Ann was the first to be told of my happiness, and whereas she had hitherto been steadfastly set on eschewing the great dances of the upper class so long as she was unwed, this time she did our will, for that she had no mind to spoil my pleasure by her absence.
Thus had Love taken up his abode with me likewise; and meseemed it was like a fair, still, blooming morning in the Forest. A pure, perfect, and peaceful gladness had opened in my soul, a way of seeing which lent sweetness and glory to all things far and wide, and joyful thanksgiving for that all things were so good.
As I looked back on that morning when Ann had flown to Herdegen's breast, and as I called to mind the turmoil of passion of which I had read in many a poem and love-tale, I weened that I had dreamed of somewhat else as the first blossoming of love in my heart, that I had looked to feel a fierce and glowing flame, a burning anguish, a wild and stormy fever. And yet, as it had come upon me, methought it was better; albeit the sun of my love had not risen in scarlet fire, it was not therefore small nor cool; the image of my dear mother was ever-present with me; and methought that the love I felt was as pure and fair as though it had come upon me from her heavenly home.
And how loving and hearty was the welcome given me by my lover's parents, when they received me in their noble dwelling, and called me their dear daughter, and showed me all the treasures contained in the home of the Hallers'. In this fine house, with its broad fair gardens—a truly lordly dwelling, for which many a prince would have been fain to exchange his castle and hunting demesne—I was to rule as wife and mistress at the right hand of my Hans' mother, whose kind and dignified countenance pleased me well indeed, and by whose friendly lips I, an orphan, was so glad to be called "Child" and daughter. Nor were his worshipful father and his younger brethren one whit less dear to me. I was to become a member—nay, as the eldest son's wife, the female head—of one of the highest families in the town, of one whose sons would have a hand in its government so long as there should be a town-council in Nuremberg.
My lover had indeed been elected to sit in the minor council soon after his homecoming, being no longer a boy, but near on thirty years of age. And his manners befitted his years; dignified and modest, albeit cheerful and full of a young man's open-minded ardor for everything that was above the vulgar. With him, for certain, if with any man, might I grow to be all I desired to become; and could I but learn to rule my fiery temper, I might hope to follow in the ways of his mother, whom he held above all other women. The great dance, of which I have already made mention, and whither Ann had agreed to come with us, was the first I should go to with my well-beloved Hans. The worshipful Council had taken care to display all their best bravery in honor of the Emperor's envoys; they had indeed allied themselves with the constable of the Castle, the Prince Elector, to do all in their power to have the Assembly held at Nuremberg, rather than at Ratisbon, and to that end it was needful to win the good graces of the Ambassadors.
All the patricians and youth of the good city were gathered at the town-hall, and the beginning of the feast was pure enjoyment. The guests were indeed amazed at the richness of our great hall and civic treasure, as likewise at the brave apparel and great show of jewels worn by the gentlemen and ladies.
There were six envoys, and at their head was Duke Rumpold of Glogau; but among the knights in attendance on him I need only name that very Baron Franz von Welemisl who had been so sorely hurt out in the forest garden for my sake, and a Junker of Altmark, by name Henning von Beust, son of one of the rebellious houses who strove against the customs, laws, and rights over the marches, as claimed by our Lord Constable the Elector.
Baron Franz was now become chamberlain to the emperor and, albeit cured indeed of his wounds, was plagued by a bad cough. Still he could boast of the same noble and knightly presence as of old, and his pale face, paler than ever I had known it, under his straight black hair, with the feeble tones of his soft voice, went right to many a maiden's heart; also his rich black dress, sparkling with fine gems, beseemed him well.
Presently, when he saw that Hans and I were plighted lovers, he feigned as though his heart were stricken to death; but I soon perceived that he could take comfort, and that he had bestowed the love he had once professed for me, with compound increase on Ursula Tetzel. She was ready enough to let him make love to her, and I wished the swarthy courtier all good speed with the damsel.
A dancing-hall is in all lands a stew full of fish, as it were, for gentlemen from court, and Junker Henning von Beust had no sooner come in than he began to angle; and whereas Sir Franz's bait was melancholy and mourning, the Junker strove to win hearts by sheer mirth and bold manners.
My lover himself had commended him to my favor by reason that the gentleman was lodging under his parents' roof; and he and I and Ann had found much pleasure these two days past in his light and openhearted friendliness. Nought more merry indeed might be seen than this red-haired young nobleman, in parti-colored attire, with pointed scallops round the neck and arm-holes, which fluttered as he moved and many little bells twinkling merrily. Light and life beamed forth out of this gladsome youth's blue eyes. He had never sat at a school-desk; while our boys had been poring over their books, he had been riding with his father at a hunt or a fray, or had lurked in ambush by the highway for the laden wagons of those very "pepper sacks"—[A nickname for grocery merchants]—whose good wine and fair daughters he was so far from scorning in their own town-hall.
He had already fallen in love with Ann at the Hallerhof, and never quit her side although, after I had overheard certain sharp words by which Ursula Tetzel strove to lower the maid in his opinion, I told him plainly of what rank and birth she was.
For this he cared not one whit; nay, it increased his pleasure in making much of her and trying to spoil her shrewish foe's sport. It seemed as though he could never have enough of dancing with Ann, and so soon as the town pipers struck up, with cornets, trumpets, horns, and haut-boys, fiddles, sack-buts and rebecks, the rattle of drums and the groaning of bagpipes, while the Swiss fifes squeaked shrilly above the clatter of the kettle-drums, methought the music itself flung him in the air and brought him low again. With his free and mirthful ways he carried all before him, and when presently it was plain to all that he could outdo our nimblest dancers, and was a master of each kind of dance which was held in favor at every court, whether of Brandenburg, of Saxony, of Bohemia, or at our own Emperor Sigismund's Hungarian court, he was ere long entreated to show us some new figures of the dance; nor was he loth to do so.
Nay, he presently went to such lengths that our Franconian and Nuremberg nobles could but turn away their faces, inasmuch as he began so wild and unseemly a dance as was overmuch even for me, despite my youth and sheer delight in the quick measure.
My Hans, the young councillor, took pleasure in leading me forth in the Polish dance, or with due dignity in the Swabian figure, but he held back, as was fitting, from the mad whirl of the gipsy dance and of the "Dove dance;" and he, and I likewise, courteously withstood his bidding to join in the Dance of the Dead as it was in use in Brandenburg, Hungary, and Schleswig: one has to be for dead, and as he lieth another shall come to wake him with a kiss. On this Junker von Beust, who was, as the march—men say, the dance-corpse, entrapped Ann in a strange adventure. Ann kissed not his cheek, but in the air near by it, and the bold knave, who had no mind to forego so sweet a boon, declared to her after the dance was over that she was his debtor, and that he would give her no peace till she should pay him his due.
Ann courteously prayed him that he would be a merciful creditor and remit the payment of that she had indeed omitted, though truly out of no ill-will. And whereas he would by no means consent, the dispute was taken up by others present and Jorg Loffelholz devised the fancy of holding a Court of Love to decide the case.
This met with noisy approval, and albeit I and my dear Hans, and some others with us, made protest, the damsels were presently seated in a circle and Jorg Loffelholz, who was chosen to preside, asked of each to pronounce sentence. Thus it came to the turn of Ursula Tetzel and she, looking round on Junker Henning or ever she spoke, said, with a proud curl of her red lips, that she could give no opinion, inasmuch as she only knew what beseemed young maids of noble birth.
On this the Junker answered with such high and grave dignity as I should not have looked for in so scatter-brained a wight: "The best patent of nobility, fair lady, is that of the maid to whom God Almighty has vouchsafed the gentlest soul and sweetest grace; and in all this assembly I have found none more richly endowed with both than the damsel against whom I in jest have made complaint. Wherefor I pray the presiding judge of this Court of Love to ask you once more for your verdict."
Ursula found this ill to brook; nevertheless her high spirit was ready to meet it. She laughed loudly, and with seeming lightness, as she hastily answered him: "Then you haughty lords of the marches allow not that it is in the Emperor's power to grant letters of nobility, but ascribe it to Heaven alone! A bold opinion. Howbeit, I care not for politics, and will pronounce my sentence. If it had been Margery Schopper, who had refused the kiss, or Elsa Ebner, or any one of us whose ancestors bore arms by grace of the Emperor, and not of the God of the Brandenburgers, I would have condemned her to give you, in lieu of one kiss, two, in the presence of witnesses; but inasmuch as it is Mistress Ann Spiesz who has dared to withhold from a noble gentleman, a guest of the town, what we highborn damsels would readily have paid I grant her of our mercy, grace and leave to kiss the hand of Junker Henning von Beust, in token of penitence." The words were spoken clearly and steadfastly; all were silent, and I will confess that as Ursula gave her answer to the Junker with beaming eyes and quivering lips, never had I seen her more fair. It could plainly be seen by her heaving bosom how gladly she gave free vent to her old cherished grudge; and that she had in truth wounded the maid she hated to the very soul, Ann showed by her deathly paleness. Yet found she not a word in reply; and while Ursula was speaking, meseemed in the fullness of my wrath and grief as though a cloud were rising before my eyes. But so soon as she ceased and my eyes met the triumphant look in hers, my mind suddenly grew clear again, and never heeding the multitude that stood about us, I went a step forward, and cried: "We all thank you, Junker; you have taken the worthier part; the only part, Ursula," and I looked her sternly in the face, "the only part which I would have a friend of mine take, or any true heart."
The Junker bowed, and with a reproachful glance at Ursula he said: "Would to God I might never have a harder choice to make!" Whereupon he turned his back on her and went up to Ann; but Ursula again laughed loudly and called after him in defiance: "Oh! may heaven ever keep your wits clear when you have to choose, and especially when you have to discern on the high-road betwixt what is your own and what belongs to other folks."
The blood mounted to the Junker's face, and, as with a hasty gesture he smoothed back the fierce hair on his lip, methought he might seem the same as when he rose in his saddle to rush down on our merchants' wains; for indeed it was the Beusts, with the Alvenslebens, their near kinsfolks, who had fallen upon the train of waggons belonging to the Muffels and the Tetzels, near Juterbock, not a year ago.
But, hotly as his blood boiled, the Junker refrained himself, inasmuch as knightly courtesy forbade him to repay Ursula in the like coin; and as it fell Cousin Maud was enabled to aid him in this praiseworthy selfrule. She came forward with long strides, and her eyes flashed wrathful threats, till meseemed they were more fiery than the jewels in the tall plumes she wore on her head. She thrust aside the young men and maid who made up the Court of Love as a swift ship cuts through the small fry in the water. Without let or pause she pushed on, and as soon as she caught sight of Ann she seized her by the arm, stroked her hair and cheeks, and flung a few sharp words at Ursula:
"I will talk to you presently!" Then she bid me remain behind with Hans and withdrew, carrying Ann with her, while Junker Henning followed praying to be forgiven for all the discomfort she had suffered by reason of him. This Ann gladly granted, and besought us and him alike to come with her no further.
When he came back to us Ursula, who was aggrieved by the looks of displeasure she met on all sides, cried out: "Back already, Sir Junker? If you had so lightly yielded your rights to kiss of mine, you may be certain that I would have appealed to any one who would do my behest to call you to account for such scorn!"
She eyed the young nobleman with a bold gaze, never weening that this challenge was all he waited for. He tossed his curly head, and cried with sparkling eyes: "Then, mistress, I would have you to know that I would take no kiss from you, even if you were to offer it. I have spoken—now call forth your champions."
He was silent a moment, and then, glancing round at the bystanders with defiant looks, he went on: "If any gentleman here present sets a higher price than I, the high-born Henning Beust, heir and Lord of Busta and Schadstett, on a kiss from the lips which have wronged my fair lady with spiteful speech, let him now stoop and pick up my glove. There it lies!"
And he flung it on the ground, while Ursula turned pale. Her eyes turned from one to another of the young gentlemen who paid her court and they were many—and the longer silence reigned the faster came her breath and the hotter waxed her ire. But on a sudden she was calm; her eyes had lighted on Sir Franz von Welemisl, and all might read what she demanded of him. The Bohemian understood her; he picked up the glove and muttered to the Junker with a shrug: "Mistress Ursula commands me!"
A look of pain passed over the brave youth's merry face, for that heretofore the young knight and he had been in good fellowship, and he hastily answered: "Nay, Sir Knight; I would have crossed swords with you readily enough or ever you had felt the prick of Swabian steel; but now you are not yet fully yourself again, and to fight with a friend who is sick is against the rule of my country."
The words were spoken from a kind and honest heart, and I saw in Sir Franz's face that he knew their intent was true; but as he put forth his hand to grasp the Junker's, Ursula tossed her head in high disdain. Sir Franz hastily changed his mien, and cried: "Then you will do well to act against the rule of your country, and fight the champion of the lady you have offended."
Here the dispute had an end, forasmuch as that my lord the duke, leader of the embassy, hearing the Brandenburger's fierce voice, came in haste from the supper-board to restore peace; and as he led away the Junker it was plain to all that he was taking him sharply to task. It was, in truth, a criminal misdeed in one of the Imperial envoy to cast down his glove at a dance, where he was the guest of a peaceful city; and that the duke imposed no severe penance for it the Junker might thank the worshipful members of the council who were present; they were indeed disposed to let well alone, inasmuch as they had it at heart to send the whole party home again well-pleased with Nuremberg.
The music was soon sounding merrily again in the solemn town-hall, and of all the young folks who danced so gleefully, and laughed and chattered Ursula was the last to let it be seen how this grand revel had been troubled by her fault. Her eyes were bright with glad contentment, and she was so free with Sir Franz that it might have seemed that they would quit the town hall a plighted couple.
The festival was drawing to an end, and when I had danced the last dance, and was looking about me, I beheld to my amazement Ursula Tetzel in eager speech with Junker Henning. On our way home the young gentleman informed me that she had given him to understand that, during the meeting of the Imperial Assembly, he might look to be waited on by a noble youth who would pick up his glove in duty to her, and prove to him that there were other than sick champions glad to draw the sword for her.
The Brandenburger would fain have known with whom he would have to deal; but I held my peace, albeit I felt certain that Ursula had set her hopes on none other than my brother Herdegen.
On the morrow the whole of the Ambassadors' fellowship rode away, back to the emperor's court; I, for my part made my way to the Pernharts, where I found Ann amazed rather than wroth or distressed by Ursula's base attack. Also she was to have some amends; my dear godfather, Uncle Christian, with certain other gentlemen of the council, had notified old Tetzel that he was required to crave pardon of Ann and her stepfather for his daughter's haughty and reckless speech.
The proud and surly old man would have to submit to this penance without cavil, by reason that Pernhart had, since Saint Walpurgis' day, been a member of the council, and he and his family had part and share in the patrician festival. For, albeit craftsmen and petty merchants were excluded, the worshipful councillors chosen by the guilds enjoyed the same rights as those born to that high rank.
It was by mishap only that the coppersmith had not been at the town-hall yestereve, and on a later day, when he and his wife appeared there, they were among the finest of the elder couples. Ann did not, indeed, go with them; but it was neither vexation nor sorrow that kept her at home. My great gladness as it were warmed her likewise, and we were looking for Herdegen's speedy home-coming.
She looked forward to this with such firm hope as filled me with fears, when I minded me of my brother's letters, in which he never had aught to tell of but vain pleasures and pastimes.
My betrothal to Hans Haller was after his own heart; he wrote of him as of a man whose gifts and birth were worthy of me; and went on to say that he would follow his example, and, whereas he had renounced love in seeking a bride, he would take counsel of his head, and not of his heart, and quarter our ancient coat of arms with one no less noble.
Though Ann's hopeful mood distressed me, these same hopes in my world-wise Aunt Jacoba raised my spirit; but again, when I heard my grand-uncle speak of Herdegen as his duteous son, it fell as low as before. The old man had shown much contentment at my plighting to Hans, and had given me a precious set of rubies as a wedding gift; yet could I scarce take pleasure in them, inasmuch as he told me then and there that he had the like in store for the noble damsel whom Herdegen should wed.
Cousin Maud was in great wrath, when she knew that we had it in our minds even yet to bring Ann and Herdegen together; howbeit this did not hinder her from being as kind to Ann as she was ever wont to be, and giving her pleasure with gifts great and small whenever she might. She had her own thoughts touching my brother's faithlessness. She deemed it a triumph of noble blood over the yearnings of his heart; and the more she loved to think well of her darling the more comfort she found in this interpretation.
Among those few who had known of his betrothal to Ann was the bee-master's widow, Dame Henneleinlein; and she had cradled herself so gladly in the hope of being ere long kin to a noble family, that its wrecking filled her heart with bitter rage, and in all the houses whither she carried her honey she never failed to speak slander of Herdegen.
All this would never have troubled me, if only I might have rejoiced in the presence of my dear love; but alas! no more than three weeks after our betrothal he was sent, as squire to Master Erhart Schurstab, away to court, where they were to lay before the Emperor Sigismund in the name of Nuremberg the various hindrances in the way of our trafficking with Venice, whereas since the late war his Majesty had been mightily ill-disposed towards that great and famous city.
There was no remedy but patience; my lover wrote to me often, and his loving letters would have filled me with joy, if it had not been that in each one there was ever some sad tidings of Junker Henning, whom I yet held in high esteem. This young lord, who was in attendance on his Majesty—who never held his court for more than a few days at the same place—or ever he left Vienna to go to Ratisbon, had made a close friendship with my plighted master, and had been serviceable to him in all things wherein he might; and Hans had said of him that he was one in whom there was no guile, with the open heart and bright temper of a child. Such an one, indeed, was his; yet, in the midst of the gayest mirth, his grief of heart would so mightily come upon him that he fell into a sudden gloom; and out of the fulness of his sorrow he confessed to Hans that he could never cease to think of Ann. Whereupon my dear love conceived that it must be his woeful duty to tell his friend that the lady of his choice had no free heart to give him. Yet to the Junker's question whether she were plighted to another, and whether he were minded to wed her, Hans was forced in truth to say nay. This gave the lovesick youth new courage, and at length he went so far as that Hans enquired of me whether Ann might not after all be willing to give up Herdegen, who well deserved it at her hands, and to take pity on so brave and true-hearted a lover as the Junker.
To this I could make no answer other than: "Never—never;" inasmuch as, having shown Ann this letter, and, moreover, loudly sung the praise of her suitor, she asked me right sadly whether I was weary of confirming her in her love for my brother; and when I eagerly denied this, she cried: "And you know me well! And you must know that nothing on earth—nor you, nor Mistress Jacoba, nor all Nuremberg, could turn my heart from my love!"
This did I forthwith write to Hans; but that letter never reached him, and thus was he delivered from the grievous duty of robbing the Junker of his last hope.
Alas, my Hans! How sorely I did long for thee every hour! And yet shall I ever remember the month of June in that year with thankfulness.
Day after day did we maidens sit in the Hallers' garden, for Hans' worthy mother had soon taken Ann into her heart, and it became a fear to me ere long lest her rare beauty should turn the head of his younger brother Paulus, a likely lad of nineteen. As the summer waxed hot we went into the forest at the bidding of my uncle and aunt, who took great joy in seeing their favorite in right good heart and wondrous beauty, Mistress Giovanna having provided her with seemly and brave apparel. Nor was there any lack of good fellowship; many young noblemen bore us company, and whereas the town was full of illustrious guests, many of them found their way out to the forest.
This was by reason that the Prince Electors and the other rulers of the Empire, and foremost of them all our High Constable, had, indeed, declared that the great Assembly should be held at Nuremberg and not at Ratisbon; and when they were all gathered in our good town, the Emperor Sigismund, after he had waited for five days at Ratisbon, was fain at last, whether or no, to follow them hither. Then had his Chamberlains been sent before him, and among them again came Duke Rumpold von Glogau and Junker Henning von Beust, while his Majesty kept my Hans still about his person. Now, when the Emperor's forerunners had fulfilled their duties, they likewise were bidden to the forest-lodge; and with them came the lord of Eberstein, and an Italian Conte, Fazio di Puppi, both well skilled in song and the lute. Yet was my brother Herdegen still absent, albeit we had looked for him at Whitsuntide.
Cousin Maud bided at home, where there was much to be done in preparing fitting cheer for the noble fellowship who were to be lodged in the Schopperhof; nay, the old house was to be decked outside with a festal dress, in obedience to the behest of the town-council that every citizen should do his utmost so to cleanse and adorn his house, that it should please the eyes of his Majesty the Emperor.
Towards evening on Saint Liborius' day,—[July 23rd.]—my lord the Duke came forth on horseback to the forest lodge, and as I write, I can see the beaming countenance of Junker Henning as he greeted Ann; she, however, took his devoted demeanor coolly and courteously, yet could she not hinder him from coming between her and the other gentlemen in an over-marked way. The company was a large one for us two maidens, and there was none other with us save Elsa Ebner, our best-beloved schoolmate, and on her young Master Jorg Loffelholz had cast his eyes.
Not long after dinner Akusch came to me with the tidings that Herdegen had ridden into Nuremberg yestereve. My grand-uncle, to whom he had sent word of his coming, had gone forth to meet him on the way, and, with him Jost Tetzel and his daughter Ursula. My brother had alighted at the Im Hoff's house, and had waited on Cousin Maud this morning early. In the afternoon it was his intent to come out to the forest with my uncle's leave, to see me.
When I repeated all this to Aunt Jacoba, she was mightily disturbed and bid me stand by Ann, and in all points obey the counsel she might find it good to give her. She desired I would fetch my friend to her July 23rd. forthwith, and then made a plan for all the young folks to go forth to the fair garden of a certain bee-keeper, one Martein, where flowers grew in great abundance, and where we might wind the wreaths which Uncle Christian would need to grace the Empress' chambers withal. Thither, quoth she, would she send Herdegen on his coming; for she knew full well that the tidings brought by Akusch could not remain hid.
Whereas Ann turned a little paler, my aunt shook her head in displeasure, and admonished her to remain calm; albeit she had charges to bring against that wild youth, yet, for the present, she must keep them to herself. Least of all was she to let him suppose that his faithlessness had caused her any bitter heart-ache; if she desired that matters end rightly she must command herself to receive the home-comer no more than kindly, and to demean her as though his denying of her had touched her but lightly; nay, as though it were a pleasure to her vanity to be courted by the Brandenburg Junker and other noble gentlemen. If she could but seem to rate him as less than either of them, she would have won a great part of the victory.
Such subtlety had no charm for Ann; howbeit, my aunt gave no place to her doubting, and once more her urgent eloquence prevailed on the sorrowing maid to govern the yearning of her soul; and when I promised my friend to support her, she gave the wise lady, who had shown her such plain proofs of her devoted friendship, her word that she would in every point obey her.
Many a time have we seen, in the churches of Nuremberg, certain acting of plays wherein right honest and worthy persons have appeared as Judas Iscariot, or even as the very Devil himself; and at Venice likewise have I seen such plays, called there Boinbaria, wherein men and women, innocent of all guilt, were made to stand for Calumny, Cruelty, and Craft; and that so cunningly that a man might swear that they were reprobate Knaves full ripe for the gallows. From this it may be seen that men are fit and able to seem other than they are by nature; nay, such feigning is a pleasure to most folks, as we plainly see from the delight taken by great and small alike in mummery at Carnival tide. Howbeit, they can scarce have their heart in such sport; and for my part, meseemeth that to play such a part as my aunt had set before Ann is one of the hardest that can be laid upon a pure-hearted and truthful maid. At the time I wist not clearly what was the end of such rash trifling; but now, when I know men better, meseems it was well conceived, and could not fail of its intent, albeit the course of events made it plain to my understanding how little the thoughts and plans of the wisest can avail when Heaven rules otherwise.
The gentlemen in the hall were more than ready to agree to our bidding; yet none but I could guess what made Ann's lip to quiver from time to time, while her gay spirit charmed the young men who bore us company through the woods to the beekeeper's garden.
I and Elsa cut the flowers helped by Jorg Loffelholz, while Ann sat under a shady lime-tree hard by an arbor of honeysuckle, and showed the others, who lay on the grass about her; how to wind a garland. Each one was ready to be taught by lips so sweet, and in guiding of fingers and words of praise or blame, there was right merry laughing and chatter and pastime.
Junker Henning lay at her feet, and near him my Hans' brother Paulus, and young Master Holzschuher. The Knight von Eberstein had fetched him a stool out from the beekeeper's house, and twisted and tied with great zeal; the Italian Conte, Fagio di Puppi, struck the mandoline, which he called "the lady of his heart" from whom he never parted even on the longest journey.
When Elsa and I had flowers enough, we sat down with the others, and it was pleasant there to rest in the shade of the lime-tree, whose leaves fluttered in a soft air, while bees and butterflies hovered above the flowers in the warm sunshine. The birds sang no more; they had finished nesting long ago; but we, with our young hearts overfull of love, were in the right mind for song, and when Puppi had charmed us with a sweet Italian lay, and I had decked his lute with a rose as a guerdon, my lord of Eberstein took example from him, and they then besought Ann and me to do our part; but Junker Henning was the more eager. Whereupon Ann smiled on him so graciously that I was in pain for him, and she signed to me, and, I taking the lower part as was our wont, we gave Prince Wizlav's "Song to Dame Love." It rang out right loud and clear from our throats over the gentlemen's heads as they sat at our feet, and through the garden close:
"Earth is set free and flowers In all the meads are springing, The balmy noontide hours Are sweet with odors rare; The hills for joy are leaping. The happy birds are singing, And now, while winds are sleeping, Soar through the sunny air.
Now hearts begin to kindle And burn with love's sweet anguish As tapers blaze and dwindle. Love, our lady! lend thine ear! Would'st thou but spoil our pleasure? Ah, leave us not to languish! Who vows to thee his treasure, Haughty lady, must beware."
We had sung so much as this when the sound of hoofs, of which we had already been aware on the soft soil of the woods, gave us pause. Then, behold! Ann turned pale and pressed her hands, full of the roses she had chosen for her garland, tightly to her bosom, as though in pain. Junker Henning, who, while she sang, had gazed at her devoutly, nay, in rapture, marked this gesture and leaped to his feet to succour her; but she commanded herself with wonderful readiness, and laughed as she showed him her finger, from which two drops of blood had fallen on her white gown. And while the garden-gate was opening, she held out her hand to the young man, saying in haste: "Pricked,—a thorn!—would you please to take it out for me, Junker?"
He seized her hand and held it long in his own, as some jewel or marvel, before he remembered that he was required to take out the thorn. The other gentle men, and among them my brother-in-law Paulus, had likewise sprung forward to lend their aid; he, indeed, had snatched his lace neck-tie off and dipped it in the fountain.
Meanwhile the new-comers had joined the circle: First, Duke Rumpold, then Jost Tetzel, and lastly Herdegen with Ursula.
I flew to meet him, and when he held me in his arms and kissed me, and wished me joy of my betrothal right heartily, I forgot all old grievances and only rejoiced at having him home once more; till Ursula greeted me, and Herdegen came in sight of Ann. She had remained sitting under the lime-tree, on a saddle cushion of blue velvet, as on a throne; and in truth meseemed she might have been a queen, as she graciously accepted the service of the gentlemen who had been so moved by her pricked finger. The Junker wrapped it with care in a green leaf which, as his lady grandmother had taught him, had a healing gift; Paulus held forth the laced kerchief, and the Italian was striking wailing tones from his lute.
All this to-do, at any other time would, for a certainty, have made sport for me, but now laughing was far from me, and I had no eyes but for Ann in her little court, and for my brother.
At first she feigned as though she saw him not; and whereas the Junker still held her hand, she hit his fingers with a pink, albeit she was never apt to use such unseemly freedom.
Then she first marked my lord the duke, and rose to greet him with a courteous reverence, and not till she had bowed coldly and curtly to Tetzel and his daughter did she seem to be aware that Herdegen was of the company. At that moment I minded me of the morning when Love had thrown her into his arms, and it was with pain and wonder that I marked her further demeanor. In truth it outdid all I could have dreamed of: she held out her hand with an inviting smile, bid him welcome home and to the forest, reproved him for staying so long away from me, his dear little sister, and our good cousin, and then turned her back upon him to desire the Junker to place her cushions aright. Therewith she gave this young gentleman her hand to support her to her seat, and asked him whether, in his country, they did not do service and devoir to the divine Dame Musica? And whereas he replied that verily they did, that in his own land he had heard many a sweet ditty sung by noble ladies to the harp and lute, that the children would ever sing at their sports, and that he, too, had oftentimes uplifted his voice in singing of madrigals, she besought him that he would make proof of some ballad or song. The rest of the company joining in her entreaties she left him no peace till he gave way to her desire, and after that he had protested that his singing was no better than the twitter of a starling or a bullfinch, and his ditty only such as he remembered from his boyhood's time, he sang the song "It rained on the bridge and I was wet" in a voice neither loud nor fine, but purely, and with great modesty.
Ann highly lauded this simple and right childish ditty, and said that she felt certain that she, by her teaching, could make a fine singer of the Junker.
The others were of the same opinion, and Herdegen, meanwhile, who was standing somewhat apart, with Ursula, looked on, marvelling greatly as though he could not believe what his ear heard and his eye beheld.
Then, inasmuch as my lord duke desired to hear more music made, we were ready enough to obey and uplifted our voices, while he leaned on an easy couch, listening diligently, and gave us the guerdon of his gracious praise.
Still, as heretofore, many were obedient to Ann's lightest sign, but never till now had I seen her proud of her power and so eager to use it. Now and again she would turn to Herdegen with some light word and a free demeanor, yet he, it was plain, would not vouchsafe to take his seat before her with the rest.
Nay, meseemed that he and Ursula had no part with us; inasmuch as that she was arrayed in velvet and rich brocade, and a bower, as it were, of yellow and purple ostrich plumes curled above her riding-hat.
Herdegen likewise was in brave array, after the fashion of the French, and a bunch of tall feathers stood up above his head, being held in a silken fillet that bound his hair. His cross-belt was set with gems and hung with little bells, tinkling as he moved and jarring with our song; and in this hot summer-tide it could not have been for his easement that he wore the tagged lappets, which fell, a hand-breadth deep, from his shoulders over the sleeves of his velvet tunic.
The more gleefully we sang and the more it was made plain that we, to all seeming, were only to obey the wishes of Ann and of his highness the duke, the less could my brother refrain himself to hide his ill-pleasure; and when presently the Junker besought Ann that she would sing "Tanderadei," which she very readily did, Herdegen could bear no more; he asked the Italian to lend him his mandoline, and struck the strings as though merely for his own good pleasure. Whereupon Ann turned to him and courteously entreated him for a song, and he asking her which song she would have, she hastily replied: "Your old ditties are already known to me, Junker Schopper; and, to judge by your seeming, you now take no pleasure save in French music. Let us then hear somewhat of the latest Paris fashion."
To this he replied, however: "Here, in my own land, I would like better to sing in my own tongue, by your gracious leave, fair mistress."
Then bowing to Ursula and to me, without even casting a glance at Ann, he went on to say: "And seeing that methinks you love madrigals, I will sing a Franconian ditty after the Junker's Brandenburg ballad."
He boldly struck the strings, and the little birds, which by this time had gone to rest in the linden-tree, again uplifted their little heads, and all that had ears and soul, near and far, Ann not the least, hearkened as he began with his clear voice and noble skill.
"To all this goodly company I sing as best I may, A madrigal of ladies fair And damsels soote and gay. Through many countries great and small I roam, and ladies fair I see Many! but fairest of them all The maidens of my own countree. The maidens of Franconia I ever love to meet, They dwell in fond remembrance A vision ever sweet. Of maids they are the crown and pearl! And if I might but spin them I would make the spindle whirl!"
My lord duke clapped hearty praise of the singer, and we all did the same; all save Junker Henning, who had not failed to mark that Herdegen had striven to out-do his modest warble, and likewise the ardent eyes he turned on the lady of his choice. Hence he moved not. Ann clapped her hands but lightly, sat looking into her lap, and for some time could say not a word; indeed, if she had trusted herself to speak the game would of a certainty have been lost.
The knight of Eberstein it was, who ere long, albeit unwittingly, came to her aid; he challenged Ursula to give us a song in thanks to Junker Herdegen's praise of the maids of Franconia.
The damsel thought to do somewhat fine by making choice, instead of a German song, of a French lay by the Sieur de Machault "J'aim la flour," which was well known to all of us by reason that she had learnt it from old Veit Spiesz, Ann's grandfather; and she had no need to fear to uplift her voice, inasmuch as it was strong and as clear as a bell. But she sang over-loud and with a mode of speech which made Herdegen smile, and I can see her now as she stood upright in her fine yellow and purple garb, singing the light-tripping ditty,
"J'aim la flour De valour Sans falour Et l'aour Nuit et jour."
with all her might, as though stirring them to battle. The folly of so wrong-headed a fashion of singing such words was plain to Ann, in whose very blood, as it were, lay all that was most choice in musical feeling, and Herdegen's smile brought her a calmer mind again. When, presently, Ursula, believing that she had done somewhat marvellous, boldly turned upon Ann and besought her to sing—as though there had never been a breach between the twain—Ann refused, as not caring but yet firm in her mind. Then the Duke, who was even yet a fine singer and bore in mind how Ursula had demeaned herself towards Ann at the great dance, desired to have the lute and sang the song as follows:
"Behold a lady sweet and fair In simple dress, But right well clothed upon is she With seemliness. By her do flowers seem less bright, And she is such a glorious sight As, on May morns, the golden sun which lights up hill and lea— But froward maids delight us not, with all their bravery."
And he sang the little verse to Ann as though it were in her praise, till at the last line, which fell from his lips as it were in scorn, he cast a reproving glance at Ursula, and many an one might see and feel how well the song befitted one and the other of the hostile damsels.
Yet was it hard to guess what Ursula was thinking of all this; she thanked the Duke right freely for his fine song which held up the mirror to all froward ladies. At the same time she looked steadfastly at Ann, and led both Herdegen and the Knight of Eberstein to talk with herself; yet how often all the time did my brother cast his eyes at his heart's beloved, whom he had betrayed.
As for myself, I can call to mind little enough of all that was said, for the most part concerning the flowers and trees in the garden. Only Ann and my brother dwell in my memory, each feigning neither to see nor to hear the other, while covertly each had not eyes nor ears for any other. Yes, and I mind me how my brother's unrest and distress so filled me now with joy and now with pity, that I longed to cry out to the Junker that this was a base trick they were playing on him, inasmuch as Ann poured oil and more oil on the flame of his love.
And there stood old Tetzel and his daughter, and it was plain to see that they deemed that they had Herdegen safe in their toils; nay, it seemed likely enough that he had done his uncle's bidding and was already betrothed to her. Howbeit this strange lover had up to that moment cast not one loving look on his lady love.
What should come of it all? How could I ever find peace and comfort in so perverse a world, and amid this feigning which had turned upside down all that heretofore had seemed upright? Whichever way I turned there were things which I did not crave to see, and the saints know full well that I gazed not round about me; nay, that my eyes were set on two small specks plain to be seen—the two drops of blood which had fallen from Ann's finger, and which were now two dark, round spots on her white gown; and, as it grew dusk, meseemed they waxed blacker and greater.
At length, to my great joy, my lord the Duke rose and made as though he were departing; whereupon the false image vanished, and I beheld Ann giving her hand with a witching smile to Junker Henning, that he might help her to rise.
Supper was waiting for us at the Forest lodge. My Aunt Jacoba placed the Duke in the seat of honor at her right hand, with Ann and Junker Henning next to him. Herdegen she sent to the other end of the table to sit near his uncle, and Ursula far from him near the middle; to the end that it might be clearly seen that she knew naught of any alliance between that damsel and her nephew.
During that meal my squire had little cause to be pleased with his lady. The foolish sport begun in the garden was yet carried on and I liked it not, no more than my brother's French bravery; at table he appeared in a long red and blue garment of costly silken stuff, with a cord round the middle instead of a belt, so that it was for all the world like the loose gown which was worn by our Magister and by many a worthy citizen when taking his easement in his own home.
Besides all this, my heart was heavy with longing for my own true love, and my eyes filled with tears a many times, also I thanked the Saints with all my heart when at length my aunt left the table.
When we were outside she asked me privily whether Ann had rightly played her part; to which I answered "Only too well."
Herdegen, also, so soon as he had bid good night to Ursula, led me aside and desired to know what had come upon Ann. To this I hastily replied that of a surety he could not care to know, inasmuch as he had broken troth with her. Thereat he was vexed and answered that as matters were, so might they remain; but that he was somewhat amazed to mark how lightly she had got over that which had spoiled many a day and night for him.
Then I asked him whether he had in truth rather have found her in woe and grief, and would fain have had her young days saddened for love of him? He broke in suddenly, declaring that he knew full well that he had no right to hinder her in any matter, but that one thing he could not bear, and that was that she, whom he had revered as a saint, should now demean herself no more nobly nor otherwise than any other maid might. On this I asked him wherefor he had denied his saint; nay, for the sake—as it would seem—of a maid who was, for sure, the worldliest of us all. And, to end, I boldly enquired of him how matters stood betwixt him and Ursula; but all the answer I got was that first he must know whether Ann were in earnest with the Junker. On this I said in mockery that he would do well to seek out the truth of that matter to the very bottom; and running up the steps by which we were standing, I kissed my hand to him from the first turning and wished him a good night's rest.
Up in our chamber I found Ann greatly disturbed.
She, who was commonly so calm, was walking up and down the narrow space without pause or ceasing; and seeing how sorely her fears and her conscience were distressing her, pity compelled me to forego my intent of not giving her any hopes; I revealed to her that I had discovered that my Herdegen's heart was yet hers in spite of Ursula.
This comforted her somewhat; but yet could it not restore her peace of mind. Meseemed that the ruthless work she had done that day had but now come home to her; she could not refrain herself from tears when she confessed that Herdegen had privily besought her to grant him brief speech with her, and that she had brought herself to refuse him.
All this was told in a whisper; only a thin wall of wood parted Ursula's chamber from ours. As yet there was no hope of sleep, inasmuch as that the noise made, by the gentlemen at their carouse came up loud and clear through the open window and, the later it grew, the louder waxed Herdegen's voice and the Junker's, above all others. And I knew what hour the clocks must have told when my brother shouted louder than ever the old chorus:
"Bibit heres, bibit herus Bibit miles, bibit clerus Bibit ille, bibit illa Bibit servus cum ancilla. Bibit soror, bibit frater Bibit anus, bibit mater Bibit ista, bibit ille: Bibunt centem, bibunt milee."
[The heir drinks, the owner drinks, The soldier and the clerk, He drinks, she drinks, The servant and the wench. The sister drinks and eke the brother, The grand dam and the gaffer, This one drinks, that one drinks, A hundred drink—a thousand!]
Nor was this the end. The Latin tongue of this song may peradventure have roused Junker Henning to make a display of learning on his part, and in a voice which had won no mellowness from the stout Brandenburg ale—which is yclept "Death and murder"—or from the fiery Hippocras he had been drinking he carolled forth the wanton verse:
"Per transivit clericus [Beneath the greenwood shade;] Invenit ibi stantent, [A fair and pleasant maid;] Salve mi puella, [Hail thou sweetest she;] Dico tibi vere [Thou my love shalt be!]"
The rest of the song was not to be understood whereas Herdegen likewise sang at the same time, as though he would fain silence the other:
"Fair Lady, oh, my Lady! I would I were with thee, But two deep rolling rivers Flow down 'twixt thee and me."
And as Herdegen sang the last lines:
"But time may change, my Lady, And joy may yet be mine, And sorrow turn to gladness My sweetest Elselein!"
I heard the Junker roar out "Annelein;" and thereupon a great tumult, and my Uncle Conrad's voice, and then again much turmoil and moving of benches till all was silence.
Even then sleep visited us not, and that which had been doing below was as great a distress to me as my fears for my lover. That Ann likewise never closed an eye is beyond all doubt, for when the riot beneath us waxed so loud she wailed in grief: "Oh, merciful Virgin!" or "How shall all this end?" again and again.
Nay, nor did Ursula sleep; and through the boarded wall I could not fail to hear well-nigh every word of the prayers in which she entreated her patron saint, beseeching her fervently to grant her to be loved by Herdegen, whose heart from his youth up had by right been hers alone, and invoking ruin on the false wench who had dared to rob her of that treasure.
I was right frightened to hear this and, in truth, for the first time I felt honest pity for Ursula.
[End of the original Volume One of the print edition]
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Love which is able and ready to endure all things Wonder we leave for the most part to children and fools
By Georg Ebers
The Imperial Diet in Nuremberg!—the Imperial Advent!
The next day their Majesties were to enter into the town, and with them my Hans.
A messenger had brought the tidings, and now we must use all diligence; Ann and Elsa and I, with one and twenty more, had been chosen among all the daughters of the worshipful gentlemen of the council, to go forth to greet the Emperor and Empress with flowers and a discourse. This Ursula was to speak, by reason that she was mistress of all such arts; likewise was she by birth the chiefest of us all, inasmuch as that her late departed mother was daughter to the great Reynmar, lord of Sulzbach. Nor need Ann and I seek far for the flowers. The Hallers' garden had not its like in all Nuremberg, and my dear parents-in-law had promised that we should pluck all we needed for our posies.
Or ever I mounted my horse, I had tidings that Herdegen and Junker Henning had, last evening, come to bitter strife, nay, well-nigh to bloodshed; for that when my brother had sung the ditty in praise of one Elselein and the other had called upon him to put in the name of Ann, Herdegen had cried: "An if you mean red-haired Ann, the tapster wench at the Blue Pike, well and good!" Whereupon the Junker sprang up and flung the tankard he had just emptied at Herdegen's head. Herdegen had nimbly ducked, and had rushed on the drunken fellow sword in hand; but Duke Rumpold had put a word in, and by this morning Junker Henning seemed to have forgotten the matter. In Brandenburg, verily, such frays were common at the drinking-bouts of the lords and gentlemen, and by dawn all offence given over-night in their cups was wiped out of mind.
My brother lodged again at our grand-uncle's, while the Junker dwelt at the Waldstromer's townhouse. My Lord Duke found quarters at the Hallerhof, and his Highness the Prince Elector, and Archbishop Conrad of Mainz likewise lodged there, with a great following. Cousin Maud had made ready to welcome the Margrave of Baden and the Count von Henneberg under our roof. The upper floor of the Pernhart's house was given up to his Eminence Cardinal Branda, the most steadfast friend at Rome of Master Ulman's brother the bishop. His Holiness the Pope had sent that right-reverend prelate as his legate to the assembly, and he presently celebrated mass with great dignity in the presence of their Majesties and of the assembled lords and princes.
To this day my memory is right good in all ways; and of what followed on these events much is yet as clear and plain in my mind as though I saw and heard it all at this present time; albeit I, an old woman, would fain hide my face in my hands and weep thereat. For, notwithstanding there were certain hours in those days which brought me sweet love-making, and others of sheer mirth and vanity, yet is the spirit of man so tempered that, when great sorrow follows hard on the greatest joy it sufficeth to darken it wholly. And thus we may liken heaviness of heart to the chiming of bells, which hurts the ear if they sound over near, but at a distance make a sweet and devout music. Now, in sooth, inasmuch as I must make record of the deepest woe of my life, the brazen toll is a sad one, and the long-healed wounds ache afresh.
Those two months of the Imperial Diet! They lie behind me like distant hills. I can no more discern them apart, albeit certain landmarks, as it were, stand forth plainly to be seen, like the church-tower, the windmill, and the old oak on the ridge on the horizon.
How the night sped after our return from the forest and the morning next after—the 27th of July in the year of our Lord 1422—I can no longer call to mind; but I can see myself now as, the afternoon of that day, I set forth with Ann, attired in silk and lace—all white and new from head to foot, as it were for a wedding—to go to the open place between St. James' Church and the German House, within the Spital Gate. Whichever way we looked, behold flowers, green garlands, hangings, pennons, and banners; it was as though all the gardens in Franconia had been stripped of their blossoms. Never had such a brave show been seen, and with every breath we drank in the odors of the leaves and flowers which were already withering in the July sunshine. A finer Saint Pantaloon's day I never remember; the very sky seemed to share the city's gladness and was fair to see, in spotless blue. A light wind assuaged the waxing heat, and helped the flags and banners to unfurl: Our fine churches were decked all over and about with garlands, boughs, and banners, and meseemed were like happy brides awaiting their marriage in holiday array. The market-place was a scene of high festival, the beautiful fountain was a mighty bower of flowers, the triumphal arches, methought, were such as the gods of wood and garden might have joined to raise. Every balcony was richly hung, and even the crested gables and the turrets on the roofs displayed some bravery. All, so far as eye could see, was motley-hued and spick and span for brightness. The tiniest pane in the topmost dormer-window glittered without a spot. The poorest were clad in costly finery; the patrician folk were in the dress of knights and nobles; every craftsman was arrayed as though he were a councillor, every squire like his lord. You would have weened that day that there were none but rich folk in Nuremberg. The maidens' pearl chaplets gleamed in the sun, and the golden jewels in their fur bonnets; and what did their mothers care for the heat as they went to and fro to display the costly fur turbans which crowned their heads as it were with a glory of fur? How carefully had they dressed the little ones! They were to see the Emperor and Empress with their own eyes, and their Majesties might even, by good hap, see them!
Presently we saw the procession of the guilds with their devices and banners; never had they come forth in such goodly bravery. They were to form in ranks, on each side of the streets and the highway, a long space outside the gate.
At last it was nigh the hour when their Majesties should arrive. We maids had all assembled. Albeit we had agreed all to be clad in white, Ursula had decked her head-gear with Ostrich feathers of rose-pink and sky-blue; right costly plumes they were, but over many. Now would she look into her parchment scroll, and for us she had brief words and few. The nosegay which her servant in scarlet livery bore in his hand was a mighty fine one; and Akusch and a gardener's boy presently came up with the posies culled for Ann and me in the Hallers' garden. We, and many another maid, clasped our hands in sheer delight, but Ursula cast a look on them which might, if it could, have robbed the roses and Eastern lilies of their sweetness.
The Emperor, it was said, would keep to the hour fixed on; then all the bells began to ring. I knew them all well, and one I liked best of all; the Benedicta in Saint Sebalds Church, which had been cast by old Master Grunewald, Master Pernhart's closest friend. Their brazen voices stirred my soul and heart, and presently the cannon in the citadel and on the wails rattled out a thundering welcome to the Emperor, rending the summer air. My heart beat higher and faster. But suddenly I meseemed that all the bravery of the town and the holiday weed of the folks, the chiming of bells and the roaring of cannon were not meant to do honor to the Emperor, but only to my one true love who was coming in his train.
All my thoughts and hopes were set on him. And when the town-pipers struck up with trumpets and kettledrums, bagpipes and horns, when the far-away muttering and roll of voices swelled to a roaring outcry and an uproarious shout, when from every mouth at every window the cry rose: "They are corning!"—yet did I not gaze at their Majesties, to whom the day and festival belonged, but only sought him who was mine—my own.
There they are! close before us.—The Emperor and his noble wife, Queen Barbara, the still goodly daughter of the great Hungarian Count of Cilly.
Aye! and he looks the man to rule six realms; worthy to stand at the head of the great German nation. He might be known among a thousand for an Emperor, and the son of an Emperor! How straight he sits in his saddle, how youthful yet is the fire in his eye, albeit he has past his fiftieth birthday! High spirit and contentment in his look; and meseems he has forgotten that he ever summoned the Diet to meet at Ratisbon and is entering the gates of Nuremberg against his will, by reason that the Electors and German princes have chosen to assemble there. His wife likewise is of noble mien, and she rides a white palfrey which, as she draws rein, strives to turn its pink nostrils to greet the bay horse on which her lord is mounted.
Yet do my eyes not linger long on the lordly pair; they wander down the long train of Knights wherein he is coming, though among the last. For a moment they rest on the stalwart forms of the Hungarian nobles, all blazing with jewels even to the harness of the steeds; and glance unheedingly at the Electors and Princes, the Dukes, Counts and Knights-all in velvet and silk, gold and silver; at the purple and scarlet of the prelates; at the solemn black with gold chains of the town councillors; on and beyond all the magnificent train which has come with his Majesty from Hungary or gone forth to meet him.
Hereupon Ursula steps forth to speak the address; but sooner may a man hear a cricket in a thunderstorm than a maid's voice amid that pealing of bells and shouting and cries of welcome. Meseems verily as though the fluttering handkerchiefs, the flying pennons, and the caps waved in the air had found voice; and Ursula turns her head to this side and that as though seeking help.
Emperor Sigismund signs with his hand, and the two heralds who head the train uplift their trumpets with rich embroidered banners. A rattling blast procures silence: in a moment it is as though oil were poured on a surging sea. Men and guns are hushed; the only sounds to be heard are the brazen tongue of the bells, the whinnying of a horse, the dull mutter of men's voices in the far-off lanes and alleys, and the clear voice of a young maid.
Ursula made her speech, her voice so loud at the last that it might have seemed that the honeyed verses were words of reproof. The imperial pair gave each other a glance expressing surprise rather than pleasure, and vouchsafed a few words of thanks to the speaker. His Majesty spoke in German; but in his Bohemian home and Hungarian Kingdom he had caught the trick of a sharper accent than ours.
A chamberlain now gave the signal, and we maidens all went forth towards our Sovereign lord and lady. Two and two—Tucher and Schilrstab—Groland and Stromer; and the sixth couple were Ann and I—Ann as the daughter of a member of the council—and my godfather it was, besides her sweet face, who had done most to get her chosen.
Noble youths clad as pages in velvet and silks had received the flowers offered by the damsels; but as Ann and I stood forth, the Emperor and Empress looked down on us. I could see that they gazed upon us graciously, and heard them speak together in a language I knew not; and Porro, the King's fool—and I say the King's, inasmuch as it was not till later that Sigismund was crowned Emperor at Rome, and by the same token it was at that time that my Hans' brothers, Paul and Erhart, were dubbed Knights—Porro, who rode at his lord's side on a piebald pony spotted black and yellow, cried out: "May we all be turned into drones, Nunkey, if the flowers which have given this town the name of the Bee-garden are not of the same kith and kin as these!"
And he pointed to us; whereupon the King asked him whether he meant the damsels or the posies. But the jester, rolling on his nag after a merry fashion, till the bells in his cap rang again, answered him: "Nay, Nunkey, would you tempt a Christian to walk on the ice? An if I say the damsels, I shall get into trouble by reason of your strict morality; but if I say the posies, I shall peril my poor soul's health by a foul lie."
"Then choose thee another shape," quoth the Queen, "for I fear lest the bees should take thee for a stinging wasp, Porro."
"True, by my troth," said the fool, thinking. "Since Eve fell into sin, women's counsel is often the best. You, Nunkey, shall be turned into a butterfly, and not into a drone, and grace the flowers as you flutter round them."
And he waved his arms as they were wings and rode round about us on his pony with right merry demeanor, like a moth fluttering over us. Ann looked down, reddening for shame, and the blood rose to my cheeks likewise for maiden shyness; nevertheless I heard the King's deep, outlandish tones, and his noble wife's pleasant voice, and they lauded our posies and made enquiry as to our names, and straitly enjoined Ann and me not to fail of appearing at every dance and banquet; and I remember that we made answer with seemly modesty till the King's grand-master came up and so ended our discourse.
And I fancy I can see the multitude coming on; the motley hues of velvet and silk, the housings and trappings of the horses, the bright sheen of polished metal, and the sparkle of cut gems dazzle my eyes, I ween, to this day. But on a sudden it all fades into dimness; the cries and voices, the bells, the neighing, the crash and clatter are silent—for he is come. He waves his hand, more goodly, more truly mine and dearer to my heart than ever. But not here do we truly meet again; that joy is to come later in his own garden.
That garden could already tell a tale of two happy human creatures, and of hours of the purest bliss ever vouchsafed to two young hearts; but what thereafter befell I remember as bright, hot, summer days, full of mirth and play-acting, of tourneys and courtly sports, of music and song, dancing and pleasuring. The gracious favor of the King and Queen and the presence of many princes ceased not to grace it, and went to our brain like heady wine. Things that had hitherto seemed impossible now came true. Out of sheer joy in those intoxicating pleasures, and for the sake of the manifold demands that came upon us in these over-busy days, we forgot those nearest and dearest to our hearts. Yet never was I given to self-seeking, neither before nor since that time.
Ann's beguiling of the Junker, the homage paid to her by all, even the highest, Herdegen's seething ire, his strivings to win back the favor of the maid he had slighted, his strange and various and high-handed demeanor, his shameless ways with Ursula, to whom he paid great court when my grand-uncle was present, albeit at other times he would cast dark glances at her as if she were a foe—all this glides past me as in a mist, and concerning me but little. Then, in the midst of this turmoil and magnificence, this love-making and royal grace, now and again meseemed I was suddenly alone and forlorn; even at the tourney or dance; nay, even when the King and Queen would vouchsafe to discourse with me, I would be filled with longing for peace and silent hours—notwithstanding that the mighty Sovereign himself took pleasure in questioning me and moving me to those quick replies whereof I never found any lack. Queen Barbara would many a time bid me to her chamber, and keep me with her for hours; sometimes would Ann also be bidden, and she bestowed on us both many costly jewels.
Then, no sooner had we quitted the castle, where their Majesties lodged, than we must think of our own noble guests; for Markgraf Bernhard of Baden, who was quartered on us, would often ask for me, and Cardinal Branda would desire Ann to attend him. The larger half of our days was given to arranging our persons, and while Cousin Maud and Susan would dress me I was already thinking of making ready the weed, the ribbons, and the feathers needed for the next day. My Hans was now a Knight. The same honor was promised to Herdegen—honor on honor, pleasure on pleasure, bravery and display! In the stead of our old sun twenty, meseemed, were blazing in the heavens. Many a time it was as though my breath came so lightly that I could float on air, and then again a nightmare load oppressed me. Even through the night, in my very dreams, the sounds of music and singing ceased not; but when I awoke the question would arise: "To what end is this?"
Hans held the helm, and was ever the same, thoughtful yet truly loving. Also he never forgot to keep a lookout for the surety of the bark, and if the pace seemed too great, or he saw rocks ahead, he did his part and likewise guarded me with faithful care from heedless demeanor or over-weariness. Margery the rash, who was wanted everywhere, and was at all times in the foremost rank, at the behest of the King and Queen, did her devoir in all points and nought befell which could hurt or grieve her—and she knew full well whom she had to thank for that.
Likewise I discerned with joy that my lover kept the Junker's ardors in check, for he would fain have courted Ann as hotly as though he were secure of her love; and Hans called upon my brother Herdegen to quit himself as a man should and make an end of this double game by choosing either Ann or Ursula, once for all.
In the forest Uncle Conrad had bidden this noble company to the Lodge. After the hunt was over we went forth once more to the garden of Martin the bee-keeper, by reason that Duke Ernest of Austria, and Count Friedrich of Meissen, and my Lord Bishop of Lausanne, and other of the noble lords, desired to see somewhat of the far-famed bee-keeping huts in our Lorenzer-Wald. My uncle himself led the way, and Herdegen helped him do the honors.
Presently, as he over-hastily opened a hive, some bees stung his hand badly; I ran to him and drew the stings out. Ann was close by me, and Herdegen tried to meet her eyes, and sang in a low voice a verse of a song, which sounded sad indeed and strange, somewhat thus:
"Augustho pirlin pcodyas."
Whereupon Ann asked of him in what tongue he spoke; for it was not known to her. He, however, replied that of a certainty it was known to her, and when she looked at him, doubtful yet, he laughed bitterly and said that he could but be well-content if she had forgotten the sound of those words, inasmuch as to him they were bound up with the first great sorrow he had known.
I saw that she was ill-at-ease; but as she turned away he held her back to put the words into German, saying, in so dull and low a voice that I scarce could hear him, while he stirred up the earth with the point of his sword, purposing to lay some on his swollen hand.
"A froward bee hath stung my hand; Mother Earth will heal the smart. But when I lie beneath the turf, Say, Will she heal my broken heart?"
Then I saw that Ann turned pale as she said somewhat stiffly: "There are other remedies for you against even the worst!" and he replied: "But yours, Ann, work the best cure."
By this time she was herself again, and answered as though she cared not: "I learnt them from a skilled master.—But in what tongue is your song, Junker Schopper, and who taught you that?"
To which he hastily answered: "A swarthy wench of gipsy race."
And she, taking courage, said: "One peradventure whom you erewhile met in the forest here?" Herdegen shook his curly head, and his eye flashed lovingly as he spoke: "No, Ann, and by all the Saints it is not so! It was of a gipsy mother that I learnt it; she sang it to a man in despair—in despair for your sake, Ann—in the forest of Fontainebleau."
Whereupon Ann shook her head and strove to speak lightly as she said "Despair! Are you not like the man in the fable, who deemed that he was burnt whereas he had thrust another into the fire? The cap fits, methinks, Junker Schopper."
He replied sadly, and there was true grief in his voice: "Is a hard jest all you have to give me now?" quoth he, "Nay, then, tell me plainly, Ann, if there is no hope for me more."
"None," said she, firm and hard. But she forth with added more gently. "None, Herdegen, none at all so long as a single thread remains unbroken which binds you to Ursula."
On this he stepped close up to her and cried in great emotion: "She, she! Aye, she hath indeed cast her devil's tangle of gold about me to ensnare all that is vain and base in me; but she has no more room in my heart than those bees have. And if you—if my good angel will but be mine again I will cry 'apage'—I tear her toils asunder."
He ceased, for certain ladies and gentlemen came nigh, and foremost of them Ursula; aye, and I can see her now drawing off her glove and stooping to gather up some earth to lay on the burning hand of the man whom in truth she loved, while he strove to forestall her and not to accept such service. That night we stayed at the lodge, and Ursula again had the chamber next to ours; and again I heard her appealing to her Saints, while Ann poured out to me her overflowing heart in a low whisper, and confessed to me, now crying and now laughing, how much she had endured, and how that she was beginning to hope once more.
Our grand-uncle and guardian, the old knight Im Hoff, had ever, so long as I could remember, demeaned himself as a penitent, spending his nights, and not sleeping much, in a coffin, and giving the lion's share of his great revenues to pious works to open unto himself the gates of Heaven; but what a change was wrought in him by the Emperor's coming! This straight-backed and stiff necked man, who had never bowed his head save only in church and before the holy images of the saints, learnt now to stoop and bend. His bloodless face, which had long ceased to smile, was now the very home of smiles. His great house was filled, for there lodged Duke Ernst of Austria, the Hungarian Count of Gara—who through his wife was near of kin to the Emperor, and his Majesty's trusty secretary, Kaspar Slick, and all their people. And so soon as either of these came, a gleam as of starlight lighted up his old features, or, if it fell that the sovereign granted to him to attend him, it was broad sunshine that illumined it. And whereas the other gentlemen of the council, hereditary and elected, albeit they were ever ready to shake hands with a common workman, would stand face to face with their Majesties or the dukes and notables, upright and duly mindful of their own worth, my guardian would cast off his gravity and dignity both together; and verily we all knew full well to what end. He, who had been defrauded of his life's happiness by a Baron's daughter, yearned to move the King to raise him to the rank of Baron. He loaded the Secretary Slick with gifts and favors, and seeing that his Majesty was graciously pleased to smile on me, his ward, he would be at much pains to flatter me, calling me his "golden hair" or "Blue-eyes;" and enjoin it on me that I should make mention of him to the King as his Majesty's most faithful servant, ever ready for any sacrifice in his service, at the same time he asked with a grin how it would pleasure me to hear Herdegen called by the name and title of Baron von Schopper-Im Hoff?
Our own honest and honorable name I weened was good enough for us three; yet, for my brother's sake and for Ann's, I held my peace, and took occasion while he was in so friendly a mood to urge him to release Herdegen, and grant him to choose another than Ursula. But how wroth he waxed, how hastily he put on the icy, forbidding bearing he was wont to wear, as he rated me for a wilful simpleton who would undo her brother's weal!
It was now St. Susannah's day—[August 11th]—We were bidden to the tourney. Duke Ernest of Austria had challenged Duke Kanthner of Oels in Silesia to meet him in the lists and, besides the glory to be gained, there was a prize of sixty and four gold pieces. Other knights also were to joust in the ring.
Queen Barbara, of her grace, had bidden me attend with her ladies. At the jousting-place I found Ann; her mother had remained at home by reason that the old mother was sick. My faithful Uncle Christian Pfinzing, who played the host to the Emperor and Empress at the Castle as representing the town council, had brought his "dear watchman" hither and placed her in the keeping of certain motherly dames. Presently, seeing a moment when she might speak with me, Ann said in my ear: "I will end this sport, Margery; I can no longer endure it. He hath sworn to renounce all and everything that may keep us apart!" There was no time for more. Each one had to take his seat. As yet their Majesties were not come, and there was time to gaze about.
The lists were in the midst of the market-place. The benches were decked with hangings, the lords and ladies who filled them, the feathers waving, the sparkle of jewels, the glitter of gold and silver, the sheen of silk and velvet, the throng of common folk, head over head in the topmost places, the music and uproar, nay, the very savor of the horses dwell still in my mind; yet far be it from me to write of things well-known to most men.
Then my grand-uncle came forth. He had Ursula on his arm as he walked through the gate-way into the lists and across the sanded ring to his seat on the far side. This was in truth forbidden, but the unabashed old man defied the rules, and as for Ursula she was well pleased to be gazed at. The old knight was smiling; how stately was his mien, and how well the silver breast plate beseemed him, with the golden lion rampant of the Im Hoffs! That helmet and breastplate had been forged for his special use of the finest silver and gold plate, and were better fit to turn the point of my pen-knife than that of sword and lance. Yet many an one admired the stalwart gait of the old man in his heavy harness. Even Tetzel's dull face was less dull than its wont, and Ursula's eyes sparkled as though her knight had carried off the prize.
Presently my grand-uncle saw where I was sitting, and waved and bowed to me as though he had some good tidings to give me. Tetzel did likewise, seeming like the old man's pale and creeping shadow. Ursula's triumphing eyes proclaimed that now she had indeed gained her end; the dullest wit might not miss her meaning. In spite of Ann, Herdegen had pledged his troth to Ursula. The lists and seats, meseemed, whirled round me in a maze, and scarce had they settled down again, as it were, when Cousin Maud sat down heavily in her place, and by her face made me aware that some great thing had befallen; for now and again she drew in her cheeks and pursed her lips as though she would fain blow out a light. When my eyes met hers she privily pointed with her fan to show me Herdegen and Ursula, and shrugged her shoulders so high that her big head with its great feathered turban sank between them. And if there was surging and wrath in her breast not less was there in mine. Howbeit I had to put on a guise of content, nay of gladness, for the Royal pair had bidden me to their side and it was my task to explain all they desired to learn.
A sunny blue sky bent over the ground; albeit dark clouds came up from the west, and I found it hard to make fitting answer to their Majesties' questions.
While the horses were pawing and neighing, and the lances rattled on the shields, nay, even when the Dukes of Austria and Schleswig rushed on each other and the Austrian unhorsed his foe, I scarce looked on the jousting-place on which all other eyes were fixed as though held by chains and bonds. Mine were set on the spot where Ursula and Ann were sitting, and with them the young knight from Brandenburg, Sir Apitz of Rochow, and my brother Herdegen. Junker Henning had his part to play in the tournament. To Rochow the tourney was all in all; Herdegen gazed only at Ann. She, to be sure, made no return, but still he would fix his eyes on her and speak with her. Ursula had turned paler, and meseemed she had eyes only for him and his doings. What went forward in the pauses of the tilting I could not mark, inasmuch as my eyes and ears were their Majesties' alone.
Now, two more knights sprang forth. What cared I of what nation they were, what arms they bore and what they and their horses might do; I had somewhat else to think of. Ursula and I had long been at war, but to-day I felt nought but compassion for her: and indeed, on this very day, when she believed she had won the victory, she more needed pity than when she had so besought Heaven to grant her Herdegen's love, inasmuch as my brother sat whispering to Ann with his hand on his heart. And Ann herself had put away all false seeming; and while she gazed into her lover's eyes with soft passion, Ursula sat bending her fan as though she purposed to break it.
To think of Ursula as ruling in our house, and of Ann pining with heart sickness was cruel grief, and yet were these two things almost less hard to endure than the shameless flightiness and strange demeanor of my noble brother, the pride of my heart.
The town council had voted eight hundred gulden to King Sigismund, and four hundred to the Queen; two hundred and thirty to Porro the jester, and great gifts to many of the notables and knights as a free offering from the city; and now, in a pause in the jousting, his Majesty announced his great delight at the faithful, bountiful, and overflowing hand held out to him by his good town of Nuremberg, which had ever been dear to his late beloved father King Charles. And then he pointed to the gentlemen of the council, who made a goodly and reverend show indeed in their long flowing hair and beards, their dark velvet robes bordered with fine fur, and thin gold chains; and he spoke of their noble and honorable dealing. I heard him say that each one of them was to be respected as joint ruler with him over that which was his own, and likewise in greater matters. Each one was his equal in manly virtue, and the worthy peer of his Imperial self. Then he pointed out to the Queen certain noble and goodly heads, and it was my part to make known whatsoever I could tell of their possessions and their manner of trade. The Hallers were well known to him, and not alone my best beloved, inasmuch as they did great trading with his kingdom of Hungary; and he was well pleased to see my Hans with his father as one of the council.
His gracious wife was pleased to compare the good order, and cleanness, and comfort of Nuremberg with the cities in their native country. Whereas she had already been into some of our best houses, and indeed into our own, she spoke well of the wealth, and art, and skill in all crafts of the Nuremberg folk, saying they had not their like in all the world so far as she knew. And then again she spoke her pleasure at the honorable seemliness of the councillors, and asked me many questions concerning this one and that, and, among the rest, concerning Master Ulman Pernhart. The royal pair marked, in one his noble brow, in another his long flowing hair, in a third his keen and shrewd eye, till presently King Sigismund asked his Fool, Porro, which of all the heads in the ranks opposite he might judge to be the wisest and weightiest. The jester's twinkling eyes looked along the rows of folk, and whereas they suddenly fell on little Dame Henneleinlein, the Honey-wife, who sat, as was her wont, with her head propped on her hands, he took the King's word up and answered in mock earnest: "Unless I am deceived it is that butter-cup queen, Nuncle, seeing that her head is so heavy that she is fain to hold it up with both hands."
And he pointed with his bauble to the old woman, who, as the bee-master's widow, had boldly thrust herself into the front rank with those of knight's degree; and there she sat, in a gown of bright yellow brocade which Cousin Maud had once given her, stretching her long neck and resting her head on her hands. The King and Queen, looking whither the Fool pointed, when they beheld a little old woman instead of a stately councillor, laughed aloud; but the jester bowed right humbly towards the dame, and, she, so soon as she marked that the eyes of his Majesty and his gracious lady were turned upon her, and that her paltry person was the object of their regard, fancied that I had peradventure named her as being Ann's cousin, or as the widow of the deceased bee-master who, long years ago, had led the Emperor Charles to see the bee-gardens, so she made reverence again and again, and meanwhile laid her head more and more on one side, ever leaning more heavily on her hand, till the King and Queen laughed louder than ever and many an one perceived what was doing. The cup-bearer and chamberlain drew long faces, and Porro at last ended the jest by greeting the old woman with such dumbshow as no one could think an honor. The cunning little woman saw now that she was being made game of, and whereas not their Majesties alone, but all the Court about them were holding their sides, and she saw that I was in their midst, she believed me to be at the bottom of their mischief, and cast at me such vengeful glances as warned me of evil in store.
After this tourney there was to be a grand dance in the School of Arms, to which their Majesties were bidden with all the princes, knights, and notables of the Diet, and the patricians of the town. Next day, being Saint Clara's day, there would be a great feast at the Tetzels' house by reason that it was the name-day of Dame Clara, Ursula's grandmother, and the eldest of their kin. At this banquet Herdegen's betrothal was to be announced to all their friends and kindred—this my uncle whispered to me as he went off after the jousting to attend the King, who had sent for him. The old man had seen nought of Herdegen's doings with Ann, by reason that he and old Tetzel had both been seated on the same side of the lists, and the tall helmets and feathers had hidden the young folks from his sight. So assurance and contentment even yet beamed in his eye.
The tourney had lasted a long time. I scarce had time enough to change my weed for the dance. Till this day I had sported like a fish in this torrent of turmoil and pleasure; but to-day I was weary. My body was in pain with my spirit, and I would fain have staid at home; but I minded me of the Queen who, albeit she was so much older, and was watched by all—every one expecting that she should be gracious—in her heavy royal array, went through all this of which I was so weary.
Meanwhile a great storm had burst upon us and passed over; all creatures were refreshed, and I likewise uplifted my head and breathed more freely. The fencing school—a great square chamber, as it is to this day, with places all round for the folk to look on—was lighted up as bright as day. My lover and I, now in right good heart once more, paced through the Polish dance led by the King and Queen. Ann's mother had been compelled to stay at home, to tend the master's old mother, and my friend had come under Cousin Maud's protection. She was led out to dance by Junker Henning; his fellow country-man, Sir Apitz von Rochow, walked with Ursula and courted her with unfailing ardor. Franz von Welemisl, who was wont to creep like her shadow, and who was again a guest at the Tetzels' house, had been kept within doors by the cough that plagued him. Likewise I looked in vain for Herdegen.
The first dance indeed was ended when he came in with my great-uncle; but the old knight looked less confidently than he had done in the morning.
Ann was pale, but, meseemed fairer than ever in a dress of pomegranate-red and white brocade, sent to her from Italy by her step-father's brother, My lord Bishop, by the hand of Cardinal Branda. As soon as I had presently begun to speak with her, she was carried off by Junker Henning, and at that same moment my grand-uncle came towards me to ask who was that fair damsel of such noble beauty with whom I was but now speaking. He had never till now beheld Ann close at hand, and how gladly did I reply that this was the daughter of Pernhart the town Councillor and she to whom Herdegen had plighted his faith.
The old man was startled and full wroth yet, by reason of all the fine folk about us, he was bound to refrain himself, and he presently departed.
The festival went forward and I saw that Herdegen danced first with Ursula and then with Ann. Then they stood still near the flower shrubs which were placed round about the hall to garnish it, and it might have been weened from their demeanor that they had quarrelled and had come to high words. I would fain have gone to them, but the Queen had bid me stay with her and never ceased asking me a hundred questions as to names and other matters.
At last, or ever it was midnight, their Majesties departed. I breathed more freely, put my hand on my Hans' arm, and was minded to bid him take me to Herdegen and speak out my mind, but my brother, as it fell, prevented me. He came up to me and with what a mien! His eyes flashing, his cheeks burning, his lips tight-set. He signed to me and Hans to follow whither he went, and then passionately besought us that we would depart from the dance for a while with him and his sweetheart, that was Ann. Such an entreaty amazed us greatly, yet, when he told us that she would go no whither with him save under our care, and that everything depended on his learning this very hour how he stood with her, we did his will. And he likewise told us that he had not indeed given his word that morning to my grand-uncle and Jost Tetzel, but had only pledged his word that he would give them his answer next day.
So presently Hans and I stole out behind the pair, out into the road. I, for my part, was well content and thankful and, when we beheld them accuse and answer each other right doughtily, we laughed, and were agreed that Aunt Jacoba's counsel had led to a good issue; and I told my Hans that I should myself take a lesson from all this and let the smart Junkers and Knights make love to me to their hearts' content, if ever I should be moved to play him a right foolish trick.
Presently, when we had many times paced the road to and fro the Pernharts' house, Ann was minded to knock at the door; but behold she was saved the pains. Mistress Henneleinlein just then came out whereas she had been helping Dame Giovanna to tend the sick grandmother. The lantern Eppelein carried in front of us was not so bright as the sun, yet could I see full plainly the old woman's venomous eye; and what high dudgeon sounded in her voice! Each one had his meed, even my Hans, to whom she cried: "Keep thy bride out of Porro's way, Master Haller. It ill-beseems the promised wife of a worshipful Councillor to be casting her lot in with a Fool! Howbeit, to laugh is better than to weep, and he laughs longest who laughs last!" And thereupon she herself laughed loudly and, with a scornful nod to Ann, turned her back on us.
All was still in Master Pernharts' house; he himself had gone to rest. At Herdegen's bidding we followed him into the hall, and there he clasped Ann to his heart, and declared to us that now, and henceforth for ever, they were one. Whereupon we each and all embraced; but my friend clung longest to me, and whispered in my ear that she was happier than ever she could deserve to be. Herdegen asked me whether now he had made all right, and whether I would be the same old Margery again? And I right gladly put up my lips for his to kiss; and the returned prodigal, who had come back to that which was his best portion, was like one drunk with wine. He was beside himself with joy, so that he clasped first me and then Hans in his arms, and slapped Eppelein, who carried a lantern to show us the pools left by the storm of rain, again and again on the shoulder, and thrust a purse full of money into his free hand, albeit there was an end now of my grand-uncle's golden bounty. Nought would persuade him to go back to the dancing-hall, to meet Ursula and her kin; and when he presently departed from us we heard him along the street, singing such a love song as no false heart may imagine, as glad as the larks which would now ere long be soaring to the sky.
We got back to the great hall. The dancing and music were yet at their height; our absence we deemed had scarce been marked; howbeit, as soon as we entered, my grand-uncle made enquiry "where Herdegen might be," and when I looked about me at haphazard I beheld—my eyes did not cheat me—I beheld Mistress Henneleinlein in one of the side-stalls.
No man told me, yet was I sure and certain that she was saying somewhat which concerned me, and presently I discerned in the dim back-ground the feathered plume which Ursula had worn at the dance. My heart beat with fears; every word spoken by the old Dame would of a surety do us a mischief. Hans mocked at my alarms and at a maid's folly in ever taking to herself matters which concern her not.
Then Ursula came forth into the hall again, and how she swept past us on Junker Henning's arm.
A young knight of the Palatinate now led me out to a dance I had erewhile promised him.
We stopped for lack of breath. The festival was over; yet did Ursula and the Junker walk together. He was hearkening eagerly to all she might say, and on a sudden he clapped his hand into hers which she held out to him, and his eyes, which he had held set on the floor, fired up with a flash. Presently he and the Knight von Rochow made their way, arm in arm through the press, and both were laughing and pulling their long red beards.
I still clung to my lover's arm and entreated him to take me to speak with Junker Henning, inasmuch as I sorely wanted to question him; but the Junker diligently kept far from us. Nevertheless we at last stayed him, and after that I had enquired, as it were in jest, whether he had healed his old feud with Mistress Ursula and concluded a truce, or peradventure made peace with her, he answered me, in a tone all unlike his wonted frank and glad manner, that this for a while must remain privy to him and her, and that we should scarce be the first to whom he should reveal the matter; and forthwith he bid us farewell with a courtly reverence. But my lover would not let him thus depart, and asked him, calmly, what was the interpretation of this speech, whereupon Rochow spoke for his young fellow-countryman, and enquired, in the high-handed and lordly tone which ever marked his voice and manner, whether here, in the native land of Nuremberg playthings, love and faith were accounted of as toys.
Junker Henning however, broke in, and said, casting a warning look at me: "Far be it from him to break friendship with an honorable gentleman, such as my Hans, before having an explanation." And he held out his hand somewhat more readily than before, bowed sweetly to me and led away his cousin.
At last we got out with the Haller parents and Cousin Maud. The old folks got into litters, and the serving men were lighting the way before me to mine, when my lover stayed me, saying: "It is already grey in the East. Never before were we together so well betimes, Margery, and happy hours are few. If thou'rt not too weary, let us walk home together in this fresh morning air."
I was right well-content and we went gently forward, I clinging to him closely. He felt how high my heart was beating and, when he asked me whether it was for love that it beat so fast, I confessed in truth that, whereas the Brandenburgers outdid all other knights in the kingdom, in defiance and hotheadedness, I feared lest there should be a passage of arms betwixt Junker Henning and my brother Herdegen. But Hans made answer that, if it were the Brandenburgers intent to challenge him, he could not hinder it; yet be trowed it would be to their own damage; that Herdegen had scarce found his match at the Paris school of arms; and at least should we not mar this sweet morning walk by such fears.
And he held me closer to him, and while we slowly wandered on he poured forth his whole heart to me, and confessed that through all his lonely life in foreign lands he had ever lacked a great matter; that even with the gayety of his favorite comrades, even when his best diligence had been crowned with great issues, yet had he never had full joy in life. Nor was it till my love had made him a complete and truly happy man that he had felt, as it were, whole, inasmuch as that alone had stilled the strange craving which till then had made his heart sick.
Yea, and I could tell him that it had been the same with me; and as for what more we said, verily it should rather have been sung to sweet and lofty music on the lute and mandoline. Two rightly matched souls stood revealed each to each, and Heaven itself, meseemed, was opened in the strait ways of our town.
We kissed as we stood on the threshold of the Schopper-house, and when at length we must need part he held me once more to his heart, longer than ever he had before, and tore himself away; and laying his hands on my shoulders, as he looked into my eyes in the pale light of dawn, he said: "Come what may, Margery, we love each other truly and have learned through each other what true happiness means; and nevertheless we are as yet but in the March-moon of our love, and its May days, which are sweeter far, are yet to come. But even the March-joy is good—right good to me."
I had forgotten my fears and gloomy forebodings by the time I climbed into bed in my darkened chamber. Sleep forthwith closed my eyes, and I lay without even a dream till Cousin Maud waked me. I turned over by reason that I was still heavy with slumber; yet she stood by my bed, and scarce half a quarter of an hour after, lo, again I felt her hand on my shoulder and woke up quaking, with a cold sweat on my brow. I had dreamed that I was riding out in the Lorenzer-wald with Hans and my grand-uncle and other some; but we went slowly and softly, by reason that all our horses fell lame. And it fell that on the very spot where Ann had flown into Herdegen's arms I beheld a high, yellow grave-stone, and on it was written in great black letters: "HANS HALLER."
Hereupon I had started up with a loud cry, and it was long or ever my brain was clear as to the world about me. Cousin Maud laughed to see me so drunk asleep, as was not my wont; yet could she not deny that my dream boded no good. Nevertheless, quoth she, it was small marvel that such a heathen Turkish turmoil as we had been living in should beget monstrous fancies in a young maid's brain. She would of set purpose have left me to sleep the day through, to give me strength; howbeit Herdegen had twice come to ask for me, and so likewise had Ann and Hans, and it wanted but an hour and a half of noon. This made me laugh; nevertheless I minded me then and there of all that had befallen last night at Pernhart's house-door and in the school of arms, and, moreover, that we were bidden this day to eat with the Tetzels; also that they, and eke my grand-uncle, were still in the belief that Herdegen's betrothal to Ursula might be at once proclaimed to their friends.
I began to dress in haste and fear, and Susan was in the act of plaiting my hair when Cousin Maud flew in to say that Queen Barbara had sent her own litter to carry me to her. Thus had I to make all speed.
The royal quarters in the castle had been newly ordered by the town at his Majesty's desire, and they were indeed bravely decked; yet never had the like show pleased me less. The Queen was giving audience to the Pope's Legate, to their excellencies the envoys from the Greek Emperor, to my Lord Conrad the Elector of Maintz, and many more nobles. She had made so bold as to declare that the German maidens were no less skilled in the art of song than the damsels of Italy, and had bidden me to her in such hot haste that I might let the notables there assembled hear a few lays. I might not say nay to the royal behest; for better, for worse, I must fain take my lute and sing, at first alone, and then with my lord Conte di Puppi. Our voices presently brought the King to the chamber, and in truth I won praise enough if I had best cared to hear it. Nay, for the first time it was a torment to me to sing, and when the notables had all been sent forth, and I was alone with the Queen and her ladies, I knew not what ailed me but I burst into tears, hot and bitter tears. The gracious Queen took me in her arms with womanly sweetness, but while she gave me her phial of vinegar to smell, and spoke words of comfort, I was suddenly scared at hearing close behind me right woeful sobbing and sighing, as from a woman's breast. I looked about me, and beheld Porro, the jester, who had cast himself on a couch and was mocking me, pulling such a grimace the while that his smooth, long, thin face seemed grown to the length of two lean faces. The sight was so merry that I was fain to laugh. Whereas he nevertheless ceased not from sobbing, the Queen reproved him and bid him not carry his fooling too far. Whereupon he sobbed out: "Nay, royal and gracious Coz, thou art in error. Never have I so shamelessly forgotten to play my part as Fool, as at this moment. Alack, alack! what a thing is life! Were we not one and all born fools, and if we did but measure it as it is now and ever shall be, with the wisdom of the sage, we should never cease to bewail ourselves, from the nurse's rod to the scythe of death."