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- In The Fire Of The Forge, Volume 4. - 5/11 -
The Swiss must know how matters stood between the older E and him self, though his knightly duty constrained him to deny it to others. Siebenburg's self-reproaches had been vain. He had suspected no innocent girl--only called a faithless betrothed bride by the fitting name.
The matter concerning his estate of Tannenreuth was worse. It had been gambled away, and therefore forfeited. He had already given it up in imagination; it was only necessary to have the transfer made by the notary. The Swiss should learn how a true knight satisfies even the heaviest losses at the gaming table. He would not spare Heinz Schorlin. He meant to reproach the unprincipled fellow who by base arts had alienated the betrothed bride of an honest man--for that Wolff certainly was--when adverse circumstances prevented his watching the faithless woman himself. Twisting the ends of his mustache with two rapid motions, he knocked at the young knight's door.
Twice, three times, Siebenburg rapped, but in vain. Yet the Swiss was there. His armour-bearer had told Seitz so downstairs, and he heard his voice within. At last he struck the door so heavily with the handle of his dagger that the whole house echoed with the sound. This succeeded; the door opened, and Biberli's narrow head appeared. He looked at the visitor in astonishment.
"Tell your master," said the latter imperiously, recognising Heinz Schorlin's servant, "that if he closes his lodgings against dunning tradesfolk--"
"By your knock, my lord," Biberli interrupted, we really thought the sword cutler had come with hammer and anvil. My master, however, need have no fear of creditors; for though you may not yet know it, Sir Knight, there are generous noblemen in Nuremberg during the Reichstag who throw away castles and lands in his favour at the gaming table."
"And hurl their fists even more swiftly into the faces of insolent varlets!" cried Siebenburg, raising his right hand threateningly. "Now take me to your master at once!"
"Or, at any rate, within his four walls," replied the servitor, preceding Seitz into the small anteroom from which he had come. "As to the 'at once,' that rests with the saints, for you must know----"
"Nonsense!" interrupted the knight. "Tell your master that Siebenburg has neither time nor inclination to wait in his antechamber."
"And certainly nothing could afford Sir Heinz Schorlin greater pleasure than your speedy departure," Biberli retorted.
"Insolent knave!" thundered Seitz, who perceived the insult conveyed in the reply, grasping the neck of his long robe; but Biberli felt that he had seized only the hood, swiftly unclasped it, and as he hurried to a side door, through which loud voices echoed, Siebenburg heard the low cry of a woman. It came from behind a curtain spread over some clothes that hung on the wall, and Seitz said to himself that the person must be the maid whom he had just met. She was in Els Ortlieb's service, and he was glad to have this living witness at hand.
If he could induce Heinz to talk with him here in the anteroom it would be impossible for her to escape. So, feigning that he had noticed nothing, he pretended to be much amused by Biberli's nimble flight. Forcing a laugh, he flung the hood at his head, and before he opened the door of the adjoining room again asked to speak to his master. Biberli replied that he must wait; the knight was holding a religious conversation with a devout old mendicant friar. If he might venture to offer counsel, he would not interrupt his master now; he had received very sad news, and the tailor who came to take his measure for his mourning garments had just left him. If Seitz had any business with the knight, and expected any benefit from his favour and rare generosity----
But Siebenburg let him get no farther. Forgetting the stratagem which was to lure Heinz hither, he burst into a furious rage, fiercely declaring that he sought favour and generosity from no man, least of all a Heinz Schorlin and, advancing to the door, flung the servant who barred his passage so rudely against the wall that he uttered a loud cry of pain.
Ere it had died away Heinz appeared on the threshold. A long white robe increased the pallor of his face, but yesterday so ruddy, and his reddened eyes showed traces of recent tears.
When he perceived what had occurred, and saw his faithful follower, with a face distorted by pain, rubbing his shoulder, his cheeks flushed angrily, and with just indignation he rebuked Siebenburg for his unseemly intrusion into his quarters and his brutal conduct.
Then, without heeding the knight, he asked Biberli if he was seriously injured, and when the latter answered in the negative he again turned to Seitz and briefly enquired what he wanted. If he desired to own that, while in a state of senseless intoxication he had slandered modest maidens, and was ignorant of his actions when he staked his castle and lands against the gold lying before him, Heinz Schorlin, he might keep Tannenreuth. The form in which he would revoke his calumny to Jungfrau Ortlieb he would discuss with him later. At present his mind was occupied with more important matters than the senseless talk of a drunkard, and he would therefore request the knight to leave him.
As Heinz uttered the last words he pointed to the door, and this indiscreet, anything but inviting gesture robbed Siebenburg of the last remnant of composure maintained with so much difficulty.
Nothing is more infuriating to weak natures than to have others expect them to pursue a course opposite to that which, after a victory over baser impulses, they have recognised as the right one and intended to follow. He who had come to resign his lost property voluntarily was regarded by the Swiss as an importunate mendicant; he who stood here to prove that he was perfectly justified in accusing Els Ortlieb of a crime, Schorlin expected to make a revocation against his better knowledge. And what price did the insolent fellow demand for the restored estate and the right to brand him as a slanderer? The pleasure of seeing the unwelcome guest retire as quickly as possible. No greater degree of contempt and offensive presumption could be imagined, and as Seitz set his own admirable conduct during the past few hours far above the profligate behaviour of the Swiss, he was fired with honest indignation and, far from heeding the white robe and altered countenance of his enemy, gave the reins to his wrath.
Pale with fury, he flung, as it were, the estate the Swiss had won from him at his feet, amid no lack of insulting words.
At first Heinz listened to the luckless gambler's outbreak of rage in silent amazement, but when the latter began to threaten, and even clapped his hand on his sword, the composure which never failed him in the presence of anything that resembled danger quickly returned.
He had felt a strong aversion to Siebenburg from their first meeting, and the slanderous words with which he had dragged in the dust the good name of a maiden who, Heinz knew, had incurred suspicion solely through his fault, had filled him with scorn. So, with quiet contempt, he let him rave on; but when the person to whom he had just been talking--the old Minorite monk whom he had met on the highroad and accompanied to Nuremberg--appeared at the door of the next room, he stopped Seitz with a firm "Enough!" pointed to the old man, and in brief, simple words, gave the castle and lands of Tannenreuth to the monastery of the mendicant friars of the Franciscan order in Nuremberg.
Siebenburg listened with a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders, then he said bitterly: "I thought that a life of poverty was the chief rule in the order of St. Francis. But no matter! May the gift won at the gaming table profit the holy Brothers. For you, Sir Knight, it will gain the favour of the Saint of Assisi, whose power is renowned. So you have acted wisely."
Here he hesitated; he felt choked with rage. But while the Minorite was thanking Heinz for the generous gift, Siebenburg's eyes again rested on the curtain behind which the maid was concealed.
It was now his turn to deal the Swiss a blow. The old mendicant friar was a venerable person whose bearing commanded respect, and Heinz seemed to value his good opinion. For that very reason the Minorite should learn the character of this patron of his order.
"Since you so earnestly desire to be rid of my company, Sir Heinz Schorlin," he continued, "I will fulfil your wish. Only just now you appeared to consider certain words uttered last night in reference to a lady--"
"Let that pass," interrupted Heinz with marked emphasis.
"I might expect that desire," replied Siebenburg scornfully; "for as you are in the act of gaining the favour of Heaven by pious works, it will be agreeable to you--"
"What?" asked the Swiss sharply.
"You will surely desire," was the reply, "to change conduct which is an offence to honourable people, and still more to the saints above. You who have estranged a betrothed bride from her lover and lured her to midnight interviews, no doubt suppose yourself safe from the future husband, whom the result of a duel--as you know--will keep from her side. But Wolff happens to be my brother-in-law, and if I feel disposed to take his place and break a lance with you----"
Heinz, pale as death, interrupted him, exclaiming in a tone of the deepest indignation: "So be it, then. We will have a tilt with lances, and then we will fight with our swords."
Siebenburg looked at him an instant, as if puzzled by his adversary's sharp assault, but quickly regained his composure and answered: "Agreed! In the joust--[single combat in the tourney]--with sharp weapons it will soon appear who has right on his side."
"Right?" asked Heinz in astonishment, shrugging his shoulders scornfully.
"Yes, right," cried the other furiously, "which you have ceased to prize."
"So far from it," the Swiss answered quietly, "that before we discuss the mode of combat with the herald I must ask you to recall the insults with which yesterday, in your drunkenness, you injured the honour of a virtuous maiden in the presence of other knights and gentlemen."
"Whose protector," laughed Seitz, "you seem to have constituted yourself, by your own choice, in her bridegroom's place."
"I accept the position," replied Heinz with cool deliberation. "Not you, nay, I will fight in Wolff Eysvogel's stead--and with his
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