Part 5 out of 6
in company with the guildmasters.
It was despatched by the city pursuivants -
The only men who safe might ride;
Their errands on the border side and a meeting was appointed in the
Rathhaus for the day of their expected return. The higher burghers
sat on their carved chairs in the grand old hall, the lesser magnates
on benches, and Ebbo, in an elbowed seat far too spacious for his
slender proportions, met a glance from Friedel that told him his
merry brother was thinking of the frog and the ox. The pursuivants
entered--hardy, shrewd-looking men, with the city arms decking them
wherever there was room for them.
"Honour-worthy sirs," they said, "no letter did the Graf von
"Sent he no message?" demanded Moritz Schleiermacher.
"Yea, worthy sir, but scarce befitting this reverend assembly." On
being pressed, however, it was repeated: "The Lord Count was pleased
to swear at what he termed the insolence of the city in sending him
heralds, 'as if,' said he, 'the dogs,' your worships, 'were his
equals.' Then having cursed your worships, he reviled the crooked
writing of Herr Clerk Diedrichson, and called his chaplain to read it
to him. Herr Priest could scarce read three lines for his foul
language about the ford. 'Never,' said he, 'would he consent to
raising a bridge--a mean trick,' so said he, 'for defrauding him of
his rights to what the flood sent him.'"
"But," asked Ebbo, "took he no note of our explanation, that if he
give not the upper bank, we will build lower, where both sides are my
"He passed it not entirely over," replied the messenger.
"What said he--the very words?" demanded Ebbo, with the paling cheek
and low voice that made his passion often seem like patience.
"He said--(the Herr Freiherr will pardon me for repeating the words)-
-he said, 'Tell the misproud mongrel of Adlerstein that he had best
sit firm in his own saddle ere meddling with his betters, and if he
touch one pebble of the Braunwasser, he will rue it. And before your
city-folk take up with him or his, they had best learn whether he
have any right at all in the case.'"
"His right is plain," said Master Gottfried; "full proofs were given
in, and his investiture by the Kaisar forms a title in itself. It is
mere bravado, and an endeavour to make mischief between the Baron and
"Even so did I explain, Herr Guildmaster," said the pursuivant; "but,
pardon me, the Count laughed me to scorn, and quoth he, 'asked the
Kaisar for proof of his father's death!'"
"Mere mischief-making, as before," said Master Gottfried, while his
nephews started with amaze. "His father's death was proved by an
eye-witness, whom you still have in your train, have you not, Herr
"Yea," replied Ebbo, "he is at Adlerstein now, Heinrich Bauermann,
called the Schneiderlein, a lanzknecht, who alone escaped the
slaughter, and from whom we have often heard how my father died,
choked in his own blood, from a deep breast-wound, immediately after
he had sent home his last greetings to my lady mother."
"Was the corpse restored?" asked the able Rathsherr Ulrich.
"No," said Ebbo. "Almost all our retainers had perished, and when a
friar was sent to the hostel to bring home the remains, it appeared
that the treacherous foe had borne them off--nay, my grandfather's
head was sent to the Diet!"
The whole assembly agreed that the Count could only mean to make the
absence of direct evidence about a murder committed eighteen years
ago tell in sowing distrust between the allies. The suggestion was
not worth a thought, and it was plain that no site would be available
except the Debateable Strand. To this, however, Ebbo's title was
assailable, both on account of his minority, as well as his father's
unproved death, and of the disputed claim to the ground. The
Rathsherr, Master Gottfried, and others, therefore recommended
deferring the work till the Baron should be of age, when, on again
tendering his allegiance, he might obtain a distinct recognition of
his marches. But this policy did not consort with the quick spirit
of Moritz Schleiermacher, nor with the convenience of the mercers and
wine-merchants, who were constant sufferers by the want of a bridge,
and afraid of waiting four years, in which a lad like the Baron might
return to the nominal instincts of his class, or the Braunwasser
might take back the land it had given; whilst Ebbo himself was
urgent, with all the defiant fire of youth, to begin building at once
in spite of all gainsayers.
"Strife and blood will it cost," said Master Sorel, gravely.
"What can be had worth the having save at cost of strife and blood?"
said Ebbo, with a glance of fire.
"Youth speaks of counting the cost. Little knows it what it saith,"
sighed Master Gottfried.
"Nay," returned the Rathsherr, "were it otherwise, who would have the
heart for enterprise?"
So the young knights mounted, and had ridden about half the way in
silence, when Ebbo exclaimed, "Friedel"--and as his brother started,
"What art musing on?"
"What thou art thinking of," said Friedel, turning on him an eye that
had not only something of the brightness but of the penetration of a
"I do not think thereon at all," said Ebbo, gloomily. "It is a
figment of the old serpent to hinder us from snatching his prey from
"Nevertheless," said Friedel, "I cannot but remember that the Genoese
merchant of old told us of a German noble sold by his foes to the
"Folly! That tale was too recent to concern my father."
"I did not think it did," said Friedel; "but mayhap that noble's
family rest equally certain of his death."
"Pfui!" said Ebbo, hotly; "hast not heard fifty times how he died
even in speaking, and how Heinz crossed his hands on his breast?
What wouldst have more?"
"Hardly even that," said Friedel, slightly smiling.
"Tush!" hastily returned his brother, "I meant only by way of proof.
Would an honest old fellow like Heinz be a deceiver?"
"Not wittingly. Yet I would fain ride to that hostel and make
"The traitor host met his deserts, and was broken on the wheel for
murdering a pedlar a year ago," said Ebbo. "I would I knew where my
father was buried, for then would I bring his corpse honourably back;
but as to his being a living man, I will not have it spoken of to
trouble my mother."
"To trouble her?" exclaimed Friedel.
"To trouble her," repeated Ebbo. "Long since hath passed the pang of
his loss, and there is reason in what old Sorel says, that he must
have been a rugged, untaught savage, with little in common with the
gentle one, and that tender memory hath decked him out as he never
could have been. Nay, Friedel, it is but sense. What could a man
have been under the granddame's breeding?"
"It becomes not thee to say so!" returned Friedel. "Nay, he could
learn to love our mother."
"One sign of grace, but doubtless she loved him the better for their
having been so little together. Her heart is at peace, believing him
in his grave; but let her imagine him in Schlangenwald's dungeon, or
some Moorish galley, if thou likest it better, and how will her mild
spirit be rent!"
"It might be so," said Friedel, thoughtfully. "It may be best to
keep this secret from her till we have fuller certainty."
"Agreed then," said Ebbo, "unless the Wildschloss fellow should again
molest us, when his answer is ready."
"Is this just towards my mother?" said Friedel.
"Just! What mean'st thou? Is it not our office and our dearest
right to shield our mother from care? And is not her chief wish to
be rid of the Wildschloss suit?"
Nevertheless Ebbo was moody all the way home, but when there he
devoted himself in his most eager and winning way to his mother,
telling her of Master Gottfried's woodcuts, and Hausfrau Johanna's
rheumatism, and of all the news of the country, in especial that the
Kaisar was at Lintz, very ill with a gangrene in his leg, said to
have been caused by his habit of always kicking doors open, and that
his doctors thought of amputation, a horrible idea in the fifteenth
century. The young baron was evidently bent on proving that no one
could make his mother so happy as he could; and he was not far wrong
Friedel, however, could not rest till he had followed Heinz to the
stable, and speaking over the back of the old white mare, the only
other survivor of the massacre, had asked him once more for the
particulars, a tale he was never loth to tell; but when Friedel
further demanded whether he was certain of having seen the death of
his younger lord, he replied, as if hurt: "What, think you I would
have quitted him while life was yet in him?"
"No, certainly, good Heinz; yet I would fain know by what tokens thou
knewest his death."
"Ah! Sir Friedel; when you have seen a stricken field or two, you
will not ask how I know death from life."
"Is a swoon so utterly unlike death?"
"I say not but that an inexperienced youth might be mistaken," said
Heinz; "but for one who had learned the bloody trade, it were
impossible. Why ask, sir?"
"Because," said Friedel, low and mysteriously--"my brother would not
have my mother know it, but--Count Schlangenwald demanded whether we
could prove my father's death."
"Prove! He could not choose but die with three such wounds, as the
old ruffian knows. I shall bless the day, Sir Friedmund, when I see
you or your brother give back those strokes! A heavy reckoning be
"We all deem that line only meant to cross our designs," said
Friedel. "Yet, Heinz, I would I knew how to find out what passed
when thou wast gone. Is there no servant at the inn--no retainer of
Schlangenwald that aught could be learnt from?"
"By St. Gertrude," roughly answered the Schneiderlein, "if you cannot
be satisfied with the oath of a man like me, who would have given his
life to save your father, I know not what will please you."
Friedel, with his wonted good-nature, set himself to pacify the
warrior with assurances of his trust; yet while Ebbo plunged more
eagerly into plans for the bridge-building, Friedel drew more and
more into his old world of musings; and many a summer afternoon was
spent by him at the Ptarmigan's Mere, in deep communings with
himself, as one revolving a purpose.
Christina could not but observe, with a strange sense of foreboding,
that, while one son was more than ever in the lonely mountain
heights, the other was far more at the base. Master Moritz
Schleiermacher was a constant guest at the castle, and Ebbo was much
taken up with his companionship. He was a strong, shrewd man, still
young, but with much experience, and he knew how to adapt himself to
intercourse with the proud nobility, preserving an independent
bearing, while avoiding all that haughtiness could take umbrage at;
and thus he was acquiring a greater influence over Ebbo than was
perceived by any save the watchful mother, who began to fear lest her
son was acquiring an infusion of worldly wisdom and eagerness for
gain that would indeed be a severance between him and his brother.
If she had known the real difference that unconsciously kept her sons
apart, her heart would have ached yet more.
CHAPTER XVIII: FRIEDMUND IN THE CLOUDS
The stone was quarried high on the mountain, and a direct road was
made for bringing it down to the water-side. The castle profited by
the road in accessibility, but its impregnability was so far
lessened. However, as Ebbo said, it was to be a friendly harbour,
instead of a robber crag, and in case of need the communication could
easily be destroyed. The blocks of stone were brought down, and
wooden sheds were erected for the workmen in the meadow.
In August, however, came tidings that, after two amputations of his
diseased limb, the Kaisar Friedrich III. had died--it was said from
over free use of melons in the fever consequent on the operation.
His death was not likely to make much change in the government, which
had of late been left to his son. At this time the King of the
Romans (for the title of Kaisar was conferred only by coronation by
the Pope, and this Maximilian never received) was at Innspruck
collecting troops for the deliverance of Styria and Carinthia from a
horde of invading Turks. The Markgraf of Wurtemburg sent an
intimation to all the Swabian League that the new sovereign would be
best pleased if their homage were paid to him in his camp at the head
of their armed retainers.
Here was the way of enterprise and honour open at last, and the young
barons of Adlerstein eagerly prepared for it, equipping their vassals
and sending to Ulm to take three or four men-at-arms into their pay,
so as to make up twenty lances as the contingent of Adlerstein. It
was decided that Christina should spend the time of their absence at
Ulm, whither her sons would escort her on their way to the camp. The
last busy day was over, and in the summer evening Christina was
sitting on the castle steps listening to Ebbo's eager talk of his
plans of interesting his hero, the King of the Romans, in his bridge,
and obtaining full recognition of his claim to the Debateable Strand,
where the busy workmen could be seen far below.
Presently Ebbo, as usual when left to himself, grew restless for want
of Friedel, and exclaiming, "The musing fit is on him!--he will stay
all night at the tarn if I fetch him not," he set off in quest of
him, passing through the hamlet to look for him in the chapel on his
Not finding Friedel there, he was, however, some way up towards the
tarn, when he met his brother wearing the beamy yet awestruck look
that he often brought from the mountain height, yet with a steadfast
expression of resolute purpose on his face.
"Ah, dreamer!" said Ebbo, "I knew where to seek thee! Ever in the
"Yes, I have been to the tarn," said Friedel, throwing his arm round
his brother's neck in their boyish fashion. "It has been very dear
to me, and I longed to see its gray depths once more."
"Once! Yea manifold times shalt thou see them," said Ebbo.
"Schleiermacher tells me that these are no Janissaries, but a mere
miscreant horde, even by whom glory can scarce be gained, and no
peril at all."
"I know not," said Friedel, "but it is to me as if I were taking my
leave of all these purple hollows and heaven-lighted peaks cleaving
the sky. All the more, Ebbo, since I have made up my mind to a
"Nay, none of the old monkish fancies," cried Ebbo, "against them
thou art sworn, so long as I am true knight."
"No, it is not the monkish fancy, but I am convinced that it is my
duty to strive to ascertain my father's fate. Hold, I say not that
it is thine. Thou hast thy charge here--"
"Looking for a dead man," growled Ebbo; "a proper quest!"
"Not so," returned Friedel. "At the camp it will surely be possible
to learn, through either Schlangenwald or his men, how it went with
my father. Men say that his surviving son, the Teutonic knight, is
of very different mould. He might bring something to light. Were it
proved to be as the Schneiderlein avers, then would our conscience be
at rest; but, if he were in Schlangenwald's dungeon--"
"Yet men have pined eighteen years in dark vaults," said Friedel;
"and, when I think that so may he have wasted for the whole of our
lives that have been so free and joyous on his own mountain, it irks
me to bound on the heather or gaze at the stars."
"If the serpent hath dared," cried Ebbo, "though it is mere folly to
think of it, we would summon the League and have his castle about his
ears! Not that I believe it."
"Scarce do I," said Friedel; "but there haunts me evermore the
description of the kindly German chained between the decks of the
Corsair's galley. Once and again have I dreamt thereof. And, Ebbo,
recollect the prediction that so fretted thee. Might not yon dark-
cheeked woman have had some knowledge of the East and its captives?"
Ebbo started, but resumed his former tone. "So thou wouldst begin
thine errantry like Sir Hildebert and Sir Hildebrand in the 'Rose
garden'? Have a care. Such quests end in mortal conflict between
the unknown father and son."
"I should know him," said Friedel, enthusiastically, "or, at least,
he would know my mother's son in me; and, could I no otherwise ransom
him, I would ply the oar in his stead."
"A fine exchange for my mother and me," gloomily laughed Ebbo, "to
lose thee, my sublimated self, for a rude, savage lord, who would
straightway undo all our work, and rate and misuse our sweet mother
for being more civilized than himself."
"Shame, Ebbo!" cried Friedel, "or art thou but in jest?"
"So far in jest that thou wilt never go, puissant Sir Hildebert,"
returned Ebbo, drawing him closer. "Thou wilt learn--as I also trust
to do--in what nameless hole the serpent hid his remains. Then shall
they be duly coffined and blazoned. All the monks in the cloisters
for twenty miles round shall sing requiems, and thou and I will walk
bareheaded, with candles in our hands, by the bier, till we rest him
in the Blessed Friedmund's chapel; and there Lucas Handlein shall
carve his tomb, and thou shalt sit for the likeness."
"So may it end," said Friedel, "but either I will know him dead, or
endeavour somewhat in his behalf. And that the need is real, as well
as the purpose blessed, I have become the more certain, for, Ebbo, as
I rose to descend the hill, I saw on the cloud our patron's very
form--I saw myself kneel before him and receive his blessing."
Ebbo burst out laughing. "Now know I that it is indeed as saith
Schleiermacher," he said, "and that these phantoms of the Blessed
Friedmund are but shadows cast by the sun on the vapours of the
ravine. See, Friedel, I had gone to seek thee at the chapel, and
meeting Father Norbert, I bent my knee, that I might take his
farewell blessing. I had the substance, thou the shadow, thou
Friedel was as much mortified for the moment as his gentle nature
could be. Then he resumed his sweet smile, saying, "Be it so! I
have oft read that men are too prone to take visions and special
providences to themselves, and now I have proved the truth of the
"And," said Ebbo, "thou seest thy purpose is as baseless as thy
"No, Ebbo. It grieves me to differ from thee, but my resolve is
older than the fancy, and may not be shaken because I was vain enough
to believe that the Blessed Friedmund could stoop to bless me."
"Ha!" shouted Ebbo, glad to see an object on which to vent his secret
annoyance. "Who goes there, skulking round the rocks? Here, rogue,
what art after here?"
"No harm," sullenly replied a half-clad boy.
"Whence art thou? From Schlangenwald, to spy what more we can be
robbed of? The lash--"
"Hold," interposed Friedel. "Perchance the poor lad had no evil
purposes. Didst lose thy way?"
"No, sir, my mother sent me."
"I thought so," cried Ebbo. "This comes of sparing the nest of
"Nay," said Friedel, "mayhap it is because they are not thankless
that the poor fellow is here."
"Sir," said the boy, coming nearer, "I will tell YOU--YOU I will
tell--not him who threatens. Mother said you spared our huts, and
the lady gave us bread when we came to the castle gate in winter, and
she would not see the reiters lay waste your folk's doings down there
without warning you."
"My good lad! What saidst thou?" cried Ebbo, but the boy seemed dumb
before him, and Friedel repeated the question ere he answered: "All
the lanzknechts and reiters are at the castle, and the Herr Graf has
taken all my father's young sheep for them, a plague upon him. And
our folk are warned to be at the muster rock to-morrow morn, each
with a bundle of straw and a pine brand; and Black Berend heard the
body squire say the Herr Graf had sworn not to go to the wars till
every stick at the ford be burnt, every stone drowned, every workman
Ebbo, in a transport of indignation and gratitude, thrust his hand
into his pouch, and threw the boy a handful of groschen, while
Friedel gave warm thanks, in the utmost haste, ere both brothers
sprang with headlong speed down the wild path, to take advantage of
the timely intelligence.
The little council of war was speedily assembled, consisting of the
barons, their mother, Master Moritz Schleiermacher, Heinz, and Hatto.
To bring up to the castle the workmen, their families, and the more
valuable implements, was at once decided; and Christina asked whether
there would be anything left worth defending, and whether the
Schlangenwalden might not expend their fury on the scaffold, which
could be newly supplied from the forest, the huts, which could be
quickly restored, and the stones, which could hardly be damaged. The
enemy must proceed to the camp in a day or two, and the building
would be less assailable by their return; and, besides, it was
scarcely lawful to enter on a private war when the imperial banner
was in the field.
"Craving your pardon, gracious lady," said the architect, "that blame
rests with him who provokes the war. See, lord baron, there is time
to send to Ulm, where the two guilds, our allies, will at once equip
their trained bands and despatch them. We meanwhile will hold the
knaves in check, and, by the time our burghers come up, the snake
brood will have had such a lesson as they will not soon forget. Said
I well, Herr Freiherr?"
"Right bravely," said Ebbo. "It consorts not with our honour or
rights, with my pledges to Ulm, or the fame of my house, to shut
ourselves up and see the rogues work their will scatheless. My own
score of men, besides the stouter masons, carpenters, and serfs, will
be fully enough to make the old serpent of the wood rue the day, even
without the aid of the burghers. Not a word against it, dearest
mother. None is so wise as thou in matters of peace, but honour is
"My question is," persevered the mother, "whether honour be not
better served by obeying the summons of the king against the infidel,
with the men thou hast called together at his behest? Let the count
do his worst; he gives thee legal ground of complaint to lay before
the king and the League, and all may there be more firmly
"That were admirable counsel, lady," said Schleiermacher, "well
suited to the honour-worthy guildmaster Sorel, and to our justice-
loving city; but, in matters of baronial rights and aggressions, king
and League are wont to help those that help themselves, and those
that are over nice as to law and justice come by the worst."
"Not the worst in the long run," said Friedel.
"Thine unearthly code will not serve us here, Friedel mine," returned
his brother. "Did I not defend the work I have begun, I should be
branded as a weak fool. Nor will I see the foes of my house insult
me without striking a fair stroke. Hap what hap, the Debateable Ford
shall be debated! Call in the serfs, Hatto, and arm them. Mother,
order a good supper for them. Master Moritz, let us summon thy
masons and carpenters, and see who is a good man with his hands among
Christina saw that remonstrance was vain. The days of peril and
violence were coming back again; and all she could take comfort in
was, that, if not wholly right, her son was far from wholly wrong,
and that with a free heart she could pray for a blessing on him and
on his arms.
CHAPTER XIX: THE FIGHT AT THE FORD
By the early September sunrise the thicket beneath the pass was
sheltering the twenty well-appointed reiters of Adlerstein, each
standing, holding his horse by the bridle, ready to mount at the
instant. In their rear were the serfs and artisans, some with axes,
scythes, or ploughshares, a few with cross-bows, and Jobst and his
sons with the long blackened poles used for stirring their charcoal
fires. In advance were Master Moritz and the two barons, the former
in a stout plain steel helmet, cuirass, and gauntlets, a sword, and
those new-fashioned weapons, pistols; the latter in full knightly
armour, exactly alike, from the gilt-spurred heel to the eagle-
crested helm, and often moving restlessly forward to watch for the
enemy, though taking care not to be betrayed by the glitter of their
mail. So long did they wait that there was even a doubt whether it
might not have been a false alarm; the boy was vituperated, and it
was proposed to despatch a spy to see whether anything were doing at
At length a rustling and rushing were heard; then a clank of armour.
Ebbo vaulted into the saddle, and gave the word to mount;
Schleiermacher, who always fought on foot, stepped up to him. "Keep
back your men, Herr Freiherr. Let his design be manifest. We must
not be said to have fallen on him on his way to the muster."
"It would be but as he served my father!" muttered Ebbo, forced,
however, to restrain himself, though with boiling blood, as the tramp
of horses shook the ground, and bright armour became visible on the
further side of the stream.
For the first time, the brothers beheld the foe of their line. He
was seated on a clumsy black horse, and sheathed in full armour, and
was apparently a large heavy man, whose powerful proportions were
becoming unwieldy as he advanced in life. The dragon on his crest
and shield would have made him known to the twins, even without the
deadly curse that passed the Schneiderlein's lips at the sight. As
the armed troop, out-numbering the Adlersteiners by about a dozen,
and followed by a rabble with straw and pine brands, came forth on
the meadow, the count halted and appeared to be giving orders.
"The ruffian! He is calling them on! Now--" began Ebbo.
"Nay, there is no sign yet that he is not peacefully on his journey
to the camp," responded Moritz; and, chafing with impatient fury, the
knight waited while Schlangenwald rode towards the old channel of the
Braunwasser, and there, drawing his rein, and sitting like a statue
in his stirrups, he could hear him shout: "The lazy dogs are not
astir yet. We will give them a reveille. Forward with your brands!"
"Now!" and Ebbo's cream-coloured horse leapt forth, as the whole band
flashed into the sunshine from the greenwood covert.
"Who troubles the workmen on my land?" shouted Ebbo.
"Who you may be I care not," replied the count, "but when I find
strangers unlicensed on my lands, I burn down their huts. On,
"Back, fellows!" called Ebbo. "Whoso touches a stick on Adlerstein
ground shall suffer."
"So!" said the count, "this is the burgher-bred, burgher-fed varlet,
that calls himself of Adlerstein! Boy, thou had best be warned.
Wert thou true-blooded, it were worth my while to maintain my rights
against thee. Craven as thou art, not even with spirit to accept my
feud, I would fain not have the trouble of sweeping thee from my
"Herr Graf, as true Freiherr and belted knight, I defy thee! I
proclaim my right to this ground, and whoso damages those I place
there must do battle with me."
"Thou wilt have it then," said the count, taking his heavy lance from
his squire, closing his visor, and wheeling back his horse, so as to
give space for his career.
Ebbo did the like, while Friedel on one side, and Hierom von
Schlangenwald on the other, kept their men in array, awaiting the
issue of the strife between their leaders--the fire of seventeen
against the force of fifty-six.
They closed in full shock, with shivered lances and rearing, pawing
horses, but without damage to either. Each drew his sword, and they
were pressing together, when Heinz, seeing a Schlangenwalder aiming
with his cross-bow, rode at him furiously, and the melee became
general; shots were fired, not only from cross-bows, but from
arquebuses, and in the throng Friedel lost sight of the main combat
between his brother and the count.
Suddenly however there was a crash, as of falling men and horses,
with a shout of victory strangely mingled with a cry of agony, and
both sides became aware that their leaders had fallen. Each party
rushed to its fallen head. Friedel beheld Ebbo under his struggling
horse, and an enemy dashing at his throat, and, flying to the rescue,
he rode down the assailant, striking him with his sword; and, with
the instinct of driving the foe as far as possible from his brother,
he struck with a sort of frenzy, shouting fiercely to his men, and
leaping over the dry bed of the river, rushing onward with an
intoxication of ardour that would have seemed foreign to his gentle
nature, but for the impetuous desire to protect his brother. Their
leaders down, the enemy had no one to rally them, and, in spite of
their superiority in number, gave way in confusion before the furious
onset of Adlerstein. So soon, however, as Friedel perceived that he
had forced the enemy far back from the scene of conflict, his anxiety
for his brother returned, and, leaving the retainers to continue the
pursuit, he turned his horse. There, on the green meadow, lay on the
one hand Ebbo's cream-coloured charger, with his master under him, on
the other the large figure of the count; and several other prostrate
forms likewise struggled on the sand and pebbles of the strand, or on
"Ay," said the architect, who had turned with Friedel, "'twas a
gallant feat, Sir Friedel, and I trust there is no great harm done.
Were it the mere dint of the count's sword, your brother will be
little the worse."
"Ebbo! Ebbo mine, look up!" cried Friedel, leaping from his horse,
and unclasping his brother's helmet.
"Friedel!" groaned a half-suffocated voice. "O take away the horse."
One or two of the artisans were at hand, and with their help the
dying steed was disengaged from the rider, who could not restrain his
moans, though Friedel held him in his arms, and endeavoured to move
him as gently as possible. It was then seen that the deep gash from
the count's sword in the chest was not the most serious injury, but
that an arquebus ball had pierced his thigh, before burying itself in
the body of his horse; and that the limb had been further crushed and
wrenched by the animal's struggles. He was nearly unconscious, and
gasped with anguish, but, after Moritz had bathed his face and
moistened his lips, as he lay in his brother's arms, he looked up
with clearer eyes, and said: "Have I slain him? It was the shot,
not he, that sent me down. Lives he? See--thou, Friedel--thou.
Make him yield."
Transferring Ebbo to the arms of Schleiermacher, Friedel obeyed, and
stepped towards the fallen foe. The wrongs of Adlerstein were indeed
avenged, for the blood was welling fast from a deep thrust above the
collar-bone, and the failing, feeble hand was wandering uncertainly
among the clasps of the gorget.
"Let me aid," said Friedel, kneeling down, and in his pity for the
dying man omitting the summons to yield, he threw back the helmet,
and beheld a grizzled head and stern hard features, so embrowned by
weather and inflamed by intemperance, that even approaching death
failed to blanch them. A scowl of malignant hate was in the eyes,
and there was a thrill of angry wonder as they fell on the lad's
face. "Thou again,--thou whelp! I thought at least I had made an
end of thee," he muttered, unheard by Friedel, who, intent on the
thought that had recurred to him with greater vividness than ever,
was again filling Ebbo's helmet with water. He refreshed the dying
man's face with it, held it to his lips, and said: "Herr Graf,
variance and strife are ended now. For heaven's sake, say where I
may find my father!"
"So! Wouldst find him?" replied Schlangenwald, fixing his look on
the eager countenance of the youth, while his hand, with a dying
man's nervous agitation, was fumbling at his belt.
"I would bless you for ever, could I but free him."
"Know then," said the count, speaking very slowly, and still holding
the young knight's gaze with a sort of intent fascination, by the
stony glare of his light gray eyes, "know that thy villain father is
a Turkish slave, unless he be--as I hope--where his mongrel son may
Therewith came a flash, a report; Friedel leaped back, staggered,
fell; Ebbo started to a sitting posture, with horrified eyes, and a
loud shriek, calling on his brother; Moritz sprang to his feet,
shouting, "Shame! treason!"
"I call you to witness that I had not yielded," said the count.
"There's an end of the brood!" and with a grim smile, he straightened
his limbs, and closed his eyes as a dead man, ere the indignant
artisans fell on him in savage vengeance.
All this had passed like a flash of lightning, and Friedel had almost
at the instant of his fall flung himself towards his brother, and
raising himself on one hand, with the other clasped Ebbo's, saying,
"Fear not; it is nothing," and he was bending to take Ebbo's head
again on his knee, when a gush of dark blood, from his left side,
caused Moritz to exclaim, "Ah! Sir Friedel, the traitor did his
work! That is no slight hurt."
"Where? How? The ruffian!" cried Ebbo, supporting himself on his
elbow, so as to see his brother, who rather dreamily put his hand to
his side, and, looking at the fresh blood that immediately dyed it,
said, "I do not feel it. This is more numb dulness than pain."
"A bad sign that," said Moritz, apart to one of the workmen, with
whom he held counsel how to carry back to the castle the two young
knights, who remained on the bank, Ebbo partly extended on the
ground, partly supported on the knee and arm of Friedel, who sat with
his head drooping over him, their looks fixed on one another, as if
conscious of nothing else on earth.
"Herr Freiherr," said Moritz, presently, "have you breath to wind
your bugle to call the men back from the pursuit?"
Ebbo essayed, but was too faint, and Friedel, rousing himself from
the stupor, took the horn from him, and made the mountain echoes ring
again, but at the expense of a great effusion of blood.
By this time, however, Heinz was riding back, and a moment his
exultation changed to rage and despair, when he saw the condition of
his young lords. Master Schleiermacher proposed to lay them on some
of the planks prepared for the building, and carry them up the new
"Methinks," said Friedel, "that I could ride if I were lifted on
horseback, and thus would our mother be less shocked."
"Well thought," said Ebbo. "Go on and cheer her. Show her thou
canst keep the saddle, however it may be with me," he added, with a
groan of anguish.
Friedel made the sign of the cross over him. "The holy cross keep us
and her, Ebbo," he said, as he bent to assist in laying his brother
on the boards, where a mantle had been spread; then kissed his brow,
saying, "We shall be together again soon."
Ebbo was lifted on the shoulders of his bearers, and Friedel strove
to rise, with the aid of Heinz, but sank back, unable to use his
limbs; and Schleiermacher was the more concerned. "It goes so with
the backbone," he said. "Sir Friedmund, you had best be carried."
"Nay, for my mother's sake! And I would fain be on my good steed's
back once again!" he entreated. And when with much difficulty he had
been lifted to the back of his cream-colour, who stood as gently and
patiently as if he understood the exigency of the moment, he sat
upright, and waved his hand as he passed the litter, while Ebbo, on
his side, signed to him to speed on and prepare their mother. Long,
however, before the castle was reached, dizzy confusion and leaden
helplessness, when no longer stimulated by his brother's presence, so
grew on him that it was with much ado that Heinz could keep him in
his saddle; but, when he saw his mother in the castle gateway, he
again collected his forces, bade Heinz withdraw his supporting arm,
and, straightening himself, waved a greeting to her, as he called
cheerily; "Victory, dear mother. Ebbo has overthrown the count, and
you must not be grieved if it be at some cost of blood."
"Alas, my son!" was all Christina could say, for his effort at gaiety
formed a ghastly contrast with the gray, livid hue that overspread
his fair young face, his bloody armour, and damp disordered hair, and
even his stiff unearthly smile.
"Nay, motherling," he added, as she came so near that he could put
his arm round her neck, "sorrow not, for Ebbo will need thee much.
And, mother," as his face lighted up, "there is joy coming to you.
Only I would that I could have brought him. Mother, he died not
under the Schlangenwald swords."
"Who? Not Ebbo?" cried the bewildered mother.
"Your own Eberhard, our father," said Friedel, raising her face to
him with his hand, and adding, as he met a startled look, "The cruel
count owned it with his last breath. He is a Turkish slave, and
surely heaven will give him back to comfort you, even though we may
not work his freedom! O mother, I had so longed for it, but God be
thanked that at least certainty was bought by my life." The last
words were uttered almost unconsciously, and he had nearly fallen, as
the excitement faded; but, as they were lifting him down, he bent
once more and kissed the glossy neck of his horse. "Ah! poor fellow,
thou too wilt be lonely. May Ebbo yet ride thee!"
The mother had no time for grief. Alas! She might have full time
for that by and by! The one wish of the twins was to be together,
and presently both were laid on the great bed in the upper chamber,
Ebbo in a swoon from the pain of the transport, and Friedel lying so
as to meet the first look of recovery. And, after Ebbo's eyes had
re-opened, they watched one another in silence for a short space,
till Ebbo said: "Is that the hue of death on thy face, brother?"
"I well believe so," said Friedel.
"Ever together," said Ebbo, holding his hand. "But alas! My mother!
Would I had never sent thee to the traitor."
"Ah! So comes her comfort," said Friedel. "Heard you not? He owned
that my father was among the Turks."
"And I," cried Ebbo. "I have withheld thee! O Friedel, had I
listened to thee, thou hadst not been in this fatal broil!"
"Nay, ever together," repeated Friedel. "Through Ulm merchants will
my mother be able to ransom him. I know she will, so oft have I
dreamt of his return. Then, mother, you will give him our duteous
greetings;" and he smiled again.
Like one in a dream Christina returned his smile, because she saw he
wished it, just as the moment before she had been trying to staunch
It was plain that the injuries, except Ebbo's sword-cut, were far
beyond her skill, and she could only endeavour to check the bleeding
till better aid could be obtained from Ulm. Thither Moritz
Schleiermacher had already sent, and he assured her that he was far
from despairing of the elder baron, but she derived little hope from
his words, for gunshot wounds were then so ill understood as
generally to prove fatal.
Moreover, there was an undefined impression that the two lives must
end in the same hour, even as they had begun. Indeed, Ebbo was
suffering so terribly, and was so much spent with pain and loss of
blood, that he seemed sinking much faster than Friedel, whose wound
bled less freely, and who only seemed benumbed and torpid, except
when he roused himself to speak, or was distressed by the writhings
and moans which, however, for his sake, Ebbo restrained as much as he
To be together seemed an all-sufficient consolation, and, when the
chaplain came sorrowfully to give them the last rites of the Church,
Ebbo implored him to pray that he might not be left behind long in
"Friedel," he said, clasping his brother's hand, "is even like the
holy Sebastian or Maurice; but I--I was never such as he. O father,
will it be my penance to be left alone when he is in paradise?"
"What is that?" said Friedel, partially roused by the sound of his
name, and the involuntary pressure of his hand. "Nay, Ebbo; one
repentance, one cross, one hope," and he relapsed into a doze, while
Ebbo murmured over a broken, brief confession--exhausting by its
vehemence of self-accusation for his proud spirit, his wilful neglect
of his lost father, his hot contempt of prudent counsel.
Then, when the priest came round to Friedel's side, and the boy was
wakened to make his shrift, the words were contrite and humble, but
calm and full of trust. They were like two of their own mountain
streams, the waters almost equally undefiled by external stain--yet
one struggling, agitated, whirling giddily round; the other still,
transparent, and the light of heaven smiling in its clearness.
The farewell greetings of the Church on earth breathed soft and sweet
in their loftiness, and Friedel, though lying motionless, and with
closed eyes, never failed in the murmured response, whether fully
conscious or not, while his brother only attended by fits and starts,
and was evidently often in too much pain to know what was passing.
Help was nearer than had been hoped. The summons despatched the
night before had been responded to by the vintners and mercers; their
train bands had set forth, and their captain, a cautious man, never
rode into the way of blows without his surgeon at hand. And so it
came to pass that, before the sun was low on that long and grievous
day, Doctor Johannes Butteman was led into the upper chamber, where
the mother looked up to him with a kind of hopeless gratitude on her
face, which was nearly as white as those of her sons. The doctor
soon saw that Friedel was past human aid; but, when he declared that
there was fair hope for the other youth, Friedel, whose torpor had
been dispelled by the examination, looked up with his beaming smile,
saying, "There, motherling."
The doctor then declared that he could not deal with the Baron's
wound unless he were the sole occupant of the bed, and this sentence
brought the first cloud of grief or dread to Friedel's brow, but only
for a moment. He looked at his brother, who had again fainted at the
first touch of his wounded limb, and said, "It is well. Tell the
dear Ebbo that I cannot help it if after all I go to the praying, and
leave him the fighting. Dear, dear Ebbo! One day together again and
for ever! I leave thee for thine own sake." With much effort he
signed the cross again on his brother's brow, and kissed it long and
fervently. Then, as all stood round, reluctant to effect this
severance, or disturb one on whom death was visibly fast approaching,
he struggled up on his elbow, and held out the other hand, saying,
"Take me now, Heinz, ere Ebbo revive to be grieved. The last
sacrifice," he further whispered, whilst almost giving himself to
Heinz and Moritz to be carried to his own bed in the turret chamber.
There, even as they laid him down, began what seemed to be the mortal
agony, and, though he was scarcely sensible, his mother felt that her
prime call was to him, while his brother was in other hands. Perhaps
it was well for her. Surgical practice was rough, and wounds made by
fire-arms were thought to have imbibed a poison that made treatment
be supposed efficacious in proportion to the pain inflicted. When
Ebbo was recalled by the torture to see no white reflection of his
own face on the pillow beside him, and to feel in vain for the grasp
of the cold damp hand, a delirious frenzy seized him, and his
struggles were frustrating the doctor's attempts, when a low soft
sweet song stole through the open door.
"Friedel!" he murmured, and held his breath to listen. All through
the declining day did the gentle sound continue; now of grand chants
or hymns caught from the cathedral choir, now of songs of chivalry or
saintly legend so often sung over the evening fire; the one flowing
into the other in the wandering of failing powers, but never failing
in the tender sweetness that had distinguished Friedel through life.
And, whenever that voice was heard, let them do to him what they
would, Ebbo was still absorbed in intense listening so as not to lose
a note, and lulled almost out of sense of suffering by that swan-like
music. If his attendants made such noise as to break in on it, or if
it ceased for a moment, the anguish returned, but was charmed away by
the weakest, faintest resumption of the song. Probably Friedel knew
not, with any earthly sense, what he was doing, but to the very last
he was serving his twin brother as none other could have aided him in
The September sun had set, twilight was coming on, the doctor had
worked his stern will, and Ebbo, quivering in every fibre, lay spent
on his pillow, when his mother glided in, and took her seat near him,
though where she hoped he would not notice her presence. But he
raised his eyelids, and said, "He is not singing now."
"Singing indeed, but where we cannot hear him," she answered.
"'Whiter than the snow, clearer than the ice-cave, more solemn than
the choir. They will come at last.' That was what he said, even as
he entered there." And the low dove-like tone and tender calm face
continued upon Ebbo the spell that the chant had left. He dozed as
though still lulled by its echo.
CHAPTER XX: THE WOUNDED EAGLE
The star and the spark in the stubble! Often did the presage of her
dream occur to Christina, and assist in sustaining her hopes during
the days that Ebbo's life hung in the balance, and he himself had
hardly consciousness to realize either his brother's death or his own
state, save as much as was shown by the words, "Let him not be taken
away, mother; let him wait for me."
Friedmund did wait, in his coffin before the altar in the castle
chapel, covered with a pall of blue velvet, and great white cross,
mournfully sent by Hausfrau Johanna; his sword, shield, helmet, and
spurs laid on it, and wax tapers burning at the head and feet. And,
when Christina could leave the one son on his couch of suffering, it
was to kneel beside the other son on his narrow bed of rest, and
recall, like a breath of solace, the heavenly loveliness and peace
that rested on his features when she had taken her last long look at
Moritz Schleiermacher assisted at Sir Friedmund's first solemn
requiem, and then made a journey to Ulm, whence he returned to find
the Baron's danger so much abated that he ventured on begging for an
interview with the lady, in which he explained his purpose of
repairing at once to the imperial camp, taking with him a letter from
the guilds concerned in the bridge, and using his personal influence
with Maximilian to obtain not only pardon for the combat, but
authoritative sanction to the erection. Dankwart of Schlangenwald,
the Teutonic knight, and only heir of old Wolfgang, was supposed to
be with the Emperor, and it might be possible to come to terms with
him, since his breeding in the Prussian commanderies had kept him
aloof from the feuds of his father and brother. This mournful fight
had to a certain extent equalized the injuries on either side, since
the man whom Friedel had cut down was Hierom, one of the few
remaining scions of Schlangenwald, and there was thus no dishonour in
trying to close the deadly feud, and coming to an amicable
arrangement about the Debateable Strand, the cause of so much
bloodshed. What was now wanted was Freiherr Eberhard's signature to
the letter to the Emperor, and his authority for making terms with
the new count; and haste was needed, lest the Markgraf of Wurtemburg
should represent the affray in the light of an outrage against a
member of the League.
Christina saw the necessity, and undertook if possible to obtain her
son's signature, but, at the first mention of Master Moritz and the
bridge, Ebbo turned away his head, groaned, and begged to hear no
more of either. He thought of his bold declaration that the bridge
must be built, even at the cost of blood! Little did he then guess
of whose blood! And in his bitterness of spirit he felt a jealousy
of that influence of Schleiermacher, which had of late come between
him and his brother. He hated the very name, he said, and hid his
face with a shudder. He hoped the torrent would sweep away every
fragment of the bridge.
"Nay, Ebbo mine, wherefore wish ill to a good work that our blessed
one loved? Listen, and let me tell you my dream for making yonder
strand a peaceful memorial of our peaceful boy."
"To honour Friedel?" and he gazed on her with something like interest
in his eyes.
"Yes, Ebbo, and as he would best brook honour. Let us seek for ever
to end the rival claims to yon piece of meadow by praying this knight
of a religious order, the new count, to unite with us in building
there--or as near as may be safe--a church of holy peace, and a cell
for a priest, who may watch over the bridge ward, and offer the holy
sacrifice for the departed of either house. There will we place our
gentle Friedel to be the first to guard the peace of the ford, and
there will we sleep ourselves when our time shall come, and so may
the cruel feud of many generations be slaked for ever."
"In his blood!" sighed Ebbo. "Ah! would that it had been mine,
mother. It is well, as well as anything can be again. So shall the
spot where he fell be made sacred, and fenced from rude feet, and we
shall see his fair effigy keeping his armed watch there."
And Christina was thankful to see his look of gratification, sad
though it was. She sat down near his bed, and began to write a
letter in their joint names to Graf Dankwart von Schlangenwald,
proposing that thus, after the even balance of the wrongs of the two
houses, their mutual hostility might be laid to rest for ever by the
consecration of the cause of their long contention. It was a stiff
and formal letter, full of the set pious formularies of the age,
scarcely revealing the deep heart-feeling within; but it was to the
purpose, and Ebbo, after hearing it read, heartily approved, and
consented to sign both it and those that Schleiermacher had brought.
Christina held the scroll, and placed the pen in the fingers that had
lately so easily wielded the heavy sword, but now felt it a far
greater effort to guide the slender quill.
Moritz Schleiermacher went his way in search of the King of the
Romans, far off in Carinthia. A full reply could not be expected
till the campaign was over, and all that was known for some time was
through a messenger sent back to Ulm by Schleiermacher with the
intelligence that Maximilian would examine into the matter after his
return, and that Count Dankwart would reply when he should come to
perform his father's obsequies after the army was dispersed. There
was also a letter of kind though courtly condolence from Kasimir of
Wildschloss, much grieving for gallant young Sir Friedmund,
proffering all the advocacy he could give the cause of Adlerstein,
and covertly proffering the protection that she and her remaining son
might now be more disposed to accept. Christina suppressed this
letter, knowing it would only pain and irritate Ebbo, and that she
had her answer ready. Indeed, in her grief for one son, and her
anxiety for the other, perhaps it was this letter that first made her
fully realize the drift of those earnest words of Friedel's
respecting his father.
Meantime the mother and son were alone together, with much of
suffering and of sorrow, yet with a certain tender comfort in the
being all in all to one another, with none to intermeddle with their
mutual love and grief. It was to Christina as if something of
Friedel's sweetness had passed to his brother in his patient
helplessness, and that, while thus fully engrossed with him, she had
both her sons in one. Nay, in spite of all the pain, grief, and
weariness, these were times when both dreaded any change, and the
full recovery, when not only would the loss of Friedel be every
moment freshly brought home to his brother, but when Ebbo would go in
quest of his father.
For on this the young Baron had fixed his mind as a sacred duty, from
the moment he had seen that life was to be his lot. He looked on his
neglect of indications of the possibility of his father's life in the
light of a sin that had led to all his disasters, and not only
regarded the intended search as a token of repentance, but as a
charge bequeathed to him by his less selfish brother. He seldom
spoke of his intention, but his mother was perfectly aware of it, and
never thought of it without such an agony of foreboding dread as
eclipsed all the hope that lay beyond. She could only turn away her
mind from the thought, and be thankful for what was still her own
from day to day.
"Art weary, my son?" asked Christina one October afternoon, as Ebbo
lay on his bed, languidly turning the pages of a noble folio of the
Legends of the Saints that Master Gottfried had sent for his
amusement. It was such a book as fixed the ardour a few years later
of the wounded Navarrese knight, Inigo de Loyola, but Ebbo handled it
as if each page were lead.
"Only thinking how Friedel would have glowed towards these as his own
kinsmen," said Ebbo. "Then should I have cared to read of them!" and
he gave a long sigh.
"Let me take away the book," she said. "Thou hast read long, and it
"So dark that there must surely be a snow-cloud."
"Snow is falling in the large flakes that our Friedel used to call
"Butterflies that will swarm and shut us in from the weary world,"
said Ebbo. "And alack! when they go, what a turmoil it will be!
Councils in the Rathhaus, appeals to the League, wranglings with the
Markgraf, wise saws, overweening speeches, all alike dull and dead."
"It will scarce be so when strength and spirit have returned, mine
"Never can life be more to me than the way to him," said the lonely
boy; "and I--never like him--shall miss the road without him."
While he thus spoke in the listless dejection of sorrow and weakness,
Hatto's aged step was on the stair. "Gracious lady," he said, "here
is a huntsman bewildered in the hills, who has been asking shelter
from the storm that is drifting up."
"See to his entertainment, then, Hatto," said the lady.
"My lady--Sir Baron," added Hatto, "I had not come up but that this
guest seems scarce gear for us below. He is none of the foresters of
our tract. His hair is perfumed, his shirt is fine holland, his buff
suit is of softest skin, his baldric has a jewelled clasp, and his
arblast! It would do my lord baron's heart good only to cast eyes on
the perfect make of that arblast! He has a lordly tread, and a
stately presence, and, though he has a free tongue, and made friends
with us as he dried his garments, he asked after my lord like his
"O mother, must you play the chatelaine?" asked Ebbo. "Who can the
fellow be? Why did none ever so come when they would have been more
"Welcomed must he be," said Christina, rising, "and thy state shall
be my excuse for not tarrying longer with him than may be needful."
Yet, though shrinking from a stranger's face, she was not without
hope that the variety might wholesomely rouse her son from his
depression, and in effect Ebbo, when left with Hatto, minutely
questioned him on the appearance of the stranger, and watched, with
much curiosity, for his mother's return.
"Ebbo mine," she said, entering, after a long interval, "the knight
asks to see thee either after supper, or to-morrow morn."
"Then a knight he is?"
"Yea, truly, a knight truly in every look and gesture, bearing his
head like the leading stag of the herd, and yet right gracious."
"Gracious to you, mother, in your own hall?" cried Ebbo, almost
"Ah! jealous champion, thou couldst not take offence! It was the
manner of one free and courteous to every one, and yet with an
inherent loftiness that pervades all."
"Gives he no name?" said Ebbo.
"He calls himself Ritter Theurdank, of the suite of the late Kaisar,
but I should deem him wont rather to lead than to follow."
"Theurdank," repeated Eberhard, "I know no such name! So,
motherling, are you going to sup? I shall not sleep till I have seen
"Hold, dear son." She leant over him and spoke low. "See him thou
must, but let me first station Heinz and Koppel at the door with
halberts, not within earshot, but thou art so entirely defenceless."
She had the pleasure of seeing him laugh. "Less defenceless than
when the kinsman of Wildschloss here visited us, mother? I see for
whom thou takest him, but let it be so; a spiritual knight would
scarce wreak his vengeance on a wounded man in his bed. I will not
have him insulted with precautions. If he has freely risked himself
in my hands, I will as freely risk myself in his. Moreover, I
thought he had won thy heart."
"Reigned over it, rather," said Christina. "It is but the disguise
that I suspect and mistrust. Bid me not leave thee alone with him,
"Nay, dear mother," said Ebbo, "the matters on which he is like to
speak will brook no presence save our own, and even that will be hard
enough to bear. So prop me more upright! So! And comb out these
locks somewhat smoother. Thanks, mother. Now can he see whether he
will choose Eberhard of Adlerstein for friend or foe."
By the time supper was ended, the only light in the upper room came
from the flickering flames of the fire of pine knots on the hearth.
It glanced on the pale features and dark sad eyes of the young Baron,
sad in spite of the eager look of scrutiny that he turned on the
figure that entered at the door, and approached so quickly that the
partial light only served to show the gloss of long fair hair, the
glint of a jewelled belt, and the outline of a tall, well-knit, agile
"Welcome, Herr Ritter," he said; "I am sorry we have been unable to
give you a fitter reception."
"No host could be more fully excused than you," said the stranger,
and Ebbo started at his voice. "I fear you have suffered much, and
still have much to suffer."
"My sword wound is healing fast," said Ebbo; "it is the shot in my
broken thigh that is so tedious and painful."
"And I dare be sworn the leeches made it worse. I have hated all
leeches ever since they kept me three days a prisoner in a
'pothecary's shop stinking with drugs. Why, I have cured myself with
one pitcher of water of a raging fever, in their very despite! How
did they serve thee, my poor boy?"
"They poured hot oil into the wound to remove the venom of the lead,"
"Had it been my case the lead should have been in their own brains
first, though that were scarce needed, the heavy-witted Hans
Sausages. Why should there be more poison in lead than in steel? I
have asked all my surgeons that question, nor ever had a reasonable
answer. Greater havoc of warriors do they make than ever with the
arquebus--ay, even when every lanzknecht bears one."
"Alack!" Ebbo could not help exclaiming, "where will be room for
"Talk not old world nonsense," said Theurdank; "chivalry is in the
heart, not in the weapon. A youth beforehand enough with the world
to be building bridges should know that, when all our troops are
provided with such an arm, then will their platoons in serried ranks
be as a solid wall breathing fire, and as impregnable as the lines of
English archers with long bows, or the phalanx of Macedon. And, when
each man bears a pistol instead of the misericorde, his life will be
far more his own."
Ebbo's face was in full light, and his visitor marked his contracted
brow and trembling lip. "Ah!" he said, "thou hast had foul
experience of these weapons."
"Not mine own hurt," said Ebbo; "that was but fair chance of war."
"I understand," said the knight; "it was the shot that severed the
goodly bond that was so fair to see. Young man, none has grieved
more truly than King Max."
"And well he may," said Ebbo. "He has not lost merely one of his
best servants, but all the better half of another."
"There is still stuff enough left to make that ONE well worth
having," said Theurdank, kindly grasping his hand, "though I would it
were more substantial! How didst get old Wolfgang down, boy? He
must have been a tough morsel for slight bones like these, even when
better covered than now. Come, tell me all. I promised the Markgraf
of Wurtemburg to look into the matter when I came to be guest at St.
Ruprecht's cloister, and I have some small interest too with King
His kindliness and sympathy were more effectual with Ebbo than the
desire to represent his case favourably, for he was still too
wretched to care for policy; but he answered Theurdank's questions
readily, and explained how the idea of the bridge had originated in
the vigil beside the broken waggons.
"I hope," said Theurdank, "the merchants made up thy share? These
overthrown goods are a seignorial right of one or other of you lords
of the bank."
"True, Herr Ritter; but we deemed it unknightly to snatch at what
travellers lost by misfortune."
"Freiherr Eberhard, take my word for it, while thou thus holdest, all
the arquebuses yet to be cut out of the Black Forest will not mar thy
chivalry. Where didst get these ways of thinking?"
"My brother was a very St. Sebastian! My mother--"
"Ah! her sweet wise face would have shown it, even had not poor
Kasimir of Adlerstein raved of her. Ah! lad, thou hast crossed a
case of true love there! Canst not brook even such a gallant
"I may not," said Ebbo, with spirit; "for with his last breath
Schlangenwald owned that my own father died not at the hostel, but
may now be alive as a Turkish slave."
"The devil!" burst out Theurdank. "Well! that might have been a
pretty mess! A Turkish slave, saidst thou! What year chanced all
this matter--thy grandfather's murder and all the rest?"
"The year before my birth," said Ebbo. "It was in the September of
"Ha!" muttered Theurdank, musing to himself; "that was the year the
dotard Schenk got his overthrow at the fight of Rain on Sare from the
Moslem. Some composition was made by them, and old Wolfgang was not
unlikely to have been the go-between. So! Say on, young knight," he
added, "let us to the matter in hand. How rose the strife that kept
back two troops from our--from the banner of the empire?"
Ebbo proceeded with the narration, and concluded it just as the bell
now belonging to the chapel began to toll for compline, and Theurdank
prepared to obey its summons, first, however, asking if he should
send any one to the patient. Ebbo thanked him, but said he needed no
one till his mother should come after prayers.
"Nay, I told thee I had some leechcraft. Thou art weary, and must
rest more entirely;"--and, giving him little choice, Theurdank
supported him with one arm while removing the pillows that propped
him, then laid him tenderly down, saying, "Good night, and the saints
bless thee, brave young knight. Sleep well, and recover in spite of
the leeches. I cannot afford to lose both of you."
Ebbo strove to follow mentally the services that were being performed
in the chapel, and whose "Amens" and louder notes pealed up to him,
devoid of the clear young tones that had sung their last here below,
but swelled by grand bass notes that as much distracted Ebbo's
attention as the memory of his guest's conversation; and he
impatiently awaited his mother's arrival.
At length, lamp in hand, she appeared with tears shining in her eyes,
and bending over him said,
"He hath done honour to our blessed one, my Ebbo; he knelt by him,
and crossed him with holy water, and when he led me from the chapel
he told me any mother in Germany might envy me my two sons even now.
Thou must love him now, Ebbo."
"Love him as one loves one's loftiest model," said Ebbo--"value the
old castle the more for sheltering him."
"Hath he made himself known to thee?"
"Not openly, but there is only one that he can be."
Christina smiled, thankful that the work of pardon and reconciliation
had been thus softened by the personal qualities of the enemy, whose
conduct in the chapel had deeply moved her.
"Then all will be well, blessedly well," she said.
"So I trust," said Ebbo, "but the bell broke our converse, and he
laid me down as tenderly as--O mother, if a father's kindness be like
his, I have truly somewhat to regain."
"Knew he aught of the fell bargain?" whispered Christina.
"Not he, of course, save that it was a year of Turkish inroads. He
will speak more perchance to-morrow. Mother, not a word to any one,
nor let us betray our recognition unless it be his pleasure to make
"Certainly not," said Christina, remembering the danger that the
household might revenge Friedel's death if they knew the foe to be in
their power. Knowing as she did that Ebbo's admiration was apt to be
enthusiastic, and might now be rendered the more fervent by fever and
solitude, she was still at a loss to understand his dazzled,
When Heinz entered, bringing the castle key, which was always laid
under the Baron's pillow, Ebbo made a movement with his hand that
surprised them both, as if to send it elsewhere--then muttered, "No,
no, not till he reveals himself," and asked, "Where sleeps the
"In the grandmother's room, which we fitted for a guest-chamber,
little thinking who our first would be," said his mother.
"Never fear, lady; we will have a care to him," said Heinz, somewhat
"Yes, have a care," said Ebbo, wearily; "and take care all due honour
is shown to him! Good night, Heinz."
"Gracious lady," said Heinz, when by a sign he had intimated to her
his desire of speaking with her unobserved by the Baron, "never fear;
I know who the fellow is as well as you do. I shall be at the foot
of the stairs, and woe to whoever tries to step up them past me."
"There is no reason to apprehend treason, Heinz, yet to be on our
guard can do no harm."
"Nay, lady, I could look to the gear for the oubliette if you would
speak the word."
"For heaven's sake, no, Heinz. This man has come hither trusting to
our honour, and you could not do your lord a greater wrong, nor one
that he could less pardon, than by any attempt on our guest."
"Would that he had never eaten our bread!" muttered Heinz. "Vipers
be they all, and who knows what may come next?"
"Watch, watch, Heinz; that is all," implored Christina, "and, above
all, not a word to any one else."
And Christina dismissed the man-at-arms gruff and sullen, and herself
retired ill at ease between fears of, and for, the unwelcome guest
whose strange powers of fascination had rendered her, in his absence,
CHAPTER XXI: RITTER THEURDANK
The snow fell all night without ceasing, and was still falling on the
morrow, when the guest explained his desire of paying a short visit
to the young Baron, and then taking his departure. Christina would
gladly have been quit of him, but she felt bound to remonstrate, for
their mountain was absolutely impassable during a fall of snow, above
all when accompanied by wind, since the drifts concealed fearful
abysses, and the shifting masses insured destruction to the unwary
wayfarer; nay, natives themselves had perished between the hamlet and
"Not the hardiest cragsman, not my son himself," she said, "could
venture on such a morning to guide you to--"
"Whither, gracious dame?" asked Theurdank, half smiling.
"Nay, sir, I would not utter what you would not make known."
"You know me then?"
"Surely, sir, for our noble foe, whose generous trust in our honour
must win my son's heart."
"So!" he said, with a peculiar smile, "Theurdank--Dankwart--I see!
May I ask if your son likewise smelt out the Schlangenwald?"
"Verily, Sir Count, my Ebbo is not easily deceived. He said our
guest could be but one man in all the empire."
Theurdank smiled again, saying, "Then, lady, you shudder not at a man
whose kin and yours have shed so much of one another's blood?"
"Nay, ghostly knight, I regard you as no more stained therewith than
are my sons by the deeds of their grandfather."
"If there were more like you, lady," returned Theurdank, "deadly
feuds would soon be starved out. May I to your son? I have more to
say to him, and I would fain hear his views of the storm."
Christina could not be quite at ease with Theurdank in her son's
room, but she had no choice, and she knew that Heinz was watching on
the turret stair, out of hearing indeed, but as ready to spring as a
cat who sees her young ones in the hand of a child that she only half
Ebbo lay eagerly watching for his visitor, who greeted him with the
same almost paternal kindness he had evinced the night before, but
consulted him upon the way from the castle. Ebbo confirmed his
mother's opinion that the path was impracticable so long as the snow
fell, and the wind tossed it in wild drifts.
"We have been caught in snow," he said, "and hard work have we had to
get home! Once indeed, after a bear hunt, we fully thought the
castle stood before us, and lo! it was all a cruel snow mist in that
mocking shape. I was even about to climb our last Eagle's Step, as I
thought, when behold, it proved to be the very brink of the abyss."
"Ah! these ravines are well-nigh as bad as those of the Inn. I've
known what it was to be caught on the ledge of a precipice by a sharp
wind, changing its course, mark'st thou, so swiftly that it verily
tore my hold from the rock, and had well-nigh swept me into a chasm
of mighty depth. There was nothing for it but to make the best
spring I might towards the crag on the other side, and grip for my
life at my alpenstock, which by Our Lady's grace was firmly planted,
and I held on till I got breath again, and felt for my footing on the
"Ah!" said Eberhard with a long breath, after having listened with a
hunter's keen interest to this hair's-breadth escape, "it sounds like
a gust of my mountain air thus let in on me."
"Truly it is dismal work for a lusty hunter to lie here," said
Theurdank, "but soon shalt thou take thy crags again in full vigour,
I hope. How call'st thou the deep gray lonely pool under a steep
frowning crag sharpened well-nigh to a spear point, that I passed
"The Ptarmigan's Mere, the Red Eyrie," murmured Ebbo, scarcely able
to utter the words as he thought of Friedel's delight in the pool,
his exploit at the eyrie, and the gay bargain made in the streets of
Ulm, that he should show the scaler of the Dom steeple the way to the
"I remember," said his guest gravely, coming to his side. "Ah, boy!
thy brother's flight has been higher yet. Weep freely; fear me not.
Do I not know what it is, when those who were over-good for earth
have found their eagle's wings, and left us here?"
Ebbo gazed up through his tears into the noble, mournful face that
was bent kindly over him. "I will not seek to comfort thee by
counselling thee to forget," said Theurdank. "I was scarce thine
elder when my life was thus rent asunder, and to hoar hairs, nay, to
the grave itself, will she be my glory and my sorrow. Never owned I
brother, but I trow ye two were one in no common sort."
"Such brothers as we saw at Ulm were little like us," returned Ebbo,
from the bottom of his heart. "We were knit together so that all
will begin with me as if it were the left hand remaining alone to do
it! I am glad that my old life may not even in shadow be renewed
till after I have gone in quest of my father."
"Be not over hasty in that quest," said the guest, "or the infidels
may chance to gain two Freiherren instead of one. Hast any designs?"
Ebbo explained that he thought of making his way to Genoa to consult
the merchant Gian Battista dei Battiste, whose description of the
captive German noble had so strongly impressed Friedel. Ebbo knew
the difference between Turks and Moors, but Friedel's impulse guided
him, and he further thought that at Genoa he should learn the way to
deal with either variety of infidel. Theurdank thought this a
prudent course, since the Genoese had dealings both at Tripoli and
Constantinople; and, moreover, the transfer was not impossible, since
the two different hordes of Moslems trafficked among themselves when
either had made an unusually successful razzia.
"Shame," he broke out, "that these Eastern locusts, these ravening
hounds, should prey unmolested on the fairest lands of the earth, and
our German nobles lie here like swine, grunting and squealing over
the plunder they grub up from one another, deaf to any summons from
heaven or earth! Did not Heaven's own voice speak in thunder this
last year, even in November, hurling the mighty thunderbolt of
Alsace, an ell long, weighing two hundred and fifteen pounds? Did I
not cause it to be hung up in the church of Encisheim, as a witness
and warning of the plagues that hang over us? But no, nothing will
quicken them from their sloth and drunkenness till the foe are at
their doors; and, if a man arise of different mould, with some heart
for the knightly, the good, and the true, then they kill him for me!
But thou, Adlerstein, this pious quest over, thou wilt return to me.
Thou hast head to think and heart to feel for the shame and woe of
this misguided land."
"I trust so, my lord," said Ebbo. "Truly, I have suffered bitterly
for pursuing my own quarrel rather than the crusade."
"I meant not thee," said Theurdank, kindly. "Thy bridge is a benefit
to me, as much as, or more than, ever it can be to thee. Dost know
Italian? There is something of Italy in thine eye."
"My mother's mother was Italian, my lord; but she died so early that
her language has not descended to my mother or myself."
"Thou shouldst learn it. It will be pastime while thou art bed-fast,
and serve thee well in dealing with the Moslem. Moreover, I may have
work for thee in Welschland. Books? I will send thee books. There
is the whole chronicle of Karl the Great, and all his Palsgrafen, by
Pulci and Boiardo, a brave Count and gentleman himself, governor of
Reggio, and worthy to sing of deeds of arms; so choice, too, as to
the names of his heroes, that they say he caused his church bells to
be rung when he had found one for Rodomonte, his infidel Hector. He
has shown up Roland as a love-sick knight, though, which is out of
all accord with Archbishop Turpin. Wilt have him?"
"When we were together, we used to love tales of chivalry."
"Ah! Or wilt have the stern old Ghibelline Florentine, who explored
the three realms of the departed? Deep lore, and well-nigh
unsearchable, is his; but I love him for the sake of his Beatrice,
who guided him. May we find such guides in our day!"
"I have heard of him," said Ebbo. "If he will tell me where my
Friedel walks in light, then, my lord, I would read him with all my
"Or wouldst thou have rare Franciscus Petrarca? I wot thou art too
young as yet for the yearnings of his sonnets, but their voice is
sweet to the bereft heart."
And he murmured over, in their melodious Italian flow, the lines on
"Not pallid, but yet whiter than the snow
By wind unstirred that on a hillside lies;
Rest seemed as on a weary frame to grow,
A gentle slumber pressed her lovely eyes."
"Ah!" he added aloud to himself, "it is ever to me as though the poet
had watched in that chamber at Ghent."
Such were the discourses of that morning, now on poetry and book
lore; now admiration of the carvings that decked the room; now talk
on grand architectural designs, or improvements in fire-arms, or the
discussion of hunting adventures. There seemed nothing in art, life,
or learning in which the versatile mind of Theurdank was not at home,
or that did not end in some strange personal reminiscence of his own.
All was so kind, so gracious, and brilliant, that at first the
interview was full of wondering delight to Ebbo, but latterly it
became very fatiguing from the strain of attention, above all towards
a guest who evidently knew that he was known, while not permitting
such recognition to be avowed. Ebbo began to long for an
interruption, but, though he could see by the lightened sky that the
weather had cleared up, it would have been impossible to have
suggested to any guest that the way might now probably be open, and
more especially to such a guest as this. Considerate as his visitor
had been the night before, the pleasure of talk seemed to have done
away with the remembrance of his host's weakness, till Ebbo so
flagged that at last he was scarcely alive to more than the continued
sound of the voice, and all the pain that for a while had been in
abeyance seemed to have mastered him; but his guest, half reading his
books, half discoursing, seemed too much immersed in his own plans,
theories, and adventures, to mark the condition of his auditor.
Interruption came at last, however. There was a sudden knock at the
door at noon, and with scant ceremony Heinz entered, followed by
three other of the men-at-arms, fully equipped.
"Ha! what means this?" demanded Ebbo.
"Peace, Sir Baron," said Heinz, advancing so as to place his large
person between Ebbo's bed and the strange hunter. "You know nothing
of it. We are not going to lose you as well as your brother, and we
mean to see how this knight likes to serve as a hostage instead of
opening the gates as a traitor spy. On him, Koppel! it is thy
"Hands off! at your peril, villains!" exclaimed Ebbo, sitting up, and
speaking in the steady resolute voice that had so early rendered him
thoroughly their master, but much perplexed and dismayed, and
entirely unassisted by Theurdank, who stood looking on with almost a
smile, as if diverted by his predicament.
"By your leave, Herr Freiherr," said Heinz, putting his hand on his
shoulder, "this is no concern of yours. While you cannot guard
yourself or my lady, it is our part to do so. I tell you his minions
are on their way to surprise the castle."
Even as Heinz spoke, Christina came panting into the room, and,
hurrying to her son's side, said, "Sir Count, is this just, is this
honourable, thus to return my son's welcome, in his helpless
"Mother, are you likewise distracted?" exclaimed Ebbo. "What is all
"Alas, my son, it is no frenzy! There are armed men coming up the
Eagle's Stairs on the one hand and by the Gemsbock's Pass on the
"But not a hair of your head shall they hurt, lady," said Heinz.
"This fellow's limbs shall be thrown to them over the battlements.
"Off, Koppel!" thundered Ebbo. "Would you brand me with shame for
ever? Were he all the Schlangenwalds in one, he should go as freely
as he came; but he is no more Schlangenwald than I am."
"He has deceived you, my lord," said Heinz. "My lady's own letter to
Schlangenwald was in his chamber. 'Tis a treacherous disguise."
"Fool that thou art!" said Ebbo. "I know this gentleman well. I
knew him at Ulm. Those who meet him here mean me no ill. Open the
gates and receive them honourably! Mother, mother, trust me, all is
well. I know what I am saying."
The men looked one upon another. Christina wrung her hands,
uncertain whether her son were not under some strange fatal
"My lord has his fancies," growled Koppel. "I'll not be balked of my
right of vengeance for his scruples! Will he swear that this fellow
is what he calls himself?"
"I swear," said Ebbo, slowly, "that he is a true loyal knight, well
known to me."
"Swear it distinctly, Sir Baron," said Heinz. "We have all too deep
a debt of vengeance to let off any one who comes here lurking in the
interest of our foe. Swear that this is Theurdank, or we send his
head to greet his friends."
Drops stood on Ebbo's brow, and his breath laboured as he felt his
senses reeling, and his powers of defence for his guest failing him.
Even should the stranger confess his name, the people of the castle
might not believe him; and here he stood like one indifferent,
evidently measuring how far his young host would go in his cause.
"I cannot swear that his real name is Theurdank," said Ebbo, rallying
his forces, "but this I swear, that he is neither friend nor fosterer
of Schlangenwald, that I know him, and I had rather die than that the
slightest indignity were offered him." Here, and with a great effort
that terribly wrenched his wounded leg, he reached past Heinz, and
grasped his guest's hand, pulling him as near as he could.
"Sir," he said, "if they try to lay hands on you, strike my death-
A bugle-horn was wound outside. The men stood daunted--Christina in
extreme terror for her son, who lay gasping, breathless, but still
clutching the stranger's hand, and with eyes of fire glaring on the
mutinous warriors. Another bugle-blast! Heinz was almost in the act
of grappling with the silent foe, and Koppel cried as he raised his
halbert, "Now or never!" but paused.
"Never, so please you," said the strange guest. "What if your young
lord could not forswear himself that my name is Theurdank! Are you
foes to all the world save Theurdank?"
"No masking," said Heinz, sternly. "Tell your true name as an honest
man, and we will judge whether you be friend or foe."
"My name is a mouthful, as your master knows," said the guest,
slowly, looking with strangely amused eyes on the confused
lanzknechts, who were trying to devour their rage. "I was baptized
Maximilianus; Archduke of Austria, by birth; by choice of the
Germans, King of the Romans."
Christina dropped on her knee; the men-at-arms tumbled backwards;
Ebbo pressed the hand he held to his lips, and fainted away. The
bugle sounded for the third time.
CHAPTER XXII: PEACE
Slowly and painfully did Ebbo recover from his swoon, feeling as if
the means of revival were rending him away from his brother. He was
so completely spent that he was satisfied with a mere assurance that
nothing was amiss, and presently dropped into a profound slumber,
whence he awoke to find it still broad daylight, and his mother
sitting by the side of his bed, all looking so much as it had done
for the last six weeks, that his first inquiry was if all that had
happened had been but a strange dream. His mother would scarcely
answer till she had satisfied herself that his eye was clear, his
voice steady, his hand cool, and that, as she said, "That Kaisar had
done him no harm."
"Ah, then it was true! Where is he? Gone?" cried Ebbo, eagerly.
"No, in the hall below, busy with letters they have brought him. Lie
still, my boy; he has done thee quite enough damage for one day."
"But, mother, what are you saying! Something disloyal, was it not?"
"Well, Ebbo, I was very angry that he should have half killed you
when he could so easily have spoken one word. Heaven forgive me if I
did wrong, but I could not help it."
"Did HE forgive you, mother?" said Ebbo, anxiously.
"He--oh yes. To do him justice he was greatly concerned; devised
ways of restoring thee, and now has promised not to come near thee
again without my leave," said the mother, quite as persuaded of her
own rightful sway in her son's sick chamber as ever Kunigunde had
been of her dominion over the castle.
"And is he displeased with me? Those cowardly vindictive rascals, to
fall on him, and set me at nought! Before him, too!" exclaimed Ebbo,
"Nay, Ebbo, he thought thy part most gallant. I heard him say so,
not only to me, but below stairs--both wise and true. Thou didst
know him then?"
"From the first glance of his princely eye--the first of his keen
smiles. I had seen him disguised before. I thought you knew him
too, mother; I never guessed that your mind was running on
Schlangenwald when we talked at cross purposes last night."
"Would that I had; but though I breathed no word openly, I encouraged
Heinz's precautions. My boy, I could not help it; my heart would
tremble for my only one, and I saw he could not be what he seemed."
"And what doth he here? Who were the men who were advancing?"
"They were the followers he had left at St. Ruprecht's, and likewise
Master Schleiermacher and Sir Kasimir of Wildschloss."
"What--he had not told thee?"
"No. He knew that I knew him, was at no pains to disguise himself,
yet evidently meant me to treat him as a private knight. But what
brought Wildschloss here?"
"It seems," said Christina, "that, on the return from Carinthia, the
Kaisar expressed his intention of slipping away from his army in his
own strange fashion, and himself inquiring into the matter of the
Ford. So he took with him his own personal followers, the new Graf
von Schlangenwald, Herr Kasimir, and Master Schleiermacher. The
others he sent to Schlangenwald; he himself lodged at St. Ruprecht's,
appointing that Sir Kasimir should meet him there this morning. From
the convent he started on a chamois hunt, and made his way hither;
but, when the snow came on, and he returned not, his followers became
uneasy, and came in search of him."
"Ah!" said Ebbo, "he meant to intercede for Wildschloss--it might be
he would have tried his power. No, for that he is too generous. How
looked Wildschloss, mother?"
"How could I tell how any one looked save thee, my poor wan boy?
Thou art paler than ever! I cannot have any king or kaisar of them
all come to trouble thee."
"Nay, motherling, there is much more trouble and unrest to me in not
knowing how my king will treat us after such a requital! Prithee let
him know that I am at his service."
And, after having fed and refreshed her patient, the gentle potentate
of his chamber consented to intimate her consent to admit the
invader. But not till after delay enough to fret the impatient
nerves of illness did Maximilian appear, handing her in, and saying,
in the cheery voice that was one of his chief fascinations,
"Yea, truly, fair dame, I know thou wouldst sooner trust
Schlangenwald himself than me alone with thy charge. How goes it, my
"Well, right well, my liege," said Ebbo, "save for my shame and
"Thou art the last to be ashamed for that," said the good-natured
prince. "Have I never seen my faithful vassals more bent on their
own feuds than on my word?--I who reign over a set of kings, who
brook no will but their own."
"And may we ask your pardon," said Ebbo, "not only for ourselves, but
for the misguided men-at-arms?"
"What! the grewsome giant that was prepared with the axe, and the
honest lad that wanted to do his duty by his father? I honour that
lad, Freiherr; I would enrol him in my guard, but that probably he is
better off here than with Massimiliano pochi danari, as the Italians
call me. But what I came hither to say was this," and he spoke
gravely: "thou art sincere in desiring reconciliation with the house
"With all my heart," said Ebbo, "do I loathe the miserable debt of
blood for blood!"
"And," said Maximilian, "Graf Dankwart is of like mind. Bred from
pagedom in his Prussian commandery, he has never been exposed to the
irritations that have fed the spirit of strife, and he will be
thankful to lay it aside. The question next is how to solemnize this
reconciliation, ere your retainers on one side or the other do
something to set you by the ears together again, which, judging by
this morning's work, is not improbable."
"Alas! no," said Ebbo, "while I am laid by."
"Had you both been in our camp, you should have sworn friendship in
my chapel. Now must Dankwart come hither to thee, as I trow he had
best do, while I am here to keep the peace. See, friend Ebbo, we
will have him here to-morrow; thy chaplain shall deck the altar here,
the Father Abbot shall say mass, and ye shall swear peace and
brotherhood before me. And," he added, taking Ebbo's hand, "I shall
know how to trust thine oaths as of one who sets the fear of God
above that of his king."
This was truly the only chance of impressing on the wild vassals of
the two houses an obligation that perhaps might override their
ancient hatred; and the Baron and his mother gladly submitted to the
arrangement. Maximilian withdrew to give directions for summoning
the persons required and Christina was soon obliged to leave her son,
while she provided for her influx of guests.
Ebbo was alone till nearly the end of the supper below stairs. He
had been dozing, when a cautious tread came up the turret steps, and
he started, and called out, "Who goes there? I am not asleep."
"It is your kinsman, Freiherr," said a well-known voice; "I come by
your mother's leave."
"Welcome, Sir Cousin," said Ebbo, holding out his hand. "You come to
find everything changed."
"I have knelt in the chapel," said Wildschloss, gravely.
"And he loved you better than I!" said Ebbo.
"Your jealousy of me was a providential thing, for which all may be
thankful," said Wildschloss gravely; "yet it is no small thing to
lose the hope of so many years! However, young Baron, I have grave
matter for your consideration. Know you the service on which I am to
be sent? The Kaisar deems that the Armenians or some of the
Christian nations on the skirts of the Ottoman empire might be made
our allies, and attack the Turk in his rear. I am chosen as his
envoy, and shall sail so soon as I can make my way to Venice. I only
knew of the appointment since I came hither, he having been led
thereto by letters brought him this day; and mayhap by the downfall
of my hopes. He was peremptory, as his mood is, and seemed to think
it no small favour," added Wildschloss, with some annoyance. "And
meantime, what of my poor child? There she is in the cloister at
Ulm, but an inheritance is a very mill-stone round the neck of an
orphan maid. That insolent fellow, Lassla von Trautbach, hath
already demanded to espouse the poor babe; he--a blood-stained,
dicing, drunken rover, with whom I would not trust a dog that I
loved! Yet my death would place her at the disposal of his father,
who would give her at once to him. Nay, even his aunt, the abbess,
will believe nothing against him, and hath even striven with me to
have her betrothed at once. On the barest rumour of my death will
they wed the poor little thing, and then woe to her, and woe to my
"The King," suggested Ebbo. "Surely she might be made his ward."
"Young man," said Sir Kasimir, bending over him, and speaking in an
undertone, "he may well have won your heart. As friend, when one is
at his side, none can be so winning, or so sincere as he; but with
all his brilliant gifts, he says truly of himself that he is a mere
reckless huntsman. To-day, while I am with him, he would give me
half Austria, or fight single-handed in my cause or Thekla's. Next
month, when I am out of sight, comes Trautbach, just when his head is
full of keeping the French out of Italy, or reforming the Church, or
beating the Turk, or parcelling the empire into circles, or, maybe,
of a new touch-hole for a cannon--nay, of a flower-garden, or of
walking into a lion's den. He just says, 'Yea, well,' to be rid of
the importunity, and all is over with my poor little maiden. Hare-
brained and bewildered with schemes has he been as Romish King--how
will it be with him as Kaisar? It is but of his wonted madness that
he is here at all, when his Austrian states must be all astray for
want of him. No, no; I would rather make a weathercock guardian to
my daughter. You yourself are the only guard to whom I can safely
"My sword as knight and kinsman--" began Ebbo.
"No, no; 'tis no matter of errant knight or distressed damsel. That
is King Max's own line!" said Wildschloss, with a little of the irony
that used to nettle Ebbo. "There is only one way in which you can
save her, and that is as her husband."
Ebbo started, as well he might, but Sir Kasimir laid his hand on him
with a gesture that bade him listen ere he spoke. "My first wish for
my child," he said, "was to see her brought up by that peerless lady
below stairs. The saints--in pity to one so like themselves--spared
her the distress our union would have brought her. Now, it would be
vain to place my little Thekla in her care, for Trautbach would
easily feign my death, and claim his niece, nor are you of age to be
made her guardian as head of our house. But, if this marriage rite
were solemnized, then would her person and lands alike be yours, and
I could leave her with an easy heart."
"But," said the confused, surprised Ebbo, "what can I do? They say I
shall not walk for many weeks to come. And, even if I could, I am so
young--I have so blundered in my dealings with my own mountaineers,
and with this fatal bridge--how should I manage such estates as
yours? Some better--"
"Look you, Ebbo," said Wildschloss; "you have erred--you have been
hasty; but tell me where to find another youth, whose strongest
purpose was as wise as your errors, or who cared for others' good
more than for his own violence and vainglory? Brief as your time has
been, one knows when one is on your bounds by the aspect of your
serfs, the soundness of their dwellings, the prosperity of their
crops and cattle above all, by their face and tone if one asks for
"Ah! it was Friedel they loved. They scarce knew me from Friedel."
"Such as you are, with all the blunders you have made and will make,
you are the only youth I know to whom I could intrust my child or my
lands. The old Wildschloss castle is a male fief, and would return
to you, but there are domains since granted that will cause
intolerable trouble and strife, unless you and my poor little heiress
are united. As for age, you are--?"
"Eighteen next Easter."
"Then there are scarce eleven years between you. You will find the
little one a blooming bride when your first deeds in arms have been
"And, if my mother trains her up," said Ebbo, thoughtfully, "she will
be all the better daughter to her. But, Sir Cousin, you know I too
must be going. So soon as I can brook the saddle, I must seek out
and ransom my father."
"That is like to be a far shorter and safer journey than mine. The
Genoese and Venetians understand traffic with the infidels for their
captives, and only by your own fault could you get into danger. Even
at the worst, should mishap befall you, you could so order matters as
to leave your girl-widow in your mother's charge."
"Then," added Ebbo, "she would still have one left to love and
cherish her. Sir Kasimir, it is well; though, if you knew me without
my Friedel, you would repent of your bargain."
"Thanks from my heart," said Wildschloss, "but you need not be
concerned. You have never been over-friendly with me even with
Friedel at your side. But to business, my son. You will endure that
title from me now? My time is short."
"What would you have me do? Shall I send the little one a betrothal
ring, and ride to Ulm to wed and fetch her home in spring?"
"That may hardly serve. These kinsmen would have seized on her and
the castle long ere that time. The only safety is the making wedlock
as fast as it can be made with a child of such tender years. Mine is
the only power that can make the abbess give her up, and therefore
will I ride this moonlight night to Ulm, bring the little one back
with me by the time the reconciliation be concluded, and then shall
ye be wed by the Abbot of St. Ruprecht's, with the Kaisar for a
witness, and thus will the knot be too strong for the Trautbachs to
Ebbo looked disconcerted, and gasped, as if this were over-quick
work.--"To-morrow!" he said. "Knows my mother?"
"I go to speak with her at once. The Kaisar's consent I have, as he
says, 'If we have one vassal who has common sense and honesty, let us
make the most of him.' Ah! my son, I shall return to see you his
counsellor and friend."
Those days had no delicacies as to the lady's side taking the
initiative: and, in effect, the wealth and power of Wildschloss so
much exceeded those of the elder branch that it would have been
presumptuous on Eberhard's part to have made the proposal. It was
more a treaty than an affair of hearts, and Sir Kasimir had not even
gone through the form of inquiring if Ebbo were fancy-free. It was
true, indeed, that he was still a boy, with no passion for any one
but his mother; but had he even formed a dream of a ladye love, it
would scarcely have been deemed a rational objection. The days of
romance were no days of romance in marriage.
Yet Christina, wedded herself for pure love, felt this obstacle
strongly. The scheme was propounded to her over the hall fire by no
less a person than Maximilian himself, and he, whose perceptions were
extremely keen when he was not too much engrossed to use them,
observed her reluctance through all her timid deference, and probed
her reasons so successfully that she owned at last that, though it
might sound like folly, she could scarce endure to see her son so
bind himself that the romance of his life could hardly be innocent.