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- Margery, Volume 5. - 4/9 -
places all round for the folk to look on--was lighted up as bright as day. My lover and I, now in right good heart once more, paced through the Polish dance led by the King and Queen. Ann's mother had been compelled to stay at home, to tend the master's old mother, and my friend had come under Cousin Maud's protection. She was led out to dance by Junker Henning; his fellow country-man, Sir Apitz von Rochow, walked with Ursula and courted her with unfailing ardor. Franz von Welemisl, who was wont to creep like her shadow, and who was again a guest at the Tetzels' house, had been kept within doors by the cough that plagued him. Likewise I looked in vain for Herdegen.
The first dance indeed was ended when he came in with my great-uncle; but the old knight looked less confidently than he had done in the morning.
Ann was pale, but, meseemed fairer than ever in a dress of pomegranate- red and white brocade, sent to her from Italy by her step-father's brother, My lord Bishop, by the hand of Cardinal Branda. As soon as I had presently begun to speak with her, she was carried off by Junker Henning, and at that same moment my grand-uncle came towards me to ask who was that fair damsel of such noble beauty with whom I was but now speaking. He had never till now beheld Ann close at hand, and how gladly did I reply that this was the daughter of Pernhart the town Councillor and she to whom Herdegen had plighted his faith.
The old man was startled and full wroth yet, by reason of all the fine folk about us, he was bound to refrain himself, and he presently departed.
The festival went forward and I saw that Herdegen danced first with Ursula and then with Ann. Then they stood still near the flower shrubs which were placed round about the hall to garnish it, and it might have been weened from their demeanor that they had quarrelled and had come to high words. I would fain have gone to them, but the Queen had bid me stay with her and never ceased asking me a hundred questions as to names and other matters.
At last, or ever it was midnight, their Majesties departed. I breathed more freely, put my hand on my Hans' arm, and was minded to bid him take me to Herdegen and speak out my mind, but my brother, as it fell, prevented me. He came up to me and with what a mien! His eyes flashing, his cheeks burning, his lips tight-set. He signed to me and Hans to follow whither he went, and then passionately besought us that we would depart from the dance for a while with him and his sweetheart, that was Ann. Such an entreaty amazed us greatly, yet, when he told us that she would go no whither with him save under our care, and that everything depended on his learning this very hour how he stood with her, we did his will. And he likewise told us that he had not indeed given his word that morning to my grand-uncle and Jost Tetzel, but had only pledged his word that he would give them his answer next day.
So presently Hans and I stole out behind the pair, out into the road. I, for my part, was well content and thankful and, when we beheld them accuse and answer each other right doughtily, we laughed, and were agreed that Aunt Jacoba's counsel had led to a good issue; and I told my Hans that I should myself take a lesson from all this and let the smart Junkers and Knights make love to me to their hearts' content, if ever I should be moved to play him a right foolish trick.
Presently, when we had many times paced the road to and fro the Pernharts' house, Ann was minded to knock at the door; but behold she was saved the pains. Mistress Henneleinlein just then came out whereas she had been helping Dame Giovanna to tend the sick grandmother. The lantern Eppelein carried in front of us was not so bright as the sun, yet could I see full plainly the old woman's venomous eye; and what high dudgeon sounded in her voice! Each one had his meed, even my Hans, to whom she cried: "Keep thy bride out of Porro's way, Master Haller. It ill-beseems the promised wife of a worshipful Councillor to be casting her lot in with a Fool! Howbeit, to laugh is better than to weep, and he laughs longest who laughs last!" And thereupon she herself laughed loudly and, with a scornful nod to Ann, turned her back on us.
All was still in Master Pernharts' house; he himself had gone to rest. At Herdegen's bidding we followed him into the hall, and there he clasped Ann to his heart, and declared to us that now, and henceforth for ever, they were one. Whereupon we each and all embraced; but my friend clung longest to me, and whispered in my ear that she was happier than ever she could deserve to be. Herdegen asked me whether now he had made all right, and whether I would be the same old Margery again? And I right gladly put up my lips for his to kiss; and the returned prodigal, who had come back to that which was his best portion, was like one drunk with wine. He was beside himself with joy, so that he clasped first me and then Hans in his arms, and slapped Eppelein, who carried a lantern to show us the pools left by the storm of rain, again and again on the shoulder, and thrust a purse full of money into his free hand, albeit there was an end now of my grand-uncle's golden bounty. Nought would persuade him to go back to the dancing-hall, to meet Ursula and her kin; and when he presently departed from us we heard him along the street, singing such a love song as no false heart may imagine, as glad as the larks which would now ere long be soaring to the sky.
We got back to the great hall. The dancing and music were yet at their height; our absence we deemed had scarce been marked; howbeit, as soon as we entered, my grand-uncle made enquiry "where Herdegen might be," and when I looked about me at haphazard I beheld--my eyes did not cheat me-- I beheld Mistress Henneleinlein in one of the side-stalls.
No man told me, yet was I sure and certain that she was saying somewhat which concerned me, and presently I discerned in the dim back-ground the feathered plume which Ursula had worn at the dance. My heart beat with fears; every word spoken by the old Dame would of a surety do us a mischief. Hans mocked at my alarms and at a maid's folly in ever taking to herself matters which concern her not.
Then Ursula came forth into the hall again, and how she swept past us on Junker Henning's arm.
A young knight of the Palatinate now led me out to a dance I had erewhile promised him.
We stopped for lack of breath. The festival was over; yet did Ursula and the Junker walk together. He was hearkening eagerly to all she might say, and on a sudden he clapped his hand into hers which she held out to him, and his eyes, which he had held set on the floor, fired up with a flash. Presently he and the Knight von Rochow made their way, arm in arm through the press, and both were laughing and pulling their long red beards.
I still clung to my lover's arm and entreated him to take me to speak with Junker Henning, inasmuch as I sorely wanted to question him; but the Junker diligently kept far from us. Nevertheless we at last stayed him, and after that I had enquired, as it were in jest, whether he had healed his old feud with Mistress Ursula and concluded a truce, or peradventure made peace with her, he answered me, in a tone all unlike his wonted frank and glad manner, that this for a while must remain privy to him and her, and that we should scarce be the first to whom he should reveal the matter; and forthwith he bid us farewell with a courtly reverence. But my lover would not let him thus depart, and asked him, calmly, what was the interpretation of this speech, whereupon Rochow spoke for his young fellow-countryman, and enquired, in the high-handed and lordly tone which ever marked his voice and manner, whether here, in the native land of Nuremberg playthings, love and faith were accounted of as toys.
Junker Henning however, broke in, and said, casting a warning look at me: "Far be it from him to break friendship with an honorable gentleman, such as my Hans, before having an explanation." And he held out his hand somewhat more readily than before, bowed sweetly to me and led away his cousin.
At last we got out with the Haller parents and Cousin Maud. The old folks got into litters, and the serving men were lighting the way before me to mine, when my lover stayed me, saying: "It is already grey in the East. Never before were we together so well betimes, Margery, and happy hours are few. If thou'rt not too weary, let us walk home together in this fresh morning air."
I was right well-content and we went gently forward, I clinging to him closely. He felt how high my heart was beating and, when he asked me whether it was for love that it beat so fast, I confessed in truth that, whereas the Brandenburgers outdid all other knights in the kingdom, in defiance and hotheadedness, I feared lest there should be a passage of arms betwixt Junker Henning and my brother Herdegen. But Hans made answer that, if it were the Brandenburgers intent to challenge him, he could not hinder it; yet be trowed it would be to their own damage; that Herdegen had scarce found his match at the Paris school of arms; and at least should we not mar this sweet morning walk by such fears.
And he held me closer to him, and while we slowly wandered on he poured forth his whole heart to me, and confessed that through all his lonely life in foreign lands he had ever lacked a great matter; that even with the gayety of his favorite comrades, even when his best diligence had been crowned with great issues, yet had he never had full joy in life. Nor was it till my love had made him a complete and truly happy man that he had felt, as it were, whole, inasmuch as that alone had stilled the strange craving which till then had made his heart sick.
Yea, and I could tell him that it had been the same with me; and as for what more we said, verily it should rather have been sung to sweet and lofty music on the lute and mandoline. Two rightly matched souls stood revealed each to each, and Heaven itself, meseemed, was opened in the strait ways of our town.
We kissed as we stood on the threshold of the Schopper-house, and when at length we must need part he held me once more to his heart, longer than ever he had before, and tore himself away; and laying his hands on my shoulders, as he looked into my eyes in the pale light of dawn, he said: "Come what may, Margery, we love each other truly and have learned through each other what true happiness means; and nevertheless we are as yet but in the March-moon of our love, and its May days, which are sweeter far, are yet to come. But even the March-joy is good--right good to me."
I had forgotten my fears and gloomy forebodings by the time I climbed into bed in my darkened chamber. Sleep forthwith closed my eyes, and I lay without even a dream till Cousin Maud waked me. I turned over by reason that I was still heavy with slumber; yet she stood by my bed, and scarce half a quarter of an hour after, lo, again I felt her hand on my shoulder and woke up quaking, with a cold sweat on my brow. I had dreamed that I was riding out in the Lorenzer-wald with Hans and my grand-uncle and other some; but we went slowly and softly, by reason that all our horses fell lame. And it fell that on the very spot where Ann had flown into Herdegen's arms I beheld a high, yellow grave-stone, and on it was written in great black letters: "HANS HALLER."
Hereupon I had started up with a loud cry, and it was long or ever my brain was clear as to the world about me. Cousin Maud laughed to see me
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