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- Margery, Volume 4. - 5/9 -

As I looked back on that morning when Ann had flown to Herdegen's breast, and as I called to mind the turmoil of passion of which I had read in many a poem and love-tale, I weened that I had dreamed of somewhat else as the first blossoming of love in my heart, that I had looked to feel a fierce and glowing flame, a burning anguish, a wild and stormy fever. And yet, as it had come upon me, methought it was better; albeit the sun of my love had not risen in scarlet fire, it was not therefore small nor cool; the image of my dear mother was ever-present with me; and methought that the love I felt was as pure and fair as though it had come upon me from her heavenly home.

And how loving and hearty was the welcome given me by my lover's parents, when they received me in their noble dwelling, and called me their dear daughter, and showed me all the treasures contained in the home of the Hallers'. In this fine house, with its broad fair gardens--a truly lordly dwelling, for which many a prince would have been fain to exchange his castle and hunting demesne--I was to rule as wife and mistress at the right hand of my Hans' mother, whose kind and dignified countenance pleased me well indeed, and by whose friendly lips I, an orphan, was so glad to be called "Child" and daughter. Nor were his worshipful father and his younger brethren one whit less dear to me. I was to become a member--nay, as the eldest son's wife, the female head--of one of the highest families in the town, of one whose sons would have a hand in its government so long as there should be a town-council in Nuremberg.

My lover had indeed been elected to sit in the minor council soon after his homecoming, being no longer a boy, but near on thirty years of age. And his manners befitted his years; dignified and modest, albeit cheerful and full of a young man's open-minded ardor for everything that was above the vulgar. With him, for certain, if with any man, might I grow to be all I desired to become; and could I but learn to rule my fiery temper, I might hope to follow in the ways of his mother, whom he held above all other women. The great dance, of which I have already made mention, and whither Ann had agreed to come with us, was the first I should go to with my well-beloved Hans. The worshipful Council had taken care to display all their best bravery in honor of the Emperor's envoys; they had indeed allied themselves with the constable of the Castle, the Prince Elector, to do all in their power to have the Assembly held at Nuremberg, rather than at Ratisbon, and to that end it was needful to win the good graces of the Ambassadors.

All the patricians and youth of the good city were gathered at the town- hall, and the beginning of the feast was pure enjoyment. The guests were indeed amazed at the richness of our great hall and civic treasure, as likewise at the brave apparel and great show of jewels worn by the gentlemen and ladies.

There were six envoys, and at their head was Duke Rumpold of Glogau; but among the knights in attendance on him I need only name that very Baron Franz von Welemisl who had been so sorely hurt out in the forest garden for my sake, and a Junker of Altmark, by name Henning von Beust, son of one of the rebellious houses who strove against the customs, laws, and rights over the marches, as claimed by our Lord Constable the Elector.

Baron Franz was now become chamberlain to the emperor and, albeit cured indeed of his wounds, was plagued by a bad cough. Still he could boast of the same noble and knightly presence as of old, and his pale face, paler than ever I had known it, under his straight black hair, with the feeble tones of his soft voice, went right to many a maiden's heart; also his rich black dress, sparkling with fine gems, beseemed him well.

Presently, when he saw that Hans and I were plighted lovers, he feigned as though his heart were stricken to death; but I soon perceived that he could take comfort, and that he had bestowed the love he had once professed for me, with compound increase on Ursula Tetzel. She was ready enough to let him make love to her, and I wished the swarthy courtier all good speed with the damsel.

A dancing-hall is in all lands a stew full of fish, as it were, for gentlemen from court, and Junker Henning von Beust had no sooner come in than he began to angle; and whereas Sir Franz's bait was melancholy and mourning, the Junker strove to win hearts by sheer mirth and bold manners.

My lover himself had commended him to my favor by reason that the gentleman was lodging under his parents' roof; and he and I and Ann had found much pleasure these two days past in his light and openhearted friendliness. Nought more merry indeed might be seen than this red- haired young nobleman, in parti-colored attire, with pointed scallops round the neck and arm-holes, which fluttered as he moved and many little bells twinkling merrily. Light and life beamed forth out of this gladsome youth's blue eyes. He had never sat at a school-desk; while our boys had been poring over their books, he had been riding with his father at a hunt or a fray, or had lurked in ambush by the highway for the laden wagons of those very "pepper sacks"--[A nickname for grocery merchants]-- whose good wine and fair daughters he was so far from scorning in their own town-hall.

He had already fallen in love with Ann at the Hallerhof, and never quit her side although, after I had overheard certain sharp words by which Ursula Tetzel strove to lower the maid in his opinion, I told him plainly of what rank and birth she was.

For this he cared not one whit; nay, it increased his pleasure in making much of her and trying to spoil her shrewish foe's sport. It seemed as though he could never have enough of dancing with Ann, and so soon as the town pipers struck up, with cornets, trumpets, horns, and haut-boys, fiddles, sack-buts and rebecks, the rattle of drums and the groaning of bagpipes, while the Swiss fifes squeaked shrillv above the clatter of the kettle-drums, methought the music itself flung him in the air and brought him low again. With his free and mirthful ways he carried all before him, and when presently it was plain to all that he could outdo our nimblest dancers, and was a master of each kind of dance which was held in favor at every court, whether of Brandenburg, of Saxony, of Bohemia, or at our own Emperor Sigismund's Hungarian court, he was ere long entreated to show us some new figures of the dance; nor was he loth to do so.

Nay, he presently went to such lengths that our Franconian and Nuremberg nobles could but turn away their faces, inasmuch as he began so wild and unseemly a dance as was overmuch even for me, despite my youth and sheer delight in the quick measure.

My Hans, the young councillor, took pleasure in leading me forth in the Polish dance, or with due dignity in the Swabian figure, but he held back, as was fitting, from the mad whirl of the gipsy dance and of the "Dove dance;" and he, and I likewise, courteously withstood his bidding to join in the Dance of the Dead as it was in use in Brandenburg, Hungary, and Schleswig: one has to be for dead, and as he lieth another shall come to wake him with a kiss. On this Junker von Beust, who was, as the march--men say, the dance-corpse, entrapped Ann in a strange adventure. Ann kissed not his cheek, but in the air near by it, and the bold knave, who had no mind to forego so sweet a boon, declared to her after the dance was over that she was his debtor, and that he would give her no peace till she should pay him his due.

Ann courteously prayed him that he would be a merciful creditor and remit the payment of that she had indeed omitted, though truly out of no ill- will. And whereas he would by no means consent, the dispute was taken up by others present and Jorg Loffelholz devised the fancy of holding a Court of Love to decide the case.

This met with noisy approval, and albeit I and my dear Hans, and some others with us, made protest, the damsels were presently seated in a circle and Jorg Loffelholz, who was chosen to preside, asked of each to pronounce sentence. Thus it came to the turn of Ursula Tetzel and she, looking round on Junker Henning or ever she spoke, said, with a proud curl of her red lips, that she could give no opinion, inasmuch as she only knew what beseemed young maids of noble birth.

On this the Junker answered with such high and grave dignity as I should not have looked for in so scatter-brained a wight: "The best patent of nobility, fair lady, is that of the maid to whom God Almighty has vouchsafed the gentlest soul and sweetest grace; and in all this assembly I have found none more richly endowed with both than the damsel against whom I in jest have made complaint. Wherefor I pray the presiding judge of this Court of Love to ask you once more for your verdict."

Ursula found this ill to brook; nevertheless her high spirit was ready to meet it. She laughed loudly, and with seeming lightness, as she hastily answered him: "Then you haughty lords of the marches allow not that it is in the Emperor's power to grant letters of nobility, but ascribe it to Heaven alone! A bold opinion. Howbeit, I care not for politics, and will pronounce my sentence. If it had been Margery Schopper, who had refused the kiss, or Elsa Ebner, or any one of us whose ancestors bore arms by grace of the Emperor, and not of the God of the Brandenburgers, I would have condemned her to give you, in lieu of one kiss, two, in the presence of witnesses; but inasmuch as it is Mistress Ann Spiesz who has dared to withhold from a noble gentleman, a guest of the town, what we highborn damsels would readily have paid I grant her of our mercy, grace and leave to kiss the hand of Junker Henning von Beust, in token of penitence." The words were spoken clearly and steadfastly; all were silent, and I will confess that as Ursula gave her answer to the Junker with beaming eyes and quivering lips, never had I seen her more fair. It could plainly be seen by her heaving bosom how gladly she gave free vent to her old cherished grudge; and that she had in truth wounded the maid she hated to the very soul, Ann showed by her deathly paleness. Yet found she not a word in reply; and while Ursula was speaking, meseemed in the fullness of my wrath and grief as though a cloud were rising before my eyes. But so soon as she ceased and my eyes met the triumphant look in hers, my mind suddenly grew clear again, and never heeding the multitude that stood about us, I went a step forward, and cried: "We all thank you, Junker; you have taken the worthier part; the only part, Ursula," and I looked her sternly in the face, "the only part which I would have a friend of mine take, or any true heart."

The Junker bowed, and with a reproachful glance at Ursula he said: "Would to God I might never have a harder choice to make!" Whereupon he turned his back on her and went up to Ann; but Ursula again laughed loudly and called after him in defiance: "Oh! may heaven ever keep your wits clear when you have to choose, and especially when you have to discern on the high-road betwixt what is your own and what belongs to other folks."

The blood mounted to the Junker's face, and, as with a hasty gesture he smoothed back the fierce hair on his lip, methought he might seem the same as when he rose in his saddle to rush down on our merchants' wains; for indeed it was the Beusts, with the Alvenslebens, their near kinsfolks, who had fallen upon the train of waggons belonging to the Muffels and the Tetzels, near Juterbock, not a year ago.

But, hotly as his blood boiled, the Junker refrained himself, inasmuch as knightly courtesy forbade him to repay Ursula in the like coin; and as it fell Cousin Maud was enabled to aid him in this praiseworthy selfrule. She came forward with long strides, and her eyes flashed wrathful threats, till meseemed they were more fiery than the jewels in the tall plumes she wore on her head. She thrust aside the young men and maid who made up the Court of Love as a swift ship cuts through the small fry in the water. Without let or pause she pushed on, and as soon as she caught sight of Ann she seized her by the arm, stroked her hair and cheeks, and

Margery, Volume 4. - 5/9

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