Part 6 out of 6
"Nay, lady," was the answer, in a tone of deep feeling. "Neither
lands nor honours can weigh down the up-springing of true love;" and
he bowed his head between his hands.
Verily, all the Low Countries had not impeded the true-hearted
affection of Maximilian and Mary; and, though since her death his
want of self-restraint had marred his personal character and morals,
and though he was now on the point of concluding a most loveless
political marriage, yet still Mary was--as he shows her as the
Beatrice of both his strange autobiographical allegories--the guiding
star of his fitful life; and in heart his fidelity was so unbroken
that, when after a long pause he again looked up to Christina, he
spoke as well understanding her feelings.
"I know what you would say, lady; your son hardly knows as yet how
much is asked of him, and the little maid, to whom he vows his heart,
is over-young to secure it. But, lady, I have often observed that
men, whose family affections are as deep and fervent as your son's
are for you and his brother, seldom have wandering passions, but that
their love flows deep and steady in the channels prepared for it.
Let your young Freiherr regard this damsel as his own, and you will
see he will love her as such."
"I trust so, my liege."
"Moreover, if she turn out like the spiteful Trautbach folk," said
Maximilian, rather wickedly, "plenty of holes can be picked in a
baby-wedding. No fear of its over-firmness. I never saw one come to
good; only he must keep firm hold on the lands."
This was not easy to answer, coming from a prince who had no small
experience in premature bridals coming to nothing, and Christina felt
that the matter was taken out of her hands, and that she had no more
to do but to enjoy the warm-hearted Kaisar's praises of her son.
In fact, the general run of nobles were then so boorish and violent
compared with the citizens, that a nobleman who possessed intellect,
loyalty, and conscience was so valuable to the sovereign that
Maximilian was rejoiced to do all that either could bind him to his
service or increase his power. The true history of this expedition
on the Emperor's part was this--that he had consulted Kasimir upon
the question of the Debateable Ford and the feud of Adlerstein and
Schlangenwald, asking further how his friend had sped in the wooing
of the fair widow, to which he remembered having given his consent at
Wildschloss replied that, though backed up by her kindred at Ulm, he
had made no progress in consequence of the determined opposition of
her two sons, and he had therefore resolved to wait a while, and let
her and the young Baron feel their inability to extricate themselves
from the difficulties that were sure to beset them, without his
authority, influence, and experience--fully believing that some
predicament might arise that would bring the mother to terms, if not
This disaster did seem to have fallen out, and he had meant at once
to offer himself to the lady as her supporter and advocate, able to
bring about all her son could desire; though he owned that his hopes
would have been higher if the survivor had been the gentle, friendly
Friedmund, rather than the hot and imperious Eberhard, who he knew
must be brought very low ere his objections would be withdrawn.
The touch of romance had quite fascinated Maximilian. He would see
the lady and her son. He would make all things easy by the personal
influence that he so well knew how to exert, backed by his imperial
authority; and both should see cause to be thankful to purchase
consent to the bridge-building, and pardon for the fray, by the
marriage between the widow and Sir Kasimir.
But the Last of the Knights was a gentleman, and the meek dignity of
his hostess had hindered him from pressing on her any distasteful
subject until her son's explanation of the uncertainty of her
husband's death had precluded all mention of this intention.
Besides, Maximilian was himself greatly charmed by Ebbo's own
qualities--partly perhaps as an intelligent auditor, but also by his
good sense, high spirit, and, above all, by the ready and delicate
tact that had both penetrated and respected the disguise. Moreover,
Maximilian, though a faulty, was a devout man, and could appreciate
the youth's unswerving truth, under circumstances that did, in
effect, imperil him more really than his guest. In this mood,
Maximilian felt disposed to be rid to the very utmost of poor Sir
Kasimir's unlucky attachment to a wedded lady; and receiving letters
suggestive of the Eastern mission, instantly decided that it would
only be doing as he would be done by instantly to order the
disappointed suitor off to the utmost parts of the earth, where he
would much have liked to go himself, save for the unlucky clog of all
the realm of Germany. That Sir Kasimir had any tie to home he had
for the moment entirely forgotten; and, had he remembered it, the
knight was so eminently fitted to fulfil his purpose, that it could
hardly have been regarded. But, when Wildschloss himself devised his
little heiress' s union with the head of the direct line, it was a
most acceptable proposal to the Emperor, who set himself to forward
it at once, out of policy, and as compensation to all parties.
And so Christina's gentle remonstrance was passed by. Yet, with all
her sense of the venture, it was thankworthy to look back on the
trembling anxiety with which she had watched her boy's childhood, and
all his temptations and perils, and compare her fears with his
present position: his alliance courted, his wisdom honoured, the
child of the proud, contemned outlaw received as the favourite of the
Emperor, and the valued ally of her own honoured burgher world. Yet
he was still a mere lad. How would it be for the future?
Would he be unspoiled? Yes, even as she already viewed one of her
twins as the star on high--nay, when kneeling in the chapel, her
dazzling tears made stars of the glint of the light reflected in his
bright helmet--might she not trust that the other would yet run his
course to and fro, as the spark in the stubble?
CHAPTER XXIII: THE ALTAR OF PEACE
No one could bear to waken the young Baron till the sun had risen
high enough to fall on his face and unclose his eyes.
"Mother" (ever his first word), "you have let me sleep too long."
"Thou didst wake too long, I fear me."
"I hoped you knew it not. Yes, my wound throbbed sore, and the
wonders of the day whirled round my brain like the wild huntsman's
"And, cruel boy, thou didst not call to me."
"What, with such a yesterday, and such a morrow for you? while,
chance what may, I can but lie still. I thought I must call, if I
were still so wretched, when the last moonbeam faded; but, behold,
sleep came, and therewith my Friedel sat by me, and has sung songs of
peace ever since."
"And hath lulled thee to content, dear son?"
"Content as the echo of his voice and the fulfilment of his hope can
make me," said Ebbo.
And so Christina made her son ready for the day's solemnities,
arraying him in a fine holland shirt with exquisite broidery of her
own on the collar and sleeves, and carefully disposing his long
glossy, dark brown hair so as to fall on his shoulders as he lay
propped up by cushions. She would have thrown his crimson mantle
round him, but he repelled it indignantly. "Gay braveries for me,
while my Friedel is not yet in his resting-place? Here--the black
"Alas, Ebbo! it makes thee look more of a corpse than a bridegroom.
Thou wilt scare thy poor little spouse. Ah! it was not thus I had
fancied myself decking thee for thy wedding."
"Poor little one!" said Ebbo. "If, as your uncle says, mourning is
the seed of joy, this bridal should prove a gladsome one! But let
her prove a loving child to you, and honour my Friedel's memory, then
shall I love her well. Do not fear, motherling; with the roots of
hatred and jealousy taken out of the heart, even sorrow is such peace
that it is almost joy."
It was over early for pain and sorrow to have taught that lesson,
thought the mother, as with tender tears she gave place to the
priest, who was to begin the solemnities of the day by shriving the
young Baron. It was Father Norbert, who had in this very chamber
baptized the brothers, while their grandmother was plotting the
destruction of their godfather, even while he gave Friedmund his name
of peace,--Father Norbert, who had from the very first encouraged the
drooping, heart-stricken, solitary Christina not to be overcome of
evil, but to overcome evil with good.
A temporary altar was erected between the windows, and hung with the
silk and embroidery belonging to that in the chapel: a crucifix was
placed on it, with the shrine of the stone of Nicaea, one or two
other relics brought on St. Ruprecht's cloister, and a beautiful
mother-of-pearl and gold pyx also from the abbey, containing the
host. These were arranged by the chaplain, Father Norbert, and three
of his brethren from the abbey. And then the Father Abbot, a kindly,
dignified old man, who had long been on friendly terms with the young
Baron, entered; and after a few kind though serious words to him,
assumed a gorgeous cope stiff with gold embroidery, and, standing by
the altar, awaited the arrival of the other assistants at the
The slender, youthful-looking, pensive lady of the castle, in her
wonted mourning dress, was courteously handed to her son's bedside by
the Emperor. He was in his plain buff leathern hunting garb,
unornamented, save by the rich clasp of his sword-belt and his gold
chain, and his head was only covered by the long silken locks of fair
hair that hung round his shoulders; but, now that his large keen dark
blue eyes were gravely restrained, and his eager face composed, his
countenance was so majestic, his bearing so lofty, that not all his
crowns could have better marked his dignity.
Behind him came a sunburnt, hardy man, wearing the white mantle and
black fleur-de-lis-pointed cross of the Teutonic Order. A thrill
passed through Ebbo's veins as he beheld the man who to him
represented the murderer of his brother and both his grandfathers,
the cruel oppressor of his father, and the perpetrator of many a more
remote, but equally unforgotten, injury. And in like manner Sir
Dankwart beheld the actual slayer of his father, and the heir of a
long score of deadly retribution. No wonder then that, while the
Emperor spoke a few words of salutation and inquiry, gracious though
not familiar, the two foes scanned one another with a shiver of
mutual repulsing, and a sense that they would fain have fought it out
as in the good old times.
However, Ebbo only beheld a somewhat dull, heavy, honest-looking
visage of about thirty years old, good-nature written in all its flat
German features, and a sort of puzzled wonder in the wide light eyes
that stared fixedly at him, no doubt in amazement that the mighty
huge-limbed Wolfgang could have been actually slain by the
delicately-framed youth, now more colourless than ever in consequence
of the morning's fast. Schleiermacher was also present, and the
chief followers on either hand had come into the lower part of the
room--Hatto, Heinz, and Koppel, looking far from contented; some of
the Emperor's suite; and a few attendants of Schlangenwald, like
himself connected with the Teutonic Order.
The Emperor spoke: "We have brought you together, Herr Graff von
Schlangenwald, and Herr Freiherr von Adlerstein, because ye have
given us reason to believe you willing to lay aside the remembrance
of the foul and deadly strifes of your forefathers, and to live as
good Christians in friendship and brotherhood."
"Sire, it is true," said Schlangenwald; and "It is true," said Ebbo.
"That is well," replied Maximilian. "Nor can our reign better begin
than by the closing of a breach that has cost the land some of its
bravest sons. Dankwart von Schlangenwald, art thou willing to pardon
the heir of Adlerstein for having slain thy father in free and
honourable combat, as well as, doubtless, for other deeds of his
ancestors, more than I know or can specify?"
"Yea, truly; I pardon him, my liege, as befits my vow."
"And thou, Eberhard von Adlerstein, dost thou put from thee vengeance
for thy twin brother's death, and all the other wrongs that thine
house has suffered?"
"I put revenge from me for ever."
"Ye agree, further, then, instead of striving as to your rights to
the piece of meadow called the Debateable Strand, and to the wrecks
of burthens there cast up by the stream, ye will unite with the
citizens of Ulm in building a bridge over the Braunwasser, where,
your mutual portions thereof being decided by the Swabian League,
toll may be taken from all vehicles and beasts passing there over?"
"We agree," said both knights.
"And I, also, on behalf of the two guilds of Ulm," added Moritz
"Likewise," continued the Emperor, "for avoidance of debate, and to
consecrate the spot that has caused so much contention, ye will
jointly erect a church, where may be buried both the relatives who
fell in the late unhappy skirmish, and where ye will endow a
perpetual mass for their souls, and those of others of your two
"Thereto I willingly agree," said the Teutonic knight. But to Ebbo
it was a shock that the pure, gentle Friedmund should thus be classed
with his treacherous assassin; and he had almost declared that it
would be sacrilege, when he received from the Emperor a look of
stern, surprised command, which reminded him that concession must not
be all on one side, and that he could not do Friedel a greater wrong
than to make him a cause of strife. So, though they half choked him,
he contrived to utter the words, "I consent."
"And in token of amity I here tear up and burn all the feuds of
Adlerstein," said Schlangenwald, producing from his pouch a
collection of hostile literature, beginning from a crumpled strip of
yellow parchment and ending with a coarse paper missive in the
clerkly hand of burgher-bred Hugh Sorel, and bearing the crooked
signatures of the last two Eberhards of Adlerstein--all with great
seals of the eagle shield appended to them. A similar collection--
which, with one or two other family defiances, and the letters of
investiture recently obtained at Ulm, formed the whole archives of
Adlerstein--had been prepared within Ebbo's reach; and each of the
two, taking up a dagger, made extensive gashes in these documents,
and then--with no mercy to the future antiquaries, who would have
gloated over them--the whole were hurled into the flames on the
hearth, where the odour they emitted, if not grateful to the physical
sense, should have been highly agreeable to the moral.
"Then, holy Father Abbot," said Maximilian, "let us ratify this happy
and Christian reconciliation by the blessed sacrifice of peace, over
which these two faithful knights shall unite in swearing good-will
Such solemn reconciliations were frequent, but, alas were too often a
mockery. Here, however, both parties were men who felt the awe of
the promise made before the Pardon-winner of all mankind. Ebbo, bred
up by his mother in the true life of the Church, and comparatively
apart from practical superstitions, felt the import to the depths of
his inmost soul, with a force heightened by his bodily state of
nervous impressibility; and his wan, wasted features and dark shining
eyes had a strange spiritual beam, "half passion and half awe," as he
followed the words of universal forgiveness and lofty praise that he
had heard last in his anguished trance, when his brother lay dying
beside him, and leaving him behind. He knew now that it was for
His deep repressed ardour and excitement were no small contrast to
the sober, matter-of-fact demeanour of the Teutonic knight, who
comported himself with the mechanical decorum of an ecclesiastic, but
quite as one who meant to keep his word. Maximilian served the mass
in his royal character as sub-deacon. He was fond of so doing,
either from humility, or love of incongruity, or both. No one,
however, communicated except the clergy and the parties concerned--
Dankwart first, as being monk as well as knight, then Eberhard and
his mother; and then followed, interposed into the rite, the oath of
pardon, friendship, and brotherhood administered by the abbot, and
followed by the solemn kiss of peace. There was now no recoil;
Eberhard raised himself to meet the lips of his foe, and his heart
went with the embrace. Nay, his inward ear dwelt on Friedmund's song
mingling with the concluding chants of praise.
The service ended, it was part of the pledge of amity that the
reconciled enemies should break their fast together, and a collation
of white bread and wine was provided for the purpose. The Emperor
tried to promote free and friendly talk between the two adversaries,
but not with great success; for Dankwart, though honest and sincere,
seemed extremely dull. He appeared to have few ideas beyond his
Prussian commandery and its routine discipline, and to be lost in a
castle where all was at his sole will and disposal, and he caught
eagerly at all proposals made to him as if they were new lights. As,
for instance, that some impartial arbitrator should be demanded from
the Swabian League to define the boundary; and that next Rogation-
tide the two knights should ride or climb it in company, while
meantime the serfs should be strictly charged not to trespass, and
any transgressor should be immediately escorted to his own lord.
"But," quoth Sir Dankwart, in a most serious tone, "I am told that a
she-bear wons in a den on yonder crag, between the pass you call the
Gemsbock's and the Schlangenwald valley. They told me the right in
it had never been decided, and I have not been up myself. To say
truth, I have lived so long in the sand plains as to have lost my
mountain legs, and I hesitated to see if a hunter could mount thither
for fear of fresh offence; but, if she bide there till Rogation-tide,
it will be ill for the lambs."
"Is that all?" cried Maximilian. "Then will I, a neutral, kill your
bear for you, gentlemen, so that neither need transgress this new
crag of debate. I'll go down and look at your bear spears, friend
Ebbo, and be ready so soon as Kasimir has done with his bridal."
"That crag!" cried Ebbo. "Little good will it do either of us.
Sire, it is a mere wall of sloping rock, slippery as ice, and with
only a stone or matting of ivy here and there to serve as foothold."
"Where bear can go, man can go," replied the Kaisar.
"Oh, yes! We have been there, craving your pardon, Herr Graf," said
Ebbo, "after a dead chamois that rolled into a cleft, but it is the
worst crag on all the hill, and the frost will make it slippery.
Sire, if you do venture it, I conjure you to take Koppel, and climb
by the rocks from the left, not the right, which looks easiest. The
yellow rock, with a face like a man's, is the safer; but ach, it is
fearful for one who knows not the rocks."
"If I know not the rocks, all true German rocks know me," smiled
Maximilian, to whom the danger seemed to be such a stimulus that he
began to propose the bear-hunt immediately, as an interlude while
waiting for the bride.
However, at that moment, half-a-dozen horsemen were seen coming up
from the ford, by the nearer path, and a forerunner arrived with the
tidings that the Baron of Adlerstein Wildschloss was close behind
with the little Baroness Thekla.
Half the moonlight night had Sir Kasimir and his escort ridden; and,
after a brief sleep at the nearest inn outside Ulm, he had entered in
early morning, demanded admittance at the convent, made short work
with the Abbess Ludmilla's arguments, claimed his daughter, and
placing her on a cushion before him on his saddle, had borne her
away, telling her of freedom, of the kind lady, and the young knight
who had dazzled her childish fancy.
Christina went down to receive her. There was no time to lose, for
the huntsman Kaisar was bent on the slaughter of his bear before
dark, and, if he were to be witness of the wedding, it must be
immediate. He was in a state of much impatience, which he beguiled
by teasing his friend Wildschloss by reminding him how often he
himself had been betrothed, and had managed to slip his neck out of
the noose. "And, if my Margot be not soon back on my hands, I shall
give the French credit," he said, tossing his bear-spear in the air,
and catching it again. "Why, this bride is as long of busking her as
if she were a beauty of seventeen! I must be off to my Lady
Thus nothing could be done to prepare the little maiden but to divest
her of her mufflings, and comb out her flaxen hair, crowning it with
a wreath which Christina had already woven from the myrtle of her own
girlhood, scarcely waiting to answer the bewildered queries and
entreaties save by caresses and admonitions to her to be very good.
Poor little thing! She was tired, frightened, and confused; and,
when she had been brought upstairs, she answered the half smiling,
half shy greeting of her bridegroom with a shudder of alarm, and the
exclamation, "Where is the beautiful young knight? That's a lady
going to take the veil lying under the pall."
"You look rather like a little nun yourself," said Ebbo, for she wore
a little conventual dress, "but we must take each other for such as
we are;" and, as she hid her face and clung to his mother, he added
in a more cheerful, coaxing tone, "You once said you would be my
"Ah, but then there were two of you, and you were all shining
Before she could be answered, the impatient Emperor returned, and
brought with him the abbot, who proceeded to find the place in his
book, and to ask the bridegroom for the rings. Ebbo looked at Sir
Kasimir, who owned that he should have brought them from Ulm, but
that he had forgotten.
"Jewels are not plenty with us," said Ebbo, with a glow of amusement
and confusion dawning on his cheek, such as reassured the little maid
that she beheld one of the two beautiful young knights. "Must we
Christina looked at the ring she had first seen lying on her own
Eberhard's palm, and felt as if to let it be used would sever the
renewed hope she scarcely yet durst entertain; and at the same moment
Maximilian glanced at his own fingers, and muttered, "None but this!
Unlucky!" For it was the very diamond which Mary of Burgundy had
sent to assure him of her faith, and summon him to her aid after her
father's death. Sir Kasimir had not retained the pledge of his own
ill-omened wedlock; but, in the midst of the dilemma, the Emperor,
producing his dagger, began to detach some of the massive gold links
of the chain that supported his hunting-horn. "There," said he, "the
little elf of a bride can get her finger into this lesser one and
you--verily this largest will fit, and the goldsmith can beat it out
when needed. So on with you in St. Hubert's name, Father Abbot!"
Slender-boned and thin as was Ebbo's hand, it was a very tight fit,
but the purpose was served. The service commenced; and fortunately,
thanks to Thekla's conventual education, she was awed into silence
and decorum by the sound of Latin and the sight of an abbot. It was
a strange marriage, if only in the contrast between the pale,
expressive face and sad, dark eyes of the prostrate youth, and the
frightened, bewildered little girl, standing upon a stool to reach up
to him, with her blue eyes stretched with wonder, and her cheeks
flushed and pouting with unshed tears, her rosy plump hand enclosed
in the long white wasted one that was thus for ever united to it by
the broken fragments of Kaisar Max's chain.
The rite over, two attestations of the marriage of Eberhard, Freiherr
von Adlerstein, and Thekla, Freiherrinn von Adlerstein Wildschloss
and Felsenbach, were drawn up and signed by the abbot, the Emperor,
Count Dankwart, and the father and mother of the two contracting
parties; one to be committed to the care of the abbot, the other to
be preserved by the house of Adlerstein.
Then the Emperor, as the concluding grace of the ceremonial, bent to
kiss the bride; but, tired, terrified, and cross, Thekla, as if quite
relieved to have some object for her resentment, returned his attempt
with a vehement buffet, struck with all the force of her small arm,
crying out, "Go away with you! I know I've never married YOU!"
"The better for my eyes!" said the good-natured Emperor, laughing
heartily. "My Lady Bearess is like to prove the more courteous
bride! Fare thee well, Sir Bridegroom," he added, stooping over
Ebbo, and kissing his brow; "Heaven give thee joy of this day's work,
and of thy faithful little fury. I'll send her the bearskin as her
And the next that was heard from the Kaisar was the arrival of a
parcel of Italian books for the Freiherr Eberhard, and for the little
Freiherrinn a large bundle, which proved to contain a softly-dressed
bearskin, with the head on, the eyes being made of rubies, a gold
muzzle and chain on the nose, and the claws tipped with gold. The
Emperor had made a point that it should be conveyed to the castle,
snow or no snow, for a yule gift.
CHAPTER XXIV: OLD IRON AND NEW STEEL
The clear sunshine of early summer was becoming low on the hillsides.
Sparkling and dimpling, the clear amber-coloured stream of the
Braunwasser rippled along its stony bed, winding in and out among the
rocks so humbly that it seemed to be mocked by the wide span of the
arch that crossed it in all the might of massive bulwarks, and
dignified masonry of huge stones.
Some way above, a clearing of the wood below the mountain showed
huts, and labourers apparently constructing a mill so as to take
advantage of the leap of the water from the height above; and, on the
left bank, an enclosure was traced out, within which were rising the
walls of a small church, while the noise of the mallet and chisel
echoed back from the mountain side, and masons, white with stone-
dust, swarmed around.
Across the bridge came a pilgrim, marked out as such by hat, wallet,
and long staff, on which he leant heavily, stumbling along as if both
halting and footsore, and bending as one bowed down by past toil and
present fatigue. Pausing in the centre, he gazed round with a
strange disconcerted air--at the castle on the terraced hillside,
looking down with bright eyes of glass glittering in the sunshine,
and lighting up even that grim old pile; at the banner hanging so
lazily that the tinctures and bearings were hidden in the folds; then
at the crags, rosy purple in evening glow, rising in broad step above
step up to the Red Eyrie, bathed in sunset majesty of dark crimson;
and above it the sweep of the descending eagle, discernible for a
moment in the pearly light of the sky. The pilgrim's eye lighted up
as he watched it; but then, looking down at bridge, and church, and
trodden wheel-tracked path, he frowned with perplexity, and each
painful step grew heavier and more uncertain.
Near the opposite side of the enclosure there waited a tall, rugged-
looking, elderly man with two horses--one an aged mare, mane, tail,
and all of the snowiest silvery white; the other a little shaggy dark
mountain pony, with a pad-saddle. And close to the bank of the
stream might be seen its owner, a little girl of some seven years,
whose tight round lace cap had slipped back, as well as her blue silk
hood, and exposed a profusion of loose flaxen hair, and a plump,
innocent face, intent upon some private little bit of building of her
own with some pebbles from the brook, and some mortar filched from
the operations above, to the great detriment of her soft pinky
The pilgrim looked at her unperceived, and for a moment was about to
address her; but then, with a strange air of repulsion, dragged
himself on to the porch of the rising church, where, seated on a
block of stone, he could look into the interior. All was unfinished,
but the portion which had made the most progress was a chantry-chapel
opposite to the porch, and containing what were evidently designed to
be two monuments. One was merely blocked out, but it showed the
outline of a warrior, bearing a shield on which a coiled serpent was
rudely sketched in red chalk. The other, in a much more forward
state, was actually under the hands of the sculptor, and represented
a slender youth, almost a boy, though in the full armour of a knight,
his hands clasped on his breast over a lute, an eagle on his shield,
an eagle-crest on his helmet, and, under the arcade supporting the
altar-tomb, shields alternately of eagles and doves.
But the strangest thing was that this young knight seemed to be
sitting for his own effigy. The very same face, under the very same
helmet, only with the varied, warm hues of life, instead of in cold
white marble, was to be seen on the shoulders of a young man in a
gray cloth dress, with a black scarf passing from shoulder to waist,
crossed by a sword-belt. The hair was hidden by the helmet, whose
raised visor showed keen, finely-cut features, and a pair of dark
brown eyes, of somewhat grave and sad expression.
"Have a care, Lucas," he presently said; "I fear me you are
chiselling away too much. It must be a softer, more rounded face
than mine has become; and, above all, let it not catch any saddened
look. Keep that air of solemn waiting in glad hope, as though he saw
the dawn through his closed eyelids, and were about to take up his
"Verily, Herr Freiherr, now the likeness is so far forward, the
actual sight of you may lead me to mar it rather than mend."
"So is it well that this should be the last sitting. I am to set
forth for Genoa in another week. If I cannot get letters from the
Kaisar, I shall go in search of him, that he may see that my lameness
is no more an impediment."
The pilgrim passed his hand over his face, as though to dissipate a
bewildering dream; and just then the little girl, all flushed and
dabbled, flew rushing up from the stream, but came to a sudden
standstill at sight of the stranger, who at length addressed her.
"Little lady," he said, "is this the Debateable Ford?"
"No; now it is the Friendly Bridge," said the child.
The pilgrim started, as with a pang of recollection. "And what is
yonder castle?" he further asked.
"Schloss Adlerstein," she said, proudly.
"And you are the little lady of Adlerstein Wildschloss?"
"Yes," again she answered; and then, gathering courage--"You are a
holy pilgrim! Come up to the castle for supper and rest." And then,
springing past him, she flew up to the knight, crying, "Herr
Freiherr, here is a holy pilgrim, weary and hungry. Let us take him
home to the mother."
"Did he take thee for a wild elf?" said the young man, with an elder-
brotherly endeavour to right the little cap that had slidden under
the chin, and to push back the unmanageable wealth of hair under it,
ere he rose; and he came forward and spoke with kind courtesy, as he
observed the wanderer's worn air and feeble step. "Dost need a
night's lodging, holy palmer? My mother will make thee welcome, if
thou canst climb as high as the castle yonder."
The pilgrim made an obeisance, but, instead of answering, demanded
hastily, "See I yonder the bearing of Schlangenwald?"
"Even so. Schloss Schlangenwald is about a league further on, and
thou wilt find a kind reception there, if thither thou art bent."
"Is that Graff Wolfgang's tomb?" still eagerly pursued the pilgrim;
and receiving a sign in the affirmative, "What was his end?"
"He fell in a skirmish."
"By whose hand?"
"Ha!" and the pilgrim surveyed him with undisguised astonishment;
then, without another word, took up his staff and limped out of the
building, but not on the road to Schlangenwald. It was nearly a
quarter of an hour afterwards that he was overtaken by the young
knight and the little lady on their horses, just where the new road
to the castle parted from the old way by the Eagle's Ladder. The
knight reined up as he saw the poor man's slow, painful steps, and
said, "So thou art not bound for Schlangenwald?"
"I would to the village, so please you--to the shrine of the Blessed
"Nay, at this rate thou wilt not be there till midnight," said the
young knight, springing off his horse; "thou canst never brook our
sharp stones! See, Thekla, do thou ride on with Heinz to tell the
mother I am bringing her a holy pilgrim to tend. And thou, good man,
mount my old gray. Fear not; she is steady and sure-footed, and hath
of late been used to a lame rider. Ah! that is well. Thou hast been
in the saddle before."
To go afoot for the sake of giving a lift to a holy wayfarer was one
of the most esteemed acts of piety of the Middle Age, so that no one
durst object to it, and the palmer did no more than utter a
suppressed murmur of acknowledgment as he seated himself on
horseback, the young knight walking by his rein. "But what is this?"
he exclaimed, almost with dismay. "A road to the castle up here!"
"Yes, we find it a great convenience. Thou art surely from these
parts?" added the knight.
"I was a man-at-arms in the service of the Baron," was the answer, in
an odd, muffled tone.
"What!--of my grandfather!" was the exclamation.
"No!" gruffly. "Of old Freiherr Eberhard. Not of any of the
"But I am not a Wildschloss! I am grandson to Freiherr Eberhard!
Oh, wast thou with him and my father when they were set upon in the
hostel?" he cried, looking eagerly up to the pilgrim; but the man
kept his broad-leaved hat slouched over his face, and only muttered,
"The son of Christina!" the last word so low that Ebbo was not sure
that he caught it, and the next moment the old warrior exclaimed
exultingly, "And you have had vengeance on them! When--how--where?"
"Last harvest-tide--at the Debateable Strand," said Ebbo, never able
to speak of the encounter without a weight at his heart, but drawn on
by the earnestness of the old foe of Schlangenwald. "It was a
meeting in full career--lances broken, sword-stroke on either hand.
I was sore wounded, but my sword went through his collar-bone."
"Well struck! good stroke!" cried the pilgrim, in rapture. "And with
"With this sword. Didst know it?" said Ebbo, drawing the weapon, and
giving it to the old man, who held it for a few moments, weighed it
affectionately, and with a long low sigh restored it, saying, "It is
well. You and that blade have paid off the score. I should be
content. Let me dismount. I know my way to the hermitage."
"Nay, what is this?" said Ebbo; "thou must have rest and food. The
hermitage is empty, scarce habitable. My mother will not be balked
of the care of thy bleeding feet."
"But let me go, ere I bring evil on you all. I can pray up there,
and save my soul, but I cannot see it all."
"See what?" said Ebbo, again trying to see his guest's face. "There
may be changes, but an old faithful follower of my father's must ever
"Not when his wife has taken a new lord," growled the stranger,
bitterly, "and he a Wildschloss! Young man, I could have pardoned
"I know not who you may be who talk of pardoning my lady-mother,"
said Ebbo, "but new lord she has neither taken nor will take. She
has refused every offer; and, now that Schlangenwald with his last
breath confessed that he slew not my father, but sold him to the
Turks, I have been only awaiting recovery from my wound to go in
search of him."
"Who then is yonder child, who told me she was Wildschloss?"
"That child," said Ebbo, with half a smile and half a blush, "is my
wife, the daughter of Wildschloss, who prayed me to espouse her thus
early, that so my mother might bring her up."
By this time they had reached the castle court, now a well-kept,
lordly-looking enclosure, where the pilgrim looked about him as one
bewildered. He was so infirm that Ebbo carefully helped him up the
stone stairs to the hall, where he already saw his mother prepared
for the hospitable reception of the palmer. Leaving him at the
entrance, Ebbo crossed the hall to say to her in a low voice, "This
pilgrim is one of the old lanzknechts of my grandfather's time. I
wonder whether you or Heinz will know him. One of the old sort--
supremely discontented at change."
"And thou hast walked up, and wearied thyself!" exclaimed Christina,
grieved to see her son's halting step.
"A rest will soon cure that," said Ebbo, seating himself as he spoke
on a settle near the hall fire; but the next moment a strange wild
low shriek from his mother made him start up and spring to her side.
She stood with hands clasped, and wondering eyes. The pilgrim--his
hat on the ground, his white head and rugged face displayed--was
gazing as though devouring her with his eyes, murmuring, "Unchanged!
"What is this!" thundered the young Baron. "What are you doing to
"Hush! hush, Ebbo!" exclaimed Christina. "It is thy father! On thy
knees! Thy father is come! It is our son, my own lord. Oh, embrace
him! Kneel to him, Ebbo!" she wildly cried.
"Hold, mother," said Ebbo, keeping his arm round her, though she
struggled against him, for he felt some doubts as he looked back at
his walk with the stranger, and remembered Heinz's want of
recognition. "Is it certain that this is indeed my father?"
"Oh, Ebbo," was the cry of poor Christina, almost beside herself,
"how could I not be sure? I know him! I feel it! Oh, my lord, bear
with him. It is his wont to be so loving! Ebbo, cannot you see it
"The young fellow is right," said the stranger, slowly. "I will
answer all he may demand."
"Forgive me," said Ebbo, abashed, "forgive me;" and, as his mother
broke from him, he fell upon his knee; but he only heard his father's
cry, "Ah! Stine, Stine, thou alone art the same," and, looking up,
saw her, with her face hidden in the white beard, quivering with a
rapture such as he had never seen in her before. It seemed long to
him ere she looked up again in her husband's face to sob on: "My
son! Oh! my beautiful twins! Our son! Oh, see him, dear lord!"
And the pilgrim turned to hear Ebbo's "Pardon, honoured father, and
Almost bashfully the pilgrim laid his hand on the dark head, and
murmured something; then said, "Up, then! The slayer of
Schlangenwald kneeling! Ah! Stine, I knew thy little head was
wondrous wise, but I little thought thou wouldst breed him up to
avenge us on old Wolfgang! So slender a lad too! Ha!
Schneiderlein, old rogue, I knew thee," holding out his hand. "So
thou didst get home safe?"
"Ay, my lord; though, if I left you alive, never more will I call a
man dead," said Heinz.
"Worse luck for me--till now," said Sir Eberhard, whose tones, rather
than his looks, carried perfect conviction of his identity. It was
the old homely accent, and gruff good-humoured voice, but with
something subdued and broken in the tone. His features had grown
like his father's, but he looked much older than ever the hale old
mountaineer had done, or than his real age; so worn and lined was his
face, his skin tanned, his eyelids and temples puckered by burning
sun, his hair and beard white as the inane of his old mare, the proud
Adlerstein port entirely gone. He stooped even more without his
staff than with it; and, when he yielded himself with a sigh of
repose to his wife's tendance, she found that he had not merely the
ordinary hurts of travelling, but that there were old festering scars
on his ankles. "The gyves," he said, as she looked up at him, with
startled, pitying eyes. "Little deemed I that they would ever come
under thy tender hands." As he almost timidly smoothed the braid of
dark hair on her brow--"So they never burnt thee for a witch after
all, little one? I thought my mother would never keep her hands off
thee, and used to fancy I heard the crackling of the flame."
"She spared me for my children's sake," said Christina; "and truly
Heaven has been very good to us, but never so much as now. My dear
lord, will it weary thee too much to come to the castle chapel and
give thanks?" she said, timidly.
"With all my heart," he answered, earnestly. "I would go even on my
knees. We were not without masses even in Tunis; but, when Italian
and Spaniard would be ransomed, and there was no mind of the German,
I little thought I should ever sing Brother Lambert's psalm about
turning our captivity as rivers in the south."
Ebbo was hovering round, supplying all that was needed for his
father's comfort; but his parents were so completely absorbed in one
another that he was scarcely noticed, and, what perhaps pained him
more, there was no word about Friedel. He felt this almost an
injustice to the brother who had been foremost in embracing the idea
of the unknown father, and scarcely understood how his parents shrank
from any sorrowful thought that might break in on their new-found
joy, nor that he himself was so strange and new a being in his
father's eyes, that to imagine him doubled was hardly possible to the
tardy, dulled capacity, which as yet seemed unable to feel anything
but that here was home, and Christina.
When the chapel bell rang, and the pair rose to offer their
thanksgiving, Ebbo dutifully offered his support, but was absolutely
unseen, so fondly was Sir Eberhard leaning on his wife; and her
bright exulting smile and shake of the head gave an absolute pang to
the son who had hitherto been all in all to her.
He followed, and, as they passed Friedmund's coffin, he thought his
mother pointed to it, but even of this he was uncertain. The pair
knelt side by side with hands locked together, while notes of praise
rose from all voices; and meantime Ebbo, close to that coffin, strove
to share the joy, and to lift up a heart that WOULD sink in the midst
of self-reproach for undutifulness, and would dislike the thought of
the rude untaught man, holding aloof from him, likely to view him
with distrust and jealousy, and to undo all he had achieved, and
further absorbing the mother, the mother who was to him all the
world, and for whose sake he had given his best years to the child-
wife, as yet nothing to him.
It was reversing the natural order of things that, after reigning
from infancy, he should have to give up at eighteen to one of the
last generation; and some such thought rankled in his mind when the
whole household trooped joyfully out of the chapel to prepare a
banquet for their old new lord, and their young old lord was left
Alone with the coffin where the armour lay upon the white cross, Ebbo
threw himself on his knees, and laid his head upon it, murmuring,
"Ah, Friedel! Friedel! Would that we had changed places! Thou
wouldst brook it better. At least thou didst never know what it is
to be lonely."
"Herr Baron!" said a little voice.
His first movement was impatient. Thekla was apt to pursue him
wherever he did not want her; but here he had least expected her, for
she had a great fear of that coffin, and could hardly be brought to
the chapel at prayer times, when she generally occupied herself with
fancies that the empty helmet glared at her. But now Ebbo saw her
standing as near as she durst, with a sweet wistfulness in her eyes,
such as he had never seen there before.
"What is it, Thekla?" he said. "Art sent to call me?"
"No; only I saw that you stayed here all alone," she said, clasping
"Must I not be alone, child?" he said, bitterly. "Here lies my
brother. My mother has her husband again!"
"But you have me!" cried Thekla; and, as he looked up between
amusement and melancholy, he met such a loving eager little face,
that he could not help holding out his arms, and letting her cling to
him. "Indeed," she said, "I'll never be afraid of the helmet again,
if only you will not lay down your head there, and say you are
"Never, Thekla! while you are my little wife," said he; and, child as
she was, there was strange solace to his heart in the eyes that, once
vacant and wondering, had now gained a look of love and intelligence.
"What are you going to do?" she said, shuddering a little, as he rose
and laid his hand on Friedel's sword.
"To make thee gird on thine own knight's sword," said Ebbo,
unbuckling that which he had so long worn. "Friedel," he added,
"thou wouldst give me thine. Let me take up thy temper with it,
thine open-hearted love and humility."
He guided Thekla's happy little fingers to the fastening of the belt,
and then, laying his hand on hers, said gravely, "Thekla, never speak
of what I said just now--not even to the mother. Remember, it is thy
husband's first secret."
And feeling no longer solitary when his hand was in the clasp of
hers, he returned to the hall, where his father was installed in the
baronial chair, in which Ebbo had been at home from babyhood. His
mother's exclamation showed that her son had been wanting to her; and
she looked fuller than ever of bliss when Ebbo gravely stood before
his father, and presented him with the good old sword that he had
sent to his unborn son.
"You are like to use it more than I,--nay, you have used it to some
purpose," said he. "Yet must I keep mine old comrade at least a
little while. Wife, son, sword, should make one feel the same man
again, but it is all too wonderful!"
All that evening, and long after, his hand from time to time sought
the hilt of his sword, as if that touch above all proved to him that
he was again a free noble in his own castle.
The story he told was thus. The swoon in which Heinz had left him
had probably saved his life by checking the gush of blood, and he had
known no more till he found himself in a rough cart among the
corpses. At Schlangenwald's castle he had been found still
breathing, and had been flung into a dungeon, where he lay
unattended, for how long he never knew, since all the early part of
the time was lost in the clouds of fever. On coarse fare and scanty
drink, in that dark vault, he had struggled by sheer obstinacy of
vitality into recovery. In the very height of midsummer alone did
the sun peep through the grating of his cell, and he had newly hailed
this cheerful visitor when he was roughly summoned, placed on
horseback with eyes and hands bound, and only allowed sight again to
find himself among a herd of his fellow Germans in the Turkish camp.
They were the prisoners of the terrible Turkish raid of 1475, when
Georg von Schenk and fourteen other noblemen of Austria and Styria
were all taken in one unhappy fight, and dragged away into captivity,
with hundreds of lower rank.
To Sir Eberhard the change had been greatly for the better. The Turk
had treated him much better than the Christian; and walking in the
open air, chained to a German comrade, was far pleasanter than pining
in his lonely dungeon. At Adrianople, an offer had been made to each
of the captives, if they would become Moslems, of entering the
Ottoman service as Spahis; but with one voice they had refused, and
had then been draughted into different divisions. The fifteen
nobles, who had been offered for ransom, were taken to
Constantinople, to await its arrival, and they had promised Sir
Eberhard to publish his fate on their return to their homes; and,
though he knew the family resources too well to have many hopes, he
was rather hurt to find that their promise had been unfulfilled.
"Alas! they had no opportunity," said Ebbo. "Gulden were scarce, or
were all in Kaisar Friedrich's great chest; the ransoms could not be
raised, and all died in captivity. I heard about it when I was at
Wurms last month."
"The boy at Wurms?" almost gasped Sir Eberhard in amaze.
"I had to be there about matters concerning the Wildschloss lands and
the bridge," said Ebbo; "and both Dankwart von Schlangenwald and I
made special inquiries about that company in case you should have
shared their fate. I hoped to have set forth at that time, but the
Kaisar said I was still too lame, and refused me license, or letters
to the Sultan."
"You would not have found me," said his father, narrating how he with
a large troop of captives had been driven down to the coast; where
they were transferred to a Moorish slave-dealer, who shipped them off
for Tunis. Here, after their first taste of the miseries of a sea
life, the alternative of Islam or slavery was again put before them.
"And, by the holy stone of Nicaea," said Sir Eberhard, "I thought by
that time that the infidels had the advantage of us in good-will and
friendliness; but, when they told me women had no souls at all, no
more than a horse or dog, I knew it was but an empty dream of a
religion; for did I not know that my little Ermentrude, and thou,
Stine, had finer, clearer, wiser souls than ever a man I had known?
'Nay, nay,' quoth I, 'I'll cast in my lot where I may meet my wife
hereafter, should I never see her here.'" He had then been allotted
to a corsair, and had thenceforth been chained to the bench of
rowers, between the two decks, where, in stifling heat and stench, in
storm or calm, healthy or diseased, the wretched oarsmen were
compelled to play the part of machinery in propelling the vessel, in
order to capture Christian ships--making exertions to which only the
perpetual lash of the galley-master could have urged their exhausted
frames; often not desisting for twenty or thirty hours, and rowing
still while sustenance was put into their mouths by their drivers.
Many a man drew has last breath with his last stroke, and was at the
first leisure moment hurled into the waves. It was the description
that had so deeply moved Friedel long ago, and Christina wept over
it, as she looked at the bowed form once so proud and free, and
thought of the unhealed scars. But there, her husband added, he had
been chained next to a holy friar of German blood, like himself a
captive of the great Styrian raid; and, while some blasphemed in
their misery, or wildly chid their patron saints, this good man
strove to show that all was to work out good; he had a pious saying
for all that befell, and adored the will of God in thus purifying
him; "And, if it were thus with a saint like him, I thought, what
must it be with a rough freebooting godless sinner such as I had
been? See"--and he took out a rosary of strung bladders of seaweed;
"that is what he left me when he died, and what I meant to have been
telling for ever up in the hermitage."
"He died, then?"
"Ay--he died on the shore of Corsica, while most of the dogs were off
harrying a village inland, and we had a sort of respite, or I trow he
would have rowed till his last gasp. How he prayed for the poor
wretches they were gone to attack!--ay, and for all of us--for me
also--There's enough of it. Such talk skills not now."
It was plain that Sir Eberhard had learnt more Christianity in the
hold of his Moorish pirate ship than ever in the Holy Roman Empire,
and a weight was lifted off his son's mind by finding that he had
vowed never to return to a life of violence, even though fancying a
life of penance in a hermitage the only alternative.
Ebbo asked if the Genoese merchant, Ser Gian Battista dei Battiste,
had indeed been one of his fellow-captives.
"Ha!--what?" and on the repetition, "Truly I knew him, Merchant Gian
as we used to call him; but you twang off his name as they speak it
in his own stately city."
Christina smiled. "Ebbo learnt the Italian tongue this winter from
our chaplain, who had studied at Bologna. He was told it would aid
in his quest of you."
"Tell me not!" said the traveller, holding up his hands in
deprecation; "the Junker is worse than a priest! And yet he killed
old Wolfgang! But what of Gian? Hold,--did not he, when I was with
him at Genoa, tell me a story of being put into a dungeon in a
mountain fortress in Germany, and released by a pair of young lads
with eyes beaming in the sunrise, who vanished just as they brought
him to a cloister? Nay, he deemed it a miracle of the saints, and
hung up a votive picture thereof at the shrine of the holy Cosmo and
"He was not so far wrong in deeming ONE of the lads near of kin to
the holy ones," said Christina, softly.
And Ebbo briefly narrated the adventure, when it evidently appeared
that his having led at least one foray gave his father for the first
time a fellow-feeling for him, and a sense that he was one of the
true old stock; but, when he heard of the release, he growled, "So!
How would a lad have fared who so acted in my time? My poor old
mother! She must have been changed indeed not to have scourged him
till he had no strength to cry out."
"He was my prisoner!" said Ebbo, in his old defiant tone; "I had the
"Ah, well! the Junker has always been master here, and I never!" said
the elder knight, looking round rather piteously; and Ebbo, with a
sudden movement, exclaimed, "Nay, sir, you are the only lord and
master, and I stand ready to be the first to obey you."
"You! A fine young book-learned scholar, already knighted, and with
all these Wildschloss lands too!" said Sir Eberhard, gazing with a
strange puzzled look at the delicate but spirited features of this
strange perplexing son. "Reach hither your hand, boy."
And as he compared the slender, shapely hand of such finely-textured
skin with the breadth of his own horny giant's paw, he tossed it from
him, shaking his head with a gesture as if he had no commands for
such feminine-looking fingers to execute, and mortifying Ebbo not a
little. "Ah!" said Christina, apologetically, "it always grieved
your mother that the boys would resemble me and mine. But, when
daylight comes, Ebbo will show you that he has not lost the old
"No doubt--no doubt," said Sir Eberhard, hastily, "since he has slain
Schlangenwald; and, if the former state of things be at an end, the
less he takes after the ancient stock the better. But I am an old
man now, Stine, though thou look'st fair and fresh as ever, and I do
not know what to make of these things. White napery on the table;
glass drinking things;--nay, were it not for thee and the
Schneiderlein, I should not know I was at home."
He was led back to his narration, and it appeared that, after some
years spent at the oar, certain bleedings from the lungs, the remains
of his wound, had become so much more severe as to render him useless
for naval purposes; and, as he escaped actually dying during a
voyage, he was allowed to lie by on coming into port till he had in
some degree recovered, and then had been set to labour at the
fortifications, chained to another prisoner, and toiling between the
burning sand and burning sun, but treated with less horrible severity
than the necessities of the sea had occasioned on board ship, and
experiencing the benefit of intercourse with the better class of
captives, whom their miserable fate had thrown into the hands of the
It was a favourite almsdeed among the Provencals, Spaniards, and
Italians to send money for the redemption of prisoners to the Moors,
and there was a regular agency for ransoms through the Jews; but
German captives were such an exception that no one thought of them,
and many a time had the summons come for such and such a slave by
name, or for five poor Sicilians, twenty Genoese, a dozen
Marseillais, or the like, but still no word for the Swabian; till he
had made up his mind that he should either leave his bones in the hot
mud of the harbour, or be only set free by some gallant descent
either of the brave King of Portugal, or of the Knights of Rhodes, of
whom the captives were ever dreaming and whispering.
At length his own slave name was shouted; he was called up by the
captain of his gang, and, while expecting some fresh punishment, or,
maybe, to find himself sold into some domestic form of slavery, he
was set before a Jewish agent, who, after examining him on his name,
country, and station, and comparing his answers with a paper of
instructions, informed him that he was ransomed, caused his fetters
to be struck off, and shipped him off at once for Genoa, with orders
to the captain to consign him to the merchant Signor del Battiste.
By him Sir Eberhard had been received with the warmest hospitality,
and treated as befitted his original station, but Battista disclaimed
the merit of having ransomed him. He had but acted, he said, as the
agent of an Austrian gentleman, from whom he had received orders to
inquire after the Swabian baron who had been his fellow-captive, and,
if he were still living, to pay his ransom, and bring him home.
"The name--the name!" eagerly asked Ebbo and his mother at once.
"The name? Gian was wont to make bad work of our honest German
names, but I tried to learn this--being so beholden to him. I even
caused it to be spelt over to me, but my letters long ago went from
me. It seems to me that the man is a knight-errant, like those of
thy ballads, Stine--one Ritter Theur--Theur--"
"Theurdank!" cried Ebbo.
"Ay, Theurdank. What, you know him? There is nothing you and your
mother don't know, I believe."
"Know him! Father, he is our greatest and noblest! He has been kind
to me beyond description. He is the Kaisar! Now I see why he had
that strange arch look which so vexed me when he forbade me on my
allegiance to set forth till my lameness should be gone! Long ago
had he asked me all about Gian Battista. To him he must have
"The Kaisar!" said Sir Eberhard. "Nay, the poor fellows I left in
Turkey ever said he was too close of fist for them to have hope from
"Oh! that was old Kaisar Friedrich. This is our own gallant
Maximilian--a knight as true and brave as ever was paladin," said
Christina; "and most truly loving and prizing our Ebbo."
"And yet I wish--I wish," said Ebbo, "that he had let me win my
father's liberty for myself."
"Yea, well," said his father, "there spoke the Adlerstein. We never
were wont to be beholden to king or kaisar."
"Nay," say Ebbo, after a moment's recollection, colouring as he
spoke; "it is true that I deserved it not. Nay, Sir Father, it is
well. You owe your freedom in very truth to the son you have not
known. It was he who treasured up the thought of the captive German
described by the merchant, and even dreamt of it, while never
doubting of your death; it was he who caught up Schlangenwald's first
hint that you lived, while I, in my pride, passed it by as merely
meant to perplex me; it was he who had formed an absolute purpose of
obtaining some certainty; and at last, when my impetuosity had
brought on the fatal battle, it was he who bought with his own life
the avowal of your captivity. I had hoped to have fulfilled
Friedel's trust, and to have redeemed my own backwardness; but it is
not to be. While I was yet lying helpless on my bed, the Emperor has
taken it out of my power. Mother, you receive him from Friedel's
hands, after all."
"And well am I thankful that so it should be," said Christina. "Ah,
Ebbo! sorely should I have pined with anxiety when thou wast gone.
And thy father knows that thou hadst the full purpose."
"Yea, I know it," said the old man; "and, after all, small blame to
him even if he had not. He never saw me, and light grieves the heart
for what the eye hath not seen."
"But," added the wife, "since the Romish king freed you, dear lord,
cared he not better for your journey than to let you come in this
This, it appeared, was far from being his deliverer's fault. Money
had been supplied, and Sir Eberhard had travelled as far as Aosta
with a party of Italian merchants; but no sooner had he parted with
them than he was completely astray. His whole experience of life had
been as a robber baron or as a slave, and he knew not how to take
care of himself as a peaceful traveller; he suffered fresh extortions
at every stage, and after a few days was plundered by his guides,
beaten, and left devoid of all means of continuing the journey to
which he could hardly hope for a cheerful end. He did not expect to
find his mother living,--far less that his unowned wife could have
survived the perils in which he had involved her; and he believed
that his ancestral home would, if not a ruin, be held by his foes, or
at best by the rival branch of the family, whose welcome of the
outlawed heir would probably be to a dungeon, if not a halter. Yet
the only magnet on earth for the lonely wanderer was his native
mountain, where from some old peasant he might learn how his fair
young bride had perished, and perhaps the sins of his youth might be
expiated by continual prayer in the hermitage chapel where his sister
lay buried, and whence he could see the crags for which his eye and
heart had craved so long with the home-sickness of a mountaineer.
And now, when his own Christina had welcomed him with all the
overflow of her loving heart, unchanged save that hers had become a
tenderer yet more dignified loveliness; when his gallant son, in all
the bloom of young manhood, received him with dutiful submission;
when the castle, in a state of defence, prosperity, and comfort of
which he had never dreamt, was again his own;--still the old man was
bewildered, and sometimes oppressed almost to distress. He had, as
it were, fallen asleep in one age of the world, and wakened in
another, and it seemed as if he really wished to defer his wakening,
or else that repose was an absolute novelty to him; for he sat dozing
in his chair in the sun the whole of the next day, and scarcely
Ebbo, who felt it a necessity to come to an understanding of the
terms on which they were to stand, tried to refer matters to him, and
to explain the past, but he was met sometimes by a shake of the head,
sometimes by a nod--not of assent, but of sleep; and his mother
advised him not to harass the wearied traveller, but to leave him to
himself at least for that day, and let him take his own time for
exertion, letting things meantime go on as usual. Ebbo obeyed, but
with a load at his heart, as he felt that all he was doing was but
provisional, and that it would be his duty to resign all that he had
planned, and partly executed, to this incompetent, ignorant rule. He
could certainly, when not serving the Emperor, go and act for himself
at Thekla's dower castle of Felsenbach, and his mother might save
things from going to utter ruin at Adlerstein; but no reflection or
self-reproach could make it otherwise than a bitter pill to any
Telemachus to have to resign to one so unlike Ulysses in all but the
length of his wanderings,--one, also, who seemed only half to like,
and not at all to comprehend, his Telemachus.
Meantime Ebbo attended to such matters as were sure to come each day
before the Herr Freiherr. Now it was a question whether the stone
for the mill should be quarried where it would undermine a bit of
grass land, or further on, where the road was rougher; now Berend's
swine had got into Barthel's rye, and Barthel had severely hurt one
of them--the Herr Freiherr's interference could alone prevent a
hopeless quarrel; now a waggon with ironwork for the mill claimed
exemption from toll as being for the Baron: and he must send down
the toll, to obviate injustice towards Schlangenwald and Ulm. Old
Ulrich's grandson, who had run away for a lanzknecht, had sent a
letter home (written by a comrade), the Baron must read and answer
it. Steinmark's son wanted to be a poor student: the Herr Freiherr
must write him a letter of recommendation. Mother Grethel's ewe had
fallen into a cleft; her son came to borrow a rope, and ask aid, and
the Baron must superintend the hoisting the poor beast up again.
Hans had found the track of a wolf, and knew the hole where a litter
of cubs abode; the Freiherr, his wolf-hound, and his spear were
wanted for their destruction. Dietrich could not tell how to manage
his new arquebus: the Baron must teach him to take aim. Then there
was a letter from Ulm to invite the Baron to consult on the tax
demanded by the Emperor for his Italian war, and how far it should
concern the profits of the bridge; and another letter from the
Markgraf of Wurtemburg, as chief of the Swabian League, requesting
the Lord of Adlerstein to be on the look-out for a band of robbers,
who were reported to be in neighbouring hills, after being hunted out
of some of their other lurking-places.
That very night, or rather nearly at the dawn of a summer morning,
there was a yelling below the castle, and a flashing of torches, and
tidings rang through it that a boor on the outskirts of the mountain
had had his ricks fired and his cattle driven by the robbers, and his
young daughters carried off. Old Sir Eberhard hobbled down to the
hall in time to see weapons flashing as they were dealt out, to hear
a clear decided voice giving orders, to listen to the tramp of horse,
and watch more reitern pass out under the gateway than ever the
castle had counted in his father's time. Then he went back to his
bed, and when he came down in the morning, found all the womankind of
the castle roasting and boiling. And, at noon, little Thekla came
rushing down from the watch-tower with news that all were coming home
up the Eagle's Steps, and she was sure HER baron had sent her, and
waved to her. Soon after, HER baron in his glittering steel rode his
cream-coloured charger (once Friedel's) into the castle court,
followed by his exultant merrymen. They had overtaken the thieves in
good time, made them captives, and recovered the spoil unhurt; and
Heinz and Koppel made the castle ring with the deed of their young
lord, who had forced the huge leader of the band to the earth, and
kept him down by main strength till they could come to bind him.
"By main strength?" slowly asked Sir Eberhard, who had been stirred
"He was a loose-limbed, awkward fellow," said Ebbo, "less strong than
"Not only that, Sir," said Heinz, looking from his old master to his
young one; "but old iron is not a whit stronger than new steel,
though the one looks full of might, and you would think the other but
"And what have you done with the rogues' heads?" asked the old
knight. "I looked to see them on your spears. Or have you hung
"Not so, Sir," said Ebbo. "I sent the men off to Stuttgard with an
escort. I dislike doing execution ourselves; it makes the men so
lawless. Besides, this farmer was Schlangenwalder."
"And yet he came to you for redress?"
"Yes, for Sir Dankwart is at his commandery, and he and I agreed to
look after each other's lands."
Sir Eberhard retired to his chair as if all had gone past his
understanding, and thence he looked on while his son and wife
hospitably regaled, and then dismissed, their auxiliaries in the
Afterwards Christina told her son that she thought his father was
rested, and would be better able to attend to him, and Ebbo, with a
painful swelling in his heart, approached him deferentially, with a
request that he would say what was his pleasure with regard to the
Emperor, to whom acknowledgments must in the first place be made for
his release, and next would arise the whole question of homage and
"Look you here, fair son," said Sir Eberhard, rousing himself, "these
things are all past me. I'll have none of them. You and your Kaisar
understand one another, and your homage is paid. It boots not
changing all for an old fellow that is but come home to die."
"Nay, father, it is in the order of things that you should be lord
"I never was lord here, and, what is more, I would not, and could not
be. Son, I marked you yesterday. You are master as never was my
poor father, with all the bawling and blows that used to rule the
house, while these fellows mind you at a word, in a voice as quiet as
your mother's. Besides, what should I do with all these mills and
bridges of yours, and Diets, and Leagues, and councils enough to
addle a man's brain? No, no; I could once slay a bear, or strike a
fair stroke at a Schlangenwalder, but even they got the better of me,
and I am good for nothing now but to save my soul. I had thought to
do it as a hermit up there; but my little Christina thinks the saints
will be just as well pleased if I tell my beads here, with her to
help me, and I know that way I shall not make so many mistakes. So,
young Sir, if you can give the old man a corner of the hearth while
he lives, he will never interfere with you. And, maybe, if the
castle were in jeopardy in your absence, with that new-fangled road
up to it, he could tell the fellows how to hold it out."
"Sir--dear father," cried the ardent Ebbo, "this is not a fit state
of things. I will spare you all trouble and care; only make me not
undutiful; take your own place. Mother, convince him!"
"No, my son," said Sir Eberhard; "your mother sees what is best for
me. I only want to be left to her to rest a little while, and repent
of my sinful life. As Heinz says, the rusty old iron must lie by
while the new steel does the work. It is quiet that I need. It is
joy enough for me to see what she has made you, and all around. Ah!
Stine, my white dove, I knew thine was a wise head; but when I left
thee, gentle little frightened, fluttering thing, how little could I
have thought that all alone, unaided, thou wouldst have kept that
little head above water, and made thy son work out all these changes-
-thy doing--and so I know they are good and seemly. I see thou hast
made him clerkly, quick-witted, and yet a good knight. Ah! thou
didst tell me oft that our lonely pride was not high nor worthy fame.
Stine, how didst do it?"
"I did it not, dear husband; God did it for me. He gave the boys the
loving, true tempers that worked out the rest! He shielded them and
me in our days of peril."
"Yes, father," added Ebbo, "Providence guarded us; but, above all,
our chief blessing has been the mother who has made one of us a holy
saint, and taught the other to seek after him! Father, I am glad you
see how great has been the work of the Dove you brought to the
CHAPTER XXV: THE STAR AND THE SPARK
The year 1531 has begun, and Schloss Adlerstein remains in its
strength on the mountain side, but with a look of cultivation on its
environs such as would have amazed Kunigunde. Vines run up trellises
against the rocks; pot-herbs and flowers nestle in the nooks;
outbuildings cluster round it; and even the grim old keep has a range
of buildings connected with it, as if the household had entirely
outgrown the capacities of the square tower.
Yet the old hall is still the chief place of assembly, and now that
it has been wainscoted, with a screen of carved wood to shut off the
draughty passages, and a stove of bright tiles to increase the
warmth, it is far more cheerful. Moreover, a window has been opened
showing the rich green meadow below, with the bridge over the
Braunwasser, and the little church, with a spire of pierced lace-
work, and white cottages peeping out of the retreating forest.
That is the window which the Lady Baroness loves. See her there, the
lovely old lady of seventy-five--yes, lovelier than ever, for her
sweet brown eyes have the same pensive, clear beauty, enhanced by the
snowy whiteness of her hair, of which a soft braid shows over the
pure pale brow beneath the white band, and sweeping black veil, that
she has worn by right for twenty years. But the slight form is
active and brisk, and there are ready smiles and looks of interest
for the pretty fair-haired maidens, three in number, who run in and
out from their household avocations to appeal to the "dear
grandmother," mischievously to tell of the direful yawns proceeding
from brothers Ebbo and Gottfried over their studies with their tutor,
or to gaze from the window and wonder if the father, with the two
brothers, Friedel Max and Kasimir, will return from Ulm in time for
the "mid-day eating."
Ah! there they are. Quick-eyed Vittoria has seen the cavalcade
first, and dances off to tell Ermentrude and Stine time enough to
prepare their last batch of fritters for the new-comers; Ebbo and
Gotz rush headlong down the hillside; and the Lady Baroness lays down
her distaff, and gazes with eyes of satisfied content at the small
party of horsemen climbing up the footpath. Then, when they have
wound out of sight round a rock, she moves out towards the hall-door,
with a light, quick step, for never yet has she resigned her great
enjoyment, that of greeting her son on the steps of the porch--those
steps where she once met such fearful news, but where that memory has
been effaced by many a cheerful welcome.
There, then, she stands, amid the bright throng of grandchildren,
while the Baron and his sons spring from their horses and come up to
her. The Baron doffs his Spanish hat, bends the knee, kisses her
hand, and receives her kiss on his brow, with the fervour of a life-
devotion, before he turns to accept the salutation of his daughters,
and then takes her hand, with pretty affectionate ceremony, to hand
her back to her seat. A few words pass between them. "No,
motherling," he says, "I signed it not; I will tell you all by and
And then the mid-day meal is served for the whole household, as of
old, with the salt-cellar in the middle, but with a far larger
company above it than when first we saw it. The seven young folks
preserve a decorous silence, save when Fraulein Ermentrude's
cookeries are good-naturedly complimented by her father, or when
Baron Friedmund Maximilianus breaks out with some wonderful fact
about new armour seen at Ulm. He is a handsome, fair, flaxen-haired
young man--like the old Adlersteins, say the elder people--and full
of honest gaiety and good nature, the special pride of his sisters;
and no sooner is the meal over, than, with a formal entreaty for
dismissal, all the seven, and all the dogs, move off together, to
that favourite gathering-place round the stove, where all their merry
tongues are let loose together.
To them, the Herr Vater and the Frau Grossmutter seem nearly of the
same age, and of the same generation; and verily the eighteen years
between the mother and son have dwindled into a very small difference
even in appearance, and a lesser one in feeling. She is a youthful,
beautiful old lady; he a grave, spare, worn, elderly man, in his full
strength, but with many a trace of care and thought, and far more of
silver than of brown in his thin hair and pointed beard, and with a
melancholy thoughtfulness in his clear brown eyes--all well
corresponding with the gravity of the dress in which he has been
meeting the burghers of Ulm; a black velvet suit--only relieved by
his small white lace ruff, and the ribbon and jewel of the Golden
Fleece, the only other approach to ornament that he wears being that
ring long ago twisted off the Emperor Maximilian's chain. But now,
as he has bowed off the chaplain to his study, and excused himself
from aiding his two gentlemen-squires in consuming their krug of
beer, and hands his mother to her favourite nook in the sunny window,
taking his seat by her side, his features assume an expression of
repose and relaxation as if here indeed were his true home. He has
chosen his seat in full view of a picture that hangs on the
wainscoted wall, near his mother--a picture whose pure ethereal
tinting, of colour limpid as the rainbow, yet rich as the most
glowing flower-beds; and its soft lovely pose, and rounded outlines,
prove it to be no produce even of one of the great German artists of
the time, but to have been wrought, under an Italian sky, by such a
hand as left us the marvellous smile of Mona Lisa. It represents two
figures, one unmistakably himself when in the prime of life, his brow
and cheeks unfurrowed, and his hair still thick, shining brown, but
with the same grave earnestness of the dark eye that came with the
early sense of responsibility, and with the first sorrow of his
youth. The other figure, one on which the painter evidently loved to
dwell, is of a lady, so young that she might almost pass for his
daughter, except for the peculiar, tender sweetness that could only
become the wife and mother. Fair she is as snow, with scarce a
deepening of the rose on cheek, or even lip, fragile and transparent
as a spiritual form, and with a light in the blue eyes, and a grace
in the soft fugitive smile, that scarce seems to belong to earth; a
beauty not exactly of feature, but rather the pathetic loveliness of
calm fading away--as if she were already melting into the clear blue
sky with the horizon of golden light, that the wondrous power of art
has made to harmonize with, but not efface, her blue dress, golden
hair, white coif, and fair skin. It is as if she belonged to that
sky, and only tarried as unable to detach herself from the clasp of
the strong hand round and in which both her hands are twined; and
though the light in her face may be from heaven, yet the whole
countenance is fixed in one absorbed, almost worshipping gaze of her
husband, with a wistful simplicity and innocence on devotion, like
the absorption of a loving animal, to whom its master's presence is
bliss and sunshine. It is a picture to make light in a dark place,
and that sweet face receives a loving glance, nay, an absolutely
reverent bend of the knightly head, as the Baron seats himself.
"So it was as we feared, and this Schmalkaldic League did not suit
thy sense of loyalty, my son?" she asks, reading his features
"No, mother. I ever feared that further pressure would drive our
friends beyond the line where begin schism and rebellion; and it
seems to me that the moment is come when I must hold me still, or
transgress mine own sense of duty. I must endure the displeasure of
many I love and respect."
"Surely, my son, they have known you too long and too well not to
respect your motives, and know that conscience is first with you."
"Scarce may such confidence be looked for, mother, from the most
part, who esteem every man a traitor to the cause if he defend it not
precisely in the fashion of their own party. But I hear that the
King of France has offered himself as an ally, and that Dr. Luther,
together with others of our best divines, have thereby been startled
into doubts of the lawfulness of the League."
"And what think you of doing, my son?"
"I shall endeavour to wait until such time as the much-needed General
Council may proclaim the ancient truth, and enable us to avouch it
without disunion. Into schism I WILL not be drawn. I have held
truth all my life in the Church, nor will I part from her now. If
intrigues again should prevail, then, Heaven help us! Meantime,
mother, the best we can, as has ever been your war-cry."
"And much has been won for us. Here are the little maidens, who,
save Vittoria, would never have been scholars, reading the Holy Word
daily in their own tongue."
"Ach, I had not told you, mother! I have the Court Secretary's
answer this day about that command in the Kaisar's guards that my
dear old master had promised to his godson."
"Another put-off with Flemish courtesy, I see by thy face, Ebbo."
"Not quite that, mother. The command is ready for the Baron
Friedmund Maximilianus von Adlerstein Wildschloss, and all the rest
of it, on the understanding that he has been bred up free from all
taint of the new doctrine."
"New? Nay, it is the oldest of all doctrine."
"Even so. As I ever said, Dr. Luther hath been setting forth in
greater clearness and fulness what our blessed Friedel and I learnt
at your knee, and my young ones have learnt from babyhood of the true
Catholic doctrine. Yet I may not call my son's faith such as the
Kaisar's Spanish conscience-keepers would have it, and so the boy
must e'en tarry at home till there be work for his stout arm to do."
"He seems little disappointed. His laugh comes ringing the loudest
"The Junker is more of a boy at two-and-twenty than I ever recollect
myself! He lacks not sense nor wit, but a fray or a feast, a chase
or a dance, seem to suffice him at an age when I had long been
dwelling on matters of moment."
"Thou wast left to be thine own pilot; he is but one of thy gay crew,
and thus even these stirring times touch him not so deeply as thou
wert affected by thine own choice in life between disorderly freedom
and honourable restraint."
"I thought of that choice to-day, mother, as I crossed the bridge and
looked at the church; and more than ever thankful did I feel that our
blessed Friedel, having aided me over that one decisive pass, was
laid to rest, his tender spirit unvexed by the shocks and divisions
that have wrenched me hither and thither."
"Nay; not hither and thither. Ever hadst thou a resolute purpose and
"Ever failed in by my own error or that of others--What, thou
nestling here, my little Vittoria, away from all yonder prattle?"
"Dear father, if I may, I love far best to hear you and the
"Hear the child! She alone hath your face, mother, or Friedel's
eyes! Is it that thou wouldst be like thy noble Roman godmother, the
Marchesa di Pescara, that makes thee seek our grave company, little
"I always long to hear you talk of her, and of the Italian days, dear
father, and how you won this noble jewel of yours."
"Ah, child, that was before those times! It was the gift of good
Kaisar Max at his godson's christening, when he filled your sweet
mother with pretty spite by persuading her that it was a little
"Tell her how you had gained it, my son."
"By vapouring, child; and by the dull pride of my neighbours.
Heard'st thou never of the siege of Padua, when we had Bayard, the
best knight in Europe, and 500 Frenchmen for our allies? Our
artillery had made a breach, and the Kaisar requested the French
knights to lead the storm, whereto they answered, Well and good, but
our German nobles must share the assault, and not leave them to fight
with no better backers than the hired lanzknechts. All in reason,
quoth I, and more shame for us not to have been foremost in our
Kaisar's own cause; but what said the rest of our misproud chivalry?
They would never condescend to climb a wall on foot in company with
lanzknechts! On horseback must their worships fight, or not at all;
and when to shame them I called myself a mountaineer, more used to
climb than to ride, and vowed that I should esteem it an honour to
follow such a knight as Bayard, were it on all fours, then cast they
my burgher blood in my teeth. Never saw I the Kaisar so enraged; he
swore that all the common sense in the empire was in the burgher
blood, and that he would make me a knight of the noblest order in
Europe to show how he esteemed it. And next morning he was gone! So
ashamed was he of his own army that he rode off in the night, and
sent orders to break up the siege. I could have torn my hair, for I
had just lashed up a few of our nobles to a better sense of honour,
and we would yet have redeemed our name! And after all, the Chapter
of proud Flemings would never have admitted me had not the heralds
hunted up that the Sorels were gentlemen of blood and coat armour
long ago at Liege. I am glad my father lived to see that proved,
mother. He could not honour thee more than he did, but he would have
been sorely grieved had I been rejected. He often thought me a
mechanical burgher, as it was."
"Not quite so, my son. He never failed to be proud of thy deeds,
even when he did not understand them; but this, and the grandson's
birth, were the crowning joys of his life."
"Yes, those were glad triumphant years, take them all in all, ere the
Emperor sent me to act ambassador in Rome, and we left you the two
elder little girls and the boy to take care of. My dear little
Thekla! She had a foreboding that she might never see those children
more, yet would she have pined her heart away more surely had I left
her at home! I never was absent a week but I found her wasted with
watching for me."
"It was those weary seven years of Italy that changed thee most, my
"Apart from you, mother, and knowing you now indeed to be widowed,
and with on the one hand such contradictory commands from the Emperor
as made me sorely ashamed of myself, of my nation, and of the man
whom I loved and esteemed personally the most on earth, yet bound
there by his express command, while I saw my tender wife's health
wasting in the climate day by day! Yet still, while most she gasped
for a breath of Swabian hills, she ever declared it would kill her
outright to send her from me. And thus it went on till I laid her in
the stately church of her own patroness. Then how it would have
fared with me and the helpless little ones I know not, but for thy
noble godmother, my Vittoria, the wise and ready helper of all in
trouble, the only friend thy mother had made at Rome, and who had
been able, from all her heights of learning and accomplishment, to
value my Thekla's golden soul in its simplicity. Even then, when too
late, came one of the Kaisar's kindest letters, recalling me,--a
letter whose every word I would have paid for with a drop of my own
blood six weeks before! and which he had only failed to send because
his head was running on the plan of that gorgeous tomb where he is
not buried! Well, at least it brought us home to you again once
more, mother, and, where you are, comfort never has been utterly
absent from me. And then, coming from the wilful gloom of Pope Leo's
court into our Germany, streamed over by the rays of Luther's light,
it was as if a new world of hope were dawning, as if truth would no
longer be muffled, and the young would grow up to a world far better
and purer than the old had ever seen. What trumpet-calls those were,
and how welcome was the voice of the true Catholic faith no longer
stifled! And my dear old Kaisar, with his clear eyes, his unfettered
mind--he felt the power and truth of those theses. He bade the
Elector of Saxony well to guard the monk Luther as a treasure. Ah!
had he been a younger man, or had he been more firm and resolute,
able to act as well as think for himself, things might have gone
otherwise with the Church. He could think, but could not act; and
now we have a man who acts, but WILL not think. It may have been a
good day for our German reputation among foreign princes when Charles
V. put on the crown; but only two days in my life have been as
mournful to me as that when I stood by Kaisar Max's death-bed at
Wells, and knew that generous, loving, fitful spirit was passing away
from the earth! Never owned I friend I loved so well as Kaisar Max!
Nor has any Emperor done so much for this our dear land."
"The young Emperor never loved thee."
"He might have treated me as one who could be useful, but he never
forgave me for shaking hands with Luther at the Diet of Worms. I
knew it was all over with my court favour after I had joined in
escorting the Doctor out of the city. And the next thing was that
Georg of Freundsberg and his friends proclaimed me a bigoted Papist
because I did my utmost to keep my troop out of the devil's holiday
at the sack of Rome! It has ever been my lot to be in disgrace with
one side or the other! Here is my daughter's marriage hindered on
the one hand, my son's promotion checked on the other, because I have
a conscience of my own, and not of other people's! Heaven knows the
right is no easy matter to find; but, when one thinks one sees it,
there is nothing to be done but to guide oneself by it, even if the
rest of the world will not view it in the same light."
"Nothing else! I doubt me whether it be ever easy to see the
veritably right course while still struggling in the midst. That is
for after ages, which behold things afar off; but each man must needs
follow his own principle in an honest and good heart, and assuredly
God will guide him to work out some good end, or hinder some evil
"Ay, mother. Each party may guard one side or other of the truth in
all honesty and faithfulness; he who cannot with his whole heart cast
in his lot with either,--he is apt to serve no purpose, and to be
"Nay, Ebbo, may he not be a witness to the higher and more perfect
truth than either party have conceived? Nor is inaction always
needful. That which is right towards either side still reveals
itself at the due moment, whether it be to act or to hold still. And
verily, Ebbo, what thou didst say even now has set me on a strange
thought of mine own dream, that which heralded the birth of thyself
and thy brother. As thou knowest, it seemed to me that I was
watching two sparkles from the extinguished Needfire wheel. One rose
aloft and shone as a star!"
"The other fulfilled those words of the Wise Man. It shone and ran
to and fro in the grass. And surely, my Ebbo, thy mother may feel
that, in all these dark days of perplexity and trial, the spark of
light hath ever shone and drawn its trail of brightness in the gloom,
even though the way was long, and seemed uncertain."
"The mother who ever fondled me WILL think so, it may be! But, ah!
she had better pray that the light be clearer, and that I may not
fall utterly short of the star!"
Travellers in Wurtemburg may perhaps turn aside from glorious old
Ulm, and the memories of the battlefields around it, to the romantic
country round the Swabian mountains, through which descend the
tributaries of the Danube. Here they may think themselves fortunate
if they come upon a green valley, with a bright mountain torrent
dashing through it, fresh from the lofty mountain, with terraced
sides that rise sheer above. An old bridge, a mill, and a neat
German village lie clustered in the valley; a seignorial mansion
peeps out of the forest glades; and a lovely church, of rather late
Gothic, but beautifully designed, attracts the eye so soon as it can
be persuaded to quit the romantic outline of the ruined baronial
castle high up on one of the mountain ledges. Report declares that
there are tombs in the church well worth inspection. You seek out an
old venerable blue-coated peasant who has charge of the church.
"What is yonder castle?"
"It is the castle of Adlerstein."
"Are the family still extant?"
"Yea, yea; they built yonder house when the Schloss became ruinous.
They have always been here."
The church is very beautiful in its details, the carved work of the
east end and pulpit especially so, but nothing is so attractive as
the altar tomb in the chantry chapel. It is a double one, holding
not, as usual, the recumbent effigies of a husband and wife, but of
two knights in armour.
"Who are these, good friend?"
"They are the good Barons Ebbo and Friedel."
Father and son they appear to be, killed at the same time in some
fatal battle, for the white marble face of one is round with youth,
no hair on lip nor chin, and with a lovely peaceful solemnity, almost
cheerfulness, in the expression. The other, a bearded man, has the
glory of old age in his worn features, beautiful and restful, but it
is as if one had gone to sleep in the light of dawn, the other in the
last glow of sunset. Their armour and their crests are alike, but
the young one bears the eagle shield alone, while the elder has the
same bearing repeated upon an escutcheon of pretence; the young man's
hands are clasped over a harp, those of the other over a Bible, and
the elder wears the insignia of the order of the Golden Fleece. They
are surely father and son, a maiden knight and tried warrior who fell
"No," the guide shakes his head; "they are twin brothers, the good
Barons Ebbo and Friedel, who were born when their father had been
taken captive by the Saracens while on a crusade. Baron Friedel was
slain by the Turks at the bridge foot, and his brother built the
church in his memory. He first planted vines upon the mountains, and
freed the peasants from the lord's dues on their flax. And it is
true that the two brothers may still be seen hovering on the
mountain-side in the mist at sunset, sometimes one, sometimes both."
You turn with a smile to the inscription, sure that those windows,
those porches, that armour, never were of crusading date, and ready
to refute the old peasant. You spell out the upright Gothic letters
around the cornice of the tomb, and you read, in mediaeval Latin,
"Orate pro Anima Friedmundis Equitis Baronis Adlersteini. A. D.
Then turn to the other side and read -
"Hic jacet Eberardus Eques Baro Adlersteini. A.D. mdxliii. Demum"
Yes, the guide is right. They are brothers, with well-nigh a
lifetime between their deaths. Is that the meaning of that strange
Few of the other tombs are worth attention, each lapsing further into
the bad taste of later ages; yet there is one still deserving
admiration, placed close to the head of that of the two Barons. It
is the effigy of a lady, aged and serene, with a delicately-carved
face beneath her stiff head-gear. Surely this monument was erected
somewhat later, for the inscription is in German. Stiff, contracted,
hard to read, but this is the rendering of it
"Here lies Christina Sorel, wife of Eberhard, xxth Baron von
Adlerstein, and mother of the Barons Eberhard and Friedmund. She
fell asleep two days before her son, on the feast of St. John,
"Her children shall rise up and call her blessed.
"Erected with full hearts by her grandson, Baron Friedmund
Maximilianus, and his brothers and sisters. Farewell."