Hero Tales and Legends of the Rhine
by Lewis Spence
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In a neighbouring fortress there lived a beautiful maiden, Maria by name, who received a great deal of attention from Sir Conrad. So frequent were his visits to her home that rumour had it that the fair lady had won his heart. This indeed was the case, and she in return had given her love unreservedly into his keeping. But as her passion grew stronger his seemed to cool, and at length he began to make preparations to join the wars in Palestine, leaving the lady to lament his changed demeanour. In vain she pleaded, in vain she sent letters to him. At last he intimated plainly that he loved her no longer. He did not intend to marry, he said, adding cruelly that if he did she should not be the bride of his choice. The lady was completely crushed by the blow. Her affection for Sir Conrad perished, and in its place arose a desire to be revenged on the unfaithful knight. The fickle lover had completed his arrangements for his journey to the Holy Land, and all was ready for his departure. As he rode gaily down from his castle to where his men-at-arms waited on the shores of the Rhine, he was suddenly confronted by an armed knight, who reined in his steed and bade Sir Conrad halt.

"Hold, Sir Conrad Bayer," he cried. "Thou goest not hence till thou hast answered for thy misdeeds—thou false knight—thou traitor!"

Sir Conrad listened in astonishment. A moment later his attendants had surrounded the bold youth, and would have slain him had not Sir Conrad interfered.

"Back!" he said. "Let me face this braggart myself. Who art thou?" he added, addressing the young knight who had thus boldly challenged him.

"One who would have thy life!" was the fierce reply.

"Why should I slay thee, bold youth?" said Conrad, amused.

"I am the brother of Maria, whom thou hast betrayed," was the response. "I have come hither from Palestine to seek thy life. Have at thee, traitor!"

Conrad, somewhat sobered, and unwilling to do battle with such a boy, asked for further proof of his identity. The young knight thereupon displayed, blazoned on his shield, the arms of his house—a golden lion on an azure field.

Sir Conrad had no longer excuse for refusing to do battle with the youth, so with a muttered "Thy blood be upon thy head!" he laid his lance in rest and drew back a few paces. The stranger did likewise; then they rushed toward each other, and such was the force of their impact that both were unhorsed. Drawing their swords—for neither was injured—the knights resumed the conflict on foot. Conrad felt disgraced at having been unhorsed by a mere youth, and he was now further incensed by receiving a deep wound in his arm. Henceforth he fought in good earnest, showering blows on his antagonist, who fell at last, mortally wounded.

In obedience to the rules of chivalry, Sir Conrad hastened to assist his vanquished foe. What was his surprise, his horror, when, on raising the head and unlacing the helm of the knight, he found that his adversary was none other than Maria!

"Conrad," she said in failing tones, "I also am to blame. Without thy love life was nothing to me, and I resolved to die by thy hand. Forget my folly, remember only that I loved thee. Farewell!" And with these words she expired. Conrad flung himself down by her side, convulsed with grief and remorse. From that hour a change came over him. Ere he set out to the Holy Land he caused the body of Maria to be interred on the summit of the Kreuzberg, and bestowed the greater part of his estates on a pious brotherhood, enjoining them to raise a nunnery over the tomb. Thus was the convent of Marienberg founded, and in time it came to be one of the richest and most celebrated on the Rhine.

Arrived in Palestine, Conrad became a Knight-Templar, fighting bravely and utterly oblivious to all danger. It was not until Acre had been won, however, that death met him. An arrow dispatched by an unknown hand found its quarry as he was walking the ramparts at night meditating on the lady he had slain and whose death had restored her to a place in his affections.

Liebenstein and Sterrenberg

Near the famous monastery of Bornhofen, and not far from the town of Camp, supposed to be an ancient Roman site, are the celebrated castles of Liebenstein and Sterrenberg, called 'the Brothers,' perhaps because of their contiguity to each other rather than through the legend connected with the name. History is practically silent concerning these towers, which occupy two steep crags united by a small isthmus which has partially been cut through. Sterrenberg lies nearest the north, Liebenstein to the south. A wooden bridge leads from one to the other, but a high wall called the Schildmauer was in the old days reared between them, obviously with the intention of cutting off communication. The legend has undoubtedly become sophisticated by literary influences, and was so altered by one Joseph Kugelgen as to change its purport entirely. It is the modern version of the legend we give here, in contradistinction to that given in the chapter on the Folklore and Literature of the Rhine (see pp. 84 et seq.).

The Brothers

Heinrich and Conrad were the sons of Kurt, a brave knight who had retired from the wars, and now dwelt in his ancestral castle Liebenstein. The brothers were alike in all matters pertaining to arms and chivalry. But otherwise they differed, for Heinrich, the elder, was quiet and more given to the arts of peace; whereas Conrad was gay, and inclined to like fighting for fighting's sake.

Brought up along with them was Hildegarde, a relative and an orphan, whom the brothers believed to be their sister. On reaching manhood, however, their father told them the truth concerning her, expressing the wish that one of them should marry the maiden.

Nothing loath, both brothers wooed Hildegarde, but Conrad's ardent, impulsive nature triumphed over Heinrich's reserved and more steadfast affection. In due course preparations were made for the marriage festival, and a new castle, Sterrenberg, was raised for the young couple adjacent to Liebenstein. Heinrich found it hard to be a constant witness of his brother's happiness, so he set out for the Holy Land. Soon after his departure the old knight became ill, and died on the day that the new castle was completed. This delayed the marriage for a year, and as the months passed Conrad became associated with loose companions, and his love for Hildegarde weakened.

Meantime news came that Heinrich had performed marvellous deeds in the Holy Land, and the tidings inflamed Conrad's zeal. He, too, determined to join the Crusades, and was soon on the way to Palestine.

However, he did not, like his brother, gain renown—for he had not the same incentive to reckless bravery—and he soon returned. He was again to prove himself more successful in love than in war, for at Constantinople, having fallen passionately in love with a beautiful Greek lady, he married her.

One day Hildegarde was sitting sorrowful in her chamber, when she beheld travellers with baggage moving into the empty Sterrenberg. Greatly astonished, she sent her waiting-maid to make inquiries, and learned to her sorrow that it was the returning Conrad, who came bringing with him a Greek wife. Conrad avoided Liebenstein, and Sterrenberg became gay with feasting and music.

Late one evening a knight demanded lodging at Liebenstein and was admitted. The stranger was Heinrich, who, hearing about his brother's shameful marriage, had returned to the grief-stricken Hildegarde.

After he had rested Heinrich sent a message to his brother reproaching him with unknightly behaviour, and challenging him to mortal combat. The challenge was accepted and the combatants met on the passage separating the two castles. But as they faced each other, sword in hand, a veiled female figure stepped between them and bade them desist.

It was Hildegarde, who had recognized Heinrich and learned his intention. In impassioned tones she urged the young men not to be guilty of the folly of shedding each other's blood in such a cause, and declared that it was her firm intention to spend her remaining days in a convent. The brothers submitted themselves to her persuasion and became reconciled. Some time afterward Conrad's wife proved her unworthiness by eloping with a young knight, thus killing her husband's love for her, and at the same time opening his eyes to his own base conduct. Bitterly now did he reproach himself for his unfaithfulness to Hildegarde, who, alas! was now lost to him for ever. Hildegarde remained faithful to her vows, and Heinrich and Conrad lived together till at last death separated them.

St. Goar

Near the town of St. Goar, at the foot of the Rheinfels, there stands a little cell, once the habitation of a pious hermit known as St. Goar, and many are the local traditions which tell of the miracles wrought by this good man, and the marvellous virtues retained by his shrine after his death. He settled on Rhenish shores, we are told, about the middle of the sixth century, and thenceforward devoted his life to the service of the rude people among whom his lot was cast. His first care was to instruct them in the Christian faith, but he was also mindful of their welfare in temporal matters, and gave his services freely to the sick and sorrowful, so that ere long he came to be regarded as a saint. When he was not employed in prayer and ministrations he watched the currents of the Rhine, and was ever willing to lend his aid to distressed mariners who had been caught by the Sand Gewirr, a dangerous eddy which was too often the death of unwary boatmen in these parts.

Thus he spent an active and cheerful life, far from the envy and strife of the world, for which he had no taste whatever. Nevertheless the fame of his good deeds had reached the high places of the earth. Sigebert, who at that time held his court at Andernach, heard of the piety and noble life of the hermit, and invited him to his palace. St. Goar accepted the invitation—or, rather, obeyed the command—and made his way to Andernach. He was well received by the monarch, whom his genuine holiness and single-mindedness greatly impressed. But pure as he was, the worthy Goar was not destined to escape calumny. There were at the court of Sigebert other ecclesiastics of a less exalted type, and these were filled with envy and indignation when they beheld the favours bestowed upon the erstwhile recluse. Foremost among his persecutors was the Archbishop of Treves, and with him Sigebert dealt in summary fashion, depriving him of his archbishopric and offering the see to St. Goar. The latter, however, was sick of the perpetual intrigues and squabblings of the court, and longed to return to the shelter of his mossy cell and the sincere friendship of the poor fishermen among whom his mission lay. So he refused the proffered dignity and informed the monarch of his desire to return home. As he stood in the hall of the palace preparing to take his leave, he threw his cloak over a sunbeam, and, strange to say, the garment was suspended as though the shaft of light were solid. This, we are told, was not a mere piece of bravado, but was done to show that the saint's action in refusing the see was prompted by divine inspiration.

When St. Goar died Sigebert caused a chapel to be erected over his grave, choosing from among his disciples two worthy monks to officiate. Other hermits took up their abode near the spot, and all were subsequently gathered together in a monastery. The grave of the solitary became a favourite shrine, to which pilgrims travelled from all quarters, and St. Goar became the patron saint of hospitality, not so much personally as through the monastery of which he was the patron, and one of whose rules was that no stranger should be denied hospitality for a certain period.

A goodly number of stories are told of his somewhat drastic treatment of those who passed by his shrine without bringing an offering—stories which may be traced to the monks who dwelt there, and who reaped the benefit of these offerings.

Charlemagne at the Shrine of St. Goar

Here is one of those tales concerning the great Karl. On one occasion while he was travelling from Ingelheim to Aix-la-Chapelle, by way of Coblentz, he passed the shrine of St. Goar without so much as a single thought. Nor did those who accompanied him give the saint more attention. It was the height of summer, everything was bright and beautiful, and as the Emperor's flotilla drifted lazily down the Rhine the sound of laughter and light jesting could be heard.

No sooner had the Emperor and his courtiers passed St. Goar, however, than the smiling sky became overcast, heavy clouds gathered, and the distant sound of thunder was heard. A moment more and they were in the midst of a raging storm; water surged and boiled all around, and darkness fell so thickly that scarce could one see another's face. Panic reigned supreme where all had been gaiety and merriment.

In vain the sailors strove to reach the shore; in vain the ladies shrieked and the Emperor and his nobles lent their aid to the seamen. All the exertions of the sailors would not suffice to move the vessels one foot nearer the shore. At length an old boatman who had spent the greater part of a lifetime on the Rhine approached the Emperor and addressed him thus:

"Sire, our labours are useless. We have offended God and St. Goar."

The words were repeated by the Emperor's panic-stricken train, who now saw that the storm was of miraculous origin. "Let us go ashore," said Charlemagne in an awed voice. "In the name of God and St. Goar, let us go ashore. We will pray at the shrine of the saint that he may help us make peace with Heaven."

Scarcely had he uttered the words ere the sky began to clear, the boiling water subsided to its former glassy smoothness, and the storm was over. The illustrious company landed and sought the shrine of the holy man, where they spent the rest of the day in prayer.

Ere they departed on the following morning Charlemagne and his court presented rich offerings at the shrine, and the Emperor afterward endowed the monastery with lands of great extent, by which means it is to be hoped that he succeeded in propitiating the jealous saint.

The Reconciliation

One more tale of St. Goar may be added, dealing this time with Charlemagne's sons, Pepin and Karloman. These two, brave knights both, had had a serious quarrel over the sovereignty of their father's vast Empire. Gradually the breach widened to a deadly feud, and the brothers, once the best of friends, became the bitterest enemies.

In 806 Charlemagne held an Imperial Diet at Thionville, and thither he summoned his three sons, Karloman, Pepin, and Ludwig, intending to divide the Empire, by testament, among them. Karloman was at that time in Germany, and Pepin in Italy, where, with the aid of his sword, he had won for himself broad lands. In order to reach Thionville both were obliged to take the same path—that is, the Rhine, the broad waterway of their father's dominions. Pepin was the first to come, and as he sailed up the river with his train he caught sight of the shrine of St. Goar, and bethought him that there he and his brother had last met as friends. As he pondered on the strange fate that had made enemies of them, once so full of kindness toward each other, he felt curiously moved, and decided to put ashore and kneel by the shrine of the saint.

Ere long Karloman and his train moved up the Rhine, and this prince also, when he beheld the shrine of St. Goar, was touched with a feeling of tenderness for his absent brother. Recollections of the time when Pepin and he had been inseparable surged over him, and he too stepped ashore and made his way through the wood to the sacred spot.

Meanwhile Pepin still knelt before the shrine, and great indeed was Karloman's astonishment when he beheld his brother. But when he heard Pepin pray aloud that they might be reconciled his joy and surprise knew no bounds. All armed as he was, he strode up to his kneeling brother and embraced him with tears, entreating his forgiveness for past harshnesses. When Pepin raised the prince's visor and beheld the beloved features of Karloman, his happiness was complete. Together the brothers made for their ships; not, however, till they had left valuable gifts at the shrine of the saint whose good offices had brought about their reconciliation. Together they proceeded to the court of Charlemagne, who partitioned his Empire between his three sons, making each a regent of his portion during his father's lifetime.

From that time onward the brothers were fast friends. Karloman and Pepin, however, had not long to live, for the former died in 810 and the latter in the following year.

Gutenfels, a Romance

A very charming story, and one entirely lacking in the element of gloom and tragedy which is so marked a feature of most Rhenish tales, is that which tradition assigns to the castle of Gutenfels. Its ancient name of Caub, or Chaube, still clings to the town above which it towers majestically.

In the thirteenth century Caub was the habitation of Sir Philip of Falkenstein and his sister Guta, the latter justly acclaimed as the most beautiful woman in Germany. She was reputed as proud as she was beautiful, and of the many suitors who flocked to Caub to seek her hand in marriage none could win from her a word of encouragement or even a tender glance.

On one occasion she and her brother were present at a great tourney held at Cologne, where the flower of knightly chivalry and maidenly beauty were gathered in a brilliant assembly. Many an ardent glance was directed to the fair maid of Caub, but she, accustomed to such homage, was not moved thereby from her wonted composure.

At length a commotion passed through the assembly. A knight had entered the lists whose name was not announced by the herald. It was whispered that his identity was known only to the Archbishop, whose guest he was. Of fine stature and handsome features, clad in splendid armour and mounted on a richly caparisoned steed, he attracted not a little attention, especially from the feminine portion of the assemblage. But for none of the high-born ladies had he eyes, save for Guta, to whom his glance was ever and anon directed, as though he looked to her to bring him victory. The blushing looks of Guta showed that she was not indifferent to the gallantry of the noble stranger, and, truly, in her heart she wished him well. With clasped hands she watched the combatants couch their lances and charge. Ah! victory had fallen to the unknown knight. Soon it became evident that the mysterious stranger was to carry off the prize of the tourney, for there was none to match him in skill and prowess. As he rode past the place where Guta sat he lowered his lance, and she, in her pleasure and confusion at this mark of especial courtesy, dropped her glove, which the knight instantly picked up, desiring to be allowed to keep it as a guerdon.

At the grand ball which followed the tourney the victor remained all the evening at Guta's side, and would dance with no other maiden. Young Falkenstein, pleased with the homage paid to his sister by the distinguished stranger, invited him to visit them at Caub, an invitation which the gentle Guta seconded, and which the mysterious knight accepted with alacrity.

True to his promise, ere a week had elapsed he arrived at Caub, accompanied by two attendants. His visit covered three days, during which time his host and hostess did all in their power to make his stay a pleasant one. Ere he took his departure he sought out Guta and made known his love. The lady acknowledged that his affection was returned.

"Dearest Guta," said the knight, "I may not yet reveal to thee my name, but if thou wilt await my coming, in three months I shall return to claim my bride, and thou shalt know all."

"I will be true to thee," exclaimed Guta passionately. "Though a king should woo me, I will be true to thee." And with that assurance from his betrothed the knight rode away.

Three months came and went, and still Guta heard nothing of her absent lover. She grew paler and sadder as time advanced, not because she doubted the honour of her knight, but because she feared he had been slain in battle. It was indeed a time of wars and dissensions. On the death of Conrad IV several claimants to the imperial throne of Germany made their appearance, of whom the principal were Adolph, Duke of Holland, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother to the English king Henry III, and Alfonso X, King of Castile. Of these three the most popular was Richard of Cornwall, who was finally chosen by the Electors, more on account of his knightly qualities than because of his fabulous wealth. Among his most ardent followers was Philip of Falkenstein, who was naturally much elated at his master's success. Now, however, the conflict was over, and Philip had returned to Caub.

One morning, about six months after the departure of Guta's lover, a gay cavalcade appeared at the gates of Caub, and a herald demanded admission for Richard, Emperor of Germany. Philip himself, scarcely concealing his joy and pride at the honour done him by his sovereign, ran out to greet him, and the castle was full of stir and bustle. The Emperor praised Philip heartily for his part in the recent wars, yet he seemed absent and uneasy.

"Sir Philip," he said at length, "I have come hither to beg the hand of thy fair sister; why is she not with us?" Falkenstein was filled with amazement.

"Sire," he stammered, "I fear me thou wilt find my sister an unwilling bride. She has refused many nobles of high estate, and I doubt whether even a crown will tempt her. However, I will plead with her for thy sake."

He left the room to seek Guta's bower, but soon returned with dejected mien. "It is as I thought, sire," he said. "She will not be moved. Methinks some heedless knight hath stolen her heart, for she hath grown pale and drooping as a gathered blossom."

Richard raised his visor.

"Knowest thou me, sir knight?" he said.

"Thou art—the knight of the tourney," cried Philip in amaze.

"The same," answered Richard, smiling. "And I am the knight who has won thy fair sister's heart. We plighted our troth after the tourney of Cologne. State affairs of the gravest import have kept me from her side, where I would fain have been these six months past. Take this token"—drawing from his breast the glove Guta had given him—"and tell her that a poor knight in Richard's train sends her this."

In a little while Philip returned with his sister. The maiden looked pale and agitated, but when she beheld Richard she rushed to him and was clasped in his arms.

"My own Guta," he whispered fondly. "And wouldst thou refuse an emperor to marry me?"

"Yea, truly," answered the maid, "a hundred emperors. I feared thou hadst forsaken me altogether," she added naively.

Richard laughed.

"Would I be a worthy Emperor an I did not keep my troth with such as thou?" he asked.

"The Emperor—thou?" cried Guta, starting back.

"Yea, the Emperor, and none other," said her brother reverently. And once more Guta hid her face on Richard's breast.

Within a week they were married, and Guta accompanied her husband to the court as Empress of Germany.

To the castle where his bride had passed her maidenhood Richard gave the name of Gutenfels—'Rock of Guta'—which name it has retained to this day.

The Story of Schoenburg

The castle of Schoenburg, not far from the town of Bacharach, is now in ruins, but was once a place of extraordinary fame, for here dwelt at one time seven sisters of transcendent beauty, who were courted the more assiduously because their father, the Graf von Schoenburg, was reputed a man of great wealth. This wealth was no myth, but an actuality, and in truth it had been mainly acquired in predatory forays; but the nobles of Rhineland recked little of this, and scores of them flitted around and pressed their suit on the young ladies. None of these, however, felt inclined toward marriage just yet, each vowing its yoke too galling; and so the gallants came in vain to the castle, their respective addresses being invariably dallied with and then dismissed. Suitor after suitor retired in despair, pondering on the strange ways of womankind; but one evening a large party of noblemen chanced to be assembled at the schloss, and putting their heads together, they decided to press matters to a conclusion. They agreed that all of them, in gorgeous raiment, should gather in the banqueting-hall of the castle; the seven sisters should be summoned and called upon in peremptory fashion to have done with silken dalliance and to end matters by selecting seven husbands from among them. The young ladies received the summons with some amusement, all of them being blessed with the saving grace of humour, and they bade the knight who had brought the message return to his fellows and tell them that the suggested interview would be held. "Only give us time," said the sisters, "for the donning of our most becoming dresses."

So now the band of suitors mustered, and a brave display they made, each of them thinking himself more handsome and gorgeous than his neighbours and boasting that he would be among the chosen seven. But as time sped on and the ladies still tarried, the young men began to grow anxious; many of them spoke aloud of female vanity, and made derisive comments on the coiffing and the like, which they imagined was the cause of the delay; eventually one of their number, tired of strutting before a mirror, happened to go to look out of the window toward the Rhine. Suddenly he uttered a loud imprecation, and his companions, thronging to the window, were all fiercely incensed at the sight which greeted their eyes. For the famous seven sisters were perpetrating something of a practical joke; they were leaving the castle in a boat, and on perceiving the men's faces at the windows they gave vent to a loud laugh of disdain. Hardly had the angry suitors realized that they were the butt of the ladies' ridicule when they were seized with consternation. For one of the sisters, in the attempt to shake her fist at the men she affected to despise, tried to stand up on one of the thwarts of the boat, which, being a light craft, was upset at once. The girls' taunts were now changed to loud cries for help, none being able to swim; but ere another boat could be launched the Rhine had claimed its prey, and the perfidious damsels were drowned in the swift tide.

But their memory was not destined to be erased from the traditions of the locality. Near the place where the tragedy occurred there are seven rocks, visible only on rare occasions when the river is very low, and till lately it was a popular superstition that these rocks were placed there by Providence, anxious to impart a moral to young women addicted to coquetry and practical jests. To this day many boatmen on the Rhine regard these rocks with awe, and it is told that now and then seven wraiths are to be seen there; it is even asserted that sometimes these apparitions sing in strains as delectable as those of the Lorelei herself.

The Legend of Pfalz

Musing on the legendary lore of the Rhine, we cannot but be struck by the sadness pervading these stories, and we are inclined to believe that every one of them culminates in tragedy. But there are a few exceptions to this rule, and among them is a tale associated with the island of Pfalz, near Bacharach, which concludes in fairly happy fashion, if in the main concerned with suffering.

This island of Pfalz still contains the ruins of a castle, known as Pfalzgrafenstein. It belonged in medieval days to the Palatine Princes, and at the time our story opens one of these, named Hermann, having suspected his wife, the Princess Guba, of infidelity, had lately caused her to be incarcerated within it. Its governor, Count von Roth, was charged to watch the prisoner's movements carefully; but, being sure she was innocent, his measures with her were generally lenient, while his countess soon formed a deep friendship for the Princess. Thus it seemed to Guba that her captivity was not destined to be so terrible as she had anticipated, but she was soon disillusioned, as will appear presently. It should be explained that as yet the Princess had borne no children to her husband, whose heir-apparent was consequently his brother Ludwig; and this person naturally tried to prevent a reconciliation between the Palatine Prince and his wife, for should they be united again, Ludwig's hope to succeed his brother might be frustrated. So he was a frequent visitor to the Pfalzgrafenstein, constantly telling von Roth that he allowed the Princess too much liberty. Worse still, Ludwig sometimes remained at the island castle for a long time, and at these periods the prisoner underwent constant ill-treatment, which the Governor was powerless to alleviate.

The people of the neighbourhood felt kindly toward Guba, but their sympathy was of little avail; and at length during one of Ludwig's visits to Pfalzgrafenstein it seemed as though he was about to triumph and effect a final separation between the Princess and Hermann. For it transpired one evening that Guba was not within the castle. A hue and cry was instantly raised, and the island was searched by Ludwig and von Roth. "I wager," said Ludwig, "that at this very moment Guba is with her paramour. Let my brother the Prince hear of this, and your life will answer for it. Often have I urged you to be stricter; you see now the result of your leniency."

Von Roth protested that the Princess was taking the air alone; but while they argued the pair espied Guba, and it was as Ludwig had said—she was attended by a man.

"The bird is snared," shouted Ludwig; and as he and von Roth ran toward the offending couple they separated instantly, the man making for a boat moored hard by. But ere he could reach it he was caught by his pursuers, and recognized for a certain young gallant of the district. He was dragged to the castle, where after a brief trial he was condemned to be hanged. He blanched on hearing the sentence, but faced his fate manfully, and when the rope was about his neck he declared loudly that Guba had always discouraged his addresses and was innocent of the sin wherewith she was charged.

Guba's movements thenceforth were watched more strictly for a while, yet she seemed to grow more cheerful, while one day she even asserted that she would soon be reconciled to her husband, from whom she had now been estranged for six months. In short, she announced that she was soon to be a mother; while she was confident that the child would resemble the Palatine Prince, and that the latter's delight on finding himself a father would result in the ending of all her troubles. The Governor and his lady were both doubtful as to the parentage of the child, remembering the recent circumstances which had seemed to cast some shadow upon the Princess herself; yet they held their peace, awaiting until in due course the Princess was delivered of a boy. But, alack! the child bore no resemblance to Hermann; and so von Roth and his wife, meaning to be kind, enjoined silence and sent the child away—all of which was the more easily accomplished as the spiteful Ludwig chanced to be far distant at the time. At first the mother was broken-hearted, but the Governor and his wife comforted her by saying that the child was no farther off than a castle on the opposite banks of the Rhine. Here, they assured her, he would be well nurtured; moreover, they had arranged that, so long as her son was alive and thriving, the fact was to be signified to her by the display of a small white flag on the battlements of his lodging. And so, day after day, the anxious mother paced her island prison, looking constantly toward the signal which meant so much to her.

Many years went by in this fashion, and in course of time Hermann was gathered to his fathers, and Ludwig ascended the Palatine throne. But scarcely was his rule begun ere it was noised abroad that he was a usurper, for a young man appeared who claimed to be the son of Hermann, and therefore the rightful heir. Now, most of the people detested Ludwig, and when they marked the claimant's resemblance to the deceased Prince a number of them banded themselves together to set him upon the throne.

A fierce civil war ensued, many of the nobles forsaking Ludwig for his rival, who, like the late Prince, bore the name of Hermann; and though at first it seemed doubtful which party was to triumph, eventually Ludwig was worsted, and was hanged for his perfidy. The tidings spread throughout the Rhineland, and one day a body of men-at-arms came to Pfalzgrafenstein and informed von Roth that his prisoner was to be freed at once and was to repair to the Palatine court, there to take up her rightful position as Queen-Dowager. Guba was amazed on hearing this news, for she had long since ceased to hope that her present mode of life would be altered, and asking to be presented to the chief messenger that she might question him, she suddenly experienced a yet greater surprise.... Yes! her son had come in person to liberate her; and von Roth and his wife, as they witnessed the glad union, were convinced at last of Guba's innocence, for the young man who clasped her to his bosom had changed wondrously since his childhood, and was now indeed the living image of his father. For some minutes the mother wept with joy, but when her son bade her make ready for instant departure she replied that she had lost all desire for the stately life of a court. Pfalzgrafenstein, she declared, had become truly a part of her life, so here she would end her days. She had not long to live, she added, and what greater pleasure could she have than the knowledge that her son was alive and well, and was ruling his people wisely?

And so Guba remained at the island, a prison no longer; and daily she paced by the swirling stream, often gazing toward the castle where her son had been nurtured, and meditating on the time when she was wont to look there for the white flag which meant so much to her anxious heart.

A Legend of Fuerstenberg

High above the Rhine tower the ruins of Fuerstenberg, and more than one legend clings to the ancient pile, linking it with stirring medieval times. Perhaps the most popular of these traditions is that which tells of the Phantom Mother of Fuerstenberg, a tale full of pathos and tragedy.

In the thirteenth century there dwelt in the castle a nobleman, Franz von Fuerst by name, who, after a wild and licentious youth, settled down to a more sober and serious manhood. His friends, surprised at the change which had taken place in him, and anxious that this new mode of life should be maintained, urged him to take a virtuous maiden to wife. Such a bride as they desired for him was found in Kunigunda von Floersheim, a maiden who was as beautiful as she was high-born.

For a time after their marriage all went well, and Franz and his young wife seemed quite happy. Moreover, in time a son was born to them, of whom his father seemed to be very proud. The Baron's reformation, said his friends, was complete.

One evening there came to Kunigunda a young lady friend. The girl, whose name was Amina, was the daughter of a robber-baron who dwelt in a neighbouring castle. But his predatory acts had at last forced him to flee for his life, and no one knew whither he had gone. His household was broken up, and Amina, finding herself without a home, had now repaired to Fuerstenberg to seek refuge. Kunigunda, ever willing to aid those in distress, extended a hearty welcome to the damsel, and Amina was henceforth an inmate of the schloss.

Now, though Amina was fully as lovely in face and form as her young hostess, she yet lacked the moral beauty of Kunigunda. Of a subtle and crafty disposition, she showed the gratitude of the serpent by stinging the hand extended to help her; in a word, she set herself to win the unlawful affections of the Lord of Fuerstenberg. He, weak creature as he was, allowed the latent baseness of his nature to be stirred by her youth and beauty. He listened when she whispered that Kunigunda had grown cold toward him; at her suggestion he interpreted his wife's modest demeanour as indifference, and already he began to feel the yoke of matrimony heavy upon him.

Poor Kunigunda was in despair when she realized that her husband had transferred his affections; but what was worse, she learned that the pair were plotting against her life. At length their cruel scheming succeeded, and one morning Kunigunda was found dead in her bed. Franz made it known that she had been stifled by a fit of coughing, and her remains were hastily conveyed to the family vault. Within a week the false Amina was the bride of the Baron von Fuerstenberg.

Little Hugo, the son of Kunigunda, was to suffer much at the hands of his stepmother and her dependents. The new mistress of the Schloss Fuerstenberg hated the child as she had hated his mother, and Hugo was given into the charge of an ill-natured old nurse, who frequently beat him in the night because he awakened her with his cries.

One night the old hag was roused from her sleep by a strange sound, the sound of a cradle being rocked. She imagined herself dreaming. Who would come to this distant tower to rock the little Hugo? Not Amina, of that she was sure! Again the sound was heard, unmistakably the creaking of the cradle. Drawing aside her bed-curtains, the crone beheld a strange sight. Over the cradle a woman was bending, clad in long, white garments, and singing a low lullaby, and as she raised her pale face, behold! it was that of the dead Kunigunda. The nurse could neither shriek nor faint; as though fascinated, she watched the wraith nursing her child, until at cockcrow Kunigunda vanished.

In trembling tones the nurse related what she had seen to Franz and Amina. The Baron was scornful, and ridiculed the whole affair as a dream. But the cunning Amina, though she did not believe that a ghost had visited the child, thought that perhaps her rival was not really dead, and her old hatred and jealousy were reawakened. So she told her husband that she intended to see for herself whether there was any truth in the fantastic story, and would sleep that night in the nurse's bed. She did not mention her suspicions, nor the fact that she carried a sharp dagger. She was roused in the night, as the old woman had been, by the sound of a cradle being rocked. Stealthily drawing the curtains, she saw the white-robed form of the dead, the black mould clinging to her hair, the hue of death in her face. With a wild cry Amina flung herself upon Kunigunda, only to find that she was stabbing at a thing of air, an impalpable apparition which vanished at a touch. Overcome with rage and fear, she sank to the ground. The wraith moved to the door, turning with a warning gesture ere she vanished from sight, and Amina lost consciousness.

In the morning the Baron sought his wife in vain. He found instead a missive telling of her ghastly experience, intimating her intention of retiring to a nunnery, and closing with an earnest appeal to her husband to repent of his crimes.

The Baron, moved with remorse and terror, followed Amina's example; he sought in the mountain solitudes a hermitage where he might end his days in peace, and having found such a cell, he confided his little son to the care of the pastor of Wedenschied, and retired from the world in which he had played so sorry a part.

The Blind Archer

Another legend connected with the ruined stronghold of Fuerstenberg is the following. Long ago, in the days when bitter feuds and rivalries existed between the owners of neighbouring fortresses, there dwelt in Fuerstenberg a good old knight, Sir Oswald by name, well versed in the arts of war, and particularly proficient in archery. He had one son, Edwin, a handsome young man who bade fair to equal his father in skill and renown.

Sir Oswald had a sworn foe in a neighbouring baron, Wilm von Sooneck, a rich, unscrupulous nobleman who sought by every possible means to get the knight into his power. At length his cunning schemes met with success; an ambush was laid for the unsuspecting Oswald as he rode past Sooneck Castle, attended only by a groom, and both he and his servant were flung into a tower, there to await the pleasure of their captor.

And what that nobleman's pleasure was soon became evident. Ere many days had elapsed Oswald was informed that his eyes were to be put out, and soon the cruel decree was carried into execution.

Meanwhile Edwin awaited the coming of his father; and when he came not it was at first concluded that he had been captured or slain by robbers. But there were no evidences forthcoming to show that Sir Oswald had met with such a fate, and his son began to suspect that his father had fallen into the hands of Baron Wilm, for he knew of the bitter hatred which he bore toward the knight of Fuerstenberg and of his cunning and malice. He therefore cast about for a means of verifying his suspicions, and eventually disguised himself as a wandering minstrel, took his harp—for he had great skill as a musician—and set off in the direction of Sooneck. There he seated himself under a tree and played and sang sweetly, directing his gaze the while toward a strong tower which seemed to him a likely place for the incarceration of prisoners. The plaintive charm of the melody attracted the attention of a passing peasant, who drew near to listen; when the last note of the song had died away, he seated himself beside the minstrel and entered into conversation with him.

"Methinks thou hast an interest in yonder tower," he said.

"In truth it interests me," responded Edwin, nevertheless veiling his concern as much as possible by a seeming indifference. "Is it a prison, think you?"

"Ay, that it is," replied the peasant with a laugh. "'Tis the cage where my lord of Sooneck keeps the birds whose feathers he has plucked."

Edwin, still with a show of indifference, questioned him further, and elicited the fact that the peasant had witnessed the capture and incarceration in the tower of a knight and his servant on the very day when Sir Oswald and his groom had disappeared. Nothing more could Edwin glean, save that a few days hence Baron Wilm was to give a grand banquet, when many nobles and knights were to be present.

The young man, his suspicions thus fully confirmed, felt that his next move must be to gain entrance to the castle, and he decided to take advantage of the excitement and bustle attendant on the banquet to achieve this end. Accordingly, on the day fixed for the feast he again donned his minstrel's garb, and repaired to the Schloss Sooneck. Here, as he had anticipated, all was excitement and gaiety. Wine flowed freely, tongues were loosened, and the minstrel was welcomed uproariously and bidden to sing his best songs in return for a beaker of Rhenish. Soon the greater part of the company were tipsy, and Edwin moved among them, noting their conversation, coming at length to the seat of the host.

"It is said," remarked a knight, "that you have captured Sir Oswald of Fuerstenberg."

Wilm, to whom the remark was addressed, smiled knowingly and did not deny the charge.

"I have even heard," pursued his companion, "that you have had his eyes put out."

The Baron laughed outright, as at an excellent jest.

"Then you have heard truly," he said.

At this point another knight broke into the conversation. "It is a pity," said he. "There are but few archers to match Oswald of Fuerstenberg."

"I wager he can still hit a mark if it be set up," said he who had first spoken.

"Done!" cried Sooneck, and when the terms of the wager had been fixed the Baron directed that Oswald should be brought from the tower.

Edwin had overheard the conversation with a breaking heart, and grief and shame almost overwhelmed him when he saw his father, pitifully quiet and dignified, led into the banquet-hall to provide sport for a company of drunken revellers. Oswald was informed of the wager, and bow and arrows were placed in his hands.

"Baron von Sooneck," he cried, "where is the mark?"

"This cup I place upon the table," came the reply.

The arrow was fitted to the bow, released, and lo! it was not the cup which was hit, but the Lord of Sooneck, who fell forward heavily, struck to the heart and mortally wounded.

In a moment a loud outcry was raised, but ere action could be taken the minstrel had sprung in front of Oswald, and boldly faced the assembly.

"This knight," he cried, "shamefully maltreated by yonder villain, is my father. Whoso thinks he has acted wrongly in forfeiting the life of his torturer shall answer to me. With my sword I shall teach him better judgment."

The astonished knights, completely sobered by the tragic occurrence, could not but admire the courage of the lad who thus boldly championed his father, and with one voice they declared that Sir Oswald was a true knight and had done justly.

So the blind knight, once more free, returned to his castle of Fuerstenberg, compensated in part for the loss of his sight by the loving devotion of his son.

Rheinstein and Reichenstein

Centuries ago the castles of Rheinstein and Reichenstein frowned at each other from neighbouring eminences. But far from being hostile, they were the residences of two lovers. Kuno of Reichenstein loved the fair Gerda of Rheinstein with a consuming passion, and, as is so common with lovers in all ages, doubted whether his love were returned. In his devotion for the maiden he showered on her many gifts, and although his purse was light and he was master of only a single tower, he did not spare his gold if only he could make her happy and gain from her one look of approval.

On one occasion he presented to her a beauteous horse of the Limousin strain, bred under the shadow of his own castle. Deep-chested, with arched neck and eye of fire, the noble steed aroused the liveliest interest in the breast of Gerda, and she was eloquent in her thanks to the giver until, observing his ardent glances, her cheeks suffused with blushes. Taking her soft hand between his sunburnt palms, Kuno poured into her ear the story of his love.

"Gerda," he whispered, "I am a poor man. I have nothing but my sword, my ruined tower yonder, and honour. But they are yours. Will you take them with my heart?"

She lifted her blue eyes to his, full of truth and trust. "I will be yours," she murmured; "yours and none other's till death."

Young Kuno left Rheinstein that afternoon, his heart beating high with hope and happiness. The blood coursing through his veins at a gallop made him spur his charger to a like pace. But though he rode fast his brain was as busy as his hand and his heart. He must, in conformity with Rhenish custom, send as an embassy to Gerda's father one of his most distinguished relations. To whom was he to turn? There was no one but old Kurt, his wealthy uncle, whom he could send as an emissary, and although the old man had an unsavoury reputation, he decided to confide the mission to him. Kurt undertook the task in no kindly spirit, for he disliked Kuno because of his virtuous life and the circumstance that he was his heir, whom he felt was waiting to step into his shoes. However, he waited next day upon Gerda's father, the Lord of Rheinstein, and was received with all the dignity suitable to his rank and age. But when his glance rested upon the fair and innocent Gerda, such a fierce desire to make her his arose in his withered breast that when she had withdrawn he demanded her hand for himself. To her father he drew an alluring picture of his rank, his possessions, his castles, his gold, until the old man, with whom avarice was a passion, gave a hearty consent to his suit, and dismissed him with the assurance that Gerda would be his within the week.

The clatter of hoofs had hardly died away when the Lord of Rheinstein sought his daughter's bower, where she sat dreaming of Kuno. In honeyed words the old man described the enviable position she would occupy as the spouse of a wealthy man, and then conveyed to her the information that Kurt had asked him for her hand. Gerda, insulted at the mere thought of becoming the bride of such a man, refused to listen to the proposal, even from the lips of her father, and she acquainted him with her love for Kuno, whom, she declared, she had fully resolved to marry. At this avowal her father worked himself into a furious passion, and assured her that she should never be the bride of such a penniless adventurer. After further insulting the absent Kuno, and alluding in a most offensive manner to his daughter's lack of discernment and good taste, he quitted her bower, assuring her as he went that she should become the bride of Kurt on the morrow.

Gerda spent a miserable night sitting by the dying fire in her chamber, planning how she might escape from the detested Kurt, until at last her wearied brain refused to work and she fell into a troubled slumber. In the morning she was awakened by her handmaiden, who, greatly concerned for her mistress, had spent the night in prayer. But Gerda's tears had fled with the morning, and she resolved, come what might, to refuse to the last to wed with the hateful Kurt. She learned that Kuno had attempted to assault the castle during the night with the object of carrying her off, but that he had been repulsed with some loss to his small force. This made her only the more determined to persist in her resistance to his uncle.

Meantime the vassals and retainers of the house of Rheinstein had been summoned to the castle to attend the approaching ceremony, and their gay apparel now shone and glittered in the sunshine. The sound of pipe, tabour, and psaltery in melodious combination arose from the valley, and all hearts, save one, were happy. The gates were thrown open, and the bridal procession formed up to proceed to the ancient church where the unhappy Gerda was to be sacrificed to Kurt. First came a crowd of serfs, men, women, and children, all shouting in joyful anticipation of the wedding feast. Then followed the vassals and retainers of the Lord of Rheinstein, according to their several degrees, and, last, the principal actors in the shameful ceremony, Kurt, surrounded by his retainers, and the Lord of Rheinstein with the luckless Gerda. The mellow tones of the bell of St. Clement mingled sweetly with the sound of the flute and the pipe and the merry voices of the wedding throng. Gerda, mounted upon her spirited Limousin steed, the gift of Kuno, shuddered as she felt Kurt's eyes resting upon her, and she cast a despairing glance at the tower of Kuno's castle, where, disconsolate and heavy of heart, he watched the bridal procession from the highest turret.

The procession halted at the portal of the church, and all dismounted save Gerda. She was approached by the bridegroom, who with an air of leering gallantry offered her his assistance in alighting. At this moment swarms of gadflies rested on the flanks of the Limousin steed, and the spirited beast, stung to madness by the flies, reared, plunged, and broke away in a gallop, scattering the spectators to right and left, and flying like the wind along the river-bank.

"To horse, to horse!" cried Kurt and the Lord of Rheinstein, and speedily as many mounted, the bridegroom, for all his age, was first in the saddle. With the clattering of a hundred hoofs the wedding party galloped madly along Rhineside, Kurt leading on a fleet and powerful charger.

"Halt!" he cried. "Draw rein—draw rein!" But notwithstanding their shouts, cries, and entreaties, Gerda spurred on the already maddened Limousin, which thundered along the familiar road to Kuno's castle of Reichenstein. The noble steed's direction was quickly espied by Kuno, who hastened to the principal entrance of his stronghold.

"Throw open the gates," he shouted. "Down with the drawbridge. Bravo, gallant steed!"

But Kurt was close behind. Gerda could feel the breath of his charger on the hands which held her rein. Close he rode by her, but might never snatch her from the saddle. Like the wind they sped. Now she was a pace in front, now they careered onward neck and neck.

Suddenly he leaned over to seize her rein, but at that instant his horse stumbled, fell, and threw the ancient gallant heavily. Down he came on a great boulder and lay motionless.

Another moment, and the hoof-beat of the breathless steed sounded on the drawbridge of Reichenstein. The vassals of Kuno hastened to the gate to resist the expected attack, but there was none. For the wretched Kurt lay dead, killed by the fall, and his vassals were now eager to acclaim Kuno as their lord, while the Lord of Rheinstein, shrewdly observing the direction of affairs, took advantage of the tumultuous moment to make his peace with Kuno. The lovers were wedded next day amid the acclamations of their friends and retainers, and Kuno and Gerda dwelt in Rheinstein for many a year, loving and beloved.


The Legend of Falkenburg

In the imperial fortress of Falkenburg dwelt the beautiful Liba, the most charming and accomplished of maidens, with her widowed mother. Many were the suitors who climbed the hill to Falkenburg to seek the hand of Liba, for besides being beautiful she was gentle and virtuous, and withal possessed of a modest fortune left her by her father. But to all their pleadings she turned a deaf ear, for she was already betrothed to a young knight named Guntram whom she had known since childhood, and they only waited until Guntram should have received his fief from the Palsgrave to marry and settle down.

One May morning, while Liba was seated at a window of the castle watching the ships pass to and fro on the glassy bosom of the Rhine, she beheld Guntram riding up the approach to Falkenburg, and hastened to meet him. The gallant knight informed his betrothed that he was on his way to the Palsgrave to receive his fief, and had but turned aside in his journey in order to greet his beloved. She led him into the castle, where her mother received him graciously enough, well pleased at her daughter's choice.

"And now, farewell," said Guntram. "I must hasten. When I return we two shall wed; see to it that all is in readiness."

With that he mounted his horse and rode out of the courtyard, turning to wave a gay farewell to Liba. The maiden watched him disappear round a turn in the winding path, then slowly re-entered the castle.

Meanwhile Guntram went on his way, and was at length invested with his fief. The Palsgrave, pleased with the manners and appearance of the young knight, appointed him to be his ambassador in Burgundy, which honour Guntram, though with much reluctance, felt it necessary to accept. He dispatched a messenger to his faithful Liba, informing her of his appointment, which admitted of no delay, and regretting the consequent postponement of their marriage. She, indeed, was ill-pleased with the tidings and felt instinctively that some calamity was about to befall. After a time her foreboding affected her health and spirits, her former pursuits and pleasures were neglected, and day after day she sat listlessly at her casement, awaiting the return of her lover.

Guntram, having successfully achieved his mission, set out on the homeward journey. On the way he had to pass through a forest, and, having taken a wrong path, lost his way. He wandered on without meeting a living creature, and came at last to an old dilapidated castle, into the courtyard of which he entered, thankful to have reached a human habitation. He gave his horse to a staring boy, who looked at him as though he were a ghost.

"Where is your master?" queried Guntram.

The boy indicated an ivy-grown tower, to which the knight made his way. The whole place struck him as strangely sombre and weird, a castle of shadows and vague horror. He was shown into a gloomy chamber by an aged attendant, and there awaited the coming of the lord. Opposite him was hung a veiled picture, and half hoping that he might solve the mystery which pervaded the place, he drew aside the curtain. From the canvas there looked out at him a lady of surpassing beauty, and the young knight started back in awe and admiration.

In a short time the attendant returned with a thin, tall old man, the lord of the castle, who welcomed the guest with grave courtesy, and offered the hospitality of his castle. Guntram gratefully accepted his host's invitation, and when he had supped he conversed with the old man, whom he found well-informed and cultured.

"You appear to be fond of music," said the knight, indicating a harp which lay in a corner of the room.

He had observed, however, that the strings of the harp were broken, and that the instrument seemed to have been long out of use, and thought that it possibly had some connexion with the original of the veiled portrait. Whatever recollections his remark aroused must have been painful indeed, for the host sighed heavily.

"It has long been silent," he said. "My happiness has fled with its music. Good night, and sleep well." And ere the astonished guest could utter a word the old man abruptly withdrew from the room.

Shortly afterward the old attendant entered, bearing profuse apologies from his master, and begging that the knight would continue to accept his hospitality. Guntram followed the old man to his chamber. As they passed through the adjoining apartment he stopped before the veiled portrait.

"Tell me," he said, "why is so lovely a picture hidden?"

"Then you have seen it?" asked the old keeper. "That is my master's daughter. When she was alive she was even more beautiful than her portrait, but she was a very capricious maid, and demanded that her lovers should perform well-nigh impossible feats. At last only one of these lovers remained, and of him she asked that he should descend into the family vault and bring her a golden crown from the head of one of her ancestors. He did as he was bidden, but his profanation was punished with death. A stone fell from the roof and killed him. The young man's mother died soon after, cursing the foolish maid, who herself died in the following year. But ere she was buried she disappeared from her coffin and was seen no more."

When the story was ended they had arrived at the door of the knight's chamber, and in bidding him good night the attendant counselled him to say his paternoster should anything untoward happen.

Guntram wondered at his words, but at length fell asleep. Some hours later he was awakened suddenly by the rustling of a woman's gown and the soft strains of a harp, which seemed to come from the adjoining room. The knight rose quietly and looked through a chink in the door, when he beheld a lady dressed in white and bending over a harp of gold. He recognized in her the original of the veiled portrait, and saw that even the lovely picture had done her less than justice. For a moment he stood with hands clasped in silent admiration. Then with a low sound, half cry, half sob, she cast the harp from her and sank down in an attitude of utter despondency. The knight could bear it no longer and (quite forgetting his paternoster) he flung open the door and knelt at her feet, raising her hand to his lips. Gradually she became composed. "Do you love me, knight?" she said. Guntram swore that he did, with many passionate avowals, and the lady slipped a ring on his finger. Even as he embraced her the cry of a screech-owl rang through the night air, and the maiden became a corpse in his arms. Overcome with terror, he staggered through the darkness to his room, where he sank down unconscious.

On coming to himself again, he thought for a moment that the experience must have been a dream, but the ring on his hand assured him that the vision was a ghastly reality. He attempted to remove the gruesome token, but he found to his horror that it seemed to have grown to his finger.

In the morning he related his experience to the attendant. "Alas, alas!" said the old man, "in three times nine days you must die."

Guntram was quite overcome by the horror of his situation, and seemed for a time bereft of his senses. Then he had his horse saddled, and galloped as hard as he was able to Falkenburg. Liba greeted him solicitously. She could see that he was sorely troubled, but forbore to question him, preferring to wait until he should confide in her of his own accord. He was anxious that their wedding should be hastened, for he thought that his union with the virtuous Liba might break the dreadful spell.

When at length the wedding day arrived everything seemed propitious, and there was nothing to indicate the misfortune which threatened the bridegroom. The couple approached the altar and the priest joined their hands. Suddenly Guntram fell to the ground, foaming and gasping, and was carried thence to his home. The faithful Liba stayed by his side, and when he had partially recovered the knight told her the story of the spectre, and added that when the priest had joined their hands he had imagined that the ghost had put her cold hand in his. Liba attempted to soothe her repentant lover, and sent for a priest to finish the interrupted wedding ceremony. This concluded, Guntram embraced his wife, received absolution, and expired.

Liba entered a convent, and a few years later she herself passed away, and was buried by the side of her husband.

The Mouse Tower

Bishop Hatto is a figure equally well known to history and tradition, though, curiously enough, receiving a much rougher handling from the latter than the former. History relates that Hatto was Archbishop of Mainz in the tenth century, being the second of his name to occupy that see. As a ruler he was firm, zealous, and upright, if somewhat ambitious and high-handed, and his term of office was marked by a civic peace not always experienced in those times. So much for history. According to tradition, Hatto was a stony-hearted oppressor of the poor, permitting nothing to stand in the way of the attainment of his own selfish ends, and several wild legends exhibit him in a peculiarly unfavourable light.

By far the most popular of these traditions is that which deals with the Maeuseturm, or 'Mouse Tower,' situated on a small island in the Rhine near Bingen. It has never been quite decided whether the name was bestowed because of the legend, or whether the legend arose on account of the name, and it seems at least probable that the tale is of considerably later date than the tenth century. Some authorities regard the word Maeuseturm as a corruption of Mauth-turm, a 'toll-tower,' a probable but prosaic interpretation. Much more interesting is the name 'Mouse Tower,' which gives point to the tragic tale of Bishop Hatto's fate. The story cannot be better told than in the words of Southey, who has immortalized it in the following ballad:


The summer and autumn had been so wet, That in winter the corn was growing yet; 'Twas a piteous sight to see all around The grain lie rotting on the ground.

Every day the starving poor Crowded around Bishop Hatto's door, For he had a plentiful last-year's store, And all the neighbourhood could tell His granaries were furnished well.

At last Bishop Hatto appointed a day To quiet the poor without delay; He bade them to his great barn repair, And they should have food for the winter there.

Rejoiced such tidings good to hear, The poor folk flocked from far and near; The great barn was full as it could hold Of women and children, and young and old.

Then when he saw it could hold no more, Bishop Hatto he made fast the door; And while for mercy on Christ they call, He set fire to the barn and burnt them all.

"I' faith, 'tis an excellent bonfire!" quoth he, "And the country is greatly obliged to me For ridding it in these times forlorn Of rats that only consume the corn."

So then to his palace returned he, And he sat down to supper merrily; And he slept that night like an innocent man, But Bishop Hatto never slept again.

In the morning as he enter'd the hall Where his picture hung against the wall, A sweat like death all over him came, For the rats had eaten it out of the frame.

As he looked there came a man from his farm, He had a countenance white with alarm; "My lord, I opened your granaries this morn, And the rats had eaten all your corn."

Another came running presently, And he was pale as pale could be; "Fly, my Lord Bishop, fly!" quoth he, "Ten thousand rats are coming this way— The Lord forgive you for yesterday!"

"I'll go to my tower on the Rhine," replied he, "'Tis the safest place in Germany; The walls are high and the shores are steep, And the stream is strong and the water deep."

Bishop Hatto fearfully hastened away, And he crossed the Rhine without delay, And reached his tower, and barred with care All windows, doors, and loop-holes there.

He laid him down and closed his eyes;— But soon a scream made him arise, He started and saw two eyes of flame On his pillow from whence the screaming came.

He listened and looked—it was only the cat; But the Bishop he grew more fearful for that, For she sat screaming, mad with fear, At the army of rats that were drawing near.

For they have swum over the river so deep, And they have climbed the shores so steep, And up the tower their way is bent, To do the work for which they were sent.

They are not to be told by the dozen or score, By thousands they come, and by myriads and more, Such numbers had never been heard of before, Such a judgment had never been witnessed of yore.

Down on his knees the Bishop fell, And faster and faster his beads did he tell, As louder and louder, drawing near, The gnawing of their teeth he could hear.

And in at the windows and in at the door, And through the walls helter-skelter they pour, And down through the ceiling, and up through the floor, From the right and the left, from behind and before, From within and without, from above and below, And all at once to the Bishop they go.

They have whetted their teeth against the stones, And now they pick the Bishop's bones; They gnawed the flesh from every limb, For they were sent to do judgment on him.

A Legend of Ehrenfels

Many other tales are told to illustrate Hatto's cruelty and treachery. Facing the Mouse Tower, on the opposite bank of the Rhine, stands the castle of Ehrenfels, the scene of another of his ignoble deeds.

Conrad, brother of the Emperor Ludwig, had, it is said, been seized and imprisoned in Ehrenfels by the Franconian lord of that tower, Adalbert by name. It was the fortune of war, and Ludwig in turn gathered a small force and hastened to his brother's assistance. His attempts to storm the castle, however, were vain; the stronghold and its garrison stood firm. Ludwig was minded to give up the struggle for the time being, and would have done so, indeed, but for the intervention of his friend and adviser, Bishop Hatto.

"Leave him to me," said the crafty Churchman. "I know how to deal with him."

Ludwig was curious to know how his adviser proposed to get the better of Adalbert, whom he knew of old to be a man of courage and resource, but ill-disposed toward the reigning monarch. So the Bishop unfolded his scheme, to which Ludwig, with whom honour was not an outstanding feature, gave his entire approval.

In pursuance of his design Hatto sallied forth unattended, and made his way to the beleaguered fortress. Adalbert, himself a stranger to cunning and trickery, hastened to admit the messenger, whose garb showed him to be a priest, thinking him bound on an errand of peace. Hatto professed the deepest sorrow at the quarrel between Ludwig and Adalbert.

"My son," said he solemnly, "it is not meet that you and the Emperor, who once were friends, should treat each other as enemies. Our sire is ready to forgive you for the sake of old friendship; will you not give him the opportunity and come with me?"

Adalbert was entirely deceived by the seeming sincerity of the Bishop, and so touched by the clemency of the sovereign that he promised to go in person and make submission if Hatto would but guarantee his safety.

The conversation was held in the Count's oratory, and the Churchman knelt before the crucifix and swore in the most solemn manner that he would bring Adalbert safely back to his castle.

In a very short time they were riding together on the road to Mainz, where Ludwig held court. When they were a mile or two from Ehrenfels Hatto burst into a loud laugh, and in answer to the Count's questioning glance he said merrily:

"What a perfect host you are! You let your guest depart without even asking him whether he has breakfasted. And I am famishing, I assure you!"

The courteous Adalbert was stricken with remorse, and murmured profuse apologies to his guest. "You must think but poorly of my hospitality," said he; "in my loyalty I forgot my duty as a host."

"It is no matter," said Hatto, still laughing. "But since we have come but a little way, would it not be better to return to Ehrenfels and breakfast? You are young and strong, but I—"

"With pleasure," replied the Count, and soon they were again within the castle enjoying a hearty meal. With her own hands the young Countess presented a beaker of wine to the guest, and he, ere quaffing it, cried gaily to Adalbert:

"Your health! May you have the reward I wish for you!" Once again they set out on their journey, and reached Mainz about nightfall. That very night Adalbert was seized ignominiously and dragged before the Emperor. By Ludwig's side stood the false Bishop.

"What means this outrage?" cried the Count, looking from one to the other.

"Thou art a traitor," said Ludwig, "and must suffer the death of a traitor."

Adalbert addressed himself to the Bishop.

"And thou," he said, "thou gavest me thine oath that thou wouldst bring me in safety to Ehrenfels."

"And did I not do so, fool?" replied Hatto contemptuously. "Was it my fault if thou didst not exact a pledge ere we set out for the second time?"

Adalbert saw now the trap into which he had fallen, and his fettered limbs trembled with anger against the crafty priest. But he was impotent.

"Away with him to the block!" said the Emperor.

"Amen," sneered Hatto, still chuckling over the success of his strategy.

And so Adalbert went forth to his doom, the victim of the cruel Churchman's treachery.


Rheingrafenstein, perched upon its sable foundations of porphyry, is the scene of a legend which tells of a terrible bargain with Satan—that theme so frequent in German folk-tale.

A certain nobleman, regarding the site as impregnable and therefore highly desirable, resolved to raise a castle upon the lofty eminence, But the more he considered the plan the more numerous appeared the difficulties in the way of its consummation.

Every pro and con was carefully argued, but to no avail. At last in desperation the nobleman implored assistance from the Enemy of Mankind, who, hearing his name invoked, and scenting the possibility of gaining a recruit to the hosts of Tartarus, speedily manifested his presence, promising to build the castle in one night if the nobleman would grant him the first living creature who should look from its windows. To this the nobleman agreed, and upon the following day found the castle awaiting his possession. He did not dare to enter it, however. But he had communicated his secret to his wife, who decided to circumvent the Evil One by the exercise of her woman's wit. Mounting her donkey, she rode into the castle, bidding all her men follow her. Satan waited on the alert. But the Countess amid great laughter pinned a kerchief upon the ass's head, covered it with a cap, and, leading it to the window, made it thrust its head outside.

Satan immediately pounced upon what he believed to be his lawful prey, and with joy in his heart seized upon and carried off the struggling beast of burden. But the donkey emitted such a bray that, recognizing the nature of his prize, the Fiend in sheer disgust dropped it and vanished in a sulphurous cloud, to the accompaniment of inextinguishable laughter from Rheingrafenstein.

Ruedesheim and its Legends

The town of Ruedesheim is a place famous in song and story, and some of the legends connected with it date from almost prehistoric times. Passing by in the steamer, the traveller who cares for architecture will doubtless be surprised to mark an old church which would seem to be at least partly of Norman origin; but this is not the only French association which Ruedesheim boasts, for Charlemagne, it is said, loved the place and frequently resided there, while tradition even asserts that he it was who instituted the vine-growing industry on the adjacent hills. He perceived that whenever snow fell there it melted with amazing rapidity; and, judging from this that the soil was eminently suitable for bringing forth a specially fine quality of grape, he sent to France for a few young vine plants. Soon these were thriving in a manner which fully justified expectations. The wines of Ruedesheim became exceptionally famous; and, till comparatively recent times, one of the finest blends was always known as Wein von Orleans, for it was thence that the pristine cuttings had been imported.

But it need scarcely be said, perhaps, that most of the legends current at Ruedesheim are not concerned with so essentially pacific an affair as the production of Rhenish. Another story of the place relates how one of its medieval noblemen, Hans, Graf von Brauser, having gone to Palestine with a band of Crusaders, was taken prisoner by the Saracens; and during the period of his captivity he vowed that, should he ever regain his liberty, he would signify his pious gratitude by causing his only daughter, Minna, to take the veil. Rather a selfish kind of piety this appears! Yet mayhap Hans was really devoted to his daughter, and his resolution to part with her possibly entailed a heart-rending sacrifice; while, be that as it may, he had the reward he sought, for now his prison was stormed and he himself released, whereupon he hastened back to his home at Ruedesheim with intent to fulfil his promise to God. On reaching his schloss, however, Graf Hans was confronted by a state of affairs which had not entered into his calculations, the fact being that in the interim his daughter had conceived an affection for a young nobleman called Walther, and had promised to marry him at an early date. Here, then, was a complication indeed, and Hans was sorely puzzled to know how to act, while the unfortunate Minna was equally perplexed, and for many weeks she endured literal torment, her heart being racked by a constant storm of emotions. She was deeply attached to Walther, and she felt that she would never be able to forgive herself if she broke her promise to him and failed to bring him the happiness which both were confident their marriage would produce; but, on the other hand, being of a religious disposition, she perforce respected the vow her father had made, and thought that if it were broken he and all his household would be doomed to eternal damnation, while even Walther might be involved in their ruin. "Shall I make him happy in this world only that he may lose his soul in the next?" she argued; while again and again her father reminded her that a promise to God was of more moment than a promise to man, and he implored her to hasten to the nearest convent and retire behind its walls. Still she wavered, however, and still her father pleaded with her, sometimes actually threatening to exert his parental authority. One evening, driven to despair, Minna sought to cool her throbbing pulses by a walk on the wind-swept heights overlooking the Rhine at Ruedesheim. Possibly she would be able to come to a decision there, she thought; but no! she could not bring herself to renounce her lover, and with a cry of despair she flung herself over the steep rocks into the swirling stream.

A hideous death it was. The maiden was immolated on the altar of superstition, and the people of Ruedesheim were awestruck as they thought of the pathetic form drifting down the river. Nor did posterity fail to remember the story, and down to recent times the boatmen of the neighbourhood, when seeing the Rhine wax stormy at the place where Minna was drowned, were wont to whisper that her soul was walking abroad, and that the maiden was once again wrestling with the conflicting emotions which had broken her heart long ago.


Knight Broemser of Ruedesheim was one of those who renounced comfort and home ties to throw in his lot with the Crusaders. He was a widower, and possessed a beautiful daughter, Gisela. In the holy wars in Palestine Broemser soon became distinguished for his bravery, and enterprises requiring wit and prowess often were entrusted to him.

Now it befell that the Christian camp was thrown into consternation by the appearance of a huge dragon which took up its abode in the mountainous country, the only locality whence water could be procured, and the increasing scarcity of the supply necessitated the extirpation of the monster. The Crusaders were powerless through fear; many of them regarded the dragon as a punishment sent from Heaven because of the discord and rivalry which divided them.

At last the brave Broemser offered to attempt the dragon's destruction, and after a valiant struggle he succeeded in slaying it. On his way back to the camp he was surprised by a party of Saracens, and after various hardships was cast into a dungeon. Here he remained in misery for a long while, and during his solitary confinement he made a vow that if he ever returned to his native land he would found a convent and dedicate his daughter as its first nun.

Some time later the Saracens' stronghold was attacked by Christians and the knight set free. In due course he returned to Ruedesheim, where he was welcomed by Gisela, and the day after his arrival a young knight named Kurt of Falkenstein begged him for her hand. Gisela avowed her love for Kurt, and Broemser sadly replied that he would willingly accede to the young people's wishes, for Falkenstein's father was his companion-in-arms, were he not bound by a solemn vow to dedicate his daughter to the Church. When Falkenstein at last understood that the knight's decision was irrevocable he galloped off as if crazed. The knight's vow, however, was not to be fulfilled; Gisela's reason became unhinged, she wandered aimlessly through the corridors of the castle, and one dark and stormy night cast herself into the Rhine and was drowned. Broemser built the convent, but in vain did he strive to free his conscience from remorse. Many were his benefactions, and he built a church on the spot where one of his servants found a wooden figure of the Crucified, which was credited with miraculous powers of healing. But all to no purpose. Haunted by the accusing spirit of his unfortunate daughter, he gradually languished and at last died in the same year that the church was completed.

Further up the river is Oestrich, adjacent to which stood the famous convent of Gottesthal, not a vestige of which remains to mark its former site. Its memory is preserved, however, in the following appalling legend, the noble referred to being the head of one of the ancient families of the neighbourhood.

The Nun of Oestrich

Among the inmates of Gottesthal was a nun of surpassing loveliness, whose beauty had aroused the wild passion of a certain noble. Undeterred by the fact of the lady being a cloistered nun, he found a way of communicating his passion to her, and at last met her face to face, despite bars and bolts. Eloquently he pleaded his love, swearing to free her from her bonds, to devote his life to her if only she would listen to his entreaties. He ended his asseverations by kneeling before the statue of the Virgin, vowing in her name and that of the Holy Babe to be true, and renouncing his hopes of Heaven if he should fail in the least of his promises. The nun listened and in the end, overcome by his fervour, consented to his wishes.

So one night, under cover of the darkness, she stole from the sheltering convent, forgetting her vows in the arms of her lover. Then for a while she knew a guilty happiness, but even this was of short duration, for the knight soon tired and grew cold toward her. At length she was left alone, scorned and sorrowful, a prey to misery, while her betrayer rode off in search of other loves and gaieties, spreading abroad as he went the story of his conquest and his desertion.

When the injured woman learned the true character of her lover her love changed to a frenzied hate. Her whole being became absorbed in a desire for revenge, her thoughts by day being occupied by schemes for compassing his death, her dreams by night being reddened by his blood. At last she plotted with a band of ruffians, promising them great rewards if they would assassinate her enemy. They agreed and, waylaying the noble, stabbed him fatally in the name of the woman he had wronged and slighted, then, carrying the hacked body into the village church, they flung it at the foot of the altar.

That night the nun, in a passion of insensate fury, stole into the holy place. Down the length of the church she dragged her lover's corpse, and out into the graveyard, tearing open his body and plucking his heart therefrom with a fell purpose that never wavered. With a shriek she flung it on the ground and trampled upon it in a ruthlessness of hate terrible to contemplate.

And the legend goes on to tell that after her death she still pursued her lover with unquenchable hatred. It is said that when the midnight bell is tolling she may yet be seen seeking his tomb, from which she lifts a bloody heart. She gazes on it with eyes aflame, then, laughing with hellish glee, flings it three times toward the skies, only to let it fall to earth, where she treads it beneath her feet, while from her thick white veil runnels of blood pour down and all around dreary death-lights burn and shed a ghastly glow upon the awful spectre.

Ingelheim: Charlemagne the Robber

Among the multitude of legends which surround the name of Charlemagne there can hardly be found a quainter or more interesting one than that which has for a background the old town of Ingelheim (Angel's Home), where at one time the Emperor held his court.

It is said that one night when Charlemagne had retired to rest he was disturbed by a curious dream. In his vision he saw an angel descend on broad white pinions to his bedside, and the heavenly visitant bade him in the name of the Lord go forth and steal some of his neighbour's goods. The angel warned him ere he departed that the speedy forfeiture of throne and life would be the penalty for disregarding the divine injunction.

The astonished Emperor pondered the strange message, but finally decided that it was but a dream, and he turned on his side to finish his interrupted slumbers. Scarcely had he closed his eyelids, however, ere the divine messenger was again at his side, exhorting him in still stronger terms to go forth and steal ere the night passed, and threatening him this time with the loss of his soul if he failed to obey.

When the angel again disappeared the trembling monarch raised himself in bed, sorely troubled at the difficulty of his situation. That he, so rich, so powerful that he wanted for nothing, should be asked to go out in the dead of night and steal his neighbour's goods, like any of the common robbers whom he was wont to punish so severely! No! the thing was preposterous. Some fiend had appeared in angelic form to tempt him. And again his weary head sank in his pillow. Rest, however, was denied him. For a third time the majestic being appeared, and in tones still more stern demanded his obedience.

"If thou be not a thief," said he, "ere yonder moon sinks in the west, then art thou lost, body and soul, for ever."

The Emperor could no longer disbelieve the divine nature of the message, and he arose sadly, dressed himself in full armour, and took up his sword and shield, his spear and hunting-knife. Stealthily he quitted his chamber, fearing every moment to be discovered. He imagined himself being detected by his own court in the act of privily leaving his own palace, as though he were a robber, and the thought was intolerable. But his fears were unfounded; all—warders, porters, pages, grooms, yea, the very dogs and horses—were wrapped in a profound slumber. Confirmed in his determination by this miracle—for it could be nothing less—the Emperor saddled his favourite horse, which alone remained awake, and set out on his quest.

It was a beautiful night in late autumn. The moon hung like a silver shield in the deep blue arch of the sky, casting weird shadows on the slopes and lighting the gloom of the ancient forests. But Charlemagne had no eye for scenery at the moment. He was filled with grief and shame when he thought of his mission, yet he dared not turn aside from it. To add to his misery, he was unacquainted with the technicalities of the profession thus thrust upon him, and did not quite know how to set about it.

For the first time in his life, too, he began to sympathize with the robbers he had outlawed and persecuted, and to understand the risks and perils of their life. Nevermore, he vowed, would he hang a man for a trifling inroad upon his neighbour's property.

As he thus pursued his reflections a knight, clad from head to foot in coal-black armour and mounted on a black steed, issued silently from a clump of trees and rode unseen beside him.

Charlemagne continued to meditate upon the dangers and misfortunes of a robber's life.

"There is Elbegast," said he to himself; "for a small offence I have deprived him of land and fee, and have hunted him like an animal. He and his knights risk their lives for every meal. He respects not the cloth of the Church, it is true, yet methinks he is a noble fellow, for he robs not the poor or the pilgrim, but rather enriches them with part of his plunder. Would he were with me now!"

His reflections were suddenly stopped, for he now observed the black knight riding by his side.

"It may be the Fiend," said Charlemagne to himself, spurring his steed.

But though he rode faster and faster, his strange companion kept pace with him. At length the Emperor reined in his steed, and demanded to know who the stranger might be. The black knight refused to answer his questions, and the two thereupon engaged in furious combat. Again and again the onslaught was renewed, till at last Charlemagne succeeded in cleaving his opponent's blade.

"My life is yours," said the black knight.

"Nay," replied the monarch, "what would I with your life? Tell me who you are, for you have fought gallantly this night."

The stranger drew himself up and replied with simple dignity, "I am Elbegast."

Charlemagne was delighted at thus having his wish fulfilled. He refused to divulge his name, but intimated that he, too, was a robber, and proposed that they should join forces for the night.

"I have it," said he. "We will rob the Emperor's treasury. I think I could show you the way."

The black knight paused. "Never yet," he said, "have I wronged the Emperor, and I shall not do so now. But at no great distance stands the castle of Eggerich von Eggermond, brother-in-law to the Emperor. He has persecuted the poor and betrayed the innocent to death. If he could, he would take the life of the Emperor himself, to whom he owes all. Let us repair thither."

Near their destination they tied their horses to a tree and strode across the fields. On the way Charlemagne wrenched off the iron share from a plough, remarking that it would be an excellent tool wherewith to bore a hole in the castle wall—a remark which his comrade received in silence, though not without surprise. When they arrived at the castle Elbegast seemed anxious to see the ploughshare at work, for he begged Charlemagne to begin operations.

"I know not how to find entrance," said the latter.

"Let us make a hole in the wall," the robber-knight suggested, producing a boring instrument of great strength. The Emperor gallantly set to work with his ploughshare, though, as the wall was ten feet thick, it is hardly surprising that he was not successful. The robber, laughing at his comrade's inexperience, showed him a wide chasm which his boring instrument had made, and bade him remain there while he fetched the spoil. In a very short time he returned with as much plunder as he could carry.

"Let us get away," said the Emperor. "We can carry no more."

"Nay," said Elbegast, "but I would return, with your permission. In the chamber occupied by Eggerich and his wife there is a wonderful caparison, made of gold and covered with little bells. I want to prove my skill by carrying it off."

"As you will," was Charlemagne's laughing response.

Without a sound Elbegast reached the bedchamber of his victim, and was about to raise the caparison when he suddenly stumbled and all the bells rang out clearly.

"My sword, my sword!" cried Eggerich, springing up, while Elbegast sank back into the shadows.

"Nay," said the lady, trying to calm her husband. "You did but hear the wind, or perhaps it was an evil dream. Thou hast had many evil dreams of late, Eggerich; methinks there is something lies heavily on thy mind. Wilt thou not tell thy wife?"

Elbegast listened intently while with soft words and caresses the lady strove to win her husband's secret.

"Well," said Eggerich at last in sullen tones, "we have laid a plot, my comrades and I. To-morrow we go to Ingelheim, and ere noon Charlemagne shall be slain and his lands divided among us."

"What!" shrieked the lady. "Murder my brother! That will you never while I have strength to warn him." But the villain, with a brutal oath, struck her so fiercely in the face that the blood gushed out, and she sank back unconscious.

The robber was not in a position to avenge the cruel act, but he crawled nearer the couch and caught some of the blood in his gauntlet, for a sign to the Emperor. When he was once more outside the castle he told his companion all that had passed and made as though to return.

"I will strike off his head," said he. "The Emperor is no friend of mine, but I love him still."

"What is the Emperor to us?" cried Charlemagne. "Are you mad that you risk our lives for the Emperor?" The black knight looked at him solemnly.

"An we had not sworn friendship," said he, "your life should pay for these words. Long live the Emperor!" Charlemagne, secretly delighted with the loyalty of the outlawed knight, recommended him to seek the Emperor on the morrow and warn him of his danger. But Elbegast, fearing the gallows, would not consent to this; so his companion promised to do it in his stead and meet him afterward in the forest. With that they parted, the Emperor returning to his palace, where he found all as he had left it.

In the morning he hastily summoned his council, told them of his dream and subsequent adventures, and of the plot against his life. The paladins were filled with horror and indignation, and Charlemagne's secretary suggested that it was time preparations were being made for the reception of the assassins. Each band of traitors as they arrived was seized and cast into a dungeon. Though apparently clad as peaceful citizens, they were all found to be armed. The last band to arrive was led by Eggerich himself. Great was his dismay when he saw his followers led off in chains, and angrily he demanded to know the reason for such treatment.

Charlemagne thereupon charged him with treason, and Eggerich flung down the gauntlet in defiance. It was finally arranged that the Emperor should provide a champion to do battle with the traitor, the combat to take place at sunrise on the following morning.

A messenger rode to summon Elbegast, but he had much difficulty in convincing the black knight that it was not a plot to secure his undoing.

"And what would the Emperor with me?" he demanded of the messenger, as at length they rode toward Ingelheim.

"To do battle to the death with a deadly foe of our lord the Emperor—Eggerich von Eggermond."

"God bless the Emperor!" exclaimed Elbegast fervently, raising his helmet. "My life is at his service." Charlemagne greeted the knight affectionately and asked what he had to tell concerning the conspiracy, whereupon Sir Elbegast fearlessly denounced the villainous Eggerich, and said he, "I am ready to prove my assertions upon his body." The challenge was accepted, and at daybreak the following morning a fierce combat took place. The issue, however, was never in doubt: Sir Elbegast was victorious, the false Eggerich was slain, and his body hanged on a gibbet fifty feet high. The emperor now revealed himself to the black knight both as his companion-robber and as the messenger who had brought him the summons to attend his Emperor.

Charlemagne's sister, the widow of Eggerich, he gave to Sir Elbegast in marriage, and with her the broad lands which had belonged to the vanquished traitor. Thenceforward the erstwhile robber and his sovereign were fast friends.

The place where these strange happenings befell was called Ingelheim, in memory of the celestial visitor, and Ingelheim it remains to this day.

The Knight and the Yellow Dwarf

Elfeld is the principal town of the Rheingau, and in ancient times was a Roman station called Alta Villa. In the fourteenth century it was raised to the rank of a town by Ludwig of Bavaria, and placed under the stewardship of the Counts of Elz.

These Counts of Elz dwelt in the castle by the river's edge, and of one of them, Ferdinand, the following tale is told. This knight loved pleasure and wild living, and would indulge his whims and passions without regard to cost. Before long he found that as a result of his extravagance his possessions had dwindled away almost to nothing. He knew himself a poor man, yet his desire for pleasure was still unsatisfied. Mortified and angry, he hid himself in the castle of Elz and spent his time lamenting his poverty and cursing his fate. While in this frame of mind the news reached him of a tournament that the Emperor purposed holding in celebration of his wedding. To this were summoned the chivalry and beauty of Germany from far and near, and soon knights and ladies were journeying to take their part in the tourney, the feasting and dancing.

Ferdinand realized that he was precluded from joining his brother nobles and was inconsolable. He became the prey of rage and shame, and at last resolved to end a life condemned to ignominy. So one day he sought a height from which to hurl himself, but ere he could carry out his purpose there appeared before him a dwarf, clad in yellow from top to toe. With a leer and a laugh he looked up at the frantic knight, and asked why the richest noble in the land should be seeking death. Something in the dwarf's tone caused Ferdinand to listen and suddenly to hope for he knew not what miracle. His eyes gleamed as the dwarf went on to speak of sacks of gold, and when the little creature asked for but a single hair in return he laughed aloud and offered him a hundred. But the dwarf smiled and shook his head. The noble bowed with a polite gesture, and as he bent his head the little man reached up and plucked out but one hair, and, lo! a sack of gold straightway appeared. At this Ferdinand thought that he must be dreaming, but the sack and gold pieces were real enough to the touch, albeit the dwarf had vanished. Then, in great haste, Ferdinand bought rich and costly clothing and armour, also a snow-white steed caparisoned with steel and purple trappings, spending on these more than twenty sacks of gold, for the dwarf returned to the noble many times and on each occasion gave a sack of gold in exchange for one hair. At last Ferdinand set out for the tournament, where, besides carrying off the richest prizes and winning the heart of many a fair lady, he attracted the notice of the Emperor, who invited him to stay at his court.

And there the knight resumed his former passions and pleasures, living the wildest of lives and thinking no price too high for careless enjoyment. And each night, ere the hour of twelve finished striking, the yellow dwarf appeared with a sack of gold, taking his usual payment of only one hair. This wild life now began to tell upon Ferdinand. He fell an easy prey to disease, which the doctors could not cure, and to the pricks of a late-roused conscience, which no priests could soothe. All his wasted past rose before him. Day and night his manifold sins appeared before him like avenging furies, until at last, frenzied by this double torture of mind and body, he called upon the Devil to aid him in putting an end to his miserable existence, for so helpless was he, he could neither reach nor use a weapon. Then at his side appeared once more the dwarf, smiling and obliging as usual. He proffered, not a sack of gold this time, but a rope of woven hair, the hair which he had taken from Ferdinand in exchange for his gold. In the morning the miserable noble was found hanging by that rope.


Mainz, the old Maguntiacum, was the principal fortress on the Upper Rhine in Roman times. It was here that Crescentius, one of the first preachers of the Christian faith on the Rhine, regarded by local tradition as the pupil of St. Peter and first Archbishop of Mainz, suffered martyrdom in the reign of Trajan in A.D. 103. He was a centurion in the Twenty-second Legion, which had been engaged under Titus in the destruction of Jerusalem, and it is supposed that he preached the Gospel in Mainz for thirty-three years before his execution. Here also it was that the famous vision of Constantine, the cross in the sky, was vouchsafed to the Christian conqueror as he went forth to meet the forces of Maxentius. The field of the Holy Cross in the vicinity of Mainz is still pointed out as the spot where this miracle took place. The city flourished under the Carlovingians, and was in a high state of prosperity at the time of Bishop Hatto, whose name, as we have seen, has been held up to obloquy in many legends.

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