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A Swabian Historical Tale. In Three Volumes.
Editor: James Morier
THE TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE.
The Editor feels that he stands very much in the same position as the man who plies at the door of the exhibition of some historical picture or panorama, and who is ready to assure his visitors that the exhibition is quite worthy their notice, and that they will neither lose their time nor their money in inspecting it. Although, in this instance, he really has no other merit than that of being trumpeter to the show, yet he can in honesty assert, that, what he has been called upon to read he sincerely approves, and maintains that the translator of this work merits the approbation and patronage of the public for having brought to its notice, and adapted to its reading, a story full of historical interest, of graphic incidents, of good moral tendency, and true in the illustration of the national manners of Germany in the sixteenth century.
London, March 25, 1839.
The tale of The Banished has been taken from a German work;but though considerable freedom has been used in the translation from the original text; the subject matter has been closely followed. It appears from the preface of M. Hauff, the author of this work, that his aim was to give an account of an event which took place in his own country, together with a faithful description of the national manners and customs of the period of which he treats; and being written at the time when the author of Waverley was as yet only known as the "Great Unknown," it would seem that M. Hauff, impelled by the fascination of his writings, has adopted him as his model, as may be seen from the following extract from his introductory chapter: "Thanks to the happy pencil of the renowned novelist, who has painted in such lively colours the green banks of the Tweed, the Highlands of Scotland, old England's merry day, and the romantic poverty of Wales, all classes among us read his admirable works with avidity, rendered into our language in faithful translations, and realizing to our minds historical events which happened some six or seven hundred years back. Such is the effect produced by these writings, that we shall be as well, if not better, acquainted with the histories of those countries than if we had investigated them ourselves with the most learned research. The Great Unknown—having opened the stores of his chronicles, and brought in review before our wondering eyes image after image, in almost endless succession—has, by the power of his magic, taught us that we are likely to become better versed in the details of Scotland's history than our own; and by its means also has made us feel less intimate with the religious and secular transactions our own country in past ages, than with those of the Presbyterians and Episcopalians of Albion.
"But we naturally ask ourselves in what consists the enchantment by which the great magician has so wonderfully drawn our attention towards the mountainous district of his own land? Are the Scottish hills clothed with a hue of brighter green than the Harz or Taunus mountains, or the heights of the Black Forest? Do the blue waters of the Tweed reflect a more brilliant colour than the Neckar or Danube; or do its banks surpass those of the Rhine in beautiful landscape? May be, that Scotland is gifted with a race of men possessing qualities of greater interest than we can boast of in Germany; and that the blood which flowed in the veins of their ancestors was of a deeper hue than that of Swabians and Saxons of olden times; or again, that their women are more engaging, and their maidens more beautiful, than the daughters of Germany?
"We have reason to doubt all these superior advantages, and believe that the magic of the Great Unknown consists principally in placing before the reader historical facts which his fertile genius has faithfully dressed up in the manners and costumes of the day in which they took place. With the same view our object has been to bring to light an event of our own country; in which we have been guided by historical truth alone."
The translator having visited the spot where one of the principal scenes of the narrative took place, his attention was drawn to the original work, as giving a faithful description of its locality, and containing an interesting account of an important occurrence in Swabian history.
On Whitsunday, 1832, he formed one of a large concourse of people assembled from all parts of the country, dressed in their gayest colours and costumes, to join in the procession, which, headed by the King of Würtemberg in person, with all his family, met for the express purpose, as is generally the case every year on the same day, to visit the "Nebelhöhle, or misty cavern, and the rock of Lichtenstein." This spot, celebrated from the circumstances which the reader will become acquainted with in the course of the narrative, is situated near the town of Reutlingen, about thirty miles from Stuttgardt, in a country full of picturesque beauties, and worthy of itself, as an object of natural curiosity, to attract the attention of the traveller. The translator cannot but hope, that when it is better known, which, through the means of the following pages, he flatters himself may be the case, that the beaten track pursued by the tourist on the Rhine may find variety by a visit to the rock of Lichtenstein, and to the Nebelhöhle; and that he thus may have been the means of producing that greatest of desiderata to the desultory traveller, viz. "an object."
FOOTNOTE TO THE "TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE":
"His varied life is toss'd on Faction's wave,
A leader now, and now a party's slave;
And shall his character a waverer's seem?
If that's a fault, impute it not to him;
He play'd a stake, and fortune threw the die;
So look upon him with a brother's eye.
We would for him an interest create,
His own his virtues, and his faults his fate."
The events which are recorded in the following pages, took place in that part of Southern Germany situated between the mountainous district of the Alb and the Black Forest. That portion of territory is bounded by the former on the north-west, by a long chain of hills of unequal height and breadth, extending southward, whilst the forest, commencing from the sources of the Danube, stretches uninterruptedly to the banks of the Rhine. Being composed of woods of black pine, it forms a dark background to the beautiful picture produced by a luxuriant country, rich in vineyards and watered by the Neckar, which flows through it.
This country, which is the "Würtemberg" treated of in these volumes, was originally of small compass. Its previous history, which is enveloped in darkness, tells us that it rose through various conflicting struggles to its present position among the neighbouring states. When we reflect on the time when it was surrounded by such powerful frontier neighbours as the Stauffens, the Dukes of Teck and the Counts of Zollern, we are astonished that its name should still exist as a nation; for the repeated storms of internal as well as external violence often threatened to erase it from the annals of history. There was a time, indeed, when the head of the reigning family was, to all appearance, driven for ever from the halls of his ancestors. Duke Ulerich von Würtemberg being obliged to fly his country and seek shelter in painful exile from the fury of his enemies, left his castles in the possession of foreign masters, his lands being occupied by their mercenaries. Little more was wanting to complete the extinction of the name of Würtemberg, than the parcelling out of the spoil of its blooming fields among the many, or the whole becoming a province of the house of Austria.
Among the many events related by the Swabians of their country and their ancestors, there is none more fraught with romantic interest than the struggles of that period, which are closely connected with the extraordinary fate of their unfortunate prince. We have attempted to bring them to life again, as they have been related to us on the heights of Lichtenstein and the banks of the Neckar, at the risk, however, of being misapprehended. We shall probably be told that the character of Ulerichis one not fit to be exhibited in a favourable point of view in an historical romance. He has been calumniated in many instances, and it has been even the custom, when reviewing the long list of Dukes of Würtemberg, to pass over in silence the descendant between Eberhardand Christoph, and to look upon him with a kind of horror, as if the troubles of a country were to be attributed solely to the conduct of its ruler, or that it were better to bury in oblivion the days of its misfortunes.
It may, however, be a question, whether the condemnation pronounced on the name of Ulerich, by his bitterest enemy Ulerich von Hutten, has not been exaggerated; for, to say the least of it, he was too much a party concerned to be trusted as an impartial judge. The voice which the Duke and his family raised in vindication of his innocence of the crimes imputed to him, having been too feeble to withstand the accusations and calumnies of his enemies, contained in the flagitious publication "Philippica in Ducem Ulericum," has been silenced by the revolutions of time.
We have conscientiously compared most of the contemporaneous writers of that most boisterous period, and have not met with one who absolutely condemns him. It is but just to keep in view the powerful influence which time and circumstances produce upon the minds of men. Ulerich von Würtemberg was brought up under the guardianship of bad counsellors, who, for the purpose of making him subservient to their views, fostered the evil propensities of his mind. As he took the reins of government into his own hands when boyhood is scarcely ripened into youth, justice at least compels us to make allowances, and though we cannot extenuate the outrages he committed during the course of his career, we are bound to look to the noble side of his character, in which we shall discover strength of mind and undaunted courage, in circumstances of extreme difficulty.
The year 1519, the date of our narrative, decided his fate and saw the beginning of his misfortunes. Posterity, however, may date it as the era of his prosperity; for, having passed through the ordeal of a long banishment, in which he learnt to know himself, he came out of it a wiser man and a more powerful Prince. From that period fortune favoured him, and each Würtemberger has cause to prize the latter years of his government, esteeming the religious reformation which this prince effected in his country, as the greatest blessing conferred on his countrymen.
The public mind, in the year 1519, was still in a state of great excitement. The insurrection of "poor Conrad," six years before, had been partially quelled, though with difficulty. The country people in many places still shewed symptoms of discontent. The Duke, among his many failings, had not the method of gaining the affections of his subjects, for they were oppressed by his men in office, under his own eye, and burdened with accumulated taxes to satisfy the wants of the court. The Swabian League, composed of a formidable confederacy of princes, counts, knights, and free cities of Swabia and Franconia, formed originally for the mutual protection of their rights, was treated with contempt by the Duke, particularly owing to his refusal to become a member of it. His frontier neighbours, therefore, watched his actions with the eye of enmity, appearing to wait for an opportunity to let him feel the weight of the power which he had despised. Neither was the Emperor Maximilian, who reigned at that period; very well inclined towards him, since he was suspected of having supported the knight Götz von Berlichingen, for the purpose of avenging himself on the Elector of Mains.
A coolness had subsisted for some time between him and the Duke of Bavaria, his brother-in-law, a powerful neighbour, owing to his having ill-treated his wife Sabina, the Duke's sister. Added to that (and which hastened his downfall) was the supposed murder of a Franconian knight who lived at his court. Chronicles of undoubted authority mention, that the intimacy between Johann yon Hutten and Sabina was such that the Duke could not behold it with indifference. One day at a hunt, the Duke taxed him with, and upbraided him for his treacherous conduct, and calling upon him to defend his life, run him through the body. The family of Hutten, and particularly Ulerich, Johann's cousin, raised their voices against the supposed murderer; and their complaints and the cry of vengeance resounded throughout Germany. The Duchess also, whose imperious querulous temper had, even as a bride, irritated the Duke, now broke all ties with him; and flying with the aid of Dieterich von Spät, appeared before the Emperor as his accuser and bitterest enemy. Agreements between the contending parties were concluded and not held; peaceable adjustments of their grievances were no sooner proposed than broken off again. The Duke's troubles augmented from month to month; but his proud mind would not bend to submission, for he believed himself in the right. The Emperor died in the midst of these altercations. He was a prince who had manifested much forbearance and mildness of character towards Ulerich, in spite of the many complaints of his enemies. The Duke lost in him an impartial judge, to whom he could alone look for aid in his present troubles.
The funeral service for the Emperor was being performed in the Castle of Stuttgardt, when a messenger suddenly arrived, seeking the Duke, with the intelligence that some people of the imperial town of Reutlingen, which lay within his frontier, had slain the administrator of his woods and forests on the Achalm. The townsfolk had, on some former occasion, insulted him very keenly. He entertained a bitter hatred of them; and this circumstance now gave him an opportunity to satisfy his revenge. Easily excited by anger, he sprang upon his horse, ordered the drums to beat the alarm throughout the country, besieged the city, and gaining possession of it, compelled its inhabitants to swear allegiance to him, whereby the imperial town became part of Würtemberg.
This was the signal for the Swabian League to assemble their forces, Reutlingen being a member of the confederacy. Difficult as it might otherwise have been to summon these princes, counts, and cities together, they did not hesitate, in the present instance, to obey the call, for hatred and revenge form a strong cement. In vain did Ulerich defend his conduct by written proclamations; in vain did he attempt to justify it in the defence of his rights; the army of the League assembled in Ulm, and threatened his country with invasion.
Such was the state of affairs in Würtemberg at the commencement of the year 1519. There was no doubt of the Duke gaining many adherents, could he have maintained the superiority in the field; but woe to him if he were discomfited by the League. There was too heavy a debt of revenge to be paid before he could expect mercy at their hands.
All eyes in Germany looked anxiously to the result of this contest. They essayed to pierce the curtain of fate, and to prognosticate what the coming days were likely to bring forth, whether Würtemberg or the League should remain master of the field. The following pages will withdraw this curtain, and expose the principal characters, who took a leading part, in due order; and we trust the eye of the reader will not turn away too soon fatigued with the narrative.
It surely is not an uninteresting occupation to peruse, in our days, an historical tale of olden times; and therefore it is our hope, as it has been our aim, to excite the interest of our readers in one, the events of which, though they occurred in so secluded a spot as the Swabian Alb, and in the remote, but delightful, vallies of the Neckar, we trust that the few hours spent in their perusal will not be thrown away.
Germany is not less rife in romantic events than other countries; and she can likewise draw largely upon the history of civil strife, equally interesting to our mind, as those recorded in the pages of more well-known states. We have, consequently, ventured to unroll an historical Swabian painting, which, if it does not exhibit the bold outline of figures, the same enchanting composition of landscape—if the colouring be less brilliant, and the pencilling less clearly defined—than the works of other authors, the artist may safely shelter himself under its historical truth, to make up for the deficiencies of composition.
FOOTNOTES TO THE "INTRODUCTION":
: Ulerich von Würtemberg was born in 1487, was invested in 1498 as Duke, with a Co-regency, which he dissolved in his sixteenth year, and reigned alone from the year 1508. He died in 1550.
: Eberhard with the beard was born in 1445, and died 1469. He was the first Duke of Würtemberg, and founded the University of Tübingen in 1477. Christoph, born in 1515, and died in 1568, was a prince whose remembrance is not only blessed in Würtemberg, but also in all Germany. He was the founder of the constitution of Würtemberg.
: So called from the name of a poor peasant, who headed his oppressed fellow-sufferers, in an insurrection for the redress of their wrongs, calling themselves the "League of poor Conrad."
What means the drum, that deeply rolls?
What means this warlike cry?
I'll to the casement, tho' my soul's
Misgivings tell me why.
After a succession of gloomy days the imperial town of Ulm, on the 12th of March 1519, at length was enlivened by a fine bright morning. Mists from the Danube, which at such a season generally hung heavily over the town, had on this occasion been dispelled before noon by the sun, and as it rose, the view of the plain on the opposite side of the river became gradually clearer and more extended. The narrow, cold streets, inclosed by their dark gable-ended houses, were also lighted up more bright than usual, and shone with a brilliancy and cheerfulness which accorded well with the festive appearance of the town on that day. The main street, called the Herdbrucker street, leading from the Danube gate to the town hall, was on this morning thronged with people, whose heads were so closely packed on either side against the houses (like stones of a wall) that they left but a narrow passage through the middle. A hollow murmur, the indication of great expectation, which issued from the crowd, was only occasionally interrupted by a loud laugh, caused by the severity of the city guard, celebrated for its strictness and its antiquity, who, using their long halberds, pushed back with appropriate rudeness whoever was unfortunate enough to be squeezed out of his place into the middle of the street; or perchance by some wag, who, by way of joke, would exclaim, "Here they come, here they come!" causing disappointment to the anxious assemblage of spectators.
The throng was still more dense in the spot where the termination of the Herdbrucker street enters the square before the town hall. It was there that the different trades were posted; the guild of boatmen, with their masters at their head, the weavers, the carpenters, the brewers, all displaying their banners and the emblems of their vocation, were drawn up, clad in their Sunday dresses and well armed.
But if the multitude in the streets presented a jovial holiday spectacle, much more was that the case in the lofty surrounding houses. Well dressed women and young girls crowded the windows, which were adorned with many-coloured carpets and floating drapery, giving to the whole an appearance of beautiful paintings set in splendid frames.
The corner bow-window of the house of Hans von Besserer presented the greatest attraction. Within it stood two young maidens, each strikingly conspicuous by their uncommon beauty, but so much differing in looks, height, and dress, that whoever remarked them from the street, might remain some time in doubt to which to give the preference.
Both appeared to be under eighteen years of age: the tallest of the two was delicately made; rich auburn hair encircled a fine open forehead, the vaulted arch of her dark eyebrows, the placid blue eye, the delicately turned mouth, the soft colour of her cheek, were unrivalled. She altogether formed a picture, which, among the beauties of the present day, would not have failed to be distinguished; but in those times, when a higher colour, upon a face partaking of the form of an apple, was more admired, it was principally by her graceful demeanor that she drew attention.
The other, smaller, and possessing in a greater degree the attractive qualities suited to the times, was one of those thoughtless, merry beings, who are conscious that they possess the power of pleasing. Her brilliant fair hair, according to the fashion of the ladles of Ulm, fell in long braids behind and in ringlets in front, and was partly covered by a neat white cap, full of small tasteful plaits. Her round fresh face was ever in motion: her lively eyes, still more restless, wandered through the crowd below; and her laughing mouth, exhibiting at every moment a set of beautiful teeth, evidently showed that objects were not wanting, among the numerous groups and figures of adventurers, upon which to exercise the playfulness of her wit.
Behind them stood a large, broad-shouldered, elderly man, with deep, stern features, thick eyebrows, long thin beard, already sprinkled with grey hairs, and his dress so entirely black, that its hue contrasted strangely with the rich and lively colours of those about him. He wore a thoughtful, almost a sorrowful look, scarcely ever relaxing into one more cheerful, excepting when a momentary gleam of kindness would shoot through his countenance, like a flash of lightning, at some happy remark of the merry fair one. This group, so varied in colours and dress as well as in character, attracted much of the attention of the bystanders immediately beneath them. Many an eye gazed upon the pretty girls, whose fascinating appearance helped to beguile the time of the idle and staring multitude, now growing impatient to witness the sight for which they were assembled.
The time was now approaching the hour of noon. The crowd became restless at the long delay, and manifested an increased impatience, by pressing and pushing upon each other in rather a turbulent manner; whilst here and there, tired of standing, several of the more sober members of the trades seated themselves on the ground. When, however, the report of three guns, fired from the fort on the hill on the furthermost side of the river, and the sound of the cathedral bells in deep tones began to echo over the town, order was speedily restored throughout the anxious ranks.
"They are coming, Bertha, they are coming!" said the fair girl in the balcony window, and put her arm around the waist of her companion, as she stretched out her neck to the utmost.
The house of the Herrn von Besserer formed the corner of the forenamed street, having a window on one side of it looking towards the Danube gate, and another on the other side commanding a view of the town hall, by which means the party were in a good position to see the expected sight.
The space between the two rows of the people was, in the meantime, with difficulty kept sufficiently open by the town guards. Anxious stillness now reigned throughout the immense crowd, whilst the deep tolling of the bells alone broke the silence.
The deadened sound of drums, blended with the shrill clang of trumpets, was shortly after heard, and a long brilliant train of horsemen moved slowly through the gate. The appearance of the town drummers and trumpeters, and the mounted body of the sons of the patricians of Ulm, was too much of an everyday occurrence to excite any great sensation on the present occasion; but when the black and white banners of the town, emblazoned with the imperial eagle, accompanied by flags and standards of all sizes and colours, came floating in the breeze through the gate, the spectators then became sure that the long wished-for moment was arrived.
The curiosity of our two young beauties in the balcony became doubly excited when they observed the crowd in the lower part of the street respectfully take off their caps.
Mounted upon a strong bony horse a man approached, whose stately carriage, affable and open countenance, contrasted strangely with a deep stern brow, and whose hair and beard were slightly tinged with grey. He wore a hat pointed at the crown, adorned with many feathers, a cuirass over a close-fitted red jacket, and leather buskins slashed with silk, which might have been handsome when new, but by dint of bad weather and hard work had now assumed an uninterrupted dark-brown colour,—large heavy riding boots came up to his knees; his only weapon, a singularly large sword, with a long handle, and without basket-guard, completed the figure of the warrior. The sole ornament worn by this man was a long gold chain of massive rings, twisted five times around his neck, having a medallion of merit of the same metal attached to it, which hung upon his breast.
"Tell me, quickly, uncle, who is that stately man, who at once looks so young and so old?" said the fair girl, as she turned her head a little towards the man in black standing behind her.
"I can tell you, Marie," he answered; "that is George von Fronsberg, commander of the confederate infantry; an honourable man, did he but serve a better cause."
"Keep your remarks to yourself, Mr. Würtemberger," she replied, whilst she playfully threatened him with her finger; "you know that the maidens of Ulm are staunch confederates."
Her uncle, however, not heeding her reply, proceeded: "That one on the grey horse is Truchses von Waldburg, second in command. He also owes a debt of gratitude to our Würtemberg. Behind him come the colonels of the League. By heaven! They look like hungry wolves seeking for prey."
"Oh! What a set of miserable figures," remarked Marie to her cousin Bertha, "they surely are not worth the trouble we have taken of dressing; but hold, who is that young man in black on the brown horse? Just look at his pale countenance, with his fiery black eyes; on his shield is written, 'I have ventured.'"
"That is the knight Ulerich von Hutten," replied the old man. "May God forgive his calumny against our Duke. Children! He is a learned, pious man, but the Duke's bitterest enemy; and I say so, for what is true must remain true. And there, those are Sickingen's colours. Truly, he is there himself! Look this way, girls; that is Franz von Sickingen. It is said he brings a thousand horsemen into the field; that is him, with the plain cuirass and red feather."
"But tell me, uncle," asked Marie again, "which of them is Götz von Berlichingen, of whom cousin Kraft has related so much to us; he is a powerful man, by all accounts, and has a hand of iron; does not he ride among the burghers?"
"Do not name Götz and the burghers in the same breath," said the old man, seriously; "he holds for Würtemberg."
The greatest part of the procession had, during this conversation, passed by under the windows; and Marie remarked, with astonishment, the indifference and unconcern with which her relation Bertha viewed it. The usual manner of her cousin was thoughtful; indeed, at times she appeared in a state of absence to all surrounding objects; but on such a day as this, to be so perfectly insensible to the brilliancy of the passing scene, was, in Marie's mind, to be guilty almost of impropriety.
She was just on the point of upbraiding her, when her attention was called to a sudden noise in the street. A large, powerful horse was prancing immediately under their window, having probably taken fright at the waving ensigns of the trades. The high crest and flowing main of the steed sheltered the rider's face, and the feathers only of his cap were visible to the spectators at the window; but the adroitness and ease with which he managed his horse and kept him under command, proved him to be a skilful cavalier. In his exertion to quiet him, his light-brown hair had fallen over his face, and as he threw it back, his look fell on the bow-window of the corner house.
"Well at last there is a handsome young man," whispered Marie to her neighbour, so softly and secretly as if she feared to be overheard by him; "and how polite and courteous he is! Look! I really think he has saluted us, without knowing who we are."
Marie's curiosity was too much excited at the moment to notice the sudden change which her remark had produced on her cousin's countenance, who, to conceal her embarrassment, feigned to pay no attention to what she said. Bertha had hitherto sat unconcerned, viewing the passing procession with apparent cold indifference; but when she recognised the young cavalier, and returned his salutation with a slight inclination of the head, her cheek was suddenly suffused with a burning blush, her thoughtful eye was animated into an expression in which tender love and fearful anticipation predominated; and though the smile about her mouth might bespeak joy at the sight of the unexpected apparition, a keen observer could not have failed to discover, that it betrayed somewhat of pain and regret. Her accustomed self-possession, however, quickly regained the ascendancy over these conflicting feelings, and thus her merry cousin, whose quick penetration at any other moment would have been startled into surprise at the alteration exhibited on the features of her whom she considered wanting in tender sentiment, lost the opportunity of rallying her upon this occasion.
Marie, pulling the old man by the cloak, cried, "Here, quickly, uncle; tell me who is this with the light-brown scarf trimmed with silver?—well?"
"Dear child," answered her uncle, "I have never seen him before. Judging from his colours, he is in no particular service, but he, as well as many others, wages war against the Duke my Lord for his own individual pleasure and profit."
"Ah! there is no getting anything out of you," said Marie, and turned away, annoyed at her uncle's indifference; "you can distinguish all the old and learned men more than at a hundred yards off; but when one asks you a question about a young and polite cavalier, you can tell one nothing. And you too, Bertha, you open your eyes upon the procession below as if the host were passing. I'll wager you did not see the handsomest man of all; and thought only of old Fronsberg, when quite a different set of men rode by."
By the time she had finished these her angry remarks, the principal part of the procession had reached their station before the town hall; the few remaining cavalry of the league which came up the street possessed little interest for the two damsels. When the officers had dismounted and gone into the town-hall for refreshment, and when the members of the trades had been dismissed, the people by degrees began to separate, and then the party in the balcony withdrew also from the window.
Marie did not appear perfectly pleased. Her curiosity was only half satisfied. She took care, however, not to let her stern old uncle remark her disappointment; but when he left the room, she turned to Bertha, who had retired to the window again, and stood there in deep thought.
"Well," she said, "after all our anticipated expectations about this procession, there was nothing worth making such a fuss about. But I wonder who that handsome young cavalier was? I should like very much to know his name! How very stupid it was of you, Bertha, not to notice him; did I not push you when he saluted us? Light-brown hair, very long and smooth,—friendly dark eyes,—the countenance a little tanned, but handsome, very handsome! Small mustachios on the upper lip. No; I tell you——but how red you get again all of a sudden, as if two maidens, when they are alone, dare not speak of the pretty mouth of a young man. We often converse upon such topics here in Ulm; but I suppose at your good aunt's at Tübingen, and your strict father's in Lichtenstein, such things were never mentioned; but I see you are dreaming again about something or other, so I must look out for some thorough Ulmer girl when I want to have a little gossip."
Bertha answered only by a smile, which expressed more than she dared to utter; and Marie, taking a large bunch of keys which hung on the door, hummed a song, and went to prepare for dinner. Though she might have been accused of being rather over curious at the momentary appearance of a courteous young cavalier, still that did not make her neglectful of the important duties of a housekeeper.
She skipped out of the room, and left Bertha to her thoughts, which we also will not disturb, whilst she now recalls to her mind the endearing remembrance at gone-by days, which the appearance of the afore-mentioned young cavalier called up at once from the depth of her faithful heart. She dwelt on that time, when a hasty glance from him would cheer the passing hours; she pondered on those nights when in her retired room, undisturbed by her good aunt, she worked that scarf, whose well-known colours awoke her now as out of a dream. We will not at present pause to inquire the reason why, when blushing and with downcast eyes, she asked herself, whether cousin Marie had rightly described the sweet mouth of her beloved?
And don't your heart now burn
While hope succeeds to fear?
Don't even youth return
To Swabia's land so dear?
The reader will have learned from the introductory preface the state of affairs. Duke Ulerich of Würtemberg had brought upon himself the bitter hatred of the Swabian League, by the obstinacy with which he braved so many confederated princes and knights, by the furious expression of his rage and threats of revenge, by the boldness with which he alone bid them defiance, and last of all by the sudden military occupation of the imperial town of Reutlingen. These were some of the principal circumstances which led to the rupture. Others of a more private nature fostered the bloody thoughts and thirst for revenge and plunder of those who made a plea of individual insult the cause of uniting their banners, for the downfall of the Duke and the partition of his possessions.
The principal officers of the Swabian League were the Duke of Bavaria, whose object was to procure satisfaction for the ill treatment of his sister Sabina, Ulerich's wife—the knights of the Huttens to revenge the supposed murder of the cousin of their ancestor—Dieterich von Spät and his companions to wash out the disgrace of family insult in Würtemberg's misfortunes—and to these were added the authorities of the towns and boroughs, who desired to recover Reutlingen again from the occupation of Duke Ulerich's troops. They headed the pompous entry into Ulm we have described in the foregoing pages, and arrived on the same day from Augsburg, where they had assembled. War was therefore now inevitable, for it was not to be supposed that they would propose terms of peace to the Duke, after having proceeded thus far.
But of a much more peaceable and cheerful cast were the ideas of Albert von Sturmfeder, that "courteous, polite cavalier," who had so highly awaken Marie's curiosity, and whose unexpected appearance had coloured the cheeks of Bertha with so deep a red. He scarcely knew himself how he came to take part in this campaign; for though he was acquainted with the use of arms, yet he had not been trained to them. Sprung from a poor but not obscure family of Franconia, he became an orphan at an early age, and was brought up by his father's brother. A learned education began even in those days to be considered an ornament to the nobility, and his uncle, therefore, chose the path of literature for him. It is not mentioned whether he made much progress in learning in the university of Tübingen, then in its infancy; thus much, however, is known, that he took a warmer interest in the daughter of the knight of Lichtenstein, who lived with her aunt in that town of the Muses, than in the lectures of the most celebrated doctors. It is also related that she resisted with pertinacious determination the different attacks with which many a young student assailed her heart. But although all kinds of manœuvres to conquer a hard heart were well understood in those days, (for the youth of ancient Tübingen had, perhaps, studied their Ovid better than those of the present), neither nocturnal love-complaints, nor yet furious encounters between rivals to gain possession of her, could soften the maiden's apparent obduracy. One only succeeded in winning this heart, and that one was Albert. The lovers, indeed, divulged to no one when and where the first ray of tender feeling dawned in their hearts, and far be it from us to wish to penetrate the veil of mystery of first love, or even to relate things which we cannot substantiate; we can nevertheless assert this much, that they had already reached to that degree of love, when true lovers swear eternal fidelity, amidst the interruptions of external circumstances, and which, in the painful hour of separation, proved their only consolation. Her much-loved aunt having died, the knight of Lichtenstein sent for his daughter to Ulm, for the purpose of finishing her education there, under the roof of a married sister. Bertha's nurse, old Rosel, remarked that the burning tears which she shed, and the longing eyes with which Bertha over and over again looked back as they left the town, could not have been given alone to the hilly country to which she was bidding adieu.
Shortly after Bertha's departure, Albert received a communication from his uncle, in which the question was put to him, whether after four years' study he was not now learned enough? He readily complied with this hint, and, without a moment's hesitation, prepared to quit the university; for since Bertha's absence, the lectures of the learned doctors, and even the charming valley of the Neckar, were become hateful to him.
The fresh air from the hills invigorated him with renewed force, as he rode through the gate of Tübingen towards his home, on a fine morning in February. In proportion as his bodily frame was braced by the freshness of the morning, so was his soul raised to that cheerful elevation of spirits so natural to his age. Youth vainly imagines itself capable, by its own powers, to bring about its most anxious wishes, and it is this reliance on self which inspires more confidence than assistance from others.
When Albert was left to his own thoughts as he paced his lonely way homewards, the contemplation of his future prospects were wrapped in mysterious uncertainty, which led his mind to compare his present position with the clear lake which reflects on its surface the cheerful objects rising around its banks, but veils the treacherous depth of its waters by its bright colours.
Such was the feeling of Albert von Sturmfeder as he rode through the beechwood forest towards his home. This road did not, indeed, lead him nearer to his beloved; neither could he properly call anything his own besides the horse which he bestrode, and the ruined castle of his ancestors. Upon this castle there was a popular joke, which ran thus:—
A house on three props you'll find:
Whoever enters in front,
Has no room to sit behind.
But although he was well aware of his poverty, and was awake to his needy circumstances, still he knew that with a determined will a hundred paths were open to him by which he might attain his object, and that the old Roman saying, Fortes fortuna juvat, had never yet deceived him. The present state of excitement in the country appeared to afford him an opportunity by which, after some active employment, he might hope soon to realise the object of his wishes.
The result of the contest which was about to commence, appeared at that time very uncertain. The Swabian League, though it possessed experienced commanders and disciplined soldiers, was nevertheless weakened through disunion. Duke Ulerich, on his side, had enlisted 14,000 Swiss, brave and experienced warriors; he could bring into the field, out of his own country, numerous and hardy troops, but not so experienced as the others; and thus stood the state of affairs in February 1519.
When every one around him was taking an active part, Albert also determined not to remain an idle spectator: a war, he thought, might open a path to lead him sooner towards the object of his desire than any other, and by which he might hope to render himself worthy of meriting the hand of his beloved.
Neither of the contending parties had, indeed, any claim upon his heart. People of the country spoke ill of the duke, whilst the views of the League did not appear to be influenced by the purest motives. But when he heard that several knights and counts, whose properties adjoined the duke's, urged by the loud, and, as he thought, just complaints of the Huttens, against the tyrannical conduct of Ulerich, had withdrawn their allegiance from him, he was induced to join the League; being unaware that they had been corrupted by money, and the seductive prospect of rich plunder, to overrun his country. But the news of the count of Lichtenstein being in Ulm with his daughter was, in truth, the mainspring which influenced and confirmed his determination; for he thought he could not be far wrong if he took the side on which Bertha's father acted, and therefore tendered his services to the confederates.
The knights of Franconia, headed by Ludwig von Hutten, approached Augsburg at the beginning of March, for the purpose of joining Ludwig von Baiern, and the rest of the members of the League. The army being collected, their march resembled more a triumphal procession as they approached the territory of their enemy, than regular military proceedings.
Duke Ulerich was encamped at Blaubeuren, the frontier town of his possessions towards Bavaria and Ulm. In the latter place the great council of war of the League was appointed to deliberate upon the plan of the campaign, and they then hoped, in a short time, to force the Würtembergers to a decisive battle. Things having gone thus far, negotiations for peace were out of the question: war was the watchword, and victory the only thought of the army.
Albert's heart beat high when he thought that his first trial in the career of arms would soon be put to the test; but whoever may have been placed in a similar situation will readily find excuses for him, if feelings of a more tender nature at times possessed his soul, and made him forget his dreams of battle and victory.
As the army approached the town, a fresh east wind wafted towards them the salute of the heavy artillery on the walls, and the sound of all the bells ringing to welcome their arrival from the opposite side of the river. He first obtained sight of the lofty cathedral in the distance, emerging from a fog, which, gradually clearing away as he drew near, displayed the town with its dark brick houses and high entrance-towers to his view. At that moment the conflicting doubts and anxieties which had long assailed his breast oppressed him more than ever. "Do those walls indeed inclose my beloved? May not her father, perhaps, contrary to my hopes, be the faithful friend of the duke, and concealed among his enemies? And if such be the case, dare I, whose only hope is to gain his good will—dare I stand opposed to him without blasting my own happiness? And should her father have really taken part with the enemy, can his daughter possibly be with him? But even were my best hopes realised, and should she be among the spectators assembled to witness the entry of the army, shall I find her still true to that faith she has plighted?" These and many other anxious thoughts passed through his mind in rapid succession.
The last distressing thought, however, gave way to a pleasing certainty; for if all kind of disaster were leagued against him Bertha's fidelity, he felt convinced, remained unaltered. He pressed the scarf she had given him to his breast; and now, as the Ulm cavalry fell into the line, their trumpets and cornets playing martial music, his natural cheerfulness returned, he rose prouder in his saddle, and as they passed up the gaily adorned streets, his quick eye examined all the windows of the lofty houses, seeking her alone.
There he perceived her, serious and thoughtful, as she viewed the passing scene. He fancied her thoughts might be occupied with him, whom she supposed to be far distant from her. He gave his horse the spur, which made him bound in the air, and the pavement resound under the clash of his hoofs. But as she turned towards him, and their eyes met, and judging by the joyful blush which animated her features, that she assured him he was recognised and still beloved, then it was that poor Albert nearly lost all recollection of his situation; for though he followed the march to the town-hall, so great was his desire to linger in the neighbourhood of his beloved, that little was wanting to make him forget all other considerations, and be irresistibly drawn to the corner house with the bow window.
He had already made the first step in that direction, when he felt his arm grasped by a powerful hand. "What drives you in this direction, young man?" said a deep, well-known voice; "this is not the way to the town-hall. Hallo! I really believe you are faint from fatigue: no wonder, indeed, that you should be, for the breakfast was a very meagre one. But never mind, my lad, come along. The Ulmers give good wine, and we will treat you to some of the best sort, old Remsthaler."
Though the transition from the raptured joy in which his mind for some moments floated, when he first saw his love, to the bustle before the town-hall in Ulm, was somewhat sudden, he could not help being thankful to his friend, old Herrn von Breitenstein, his nearest neighbour on the frontier of Franconia, for awakening him out of his momentary dream, and saving him from making a precipitate, foolish step.
He therefore took the advice of the old gentleman in a friendly way, and with him followed the rest of the knights and nobles, whose appetites were well sharpened by their long morning ride for the good mid-day meal, which was prepared for them by the imperial free city in the town-hall.
The sound or music greets my ear,
The castle glares with light:
What means these varied sounds I hear?
Who banquets here to-night?
The saloon of the town-hall, into which the guests were ushered, formed a large oblong. The walls, and the ceiling, low in proportion to the size of the room, were wainscoted with brown wood; numerous round windows, on which were painted the arms of the nobles of Ulm in bright colors, occupied one side of it; whilst on the walls opposite were suspended the portraits of renowned burgomasters and councillors of the town. They were all painted in the same position, that is, the left hand supported on the hip, the right resting on a table covered with rich cloth, and looking down on the guests of their descendants with grave and solemn, aspect. The assembled company crowded in mixed groups about the table, which being in the form of a horseshoe, occupied nearly the whole length of the apartment. The brilliant festive costume of the grand council and patricians, who were to do the honours of the day in the name of the town, was not in keeping when compared with that of their guests, who, covered with dust, and clad in leather and steel, discomposed the silk cloaks and velvet dresses of their entertainers in no very ceremonious manner, and much to their annoyance.
They waited some time for the Duke of Bavaria, who, having arrived in Ulm a few days before, had accepted the invitation to this brilliant feast; but when his page brought an excuse that he could not attend, the signal by sound of trumpet was given to take places. The rush to the table in consequence was so impetuous that it was impossible to put the preconcerted friendly intentions of the council into execution, by which a citizen of Ulm was to sit between each two of their guests.
Breitenstein secured a seat for Albert at the lower end of the table, which he said was one of the best places. "I could have put you," said the old man, "among our seniors, near Fronsberg, Sickingen, Hutten, and Waldburg at the head of the table, but in such company etiquette and reserve will infringe upon the more important consideration of gratifying the cravings of hunger with ease and comfort. We might have gone further up also, among the Nürnbergers and Augsburgers; there where the roasted peacock is, which I declare is not a bad place; but I know you do not like such townsfolk, and therefore brought you here. Look around you, is it not a capital position? As we do not know the faces hereabouts it will not be necessary to talk much. On the right we have a smoking hot pig's head, with a lemon stuck in its mouth; on the left a magnificent trout biting its tail for joy; and in our front a roebuck, not to be matched for its tender meat and quantity of fat the whole length of the table or elsewhere."
Albert thanked him for his kindness, and took a hasty glance at those immediately about him. On his right sat a good-looking young man about twenty-five or twenty-six years of age. His neat-combed hair, throwing out a perfume of some highly-scented ointment, his small beard, evidently having just gone through the ordeal of warm curling irons, made Albert suspect, even before he was further convinced of it by his dialect, that he was a gay Ulmer citizen. The young man, perceiving himself to be the object of his neighbour's observation, made himself very officious. He filled Albert's glass from a large silver tankard, and pledged him to drink to a better acquaintance and good fellowship; he then offered to help him the best slices of roebuck, hare, pork, pheasant, and wild duck, which lay before them in great profusion on large silver dishes.
But neither the officious kindness of his neighbour, nor the uncommon appetite of Breitenstein, could provoke Albert to eat. His mind was too much occupied with the beloved object he had seen in entering the town to follow the example of his neighbours. He sat full of thought, looking into his tankard, which he still held in his hand; and as the bubbles on the surface of the sparkling wine dispersed, he fancied he saw the portrait of his love in the gilded bottom of it. No wonder then that his sociable friend on his right, seeing how his guest held his tankard, and refused every dish which he offered him, took him for an incorrigible wine-bibber. His keen eye, which was fixed upon the object before him, appeared to point the youth out as one of those perfect connoisseurs of wine, whose refined taste liked to dwell upon the quality of the noble beverage.
For the purpose of seconding the good intentions of the grand council, namely, that of rendering the feast as pleasant as possible to their guests, the young Ulmer sought all means to discover the weak point of his neighbour. It was, indeed, contrary to his moderate habits to drink much wine; but, in the hopes of rendering himself agreeable to Albert, he thought he would stretch a point this once. He filled his goblet full, and said, "Don't you think, neighbour, this wine has fire in it, and is high flavoured? It is not, indeed, Würtemberger wine, such as you are accustomed to drink in Franconia, but it is real Elfinger, out of the cellar of the senate, and calls itself eighty years old."
Astonished at this address, Albert put down his tankard, and answered with a short, "Yes, yes." His neighbour, however, would not let him off so easily. "It appears, nevertheless," he went on to say, "that it is not quite the thing you like, but I know a remedy. Holloa, there!" he called to a servant, "bring a can of Uhlbacher here. Now just taste this; it grows hard by the castle of Würtemberg. You must pledge me in this toast: 'A short war and glorious victory.'"
Albert, to whom this conversation was in no wise agreeable, thought to turn it to something which might lead to a more interesting topic. "You have much beauty here in Ulm," said he; "at least, in passing through the town, I remarked many pretty faces at the windows."
"Yes, in truth," answered the Ulmer, "the streets might be paved with them."
"That would not be amiss," replied Albert, "for the pavement of your streets is bad indeed. But tell me who lives in that corner house with the bow-window?" pointing to the situation of it: "if I do not mistake, two young ladies were looking out of the window as we rode by."
"So! you have remarked them already?" laughed the other: "upon my word, you have a quick eye, and are a good judge. They are my pretty cousins, on my mother's side: the little blonde is the daughter of the Herrn von Besserer, the other is the lady of Lichtenstein, a Würtemberger, staying with her on a visit."
Albert thanked heaven for having been placed so near a relation of Bertha, and determined at once to take advantage of his good fortune. He turned to him, and in the most friendly manner said, "You have a couple of pretty cousins, Herr von Besserer."
"I call myself Dieterick von Kraft, secretary to the grand council, with your permission."
"A pair of pretty cousins, Herr von Kraft; do you visit them often?"
"Yes, I do," answered the secretary, "and particularly since the daughter of Lichtenstein is in the house. Before her arrival, cousin Marie and I were one heart and soul, but she is somewhat jealous now, being piqued by the attentions I bestow upon her charming cousin, Bertha von Lichtenstein, which she thinks belong to her alone."
This confidential communication of the secretary to a perfect stranger, was not a little surprising to Albert, who very soon discovered that a certain portion of vanity was one of his weak points, though in other respects there was much to like in him.
This avowal, however, on the part of his new acquaintance, did not sound agreeable to Albert's ear, which caused him to press his lips together, whilst his cheeks assumed a deeper colour.
"Laugh as you will," proceeded the scribe, whose head began to feel the effects of the wine, to which he was unaccustomed; "if you only knew how they pull caps about me! My Lichtenstein cousin has, however, a disagreeable, odd way of showing her friendship; she is so ladylike and reserved, that one is afraid to joke in her presence, much less to be as familiar with her as with Marie; but it is just that which renders her so attractive in my eyes, for if she sends me away ten times, I am sure to return to her the eleventh:—the reason is," he murmured to himself, "that her old strict father is present, of whom she is rather shy; let him but once cross the boundary of Ulm, and I'll soon tame her."
Finding his new acquaintance so very communicative, Albert resolved to question him respecting the knight of Lichtenstein's view of the coming struggle, because that was an essential point, upon which his dearest hopes turned, and one upon which he had his doubts; but just as he was about to begin, he was interrupted by the sound of peculiar strange voices near him. He thought he had heard them before amidst the noise and clatter of the ghosts, as they recited in a drawling uniform tone a couple of short sentences, the purport of which he could not well understand. But now that he heard them repeated close to him, he soon learnt the subject of their monotonous import. It was the fashion in those good old times, particularly in the imperial towns, for the father of the family and his wife, when they entertained company, to rise about the middle of the repast, go round to each individual guest, and in a short sentence of customary usage press him to eat and drink.
This fashion was one of such old standing in Ulm, that the grand council would on no account dispense with it on the present occasion, and, therefore, appointed the father of a family and his wife, in the persons of the burgomaster and the oldest of the councillors, to perform the office.
Having gone round two sides of the table on their "pressing" embassy, it was not to be wondered at, that their voices became, by their efforts, rather husky, so that at last their friendly exhortation assumed almost the tone of a threat. A rough voice sounded in Albert's ear, "Why don't you eat, why don't you drink?" Startling, he turned round, and beheld a large man with a red face, who had addressed these words to him, and before he had time to give an answer, a little short man, with a high shrill voice saluted his ear, on the other side.
"But eat and drink and take your fill—
Such is our magisterial will."