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- Margery, Volume 5. - 5/9 -
so drunk asleep, as was not my wont; yet could she not deny that my dream boded no good. Nevertheless, quoth she, it was small marvel that such a heathen Turkish turmoil as we had been living in should beget monstrous fancies in a young maid's brain. She would of set purpose have left me to sleep the day through, to give me strength; howbeit Herdegen had twice come to ask for me, and so likewise had Ann and Hans, and it wanted but an hour and a half of noon. This made me laugh; nevertheless I minded me then and there of all that had befallen last night at Pernhart's house- door and in the school of arms, and, moreover, that we were bidden this day to eat with the Tetzels; also that they, and eke my grand-uncle, were still in the belief that Herdegen's betrothal to Ursula might be at once proclaimed to their friends.
I began to dress in haste and fear, and Susan was in the act of plaiting my hair when Cousin Maud flew in to say that Queen Barbara had sent her own litter to carry me to her. Thus had I to make all speed.
The royal quarters in the castle had been newly ordered by the town at his Majesty's desire, and they were indeed bravely decked; yet never had the like show pleased me less. The Queen was giving audience to the Pope's Legate, to their excellencies the envoys from the Greek Emperor, to my Lord Conrad the Elector of Maintz, and many more nobles. She had made so bold as to declare that the German maidens were no less skilled in the art of song than the damsels of Italy, and had bidden me to her in such hot haste that I might let the notables there assembled hear a few lays. I might not say nay to the royal behest; for better, for worse, I must fain take my lute and sing, at first alone, and then with my lord Conte di Puppi. Our voices presently brought the King to the chamber, and in truth I won praise enough if I had best cared to hear it. Nay, for the first time it was a torment to me to sing, and when the notables had all been sent forth, and I was alone with the Queen and her ladies, I knew not what ailed me but I burst into tears, hot and bitter tears. The gracious Queen took me in her arms with womanly sweetness, but while she gave me her phial of vinegar to smell, and spoke words of comfort, I was suddenly scared at hearing close behind me right woeful sobbing and sighing, as from a woman's breast. I looked about me, and beheld Porro, the jester, who had cast himself on a couch and was mocking me, pulling such a grimace the while that his smooth, long, thin face seemed grown to the length of two lean faces. The sight was so merry that I was fain to laugh. Whereas he nevertheless ceased not from sobbing, the Queen reproved him and bid him not carry his fooling too far. Whereupon he sobbed out: "Nay, royal and gracious Coz, thou art in error. Never have I so shamelessly forgotten to play my part as Fool, as at this moment. Alack, alack! what a thing is life! Were we not one and all born fools, and if we did but measure it as it is now and ever shall be, with the wisdom of the sage, we should never cease to bewail ourselves, from the nurse's rod to the scythe of death."
Whether Porro were in earnest I could not divine; his face, like a mystic oracle, might bear manifold interpretations; verily his speech went to my heart. And albeit hitherto life had brought me an hundredfold more reasons for thanksgiving than sorrow, meseemed that it had many griefs in store. The Queen indeed replied full solemnly: "Peradventure it is true. Yet forget not that it is not as Sage that you attend us.--Moreover I, as a good Hungarian, know my Latin, and the great Horatius Flaccus puts your dismal lore to shame; albeit, as a Christian woman, I am fain to confess that it is wiser and more praiseworthy to bewail our own sins and the sins of the world, and to meditate on the life to come, than to live only for present joys. As for thee, sweet maid, for a long time yet thou may'st take pleasure in the flowers, even though venom may be hidden in their cups."
"Men are not wont to eat them," replied the fool. "And I have often marvelled wherefor the flighty butterfly wears such gay and painted wings, while every creature that creeps and grubs is grey or brown and foul to behold."
Whereupon he burst into loud laughter and such boisterous mirth that we fairly wept for merriment, and my lady Queen bid him hold his peace.
On my departing I had need to pass through the King's audience-chamber. He was bidding my Hans depart right graciously, and I went forth into the castle yard with Masters Tucher, Stromer, and Schurstab, all members of the Council. I fancy I hear them now thanking Hans for his fearless manfulness in saying to his Majesty that the treasure-chest must ever be empty if the old disorder were suffered to prevail. Likewise they approved the well-devised plan which he had proposed for the bettering of such matters, and my heart beat high with pride as I perceived the great esteem in which the worshipful elders of our town held their younger fellow.
Hans might not part company from them; but when I got into the litter he whispered to me: "Be not afraid--as to Herdegen and the Junker--you know. Farewell till we meet at the Tetzels'."
When I came home I learnt that my brother, and Ann, and then Eppelein had come to ask for me; now must I change my attire for the feast, and my heart beat heavy in my bosom. The bold Brandenburger and my brother were perchance at this very hour crossing swords.
Cousin Maud, who now knew all, and I stepped out of our litters at the Tetzels' door. Eppelein was standing by the great gate, booted and spurred, holding two horses by their bridles. My lord who spoke with him was my dear Hans. We went into the hall together, and as our eyes met, I wist that there was evil in the air. The letter he held bid him ride forthwith to Altenperg. Junker Henning and my brother were minded to have a passage of arms, and with sharp weapons. This, however, they might not do within the limits of the city save at great risk, inasmuch as that the town was within the King's peace, and by a severe enactment knight or squire, lord or servant, in short each and every man was threatened by the Emperor with outlawry, who should make bold to provoke another to challenge him, or to lift a weapon against another with evil intent, be he who he might, throughout the demesne of Nuremberg or so long as the diet was sitting. Hence they would go forth to Altenperg, inasmuch as it was the nearest to arrive at of any township without the limits of the city.
All this my lover had heard betimes that morning; but Herdegen had told him that Master Schlebitzer and a certain Austrian Knight would attend him. Now the letter was to say that they had both played him false; the former in obedience to the stern behest of his father, the town- councillor; the second by reason that his Duke commanded his attendance. And Herdegen hereby urgently besought my Hans that he would take the place thus left unfilled and ride forthwith to Altenperg.
Nor was this all the letter. In it my brother set forth that he had pledged his word solemnly and beyond recall to Ann and her parents, and entreated my lover to declare to the Tetzels and to his grand-uncle that henceforth and forever he renounced Ursula. He would speak of the matter at greater length at the place of meeting.
Cousin Maud and Hans and I held a brief council, and we were of one mind: that this message should not be given to the Tetzels till after the great dinner and when we should know the issue of the combat. My heart urged me indeed to desire my lover to forego this ride, and I mind me yet how I implored him with uplifted hands and how he forced himself to put them from him with steadfast gentleness. And when he told me that he for certain, if any one, could pacify the combatants or ever blood should be shed, I gazed into his brave and manful and kind face, and methought whither he went all must be for the best, and I cried with fresh assurance: "Then go!" Every word do I remember as though it were graven in brass.
Eppelein cracked his whip against his leathern boot-tops; old Tetzel's leaden voice cried out to enquire where we were lingering, and a silken train came rustling down the stairs. My lover kissed his hand to me, and I went forth with him into the court-yard. His fiery horse gave him so much to do that he never marked my farewell. On a sudden it flashed through my brain that this was that very horse which my grand-uncle had given to Herdegen, and herein again, meseemed, was an omen of ill. Likewise I noted that Hans was in silken hose with neither spurs nor riding-boots. Howbeit the Hallers had many horses; and as a lad he had been wont to ride with or without a saddle, and was a rider whom none could unhorse, even in the jousting-ring.
He had soon quelled his steed and was trotting lightly over the stones, followed by Eppelein; but as he vanished round the first corner meseemed that the bourn stone, as he rode past it, was turned into the yellow gravestone I had seen in my dream, and that again I saw the great black letters of the name "Hans Haller."
I passed my hands across my eyes to chase away the hideous vision, and I was young enough and brave enough to return Ursula's greeting without any quaking of my knees. Cousin Maud, meanwhile, had walked up the stairs, snorting and fuming like a boiling kettle; nor could she be at peace, even among the company who were awaiting the bidding to table. Many an one marked that something more than common was amiss with her. I refrained myself well enough, and I excused my brother's and my lover's absence with a plea of weighty affairs. My grand-uncle, however, guessed the truth, and when I gave true answer to his short, murmured questions he wrathfully cried: then these were the thanks he got? Henceforth he would plainly show how he, who had been a benefactor, could deal with the youth who had dared to mock his authority. Hereupon I besought him first to grant me a hearing for a few words; but he waved me away in ire, and signed to Ursula, who hung on his arm, and she set her lips tight when he presently with wrathful eyes whispered somewhat in her ear whereof I believed I could guess the intent. And when I beheld her call Sir Franz von Welemisl to her side and give him her hand, speaking a few words in a low voice, I discerned that, in truth she knew all.
She presently led her father aside and told him somewhat which brought the blood to his ashy face, and led him to say her nay right vehemently. But, as she was wont, she made good her own will and he shrugged his shoulders, wrathful indeed, but overmastered by her.
During this space the great door of the refectory had been thrown open, and when Tetzel with his old mother moved that way, desiring the guests to follow him, my Uncle Christian, Ann's faithful friend, whispered to me that Herdegen had told him that he was now pledged to his "dear little warder," and likewise what was on hand between him and the Junker von Beust. I might be easy, quoth he; the Brandenburger would have a bitter taste of Nuremberg steel, of that he was fully assured. And he ended his speech with a merry: "Hold up your head, Margery."
Then we all sat down at the laden table, Dame Clara sitting at the top, albeit she looked but sullen and ill to please.
Ursula had chosen to set Sir Franz by her side. Herdegen's seat, at her left hand, was vacant; and she bid her white Brabant hound, as though in jest, to leap into it. The meal was served, but it all went in such gloomy silence that Master Muffel, of the town-council, whom they named Master Gall-Muffel, whispered across the table to my Uncle Christian "was it not strange to give a funeral feast without ever a corpse." Again I shuddered. My jovial uncle had already lifted his glass, and stretching himself at his ease he nodded to me, and drank, saying loud enough for all to hear: "To the last pledged couple, and the faithfullest pair of lovers."
I nodded back to him, for I wist what he meant, and drank with all my heart. Ursula had meanwhile kept her ears and eyes intent on us, and she
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