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- Margery, Volume 8. - 4/11 -
to work, and wherein there were sundry works of art to be seen, and choice Greek manuscripts which he had brought with him to show to the learned doctors in his native town; as being rare and precious.
None was here save the old grandam, and her countenance beamed with joy as she held out her hands to me from her arm-chair, in glad and hearty greeting. She was dressed in her bravest array, and there was in her aspect likewise somewhat solemn and festal.
Albeit I was truly minded at all times to rejoice with those who were rejoicing, all this bravery, at this time, was sorely against the grain of my troubled heart and its forebodings of ill. I could not feel at ease, and meseemed that all this magnificence and good cheer mocked my hapless and oppressed spirit.
In truth, I could scarce bring myself to return the old dame's greeting with due gladness; and her keen eyes at once discerned how matters were with me. She held me by the hand, and asked me in a hearty voice whence came the clouds that darkened my brow. When her bright, high-spirited Margery, whom she had never known to be in a gloomy mood, looked like this, for sure some great evil had befallen.
Whereupon what came over me I know not. Whether it were that the blackness and the terror in my bosom were too great a contrast with the gladness and splendor about me, or what it was that so tightly gripped my heart, I cannot tell to this day; but I know full well that all which had oppressed me since Abenberger denounced me came rushing down on my soul as it were, and that I burst into tears and cried out "Yes, grandmother dear, I have gone through a dreadful, terrible hour! I have had to withstand the attack of a madman, and hear a horrible curse from his lips. But it is not that alone, no, verily and indeed! I can, for that matter, make any man to know his place, were he twice the man that little Abenberger is; and as to curses, I learnt from a child to mind my dear father's saying: "Curse me if you will! What matters it if I may earn God's blessing!"
"And you have earned it, honestly earned it," quoth she, drawing me down to kiss my forehead. Hereupon I ceased weeping and bid my heart take fresh courage, and went on, still much moved: "It is nought but a woman's shameless craft that troubles me so sorely. Ursula's hate hangs over my brothers like a black storm-cloud; and on my way hither meseemed I saw full plainly that the ransom is not the end of the matter. Nay, if we had twice so much, yet Herdegen will never come home alive if we fail to cross Ursula's scheming; has she not cause to fear the worst, if ever he comes home in safety? But where is the envoy who would dare so much? Kunz lies wounded in a strange land, Young Kubbeling would doubtless be ready to cross the seas, notwithstanding his fever, but good-will would not serve him, so little is he skilled in such matters. Our other friends are over old, or forced to stay in Nuremberg. Thus do matters stand. What then is left to us--to Ann and me, Grandmother? I ask you-- what, save to act on our first and only wise intent? And that which it is our part to do, which we may not put off one day longer than we need, is to take ship, under the grace of the Blessed Virgin, and ourselves to carry fresh courage to those who are nearest and dearest to us. Of a truth I am but an orphaned maid; my lover and my guardian are both dead; and yet do I not fear to depart for a land beyond seas; true and faithful love is the guiding-star which shall lead us, and we have seen in Ann how true is the Apostle's saying that love conquereth all things. Any creature who stands straight on a pair of strong legs, and who is sound in soul and body, and who looks up to Heaven and trusts in God's grace with joyful assurance, even if it be but a weak maiden, may rescue a fellow-creature in need; and I, thank God, am sound and whole. Nay, and I will even pledge my word that I will tear asunder the subtlest web which Ursula may spin, in especial if I have Ann's keen wit to aid me. So I will go forth, and away, through frost and snow, to find my brethren; and if his pains keep Kubbeling at home in spite of his catskins, and if Master Ulsenius should forbid Eppelein to ride so far, yet will we find some other to be our faithful squire."
And with this I drew a deep breath; and when I turned to seek Ann, with a lighter heart, to the end that she should signify her consent, on a sudden me seemed as though the floor of the chamber rose up beneath my feet, and I was nigh falling, by reason that the fine hangings which hid the Cardinal's chamber from my eyes were drawn asunder, and a tall man, tanned brown by the sun, came forth, and said in a deep voice: "Wilt thou trust these hands, Margery? They are ready and willing to serve thee faithfully."
Hereupon a cry of joy broke from me: "Gotz," and again "Gotz!"
And albeit meseemed as though the walls, and tables, and chairs were whirling round me, and as though the ceiling, nay and the blue sky above it had yawned above me, yet I fell not, but hastened to meet this new- comer, and grasped his kind, strong hand.
Yet was not this all; or ever I was rightly aware how it befell, he had clasped me in his arms, and I was leaning on his breast, and his warm bearded lips were for the first time set on mine.
Master Pernhart and his wife had come out of the further chamber with my cousin, and Ann, and the grandam, and the elder children gazed at us; yet neither he nor I paid heed to them and, as each looked into the other's eyes, and I saw that his face was the same as of old, albeit of a darker brown, and more well-favored and manly; then my heart sang out in joyful triumph, and I made no resistance when he held me closer to him and whispered in my ear: "But Margery, how may a cousin, who is not an old man, go forth as squire to a fair young maid, and so further on through a lifetime, and not rouse other folks to great and righteous wrath?"
At this the blood mounted to my face; and albeit I by no means doubted of my reply, he spared my bashfulness and went on with deep feeling: "But if he did so as your wedded husband, what aunt or gossip then might dare to blame him and his honored wife, Dame Margery Waldstromer?"
Whereat I smiled right gladly up at my new lover, and answered him in a whisper: "Not one, Gotz, not one."
Thus I plighted my troth to him that very evening; and as for the costly jewels which he had bought on the Rialto at Venice to bring to his dear Red-riding-hood, and now gave me as his first love-tokens, what were they to me as compared with the joyful news wherewith he could rejoice our hearts? So presently we sat with the Pernharts after that Cousin Maud and Uncle Christian Pfinzing, my dear godfather, had been bidden to join us. Gotz sat with his arm round me, and my hand rested in his.
For how long a space had lands and seas lain betwixt us, how swift and sudden had his wooing been and my consent! And yet, meseemed as though I had but now fulfilled the purpose of Providence for me from the beginning; and there was singing and blossoming in my breast and heart, as though they were an enchanted garden wherein fountains were leaping, and roses and tulips and golden apples and grapes were blooming and ripening among pine-trees and ivy-wreaths.
Nevertheless I lost no word of his speech, and could have listened to him till morning should dawn again. And while we thus sat, or paced the room arm-in-arm, I heard many matters, and yet not enough of Gotz's adventurous fate, and of the happy turn my brothers' concerns had taken with his good help. And what we now learned from his clear and plain report, answering our much questioning, was that, after separating from his home, he had taken service as a soldier of the Venice Republic, and had done great deeds under the name of Silvestri, which is to say "of the Woods." Of all the fine things he had done before Salonica and elsewhere, fighting against Sultan Mourad and the Osmanli, yea, and in many fights against other infidels, thereby winning the favor of his general, the great Pietro Loredano--of all this he would tell us at great length another day. Not long since he had been placed as chief, at the head of the armed force on board the fleet sent forth by the Republic to Alexandria to treat with the Sultan as concerning the King of Cyprus, who was held a prisoner. With him likewise, on the greatest of the galleys, were there sundry great gentlemen of the most famous families of Venice, and chief of them all, Marino Cavallo, Procurator of Saint Mark; inasmuch as that the Council desired to ransom the King of Cyprus with Venice gold, and to that end had sent Angelo Michieli with the embassy, he being the Senior of one of the most powerful and wealthy merchants' houses in the East.
With all of these Gotz, as a hero in war, was on right friendly terms, and when they landed at Alexandria, Anselmo Giustiniani, the Consul, had given them all fine quarters in the Fondaco.
Here, then, my new lover had met Ursula; howbeit, he made not himself known to her, by reason that already he had heard an evil report of her husband's dealings as Consul, and of her deeds and demeanors. Yet was there one man dwelling in the Fondaco to whom he confessed his true name, and that was Hartmann Knorr, a son of Nuremberg and of good family, who, after gaining his doctor's degree at Padua, had taken the post of leech to the Consul, provided and paid by the Republic. In this, his fellow countryman's chamber, the two, who had been schoolmates, had much privy discourse, and inasmuch as that Master Knorr knew of old that Gotz was near of kin to the Schoppers, he forthwith made known to him that he had been bidden to the house of Akusch's parents to tend and heal Kunz, and had learnt from him many strange tidings; accusing Ursula of the guilt of having concealed and kept back the letters written by Herdegen and Sir Franz to their kindred at home, of having set her husband's hired knaves on himself, to murder him, and lastly, of having maliciously increased the sum for his brother's ransom. Hereupon the worthy leech was minded to sail to Venice in the next homeward-bound galleon, to do what he might for his countrymen in sore straits; howbeit, Gotz might now perchance work out their release from grief and slavery in some other wise. And whereas Master Knorr could give him tidings of other criminal deeds committed by Giustiniani, my new lover had forthwith written a petition of accusation to the Council at Venice, and forthwith Marino Cavallo, in his rights as procurator of Saint Mark, had commanded the Consul and his wife to depart for Venice and present themselves before the Collegium of the Pregadi, which hath the direction of the Consuls beyond seas.
Likewise Gotz had taken in hand the cause of Herdegen and Sir Franz and forasmuch as he was held in great respect, Master Angelo Michieli was not hardly won to do what he might for them, taking Gotz and Kunz for surety. The Venice embassy went forth to Cairo, and whereas Master Michieli, who was skilled in such matters, beat down the ransom demanded for King Janus to the sum of two hundred thousand ducats, and paid it down for the royal captive, he likewise moved the Sultans to be content with fifteen thousand ducats each for Herdegen and Sir Franz, and my brother and his fellow in misfortune were set free.
All through this tale my heart beat higher; I secretly hoped that peradventure my brothers had come home with Gotz, and were hiding themselves away, only for some reason privy to themselves. Howbeit, I presently heard that they had set forth with their faces to Jerusalem; to the end that they might, at their homecoming, tell the Emperor with the greater assurance, that they had taken upon themselves the penance of going at last to the Holy Places whither they had been bidden to go.
When Gotz had ended these great and comforting tidings, and I enquired of him what then had at last brought him homewards, he freely confessed that my brothers' discourse had recalled to him so plainly his fathers' house, his parents, and all that was dear and that he had left, that he could no longer endure to stay away beyond seas. Then he looked me in the eyes and whispered: "The images of my sick mother and my grey-headed father
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