more cost and delay.
After this survey, the travellers took leave of the barons, promising
to write when their fellow-citizens should have been sounded as to
the bridge; and Ebbo remained in high spirits, with such brilliant
purposes that he had quite forgotten his gloomy forebodings. "Peace
instead of war at home," he said; "with the revenue it will bring, I
will build a mill, and set our lads to work, so that they may become
less dull and doltish than their parents. Then will we follow the
Emperor with a train that none need despise! No one will talk now of
Adlerstein not being able to take care of himself!"
Letters came from Ulm, saying that the guilds of mercers and wine
merchants were delighted with the project, and invited the Baron of
Adlerstein to a council at the Rathhaus. Master Sorel begged the
mother to come with her sons to be his guest; but fearing the
neighbourhood of Sir Kasimir, she remained at home, with Heinz for
her seneschal while her sons rode to the city. There Ebbo found that
his late exploit and his future plan had made him a person of much
greater consideration than on his last visit, and he demeaned himself
with far more ease and affability in consequence. He had affairs on
his hands too, and felt more than one year older.
The two guilds agreed to build the bridge, and share the toll with
the Baron in return for the ground and materials; but they preferred
the plan that placed one pier on the Schlangenwald bank, and proposed
to write to the Count an offer to include him in the scheme, awarding
him a share of the profits in proportion to his contribution.
However vexed at the turn affairs had taken, Ebbo could offer no
valid objection, and was obliged to affix his signature to the letter