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- In The Fire Of The Forge, Volume 1. - 4/9 -


So the property had been consumed, and the Lady Wendula and her son and three daughters were left in moderate circumstances. The two older girls had taken the veil, while the youngest, a merry little maiden, lived with her mother.

But the Emperor Rudolph had by no means forgotten the Lady Wendula and her dead husband, and with the utmost kindness requested her to send him her only son as soon as he was able to wield a sword and lance. He intended to repay Heinz for the love and loyalty his father had shown him through his whole life.

"And the Hapsburg," Biberli added, "had kept his word."

In a few years his young lord was ready for a position at court.

Gotthard von Ramsweg, the Lady Wendula's older brother, a valiant knight, went to his sister's home after her husband's death to manage the estate and instruct his nephew in all the exercises of knighthood. Soon the strong, agile, fearless son of a brave father, under the guidance of such a teacher, excelled many an older youth. He was barely eighteen when the Lady Wendula sent him to his imperial master. She had given him, with her blessing, fiery horses, the finest pieces of his father's suits of mail, an armour bearer, and a groom to take with him on his journey; and his uncle had agreed to accompany him to Lausanne, where the Emperor Rudolph was then holding his court to discuss with Pope Gregory--the tenth of the name--arrangements for a new crusade. But nothing had yet been said about Biberli. On the evening before the young noble's departure, however, a travelling minstrel came to the castle, who sang of the deeds of former crusaders, and alluded very touchingly to the loneliness of the wounded knight, Herr Weisenthau, on his couch of pain. Then the Lady Wendula remembered her eldest son, and the fraternal tendance which Biberli had given him.

"And so," the servant went on, "in the anxiety of a mother's heart she urged me to accompany Heinz, her darling, as esquire; and watch over his welfare."

"Since I could use a pen, I was to write now and then what a mother desires to hear of a son. She felt great confidence in me, because she believed that I was true and steadfast. And I have kept in every respect the vow I then made to the Lady Wendula--that she should not find herself mistaken in me. I remember that evening as if it were only yesterday. To keep constantly before my eyes the praise my mistress had bestowed upon me, I ventured to ask my young master' sister to embroider the T and the S on the cap and the new coat, and the young lady did so that very night. Since that time these two initials have gone with me wherever our horses bear us, and as, after the battle of Marchfield, Biberli nursed his master back to health with care and toil, he thinks he can prove to you, his sole sweetheart, that he wears his T and S with good reason."

In return for these words Katterle granted her friend the fitting reward with such resignation that it was robbing the moon not to permit her to look on. Her curiosity, however, was not to remain wholly ungratified; for when Biberli found that it was time for him to repair to the Town Hall to learn whether his master, Heinz Schorlin, needed his services, Katterle came out of the house door with him.

They found much more to say and to do ere they parted.

First, the Swiss maid-servant wished to know how the Emperor Rudolph had received Heinz Schorlin; and she had the most gratifying news.

During their stay at Lausanne, where he won the victory in a tournament, Heinz was knighted; but after the battle of Marchfield he became still dearer to the Emperor, especially when a firm friendship united the young Swiss to Hartmann, Rudolph's eighteen-year-old son, who was now on the Rhine. That very day Heinz had received a tangible proof of the imperial favour, on account of which he had gone to the dance in an extremely cheerful mood.

This good news concerning the knight, whom her young mistress had perhaps already met, awakened in the maid, who was not averse to the business of matchmaking, so dear to her sex, very aspiring plans which aimed at nothing less than a union between Eva and Heinz Schorlin. But Biberli had scarcely perceived the purport of Katterle's words when he anxiously interrupted her and, declaring that he had already lingered too long, cut short the suggestion by taking leave.

His master's marriage to a young girl who belonged to the city nobility, which in his eyes was far inferior in rank to a Knight Schorlin, should cast no stone in the pathway of fame that was leading him so swiftly upward. Many things must happen before Biberli could honestly advise him to give up his present free and happy life and seek rest in his own nest.

If Eva Ortlieb were as lovely as the Virgin herself, and Sir Heinz's inflammable heart should blaze as fervently as it always did, she should not lure him into the paralysing bondage of wedlock so long as he was there and watched over him.

If he must be married, Biberli had something else in view for him-- something which would make him a great lord at a single stroke. But it was too soon even for that.

When he crossed the Fleischbrucke in the market place and approached the brilliantly lighted Town Hall, he had considerable difficulty in moving forward, for the whole square was thronged with curious spectators, servants in gala liveries, sedan chairs, richly caparisoned steeds, and torchbearers. The von Montfort retinue, which had quarters in the Ortlieb house, was one of the most brilliant and numerous of all, and Biberli's eyes wandered with a look of satisfaction over the gold-mounted sedan chair of the young countess. He would rather have given his master to her than to the Nuremberg maiden whom Katterle compared to a weathercock, and who therefore certainly did not possess the lofty virtue of steadfastness.

CHAPTER III.

Sir Heinz Schorlin's servant was on intimate terms with many of the servitors of the imperial family, and one of them conducted him to the balcony of the city pipers, which afforded a view of the great hall. The Emperor sat there at the head of the banquet table, and by his side, on a lower throne, his sister, the Burgravine von Zollern. Only the most distinguished and aristocratic personages whom the Reichstag attracted to Nuremberg, with their ladies, shared the feast given by the city in their honour.

But yonder, at a considerable distance from them, though within the space enclosed by a black and yellow silk cord, separated from the glittering throng of the other guests, he perceived--he would not trust his own eyes--the Knight Heinz Schorlin, and by his side a wonderfully charming young girl.

Biberli had not seen Eva Ortlieb for three years, yet he knew that it was no other than she. But into what a lovely creature the active, angular child with the thin little arms had developed!

The hall certainly did not lack superb women of all ages and every style of figure and bearing suited to please the eye. Many might even boast of more brilliant, aristocratic beauty, but not one could vie in witchery with her on whom Katterle had cast an eye for his master. She had only begun a modest allusion to it, but even that was vexatious; for Biberli fancied that she had thereby "talked of the devil," and he did not wish him to appear.

With a muttered imprecation, by no means in harmony with his character, he prepared to leave the balcony; but the scene below, though it constantly filled him with fresh vexation, bound him to the spot as if by some mysterious spell.

Especially did he fancy that he had a bitter taste in his mouth when his gaze noted the marvellous symmetry of Heinz Schorlin's powerful though not unusually tall figure, his beautiful waving locks, and the aristocratic ease with which he wore his superb velvet robe-sapphire blue on the left side and white on the right, embroidered with silver falcons- or perceived how graciously the noblest of the company greeted him after. the banquet; not, indeed, from envy, but because it pierced his very heart to think that this splendid young favourite of fortune, already so renowned, whom he warmly loved, should throw himself away on the daughter of a city merchant, though his motley wares, which he had just seen, were adorned by the escutcheon of a noble house.

But Heinz Schorlin had already been attracted by many more aristocratic fair ones, only to weary of them speedily enough. This time, also, Biberli would have relied calmly on his fickleness had Katterle's foolish wish only remained unuttered, and had Heinz treated his companion in the gay, bold fashion which usually marked his manner to other ladies. But his glance had a modest, almost devout expression when he gazed into the large blue eyes of the merchant's daughter. And now she raised them! It could not fail to bewitch the most obdurate woman hater!

Faithful, steadfast Biberli clenched his fists, and once even thought of shouting "Fire!", into the ballroom below to separate all who were enjoying themselves there wooing and being wooed.

But those beneath perceived neither him nor his wrath--least of all his master and the young girl who had come hither so reluctantly.

At home Eva had really done everything in her power to be permitted to stay away from the Town Hall. Herr Ernst Ortlieb, her father, however, had been inflexible. The chin of the little man with beardless face and hollow cheeks had even begun to tremble, and this was usually the precursor of an outburst of sudden wrath which sometimes overpowered him to such a degree that he committed acts which he afterwards regretted.

This time he had been compelled not to tolerate the opposition of his obstinate child. Emperor Rudolph himself had urged the "honourable" members of the Council to gratify him and his daughter-in-law Agnes, whom he wished to entertain pleasantly during her brief visit, by the presence of their beautiful wives and daughters at the entertainment in the Town Hall.

Herr Ortlieb's invalid wife could not spare Els, her older daughter and faithful nurse, so he required Eva's obedience, and compelled her to give up her opposition to attending the festival; but she dreaded the vain, worldly gaiety--nay, actually felt a horror of it.

Even while still a pupil at the convent school she had often asked herself whether it would not be the fairest fate for her, like her Aunt Kunigunde, the abbess of the convent of St. Clare, to vow herself to the Saviour and give up perishable joys to secure the rapture of heaven, which lasted throughout eternity, and might begin even here on earth, in a quiet life with God, a complete realisation of the Saviour's loving nature, and the great sufferings which he took upon himself for love's sake. Oh, even suffering and bleeding with the Most High were rich in mysterious delight! Aye, no earthly happiness could compare with the blissful feeling left by those hours of pious ecstasy.


In The Fire Of The Forge, Volume 1. - 4/9

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