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- A Word Only A Word, Volume 2. - 10/13 -
Ulrich raised himself, exclaiming in an eager, defiant tone:
"I won't go back to the monastery; that I will not."
"So that's the way the hare jumps!" cried the fool laughing. "You've been a bad Latin scholar, and the timber in the forest is dearer to you, than the wood in the school-room benches. To be sure, they send out no green shoots. Dear Lord, how his face is burning!" So saying, Pellicanus laid his hand on the boy's forehead and when he felt that it was hot, deemed it better to stop his examination for the day, and only asked his patient his name.
"Ulrich," was the reply.
"And what else?"
"Let me alone!" pleaded the boy, drawing the coverlet over his head again.
The jester obeyed his wish, and opened the door leading into the tap- room, for some one had knocked. The artist's servant entered, to fetch his master's portmanteau. Old Count von Hochburg had invited Moor to be his guest, and the painter intended to spend the night at the castle. Pellicanus was to take care of the boy, and if necessary send for the surgeon again. An hour after, the sick jester lay shivering in his bed, coughing before sleeping and between naps. Ulrich too could obtain no slumber.
At first he wept softly, for he now clearly realized, for the first time, that he had lost his father and should never see Ruth, the doctor, nor the doctor's dumb wife Elizabeth again. Then he wondered how he had come to Einmendingen, what sort of a place it was, and who the queer little man could be, who had taken him for a young noble--the quaint little man with the cough, and a big head, whose eyes sparkled so through his tears. The jester's mistake made him laugh, and he remembered that Ruth had once advised him to command the "word," to transform him into a count.
Suppose he should say to-morrow, that his father had been a knight?
But the wicked thought only glided through his mind; even before he had reflected upon it, he felt ashamed of himself, for he was no liar.
Deny his father! That was very wrong, and when he stretched himself out to sleep, the image of the valiant smith stood with tangible distinctness before his soul. Gravely and sternly he floated upon clouds, and looked exactly like the pictures Ulrich had seen of God the Father, only he wore the smith's cap on his grey hair. Even in Paradise, the glorified spirit had not relinquished it.
Ulrich raised his hands as if praying, but hastily let them fall again, for there was a great stir outside of the inn. The tramp of steeds, the loud voices of men, the sound of drums and fifes were audible, then there was rattling, marching and shouting in the court-yard.
"A room for the clerk of the muster-roll and paymaster!" cried a voice.
"Gently, gently, children!" said the deep tones of the provost, who was the leader, counsellor and friend of the Lansquenets. "A devout servant must not bluster at the holy Christmas-tide; he's permitted to drink a glass, Heaven be praised. Your house is to be greatly honored, Landlord! The recruiting for our most gracious commander, Count von Oberstein, is--to be done here. Do you hear, man! Everything to be paid for in cash, and not a chicken will be lost; but the wine must be good! Do you understand? So this evening broach a cask of your best. Pardon me, children--the very best, I meant to say."
Ulrich now heard the door of the tap-room open, and fancied he could see the Lansquenets in gay costumes, each one different from the other, crowd into the apartment.
The jester coughed loudly, scolding and muttering to himself; but Ulrich listened with sparkling eyes to the sounds that came through the ill- fitting door, by which he could hear what was passing in the next room.
With the clerk of the muster-rolls, the paymaster and provost had appeared the drummers and fifers, who the day after to-morrow were to sound the license for recruiting, and besides these, twelve Lansquenets, who were evidently no novices.
Many an exclamation of surprise and pleasure was heard directly after their entrance into the tap-room, and amid the confusion of voices, the name of Hans Eitelfritz fell more than once upon Ulrich's ear.
The provost's voice sounded unusually cordial, as he greeted the brave fellow with the wounded hand--an honor of great value to the latter, for he had served five years in the same company with the provost, "Father Kanold," who read the very depths of his soldiers' hearts, and knew them all as if they were his own sons.
Ulrich could not understand much amid the medley of voices in the adjoining room, but when Hans Eitelfritz, from Colln on the Spree, asked to be the first one put down on the muster-roll, he distinctly heard the provost oppose the clerk's scruples, saying warmly "write, write; I'd rather have him with one hand, than ten peevish fellows with two. He has fun and life in him. Advance him some money too, he probably lacks many a piece of armor."
Meantime the wine-cask must have been opened, for the clink of glasses, and soon after loud singing was audible.
Just as the second song began, the boy fell asleep, but woke again two hours after, roused by the stillness that had suddenly succeeded the uproar.
Hans Eitelfritz had declared himself ready to give a new song in his best vein, and the provost commanded silence.
The singing now began; during its continuance Ulrich raised himself higher and higher in bed, not a word escaped him, either of the song itself, or the chorus, which was repeated by the whole party, with exuberant gayety, amid the loud clinking of goblets. Never before had the lad heard such bold, joyous voices; even at the second verse his heart bounded and it seemed as if he must join in the tune, which he had quickly caught. The song ran as follows:
Who, who will venture to hold me back? Drums beat, fifes are playing a merry tune! Down hammer, down pen, what more need I, alack I go to seek fortune, good fortune!
Oh father, mother, dear sister mine, Blue-eyed maid at the bridge-house, my fair one. Weep not, ye must not at parting repine, I go to seek fortune, good fortune!
The cannon roar loud, the sword flashes bright, Who'll dare meet the stroke of my falchion? Close-ranked, horse and foot in battle unite, In war, war, dwells fortune, good fortune!
The city is taken, the booty mine; With red gold, I'll deck--I know whom; Pair maids' cheeks burn red, red too glows the wine, Fortune, Paradise of good fortune!
Deep, scarlet wounds, brave breasts adorn, Impoverished, crippled age I shun A death of honor, 'mid glory won, This too is good fortune, good fortune!
A soldier-lad composed this ditty Hans Eitelfritz he, fair Colln's son, His kindred dwell in the goodly city, But he himself in fortune, good fortune!
"He himself in fortune, good fortune," sang Ulrich also, and while, amid loud shouts of joy, the glasses again clinked against each other, he repeated the glad "fortune, good fortune." Suddenly, it flashed upon him like a revelation, "Fortune," that might be the word!
Such exultant joy, such lark-like trilling, such inspiring promises of happiness had never echoed in any word, as they now did from the "fortune," the young lansquenet so gaily and exultantly uttered.
"Fortune, Fortune!" he exclaimed aloud, and the jester, who was lying sleepless in his bed and could not help smiling at the lad's singing, raised himself, saying:
"Do you like the word? Whoever understands how to seize it when it flits by, will always float on top of everything, like fat on the soup. Rods are cut from birches, willows, and knotted hazel-sticks-ho! ho! you know that, already;--but, for him who has good fortune, larded cakes, rolls and sausages grow. One bold turn of Fortune's wheel will bring him, who has stood at the bottom, up to the top with the speed of lightning. Brother Queer-fellow says: 'Up and down, like an avalanche.' But now turn over and go to sleep. To-morrow will also be a Christmas-day, which will perhaps bring you Fortune as a Christmas gift."
It seemed as if Ulrich had not called upon Fortune in vain, for as soon as he closed his eyes, a pleasant dream bore him with gentle hands to the forge on the market-place, and his mother stood beside the lighted Christmas-tree, pointing to the new sky-blue suit she had made him, and the apples, nuts, hobby-horse, and jumping jack, with a head as round as a ball, huge ears, and tiny flat legs. He felt far too old for such childish toys, and yet took a certain pleasure in them. Then the vision changed, and he again saw his mother; but this time she was walking among the angels in Paradise. A royal crown adorned her golden hair, and she told him she was permitted to wear it there, because she had been so reviled, and endured so much disgrace on earth.
When the artist returned from Count von Hochburg's the next morning, he was not a little surprised to see Ulrich standing before the recruiting- table bright and well.
The lad's cheeks were glowing with shame and anger, for the clerk of the muster-rolls and paymaster had laughed in his face, when he expressed his desire to become a Lansquenet.
The artist soon learned what was going on, and bade his protege accompany him out of doors. Kindly, and without either mockery or reproof, he represented to him that he was still far too young for military service, and after Ulrich had confirmed everything the painter had already heard from the jester, Moor asked who had given him instruction in drawing.
"My father, and afterwards Father Lukas in the monastery," replied the boy. "But don't question me as the little man did last night."
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