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- The Dove in the Eagle's Nest - 59/59 -
for a breath of Swabian hills, she ever declared it would kill her outright to send her from me. And thus it went on till I laid her in the stately church of her own patroness. Then how it would have fared with me and the helpless little ones I know not, but for thy noble godmother, my Vittoria, the wise and ready helper of all in trouble, the only friend thy mother had made at Rome, and who had been able, from all her heights of learning and accomplishment, to value my Thekla's golden soul in its simplicity. Even then, when too late, came one of the Kaisar's kindest letters, recalling me,--a letter whose every word I would have paid for with a drop of my own blood six weeks before! and which he had only failed to send because his head was running on the plan of that gorgeous tomb where he is not buried! Well, at least it brought us home to you again once more, mother, and, where you are, comfort never has been utterly absent from me. And then, coming from the wilful gloom of Pope Leo's court into our Germany, streamed over by the rays of Luther's light, it was as if a new world of hope were dawning, as if truth would no longer be muffled, and the young would grow up to a world far better and purer than the old had ever seen. What trumpet-calls those were, and how welcome was the voice of the true Catholic faith no longer stifled! And my dear old Kaisar, with his clear eyes, his unfettered mind--he felt the power and truth of those theses. He bade the Elector of Saxony well to guard the monk Luther as a treasure. Ah! had he been a younger man, or had he been more firm and resolute, able to act as well as think for himself, things might have gone otherwise with the Church. He could think, but could not act; and now we have a man who acts, but WILL not think. It may have been a good day for our German reputation among foreign princes when Charles V. put on the crown; but only two days in my life have been as mournful to me as that when I stood by Kaisar Max's death-bed at Wells, and knew that generous, loving, fitful spirit was passing away from the earth! Never owned I friend I loved so well as Kaisar Max! Nor has any Emperor done so much for this our dear land."
"The young Emperor never loved thee."
"He might have treated me as one who could be useful, but he never forgave me for shaking hands with Luther at the Diet of Worms. I knew it was all over with my court favour after I had joined in escorting the Doctor out of the city. And the next thing was that Georg of Freundsberg and his friends proclaimed me a bigoted Papist because I did my utmost to keep my troop out of the devil's holiday at the sack of Rome! It has ever been my lot to be in disgrace with one side or the other! Here is my daughter's marriage hindered on the one hand, my son's promotion checked on the other, because I have a conscience of my own, and not of other people's! Heaven knows the right is no easy matter to find; but, when one thinks one sees it, there is nothing to be done but to guide oneself by it, even if the rest of the world will not view it in the same light."
"Nothing else! I doubt me whether it be ever easy to see the veritably right course while still struggling in the midst. That is for after ages, which behold things afar off; but each man must needs follow his own principle in an honest and good heart, and assuredly God will guide him to work out some good end, or hinder some evil one."
"Ay, mother. Each party may guard one side or other of the truth in all honesty and faithfulness; he who cannot with his whole heart cast in his lot with either,--he is apt to serve no purpose, and to be scorned."
"Nay, Ebbo, may he not be a witness to the higher and more perfect truth than either party have conceived? Nor is inaction always needful. That which is right towards either side still reveals itself at the due moment, whether it be to act or to hold still. And verily, Ebbo, what thou didst say even now has set me on a strange thought of mine own dream, that which heralded the birth of thyself and thy brother. As thou knowest, it seemed to me that I was watching two sparkles from the extinguished Needfire wheel. One rose aloft and shone as a star!"
"The other fulfilled those words of the Wise Man. It shone and ran to and fro in the grass. And surely, my Ebbo, thy mother may feel that, in all these dark days of perplexity and trial, the spark of light hath ever shone and drawn its trail of brightness in the gloom, even though the way was long, and seemed uncertain."
"The mother who ever fondled me WILL think so, it may be! But, ah! she had better pray that the light be clearer, and that I may not fall utterly short of the star!"
Travellers in Wurtemburg may perhaps turn aside from glorious old Ulm, and the memories of the battlefields around it, to the romantic country round the Swabian mountains, through which descend the tributaries of the Danube. Here they may think themselves fortunate if they come upon a green valley, with a bright mountain torrent dashing through it, fresh from the lofty mountain, with terraced sides that rise sheer above. An old bridge, a mill, and a neat German village lie clustered in the valley; a seignorial mansion peeps out of the forest glades; and a lovely church, of rather late Gothic, but beautifully designed, attracts the eye so soon as it can be persuaded to quit the romantic outline of the ruined baronial castle high up on one of the mountain ledges. Report declares that there are tombs in the church well worth inspection. You seek out an old venerable blue-coated peasant who has charge of the church.
"What is yonder castle?"
"It is the castle of Adlerstein."
"Are the family still extant?"
"Yea, yea; they built yonder house when the Schloss became ruinous. They have always been here."
The church is very beautiful in its details, the carved work of the east end and pulpit especially so, but nothing is so attractive as the altar tomb in the chantry chapel. It is a double one, holding not, as usual, the recumbent effigies of a husband and wife, but of two knights in armour.
"Who are these, good friend?"
"They are the good Barons Ebbo and Friedel."
Father and son they appear to be, killed at the same time in some fatal battle, for the white marble face of one is round with youth, no hair on lip nor chin, and with a lovely peaceful solemnity, almost cheerfulness, in the expression. The other, a bearded man, has the glory of old age in his worn features, beautiful and restful, but it is as if one had gone to sleep in the light of dawn, the other in the last glow of sunset. Their armour and their crests are alike, but the young one bears the eagle shield alone, while the elder has the same bearing repeated upon an escutcheon of pretence; the young man's hands are clasped over a harp, those of the other over a Bible, and the elder wears the insignia of the order of the Golden Fleece. They are surely father and son, a maiden knight and tried warrior who fell together?
"No," the guide shakes his head; "they are twin brothers, the good Barons Ebbo and Friedel, who were born when their father had been taken captive by the Saracens while on a crusade. Baron Friedel was slain by the Turks at the bridge foot, and his brother built the church in his memory. He first planted vines upon the mountains, and freed the peasants from the lord's dues on their flax. And it is true that the two brothers may still be seen hovering on the mountain-side in the mist at sunset, sometimes one, sometimes both."
You turn with a smile to the inscription, sure that those windows, those porches, that armour, never were of crusading date, and ready to refute the old peasant. You spell out the upright Gothic letters around the cornice of the tomb, and you read, in mediaeval Latin,
"Orate pro Anima Friedmundis Equitis Baronis Adlersteini. A. D. mccccxciii"
Then turn to the other side and read -
"Hic jacet Eberardus Eques Baro Adlersteini. A.D. mdxliii. Demum"
Yes, the guide is right. They are brothers, with well-nigh a lifetime between their deaths. Is that the meaning of that strange Demum?
Few of the other tombs are worth attention, each lapsing further into the bad taste of later ages; yet there is one still deserving admiration, placed close to the head of that of the two Barons. It is the effigy of a lady, aged and serene, with a delicately-carved face beneath her stiff head-gear. Surely this monument was erected somewhat later, for the inscription is in German. Stiff, contracted, hard to read, but this is the rendering of it
"Here lies Christina Sorel, wife of Eberhard, xxth Baron von Adlerstein, and mother of the Barons Eberhard and Friedmund. She fell asleep two days before her son, on the feast of St. John, mdxliii.
"Her children shall rise up and call her blessed.
"Erected with full hearts by her grandson, Baron Friedmund Maximilianus, and his brothers and sisters. Farewell."
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