Anne of Geierstein, by Walter Scott

Chapter 13

The enmity and discord, which of late

Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your Duke

To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,

Who, wanting guilders to redeem their lives,

Have seal’d his rigorous statutes with their bloods,

Excludes all pity from our threat’ning looks.

Comedy Of Errors.

The dawn had scarce begun to touch the distant horizon, when Arthur Philipson was on foot to prepare for his father’s departure and his own, which, as arranged on the preceding night, was to take place two hours before the Landamman and his attendants proposed to leave the ruinous castle of Graffs-lust. It was no difficult matter for him to separate the neatly arranged packages which contained his father’s effects, from the clumsy bundles in which the baggage of the Swiss was deposited. The one set of mails was made up with the neatness of men accustomed to long and perilous journeys; the other, with the rude carelessness of those who rarely left their home, and who were altogether inexperienced.

A servant of the Landamman assisted Arthur in this task, and in placing his father’s baggage on the mule belonging to the bearded deputy from Schwytz. From this man also he received instructions concerning the road from Graffs-lust to Breisach (the chief citadel of La Ferette), which was too plain and direct to render it likely that they should incur any risk of losing their way, as had befallen them when travelling on the Swiss mountains. Everything being now prepared for their departure, the young Englishman awakened his father, and acquainted him that all was ready. He then retired towards the chimney, while his father, according to his daily custom, repeated the prayer of St. Julian, the patron of travellers, and adjusted his dress for the journey.

It will not be wondered at, that, while the father went through his devotions, and equipped himself for travel, Arthur, with his heart full of what he had seen of Anne of Geierstein for some time before, and his brain dizzy with the recollection of the incidents of the preceding night, should have kept his eyes riveted on the door of the sleeping apartment at which he had last seen that young person disappear; that is, unless the pale, and seemingly fantastic form, which had twice crossed him so strangely, should prove no wandering spirit of the elements, but the living substance of the person whose appearance it bore. So eager was his curiosity on this subject, that he strained his eyes to the utmost, as if it had been possible for them to have penetrated through wood and walls into the chamber of the slumbering maiden, in order to discover whether her eye ol cheek bore any mark that she had last night been a watcher of a wanderer.

“But that was the proof to which Rudolph appealed,” he said internally, “and Rudo]ph alone will have the opportunity of remarking the result. Who knows what advantage my communication may give him in his suit with yonder lovely creature? And what must she think of me, save as one light of thought and loose of tongue, to whom nothing extraordinary can chance, but he must hasten to babble it into the ears of those who are nearest to him at the moment? I would my tongue had been palsied ere I said a syllable to yonder proud, yet wily prize fighter! I shall never see her more — that is to be counted for certain. I shall never know the true interpretation of those mysteries which hang around her. But to think I may have prated something tending to throw her into the power of yonder ferocious boor, will be a subject of remorse to me while I live.”

Here he was startled out of his reverie by the voice of his father. “Why, how now, boy; art thou waking, Arthur, or sleeping on thy feet from the fatigue of last night’s service?”

“Not so, my father,” answered Arthur, as once recollecting himself. “Somewhat drowsy, perhaps; but the fresh morning air will soon put that to flight.”

Walking with precaution through the group of sleepers who lay around, the elder Philipson, when they had gained the door of the apartment, turned back, and looking on the straw couch which the large form of the Landamman, and the silvery beard of his constant companion, touched by the earliest beams of light, distinguished as that of Arnold Biederman, he muttered between his lips an involuntary adieu.

Farewell, mirror of ancient faith and integrity — farewell, noble Arnold — farewell, soul of truth and candor-to whom cowardice, selfishness, and falsehood, are alike unknown!”

And farewell, thought his son, to the loveliest, and most candid, yet most mysterious of maidens — But the adieu, as may well be believed, was not, like that of his father, expressed in words.

They were soon after on the outside of the gate. The Swiss domestic was liberally recompensed, and charged with a thousand kind words of farewell and of remembrance to the Landamman from his English guests, mingled with hopes and wishes that they might soon meet again in the Burgundian territory. The young man then took the bridle of the mule, and led the animal forward on their journey at an easy pace, his father walking by his side.

After a silence of some minutes, the elder Philipson addressed Arthur. “I fear me,” he said, “we shall see the worthy Landamman no more. The youths who attend him are bent upon taking offence — the Duke of Burgundy will not fail, I fear to give them ample occasion — and the peace which the excellent man desires for the land of his fathers will be shipwrecked ere they reach the Duke’s presence though even were it otherwise, how the proudest prince in Europe will brook the moody looks of burgesses and peasants (so will Charles of Burgundy term the friends we have parted from), is a question too easily answered. A war, fatal to the interests of all concerned, save Louis of France, will certainly, take place; and dreadful must be the contest if the ranks of the Burgundian chivalry shall encounter those iron sons of the mountains, before whom so many of the Austrian nobility have been repeatedly prostrated.”

“I am so much convinced of the truth of what yo I say, my father,” replied Arthur, “that I judge even this day will not pass over without a breach of truce. I have already put on my shirt of mail, in case we should meet bad company betwixt Graffs-lust and Breisach; and I would to Heaven that you would observe the same precaution. It will not delay our journey; and I confess to you, that I, at least, will travel with much greater consciousness of safety should you do so.”

“I understand you, my son,” replied the elder Philipson. “But I am a peaceful traveller in the Duke of Burgundy’s territories, and must not willingly suppose, that while under the shadow of his banner, I must guard myself against banditti, as if I were in the wilds of Palestine. As for the authority of his officers, and the extent of their exactions, I need not tell you that they are, in our circumstances, things to be submitted to without grief or grudging.”

Leaving the two travellers to journey towards Breisach at their leisure, I must transport my readers to the eastern gate of that small town, which, situated on an eminence, had a commanding prospect on every side, but especially towards Bale. It did not properly make a part of the dominions of the Duke of Burgundy, but had been placed in his hands in pawn or in pledge, for the repayment of a considerable sum of money, due to Charles by the Emperor Sigismund of Austria, to whom the seigniory of the place belonged in property. But the town lay so conveniently for distressing the commerce of the Swiss, and inflicting on that people, whom he at once hated and despised, similar marks of his malevolence, as to encourage a general opinion that the Duke of Burgundy, the implacab1e and un reasonable enemy of these mountaineers, would never listen to any terms of redemption, however equitable or advantageous, which might have the effect of restoring to the Emperor an advanced post, of such consequence to the gratification of his dislike, as Breisach.

The situation of the little town was in itself strong, but the fortifications which surrounded it were barely sufficient to repel any sudden attack, and not adequate to resist for any length of time a formal siege. The morning beams had shone on the spire of the church for more than an hour, when a tall, thin, elderly man, wrapt in a morning gown, over which was buckled a broad belt, supporting on the left side a sword, on the right a dagger, approached the barbican of the eastern gate. His bonnet displayed a feather, which, or the tail of a fox in lieu of it, was the emblem of gentle blood throughout all Germany, and a badge highly prized by those who had a right to wear it.

The small party of soldiers who had kept watch there during file course of the preceding night, and supplied sentinels both for ward and outlook, took arms on the appearance of this individual, and drew themselves up in the form of a guard, which receives with military reverence an officer of importance. Archibald de Hagenbach’s countenance, for it was the Governor himself, expressed that settled peevishness and ill temper which characterize the morning hours of a valetudinary debauchee. His head throbbed, his pulse was feverish, and his cheek was pale, — symptoms of his having spent the last night, as was his usual custom, amid wine-stoups and flagons. Judging from the haste with which his soldiers fell into their ranks, and the awe and silence which reigned among them, it appeared that they were accustomed to expect and dread his ill humor on such occasions. He glanced at them, accordingly, an inquisitive and dissatisfied look, as if he sought something on which to vent his peevishness, and then asked for the “loitering dog Kilian.”

Kilian presently made his appearance, a stout hard-favored man-at-arms, a Bavarian by birth, and by rank the personal squire of the Governor.

“What news of the Swiss churls, Kilian?” demanded Archibald de Hagenbach. “They should, by their thrifty habits, have been on the road two hours since. Have the peasant-clods presumed to ape the manners of gentlemen, and stuck by the flask till cock-crow?”

“By my faith, it may well be,” answered Kilian; “the burghers of Bale gave them full means of carousal.”

“How, Kilian? — They dared not offer hospitality to the Swiss drove of bullocks, after the charge we sent them to the contrary?”

“Nay, the Balese received them not into the town,” replied the squire; “but I learned, by sure espial, that they afforded them means of quartering at Graffs-lust, which was furnished with many a fair gammon and pasty, to speak nought of flasks of Rhine wine, barrels of beer, and stoups of strong waters.”

“The Balese shall answer this, Kilian,” said the Governor. “do they think I am forever to be thrusting myself between the Duke and his pleasure on their behalf? — The fat porkers have presumed too much since we accepted some trifling gifts at their hands, more for gracing of them than for any advantage we could make of their paltry donations. Was it not the wine from Bale which we were obliged to drink out in pint goblets, lest it should become sour before morning?”

“It was drunk out, and in pint goblets too,” said Kilian; can well remember.”

Why, go to, then,” said the Governor; they shall know, these beasts of Bale, that I hold myself no way obliged by such donations as these, and that my remembrance of the wines which I carouse, rests no longer than the headache, which the mixtures they drug me with never fail of late years to leave behind, for the next morning’s pastime.”

“Your excellency,” replied the squire, “will make it, then, a quarrel between the Duke of Burgundy and the city of Bale, that they gave this indirect degree of comfort and assistance to the Swiss deputation?”

“Ay, marry will I,” said De Hagenbach, “unless there be wise men among them, who shall show me good reasons for protecting them — Oh, the Balese do not know our noble Duke, nor the gift he hath for chastising the gutter-blooded citizens of a free town. Thou caust tell them, Kilian, as well as any man, how he dealt with the villains of Liege, when they would needs be pragmatical.”

“I will apprise them of the matter,” said Kilian, “when opportunity shall serve, and I trust I shall find them in a temper disposed to cultivate your honorable friendship.”

“Nay, if it is the same to them, it is quite indifferent to me, Kilian,” continued the Governor; “but, methinks, whole and sound throats are worth some purchase, were it only to swallow black-puddings and schwarz beer, to say nothing of Westphalian hams and Nierensteiner — I say, a slashed throat is a useless thing, Kilian.”

“I will make the fat citizens to understand their danger, and the necessity of making interest,” answered Kilian. “Sure, I am not now to learn how to turn the ball into your excellency’s lap.”

“You speak well,” said Sir Archibald; “but how chanced it thou hast so little to say to the Switzers’ leaguer? I should have thought an old trooper like thee would have made their pinions flutter amidst the good cheer thou tellest me of.”

“I might as well have annoyed an angry hedgehog with my bare finger,” said Kilian. “I surveyed Graffs-lust myself; — there were sentinels on the castle walls, a sentinel on the bridge, besides a regular patrol of these Swiss fellows who kept strict watch. So that there was nothing to be done; otherwise, knowing your excellency’s ancient quarrel, I would have had a hit at them, when they should never have known who hurt them. — I will tell you, however, fairly, that these churls ate acquiring better knowledge in the art of war than the best Ritter knight.”

“Well, they will be the better worth the looking after when they arrive,” said De Hagenbach; “they come forth in state doubtless, with all their finery, their wives’ chains of silver, their own medals, and rings of lead and copper. — Ah, the base hinds! they are unworthy that a man of noble blood should ease them of their trash!”

“There is better ware among them, if my intelligence bath not deceived me,” replied Kilian; “there are merchants — ”

“Pshaw! the packhorses of Berne and Soleure,” said the Governor, “with their paltry lumber! — cloth too coarse to make covers for horses of any breeding, and linen that is more like hair-cloth than any composition of flax. I will strip them, However, were it but to vex the knaves. What! not content with claiming to be treated like an independent people, and sending forth deputies and embassies forsooth, they expect, I warrant, to make the indemnities of ambassadors cover the introduction of a cargo of their contraband commodities, and thus insult the noble Duke of Burgundy, and cheat him at the same time? But De Hagenbach is neither knight nor gentleman if he allow them to pass unchallenged.”

“And they are better worth being stopped,” said Kilian, “than your excellency supposes; for they have English merchants along with them, and under their protection.”

“English merchants!” exclaimed De Hagenbach, his eyes sparkling with joy; “English merchants, Kilian! Men talk of Cathay and Ind, where there are mines of silver, and gold, and diamonds; but, on the faith of a gentleman, I believe these brutish Islanders have the caves of treasure wholly within their own foggy land!” And then the variety of their rich merchandise, — Ha, Kilian! is it a long train of mules — a jolly tinkling team? — By Our Lady’s glove! the sound of it is already jingling in my ears more musically than all the harps of all the minne-singers at Heilbrunn!”

“Nay, my lord, there is no great train,” replied the squire; “only two men, as I am given to understand, with scarce so much baggage as loads a mule; but, it is said, of infinite value, silk and samite, lace and furs, pearls and jewellery-work — perfume from the East, and gold-work from Venice.”

“Raptures and paradise! say not a word more,” exclaimed the rapacious knight of Hagenbach; “they are all our own, Kilian! Why, these are the very men I have dreamed of twice a week for this month past — ay, two men of middle stature, or somewhat under it — with smooth, round, fair, comely visages, having stomachs as plump as partridges, and purses as plump as their stomachs — Ha, what say’st thou to my dream, Kilian?”

“Only, that, to be quite soothfast,” answered the squire, “it should have included the presence of a score, or there abouts, of sturdy young giants as ever climbed cliff, or carried bolt to whistle at a chamois — a lusty plump of clubs, bills, and partisans, such as make shields crack like oaten cakes and helmets ring like church-bells.”

“The better, knave, the better!” exclaimed the governor, rubbing his hands. “English pedlers to plunder! Swiss bullies to beat into submission! I wot well, we can have nothing of the Helvetian swine save their beastly bristles — it is lucky they bring these two island sheep along with them. But we must get ready our boat-spears, and clear the clipping-pens for exercise of our craft. — Here, Lieutenant Schonfeldt!”

An officer stepped forth.

“How many men are here on duty?”

“About sixty,” replied the officer. “Twenty out on parties in different directions, and there may be forty or fifty in their quarters.”

“Order them all under arms instantly; — hark ye, not by trumpet or bugle, but by warning them individually in their quarters, to draw to arms as quietly as possible, and rendezvous here at the eastern gate. Tell the villains there is booty to be gained, and they shall have their share.”

“On these terms,” said Schonfeldt, “they will walk over a spider’s web without startling the insect that wove it. “I will collect them without loss of an instant.”

“I tell thee, Kilian,” continued the exulting commandant, again speaking apart with his confidential attendant, “nothing could come so luckily as the chance of this onslaught. Duke Charles desires to affront the Swiss, — not, look you, that he cares to act towards them by his own direct orders, in such a manner as might be termed a breach of public faith towards a peaceful embassy; but the gallant follower who shall save his prince the scandal of such an affair, and whose actions may be termed a mistake or misapprehension, shall, I warrant you, be accounted to have done knightly service. Perchance a frown may be passed upon him in public, but in private the Duke will know how to esteem him. — Why standest thou so silent, man, and what ails thy ugly ill looking aspect? Thou art not afraid of twenty Switzer boys, and we at the head of such a band of spears?”

“The Swiss,” answered Kilian, “will give and take good blows; yet I have no fear of them. But, like not that we should trust too much to Duke Charles. That he would be, in the first instance, pleased with any dishonor done the Swiss is likely enough; but if, as your excellency hints, he finds it afterwards convenient to disown the action, he is a prince likely to give a lively color to his disavowal by hanging up the actors.”

“Pshaw!” said the commandant, “I know where I stand. Such a trick were like enough to be played by Louis of France, but it is foreign to the blunt character of our Bold one of Burgundy. — Why the devil stand’st thou still, man, simpering like an ape at a roasted chestnut, which he thinks too warm for his fingers?”

“Your excellency is wise as well as warlike,” said the esquire, “and it is not for me to contest your pleasure. But this peaceful embassy — these English merchants — if Charles goes to war with Louis, as the rumor is current, what he should most of all desire is the neutrality of Switzerland, and the assistance of England, whose King is crossing the sea with a great army. Now you, Sir Archibald of Hagenbach, may well do that in the course of this very morning, which will put the Confederated Cantons in arms against Charles, and turn the English from allies into enemies.”

“I care not,” said the commandant; “I know the Duke’s humor well, and if he, the master of so many provinces, is willing to risk them in a self-willed frolic, what is it to Archibald de Itagenbach, who has not a foot of land to lose in the cause?”

“But you have life, my lord,” said the esquire.

“Ay, life!” replied the knight; “a paltry right to exist, which I have been ready to stake every day of my life for dollars — ay, and for creutzers — and think you I will hesitate to pledge it for broad-pieces, jewels of the East, and goldsmith’s work of Venice? No, Kilian; these English must be eased of their bales, that Archibald de Hagenbach may drink a purer flask than their thin Moselle, and wear a brocade doublet instead of greasy velvet. Nor is it less necessary that Kilian should have a seemly new jerkin, with a purse of ducats to jingle at his girdle.”

“By my faith,” said Kilian, “that last argument hath disarmed my scruples, and I give up the point, since it ill befits me to dispute with your excellency.”

“To the work then,” said his leader. “But stay — we must first take the Church along with us. The priest of Saint Paul’s hath been moody of late, and spread abroad strange things from the pulpit, as if we were little better than common pillagers arid robbers. Nay, he bath had the insolence to warn me, as he termed it, twice, in strange form. It were well to break the growling mastiff’s bald head; but since that might be ill taken by the Duke, the next point of wisdom is to fling him a bone.”

“He may be a dangerous enemy,” said the squire dubiously; “his power is great with the people.”

“Tush!” replied Hagenbach, “I know how to disarm the shaveling. Send to him, and tell him to come hither to speak with me. Meanwhile, have all our force under arms; let the barbican and barrier be well manned with archers; station spearmen in the houses on each hand of the gateway; and let the street be barricaded with carts, well bound together, but placed as if they had been there by accident — place a body of determined fellows in these carts, and behind them. So soon as the merchants and their mules enter (for that is the main point), up with your drawbridge, down with the portcullis, send a volley of arrows among those who are without, if they make any scuffle; disarm and secure those who have entered, and are cooped up between the barricade before, and the ambush behind and around them — And then, Kilian — ”

“And then,” said his esquire, “shall we, like merry Free Companions, be knuckle-deep in the English budgets — ”

“And, like jovial hunters,” replied the knight, “elbow-deep in Swiss blood.”

“The game will stand at bay though,” answered Kilian. “They are led by that Donnerhugel whom we have heard of, whom they call the Young Bear of Berne. They will turn to their defence.”

“The better, man — wouldst thou kill sheep rather than hunt wolves? Besides, our toils are set, and the whole garrison shall assist. Shame on thee, Kilian, thou wert not wont to have so many scruples!”

“Nor have I now,” said Kilian. “But these Swiss bills and two-banded swords of the breadth of four hiches, are no child’s play. — And then, if you call all our garrison to the attack, to whom will your excellency intrust the defence of the other gates, and the circuit of the walls?”

“Lock, bolt, and chain up the gates,” replied the Governor, “and bring the keys hither. There shall no one leave the place till this affair is over. Let some score of the citizens take arms for the duty of guarding the walls; and look they discharge it well, or I will lay a fine on them which they shall discharge to purpose.”

“They will grumble,” said Kilian. “They say, that not being the Duke’s subjects, though the place is impledged to his Grace, they are not liable to military service.”

“They lie! the cowardly slaves,” answered De Hagenbach. “If I have not employed them much hitherto, it is because I scorn their assistance; nor would I now use their help, were it for anything save to keep a watch, by looking out straight before them. Let them obey, as they respect their property persons, and families.”

A deep voice behind them repeated the emphatic language of Scripture, — “I have seen the wicked man flourish in his power even like unto a laurel, but I returned and he was not — yea, I sought him, but he was not to be found.”

Sir Archibald de Hagenbach turned sternly, and encountered the dark and ominous looks of the Priest of Saint Paul’s, dressed in the vestments of his order.

“We are busy, father,” said the Governor, “and will hear your preachment another time.”

“I come by your summons, Sir Governor,” said the priest, “or I had not intruded myself, where I well knew my preachments, if you term them so, will do no good.”

“Oh, I crave your mercy, reverend father,” said De Hagen bach. “Yes, it is true that I did send for you, to desire your prayers and kind intercession with Our Lady and Saint Paul, in some transactions which are likely to occur this morning, arid in which, as the Lombard says, I do espy roba di guadagno.

“Sir Archibald,” answered the priest calmly, “I well hope and trust that you do not forget the nature of the glorified Saints so far as to ask them for their blessing upon such exploits as you have been too oft engaged in since your arrival amongst us — an event which of itself gave token of the Divine anger. Nay, let me say, humble as I am, that decency to a servant of the altar should check you from proposing to me to put up prayers for the success of pillage and robbery.”

“I understand you, father,” said the rapacious Goyerno; “and you shall see I do. While you are the Duke’s subject, you must by your office put up your prayers for his success in matters that are fairly managed. — You acknowledge this with a graceful bend of your reverend head? — We’ll, then, I will be as reasonable as you are. Say we desire the intercession of the good Saints, and of you, their pious orator, in something a little out of the ordinary path, and, if you will, somewhat of a doubtful complexion, — are we entitled to ask you or them for their pains and trouble without a just consideration? Surely no. Therefore I vow and solemnly promise, that if I have good fortune in this morning’s adventure, Saint Paul shall have an altar-cloth and a basin of silver, large or little, as my booty will permit — Our Lady a web of satin for a full suit, with a necklace of pearl for holidays — and thou, priest, some twenty pieces of broad English gold, for acting as go — between betwixt ourselves and the blessed Apostles, whom we acknowledge ourselves unworthy to negotiate with in our profane person. And now, Sir Priest, do we understand each other, for I have little time to lose? I know you have hard thoughts of me, but you see the devil is not quite so horrible as he is painted.”

“Do we understand each other?” answered the Black Priest of Saint Paul’s, repeating the Governor’s question — Alas, no! and I fear me we never shall. Hast thou never heard the words spoken by the holy hermit, Berchtold of Offringen, to the implacable Queen Agnes, who had revenged with such dreadful severity the assassination of her father, the Emperor Albert?”

“Not I,” returned the knight; “I have neither studied the chronicles of emperors, nor the legends of hermits and, therefore, Sir Priest, an you like not my proposal, let us have no farther words on the matter. I am unwont to press my favors, or to deal with priests who require entreaty, when gifts are held out to them.”

“Hear yet the words of the holy man,” said the priest. “The time may come, and that shortly, when you would gladly desire to hear what you scornfully reject.”

“Speak on, but be brief,” said Archibald de Hagenbach ‘ and know, though thou may’st terrify or cajole the multitude, thou now speakest to one whose resolution is fixed far beyond the power of thy eloquence to melt.”

“Know, then,” said the Priest of Saint Paul’s, “that Agnes, daughter of the murdered Albert, after shedding oceans of blood in avenging his bloody death, founded at length the rich abbey of Konigsfeldt; and, that it might have a superior claim to renowned sanctity, made a pilgrimage in person to the cell of the holy hermit, and besought of him to horior her abbey by faking up bis residence there. But what was his reply? — Mark it, and tremble. ‘Begone, ruthless woman!’ said the holy man; ‘God will not be served with blood-guiltiness, and rejects the gifts which are obtained by violence and robbery. The Almighty loves mercy, justice, and humanity, and by the lovers of these only will he be worshipped.’ — And now, Archibald of Hagenbach, once, twice, thrice, hast thou had warning. Live as becomes a man on whom sentence is passed, and who must expect execution.”

Having spoken these words with a menacing tone and frowning aspect, the Priest of Saint Paul’s turned away from the Governor, whose first impulse was to command him to be arrested. But when he recollected the serious consequences which attached to the laying violent hands on a priest, he suffered him to depart in peace, conscious that his own unpopularity might render any attempt to revenge him self an act of great rashness. He called, therefore, for a beaker of Burgundy, in which he swallowed down his displeasure, and had just returned to Kilian the cup, which he had drained to the bottom, when the warden winded a blast from the watch-tower, which betokened the arrival of strangers at the gate of the city.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00