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- In The Blue Pike, Volume 1. - 4/7 -
forced a slight grimace to distort his smooth-shaven, clever, almost over-plump face,--led by the arm like a careful son, resembled, with his long, silver locks, a patriarch or an apostle.
The young envoy of the Council, Herr Lienhard Groland, lingered behind the others and seemed to be taking a survey of the room.
What bright, keen eyes he had; how delicately cut was the oval face with the strong, very slightly hooked nose; how thick were the waving brown locks that fell upon the slender neck; how well the pointed beard suited his chin; with what austere majesty his head rose above the broad, plaited, snow-white ruff, which he must have just donned!
Now his eyes rested upon the vagrants, and Dietel perceived something which threw him completely off his balance; for the first time he changed the position of his napkin, jerking it from its place under his left arm to tuck it beneath the right one. He had known Kuni a long time. In her prosperous days, when she was the ornament of Loni's band and had attracted men as a ripe pear draws wasps, she had often been at the tavern, and both he and the landlord of The Pike had greeted her cordially, for whoever sought her favour was obliged to order the best and dearest of everything, not only for her and himself, but for a whole tableful of hungry guests. When she had met him just now he would never have recognised her had she not been in Gundel's company. True, the sight of her in this plight was not unexpected, yet it pierced him to the heart, for Kuni had been a remarkable girl, and yet was now in far greater penury than many of much less worth whom he had watched stumbling along the downward path before her. When he saw Lienhard Groland's glance rest upon her, he noticed also how strangely her emaciated face changed colour. Though it had just been as white as the napkin under his arm, it now flushed as red as the balsam blossoms in the window, and then paled again. She had formerly gazed around her boldly enough, but now she lowered her eyes to the floor as modestly as any demure maiden on her way to church.
And what did this mean?
The honourable member of the Nuremberg Council must be well acquainted with the girl, for his eyes had scarcely met hers ere a strange smile flitted over his grave, manly face.
Now--was it in jest or earnest?--he even shook his finger at her. He stopped in front of her a moment, too, and Dietel heard him exclaim:
"So here you are! On the highway again, in spite of everything?"
The distance which separated them and the loud talking of the guests prevented the waiter's hearing her reply, "The captive bird can not endure the cage long, Herr Lienhard," far less the words, added in a lower tone:
"Yet flight has been over since my fall at Augsburg. My foot lies buried there with many other things which will never return. I can only move on wheels behind the person who takes me." Then she paused and ventured to look him full in the face. Her eyes met his beaming with a radiant light, but directly after they were dimmed by a mist of tears. Yet she forced them back, though the deep suffering from which they sprung was touchingly apparent in the tone of her voice, as she continued:
"I have often wished, Herr Lienhard, that the cart was my coffin and the tavern the graveyard."
Dietel noticed the fit of coughing which followed this speech, and the hasty movement with which the Nuremberg patrician thrust his hand into his purse and tossed Kuni three coins. They did not shine with the dull white lustre of silver, but with the yellow glitter of gold. The waiter's eyes were sharp and he had his own ideas about this unprecedented liberality.
The travelling companions of the aristocratic burgomaster and ambassadors of the proud city of Nuremberg had also noticed this incident.
After they had taken their seats at the handsomely ornamented table, Wilibald Pirckheimer bent toward the ear of his young friend and companion in office, whispering:
"The lovely wife at home whom you toiled so hard to win, might, I know, rest quietly, secure in the possession of all the charms of foam- born Aphrodite, yet I warn you. Whoever is as sure of himself as you cares little for the opinion of others. And yet we stand high, friend Lienhard, and therefore are seen by all; but the old Argus who watches for his neighbour's faults has a hundred sharp eyes, while among the gods three are blind--Justice, Happiness, and Love. Besides, you flung gold to yonder worthless rabble. I would rather have given it to the travelling musicians. They, like us humanists, are allied to the Muses and, moreover, are harmless, happy folk."
Lienhard Groland listened till his older friend had finished. Then, after thanking him for his well-meant counsel, he answered, turning to the others also:
"In better days rope-dancing was the profession of yonder poor, coughing creature. Now, after a severe accident, she is dragging herself through life on one foot. I once knew her, for I succeeded in saving her from terrible disgrace."
"And," replied Wilibald Pirckheimer, "we would rather show kindness a second and a third time to any one on whom we have be stowed a favour than to render it once to a person from whom we have received one. This is my own experience. But the wise man must guard against nothing more carefully than to exceed moderation in his charity. How easily, when Caius sees Cnejus lavish gold where silver or copper would serve, he thinks of Martial's apt words: 'Who gives great gifts, expects great gifts again.'--[Martial, Epigram 5, 59, 3.]--Do not misunderstand me. What could yonder poor thing bestow that would please even a groom? But the eyes of suspicion scan even the past. I have often seen you open your purse, friend Lienhard, and this is right. Whoever hath ought to give, and my dead mother used to say that: 'No one ever became a beggar by giving at the proper time.'"
"And life is gladdened by what one gives to another," remarked Conrad Peutinger, the learned Augsburg city clerk, who valued his Padua title of doctor more than that of an imperial councillor. "It applies to all departments. Don't allow yourself to regret your generosity, friend Lienhard. 'Nothing becomes man better than the pleasure of giving,' says Terentius.--[Terenz. Ad. 360]--Who is more liberal than the destiny which adorns the apple tree that is to bear a hundred fruits, with ten thousand blossoms to please our eyes ere it satisfies our appetite?"
"To you, if to any one, it gives daily proof of liberality in both learning and the affairs of life," Herr Wilibald assented.
"If you will substitute 'God, our Lord,' for 'destiny,' I agree with you," observed the Abbot of St. AEgidius in Nuremberg.
The portly old prelate nodded cordially to Dr. Peutinger as he spoke. The warm, human love with which he devoted himself to the care of souls in his great parish consumed the lion's share of his time and strength. He spent only his leisure hours in the study of the ancient writers, in whom he found pleasure, and rejoiced in the work of the humanists without sharing their opinions.
"Yes, my dear Doctor," he continued in his deep voice, in a tone of the most earnest conviction, "if envy were ever pardonable, he who presumed to feel it toward you might most speedily hope to find forgiveness. There is no physical or mental gift with which the Lord has not blessed you, and to fill the measure to overflowing, he permitted you to win a beautiful and virtuous wife of noble lineage."
"And allowed glorious daughters to grow up in your famous home," cried little Dr. Eberbach, waving his wineglass enthusiastically. "Who has not heard of Juliane Peutinger, the youngest of humanists, but no longer one of the least eminent, who, when a child only four years old, addressed the Emperor Maximilian in excellent Latin. But when, as in the child Juliane, the wings of the intellect move so powerfully and so prematurely, who would not think of the words of the superb Ovid: 'The human mind gains victories more surely than lances and arrows.'"
But, ere he had finished the verse which, like many another Latin one, he mingled with his German words, he noticed Lienhard Groland eagerly motioning to him to stop. The latter knew only too well what had not yet reached the ears of Eberbach in Vienna. The marvellous child, whose precocious learning he had just extolled as a noble gift of Providence to the father, was no longer among the living. Her bright eyes had closed ere she reached maidenhood.
Dr. Eberbach, in painful embarrassment, tried to apologize for his heedlessness, but the Augsburg city clerk, with a friendly gesture, endeavoured to soothe his young fellow-scholar.
"It brought the true nature of happiness very vividly before all our eyes," he remarked with a faint sigh. "In itself it is not lasting. A second piece of good fortune is needed to maintain the first. Mine was indeed great and beautiful enough. But we will let the dead rest. What more have you heard concerning the first books of the Annales of Tacitus, said to have been discovered in the Corvey monastery? If the report should be verified----"
Here Eberbach, delighted to find an opportunity to afford the honoured man whom he had unwittingly grieved a little pleasure, eagerly interrupted. Hurriedly thrusting his hand into the breast of his black doublet, he drew forth several small sheets on which he had succeeded in copying the beginning of the precious new manuscript, and handed them to Peutinger, who, with ardent zeal, instantly became absorbed in the almost illegible characters of his young comrade in learning. Wilibald Pirckheimer and Lienhard Groland also frequently forgot the fresh salmon and young partridges, which were served in succession, to share this brilliant novelty. The Abbot of St. AEgidius, too, showed his pleasure in the fortunate discovery, and did not grow quieter until the conversation turned upon the polemical writing which Reuchlin had just finished. It had recently appeared in Frankfort under the title: The Eye Mirror, and assailed with crushing severity those who blamed him for opposing the proposal to destroy the books of the Jews.
"What in the world do we care about the writings of the Hebrews?" the deep bass voice of Hans von Obernitz here interrupted the conversation. "A new Latin manuscript--that I value! But has this noble fragment of Tacitus created half as much stir as this miserable dispute?"
"There is more at stake," said Lienhard Groland positively. "The Jewish writings merely serve as a pretext for the Cologne inquisitors to attack the great Reuchlin. He, the most profound and keenest student of the noble Greek tongue, who also forced the venerable language in which the Old Testament speaks to discourse to us Germans--"
"The Hebrew!" cried Hans von Obernitz impatiently, passing his napkin over his thick moustache; "what do we want of it? How can a sagacious man plunge into such annoyances on its account?"
"Because the excess of liberty which you gentlemen grant to the human
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