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- Margery, Volume 6. - 4/9 -
forgave with all our hearts everything that had made us wroth. This last greeting came as a fragrant love-posy, and it helped us to think of Herdegen's long pilgrimage as he himself did--as of a ride forth to the Forest. From this letter we were likewise aware that he had never known what peril he had escaped; for ere long I learned from Kunz that paid assassins had fallen on him the very next evening after Herdegen's departing, in the crooked street called of Saint Chrysostom, at the back part of the German Merchants' House; yea, and they would easily have overpowered him but that certain great strong Tyrolese bale-packers of the Fondaco came to his succor or ever it was too late. And it was right certain that these murderers were in Giustiniani's pay, and in the dusk had taken Kunz for his brother, who was some what like him. The younger had come off unharmed by the special mercy of the Saints, but it might well have befallen that, as of old in his schooldays, he should have borne the penalty for Herdegen's misdoings. And whereas I mind me here of the many ways in which my eldest brother prospered and got the best of it over the younger, and of other like cases, meseems it is the lot of certain few to suffer others, not their betters, to stand in their sun, and eat the fruit that has ripened on their trees.
Howbeit, Herdegen had by good hap escaped a sharp fray; and when Ann and I, kneeling side by side in Saint Laurence's church, had offered up a thanksgiving from the bottom of our hearts, meseemed we were as some Captain who sings Te Deum after a victory.
Yet, as ofttimes in the month of May, when for a while the sun bath shone with summer heat and glory, there comes a gloomy time with dark days and sharp frost at nights, so did we deem the long space which followed after that glad and pious church-going. Days grew to weeks and weeks to months and we had no tidings, no word from our pilgrims, for good or for evil.
Verily it was well-nigh a comfort and a help when those who were on the look-out, Kunz and other friends, gave it as certain tidings that the galleon which was carrying Herdegen to Cyprus, and which belonged to the Lomellini of Genoa, had been lost at sea. Saracen pirates, so it was told, had seized the ship; but further tidings were not to be got, as to what had befallen the crew and the travellers, albeit Kunz forthwith betook himself to Genoa and the Futterers, who had a house and trade of their own there, did all they might to find their traces. The eldest and the finest link of the Schopper chain had, we deemed, been snatched away, peradventure for ever; the death of her lover had made life henceforth bitter to the third and least, and only the middle one, Kunz, remained unhurt and still such as it might have gladdened his parents' hearts to behold him. Thus I deemed, at least, when after long parting I set eyes on him once more, a goodly man, tall and of a fair countenance. All that had ever been good and worthy in him had waxed and sped well at Venice, that high school of the merchant class; but where was the smiling mirthfulness which had marked him as a youth? The same earnest calm shone in his wise and gentle gaze, and rang in the deep voice he had now gotten.
My grand-uncle had esteemed him but lightly, so long as Herdegen was his delight; but whereas Kunz had done good service at Venice and the master of the Im Hoff house there was dead, and our guardian himself, on whom a grievous sickness had fallen, gave himself up day and night to meet his end, he had, little by little, given over the whole business of the trade to his young nephew; thus it came to pass that Kunz, when he was but just twenty, was called upon to govern matters such as are commonly trusted only to a man of ripe years. But his power and wisdom grew with the weight of his burthens. Whether it were at Nuremberg or at Venice, he was ever early to rise and ready, if need should be, to give up his night's rest, sitting over his desk or travelling at great speed; and he seemed to have no eyes nor ears for the pleasures of youth. Or ever he was four and twenty I found the first white hair in his brown locks. Many there were who deemed that the uncommon graveness of his manners came of the weight of care which had been laid on him so young, and verily not without reason; yet my sister's heart was aware of another cause. When I chanced to see his eye rest on Ann, I knew enough; and it was a certainty that I had not erred in my thought, when old Dame Pernhart one day in his presence spoke of Ann as her poor, dear little widow, and the blood mounted to his brow.
I would fain have spoken a word of warning to Ann when she would thank him with heartfelt and sisterly love for all the pains he had been at, with steadfast patience, to find any token of our lost brother. And how fair was the forlorn bride in these days of waiting and of weary unsatisfied longing!
Poor Kunz! Doubtless he loved her; and yet he neither by word nor deed gave her cause to guess his heart's desire. When, at about this time, old Hans Tucher died, one of the worthiest and wisest heads of the town and the council, Kunz gave Ann for her name-day a prayer-book with the old man's motto, which he had written in it for Kunz's confirmation, which was as follows:
"God ruleth all things for the best And sends a happy end at last."
And Ann took the gift right gladly; and more than once when, after some disappointment, my spirit sank, she would point to the promise "And sends a happy end at last."
Whereupon I would look up at her, abashed and put to shame; for it is one thing not to despair, and another to trust with steadfast confidence on a happy outcome. She, in truth, could do this; and when I beheld her day by day at her laborious tasks, bravely and cheerfully fulfilling the hard and bitter exercises which her father-confessor enjoined, to the end that she might win the favor of the Saints for her lover, I weened that the Apostle spake the truth when he said that love hopeth all things and believeth all things.
Notwithstanding it was not easy to her, nor to us, to hold fast our confidence; now and again some trace of the lost man would come to light which, so soon as Kunz followed it up, vanished in mist like a jack-o' lantern. And often as he failed he would not be overweary; and once, when he was staying at Nuremberg and tidings came from Venice that a certain German who might be Herdegen was dwelling a slave at Joppa, he made ready to set forth for that place to ransom him forthwith. My grand-uncle, who in the face of death was eagerly striving to win the grace of Heaven by good works, suffered him to depart, and at my entreaty he took my squire Akusch with him, inasmuch as he could still speak Arabic, which was his mother-tongue. Likewise I besought Kunz to make it his care to restore the lad to his people, if it should befall that he might find them, albeit hitherto we had made enquiry for them in vain. This he promised me to do; yet, often as that good youth had longed to see his native land once more, and much as he had talked in praise of its hot sun, in our cold winter seasons, it went hard with the good lad to depart from us; and when he took leave of me he could not cease from assuring me that in his own land he would do all that in him lay to find the brother of his beloved mistress.
Thus they fared forth to the Levant; and this once again we were doomed to vain hopes. Kunz found not him he sought, but a wild Swiss soldier who had fallen into the hands of the Saracens. Him he ransomed, as being a Christian man, for a small sum of money; and as for Akusch he left him at Joppa, whereas his folk were Egyptians and he deemed he had found some track of them there.
Kunz did not go thither with him, inasmuch as in Alexandria all had been done that might be done to discover and ransom a Frankish captive. Nor was Akusch idle there, and moreover fate had brought another child of Nuremberg to that place.
Ursula had become the wife of the Marchese Anselmo Giustiniani, by special favor of the great council, and had come with him to Egypt, whither he was sent by the Republic as Consul. There she now dwelt with her noble lord, and in many letters to my granduncle she warmly declared to him that, so far as in her lay, all should be done to discover where the lover of her youth might be. Her husband was the most powerful Frank in all the Sultan's dominions, and it was a joy to her to see with what diligence he made search for the lost youth. Herdegen, indeed, had ill- repaid her childish love, yet she knew of no nobler revenge than to lay him under the debt of thanks to her and her husband for release and ransom. These words doubtless came from the bottom of her heart; she were no true woman if she could not forgive a man in misfortune for the sins of a happier time. And above all she was ever of a rash and lawless mind, and truthful even to the scorn of modesty and good manners, rather than crafty and smooth of tongue.
Yet she likewise failed to find the vanished wanderer, and the weeks and months grew to be years while we waited in vain. It was on the twenty- second day of March in the second twelve month after Herdegen's departing that the treasures of the realm, and among them a nail from the Cross and the point of the spear wherewith they pierced the Lord's side, were to be brought into the town in a solemn procession, and I, with many others, rode forth to meet it. They were brought hither from Blindenberg on the Danube, and the Emperor sent them in token of his grace, that we might hold them in safe keeping within our strong walls. They had been brought thus far right privily, under the feint that the waggon wherein they were carried bore wine vats, and a great throng gathered with shouts of joy to hail these precious things. Prisoners were set free in honor of their coming; and for my own part I mind the day full well, by reason that I put off my black mourning weed and went forth in a colored holiday garb for the first time in a long while.
If I had, in truth, been able by good courage to shake off in due time the oppressing weight of my grief, I owed it in no small measure to the forest-whither we went forth, now as heretofore, to sojourn in the spring and autumn seasons--and to its magic healing. How many a time have I rested under its well-known trees and silently looked back on the past. And, when I mind me of those days, I often ask myself whether the real glad times themselves or those hours of calmer joy in remembrance were indeed the better.
As I sat in the woods, thinking and dreaming, there was plenty for the eye to see and the ear to hear. The clouds flew across in silence, and the soft green at my feet, with all that grew on tree and bush, in the grass, and by the brink of the pool, made up a peaceful world, innocently fair and full of precious charm. Here there was nought to remind me of the stir of mankind, with its haste and noise and fighting and craving, and that was a delight; nor did the woodland sounds.--The song of birds, the hum of chafers and bees, the whisper of leaves, and all the rush and rustle of the forest were its mother-tongue.
Yet, not so! There was in truth one human soul of whom I was ever minded while thinking and dreaming in these woods through whom I had first known the joy of loving, and that was the youth whose home was here, for whose return my aunt longed day and night, whose favorite songs I was ever bidden to sing to my uncle when he would take the oars in his strong old hands of an evening, and row us on the pool-he who peradventure had long since followed my lover, and was dead in some far-off land.
Ann, who was ever diligent, took less pleasure in idle dreaming; she would ever carry a book or some broidery in her hand. Or she would abide alone with my aunt; and whereas my aunt now held her to be her fellow in sorrow, and might talk with her of the woe of thinking of the dearest on earth as far away and half lost, they grew closer to each other, and there was bitter grief when our duty took us back to the town once more. At home likewise Herdegen was ever in our minds, nevertheless the sunshine was as bright and the children's faces as dear as heretofore,
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