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- In The Blue Pike, Complete - 20/20 -
the humble couch of this vagabond girl. If, before the judgment seat above, intention and faith are weighed with the same scales as works, few who close their eyes behind silken curtains will be so sure of a favourable sentence as this poorest of the poor."
"Did the girl really keep no portion of Herr Lienhard's rich gift for herself?" asked the Nuremberg imperial magistrate.
"Nothing," replied the abbot. "She gave the whole, down to her last copper, to the stranger, though she herself must remain here, poor, lame, and deserted--and she had only met the sick woman by accident upon the highway. My duty forbids me to repeat the details, and how she bore herself even while at Augsburg, but, thanks to the confession which I have just received, I shall count this morning among those never to be forgotten. O gentlemen, death is a serious matter, and intercourse with the dying is the best school for the priest. Then the inmost depths of the soul are opened to him."
"And," observed Wilibald Pirckheimer, "I think the psychologist would then learn that, the deeper we penetrate the human breast, the darker is the spectacle."
"Yes, my learned friend," the abbot answered, "but we also perceive that the deepest and darkest shafts contain the purest specimens of gold and silver ore."
"And were you really permitted to find such in this neglected vagabond, reverend sir?" asked Doctor Eberbach, with an incredulous smile.
"As certainly," answered the prelate with repellent dignity, "as that the Saviour was right when he called those who were pure in heart blessed above those who were wise and overflowing with knowledge!"
Then, without waiting for the Thuringian's answer, he hastily turned to the young ambassador and begged him to grant the dying girl, who clung to him with tender devotion, a brief farewell.
"Willingly," replied Lienhard, requesting the physician to accompany him.
The latter had just beckoned Doctor Peutinger to his side, to examine with him the indulgence which he had found under the kerchief crossed over the sick girl's bosom. It did not secure redemption from the flames of purgatory for the ropedancer's soul, as the gentlemen expected, but for another, and that other--the learned humanist and Imperial Councillor would not believe his own eyes--was his beloved, prematurely lost child. There, in large letters, was "Juliane Peutinger of Augsburg."
Astonished, almost bewildered, the usually quiet statesman expressed his amazement.
The other gentlemen were preparing to examine the paper with him, when the abbot, without betraying the secret of Kuni's heart, which she had confided to him in her confession, told Juliane's father that the ropedancer had scarcely left the convent ere she gave up both the Emperor's gift and the viaticum--in short, her whole property, which would have been large enough to support her a long time--in order to do what she could for the salvation of the child for whom her soul was more concerned than for her own welfare.
The astonished father's eyes filled with tears of grateful emotion, and when Lienhard went with the gray-haired leech to the dying girl Doctor Peutinger begged permission to accompany them. The physician, however, requested him to remain away from the sufferer, who would be disturbed by the sight of a strange face. Then Peutinger charged his young friend to give Kuni his kind greetings and thank her for the love with which she had remembered his dear child.
The young Councillor silently followed the physician to the sick bed, at whose head leaned a Gray Sister, who was one of the guests of The Blue Pike and had volunteered to nurse the patient.
The nun shook her head sorrowfully as the two men crossed the threshold. She knew how the dying look, and that the hand of death already touched this sufferer. Yet her kind, colourless face, framed by the white sides of her cap, quickly regained its usual quiet, placid expression.
The regular features, now slightly flushed with the fever, of the patient in her charge, on the contrary, were constantly varying in expression. She had noticed the entrance of the visitors, and when she opened her sparkling blue eyes and saw the person to whom her poor heart clung with insatiable yearning they were filled with a sunny radiance, and a smile hovered round her lips.
She had known that he would come, that he would not let her die without granting her one more glance.
Now she would fain have nodded to him and expressed in very, very appropriate words the delight, the embarrassment, the gratitude which filled her soul, but her panting chest could give no breath for utterance. Nay, extreme exhaustion even prevented the movement of her lips. But her heart and brain were by no means inactive. A wealth of internal and external experiences, long since forgotten, rose before her mind. First she fancied that she saw Lienhard, as at their first meeting, approaching the garlanded door of St. Sebald's with his beautiful bride, arrayed in her wedding robes. Then she was transported to the court room and felt his hand stroke her hair. The hours at Frau Schurstab's when she had awaited his visits with an anxious heart came back to her memory. Then she again saw herself upon the rope. Lienhard was toying with the little elf below. But what she beheld this time was far from awakening new wicked wishes, for Juliane once more wore her laurel crown and beckoned kindly to her like a dear, familiar friend. Finally, pale little Juli appeared, as if shrouded in mists. Last of all, she saw herself filling the jug for the sick woman and gathering the red pinks for her and Lienhard in the landlady's little garden by the shimmering starlight. The flowers, whose fragrance was too strong, yet which she had not the strength to remove, lay on the coverlet before her. They were intended for Lienhard, and as she stretched her slender fingers toward them and tried to clasp them she succeeded. She even found strength to hold out her right hand to him with a beseeching glance. And lo! ere her arm fell again the proud man had seized the flowers. Then she saw him fasten the pinks on the breast of his dark doublet, and heard the thrill of deep emotion in his voice, as he said:
"I thank you, dear Kuni, for the beautiful flowers. I will keep them. Your life was a hard one, but you have borne the burden bravely. I saw this clearly, and not I alone. I am also to thank you and give you very friendly remembrances in the name of Doctor Peutinger, of Augsburg, little Juliane's father. He will think of you as a mistress of your art, a noble, high-minded girl, and I--I shall certainly do so."
He clasped her burning hand as he spoke; but at these words she felt as she had probably done a few hours before, when, hidden behind the oleander, she listened to the conversation in which he mentioned her kindly. Again a warm wave of joy seemed to surge upward in her breast, and she fancied that her heart was much too small for such a wealth of rapture, and it was already overflowing in hot waves, washing all grief far, far away.
Her gift had been accepted.
The red pinks looked at her from his doublet, and she imagined that everything around was steeped in rosy light, and that a musical tinkling and singing echoed in her ears.
Never had she experienced such a feeling of happiness.
Now she even succeeded in moving her lips, and the man, who still held her little burning hand clasped in his first heard his own name very faintly uttered; then her parched lips almost inaudibly repeated the exclamation: "Too late!" and again, "Too late!"
The next instant she pressed her left hand upon her panting breast. The rosy hue around her blended with the red tint of the pinks, and another haemorrhage bore the restless wanderer to that goal where every mortal journey ends.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Repeated the exclamation: "Too late!" and again, "Too late!
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS FOR THE ENTIRE "IN THE BLUE PIKE":
Arrogant wave of the hand, and in an instructive tone Buy indugence for sins to be committed in the future Honest anger affords a certain degree of enjoyment Mirrors were not allowed in the convent Ovid, 'We praise the ancients' Pays better to provide for people's bodies than for their brains Repeated the exclamation: "Too late!" and again, "Too late! Who watches for his neighbour's faults has a hundred sharp eyes Who gives great gifts, expects great gifts again
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