Legend of the
Rhine by William Makepeace Thackeray
I. SIR LUDWIG OF
CHAPTER II. THE
CHAPTER III. THE
CHAPTER IV. THE
CHAPTER V. THE
CHAPTER VI. THE
CHAPTER VII. THE
THE CHILDE OF
CHAPTER IX. THE
LADY OF WINDECK.
CHAPTER X. THE
BATTLE OF THE
CHAPTER XI. THE
MARTYR OF LOVE.
CHAPTER XII. THE
A LEGEND OF THE RHINE.
CHAPTER I. SIR LUDWIG OF HOMBOURG.
It was in the good old days of chivalry, when every mountain that
bathes its shadow in the Rhine had its castle: not inhabited, as now,
by a few rats and owls, nor covered with moss and wallflowers, and
funguses, and creeping ivy. No, no! where the ivy now clusters there
grew strong portcullis and bars of steel; where the wallflower now
quivers in the rampart there were silken banners embroidered with
wonderful heraldry; men-at-arms marched where now you shall only see a
bank of moss or a hideous black champignon; and in place of the rats
and owlets, I warrant me there were ladies and knights to revel in the
great halls, and to feast, and to dance, and to make love there. They
are passed away:—those old knights and ladies: their golden hair
first changed to silver, and then the silver dropped off and
disappeared for ever; their elegant legs, so slim and active in the
dance, became swollen and gouty, and then, from being swollen and
gouty, dwindled down to bare bone- shanks; the roses left their
cheeks, and then their cheeks disappeared, and left their skulls, and
then their skulls powdered into dust, and all sign of them was gone.
And as it was with them, so shall it be with us. Ho, seneschal! fill
me a cup of liquor! put sugar in it, good fellow—yea, and a little
hot water; a very little, for my soul is sad, as I think of those days
and knights of old.
They, too, have revelled and feasted, and where are they?—gone?—
nay, not altogether gone; for doth not the eye catch glimpses of them
as they walk yonder in the gray limbo of romance, shining faintly in
their coats of steel, wandering by the side of long- haired ladies,
with long-tailed gowns that little pages carry? Yes! one sees them:
the poet sees them still in the far-off Cloudland, and hears the ring
of their clarions as they hasten to battle or tourney—and the dim
echoes of their lutes chanting of love and fair ladies! Gracious
privilege of poesy! It is as the Dervish's collyrium to the eyes, and
causes them to see treasures that to the sight of donkeys are
invisible. Blessed treasures of fancy! I would not change ye—no,
not for many donkey-loads of gold. . . . Fill again, jolly seneschal,
thou brave wag; chalk me up the produce on the hostel door—surely the
spirits of old are mixed up in the wondrous liquor, and gentle visions
of bygone princes and princesses look blandly down on us from the
cloudy perfume of the pipe. Do you know in what year the fairies left
the Rhine?—long before Murray's "Guide-Book" was wrote—long before
squat steamboats, with snorting funnels, came paddling down the
stream. Do you not know that once upon a time the appearance of
eleven thousand British virgins was considered at Cologne as a
wonder? Now there come twenty thousand such annually, accompanied by
their ladies'-maids. But of them we will say no more—let us back to
those who went before them.
Many, many hundred thousand years ago, and at the exact period when
chivalry was in full bloom, there occurred a little history upon the
banks of the Rhine, which has been already written in a book, and
hence must be positively true. 'Tis a story of knights and ladies—of
love and battle, and virtue rewarded; a story of princes and noble
lords, moreover: the best of company. Gentles, an ye will, ye shall
hear it. Fair dames and damsels, may your loves be as happy as those
of the heroine of this romaunt.
On the cold and rainy evening of Thursday, the 26th of October, in
the year previously indicated, such travellers as might have chanced
to be abroad in that bitter night, might have remarked a
fellow-wayfarer journeying on the road from Oberwinter to Godesberg.
He was a man not tall in stature, but of the most athletic
proportions, and Time, which had browned and furrowed his cheek and
sprinkled his locks with gray, declared pretty clearly that He must
have been acquainted with the warrior for some fifty good years. He
was armed in mail, and rode a powerful and active battle-horse, which
(though the way the pair had come that day was long and weary indeed,)
yet supported the warrior, his armor and luggage, with seeming ease.
As it was in a friend's country, the knight did not think fit to wear
his heavy destrier, or helmet, which hung at his saddlebow over his
portmanteau. Both were marked with the coronet of a count; and from
the crown which surmounted the helmet, rose the crest of his knightly
race, an arm proper lifting a naked sword.
At his right hand, and convenient to the warrior's grasp, hung his
mangonel or mace—a terrific weapon which had shattered the brains of
many a turbaned soldan; while over his broad and ample chest there
fell the triangular shield of the period, whereon were emblazoned his
arms—argent, a gules wavy, on a saltire reversed of the second: the
latter device was awarded for a daring exploit before Ascalon, by the
Emperor Maximilian, and a reference to the German Peerage of that day,
or a knowledge of high families which every gentleman then possessed,
would have sufficed to show at once that the rider we have described
was of the noble house of Hombourg. It was, in fact, the gallant
knight Sir Ludwig of Hombourg: his rank as a count, and chamberlain of
the Emperor of Austria, was marked by the cap of maintenance with the
peacock's feather which he wore (when not armed for battle), and his
princely blood was denoted by the oiled silk umbrella which he carried
(a very meet protection against the pitiless storm), and which, as it
is known, in the middle ages, none but princes were justified in
using. A bag, fastened with a brazen padlock, and made of the costly
produce of the Persian looms (then extremely rare in Europe), told
that he had travelled in Eastern climes. This, too, was evident from
the inscription writ on card or parchment, and sewed on the bag. It
first ran "Count Ludwig de Hombourg, Jerusalem;" but the name of the
Holy City had been dashed out with the pen, and that of "Godesberg"
substituted. So far indeed had the cavalier travelled!—and it is
needless to state that the bag in question contained such remaining
articles of the toilet as the high-born noble deemed unnecessary to
place in his valise.
"By Saint Bugo of Katzenellenbogen!" said the good knight,
shivering, "'tis colder here than at Damascus! Marry, I am so hungry
I could eat one of Saladin's camels. Shall I be at Godesberg in time
for dinner?" And taking out his horologe (which hung in a small
side-pocket of his embroidered surcoat), the crusader consoled himself
by finding that it was but seven of the night, and that he would reach
Godesberg ere the warder had sounded the second gong.
His opinion was borne out by the result. His good steed, which
could trot at a pinch fourteen leagues in the hour, brought him to
this famous castle, just as the warder was giving the first welcome
signal which told that the princely family of Count Karl, Margrave of
Godesberg, were about to prepare for their usual repast at eight
o'clock. Crowds of pages and horse-keepers were in the court, when,
the portcullis being raised, and amidst the respectful salutes of the
sentinels, the most ancient friend of the house of Godesberg entered
into its castle-yard. The under-butler stepped forward to take his
bridle-rein. "Welcome, Sir Count, from the Holy Land!" exclaimed the
faithful old man. "Welcome, Sir Count, from the Holy Land!" cried the
rest of the servants in the hall. A stable was speedily found for the
Count's horse, Streithengst, and it was not before the gallant soldier
had seen that true animal well cared for, that he entered the castle
itself, and was conducted to his chamber. Wax-candles burning bright
on the mantel, flowers in china vases, every variety of soap, and a
flask of the precious essence manufactured at the neighboring city of
Cologne, were displayed on his toilet-table; a cheering fire
"crackled on the hearth," and showed that the good knight's coming
had been looked and cared for. The serving-maidens, bringing him hot
water for his ablutions, smiling asked, "Would he have his couch
warmed at eve?" One might have been sure from their blushes that the
tough old soldier made an arch reply. The family tonsor came to know
whether the noble Count had need of his skill. "By Saint Bugo," said
the knight, as seated in an easy settle by the fire, the tonsor rid
his chin of its stubby growth, and lightly passed the tongs and
pomatum through "the sable silver" of his hair,—"By Saint Bugo, this
is better than my dungeon at Grand Cairo. How is my godson Otto,
master barber; and the lady countess, his mother; and the noble Count
Karl, my dear brother- in-arms?"
"They are well," said the tonsor, with a sigh.
"By Saint Bugo, I'm glad on't; but why that sigh?"
"Things are not as they have been with my good lord," answered the
hairdresser, "ever since Count Gottfried's arrival."
"He here!" roared Sir Ludwig. "Good never came where Gottfried
was!" and the while he donned a pair of silken hose, that showed
admirably the proportions of his lower limbs, and exchanged his coat
of mail for the spotless vest and black surcoat collared with velvet
of Genoa, which was the fitting costume for "knight in ladye's bower,"
the knight entered into a conversation with the barber, who explained
to him, with the usual garrulousness of his tribe, what was the
present position of the noble family of Godesberg.
This will be narrated in the next chapter.
CHAPTER II. THE GODESBERGERS.
'Tis needless to state that the gallant warrior Ludwig of Hombourg
found in the bosom of his friend's family a cordial welcome. The
brother-in-arms of the Margrave Karl, he was the esteemed friend of
the Margravine, the exalted and beautiful Theodora of Boppum, and
(albeit no theologian, and although the first princes of Christendom
coveted such an honor,) he was selected to stand as sponsor for the
Margrave's son Otto, the only child of his house.
It was now seventeen years since the Count and Countess had been
united: and although heaven had not blessed their couch with more
than one child, it may be said of that one that it was a prize, and
that surely never lighted on the earth a more delightful vision. When
Count Ludwig, hastening to the holy wars, had quitted his beloved
godchild, he had left him a boy; he now found him, as the latter
rushed into his arms, grown to be one of the finest young men in
Germany: tall and excessively graceful in proportion, with the blush
of health mantling upon his cheek, that was likewise adorned with the
first down of manhood, and with magnificent golden ringlets, such as a
Rowland might envy, curling over his brow and his shoulders. His eyes
alternately beamed with the fire of daring, or melted with the moist
glance of benevolence. Well might a mother be proud of such a boy.
Well might the brave Ludwig exclaim, as he clasped the youth to his
breast, "By St. Bugo of Katzenellenbogen, Otto, thou art fit to be one
of Coeur de Lion's grenadiers!" and it was the fact: the "Childe" of
Godesberg measured six feet three.
He was habited for the evening meal in the costly, though simple
attire of the nobleman of the period—and his costume a good deal
resembled that of the old knight whose toilet we have just described;
with the difference of color, however. The pourpoint worn by young
Otto of Godesberg was of blue, handsomely decorated with buttons of
carved and embossed gold; his haut-de-chausses, or leggings, were of
the stuff of Nanquin, then brought by the Lombard argosies at an
immense price from China. The neighboring country of Holland had
supplied his wrists and bosom with the most costly laces; and thus
attired, with an opera-hat placed on one side of his head, ornamented
with a single flower, (that brilliant one, the tulip,) the boy rushed
into his godfather's dressing-room, and warned him that the banquet
It was indeed: a frown had gathered on the dark brows of the Lady
Theodora, and her bosom heaved with an emotion akin to indignation;
for she feared lest the soups in the refectory and the splendid fish
now smoking there were getting cold: she feared not for herself, but
for her lord's sake. "Godesberg," whispered she to Count Ludwig, as
trembling on his arm they descended from the drawing-room, "Godesberg
is sadly changed of late."
"By St. Bugo!" said the burly knight, starting, "these are the very
words the barber spake."
The lady heaved a sigh, and placed herself before the soup-tureen.
For some time the good Knight Ludwig of Hombourg was too much
occupied in ladling out the forced-meat balls and rich calves' head
of which the delicious pottage was formed (in ladling them out, did
we say? ay, marry, and in eating them, too,) to look at his
brother-in-arms at the bottom of the table, where he sat with his son
on his left hand, and the Baron Gottfried on his right.
The Margrave was INDEED changed. "By St. Bugo," whispered Ludwig
to the Countess, your husband is as surly as a bear that hath been
wounded o' the head." Tears falling into her soup-plate were her
only reply. The soup, the turbot, the haunch of mutton, Count Ludwig
remarked that the Margrave sent all away untasted.
"The boteler will serve ye with wine, Hombourg," said the Margrave
gloomily from the end of the table: not even an invitation to drink!
how different was this from the old times!
But when in compliance with this order the boteler proceeded to
hand round the mantling vintage of the Cape to the assembled party,
and to fill young Otto's goblet, (which the latter held up with the
eagerness of youth,) the Margrave's rage knew no bounds. He rushed
at his son; he dashed the wine-cup over his spotless vest: and giving
him three or four heavy blows which would have knocked down a
bonassus, but only caused the young Childe to blush: "YOU take wine!"
roared out the Margrave; "YOU dare to help yourself! Who time d-v-l
gave YOU leave to help yourself?" and the terrible blows were
reiterated over the delicate ears of the boy.
"Ludwig! Ludwig!" shrieked the Margravine.
"Hold your prate, madam," roared the Prince. "By St. Buffo, mayn't
a father beat his own child?"
"HIS OWN CHILD!" repeated the Margrave with a burst, almost a
shriek of indescribable agony. "Ah, what did I say?"
Sir Ludwig looked about him in amaze; Sir Gottfried (at the
Margrave's right hand) smiled ghastily; the young Otto was too much
agitated by the recent conflict to wear any expression but that of
extreme discomfiture; but the poor Margravine turned her head aside
and blushed, red almost as the lobster which flanked the turbot
In those rude old times, 'tis known such table quarrels were by no
means unusual amongst gallant knights; and Ludwig, who had oft seen
the Margrave cast a leg of mutton at an offending servitor, or empty
a sauce-boat in the direction of the Margravine, thought this was but
one of the usual outbreaks of his worthy though irascible friend, and
wisely determined to change the converse.
"How is my friend," said he, "the good knight, Sir Hildebrandt?"
"By Saint Buffo, this is too much!" screamed the Margrave, and
actually rushed from time room.
"By Saint Bugo," said his friend, "gallant knights, gentle sirs,
what ails my good Lord Margave?"
"Perhaps his nose bleeds," said Gottfried, with a sneer.
"Ah, my kind friend," said the Margravine with uncontrollable
emotion, "I fear some of you have passed from the frying-pan into the
fire." And making the signal of departure to the ladies, they rose
and retired to coffee in the drawing-room.
The Margrave presently came back again, somewhat more collected
than he had been. "Otto," he said sternly, "go join the ladies: it
becomes not a young boy to remain in the company of gallant knights
after dinner." The noble Childe with manifest unwillingness quitted
the room, and the Margrave, taking his lady's place at the head of the
table, whispered to Sir Ludwig, "Hildebrandt will be here to-night to
an evening-party, given in honor of your return from Palestine. My
good friend—my true friend—my old companion in arms, Sir Gottfried!
you had best see that the fiddlers be not drunk, and that the crumpets
be gotten ready." Sir Gottfried, obsequiously taking his patron's
hint, bowed and left the room.
"You shall know all soon, dear Ludwig," said the Margrave, with a
heart-rending look. "You marked Gottfried, who left the room anon?"
"You look incredulous concerning his worth; but I tell thee,
Ludwig, that yonder Gottfried is a good fellow, and my fast friend.
Why should he not be! He is my near relation, heir to my property:
should I" (here the Margrave's countenance assumed its former
expression of excruciating agony),—"SHOULD I HAVE NO SON."
"But I never saw the boy in better health," replied Sir Ludwig.
"Nevertheless,—ha! ha!—it may chance that I shall soon have no
The Margrave had crushed many a cup of wine during dinner, and Sir
Ludwig thought naturally that his gallant friend had drunken rather
deeply. He proceeded in this respect to imitate him; for the stern
soldier of those days neither shrunk before the Paynim nor the
punch-bowl: and many a rousing night had our crusader enjoyed in
Syria with lion-hearted Richard; with his coadjutor, Godfrey of
Bouillon; nay, with the dauntless Saladin himself.
"You knew Gottfried in Palestine?" asked the Margrave.
"Why did ye not greet him then, as ancient comrades should, with
the warm grasp of friendship? It is not because Sir Gottfried is
poor? You know well that he is of race as noble as thine own, my
"I care not for his race nor for his poverty," replied the blunt
crusader. "What says the Minnesinger? 'Marry, that the rank is but
the stamp of the guinea; the man is the gold.' And I tell thee, Karl
of Godesberg, that yonder Gottfried is base metal."
"By Saint Buffo, thou beliest him, dear Ludwig."
"By Saint Bugo, dear Karl, I say sooth. The fellow was known i'
the camp of the crusaders—disreputably known. Ere he joined us in
Palestine, he had sojourned in Constantinople, and learned the arts
of the Greek. He is a cogger of dice, I tell thee—a chanter of
horseflesh. He won five thousand marks from bluff Richard of England
the night before the storming of Ascalon, and I caught him with false
trumps in his pocket. He warranted a bay mare to Conrad of Mont
Serrat, and the rogue had fired her."
"Ha! mean ye that Sir Gottfried is a LEG?" cried Sir Karl, knitting
his brows. "Now, by my blessed patron, Saint Buffo of Bonn, had any
other but Ludwig of Hombourg so said, I would have cloven him from
skull to chine."
"By Saint Bugo of Katzenellenbogen, I will prove my words on Sir
Gottfried's body—not on thine, old brother-in-arms. And to do the
knave justice, he is a good lance. Holy Bugo! but he did good
service at Acre! But his character was such that, spite of his
bravery, he was dismissed the army; nor even allowed to sell his
"I have heard of it," said the Margrave; "Gottfried hath told me of
it. 'Twas about some silly quarrel over the wine-cup—a mere silly
jape, believe me. Hugo de Brodenel would have no black bottle on the
board. Gottfried was wroth, and to say sooth, flung the black bottle
at the county's head. Hence his dismission and abrupt return. But
you know not," continued the Margrave, with a heavy sigh, "of what use
that worthy Gottfried has been to me. He has uncloaked a traitor to
"Not YET," answered Hombourg, satirically.
"By Saint Buffo! a deep-dyed dastard! a dangerous, damnable
traitor!—a nest of traitors. Hildebranndt is a traitor—Otto is a
traitor—and Theodora (O heaven!) she—she is ANOTHER." The old
Prince burst into tears at the word, and was almost choked with
"What means this passion, dear friend?" cried Sir Ludwig, seriously
"Mark, Ludwig! mark Hildebrandt and Theodora together: mark
Hildebrandt and OTTO together. Like, like I tell thee as two peas. O
holy saints, that I should be born to suffer this!—to have all my
affections wrenched out of my bosom, and to be left alone in my old
age! But, hark! the guests are arriving. An ye will not empty
another flask of claret, let us join the ladyes i' the withdrawing
chamber. When there, mark HILDEBRANDT AND OTTO!"
CHAPTER III. THE FESTIVAL.
The festival was indeed begun. Coming on horseback, or in their
caroches, knights and ladies of the highest rank were assembled in
the grand saloon of Godesberg, which was splendidly illuminated to
receive them. Servitors, in rich liveries, (they were attired in
doublets of the sky-blue broadcloth of Ypres, and hose of the richest
yellow sammit—the colors of the house of Godesberg,) bore about
various refreshments on trays of silver—cakes, baked in the oven, and
swimming in melted butter; manchets of bread, smeared with the same
delicious condiment, and carved so thin that you might have expected
them to take wing and fly to the ceiling; coffee, introduced by Peter
the Hermit, after his excursion into Arabia, and tea such as only
Bohemia could produce, circulated amidst the festive throng, and were
eagerly devoured by the guests. The Margrave's gloom was unheeded by
them—how little indeed is the smiling crowd aware of the pangs that
are lurking in the breasts of those who bid them to the feast! The
Margravine was pale; but woman knows how to deceive; she was more than
ordinarily courteous to her friends, and laughed, though the laugh was
hollow, and talked, though the talk was loathsome to her.
"The two are together," said the Margrave, clutching his friend's
shoulder. "NOW LOOK!"
Sir Ludwig turned towards a quadrille, and there, sure enough, were
Sir Hildebrandt and young Otto standing side by side in the dance.
Two eggs were not more like! The reason of the Margrave's horrid
suspicion at once flashed across his friend's mind.
"'Tis clear as the staff of a pike," said the poor Margrave,
mournfully. "Come, brother, away from the scene; let us go play a
game at cribbage!" and retiring to the Margravine's boudoir, the two
warriors sat down to the game.
But though 'tis an interesting one, and though the Margrave won,
yet he could not keep his attention on the cards: so agitated was his
mind by the dreadful secret which weighed upon it. In the midst of
their play, the obsequious Gottfried came to whisper a word in his
patron's ear, which threw the latter into such a fury, that apoplexy
was apprehended by the two lookers-on. But the Margrave mastered his
emotion. "AT WHAT TIME, did you say?" said he to Gottfried.
"At daybreak, at the outer gate."
"I will be there."
"AND SO WILL I TOO," thought Count Ludwig, the good Knight of
CHAPTER IV. THE FLIGHT.
How often does man, proud man, make calculations for the future,
and think he can bend stern fate to his will! Alas, we are but
creatures in its hands! How many a slip between the lip and the
lifted wine-cup! How often, though seemingly with a choice of
couches to repose upon, do we find ourselves dashed to earth; and
then we are fain to say the grapes are sour, because we cannot attain
them; or worse, to yield to anger in consequence of our own fault.
Sir Ludwig, the Hombourger, was NOT AT THE OUTER GATE at daybreak.
He slept until ten of the clock. The previous night's potations
had been heavy, the day's journey had been long and rough. The
knight slept as a soldier would, to whom a featherbed is a rarity,
and who wakes not till he hears the blast of the reveille.
He looked up as he woke. At his bedside sat the Margrave. He had
been there for hours watching his slumbering comrade. Watching?—
no, not watching, but awake by his side, brooding over thoughts
unutterably bitter—over feelings inexpressibly wretched.
"What's o'clock?" was the first natural exclamation of the
"I believe it is five o'clock," said his friend. It was ten. It
might have been twelve, two, half-past four, twenty minutes to six,
the Margrave would still have said, "I BELIEVE IT IS FIVE O'CLOCK."
The wretched take no count of time: it flies with unequal pinions,
indeed, for THEM.
"Is breakfast over?" inquired the crusader.
"Ask the butler," said the Margrave, nodding his head wildly,
rolling his eyes wildly, smiling wildly.
"Gracious Bugo!" said the Knight of Hombourg, "what has ailed thee,
my friend? It is ten o'clock by my horologe. Your regular hour is
nine. You are not—no, by heavens! you are not shaved! You wear the
tights and silken hose of last evening's banquet. Your collar is all
rumpled—'tis that of yesterday. YOU HAVE NOT BEEN TO BED! What has
chanced, brother of mine: what has chanced?"
"A common chance, Louis of Hombourg," said the Margrave: "one that
chances every day. A false woman, a false friend, a broken heart.
THIS has chanced. I have not been to bed."
"What mean ye?" cried Count Ludwig, deeply affected. "A false
friend? I am not a false friend. A false woman? Surely the lovely
Theodora, your wife—"
"I have no wife, Louis, now; I have no wife and no son."
. . . . . .
In accents broken by grief, the Margrave explained what had
occurred. Gottfried's information was but too correct. There was a
CAUSE for the likeness between Otto and Sir Hildebrandt: a fatal
cause! Hildebrandt and Theodora had met at dawn at the outer gate.
The Margrave had seen them. They walked long together; they
embraced. Ah! how the husband's, the father's, feelings were
harrowed at that embrace! They parted; and then the Margrave, coming
forward, coldly signified to his lady that she was to retire to a
convent for life, and gave orders that the boy should be sent too, to
take the vows at a monastery.
Both sentences had been executed. Otto, in a boat, and guarded by
a company of his father's men-at-arms, was on the river going towards
Cologne, to the monastery of Saint Buffo there. The Lady Theodora,
under the guard of Sir Gottfried and an attendant, were on their way
to the convent of Nonnenwerth, which many of our readers have
seen—the beautiful Green Island Convent, laved by the bright waters
of the Rhine!
"What road did Gottfried take?" asked the Knight of Hombourg,
grinding his teeth.
"You cannot overtake him," said the Margrave. "My good Gottfried,
he is my only comfort now: he is my kinsman, and shall be my heir. He
will be back anon."
"Will he so?" thought Sir Ludwig. "I will ask him a few questions
ere he return." And springing from his couch, he began forthwith to
put on his usual morning dress of complete armor; and, after a hasty
ablution, donned, not his cap of maintenance, but his helmet of
battle. He rang the bell violently.
"A cup of coffee, straight," said he, to the servitor who answered
the summons; "bid the cook pack me a sausage and bread in paper, and
the groom saddle Streithengst; we have far to ride."
The various orders were obeyed. The horse was brought; the
refreshments disposed of; the clattering steps of the departing steed
were heard in the court-yard; but the Margrave took no notice of his
friend, and sat, plunged in silent grief, quite motionless by the
CHAPTER V. THE TRAITOR'S DOOM.
The Hombourger led his horse down the winding path which conducts
from the hill and castle of Godesberg into the beautiful green plain
below. Who has not seen that lovely plain, and who that has seen it
has not loved it? A thousand sunny vineyards and cornfields stretch
around in peaceful luxuriance; the mighty Rhine floats by it in silver
magnificence, and on the opposite bank rise the seven mountains robed
in majestic purple, the monarchs of the royal scene.
A pleasing poet, Lord Byron, in describing this very scene, has
mentioned that "peasant girls, with dark blue eyes, and hands that
offer cake and wine," are perpetually crowding round the traveller in
this delicious district, and proffering to him their rustic presents.
This was no doubt the case in former days, when the noble bard wrote
his elegant poems—in the happy ancient days! when maidens were as yet
generous, and men kindly! Now the degenerate peasantry of the
district are much more inclined to ask than to give, and their blue
eyes seem to have disappeared with their generosity.
But as it was a long time ago that the events of our story
occurred, 'tis probable that the good Knight Ludwig of Hombourg was
greeted upon his path by this fascinating peasantry; though we know
not how he accepted their welcome. He continued his ride across the
flat green country until he came to Rolandseck, whence he could
command the Island of Nonnenwerth (that lies in the Rhine opposite
that place), and all who went to it or passed from it.
Over the entrance of a little cavern in one of the rocks hanging
above the Rhine-stream at Rolandseck, and covered with odoriferous
cactuses and silvery magnolias, the traveller of the present day may
perceive a rude broken image of a saint: that image represented the
venerable Saint Buffo of Bonn, the patron of the Margrave; and Sir
Ludwig, kneeling on the greensward, and reciting a censer, an ave, and
a couple of acolytes before it, felt encouraged to think that the deed
he meditated was about to be performed under the very eyes of his
friend's sanctified patron. His devotion done (and the knight of
those days was as pious as he was brave), Sir Ludwig, the gallant
Hombourger, exclaimed with a loud voice:—
"Ho! hermit! holy hermit, art thou in thy cell?"
"Who calls the poor servant of heaven and Saint Buffo?" exclaimed a
voice from the cavern; and presently, from beneath the wreaths of
geranium and magnolia, appeared an intensely venerable, ancient, and
majestic head—'twas that, we need not say, of Saint Buffo's solitary.
A silver beard hanging to his knees gave his person an appearance of
great respectability; his body was robed in simple brown serge, and
girt with a knotted cord: his ancient feet were only defended from the
prickles and stones by the rudest sandals, and his bald and polished
head was bare.
"Holy hermit," said the knight, in a grave voice, "make ready thy
ministry, for there is some one about to die."
"Is he here, now?"
"Perhaps," said the stout warrior, crossing himself; "but not so if
right prevail." At this moment he caught sight of a ferry-boat
putting off from Nonnenwerth, with a knight on board. Ludwig knew at
once, by the sinople reversed and the truncated gules on his surcoat,
that it was Sir Gottfried of Godesberg.
"Be ready, father," said the good knight, pointing towards the
advancing boat; and waving his hand by way of respect to the reverend
hermit, without a further word, he vaulted into his saddle, and rode
back for a few score of paces; when he wheeled round, and remained
steady. His great lance and pennon rose in the air. His armor
glistened in the sun; the chest and head of his battle-horse were
similarly covered with steel. As Sir Gottfried, likewise armed and
mounted (for his horse had been left at the ferry hard by), advanced
up the road, he almost started at the figure before him—a glistening
tower of steel.
"Are you the lord of this pass, Sir Knight?" said Sir Gottfried,
haughtily, "or do you hold it against all comers, in honor of your
"I am not the lord of this pass. I do not hold it against all
comers. I hold it but against one, and he is a liar and a traitor."
"As the matter concerns me not, I pray you let me pass," said
"The matter DOES concern thee, Gottfried of Godesberg. Liar and
traitor! art thou coward, too?"
"Holy Saint Buffo! 'tis a fight!" exclaimed the old hermit (who,
too, had been a gallant warrior in his day); and like the old war-
horse that hears the trumpet's sound, and spite of his clerical
profession, he prepared to look on at the combat with no ordinary
eagerness, and sat down on the overhanging ledge of the rock,
lighting his pipe, and affecting unconcern, but in reality most
deeply interested in the event which was about to ensue.
As soon as the word "coward" had been pronounced by Sir Ludwig, his
opponent, uttering a curse far too horrible to be inscribed here, had
wheeled back his powerful piebald, and brought his lance to the rest.
"Ha! Beauseant!" cried he. "Allah humdillah!" 'Twas the battle-
cry in Palestine of the irresistible Knights Hospitallers. "Look to
thyself, Sir Knight, and for mercy from heaven! I will give thee
"A Bugo for Katzenellenbogen!" exclaimed Sir Ludwig, piously: that,
too, was the well-known war-cry of his princely race.
"I will give the signal," said the old hermit, waving his pipe.
"Knights, are you ready? One, two, three. LOS!" (let go.)
At the signal, the two steeds tore up the ground like whirlwinds;
the two knights, two flashing perpendicular masses of steel, rapidly
converged; the two lances met upon the two shields of either, and
shivered, splintered, shattered into ten hundred thousand pieces,
which whirled through the air here and there, among the rocks, or in
the trees, or in the river. The two horses fell back trembling on
their haunches, where they remained for half a minute or so.
"Holy Buffo! a brave stroke!" said the old hermit. "Marry, but a
splinter wellnigh took off my nose!" The honest hermit waved his
pipe in delight, not perceiving that one of the splinters had carried
off the head of it, and rendered his favorite amusement impossible.
"Ha! they are to it again! O my! how they go to with their great
swords! Well stricken, gray! Well parried, piebald! Ha, that was a
slicer! Go it, piebald! go it, gray!—go it, gray! go it, pie—
Peccavi! peccavi!" said the old man, here suddenly closing his eyes,
and falling down on his knees. "I forgot I was a man of peace." And
the next moment, muttering a hasty matin, he sprung down the ledge of
rock, and was by the side of the combatants.
The battle was over. Good knight as Sir Gottfried was, his
strength and skill had not been able to overcome Sir Ludwig the
Hombourger, with RIGHT on his side. He was bleeding at every point
of his armor: he had been run through the body several times, and a
cut in tierce, delivered with tremendous dexterity, had cloven the
crown of his helmet of Damascus steel, and passing through the
cerebellum and sensorium, had split his nose almost in twain.
His mouth foaming—his face almost green—his eyes full of blood—
his brains spattered over his forehead, and several of his teeth
knocked out,—the discomfited warrior presented a ghastly spectacle,
as, reeling under the effects of the last tremendous blow which the
Knight of Hombourg dealt, Sir Gottfried fell heavily from the saddle
of his piebald charger; the frightened animal whisked his tail wildly
with a shriek and a snort, plunged out his hind legs, trampling for
one moment upon the feet of the prostrate Gottfried, thereby causing
him to shriek with agony, and then galloped away riderless.
Away! ay, away!—away amid the green vineyards and golden
cornfields; away up the steep mountains, where he frightened the
eagles in their eyries; away down the clattering ravines, where the
flashing cataracts tumble; away through the dark pine-forests, where
the hungry wolves are howling away over the dreary wolds, where the
wild wind walks alone; away through the plashing quagmires, where the
will-o'-the-wisp slunk frightened among the reeds; away through light
and darkness, storm and sunshine; away by tower and town, high-road
and hamlet. Once a turnpike-man would have detained him; but, ha! ha!
he charged the pike, and cleared it at a bound. Once the Cologne
Diligence stopped the way: he charged the Diligence, he knocked off
the cap of the conductor on the roof, and yet galloped wildly, madly,
furiously, irresistibly on! Brave horse! gallant steed! snorting
child of Araby! On went the horse, over mountains, rivers, turnpikes,
apple-women; and never stopped until he reached a livery-stable in
Cologne where his master was accustomed to put him up.
CHAPTER VI. THE CONFESSION.
But we have forgotten, meanwhile, that prostrate individual.
Having examined the wounds in his side, legs, head, and throat, the
old hermit (a skilful leech) knelt down by the side of the vanquished
one and said, "Sir Knight, it is my painful duty to state to you that
you are in an exceedingly dangerous condition, and will not probably
"Say you so, Sir Priest? then 'tis time I make my confession.
Hearken you, Priest, and you, Sir Knight, whoever you be."
Sir Ludwig (who, much affected by the scene, had been tying his
horse up to a tree), lifted his visor and said, "Gottfried of
Godesberg! I am the friend of thy kinsman, Margrave Karl, whose
happiness thou hast ruined; I am the friend of his chaste and
virtuous lady, whose fair fame thou hast belied; I am the godfather
of young Count Otto, whose heritage thou wouldst have appropriated.
Therefore I met thee in deadly fight, and overcame thee, and have
wellnigh finished thee. Speak on."
"I have done all this," said the dying man, "and here, in my last
hour, repent me. The Lady Theodora is a spotless lady; the youthful
Otto the true son of his father—Sir Hildebrandt is not his father,
but his UNCLE."
"Gracious Buffo!" "Celestial Bugo!" here said the hermit and the
Knight of Hombourg simultaneously, clasping their hands.
"Yes, his uncle; but with the BAR-SINISTER in his scutcheon. Hence
he could never be acknowledged by the family; hence, too, the Lady
Theodora's spotless purity (though the young people had been brought
up together) could never be brought to own the relationship."
"May I repeat your confession?" asked the hermit.
"With the greatest pleasure in life: carry my confession to the
Margrave, and pray him give me pardon. Were there—a notary-public
present," slowly gasped the knight, the film of dissolution glazing
over his eyes, "I would ask—you—two—gentlemen to witness it. I
would gladly—sign the deposition—that is, if I could wr-wr-wr-wr-
ite!" A faint shuddering smile—a quiver, a gasp, a gurgle—the
blood gushed from his mouth in black volumes . . . .
"He will never sin more," said the hermit, solemnly.
"May heaven assoilzie him!" said Sir Ludwig. "Hermit, he was a
gallant knight. He died with harness on his back and with truth on
his lips: Ludwig of Hombourg would ask no other death. . . . ."
An hour afterwards the principal servants at the Castle of
Godesberg were rather surprised to see the noble Lord Louis trot into
the court-yard of the castle, with a companion on the crupper of his
saddle. 'Twas the venerable hermit of Rolandseck, who, for the sake
of greater celerity, had adopted this undignified conveyance, and
whose appearance and little dumpy legs might well create hilarity
among the "pampered menials" who are always found lounging about the
houses of the great. He skipped off the saddle with considerable
lightness however; and Sir Ludwig, taking the reverend man by the arm
and frowning the jeering servitors into awe, bade one of them lead him
to the presence of his Highness the Margrave.
"What has chanced?" said the inquisitive servitor. "The riderless
horse of Sir Gottfried was seen to gallop by the outer wall anon. The
Margrave's Grace has never quitted your lordship's chamber, and sits
as one distraught."
"Hold thy prate, knave, and lead us on!" And so saying, the Knight
and his Reverence moved into the well-known apartment, where,
according to the servitor's description, the wretched Margrave sat
like a stone.
Ludwig took one of the kind broken-hearted man's hands, the hermit
seized the other, and began (but on account of his great age, with a
prolixity which we shall not endeavor to imitate) to narrate the
events which we have already described. Let the dear reader fancy,
while his Reverence speaks, the glazed eyes of the Margrave gradually
lighting up with attention; the flush of joy which mantles in his
countenance—the start—the throb—the almost delirious outburst of
hysteric exultation with which, when the whole truth was made known,
he clasped the two messengers of glad tidings to his breast, with an
energy that almost choked the aged recluse! "Ride, ride this instant
to the Margravine—say I have wronged her, that it is all right, that
she may come back—that I forgive her—that I apologize if you
will"—and a secretary forthwith despatched a note to that effect,
which was carried off by a fleet messenger.
"Now write to the Superior of the monastery at Cologne, and bid him
send me back my boy, my darling, my Otto—my Otto of roses!" said the
fond father, making the first play upon words he had ever attempted in
his life. But what will not paternal love effect? The secretary
(smiling at the joke) wrote another letter, and another fleet
messenger was despatched on another horse.
"And now," said Sir Ludwig, playfully, "let us to lunch. Holy
hermit, are you for a snack?"
The hermit could not say nay on an occasion so festive, and the
three gentles seated themselves to a plenteous repast; for which the
remains of the feast of yesterday offered, it need not be said, ample
"They will be home by dinner-time," said the exulting father.
"Ludwig! reverend hermit! we will carry on till then." And the cup
passed gayly round, and the laugh and jest circulated, while the
three happy friends sat confidentially awaiting the return of the
Margravine and her son.
But alas! said we not rightly at the commencement of a former
chapter, that betwixt the lip and the raised wine-cup there is often
many a spill? that our hopes are high, and often, too often, vain?
About three hours after the departure of the first messenger, he
returned, and with an exceedingly long face knelt down and presented
to the Margrave a billet to the following effect:—
"CONVENT OF NONNENWERTH, Friday Afternoon.
"SIR—I have submitted too long to your ill-usage, and am disposed
to bear it no more. I will no longer be made the butt of your ribald
satire, and the object of your coarse abuse. Last week you threatened
me with your cane! On Tuesday last you threw a wine- decanter at me,
which hit the butler, it is true, but the intention was evident. This
morning, in the presence of all the servants, you called me by the
most vile, abominable name, which heaven forbid I should repeat! You
dismissed me from your house under a false accusation. You sent me to
this odious convent to be immured for life. Be it so! I will not come
back, because, forsooth; you relent. Anything is better than a
residence with a wicked, coarse, violent, intoxicated, brutal monster
like yourself. I remain here for ever and blush to be obliged to sign
"THEODORA VON GODESBERG.
"P.S.—I hope you do not intend to keep all my best gowns, jewels,
and wearing-apparel; and make no doubt you dismissed me from your
house in order to make way for some vile hussy, whose eyes I would
like to tear out. T. V. G."
CHAPTER VII. THE SENTENCE.
This singular document, illustrative of the passions of women at
all times, and particularly of the manners of the early ages, struck
dismay into the heart of the Margrave.
"Are her ladyship's insinuations correct?" asked the hermit, in a
severe tone. "To correct a wife with a cane is a venial, I may say a
justifiable practice; but to fling a bottle at her is ruin both to the
liquor and to her."
"But she sent a carving-knife at me first," said the heartbroken
husband. "O jealousy, cursed jealousy, why, why did I ever listen to
thy green and yellow tongue?"
"They quarrelled; but they loved each other sincerely," whispered
Sir Ludwig to the hermit: who began to deliver forthwith a lecture
upon family discord and marital authority, which would have sent his
two hearers to sleep, but for the arrival of the second messenger,
whom the Margrave had despatched to Cologne for his son. This herald
wore a still longer face than that of his comrade who preceded him.
"Where is my darling?" roared the agonized parent. "Have ye
brought him with ye?"
"N—no," said the man, hesitating.
"I will flog the knave soundly when he comes," cried the father,
vainly endeavoring, under an appearance of sternness, to hide his
inward emotion and tenderness.
"Please, your Highness," said the messenger, making a desperate
effort, "Count Otto is not at the convent."
"Know ye, knave, where he is?"
The swain solemnly said, "I do. He is THERE." He pointed as he
spake to the broad Rhine, that was seen from the casement, lighted up
by the magnificent hues of sunset.
"THERE! How mean ye THERE?" gasped the Margrave, wrought to a
pitch of nervous fury.
"Alas! my good lord, when he was in the boat which was to conduct
him to the convent, he—he jumped suddenly from it, and is
"Carry that knave out and hang him!" said the Margrave, with a
calmness more dreadful than any outburst of rage. "Let every man of
the boat's crew be blown from the mouth of the cannon on the
tower—except the coxswain, and let him be—"
What was to be done with the coxswain, no one knows; for at that
moment, and overcome by his emotion, the Margrave sank down lifeless
on the floor.
CHAPTER VIII. THE CHILDE OF
It must be clear to the dullest intellect (if amongst our readers
we dare venture to presume that a dull intellect should be found)
that the cause of the Margrave's fainting-fit, described in the last
chapter, was a groundless apprehension on the part of that too
solicitous and credulous nobleman regarding the fate of his beloved
child. No, young Otto was NOT drowned. Was ever hero of romantic
story done to death so early in the tale? Young Otto was NOT
drowned. Had such been the case, the Lord Margrave would infallibly
have died at the close of the last chapter; and a few gloomy sentences
at its close would have denoted how the lovely Lady Theodora became
insane in the convent, and how Sir Ludwig determined, upon the demise
of the old hermit (consequent upon the shock of hearing the news), to
retire to the vacant hermitage, and assume the robe, the beard, the
mortifications of the late venerable and solitary ecclesiastic. Otto
was NOT drowned, and all those personages of our history are
consequently alive and well.
The boat containing the amazed young Count—for he knew not the
cause of his father's anger, and hence rebelled against the unjust
sentence which the Margrave had uttered—had not rowed many miles,
when the gallant boy rallied from his temporary surprise and
despondency, and determined not to be a slave in any convent of any
order: determined to make a desperate effort for escape. At a moment
when the men were pulling hard against the tide, and Kuno, the
coxswain, was looking carefully to steer the barge between some
dangerous rocks and quicksands which are frequently met with in the
majestic though dangerous river, Otto gave a sudden spring from the
boat, and with one single flounce was in the boiling, frothing,
swirling eddy of the stream.
Fancy the agony of the crew at the disappearance of their young
lord! All loved him; all would have given their lives for him; but
as they did not know how to swim, of course they declined to make any
useless plunges in search of him, and stood on their oars in mute
wonder and grief. ONCE, his fair head and golden ringlets were seen
to arise from the water; TWICE, puffing and panting, it appeared for
an instant again; THRICE, it rose but for one single moment: it was
the last chance, and it sunk, sunk, sunk. Knowing the reception they
would meet with from their liege lord, the men naturally did not go
home to Godesberg, but putting in at the first creek on the opposite
bank, fled into the Duke of Nassau's territory; where, as they have
little to do with our tale, we will leave them.
But they little knew how expert a swimmer was young Otto. He had
disappeared, it is true; but why? because he HAD DIVED. He
calculated that his conductors would consider him drowned, and the
desire of liberty lending him wings, (or we had rather say FINS, in
this instance,) the gallant boy swam on beneath the water, never
lifting his head for a single moment between Godesberg and Cologne—
the distance being twenty-five or thirty miles.
Escaping from observation, he landed on the Deutz side of the
river, repaired to a comfortable and quiet hostel there, saying he
had had an accident from a boat, and thus accounting for the moisture
of his habiliments, and while these were drying before a fire in his
chamber, went snugly to bed, where he mused, not without amaze, on the
strange events of the day. "This morning," thought he, "a noble, and
heir to a princely estate—this evening an outcast, with but a few
bank-notes which my mamma luckily gave me on my birthday. What a
strange entry into life is this for a young man of my family! Well, I
have courage and resolution: my first attempt in life has been a
gallant and successful one; other dangers will be conquered by similar
bravery." And recommending himself, his unhappy mother, and his
mistaken father to the care of their patron saint, Saint Buffo, the
gallant-hearted boy fell presently into such a sleep as only the
young, the healthy, the innocent, and the extremely fatigued can
The fatigues of the day (and very few men but would be fatigued
after swimming wellnigh thirty miles under water) caused young Otto
to sleep so profoundly, that he did not remark how, after Friday's
sunset, as a natural consequence, Saturday's Phoebus illumined the
world, ay, and sunk at his appointed hour. The serving-maidens of
the hostel, peeping in, marked him sleeping, and blessing him for a
pretty youth, tripped lightly from the chamber; the boots tried haply
twice or thrice to call him (as boots will fain), but the lovely boy,
giving another snore, turned on his side, and was quite unconscious of
the interruption. In a word, the youth slept for six-and-thirty hours
at an elongation; and the Sunday sun was shining and the bells of the
hundred churches of Cologne were clinking and tolling in pious
festivity, and the burghers and burgheresses of the town were trooping
to vespers and morning service when Otto awoke.
As he donned his clothes of the richest Genoa velvet, the
astonished boy could not at first account for his difficulty in
putting them on. "Marry," said he, "these breeches that my blessed
mother" (tears filled his fine eyes as he thought of her)—"that my
blessed mother had made long on purpose, are now ten inches too short
for me. Whir-r-r! my coat cracks i' the back, as in vain I try to
buckle it round me; and the sleeves reach no farther than my elbows!
What is this mystery? Am I grown fat and tall in a single night?
Ah! ah! ah! ah! I have it."
The young and good-humored Childe laughed merrily. He bethought
him of the reason of his mistake: his garments had shrunk from being
five-and-twenty miles under water.
But one remedy presented itself to his mind; and that we need not
say was to purchase new ones. Inquiring the way to the most genteel
ready-made-clothes' establishment in the city of Cologne, and finding
it was kept in the Minoriten Strasse, by an ancestor of the celebrated
Moses of London, the noble Childe hied him towards the emporium; but
you may be sure did not neglect to perform his religious duties by the
way. Entering the cathedral, he made straight for the shrine of Saint
Buffo, and hiding himself behind a pillar there (fearing he might be
recognized by the archbishop, or any of his father's numerous friends
in Cologne), he proceeded with his devotions, as was the practice of
the young nobles of the age.
But though exceedingly intent upon the service, yet his eye could
not refrain from wandering a LITTLE round about him, and he remarked
with surprise that the whole church was filled with archers; and he
remembered, too, that he had seen in the streets numerous other bands
of men similarly attired in green. On asking at the cathedral porch
the cause of this assemblage, one of the green ones said (in a jape),
"Marry, youngster, YOU must be GREEN, not to know that we are all
bound to the castle of his Grace Duke Adolf of Cleves, who gives an
archery meeting once a year, and prizes for which we toxophilites
Otto, whose course hitherto had been undetermined, now immediately
settled what to do. He straightway repaired to the ready-made
emporium of Herr Moses, and bidding that gentleman furnish him with
an archer's complete dress, Moses speedily selected a suit from his
vast stock, which fitted the youth to a T, and we need not say was
sold at an exceedingly moderate price. So attired (and bidding Herr
Moses a cordial farewell), young Otto was a gorgeous, a noble, a
soul-inspiring boy to gaze on. A coat and breeches of the most
brilliant pea-green, ornamented with a profusion of brass buttons,
and fitting him with exquisite tightness, showed off a figure
unrivalled for slim symmetry. His feet were covered with peaked
buskins of buff leather, and a belt round his slender waist, of the
same material, held his knife, his tobacco-pipe and pouch, and his
long shining dirk; which, though the adventurous youth had as yet
only employed it to fashion wicket-bails, or to cut bread-and-
cheese, he was now quite ready to use against the enemy. His
personal attractions were enhanced by a neat white hat, flung
carelessly and fearlessly on one side of his open smiling
countenance; and his lovely hair, curling in ten thousand yellow
ringlets, fell over his shoulder like golden epaulettes, and down his
back as far as the waist-buttons of his coat. I warrant me, many a
lovely Colnerinn looked after the handsome Childe with anxiety, and
dreamed that night of Cupid under the guise of "a bonny boy in green."
So accoutred, the youth's next thought was, that he must supply
himself with a bow. This he speedily purchased at the most
fashionable bowyer's, and of the best material and make. It was of
ivory, trimmed with pink ribbon, and the cord of silk. An elegant
quiver, beautifully painted and embroidered, was slung across his
back, with a dozen of the finest arrows, tipped with steel of
Damascus, formed of the branches of the famous Upas-tree of Java, and
feathered with the wings of the ortolan. These purchases being
completed (together with that of a knapsack, dressing-case, change,
our young adventurer asked where was the hostel at which the archers
were wont to assemble? and being informed that it was at the sign of
the "Golden Stag," hied him to that house of entertainment, where, by
calling for quantities of liquor and beer, he speedily made the
acquaintance and acquired the good will of a company of his future
comrades, who happened to be sitting in the coffee-room.
After they had eaten and drunken for all, Otto said, addressing
them, "When go ye forth, gentles? I am a stranger here, bound as you
to the archery meeting of Duke Adolf. An ye will admit a youth into
your company 'twill gladden me upon my lonely way?"
The archers replied, "You seem so young and jolly, and you spend
your gold so very like a gentleman, that we'll receive you in our
band with pleasure. Be ready, for we start at half-past two!" At
that hour accordingly the whole joyous company prepared to move, and
Otto not a little increased his popularity among them by stepping out
and having a conference with the landlord, which caused the latter to
come into the room where the archers were assembled previous to
departure, and to say, "Gentlemen, the bill is settled!"—words never
ungrateful to an archer yet: no, marry, nor to a man of any other
calling that I wot of.
They marched joyously for several leagues, singing and joking, and
telling of a thousand feats of love and chase and war. While thus
engaged, some one remarked to Otto, that he was not dressed in the
regular uniform, having no feathers in his hat.
"I dare say I will find a feather," said the lad, smiling.
Then another gibed because his bow was new.
"See that you can use your old one as well, Master Wolfgang," said
the undisturbed youth. His answers, his bearing, his generosity, his
beauty, and his wit, inspired all his new toxophilite friends with
interest and curiosity, and they longed to see whether his skill with
the bow corresponded with their secret sympathies for him.
An occasion for manifesting this skill did not fail to present
itself soon—as indeed it seldom does to such a hero of romance as
young Otto was. Fate seems to watch over such: events occur to them
just in the nick of time; they rescue virgins just as ogres are on the
point of devouring them; they manage to be present at court and
interesting ceremonies, and to see the most interesting people at the
most interesting moment; directly an adventure is necessary for them,
that adventure occurs: and I, for my part, have often wondered with
delight (and never could penetrate the mystery of the subject) at the
way in which that humblest of romance heroes, Signor Clown, when he
wants anything in the Pantomime, straightway finds it to his hand.
How is it that,—suppose he wishes to dress himself up like a woman
for instance, that minute a coalheaver walks in with a shovel-hat that
answers for a bonnet; at the very next instant a butcher's lad passing
with a string of sausages and a bundle of bladders unconsciously helps
Master Clown to a necklace and a tournure, and so on through the whole
toilet? Depend upon it there is something we do not wot of in that
mysterious overcoming of circumstances by great individuals: that apt
and wondrous conjuncture of THE HOUR AND THE MAN; and so, for my part,
when I heard the above remark of one of the archers, that Otto had
never a feather in his bonnet, I felt sure that a heron would spring
up in the next sentence to supply him with an aigrette.
And such indeed was the fact: rising out of a morass by which the
archers were passing, a gallant heron, arching his neck, swelling his
crest, placing his legs behind him, and his beak and red eyes against
the wind, rose slowly, and offered the fairest mark in the world.
"Shoot, Otto," said one of the archers. "You would not shoot just
now at a crow because it was a foul bird, nor at a hawk because it
was a noble bird; bring us down yon heron: it flies slowly."
But Otto was busy that moment tying his shoestring, and Rudolf, the
third best of the archers, shot at the bird and missed it.
"Shoot, Otto," said Wolfgang, a youth who had taken a liking to the
young archer: "the bird is getting further and further."
But Otto was busy that moment whittling a willow-twig he had just
cut. Max, the second best archer, shot and missed.
"Then," said Wolfgang, "I must try myself: a plague on you, young
springald, you have lost a noble chance!"
Wolfgang prepared himself with all his care, and shot at the bird.
"It is out of distance," said he, "and a murrain on the bird!"
Otto, who by this time had done whittling his willow-stick (having
carved a capital caricature of Wolfgang upon it), flung the twig down
and said carelessly, "Out of distance! Pshaw! We have two minutes
yet," and fell to asking riddles and cutting jokes; to the which none
of the archers listened, as they were all engaged, their noses in air,
watching the retreating bird.
"Where shall I hit him?" said Otto.
"Go to," said Rudolf, "thou canst see no limb of him: he is no
bigger than a flea."
"Here goes for his right eye!" said Otto; and stepping forward in
the English manner (which his godfather having learnt in Palestine,
had taught him), he brought his bowstring to his ear, took a good
aim, allowing for the wind and calculating the parabola to a nicety.
Whiz! his arrow went off.
He took up the willow-twig again and began carving a head of Rudolf
at the other end, chatting and laughing, and singing a ballad the
The archers, after standing a long time looking skywards with their
noses in the air, at last brought them down from the perpendicular to
the horizontal position, and said, "Pooh, this lad is a humbug! The
arrow's lost; let's go!"
"HEADS!" cried Otto, laughing. A speck was seen rapidly descending
from the heavens; it grew to be as big as a crown-piece, then as a
partridge, then as a tea-kettle, and flop! down fell a magnificent
heron to the ground, flooring poor Max in its fall.
"Take the arrow out of his eye, Wolfgang," said Otto, without
looking at the bird: "wipe it and put it back into my quiver."
The arrow indeed was there, having penetrated right through the
"Are you in league with Der Freischutz?" said Rudolf, quite amazed.
Otto laughingly whistled the "Huntsman's Chorus," and said, "No, my
friend. It was a lucky shot: only a lucky shot. I was taught
shooting, look you, in the fashion of merry England, where the
archers are archers indeed."
And so he cut off the heron's wing for a plume for his hat; and the
archers walked on, much amazed, and saying, "What a wonderful country
that merry England must be!"
Far from feeling any envy at their comrade's success, the jolly
archers recognized his superiority with pleasure; and Wolfgang and
Rudolf especially held out their hands to the younker, and besought
the honor of his friendship. They continued their walk all day, and
when night fell made choice of a good hostel you may be sure, where
over beer, punch, champagne, and every luxury, they drank to the
health of the Duke of Cleves, and indeed each other's healths all
round. Next day they resumed their march, and continued it without
interruption, except to take in a supply of victuals here and there
(and it was found on these occasions that Otto, young as he was, could
eat four times as much as the oldest archer present, and drink to
correspond); and these continued refreshments having given them more
than ordinary strength, they determined on making rather a long march
of it, and did not halt till after nightfall at the gates of the
little town of Windeck.
What was to be done? the town-gates were shut. "Is there no
hostel, no castle where we can sleep?" asked Otto of the sentinel at
the gate. "I am so hungry that in lack of better food I think I could
eat my grandmamma."
The sentinel laughed at this hyperbolical expression of hunger, and
said, "You had best go sleep at the Castle of Windeck yonder;" adding
with a peculiarly knowing look, "Nobody will disturb you there."
At that moment the moon broke out from a cloud, and showed on a
hill hard by a castle indeed—but the skeleton of a castle. The roof
was gone, the windows were dismantled, the towers were tumbling, and
the cold moonlight pierced it through and through. One end of the
building was, however, still covered in, and stood looking still more
frowning, vast, and gloomy, even than the other part of the edifice.
"There is a lodging, certainly," said Otto to the sentinel, who
pointed towards the castle with his bartizan; "but tell me, good
fellow, what are we to do for a supper?"
"Oh, the castellan of Windeck will entertain you," said the man-at-
arms with a grin, and marched up the embrasure; the while the
archers, taking counsel among themselves, debated whether or not they
should take up their quarters in the gloomy and deserted edifice.
"We shall get nothing but an owl for supper there," said young
Otto. "Marry, lads, let us storm the town; we are thirty gallant
fellows, and I have heard the garrison is not more than three
hundred." But the rest of the party thought such a way of getting
supper was not a very cheap one, and, grovelling knaves, preferred
rather to sleep ignobly and without victuals, than dare the assault
with Otto, and die, or conquer something comfortable.
One and all then made their way towards the castle. They entered
its vast and silent halls, frightening the owls and bats that fled
before them with hideous hootings and flappings of wings, and passing
by a multiplicity of mouldy stairs, dank reeking roofs, and rickety
corridors, at last came to an apartment which, dismal and dismantled
as it was, appeared to be in rather better condition than the
neighboring chambers, and they therefore selected it as their place of
rest for the night. They then tossed up which should mount guard.
The first two hours of watch fell to Otto, who was to be succeeded by
his young though humble friend Wolfgang; and, accordingly, the Childe
of Godesberg, drawing his dirk, began to pace upon his weary round;
while his comrades, by various gradations of snoring, told how
profoundly they slept, spite of their lack of supper.
'Tis needless to say what were the thoughts of the noble Childe as
he performed his two hours' watch; what gushing memories poured into
his full soul; what "sweet and bitter" recollections of home inspired
his throbbing heart; and what manly aspirations after fame buoyed him
up. "Youth is ever confident," says the bard. Happy, happy season!
The moonlit hours passed by on silver wings, the twinkling stars
looked friendly down upon him. Confiding in their youthful sentinel,
sound slept the valorous toxophilites, as up and down, and there and
back again, marched on the noble Childe. At length his repeater told
him, much to his satisfaction, that it was half-past eleven, the hour
when his watch was to cease; and so, giving a playful kick to the
slumbering Wolfgang, that good-humored fellow sprung up from his lair,
and, drawing his sword, proceeded to relieve Otto.
The latter laid him down for warmth's sake on the very spot which
his comrade had left, and for some time could not sleep. Realities
and visions then began to mingle in his mind, till he scarce knew
which was which. He dozed for a minute; then he woke with a start;
then he went off again; then woke up again. In one of these half-
sleeping moments he thought he saw a figure, as of a woman in white,
gliding into the room, and beckoning Wolfgang from it. He looked
again. Wolfgang was gone. At that moment twelve o'clock clanged from
the town, and Otto started up.
CHAPTER IX. THE LADY OF WINDECK.
As the bell with iron tongue called midnight, Wolfgang the Archer,
pacing on his watch, beheld before him a pale female figure. He did
not know whence she came: but there suddenly she stood close to him.
Her blue, clear, glassy eyes were fixed upon him. Her form was of
faultless beauty; her face pale as the marble of the fairy statue, ere
yet the sculptor's love had given it life. A smile played upon her
features, but it was no warmer than the reflection of a moonbeam on a
lake; and yet it was wondrous beautiful. A fascination stole over the
senses of young Wolfgang. He stared at the lovely apparition with
fixed eyes and distended jaws. She looked at him with ineffable
archness. She lifted one beautifully rounded alabaster arm, and made
a sign as if to beckon him towards her. Did Wolfgang—the young and
lusty Wolfgang—follow? Ask the iron whether it follows the
magnet?—ask the pointer whether it pursues the partridge through the
stubble?—ask the youth whether the lollipop-shop does not attract
him? Wolfgang DID follow. An antique door opened, as if by magic.
There was no light, and yet they saw quite plain; they passed through
the innumerable ancient chambers, and yet they did not wake any of the
owls and bats roosting there. We know not through how many apartments
the young couple passed; but at last they came to one where a feast
was prepared: and on an antique table, covered with massive silver,
covers were laid for two. The lady took her place at one end of the
table, and with her sweetest nod beckoned Wolfgang to the other seat.
He took it. The table was small, and their knees met. He felt as
cold in his legs as if he were kneeling against an ice-well.
"Gallant archer," said she, "you must be hungry after your day's
march. What supper will you have? Shall it be a delicate lobster-
salad? or a dish of elegant tripe and onions? or a slice of boar's-
head and truffles? or a Welsh rabbit a la cave au cidre? or a
beefsteak and shallot? or a couple of rognons a la brochette? Speak,
brave bowyer: you have but to order."
As there was nothing on the table but a covered silver dish,
Wolfgang thought that the lady who proposed such a multiplicity of
delicacies to him was only laughing at him; so he determined to try
her with something extremely rare.
"Fair princess," he said, "I should like very much a pork-chop and
some mashed potatoes."
She lifted the cover: there was such a pork-chop as Simpson never
served, with a dish of mashed potatoes that would have formed at
least six portions in our degenerate days in Rupert Street.
When he had helped himself to these delicacies, the lady put the
cover on the dish again, and watched him eating with interest. He
was for some time too much occupied with his own food to remark that
his companion did not eat a morsel; but big as it was, his chop was
soon gone; the shining silver of his plate was scraped quite clean
with his knife, and, heaving a great sigh, he confessed a humble
desire for something to drink.
"Call for what you like, sweet sir," said the lady, lifting up a
silver filigree bottle, with an india-rubber cork, ornamented with
"Then," said Master Wolfgang—for the fellow's tastes were, in
sooth, very humble—"I call for half-and-half." According to his
wish, a pint of that delicious beverage was poured from the bottle,
foaming, into his beaker.
Having emptied this at a draught, and declared that on his
conscience it was the best tap he ever knew in his life, the young
man felt his appetite renewed; and it is impossible to say how many
different dishes he called for. Only enchantment, he was afterwards
heard to declare (though none of his friends believed him), could have
given him the appetite he possessed on that extraordinary night. He
called for another pork-chop and potatoes, then for pickled salmon;
then he thought he would try a devilled turkey-wing. "I adore the
devil," said he.
"So do I," said the pale lady, with unwonted animation; and the
dish was served straightway. It was succeeded by black-puddings,
tripe, toasted cheese, and—what was most remarkable—every one of
the dishes which he desired came from under the same silver cover:
which circumstance, when he had partaken of about fourteen different
articles, he began to find rather mysterious.
"Oh," said the pale lady, with a smile, "the mystery is easily
accounted for: the servants hear you, and the kitchen is BELOW." But
this did not account for the manner in which more half-and- half,
bitter ale, punch (both gin and rum), and even oil and vinegar, which
he took with cucumber to his salmon, came out of the self-same bottle
from which the lady had first poured out his pint of half-and-half.
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Voracio," said his arch
entertainer, when he put this question to her, "than are dreamt of in
your philosophy:" and, sooth to say, the archer was by this time in
such a state, that he did not find anything wonderful more.
"Are you happy, dear youth?" said the lady, as, after his
collation, he sank back in his chair.
"Oh, miss, ain't I?" was his interrogative and yet affirmative
"Should you like such a supper every night, Wolfgang?" continued
the pale one.
"Why, no," said he; "no, not exactly; not EVERY night: SOME nights
I should like oysters."
"Dear youth," said she, "be but mine, and you may have them all the
year round!" The unhappy boy was too far gone to suspect anything,
otherwise this extraordinary speech would have told him that he was
in suspicious company. A person who can offer oysters all the year
round can live to no good purpose.
"Shall I sing you a song, dear archer?" said the lady.
"Sweet love!" said he, now much excited, "strike up, and I will
join the chorus."
She took down her mandolin, and commenced a ditty. 'Twas a sweet
and wild one. It told how a lady of high lineage cast her eyes on a
peasant page; it told how nought could her love assuage, her suitor's
wealth and her father's rage: it told how the youth did his foes
engage; and at length they went off in the Gretna stage, the high-born
dame and the peasant page. Wolfgang beat time, waggled his head, sung
wofully out of tune as the song proceeded; and if he had not been too
intoxicated with love and other excitement, he would have remarked how
the pictures on the wall, as the lady sung, began to waggle their
heads too, and nod and grin to the music. The song ended. "I am the
lady of high lineage: Archer, will you be the peasant page?"
"I'll follow you to the devil!" said Wolfgang.
"Come," replied the lady, glaring wildly on him, "come to the
chapel; we'll be married this minute!"
She held out her hand—Wolfgang took it. It was cold, damp,—
deadly cold; and on they went to the chapel.
As they passed out, the two pictures over the wall, of a gentleman
and lady, tripped lightly out of their frames, skipped noiselessly
down to the ground, and making the retreating couple a profound
curtsy and bow, took the places which they had left at the table.
Meanwhile the young couple passed on towards the chapel, threading
innumerable passages, and passing through chambers of great extent.
As they came along, all the portraits on the wall stepped out of
their frames to follow them. One ancestor, of whom there was only a
bust, frowned in the greatest rage, because, having no legs, his
pedestal would not move; and several sticking-plaster profiles of the
former Lords of Windeck looked quite black at being, for similar
reasons, compelled to keep their places. However, there was a goodly
procession formed behind Wolfgang and his bride; and by the time they
reached the church, they had near a hundred followers.
The church was splendidly illuminated; the old banners of the old
knights glittered as they do at Drury Lane. The organ set up of
itself to play the "Bridesmaid's Chorus." The choir-chairs were
filled with people in black.
"Come, love," said the pale lady.
"I don't see the parson," exclaimed Wolfgang, spite of himself
"Oh, the parson! that's the easiest thing in the world! I say,
bishop!" said the lady, stooping down.
Stooping down—and to what? Why, upon my word and honor, to a
great brass plate on the floor, over which they were passing, and on
which was engraven the figure of a bishop—and a very ugly bishop,
too—with crosier and mitre, and lifted finger, on which sparkled the
episcopal ring. "Do, my dear lord, come and marry us," said the lady,
with a levity which shocked the feelings of her bridegroom.
The bishop got up; and directly he rose, a dean, who was sleeping
under a large slate near him, came bowing and cringing up to him;
while a canon of the cathedral (whose name was Schidnischmidt) began
grinning and making fun at the pair. The ceremony was begun, and . .
As the clock struck twelve, young Otto bounded up, and remarked the
absence of his companion Wolfgang. The idea he had had, that his
friend disappeared in company with a white-robed female, struck him
more and more. "I will follow them," said he; and, calling to the
next on the watch (old Snozo, who was right unwilling to forego his
sleep), he rushed away by the door through which he had seen Wolfgang
and his temptress take their way.
That he did not find them was not his fault. The castle was vast,
the chamber dark. There were a thousand doors, and what wonder that,
after he had once lost sight of them, the intrepid Childe should not
be able to follow in their steps? As might be expected, he took the
wrong door, and wandered for at least three hours about the dark
enormous solitary castle, calling out Wolfgang's name to the careless
and indifferent echoes, knocking his young shins against the ruins
scattered in the darkness, but still with a spirit entirely undaunted,
and a firm resolution to aid his absent comrade. Brave Otto! thy
exertions were rewarded at last!
For he lighted at length upon the very apartment where Wolfgang had
partaken of supper, and where the old couple who had been in the
picture-frames, and turned out to be the lady's father and mother,
were now sitting at the table.
"Well, Bertha has got a husband at last," said the lady.
"After waiting four hundred and fifty-three years for one, it was
quite time," said the gentleman. (He was dressed in powder and a
pigtail, quite in the old fashion.)
"The husband is no great things," continued the lady, taking snuff.
"A low fellow, my dear; a butcher's son, I believe. Did you see how
the wretch ate at supper? To think my daughter should have to marry
"There are archers and archers," said the old man. "Some archers
are snobs, as your ladyship states; some, on the contrary, are
gentlemen by birth, at least, though not by breeding. Witness young
Otto, the Landgrave of Godesberg's son, who is listening at the door
like a lackey, and whom I intend to run through the—"
"Law, Baron!" said the lady.
"I will, though," replied the Baron, drawing an immense sword, and
glaring round at Otto: but though at the sight of that sword and that
scowl a less valorous youth would have taken to his heels, the
undaunted Childe advanced at once into the apartment. He wore round
his neck a relic of St. Buffo (the tip of the saint's ear, which had
been cut off at Constantinople). "Fiends! I command you to retreat!"
said he, holding up this sacred charm, which his mamma had fastened on
him; and at the sight of it, with an unearthly yell the ghosts of the
Baron and the Baroness sprung back into their picture-frames, as
clowns go through a clock in a pantomime.
He rushed through the open door by which the unlucky Wolfgang had
passed with his demoniacal bride, and went on and on through the vast
gloomy chambers lighted by the ghastly moonshine: the noise of the
organ in the chapel, the lights in the kaleidoscopic windows, directed
him towards that edifice. He rushed to the door: 'twas barred! He
knocked: the beadles were deaf. He applied his inestimable relic to
the lock, and—whiz! crash! clang! bang! whang!—the gate flew open!
the organ went off in a fugue—the lights quivered over the tapers,
and then went off towards the ceiling—the ghosts assembled rushed
away with a skurry and a scream—the bride howled, and vanished—the
fat bishop waddled back under his brass plate—the dean flounced down
into his family vault—and the canon Schidnischmidt, who was making a
joke, as usual, on the bishop, was obliged to stop at the very point
of his epigram, and to disappear into the void whence he came.
Otto fell fainting at the porch, while Wolfgang tumbled lifeless
down at the altar-steps; and in this situation the archers, when they
arrived, found the two youths. They were resuscitated, as we scarce
need say; but when, in incoherent accents, they came to tell their
wondrous tale, some sceptics among the archers said—"Pooh! they were
intoxicated!" while others, nodding their older heads,
exclaimed—"THEY HAVE SEEN THE LADY OF WINDECK!" and recalled the
stories of many other young men, who, inveigled by her devilish arts,
had not been so lucky as Wolfgang, and had disappeared—for ever!
This adventure bound Wolfgang heart and soul to his gallant
preserver; and the archers—it being now morning, and the cocks
crowing lustily round about—pursued their way without further delay
to the castle of the noble patron of toxophilites, the gallant Duke of
CHAPTER X. THE BATTLE OF THE BOWMEN.
Although there lay an immense number of castles and abbeys between
Windeck and Cleves, for every one of which the guide-books have a
legend and a ghost, who might, with the commonest stretch of
ingenuity, be made to waylay our adventurers on the road; yet, as the
journey would be thus almost interminable, let us cut it short by
saying that the travellers reached Cleves without any further
accident, and found the place thronged with visitors for the meeting
And here it would be easy to describe the company which arrived,
and make display of antiquarian lore. Now we would represent a
cavalcade of knights arriving, with their pages carrying their
shining helms of gold, and the stout esquires, bearers of lance and
banner. Anon would arrive a fat abbot on his ambling pad, surrounded
by the white-robed companions of his convent. Here should come the
gleemen and jonglers, the minstrels, the mountebanks, the
party-colored gipsies, the dark-eyed, nut-brown Zigeunerinnen; then a
troop of peasants chanting Rhine-songs, and leading in their ox-drawn
carts the peach-cheeked girls from the vine-lands. Next we would
depict the litters blazoned with armorial bearings, from between the
broidered curtains of which peeped out the swan-like necks and the
haughty faces of the blond ladies of the castles. But for these
descriptions we have not space; and the reader is referred to the
account of the tournament in the ingenious novel of "Ivanhoe," where
the above phenomena are described at length. Suffice it to say, that
Otto and his companions arrived at the town of Cleves, and, hastening
to a hostel, reposed themselves after the day's march, and prepared
them for the encounter of the morrow.
That morrow came: and as the sports were to begin early, Otto and
his comrades hastened to the field, armed with their best bows and
arrows, you may be sure, and eager to distinguish themselves; as were
the multitude of other archers assembled. They were from all
neighboring countries—crowds of English, as you may fancy, armed
with Murray's guide-books, troops of chattering Frenchmen, Frankfort
Jews with roulette-tables, and Tyrolese, with gloves and trinkets—all
hied towards the field where the butts were set up, and the archery
practice was to be held. The Childe and his brother archers were, it
need not be said, early on the ground.
But what words of mine can describe the young gentleman's emotion
when, preceded by a band of trumpets, bagpipes, ophicleides, and
other wind instruments, the Prince of Cleves appeared with the
Princess Helen, his daughter? And ah! what expressions of my humble
pen can do justice to the beauty of that young lady? Fancy every
charm which decorates the person, every virtue which ornaments the
mind, every accomplishment which renders charming mind and charming
person doubly charming, and then you will have but a faint and feeble
idea of the beauties of her Highness the Princess Helen. Fancy a
complexion such as they say (I know not with what justice) Rowland's
Kalydor imparts to the users of that cosmetic; fancy teeth to which
orient pearls are like Wallsend coals; eyes, which were so blue,
tender, and bright, that while they run you through with their lustre,
they healed you with their kindness; a neck and waist, so ravishingly
slender and graceful, that the least that is said about them the
better; a foot which fell upon the flowers no heavier than a
dew-drop—and this charming person set off by the most elegant toilet
that ever milliner devised! The lovely Helen's hair (which was as
black as the finest varnish for boots) was so long, that it was borne
on a cushion several yards behind her by the maidens of her train; and
a hat, set off with moss-roses, sunflowers, bugles, birds-of-paradise,
gold lace, and pink ribbon, gave her a distingue air, which would
have set the editor of the Morning Post mad with love.
It had exactly the same effect upon the noble Childe of Godesberg,
as leaning on his ivory bow, with his legs crossed, he stood and
gazed on her, as Cupid gazed on Psyche. Their eyes met: it was all
over with both of them. A blush came at one and the same minute
budding to the cheek of either. A simultaneous throb beat in those
young hearts! They loved each other for ever from that instant. Otto
still stood, cross-legged, enraptured, leaning on his ivory bow; but
Helen, calling to a maiden for her pocket-handkerchief, blew her
beautiful Grecian nose in order to hide her agitation. Bless ye, bless
ye, pretty ones! I am old now; but not so old but that I kindle at
the tale of love. Theresa MacWhirter too has lived and loved.
Who is yon chief that stands behind the truck whereon are seated
the Princess and the stout old lord, her father? Who is he whose
hair is of the carroty hue? whose eyes, across a snubby bunch of a
nose, are perpetually scowling at each other; who has a hump-back and
a hideous mouth, surrounded with bristles, and crammed full of jutting
yellow odious teeth. Although he wears a sky-blue doublet laced with
silver, it only serves to render his vulgar punchy figure doubly
ridiculous; although his nether garment is of salmon- colored velvet,
it only draws the more attention to his legs, which are disgustingly
crooked and bandy. A rose-colored hat, with towering pea-green
ostrich-plumes, looks absurd on his bull-head; and though it is time
of peace, the wretch is armed with a multiplicity of daggers, knives,
yataghans, dirks, sabres, and scimitars, which testify his truculent
and bloody disposition. 'Tis the terrible Rowski de Donnerblitz,
Margrave of Eulenschreckenstein. Report says he is a suitor for the
hand of the lovely Helen. He addresses various speeches of gallantry
to her, and grins hideously as he thrusts his disgusting head over her
lily shoulder. But she turns away from him! turns and shudders—ay,
as she would at a black dose!
Otto stands gazing still, and leaning on his bow. "What is the
prize?" asks one archer of another. There are two prizes—a velvet
cap, embroidered by the hand of the Princess, and a chain of massive
gold, of enormous value. Both lie on cushions before her.
"I know which I shall choose, when I win the first prize," says a
swarthy, savage, and bandy-legged archer, who bears the owl gules on
a black shield, the cognizance of the Lord Rowski de Donnerblitz.
"Which, fellow?" says Otto, turning fiercely upon him.
"The chain, to be sure!" says the leering archer. "You do not
suppose I am such a flat as to choose that velvet gimcrack there?"
Otto laughed in scorn, and began to prepare his bow. The trumpets
sounding proclaimed that the sports were about to commence.
Is it necessary to describe them? No: that has already been done
in the novel of "Ivanhoe" before mentioned. Fancy the archers clad
in Lincoln green, all coming forward in turn, and firing at the
targets. Some hit, some missed; those that missed were fain to
retire amidst the jeers of the multitudinous spectators. Those that
hit began new trials of skill; but it was easy to see, from the first,
that the battle lay between Squintoff (the Rowski archer) and the
young hero with the golden hair and the ivory bow. Squintoff's fame as
a marksman was known throughout Europe; but who was his young
competitor? Ah? there was ONE heart in the assembly that beat most
anxiously to know. 'Twas Helen's.
The crowning trial arrived. The bull's eye of the target, set up
at three-quarters of a mile distance from the archers, was so small,
that it required a very clever man indeed to see, much more to hit it;
and as Squintoff was selecting his arrow for the final trial, the
Rowski flung a purse of gold towards his archer, saying— "Squintoff,
an ye win the prize, the purse is thine." "I may as well pocket it at
once, your honor," said the bowman with a sneer at Otto. "This young
chick, who has been lucky as yet, will hardly hit such a mark as
that." And, taking his aim, Squintoff discharged his arrow right into
the very middle of the bull's-eye.
"Can you mend that, young springald?" said he, as a shout rent the
air at his success, as Helen turned pale to think that the champion
of her secret heart was likely to be overcome, and as Squintoff,
pocketing the Rowski's money, turned to the noble boy of Godesberg.
"Has anybody got a pea?" asked the lad. Everybody laughed at his
droll request; and an old woman, who was selling porridge in the
crowd, handed him the vegetable which he demanded. It was a dry and
yellow pea. Otto, stepping up to the target, caused Squintoff to
extract his arrow from the bull's-eye, and placed in the orifice made
by the steel point of the shaft, the pea which he had received from
the old woman. He then came back to his place. As he prepared to
shoot, Helen was so overcome by emotion, that 'twas thought she would
have fainted. Never, never had she seen a being so beautiful as the
young hero now before her.
He looked almost divine. He flung back his long clusters of hair
from his bright eyes and tall forehead; the blush of health mantled
on his cheek, from which the barber's weapon had never shorn the
down. He took his bow, and one of his most elegant arrows, and
poising himself lightly on his right leg, he flung himself forward,
raising his left leg on a level with his ear. He looked like Apollo,
as he stood balancing himself there. He discharged his dart from the
thrumming bowstring: it clove the blue air—whiz!
"HE HAS SPLIT THE PEA!" said the Princess, and fainted. The
Rowski, with one eye, hurled an indignant look at the boy, while with
the other he levelled (if aught so crooked can be said to level
anything) a furious glance at his archer.
The archer swore a sulky oath. "He is the better man!" said he.
"I suppose, young chap, you take the gold chain?"
"The gold chain?" said Otto. "Prefer a gold chain to a cap worked
by that august hand? Never!" And advancing to the balcony where the
Princess, who now came to herself, was sitting, he kneeled down before
her, and received the velvet cap; which, blushing as scarlet as the
cap itself, the Princess Helen placed on his golden ringlets. Once
more their eyes met—their hearts thrilled. They had never spoken,
but they knew they loved each other for ever.
"Wilt thou take service with the Rowski of Donnerblitz?" said that
individual to the youth. "Thou shalt be captain of my archers in
place of yon blundering nincompoop, whom thou hast overcome."
"Yon blundering nincompoop is a skilful and gallant archer,"
replied Otto, haughtily; "and I will NOT take service with the Rowski
"Wilt thou enter the household of the Prince of Cleves?" said the
father of Helen, laughing, and not a little amused at the haughtiness
of the humble archer.
"I would die for the Duke of Cleves and HIS FAMILY," said Otto,
bowing low. He laid a particular and a tender emphasis on the word
family. Helen knew what he meant. SHE was the family. In fact her
mother was no more, and her papa had no other offspring.
"What is thy name, good fellow," said the Prince, "that my steward
may enroll thee?"
"Sir," said Otto, again blushing, "I am OTTO THE ARCHER."
CHAPTER XI. THE MARTYR OF LOVE.
The archers who had travelled in company with young Otto gave a
handsome dinner in compliment to the success of our hero; at which
his friend distinguished himself as usual in the eating and drinking
department. Squintoff, the Rowski bowman, declined to attend; so
great was the envy of the brute at the youthful hero's superiority.
As for Otto himself, he sat on the right hand of the chairman; but it
was remarked that he could not eat. Gentle reader of my page! thou
knowest why full well. He was too much in love to have any appetite;
for though I myself when laboring under that passion, never found my
consumption of victuals diminish, yet remember our Otto was a hero of
romance, and they NEVER are hungry when they're in love.
The next day, the young gentleman proceeded to enroll himself in
the corps of Archers of the Prince of Cleves, and with him came his
attached squire, who vowed he never would leave him. As Otto threw
aside his own elegant dress, and donned the livery of the House of
Cleves, the noble Childe sighed not a little. 'Twas a splendid
uniform 'tis true, but still it WAS a livery, and one of his proud
spirit ill bears another's cognizances. "They are the colors of the
Princess, however," said he, consoling himself; "and what suffering
would I not undergo for HER?" As for Wolfgang, the squire, it may
well be supposed that the good-natured, low-born fellow had no such
scruples; but he was glad enough to exchange for the pink hose, the
yellow jacket, the pea-green cloak, and orange- tawny hat, with which
the Duke's steward supplied him, the homely patched doublet of green
which he had worn for years past.
"Look at you two archers," said the Prince of Cleves to his guest,
the Rowski of Donnerblitz, as they were strolling on the battlements
after dinner, smoking their cigars as usual. His Highness pointed to
our two young friends, who were mounting guard for the first time.
"See yon two bowmen—mark their bearing! One is the youth who beat
thy Squintoff, and t'other, an I mistake not, won the third prize at
the butts. Both wear the same uniform—the colors of my house—yet
wouldst not swear that the one was but a churl, and the other a noble
"Which looks like the nobleman?" said the Rowski, as black as
"WHICH? why, young Otto, to be sure," said the Princess Helen,
eagerly. The young lady was following the pair; but under pretence
of disliking the odor of the cigar, she had refused the Rowski's
proffered arm, and was loitering behind with her parasol.
Her interposition in favor of her young protege only made the black
and jealous Rowski more ill-humored. "How long is it, Sir Prince of
Cleves," said he, "that the churls who wear your livery permit
themselves to wear the ornaments of noble knights? Who but a noble
dare wear ringlets such as yon springald's? Ho, archer!" roared he,
"come, hither, fellow." And Otto stood before him. As he came, and
presenting arms stood respectfully before the Prince and his savage
guest, he looked for one moment at the lovely Helen— their eyes met,
their hearts beat simultaneously: and, quick, two little blushes
appeared in the cheek of either. I have seen one ship at sea
answering another's signal so.
While they are so regarding each other, let us just remind our
readers of the great estimation in which the hair was held in the
North. Only nobles were permitted to wear it long. When a man
disgraced himself, a shaving was sure to follow. Penalties were
inflicted upon villains or vassals who sported ringlets. See the
works of Aurelius Tonsor; Hirsutus de Nobilitate Capillari; Rolandus
de Oleo Macassari; Schnurrbart; Fresirische Alterthumskunde,
"We must have those ringlets of thine cut, good fellow," said the
Duke of Cleves good-naturedly, but wishing to spare the feelings of
his gallant recruit. "'Tis against the regulation cut of my archer
"Cut off my hair!" cried Otto, agonized.
"Ay, and thine ears with it, yokel," roared Donnerblitz.
"Peace, noble Eulenschreckenstein," said the Duke with dignity:
"let the Duke of Cleves deal as he will with his own men-at-arms. And
you, young sir, unloose the grip of thy dagger."
Otto, indeed, had convulsively grasped his snickersnee, with intent
to plunge it into the heart of the Rowski; but his politer feelings
overcame him. "The count need not fear, my lord," said he: "a lady
is present." And he took off his orange-tawny cap and bowed low. Ah!
what a pang shot through the heart of Helen, as she thought that those
lovely ringlets must be shorn from that beautiful head!
Otto's mind was, too, in commotion. His feelings as a gentleman—
let us add, his pride as a man—for who is not, let us ask, proud of
a good head of hair?—waged war within his soul. He expostulated with
the Prince. "It was never in my contemplation," he said, "on taking
service, to undergo the operation of hair- cutting."
"Thou art free to go or stay, Sir Archer," said the Prince
pettishly. "I will have no churls imitating noblemen in my service:
I will bandy no conditions with archers of my guard."
"My resolve is taken," said Otto, irritated too in his turn. "I
will . . . . "
"What?" cried Helen, breathless with intense agitation.
"I will STAY," answered Otto. The poor girl almost fainted with
joy. The Rowski frowned with demoniac fury, and grinding his teeth
and cursing in the horrible German jargon, stalked away. "So be it,"
said the Prince of Cleves, taking his daughter's arm—"and here comes
Snipwitz, my barber, who shall do the business for you." With this the
Prince too moved on, feeling in his heart not a little compassion for
the lad; for Adolf of Cleves had been handsome in his youth, and
distinguished for the ornament of which he was now depriving his
Snipwitz led the poor lad into a side-room, and there—in a word—
operated upon him. The golden curls—fair curls that his mother had
so often played with!—fell under the shears and round the lad's
knees, until he looked as if he was sitting in a bath of sunbeams.
When the frightful act had been performed, Otto, who entered the
little chamber in the tower ringleted like Apollo, issued from it as
cropped as a charity-boy.
See how melancholy he looks, now that the operation is over!—And
no wonder. He was thinking what would be Helen's opinion of him, now
that one of his chief personal ornaments was gone. "Will she know
me?" thought he; "will she love me after this hideous mutilation?"
Yielding to these gloomy thoughts, and, indeed, rather unwilling to
be seen by his comrades, now that he was so disfigured, the young
gentleman had hidden himself behind one of the buttresses of the
wall, a prey to natural despondency; when he saw something which
instantly restored him to good spirits. He saw the lovely Helen
coming towards the chamber where the odious barber had performed upon
him,—coming forward timidly, looking round her anxiously, blushing
with delightful agitation,—and presently seeing, as she thought, the
coast clear, she entered the apartment. She stooped down, and ah!
what was Otto's joy when he saw her pick up a beautiful golden lock of
his hair, press it to her lips, and then hide it in her bosom! No
carnation ever blushed so redly as Helen did when she came out after
performing this feat. Then she hurried straightway to her own
apartments in the castle, and Otto, whose first impulse was to come
out from his hiding-place, and, falling at her feet, call heaven and
earth to witness to his passion, with difficulty restrained his
feelings and let her pass: but the love- stricken young hero was so
delighted with this evident proof of reciprocated attachment, that all
regret at losing his ringlets at once left him, and he vowed he would
sacrifice not only his hair, but his head, if need were, to do her
That very afternoon, no small bustle and conversation took place in
the castle, on account of the sudden departure of the Rowski of
Eulenschreckenstein, with all his train and equipage. He went away
in the greatest wrath, it was said, after a long and loud
conversation with the Prince. As that potentate conducted his guest
to the gate, walking rather demurely and shamefacedly by his side, as
he gathered his attendants in the court, and there mounted his
charger, the Rowski ordered his trumpets to sound, and scornfully
flung a largesse of gold among the servitors and men-at- arms of the
House of Cleves, who were marshalled in the court. "Farewell, Sir
Prince," said he to his host: "I quit you now suddenly; but remember,
it is not my last visit to the Castle of Cleves." And ordering his
band to play "See the Conquering Hero comes," he clattered away
through the drawbridge. The Princess Helen was not present at his
departure; and the venerable Prince of Cleves looked rather moody and
chap-fallen when his guest left him. He visited all the castle
defences pretty accurately that night, and inquired of his officers
the state of the ammunition, provisions, He said nothing; but the
Princess Helen's maid did: and everybody knew that the Rowski had made
his proposals, had been rejected, and, getting up in a violent fury,
had called for his people, and sworn by his great gods that he would
not enter the castle again until he rode over the breach, lance in
hand, the conqueror of Cleves and all belonging to it.
No little consternation was spread through the garrison at the
news: for everybody knew the Rowski to be one of the most intrepid
and powerful soldiers in all Germany,—one of the most skilful
generals. Generous to extravagance to his own followers, he was
ruthless to the enemy: a hundred stories were told of the dreadful
barbarities exercised by him in several towns and castles which he
had captured and sacked. And poor Helen had the pain of thinking,
that in consequence of her refusal she was dooming all the men,
women, and children of the principality to indiscriminate and
The dreadful surmises regarding a war received in a few days
dreadful confirmation. It was noon, and the worthy Prince of Cleves
was taking his dinner (though the honest warrior had had little
appetite for that meal for some time past), when trumpets were heard
at the gate; and presently the herald of the Rowski of Donnerblitz,
clad in a tabard on which the arms of the Count were blazoned, entered
the dining-hall. A page bore a steel gauntlet on a cushion; Bleu
Sanglier had his hat on his head. The Prince of Cleves put on his
own, as the herald came up to the chair of state where the sovereign
"Silence for Bleu Sanglier," cried the Prince, gravely. "Say your
say, Sir Herald."
"In the name of the high and mighty Rowski, Prince of Donnerblitz,
Margrave of Eulenschreckenstein, Count of Krotenwald, Schnauzestadt,
and Galgenhugel, Hereditary Grand Corkscrew of the Holy Roman
Empire—to you, Adolf the Twenty-third, Prince of Cleves, I, Bleu
Sanglier, bring war and defiance. Alone, and lance to lance, or
twenty to twenty in field or in fort, on plain or on mountain, the
noble Rowski defies you. Here, or wherever he shall meet you, he
proclaims war to the death between you and him. In token whereof,
here is his glove." And taking the steel glove from the page, Bleu
Boar flung it clanging on the marble floor.
The Princess Helen turned deadly pale: but the Prince, with a good
assurance, flung down his own glove, calling upon some one to raise
the Rowski's; which Otto accordingly took up and presented to him, on
"Boteler, fill my goblet," said the Prince to that functionary,
who, clothed in tight black hose, with a white kerchief, and a napkin
on his dexter arm, stood obsequiously by his master's chair. The
goblet was filled with Malvoisie: it held about three quarts; a
precious golden hanap carved by the cunning artificer, Benvenuto the
"Drink, Bleu Sanglier," said the Prince, "and put the goblet in thy
bosom. Wear this chain, furthermore, for my sake." And so saying,
Prince Adolf flung a precious chain of emeralds round the herald's
neck. "An invitation to battle was ever a welcome call to Adolf of
Cleves." So saying, and bidding his people take good care of Bleu
Sanglier's retinue, the Prince left the hall with his daughter. All
were marvelling at his dignity, courage, and generosity.
But, though affecting unconcern, the mind of Prince Adolf was far
from tranquil. He was no longer the stalwart knight who, in the
reign of Stanislaus Augustus, had, with his naked fist, beaten a lion
to death in three minutes; and alone had kept the postern of
Peterwaradin for two hours against seven hundred Turkish janissaries,
who were assailing it. Those deeds which had made the heir of Cleves
famous were done thirty years syne. A free liver since he had come
into his principality, and of a lazy turn, he had neglected the
athletic exercises which had made him in youth so famous a champion,
and indolence had borne its usual fruits. He tried his old
battle-sword—that famous blade with which, in Palestine, he had cut
an elephant-driver in two pieces, and split asunder the skull of the
elephant which he rode. Adolf of Cleves could scarcely now lift the
weapon over his head. He tried his armor. It was too tight for him.
And the old soldier burst into tears, when he found he could not
buckle it. Such a man was not fit to encounter the terrible Rowski in
Nor could he hope to make head against him for any time in the
field. The Prince's territories were small; his vassals proverbially
lazy and peaceable; his treasury empty. The dismallest prospects were
before him: and he passed a sleepless night writing to his friends for
succor, and calculating with his secretary the small amount of the
resources which he could bring to aid him against his advancing and
Helen's pillow that evening was also unvisited by slumber. She lay
awake thinking of Otto,—thinking of the danger and the ruin her
refusal to marry had brought upon her dear papa. Otto, too, slept
not: but HIS waking thoughts were brilliant and heroic: the noble
Childe thought how he should defend the Princess, and win LOS and
honor in the ensuing combat.
CHAPTER XII. THE CHAMPION.
And now the noble Cleves began in good earnest to prepare his
castle for the threatened siege. He gathered in all the available
cattle round the property, and the pigs round many miles; and a
dreadful slaughter of horned and snouted animals took place,—the
whole castle resounding with the lowing of the oxen and the squeaks
of the gruntlings, destined to provide food for the garrison. These,
when slain, (her gentle spirit, of course, would not allow of her
witnessing that disagreeable operation,) the lovely Helen, with the
assistance of her maidens, carefully salted and pickled. Corn was
brought in in great quantities, the Prince paying for the same when he
had money, giving bills when he could get credit, or occasionally,
marry, sending out a few stout men-at-arms to forage, who brought in
wheat without money or credit either. The charming Princess, amidst
the intervals of her labors, went about encouraging the garrison, who
vowed to a man they would die for a single sweet smile of hers; and in
order to make their inevitable sufferings as easy as possible to the
gallant fellows, she and the apothecaries got ready a plenty of
efficacious simples, and scraped a vast quantity of lint to bind their
warriors' wounds withal. All the fortifications were strengthened;
the fosses carefully filled with spikes and water; large stones placed
over the gates, convenient to tumble on the heads of the assaulting
parties; and caldrons prepared, with furnaces to melt up pitch,
brimstone, boiling oil, wherewith hospitably to receive them. Having
the keenest eye in the whole garrison, young Otto was placed on the
topmost tower, to watch for the expected coming of the beleaguering
They were seen only too soon. Long ranks of shining spears were
seen glittering in the distance, and the army of the Rowski soon made
its appearance in battle's magnificently stern array. The tents of
the renowned chief and his numerous warriors were pitched out of
arrow-shot of the castle, but in fearful proximity; and when his army
had taken up its position, an officer with a flag of truce and a
trumpet was seen advancing to the castle gate. It was the same herald
who had previously borne his master's defiance to the Prince of
Cleves. He came once more to the castle gate, and there proclaimed
that the noble Count of Eulenschreckenstein was in arms without, ready
to do battle with the Prince of Cleves, or his champion; that he would
remain in arms for three days, ready for combat. If no man met him at
the end of that period, he would deliver an assault, and would give
quarter to no single soul in the garrison. So saying, the herald
nailed his lord's gauntlet on the castle gate. As before, the Prince
flung him over another glove from the wall; though how he was to
defend himself from such a warrior, or get a champion, or resist the
pitiless assault that must follow, the troubled old nobleman knew not
in the least.
The Princess Helen passed the night in the chapel, vowing tons of
wax-candles to all the patron saints of the House of Cleves, if they
would raise her up a defender.
But how did the noble girl's heart sink—how were her notions of
the purity of man shaken within her gentle bosom, by the dread
intelligence which reached her the next morning, after the defiance
of the Rowski! At roll-call it was discovered that he on whom she
principally relied—he whom her fond heart had singled out as her
champion, had proved faithless! Otto, the degenerate Otto, had fled!
His comrade, Wolfgang, had gone with him. A rope was found dangling
from the casement of their chamber, and they must have swum the moat
and passed over to the enemy in the darkness of the previous night.
"A pretty lad was this fair-spoken archer of thine!" said the Prince
her father to her; "and a pretty kettle of fish hast thou cooked for
the fondest of fathers." She retired weeping to her apartment. Never
before had that young heart felt so wretched.
That morning, at nine o'clock, as they were going to breakfast, the
Rowski's trumpets sounded. Clad in complete armor, and mounted on
his enormous piebald charger, he came out of his pavilion, and rode
slowly up and down in front of the castle. He was ready there to
meet a champion.
Three times each day did the odious trumpet sound the same notes of
defiance. Thrice daily did the steel-clad Rowski come forth
challenging the combat. The first day passed, and there was no
answer to his summons. The second day came and went, but no champion
had risen to defend. The taunt of his shrill clarion remained without
answer; and the sun went down upon the wretchedest father and daughter
in all the land of Christendom.
The trumpets sounded an hour after sunrise, an hour after noon, and
an hour before sunset. The third day came, but with it brought no
hope. The first and second summons met no response. At five o'clock
the old Prince called his daughter and blessed her. "I go to meet
this Rowski," said he. "It may be we shall meet no more, my Helen—my
child—the innocent cause of all this grief. If I shall fall to-night
the Rowski's victim, 'twill be that life is nothing without honor."
And so saying, he put into her hands a dagger, and bade her sheathe
it in her own breast so soon as the terrible champion had carried the
castle by storm.
This Helen most faithfully promised to do; and her aged father
retired to his armory, and donned his ancient war-worn corselet. It
had borne the shock of a thousand lances ere this, but it was now so
tight as almost to choke the knightly wearer.
The last trumpet sounded—tantara! tantara!—its shrill call rang
over the wide plains, and the wide plains gave back no answer.
Again!—but when its notes died away, there was only a mournful, an
awful silence. "Farewell, my child," said the Prince, bulkily
lifting himself into his battle-saddle. "Remember the dagger. Hark!
the trumpet sounds for the third time. Open, warders! Sound,
trumpeters! and good St. Bendigo guard the right."
But Puffendorff, the trumpeter, had not leisure to lift the trumpet
to his lips: when, hark! from without there came another note of
another clarion!—a distant note at first, then swelling fuller.
Presently, in brilliant variations, the full rich notes of the
"Huntsman's Chorus" came clearly over the breeze; and a thousand
voices of the crowd gazing over the gate exclaimed, "A champion! a
And, indeed, a champion HAD come. Issuing from the forest came a
knight and squire: the knight gracefully cantering an elegant
cream-colored Arabian of prodigious power—the squire mounted on an
unpretending gray cob; which, nevertheless, was an animal of
considerable strength and sinew. It was the squire who blew the
trumpet, through the bars of his helmet; the knight's visor was
completely down. A small prince's coronet of gold, from which rose
three pink ostrich-feathers, marked the warrior's rank: his blank
shield bore no cognizance. As gracefully poising his lance he rode
into the green space where the Rowski's tents were pitched, the
hearts of all present beat with anxiety, and the poor Prince of
Cleves, especially, had considerable doubts about his new champion.
"So slim a figure as that can never compete with Donnerblitz," said
he, moodily, to his daughter; "but whoever he be, the fellow puts a
good face on it, and rides like a man. See, he has touched the
Rowski's shield with the point of his lance! By St. Bendigo, a
The unknown knight had indeed defied the Rowski to the death, as
the Prince of Cleves remarked from the battlement where he and his
daughter stood to witness the combat; and so, having defied his
enemy, the Incognito galloped round under the castle wall, bowing
elegantly to the lovely Princess there, and then took his ground and
waited for the foe. His armor blazed in the sunshine as he sat there,
motionless, on his cream-colored steed. He looked like one of those
fairy knights one has read of—one of those celestial champions who
decided so many victories before the invention of gun powder.
The Rowski's horse was speedily brought to the door of his
pavilion; and that redoubted warrior, blazing in a suit of
magnificent brass armor, clattered into his saddle. Long waves of
blood-red feathers bristled over his helmet, which was farther
ornamented by two huge horns of the aurochs. His lance was painted
white and red, and he whirled the prodigious beam in the air and
caught it with savage glee. He laughed when he saw the slim form of
his antagonist; and his soul rejoiced to meet the coming battle. He
dug his spurs into the enormous horse he rode: the enormous horse
snorted, and squealed, too, with fierce pleasure. He jerked and
curveted him with a brutal playfulness, and after a few minutes'
turning and wheeling, during which everybody had leisure to admire the
perfection of his equitation, he cantered round to a point exactly
opposite his enemy, and pulled up his impatient charger.
The old Prince on the battlement was so eager for the combat, that
he seemed quite to forget the danger which menaced himself, should
his slim champion be discomfited by the tremendous Knight of
Donnerblitz. "Go it!" said he, flinging his truncheon into the
ditch; and at the word, the two warriors rushed with whirling
rapidity at each other.
And now ensued a combat so terrible, that a weak female hand, like
that of her who pens this tale of chivalry, can never hope to do
justice to the terrific theme. You have seen two engines on the
Great Western line rush past each other with a pealing scream? So
rapidly did the two warriors gallop towards one another; the feathers
of either streamed yards behind their backs as they converged. Their
shock as they met was as that of two cannon- balls; the mighty horses
trembled and reeled with the concussion; the lance aimed at the
Rowski's helmet bore off the coronet, the horns, the helmet itself,
and hurled them to an incredible distance: a piece of the Rowski's
left ear was carried off on the point of the nameless warrior's
weapon. How had he fared? His adversary's weapon had glanced
harmless along the blank surface of his polished buckler; and the
victory so far was with him.
The expression of the Rowski's face, as, bareheaded, he glared on
his enemy with fierce bloodshot eyeballs, was one worthy of a demon.
The imprecatory expressions which he made use of can never be copied
by a feminine pen.
His opponent magnanimously declined to take advantage of the
opportunity thus offered him of finishing the combat by splitting his
opponent's skull with his curtal-axe, and, riding back to his
starting-place, bent his lance's point to the ground, in token that
he would wait until the Count of Eulenschreckenstein was helmeted
"Blessed Bendigo!" cried the Prince, "thou art a gallant lance: but
why didst not rap the Schelm's brain out?"
"Bring me a fresh helmet!" yelled the Rowski. Another casque was
brought to him by his trembling squire.
As soon as he had braced it, he drew his great flashing sword from
his side, and rushed at his enemy, roaring hoarsely his cry of
battle. The unknown knight's sword was unsheathed in a moment, and
at the next the two blades were clanking together the dreadful music
of the combat!
The Donnerblitz wielded his with his usual savageness and activity.
It whirled round his adversary's head with frightful rapidity. Now
it carried away a feather of his plume; now it shore off a leaf of
his coronet. The flail of the thrasher does not fall more swiftly
upon the corn. For many minutes it was the Unknown's only task to
defend himself from the tremendous activity of the enemy.
But even the Rowski's strength would slacken after exertion. The
blows began to fall less thick anon, and the point of the unknown
knight began to make dreadful play. It found and penetrated every
joint of the Donnerblitz's armor. Now it nicked him in the shoulder
where the vambrace was buckled to the corselet; now it bored a shrewd
hole under the light brissart, and blood followed; now, with fatal
dexterity, it darted through the visor, and came back to the recover
deeply tinged with blood. A scream of rage followed the last thrust;
and no wonder:—it had penetrated the Rowski's left eye.
His blood was trickling through a dozen orifices; he was almost
choking in his helmet with loss of breath, and loss of blood, and
rage. Gasping with fury, he drew back his horse, flung his great
sword at his opponent's head, and once more plunged at him, wielding
Then you should have seen the unknown knight employing the same
dreadful weapon! Hitherto he had been on his defence; now he began
the attack; and the gleaming axe whirred in his hand like a reed, but
descended like a thunderbolt! "Yield! yield! Sir Rowski," shouted he,
in a calm, clear voice.
A blow dealt madly at his head was the reply. 'Twas the last blow
that the Count of Eulenschreckenstein ever struck in battle! The
curse was on his lips as the crushing steel descended into his brain,
and split it in two. He rolled like a log from his horse: his enemy's
knee was in a moment on his chest, and the dagger of mercy at his
throat, as the knight once more called upon him to yield.
But there was no answer from within the helmet. When it was
withdrawn, the teeth were crunched together; the mouth that should
have spoken, grinned a ghastly silence: one eye still glared with
hate and fury, but it was glazed with the film of death!
The red orb of the sun was just then dipping into the Rhine. The
unknown knight, vaulting once more into his saddle, made a graceful
obeisance to the Prince of Cleves and his daughter, without a word,
and galloped back into the forest, whence he had issued an hour
CHAPTER XIII. THE MARRIAGE.
The consternation which ensued on the death of the Rowski, speedily
sent all his camp-followers, army, to the right-about. They struck
their tents at the first news of his discomfiture; and each man laying
hold of what he could, the whole of the gallant force which had
marched under his banner in the morning had disappeared ere the sun
On that night, as it may be imagined, the gates of the Castle of
Cleves were not shut. Everybody was free to come in. Wine-butts
were broached in all the courts; the pickled meat prepared in such
lots for the siege was distributed among the people, who crowded to
congratulate their beloved sovereign on his victory; and the Prince,
as was customary with that good man, who never lost an opportunity of
giving a dinner-party, had a splendid entertainment made ready for the
upper classes, the whole concluding with a tasteful display of
In the midst of these entertainments, our old friend the Count of
Hombourg arrived at the castle. The stalwart old warrior swore by
Saint Bugo that he was grieved the killing of the Rowski had been
taken out of his hand. The laughing Cleves vowed by Saint Bendigo,
Hombourg could never have finished off his enemy so satisfactorily as
the unknown knight had just done.
But who was he? was the question which now agitated the bosom of
these two old nobles. How to find him—how to reward the champion
and restorer of the honor and happiness of Cleves? They agreed over
supper that he should be sought for everywhere. Beadles were sent
round the principal cities within fifty miles, and the description of
the knight advertised, in the Journal de Francfort and the Allgemeine
Zeitung. The hand of the Princess Helen was solemnly offered to him
in these advertisements, with the reversion of the Prince of Cleves's
splendid though somewhat dilapidated property.
"But we don't know him, my dear papa," faintly ejaculated that
young lady. "Some impostor may come in a suit of plain armor, and
pretend that he was the champion who overcame the Rowski (a prince
who had his faults certainly, but whose attachment for me I can never
forget); and how are you to say whether he is the real knight or not?
There are so many deceivers in this world," added the Princess, in
tears, "that one can't be too cautious now." The fact is, that she
was thinking of the desertion of Otto in the morning; by which
instance of faithlessness her heart was wellnigh broken.
As for that youth and his comrade Wolfgang, to the astonishment of
everybody at their impudence, they came to the archers' mess that
night, as if nothing had happened; got their supper, partaking both
of meat and drink most plentifully; fell asleep when their comrades
began to describe the events of the day, and the admirable
achievements of the unknown warrior; and turning into their hammocks,
did not appear on parade in the morning until twenty minutes after the
names were called.
When the Prince of Cleves heard of the return of these deserters he
was in a towering passion. "Where were you, fellows," shouted he,
"during the time my castle was at its utmost need?"
Otto replied, "We were out on particular business."
"Does a soldier leave his post on the day of battle, sir?"
exclaimed the Prince. "You know the reward of such—Death! and death
you merit. But you are a soldier only of yesterday, and yesterday's
victory has made me merciful. Hanged you shall not be, as you
merit—only flogged, both of you. Parade the men, Colonel
Tickelstern, after breakfast, and give these scoundrels five hundred
You should have seen how young Otto bounded, when this information
was thus abruptly conveyed to him. "Flog ME!" cried he. "Flog Otto
"Not so, my father," said the Princess Helen, who had been standing
by during the conversation, and who had looked at Otto all the while
with the most ineffable scorn. "Not so: although these PERSONS have
forgotten their duty" (she laid a particularly sarcastic emphasis on
the word persons), "we have had no need of their services, and have
luckily found OTHERS more faithful. You promised your daughter a
boon, papa; it is the pardon of these two PERSONS. Let them go, and
quit a service they have disgraced; a mistress—that is, a
master—they have deceived."
"Drum 'em out of the castle, Ticklestern; strip their uniforms from
their backs, and never let me hear of the scoundrels again." So
saying, the old Prince angrily turned on his heel to breakfast,
leaving the two young men to the fun and derision of their
The noble Count of Hombourg, who was taking his usual airing on the
ramparts before breakfast, came up at this juncture, and asked what
was the row? Otto blushed when he saw him and turned away rapidly;
but the Count, too, catching a glimpse of him, with a hundred
exclamations of joyful surprise seized upon the lad, hugged him to
his manly breast, kissed him most affectionately, and almost burst
into tears as he embraced him. For, in sooth, the good Count had
thought his godson long ere this at the bottom of the silver Rhine.
The Prince of Cleves, who had come to the breakfast-parlor window,
(to invite his guest to enter, as the tea was made,) beheld this
strange scene from the window, as did the lovely tea-maker likewise,
with breathless and beautiful agitation. The old Count and the archer
strolled up and down the battlements in deep conversation. By the
gestures of surprise and delight exhibited by the former, 'twas easy
to see the young archer was conveying some very strange and pleasing
news to him; though the nature of the conversation was not allowed to
"A godson of mine," said the noble Count, when interrogated over
his muffins. "I know his family; worthy people; sad scapegrace; ran
away; parents longing for him; glad you did not flog him; devil to
pay," and so forth. The Count was a man of few words, and told his
tale in this brief, artless manner. But why, at its conclusion, did
the gentle Helen leave the room, her eyes filled with tears? She left
the room once more to kiss a certain lock of yellow hair she had
pilfered. A dazzling, delicious thought, a strange wild hope, arose
in her soul!
When she appeared again, she made some side-handed inquiries
regarding Otto (with that gentle artifice oft employed by women); but
he was gone. He and his companion were gone. The Count of Hombourg
had likewise taken his departure, under pretext of particular
business. How lonely the vast castle seemed to Helen, now that HE was
no longer there. The transactions of the last few days; the beautiful
archer-boy; the offer from the Rowski (always an event in a young
lady's life); the siege of the castle; the death of her truculent
admirer: all seemed like a fevered dream to her: all was passed away,
and had left no trace behind. No trace?— yes! one: a little
insignificant lock of golden hair, over which the young creature wept
so much that she put it out of curl; passing hours and hours in the
summer-house, where the operation had been performed.
On the second day (it is my belief she would have gone into a
consumption and died of languor, if the event had been delayed a day
longer,) a messenger, with a trumpet, brought a letter in haste to the
Prince of Cleves, who was, as usual, taking refreshment. "To the High
and Mighty Prince," the letter ran. "The Champion who had the honor
of engaging on Wednesday last with his late Excellency the Rowski of
Donnerblitz, presents his compliments to H. S. H. the Prince of
Cleves. Through the medium of the public prints the C. has been made
acquainted with the flattering proposal of His Serene Highness
relative to a union between himself (the Champion) and her Serene
Highness the Princess Helen of Cleves. The Champion accepts with
pleasure that polite invitation, and will have the honor of waiting
upon the Prince and Princess of Cleves about half an hour after the
receipt of this letter."
"Tol lol de rol, girl," shouted the Prince with heartfelt joy.
(Have you not remarked, dear friend, how often in novel-books, and on
the stage, joy is announced by the above burst of insensate
monosyllables?) "Tol lol de rol. Don thy best kirtle, child; thy
husband will be here anon." And Helen retired to arrange her toilet
for this awful event in the life of a young woman. When she returned,
attired to welcome her defender, her young cheek was as pale as the
white satin slip and orange sprigs she wore.
She was scarce seated on the dais by her father's side, when a huge
flourish of trumpets from without proclaimed the arrival of THE
CHAMPION. Helen felt quite sick: a draught of ether was necessary to
restore her tranquillity.
The great door was flung open. He entered,—the same tall warrior,
slim, and beautiful, blazing in shining steel. He approached the
Prince's throne, supported on each side by a friend likewise in
armor. He knelt gracefully on one knee.
"I come," said he in a voice trembling with emotion, "to claim, as
per advertisement, the hand of the lovely Lady Helen." And he held
out a copy of the Allgemeine Zeitung as he spoke.
"Art thou noble, Sir Knight?" asked the Prince of Cleves.
"As noble as yourself," answered the kneeling steel.
"Who answers for thee?"
"I, Karl, Margrave of Godesberg, his father!" said the knight on
the right hand, lifting up his visor.
"And I—Ludwig, Count of Hombourg, his godfather!" said the knight
on the left, doing likewise.
The kneeling knight lifted up his visor now, and looked on Helen.
"I KNEW IT WAS," said she, and fainted as she saw Otto the Archer.
But she was soon brought to, gentles, as I have small need to tell
ye. In a very few days after, a great marriage took place at Cleves
under the patronage of Saint Bugo, Saint Buffo, and Saint Bendigo.
After the marriage ceremony, the happiest and handsomest pair in the
world drove off in a chaise-and-four, to pass the honeymoon at
Kissingen. The Lady Theodora, whom we left locked up in her convent a
long while since, was prevailed upon to come back to Godesberg, where
she was reconciled to her husband. Jealous of her daughter-in-law,
she idolized her son, and spoiled all her little grandchildren. And
so all are happy, and my simple tale is done.
I read it in an old, old book, in a mouldy old circulating library.
'Twas written in the French tongue, by the noble Alexandre Dumas; but
'tis probable that he stole it from some other, and that the other had
filched it from a former tale-teller. For nothing is new under the
sun. Things die and are reproduced only. And so it is that the
forgotten tale of the great Dumas reappears under the signature of
WHISTLEBINKIE, N.B., December 1.