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- In The Fire Of The Forge, Volume 4. - 4/11 -

if they were at variance, he need not fear that they would act as firm allies against him when he expressed the wish to have Wolff's marriage solemnised as soon as circumstances would permit.

It was not yet time to discuss the matter with any one. He would first go to the Jew Pfefferkorn once more to persuade him to defer his claims, and then, before the meeting of the Council, would repair to the Ortliebs, to commit to Herr Ernst the destiny of the Eysvogel firm and his partner Wolff, on which also depended the welfare of the young merchant's betrothed bride. If the father remained obdurate, if he resented the wrong he had inflicted yesterday upon him and his daughter, he was a lost man; for he had already availed himself of the good will of all those whose doors usually stood open to him. Doubtless the news of his recent severe losses were in every one's mouth, and the letter which he had just received threatened him with an indictment.

The luckless Siebenburg's creditors, too, would now be added to his own. It was all very well for him to say that he would settle his debts him self. As soon as it was rumoured abroad that he had gambled away the estate of Tannenreuth, whose value gave the creditors some security, they would rise as one man, and the house assailed would be his, Casper Eysvogel's.

The harried man's thoughts of his son-in-law were by no means the most kindly.

Meanwhile the latter set out for the second distasteful interview of the morning.

His purpose was to make some arrangement with Heinz Schorlin about the lost estate and obtain definite knowledge concerning his quarrel with him, of which he remembered nothing except that intoxication and jealousy had carried him further than would have happened otherwise. He had undoubtedly spoken insultingly of Els; his words, when uttered against a lady, had been sharper than beseemed a knight. Yet was not any one who found a maiden alone at night with this man justified in doubting her virtue? In the depths of his soul he believed in her innocence, yet he avoided confessing it. Why should not the Swiss, whom Nature had given such power over the hearts of women, have also entangled his brother-in- law's betrothed bride in a love affair? Why should not the gay girl who had pledged her troth to a grave, dull fellow like Wolff, have been tempted into a little love dalliance with the bold, joyous Schorlin?

Not until he had received proof that he had erred would he submit to recall his charges.

He had left his wife with fresh courage and full of good intentions. Now that he was forced to bid her farewell, he first realised what she had been to him. No doubt both had much to forgive, but she was a splendid woman. Though her father's storehouses contained chests of spices and bales of cloth, he did not know one more queenly. That he could have preferred, even for a single moment, the Countess von Montfort, whose sole advantage over her was her nimble tongue and gay, bold manners, now seemed incomprehensible. He had joined Cordula's admirers only to forget at her feet the annoyances with which he had been wearied at home. He had but one thing for which to thank the countess--her remark concerning the future of the twins.

Yet was he really so base that it would have been a disgrace for his darlings to resemble him? "No!" a voice within cried loudly, and as the same voice reminded him of the victories won in tournaments and sword combats, of the open hand with which, since he had been the rich Eysvogel's son-in-law, he had lent and given money to his brothers, and especially of the manly resolve to provide for his wife and children as a soldier in the service of some prince, another, lower, yet insistent, recalled other things. It referred to the time when, with his brothers, he had attacked a train of freight waggons and not cut down their armed escort alone. The curse of a broad-shouldered Nordlinger carrier, whose breast he had pierced with a lance though he cried out that he was a father and had a wife and child to support, the shriek of the pretty boy with curling brown hair who clung to the bridle of his steed as he rode against the father, and whose arm he had cut off, still seemed to ring in his ears. He also remembered the time when, after a rich capture on the highway which had filled his purse, he had ridden to Nuremberg in magnificent new clothes at the carnival season in order, by his brothers' counsel, to win a wealthy bride. Fortune and the saints had permitted him to find a woman to satisfy both his avarice and his heart, yet he had neither kept faith with her nor even showed her proper consideration. But, strangely enough, the warning voice reproached him still more sharply for having, in the presence of others, accused and disparaged his brother-in-law's betrothed bride, whose guilt he believed proved. Again he felt how ignoble and unworthy of a knight his conduct had been. Why had he pursued this course? Merely--he admitted it now--to harm Wolff, the monitor and niggard whom he hated; perhaps also because he secretly told himself that, if Wolff formed a happy marriage, he and his children, not Siebenburg's twin boys, would obtain the larger share of the Eysvogel property.

This greed of gain, which had brought him to Nuremberg to seek a wife, was probably latent in his blood, though his reckless accumulation of debts seemed to contradict it. Yesterday, at the Duke of Pomerania's, it had again led him into that wild, mad dice-throwing.

Seitz Siebenburg was no calm thinker. All these thoughts passed singly in swift flashes through his excited brain. Like the steady monotone of the bass accompanying the rise and fall of the air, he constantly heard the assurance that it would be a pity if his splendid twins should resemble him.

Therefore they must grow up away from his influence, under the care of his good uncle. With this man's example before their eyes they would become knights as upright and noble as Kunz Heideck, whom every one esteemed.

For the sake of the twins he had resolved to begin a new and worthier life himself. His wife would aid him, and love should lend him strength to conduct himself in future so that Countess von Montfort, and every one who meant well by his sons, might wish them to resemble their father.

He walked on, holding his head proudly erect. Seeing the first worshippers entering the Church of Our Lady, he went in, too, repeated several Paternosters, commended the little boys and their mother to the care of the gracious Virgin, and besought her to help him curb the turbulent impulses which often led him to commit deeds he afterwards regretted.

Many people knew Casper Eysvogel's tall, haughty son-in-law and marvelled at the fervent devotion with which, kneeling in the first place he found near the entrance, beside two old women, he continued to pray. Was it true that the Eysvogel firm had been placed in a very critical situation by the loss of great trains of merchandise? One of his neighbours had heard him sigh, and declared that something must weigh heavily upon the "Mustache." She would tell her nephew Hemerlein, the belt-maker, to whom the knight owed large sums for saddles and harnesses, that he would be wise to look after his money betimes.

Siebenburg quitted the church in a more hopeful mood than when he entered it.

The prayers had helped him.

When he reached the fruit market he noticed that people gazed at him in surprise. He had paid no heed to his dress since the morning of the previous day, and as he always consumed large quantities of food and drink he felt the need of refreshment. Entering the first barber's shop, he had the stubble removed from his cheeks and chin, and arranged his disordered attire, and then, going to a taproom close by, ate and drank, without sitting down, what he found ready and, invigorated in body and mind, continued his walk.

The fruit market was full of busy life. Juicy strawberries and early cherries, red radishes, heads of cabbages, bunches of greens, and long stalks of asparagus were offered for sale, with roses and auriculas, balsams and early pinks, in pots and bouquets, and the ruddy peasant lasses behind the stands, the stately burgher women in their big round hats, the daughters of the master workmen with their long floating locks escaping from under richly embroidered caps, the maidservants with neat little baskets on their round arms, afforded a varied and pleasing scene. Everything that reached the ear, too, was cheery and amusing, and rendered the knight's mood brighter.

Proud of his newly acquired power of resistance, he walked on, after yielding to the impulse to buy the handsomest bouquet of roses offered by the pretty flower girl Kuni, whom, on Countess Cordula's account, during the Reichstag he had patronised more frequently than usual. Without knowing why himself, he did not tell the pretty girl, who had already trusted him very often, for whom he intended it, but ordered it to be charged with the rest.

At the corner of the Bindergasse, where Heinz Schorlin lodged, he found a beggar woman with a bandaged head, whom he commissioned to carry the roses to the Eysvogel mansion and give them to his wife, Fran Isabella Siebenburg, in his--Sir Seitz's--name.

In front of the house occupied by the master cloth-maker Deichsler, where the Swiss had his quarters, the tailor Ploss stopped him. He came from Heinz Schorlin, and reminded Siebenburg of his by no means inconsiderable debt; but the latter begged him to have patience a little longer, as he had met with heavy losses at the gaming table the night before, and Ploss agreed to wait till St. Heinrich's day--[15th July].

How many besides the tailor had large demands! and when could Seitz begin to cancel his debts? The thought even darted through his mind that instead of carrying his good intentions into effect he had not paid for the roses--but flowers were so cheap in June!

Besides, he had no time to dwell upon this trifle, for while quieting the tailor he had noticed a girl who, notwithstanding the heat of the day, kept her face hidden so far under her Riese--[A kerchief for the head, resembling a veil, made of fine linen.]--that nothing but her eyes and the upper part of her nose were visible. She had given him a hasty nod and, if he was not mistaken, it was the Ortlieb sisters' maid, whom he had often seen.

When he again looked after the muffled figure she was hurrying up the cloth-maker's stairs.

It was Katterle herself.

At the first landing she had glanced back, and in doing so pushed the kerchief aside. What could she want with the Swiss? It could scarcely be anything except to bring him a message from one of her mistresses, doubtless Els.

So he had seen aright, and acted wisely not to believe the countess.

Poor Wolff! Deceived even when a betrothed lover! He did not exactly wish him happiness even now, and yet he pitied him.

Seitz could now stand before Heinz Schorlin with the utmost confidence.

In The Fire Of The Forge, Volume 4. - 4/11

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